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st. martin's LANE. 


Great pains have been taken with the present translation, 
as well in regard to fidelity and style, as in what may be 
termed the accessories. In addition to all that is contained 
in the original work, it comprises an interesting view of 
Chimborazo, from a sketch by Humboldt himself; a fac-simile 
of the author's handwriting; head-lines of contents ; transla- 
tions of the principal Latin, French, and Spanish quotations ;* 
a very complete index ; and a conversion of all the foreign 
measurements. It was at first intended to give both the 
foreign and English measurements, in juxta-position ; but this 
plan was abandoned on perceiving that the pages would become 
overloaded with figures, and present a perplexing and some- 
what appalling aspect, without affording any equivalent advan- 
tage to the English reader. In some few instances, however, 
where it seemed desirable, and in all the parallel tables, 
duplicate measurements have been inserted. The French 
toises are converted into their relative number of English 
feet; and German miles, whether simple or square, are re- 
duced to our own. The longitudes have been calculated from 
Greenwich, conformably to English maps, in lieu of those 
given by Humboldt, which are calculated from Paris. The 
degrees of temperature, instead of Reaumur's, are Fahren- 
heit's, as now the most generally recognised. 

It here becomes necesssary to say something of the trans - 

* To instance a few, see pp. 241, 245, 255, 259, 304, 320, 325, 326, 
386, 422, 424. 


lators, and the cause of so much unexpected delay in producing 
this volume ; the more so as many of the subscribers to the 
Scientific Library have expressed an interest in the subject, 
owing, in some measure, to a controversy which arose out 
of my previous publication of Cosmos. The translation was 
originally entrusted to E. C. Otte, with an agreement as to 
time, according to which I had every reason to expect that I 
should fulfil my engagement to publish it in October last, or 
at latest in November; but, after much of the manuscript was 
prepared, the translator's indisposition and subsequent absence 
from Loudon, occasioned a serious suspension. In this di- 
lemma I found it necessary to call in aid, as well as to 
assist personally. The result of this "co-operation of forces" 
will no doubt prove satisfactory to the reader, inasmuch as 
every sheet has been at least trebly revised, and it is hoped 
projDortionably improved. In addition to the responsible 
translator, my principal collaborateur has been Mr. R. H. 
"Whitelocke, a gentleman well qualified for the task. 

All the measurements are calculated by the scientific friend, 
who fulfilled this department so satisfactorily in my edition of 

The translation of the pretty poem, The Parrot of Attires, 
(page 189.) now first given in English, is contributed by 
Mr. Edgar A. Bo wring. 

For the additional notes subscribed " Ed.'' I am myself, in 
most instances, responsible. 

Much has been said, pro and con, about the sanction of the 
Author to the several translations of his works. My answer 
has, I believe, been generally considered satisfactory and 
conclusive. I have now only to add, that when I wrote to 
Baron Humboldt, more than a year and a-half ago, presenting 


him with my then unpublished edition of Cosmos, I announced 
my intention of proceeding with his other works, and con- 
sulted him on the subject. He replied in the kindest spirit, 
without intimating any previous engagement, and honoured 
me with several valuable suggestions. A portion of one of 
his letters is annexed in facsimile. In consequence of what I 
then presumed to be his recommendation, I determined to 
make the Ansichten my next volume, and announced it, long 
before any one else, though not at first by its English name. 
At that time I had reason to hope that I should receive the 
new German edition at least as early as any one, but was 
disappointed. This circumstance, added to the delay already 
alluded to, has brought me late into the field. In now, how- 
ever, presenting my subscribers with what I have taken every 
available means to render a perfect book, I hope I shall 
afford them ample atonement. 

A few words respecting the work itself. The first edition 
was published forty-three years ago, the second in 1826, and 
the third, of which the present volume is a translation, in 
August last. The difference between the three editions in 
respect to the text (if I may so distinguish the more enter- 
taining part of the work from the scientific " Illustrations") 
is not material, excepting that each has one or more new 
chapters. Thus to the second edition was added the Essay on 
Volcanos and the curious allegory on vital force, entitled The 
Rhodian Genius, and to the third The Plateau of Caxamarca. 

The additions to the " Illustrations'' however in the third 
edition are considerable, and comprise a rapid sketch of 
whatever has been contributed by modern science in illustra- 
tion of the Author's favourite subjects. 

No intellectual reader can peruse this masterly work 

a 2 





j^r- 4^?"^'£r^ 




With some diffidence, I here present to the public a series 
of papers which originated in the presence of the noblest 
objects of nature, — on the Ocean, — in the forests of the 
Orinoco, — in the Savannahs of Venezuela, — and in the soli- 
tudes of the Peruvian and Mexican Mountains. Several 
detached fragments, written on the spot, have since been 
wrought into a whole. A survey of nature at large, — proofs 
of the co-operation of forces, — and a renewal of the enjoyment 
which the immediate aspect of the tropical countries affords 
to the susceptible beholder, — are the objects at which I aim. 
Each Essay was designed to be complete in itself; and one 
and the same tendency pervades the whole. This scsthetic 
mode of treating subjects of Natural History is fraught with 
great difficulties in the execution, notwithstanding the mar- 
vellous vigour and flexibility of my native language. The 
wonderful luxuriance of nature presents an accumulation of 
separate images, and accumulation disturbs the harmony and 
effect of a picture. When the feelings and the imagina- 
tion are excited, the style is apt to stray into poetical prose. 
But these ideas require no amplification here, for the fol- 
lowing pages afford but too abundant examples of such devia- 
tions and of such want of unity. 

Notwithstanding these defects, which I can more easily 


perceive than amend, let me hope that these " Views " may 
afford the reader, at least some portion of that enjoyment 
which a sensitive mind receives from the immediate contem- 
plation of nature. As this enjoyment is heightened by an 
insight into the connection of .the occult forces, I have sub- 
joined to each treatise scientific illustrations and additions. 

Everywhere the reader's attention is directed to the per- 
petual influence which physical nature exercises on the moral 
condition and on the destiny of man. It is to minds 
oppressed with care that these pages are especially con- 
secrated. He who has escaped from the stormy waves of 
life will joyfully follow me into the depths of the forests, over 
the boundless steppes and prairies, and to the lofty summits 
of the Andes. To him are addressed the words of the chorus 
w ho preside over the destinies of mankind : 

On the mountains is freedom ! the breath of decay 

Never sullies the fresh flowing air ; 
Oh ! nature is perfect wherever we stray ; 

; Tis man that deforms it with care.* 

* These lines are from Schiller's Brule of Jless'uia, as translated by A. Lodge, Esq. 
See Schiller's works (Bohn's ed.) vol. iii. p. 509. 



The twofold object of this work, — an anxious endeavour 
to heighten the enjoyment of nature by vivid representations, 
and at the same time to increase, according to the present 
state of science, the reader's insight into the harmonious 
co-operation of forces, — was pointed out by me in the 
preface to the first edition, nearly half a century ago. I there 
alluded to the several obstacles which oppose themselves to the 
aesthetic treatment of the grand scenes of nature. The com- 
bination of a literary and a purely scientific aim, the desire to 
engage the imagination, and at the same time to enrich life 
with new ideas by the increase of knowledge, render the clue 
arrangement of the separate parts, and what is required as 
unity of composition, difficult of attainment. Notwithstand- 
ing these disadvantages, however, the public have continued to 
receive with indulgent partiality, my imperfect performance. 

The second edition of the Views of Nature, was published 
by me in Paris in 1826. Two papers were then added, one, 
"An inquiry into the structure and mode of action of Volcanos 
in different regions of the earth;" the other, "Vital Force, or 
The Rhodian Genius." Schiller, in remembrance of his youth- 

• • 


ful medical studies, loved io converse with me, during my 
long stay at Jena, on physiological subjects. The inquiries 
in which I was then engaged, in preparing my work "On the 
condition of the fibres of muscles and nerves, when irritated 
by contact with substances chemically opposed," often im- 
parted a more serious direction to our conversation. It was 
at this period that I wrote the little allegory on Vital Force, 
called The Rhodian Genius. The predilection which Schiller 
entertained for this piece, and which he admitted into his 
periodical, Die Horen, gave me courage to introduce it here. 
My brother, in a letter which has recently been published 
(William von Humboldt's Letters to a Female Friend, vol. 
ii. p. 39), delicately alludes to the subject, but at the 
same time very justly adds ; " The development of a physio- 
logical idea is exclusively the object of the essay. Such 
semi-poetical clothings of grave truths were more in vogue 
at the time this was written than they are at present." 

In my eightieth year I have still the gratification of com- 
pleting a third edition of my work, and entirely remoulding 
it to meet the demands of the age. Almost all the scientific 
illustrations are either enlarged or replaced by new and more 
comprehensive ones. 

I have indulged a hope of stimulating the study of nature, 
by compressing into the smallest possible compass, the 
numerous results of careful investigation on a variety of 
interesting subjects, with a view of shewing the importance 
of accurate numerical data, and the necessity of comparing 
them with each other, as well as to check the dogmatic 
smattering and fashionable scepticism which have too long 
prevailed in the so-called higher circles of society. 

My expedition into northern Asia (to the Ural, the Altai, 


and the shores of the Caspian Sea) in the year 1829, with 
Ehrenberg and Gustavus Rose, at the command of the Em- 
peror of Russia, took place between the second and third 
editions of my work. This expedition has essentially con- 
tributed to the enlargement of my views in all that con- 
cerns the formation of the earth's surface, the direction of 
mountain-chains, the connexion of the Steppes and Deserts, 
and the geographical distribution of plants according to ascer- 
tained influences of temperature. The ignorance which has 
so long existed respecting the two great snow-covered moun- 
tain-chains, the Thian-schan and the Kuen-liin, situated 
between the Altai and Himalaya, has (owing to the inju- 
dicious neglect of Chinese sources of information) obscured 
the geography of Central Asia, and propagated fancies in- 
stead of facts, in works of extensive circulation. Within 
the last few months the hypsometric comparisons of the 
culminating points of both continents have unexpectedly 
received important and corrective illustration, of which I am 
the first to avail myself in the following pages. The measure- 
ment (now divested of former errors) of the altitude of the 
two mountains, Sorata and Illimani, in the eastern chain of 
the Andes of Bolivia, has not yet, with certainty, restored the 
Chimborazo to its ancient pre-eminence among the snowy 
mountains of the new world. In the Himalaya the recent 
barometric measurement of the Kinchin-jinga (26,438 
Parisian, or 28,178 English feet) places it next in height 
to the Dhawalagiri, which has also been trigonometrically 
measured with greater accuracy. 

To preserve uniformity with the two former editions of the 
Views of Nature, the calculations of temperature, unless 
where the contrary is stated, are given according to the 


eighty degrees thermometer of Reamur. The lineal measure- 
ment is the old French, in which the toise is equivalent to six 
Parisian feet. The miles are geographical, fifteen to a 
degree of the equator. The longitudes are calculated from 
the first meridian of the Parisian Observatory. 

Berlin, March, 1849. 


Publisher's Preface ... 

Author's Preface, to the First Edition 

Author's Preface, to the Second and Third Editions 

Summary of Contents... 

Steppes and Deserts ... 
Illustrations and Additions 

Cataracts of the Orinoco 
Illustrations and Additions 

Nocturnal Life of Animals in the Primeval Forest 

Illustrations and Additions 
Hypsometric Addenda 

Ideas for a Physiognomy of Plants ... 
Illustrations and Additions 

On the Structure and Mode of Action of Volcanos 
different parts of the Earth 
Illustrations and Additions 

Yital Force, or The Rhodian Genius ... 

Illustration and Note... 














The Plateau cf Caxamarca, the Ancient Capital of the Inca 
Atahuallpa, and First View of the Pacific from the Ridge 
of the Andes ... ... ... ... ... 390 

Illustrations and Additions ... ... ... ... 421 





Coast-chain and mountain- valleys of Caracas. The Lake of Tacarigua. 
Contrast between the luxuriant abundance of organic life and the 
treeless plains. Impressions of space. The steppe as the bottom of an 
ancient inland sea. Broken strata lying somewhat above the surface, 
and called Banks. Uniformity of phenomena presented by plains. 
Heaths of Europe, Pampas and Llanos of South America, African 
deserts, North Asiatic Steppes. Diversified character of the vegetable 
covering. Animal life. Pastoral tribes, who have convulsed the world 
—pp. 1-5. 

Description of the South American plains and savannahs. Their 
extent and climate, the latter dependant on the outline and hypso- 
metrical configuration of the New Continent. Comparison with plains 
and deserts of Africa — pp. 5 — 10. Original absence of pastoral life in 
America. Nutriment yielded by the Mauritia Palm. Pendant huts 
built in trees. Guaranes — pp. 10-13. 

The Llanos have become more habitable to man since the discovery 
of America. Eemarkable increase of wild Oxen, Horses, and Mules. 
Description of the seasons of drought and rain. Aspect of the ground 
and sky. Life of animals; their sufferings and combats. Adapt- 
ability with which nature has endowed animals and plants. Jaguar, 
Crocodiles, Electric Fishes. Unequal contest between gymnoti and 
horses — pp. 13-19. 

Eetrospective view of the districts which border steppes and deserts. 
Wilderness of the forest-region between the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. 
Native tribes separated by wonderful diversity both of language and 
customs; a toiling and divided race. Figures graven on rocks prove 
that even these solitudes were once the seat of a civilization now extinct 
—pp. 19-21. 

Scientific Illustkations and Additions . . .pp. 22-152. 

The island-studded Lake of Tacarigua. Its relation to the mountain- 
chains. Geognostic tableau. Progress of civilization. Varieties of 
the sugar-cane. Cacao plantations. Great fertility of soil within the 
tropics accompanied by great atmospheric insalubrity. — pp. 22-26. 

Banks, or broken floetz-strata. General flatness. Land-slips— pp. 


Eesemblance of the distant steppe to the ocean. Naked stony crust, 
tabular masses of syenite ; have they a detrimental effect on the atmo- 
sphere 1— pp. 28-29. 



Modern views on the mountain systems of the two American 
peninsulas. Chains, which have a direction from S.W. to N.E., in 
Brazil and in the Atlantic portion of the United States of North 
America. Depression of the Province of Chiquitos; ridges as water- 
marks between the Guapore and Aguapehi in 15° and 17° south lat., 
and between the fluvial districts of the Orinoco and Rio Negro in 2° 
and 3° north lat,— pp. 29-31. 

Continuation of the Andes-chain north of the isthmus of Panama 
through the territory of the Aztecs, (where the Popocatepetl, recently 
ascended by Capt. Stone, rises to an altitude of 17,720 feet,) and through 
the Crane and Rocky Mountains. Valuable scientific investigations of 
Capt. Fremont. The greatest barometric levelling ever accomplished, 
representing a profile of the ground over 28° of longitude. Culminating 
point of the route from the coast of the Atlantic to the South 
Sea. The South Pass southward of the Wind-River Mountains. Swell- 
ing of the ground in the Great Basin. Long disputed existence of 
Lake Timpanogos. Coast-chain, Maritime Alps, Sierra Nevada of Cali- 
fornia. Volcanic eruptions. Cataracts of the Columbia River — pp. 

General considerations on the contrast between the configuration of 
the territorial spaces, presented by the two diverging coast-chains, east 
and west of the central chain, called the Rocky Mountains. Hypsometric 
constitution of the Eastern Lowland, which is only from 400 to some- 
what more than 600 feet above the level of the sea, and of the arid 
uninhabited plateau of the Great Basin, from 5000 to more than 6000 
feet high. Sources of the Mississippi in Lake Istaca according to 
Nicollet, whose labours are most meritorious. Native land of the 
Bisons; their ancient domestication in Northern Mexico asserted by 
Gomara— pp. 38-42. 

Retrospective view of the entire Andes-chain from the cliff of Diego 
Ramirez to Behring's Straits. Long prevalent errors concerning the 
height of the eastern Andes-chain of Bolivia, especially of the Sorata 
and Illimani. Four summits of the western chain, which, according 
to Pentland's latest determinations, surpass the Chimborazo in height, 
but not the still-active volcano, Aconcagua, measured by Fitz-Roy — 
pp. 42-44. 

The African mountain range of Harudje-el-Abiad. Oases of vegeta- 
tion, abounding in springs — pp. 44-46. 

Westerly winds on the borders of the desert Sahara. Accumulation 
of sea-weed ; present and former position of the great fucus-bank, from 
the time of Scylax of Caryanda to that of Columbus and to the present 
period — pp. 46-50. 

Tibbos and Tuaryks. The camel and its distribution — pp. 50-53. 

Mountain-systems of Central Asia between Northern Siberia and 
India, between the Altai and the Himalaya, which latter range is aggre- 
gated with the Kuen-liin. Erroneous opinion as to the existence of 
one immense plateau, the so-called "Plateau de la Tartarie" — pp. 53-56. 


Chinese literature a rich source of orographic knowledge. Gra- 
dations of the High Lands. Gobi and its direction. Probable mean 
height of Thibet— pp. 56-63. 

General review of the mountain systems of Asia. Meridian chains : 
the Ural, which separates lower Europe from lower Asia or the 
Scythian Europe of Pherecydes of Syros and Herodotus. Bolor, 
Khingan, and the Chinese chains, which at the great bend of the 
Thibetan and Assam-Burmese river, Dzangbo-tschu, stretch from 
north to south. The meridian elevations alternate between the parallels 
of 66° and 77° east long, from Cape Comorin to the Frozen Ocean, like 
displaced veins. Thus the Ghauts, the Soliman chain, the Paralasa, 
the Bolor, and the Ural follow from south to north. The Bolor gave 
rise, among the ancients, to the idea respecting the Imaus, which Aga- 
thodasmon considered to be prolonged northwards as far as the lowland 
or basin of the lower Irtysch. Parallel chains, running east and west, 
the Altai, Thian-schan with its active volcanos, which lie 1528 miles 
from the frozen ocean at the mouth of the Obi, and 1512 from the Indian 
Ocean at the mouth of the Ganges ; Kuen-liin, already recognized by 
Eratosthenes, Marinus of Tyre, Ptolemy, and Cosmas Indicopleustes, 
as the greatest axis of elevation in the Old World, between 354° and 
36° lat. in the direction of the diaphragm of Diceearchus. Himalaya. 
The Kuen-liin may be traced, when considered as an axis of elevation, 
from the Chinese wall near Lung-tscheu, through the somewhat more 
northerly chains of Nan-schan and Kilian-schan, through the mountain 
node of the " Starry Sea," the Hindoo Cush (the Paropanisus and 
Indian Caucasus of the ancients), and, lastly, through the chain of the. 
Demavend and Persian Elburz, as far as the Taurus in Lycia. Not 
far from the intersection of the Kuen-liin by the Bolor, the corre- 
sponding direction of the axes of elevation (inclining from east to west 
in the Kuen-liin and Hindoo Cush, and on the other hand south-east 
and north-west in the Himalaya) proves, that the Hindoo Cush is a 
prolongation of the Kuen-liin, and not of the Himalaya which is asso- 
ciated to the latter in the manner of a gang or vein. The point where 
the Himalaya changes its direction, that is to say, where it leaves 
its former east- westerly direction, lies not far from 81° east long. The 
Djawahir is not, as has hitherto been supposed, the next in altitude to 
the Dhawalagiri, which is the highest summit of the Himalaya ; for, 
•according to Joseph Hooker, this rank is due to a mountain lying in the 
meridian of Sikhim between Butan and Nepaul, called the Kinchinjinga 
or Kintschin-Dschunga. This mountain (Kinchinjinga) measured by 
Col. Waugh, Director of the Trigonometrical Survey of India, has for its 
western summit an altitude of 28,178 feet, and for its eastern 27,826 feet, 
according to the Journal of the Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, November, 
1848. The mountain, now considered higher than the Dhawalagiri, is 
represented in the engraving to the title-page of Joseph Hookers 
splendid work, The Rhododendrons of Sikhim Himalaya, 1849. Deter- 
mination of the snow-limits on the northern and southern slopes of the 
Himalaya; the former lies in the mean about 3620 up to 4900 feet 
higher. New statements of Hodgson. But for the remarkable distri* 


bution of heat in the upper strata of the air, the table-land of western 
Thibet would be uninhabitable to millions of human beings — pp. 63-80. 
The Hiong-nu, whom Deguignes and John Miiller considered to be 
a tribe of Huns, appear rather to be one of the widely spread Turkish 
races of the Altai and Tangnu mountains. The Huns, whose name was 
known even to Dionysius Periegetes, and who are described by Ptolemy 
as Chung (hence the later territorial name of Chunigard !) are a Finnish 
tribe, from the Ural mountains, which separate the two continents — 
pp. 80-81. 

Representations of the sun, animals, and characters, graven on rocks 
at Sierra Parime, as well as in North America, have frequently been 
regarded as writing — p. 82. 

Description of the cold mountain regions between 11,000 and 13,000 
Parisian, or 11,720 and 13,850 English feet in height, which have been 
designated Paramos. Character of their vegetation — p. 83. 

Orographic remarks on the two mountain clusters (Pacaraima and 
Sierra de Chiquitos) which separate the three plains of the lower Ori- 
noco, tha Amazon, and La Plata rivers from each other — p. 84. 

Concerning the Dogs of the New Continent, the aboriginal as well 
as those from Europe, which have become wild. Sufferings of Cats- at 
heights surpassing 13,854 feet — pp. 85-88. 

The Low Land of the Sahara and its relations to the Atlas range, 
according to the latest reports of Daumas, Carette, and Eenou. The 
barometric measurements of Fournel render it very probable, that 
part of the north African desert lies below the level of the sea. 
Oasis of Biscara. Abundance of rock-salt in regions which extend 
from S.W. to N.E. Causes of nocturnal cold in the desert, according to 
Melloni — pp. 88-92. Information respecting the River Wadi Dra (one- 
sixth longer than the Rhine), which is dry during a great part of the 
year. Some account of the territory of the Sheikh Beirouk, who is 
independent of the Emperor of Morocco, according to manuscript 
communications of Capt. Count Bouet Yillaumez, of the French Marine. 
The mountains north of Cape Nun (an Edrisian name, in which by a 
play of words a negation has been assumed since the loth century) 
attain an altitude of 9186 feet — pp. 92-94. 

Gramineous vegetation of the American Llanos between the tropics, 
compared with the herbaceous vegetation of the Steppes in Northern 
Asia. In these, especially in the most fertile of them, a pleasing effect 
is afforded in spring by the small snow-white and red flowering Rosaceae, 
Amygdaleae, the species of Astragalus, Crown-imperial, Cypripedias, and 
Tulips. Contrast with the desert of the salt-steppes full of Chenopodiae, 
and of species of Salsola and Atriplex. Numerical considerations with 
respect to the predominant families. The plains which skirt the Frozen 
Ocean (north of what Admiral Wrangel has described as the boundary 
of Coniferse and Amantacese), are the domain of cryptogamic plants. 
Physiognomy of the Tundra on an ever-frozen soil, covered with a 
thick coating of Sphagnum and other foliaceous mosses, or with the 
snow-white Cenomyce and Stereocaulon paschale — pp. 94-96. 


Chief causes of the very unequal distribution of heat in the European 
and American continents. Direction and inflection of the isothermal 
lines (equal mean-heat of the year, in winter and summer) — pp. 96-105. 

Is there reason to believe that America emerged later from the 
chaotic covering of waters? — pp. 105-107. Thermal comparison between 
the northern and southern hemispheres in high latitudes— pp. 107-109. 
Apparent connexion between the sand-seas of Africa, Persia, Kerman, 
Beloochistan, and Central Asia. On the western portion of the Atlas, 
and the connection of purely mythical ideas, with geographical legends. 
Indefinite allusions to fiery eruptions. Triton Lake. Crater forms, 
south of Hanno's "Bay of the Gorilla Apes." Singular description 
of the Hollow Atlas, from the Dialexes of Maximus Tyrius— pp. 110-11. 

Explanations of the Mountains of the Moon (Djebel-al-Komr) in the 
interior of Africa, according to Eeinaud, Beke, and Ayrton. Werne's 
instructive report of the second expedition, which was undertaken by 
command of Mehemet Ali. The Abyssinian high mountain chain, 
which, according to Riippell, attains nearly the height of Mont Blanc. 
The earliest account of the snow between the tropics is contained in the 
inscription of Adulis, which is of a somewhat later date than Juba. 
Lofty mountains, which between 6° and 4°, and even more southerly, 
approach the Bahr-el-Abiad. A considerable rise of ground separates 
the AVhite Nile from the basin of the Goschop. Line of separation 
between the waters which flow towards the Mediterranean and Indian 
seas, according to Carl Zimmermann's map. Lupata chain, according 
to the instructive researches of Wilhelm Peters — pp. 114-120. 

Oceanic currents. In the northern part of the Atlantic the waters 
are agitated in a true rotatory movement. That the first impulse to the 
Gulf-stream is to be looked for at the southern apex of Africa, was a fact 
already known to Sir Humphry Gilbert in 1560. Influence of the Gulf- 
stream on the climate of Scandinavia. How it contributed to the 
discovery of America. Instances of Esquimaux, who, favoured by 
north-west winds, have been carried, through the returning easterly 
inclined portion of the warm gulf-stream, to the European coasts. In- 
formation of Cornelius Nepos and Pomponius Mela respecting Indians, 
whom a King of the Boii sent as a present to the Gallic Proconsul 
Quintus Metellus Celer ; and again of others in the times of the Othos, 
Frederick Barbarossa, Columbus, and Cardinal Bembo. Again, in 
the years 1682 and 1684, natives of Greenland appeared at the Orkney 
Islands— pp. 120-125. 

Effects of lichens and other cryptogamia in the frigid and tempe- 
rate zones, in promoting the growth of the larger phanerogamia. In 
the tropics the preparatory ground-lichens often find substitutes in the 
oleaginous plants. Lactiferous animals of the New Continent; the 
Llama, Alpaca, and Guanaco — pp. 125-128. Culture of farinaceous 
grasses — pp. 128-131. On the earliest population of America— pp. 

The coast-tribe the Guaranes (Warraus), and the littoral palm Mau- 
ritia, according to Bembo, Ealeigh, Hillhouse, Pobert and Richard 
Schomburgk— pp. 134-136. 


Plienomena produced in the Steppe by a long drought. Sand- 
spouts, hot winds, deceptive images by aerial refraction (mirage). The 
awaking of crocodiles and tortoises after a long summer sleep — pp. 

Otomaks. General considerations respecting the earth-eating of cer- 
tain tribes. Unctuous and Infusorial earths — pp. 142-146. 

Carved Figures on rocks, which form a belt running east and west 
from the Rupunuri, Essequibo, and mountains of Pacaraima, to the 
solitudes of the Cassiquiare. Earliest observation (April, 1749) of such 
traces of an ancient civilization, in the unpublished travels of the 
Surgeon Xicolas Hortsmann, of Hildesheim, found among d'Anville's 
papers — pp. 147-151. 

The vegetable poison Curare, or Urari — pp. 151-152. 

AND MAYPURES pp. 153-173. 

The Orinoco, general view of its course. Ideas excited in the mind 
of Columbus on beholding its mouth. Its unknown sources lie to the 
east of the lofty Duida and of the thickets of Bertholletia. Cause of the 
principal bends of the river — pp. 153-162. The Falls. Raudal of 
Maypures, bounded by four streams. Former state of the region. In- 
sular form of the rocks Keri and Oco. Grand spectacle displayed on 
descending the hill Alanimi. A foaming surface, several miles in ex- 
tent, suddenly presents itself to view. Iron-black masses of tower- 
like rocks rise precipitately from the bed of the river; the summits 
of the lofty palms pierce through the clouds of vapoury spray — pp. 

Raudal of Atures, another island-world. Rock-dykes, connecting one 
island with the other. They are the resort of the pugnacious, golden- 
coloured rock manakin. Some parts of the river-bed in the cataracts 
are dry, in consequence of the waters having formed for themselves 
a channel through subterranean cavities. Yisit to these parts on the 
approach of night, during a heavy thunder-storm. Unsuspected pro- 
pinquity of crocodiles — pp. 168-171. The celebrated cave of Ataruipe, 
the grave of an extinct tribe — pp. 171-173. 

Scientific Illustkations and Additions . . . pp. 174-190. 

Abode of the river-cow (Trichecus Manati) in the sea, at the spot 
where, in the Gulf of Xagua on the southern coast of the Island of Cuba, 
springs of fresh water gush forth — pp. 174, 175. 

Geographical illustration of the sources of the Orinoco — pp.175-179 1 . 

Juvia (Bertholletia), a Lecythidea, remarkable as an instance of lofty 
organic development. Haulm of an Arundinaria upwards of sixteen feet 
from joint to joint — pp. 179-180. 

On the fabulous Lake Parime —pp. 180-188. 

The Parrot of Atures, a poem by Ernst Curtius. The bird lived 
in Maypures, and the natives declared that he was not understood, be- 
cause he spoke the language of the extinct Aturian tribe — pp. 1S8-190. 


FOREST pp. 191-201. 

Difference in the richness of languages as regards precise and definite 
words for characterizing natural phenomena, such as the state of vege- 
tation and the forms of plants, the contour and grouping of clouds, the 
appearance of the earth's surface, and the shape of mountains. Loss 
which languages sustain in such expressive words. The misinterpreta- 
tion of a Spanish word has enlarged mountain-chains on maps, and 
created new ranges. Primeval Fokest. Frequent misuse of this 
term. Want of uniformity in the association of the arboral species 
is characteristic of the forests within the tropics. Causes of their im- 
perviousness. The Climbing plants (Lianes) often form but a very 
inconsiderable portion of the underwood — pp. 191-196. 

Aspect of the Rio Apure in its lower course. Margin of the forest 
fenced like a garden by a low hedge of Sauso {Hermesia). The wild 
animals of the forest issue with their young through solitary gaps, to 
approach the river-side. Herds of large Capybarse, or Cavies. Fresh- 
water dolphins — pp. 196-199. The cries of wild animals resound 
through the forest. Cause of the nocturnal noises — pp. 199-200. 
Contrast to the repose which reigns at noontide on very hot days within 
the tropics. Description of the rocky narrows of the Orinoco at the 
Baraguan. Buzzing and humming of" insects; in every shrub, in the 
cracked bark of trees, in the perforated earth, furrowed by hymen- 
opterous insects, life is audible and manifest — pp. 200-201. 

Scientific Illustrations and Additions . . pp. 202-203. 

Characteristic denominations of the surface of the earth (Steppes, 
Savannahs, Prairies, Deserts) in the Arabic and Persian. Richness of 
the dialects of Old Castile for designating the forms of mountains. 
Fresh-water rays and fresh-water dolphins. In the giant streams of 
both continents some organic sea-forms are repeated. American noc- 
turnal apes with cat's eyes; the tricoloured striped Douroucoali of the 
Cassiquiare — pp. 202-203. 

Hypsometric Addenda. ..... pp. 204-209. 

Pentland's measurements in the eastern mountain-chain of Bolivia. 
Volcano of Aconcagua, according to Fitz-Roy and Darwin. Western 
mountain-chain of Bolivia — pp. 204-205. Mountain systems of North 
America. Rocky Mountains and snowy chain of California. Laguna 
de Timpanogos — pp. 205-207. Hypsometric profile of the Highland of 
Mexico as far as Santa Fe — pp. 207-209. 


Universal profusion of life on the slopes of the highest mountain 
summits, in the ocean and in the atmosphere. Subterranean Flora. 
Siliceous-shelled polygastrica in masses of ice at the pole. Podurellse 
in the ice tubules of the glaciers of the Alps ; the glacier-flea (Desorict 
glacialis). Minute organisms of the dust fogs — pp. 210-213. 



History of the vegetable covering. Gradual extension of vegeta- 
tion over the naked crust of rock. Lichens, mosses, oleaginous plants. 
Cause of the present absence of vegetation in certain districts. — pp. 213 

Each zone has its peculiar character. All animal and vegetable con- 
formation is bound to fixed and ever-recurring types. Physiognomy 
of Nature. Analysis of the combined effect produced by a region. 
The individual elements of this impression. Outline of the mountain 
ranges; azure of the sky; shape of the clouds. That which chiefly 
determines the character is the vegetable covering. Animal organiza- 
tions are deficient in mass; the mobility of individual species, and 
often their diminutiveness, conceals them from view — pp. 220-223. 

Enumeration of the forms of Plants -which principally determine the 
physiognomy of Nature, and which increase or diminish from the 
equator towards the Pole, in obedience to established laws — 

Text. Illustrations. 

Palms pp. 223-224 pp. 296-304 

Banana form . 



Mimosae . 


Cactus form 

Form of Orchideae . 


Acicular-leaved Trees 

Pothos form, and that of the Aroideas 

Lianes and Climbing plants 


Grass form 



"Willow form 

Myrtles . 

Melastomaceaa . 

Laurel form 

Enjoyment resulting from the nat 
these plant-forms. Importance of the 
to the landscape-painter— pp. 229-231 

Scientific Illustrations and Additions . . . pp. 232-352. 

Organisms, both animal and vegetable, in the highest Alpine regions, 
near the line of eternal snow, in the Andes chain, and the Alps; insects 
are carried up involuntarily by the ascending current of air. The small 
field-mouse {Hypudceus nivalis) of the Swiss Alps. On the real height 
to which the Chinchilla laniger mounts in Chili — pp. 232-233. 

Lecideaa, Parmeliae on rocks not entirely covered with snow; but 
certain phanerogamic plants also stray in the Cordilleras beyond the 

224 p. 305 

224 pp. §05-307 

225 pp. 307-308 

225 pp. 308-310 

226 pp. 310-312 
226 pp. 312-313 

226 pp. 313-314 

227 pp. 314-329 

227 pp. 329-331 
-228 pp. 331-332 

228 pp. 332-334 

228 pp. 334-337 

229 pp. 337-341 
229 pp. 341-343 
229 p. 343 
229 pp. 343-346 
229 p. 346 
229 p. 346 

ral grouping and contrasts of 
physiognomical study of plants 








boundary of perpetual snow, thus Saxifraga Boussingaulti to 15,773 feet 
above the level of the sea. Groups of phanerogamic Alpine plants in the 
Andes chain at from 13,700 to nearly 15,000 feet high. Species of Cul- 
citium, Espeletia, Eanunculus, and small moss-like umbellifera, Myrrhis 
andicola, and Fragosa arctioides— pp. 233-234. Measurement of Chim- 
horazo, and etymology of the name— p. 234-236. On the greatest 
absolute height to which men in both continents, in the Cordilleras and 
the Himalaya, — on the Chimborazo and Tarhigang — have as yet ascended 
—p. 236. 

Economy, habitat, and singular mode of capturing the Condor 
(Ountur, in the Inca language) by means of' palisades — pp. 237-239. 
Use of the Gallinazos (Cathartes uriibu and C. aura) in the economy of 
nature, for purifying of the air in the neighbourhood of human dwell- 
ings; their domestication — pp. 239-240. 

On the so-called revivification of the rotifera, according to Ehrenberg 
and Doyere; according to Payen, germs of Cryptogamia retain their 
power of reproduction in the highest temperature — pp. 240-241. 

Diminution, if not total suspension, of organic functions in the 
winter-sleep of the higher classes of animals — p. 242. Summer-sleep 
of animals in the tropics. Drought acts like the cold of winter. 
Tenrecs, Crocodiles, Tortoises, and East- African Lepidosirens — pp. 

Pollen, Fructification of Plants. The experience of many years 
concerning the Coelebogyne ; it brings forth mature seeds in England 
without a trace of male organs — pp. 244-245. 

The phosphorescence of the Ocean through luminous animals as 
well as organic fibres and membranes of the decomposing animalculae. 
Acalculias and siliceous-shelled luminous infusoria. Influence of ner- 
vous irritability on the coruscation— pp. 245-250. 

Pentastonia, inhabiting the lungs of the rattle-snake of Cumana — 
p. 251. 

Ptock-constructing Coral animals. The structure surviving the archi- 
tects. More correct views of the present period. Coast-reefs, Eeefs sur- 
rounding islands and Lagoon-islands. Atolls, Coral walls inclosing a 
lagoon. The royal gardens of Christopher Columbus, The Coral Islands 
south of Cuba. The living gelatinous coating of the calcareous fabric 
of the coral-stems allures fishes in quest of food, and also turtles. 
Singular mode of fishing with the liemora, Echeneis Naucrates (the 
little angling fish)— pp. 251-258. 

Probable depth of the coralline structures — pp. 258-260. Besides a 
great quantity of carbonate of lime and magnesia, the madrepores and 
Astreaa contain also some fluoric and phosphoric acid — pp. 260-261. 
Oscillating state of the sea-bottom according to Darwin — pp. 261-262. 

Irruptions of the sea. Mediterranean Sea. Sluice-theory of Strato. 
Samothracian legends. The Myth of Lyctonia and the submerged 
Atlantis— pp. 262-266. Concerning the precipitation of clouds — 


p. 266. The indurating crust of the earth while giving out caloric. 
Heated currents of air, which in the primordial period, during the fre- 
quent corrugations of the mountainous strata, and the upheaval of 
lands, have poured into the atmosphere through temporary fissures 
and chasms — pp. 266-268. 

Colossal size and great age of certain genera of trees, e. g., the 
dragon-tree of Orotava of 13, the Adansonia digitata (Baobab) of 33 
feet in diameter. Carved characters of the 15th century. Adanson 
assigns to certain Baobab-stems of Senegambia an age of from 5000 to 
6000 years— pp. 268-273. 

According to an estimate based on the number of the annual rings, 
there are yews (Taxus baccata) of from 2600 to 3000 years old. Whether 
in the temperate northern zone that part of a tree which faces the north 
has narrower rings, as Michael Montaigne asserted in 1581? Gigantic 
trees, of which some individuals attain a diameter of above 20 feet and 
an age of several centuries, belong to the most opposite natural families 
—pp. 273-274. 

Diameter of the Mexican Schubertia disticha of Santa Maria del Tule 
43, of the oak near Saintes (Dep. de la Charente inf.) 30 feet. The 
age of this oak considered by its annual rings to be from 1800 to 2000 
years. The main stem of the rose-tree (27 feet high) at the crypt of 
the church of Hildesheim is 800 years old. A species of fucus, Macro- 
cystis pyrifera, attains a length of more than 350 feet, and therefore 
exceeds all the conifera in length, not excepting the Sequoia gigantea 
itself— pp. 274-276. 

Investigations into the supposed number of the phanerogamic species 
of plants, which have hitherto been described or are preserved in herba- 
riums. Numerical ratios of plant-forms. Discovered laws of the geogra- 
phical distribution of the families. Ratios of the great divisions : of the 
Cryptogamia to the Cotyledons, and of the Monocotyledons to the Dicoty- 
ledons, in the torrid, temperate, and frigid zones. Outlines of arith- 
metical botany. Number of the individuals, predominance of social 
plants. The forms of organic beings stand in mutual dependence on 
each other. If once the number of species in one of the great families 
of the Glumacese, Leguminosse, or Composite, on any one point of the 
earth, be known, an approximative conclusion may be arrived at not 
only as to the number of all the phanerogamia, but also of the species 
of all remaining plant-families growing there. Connection of the 
numerical ratios here treated on in the geographical distribution of the 
families, with the direction of the isothermal lines. Primitive mystery 
in the distribution of types. Absence of Roses in the southern, and of 
Calceolarias in the northern zone. Why has our heath (Calluna vul- 
garis), and why have our Oaks not progressed eastwards across the Ural 
into Asia? The vegetation-cycle of each species requires a certain 
minimum heat for its due organic development — pp. 273-287. 

Analogy with the numeric laws in the distribution of animal forms. 
If more than 35,000 species of phanerogamia are now cultivated in 


Europe, and if from 160,000 to 212,000 phanerogamia are new con- 
tained, described and undescribed, in our herbariums ; it is probable 
that the number of collected insects scarcely equals that number of 
phanerogamia; whereas in individual European districts the insects 
collected preponderate in a threefold ratio over the phanerogamia — 
pp. 287-291. 

Considerations on the proportion borne by the number of the phane- 
rogamia actually ascertained, to the entire number existing on the 
globe— pp. 291-295. 

Influence of the pressure of atmospheric strata on the form and life 
of plants, with reference to Alpine vegetation — pp. 295-296. 

Specialities on the plant-forms already enumerated. Plrysiognomy 
of plants discussed from three different points of view: the absolute 
difference of the forms, their local preponderance in the sum total 
of the phanerogamic Floras, and their geographical as well as climatic 
dispersion — pp. 296-316. Greatest height of arboral plants ; examples 
of 223 to 246 feet in Pinus Lambertiana and P. Douglasii, of 266 in P. 
Strobus, of 300 feet in Sequoia gigantea and Pinus trigona. All these 
examples are from the north-western part of the New Continent. The 
Araucaria excelsa of Norfolk Island, accurately measured, rises only 
from 182 to 223 feet; the Alpine palms of the Cordilleras (Ceroxylon 
andicola), only 190 feet — pp. 322-321. A contrast to these gigantic 
vegetable forms, presented not merely by the stem of the arctic willow 
(Salix arctica, two inches in height,) stunted by cold and exposure on 
the mountains, but also in the tropical plains by the Tristicha hypnoides, 
a phanerogamic plant which is hardly three French lines (quarter of an 
inch) in height, when fully developed — pp. 324-325. 

Bursting forth of blossoms from the rough bark of the Crescentia 
" Cujete, of the Gustavia augusta, from the roots of the Cacao tree. The 
largest blossoms borne by the Rafflesia Arnoldi, Aristolochia cordata, 
Magnolia, Helianthus annuus — p. 348. 

The different forms of plants determine the scenic character of vege- 
tation in the different zones. Physiognomic classification, or distribu- 
tion of the groups according to external facies, is from its basis of 
arrangement entirely different from the classification according to the 
system of natural families. The physiognomy of plants is based 
principally on the so-called organs of vegetation, on which the preser- 
vation of the individual depends ; systematic botany bases the classifi- 
cation of the natural families on the consideration of the organs of 
reproduction, on which the preservation of the species depends— 
pp. 348-352. 


Influence of travels in distant lands on the generalization of our ideas 
and-on the progress of physical orology. Influence of the conformation 
of the Mediterranean on the earliest ideas respecting volcanic pheno- 


mena. — Comparative Geology of Volcanos. Periodical return of 
certain revolutions in nature, the cause of which lies deep in the interior 
of the globe. Proportion of the height of volcanos to that of their 
cone of ashes in the Pichincha, Peak of Teneriffe, and Vesuvius. 
Changes in the height of volcanic mountain summits. Measurements 
of the margins of the crater of A'esuvius from 1773 to 1822 ; the 
author's measurements embrace the period from 1805 to 1822 — pp. 
353-365. Circumstantial description of the eruption in the night be- 
tween the 24th and 25th of October, 1822. Falling in of a cone of ashes 
more than 400 feet high, which stood in the interior of the crater. The 
eruption of ashes from the 24th to the 28th of October, was the most 
memorable among those, of which authentic accounts are possessed, 
since the time of the elder Pliny — pp. 365-371. 

Difference between volcanos that are of very diverse forms, with 
permanent craters, and the phenomena more rarely observed in historic 
times, in which trachytic mountains suddenly open, eject lava and ashes, 
and reclose, perhaps for ever. The latter phenomena are peculiarly 
instructive for geognosy, because they remind us of the earliest revolu- 
tions that occurred in the oscillating, upheaved, fissured surface of the 
earth. In ancient times they led to the notion of the Pyriphlegethon. 
Yolcanos are intermittent earth-springs, the result of a permanent or 
transitory connection between the interior and exterior of our planet, 
the result of a reaction of the still fluid interior against the crust of the 
earth ; hence the question is useless, as to what chemical substance burns 
in the volcanos, and furnishes the material for combustion — pp. 371-373. 
The primary cause of subterranean heat is, as in all planets, the for- 
mative process itself, the separation of the conglomerating mass from a 
cosmic vaporous fluid. Power and influence of the calorific radiation 
from numerous deep fissures, unfilled veins in the primordial world. 
Great independence, at that period, of the climate (atmospheric tempe- 
rature) in respect to geographical latitude, the position of the planet 
towards the central body, the sun. Organisms of the present tropical 
world buried in the icy north — pp. 373-375. 

Scientific Illustrations and Additions . . .pp. 376-379. 
Barometric measurements on Vesuvius, comparison of the two crater- 
margins and the Rocca del Palo— pp. 376-379. Increase of temperature 
with depth, being 1° of Fahrenheit for every 54 feet. Temperature 
of the Artesian well in Oeynhausen's Bath (New Salt-works near 
Minden), at the greatest depth yet reached below the level of the sea. 
As early as the third century the thermal springs near Carthage led 
Patricius, Bishop of Pertusa, to form correct suppositions respecting 
the cause of calorific increase in the interior of the earth — p. 379. 


pp. 380-385. 
Illustrations and Note pp. 386-389. 

The Rhodian Genius is the development of a physiological idea in a 
mythical garb. Difference of views concerning the necessity and non- 


necessity for the assumption of peculiar vital forces — pp. 386-387. The 
difficulty of satisfactorily reducing the vital phenomena of the organism 
to physical and chemical laws is, principally, based on the complexity 
of the phenomena, on the multiplicity of forces acting simultaneously, 
as well as on the varying conditions of their activity. Definition of 
the expressions, animate and inanimate matter. Criteria of the 
miscent state ensuing upon separation, are the simple enunciation of 
a fact— pp. 387-389. 


pp. 390-420. 
Cinchona, or Quina-woods in the valleys of Loxa. First use of the 
fever-bark in Europe ; the Yice-Queen Countess of Chinchon — pp. 390- 

Alpine vegetation of the Paramos. Ruins of ancient Peruvian cause- 
ways; they rise in the Paramo del Assuay almost to the height of 
Mont Blanc — p. 394. Singular mode of communication, by a 
swimming courier — p. 399. 

Descent to the Amazon River. "Vegetation around Chamaya and 
Tomependa; red groves of Bougainvillaea. Rocky ridges which cross 
the Amazon River. Cataracts. Narrows of the Pongo de Manseriche, in 
which the mighty stream, measured by La Condamine, is hardly 160 
feet broad. Fall of the rocky dam of Rentema, which for several hours, 
laid bare the bed of the river, to the terror of the inhabitants on its 
banks — p. 401. 

Passage across the Andes chain, where it is intersected by the mag- 
netic equator, Ammonites of nearly 15 inches, Echini and Isocardia of 
the chalk-formation, collected between Griiambos and Montan, nearly 
12,800 feet above the sea. Rich silver-mines of Chota. The pictu- 
resque, tower-like Cerro de Gualgayoc. An enormous mass of filament- 
ous virgin silver in the Pampa de Navar. A treasure of virgin gold, 
twined round with filamentous silver, in the shell-field (Choropampa), 
so named on account of the numerous fossils. Outbursts of silver and 
gold ores in the chalk-formations. The little mountain-town of Micui- 
pampa lies 11,873 feet above the sea — pp. 402-405. 

Across the mountain wilderness of the Paramo de Yanaguanga the 
traveller descends into the beautiful embosomed valley or rather 
Plateau of Caxamarca (almost at an equal altitude with the city of Quito). 
Warm baths of the Inca. Ruins of Atahuallpa's palace, inhabited by 
his indigent descendants, the family of Astorpilca. Belief entertained 
there, in the existence of subterranean golden gardens of the Inca; said 
to be situated in the lovely valley of Yucay, under the Temple of 
the Sun at Cuzco, and at many other points. Conversation with the 
son of the Curaca Astorpilca. The room is still shown in which the 
unfortunate Atahuallpa was kept prisoner for nine months, from the 
November of 1532; also the wall on which he made a mark to indicate 


the height to which he would cause the room to be filled with gold, if his 
persecutors would set him free. Account of the prince's execution on 
the 29th of August, 1533, and remarks on the so-called "indelible blood 
stain" on a stone slab before the altar in the chapel of the city prison 
— pp. 406-414. How the hope in a restoration of the Inca empire, 
also indulged in by Raleigh, has been maintained among the natives. 
Causes of this fanciful belief— p. 414. 

Journey from Caxamarca to the sea-coast. Passage across the Cor- 
dilleras through the Altos de Guangamarca. The often disappointed 
hope of enjoying the sight of the Pacific from the crest of the Andes, 
at last gratified, at a height of 9380 feet — pp. 415-420. 

Scientific Illustrations and Additions . . .pp. 421-436. 

On the origin of the name borne by the Andes Chain . . p. 421. 
Epoch of the introductiou of Cinchona (Peruvian) bark into Europe 
—p. 422. 

Euins of the Inca's causeways and fortified dwellings; Aposentos de 
Mulalo, Fortaleza del Canar, Inti-Guaycu — p. 423. 

On the ancient civilization of the Chibchas or Muyscas of New 
Granada — p. 425. Age of the culture of the potato and banana — p. 427. 
Etymology of the word Cundinamarca, corrupted from Cundirumarca, 
and which, in the first years of republican independence, designated 
the whole country of New Granada — p. 427. 

Chronometric connection of the city of Quito with Tomependa, on 
the upper course of the Amazon Eiver, and the Callao de Lima, the 
position of which was accurately determined by the transit of Mercury 
on the 9th of November, 1802— p. 428. 

On the tedious court ceremonies of the Incas. Atahuallpa's im- 
prisonment and unavailing ransom — p. 429. 

Free-thinking of the Inca Huayna Capac. Philosophical doubts on 
the official worship of the sun, and obstacles to the diffusion of know- 
ledge among the lower and poorer classes of people, according to the 
testimony of Padre Bias Valera — p. 431. 

Ealeigh's project for the restoration of the Inca dynasty under 
English protection, which should be granted for an annual tribute of 
several hundred thousand pounds — p. 432. 

Columbus' earliest evidence of the existence of the Pacific. It was 
first seen on the 25th of September, 1513, by Vasco Nunez de Balboa, 
and first navigated by Alonso Martin de Don Benito — p. 432. 

On the possibility of constructing an Oceanic canal thrmgh the 
isthmus of Panama (with fewer locks than the Caledonian Canal). 
Points, the exploration of which has been hitherto totallv neglected — 
p. 435. 

Determination of the longitude of Lima — p. 435. 


At the foot of the lofty granitic range which, in the early 
age of our planet, resisted the irruption of the waters on the 
formation of the Caribbean Gulf, extends a vast and boundless 
plain. When the traveller turns from the Alpine valleys of 
Caracas, and the island-studded lake of Tacarigua (1), whose 
waters reflect the forms of the neighbouring bananas, — when 
he leaves the fields verdant with the light and tender green 
of the Tahitian sugar-cane, or the sombre shade of the cacoa 
groves, — his eye rests in the south on Steppes, whose seeming 
elevations disappear in the distant horizon. 

From the rich luxuriance of organic life the astonished tra- 
veller suddenly finds himself on the dreary margin of a treeless 
waste. Nor hill, nor cliff rears its head, like an island in the 
ocean , above the boundless plain : only here and there broken 
strata of floetz, extending over a surface of two hundred square 
miles, (more than three thousand English square miles*,) appear 
sensibly higher than the surrounding district. The natives 
term them ba?iJ<s (2), as if the spirit of language would con- 
vey some record of that ancient condition of the world, when 
these elevations formed the shoals, and the Steppes themselves 
the bottom, of some vast inland sea. 

Even now, illusion often recalls, in the obscurity of night, 
these images of a former age. For when the guiding con- 
stellations illumine the margin of the plain with their rapidly 
rising and setting beams, or when their flickering forms are 

* It is not intended in eveiy instance to trouble the reader with 
duplicate measurements ; but they will be introduced occasionally 
Wherever only one measurement is given, it must be understood as 
English.— Ed. 



reflected in the lower stratum of undulating vapour, a shore- 
less ocean seems spread before us (3). Like a limitless 
expanse of waters, the Steppe fills the mind with a sense of 
the infinite, and the soul, freed from the sensuous impres- 
sions of space, expands with spiritual emotions of a higher 
order. But the aspect of the ocean, its bright surface diver- 
sified with rippling or gently swelling waves, is productive 
of pleasurable sensations, — while the Steppe lies stretched 
before us, cold and monotonous, like the naked stony crust 
of some desolate planet (4). 

In all latitudes nature presents the phenomenon of these 
vast plains, and each has some peculiar character or phy- 
siognomy, determined by diversity of soil and climate, and 
by elevation above the level of the sea. 

In northern Europe the Heaths which, covered by one sole 
form of vegetation, to the exclusion cf all others, extend from 
the extremity of Jutland to the mouth of the Scheldt, may 
be regarded as true Steppes. They are, however, both hilly 
and of very inconsiderable extent when compared with the 
Llanos and Pampas of South America, or even with the 
Prairies on the Missouri (5) and Copper River, the resort 
of the shaggy Bison and the small Musk Ox. 

The plains in the interior of Africa present a grander and 
more imposing spectacle. Like the wide expanse of the 
Pacific, they have remained unexplored until recent times. 
They are portions of a sea of sand, which towards the east 
separates fruitful regions from each other, or incloses them 
like islands, as the desert near the basaltic mountains of 
Harudsch (6), where, in the Oasis of Siwah, rich in date- 
trees, the ruins of the temple of Amnion indicate the venerable 
seat of early civilization. Neither dew nor rain refreshes these 
barren wastes, or unfolds the germs of vegetation within the 
glowing depths of the earth; for everywhere rising columns 
of hot air dissolve the vapours and disperse the passing clouds. 
Wherever the desert approaches the Atlantic Ocean, as . 


between Wadi Nun and the White Cape, the moist sea-air 
rushes in to fill the vacuum caused by these vertically ascend- 
ing currents of air. The navigator, in steeling towards the 
mouth of the river Gambia, through a sea thickly carpeted 
with weeds, infers by the sudden cessation of the tropical east 
wind (7), that he is near the far-spreading and radiating sandy 

Flocks of swift-tooted ostriches and herds of gazelles 
wander over this boundless space. With the exception of 
the newly discovered group of Oases, rich in springs, whose 
verdant banks are frequented by nomadic tribes of Tibbos 
and Tuaricks (8), the whole of the African deserts may be 
regarded as uninhabitable by man. It is only periodically 
that the neighbouring civilized nations venture to traverse 
them. On tracks whose undeviating course was determined 
by commercial intercourse thousands of years ago, the long- 
line of caravans passes from Tafilet to Timbuctoo, or from 
Mourzouk to Bornou ; daring enterprises, the practicability of 
which depends on the existence of the camel, the ship of the 
desert (9), as it is termed in the ancient legends of the East. 

These African plains cover an area which exceeds almost 
three times that of the neighbouring Mediterranean. They 
are situated partly within and. partly near the tropics, a 
position on which depends their individual natural character. 
On the other hand, in the eastern portion of the old continent 
the same geognostic phenomenon is peculiar to the temperate 

On the mountainous range of Central Asia, between the 
Gold or Altai Mountain and the Kouen-lien (10), from the 
Chinese wall to the further side of the Celestial Mountains, 
and towards the Sea of Aral, over a space of several thousand 
miles, extend, if not the highest, certainly the largest Steppes 
in the world. I myself enjoyed an opportunity, full thirty 
years after my South American travels, of visiting that por- 
tion of the Steppes which is occupied by Kalmuck-Kirghis 

p, 2 


tribes, and is situated between the Don, the Volga, the 
Caspian Sea, and the Chinese Lake of Dsaisang, and which 
consequently extends over an area of nearly 2,800 geogra- 
phical miles. The vegetation of the Asiatic Steppes, which are 
sometimes hilly and interspersed with pine forests, is in its 
groupings far more varied than that of the Llanos and the 
Pampas of Caracas and Buenos Ay res. The more beautiful 
portions of the plains, inhabited by Asiatic pastoral tribes, are 
adorned with lowly shrubs of luxuriant white-blossomed Rosa- 
cea}, Crown Imperials (Fritillarise), Cypripedese, and Tulips. 
As the torrid zone is in general distinguished by a tendency 
in the vegetable forms to become arborescent, so we also find, 
that some of the Asiatic Steppes of the temperate zone are 
characterized by the remarkable height to which flowering 
plants attain ; as, for instance, Saussurea?, and other Synan- 
therese ; all siliquose plants, and particularly numerous species 
of Astragalus. On crossing the trackless portions of the herb- 
covered Steppes in the low carriages of the Tartars, it is 
necessary to stand upright in order to ascertain the direction 
to be pursued through the copse-like and closely crowded 
plants that bend under the wheels. Some of these Steppes 
are covered with grass; others with succulent, evergreen, 
articulated alkaline plants ; while many are radiant with the 
effulgence of lichen-like tufts of salt, scattered irregularly 
over the clayey soil like newly fallen snow. 

These Mongolian and Tartar Steppes, which are intersected 
by numerous mountain chains, separate the ancient and long- 
civilized races of Thibet and Hindostan from the rude nations 
of Northern Asia. They have also exerted a manifold influence 
on the changing destinies of mankind. They have inclined 
the current of population southward, impeded the intercourse 
of nations more than the Himalayas, or the Snowy Mountains 
of Sirinagur and Gorka, and placed permanent limits to the 
progress of civilization and refinement in a northerly direction. 

History cannot, however, regard the plains of Central Asia 


under the character of obstructive barriers alone. Thev 
have frequently proved the means of spreading misery and 
devastation over the face of the earth. Some of the pastoral 
tribes inhabiting this Steppe, — the Mongols, Getac, Alani, and 
Usuni, — have convulsed the world. If in the course of earlier 
ages, the dawn of civilization spread like the vivifying light 
of the sun from east to west; so in subsequent ages and 
from the same quarter, have barbarism and rudeness threatened 
to overcloud Europe. 

A tawny tribe of herdsmen (11) of Tukiuish i. e., Turkish 
origin, the Hiongnu, dwelt in tents of skins on the elevated 
Steppe of Gobi. A portion of this race had been driven 
southward towards the interior of Asia, after continuing for a 
long time formidable to the Chinese power. This shock, 
(dislodgement of the tribes) was communicated uninterrupt- 
edly as far as the ancient land of the Fins, near the sources of 
the Ural.* From thence poured forth bands of Huns, Avars, 
Chasars, and a numerous admixture of Asiatic races. War- 
like bodies of Huns first appeared on the Volga, next in 
Pannonia, then on the Marne and the banks of the Po, 
laying waste those richly cultivated tracts, where, since the 
age of Antenor, man's creative art had piled monument on 
monument. Thus swept a pestilential breath from the Mon- 
golian deserts over the fair Cisalpine soil, stifling the tender, 
long- cherished blossoms of art ! 

From the Salt-steppes of Asia, — from the European Heaths, 
— smiling in summer with their scarlet, honey-yielding 
flowers, — and from the barren deserts of Africa, we return to 
the plains of South America, the picture of which I have 
already begun to sketch in rude outline. 

* The Huns, on being driven from their ancient pastures by the 
Chinese, traversed Asia, 1300 leagues,) and, swelled by the numerous 
hordes they conquered en route, entered Europe, and gave the first 
impulse to the great migration of nations. Deguires traces their pro- 
gress with geographical minuteness, and Gibbon tells their story with 
his usual eloquence in Chap. XXVI. — Ed. 


But the interest yielded by the contemplation of such a 
picture must arise from a pure love of nature. No Oasis here 
reminds the traveller of former inhabitants, no hewn stone 
(12), no fruit-tree once cultivated and now growing wild, 
bears witness to the industry of past races. As if a stranger 
to the destinies of mankind, and bound to the present alone, 
this region of the earth presents a wild domain to the free 
manifestation of animal and vegetable life. 

The Steppe extends from the littoral chain of Caracas to 
the forests of Guiana, and from the snow-covered mountains of 
Merida, on whose declivity lies the Natron lake of Urao, — the 
object of the religious superstition of the natives, — to the vast 
delta formed bv the mouth of the Orinoco. To the south- 
west it stretches like an arm of the sea (13), beyond the 
banks of the Meta and of the Yichada, to the unexplored 
sources of the Guaviare, and to the solitary mountain group 
to which the vivid imagination of the Spanish warriors gave 
the name of Paramo de la Suma Paz, as though it were the 
beautiful seat of eternal repose. 

This Steppe incloses an area of 256,000 square miles. 
Owing to inaccurate geographical data, it has often been 
described as extending in equal breadth to the Straits of 
Magellan, unmindful that it is intersected by the wooded 
plain of the Amazon, which is bounded to the north by the 
grassy Steppes of the Apure, and to the south by those o± 
the Rio de la Plata. The Andes of Cochabamba and the 
Brazilian mountains approximate each other by means of 
separate transverse spurs, projecting between the province of 
Chiquitos and the isthmus of Villabella (14). A narrow plain 
unites the Hylcea of the Amazon with the Pampas of Buenos 
Ayres. The area of the latter is three times larger than that 
of the Llanos of Venezuela ; indeed so vast in extent, that it 
is bounded on the north by palms, while its southern extremity 
is almost covered with perpetual ice. The Tuyu, which re- 
sembles the Cassowary, (Struthio Rhea,) is peculiar to these 
Pampas, as are also those herds of wild dogs (15), which dwell 


in social community in subterranean caverns, and often fero- 
ciously attack man, for whose defence their progenitors fought. 

Like the greater part of the desert of Sahara (16), the 
Llanos, the most northern plains of South America, lie within 
the torrid zone- Twice in every year they change their 
whole aspect, during one half of it appearing waste and bar- 
ren like the Lybian desert ; during the other, covered with 
verdure, like many of the elevated Steppes of Central Asia (17). 

The attempt to compare the natural characteristics of 
remote regions, and to pourtray the results of this comparison 
in brief outline, though a gratifying, is a somewhat difficult 
branch of physical geography. 

A number of causes, many of them still but little under- 
stood (18), diminish the dryness and heat of the New World. 
Among these are : the narrowness of this extensively in- 
dented continent in the northern part of the tropics, where 
the fluid basis on which the atmosphere rests, occasions 
the ascent of a less warm current of air ; its wide extension 
towards both the icy poles ; a broad ocean swept by cool 
tropical winds ; the flatness of the eastern shores ; currents 
of cold sea- water from the antarctic region, which, at first 
following a direction from south-west to north-east, strike 
the coast of Chili below the parallel of 35° south lat., and 
advance as far north on the coasts of Peru as Cape Parina, 
where they suddenly diverge towards the west ; the numerous 
mountains abounding in springs, whose snow-crowned sum- 
mits soar above the strata of clouds, and cause the descent 
of currents of air down their declivities ; the abundance of 
rivers of enormous breadth, which after many windings in- 
variably seek the most distant coast ; Steppes, devoid of 
sand, and therefore less readily acquiring heat ; impenetrable 
forests, which, protecting the earth from the sun's rays, or 
radiating heat from the surface of their leaves, cover the 
richly-watered plains of the Equator, and exhale into the in- 
terior of the country, most remote from mountains and the 


Ocean, prodigious quantities of moisture, partly absorbed 
and partly generated — all these causes produce in the flat 
portions of America a climate which presents a most striking 
contrast in point of humidity and coolness with that of Africa. 
On these alone depend the luxuriant and exuberant vege- 
tation and that richness of foliage which are so peculiarly 
characteristic of the New Continent. 

If, therefore, the atmosphere on one side of our planet be 
more humid than on the other, a consideration of the actual 
condition of things will be sufficient to solve the problem of 
this inequality. The natural philosopher need not shroud the 
explanation of such phenomena in the garb of geological myths. 
It is not necessary to assume that the destructive conflict 
of the elements raged at different epochs in the eastern and 
western hemispheres, during the early condition of our planet ; 
or that America emerged subsequently to the other quarters 
of the world from the chaotic covering of waters, as a swampy 
island, the abode of crocodiles and serpents (19). 

South America presents indeed a remarkable similarity to 
the south-western peninsula of the old continent, in the form 
of its outlines and the direction of its coast -line. But the 
internal structure of the soil, and its relative position with 
respect to the contiguous masses of land, occasion in Africa 
that remarkable aridity which over a vast area checks the 
development of organic life. Four-fifths of South America lie 
beyond the Equator, and therefore in a region which, on 
account of its abundant waters, as well as from many other 
causes, is cooler and moister than our northern hemisphere 
(20). To this, nevertheless, the most considerable portion 
of Africa belongs. 

The extent from east to west of the South American Steppes 
cr Llanos, is only one third that of the African Desert. The 
former are refreshed by the tropical sea wind, while the lat- 
ter, situated in the same parallel of latitude as Arabia and 
Southern Persia, are visited by currents of air which have 


passed over heat-radiating continents. The venerable father 
of history, Herodotus, so long insufficiently appreciated, has 
in the true spirit of a comprehensive observer of nature, de- 
scribed all the deserts of Northern Africa, Yemen, Kerman, 
and Mekran (the Gedrosia of the Greeks), as far even as 
Mooltan in Western India, as one sole connected sea of 
sand (21). 

To the action of hot land winds, may be associated in 
Africa, as far as we know, a deficiency of large rivers, of 
forests that generate cold by exhaling aqueous vapour, and 
of lofty mountains. The only spot covered with perpetual 
snow is the western portion of Mount Atlas (22), whose narrow 
ridge, seen laterally, appeared to the ancient navigators 
when coasting the shore, as one solitary and aerial pillar of 
heaven. This mountain range extends eastward to Dakul, 
where the famed Carthage, once mistress of the seas, lies in 
crumbling ruins. This range forms a far extended coast-line 
or Gretulian rampart, which repels the cool north winds and 
with them the vapours rising from the Mediterranean. 

The Mountains of the Moon, Djebel-al-Komr (23), fabu- 
lously represented as forming a mountainous parallel between 
the elevated plain of Habesch — an African Quito — and the 
sources of the Senegal, were supposed to rise above the lower 
sea line. Even the Cordilleras of Lupata, which skirt the 
eastern coast of Mozambique and Monomotapa, in the same 
manner as the Andes bound the western shores of Peru, are 
covered with eternal snow in the gold districts of Machinga 
and Mocanga. But these mountains, abundantly watered, are 
situated at a considerable distance from the vast desert which 
extends from the southern declivity of the chain of Atlas to 
the Niger, whose waters flow in an easterly direction. 

Possibly, these combined causes of aridity and heat would 
have proved insufficient to convert such large portions of the 
African plains into a dreary waste, had not some convulsion 
of nature — as for instance the irruption of the ocean — on 


some occasion deprived these flat regions of their nutrient 
soil, as well as of the vegetation which it supported. The 
epoch when this occurred, and the nature of the forces which 
determined the irruption, are alike shrouded in the obscurity 
of the past. Perhaps it may have been the result of the 
great rotatory current (24), which drives the warmer waters 
of the Gulf of Mexico over the bank of Newfoundland to 
the old continent, and by which the cocoa-nut of the West 
Indies and other tropical fruits have been borne to the shores 
of Ireland and Norway. One branch of this oceanic current, 
after it leaves the Azores, has still, at the present time, a 
south-easterly course, striking the low range of the sandy 
coasts of Africa with a force that is frequently fraught with 
danger to the mariner. All sea-coasts — but I refer here 
more particularly to the Peruvian shore between Amotape and 
Coquimbo — afford evidence of the hundreds, or even thou- 
sands of years, which must pass before the moving sand 
can yield a firm basis for the roots of herbaceous plants, 
in those hot and rainless regions where neither Lecideee nor 
other lichens can grow (25). 

These considerations suffice to explain why, notwithstand- 
ing their external similarity of form, the continents of 
Africa and South America present the most widely differ- 
ent climatic relations and characters of vegetation. Al- 
though the South American Steppe is covered with a thin 
crust of fruitful earth, is periodically refreshed by rains, and 
adorned with luxuriant herbage, its attractions were not suffi- 
cient to induce the neighbouring nations to exchange the 
beautiful mountain valleys of Caracas, the sea-girt districts, 
and the richly watered plains of the Orinoco, for this treeless 
and springless desert. Hence on the arrival of the first Euro- 
pean and African settlers, the Steppe was found to be almost 
without inhabitants. 

The Llanos are, it is true, adapted for the breeding of cattle, 
but the primitive inhabitants of the new continent were 


almost wholly unacquainted with the management of animals 
yielding milk (26). Scarcely one of the American tribes 
knew how to avail themselves of the advantages which nature, 
in this respect, had placed before them. The American 
aborigines, who, from 65° north lat. to 55° south lat., con- 
stitute (with the exception, perhaps, of the Esquimaux,) but 
one sole race, passed directly from a hunting to an agri- 
cultural life without going through the intermediate stage of 
a pastoral life. Two species of indigenous horned cattle (the 
Buffalo and the Musk Ox) graze on the pasture lands of 
Western Canada and Quivira, as well as in the neighbourhood 
of the colossal ruins of the Aztek fortress, which rises like 
some American Palmyra on the desert solitudes of the river 
Gila. A long-horned Mouflon, resembling the so-called pro- 
genitor of the sheep, roams over the parched and barren lime- 
stone rocks of California ; while the camel -like Vicunas, 
Huanacos, Alpacas, and Llamas, are natives of the southern 
peninsula. But of these useful animals the two first only 
(viz. the Buffalo and the Musk Ox) have preserved their 
natural freedom for thousands of years. The use of milk and 
cheese, like the possession and culture of farinaceous grasses, is 
a distinctive characteristic of the nations of the old world (27). 
If some few tribes have passed through Northern Asia to 
the western coast of America, and preferring to keep within 
a temperate climate, have followed the course of the ridges of 
the Andes southward (28), such migrations must have been 
made by routes on which the settlers were unable to transport 
either flocks or grain. The question here arises, whether on 
the downfall of the long-declining empire of the Hiongnu, the 
consequent migration of this powerful race may not have 
been the means of drawing from the north-east of China and 
Korea, bands of settlers, by whom Asiatic civilisation was 
transported to the new continent ? If the primitive colonists 
had been natives of those Steppes in which agriculture was 
unknown, this bold hypothesis (which as yet is but little 


warranted by etymological comparisons) would at all events 
explain the remarkable absence of the Cereals in America. Per- 
haps contrary winds may have driven to the shores of New- 
California one of those Asiatic Priest- colonies who were insti- 
gated by their mystic dreameries to undertake distant voyages, 
and of wmich the history of the peopling of Japan, at the time 
of the Thsinsehihuany-ti, affords a memorable instance. (29) 

If a pastoral life — that beneficent intermediate stage which 
binds nomadic bands of hunters to fruitful pasture lands, and 
at the same time promotes agriculture — was unknown to the 
primitive races of America, it is to the very ignorance of 
such a mode of life that we must attribute the scantiness of 
population in the South American Steppes. But this circum- 
stance allowed freer scope for the forces of nature to deve- 
lop themselves in the most varied forms of animal life; a 
freedom only circumscribed by themselves, like vegetable life 
in the forests of the Orinoco, where the Hymensea and the giant 
laurel, exempt from the ravages of man, are only in danger of 
a too luxuriant embrace of the plants which surround them. 

Agoutis, small spotted antelopes, the shielded Armadillo, 
which, rat-like, terrifies the hare in its subterranean retreat ; 
herds of slothful Chiguires, beautifully striped Yiverrae, whose 
pestilential odour infects the air ; the great maneless Lion ; 
the variegated Jaguar (commonly knowai as the tiger), whose 
strength enables it to drag to the summit of a hill the body 
of the young bull it has slain — these, and many other forms 
of animal life (30), roam over the treeless plain. 

This region, which may be regarded as peculiarly the 
habitation of wild animals, would not have been chosen as a 
place of settlement by nomadic hordes, who like the Indo- 
Asiatics generally prefer a vegetable diet, had it not possessed 
some few r fan-palms (Jfauritia) scattered here and there. 
The beneficent qualities of this tree of life have been univer- 
sally celebrated (31.) Upon this alone subsist the unsubdued 
tribe of the Guaranes, at the mouth of the Orinoco northward 


of the Sierra cle Imataca. When they increased in numbers 
and became over-crowded, it is said that, besides the huts 
which they built on horizontal platforms supported by the 
stumps of felled palm-trees, they also ingeniously suspended 
from stem to stem spreading mats or hammocks woven of the 
leaf-stalk of the Mauritia, which enabled them, during the rainy 
season, when the Delta was overflowed, to live in trees in the 
manner of apes. These pendent huts were partly covered 
with clay. The women kindled the fire necessary for their 
culinary occupations on the humid flooring. As the traveller 
passed by night along the river, his attention was attracted by 
a long line of flame suspended high in the air, and appa- 
rently unconnected with the earth. The Guaranes owe the 
preservation of their physical, and perhaps even of their moral 
independence, to the loose marshy soil, over which they move 
with fleet and buoyant foot, and to their lofty sylvan domi- 
ciles ; a sanctuary whither religious enthusiasm would hardly 
lead an American Stylite (32). 

The Mauritia not only affords a secure habitation, but 
likewise yields numerous articles of food. Before the tender 
spathe unfolds its blossoms on the male palm, and only at 
that peculiar period of vegetable metamorphosis, the medul- 
lary portion of the trunk is found to contain a sago-like meal, 
which like that of the Jatropha root, is dried in thin bread- 
like slices. The sap of the tree when fermented constitutes 
the sweet inebriating palm- wine of the Guaranes. The nar- 
row-scaled fruit, which resembles reddish pine-cones, yields, 
like the banana and almost all tropical fruits, different articles 
of food, according to the periods at which it is gathered, 
whether its saccharine properties are fully matured, or whe- 
ther it is still in a farinaceous condition. Thus in the lowest 
grades of man's development, we find the existence of an 
entire race dependent upon almost a single tree ; like certain 
insects which are confined to particular portions of a flower. 

Since the discovery of the new continent, its plains (Llanos) 


have become habitable to man. Here and there towns (33) 
have sprung up on the shores of the Steppe-rivers, built to faci- 
litate the intercourse between the coasts and Guiana (the Ori- 
noco district). Everywhere throughout these vast districts the 
inhabitants have begun to rear cattle. At distances of a 
day's journey from each other, we see detached huts, woven 
together with reeds and thongs, and covered with ox-hides. 
Innumerable herds of oxen, horses, and mules (estimated at 
the peaceful period of my travels at a million and a half) 
roam over the Steppe in a state of wildness. The prodigious 
increase of these animals of the old world is the more re- 
markable, from the numerous perils with which, in these 
regions, they have to contend. 

When, beneath the vertical rays of the bright and cloudless 
sun of the tropics, the parched sward crumbles into dust, 
then the indurated soil cracks and bursts as if rent asunder 
by some mighty earthquake. And if, at such a time, two 
opposite currents of air, by conflict moving in rapid gy- 
rations, come in contact with the earth, a singular spec- 
tacle presents itself. Like funnel-shaped clouds, their apexes (34) 
touching the earth, the sands rise in vapoury form through 
the rarefied air in the electrically-charged centre of the 
whirling current, sweeping on like the rushing water-spout, 
which strikes such terror into the heart of the mariner. A 
dim and sallow light gleams from the lowering sky over the 
dreary plain. The horizon suddenly contracts, and the heart 
of the traveller sinks with dismay as the wide Steppe seems 
to close upon him on all sides. The hot and dusty earth forms 
a cloudy veil which shrouds the heavens from view, and in- 
creases the stifling oppression of the atmosphere (35); while 
the east wind, when it blows over the long-heated soil, instead 
of cooling, adds to the burning glow. 

Gradually, too, the pools of water, which had been pro- 
tected from evaporation by the now seared foliage of the 
fan-palm, disappear. As in the icy north animals become 


torpid from cold, so here the crocodile and the boa-con- 
strictor lie wrapt in unbroken sleep, deeply buried in the 
dried soil. Everywhere the drought announces death, yet 
everywhere the thirsting wanderer is deluded by the phan- 
tom of a moving, undulating, watery surface, created by 
the deceptive play of the reflected rays of light (the mirage, 
36). A narrow stratum separates the ground from the 
distant palm-trees, which seem to hover aloft, owing to the 
contact of currents of air having different degrees of heat and 
therefore of density-- 4 . Shrouded in dark clouds of dust, and 
tortured by hunger and burning thirst, oxen and horses scour 
the plain, the one bellowing dismally, the other with out- 
stretched necks snuffing the wind, in the endeavour to detect, 
by the moisture in the air, the vicinity of some pool of water 
not yet wholly evaporated. 

The mule, more cautious and cunning, adopts another me- 
thod of allaying his thirst. There is a globular and articulated 
plant, the Melocactus (37), which encloses under its prickly in- 
tegument an aqueous pulp. After carefully striking away the 
prickles with his forefeet, the mule cautiously ventures to 
apply his lips to imbibe the cooling thistle juice. But the 
draught from this living vegetable spring is not always un- 
attended by danger, and these animals are often observed to 
have been lamed by the puncture of the cactus thorn. 

Even if the burning heat of day be succeeded by the cool 
freshness of the night, here always of equal length, the wearied 
ox and horse enjoy no repose. Huge bats now attack the 
animals during sleep, and vampyre-like suck their blood ;f 
or, fastening on their backs, raise festering wounds, in which 
mosquitoes, hippobosces, and a host of other stinging insects, 
burrow and nestle. Such is the miserable existence of these 

* This effect is well represented in Grindlay's Scenery of the Western 
Side of India, plate 18. — Ed. 

t Modern naturalists affirm that all bats are insectivorous. — Ed. 


poor animals when the heat of the sun has absorbed the waters 
from the surface of the earth. 

When, after a long drought, the genial season of rain 
arrives, the scene suddenly changes (38). The deep azure 
of the hitherto cloudless sky assumes a lighter hue. Scarcely 
can the dark space in the constellation of the Southern 
Cross be distinguished at night. The mild phosphorescence 
of the Magellanic clouds fades away. Even the vertical stars 
of the constellations Aquila and Ophiuchus shine with a 
flickering and less planetary light. Like some distant moun- 
tain, a single cloud is seen rising perpendicularly on the 
southern horizon. Misty vapours collect and gradually over- 
spread the heavens, while distant thunder proclaims the 
approach of the vivifying rain. 

Scarcely is the surface of the earth moistened before the 
teeming Steppe becomes covered with Kyllingioe, with the 
many-panicled Paspalum, and a variety of grasses. Excited 
by the power of light, the herbaceous Mimosa unfolds its 
dormant, drooping leaves, hailing, as it were, the rising sun 
in chorus with the matin song of the birds and the opening 
flowers of aquatics. Horses and oxen, buoyant with life and 
enjoyment, roam over and crop the plains. The luxuriant grass 
hides the beautifully spotted Jaguar, who, lurking in safe con- 
cealment, and carefully measuring the extent of the leap, darts, 
like the Asiatic tiger, with a cat-like bound on his passing prey. 

At times, according to the account of the natives, the 
humid clay on the banks of the morasses (39), is seen to rise 
slowly in broad flakes. Accompanied by a violent noise, as 
on the eruption of a small mud-volcano, the upheaved earth 
is hurled high into the air. Those who are familiar with 
the phenomenon fly from it; for a colossal water-snake or a 
mailed and scaly crocodile, awakened from its trance by the 
first fall of rain, is about to burst from his tomb. 

When the rivers bounding the plain to the south, as the 
Arauca, the Apure, and the Payara, gradually overflow their 
banks, nature compels those creatures to live as amphibious 


animals, which, during the first half of the year, were perishing 
with thirst on the waterless and dusty plain. A part of the 
steppe now presents the appearance of a vast inland sea (40). 
The mares retreat with their foals to the higher banks, which 
project, like islands, above the spreading waters. Day by 
day the dry surface diminishes in extent. The cattle, crowded 
together, and deprived of pasturage, swim for hours about 
the inundated plain, seeking a scanty nourishment from the 
flowering panicles of the grasses which rise above the lurid 
and bubbling waters. Many foals are drowned, many are 
seized by crocodiles, crushed by their serrated tails, and 
devoured. Horses and oxen may not unfrequently be seen 
which have escaped from the fury of this bloodthirsty and 
gigantic lizard, bearing on their legs the marks of its pointed 

This spectacle involuntarily reminds the contemplative ob- 
server of the adaptability granted by an all-provident nature 
to certain animals and plants. Like the farinaceous fruits of 
Ceres, the ox and horse have followed man over the whole 
surface of the earth—from the Ganges to the Rio de la Plata, 
and from the sea-coast of Africa to the mountainous plain of 
Antisana, which lies higher than the Peak of Teneriffe (41). 
In the one region the northern birch, in the other the date- 
palm, protects the wearied ox from the noonday sun. The 
same species of animal which contends in eastern Europe with 
bears and wolves, is exposed, in a different latitude, to the 
attacks of tigers and crocodiles ! 

The crocodile and the jaguar are not, however, the only 
enemies that threaten the South American horse; for even 
among the fishes it has a dangerous foe. The marshy waters 
of Bera and Rastro (42) are filled with innumerable electric 
eels, who can at pleasure discharge from every part of their 
slimy, yellow-speckled bodies a deadening shock. This species 
of gymnotus is about five or six feet in length. It is power- 
ful enough to kill the largest animals when it discharges 


its nervous organs at one shock in a favourable direction. 
It was once found necessary to change the line of road from 
Uritucu across the Steppe, owing to the number of horses 
which, in fording a certain rivulet, annually fell a sacrifice 
to these gymnoti, which had accumulated there in great num- 
bers. All other species of fish shun the vicinity of these for- 
midable creatures. Even the angler, when fishing from the 
high bank, is in dread lest an electric shock should be conveyed 
to him along the moistened line. Thus, in these regions, the 
electric fire breaks forth from the lowest depths of the waters. 

The mode of capturing the gymnotus affords a picturesque 
spectacle. A number of mules and horses are driven into a 
swamp, which is closely surrounded by Indians, until the 
unusual noise excites the daring fish to venture on an 
attack. Serpent-like they are seen swimming along the sur- 
face of the water, striving cunningly to glide under the 
bellies of the horses. By the force of their invisible blows 
numbers of the poor animals are suddenly prostrated; others, 
snorting and panting, their manes erect, their eyes wildly 
flashing with terror, rush madly from the raging storm; but 
the Indians, armed with long bamboo staves, drive them back 
into the midst of the pool. 

Bv degrees the fury of this unequal contest begins to 
slacken. Like clouds that have discharged their electricity, 
the wearied eels disperse. They require long rest and nou- 
rishing food to repair the galvanic force which they have so 
lavishly expended. Their shocks gradually become weaker 
and weaker. Terrified by the noise of the trampling horses, 
they timidly approach the brink of the morass, where they arc 
wounded by harpoons, and drawn on shore by non-conducting 
poles of dry wood. 

Such is the remarkable contest between horses and fish. 
That which constitutes the invisible but living weapon of 
these inhabitants of the water — that, which awakened by the 
contact of moist and dissimilar particles (43), circulates through 


all the organs of animals and plants — that which flashing 
amid the roar of thunder illuminates the wide canopy of 
heaven — which binds iron to iron, and directs the silent re- 
curring course of the magnetic needle — all, like the varied 
hues of the refracted ray of light, flow from one common 
source, and all blend together into one eternal all-pervading 

I might here close my bold attempt of delineating the 
natural picture of the Steppe; but, as on the ocean, fancy 
delights in dwelling on the recollections of distant shores, so 
will we, ere the vast plain vanishes from our view, cast a rapid 
glance over the regions by which the Steppe is bounded. 

The northern desert of Africa separates two races of men 
which originally belonged to the same portion of the globe, 
and whose inextinguishable feuds appear as old as the myth of 
Osiris and Typhon (44). To the north of Mount Atlas there 
dwells a race characterised by long and straight hair, a sallow 
complexion, and Caucasian features; while to the south of 
Senegal, in the direction of Soudan, we find hordes of Negroes 
occupying various grades in the scale of civilization. In 
Central Asia the Mongolian Steppe divides Siberian barbarism 
from the ancient civilization of the peninsula of Hindostan. 

In like manner, the South American Steppes are the boun- 
daries of a European semi- civilization (45). To the north, 
between the mountain chain of Venezuela and the Caribbean 
Sea, lie, crowded together, industrial cities, clean and neat 
villages, and carefully tilled fields. Even a taste for arts, 
scientific culture, and a noble love of civil freedom, have long 
since been awakened within these regions. 

To the south, a drear and savage wilderness bounds the 
Steppe. Forests, the growth of thousands of years, in one 
impenetrable thicket, overspread the marshy region between 
the rivers Orinoco and Amazon. Huge masses of lead- 
coloured granite (46) contract the beds of the foaming rivers. 
Mountains and forests re-echo with the thunder of rushing 

c 2 


waters, the roar of the tiger-like jaguar, and the dull rain- 
foreboding howl of the bearded ape (47). 

Where the shallower parts of the river disclose a sandbank, 
the crocodile may be seen, with open jaws, and motionless as 
a rock, its uncouth body often covered with birds (48) ; while 
the chequered boa-constrictor, its tail lashed round the trunk 
of a tree, lies coiled in ambush near the bank, ready to dart 
with certain aim on its prey. Rapidly uncoiling, it stretches 
forth its body to seize the young bull, or some feebler 
prey, as it fords the stream, and moistening its victim with 
a viscid secretion, laboriously forces it down its dilating 
throat (49). 

In this grand and wild condition of nature dwell numerous 
races of men. Separated by a remarkable diversity of lan- 
guages, some are nomadic, unacquainted with agriculture, and 
living on ants, gums, and earth, mere outcasts of humanity (50), 
such as the Ottomaks and Jarures: others, for instance the 
Maquiritares and Macos, have settled habitations, live on 
fruits cultivated by themselves, are intelligent, and of gentler 
manners. Extensive tracts between the Cassiquiare and 
the Atabapo are inhabited solely by the Tapir and social 
apes; not by man. Figures graven on the rocks (51) attest 
that even these deserts were once the seat of a higher 
civilization. They bear testimony, as do also the unequally 
developed and varying languages (which are amongst the 
oldest and most imperishable of the historical records of man), 
to the changing destinies of nations. 

While on the Steppe tigers and crocodiles contend with 
horses and cattle, so on the forest borders and in the 
wilds of Guiana the hand of man is ever raised against his 
fellow man. With revolting eagerness, some tribes drink 
the flowing blood of their foes, whilst others, seemingly un- 
armed, yet prepared for murder, deal certain death with a 
poisoned thumb-nail (52). The feebler tribes, when they 
tread the sandy shores, carefully efface with their hands the 
traces of their trembling steps. 


Thus does man, everywhere alike, on the lowest scale of 
brutish debasement, and in the false glitter of his higher cul- 
ture, perpetually create for himself a life of care. And thus, 
too, the traveller, wandering over the wide world by sea and 
land, and the historian who searches the records of bygone 
ages, are everywhere met by the unvarying and melancholy 
spectacle of man opposed to man. 

He, therefore, who amid the discordant strife of nations, 
would seek intellectual repose, turns with delight to con- 
template the silent life of plants, and to study the hidden 
forces of nature in her sacred sanctuaries ; or yielding to that 
inherent impulse, which for thousands of years has glowed 
in the breast of man, directs his mind, by a mysterious pre- 
sentiment of his destiny, towards the celestial orbs, which, in 
undisturbed harmony, pursue their ancient and eternal 

* Ipsa suae meminit stirpis, seseque Deisque 
Mens fruitur felix, et novit in astra reverti. 

Barclaii Argenis, lib. v. Ed. 


(1) p. 1 — " The Lake of Tacarigua." 

On advancing through the interior of South America, from 
the coast of Caracas or of Venezuela towards the Brazilian 
frontier (from the 10th degree of north latitude to the equator), 
the traveller first passes a lofty chain of mountains (the littoral 
chain of Caracas) inclining from west to east ; next vast tree- 
less Steppes or plains {Los Llanos), which extend from the 
foot of the littoral chain to the left bank of the Orinoco; 
and, lastly, the mountain range which gives rise to the cata- 
racts of Atures and Maypure. This mountain chain, which I 
have named the Sierra Parime, passes in an easterly direction 
between the sources of the Rio Branco and Rio Esquibo, 
in the direction of Dutch and French Guiana. This region, 
which is the seat of the marvellous myths of the Dorado, 
and is composed of a mountain mass, divided into numerous 
gridiron-like ridges, is bounded on the south by the woody 
plain through which the Rio Negro and the Amazon have 
formed themselves a channel. Those who would seek further 
instruction regarding these geographical relations, may com- 
pare the large chart of La Cruz Olmedilla (1775), which has 
served as the basis of nearly all the more modern maps of South 
America, with that of Columbia, which I drew up in accordance 
with my own astronomical determinations of place, and pub- 
lished in the year 1825. 

The littoral chain of Venezuela is, geographically considered, 
a portion of the Peruvian Andes. These are divided at the 
great mountain node of the sources of the Magdalena (lat. 
1° 55' to 2° 20 f ) into three chains, running to the south of 
Popayan, the easternmost of which extends into the snowy 
mountains of Merida. These mountains gradually decline 
towards the Paramo de las Rosas into the hilly district of 
Quibor and Tocuyo, which connects the littoral chain of Ve- 
nezuela with the Cordilleras of Cundinamarca. 

This littoral chain extends murally and uninterruptedly from 
Portocabello to the promontory of Paria. Its mean elevation 
is scarcely 750 toiscs, or 4796 English feet; but some few sum- 
mits, like the Silla de Caracas (also called the Cerro de Avila), 


which is adorned with the purple -flowering Befaria (the red- 
blossomed American Alpine rose), rise 1350 toises, or 8633 
English feet above the level of the sea. The coast of the Terra 
Firma everywhere bears traces of devastation, giving evidence 
of the action of the great current which runs from east to 
west, and which, after the disintegration of the Caribbean 
Islands, formed the present Sea of the Antilles. The tongues of 
land of Araya and Chuparipari, and more especially the coasts 
of Cumana and New Barcelona, present to the geologist a re- 
markable aspect. The rocky islands of Boracha, Caracas, and 
Chimanas rise like beacon-towers from the sea, affording 
evidence of the fearful irruption of the waters against the 
shattered mountain chain. The Sea of the Antilles may 
once have been an inland sea, like the Mediterranean, which 
has suddenly been connected with the ocean. The islands of 
Cuba, Hayti, and Jamaica still exhibit the remains of the 
mountains of micaceous schist which formed the northern 
boundary of this lake. It is a remarkable fact that the 
highest peaks are situated at the very point where these islands 
approach one another the closest. It may be conjectured that 
the principal nucleus of the chain was situated between Cape 
Tiburon and Morant Point. The height of the copper moun- 
tains (montanas de cobre) near Saint Iago de Cuba has not 
yet been measured, but this range is probably higher than the 
Blue Mountains of Jamaica (1138 toises, or 7277 English feet), 
whose elevation somewhat exceeds that of the Pass of St. 
Gothard. I have already expressed my conjectures more 
fully regarding the valley -like form of the Atlantic Ocean, and 
the ancient connection of the continents, in a treatise written 
at Cumana, entitled Fragment d'un Tableau goologique de 
V Amerique meridionale, which appeared in the Journal de 
Physique, Messidor, an IX. It is remarkable that Columbus 
himself makes mention, in his official report, of the connection 
between the course of the equinoctial current and the form of 
the coast-line of the Greater Antilles. * 

The northern and more cultivated portion of the province 
of Caracas is a mountainous region. The marginal chain is 
divided, like that of the Swiss Alps, into many ranges, enclosing 
longitudinal valleys. The most remarkable among these is 

* Examen critique de VEist, de la Geograplii<; } t. iii v pp. 101 — 


the charming valley of Aragua, which produces an abundance 
of indigo, sugar, and cotton, and, what is perhaps the most 
singular of all, even European wheat. The southern margin 
of this valley is bounded by the beautiful Lake of Valencia, 
the ancient Indian name of which was Tacarigua. The con- 
trast presented by its opposite shores gives it a striking re- 
semblance to the Lake of Geneva. The barren mountains of 
Guigue and Guiripa have indeed less grandeur and solemnity 
of character than the Savoy Alps; but, on the other hand, 
the opposite shore, which is covered with bananas, mimosoe, 
and triplaris, far surpasses in picturesque beauty the vineyards 
of the Pays de Yaud. The lake is 10 leagues, (of which 20 
form a degree of the Equator), i.e., about 30 geographical miles, 
in length, and is thickly studded with small islands, which 
continually increase in size, owing to the evaporation being 
greater than the influx of fresh water. Within the last few 
years several sandbanks have even become true islands, and 
have acquired the significant name of Las Aparecidas, or the 
"Newly Appeared." On the island of Cura the remarkable 
species of solanum is cultivated, M T hich has edible fruit, and 
has been described by "Willdenow (in his Ilortus Berolinensis, 
1816, Tab. xxvii.). The elevation of the Lake of Tacarigua 
above the level of the sea is almost 1400 French feet (according 
to my measurement, exactly 230 toises, i.e., 1471 English feet) 
less than the mean height of the valley of Caracas. This lake 
has several species of fish peculiar to itself,-* and ranks among 
the most beautiful and attractive natural scenes that I am 
acquainted with in any part of the earth. When bathing, 
Bonpland and myself were often terrified by the appearance 
of the Bava, a species of crocodile-lizard (Dragonnef), hitherto 
undescribed, from three to four feet in length, of repulsive 
aspect, but harmless to man. We found in the Lake of Va- 
lencia a Ti/pha, perfectly identical with the European bulrush, 
the Ti/pha angustifolia — a singular and highly important fact in 
reference to the geography of plants. 

In the valleys of Aragua, skirting the lake, both varieties of 
the sugar-cane are cultivated, viz., the common Carta criolla, 
and the species newly introduced from the South Sea, the 
Cana de Otaheiti. The latter variety is of a far lighter and 

* See mv Observations de Zoologie et cVAnatomie comparee, t. ii., 
pp. 179—181. 


more beautiful green, and a field of it may be distinguished 
from the common sugar-cane at a great distance. Cook and 
George Forster were the first to describe it; but it would 
appear, from Forster' s treatise on the edible plants of the 
South Sea Islands, that they were but little acquainted with 
the true value of this important product. Bougainville 
brought it to the Isle of France, whence it passed to Cayenne 
and (subsequently to the year 1792) to Martinique, Saint 
Domingo or Haiti, and many of the Lesser Antilles. The 
enterprising but unfortunate Captain Bligh transported it, 
together with the bread-fruit tree, to Jamaica. From Trini- 
dad, an island contiguous to the continent, the new sugar- 
cane of the South Sea passed to the neighbouring coasts of 
Caracas. Here it has become of greater importance than the 
bread-fruit tree, which will probably never supersede so 
valuable and nutritious a plant as the banana. The Tahitian 
sugar-cane is more succulent than the common species, which 
is generally supposed to be a native of Eastern Asia. It 
likewise yields one-third more sugar on the same area than 
the Carta criolla, which is thinner in its stalk, and more 
crowded with joints. As, moreover, the West Indian Islands 
are beginning to suffer great scarcity of fuel (on the island 
of Cuba the sugar-pans are heated with orange-wood), 
the new plant acquires additional value from the fact of 
its yielding a thicker and more ligneous cane (bagaso). If 
the introduction of this new product had not been nearly 
simultaneous with the outbreak of the sanguinary Negro war 
in St. Domingo, the prices of sugar in Europe would have 
risen even higher than they did, owing to the interruption 
occasioned to agriculture and trade. The important question 
which here arises, whether the sugar-cane of Otaheiti, when 
removed from its indigenous soil, will not gradually dege- 
nerate and merge into the common sugar-cane, has been 
decided in the negative, from the experience hitherto ob- 
tained on this subject. In the island of Cuba a caballeria, 
that is to say, an area of 34,969 square toises (nearly 33 
English acres), produces 870 cwt. of sugar, if it be planted 
with the Tahitian sugar-cane. It is remarkable enough that 
this important product of the South Sea Islands should be 
cultivated precisely in that portion of the Spanish colonies 
which is most remote from the South Sea. The voyage 


from the Peruvian shore to Otaheiti may be made in twenty- 
five days, and yet, at the period of my travels in Peru and 
Chili, the Tahitian sugar-cane was not yet known in those 
provinces. The natives of Easter Island, who suffer great 
distress from want of fresh water, drink the juice of the sugar- 
cane, and, what is very remarkable in a physiological point 
of view, likewise sea-water. On the Society, Friendly, and 
Sandwich Islands, the light green and thick stemmed sugar- 
cane is everywhere cultivated. 

In addition to the Caiia de Otaheiti and the Carta criolla, a 
reddish African sugar-cane is cultivated in the West Indies, 
which is known as the Cana de Guinea. It is less succulent 
than the common Asiatic variety, but its juice is esteemed 
especially well adapted for the preparation of rum. 

In the province of Caracas the light green of the Tahitian 
sugar-cane forms a beautiful contrast with the dark shade 
of the cacao plantations. Few tropical trees have so thick a 
foliage as the Tlieobroma Cacao. This noble tree thrives best in 
hot and humid valleys. Extreme fertility of soil and insalubrity 
of atmosphere are as inseparably connected in South America 
as in Southern Asia. Nav, it has even been observed that 
m proportion as the cultivation of the land increases, and the 
woods are removed, the soil and the climate become less 
humid, and the cacao plantations thrive less luxuriantly. 
But while they diminish in numbers in the province of Caracas, 
they spread rapidly in the eastern provinces of New Barcelona 
and Cumana, more especially in the humid woody region 
lying between Cariaco and the Golfo Triste. 

(2) p. 1 — " The natives term this phenomenon l banks' " 

The Llanos of Caracas are covered with a widely-extended 
formation of ancient conglomerate. On passing from the 
valleys of Aragua over the most southern range of the coast 
chain of Guigue and Villa de Cura, descending towards Para- 
para, the traveller meets successively with strata of gneiss and 
micaceous schist, a probably Silurian transition rock of argil- 
laceous schist and black limestone ; serpentine and greenstone 
in detached spheroidal masses; and lastly, on the margin of 
the great plain, small elevations of augitic amygdaloid and 
porphyritic schist. These hills between Parapara and Ortiz 
appear to me to be produced by volcanic eruptions on the 


old sea-shore of the Llanos. Further to the north, rise the far- 
famed cavernous and grotesquely-shaped elevations known 
as the Morros de San Juan, which form a species of devil's 
dyke, the grain of which is crystalline, like upheaved dolo- 
mite. They are, therefore, to be regarded rather as portions 
of the shore than as islands in the ancient gulf. I consider 
the Llanos to have been a gulf, for when their inconsiderable 
elevation above the present sea level, the adaptation of their 
form to the rotation current, running from east to west, and 
the lowness of the eastern shore between the mouth of the 
Orinoco and the Essequibo are taken into account, it can 
scarcely be doubted that the sea once overflowed the whole of 
this basin between the coast chain and the Sierra de la 
Parime, extending westward to the mountains of Merida and 
Pamplona (in the same manner as it probably passed through 
the plains of Lombardy to the Cottian and Pennine Alps). 
Moreover, the inclination or line of strike of these Llanos is 
directed from west to east. Their elevation at Calabozo, a 
distance of 100 geographical (400 English) miles from the sea, 
scarcely amounts to 30 toises, or 1 92 English feet ; consequently 
15 toises (96 English feet) less than the elevation of Pavia, and 
45 toises (288 English feet) less than that of Milan in the plain 
of Lombardy between the Swiss Lepontine Alps and the Ligu- 
rian Apennines. This conformation of the land reminds us of 
Claudian's expression, " curvata tumore parvo planities." The 
surface of the Llanos is so perfectly horizontal that in many 
parts over an area of some 480 English square miles, not a 
single point appears elevated one foot above the surrounding 
level. When it is further borne in mind that there is a total 
absence of all shrubs, and that in some parts, as in the Mesa 
de Pavones, there is not even a solitary palm-tree to be seen, it 
may easily be supposed that this sea-like and dreary plain 
presents a most singular aspect. Far as the eye can range, it 
scarcely rests on any object elevated many inches above the 
general level. If the boundary of the horizon did not con- 
tinually present an undefined flickering and undulating out- 
line, owing to the condition of the lower strata of air, and 
the refraction of light, solar elevations might be determined 
by the sextant above the margin of the plain as above the 
horizon of the sea. This perfect flatness of the ancient sea- 
bottom renders the banks even more striking. They are 


composed of broken floetz- strata, which rise abruptly about 
two or three feet above the surrounding level, and extend 
uniformly over a length of from 10 to 12 geographical (i.e., 
40 to 48 English) miles. It is here that the small rivers of 
the Steppe take their origin. 

On our return from the Rio Negro, we frequently met with 
traces of landslips in passing over the Llanos of Barcelona. 
We here found in the place of elevated banks, isolated strata 
of gypsum lying from 3 to 4 toises, or 19 to 25 English feet, 
below the contiguous rock. Further westward, near the con- 
fluence of the River Caura and the Orinoco, a large tract of 
thickly grown forest land to the east of the Mission of San 
Pedro de Alcantara, fell in after an earthquake in the year 
1790. A lake was immediately formed in the plain, which 
measured upwards of 300 toises (1919 feet) in diameter. 
The lofty trees, as the Desmanthus, Hymena?a, and Malpi- 
ghia, retained their verdure and foliage for a long time after 
their submersion. 

(3) p. 2 — Ci A shoreless ocean seems spread before z/s." 
The distant aspect of the Steppe is the more striking when 
the traveller emerges from dense forests, where his eye 
has been familiarised to a limited prospect and luxuriant 
natural scenery. I shall ever retain an indelible impression 
of the effect produced on my mind by the Llanos, when, on 
our return from the Upper Orinoco, they first broke on our 
view from a distant mountain, opposite the moutn of the 
Ilio Apure, near the Hato del Capuchino. The last rays of 
the setting sun illumined the Steppe, which seemed to swell 
bofore us like some vast hemisphere, while the rising stars 
were refracted by the lower stratum of the atmosphere. 
"When the plain has been excessively heated by the vertical 
rays of the sun, the evolution of the radiating heat, the ascent 
of currents of air, and the contact of atmospheric strata of 
unequal density, continue throughout the night. 

(4) p. 2 — "The naked stony crust" 
The deserts of Africa and Asia acquire a peculiar cha- 
racter from the frequent occurrence of immense tracts of 
land, covered by one flat uniform surface of naked rock. In 
the Schamo, which separates Mongolia and the mountain 
chain of Ulangom and Malakha-Oola from the north-west 


part of China, such rocky banks are termed Tsy. In the 
woody plains of the Orinoco they are found to be surrounded 
with the most luxuriant vegetation.* In the midst of these 
flat, tabular masses of granite and syenite, several thousands 
of feet in diameter, presenting merely a few scattered lichens, 
we find in the forests, or on their margins, little islands of 
light soil, covered with low and ever-flowering plants, having 
the appearance of small gardens. The monks settled on the 
Upper Orinoco, singularly enough regard the whole of these 
horizontal naked stony plains, when extending over a consi- 
derable area, as conducive to fevers and other diseases. Many 
of the villages belonging to the mission have been transferred 
to other spots on account of the general prevalence of this 
opinion. Do these stony flats (laxas) act chemically on the 
atmosphere or influence it only by means of a greater radiation 
of heat ? 

(5) p. 2 — " Compared with the Llanos and Pampas of South 
America, or even tvith the Prairies on the Missouri.'''' 

Our physical and geognostic knowledge of the western 
mountain region of North America has recently been enriched 
by the acquisition of many accurate data yielded by the 
admirable labours of the enterprising traveller Major Long, 
and his companion Edwin James, but more especially by the 
comprehensive investigations of Captain Fremont. The 
knowledge thus established clearly corroborates the accuracy 
of the different facts which in my work on New Spain I could 
merely advance as hypothetical conjectures regarding the 
northern plains and mountains of America. In natural his- 
tory, as well as in historical research, facts remain isolated 
until by long- continued investigation they are brought into 
connection with each other. 

The eastern shore of the United States of North America 
inclines from south-west to north-east, as does the Brazilian 
coast south of the equator from the Rio de la Plata to Olinda. 
on both these regions there rise, at a short distance from the 
coast line, two ranges of mountains more nearly parallel to 
each other than to the western Andes, (the Cordilleras 
If Chili and Peru), or to the North Mexican chain of the 
Ilocky Mountains. The South American or Brazilian moun- 

* Relation Hist., t. ii. ; p. 279. 



tain system, forms an isolated group, the highest points of 
which, Itacolumi and Itambe, do not rise above an elevation 
of 900 toises, or 5755 English feet. The eastern portion of 
the ridge most contiguous to the sea is the only part that 
follows a regular inclination from S.S.W. to N.N.E., increas- 
ing in breadth and diminishing in general elevation as it 
approaches further westward. The chain of the Parecis hills 
approximates to the rivers Itenes and Guapore, in the same 
manner as the mountains of Aguapehi and San Fernando 
(south of Yillabella) approach the lofty Andes of Cochabamba 
and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. 

There is no direct connection between the two mountain 
systems of the Atlantic and South-sea coasts (the Bra- 
zilian and the Peruvian Cordilleras); Western Brazil being 
sei^arated from Eastern or Upper Peru by the low lands of 
the province of Chiquitos, which is a longitudinal valley that 
inclines from north to south, and communicates both with the 
plains of the Amazon and of the Rio de la Plata. In these 
regions, as in Poland and Russia, a ridge of land, sometimes 
imperceptible (termed in Slavonic Uwaly\ forms the line of 
separation between different rivers ; as for instance, between 
the Pilcomayo and Madeira, between the Aguapehi and Gua- 
pore, and between the Paraguay and the Rio Topayos. The 
ridge {semi) extends from Chayanta and Pomabamba (19° — 
20° lat.,) in a south-easterly direction, and after intersecting 
the depressed tracts of the province of Chiquitos, (which has 
become almost unknown to geographers since the expidsion 
of the Jesuits,) forms to the north-east, where some scattered 
mountains are again to be met with, the divortia aquarvm 
at the sources of the Baures and near Yillabella (15° — 
17° lat.) 

This water-line of separation which is so important to the 
general intercourse and growing civilization of different 
nations corresponds in the northern hemisphere of South 
America with a second line of demarcation (2° — 3° lat.) 
which separates the district of the Orinoco from that of the 
Rio Negro and the Amazon. These elevations or risings in 
the midst of the plains {terra tumores, according to Frontinus) 
may almost be regarded as undeveloped mountain-systems, 
designed to connect two apparently isolated groups, the Sierra 
Parime and the Brazilian highlands, to the Andes chain of 


Timana and Cocliabamba. These relations, to which very 
little attention has hitherto been directed, form the basis of mv 
division of South America into three depressions or basins, 
viz., those of the Orinoco in its lower course, of the Amazon, 
and of the Rio de la Plata. Of these three basins, the exterior 
ones, as I have already observed, are Steppes or Prairies; 
but the central one between the Sierra Parime and the 
Brazilian chain of mountains must be regarded as a wooded 
plain or Hylcea. 

In endeavouring by a few equally brief touches to give a 
sketch of the natural features of North America, we must first 
glance at the chain of the Andes, which, narrow at its origin, 
soon increases in height and breadth as it follows an inclina- 
tion from south-east to north-west, passing through Panama, 
Veragua, Guatimala, and New Spain. This range of moun- 
tains, formerly the seat of an ancient civilization, presents a 
like barrier to the general current of the sea between the 
tropics, and to a more rapid intercommunication between 
Europe, Western Africa, and Eastern Asia. From the 
1 7th degree of latitude at the celebrated Isthmus of Tehuan- 
tepec, the chain deflects from the shores of the Pacific, and 
inclining from south to north becomes an inland Cordillera. 
In Northern Mexico, the Crane Mountains (Sierra de las 
Grullas) constitute a portion of the Rocky Mountains. On 
their western declivity rise the Columbia and the Rio 
Colorado of California; on the eastern side the Rio Roxo 
of Natchitoches, the Canadian river, the Arkansas, and the 
shallow river Platte, which latter has recently been converted 
by some ignorant geographers, into a Rio de la Plata, or a 
river yielding silver. Between the sources of these rivers rise 
in the parallels of 37° 20' and 40° 13' lat,, three huge peaks 
composed of granite, containing little mica, but a large pro- 
portion of hornblende. These have been respectively named 
Spanish Peak, James or Pike's Peak, and Big Horn or Long's 
Peak.*' Their elevation exceeds that of the highest summits 
of the North Mexican Andes, which indeed nowhere attain 
the height of the line of perpetual snow from the parallels of 
18° and 19° lat., or from the group of Orizaba, (2717 toises, 
or 17,374 English feet), and of Popocatepetl (2771 toises, or 
17,720 English feet) to Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico. 

* See my Essai Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne. 2me 6dit., t. i., 
pp. 82 and 109. 


James' Peak (38° 48' lat.) is said to have an elevation of 
11,497 English feet. Of this only 8537 feet have been deter- 
mined by trigonometrical measurement, the remainder being 
deduced in the absence of barometrical observations, from 
imcertain calculations of the declivity or fall of rivers. As 
it is scarcely ever possible, even at the level of the sea, to 
conduct a purely trigonometrical measurement, determinations 
of impracticable heights are always in part barometrical. 
Measurements of the fall of rivers, of their rapidity and of the 
length of their course, are so deceptive, that the plain at the 
foot of the Rocky Mountains, more especially near those sum- 
mits mentioned in the text, was, before the important expe- 
dition of Captain Fremont, estimated sometimes at 8000 and 
sometimes at 3000 feet above the level of the sea.* From a 
similar deficiency of barometrical measurements, the true 
height of the Himalaya remained for a long time imcertain ; 
now, however, science has made such advances in India, that 
when Captain Gerard had ascended on the Tarhigang, near 
the Sutledge, north of Shipke, to the height of 19,411 feet, 
he still had, after having broken three barometers, four equally 
correct ones remaining.! 

Fremont, in the expedition which he made between the 
years 1842 and 1844, at the command of the United States 
Government, discovered and measured barometrically the 
highest peak of the whole chain of the Rocky Mountains to 
the north-north-west of Spanish, James', Long's, and Laramie's 
Peaks. This snow-covered summit, which belongs to the 
group of the Wind River Mountains, bears the name of 
Fremont's Peak on the great chart published under the di- 
rection of Colonel Abert, chief of the topographical depart- 
ment at "Washington. This point is situated in the parallel 
of 43° 10' north lat., and 110° 7' west long., and therefore 
nearly 5° 30' north of Spanish Peak. The elevation of Fre- 
mont's Peak, which according to direct measurement is 13,568 
feet, must therefore exceed by 2072 feet that given by Long to 
James' Peak, which would appear from its position to be iden- 
tical with Pike's Peak, as given in the map above referred to. 
The Wind River Mountains constitute the dividing ridge 
{divortia aquarum) between the two seas. " From the summit," 

* See Long's Expeditions, vol. ii., pp. 36, 362, 382. Ap. p. xxxvii. 
f Critical Researches on Philology and Geography, 1824, p. 144. 


says Captain Fremont in his official report,* "we saw on the one 
side numerous lakes and streams, the sources of the Rio Colo- 
rado, which carries its waters through the Californian Gulf 
to the South Sea ; on the other, the deep valley of the Wind 
River, where lie the sources of the Yellowstone River, one of 
the main branches of the Missouri which unites with the 
Mississippi at St. Louis. Far to the north-west we could 
just discover the snowy heads of the Trois Tetons, which 
give rise to the true sources of the Missouri not far from 
the primitive stream of the Oregon or Columbia river, which 
is known under the name of Snake River, or Lewis Fork." 

To the surprise of the adventurous travellers, the summit 
of Fremont's Peak was found to be visited by bees. It is 
probable that these insects, like the butterflies which I found 
at far higher elevations in the chain of the Andes, and also 
within the limits of perpetual snow, had been involuntarily 
drawn thither by ascending currents of air. I have even seen 
large winged lepidoptera, which had been carried far out to 
sea by land-winds, drop on the ship deck at a consider- 
able distance from land in the South Sea. 

Fremont's map and geographical researches embrace the 
immense tract of land extending from the confluence of 
Kanzas River with the Missouri, to the cataracts of the 
Columbia and the Missions of Santa Barbara and Pueblo de 
los Angeles in New California, presenting a space amount- 
ing to 28 degrees of longitude (about 1360 miles) between 
the 34th and 45th parallels of north latitude. Four hundred 
points have been hypsometrically determined by barometrical 
measurements, and for the most part, astronomically: so that 
it has been rendered possible to delineate the profile above 
the sea's level of a tract of land measuring 3,600 miles 
with all its inflections, extending from the north of Kanzas 
River to Fort Vancouver and to the coasts of the South Sea 
(almost 720 miles more than the distance from Madrid to 
Tobolsk). As I believe I was the first who attempted to 
represent, in geognostic profile, the configuration of entire 
countries, as the Spanish Peninsula, the highland of Mexico, 
and the Cordilleras of South America (for the half-perspec- 

* Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rochy Mountains in 
the year 1842^ and to Oreyon and North California, in the years 
1843-1844, p. 78. 



tive projections of the Siberian traveller, the Abbe Chappe,-* 
were based on mere and for the most part on very inac- 
curate estimates of the foils of rivers) ; it has afforded me 
special satisfaction to find the graphical method of represent- 
ing the earth's configuration in a vertical direction, that is, 
the elevation of solid over fluid parts, achieved on so vast 
a scale. In the mean latitudes of 37° to 43° the Rocky 
Mountains present, besides the great snow-crowned summits, 
whose height may be compared to that of the Peak of Teneriffe, 
elevated plateaux of an extent scarcely to be met with in any 
other part of the world, and whose breadth from east to west 
is almost twice that of the Mexican highlands. From the range 
of the mountains, which begin a little westward of Fort Lara- 
mie, to the further side of the Wahsatch Mountains, the eleva- 
tion of the soil is uninterruptedly maintained from five to 
upwards of seven thousand feet above the sea's level ; nay, 
this elevated portion occupies the whole space between the 
true Rocky Mountains and the Californian snowy coast range 
from 34° to 45° north latitude. This district, which is a 
kind of broad longitudinal valley, like that of the lake of Titi- 
caca. has been named The Great Basiii by J oseph Walker and 
Captain Fremont, travellers well acquainted with these west- 
ern regions. It is a terra incognita of at least 8000 geo- 
graphical (or 128,000 English) square miles, arid, almost 
uninhabited, and full of salt lakes, the largest of which is 
3940 Parisian (or 4200 English) feet above the level of the 
sea, and is connected with the narrow Lake Utah,f into which 
the " Rock River" {Timpan Ogo in the Utah language) pours 
its copious stream. Father Escalante, in his wanderings from 
Santa Fe del Nuevo Mexico to Monterey in New California, 
discovered Fremont's "Great Salt Lake" in 1776, and con- 
founding together the river and the lake, called it Laguna de 
Timpanogo. Under this name I inserted it in my map of 
Mexico, which gave rise to much uncritical discussion regard- 
ing the assumed non-existence of a large inland salt lake,! — a 

* Chappe d'Auteroche, Voyage en Siberia, fait en 1761. 4 vols., 
4to., Paris, 1768. 

f Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition, pp. 154, and 

% Humboldt, Atlas Mexicain, plch. 2; Essai politique sur la Nouv. 
Esp., t. i. p. 231 ; t. ii. pp. 243, 313, and 420. Fremont, Upper Cali- 
fornia, 1848, p. 9. See also Duflot de Mofras, Exploration de V Oregon, 
1844, t. ii. p. 140. 


question previously mooted by the learned American traveller 
Tanner. Gallatin expressly says in his memoir on the abori- 
ginal races" 1 -—" General Ashley and Mr. J. S. Smith have found 
the Lake Timpanogo in the same latitude and longitude nearly 
as had been assigned to it in Humboldt's Atlas of Mexico." 

I have purposely dwelt at length on these considerations 
regarding the remarkable elevation of the soil in the region of 
the Eocky Mountains, since by its extension and height it 
undoubtedly exercises a great, although hitherto unappre- 
ciated influence on the climate of the northern half of the 
new continent, both in its southern and eastern portions. 
On this vast and uniformly elevated plateau Fremont found 
the water covered with ice every night in the month of August. 
Nor is the configuration of the land less important when 
considered in reference to the social condition and progress 
of the great North American United States. Although the 
mountain range which divides the waters attains a height 
nearly equal to that of the passes of Mount Simplon (6170 
Parisian or 6576 English feet), Mount Gothard (6440 Parisian 
or 6863 English feet), and the great St. Bernard (7476 
Parisian or 7957 English feet), the ascent is so prolonged and 
gradual that no impediments oppose a general intercourse by 
means of vehicles and carriages of every kind between the 
Missouri and Oregon territories, between the Atlantic States, 
and the new settlements on the Oregon (or Columbia) river, 
or between the coast-lands lying opposite to Europe on the 
one side of the continent, and to China on the other. The 
distance from Boston to the old settlement of Astoria on 
the Pacific at the mouth of the Oregon when measured in 
a direct line, and taking into account the difference of longi- 
tude, is 550 geographical, i.e., 2200 English miles, or" one- 
sixth less than the distance between Lisbon and Katherinen- 
burg in the Ural district. On account of this gentle ascent 
of the elevated plains leading from the Missouri to California 
and the Oregon territory (all the resting-places measured 
between the Fort and River Lamarie on the northern branch 
of the Platte river to Fort Hall on the Lewis Fork of the 
Columbia, being situated at an elevation of from five to up- 
wards of seven thousand feet, and that in Old Park even at 
the height of 9760 Parisian or 10,402 English feet !), consi- 
* In the Archceologia Americana, vol. ii. p. 140. 

d 2 


derable difficulty has been experienced in determining the 
culminating point, or that of the divortia aqua rum. It is 
south of the Wind River Mountains, about midway between 
the Mississippi and the coast line of the Southern Ocean, 
and is situated at an elevation of 7490 feet, or only 480 feet 
lower than the pass of the Great Bernard. The emigrants call 
this culminating point the South Pass.** It is situated in a 
pleasant region, embellished by a profusion of artemisia?, 
especially A. tridentata (Nuttall), and varieties of asters and 
cactuses, which cover the micaceous slate and gneiss rocks. 
Astronomical determinations place its latitude in the parallel 
of 42° 24', and its longitude in that of 109° 24' W. Adolf 
Erman has alreadv drawn attention to the fact, that the line 
of strike of the great east- Asiatic Aldanian mountain- chain, 
which separates the basin of the Lena from the rivers flowing 
towards the Great Southern Ocean, if extended in the form 
of a great circle on the surface of the globe, passes through 
many of the summits of the Rocky Mountains between 40° 
and 55° north lat. " An American and an Asiatic mountain- 
chain," he remarks, " appear therefore to be only portions of 
one and the same fissure erupted by the shortest channels. "f 

The western high mountain coast chain of the Cali- 
fornian maritime Alps, the /Sierra Nevada de California, is 
wholly distinct from the Rocky Mountains, which sink towards 
the Mackenzie River (that remains covered with ice for a 
great portion of the year), and from the high table land on 
which rise individual snow-covered peaks. However inju- 
dicious the choice of the appellation of Rocky Mountains may 
be, when applied to the most northerly prolongation of the 
Mexican central chain, I do not deem it expedient to sub- 
stitute for it the denomination of the Oregon Chain, as has 
frequently been attempted. These mountains do indeed give 
rise to the sources of three main branches constituting the 
great Oregon or Columbia river (viz., Lewis', Clarke's, and 
North Fork); but this mighty stream also intersects the chain 
of the ever snow-crowned maritime Alps of California. The 
name of Oregon Territory is also employed, politically and 
officially, to designate the lesser territory of land west of the 

* Fremont's Report, pp. 3, GO, 70, 100, and 129. 

+ Compare Erman's Reise um die Erde, Abth. L Bd. 8, s. 8, Abth. 
ii. Bd. 1. s. 386, with his Archiv fur W issenschafdiche Kunde von 
Russland- Bd. vi. s. 671. 


coast chain, where Fort Vancouver and the Walahmutti 
settlements are situated ; and it would therefore seem better 
to abstain from applying the name of Oregon either to the 
central or to the coast chain. This denomination, moreover, 
led the celebrated geographer Malte-Brun into a misconcep- 
tion of the most remarkable kind. He read in an old Spanish 
chart the following passage : — " And it is still unknown {y 
mm se ignora) where the source of this river" (now called the 
Columbia) "is situated," and he believed that the word ignora 
signified the name of the Oregon.* 

The rocks which give rise to the cataracts of the Columbia 
at the point where the river breaks through the chain, mark 
the prolongation of the Sierra Nevada of California from the 
44th to the 47th degree of latitude. f In this northern pro- 
longation of the chain lie the three colossal elevations of 
Mount Jefferson, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helen's, which, 
rise 14,540 Parisian (or 15,500 English) feet above the sea- 
level. The height of this coast chain or range far exceeds 
therefore that of the Rocky Mountains. " During an eight 
months' journey along these maritime Alps," says Captain 
Fremont, £ " we were constantly within sight of snow- covered 
summits ; and while we were able to cross the Rocky Moun- 
tains through the South Pass at an elevation of 7027 feet, 
we found that the passes in the maritime range, which is 
divided into several parallel chains, were more than 200Q 
feet higher" — and therefore only 1170 (English) feet below the 
summit of Mount Etna. It is also a very remarkable fact,, 
and one which reminds us of the relations of the eastern and 
western Cordilleras of Chili, that volcanoes still active are 
only found in the Californian chain which lie? in the closest 
proximity to the sea. The conical mountains of Regnicr and 
of St. Helen's are almost invariably observed to emit smoke; 
and on the 23rd of November, 1843, the latter of these 
volcanoes erupted a mass of ashes which covered the shores 
of the Columbia for a distance of forty miles, like a fall of 
snow. To the volcanic Californian chain belong also in the 
far north of Russian America, Mount Elias (according to La 
Perouse 1980 toises, or 12,660 feet, and according to Mala- 
spina 2792 toises, or 17,850 feet in height), and Mount Fair 

* See my Essai polit. sur la Nouv. Espagne, t. ii. p. 314. 

t Fremont, Geographical Memoir upon Upper California, 1848, p. 6. 

X Report, p. 274 (or Narrative, p. 300). 


Weather (Cerro de Buen Tiempo, 2304 toises, or 14,733 
feet high). Both these conical mountains are regarded as 
still active volcanoes. Fremont's expedition, which has proved 
alike nseful in reference to botany and geognosy, like- 
wise collected volcanic products in the Rocky Mountains 
(as scoriaceous basalt, trachyte, and true obsidian), and 
discovered an old extinct crater somewhat to the east of Fort 
Hall (43° 2' north lat., and 112° 28' west long.), but no traces 
of any still active volcanoes emitting lava and ashes, were to 
be met with. We must not confound with these the hitherto 
unexplained phenomenon termed smoking hills, cotes brulees, 
and terrains ardens, in the language of the English settlers and 
the natives who speak French. k * Rows of low conical hills," 
says the accurate observer M. Nicollet, " are almost periodi- 
cally, and sometimes for two or three years continually, 
covered with dense black smoke, unaccompanied by any 
visible flames. This phenomenon is more particularly noticed 
in the territory of the Upper Missouri, and still nearer to the 
eastern declivity of the Rocky Mountains, where there is a 
river named by the natives Mankizitah-watpa, or the river of 
smoking earth. Scorified pseudo- volcanic products, a kind 
of porcelain jasper, are found in the vicinity of the smoking 

Since the expedition of Lewis and Clarke an opinion has 
generally prevailed that the Missouri deposits a true pumice on 
its banks ; but here white masses of a delicate cellular texture 
have been mistaken for that substance. Professor Ducatel was 
of opinion that the phenomenon which is chiefly observed in the 
chalk formation, was owing to " tho -dccompuBitiun of water by 
sulphur pyrites and to a re-action on the brown coal floetzes.""* 

If before we close these general remarks regarding the 
configuration of North America we once more cast a glance 
at those regions which separate the two diverging coast 
chains from the central chain, we shall find in strong con- 
trast, on the West, between that central chain and the Cali- 
fornian Alps of the Pacific, an arid and uninhabited elevated 
plateau nearly six thousand feet above the sea ; and in the East, 
between the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies, (whose 
highest points, Mount Washington and Mount Marcy, rise, 

* Compare Fremont's Beport, pp. 164, 184, 187, 193, and 299, with 
Nicollet's Illustration of the Hydrograpkical Basin of the Upyer 
Mississippi River, 1843, pp. 39-41. 


according to Lyell, to the respective heights, of 6652 and 
5400 feet,) we see the richly watered, fruitful, and thickly- 
inhabited basin of the Mississippi, at an elevation of from 
four to six hundred feet, or more than twice that of the 
plains of Lombardy. The hypsometrical character of this 
eastern valley, or in other words, its relation to the sea's 
level, has only very recently been explained by the ad- 
mirable labours of the talented French astronomer Nicollet, 
unhappily lost to science by a premature death. His great 
chart of the Upper Mississippi, executed between the years 
1836 and 1840, was based on two hundred and forty astrono- 
mical determinations of latitude, and one hundred and seventy 
barometrical determinations of elevation. The plain which 
encloses the valley of the Mississippi is identical with that 
of northern Canada, and forms part of one and the same 
depressed basin, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the 
Arctic Sea.* Wherever the low land falls in undulations, and 
slight elevations which still retain their un-English appellation 
of coteaux des prairies, coteaux des bois, occur in connected rows 
between the parallels of 47° and 48° north lat., these rows and 
gentle undulations of the ground separate the waters between 
Hudson's Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Such a line of sepa- 
ration between the waters is formed, north of Lake Superior 
or Kichi Gummi, by the Missabay Heights, and further west 
fev the elevations known as Hauteurs des Terres, in which are 
situated the true sources of the Mississippi, one of the largest 
river? in the world, and which were not discovered till the 
year 1832. The highest of these chains of hills hardly 
attains an elevation of from 16Uu tC ! 6 0° feet. From its 
mouth (the old French Balize) to St. Louis, somewutvu 12 
the south of its confluence with the Missouri, the Missis- 
sippi has a fall of only 380 feet, notwithstanding that the 
itinerary distance between these two points exceeds 1280 
miles. The surface of Lake Superior lies at an elevation 
of 618 feet, and as its depth in the neighbourhood of the 
island of Magdalena is fully 790 feet, its bottom must be 
172 feet below the surface of the ocean. f 

Beltrami, who in 1825 separated himself from Major Long's 

* Compare my Relation Historique, t. iii. p. 234, and Nicollet, 
Report to the Senate of the United States, 1843, pp. 7, 57. 
t Nicollet, op. cit. pp. 99, 125, 128. 


expedition, boasted that he had found the sources of the 
Mississippi in Lake Cass. The river passes, in its upper 
course, through four lakes, the second of which is the one 
referred to, while the outermost one, Lake Istaca (47° 13' 
north lat., and 95° west long.), was first recognised as the 
true source of the Mississippi, in 1832, in the expedition of 
Schoolcraft and Lieutenant Allen. This stream, which sub- 
sequently becomes so mighty, is only 17 feet in width, and 
15 inches deep, when it issues from the singular horse-shoe- 
shaped Lake Istaca. The local relations of this river were 
first fully established on a basis of astronomical observations 
of position by the scientific expedition of Nicollet, in the 
year 1836. The height of the sources, that is to say, of the 
last access of water received by Lake Istaca from the ridge 
of separation, called Hauteur de Terre, is 1680 feet above 
the level of the sea. Near this point, and at the southern 
declivity of the same separating ridge, lies Elbow Lake, the 
source of the small Red River of the north, which empties 
itself, after many windings, into Hudson's Bay. The Car- 
pathian Mountains exhibit similar relations in reference to 
the origin of the rivers which empty themselves into the 
Baltic and the Black Sea. M. Nicollet gave the names of 
celebrated astronomers, opponents as well as friends, with 
whom he had become acquainted in Europe, to the twenty 
small lakes which combine together to form narrow groups 
in the southern and western regions of Lake Istaca. His 
atlas is thus converted into a geographical album, remind- 
ing one of the botanical album of the Flora Peruviana of 
Ruiz and Pavon, in which the names of new families of 
plants vrcie made to accord with the Court Calendar, and 
the various alterations made in the OJiciales de la Secre- 

The east of the Mississippi is still occupied by dense 
forests; the west by prairies only, on which the buffalo 
(Bos Americanus) and the musk ox (Bos moschatus) pasture. 
These two species of animals, the largest of the new world, 
furnish the nomadic tribes of the Apaches-Llaneros and 
Apaches-Lipanos with the means of nourishment. The 
Assiniboins occasionally slay from seven to eight hundred 
bisons in the course of a few days in the artificial enclosures 
constructed for the purpose of driving together the wild 


herds, and known as bison parks* The American bison, 
called bv the Mexicans Cibolo, is killed chiefly on account of 
the tongue, which is regarded as a special delicacy. This 
animal is not a mere variety of the aurochs of the old world ; 
although, like other species of animals, as for instance the 
elk (Cervus alecs) and the reindeer (Cervus tarandus), no less 
than the stunted inhabitants of the polar regions, it may be 
regarded as common to the northern portions of all continents, 
and as affording a proof of their former long existing connec- 
tion. The Mexicans apply to the European ox the Aztec term 
quaquahue, or horned animal, from quaquahuitl, a horn. The 
husre ox-horns which have been found in ancient Mexican 
buildings near Cuernavaca, south-west of the capital of 
Mexico, appear to me to belong to the bison. The Canadian 
bison can be used for agricultural labour, and will breed with 
the European cattle, although it is uncertain whether the hybrid 
thus engendered is capable of propagating its species. Albert 
Gallatin, who, before his appearance in Europe as a distin- 
guished diplomatist, had acquired by personal observation a 
considerable amount of information regarding the uncultivated 
parts of the United States, assures us that the fruitfulness of 
the mixed breed of the American buffalo and European cattle is 
an undoubted fact: " the mixed breed," he writes, " was quite 
common fifty years ago in some of the north -western counties 
of Virginia, and the cows, the issue of that mixture, propa- 
gated like all others." " I do not remember," he further adds, 
" that full-grown buffaloes were tamed ; but dogs would at that 
time occasionally bring in the young bison-calves, which were 
reared and bred with European cows. At Monongahela all 
the cattle for a long time were of this mixed breed. It was 
said, however, that the cows yielded but little milk." The 
favourite food of the buffalo is the Tripsacum dactyloides. 
(known as buffalo-grass in North Carolina) and a hitherto 
undescribed species of clover allied to the Trifolium repens, 
and designated by Barton as Trifolium bisonicum. 

I have elsewheref drawn attention to the fact, that ac- 
cording to a passage of the trustworthy GomaraJ, there 

* Maximilian, Prinz zu Wied, Reise in das innere Nord-Ameriha i 
bd. i., 1839, s. 443. 

t See Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 674 (Bohn's edition). 
X Historia general de las Indias, cap. 214. 


lived, as late as the sixteenth century, an Indian tribe in the 
north-west of Mexico, in 40° north lat., whose greatest 
wealth consisted in hordes of tamed buffaloes {bueyes con una 
gibci). Yet, notwithstanding the possibility of taming the 
buffalo, and the abundance of milk it yields, and notwith- 
standing the herds of Lamas in the Peruvian Cordilleras, no 
pastoral tribes were met with on the discovery of America. 
Nor does history afford any evidence of the existence, at 
any period, of this intermediate stage of national development. 
It is also a remarkable fact that the North American bison 
or buffalo has exerted an influence on geographical dis- 
coveries in pathless mountain districts. These animals ad- 
vance in herds of many thousands in search of a milder 
climate, during winter, in the countries south of the Arkansas 
river. Their size and cumbrous forms render it difficult for 
them to cross high mountains on these migratory courses, and 
a well-trodden buffalo-path is therefore followed wherever it 
is met with, as it invariably indicates the most convenient 
passage across the mountains. Thus buffalo-paths have indi- 
cated the best tracks for passing over the Cumberland Moun- 
tains in the south-western parts of Virginia and Kentucky, and 
over the Rocky Mountains, between the sources of the Yellow- 
stone and Plate rivers, and between the southern branch of 
the Columbia and the Californian Rio Colorado. European 
settlements have gradually driven the buffalo from the eastern 
portions of the United States. Formerly these migratory 
animals passed the banks of the Mississippi and the Ohio, 
advancing far beyond Pittsburgh. -•' 

From the granitic rocks of Diego Ramirez and the deeply- 
intersected district of Terra del Fuego (which in the east 
contains Silurian schist, and in the west, the same schist 
metamorphosed into granite by the action of subterranean 
fire,)f to the North Polar Sea, the Cordilleras extend over 
a distance of more than 8000 miles. Although not the 
loftiest, they are the longest mountain chain in the world, 
being upheaved from one fissure, which runs in the direction 
of a meridian from pole to pole, and exceeding in linear 

* Archceologia Americana, vol. ii., 1836, p. 139. 

+ Darwin, Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural 
History of the Countries visited 1832—1836 by the Ships Adventure 
and Beagle, p. 266. 


extent the distance which, in the old continent, separates the 
Pillars of Hercules from the Icy Cape of the Tschuktches, in 
the north-east of Asia. Where the Andes are divided into 
several parallel chains, those lying nearest the sea are found 
to be the seat of the most active volcanoes ; and it has more- 
over been repeatedly observed that when the phenomenon 
of an eruption of subterranean fire ceases in one mountain 
chain, it breaks forth in some other parallel range. The 
cones of eruption usually follow the direction of the axis 
of the chain; but in the Mexican table-land, the active vol- 
canoes are situated on a transverse fissure, running from sea 
to sea, in a direction from east and west* Wherever the 
upheaval of mountain masses in the folding of the ancient 
crust of the earth has opened a communication with the 
fused interior, volcanic activity continued to be exhibited on 
the murally upheaved mass by means of the ramification of 
fissures. That which we call a mountain chain has not been 
raised to its present elevation, or manifested as it now ap- 
pears, at one definite period ; for we find that rocks, varying 
considerably in age, have been superimposed on one another, 
and have penetrated towards the surface through early formed 
channels. The diversity observable in rocks is owing to the 
outpouring and upheaval of rocks of eruption, as well as to 
the complicated and slow process of metamorphism going on 
in fissures filled with vapour, and conducive to the conduction 
of heat. 

The following have for a long time, viz., from 1830 to 
1848, been regarded as the highest or culminating points of 
the Cordilleras of the new continent : — 

The Nevado de Sorata, also called Ancohuma or Tusuba} T a 
(15° 52' south lat.), somewhat to the south of the village of 
Sorata or Esquibel, in the eastern chain of Bolivia : elevation, 
25,222 feet. 

The Nevado de Illimani, west of the mission of Yrupana 
(16° 38 south lat.), also in the eastern chain of Bolivia: ele- 
vation, 24,000 feet. 

The Chimborazo (1° 27' south lat.), in the province of Quito: 
elevation, 21,422 feet. 

The Sorata and Illimani were first measured by the dis- 
tinguished geologist, Pentland, in the years 1827 and 1838; 
* Humboldt, Essai politique, t. ii. p. 173. 


and since the publication of his large map of the basin of 
the Laguna de Titicaca, in June, 1848, we learn that 
the above elevations given for the Sorata and Illimani are 
3960 feet and 2851 feet too high. His map gives only 
21,286 feet for the Sorata, and 21,149 feet for the Illimani. 
A more exact calculation of the trigonometrical operations 
of 1838 led Mr. Pentland to these new results. He ascribes 
an elevation of from 21,700 to 22,350 feet to four summits of 
the western Cordilleras; and, according to his data, the Peak 
of Sahama would thus be 926 feet higher than the Chim- 
borazo, but 850 feet lower than the Peak of Aconcagua. 

(6) p. 2— " The desert near the basaltic mountains of 


Near the Egyptian Natron Lakes, which in Strabo's time 

had not yet been divided into the six reservoirs by which 

they are now characterized, there rises abruptly to the north 

a chain of hills, running from east to west past Fezzan, 

where it at length appears to form one connected range 

with the Atlas chain. It divides in north-eastern, as Mount 

Atlas does in north-western Africa the Lybia, described by 

Herodotus as inhabited and situated near the sea, from the 

land of the Berbirs, or Biledulgerid, famed for the abundance 

of its wild animals. On the borders of Middle Egypt the 

whole region, south of the 30th degree of latitude, is an 

ocean of sand, studded here and there with islands or oases 

abounding in springs and rich in vegetation. Owing to the 

discoveries of recent travellers, a vast addition has been 

made to the number of the Oases formerly known, and which 

the ancients limited to three, compared by Strabo to spots 

upon a panther's skin. The third Oasis of the ancients, now 

called Siwah, was the nonios of Amnion, a hierarchical seat 

and a resting-place for the caravans, which inclosed within 

its precincts the temple of the horned Amnion and the spring 

of the Sun, whose waters were supposed to become cool at 

certain periods. The ruins of Ummibida (Omm-JJei/dah) 

incontestably belong to the fortified caravanserai at the Temple 

of Amnion, and therefore constitute one of the most ancient 

monuments which have come down to us from the dawn of 

human civilization.^ 

* Crdllaud, Voyage a Syouah, p. 14 ; Ideler, Fundgruben des Orients 
bd. iv. s. 399—411. 


The word Oasis is Egyptian, and is synonymous with Auasis 
and Hyasis.* Abulfeda calls the Oases el-Wah. In the 
latter time of the Cajsars, malefactors were sent to the Oases, 
being banished to these islands in the sandy ocean, as the 
Spaniards and English transported their malefactors to the 
Falkland islands and New Holland. The ocean affords almost 
a better chance of escape than the desert surrounding the 
Oases; which, moreover, diminish in fruitfulness in propor- 
tion to the greater quantity of sand incorporated in the soil. 

The small mountain range of Harudsch (Harudje\) consists 
of grotesquely- shaped basaltic hills. It is the Mons Ater of 
Pliny, and its western extremity, known as the Soudah 
mountain, has been recently explored by my unfortunate 
friend, the enterprising traveller Ritchie. These basaltic 
eruptions in the tertiary limestone, and rows of hills rising 
abruptly from fissures, appear to be analogous to the basaltic 
eruptions in the Yicentine territory. 

Nature repeats the same phenomena in the most distant 
regions of the earth. Hornemann found an immense quantity 
of petrified fishes' heads in the limestone formations of the 
White Harudsch (Harudje el-Ahiad), belonging probably to 
the old chalk. Ritchie and Lvon remarked that the basalt 
of the Soudah mountain was in many places intimately 
mingled with carbonate of lime, as is the case in Monte 
Berico ; a phenomenon that is probably connected with 
eruptions through limestone strata. Lyon's chart even indi- 
cates dolomite in the neighbourhood. Modern mineralogists 
have found syenite and greenstone, but not basalt, in Egypt. 
Is it possible that the true basalt, from which many of the 
ancient vases found in various parts of the country were 
made, can have been derived from a mountain lying so far 
to the west ? Can the obsidins lapis have come from there, 
or are we to seek basalt and obsidian on the coast of the 
Red Sea ? The strip of the volcanic eruptions of Harudsch, 
on the borders of the African desert, moreover reminds 
the geologist of augitic vesicular amygdaloid, phonolite, 
and greenstone porphyry, which are only found on the 
northern and western limits of the steppes of Venezuela 

* Strabo, lib. ii. p. 130, lib. xvii. p. S13, Cas. ; Herod, lib. iii. cap. 
26. p. 207, Wessel. 

t See Bitter's AfriTca, 1822, s. 885, 988, 993, and 1003. 


and of the plains of the Arkansas, and therefore, as it were, on 
the ancient coast chains.* 1 

(7) p. 3-—" When suddenly deserted by the tropical east wind, 
and the sea is covered with iveeds." 

It is a remarkable phenomenon, although one generally 
known to mariners, that in the neighbourhood of the African 
coast, (between the Canaries and the Cape de Verde islands, 
and more especially between Cape Bojador and the mouth of 
the Senegal,) a westerly wind often prevails instead of the 
usual east or trade wind of the tropics. The cause of this 
phenomenon is to be ascribed to the far-extending desert of 
Zahara, and arises from the rarefaction, and consequent 
vertical ascent of the air over the heated sandy surface. To 
fill up the vacuum thus occasioned, the cool sea-air rushes in, 
producing a westerly breeze, adverse to vessels sailing to 
America ; and the mariner, long before he perceives any con- 
tinent, is made sensible of the effects of its heat-radiating 
sands. As is well known, a similar cause produces that 
alternation of sea and land breezes, which prevails at certain 
hours of the day and night on all sea-coasts. 

The accumulation of sea- weed in the neighbourhood of 
the western coasts of Africa has been often referred to by 
ancient writers. The local position of this accumulation is 
a problem which is intimately connected with the conjec- 
tures regarding the extent of Phoenician navigation. The 
Periplus, which has been ascribed to Scylax of Caryanda, 
and which, according to the investigations of Niebuhr and 
Letronne, was very probably compiled in the time of Philip 
of Macedon, contains a description of a kind of fucus sea, 
Mar de Sargasso, beyond Cerne ; but the locality indicated 
appears to me very different from that assigned to it in the 
work ''De Mirabilibus Auscultationibus" which for a long time, 
but incorrectly, bore the great name of Aristotle. f " Driven 
by the east wind," says the pseudo- Aristotle, " Phoenician 

* Humboldt, Relat. liist., t. ii. p. 142, and Long's Expedition to the 
Rocky Mountains, v. ii. pp. 91 and 405. 

+ Compare S'cyl. Caryand. Peripl., in Hudson, y«q1. ii. p. 53, with 
Aristot. de Mirab. Auscult. in Op. omnia, ex rec. Bekkeri, p. 884, 
§ 136. , 


mariners came in a four clays' voyage from Gades to a place 
where the sea was found covered with rushes and sea-weed 
(dpvov teal 4>vkos). The sea-weed is uncovered at ebb, and 
overflowed at flood tide." Does he not here refer to a shoal 
lying between the 34th and 36th degrees of latitude ? Has 
a shoal disappeared there in consequence of volcanic revo- 
lution? Vobonne refers to rocks north of Madeira.* In 
Scylax it is stated that ' ' the sea beyond Cerne ceases to be 
navigable in consequence of its great shallowness, its mud- 
diness, and its sea-grass. The sea-grass lies a span thick, 
and it is pointed at its upper extremity, so that it pricks." 
The sea-weed which is found between Cerne (the Phoenician 
station for merchant vessels, Gaulea ; or, according to Gosse- 
lin, the small estuary of Fedallah, on the north-west coast of 
Mauritania,) and Cape Verde, at the present time by no 
means forms a great meadow or connected group, " mare 
herbidum" such as exists on the other side of the Azores. 
Moreover, in the poetic description of the coast given by 
Festus Avienus, j in which, as Avienus himself very distinctly 
acknowledges, he availed himself of the journals of Phoenician 
ships, the impediments presented by the sea- weed are described 
with great minuteness ; but Avienus places the site of this 
obstacle much further north, towards Ierne, the Holy Isle. 

Sic nulla late flabra propellunt ratem, 
Sic segnis humor aequoris pigri stupet. 
Adjicit et illud, plurimum inter gurgites 
Exstare fucuin, et seepe virgulti vice 
Retinere puppirn .... 
Hgec inter undas rnulta casspitem jacet, 
Eamque late gens Hibernorum colit. 

When we consider that the sea- weed (fucus) the mud or 
slime (7rr)\bs), the shallowness of the sea, and the perpetual 
calms, are always regarded by the ancients as characteristic of 
the Western Ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules, we feel 
inclined, especially on account of the reference to the calms, 
to ascribe this to Punic cunning, to the tendency of a great 
trading people to hinder others, by terrific descriptions, from 
competing with them in maritime trading westwards. But even 

* See also Edrisi, Geogr. Nub., 1619, p. 157. 
f Ora Maritima, v. 109, 122, 338, and 408. 


in the genuine writings of the Stagyrite,* the same opinion 
is retained regarding the absence of wind, and Aristotle 
attempts to explain a false notion, or, as it seems to me, more 
correctly speaking, a fabulous mariner's story, by an hypo- 
thesis regarding the depth of the sea. The stormy sea be- 
tween Gades and the Islands of the Blest (Cadiz and the 
Canaries) can in truth in no way be compared with the sea, 
which lies between the tropics, ruffled only by the gentle 
trade- winds (vents alises), and which has been very charac- 
teristically named by the Spaniardsf El Golfo de las Damns. 

From very careful personal researches and from compari- 
son of the logs of many English and French vessels, I am 
led to believe that the old and very indefinite expression 
Mar de Sargasso, refers to two fucus banks, the larger of 
which is of an elongated form, and is the easternmost one, 
lying between the parallels of 19° and 34°, in a meridian 7° 
westward of the Island of Corvo, one of the Azores ; while 
the smaller and westernmost bank is of a roundish form, and 
is found between Bermuda and the Bahama Islands (lat. 
25°— 31°, long. 66°— 74°). The principal diameter of the 
small bank, which is traversed by ships sailing from Baxo de 
Plata (Cave d' Argent,) northward of St. Domingo to the 
Bermudas, appears to me to have a N. 60° E. direction. A 
transverse band of fucus natans, extending in an east-westerly 
direction between the latitudes of 25° and 30°, connects the 
greater with the smaller bank. I have had the pleasure of 
seeing these views adopted by my lamented friend Major 
Rennell, and confirmed, in his great work on Currents, by 
many new observations. \ The two groups of sea-Aveed, 
together with the transverse band uniting them, constitute 
the Sargasso Sea of the older writers, and collectively occupy 
an area equal to six or seven times that of Germany. 

The vegetation of the ocean thus offers the most remark- 
able example of social plants of a single species. On the 
main land the Savannahs or grass plains of America, the 
heaths (ericeta), and the forests of Northern Europe and Asia, 

* Aristot. Meteorol., ii. 1, 14. 

t Acosta, Historia natural y moral de las Indias, lib. iii. cap. 4. 

% Compare Humboldt, Relation historique, t. i. p. 202, and Examen 
Critique, t. iii. pp. 68-69, with Rennell's Investigation of the Currents 
of the Atlantic Ocean, 1832, p. 184. 


in which are associated coniferous trees, birches, and willows, 
produce a less striking uniformity than do these thalassophytes. 
Our heaths present in the north not only the predominating 
Calluua vulgaris, but also Erica tetralix, E. ciliaris, and E. 
cinerea; and in the south, Erica arborea, E. scoparia, and 
E. Mediterranea. The uniformity of the view presented by 
the Fucus natans is incomparably greater than that of any 
other assemblage of social plants. Oviedo calls the fucus 
banks " meadows," praderias de yerva. If we consider that 
Pedro Yelasco, a native of the Spanish harbour of Palos, by 
following the flight of certain birds from Fayal, discovered 
the Island of Flores as early as 1452, it seems almost impos- 
sible, considering the proximity of the great fucus bank of 
Corvo and Flores, that no part of these oceanic meadows 
should have been seen before the time of Columbus by Por- 
tuguese ships driven westward by storms. 

We learn, however, from the astonishment of the com- 
panions of the admiral, when they were continuously sur- 
rounded by sea- grass from the 16th of September to the 8th 
of October, 1492, that the magnitude of the phenomenon 
was at that period unknown to mariners. In the extracts 
from the ship's journal given by Las Casas, Columbus cer- 
tainly does not mention the apprehensions which the accumu- 
lation of sea-weed excited, or the grumbling of his companions. 
He merely speaks of the complaints and murmurs regarding 
the danger of the very weak but constant east winds. It was 
only his son, Fernando Colon, who in the history of his 
father's life, endeavoured to give a somewhat dramatic delinea- 
tion of the anxieties of the sailors. 

According to my researches, Columbus made his way 
through the great fucus bank in the year 1492, in latitude 
28^°, and in 1493, in latitude 37°, and both times in tbe 
longitude of 38°-41°. This can be established with tolerable 
certainty from the estimation of the velocity recorded by 
Columbus, and "the distance daily sailed over;" not indeed 
by dropping the log, but by the information afforded by the 
running out of half- hour sand-glasses {ampolletas) . The first 
certain and distinct account of the log, {catena delta pojypa,) 
w r hichl have found, is in the year 1521, in Pigafetta's Journal 
of Magellan's Circumnavigation of the World.* The deter- 
* See Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 631, and note; Bohn's edition. 



ruination of the ship's place during the days in which Colum- 
bus was crossing the great bank is the more important, 
because it shews us that for three centuries and a half the 
total accumulation of these socially- living thalassophytes, 
(whether consequent on the local character of the sea's bottom 
or on the direction of the recurrent Gulf stream,) has re- 
mained at the same point. Such evidences of the persistence 
of great natural phenomena doubly arrest the attention of the 
natural philosopher, when they occur in the ever-moving 
oceanic element. Although the limits of the fucus banks 
oscillate considerably, in accordance with the strength and 
direction of long predominating winds, yet we may still, in the 
middle of the nineteenth century, take the meridian of 41° 
west of Paris (or 8° 38' west of Greenwich) as the principal 
axis of the great batik. Columbus, with his vivid imaginative 
force, associated the idea of the position of this bank with the 
great physical line of demarcation, which according to him, 
" separated the globe into two parts, and was intimately con- 
nected with the changes of magnetic deviation and of climatic 
erlations." Columbus when he was uncertain regarding the 
longitude, attempted to determine his place (February, 1493,) 
by the appearance of the first floating masses of tangled weed 
(cle la primer a yerva) on the eastern border of the great Corvo 
bank. The physical line of demarcation was, by the pow- 
erful influence of the Admiral, converted on the 4th of May, 
1493, into a political one, in the celebrated line of demar- 
cation between the Spanish and Portuguese rights of pos- 

(8) p. 3 — " The Nomadic Tribes of Tibbos and Tuaryks" 

These two nations, which inhabit the desert between 
Bornou, Fezzan, and Lower Egypt, were first made more 
accurately known to us by the travels of Hornemann and 
Lyon. The Tibbos or Tibbous occupy the eastern, and the 
Tuaryks (Tueregs) the western portion of the great sandy 
ocean. The former, from their habits of constant moving, 
were named by the other tribes "birds." The Tuarvks are 
subdivided into two tribes — the Aghadez and the Tagazi. 
These are often caravan leaders and merchants. They speak 

* See my Examen Critique, t. iii. pp. 64 — 99 ; and Cosmos, vol. ii. 
p. 655. Bonn's edition. 


the same language as the Berbers, and undoubtedly belong to 
the primitive Lybian races. They present the remarkable 
physiological phenomenon that, according to the character of 
the climate, the different tribes vary in complexion from a 
white to a yellow, or even almost black hue ; but they never 
have woolly hair or negro features.^ 

(9) p. 3 — u The ship of the desert." 

In the poetry of the East, the camel is designated as the 
land-ship, or the ship of the desert (Sejynet-el-badi/etf). 

The camel is, however, not only the carrier in the desert, 
and the medium for maintaining communication between 
different countries, but is also, as Carl Ritter has shown in 
his admirable treatise on the sphere of distribution of this 
animal, " the main requirement of a nomadic mode of life in 
the patriarchal stage of national development, in the torrid 
regions of our planet, where rain is either wholly or in, a 
great degree absent. No animal's life is so closely associated 
by natural bonds with a certain primitive stage of the deve- 
lopment of the life of man, as that of the camel among the 
Bedouin tribes, nor has any other been established in like 
manner by a continuous historical evidence of several thousand 
years."| "The camel was entirely unknown to the culti- 
vated people of Carthage through all the centuries of their 
flourishing existence, until the destruction of the city. It 
was first brought into use for armies by the Marusians, in 
Western Lybia, in the times of the Caesars ; perhaps in con- 
sequence of its employment in commercial undertakings by 
the Ptolemies, in the valley of the Nile. The Guanches, 
inhabiting the Canary Islands, who were probably related to 
the Berber race, were not acquainted with the camel before 
the fifteenth century, when it was introduced by Norman 
conquerors and settlers. In the probably very limited com- 
munication of the Guanches with the coast of Africa, the 
smallness of their boats must necessarily have impeded the 
transport of large animals. The true Berber race, which was 
diffused throughout the interior of Northern Africa, and to 
which the Tibbos and Tuaryks, as already observed, belong, 

* Exploration scientifique cle VAlgerie, t. ii. p. 343. 

•f Chardin, Voyages, nouv. ed. par Langl&s, 1811. t. iii. p. 376. 

X Asien, Bd. viii. ; Abth. 1, 1847, s. 610, 758. 

E 2 


is probably indebted to the use of the camel throughout the 
Lybian desert and its oases, not only for the advantages of 
internal communication, but also for its escape from com- 
plete annihilation and for the maintenance of its national ex- 
istence to the present day. The use of the camel continued, 
on the other hand, to be unknown to the negro races, and it 
was only in company with the conquering expeditions and 
proselyting missions of the Bedouins through the whole of 
Northern Africa, that the useful animal of the Nedschd, of 
the Nabatheans, and of all the districts occupied by Aramean 
races, spread here, as elsewhere, to the westward. The 
Goths brought camels as early as the fourth century to the 
Lower Istros (the Danube), and the Ghaznevides transported 
them in much larger numbers to India as far as the banks of 
the Ganges." We must distinguish two epochs in the distri- 
bution of the camel throughout the northern part of the African 
continent ; the first under the Ptolemies, which operated 
through Cyrene on the whole of the north-west of Africa, and 
the second under the Mahommedan epoch of the conquering 

It has long been a matter of discussion, whether those 
domestic animals which were the earliest companions of 
mankind, as oxen, sheep, dogs, and camels, are still to be 
met with in a state of original wildness. The Hiongnu, in 
Eastern Asia, are among the nations who earliest trained wild 
camels as domestic animals. The compiler of the great 
Chinese work, Si-yn-ive7i-kien-lo % , states that in the middle of 
the eighteenth century, wild camels, as well as wild horses 
and wild asses, still roamed over Eastern Turkestan. Hadji 
Chalfa, in his Turkish Geography, written in the seventeenth 
century, speaks of the very frequent hunting of the wild camel 
in the high plains of Kashgar, Turfan, and Khotan. Schott 
finds in the writings of a Chinese author, Ma-dschi, that wild 
camels exist in the countries north of China and west of 
the basin of the Hoang-ho, in Ho-si or Tangut. Cuvierf 
alone doubts the present existence of wild camels in the inte- 
rior of Asia. He believes that they have merely " become 
wild;" since Calmucks, and others professing kindred Bud- 

* Historia Regionum Occidentalium, quce Si-yu vocantur, visu et 
audi tu cognitarum. 

f Btgne animal, t. i. p. 257. 


dhist doctrines, set camels and other animals at liberty, in 
order " to acquire to themselves merit for the other world." 
The Ailanitic Gulf of the Nabatheans was the home of the wild 
Arabian camel, according to Greek witnesses of the times of 
Artemidorus and Agatharchides of Cnidus.* The discovery 
of fossil camel-bones of the ancient world in the Sewalik hills 
(which are projecting spurs of the Himalaya range), by Cap- 
tain Cautley and Dr. Falconer, in 1834, is especially worthy of 
notice. These remains were found with antediluvian bones of 
mastodons, true elephants, giraffes, and a gigantic land tortoise 
(Colossochelys), twelve feet in length and six feet in height. f 
This camel of the ancient world has been named Camelus 
sivalensis, although it does not show any great difference from 
the still living Egyptian and Bactrian camels with one and 
two humps. Forty camels have very recently been introduced 
into Java, from TeneriffeJ. The first experiment has been 
made in Samarang. In like manner, reindeer were only 
introduced into Iceland from Norway in the course of the last 
century. They were not found there when the island was 
first colonised, notwithstanding its proximity to East Green- 
land, and the existence of floating masses of ice.§ 

(10) p. 3 — " Between the Altai and the Kuen-lun." 

The great highland, or, as it is commonly called, the mountain 
plateau of Asia, which comprises the lesser Bucharia, Songaria, 
Thibet, Tangut, and the Mogul country of the Chalcas and 
Olotes, is situated between the 36th and 48th degrees of north 
latitude and the meridians of 81° and 118° E. long. It is 
an erroneous idea to represent this part of the interior of Asia 
as a single, undivided mountainous swelling, continuous like 
the plateaux of Quito and Mexico, and situated from seven to 
upwards of nine thousand feet above the level of the sea. I 
have already shown in my ""Researches respecting the Mountains 
of Northern India, ,||" that there is not in this sense any con- 
tinuous mountain plateau in the interior of Asia. 

* Bitter, Asien, Bd. viii. s. 670, 672, and 746. 

•f Humboldt, Cosmos, Bonn's ed., vol. i. p. 281. 

+ Singapore Journal of the Indian Archijyelago, 1847, p. 286. 

§ Sartorius von Waltershausen, Physisch-geograjihische Skizze von 
Island, 1847, s. 41. 

|| Humboldt, Premier Mcmoire sur les Montagnes de VInde, in the 
Annales de Chimie et de Physique, t. iii. 1816, p. 303; Second Me- 
moire, t. xiv. 1820, pp. 5—55. 


My views concerning the geographical distribution of plants, 
and the mean degree of temperature requisite for certain kinds 
of cultivation, had early led me to entertain considerable 
doub's regarding the continuity of a great Tartarian plateau be- 
tween the Himalaya and the chain of the Altai. This plateau 
continued to be characterized, as it had been described by 
HipiDOcrates. as " the high and naked plains of Scythia, which, 
without being crowned with mountains, rise and extend to 
beneath the constellation of the Bear."* Klaproth has the un- 
deniable merit of having been the first to make us acquainted 
with the true position and prolongation of two great and 
entirely distinct chains of mountains, — the Kuen-lun and the 
Thian-schan, in a part of Asia which better deserves to be 
termed " central," than Kashmeer, Baltistan, and the Sacred 
Lakes of Thibet (the Manasa and the Ravanahrada). The 
importance of the Celestial Mountains (the Thian-schan) had 
indeed been already surmised by Pallas, without his being 
conscious of their volcanic character ; but this highly- gifted 
investigator of nature, led astray by the hypotheses of the dog- 
matic and fantastic geology prevalent in his time, and firmly 
believing in " chains of mountains radiating from a centre," 
saw in the Bogdo Oola (the 3Ions Augustus, or culminating 
point of the Thian-schan.) such "a central node, whence all 
the other Asiatic mountain chains diverge in ravs, and which 
dominates over all the rest of the continent!" 

The erroneous idea of a single boundless and elevated 
plain, occupying the whole of Central Asia, the " Plateau de 
la TartarieJ' originated in France, in the latter half of the 
eighteenth century. It was the result of historical combina- 
tions, and of a not sufficiently attentive study of the writings 
of the celebrated Venetian traveller, as well as of the naive 
relations of those diplomatic monks who, in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries (thanks to the unity and extent of 
the Mogul empire at that time), w^ere able to traverse almost 
the whole of the interior of the continent, from the ports of 
Syria and of the Caspian Sea to the east coast of China, washed 
by the great ocean. If a more exact acquaintance with the 
language and ancient literature of India were of an older date 
among us than half a century, the hypothesis of this central 
plateau, occupying the wide space between the Himalaya and 
* De Aere et Aquis, § xcvi. p. 74. 


the south of Siberia, would no doubt have sought support 
from some ancient and venerable authority. The poem of 
the Mahabharata appears, in the geographical fragment Bhisch- 
makanda, to describe " Meru" not so much as a mountain as 
an enormous swelling of the land, which supplies with water 
the sources of the Ganges, those of the Bhadrasoma (Irtysch), 
and those of the forked Oxus. These physico-geographical 
views were intermingled in Europe with ideas of other kinds, 
and with mythical reveries on the origin of mankind. The lofty 
regions from which the waters were supposed to have first 
retreated (for geologists in general were long averse to the 
theories of elevation) must also have received the first germs 
of civilization. Hebraic systems of geology, based on ideas 
of a deluge, and supported by local traditions, favoured these 
assumptions. The intimate connexion between time and 
space, between the beginning of social order and the plastic 
condition of the surface of the earth, lent a peculiar import- 
ance and an almost moral interest to the Plateau of Tartary, 
which was supposed to be characterized by uninterrupted 
continuity. Acquisitions of positive knowledge, — the late 
matured fruit of scientific travels and direct measurements, — 
with a fundamental study of the languages and literature of 
Asia, and more especially of China, have gradually demon- 
strated the inaccuracy and exaggeration of those wild hypo- 
theses. The mountain plains (dpoTredia) of Central Asia are 
no longer regarded as the cradle of human civilization, and 
the primitive seat of all arts and sciences. The ancient nation 
of Badly' s Atlantis, which d'Alernbert has happily described 
as " having taught us everything but its own name and 
existence," has vanished. The inhabitants of the Oceanic 
Atlantis were already treated, in the time of Posidonius, as 
having a merely apocryphal existence.'' 1 

A plateau of considerable but very unequal elevation runs 
with little interruption, in a S.S.W.-N.N.E. direction, from 
Eastern Thibet towards the mountain node of Kentei, south 
of Lake Baikal, and is known by the names of Gobi, Seha-mo, 
(sand desert,) Scha-ho, (sand river,) and Hanhai. This swell- 
ing of the ground, which is probably more ancient than the 
elevation of the mountain-chains by which it is intersected, is 
situated, as we have already remarked, between 81° and 118° 
* Strabo, lib. ii. p. 102; and lib. xiii. p. 598, Casaub. 


cast longitude from Greenwich. Measured at right angles to 
its longitudinal axis, its breadth in the south, between Ladak, 
Gertop, and H"lassa (the seat of the great Lama), is 720 miles; 
between Hami in the Celestial Mountains, and the great curve 
of the Hoan°--ho, near the In-schan chain, it is scarcely 480: 
but in the north, between the Khanggai, where the great city 
of Karakhorum once stood, and the chain of Khin-gan-Petscha, 
which runs in a meridian line (in the part of Gobi traversed in 
going from Kiachta to Pekin by way of Urgn), it is 760 miles. 
The Avhole extent of this elevated ground, which must be care- 
fully distinguished from the more eastern and higher mountain- 
range, may be approximately estimated, including its deflec- 
tions, at about three times the area of France. The map of 
the mountain-ranges and volcanoes of Central Asia, which I 
constructed in 1839, but did not publish until 1843, shows in 
the clearest manner the hypsometric relations between the 
mountain-ranges and the Gobi plateau. It was founded on 
the critical employment of all the astronomical determinations 
accessible to me, and on many of the very rich and copious 
orographic descriptions in which Chinese literature abounds, 
and which were examined at my request by Klaproth and Sta- 
nislaus Julien. My map marks in prominent characters the 
mean direction and the height of the mountain-chains, toge- 
ther with the chief features of the interior of the continent of 
Asia from 30 to 60 degrees of latitude, between the meridians 
■of Pekin and Cherson. It differs essentially from any map 
hitherto published. 

The Chinese enjoyed a triple advantage, by means of 
"which they were enabled to enrich their earliest literature 
with so considerable an amount of orographic knowledge re- 
garding Upper Asia, and more especially those regions situated 
between the In-schan, the alpine lake of Khuku-noor, and 
the shores of the Hi and Tarim, lying north and south of the 
Celestial Mountains, and which were so little known to 
^Vestern Europe. These three advantages were, besides the 
peaceful conquests of the Buddhist pilgrims, the warlike 
expeditions towards the west (as early as the dynasties of 
Han and Thang, one hundred and twenty-two years before our 
era, and again in the ninth century, when conquerors ad- 
vanced as far as Ferghana and the shores of the Caspian Sea); 
the religious interest attached to certain high mountain sum- 


mits, on account of the periodical performance of sacrifices, in 
accordance with pre-existing enactments; and lastly, the early 
and generally known use of the compass for determining the 
direction of mountains and rivers. This use, and the know- 
ledge of the south-pointing of the magnetic needle, twelve 
centuries before the Christian era, gave a great superiority 
to the orographic and hydrographic descriptions of the Chinese 
over those of Greek and Roman authors, who treated less fre- 
quently of subjects of this nature. The acute observer Strabo 
was alike ignorant of the direction of the Pvrenees and of 
that of the Alps and Apennines.* 

To the lowlands belong almost the whole of Northern 
Asia to the north-west of the volcanic Celestial Mountains 
(Thian-schan) ; the steppes to the north of the Altai and 
the Sayanic chain; and the countries which extend from 
the mountains of Bolor, or Bulyt-tagh (Cloud Mountains in 
the Uigurian dialect), which run in a north and south 
direction, and from the upper Oxus, whose sources were dis- 
covered in the Pamershian Lake, Sir-i-kol (Lake Victoria), 
by the Buddhist pilgrims Hiuen-thsang and Song-yun in 518 
and 629, by Marco Polo in 1277, and by Lieutenant Wood in 
1838, towards the Caspian Sea; and from Lake Tenghiz or 
Balkasch, through the Kirghis Steppe, towards the Aral and 
the southern extremity of the Ural Mountains. In the vicinity 
of mountainous plains, whose elevation varies from 0000 to 
more than 10,000 feet above the sea's level, we may assuredly 
be allowed to apply the term lowlands to districts which are 
only elevated from 200 to 1200 feet. The first of these 
heights correspond with that of the city of Mannheim, and 
the second with that of Geneva and Tubingen. If we extend 
the aj^plication of the word plateau, which has so frequently 
been misused by modern geographers, to elevations of the 
soil which scarcely present any sensible difference in the cha- 
racter of the vegetation and climate, physical geography, 
owing to the indefiniteness of the merely relatively important 
terms of high and low land, will be unable to distinguish 
the connexion between elevation above the sea's level and 
climate, between the decrease of the temperature and the 
increase in elevation. When I was in Chinese Dzungarei, 

* Compare Strabo, lib. ii. pp. 71, 128; lib. iii. p. 137; lib. iv. pp. 
199, 202; lib. v. p. 211, Casaub. 


between the boundaries of Siberia and Lake Saysan (Dsai- 
sang), at an equal distance from the Icy Sea and the mouth of 
the Ganges, I might assuredly consider myself to be in Central 
Asia. The barometer, however, soon showed me that the 
elevation of the plains watered by the Upper Irtysch between 
Ustkamenogorsk and the Chinese Dzungarian post of Choni- 
mailachu (the sheep- bleating) was scarcely as much as from 
850 to 1170 feet. Pansners earlier barometric determinations 
of height, which were first made known after my expedition, 
have been confirmed by my own observations. Both afford a 
refutation of the hypotheses of Chappe D'Auteroche (based on 
calculations of the fall of rivers) regarding the elevated position 
of the shores of the Irtysch, in Southern Siberia. Even 
further eastward, the Lake of Baikal is only 1420 feet above 
the level of the sea. 

In order to associate the idea of the relation between low- 
lands and highlands, and of the successive gradations in the 
elevation of the soil, with actual data based on accurate mea- 
surements, I subjoin a table, in which the heights of the ele- 
vated plains of Europe, Africa, and America are given in an 
ascending scale. With these numbers we may then further 
compare all that has as yet been made known regarding the 
mean height of the Asiatic plains, or true lowlands. 

Plateau of Auvergne 
„ of Bavaria . 
„ of Castille . 
„ of Mysore . 
„ of Caracas . 
„ of Popayan . 

of the vicinity of the Lake of Tzana, 
in Abyssinia .... 
„ of the Orange River (in South Africa") 
„ of Axum (in Abyssinia) 
„ of Mexico ..... 
„ of Quito ..... 
., of the Province de los Pastos . 
„ of the vicinity of the Lake of Titicaca 















. 5,755 















No portion of the so-called Desert of Gobi, which con- 
sists in part of fine pasture lands, has been so thoroughly 
investigated in relation to its differences of elevations as the 
zone which extends over an area of nearly 600 miles, be- 


tween the sources of the Selenga and the Chinese wall. A 
very accurate barometrical levelling was executed, under the 
auspices of the Academy of St. Petersburgh, by two distin- 
guished savans — the astronomer George Fuss, and the bota- 
nist Bunge. They accompanied a mission of Greek monks to 
Pekin, in the year 1832, in order to establish there one of 
those magnetic stations whose construction I had recom- 
mended. The mean height of this portion of the Desert of 
Gobi amounts hardly to 4263 feet, and not to 8000 or 8500 
feet, as had been too hastily concluded from the measure- 
ments of contiguous mountain summits by the Jesuits Ger- 
billon and Verbiest. The surface of the Desert of Gobi is not 
more than 2558 feet above the level of the sea between Erghi, 
Durma, and Scharaburguna ; and scarcely more than 320 
feet higher than the plateau of Madrid. Erghi is situated 
midway, in 45° 31' north lat., and 111° 26' east long., in a 
depression of the land extending in a direction from south- 
west to north-east over a breadth of more than 240 miles. 
An ancient Mongolian saga designates this spot as the 
former site of a large inland sea. Reeds and saline plants, 
generally of the same species as those found on the low shores 
of the Caspian Sea, are here met with; while there are in 
this central part of the desert several small saline lakes, the salt 
of which is carried to China. According to a singular opinion 
prevalent among the Mongols, the ocean will at some period 
return, and again establish its dominion in Gobi. Such geo- 
logical reveries remind us of the Chinese traditions of the 
bitter lake, in the interior of Siberia, of which I have else- 
where spoken.* 

The basin of Kashmir, which has been so enthusiasti- 
cally praised by Bernier, and too moderately estimated by 
Victor Jacquemont, has also given occasion to great hyp- 
sometric exaggerations. Jacquemont found by an accu- 
rate barometric measurement that the height of the Wulur 
Lake, in the valley of Kashmir, near the capital Sirinagur, 
was 5346 feet. Uncertain determinations by the boiling 
point of water gave Baron Carl von Hiigel 5819 feet, and 
Lieutenant Cunningham only 5052 feet.f The mountainous 

* Humboldt. Asie centrale, t. ii. p. 141; Klaproth, Asie polyglotta, 
p. 232. 

f Compare my Asie centrale, t. iii. p. 310, with the Journal of the 
Asiatic Soc. of Bengal, vol. x. 1841, p. 114. 


districts of Kashmir, which has excited so great an interest 
in Germany, and whose climatic advantages have lost some- 
what of their reputation since Carl von Hugel's account of 
the four months of winter suow in the streets of Sirinagur,* 
does not lie on the high crests of the Himalaya, as has com- 
monly been supposed, but constitutes a true cauldron -like 
valley on their southern declivity. On the south-west, where 
the rampart-like Pir Panjal separates it from the Indian Pun- 
jaub, the snow-crowned summits are covered, according to 
\igne, by basaltic and amygdaloid formations. The latter 
are very characteristically termed by the natives schischak 
deyu, or devil's pock-marks. f The charms of the vegetation 
have also been very differently described, according as tra- 
vellers passed into Kashmir from the south, and left behind 
them the luxuriant and varied vegetation of India ; or from 
the northern regions of Turkestan, Samarkand, and Ferghana. 
-Moreover, it is only very recently that we have obtained 
a clearer view regarding the elevation of Thibet, the level of 
the plateau having long been uncritically confounded with 
the mountain tojDS rising from it. Thibet occupies the space 
between the two great chains of the Himalaya and the Kuen- 
liin, and forms the elevated ground of the valley between 
them. The land is divided from east to west, both by the 
inhabitants and by Chinese geographers, into three parts. 
We distinguish Upper Thibet, with its capital, H'lassa (pro- 
bably 9592 feet high); Middle Thibet, with the town of Leh 
or Ladak (9995 feet) ; and Little Thibet, or Baltistan, called 
the Thibet of Apricots (Sari-Butan), in which lie Iskardo 
(63C0 feet), Gilgit, and south of Iskardo, but on the left bank 
of the Indus, the plateau Deotsuh, whose elevation was deter- 
mined by Yigne (11 ,977 feet). On carefully examining all the 
notices we have hitherto possessed regarding the three Thi- 
bets, and which will have been abundantly augmented during 
the present year by the brilliant boundary surveying expedi- 
tion under the auspices of the Governor-general, Lord Dal- 
housie, we soon become convinced that the region between 
the Himalava and the Kuen-lun is no unbroken table-land, 
but that it is intersected by mountain groups, which un- 
doubtedly belong to perfectly distinct systems of elevation. 

* See his Kashmir, Bd. ii. s. 196. 

•+ Yigne, Travels in Kashmir, 1842, vol. i. pp. 237 — 293. 


Actual plains are very few in number : the most considerable 
are those between Gertop, Daba, Schang- thong (the Shep- 
herd's Plain), the native country of the shawl-goat, and 
Schipke (10,449 feet); those round Laclak, which attain an 
elevation of 13,429 feet, and must not be confounded with 
the depressed land in which the town lies; and finally, the 
plateau of the Sacred Lakes, Manasa and Ravanahrada (pro- 
bably 14,965 feet), which was visited by Father Antonio de 
Andrada as early as the year 1625. Other parts are entirely 
filled with compressed mountain masses, " rising," as a recent 
traveller observes, " like the waves of a vast ocean." Along 
the rivers, the Indus, the Sutledge, and the Yaru-dzangbo- 
tschu, which was formerly regarded as identical with the 
Buramputer (or correctly the Brahma-putra), points have 
been measured which are only between 6714 and 8952 feet 
above the sea; and the same is the case with the Thibetian 
villages Pangi, Kunawur, Kelu, and Muraiig.* From many 
carefully collected determinations of heights, I think that 
we are justified in assuming that the plateau of Thibet 
between 73° and 85° east long, does not attain a mean 
elevation of 11,510 feet: this is hardly the elevation of the 
fruitful plain of Caxamarca in Peru, and is 1349 and 2155 
feet less than the plateau of Titicaca, and of the street pave- 
ment of the Upper Town of Potosi (13,665 feet). 

That beyond the Thibetian highlands and the Gobi, whose 
outline has been already defined, Asia presents considerable 
depressions, and indeed true lowlands, between the parallels 
of 37° and 48°, where once an immeasurable continuous 
plateau was fabulously supposed to exist, is proved by the 
cultivation of plants which cannot flourish without a cer- 
tain degree of temperature. An attentive study of the travels 
of Marco Polo, in which mention is made of the cultivation 
of the vine, and of the production of cotton in northern lati- 
tudes, had long ago directed the attention of the acute 
Klaproth to this point. In a Chinese work, bearing the title 
Information respecting the recently conquered Barbarians (Sin- 
kiang-wai-tan-ki-lio), it is stated that " the country of Aksu, 
somewhat to the south of the Celestial Mountains, near the 
rivers which form the great Tarim-gol, produces grapes, 
pomegranates, and numberless other fruits of singular excel- 
* Humboldt, Asie Centrale, t. iii. pp. 281 — 325. 


lence ; also cotton (Gossypium religiosum), which covers the 
fields like yellow clouds. In summer the heat is extremely 
great, and in winter there is here, as at Turfan, neither intense 
cold nor heavy snow." The neighbourhood of Khotan, 
Kaschgar, and Yarkand still, as in the time of Marco Polo,* 
pays its tribute in home-grown cotton. In the oasis of Hanoi 
(Khamil), above 200 miles east of Aksu, orange trees, pome- 
granates, and the finer vines are found to flourish. 

The products of cultivation which are here noticed lead to 
the belief that over extensive districts the elevation of the soil 
is very slight. At so great a distance from the sea side, 
and in the easterly situation which so much increases the 
degree of winter cold, a plateau, as high as Madrid or 
Munich, might indeed have a very hot summer, but would 
hardly have, in 43° and 44° latitude, an extremely mild and 
almost snowless winter. I have seen a high summer heat 
favour the cultivation of the vine, as at the Caspian Sea, 83 
feet below the level of the Black Sea (at Astrachan, latitude 
46° 21'); but the winter cold is there from — 4° to - 13°. 
Moreover, the vine is sunk to a greater depth in the ground 
after the month of November. We can understand that cul- 
tivated plants, which, as it were, live only in the summer, as 
the vine, the cotton plant, rice, and melons, may be cultivated 
with success between the latitudes of 40° and 44°, on plateaux 
at an elevation of more than 3000f feet, and may be favoured 
by the action of radiant heat ; but how could the pomegranate 
trees of Aksu, and the orange trees of Hami, whose fruit 
Father Grosier extolled as excellent, endure a long and severe 
winter (the necessary consequence of a great elevation^)? 
Carl Zimmerman § has shown it to be extremely probable 
that the Tarim depression, or the desert between the moun- 
tain chain of Thian-schan and Kuen-lun, where the steppe 
river Tarimgol discharges itself into the Lake of Lop, 
formerly described as an alpine lake, is hardly 1280 feet 
above the level of the sea, or only twice the elevation of 
Prague. Sir Alexander Burnes also ascribes to Bokhara only 

* II Milione di Marco Polo, pubbl. dal Conte Baldclli, t. i. pp. 32 
and 87. 

+ 500 toises in the German, accurately 3197 feet. Tk. 

% Asie centrale, t. ii. pp. 4S — 52 and 429. 

§ In the learned Analyses of his Karte von Inner Asien, 1841, s. 99. 


an elevation of 1188 feet. It is most earnestly to be desired 
that all doubt regarding the elevation of the plateaux of 
Central Asia, south of 45° north latitude, should finally be re- 
moved by direct barometrical measurements, or by determi- 
nations of the boiling point of water, conducted with greater 
care than is usual in these cases. All our calculations of the 
difference between the limits of perpetual snow and the 
maximum elevation of vine cultivation in different climates, 
rest at present on too complex and uncertain elements. 

In order as briefly as possible to rectify that which has been 
advanced in the former edition of the present work, regard- 
ing the great mountain systems which intersect the interior 
of Asia, I subjoin the following general review: — We begin 
with the four parallel chains, which run, with tolerable regu- 
larity, from east to west, and are connected together by means 
of a few detached transverse lines. Differences of direction 
indicate, as in the Alps of Western Europe, a difference in the 
epoch of elevation. After the four parallel chains (the Altai, 
the Thian-sclum, the Kuen-libi, and the Himalaya) we must 
consider as following the direction of meridian, the Ural, the 
Bolor, the Khingan, and the Chinese chains, which, with the 
great inflection of the Thibetianand Assam- Birmese Dzangbo- 
tschu incline from north to south. The Ural divides a de- 
pressed portion of Europe from a similarly low portion of 
Asia. The latter was called bv Herodotus/ 1 ' and even earlier 
by Pherecydes of Syros, Scythian or Siberian Europe, and 
comprised all the countries to the north of the Caspian and of 
the laxartes, which flows from east to west, and may therefore 
be regarded as a continuation of our Europe, "as it now exists, 
extending lengthwise across the continent of Asia." 

1. The great mountain system of the Altai (the "gold 
mountains" of Menander of Byzantium, an historical writer 
of the seventh century ; the Alta'i-alin of the Moguls, and the 
Kin-schan of the Chinese) forms the southern boundary of the 
great Siberian lowlands, and running between 50° and 52 1° 
north latitude, extends from the rich silver mines of the 
Snake Mountains, and the confluence of the Uba and the 
Irtysch, to the meridian of Lake Baikal. The divisions and 
names of the " Great" and the " Little Altai," taken from 
an obscure passage of Abulghasi, should be wholly avoided.f 

* Ed. Schweigkauser, t. v. p. 204. f Asie caitrale, t. i. p. 247. 


TLe mountain system of the Altai comprehends — (a) the Altai 
proper, or Kolywanski Altai, which is entirely under the 
Ilussian sceptre : it lies to the west of the intersecting fissures 
of the Telezki Lake, which follow the direction of the meri- 
dian ; and in ante-historic times probably constituted the 
eastern shore of the great arm of the sea, by which, in the 
direction of the still existing lakes, Aksakal-Barbi and Sary- 
Kupa,* the Aralo-Caspian basin was connected with the 
Icy sea ; — (b) East of the Telezki chains, which follow the 
direction of the meridian, the Sayani, Tangnu, and Ulangom, 
or Malakha ranges, all tolerably parallel with each other, 
and following an east and west direction. The Tangnu, 
which merges in the basin of the Selenga, has, from very 
remote times, constituted the national boundary between the 
Turkish race, to the south, and the Kirghis (Hakas, identical 
with 2a«at), to the north. f It is the original seat of the 
Samoieds or Soyotes. who wandered as far as the Icy Sea, 
and were long regarded in Europe as a race inhabiting ex- 
clusively the coasts of the Polar Sea. The highest snow- 
covered summits of the Kolywan Altai are the Bielucha and 
the Katunia Pillars. The latter attain only a height of about 
11,000 feet, or about the height of Etna. The Daurian high- 
land, to which the mountain node of Kemtei belongs, and on 
whose eastern margin lies the Jablonoi Chrebet, divides the 
depressions of the Baikal and the Amur. 

2. The mountain system of the Thian-schan, or the chair, 
of the Celestial Mountains, the Tengri-tagh of the Turks 
(Tukiu), and of the kindred race of the Hiongnu, is eight 
times as long, in an east and west direction, as the Pyrenees. 
Beyond, that is to say, to the west of its intersection with the 
meridian chain of the Bolor and Kosuyrt, the Thian-schan 
bears the names of Asferah and Aktagh, is rich in metals, and 
is intersected with open fissures, which emit hot vapours lumi- 
nous at night, and which are used for obtaining sal-ammoniac. J 
East of the transverse Bolor and Kosyurt chain, there follow 
successively in the Tliian- schan, the Kashgar Pass (Kaschgar- 
dawan), the Glacier Pass of Djeparle, which leads to Kutch 
and Aksu in the Tarim basin ; the volcano of Pe-schan, which 

* Asie centrcde, t. ii. p. 138. 

+ Jacob Griinm, Gesch. der deidschen SpracJie, 1848, Th. i. s. 227. 

X Asie centrale, t. ii. pp. 18 — 20. 


erupted fire and streams of lava at least as late as the middle 
of the seventh century ; the great snow-covered massive ele- 
vation of Bogdo-Oola ; the Solfatara of Urumtsi, which fur- 
nishes sulphur and sal-ammoniac (nao-scha), and lies in a 
coal district ; the volcano of Turfan (or volcano of Ho-tscheu 
or Bischbalik), almost midway between the meridians of 
Turfan (Kune Turpan), and of Pidjan, and which is still in 
a state of activity. The volcanic eruptions of the Thian-schan 
chain reach, according to Chinese historians, as far back as 
the year 89, a.d., when the Hiongnu were pursued by the 
Chinese from the sources of the Irtysch as far as Kutch and 
Kharaschar* 1 . The Chinese General, Teu-hian, crossed the 
Thian-schan, and saw " the Fire Mountains, which sent out 
masses of molten rock that flow to the distance of many Z^." 
The great distance of the volcanoes of the interior of Asia 
from the sea coast is a remarkable and isolated phenomenon. 
Abel Remusat, in a letter to Cordierf , first directed the atten- 
tion of geologists to this fact. This distance, for instance, 
in the case of the volcano of Pe-schan, from the north or the 
Icy Sea at the mouth of the Obi, is 1528 miles; and from the 
south or the mouths of the Indus and the Ganges, 1512 miles; 
so central is the position of fire- emitting volcanoes in the 
Asiatic continent. To the west its distance from the Caspian 
at the Gulf of Karuboghaz, is 1360 miles, and from the 
east shores of the Lake of Aral, 1020 miles. The active 
volcanoes of the New World had hitherto offered the most 
remarkable examples of great distance from the sea coast, 
but in the case of the volcano of Popocateptl, in Mexico, 
this distance is only one hundred and thirty-two miles, and 
only ninety-two, one hundred and four, and one hundred 
and fifty-six, respectively in the South American volca- 
noes Sangai, Tolima, and de la Fragua. All extinct vol- 
canoes, and all trachytic mountains, which have no perma- 
nent connexion with the interior of the earth, have been 
excluded from these statements J. East of the volcano of 
Turfat, and of the fruitful Oasis of Hami, the chain of the 
Thian-schan merges into the great elevated tract of Gobi, 
which runs in a S.W. and N.E. direction. This interruption 

* Klaproth, Tableau hist, de VAsie, p. 108. 
• t Annate des Mines, t. v. 1820, p. 137. 
% Asie centrale, t. ii. pp. 16—55, 69—77, 341, 356. & 



of the mountain chain continues for more than 9^ degrees of 
longitude ; it is caused by the transversal intersection of the 
Gobi, but beyond the latter, the more southern chain of In- 
schan (Silver Mountains), proceeding from west to east, to the 
shores of the Pacific near Pekin (north of the Pe-tscheli), forms 
a continuation of the Thian-schan. As we may regard the 
In-schan as an eastern prolongation of the fissure from which 
the Thian-schan is upheaved, so we may also be inclined to 
consider the Caucasus as a western prolongation of the same 
range, beyond the Great Aralo-Caspian basin or of the low- 
lands of Turan. The mean parallel or axis of elevation of the 
Thian-schan oscillates between 40° 40' and 43° north latitude; 
that of the Caucasus (inclining, according to the map of the 
Russian Staff, froniE.S.E. to W.N. W.) between 41° and 44°.* 
Of the four parallel chains that traverse Asia, the Thian-schan 
is the only one of which no simimit has as yet been mea- 

3. The mountain system of the Kuen-liin (Kurkun or Kul- 
kun), including the Hindoo- Coosh, with its western prolon- 
gation in the Persian Elburz and Demavend, and the American 
chain of the Andes, constitute the longest lines of elevation 
on our planet. At the point where the meridian chain of 
the Bolor intersects the Kuen-liin at right angles, the latter 
receives the name of Onion Mountains (Tchsung-ling), a term 
also applied to a portion of the Bolor at the inner eastern 
angle of intersection. Bounding Thibet in the north, the 
Kuen-liin runs in a regular direction from east to west, in 
the parallel of 36° north latitude ; until the chain is broken 
in the meridian of H'lassa, by the vast mountain node which 
surrounds the Sea of Stars, Sing- so-hai (so celebrated hi the 
mythical geography of the Chinese), and the Alpine lake of 
Khuku-noor. The chains of Nan-schan and Kilian-schan, 
lying somewhat further north, and extending to the Chinese 
wall near Liang-tsheu, may almost be regarded as the eastern 
prolongation of the Kuen-liin. To the west of the inter- 
section of the Bolor and the Kuen-liin (Tchsung-ling), the 
regular direction of the axes of elevation (inclining from east 
to west in the Kuen-liin and Hindoo-Coosh, and from south - 

* Baron von Mevendorff in the Bulletin de la Societe Geologique de 
France, t. ix. 1837—1838, p 3 230. 


east to north-west in the Himalaya) proves, as I have else- 
where attempted to show, that the Hindoo-Coosh is a pro- 
longation of the Kuen-lim and not of the Himalaya.* From 
the Taurus in Lycia to the Kafiristan, the chain follows the 
parallel of Rhodes (the diaphragm of Dicaearchus) over a dis- 
tance of 45 degrees of longitude. The grand geological 
views of Eratosthenes,f which were further developed by 
Marinus of Tyre, and by Ptolemy, and according to which 
" the prolongation of the Taurus in Lycia was continued, 
in the same direction, through all Asia as far as India," 
appear in part to be based on representations derived by the 
Persians and Indians from the Punjaub. 

" The Brahmins maintain," says Cosmas Indicopleustes, in 
his Christian Topography J, " that a line drawn from Tzinitza 
(Thinae) across Persia and Romania, would exactly pass over 
the centre of the inhabited earth." It is remarkable, as Era- 
tosthenes observes, that this greatest axis of elevation in the 
old world passes directly through the basin (the depression) of 
the Mediterranean, in the parallels of 35^° and 36° north lati- 
tude, to the Pillars of Hercules. § The most eastern portion of 
Hindoo-Coosh is the Paropanisus of the ancients, the Indian 
Caucasus of the companions of the great Macedonian. The 
name of Hindoo- Coosh, which is so frequently used by geo- 
graphers, does not in reality apply to more than one single 
mountain pass, where the climate is so severe, as we learn from 
the travels of the Arabian writer, Ibn Batuta, that many Indian 
slaves frequently perish from the cold.|| The Kuen-ltin still 
exhibits active fire-emitting eruptions at the distance of several 
hundred miles from the sea-coast. Flames, visible at a great, 
distance, burst from the cavern of the mountain of Schin- 
khieu, as I learn from a translation of the Yuen-thong-ki, 
made by my friend Stanislaus Julien.^[ The loftiest summit 
in the Hindoo-Coosh, north-west of Jellalabad, is 20,232 feet 
above the level of the sea ; to the west, towards Herat, the 

* Asie centrale, t. i. pp. xxiii et 118 — 159; t. ii. pp. 431 — 434, 

+ Strabo, lib. ii. p. 68 ; lib. xi. pp. 490, 511 ; lib. xv. p. 689. 

X Montfaucon, Collectio nova Patrum, t. ii. p. 137. 

§ Compare Asie centrale, t. i. pp. xxiii et 122 — 138 ; t. ii. pp. 430— 
434, with Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 543, Bohn's ed. 

II Travels, p. 97. 

"H Asie centrale, t. ii. pp. 427, 483. 

J? 2 


chain sinks to 2558 feet, rising again north of Teheran, in the 
yolcano of Demavend, to the height of 14,675 feet. 

4. The mountain system of the Himalaya has a normal 
direction from east to west, running more than 15 degrees 
of longitude (from 81* to 97°), or from the colossal moun- 
tain Dhawalagiri (28,072 feet) to the intersection of the 
Dzangbo-tscheu (the Irawaddy of Dalrymple and Klaproth), 
whose existence was long regarded as problematical, and to 
the meridian chains, which cover the whole of Western 
China, and form the great mountain group, from which spring 
the sources of the Kiang, in the provinces of Sse-tschuan, 
Hu-kuang, and Kuang-si. Next to the Dhawalagiri, the 
Kinchinjinga, and not the more eastern peak of Schamalari, 
as has hitherto been supposed, is the highest point of this 
portion of the Himalaya, which inclines from east to west. 
The Kinchinjinga, in the meridian of Sikkim, between Butan 
and Nepal, between the Schamalari (23,980 feet) and the 
Dhawalagiri, is 28,174 feet in height. 

It is only within the present year that it has been trigo- 
nometrically measured with exactness, and as I learn from 
India through the same channel, " that a new measure- 
ment of the Dhawalagiri still leaves it the first place among 
all the snow-crowned summits of the Himalaya," this moun- 
tain must necessarily have a greater elevation than the 
28,072 feet hitherto ascribed to it.* The point of deflection 
in the direction of the chain is, near the Dhawalagiri, in 81° 22', 
east longitude. From thence the Himalaya no longer follows 
a due west direction, but runs from S.E. to N.W., as a vast 
connecting system of veins between Mozufer-abad and Gilgit, 
merging into a part of the Hindoo-Coosh chain in the south of 
Kafiristan. Such a turn and alteration in the line of the axis 
of elevation of the Himalaya (from E. — W. to S.E. — N.W.) 
certainly indicates, as in the western region of our European 
Alpine mountains, a different age or period of elevation. 
The course of the Upper Indus, from the sacred lakes of 
Manasa and Ravana-hrada, (at an elevation of 14,965 feet,) 
in the vicinity of which this great river takes its origin, 
to Iskardo, and to the plateau of Deotsuh (at an elevation 
of 12,994 feet), measured by Vigne, follows in the Thi- 

* From a letter of Dr. Joseph Hooker, the learned botanist to the last 
Antarctic expedition, dated Darjeeling, 25th of July, 1848. 


betian highlands the same north-westerly direction as the 

Here are situated the Djawahir, whose height was long 
since accurately determined at 26,902 feet, and the Alpine 
valley of Caschmere (never visited by winds or storms), where, 
at an elevation of only 5346 feet, lies the lake of Wulur, 
which freezes every winter, and whose surface is never 
broken by a single ripple. 

After considering the four great mountain systems of Asia, 
which, in their normal geognostic character, are true parallel 
chains, we must turn to the long series of alternating eleva- 
tions following a direction from north to south, and which 
extend from Cape Comorin, opposite to the island of Ceylon, 
to the Icy Sea, alternating between the parallels of 66° and 
77° east longitude, from S.S.E. to N.N.W. To this system 
of meridian chains, whose alternations remind us of faults 
in veins, belong the Ghauts, the Soliman chain, the Paralasa, 
the Bolor, and the Ural range. This interruption of the 
profile of the elevation is so constituted, that each new chain 
begins in a degree of latitude beyond that to which the 
preceding one had attained, all alternating successively in 
an opposite direction. The importance which the Greeks (pro- 
bably not earlier than the second century of our era) attached 
to these chains running from north to south, induced Agatho- 
daimon and Ptolemy {Tab. vii. et viii.) to regard the Bolor 
under the name of Imaus as an axis of elevation, which 
extended as far as 62° north latitude into the basin of the 
lower Irtysch and Obi.* 

As the vertical height of mountain summits above the 
sea's level (however unimportant the phenomenon of the more 
or less extensive folding of the crust of a planetary sphere 
may be in the eyes of geognosists) will always continue, like 
all that is difficult of attainment, to be an object of general 
curiosity, the present would appear to furnish a fitting place 
for the introduction of an historical notice relative to the gra- 
dual advance of hypsometric knowledge. When I returned to 
Europe in 1804, after an absence of four years, not one of 
the high snow-crowned summits of Asia (in the Himalaya, 
the Hindoo-Coosh, or the Caucasus) had been yet measured 
with any degree of accuracy. I was unable, therefore, to 
* Asie centrale, t. i. pp. 138, 154, 198; t. ii. p. 367. 


compare my determinations of the heights of perpetual snow 
in the Cordilleras of Quito or the mountains of Mexico, with 
any results obtained in India. The important travels of 
Turner, Davis, and Saunders to the highlands of Thibet, were 
indeed accomplished in the year 1783; but the intelligent 
Colebrooke justly observed that the height of the Schamalari 
(28° 5' north latitude, 89° 30' east longitude, somewhat north 
of Tassisudan), as given by Turner, rested on a foundation quite 
as slight as the assumed measurements of the heights seen 
from Patna and Kafiristan by Colonel Crawford and Lieutenant 
Macartney.*' 1 The admirable labours of Webb, Hodgson, 
Herbert, and the brothers Gerard, have indeed thrown con- 
siderable light on the question concerning the heights of the 
colossal summits of the Himalaya; but yet, in 1808, the 
hypsometric knowledge of the East Indian mountain chains 
was still so uncertain, that Webb wrote to Colebrooke, " The 
height of the Himalaya still remains undetermined. It is 
true that I have ascertained that the summits visible from 
the elevated plains of Rohilkand are 21,000 feet higher than 
that plateau, but we are ignorant of their absolute height 
above the sea." 

In the year 1820 it first began to be currently reported in 
Europe that there were not only much higher summits in the 
Himalaya than in the Cordilleras, but that Webb had seen in 
the pass of Niti, and Moorcroft in the Thibetian plateau of 
Daba, and the sacred lakes, fine corn-fields and fertile pasture- 
lands at elevations far exceeding the height of Mont Blanc. 
This announcement was received in England with great incre- 
dulity, and opposed by doubts regarding the influence of 
the refraction of light. I have shown the unsoundness of 
such doubts in two printed treatises on the mountains of 
India, in the Annates de Chimie et de Physique. The Tyro- 
lese Jesuit, Father Tiefenthaler, who in 1766 penetrated as far 
as the provinces of Kemaun and Nepal, had already divined 
the importance of the Dhawalagiri. We read on his map: 
" Montes Albi, qui Indis Dolaghir, nive obsitV 9 Captain 
Webb always employs the same name. Until the measure- 
ments of the Djawahir (30° 22' north latitude, and 79° 5& 

* Compare Turner in the Asiatic Researches, vol. xii. p. 234, with 
Elphinstone, Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, 1815, p. 95, and 
Francis Hamilton, Account of Nepal, 1819, p. 92. 


east longitude, 26,902 feet in elevation), and of the Dha- 
walagiri (28° 40' north latitude, and 83° 21' east longitude, 
28,072 feet in elevation), were made known in Europe, the 
Chimborazo, which, according to my trigonometrical mea- 
surement, was 21,422 feet, in height,* was still every- 
where regarded as the loftiest summit on the earth. The 
Himalaya appeared, therefore, at that time, to be 4323 feet 
or 6620 feet higher than the Cordilleras, according as the 
comparison was made with the Djawahir or the Dhawalagiri. 
Pentland's South American travels, in the years 1827 and 
1838, directed attention to two snow-crowned summits of 
Upper Peru, east of the lake of Titicaca, which were 
conjectured to be respectively 3824 and 2578 feet higher 
than the Chimborazo. f It has been already observed,;}; that 
the most recent computations in the measurements of the 
Sorata and Illimani have shown the error of this hypsometric 
assertion. The Dhawalagiri, therefore, on whose declivity in 
the river-valley of Ghandaki, the Salagrana Ammonites, so cele- 
brated in the Brahminical ritual as symbols of the testaceous 
incarnation of Vishnu, are collected, still indicates a differ- 
ence of elevation between both continents of more than 6600 

The question has been asked, whether there may not be 
still greater heights in the rear of the southernmost chain, 
which has been as yet measured with more or less exactitude. 
Colonel George Lloyd, who in 1840 edited the important 
observations of Captain Alexander Gerard and his brother, 
entertains the opinion, that in that part of the Himalaya, 
which he somewhat indefinitely names the " Tartaric Chain" 
(and consequently in Northern Thibet, in the direction of the 
Kuen-lun, perhaps in the Kailasa of the sacred lakes or beyond 
Leh) there are mountain-summits which attain an elevation 
of from 29,000 to 30,000 feet, one or two thousand feet 
higher, therefore, than the Dhawalagiri. § No definite opinion 
can be formed on the subject until we are in the possession 

* Recueil a" Observations astronomiques, t. i. p. 73. 
*t* Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes pour 1830, pp. 320, 323. 
% See Illustration (5), p. 44. 

§ See Lloyd and Gerard, Tour in the Himalaya, 1840, vol. i., pp. 143, 
312, and Asie centrale, t. iii., p. 324. 


of actual measurements, since the indication which led the 
natives of Quito, long before the arrival of Bouguer and La 
Condamine, to regard the summit of the Chimborazo as the 
culminating point — or the highest point within the region of 
perpetual snow — is rendered very deceptive in the temperate 
zone of Thibet, where the radiation of the table-land is so 
effective, and where the lower limit of perpetual snow does 
not constitute a regular line of equal level as in the tropics. 
The greatest elevation above the level of the sea that has been 
reached by man on the sides of the Himalaya is 19,488 
feet. This elevation was gained by Captain Gerard, with 
seven barometers, as we have already observed, on the moun- 
tain of Tarhigang, somewhat to the north-west of Schipke.* 
This happens to be almost the same height as that to which 
I myself ascended up on the Chimborazo (on the 23rd of 
June, 1802), and which was reached thirty years later (16th 
of December, 1831) by my friend Boussingault. The un- 
attained summit of the Tarhigang is, moreover, 1255 feet 
higher than the Chimborazo. 

The passes across the Himalaya from Hindostan to Chinese 
Tartary, or rather to Western Thibet, especially between 
the rivers Buspa and Schipke, or Langzing Khampa, are 
from 15,347 to 18,544 feet in height. In the chain of the 
Andes I found that the pass of Assuay, between Quito 
and Cuenca, at the Ladera de Cadlud, was also fully 15,566 
feet above the level of the sea. A great part of the Alpine 
plains of the interior of Asia would lie buried throughout 
the whole year in snow and ice, if the limits of perpetual 
snow were not singularly elevated, probably to about 16,626 
feet, by the force of the heat radiated from the Thibetian 
plain, the constant serenity of the sky, the rarity of the for- 
mation of snow in the dry atmosphere, and by the power- 
ful solar heat peculiar to the eastern continental climate, 
which characterizes the northern declivity of the Himalaya. 
Fields of barley (of Hordeum hexastichoii) have been seen in 
Kunawur at an elevation of 14,700 feet and another varitey 
of barley, called Ooa, and allied to Hordeum cceleste, even 

* Colebrooke, in the Transactions of the Geological Society, vol. vu 
p. 411, 


much higher. Wheat thrives admirably well in the Thibctian 
highlands, up to an elevation of 12,000 feet. On the 
northern declivity of the Himalaya, Captain Gerard found 
that the upper limits of the birch woods ascend to 14,069 
feet; and small brushwood used by the natives for fuel 
in their huts is even found within the parallels of 30° 45' 
and 31° north latitude, at an elevation of 16,946 feet, and 
therefore nearly 1280 feet higher than the lower snow-limit 
in the equatorial regions. It follows from the data hitherto 
collected that on the northern declivity of the Himalaya 
the mean of the lower snow-line is at least 16,626 feet, 
whilst on the southern declivity it falls to 12,980 feet. But 
for this remarkable distribution of heat in the upper strata 
of the atmosphere, the mountain plain of Western Thibet 
would be rendered uninhabitable for the millions of men 
who now occupy it.* 

In a letter which I have lately received from India from 
Dr. Joseph Hooker, who is engaged in meteorological and 
geological observations, as well as in the study of the geo- 
graphy of plants, he says, " Mr. Hodgson, whom we here 
consider more thoroughly conversant than any other geo- 
grapher with the hypsometric relations of the snow ranges, 
recognises the correctness of the opinions you have advanced 
in the third part of your Asie centrale, regarding the cause 
of the unequal height of the limit of perpetual snow on the 
northern and the southern declivity of the Himalaya range. 
In the trans- Sutledge region (in 36° north latitude) we 
often observed the snow limit as high as 20,000 feet, 
whilst in the passes south of Brahmaputra, between Assam 
and Birmah (in 27° north latitude), where the most southern 
snow-capped mountains of Asia are situated, the snow limit 
sinks to 15,000 feet." I believe we ought to distinguish 
between the extreme and the mean elevations, but in both 
we find the formerly disputed difference between the Thi- 
bctian and the Indian declivities manifested in the clearest 

* Compare my investigation regarding the snow-limit on both declivi- 
ties of the Himalaya in my Asie centrale, t. ii., pp. 435 — 437; t. iii., 
pp. 281—326; and in Cosmos, vol. i., p. 337, Bohn's ed. 



My results for the mean height of 
the snow line as given in Asie 
centrale, t. iii., p. 326. 


Northern declivity 16,626 

Southern „ 12,981 

Extremes according to Dr. Hooker's 


Northern declivity 20,000 

Southern „ 15,000 

Difference 3,645 Difference 5,000 

The local differences vary still more, as may be seen 
from the series of extremes given in Asie centrale, t. iii., 
p. 295. Alexander Gerard saw the snow-limit ascend to 
20,463 feet on the Thibetian declivity of the Himalaya; 
and Jacqnemont found it as low as 11,500 feet on the 
south-Indian declivity, north of Cursali on the Jumnautri. 

[The recent investigations of Lieutenant Strachey show that 
M. Humboldt has been led astray, when treating of the 
Himalaya, by the very authorities on whom he placed the 
most reliance. The results of his inquiries on this point 
are given in the first volume of the Cosmos (Bonn's Ed.), 
pp. 9 and 338. As the subject is one of considerable interest 
we give a brief sketch of Lieutenant Strachey's* recent 
labours, confining ourselves to his own views, and omitting 
(for want of space) his somewhat lengthy exposition of the 
errors committed by the authorities quoted by Humboldt. 
The following are his personal observations regarding the 
southern limit of the belt of perpetual snow. 

" In this part of the Himalaya it is not, on an average of 
years, till the beginning of December, that the snow line 
appears decidedly to descend for the winter. After the end 
of September, indeed, when the rains are quite over, light 
falls of snow are not of very uncommon occurrence on the 
higher mountains, even down to 12,000 feet; but their effects 
usually disappear very quickly, often in a few hours. The 
latter part of October, the whole of November, and the begin- 
ning of December, are here generally characterised by the 
beautiful serenity of the sky ; and it is at this season, on the 
southern edge of the belt, that the line of perpetual snow is 
seen to attain its greatest elevation. 

" The following are the results of trigonometrical measure- 

* Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. New Series. No. 
xxviii, p. 287. 



ments of the elevation of the inferior edge of snow on spins 
of the Treslu and Nandadevi groups of peaks, made, before 
the winter snow had begun, in November, 1848. 


Height as observed on face exposed to the 

Height on face 

exposed to 


Observed from 

From Almorah, 

(height, 5586 ft.) 

From Binsar, 
(height, 7969 ft.) 




• 2 












• • • • 

The points 1, 2 and 3 are in ridges that run in a south- 
westerly direction. The dip of the strata being to the north- 
east, the faces exposed to view from the south are for the 
most part very abrupt, and snow never accumulates on them 
to any great extent. This in some measure will account for 
the height to which the snow is seen to have receded on the 
eastern exposures, that is, upwards of 17,000 feet. On the 
western exposures the ground is less steep, and the snow is 
seen to have been observed at a considerable less elevation; 
but it was in very small quantities, and had probably fallen 
lately, so that I am inclined to think that its height, viz., 
about 15,000 feet, rather indicates the elevation below which 
the light autumnal falls of snow were incapable of lying, than 
that of the inferior edge of the perpetual snow. It is further 
to be understood, that below this level of 15,000 feet the 
mountains were absolutely without snow, excepting those 
small isolated patches that are seen in ravines, or at the head 
of glaciers, which, of course, do not affect such calculations 
as these. On the whole, therefore, I consider that the height 
of the snow-line on the more prominent points of the southern 
edge of the belt may be fairly reckoned at 16,000 feet at the 
very least. 

" The point No. 4 was selected as being in a much more 
retired position than the others. It is situate not far from 
the head of the Pindur river. It was quite free from snow at 
15,300 feet, and I shall therefore consider 15,000 feet as the 


elevation of the snow-line in the re-entering angles of the 

" I conclude, then, that 15,500 feet, the mean of the heights 
at the most and least prominent points, should be assigned as 
the mean elevation of the snow-line at the southern limit of 
the belt of perpetual snow in Kumaon ; and I conceive that 
whatever error there may be in this estimate will be found 
to lie on the side of diminution rather than of exaggeration. 

" This result appears to accord well with what has been 
observed in the Bissehir range. The account given by Dr. 
Gerard of his visit to the Shatul Pass on this range, which he 
undertook expressly for the purpose of determining the height 
of the snow-line, contains the only definite information as to 
the limit of the perpetual snow at the southern edge of the 
belt that is to be found in the whole of the published writings 
of the Gerards; and the following is a short abstract of his 
observations. Dr. Gerard reached the summit of the Shatul 
Pass, the elevation of which is 15,500 feet, on the 9th of 
August, 1822, and remained there till the 15th of the same 
month. He found the southern slope of the range generally 
free from snow, and he states that it is sometimes left without 
any whatever. On the top of the pass itself there was no 
snow ; but on the northern slope of the mountain it lay as far 
down as about 14,000 feet. On his arrival rain was falling, 
and out of the four days of his stay on this pass it either 
rained or snowed for the greater part of three. The fresh 
snow that fell during this time did not lie below 16,000 feet, 
and some of the more precipitous rocks remained clear even 
up to 17,000 feet. 

" The conclusion to which Dr. Gerard comes from these 
facts is, that the snow-line on the southern face of the Bissehir 
range is at 15,000 feet above the sea. But I should myself 
be more inclined, from his account, to consider that 15,500 
feet was nearer the truth; and in this view I am confirmed 
by verbal accounts of the state of the passes on this range, 
which I have obtained from persons of my acquaintance, who 
have crossed them somewhat later in the year. The differ- 
ence, however, is after all trifling. 

" Such is the direct evidence that can be offered on the 
height of the snow-line at the southern limit of the belt of 
perpetual snow: some additional light, may, however, be 


thrown on the subject generally by my shortly explaining the 
state in which I have found the higher parts of the mountains 
at the different seasons during which I have visited them. 

" In the beginning of May, on the mountains to the east of 
the Ramganga river, near Namik, I found the ground on the 
summit of the ridge, called Champ wa, not only perfectly free 
from snow at an elevation of 12,000 feet, but covered with 
flowers, in some places golden with calsha and ranunculus 
polypetalus, in others purple with primulus. The snow had 
in fact already receded to upwards of 12,500 feet, behind 
which even a few little gentians proclaimed the advent of 

" Towards the end of the same month, at the end of the 
Pindur, near the glacier from which that river rises, an open 
spot on which I could pitch my tent could not be found above 
12,000 feet. But here the accumulation of snow, which was 
considerable in all ravines even below 11,000 feet, is mani- 
festly the result of avalanches and drift. The surface of the 
glacier, clear ice as well as moraines, was quite free from 
snow up to nearly 13,000 feet; but the effect of the more 
retired position of the place in retarding the melting of the 
snow, was manifest from the less advanced state of the vege- 
tation. During my stay at Pinduri the weather was very 
bad, and several inches of snow fell; but, excepting where it 
had fallen on the old snow, it all melted off again in a few 
hours, even without the assistance of the sun's direct rays. 
On the glacier, at 13,000 feet, it had all disappeared twelve 
hours after it fell. 

" On revisiting Pinduri about the middle of October, the 
change that had taken place was very striking. Now not a 
sign of snow was to be seen on any part of the road up to 
the very head of the glacier; a luxuriant vegetation had 
sprung up, but had already almost entirely perished, and its 
remains covered the ground as far as I went. From this 
elevation, about 13,000 feet, evident signs of vegetation could 
be seen to extend far up the less precipitous mountains. The 
place is not one at which the height of the perpetual snow 
can be easily estimated, for on all sides are glaciers, and the 
vast accumulations of snow from which they are supplied, and 
these cannot always be readily distinguished from snow in 
situ; but as far as I could judge, those places which might be 


considered as offering a fair criterion were free from snow up 
to 15,000, or even 16,000 feet. 

" Towards the end of August I crossed the Barjikang Pass, 
between Ralam and Juhar, the elevation of which is about 
15,300 feet. There was here no vestige of snow on the 
ascent to the pass from the south-east, and only a very small 
patch remained on the north-western face. The view of the 
continuation of the ridge in a southerly direction was cut off 
by a prominent point, but no snow lay on that side within 
500 feet of the pass, while to the north I estimated that there 
was no snow in considerable quantity within 1500 feet or 
more, that is, nearly up to 17,000 feet. The vegetation on 
the very summit of the pass was far from scanty, though it 
had already begun to break up into tufts, and had lost that 
character • of continuitv which it had maintained to within a 
height of 500 or 600 feet. Species of Potentilla, Sedum, 
Saxifraga, Corydalis, Aconitum, Delphinium, Thalictrum, 
Ranunculus Saussurea, Gentiana, Pedicularis, Primula, Rheum, 
and Polygonum, all evidently flourishing in a congenial cli- 
mate, showed that the limits of vegetation and region of 
perpetual snow were still far distant. 

" In addition to these facts, it may not be out of place to 
mention that there are two mountains visible from Almorah, 
Rigoli-gudri, in Garhwal between the Kailganga and Nan- 
dakni, and Chipula, in Kumaon, between the Gori and Dauli 
(of Darrna), both upwards of 13,000 feet in elevation, from 
the summits of which the snow disappears long before the end 
of the summer months, and which do not usually again become 
covered for the winter till late in December." 

These remarks are followed by an exposition of the errors 
into which Webb, Colebrooke, Hodgson, A. Gerard, and 
Jacquemont, have fallen. The heights assigned by these tra- 
vellers " must all be rejected; nor can it be considered at all 
surprising that any amount of mistake, as to the height of the 
snow-line, should be made, so long as travellers cannot dis- 
tinguish snow from glacier ice, or look for the boundary of 
perpetual snow at the beginning of the spring." 

With regard to the northern limit of the belt of perpetual 
snow, Lieutenant Strachey's observations were made in Sep- 
tember, 1848, on his way from Milam into Hundes, via Unta- 
dliura, Kyungar-ghat, and Balch-dhura, at the beginning of 


tlie month; and on his road back again, vid Lakhur-ghat, at 
the end of the month. 

" Of the three passes that we crossed on our way from 
Milam, all of them being about 17,000 feet in elevation, the 
first is Wata-dhara, and we saw no snow on any part of the 
way up to its top, which was reached in a very disagreeable 
drizzle of rain and snow. The final ascent to the pass from 
the south is about 1000 feet. The path leads up the side of 
a ravine, down which a small stream trickles, the ground 
having a generally even and rounded surface. Neither on 
any part of this nor on the summit of the pass itself, which is 
tolerably level, were there any remains of snow whatever. 
On the ridge to the right and left there were patches of snow 
a few hundred feet above ; and on the northern face of the 
pass an accumulation remained that extended about 200 feet 
down, apparently the effect of the drift through the gap in 
which the pass lies. Below this again the ground was every- 
where quite free -from snow. On the ascent to Wata-dhara, at 
perhaps 1 7,000 feet, a few blades of grass were seen, but on 
the whole it may be said to have been utterly devoid of 
vegetation. On the north side of the pass, 300 or 400 feet 
below the summit, a cruciferous plant was the first met with. 

"The Kyungar pass, which is four or six miles north of 
Wata-dhara, was found equally free from snow on its southern 
face and summit, which latter is particularly open and level . 
The mountains on either side were also free from snow to 
some height; but on the north a large bed lay a little way 
down the slope, and extended to about 500 feet from the 
top. On this pass a boragineous plant in flower was found 
above 17,000 feet; a species of TJrtica was also got about the 
same altitude, and we afterwards saw it again nearly as high 
up on the Lakhur pass. 

" In our ascent to the Balch pass no snow was observed 
on any of the southern spires of the range, and only one or 
two very small patches could be seen from the summit on the 
north side. The average height of the top of this range 
can hardly be more than 500 feet greater than that of the 
pass ; and as a whole it certainly does not enter the region of 
perpetual snow. As viewed from the plains of Handes, it 
cannot be said to appear snowy, a few only of the peaks being 


" We returned to Milam via Chirchtm. The whole of the 
ascent to the Lakhur pass was perfectly free from snow to the 
very top, i.e. 18,300 feet, and many of the neighbouring moun- 
tains were bare still higher. The next ridge on this route is 
Jainti-dhara, which is passed at an elevation of 18,500 feet, 
but still without crossing the least portion of snow. The 
line of perpetual snow is however evidently near ; for though 
the Jainti ridge was quite free, and some of the peaks near us 
were clear probably to upwards of 19,000 feet, yet in more 
sheltered situations unbroken snow could be seen considerably 
below us; and on the whole I think that 18,500 feet must be 
near the average height of the snow-line at this place." 

A brief recapitulation of the principal results of Lieutenant 
Strachey's inquiries shows us that " the snow-line or the 
southern edge of the belt of perpetual snow in this portion 
of the Himalaya is at an elevation of 15,000 feet, while on 
the northern edge it reaches 18,500 feet; and that on the 
mountains to the north of the Sutlej, or still further, it 
recedes even beyond 19,000 feet. The greater elevation 
which the snow-line attains on the northern edge of the belt 
of perpetual snow is a phenomenon not confined to the 
Thibetan declivity alone, but extending far into the interior of 
the chain ; and it appears to be caused by the quantity of snow 
that falls on the the northern portion of the mountains being 
much less than that which foils farther to the south along the 
line where the peaks, covered with perpetual snow, first rise 
above the less elevated ranges of the Himalaya." 

The letters of Dr. Joseph Hooker published during the 
present year (1849) in the Athenaeum (pp. 431 and 1039) may 
also be consulted with advantage.] 

(11) p. 5 — "A taicny tribe of Herdsmen." 

The Hiongnu (Hioung-nou), whom Deguignes aad with 
him many other historians long believed to be identical with 
the Huns, inhabited the vast Tartarian tract of land which is 
bordered on the east by Uo-leang-ho, the present territory of 
the Mant-schu, on the south by the Chinese wall, on the west 
by the U-siun, and on the north by the land of the Eleuthes. 
But the Hiongnu belong to the Turkish, and the Huns to the 
Finnish or Uralian race. The northern Huns, a rude people 
of herdsmen, unacquainted with agriculture, were of a blackish 


brown complexion. The southern Huns, or Hajatehah, called 
by the Byzantines Euthalites or Nephthalites, and inhabiting 
the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, had fairer skins. These 
pursued agriculture, and dwelt in towns. They are frequently 
termed White Huns, and d'Herbelot even regards them as 
Indo- Scythians. In Deguignes* an account will be found of 
the Punu, the leader or Tanju of the Huns, and of the great 
drought and famine which led to the migration of a portion 
of the nation northwards about the year 46 a.d. All the 
details, given in his celebrated work regarding the Hiongnu, 
have been recently submitted by Klaproth to a rigid and 
learned scrutiny. From the result of his investigations it 
w r ould appear, that the Hiongnu belong to the widely dif- 
fused Turkish races of the Altai and Tangnu mountain dis- 
tricts. The name of Hiongnu was a general name for tile Ti, 
Thu-kiu or Turks, in the north and north-west of China, even 
in the third century before the Christian era. The southern 
Hiongnu submitted themselves to the Chinese, and in con- 
junction with the latter destroyed the empire of the northern 
Hiongnu, who were in consequence compelled to flee to the 
west, and thus appear to have given the first impulse to the 
migration of nations in Central Asia. The Huns, who were 
long confounded with the Hiongnu (as the Uigures were with 
the Ugures and Hungarians) belonged, according to Klaproth,f 
to the Finnish race of the Uralian mountains, which race 
has been variously intermixed with Germans, Turks, and 

The Huns (Ovvvoi) are first mentioned by Dionysius Peri- 
egetes, a writer who was able to obtain more accurate informa- 
tion than others regarding the interior of Asia, because, as a 
learned man and a native of Charax on the Arabian Gulf, he 
was sent back to the East by Augustus, to accompany thither 
his adopted son, Caius Agrippa. Ptolemy, a century later, 
writes the word Xovvoi with a strong aspiration, which, as St. 
Martin observes, is agan met with in the geographical name 
of Chunigard. 

* Hist. gen. des Huns, des Turcs, etc., 1756, t. i. P. 1, p. 217, P. 
2, pp. Ill, 125, 223, 447. 

f See Klaproth, Asia Polyglotta, pp. 183, 21 1 ; Tableaux Historiques 
de VAsie, pp. 102, 109. 



(12) p. 6 — " No hewn stone." 

Representations of the snn and figures of animals have cer- 
tainly been found graven in rocks on the banks of the Orinoco, 
near Caicara, where the woody region borders on the plain, 
but in the Llanos themselves not a trace of these rough memo- 
rials of earlier inhabitants has ever been discovered. It is to 
be regretted that no accurate account has reached us of a 
monument which was sent to Count Maurepas, in France, and 
which, according to Kalm, was discovered in the prairies of 
Canada, 900 French leagues (about 2700 English miles) west 
of Montreal, by M. de Verandrier, while engaged on an 
expedition to the coast of the Pacific Ocean."* This tra- 
veller met in the plains with huge masses of stone erected by 
the hand of man, on one of which there was an inscription 
believed to be in the Tartar languagef . How can so important 
a monument have remained uninvestigated? Can it actually 
have borne an alphabetical inscription, or are we not rather 
to believe that it must have been an historical picture, like 
the so-called Phoenician inscription, which has been discovered 
on the bank of the Taunton river, and whose authenticity has 
been questioned by Court de Gebelin ? I indeed regard it as 
highly probable that these plains were once traversed by civil- 
ised nations, and it seems to me that this fact is proved by the 
existence of pyramidal grave-works or burrows and bulwarks 
of extraordinary length, between the Rocky Mountains and the 
Alleghany s, on which Squier and Davis have now thrown new 
light in their account of the ancient monuments of the Missis- 
sippi valley. :[ M. de Verandrier was despatched, about the year 
1746, on this expedition by the Chevalier de Beauharnois, 
Governor- General of Canada; and several Jesuits in Quebec 
assured Kalm that they had actually had this so-called inscrip- 
tion in their hands, and that it was graven on a small tablet 
which was foun d inlaid in a hewn pillar. I have in vain requested 
several of my friends in France to make inquiries regarding 
this monument, in the event of its being in the Collection of 
Count Maurepas. I have also found equally uncertain ac- 

* See Kalm's Reise, Th. iii. p. 416. 

+ Archceologia, or Miscellaneous Tracts published by the Society of 
Antiquarians of London, vol. viii. 1787, p. 304. 
X Relat. hist. t. iii. p. 1$5. 


counts of the alphabetical writing of the American aboriginal 
races, in a work of Pedro de Cieca de Leon,* 4 in Garcia,f and 
in Columbus's J journal of his first voyage. M. de Verandrier 
maintained also that traces of the ploughshare were observed 
for days together in travelling over the grassy plains of 
Western Canada; a circumstance that other travellers, prior 
to him, likewise profess to have noticed. But the utter 
ignorance of the primitive nations of North America regarding 
this implement of agriculture, the want of beasts of draught, 
and the vast extent of surface over which these tracks extend 
through the prairie, tend rather to make me adopt the opinion 
that this singular appearance of furrows is owing to some 
movement of water over the earth's surface. 

(13) p. 6 — "It spreads like an arm of the sea." 

The great steppe, which extends from the mouth of the 
Orinoco to the snowy mountains of Merida, from east to 
west, deflects towards the south in the parallel of 8° north 
latitude, and occupies the whole space between the eastern 
declivity of the elevated mountains of New Granada and the 
Orinoco, which here flows in a northerly direction. That 
portion of the Llanos, which is watered by the Meta, Yichada, 
Zama, and Guaviare, connects as it were the valley of the 
Amazon with that of the Lower Orinoco. The word Paramo, 
which I have frequently employed in this work, signifies in 
the Spanish colonies all alpine regions which are situated 
from 11,000 to 14,000 feet above the level of the sea, 
and whose climate is rude, ungenial, and misty. In the 
higher Paramos hail and snow fall daily for many hours 
continuously, and yield a beneficial supply of humidity to 
the alpine plants, not from the absolute quantity of vapour 
in the higher strata of the air, but by the frequency of 
the aqueous deposits occasioned by the rapidly changing 
currents of air, and the variations of the electric tension. 
The trees found in these regions are low, and spread out 
in an umbrella-like form, have gnarled branches, which are 
constantly covered with fresh and evergreen foliage. They are 

* Chronica del Peru, P. 1 ; cap. 87. (Losa con letras en los edificios 
de Vinaque.) 

+ Origen de los Indios, 1607, lib. iii. cap. 5, p. 258. 
% Navarrete, Viages de los Bspa.'.oles, t. i. p. 67. 

a 2 


mostly large-flowering laurel and myrtle -leaved alpine shrubs. 
Escallonia tubar, Escallonia mgrtilloides, Chuquiraga insignis, 
A?-alice, Weinmannice, Frezierce, Gualtherice, and Andromeda 
reticulata, may be regarded as the representatives of the 
physiognomy of this vegetation.* To the south of the town 
of Santa Fe de Bogota lies the celebrated Paramo de la Suma 
Paz, an isolated mountain group, in which, according to Indian 
legends, great treasures are concealed; and hence issues a 
small stream or brook, which pours its foaming waters through 
a remarkable natural bridge in the rocky ravine of Icononzo. 

In my Latin treatise, De Distributione geographica Planta- 
rum secundum cceli temperiem et altitudinem montium, 1817, 
p. 104, I have thus endeavoured to characterise these Alpine 
regions: " Altitudine 1700 — 1900 hexapod : asperriniae so- 
litudines, quae a colonis hispanis uno nomine Paramos appel- 
lantur, tempestatum vicissitudinibus mire obnoxia3, ad quas 
solutse et emollitae defluunt nives ; ventorum flatibus ac nim- 
borum grandinisque jactu tumultuosa regio, quse seque per 
diem et per noctes riget, solis nubila et tristi luce fere nun- 
quam calefacta. Habitantur in hac ipsa altitudine sat niagnse 
civitates, ut Micuipampa Peruvianorum, ubi thermometrum 
centes. meridie inter 5° et 8°, noctu — 0°.4 consistere vidi; 
Huancavelica, propter cinnabaris venas celebrata, ubi altitu- 
dine 1835 hexap. fere totum per annum temperies mensis 
Martii Parisiis." 

(14) p. 6 — " The Cordilleras of Cochabamba and the Brazilian 
mountains approximate to one another by means of separate 
transverse chains. 1 '' 

The immense space between the eastern coasts of South 
America and the eastern declivity of the chain of the Andes is 
contracted by two mountain masses, which partially separate 
from one another the three valleys or plains of the Lower 
Orinoco, the Amazon, and the Rio de la Plata. The more 
northern mountain mass, called the group of the Parime, is- 
opposite to the Andes of Cundinamarca, which, after extending 
far towards the east, assume the form of one elevated mountain, 
between the parallels of 66° and 68° west longitude. It is 
connected by the narrow mountain ridge of Pacaraima with 
the granitic hills of French Guiana, as I have clearly indi- 
cated in the map of Columbia which I drew up from my own 
* Humboldt et Bonpland, Plantce cequinoctiales, fasc. ii. 


astronomical observations. The Caribs, in their long expedi- 
tions from the missions of Carony to the plains of Rio Branco, 
and even to the Brazilian frontier, are obliged to traverse the 
crests of Pacaraima and Quimiropaea. The second group of 
mountains, which separates the valley of the Amazon from 
that of La Plata, is the Brazilian, which approximates to the 
promontory of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in the province of 
Chiquitos, west of the Parecis hills. As neither the group of 
the Parime, which gives rise to the cataracts of the Orinoco, 
nor the Brazilian group, is directly connected with the chain of 
the Andes, the plains of Venezuela and those of Patagonia 
are directly connected with one another.* 

(15) p. 6 — '■''Herds of wild dogs ." 

In the Pampas of Buenos Ayres the traveller meets with 
European dogs, which have become wild. They live grega- 
riously in holes and excavations, in which they conceal their 
young. When the horde becomes too numerous, several 
families go forth, and form new settlements elsewhere. The 
European dog barks as loudly after it has become wild, as 
does the indigenous American hairy species. Garcilaso 
asserts that, prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Peru- 
vians had a race of dogs called Perros gozques; and he calls 
the indigenous dog Allco. In order to distinguish this animal 
from the European variety, it is called in the Qquichua 
language Runa-allco, Indian dog, or dog of the natives. 
The hairy Runa-allco appears to be a mere variety of the 
shepherd's dog. It is, however, smaller, has long yellow- 
ochry coloured hair, is marked with white and brown spots, 
and has erect and pointed ears. It barks continually, but 
seldom bites the natives, however it may attack the whites. 
When the Inca Pachacutec, in his religious wars, conquered 
the Indians of Xauxa and Huanca (the present valley of 
Huancaya and Jauja), and compelled them by force to submit 
to the worship of the sun, he found that dogs were made 
the objects of their adoration, and that the priests used the 
skulls of these animals as wind instruments. It would also 
appear that the flesh of this canine divinity was eaten by 
the believers. f The veneration of dogs in the valley of the 

* See Humboldt's geognostic view of South America, in his Relation 
historique, t. iii. pp. 188 — 244. 

f Garcilaso de la Yega, Commentaries Reales, P. i., p. 184. 


Huancaya is probably the reason why the skulls, and even 
whole mummies, of these animals are sometimes found in the 
Huacas, or Peruvian graves of the most ancient period. Von 
Tschudi, the author of an admirable treatise on the Fauna 
Peruana, has examined these skulls, and believes them to 
belong to a peculiar species, which he calls Canis ingce, and 
which is different from the European dog. The Huancas 
are still, in derision, called '•' dog- eaters" by the inhabitants of 
other provinces. Among the natives of the Rocky Moun- 
tains of North America, cooked dog's flesh is placed before 
the stranger guest, as a feast of honour. Captain Fremont 
was present at such a dog-feast in the neighbourhood of Fort 
Laramie, which is one of the stations of the Hudson's Bay Com- 
pany for trading in skins and peltries with the Sioux Indians.* 
The Peruvian dogs were made to play a singular part during 
eclipses of the moon, being beaten as long as the darkness 
continued. The Mexican Techichi, a variety of the common 
dog, which was called in Anahuac Chichi, was the only com- 
pletely dumb dog. The literal signification of the word 
Techichi is " stone-dog," from the Aztec, tetl, a stone. This 
dog was eaten according to the ancient Chinese custom, and 
the Spaniards found this food so indispensable before the 
introduction of horned cattle, that the race was gradually 
almost entirely extirpated.f Buffon confounds the Techichi 
with the Koupara of Guiana,^ which is, however, identical 
with the Procyon or Ursus cancrivorus, the Raton crabier, or 
the crab-eating Aguara-guaza of the coasts of Patagonia. § 
Linnaeus, on the other hand, confounds the dumb dog with 
the Mexican Itzcuintepotzotli, a canine species which has not 
hitherto been perfectly described, and which is said to be 
characterised by a short tail, a very small head, and a large 
hump on the back. The name signifies a hump-backed dog, 
and is derived from the Aztec itzcuintli, another word for dog, 
and tepotzotli, humped or a humpback. I was much struck 
in America, especially in Quito and Peru, with the great num- 
ber of black hairless dogs. They are termed Chiens tares 
by Buffon, and are the Canis cegyptius of Linnoeus. This 
species is common amongst the Indians, who, however, 

* Fremont's Exploring Expedition, 1845, p. 42. 

+ Clavigero, Storia antica del Messico, 1780, t. i. p. 73. 

X Buffon, t. xv., p. 155. 

§ Azara, Sur les Quadruples du Paraguay, t. i. p. 315. 


generally despise them, and treat them ill. All European 
dogs multiply rapidly in South America; and if no species 
are to be met with equal to those of Europe, it is partly 
owing to want of care, and partly to the circumstance that the 
finest varieties (as the elegant greyhound and the Danish 
tiger breed) have never been introduced. 

Von Tschudi makes the singular remark, that on the Cor- 
dilleras, at elevations of more than 12,000 feet, delicate 
breeds of dogs and the European domestic cat are exposed 
to a particular kind of mortal disease. " Innumerable at- 
tempts have been made to keep cats as domestic animals 
in the town of Cerro de Pasco (lying at an elevation of 
14,100 feet above the sea's level); but such endeavours 
have invariably been frustrated, as both cats and dogs have 
died in convulsions at the end of a few days. The cats, 
after being attacked by convulsive fits, attempt to climb the 
walls, but soon fall to the ground exhausted and motion- 
less. I frequently observed instances in Yauli of this chorea- 
like disease ; and it seems to arise from insufficient atmospheric 
pressure." In the Spanish colonies, the hairless dog, which 
is called Perro clmiesco, or chino, is supposed to be of Chinese 
origin, and to have been brought from Canton, or from Manila. 
According to Klaproth, the race has been very common in the 
Chinese Empire from the earliest ages of its culture. Among 
the animals indigenous to Mexico, there was a very large, 
totally hairless, and dog-like wolf, named Xoloitzcumtli, from 
the Mexican xolo or xolotl, a servant or slave.* 

The result of Tschudi' s observations regarding the American 
indigenous races of dogs are as follows: — There are two 
varieties almost specifically different — 1 . The Canis caraibicus- 
of Lesson, totally hairless, with the exception of a small tuft 
of white hair on the forehead and at the tip of the tail ; of a 
slate-gray colour, and without voice. This variety was found 
by Columbus in the Antilles, by Cortes in Mexico, and by 
Pizarro in Peru (where it suffers from the cold of the Cordil- 
leras) ; and it is still very frequently met with in the warmer 
districts of Peru, under the name of Perros chinos. 2. The 
Canis ingce, which belongs to the barking species, and has a 
pointed nose and pointed ears ; it is now used for watching 
sheep and cattle; it exhibits many variations of colour, in- 

* On the dogs of America, see Smith Barton's Fragments of the 
Natural History of Pennsylvania, p. L, p. 34. 


duced by being crossed with European breeds. The Canis 
ingce follows man up the heights of the Cordilleras. In the old 
Peruvian graves, the skeleton of this dog is sometimes found 
resting at the feet of the human mummy, presenting an emblem 
of fidelity frequently employed by the mediaeval sculptors.* 
European dogs, that had become wild, were found in the 
island of St. Domingo, and in Cuba, in the early periods of 
the Spanish conquest.f In the savannahs between the Meta, 
Arauca, and Apure, dumb dogs (perros mudos) were used as 
food as late as the sixteenth century. The natives called 
them Mqjos or Auries, says Alonzo de Herrera, who under- 
took an expedition to the Orinoco, in 1535. The highly intel- 
ligent traveller Gisecke found this variety of non-barking dogs 
in Greenland. The dogs of the Esquimaux live entirely in 
the open air, scraping for themselves at night holes in the 
snow, and howling like wolves, in concert with one of the 
troop, who sits in the middle, and takes the lead in the chorus. 
The Mexican dogs were castrated, in order that their flesh 
might become more fat and delicate. On the borders of the 
province of Durango, and further north, near the Slave Lake, 
the natives load the larger dogs with their buffalo -skin tents, 
(at all events they did so formerly,) when, on the change of 
seasons, they seek a different place of abode. These various 
details may all be regarded as characteristic of the mode of 
life led by the nations of Eastern Asia. J 

(16) p. 7—" Like the greater part of the Desert of Sahara, the 
Llanos lie within the Torrid Zone''' 

Significant denominations, particularly such as refer to the 
form of the earth's surface, and which arose at a period when 
there was only very uncertain information respecting different 
regions and their hypsometric relations, have led to various and 
long-continued geographical errors. The ancient Ptolemaic 
denomination of the " Greater and Lesser Atlas' "§ has exercised 
the injurious influence here indicated. There is no doubt that 
the snow-covered western summits of the Atlas of Morocco may 

* J. J. von Tsckudi, Untersuchungen uber die Fauna Peruana, s. 

t Garcilaso, P. i. 1723, p. 326. 

X Humboldt, Essai polit., t. ii. p. 448, and Relation hist., t. ii. 
p. 625. 

§ Geogr., lib. iii. cap. 1. 


be regarded as the Great Atlas of Ptolemy; but where is the 
limit of the Little Atlas ? Are we still to maintain the divi- 
sion into two Atlas chains (which the conservative tendency 
of geographers has retained for 1700 years) in the territory 
of Algiers, and even between Tunis and Tlemse ? Are we to 
seek a Greater and a Lesser Atlas between the coast and the 
parallel chains of the interior? All travellers familiar with 
geognostic views, who have visited Algeria since it has been 
in the possession of the French, contest the meaning con- 
veyed by the generally adopted nomenclature. Among the 
parallel chains, that of Jurjura is generally supposed to be 
the highest of those which have been measured; but the 
well-informed Fournel (who was long Ingenieur en chef 
des Mines de. V Algerie) affirms that the mountain range of 
Aures, near Batnah, which even at the end of March was found 
covered with snow, has a greater elevation. Fournel con- 
tests the existence of a Little and a Great Atlas, as I do that 
of a Little and a Great Altai*. There is but one Atlas, for- 
merly called Dyris by the Mauritanians, " a name that must 
be applied to the foldings (rides, suites de cretes), which 
form the division between the waters flowing to the Mediter- 
ranean and towards the lowland of the Sahara." The lofty 
Atlas chain of Morocco inclines from north-east to south-west, 
and not, like the Eastern Mauritanian portion of the Atlas, 
from east to west. It rises into summits which, according to 
Renou, attain an elevation of 11,400 feet, exceeding, there- 
fore, the height of Etnaf. A singularly formed highland, of 
an almost square shape (Sahab el-Marga), is situated in 33° 
north lat., and is bounded to the south by high elevations. 
From thence the Atlas declines in height in a westerly direc- 
tion towards the sea, about a degree south of Mogador. This 
south-western portion bears the name of Idrar-N-Deren. 

The northern boundaries of the extended low region of the 
Sahara in Mauritania, as well as its southern limits towards 
the fertile Sudan, have hitherto been but imperfectly inves- 
tigated. If we take the parallels of 16^° and 321° north 
lat. as the outer limits, we obtain for the Desert, includ- 
ing its oases, an area of more than 1,896,000 square miles; 

* Humboldt, Asie centrale, t. i. pp. 247, 252. 

+ Exploration scientijique de V Algerie, de 1840 a 1842, publiee -par 
ordre clu Gouvemement ; Sciences hist, et geogr., t. viii., 1846, pp. 
364, 373. 


or between nine and ten times the extent of Germany, and 
almost three times that of the Mediterranean, exclusive 
of the Black Sea. The best and most recent intelligence, 
for which we are indebted to the French observers, Colonel 
Daumas, and MM. Fournel, Renou, and Carette, shows us 
that the Desert of Sahara is composed of several detached 
basins, and that the number and the population of the fertile 
Oases is very much greater than had been imagined from the 
awfully desert character of the country between Insalah and 
Timbuctoo, and the road from Mourzouk, in Fezzan, to 
Bilma, Tirtuma, and Lake Tschad. It is now generally 
affirmed that the sand covers only the smaller portion of the 
lowlands. A similar opinion had been previously advanced by 
my Siberian travelling companion, the acute observer Ehren- 
berg, from what he had himself seen**. Of larger wild animals, 
only gazelles, wild asses, and ostriches are to be met with. 

** That lions exist in the desert," says M. Carette, " is a 
myth popularised by the dreams of artists and poets, and has 
no foundation but in their imagination. This animal does 
not quit the mountains where it finds shelter, food, and 
drink. When the traveller questions the natives concerning 
these wild beasts, which Europeans suppose to be their com- 
panions in the desert, they reply, with imperturbable sang 
froid, ' Have you, then, lions in your country which can drink 
air and eat leaves ? With us lions require running water and 
living flesh; and therefore they only appear where there are 
wooded hills and water. We fear only the viper (lefa), and, 
in humid spots, the innumerable swarms of mosquitoes which 
abound theref,' " 

WTiile Dr. Oudney, in his long journey from Tripoli to 
Lake Tschad, estimated the elevation of the Southern Sahara 
at 1637 feet, and German geographers even ventured to add 
an additional thousand feet, Fournel, the engineer, has, by 
careful barometric measurements, based on corresponding 
observations, made it tolerably probable that a part of the 
northern desert is below the sea"s level. The portion of the 
desert which is now called " Le Zahara d'Algerie," advances 
to the chains of hills of Metlili and el-Gaous, where lies the 
most northern of all the Oases, el-Kantara, fruitful in dates. 
This low basin, which reaches the parallel of 34° lat., receives 

* Exploration scientif. de X Algeria, Hist, et geogr., t. ii. p. 332. 
f Ibid. t. ii. pp. 126—129, and t. vii. pp. 94, 97. 


the radiant heat of a stratum of chalk, inclined at an angle 
of 65° towards the south, and which is full of the shells of 
Inoceramus*. "Arrived at Biscara (Biskra)," says Fournel, 
" an indefinite horizon, like that of the sea, lay spread 
before us." Between Biscara and Sidi Ocba the land is 
only 243 feet above the sea's level. The inclination increases 
considerably towards the south. In another workf, where I 
have brought together all the points that refer to the depres- 
sion of some portions of continents below the level of the sea, I 
have already noticed that, according toLe Pere, the bitter lakes 
(lacs amers) on the isthmus of Suez, when they have but little 
water, and, according to General Andreossy, the Natron lakes 
of Fayoum, are also lower than the level of the Mediterranean. 
Among other manuscript notices of M. Fournel, I possess a 
geognostic vertical profile, with all the inflexions and inclina- 
tions of the strata, representing the surface the whole way 
from the coast near Philippeville to a spot near the Oasis of 
Biscara in the Desert of Sahara. The direction of the line 
on which the barometric measurements were taken is south 
20° west; but the points of elevation determined are pro- 
jected, as in my Mexican profiles, on a different plane, one 
from N. to S. Ascending uninterruptedly from Constantine, 
whose elevation is 2123 feet, the highest point is found be- 
tween Batnah and Tizur, at only 3581 feet. In the part of 
the desert which lies between Biscara and Tuggurt, Fournel 
has succeeded in digging a series of artesian wells J. We 
learn from the old accounts of Shaw, that the inhabitants of 
the country were acquainted with a subterranean supply of 
water, and related fabulous tales of a " sea under the earth 
(bahr tohl el-erd)." Fresh waters, which flow between clay 
and marl strata of the old chalk and other sedimentary for- 
mations, under the action of hydrostatic pressure, form gushing 
fountains when the strata are pierced§. The phenomenon of 
fresh water being often found near beds of rock salt, need not 
surprise the geognosist, acquainted with mining operations, 
since Europe offers many analogous phenomena. 

* Fournel, Sur les Gisemens de Muriate de Sonde en Algerie, p. 6, 
in the Annates des Mines, 4me serie, t. ix. 1846, p. 546. 

+ Asie centrale, t. ii. p. 320. 

t Comptes rendus de VAcademie des Sciences, t. xx. 1845. pp. 170, 

§ See Shaw, Voyages dans plusieurs parties de la Berberie, t. i. p. 
169, and Rennel, Africa, Append, p. lxxxv. 


The riches of the desert in rock-salt, and its employment 
for purposes of building, have been known since the time of 
Herodotus. The salt zone of the Sahara (zone salifere du 
desert) is the most southern of the three zones which pass 
through Northern Africa from south-west to north-east, and 
is believed to be connected with the beds of rock-salt in Sicily 
and Palestine described by Friedrich Hoffman, and by Ro- 

The trade in salt with Sudan, and the possibility of culti- 
vating the date-tree in the many Oasis-like depressions, 
caused probably by earth-slips in the beds of tertiary chalk or 
Keuper-gypsum, have equally contributed to animate the 
desert, at various parts, by human intercourse. The high 
temperature of the air, which renders the day's march so 
oppressive across the Sahara, makes the coolness of the night 
(of which Denham and Sir Alexander Burnes frequently com- 
plained in the African and Asiatic deserts) so much the more 
remarkable. Mellonif ascribes this coolness (which is proba- 
bly produced by the radiation of heat from the ground), not 
to the great purity of the heavens (irraggiamento calorifico per 
la grande serenita di cielo nelT immensa e deserta pianura 
dell' Africa centrale), but to the extreme calm, and the ab- 
sence of all movement in the air throughout the whole nighty. 

The river Quad-Dra (Wadi Dra), which is almost dry the 
greater part of the year, and which, according to Renou§, is one- 
sixth longer than the Rhine, flows into the Sahara in 82° north 
latitude, from the southern declivity of the Atlas of Morocco. 
It runs at first from north to south, until in 29° north lat., 
and 5° 8' west long., it deflects at right angles to the west, and 
traversing the great fresh-water lake of JDebaid, flows into 
the sea at Cape Nun, in lat. 28° 46', and long. 1 1° 8'. This re- 
gion, which was first rendered celebrated by the Portuguese 
discoveries of the fifteenth century, and whose geography has 
subsequently been shrouded in the deepest obscurity, is now 
known on the coast as the country of the Scheik of Beirouk 

* Fournel, Sur les Gisemens de Muriate de Sonde en Algerie, pp. 
28-41 ; and Karsten, Ueber das Vorkommen des Kochsalzes auf der 
Oberjlache der Erde, 1846, s. 497, 648, 741. 

+ Memoria sulV abbassamento di temperatura durante le notti 
placide e serene, 1847, p. 55. 

X Consult, also, on African Meteorology, Aime, in the Explor. de 
V Algerie, Phys. Gener. t. ii., 1846, p. 147. 

§ Explor. de VAlg., Hist, et Gcogr. t. viii. pp. 65 —78. 


(whose dominions are independent of the Emperor of Mo- 
rocco). It was explored, in the months of July and August, 
1840, by the French Count, Captain de Bouet-Villaumez, under 
the orders of his government. From manuscript and official 
reports it would appear that the mouth of the Quad-Dra is at 
present so much blocked up by sand as to have an open chan- 
nel of only about 190 feet. The Saguiel-el-Hamra, — still very 
little known, — which comes from the south, and is supposed to 
have a course of at least 600 miles, flows into the same mouth 
at a point somewhat farther eastward. The length of these deep, 
but generally dry, river-beds is astonishing. They are ancient 
furrows, similar to those which I observed in the Peruvian 
desert at the foot of the Cordilleras, between the latter and 
the shores of the Pacific. In Bouet's manuscript narrative*, 
the mountains which rise to the north of Cape Nun are esti- 
mated at the great height of 9,186 feet. 

It is generally supposed that Cape Nun was discovered in 1 433 
by the Knight Gilianez, despatched under the order of the ce- 
lebrated Infante, Henry, Duke of Viseo, and founder of the 
Academy of Sagres, which was presided over by the pilot and 
cosmographer, Mestre Jacome, of Majorca; but the Portulano 
Mediceo, — the work of a Genoese navigator of the year 
1351, — already contains the name of " Cavo di Non." The 
doubling of this Cape was as much dreaded as has been 
since then the passage round Cape Horn ; although it is only 
23' north of the parallel of Tenerifie, and might be reached 
by a few days' sail from Cadiz. The Portuguese adage, 
" Quern passa o Cabo de Num, ou tornara. ou nao," could not 
intimidate the Infante, whose heraldic French motto of 
" Talent de bien faire," well expressed his noble, enterprising-, 
and vigorous character. The name of this Cape, which has 
long been supposed to originate in a play of words on the 
negative particle, does not appear to me to be of Portuguese 
origin. Ptolemy placed on the north-west coast of Africa a 
river Nuius, in the Latin version Nunii ostia. Edrisi refers 
to a town, Nul, or Wadi Nun, somewhat further south, and 
about three days' journey in the interior, named by Leo Afri- 
canus Belad de Non. Several European navigators had pene- 
trated far to the south of Cape Nun before the Portuguese 
squadron under Gilianez. The Catalan, Don Jayme Ferrer, 
in 1346, as we learn from the Atlas Catalan, published at 
* Relation de V Expedition de la Malouine. 


Paris by Buchon, had advanced as far as the Gold River (Rio 
do Ouro), in 23° 56' north lat. ; while the Normans, at the 
close of the fourteenth century, reached Sierra Leone in 8° 30' 
north latitude. The merit of having been the first to cross the 
equator in the Western Ocean incontrovertibly belongs, like 
so many other great achievements, to the Portuguese. 

(17) p. 7.—" As a grassy plain, resembling many of the Steppes 

of Central Asia." 

The Llanos of Caracas, of the Rio Apure and the Meta, 
which are the abode of numerous herds of cattle, are, 
in the strictest sense of the word, grassy plains. The two 
families of the Cyperacese and the Graminese, which are the 
principal representatives of the vegetation, yield numerous 
forms of Paspalum (Paspalum leptostachyuni, P. lenticulare), 
of Kyllingia (Kyllingiamonocephala (Rottb.) K. odorata), of Pa- 
nicum (Panicum gramdiferwn, P. micranthum), of Antephora, 
Aristida, Vilfa, and Anthisteria (Anthisteria refexa, A. 
foliosa). It is only here and there that any herbaceous 
dicotyledon, as the low-growing species of Mimosa intermedia 
and M. dormiens, which are so grateful to the wild horses 
and cattle, are found interspersed among the Graniinese. The 
natives very characteristically apply to this group the name of 
" Dormideras," or sleepy plants, because the delicate and 
feathery leaves close on being touched. For many square 
miles not a tree is to be seen ; but where a few solitary 
trees are foimd, they are, in humid districts, the Mauritia 
Palm, and, in arid spots, a Proteacea described by Bon- 
pland and myself, the Rhopala complicata (Chaparro bobo), 
which Willdenow regarded as an Einbothriuni ; also the 
useful Palma de Covija or de Sombrero ; and our Corypha 
inermis, an umbrella palm allied to Chamaerops, and used by 
the natives for the covering of their huts. How much more 
varied and rich is the aspect of the Asiatic plains ! In a great 
portion of the Kirghis and Kalmuck Steppes which I have 
traversed (extending over a space of 40 degrees of longitude), 
from the Don, the Caspian Sea, and the Orenburg-Ural river 
Jaik, to the Obi and the Upper Irtysch, near the Lake Dsai- 
sang, the extreme range of view is never bounded by a hori- 
zon in which the vault of heaven appears to rest on an un- 
broken sea-like plain, as is so frequently the case in the 
Llanos, Pampas, and Prairies of America. I have, indeed, 


never observed anything approaching to this phenomenon, 
excepting, perhaps, where I have looked only towards one 
quarter of the heavens, for the Asiatic plains are frequently 
intersected by chains of hills, or clothed with coniferous woods. 
The Asiatic vegetation, too, in the most fruitful pasture 
lands, is by no means limited to the family of the Cyperacea?, 
but is enriched by a great variety of herbaceous plants and 
shrubs. In the season of spring, small snowy white and red 
flowering Rosacea and Amygdaleee (Spircea, Crataegus, Primus 
spinosa, Amy g dolus nana), present a pleasing appearance. I 
have elsewhere spoken of the tall and luxuriant Synan- 
thereae (Saussurea amaro, S. salsa, Artemisia, and Centaurece), 
and of leguminous plants, (species of the Astragalus, Cytisus 
and Caragana). Crown Imperials [FritiUaria ruthenica and 
F. meleagroides), Cypripediae and tulips gladden the eye with 
their varied and bright hues. 

A contrast is presented to this charming vegetation of the 
Asiatic plains by the dreary Salt Steppes, especially by that 
portion of the Barabinski Steppe which lies at the base of the 
Altai Mountains, between Barnaul and the Serpent Mountain, 
and by the country to the east of the Caspian. Here the 
social Chenopodiae, species of Salsola, Atriplex, Salicorniae, and 
Halimocnemis crassifolia*, cover the clayey soil with patches 
of verdure. Among the five hundred phanerogamic species 
which Claus and Gobel collected on the Steppes, Synanthereae, 
Chenopodiae, and Cruciferae were more numerous than the 
grasses ; the latter constituting only -^th of the whole, and the 
two former -ith and ith. In Germany, owing to the alternation 
of hills and plains, the Glumacese (comprising the Gramineae, 
Cyperaceae, and Juncaceae) constitute yth, the Synanthereae 
(Compositae) -^th, and the Cruciferae ^th of all the German 
Phanerogamic species. In the most northern part of the flat 
land of Siberia, the extreme limit of tree and shrub vegetation 
(Cojiiferce and Amentaeece) is, according to Admiral Wran- 
gell's fine map, 67° 15^ north lat., in the districts contiguous 
to Behring's Straits, while more to the west, towards the 
banks of the Lena, it is 71°, which is the parallel of the 
North Cape of Lapland. The plains bordering on the Polar Sea 
are the domain of Cryptogamic plants. They are called Tundra 
(Tuntur in Finnish), and are vast swampy districts, covered 

* Gobel, Reise in die Steppe des sudliclien Russlands, 1838, th. ii. 
s. 244, 301. 


partly with a thick mantle of Sphagnum palustre and other 
Liverworts, and partly with a dry snowy-white carpet of 
Cenomyce rangiferina (Reindeer-moss), Stereocaulon paschale, 
and other lichens. " These Tundra" says Admiral Wrangell, 
in his perilous expedition to the Islands of New Siberia, so 
rich in fossil wood, "accompanied me to the extremest Arctic 
coast. Their soil is composed of earth that has been frozen 
for thousands of years. In the dreary uniformity of the 
landscape, and surrounded by reindeer, the eye of the travel- 
ler rests with pleasure on the smallest patch of green turf 
that shows itself on a moist spot." 

(18) p. 7. — A diversity of causes diminishes the dryness and 

heat of the New Continent. 

I have endeavoured to compress the various causes of the 
humidity and lesser heat of America into one general cate- 
gory. It will of course be understood, that I can only have 
reference here to the general hygroscopic condition of the 
atmosphere, and the temperature of the whole continent ; 
for in considering individual regions, as for instance, the 
island of Margarita, or the coasts of Cumana and Coro, it 
will be found that these exhibit an equal degree of dryness 
and heat with any portion of Africa. 

The maximum of heat, at certain hours of a summer's day, 
considered with reference to a long series of years, has been 
found to be almost the same in all regions of the earth, 
whether on the Neva, the Senegal, the Ganges, or the Orinoco, 
namely, between 93° and 104° Fahr., and on the whole not 
higher ; provided that the observation be made in the shade, far 
from solid radiating bodies, and not in an atmosphere filled 
with heated dust or granules of sand, and not with spirit-ther- 
mometers, which absorb light. The fine grains of sand (form- 
ing centres of radiant heat) which float in the air, were proba- 
bly the cause of the fearful heat (122° to 133° Fahr. in the 
shade) in the Oasis of Mourzouk to which my unhappy friend 
Ritchie, who perished there, and Captain Lyon, were exposed for 
weeks. The most remarkable instance of a high temperature, in 
an air probably free from dust, is mentioned by an observer 
who well knew how to arrange and correct all his instruments 
with the greatest accuracy. Riippel found the temperature 
110°. 6 Fahr. at Ambukol, in Abyssinia, with a cloudy sky, a 
strong south-west wind, and an approaching thunder-storm. 


The mean annual temperature of the tropics, or the actual cli- 
mate of the region of palms, is on the main land between 
78°. 2 and 85°. 5 Fahr., without any sensible difference between 
the observations made in Senegal, Pondichery, and Surinam,*. 

The great coolness, one might almost say coldness, which 
prevails during a great portion of the year in the tropics, on 
the coast of Peru, and which causes the mercury to fall to 
59° Fahr., is, as I hope to show in another place, not to be 
attributed to the effect of neighbouring mountains covered 
with. snow, but rather to the mist {garua) which obscures the 
sun's disk, and to a current of cold sea-water commencing in 
the antarctic regions, and which coining from the south-west, 
strikes the coast of Chili near Valdivia and Concepcion, and is 
thence propelled with violence, in a northerly direction, to 
Cape Parina. On the coast of Lima, the temperature of the 
Pacific is 60°. 2 Fahr., whilst it is 79°. 2 Fahr. under the same 
parallel of latitude when outside the current. It is singular, 
that so remarkable a fact should have remained unnoticed, 
until my residence on the coast of the Pacific, in October, 1802. 

The variations of temperature, of many parts of the earth, 
depend principally on the character of the bottom of the 
aerial ocean, or in other words, on the nature of the solid or 
fluid (continental or oceanic) base on which the atmosphere 
rests. Seas, traversed in various directions by currents of 
warm and cold water (oceanic rivers), exert a different action 
from articulated or inarticulated continental masses or islands, 
which may be regarded as the shoals in the aerial ocean, and 
which, notwithstanding their small dimensions, exercise, even 
to great distances, a remarkable degree of influence on the 
climate of the sea. In continental masses, we must dis- 
tinguish between barren sandy deserts, savannahs, (grassy 
plains,) and forest districts. In Upper Egypt and in South 
America, Nouet and myself found, at noon, the temperature 
of the ground, which was composed of granitic sand, 154° 
and 141° Fahr. Numerous careful observations instituted at 
Paris, have given, according to Arago, 122° and 126°. 5 Fahr.f 
The Savannahs, which, between the Missouri and the Missis- 
sippi, are called Prairies, and which appear in the south at 

* Humboldt, Memoire sur les Lignes Isothermes, 1817, p. 54. Asia 
centrale, t. iii. Mahlmann, Table 1Y. 
t Asie centrale, t. iii. p. 176. 



the Llanos of Venezuela and the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, 
are covered with small monocotyledons, belonging to the 
family of the Cyperaceas, and with grasses, whose dry pointed 
stalks, and whose delicate, lanceolate leaves radiate towards 
the unclouded sky, and possess an extraordinary power of 
emission. Wells and Daniell* have even seen in our latitude, 
where the atmosphere has a much less considerable degree of 
transparency, the thermometer fall to 14°. 5, or 18° Fahr. on 
being placed on the grass. Melloni has most ably shownf 
that in a calm, which is a necessary condition of a powerful 
radiation, and of the formation of dew, the cooling of the 
stratum of grass is promoted by the falling to the ground of 
the cooler particles of air, as being the heavier. 

In the vicinity of the equator, under the cloudy sky of the 
Upper Orinoco, the Rio Negro and the Amazon, the plains 
are covered with dense primeval forests ; but to the north and 
south of this woody district, there extend, from the zone of 
palms and of tall dicotyledonous trees in the northern hemi- 
sphere, the Llanos of the Lower Orinoco, the Meta, and 
Guaviare; and in the south, the Pampas of the Rio de la 
Plata and of Patagonia. The area thus covered by grassy 
plains, or Savannahs, in South America, is at least nine times 
greater than that of France. 

The forest region acts in a threefold manner, by the coolness 
induced by its shade, by evaporation, and by the cooling pro- 
cess of radiation. Forests uniformly composed in our tem- 
perate zone of" social" plants, belonging to the families of the 
Coniferaeor Anientaceee (the oak, beech, and birch), and under 
the tropics composed of plants not living socially, protect the 
ground from direct insolation, evaporate the fluids they have 
themselves produced, and cool the contiguous strata of air by 
the radiation of heat from their leafy appendicular organs. 
The leaves are by no means all parallel to one another, and pre- 
sent different inclinations towards the horizon ; and according 
to the laws established by Leslie and Fourier, the influence of 
this inclination on the quantity of heat emitted by radiation 
is such, that the radiating power of a given measured surface «, 
having a given oblique direction, is equal to the radiating 
power of a leaf of the size of a projected on a horizontal 

* Meteor. Essays, 1827, pp. 230, 278. 

+ SuW Abbassamento di Temperatura durante le Notti placide e 
serene, 1847, pp. 47, 53. 


plane. In the initial condition of radiation of all the leaves 
which form the summit of a tree, and which partially cover 
each other, those which are directly presented towards the 
unclouded sky, will be first cooled. 

This production of cold (or the exhaustion of heat by 
emission) will be the more considerable in proportion to the 
thinness of the leaves. A second stratum of leaves has its up- 
per surface turned to the under surface of the former, and will 
give out more heat by radiation towards that stratum than 
it can receive from it. The result of this unequal exchange 
will then be a diminution of temperature for the second 
stratum also. A similar action will extend from stratum to 
stratum, till all the leaves of the tree, by their greater or less 
radiation, as modified by their difference of position, have 
passed into a condition of stable equilibrium, of which the 
law may be deduced by mathematical analysis. In this 
manner, in the serene and long nights of the equinoctial zone, 
the forest air, which is contained in the interstices between 
the strata of leaves, becomes cooled by the process of radia- 
tion ; for a tree, a horizontal section of whose summit woidd 
hardly measure 2000 square feet, would, in consequence of 
the great number of its appendicular organs (the leaves), 
produce as great a diminution in the temperature of the air 
as a space of bare land or turf many thousand times greater 
than 2000 square feet.^ I have thus sought to develope 
somewhat fully the complicated relations which the action of 
great forest regions exerts on the atmosphere, because they 
have so often been touched upon in connection with the im- 
portant question of the climate of ancient Germany and Gaul. 

As in the old continent, . European civilization has had its 
principal seat on the western coast, it could not fail to be 
early remarked that under equal degrees of latitude the oppo- 
site eastern littoral region of the United States of North 
America was several degrees colder, in mean annual tempe- 
rature, than Europe, which is, as it were, a western peninsula 
of Asia, and bears much the same relation to it as Brittany 
does to the rest of France. The fact, however, escaped notice 
that these differences decrease from the higher to the lower 
latitudes, and that they are hardly perceptible below 30°. 
For the west coast of the New Continent exact observations 
* Asie centrale, t. iii. pp. 195 — 205. 

H 2 



of the temperature are still almost entirely wanting ; but the 
mildness of the winter in New California shows that in 
reference to their mean annual temperature, the west coasts 
of America and Europe under the same parallels, scarcely 
present any differences. The annexed table gives the mean 
annual temperatures, which correspond to the same geogra- 
phical latitudes, on the eastern coast of the New Continent 
and the western coast of Europe : — 



Eastern Coast 



Western Coast 



Mean Temperature 

of the Year, of 
Wiuter, and Summer. 

Difference be- 
tween the annual 
Temperature of 

Eastern Ame- 
rica and 
Western Europe. 

57° 10' 
57° 41' 

Nain . , . 

• • • •• • 


— 0°.4 





i i\) .t .... 








St. John's . 

Buda . . 













44° 39' 

Halifax . . 

• • • • • * 





41° 50' 

■ • • • • ■ 

Bordeaux . 







40° 43 

39° 57' 

38° 53' 

40° 51' 

38° 52' 

Eastern Coast 



New York 

Philadelphia . 

"Washington . 

Western Coast 



Mean Temperature 

of the Year, of 
Winter, and Summer. 









T9° T 

I u .1 


Difference be- 
tween the annual 
Temperature of 

Eastern Ame- 
rica and 


29° 48' 

30° 2' 

St. Augustin 













In the preceding table the number placed before the frac- 
tion represents the mean annual temperature, the numerator 
of the fraction, the mean winter temperature, and the deno- 
minator the mean summer temperature. Besides the more 
marked difference between the mean annual temperatures, 
there is also a very striking contrast between the opposite 
coasts in respect to the distribution of heat over the different 
seasons of the year ; and it is indeed this distribution which 
exerts the greatest influence on our bodily feelings and on the 
process of vegetation. Dove* makes the general remark, that 

* Temper atur-tafehi nehst Bemerkungen uber die Verbreituvg der 
War me cmf der Oberfldche der Erde, 1848, s. 95. 


the summer temperature of America is lower under equal de- 
grees of latitude than that of Europe. The climate of St. Pe- 
tersburgh (lat. 59° 56'), or to speak more correctly, the mean 
annual temperature of that city, is found on the eastern coast 
of America, in lat. 47° 30', or 12° 30' more to the south; and 
in like manner we find the climate of Konigsberg (lat. 54° 43') 
at Halifax in lat. 44° 39'. Toulouse (lat. 43° 36') corresponds 
in its thermic relations to Washington. 

It is very hazardous to attempt to obtain any general 
results respecting the distribution of heat in the United States 
of North America, since there are three regions to be dis- 
tinguished — 1, the region of the Atlantic States, east of the 
Alleghanys ; 2, the Western States, in the wide basin 
between the Alleghanys and the Rocky Mountains, watered 
by the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Arkansas, and the Missouri ; 
and 3, the elevated plains between the Rocky Mountains and 
the Coast Range of New California, through which the 
Oregon or Columbia river wends its course. Since the com- 
mendable establishment by John Calhoun of uninterrupted 
observations of temperature, made on a uniform plan, at 
thirty-five military stations, and reduced to diurnal, mensal, 
and annual means, we have attained more correct climatic 
views than were generally held in the time of Jefferson, 
Barton, and Volney. These, , meteorological stations extend 
from the point of Florida and Thompson's Island (West Key), 
lat. 24° 33', to the Council Bluffs on the Missouri ; and if we 
reckon Fort Vancouver (lat. 45° 3-7'), among them, they in- 
clude a space extending over forty degrees of longitude. 

It cannot be affirmed that on the whole the second region 
has a higher mean annual temperature than the first, or 
Atlantic. The further advance towards the north of cer- 
tain plants on the western side of the Alleghanys, dej^ends 
partly on the nature of those plants and partly on the differ- 
ent distribution through the seasons of the year of the same 
annual amount of heat. The broad valley of the Mississippi 
enjoys, at its northern extremity, the warming influence of 
the Canadian lakes, and at the south, that of the Mexican 
Gulf-Stream. These five lakes (Lakes Superior, Michigan, Hu- 
ron, Erie, and Ontario,) cover an area of 92,000 square miles. 
The climate is so much milder and more uniform in the 
vicinity of the lakes, that at Niagara, for instance (in 43° 15' 


north lat.), the mean annual winter temperature is only half a 
degree below the freezing-point, whilst, at a distance from the 
lakes, in 44° 53 7 north lat. at Fort Snelling, near the conflu- 
ence of the river St. Peter with the Mississippi, the mean 
winter temperature is 15°. 8 Fahr.* At this distance from the 
Canadian lakes, whose surface is from five to upwards of six 
hundred feet above the seas level, whilst the bottom of 
Xakes Michigan and Huron is five hundred feet below it, 
recent observations have shown that the climate of the country- 
possesses the actual continental character of hotter summers 
and colder winters. " It is proved," says Forry, " by our 
thermometrical data, that the climate west of the Alleghany 
chain is more excessive than that on the Atlantic side." At 
Fort Gibson, on the Arkansas river, which falls into the Mis- 
sissippi, in lat. 35° 47', where the mean annual temperature 
hardly equals that of Gibraltar, the thermometer was observed, 
in August, 1834, to rise to 117° Fahr. when in the shade, 
and without any reflected heat from the ground. 

The statements so frequently advanced, although unsup- 
ported by measurements, that since the first European settle- 
ments in New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the de- 
struction of many forests on both sides of the Alleghanys, has 
rendered the climate more equable, — making the winters milder 
and the summers cooler, — are now generally discredited. 
No series of thermometric observations worthy of confidence 
extend further back in the United States than seventy-eight 
years. We find from the Philadelphia observations that from 
1771 to 1824, the mean annual heat has hardly risen 2°. 7 
Fahr.; — an increase that may fairly be ascribed to the exten- 
sion of the town, its greater population, and to the numerous 
steam-engines. This annual increase of temperature may also 
be owing to accident, for in the same period I find that there 
was an increase of the mean winter temperature of 2° Fahr. ; 
but with this exception the seasons had all become somewhat 
warmer. Thirty-three years" observations at Salem in Massa- 
chusetts show scarcely any difference, the mean of each one 
oscillating within 1° of Fahrenheit, about the mean of the 
whole number ; and the winters of Salem, instead of having 
been rendered more mild, as conjectured, from the eradication 

* See the admirable treatise by Samuel Forry, on The Climate of 
tie United States, 1842, pp. 37, 39, 102. 


of the forests, have become colder by 4° Fahr. during the last 
thirty-three years.* 

As the east coast of the United States may be compared, in 
equal latitudes, with the Siberian and Chinese eastern coasts 
of Europe, in respect to mean annual temperature, so the 
western coasts of Europe and America have also very justly 
been compared together. I will here only adduce a few in- 
stances from the western region of the Pacific, for two of 
which, viz., Sitka, (New Archangel,) in Russian America, and 
Fort George, (having the same latitudes respectively as Got- 
tenburg and Geneva,) we are indebted to Admiral Liitke's 
voyage of circumnavigation. Iluluk and Danzig are situated in 
about the same parallel of latitude, and although the mean 
temperature of Iluluk, owing to its insular climate and the 
cold sea current contiguous to it, is lower than that of Danzig, 
the winters of the former are milder than those of the Baltic 

Sitka . . . Lat. 57° 3' Long. 135° 16' W, 44°.6 


Gottenburg . Lat. 57° 41' Long. 11° 59' E. 46°.4 


Fort George. Lat. 46° 18' Long. 123° 58' W. 50°.2 

Geneva . . Lat. 46° 12' Altitude 1298 feet 49°.8 

Cherson . . Lat. 46° 38' Long. 32° 39' E. 53°.l 

33°. 6 

Snow is hardly ever seen on the banks of the Oregon or 
Columbia river, and ice on the river lasts only a few days. The 
lowest temperature which Mr. Ball ever observed there (in 
1838) was 18°. 4 Fahr.f A cursory glance at the summer and 

* Forry, Op. Clt, pp. 97, 101, 107. 

■f Message from the President of the United States to Congress, 1844, 
p. 160, and Forry, Op. Git., pp. 49, 67, 73. 


winter temperatures given above, suffices to show that a true 
insular climate prevails on and near the western coasts ; whilst 
the winter cold is less considerable than in the western part 
of the old continent, the summers are much cooler. This 
contrast is made most apparent when we compare the mouth 
of the Oregon with Forts Snelling and Howard, and the Coun- 
cil Bluffs in the interior of the Mississippi and Missouri basin, 
(44° — 46° north lat.,) where, to speak with Buffon, we find 
an excessive or true continental climate, — a winter cold, which 
on some days is —32° or even — 37° Fahr., followed by a mean 
summers heat, which rises to 69° and 71°.4 Fahr. 

(19) p. 8. — "As if America had emerged later from the 

chaotic covering of waters." 

The acute natural inquirer Benjamin Smith Barton, ex- 
presses himself thus accurately :* — " I cannot but deem it 
a puerile supposition, unsupported by the evidence of nature, 
that a great part of America has probably later emerged from 
the bosom of the ocean than the other continents." I have 
already elsewhere treated of this subject in a memoir on the 
primitive nations of America :f — "The remark has been too 
frequently made by authors of general and well-attested merit 
that America was in every sense of the word a new continent. 
The luxuriance of vegetation, the vast mass of waters in the 
rivers, and the continued activity of great volcanoes, confirm 
the fact (say these writers,) that the still agitated and humid 
earth is in a condition approximating more closely to the 
chaotic primordial state of our planet than the old continent. 
Such ideas appeared to me, long before my travels in those 
regions, no less unphilosophical than at variance with gene- 
rally acknowledged physical laws. These imaginary repre- 
sentations of an earlier age and a want of repose, and of the 
increase of dryness and inertia with the increased age of our 
globe, could only have been framed by those who seek to 
discover striking contrasts between the two hemispheres, and 
who do not endeavour to consider the construction of our ter- 
restrial planet from one grand and general point of view. Are 
we to regard the southern as more recent than the northern 
part of Italy, simply because the former is almost constantly 
disturbed by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions? How 

* Fragments of the Nat. Hist, of Pennsylvania, P. I., p. 4. 
t See Neue Berlinische Monatschrift, Bd. xv., 1806, § 190. 


inconsiderable, moreover, are the phenomena presented by our 
volcanoes and earthquakes, when compared with the convul- 
sions of nature which the geognosist must conjecture to have 
occurred in the chaotic condition of our globe, when mountain 
masses were upheaved, solidified, or cleft asunder ? Different 
causes must also occasion a diversity of effects in the forces of 
nature in parts of the earth remote from one another. The 
volcanoes in the new continent," (of which I still count about 
twenty-eight,) " may probably have continued longer active, 
because the high mountain ridges on which they are erupted 
in rows upon long fissures are nearer to the sea, and because 
this vicinity appears to modify the energy of the subterranean 
fire, in a manner which, with few exceptions, has not yet been 
explained. Besides, both earthquakes and fire-erupting moun- 
tains act periodically. At present" (this I wrote forty-two 
years ago,) "physical disquietude and political repose prevail in 
the new continent, whilst in the old continent the calm repose 
of nature is contrasted with the dissensions of different nations. 
The time may however come, when this strange contrast 
between physical and moral forces may change its theatre 
of action from one quarter of the world to another. Volca- 
noes enjoy centimes of repose between their manifestations 
of activity ; and the idea that in the older countries nature 
must be characterized by a certain repose and quietude, has no 
other foundation than in the mere caprice of the imagination. 
There exists no reason for assuming that one side of our 
planet is older or more recent than the other. Islands, as the 
Azores and many flat islands of the Pacific, which have 
been upheaved by volcanoes, or been gradually formed by 
coral animals, are indeed more recent than many plutonic 
formations of the European central chain. Small tracts of 
land, as Bohemia and Kashmeer, and many of the valleys in 
the moon, inclosed by a ring of mountains, may continue for a 
long time under the form of a sea, owing to partial inunda- 
tions, and after the flowing off of these inland waters, the 
bottom, on which plants would gradually manifest themselves, 
might indeed be figuratively regarded as of more recent 
origin. Islands have been connected together into continen- 
tal masses by upheaval, whilst other parts of the previously 
existing land have disappeared in consequence of the subsidence 
of the oscillating ground; but general submersions can, from 
hydrostatic laws, only be imagined as embracing simultano- 


ously all parts of the earth. The sea cannot permanently 
submerge the vast lowlands of the Orinoco and the Amazon, 
without at the same time destroying our Baltic lands. More- 
over the succession and identity of the floetz strata, and of the 
organic remains of plants and animals belonging to the 
primitive world, inclosed in those strata, show that several 
great depositions have occurred almost simultaneously over 
the whole earth. "* 

(20) p. 8. — " The Southern Hemisphere is cooler and more 
humid than the Northern." 

Chili, Buenos Ayres, the southern part of Brazil, and Peru, 
enjoy the cool summers and mild winters of a true insular 
climate, owing to the narrowness and contraction of the 
continent towards the south. This advantage of the Southern 
Hemisphere is manifested as far as 48° or 50° south lat., 
but beyond that point, and nearer the Antarctic Pole, South 
America is an inhospitable waste. The different degrees 
of latitude at wUieh the southern extremities of Australia, 
including Van Di emeu's Island, of Africa, and America, ter- 
minate, give to each of these continents its peculiar character. 
The Straits of Magellan lie between the parallels of 53° and 
54° south lat. ; and notwithstanding this, the thermometer 
falls to 41° Fahr. in the months of December and January, 
when the the sun is eighteen hours above the horizon. Snow 
falls almost daily in the lowlands, and the maximum of atmo- 
spheric heat observed by Churruca in 1788, during the month 
of December, and consequently in the summer of that region, 
did not exceed 52°. 2 Fahr. The Cabo Pilar, whose turret-like 
rock is only 1394 feet in height, and which forms the south- 
ern extremity of the chain of the Andes, is situated in nearly 
the same latitude as Berlin. f 

Whilst in the Northern Hemisphere all continents fall, in 
their prolongation towards the Pole, within a mean limit, 
which corresponds tolerably accurately with 70°, the southern 
extremities of America, (in Tierra del Fuego, which is so 

* On the vegetable remains found in the lignite formations of the 
north of America and of Europe, compare Adolph Brongniart, Pro- 
drome d'une Hist, des Vegetaux Fossiles, p. 179, and Charles Ly ell's 
Travels in North America, vol. ii., p. 20. 

. f Relation del Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes (Apendice, 1793), 
p. 76. 


deeply indented by intersecting arms of the sea,) of Aus- 
tralia, and of Africa, are respectively 34°, 46°30' and 56° 
distant from the South Pole. The temperature of the unequal 
extents of ocean which separate these southern extremities 
from the icy Pole contributes essentially towards the modifica- 
tion of the climate. The areas of the dry land of the two 
hemispheres separated by the equator are as 3 to 1 . But this 
deficiency of continental masses in the Southern Hemisphere is 
greater in the temperate than in the torrid zone, the ratio being 
in the former at 13 to 1, and in the latter as 5 to 4. This great 
inequality in the distribution of dry land exerts a perceptible 
influence on the strength of the ascending atmospheric current, 
which turns towards the South Pole, and on the temperature 
of the Southern Hemisphere generally. Some of the noblest 
forms of tropical vegetation, as for instance tree-ferns, advance 
south of the equator to the parallels of from 46° to 53°, whilst 
to the north of the equator they do not occur beyond the 
tropic of Cancer.* Tree-ferns thrive admirably well at Hobart 
Town in Van Diemen's Land (42° 53' lat.), with a mean 
annual temperature of 5 2°. 2 Fahr., and therefore on an iso- 
thermal line less by 3°. 6 Fahr. than that of Toulon. Rome, 
which is almost one degree of latitude further from the equator 
than Hobart Town, has an annual temperature of 59°. 7 Fahr.; 
a winter temperature of 46°. 6 Fahr., and a summer tempera- 
ture of 86° Fahr. ; whilst in Hobart Town these three means 
are respectively 52°, 42°. 1, and 63° Fahr. In Dusky Bay, 
New Zealand, tree-ferns thrive in 46° 8' lat., and in the Auck- 
land and Campbell Islands in 53° lat.f 

In the Archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, having a mean 
winter temperature of 33° Fahr., and a mean summer tem- 
perature of only 50° Fahr., in the same latitude as Dublin, 
Captain King found " vegetation thriving most luxuriantly in 
large woodv-stemmed trees of Fuchsia and Veronica;" whilst 
this vigorous vegetation, which, especially on the western 
coast of America (in 38° and 40° south lat.), has been so 
picturesquely described by Charles Darwin, suddenly dis- 
appears south of Cape Horn, on the rocks of the Southern 
Orkney and Shetland Islands, and of the Sandwich Archipelago. 
These islands, but scantily covered with grass, moss, and 

* See Robert Brown, Appendix to Flinders'' Voyage, pp. 575, 584; 
and Humboldt, Be Distributione Geographica Plantarum, pp. 81 — 85. 
t Jos. Hooker, Flora AntarcL, 1844, p. 107. 


lichens, Terras de Desolation, as they have been called by 

French navigators, lie far to the north of the Antarctic Polar 

Circle; whilst in the Northern Hemisphere, in 70° lat., on the 

extrcmest verge of Scandinavia, fir-trees reach a height of 

more than 60 feet.* If we compare Tierra del Fuego, and 

more particularly Port Famine, in the Straits of Magellan, 

53° 38' lat., with Berlin, which is situated one degree nearer 

38° 9 
the equator, we shall find for Berlin, 4 7°. 3 roQ ' ; and for 

Port Famine, 42°. 6 -^ Fahr. I subjoin the few certain 

data of temperature which we at present possess of the tempe- 
rate zones of the Southern Hemisphere, and which may be 
compared with the temperatures of northern regions in which 
the distribution of summer heat and winter cold is so unequal. 
I make use of the convenient mode of notation already explained 
in which the number standing before the fraction indicates 
the mean annual temperature, the numerator the winter, and 
the denominator the summer temperature. 


Sydney and Paramatta 
(New Holland) . . 

Cape Town (Africa) . 

Buenos Ayres . . 

Monte Yideo 

• • » 

Hobart Town (Van 
Diemen's Land) 

Port Famine (Straits of 
Magellan) . . . . 


33° 50' 

33° 55' 

34° 17 

31° 54' 

42° 45' 

53° 38' 

Mean Annual, Winter, and 
Summer Temperatures. 




67 c 












* Compare Darwin in the Journal of Researches, 1845, p. 244, with 
King in vol. i. of the Narr. of the Voyages of the Adventure and the 
Beagle, p. 577. 


(21) p. 9. — " One connected sea of sandy 

As we may regard the social Erica as furnishing one con- 
tinuous vegetable covering spread over the earth's surface, 
from the mouth of the Scheldt to the Elbe, and from the ex- 
tremity of Jutland to the Harz mountains, so may we likewise 
trace the sea of sand continuously through Africa and Asia, 
from Cape Blanco to the further side of the Indus, over an 
extent of 5,600 miles. The sandy region mentioned by 
Herodotus, which the Arabs call the Desert of Sahara, and 
which is interrupted by oases, traverses the whole of Africa 
like a dried arm of the sea. The vallev of the Nile is the 
eastern boundary of the Lybian desert. Beyond the Isthmus 
of Suez and the porphyritic, syenitic, and greenstone rocks of 
Sinai begins the Desert mountain plateau of Nedschd, which 
occupies the whole interior of the Arabian Peninsula, and 
is bounded to the west and south by the fruitful and more 
highly favoured coast-lands of Hedschaz and Hadhramaut. 
The Euphrates forms the eastern boundary of the Arabian 
and Syrian desert. The whole of Persia, from the Caspian 
Sea to the Indian Ocean, is intersected by immense tracts of 
sand (bejaban), among which we may reckon the soda and 
potash Deserts of Kerman, Seistan, Beludschistan. and Mekran. 
The last of these barren wastes is separated by the Indus 
from the Desert of Moultan. 

(22) p. 9. — " The western portion of Mount Atlas.' 7 

The question of the position of the Atlas of the ancients has 
often been agitated in our own day. In making this inquiry, 
ancient Phoenician traditions are confounded' with the state- 
ments of the Greeks and Bomans regarding Mount Atlas at a 
less remote period. The elderProfessor Ideler, who combined a 
profound knowledge of languages with that of astronomy and 
mathematics, was the first to throw light on this obscure sub- 
ject; and I trust I may be pardoned if I insert the communi- 
cations with which I have been favoured by this enlightened 

"The Phoenicians ventured at a very early period in the 
world's history to penetrate beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. 
They founded Gades and Tartessus on the Spanish, and Lixus, 
together with many other cities on the Mauritanian coasts of 
the Atlantic Ocean. They sailed northward along these shores 


to the Cassiterides, from whence they obtained tin, and to the 
Prussian coasts where they procured amber found there; 
whilst southward they penetrated as far as Madeira and the 
Cape de Verd Islands. Amongst other regions they visited the 
Archipelago of the Canary Isles, where their attention was 
arrested by the Peak of Teneriffe, whose great height appears 
to be even more considerable than it actually is from the 
circumstance of the mountain projecting directly from the 
sea. Through their colonies established in Greece, especially 
under Cadmus in Bceotia, the Greeks were made acquainted 
with the existence of this mountain which soared high above 
the region of clouds, and with the ' Fortunate Islands' on 
which this mountain was situated, and which were adorned 
with fruits of all kinds, and particularly with the golden 
orange. By the transmission of this tradition through the 
songs of the bards, Homer became acquainted with these 
remote regions, and he speaks of an Atlas to whom all the 
depths of ocean are known, and who bears upon his shoulders 
the great columns which separate from one another the hea- 
vens and the earth,* and of the Elysian Plains, described as 
a wondrously beautiful land in the west."f Hesiod expresses 
himself in a similar manner regarding Atlas, whom he repre- 
sents as the neighbour of the Hesperides.^ The Elysian 
Plains, which he places at the western limits of the earth, he 
terms the ' Islands of the Blessed. '§ Later poets have still 
further embellished these myths of Atlas, the Hesperides, their 
golden apples, and the Islands of the Blessed, which are 
destined to be the abode of good men after death, and have 
connected them with the expeditions of the Tyrian God of 
Commerce, Melicertes, the Hercules of the Greeks. 

" The Greeks did not enter into rivalship with the Phoenicians 
and Carthaginians in the art of navigation until a com- 
paratively late period. They indeed visited the shores of the 
Atlantic, but they never appear to have advanced very far. 
It is doubtful whether they had penetrated as far as the Canary 
Isles and the Peak of Teneriffe ; but be this as it may, they 
were aware that Mount Atlas, which their poets had described 

* Od., i. 52, 

+ II, iv. 561. 

+ Theog., r. 517. 

§ Op. et Dies, v. 167. 


as a very high mountain situated on the western limits of the 
earth, must be sought on the western coast of Africa. This 
too was the locality assigned to it by their later geographers 
Strabo, Ptolemy, and others. As however no mountain of any 
great elevation was to be met with in the north-west of Africa, 
much perplexity was entertained regarding the actual position 
of Mount Atlas, which was sought sometimes on the coast, 
sometimes in the interior of the country, and sometimes in the 
vicinity of the Mediterranean, or further southward. In the 
first century of the Christian era, when the armies of Rome 
had penetrated to the interior of Mauritania and Numidia, it 
was usual to give the name of Atlas to the mountain chain 
which traverses Africa from 'west to east in a parallel direction 
with the Mediterranean. Pliny and Solinus were both, how- 
ever, fully aware that the description of Atlas given by the 
Greek and Roman poets did not apply to this mountain range, 
and they therefore deemed it expedient to transfer the site of 
Mount Atlas, which they described in picturesque terms, in 
accordance with poetic legends, to the terra incognita of Cen- 
tral Africa. The Atlas of Homer and Hesiod can, therefore, 
be none other than the Peak of Teneriffe, while the Atlas 
of Greek and Roman geographers must be sought in the north 
of Africa." 

I will only venture to add the following remarks to the 
learned explanations of Professor Ideler. According to Pliny 
and Solinus, Atlas rises from the midst of a sandy plain 
(e medio arenarum), and its declivity affords pasture to ele- 
phants, which have undoubtedly never been known in Tene- 
riffe. That which we now term Atlas is a long mountain 
ridge. How could the Romans have recognised one isolated 
conical elevation in this mountain range of Herodotus ? May 
the cause not be ascribed to the optical illusion by which 
every mountain chain, when seen laterally from an oblique 
point of view, appears to be of a narrow and conical form? I 
have often, when at sea, mistaken long mountain ranges for 
isolated mountains. According to Host, Mount Atlas is 
covered with perpetual snow near Morocco. Its elevation 
must therefore be upwards of 11,500 feet at that particular 
spot. It seems to me very remarkable that the barbarians, 
the ancient Mauritanians, if we are to believe the testimony 
of Pliny, called Mount Atlas Dyris. This mountain chain 


is still called by the Arabs Damn, a word that is almost 
identical in its consonants with Dyris. Hornius,* on the 
other hand, thinks that he recognises the term Dyris in the 
word Ayadyrma, the name applied by the Guanches to the 

Peak of Teneriffe.f 

As our present geological knowledge of the mountainous 
parts of North Africa, which, however, must be admitted to 
be very limited, does not make us acquainted with any traces 
of volcanic eruptions within historic times, it seems the more 
remarkable that so many indications should be found in 
the writings of the Ancients of a belief in the existence of 
such phenomena in the Western Atlas and the contiguous 
west coast of the continent. The streams of fire so often 
mentioned in Hanno's Ship's Journal might indeed have been 
tracks of burning grass, or beacon tires lighted by the wild 
inhabitants of the coasts as a signal to warn each other of 
threatening danger on the first appearance of hostile vessels. 
The high summit of the " Chariot of the Gods," of which 
Hanno speaks (the 6su>v uxnf^a), ma y a l so have had some 
faint reference to the Peak of Teneriffe; but farther on he 
describes a singular configuration of the land. He finds in 
the gulf, near the Western Horn, a large island, in which there 
is a salt lake, which again contains a smaller island. South of 
the Bay of the Gorilla Apes the same conformation is re- 
peated. Does he refer to coral structures, lagoon islands 
(Atolls), and to volcanic crater lakes, in the middle of which a 
conical mountain has been upheaved ? The Triton Lake was not 
in the neighbourhood of the lesser Syrtis, but on the western 
shores of the Atlantic ,\ The lake disappeared in an earth- 
quake, which was attended with great fire-eruptions. Dio- 
dorus§ says expressly irvpdg sK<pv-ii^aTa pe-yaKa. But the most 
wonderful configuration is ascribed to the hollow Atlas, in a 
passage hitherto but little noticed in one of the philosophical 

* De Originibus Americanorum, p. 195. 

f On the connexion of purely mythical ideas and geographical tra- 
ditions, and on the manner in which the Titan Atlas gave occasion to 
the image of a mountain beyond the Pillars of Hercules supporting the 
heavens, see Letronne, Essai sur les Idees qui se 
rattachent au nom d' Atlas, in Ferussac's Bulletin universcl des 
Sciences, Mars 1831, p. 10. 

t Asie centrale, t. i., p. 179.. 

§ Lib. iii., 53, 55. 



Dialexes of Maximus Tyrius, a Platonic philosopher who 
lived in Home under Commodus. His Atlas is situated " on 
the continent where the Western Lybians inhabit a projecting 
peninsula." The mountain has a deep semi-circular abyss 
on the side nearest the sea; and its declivities are so steep 
that they cannot be descended. The abyss is filled with 
trees, and " one looks down upon their summits and the 
fruits they bear as if one were looking into a well."* The 
description is so minute and graphic that it no doubt sprung 
from the recollection of some actual view. 

(23) p. 9. — " The Mountains of the 3Ioon, Djebel-al-Komr" 

The Mountains of the Moon described by Ptolemy ,| ot\r)vqQ 
opog, form on our older maps a vast uninterrupted mountain 
chain, traversing the whole of Africa from east to west. The 
existence of these mountains seems certain; but their extent, 
their distance from the equator, and their mean direction, 
still remain problematical. I have indicated in another workj 
the manner in which a more intimate acquaintance with 
Indian idioms and the ancient Persian or Zend teaches us 
that a part of the geographical nomenclature of Ptolemy con- 
stitutes an historical memorial of the commercial relations 
that existed between the West and the remotest regions of 
Southern Asia and Eastern Africa. The same direction of 
ideas is apparent in relation to a subject that has very 
recently become a matter of investigation. It is asked, 
whether the great geographer and astronomer of Pelusium 
merely meant in the denomination of Mountains of the Moon 
(as in that of " Island of Barley," (Jabadiu, Java) to give the 
Greek translation of the native name of those mountains; 
whether, as is most probable, El-Istachri, Edrisi, Ibn-al- 
Vardi, and other early Arabian geographers, simply trans- 
ferred the Ptolemaic nomenclature into their own language; 
or whether similarity in the sound of the word and the manner 
in which it was written misled them ? In the notes to the 
translation of Abd-Allatifs celebrated description of Egypt, 
my great teacher, Silvestre de Sacy,§ expressly says, " The 

* Maximus Tyrius, viii., 7, ed. Markland. 
*J* Lib. iv., cap. 9. 

J Cosmos, vol. ii., p. 559. Bonn's ed. 
§ Edition de 1810, pp. 7, 353. 


name of the mountains regarded by Leo Africanus as furnish- 
ing the sources of the Nile, has generally been rendered 
' Mountains of the Moon,' and I have adhered to the same 
practice. I do not know whether the Arabs originally bor- 
rowed this denomination from Ptolemy. It may indeed be 
inferred that at the present day they understand the word 
+s in the sense of moon, pronouncing it kamar; I do not think 

however, that such was the practice of the older Arabs, who 
pronounced it Tcomr, as has been proved by Makrizi. Aboul- 
feda positively rejects the opinion of those who would adopt 
the pronunciation kamar, and derive the word from the name of 
the moon. As, according to the author of Kamous, the word 
komr, considered as the plural of yg\ , signifies an object 

of a greenish or dirty white colour, it would appear that some 
authors have supposed that this mountain derived its name 
from its colour." 

The learned Reinaud, in his recent excellent translation of 
Abulfeda (t. ii., p. i., pp. 81, 82), regards it as probable that 
the Ptolemaic interpretation of the name of Mountains of the 
Moon (5p?j <jE\i]va7a) was that originally adopted by the 
Arabs. He observes that in the Moschtarek of Yakut, and in 
Ibn-Said, the mountain is written al-Komr, and that Yakut 
writes in a similar manner the name of the Island of Zendj 
(Zanguebar). The Abyssinian traveller Bcke, in his learned 
and critical treatise on the Nile and its tributaries,*' endea- 
vours to prove that Ptolemy, in his (reXnvtjg opog, merely fol- 
lowed the native name, for the knowledge of which he was 
indebted to the extensive commercial intercourse which then 
existed. He says, " Ptolemy knew that the Nile rises in the 
mountainous district of Moezi, and in the languages which 
are spoken over a great part of Southern Africa (as, for in- 
stance, in Congo, Monjou, and Mozambique), the word 
moezi signifies the moon. A large tract of country situated 
in the south-west was called Mono-Muezi, or Mani-Moezi, i.e., 
the land of the King of Moezi (or Moon-land); for in the 
same family of languages in which . moezi or muezi signifies 
the moon, mono or mani signifies a king. Alvarezf speaks 

* See Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, vol. 
xvii., 1847, pp. 74—76. 

T Viaggio nella Ethiopia (Ramusio, vol. i., p. 249). 

I 2 


of the ' regno di Manicongo,' or territory of the king of 
Congo." Beke's opponent, Ayrton, seeks the sources of the 
White Nile (Bahr el-Abiad), not as do Arnaud, Werne, and 
Beke, near the equator, or south of it (in 31° 22' E. long, 
from Greenwich), but far to the north-east, as does Antoine 
d'Abbadie, in the Godjeb and Gibbe of Eneara (Iniara), 
therefore in the high mountains of Habesch, in 7° 20' north 
lat., and 35° 22' east long, from Greenwich. He is of opinion 
that the Arabs, from a similarity of sound, may have inter- 
preted the native name Gamaro, which was applied to the 
Abyssinian mountains lying south-west of Gaka, and in which 
the Godjeb (or White Nile) takes its rise, to signify a moun- 
tain of the moon (Djebel al-Kamar); so that Ptolemy himself, 
who was familiar with the intercourse existing between Abys- 
sinia and the Indian Ocean, may have adopted the Semitic 
interpretation, as given by the descendants of the early Arab 

The lively interest which has recently been felt in England 
for the discovery of the most southern sources of the Nile in- 
duced the Abyssinian traveller above referred to, (Charles 
Beke) at a recent meeting of the " British Association for the 
advancement of Science," held at Swansea, more fully to 
develope his ideas respecting the connection between the 
Mountains of the Moon and those of Habesch. " The Abys- 
sinian elevated plain," he says, "generally above 8000 feet 
high, extends towards the south to nearly 9° or 10° north lati- 
tude. The eastern declivity of the highlands has, to the in- 
habitants of the coast, the appearance of a mountain chain. 
The plateau, which diminishes considerably in height towards 
its southern extremity, passes into the Mountains of the Moon, 
w r hich run not east and west, but parallel to the coast, or 
from N.N.E. to S.S.W., extending from 10° north to 5° 
south latitude. The sources of the White Nile are situated 
in the Mono-Moezi country,, probably in 2° 30' south 
latitude, not far from where th6 river Sabaki, on the eastern 
side of the Mountains of the Moon, falls into the Indian Ocean, 
near Melindeh, north of Mombaza. Last autumn (1847), 
the two Abyssinian missionaries Rebmann and Dr. Krapf 

* Compare Ayrton, in the Journal of the Royal Geog. Soc, vol. 
xviii., 1848, pp. 53, 55, 59—63, with Ferd. Werne's instructive Exped^ 
zur Entd. der Nil-Quellen, 1848, s. 534 — 536. 


were still on the coast of Mombaza. They have established 
in the vicinity, among the Wakamba tribe, a missionary 
station, called Rabbay Empie, which seems likely to be very 
useful for geographical discoveries. Families of the Wakamba 
tribe have advanced westward five or six hundred miles into 
the interior of the country, as far as the upper course of the 
river Lusidji, the great lake Nyassi or Zambeze (5° south 
lat. ?), and the vicinal sources of the Nile. The expedition 
to these sources, which Friedrich Bialloblotzky, of Hanover, 
is preparing to undertake" (by the advice of Beke), "is to 
start from Mombaza. The Nile coming from the west 
referred to by the ancients is probably the Bahr-el-Ghazal, or 
Keilah, which falls into the Nile in 9° north lat., above the 
mouth of the Godjeb or Sobat." 

Russegger's scientific expedition — undertaken in 1837 and 
1838, in consequence of Mehemed Ali*s eager desire to parti- 
cipate in the gold washings of Fazokl on the Blue (Green) 
Nile, Bahr el-Azrek — has rendered the existence of a Mountain 
of the Moon very doubtful. The Blue Nile, the Astapus of 
Ptolemy, rising from Lake Coloe (now called Lake Tzana), 
winds through the colossal Abyssinian range of mountains; 
while to the south-west there appears a far extended tract of 
low land. The three exploring expeditions which the 
Egyptian Government sent from Chartum to the confluence 
of the Blue and the White Nile (the first under the command 
of Selim Bimbaschi, in November, 1839; the next, which 
was attended by the French engineers Arnaud, Sabatier, and 
Thibaut, in the autumn of 1840; and the third, in the month 
of August, 1841), first removed some of the obscurity which 
had hitherto shrouded our knowledge of the high mountains, 
which between the parallels of 6° — 4°, and probably still further 
southward, extend first from west to east, and subsequently 
from north-west to south-east, towards the left bank of the 
Bahr-el-Abiad. The second of Mehemet Ali's expeditions first 
saw the mountain chain, according to Werne's account, in 
11° 20' north lat., where Gebel Abul and Gebel Kutak rise to 
the height of 3623 feet. The high land continued to approach 
the river more to the south from 4° 45' north lat. to the 
parallel of the Island of Tchenker in 4° 4', near the point at 
which terminated the expedition commanded by Selim and 
Feizulla Effendi. The shallow river breaks its way through 


the rocks, and separate mountains again rise in the land of 
Bari to the height of more than 3200 feet. These are pro- 
bably a part of the Mountains of the Moon, as they are given 
in our most recent maps, although they are not covered with 
perpetual snow, as asserted by Ptolemy.* 1 The line of per- 
petual snow would assuredly not be found in these parallels 
of latitude below an elevation of nearlv 15,500 feet above the 
sea's level. It is not improbable that Ptolemy extended the 
knowledge he may have possessed of the high mountains of 
Habesch, near Upper Egypt and the Red Sea, to the country 
of the sources of the AYhite Nile. In Godjam, Kaffa, Miecha, 
and Sami, the Abyssinian mountains rise from 10,000 to 
nearly 15,000 feet, as we learn from exact measurements; 
(not according to those of Bruce, who gives to Chartum an 
elevation of 5041 feet, instead of the true height, 1524 feet!) 
Ruppell, who ranks amongst the most accurate observers of 
the present day, found Abba Jarat (in 13° 10' north lat.) 
only 70 feet below the elevation of Mont Blanc. \ The same 
observer states that a plain, elevated 13,940 feet above the 
Red Sea, was barely covered with a thin layer of freshly 
fallen snow.J The celebrated inscription of Adulis, which, 
according to Niebuhr, is of somewhat later date than the age 
of Juba and Augustus, speaks of " Abyssinian snow that 
reaches to the knee," and affords, I believe, the most ancient 
record in antiquity of snow within the tropics, § as the Paro- 
panisus is 12° lat. north of that limit. 

Zimmermann's map of the district of the Upper Nile shows 
the dividing line where the basin of the great river termi- 
nates in the south-east, and which separates it from the 
domain of the rivers belonging to the Indian Ocean, viz. ; 
from the Doara which empties itself north of Magadoxo ; from 
the Teb on the amber coast of Ogda; from the Goschop 
whose abundant waters are derived from the confluence of the 
Gibu and the Zebi, and which must be distinguished from the 
Godjeb, rendered celebrated since 1839 by Antoine d* Abba- 
die, Beke, and the Missionary Krapf. In a letter to Carl 
Bitter I hailed with the most lively joy the appearance of the 

* Lib. iv., cap. 9. 

+ See Ruppell, Reise in Abyssinien, bd. i., s. 414; bd. ii., s. 443. 

X Humboldt, Asic centrale, t. iii., p. 272. 

§ Op. cit., t. iii., p. 235. 


combined results of the recent travels of Beke, Krapf, Isen- 
berg, Russegger, Ruppel, Abbadie, and Werne, as ably and 
comprehensively brought together in 1843 by Zimmermann. 
" If a prolonged span of life," I wrote to him, " bring with it 
many inconveniences to the individual himself, and some to 
those about him, it yields a compensation in the mental enjoy- 
ment, afforded by comparing the earlier state of our knowledge 
with its more recent condition, and of seeing the growth and 
development of many branches of science that had long con- 
tinued torpid, or whose actual fruits hypercriticism may even 
have attempted to set aside. This genial enjoyment has from 
time to time fallen to our lot in our geographical studies, and 
more especially in reference to those portions of which we 
could hitherto only speak with a certain timid hesitation. 
The internal configuration and articulation of a continent 
depends in its leading characters on several plastic relations 
which are usually among the latest to be elucidated. A new 
and excellent work of our friend, Carl Zimmermann, on the 
district of the Upper Nile and of the eastern portions of 
Central Africa, has made me more vividly sensible of these 
considerations. This new map indicates, in the clearest man- 
ner, by means of a special mode of shading, all that still 
remains unknown, and all that by the courage and per- 
severance of travellers of all nations (among which our own 
countrymen happily play an important part), has already 
been disclosed to us. We may regard it as alike im- 
portant and useful that the actual condition of our know- 
ledge, should, at different periods, be graphically represented 
by men well acquainted with the existing and often widely 
scattered materials of knowledge, and who not merely de- 
lineate and compile, but who know how to compare, select, 
and, where it is practicable, test the routes of travellers by 
astronomical determinations of place. Those who have con- 
tributed as much to the general stock of knowledge as you 
have done, have indeed an especial right to expect much, since 
their combinations have greatly increased the number of con- 
necting points ; yet I scarcely think that when, in the year 
1822, you executed your great work on Africa, you could 
have anticipated so many additions as we have received." It 
must be admitted that, in some cases, we have only acquired 
a knowledge of rivers, their direction, their branches, and 


their numerous synonynies according to various languages 
and dialects ; but the courses of rivers indicate the configura- 
tion of the surface of the earth, and exert a threefold influence ; 
they promote vegetation, facilitate general intercourse, and are 
pregnant with the future destiny of man. 

The northern course of the White Nile, and the south- 
eastern course of the great Goschop, show that both rivers 
are separated by an elevation of the surface of the earth; 
although we are as yet but imperfectly acquainted with the 
manner in which such an elevation is connected with the 
highlands of Habesch, or how it may be prolonged in a 
southerly direction beyond the equator. Probably, and this 
is also the opinion of my friend Carl Hitter, the Lupata 
Mountains, which, according to the excellent Wilhelni Peters, 
extend to 26° south lat., are connected by means of the 
Mountains of the Moon with this northern swelling of the 
earth's surface (the Abyssinian Highlands). Lupata, according 
to the last-named African traveller, signifies, in the language 
of Tette, closed, when used as an adjective. This mountain- 
range which is only intersected by some few rivers would thus 
be the closed or barred. " The Lupata chain of the Portuguese 
writers," says Peters, "is situated about 90 leagues from the 
mouth of the Zambeze, and has an elevation of little more than 
2000 feet. This mural chain has a direction due north and 
south, although it frequently deflects to the east or the west. 
It is sometimes interrupted by plains. Along the coast of 
Zanzibar the traders in the interior appear to be acquainted 
with this long, but not very high range, which extends 
between 6° and 26° south lat. to the Factory of Lourenzo- 
Marques on the Rio de Espirito Santo (in the Delagoa Bay of 
the English). The further the Lupata chain extends to the 
south, the nearer it approaches the coast, until at Lourenzo- 
Marques it is only 15 leagues distant from it." 

(24) p. 10 — " The consequence of the great rotatory movement 

of the loafers." 

The waters of the northern part of the Atlantic between 
Europe, Northern Africa, and the New Continent, are agitated 
by a continually recurring gyratory movement. Under the 
tropics the general current to which the term rotation -stream 
might appropriately be given in consideration of the cause 


from which it arises, moves, as is well known, like the trade 
wind from east to west. It accelerates the navigation of 
vessels sailing from the Canary Isles to South America ; while 
it is nearly impossible to pursue a straight course against the 
current from Carthagena de Indias to Cumana. This bend 
to the west, attributed to the trade winds, is accelerated in 
the Caribbean Sea by a much stronger movement, which 
originates in a very remote cause, discovered as early as 1560 
by Sir Humphrey Gilbert,* and confirmed in 1832 by Hen- 
nell. The Mozambique current, flowing from north to south 
between Madagascar and the eastern coast of Africa, sets on 
the Lagullas Bank, and bends to the north of it round the 
southern point of Africa. After advancing with much violence 
along the western coast of Africa beyond the equator to the 
island of St. Thomas, it gives a north-westerly direction to a 
portion of the waters of the South Atlantic, causing them to 
strike Cape St. Augustin, and follow the shores of Guiana 
beyond the mouth of the Orinoco, the Boca del Drago, and 
the coast of Paria.f The New Continent from the Isthmus of 
Panama to the northern part of Mexico forms a dam or barrier 
against the movements of the sea. Owing to this obstruc- 
tion the current is necessarily deflected in a northerly direc- 
tion at Veragua, and made to follow the sinuosities of the 
coast-line from Costa Ilica, Mosquitos, Campeche, and 
Tabasco. The waters which enter the Mexican Gulf between 
Cape Catoche of Yucatan, and Cape San Antonio de Cuba, 
force their way back into the open ocean north of the Straits 
of Bahama, after they have been agitated by a great rota- 
tory movement between Vera Cruz, Tamiagna, the mouth of 
the Rio Bravo del Norte, and the Mississippi. Here they 
form a warm, rapid current, known to mariners as the Gulf 
Stream, which deflects in a diagonal direction further and 
further from the shores of North America. Ships bound for 
this coast from Europe, and uncertain of their geographical 
longitude, are enabled by this oblique direction of the current 
to regulate their course as soon as they reach the Gulf Stream 
by observations of latitude only. The bearings of this 
current were first accurately determined by Franklin, Wil- 
liams, and Pownall. 

* Hakluyt, Voyages, vol. iii. p. 14. 

' Rennell, Investigation of the Currents of the Atlantic Ocean, 
1832, pp. 96, 136. 


From the parallel of 41° north lat. this stream of warm water 
follows an easterly direction, gradually diminishing in rapidity 
as it increases in breadth. It almost touches the southern 
edge of the Great Newfoundland Bank, where I found the 
greatest amount of difference between the temperature of 
the waters of the Gulf Stream and those exposed to the 
cooling action of the banks. Before the warm current reaches 
the Western Azores it separates into two branches, one of 
which turns at certain seasons of the year towards Ireland and 
Norway, while the other flows in the direction of the Canary 
Isles and the western coast of Northern Africa. 

The course of this Atlantic current, which I have described 
more fully in the first volume of my travels in the regions of 
the tropics, affords an explanation of the manner in which, 
notwithstanding the action of the trade winds, stems of the 
South American and West Indian dicotyledons have been 
found on the coasts of the Canary Islands. I made many 
observations on the temperature of the Gulf Stream in the 
vicinity of the Newfoundland Bank. This current bears the 
warmer water of lower latitudes with great rapidity into more 
northern regions. The temperature of the stream is therefore 
from about 4°i to 7° Fahr. higher than that of the contiguous 
and unmoved water which constitutes the shore as it were of 
the warm oceanic current. 

The flying-fish of the equinoctial zone (Exocetus volitans), 
is borne by its predilection for the warmth of the water 
of the Gulf Stream far to the north of the temperate zone. 
Floating sea-weed (Fucus natans), chiefly taken up by 
the stream in the Mexican Gulf, makes it easy for the 
navigator to recognize when he has entered the Gulf 
Stream, whilst the position of the branches of the sea- 
weed indicate the direction of the current. The mainmast of 
the English ship of war, the Tilbury, which was destroyed 
by fire in the seven years' war on the coasts of Saint 
Domingo, was carried by the Gulf Stream to the northern 
coasts of Scotland: and casks filled with palm-oil, the remains of 
the cargo of an English ship wrecked on a rock off Cape Lopez 
in Africa, were in like manner carried to Scotland, after having 
twice traversed the Atlantic Ocean, once from east to west 
between 2° and 12° north lat., following the course of the 
equinoctial current, and once from west to east between 45° 
and 55° north lat. by help of the Gulf Stream. Hennell, in 


the work already referred to, p. 347, relates the voyage of 
a bottle inclosing a written paper which had been thrown 
from the English ship Newcastle in 38° 52' north lat., and 
63° 58' west long., on the 20th of January, 1819, and which 
was first seen on the 2nd of June, 1820, at the Rosses in the 
north-west of Ireland, near the Island of Arran. Shortly before 
my arrival at TenerifFe a stem of South American cedar-wood 
{Cedrela odorata), thickly covered with lichens, was cast 
ashore near the harbour of Santa Cruz. 

The effects of the Gulf Stream in stranding on the Azorean 
Islands of Fayal, Flores, and Corvo, bamboos, artificially cut 
pieces of wood, trunks of an unknown species of pine from 
Mexico or the West Indies, and corpses of men of a peculiar 
race, having very broad faces, have mainly contributed to the 
discovery of America, as they confirmed Columbus in his belief 
of the existence of Asiatic countries and islands situated in the 
west. The great discoverer even heard from a settler on the 
Cap de la Verga in the Azores " that persons in sailing west- 
ward had met with covered barks, which were managed by 
men of foreign appearance, and appeared to be constructed in 
such a manner that thev could not sink, almadias con casa 
movediza que nunca se hunden." There are well authenticated 
proofs, however much the facts may have been called in 
question, that natives of America (probably Esquimaux from 
Greenland or Labrador), were carried by currents or streams 
from the north-west to our own continent. James Wallace* 
relates that in the year 1682 a Greenlander in his canoe was 
seen on the southern extremity of the Island of Eda by many 
persons, who could not, however, succeed in reaching him. 
In 1684 a Greenland fisherman appeared near the Island of 
Westram. In the church at Burra there was suspended an 
Esquimaux boat, which had been driven on shore by currents 
and storms. The inhabitants of the Orkneys call the Green- 
landers who have appeared amongst them Fimimen. 

In Cardinal Bembo's History of Venice I find it stated, that 
in the year 1508 a small boat, manned by seven persons of a 
foreign aspect, was captured near the English coast by a 
French ship. The description given of them applies perfectly 
to the form of the Esquimaux {homines erant septem mediocri 
stature^ colore subobscuro, lato et patente vultu, cicatriceque una 
* Account of the Islands of Orkney (1700), p. 60. 


violacea signatd). No one understood their language. Their 
clothing was made of fish skins sewn together. On their 
heads they wore coronam e culmo pictam, septem quasi auriculis 
intextam. They ate raw flesh, and drank blood as we would 
wine. Six of these men perished during the voyage, and the 
seventh, a youth, was presented to the King of France, who 
was then at Orleans.* 

The appearance of men called Indians on the coasts of 
Germany under the Othos and Frederic Barbarossa in the tenth 
and twelfth centuries, and as Cornelius NejDOS (in his Frag- 
ments')^ Pomponius Mela,J and Pliny§ relate, when Quintus 
Metellus Ccler was Proconsul in Gaul, may be explained by 
similar effects of oceanic currents and b} r the long continuance 
of north-westerly winds. A king of the Boii, or, as others 
say, of the Suevi, gave these stranded dark-coloured men to 
Metellus Celer. Gomara|| regards these Indian subjects of 
the King of the Boii as natives of Labrador. He writes, Si 
ya no fuesen de Tierra del Labrador, y los tuviesen los Romanos 
por Indianos enganados en el color. It may be inferred that 
the appearance of Esquimaux on the northern shores of 
Europe was more frequent in earlier times, for we learn from 
the investigations of Rask and Finn Magnusen, that this race 
had spread in the eleventh and twelfth century in considerable 
numbers, under the name of Skralingers, from Labrador as far 
south as the Good Vinland, i.e. the shore of Massachussets and 

As the winter cold of the most northern part of Scandinavia 
is ameliorated by the action of the Gulf Stream, which 
carries American tropical fruits (as cocoa-nuts, seeds of 
Mimosa scandens and Anacardium occidentale) beyond 62° 
north lat. ; so also Iceland enjoys from time to time the genial 
influence of the diffusion of the warm waters of the Gulf 
Stream far to the northward. The sea coasts of Iceland, like 
those of the Faroe Isles, receive a large number of trunks of 

* Bcmbo, Historian V entice, ed. 1718, lib. vii. p. 257. 
t Ed. Van. Staveren, cur. Bardili, t. ii. 1820, p. 356. 
% Lib. iii, cap. 5, § 8. 
§ Hist. Nat, ii. 67. 

|| Historia Gen. de las Indias. Saragossa, 1553, fol. vii. 
*U See Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 604 (Bonn's ed.) and Examen critique de 
rHist, de la Geographic, t. ii. pp. 247 — 278. 


trees, driven thither from America; and this drift-wood, 
which formerly came in greater abundance, was used for the 
purposes of building, and cut into boards and laths. The 
fruits of tropical plants collected on the Icelandic shores, 
especially between Raufarhaven and Yapnanord, show that 
the movement of the water is from a southerly direction.* 

(25) p. 10. — "Lccidece and other Lichens." 

In northern regions, the absence of plants is compensated 
for by the covering of Bceomyces roseus, Ccnomyce rangiferi- 
nus, Lecidea muscorum, Leeidea icmadophila, and other cryp- 
togamia which are spread over the earth, and which may 
be said to prepare the way for the growth of grasses and other 
herbaceous plants. In the tropical world, where mosses and 
lichens are only observed to abound in shady places, some 
few oily plants supply the place of the lowly lichen. 

(26) p. 11. — " The Care of Animals yielding milk. — Ruins of 

the Aztek fortress." 

The two oxen already named, Bos americanus and Bos 
moschatus, are peculiar to the northern part of the American 
continent. But the natives — 

Quels neque mos, neque cultus erat, nee jungere tauros 

Virg. ^n. i. 316. 

drank the fresh blood, and not the milk, of these animals. 
Some few exceptions have indeed been met with, but only 
among tribes who at the same time cultivated maize. I have 
already observed that Gomara speaks of a people in the 
north-west of Mexico who possessed herds of tame bisons, 
and derived their clothing, food, and drink from these 
animals. This drink was probably the blood,f for, as I have 
frequently remarked, a dislike of milk, or at least the absence 
of its use, appears before the arrival of Europeans to have 
been common to all the natives of the New Continent, as well 
as to the inhabitants of China and Cochin China, notwith- 
standing their great vicinity to true pastoral tribes. The 
herds of tame lamas which were found in the highlands of 
Quito, Peru, and Chili, belonged to a settled and agricultural 

* Sartorius von Waltershausen, Physisch-geographische Skizze von, 
Island, 1847, s. 22—35. 

f Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, vol. iii. p. 416. 


population. Pedro de Ciega de Leon* seems to imply, 
although assuredly as a very rare exception to the general 
mode of life, that lamas were employed on the Peruvian moun- 
tain plain of Callao for drawing the plough. f Ploughing was, 
however, generally conducted in Peru by men only.| Barton 
has made it appear probable that the American buffalo had 
from an early period been reared among some "West Canada 
tribes on account of its flesh and hide.§ In Peru and Quito 
the lama is nowhere found in its original wild condition. 
According to the statements made to me by the natives, the 
lamas on the western declivity of the Chimborazo became 
wild at the time when Lican. the ancient residence of the 
rulers of Quito, was laid in ashes. In Central Peru, in the 
Ceja de la Montana, cattle have in like manner become 
completely wild; a small but daring race that often attacks 
the Indians. The natives call them"Yacas del Monte" 
or " Yacas Cimarronas."|| Cuvier's assertion that the lama 
had descended from the guanaco, still in a wild state, which 
had unfortunately been extensively propagated by the admir- 
able observer, Meyen,^f has now been completely refuted by 

The Lama, the Paco or Alpaca, and the Guanaco are three 
originally distinct species of animals.** The Guanaco (Hua- 
nacu in the Qquichua language) is the largest of the three, 
and the Alpaca, measured from the ground to the crown of 
the head, the smallest. The Lama is next to the Guauaco in 
height. Herds of Llamas, when as numerous as I have seen 
them on the elevated plateaux between Quito and Riobamba, 
are a great ornament to the landscape. The Moromoro of Chili 
appears to be a mere variety of the lama. The different species 
of camel-like sheep found still wild at elevations of from 13,000 
to upwards of 16,000 feet above the level of the sea, are the 
Vicuna, the Guanaco, and the Alpaca; of these the two latter 
sfiecies are also found tame, although this is but rarely the 

* Chronica del Peru, Sevilla, 1553, cap. 110, p. 264. 
f See Gay, Zoologia de Chili, Mamiferos, 1847, p. 154. 
% See the Inca Garcilaso, Commentarios reales, P. 1, lib. v. cap. 2, 
p. 133 ; and Prescott, Hist, of the Conquest of Peru, 1847, vol. i. p. 136. 
§ Fragments of the JVat. Hist, of Pennsylvania, P. 1, p. 4. 
II Tschudi, Fauna Peruana, s. 256. 
IT Beise um die Erde, th. iii. s. 64. 
** Tschudi, s. 22S, 237. 


case with the Guanaco. The alpaca does not bear a warm 
climate as well as the lama. Since the introduction of the 
more useful horse, mule, and ass (the latter of which exhibits 
great animation and beauty in tropical regions), the lama and 
alpaca have been less generally reared and employed as beasts 
of burden in the mining districts. But their wool, which 
varies so much in fineness, is still an important branch of 
industry among the inhabitants of the mountains. In Chili 
the wild and the tame guanaco are distinguished by special 
names, the former being called "Luan" and the latter 
" Chilihueque." The wide dissemination of the wild Guanacos 
from the Peruvian Cordilleras to Tierra del Fuego, sometimes 
in herds of 500 heads of cattle, has been facilitated by the 
circumstance that these animals can swim with great facility 
from island to island, and are not therefore impeded in their 
passage across the Patagonian channels or fiords.* 

South of the river Gyla, which together with the Rio 
Colorado pours itself into the Californian Gulf (Mar de Cortes), 
lie in the midst of the dreary steppe the mysterious ruins 
of the Aztek Palace, called by the Spaniards " las Casas 
Grandes." When, about the year 1160, the Azteks first 
appeared in Anahuac, having migrated from the unknown 
land of Aztlan, they remained for a time on the borders of 
the Gyla river. The Franciscan monks, Garces and Font, 
who saw the " Casas Grandes " in 1773, are the last travellers 
who have visited these remains. According to their state- 
ment, the ruins extended over an area exceeding sixteen square 
miles. The whole plain was covered with the broken frag- 
ments of ingeniously painted earthenware vessels. The 
principal palace, if the word can be applied to a house 
formed of uuburnt clay, is 447 feet in length and 277 feet in 
breadth, f 

The Taye of California, a delineation of which is given 
by the Padre Venegas, appears to differ but inconsiderably 
from the Oris musimon of the Old Continent. The same 
animal has also been seen in the Stony Mountains near 
the source of the River of Peace, and differs entirely from 

* See the pleasing descriptions in Darwin's Journal, 1845, p. 66. 

f See a rare work printed at Mexico, in 1792, and entitled Cronica 
serafica y Apostolica del Colegio de Propaganda Fide de la Sanza. 
Cruz de Queretaro, por Fray Juan Domingo Arricivita. 


the small white and black spotted goat-like animal found on 
the Missouri and Arkansas. The synonyme of Antilope 
furcifer, A. tememazama, (Smith,) and Ovis montana is still 
very uncertain. 

(27) p. 11. — " The culture of farinaceous grasses.' 1 '' 

The original habitat of the farinaceous grasses, like that of 
the domestic animals which have followed man since his 
earliest migrations, is shrouded in obscurity. Jacob Grimm 
has ingeniously derived the German name for corn, Getraide, 
from the old German " gitragidi," " getregede." " It is as it 
were the tame fruit {fruges, frumentuni) that has fallen into 
the hands of man, as we speak of tame animals in opposition 
to those that are wild.' * 

"It is a most striking fact that on one half of our planet 
there should be nations who are wholly unacquainted with the 
use of milk and of the meal yielded by narrow-eared grasses, 
(Hordeacea and Avenacece) whilst in the other hemisphere 
nations may be found in almost every region who cultivate 
cereals and rear milch cattle. The culture of different cereals 
is common to both hemispheres ; but while in the New Conti- 
nent we meet with only one species, maize, which is cultivated 
from 52° north to 46° south lat., we find that in the Old World 
the fruits of Ceres, (wheat, barley, spelt, and oats,) have been 
everywhere cultivated from the earliest ages recorded in history. 
The belief that wheat grew ivild in the Leontine plains as well 
as in other parts of Sicily was common to several ancient 
nations, and is mentioned as early as Diodorus Siculus.f 
Cereals were also found in the alpine meadow of Enna. 
Diodorus says expressly, " The inhabitants of the Atlantis 
were unacquainted with the fruits of Ceres, owing to their 
having separated from the rest of mankind before those fruits 
were made known to mortals." Sprengel has collected 
several interesting facts from w r hich he is led to conjecture 
that the greater number of our European cereals originally 
grew wild in Northern Persia and India. He supposes for in- 
stance that summer Avheat was indigenous in the land of the 
Musicani, a province of Northern India ;$ barley, antiquissi- 

* Jacob Griinm, Gesch. der Deutschen Sprache, 1848, th. i. s. 62. 
f lib. v. pp. 199, 232. Wessel. 
% Strabo, xv.1017. 


mum frumentum, as Pliny terms it, and which was also the 
only cereal known to the Guansches of the Canaries, originated, 
according to Moses of Chorene,* on the banks of the Araxes 
or Kur in Georgia, and according to Marco Polo in Balascham, 
in Northern India ;f and Spelt originated in Hamadan. 

My intelligent friend and teacher, Link, has however shown 
in a comprehensive and critical treatise,]; that these passages 
are open to much doubt. In a former essay of my own,§ I 
expressed doubts regarding the eyistence of wild cereals in 
Asia, and considered them to have become wild. Reinhold 
Forstcr, who before his voyage with Captain Cook made an 
expedition for purposes of natural history into the south of 
Russia by order of the Empress Catherine, reported that the 
two-lined summer barley (Hordeum distichon) grew wild 
near the confluence of the Samara and the Volga. At the 
end of September in the year 1829, Ehrenberg and myself 
also herborised on the Samara, during our journey from 
Orenburg and Uralsk to Saratov/ and the Caspian Sea. The 
quantity of wheat and rye plants growing wild on uncultivated 
ground in this district was certainly very remarkable; but 
the plants did not appear to us to differ from the ordinary 
kinds. Ehrenberg received from M. Carelin a species of rye, 
Secede fragile, that had been gathered on the Kirghis Steppe, 
and which Marshal Bieberstein for some time conjectured to 
be the mother plant of our cultivated rye, Secale cereale. 
Michaux's herbarium does not show (according to Achill 
liichard"s testimony), that Spelt (Triticum spelta) grows wild 
at Hamadan in Persia, as Olivier and Michaux have been sup- 
posed to maintain. More confidence is due to the recent 
accounts obtained through the unwearied zeal of the intelligent 
traveller, Professor Carl Koch. He found a large quantity 
of rye (Secale cereale veer. /3, pectinata) in the Pontic Moun- 
tains, at heights of more than 5000 or 6000 feet above the 
level of the sea, on spots where this species of grain had 
not within the memory of the inhabitants been previously 
cultivated. " Its appearance here is the more important," 
he remarks, "because with us this grain never propagates 

* Geogr. Armen,, ed. Wliiston, 1736, p. 360. 

+ Ramusio, vol. ii. p. 10. 

$ Abhandl. der Bed. Ahad. 1816, s. 123. 

§ Essai sur la Geogr aphie des Plantes, 1805, p. 28. 


itself spontaneously." Koch collected in the Schirwan part 
of the Caucasus a kind of grain which he calls Hordeum 
spontaneum, and regards as the originally wild Hordeum 
zeocriton. (Linn.)* 

A negro slave ofthe great Cortes was the first who cultiva- 
ted wheat in New Spain, from three seeds which he found 
amongst some rice Drought from Spain for the use of the 
troops. In the Franciscan convent at Quito I saw, pre- 
served as a relic, the earthen vessel which had contained 
the first wheat sowed in Quito bv the Franciscan monk, 
Fray Jodoco Rixi de Gante, a native of Ghent in Flanders. 
The first crop was raised in front of the convent, on the 
" Plazuela de S. Francisco," after the wood which then ex- 
tended from the foot of the Volcano of Pichincha had been 
cleared. The monks, whom I frequently visited during my 
stay at Quito, begged me to explain the inscription on the 
cup, which according to their conjecture contained some 
hidden allusion to wheat. On examining the vessel, I read 
in old German the words " Let him who drinks from me, 
ne'er forget his God." This old German drinking cup excited 
in me feelings of veneration! Would that everywhere in the 
New Continent the names of those were preserved who, 
instead of devastating the soil by bloody conquests, confided 
to it the first fruits of Ceres ! There are " fewer examples of 
a general affinity of names in terms relating to the different 
species of corn and objects of agriculture than to the rearing 
of cattle. Herdsmen when they migrated to other regions 
had still much in common, while the subsequent cultivators of 
the soil had to invent special words. But the fact that in 
comparison with the Sanscrit, Romans and Greeks seem to 
stand on the same footing with Germans and Slavonians, 
speaks in favour of the very early contemporaneous emigra- 
tion of the two latter. Yet the Indian Java (Jrumentum 
hordeum), when compared with the Lithuanian jaicai, and the 
Finnish jywa, affords a striking exception. "\ 

(28) p. 11. — "Preferring to keep within a cooler climate.':' 

Throughout the whole of Mexico and Peru we find the 
trace of human civilisation confined to the elevated table- 

* Carl Koch, Beitrage zur Flora des Orients. Heft. 1, s. 139., 142. 
T Jacob Grinim,, Gesch. der deutschen Sprache, th. i. s. 69. 


lands. We saw the ruins of palaces and baths on the sides 
of the Andes, at an elevation of from 10,230 to 11,510 feet. 
None but northern tribes migrating from the north towards 
the equator could have remained from preference in such a 

(29) p. 12. — "The history of the peopling of Japan" 

I believe I have succeeded in showing, in my work on 
the monuments of the American primitive races,* by an 
examination of the Mexican and Thibetian-Japanese calen- 
dars, by a correct determination of the position of the Scansile 
Pyramids, and by the ancient myths which record four 
revolutions of the world and the dispersion of mankind 
after a great deluge, that the western nations of the New 
Continent maintained relations of intercourse with those of 
Eastern Asia, long before the arrival of the Spaniards. 
These observations have derived additional weight, since the 
appearance of my work, from the facts recently published in 
England, France, and the United States, regarding the 
remarkable pieces of sculpture carved in the Indian style, 
which have been discovered in the ruins of Guatimala and 
Yucatan. f The ancient architectural remains found in the 
peninsula of Yucatan testify more than those of Palenque, to 
an astonishing degree of civilization. They are situated 
between Valladolid, Merida, and Campeche, chiefly in 
the western portion of the country. But the monuments 
on the island of Cozumel, (properly Cuzamil,) east of Yuca- 
tan, were the first which were seen by the Spaniards in 
the expedition of Juan de Grijalva in 1518. and in that of 
Cortes in 1519. Their discovery tended to diffuse throughout 
Europe an exalted idea of the advanced condition of ancient 

* Vues des Cordilleres et Monuments des peuples indigenes de 
VAmerique, 2 tomes. 

+ Compare the work of D. Antonio del Rio, entitled Description of 
the Ruins of an Ancient City discovered near Palenque, 1822, trans- 
lated from the orig. manuscr. report by Cabrera, p. 9, tab. 12 — 14 
(Rios researches were made in the year 1787); with Stephen \, Incidents 
of Travel in Yucatan, 1843, vol. i. pp. 391, 429 — 434, and vol. ii. 
pp. 21, 54, r>6, 317 323; with the magnificent work of Catherwood, 
Views of Ancient Monuments in Central America, Chiapas, and 
Yucatan, 1844; and lastly with Prescott, The Conquest of Mexico, 
vol. iii. Append, p. 360. 

K 2 


Mexican civilization. The most important ruins of the 
peninsula of Yucatan (unfortunately not yet thoroughly 
measured and drawn by architects) are those of the " Casa 
del Gobernador " of Uxmal, the Teocallis and vaulted con- 
structions at Kabah, the ruins of Labnan with its domed 
pillars, those of Zayi which exhibit columns of an order of 
architecture nearly approaching the Doric, and those of Chiche 
with large ornamented pilasters. An old manuscript written 
in the Maya language by a Christian Indian, which is still in 
the hands of the " Gefe politico " of Peto, Don Juan Rio Perez, 
gives the different epochs {Katunes of 52 years) at which the 
Toltecs settled in different parts of the peninsula. Perez 
would infer from these data that the architectural remains of 
Chiche go back as far as the fourth century of our era, 
whilst those of Uxmal belong to the middle of the tenth 
century; but the accuracy of these historical deductions is 
orjen to great doubt.* 

I regard the existence of a former intercourse between 
the people of Western America and those of Eastern Asia 
as more than probable, although it is impossible at the 
present time to say by what route and with which of 
the tribes of Asia this intercourse was established. A 
small number of individuals of the cultivated hierarchical 
castes may perhaps have sufficed to effect great changes in the 
social condition of Western America. The fabulous accounts 
formerly current regarding Chinese expeditions to the New 
Continent refer merely to expeditions to Fusang or Japan. 
It is, however, possible that Japanese and Sian-Pi may have 
been driven by storms from the Corea to the American 
coasts. We know as matters of history that Bonzes and 
other adventurers navigated the Eastern Chinese seas in 
search of a remedial agent capable of making man immortal. 
Thus under Tschin-chi-huang-ti three hundred young couples 
were dispatched to Japan in the year 209 before our era, 
who, instead of returning to China, settled on the Island of 
Nipon.f May not accident have led to similar expeditions to 

* Stephens, Incid. of Travel in Yucatan, vol. i. p. 439, and vol. ii. 
p. 278. 

f Klaproth, Tableaux historiques de VAfde, 1824, p. 79; Nouveau 
Journal asiatique, t. x. 1832, p. 335 ; and Humboldt, Examen cri- 
tique, t. ii. pp. 02 — 67. 


the Fox Islands, to Alaschka, or New California? As the 
-western coasts of the American continent incline from north- 
west to south-east, and the eastern coasts of Asia from north- 
east to south-west, the distance between the two continents 
in the milder zone, which is most conducive to mental deve- 
lopment (45° lat.), would appear too considerable to admit 
of an accidental settlement having been made in this lati- 
tude. We must therefore assume that the first landing 
took place in the ungenial climate of 55° and 65°, and that 
cultivation, like the general advance of population in America, 
progressed by gradual stations from north to south.* It was 
even believed in the beginning of the sixteenth century that 
the fragments of ships from Catayo, i.e. from Japan or China, 
had been found on the coasts of the Northern Dorado, called 
also Quivira and Cibora.f 

We know as yet too little of the languages of America 
entirely to renounce the hope that, amid their many varieties, 
some idiom may be discovered, that has been spoken with 
certain modifications in the interior of South America and 
Central Asia, or that might at least indicate an ancient affinity. 
Such a discovery would undoubtedly be one of the most 
brilliant to which the history of the human race can hope to 
attain! But analogies of language are only deserving of 
confidence where mere resemblances of sound in the roots are 
not alone the object of research, but attention is also directed 
to the organic structure, the grammatical forms, and those 
elements of language which manifest themselves as the pro- 
duct of the intellectual power of man. 

(30) p. 12 — "Many other forms of animal life'' 

The Steppes of Caracas abound in flocks of the so-called 
Cervas mexicanus. This stag when young is spotted, and re- 
sembles the roe. We have frequently met with perfectly white 
varieties, which is a very striking fact when the high tempe- 
rature of this zone is taken into consideration. The Cervas 
mexicanus is not found on the declivities of the Andes in the 
equatorial region, at an elevation exceeding from 4476 to 
5115 feet, but another white deer, which I could scarcely 
distinguish by any one specific characteristic from the 

* Relat. hist. t. iii. pp. 155—160. 

f Goinara, Hist, general cle las Indias, p. 117. 


European species, ascends to an elevation of • nearly 13,000 
feet. The Cavia capybara is known in the province of 
Caracas by the name of Chiguire. This unfortunate animal 
is pursued in the water by the crocodile, and on land by the 
tiger or jaguar. It runs so badly that we w r ere often able to 
catch it with our hands. The extremities are smoked and 
eaten as hams, but have a most unpleasant taste, owing to the 
flavour and smell of musk by which they are impregnated; 
and on the Orinoco we gladly ate monkey-hams in preference. 
These beautifully striped animals — the Viverra mapurito, 
Viverra zorilla, and Viverra vittata — exhale a fetid odour. 

(31.) p. 12 — " The Guaranes and the fan-palm Mauritia." 

The small coast tribe of the Guaranes (called in British 
Guiana, the Warraws, or Guaranos, and by the Caribs 
U-ara-u) inhabit not only the swampy delta and the river 
network of the Orinoco (more particularly the banks of the 
Manamo grande and the Carlo Macareo). but also extend, with 
very slight differences in their mode of living, along the sea- 
shore, between the mouths of the Essequibo and the Boca de 
Navios of the Orinoco.* According to the testimony of Schom- 
burgk. the admirable observer referred to in the note, there are 
still about 1 700 Warraus or Guaranos living in" the vicinity 
of Cumaca, and along the banks of the Barime river, which 
empties itself into the gulf of the Boca de Navios. The 
social habits of the tribes settled in the delta of the Orinoco 
were known to the great historian Cardinal Bembo, the 
cotemporary of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, 
and Alonzo de Hojeda. He saysf quibusdam in locis propter 
paludes incolce domus in arboribus cedijicant. It is hardly 
probable that instead of the Guaranos at the mouth of the 
Orinoco, Bembo should here allude to the natives of the 
country near the mouth of the gulf of Maracaibo, where 
Alonzo de Hojeda, in August, 1499, (when accompanied by 
Vespucci and Juan de la Cosa) found a population having 
their dwellings fondata sopra lacqua come Venezia ("built 
like Venice on the water"). \ Vespucci, in the account of his 

* Compare my Relation historique, t. i. p. 492, t. ii. pp. 653, 703, 
6ith Richard Schomburgk, Reisen in Britisch Guiana, th. i. 1847, s. 
2, 120. 173, 194. 
*f* Histories Venetm, 1551, p. 88. 
% See text of Riccardi in my Examen crit. t. iv. p. 426. 


travels, in which we meet with the first traces of the etymo- 
logy of the name of the province of Venezuela (Little Venice) 
as used for the province of Caracas, speaks only of houses 
built on a foundation of piles, and makes no mention of habi- 
tations in trees. 

Sir Walter Raleigh bears a subsequent and incontrovertible 
evidence to the same fact, for he says expressly in his description 
of Guiana, that on his second voyage in 1 595, when in the mouth 
of the Orinoco, " he saw the fire of the Tivitites and Qua-raw- 
etes" (so he calls the Guaranes), " high up in the trees.'"** There 
is a drawing of the fire in the Latin edition of this work.f and 
Raleigh was the first who brought to England the fruit of the 
Mauritia palm, which he very justly compared, on account of 
its scales, to fir-cones. Father Jose Gumilla, who twice 
visited the Guaranes as a missionary, says, indeed, that this 
tribe have their dwelling in the Palmares (palm groves) of the 
morasses; but while he speaks more definitely of pendent 
habitations supported by high pillars, makes no mention of 
platforms attached to still growing trees. \ Hillhouse and 
Sir Robert Schomburgk§ are of opinion that Bembo, through 
the relations of others, and Raleigh, by his own observation, 
were deceived into this belief in consequence of the high tops 
of the palm trees being lighted up in such a manner by the 
fires below them, that those sailing by thought the habitations 
of the Guaranes were attached to the trees themselves. " We 
do not deny," says Schomburgk, " that in order to escape the 
attacks of the mosquitos, the Indian sometimes suspends his 
hammock from the tops of trees, but on such occasions no 
fires are made under the hammock. "|| 

According to Martius, the beautiful Palm, Moriche, Mau- 

* Raleigh, Discovery of Guiana, 1 596, p. 90. 

+ Brevis ct admiranda Descriptio regni Guiance (Norib. 1599), 
tab. 4. 

% Gumilla, Historia natural, civil y geografica de las Naciones 
situadas en las riveras del Bio Orinoco, nueva impr., 1791, pp. 143, 
145, 163. 

§ See Journal of the Boyal Geogr. Society, vol. xii. 1842, p. 175, and 
Description of the Murichi, or Ita Palm, read in the meeting of the 
British Association held at Cambridge, June 1845 (published in 
SimoncVs Colonial Magazine). 

|| See also Sir Robert Schomburgk's new edition of BaleiglCs Dis- 
covery of Guiana (1848), p. 50. 


rltia Jlexuosa, Quieteva, or Ita Palm,* belongs, together with 
Calamus, to the family of the Lepidocaryse or Coryphese. 
Linnaeus has described it very imperfectly, as he erroneously 
considered it to be devoid of leaves. The trunk is 26 feet 
high, but it probably does not attain this height in less than 
120 or even 150 years. The Mauritia extends high up the 
declivity of the Duida, north of the Esmeralda mission, where 
I found it in great beauty. It forms, in moist places, fine 
groups of a fresh and shining verdure, reminding us of 
that of our alders. The trees preserve the moisture of the 
ground by their shade, and hence the Indians believe that the 
Mauritia draws water around its roots bv some mysterious 

•/ a/ 

attraction. In conformity with an analogous theory they 
advise, that serpents should not be killed, because the de- 
struction of these animals is followed by the drying up of the 
lagoons. Thus do the rude children of nature confound cause 
and effect! Gumilla calls the Mauritia Jlexuosa of the Gua- 
ranes the tree of life (" arbol de la vida"). It is found on the 
mountains of Ronaima, east of the sources of the Orinoco, as 
high as 4263 feet. On the unfrequented banks of the Rio 
Atabapo, in the interior of Guiana, we discovered a new 
species of Mauritia having a prickly stem; our Mauritia 

(32) p. 13. — " An American Stylite" 

The founder of the sect of Stylites, the fanatical Pillar- 
saint, Simeon Sisanites of Syria, the son of a Syrian herdsman, 
is said to have passed thirty-seven years in holy contempla- 
tion, elevated on five columns, each higher than the preceding. 
He died in the year 461. The last of the pillars which he 
occupied was 40 ells in height. For seven hundred years 
there continued to be followers of this mode of life, who were 
called Sancti Columnares, or Pillar-saints. Even in Germany, 
in the see of Treves, attempts were made to found similar 
aerial cloisters ; but the dangerous practice met with the con- 
stant opposition of the bishops.^ 

* Bernau, Missionary Labours in British Guiana, 1847, pp. 34, 44. 
*T Humboldt, Bonpland, et Kunth, Nova genera ct species Plan- 
tarum, t. i. p. 310. 

X Mosheim, Institut. Hist. Eccles., 1755, p. 215. 


(33) p. 14. — "Towns on the banks of the Steppe-river •s." 

Families who live by raising cattle and do not take part in 
agricultural pursuits have congregated together in the middle 
of the Steppe, in small towns, which, in the cultivated parts 
of Europe, would scarcely be regarded as villages. Among 
these are Calabozo, which, according to my astronomical 
observations, is situated in 8° 56' 14" north lat., and 67° 43' 
west long.; Villa del Pao (8° 38' 1" north lat,, and 66° 57' 
west long.); Saint Sebastian, and others. 

(34) p. 14. — " Funnel-shaped clouds." 

The singular phenomenon of these sand-spouts, of which we 
see something analogous on the cross roads of Europe, is 
esjDecially characteristic of the Peruvian sandy desert between 
Amotape and Coquimbo. Such dense clouds of sand may 
endanger the safety of the traveller who does not cautiously 
avoid them. It is remarkable that these partial and opposing 
currents of air should arise only when there is a general calm. 
The aerial ocean resembles the sea in this respect; for here, 
too, we find that the small currents (filets de courant) in 
which the water may frequently be heard to flow with a 
splashing sound, occur only in a dead calm (cahne plat). 

(35) p. 14. — "Increases the stifling oppression." 

I have observed in the Llanos de Apure, at the cattle 
farm of Guadalupe, that the thermometer rose from 92°. 7 to 
97°. 2 Fahr. whenever the hot wind began to blow from the 
desert, which was covered either with sand or short withered 
grass. In the middle of the sand- cloud the thermometer 
stood for several minutes together at 111 Fahr. The dry 
sand in the village of San Fernando de Apure had a tempera - 
tuie of .26° Fahr. 

(36) p. 15.-— li The phantom- of a moving undulating su7face.'' , 

The well known phenomenon of the mirage is called in 

Sanscrit " the thirst of the gazelle."* All objects appear to 

float in the air, while their forms are reflected in the lower 

stratum of the atmosphere. At such times the whole desert 

* See my Relat. hist., t. i. pp. 29G, 625; t. ii. p. 161. 


resembles a vast lake, whose surface undulates like waves, 
Palm trees, cattle, and camels sometimes appear inverted in 
the horizon. In the French expedition to Egypt, this optical 
illusion often nearly drove the faint and parched soldiers to dis- 
traction. This phenomenon has been observed in all quarters 
of the world. The ancients were alsoacquainted with the re- 
markable refraction of the rays of light in the Lybian Desert. 
We find mention made in Diodorus Siculus of strange illusive 
appearances, an African Fata Morgana, together with still 
more extravagant explanations of the conglomeration of the 
particles of air.* 

(37) p. 15.—" The Melocactus." 

The Cactus melocactus is frequently from 10 to 12 inches 
in diameter, and has generally 14 ribs. The natural group 
of the Cactaceae, the whole family of the Nopalese of Jussieu, 
belongs exclusively to the New Continent. The Cactus 
assumes a variety of shapes, being ribbed and melon- like 
(Melocacti); articulated (Opuntim); upright-like columns 
(Cerei); of a serpentine or creeping form (Rhipsalides) ; or 
provided with leaves (Pereskice). Many extend high up the 
slopes of the mountains. Near the foot of the Chimborazo, 
in the sandy table-land around Riobamba, I found a new species 
of Pitahaya (Cactus sejnum), even at an elevation of 10,660 

(38) p. 16. — " The scene suddenly changes in the Steppe." 

I have endeavoured to describe the approach 'of the rainy 
season, and the signs by which it is announced. The deep blue 
of the heavens in the tropics is occasioned by the imperfect 
solution of vapour. The cyanometer indicates a lighter shade 
of blue as soon as the vapours begin to fall. The dark spot 
in the constellation of the Southern Cross becomes indistinct 
in proportion as the transparency of the atmosphere decreases, 
and this change announnes the approach of rain. The 
bright radiance of the Magellanic clouds (Nubecula major and 
JStibecula minor) then gradually fades away. The fixed stars 
which had before been shining with a calm, steady, planet- 

* Lib. iii. p. 184, Rhod., p. 219, Wessel. 

t Humboldt, Bonpland, et Kunth, Synopsis Plantarum aiquinoct. 
Orbis Novi, t. iii. p. 370. 


like light, are now seen to scintillate in the zenith.* 4 All these 
phenomena are the result of the increased quantity of aqueous 
vapour floating in the atmosphere. 

(39) p. 16.—" The humid clay soil is seen to rise slowly in a 

broad flake" 

Drought produces the same phenomena in animals and 
plants as the abstraction of heat. During the dry season 
many tropical plants lose their leaves. The crocodile and 
other amphibious animals conceal themselves in the mud and 
lie apparently dead, like animals in cold regions who are 
thrown into a state of hybernation.! 

(40) p. 17. — " A vast inland sea." 

Nowhere are these inundations on a larger scale than in the 
network of streams formed by the Apure, the Arachuna, 
the Pajara, the Arauca, and the Cabuliare. Large vessels 
sail across the country over the Steppe for 40 or 50 miles. 

(41) p. 17. — " To the mountainous plain of Antisana." 

The great mountain plateau "which surrounds the volcano 
of Antisana is 13,473 feet above the level of the sea. The 
pressure of the atmosphere is so inconsiderable at this height, 
that blood will flow from the nostrils and mouth of the wild 
bull when hunted with dogs. 

(42) p. 17. — " The marshy waters of Bera and Rastro." 

I have elsewhere more circumstantially described the 
capture of the gymnotus.J Mons. Gay Lussac and myself 
were perfectly successful in the experiments we conducted 
without a chain on a living gymnotus, which was still very 
vigorous when it reached Paris. The discharge of electricity 
is entirely dependent on the will of the animal. We did not 
observe any electric sparks, but other physicists have done so 
on numerous occasions. 

(43) p. 18. — ''''Awakened by the contact of moist and dissimular 


In all organic bodies dissimilar substances come into 

* Compare Arago in my Relation hist., t. i. p. 623. 
t See my Relat. histor., t. ii. pp. 196, 626. 

$ Observations de Zoologie et d'Anatomie comparee,i. i. pp. 83-87, 
and Relat. hist., t. ii. pp. 173-190. 


contact with each other, and solids are associated with 
fluids. Wherever there is organization and life, there must 
be electric tension, or, in other words, a voltaic pile must be 
brought into play, as the experiments of Nobili and Mat- 
teucci, and more especially the late most admirable labours of 
Emil Dubois, teach us. The last-named physicist has suc- 
ceeded in " manifesting the presence of the electric muscular 
current in living and wholly uninjured animal bodies:" he 
shows that "the human body, through the medium of a cop- 
per wire, can at will cause the magnetic needle at a distance 
to deflect first in one direction and then in another/"-'' I have 
myself witnessed these movements produced at will, and have 
thus unexpectedly seen much light thrown on phenomena, to 
which I had laboriously and ardently devoted so many years of 
mv earlier life. 

(44) p. 19. — " The myth of Osiris and Typhon" 

Respecting the struggle of two human races, the Arabian 
shepherd tribes of Lower Egypt and the cultivated agri- 
cultural races of Upper Egypt; on the subject of the fair- 
haired Prince Baby or Typhon, who founded Pelusium ; and 
on the dark-complexioned Dionysos or Osiris; I would refer 
to Zoega's older and almost universally discarded views as 
set forth at p. 577 of his masterly work " De oriyine et usu 

(45) p. 19 — " The boundaries of European semi-civilization" 

In the Capitania General de Caracas, as well as in all the 
eastern part of America, the civilization formerly introduced 
by Europeans is limited to the narrow strip of land which 
skirts the shore. In Mexico, New Granada, and Quito on the 
other hand, European civilization has penetrated far into the 
interior of the country and advanced up to the ridges of the 
Cordilleras. There existed already in the fifteenth cen turb- 
an earlier stage of civilization among the inhabitants of the 
last-named region. Wherever the Spaniards perceived this 
culture they pursued its track, regardless whether the seat 
of it was at a distance from the sea, or in its vicinity. The 
ancient cities were enlarged and their former significant 

* Untersuchungen ilher thierische Electricitat, von Emil du Bois- 
Raymond, 1848, bd. i. s. xv. 


Indian names mutilated, or exchanged for those of Christian 

(46) p. 19 — u Huge masses of leaden-coloured granite." 

In the Orinoco, and more especially at the cataracts of 
Maypures and Atures (not in the Black River or Rio Negro), 
all blocks of granite, even pieces of white quartz, wherever 
they come in contact with the water, acquire a grayish black 
coating, which does not penetrate beyond 001 of a line into 
the interior of the rock. The traveller might almost suppose 
that he was looking at basalt, or fossils coloured with graphite. 
Indeed, the crust does actually appear to contain manganese 
and carbon. I say " appears" to do so, because the phenomenon 
has not yet been thoroughly investigated. Something per- 
fectly analogous to this was observed by Rozier in the syenitic 
rocks of the Nile (near Syene and Philas) ; by the unfortu- 
nate Captain Tuckey on the rocky banks of the Zaire ; and 
by Sir Robert Schomburgk at Bel-bice.** On the Orinoco these 
leaden-coloured rocks are supposed when wet to give forth 
noxious exhalations, and their vicinity is believed to be con- 
ducive to the generation of fevers. f It is also remarkable 
that the South American rivers generally, which have black 
waters (aguas fiegras), or waters of a coffee brown or wine 
yellow tint, do not darken the granite rocks ; that is to say, 
they do not act upon the stone in such a manner as to 
form from its constituent parts a black or leaden-coloured 

(47) p. 20 — " The rain-foreboding howl of the bearded ape." 

Some hours before the commencement of rain, the melan- 
choly cries of various apes, as Simla senicidus, Simla bechebub, 
&c, fall on the ear like a storm raging in the distance. The 
intensity of the noise produced by such small animals can 
only be explained by the circumstance that one tree often 
contains a herd of seventy or eighty apes. I have elsewhere 
spoken of the laryngeal sac, and the ossification of the larynx 
of these animals. "J; 

* Reisen in Guiana und am OrinoTco, s. 212. 
t See my Relat, hist, t. ii. pp. 299--304. 

t See my anatomical treatise in Recueil d 'Observations de Zoologie, 
vol. i. p. 18. 


(48) p. 20 — "Its uncouth body often covered with birds." 

The crocodiles lie so motionless, that I have often seen fla- 
mingoes [Phcenicopterus) resting on their heads, while the 
other parts of the body were covered, like the trunk of a tree, 
with aquatic birds. 

(49) p. 20 — "Down its dilating throat." 

The saliva with which the boa covers its prey tends to pro- 
mote rapid decomposition. The muscular flesh is rendered 
gelatinously soft under its action, so that the animal is able to 
force entire limbs of its slain victim through its swelling 
thrDat. The Creoles call the giant boa Tragavenado {stag- 
swatloiver), and fabulously relate that the antlers of a 
stag which could not be swallowed by the snake have been 
seen fixed in its throat. I have frequently observed the boa 
constrictor swimming in the Orinoco, and in the smaller forest 
streams, the Tuamini, the Temi, and the Atabapo. It holds 
its head above water like a dog. Its skin is beautifully 
speckled. It has been asserted, that the animal attains a 
length of 48 feet, but the longest skins which have as yet been, 
carefully measured in Europe do not exceed from 21 to 
23 feet. The South American boa (a Python) differs from 
the East Indian.* 

(50) p. 20 — "Living on gums and earth." 

It is currently reported throughout the coasts of Cumana, 
New Barcelona, and Caracas (which the Franciscan monks of 
Guiana are in the habit of visiting on their return from the 
missions,) that there are men living on the banks of the Orinoco 
who eat earth. On the 6th of June, 1800. on our return from 
the Rio Negro, when we descended the Orinoco in thirty-six 
days, we spent the day at the mission inhabited by these 
people (the Otomacs). Their little village, which is called La 
Concepcion de Uruana, is very picturesquely built, against a 
granite rock. It is situated in T 8' 3" north lat. ; and ac- 
cording to my chronometrical determination, in 67° 18' west 
longitude. The earth which the Otomacs eat, is an unctuous, 
almost tasteless clay, true potter's earth, of a yellowish grey 

* On the Ethiopian Boa, see Diodor. Sicul., lib. iii. p. 204, ed. 


colour, in consequence of a slight admixture of oxide of iron. 
They select it with great care, and seek it in certain banks on 
the shores of the Orinoco and Meta. They distinguish the fla- 
vour of one kind of earth from that of another ; all kinds of 
clay not being alike acceptable to their palate. Ihey knead 
this earth into balls measuring from four to six inches in 
diameter, and bake them before a slow fire, until the outer 
surface assumes a reddish colour. Before they are eaten, the 
balls are again moistened. These Indians are mostly wild, 
uncivilized men, who abhor all tillage. There is a proverb 
current among the most distant of the tribes living on the 
Orinoco, when they wish to speak of anything very unclean, 
" so dirty that the Otomacs eat it." 

As long as the waters of the Orinoco and the Meta are 
low, these people live on fish and turtles. They kill the 
former with arrows, shooting the fish as they rise to the sur- 
face of the water with a skill and dexterity that has frequently 
excited my admiration. At the periodical swelling of the 
rivers, the fishing is stopped, for it is as difficult to fish in deep 
river water as in the deep sea. It is during these intervals, 
which last from two to three months, that the Otomacs are 
observed to devour an enormous quantity of earth. We found 
in their huts considerable stores of these clay balls piled up 
in pyramidal heaps. An Indian will consume from three- 
quarters of a pound to a pound and a quarter of this food 
daily, as we w r ere assured by the intelligent monk, Fray 
Kamon Bueno, a native of Madrid, who had lived among 
these Indians for a period of twelve years. According to the 
testimony of the Otomacs themselves, this earth constitutes 
their main support in the rainy season. In addition, they 
however eat, when they can procure them, lizards, several 
species of small fish, and the roots of a fern. But they are 
so partial to clay, that even in the dry season, when there is 
an abundance of fish, they still partake of some of their earth- 
balls, by way of a bonne bouche after their regular meals. 

These people are of a dark, copper-brown colour, have un- 
pleasant Tartar-like features, and are stout, but not protu- 
berant. The Franciscan w r ho had lived amongst them as a 
missionary, assured us that he had observed no difference in 
the condition and well-being of the Otomacs during the periods 
in which they lived on earth. The simple facts are therefore 


as follows: — The Indians undoubtedly consume large quantities 
of clay without injuring their health; they regard this earth 
as a nutritious article of food, that is to say, they feel that 
it will satisfy their hunger for a long time. This property 
they ascribe exclusively to the clay, and not to the other 
articles of food which they contrive to procure from time to 
time in addition to it. If an Otomac be asked what are 
his winter provisions — the term winter in the torrid parts of 
South America implying the rainy season- — he will point to 
the heaps of clay in his hut. These simple facts do not, 
however, by any means decide the questions : whether clay 
can actually be a nutritious substance ; whether earths can be 
assimilated in the human body; whether they only serve as 
ballast ; or merely distend the walls of the stomach, and thus 
appease the cravings of hunger? These are questions which 
I cannot venture to decide.* It is singular, that Father 
Guniilla, who is generally so credulous and uncritical, should 
have denied the fact of earth being eaten by and for itself. f 
He maintains that the clay-balls are largely mixed with maize- 
flour, and crocodile's fat. But the missionary Fray Ramon 
Bueno, and our friend and fellow-traveller, the lav-brother 
Fray Juan Gonzales, who perished at sea off the coast of 
Africa (at the time we lost a portion of our collections), both 
assured us, that the Otomacs never mix their clay cakes with 
crocodile's fat, and we heard nothing in Uruana of the admix- 
ture of flour. 

The earth which we brought with us, and which was chemi- 
cally investigated by M. Vauquelin, is quite pure and unmixed. 
May not Gumilla, by confounding heterogeneous facts, have 
intended to allude to a preparation of bread from the long 
pod of a species of Inga ? as this fruit is certainly buried in 
the earth, in order to hasten its decomposition. It appears to 
me especially remarkable, that the Otomacs should not lose 
their health by eating so much earth. Has this tribe been 
habituated for generations to this stimulus? 

In all tropical countries men exhibit a wonderful and almost 
irresistible desire to devour earth, not the so-called alka- 
line or calcareous earth, for the purpose of neutralizing 
acidity, but unctuous, strong-smelling clay. It is often found 

* Relat. hist, t. ii. pp. 618-620. 

t Historia del Bio Orinoco, nueva impr. ; 1791, t. i. p. 179. 


necessary to shut children up in order to prevent their run- 
ning into the open ah* to devour earth after recent rain. 
The Indian women who are engaged on the river Magdalena, 
in the small village of Banco, in turning earthenware pots, 
continually fill their mouths with large lumps of clay, as 
I have frequently observed, much to my surprise.* Wolves 
eat earth, especially clay, during winter. It would be very 
important, in a physiological point of view, to examine the 
excrements of animals and men that eat earth. Individuals 
of all other tribes, excepting the Otomacs, lose their health if 
they yield to this singular propensity for eating clay. In the 
mission of San Borja we found the child of an Indian woman, 
which, according to the statement of its mother, would hardly 
eat anything but earth. It was, however, much emaciated, 
and looked like a mere skeleton. 

Why is it that in the temperate and cold zones this morbid 
eagerness for eating earth is so much less frequently mani- 
fested, and is indeed limited almost entirely to children and 
pregnant women, whilst it would appear to be indigenous to 
the tropical lands of every quarter of the earth ? In Guinea 
the negroes eat a yellowish earth, which they call caouac; and 
when they are carried as slaves to the West Indies they even 
endeavour there to procure for themselves some similar species 
of food, maintaining that the eating of earth is perfectly 
harmless in their African home. The caouac of the American 
islands, however, deranges the health of the slaves who par- 
take of it ; for which reason the eating of earth was long 
since forbidden in the West Indies, notwithstanding which a 
species of red or yellowish tuff (un tuf rouge jaundtre) was 
secretly sold in the public market of Martinique in the year 

" The negroes of Guinea say that in their own country they 
habitually eat a certain earth, the flavour of which is most 
agreeable to them, and which does not occasion them any in- 
convenience. Those who have addicted themselves to the 
excessive use of caouac are so partial to it, that no punishment 
can prevent them from devouring this earth : "f In the island 
of Java, between Sourabaya and Samarang, Labillardiere saw 

* This was also observed by Gilj, Saggio di Storia Americana, 
t. ii. p. 311. 

+ Thibault de Chanvalon, Voyage a la Martinique, p. 85. 



small square reddish cakes publicly sold in the villages. The 
natives called them tana ampo [tanah signifies earth in Malay 
and Javanese) ; and on examining them more closely, he found 
that they were cakes made of a reddish clay, and intended for 
eating.* The edible clay of Samarang has recently (1847) 
been sent, by Mohnike, to Berlin in the shape of rolled tubes 
like cinnamon, and has been examined bv Ehrenbersr. It is a 
fresh-water formation deposited in tertiary limestone, and 
composed of microscopic polygastrica (Gallionella. Navicula) 
and of Phytolitharia.f The natives of New Caledonia, to 
appease their hunger, eat lumps as large as the fist of 
friable steatite, in which Yauquelin detected an appreci- 
able quantity of copper, j In Popayan and many parts of 
Peru calcareous earth is sold in the streets as an article of 
food for the Indians. This is eaten together with the Coca 
(the leaves of the Erythroxylon peruviannrri). We thus find 
that the practice of eating earth is common throughout the 
whole of the torrid zone among the indolent races who inhabit 
the most beautiful and fruitful regions of the earth. But 
accounts have also come from the north, through Berzelius 
and Retzius, from which we learn, that in the most remote 
parts of Sweden hundreds of cartloads of earth containing 
infusoria are annually consumed by the country people as 
bread-meal, more from fancy (like the smoking of tobacco) 
than from necessity. In some parts of Finland a similar kind 
of earth is mixed with the bread. It consists of empty shells 
of animalcules, so small and soft, that they break between the 
teeth without any perceptible noise, filling the stomach 
without yielding any actual nourishment. Chronicles and 
archives often make mention during times of war of the 
employment as food of infusorial earth, which is spoken of 
under the indefinite and general term of "mountain meal." 
Such, for instance, was the case in the Thirty Years' War, at 
Camin in Pomerania, Muskau in the Lausitz, and Kleiken 
in the Dessau territory; and subsequently in 1719 and 1733, 
at the fortress of Wittenberg. § 

* Voyage cl la Recherche de La Perouse, t. ii. p. 322. 

f Bericht uber die Verhandl. der Akad. d. Wiss. zu Berlin aus 
dem J. 1848, s. 222—225. 

J Voy. & la Rech. de La Perouse, t. ii. p. 205. 

§ See Ehrenberg, Ueber das unsichtbar icirhende organ iche Leben, 
1842, s. 41. 


(51) p. 20. — " Images graven in rocks." 

In the interior of South America, between the parallels of 
2° and 4° north lat., lies a wooded plain inclosed by four 
rivers, the Orinoco, the Atabapo, the Rio Negro, and the 
Cassiquiare. Here we find granitic and syenitic rocks, which, 
like those of Caicara and Uruana, are covered with colossal 
symbolical figures of crocodiles, tigers, utensils of domestic 
use, signs of the snn and moon, &:c This remote portion of 
the earth is at present wholly uninhabited throughout an 
extent of more than 8000 square miles. The neighbouring 
tribes, who occupy the lowest place in the scale of humanity, 
are naked wandering savages, who could not possibly have 
carved hieroglyphics in stone. A whole range of these rocks 
covered with symbolical signs may be traced from Rupunuri, 
Essequibo, and the mountains of Pacaraima, to the banks of 
the Orinoco and of the Yupura, extending over more than 
eight degrees of longitude. 

These carvings may belong to very different periods of time, 
for Sir Robert Schomburgk even found on the Rio Negro 
representations of a Spanish galliot,* which must necessarily 
have been of a date subsequent to the beginning of the six- 
teenth century, and that in a wilderness where the inhabitants 
were probably as rude then as they now are. But it must not 
be forgotten, as I have already elsewhere observed, that nations 
of very different descent, but in similarly uncivilized • con- 
ditions, possessed of the same disposition to simplify, and 
generalize outlines, and urged by identical inherent mental 
tendencies, may be led to produce similar signs and symbols. f 

At the meeting of the Society of Antiquaries in London a 
memoir was read on the 17th of November, 1836, by Sir 
Robert Schomburgk, " On the religious traditions of the 
Macusi Indians, who inhabit the Upper Mahu, and a portion 
of the Pacaraima mountains," and who have therefore not 
changed their habitation for a century (since the journey of 
the intrepid Hortsmann). " The Macusis," says Sir Robert 
Schomburgk, " believe that the only being who survived a 

* Reisen in Guiana und am Orinoho ubersetzt von Otto Schom- 
burgk, 1841, s. 500. 

t Compare Relation historique, t. ii. p. 589, with Martius, Ueber die 
Physiognomic des Pjianzenreichs in Brasilien, 1824, s. 14. 



general deluge, repeopled the earth by converting stones into 
human beings." This myth, which is the fruit of the lively 
imagination of these tribes, and which reminds us of that of 
Deucalion and Pyrrha, shows itself in a somewhat modified 
form among the Tamanacs of the Orinoco. When these 
people are asked how the human race survived this great 
flood, the age of waters of the Mexicans, they unhesitatingly 
reply, " that one man and one woman were saved by taking 
refuge on the summit of the lofty mountain of Tamanacu, 
on the banks of the Asiveru, and that they then threw over 
their heads the fruits of the Mauritia palm, from the kernels 
of which sprang men and women, who again peopled the 
earth." Some miles from Encaramada there rises in the 
midst of the savannah the rock of Tepu-Mereme; i.e., the 
"painted rock," which exhibits numerous figures of animals 
and symbolical signs, having much resemblance to those 
which we observed at some distance above Encaramada, 
near Caycara, (7° 5' to 7° 40' north lat., and 66° 28' to 
67° 23' west long.) Similarly carved rocks are found be- 
tween the Cassiquiare and the Atabapo (2° 5' to 3° 20' lat.); 
and what is most striking, also 560 miles further eastward in 
the solitudes of the Parime. The last-named fact is proved 
beyond a doubt, by the journal of Nicolas Hortsmann of 
Hildesheim, of which I have seen a copy in the handwriting 
of the celebrated d' Anville. That simple and modest traveller 
WTOte down every day on the spot whatever had struck him as 
worthy of notice ; and his narrative deserves perhaps the more 
confidence from the fact that the great disappointment he ex- 
perienced in having failed in the object of his researches, 
which was the discovery of the Lake of Dorado, with its 
lumps of gold and a diamond mine (which proved to be merely 
rock crystal of a very pure kind), led him to look with a 
certain degree of contempt on all that fell in his way. On the 
bank of the Rupunuri, at the point where the river, winding 
between the Macarana mountains, forms several small cascades ; 
and before reaching the country immediately surrounding 
the Lake of Amucu, he found, on the 16th of April, 1749, 
" rocks covered with figures," or, as he says in Portuguese, 
il de varias letras" (with various letters or characters). We 
were shown, at the rock of Culimacari, on the banks of the 
Cassiquiare, signs said to be characters drawn by line and rule ; 


but they were merely ill-formed figures of the heavenly bodies, 
crocodiles, boa-constrictors, and utensils used in the prepara- 
tion of manioc-meal. I found among these painted rocks 
(pzedras pintadas) neither a symmetrical arrangement nor any 
trace of characters drawn with a regard to regularity in space 
and size. The word " letras" in the journal of the German 
Surgeon (Hortsmann) must not, therefore, I am disposed to 
think, be taken in the strictest sense. 

Schomburgk did not succeed in rinding the rocks observed 
by Hortsmann, but he has described others which he saw on 
the bank of the Essequibo, near the cascade of Waraputa. 
" This cascade," he says, " is celebrated not only for its height, 
but also for the great number of figures hewn in the rock, 
which bear a great resemblance to those that I have seen on 
the island of St. John, (one of the Virgin Islands,) and which I 
consider to be without doubt the work of the Caribs, by whom 
this part of the Antilles was peopled in former times. I made 
the most strenuous efforts to hew away a portion of the rock 
carved with inscriptions, which I was desirous of taking with 
me ; but the stone was too hard, and my strength had been 
wasted by fever. Neither threats nor promises could prevail 
on the Indians to aim a single stroke of the hammer against 
these rocks — the venerable monuments of the culture and 
superior skill of their forefathers. They regard them as the 
w r ork of the Great Spirit; and all the different tribes we met 
were acquainted with them, although living at a great distance. 
Terror was painted on the faces of my Indian companions who 
seemed to expect every moment that the fire of heaven would 
fall on my head. I now saw clearly that all my efforts were 
fruitless, and I was therefore obliged to content myself with 
bringing away a complete drawing of these monuments." 

The last resolution was undoubtedly the best, and the editor 
of the English journal, to my great satisfaction, subjoins in a 
note the remark, " that it is to be wished that others may suc- 
ceed no better than Schomburgk, and that no traveller belong- 
ing to a civilized nation will in future attempt the destruction 
of these monuments of the unprotected Indians." 

The symbolical signs which Sir llobert Schomburgk found 
in the fluvial valley of the Essequibo, near the rapids of 
Waraputa * resemble, indeed, according to his observation 
* Richard Schomburgk, JReisen in Britisch Guiana, th. i. s. 320. 


the genuine Carib carvings of one of the smaller Virgin Islands 
(St. John); but notwithstanding the wide extent of the Carib 
invasions, and the ancient power of that fine race, I cannot 
believe that this vast belt of carved rocks which intersects a 
great portion of South America from west to east, is actually 
to be ascribed to the Caribs. These remains seem rather to be 
traces of an ancient civilization, which may have belonged to 
an epoch when the tribes, whom we now distinguish by vari- 
ous names and races, were still unknown. The veneration 
which is everywhere shown by the Indians for these rude 
carvings of their predecessors, proves that the present races 
have no idea of the execution of similar works. Nay, 
more than this, between Encaramada and Caycara, on the 
banks of the Orinoco, many of these hieroglyphic figures are 
found sculptured on the sides of rocks at a height which can 
now only be reached by means of extremely high scaffolding. 
When asked who can have carved these figures, the natives 
answer with a smile, as if it were a fact of which none but a 
white man could be ignorant, that " in the days of the great 
waters their fatheio sailed in canoes at this height." Here 
we find a geological dream serving as a solution of the pro- 
blem presented by a long extinct civilization. 

I would here be permitted to subjoin a remark, which I 
borrow from a letter addressed to me by Sir Robert Schom- 
burgk, the distinguished traveller alreadv mentioned. M The 
hieroglyphic figures are much more widely extended than 
you probably have conjectured. During my expedition, the 
object of which was the exploration of the river Corentyn, I 
not only observed several gigantic figures on the rock of 
Timeri (4° 30' north lat. and 57° 30' west long ), but I also 
discovered similar ones in the vicinity of the great cataracts 
of the river Corentyn (in 4° 21' 30" north lat. and 57° 55' 30" 
west long.) These figures have been executed more carefully 
than any others which I met with in Guiana. They are 
about 12 feet in height and appear to represent human figures. 
The head-gear is extremely remarkable; it surrounds the 
entire head, spreads far out, and ifc not unlike the glory repre- 
sented round the heads of Saints. I left drawings of these 
images in the colony, which I hope some day to be able to lay 
collectively before the public. I have seen less complete 
figures on the Cuyuwini, a river which, flowing from the 


north-west, empties itself into the Essequibo in 2° 16' north 
lat. ; and I subsequently found similar figures on the Esse- 
quibo itself in 1° 40' north lat. These figures, therefore, as 
appears from actual observations, extend from 7° 10' to 1° 40 7 
north lat., and from 57° 30' to 66° 30' west long. The zone 
(or belt) of the sculptured rocks (as far as it has yet been inves- 
tigated) thus extends over an area of 192,000 square miles, 
and includes within its circuit the basins of the Corentyn, 
Essequibo, and Orinoco — a circumstance that enables us 
to judge of the former population of this portion of the con- 

Remarkable relics of a former culture, consisting of granitic 
vessels ornamented with beautiful representations of laby- 
rinths, and the earthenware forms resembling the Roman 
masks, have been discovered among the wild Indians on the 
Mosquito coast.* I had them engraved in the picturesque 
Atlas appended to the historical portion of my travels. 
Autiquarians are astonished at the resemblance of these al- 
greco vessels to those which embellish the Palace of Mitla 
(near Oaxaca, in New Spain). The large-nosed race, who 
are so frequently sculptured in relief on the Palenque of 
Guatimala and in Aztee pictures, I have never observed in 
Peruvian carvings. Klaproth recollects having noticed that 
the Chalkas, a horde of Northern Mongolia, had similar large 
noses. It is universally known, that many races of the 
North American, Canadian, and copper-coloured Indians, have 
fine aquiline noses, which constitute an essential physiognomical 
mark of distinction between them and the present inhabitants 
of New Granada, Quito, and Peru. Are the large-eyed, fair- 
skinned natives of the north-west coast of America, of whom 
Marchand speaks as living in 54° and 58° north lat., descended 
from the Usuns, an Alano-Gothic race of Central Asia: 

(52) p. 20. — " Deal certain death with a poisoned thumb-nail." 

The Otomacs frequently poison their thumb-nails with 
curare. The mere impress of the nail proves fatal, should the 
curare become mixed with the blood. We have in our pos- 
session the creeping plant, from the juice of which the curare is 
prepared, in the Esmeralda Mission, on the Upper Orinoco, 

* Archceologia Britannica, vol. v. 1779, pp. 318-324; and vol. vi. 
1782, p. 107. 


but, unfortunately, we did not find the plant when in blossom. 
From its physiognomy, it seems to be allied to Strychnos* 

Since I wrote the above notice of the Curare, or Urari, as 
the plant and poison were called by Raleigh, the brothers 
Robert and Richard Schomburgk have rendered important 
service to science by making us accurately acquainted with 
the nature and mode of preparing this substance, which I was 
the first to bring to Europe in any considerable quantity. 
Richard Schomburgk found this creeping plant in flower in 
Guiana, on the banks of the Pomeroon and Sururu, in the 
territory of the Caribs, who are, however, ignorant of the 
mode of preparing the poison. His instructive workf gives 
the chemical analysis of the juice of the Strychnos toxifera, 
which, notwithstanding its name and organic structure, con- 
tains, according to Boussingault, no trace of strychnine. Vir- 
chow's and Munter's interesting physiological experiments 
show that the curare or urari poison does not appear to 
destroy by resorption from without, but chiefly when it is 
absorbed by the animal substance after the separation of the 
continuity of the latter ; . that curare does not belong to tetanic 
poisons; and that it especially produces paralysis, i.e., a ces- 
sation of voluntary muscular movement, while the function 
of the involuntary muscles (as the heart and intestines) con- 
tinues unimpaired. + 

* See my Eclat, historique, t. ii. pp. 547 — 556. 
T Heisen in Britisch Guiana, th. i. s. 441—461. 
X Compare also the older chemical analysis of Boussingault, in the 
Annates de Chimie et Physique, t. xxxix. 1828, pp. 21 — 37. 


Near A hires and May pur es. 

In the preceding section, which I made the subject of an 
Academical Lecture, I have delineated those boundless plains, 
whose natural character is so variously modified by climatic 
relations, that what in one region appear as barren treeless 
wastes or deserts, in another are Steppes or far-stretching 
Prairies. With the Llanos of the southern portion of the 
New Continent, may be contrasted the fearful sandy deserts 
in the interior of Africa ; and these again with the Steppes of 
Central Asia, the habitation of those world- storming herds- 
men, who, once pouring forth from the east, spread barbarism 
and devastation over the face of the earth. 

While on that occasion (1806), I ventured to combine 
many massive features in one grand picture of nature, and 
endeavoured to entertain a public assembly with subjects, 
somewhat in accordance with the gloomy condition of our 
minds at that period, I will now, confining myself to a more 
limited circle of phenomena, pourtray in brighter tints the 
cheerful picture of a luxuriant vegetation, and fluvial valleys 
with their foaming mountain torrents. I will describe two 
scenes of Nature from the wild regions of Guiana, — Attires 
and Maypures, the far-famed Cataracts of the Orinoco, 
— which, previously to my own travels, had been visited by 
few Europeans. 

The impression which is left on the mind by the aspect of 
natural scenery is less determined by the peculiar character 
of the region, than by the varied nature of the light through 


which we view, or mountain or plain, sometimes beaming 
beneath an azure sky, sometimes enveloped in the gloom of 
lowering clouds. Thus, too, descriptions of nature affect 
us more or less powerfully, in proportion as they harmonize 
with the condition of our own feelings. For the physical 
world is reflected with truth and animation on the inner 
susceptible world of the mind. Whatever marks the cha- 
racter of a landscape: the profile of mountains, which in 
the far and hazy distance bound the horizon; the deep 
gloom of pine forests; the mountain torrent, which rushes 
headlong to its fall through overhanging cliffs: ail stand alike 
in an ancient and mysterious communion with the spiritual 
life of man. 

From this communion arises the nobler portion of the 
enjoyment which nature affords. Nowhere does she more 
deeply impress us with a sense of her greatness, nowhere does 
she speak to us more forcibly than in the tropical world, 
beneath the ''Indian sky," as the climate of the torrid zone 
was called in the early period of the Middle Ages. While I 
now, therefore, venture to give a delineation of these regions, 
I am encouraged to hope that the peculiar charm which 
belongs to them will not be unfelt. The remembrance of a 
distant and richly endowed land, the aspect of a free and 
powerful vegetation, refreshes and strengthens the mind; 
even as our soaring spirit, oppressed with the cares of the 
present, turns with delight to contemplate the early dawn of 
mankind and its simple grandeur.* 

Western currents and tropical winds favour the passage 
over that pacific arm of the sea (1) which occupies the 
vast valley stretching between the New Continent and Western 
Africa. Before the shore is seen to emerge from the highly 
curved expanse of waters, a foaming rush of conflicting and 

* Humboldt, in this and other pages of his lecture, addressed, it 
should be remembered, to the citizens of Berlin, in 1806, evidently 
alludes to the troubles of the times. — Ed. 


intermingling waves is observed. The mariner who is un- 
acquainted with this region would suspect the vicinity of 
shoals, or a wonderful burst of fresh springs, such as 
occur in the midst of the Ocean among the Antilles (2). 

On approaching nearer to the granitic shores of Guiana, 
he sees before him the wide mouth of a mighty river, which 
gushes forth like a shoreless sea, flooding the ocean around 
with fresh water. The green waves of the river, which 
assume a milky white hue as they foam over the shoals, con- 
trast with the indigo-blue of the sea, which marks the waters 
of the river in sharp outlines. 

The name Orinoco, which the first discoverers gave to this 
river, and which probably owes its origin to some confusion 
of language, is unknown in the interior of the country. For 
in their condition of animal rudeness, savage tribes only de- 
signate by peculiar geographical names, those objects which 
might be confounded with others. Thus the Orinoco, the 
Amazon, and the Magdalena, are each simply termed The 
River, the Great River, and The Great Water ; whilst, those 
who dwell on the banks of even the smallest streams distin- 
guish them by special names. 

The current produced by the Orinoco between the South 
American Continent and the asphaltic island of Trinidad 
is so powerful, that ships, with all their canvass spread, 
and a westerly breeze in their favour, can scarcely make way 
against it. This desolate and fearful spot is called the 
Bay of Sadness (Golfo Triste), and its entrance the Dragon's 
Mouth {Boca del Drago). Here isolated cliffs rise tower-like 
in the midst of the rushing stream. They seem to mark the 
old rocky barrier (3) which, before it was broken through 
bv the current, connected the island of Trinidad with the coast 
of Paria. 

The appearance of this region first convinced the bold 
navigator Columbus of the existence of an American con- 
tinent. " Such an enormous body of fresh water," concluded 


this acute observer of nature, " could only be collected from 
a river having a long course; the land, therefore, which 
supplied it must be a continent, and not an island." As, 
according to Arrian, the companions of Alexander, when they 
penetrated across the snow-crowned summits of Paropani- 
sus (4), believed that they recognized in the crocodile- 
teeming Indus a part of the Nile,* so Columbus, in his 
ignorance of the similarity of physiognomy which charac- 
terises all the products of the climate of palms, imagined that 
the New Continent was the eastern coast of the far projecting 
Asia. The grateful coolness of the evening air, the ethereal 
purity of the starry firmament, the balmy fragrance of flowers, 
wafted to him by the land breeze — all led him to suppose, (as 
we are told by Herrera, in the Decades (5),) that he was 
approaching the garden of Eden, the sacred abode of our first 
parents. The Orinoco seemed to him one of the four rivers, 
which, according to the venerable tradition of the ancient 
world, flowed from Paradise, to water and divide the surface 
of the earth, newly adorned with plants. This poetical 
passage in the Journal of Columbus, or rather in a letter to 
Ferdinand and Isabella, written from Haiti in October, 1498, 
presents a peculiar psychological interest. It teaches us 
anew, that the creative fancy of the poet manifests itself in 
the discoverer of a world, no less than in every other form of 
human greatness. 

When we consider the great mass of water poured into the 
Atlantic Ocean by the Orinoco, we are naturally led to ask 
which of the South American rivers is the greatest — the 
Orinoco, the Amazon, or the La Plata? The question is as 
indeterminate as the idea of greatness itself. The Rio de la 
Plata has undoubtedly the widest mouth, its width mea- 
suring 92 miles across; but this river, like those of Great 
Britain, is comparatively of but inconsiderable length. Its 
shallowness, too, is so great as to impede navigation at 

* Hist., lib. vi., initio. 


Buenos Ayres. The Amazon, which is the longest of all 
rivers, measures 2880 miles from its rise in the Lake of 
Lauricocha to its estuary. Yet its width in the province 
of Jaen de Bracainoros, near the cataract of Rentama, where 
I measured it at the foot of the picturesque mountain 
of Patachuma, is scarcely equal to that of the Rhine at 

The Orinoco is narrower at its mouth than either the La 
Plata or the Amazon, while its length, according to my 
astronomical observations, does not exceed 1120 geographical 
miles. But in the interior of Guiana, 560 miles from its 
estuary, I found that at high water the width of the river 
measured upwards of 17,265 feet. Its periodical swelling 
here raises the level of the waters every year from 30 to 
36 feet above the lowest water-mark. We are still with- 
out sufficient data for an accurate comparison between the 
enormous rivers which traverse the South American Con- 
tinent. For such a comparison it would be necessary to 
ascertain the profile of the river-bed, as well as the velo- 
city of the water, which varies very considerably at different 

If the Orinoco, in the Delta formed by its variously 
divided and still unexplored branches, as well as in the regu- 
larity of its rise and fall, and in the number and size of its 
crocodiles, exhibits numerous points of resemblance to the 
Nile; there is this further analogy between the two rivers, 
that they for a long distance wind their impetuous way, like 
forest torrents, between granitic and syenitic rocks, till, 
slowly rolling their waters over an almost horizontal bed, 
skirted by treeless banks, they reach the sea. 

An arm of the Nile (the Green Nile, Bahr-el-Azrek), from 
the celebrated mountain lake, near Gondar, in the Gojam 
Alps, in Abyssinia, to Syene and Elephantis, winds its way 
through the mountain range of Schangalla and Sennar; and 
in like manner the Orinoco rises on the southern slope of 


a mountain chain, which stretches between the parallels of 4° 
and 5° north lat., from French Guiana, in a westerly direction 
towards the Andes of New Granada. The sources of the 
Orinoco have never been visited by any European (6), nor 
even by any natives who have held intercourse with Europeans. 

When, in the summer of 1800, we ascended the Upper 
Orinoco, we passed the mission of Esmeralda, and reached the 
mouths of the Sodomoni and the Guapo. Here soars high 
above the clouds, the mighty peak of the Yeonnamari or 
Duida; a mountain which presents one of the grandest spec- 
tacles in the natural scenery of the tropical world. Its alti- 
tude, according to my trigonometrical measurement, is 8278 
(8823 English) feet above the level of the sea. Its southern 
slope is a treeless grassy plain, redolent with the odour of 
pine-apples, whose fragrance scents the humid evening air. 
Among lowly meadow plants rise the juicy stems of the 
anana, whose golden yellow fruit gleams from the midst of a 
bluish green diadem of leaves. Where the mountain springs 
break forth from beneath the grassy covering, rise isolated 
groups of lofty fan-palms, whose leaves, in this torrid region, 
are never stirred by a cooling breeze. 

To the east of the Duida mountain, begins a thicket of wild 
cacao trees, among which are found the celebrated almond 
tree, Bertholletia excelsa, the most luxurious product of a 
tropical vegetation (7). Here the Indians collect colossal 
stalks of grass, whose joints measure upwards of 18 feet from 
knot to knot, which they use as blow-pipes for the discharge 
of their arrows (8). Some Franciscan monks have penetrated 
as far as the mouth of the Chiguire, where the river is already 
so narrow that the natives have suspended over it, near the 
waterfall of the Guaharibes, a bridge woven of the stems of 
twining plants. The Guaicas, of palish complexion and short 
stature, armed with poisoned arrows, oppose all further 
progress eastward. 

Therefore, all that has been advanced to prove that the 


Orinoco derives its source from a lake must be regarded as a 
fable (9). In vain the traveller seeks to discover the Lake 
of El Dorado, which, in Arrowsmith's maps, is set down as 
an inland sea measuring upwards of 20 geographical (80 
English) miles. Can the little reed-covered lake of Amucu, 
near which rises the Pirara (a branch of the Mahu), have 
given rise to this myth? This swamp lies, however, 4° to the 
east of the region in which we may suppose the sources of 
the Orinoco to be situated. Here tradition placed the island 
of Pumacena, a rock of micaceous schist, whose shining 
brightness has played a memorable, and, for the deluded 
adventurers, often a fatal, part in the fable of El Dorado, 
current since the sixteenth century. 

According to the belief of many of the natives, the 
Magellanic clouds of the southern sky, and even the glorious 
nebulae in the constellation Argo, are mere reflections of the 
metallic brilliancy of these silver mountains of the Parime. 
It was besides an ancient custom of dogmatising geographers 
to make all the most considerable rivers of the world originate 
in lakes. 

The Orinoco is one of those remarkable rivers which, after 
numerous windings, first towards the west and then to the 
north, finally return towards the east in such a manner as to 
bring both its estuary and its source into nearly the same 
meridian. From the Chiguire and the Gehette as far 



the Guaviare, the course of the Orinoco inclines westward, as 
if it would pour its waters into the Pacific. Here branches 
off to the south, the Cassiquiare, a remarkable river, but little 
known to Europeans, which unites with the Rio Negro, or as 
the natives call it, the Guainia: furnishing the only example 
of a bifurcation which forms, in the very interior of a continent 
a natural connection between two great river valleys. 

The nature of the soil, and the junction of the Guaviare 
and Atabapo with the Orinoco, cause the latter to deflect 
suddenly northwards. From a want of correct geographi- 


cal data, the Guaviare, flowing in from the west, was long 
regarded as the true source of the Orinoco. The doubts 
advanced since 1797 by an eminent geographer, M. Buache, 
regarding the possibility of a comiection with the Amazon, 
have, I trust, been completely set at rest by my expedition. 
In an uninterrupted voyage of 920 miles, I penetrated through 
a remarkable net- work of rivers, from the Rio Negro, along 
the Cassiquiare, into the Orinoco; across the interior of 
the continent, from the Brazilian boundary to the coast of 

In the upper portion of this fluvial district, between 3° and 
4° north lat., nature has exhibited, at many different points, 
the puzzling phenomenon of the so-called black waters. The 
Atabapo, wmose banks are adorned with Carol mkis and arbo- 
rescent Melastomas, the Temi, Tuamini, and Guainia, are all 
rivers of a brown or coffee colour, which, under the deep 
shade of the palms, assumes a blackish, inky tint. When 
placed in a transparent vessel, the water appears of a golden 
yellow colour. These black streams reflect the images of the 
southern stars with the most remarkable clearness. Where 
the waters flow gently they afford the astronomer, who is 
making observations with reflecting instruments, a most ex- 
cellent artificial horizon. 

An absence of crocodiles as well as of fish — greater coolness 
— less torment from stinging mosquitoes — and salubrity of 
atmosphere, characterize the region of the black rivers. They 
probably owe their singular colour to a solution of carburetted 
hydrogen, to the rich luxuriance of tropical vegetation, and 
to the abundance of plants on the soil over which they flow. 
Indeed, I have observed that on the western declivity of the 
Chimborazo, towards the shores of the Pacific, the over- 
flowing waters of the Rio de Guayaquil gradually assume a 
golden yellow, approaching to a coffee colour, after they have 
covered the meadows for several weeks. 

Near the mouths of the Guaviare and Atapabo grows one 


of the noblest forms of the palm-tree, the Piriguao (10), 
whose smooth stem, which is nearly 70 feet in height, is 
adorned with delicate flag-like leaves having curled margins. 
I know no palm which bears equally large and beautifully 
coloured fruits. They resemble peaches in their blended 
tints of yellow and crimson. Seventy or eighty of these form 
one enormous cluster, of which each stem annually ripens 
three. This noble tree might be termed the peach- palm. 
Its fleshy fruit, owing to the extreme luxuriance of vegetation, 
is generally devoid of seed; and it yields the natives a nu- 
tritious and farinaceous article of food which, like the ba- 
nana and the potato, is capable of being prepared in many 
different ways. 

To this point, that is, as far as the mouth of the Guaviare, 
the Orinoco flows along the southern declivity of the chain of 
the Parime. From its left bank, across the equator, and as 
far as the parallel of 15 c south kit., extends the boundless 
wooded plain of the river Amazon. At San Fernando de Ata- 
bapo the Orinoco, turning off abruptly in a northerly direc- 
tion, intersects a portion of the mountain chain itself. Here 
are the great waterfalls of Atnres and Maypures, and here the 
bed of the river is everywhere contracted by colossal masses of 
rocks, which give it the appearance of being divided by natural 
dams into separate reservoirs. 

At the entrance of the Meta stands, in the midst of an 
enormous whirlpool, an isolated rock, which the natives very 
aptly term the "P.ock of Patience," because when the 
waters are low, it sometimes retards for two whole days 
the ascent of the navigator. Here the Orinoco, biting deep 
into its shores, forms picturesque rocky bays. Opposite the 
Indian mission of Carichana, the traveller is surprised by a 
most remarkable prospect. Involuntarily his eye is arrested 
by a steep granite rock, "El Mogote de Cocuyza," a cubi- 
form mass, which rises precipitously to a height of more than 
200 feet • and whose summit is crowned with a luxuriant forest. 



Like a Cyclopic monument of simple grandeur, this bold pro- 
montory towers high above the tops of the surrounding palms, 
cutting the deep azure of the sky with its strongly marked 
outlines, and lifting, as it were, forest upon forest. 

On descending beyond Carichana, the traveller arrives at 
a point where the river has opened itself a passage through 
the narrow pass of Baraguan. Here we everywhere recog- 
nise traces of chaotic devastation. To the north, towards 
Uruana and Encaramada, rise granite rocks of grotesque 
appearance, which, in singularly formed crags of dazzling 
whiteness, gleam brightly from amidst the surrounding groves. 

At this point, near the mouth of the Apure, the stream 
leaves the granitic chain, and flowing eastward, separates as 
far as the Atlantic, the impenetrable forests of Guiana from 
the Savannahs, on whose far distant horizon the vault of 
heaven seems to rest. Thus the Orinoco surrounds on the 
south, west, and north, the high mountain chain of the Parime, 
which occupies the vast space between the sources of the Jao 
and of the Caura. No cliffs or rapids obstruct the course of 
the river from Carichana to its mouth, excepting, indeed, the 
"Hell's Mouth" (Boca del Inferno) near Muitaco, a whirlpool 
occasioned by rocks, as at Atures and Maypures, which does 
not, however, block up the whole breadth of the stream. In 
this district, which is contiguous to the sea, the only dangers 
encountered by the boatmen arise from the natural timber- 
floats, against which canoes are often wrecked at night. 
These floats consist of forest trees which have been uprooted 
and torn away from the banks by the rising of the waters. 
They are covered, like meadows, with blooming water-plants, 
and remind us of the floating gardens of the Mexican lakes. 

After this brief glance at the course of the Orinoco and its 
general features, I pass to the waterfalls of Maypures and 

From the high mountain-group of Cunavami, between the 
sources of the rivers Sipapo and Ventuari, a granite ridge pro- 


jects to the far west towards the mountain of Uniama. From 
this ridge descend four streams, which mark, as it were, the 
limits of the cataracts of Maypures ; two bound Sipapo and 
Sanariapo, on the eastern shore of the Orinoco ; and two the 
Cameji and Toparo, on the western side. At the site of the 
missionary village of Maypures the mountains form a wide bay 
opening towards the south-west. 

Here the stream rushes foaming down the eastern declivity 
of the mountain, while far to the west traces remain of the 
ancient and now forsaken bank of the river. An extensive 
Savannah stretches between the two chains of hills, at an 
elevation of scarcely 30 feet above the upper water-level of the 
river, and here the Jesuits have erected a small church formed 
of the trunks of palms. 

The geognostical aspect of this region, the insular form of 
the rocks of Keri and Oco, the cavities worn in the former by 
the current, and which are situated at exactly the same level 
as those in the opposite island of Uivitari; all these indica- 
tions tend to prove that the Orinoco once filled the whole of 
this now dried-up bay. It is probable that the waters formed 
a wide lake, as long as the northern dam withstood their 
passage. When this barrier gave way, the Savannah now 
inhabited by the Guareke Indians emerged as an island. The 
river may perhaps long after this have continued to surround 
the rocks of Keri and Oco, which now picturesquely project, 
like castellated fortresses, from its ancient bed. After the 
gradual diminution of the waters, the river withdrew wholly 
to the eastern side of the mountain chain. 

This conjecture is confirmed by various circumstances. 
Thus, for instance, the Orinoco, like the Nile at Philee and 
Syene, has the singular property of colouring black the red- 
dish-white masses of granite, over which it has flowed for 
thousands of years. As far as the waters reach one observes on 
the rocky shore a leaden-coloured manganeseous and perhaps 
carbonaceous coating which has penetrated scarcely one- 
Mi 2 


tenth of a line into the stone. This black coloration, and 
the cavities already alluded to, show the former water level 
of the Orinoco. 

These black cavities may be traced at elevations of from 
160 to 192 feet above the present level of the river on 
the rocks of Keri, in the islands of the cataracts; in the 
gneiss-like hills of Cumadanimari, which extend above the 
island of Tomo ; and lastly at the mouth of the Jao. Their 
existence proves, what indeed we learn from all the river- 
beds of Europe, that those streams which still excite our 
admiration by their magnitude, are but inconsiderable re- 
mains of the immense masses of water belonging to a former 

These simple facts have not escaped even the rude natives 
of Guiana. Everywhere the Indians drew our attention to 
these traces of the ancient water-level. Nay, in a Savannah 
near Uruana there rises an isolated rock of granite, which, 
according to the testimony of persons worthy of credit, exhi- 
bits at an elevation of between 80 and 90 feet, a series of 
figures of the sun and moon, and of various animals, especially 
crocodiles and boa-constrictors, graven, almost in rows. At 
the present day this perpendicular rock, which well deserves 
the careful examination of future travellers, cannot be ascended 
without the aid of scaffolding. In a similarly remarkable 
elevated position, the traveller can trace hieroglyphic characters 
carved on the mountains of Uruana and Encaramada. 

If the natives are asked how these characters could have 
been graven there, they answer that it was done in former 
times, when the waters were so high that their fathers' 
canoes floated at that elevation. Such lofty condition of the 
water level must therefore have been coeval with these rude 
memorials of human skill. It indicates an ancient distribu- 
tion of land and water over the surface of the globe widely 
different from that which now exists ; but which must not be 
confounded with that condition when the primeval vegetation 


of our planet, the colossal remains of extinct terrestrial 
animals, and the oceanic creatures of a chaotic world, found 
one common grave in the indurating crust of our earth. 

At the most northern extremity of the cataracts our atten- 
tion is attracted by what are called the natural representations 
of the Sun and Moon. The rock of Keri, to which I have 
more than once referred, derives its name from a glistening 
white spot seen at a considerable distance, and in which the 
Indians profess to recognize a striking resemblance to the 
disc of the full moon. I was not myself able to climb this 
precipitous rock, but it seems probable that the white spot is a 
large knot of quartz, formed by a cluster of veins in the 
greyish-black granite. 

Opposite to the Keri rock, on the twin mountain of the 
island of Uivitari, which has a basaltic appearance, the Indians 
point, with mysterious admiration, to a similar disc, which 
they venerate as the image of the Sun, Camosi. The geogra- 
jmical position of these two rocks may have contributed to. 
their respective appellations, for I found that Keri was turned 
towards the west, and Camosi towards the east. Some 
etymological inquirers have thought they could recognize an 
analogy between the American word Camosi and the word 
Camosh, a name applied in one of the Phoenician dialects to 
the sun, and identical with the Apollo Chomeus or Beel- 
phegor and Amun. 

The lofty falls of Niagara, which are 150 feet in height, 
derive their origin, as is well known, from the combined pre- 
cipitation of one enormous mass of water. Such, however, 
is not the case with respect to the cataracts of Maypures, nor 
are they narrow straits or passes through which the stream 
rushes with increasing velocity, like the Pongo of Man- 
sericlie on the Amazon, but rather to be regarded as a 
countless number of small cascades succeeding each other 
like steps. The Randal, (as the Spaniards term this kind of 
cataract,) is formed by an archipelago of islands and rocks, 


which so contract the bed of the river that its natural width 
of more than 8500 feet is often reduced to a channel scarcely 
navigable to the extent of 20 feet. At the present day the 
eastern side is far less accessible and far more dangerous 
than the western. 

At the mouth of the Cameji the boatmen unload their cargo 
that they may leave the empty canoe, or, as it is here called, 
the Piragua, to be piloted by Indians "well acquainted with 
the Kaudal, as far as the mouth of the Toparo, where all 
danger is supposed to be past. Where the rocks or shelvy 
ledges, (each of which has its particular name.) are not above 
two or three feet in height, the natives venture to shoot the 
rapid with their canoes. When, however, they have to 
ascend the stream, they swim in advance of the piragua, and 
after much labour, and, perhaps, many unsuccessful efforts, 
succeed in throwing a rope round a point of rock project- 
ing above the breakers, and by this means draw the canoe 
against the stream, which, in this arduous operation, is often 
water-logged, or upset. 

Sometimes the canoe is dashed to pieces on the rock, and 
this is the only danger the natives fear. With bleeding 
bodies they then strain every nerve to escape the fury of the 
whirlpool and swim to land. Where the rocky ledges are 
very high and form a barrier by extending across the entire 
bed of the river, the light canoe is hauled to land and 
dragged for some distance along the shore on branches of 
trees which serve the purpose of rollers. 

The most celebrated and most perilous ledges are those of 
Purimarimi and Manimi, which are between nine and ten feet 
in height. It was with surprise I found, by barometrical 
measurements, that the entire fall of the Jtaudal, from the 
mouth of the Cameji to that of the Toparo, scarcely amounted 
to more than 30 or 32 feet. (A geodesic levelling is not 
practicable, owing to the inaccessibility of the locality and the 
pestiferous atmosphere, which swarms with mosquitoes.) I say 


With surprise, for I hence discovered that the tremendous roar 
and wild dashing of the stream arose from the contraction of 
its bed by numerous rocks and islands, and the counter-currents 
produced by the form and position of the masses of rock. 
The truth of my assertion regarding the inconsiderable height 
of the whole fall will be best verified by observing the cata- 
racts, in descending to the bed of the river, from the village 
of Maypures, across the rocks of Manimi. 

At this point the beholder enjoys a most striking and won- 
derful prospect. A foaming surface, several miles in length, 
intersected with iron-black masses of rock projecting like 
battlemented ruins from the waters, is seen at one view. 
Every islet and every rock is adorned with luxuriant forest 
trees. A perpetual mist hovers over the watery mirror, and 
the summits of the lofty palms pierce through the clouds of 
vapoury spray. When the rays of the glowing evening 
sun are refracted in the humid atmosphere, an exquisite 
optical illusion is produced. Coloured bows appear, vanish, 
and re-appear, while the ethereal picture dances, like an ignis 
fatuus, with every motion of the sportive breeze. 

During the long rainy seasons, the falling waters carry down 
quantities of vegetable mould, which accumulating, form islands 
of the naked rocks ; adorning the barren stone with blooming 
beds of Melastomes and Droseras, silver-leaved Mimosce, and 
a variety of ferns. They recal to the mind of the European 
those groups of vegetation which the inhabitants of the Alps 
term courtils, blocks of granite bedecked with flowers which 
project solitarily amid the Glaciers of Savoy. 

In the blue distance the eye rests on the mountain chain of 
Cunavami, a far-stretching chain of hills which terminates 
abruptly in a sharply truncated cone. We saw this conical 
hill, called by the Indians Calitamini, glowing at sunset as if 
in crimson flames. This appearance daily returns. No one 
has ever been in the immediate neighbourhood of this 
mountain. Possibly its dazzling brightness is produced 


by the reflecting surface of decomposing talc, or mica 

During the five days that we passed in the neighbourhood 
of the cataracts, we were much struck by the fact that the 
roar of the rushing torrent was three times as great by 
night as by day. The same phenomenon is observed in all 
European waterfalls. To what can we ascribe this effect in a 
solitude where the repose of nature is undisturbed? Pro- 
bably to ascending currents of warm air, which producing an 
unequal density of the elastic medium, obstruct the propa- 
gation of sound by displacing its waves ; causes which cease 
after the nocturnal cooling of the earth's surface. 

The Indians showed us traces of ruts caused by wheels. 
They speak with wonder of the horned cattle, (oxen,) which 
at the period of the Jesuit missions used to draw the 
trucks, that conveyed the canoes, along the left shore of the 
Orinoco, from the mouth of the Cameji to that of the Toparo. 
The canoes at that time were transported without the dis- 
charge of their cargoes, and were not as now injured by being 
constantly dragged over sharp-pointed rocks, or stranded. 

The topographical plan which I have sketched of the locality, 
shews that a canal might be opened between the Cameji 
and the Toparo. The valley in which these two abundantly 
watered rivers flow is a gentle level ; and the canal, of which I 
suggested a plan to the Governor-General of Venezuela, would 
become a navigable arm of the Orinoco, and supersede the 
old and dangerous bed of the river. 

The Raudal of Atures is exactly similar to that of 
Maypures, like which it consists of a cluster of islands between 
■which the river forces itself a passage extending from 18,000 
to 24,000 feet. Here too a forest of palm trees rises from 
the midst of the foaming surface of the waters. The most 
celebrated ledges of the cataract are situated between the 
islands of Avaguri and Javariveni, between Suripamana and 


When M. Bonpland and myself were returning from the 
banks of the Rio Negro, we ventured to pass the latter, that 
is the lower half, of the Raudal of Atures in our loaded 
canoe. We several times disembarked to climb over rocks, 
which, like dykes, connected one island with another. At 
one time the water shoots over these dykes ; at another it falls 
into their cavities with a deafening hollow sound. In some 
places considerable portions of the bed of the river are per- 
fectly dry, in consequence of the stream having opened for 
itself a subterranean passage. In this solitude the golden- 
coloured Rock Manakin {Pipra rwpicola) builds its nest. 
This bird, which is as pugnacious as the East India cock, 
is one of the most beautiful birds of the tropics, and is re- 
markable for its double moveable crest of feathers with which 
its head is decorated. 

In the Raudal of Canucari the dyke is formed of piled-up 
granitic boulders. We crept into the interior of a cavern, 
whose humid walls were covered with conferva3 and phos- 
phorescent Byssus. The river rushed over our heads with a 
terrible and stunning noise. By accident we had an oppor- 
tunity of contemplating this grand scene longer than we 
desired. The Indian boatmen had left us in the middle 
of the cataract, to take the canoe round a small island, 
at the other extremity of which, after a considerable cir- 
cuit, we were to re -embark. For an hour and a half we 
remained exposed to a fearful thunder- storm. Night was 
approaching, and we in vain sought shelter in the fissures 
of the rocks. The little apes which we had carried with 
us for months in wicker cages, attracted by their plain- 
tive cries large crocodiles, whose size and leaden-grey colour 
indicated their great age. I should not have alluded to the 
appearance of these animals in the Orinoco, where they are 
of such common occurrence, were it not that the natives had 
assured us that no crocodiles had ever been seen among 
the cataracts ; indeed, on the strength of that assertion, we 


had repeatedly ventured to bathe in this portion of the 

Meanwhile our anxiety increased every moment, lest, 
drenched as we were and deafened by the thundering roar of 
the falling waters, we should be compelled to spend the long 
tropical night in the midst of the Raudal. At length, however, 
the Indians made their appearance with our canoe. Their 
delay had been occasioned by the inaccessibility of the steps 
they had to descend, owing to the low state of the water; 
which had obliged them to seek in the labyrinth of channels 
a more practicable passage. 

Near the southern entrance of the Raudal of Atures, on the 
right bank of the river, lies the cavern of Ataruipe, so 
celebrated among the Indians. The surrounding scenery has 
a grand and solemn character, which seems to mark it as a 
national burial-place. With difficulty, and not without danger 
of being precipitated into the depths below, we clambered 
a steep and perfectly bare granite rock, on whose smooth 
surface it would be hardly possible to keep one's footing were 
it not for large crystals of feldspar, which, defying the action 
of weather, project an inch or more from the mass. 

On gaining the summit, a wide prospect of the surrounding 
country astonishes the beholder. From the foaming bed of 
the river rise hills richly crowned with woods, while beyond 
its western bank the eye rests on the boundless Savannah 
of the Meta. On the horizon loom like threatening clouds 
the mountains of Uniama. Such is the distant view; but 
immediately around all is desolate and contracted. In the 
deep ravines of the valley moves no living thing save where 
the vulture and the whirring goat-sucker wing their lonely 
way, their heavy shadows gleaming fitfully past the barren 

The cauldron-shaped valley is encompassed by mountains, 
whose rounded summits bear huge granite boulders, measuring 
from 40 to more than 50 feet in diameter. They appear 


poised on only a single point of their surface, as if the slightest 
shock of the earth would hurl them down. 

The further side of this rocky valley is thickly wooded. It 
is in this shady spot that the cave of the Ataruipe is situated; 
properly speaking, however, it is not a cave, but a vault 
formed by a far projecting and overhanging cliff, — a kind of 
bay hollowed out by the waters when formerly at this high level. 
This spot is the grave of an extinct tribe (11). We counted 
about six hundred well-preserved skeletons, placed in as many 
baskets, formed of the stalks of palm-leaves. These baskets, 
called by the Indians mapires, are a kind of square sack 
varying in size according to the age of the deceased. Even 
new-born children have each their own mapire. These 
skeletons are so perfect, that not a rib or a finger is wanting. 

The bones are prepared in three different ways : some are 
bleached, some dyed red with onoto, the pigment of the Bixa 
Orellana; others like mummies, are anointed with fragrant 
resin and wrapped in banana leaves. 

The Indians assured me that the corpse was buried during 
several months in a moist earth, which gradually destroyed the 
flesh ; and that after being disinterred, any particles of flesh 
still adhering to the bones were scraped off with sharp 
stones. This practice is still continued among many tribes of 
Guiana. Besides these baskets or mapires, we saw many 
urns of half-burnt clay, which appear to contain the bones of 
whole families. The largest of these urns are upwards of 
three feet in height and nearly six feet in length, of an elegant 
oval form, and greenish colour; with handles shaped like 
crocodiles and serpents, and the rims bordered with flowing 
scrolls and labyrinthine figures. These ornaments are pre- 
cisely similar to those which cover the walls of the Mexican 
palace at Mitla. They are found in eveiy clime and every 
stage of human culture, — among the Greeks and Romans, no 
less than on the shields of Otaheitans, and other South Sea 
islanders, — in all regions where a rhythmical repetition of 


regular forms delights the eye. The causes of these resem- 
blances, as I have explained elsewhere, are rather to be refer- 
red to psychical conditions, and to the inner nature of our 
mental qualifications, than as affording evidence in favour of 
a common origin and the ancient intercourse of nations.* 

Our interpreters could give us no certain information re- 
garding the age of these vessels ; but that of the skeletons did 
not in general appear to exceed a hundred years. There is a 
legend amongst the Guareke Indians, that the brave Atures, 
when closely pursued by the cannibal Caribs, took refuge on 
the rocks of the cataracts, — a mournful place of abode, in 
which this oppressed race perished, together with its lan- 
guage! (12) In the most inaccessible portion of the Kaudal 
other graves of the same character are met with ; indeed it is 
probable that the last descendants of the Atures did not 
become extinct until a much more recent period. There still 
lives and it is a singular fact, an old parrot in Maypures which 
cannot be understood, because, as the natives assert, it speaks 
the language of the Atures ! 

We left the cave at nightfall, after having collected, 
to the extreme annoyance of our Indian guides, several 
skulls and the perfect skeleton of an aged man. One of 
these skulls has been delineated by Blumenbach in his ad- 
mirable craniological work;f but the skeleton, together with 
a large portion of our natural history collections, especially the 
entomological, was lost by shipwreck off the coast of Africa 
on the same occasion when our friend and former travelling 
companion, the young Franciscan monk, Juan Gonzalez, 
lost his life. 

As if with a presentiment of this painful loss, we turned 
from the grave of a departed race with feelings of deep emo- 

* This subject is elaborately discussed in Heeren's various works. — 

+ Blumenbach, Collectiones sace Craniorum diversarum gentium, &c, 
4to, Gotting., 1798-1828. -Ed. 


tion. It was one of those clear and deliciously cool nights 
so frequent beneath the tropics. The moon stood high in the 
zenith, encircled by a halo of coloured rings, her rays gilding 
the margins of the mist, which in well defined outline hovered 
like clouds above the foaming flood. Innumerable insects 
poured their red phosphorescent light over the herb-covered 
surface, which glowed with living fire, as though the starry 
canopy of heaven had sunk upon the grassy plain. Climbing 
Bignonia, fragrant Vanillas, and golden-flowered Banisterias, 
adorned the entrance of the cave, while the rustling palm- 
leaves waved over the resting-place of the dead. 

Thus pass away the generations of men! — thus perish the 
records of the glory of nations ! Yet when every emanation 
of the human mind has faded — when in the storms of time the 
monuments of man's creative art are scattered to the dust — 
an ever new life springs from the bosom of the earth. Un- 
ceasingly prolific nature unfolds her germs, — regardless 
though sinful man, ever at war with himself, tramples beneath 
his foot the ripening fruit ! 


(1) p. 154 — "Across that pacific arm of the sea." 

The Atlantic Ocean, between the parallels of 23° south 
lat. and 70° north lat., has the form of a furrowed longitudinal 
valley, in which the advancing and receding angles are oppo- 
site to each other. I first developed this idea in my work 
entitled Essai dim Tableau Geologique de VAmerique meri- 
dionale, which was published in the Journal de Physique, t. 
liii. p. 61.* From the Canary Isles, especially from 21° 
north lat., and 23 3 west long., to the north-east coast of South 
America, the surface of the ocean, is so calm, and the waves 
so gentle, that an open boat might navigate it in safety. 

(2) p. 155 — "Fresh springs among the Islands of the Antilles." 

On the southern coast of the Island of Cuba, south-west of 
the harbour of Batabano, in the Gulf of Xagua, at a distance 
of eight to twelve miles from the shore, springs of fresh water 
gush from the bed of the ocean, probably from the action of 
hydrostatic pressure. The jet is propelled with such force 
that boats use extreme caution in approaching this spot, which 
is well known for its counter current producing a heavy 
swell. Trading vessels sailing along the coast, which do 
not purpose putting into port, sometimes visit these springs, 
in order to provide themselves, in the midst of the ocean, with 
a supply of fresh water. The freshness of the water increases 
with the depth from which it is drawn. River cows {Tri- 
checus manati), which do not generally inhabit salt water, are 
frequently killed here. This singular phenomenon (the fresh 
springs), of which no mention had hitherto been made, was 
most accurately investigated by my friend, Don Francisco 
Lemaur, who made a trigonometrical survey of the Bahia de 
Xagua. I did not myself visit Xagua, but remained in the 
insular group situated further to the south (the so-called 
Jar dines del Meg), to make astronomical determinations of 
their latitude and longitude. 

(3) p. 155 — "Ancient rocky bar?*ier." 

Columbus, whose unwearied spirit of observation was di- 
* Gilbert's Annalen der Physik, bd. xvi. 1804, s. 394—449. 


rected on every side, proposes in his letters to the Spanish 
monarchs, a geognostic hypothesis regarding the configura- 
tion of the larger Antilles. Being fully impressed with the 
idea of the strength of the Equinoctial current, which has often 
a westerly direction, he ascribes to it the disintegration of the 
group of the smaller Antilles, and the singularly lengthened 
configuration of the southern coasts of Porto Rico, Haiti, Cuba, 
and Jamaica, all of which follow almost exactly the direction of 
parallels of latitude. On his third voyage (from the end of 
May, 1498, to the end of November, 1500), when, from the 
Boca del Drago to the Island of Margarita, and afterwards 
from that island to Haiti, he felt the whole force of the equi- 
noctial current, " that movement of the waters which accords 
with the movement of the heavens — movimiento de los cielos" 
he says expressly that the violence of the current has torn the 
Island of Trinidad from the mainland. He refers the sove- 
reigns to a chart which he sends them — a "pintura de la 
tierra" drawn by himself, to which frequent reference is made 
in the celebrated lawsuit against Don Diego Colon respecting 
the rights of the first Admiral. " Es la carta de niarear y 
figura que hizo el Almirante senalando los rumbos y vientos 
por los quales vino a Paria, que dicen parte del Asia."* 

(4) p. 156 — "Across the snow-crowned Paropanisus." 

In Diodorus' description of the Paropanisus,f we seem to 
recognise a delineation of the Peruvian chain of the Andes. 
The army passed through inhabited districts in which snow 
daily fell ! 

(5) p. 156 — "Herrera in his Decades." 

Historia general de las Indias Occidentales, Dec. i. lib. iii. 
cap. 12 (ed. 1601, p. 108); Juan Batista Munoz, Historia del 
Nuevo Mundo, lib. vi. c. 31, p. 301; Humboldt, Examen 
Crit., t. iii. p. 111. 

(6) p. 158 — " The Sources of the Orinoco have never been 

visited by any European." 

Thus I wrote respecting these sources in the year 1807, in 

* Navarrete, Viages y Descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los 
Espanoles, t. i. pp. 253, 260; t. iii. pp. 539, 587. 
f Diodor. Sicul. ; lib. xvii. p. 553 (Ehodom.) 


the first edition of the Ansichten der Natur, and I repeat with 
equal truth the same statement after an interval of forty-one 
years. The travels of the brothers Robert and Richard 
Schornburgk, so important in reference to all departments of 
natural science and geography, have established other and 
more interesting facts; but the problem of the situation of 
the sources of the Orinoco has been only partially solved 
by Sir Robert Schomburgk. M. Bonpland and myself ad- 
vanced from the west as far as Esmeralda, or the con- 
fluence of the Orinoco with the Guapo ; and I was enabled, 
by the aid of well-attested information, to describe the 
upper course of the Orinoco to above the mouth of the 
Gehette, and to the small waterfall (Raudal) de los Gua- 
haribos. From the east Sir Robert Schomburgk, proceed- 
ing from the mountains of the Majonkong Indians, the 
inhabited portion of which he estimated by the boiling point 
of water to be 3517 feet in height, succeeded in reaching the 
Orinoco by the Padamo River, which the Majonkongs and 
Guinaus (Guaynas?) call Parainu.** I had placed this con- 
fluence of the Padamo with the Orinoco in my Atlas, in 
3° 12' N. lat., and 65° 46' W. long. . but Schomburgk found it 
by direct observation in 2° 53' lat. and 65° 48' W. long. The 
main object of this traveller's journey was not ' natural 
history,' but the solution of the prize question proposed by 
the Royal Geograjmical Society of London, in November, 
1834, — on the connection of the coast of British Guiana with 
the easternmost point which I had reached on the Upper Ori- 
noco. After undergoing many sufferings, this object was tho- 
roughly achieved. Robert Schomburgk reached Esmeralda, 
with his instruments, on the 22nd of February, 1839. His 
determinations of the latitude and longitude of the place 
agreed more closely with mine than I had anticipated. Let us 
here allow the observer to speak for himself: — " Words are in- 
adequate to describe the feelings which overwhelmed me when 
I sprang on shore. My object was attained; my observations, 
begun on the coast of Guiana, were brought into connection 
with those of Humboldt at Esmeralda, and I freelv admit 
that at a time when my physical powers had almost entirely 
deserted me, and when I was surrounded by dangers and dif- 
ficulties of no ordinary kind, the recognition which I hoped 
* Eeisen in Guiana, 1841, s. 448. 


for from him, was the sole inducement which inspired me 
with a fixed determination to press forward towards the 
goal which I had now reached. The emaciated figures of 
my Indian companions and my faithful guides proclaimed 
more fully than any words could do, what difficulties we had 
had to surmount, and had surmounted." After citing ex- 
pressions so gratifying, I must be permitted to subjoin 
the opinions I expressed regarding this great undertaking 
promoted by the Royal Geographical Society of London, in my 
Preface to the German edition of Robert Schomburgk's Ac- 
count of his Travels, published in 1841. " Immediately 
after my return from Mexico, I indicated the direction and 
the routes by which the unknown portion of the South 
American Continent between the sources of the Orinoco, the 
mountain chain of Pacaraima, and the sea-shore near Esse- 
quibo, might be explored. These wishes, so strongly expressed 
in the personal narrative of my journey, have at length, after 
the lapse of nearly half a century, been for the most part 
fulfilled. I rejoice that I have been spared to see so important 
an enlargement of our geographical knowledge ; I rejoice too in 
seeing a courageous and well-conducted enterprise, requiring 
the most devoted perseverance, executed by a young man, 
to whom I feel bound no less by the ties of similarity of pur- 
suits than those of country. These circumstances were alone 
able to overcome the aversion and disinclination which I en- 
tertain, perhaps unjustly, for introductory prefaces by a dif- 
ferent hand than that of the author himself. But I could 
not resist the impulse of expressing thus publicly my sincere 
esteem for the accomplished traveller who, led on by the 
meritorious idea of penetrating from east to west, from the 
Valley of the Essequibo to Esmeralda, has succeeded, after 
five years of efforts and of sufferings (the extent of which 
I well appreciate from my own experience), in attaining 
the object of his ambition. Courage for the sudden accom- 
plishment of a hazardous undertaking is easier to find, and 
implies less inward strength, than the resolution to endure 
with resignation long-continued physical sufferings, excited 
by absorbing mental interest; and still to press forward, un- 
dismayed by the certainty of having to retrace his steps 
under equally great privations and with enfeebled powers. 
Serenity of mind, which is almost the first requisite for an 



enterprise in inhospitable regions, a passionate love for any 
department of scientific labour (be it natural history, astro- 
nomy, hypsometrics, or magnetism), a pure feeling for the 
enjoyment which nature is capable of imparting, are elements 
which, when they combine together in one individual, ensure 
valuable results from a great and important journey." 

I will preface my consideration of the question of the 
sources of the Orinoco with my own conjectures in relation 
to the subject. The perilous route travelled in 1739 by the 
surgeon Nicolas Hortsmann, of Hildesheim; in 1775 by the 
Spaniard Don Antonio Santos, and his friend Nicolas Rodri- 
guez; in 1793 by the Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Regiment 
of the Line of Para, Don Francisco Jose Rodriguez Barata ; 
and (according to manuscript maps, for which I am indebted 
to the former Portuguese Ambassador in Paris, Chevalier de 
Brito) by several English and Dutch settlers, who in 1811 
travelled from Surinam to Para by the portage of the Rupu- 
nuri and by the Rio Branco; — divides the terra incognita of 
the Parime into two unequal parts, and serves to mark the 
position of a very important point in the geography of those 
regions — viz., the sources of the Orinoco, which it is no 
longer possible to remove to an indefinite distance towards 
the east, without intersecting the bed of the Rio Branco, 
which flows from north to south through the fluvial district of 
the Upper Orinoco ; while this portion of the great river itself 
pursues for the most part a direction from east to west. The 
Brazilians, since the beginning of the present century, have 
from political motives manifested a vivid interest in the ex- 
tensive plains east of the Rio Branco.* Owing to the 
position of Santa Rosa on the Uraricapara, whose course ap- 
pears to have been pretty accurately determined by Portu- 
guese engineers, the sources of the Orinoco cannot be situated 
east of the meridian of 63° 8' west long. This is the eastern 
limit beyond which they cannot be placed, and taking into con- 
sideration the state of the river at the Raudal de los Gua- 
haribos (above Cano Chiguire, in the country of the strikingly 
fair- skinned Guaycas Indians, and 52' east of the great Cerro 

* See the Memoir which I drew up at the request of the Portuguese 
Government, in 1817, " Snr la fixation des limites des Guyanes Fran- 
faise ct Portuguaise." Schoell, Archives historiques et politiques. ou 
JRecueil de Pieces officielles, Memoires, d-c. t. i. 1818, pp. 48 — 58. 


Duida), it appears to me probable that the Orinoco in its 
upper part does not extend, at the utmost, beyond the meri- 
dian of 64° 8' west long. This point is, according to my 
combinations, 4° 12' west of the little lake of Amucu, which 
was reached by Sir Robert Schomburgk. 

I will now detail the conjectures of that traveller, after 
having first given my own earlier ones. According to him 
the course of the Upper Orinoco, to the east of Esme- 
ralda, is directed from south-east to north-west ; my estima- 
tions of latitude for the mouths of the Padamo and the 
Gehette appear to be respectively 19' and 36' too small, 
Schomburgk conjectures that the sources of the Orinoco 
are situated in lat. 2° 30 7 , and the fine " Map of Guayana, 
to illustrate the route of R. H. Schomburgk," which accom- 
panies the splendid English work entitled Views in the Inte- 
rior of Guiana, places its geographical sources in 64° 56' 
west long., i.e., 1° 6' west of Esmeralda, and only 48' of 
longitude nearer to the Atlantic than I had determined the 
position of this point. Astronomical combinations led Schom- 
burgk to place the mountain of Maravaca, which is about ten 
thousand feet high, in 3° 41' lat. and 65° 48' west long. The 
Orinoco was scarcely three hundred yards wide near the 
mouth of the Padamo or Paramu, and more to the west, where 
it expands to a width of from four to six hundred yards, it 
was so shallow, and so full of sandbanks, that the expedition 
was obliged to dig channels, as the river bed was only fifteen 
inches deep. Fresh- water dolphins were still to be seen 
in great numbers everywhere — a phenomenon which the 
zoologists of the eighteenth century would not have expected 
to find in the Orinoco and the Ganges. 

(7) p. 158 — " The most luxurious product of a tropical 


The Bertholletia excelsa (Juvia), of the* family of Myrtaceae 
(and placed in Richard Schomburgk' s proposed division of 
Lecythidese), was first described in Plantes Equinoxiales, 
t. i. 1808, p. 122, tab. 36. This colossal and magnificent 
tree offers, in the perfect development of its cocoa-like, round, 
close-grained, woody fruit, inclosing the three-cornered and 
also woody seed-vessels, the most remarkable example of 
luxuriant organic development. The Bertholletia grows in 

N 2 


the forests of the Upper Orinoco, between the Padamo ana 
the Ocamu, in the vicinity of the mountain of Mapaya, as 
well as between the rivers Aniaguaca and Gehette.* 

(8) p. 158 — " Grass stalks, whose joints measure upwards of 
eighteen feet from knot to knot.' 1 '' 

Robert Schomburgk, when visiting the small mountainous 
country of the Majonkongs, on his route to Esmeralda, was 
fortunate enough to determine the species of Arundinaria, 
which furnishes the material for these blowing-tubes. He 
says of this plant: ' ; It grows in large tufts, like the bambusa; 
the first joint rises, in the old cane, without a knot, to a 
height of from 16 to 17 feet before it begins to bear leaves. 
The entire height of the Arundinaria, growing at the foot of 
the great mountain-cluster of Maravaca, is from 30 to 40 feet, 
with a thickness of scarcely half an inch in diameter. The 
top is always inclined ; and this species of grass is peculiar to 
the sandstone mountains between the Ventuari, the Paramu 
(Padamo), and the Mavaca. The Indian name is Curata, and, 
therefore, from the excellence of these celebrated long blowing- 
tubes, the Majonkongs and Guinaus of these districts have 
acquired the name of the Curata nation."! 

(9) p. 159 — "Fabulous origin of the Orinoco from a lake." 

The lakes of these regions (some of which are wholly 
imaginary, while the real size of others has been much exag- 
gerated by theoretical geographers) may be divided into two 
groups. The first of these groups comprise those situate 
between Esmeralda (the most easterly mission on the Upper 
Orinoco), and the Rio Branco; to the second, belong the lakes 
presumed to exist in the district between the Rio Branco aud 
French, Dutch, and British Guiana. This general view, of 
which travellers should never lose sight, proves that the ques- 
tion of whether there is another Lake Parime eastward of the 
Rio Branco, besides the Lake Amucu, seen by Hortsmann, 
Santos, Colonel Barata, and Schomburgk, has nothing whatever 
to do with the problem of the sources of the Orinoco. As 
the name of my distinguished friend the former Director 
of the Hydrographic Office at Madrid, Don Felipe Bauza, is 

* Relation historique, t. ii. pp. 474—496, 558—562. 
+ Reisen in Guiana und am Orinoko, 451. 


of great weight in questions of geography, the impartiality 
which ought to influence every scientific investigation makes 
it incumbent on me to mention that this learned man Avas 
inclined to the view that there must be lakes west of the 
Rio Branco, at no great distance from the sources of the 
Orinoco. He wrote to me from London shortly before his 
death, " I wish you were here that I might converse with 
you respecting the geography of the Upper Orinoco, which 
has occupied you so much. I have been fortunate enough to 
rescue from entire destruction the papers of the General of 
Marine, Don Jose Solano, father of the Solano who perished in 
so melancholy a manner at Cadiz. These documents relate to 
the settlement of the boundary line between the Spaniards and 
Portuguese, with which Solano had been charged since 1 754, 
in conjunction with the Escadre Chef Yturriaga and Don 
Vicente Doz. In all these plans and sketches I find a Laguna 
Parirne sometimes as a source of the Orinoco, and sometimes 
as wholly detached from it. Are we then to assume that 
there is another lake further eastward to the north-east of 

Loffling, the celebrated pupil of Linnaeus, accompanied the 
last-named expedition to Cumana in the capacity of botanist. 
He died on the 22nd of February, 1756, at the mission of 
Santa Eulalia de Murucuri (somewhat to the south of the 
confluence of the Orinoco and Caroni), after traversing the 
missions on the Piritu and Caroni. The documents of which 
Bauza speaks are the same as those on which the great map 
of De la Cruz Olmedilla is based. They have served as the 
foundation of all the maps of South America, which appeared 
in England, France, and Germany, before the end of the last 
century; and have also served for the two maps executed in 
1756 by Father Caalin, the historiographer of Solano's ex- 
pedition, and by M. de Surville, Keeper of the Archives in 
the Secretary of State's Office at Madrid, who was but an un- 
skilful compiler. The contradictions abounding in these 
maps show the little reliance that can be placed on the results 
of this expedition. Nay more, Father Caulin, above referred 
to, acutely details the circumstances which gave rise to this 
fable of the lake of Parime ; and the map of Surville, which 
accompanies his work, not only restores this lake, under 
the name of the White Lake, and the Mar Dorado, but indi- 
cates another smaller one, from which flow partly by means 


of collateral branches, the Orinoco, Siapa, and Ocamo. I was 
able to convince myself on the spot of the following facts well 
known in the missions; that Don Jose Solano did not do 
more than cross the cataracts of Atures and Maypures ; that 
he did not reach the confluence of the Guaviare and the 
Orinoco in 4° 3' north lat., and 68° 9 1 west long.; and that 
the astronomical instruments of the boundary expedition were 
neither carried to the isthmus of the Pimichin and the Rio 
Negro, nor to the Cassiquiare ; and even on the Upper Orinoco, 
not beyond the mouth of the Atabapo. This vast extent 
of territory was not made the scene of any accurate observa- 
tions before my journey, and has subsequently to Solano's 
expedition been traversed only by some few soldiers who had 
been sent on exploring expeditions ; while Don Apolinario de 
Fuente, whose journal I obtained from the archives of the 
province of Quixos, has gathered without discrimination every- 
thing from the fallacious narratives of the Indians that could 
flatter the credulity of the Governor Centurion. No member 
of the expedition had seen a lake, and Don Apolinario was 
unable to advance beyond the Cerro Yumarique and Gehette. 
Although a line of separation, formed by the basin of the 
Rio Branco, is now established throughout the whole extent of 
the country, to which we are desirous of directing the inquiring 
zeal of travellers, it must yet be admitted, that our geo- 
graphical knowledge of the district west of this valley between 
62° and 66° long., has made no advance whatever for at least 
a century. The repeated attempts made by the Government 
of Spanish Guiana since the expeditions of Iturria and Solano, 
to reach and to pass over the Pacaraima Mountains, have 
been attended by very unimportant results. AVhen the 
Spaniards, in proceeding to the missions of the Catalonian 
capuchins of Barceloneta, at the confluence of the Caroni and 
the Rio Paragua, ascended the last-named river southward to 
its junction with the Paraguamusi, they founded at this 
point the mission of Guirion, which, at first, bore the 
pompous appellation of Ciudad de Guirion. I place it in 
about 4° 3$ north latitude. From thence the Governor 
Centurion, in consequence of the exaggerated accounts given 
by two Indian chiefs, Paranacare and Arimuicapi, respect- 
ing the powerful tribe of the Ipurucotos, was excited to 
search for 'El Dorado,' and in carrying what were then 
called spiritual conquests still further, founded, beyond the 


Pacaraima Mountains, the two villages of Santa Rosa and 
San Bautista de Caudacacla. The former was situate on 
the upper eastern bank of the Uraricapara, a tributary of 
the Uraricuera, which I find in the journal of Rodriguez under 
the name of the Rio Curaricara; the latter, at from 24 to 28 
miles further east-south-east. The astronomo-geographer of 
the Portuguese Boundary Commission, Captain Don Antonio 
Pires de Sylva Pontes Leme, and the Captain of Engineers, Don 
Ricardo Franco d' Almeida de Serra, who between 1787 and 
1804, surveyed with the greatest care the whole course of the 
Rio Branco and its upper tributaries, call the most western 
part of the Uraricapara, " The Valley of Inundation." They 
place the Spanish mission of Santa Rosa in 3° 46' north lat., 
and mark the route that leads from thence northward across 
the mountain chain to the Caiio Anocapra, a branch of the 
Paraguamusi, which forms a connecting passage between the 
basin of the Rio Branco and that of the Caroni. Two maps 
of these Portuguese officers, embracing all the details of the 
trigometrical survey of the bends of the Rio Branco, the 
Uraricuera, the Tacutu, and the Mahu, were most kindly 
communicated to Colonel Lapie and myself by the Count o 
Linhares. These valuable unpublished documents, of which 
I have availed myself, are still in the hands of the learned 
geographer, who long since began to have them engraved at 
his own expense. The Portuguese sometimes call the whole 
of the Rio Branco by the name of Rio Parime, and sometimes 
limit this appellation to one branch only, the Uraricuera, some- 
what below the Cano Mayari and above the old mission of San 
Antonio. As the words Paragua and Parime alike imply water, 
great water, lake, and sea, we cannot wonder at finding them 
so often repeated among tribes living at great distances 
from each other; as, for instance, by the Omaguas on the 
Upper Maranon, by the Western Guaranis, and by the 
Caribs. In all parts of the world, as I have already re- 
marked, large rivers are called by those who live on 
their banks " the River," without any specific denomination. 
Paragua, the name of a branch of the Caroni, is also the term 
applied by the natives to the Upper Orinoco. The name 
Orinucu is Tamanakish; and Diego de Ordaz first heard it 
used in the year 1531, when he ascended to the mouth of the 
Meta. Besides the Valley of Inundation above mentioned 


we find other large pieces of water between the Rio Xuinuru 
and the Parime. One of these bavs is a branch of the Tacutu, 
and the other of the Uraricuera. Even at the base of the Paca- 
raima Mountains the rivers are subject to great periodical 
overflowings ; and the Lake Ainucu, of which we shall subse- 
quently speak more fully, exhibits exactly the same character 
at the commencement of the plains. The Spanish missions, 
-Santa Rosa and San Bautista de Caudacacla, or Cayacaya, 
founded in the years 1770 and 1773, by the Governor Don 
Manuel Centurion, were destroyed before the close of the last 
century ; and since that time, no new attempt has been made 
to advance from the basin of the Caroni to the southern 
declivity of the Pacaraima Mountains. 

The territory east of the valley of the Rio Branco has of 
late years been made the subject of several successful explor- 
ations. Mr. Hillhouse navigated the Massaruni as far as the 
Bay of Caranang, whence, as he says, a path would lead 
the traveller, in two days, to the source of the Massaruni; 
and, in three days, to the tributaries of the Rio Branco. 
With respect to the windings of the great river Massaruni, 
described by Mr. Hillhouse, he himself observes, in a letter 
addressed to me from Demerara, 1st January, 1831, that 
" the Massaruni, reckoning from its sources, flows first to the 
West, then for one degree of latitude to the north ; afterwards 
nearly 200 miles eastward; and, finally, to the north and 
north-north-east till it merges in the Essequibo." As Mr. 
Hillhouse was unable to reach the southern declivity of the 
Pacaraima chain, he was not acquainted with the Amucu Lake ; 
and he says himself, in his printed report, that "from the 
accounts given him by the Accaouais, who are continually 
traversing the country between the shore and the Amazon 
River, he is convinced there is no lake in this district." This 
assertion occasioned me some surprise, as it was directly 
opposed to the views I had previously formed regarding the 
Lake Amucu, from which flows the Cano Pirara, according to 
the accounts given by the travellers Hortsinann, Santos, and 
Rodriguez (and which had inspired me with the more confi- 
dence, because they entirely coincide with the recent Portu- 
guese manuscript charts). Finally, after five years of expec- 
tation, Schomburgk's journey has removed all farther doubt. 

" It is difficult to believe," says Mr. Hillhouse, in his inte- 


resting memoir on the Massaruni, " that the tradition of a 
large inland sea is wholly unfounded. According to my 
views, the following circumstance may have given rise to the 
belief in the existence of the fabulous lake of the Parime. At 
some distance from the rocky fall of Teboco the waters of the 
Massaruni present to the eye as little motion as the calm 
surface of a lake. If at a more or less remote period the hori- 
zontal granitic strata of Teboco had been totally compact and 
without fissures, the waters must have been at least 50 feet 
above their present level, and there would have been formed 
an immense lake 10 or 12 miles in width, and 1500 or 2000 
miles in length."-'* The extent of this supposed inundation 
is not the only reason which prevents me from acceding to this 
explanation; for I have seen plains (Llanos), where, during the 
rainy season, the overflowing of the tributaries of the Orinoco 
annually covered a surface of 6400 square miles. The laby- 
rinth of ramifications between the Apure, Arauca, Capanaparo, 
and Sinaruco (see maps 17 and 18 of my Physical Atlas), is 
then wholly lost sight of; the configuration of the river beds 
can no longer be traced, and the whole appears like one vast 
lake. But the locality of the fabulous Dorado, and of the 
Lake Parime, belongs historically to quite a different part of 
Guiana, namely, that lying south of the Pacaraima mountains. 
This myth of the White Sea and of the Dorado of the Parime, 
has arisen, as I endeavoured thirty years ago to show in 
another work, from the appearance of the micaceous rocks of 
the Ucucuamo, the name Rio Parime (Rio Branco), the inun- 
dations of the tributaries; and especially from the existence of 
the lake Amucu, which is in the neighbourhood of the Rio 
Rupunuwini (Rupunuri), and is connected by means of the 
Pirara with the Rio Parime. 

I have had much pleasure in finding that the travels of 
Sir Robert Schomburgk have fully corroborated these early 
views. The section of his map which gives the course of the 
Essequibo and of the Rupunuri is quite new, and of great 
importance in a geographical point of view. It places the Paca- 
raima chain between 3° 52' and 4° north lat., while I had given 
its mean direction from 4° to 4° 10'. The chain reaches the 
confluence of the Essequibo and Rupunuri in 3° 57' north lat., 
and 58° 1' west longitude; I had placed it half a degree too 
* Nouvelles Annates des Voyages, 1836, Sept. p. 316. 


far to the north. Schomburgk calls the last-named river 
Rupununi, according to the pronunciation of the Macusis; 
and gives as the synonymes Rupunuri, Rupunuwini and 
Opununy, which have arisen from the difficulty the Carib 
tribes of these districts find in pronouncing the letter 
"r." The position of the lake Amucu and its relations 
to the Mahu (Maou) and Tacutu (Tacoto) correspond per- 
fectly with my map of Colombia drawn in 1825. We agree 
equally well regarding the latitude of the lake of Amucu, 
for while he places it in 3° 33 A , I considered it to be in 3° 35'; 
the Cano Pirara (Pirarara) which connects the Amucu with 
the Rio Branco, flows from it towards the north, and not to 
the west as I had marked it. The Sibarana of my map, the 
sources of which Hortsmann placed to the north of the Cerro 
TJcucuamo near a fine mine of rock crystal, is the Siparuni 
of Schomburgk' s inap. His Waa-Ekuru is the Tavaricaru of 
the Portuguese geographer Pontes Leme, and is the branch 
of the Rupunuri which lies the nearest to the lake of Amucu. 
The following remarks from the report of Sir Robert 
Schomburgk throw some light on the subject in question. 
" The lake of Amucu," says this traveller, "is without doubt 
the nucleus of the Lake of Parime and of the supposed White 
Sea. In December and January, when we visited it, it was 
scarcely a mile in length, and was half covered with reeds." 
The same observation occurs on D'Anville's map of 1748. 
" The Pirara flows from the lake to the W.N.W. of the Indian 
village of Pirara and falls into the Maou or Mahu. The last- 
named river rises, according to the information given me, north 
of the ridge of the Pacaraima mountaius, which in their eastern 
portion do not attain a greater elevation than about 1600 feet. 
The sources of the river are on a plateau, from whence it 
is precipitated in a beautiful waterfall, known as the Corona. 
We were on the point of visiting this fell,-, when on the third 
day of our excursion to the mountains, the indisposition of 
one of my companions compelled me to return to the station at 
the lake Amucu. The Mahu has black coffee-coloured water, 
and its current is more impetuous than that of the Rupunuri. 
In the mountains through which it pursues its course it is 
about 60 yards in breadth. Its environs are here extremely 
picturesque. This valley as well as the bank of the Buroburo, 
which flows into the Siparuni, are inhabited by the Macusis. 


In April the whole Savannahs are overflowed, and then 
present the peculiar phenomenon of the waters belonging to 
two different river basins commingling together. It is pro- 
bable that the vast extent of this temporary inundation may- 
have given rise to the fable of the lake of Parime. During 
the rainy season a water communication is formed in the inte- 
rior of the country between the Essequibo, the Rio Branco, 
and the Gran Para. Some groups of trees, rising like Oases 
on the sand-hills of the Savannahs, present, at the time of 
the inundation, the appearance of islands scattered over a 
lake ; and these are without doubt the Ipomucena islands of 
Don Antonio Santos." 

In D'Anville's manuscripts, which his heirs kindly allowed 
me to examine, I find that Hortsmann of Hildesheim, who 
described these districts with great care, saw a second Alpine 
lake, which he places two day's journey above the con- 
fluence of the Mahu with the Rio Parime (Tacutu?). It is 
a black water lake, situated on the summit of a mountain. 
He explicitly distinguishes it from the lake of Amucu, which 
he describes as " covered with rushes." The descriptions given 
by Hortsmann and Santos coincide with the Portuguese manu- 
script maps of the Marine Bureau at Rio Janeiro, in not 
indicating the existence of an uninterrupted connection be- 
tween the Rupunuri and the lake of Amucu. In D'Anville's 
maps of South America, the rivers are better drawn in the 
first edition published in 1748, than in the more exten- 
sively circulated one of 1760. Schomburgk's travels fully con- 
firm the independence of the basin of the Rupunuri and 
Essequibo ; but he draws attention to the fact that, during the 
rainy season, the Rio Waa-Ekuru, a tributary of the Rupunuri, 
is in connection with the Cano Pirara. Such is the condition 
of these river-channels, which are still but little developed, and 
almost entirely without separating ridges. 

The Rupunuri and the village of Anai, 3° 56' north latitude, 
58° 34' west longitude, are at present recognised as the political 
boundaries between the British and Brazilian domains in these 
desert regions. Sir Robert Schomburgk w r as compelled by 
severe illness to make a protracted stay at Anai. He bases 
his chronometrical determinations of the position of the lake 
of Amucu on the mean of many lunar distances, east and 
west, which he measured during his sojourn at Anai. His 


determinations of longitude for these points of the Parime are 
in general one degree more east than those in my map of 
Colombia. While I am far from calling in question the result 
of these lunar observations taken at Anai, I may be allowed 
to observe that the calculation of these distances is of im- 
portance, when it is desired to carry the comparison from the 
lake of Amucu to Esmeralda, which I found in 66° 19' west 

Thus then we see the great Mar de la Parima, (which it was 
so difficult to remove from our maps, that even after my return 
from America it was still supposed to be 160 miles in length,) 
reduced by recent investigations to the lake of Amucu, mea- 
suring only two or three miles in circumference. The illu- 
sions entertained for nearly two hundred years, and which in 
the last Spanish expedition, in 1775, for the discovery of 
El Dorado, cost several hundred lives, have finally terminated 
by enriching geography with some few results. In the year 
1512 thousands of soldiers perished in the expedition, under- 
taken by Ponce de Leon, to discover the " Fountain of Youth,'' 
on one of the Bahama Islands, called Binimi, wdiich is hardly 
to be found on any of our maps. This expedition led to 
the conquest of Florida, and to the knowledge of the great 
oceanic current, or gulf- stream, which flows through the 
Straights of Bahama. The thirst after gold, and the desire of 
rejuvenescence — the Dorado and the Fountain of Youth — 
stimulated, to an almost equal extent, the passions of man- 

(10) p. 161 — " The Piriguao, one of the noblest forms of 

the Palm:'' 

Compare Humboldt, Bonpland, and Kunth, Nova Genera 
Plantarum, and Plant, aquinoct., t. i. p. 315. 

(11) p. 171 — " The grave of an extinct racer 

During my stay in the forests of the Orinoco, researches 
w r ere being made, by royal command, in reference to these 
bone-caves. The missionary of the cataracts had been falsely 
accused of having discovered in these caves treasures which 
the Jesuits had concealed there prior to their flight. 

(12) p. 172 — " When his language perished icith him:'' 

The parrot of the Atures has been made the subject of a 


charming poern by my friend Professor Ernst Curtius, the tutor 
of the promising young Prince Friedrick Wilhelm of Prussia. 
The author will forgive me for closing the present section of 
the " Views of Nature" with this poem, which was not de- 
signed for publication, and was communicated to me by 


Where, through deserts wild and dreary, 

Orinoco dashes on, 
Sits a Parrot old and weary, 

Like a sculptur'd thing of stone. 

Through its rocky barriers flowing, 
Onward rolls the foaming stream ; 

Waving palms on high are glowing 
In the sun's meridian beam. 

Ceaselessly the waves are heaving, 

Sparkling up in antic play; 
While the sunny rays are weaving 

Rainbows in the feathery spray. 

Where yon billows wild are breaking, 

Sleerjs a tribe for evermore, 
Who, their native land forsaking, 

Refuge sought on this lone shore. 

As they lived, free, dauntless ever, 

So the brave Aturians died ; 
And the green banks of the river 

All their mortal relics hide. 

Yet the Parrot, ne'er forgetting 

Those who loved him, mourns them still; 
On the stone his sharp beak whetting, 

While the air his wailiners fill. 

*s k 

Where are now the youths who bred him, 
To pronounce their mother tongue, — 

Where the gentle maids who fed him, 
And who built his nest when young? 


All, alas! are lifeless lying, 

Stretch'd upon their grassy bed; 

Nor can all his mournful crying, 
E ? er awake the slumbering dead. 

Still he calls with voice imploring, 
To a world that heeds him not; 

Nought replies but waters roaring — 
No kind soul bewails his lot. 

Swift the savage turns his rudder, 
When his eyes the bird behold; 

None e'er saw without a shudder 
That Aturian Parrot old ! 




If the faculty of appreciating nature, in different races of 
man, and if the character of the countries they now inhabit, 
or have traversed in their earlier migrations, have more or 
less enriched the respective languages by appropriate terms, 
expressive of the forms of mountains, the state of vegetation, 
the appearances of the atmosphere, and the contour and 
grouping of the clouds, it must be admitted that by long 
use and literary caprice many of these designations have been 
diverted from the sense they originally bore. Words have 
gradually been regarded as synonymous, which ought to have 
remained distinct; and languages have thus lost a portion of 
the expressiveness and force which might else have imparted 
a physiognomical character to descriptions of natural scenery. 
As an evidence of the extent to which a communion with 
nature, and the requirements of a laborious nomadic life, 
may enrich language, I would recall the abundance of 
characteristic denominations employed in Arabic and Persian, 
to distinguish plains, steppes, and deserts (1), according as 
they are entirely bare, covered with sand, or intersected by 
tabular masses of rock; or as they are diversified by spots 
of pasture land and extended tracts of social plants. The 
old Castilian dialects are no less remarkable (2) for the 
copiousness of their terms descriptive of the physiognomy 
of mountains, especially in reference to those features which 
recur in all regions of the earth, and which proclaim afar 


off the nature of the rock. As the declivities of the Andes 
and the mountainous parts of the Canaries, the Antilles, 
and the Philippines, are all inhabited by races of Spanish 
descent; and as the nature of the soil has there influ- 
enced the mode of life of the inhabitants to a greater de- 
gree than in other parts of the world, excepting perhaps in 
the Himalaya and the Thibetian Highlands; so also the 
designations expressive of the forms of mountains in trachytic, 
basaltic, and porphyritic districts, as well as in schistose, 
calcareous, and sandstone formations, have been happily 
preserved in daily use. Under such circumstances, newly 
formed words become incorporated with the common stock. 
Speech acquires life from everything which bears the true im- 
press of nature, whether it be by the definition of sensuous 
impressions received from the external world, or by the expres- 
sion of thoughts and feelings that emanate from our inner 

In descriptions of natural phenomena, as Avell as in the 
choice of the expressions employed, this truth to nature 
should be especially kept in view. The object will be the 
best attained by simplicity in the narration of whatever we 
have ourselves observed and experienced-, and by closely 
examining the locality with which the subject-matter is con- 
nected. Generalisation of physical views, and the enumera- 
tion of results, belong principally to the study of the Cosmos, 
which, indeed, must still be regarded as an inductive science ; 
but the vivid delineation of organic forms (animals and 
plants.) in their picturesque and local relations to the multi- 
form surface of the earth, although limited to a small section 
of terrestrial life, still affords materials for this study. It 
acts as a stimulus to the mind wherever it is capable of 
appreciating the great phenomena of nature in an aesthetic 
point of view. 

To these phenomena belongs especially the boundless forest 
district which, in the torrid zone of South America, con- 


connects the river basins of the Orinoco and the Amazon. 
This region deserves, in the strictest sense of the word, to 
be called a primeval forest — a term that has, in recent times, 
been so frequently misapplied. Primeval (or primitive), as 
applied to a forest, a nation, or a period of time, is a word of 
rather indefinite signification, and generally but of relative 
import. If every wild forest, densely covered with trees, on 
which man has never laid his destroying hand, is to be re- 
garded as a primitive forest, then the phenomenon is common 
to many parts both of the temperate and the frigid zones ; if, 
however, this character consists in impenetrability, through 
which it is impossible to clear with the axe, between trees 
measuring from 8 to 1 2 feet in diameter, a path of any length, 
primitive forests belong exclusively to tropical regions. This 
impenetrability is by no means, as is often erroneously 
supposed in Europe, always occasioned by the interlaced 
climbing " lianes," or creeping plants, for these often consti- 
tute but a very small portion of the underwood. The chief 
obstacles are the shrub-like plants which fill up every space 
between the trees, in a zone where all vegetable forms have 
a tendency to become arborescent. If travellers, the moment 
they set foot in a tropical region, and even while on islands, 
in the vicinity of the sea-coast, imagine that they are within 
the precincts of a primeval forest, the misconception must 
be ascribed to their ardent desire of realizing a long-cherished 
wish. Every tropical forest is not primeval forest. I have 
scarcely ever used the latter term in the narrative of my 
travels; although, I believe, that of all investigators of nature 
now living, Bonpland, Martius, Poppig, Robert and Richard 
Schomburgk, and myself, have spent the longest period of 
time in primeval forests in the interior of a great continent. 

Notwithstanding the striking richness of the Spanish 
language in designations, (descriptive of natural objects, 
of which I have already spoken), yet one and the same word 
monte is employed for a mountain and a forest, for cerro 


(montana), and for selva. In a work on the true breadth 
and the greatest extension of the chain of the Andes towards 
the east, I have shown how this two-fold signification of the 
word monte has led to the error, in a fine and extensively 
circulated English map of South America, of marking ranges 
of high mountains in districts occupied only by plains. 
Where the Spanish map of La Cruz Olmedilla, which formed 
the basis of so many others, indicated Cacao Woods, Moiv?s 
de Cacao (3), Cordilleras were supposed to exist, although 
the Cacao-tree affects only the hottest of the low lands. 

If we comprehend, in one general view, the woody region 
which embraces the whole of South America, between the 
grassy plains of Venezuela (Jos Llanos de Caracas') and the 
Pampas of Buenos Ayres, lying between 8° north and 19° 
south latitude, we perceive that this connected Hyl&a of the 
tropical zone is unequalled in extent by any other on the 
surface of the earth. Its area is about twelve times that of 
Germany. Traversed in all directions by rivers, some of 
whose direct and indirect tributary streams (as well those of 
the second as of the first order) surpass the Danube and 
Rhine in the abundance of their waters, it owes the won- 
derful luxuriance of its vegetation to the two-fold influence 
of great humidity and high temperature. In the temperate 
zone, particularly in Europe and Northern Asia, forests may 
be named from particular genera of trees which grow toge- 
ther as social plants (pkmtce sociales), and form separate 
woods. In the Oak, Pine, and Birch forests of the northern 
regions, and in the Linden or Lime Woods of the east- 
ern, there usually predominates only one species of Amen- 
tacese, Coniferoe or Tiliaceoe; while sometimes a single 
sjjecies of Piniferce is intermixed with trees of deciduous 
foliage. Such uniformity of association is unknown in tro- 
pical forests. The excessive variety of their rich sylvan 
flora renders it vain to ask, of what do the primeval forests 
consist. Numberless families of plants are here crowded 


together ; and even in small spaces, plants of the same species 
are rarely associated. Every day, and with every change 
of place, new forms present themselves to the traveller's 
attention ; often flowers, beyond his reach, although the shape 
of the leaf and the ramifications of the plant excite his 

The rivers, with their innumerable branches, are the only 
means of traversing the country. Astronomical observations, 
or in the absence of these, determinations by compass of the 
bends of the rivers, between the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, 
and the Rio Negro, have shewn that two lonely mission- 
stations might be situated only a few miles apart, and yet 
the monks thereof, in visiting each other would require a 
day and a half to make the passage in their hollow- tree 
canoes, along the windings of small streams. The most 
striking evidence of the impenetrability of some portions of 
these forests, is afforded by a trait in the habits of the 
American tiger, or panther-like Jaguar. While the intro- 
duction of European horned cattle, horses, and mules, has 
yielded so abundant a supply of food to the beasts of prey in 
the extensive grassy and treeless plains of Varinas, Meta, and 
Buenos Ayres ; that these animals, (owing to the unequal 
contest between them and their prey,) have considerably 
increased since the discovery of America; other individuals 
of the same species lead a toilsome life in the dense forests 
contiguous to the sources of the Orinoco. The distressing 
loss of a large mastiff, the faithful companion of our travels, 
while we were bivouacking near the junction of the Cassiquiare 
with the Orinoco, induced us on our return from the insect- 
swarming Esmeralda, to pass another night on the same spot 
(uncertain whether he was devoured by a tiger) where we 
had already long sought him in vain. We again heard in the 
immediate neighbourhood the cries of the Jaguar, probably 
the very same animal to which we owed our loss. As the 
cloudy state of the sky rendered it impossible to conduct 

o 2 


astronomical observations, we made our interpreter {lenguaraz) 
repeat to us what the natives, our boatmen, related of the 
tigers of the country. 

The so called black Jaguar is, as we learnt, not unfrequently 
found among them. It is the largest and most blood-thirsty 
variety, and has a dark brown skin marked with scarcely dis- 
tinguishable black spots. It lives at the foot of the mountain 
ranges of Maraguaca and Unturan. " The love of wandering, 
and the rapacity of the Jaguars," said our Indian narrator, one 
of the Durimond tribe; " often lead them into such impene- 
trable thickets of the forest, that they can no longer hunt on the 
ground, and then live for a long time in the trees — the terror 
of the families of monkeys, and of the prehensile-tailed viverra. 

The journal which I wrote at the time in German, and 
from which I borrow these extracts, was not entirely exhausted 
in the narrative of my travels (published in French). It 
contains a circumstantial description of the nocturnal life of 
animals ; I might say, of their nocturnal voices in the tropical 
forests. And this sketch seems to me to be especially adapted 
to constitute one of the chapters of the Vieics of Nature. That 
which is written down on the spot, or soon after the impres- 
sion of the phenomena has been received, may at least claim 
to possess more freshness than what is produced by the recol- 
lection of long passed events. 

We reached the bed of the Orinoco by descending from 
west to east along the Rio Apure, whose inundations I have 
noticed in the sketch of the Deserts and Steppes. It was the 
period of low water, and the average breadth of the Apure 
was only a little more than 1200 feet; while the Orinoco, 
at its confluence with the Apure (near the granite rocks of 
Curiquima, where I was able to measure a base-line), was 
still upwards of 12,180 feet. Yet this point (the rock of 
Curiquima,) is 400 miles in a straight line from the sea and 
from the delta of the Orinoco. Some of the plains, watered by 


the Apure and the Payara, are inhabited by Yaruros and 
Achaguas, who are called savages in the mission-villages 
established by the monks, because they will not relinquish 
their independence. In reference to social culture, they 
however occupy about the same scale as those Indians, who, 
although baptized and living "under the bell" (baxo la cam- 
panct), have remained strangers to every form of instruction 
and cultivation. 

On leaving the Island del Diamante, where the Zambos, 
who speak Spanish, cultivate the sugar-cane, we entered into 
a grand and wild domain of nature. The air was filled with 
countless flamingoes {Phcenicopterus) and other water-fowl, 
which seemed to stand forth from the blue sky like a dark 
cloud in ever- varying outlines. The bed of the river had here 
contracted to less than 1000 feet, and formed a perfectly 
straight canal, which was inclosed on both sides by thick 
woods. The margin of the forest presents a singular spectacle. 
In front of the almost impenetrable wall of colossal trunks of 
Csesalpinia, Cedrela, and Desmanthus, there rises with the 
greatest regularity on the sandy bank of the river, a low 
hedge of Sauso, only four feet high; it consists of a small 
shrub, Hermesia castanifolia, which forms a new genus (4) of 
the family of Euphorbiacese. A few slender, thorny palms, 
called by the Spaniards Piritu and Corozo (perhaps species 
of Mariinezia or Bactris) stand close alongside ; the whole 
resembling a trimmed garden hedge, with gate-like openings 
at considerable distances from each other, formed undoubtedly 
by the large four-footed animals of the forests, for convenient 
' access to the river. At sunset, and more particularly at 
break of day, the American Tiger, the Tapir, and the 
Peccary (Pecari, Dicotyles) may be seen coming forth from 
these openings accompanied by their young, to give them 
drink. When they are disturbed by a passing Indian canoe, 
and are about to retreat into the forest, they do not attempt 
to rush violently through these hedges of Sauso, but proceed 


deliberately along the bank, between the hedge and river, 
affording the traveller the gratification of watching their 
motions for sometimes four or five hundred paces, until they 
disappear through the nearest opening. During a seventy- 
four days' almost uninterrupted river navigation of 1520 
miles up the Orinoco, to the neighbourhood of its sources, 
and along the Cassiquiare, and the Rio Negro — during the 
whole of which time we were confined to a narrow canoe — 
the same spectacle presented itself to our view at many 
different points, and, I may add, always with renewed excite- 
ment. There came to drink, bathe, or fish, groups of crea- 
tures belonging to the most opposite species of animals; the 
larger mammalia with many-coloured herons, palamedeas with 
the proudly- strutting curassow (Crax Alec tor, C. Pauxi). "It 
is here as in Paradise" {es conio en el Paradiso), remarked with 
pious air our steersman, an old Indian, who had been brought 
up in the house of an ecclesiastic. But the gentle peace of 
the primitive golden age does not reign in the paradise of 
these American animals, they stand apart, watch, and avoid 
each other. The Capybara, a cavy (or river-hog) three or 
four feet long (a colossal repetition of the common Brazilian 
cavy, (Cavia Aguti), is devoured in the river by the crocodile, 
and on the shore by the tiger. They run so badly, that we 
were frequently able to overtake and capture several froni 
among the numerous herds. 

Below the mission of Santa Barbara de Arichuna we passed 
the night as usual in the open air, on a sandy flat, on the 
bank of the Apure, skirted by the impenetrable forest. We 
had some difficulty in finding dry wood to kindle the fires 
with which it is here customary to surround the bivouac, as 
a safeguard against the attacks of the Jaguar. The air was 
bland and soft, and the moon shone brightly. Several croco- 
diles approached the bank; and I have observed that fire 
attracts these creatures as it does our crabs and many other 
aquatic animals. The oars of our boats were fixed upright 


in the ground, to support our hammocks. Deep stillness pre- 
vailed, only broken at intervals by the blowing of the fresh- 
water dolphins (5), which are peculiar to the river net- work 
of the Orinoco (as, according to Colebrooke, they are also to 
the Ganges, as high up the river as Benares) ; they followed 
each other in long tracks. 

After eleven o'clock, such a noise began in the contiguous 
forest, that for the remainder of the night all sleep was impos- 
sible. The wild cries of animals rung through the woods. 
Among the many voices which resounded together, the Indians 
could only recognise those which, after short pauses, were 
heard singly. There was the monotonous, plaintive, cry of 
the Aluates (howling monkeys), the whining, flute-like notes 
of the small sapajous, the grunting murmur of the striped 
nocturnal ape (6) (Nyctipithecus trivirgatus, which I was the 
first to describe), the fitful roar of the great tiger, the Cuguar 
or maneless American lion, the peccary, the sloth, and a host 
of parrots, parraquas (OrtaMdes), and other pheasant-like 
birds. Whenever the tigers approached the edge of the forest, 
our dog, who before had barked incessantly, came howling to 
seek protection under the hammocks. Sometimes the cry of 
the tiger resounded from the branches of a tree, and was 
then always accompanied by the plaintive piping tones of the 
apes, who were endeavouring to escape from the unwonted 

If one asks the Indians why such a continuous noise is heard 
on certain nights, they answer, with a smile, that " the 
animals are rejoicing in the beautiful moonlight, and cele- 
brating the return of the full moon." To me the scene 
appeared rather to be owing to an accidental, long- continued, 
and gradually increasing conflict among the animals. Thus, 
for instance, the jaguar will pursue the peccaries and the tapirs, 
which, densely crowded together, burst through the barrier of 
tree-like shrubs which opposes their flight. Terrified at the 
confusion, the monkeys on the tops of the trees join their 


cries with those of the larger animals. This arouses the tribes 
of birds who build their nests in communities, and suddenly 
the whole animal world is in a state of commotion. Further 
experience taught us, that it was by no means always the 
festival of moonlight that disturbed the stillness of the forest ; 
for we observed that the voices were loudest during violent 
storms of rain, or when the thunder echoed and the lightning 
flashed through the depths of the woods. The good-natured 
Franciscan monk who (notwithstanding the fever from which 
he had been suffering for many months), accompanied us 
through the cataracts of Atures and Maypures to San Carlos, 
on the Rio Negro, and to the Brazilian coast, used to say, when 
apprehensive of a storm at night, " May Heaven grant a quiet 
night both to us and to the wild beasts of the forest!" 

A singular contrast to the scenes I have here described, 
and which I had repeated opportunities of witnessing, is pre- 
sented by the stillness which reigns within the tropics at the 
noontide of a day unusually sultry. I borrow from the same 
journal the description of a scene at the Narrows of Baraguan. 
Here the Orinoco forms for itself a passage through the 
western part of the mountains of the Parime. That which 
is called at this remarkable pass a Narrow (Angostura del 
Baraguan), is, however, a basin almost 5700 feet in breadth. 
With the exception of an old withered stem of Aubletia 
(Apeiba Tiburbu), and a new Apocinea (Allamanda Salicifo- 
lia), the barren rocks were only covered with a few silvery 
croton shrubs. A thermometer observed in the shade, but 
brought within a few inches of the lofty mass of granite 
rock, rose to more than 122° Fahr. All distant objects had 
wavy undulating outlines, the optical effect of the mirage. 
Not a breath of air moved the dust-like sand. The sun 
stood in the zenith; and the effulgence of light poured 
upon the river, and which, owing to a gentle ripple of the 
waters, was brilliantly reflected, gave additional distinct- 
ness to the red haze which veiled the distance. All the 


rocky mounds and naked boulders were covered with large, 
thick-scaled Iguanas, Gecko-lizards, and spotted Salamanders. 
Motionless, with uplifted heads and widely extended mouths, 
they seemed to inhale the heated air with ecstasy. The 
larger animals at such times take refuge in the deep recesses 
of the forest, the birds nestle beneath the foliage of the trees, 
or in the clefts of the rocks ; but if in this apparent still- 
ness of nature we listen closely for the faintest tones, we 
detect, a dull, muffled sound, a buzzing and humming of 
insects close to the earth, in the lower strata of the atmo- 
sphere. Everything proclaims a world of active organic 
forces. In every shrub, in the cracked bark of trees, in the 
perforated ground inhabited by hymenopterous insects, life is 
everywhere audibly manifest. It is one of the many voices 
of nature revealed to the pious and susceptible spirit of man. 


(1) p. 191. — " Characteristic denominations in Arabic and 


More than twenty words might be cited by which the 
Arabs distinguish between a Steppe (tanufah), according as 
it may be a Desert without water, entirely bare, or covered 
with siliceous sand, and interspersed with spots of pasture 
land (Sahara, Kafr, Mikfar, Tih, Mehme). Sahl is a depressed 
plain ; Dakkah a desolate elevated plateau. In Persian Beya- 
ban is an arid sandy waste (as the Mongolian Gobi and the 
Chinese Han-hai and Scha-mo) ; Yaila is a Steppe covered 
with grass rather than with low-growing plants (like the 
Mongolian Kiidah, the Turkish Tala or Tschol, and the Chi- 
nese Huang). Deschti-reft is a naked elevated plateau.* 

(2) p. 191.—" The old Castilian dialects." 

Pico, picacho, mogote, cucurucho, espigon, loma tendida, 
mesa, panecillo, farallon, tablon, pena, penon, penasco, peho- 
leria, roca partida, laxa, cerro, sierra, serrania, Cordillera, 
monte, montana, montanuela, cadena de montes, los altos, 
malpais, reventazon, bufa, &c. 

(3) p. 194. — " Where the maj) had indicated Montes de 


On the range of hills from which the lofty Andes de 
Cuchao have originated, see my Relation hzstorique, t. iii. 
p. 238. 

(4) p. 197.—" Hermesia." 

The genus Hermesia, the Sauso, has been described by 
Bonpland, and is delineated in our Plantes equifioxiales, t. i. 
p. 162, tab. xlvi. 

(5) p. 199. — " The fresh-water dolphin." 

These are not sea dolphins, which, like some species of 
Pleuronectes (flat fish which invariably have both eyes on one 
side of the body), ascend the rivers to a great distance, as, 

* Humboldt, Relation Jiistorique, t. ii. p. 158. 


for instance, the Limande (Plcuronectcs Limanda), which is 
found as for inland as Orleans. Some forms of sea fish, as 
the dolphin and skate (liaia), are met with in the great rivers 
of both continents. The fresh-water dolphin of the Apure 
and the Orinoco differs specifically from the Delphinus yange- 
ticus as well as from all sea dolphins.* 

(6) p. 199. — " The striped nocturnal monkey." 

This is the Douroucouli or Cusi-cusi of the Cassiquiare 
which I have elsewhere described as the Simla triviryata,\ 
from a drawing made by myself of the living animal. We 
have since seen the nocturnal monkey living in the mena- 
gerie of the Jardin des Plantes at Paris.J Spix also met with 
this remarkable little animal on the Amazon River and called 
it Nyctipithecus vociferans. 

* See my Relation liistorique, t. ii. pp. 223, 239, 406-413. 
+ Recueil d 'Observations de Zoologie et dAnatomie comparie, t. i. 
pp. 306-311, tab. xxviii. 
% Op. cit., t. ii. p. 340. 

Potsdam, June 1849. 

Soutli Latitude. 




15° 51' 33" 


33' 55" 


15° 49' IS" 


33' 52" 


16° 38' 52" 


49' 18" 


16° 38' 26" 


49' 17" 


16° 37' 50" 


49' 39" 



I AM indebted to Mr. Pentland, whose scientific labours 
have thrown so much light on the geology and geography of 
Bolivia, for the following determinations of position, which he 
communicated to me in a letter from Paris (October 1848), 
subsequent to the publication of his great map. 

Nevado of Sorata, or 


South Peak 

North Peak 

South Peak 
Middle Peak . . 
North Peak 

The numbers representing the heights are, with the excep- 
tion of the unimportant difference of a few feet in the South 
Peak of Illimani, the same as those in the map of the Lake of 
Titicaca. A sketch of the Illimani, as it appears in all its 
majesty from La Paz, was given at an earlier date by Mr. 
Pentland in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society.^ 
But this was five years after the publication of the first mea- 
surements in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes for 1830, 
p. 323, which results I myself hastened to disseminate in 
Germany. f The Nevado de Sorata lies to the east of the 
village of Sorata or Esquibel, and is called in the Ymarra lan- 
guage, according to Pentland, Ancomani, Itampu, and 111- 
hampu. In Illimani we recognize the Ymarra word illi, snow. 

If, however, in the eastern chain of Bolivia the Sorata was 
long assumed to be 3962 feet, and the Illimani 2851 feet 
too high, there are in the western chain of Bolivia, according 
to Pentland's map of Titicaca (1848), four peaks east of Arica 
between the latitudes 18° 7' and 18° 25', all of which exceed 
Chimborazo in height, which itself is 21,422 feet. 

These four peaks arc : — 

English feet. French feet. 

Pomarape . . 21,700 . . 20,360 

Gualateiri . . 21,960 . . 20,604 

Parinacota . . 22,030 . . 20,670 

Sahama . . . 22,350 . . 20,971 

* Vol. v. (1835), p. 77. 

+ Hertha, Zeitschrift fiir Erd unci Vdlherhunde, von Berghaus, hd. 
xiii. 1829, s. 3-29. 


Berghaus has applied to the chains of the Andes in Bolivia, 
the investigation which I published* regarding the proportion, 
which varies extremely in different mountain-chains, of the 
mountain ridge (the mean height of the passes), to the high- 
est summits (or the culminating points). He finds ,f according 
to Pentlands map, that the mean height of the passes in the 
eastern chain is 13,505, and in the western chain 14,496 feet. 
The culminating points are 21,285 and 22,350 feet ; consequently 
the ratio of the height of the ridge to that of the highest sum- 
mit is, in the eastern chain, as 1 : 1*57, and in the western 
chain as 1 : 1.54. This ratio, which is, as it were, the mea- 
sure of the subterranean upheaving force, is very similar to 
that in the Pyrenees, but very different from the plastic form 
of the Alps, the mean height of whose passes is far less in 
comparison with the height of Mont Blanc. In the Pyrenees 
these ratios are as 1 : 1*43, and in the Alps as 1 : 2-09. 

But, according to Fitzroy and Darwin, the height of the 
Sahama is still surpassed by 848 feet by that of the volcano 
Aconcagua (south lat. 32° 39'), in the north-east of Valpa- 
raiso in Chili. The officers of the expedition of the Ad\en- 
ture and Beagle found, in August 1835, that the Aconcagua 
was between 23,000 and 23,400 feet in height. If we reckon 
it at 23,200 feet it is 1776 feet, higher than Chimborazo.J: 
According to more recent calculations, § Aconcagua is deter- 
mined to be 23,906 feet. 

Our knowledge regarding the systems of mountains, which, 
north of the parallels of 30° and 31°, are distinguished as the 
Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada of California, has 
been vastly augmented during the last few years in the astro- 
nomico-geographical, hypsometric, geognostic, and botanical 
departments, by the excellent works of Charles Fremont, || of 
Dr. Wislizenus,^[ and of Lieutenants Abert and Peck.** There 

* Annates des Sciences Naturelles, t. iv. 1825, pp. 225-253. 

+ Berghaus, Zeitschrifb fur Erdkunde, band. ix. s. 322-326. 

X Fitzroy, Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, 1839, vol. ii. p. 
481 ; Darwin, Journal of Researches, 1845, pp. 253 and 291. 

§ Mary Somerville, Physical Geogr., 1849, vol. ii. 425. 

|| Geographical Memoir upon Upper California, an illustration of 
his Map of Oregon and California, 1848. 

\ Memoir of a Tour in Northern Mexico, connected with Col. 
Doniphans Expedition, 184S. 

** Expedition on the Upper Arkansas, 1845, and Examination of 
Neio Mexico in 1846 and 1847. 


prevails throughout these North Americau works a scientific 
spirit deserving of the warmest acknowledgment. The re- 
markable plateau, referred to in p. 34, between the Rocky 
Mountains and the Sierra Nevada of California, which rises 
uninterruptedly from 4000 to 5000 French (4260 to 5330 
English) feet high, and is termed the Great Basin, presents 
an interior closed river- system, thermal springs, and salt 
lakes. None of its rivers, Bear River, Carson River, and 
Humboldt River, find a passage to the sea. That which, 
by a process of induction and combination, I represented 
in my great map of Mexico, executed in 1804, as the Lake 
of Timpanogos, is the Great Salt Lake of Fremont's map. 
It is 60 miles long from north to south, and 40 miles 
broad, and it communicates with the fresh- water Lake of 
Utah, which lies at a higher level, and into which the 
Timpanogos or Timpanaozu River enters from the eastward, 
in lat. 40° 1 3 . The fact of the Lake of Timpanogos not 
having been placed in my map sufficiently to the north and 
west, arose from the entire absence, at that period, of all 
astronomical determinations of position of Santa Fe in New 
Mexico. For the western margin of the lake the error 
amounts to almost fifty minutes, a difference of absolute lon- 
gitude which will appear less striking when it is remembered 
that my itinerary map of Guanaxuato could only be based 
for an extent of 15° of latitude on determinations made by 
the compass (magnetic surveys), instituted by Don Pedro de 
Rivera. § These determinations gave my talented and prema- 
turely lost fellow-labourer, Herr Friesen, 105° 36' as the lon- 
gitude of Santa Fe, while, by other combinations, I calculated 
it at 1 04° 51'. According to actual astronomical determinations 
the true longitude appears to be 106°. The relative position 
of the strata of rock salt found in thick strata of red clay, 
south-east of the Great Salt Lake (Laguna de Timpanogos), 
with its many islands, and near the present Fort Mormon 
and the Utah Lake, is accurately given in my large map of 
Mexico. I may refer to the most recent evidence of the tra- 
veller who made the first trustworthy determinations of posi- 
tion in this region. " The mineral or rock salt, of which a 
specimen is placed in Congress Library, was found in the 
place marked by Humboldt in his map of New Spain (north- 

* Humboldt, Essai %>olit. sur la Nouvclle Esxxigne, t. i. pp. 127-136. 


era. half), as derived from the journal of the Missionary 
Father Escalante, who attempted (1777) to penetrate the 
unknown country from Santa Fe of New Mexico to Monterey 
of the Pacific Ocean. South-east of the Lake Tirnpanogos is 
the chain of the Wha-satch Mountains; and in this, at the 
place where Humboldt has written Montagues de sel gemme, 
this mineral is found."* 

A great historical interest is attached to this part of the 
highland, especially to the neighbourhood of the Lake of 
Timpanogos, which is probably identical with the Lake of 
Teguayo, the ancestral seat of the Aztecs. This people, in 
their migration from Aztlan to Tula, and to the valley of 
Tenochtitlan in Mexico, made three stations at w T hich the 
ruins of Casas gr mules are still to be seen. The first halting- 
place of the Aztecs was at the Lake of Teguayo, south of 
Quivira, the second on the Rio Gila, and the third not far 
from the Presidio de Llanos. Lieutenant Abert found on 
the banks of the Rio Gila the same immense quantity of 
elegantly painted fragments of delf and pottery scattered over a 
large surface of country, which, at the same place, had excited 
so much astonishment in the missionaries Francisco Garces 
and Pedro Fonte. From these products of the hand of man, 
it may be inferred that there was a time when a higher 
human civilization existed in this now desolate region. Re- 
petitions of the singular architectural style of the Aztecs, and 
of their houses of seven stories, are at the present time to be 
found far to the east of the Rio Grande del Norte ; as, for in- 
stance, at Taos.f The Sierra Nevada of California is parallel 
to the coast of the Pacific; but between the latitudes of 34° 
and 41°, between San Buenaventura and the Bay of Trinidad, 
there runs, west of the Sierra Nevada, a small coast chain 
whose culminating point, Monte del Diablo, is 3674 feet high. 
In the narrow valley, between this coast chain and the great 
Sierra Nevada, flow from the south the Rio de San Joaquin, 
and from the north the Rio del Sacramento. It is in the allu- 
vial soil on the banks of the latter river that the rich gold- 

* Fremont, Geogr. Mem. of Upper California, 1848, pp. 8 and 67; 
see also Humboldt, Es-sai politique, t. ii. p. 261. 

T" Compare Abert's Examination of New Mexico, in the Documents 
of Congress, No. 41, pp. 489 and 581--605, with my Essai pol., t. ii. 
pp. 241-244. 



washings occur, which are now proceeding with so much 

Besides the hypsometric levelling and the barometric mea- 
surements to which I have already referred (see page 33), 
between the mouth of the Kanzas River in the Missouri and 
the coast of the Pacific, throughout the immense expanse of 
28° of longitude, Dr. Wislizenus has successfully prosecuted 
the levelling commenced by myself in the equinoctial zone of 
Mexico, to the north as far as to lat. 35° 38', and consequently 
to Santa Fe del Nuevo Mexico. We learn with astonishment 
that the plateau which forms the broad crest of the Mexican 
Andes by no means sinks down to an inconsiderable height, 
as was long supposed to be the case. I give here, for the first 
time, according to recent measurements, the line of levelling 
from the city of Mexico to Santa Fe, which is within 16 
miles from the Rio del Norte. 



San Juan del Eio 


C el ay a 




Villa de Leon . 


Aguas Calientes 

San Luis Potosi 



Durango . 


Saltillo . 

El Bolson de Mapinii 



Passo del Norte (on the Eio Grande l orr >-T 

del Norte) 
Santa Fe del Nuevo Mexico 

French feet. 

7008 . 

6318 . 

6090 . 

5970 . 

5646 . 

5496 . 

6414 . 

5546 . 

5755 . 

5983 . 

5875 . 

5714 . 

7544 . 

6797 . 

6426 . 

4678 . 

4917 . 

4200 * 

4352 . 

5886 . 


1 1 


English feet. 








The attached letters Ws., Br., and lit., indicate the baro- 
metric measurements of Dr. TVislizenus, Obergrath Burkart, 
and myself. To the valuable memoir of Dr. Wislizenus there 


are appended three profile delineations of the country; one 
from Santa Fe to Chihuahua over Passo del Norte ; one from 
Chihuahua over Parras to Reynosa; and one from Fort Inde- 
pendence (a little to the east of the confluence of the Missouri 
and the Kanzas River) to Santa Fe. The calculation is based 
on daily corresponding observations of the barometer, made 
by Engelmann at St. Louis, and by Lilly in New Orleans. 
If we consider that in the north and south direction the dif- 
ference of latitude between Santa Fe and Mexico is more 
than 16°, and that, consequently, the distance in a direct 
meridian direction, independently of curvatures on the road, 
is more than 960 miles; we are led to ask whether, in the 
whole world, there exists any similar formation of equal extent 
and height (between 5000 and 7500 feet above the level of 
the sea). Four-wheeled waggons can travel from Mexico 
to Santa Fe. The plateau, whose levelling I have here 
described, is formed solely by the broad, undulating, flattened 
crest of the chain of the Mexican Andes ; it is not the 
swelling of a valley between two mountain-chains, such as the 
" Great Basin " between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra 
Nevada of California, in the Northern Hemisphere, or the 
elevated plateau of the Lake of Titicaca, between the eastern 
and western chains of Bolivia, or the plateau of Thibet, 
between the Himalaya and the Kuenlun, in the Southern 




"When the active spirit of man is directed to the investi- 
gation of nature, or when in imagination he scans the vast 
fields of organic creation, among the varied emotions excited 
in his mind there is none more profound or vivid than 
that awakened by the universal profusion of life. Every- 
where — even near the ice-bound poles, — the air resounds w T ith 
the song of birds and with the busy hum of insects. Not 
only the lower strata, in which the denser vapours float, but 
also the higher and ethereal regions of the air, teem with 
animal life. Whenever the lofty crests of the Peruvian Cor- 
dilleras, or the summit of Mont Blanc, south of Lake Leman, 
have been ascended, living creatures have been found even 
in these solitudes. On the Chimborazo (1), which is upwards 
of eight thousand feet higher than Mount Etna, we saw but- 
terflies and other winged insects. Even if they are strangers 
carried by ascending currents of air to those lofty regions, 
whither a restless spirit of inquiry leads the toilsome steps of 
man, their presence nevertheless proves that the more pliant 
organization of animals may subsist far beyond the limits of 
the vegetable world. The Condor (2), that giant among the 
vultures, often soared above us at a greater altitude than 
the summits of the Andes, and even higher than would be the 
Peak of Teneriffe were it piled upon the snow-crowned sum- 
mits of the Pyrenees. Rapacity and the pursuit of the soft- 
woolled Vicunas, which herd, like the chamois, on the snow- 
cover'ed pastures, allure this powerful bird to these regions. 


But if the unassisted eye shows that life is diffused through- 
out the whole atmosphere, the microscope reveals yet greater 
wonders. Wheel-animalcules, brachioni, and a host of micro- 
scopic insects are lifted by the winds from the evaporat- 
ing waters below. Motionless and to all appearance dead, 
they float on the breeze, until the dew bears them back to the 
nourishing earth, and bursting the tissue which incloses their 
transparent rotating (3) bodies, instils new life and motion 
into all their organs, probably by the action of the vital prin- 
ciple inherent in water. The yellow meteoric sand or mist 
(dust nebulae) often observed to fall on the Atlantic near 
the Cape de Verde Islands, and not unfrequently borne in 
an easterly direction as far as Northern Africa, Italy, and 
Central Europe, consists, according to Ehrenberg's brilliant 
discovery, of agglomerations of siliceous-shelled microscopic 
organisms. Many of these perhaps float for years in the 
highest strata of the atmosphere, until they are carried down 
by the Etesian winds or by descending currents of air, in the 
full capacity of life, and actually engaged in organic increase 
by spontaneous self- division. 

Together with these developed creatures, the atmosphere 
contains countless germs of future formations ; eggs of 
insects, and seeds of plants, which, by means of hairy or 
feathery crowns, are borne forward on their long autumnal 
journey. Even the vivifying pollen scattered abroad by the 
male blossoms, is carried by winds and winged insects over 
sea and land, to the distant and solitary female plant (4). 
Thus, wheresoever the naturalist turns his eye, life or the germ 
of life lies spread before him. 

But if the moving sea of air in which we are immersed, 
and above whose surface we are unable to raise ourselves, 
yields to many organic beings their most essential nourish- 
ment, they still require therewith a more substantial species 
of food, which is provided for them only at the bottom of 
this gaseous ocean. This bottom is of a twofold kind : the 

p 2 


smaller portion constituting the dry earth, in immediate con- 
tact with the surrounding atmosphere ; the larger portion 
consisting of water, — formed, perhaps, thousands of years ago 
from gaseous matters fused by electric fire, and now inces- 
santly undergoing decomposition in the laboratory of the clouds 
and in the pulsating vessels of animals and plants. Organic 
forms descend deep into the womb of the earth, wherever 
the meteoric rain-waters can penetrate into natural cavities, 
or into artificial excavations and mines. The domain of the 
subterranean cryptogamic flora was early an object of my 
scientific researches. Thermal springs of the highest tempera- 
ture nourish small Hydropores, Conferva? and Oscillatoriae. 
Not far from the Arctic circle, at Bear Lake, in the New 
Continent, Richardson saw flowering plants on the ground 
which, even in summer, remains frozen to the depth of twenty 

It is still undetermined where life is most abundant : whe- 
ther on the earth or in the fathomless depths of the ocean. 
Ehrenberg's admirable work on the relative condition of 
animalcular life in the tropical ocean and the floating and 
solid ice of the Antarctic circle, has spread the sphere and 
horizon of organic life before our eyes. Siliceous- shelled 
Polygastrica and even Coscinodiscse, alive, with their green 
ovaries, have been found enveloped in masses within twelve 
degrees of the Pole ; even as the small black glacier flea, 
Desoria Glacial is, and Podurellge, inhabit the narrow tubules 
of ice of the Swiss glaciers, as proved by the researches of 
Agassiz. Ehrenberg has shown that on some microscopic 
infusorial animalcules (Synedra and Cocconeis), other sj)ecies 
live parasitically ; and that in the Gallionelloe the extraordinary 
powers of division and development of bulk are so great, tiiat 
an animalcule invisible to the naked eye can in four days 
form two cubic feet of the Bilin polishing slate. 

In the ocean, gelatinous sea-w r orms, living and dead, shine 
like luminous stars (5), converting by their phosphorescent 


light the green surface of the ocean into one vast sheet of 
fire. Indelible is the impression left on my mind by those 
calm tropical nights of the Pacific, where the constellation of 
Argo in its zenith, and the setting Southern Cross, pour their 
mild planetary light through the ethereal azure of the sky, 
while dolphins mark the foaming waves with their luminous 

But not alone the depths of ocean, the waters, too, of our own 
swamps and marshes, conceal innumerable worms of wonderful 
form. Almost indistinguishable by the eye are the Cyclidias, 
the Euglenes, and the host of Naiads divisible by branches 
like the Lemna (Duckweed), whose leafy shade they seek. 
Surrounded by differently composed atmospheres, and de- 
prived of light, the spotted Ascaris breathes in the skin of 
the earth-worm, the silvery and bright Leucophra exists 
in the body of the shore Nais, and a Pentastoma in the 
large pulmonary cells of the tropical rattle-snake (6). There 
are animalcules in the blood of frogs and salmon, and even, 
according to Nordmann, in the fluid of the eyes of fishes, and 
in the gills of the bream. Thus are even the most hidden 
recesses of creation replete with life. We purpose in the 
following pages to consider the different families of plants, 
since on their existence entirely depends that of the animal 
creation. Incessantly are they occupied in organizing the 
raw material of the earth, assimilating by vital forces those 
elements which after a thousand metamorphoses become enno- 
bled into active nervous tissue. The glance which we direct 
to the dissemination of vegetable forms, reveals to us the 
fulness of that animal life which they sustain and preserve. 

The verdant carpet which a luxuriant Flora spreads over 
the surface of the earth is not woven equally in all parts ; for 
while it is most rich and full where, under an ever-cloudless 
sky, the sun attains its greatest height, it is thin and scanty 
near the torpid poles, where the quickly-recurring frosts too 
speedily blight the opening bud or destroy the ripening fruit. 


Yet everywhere man rejoices in the presence of nourish- 
ing plants. Even where from the depths of the sea, a volcano 
bursting through the boiling flood, upheaves a scoriaceous 
rock, (as once happened in the Greek Islands) ; or, to instance 
a more gradual phenomenon, where the united labours of the 
coral animal (Lithophytes) (7) have piled up their cellular 
dwellings, on the crests of submarine mountains, until after toil- 
ing for thousands of years their edifice reaches the level of the 
ocean, when its architects perish, and leave a coral island. 
Thus are organic forces ever ready to animate with living 
forms the naked rock. How seeds are so suddenly trans- 
ported to these rocks, whether by birds, or by winds, or by 
the waves of ocean, is a question that cannot be decided, 
owing to the great distance of these islands from the coasts. But 
no sooner has the air greeted the naked rock, than, in our 
northern countries, it gradually acquires a covering of velvet- 
like fibres, which appear to the eye to be coloured spots. 
Some of these are bordered by single and others by double 
rows, while others again are traversed by furrows and divided 
into compartments. As they increase in age their colour 
darkens. The bright glittering yellow becomes brown, and 
gradually the bluish-grey mass of the Leprariae changes to a 
dusty black. As the outlines of this vegetable surface merge 
into each other with increasing age, the dark ground acquires 
a new covering of fresh circular spots of dazzling whiteness. 
Thus one organic tissue rises, like strata, over the other; and 
as the human race in its development must pass through 
definite stages of civilization, so also is the gradual distri- 
bution of plants dependent on definite physical laws. In 
spots where lofty forest trees now rear their towering summits, 
the sole covering of the barren rock was once the tender 
lichen ; the long and immeasurable interval was filled up by 
the growth of grasses, herbaceous plants, and shrubs. The 
place occupied in northern regions by mosses and lichens is 
supplied in the tropics by Portulacas, Gomphrenas, and other 


low and oleaginous marine plants. The history of the vege- 
table covering and of its gradual extension over the ban-en 
surface of the earth, has its epochs, as well as that of the 
migratory animal world. 

But although life is everywhere diffused, and although the 
organic forces are incessantly at work in combining into new 
forms those elements which have been liberated by death; 
yet this fulness of life and its renovation differ according 
to difference of climate. Nature undergoes a periodic stag- 
nation in the frigid zones; for fluidity is essential to life. 
Animals and plants, excepting indeed mosses and other 
Cryptogamia, here remain many months buried in a winter 
sleep. Over a great portion of the earth, therefore, only 
those organic forms are capable of full development, which 
have the property of resisting any considerable abstraction 
of heat, or those which, destitute of leaf-organs, can sustain 
a protracted interruption of their vital functions. Thus, the 
nearer we approach the tropics, the greater the increase in 
variety of structure, grace of form, and mixture of colours, 
as also in perpetual youth and vigour of organic life. 

This increase may readily be doubted by those who have 
never quitted our own hemisphere, or who have neglected the 
study of physical geography. When in passing from our 
thickly foliated forests of oak, we cross the Alps or the 
Pyrenees and enter Italy or Spain, or when the traveller first 
directs his eye to some of the African coasts of the Mediter- 
ranean, he may easily be led to adopt the erroneous inference 
that absence of trees is a characteristic of hot climates. But 
they forget that Southern Europe wore a different aspect, 
when it was first colonised by Pelasgian or Carthaginian 
settlers ; they forget too that an earlier civilization of the 
human race sets bounds to the increase of forests, and that 
nations, in their change -loving spirit, gradually destroy the 
decorations which rejoice our eye in the North, and which, 
more than the records of history, attest the youthfulness of 


our civilization. The great catastrophe by which the Medi- 
terranean was formed, when the swollen waters of an inland 
sea burst their way through the Dardanelles and the Pillars of 
Hercules, appears to have stripped the contiguous lands of 
a large portion of their alluvial soil. The records of the 
Samothracian traditions (8) preserved by Greek writers seem 
to indicate the recent date of this great convulsion of nature. 
Moreover, in all the lands bathed by the Mediterranean, and 
which are characterised by the tertiary and cretaceous forma- 
tions (Nummulites and Neocomian rocks), a great portion, of 
the earth's surface is naked rock. The picturesque beauty of 
Italian scenery depends mainly on the pleasing contrast 
between the bare and desolate rock and the luxuriant vegeta- 
tion which, island-like, is scattered over its surface. Where 
the rock is less intersected by fissures, so that the water 
rests longer on its surface, and where it is covered with earth 
(as on the enchanting banks of Lake Albano), there even 
Italy has her oak -forests, as shady and verdant as could be 
desired by an inhabitant of the North. 

The boundless plains or steppes of South America, and the 
deserts beyond the Atlas range of mountains, can only be 
regarded as mere local phenomena. The former are found to 
be covered, at least in the rainy season, with grasses and low 
almost herbaceous Mimosa? ; while the latter are seas of sand 
in the interior of the Old Continent, — vast arid tracts sur- 
rounded by borders of evergreen forests. Here and there only 
a few isolated fan-palms remind the wanderer that these 
dreary solitudes are a portion of animated nature. Amid the 
optical delusions occasioned by the radiation of heat, we see the 
bases of these trees at one moment hovering in the air, at the 
next their inverted image reflected in the undulating strata 
of the atmosphere. To the west of the Peruvian Andes, 
on the shores of the Pacific, I have passed weeks in tra- 
versing these waterless deserts. 

The origin of this absence of plants over large tracts of 


land, in regions characterised on every side by the most 
exuberant vegetation, is a geological phenomenon which has 
hitherto received but little attention ; it undoubtedly arises 
from former revolutions of nature, such as inundations, or from 
volcanic convulsions of the earth's surface. When once a 
region loses its vegetable covering, if the sand is loose and 
devoid of springs, and if vertically ascending currents of 
heated air prevent the precipitation of vapour (9), thousands 
of years may elapse before organic life can penetrate from 
the green shores to the interior of the dreary waste. 

Those who are capable of surveying nature with a compre- 
hensive glance, and abstract their attention from local pheno- 
mena, cannot fail to observe that organic development and 
abundance of vitality gradually increase from the poles to- 
wards the equator, in proportion to the increase of animating 
heat. But in this distribution every different climate has 
allotted to it some beauty peculiar to itself : to the Tropics 
belong variety and magnitude in vegetable forms; to the 
North the aspect of its meadows and the periodical renova- 
tion of nature at the first genial breath of spring. Every 
zone, besides its own peculiar advantages, has its own distinc- 
tive character. The primeval force of organization, notwith- 
standing a certain independence in the abnormal development 
of individual parts, binds all animal and vegetable structures 
to fixed ever- recurring types. For as in some individual 
organic beings we recognise a definite physiognomy, and as 
descriptive botany and zoology are, strictly speaking, analyses 
of animal and vegetable forms, so also there is a certain natural 
physiognomy peculiar to every region of the earth. 

That which the painter designates by the expressions 
" Swiss scenery" or " Italian sky" is based on a vague feel- 
ing of the local natural character. The azure of the sky, the 
effects of light and shade, the haze floating on the distant 
horizon, the forms of animals, the succulence of plants, the 
bright glossy surface of the leaves, the outlines of mountains > 


all combine to produce the elements on which depends the 
impression of any one region. It must be admitted, however, 
that in all latitudes the same kind of rocks, as trachyte, basalt, 
porphyritic schist, and dolomite, form mountain groups of 
exactly similar physiognomy. Thus the greenstone cliffs of 
South America and Mexico resemble those of the Fichtel 
mountains of Germany, in like manner as among animals, the 
form of the Allco, or the original canine race of the New 
Continent, is analogous to that of the Euroj>ean race. The 
inorganic crust of the earth is as it were independent of cli- 
matic influences ; perhaps, because diversity of climate aris- 
ing from difference of latitude is of more recent date than the 
formations of the earth, or that the hardening crust, in solid- 
ifying and discharging its caloric, acquired its temperature 
from internal and not from external causes (10). All forma- 
tions are, therefore, common to every quarter of the globe 
and assume the like forms. Everywhere basalt rises in twin 


mountains and truncated cones ; everywhere trap-porphyry 
presents itself to the eye under the form of grotesquely- 
shaped masses of rock, while granite terminates in gently 
rounded summits. Thus, too, similar vegetable forms, as pines 
and oaks, alike crown the mountain declivities of Sweden and 
those of the most southern portion of Mexico (11). But 
notwithstanding all this coincidence of form, and resemblance 
of the outlines of individual portions, the grouping of the 
mass, as a whole, presents the greatest diversity of character. 
As the oryctognostic knowledge of minerals differs from 
geology, so also does the general study of the physiognomy of 
nature differ from the individual branches of the natural 
sciences. The character of certain portions of the earth's 
surface has been described with inimitable truthfulness by 
George Forster in his travels and smaller works, by Goethe 
in the descriptive passages which so frequently occur in his 
immortal writings, by Buffon, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and 
Chateaubriand. Such descriptions are not only calculated to 


yield an enjoyment of the noblest kind, but the know- 
ledge of the character of nature in different regions is also 
most intimately associated with the history of the human 
race and its mental culture. For although the dawn of this 
culture cannot have been determined solely by physical influ- 
ence, climatic relations have at any rate to a great extent 
influenced its direction, as well as the character of nations, 
and the degree of gloom or cheerfulness in the dispositions 
of men. How powerfully did the skies of Greece act on its 
inhabitants! Was it not among the nations who settled in 
the beautiful and happy region between the Euphrates, the 
Halys, and the JEgean Sea, that social polish and gentler 
feelings were first awakened? and was it not from these 
genial climes that our forefathers, when religious enthusiasm 
had suddenly opened to them the Holy Lands of the East, 
brought back to Europe, then relapsing into barbarism, the 
seeds of a gentler civilization? The poetical works of the 
Greeks and the ruder songs of the primitive northern races 
owe much of their peculiar character to the forms of plants 
and animals, to the mountain- valleys in which their poets 
dwelt, and to the air which surrounded them. To revert 
to more familiar objects, who is there that does not feel 
himself differently affected beneath the embowering shade 
of the beechen grove, or on hills crowned with a few scat- 
tered pines, or in the flowering meadow where the breeze 
murmurs through the trembling foliage of the birch? A 
feeling of melancholy, or solemnity, or of light buoyant 
animation is in turn awakened by the contemplation of our 
native trees. This influence of the physical on the moral 
world — this mysterious reaction of the sensuous on the ideal, 
gives to the study of nature, when considered from a higher 
point of view, a peculiar charm which has not hitherto been 
sufficiently recognised. 

However much the character of different regions of the 
earth may depend upon a combination of all these external* 


phenomena, and however much the total impression may be 
influenced by the outline of mountains and hills, the physi- 
ognomy of plants and animals, the azure of the sky, the form 
of the clouds, and the transparency of the atmosphere, still it 
cannot be denied that it is the vegetable covering of the 
earth's surface which chiefly conduces to the effect. The 
animal organism is deficient in mass, while the mobility of 
its individual members and often their diminutiveness remove 
them from the sphere of our observation. Vegetable forms, 
on the other hand, act on the imagination by their enduring 
magnitude — for here massive size is indicative of age, and 
in the vegetable kingdom alone are age and the manifestation 
of an ever-renewed vigour linked together. The colossal 
Dragon Tree (12), which I saw in the Canary Isles, and which 
measured more than sixteen feet in diameter, still bears, as it 
then did, the blossoms and fruit of perpetual youth. When 
the French adventurers, the Bethencourts, conquered these 
Fortunate Isles in the beginning of the fifteenth century, the 
Dragon Tree of Orotava, regarded by the natives with a 
veneration equal to that bestowed on the olive tree of the 
Acropolis at Athens, or the elm at Ephesus, was of the same 
colossal magnitude as at present. In the tropics a grove of 
Hyinenese and Cesalpinise is probably a memorial of more 
than a thousand years. 

On taking one general view of the different phanerogamic 
species which have already been collected into our herbariums 
(13), and which may now be estimated at considerably more 
than 80,000, we find that this prodigious quantity presents 
some few forms to which most of the others may be referred. 
In determining those forms, on whose individual beauty, dis- 
tribution, and grouping, the physiognomy of a country's 
vegetation depends, we must not ground our opinion (as from 
other causes is necessarily the case in botanical systems) on 
the smaller organs of propagation, that is, the blossoms and 
fruit; but must be guided solely by those elements of mag- 


nitude and mass from which the total impression of a district 
receives its character of individuality. Among the principal 
forms of vegetation there are, indeed, some which constitute 
entire families, according to the so-called " natural system" of 
botanists. Bananas and Palms, Casuarineae and Coniferse, 
form distinct species in this mode of arrangement. The 
systematising botanist, however, separates into different groups 
many plants which the student of the physiognomy of nature 
is compelled to associate together. Where vegetable forms 
occur in large masses, the outlines and distribution of the 
leaves, and the form of the stems and branches lose their indi- 
viduality and become blended together. The painter — and 
here his delicate artistical appreciation of nature comes espe- 
cially into play — distinguishes between pines or palms and 
beeches in the background of a landscape, but not between 
forests of beech and other thickly foliated trees. 

The physiognomy of nature is principally determined by 
sixteen forms of plants. I merely enumerate such as I have 
observed in my travels through the old and new world during 
many years' study of the vegetation of different latitudes, 
between the parallels of 60° north and 12° south. The number 
of these forms will no doubt be considerably increased 
by travellers penetrating further into the interior of conti- 
nents, and discovering new genera of plants. We are still 
wholly ignorant of the vegetation of the south-east of Asia, 
the interior of Africa and New Holland, and of South America 
from the Amazon to the province of Chiquitos. Might not a 
region be some day discovered in which ligneous fungi, Ceno- 
myce rangiferina, or mosses, form high trees? Neckera den- 
dro'ides, a German species of moss, is in fact arborescent, and 
the sight of a wood of lofty mosses could hardly afford greater 
astonishment to its discoverers than that experienced by 
Europeans at the aspect of arborescent grasses (bamboos) and 
the tree-ferns of the tropics, which are often equal in height 
to our lindens and alders. The maximum size and decree of 
development attainable by organic forms of any genus, whe- 


ther of animals or plants, are determined by laws with which 
we are still unacquainted. In each of the great divisions of 
the animal kingdom, as insects, reptiles, Crustacea, birds, 
fishes, or mammalia, the dimensions of the body oscillate 
between certain extreme limits. But these limits, based on 
the observations hitherto contributed to science, may be en- 
larged by new discoveries of species with which we are at 
present unacquainted. 

In land animals a high degree of temperature, depending on 
latitude, appears to have exercised a favourable influence on 
the genetic development of organization. Thus the small and 
slender form of our lizards expands in the south into the 
colossal, unwieldy, and mail-clad body of the formidable croco- 
dile. In the huge cats of Africa and America, the tiger, 
lion, and jaguar, we find, repeated on a larger scale, the 
form of one of the smallest of our domestic animals. But if 
we penetrate into the recesses of the earth, and search the 
tombs of plants and animals, the fossil remains thus brought 
to light not only manifest a distribution of forms at variance 
with the present climates, but they also reveal colossal struc- 
tures, which exhibit as marked a contrast with the small types 
that now surround us, as does the simple yet dignified 
heroism of the ancient Greeks, when compared with what is 
recognized at the present day as " greatness of character." 
If the temperature of the earth has undergone considerable, 
perhaps periodically recurring changes, and, if even the 
relations between sea and land, and the height and pres- 
sure of the atmospheric ocean (14), have not always been the 
same, then the physiognomy of nature, and the magnitude; 
and forms of organic bodies, must also have been subject 
to many variations. Enormous Pachydermata, elephantine 
Mastodons, Owen's Mylodon robustus, and the Colossochelys,* 
a land tortoise upwards of six feet in height, once inhabited 
forests of colossal Lepidodendra, cactus-like Stigmaria?, and 

* Fossil remains of this gigantic antediluvian tortoise are now in the 
British Museum. — Ed. 


numerous genera of Cycadece. Unable accurately to delineate 
the physiognomy of our aging and altering planet according to 
its present features, I will only attempt to bring prominently 
forward those characteristics which specially appertain to each 
individual group of plants. Notwithstanding all the richness 
and adaptability of our language, the attempt to designate in 
words, that which, in fact, appertains only to the imitative 
art of the painter, is always fraught with difficulty. I 
would also wish to avoid that wearying effect which is almost 
unavoidably inseparable from a long enumeration of indi- 
vidual forms. 

We will begin with Palms (15), the loftiest and most 
stately of all vegetable forms. To these, above all other 
trees, the prize of beauty has always been awarded by every 
nation; and it was from the Asiatic palm-world, or the adja- 
cent countries, that human civilization sent forth the first rays 
of its early dawn. Marked with rings, and not unfrequently 
armed with thorns, the tall and slender shaft of this graceful 
tree rears on high its crown of shining, fan-like, or pinnated 
leaves, which are often curled like those of some gramineae. 
Smooth stems of the palm, which I carefully measured, rose 
to a height of 190 feet. The palm diminishes in size and 
beauty as it recedes from the equatorial towards the temper- 
ate zones. Europe owns amongst its indigenous trees only 
one representative of this form of vegetation, the dwarfish 
coast palm (Chamcerops), which, in Spain and Italy, is found 
as far north as 44° lat. The true palm climate has a mean 
annual temperature of 78° to 81°. 5 Fahr., but the date-palm, 
which has been brought to us from Africa, and is less beau- 
tiful than other species of this family, vegetates in the south 
of Europe in districts whose mean temperature is only from 
59° to 62° 4' Fahr. Stems of palms and skeletons of elephants 
are found buried in the interior of the earth in Northern 
Europe ; their position renders it probable that they were not 
drifted from the tropics towards the north, but that, in the 
great revolutions of our planet, climates, and the physiognomy 

224 views or nature. 

of nature which is regulated by climate, have been, in many 
respects, altered. 

In all regions of the earth the palm is found associated 
with the plantain or banana; the Scitaminece and Musacece of 
botanists, Heliconia, Amomum, and Strelitzia. This form has 
a low, succulent, and almost herbaceous stem, the summit of 
which is crowned with delicately striped, silky, shining leaves 
of a thin and loose texture. Groves of bananas form the 
ornament of humid regions ; and on their fruit the natives of 
the torrid zone chiefly depend for subsistence. Like the fari- 
naceous cereals or corn-yielding plants of the north, the 
banana has accompanied man from the earliest infancy of his 
civilization (16). By some Semitic traditions the primitive 
seat of these nutritious tropical plants has been placed on the 
shores of the Euphrates, and by others, with greater proba- 
bility, in India, at the foot of the Himalaya mountains. 
Greek legends cite the plains of Enna as the home of the 
cereals. Whilst, however, the cereals, spread by culture over 
the northern regions, in monotonous and far extending tracts, 
add but little to the beauty of the landscape ; the inhabitant 
of the tropics, on the other hand, is enabled, by the pro- 
pagation of the banana, to multiply one of the noblest and 
most lovely of vegetable productions. 

The form of the Malvacea) (17) and Bombaceae, represented 
by Ceiba, Cavanillesia, and the Mexican hand tree ( Cheiroste- 
mon), has immensely thick stems, with lanuginous, large, 
cordate, or indented leaves, and magnificent flowers, frequently 
of a purple-red. To this group belongs the Bahobab, or monkey 
bread-tree, Adansonia digitata, which, with a moderate height, 
has occasionally a diameter of 32 feet,"' and may probably be 
regarded as at once the largest and most ancient organic 
memorial of our planet. The Malvacea) already begin to im- 
part to the vegetation of Italy a peculiarly southern character. 

* The weight of the lower branches bends them to the ground, so that 
a single tree forms a hemispherical mass of verdure sometimes 150 feet 
in diameter. — Ed. 


The temperate zone in our old continent unfortunately is 
wholly devoid of the delicately pinnate Mimosas (18), whose 
predominating forms are Acacia, Desmanthus, Gleditschia, 
Porleria, and Tarnarindus. This beautiful form occurs in the 
United States of North America, where, under equal parallels 
of latitude, vegetation is more varied and luxuriant than in 
Europe. The Mimosas are generally characterised, like the 
Italian pine, by an umbellate expansion of their branches. 
An extremely picturesque effect is produced by the deep blue 
of a tropical sky gleaming through the delicate tracery of 
their foliage. 

Heaths (19), which more especially belong to an African 
group of plants, include, according to physiognomic cha- 
racter and general appearance, the Epacridece and Diosmese, 
many Proteaceae, and the Australian Acacias, which have no 
leaves but mere flattened petioles (phyllodia). This group bears 
some resemblance to acicular-leaved forms, with which it 
contrasts the more gracefully by the abundance of its cam- 
panulate blossoms. The arborescent heaths, like some few 
other African plants, extend as far as the northern shores of 
the Mediterranean. They adorn the plains of Italy, and the 
Cistus groves of southern Spain, but I have nowhere seen them 
growing more luxuriantly than on the declivities of the Peak 
of Teyde at Teneriffe. In the countries bordering on the 
Baltic, and further northward, the appearance of this form of 
plants is regarded with apprehension, as the precursor of 
drought and barrenness. Our heaths, Erica ( Calluna) vulgaris, 
and Erica tetralix, E. carnca and E. cinerea, are social plants, 
against whose extension agricultural nations have contended 
for centuries, with but little success. It is singular that the 
principal representative of this family should be peculiar to 
one side of our planet alone. There is only one of the three 
hundred known species of Erica to be met with in the new 
continent, from Pennsylvania and Labrador to Nootka Sound 
and Alaschka. 



The Cactus form (20), on the other hand, is almost peculiar 
to the new continent; it is sometimes globular, sometimes 
articulated, sometimes rising in tall polygonal columns 
not unlike organ-pipes. This group forms the most 
striking contrast with the Lily and Banana families, and be- 
longs to that class of plants which Bernardin de St. Pierre 
felicitously terms vegetable fountains of the Desert. In the 
parched arid plains of South America, the thirsting animals 
eagerly seek the Melon-cactus, a globular plant half-buried in 
the dry sand, whose succulent interior is concealed by 
formidable prickles. The stems of the columnar cactus attain 
a height of more than 30 feet; their candelabra-like rami- 
fications, frequently covered with lichens, reminding the tra- 
veller, by some analogy in their physiognomy, of certain of 
the African Euphorbias. 

While these plants form green Oases in the barren desert, 
the Orchideae (21) shed beauty over the most desolate rocky 
clefts, and the seared and blackened stems of those tropical 
trees which have been discoloured by the action of light. 
The Vanilla form is distinguished by its light green succulent 
leaves, and by its variegated and singularly shaped blossoms. 
Some of the orchideous flowers resemble in shape winged 
insects, while others look like birds, attracted by the fragrance 
of the honey vessels. An entire life would not suffice to enable 
an artist, although limiting himself to the specimens afforded 
by one circumscribed region, to depict the splendid Orchideae 
which embellish the deep alpine valleys of the Peruvian 

The form of the Casuarinese (22), leafless, like almost all 
the species of Cactus, comprises a group of trees having 
branches resembling the Equisetum, and is peculiar to the 
islands of the Pacific and to the East Indies. Traces of this 
type, which is certainly more singular than beautiful, may 
however be found in other regions of the earth. Plumier's 
Equisetum altissimum, Forskal's Ephedra aphylla of North 


Africa, the Peruvian Collet hi, and the Siberian Calligonum 
Pallasia, are nearly allied to the form of the Casuarinas. 

While the Banana form presents us with the greatest degree 
of expansion, the Casuarinas and the acicular-leaved (23) 
trees exhibit the greatest contraction of the leaf-vessels. 
Pines, Thujas, and Cypresses constitute a northern form but 
rarely met with in the tropics and in some conifera3 (Dammara 
Salisburia), the leaves are both broad and acicular. Their ever- 
green foliage enlivens the gloom of the dreary winter land- 
scape, while it proclaims to the natives of the polar regions 
that, although snow and ice cover the surface, the inner 
life of plants, like the Promethean fire, is never wholly ex- 
tinct on our planet. 

Besides the Orchideae, the Pothos tribe of plants (24) also 
yields a graceful covering to the aged stems of forest trees in 
the tropical world, like the parasitic mosses and lichens of our 
own climes. Their succulent herbaceous stalks are furnished 
with large leaves, arrow-shaped, digitate, or elongated, and 
invariably furnished with thick veins. The blossoms of the 
Aroidese are inclosed in spathes, by which their vital heat is 
increased; they are stemless, and send forth aerial roots. 
Pothos, Dracontium, Caladium, and Arum are all kindred 
forms ; and the last-named extends as far as the coasts of the 
Mediterranean, contributing, together with succulent Tussi- 
lago (Coltsfoot), high thistles, and the Acanthus, to give a 
luxuriant southern character to the yegetatiou of Spain and 

This Arum form is associated, in the torrid regions of South 
America, with the tropical Lhines or creeping plants (25), 
which exhibit the utmost luxuriance of vegetation in Paulli- 
nias, Banisterias, Bignonias, and Passion-flowers. Our ten- 
drilled hops and vines remind us of this tropical form. On 
the Orinoco the leafless branches of the Bauhinia are often 
upwards of 40 feet in length, sometimes hanging perpen- 
dicularly from the summit of lofty Swietenioe, (Mahogany 



trees), sometimes stretched obliquely like ropes from a mast; 
along these the tiger-cat may be seen climbing to and fro 
with wonderful agility. 

The self-sustaining form of the bluish-flowered Aloe 
tribe (26) presents a marked contrast to the pliant climbing 
lianes with their fresh and brilliant verdure. When there is 
a stem it is almost branchless, closely marked with spiral 
rings, and surrounded by a crown of succulent, fleshy, long- 
pointed leaves, which radiate from a centre. The lofty- 
stemmed aloe docs not grow in clusters like other social 
plants, but stands isolated in the midst of dreary solitudes, 
imparting to the tropical landscape a peculiar melancholy 
(one might almost say African) character. 

To this aloe form belong, in reference to physiognomic 
resemblance and the impression they produce on the land- 
scape: the Pitcairnias, from the family of the Bromeliaceae, 
which in the chain of the Andes grow out of clefts in the 
rock; the great Pournetia pyramidata (the Atschupalla of 
the elevated plateaux of New Grenada); the American aloe 
(Agave), Bromelia Ananas and B. Karatas; those rare 
species of the family of the Euphorbiaceae, which have thick, 
short, candelabra-like divided stems; the African aloe, and 
the Dragon tree, Dracwna Draco, of the family of the Aspho- 
delere; and lastly the tall flowering Yucca, allied to the 

While the Aloe form is characterised by an air of solemn 
repose and immobility, the grass form (27), especially as 
regards the physiognomy of the arborescent grasses, is expres- 
sive of buoyant lightness and flexible slenderncss. In both 
the Indies, bamboo groves form arched and shady walks. 

The smooth and often inclined and waving stem of the 
tropical grasses exceeds in height our alders and oaks. As 
far north as Italy, this form already begins, in the Arundo 
Donax, to raise itself from the ground, and to determine, by 
height as well as mass, the natural character of the country. 


The form of Ferns (28), like that of grasses, also assumes 
nobler dimensions in the torrid regions of the earth, and the 
arborescent ferns, which frequently attain the height of above 
forty feet, have a palm-like appearance, although their stem 
is thicker, shorter, and more rough and scaly, than that of 
the palm. The leaf is more delicate, of a loose and more 
transparent texture, and sharply serrated on the margins. 
These colossal ferns belong almost exclusively to the tropics, 
but there they prefer the temperate localities. As in these 
latitudes diminution of heat is merely the consequence of an 
increase of elevation, we may regard mountains that rise 
2000 or 3000 feet above the level of the sea as the prin- 
cipal seat of these plants. Arborescent ferns grow in South 
America, side by side with that beneficent tree whose stem 
yields the febrifuge bark, and both forms of vegetation are 
indicative of the hapi^y region where reigns the genial mild- 
ness of perpetual spring. 

I have now to mention the form of the Liliaceous plants (29), 
Amaryllis, Ixia, Gladiolus, and Pancratium, with their flag- 
like leaves and splendid blossoms, the principal home of which 
is Southern Africa; also the Willow form (30), which is 
indigenous in all latitudes, and is represented in the plateaux 
of Quito, not by the shape of its leaves, but in the form of its 
ramification, in Schinus Molle ; also the Myrtle-form (31) 
{Metrosideros, Eucalyptus, Escallonia myrtelloides) ; Melas- 
tomacea3 (32); and the Laurel form (33). 

It would be an undertaking worthy of a great artist to 
study the character of all these vegetable groups, not in hot- 
houses, or from the descriptions of botanists, but on the grand 
theatre of tropical nature. How interesting and instructive to 
the landscape painter (34) would be a work that should present 
to the eye accurate delineations of the sixteen principal forms 
enumerated, both individually and in collective contrast! 
What can be more picturesque than the arborescent Ferns, 
which spread their tender foliage above the Mexican lam-el- 


oak ! what more charming than the aspect of banana-groves, 
shaded by those lofty grasses, the Gnadua and Bamboo ! It is 
peculiarly the privilege of the artist to separate these into 
groups, and thus the beautiful images of nature, if we may 
be permitted the simile, resolve themselves beneath his 
touch, like the written works of man, into a few simple 

It is beneath the glowing rays of a tropical sun, that the 
noblest forms of vegetation are developed. In the cold North 
the bark of trees is covered only with dry lichens and mosses, 
while beneath the tropics the Cymbidium and the fragrant 
Vanilla adorn the trunks of the Anacardias and the gigantic 
Fig-tree. The fresh green of the Pothos leaves and of the 
Dracontias contrast with the many coloured blossoms of the 
Orchidea;; climbing Bauhinias, Passion-flowers and golden 
flowered Banisterias encircle every tree of the forest. Deli- 
cate blossoms unfold themselves from the roots of the Theo- 
broma, and from the thick and rough bark of the Crescent ia 
and Gustavia (35). Amid this luxuriant abundance of flowers 
and foliage, amid this exuberance and tangled web of creeping 
plants, it is often difficult for the naturalist to recognise the 
stems to which the various leaves and blossoms belong. A 
single tree, adorned with Paullinias, Bignonias, and Dendro- 
bias, forms a group of plants, which, separated from each 
other, would cover a considerable space of ground. 

In the tropics, plants are more succulent, of a fresher 
green, and have larger and more glossy leaves, than in the 
northern regions. Social plants, which give such a character 
of uniformity to European vegetation, are almost wholly 
absent in the equatorial zone. Trees, almost twice as high 
as our oaks, there bloom with flowers as large and splendid 
as our lilies. On the shady banks of the Magdalena River, 
in South America, grows a climbing An'stolochia, whose 
blossoms, measuring four feet in circumference, the Indian 
children sportively draw on their heads as caps (36). In 


the South Indian Archipelago, the flower of the Rafflesia 
is nearly three feet in diameter, and weighs above fourteen 

The extraordinary height to which not only individual 
mountains but even whole districts rise in tropical regions, 
and the consequent cold of such elevations, affords the inha- 
bitant of the tropics a singular spectacle. For besides his 
own palms and bananas, he is surrounded by those vegetable 
forms which would seem to belong solely to northern latitudes. 
Cypresses, pines, and oaks, barberry shrubs and alders (nearly 
allied to our own species) cover the mountain plains of 
Southern Mexico and the chain of the Andes at the equator. 
Thus nature has permitted the native of the torrid zone to 
behold all the vegetable forms of the earth without quitting 
his own clime, even as are revealed to him the luminous 
worlds which spangle the firmament from pole to pole (37). 

These and many other of the enjoyments which nature 
affords are denied to the nations of the North. Many constel- 
lations and many vegetable forms, including more especially 
the most beautiful productions of the earth (palms, tree-ferns, 
bananas, arborescent grasses, and delicately feathered mi- 
mosas), remain for ever unknown to them; for the puny 
plants pent up in our hothouses, give but a faint idea of the 
majestic vegetation of the tropics. But the rich development 
of our language, the glowing fancy of the poet, and the 
imitative art of the painter, afford us abundant compensation ; 
and enable the imagination to depict in vivid colours the 
images of an exotic Nature. In the frigid North, amid barren 
heaths, the solitary student may appropriate all that has been 
discovered in the most remote regions of the earth, and thus 
create within himself a world as free and imperishable as 
the spirit from which it emanates. 


(1) p. 210 — " On the Chiniborazo, upwards of eight thousand 

feet higher than Etna." 

Small singing birds, and even butterflies, (as I have 
myself witnessed in the Pacific,) are often met with at 
great distances from the shore, during storms blowing off 
land. In a similar manner insects are involuntarily carried 
into the higher regions of the atmosphere, to an eleva- 
tion of 17,000 to 19,000 feet above the plains. The light 
bodies of these insects are borne upwards by the ver- 
tically ascending currents of air caused by the heated con- 
dition of the earth's surface. M. Boussingault, an admirable 
chemist, who ascended the Gneiss Mountains of Caracas, while 
holding the appointment of Professor in the newly established 
Mining Academy at Santa Fe de Bogota, witnessed, during 
his ascent to the summit of the Silla, a phenomenon which 
confirmed in a most remarkable manner this vertical ascent 
of air. He and his companion, Don Mariano de Rivero, 
observed at noon a number of luminous whitish bodies rise 
from the valley of Caracas to the summit of the Silla, an 
elevation of 5755 feet, and then sink towards the adjacent 
sea coast. This phenomenon was uninterruptedly prolonged 
for a whole hour, when it was discovered that the bodies, at 
first mistaken for a flock of small birds, were a number of 
minute balls of grass-haums. Boussingault sent me some 
of this grass, which was immediately recognised by Pro- 
fessor Kunth as a species of Vilfa, a genus of grass which 
together with Agrostis is of frequent occurrence in the 
provinces of Caracas and Cumana. It was the Vilfa tenacis- 
sima of our Synopsis Plantaram cequinoctialiam Orbis Novi, 
t. i. p. 205. Saussure found butterflies on Mont Blanc, and 
Ramond observed them in the solitudes around the summit 
of Mont Perdu. When MM. Bonpland, Carlos Montufar,. 
and myself, on the 23rd of June, 1802, ascended the eastern 
declivity of Mount Chimborazo, to a height of 19,286 feet, 
and where the barometer had fallen to 14*84 inches, we found 
winged insects buzzing around us. We recognised them to 


be Diptera, resembling flies, but it was impossible to catch 
these insects standing on the rocky ledges (cachUla), often 
less than a foot in breadth, and between masses of snow pre- 
cipitated from above. The elevation at which we observed 
these insects was almost the same as that in which the naked 
trachytic rock, which projected from the eternal snows around, 
exhibited the last traces of vegetation in Lecidea geographica. 
These insects were flying at an elevation of 18,225 feet, or 
nearly 2660 feet higher than the summit of Mont Blanc : and 
somewhat below this height, at an elevation of 16,626 feet, 
and therefore also above the region of snow, M. Bonpland saw 
yellow butterflies flying close to the ground. The mammalia 
which live nearest to the region of perpetual snow, are, in the 
Swiss Alps, the hybernating marmot, and a very small field- 
mouse, (Hypudsous nivalis,) described by Martius, which on 
the Faulhorn lays up, almost under the snow, a store of the 
roots of phanerogamic alpine plants.* 1 The opinion prevalent 
in Europe, that the beautiful rodent, the Chinchilla, whose 
soft and glossy fur is so much esteemed, is found in the 
highest mountain regions of Chili, is an error. The Chin- 
chilla laniger (Gray) lives only in a mild lower zone, and 
does not advance further south than the parallel of 35°.f 

Whilst among our European Alps, Lecideas, Parmelias, and 
Umbilicarias but scantily clothe with a few coloured patches 
those rocks that are not wholly covered with snow, Ave found 
in the Andes, at elevations of 13,700 to nearly 15,000 feet, 
some phanerogamic plants which we were the first to describe; 
as for instance, the woolly species of Fraylejon, (Culeitium 
nivale, C. rufescens, and C. reflexum, Espeletia grandiflora, 
and E. argentea) Sida pichinchensis, Ranunculus nubigenus, 
R. Gusmanni with red or orange-coloured flowers, the small 
moss-like umbelliferous plant, Myrrhis andicola, and Fragosa 
arctioides. On the declivity of the Chimborazo, the Saxi- 
fraga Boussingaulti, described by Adolph Brongniart, grows 
beyond the limits of perpetual snow on loose blocks of stone 
at an elevation of 15,770 feet above the level of the sea, and 
not at 17,000 as has been stated in two admirable English 

* Actes cle la Societe Helvetique, 1843, p. 324. 

+ Claudio Gav, Historia fisica y politica cle Chile, Zoologia, 1844, 
p. 91. 


journals.* This Saxifrage, discovered by Boussingault, must 
therefore be regarded as the highest growing phanerogamic 
plant in the world. 

The vertical height of Chimborazo is, according to my 
measurement, 21,422 feet.f This result is a mean between 
those which have been given by the French and SjDanish 
Academicians. The principal differences do not here 
depend on different assumptions for the refraction, but on a 
difference in reducing the measured line to the level of the 
sea. This reduction can only be made in the Andes by the 
barometer, and hence every so-called trigonometric measure- 
ment must also necessarily be a barometric one, whose 
result will vary according to the different formulae employed. 
Owing to the enormous mass of the mountain chain, we can 
only obtain very small angles of altitude, when the greater 
portion of the whole height has to be measured trigono- 
nietrically, and the observation is made at some low and dis- 
tant point near the plain or the level of the sea. It is on the 
other hand extremely difficult to obtain a convenient base 
line, as the space that is to be determined barometrically 
increases with every step we advance towards the mountain. 
These obstacles have to be encountered by every traveller 
w r ho on the high table-lands, which surround the summit of 
the Andes, selects a spot for performing a geodetic operation. 
On the pumice-covered plain of Tapia, to the west of the Rio 
Chambo, at a height of 9477 feet, barometrically deter- 
mined, I measured the Chimborazo. The Llanos de Luisa, 
and more especially the plain of Sisgun, whose elevation is 
12,150 feet, would yield greater angles of altitude. I had on 
one occasion made every preparation necessary for the 
measurement of Mount Chimborazo, from the plain of Sisgun, 
w r hen the summit of the mountain was suddenly shrouded in 
a dense cloud. 

Some hypothetical suggestions, regarding the probable deri- 
vation of the name of the far-famed "Chimborazo," may not 
be wholly unwelcome to etymologists. The district in which 
the mountain is situated is called Chimbo, a word which La 

* Compare my Asie centrale, t. iii. p. 262, with Hooker, Journal 
of Botany, vol. i. 1834, p. 327, and the Edinburgh New Philosophical 
Journal, vol. xvii. 1834, p. 380. 

+ Becueil d'Observ. astron., t. i. Intr. p. lxxii. 


Condainine* derives from chimjxini, to cross a river. "Cliim- 
borago" means, according to him, ''the snow of the opposite 
bank,*' from the fact of a brook being crossed at the village of 
Chimbo, in sight of the huge snow-covered mountain. (In 
the Qquichua language cliimpa signifies the opposite bank or 
side; chimpanl to cross a river, bridge, &c.) Several 
natives of the province of Quito assured me that Chimborazo 
meant simply the snow of Chimbo. In Carguai-razo we meet 
with the same termination, and it would appear that "razo" is 
a provincial word. The Jesuit Holguin, whose excellent 
vocabulary! I possess, is not acquainted with the word razo. 
The genuine term for snow is ritti. On the other hand, my 
friend, Professor Buschmann, an admirable linguist, remarks 
that in the Chinchaysuyo dialect, (employed north of Cuzco as 
far as Quito and Pasto) raju, the j being apparently guttural, 
signifies snow.*]; As chimpa and chimpani do not well suit 
on account of the a, Ave may seek a definite meaning for the 
first portion of the name of the mountain and of the village 
Chimbo, in the Qquichua word "chimpu," which is used to 
express a coloured thread or fringe (serial de lana, hilo 6 bor- 
lilia de colores) ; the redness of the sky (arreboles), and the 
halo round the sun and moon. The name of the mountain 
might be thus derived from this word, without reference to 
the district or village. At all events, whatever may be the 
etymology of the word Chimborazo, it should be written in 
the Peruvian manner Chimporazo, as the Peruvians have no 
b in their alphabet. 

May not the name of this colossal mountain be wholly inde- 
pendent of the Inca language, and have come down from a 
bygone age? The Inca or Qquichua language had not been 
introduced long prior to the Spanish invasion into the king- 
dom of Quito, where the now wholly extinct Puruaj^ language 
had been previously used. The names of other mountains, as 
Pichincha, Ilinissa, and Cotopaxi, are wholly devoid of mean- 
ing in the language of the Incas, and are therefore undoubt- 

* Voyage a V Equateur, 1751, p. 184. 

f Vocabulario de la Lengua general de todo el Peru llamada 
Lengua Qquichua 6 del Inca, Lima, 1608. 

X See the word in Juan de Figueredo's vocabulary of Cbinchaysuyo 
words appended to Diego de Torres liubio, Arte, y Vocabulario de la 
Lengua, reimpr. en Lima, 1751, fol. 222, b. 


edly of higher antiquity than the introduction of the worship 
of the sun, and of the court- language of the rulers of Cuzco. 
The names of mountains and rivers belong in all regions of 
the earth to the most ancient and authentic relics of languages ; 
and my brother, Wilhelm von Humboldt, in his investigations 
into the former distribution of the Iberian races, has made 
ingenious use of these names. A singular and unexpected 
statement has recently been made,* " that the Incas, Tupac 
Yupanqui, and Huayna Capac, were astonished on their first 
conquest of Quito, to find a dialect of their Qquichua language 
in use among the natives." Prescott, however, seems to 
regard this as a very bold assertion. f 

If we could suppose the pass of St. Goth arc! , Mount Athos, 
or the Rigi, piled on the summit of the Chimborazo, we 
should have the elevation which is at present ascribed to 
the Dhawalagiri in the Himalaya. The geologist who regards 
the interior of our planet from a more general point of view, 
and to whom not the directions, but the relative heights of 
the rocky projections, which we designate mountain chains, 
appear but as phenomena of little importance, will not be 
astonished if at some future period mountain summits should 
be discovered between the Himalaya and the Altai, which 
should surpass in height those of Dhawalagiri and Djewahir 
as much as these exceed that of Chimborazo.^ The great 
height to which the snow-line recedes in summer on the nor- 
thern declivity of the Himalaya, owing to the heat radiated 
from the elevated plateaux in Central Asia, renders the moun- 
tain, notwithstanding that it is situated in 29 to 30J° north 
lat., as accessible as are the Peruvian Andes in the region 
of the tropics. Captain Gerard has moreover recently ascended 
the Tarhigang as high, if not 117 feet higher, § than I ascended 
the Chimborazo. Unfortunately, as I have elsewhere more 
fully shown, these mountain ascents, beyond the line of per- 
petual snow, however they may engage the curiosity of 
the public, are of very little scientific utility. 

* Velasco, Historia de Quito, t. i. p. 185. 

+ Hist, of the Conquest of Peru, vol. i. p. 125. 

% See my Vues des Cordilleres et Monumens des peuples indigenes 
deVAmerique, t. i. p. 116; and the Memoir entitled Ueber zwei Ver- 
suclie den Chimborazo zu besteiyen 1802 and 1831, in Schumacher's 
Jahrbuchfiir 1837, S. 176. 

§ Critical Researches on Philology and Geography, 1824, p. 144. 


(2) p. 210 — '■''The Condor, that giant among vultures." 

I have elsewhere* given the natural history of the Condor, 
which before my travels had been variously misstated. The 
name is properly Cuntur in the Inca language ; Manque, 
among the Araucanes in Chili; Sarcoramphus Condor accord- 
ing to Dumeril. I sketched the head of this bird from life, 
of the natural size, and had my drawing engraved. Next to 
the Condor, the L'ammergeier of Switzerland, and the Falco 
destructor (Daud.), probably Linnaeus' Falco Harpyia, are the 
largest of vWJtying birds. 

The region which may be regarded as the common resort 
of the Condor, begins at the elevation of Mount Etna. It 
embraces atmospheric strata which are from 10,000 to 19,000 
feet above the level of the sea. Humming birds also, which in 
their summer nights advance as far as 61° north lat. on the 
western coast of America, and are on the other hand found 
in the Archipelago of the Tierra del Fuego, were seen by Von 
Tschudi in Puna at an elevation of 14,600 feet.f There is a 
pleasure in comparing the largest and the smallest of the 
feathered inhabitants of the air. The largest among the 
Condors found in the Cordilleras, near Quito, measure nearly 
15 feet across the expanded wings, and the smaller ones 8| 
feet. This size, and the visual angle at which the birds are 
seen vertically above one's head, afford an idea of the enormous 
height to which the Condor soars in a clear sky. A visual 
angle of four minutes, for instance, would give a vertical 
elevation of 7330 feet. The cavern (Mackay) of Antisana, 
opposite the mountain of Chussulongo, and where we 
measured the birds soaring over the chain of the Andes, lies 
at an elevation of nearly 16,000 feet above the surface of the 
Pacific ; the absolute height which the Condor reached must 
therefore be 23,273 feet, a height at which the barometer 
scarcely stands at 12' 7 inches; but which, however, does not 
exceed that of the loftiest summit of the Himalaya. It is 
a remarkable physiological phenomenon that the same bird, 
which wheels for hours together through these highly rarefied 
regions, should be able suddenly, as for instance on the 
western declivity of the volcano of Pichincha, to descend to 

* See my Recueil d 'Observations de Zoologie et d'Anatomie com- 
parSe, vol. i. p. 26 — 45. 

f Fauna Peruana, Ornithol. p. 12. 


the sea-shore, and thus in the course of a few hours traverse, 
as it were, all climates. At heights of 23,000 feet and upwards 
the membranous air-sacs of the Condor must undergo a re- 
markable degree of inflation after being filled in lower regions 
of the atmosphere. 

Ulloa, more than a hundred years ago, expressed his asto- 
nishment that the Vulture of the Andes could soar at heights 
where the pressure of the atmosphere was less than fifteen 
inches.* 4 An opinion was at that time entertained, from the 
analogy of experiments made with the air-pump, that no 
animal could exist under this slight amount of atmospheric 
pressure. I have myself, as has already been mentioned, seen 
the barometer fall to 14*85 inches on the Chimborazo; and 
my friend, M. Gay-Lussac, breathed for a quarter of an hour 
an atmosphere in which the pressure was only 12-9 inches. 
It must be admitted that man, when wearied by muscular 
exertion, finds himself in a state of painful exhaustion 
at such elevations; but in the Condor, the respiratory 
process seems to be performed with equal facility under 
a pressure of 30 or of 13 inches. This bird probably raises 
itself voluntarily to a greater height from the surface of our 
earth than any other living creature. I use the expression 
"voluntarily," since small insects and siliceous -shelled infusoria 
are frequently borne to greater elevations by a rising current 
of air. It is probable that the Condor flies even higher than 
the above calculations would appear to show. I remember 
observing near the Cotopaxi, in the pumice plain of Suni- 
guaicu, at an elevation of 14,471 feet above the level of the 
sea, this bird soaring at such a height above my head that it 
appeared like a black speck. But what is the smallest angle 
under which faintly illumined objects can be distinguished ? 
Their form (linear extension) exercises a great influence on 
the minimum of this angle. The transparency of the mountain 
air is so great under the equator, that in the province of Quito, 
as I have elsewhere stated, the white cloak (po?icho) of a horse- 
man may be distinguished with the naked eye at a horizontal 
distance of 89,664 feet, and therefore under an angle of thirteen 
seconds. It was my friend Bonpland whom we observed, 
from the pleasant country-seat of the Marques de Selvalegre, 

* Voyage de VAmeriqiie meridionale, t. ii. p. 2. 1752; Observations 
astronomiques et physiques, p. 110. 


moving along a black rocky precipice on the volcano of 
Pichincha. Lightning conductors, being thin elongated 
objects, are visible, as Arago has observed, from the greatest 
distances and under the smallest angles. 

The account I have given in my Monograph of the Condor 
(Zoologie, pp. 26 — 45) of the habits of this powerful bird in the 
mountain districts of Quito and Peru has been confirmed by a 
more recent traveller, Gay, who has explored the whole of 
Chili, and described it in his admirable work, Historia Jisica y 
politica de Chile. This bird which, singularly enough, like 
the Lamas, Vicunas, Alpacas and Guanacos, is not found be- 
yond the equator in New Granada, penetrates as far south as 
the Straits of Magellan. In Chili, as in the elevated plateaux 
of Quito, the Condors, which usually live in pairs, or even 
alone, congregate in flocks for the purpose of attacking 
lambs and calves, or seizing on young Guanacos (Guanacillos). 
The havoc annually committed by the Condor among the herds 
of sheep, goats and cattle, as well as among the wild vicunas, 
alpacas and guanacos of the chain of the Andes is very con- 
siderable. The Chilians assert that this bird when in captivity 
can endure hunger for forty days; when in a free state,, 
however, its voracity is excessive, and it then, like the 
vulture, feeds by preference on carrion. 

The mode of catching these birds, by an inclosure of pali- 
sades such as I have already described, is as successful in 
Chili as in Peru, for the bird after being rendered heavy from 
excess of food is obliged to run a short distance with half- 
extended wings before it can take flight. A dead ox which 
is already in an incipient state of decomposition, is strongly 
inclosed with palisades, within which narrow space the 
Condors throng together; being unable, as already observed, 
to fly on account of the excess of food which they have de- 
voured, and impeded in their run by the palisades, these birds 
are either killed by the natives with clubs, or are caught alive 
by the lasso. The Condor was represented as a symbol of 
strength on the coinage of Chili immediately after the first 
declaration of political independence.^ 

The different species of Gallinazos, which are much more 
considerable in point of numbers than the Condors, are also 

* Claudio Gay, Historia Jisica y politica cle Chile, publicada bajo 
los auspicios del Supremo Gobierno; Zoologia, pp. 194 — 198. 


far more useful than the latter in the great economy of 
Nature for destroying and removing animal substances that 
are becoming decomposed, and thus purifying the atmosphere 
in the neighbourhood of human dwellings. In tropical 
America, I have sometimes seen seventy or eighty of these 
creatures collected round a dead ox ; and I am able, as an 
eye-witness, to confirm the fact that has of late erroneously 
been called in question by ornithologists, that the appearance of 
one single king-vulture (who is not larger than the Gallinazos) 
is sufficient to put a whole assemblage of these birds to 
flight. No contest ever takes place ; but the Gallinazos (two 
species of which, (Cathartes urubu and C. aura,) have been 
confounded together by an unfortunately fluctuating nomen- 
clature) are intimidated by the sudden appearance and the 
courageous demeanour of the richly coloured "Sarcoram- 
j)hus Papa." As the ancient Egyptians protected the Per- 
cnopteri, which purified the atmosphere, so also the wanton 
destruction of Gallinazos is punished in Peru by a fine 
(midta), which, according to Gay, amounts in some cities to 
300 piastres for every bird. It is a remarkable fact, that 
this species of vulture, as was already testified by Don Felix 
de Azara, if trained early, will so accustom themselves to the 
person who has reared them, that they will follow him on a 
journey for many miles, flying after his carriage across the 

(3) p. 211 — " Encloses their rotating hodies." 

Fontana, in his admirable treatise "on the poison of the 
viper," vol. i. p. 62, mentions that he succeeded in restoring 
to animation, after two hours' immersion in a drop of water, 
a wheel-animalcule which had lain in a dried and motionless 
condition for the space of two years and a half.* 

The so-called reanimation of Rotifera has very recently 
again been made a subject of lively discussion, since observ- 
ations have been conducted with more exactness and subjected 
to a stricter criticism. Baker affirmed that in 1771, he had 
revived paste-eels which Needham had given him in the year 
1744! Franz Bauer saw his Vibrio tritici, which had lain 
four years in a dry state, move on being moistened. The 

* On the action of water, see my Versuche iiber die gereizte Muskel- 
und Nervenfaser, Bd. ii. S. 250. 


remarkably careful and experienced observer, Doyere,* draws 
the following conclusions from his beautiful experiments: 
that Rotifera revive, i. e. pass from a motionless state to one 
of motion, after being exposed to a cold of 11°. 2 Fahr., 
or to a heat of 113° Fahr. ; that they preserve the property of 
reviving in dry sand up to a temperature of 1 59° Fahr. ; but 
that they lose this property and remain immoveable if warmed 
in moist sand to 131° Fahr. only;f and that the possibility of 
this so-called revivification is not prevented by their being 
exposed to desiccation for twenty-eight days in barometric 
tubes, in vacuo, even should chloride of lime or sulphuric acid 
be employed. J 

Doyere has also seen Rotifera slowly revive after 
being dried without sand, (desseches a. nu,) a fact which 
Spallanzani denies. § "Desiccation conducted in an ordinary 
temperature might be open to many objections which are 
not perhaps wholly obviated by the employment of a dry 
vacuum ; but when we observe that the Tardigrades irrevoc- 
ably perish in a temperature of 131° Fahr. if their tissues are 
permeated with water, whereas they can, when dried, support 
a temperature that may be estimated at 248° Fahr., we are 
disposed to admit that the sole condition required for animal 
revivification is the perfect integrity of organic structure and 

In like manner, the sporules, or germinating cells of cryp- 
togamic plants, which Kunth compares to the propagation of 
certain phanerogamic plants by buds (bulbillaB), retain their 
power of germination in the highest temperature. Accord- 
ing to the most recent experiments of Payen, the sporules of 
a small fungus (O'idium aurantiacum), which invests the crumb 
of bread with a reddish feathery coating, do not even lose 
their vegetative powers by being exposed in closed tubes 
for half an hour to a temperature of 183° to 208° Fahr. before 
being strewn on fresh, unspoilt .dough. May not the newly 
discovered and wonderful monad (Monas prodigiosa), which 
causes blood-like spots in mealy substances, have been mixed 
with this fungus ? 

* See his Memoire sur les Tardigrades et sur leur propriete de 
revenir a la vie (1842). 
+ Doyere, Op. cit. p. 119. 
% Doyere, Op. cit. pp. 130—133. 
§ Doyere, Op. cit. pp. 117 and 129. 



Ehrenberg, in his great work on Infusoria (p. 492 — 496), 
has given the most complete history of all the observations 
instituted on the so-called revivification of Rotifera. He 
believes, that notwithstanding all the means of desiccation 
employed, the organization-fluid still remains in the apparently 
dead animal. He contests the hypothesis of "latent life"; 
for death, he says, " is not life in a torpid state, but the 
absence of life." 

The hybernation or winter-sleep of both warm and cold- 
blooded animals, as dormice, marmots, sand-martins (Hirundo 
riparia, according to Cuvier)* 4 , and of frogs and toads, 
affords us evidence of the diminution, if not of the complete 
suspension, of the organic functions. Frogs awakened 
from their winter-sleep by warmth, can remain eight times 
longer under water, without drowning, than frogs in the 
breeding season. It seems as if the respiratory functions of 
the lungs require a less degree of activity after the long 
suspension of their excitability. The circumstance of the 
sand-martin burying itself during the winter in marshes, is a 
phenomenon which, while it scarcely admits of a doubt, 
is the more remarkable, because in birds, the function 
of respiration is so extremely energetic, that, according to 
Lavoisier's experiments, two sparrows in an ordinary con- 
dition will, in the same time, decompose as much atmospheric 
air as a Guinea-pig. f Winter-sleep is not supposed to be 
general to the whole species of these sand-martins, but only 
to some few individuals. £ 

As in the frigid zone deprivation of warmth produces winter- 
sleep in some animals, so in the torrid regions, within the 
tropics, an analogous phenomenon is manifested that has not 
hitherto been sufficiently regarded, and to which I have 
applied the term summer-sleep. § Drought and a continuous 
high temperature act like the cold of winter in reducing 
excitability. Madagascar, excepting a very small portion of 
its southern extremity, lies within the tropics, and here, 
as was already observed by Bruguiere, the hedgehog-like 
Tenrecs (Centeres, Illiger), one species of which (C ecau- 

* Regne animal, 1829, t. i. p. 396. 

f Lavoisier, Memoires de Chimie, t. i. p. 119. 

% Milne Edwards, Elements de Zoologie. 1831, p. 513. 

§ Relat. hist, t. ii. pp. 192, 626. 


datus) was introduced into the Isle of France (20° 9', latitude), 
sleep during excessive heat. The objection advanced by 
Desjardins, that the time of their sleep falls within the season 
of winter in the southern hemisphere, can scarcely be regarded 
as applicable in reference to a country, where the meau tem- 
perature of the coldest month is nearly 7° Fahr. above that 
of the hottest month in Paris; and this circumstance can- 
not therefore change the three months' summer-sleep of the 
Tenrec in Madagascar and Port Louis (Isle of France) into 
actual hybernation. 

In a similar manner, the Crocodile in the Llanos of Vene- 
zuela, the land and water Tortoises on the Orinoco, and 
the colossal Boa, and many of the smaller species of serpents, 
lie torpid and motionless in the hardened ground, through- 
out the hot and dry season of the year. The missionary 
Gilij relates, that the natives, in seeking the dormant 
Terekai (land- tortoises), which lie buried in dry mud to 
the depth of 16 or 17 inches, are often bitten by serpents 
suddenly awakened, and which had buried themselves with 
the tortoises. An admirable observer, Dr. Peters, who 
has only just returned from the eastern coast of Africa, 
writes to me as follows: "I could not obtain any certain 
information regarding the Tenrec during my short stay 
in Madagascar, but I am, on the other hand, well aware, 
that in the portion of eastern Africa where I spent several 
years, different species of tortoises (Pentonyx and Trionices) 
remain enclosed for months together, without food, in the 
parched and indurated ground, during the dry season of this 
tropical country. The Lepidosiren also remains motionless 
and coiled up in the hardened earth, from May to December, 
wherever the swamps have been dried up." 

We thus meet with an enfeeblement of certain vital func- 
tions in numerous and very different classes of animals, and, 
what is peculiarly striking, without the same phenomenon pre- 
senting itself in organisms nearly allied, and belonging to one 
and the same family. The northern glutton (Gulo), allied to 
the badger (Meles), does not, like the latter, sleep during the 
winter; whilst, according to Cuvier, " a Myoxus (Dormouse of 
Senegal, Myoxus Coupeii) which had probably never expe- 
rienced a winter-sleep in its tropical home, fell into a state of 
hybernation at the beginning of winter, the first year it was 

r 2 


brought to Europe." This enfeeblement of the vital functions 
and vital activity passes through several gradations, accord- 
ing as it extends to the processes of nutrition, respiration and 
muscular movement, or induces a depression of the cerebral 
and nervous systems. The winter-sleep of the solitary bear 
and of the badger is not attended with rigidity, and hence 
the awakening of these animals is easy, and, as I frequently 
heard in Siberia, very dangerous to the hunters and country 
people. The recognition of the gradation and connec- 
tion of these phenomena leads us to the so-called vita minima, 
of the microscopic organisms, which occasionally fall in the 
Atlantic in showers of meteoric dust, and some of which have 
green ovaries and are engaged in a self-generating process. 
The apparent revivification of the Rotifera and of the sili- 
ceous-shelled Infusoria is only the renewal of long enfeebled 
vital functions — a condition of vitality never entirely extin- 
guished, but merely revived by excitation. Physiological 
phenomena can only be comprehended by being traced 
through the entire series of analogous modifications. 

(4) p. 211—" Winged Insects." 

The fructification of dioecious plants was at one time princi- 
pally ascribed to the agency of the wind. It has been shown 
by Kolreuter, and also with much ingenuity by Sprengel, that 
bees, wasps and numerous small winged insects, are the main 
agents in this process. I use the phrase "main agents", since 
I cannot regard it as consonant to nature that fructification 
should be impossible without the intervention of these insects, 
as Willdenow has also fully shewn. * On the other hand 
dichogamy, sap-marks, {macula; i?idicantes), coloured spots 
indicating the presence of honey-vessels, and fructification by 
insects, appear to be almost inseparable from one another.f 

The statement often repeated since Spallanzani, that the 
dioecious common hemp (Cannabis sativa), which was intro- 
duced into Europe from Persia, bears ripe seeds without being- 
in the neighbourhood of pollen-tubes, has been entirely 
refuted by more recent investigations. When seeds have 
been obtained, anthers in a rudimentary state have been found 
near the ovarium, and these may have been capable of yield- 

* Grundriss der Krauterkunde, 4te Aufl. Berl. 1805. s. 405 — 412. 
■f Auguste de St. Hilaire, Lemons de Botanique, 1840, pp. 565— 571. 


ing some grains of fructifying pollen. Such hermaphrodism 
is frequent in the whole family of Urticecv, but a singular 
and hitherto unexplained phenomenon is manifested in the 
forcing-houses at Kew by a small New Holland shrub, the 
Coclebogyne of Smith. This phanerogamic plant brings forth 
seeds in England without exhibiting any trace of male organs, 
and without the bastard introduction of the pollen of any other 
plant. "A species of Euphorbiacea?," (?) writes the distin- 
guished botanist, Jussieu, " the Ccelebogyne, which, although 
but recently described, has been cultivated for many years 
in English conservatories, has several times borne seeds, 
which were evidently perfect, since the well-formed embryos 
they contained have produced similar plants. The most 
careful observations have hitherto failed in discovering- the 
slightest trace of anthers or even pollen in the flowers, 
which are dioecious. No male plants of this kind are known 
to exist in England. The embryo cannot therefore have 
come from the pollen, which is wholly deficient, but must 
have been formed entirely in the ovule."* 

In order to obtain a fresh and confirmatory explanation of 
this important and isolated physiological phenomenon, I 
lately addressed myself to my young friend, Dr. Joseph 
Hooker, who after having accompanied Sir James Ross in 
his Antarctic voyage, has now joined the great Thibeto- 
Himalayan expedition. Dr. Hooker wrote to me as follows 
from Alexandria, at the close of December, 1847, prior to his 
embarkation at Suez: "Our Ccelebogyne still flowers with 
my father at Kew, as well as in the Gardens of the Horti- 
cultural Society. It ripens its seeds regularly. I have re- 
peatedly examined it with care, but have never been able to 
discover a penetration of pollen utricles into the stigma, nor 
any traces of their presence in the latter or in the style. In 
my herbarium the male blossoms are in small catkins." 

(5) p. 212 — ''■Like luminous stars." 

The phosphorescence of the ocean is one of those splendid 
phenomena of nature which excite our admiration, even when 
we behold its recurrence every night for months together. 
The ocean is phosphorescent in all zones of the earth, but he 
who has not witnessed the phenomenon in the tropics, and 
* Adricn de Jussien, Cours elementaire de Botanique, 1840, p. 463. 


especially in the Pacific, can form but a very imperfect idea 
of the majesty of this brilliant spectacle. The traveller on 
board a man-of-war, when ploughing the foaming waves before 
a fresh breeze, feels that he can scarcely satisfy himself with 
gazing on the spectacle presented by the circling waves. 
"Wherever the ship's side rises above the waves, bluish or 
reddish flames seem to flash lightning-like upwards from 
the keel. The appearance presented in the tropical seas 
on a dark night is indescribably glorious, when shoals of 
dolphins are seen sporting around, and cutting the foaming 
waves in long and circling lines, gleaming with bright and 
sparkling light. In the Gulf of Cariaco, between Cumana 
and the Peninsula of Maniquarez, I have spent hours in 
enjoying this spectacle. 

Le Gentil and the elder Forster ascribed these flames to 
the electrical friction of the water on the vessel as it glides 
forward — an explanation that must, in the present condition 
of our physical knowledge, be regarded as untenable.* 

There are probably few subjects of natural investigation 
which have excited so many and such long- continued con- 
tentions as the phosphorescence of sea- water. All that is 
known with certainty regarding this much disputed question 
may be reduced to the following simple facts. There are 
many luminous mollusca which possess the property when 
alive of emitting at will a faint phosphoric light; which is of 
a bluish tinge in Nereis noctiluca, Medusa pelagica var. /3,f 
and in the pipe-like Monophora noctiluca, discovered in 
Baudin's expedition. \ The luminosity of sea- water is in 
part owing to living light-bearing animals, and in part to 
the organic fibres and membranes of the same, when in a 
state of decomposition. The first-named of these causes 
of the phosphorescence of the ocean is undoubtedly the most 
common and the most widely diffused. The more actively 
and the more efficiently that travellers engaged in the study 

* Joli. "Rcinli. Forster, Bemerlcungen auf seiner Reise wm die Welt, 
1783,s.57; Le Gentil, Voyage dans les Mers de VInde, 1772, t. L 
pp. 685—698. 

f Forskaal, Fauna cegyptiaco-arahica, s. Descriptions animalium 
qaai in itinere oricntali observavit, 1775, p. 109. 

% Bory de St. -Vincent, Voyage dans les lies des Mers d'Afrique, 
1804 t. i. p. 107, pi. vi. 


of nature have learnt to employ powerful microscopes, the 
more our zoological systems have been enriched by new groups 
of mollusca and infusoria, whose property of emitting light 
either at will or from external stimulus has been recognised. 

The luminosity of the sea, as far as it depends on living 
organisms, is principally owing, among zoophytes, to the 
Acalephse (the families of Medusa? and Cyaneae), to some 
Mollusca, and to an innumerable host of Infusoria. Among 
the small Acalephgo (Sea-nettles), the Mammaria scintillans 
presents us, as it were, with the glorious image of the starry 
firmament reflected in the surface of the sea. When full- 
grown this little creature scarcely equals in size the head of a 
pin. The existence of siliceous-shelled luminous infusoria 
was first shown by Michaelis at Kiel. He observed the 
coruscation of the Peridinium, (a ciliated animalcule,) of the 
Cuirass-monad (Prorocentrum mieans), and of a rotifer, 
which he named Synchata baltica,^ the same that Focke 
subsequently found in the lagoons of Venice. My distin- 
guished friend and fellow traveller in Siberia, Ehrenberg, 
succeeded in keeping two luminous Infusoria of the Baltic 
alive for nearly two months at Berlin. I examined them 
with him in 1832; and saw them coruscate in a drop of 
sea- water on the darkened field of the microscope. When 
these luminous Infusoria (the largest of which was only i 
and the smallest from -^g to ■£$ of a Parisian line in length) 
were exhausted, and ceased to emit sparks, they would 
renew their flashing on being stimulated by the addition of 
acids or by the application of a little alcohol to the sea- water. 

By repeatedly filtering fresh sea-water, Ehrenberg suc- 
ceeded in procuring a fluid in which a large number of these 
light-emitting animalcules were accumulated.! This acute 
observer has found in the organs of the Photocharis 
which give off flashes of light (either voluntarily or when 
stimulated), a cellular structure of a gelatinous character 
in the interior, and which manifests some similarity with 
the electric organ of the Gymnotus and the Torpedo. 
"When the Photocharis is irritated, in each cirrus a 
kindling and a gleaming of separate sparks may be observed, 
which gradually increase and at length illuminate the 

* Michaelis, TJehev das Leuchten der Ostsee hei Kiel, 1830, s. 17. 
+ Abhandlungen der AJcad. der Wiss. zu Berlin aus dem J. 1833, 
s. 307, 1834, s. 537—575, 1838, s. 45, 258. 


whole cirrus; until the living flame runs also over the 
back of this nereid-like animalcule, making it appear under 
the microscope like a burning thread of sulphur with a 
greenish-yellow light. In the Oceania (Thaumanthias) hemi- 
spheerica, the number and position of the sparks correspond 
accurately, at the thickened base, with the larger cirri or 
organs which alternate with them, a circumstance that merits 
special attention. The manifestation of this wreath of fire is 
an act of vitality, and the whole development of light an organic 
vital process, which exhibits itself in Infusorial animals as a 
momentary spark of light, and is repeated after short intervals 
of rest."'"' 

The luminous animals of the ocean appear, from these con- 
jectures, to prove the existence of a magneto-electric light- 
generating vital process in other classes of animals besides 
fishes, insects, mollusca, and acalephae. Is the secretion of 
the luminous fluid which is effused in some animalcules, 
and which continues to shine for a long period without 
further influence of the living organism (as, for instance, in Lam- 
pyrides and Elaterides, in the German and Italian glow-worms, 
and in the South American Cucuyo of the sugar-cane), merely 
the consequence of the first electric discharge, or is it simply 
dependent on chemical composition? The luminosity of insects 
surrounded by air assuredly depends on physiological causes 
different from those which give rise to a luminous condition 
in aquatic animals, fishes, Medusae, and Infusoria. The small 
Infusoria of the ocean, being surrounded by strata of salt- 
water which constitutes a powerful conducting medium, must 
be capable of an enormous electric tension of their flashing 
organs to enable them to shine so vividly in the water. They 
strike like the Torpedo, the Gymnotus, and the Electric Silurus 
of the Nile, through the stratum of water: whilst electric 
fishes which, in connection with the galvanic circuit, are 
capable of decomposing water, and of imparting magnetic 
power to steel needles, (as I showed more than half a century 
ago,f and as John Davy has more recently confirmed,^:) yield 

* Ehrenberg, Ueber das Leuchten des Meeres, 1836, s. 110, 158, 160, 


+ Versuche iiber die gereizte Muslcel- und Nervenfaser, bd. i. s. 438 — 
441; see also Obs. de Zoologie et d'Anatomie comparee, vol. i. p. 84. 

X PJiilosophical Transactions for the year 1834, part ii. pp. 545 — 


no indications of electricity through the smallest intervening 
stratum of flame. 

The considerations which we have here developed render it 
probable that one and the same process operates, alike in the 
smallest living organisms invisible to the naked eye, in the 
contests of the serpent-like Gymnoti, in the flashing luminous 
Infusoria which impart such glorious brilliancy to the phospho- 
rescence of the sea, in the thunder- cloud and in the terrestrial 
or polar light (the silent magnetic flashes), which, caused 
by an increased tension of the interior of the earth, are 
announced, for some hours previously, by the sudden variations 
of the magnetic needle.* 

Sometimes one cannot, even with high magnifying powers, 
discover any animalcules in the luminous water; and yet, 
wherever a wave breaks in foam against a hard body, and, 
indeed, wherever water is violently agitated, flashes of light 
become visible. The cause of this phenomenon depends 
probably on the decomposing fibres of dead Mollusca, which 
are diffused in the greatest abundance throughout the water. 
If this luminous water be filtered through finely woven cloths, 
the fibres and membranes appear like separate luminous 
points. When we bathed at Cumana, in the gulf of Cariaco, 
and walked naked on the solitary beach in the beautiful 
evening air, parts of our bodies remained luminous from the 
bright fibres and organic membranes which adhered to the 
skin, nor did they lose this light for some minutes. If we 
consider the enormous quantity of Mollusca which animate 
all tropical seas, we can hardly wonder that sea-water should 
be luminous, even where no fibres can be visibly separated 
from it. From the endless subdivision of the masses of dead 
Da gy see and Medusa the whole ocean may, in fact, be 
regarded as a fluid containing gelatine, and, as such, luminous 
and of a nauseous taste ; unfit for the use of man, but capable 
of affording nourishment to many species of fish. On rubbing 
a board with a portion of the Medusa hysocella, the surface thus 
rubbed recovers its phosphorescence when friction is applied 
by means of the dry finger. During my voyage to South 
America I occasionally placed a Medusa on a tin plate, and I 
then observed that if I struck the plate with another metallic 

* See my letter to the editor of the Annalen der Physik und 
Chcmie, bd. xxxvii. 1836, s. 242—244. 


substance the slightest vibrations of the tin were sufficient to 
cause the animal to emit light. How do the blow and the vibra- 
tions here act? Is the temperature momentarily augmented, 
or are new surfaces presented? or, again, does some gaseous 
matter such as phosphuretted hydrogen, exude in consequence 
of this impulse, and burn when it comes in contact with the 
oxygen of the atmosphere, or with that dissolved in the sea- 
water, and by which the respiration of the Mollusca is main- 
tained? This light-exciting effect of the blow is most remark- 
able in a cross or sugar-loaf sea, (nier clapoteuse,) where the 
waves, clashing from opposite directions, rise in a conical form. 

I have seen the ocean, in the tropics, luminous in the most 
opposite kinds of weather, but most strongly so before a 
storm, or in a sultry and hazy atmosphere with thick clouds. 
Heat and cold appear to exercise but little influence on this 
phenomenon, for, on the Bank of Newfoundland, the phos- 
phorescence is frequently very brilliant in the severest 
winter. Occasionally, too, the sea will be highly luminous 
one night, and not at all so on the following, notwithstanding 
an apparent identity of external conditions. Does the atmo- 
sphere favour this development of light? or do all the dif- 
ferences observed during this phenomenon depend on the 
accidental circumstance of the sea being more or less impreg- 
nated, in some parts, with the gelatinous portions of mol- 
lusca? Perhaps these phosphorescent social animalcules only 
rise to the surface under certain conditions of the atmosphere. 
It has been asked, why our fresh- water swamps which are 
filled with polyps are not phosphorescent. It would appear 
that, both in animals and plants, a peculiar mixture of 
organic particles favours this development of light ; thus, for 
instance, the wood of the willow is more frequently found to 
be luminous than that of the oak. In England, salt-water 
has been rendered luminous by mixing herring-brine with 
it ; indeed, it will be easy for any one to convince himself by 
galvanic experiments, that the luminosity of living animals 
depends on nervous irritation. I have observed strong phos- 
phorescence emitted from a dying Elater noctilucus, on touch- 
ing the ganglion of its fore leg with zinc and silver. Medusae 
also occasionally emit a stronger light at the moment the 
galvanic circuit is completed.'*" 

* Humboldt, Relat. hist, t. i. pp. 79, 533. Eespecting the wonder- 


(6) p. 213 — " Which inhabits the lungs of the Rattlesnake of 

the tropics." 

The animal which I formerly named an Echinorhynchus, and 
to which I even applied the term Porocephalus, appears, on a 
closer inspection, according to Rudolphi's better grounded 
opinion, to belong to the division of Pentastoma* It is 
found in the abdominal cavity and the wide-celled lungs of a 
species of Crotalus, which, in Cumana, occasionally infests 
even the interior of houses, and preys on mice. The Ascaris 
lumbrici] lives beneath the skin of the common earth-worm, 
and is the smallest of all the species of Ascaris. Leucophra 
nodulata, Gleichen's pearl animalcule, has been observed by 
Otto Friedrich Mulier in the interior of the reddish Nais lit- 
toralis.% It is probable that these microscopic animals are. 
in their turn, inhabited by others. All are surrounded by air, 
deficient in oxygen, and copiously charged with hydrogen and 
carbonic acid. It is extremely doubtful whether any animal 
could exist in pure nitrogen, although such an opinion did, 
formerly indeed, seem warranted with reference to Fischer's 
Cistidicola farionis, since, according to Fourcroy's experi- 
ments, the swimming-bladder of fish was presumed to contain 
air wholly devoid of oxygen. But the experiments made 
by Erman, and confirmed by myself, prove that the 
swimming-bladder of fresh-water fish never contains pure 
nitrogen. § In sea fish as much as 0*80 parts of oxygen have 
been found, while, according to Biot's views, the purity of the 
air depends on the depth at which the fishes live. [] 

(7) p. 214 — " The united Lithophytes." 

According to Linnaeus and Ellis the calcareous Zoophytes, 
(among which Madrepores, Meandrinse, Astroese, and Pocil- 

ful development of mass and power of increase in the Infusorial animal- 
cules, see Ehrenberg, Infus., s. xiii. 291 and 512. " The galaxy of the 
smallest organisms," he says, w passes through the genera Monas (where 
they are often only 3Z] \ 1; , of a line), Vibrio, and Bacterium," (s. xix. 244.) 

* Rudolphi, Entozoorum Synoi^sis, pp. 124, 434, 

+ See Gozen's Eingeweidewurmer, tab. iv. fig. 10. 

% Mulier, Zoologia danica, Fasc. ii. tab. lxxx. a — e. 

§ Humboldt et Provencal, Sur la respiration des Poissons, in Rec~ 
dObs. de Zoologie, vol. ii. pp. 194 — 216. 

|| Memoires de Physique et de Chimie de la Societe d'Arcueil, t. 
i. 1807, pp. 252—281. 


loporec especially produce mural coral-reefs,) are inhabited 
and invested by animalcules, •which were long supposed to 
be allied to the Nereids belonging to Cuvier's Annelida 
(jointed worms). The anatomy of these gelatinous animalcules 
has been made known by the acute and comprehensive re- 
searches of Cavolini, Savigny, and Ehrenberg. We have 
learned that, in order to understand the whole organism of the 
(so-called) rock-building animals, we must not considei the 
scaffolding which remains after their death, namelv, the iavers 
of lime formed into delicate lamellae by a vital function of 
secretion, as foreign to the soft membranes of the food- 
receiving animal. 

Besides our increased knowledge of the wonderful for- 
mation of the living coral-stocks, a more correct view has 
gradually gained ground respecting the extensive influence 
which the coral world has exercised on the appearance of low 
island groups above the level of the sea, on the migration of 
land-plants, and the successive extension of the domain of the 
Floras, and, indeed, in some parts of the ocean, on the distri- 
bution of the human race and of languages. 

As minute social organisms the corals play an import- 
ant part in the general economy of nature, although they do 
not, as people began to believe after Capt. Cook's voyages of 
discovery, build up islands or enlarge continents from almost 
unfathomable depths of the ocean. They excite the liveliest 
interest, whether regarded as physiological objects, and as 
illustrating the various gradations of animal form, or in con- 
nection with the geography of plants, and the geognostic 
relations of the earth's crust. According to the comprehen- 
sive views of Leopold von Buch, the whole Jura-formation 
consists of " large elevated coral-banks of the ancient world, 
surrounding at a certain distance the old mountain chains." 

According to Ehrenberg" s classification,-'' coral- animals, (in 
English works often incorrectly termed coral-insects,) are 
separable into the monostomous Anthozoa, which are either 
free and with the power of detaching themselves, as Animal- 
corals; or are attached in the manner of plants, as Phyto-corals. 
To the first order (Zoocorallia) belong the Hydras or Arm- 
polyps of Trembley, the Actinia?, radiant with the most 

* Abhandlungen der Akad. der Wiss. zu Berlin aus dem J. 1832, 
s. 393—432. 


splendid colours, and the mushroom-corals; and to the second 
order belong the Madrepores, the AstreeaG, and the Ocellinae. 
The Polyps of the second order are those which from their 
cellular, wave-resisting, wall-works are the principal subject 
of this illustration. The wall- work is composed of the aggre- 
gate of the coral-trunks, which, however, do not suddenly lose 
their combined vitality, like a dead forest tree. 

Every coral-trunk arises by a process of gemmation in ac- 
cordance with certain laws, and forms one complete structure, 
each portion being formed by a great number of organically 
distinct individual animals. In the group of Phyto-corals these 
cannot separate themselves spontaneously, but remain united 
with one another by lamellse of carbonate of lime. Hence 
each, coral-trunk by no means possesses a central point of 
common vitality.-'" The propagation of coral-animals, accord- 
ing to the difference of the orders, is by eggs, spontaneous 
division or gemmation. This last kind of propagation 
presents the greatest variety of forms in the development of 

The Coral-reefs (or, as Dioscorides designates them, sea- 
plants, a forest of stony-trees, Lithodendra), are of three 
kinds; namely, Coast-reefs, (shore-reefs, fringing-reefs), which 
are directly connected with continental or insular coasts, as 
on the north-east coast of New Holland, between Sandy Cape 
and the dreaded Torres Straits, and almost all the coral-banks 
of the Red Sea examined for eighteen months by Ehrenberg 
and Hemprich; Island-surrounding reefs (barrier-reefs, encir- 
cling-reefs), as at Vanikoro in the small archipelago of Santa 
Cruz, north of the New Hebrides, and at Puynipete, one of 
the Carolinas ; and Coral-hanks surrounding lagoons (Atolls or 
Lagoon-islands). This very natural division and nomencla- 
clature have been introduced by Charles Darwin, and are 
most intimately connected with the very ingenious explana- 
tion which this intellectual naturalist has given of the gradual 
origin of these wonderful forms. While, on the one hand, 
Cavolini, Ehrenberg, and Savigny have completed the scientific 
anatomical knowledge of the organization of coral-animals, on 
•the other, the geographical and geological relations of coral- 
islands have been investigated, first by Reinhold and George 
Forster in Cook's second voyage, and then, after a long 

* Ehrenberg, Op. cit., s. 419. 


interval, by Chamisso, Peron, Quoy and Gaimard, Flinders, 
Liitke, Beechey, Darwin, d'Urville, and Lottin. 

The coral-animals and their stony cellular scaffoldings be- 
long, for the most part, to the warm tropical seas ; and the 
reefs occur most frequently in the Southern Hemisphere. 
Thus we find the Atolls or Lagoon Islands crowded together 
in the so-called coral-sea between the north-east coast of New 
Holland, New Caledonia, Solomon's Islands, and the Louisiade 
Archipelago ; in the group of the Low Islands (Low Archi- 
pelago), eighty in number ; in the Fidji, Ellice, and Gilbert 
Islands ; and in the Indian Ocean, north-east of Madagascar, 
under the name of the Atoll group of Saya de Malha. 

The great Chagos Bank, whose structure and dead coral- 
trunks have been thoroughly investigated by Captains Moresby 
and Powell, is the more interesting to us, because we may 
regard it as a prolongation of the more northern Laccadive and 
Maldive Islands. I have previously directed attention in ano- 
ther work* to the importance of the order of succession of the 
Atolls, which are exactly in the direction of a meridian as far 
as 7° south lat., in reference to the general mountain system, 
and the form of the earth's surface, in Central Asia. The 
meridian-chains, which mark the intersection of many moun- 
tain-systems running from east to west at the great bend of 
the Thibetian river Tzang-bo, correspond with the great 
meridian mountain rampart of the Ghauts and of the more 
northern Bolor in further or trans-Gangetic India. Here lie 
the parallel chains of Cochin China, Siam, and Malacca, as well 
as those of Ava and Arracan, M-hich, after courses of unequal 
length, all terminate in the gulfs of Siam, Martaban, and 
Bengal. The bay of Bengal appears like an arrested effort of 
nature to produce an inland sea. A deep inbreak of the 
waters, between the simple western system of the Ghauts, and 
the very complex eastern trans-Gangetic system, has swal- 
lowed up a great part of the eastern lowlands, but met with 
an impediment not so easily overcome in the early existing 
and extensive table-land of Mysore. 

An oceanic inbreak of this nature has given rise to two 
almost pyramidal peninsulas of very different length and 
narrowness; and the prolongation of two opposing meridian 
systems, the mountain system of Malacca in the east, and the 

* Asie centrale, t. i. p. 218. 


Ghauts of Malabar in the west, manifests itself in submarine, 
symmetrical series of islands, on the one side in the Andaman 
and Nicobar Islands, which are poor in corals, and on the 
other in three long-extended archipelagos of Atolls — the 
Laccadives, the Maldives, and Chagos. The last, called by 
mariners the Chagos Bank, forms a lagoon, belted by a 
narrow, and already much broken coral-reef. The length of 
this lagoon is 88, and its breadth 72 miles. Whilst the 
enclosed lagoon is only from 1 7 to 40 fathoms deep, bottom 
was scarcely found at a depth of 210 fathoms at a small 
distance from the outer margin of the coral wall, which 
appears to be now sinking.* At the coral-lagoon, known as 
Keeling- Atoll, south of Sumatra, Captain Fitz-Roy states, 
that at only 2000 yards from the reef, no soundings were 
found with 7200 feet of line. 

" The forms of coral, which in the Red Sea rise in thick wall- 
like masses, are Maeandrinse, Astroece, Favia, Madrepores 
(Porites), Pocillopora (Hemprichii), Millepores, and Hetero- 
pores. The latter are among the most massive, although they 
are branched. The deepest coral trunks, which magnified by 
the refraction of light, appear to the eye to resemble the dome 
of a cathedral, belong, as far as could be determined, to Msean- 
drinse and Astra3a3."f A distinction must be made between 
single and in part free polyp-trunks, and those which form 
wall-like rocks. 

If the accumulation of building polyp-trunks in some 
regions is so striking, it is no less astonishing to observe the 
perfect absence of these structures in other and often adjacent 
regions. Their presence or absence must be determined by 
certain, still uninvestigated, relations of currents, by the par- 
tial temperature of the water, and by the abundance or defi- 
ciency of nutriment. That certain delicate-branched corals, 
with less calcareous deposition on the side opposite to the 
mouth, prefer the stillness of the interior lagoons, is not to 
be denied; but this preference for still water must not, 
as has too often happened, £ be regarded as a peculiarity of 
the whole class of these animals. According to the expe- 
riences of Ehrenberg and Chamisso in the Red Sea and in 

* Darwin, Structure of Coral Reefs, pp. 39, 111, and 183. 

f Ehrenbergs Manuscript Notes. 

X Annates des Sciences naturelles, t. xi., 1325, p. 277. 


the Marshall Islands, which abound in Atolls and lie east 
of the Caroline Islands, and according to the observations of 
Captains Bird Allen and Moresby in the West Indies and in 
the Maldives, we find that living Madrepores, Millepores, 
Astraeas, and Mseandrinas, can support " a tremendous surf;'"* 
and indeed seem to prefer localities the most exposed to the 
action of storms. The vital forces of the organism regulating 
the cellular structure, which with age acquires a rocky 
hardness, resist most triumphantly the mechanical forces, — 
the shock of moving waters. 

In the South Pacific there is a perfect absence of coral- 
reefs at the Galapagos and along the whole of the west coast 
of the New Continent, notwithstanding their vicinity to the 
numerous Atolls of the Low Islands, and the Archipelago of 
Mendana or the Marquesas. It is true that the current of the 
South Pacific, which washes the coasts of Chili and Peru, (and 
whose low temperature I observed in the year 1802,) is only 
60°. 1 Fahr., while the undisturbed water at the sides of the 
cold current is from 81°.5 to 83°. 7 Fahr. at Punta Parima, 
where it deflects to the west. Moreover at the Galapagos 
there are small currents between the islands, having a tempera- 
ture of only 5 8°. 3 Fahr. But this lower temperature does not 
prevail further northwards along the coasts of the Pacific 
from Guayaquil to Guatemala and Mexico, neither does it 
prevail in the Cape de Verd Islands, on the whole west coast 
of Africa, or at the small islands of St. Paul, St. Helena, 
Ascension, and San Fernando Noronha ; yet in none of these 
are there coral-reefs. 

If this absence of reefs characterises the western coasts of 
America, Africa, and New Holland, they are, on the other 
hand, of frequent occurrence on the eastern coasts of tropical 
America, on the African coast of Zanzibar, and on the southern 
coast of New South Wales. The best opportunities I have 
enjoyed for personally examining coral banks have been in 
the Gulf of Mexico, and south of the Island of Cuba, in the 
so-called "Gardens of the King and Queen" (Jardines y 
Jardinillos del Rey y de la Rey no). It was Christopher 
Columbus himself who, on his second voyage, in May, 1494, 
gave this name to this little group of islands, because from 
the pleasant association of the silver-leaved arborescent Tour- 
* Darwin, Coral Beefs, p. 63 — 65. 


nefortia, of flowering species of Dolichos, of 
Avicennia nitida, and mangrove-thickets (Rhizophora), the 
coral-islands formed as it were an archipelago of floating- 
gardens. "Son Cm/os verdes y graciosos llenos de arbohdas" 
says the admiral. On my voyage from Batabano to Trinidad 
de Cuba, I remained for several days in these gardens, which 
lie to the east of the great Isle of Pines, abounding in maho- 
gany, for the purpose of determining the longitude of the 
different Cayos. 

The Cayos Flamenco, Bonito, de Diego Perez, and de 
Piedras, are coral islands, rising only from 8 to 15 inches 
above the level of the sea. The upper edge of the reef 
docs not consist merely of dead polyp-trunks, but is rather 
formed of a true conglomerate, in which angular pieces of 
coral, lying in various directions, are embedded in a cement 
composed of granules of quartz. In Cayo de Piedras I saw 
such embedded masses of coral, some of them measuring 
upwards of three cubic feet. Several of the West Indian 
smaller coral islands have fresh water, a phenomenon 
which merits a careful investigation wherever it occurs (as for 
instance near Radak in the South Sea),* since it has some- 
times been ascribed to hydrostatic pressure, acting from a 
distant coast (as in Venice, and in the Bay of Xagua, east of 
Batabano), and sometimes to the filtration of rain-water .f 

The living gelatinous covering of the calcareous fabric 
of the coral-trunks attracts fishes and even turtles in 
search of food. In the time of Columbus the now desolate 
district of the Jardines del Rey was animated by a singular 
branch of industry pursued by the inhabitants of the sea- 
coasts of Cuba, who availed themselves of a little fish, the 
Remora, or sucking-fish (the so-called Ship-holder), probably 
the Echeneis naucrates, for catching turtles. A long and 
strong line, made of the fibres of the palm, was attached 
to the tail of the fish. The Remora (called in Spanish 
Peres, or reversed, because at first sight the back and 
abdomen might easily be mistaken for each other), attaches 
itself by suction to the turtle through the indented and 
moveable cartilaginous plates of the upper shell that covers 

* Chamisso, in Kotzebue's Entderlcungsreise, bd. hi., s. 108. 
f See my Essai Politique sur Vile de Cuba, t. ii. p. 137. 



the head. The Remora, says Columbus, would rather let 
itself be torn to pieces than relinquish its prey, and the little 
fish and the turtle are thus drawn out of the water together. 
"Nostrates," says Martin Anghiera, the learned secretary of 
Charles V, " piscem Reversum appellant, quod versus venatur. 
Non aliter ac nos canibus gallicis per aequora campi lepores 
insectamur, illi (incolae Cuba3 insulse) venatorio pisce pisces 
alios capiebant.''* We learn from Dampier and Commerson, 
that this artifice of employing a sucking-fish to catch other 
fishes is very common on the eastern coasts of Africa, near 
Cape Natal and Mozambique, as well as on the island of 
Madagascar.! An acquaintance with the habits of animals, 
and the same necessities, lead to similar artifices and modes of 
capture amongst tribes having no connection with one another. 

Although, as we have already remarked, the actual seat of 
the Lithophytes who build calcareous walls, lies within a zone 
extending from 22 to 24 degrees on either side of the equator, yet 
coral-reefs, favoured, it is supposed, by the warm Gulf Stream, 
are met with around the Bermudas in 32° 23' lat., and these 
have been admirably described by Lieutenant Nelson. | In the 
southern hemisphere corals (Millepores and Cellepores) are 
found singly as far as Chiloe and even to the Chonos- Archi- 
pelago and Tierra del Fuego, in 53° lat., while Retepores 
have even been found as far as 72 ^ lat. 

Since Captain Cook's second voyage, the hypothesis 
advanced by him as well as by Reinhold and George Forster, 
that the flat coral islands of the South Pacific have been built 
up by living agents from the depths of the sea's bottom, has 
found numerous advocates. The distinguished naturalists 
Quoy and Gaimard, who accompanied Captain Freycinet on 
his voyage of circumnavigation in the frigate "Uranie," were 
the first who expressed themselves, in 1823, with much free- 
dom against the views advanced by the two Forsters (father 
and son), by Flinders, and Peron.§ " In directing the 

* Petr. Martyr, Oceanica, 1532, Dec. 1, p. 9; Gomara, Hist, de las 
Indias, 1553, fol. xiv. 

+ Lacepede, Hist. mat. des Poissons, t. i. p. 55. 

% Transactions of the Geological Soc, 2nd Ser. vol. v. P. 1, 1837, 
p. 103. 

§ Annales des Sciences naturelles, t. vi., 1S25, p. 273. 


attention cf naturalists to coral-animalcules," they say, "we* 
hope to be able to prove that all which has been hitherto 
affirmed or believed up to the present time, regardiug the 
immense structures they are capable of raising, is for the 
most part inexact, and in all cases very greatly exaggerated. 
We are rather of opinion that coral-animalcules, instead of 
rearing perpendicular walls from the depths of the Ocean, only 
form strata or incrustrations of some few toises in thick- 
ness." Quoy and Gaimard (p. 289) have also expressed an 
opinion, that Atolls (coral walls inclosing a lagoon) owe 
their origin to submarine volcanic craters. They have 
undoubtedly underrated the depth at which animals who 
construct coral-reefs (as for example the Astea) can exist, as 
they place the extreme limits at from 26 to 32 feet below 
the level of the sea. Charles Darwin, a naturalist, who 
has known how to enhance the value of his own observa- 
tions by a comparison with those of others in many parts of 
the world, places the region of living coral-animals at a depth 
of 20 or 30 fathoms,*' which corresponds with that in which 
Professor Edward Forbes found the greatest number of corals 
in the iEgean Sea. This is Professor Forbes's fourth region 
of marine-animals, as given in his ingenious memoir on the 
Provinces of Depth, and the geographical distribution of Mol- 
lusca at perpendicular distances from the surface. f It would 
appear, however, that the depth at which corals live is very 
different in the different species, especially in the more 
delicate ones which do not form such considerable struc- 

Sir James Ross, in his Antarctic expedition, brought up 
corals from a great depth with the lead; and these he remitted 
for accurate examination to Mr. Stokes and Professor Forbes. 
Westward of Victoria Land, in the neighbourhood of the 
Coulman Island, in 72° 31' south lat., and at a depth of 
270 fathoms, Retepora cellulosa, a Hornera, and Prymnoa 
Rossii, (the latter very similar to a species common to the 
coasts of Norway,) were found alive and in a perfectly 

* See Darivin's Journal, 1845, p. 467, also his Structure of Coral 
Reefs, pp. 84 — 87 ; and Sir Kobert Schomburgk, Hist, of Barbadoes, 
1848, p. 636. 

f Report on JEgean Invertebrata in the Report of the Thirteenth 
Meeting of the British Association, held at Cork in 1843, pp. 151, 161. 

s 2 


fresh condition.*' 1 In the far north too, the Greenland 
Umbellaria Grcenlandica has been brought up alive by 
whale fishers from a depth of 236 fathoms. f The same 
relation between species and locality is met "with among 
sponges, which however are now regarded as belonging more 
to plants than to zoophytes. On the shores of Asia Minor, 
the common marine sponge is brought up from depths varying 
from 5 to 30 fathoms, although one very small species of the 
same genus is only found at a depth of at least 180 fathoms.^ 
It is difficult to divine what hinders the Astrseas, Madrepores, 
Mseandrinas, and the whole group of tropical phyto-corals, 
which are capable of constructing large cellular calcareous 
walls, from living in very deep strata of water. The decrease 
of temperature is very gradual, the diminution of light nearly 
the same, and the existence of numerous Infusoria at great 
depths of the Ocean proves that there cannot here be any 
deficiency of food for polyps. 

In opposition to the hitherto generally adopted opinion 
respecting the absence of all organisms and living creatures 
in the Dead Sea, it is worthy of notice that my friend and 
fellow-labourer, M. Valenciennes, has received, through the 
Marquis Charles de FEscalopier, and through the French 
Consul Botta, beautiful specimens of Porites elongata from 
the Dead Sea. This fact is the more interesting, because this 
species is not found in the Mediterranean, but only in the Red 
Sea, which, according to Valenciennes, has but few organisms 
in common with the Mediterranean. As a sea-fish, a species 
of Pleuronectes, advances far into the interior of France, and 
accustoms itself to gill-respiration in fresh water, so also does 
a remarkable flexibility of organization exist in the above- 
mentioned coral-animal (Porites elongata of Lamarck), as the 
same species lives both in the Dead Sea, which is super- 
saturated with salt, and in the open ocean near the Sechelles 
Islands. § 

According to the most recent chemical analvses of the voumrer 

* See Boss, Voyage of Discovery in the Southern and Antarctic 
Regions, vol. i. pp. 334, 337. 

+ Ebrenberg, in the Abhandl. der Berl. Akad. avs dew. J. 1S32, 
s: 430. 

% Forbes and Spratt, Travels in Lycia, 1847, vol. ii. p. 124. 

§ See my Asie centralc, t. ii. p. 517. 


Silliman, the genus Poriies, like many other cellular coral- 
trunks (Madrepores, Astrceas, and Mceandrinas of Ceylon and 
the Bermudas), contains besides from 92 to 95 per cent, of 
carbonate of lime and magnesia, a portion of fluorine and 
phosphoric acid.* The presence of fluorine in the hard 
skeleton of the polyps reminds us of the fluoride of calcium 
found in fish bones according to Morechini's and Gay-Lus- 
sac's experiments at Rome. Silex is mixed only in very 
small quantities, with the fluoride of calcium and phosphate of 
lime found in the coral-trunks; but one coral animal allied 
to the Horn corals (Gray's Hyalonema, Glass thread) has 
an axis of fibres of pure silex, resembling a hanging tuft 
of hair. Professor Forchhammer, who has recently been 
engaged in a thorough analysis of sea-water in the most op- 
posite parts of the earth's surface, finds the quantity of lime 
in the Caribbean Sea remarkably small, it being only xfo o"o' 
whilst in the Cattegat it amounts to -j-f- ^-i-^-. He is disposed 
to ascribe this difference to the numerous coral-banks 
near the West India Islands, which appropriate the lime to 
themselves, and thus exhaust the sea-water.f 

Charles Darwin has with great ingenuity developed the 
genetic connection between shore-reefs, island-encircling 
reefs, and lagoon islands, i. e., narrow, annular coral banks 
which surround inner lagoons. According to his views, 
these three kinds of structure depend upon the oscillating 
condition of the bottom of the sea, or on periodical elevations 
and subsidences. The often-advanced hypothesis, according 
to which the lagoon-islands, or atolls, mark by their circularly 
enclosed coral-reefs, the outline of a submarine crater, raised 
on a volcanic crater-margin, is opposed by the great extent of 
their diameters, which are in some iustances upwards of 30, 
40, or even 60 miles. Our fire-emitting mountains have no 
such craters, and if we would compare the lagoon, with 
its submerged mural surface and narrow encircling reef, with 
one of the annular lunar mountains, we must not forget that 
these annular mountains are not volcanoes, but tracts of land 

* Compare James Dana (geologist in the United States' Exploring 
Expedition under the command of Captain Wilkes), On the /Structure 
and Classification of Zoophytes, 1846, pp. 124 — 131. 

f Report of the Sixteenth Meeting of the British Association for the 
Advancement of Science, held in 1846, p. 91. 


enclosed by walls. According to Darwin, the following is 
the process of formation. An island mountain closely en- 
circled by a coral reef subsides, while the fringing reef that 
had sunk with it, is constantly recovering its level owing to 
the tendency of the coral animals to regain the surface by 
renewed perpendicular structures; these constitute first a reef 
encircling the island at a distance, and subsequently, when 
the inclosed island has wholly subsided, an atoll. According 
to this view, which regards islands as the most prominent 
parts, or the culminating points of the submarine land, the 
relative position of the coral islands would disclose to us what 
we could scarcely hope to discover by the sounding line, viz., 
the former configuration and articulation of the land. This 
attractive subject (to the connection of which with the migra- 
tions of plants and the distribution of the races of men we 
drew attention at the beginning of this note), can only be 
fully elucidated when we shall succeed in acquiring further 
knowledge of the depth and nature of the different rocks 
which serve as a foundation for the lower strata of the dead 
polyp -trunks. 

(8) p. 216 — " Of the Samothracian Traditions" 

Diodorus has preserved to us these remarkable traditions, 
the probability of which has invested them with almost his- 
torical certainty in the eyes of geologists. The island of 
Samothrace, once also named Ethiopea, Dardania, and Leu- 
cania or Leucosia in the Scholiast of Apollonius Rhodius, the 
seat of the ancient mysteries of the Cabiri, was inhabited by 
the remnant of an aboriginal people, several words of whose 
vernacular language were preserved in later times in sacrificial 
ceremonies. The position of Samothrace, opposite to the 
Thracian ITebrus, and near the Dardanelles, explains why a 
more circumstantial tradition of the great catastrophe of an 
outburst of the waters of the Pontus (Euxine) should have 
been especially preserved in this island. Sacred rites were 
here performed at altars erected on the supposed limits of this 
inundation; and among the Samothracians, as well as the 
Boeotians, a belief in the periodical destruction of the human 
race (a belief which also prevailed among the Mexicans in their 
myth of the four destructions of the world) was associated with 


historical recollections of individual inundations.* 4 According 
to Diodorus, the Samothracians related that the Black Sea 
had been an inland lake, which, swelled by the influx of rivers 
(long prior to the inundations which had occurred among 
other nations) had burst, first through the straits of the 
Bosphorus, and subsequently through those of the Hellespont.! 
These ancient revolutions of nature have been considered in a 
special treatise, by Dureau de la Malle, and all the facts 
known regarding them collected by Carl von Hoff, in an im- 
portant work on the subject.^ The Samothracian traditions 
seem reflected as it were in the Sluice-theory of Strato of 
Lampsacus, according to which the swelling of the waters in 
the Euxine first formed the passage of the Dardanelles, and 
next the opening through the Pillars of Hercules. Strabo, 
in the first book of his Geography, has preserved among the 
critical extracts from the works of Eratosthenes, a remarkable 
fragment of the lost work of Strato, which presents views that 
embrace almost the whole circumference of the Mediterranean. 
" Strato of Lampsacus," says Strabo, § (t enters more fully 
than the Lydian Xanthus (who has described the impressions 
of shells far from the sea) into a consideration of the causes 
of these phenomena. He maintains, that the Euxine had 
formerly no outlet at Byzantium, but that the pressure of 
the swollen mass of waters caused by the influx of rivers 
had opened a passage, whereupon the water rushed into the 
Propontis and the Hellespont. The same thing also happened 
to our sea (the Mediterranean), for here too a passage was 
opened through the isthmus at the Pillars of Hercules, in 
consequence of the filling of the sea by currents, which in 
flowing off left the former swampy banks uncovered and dry. 
In proof of this, Strato affirms, first, that the outer and inner 
bottoms of the sea are different; then that there is still a 
bank running under the sea from Europe to Lybia, which 
shows that the inner and outer sea were formerly not united ; 
next that the Euxine is extremely shallow, while the Cretan, 

* Otfr. Miiller, Geschichten Hellenischer Stamme unci Stadte, bd. i. 
s. 65, 119. 

+ Piodor. Sicul. lib. v. cap. 47, p. 369. Wesseling. 

% Geschichte der naturalicheii Veranderungen der Erdoberflache, 
Th. i. 1822, s. 105—162, and Creuzer's SymboUh, 2te Aufl. th. iL 
s. 285, 318, 361. 

§ Lib. i. p. 49, 50. Gasaub. 


the Sicilian and the Sardinian seas are, on the contrary, very 
deep: the cause of this being that the former is filled with 
mud from the numerous large rivers flowing into it from the 
north. Hence too the Euxine is the freshest, and the streams 
-flowing from it are directed towards the parts where the bot- 
tom is deepest. It would also appear that if these rivers 
continue to flow into the Euxine, it will some day be com- 
pletely choked with mud, for even now, its left side is becom- 
ing marshy in the direction of Salmydessus (the Thracian 
Apollonia), at the part called by mariners ' The Breasts,' 
before the mouth of the Ister and the desert of Scythia. 
Perhaps, therefore, the Lybian Temple of Amnion may also 
have once stood on the sea-shore, its present position in the 
interior of the country being in consequence of such off-flow- 
ings of rivers. Strato also conjectures that the fame and 
celebrity of the Oracle (of Amnion) is more easily accounted 
for, on the supposition that the temple was on the sea-shore, 
since its great distance from the coast would otherwise make 
its present distinction and fame inexplicable. Egypt also was 
in ancient times overflowed by the sea as far as the marshes 
of Pelusium, Mount Casius, and Lake Serbonis; for when- 
ever in digging it happened that salt-water was met with, 
the borings passed through strata of sea-sand and shells, 
as if the country had been inundated, and the whole dis- 
trict around Mount Casius and Gerrha had been a marshy 
sea, continuous with the Gulf of the lied Sea. When 
the sea (the Mediterranean) retreated, the country was 
uncovered, leaving, however, the present Lake Serbonis. 
Subsequently the waters of this lake also flowed off, convert- 
ing its bed into a swamp. In like manner the banks of Lake 
Mceris resemble more the shores of a sea than those of a 
river." An erroneous reading introduced as an emendation 
by Grosskurd, in consequence of a passage in Strabo,* gives 
in place of Meeris, " the Lake Halmyris, ; ' but the latter was 
situated near the southern mouth of the Danube. 

The Sluice-theory of Strato led Eratosthenes of Cyrene 
(the most celebrated in the series of the librarians of Alex- 
andria) to investigate the problem of the uniformity of level 
in all external seas flowing round continents, although with 
less success than Archimedes in his treatise on floating 

* Lib. xvii. p. 809. Casaub. 


bodies.* The articulation of the northern coasts of the Me- 
diterranean as well as the form of its peninsulas and islands 
had given origin to the geognostic myth of the ancient land 
of Lyctonia. The origin of the lesser Syrtis, of the Triton 
Lake*,f and of the whole of Western Atlas, ;[ had been em- 
bodied in an imaginary scheme of fire-eruptions and earth- 
quakes^ I have recently entered more fully into this ques- 
tion. || in a passage with which I would be allowed to close 
this note : 

"The northern shore of the Mediterranean possesses the 
advantage of being more richly and variously articulated 
than the southern or Lybian shore, and this was, according 
to Strabo, already noticed by Eratosthenes. Here we find 
three peninsulas, the Iberian, the Italian, and the Hellenic, 
which, owing to their various and deeply indented contour, 
form, together with the neighbouring islands and the oppo- 
site coasts, many straits and isthmuses. Such a configuration 
of continents and of islands that have been partly severed 
and partly upheaved by volcanic agency in rows, as if over far- 
extending fissures, early led to geognostic views regard- 
ing eruptions, terrestrial revolutions, and outpourings of the 
swollen higher seas into those below them. The Euxine, 
the Dardanelles, the Straits of Gades, and the Mediterranean 
with its numerous islands, were well fitted to originate 
such a system of sluices. The Orphic Argonaut, who pro- 
bably lived in the Christian era, has interwoven old mythical 
narrations in his composition. He sings of the division of 
the ancient Lyctonia into separate islands, ' when the dark- 
haired Poseidon in anger with Father Kronion struck Lyctonia 
with the golden trident.' Similar fancies, which may often 
certainly have sprung from an imperfect knowledge of geo- 
graphical relations, were frequently elaborated in the erudite 
Alexandrian school, which was so devoted to everything con- 
nected with antiquity. Whether the myth of the breaking 
up of Atlantis be a vague and western reflection of that of 

* Strabo, lib. i. p. 51 — 56, lib. ii. p. 104. Casaub. 
f Diod. iii. 53— 55. 
J Maximus Tyrius, viii. 7. 

§ Compare my Examen critique de I'hist. de la Geograplue, t. i. 
p. 179, t. iii. p. 136. 

|| Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 481. (Bohn's edition). 


Lyctonia, as I have elsewhere shown to be probable, or 
whether, according to Otfried Muller, ' the destruction of 
Lyctonia (Leuconia) refers to the Sarnothracian tradition of 
a great flood, which changed the form of that district,' is 
a question which it is here unnecessary to decide." 

(9) p. 217 — Ci Precipitation from the clouds." 

The vertical ascent of currents of air is one of the principal 
causes of the most important meteorological phenomena. 
Where a desert or a sandy surface devoid of vegetation is 
surrounded by a high mountain-chain, the sea-wind may be 
observed driving a dense cloud over the desert, without any 
precipitation of vapour taking place before it reaches the 
crest of the mountains. This phenomenon was formerly very 
unsatisfactorily referred to an attraction supposed to be exer- 
cised by the mountain-chain on the clouds. The true cause 
appears to lie in the ascent from the sandy plain of a 
column of warm air, which prevents the condensation of the 
vesicles of vapour. The more barren the surface, and the 
greater the degree of heat acquired by the sand, the higher 
will be the ascent of the clouds, and the less readily will the 
vapour be precipitated. Over the declivities of mountains 
these causes cease. The play of the vertical column of air is 
there w r eaker; the clouds sink, and their disintegration is 
effected by a cooler stratum of air. Thus deficiency of rain 
and absence of vegetation in the desert stand in a reciprocal 
action to one another. It does not rain because the barren 
and bare surface of sand becomes more strongly heated and 
radiates more heat; and the desert is not converted into a 
steppe or grassy plain because without water no organic 
development is possible. 

(10). p. 218 — " The indurating and heat-emitting mass of the 


If according to the hypothesis of the Neptunists (now long 
since obsolete), the so-called primitive rocks were also pre- 
cipitated from a fluid, the transition of the earth's crust from 
a condition of fluidity to one of solidity, must have been fol- 
lowed by the liberation of an enormous quantity of caloric, 
which would have given rise to new evaporation and new 
precipitations. The more recent these precipitations, the 


more rapid, the more tumultuous, and the more uncrystalline 
would they have been. Such a sudden liberation of caloric 
from the indurating crust of the earth, independent of the 
latitude, and the position of the earth's axis, might indeed 
occasion local elevations of temperature in the atmosphere, 
which would influence the distribution of plants. The 
same cause might also occasion a kind of porosity which 
seems to be indicated by many enigmatical geological phe- 
nomena in floetz rocks. I have developed my conjectures 
on this subject in detail in a small memoir on primitive 
porosity.* According to the views I have more recently 
adopted, it appears to me that the variously shattered and 
fissured earth, with its fused interior, may long have continued 
in the primeval period, to impart to its oxidised surface a 
high degree of temperature, independent of its position with 
respect to the sun and to latitude. What an influence would 
not, for instance, be exercised for ages to come on the climate 
of Germany by an open fissure a thousand fathoms in depth, 
extending from the Adriatic Gulf to the northern coast? 
Although in the present condition of the earth, long-continued 
radiation has almost entirely restored the stable equilibrium 
of temperature first calculated by Fourier in his Theorie 
analytique de la Chaleur, and the outer atmosphere is now 
only brought into direct communication with the molten 
interior of the earth, by means of the insignificant openings of 
a few volcanoes ; yet in the primitive condition of our planet, 
this interior emitted hot streams of air into the atmosphere 
through the various clefts and fissures formed by the fre- 
quently recurring foldings (or corrugations) of the mountain 
strata. This emission was wholly independent of latitude. 
Every newly formed planet must thus in its earliest condition 
have regulated its own temperature, which was, however, 
subsequently changed and determined by its position in rela- 
tion to the central body, the sun. The moon's surface also 
exhibits traces of this reaction of the interior upon the crust. 

(11) p. 218 — " The mountain-declivities of the most southern 

parts of Mexico.'''' 

The spherical greenstone in the mountain district of Gua- 

* See my work,, Versuche iiber die chemische Zerseizung des Luft- 
Icreises, 1799,, p. 177; and Moll's Jahrbiicher der Berg- und Hiitten- 
Jcunde, 1797, p. 234. 


naxuato is perfectly similar to that of the Fichtelberg in 
Franconia. Both form grotesque domes, which break through 
and are superimposed on transition argillaceous schists. In 
the same manner pearl-stone, porphyrinic schist, trachyte, 
and pitch-stone porphyry present analogous forms in the 
Mexican mountains, near Cinapecuaro and Moran, in Hun- 
gary, Bohemia, and in Northern Asia. 

(12) p. 220 — " The Colossal Dragon-tree of Orotava." 

This colossal dragon-tree (Dracaena draco) stands in the 
garden of M. Franqui, in the little town of Orotava, called 
formerly Taoro, one of the most charming spots in the world. 
In June, 1799, when we ascended the Peak of Teneriffe, we 
found that this enormous tree measured 48 feet in circum- 
ference. Our measurement was made at several feet above 
the root. Nearer to the ground Le Dru found it nearly 79 
feet. Sir G. Staunton asserts that at an elevation of ten 
feet from the ground, its diameter is still 12 feet. The 
height of the tree is not much more than 09 feet. Accord- 
ing to tradition it would appear that this tree was venerated 
by the Guanches (as was the ash-tree of Ephesus by the 
Greeks, the Plantain of Lydia, which Xerxes decorated 
with ornaments, also the sacred Banyan-tree of Ceylon), and 
that in the year 1402, which was the period of Bethen- 
court's first expedition, it was as large and as hollow as in the 
present day. When it is remembered that the dragon-tree is 
everywhere of very slow growth, we may conclude that the 
one at Orotava is of extreme antiquity. Berthollet says, in 
his description of Teneriffe, " On comparing the young 
dragon-trees which grows near this colossal tree, the calcu- 
lations we are led to make on the age of the latter strike the 
mind with astonishment. "* The Dragon-tree has been culti- 
vated from the most ancient times in the Canary isles, in 
Madeira, and Porto Santo, and that accurate observer, Leopold 
von Buch, found it growing wild near Iguesti in Teneriffe. 
Its original habitat is not therefore the East Indies, as has 
long been believed ; and its appearance does not afford any 
refutation of the opinion of those who regard the Guanches as 
a wholly isolated primitive Atlantic race, having no intercourse 

* Nova Acta Acad. Leop. Carol. Natural Curiosorum, t. xiii. 
1827, p. 781. 


with African or Asiatic nations: The form of the Dracamce is 
repeated on the southern extremity of Africa, in the Isle of 
Bourbon, in China, and in New Zealand. In these remotely 
distant regions Ave recognise species of the same genus, but 
none are to be found in the New Continent, where this form 
is supplied by the Yucca. The Dracaena boreal is of Aiton is a 
true Convallaria, the nature of both being perfectly identical.^ 

I have given a representation, in the last plate of the 
Picturesque Atlas of my American journey, t of the dragon- 
tree of Orotava, taken from a drawing made in 1776 by 
F. d'Ozonne, and which I found among the posthumous papers 
of the celebrated Borda, in the still imprinted journal en- 
trusted to me by the Depot de la Marine, and from which I 
have borrowed important astronomically-determined geogra- 
phical, data besides many barometrical and trigonometrical 
notices. £ The measurement of the dragon-tree in the Villa 
Franqui was made in Borda's first voyage with Pingre in 
1771, and not in the second, made 1776 with Varela. It 
is asserted, that in the fifteenth century, during the early 
periods of the Norman and Spanish conquests, mass was 
performed at a small altar erected in the hollow trunk of 
this tree. Unfortunately, the Dracsena of Orotava lost one 
side of its leafy top in the storm of the 21st of July, 1819. 
There is a fine large English copper-plate engraving, which 
gives an exceedingly true representation of the present con- 
dition of the tree. 

The monumental character of these colossal living forms, 
and the impression of reverence which they have created 
among all nations, have led, in modern times, to a more care- 
ful study of the numerical determination of their age, and of 
the size of their trunks. The results of such investigations in- 
duced the elder Decandolle, (the author of the important 
treatise, entitled De la Longevite desArbres.) Endlicher, Unger, 
and other distinguished botanists to conjecture, that the age 
of many existing vegetable forms may extend to the earliest 
historical times, if not to the records of the Nile, at least 
to those of Greece and Italy. In the Bibliotheque Universale 

* Humboldt, Relat. hist, t. i. pp. 118, 639. 

■f Vues des Cordilleres et Jfonumens des peuples indigenes de 
VAmerique, pi. lxix. 

% Relat. hist., t. \., p. 2S2. 


de Geneve (t. xlvii. 1831, p. 50) we find the following passage: 
"Numerous examples seem to confirm the idea, that there 
still exist, on our planet, trees of a prodigious antiquity — the 
witnesses, perhaps, of one or more of its latest physical revo- 
lutions. If we consider a tree as the combination of as many 
individual forms as there have been buds developed on its sur- 
face, one cannot be surprised if the aggregate resulting from 
the continual addition of new buds to the older ones, should 
not necessarily have any fixed termination to its existence." In 
the same manner, Agardh says: "If in each solar year new 
parts be formed in the plant, and the older hardened ones be 
replaced by new parts capable of conducting sap, we have a 
t} r pe of growth limited by external causes alone." He ascribes 
the short duration of the life of herbaceous plants, "to the 
preponderance of the production of blossoms and fruit over 
the formation of leaves." Unfruitfulness in a plant insures a 
prolongation of its life. Endlicher adduces the instance of 
an individual plant of Medicago sativa, var. # versicolor, 
which lived eighty years because it bore no fruit.* 

To the dragon-trees, which, notwithstanding the gigantic 
development of their closed vascular bundles, must be classed, 
in respect to their floral parts, in the same natural family as 
Asparagus and the garden onion, belongs the Adansonia, 
(the monkey bread-tree, Baobab), undoubtedly among the 
largest and most ancient inhabitants of oiu* planet. In the 
earliest voyages of discovery made by Catalans and Portuguese, 
the sailors were accustomed to carve their names on these two 
species of trees ; not always from a mere wish of perpetuating 
their memory, but also as " marcos," or signs of possession, and 
of the rights which nations assume in virtue of first discovery. 
The Portuguese mariners often selected for carving on the 
trees, as a "marco," or mark of possession, the elegant French 
motto talent de bien Jaire, so frequently employed by the 
Infante Don Henrique, the Discoverer. Thus Manuel de 
Faria y Sousa says expressly;! "Era uso de los primeros 
Navegantes de dexar inscrito el motto del Infante, talent de 
bien /aire, en la corteza de los arboles."^ (It was the custom 

* Grundziige derBotanih, 1843, § 1003. 
+ Asia Portuguesa, t. i., cap. 2., pp. 14, 18. 

% Compare also Barros, Asia, dec. i. liv. ii., cap. 2 ; t. i. (Lisboa, 1778,) 
p. 148. 


of the early navigators to inscribe the motto of the Infante in 
the bark of the trees.) 

The above-named motto, cut on the bark of two trees by 
Portuguese navigators in the year 1435, and therefore twenty- 
eight years before the death of the Infante Don Henrique, 
Duke of Viseo, is singularly connected, in the history of dis- 
coveries, with the discussions that have arisen from a com- 
parison of Vespucci's fourth voyage with that of Gonzalo 
Coelho (1503). Vespucci relates, that the Admiral's ship of 
Coelho's squadron was wrecked on an island which was some- 
times supposed to be that of San Fernando Noronha ; some- 
times, Penedo de San Pedro ; and sometimes, the problematical 
island of St. Matthew. The last-named island was discovered 
on the 15th of October, 1525, by Garcia Jofre de Loaysa in 
2j south lat., in the meridian of Cape Palmas, and almost in 
the Gulf of Guinea. He remained there eighteen days at 
anchor, and found crosses, orange-trees that had become wild, 
and two trunks of trees having inscriptions that bore the date 
of ninety years back.* I have in another place,f in an in* 
quiry regarding the trustworthiness of Amerigo Vespucci, 
more fully considered this problem. 

The oldest description of the Baobab (Adansonia digitata) 
is that of the Venetian, Aloysius Cadamosto, (whose real name 
was Alvise da Ca da Mosto) in 1454. He found at the 
mouth of the Senegal, (where he joined Antoniotto Usodimare), 
trunks, whose circumference he estimated at 17 fathoms, or 
112 feet.;]; He might have compared them to dragon-trees* 
which he had already seen. Perrottet says,§ that he had 
seen monkey-bread fruit trees, which had a diameter of 
about thirty-two feet, with a height of only from seventy 
to eighty-five feet. The same dimensions had been given 
by Adanson in his voyage, 1748. The largest trunks of the 
monkey bread-fruit trees, which he himself saw, in 1749, some, 
on one of the small Magdalena islands near Cape de Verd, 
and others at the mouth of the Senegal, were from 26 to 
nearly 29 feet in diameter, with a height of little more than 
70 feet, and a top measuring upwards of 180 feet across. 

" * Navarrete, t. v,,pp. 8, 247, 401. 
f'Examen critique de VHist. de la Geographie, t. v. pp. 129-132. 
X Kamusio, vol. i.'p. 109. 
§ Flore de Senegambie, p. 76. - 1 


Adanson, however, makes the remark that other travellers 
had found trunks having a diameter of about 32 feet.* 
French and Dutch sailors had carved their names on the 
trunks in characters six inches in length. One of these 
inscriptions was of the fifteenth century,! while all the others 
were of the sixteenth. From the depth of the cuts, which 
are covered with new layers of wood.;}; and from a comparison 
of the thickness of trunks, whose various ages were known, 
Adanson computed the age of trees having a diameter of 32 
feet at 5150 years. § He however cautiously subjoins the 
following remarks, in a quaint mode of spelling which I do not 
alter: " le calcul de l'aje de chake couche n*a pas d'exactitude 
geometrike." In the village of Grand Galarques, also in Sene- 
gambia, the negroes have adorned the entrance of a hollow 
Baobab with carvings cut out of wood still green. The 
inner cavity serves as a place of general meeting in which the 
community debate on their interests. This hall reminds us 
of the hollow (specus) in the interior of a plantain in Lycia, 
in which the Roman ex-consul, Lucinius Mutianus, entertained 
tw T enty-one guests. Pliny (xii. 3) gives to a cavity of this 
kind the somewhat ample breadth of eighty Roman feet. 
The Baobab was seen by Rene Caillie in the valley of the 
Niger near Jenne, by Cailliaud in Nubia, and by Wilhelm 
Peters along the whole eastern coast of Africa, where this 
tree, which is called Mulapa, i.e. Nlapa-tree, or more cor- 
rectly muti-nlapa, advances as far as Lourenzo Marques, 
almost to 26° south lat. The oldest and thickest trunks seen 
by Peters " measured from 60 to 75 feet in circumference." 
Although Cadamosto observed, in the fifteenth century, 
eminent ia non quadrat magnitudini; and although Golberry§ 
found, in the " Vallee des deux Gagnacks," trunks only 

* This tree was formerly called "the Ethiopian sour gourd;" Julius 
Scaliger, who gave it the name of Guanabanus, instances one, -which 
seventeen men with outstretched arms could not encompass. The wood 
is very perishable, and the negroes place in the hollow of these trees the 
corpses of their conjurors, or of such persons who they suppose would 
enchant or desecrate the ground, if buried in the usual way. — Ed. 

*f* Families des Plantes d Adanson, 1763, P. I. pp. ccxv — ccxviii. 
The fourteenth century is here stated, but this is no doubt an error. 

X Adrien de Jussieu, Cours de Botanique, p. 62. 

§ Voyage au Senegal, 1757, p. 66. 

j| Fragmens dun voyage en Afrique, t. ii. p. 92. 


64 feet in height whose diameter was 36 feet," this dis- 
proportion between thickness and height must not be assumed 
to be general. " Very old trees," says the learned traveller, 
Peters, " lose their crowns by gradual decay, while they 
continue to increase in circumference. On the eastern coast 
of Africa one not unfrequently meets with trees having a 
diameter of more than 10 feet which reach the height of 
nearly 70 feet." 

While therefore the bold calculations of Adanson and 
Perrottet assign to the Adansonias measured by them, an age of 
5150 or even 6000 years, which would make them coeval with 
the builders of the Pyramids, or even with Menes, and would 
place them in an epoch when the Southern Cross was still visible 
in Northern Germany;* the more certain estimations yielded 
by annular rings, and by the relation found to exist between 
the thickness of the layer of wood and the duration of growth, 
give us, on the other hand, shorter periods for our tem- 
perate northern zone. Decandolle finds that of all Euro- 
pean species of trees, the yew attains the greatest age ; and 
according to his calculations, 30 centuries must be assigned 
as the age of the Taxus baccata of Braburn in Kent, from 25 
to 26 to the Scotch yew of Fortingal, and 14^ and 12 re- 
spectively to those of Crowhurst in Surrey and Bipon (Foun- 
tains Abbey) in Yorkshire.! Endlicher remarks that " another 
yew-tree in the churchyard of Grasford, North Wales, which 
measures more than 50 feet in girth below the branches, is 
more than 1400 years old, whilst one in Derbyshire is esti- 
mated at 2096 years. In Lithuania linden trees have been 
felled which measured 87 feet round, and in which 815 
annular rings have been counted." j In the tenrperate zone 
of the southern hemisphere some species of the Eucalyptus 
attain an enormous girth, and as they at the same time attain 
a height of nearly 250 feet, they afford a singular contrast to 
our yew trees, which are colossal only in thickness. Mr. Back- 
house found in Emu Bay, on the shore of Van Diemen's Land, 

* Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 662. (Bohn's Edition.) 

f Decandolle, de la Longevite des Arbres, p. 65. Fine engravings 
of the venerable yew at Fortingal, Fountains Abbey, Ankerwyke, &c, 
will be found in Strutt's magnificent work on forest trees. A very full 
account of the Yew-tree, with engravings, will also be found in Loudon's 
Arboretum Britannicum. — En. 

% Endlicher, Grundziige der Botanih, s. 399. 



Eucalyptus trunks which, with a circumference of 70 feet at 
the base, measured as much as 50 feet at a little more than 5 
feet from the ground.* 

It was not Malpighi, as has been generally asserted, but the 
intellectual Michel Montaigne, who had the merit of first 
showing, in 1581, in his Voyage en Italie, the relation that 
exists between the annual rings and the age of the tree.f An 
intelligent artisan, engaged in the preparation of astronomical 
instruments, first drew Montaigne's attention to the significance 
of the annual rings, asserting that the part of the trunk directed 
towards the north had narrower rings. Jean Jacques Rousseau 
entertained the same opinion ; and his Emile, when he loses 
himself in the forest, is made to direct his course in accord- 
ance with the deposition of the layers of wood. Recent 
phyto- anatomical observations^ teach us, however, that the 
acceleration of vegetation as well as the remission of growth, 
and the varying production of the circles of the ligneous 
bundles (annual deposits) from the cambium cells, depend on 
other influences than position with respect to the quarter of 
the heavens. 

Trees which in the case of some examples attain a diameter 
of more than 20 feet, and an age of many centuries, belong 
to very different natural families. We may here instance 
Baobabs, Dragon trees, various species of Eucalyptus, 
Taxodium distichum, (Rich.,) Pinus Lambertiana, (Douglasii,) 
Hymeneea Courbaril, Csesalpinieas, Bombax, Swietenia Maha- 
goni, the Banyan tree (Ficus religiosa), Liriodendron tuli- 
pifera(?), Platanus orientalis, and our Lindens, Oaks, and 
Yews. The celebrated Taxodium distichon, the Ahuahuete of 
the Mexicans (Cupressus clisticha, Linn., Schubertia disticha, 
Mirbel), of Santa Maria del Tule, in the State of Oaxaca, 
has not a diameter of 60 feet, as stated by Decandolle, but 
exactly 40^ feet.§ The two beautiful Ahuahuetcs which I 
have frequently seen at Chapoltepec (growing in what was 
probably once a garden or pleasure ground of Montezuma) 
measure, according to the instructive account in Burkardt's 

* Gould, Birds of Australia, vol. i. Introrl. p. xv. 

+ Adrien de Jussieu, Cours elementaire de Botanique, 1840, p. 61. 

% Kunth, Lehrbuch der Botanik, th. i. 1847, s. 146, 164; Lindley, 
Introduction to Botany, 2nd cd. p. 75. 

§ Miihlenpfordt, Versuch einer getreuen Schilderung der Bepublik 
Mexico, bd. i. s. 153. 


travels (bd. i. s. 268) only 36 and 38 feet in circumference, 
and not in diameter, as has often been erroneously maintained. 
The Buddhists of Ceylon venerate the colossal trunk of the 
sacred fig-tree of Anurahdepura. The Banyan, which takes 
root by its branches, often attains a thickness of 30 feet, and 
forms, as Onesicritus truly expresses himself, a leafy roof 
resembling a many-pillared tent.* On the Bombax Ceiba 
see early notices from the time of Columbus in Bembo.f 

Among those oak trees which have been very accurately 
measured, the largest in Europe is undoubtedly the one near 
Saintes on the road to Cozes, in the Department de la Charente 
inferieure. This tree, which, has an elevation of 64 feet, mea- 
sures very nearly 30 feet in diameter near the ground, while 5 
feet higher up it is nearly 23 feet, and where the main branches 
begin more than 6 feet. A little room, from 10 feet 8 inches to 
12 feet 9 inches in width and 9 feet 7 inches in height, has 
been cleared in the dead part of the trunk, and a semicircular 
bench cut within it from the green wood. A window gives 
light to the interior, and hence the walls of this little room, 
which is closed by a door, are gracefully clothed with ferns 
and lichens. From the size of a small piece of wood that 
had been cut out over the door, and in which two hundred 
ligneous rings were counted, the age of the oak of Saintes 
must be estimated at 1800 or 2000 years. [J; 

"With respect to the rose-tree (Rosa caninci) reputed to be a 
thousand years old, which grows in the crypt of the Cathedral of 
Hildesheim, I learn from accurate information, based on authen- 
tic records, for which I am indebted to the kindness of the Stadt- 
gerichts-Assessor Homer, that the main stem only has an age 
of eight hundred years. A legend connects this rose-tree with 
a vow of the first founder of the cathedral, Louis the Pious ; and 
a document of the eleventh century says, "that when Bishop 
Hezilo rebuilt the cathedral, which had been burnt down, 
he enclosed the roots of the rose-tree within a vault still 

* Lassen, Indische Altherthumskunde, bd. i. s. 260. See an inte- 
resting account of the Banyan tree in Forbes' Oriental Memoirs, vol. i. 
pp. 25 — 28. The tree there described (the famous Cubbeer-Burr) 
comprises 350 large trunks and more than 3000 small ones, and 
extends over an area of several thousand feet. Milton alludes to the 
Banyan tree in his Paradise Lost, book ix. line 1100, <fec. — Ed. 

t Historian Veneto*, 1551, fol. 83. 

r Annates de la Societe $ Agriculture de la Rochelle, 1843, p. 380. 


remaining, raised on the latter the walls of the crypt, which 
was re-consecrated in 1061, and spread the branches of the 
rose-tree over its sides." The stem, still living, is nearly 
27 feet in height, and only 2 inches thick, and spreads across 
a width of 32 feet over the outer wall of the eastern crypt. 
It is undoubtedly of very considerable antiquity, and well 
worthy of the renown it has so long enjoyed throughout 

If excessive size, in point of organic development, may in 
general be regarded as a proof of a long protraction of life, 
special attention is due, among the thalassophytes of the sub- 
marine vegetable world, to a species of fucus, Macrocystis pyri- 
fera, Agardh (Fucus giganteus). This marine plant attains, 
according to Captain Cook and George Forster, a length of 360 
feet, and exceeds therefore the height of the loftiest Coniferous 
trees, not excepting Sequoia gigantea, Endl. (Taxodium sem~ 
pervirens, Hook, and Arnott) of California.* Captain Fitz-Roy 
has confirmed this statement.! Macrocystis pyrifera grows 
from 64° south lat. to 45° north lat., as far as the Bay of San 
Francisco on the north-west coast of the New Continent; 
indeed Joseph Hooker believes that this species of Fucus 
advances as far as Kamtschatka. In the waters of the Ant- 
arctic seas it is even seen floating between the pack-ice. J 
The cellular band and thread-like structures of the Macro- 
cystis (which are attached to the bottom of the sea by an 
adhesive organ resembling a claw) seem to be limited in their 
length by accidental disturbing causes alone. 

(13) p. 220 — " Phanerogamic plants already recorded in 


Three questions must be carefully distinguished from one 
another : 1 . How many species of plants have been described 
in printed works? 2. How many of those discovered — that 
is to say included in herbariums — still remain undescribed? 
3. How many species probably exist on the surface of the 
earth? Murray's edition of the Linnaean system contains, 
including cryptogamic plants, only 10,042 species. Willde- 
now, in his edition of the Species Plantarum from 1797 to 

* Darwin, Journal of Researches into Nat. Flint., 1845, p. 239. 
f Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. ii. p. 363. 
X Flora Antarctica, p. vii, 1 and 178; and Camille Montagne, Bota- 
nique cryptogame du Voyage de laBonite, 1846, p. 36. 


1807, has described as many as 17,457 species of phanero- 
gamia, reckoning from Monandria to Polygamia dioecia. If 
to these we add 3000 species of cryptogamic plants, we 
shall bring the number as given by Willdenow to 20,000. 
More recent investigations have shown how far this estimate 
of the species described, and of those preserved in herbariums, 
falls short of the truth. Robert Brown* first enumerated 
above 37,000 phanerogamia, and I at that time attempted to 
describe the distribution of 44,000 species of phanerogamic 
and cryptogamic plants, over the different portions of the 
world already explored. f Decandolle finds, on comparing 
Persoon's Enchiridium with his Universal System divided into 
twelve families, that more than 56,000 species of plants may 
be enumerated from the writings of botanists and European 
herbariums. ;£ If we consider how many new species have 
been described by travellers since that time, (my expedition 
alone afforded 3600 of the 5800 collected species of equi- 
noctial plants), and if we bear in mind that there are 
assuredly upwards of 25,000 phanerogamic plants, cultivated 
in all the different botanical gardens, we shall soon see 
how much Decandolle's estimate is below the truth. From 
our complete ignorance of the interior of South America 
(Mato-Grosso, Paraguay, the eastern declivity of the Andes, 
Santa-Cruz de la Sierra, and all the countries lying between the 
Orinoco, the Rio Negro, the Amazon, and Puruz), of Africa, of 
Madagascar, and Borneo, and of Central and Eastern Asia, the 
idea involuntarily presents itself to the mind that we are not 
yet acquainted with one third, or probably even with one fifth 
part of the plants existing on the earth. Drege has collected 
7092 phanerogamic species in Southern Africa alone; and he 
believes that the flora of that region consists of more than 1 1,000 
phanerogamic species, seeing that in Germany and Switzer- 
land, on an equal area (192,000 square miles,) Koch has 
described only 3300, and Decandolle only 3645 phanerogamia 
in France. 1 would here also instance the new genera, con- 
sisting partly of high forest trees, which are still being dis- 
covered in the neighbourhood of large commercial towns in 
the lesser Antilles, although they have been visited by Euro- 
peans for the last three hundred years. Such considerations, 

* General Remarks on the Botany of Terra Australis, p. 4. 
*T Humboldt, de distributions geographica Plantarum, p. 23. 
X Essai elementaire de Geograpliie botanique, p. 62. 


which I purpose developing more fully at the close of this 
illustration, seem to verify the ancient myth of the Zend- 
Avesta, that "the creating primeval force called forth 120,000 
vegetable forms from the sacred blood of the bull." 

If therefore no direct scientific solution can be afforded to 
the question, how many vegetable forms — leafless cryptogamia 
(water algse, fungi, and lichens), characeae, liverworts, folia- 
ceous mosses, marsilacese, lycopodiaceae, and ferns — exist on 
the dry land, and in the wide basin of the sea, in the present 
condition of the organic terrestrial life of our planet, it only 
remains for us to employ an approximative method for ascertain- 
ing with some degree of probability certain "extreme limits'' 
(numerical data of minima). Since the year 1815, I have, 
in my arithmetical considerations on the geography of plants, 
calculated the numbers expressing the ratio which the aggre- 
gate of species of different natural families bears to the whole 
mass of the phanerogamia in those countries where the latter is 
sufficiently determined. Robert Brown,* the greatest botanist 
of our age, had, prior to my researches, already determined 
the numerical proportion of the principal divisions of vegetable 
forms, as for instance of acotyledons (Agamce, cryptogamic or 
cellular plants) to cotyledons (Phanerogamia, or vascular 
plants), and of monocotyledons (Endogenm) to dicotyledons 
(Exogenai). He finds the ratio of monocotj'ledons to dicotyle- 
dons in the tropical zone as in the proportion of 1 to 5, and 
in the frigid zone, in the parallels of 60° north, and 55° south 
lat. as 1 to 2|.f The absolute numbers of the species are 
compared together in the three great divisions of the vegetable 
kingdom, according to the method developed in Brown's work. 
I was the first who passed from these principal divisions to 
the individual families, and considered the number of the 
species contained in each, in their ratio to the whole mass 
of phanerogamia belonging to one zone.]: 

* Formerly librarian to Sir Joseph Banks, now President of the 
Linnaean Society. — Ed. 

*j- Robert Brown, General remarks on the botany of Terra Australia, 
in Flinders' Voyage, vol. ii. p. 338. 

X Compare my essay, De distributione geographica Plantarum 
secundum cadi temperiem et altitudinem montium, 1817, pp. 24 — 44; 
and see the further development of numerical relations as given by me 
in the Dictionnaire des Sciences naturelles, t. xviii. 1820, pp. 422 — 
436; and in the Annales de Chimie et de Physique, t. xvi. 1821, 
pp. 267—292. 


The numerical relations of the forms of plants, and the laws 
observed in their geographical distribution, admit of being 
considered from two very different points of view. When we 
study plants in their arrangement according to natural fami- 
lies, without regard to their geographical distribution, the 
question arises: What are the fundamental forms or types 
of organization, in accordance with which the greater number 
of their species are formed ? Are there more Gluniacea) than 
Compositao on the earth's surface? Do these two orders of 
plants combined, constitute one-fourth of the phanerogamia ? 
What numerical relation do monocotyledons bear to dicoty- 
ledons? These are questions of general phytology, a science 
that investigates the organization of plants and their mutual 
connection, and therefore has reference to the now existing 
state of vegetation. 

If, on the other hand, the species of plants that have been 
connected together according to their structural analogy, are 
considered not abstractedly, but in accordance with their 
climatic relations, and their distribution over the earth's sur- 
face, these questions acquire a totally different interest. We 
then examine what families of plants predominate in the torrid 
zone more than towards the polar circle over other phanero- 
gamia ? We inquire, whether the Composite are more nume- 
rous in the new than in the old world, under equal geogra- 
phical latitudes or between equal isothermal lines ? Whether 
the forms which gradually lose their predominance in advanc- 
ing from the equator to the poles, follow a similar law of 
decrease in ascending mountains situated in the equatorial 
region? Whether the relations of the different families to 
the whole mass of the phanerogamia differ under equal iso- 
thermal lines in the temperate zones on either side of the 
equator? These questions belong to the geography of plants 
properly so called, and are connected with the most important 
problems that can be presented by meteorology and terrestrial 
physics. Thus the predominance of certain families of plants 
determines the character of a landscape, and whether the 
aspect of the country is desolate or luxuriant, or smil- 
ing and majestic. Grasses, forming extended Savannahs, 
or the abundance of fruit-yielding palms, or social coniferous 
trees, have respectively exerted a powerful influence on the 
material condition, manners, and character of nations, and on 
the more or less rapid development of their prosperity. 


In studying the geographical distribution of forms, we may 
consider the species, genera, and natural families of plants 
separately. A single species, especially among social plants, 
frequently covers an extensive tract of land. Thus we have 
in the north, Pine or Fir forests, and Heaths (ericeta); in 
Spain, Cistus groves : and in tropical America, collections of 
one and the same species of Cactus, Croton, Brathys, or Bam- 
busa Guadua. It is interesting to study more closely these 
relations of individual increase, and of organic development; 
and here we may inquire, what species produces the greatest 
number of individuals in one certain zone; or, merely what 
are the families to which the predominating species belong in 
different climates. In a very high northern latitude, where the 
Composite and the Ferns stand in the ratios of 1 : 13 and 1:25 
to the sum of all the phanerogamia (/. e., where these ratios are 
found by dividing the sum total of all phanerogamia by the 
number of species included in the family of the Composita?, or 
in that of the Ferns) ; one single species of Fern may, however, 
cover ten times more space than all the species of the Com- 
posita3 taken together. In this case the Ferns predominate 
over the Compositse by their mass, and by the number of the 
individuals belonging to the same species of Pteris, or Poly- 
podium; but they will not be found to predominate, if we 
onl) T compare the number of the different specific forms of the 
Filices, and of the Compositee, with the sum total of all Phane- 
rogamia. As, therefore, multiplication of plants does not follow 
the same laws in all species, and as all do not produce an equal 
number of individuals, the quotients obtained by dividing the 
sum of all jmanerogarnic plants by the species of one family, 
do not alone determine the leading features impressed on the 
landscape, or the physiognomy of nature peculiar to different 
regions of the earth. If the attention of the travelling botanist 
be arrested by the frequent repetition of the same species, 
by its mass, and the uniformity of vegetation thus produced, it 
will be still more forcibly arrested by the infrequency of many 
other species useful to man. In tropical regions, Avhere 
the Rubiacere, Myrtles, Leguminoscc, or Terebinthacea?, 
compose the forests, one is astonished to meet with so few 
trees of Cinchona, or of certain species of mahogany 
(Sicietcnia), of Ha>matoxylon, Styrax, or balsamic Myroxylon. 
I would also here refer to the scanty and detached occurrence 
of the precious febrifuge-bark trees (species of Cinchona) 


which I had an opportunity of observing on the declivity of 
the elevated plains of Bogota and Popayan, and in the neigh- 
bourhood of Loxa, in descending towards the unhealthy valley 
of the Catamayo, and to the river Amazon. The febrifuge- 
bark hunters (Cazadores de Cascarilla), as those Indians and 
Mestizoes are called at Loxa, who each year collect the most 
efficacious of all the medicinal barks, the Cinchona Condaminea^ 
among the lonely mountains of Caxanuma, Uritusinga, and 
Rumisitana, undergo considerable danger in climbing to the 
summits of the highest forest-trees, in order to obtain an 
extended view, from which they may distinguish the scattered, 
slender, and aspiring trunks of the Cinchona, by the reddish 
tint of their large leaves. The mean temperature of this 
important forest region (between 4° and 4^° south lat.) varies 
from 60 3 to 68° Fahr., at an absolute height of from 6400 to 
8000 feet above the level of the sea.* 

In considering the distribution of species, we may also, 
independently of individual multiplication and mass, compare 
together the absolute number which belong to each family. 
Such a mode of comparison, which was employed by Decan- 
dolle,f has been extended by Kunth to more than 3300 of the 
species of Compositae with which we are at present acquainted. 
It does not show what family preponderates by individual 
mass, or by the number of its species, over other phanerogamic 
forms, but it simply indicates how many of the species of one 
and the same family are indigenous in any one country or 
portion of the earth. The results of this method are, on the 
whole, more exact, because they are obtained by a careful 
study of the separate families, without requiring that the 
whole number of the phanerogamia of every country should 
be known. Thus, for instance, the most varied forms of Ferns 
are found in the tropical zone, each genus presenting the 
greatest number of species in the temperate, humid, and 
shaded mountainous parts of islands. While these species are 
less numerous in passing from tropical regions to the temperate 
zone, their absolute number diminishes still more in approach- 
ing nearer to the poles. Although the frigid zone, as, for 
instance, Lapland, supports species of the families which are 

* Humboldt et Bonpland, Plantes equinoxiales, t. i. p. 33, tab. 10. 
f See his -work, Regni Vegetal His Sy sterna naturale, t. i. pp. 128, 
396, 439, 464, 510. 


best able to resist the cold, Ferns predominate more over 
other phanerogamia in Lapland than either in France or 
Germany, notwithstanding the absolute inferiority of the 
gross number of ferns indigenous to the northern zone, when 
compared with other countries. These relations are, in 
France and Germany, as y^- and yT , while in Lapland they 
are as -^j. These numerical relations (obtained by dividing 
the sum total of all the phanerogamia of the different floras 
by the species of each family) were published by me in 1817, 
in my Prolegomena de distributione geographica Plantarum, 
and corrected in accordance with the great works of Robert 
Brown, in my Essay on the Distribution of Plants over the 
earth's surface, which I subsequently wrote in French. These 
relations, as we advance from the equator towards the poles, 
necessarily vary from the ratios obtained by a comparison of 
the absolute number of the different species belonging to each 
family. We often see the value of the fractions increase by 
the decrease of the denominator, whilst the absolute number 
of the species is reduced. In the fractional method which I 
have followed as the most applicable to questions relating to 
the geography of plants, there are two variable quantities ; for 
in passing from one isothermal line to another, we do not find 
the sum total of the phanerogamia change in the same propor- 
tion as the number of the species of one particular family. 

In proceeding from the consideration of these species to 
that of the divisions established in the natural system accord- 
ing to an ideal series of abstractions, we may direct our 
attention to genera or races, to families, or even to still higher 
classes of division. There are some genera, and even whole 
families, which exclusively belong to certain zones ; not merely 
because they can only thrive under a special combination of 
climatic relations, but also because they first sprang up within 
very circumscribed localities, and have been checked in their 
migrations. The larger number of genera and families have, 
however, their representatives in all regions of the earth, 
and at all elevations. The earliest inquiries into the distri- 
bution of vegetable forms had reference to genera alone, and 
are to be found in the valuable work of Treviranus.* This 
method is, however, less appropriate for yielding general 
results, than that which compares the number of the species of 
* Biologic, bd. ii. s. 47, 63, 83, 129. I 


each family, or the great leading divisions (acotyledons, mono- 
cotyledons, and dicotyledons), with the sum total of the phanero- 
gamia. In the frigid zone, the variety of forms, or the number 
of the genera, does not decrease in an equal degree with that 
of the species, there being in these regions relatively more 
genera and fewer species.* The case is almost the same 
on the summits of high mountain-chains, where are sheltered 
individual members of many different genera which one 
would be disposed to regard as belonging exclusively to the 
vegetation of the plain. 

I have deemed it expedient to indicate the different points 
of view from which the laws of the distribution of vegetable 
forms may be considered. It is only when these points of 
view are confounded together, that we meet with contradic- 
tions, which have been unjustly attributed to uncertainty of 
observation.! When expressions like the following are em- 
ployed: "This form, or this family diminishes as it approaches 
towards the cold zone," or "the true habitat of this form is 
in such or such a parallel of latitude;" or "this is a southern 
form," or, again, "it predominates in the temperate zone;'* 
it should be definitely stated whether reference is made to 
the absolute number of the species, and the proportion of their 
predominance according to the increase or decrease of lati- 
tude; or whether the meaning conveyed is, that a family, 
when compared with the whole number of the phanerogamia 
of a flora, predominates over other families of plants. The 
impression conveyed to the mind of the predominance of forms, 
depends literally on the conception of relative quantity. 

Terrestrial physics have their numerical elements as welt 
as the cosmical system, and it is only by the united labours 
of botanical travellers that we can hope gradually to arrive 
at a knowledge of the laws which determine the geogra- 
phical and climatic distribution of vegetable forms. I have 
already observed that in the temperate zone of the northern 
hemisphere, the Compositae (Synantherese) and the Glumaceae 
(in which latter division I place the three families of the 
Graminea?, the Cyperoidese, and the Juncaceae) constitute the 
fourth part of all phanerogamia. The following numerical 

* Decandolle, Theorie Zlementaire dela Botanique, p. 190; Hum- 
boldt, Nova genera et species Plantarum, t. i. pp. xvii. 1. 

•f Jahrbucher der Gewachskimde, bd. i. Berlin, 1818, s. 18, 21, 30. 


relations are the result of my investigations for seven great 
families of the vegetable kingdom in one and the same tem- 
perate zone: 

Glumaceae i- (Grasses alone JL) 

o 12' 

Compositse i 
Leguminosae - 1 -. 

1 S 

Labiatae J- 

2 4 

Umbelliferae -i- 
4 o 

Amentaceoe (Cupuliferae, Betulineaa, and Salicineas) JL. 
Cruciferas _L 

The forms of organic beings are reciprocally dependent on 
one another. Such is the unity of nature, that these forms 
limit each other in obedience to laws which are probably con- 
nected with long periods of time. When we have ascertained 
the number of the species on any particular part of the 
earth's surface belonging to one of the great families of 
the Glumacea3, the Leguminosae, or the Compositae, we may 
with some degree of probability, form approximative con- 
clusions regarding the number of all the phanerogamia, 
as well as of the species belonging to the other families of 
plants growing in the country. The number of the Cy- 
peroideae determines that of the Compositae, and the number 
of the latter determines that of the Lesruminosae : and these 
estimates, moreover, enable us to ascertain in what classes and 
orders the Floras of a country are still incomplete, teaching 
us what harvests may still be reaped in the respective families, 
if we guard against confounding together very different 
systems of vegetation. 

The comparison of the numerical proportions of families in 
the different zones which have as yet been well explored, has 
led me to a knowledge of the laws which determine the nu- 
merical increase or decrease of vegetable forms constituting 
a natural family, in proceeding from the equator to the poles, 
when compared, for instance, with the whole mass of phane- 
rogamia peculiar to each zone. We must here have regard 
not only to the direction, but also to the rapidity or measure 
of the increase. We see the denominator of the fraction, 
which expresses the ratio, increase or diminish. Thus, for 
instance, the beautiful family of the Leguminosae diminishes 


in proportion as it recedes from the equinoctial zone to the 
north pole. If we find its ratio for the torrid zone (from 0° 
to 10° of latitude) —, we shall have for the part of the tem- 
perate zone (lying between 45° and 52°) y 1 ^, and for the frigid 
zone (between 67° and 70° lat.) only -^j. The direction 
followed by the great family of the Leguminosae (viz., increase 
towards the equator) is also that of the Rubiaceae, the Euphor- 
biaceee, and especially the Malvaceae On the other hand, 
the Gramineae and the Juncaceac (the latter more than the 
former), the Ericeae, and Amentaceae, diminish towards the 
torrid zone. The Compositac, Labiatae, Umbelliferae, and 
Cruci ferae, diminish from the temperate zone towards the pole 
and the equator, and the two latter families most rapidly in 
the direction of the equatorial region ; whilst in the temperate 
zone the Cruciferae are three times more abundant in Europe 
than in the United States of North America. In Greenland 
the Labiatae are reduced to only one species, and the Umbel- 
liferao to two, while the whole number of the phaneroganiia 
still amounts, according to Hornemann, to 315 species. 

It must at the same time be observed that the development 
of plants of different families, and the distribution of their 
forms, do not depend alone on the geographical, or even on 
the isothermal latitude ; the quotients not being always equal 
on one and the same isothermal line in the temperate zone, as 
for instance in the plains of America and in those of the Old 
Continent. Within the tropics there is a very marked differ- 
ence between America, the East Indies, and the western coast 
of Africa. The distribution of organic beings over the surface 
of the earth does not depend solely on the great complication 
of thermic and climatic relations, but also on geological causes 
which continue almost wholly unknown to us, since they have 
been produced by the original condition of the earth, and by 
catastrophes which have not affected all parts of our planet 
simultaneously. The large pachydermata are no longer found 
in the New Continent, while they still exist under analogous 
climates in Asia and Africa. These differences, instead of 
deterring us from the investigation of the laws of nature, 
should rather stimulate us to study them in all their intricate 

The numerical laws of families, the frequently striking 
agreement between the ratios, where the species constituting 


these families are for the most part different, lead us into that 
mysterious obscurity which envelopes everything connected 
with the fixing of organic types in the different species of 
animals and plants, and with all that refers to formation and 
development. I will take as examples two neighbour- 
ing countries — France and Germany — which have both been 
long since explored. In France many species of Graminea3, 
Unibelliferse, Cruciferee, Compositse, Legurninosae, and Labiatse 
are wanting, which are some of the commonest in Germany, 
and yet the ratios of these six large families are almost iden- 
tical in both countries. Their relations, which I here give, 
are as follows: 

Families. Germany. France. 




Compositae .... •§ 


ijiiuintcO. .... ... ^ q 

1 i 

1 3 

2 2 

1 , 
1 8 

1 8 

1 3 

, 1 

2 1 






This correspondence in the number of species of one 
family compared to the whole mass of the phanero- 
gamia of Germany and France would not exist, if the 
absent German species were not replaced in France by other 
types of the same families. Those who delight in con- 
jectures respecting the gradual transformation of species, 
and who regard the different parrots, peculiar to islands 
situated near each other, as merely transformed species, 
will ascribe the remarkable uniformity presented by the 
above numerical ratios to a migration of the same species, 
which having been altered by climatic influences, continuing 
for thousands of years, appear to replace each other. But 
why have our common Heath, (Calluna vulgaris,) and our 
Oaks not penetrated to the east of the Ural Mountains, and 
passed from Europe to northern Asia ? Why is there no 
species of the genus Rosa in the southern, and scarcely any 
Calceolaria in the northern hemisphere? These are points 
that cannot be explained by peculiarities of temperature. 
The present distribution of forms (fixed forms of organization) 
is no more explained by thermal relations alone, than by the 


hypothesis of migrations of plants radiating from certain 
central points. Thermal relations are scarcely sufficient to 
explain the phenomenon why certain species have fixed limits 
beyond which they cannot pass, either in the plains towards 
the pole, or in vertical elevation on the declivities of moun- 
tains. The cycle of vegetation of each species, however 
different may be its duration, requires a certain minimum 
of temperature to enable it to arrive at the full stage of its 
development.* But all the conditions necessary to the 
existence of a plant, either within its natural sphere of dis- 
tribution or cultivation — such as geographical distance from 
the pole, and elevation of the locality — are rendered still 
more complicated by the difficulty of determining the begin- 
ning of the thermic cycle of vegetation; by the influence 
which the unequal distribution of the same quantity of heat 
among days and nights succeeding each other in groups, 
exerts on the irritability, the progressive development, and 
the whole vital process ; and lastly, by the secondary influence 
of the hygrometric and electric relations of the atmosphere. 

My investigations regarding the numerical laws of the dis- 
tribution of vegetable forms may, perhaps, at some future time, 
be applied successfully to the different classes of verte- 
brate animals. The rich collections of the Museum d"histoire 
naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, contained in 1820, 
-at a rough estimate, above 56,000 species of phanerogamic and 
cryptogamic plants in the herbariums, 44,000 insects (proba- 
bly below the actual number, although they were thus given 
me by Latreille), 2500 species of fishes, 700 reptiles, 4000 birds, 
and 500 mammalia. Europe possesses about 80 mammalia, 
400 birds, and 30 reptiles; there are, therefore, five times as 
many birds as mammalia in the northern temperate zone, (as 
there are in Europe five times as many Compositse as Amenta- 
cese and Coniferoo, and five times as many Leguminosse as 
Orchidea3 and Euphorbiaceee) . In the southern temperate 
zone the ratio of the Mammalia bears a sufficiently striking 
accord with that of Birds, being as 1 : 4*3. Birds (and rep- 

* Playfair, in the Transactions of the Royal Soc. of Edinb., vol. v. 
1805, p. 202; Humboldt, on the sum total of the thermometric degrees 
required for the cycle of vegetation of the Cereals, in Mem. sur des 
ligncs isothermes, p. 96; Boussingault, Economic rurale, t. ii. p. 659, 
663, 667; and Alphonse Decandolle, Sur les causes qui limitent les 
especes vegetaTcs, 1847, p. 8. 


tiles even to a greater extent), increase more than mammalia in 
advancing towards the torrid zone. We might be disposed 
to believe, from Cuvier's investigations, that this ratio was 
different in the earlier age of our planet, and that the number 
of mammalia that perished by convulsions of nature was much 
greater than that of birds. Latreille has shown the different 
groups of insects that increase in advancing towards the pole, 
or towards the equator, and Illiger has indicated the native 
places of 3800 birds, according to the quarters of the globe; 
— a far less instructive method than if they had been given 
according to zones. We may easily comprehend how, on a 
given area, the individuals of one class of plants or animals 
may limit each other's numbers, and how, after the long- 
continued contests and fluctuations engendered by the re- 
quirements of nourishment and mode of life, a condition of 
equilibrium may have been at length established; but the 
causes which have determined their typical varieties, and 
have circumscribed the sj^here of the distribution of the 
forms themselves, no less than the number of individuals of 
each form, are shrouded in that impenetrable obscurity which 
still conceals from our view all that relates to the beginning 
of things and the first appearance of organic life. 

If, therefore, as I have already observed at the beginning of 
this illustration, we attempt to give an approximative estimate 
of the numerical limit (" le nombre limite" of the French ma- 
thematicians), helow which we cannot place the sum of all the 
phanerogamia on the surface of the earth ; we shall find that 
the surest method will be by comparing the known ratios of the 
families of plants with the number of the species contained 
in our herbariums, or cultivated in large botanical gardens. 
As I have just remarked, the herbariums of the Jardin des 
Plantes at Paris were, in 1820, already estimated at 56,000 
species. I will not hazard a conjecture as to the number that 
may be contained in the herbariums of England, but the great 
Paris herbarium, which Benjamin Delessert with the noblest 
disinterestedness has given up to free and general use, was 
estimated, at the time of his death, to contain 86,000 species, 
a number almost equal to that which Lindley, even in 1835,* 
regarded as the probable number of all the species existing 
" on the whole earth." Few herbariums are numbered with 
* Introduction to Botany, 2nd ed. p. 504. 


care, according to a complete, severe, and methodical separa- 
tion of the different varieties ; while, moreover, we often find 
no inconsiderable number of plants wanting in the large so- 
called general herbariums, which are contained in some of the 
smaller ones. Dr. Klotzsch estimates the whole number of 
Phanerogamic plants in the Great Royal Herbarium at 
Schoneberg, near Berlin, of which he is curator, at 74,000 

Loudon's useful work (Hortus britannicus) gives a general 
view of the species which now are or recently have been, cul- 
tivated in English gardens. The edition of 1832 enume- 
rates, including indigenous plants, exactly 26,660 Phane- 
rogamia. We must not confound with this large number 
of plants that either have been, or still are, cultivated in 
Great Britain, " all the living plants which may simultaneously 
be found in an individual botanic garden." In this last 
respect the Botanic Garden of Berlin has long been regarded 
as one of the richest in Europe. The fame of its extraordi- 
nary riches rested formerly on a mere approximative estimate 
of its contents, and, as my old friend and fellow-labourer Pro- 
fessor Kunth, has very correctly remarked,*' 4 "it was only by 
the completion of a systematic catalogue, based on the most 
careful examination of the species, that an actual enumeration 
could be undertaken. This enumeration gave somewhat more 
than 14,060 species; and when we deduct from these 375 
cultivated ferns, there remain 13,685 Phanerogamia, among 
which there are 1600 Composite, 1150 Leguminosos, 428 
Labiata?, 370 Umbelliferte, 460 Orchidese, 60 Palms, and 600 
Grasses and Cyperacese. If we compare with these numbers 
the number of species given in recent works, as, for instance, 
Composita? (according to Decandolle and Walpers), at about 
10,000, Leguminosoc 8070, Labiate (Bentham) 2190, Umbel- 
liferee 1620, Grasses 3544, and Cyperacea) 2000,f we shall 
perceive that the Botanic Garden at Berlin cultivates only 
\, \, and ^ of the very large families (Composita?, LeguminosEe, 
and Grasses), and as many as \ and \ of the already described 
species belonging to the small families (Labiata? and Umbel- 
liferse). If we estimate the number of all the different species 

* Manuscript notice communicated to the " Gartenbau- Verein " in 
Dec. 1846. 

f Kunth, Enumeratio Plantarum. 



of Phanerogamia simultaneously cultivated in all the botanical 
gardens of Europe at 20,000, we shall find, as they appear to 
constitute about the eighth part of those already described 
and contained in herbariums, that the whole number of 
Phanerogamia must amount to nearly 160,000. This esti- 
mate need not be regarded as too high, since scarcely the 
hundredth part of many of the larger families, as, for instance, 
Guttiferce, Malpighiacese, Melastomeae, Myrtaceae, and Ru- 
biaceae, belong to our gardens." If we take the number 
(26,660 species), given in Loudon's " Hortus Britannicus," 
as the basis, we shall find, from the well-grounded series 
of inferences drawn by Professor Kunth, and which I borrow 
from his manuscript notice above referred to, that the esti- 
mate of 160,000 will increase to 213,000 species; and 
even this is still very moderate, since Heynhold, in his 
" Nomenclator botanicus hortensis" (1846), estimates the 
species of Phanerogamia already cultivated at 35,600. On 
the whole, therefore, — and the conclusion is, at first sight, 
sufficiently striking, — the number of species of Phanerogamia 
at present known by cultivation in gardens, by descriptions, 
and in herbariums, is almost greater than that of known 
insects. According to the average estimates of several of 
the most distinguished entomologists, whose opinion I have 
been able to obtain, the number of insects at present described, 
or contained in collections without being described, may be 
stated as between 150,000 and 170,000 species. The rich 
collection at Berlin contains fully 90,000, among which there 
are about 32,000 beetles. Travellers have collected an im- 
mense quantity of plants in remote regions, without bring- 
ing with them the insects living upon them, or in the neigh- 
bourhood. If, however, we limit these numerical estimates 
to a definite portion of the earth's surface that has been the 
best explored in regard to its plants and insects, as, for 
instance, Europe, we find the ratio between the vital forms 
of Phanerogamic plants and those of insects changed to such 
a degree, that while Europe counts scarcely 7000 or 8000 
Phanerogamia, more than three times that number of Euro- 
pean insects are at present known. According to the interest- 
ing contributions of my friend Dohrn in Stettin, more than 
8700 insects have already been collected from the rich fauna 
of the neighbourhood, and yet there are still many Micro- 


Lepidoptera wanting; while the number of Phanerogamia 
found there scarcely exceeds 1000. The Insect-fauna of Great 
Britain is estimated at 11,600. Such a preponderance of 
animal forms will appear less surprising when we remember 
that several of the large classes of insects live only on animal 
substances, whilst others subsist on agamic plants (Fungi), 
and even on those which are subterranean. Bombyx Pini, 
the Pine Spider, the most destructive of all forest-insects, 
is infested, according to Ratzeburg, by no less than thirty-five 
parasitical Ichneumonidse. 

These considerations have led us to the proportion borne 
by the number of species growing in gardens to the gross 
number of those already described and preserved in herba- 
riums; it now remains for us to consider the proportion of 
the latter to the conjectural number of species existing on 
the whole earth, or, in other words, to test their minimum 
by the relative numbers of the different families — i. e. by 
variable maltipla. A test of this kind gives, however, such 
low results for the loiver amount, as plainly to show that even 
in the large families, which appear to have been the most 
strikingly enriched in recent times by the researches of descrip- 
tive botanists, our knowledge is still limited to a very small 
portion of the treasure actually existing. The Repertorium of 
Walpers which completes Decandolle's Prodromus of 1825 to 
1846, gives 8068 species of the family of the Leguminosse. 
We may assume the mean ratio to be -^y; since it is -yg- 
in the tropical zone, -£ T in the middle temperate zone, and 
-^3 in the cold northern zone. The described Leguminosse 
would therefore only lead us to assume that there were 
169,400 species of Phanerogamia existing on the earth, 
whereas the Composite, as already shewn, testify to the 
existence of more than 160,000 known Phanerogamia, i. e. 
such as have been described or are contained in herbariums. 
This discrepancy is instructive, and will be further elucidated 
by the following analogous considerations. 

The larger number of the Composite, of which Linnseus 
knew only 785 species, and which have now increased 
to 12,000, appear to belong to the Old Continent. At 
least Decandolle described onlv 3590 American, while he 
estimated the European, Asiatic, and African species at 
5093. This abundance of Composite in our vegetable 

u 2 


systems is however deceptive, and only apparently con- 
siderable ; for the quotient of this family (which within the 
tropical zone is T y, in the temperate zone ■£-, and in the 
frigid zone ^) shows that more species of Compositse than 
of Leguniinosse have hitherto eluded the diligent research 
of travellers ; for even when multiplied by 12 we only obtain 
the improbably small number of 144,000 for the sum total of 
the Phanerogamia ! The families of the Grasses and of the 
Cyperacese give still lower results, because a proportionally 
smaller number of species have been described and collected. 
We need only cast a glance at the map of South America, and 
remember that the vast extent of country occupied by the 
grassy plains of Venezuela the Apure and the Meta, as well as 
to the south of the woody region of the Amazon, in Chaco, in 
Eastern Tucuman, and in the Pampas of Buenos Ay res and 
Patagonia, has either been very imperfectly or not at all 
explored in relation to botany. Northern and Central Asia 
present an almost equally extensive territory occupied by 
steppes ; but here a larger proportion cf dicotyledonous plants 
is intermixed with the Gramineas. If we had sufficient 
grounds for believing that one-half of all the phanerogamic 
plants existing on the surface of the earth are known, and 
if we estimate this number at only 160,000 or at 213,000 
known species ; we must give to the family of grasses, whose 
general ratio appears to be -jL-, in the former case at least 
26,000, and in the latter 35,000 different species, of which in 
the first case -f-, and in the second ^ are known. 

The following considerations oppose the hypothesis that we 
are already acquainted with half the Phanerogamia on the 
earth's surface. Several thousand species of Monocotyledons 
and Dicotyledons, and among them lofty arborescent forms, 
have recently been discovered (I would remind the reader 
of my own expedition) in districts of a very large extent, 
which had already been explored by distinguished bota- 
nists. Yet that portion of the great continents which has 
never been visited by botanical observers far exceeds the 
extent of the parts even superficially traversed. The greatest 
variety of phanerogamic vegetation, i. e. the greatest number 
of species on an equal area, is to be met with in the tropical 
or sub -tropical zones. It is therefore the more important to 
bear in mind that we are almost wholly unacquainted, north of 


the equator, in the New Continent, with the floras of Oaxaca, 
Yucatan, Guatimala, Nicaragua, the Isthmus of Panama, the 
Choco, Antioquia, and the Province de los Pastos; while 
south of the equator, we are equally ignorant of the floras 
of the boundless forest-region between the Ucayale, the 
Rio de la Madura, and the Toncantin (three mighty tribu- 
taries of the Amazon), as well as of those of Paraguay and 
the Province de las Missiones. In Africa, we know nothing 
of the vegetation of the whole of the interior, between 
15° north and 20° south lat. ; and in Asia we are unac- 
quainted with the floras of the south and south-east of 
Arabia, where the highlands rise to an elevation of 6400 
feet ; as also with the floras between the Thian-schan, the 
Kuen-Lun, and the Himalaya; those of Western China; 
and those of the great portion of the countries beyond the 
Ganges. Still more unknown to botanists are the interior 
portions of Borneo and New Guinea, and of some districts 
of Australia. Further to the south the number of the 
species decreases in a most remarkable manner, as Joseph 
Hooker has ably shown, from his own observation, in his 
Antarctic Flora. The three islands which constitute New 
Zealand extend from 34^° to 47-j° of latitude, and as they have 
besides snow-crowned mountains more than 8850 feet in height, 
they must exhibit considerable differences of climate. The most 
northern island has been explored with tolerable accuracy 
from the time of Banks and Solander's voyage (with Capt. 
Cook), to the visits of Lesson, the brothers Cunningham, and 
Colenso ; and yet in more than seventy years, the number of 
Phanerogamia with which we have become acquainted is 
below 700. * This paucity of vegetable species corresponds 
with the paucity of animal forms. Dr. Joseph Hooker has 
observed that "Iceland, proverbially barren as it is, and upon 
which no tree, save a few stunted birches, is to be found, pos- 
sesses five times as many flowering plants as Lord Auckland's 
group and Campbell's Islands together, although these are 
situated at from 8° to 10° nearer the equator in the southern 
hemisphere. The antarctic flora is at once characterised by 
uniformity and great luxuriance of vegetation, which is attri- 
butable to the influence exerted by an uninterruptedly cool and 
humid climate. In Southern Chili, Patagonia, and Tierra del 
* Ernest Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, 1843, vol. i. p. 419. 


Fuego (from 45° to 56° lat.) this uniformity is strikingly mani- 
fested on the mountains and their declivities no less than in the 
plains. How great is the difference of species when we compare 
the flora of the south of France, in the same latitude as the 
Chonos Islands off the coast of Chili, with the Scottish flora 
of Argyleshire, in the parallel of Cape Horn. In the 
southern hemisphere the same types of vegetation pass 
through many degrees of latitude. In the regions near the 
north pole ten flowering plants have been collected on 
Walden Island (80|° north lat.), while there is scarcely a 
solitary grass to be met with in the South Shetland Islands, 
although situated 63° south latitude."* These considera- 
tions on the distribution of plants prove that the great mass 
of the still unobserved, uncollected, and undescribed phanero- 
gamia belong to the tropical zone, and to the contiguous 
regions extending from twelve to fifteen degrees from it. 

I have deemed it not unimportant to draw attention to 
the imperfect state of our knowledge in this slightly cul- 
tivated department of numerical botany, and to treat such 
questions in a more definite manner than has hitherto been 
possible. In all conjectures regarding relative numbers, we 
must first examine the practicability of obtaining the lowest 
limit; as in the question, of which I have treated elsewhere, 
regarding the ratio of the gold and silver coined to the 
quantity of the precious metals existing in a wrought state ; 
or as in the question of how many stars, from the tenth to 
the twelfth magnitude, are scattered over the heavens, and 
how many of the smallest telescopic stars may be contained 
in the Milky Wayrf It is an established fact, that if it 
were possible to ascertain completely by observation the 
number of species of the large phanerogamic families, we 
should at the same time obtain an approximate knowledge of 
the sum-total of all the phanerogamia on the surface of the 
earth (that is, the numbers included in every family). The 
more therefore we are enabled, by the progressive exploration 
of unknown districts, gradually to determine the number of 
species belonging to any one great family, the higher will be 
the gradual rise of the lowest limit, and the nearer we shall 

* Joseph Hooker, Flora Antarctica, pp. 73 — 75. 
+ Sir John Herschelj Results of Astron. Observ. at the Cape of Good 
Hope, 1847, p. 381. 


arrive at the solution of a great numerical vital problem, since 
the forms, in accordance with still unexplained laws of uni- 
versal organism, reciprocally limit each other. But is the 
number of the organisms a constant number ? Do not new 
vegetable forms spring from the ground after long intervals of 
time, whilst others become more and more rare, and finally 
disappear? Geology confirms the latter part of this question 
by means of the historical memorials of ancient terrestrial 
life. "In the primitive world," to use the expression of the 
intellectual Link,* " elements remote from each other blend 
together in wondrous forms, indicating, as it were, a higher 
degree of development and articulation in a future period of 
the world." 

(14) p. 222 — "Whether the height of the aerial ocean audits 
pressure have always been the same." 

The pressure of the atmosphere has a decided influence on 
the form and life of plants. This life, owing to the fulness 
and abundance of the leafy organs provided with interstitial 
openings, is principally directed outicards. Plants mainly live 
in and through their surfaces, and hence their dependence on the 
surrounding medium. Animals are more dependant on internal 
stimuli ; they generate and maintain their own temperature, 
deriving from muscular movements their electric currents, 
and the chemical vital processes which arise from and re-act 
upon those currents. A kind of cutaneous respiration con- 
stitutes an active vital function of plants, and depends, so 
far as it is an evaporation, inhalation, and exhalation of 
fluids, on atmospheric pressure. Hence Alpine plants are 
more aromatic and hirsute than others, and more amply 
provided with numerous exhalants.f Zoonomic experiments 
teach us, as I have shown in another work, that organs are 
more abundant and more perfectly developed in proportion to 
the facility with which their functional requirements are 
fulfilled. The disturbance occasioned in the respiration of 
their external integuments, by increased barometric pressure, 
renders it, as I have elsewhere shewn, very difficult for 
Alpine plants to thrive in the plain. 

* Abhandl. der Akad. der Wiss. zu Berlin aus dem J. 1846, s. 322. 
+ See mv work, Uebcr die gereizte Muskel-und Nervenfaser, bd. ii. 
s. 142—145. 


Whether the aerial ocean surrounding the earth has always 
exerted the same mean pressure is a question wholly unde- 
cided. We do not even know for certain whether the mean 
barometric height has remaiued the same during a hundred 
years at any one given spot. According to the observations 
of Poleni and Toaldo, this pressure appeared variable. Doubts 
were long entertained regarding the accuracy of these views, 
but the more recent investigations of the astronomer Carlini 
render it almost probable that in Milan the mean barometric 
pressure is on the decrease. Perhaps the phenomenon is very 
local, and dependent on periodic variations in descending 
currents of air. 

(15) p. 223— "Palms." 

It is remarkable, that of this majestic form of plants — 
the Palms — some of which rise to more than twice the height of 
the Royal Palace at Berlin, and which the Indian, Amarasinha, 
has very characteristically called "kings among grasses," — 
only fifteen species had been described up to the time of the 
death of Linnaeus. The Peruvian travellers, Ruiz and Pavon, 
added only eight; whilst Bonpland and myself, traversing 
a greater extent of country, from 12° south lat. to 21° north 
lat., described twenty new species, and distinguished as many 
more which we named, without however being able to procure 
their blossoms in a perfect state.* At present (forty-four 
years after my return from Mexico) more than 440 species of 
palms, from both continents, have already been scientifically 
described, including the East Indian species arranged by 
Griffith. The " Enumeratio Plantarum " of my friend Kunth, 
which appeared in 1841, contains no fewer than 356 species. 

The very few palms belonging, like our Coniferoe, Quer- 
cineoe, and Betulineae, to social plants, are the Mauritian 
Palm (Mauritia jlexuosa), and the two species of Chamoerops, 
of which the Chamoerops humilis covers whole tracts of land 
at the estuary of the Ebro and in Valencia, while the other, 
Chamoerops Mocini, which we discovered on the Mexican 
shore of the Pacific, is entirely without prickles. In the same 
manner as there are some species of palms, including Cocos 
and Chamoerops, which are peculiar to sea-coasts, so also is 
there a certain group of Alpine palms belonging to the region 

* Humboldt, De distributione geographica Plantarum, pp. 225-233. 


of the tropics, which, if I mistake not, was wholly unknown 
before my South American journey. Almost all these species 
of the palm family grow in plains and in a mean temperature 
of 81°. 5 and 86° Fahr., seldom advancing higher up the sides 
of the Andes than to 1900 feet. The beautiful wax palm 
{Ceroxylon andicola), the Palmetto of Azufral at the Pass of 
Quindiu, (Oreodoxa frigida), and the reed-like Kunthia mon- 
tana (Cafia de la Vibora) of Pasto, all flourish at elevations 
varying from 6400 to 9600 feet above the level of the sea, 
where the thermometer frequently sinks in the night to 42°. 8 
and 45°. 5 Fahr., and the mean temperature is scarcely 57° 
Fahr. These Alpine palms are interspersed with nut-trees, 
yew -leaved species of Podocarpus, and oaks, (Quercus grana- 
tensis). I have determined, by accurate barometric measure- 
ments, the upper and lower limits of the wax palm. We 
began to observe it first on the eastern declivity of the Cor- 
dilleras of Quindiu, at an elevation of 7929 feet, from whence 
it ascended to the Garita del Paramo, and Los Volca- 
ncitos, as high as about 9700 feet. The distinguished botanist, 
Don Jose Caldas, who was long our companion in the moun- 
tains of ISew Granada, and who fell a victim to Spanish party 
hatred, found, many years after my departure from the 
country, three species of palms in the Paramo de Guanacos, 
in the immediate vicinity of the limit of perpetual snow, and 
therefore, probably at an elevation of nearly 14,000 feet.* 
Even beyond the tropical region (in lat. 28°), Chanieerops 
Martianaf rises on the advanced spurs of the Himalaya 
range to a height of 5000 feet. 

When we consider the extreme geographical and, conse- 
quently, also the climatic limits of palms at spots which are but 
little elevated above the level of the sea, we find that some 
forms (the Date Palm, Chamccrops humilis, Ch. palmetto, and 
Areca sapida of New Zealand,) advance far within the tem- 
perate zone of both hemispheres, to districts where the mean 
annual temperature scarcely reaches from 57° to 60° Fahr. If 
we form a progressive scale of cultivated plants in accordance 
with the different degrees of heat they require, and begin 
with the maximum, we have Cacao, Indigo, Bananas, Coffee, 
Cotton, Date Palms, Orange and Lemon trees, Olives, Spanish 

* Semanario de Santa FS de Bogota, 1809, No. 21, p. 163. 
f Wallich, Pla?itce asiaticai, vol. iii. tab. 211. 


Chesnuts, and Vines. In Europe, Date Palms, together with 
Chamoerops humilis, grow in the parallels of 43-§° and 44°, 
as, for instance, on 'the Genoese Rivera del Ponente, near 
Bordighera, between Monaco and San Stefano, where there is 
a palm grove, numbering more than 4000 trees ; also in Dal- 
matia, near Spalatro. It is remarkable that the Chameerops 
humilis is of frequent occurrence in the neighbourhood of Nice 
and in Sardinia, whilst it is not found in the Island of Corsica, 
lying between the two. In the New Continent, the Chamserops 
palmetto, which is sometimes more than 40 feet high, does not 
advance further north than 34°; a circumstance that may be 
explained by the inflection of the isothermal lines. In the 
southern hemisphere, Robert Brown" 4 found that palms, of 
which there are only very few (six or seven) species, advance 
as far as 34°in New Holland; while Sir Joseph Banks saw an 
Areca, in New Zealand, as far as 38°. Africa, which, contrary 
to the ancient and still extensively diffused opinion, is poor in 
species of palms, exhibits only one palm {Hyphame coriacea) 
which advances south of the equator, only as far as Port 
Natal, in 30° lat. The continent of South America presents 
almost the same limits. East of the chain of the Andes, in the 
Pampas of Buenos Ayres, and in the Cis-Plata province, 
palms extend, according to Auguste de St.-Hilaire,f as far as 
34° and 35°. The Coco de Chile, (our Jubaea spectabilisr), the 
only species of palm indigenous in Chili, advances on the 
western side of the chain of the Andes, according to Claude 
Gay,;}: to an equal latitude, viz., to the Rio Maule. 

I will here subjoin the aphoristic observations which, in 
March, 1801, I noted down while on board ship, at the 
moment we were leaving the palm region surrounding the 
mouth of the Rio Sinu, west of Darien, and were setting sail 
for Cartagena de Indias. 

" In the space of two years, we have seen as many as 
27 different species of palms in South America. How many 
then must have been observed by Commerson, Thunberg, 
Banks, Solander, the two Forsters, Adanson, and Sonnerat, on 
their extensive travels ! Yet, at the moment I am writing, 
our vegetable systems recognise scarcely more than from 

* General remarks on the Botany of Terra Australis, p. 45. 

f Voyage an Bresil, p. 60. 

X Compare also Darwin, Journal, Ed. of 1845, pp. 244, 256. 


fourteen to eighteen methodically described species ofpalins. 
The difficulties of reaching and procuring the blossoms of 
palms are, in fact, greater than can well be conceived; 
and, in our own case, we were made peculiarly sensible 
of this in consequence of our having directed our at- 
tention especially to palms, grasses, cyperacea?, juncacese, 
cryptogamia, and numerous other subjects hitherto much 
neglected. Most of the palms flower only once a year, 
and this period near the equator is generally about the 
months of January and February. How few travellers are 
likely to be in the region of palms precisely during this 
season ! The period of blossoming of particular trees is often 
limited to a few days, and the traveller commonly finds, on 
his arrival in the region of palms, that the blossoms have 
passed away, and that the trees present only fructified ovaries 
and no male flowers. In an area of 32,000 square miles, 
there are often not more than three or four species of palms 
to be found. Who can possibly, during the brief period of 
flowering, simultaneously visit the various palm regions near 
the Missions on the Rio Caroni, in the Morichales at the 
mouth of the Orinoco, in the valley of Caura and Erevato, 
on the banks of the Atabapo and the Rio Negro, and on the 
declivity of the Duida? There is, moreover, great difficulty 
when the trees grow in thick woods or on swampy shores (as 
at the Temi and Tuamini), in reaching the blossoms, which 
are often suspended from stems formidably armed with huge 
thorns, and rising to a height of between 60 and 70 feet. They 
who contemplate distant travels from Europe for the purpose 
of investigating subjects of natural history, picture to them- 
selves visions of efficient shears and curved knives attached 
to poles, ready for securing anything that comes in their way ; 
and of boys who, obedient to their mandates, are prepared, 
with a cord attached to their feet, to climb the loftiest trees ! 
Unfortunately, scarcely any of these visions are ever realised ; 
while the flowers are almost unattainable, owing to the great 
height at which they grow. In the missionary settlements of 
the river net-work of Guiana, the stranger finds himself 
amongst Indians, who, rendered rich and independent by their 
apathy, their poverty, and their barbarism, cannot be induced 
either by money or presents to deviate three steps from the 
regular path, supposing one to exist. This stubborn indiffer- 


ence of the natives provokes the European so much the more, 
from his being continually a witness of the inconceivable 
agility with which they will climb any height when prompted 
by their own inclination, as, for instance, in the pursuit of a 
parrot, an iguana, or a monkey, which, wounded by their 
arrows, saves itself from falling by its prehensile tail. In the 
month of January the stems of the Palma Real, our Oreo- 
doxa Regia, were covered with snow-white blossoms, in all 
the most frequented thoroughfares of the Havannah, and in 
the immediate vicinity of the city ; but, although we offered, 
for several days running, a couple of piastres for a single 
spadix of the hermaphrodite blossoms to every negro boy 
we met in the streets of Regla and Guanavacoa, it was in 
vain, for, in the tropics, no free man will ever undertake 
any labour attended by fatigue unless he is compelled to do 
so by imperative necessity ! The botanists and painters of the 
Royal Spanish Commission of Natural History under Count 
Don Jaruco y Mopox (Estevez, Boldo, Guio, Echeveria), con- 
fessed to us that, for several years, they had been unable to 
examine these blossoms, owing to the absolute impossibility 
of obtaining them. 

" After this statement of the difficulties attending their 
acquisition, the fact of our being only able, in the course of 
two years, systematically to describe twelve species of palms, 
although we had discovered twenty species, may be under- 
stood; but I confess it would hardly have been credible to me 
before I left Europe. How interesting a work might be 
written on palms by a traveller, who could exclusively devote 
himself to the delineation, in their natural size, of the spathe, 
spadix, inflorescence and fruits!" (Thus I wrote many years 
before the Brazilian travels of Martius and Spix, and the 
appearance of the admirable work on Palms by the former.) 

*' There is much sameness in the form of the leaves, which 
are either feathery (pinnata), or fanlike (palmo-digitata) ; the 
leaf-stalk (petiolus) is either without thorns or is sharply ser- 
rated (serrato-spinosus) . The leaf-form of Caryota urens and 
Martinezia caryotifolia, which we saw on the banks of the 
Orinoco and the Atabapo, and subsequently in the Andes, at 
the pass of Quindiu, as high as 3200 feet above the level of 
the sea, is almost as peculiar among palms as is the leaf-form 
of the Gingko among trees. The habitus and Dhysiognomy of 


palms are expressive of a grandeur of character which it is 
difficult to describe in words. The stem (caudex) is simple, 
and very rarely divided into branches after the manner of the 
Dracaena, as in Cucifera thebaica (the Doom Palm), and in 
Hyphaene coriacea. It is sometimes disproportionately thick, 
as in Corozo del Sinu, our Alfonsia oleifera ; of a reed-like 
feebleness, as in Piritu, [Kunihia montana), and the Mexican 
Corypha nana ; of a somewhat fork-like and protuberant form 
towards the lower part, as in Cocos ; sometimes smooth and 
sometimes scaly, as in the Palma de Covijao de Sombrero, in 
the Llanos ; or, lastly, prickly, as in Corozo de Cumana and 
Macanilla de Caripe, having the thorns very regularly arranged 
in concentric rings. 

Characteristic differences also manifest themselves in the 
roots, which, in some cases, project about a foot or a foot and 
a half from the ground, raising the stem on a scaffolding, as 
it were, or coiled round it in a padded-like roll. I have seen 
viverras and even very small monkeys pass under the scaffold- 
ing formed by the roots of the Caryota. Occasionally the 
stem is swollen only in the middle, being smaller above and 
below, as in the Palma Real of the island of Cuba. The 
green of the leaves is either dark and shining, as in Mauritia 
Cocos, or of a silvery white on the under side, as in the slender 
fan-palm, Corypha Miraguama, which we saw in the harbour 
of Trinidad de Cuba. Sometimes the middle of the fan-like 
leaf is adorned with concentric yellow and blue stripes, in the 
manner of a peacock's tail, as in the prickly Mauritia, which 
Bonpland discovered on the Bio Atabapo. 

" The direction of the leaves is a no less important charac- 
teristic than their form and colour. The leaflets (foliola) are 
either ranged in a comb-like manner close to one another, 
with a stiff parenchyma (as in Cocos Phoenix), to which they 
owe the beautiful reflections of solar light that play over the 
surface of the leaves, which shine with a brilliant verdure in 
Cocos. and with a fainter and ashv- coloured hue in the date- 
palm ; or sometimes the foliage assumes a reed-like appear- 
ance, having a thinner and more flexible texture, and being 
curled near the extremity (as in Jagua, Palma Real del Sitae, 
Palma Peal de Cuba, and Piritu del Orinoco). This direction 
of the leaves, together with the lofty stem, gives to the palms 
their character of high majesty. It is a characteristic of the 


physiognomical beauty of the palm that its leaYes are directed 
aspiringly upwards throughout the whole period of its dura- 
tion, (and not only in the youth of the tree, as is the case with 
the Date-Palm, which is the only one introduced into Europe.) 
The more acute the angle made by the leaves with the upper 
part of the stem (that is, the nearer they approach the perpen- 
dicular,) the grander and nobler is the form of the tree. 
How different is the aspect of the pendent leaves of the Palma 
de Covija del Orinoco y de los Llanos de Calabozo (Corypha 
tectorum\ from the more horizontal leaves of the Date and 
Cocoa-nut palms, and the lofty heavenward-pointing branches 
of the Jagua, the Cucurito, and Pirijao. 

" Nature seems to have accumulated all the beauties 
of form in the Jagua palm, which, intermingled with the 
Cucurito or Vadgihai, whose stem rises to a height of 80 or 
even more than 100 feet, crowns the granite rocks at the 
cataracts of Atures and Maypures, and which we also occa- 
sionally saw on the lonely banks of the Cassiquiare. Their 
smooth and slender stems rise to a height of from 64 to 75 
feet, projecting like a colonnade above the dense mass of the 
surrounding foliage. These aerial summits present a marked 
and beautiful contrast with the thickly-leaved species of Ceiba, 
and with the forest of Laurinece, Calophyllum, and the dif- 
ferent species of Amyris which surround them. Their leaves, 
which seldom exceed seven or eight in number, incline verti- 
cally upwards to a height of 16 or 17 feet, and are curled 
at the extremities in a kind of feathery tuft. The paren- 
chyma of the leaf is of a thin grass-like texture, causing the 
leaflets to wave with graceful lightness on the gently oscillating 
leafstalk. The floral buds burst forth, in all species of palms, 
from the stem immediately beneath the leaves ; and the mode 
in which this takes place modifies their physiognomical cha- 
racter. Thus in some, as in Corozo del Sinu, the sheath is 
perfectly erect, and the fruit rises like a thyrsus, resembling 
the fruits of the Bromelia. In the greater number, the sheaths, 
which in some species are smooth, and in others very prickly 
and rough, incline downwards. In some, again, the male 
blossoms are of a dazzling white, and it may then be seen 
shining from a great distance ; but in most species of palms 
they are yellow, closely compressed, and of an almost faded 
appearance, even when they first burst from the spathe. 


In palms with feathery leaves the leaf-stalks either burst 
from the dry, rough, ligneous portkwi of the stem (as in 
Cocos, Phamix, Palma Real del Sinu), or there rises in the rough 
part of the stem a grass-green, smooth, and thinner shaft, like 
one column above another, from which the leaf-stalk springs, 
as in Palma Peal de la Havana, Oreodoxa regia, which excited 
the admiration of Columbus. In the fan-palms (foliis pal- 
matis), the leafy crown often rests on a layer of dry leaves, 
which imparts to the tree a character of melancholy solemnity 
and grandeur (as in Moriche, Palma de sombrero de la Ha- 
vana). In some umbrella-palms, the crown consists of a very 
few scattered leaves, raised on slender stalks (as in Mir aguama). 

" The form and colour of the fruit also present more variety 
than is generally supposed to be the case in Europe. Mau- 
ritia flexuosa has egg-shaped fruits, whose smooth, brown, 
and scaly surface gives them the appearance of young pine 
cones. How great is the difference between the large trian- 
gular cocoa-nut, the berry of the date, and the small stone- 
fruit of the Corozo ! But of all the fruits of the palm, none 
can be compared for beauty with those of the Pirijao (Pihi- 
guao) of San Fernando de Atabapo and of San Balthasar. 
They are oval, and of a golden colour (one-half being of a 
purplish red) ; are mealy, without seed, two or three inches 
in thickness, and hang in clusters like grapes from the summits 
of their majestic palm-trunks." I have already spoken in the 
earlier part of this work of these beautiful fruits, of which 
there are seventy or eighty clustered together in one bunch, 
and which can be prepared in a variety of ways like bananas 
and potatoes. 

The spathe enclosing the blossom bursts suddenly open in 
some species of palms, with an audible report. Richard 
Schomburgh has like myself observed this phenomenon^ 1 in 
the flowering of the Oreodoxa oleracea. This first opening 
of the blossoms of the palm accompanied with noise, reminds 
us of Pindar's Dithyrambus on Spring, and of the moment 
when in the Argive Neinsea, " the first opening shoot of the 
date-palm announces the coming of balmy spring."f 

Palms, bananas, and arborescent ferns constitute three 
forms of especial beauty peculiar to every portion of the 

* Schomburgk, Reisen in Britisch Guiana, Th. i. S. 50. 
t Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 376. (Bohn's Edition.) 


tropical zone; wherever heat and moisture co-operate, vege- 
tation is most exuberant and vegetable forms present the 
greatest diversity. Hence South America is the most beau- 
tiful portion of the palm world. In Asia the palm form is 
rare, in consequence perhaps of a considerable part of the 
Indian continent beneath the equator having been destroyed 
and covered by the ocean in some earlier revolution of our 
planet. We know scarcely anything of the African palms 
between the Bay of Benin and the coast of Ajan ; and we are, 
generally speaking, as already observed, acquainted with only 
a very small number of African palm-forms. 

Palms, next to Coniferae, and some species of Eucalyptus 
belonging to the family of the Myrtaceae, afford examples of 
the loftiest growth. Stems of the Cabbage-palm (Areca ole- 
racea) have been seen from 160 to 170 feet in height.* The 
Wax-palm, our Ceroxylon andicola, which we discovered in the 
Montana de Quindiu on the side of the Andes, between Ibague 
and Carthago, attains the enormous height of 180 to 190 feet. 
I was able to make an accurate measurement of the trunks 
of some of these trees, which had been felled in the woods. 
Next to the Wax-palm, the Oreodoxa Sancona, which we 
found in flower in the valley of Cauca, and which affords 
a very hard and admirable wood for building, appeared to me 
to be the highest of all American palms. The fact, that not- 
withstanding the enormous mass of fruit yielded by some 
single palms, the number of individuals of each species grow- 
ing wild is not very considerable, can only be explained by 
the frequent abortive development of the fruit, and by the 
voracity of the enemies by whom they are assailed from all 
classes of animals. In the basin of the Orinoco, however, 
whole tribes find the means of subsistence for many months 
together in the fruit of the palm. " In palmetis, Pihiguao 
consitis, singuli trunci quotannis fere 400 fructus ferunt pomi- 
formes, tritumque est verbum inter Fratres S. Francisci, ad 
ripas Orinoci et Guainiae degentes, mire pinguescere Indorum 
corpora, quoties uberem Palmae fructum fundant.''f 

* Aug. de Saint-Hilaire, Morphologic vl-getale, 1840, p. 176. 

+ " In the Palm groves at Pihiguao, single trees annually bear as 
400 fruit of an apple shape; and it is well known among the Brothers 
of San Francisco, who live on the banks of the Orinoco and Guania, that 
the Indians become very fat at the time that the Palms put forth their 
unctuous fruit." — Humboldt, de distrib. geogr. Plant, p. 240. 


(16) p. 224 — '■''From the earliest infancy of human civilization ." 

We find, as far as history and tradition extend, that the 
Banana has constantly been cultivated in all continents within 
the tropical zone. The fact of African slaves having, in the 
course of centuries, brought some varieties of the Banana fruit 
to America is as certain as that of the cultivation of this 
vegetable product by the natives of America prior to its 
discovery by Columbus. The Guaikeri Indians in Cumana 
assured us that on the coast of Paria, near the Golfo Triste, 
the Banana will occasionally produce germinating seeds, if 
the fruit be suffered to ripen on the stem. It is from this 
cause, that wild Bananas are occasionally found in the 
recesses of the forests, in consequence of the ripe seeds being 
scattered abroad by birds. At Bordones also, near Cumana, 
perfectly formed and matured seeds have been occasionally 
found in the fruit of the Banana.* 

I have already remarked, in another work,f that Onesi- 
critus and other companions of the great Macedonian, make 
no mention of high arborescent ferns, although they speak of 
the fan-leaved umbrella palms and of the tender ev; rgreen 
verdure of the banana-plantations. Among the Sanscrit 
names given by Amarasinha for the Banana (the Musa of 
botanists) we find bhanu-phala (sun-fruit), varana-buscha, 
und moko. Phala signifies fruit generally. Lassen explains 
Pliny's words (xii. 6), " Arbori nomen paloc, porno arieme," 
to this effect, that " The Roman mistook the word pala, 
fruit, for the name of the tree, whilst varana, changed in 
the mouth of a Greek to ouarana, was transformed into ariena. 
The Arabic mauza, our Musa, may have been formed from 
moko. The Bhanu fruit seems to approach to Banana fruit.":}: 

(17) p. 224 — " Form of the Malvacea:" 

Larger forms, of the Mallow appear, as soon as we have 
crossed the Alps ; Lavatera arborea, near Nice and in Dal- 
matia; and L. olbia, in Liguria. The dimensions of the 

* Compare my Essai sur la Geographic des Plantes, p. 29, and my 
Belat. hist. t. i. pp. 104, 587, t. ii. pp. 355, 367. 

+ Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 524 (Bohn's Edition). 

J Compare Lassen, Indische Alterthumslcunde, bd. i. s. 262, with my 
Essai politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne, t. ii. p. 382, and Belat. hist., 
t. i. p. 491. 



Baobab (monkey bread-tree) have already been given. (See 
pp. 270 — 272.) With the form of the Malvaceae are asso- 
ciated the botanically allied families of the Byttneriaceoe, 
(Sterculia, Hermannia, and the blossoms of the large-leaved 
Theobroma Cacao, whose flowers break forth from the bark 
of the trunk as well as from the roots); the Bombaceae 
(Adanso?iia, Helicteres, and Cheirostemon); and, lastly, the 
Tiliaceae {Sparmannia Africand). Our Cavanillesia plantani- 
folia of Turbaco, near Carthagena in South America, and the 
celebrated Ochroma-like Hand-tree, the Macpalxochiquahuitl 
of the Mexicans, (from Macpalli, the flat of the hand.) Arbol 
de las tnanitas of the Spaniards, our Cheirostemon platanoides, 
are splendid representatives of the mallow form. In the last 
named, the anthers are connected together in such a manner 
as to resemble a hand or claw rising from the beautiful 
purplish-red blossoms. There is in all the Mexican free 
states only one individual remaining, one single primaeval 
stem of this wonderful genus. It is supposed not to be 
indigenous, but to have been planted by a king of Toluca, 
about five hundred years ago. I found that the spot where 
the Arbol de las Manitas stands is 8825 feet above the 
level of the sea. Why is there only one tree of the kind ? 
"Whence did the kings of Toluca obtain the young tree 
or the seed? It is equally enigmatical, that Montezuma 
should not have possessed one of these trees in his botanical 
gardens of Huaxtepec, Chapoltepec, and Iztapalapan, which 
were used as late as by Philip the Second's physician, 
Hernandez, and of which gardens traces still remain ; and it 
appears no less striking that the Hand-tree should not have 
found a place among the drawings of subjects connected 
with natural history, which Nezahual Coyotl, king of Tezcuco, 
caused to be made, half a century before the arrival of the 
Spaniards. It is asserted that the Hand-tree grows wild in 
the forests of Guatimala.* We found two Malvaceae, Sida 
P/n/llanthos (Cavan.), and Sida PichincJiensis, rising in the 
equatorial region to the great height of 13,430, and 15,066 
feet on the mountain of Antisana and at the volcano of 
Rucu Pichincha.J The Saxifraga Boussingaidtii rises from 

* Humboldt et Bonpland, Plantes equinoxiales, t. i. p. 82, pi. 24; 
Essai polit. sur la Nouv. Esp. t. i. p. 98. 

t See our Plantes equin. t. ii. p. 113, pi. 116. 


600 to upwards of 700 feet higher, on the declivity of 

(18) p. 225— •" Form of the Mimosce." 

The delicate and feathery foliage of the Mimosa3, Acacioe, 
Schrankiee, and Desmanthus, may be regarded as peculiarly 
characteristic of tropical vegetation; although some repre- 
sentatives of this form may also be found without the tro- 
pics. In the Old Continent of the northern hemisphere, 
and indeed in Asia, I can instance only one low shrub, 
described by Marshal von Biberstein as Acacia Stephaniana, 
but which, according to Kunth's more recent investiga- 
tions, is a species of the genus Prosopis. This social plant 
covers the arid plains of the province of Schirvan on the 
Kur (Cyrus), near New Schamach, as far as the ancient 
Araxes. Olivier found it also in the neighbourhood of 
Bagdad. It is the Acacia foliis bipinnatis mentioned by 
Buxbaum, and which extends towards the north as far as 42° 
lat.* In Africa the Acacia gummifera (Willd.), extends to 
Mogador, and therefore as far as 32° north lat. 

In the New Continent, Acacia glandulosa (Michaux), and 
A. brachyloba (Willd.), adorn the banks of the Mississippi 
and Tenessee, and the Savannahs of the Illinois. The 
Schrankia uncinata was found by Michaux to penetrate from 
Florida northwards to Virginia (therefore as far as 37° north 
lat.). Gleclitschia triacanthos is met with, according to Bar- 
ton, to the east of the Alleghany mountains, as far as 38° 
north lat., and west of the same range even to 41° north lat. 
The extreme northern limit of Gleclitschia monosperma is 
U\o degrees further southward. Such are the boundaries of 
the Mimosa form in the northern hemisphere, Avhile in the 
southern hemisphere, beyond the tropic of Capricorn, simple- 
leaved Acacise are found as far as Van Dieman's Land; the 
Acacia cavenia described by Claude Gay being even found in 
Chili between 30° and 37° south lat.f Chili has no true 
Mimosa, but three species of Acacia ; and even in the north 
of Chili the Acacia cavenia grows only to a height of 12 or 
13 feet, whilst in the south, as it approaches the sea- coast, it 

* See his Tableau des Provinces situees sur la cote occidentale de la 
Mer Caspienne, entre lesfleuves Terek et Koar, 1798, pp. 58, 120. 
T See Molina's Storia naturale del Chili, 1782, p. 174. 

x 2 


scarcely rises a foot above the ground. The most sensitive 
of the Mimosas which we saw in the northern portion of 
South America, are (next to the Mimosa pudica,) M. dor- 
miens, M. somnians, and M. somniculosa. The irritability of 
the African sensitive plant was already noticed by Theo- 
phrastus (iv. 3), and by Pliny (xiii. 10); but I find the first 
description of the South American sensitive plants (Dormi- 
deras) in Herrera (Decad. ii. lib. iii. cap. 4). The plant first 
attracted the attention of the Spaniards, in 1518, in the 
Savannahs on the isthmus round Nombre de Dios (" parece 
como cosa sensible"), and it was pretended that the leaves 
(" de echura de una pluma de pajaros,") only contracted 
together when they were touched with the finger, and not 
when brought in contact with a piece of wood. In the 
small swamps which surround the town of Mompox on the 
Magdalena River, we discovered a very beautiful aquatic 
Mimosa (Desmanthus lacustris), a representation of which 
is given in our " Plantes equinoxiales" (t. i. p. 55, pi. 16). 
In the chain of the Andes of Caxamarca we found two Alpine 
Mimosas (Mimosa montana and Acacia revoluta) growing at 
elevations of from 9000 to nearly 9600 feet above the level 
of the sea. 

As yet no true Mimosa, (in the meaning of the word as 
established by Willdenow,) nor even any Inga, has been found 
in the temperate zone. Amongst all the Acacias the Oriental 
Acacia Julibrissin, which Forskal has confounded with Mimosa 
arborea, endures the greatest degree of cold. In the Botanical 
Garden of Padua there is a high stem of considerable thick- 
ness growing in the open air, although the mean temperature 
of Padua is below 56° Fahrenheit. 

(19) p. 225.— ■" Heaths." 

We do not, in these physiognomical considerations, by any 
jneans comprehend, under the name of Heaths, the whole 
.natural family of the Ericaceae, which, on account of the 
similarity and analogy in the flowering parts of the plant, 
include llhododendrum, Befaria, Gaultheria, and Escallonia; 
we limit ourselves to the very accordant and characteristic 
form of the species of Erica, including Calluna {Erica vul- 
garis, L.). 

"Whilst in Europe Erica carnea, E. tctralix, E. cinerca, 


and Calluna vulgaris, cover large tracts of country, extending 
from the plains of Germany, and from France and England, to 
the extremity of Norway ; Southern Africa presents the most 
varied assortment of species. One single species, Erica um- 
bellata, which is indigenous in the southern hemisphere, at 
the Cape of Good Hope, is again found in Northern Africa, 
Spain, and Portugal. Erica vagans and E. arborea also 
belong to the opposite coasts of the Mediterranean. The 
former is met with in Northern Africa, in the neighbour- 
hood of Marseilles, in Sicily and Dalmatia, and even in Eng- 
land; the second in Spain, Istria, Italy, and the Canaries."* 
The common heath, Calluna vulgaris (Salisbury), which is 
a social plant, covers large tracts from the mouth of the 
Scheldt to the western declivity of the Ural. Beyond the 
Ural both Oaks and Heaths disappear. Both are wanting 
in the whole of Northern Asia, and in all Siberia, as 
far as the Pacific. Gmelinf and Pallas J have expressed 
their astonishment at this disappearance of Calluna vulgaris ; 
which, on the eastern declivity of the Ural chain is even 
more decided and more sudden than one might be led to 
conclude, from the words of the last-named great naturalist. 
Pallas merely says, "ultra Uralense jugum sensim deficit, 
vix in Isetensibus campis rarissime apparet, et ulteriori 
Sibirise plane deest." Chamisso, Adolph Erman, and Heinrich 
Kittlitz collected Andromedas but no Calluna in Kamtschatka 
and on the north-west coast of America. The accurate 
knowledge which Ave at present possess of the mean tem- 
perature of different portions of Northern Asia, as well as 
of the distribution of annual heat throughout the different 
seasons, in no w T ay explains the non-advance of the Heath to 
the east of the Ural. Dr. Joseph Hooker has treated with 
much ingenuity, in a note to his " Flora Antarctica," of 
the two contrasting phenomena of the distribution of plants, 
" uniformity of surface accompanied by a similarity of vege- 
tation ", and again, "instances of a sudden change in the 
vegetation, unaccompanied with any diversity of geological 

* Klotsch, Ueber die geographische Verbreitung der Erica- Arten 
mil bleibender Blumenhrone. Manuscr. 
f Flora Sibirica, t. iv., p. 129. 
% Flora Bossica, t. i., pars 2, p. 53. 


and other feature."* Is there an Erica in Central Asia? 
That which Saunders, in Turner's " Travels to Thibet,"* has 
described in the highlands of Nepaul, besides other European 
plants (Vaccinium Myrtillus, and V. oxy coccus), as Erica 
vulgaris, is, according to the opinion communicated to me by 
Robert Brown, probably the Andromeda fastigiata of Wallich. 
The absence of Calluna vulgaris and of all species of Erica, 
throughout the whole of the continental part of America is an 
equally striking fact, since Calluna is met with in the Azores 
and in Iceland. It has not hitherto been found in Greenland, 
but it was discovered some years ago in Newfoundland. 
The natural family of the Ericaceae is also almost entirely 
wanting in Australia, where its place is supplied by the 
Epacridese. Linnaeus described only 102 species of the genus 
Erica, but, according to Klotzsch's observations, this genus 
comprises 440 true species, after the varieties have been 
carefully excluded. 

(20) p. 226—" The Cactus form." 

When the natural family of the Opuntiaceoe is separated 
from the Grossulariacea3 (species Ribes), and is confined within 
the limits indicated by Kunth,^; we may regard the whole as 
exclusively American. I am not ignorant, that Roxburgh, 
in the Flora indica (inedita), mentions two species of Cactus 
which he regards as peculiar to the south-east of Asia, viz. , Cactus 
indicus, and C. chinensis. Both are widely diffused, originally 
wild or having become so, and different from Cactus opuntia 
and C. Coccinellifer ; but it is remarkable that this Indian plant 
should have no ancient Sanscrit name. The so-called Chinese 
Cactus has been introduced by cultivation into the island of St. 
Helena. Modern investigations, prosecuted at a period when 
a more general interest has been awakened in relation to the 
original distribution of plants, will unquestionably remove the 
doubts that have frequently been advanced against the exist- 
ence of Asiatic Opuntiacea3. We see, in a similar manner, 
certain vital forms appear separately in the animal world. 

* Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of the Erebus and Terror, 1844, 
p. 210. 

+ Philos. Transact., vol. lxxix. p. 86. 
J Handbuch der Botanik, s. 609. 


How long did the Tapir continue to be regarded as a charac- 
teristic form of the New Continent ! And yet the American 
Tapir is, as it were, repeated in that of Malacca (Tapirus 
hidicus, Cuv.). 

Although the Cactus form belongs, properly speaking, to 
the tropical regions, there are some species in the New Con- 
tinent, that are indigenous to the temperate zone on the 
Missouri and in Louisiana; as, for instance, Cactus missuri- 
ensis and C. vivipara. Back, in his northern expedition, saw 
with astonishment, the banks of the Rainy Lake in lat. 48° 40' 
(long. 92° 53') entirely covered with C. Opuntia. South of 
the equator the Cactus does not advance further than Rio 
Itata (lat. 36°) and Rio Biobio (lat. 37|°) In the part of the 
chain of the Andes lying within the tropics, I have found 
species of Cactus (C. septum, C. chlorocarpus, C. bo?iplandii) 
on elevated plains from 9000 to upwards of 10,600 feet above 
the level of the sea; but in Chili, in the temperate zone, a far 
more strongly marked Alpine character is exhibited by 
Opuntia Ovallei, whose upper and lower limits have been 
accurately determined through barometric measurements by 
the learned botanist, Claude Gay. The yellow-flowering 
Opuntia Ovallei, which has a creeping stem, does not descend 
below 6746 feet, advancing as high as the line of perpetual 
snow; and even above it, wherever a few masses of rock 
remain uncovered. These little plants have been gathered 
at spots lying at an elevation of 13,663 feet above the level 
of the sea.* Some species of Echinocactus are also true 
alpine plants in Chili. A counterpart to the much admired 
fine-haired Cactus senilis is presented by the thick-wooled 
Cereus lanatus, called by the natives Piseol, which has a fine 
red fruit. We found it near Guancabamba, in Peru, on our 
journey to the Amazon river. The dimensions of the Cactacere 
(a group on which the Prince of Salm-Dyck was the first 
to throw considerable light) present the most striking con- 
trasts. Echinocactus Wislizeni, which has a circumference 
of seven feet and a half, M T ith a height of four feet and a 
quarter, is only third in size, being surpassed by E. ingens, 
(Zucc.) and E. platyceras, (Lem.)f The Echinocactus Staincsii 
attains a diameter of from two feet to two and a-half; E. 

* Claudio Gay, Flora Chilensis, 1348, p. 30. 

f Wislizenus, Tour to Northern Mexico, 1848, p. 97. 


visnago, belonging to Mexico, has a diameter of upwards of 
three feet, with a height of more than four feet, and weighs 
as much as from 700 to 2000 lbs. ; while the Cactus nanus, 
which we collected near Sondorillo, in the province of Jaen, 
is so small and so loosely rooted in the sand, that it gets 
between the toes of dogs. The Melocactuses, which are full of 
juice even in the driest season, as the Ravenala of Madagascar 
(wood-leaf in the language of the country from rave, raven, a 
leaf, and ala, the Javanese halas, a wood), are vegetable 
springs, which the wild horses and mules open by stamping 
with their hoofs — a process in which they frequently injure 
themselves.* Cactus Opuntia has spread during the last 
quarter of a century in a remarkable manner through Northern 
Africa, Syria, Greece, and the whole of Southern Europe; 
penetrating from the coasts of Africa far into the interior, 
■where it associates with the native plants. 

After being accustomed to see Cactuses only in our hot- 
houses, we were astonished at the density of the woody fibres 
in old cactus stems. The Indians are aware that cactus wood 
is indestructible, and admirably adapted for oars and the 
thresholds of doors. There is hardly any physiognomical 
character of exotic vegetation that produces a more singular 
and ineffaceable impression on the mind of the traveller, than 
an arid plain densely covered with columnar or candelabra- 
like stems of cactuses, similar to those near Cumana, New 
Barcelona, Coro, and in the province of Jaen de Bracamoros. 

(21) p. 226—" Orchidear 

The almost animal-like form occasionally observed in blos- 
soms of the Orchidea? is most strongly marked in Anguloa 
grandiflora, celebrated in South America as the Torito ; in the 
Mosquito (our Restrepia antennifera) ; in the Flor del Espiritu 
Santo (likewise an Anguloa, according to Flora Peruviana 
Prodrom. p. 118, tab. 26); in the ant-like flower of Chilo- 
glottis cornuta;f in the Mexican Bletia speciosa ; and in the 
whole host of our remarkable European species of Ophrys : O. 
muscifera, O. apifera, O. aranifera, O. arachnites, 8fc. The taste 
for these splendidly flowering plants has so much increased, 
that the number of species cultivated by Messrs. Loddige,, 

* See p. 15. 

f Hooker, Flora antarctica, p. 69. 


which, in 1813, was only 115, was upwards of 1650 in 1843, 
and in 1848, the number was estimated at no fewer than 2360. 
What a treasure of sumptuously flowering and unknown 
Orchidea? may be inclosed in the interior of Africa wherever 
there is an abundant supply of water ! Lindley, in his beau- 
tiful work, On the Genera and Species of Orchideous Plants, 
1840, counted exactly 1980 species; whilst Klotzsch at the 
close of the year 1848 counted 3545. 

Whilst the temperate and cold zone possess only terres- 
trial Orchideae, growing close to the ground, both forms, the 
terrestrial, as well as the parasitical, growing on the trunks of 
trees, are indigenous in the beautiful regions of the tropics. To 
the former class belong the tropical genera Neottia, Cranichis, 
and most Habenarias. But we have found both these forms 
as alpine plants on the declivity of the Andes of New Granada 
and Quito, viz., the parasitical (Epidendrecs) Masdevallia uni- 
flora (at an elevation of 10,231 feet), Cyrtochilum flexuosum 
(at 10,103 feet), and Dendrobium aggregatum (at 9485 feet); 
and the terrestrial forms of Altensteinia paleacea, near Lloa 
Chiquito, at the foot of the volcano of Pichincha. Claude 
Gay is of opinion that the Orchideaj supposed to have been 
found growing on trees in the Island of Juan Fernandez and 
even at Chiloe, were probably only parasitical Pourretia?, 
which advance as far south at least as 40°. In New Zealand, the 
tropical form of Orchidea?, hanging from trees, is still to be 
seen as far south as 45°. But the Orchideae of Auckland 
and Campbell Islands (Chiloglottis, Thelymitra, and Acian- 
thus), grow on level ground in moss. In the animal world 
there is at least one tropical form that penetrates further 
south. The Island of Macquarie (lat. 54° 39') has an indige- 
nous parrot, which lives therefore in a region nearer to the 
south pole than Dantzig is to the north pole.* 

(22) p. 226—" Form of the Casuarince." 

Acacias, in which the place of the leaves is supplied by 
phyllodia, Myrtacese (Eucalyptus, Metrosideros, Melaleuca, 
Leptospermum), and Casuarinse, constitute the sole charac- 
teristics of the vegetable world of Australia (New Holland) 
and Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land). Casuarinao with their 

* Compare the section Orchidece in my work, De distrib. geogr^ 
Plant., pp. 241—247. 


leafless, thin, thread-like, articulated branches, and their 
joints furnished with membranous, toothed spathes, have been 
compared by travellers,* 1 according to differences of species, 
either with arborescent Equisetaceae (Horsetails) or with our 
Scotch firs. I have been much struck with the singular ap- 
pearance of leaflessness presented by the small thickets of 
Colletia and Ephedra in South America, near the coast of Peru. 
Casuarina quadrivalvis penetrates, according to Labillardiere, 
as far south as 43° in Tasmania. The mournful form of the 
Casuarina is not unknown in the East Indies and even on the 
eastern coast of Africa. 

(23) p. 227 — " Acicular -leaved trees." 

The family of the Conifersc (including the genera of Dani- 
mara, Ephedra, and Gnetum of Java and New Guinea, which 
are essentially allied to it, though distinctly separated by the 
form of the leaf and the whole conformation), plays so import- 
ant a part in consequence of the number of individuals in 
each species, and by its geographical diffusion, while it covers 
in the northern temperate zone, as a social plant, such exten- 
sive districts, that we are almost compelled to wonder at the 
inconsiderable number of the species. We are not. acquainted 
with so many Coniferae by three-fourths as there are Palms 
already described, nay, the Coniferee are numerically less 
than the Aroideae. Zuccarini, in his " Contributions to 
the Morphology of the Coniferae,"f enumerates 216 species, 
of which 165 belong to the Northern and 51 to the 
Southern hemisphere. These proportional numbers must 
now, in consequence of my researches, be differently ex- 
pressed, since, with the species of Pinus, Cupressus, Ephedra, 
and Podocarpus, which Bonpland and I discovered in the 
tropical part of Peru, Quito, New Granada, and Mexico, the 
number of the cone-bearing trees flourishing between the 
tropics amounts to 42. The excellent and latest work of 
Endlicherj contains 312 species of Coniferae now living, and 
1 78 of a primeval mundane period which are now buried in 
the coal formation, in variegated sandstone, in keuper, and in 

* See Darwin, Journal of Researches, p. 449. 

+ See his Abhandl. tier Wiss. zu Miinchen, bd. iii. 1837-1S43, 
s. 752. 

£ Synopsis Coniferarum, 18-47. 


Jura limestone. The vegetation of the eocene world presents 
especially to us forms which, by their coeval relationship with 
several families of the present world, remind us that with it 
many intervening members have disappeared. The Coniferae, 
so frequent in the primeval world, accompany, in particular, 
the ligneous remains of Palms and Cycadeae ; but in the most 
recent beds of lignite or brown coal we again find Coniferae, 
our Pines and Firs, associated with Cupuliferoe (or Mastworts), 
Maples and Poplars.* 

If the surface of the earth did not rise to great altitudes 
within the tropics, the strikingly characteristic form of acicu- 
lar-leaved trees would have remained wholly unknown to the 
inhabitants of that zone. I took great pains, in common 
with Bonpland, to trace out, in the Mexican Highlands, the 
lower and upper boundary line of the Coniferae and Oaks. 
The heights, at which both begin to grow (los Pinales y 
Encinales, Pineta et Querceta), are hailed with joy by those 
who come from the sea coast, because they announce a cli- 
mate not yet invaded, as far as experience has hitherto shown, 
by that mortal disease called the black vomit (vomito prieto, 
a form of the yellow fever). For the oaks, especially the 
Quercus Xalapensis (one of the twenty-two Mexican species of 
oak which we first described), the lower line of vegetation, 
on the way from Vera Cruz to the capital of Mexico, somewhat 
below the Venta del Encero, is 3048 feet above the sea. At 
the western slope of the plateau, between the South Sea and 
Mexico, the inferior line for oaks is something lower ; it begins 
near a hut named Venta de la Moxonera, between Acapulco 
and Chilpanzingo, at the absolute height of 2481 feet. I 
found a similar difference in the lower boundary line of the 
pine-forest. This boundary, towards the South Sea, in the 
Alto de los Caxones, north of Quaxinquilapa, is for the Pinus 
Montezuma? (Lamb.), which we at first had considered to be 
the Pinus occidentalis (Swartz), at the height of 4092 feet; 
but towards Vera Cruz, at the Cuesta del Soldaclo, it rises to 
5979 feet. Both these kinds of tree, therefore, the oaks and 
firs as specified above, descended lower towards the Pacific 
than towards the Caribbean Gulf. During my ascent of the 
Cofre di Perote, I found the superior boundary line of the oaks 
to be 10,353 feet; that of the Pinus Montezuma? 12,936 feet 
(about 2000 feet higher than the summit of Mount JEtna) 
* See Cosmos, vol. i. pp. 282-287 (Bohn's edition). 


and here, in Februarv, considerable masses of snow had 
already fallen. 

The greater the heights at which the Mexican cone-bearing 
trees begin to show themselves, the more singular is it, in the 
island of Cuba (where, at the border of the tropical zone the 
air, it is true, is cooled down during northerly winds to 46°.6 
Fahr.), to see another kind of fir (P. Occidentalism Swartz), in 
the plain itself, or on the gentle hills of the Isle of Pines, 
growing among palms and mahogany trees (Swietenia). Co- 
lumbus even makes mention of a fir- wood {Pinal) in the 
journal of his first voyage (Diario del 25 de Nov., 1492), at 
Caya de Moya, north-east of Cuba. At Haiti, too (St. Domin- 
go), the Pinus occidentalis near Cape Samana descends from 
the mountains down to the very beach. The stems of these 
firs, wafted by the gulf- stream to the two Azores, Graciosa 
and Fayal, were among the principal signs that proclaimed 
to the great discoverer the existence of unknown lands in the 
West.* Is it positively ascertained that the Pinus occiden- 
talis is entirely absent from Jamaica, notwithstanding its lofty 
mountains? We may be permitted to inquire also, what 
kind of Pinus grows on the eastern coast of Guatimala, since 
the P. tenuifolia (Benth.) is assuredly found only on the 
mountains near Chinanta. 

On taking a general view of the species of plants which 
form the upper tree-boundary in the northern hemisphere 
from the frigid zone to the equator ; I find, for Lapland, accord- 
ing to Wahlenberg, in the Sulitelma Mountains (lat. 68°), not 
acicular-lcaved trees but birches (Betula alba), far above the 
upper limit of the Pinus sylvestris ; and for the temperate zone 
I find in the Alps (lat. 45° 45') Pinus picea (Du Hoi), advanced 
beyond the birches. In the Pyrenees (lat. 42° 30 7 ), we find 
Pinus uncinata (Ram.) and P. sylvestris, var. rubra; within 
the tropics in Mexico (lat. 19° — 20°), Pinus Montezuma? ex- 
tends far beyond Alnus toluccensis, Quercus spicata, and Q. 
crassipes ; and in the snow-crowned mountains of Quito, be- 
neath the equator, Escallonia myrtiiloides, Aralia avicennifolia, 
and Drymis Winteri attain the highest limits. This last spe- 
cies of tree, identical with the Drymis granatensis (Mut.), 
and the Wintera aromatica of Murray, presents, as Dr. Joseph 
Hooker has shown,f the most singular instance of the unin- 

* See my Examen crit., t. it. pp. 246-259. 
t Flora Antarctica, p. 229. 


terrupted dissemination of the same species of tree from the 
southernmost part of Tierra del Fuego and Hermit Island, 
where it was discovered as early as 1577 by Drake's expedition, 
up to the northern Highlands of Mexico, over a meridian ex- 
tent of 86° of latitude or 5160 miles. Where the acicular or 
needle-leaved trees, as in the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees, and 
not the birch as in the extreme north, form the boundary of 
arborescent vegetation on the loftiest mountains, which they 
picturesquely encircle, they are immediately followed in their 
ascent towards the snow-crowned summits, in Europe and 
Western Asia by the Alpine roses, Rhododcndra, and at the 
Silla de Caracas, and the Peruvian Paramo de Saraguru, by 
the purplish-red blossoms of the graceful Befariae. In Lapland 
the Rhododendron laponicum immediately follows the Coni- 
ferous trees; in the Swiss Alps, the Rhododendron ferrugi- 
neum and R. hirsutum, and in the Pyrenees the R. ferrugineum 
alone ; and in the Caucasus the R. caucasicum. But R. cau- 
casicum has also been found isolated by De Candolle in the Jura 
mountains (in the Creux de Vent), 5968 feet lower down, at 
the inconsiderable height of from 3303 to 3730 feet. If we 
would trace out the last zone of vegetation near the snow * 
line we must name, according to our personal observation, in 
tropical Mexico, Cnicus nivalis and Chelone gentianoides ; 
in the cold mountainous tracts of New Granada, the woolly 
Espeletia grandiflora, E. corymbosa, and E. argentea; in the 
Andes chain of Quito, Culcitium rufescens, C. ledifolium, and 
C. nivale ; — yellow-blossomed Composite, which replace the 
somewhat more northerly lanose herbs of New Granada, and the 
Epeletiae, with which they have so much physiognomical re- 
semblance. This substitution or repetition of similar and 
almost identical forms in regions that are separated from each 
other by seas or wide intervening tracts, is a wonderful law of 
nature. It prevails even in the rarest forms of the floras. In 
Robert Brown's family of the Rafflesise, separated from the 
Cytineae, the two Hydnorae in Southern Africa (H. Africana 
and H. Triceps), described by Thunberg and Drege, have, in 
South America, their counterpart in the II. Americana of 

Far above the regions of Alpine herbs, of the grasses and 
the lichens, nay, beyond the boundary of perpetual snow, there 
occasionally appears a phanerogamic plant, growing sporad- 
ically, and as it were isolated, to the astonishment of bo- 


tanists ; and this occurs both -within the tropics and in the 
temperate zone, on fragments of rock which remain free 
from snow and are probably warmed by open fissures. I have 
already mentioned the Saxifraga Boussingaulti, which is found 
at a height of 15,773 feet on the Chimborazo; in the Swiss 
Alps the Silene acaulis, a clovewort or caryophyllea, has been 
seen at a height of 11,382 feet. The former vegetates at 640, 
the latter at 2621 feet above the respective local limits of 
snow, heights which were determined when both the plants 
were discovered. 

In our European Coniferous woods the Red Pine (or Nor- 
way Spruce), and the White (or Silver) Pine show great 
and remarkable variations as regards their geographical dis- 
persion on the slopes of mountains. Whilst in the Swiss 
Alps the Red Pine (Pinus picea, Du Roi, foliis compresso- 
tetragonis ; unfortunately named by Linnaeus and by most 
botanists of our time the Pinus abies/), forms the limit of 
tree vegetation at the mean height of 5883 feet, and only 
here and there does the lowly alder (Alnus viridis, Dec, 
Betula viridis, Vill.). advance higher towards the snow- limit ; 
the White Pine (Pinus abies, Du Roi, Pinus picea, Linn., foliis 
planis, pectinato-distichis, emarginatis), has its limit, accord- 
ing to Wahlenberg, about 1000 feet lower. The Red Pine 
does not grow at all in Southern Europe, in Spain, the Apen- 
nines, and Greece ; and, as Ramond remarks, it is only seen 
on the slope of the northern Pyrenees at great heights, and is 
entirely wanting in the Caucasus. The Red Pine extends 
further to the north in Scandinavia than the White, which 
latter tree appears in Greece (on the Parnassus, the Taygetus, 
and the (Eta), as a variety with long acicular leaves, foliis 
apice integris, breviter mucronatis, the Abies Apollinis of the 
acute observer Link.'' 1 

On the Himalava the acicular-leaved form of trees is dis- 
tmguished by the mighty thickness and height of the stem as 
well as by the length of the leaf. The chief ornament of the 
mountain range is the Cedar Deodwara (Pinus deodara, Roxb.), 
which word is, in Sanscrit,, i.e. timber for the 
gods, its stem being nearly from 13 to 14 feet in diameter. 
It ascends in Nepaul to more than 11,700 feet above the 
level of the sea. More than 2000 years ago the Deodwara 

* See Linnrea, bd. xv. 1841, s. 529, and Enclliclier's Synopsis Coni- 
ferarum, p. 96. 


cedar near the River Beirut, that is, the Hydaspes, furnished 
the timber for the fleet of Nearchus. In the valley of Dude- 
gaon, north of the copper mines of Dhunpoor in Nepaul, Dr. 
Hoffmeister, so early lost to science, found in a forest the 
Pinus longifolia (Royle), or the Tschelu Fir, mixed with the 
lofty stems of a palm — Chameerops martiana (WaUich).* 
Such an interspersion of the pineta and palmeta had already, 
in the new continent, excited the astonishment of the 
companions of Columbus, as a friend and contemporary of 
the admiral's, Petrus Martyr Anghiera, relates. f I myself 
saw, for the first time, this blending of pines with palms on 
the road from Acapulco to Chilpanzingo. The Himalaya, like 
the Mexican highlands, besides its genera of pine and cedar, 
possesses also forms of the Cypress (Cupressus tondosa, Don.); 
of the Yew ( Taxus Wallichiana, Zuccar. ) ; of the Podocarpus 
(Podocarpus nereifolia, Brown) ; and the Juniper (Juniperus 
squamata, Don., and J. excelsa, Bieberst. ; the latter species 
occurring also at Schipke in Thibet, in Asia Minor, Syria, 
and the Grecian Islands; on the other hand, Thuja, Tax- 
odium, Larix, and Araucaria, are forms of the New Continent, 
which are wanting in the Himalaya. 

Besides the twenty species of pine with which we are 
acquainted in Mexico, the United States of North America, 
in their present extension to the Pacific, present forty-five 
described species, whilst all Europe can only enumerate fifteen. 
The same difference between abundance and paucity of forms is 
shown in the oaks, in favour of the New Continent (a quarter of 
the world the most connected and most elongated in a meri- 
dional direction). It has, however, been very recently demon- 
strated by the extremely accurate researches of Siebold and 
Zuccarini to be an erroneous assertion, that many European 
species of pine, in consequence of their wide distribution 
throughout Northern Asia, passed over to the Japanese islands, 
and there mingled with a genuine Mexican species, the Wey- 
mouth pine (Pinus strobus, L.), as Thunberg asserts. What 
Thunberg considered to be European species of pine, are spe- 
cies entirely different. Thunberg's Red Pine (Pinus abies, 
Linn.) is P. polita, Sieb., and often planted near Buddhist 
temples; his northern common fir (Pinus sylvestris) is P. 

* See Hoffmeister's Briefe aus Indien wahrend der Expedition des 
Prinzen Waldemar von Preussen, 1847, s. 351. 
f Dec. iii. lib. x. p. 68. 


Massoniana, Lamb.; his P. cembra, the German and Siberian 
stone pine-tree, is P. parviflora, Sieb. ; his common larch (P. 
larix) is the P. leptolepis, Sieb. ; his Taxus baccata, the fruit of 
which the Japanese courtiers eat as a precautionary measure 
when attending long ceremonies,* forms a special genus and is 
Cephalotaxus drupacea, Sieb. The Japanese islands, despite 
the proximity of the Asiatic Continent, have a very different 
character of vegetation. Thunberg's Japanese Weymouth 
pine, which would present an important phenomenon, is 
moreover a naturalized tree, that differs entirely from the 
indigenous pines of the New World. It is Pinus korajensis, 
Sieb., which has migrated from the peninsula of Corea and 
Kamtschatka to Nipon. 

Of the 114 species now known of the genus Pinus, there is 
not one in the whole southern hemisphere, for the Pinus 
Merkusii, described by Junghuhn and De Yriese, still belongs 
to that part of the island of Sumatra which is north of the 
equator, that is, to the district of the Battas. The P. insu- 
laris, Endl., belongs to the Philippines, although at first it 
was introduced into Loudon's Arboretum as P. timoriensis. 
From our present increasing knowledge of the geography of 
plants, we know that there are excluded also from the 
southern hemisphere, in addition to the genus Pinus, all 
the races of Cupressus, Salisburia (Ginkgo), Cunninghamia 
(Pinus lanceolata, Lamb.), Thuja, one sjDecies of w r hich (Th. 
gigantea, Nutt.) at the Columbia river rises as high as 180 
feet, Juniperus, and Taxodium (Mirbel's Schubertia). I can 
introduce this last genus here with the greater certainty, 
inasmuch as a Cape plant, Sprengel's Schubertia capensis, is 
no Taxodium, but forms a special genus, Widringtonia, Endl., 
in quite another division of the Coniferae. 

This absence from the southern hemisphere of the true 
Abietinea?, of the Juniperineae, Cupressineoo, and all the 
Taxodineae, as likewise of the Torreya, of the Salisburia 

* Thunberg, Flora Japonica, p. 275. The allusion is somewhat 
amusing; we annex a translation of Thunberg's note: — "This fruit 
resembles acorns, and is of an astringent nature. For this reason 
the Japanese interpreters, when constrained to remain in the royal 
presence longer than usual, chew it, as an antidiuretic. It is brought to 
table at the second course with Acrodrya, and is said to be very 
wholesome, and to relax the bowels although it constricts the mouth. 
The expressed oil is in request for the kitchen, especially among the 
Chinese monks who live at Nagasacca." — Ed. 


acliantifolia, and of the Cephalotaxus among the Taxineae, 
vividly reminds us of the enigmatical and still obscure 
conditions which determined the original distribution of 
vegetable forms. This distribution can by no means be 
satisfactorily explained either by the similarity or diversity of 
the soil, by thermal relations, or by meteorological conditions. 
I have long since directed attention to the fact, that the 
southern hemisphere possesses, for instance, many plants of 
the natural family of the Rosacea?, but not a single species of 
the genus Rosa itself. Claude Gay informs us, that the Rosa 
Chilensis, described by Meyen, is a variety that has become 
wild of the Rosa centifolia, Linn., which has been naturalized 
in Europe for thousands of years. Such wild-growing varieties 
occupy large tracts in Chili near Valdivia and Qsorao.* 

In the whole tropical region of the northern hemisphere we 
only found one single indigenous rose, our Rosa Montezuma?,, 
ancl this was on the Mexican highland, near Moran, at a 
height of 9336 feet. We may count among the strange 
phenomena observed in the distribution of plants, the total 
absence of the Agave from Chili, though it possesses Palms, 
Pourretias, and many species of Cactus ; and although A. 
americana flourishes luxuriantly in Roussillon, at Nice, at Bot- 
zen, and in Istria, where it was probably introduced from the 
New Continent since the sixteenth century, and where it forms 
one connected line of vegetation from the north of Mexico, 
across the isthmus of Panama, as far as Southern Peru. 
With respect to the Calceolarias, I long believed that, like 
the roses, they were only to be found exclusively on the 
northern side of the equator. In fact, among the twenty-two 
species that we brought w T ith us, not one was gathered to the 
north of Quito and the volcano of Pichincha ; but my friend 
Professor Kunth remarks that Calceolaria perfoliata, which 
Boussingault and Capt. Kail found near Quito, advances also 
as far as New Granada, and that this species, as well as 
C. integrifolia, was sent by Mutis from Santa Fe de Bogota to 
the great Linnaeus. 

The species of Pinus, which are so abundant in the wholly 

inter-tropical Antilles, as well as in the tropical mountain 

regions of Mexico, do not cross the isthmus of Panama, and 

are wholly wanting in the equally mountainous parts of iro* 

* Gay, Flora Chilensis, p. 340. 



pical South America, that lie north of the equator ; they are 
equally unknown on the elevated plains of New Granada, 
Pasto, and Quito. I have advanced in the plains and on the 
mountains from the Rio Sinu, near the isthmus of Panama, as 
far as 1 2° south lat. ; and in this territorial extent, of nearly 
1600 miles in length, the only forms of needle-leaved trees 
that I saw, were the taxoid Podocarpus (P. taxifolia), 64 feet 
high, in the Andes pass of Quindiu and in the Paramo de 
Saraguru, in 4° 26' north and 3° 40' south latitude, and an 
Ephedra (E. americana) near Guallabamba, north of Quito. 

Among the group of the Coniferse, the following are common 
to the northern and southern hemispheres: Taxus, Gnetum, 
Ephedra, and Podocarpus. Long before l'Heritier, the last 
genus had been very properly distinguished from Pinus by Co- 
lumbus on the 25th of November, 1492. He says, " Pinales 
en la Serrania de Haiti que no llevan piilas, pero frutos que 
parecen azeytunos del Axarafe de SeviUa."* Species of yew 
extend from the Cape of Good Hope to 61° north lat. in 
Scandinavia, consequently through niore than 95 degrees of 
latitude. Podocarpus and Ephedra are almost as widely 
distributed ; and even from among the Cupuliferse, the 
species of the oak genus, usually termed by us a northern 
form, though they do not cross the equator in South America, 
reappear in the southern hemisphere, at Java, in the Indian 
archipelago. To this latter hemisphere ten genera of the 
cone-bearing trees exclusively appertain, of which we will 
here cite only the most important: Araucaria, Dammara 
(Agathis, Sal.), Frenela (comprising about 18 Australian 
species), Dacrydium and Lybocedrus, whose habitat is both 
in New Zealand and the Straits of Magellan. New Zealand 
possesses one species of the genus Dammara (D. australis), 
but no Araucaria. The contrary, by a singular contrast, is 
the case in New Holland. 

In the form of acicular-leaved trees, Nature presents us 
with the greatest length of stem existing in arborescent 
productions. I use the term arborescent, for, as we have 
already remarked, among the Laminaria3 (the oceanic algae) 
Macrocystis pyrifera, between the coast of California and 68° 
south lat., often attains a length of more than 400 feet. If 
we exclude the six Araucarias of Brazil, Chili, New Holland, 
* See my Examen crit. t. hi. p. 24. 


the Norfolk Islands and New Caledonia, then those Coni- 
ferae are the highest, whose habitat is the temperate zone 
of the North. As we have found among the family of the 
palms the most gigantic of all, the Ceroxylon andicola, about 
192 feet high, in the temperate Alpine climate of the Andes, 
so in like manner do the loftiest cone-bearing trees belong, 
in the northern hemisphere, to the temperate north-western 
coast of America and to the Ilocky Mountains (lat. from 
40° to 52°), in the southern hemisphere to New Zealand, 
Tasmania or Van Dieman's Land, to Southern Chili and 
Patagonia, (where the lat. is again from 43° to 50°). The 
most gigantic forms among the genus Pinus are Sequoia 
(EndL), Araucaria, and Dacrydium. I only name those 
species whose height not merely reaches but often exceeds 
200 feet. That the reader may have a standard of com- 
parison, he is reminded that in Europe the loftiest Red and 
White Pines, especially the latter, reach a height of from 
160 to 170 feet; for instance, in Silesia, the pine in the 
Lampersdorf forest, near Frankenstein, long famous for its 
altitude, is only 158 feet high, although 17 feet in girth.* 

We give the following examples : — 

Pinus Grandis (Dough), in New California, attains a height 
of 202—224 feet. 

Pinus Fremontiana (EndL), also there, and probably of the 
same height. f 

Dacrydium Cupressinum (Solander), in New Zealand, above 
213 feet. 

Pinus Lambertiana (Dough), in North-western America, 
223—234 feet. 

Araucaria Excelsa (R. Brown), the Cupressus columnaris of 
Forster, in Norfolk Island and the surrounding rocks, 182 — 
223 feet. The six Araucarise hitherto known fall into two 
groups, according to Endlicher: 

a. The American (Brazil and Chili), A. brasiliensis [Rich.], 
between 15° and 25° south lat., and A. imbricata [Pavonj, 
between 35° and 50° south lat.; the latter 234 — 260 feet; 

/3. The Australian (A. Bidwilli [Hook.] and A. Cunning- 
hami [Ait.] on the eastern side of New Holland, A. excelsa 

* See Ratzeburg, Forstreisen, 1844, s. 287. 
. f Torrey and Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the 
Rocky Mountains in 1844, p. 319. 



of Norfolk Island, and A. Cookii [R. Brown] of New Cale- 
donia). Corda, Presl, Goppert, and Endlicker have already- 
found five fossil Araucariae in lias, in chalk, and in lignite.* 

Pinus Douglasii (Sab.) in the valleys of the Rocky Moun- 
tains and at the Columbia River (north lat. 43°— -52°). That 
meritorious Scotch botanist, whose name this tree bears, 
suffered a dreadful death in 1833, when he came from New 
California to collect plants on the Sandwich Islands. He 
inadvertently fell into a pit, into which one of the wild bulls 
of that country, always viciously disposed, had previously 
fallen. This traveller has described from accurate measure- 
ments a stem of P. Douglasii, which at three feet from the 
ground was 57^ feet round, and 245 feet high.f 

Pinus Trigona (Rafinesque), on the western slope of the 
Rocky Mountains. ;£ This "gigantic fir" was measured with 
great care ; the girth of the stem at 6^ feet above the ground 
was often from 38 to 45 feet. One stem was 300 feet high, 
and without branches for the first 192 feet. 

Pinus Strobus (in the eastern part of the United States of 
North America, especially on this side of the Mississippi, but 
also again in the Rocky Mountains, from the source of the 
Columbia to Mount Hood, from 43° to 54° north lat.), in 
Europe called the Weymouth Pine, and in North America 
the White Pine, commonly no more than 160 to 190 feet 
high, but several have been seen in New Hampshire of 250 
and 266 feet.§ 

Sequoia Gigantea (Endl. ; the Condylocarpus, Sal.), of New 
California, like the Pinus trigona, about 300 feet high. 

The nature of the soil and the conditions of heat and 
moisture, on which the nourishment of plants simultaneously 
depends, promote, it must be admitted, the development 
and the increase of the number of the individuals in a 
species ; but the gigantic height attained by the stems of a 
few among the many nearly allied species of the same 

* Endlicher, Conifer ce fossil es, p. 301. 

+ See Journal of the Royal Institution, 1826, p. 325. 

X See description in Lewis and Clarke's Travels to the Source of the 
Missouri River and across the American Continent to the Pacific 
Ocean (1804--6), 1814, p. 456. 

§ Dwight, Travels, vol. i. p. 36, and Emerson, Report on the Trees 
and Shrubs growing naturally in the Forests of Massachusetts, 1846, 
p. 60--66. 


genus is not dependent on soil and climate but on a 
specific organization, on internal natural disposition, common 
alike to the vegetable and to the animal world. With the 
Araucaria imbricata of Chili, the Pinus Douglasii of the 
Columbia River, and the Sequoia gigantea of New California 
('245 — 300 feet) contrasts most strongly — not the Willow 
(Salix arctica) stunted by cold or mountain height, and 
only two inches high, — but a little phanerogamic plant in 
the beautiful climate of the southern tropical region, in the 
Brazilian province of Goyaz. The moss-like Tristicha hyp- 
noicles, of the Monocotyledonous family of the Podostemea?, 
hardly attains the height of three lines. " While crossing 
the Rio Clairo in the province of Goyaz," says an excellent 
observer, " I perceived on a stone a plant, the stalk of which 
was not more than three lines high, and which I considered 
at first to be a moss. It was, however, a phanerogamic 
plant, supplied with sexual organs like our oaks, and those 
gigantic trees which raised their majestic heads around."* 

Besides the height of the stem, the length, breadth, and 
position also of the leaves and fruit, the aspiring or horizontal, 
almost umbellate ramification, the gradation of the colour 
from fresh or silver- greyish green to dark brown, give a 
peculiar physiognomical character to the Conifera?. The 
acicular leaves of Pinus Lambertiana (Douglas) in North- 
Western America are five, those of the P. excelsa (Wallich) 
on the southern slope of the Himalaya near Katmandu, seven, 
and those of P. longifolia (Roxb.) on the mountain range of 
Cashmere, more than twelve inches long. Moreover, in one 
and the very same species, these acicular leaves vary in the 
most remarkable manner, from the combined influence of the 
nourishment derived from soil and air, and of the height above 
the level of the sea. I found these variations in the length 
of the leaves of our common wild pine (Pinus sylvestris) so 
great, while travelling in a west and east direction over an 
extent of 80° of longitude (more than 3040 miles) from the 
Scheldt, through Europe and Northern Asia, to Bogoslowsk, 
in the Northern Ural, and Barnaul beyond the Obi, that occa- 
sionally, deceived by the shortness and rigidity of the leaves, 
I have mistaken it for another species of pine, allied to the 
mountain fir, P. rohmdafa, Link, (Pinus uncinata, Ram.) 
* Auguste de St. Hilaire, Morphologie vegetale, 1840, p. 98. 


These are, as Link correctly observes,*" transitions to Lede- 
bour's P. sibirica of the Altai. 

The delicate and pleasing green though deciduous foliage 
of the Ahuahuete {Taxodium distichum, Rich., Cupressus dis- 
ticha, Linn.) on the Mexican plateau especially delighted 
me. In this tropical region the tree, swelling out to a portly 
bulk, and the Aztec name of which signifies " water-drum " 
(from atl, water, and huehuetl, drum), flourishes from 5750 
to 7670 above the level of the sea, whilst it descends 
towards the plain in the marshy district (Cypress swamps) 
of Louisiana as far as 43° lat. In the southern States 
of North America the Taxodium distichum ( Cypres chauve), 
as well as in the lofty plains of Mexico, attains a height of 
128 feet, with an enormous girth, the diameter being from 
30 to nearly 40 feet, when measured near the ground. f The 
roots, too, present a very remarkable phenomenon, for they 
have woody excrescences, which are sometimes of a conical 
and rounded, sometimes of a tabular shape, and project three 
and even nearly five feet above the ground. Travellers have 
compared these woody excrescences, in spots where they are 
numerous and frequent, to the grave-tablets of a Jewish 
churchyard. Auguste de St. Hilaire remarks, with much 
acuteness : " These excrescences of the bald cypress, which 
resemble boundary-posts, may be regarded as exostoses, and 
like these live in the air ; adventitious buds would doubtless 
escape from them, if the nature of the tissue of the coniferous 
plants did not oppose itself to the development of those con- 
cealed germs that give birth to these kinds of buds."| In 
addition to the above, a remarkably enduring vitality is mani- 
fested in the roots of cone-bearing trees by the phenomenon 
which, under the name of " Effervescence," (aftergrowth?) has 
attracted, in many ways, the attention of botanical physiologists, 
and which phenomenon, it appears, rarely displays itself in other 
dicotyledonous plants. The stumps of the felled white Pine, 
left in the ground, form, during a succession of several years, 
new layers of wood, and continue to increase in thickness, 
without throwing out shoots, branches, or leaves. The excel- 
lent observer Goppert believes, that this takes place solely 

* Linncea, bd. xv. 1841, s. 489. 

f Emerson, Report on the Forests, pp. 49, 101. 

X Morphologic veyetcde, p. 91. 


through nourishment derived from the roots, which the 
extremity of the stem receives from a neighbouring living 
tree of the same species. The roots of the living tree he 
conceives are organically incorporated with those of the 
stump. * Kunth, in his excellent new Lehrbuch cler Botanik, 
is opposed to this explanation of a phenomenon, which was 
even known, though imperfectly, to Theophrastus.f Accord- 
ing to him, this process is perfectly analogous to that by 
which metallic plates, nails, carved letters, nay, even stags' 
horns become imbedded within the body of wood. " The 
cambium, that is, the thin, walled cellular tissue, conducting 
muco- granular sap, from which new formations alone proceed, 
continues without any relation to the buds (being perfectly 
independent of them) to deposit new layers of wood on the 
outermost layer. "J 

The relation above alluded to, between the absolute height 
of the ground and the geographical as well as isothermal 
latitude, shows itself often, no doubt, when one compares the 
arborescent vegetation of the tropical part of the Andes chain 
with the vegetation of the north-west coast of America, or 
the banks of the Canadian lakes. The same remark was 
made by Darwin and Claude Gay in the southern hemisphere, 
when they, in their descent from the plateau of Chili, ad- 
vanced towards Eastern Patagonia, and the Archipelago of 
Tigrra del Fuego ; here woods of Drymis Wintcri, together 
with Fagus antarctica and Fagus Forsteri, cover every thing 
with long uniform rows in a northern and southern direction 
down to the low lands. Trifling deviations from the law of 
constant station-ratios between mountain height and geographi- 
cal latitude, depending or local causes, not sufficiently investi- 
gated, occur even in Europe. I would call to mind the limits 
of altitude for the birch and common fir in a part of the Swiss 
Alps, on the Grimsel. The fir {Pinus sylvestris) flourishes 
there up to 6330; and the birch {Betula alba) up to 6906 
feet; beyond them again there is a belt of stone pines {Pinus 
cembra), whose upper boundary is 7343 feet. The birch, 
in consequence, lies there between two belts of Conifera?. 

* Goppert, Beobachtungen ilber das sogenannte Umwallen der 
TannenstocJce, 1842, s. 12. 
t Hist. Plant, lib. iii. cap. 7, pp. 59, 60. Schneidei. 
t Th. i. s. 143, 166. 


According to the excellent observations of Leopold von Buch, 
and the more recent ones of Martins, who also visited Spits- 
bergen, the limits of the geographical distribution in the high 
Scandinavian north (in Lapland) are as follows : " The Fir 
extends to 70°; the White Birch {Betula alba) to 70° 40'; the 
Dwarf- Birch (B. na?ia) to 71° at least: Pinus cembra is 
entirely wanting in Lapland."* 

As the length and the position of the acicular leaves 
define the physiognomic character of the conifers , this is 
still more designated by the specific difference of the leaf- 
breadth, and the parenchymatous development of the appen- 
dicular organs. Several species of Ephedra may be said to 
be almost leafless; but in Taxus, Araucaria, Dammara, 
(Agathis), and the Salisburia adiantifolia of Smith (Gingiva 
biloba, Linn.), the breadth of the leaf gradually increases. I 
have here arranged the genera morphologically. Even the 
names of the species, as first chosen by botanists, indicate 
such an arrangement. Dammara orientalis of Borneo and 
Java, often 1 1 feet in diameter, was at first named loranthi- 
folia: Dammara australis (Lamb.), in New Zealand, rising 
to 150 feet high, was originally named zamsefolia. Neither 
of these has acicular leaves, but "folia altema oblongo 
lanceolata, opposita, in arbore adultiori saepe alterna, enervia, 
striata." The lower surface of the leaf is densely covered 
with stomata. These transitions of the appendicular system, 
from the greatest contraction to a broad leaf surface, possess, 
like every advance from simple to compound, both a morpho- 
logical and a physiognomical interest. f The short-stalked, 
broad, split leaf of the Salisburia (Kampfer's Ginkgo), has 
also the breathing pores (stomata) only on the inferior side. 
The original habitat of the tree is not known. It became 
distributed from the Chinese temples to the gardens of Japan, 
in consequence of the intercourse that existed in olden times 
between the congregations of Buddha. 

I was a witness of the singularly painful impression, which 
the first sight of a pine-forest at Chilpanzingo made on one 

* Compare linger, TJeber den Einfixiss des Bodens auf die Verthei- 
lung der Gewdchse, s. 200; Lindblom, Adnot. in geographicam plan- 
tarum intra Sueciam distributionem, p. 89; Martius, in the Annates 
des Sciences naturelles, t. xviii. 1842, p. 195. 

f Link, Urwelt, Th. i. 1834, s. 201-211. 


of our companions in travelling from a port in the South 
Sea through Mexico to Europe. Born in Quito, under the 
equator, he had never seen needle-leaved trees and folia 
acerosa. The trees appeared to him to be leafless, and 
because we were journeying towards the cold north, he 
thought he recognised already, in the extreme contraction of 
the organs, the impoverishing influence of the Pole. The 
traveller, whose impressions I am here describing, and whose 
name neither Bonpland nor myself can mention without 
regret, was an excellent young man, the son of the Marquis de 
Selvalegre, Don Carlos Montufar, whose noble and ardent 
love of freedom courageously led him, a few years later, 
to a violent, though not dishonourable, death, in the war of 
independence, waged by the Spanish colonies. 

(24) p. 227 — " Pothos plants, Aroidece" 

Caladium and Pothos are forms appertaining exclusively to 
the tropical world, whilst the different species of Arum belong 
more to the temperate zone. Arum italicum, A. dracunculus, 
and A. tenuifolium advance as far as Istria and Friuli. No 
Pothos has hitherto been discovered in Africa. The East 
Indies possess several species of this genus (P. scandens and 
P. pinnata), which have a less beautiful physiognomy and are 
of less luxuriant growth than the American Pothos plants. 
We discovered a beautiful true arborescent Aroidea (Caladium 
arboreum), having a stem from 16 to more than 21 feet in 
height, near the convent of Caripe, east of Cumana. Bcau- 
vois found a singular Caladium (Culcasia scandens) in the 
kingdom of Benin.* In the Pothos form the parenchyma 
occasionally expands to so great a degree that the leaf-surface 
becomes perforated with holes, as in Calla pertusa (Kunth), 
and Dracontium pertusum (Jacquin), which we collected in 
the forests of Cumana. It was the Aroideas which first drew 
attention to the remarkable phenomenon of the fever-heat 
evolved by certain plants during the period of their inflo- 
rescence, and which even sensibly affects the thermometer, 
and is connected with a great and temporary increase in 
the absorption of oxygen from the atmosphere. Lamarck, 
in 1789, observed this increase of temperature in the Arum 
italicum. According to Hubert and Borv de St. Vincent, 

* Palisot de Beauvois, Flore d'Oivare et de Benin, t. i. 1804, p. 4, 
pi. III. 


the vital heat of the Arum cordifolium rises in the Isle of 
France to 110° or 120°, whilst the temperature of the sur- 
rounding air is only 66°. 2 Fahr. Even in Europe, Becquerel 
and Breschet found a difference of 39°. 4. Dutrochet observed 
a paroxysm, — a rhythmical decrease and increase of vital 
heat, — which appeared by day to attain a double maximum. 
Theodore de Saussure remarked analogous augmentations of 
heat, although only of l°.l and 1°.8 Fahr., in other families 
of plants ; as, for instance, in Bignonia radicans and Cucurbita 
pepo. In the latter, the male plant exhibited a greater in- 
crease of temperature than the female, when measured by a 
very sensitive thermoscopic apparatus. Dutrochet — whose 
early death is greatly to be regretted, on account of the import- 
ant services he rendered to physics and vegetable physiology 
— likewise observed,* by means of thermo-magnetic multipli- 
cators, a vital heat of 0°.25 to 0°.67 Fahr. in many young plants 
(Euphorbia lathyris, Lilium candidum, Papaver somniferum), 
and even among funguses, in many species of Agaricus and 
Lycoperdon. This vital heat disappeared at night, but not 
by day, even when the plants were placed in the dark. 

The contrast presented by the physiognomy of the Casua- 
rineas, acicular-leaved trees, and the almost leafless Peruvian 
Colletias and Pothos plants (Aroideas), is still more striking 
when we compare these types of extreme contraction in the 
leaf form with Nyinphseaceoe and Nelumbonea?. Here we 
again meet, as in the Aroidea?, with leaves in which the 
cellular tissue is excessively expanded upon long, fleshy, suc- 
culent petioles, — as Nymphgea alba, N. lutea, N. thermalis 
(formerly called N. lotus, from the hot spring of Pecze, near 
Groswardein in Hungary), the species of Nelumbo, Euryale 
amazonica (Poppig), and Victoria Regina, allied to the prickly 
Euryale, although of a very different genus, according to 
Lindley, and discovered in 1837 by Sir Robert Schomburgk 
in the river Berbice, in British Guiana. The round leaves of 
this splendid aquatic plant are from 5 to 6 feet in diameter, and 
surrounded by upright margins from 3 to 5 inches in height, 
which are light green on the inner side, but of a bright 
crimson on the outside. These agreeably perfumed flowers, 
of which 20 or 30 may be seen together in a small space, are 
about 15 inches in diameter, of a white or rose colour, and 

* Comptes rendus de Vlnstitut, t. viii. 1839, p. 454, t. ix. pp. 614 


have many hundred petals,* Poppig also gives to the leaves 
of his Euryale amazonica, which he found at Tefe, a diameter of 
about 6 feet.f Whilst Euryale and Victoria present a greater 
parenchymatous expansion of the leaf- form in all its dimensions 
than other genera, the most gigantic development of the 
blossoms occurs in a parasitical Cytinea, which Dr. Arnold 
discovered in Sumatra in 1818. This flower, Raffle sia Arnoldi 
(R. Brown), has a stemless blossom measuring three feet in 
diameter, surrounded by large leaf-like scales. Like funguses, 
it has an animal odour, and smells something like beef. 

(25) p. 227 — " Lianes, Creeping Plants, (Span. Vejuccos.f 

According to Kunth's division of Bauhinias, the true genus 
Bauhinia belongs to the New Continent. The African Bau- 
hinia, B. rufescens (Lam.), is a Pauletia (Cav.), a genus of 
which we also discovered some new species in South America. 
In the same manner the Banisterias of the Malpighiacea) are 
actually an American form. Two species are indigenous to 
the East Indies, and one — described by Cavanilles as B. leona 
— to Western Africa. In the tropical zone, and in the Southern 
hemisphere, species of the most different families belong to 
the climbing plants which in those regions render the forests 
so impenetrable to man and so accessible and habitable to the 
whole monkey family (Quadrumana), the Cercoleptes, and 
the small tiger cats. The Lianes thus afford whole flocks of 
gregarious animals an easy means of rapidly ascending high 
trees, passing from one tree to another, and even of crossing 
brooks and rivulets. 

In the south of Europe and in the north of America, Hops 
from the Urticeae, and the species of Vitis from the Ampelidefev 
belong to Climbing Plants ; while this form is represented in 
the tropics by climbing and trailing grasses. We found on 
the elevated plains of Bogota, in the pass of Quindiu in the 
Andes, and in the Cinchona forests of Loxa, a Bambusa 
allied to Nastus, our Chusquea scandens, twined round 
powerful trunks of trees, adorned at the same time with 
flowering Orchidese. Bambusa scandens (Tjankorreh), which 
Blume found in Java, belongs probably to Nastus, or to the 

* Robert Schomburgk, Reisen in Guiana unci am Orinolco, 1841, 
s. 233. 

+ Poppig, Reise in Chile, Peru, unci auf clem Amazonenstrome. 
Bd. ii. 1836, s. 432. 


grass-genus Chusquea, the Carrizo of the Spanish settlers. In 
the pine forests of Mexico, Climbing Plants seem, to be entirely 
wanting ; but in New Zealand a fragrant Pandanus, Frey- 
cinetia Banksii, together with one of the Smilacece, Ripogonum 
parviflorum (R. Brown), which renders the forests almost 
impenetrable, winds round a gigantic fir-tree more than 200 
feet high, Podocarpus dacryoides (Rich.), called Kakikatea 
in the language of the country.* 

A striking contrast to these Climbing Grasses and Creep- 
ing Pandaneas is afforded by the splendid many-coloured 
blossoms of the Passion flowers (among which, however, we 
ourselves found one arborescent, upright, species (Passiflora 
glauca) in the Andes of Popayan, at an elevation of nearly 
10,500 feet, and by the Bignoniacea?, Mutisia?, Alstromeriae, 
TJrvillese, and Aristolochise. Among the latter, our Aristo- 
lochia cordata has a coloured (purplish red) calyx, about seven- 
teen inches in diameter ; " flores gigantei, pueris mitree instar 
inservientes." Owing to the quadrangular form of their stalks, 
their flattening, which is not occasioned by any external 
pressure, and a band-like undulatory motion, many of these 
climbing plants have a peculiar physiognomy. The diagonal 
intersections of the stems of Bignonias and Banisterias form, 
by means of furrows in the ligneous substance, and through 
its clefts, where the bark penetrates to some depth, cruciform 
or mosaic- like figures. f 

(26) p. 228—" The form of Aloes." 

To this group of plants, which is characterised by a great 
similarity, belong Yucca aloifolia, which penetrates as for 
north as Florida and South Carolina; Y. angustifolia (Nutt.), 
which advances to the banks of the Missouri; Aletris arborea; 
the Dragon-tree of the Canaries, and two other Dracamas 
belonging to New Zealand ; arborescent Euphorbias ; and Aloe 
dichotoma, Linn., (formerly the genus Rhipidodendrum of 
Willdenow), the celebrated Koker-boom, whose stem is 
four feet in thickness, about twenty feet high, and has a 
crown measuring 426 feet round. J The forms which I have 

* Ernest Dieffenbach, Travels in New Zealand, 1843, vol. i. p. 426. 

+ See the very correct delineations in Adrien dc Jussieu, Cours de 
Botanique, pp. 77—79, figs. 105—108. 

X Patterson, Reisen in das Land der Hottentotlen unci der Kaffern, 
1790, s. 55. 


here associated together belong to very different families : 
as, for instance, to the Liiiacese, Asphodeleae, Pandanea?, 
Amaryllidese, and Euphorbiacese ; and are therefore, with 
the exception of the last named, all included under the great 
division of Monocotyledons. One of the Pandanese, Phyte- 
lephas macrocarpa (Ruiz), which we found on the banks of the 
Magdalena river in New Granada, exactly resembles with its 
feathery leaves a small palm-tree. The Tagua (as it is called 
by the Indians) is moreover, as Kunth has observed, the only 
Pandanea of the New Continent. The singular Agave-like 
and high-stemmed Doryanthes excelsa of New South Wales, 
which the intelligent Correa de Serra was the first to describe, 
belongs to the Amaryllidea?, like our low-growing Narcissuses 
and Jonquils. 

In the candelabra-like form of Aloes, the branches of the 
main-trunk must not be confounded with the flower-stalks. 
In the American aloe, Agave Americana (Maguey de Co- 
cuyza), which is entirely wanting in Chili, and in the Yucca 
acaulis (Maguey de Cocuy), the leaf- stalks present a cande- 
labra-like arrangement of the blossoms during the excessively 
rapid and gigantic development of the inflorescence, which, as 
is well known, is but too transient a phenomenon. In some 
arborescent Euphorbias the physiognomical character depends, 
however, on the branches and their arrangement. Lichtenstein 
describes,* with much animation, the impression made upon 
him by the appearance of an Euphorbia officinarum which he 
saw in the " Chamtoos Rivier," near Cape Town. The form 
of the tree was so symmetrical, that it repeated itself on a 
small scale, like a candelabrum, to a height of more than 30 
feet. All the branches were furnished with sharp thorns. 

Palms, Yucca and Aloe plants, arborescent Ferns, some 
Aralias, and the Theophrasta, where I have seen it in a state 
of luxuriant growth, present to the eye a certain physiogno- 
mical resemblance of character by the nakedness of the stems 
(there being no branches) and the beauty of their summits or 
crowns, however they may otherwise differ in the structure of 
the inflorescence. 

Melanoselinum decipiens, (Ilofm.), which has been intro- 
duced into our gardens from Madeira, and is sometimes 
from 20 to 12 feet high, belongs to a peculiar group of 
* See his Reisen iin sildlichen Afrika, th. i. s. 370. 


arborescent umbelliferaB allied to the Araliaceae, to which other 
species, as yet undiscovered, will undoubtedly at some future 
time be added. Ferula, Heracleum, and Thapsia likewise 
attain a considerable height, but they are still herbaceous 
shrubs. Melanoselinum stands almost entirely alone as an 
arborescent umbelliferous plant ; Bupleurum ( Tenoria) fruti- 
cosum, Linn., of the shores of the Mediterranean, Bubon 
galbanum of the Cape, and Crithmum maritimum of our sea- 
coasts, are only shrubs. Tropical countries, where, as Adanson 
long since very correctly remarked, Umbelliferse and Cruci- 
ferse are almost wholly wanting in the plains, exhibit, as 
we ourselves observed, the most dwarfish of all the umbelli- 
ferous family on the lofty mountain ridges of the South Ame- 
rican and Mexican Andes. Among the thirty-eight species 
which we collected on elevations whose mean temperature 
was below 54°. 5 Fahr., we found Myrrhis andicola, Fragosa 
arctio'ides, and Pectophytum pedunculare, interspersed with 
an equally dwarfish Alpine Draba, growing moss-like close 
to the rock and the frequently frozen earth, at a height of 
13,428 feet above the level of the sea. The only tropical 
umbelliferous plants which we found on the plain in the 
New Continent were two species of Hydrocotyle {H. zmi- 
bellata and H. leptostachya) between the Havannah and 
Batabano, and therefore at the extreme limit of the torrid 

(27) p. 228—" The form of Grasses:' 

The group of the arborescent grasses which Kunth has col- 
lected under the head of Barnbusaceae, in his great work on 
the plants collected by Bonpland and myself, constitutes one of 
the most beautiful adornments of tropical vegetation. Bambu, 
called also Mambu, occurs in the Malay language, although 
according to Buschmann merely as an isolated expression, the 
ordinary term in use being buluh, whilst the only name for 
this species of cane in Java and Madagascar is wuluh, voulou. 
The numbers of the genera and species included in this 
group have been extraordinarily increased by the industry of 
botanical travellers. It has been found that the genus 
Bambusa is entirely wanting in the New Continent, to which 
region, however, the gigantic Guaduas, discovered by us, and 
which attain a height of from 50 to 64 feet, together with 
the Chusquea, exclusively belong ; that Arundinaria (Rich.) 


occurs in both continents, although differing specifically in 
each; that Bambusa and Beesha (Rheed.), occur in India 
and the Indian Archipelago ; and that Nastus grows in the 
islands of Madagascar and Bourbon. With the exception of 
the high-climbing Chusquea, these forms morphologically 
replace each other in different parts of the earth. In the 
northern hemisphere far beyond the limits of the torrid region, 
in the valley of the Mississippi, the traveller is gladdened by 
the sight of a species of Bamboo, the Arundinaria macrosperma, 
formerly called also Miegia and Ludolfia. In the southern 
hemisphere, in the south of Chili, between the parallels of 37° 
and 42°, Gay found one of the Bambusacea more than 20 feet 
high (not a climbing, but a still undescribed arborescent self- 
supporting Chusquea), growing, mingled with Dry mis Chilensis, 
in a region clothed with an uniform forest-covering of Fagus 

Whilst in India the Bambusa flowers so frequently that in 
Mysore and Orissa the seeds are mixed with honey, and eaten 
like rice,* in South America the Guadua blossoms so very 
seldom that in the course of four years we w r ere only twice 
able to procure the flowers ; once on the solitary banks of the 
Cassiquiare, the arm connecting the Orinoco with the Rio 
Negro and the Amazon, and again in the province of Popayan, 
between Buga and Quilichao. It is a very striking fact that 
some plants grow with the greatest vigour in certain loca- 
lities without flowering ; as is the case with the Euro- 
pean olive-trees introduced into America centuries ago, and 
growing between the tropics, near Quito, at elevations of 
about 9600 feet above the level of the sea; and in like manner 
the walnuts, hazel-nut bushes, and the fine olive-trees ( Olea 
j&nropea) of the Isle of France. f 

As some of the Bambusacese (arborescent grasses) ad- 
vance into the temperate zone, so also they do not suffer 
in the torrid zone from the temperate climate of mountain 
districts. They are certainly more luxuriant as social plants 
between the sea-shore and elevations of about 2558 feet 
in the Province de las Esmeraldas, west of the volcano of 
Pichincha, where Guadua angustifolia (Bambusa Guadua of oui 
Plcmtes equinoxiales, t. i. tab. xx) generates in its interior 

* Buchanan, Journey through Mysore, vol. ii. p. 341 ; and Stirling, 
in the Asiat. Res. vol. xv. p. 205. 

f See Bojer, Hortus Mauritianus, 1837, p. 201. 


large quantities of the siliceous Tabaschir (Sanscrit tvakkschira, 
cow-milk). We saw the Guadua advance in the pass of 
Quindiu, in the chain of the Andes, to a height of 5755 feet 
above the level of the sea, as determined by barometric mea- 
surements. Nastus borbonicus has been called a true Alpine 
plant by Bory de St. Vincent, and according to him it does 
not descend lower than 3840 feet on the declivity of the volcano 
in the island of Bourbon. This appearance or the repetition 
at great elevations of certain forms belonging to torrid plains 
calls to mind the group of Alpine palms (Kunthia montana, 
Ceroxylon andicola, and Oreodoxa frigida) of which I have 
already spoken, and a grove of Musaceae (Heliconia, perhaps 
Maranta), 16 feet high, which I found growing isolated on 
the Silla de Caracas, at a height of more than 7000 feet above 
the level of the sea.* While the form of gramineae, with the 
exception of some few herbaceous dicotyledons, constitutes 
the highest phanerogamic zone on the snow-crowned summits 
of mountains, so the grasses mark the boundary of phane- 
rogamic vegetation in a horizontal direction, towards the 
northern and southern polar regions. 

Many admirable general results, no less than a great mass 
of important materials, have been yielded to the geography 
of plants by my young friend, Joseph Hooker, who, after 
having but recently returned with Sir James Ross from the 
frozen antarctic regions, is now engaged in exploring the 
Thibetian Himalaya. He draws attention to the fact that 
phanerogamic flowering plants (grasses) advance 17^° nearer 
to the north than to the south pole. In the Falkland 
Islands, near the thick knots of Tussac grass, Dactylis 
ca?spitosa, Forster, (a Festuca, according to Kunth), and in 
Tierra del Fuego, under the shade of the birch-leaved Fagus 
antarctica, there grows the same Trisetum subspicatum, 
which spreads over the whole range of the Peruvian Andes, 
and across the Rocky Mountains, to Melville Island, Green- 
land, and Iceland, and is also found in the Swiss and Tyrolese 
Alps as well as in the Altai, in Kamtschatka, and in Camp- 
bell's Island, south of New Zealand, extending therefore 
over 127 degrees of latitude, or from 54° south to 72° 50' 
north lat. " Few grasses," says Joseph Hooker,f " have so 
wide a range as Trisetum subspicatum (Beauv.), nor am I 

* Rclat. hist. t. i. pp. 605—606. 
t Flora antarctica, p. 97. 


acquainted with any other arctic species which is equally an 
inhabitant of the opposite polar regions." The South Shetland 
Islands, which are separated by Bransfield Straits from 
cTUrville's " Terre de Louis-Philippe ' : and from Peak 
Haddington, a volcano, 7046 feet high, and situated in 
64° 12' south lat., have recently been visited by Dr. Eights, a 
botanist from the United States. He found there (probably 
in 62° or 62^° south lat.) a small grass, Aira antarctica,* which 
is "the most antarctic flowering plant hitherto discovered." 

Even in Deception Island, belonging to the same group, 
62° 50', only lichens are met with, and no longer any species 
of grass; and in like manner further south-east, in Cock- 
burn's Island (64° 12') near Palmer's Land, only Lecanoras, 
Lecideas, and five foliaceous Mosses, among which is our 
German Bryum argenteum, were gathered. " This appears to 
be the Ultima Thule of antarctic vegetation," for further south 
even terrestrial cryptogamia are wanting. In the great bay 
formed by Victoria Land, on a small island lying opposite to 
Mount Herschel (in 71° 49' lat.), and on Franklin Island, 92 
miles north of the volcano, Erebus, (12,366 feet in height), 
and in 76° V south lat., Hooker found no trace of vegetation. 
In extreme northern latitudes, the distribution of even the 
higher organisms is very different; for here phanerogamic 
plants advance 18^° nearer to the pole than in the southern 
hemisphere. Waklen Island (80^° north lat.) possesses still 
ten species of phanerogamia. Antarctic phanerogamic vege- 
tation is also poorer in species at equal distances from the 
pole; thus Iceland has five times more phanerogamia than 
the southern group of Auckland and Campbell Islands, but 
the uniform vegetation of the antarctic regions is, from 
climatic causes, both more succulent and more luxuriant. f 

(28) p. 229— "Ferns." 

If we estimate the whole number of the cryptogamia 
hitherto described at 19,000 species, as has been done by 
Dr. Klotzsch, a naturalist possessing a profound acquaintance 
with the Agamic plants, we shall have for Fungi 8000 (of 
which Agarici constitute the eighth part) ; for Lichens, ac- 
cording to J. von Flotow of Hirschberg, and Hampe of 

* Hooker, Icon, plant, vol. ii. tab. 150. 

f Compare Hooker, Flora antarctica, pp. vii. 74, 215, with Sir 
Jaines Ross, Voyage in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, 1839 — 
1843, vol. ii. pp. 335—342. 



Blankenburg, at least 1400; for the Algse 2580; for Mosses 
and Liverworts, according to Carl Muller of Halle, and Dr. 
Gottsche of Hamburgh, 3800 ; and for Ferns 3250. For this 
last important result we are indebted to the profound inves- 
tigations made by Professor Kunze of Leipzig, on this group 
of plants. It is a striking fact that the family of the Polypo- 
diacea) alone includes 2165 of the whole number of described 
Filices, whilst other forms, as the Lycopodiacse and Hymeno- 
phyllaceae, number only 350 and 200. There are therefore 
nearly as many described species among Ferns as among Grasses. 
It is singular that no mention of the beautiful arborescent 
ferns is to be found in the classic authors of antiquity, 
Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Pliny; while, from the infor- 
mation given by the companions of Alexander, Aristobulus, 
Megasthenes, and Nearchus, reference is made* to Bamboos, 
" qua? fissis internodiis lembi vice vectitabant navigantes;" 
to the Indian trees " quarum folia non minora clypeosunt;" to 
the Fig-tree which takes root from its branches, and to Palms, 
"tantse proceritatis, ut sagittis superjici nequeant." I find 
the first mention of arborescent ferns in Oviedo.f " Among 
ferns," says this experienced traveller, who had been ap- 
pointed by Ferdinand the Catholic, Director of the Gold- 
washings in Haiti, " there are some which I class with 
trees, because they are as thick and high as Pine-trees. 
(Helechos que yo cuento por arboles, tan gruesos como 
grandes pinos y muy altos). They mostly grow among 
the moimtains and where there is much water." This 
estimate of their height is exaggerated, for in the dense 
forests near Caripe even our Cyathea speciosa only attains a 
height of 32 to 37 feet; and an admirable observer, Ernst 
Dieffenbach, did not see in the most northern of the three 
islands of New Zealand any trunks of Cyathea dealbata 
exceeding 42^ feet. In the Cyathea speciosa and the 
Meniscium of the Chaymas missions, we observed in the 
midst of the most shady part of the primeval forest, that the 
scaly stems of some of the most luxuriantly developed of these 
trees were covered with a shining carbonaceous powder, 
which appeared to be owing to a singular decomposition of 
the fibrous parts of the old leaf stalks. J 

* Humboldt, de distrib. geogr. Plant., pp. 178, 213. 
*r Historia de las Indias, 1535, fol. xc. 
X Humboldt, Eelat. hist., t. i. p. 437. 


Between the tropics, where, on the declivities of the Cor- 
dilleras, climates are superimposed in strata, the true region 
of arborescent ferns lies between about 3200 and 5350 feet 
above the level of the sea. In South America and in the 
Mexican highlands they seldom descend lower towards the 
plains than 1280 feet. The mean temperature of this happy- 
region is between 64°. 6 and 70°. 8 Fahr. It reaches the 
lowest stratum of clouds (which floats the nearest to the 
surface of the sea and the plain), and it therefore enjoys 
uninterruptedly a high degree of humidity, together with a 
great equality in its thermal relations.* 1 The inhabitants, who 
are of Spanish descent, call this region " Tierra templada de 
los helechos." 

The Arabic designation for ferns is feledschun, fllix, (from 

which the f has been changed, according to Spanish usage, 

into h,) and perhaps the term may be connected with the verb 

faladscha, " it divides," from the finely cut margin of the frond. f 

The conditions of genial mildness in an atmosphere charged 
with aqueous vapour and of great uniformity in respect to 
moisture and warmth, are fulfilled on the declivities of the 
mountains in the valleys of the Andes, and more especially in 
the southern milder and more humid hemisphere, where 
arborescent ferns advance- not only to New Zealand and Van 
Die men's Land (Tasmania), but even as far as the Straits 
of Magellan and Campbell Island, and therefore to a southern 
latitude almost identical in degrees with the parallel in which 
Berlin is situated north of the equator. From among the 
family of arborescent ferns there flourishes the vigorous 
Dicksonia squarrosa, in 46° south lat. in Dusky Bay, New 
Zealand; D. antarctica of Labillardiere in Tasmania: a Thyr- 
sopteris in the Island of Juan Fernandez; an undescribed 
Dicksonia, whose stem is from 12 to 16 feet high, near 
Valdivia in Southern Chili ; and a Lomaria, somewhat less in 
height, in the Straits of Magellan. Campbell Island is still 
nearer to the south pole, in 52^° lat., but even there the 
leafless stem of the Aspidium venustum rises to a height of 
more than four feet. 

The climatic relations under which Ferns (Ftlices) in gene- 
ral flourish, are manifested in the numerical laws of their 

* Eobert Brown, In Expedition to Congo, Append, p. 423. 
f Abu Zacaria Ebn el A warn, Libro de Agricultural, traducido por 
J. A. Banqueri, t. ii. Madr. 1802, p. 736. 

7 ° 


quotients of distribution. In the plains within the tropical 
regions of large continents this quotient is, according to Robert 
Brown, and from more recent investigations on the subject, ^L 
of all the phanerogamia, and in mountainous districts of large 
continents -g- to -|-. This ratio is quite different on the small 
islands scattered over the ocean ; for here the proportion borne 
by the number of ferns to the sum total of all the phanero- 
gamic plants increases so considerably, that in the South-Sea 
Islands the quotient rises to \, while in the sporadic islands, 
St. Helena and Ascension, the number of ferns is almost equal 
to half of the whole phanerogamic vegetation.* In receding 
from the tropics (where on the large continents d'Urville esti- 
mates the proportional number at -^), the relative frequency 
of ferns decreases rapidly as we advance into the temperate 
zone. The quotients are for North America and the British 
Islands y^, for France -^, for Germany y'y, for the dry parts 
of Southern Italy yz , for Greece -g^-. The relative frequency 
again increases considerably towards the frigid north. Here 
the family of ferns decreases much slower in the number of 
its species than does that of phanerogamic plants. The 
luxuriantly aspiring character of the species, and the number 
of individuals contained in each, augment the deceptive im- 
pression of absolute frequency. According to \Vahlemberg's 
and Hornemann's catalogues, the relative numbers of the 
Filices are for Lapland -^y, for Iceland -^ T , for Greenland y^-. 
Such are, according to our present knowledge, the natural 
laws that manifest themselves in the distribution of the grace- 
ful form of Ferns. But it would seem as if in the family 
of Ferns, which have so long been regarded as cryptogamic, we 
had lately acquired evidence of the existence of another natural 
law, — the morphological law of propagation. Count Leszczyc- 
Suminski, who happily combines the power of microscopic 
investigation with a very remarkable artistic talent, has dis- 
covered an organisation capable of effecting fructification in 
the prothallium of ferns. He distinguishes two sexual appa- 
ratuses, of which the female portion is situated in hollow 
ovate cells in the middle of the sporangium, and the male in 
the ciliated antheridia, or the organs producing spiral threads, 
which have already been examined by Nageli. Fructification 

* See a valuable Treatise by d'Urville, Distribution geographique 
desfougeres sur la surface clu Globe, in the Annates des Sciences nat.j 
t. vi. 1825, pp. 51, 66, 73. 


is supposed to be effected by means of moveable ciliated spiral 
threads and not by pollen tubes.* According to this view, 
Ferns would be, as Ehrenberg remarks,! products of a micro- 
scopic fructification taking place on the prothallium, which 
here serves as a fertilizing receptacle, while throughout the 
whole course of their often arborescent development they 
would be flowerless and fruitless plants, having a bud- 
formation. The spores lying as sori on the under side of the 
frond are not seeds but flower-buds. 

(29) p. 229—" The Liliacecer 

Africa is the principal seat of this form ; there the greatest 
diversity obtains ; there they form masses and determine the 
natural character of the region. The New Continent exhibits 
also, it is true, magnificent Alstromerias and species of Pan- 
cratium, Haeinanthus, and Crinum. We have enriched the 
first of these genera with nine, and the second with three 
species ; but these American liliaceous plants are more diffused 
and of less social habits than the European Irideae. 

(30) p. 229—" The Willow Form." 

Nearly 150 different species of the main representatives 
of this form, or rather of the Willow itself, are already 
known. They cover the northern parts of the earth from 
the equator to Lapland. Their number and their varie- 
ties of form increase between the 46th and 70th degrees of 
latitude, more especially in that part of northern Europe which 
has been so remarkably indented by the early revolutions of 
our planet. I am acquainted with ten or twelve species of 
inter-tropical Willows, and these, like the Willows of the 
southern hemisphere, are deserving of special attention. As 
nature appears to delight in all zones in a wondrous multi- 
plication of certain animal forms, as for instance, Anatidae 
(Lamellirostres), and Pigeons ; so likewise are Willows, Pines, 
and Oaks, widely diffused ; the latter always exhibiting a simi- 
larity in their fruit, although various differences exist in the form 
of the leaves. In Willows belonging to the most widely dif- 
ferent climates the similarity of the foliage, of the ramification, 
and of the whole physiognomical conformation, is almost greater 

* Count Suminski, Zur Enhoickelungs-Gescliiclite der Farrnkrauter 
1848, S. 10—14. 
f Monatl. Berichte der Akad. zu Berlin, Januar, 1848, S. 20. 


than in Coniferse. In the more southern part of the tempe- 
rate zone, north of the equator, the number of the species of 
Willows decreases considerably; although (according to the 
" Flora atlantica" of Desfontaines) Tunis has still its own 
species, resembling Salix caprea; whilst Egypt, according to 
Forskal, numbers five species, from the catkins of whose 
male blossoms is distilled the remedial agent Moie chalaf 
{aqua salicis), so much used in the East. The Willow which 
I saw in the Canaries is also, according to Leopold von Buch 
and Christian Smith, a peculiar species (S. canariensis), although 
common to those islands and to Madeira. Wallick's cata- 
logue of the plants of Nepaul and the Himalaya already gives 
1 3 species belonging to the subtropical zone of the East Indies, 
and which have in part been described by Don, Roxburgh, 
and Lindley. Japan has its own species, of which one, S. 
japonica, (Thumb.), is also met with in Nepaul as an Alpine 

There was not, as far as I am aware, any species of Willow 
known as belonging to the tropical zone before my expedi- 
tion, with the exception of S. tetrasperma. We collected 
seven new species, three of them on the plateaux of Mexico, 
at an elevation of 8500 feet above the level of the sea. 
Still higher, as for instance on the Alpine plains, between 
12,000 and 15,000 feet, which we frequently visited, we saw 
nothing in the Andes of Mexico, Quito, and Peru, to remind 
us of the many small creeping Alpine Willows of the 
Pyrenees, the Alps, or of Lapland (S. herbacea, S. lanata, 
and S. reticulata). In Spitzbergen, whose meteorological 
relations have so much analogy with those of the snow- 
crowned summits of Switzerland and Scandinavia, Martius 
described two Dwarf- Willows, whose small woody stems and 
branches trail along the ground, and are so concealed in the 
turf bogs that it is with difficulty their diminutive leaves can 
be discovered under the moss. The Willow species which I 
found in 4° 12' south lat., at the entrance of the Cinchona or 
Peruvian Bark forests, near Loxa in Peru, and which has 
been described by Willdenow as Salix Humboldtiana, is most 
widely diffused over the western part of South America. A 
Beach- Willow (S.falcata), which we discovered on the sandy 
shores of the Pacific, near Truxillo, is, according to Kunth, pro- 
bably a mere variety of the former. In like manner the beauti- 
ful and frequently pyramidal Willow, which we constantly saw 


611 the banks of the Magdalena river, from Mahates to Bo- 
jorque, and which, according to the report of the natives, had 
only spread thus far within a few years, may also be identical 
with S. Humboldtiana. At the confluence of the Magdalena 
with the Rio Opon, we found all the islands covered with 
Willows, many of which had stems 64 feet high, with a diameter 
of from only 8 to 10 inches.* Lindley has made us acquainted 
with a species of Salix belonging to Senegal, and therefore to the 
equinoctial region of Africa. f Blume also found two species 
of Willow near the equator in Java, one wild and indigenous 
in the island (S. tetrasperma), and another cultivated (S. 
Sieboldiana). I am only acquainted with the two Willows 
belonging to the south temperate zone, which have been 
described by Thunberg (S. hirsata and S. mucronata) . They 
grow interpersed with Protea argentea, which has the same 
physiognomy as the Willow, and their leaves and young 
branches constitute the food of the hippopotamus of the 
Orange River. The family of WiUowfi is entirely wanting in 
Australia and the neighbouring islands. 

(31) p. 229—" The Myrtle Form." 

The Myrtle is a graceful plant, with stiff, shining, crowded, 
and generally entire and small leaves marked with dots. 
Myrtles impart a peculiar character to three regions of the 
earth, viz., to southern Europe, more especially to the islands 
composed of calcareous rocks and trachytic stone, which pro- 
ject from the basin of the Mediterranean ; to the continent of 
New Holland, which is adorned with Eucalyptus, Metrosideros, 
and Leptospermum ; and to an intertropical region in the 
Andes of South America, part of which is a low plain, while 
the remainder lies at an elevation of from 9000 to more than 
10,000 feet above the level of the sea. This Alpine region, 
called in Quito the Paramos, is entirely covered with trees 
having a Myrtle-like aspect, even though they may not all 
belong to the Myrtaceae. At this elevation grow Escalonia 
myrtilloides, E. tubar, Simplocos Alstonia, species of Myrica, 
and the lovely Myrtus microphylla, of which we have given 
a drawing in our Plantes equinoxiales, t. i. p. 21, pi. iv.; it 
grows on micaceous schist, at an elevation of 10,000 feet 
on the Paramo de Saraguru, (near Vinayacu and Alto de 

* Humboldt et Kunth. Nova Gen. Plant, t. ii. p. 22, Tab. 99. 
f Lindley, Introd. to the Natural System of Botany, p. 99. 


Pulla,) which is adorned with so many beautiful flowering 
Alpine plants. M. myrsinoides ascends in the Paramo de 
Guamani as high as 11,200 feet. By far the greater number 
of the 40 species of the genus Myrtus which we collected 
in the equinoctial zone, and of which 37 were undescribed, 
belong to the plains and the less elevated mountain spurs. 
We brought only a single species {M. xalapensis) from the 
mild tropical climate of the mountains of Mexico ; but the 
Tierra templada, in the direction of the Volcano of Orizaba, no 
doubt possesses many yet undescribed varieties. We found 
M. maritima near Acapulco, on the very shore of the Pacific. 

The Escallonia, — among which E. mi/rtilloides, E. tubar, E. 
Jioribunda are the ornaments of the Paramos, and remind us 
strongly (by their physiognomical aspect) of the myrtle-form, 
— formerly constituted, together with the European and South 
American Alpine roses (Rhododendrum and Befaria), with 
Clethra, Andromeda, and Gaylussacia buxifolia, the family of 
the Ericece. Robert Brown* has arranged them in a special 
family, which Kunth has placed between the Philadelphia? 
and Hamamelidese. Escallonia floribunda affords by its 
geographical distribution one of the most striking examples 
of the relation existing between distance from the equator 
and vertical elevation above the level of the sea. I would 
here again borrow support from the testimony of the accurate 
observer, my friend Auguste de St. Hilaire.f " MM. Hum- 
boldt and Bonpland in their expedition discovered Escallonia 
floribunda in 4° south lat. at an elevation of 8952 feet. I 
found the same plant in 21° south lat. in Brazil, which 
although elevated is very much less so than the Andes of 
Peru. This plant is of common occurrence between 24° 50' 
and 25° 55' in the Campos Geraes, and I also met with it 
again on the Rio de la Plata in about 35° lat., on a level with 
the sea." 

The group of the Myrtaceoc, — to which belong Melaleuca, 
Metrosideros, and Eucalyptus, commonly classed under the 
general denomination of Leptospermea3, — produce partially, 
wherever the true leaves are supplied by phyllodia (petiole- 
leaves), or where the direction of the leaves is inclined to- 
wards the unexpanded petiole, a distribution of streaks of light 

* See the additions to Franklin's Narrative of a Journey to the 
shores of the Polar Sea, 1823, p. 765. 
+ Morjphologievegetale, 1840, p. 52. 


and shade wholly unknown in our deciduous-leaved forest. 
We find that the earliest botanical travellers who visited 
New Holland were astonished at the singular effect thus 
produced. Robert Brown was the first to show that this 
phenomenon depends on the vertical direction of the expanded 
petioles (the phyllodia of Acacia longifolia and Acacia sua- 
veolens), and on the circumstance, that the light, instead 
of falling on horizontal surfaces, passes between vertical 
ones.* Morphological laws in the development of the leaves 
determine the peculiar character of the varying light and 
shade. " Phyllodia," says Kunth, " can in my opinion 
merely occur in families which have compound pinnate 
leaves ; and in fact they have as yet only been met with in 
Leguminosae (in the Acacias). In Eucalyptus, Metrosideros, 
and Melaleuca, the leaves are simple (simplicia), and their 
edgewise position depends on a half-turn of the leaf-stalk 
(petiolus) ; moreover, it must be remarked, that both surfaces 
of the leaves are of a similar character." In the scantily 
shaded forests of New Holland the optical effects here alluded 
to are the more frequent, since two groups of Myrtaceae and 
Leguminosae, species of Eucalyptus and Acacia, there consti- 
tute nearly one-half of all the greyish-green tree vegetation. 
Moreover, between the bast-layers of Melaleuca, there are 
formed easily soluble membranes, which force their way out- 
wards, and by their whiteness reminds us of our birch bark. 

The sphere of distribution of the Myrtaceae is very dif- 
ferent in the two continents. In the New Continent, and 
especially in its western parts, this family, according to 
Joseph Hooker, f scarcely extends beyond the parallel of 26° 
north lat., while in the Southern Hemisphere, there are in 
Chili, according to Claude Gay, ten species of Myrtle and 
twenty-two of Eugenia, which mixed with Proteaceae (Embo- 
thrium and Lomatia) and with Fagus obliqua, there constitute 
forests. The Myrtaceae become more frequent from the 38th 
degree of south lat. ; in the island of Chiloe, where a metro- 
sideros-like species (Myrtus stipularis) forms almost impene- 
trable underwood, which is there named Tepuales ; and in 
Patagonia to the extremity of Tierra del Fuego in 56° lat. 

* Adrien de Jussieu, Cours de Botanique, pp. 106, 120, and 700; 
Darwin, Journal of Researches, 1845, p. 433. 
T Flora antartica, p. 12. 


While in Europe the Myrtaceae do not extend northward fur- 
ther than 46°lat., they penetrate in Australia, Tasmania, New 
Zealand and the Auckland Islands to 50^° south latitude. 

(32) p. 229 — " Melastomacece" 
This group comprises the genera Melastoma (Fothergilla 
and Tococa Aub. and Rhexia (Meriana and Osbeckia), of 
which we have collected no less than sixty new species in 
tropical America alone, on both sides of the equator. Bonpland 
has published a splendid work on the Melastomaceae, in two 
volumes, with coloured plates. There are species of Rhexia 
and Melastoma which ascend in the chain of the Andes, as 
Alpine or Paramos shrubs, to 9600 and even more than 
11,000 feet above the level of the sea; as for instance Rhexia 
cernua, R. stricta, Melastoma obscurum, M. aspergillare, and 
M. lutescens. 

(33) p. 229— " The Laurel-form." 
To this form belong Laurus, Persea, the Ocoteae, so nume- 
rous in South America, and, — on account of their physio- 
gnomic similarity, — Calophyllum, also the splendidly aspiring 
Mamrnea from the Guttiferse. 

(34) p. 229 — " How instructive to the landscape-painter would 
be a work which should illustrate the leading forms of vege- 

In order to define with more distinctness what I have here 
only briefly referred to, I may be permitted to incorporate the 
following considerations from my sketch of a history of land- 
scape painting, and of a graphical representation of the phy- 
siognomy of plants.* 

" All that relates to the expression of the passions and the 
beauty of the human form has perhaps attained its fullest deve- 
lopment in the temperate northern zone under the skies of 
Greece and Italy. The artist, drawing from the depths of imagi- 
nation, no less than from the contemplation of beings of his 
own species, derives the types of historical painting alike from 
unfettered creation and from truthful imitation. Landscape 
painting, though scarcely a more imitative art, has a more 
material basis, and a more earthly tendency. It requires 
for its development a greater amount of various and distinct 
* Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 453 (Bohn's edition.) 


impressions, which, when imbibed from external contempla- 
tion, must be fertilized by the powers of the mind in order 
to be presented to the senses of others as a creative work 
of art. The grander style of heroic landscape-painting is 
the combined result of a profound appreciation of nature, 
and of this inward process of the mind. 

" Everywhere, in every separate portion of the earth, nature 
is indeed only a reflex of the whole. The forms of organi- 
zation recur again and again in different combinations. Even 
the icy north is cheered for months together by the presence 
of herbs and large Alpine blossoms covering the earth, and by 
a mild azure sky. Hitherto landscape painting among us 
has pursued her graceful labours familiar only with the 
simpler forms of our native floras, but not therefore without 
depth of feeling and richness of creative fancy. Dwelling 
only on the native and indigenous form of our vegeta- 
tion, this branch of art, notwithstanding that it has been 
circumscribed by such narrow limits, has yet afforded 
sufficient scope for highly-gifted painters, such as the Ca- 
racci, Gaspar Poussin, Claude Lorraine, and Ruysdael, to 
produce the happiest and most varied creations of art, by 
their magical power of managing the grouping of trees, and 
the effects of light and shade. That progress which may 
still be expected in art, from a more animated intercourse 
with the tropical world, and from ideas engendered in the 
mind of the artist by the contemplation of Nature in her 
grandest forms, will never diminish the fame of the old 
masters. I have alluded to this, to recal the ancient bond 
which unites a knowledge of Nature with poetry and a taste 
for art. For in landscape painting, as in every other branch 
of art, a distinction must be drawn between the elements 
generated by a limited field of contemplation and direct 
observation, and those which spring from the boundless depth 
of feeling, and from the force of idealising mental power. 
The grand conceptions which landscape painting, as a more or 
less inspired branch of the poetry of nature, owes to the 
creative power of the mind, are, like man himself, and the 
imaginative faculties with which he is endowed, independent 
of place. These remarks especially refer to the grada- 
tions in the form of trees from Ruysdael and Everdingen, 
through the works of Claude Lorraine, to Poussin and 
Annibal Caracci. In the great masters of art there is no 


indication of local limitation. But an extension of the visible 
horizon, and an acquaintance with the nobler and grander 
forms of nature, and with the luxuriant fulness of life in 
tropical regions, afford the advantage of not simply enriching 
the material groundwork of landscape-painting, but also of in- 
ducing more vivid impressions in the minds of less highly gifted 
painters, and thus heightening their powers of artistic creation." 

(35) p. 230 — ''''From the thick and rough bark of the Crescen- 

tice and Gustavia." 

In Crescentia Cujete (the Tutuma tree, whose large fruit- 
shells are so indispensable to the natives as household utensils), 
in Cynometra, the Cacao-tree {Theobromci), and the Perigara 
Gustavia (Linn.), the tender blossoms burst forth from the 
half-carbonized bark. When children eat the fruit of the 
Pirigara speciosa (the Chupo), their whole bodies become 
tinged with yellow ; and this jaundice, after a continuance of 
from twenty-four to thirty-six hours, disappears without the 
use of medicine. 

An indelible impression was produced on my mind by the 
luxuriant power of vegetation in the tropical world, when, on 
entering a Cacao plantation (Caca hual), in the Valles de 
Aragua, after a damp night, I saw for the first time large 
blossoms springing from the root of a Theobroma, deeply im- 
bedded in the black soil. This is one of the most instantan- 
eous manifestations of the activity of the vegetative force of 
organisation. Northern nations speak of " the awakening 
of Nature at the first genial breath of Spring ;" — expressions 
that strongly contrast with the imaginative complaint of the 
Stagirite, who regarded vegetable forms as buried in a " still 
sleep, from which there is no awakening, and free from the 
desires that excite to spontaneous motion.''* 

(36) p. 230 — " Draw on their heads as caps." 
These are the flowers of our Aristolochia cordata, to which 
reference has been made in Illustration 25. The largest 
flowers in the world, besides those belonging to the Com- 
posita) (the Mexican Helianthus annuus), are produced by 
Rajjicsia Arnoldi, Aristolochia, Datura, Barringtonia, Gustavia, 
Carolinea, Lecythis, Nymphaa, Nelumbium, Victoria Pegina, 
Magnolia, Cactus, the Orchideae, and the Liliaceous forms. 

* Aristot. DeGenerat. Animal, v. i. p. 778, and DeSomno et Vigil. 
cap. i. p. 455, Bekker. 


(37) p. 231 — " The luminous worlds which spangle the firma- 
ment from pole to pole" 

The more magnificent portion of the southern sky, in which 
shine the constellations of the Centaur, Argo, and the South- 
ern Cross, where the Magellanic clouds shed their pale light, 
is for ever concealed from the eyes of the inhabitants of 
Europe. It is only under the equator that man enjoys the 
glorious spectacle of all the stars of the southern and northern 
heavens revealed at one glance. Some of our northern con- 
stellations, — as, for instance, Ursus Major and Ursus Minor, 
— owing to their low position when seen from the region of 
the equator, appear to be of a remarkable, almost fearful mag- 
nitude. As the inhabitant of the tropics beholds all stars, so 
too, in regions where plains, deep valleys, and lofty mountains 
are alternated, does Nature surround him with representatives 
of every form of vegetation. 

In the foregoing sketch of a " Physiognomy of Plants," I 
have endeavoured to keep in view three nearly allied subjects, 
— the absolute diversity of forms ; their numerical relations, i.e. 
their local preponderance in the whole number of phanerogamic 
floras j and their geographical and climatic distribution. If 
we would rise to a general view regarding vital forms ; — the 
physiognomy, the study of the numerical relations (the arith- 
metic of botany), and the geography of plants (the study of 
the local zones of distribution), cannot, as it seems to me, be 
separated from one another. The study of the physiognomy 
of plants must not be exclusively directed to the consideration 
of the striking contrasts of form which the larger organisms 
present, when considered separately ; but it must rise to 
the recognition of the laws which determine physiognomy of 
nature generally, the picturesque character of vegetation over 
the whole surface of the earth, and the vivid impression pro- 
duced by the grouping of contrasted forms in different zones 
of latitude and elevation. It is when concentrated into this 
focus that we first clearly perceive the close and intimate 
connection existing between the subjects treated of in the 
preceding pages. We have here entered upon a field of 
inquiry hitherto but little cultivated. I have ventured to 
follow the method first propounded with such brilliant results 
in Aristotle's zoological works, and which is so especially 
adapted to establish scientific confidence, — a method in which 


the incessant effort to arrive at a generalisation of ideas sup- 
ported by individual illustrations, is associated with an endea- 
vour to penetrate to the specialities of phenomena. 

The enumeration of forms is, from the physiognomical differ- 
ence of their nature, incapable of any strict classification. 
Here, as everywhere in the consideration of external forms, 
there are certain main types which present the strongest con- 
trasts, — as the groups of the Arborescent Grasses, the Aloe 
form and the species of Cactus, Palms, Acicular-leaved trees, 
Mimosacese, and Bananas. Even scantily dispersed individuals 
belonging to these groups determine the character of a district, 
and produce a lasting impression on the mind of the unscien- 
tific but susceptible beholder. Other forms, perhaps more 
numerous and preponderating, may not appear equally marked 
either by the shape or position of the leaves ; the relation of 
the stem to the branches, luxuriant vigour, animation, and 
grace; or even by the melancholy contraction of the leaf-organs. 

As, therefore, a physiognomical classification, or a distribu- 
tion into groups according to external appearance, does not 
admit of being applied to the whole vegetable kingdom col- 
lectively, the basis on which such a classification should be 
grounded must necessarily be wholly different from that which 
has been so happily chosen for the establishment of our com- 
prehensive systems of the natural families of plants. Vege- 
table physiognomy grounds its divisions and the choice of its 
types on all that possesses mass, — as the stem, branches, and 
appendicular organs (the form, position, and size of the leaf, 
the character and brilliancy of the parenchyma), and conse- 
quently on all that is now included under the special term, the 
organs of vegetation, and on which depend the preservation 
(nourishment and development) of the individual ; while sys- 
tematic botany, on the other hand, bases the arrangement of 
the natural families of plants on a consideration of the organs 
of propagation, on which depends the preservation of the 
species.* 1 It was already taught in the school of Aristotle,f 
that the generation of seed is the idtimate aim of the being 
and life of a plant. The process of development in the organs 
of fructification has become, since Caspar Fried. Wolf, J and 

* Kimth, Lehrbuck der Boianih, 1847. Th. i. s. 511; Schleiden, 
Die Pflanze und ihr Leben, 1848, s. 100, 
t Probl 20, 7. 
£ Theoria Gencrationis, § 5 — 9. 


our great poet Goethe, the morphological basis of all syste- 
matic botany. 

This science and that also of vegetable physiognomy proceed, 
I would here again observe, from two different points of view ; 
the former depending upon an accordance in the inflorescence 
and in the reproduction of the delicate sexual organs ; the 
latter on the conformation of the parts constituting the axes 
(the stem and branches) and on the outline of the leaves, 
which are mainly determined by the distribution of the vas- 
cular bundles. As, moreover, the stem and branches, to- 
gether with their appendicular organs, predominate by mass 
and volume, they determine and strengthen the impression we 
receive, while they individualize the physiognomical character 
of the vegetation, as well as that of the landscape or the zone 
in which some distinguished types occur. The law is here 
expressed by the accordance and affinity in the marks apper- 
taining to the vegetative, i.e. the nutritient organs. In all 
European colonies the inhabitants have been led by resem- 
blances of physiognomy {habitus, fades) to apply the names of 
European forms to certain tropical plants, which bear wholly 
different flowers and fruits from the genera to which these 
designations originally referred. Everywhere in both hemi- 
spheres, the northern settler has believed he could recognise 
Alders, Poplars, Apple and Olive trees ; being misled for the 
most part by the form of the leaves and the direction of the 
branches. The charm associated with the remembrance of 
native forms has strengthened the illusion, and European 
names of plants have thus been perpetuated from generation to 
generation in the slave colonies, where they have been further 
enriched by denominations borrowed from the negro languages. 

A remarkable phenomenon is presented by the contrast 
frequently observed to arise from a striking accordance in 
physiognomy, coupled with the greatest difference in the 
organs of inflorescence and fructification — between the external 
form as determined by the appendicular or leaf-system, and 
the sexual organs on which are based the various groups 
of the natural systems of botany. One would be disposed d 
priori to believe that the aspect of vegetative organs (leaves) 
exclusively so called, must depend upon the structure of the 
organs of reproduction, but this dependence has only been 
observed in a very small number of families, as Ferns, 
Grasses, Cyperacese, Palms, Conifera?, Umbelliferse, and 


Aroideae. In the Leguminosae this accordance between the 
physiognomical character and the inflorescence can scarcely 
be recognized, excepting where they are separated into 
groups (as Papilionaceae, Caesalpinineae, and Mimosaceae.) The 
types which exhibit, when compared together, a very different 
structure of inflorescence and fructification, notwithstanding- 
external accordance in physiognomy, are Palms and Cycadeae, 
the latter being most nearly allied to the Coniferae ; Cucusta, 
belonging to the Convolvulaceae, and the leafless Cassytha, a 
parasitical Laurinea ; Eqidsetum (from the division of the 
Cryptogamia) and Ephedra (a coniferous tree). The Gros- 
sulareaj (Ribes) are so nearly allied by their efflorescence to 
Cactuses, *. e. the family of the Opuntiaceae , that it is only 
very lately that they have been separated from them ! One 
common family (that of the Asphodelea?) comprises the 
gigantic tree, Dracaena Draco, the Common Asparagus, and 
the coloured flowering Aletris. Simple and compound leaves 
frequently belong not only to the same family, but even to the 
same genus. We found in the elevated plateaux of Peru and 
New Granada among twelve new species of Weinmannia, five 
with simple, and the remainder with pinnate leaves. The 
genus Aralia exhibits yet greater independence in the leaf- 
form, which is either simple, entire, lobed, digitate, or pinnate.* 

Pinnate leaves appear to me to belong especially to those 
families which occupy the highest grade of organic develop- 
ment, as for instance, the Polypetalce ; among perigynic plants, 
the Leguminosce, Rosaceae, Terebinthaceae, and Juglandeae ; 
among hypocjynic plants the Aurantiaceae, Cedrelaceae, and 
Sapindaceae. The elegant form of the doubly pinnate leaf, 
which constitutes so great an adornment of the torrid zone, is 
most frequently met with among the Leguminosae ; among the 
Mimosaceae, and also among some Caesalpinias, Coulterias and 
Gleditschias ; but never, as Kunth has observed, among the 

The form of pinnate, and more especially of compound 
leaves, is unknown in Gentianeae, Rubiaceae, and Myrtaceae. 
In the morphological development presented by the richness 
and varied aspect of the appendicular organs of dicotyledons, 
we are only able to recognize a very small number of general 

* See Kunth, Synopsis Plantarum qaas in itinere collegerunt Al. 
de Humboldt et Am. Bonpland, t. iii. pp. 87, 360. 






(This Memoir was read at a Public Meeting of the Academy, at 
Berlin, on the 24th January, 1823.) 

When we consider the influence exerted on the study of 
nature during the last few centuries, by the extension of geo- 
graphical knowledge and by means of scientific expeditions 
to remote regions of the earth, we are at once made sensible 
of the various character of this influence, according as the 
investigations have been directed to the forms of the organic 
world, the study of the inorganic crust of the earth, or to the 
knowledge of rocks, their relative ages, and their origin. 
Different vegetable and animal developments exist in every 
division of the earth, whether it be on the plains, v. here, on 
a level with the sea, the temperature varies with the latitude 
and with the various inflections of the isothermal lines, or on 
the steep declivity of mountain ranges, warmed by the direct 
rays of the sun. Organic nature imparts to every region of 
the globe its own characteristic physiognomy. Bui this 
does not apply to the inorganic crust of the earth divested of 
its vegetable covering, for everywhere, in both hemispheres, 
from the equator to the poles, the same rocks are found 
grouped with some relation to each other, either of attrac- 
tion or repulsion. In distant lands, surrounded by strange 

2 a 


forms of vegetation, and beneath a sky beaming with other 
stars than those to which his eye had been accustomed, the 
mariner often recognises, with joyful surprise, argillaceous 
schists and rocks familiar to him in his native land. 

This independence of geological relations on the actual 
condition of climates does not diminish the beneficial influ- 
ence exercised on the progress of mineralogy and physical 
geognosy by the numerous observations instituted in distant 
regions of the earth, but simply gives a particular direction 
to them. Every expedition enriches natural history with new 
genera of plants and animals. At one time we acquire a 
knowledge of new organic forms which are allied to types 
long familiar to us, and which not unfrequently, by furnishing 
links till then deficient, enable us to establish, in all its ori- 
ginal perfection, an uninterrupted chain of natural structures. 
At another time we become acquainted with isolated struc- 
tures, which appear either as the remains of extinct genera, 
or members of unknown groups, the discovery of which sti- 
mulates further research. It is not, however, from the inves- 
tigation of the earth's crust that we acquire these manifold 
additions to our knowledge, for here we meet rather with an 
uniformity in the constituent parts, in the super-position of 
dissimilar masses, and in their regular recurrence, which 
cannot fail to excite the surprise and admiration of the 
geologist. In the chain of the Andes, as in the mountains 
of Central Europe, one formation appears, as it were, to call 
forth another. Masses identical in character assume the same 
forms; basalt and dolerite compose twin mountains; dolo- 
mite, sandstone, and porphyry form abrupt rocky walls ; while 
vitreous trachyte, containing a large proportion of feldspar, 
rises in bell-shaped and high-vaulted domes. In the most 
remote regions large crystals are separated in a similar manner 
from the compact texture of the fundamental mass, and, 
blending and grouping together into subordinate strata, fre- 
quently announce the commencement of new and independent 


formations. It is thus that the inorganic world may be said 
to reflect itself, more or less distinctly, in every mountain of 
any great extent. It is necessary, however, in order perfectly 
to understand the most important phenomena of the com- 
position, relative age, and origin of formations, to compare 
together the observations made in regions of the earth most 
"widely remote from each other. Problems which have long 
baffled the geologist in his own northern region, find their 
solution in the vicinity of the equator. If, as we have 
already observed, remote regions do not present us with 
new formations, that is to say, with unknown groupings of 
simple substances, they at least help us to unravel the great 
and universal laws of nature, by showing how different strata 
of the crust of the earth are mutually superimposed on, and 
intersect, each other in the form of veins, or rise to different 
elevations in obedience to elastic forces. 

Although our geological knowledge may be thus exten- 
sively augmented by researches over vast regions, it can hard'y 
be a matter of surprise that the class of phenomena constitut- 
ing the principal subject of this address should have been so 
long examined in an imperfect manner, since the means of 
comparison were of difficult, and almost, it may be said, 
of laborious access. 

Until towards the close of the eighteenth century all that 
was known of the form of volcanos and of the action of their 
subterranean forces was derived from observations made on 
two volcanic mountains of Southern Italy, Vesuvius and 
Etna. As the former of these was the more accessible, and 
(like all volcanos of slight elevation) had frequent eruptions, 
a hill became to a certain degree the type according to 
which a whole world — the mighty volcanos of Mexico, South 
America, and the Asiatic Islands — was supposed to be formed. 
Such a mode of reasoning involuntarily calls to mind Virgil's 
shepherd, who believed that in his own humble cot he saw 
the image of the eternal city, Imperial Rome. 

2 A 2 


This imperfect mode of studying nature might indeed have 
been obviated by a more attentive examination of the whole 
Mediterranean, and especially of its eastern islands and littoral 
districts, where mankind first awoke to intellectual culture and 
to a higher standard of feelins;. Anions: the Soorades, trachvtic 
rocks have risen from the bottom of the sea, and have formed 
islands similar to those of the Azores, which in the course of 
three centuries have appeared periodically at three almost 
equal intervals of time. Between Epidaurus and Treezene, 
near Methone, in the Peloponnesus, there is a Monte Nuovo, 
described by Strabo and since by Dodwell. Its elevation 
is greater than that of the Monte Nuovo of the Phlesrcean 
fields near Baioe, and perhaps even than that of the 
new volcano of Xorullo, in the plains of Mexico, which I 
found to be surrounded by many thousand small basaltic 
cones, upheaved from the earth, and still emitting smoke. 
It is not only in the basin of the Mediterranean, that volcanic 
fires escape from the permanent craters of isolated moun- 
tains having a constant communication with the interior of 
the earth, as Stromboli, Vesuvius, and Etna ; for at Ischia, and 
on Mount Epomeus, and also, according to the accounts of the 
ancients, in the Lelantine plain, near Chalcis, lavas have 
flowed from fissures which have suddenly opened on the 
surface of the earth. Besides these phenomena, which fall 
within historical periods, that is, within the narrow bounds 
of authentic tradition, and which Ritter purposes collecting 
and explaining in his masterly work on geography, the 
shores of the Mediterranean present numerous remains of 
the earlier action of fire. The south of France exhibits in 
Auvergne a distinct and peculiar system of volcanos, linearly 
arranged, trachvtic domes alternating with cones of eruption, 
emitting lava streams in the form of bands. The plains of 
Lombardy, which are on a level with the sea, and con- 
stitute the innermost bay of the Adriatic, inclose the tra- 
chyte of the Euganean Hills, where rise domes of granular 


trachyte, obsidian, and pearl-stone. These masses are deve- 
loped from each other, and break through the lower chalk 
formations and nummnlitic limestone, but have never been 
emitted in narrow streams. Similar evidence of former 
revolutions of our earth, is afforded in many parts of the 
Greek Continent and in Western Asia, countries which will 
undoubtedly some day yield the geologist ample materials for 
investigation, when the light of knowledge shall again shine 
on those lands whence it first dawned on our western world, 
and when oppressed humanity shall cease to groan beneath 
the weight of Turkish barbarism. 

I allude to the geographical proximity of such numerous and 
various phenomena in order to show that the basin of the 
Mediterranean, with its series of islands, might have enabled 
the attentive observer to note all those phenomena which 
have recently been discovered under various forms and struc- 
tures in South America, Tcneriffe, and in the Aleutian 
islands, near the Polar region. The materials for observation 
were, no doubt, accumulated within a narrow compass ; but 
it was yet necessary that travels in distant countries and 
comparisons between extensive tracts of land, both in and out 
of Europe, should be undertaken, in order to obtain a correct 
idea of the resemblance between volcanic phenomena and of 
their dependence on each other. 

Language, which so frequently imparts permanence and 
authority to first, and often also erroneous views, but 
which points, as it were, instinctively to the truth, has 
applied the term volcanic to all eruptions of subter- 
ranean fire and molten matter; to columns of smoke and 
vapour which ascend sporadically from rocks, as at Colares, 
after the great earthquake of Lisbon; to Salses, or argil- 
laceous cones emitting moist mud, asphalt, and hydrogen, 
as at Girgenti in Sicily, and at Turbaco in South America; 
to hot Geyser springs, which rise under the pressure of elastic 
vapours; and, in general, to all operations of impetuous 


natural forces which have their seat deep in the interior of 
our planet. In Central America (Guatimala) and in the 
Philippine Islands, the natives even formally distinguish 
between Volcanes de ajua y de fuego, volcanos emitting 
water, and those emitting fire; designating by the former 
appellation, mountains from which subterranean waters burst 
forth from time to time, accompanied by a dull hollow sound 
and violent earthquakes. 

Without denying the connection, which undoubtedly exists 
among the phenomena just referred to, it would seem ad- 
visable to apply more definite terms to the physical as well 
as to the mineralogical portion of the science of geology, and 
not at one time to designate by the word volcano a mountain 
terminating in a permanent fire-emitting mouth, and at 
another to apply it to any subterranean cause, be it what it 
may, of volcanic action. In the present condition of our 
earth, the form of isolated conical mountains (as those of 
Vesuvius, Etna, the Peak of Teneriffe, Tunguragua and 
Cotopaxi) is certainly the shape most commonly observed 
in volcanos. I have myself seen such volcanos varying in 
height from the most inconsiderable hill to an elevation of 
more than 19,000 feet above the level of the sea. Besides 
such conical forms, however, we continually meet with per- 
manent fire-emitting mouths, in which the communication 
with the interior of the earth is maintained on far-extended 
jagged ridges, and not even always from the centre of their 
mural summits, but at their extremity towards their slope. 
Such, for instance, is Pichincha, situated between the 
Pacific and the city of Quito, which has acquired celebrity 
from Bouguer's earliest barometric formulae, and such are 
the volcanos on the Steppe de los Pastos, situate at 
more than 10.000 feet above the level of the sea. All these 
variously shiped summits consist of trachyte, formerly known 
as trap-porphyry; a granular stone full of narrow fissures, 
composed of different kinds of feldspar (labradorite, oligoklase, 


and albite), augite, hornblende, and sometimes interspersed 
mica, and even quartz. Wherever the evidences of the first 
eruption, the ancient structures — if I may use the expression 
— remain complete, the isolated cone is surrounded, circus - 
like, with a high wall of rock consisting of different super- 
imposed strata, encompassing it like an outer sheath. Such 
walls or circular inclosures are termed craters of elevation, 
and constitute a great and important phenomenon, upon 
which that eminent geologist, Leopold von Buch, from whose 
writings I have borrowed many facts advanced in this trea- 
tise, presented so remarkable a paper to our Academy five 
years ago. 

Volcanos which communicate with the atmosphere by 
means of fire-emitting mouths, such as conical basaltic hills, 
and dome-like craterless trachytic mountains, (the latter being 
sometimes low, like the Sarcouy, and sometimes high, like the 
Chimborazo,) form various groups. Comparative geography 
draws our attention, at one time, to small Archipelagos or 
independent mountain-systems, with craters and lava streams, 
like those in the Canary Isles and the Azores, and without 
craters or true lava streams, as in the Euganean hills, and the 
Siebengebirge near Bonn; at another time, it makes us ac- 
quainted with volcanos arranged in single or double chains, 
and extending for many hundred miles in length, cither 
running parallel with the main direction of the range, as in 
Guatimala, Peru, and Java, or intersecting its axis at right 
angles, as in tropical Mexico. In this land of the Aztecs fire- 
emitting trachytic mountains alone attain the high snow limit: 
they are ranged in the direction of a parallel of latitude, 
and have probably been upheaved from a chasm extending 
over upwards of 420 miles, intersecting the whole continent 
from the Pacific to the Atlantic. 

This crowding together of volcanos, cither in rounded 
groups or double lines, affords the most convincing proof 
that their action does not depend on slight causes located 


near the surface, but that they are great and deep-seated phe- 
nomena. The whole of the eastern portion of the American 
continent, which is poor in metals, has in its present condi- 
tion no fire-emitting openings, no trachytic masses, and 
perhaps no basalt containing olivine. All the volcanos of 
America are united in the portion of the continent opposite to 
Asia, along the chain of the Ancles, which runs nearly due 
north and south over a distance of more than 7200 miles. 

The whole elevated table -land of Quito, which is surmounted 
by the high mountains of Pichincha, Cotopaxi, and Tunguragna, 
constitutes one sole volcanic hearth. The subterranean fire 
bursts sometimes from one and sometimes from another of 
these openings, which have generally been regarded as inde- 
pendent volcanos. The progressive movement of the fire 
has, for three centuries, inclined from north to south. Even 
the earthquakes, which so fearfully devastate this portion 
of the globe, afford striking evidence of the existence of sub- 
terranean communications, not only between countries where 
there are no volcanos — as has long been known — but likewise 
between volcanic apertures situated at a distance from each 
other. Thus the volcano of Pasto, cast of the river Guay tara, 
continued during three months of the year 1797, to emit, 
uninterruptedly, a lofty column of smoke, until it suddenly 
ceased at the moment of the great earthquake of Piobamba, 
(at a distance of 240 miles.) and the mud eruption of the 
k " Moya," in which from thirty to forty thousand Indians 

The sudden appearance, on the 30th of January, 1811, of 
the island of Sabrina, in the group of the Azores, was the 
precursor of the dreadful earthquakes which, further westward, 
• )k. from May, 1811, to June, 1813, almost uninterruptedly, 
first the Antilles, then the plains of the Ohio and Mississippi, 
and lastly, the opposite coasts of Venezuela or Caracas. Thirty 
days after the total destruction of the beautiful capital of the 
province, there was an eruption of the long inactive volcano 


of St. Vincent, in the neighbouring islands of the Antilles. 
A remarkable phenomenon accompanied this eruption: at the 
moment of this explosion, which occurred on the 30th of April, 
1 81 1 , a terrible subterranean noise was heard in South America, 
over a district of more than 35,000 square miles. The inha- 
bitants of the banks of the Apure, at the confluence of the Kio 
Nula, and those living on the remote sea-coast of Venezuela, 
agreed in comparing this sound to the noise of heavy artillery. 
The distance from the confluence of the Rio Nula with the 
Apure (by which I entered the Orinoco) to the volcano of St. 
Vincent, measured in a straight line, is no less than 628 miles. 
This noise was certainly not propagated through the air, and 
must have arisen from some deep-seated subterranean cause; 
its intensity was, moreover, hardly greater on the shores of 
the Caribbean sea, near the seat of the raging volcano, than in 
the interior of the country in the basin of the Apure and the 

It would be useless to multiply examples of this nature, 
by adducing others which I have collected : I will therefore 
only refer to one further instance, namely, the memorable 
earthquake of Lisbon, an important phenomenon in the annals 
of Europe. Simultaneously with this event, which took 
place on the 1st of November, 1755, not only were the Lakes 
of Switzerland and the sea off the Swedish coasts violently 
agitated, but in the eastern portion of the Antilles, near the 
islands of Martinique, Antigua, and Barbadoes, the tide, 
which never exceeds thirty inches, suddenly rose upwards of 
twenty feet. All these phenomena prove, that subterranean 
forces are manifested either dynamically, expansively, and 
attended by commotion, in earthquakes ; or possess the property 
of producing, or of chemically modifying substances in volca- 
nos; and they further show, that these forces are not seated 
near the surface in the thin crust of the earth, but deep in the 
interior of our planet, whence through fissures and unfilled 
veins they act simultaneously at widely distant points of the 
earth's surface. 


The more varied the structure of volcanos. that is to say, 
of elevations inclosing a channel through which the molten 
masses of the interior of the earth reach the surface, the 
more important it is to form a correct idea of these structures 
by careful measurement. The interest derived from mea- 
surements of this kind, which I made a special subject of 
inquiry in the western hemisphere, is increased by the consi- 
deration, that the objects to be measured vary in magnitude 
at different points. A philosophical study of nature seeks, in 
considering the changes of phenomena, to connect the present 
with the past. 

In order to ascertain the periodic recurrence, or the laws 
of the progressive changes in nature, we require certain fixed 
points, and carefully conducted observations, which, by their 
connection with definite epochs, may serve as a basis for 
numerical comparisons. If the mean temperature of the atmo- 
sphere and of the earth in different latitudes, or the mean 
height of the barometer at the sea level, had been deter- 
mined only once in every thousand years, we should know to 
what extent the heat of climates has increased or diminished, 
and whether any changes have taken place in the height of the 
atmosphere. Such points of comparison are especially required 
to determine the inclination and declination of the magnetic 
needle, and the intensity of those electro-magnetic forces on 
which Seebeckand Erman, two admirable physicists belonging 
to this Acadcmv, have thrown so much lisrht. If it be a meri- 
torious undertaking on the part of learned societies to investi- 
gate with perseverance the cosmical changes in the heat and 
pressure of the atmosphere, and particularly the magnetic 
direction and intensity, it is no less the duty of the travelling 
geologist to direct attention to the varying height of volcanos 
in determining the inequalities of the earth's surface. The 
observations which I formerly made in the Mexican mountains, 
at the volcano of Toluca, at Popocatepetl, at the Cofre do 
Perote, or Nauhcampatepetl, and Xorullo, and in the Andes 


of Quito at Pichinciia, I have had opportunities since my 
return to Europe of repeating, at different periods, on Mount 
Vesuvius. Where complete trigonometric or barometric mea- 
surements are wanting, their place ma}'' be supplied by angles 
of altitude laid down with precision, and taken at points accu- 
rately determined. The comparison of such determinations, 
made at different periods of time, may sometimes be even 
preferable to the complication of more complete operations. 

Saussure measured Vesuvius in 1773, and at that time 
both the north-western and south-eastern margins of the 
crater appeared to him to be equal in height. He found 
their elevation above the level of the sea to be 3894 feet. 
The eruption of 1794 occasioned a foiling in towards the 
south, and an inequality in the margins of the crater, which 
may be distinguished from a considerable distance even by 
the most unpractised eye. Leopold von Buch, Gay Lussac, 
and myself, measured Mount Vesuvius three times in the year 
1805, and found that the elevation of the northern margin, la 
Kocca del Palo, opposite the Somma, was exactly as it had 
been given by Saussure, while the southern margin was 479 
feet lower than it had been in 1773. The elevation of the 
volcano itself towards Torre del Greco (the side towards which, 
for thirty years, the volcanic action has been principally 
directed) had, at that time, decreased one-eighth. The cone 
of cinders bears to the total height of Vesuvius the relation 
of 1 : 3; in Pichincha, the ratio is as 1 : 10, and at the Peak 
of Teneriffe, as 1 : 22. Of these three volcanic mountains, 
Vesuvius has, therefore, comparatively, the highest cone of 
cinders ; probably because, being a volcano of inconsiderable 
height, it has chiefly acted through its summit. 

A few months ago, in the year 1822, I succeeded not only 
in repeating my earlier barometric measurements of Mount 
Vesuvius, but also in determining more completely all the 
margins of the crater (1) during three ascents of the moun- 


These determinations are, perhaps, deserving of some 
degree of attention, since they embrace the long period of 
the great eruptions between 1805 and 1822, and are probably 
the only measurements hitherto published of any volcano 
which admit of comparison in all their parts. They prove, 
that the margins of the crater should be regarded as a much 
more permanent jmenomenon than has hitherto been supposed, 
from the hasty observations made on the subject; and that 
this character appertains to them everywhere, and not merely 
in those instances where, as at the Peak of Teneriffe, and in all 
the volcanos of the Andes, they evidently consist of trachyte. 
According to my latest determinations it would seem, that 
since the time of Saussuie, a period of forty-nine years, the 
north-western margin of Vesuvius has probably not changed 
at all, and that the south-eastern one, in the direction of 
Bosche Tre Case, which in 1794 had become 42G feet lower, 
has since then only altered about 64 feet. 

If, in the newspaper reports of great eruptions, we often 
find assertions made of an entire change of form in Mount 
Vesuvius, and if these assertions appear to be confirmed by 
the picturesque views of the volcano made at Naples, the 
cause of the error arises from the outlines of the margins of 
the crater having been confounded with those of the cones of 
eruption accidentally formed in its centre, the bottom of 
which has been raised by the force of vapours. A cone 
of eruption of this kind, formed by the accumulation of 
masses of rapilli and scoria?, gradually came to view, 
above the south-eastern margin of the crater, between the 
years 1816 and 1818. The eruption in the month of 
February, 1822, increased this cone to such an elevation, 
that it projected from 107 to 117 feet above the north- 
western margin of the crater (the Ilccca del Palo). This re- 
markable cone, which was at length regarded at Naples as the 
actual summit of Vesuvius, fell in with a fearful crash at the last 
eruption, on the night of the 22nd of October; in consequence 


of which, the bottom of the crater, which had continued unin- 
terruptedly accessible from the year 1811, is now nearly 800 
feet below the northern and 213 feet below the southern 
margin of the volcano. The varying form and relative posi- 
tion of the cones of eruption, the apertures of which must not, 
as they sometimes are, be confounded with the crater of the 
volcano, give to Vesuvius at different epochs a peculiar 
physiognomy; so much so, that the historiographer of this 
volcano, by a mere inspection of Hackert's landscapes in the 
Palace of Portici, might guess the exact year in which the 
artist had made his sketch, by the outline of the summit 
of the mountain, according as the northern or southern side is 
represented in respect to height. 

Twenty-four hours after the fall of the cone of scoria?, which 
was 426 feet high, and when the small but numerous streams 
of lava had flowed off, on the night between the 23rd and 
24th of October, there began a fiery eruption of ashes and 
rapilli, which continued uninterruptedly for twelve clays, but 
was most violent during the first four clays. During this 
period the explosions in the interior of the volcano were so loud 
that the mere vibrations of the air caused the ceilings to crack 
in the Palace of Portici, although no shocks of an earthquake 
were then or had previously been experienced. A remarkable 
phenomenon was observed in the neighbouring villages of 
Kesina, Torre del Greco, Torre del' Armunziata, and Bosche 
Tre Case. Here the atmosphere was so completely saturated 
with ashes that the whole region was enveloped in complete 
darkness during many hours in the middle of the day. The 
inhabitants were obliged to carry lanterns with them through 
the streets, as is often done in Quito during the eruptions of 
Pichincha. Never had the flight of the inhabitants been more 
general, for lava streams are less dreaded even than an erup- 
tion of ashes, a phenomenon unknown here in any degree of 
intensity, and one wdiick fills the imaginations of men with 
images of terror from the va<rae tradition of the manner 



in which Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabia) were de- 

The hot aqueous vapour which issued from the crater 
during the eruption, and diffused itself thro ugh the atmosphere, 
formed, on cooling, a dense cloud, which enveloped the column 
of ashes and fire, that rose to an elevation of between 9000 
and 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. So sudden a 
condensation of vapour, and, as Gay Lussac has shown, the 
formation of the cloud itself, tended to increase electric tension. 
Flashes of forked lightning darted in all directions from the 
column of ashes, while the rolling thunder might be clearly 
distinguished from the deep rumbling sounds within the vol- 
cano. In no other eruption had the play of the electric forces 
been so powerfully manifested as on this occasion. 

On the morning of the 26th of October the strange report 
w T as circulated that a stream of boiling water was gushing 
from the crater, and pouring down the cone of cinders. Mon- 
ticelli, the zealous and learned observer of the volcano, soon 
perceived that this erroneous report originated in an optical 
illusion, and that the supposed stream of water was a great 
quantity of dry ashes which issued like drift sand from a 
crevice in the highest margin of the crater. The long drought, 
which had parched and desolated the fields before this erup- 
tion of Vesuvius, was succeeded, towards the termination of 
the phenomenon, by a continued and violent rain, occasioned 
by the volcanic storrn which we have just described. A simi- 
lar phenomenon characterizes the termination of an eruption 
in all zones of the earth. As the cone of cinders is usually 
wrapped in clouds at this period, and as the rain is 
poured forth with most violence near this portion of the vol- 
cano, streams of mud are generally observed to descend from 
the sides in all directions. The terrified peasant looks upon 
them as streams of water that rise from the interior of the 
volcano and overflow the crater, while the deceived geologist 
believes that he can recognise in them either sea- water or 


muddy products of the volcano, the so-called eruptions boueuses, 
or, in the language of the old French systematisers, products 
of an igneo-aqueous liquefaction. 

Where, as is generally the case in the chain of the Andes, 
the summit of the volcano penetrates beyond the snow-line, 
attaining sometimes an elevation twice as great as that of 
Mount Etna, the inundations we have described are rendered 
very frequent and destructive, owing to the melting and per- 
meating snow. 

These are phenomena which have a meteorological connec- 
tion with the eruptions of volcanos, and are variously modified 
by the heights of the mountains, the circumference of the 
summits which are perpetually covered with snow, and the 
degree to which the walls of cinder cones become heated ; but 
they cannot be regarded in the light of true volcanic phenomena. 
Subterranean lakes, communicating by various channels with 
the mountain streams, are frequently formed in deep and vast 
cavities, either on the declivity or at the base of volcanos. 
When the whole mass of the volcano is powerfully shaken 
by those earthquakes which precede all eruptions of fire in 
the Andes, the subterranean vaults open, and pour forth 
streams of water, fishes, and tuffaceous mud. This singular 
phenomenon brings to mind the Pimelodes Cyelojmm, or the 
Silures of the Cyclops, which the inhabitants of the plateau 
of Quito call Prcnadilla, and of which I gave a circumstantial 
account soon after my return to Europe. When, on the 
night between the 19th and 20th of June, 1698, the summit 
of Mount Carguairazo, situated to the north of Chimborazo, 
and having an elevation of more than 19,000 feet, fell in, all 
the country for nearly 32 square miles was covered with 
mud and fishes. A similar eruption of fish from the volcano 
of Imbaburu was supposed to have caused the putrid fever, 
which, seven years before this period, raged in the town of 

I refer to these facts because they throw some light on the 



difference between the eruption of dry ashes and mud-like inun- 
dations of tuff and trass, investing fragments of wood, charcoal, 
and shells. The quantity of ashes recently erupted from Mount 
Vesuvius, like every phenomenon connected with volcanos 
and other great and fearful natural phenomena, has been 
greatly exaggerated in the public papers ; and two Neapolitan 
chemists, Yicenzo Pepe and Guiseppe di Nobili, even asserted 
that the cinders were mixed with given proportions of gold and 
silver, notwithstanding the counter-statements of Monticelli 
and Covelli. According to my researches the stratum of ashes 
which fell during the twelve days was only three feet in 
thickness in the direction of Bosche Tre Case, on the declivity 
of the cone, where they were mixed with rapilli, while in the 
plains its greatest thickness did not exceed from 16 to 19 
inches. Measurements of this kind must not be made at 
spots where the ashes have been drifted by the wind, like 
snow or sand, or where they have been accumulated in pulp- 
like heaps by means of water. The times are passed in which, 
after the manner of the ancients, nothing was regarded in 
voleauic phenomena save the marvellous, and when men would 
believe, like Ctesias, that the ashes from Etna were borne as 
far as the Indian peninsula. A portion of the Mexican gold 
and silver veins is certainly found in trachytic porphyry, but 
in the ashes of Vesuvius which I myself collected, and which 
were, at my request, examined by that distinguished chemist 
Heinrich Hose, no trace of either gold or silver was to be 

However much these results, which perfectly correspond 
with the more exact observations of Monticelli, may differ from 
those recently announced, it cannot be denied that the erup- 
tion of ashes, which continued from the 24th to the 28th of 
October, is the most memorable that has been recorded, on 
unquestionable evidence, in reference to Mount Vesuvius, 
since the death of the elder Pliny. The quantity of ashes 
erupted on this occasion was probably three times as great 


as the whole quantity which has fallen since volcanic pheno- 
mena have been observed with attention in Italy. A stratum. 
from 16 to 19 inches in thickness does certainly, at first sight, 
seem very inconsiderable, when compared with the mass with 
which we find Pompeii covered. But, without taking into 
account the heavy rains and the inundations which must 
have increased the bulk of this stratum in the course of ages, 
and without reviving the animated contention maintained 
with much scepticism on the other side of the Alps, regarding 
the causes of the destruction of the Campairian cities, it may, 
at any rate, be here observed that the eruptions of a vol- 
cano, at widely remote epochs, cannot be compared with 
respect to their intensity. All conclusions must be insufficient 
that are based on mere analogies of quantitative relations of 
the lava and ashes, the height of the column of smoke, and 
the intensity of the explosions. 

We learn from the geographical description of Strabo, and 
from the opinion expressed by Vitruvius on the volcanic origin 
of pumice, that, until the year of Vespasian's death, that is to 
say, until the eruption which buried Pompeii, Vesuvius 
appeared more like an extinct volcano than a Solfatara. 
When, after a long-continued repose, subterranean forces sud- 
denly opened for themselves new channels, penetrating through 
strata of primitive rock and trachyte, effects must have been 
produced to which no analogy is afforded by those of subsequent 
occurrence. We clearly learn from the well-known letter in 
which Pliny the younger informs Tacitus of the death of his 
uncle, that the renewal of the eruptions, or, one might almost 
say, the revival of the slumbering volcano, began with an 
outbreak of ashes. The same phenomenon was observed at 
Xorulio, when the new volcano, in the month of September, 
1759, breaking through strata of syenite and trachyte, was 
suddenly upheaved in the plain. The country people fled in 
terror on finding their cottages covered with ashes thrown 
up from the earth, which was bursting in every direction. 

2 B 


Iii the ordinary periodical manifestations of volcanic activity 
a shower of ashes usually terminates each partial eruption. 
The letter of the younger Pliny contains, moreover, a 
passage which clearly shows that the dry ashes falling 
from the air immediately attained a height of four or five 
feet, independent of accumulation by drifts. " The court," 
the narrative continues, " which led to the apartment in which 
Pliny took his siesta, was so filled with ashes and pumice 
that, had the sleeper tarried longer, he would have found the 
passage wholly blocked up." Within the inclosed limits of 
a court the wind cannot have exercised any very considerable 
influence on the drifting of the ashes. 

I have interrupted my comparative view of volcanos by 
different observations in relation to Vesuvius, partly on account 
of the great interest excited by its recent eruption, and partly 
because every great outpouring of ashes almost involun- 
tarily recalls to mind the classic soil of Pompeii and Hereu- 
laneum. In a note, not adapted to be read to the audience 
to whom this lecture is addressed, I have collected all the 
elements of the barometric measurements which I made 
during the close of last year at Mount Vesuvius, and in the 
Campi Phlegrau. 

We have hitherto considered the form and effects of those 
volcanos which are permanently connected, by means of a 
crater, with the interior of the earth. The' summits of such 
volcanos are upheaved masses of trachvte and lava intersected 
by numerous veins. The permanency of their effects indi- 
cates a highly complex structure. They have, so to say, a 
certain individuality of character, which remains unaltered 
for long periods of time. Contiguous mountains generally 
yield wholly different products; for instance: leucitic and 
feldspathic lavas, obsidian with pumice, and basaltic masses 
containing olivine. They belong to the more recent pheno- 
mena of the earth, usually breaking through all the strata of 
the floetz formation, and their lava currents and products are 


of subsequent origin to our valleys. Their life, if I may be 
permitted to use a figurative expression, depends upon the 
mode and the duration of their connection with the interior 
of the earth. After continuing for centuries in a state of 
repose, their activity is often suddenly revived, and they then 
become converted into Solfataras, emitting aqueous vapours, 
gases, and acids. Occasionally, as at the Peak of Tcneriffe, 
their summits have already become a laboratory of regene- 
rated sulphur, while considerable lava currents, being basaltic 
near the base, and mixed with obsidian and pumice at greater 
elevations, where the pressure is less, continue to flow from 
the sides of the mountain (2). 

Besides volcanos which have permanent craters, there is 
another kind of volcanic phenomena less frequently observed 
than the former, but especially instructive to the geologist, 
as they remind us of the primitive world, that is, of the 
earliest revolutions of our planet. Trachytic mountains 
suddenly open, and after throwing up ashes and lava, close 
again never perhaps to re-open. Such has been the case with 
the mighty volcano of Antisana in the chain of the Andes, 
and with Mount Epomceus in Ischia, in the year 1302. 
Occasionally such an eruption has occurred even in the 
plains, as on the table-land of Quito, in Iceland at a dis- 
tance from Hecla, and in the Lelantine plains of Eubcea. 
Many upheaved islands belong to this class of transitory 
phenomena. In these cases, the connection with the inte- 
rior of the earth is not permanent, the action ceasing as 
soon as the fissure, or channel of communication, is again 
closed. Veins of basalt, dolerite, and porphyry, which tra- 
verse almost all formations in different parts of the earth; 
and the masses of syenite, augitic porphyry, and amygdaloid, 
which characterise the most recent strata of transition rock, 
and the oldest stratum of the floetz formation ; have all probably 
been formed in a similar manner. In the youthful period of our 
planet, the substances that had continued in a fluid condition 

2 b 2 


within the earth, broke through its erust, everywhere 
intersected with fissures, and became solidified as granular 
veins, or were spread out in broad superimposed strata. 
The products that may be termed exclusively volcanic, which 
have come down to us from the primitive ages of the world, 
have not flowed in streams or bands like the lava of our 
isolated conical mountains. The mixtures of aus;ite. titanic 
iron, feldspar, and hornblende, may have been the same at 
different periods, sometimes allied to basalt, sometimes 
to trachyte ; while chemical substances, (as we learn 
from Mitscherlich's important labours and the analogies 
presented by artificial igneous products,) may have ranged 
themselves in layers according to some definite laws of 
crystallization. In all cases we perceive that substances 
similarly composed have come to the surface of the earth 
by very different means, either by being simply upheaved, 
or escaping: through temporary fissures : and that break- 
ing through the older rocks, that is to say, through the 
earlier oxidized earth's crust, they have flowed in the form of 
lava streams from conical mountains having a permanent 
crater. If we do not sufficiently distinguish between these 
various phenomena, our knowledge of the geology of volcanos 
will again be shrouded in that obscurity, from which nume- 
rous comparative experiments are now beginning gradually 
to release it. 

The questions have often been asked, what is it that burns 
in volcanos, what generates the degree of heat capable 
of mixing earths and metals together in a state of fusion ? 
Modern chemistry has attempted to reply that it is the earths, 
metals, and alkalies themselves, that is to sav, the metal- 
loids of these substances, which burn. The solid and already 
oxidized crust of the earth separates the surrounding atmo- 
sphere, with the oxygen it contains, from the combustible 
unoxidized substances in the interior of our planet. By the 
contact of these metalloids with the atmospheric oxygen 


the disengagement of calorie ensues. The celebrated and 
talented chemist, who advanced this explanation of volcanic 
phenomena, soon himself relinquished it. The experiments 
which have been made in mines and caverns in all parts 
of the earth, and which M. Arago and myself have col- 
lected in a separate treatise, prove that even at an in- 
considerable depth, the temperature of the earth is much 
higher than the mean temperature of the atmosphere at 
the same place. This remarkable, and almost universally 
confirmed fact, is connected with what we learn from 
volcanic phenomena. The depth at which we might re- 
gard the earth as a fused mass, has been calculated. The 
primitive cause of this subterranean heat is, as in all planets, 
the formative process itself, the separation of the spherically 
conglomerating mass from a cosmical aeriform fluid, and the 
cooling of the terrestrial strata at different depths by the radia- 
tion of heat. All volcanic phenomena are probably the result 
of a permanent or transient connection between the interior 
and the exterior of our planet. Elastic vapours press the 
fused oxidizing substances upwards through deep fissures. 
Yolcanos therefore are intermittent earth-springs, from 
which the fluid mixtures of metals, alkalies, and earths, which 
become consolidated into lava currents, flow gently and 
calmly, when being upheaved they find a vent. In a similar 
manner, according to Plato's Phoedon, the ancients regarded 
all volcanic streams of fire as effusions of the Pyriphlegethon. 
I would fain be permitted to add one yet bolder observa- 
tion to those I have already ventured to advance. May not 
the cause of one of the most wonderful phenomena presented 
by the study of petrifactions, be dependent on the condition of 
the inner heat of our planet, which is indicated by thermometric 
experiments on springs (3) rising from different depths, and 
by observations on volcanos? We find tropical animals, 
arborescent ferns, palms, and bamboos, buried in the cold 
north, and everywhere the primitive world presents a distri- 


bution of organic structures wholly at variance with existing 
climatic relations. Many hypotheses have been advanced in 
elucidation of so important a problem, such as the approxima- 
tion of a comet, the altered obliquity of the ecliptic, and the 
increased intensity of the sun's light; but none of these have 
satisfied at once the astronomer, the physicist, and the geo- 
logist. I, for my part, would willingly leave undisturbed 
the axis of the earth or the light of the sun's disk, (from 
whose spots a celebrated astronomer explained fruitfulness 
and failure of crops,) yet it appears to me that in every 
planet there exist, independently of its relations to a cen- 
tral body and its astronomical position, numerous causes 
for the development of heat, in processes of oxidation, in 
precipitation, in the chemically altered capacity of bodies, the 
increase of electro -magnetic tension, and in the channels of 
communication opened between its internal and external 

Wherever, in the primitive world, heat was radiated from 
the deeply fissured crust of the earth, palms, arborescent 
ferns, and all the animals of the torrid zone, could perhaps 
have flourished for centuries over extensive tracts of land. 
According to this view, which I have already published in 
my work entitled Geognostischer Versuch iiber die Lagerung 
der Gebirgsarten in beiden Hemispli'dren* the temperature 
of volcanos would be that of the interior of our earth itself, 
and the same causes which now occasion such fearfully devas- 
tating results, may have been able to produce, in every 
zone, the most luxuriant vegetation on the newly oxidized 
crust of the earth and on the deeply fissured strata of rocks. 

Should it be assumed, for the purpose of explaining the 
wonderful distribution of tropical forms in their ancient mau- 
solea, that the long-haired elephantine animals, which are now 
found embedded in ice, were once indigenous to northern lati- 

* Oeognostical Essay on the superposition of Ro: 7 cs in, both Hemi- 
spheres. 8vo. bond. 1803. 


tudos, and that animals of similar forms, belonging to the same 
type, as, for instance, lions and lynxes, were capable of living 
in wholly different climates, such a mode of explanation would 
at all events not admit of being extended to vegetable pro_ 
ducts. From causes developed by the physiology of vege- 
tation, palms, bananas, and arborescent monocotyledons, are 
unable to endure the deprivation of their appendicular organs, 
by the northern cold; and in the geological problem which 
we are here considering, it seems to me a matter of difficulty 
to admit any distinction between vegetable and animal struc- 
tures. One and the same mode of explanation must be ap- 
plied to both forms. 

In concluding this treatise, I have added some uncertain 
and hypothetical conjectures to the facts which have been 
collected in widely remote regions of the earth. The philoso- 
phical study of nature rises above the requirements of mere 
delineation, and does not consist in the sterile accumulation of 
isolated facts. The active and inquiring spirit of man may 
therefore be occasionally permitted to escape from the present 
into the domain of the past, to conjecture that which cannot 
yet be clearly determined, and thus to revel amid the ancient 
and ever-recurring myths of geology. 


(I) p. 303. — " A more complete determination of the margins 
of the Crater of Mount Vesuvius.'' 
My astronomical fellow-labourer, Oltmanns, who was im- 
happily too early lost to science, has re-calculatccl the baro- 
metric measurements I made on Mount Vesuvius (from the 
2 2 iicl to the 25th of November, and on the 1st of December, 
1822), and compared the results with those yielded by the 
measurements given to me in manuscript by Lord Minto'; 
Visconti, Monticelli, Brioschi, and Poulett Scrope. 

A. liocca del Palo, the highest northern margin of the Crater 
of Vesuvius, was estimated hy — 

Saussure, in 1773, barometrically; probably according Feet. 

to Deluc's formula . .... 3894 

Poli (1794), barometrically 3875 

Breislak (1794), barometrically, although, as in the 

case of Poli, it is uncertain what formula was used . 3920 
Gay-Lussac, Leopold von Buch, and Humboldt (1805), 
barometrically, according to the formula of Laplace, 

as in all the folio wins; barometric results . . 3856 

Brioschi (1810), trigonometrically . . . . 4079 

Visconti (1816), trigonometrically . . . . 3977 

Lord Minto (1822), barometrically, and frequently re- 
peated ........ 3971 

Poulett Scrope (1822). This calculation is somewhat 
uncertain, owing to the unknown relation of the 

diameters of the tubes to those of the cistern . . 3862 

Monticelli and Covelli (1822) 3990 

Humboldt (1822) 4022 

The most probable final result is 2026 feet above the 
hermitage, or 3996 feet above the level of the sea. 

B. The lowest south-eastern margin of the Crater, opposite 

Bosche Tre Case. 

After the eruption of 1794, this margin was 426 feet 
lower than the Rocca del Palo, consequently, if the 
latter be estimated at 3996 feet, it would be . . 3570 

Gay-Lussac. Leopold von Buch, and Humboldt (1805), 

barometrical! v . . . • • . .3414 

Humboldt (1822), barometrically . . . .3491 


C. The elevation of the cone of scoria; that fell into the 
Crater on the 22nd October, 1822. 

Lord Minto, barometrically . . . . .4155 

Bricsclii, trigouometrically, according to different com- 
binations — 

Either 4067 

v/ i • • • • • • • • • ^.\j \) %J 

The most probable final result for the height of the cone 
of scoria? that fell in durinsc the year 1822, is 4131 feet. 

D. Punta Nasone,*the highest summit of the Somma. 

Schuckburgh (1794), barometrically, probably accord- 
ing to his own formula . . . . .3734 

Humboldt (1822), barometrically, according to the 

formula of Laplace . . . . . .3747 

E. Plain of the Atrio del Cavallo. 
Humboldt (1822), barometrically .... 2577 

F. Base of the cone of ashes. 

Gaj'-Lussac, Leopold von Buch, and Humboldt (1805), 

barometrically . . . . . . .2366 

Humboldt (1822), barometrically .... 2482 

G. Hermitage of Salvatcrc. 

Gay-Lussac, Leopold von Buch, and Humboldt (1805), 

barometrically . . . . . . .1918 

Lord Minto (1822), barometrically . . . .1969 

Humboldt (1822), again barometrically . . . 1974 

Some of my measurements have appeared in Montieelli's 
Storia, de" 1 fenomeni del Vcsuvio, avvenuti negli anni 1821 
«— 1823, p. 115, but owing to the correction of the height 
of the mercury in the cistern having been omitted, the 
numbers arc not given with perfect exactness. When it 
is remembered that the results contained in the above table 
were obtained with barometers of very different construction, 
at different hours of the day, during the prevalence of various 
winds, and on the unequally heated declivity of a volcano, in 
a locality where the decrease of the atmospheric temperature 

378 views, ke. volcanos. 

differs very considerably from that assumed in our barome- 
trical formula?, the amount of correspondence between the 
various results will appear sufficiently satisfactory. 

My measurements of 1822, at the time of the Congress of 
Verona, when I accompanied the late King to Naples, were 
conducted with more care and under more favourable circum- 
stances than those of 1805. Differences of elevations are 
moreover always preferable to absolute elevations. These 
differences show, that since 1794, the relative condition 
of the margins of the Kocca del Palo and of that towards 
Bosche Tre Case had remained almost the same. I found, in 
1805, for the height, 441, and in 1822, nearly 524 feet. A 
distinguished geologist, Mr. Poulett Scrope, obtained 473 feet, 
although his absolute heights for these two margins of the 
crater appear somewhat too low. So inconsiderable a varia- 
tion in a period of twenty-eight years, and during violent 
disturbances in the interior of the mountain, is undoubtedly 
a remarkable phenomenon. 

The height to which the cones of scoriae rise from the 
bottom of the crater at Vesuvius also deserves special atten- 
tion. Shuckburgh found in 1776 a cone of this nature to be 
3932 feet above the level of the Mediterranean; and, accord- 
ing to Lord Minto — a remarkably exact observer — the cone of 
scoriae which fell in on the 22nd of October, 1822, was even 
4156 feet high. On both occasions therefore the cone of scoriae 
in the crater exceeded the highest point of the margin of the 
crater. On comparing the measurements of Rocca del Palo 
from 1773 to 1822. one is almost involuntarily led to hazard 
the bold conjecture that the northern margin of the crater has 
been gradually upheaved by subterranean forces. The cor- 
respondence of the three measurements made between 1773 
and 1805 is almost as striking as in those between 1816 and 
1822. No doubt can be entertained as to the height being 
from 3970 to 4021 feet during the latter period. Ought 
less confidence to be attached to the measurements made 
thirty or forty years previously, and which only gave from 
3875 to 3894 feet? After a longer lapse of time the ques- 
tion mav be decided, as to how much is attributable to 
errors of measurement, and how much to the upheaval of 
the margin of the crater. There is here no accumulation of 
loose masses from above ; if therefore the solid trachvtic lava 


strata of the Rocca del Palo actually rise, we must assume 
that they are upheaved from below by volcanic forces. 

My learned and indefatigable friend, Oltmanns, has pub- 
lished the details of all these measurements with critical 
remarks.* Would that this work might incite geognosists 
to enter upon a scries of hypsometric observations, by which, 
in the course of time, Vesuvius, which is, excepting Strom- 
boli, the most accessible of all European volcanos, may be 
thoroughly understood in all periods of its development. 

(2) p. 371 — " At elevations where the pressure is less." 

Compare Leopold von Buch on the Peak of Tcneriffe, in his 
Physikalische Beschreibung der canarisclien Tnsdn, 1825, 
s. 213, and in the Abhandlungen der konigl. Akadcmie zu 
Berlin, cms den J. 1820 — 21, s. 99. 

(3) p. 373 — " Springs which rise from different depths" 

Compare Arago in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes 
pour 1835, p. 234. The increase of the temperature is in our 
latitudes 1° Fahr. for nearly every 54 feet. In the Artesian 
boring at the New Salt-works (Oeynhausen's Bath) near 
Minden, which is the greatest known depth that has been 
reached below the surface of the sea, the temperature of the 
water at 2231 feet, is fully 91° Fahrenheit, whilst the mean 
upper temperature of the air may be assumed at 49° '3 Fahr. 
It is very remarkable that, even in the third century, Saint 
Patricius, bishop of Pertusa, should have been led, from the 
thermal springs near Carthage, to form a very correct view 
of such an increase of heat.f 

* See Abhandl. der Konigl. Ahademie der Wissenscliaften zu Berlin, 
Jahr 1822 mid 1823, s. 3—20. 

f Acta 8. Patricii, p. 555, ed. Ruinart; Cosmos, vol. i. p. 220, 
(Bohn's edition). 


The Syracusans, like the Athenians, had their Poecile, 
where representations of gods and heroes, the works of 
Grecian and Italian art, adorned the richly decorated halls 
of the Portico. Incessantly the people streamed thither; the 
young warrior to feast his eyes upon the deeds of his fore- 
fathers, the artist to contemplate the works of the great 
masters. Among the numerous paintings which the active 
enterprise of the Syracusans had collected from the mother 
country, there was but one which for full a century had con- 
tinued to attract the attention of every visitor. Even when 
the Olympian Jupiter, Cecrops, the founder of cities, and 
the heroic courage of Harmodius and Aristogiton, failed to 
attract admirers, a dense crowd still pressed round this one 
picture. Whence this preference ? Was the painting a 
rescued work of Apelles, or did it bear the impress of the 
school of Callimachus ? No ! although it possessed both grace 
and beauty, yet neither in the blending of the colours, nor in 
the character and style of its composition, could it be com- 
pared with many other paintings in the Poecile. 

The crowd — and how numerous are the classes included in 
this denomination — ever admires and wonders at what it does 
not understand ! For more than a century had that painting 
been publicly exhibited, and yet, although Syracuse contained 
within its narrow limits more artistic genius than all the 

* A Tortico in Athens containing a picture gallery painted chiefly by 
Polygnotus, with the assistance of Micon and Pansenus. Zeno taught 
his doctrines there, and was in consequence called the Stoic, from stoa, 
a portico, and his school the Stoic-school. — Ed. 


rest of sea-girt Sicily, the riddle of its meaning still remained 
unsolved. It was not even known to what temple it had 
formerly belonged, for it had been saved from a stranded 
vessel, which was only conjectured, from the freight it carried, 
to have come from Rhodes. 

The foreground of the picture was occupied by a numerous 
group of youths and maidens, whose uncovered limbs, although 
well formed, were not cast in that slender mould which we 
so much admire in the statues of Praxiteles and Alcamenes. 
The fuller development of their limbs, which bore indications 
of laborious exercise, — the human expression of passion and 
of care stamped on their features, — all seemed to divest them 
of a heavenly or God-like type, and to fix them as creatures 
of the earth. Their hair was simply adorned with leaves and 
wild flowers. Their arms were extended towards each other 
with impassioned longing, but their earnest and mournful 
gaze was rivetted on a Genius, who, surrounded by a brilliant 
halo, hovered in the midst of the group. On his shoulder 
was a butterfly, and in his right hand he held aloft a flaming 
torch. His limbs were moulded with child-like grace; his 
eye radiant with celestial light. Tie looked imperiously upon 
the youths and maidens at his feet. No other characteristic 
traits could be distinguished in the picture. Some, however, 
thought they could perceive at his foot the letters £ and $•, and 
as antiquarians were then no less bold than they are now, 
they inferred, though far from happily, that the artist was 
called Zcnodorus, the name borne at a later date by the 
modeller of the Colossus of Rhodes. 

"The Ilhodian Genius," for so this mysterious painting 
was called, did not however want for interpreters in Syra- 
cuse. Virtuosi, especially the younger of them, on their 
return from a flying visit to Corinth or Athens, would have 
deemed themselves deficient in all pretensions to connoisseur- 
ship, had they not immediately advanced some new explanation. 
Some regarded the Genius as the personification of spiritual 


Love, forbidding the enjoyment of sensual pleasures; others 
were of opinion that the dominion of Reason over the Passions 
was here signified. The wiser preserved silence, and while 
they conjectured that the painting was intended to represent 
something of a sublimer character, delighted to linger in the 
Poecile to admire the simple composition of the group. 

The question continued to remain undecided. Copies of 
the painting, with various additions, were sent to Greece, but 
without eliciting any explanation respecting its origin. At 
length, however, when at the early rising of the Pleiades the 
^Egean Sea was again opened to navigation, ships from Rhodes 
entered the port of Syracuse. They contained a treasure of 
statues, altars, candelabras, and pictures, which a love of art 
had caused the Dionysii to collect in Greece. Among the 
paintings there was one which was instantly recognised as the 
companion to the "Rhodian Genius." It was of the same 
size, and exhibited a similar tone of colouring, although in a 
better state of preservation. 

The Genius stood as before in the centre, but without 
the butterfly; his head was drooping, his torch extin- 
guished and reversed. The group of youths and maidens 
thronged simultaneously around him in mutual embrace ; 
their looks were no longer sad and submissive, but announced 
a wild emancipation from restraint, and the gratification of 
long-nourished passion. 

The Syracusan antiquaries had already begun to accommo- 
date their former explanations of the "■Rhodian Genius'' to 
the newly arrived painting, when the Tyrant ordered it to 
be conveyed to the house of Epicharmus. This philosopher of 
the school of Pythagoras dwelt in the remote part of Syracuse 
called Tyche. He seldom visited the court of the Dionysii, 
not but that learned men from all the Greek colonics as- 
sembled there, but because proximity to princes is apt to rob 
the most intellectual of their spirit and freedom. He occu- 
pied himself unceasingly in studying the nature of things and 


their forces, the origin of plants and animals, and those 
harmonious laws by which the celestial bodies on a large, 
and the snow-flake and the hail- stone on a small scale, assnme 
a globular form. Decrepid with age, he caused himself to 
be carried daily to the Poecile, and thence to the harbour of 
Nasos, where, as he said, the wide-ocean presented to his eye 
an image of the Boundless and the Infinite, which his mind 
strove in vain to comprehend. He was honoured alike by the 
lower classes and by the tyrant, but he avoided the latter, 
while he joyfully cultivated and often assisted the former. 

Epicharmus lay weak and exhausted on his conch, when 
the newly arrived work of art was brought to him by the 
command of Dionvsius. He was furnished at the same time 
with a faithful copy of the "PJiodian Genius," and the 
philosopher now caused both paintings to be placed before 
him. He gazed on them long and earnestly, then called 
together his scholars, and in accents of emotion thus addressed 
them : 

"Remove the curtain from the window, that I may once 
more feed my eyes with the sight of the richly animated and 
living earth. Sixty years long have I pondered on the inter- 
nal springs of nature and on the differences inherent in matter, 
but it is only this day that the ' Rhodian Genins ' has taught 
me to see clearly that which before I had only conjectured. 
While the difference of sexes in all living beings beneficently 
binds them together in prolific union, the crude matters of 
inorganic nature are impelled by like instincts. Even in 
the darkness of chaos, matter was accumulated or separated 
according as affinity or antagonism attracted or repelled its 
various parts. The celestial fire follows the metals, the 
magnet, the iron ; amber when rubbed attaches light bodies ; 
earth blends with earth ; salt separates from the waters of the 
sea and joins its like, while the acid moisture of the siypteria 
(aTVTTTi)p'ia vypd) and the fleecy salt TricMtis, love the clay of 
Melos. Everything in inanimate nature hastens to associate 


itself with its like. No earthly element (and who will dare 
to class light as such?) can therefore be found in a pure 
and virgin state. Everything as soon as formed hastens to 
enter into new combinations, and nought, save the disjoining 
art of man, can present in a separate state ingredients which 
ye would vainly seek in the interior of the earth, or in the 
moving oceans of air and water. In dead inorganic matter 
absolute repose prevails as long as the bonds of affinity 
remain unsevered, and as long as no third substance intrudes 
to blend itself with the others; but even after this disturbance 
unfruitful repose soon again succeeds. 

"Different, however, is the blending of the same substances 
in animal and vegetable bodies. Here vital force imperatively 
asserts its rights, and, heedless of the affinity and antagonism 
of the atoms asserted by Democritus, unites substances which 
in inanimate nature ever flee from each other, and separates 
that which is incessantly striving to unite. 

" Draw nearer to me, my disciples, and recognise in the 
'Rhodian Genius,' in the expression of his youthful vigour, 
in the butterfly on his shoulder, in the commanding glance 
of his eye, the symbol of vital force as it animates every germ 
of organic creation. The earthly elements at his feet are 
striving to gratify their own desires and to mingle with one 
another. Imperiously the Genius threatens them with up- 
raised and high-flaming torch, and compels them, regardless 
of their ancient rights, to obey his laws. 

"Look now on the new work of art which the Tvrant has 
sent me to explain ; and turn your eyes from the picture of 
life to the picture of death. The butterfly has soared up- 
wards, the extinguished torch is reversed, and the head of the 
youth is drooping. The spirit has fled to other spheres, 
and the vital force is extinct. Now the youths and maidens 
join their hands in joyous accord. Earthly matter again 
resumes its rights. Released from all bonds they impe- 
tuously follow their sexual instincts, and the day of his death 


is to them a day of nuptials. — Thus dead matter, animated 
by vital force, passes through a countless series of races, and 
perchance enshrines in the very substance in which of old 
a miserable worm enjoyed its brief existence, the divine spirit 
of Pythagoras.* 

"Go, Folycles, and tell the Tyrant what thou hast heard! 
And ye, my beloved, Euryphamos, Lysis, and Scopas, come 
nearer — and yet nearer to me ! I feel that the faint vital 
force within me can no longer retain in subjection the earthly- 
matter, which now reclaims its freedom. Lead me once more 
to the Poecile, and thence to the wide sea-shore. Soon will 
ye collect my ashes." 

* The very same idea is expressed in Schiller's Walk under the 
Linden Trees. — Ed. 

2 c 



In the Preface to the Second and Third Editions of this 
work (See preliminary pages of this translation) I have 
already noticed the republication of the preceding tale, which 
was first printed in Schiller's Horen (for the year 1795, 
part 5, pages 90 — 96). It embodies the development of a 
physiological idea in a. semi-mythical garb. In the year 
1793, in the Latin Aphorisms from the Chemical Physiology 
of Plants, appended to my Subterranean Flora, I had defined 
the vital force as the unknown cause which prevents the 
elements from following their original attractive forces. The 
first of my aphorisms ran thus: — 

"Rerum naturam si totam consideres, magnum atque 
durabile, quod inter elementa intercedit, discrimen perspicies, 
quorum altera affmitatum legibus obtemperantia, altera, vin- 
culis solutis, varie juncta apparent. Quod quidem discrimen 
in elementis ipsis eorumque indole neutiquam positum, quum 
ex sola distribution e singulorum petendum esse videatur. 
Materiam segnem, brutam, inanimam earn vocamus, cujus 
stamina secundum leges chymicae affinitatis mixta sunt. 
Animata atque organica ea potissimum corpora appellamus, 
qua?, licet in novas mutari formas perpetuo tendant, vi interna 
quadam continentur, quominus priscam sibique insitam for- 
mam relin quant. 

"Vim internam, quaa chymicse affinitatis vincula resolvit, 
atque obstat, quominus elementa corporum libere conjun- 
gantur, vitalem vocamus. Itaque nullum certius mortis 
criterium putredine datur, qua primse partes vel stamina 
rerum, antiquis juribus revocatis, affinitatum legibus parent. 
Corporum inanimorum nulla putredo esse potest.'"* 

* See Aplwrismi ex doctrina Physiologic chemicce Plantarum, in 
Humboldt, Flora Fribergensis suhterranea, 1793, pp. 133 — 136. Trans- 
lation ; — " If you attentively consider the whole nature of things, you 
will discover a great and permanent difference amongst elements, some 
of which obeying the laws of affinity, others independent, appear in 
various combinations. This difference is by no means inherent in the 
elements themselves and in their nature, but seems to be derived solely 
from their particular distribution. We call that matter inert, brute, and 


These opinions, against which the acute Yicq d'Azyr 
has protested in his Traite d' Anatomie, vol. i. p. 5, but which 
are still entertained by many eminent persons among my 
friends, I have placed in the mouth of Epicharmus. Reflec- 
tion and prolonged study m the departments of physiology 
and chemistry have deeply shaken my earlier belief in pe- 
culiar, so-called vital forces. In the year 1797, at the con- 
clusion of my Versuche ilber die gereizte 2Iushel- und Nerval- 
fascr, ?iebst Vermutlmngen ilber den chemischen Process des 
Lebens in der Thier- und PflanzenweU (vol. ii. pp. 430 — 436), 
I already declared that I by no means regarded the existence 
of these peculiar vital forces as established. Since that period 
I have not applied the term pectdiar forces to that which 
may possibly be produced only by the combined action of 
the separate already long known substances and their material 
forces. We may, however, deduce a more certain definition 
of animate and inanimate substances from the chemical rela- 
tions of the elements, than can be derived from the criteria of 
voluntary movement, the circulation of fluid in solid parts, 
and the inner appropriation and fibrous arrangement of the 
elements. I call that substance animate "whose volun- 
tarily separated parts change their composition after separation 
has taken place, the former external relations still continuing 
the same." This definition is merely the expression of a fact. 
The equilibrium of the elements is maintained in animate 
matter by virtue of their being parts of one whole. One 
organ determines another, one gives to another the tem- 
perature, the tone as it were, in which these, and no other 
affinities operate. Thus in organisation all is reciprocal, 
means and end. The rapidity with which organic parts 
change their compound state, when separated from a complex 
of living organs, differs greatly according to the degree of 

inanimate, the particles of which are combined according to the laws of 
chemical affinity. On the other hand, we call those bodies animate and 
organic, which, although constantly manifesting a tendency to assume 
new forms, are restrained by some internal force from relinquishing 
that originally assigned them. That internal force, which dissolves the 
bonds of chemical affinity, and prevents the elements of bodies from 
freely uniting, we call vital. Accordingly, the most certain criterion 
of death is putrescence, by which the first parts, or stamina of things, 
resume their pristine state, and obey the laws of affinit}-. In inanimate 
bodies there can be no putrescence." 

2 c 2 


their dependence, and the nature of the component materials. 
The blood of animals, which is variously modified in the 
different classes, undergoes a change earlier than the juices of 
plants. Fungi generally decompose more rapidly than the 
leaves of trees ; and muscle more readily than the cutis. 

Bone, the elementary structure of which has only been 
understood of late years, the hair of animals, the ligneous 
part of vegetable substances, the shells or husks of fruit, 
and the feathery calix (pajynts) of plants, are not inorganic 
and devoid of life; but approximate, even in life, to the 
condition which they manifest after their separation from 
the rest of the organism. The higher the degree of vitality 
or irritability of an animate substance, the more striking 
or rapid will be the change in its compound state after 
separation. "The aggregate of the cells is an organism, and 
the organism lives as long as its parts continue activety sub- 
servient to the whole. Considered antithetically to inanimate 
nature, the organism appears to be self-determining."* The 
difficulty of satisfactorily referring the vital phenomena of 
organism to physical and chemical laws, depends chiefly (and 
almost in the same manner as the prediction of meteorological 
processes in the atmosphere) on the complication of the 
phenomena, and on the great number of the simultaneously 
acting forces, as well as the conditions of their activity. 

I have faithfully adhered in the Cosmos to the same mode 
of representing and considering the so-called vital forces, 
and affinities,! the formative impulse and the principle of 
organising activity. I there wrote as follows: \ "The mythical 
ideas long entertained of the imponderable substances, and 
vital forces, peculiar to each mode of organization, have com- 
plicated our views generally, and shed an uncertain light on 
the path we ought to pursue. 

"The most various forms of intuition have thus, age after 
age, aided in augmenting the prodigious mass of empirical 
knowledge, which in our own day has been enlarged with 
ever-increasing rapidity. The investigating spirit of man 

* Henle, Allgemeine Anatomie, 1841, pp. 216—219. 
•f Pulteney Alison, in the Transact, of the Royal Soc. of Edinburgh, 
vol. xvi. p. 305. 

% Cosmos, vol. i. p. 53. (Bolm's Edition.) 


strives, from time to time, with varying success, to break 
through those ancient forms and symbols invented to 
subject rebellious matter to rules of mechanical construc- 

Further in the same work,*" I have said, "It must, how- 
ever, be remembered, that the inorganic crust of the earth 
contains within it the same elements that enter into the 
structure of animal and vegetable organs. A physical cosmo- 
graphy would therefore be incomplete, if it were to omit a 
consideration of these forces, and of the substances which 
enter into solid and fluid combinations in organic tissues, under 
conditions which, from our ignorance of their actual nature, 
we designate by the vague term of vital forces, and group 
into various systems, in accordance with more or less per- 
fectly conceived analogies. "f 

* Vol. i. p. 349. (Bonn's Edition.) 

T Compare also the critique on the acceptation of special vital forces 
in Schleiden's Botanik als inductive Wissenschoft, part i. pp. 60, and 
the lately published and admirable treatise of Emil du Bois-Keyniond, 
Ufitersuchungen iiber thierische Elektricitdt, vol. i. pp. xxxiv — 1. 






From the Ridge of the Andes. 

After having sojourned for a whole year on the ridge of the 
Andes, or Antis, (1), between 4° north and 4° south latitude, 
amidst the table-lands of New Granada, Pastes, and Quito, and 
consequently at an elevation varying between 8500 and 13,000 
feet above the level of the sea, it is delightful to descend gradu- 
ally through the more genial climate of the Cinchona or Quina 
"Woods of Loxa, into the plains of the Upper Amazon. There 
an unknown world unfolds itself, rich in magnificent vegetation. 
The little town of Loxa has given its name to the most effi- 
cacious of all fever barks, — the Quina, or the Cascarilla fina 
de Loxa. This bark is the precious produce of the tree, 
which we have botanically described as the Cinchona Conda- 
minea ; but which, (from the erroneous supposition that all the 
Cinchona' known in commerce was obtained from one and the 
same tree,) had previously been called Cinchona officinalis. 
The fever bark first became known, in Europe, about the 
middle of the seventeenth century. Sebastian Badus affirms, 
that it was brought to Alcala de Henares in the year 1632; 
but according to other accounts, it was brought to Madrid in 
1640, when the Countess de Chinchon (2), the wife of the Peru- 


vian Viceroy, arrived from Lima, (where she had been cured 
of an intermittent fever,) accompanied by her physician, Juan 
del Vego. The finest kind of Cinchona is obtained at the 
distance of from eight to twelve miles southward of the town 
of Loxa, among the mountains of Uritusinga, Yillonaco, and 
Rumisitana. The trees which yield this bark grow on mica 
slate and gneiss, at the moderate elevations of 5755 and 
7673 feet above the level of the sea, nearly corresponding, 
respectively, with the heights of the Hospital on the Grimsel, 
and the Pass of the Great St. Bernard. The Cinchona Woods 
in these parts are bounded by the little rivulets Zamora and 

The tree is felled in its first flowering season, or about the 
fourth or seventh year of its growth, according as it may have 
been reared from a strong shoot or from seed. At the time 
of my journey in Peru we learned, with surprise, that the 
quantity of the Cinchona Condaminea annually obtained at 
Loxa by the Cascarilla gatherers, or Quina hunters (Casca- 
rilleros and Caqadores cle Quina), amounted only to 110 hun- 
dred weight. At that time none of this valuable product 
found its way into commerce ; all that was obtained was ship- 
ped at Payta, a port of the Pacific, and conveyed round Cape 
Horn to Cadiz, for the use of the Spanish Court. To procure 
the small supply of 11,000 Spanish pounds, no less than 800 or 
900 Cinchona trees were cut down every year. The older and 
thicker stems are becoming more and more scarce ; but, such 
is the luxuriance of growth, that the younger trees, which now 
supply the demand, though measuring only six inches in 
diameter, frequently attain the height of from 53 to G4 feet. 
This beautiful tree, which is adorned with leaves five inches 
long and two broad, seems, when growing in the thick woods, 
as if striving to rise above its neighbours. The upper branches 
spread out, and when agitated by the wind the leaves have 
a peculiar reddish colour and glistening appearance which is 
distinguishable at a great distance. The mean temperature of 


the woods of the Cinchona Condaminea varies between 60° 
and 66° Fahrenheit; that is to say, about the mean annual 
temperature of Florence and the Island of Madeira : but the 
extremes of heat and cold experienced at those points of the 
temperate zone, are never felt in the vicinity of Loxa. How- 
ever, comparisons between climates in very different degrees 
of latitude, and the climate of the table-lands of the tropical 
zone, must, from their very nature, be unsatisfactory. 

Descending from the mountain node of Loxa, south-south- 
east, into the hot valley of the Amazon River, the traveller 
passes over the Paramos of Chulucanas, Guamani, and Yamoca. 
These Paramos are the mountainous deserts, which have been 
mentioned in another portion of the present work; and which, 
in the southern parts of the Andes, are known by the name of 
Puna, a word belonging to the Quichua language. In most 
places, their elevation is about 10,125 feet. They are stormy, 
frequently enveloped for several successive days in thick 
fogs, or visited by terrific hail-storms; the hail-stones being 
not only of different forms, generally much flattened by rota- 
tion, but also run together into thin floating plates of ice 
called papa-cara, which cut the face and hands in their fall. 
During this meteoric process, I have sometimes known the 
thermometer to sink to 48° and even 43° Fahrenheit, and the 
electric tension of the atmosphere, measured by the voltaic 
electrometer, has changed, in the space of a few minutes, 
from positive to negative. When the temperature is below 
43° Fahrenheit, snow falls in large flakes, scattered widely 
apart; but it disappears after the lapse of a few hours. The 
short thin branches of the small leaved myrtle-like shrubs, the 
large size and luxuriance of the blossoms, and the perpetual 
freshness caused by the absorption of the moist atmosphere — 
all impart a peculiar aspect and character to the treeless 
vegetation of the Paramos. No zone of Alpine vegetation > 
whether in temperate or cold climates, can be compared with 
that of the Paramos in the tropical Andes. 


The solemn impression which is felt on beholding the 
deserts of the Cordilleras, is increased in a remarkable and 
unexpected manner, by the circumstance that in these very 
regions there still exist wonderful remains of the great road 
of the Incas, that stupendous work by means of which, com- 
munication was maintained among all the provinces of the 
empire along an extent of upwards of 1000 geographical 
miles. On the sides of this road, and nearly at equal 
distances apart, there are small houses, built of well- cut free- 
stone. These buildings, which answered the purpose of sta- 
tions, or caravanseries, are called Tambos, and also Inca- 
Pilca, (from Pircca, the Wall). Some are surrounded by a 
sort of fortification; others were destined for baths, and had 
arrangements for the conveyance of warm water : the larger 
ones Mere intended exclusively for the family of the sovereign, 
At the foot of the volcano Cotopaxi, near Callo, I had pre- 
viously seen buildings of the same kind in a good state of pre- 
servation. These I accurately measured, and made drawings 
from them. Pedro de Cieca, who wrote in the sixteenth cen- 
tury, calls these structures Aposentos de Mulalo (3). The pass 
of the Andes, lying between Alausi and Loxa, called the 
Paramo del Assuay, a much frequented route across the Ladera 
de Cadlud, is at the elevation of 15,526 feet above the 
level of the sea, and consequently almost at the height of Mont 
Blanc. As we were proceeding through this pass, we expe- 
rienced considerable difficulty in guiding our heavily laden 
mules over the marshy ground on the level height of the 
Pullal ; but whilst we journeyed onward for the distance of about 
four miles, our eyes were continually rivetted on the grand 
remains of the Inca Road, upwards of 20 feet in breadth. This 
road had a deep under-structure, and was paved with well- 
hewn blocks of black trap porphyry. None of the Roman 
roads which I have seen in Italy, in the south of France and 
in Spain, appeared to me more imposing than this work of 


the ancient Peruvians: and the Inca road is the more extra- 
ordinary, since, according to my barometrical calculations, it 
is situated at an elevation of 13,258 feet above the level 
of the sea, a height exceeding that of the summit of the 
Peak of Teneriffe by upwards of 1000 feet. At an equal 
elevation, are the ruins said to be those of the palace of 
the Inca Tupac Yupanqui, and known by the name of the 
Paredones del Inca, situated on the Assuay. From these 
ruins the Inca road, running southward in the direction 
of Cuenca, leads to the small but well-preserved fortress of 
the Canar (4), probably belonging to the same period, viz. : 
the reign of Tupac Yupanqui, or that of his warlike son 
Huayna Capac. 

We saw still grander remains of the ancient Peruvian 
Inca road, on our way between Loxa and the Amazon, near 
the baths of the Incas on the Paramo of Chulucanas, not far 
from Guancabamba, and also in the vicinity of Ingatambo, 
near Pomahuaca. The ruins at the latter place are situated 
so low, that I found the difference of level between the Inca 
road at Pomahuaca, and that in the Paramo del Assuay, to be 
lip wards of 9700 feet. The distance in a direct line, as deter- 
mined by astronomical latitudes, is precisely 184 miles; 
and the ascent of the road is about 3730 feet greater than 
the elevation of the Pass of Mont Cenis, above the Lake of 
Como. There are two great causeways, paved with flat 
stones, and in some places covered with cemented gravel (5), 
on Macadam's plan. One of these lines of road runs through 
the broad and barren plain lying between the sea-coast and 
the chain of the Andes, whilst the other passes along the 
ridge of the Cordilleras. Stones, marking the distances at 
equal intervals, are frequently seen. The rivulets and ravines 
were crossed by bridges of three kinds ; some being of 
stone, some of wood, and others of rope. These bridges 
are called bv the Peruvians, Puentes de Hamaca, or Puentes 


de Maroma. There were also aqueducts for conveying water 
to the Tambos and fortresses. Both lines of road were 
directed to Cuzco, the central point and capital of the 
great Peruvian empire, situated in 13° 31' south lat., and 
according to Pentland's Map of Bolivia, at the elevation of 
11,378 feet above the level of the sea. As the Peruvians 
had no wheeled carriages, these roads were constructed 
for the march of troops, for the conveyance of burthens 
borne by men, and for flocks of lightly laden Lamas ; conse- 
quently, long flights of steps (6), with resting-places, were 
formed at intervals in the steep parts of the mountains. 
Francisco Pizarro and Diego Almagro, in their expeditions to 
remote parts of the country, availed themselves with much 
advantage of the military roads of the Incas; but the steps 
just mentioned were formidable impediments in the way of 
the Spanish cavalry, especially as in the early period of the 
Conquista, the Spaniards rode horses only, and did not make 
use of the sure-footed mule, which, in mountainous precipices, 
seems to reflect on every step he takes. It was only at 
a later period that the Spanish troops were mounted on 

Sarmiento, who saw the Inca roads whilst they were in a 
perfect state of preservation, mentions them in a Relation 
which he wrote, and which long lay buried in the Library of 
the Escurial. " How," he asks, " could a people, unacquainted 
with the use of iron, have constructed such great and magni- 
ficent roads, {caminos tan grandes, y tan sovervios), and in 
regions so elevated as the countries between Cuzco and Quito, 
and between Cuzco and the coast of Chili?" " The Emperor 
Charles," he adds, "with all his power, could not have accom- 
plished even a part of what was done by the well-directed 
Government of the Incas, and the obedient race of people 
under its rule." Hernando Pizarro, the most educated of 
the three brothers, who expiated his misdeeds by twenty 
years of captivity in Medina del Campo, and who died at 


100 years of age, in the odour of sanctity (en olor de SantidacT), 
observes, alluding to the Inca roads: "Throughout the whole 
of Christendom, no such roads are to be seen as those which 
we here admire." Cuzco and Quito, the two principal capi- 
tals of the Incas, are situated in a direct line south-south- 
east, north-north-Avest in reference the one to the other. 
Their distance apart, without calculating the many windings 
of the road, is 1000 miles; including the windings of the 
road, the distance is stated by Garcilaso de la Vega, and 
other Conquistadores, to be k '500 Spanish leguas." Not- 
withstanding this vast distance, we are informed, on the 
unquestionable testimony of the Licentiate Polo de Ondc- 
gardo, that Huayna Capac, whose father conquered Quito, 
caused certain materials to be conveyed thither from Cuzco, 
for the erection of the royal buildings, (the Inca dwellings). 
In Quito, I found this tradition still current among the 

When, in the form of the earth, nature presents to man 
formidable difficulties to contend against, those very diffi- 
culties serve to stimulate the energy and courage of enter- 
prizing races of people. Under the despotic centralizing 
system of the Inca Government, security and rapidity of 
communication, especially in relation to the movement of 
troops, were matters of urgent state necessity. Hence the 
construction of great roads, and the establishment of very 
excellent postal arrangements by the Peruvians. Among 
nations in the most various degrees of civilization, national 
energy is frequently observed to manifest itself, as it were by 
preference, in some special direction; but the advancement 
consequent on this sort of partial exertion, however strikingly 
exhibited, by no means affords a criterion of the general culti- 
vation of a people. Egyptians, Greeks (7), Etruscans, and 
Romans, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians, present examples of 
these contrasts. It would be difficult to determine, what 
space of time may have been occupied in the execution of the 


Peruvian roads. Those great works, in the northern part of 
the Inca Empire, on the table-land of Quito, must certainly 
have been completed in less than thirty or thirty-five years ; 
that is to sav, in the short interval between the defeat of the 
Ruler of Quito, and the death of the Inca Huayna Capac. With 
respect to the southern, or those specially styled the Peruvian 
roads, the period of their formation is involved in complete 

The date of the mysterious appearance of Manco Capac is 
usually fixed 400 years prior to the arrival of Francisco 
Pizarro, (who landed on the Island of Puna in the year 
1532), consequently, about the middle of the twelfth century, 
and full 200 years before the foundation of the city of Mexico 
(Tenochtitlan) ; but instead of 400 years, some Spanish 
writers represent the interval between Manco Capac and 
Pizarro to have been 500, or even 550 years. However the 
history of the Peruvian empire records only thirteen reign- 
ing princes of the Inca dynasty, which, as Prescott justly 
observes, is not a number sufficient to fill up so long a 
period as 550, or even 400 years. Quezalcoatl, Botchia, 
and Manco Capac, are the three mythical beings, with whom 
are connected the earliest traces of cultivation among the 
Aztecs, the Muyscas, (properly Chibchas), and the Peruvians. 
Quezalcoatl, who is described as bearded and clothed in 
black, was High Priest of Tula, and afterwards a penitent, 
dwelling on a mountain near Tlaxapuchicalco. He is repre- 
sented as having come from the coast of Panuco; and, 
therefore, from the eastern part of Anahuac, on the Mexican 
table-land. Botchia, or rather the bearded, long-robed Nem- 
terequeteba (8), (literally messenger of God, a Buddha of 
the Muyscas), came from the grassy steppes eastward of 
the Andes chain, to the table-lands of Bogota. Before the 
time of Manco Capac, some degree of civilization already 
existed on the picturesque shores of the Lake of Titicaca. 
The fortress of Cuzco, on the hill of Sacsahuaman, was built 



on the model of the more ancient structures of Tiahuanaco. 
In like manner, the Aztecs imitated the pyramidal buildings 
of the Toltecs, and the latter copied those of the Olmecs 
(Hulmecs) ; and thus, by degrees, we arrive at historic ground 
in Mexico as early as the sixth century of the Christian 
era. According to Siguenca, the Toltecic Step Pyramid of 
Cholula, was copied from the Hulmecic Step Pyramid of 
Teotihuacan. Thus, through every stage of civilization, we 
pass into an earlier one, and as human intelligence was not 
aroused simultaneously in both continents, we find that in 
every nation the imaginative domain of mythology imme- 
diately preceded the period of historical knowledge. 

The early Spanish Conquistadores were filled with admiration 
on first beholding the roads and aqueducts of the Peruvians ; 
yet not only did they neglect the preservation of those great 
works, but they even wantonly destroyed them. As a natural 
consequence of the destruction of the aqueducts, the soil 
was rendered unfertile by the want of irrigation. Never- 
theless, those works, as well as the roads, were demolished 
for the sake of obtaining stones ready hewn for the erection 
of new buildings ; and the traces of this devastation are more 
observable near the sea -coast, than on the ridges of the Andes, 
or in the deeply cleft valleys with which that mountain- chain 
is intersected. During our long day's journey from the 
syenitic rocks of Zaulac to the valley of San Felipe, (rich in 
fossil remains and situated at the foot of the icy Paramo of 
Yarnoca), we had no less than twenty-seven times to ford 
the Rio de Guancabamba, which falls into the Amazon. 
We were compelled to do this on account of the numerous 
sinuosities of the stream, whilst on the brow of a steep preci- 
pice near us, we had continually within our sight the vestiges 
of the rectilinear Inca road, with its Tambos. The little 
mountain stream, the Pio de Guancabamba, is not more than 
from 120 to 150 feet broad; yet so strong is the current, 
that our heavily laden mules were in continual danger of 


being swept away by it. The mules carried our manuscripts, 
our dried plants, and all the other objects which we had been 
a whole year engaged in collecting; therefore, every time 
that we crossed the stream, we stood on one of the banks in a 
state of anxious suspense until the long train of our beasts of 
burthen, eighteen or twenty in number, were fairly out of 

This same Rio de Guancabamba, which in the lower part of 
its course has many foils, is the channel for a curious mode of 
conveying correspondence from the coast of the Pacific. For 
the expeditious transmission of the few letters that are sent 
from Truxillo to the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, they 
are despatched by a swimming courier, or, as he is called by 
the people of the country, " el correo que nada." This courier, 
who is usually a young Indian, swims in two days from 
Pomahuaca to Tomependa; first proceeding by the Rio de 
Chamaya, (the name given to the lower part of the Rio de 
Guancabamba) and then by the Amazon river. The few 
letters of which he is the bearer, he carefully wraps in a 
large cotton handkerchief, which he rolls round his head in 
the form of a turban. On arriving at those parts of the 
rivers in which there are falls or rapids, he lands, and goes by 
a circuitous route through the woods. When wearied by 
long- continued swimming, he rests by throwing one arm on 
a plank of a light kind of wood of the family of the Bombacea?, 
called by the Peruvians Ceiba, or Palo de balsa. Sometimes 
the swimming courier takes with him a friend to bear him 
company. Neither troubles himself about provisions, as they 
are always sure of a hospitable reception in the huts which 
are surrounded by abundant fruit-trees in the beautiful Huer- 
tas of Pucara and Cavico. 

Fortunately, the river is free from crocodiles, which are first 
met with in the upper course of the Amazon, below the 
cataract of Mayasi; for the slothful animal prefers to live 
in the more tranquil waters. According to my calculation, 


the Rio de Ckamaya has a fall (9) of 1778 feet, in the 
short distance of 52 geographical miles; that is to say, 
measuring from the Ford (Paso) de Pucara, to the point 
where the Chamaya disembogues in the river Amazon, below 
the village of Choros. The Governor of the province Jaen 
de Bracamoros assured me, that letters sent by the singular 
water post conveyance just mentioned, are seldom either 
wetted or lost. After my return from Mexico, I myself 
received, when in Paris, letters from Tomependa, which had 
been transmitted in this manner. Many of the wild Indian 
tribes, who dwell on the shores of the Upper Amazon, per- 
form their journeys in a similar manner; swimming sociably 
down the stream in parties. On one occasion, I saw the 
heads of thirty or forty individuals, men, women, and chil- 
dren, of the tribe of the Xibaros, as they floated down the 
stream on their way to Tomependa. The Correo que nada 
returns by land, taking the difficult route of the Paramo 
del Paredon. 

On approaching the hot climate of the basin of the Ama- 
zon, the aspect of beautiful and occasionally very luxuriant 
vegetation delights the eye. Not even in the Canary Islands, 
nor on the warm coasts of Cumana and Caracas, had we be- 
held finer orange-trees than those which we met with in the 
Huertas de Pucara. They consisted chiefly of the sweet 
orange-tree (Citrus aurayitium, Risso) ; the bitter orange-tree 
(Citrus vulgaris, Risso) was less numerous. These trees, 
laden with their golden fruit in thousands, attain there a height 
of between 60 and 70 feet; and their branches, instead of grow- 
ing in such a way as to give the trees rounded tops or crowns, 
shoot straight up like those of the laurel. Near the ford of 
Cavico a very unexpected sight surprised us. We saw a 
grove of small trees, about 18 or 19 feet high, the leaves 
of which, instead of being green, appeared to be of a rose 
colour. This proved to be a new species of BougainvillaBa, a 
genus first determined by Jussieu the elder, from a Brazilian 


specimen in Conmierson's Herbarium. But on a nearer ap- 
proach we found that these trees were really without leaves, 
properly so called, and that what, from a distant view, we 
had mistaken for leaves, were bright rose-coloured bracts. 
Owing to the purity and freshness of the colour, the effect was 
totally different from that of the hue which so pleasingly clothes 
many of our forest-trees in autumn. The Rhopala ferruginea, 
a species of the South African family of the Proteacese, has 
found its way hither, having descended from the cool heights 
of the Paramo de Yamoca into the warm plains of the Cha- 
maya. We likewise frequently saw here the beautifully pin- 
nated Porlieria hygrometrica, one of the Zygophyllea), which, 
by the closing of its leaves, indicates change of weather, gene- 
rally the approach of rain. This plant is more certain in its 
tokens than any of the Mimosacea?, and it very rarely deceived 


At Chamaya we found rafts [balsas) in readiness to convey us- 
to Toinependa, where we wished to determine the difference of 
longitude between Quito and the mouth of the Chinchipe; a 
point of some importance to the geography of South America 
on account of an old observation of La Condamine (10). We 
slept as usual in the open air, and our resting-place was on 
the sandy shore called the Playa de Guayanchi, at the conflu- 
ence of the Rio de Chamaya and the Amazon. Next morning 
we proceeded down the latter river as far as the Cataract 
and the Narrows, or the Pongo of Rentema. Pongo, the 
name given to River Narrows by the natives, is a cor- 
ruption of the word Puncu, which, in the Quichua language, 
signifies a door or gate. In the Pongo de Rentema huge 
masses of rock consisting of coarse-grained sandstone (conglo- 
merate), rise up like towers and form a rocky dam across the 
stream. I measured a base line on the flat sandy shore, 
and found that the Amazon River, which, further east- 
wards, spreads into such mighty width, is, at Tomependa, 
scarcely 1400 feet broad. In the celebrated River Narrows, 

2 D 


called the Pongo de Manseriche, between Santiago and 
San Borja, the breadth is less than 160 feet. The Pongo 
de Manseriche is formed by a mountain ravine, in some 
parts of which the overhanging rocks, roofed by a canopy 
of foliage, permit only a feeble light to penetrate, and by 
the force of the current all the drift-wood, consisting of 
trunks of trees in countless numbers, is broken and dashed 
to atoms. The rocks by which all these Pongos are formed, 
have, in the course of centuries, undergone many changes. 
The Pongo de Rentema, which I have mentioned above, 
was, a year before my visit to it, in part broken up by a 
high flood; indeed the inhabitants of the shores of the 
Amazon still preserve by tradition a lively recollection of the 
sudden fall of the once lofty masses of rock along the whole 
length of the Pongo. This fall took place in the early part 
of the last century, and the debris suddenly dammed up the 
river and impeded the current. The consequence was, that 
the inhabitants of the village of Puyaya, situated at the lower 
part of the Pongo de Rentema, were filled with alarm on 
beholding the dry bed of the river ; but, after the lapse of a 
few hours, the waters recovered their usual course. There 
appears to be no reason for believing that these remarkable 
phenomena are occasioned by earthquakes. The river, which 
has a very strong current, seems, as it were, to be incessantly 
labouring to improve its bed. Of the force of its efforts some 
idea may be formed from the fact that, notwithstanding its 
vast breadth, it sometimes rises upwards of 26 feet above its 
ordinary level in the space of 20 or 30 hours. 

We remained seventeen days in the hot valley of the Maranon 
•or the Amazon River. To proceed from thence to the coast 
of the Pacific it is necessarv to cross the chain of the Andes, 
between Micuipampa and Caxamarca (in 6° 57' S. lat., and 
78° 34' W. long.), at a point where, according to my observa- 
tions, it is intersected by the magnetic equator. At a still 
higher elevation are situated the celebrated silver mines of 


Chota. Then, after having passed the ancient Caxamarea 
(the scene, 316 years ago, of the most sanguinary drama in 
the history of the Spanish Conquista), and also Aroma and 
Gangamarca, the route descends, with some interruptions, 
into the Peruvian lowlands. Here, as in nearly all parts of the 
Andes, as well as of the Mexican Mountains, the highest points 
are picturesquely marked by tower-like masses of erupted 
porphyry and trachyte, the former frequently presenting 
the effect of immense columns. In some places these masses 
give a rugged cliff-like aspect to the mountain ridges ; and 
in other places they assume the form of domes or cupolas. 
They have here broken through a formation, which, in South 
America, is extensively developed on both sides of the equa- 
tor, and which Leopold von Buch, after profound research, 
has pronounced to be cretaceous. Between Guambos and 
Montan, nearly 12,800 feet above the level of the sea, 
we found marine fossils (11) (Ammonites about 15 inches 
in diameter, the large Pecten alatus, oyster- shells, Echini, 
Isocardias, and Exogyra polygona). A species of Cidaris, 
which, in the opinion of Leopold von Buch, does not differ 
from one found by Brongniart in the old chalk at the Perte du 
llhone, we collected in the basin of the Amazon at Tomependa, 
and likewise at Micuipampa; that is to say, at elevations 
differing the one from the other by no less than 10,550 feet. 
In like manner, in the Amuich chain of the Caucasian 
Daghestan, the chalk of the banks of the Sulak, scarcely 530 
feet above the level of the sea, is again found on theTchunum, 
at the elevation of full 9600 feet, whilst, on the summit 
of the Shadagh Mountain, 13,950 feet high, the Ostrea 
diluviana (Goldf.), and the same chalk, present themselves. 
Abich's admirable Caucasian observations furnish the most 
decided confirmation of Leopold von Buch's geognostic views 
respecting the cretaceous Alpine development. 

From the solitary farm of Montan, surrounded with flocks 
of Lamas, we ascended further southward the eastern declivity 

2 d 2 


of the Cordilleras, until we reached the level height in which 
is situated the argentiferous mountain Gualgayoc, the prin- 
cipal site of the far-famed mines of Chota. Night was just 
drawing in, and an extraordinary spectacle presented itself 
to our observation. The Cerro de Gualgayoc is separated 
by a deep cleft-like valley (Quebrada), from the limestone 
mountain Cormolache. The latter is an isolated hornstone 
rock, presenting, on the northern and western sides, almost 
perpendicular precipices, and containing innumerable veins 
of silver, which frequently intersect and run into each other. 
The highest shafts are 1540 feet above the floor of the 
stoll or ground- work, called the Socabon de Espinachi. The 
outline of the mountain is broken by numerous tower -like 
points and pyramidal notches ; and hence the summit of the 
Cerro de Gualgayoc bears the name of Las Puntas. This 
mountain presents a most decided contrast to that smoothness 
of surface which miners are accustomed to regard as charac- 
teristic of metalliferous districts. " Our mountain," said a 
wealthy mine-owner whom we visited, " looks like an en- 
chanted castle (como si facse un castillo encantado)." The 
Gualgayoc bears some resemblance to a cone of dolomite, but 
it is still more like the notched ridges of the Mountain of Mon- 
serrat in Catalonia, which I have also visited, and which has 
.been so pleasingly described by my brother. Not only is the 
silver mountain Gualgayoc perforated on every side, and to 
its very summit, by many hundred large shafts, but the mass 
of the siliceous rock is cleft by natural openings, through 
which the dark blue sky of these elevated regions is visible to 
the observer standing at the foot of the mountain. The 
people of the country call these openings windows {Las venta- 
nillas de Gualgayoc). On the trachytic walls of the volcano 
of Pichincha similar openings were pointed out to us, and 
there, likewise, they were called windows, ( Ventanillas de 
Pichincha.) The singular aspect of the Gualgayoc is not a 
little increased by numerous sheds and habitations, which 


lie scattered like nests over the fortress-looking mountain 
wherever a level spot admits of their erection. The miners 
carry the ore in baskets, down steep and dangerous footpaths, 
to the places where it is submitted to the process of amalga- 

The value of the silver obtained from the mines ofGualgayoc 
during the first thirty years of their being worked, from 1771 
to 1802, is supposed to have amounted to upwards of thirty- 
two millions of piastres. Notwithstanding the hardness of the 
quartzose rock, the Peruvians, even before the arrival of the 
Spaniards, extracted rich argentiferous galena from the Cerro 
de la Lin, and also from the Chupiquiyacu ; of this fact many 
old shafts and galleries bear evidence. The Peruvians also 
obtained gold from the Curimayo, where also natural sulphur 
is found in the quartz rock as well as in the Brazilian Itaco- 
lumite. We took up our temporary abode, in the vicinity of 
the mines, in the little mountain town of Micuipampa, situated 
at an elevation of 11,873 feet above the sea, and where, 
though only 6° 43' from the equator, water freezes within 
doors, at night, during a great part of the year. This wil- 
derness, almost devoid of vegetation, is inhabited by 3000 or 
4000 persons, who are supplied with articles of food from the 
warm valleys, as they themselves can grow nothing but some 
kinds of cabbage and salad, the latter exceedingly good. Here, 
as in all the mining towns of Peru, ennui drives the richer inha- 
bitants, who, however, are not the best informed class, to the 
dangerous diversions of cards and dice. The consequence 
is, that the wealth thus quickly won is still more quickly spent. 
Here one is continually reminded of the anecdote related of 
one of the soldiers of Pizarro's army, who complained that he 
had lost in one night's play, "a large piece of the sun," 
meaning a plate of gold which he had obtained at the 
plunder of the Temple of Cuzco. At Micuipampa the ther- 
mometer, at eight in the morning, stood at 34°.2, and at noon, 
at 4 7°. 8 Fahrenheit. Among the thin Ichhu-grass (possibly 


our Stipa eriostachya), we found a beautiful Calceolaria (C. 
Sibthoty hides), which we should not have expected to see at 
such an elevation. 

Near the town of Micuipampa there is a high plain called 
the Llano or the Painpa de Xavar. In this plain there 
have been found, extending over a surface of more than four 
English square miles, and immediately under the turf, im- 
mense masses of red gold ore and wire-like threads of pure 
silver. These are called by the Peruvian miners remolinos, 
clavos, and re fas manteadas, and they are overgrown by the 
roots of the Alpine grasses. Another level plain, to the west 
of the Purgatorio, and near the Quebrada de Chiquera, is 
called the Choropampa (the Muscle- Shell Plain), the word 
churu signifying in the Quichua language a muscle or cockle, 
particularly a small eatable kind, which the people of the 
country now distinguish by their Spanish names hostion or 
mexillon. The name Choropampa refers to fossils of the 
cretaceous formation, which in this plain are found in such 
immense numbers that at an early period they attracted the 
attention of the natives. In the Choropampa there has been 
found near the surface of the earth, a rich mass of pure 
gold, spun round, as it were, with threads of silver. This 
fact proves how slight may be the affinity between many of the 
ores upheaved from the interior of the earth, through fissures 
and veins, and the nature of the adjacent rock, and how little 
relative antiquity exists between them and that of the forma- 
tion they have broken through. The rock of the Gualgayoc, 
as well as that of the Fuentestiana, is very watery, whilst in 
the Purgatorio perfect dryness prevails. In the Purgatorio, 
notwithstanding the height of the strata above the sea-level, I 
found to my astonishment, that the temperature in the mine 
was 67°. 4 Fahr., whilst in the neighbouring Mina de Guada- 
lupe the water in the mine was about 52°. 2 Fahr. In the 
open air the thermometer indicates only 42°. 1 Fahr., and the 
miners, who labour very hard, and who work almost without 


clothing, say that the subterranean heat in the Purgatorio is 

The narrow path from Micuipampa to the ancient Inca city 
Caxamarca is difficult even for mules. The original name 
of the town was Cassamarca or Kazamarca, that is to say, the 
City of Frost. Marca, in the signification of a district or town, 
belongs to the northern dialect of the Chinchaysuyo, or 
the Chinchasuyu, >vhilst in the common Quiehua language the 
word means the story of a house, and also a fortress and place 
of defence. For the space of five or six miles, the road led 
us through a succession of Paramos, where we M r ere without 
intermission exposed to the fury of a boisterous wind and the 
sharp angular hail peculiar to the ridges of the Andes. The 
height of the road is for the most part between 9600 and 
10,700 feet above the sea-level. There I had the oppor- 
tunity of making a magnetic observation of general interest, 
viz., for determining the point where the north inclination of 
the needle passes into the south inclination, and also the 
point at which the traveller has to cross the magnetic equa- 
tor (12). 

Having at length reached the last of these mountain 
wildernesses, the Paramo de Yanaguanga, the traveller joy- 
fully looks down into the fertile valley of Caxamarca. It 
presents a charming prospect, for the valley, through 
which winds a little serpentine rivulet, is an elevated plain 
of an oval form, in extent from 96 to 112 square miles. The 
plain bears a resemblance to that of Bogota, and like it is 
probably the bed of an ancient lake ; but in Caxamarca 
there is wanting the myth of the miracle-working Botchia, 
or Idacanzas, the High Priest of Iraca, who opened a passage 
for the waters through the rocks of Tequendama. Caxa- 
marca lies 640 feet higher than Santa Fe de Bogota, and 
consequently its elevation is equal to that of the city of 
Quito ; but being sheltered by surrounding mountains, 
its climate is much more mild and agreeable. The soil of 


Caxamarca is extraordinarily fertile. In every direction are 
seen cultivated fields and gardens, intersected by avenues of 
willows, varieties of the Datura (bearing large red, white, and 
yellow flowers), Mimosas, and beautiful Quinuar trees (our 
Polylepsis villosa, a Rosacea approximating to the Alehemilla 
and Sanguisorba). The wheat harvest in the Pampa de 
Caxamarca is, on the average, from fifteen to twenty-fold; but 
the prospect of abundant crops is sometimes blighted by night 
frosts, caused by the radiation of heat towards the cloudless 
■sky, in the strata of dry and rarefied mountain air. These 
night frosts are not felt within the roofed dwellings. 

Small mounds, or hillocks, of porphyry (once perhaps islands 
in the ancient lake) are studded over the northern part of the 
plain, and break the wide expanse of smooth sandstone. From 
the summit of one of these porphyry hillocks, we enjoyed a 
most beautiful prospect of the Cerro de Santa Polonia. The 
ancient residence of Atahuallpa is on this side, surrounded by 
fruit gardens, and irrigated fields of lucern (Medicago sativa), 
called by the people here Campos de alfalfa. In the distance 
are seen columns of smoke, rising from the warm'baths of Pul- 
tamarca, which still hear the name of Banos del Inca. I found 
the temperature of these sulphuric springs to be 15 6°. 2 Fahr. 
Atahuallpa was accustomed to spend a portion of each year at 
these batl s, where some slight remains of his palace have 
survived the ravages of the Conquistadores. The large deep 
basin or reservoir (el tragadero) for supplying these baths 
with water, appeared to me, judging from its regular circular 
form, to have been artificially cut in the sandstone rock, over 
one of the fissures whence the spring flows. Tradition 
records that one of the Inca's sedan-chairs, made of gold, was 
sunk in this basin, and that all endeavours to recover it have 
proved vain. 

Of the fortress and palace of Atahuallpa, there also remain 
but few vestiges in the town, which now contains some 
beautiful churches. Even before the close of the sixteenth 


century, the thirst for gold accelerated the work of destruc- 
tion, for, with the view of discovering hidden treasures, walls 
were demolished and the foundations of buildings reck- 
lessly undermined. The Inca's palace is situated on a hill 
of porphyry, which was originally cut and hollowed out from 
the surface, completely through the rock, so that the latter 
surrounds the main building like a wall. Portions of the 
ruins have been converted to the purposes of a town jail and a 
Municipal Hall (Casa del Cabildo). The most curious parts 
of these ruins, which however are not more than between 13 
and 16 feet in height, are those opposite to the monastery 
of San Francisco. These vestiges, like the remains of the 
dwelling of the Caciques, consist of finely-hewn blocks of free- 
stone, two or three feet long, laid one upon another without 
cement, as in the Inca-Pilca, or fortress of the Canar, in the 
high plain of Quito. 

In the porphyrinic rock there is a shaft which once led to 
subterraneous chambers and into a gallery, (by miners called 
a stoll,) from which, it is alleged, there was a communication 
with the other porphyritic rocks already mentioned; — those 
situated at Santa Polonia. These arrangements bear evidence 
of having been made as precautions against the events of 
war, and for the security of flight. The burying of treasure 
was a custom very generally practised among the Peruvians 
in former times ; and subterraneous chambers still exist be- 
neath many private dwellings in Caxamarca. 

We were shown some steps cut in the rock, and the foot- 
bath used by the Inca {el lavatorio de los ines). The operation 
of washing the sovereign's feet was performed amidst tedious 
court ceremonies (13). Several lateral structures, which, 
according to tradition, were allotted to the attendants of the 
Inca, are built some of free-stone with gable roofs, and others 
of regularly shaped bricks, alternating with layers of siliceous 
cement. The buildings constructed in this last-mentioned 
style, to which the Peruvians give the name of Muros y obra 


de tapia, have little arched niches or recesses. Of their 
antiquity I was for a long time doubtful, though I am now 
convinced that my doubts were not well-grounded. 

In the principal building, the room is still shown in which 
the unfortunate Atahuallpa was confined for the space of nine 
months, from the date of November, 1532 (14). The notice 
of the traveller is still directed to the wall, on which he made 
a mark to denote to what height he would fill the room with 
gold, on condition of his being set free. This height is 
variously described. Xerez in the Conquista del Pent (which 
Barcia has preserved to us), Hernando Pizarro in his letters, 
and other writers, all give different accounts of it. The 
captive monarch said, " that gold in bars, plates, and vessels 
should be piled up as high as he could reach with his hand." 
The dimensions of the room, as given by Xerez, are equiva- 
lent to 23 feet in length and 18 in breadth. Garcilaso de 
la Vega, who quitted Peru in 1560, in his twentieth year, 
estimates that the treasures brought from the temples of the 
Sun in Cuzco, Huaylas, Huamachuco, and Pachacamac, up 
to the fatal 29th of August, 1533, the day of the Inca's 
death, amounted to 3,838,000 ducados de oro (15). 

In the chapel of the town jail, which, as I have mentioned 
above, is erected on the ruins of the Inca Palace, a stone, 
stained, as it is alleged, with "indelible spots of blood," is 
viewed with horror by the credulous. It is placed in front 
of the altar, and consists of an extremely thin slab, about 
13 feet in length, probably a portion of the porphyry or 
trachyte of the vicinity. To make an accurate examination 
of this stone, by chipping a piece off, would not be permitted. 
The three or four spots, said to be blood stains, appear in 
reality to be nothing but hornblende and pyroxide run together 
in the fundamental mass of the rock. The Licentiate Fer- 
nando Montesinos, though he visited Peru scarcely a hundred 
years after the taking of Caxamarca, gave currency to the 
fabulous story that Atahuallpa was beheaded in prison, and that 


traces of blood were still visible on a stone on which the 
execution had taken place. There appears no reason to 
question the fact, since it is borne out by the testimony of 
many eye-witnesses, that the Inca willingly allowed himself 
to be baptized by his cruel and fanatical persecutor, the 
Dominican monk, Vicente de Valverde. He received the 
name of Juan de Atahuallpa, and submitted to the erec- 
mony of baptism to avoid being burnt alive. He was put 
to death by strangulation {el gar rote), and his execution took 
place publicly in the open air. Another tradition relates that 
a chapel was erected above the stone on which Atahuallpa was 
strangled, and that the remains of the Inca repose beneath 
that stone. Supposing this to be correct, the alleged spots of 
blood are not accounted for. The fact is, however, that the 
body was never deposited under the stone in question. After 
the performance of a mass for the dead and other solemn 
funeral ceremonies, at which the brothers Pizarro were 
present in deep mourning (!), the body was conveyed first to 
the cemetery of the Convento de San Francisco, and after- 
wards to Quito, Atahuallpa* s birthplace. This removal to 
Quito was in compliance with the wish expressed by the 
Inca prior to his death. His personal enemy, the crafty 
Rurninavi, from artful political motives, caused the body to 
be interred in Quito with great solemnity. Rumifiavi 
(literally the stone-eye) received this name from a defect in 
one of his eyes, occasioned by a wart. (In the Quichua 
language nimi signifies stone, and nam eye.) 

Descendants of the Inca still dwell in Caxamarca, amidst 
the dreary architectural ruins of departed splendour. 
These descendants are the family of the Indian Cacique, 
or, as he is called in the Quichua language, the Curaca 
Astorpilca. They live in great poverty, but neverthe- 
less contented and resigned to their hard and unmerited fate. 
Their descent from Atahuallpa, through the female line, has 
never been a doubtful question in Caxamarca ; but traces of 


beard would seem to indicate some admixture of Spanish 
blood. Huascar and Atahuallpa, two sons of the great Huayna 
Capac (who for a child of the Sun was somewhat disposed to 
free-thinking) (16), reigned in succession before the invasion of 
the Spaniards. Neither of these two princes left any acknow- 
ledged male heirs. In the plains of Quipaypan, Huascar 
was made prisoner by Atahuallpa, by whose order he was 
shortly after secretly put to death. Atahuallpa had two 
other brothers. One was the insignificant youth Toparca, 
who in the autumn of 1533 Pizarro caused to be crowned as 
Inca; and the other was the enterprising Manco Capac, who 
was likewise crowned, but who afterwards rebelled: neither 
of these two princes left any known male issue. Atahuallpa 
indeed left two children ; one a son, who received in Christian 
baptism the name of Don Francisco, and who died young; 
the other a daughter, Dona Angelina, who became the mis- 
tress of Francisco Pizarro, with whom she led a wild camp 
life. Dona Angelina had a son by Pizarro, and to this grand- 
son of the slaughtered monarch the Conqueror was fondly 
attached. Besides the family of Astorpilca, with whom I 
became acquainted in Caxamarca, the families of Carguaraicos 
and Titu-Buscamayca were, at the time I visited Peru, 
regarded as descendants of the Inca dynasty. The race of 
Buscamayca has since that time become extinct. 

The son of the Cacique Astorpilca, an interesting and 
amiable youth of seventeen, conducted us over the ruins of the 
ancient palace. Though living in the utmost poverty, his 
imagination was filled with images of the subterranean 
splendour and the golden treasures which, he assured us, lay 
hidden beneath the heaps of rubbish over which we were 
treading. He told us that one of his ancestors once blind- 
folded the eyes of his wife, and then, through many intricate 
passages cut in the rock, led her down into the subterra- 
nean gardens of the Inca. There the lady beheld, skilfully 
imitated in the purest gold, trees laden with leaves and 


fruit, with birds perched on their branches. Among other 
things, she saw Atahuallpa's gold sedan-chair (;una de las 
andas) which had been so long searched for in vain, and 
which is alleged to have sunk in the basin at the Baths of 
Pultamarca. The husband commanded his wife not to touch 
any of these enchanted treasures, reminding her that the 
period fixed for the restoration of the Inca empire had not 
yet arrived, and that whosoever should touch any of the 
treasures would perish that same night. These golden 
dreams and fancies of the youth were founded on recollections 
and traditions transmitted from remote times. Golden gar- 
dens, such as those alluded to (Jardines 6 kuertas de oro), have 
been described by various writers who allege that they actually 
saw them; viz., by Cieza de Leon, Parmento, Garcilaso, and 
other early historians of the Conquista. They are said to 
have existed beneath the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, at 
Caxamarca, and in the lovely valley of Yucay, which was a 
favourite seat of the sovereign family. In places in which 
the golden Huertas were not under ground, but in the open 
air, living plants were mingled with the artificial ones. 
Among the latter, particular mention is always made of the 
high shoots of maize and the maize-cobs (mazorcas) as having 
-been most successfully imitated. 

The son of Astorpilca assured me that underground, a little 
to the right of the spot on which I then stood, there was a 
large Datura tree, or Guanto, in full flower, exquisitely made 
of gold wire and plates of gold, and that its branches over- 
spread the Inca's chair. The morbid faith with which the 
youth asserted his belief in this fabulous story, made a 
profound and melancholy impression on me. These illusions 
are cherished among the people here, as affording them 
consolation amidst great privation and earthly suffering. I 
said to the lad, " Since you and your parents so firmly believe 
in the existence of these gardens, do you not, in your poverty, 
sometimes feel a wish to dig for the treasures that lie so 


near you?" The young Peruvian's answer was so simple and 
so expressive of the quiet resignation peculiar to the abori- 
ginal inhabitants of the country, that I noted it down in 
Spanish in my Journal. " Such a desire (ted antojo)" said 
he, "never comes to us. My father says that it would be 
sinful (que fuese peeetelo). If we had the golden branches, 
with all their golden fruits, our white neighbours would hate 
us and injure us. We have a little field and good wheat 
(buen trigci)." Few of my readers will I trust be displeased 
that I have recalled here the words of young Astorpilca and 
his golden dreams. 

An idea generally spread and firmly believed among the 
natives is, that it would be criminal to dig up and take 
possession of treasures which may have belonged to the 
Incas, and that such a proceeding would bring misfortune upon 
the whole Peruvian race. This idea is closely connected with 
that of the restoration of the Inca dynasty, an event which 
is still expected, and which in the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centimes was looked forward to with especial confidence. 
Oppressed nations always fondly hope for the day of their 
emancipation, and for the re- establishment of their old forms 
of government. The flight of Manco Inca, the brother of 
Atahuallpa, who retreated into the forests of Vilcapampa, on 
the declivity of the Eastern Cordillera; and the abode of 
Savri Tapac and Inca Tupac Amaru in those wildernesses, 
are events which have left lasting recollections in the minds" 
of the people. It is believed that descendants of the de- 
throned dynasty settled still further eastward in Guiana, 
between the rivers Apurimac and Beni. These notions were 
strengthened by the myth of el Dorado and the golden city of 
Manoa, which popular credulity carried from the west and 
propagated eastward. So greatly was the imagination of Sir 
Walter Raleigh inflamed by these dreams, that he raised an 
expedition in the hope of conquering " the imperial and 
golden city." There he proposed to establish a garrison of 


three or four thousand English, and to levy from " the Em- 
peror of Guiana, a descendant of Huayna Capac, and who 
holds his Court with the same magnificence, an annual tribute 
of £300,000 sterling, as the price of the promised restoration 
to the throne in Cnzco and Caxamarca." Wherever the 
Peruvian Quichua language prevails, traces of the expected 
restoration of the Inca rule (17) exist in the minds of many 
of the natives possessing any knowledge of their national 


We remained five days in the capital of the Inca Atahuallpa, 
which, at that time, numbered only 7000 or 8000 inhabit- 
ants. Our departure was delayed by the necessity of obtain- 
ing a great number of mules to convey our collections, and of 
selecting careful guides to conduct us across the chain of the 
Ancles to the entrance of the long but narrow Peruvian sandy 
desert called the Desierto de Sechwra. Our route across the 
Cordilleras lay from north-east to south-west. Having 
passed over the old bed of the lake, on the pleasant level 
height of Caxamarca, we ascended an eminence at an ele- 
vation of scarcely 10,230 feet: and we were then surprised 
by the sight of two strangely-shaped porphyritic mounds 
called the . Aroma and the Cunturcaga. The latter is a 
favourite haunt of the gigantic v