Skip to main content

Full text of "The voyage of the Beagle"

See other formats

Ex Lmuis 

3laritlnt* Otardtu^ (Earbmrg 


^-/ff 43 










i rt Tj^ ffe^fc 
















Copyright, 1909 

Designed, Printed, and Bound at 
Collier **, ^efco gorfe 




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


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio Great Evaporation 
Slavery Botofogo Bay Terrestrial Planarise Clouds on the Cor- 
covado Heavy Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects 
Elater, springing powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a Butter- 
fly Entomology Ants Wasp killing a Spider Parasitical Spider 
Artifices of an Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider with an un- 
symmetrical Web 


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


Rio Negro Estancias attacked by the Indians Salt Lakes Flamin- 

foes R. Negro to R. Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian Hare 
ndian Families General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand 
Dunes Negro Lieutenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations 
Punta Alta Zorillo 74 


Bahia Blanca ^Geology Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds 
Recent Extinction Longevity of Species Large Animals do not 
require a luxuriant vegetation Southern Africa Siberian Fossils 
Two Species of Ostrich Habits of Oven-bird Armadilloes; 
Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard Hybernation of Animals Habits 
of Sea-Pen Indian Wars and Massacres Arrow-head, antiquarian 
Relic 93 





Set out for Buenos Ayres Rio Sauce Sierra Ventana Third Posta 
Driving Horses Bolas Partridges and Foxes Features of the 
Country Long-legged Plover Terutero Hail-storm Natural En- 
closures in the Sierra Tapalguen Flesh of Puma Meat Diet 
Guardia del Monte Effects of Cattle on the Vegetation Cardoon 
Buenos Ayres Corral where Cattle are slaughtered ... 118 


Excursion to St. Fe Thistle-Beds Habits of the Bizcacha Little Owl 
Saline Streams Level Plains Mastodon St. Fe Change in 
Landscape Geology Tooth of extinct Horse Relation of the 
Fossil and Recent Quadrupeds of North and South America 
Effects of a great Drought Parana Habits of the Jaguar Scis- 
sor-beak Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail Revolution Buenos 
Ayres State of Government 135 


Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento Value of an Estancia Cattle, 
how counted Singular Bree_d of Oxen Perforated Pebbles Shep- 
herd Dogs Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding Character of In- 
habitants Rio Plata Flocks of Butterflies Aeronaut Spiders 
Phosphorescence of the Sea Port Desire Guanaco Port St. 

Silian Geology of Patagonia Fossil gigantic Animal Types of 
rganizatipn constant Change in the Zoology of America Causes 
of Extinction 155 


Santa Cruz Expedition up the Piver Indians Immense Streams of 
Basaltic Lava Fragments not transported by the River Exca- 
vation of the Valley Condor, habits of Cordillera Erratic 
Boulders of great size Indian Relics Return to the Ship Falk- 
land Islands Wild Horses, Cattle, Rabbits Wolf-like Fox Fire 
made of Bones Manner of hunting Wild Cattle Geology 
Streams of Stones Scenes of Violence Penguin Geese Eggs 
of Doris Compound Animals 197 


Tierra del Fuego, first arrival Good Success Bay An Account of 
the Fuegians on board Interview with the Savages -Scenery 
of the Forests Cape Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condi- 
tion of the Savages Famines Cannibals Matricide Religious 
Feelings -Great Gale Beagle Channel Ponsonby Sound Build 
Wigwams and settle the Fuegians Bifurcation of the Beagle 
Channel Glaciers Return to the Ship_ Second Visit in the Ship 
to the Settlement Equality of Condition amongst the Natives . 215 


Strait of Magellan Port Famine Ascent of Mount Tarn Forests 
Edible Fungus Zoology Great Sea-weed Leave Tierra del 
Fuego Climate Fruit-trees and Productions of the Southern 
Coasts Height of Snow-line on the Cordillera Descent of Gla- 
ciers to the Sea Icebergs formed Transportal of Boulders 
Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands Preservation 
of Frozen Carcasses Recapitulation 247 




Valparaiso Excursion to the Foot of the Andes Structure of the Land 
Ascend the Bell of Quillota Shattered Masses of Greenstone 
Immense Valleys Mines State of Miners Santiago Hot-baths 
of Cauquenes Gold-mines Grinding-mills Perforated Stones 
Habits of the Puma El Turco and Tapacolo Humming-birds . 269 


Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion Native Indians Castro 
Tame Fox Ascend San Pedro Chonos Archipelago Peninsula 
of Tres Monies Granitic Range Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's 
Harbour Wild Potato Formation of Peat Myopotamus, Otter 
and Mice Cheucau and Barking-bird Opetiorhynchus Singular 
Character of Ornithology Petrels 290 


San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in Eruption, contemporaneously with 
Aconcagua and Coseguina Ride to Cucao Impenetrable Forests 
Valdivia Indians Earthquake Conception Great Earthquake 
Rocks fissured Appearance of the former Towns The Sea 
Black and Boiling Direction of the Vibrations Stones twisted 
round Great Wave Permanent Elevation of the Land Area of 
Volcanic Phenomena The connection between the Elevatory and 
Eruptive Forces Causes of earthquakes Slow Elevation of 
Mountain-chains 309 


Valparaiso Portillp Pass Sagacity of Mules Mountain-torrents 
Mines, how discovered Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the 
Cordillera Effect of Snow on Rocks-^Geological Structure of 
the two main Ranges Their distinct Origin and Upheaval Great 
subsidence Red Snow Winds Pinnacles of Snow Dry and 
clear Atmosphere Electricity Pampas Zoology of the opposite 
Sides of the Andes Locusts Great Bugs Mendoza Uspallata 
Pass Silicified trees buried as they grew Incas Bridge Badness 
of the Passes exaggerated Cumbre Casuchas Valparaiso . . 333 


Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried by the Miners Co- 
quimbo Earthquake Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent 
Deposits Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations Ex- 
cursion up the Valley Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of 
Copiapo Rain and Earthquakes Hydrophobia The Despoblado 
Indian Ruins Probable change of Climate River-bed arched V 
by an Earthquake Cold Gales of Wind Noises from a Hill 
Iquique Salt Alluvium Nitrate of Soda Lima Unhealthy Coun- 
try Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake Recent sub- 
sidence Elevated S'rells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition 
Plain with embedded Shells and fragments of Pottery Antiquity 
of the Indian Race 357 




Galapagos Archipelago The whole Group Volcanic Number of Craters 
Leafless Bushes Colony at Charles Island James Island Salt- 
lake in Crater Natural History of the Group Ornithology, curi- 
ous Finches Reptiles Great Tortoises, habits of Marine Lizard, 
feeds on Sea-weed Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing habits, herbiv- 
orous Importance of Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, Shells, 
Insects Bo.tany American Type of Organization Differences in 
the Species or Races on different Islands Tameness of the Birds 
Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct 394 


Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti Aspect Vegetation on 
the Mountains View of timeo Excursion into the Interior 
Profound Ravines Succession of Waterfalls Number of wild 
useful Plants Temperance of the Inhabitants Their moral state 
Parliament convened New Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs 
Excursion to Waimate -Missionary Establishment English Weeds 
now run wild Waiomio Funeral of a New Zealand Woman 
Sail for Australia 425 


Sydney Excursion to Bathurst Aspect of the Woods Party of 
Natives Gradual extinction of the Aborigines Infection gener- 
ated by associated Men in health Blue Mountains View of the 
grand gulf-like Valleys Their origin and formation Bathurst, 

Smeral civility of the Lower Orders State of Society Van 
iemen's Land Hobart Town Aborigines all banished Mount 
Wellington King George's Sound Cheerless Aspect of the Coun- 
try Bald Head, calcareous casts of branches of Trees Party of 
Natives Leave Australia 455 


Keeling Island Singular appearance Scanty Flora Transport of 
Seeds Birds and Insects Ebbing and flowing Springs Fields 
of dead Coral Stone transported in the roots of Trees Great 
Crab Stinging Corals Coral-eating Fish Coral Formations 
Lagoon Islands, or Atolls Depth at which reef-building Corals 
can live Vast Areas interspersed with low Coral Islands Sub- 
sidence of their foundations Barrier Reefs Fringing Reefs 
Conversion of Fringing Reefs into Barrier Reefs, and into Atolls 
Evidence of changes in Level Breaches in Barrier Reefs 
Maldiva Atolls; their peculiar structure Dead and submerged 
Reefs Areas of subsidence and elevation Distribution of Vol- 
canoes Subsidence slow, and vast in amount 477 


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of Great crateriform ring of Moun- 
tains Hindoos St. Helena History of the changes in the Vege- 
tation Cause of the extinction of Land-shells Ascension Varia- 
tion in the imported Rats Volcanic Bombs Beds of Infusoria 
Bahia Brazil Splendour of Tropical Scenery Pernambuco 
Singular Reef Slavery Return to England Retrospect on our 
Voyage 509 



A SKETCH of Darwin's life and some indication of the im- 
portance of his work have been given in the edition of "The 
Origin of Species" published in the Harvard Classics. 

The text of the present volume shows without further com- 
ment the nature of Darwin's labors and their results on this 
momentous voyage. A few sentences gathered from his auto- 
biography will, however, throw some additional light upon the 
more personal aspects of the expedition. 

"The Voyage of the 'Beagle' has been by far the most im- 
portant event in my life, and has determined my whole career. 
... / have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real 
training or education of my mind; I was led to attend closely 
to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of 
observation were improved, though they were always fairly 
developed. . . " 

"The above various special studies were, however, of no im- 
portance compared with the habit of energetic industry and of 
concentrated attention to whatever I was engaged in, which I 
then acquired. Everything about which I thought or read was 
made to bear directly on what I had seen or was likely to see; 
and this habit of mind was continued during the five years of 
the voyage. I feel sure that it was this training which has en- 
abled me to do whatever I have done in science." 

"Looking backwards, I can now perceive how my love for 
science gradually preponderated over every other taste. During 
the first two years my old passion for shooting survived in nearly 
full force, and I shot, myself, all the birds and animals for my 
collection; but gradually I gave up my gun more and more, and 
finally altogether, to my servant, as shooting interfered with my 
work, more especially with making out the geological structure 
of a country. I discovered, though unconsciously and insensibly, 
that the pleasure of observing and reasoning was a much higher 
one than that of skill and sport. . . ." 

"As far as I can judge of myself, I worked to the utmost dur- 
ing the voyage from the mere pleasure of investigation, and from 
my strong desire to add a few facts to the great mass of facts 
in Natural Science. But I was also ambitions to take a fair 


place among scientific men, whether more ambitious or less so 
than most of my fellow-workers, I can form no opinion." (Life 
and Letters, I. pp. 61-65.) 

Even if the Journal of the voyage were not one of the most 
' interesting and informing of books, this statement by its author 
of the importance of the expedition in making possible his later 
epoch-making generalizations would give it a distinctive place in 
the literature of science. But its amazing wealth of informa- 
tion and its unconsciously painted picture of disinterested zeal 
in the search for scientific truth have made it for intrinsic rea- 
sons a classic in its kind. 





I HAVE stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, 
and in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in 
consequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having 
some scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from 
him of giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volun- 
teered my services, which received, through the kindness of the 
hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of 
the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed 
of studying the Natural History of the different countries we 
visited, have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I may 
here be permitted to repeat my expression of gratitude to him; 
and to add that, during the five years we were together, I re- 
ceived from him the most cordial friendship and steady assist- 
ance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to all the Officers of the 
Beagle 1 I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating kind- 
ness with which I was treated during our long voyage. 

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

I 1 must take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to Mr. 
Bynoe, the surgeon of the Beagle, for his very kind attention to me when 
I was ill at Valparaiso. 



I owe to the high talents and disinterested zeal of the above 
distinguished authors, could not have been undertaken, had it not 
been for the liberality of the Lords Commissioners of Her Maj- 
esty's Treasury, who, through the representation of the Right 
Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been pleased 
to grant a sum of one thousand pounds towards defraying part 
of the expenses of publication. 

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

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

June, 1845. 



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

A FTER having been twice driven back by heavy south- 
L\ western gales, Her Majesty's ship Beagle, a ten-gun 
wLJL. brig, under the command of Captain Fitz Roy, R. N., 
sailed from Devonport on the 27th of December, 1831. The 
object of the expedition was to complete the survey of Pata- 
gonia and Tierra del Fuego, commenced under Captain King 
in 1826 to 1830 to survey the shores of Chile, Peru, and 
of some islands in the Pacific and to carry a chain of 
chronometrical measurements round the World. On the 6th 
of January we reached Teneriffe, but were prevented land- 
ing, by fears of our bringing the cholera : the next morning 
we saw the sun rise behind the rugged outline of the Grand 
Canary island, and suddenly illuminate the Peak of Teneriffe, 
whilst the lower parts were veiled in fleecy clouds. This 
was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten. 
On the i6th of January, 1832, we anchored at Porto Praya, 
in St. Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd archipelago. 

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



the hazy atmosphere of this climate, is one of great interest; 
if, indeed, a person, fresh from sea, and who has just 
walked, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can 
be a judge of anything but his own happiness. The island 
would generally be considered as very uninteresting; but to 
anyone accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel 
aspect of an utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur which 
more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can 
scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains; 
yet flocks of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to 
exist. It rains very seldom, but during a short portion of 
the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards a 
light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This soon 
withers; and upon such naturally formed hay the animals 
live. It had not now rained for an entire year. When the 
island was discovered, the immediate neighbourhood of 
Porto Praya was clothed with trees, 1 the reckless destruc- 
tion of which has caused here, as at St. Helena, and at 
some of the Canary islands, almost entire sterility. The 
broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which serve during a 
few days only in the season as water-courses, are clothed 
with thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit 
these valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo 
lagoensis), which tamely sits on the branches of the castor- 
oil plant, and thence darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It 
is brightly coloured, but not so beautiful as the European 
species : in its flight, manners, and place of habitation, which 
is generally in the driest valley, there is also a wide dif- 

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira 
Grande, a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Un- 
til we reached the valley of St. Martin, the country presented 
its usual dull brown appearance; but here, a very small rill 
of water produces a most refreshing margin of luxuriant 
vegetation. In the course of an hour we arrived at Ribeira 
Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a large ruined 
fort and cathedral. This little town, before its harbour was 
filled up, was the principal place in the island: it now pre- 

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


sents a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Hav- 
ing procured a black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who 
had served in the Peninsular war as an interpreter, we vis- 
ited a collection of buildings, of which an ancient church 
formed the principal part. It is here the governors and 
captain-generals of the islands have been buried. Some of 
the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth century.* 
The heraldic ornaments were the only things in this retired 
place that reminded us of Europe. The church or chapel 
formed one side of a quadrangle, in the middle of which a 
large clump of bananas were growing. On another side 
was a hospital, containing about a dozen miserable-looking 

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

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situ- 
ated near the centre of the island. On a small plain which 
we crossed, a few stunted acacias were growing; their tops 
had been bent by the steady trade-wind, in a singular man- 
ner some of them even at right angles to their trunks. The 
direction of the branches was exactly N. E. by N., and S. W. 
by S., and these natural vanes must indicate the prevailing 
direction of the force of the trade-wind. The travelling had 
made so little impression on the barren soil, that we here 
missed our track, and took that to Fuentes. This we did 
not find out till we arrived there; and we were afterwards 
glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village, with a small 
stream; and everything appeared to prosper well, excepting, 

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


indeed, that which ought to do so most its inhabitants. 
The black children, completely naked, and looking very 
wretched, were carrying bundles of firewood half as big as 
their own bodies. 

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

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

One morning the view was singularly clear; the distant 
mountains being projected with the sharpest outline on a 
heavy bank of dark blue clouds. Judging from the appear- 
ance, and from similar cases in England, I supposed that the 
air was saturated with moisture. The fact, however, turned 
out quite the contrary. The hygrometer gave a difference 
of 29.6 degrees, between the temperature of the air, and the 
point at which dew was precipitated. This difference was 
nearly double that which I had observed on the previous 
mornings. This unusual degree of atmospheric dryness was 
accompanied by continual flashes of lightning. Is it not an 
uncommon case, thus to find a remarkable degree of aerial 
transparency with such a state of weather? 


Generally the atmosphere is hazy; and this is caused by 
the falling of impalpably fine dust, which was found to have 
slightly injured the astronomical instruments. The morning 
before we anchored at Porto Praya, I collected a little packet 
of this brown-coloured fine dust, which appeared to have 
been filtered from the wind by the gauze of the vane at the 
masthead. Mr. Lyell has also given me four packets of dust 
which fell on a vessel a few hundred miles northward of 
these islands. Professor Ehrenberg* finds that this dust con- 
sists in great part of infusoria with siliceous shields, and of 
the siliceous tissue of plants. In five little packets which I 
sent him, he has ascertained no less than sixty-seven dif- 
ferent organic forms ! The infusoria, with the exception of 
two marine species, are all inhabitants of fresh-water. 1 
have found no less than fifteen different accounts of dust 
having fallen on vessels when far out in the Atlantic. From 
the direction of the wind whenever it has fallen, and from 
its having always fallen during those months when the har- 
mattan is known to raise clouds of dust high into the atmos- 
phere, we may feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It 
is, however, a very singular fact, that, although Professor 
Ehrenberg knows many species of infusoria peculiar to 
Africa, he finds none of these in the dust which I sent him. 
On the other hand, he finds in it two species which hitherto 
he knows as living only in South America. The dust falls 
in such quantities as to dirty everything on board, and to 
hurt people's eyes; vessels even have run on shore owing to 
the obscurity of the atmosphere. It has often fallen on 
ships when several hundred, and even more than a thousand 
miles from the coast of Africa, and at points sixteen hun- 
dred miles distant in a north and south direction. In some 
dust which was collected on a vessel three hundred miles 
from the land, I was much surprised to find particles of 
stone above the thousandth of an inch square, mixed with 
finer matter. After this fact one need not be surprised 
at the diffusion of the far lighter and smaller sporules of 
cryptogamic plants. 

8 1 must take this opportunity of acknowledging the great kindness 
with which this illustrious naturalist has examined many of my specimens. 
I have sent (June, 1845) a full account of the falling of this dust to the 
Geological Society. 


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

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


acrid secretion, which is spread over its body, causes a 
sharp, stinging sensation, similar to that produced by the 
Physalia, or Portuguese man-of-war. 

I v/as much interested, on several occasions, by watching 
the habits of an Octopus, or cuttle-fish. Although common 
in the pools of water left by the retiring tide, these animals 
were not easily caught. By means of their long arms and 
suckers, they could drag their bodies into very narrow crev- 
ices; and when thus fixed, it required great force to remove 
them. At other times they darted tail first, with the rapidity 
of an arrow, from one side of the pool to the other, at the 
same instant discolouring the water with a dark chestnut- 
brown ink. These animals also escape detection by a very 
extraordinary, chameleon-like power of changing their col- 
our. They appear to vary their tints according to the nature 
of the ground over which they pass : when in deep water, 
their general shade was brownish purple, but when placed on 
the land, or in shallow water, this dark tint changed into one 
of a yellowish green. The colour, examined more carefully, 
was a French grey, with numerous minute spots of bright 
yellow: the former of these varied in intensity; the latter 
entirely disappeared and appeared again by turns. These 
changes were effected in such a manner, that clouds, varying 
in tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut-brown, 4 were 
continually passing over the body. Any part, being subjected 
to a slight shock of galvanism, became almost black: a simi- 
lar effect, but in a less degree, was produced by scratching 
the skin with a needle. These clouds, or blushes as they may 
be called, are said to be produced by the alternate expansion 
and contraction of minute vesicles containing variously 
coloured fluids. 5 

This cuttle-fish displayed its chameleon-like power both 
during the act of swimming and whilst remaining stationary 
at the bottom. I was much amused by the various arts to 
escape detection used by one individual, which seemed fully 
aware that I was watching it. Remaining for a time motion- 
less, it would then stealthily advance an inch or two, like a 
cat after a mouse; sometimes changing its colour: it thus 

* So named according to Patrick Symes's nomenclature. 

B See Encyclop. of Anat. and Physiol., article Cephalopoda. 



proceeded, till having gained a deeper part, it darted away, 
leaving a dusky train of ink to hide the hole into which it 
had crawled. 

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

ST. PAUL'S ROCKS. In crossing the Atlantic we hove-to, 
during the morning of February i6th, close to the island of 
St. Paul's. This cluster of rocks is situated in o 58' north 
latitude, and 29 15' west longitude. It is 540 miles distant 
from the coast of America, and 350 from the island of Fer- 

nando Noronha. The highest point is only fifty feet above 
the level of the sea, and the entire circumference is under 
three-quarters of a mile. This small point rises abruptly out 
of the depths of the ocean. Its mineralogical constitution 
is not simple ; in some parts the rock is of a cherty, in others 


of a felspathic nature, including thin veins of serpentine. It 
is a remarkable fact, that all the many small islands, lying 
far from any continent, in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic 
Oceans, with the exception of the Seychelles and this little 
point of rock, are, I believe, composed either of coral or of 
erupted matter. The volcanic nature of these oceanic islands 
is evidently an extension of that law, and the effect of those 
same causes, whether chemical or mechanical, from which it 
results that a vast majority of the volcanoes now in action 
stand either near sea-coasts or as islands in the midst of the 

The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a bril- 
liantly white colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a 
vast multitude of seafowl, and partly to a coating of a hard 
glossy substance with a pearly lustre, which is intimately 
united to the surface of the rocks. This, when examined 
with a lens, is found to consist of numerous exceedingly 
thin layers, its total thickness being about the tenth of an 
inch. It contains much animal matter, and its origin, no 
doubt, is due to the action of the rain or spray on the birds' 
dung. Below some small masses of guano at Ascension, and 
on the Abrolhos Islets, I found certain stalactitic branching 
bodies, formed apparently in the same manner as the thin 
white coating on these rocks. The branching bodies so closely 
resembled in general appearance certain nullipora? (a family 
of hard calcareous sea-plants), that in lately looking hastily 
over my collection I did not perceive the difference. The 
globular extremities of the branches are of a pearly texture, 
like the enamel of teeth, but so hard as just to scratch plate- 
glass. I may here mention, that on a part of the coast of 
Ascension, where there is a vast accumulation of shelly sand, 
an incrustation is deposited on the tidal rocks by the water 
of the sea, resembling, as represented in the woodcut, cer- 
tain cryptogamic plants (Marchantiae) often seen on damp 
walls. The surface of the fronds is beautifully glossy; and 
tnose parts formed where fully exposed to the light are of a 
jet black colour, but those shaded under ledges are only grey. 
I have shown specimens of this incrustation to several 
geologists, and they all thought that they were of volcanic 
or igneous origin ! In its hardness and translucency in 


its polish, equal to that of the finest oliva-shell in the bad 
smell given out, and loss of colour under the blowpipe it 
shows a close similarity with living sea-shells. Moreover, in 
sea-shells, it is known that the parts habitually covered and 
shaded by the mantle of the animal, are of a paler colour 
than those fully exposed to the light, just as is the case with 
this incrustation. When we remember that lime, either as a 
phosphate or carbonate, enters into the composition of the 
hard parts, such as bones and shells, of all living animals, it 
is an interesting physiological fact 6 to find substances harder 
than the enamel of teeth, and coloured surfaces as well 
polished as those of a fresh shell, reformed through inor- 
ganic means from dead organic matter mocking, also, in 
shape, some of the lower vegetable productions. 

We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds the 
booby and the noddy. The former is a species of gannet, 
and the latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid dis- 
position, and are so unaccustomed to visitors, that I could 
have killed any number of them with my geological hammer. 
The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock ; but the tern makes 
a very simple nest with seaweed. By the side of many of 
these nests a small flying-fish was placed; which, I suppose, 
had been brought by the male bird for its partner. It was 
amusing to watch how quickly a large and active crab 
(Graspus), which inhabits the crevices of the rock, stole the 
fish from the side of the nest, as soon as we had disturbed 
the parent birds. Sir W. Symonds, one of the few persons 
who have landed here, informs me that he saw the crabs 
dragging even the young birds out of their nests, and de- 
vouring them. Not a single plant, not even a lichen, grows 
on this islet ; yet it is inhabited by several insects and spiders. 
The following list completes, I believe, the terrestrial fauna : 
a fly (Olfersia) living on the booby, and a tick which must 
have come here as a parasite on the birds; a small brown 

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


moth, belonging to a genus that feeds on feathers ; a beetle 
(Quedius) and a woodlouse from beneath the dung; and 
lastly, numerous spiders, which I suppose prey on these small 
attendants and scavengers of the water-fowl. The often re- 
peated description of the stately palm and other noble tropi- 
cal plants, then birds, and lastly man, taking possession of 
the coral islets as soon as formed, in the Pacific, is probably 
not correct; I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that 
feather and dirt-feeding and parasitic insects and spiders 
should be the first inhabitants of newly formed oceanic 

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

FERNANDO NORONHA, Feb. soth. As far as I was enabled 
to observe, during the few hours we stayed at this place, the 
constitution of the island is volcanic, but probably not of a 
recent date. The most remarkable feature is a conical hill, 
about one thousand feet high, the upper part of which is 
exceedingly steep, and on one side overhangs its base. The 
rock is phonolite, and is divided into irregular columns. On 
viewing one of these isolated masses, at first one is inclined 
to believe that it has been suddenly pushed up in a semi- 
fluid state. At St. Helena, however, I ascertained that some 
pinnacles, of a nearly similar figure and constitution, had 
been formed by the injection of melted rock into yielding 
strata, which thus had formed the moulds for these gigantic 
obelisks. The whole island is covered with wood; but from 
the dryness of the climate there is no appearance of luxuri- 
ance. Half-way up the mountain, some great masses of the 
columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like trees, and ornamented 
by others covered with fine pink flowers but without a single 
leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the nearer parts of the scenery. 


BAHIA, OR SAN SALVADOR. BRAZIL, Feb. 2()th. The day 
has passed delightfully. Delight itself, however, is a weak 
term to express the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first 
time, has wandered by himself in a Brazilian forest. The 
elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, 
the beauty of the flowers, the glossy green of the foliage, 
but above all the general luxuriance of the vegetation, filled 
me with admiration. A most paradoxical mixture of sound 
and silence pervades the shady parts of the wood. The noise 
from the insects is so loud, that it may be heard even in a 
vessel anchored several hundred yards from the shore; yet 
within the recesses of the forest a universal silence appears 
to reign. To a person fond of natural history, such a day 
as this brings with it a deeper pleasure than he can ever hope 
to experience again. After wandering about for some hours, 
I returned to the landing-place ; but, before reaching it, I 
was overtaken by a tropical storm. I tried to find shelter 
under a tree, which was so thick that it would never have 
been penetrated by common English rain; but here, in a 
couple of minutes, a little torrent flowed down the trunk. 
It is to this violence of the rain that we must attribute the 
verdure at the bottom of the thickest woods: if the showers 
were like those of a colder climate, the greater part would 
be absorbed or evaporated before it reached the ground. I 
will not at present attempt to describe the gaudy scenery 
of this noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, we 
called here a second time, and I shall then have occasion to 
remark on it. 

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of at least 
2000 miles, and certainly for a considerable space inland, 
wherever solid rock occurs, it belongs to a granitic forma- 
tion. The circumstance of this enormous area being con- 
stituted of materials which most geologists believe to have 
been crystallized when heated under pressure, gives rise to 
many curious reflections. Was this effect produced beneath 
the depths of a profound ocean ? or did a covering of strata 
formerly extend over it, which has since been removed? 
Can we believe that any power, acting for a time short of 
infinity, could have denuded the granite over so many thou- 
sand square leagues? 


On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet en- 
tered the sea, I observed a fact connected with a subject dis- 
cussed by Humboldt. 7 At the cataracts of the great rivers 
Orinoco, Nile, and Congo, the syenitic rocks are coated by 
a black substance, appearing as if they had been polished 
with plumbago. The layer is of extreme thinness; and on 
analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the oxides 
of manganese and iron. In the Orinoco it occurs on the 
rocks periodically washed by the floods, and in those parts 
alone where the stream is rapid ; or, as the Indians say, " the 
rocks are black where the waters are white." Here the coat- 
ing is of a rich brown instead of a black colour, and seems 
to be composed of ferruginous matter alone. Hand speci- 
mens fail to give a just idea of these brown burnished stones 
which glitter in the sun's rays. They occur only within the 
limits of the tidal waves; and as the rivulet slowly trickles 
down, the surf must supply the polishing power of the cat- 
aracts in the great rivers. In like manner, the rise and fall 
of the tide probably answer to the periodical inundations; 
and thus the same effects are produced under apparently dif- 
ferent but really similar circumstances. The origin, how- 
ever, of these coatings of metallic oxides, which seem as if 
cemented to the rocks, is not understood; and no reason, I 
believe, can be assigned for their thickness remaining the 

One day I was amused by watching the habits of the 
Diodon antennatus, which was caught swimming near the 
shore. This fish, with its flabby skin, is well known to pos- 
sess the singular power of distending itself into a nearly 
spherical form. After having been taken out of water for 
a short time, and then again immersed in it, a considerable 
quantity both of water and air is absorbed by the mouth, 
and perhaps likewise by the branchial orifices. This process 
is effected by two methods: the air is swallowed, and is then 
forced into the cavity of the body, its return being prevented 
by a muscular contraction which is externally visible: but 
the water enters in a gentle stream through the mouth, 
which is kept wide open and motionless; this latter action 
must, therefore, depend on suction. The skin about the 

T Pers. Narr., vol. v.. pt. I., p. 18. 


abdomen is much looser than that on the back; hence, dur- 
ing the inflation, the lower surface becomes far more dis- 
tended than the upper; and the fish, in consequence, floats 
with its back downwards. Cuvier doubts whether the Dio- 
don in this position is able to swim ; but not only can it thus 
move forward in a straight line, but it can turn round to 
either side. This latter movement is effected solely by the 
aid of the pectoral fins; the tail being collapsed, and not 
used. From the body being buoyed up with so much air, the 
branchial openings are out of water, but a stream drawn in 
by the mouth constantly flows through them. 

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

March i8th. We sailed from Bahia. A few days after- 
wards, when not far distant from the Abrolhos Islets, my 
attention was called to a reddish-brown appearance in the 
sea. The whole surface of the water, as it appeared under a 


weak lens, seemed as if covered by chopped bits of hay, with 
their ends jagged. These are minute cylindrical confervae, 
in bundles or rafts of from twenty to sixty in each. Mr. 
Berkeley informs me that they are the same species (Tricho- 
desmium erythraeum) with that found over large spaces in 
the Red Sea, and whence its name of Red Sea is derived. 8 
Their numbers must be infinite : the ship passed through 
several bands of them, one of which was about ten yards 
wide, and, judging from the mud-like colour of the water, 
at least two and a half miles long. In almost every long 
voyage some account is given of these confervae. They ap- 
pear especially common in the sea near Australia; and off 
Cape Leeuwin I found an allied but smaller and apparently 
different species. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, re- 
marks, that the sailors gave to this appearance the name of 

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed 
many little masses of confervae a few inches square, consist- 
ing of long cylindrical threads of excessive thinness, so as 
to be barely visible to the naked eye, mingled with other 
rather larger bodies, finely conical at both ends. Two of 
these are shown in the woodcut united together. They vary 
in length from .04 to .06, and even to .08 of an inch in 
length ; and in diameter from .006 to .008 of an inch. Near 
one extremity of the cylindrical part, a green septum, formed 
of granular matter, and thickest in the middle, may generally 
be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom of a most delicate, 
colourless sac, composed of a pulpy substance, which lines 
the exterior case, but does not extend within the extreme 
conical points. In some specimens, 
small but perfect spheres of brown- 
ish granular matter supplied the 
places of the septa; and I observed the curious process by 
which they were produced. The pulpy matter of the internal 
coating suddenly grouped itself into lines, some of which 
assumed a form radiating from a common centre; it then 
continued, with an irregular and rapid movement, to con- 
tract itself, so that in the course of a second the whole was 

* M. Montagne, in Comptes Rendus, etc., Juillet, 1844; and Annal. des 
Scienc. Nat., Dec. 1844. 


united into a perfect little sphere, which occupied the posi- 
tion of the septum at one end of the now quite hollow case. 
The formation of the granular sphere was hastened by any 
accidental injury. I may add, that frequently a pair of these 
bodies were attached to each other, as represented above, 
cone beside cone, at that end where the septum occurs. 

I will add here a few other observations connected with 
the discoloration of the sea from organic causes. On the 
coast of Chile, a few leagues north of Concepcion, the Beaglt 
one day passed through great bands of muddy water, exactly 
like that of a swollen river; and again, a degree south of 
Valparaiso, when fifty miles from the land, the same appear- 
ance was still more extensive. Some of the water placed 
in a glass was of a pale reddish tint; and, examined under 
a microscope, was seen to swarm with minute animalcula 
darting about, and often exploding. Their shape is oval, 
and contracted in the middle by a ring of vibrating curved 
ciliae. It was, however, very difficult to examine them with 
care, for almost the instant motion ceased, even while cross- 
ing the field of vision, their bodies burst. Sometimes both 
ends burst at once, sometimes only one, and a quantity of 
coarse, brownish, granular matter was ejected. The animal 
an instant before bursting expanded to half again its natu- 
ral size; and the explosion took place about fifteen seconds 
after the rapid progressive motion had ceased: in a few 
cases it was preceded for a short interval by a rotatory 
movement on the longer axis. About two minutes after any 
number were isolated in a drop of water, they thus perished. 
The animals move with the narrow apex forwards, by the 
aid of their vibratory ciliae, and generally by rapid starts. 
They are exceedingly minute, and quite invisible to the 
naked eye, only covering a space equal to the square of the 
thousandth of an inch. Their numbers were infinite; for 
the smallest drop of water which I could remove contained 
very many. In one day we passed through two spaces of 
water thus stained, one of which alone must have extended 
over several square miles. What incalculable numbers of 
these microscopical animals ! The colour of the water, as 
seen at some distance, was like that of a river which has 
flowed through a red clay district; but under the shade of 


the vessel's side it was quite as dark as chocolate. The line 
where the red and blue water joined was distinctly defined. 
The weather for some days previously had been calm, and the 
ocean abounded, to an unusual degree, with living creatures." 
In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great dis- 
tance from the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a 
bright red colour, from the number of Crustacea, which 
somewhat resemble in form large prawns. The sealers call 
them whale-food. Whether whales feed on them I do not 
know; but terns, cormorants, and immense herds of great 
unwieldy seals derive, on some parts of the coast, their 
chief sustenance from these swimming crabs. Seamen 
invariably attribute the discoloration of the water to spawn ; 
but I found this to be the case only on one occasion. At 
the distance of several leagues from the Archipelago of the 
Galapagos, the ship sailed through three strips of a dark 
yellowish, or mudlike water; these strips were some miles 
long, but only a few yards wide, and they were separated 
from the surrounding water by a sinuous yet distinct mar- 
gin. The colour was caused by little gelatinous balls, about 
th-e fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous minute 
spherical ovules were imbedded: they were of two distinct 
kinds, one being of a reddish colour and of a different shape 
from the other. I cannot form a conjecture as to what two 
kinds of animals these belonged. Captain Colnett remarks, 
that this appearance is very common among the Galapagos 
Islands, and that the directions of the bands indicate that 
of the currents; in the described case, however, the line was 
caused by the wind. The only other appearance which I 
have to notice, is a thin oily coat on the water which dis- 
plays iridescent colours. I saw a considerable tract of the 
ocean thus covered on the coast of Brazil; the seamen 
attributed it to the putrefying carcase of some whale, which 
probably was floating at no great distance. I do not here 
mention the minute gelatinous particles, hereafter to be 

9 M. Lesson (Voyage de la Coquille, torn, i., p. 255) mentions red water 
off Lima, apparently produced by the same cause. Peron, the distinguished 
naturalist, in the Voyage aux Terres Australes, gives no less than twelve 
references _ to voyagers who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the 


referred to, which are frequently dispersed throughout the 
water, for they are not sufficiently abundant to create any 
change of colour. 

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which 
appear remarkable : first, how do the various bodies which 
form the bands with defined edges keep together? In the 
case of the prawn-like crabs, their movements were as 
coinstantaneous as in a regiment of soldiers ; but this cannot 
happen from anything like voluntary action with the ovules, 
or the confervae, nor is it probable among the infusoria. 
Secondly, what causes the length and narrowness of the 
bands? The appearance so much resembles that which may 
be seen in every torrent, where the stream uncoils into long 
streaks the froth collected in the eddies, that I must attrib- 
ute the effect to a similar action either of the currents of the 
air or sea. Under this supposition we must believe that the 
various organized bodies are produced in certain favourable 
places, and are thence removed by the set of either wind 
or water. I confess, however, there is a very great difficulty 
in imagining any one spot to be the birthplace of the millions 
of millions of animalcula and confervae: for whence come 
the germs at such points? the parent bodies having been 
distributed by the winds and waves over the immense ocean. 
But on no other hypothesis can I understand their linear 
grouping. I may add that Scoresby remarks that green 
water abounding with pelagic animals is invariably found 
in a certain part of the Arctic Sea. 


Rio de Janeiro Excursion north of Cape Frio Great Evaporation . 
Slavery Botofogo Bay Terrestrial Planariae Clouds on the Cor- 
covado Heavy Rain Musical Frogs Phosphorescent Insects 
Elater, springing powers of Blue Haze Noise made by a But- 
terfly Entomology Ants Wasp killing a Spider Parasitical 
Spider Artifices of an Epeira Gregarious Spider Spider with 
an unsymmetrical Web. 

APRIL 4th to July 5th, 1832. A few days after our 

/-\ arrival I became acquainted with an Englishman who 

was going to visit his estate, situated rather more 

than a hundred miles from the capital, to the northward of 

Cape Frio. I gladly accepted his kind offer of allowing me 

to accompany him. 

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



runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little ground near the 
top, contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length they were 
discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole 
were seized with the exception of one old woman, who, 
sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed herself to 
pieces from the summit of the mountain. In a Roman 
matron this would have been called the noble love of free- 
dom : in a poor negress it is mere brutal obstinacy. We 
continued riding for some hours. For the few last miles the 
road was intricate, and it passed through a desert waste of 
marshes and lagoons. The scene by the dimmed light of the 
moon was most desolate. A few fireflies flitted by us; and 
the solitary snipe, as it rose, uttered its plaintive cry. The 
distant and sullen roar of the sea scarcely broke the stillness 
of the night. 

April pth. We left our miserable sleeping-place before 
sunrise. The road passed through a narrow sandy plain, 
lying between the sea and the interior salt lagoons. The 
number of beautiful fishing birds, such as egrets and cranes, 
and the succulent plants assuming most fantastical forms, 
gave to the scene an interest which it would not otherwise 
have possessed. The few stunted trees were loaded with 
parasitical plants, among which the beauty and delicious 
fragrance of some of the orchideae were most to be admired. 
As the sun rose, the day became extremely hot, and the 
reflection of the light and heat from the white sand was very 
distressing. We dined at Mandetiba; the thermometer in 
the shade being 84. The beautiful view of the distant 
wooded hills, reflected in the perfectly calm water of an 
extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As the venda 1 here 
was a very good one, and I have the pleasant, but rare 
remembrance, of an excellent dinner, I will be grateful and 
presently describe it, as the type of its class. These houses 
are often large, and are built of thick upright posts, with 
boughs interwoven, and afterwards plastered. They seldom 
have floors, and never glazed windows; but are generally 
pretty well roofed. Universally the front part is open, form- 
ing a kind of verandah, in which tables and benches are 
placed. The bed-rooms join on each side, and here the 

1 Venda, the Portuguese name for an inn. 


senger may sleep as comfortably as he can, on a wooden 
platform, covered by a thin straw mat. The venda stands 
in a courtyard, where the horses are fed. On first arriving 
it was our custom to unsaddle the horses and give them 
their Indian corn; then, with a low bow, to ask the senhor 
to do us the favour to give us something to eat. " Anything 
you choose, sir," was his usual answer. For the few first 
times, vainly I thanked providence for having guided us 
to so good a man. The conversation proceeding, the case 
universally became deplorable. " Any fish can you do us the 
favour of giving?" "Oh! no, sir." "Any soup?" "No, 
sir." " Any bread ? " " Oh ! no, sir." " Any dried meat ? " 
" Oh ! no, sir." If we were lucky, by waiting a couple of 
hours, we obtained fowls, rice, and farinha. It not unfre- 
quently happened, that we were obliged to kill, with stones, 
the poultry for our own supper. When, thoroughly exhausted 
by fatigue and hunger, we timorously hinted that we should 
be glad of our meal, the pompous, and (though true) most 
unsatisfactory answer was, " It will be ready when it is 
ready." If we had dared to remonstrate any further, we 
should have been told to proceed on our journey, as being 
too impertinent. The hosts are most ungracious and dis- 
agreeable in their manners; their houses and their persons 
are often filthily dirty; the want of the accommodation of 
forks, knives, and spoons is common; and I am sure no cot- 
tage or hovel in England could be found in a state so utterly 
destitute of every comfort. At Campos Novos, however, we 
fared sumptuously ; having rice and fowls, biscuit, wine, and 
spirits, for dinner; coffee in the evening, and fish with coffee 
for breakfast. All this, with good food for the horses, only 
cost 2s. 6d. per head. Yet the host of this venda, being 
asked if he knew anything of a whip which one of the party 
had lost, gruffly answered, " How should I know ? why did 
you not take care of it? I suppose the dogs have eaten it." 
Leaving Mandetiba, we continued to pass through an in- 
tricate wilderness of lakes; in some of which were fresh, 
in others salt water shells. Of the former kinds, I found 
a Limnsea in great numbers in a lake, into which, the in- 
habitants assured me that the sea enters once a year, and 
sometimes oftener, and makes the water quite salt. I have 


no doubt many interesting facts, in relation to marine and 
fresh water animals, might be observed in this chain of 
lagoons, which skirt the coast of Brazil. M. Gay 2 has 
stated that he found in the neighbourhood of Rio, shells of 
the marine genera solen and mytilus, and fresh water am- 
pullarise, living together in brackish water. I also frequently 
observed in the lagoon near the Botanic Garden, where the 
water is only a little less salt than in the sea, a species of 
hydrophilus, very similar to a water-beetle common in the 
ditches of England : in the same lake the only shell belonged 
to a genus generally found in estuaries. 

Leaving the coast for a time, we again entered the forest. 
The trees were very lofty, and remarkable, compared with 
those of Europe, from the whiteness of their trunks. I see 
by my note-book, " wonderful and beautiful, flowering para- 
sites," invariably struck me as the most novel object in these 
grand scenes. Travelling onwards we passed through tracts 
of pasturage, much injured by the enormous conical ants' 
nests, which were nearly twelve feet high. They gave to the 
plain exactly the appearance of the mud volcanos at Jorullo, 
as figured by Humboldt. We arrived at Engenhodo after it 
was dark, having been ten hours on horseback. I never 
ceased, during the whole journey, to be surprised at the 
amount of labour which the horses were capable of endur- 
ing; they appeared also to recover from any injury much 
sooner than those of our English breed. The Vampire bat 
is often the cause of much trouble, by biting the horses on 
their withers. The injury is generally not so much owing 
to the loss of blood, as to the inflammation which the pres- 
sure of the saddle afterwards produces. The whole circum- 
stance has lately been doubted in England; I was therefore 
fortunate in being present when one (Desmodus d'orbignyi, 
Wat.) was actually caught on a horse's back. We were 
bivouacking late one evening near Coquimbo, in Chile, when 
my servant, noticing that one of the horses was very restive, 
went to see what was the matter, and fancying he could 
distinguish something, suddenly put his hand on the beast's 
withers, and secured the vampire. In the morning the spot 
where the bite had been inflicted was easily distinguished 

a Annales des Sciences Naturelles for 1833. 



from being slightly swollen and bloody. The third day 
afterwards we rode the horse, without any ill effects. 

April ijth. After three days' travelling we arrived at 
Socego, the estate of Senhor Manuel Figuireda, a relation 
of one of our party. The house was simple, and, though like 
a barn in form, was well suited to the climate. In the sitting- 
room gilded chairs and sofas were oddly contrasted with the 
whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and windows without 
glass. The house, together with the granaries, the stables, 
and workshops for the blacks, who had been taught vari- 
ous trades, formed a rude kind of quadrangle ; in the centre 
of which a large pile of coffee was drying. These buildings 
stand on a little hill, overlooking the cultivated ground, and 
surrounded on every side by a wall of dark green luxuriant 
forest. The chief produce of this part of the country is 
coffee. Each tree is supposed to yield annually, on an aver- 
age, two pounds ; but some give as much as eight. Mandioca 
or cassada is likewise cultivated in great quantity. Every 
part of this plant is useful; the leaves and stalks are eaten 
by the horses, and the roots are ground into a pulp, which, 
when pressed dry and baked, forms the farinha, the prin- 
cipal article of sustenance in the Brazils. It is a curious, 
though well-known fact, that the juice of this most nutritious 
plant is highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died at 
this Fazenda, in consequence of having drunk some of it. 
Senhor Figuireda told me that he had planted, the year be- 
fore, one bag of feijao or beans, and three of rice ; the 
former of which produced eighty, and the latter three hun- 
dred and twenty fold. The pasturage supports a fine stock 
of cattle, and the woods are so full of game that a deer had 
been killed on each of the three previous days. This profu- 
sion of food showed itself at dinner, where, if the tables did 
not groan, the guests surely did ; for each person is expected 
to eat of every dish. One day, having, as I thought, nicely 
calculated so that nothing should go away untasted, to my 
utter dismay a roast turkey and a pig appeared in all their 
substantial reality. During the meals, it was the employ- 
ment of a man to drive out of the room sundry old hounds, 
and dozens of little black children, which crawled in together, 
at every opportunity. As long as the idea of slavery could be 
VOL. xxix B HC 


banished, there was something exceedingly fascinating in 
this simple and patriarchal style of living: it was such a 
perfect retirement and independence from the rest of the 

As soon as any stranger is seen arriving, a large bell is set 
tolling, and generally some small cannon are fired. The 
event is thus announced to the rocks and woods, but to noth- 
ing else. One morning I walked out an hour before daylight 
to admire the solemn stillness of the scene ; at last, the silence 
was broken by the morning hymn, raised on high by the 
whole body of the blacks; and in this manner their daily 
work is generally begun. On such fazendas as these, I have 
no doubt the slaves pass happy and contented lives. On 
Saturday and Sunday they work for themselves, and in this 
fertile climate the labour of two days is sufficient to support 
a man and his family for the whole week. 

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


I suppose it is owing to the large surface of foliage, previ- 
ously heated by the sun's rays. 

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an 
eye-witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only 
take place in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a 
lawsuit, the owner was on the point of taking all the women 
and chjjdren from the male slaves, and selling them sepa- 
rately at the public auction at Rio. Interest, and not any 
feeling of compassion, prevented this act. Indeed, I do not 
believe the inhumanity of separating thirty families, who 
had lived together for many years, even occurred to the 
owner. Yet I will pledge myself, that in humanity and 
good feeling he was superior to the common run of men. 
It may be said there exists no limit to the blindness of inter- 
est and selfish habit. I may mention one very trifling anec- 
dote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than any 
story of cruelty. I was cross'ng a ferry with a negro, who 
was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make him 
understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I 
passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, thought I was 
in a passion, and was going to strike him; for instantly, 
with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his 
hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, 
and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to 
ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This 
man had been trained to a degradation lower than the 
slavery of the most helpless animal. 

April i8th. In returning we spent two days at Socego, 
and I employed them in collecting insects in the forest. The 
greater number of trees, although so lofty, are not more 
than three or four feet in circumference. There are, of 
course, a few of much greater dimensions. Senhor Manuel 
was then making a canoe 70 feet in length from a solid trunk, 
which had originally been no feet long, and of great thick- 
ness. The contrast of palm trees, growing amidst the com- 
mon branching kinds, never fails to give the scene an inter- 
tropical character. Here the woods were ornamented by the 
Cabbage Palm one of the most beautiful of its family. With 
a stem so narrow that it might be clasped with the two 
hands, it waves its elegant head at the height of forty or 


fifty feet above the ground. The woody creepers, themselves 
covered by other creepers, were of great thickness : some 
which I measured were two feet in circumference. Many of 
the older trees presented a very curious appearance from 
the tresses of a liana hanging from their boughs, and resem- 
bling bundles of hay. If the eye was turned from the world 
of foliage above, to the ground beneath, it was attracted by 
the extreme elegance of the leaves of the ferns and mimosae. 
The latter, in some parts, covered the surface with a brush- 
wood only a few inches high. In walking across these thick 
beds of mimosae, a broad track was marked by the change 
of shade, produced by the drooping of their sensitive petioles. 
It is easy to specify the individual objects of admiration in 
these grand scenes ; but it is not possible to give an adequate 
idea of the higher feelings of wonder, astonishment, and 
devotion, which fill and elevate the mind. 

April ipth. Leaving Socego, during the two first days, 
we retraced our steps. It was very wearisome work, as the 
road generally ran across a glaring hot sandy plain, not 
far from the coast. I noticed that each time the horse put 
its foot on the fine siliceous sand, a gentle chirping noise 
was produced. On the third day we took a different line, 
and passed through the gay little village of Madre de Deos. 
This is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil; yet it 
was in so bad a state that no wheeled vehicle, excepting the 
clumsy bullock- wagon, could pass along. In our whole jour- 
ney we did not cross a single bridge built of stone; and 
those made of logs of wood were frequently so much out of 
repair, that it was necessary to go on one side to avoid them. 
All distances are inaccurately known. The road is often 
marked by crosses, in the place of milestones, to signify 
where human blood has been spilled. On the evening of the 
23rd we arrived at Rio, having finished our pleasant little 

During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a 
cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for 
anything more delightful than thus to spend some weeks 
in so magnificent a country. In England any person fond 
of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by 


always having something to attract his attention ; but in 
these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are 
so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all. 

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

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial 
Planariae in different parts of the southern hemisphere. 8 
Some specimens which I obtained at Van Dieman's Land, 
I kept alive for nearly two months, feeding them on rotten 
wood. Having cut one of them transversely into two nearly 
equal parts, in the course of a fortnight both had the shape 
of perfect animals. I had, however, so divided the body, 
that one of the halves contained both the inferior orifices, 
and the other, in consequence, none. In the course of twenty- 
five days from the operation, the more perfect half could 
not have been distinguished from any other specimen. The 
other had increased much in size ; and towards its posterior 
end, a clear space was formed in the parenchymatous mass, 
in which a rudimentary cup-shaped mouth could clearly be 
distinguished ; on the under surface, however, no correspond- 
ing slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the weather, 

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


as we approached the equator, had not destroyed all the 
individuals, there can be no doubt that this last step would 
have completed its structure. Although so well-known an 
experiment, it was interesting to watch the gradual produc- 
tion of every essential organ, out of the simple extremity 
of another animal. It is extremely difficult to preserve these 
Planariae; as soon as the cessation of life allows the ordi- 
nary laws of change to act, their entire bodies become soft 
and fluid, with a rapidity which I have never seen equalled. 

I first visited the forest in which these Planariae were 
found, in company with an old Portuguese priest who took 
me out to hunt with him. The sport consisted in turning 
into the cover a few dogs, and then patiently waiting to fire 
at any animal which might appear. We were accompanied 
by the son of a neighbouring farmer a good specimen of 
a wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a tattered old 
shirt and trousers, and had his head uncovered: he carried 
an old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of carry- 
ing the knife is universal ; and in traversing a thick wood 
it is almost necessary, on account of the creeping plants. 
The frequent occurrence of murder may be partly attributed 
to this habit. The Brazilians are so dexterous with the 
knife, that they can throw it to some distance with precision, 
and with sufficient force to cause a fatal wound. I have seen 
a number of little boys practising this art as a game of play, 
and from their skill in hitting an upright stick, they promised 
well for more earnest attempts. My companion, the day 
before, had shot two large bearded monkeys. These animals 
have prehensile tails, the extremity of which, even after 
death, can support the whole weight of the body. One of 
them thus remained fast to a branch, and it was necessary 
to cut down a large tree to procure it. This was soon effected, 
and down came tree and monkey with an awful crash. Our 
day's sport, besides the monkey, was confined to sundry small 
green parrots and a few toucans. I profited, however, by my 
acquaintance with the Portuguese padre, for on another 
occasion he gave me a fine specimen of the Yagouaroundi 

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near 
Botofogo. The house in which I lived was seated close 


beneath the well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has 
been remarked, with much truth, that abruptly conical hills 
are characteristic of the formation which Humboldt desig- 
nates as gneiss-granite. Nothing can be more striking than 
the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock rising 
out of the most luxuriant vegetation. 

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

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the 
beginning of winter, was delightful. The mean tempera- 
ture, from observations taken at nine o'clock, both morning 
and evening, was only 72. It often rained heavily, but 
the drying southerly winds soon again rendered the walks 
pleasant. One morning, in the course of six hours, 1.6 inches 
of rain fell. As this storm passed over the forests which 
surround the Corcovado, the sound produced by the drops 
pattering on the countless multitude of leaves was very re- 
markable, it could be heard at the distance of a quarter of a 
mile, and was like the rushing of a great body of water. 
After the hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly in the 
garden and watch the evening pass into night. Nature, in 
these climes, chooses her vocalists from more humble per- 
formers than in Europe. A small frog, of the genus Hyla, 
sits on a blade of grass about an inch above the surface of 


the water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp: when several 
are together they sing in harmony on different notes. I had 
some difficulty in catching a specimen of this frog. The 
genus Hyla has its toes terminated by small suckers; and I 
found this animal could crawl up a pane of glass, when 
placed absolutely perpendicular. Various cicidae and crickets, 
at the same time, keep up a ceaseless shrill cry, but which, 
softened by the distance, is not unpleasant. Every evening 
after dark this great concert commenced; and often have I 
sat listening to it, until my attention has been drawn away 
by some curious passing insect. 

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

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


bers: they resembled in general form the female of the 
English glowworm. These larvae possessed but feeble lumi- 
nous powers; very differently from their parents, on the 
slightest touch they feigned death and ceased to shine; nor 
did irritation excite any fresh display. I kept several of 
them alive for some time : their tails are very singular organs, 
for they act, by a well-fitted contrivance, as suckers or organs 
of attachment, and likewise as reservoirs for saliva, or some 
such fluid. I repeatedly fed them on raw meat; and I in- 
variably observed, that every now and then the extremity 
of the tail was applied to the mouth, and a drop of fluid 
exuded on the meat, which was then in the act of being con- 
sumed. The tail, notwithstanding so much practice, does not 
seem to be able to find its way to the mouth ; at least the neck 
was always touched first, and apparently as a guide. 

When we were at Bahia, an elater or beetle (Pyrophorus 
luminosus, Illig.) seemed the most common luminous insect. 
The light in this case was also rendered more brilliant by 
irritation. I amused myself one day by observing the spring- 
ing powers of this insect, which have not, as it appears to 
me, been properly described. 5 The elater, when placed on 
its back and preparing to spring, moved its head and thorax 
backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn out, and 
rested on the edge of its sheath. The same backward move- 
ment being continued, the spine, by the full action of the 
muscles, was bent like a spring; and the insect at this mo- 
ment rested on the extremity of its head and wing-cases. 
The effort being suddenly relaxed, the head and thorax flew 
up, and in consequence, the base of the wing-cases struck 
the supporting surface with such force, that the insect by 
the reaction was jerked upwards to the height of one or 
two inches. The projecting points of the thorax, and the 
sheath of the spine, served to steady the whole body during 
the spring. In the descriptions which I have read, sufficient 
stress does not appear to have been laid on the elasticity of 
the spine : so sudden a spring could not be the result of sim- 
ple muscular contraction, without the aid of some mechanical 

On several occasions I enjoyed some short but most pleas- 
B Kirby's Entomology, vol. ii. p. 31 7- 

One day I went 
plants, well known for 
The leaves of the 
id dbve trees were delight- 
; and Ae bread-frail, Ae jaca, and the manga, 
wiA 4ffff% <rtfrj*r IB Ae Btagraiicmce of their foliage. 

..l-T.'l.S" 1 ?'; " " - ~ ~. .!'"-" ."'T'l ." ' .I-^r_.I i*-~'' ." ?~. tLKt'5 

its **-!> from tibe ttdto latter trees. Before seeing them, 
I :.i.: -: :dea in: Mf MB Mil r.i.r. s: Hfcdk i --.M^t M 
Butt of them bear to the evergreen Tegetation 
climates the same kind of relation which laurels 
m England do to the lighter green of the decidti- 
lt nay "be ofeserred, that the houses within the 
: IM mi ii 1 1 nil il by the most beatttiftil forms of regeta- 
of them are at the same time most usef nl 
nan doubt that these qualities are united in the 
IMBHOL, the cocoa-nut, the many kinds of palm, the orange, 
and the bread-fruit tree? 

DnrzDg Hihis day I was particularly struck wIlL a remark 
-^tnboldt s, ^rho ; orten s-liuoes to ** the tn j r"n vapour ixrhich, 
Mhuwt changing the transparency of the air, renders its 
tBtis more harmonious, and softens its effects." This is an 
which I have never observed in the temperate 
"Use atmosphere, seen through a short space of half 
or Aree-qnarters of a mile, was perfectly lucid, but at a 
gfUttx distance aH colours were blended into a most beauti- 
fy r;L-t.. :: -- palt Frenel r*^; mingled ~.i~ z little IJue. 
The candction -of 1ie atmosphere between the morning and 
~..~ ~ ^~^:: was mosl evident, r.i-i "r.^-.-r- 
fiCde dBcage, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, 
between the dew point and temperature had 
ril fran 7.$ to 17*. 

cm n raimu I started early and walked to the 

Gacwia, or tDpiail mountain. The air was delightfully cool 
and fajyJMt; and the drops of dew still glittered on the 
leaves of Ae large EEaceom pikmts, which shaded the stream- 

lets of dear water. Sitfrtitg down on a block of granite, it 
mas delightful to wateh Ae various insects and birds as they 
few past. The haamming-bird seems particularly fond of 
such shady retired spate. Whenever I saw these little crea- 


tore* tarring rotmd a flower, with their wings vibrating so 
rapidly as to be scarcely risible, I was reminded of die 
sphinx moths: their movements and habits are indeed in 
many respects very similar. 

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

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of 
insects. A few general observations on the comparative im- 
portance of the different orders may be interesting to die 
English entomologist. The large and brilliantly coloured 
Lepidoptera bespeak the zone diey inhabit, far more plainly 
than any other race of arr**ai* I allude only to the butter- 
flies; for the moths, contrary to what might have been 
expected from die rankness of the vegetation, certainly ap- 
peared in much fewer numbers dian in our own temperate 
regions. I was much surprised at die habits of Papilio f ero- 
nia. This butterfly is not uncommon, and generally frequents 
die orange-groves. Although a high flier, yet it very fre- 


quently alights on the trunks of trees. On these occasions 
its head is invariably placed downwards ; and its wings are 
expanded in a horizontal plane, instead of being folded verti- 
cally, as is commonly the case. This is the only butterfly 
which I have ever seen, that uses its legs for running. Not 
being aware of this fact, the insect, more than once, as I 
cautiously approached with my forceps, shuffled on one side 
just as the instrument was on the point of closing, and thus 
escaped. But a far more singular fact is the power which 
this species possesses of making a noise. 8 Several times when 
a pair, probably male and female, were chasing each other 
in an irregular course, they passed within a few yards of me ; 
and I distinctly heard a clicking noise, similar to that pro- 
duced by a toothed wheel passing under a spring catch. The 
noise was continued at short intervals, and could be dis- 
tinguished at about twenty yards' distance: I am certain 
there is no error in the observation. 

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleop- 
tera. The number of minute and obscurely coloured beetles 
is exceedingly great. 7 The cabinets of Europe can, as yet, 
boast only of the larger species from tropical climates. It 
is sufficient to disturb the composure of an entomologist's 
mind, to look forward to the future dimensions of a com- 
plete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or Carabidae, ap- 
pear in extremely few numbers within the tropics: this is 
the more remarkable when compared to the case of the car- 
nivorous quadrupeds, which are so abundant in hot coun- 
tries. I was struck with this observation both on entering 
Brazil, and when I saw the many elegant and active forms 
of the Harpalidse re-appearing on the temperate plains of 

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

7 1 may mention, as a common instance of one day's (June 23rd) col- 
lecting, when I was not attending particularly to the Coleoptera, that I 
caught sixty-eight species of that order. Among these, there were only 
two of the Carabidae, four Brachelytra, fifteen Rhyncpphora, and fourteen 
of the Chrysomelidae. Thirty-seven species of Arachnidae, which I brought 
home, will be sufficient to prove that I was not paying overmuch attention 
to the generally favoured order of Coleoptera. 


La Plata. Do the very numerous spiders and rapacious 
Hymenoptera supply the place of the carnivorous beetles? 
The carrion-feeders and Brachelytra are very uncommon; 
on the other hand, the Rhyncophora and Chrysomelidae, all 
of which depend on the vegetable world for subsistence, are 
present in astonishing numbers. I do not here refer to the 
number of different species, but to that of the individual 
insects; for on this it is that the most striking character in 
the entomology of different countries depends. The orders 
Orthoptera and Hemiptera are particularly numerous; as 
likewise is the stinging division of the Hymenoptera ; the 
bees, perhaps, being excepted. A person, on first entering a 
tropical forest, is astonished at the labours of the ants : well- 
beaten paths branch off in every direction, on which an army 
of never-failing foragers may be seen, some going forth, and 
others returning, burdened with pieces of green leaf, often 
larger than their own bodies. 

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

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners 
of the verandahs clay cells for their larvae, are very numer- 
ous in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full 


of half-dead spiders and caterpillars, which they seem 
wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to leave 
them paralysed but alive, until their eggs are hatched; and 
the larvae feed on the horrid mass of powerless, half-killed 
victims a sight which has been described by an enthusiastic 
naturalist 8 as curious and pleasing! I was much interested 
one day by watching a deadly contest between a Pepsis and 
a large spider of the genus Lycosa. The wasp made a sudden 
dash at its prey, and then flew away: the spider was evi- 
dently wounded, for, trying to escape, it rolled down a little 
slope, but had still strength sufficient to crawl into a thick 
tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed sur- 
prised at not immediately finding its victim. It then com- 
menced as regular a hunt as ever hound did after fox; 
making short semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly vi- 
brating its wings and antennae. The spider, though well 
concealed, was soon discovered; and the wasp, evidently still 
afraid of its adversary's jaws, after much manoeuvring, in- 
flicted two stings on the under side of its thorax. At last, 
carefully examining with its antennae the now motionless 
spider, it proceeded to drag away the body. But I stopped 
both tyrant and prey." 

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

^_ r ,.. u .. ..... v v . v _. . 

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


with very long fore-legs, and which appears to belong to an 
undescribed genus, lives as a parasite on almost every one 
of these webs. I suppose it is too insignificant to be noticed 
by the great Epeira, and is therefore allowed to prey on the 
minute insects, which, adhering to the lines, would other- 
wise be wasted. When frightened, this little spider either 
feigns death by extending its front legs, or suddenly drops 
from the web. A large Epeira of the same division with 
Epeira tuberculata and conica is extremely common, espe- 
cially in dry situations. Its web, which is generally placed 
among the great leaves of the common agave, is sometimes 
strengthened near the centre by a pair or even four zigzag 
ribbons, which connect two adjoining rays. When any large 
insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is caught, the spider, by 
a dexterous movement, makes it revolve very rapidly, and at 
the same time emitting a band of threads from its spinners, 
soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon of a silk- 
worm. The spider now examines the powerless victim, and 
gives the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax; then 
retreating, patiently waits till the poison has taken effect. 
The virulence of this poison may be judged of from the fact 
that in half a minute I opened the mesh, and found a large 
wasp quite lifeless. This Epeira always stands with its head 
downwards near the centre of the web. When disturbed, it 
acts differently according to circumstances: if there is a 
thicket below, it suddenly falls down; and I have distinctly 
seen the thread from the spinners lengthened by the animal 
while yet stationary, as preparatory to its fall. If the ground 
is clear beneath, the Epeira seldom falls, but moves quickly 
through a central passage from one to the other side. When 
still further disturbed, it practises a most curious manoeuvre : 
standing in the middle, it violently jerks the web, which is 
attached .to elastic twigs, till at last the whole acquires such 
a rapid vibratory movement, that even the outline of the 
spider's body becomes indistinct. 

It is well known that most of the British spiders, when 
a large insect is caught in their webs, endeavour to cut the 
lines and liberate their prey, to save their nets from being 
entirely spoiled. I once, however, saw in a hot-house in 
Shropshire a large female wasp caught in the irregular web 


of a quite small spider ; and this spider, instead of cutting 
the web, most perseveringly continued to entangle the body, 
and especially the wings, of its prey. The wasp at first 
aimed in vain repeated thrusts with its sting at its little 
antagonist. Pitying the wasp, after allowing it to struggle 
for more than an hour, I killed it and put it back into the 
web. The spider soon returned; and an hour afterwards I 
was much surprised to find it with its jaws buried in the 
orifice, through which the sting is protruded by the living 
wasp. I drove the spider away two or three times, but for 
the next twenty-four hours I always found it again sucking 
at the same place. The spider became much distended by the 
juices of its prey, which was many times larger than itself. 

I may here just mention, that I found, near St. Fe Bajada, 
many large black spiders, with ruby-coloured marks on their 
backs, having gregarious habits. The webs were placed verti- 
cally, as is invariably the case with the genus Epeira: they 
were separated from each other by a space of about two 
feet, but were all attached to certain common lines, which 
were of great length, and extended to all parts of the com- 
munity. In this manner the tops of some large bushes were 
encompassed by the united nets. Azara 10 has described a 
gregarious spider in Paraguay, which Walckenaer thinks 
must be a Theridion, but probably it is an Epeira, and perhaps 
even the same species with mine. I cannot, however, recol- 
lect seeing a central nest as large as a hat, in which, during 
autumn, when the spiders die, Azara says the eggs are de- 
posited. As al! the spiders which I saw were of the same 
size, they must have been nearly of the same age. This 
gregarious habit, in so typical a genus as Epeira, among 
insects, which are so bloodthirsty and solitary that even the 
two sexes attack each other, is a very singular fact. 

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

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


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

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

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



of blue water was seen mingling in little eddies, with the 
adjoining fluid. 

July 26th. We anchored at Monte Video. The Beagle 
was employed in surveying the extreme southern and eastern 
coasts of America, south of the Plata, during the two suc- 
ceeding years. To prevent useless repetitions, I will extract 
those parts of my journal which refer to the same districts, 
without always attending to the order in which we visited 

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


ers, among which a plant, looking like the daisy, claimed the 
place of an old friend. What would a florist say to whole 
tracts, so thickly covered by the Verbena melindres, as, even 
at a distance, to appear of the most gaudy scarlet? 

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

On the first night we slept at a retired little country- 
house; and there I soon found out that I possessed two or 
three articles, especially a pocket compass, which created 
unbounded astonishment. In every house I was asked to 
show the compass, and by its aid, together with a map, to 
point out the direction of various places. It excited the live- 
liest admiration that I, a perfect stranger, should know the 
road (for direction and road are synonymous in this open 
country) to places where I had never been. At one house 
a young woman, who was ill in bed, sent to entreat me to 
come and show her the compass. If their surprise was great, 
mine was greater, to find such ignorance among people who 
possessed their thousands of cattle, and " estancias " of great 
extent. It can only be accounted for by the circumstance 
that this retired part of the country is seldom visited by 
foreigners. I was asked whether the earth or sun moved; 
whether it was hotter or colder to the north; where Spain 
was, and many other such questions. The greater number of 
the inhabitants had an indistinct idea that England, London, 
and North America, were different names for the same 
place; but the better informed well knew that London and 


North America were separate countries close together, and 
that England was a large town in London ! I carried with 
me some promethean matches, which I ignited by biting; it 
was thought so wonderful that a man should strike fire with 
his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family to see 
it: I was once offered a dollar for a single one. Washing 
my face in the morning caused much speculation at the vil- 
lage of Las Minas; a superior tradesman closely cross-ques- 
tioned me about so singular a practice ; and likewise why on 
board we wore our beards ; for he had heard from my guide 
that we did so. He eyed me with much suspicion; perhaps 
he had heard of ablutions in the Mahomedan religion, and 
knowing me to be a heretick, probably he came to the con- 
clusion that all hereticks were Turks. It is the general cus- 
tom in this country to ask for a night's lodging at the first 
convenient house. The astonishment at the compass, and 
my other feats of jugglery, was to a certain degree advan- 
tageous, as with that, and the long stories my guides told 
of my breaking stones, knowing venomous from harmless 
snakes, collecting insects, etc., I repaid them for their hospi- 
tality. I am writing as if I had been among the inhabitants 
of central Africa: Banda Oriental would not be flattered by 
the comparison ; but such were my feelings at the time. 

The next day we rode to the village of Las Minas. The 
country was rather more hilly, but otherwise continued the 
same; an inhabitant of the Pampas no doubt would have 
considered it as truly Alpine. The country is so thinly in- 
habited, that during the whole day we scarcely met a single 
person. Las Minas is much smaller even than Maldonado. 
It is seated on a little plain, and is surrounded by low rocky 
mountains. It is of the usual symmetrical form; and with 
its whitewashed church standing in the centre, had rather 
a pretty appearance. The outskirting houses rose out of the 
plain like isolated beings, without the accompaniment of 
gardens or courtyards. This is generally the case in the 
country, and all the houses have, in consequence, an uncom- 
fortable aspect. At night we stopped at a pulperia, or drink- 
ing-shop. During the evening a great number of Gauchos 
came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars: their appearance 
is very striking; they are generally tall and handsome, but 


with a proud and dissolute expression of countenance. They 
frequently wear their moustaches and long black hair curl- 
ing down their backs. With their brightly coloured gar- 
ments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and knives 
stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their waists, they 
look a very different race of men from what might be ex- 
pected from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. 
Their politeness is excessive; they never drink their spirits 
without expecting you to taste it; but whilst making their 
exceedingly graceful bow, they seem quite as' ready, if occa- 
sion offered, to cut your throat. 

On the third day we pursued rather an irregular course, 
as I was employed in examining some beds of marble. On 
the fine plains of turf we saw many ostriches (Struthio 
rhea). Some of the flocks contained as many as twenty or 
thirty birds. These, when standing on any little eminence, 
and seen against the clear sky, presented a very noble ap- 
pearance. I never met with such tame ostriches in any other 
part of the country: it was easy to gallop up within a short 
distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, they 
made all sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse 

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a 
rich landed proprietor, but not personally known to either 
of my companions. On approaching the house of a stranger, 
it is usual to follow several little points of etiquette: riding 
up slowly to the door, the salutation of Ave Maria is given, 
and until somebody comes out and asks you to alight, it is 
not customary even to get off your horse : the formal answer 
of the owner is, " sin pecado concebida " that is, conceived 
without sin. Having entered the house, some general con- 
versation is kept up for a few minutes, till permission is 
asked to pass the night there. This is granted as a matter 
of course. The stranger then takes his meals with the family, 
and a room is assigned him, where with the horsecloths be- 
longing to his recado (or saddle of the Pampas) he makes 
his bed. It is curious how similar circumstances produce 
such similar results in manners. At the Cape of Good Hope 
the same hospitality, and very nearly the same points of eti- 
quette, are universally observed. The difference, however, 


between the character of the Spaniard and that of the Dutch 
boer is shown, by the former never asking his guest a single 
question beyond the strictest rule of politeness, whilst the 
honest Dutchman demands where he has been, where he is 
going, what is his business, and even how many brothers, 
sisters, or children he may happen to have. 

Shortly after our arrival at Don Juan's, one of the largest 
herds of cattle was driven in towards the house, and three 
beasts were picked out to be slaughtered for the supply of 
the establishment. These half-wild cattle are very active; 
and knowing full well the fatal lazo, they led the horses a 
long and laborious chase. After witnessing the rude wealth 
displayed in the number of cattle, men, and horses, Don 
Juan's miserable house was quite curious. The floor con- 
sisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without 
glass; the sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest 
chairs and stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, al- 
though several strangers were present, consisted of two huge 
piles, one of roast beef, the other of boiled, with some pieces 
of pumpkin : besides this latter there was no other vegetable, 
and not even a morsel of bread. For drinking, a large 
earthenware jug of water served the whole party. Yet this 
man was the owner of several square miles of land, of which 
nearly every acre would produce corn, and, with a little trou- 
ble, all the common vegetables. The evening was spent in 
smoking, with a little impromptu singing, accompanied by 
the guitar. The signoritas all sat together in one corner 
of the room, and did not sup with the men. 

So many works have been written about these countries, 
that it is almost superfluous to describe either the lazo or 
the bolas. The lazo consists of a very strong, but thin, well- 
plaited rope, made of raw hide. One end is attached to the 
broad surcingle, which fastens together the complicated gear 
of the recado, or saddle used in the Pampas; the other is 
terminated by a small ring of iron or brass, by which a noose 
can be formed. The Gaucho, when he is going to use the 
lazo, keeps a small coil in his bridle-hand, and in the other 
holds the running noose, which is made very large, gener- 
ally having a diameter of about eight feet. This he whirls 
round his head, and bv the dexterous movement of his wrist 


keeps the noose open ; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall 
on any particular spot he chooses. The lazo, when not used, 
is tied up in a small coil to the after part of the recado. 
The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds: the simplest, which 
is chiefly used for catching ostriches, consists of two round 
stones, covered with leather, and united by a thin plaited 
thong, about eight feet long. The other kind differs only 
in having three balls united by the thongs to a common 
centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest of the three in his 
hand, and whirls the other two round and round his head; 
then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot revolving 
through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, than, 
winding round it, they cross each other, and become firmly 
hitched. The size and weight of the balls vary, according 
to the purpose for which they are made : when of stone, 
although not larger than an apple, they are sent with such 
force as sometimes to break the leg even of a horse. I have 
seen the balls made of wood, and as large as a turnip, for 
the sake of catching these animals without injuring them. 
The balls are sometimes made of iron, and these can be 
hurled to the greatest distance. The main difficulty in using 
either lazo or bolas is to ride so well as to be able at full 
speed, and while suddenly turning about, to whirl them so 
steadily round the head, as to take aim : on foot any person 
would soon learn the art. One day, as I was amusing myself 
by galloping and whirling the balls round my head, by acci- 
dent the free one struck a bush ; and its revolving motion 
being thus destroyed, it immediately fell to the ground, and, 
like magic, caught one hind leg of my horse; the other ball 
was then jerked out of my hand, and the horse fairly se- 
cured. Luckily he was an old practised animal, and knew 
what it meant ; otherwise he would probably have kicked 
till he had thrown himself down. The Gauchos roared with 
laughter; they cried out that they had seen every sort of ani- 
mal caught, but had never before seen a man caught by 

During the two succeeding days, I reached the furthest 
point which I was anxious to examine. The country wore. 
the same aspect, till at last the fine green turf became more 
.wearisome than a dusty turnpike road. We everywhere saw 


great numbers of partridges (Nothura major). These birds 
do not go in coveys, nor do they conceal themselves like 
the English kind. It appears a very silly bird. A man on 
horseback by riding round and round in a circle, or rather 
in a spire, so as to approach closer each time, may knock 
on the head as many as he pleases. The more common 
method is to catch them with a running noose, or little lazo, 
made of the stem of an ostrich's feather, fastened to the 
end of a long stick. A boy on a quiet old horse will fre- 
quently thus catch thirty or forty in a day. In Arctic North 
America 1 the Indians catch the Varying Hare by walking 
spirally round and round it, when on its form: the middle 
of the day is reckoned the best time, when the sun is high, 
and the shadow of the hunter not very long. 

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a differ- 
ent line of road. Near Pan de Azucar, a landmark well 
known to all those who have sailed up the Plata, I stayed 
a day at the house of a most hospitable old Spaniard. Early 
in the morning we ascended the Sierra de las Animas. By 
the aid of the rising sun the scenery was almost picturesque. 
To the westward the view extended over an immense level 
plain as far as the Mount, at Monte Video, and to the east- 
ward, over the mammillated country of Maldonado. On 
the summit of the mountain there were several small heaps 
of stones, which evidently had lain there for many years. 
My companion assured me that they were the work of the 
Indians in the old time. The heaps were similar, but on 
a much smaller scale, to those so commonly found on the 
mountains of Wales. The desire to signalize any event, on 
the highest point of the neighbouring land, seems an uni- 
versal passion with mankind. At the present day, not a 
single Indian, either civilized or wild, exists in this part 
of the province ; nor am I aware that the former inhabitants 
have left behind them any more permanent records than 
these insignificant piles on the summit of the Sierra de las 

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda 
Oriental is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly 

1 Hearne's Journey, p. 383. 


covered by thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, 
especially to the north of Las Minas, willow-trees are not 
uncommon. Near the Arroyo Tapes I heard of a wood of 
palms; and one of these trees, of considerable size, I saw 
near the Pan de Azucar, in lat. 35. These, and the trees 
planted by the Spaniards, offer the only exceptions to the 
general scarcity of wood. Among the introduced kinds may 
be enumerated poplars, olives, peach, and other fruit trees: 
the peaches succeed so well, that they afford the main supply 
of firewood to the city of Buenos Ayres. Extremely level 
countries, such as the Pampas, seldom appear favourable to 
the growth of trees. This may possibly be attributed either 
to the force of the winds, or the kind of drainage. In the 
nature of the land, however, around Maldonado, no such 
reason is apparent; the rocky mountains afford protected 
situations, enjoying various kinds of soil; streamlets of 
water are common at the bottoms of nearly every valley; 
and the clayey nature of the earth seems adapted to retain 
moisture. It has been inferred with much probability, that 
the presence of woodland is generally determined 2 by the 
annual amount of moisture; yet in this province abundant 
and heavy rain falls during the winter; and the summer, 
though dry, is not so in any excessive degree. 3 We see nearly 
the whole of Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that coun- 
try possesses a far more arid climate. Hence we must look 
to some other and unknown cause. 

Confining our view to South America, we should certainly 
be tempted to believe that trees flourished only under a very 
humid climate; for the limit of the forest-land follows, in a 
most remarkable manner, that of the damp winds. In the 
southern part of the continent, where the western gales, 
charged with moisture from the Pacific, prevail, every island 
on the broken west coast, from lat. 38 to the extreme point 
of Tierra del Fuego, is densely covered by impenetrable for- 
ests. On the eastern side. of the Cordillera, over the same 
extent of latitude, where a blue sky and a fine climate prove 
that the atmosphere has been deprived of its moisture by 
passing over the mountains, the arid plains of Patagonia 

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

3 Azara says, " Je crois que la quantite annuelle des pluies est, dans 
toutes ces contrees, plus considerable qu'en Espagne." Vol. . p. 36- 


support a most scanty vegetation. In the more northern 
parts of the continent, within the limits of the constant 
south-eastern trade-wind, the eastern side is ornamented by 
magnificent forests ; whilst the western coast, from lat. 4 S. 
to lat. 32 S., may be described as a desert; on this western 
coast, northward of lat. 4 S., where the trade-wind loses its 
regularity, and heavy torrents of rain fall periodically, the 
shores of the Pacific, so utterly desert in Peru, assume near 
Cape Blanco the character of luxuriance so celebrated at 
Guyaquil and Panama. Hence in the southern and northern 
parts of the continent, the forest and desert lands occupy 
reversed positions with respect to the Cordillera, and these 
positions are apparently determined by the direction of the 
prevalent winds. In the middle of the continent there is a 
broad intermediate band, including central Chile and the 
provinces of La Plata, where the rain-bringing winds have 
not to pass over lofty mountains, and where the land is nei- 
ther a desert nor covered by forests. But even the rule, if 
confined to South America, of trees flourishing only in a 
climate rendered humid by rain-bearing winds, has a strongly 
marked exception in the case of the Falkland Islands. These 
islands, situated in the same latitude with Tierra del Fuego 
and only between two and three hundred miles distant from 
it, having a nearly similar climate, with a geological forma- 
tion almost identical, with favourable situations and the 
same kind of peaty soil, yet can boast of few plants deserv- 
ing even the title of bushes ; whilst in Tierra del Fuego it is 
impossible to find an acre of land not covered by the densest 
forest. In this case, both the direction of the heavy gales 
of wind and of the currents of the sea are favourable to 
the transport of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as is shown 
by the canoes and trunks of trees drifted from that country, 
and frequently thrown on the shores of the Western Falk- 
land. Hence perhaps it is, that there are many plants in 
common to the two countries: but with respect to the trees 
of Tierra del Fuego, even attempts made to transplant them 
have failed. 

During our stay at Maldonado I collected several quad- 
rupeds, eighty kinds of birds, and many reptiles, including 
nine species of snakes. Of the indigenous mammalia, the 


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

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


north of Scotland treat the rank carcasses of the fish-eating 
birds in the same manner. 

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species: 
of mice alone I obtained no less than eight kinds.* The 
largest gnawing animal in the world, the Hydrochserus capy- 
bara (the water-hog), is here also common. One which I 
shot at Monte Video weighed ninety-eight pounds: its 
length, from the end of the snout to the stump-like tail, was 
three feet two inches; and its girth three feet eight. These 
great Rodents occasionally frequent the islands in the mouth 
of the Plata, where the water is quite salt, but are far more 
abundant on the borders of fresh-water lakes and rivers. 
Near Maldonado three or four generally live together. In 
the daytime they either lie among the aquatic plants, or 
openly feed on the turf plain. 6 When viewed at a distance, 
from their manner of walking and colour they resemble pigs : 
but when seated on their haunches, and attentively watch- 
ing any object with one eye, they reassume the appearance 
of their congeners, cavies and rabbits. Both the front and 
side view of their head has quite a ludicrous aspect, from 
the great depth of their jaw. These animals, at Maldonado, 
were very tame ; by cautiously walking, I approached within 
three yards of four old ones. This tameness may probably 
be accounted for, by the Jaguar having been banished for 
some years, and by the Gaucho not thinking it worth his 
while to hunt them. As I approached nearer and nearer 
they frequently made their peculiar noise, which is a low 
abrupt grunt, not having much actual sound, but rather aris- 
ing from the sudden expulsion of air : the only noise I know 
at all like it, is the first hoarse bark of a large dog. Having 
watched the four from almost within arm's length (and they 
me) for several minutes, they rushed into the water at full 

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

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


gallop with the greatest impetuosity, and emitted at the 
same time their bark. After diving a short distance they 
came again to the surface, but only just showed the upper 
part of their heads. When the female is swimming in the 
water, and has young ones, they are said to sit on her back. 
These animals are easily killed in numbers ; but their skins 
are of trifling value, and the meat is very indifferent. On 
the islands in the Rio Parana they are exceedingly abundant, 
and afford the ordinary prey to the Jaguar. 

The Tucutuco (Ctenomys Brasiliensis) is a curious small 
animal, which may be briefly described as a Gnawer, with 
the habits of a mole. It is extremely numerous in some 
parts of the country, but it is difficult to be procured, and 
never, I believe, comes out of the ground. It throws up at 
the mouth of its burrows hillocks of earth like those of the 
mole, but smaller. Considerable tracts of country are so 
completely undermined by these animals, that horses in pass- 
ing over, sink above their fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, 
to a certain degree, to be gregarious : the man who pro- 
cured the specimens for me had caught six together, and he 
said this was a common occurrence. They are nocturnal in 
their habits; and their principal food is the roots of plants, 
which are the object of their extensive and superficial bur- 
rows. This animal is universally known by a very peculiar 
noise which it makes when beneath the ground. A person, 
the first time he hears it, is much surprised; for it is not 
easy to tell whence it comes, nor is it possible to guess what 
kind of creature utters it. The noise consists in a short, but 
not rough, nasal grunt, which is monotonously repeated 
about four times in quick succession : 8 the name Tucutuco is 
given in imitation of the sound. Where this animal is 
abundant, it may be heard at all times of the day, and some- 
times directly beneath one's feet. When kept in a room, the 
tucutucos move both slowly and clumsily, which appears 
owing to the outward action of their hind legs ; and they are 

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


quite incapable, from the socket of the thigh-bone not hav- 
ing a certain ligament, of jumping even the smallest vertical 
height. They are very stupid in making any attempt to 
escape ; when angry or frightened they utter the tucutuco. 
Of those I kept alive several, even the first day, became 
quite tame, not attempting to bite or to run away; others 
were a little wilder. 

The man who caught them asserted that very many are 
invariably found blind. A specimen which I preserved in 
spirits was in this state ; Mr. Reid considers it to be the effect 
of inflammation in the nictitating membrane. When the 
animal was alive I placed my finger within half an inch of 
its head, and not the slightest notice was taken: it made its 
way, however, about the room nearly as well as the others. 
Considering the strictly subterranean habits of the tucutuco, 
the blindness, though so common, cannot be a very serious 
evil; yet it appears strange that any animal should possess 
an organ frequently subject to be injured. Lamarck would 
have been delighted with this fact, had he known it, when 
speculating 7 (probably with more truth than usual with him) 
on the gradually acquired blindness of the Asphalax, a 
Gnawer living under ground, and of the Proteus, a reptile 
living in dark caverns filled with water; in both of which 
animals the eye is in an almost rudimentary state, and is 
covered by a tendinous membrane and skin. In the common 
mole the eye is extraordinarily small but perfect, though 
many anatomists doubt whether it is connected with the true 
optic nerve; its vision must certainly be imperfect, though 
probably useful to the animal when it leaves its burrow. In 
the tucutuco, which I believe never comes to the surface of 
the ground, the eye is rather larger, but often rendered blind 
and useless, though without apparently causing any incon- 
venience to the animal; no doubt Lamarck would have said 
that the tucutuco is now passing into the state of the 
Asphalax and Proteus. 

Birds of many kinds are extremely abundant on the undu- 
lating grassy plains around Maldonado. There are several 
species of a family allied in structure and manners to our 
Starling: one of these (Molothrus niger) is remarkable from 

7 Philosoph. Zoolog.. torn. i. p. 242. 


its habits. Several may often be seen standing together on 
the back of a cow or horse; and while perched on a hedge, 
pluming themselves in the sun, they sometimes attempt to 
sing, or rather to hiss ; the noise being very peculiar, resem- 
bling that of bubbles of air passing rapidly from a small 
orifice under water, so as to produce an acute sound. Ac- 
cording to Azara, this bird, like the cuckoo, deposits its eggs 
in other birds' nests. I was several times told by the coun- 
try people that there certainly is some bird having this 
habit ; and my assistant in collecting, who is a very accurate 
person, found a nest of the sparrow of this country (Zono- 
trichia matutina), with one egg in it larger than the others, 
and of a different colour and shape. In North America 
there is another species of Molothrus (M. pecoris), which 
has a similar cuckoo-like habit, and which is most closely 
allied in every respect to the species from the Plata, even in 
such trifling peculiarities as standing on the backs of cattle; 
it differs only in being a little smaller, and in its plumage 
and eggs being of a slightly different shade of colour. This 
close agreement in structure and habits, in representative 
species coming from opposite quarters of a great conti- 
nent, always strikes one as interesting, though of common 

Mr. Swainson has well remarked, 8 that with the excep- 
tion of the Molothrus pecoris, to which must be added the 
M. niger, the cuckoos are the only birds which can be called 
truly parasitical ; namely, such as " fasten themselves, as it 
were, on another living animal, whose animal heat brings 
their young into life, whose food they live upon, and whose 
death would cause theirs during the period of infancy." It 
is remarkable that some of the species, but not all, both of 
the Cuckoo and Molothrus, should agree in this one strange 
habit of their parasitical propagation, whilst opposed to each 
other in almost every other habit: the molothrus, like our 
starling, is eminently sociable, and lives on the open plains 
without art or disguise: the cuckoo, as every one knows, 
is a singularly shy bird ; it frequents the most retired thick- 
ets, and feeds on fruit and caterpillars. In structure also 
these two genera are widely removed from each other. 

6 Magazine of Zoology and Botany, vol. i. p. 217. 


Many theories, even phrenological theories, have been ad- 
vanced to explain the origin of the cuckoo laying its eggs in 
other birds' nests. M. Prevost alone, I think, has thrown 
light by his observations 9 on this puzzle: he finds that the 
female cuckoo, which, according to most observers, lays at 
least from four to six eggs, must pair with the male each time 
after laying only one or two eggs. Now, if the cuckoo was 
obliged to sit on her own eggs, she would either have to sit 
on all together, and therefore leave those first laid so long, 
that they probably would become addled; or she would have 
to hatch separately each egg, or two eggs, as soon as laid : 
but as the cuckoo stays a shorter time in this country than 
any other migratory bird, she certainly would not have time 
enough for the successive hatchings. Hence we can perceive 
in the fact of the cuckoo pairing several times, and laying 
her eggs at intervals, the cause of her depositing her eggs 
in other birds' nests, and leaving them to the care of foster- 
parents. I am strongly inclined to believe that this view is 
correct, from having been independently led (as we shall 
hereafter see) to an analogous conclusion with regard to 
the South American ostrich, the females of which are 
parasitical, if I may so express it, on each other; each 
female laying several eggs in the nests of several other 
females, and the male ostrich undertaking all the cares 
of incubation, like the strange foster-parents with the 

I will mention only two other birds, which are very com- 
mon, and render themselves prominent from their habits. 
The Saurophagus sulphuratus is typical of the great Ameri- 
can tribe of tyrant-flycatchers. In its structure it closely 
approaches the true shrikes, but in its habits may be com- 
pared to many birds. I have frequently observed it, hunting 
a field, hovering over one spot like a hawk, and then pro- 
ceeding on to another. When seen thus suspended in the air, 
it might very readily at a short distance be mistaken for one 
of the Rapacious order; its stoop, however, is very inferior 
in force and rapidity to that of a hawk. At other times 
the Saurophagus haunts the neighbourhood of water, and 
there, like a kingfisher, remaining stationary, it catches any 

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


small fish which may come near the margin. These birds are 
not unfrequently kept either in cages or in courtyards, with 
their wings cut. They soon become tame, and are very 
amusing from their cunning odd manners, which were 
described to me as being similar to those of the common 
magpie. Their flight is undulatory, for the weight of the 
head and bill appears too great for the body. In the 
evening the Saurophagus takes its stand on a bush, often 
by the roadside, and continually repeats without a change 
a shrill and rather agreeable cry, which somewhat resem- 
bles articulate words: the Spaniards say it is like the words 
" Bien te veo" (I see you well), and accordingly have given 
it this name. 

A mocking-bird (Mimus orpheus), called by the inhabi- 
tants Calandria, is remarkable, from possessing a song far 
superior to that of any other bird in the country: indeed, it 
is nearly the only bird in South America which I have 
observed to take its stand for the purpose of singing. The 
song may be compared to that of the Sedge warbler, but 
is more powerful; some harsh notes and some very high 
ones, being mingled with a pleasant warbling. It is heard 
only during the spring. At other times its cry is harsh and 
far from harmonious. Near Maldonado these birds were 
tame and bold; they constantly attended the country houses 
in numbers, to pick the meat which was hung up on the posts 
or walls: if any other small bird joined the feast, the Calan- 
dria soon chased it away. On the wide uninhabited plains 
of Patagonia another closely allied species, O. Patagonica 
of d'Orbigny, which frequents the valleys clothed with 
spiny bushes, is a wilder bird, and has a slightly different 
tone of voice. It appears to me a curious circumstance, as 
showing the fine shades of difference in habits, that judging 
from this latter respect alone, when I first saw this second 
species, I thought it was different from the Maldonado kind. 
Having afterwards procured a specimen, and comparing the 
two without particular care, they appeared so very similar, 
that I changed my opinion ; but now Mr. Gould says that they 
are certainly distinct; a conclusion in conformity with the 
trifling difference of habit, of which, of course, he was not 

VOL. xxix c HC 


The number, lameness, and disgusting habits of the car- 
rion-feeding hawks of South America make them pre-emi- 
nently striking to any one accustomed only to the birds of 
Northern Europe. In this list may be included four species 
of the Caracara or Polyborus, the Turkey buzzard, the Gal- 
linazo, and the Condor. The Caracaras are, from their 
structure, placed among the eagles: we shall soon see how 
ill they become so high a rank. In their habits they well 
supply the place of our carrion-crows, magpies, and ravens ; 
a tribe of birds widely distributed over the rest of the world, 
but entirely absent in South America. To begin with the 
Polyborus Brasiliensis : this is a common bird, and has a wide 
geographical range ; it is most numerous on the grassy savan- 
nahs of La Plata (where it goes by the name of Carrancha), 
and is far from unfrequent throughout the sterile plains of 
Patagonia. In the desert between the rivers Negro and Col- 
orado, numbers constantly attend the line of road to devour 
the carcasses of the exhausted animals which chance to 
perish from fatigue and thirst. Although thus common in 
these dry and open countries, and likewise on the arid shores 
of the Pacific, it is nevertheless found inhabiting the damp 
impervious forests of West Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. 
The Carranchas, together with the Chimango, constantly 
attend in numbers the estancias and slaughtering-houses. If 
an animal dies on the plain the Gallinazo commences the 
feast, and then the two species of Polyborus pick the bones 
clean. These birds, although thus commonly feeding to- 
gether, are far from being friends. When the Carrancha is 
quietly seated on the branch of a tree or on the ground, the 
Chimango often continues for a long time flying backwards 
and forwards, up and down, in a semicircle, trying each time 
at the bottom of the curve to strike its larger relative. The 
Carrancha takes little notice, except by bobbing its head. 
Although the Carranchas frequently assemble in numbers, 
they are not gregarious; for in desert places they may be 
seen solitary, or more commonly by pairs. 

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal 
great numbers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with 
the Chimango, to pick off the scabs from the sore backs of 
horses and mules. The poor animal, on the one hand, with 


its ears down and its back arched; and, on the other, the 
hovering bird, eyeing at the distance of a yard the disgust- 
ing morsel, form a picture, which has been described by Cap- 
tain Head with his own peculiar spirit and accuracy. These 
false eagles most rarely kill any living bird or animal ; and 
their vulture-like, necrophagous habits are very evident to 
any one who has fallen asleep on the desolate plains of Pata- 
gonia, for when he wakes, he will see, on each surrounding 
hillock, one of these birds patiently watching him with an 
evil eye: it is a feature in the landscape of these coun- 
tries, which will be recognised by every one who has wan- 
dered over them. If a party of men go out hunting with dogs 
and horses, they will be accompanied, during the day, by 
several of these attendants. After feeding, the uncovered 
craw protrudes; at such times, and indeed generally, the 
Carrancha is an inactive, tame, and cowardly bird. Its 
flight is heavy and slow, like that of an English rook. It 
seldom soars ; but I have twice seen one at a great height 
gliding through the air with much ease. It runs (in con- 
tradistinction to hopping), but not quite so quickly as some 
of its congeners. At times the Carrancha is noisy, but is 
not generally so : its cry is loud, very harsh and peculiar, and 
may be likened to the sound of the Spanish guttural g, fol- 
lowed by a rough double r r; when uttering this cry it 
elevates its head higher and higher, till at last, with its 
beak wide open, the crown almost touches the lower part of 
the back. This fact, which has been doubted, is quite true; 
I have seen them several times with their heads backwards 
in a completely inverted position. To these observations I 
may add, on the high authority of Azara, that the Carrancha 
feeds on worms, shells, slugs, grasshoppers, and frogs; that 
it destroys young lambs by tearing the umbilical cord; and 
that it pursues the Gallinazo, till that bird is compelled to 
vomit up the carrion it may have recently gorged. Lastly, 
Azara states that several Carranchas, five or six together, 
will unite in chase of large birds, even such as herons. All 
these facts show that it is a bird of very versatile habits and 
considerable ingenuity. 

The Polyborus Chimango is considerably smaller than the 
last species. It is truly omnivorous, and will eat even bread; 


and I was assured that it materially injures the potato-crops 
in Chiloe, by stocking up the roots when first planted. Of 
all the carrion-feeders it is generally the last which leaves 
the skeleton of a dead animal, and may often be seen within 
the ribs of a cow or horse, like a bird in a cage. Another 
species is the Polyborus Novae Zelandiae, which is exceed- 
ingly common in the Falkland Islands. These birds in many 
respects resemble in their habits the Carranchas. They live 
on the flesh of dead animals and on marine productions ; and 
on the Ramirez rocks their whole sustenance must depend 
on the sea. They are extraordinarily tame and fearless, and 
haunt the neighborhood of houses for offal. If a hunting 
party kills an animal, a number soon collect and patiently 
await, standing on the ground on all sides. After eating, 
their uncovered craws are largely protruded, giving them a 
disgusting appearance. They readily attack wounded birds: 
a cormorant in this state having taken to the shore, was 
immediately seized on by several, and its death hastened 
by their blows. The Beagle was at the Falklands only 
during the summer, but the officers of the Adventure, who 
were there in the winter, mention many extraordinary in- 
stances of the boldness and rapacity of these birds. They 
actually pounced on a dog that was lying fast asleep close 
by one of the party ; and the sportsmen had difficulty in pre- 
venting the wounded geese from being seized before their 
eyes. It is said that several together (in this respect resem- 
bling the Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a rabbit-hole, 
and together seize on the animal when it comes out. They 
were constantly flying on board the vessel when in the har- 
bour ; and it was necessary to keep a good look out to prevent 
the leather being torn from the rigging, and the meat or 
game from the stern. These birds are very mischievous and 
inquisitive; they will pick up almost anything from the 
ground; a large black glazed hat was carried nearly a mile, 
as was a pair of the heavy balls used in catching cattle. Mr. 
Usborne experienced during the survey a more severe loss, 
in their stealing a small Kater's compass in a red morocco 
leather case, which was never recovered. These birds are, 
moreover, quarrelsome and very passionate; tearing up the 
grass with their bills from rage. They are not truly grega- 


rious ; they do not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy ; 
on the ground they run extremely fast, very much like 
pheasants. They are noisy, uttering several harsh cries, one 
of which is like that of the English rook; hence the sealers 
always call them rooks. It is a curious circumstance that, 
when crying out, they throw their heads upwards and back- 
wards, after the same manner as the Carrancha. They build 
in the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the small 
adjoining islets, and not on the two main islands: this is a 
singular precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The seal- 
ers say that the flesh of these birds, when cooked, is quite 
white, and very good eating; but bold must the man be who 
attempts such a meal. 

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



Cordillera, but I never saw or heard of one in Chile ; in Peru 
they are preserved as scavengers. These vultures certainly 
may be called gregarious, for they seem to have pleasure in 
society, and are not solely brought together by the attraction 
of a common prey. On a fine day a flock may often be 
observed at a great height, each bird wheeling round and 
round without closing its wings, in the most graceful evolu- 
tions. This is clearly performed for the mere pleasure of 
the exercise, or perhaps is connected with their matrimonial 

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

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the 
Laguna del Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the dis- 
tance of a few miles from Maldonado, I found a group of 
those vitrified, siliceous tubes, which are formed by lightning 
entering loose sand. These tubes resemble in every particu- 
lar those from Drigg in Cumberland, described in the 
Geological Transactions. 10 The sand-hillocks of Maldonado, 
not being protected by vegetation, are constantly changing 
their position. From this cause the tubes projected above 
the surface, and numerous fragments lying near, showed 
that they had formerly been buried to a greater depth. Four 
sets entered the sand perpendicularly: by working with 
my hands I traced one of them two feet deep; and some 
fragments which evidently had belonged to the same tube, 
when added to the other part, measured five feet three 
inches. The diameter of the whole tube was nearly equal, 
and therefore we must suppose that originally it extended to 
a much greater depth. These dimensions are however small, 
compared to those of the tubes from Drigg, one of which 
was traced to a depth of not less than thirty feet. 

The internal surface is completely vitrified, glossy, and 
smooth. A small fragment examined under the microscope 

"Geolog. Transact, vol. ii. p. 528. In the Philosoph. Transact (1700, 
p. 294) Dr. Priestley has described some imperfect siliceous tubes and a 
melted pebble of quartz, found in digging into the ground, under a tree, 
where a man had been killed by lightning. 


appeared, from the number of minute entangled air or per- 
haps steam bubbles, like an assay fused before the blowpipe. 
The sand is entirely, or in greater part, siliceous; but some 
points are of a black colour, and from their glossy surface 
possess a metallic lustre. The thickness of the wall of the 
tube varies from a thirtieth to a twentieth of an inch, and 
occasionally even equals a tenth. On the outside the grains 
of sand are rounded, and have a slightly glazed appearance: 
I could not distinguish any signs of crystallization. In a 
similar manner to that described in the Geological Transac- 
tions, the tubes are generally compressed, and have deep 
longitudinal furrows, so as closely to resemble a shrivelled 
vegetable stalk, or the bark of the elm or cork tree. Their 
circumference is about two inches, but in some fragments, 
which are cylindrical and without any furrows, it is as much 
as four inches. The compression from the surrounding loose 
sand, acting while the tube was still softened from the effects 
of the intense heat, has evidently caused the creases or fur- 
rows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, the meas- 
ure or bore of the lightning (if such a term may be used) 
must have been about one inch and a quarter. At Paris, M. 
Hachette and M. Beudant u succeeded in making tubes, in 
most respects similar to these fulgurites, by passing very 
strong shocks of galvanism through finely-powdered glass: 
when salt was added, so as to increase its fusibility, the tubes 
were larger in every dimension. They failed both with 
powdered felspar and quartz. One tube, formed with 
pounded glass, was very nearly an inch long, namely .982, 
and had an internal diameter of .019 of an inch. When we 
hear that the strongest battery in Paris was used, and that 
its power on a substance of such easy fusibility as glass was 
to form tubes so diminutive, we must feel greatly astonished 
at the force of a shock of lightning, which, striking the sand 
in several places, has formed cylinders, in one instance of at 
least thirty feet long, and having an internal bore, where not 
compressed, of full an inch and a half; and this in a materiaJ 
so extraordinarily refractory as quartz ! 

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand 
nearly in a vertical direction. One, however, which was less 

u Annals de Chimie et de Physique, torn, xxxvii. p. 319. 


regular than the others, deviated from a right line, at the 
most considerable bend, to the amount of thirty-three de- 
grees. From this same tube, two small branches, about a 
foot apart, were sent off; one pointed downwards, and the 
other upwards. This latter case is remarkable, as the elec- 
tric fluid must have turned back at the acute angle of 26, 
to the line of its main course. Besides the four tubes which 
I found vertical, and traced beneath the surface, there were 
several other groups of fragments, the original sites of which 
without doubt were near. All occurred in a level area of 
shifting sand, sixty yards by twenty, situated among some 
high sand-hillocks, and at the distance of about half a mile 
from a chain of hills four or five hundred feet in height. The 
most remarkable circumstance, as it appears to me, in this 
case as well as in that of Drigg, and in one described by 
M. Ribbentrop in Germany, is the number of tubes found 
within such limited spaces. At Drigg, within an area of 
fifteen yards, three were observed, and the same number 
occurred in Germany. In the case which I have described, 
certainly more than four existed within the space of the 
sixty by twenty yards. As it does not appear probable that 
the tubes are produced by successive distinct shocks, we must 
believe that the lightning, shortly before entering the ground, 
divides itself into separate branches. 

The neighbourhood of the Rio Plata seems peculiarly sub- 
ject to electric phenomena. In the year I793, 12 one of the 
most destructive thunderstorms perhaps on record happened 
at Buenos Ayres: thirty-seven places within the city were 
struck by lightning, and nineteen people killed. From facts 
stated in several books of travels, I am inclined to suspect 
that thunderstorms are very common near the mouths of 
great rivers. Is it not possible that the mixture of large 
bodies of fresh and salt water may disturb the electrical 
equilibrium? Even during our occasional visits to this part 
of South America, we heard of a ship, two churches, and a 
house having been struck. Both the church and the house 
I saw shortly afterwards: the house belonged to Mr. Hood, 
the consul-general at Monte Video. Some of the effects were 
curious : the paper, for nearly a foot on each side of the line 

"Azara's Voyage, voL i. p. 36- 


where the bell-wires had run, was blackened. The metal had 
been fused, and although the room was about fifteen feet 
high, the globules, dropping on the chairs and furniture, had 
drilled in them a chain of minute holes. A part of the wall 
was shattered, as if by gunpowder, and the fragments had 
been blown off with force sufficient to dent the wall on the 
opposite side of the room. The frame of a looking-glass was 
blackened, and the gilding must have been volatilized, for a 
smelling-bottle, which stood on the chimney-piece, was coated 
with bright metallic particles, which adhered as firmly as 
if they had been enamelled. 


Rio Negro Estancias attacked by the Indians Salt-Lakes Flamin- 
goes R. Negro to R. Colorado Sacred Tree Patagonian Hare 
Indian Families General Rosas Proceed to Bahia Blanca Sand 
Dunes Negro Lieutenant Bahia Blanca Saline Incrustations 
Punta Alta Zorillo. 

/ULY 24th, 1833. The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, 
and on August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the 
Rio Negro. This is the principal river on the whole line 
of coast between the Strait of Magellan and the Plata. It 
enters the sea about three hundred miles south of the estuary 
of the Plata. About fifty years ago, under the old Spanish 
government, a small colony was established here ; and it is 
still the most southern position (lat. 41) on this eastern 
coast of America inhabited by civilized man. 

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

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



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

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. 
Tt is built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and 

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


many of the houses are excavated even in the sandstone. 
The river is about two or three hundred yards wide, and is 
deep and rapid. The many islands, with their willow-trees, 
and the flat headlands, seen one behind the other on the 
northern boundary of the broad green valley, form, by the 
aid of a bright sun, a view almost picturesque. The number 
of inhabitants does not exceed a few hundreds. These Span- 
ish colonies do not, like our British ones, carry within them- 
selves the elements of growth. Many Indians of pure blood 
reside here : the tribe of the Cacique Lucanee constantly have 
their Toldos 2 on the outskirts of the town. The local gov- 
ernment partly supplies them with provisions, by giving them 
all the old worn-out horses, and they earn a little by making 
horse-rugs and other articles of riding-gear. These Indians 
are considered civilized; but what their character may have 
gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, is almost counterbal- 
anced by their entire immorality. Some of the younger men 
are, however, improving; they are willing to labour, and a 
short time since a party went on a sealing-voyage, and be- 
haved very well. They were now enjoying the fruits of their 
labour, by being dressed in very gay, clean clothes, and by 
being very idle. The taste they showed in their dress was 
admirable; if you could have turned one of these young 
Indians into a statue of bronze, his drapery would have been 
perfectly graceful. 

One day I rode to a large salt-lake, or Salina, which is 
distant fifteen miles from the town. During the winter it 
consists of a shallow lake of brine, which in summer is con- 
verted into a field of snow-white salt. The layer near the 
margin is from four to five inches thick, but towards the 
centre its thickness increases. This lake was two and a half 
miles long, and one broad. Others occur in the neighbour- 
hood many times larger, and with a floor of salt, two and 
three feet in thickness, even when under water during the 
winter. One of these brilliantly white and level expanses, 
in the midst of the brown and desolate plain, offers an 
extraordinary spectacle. A large quantity of salt is annu- 
ally drawn from the salina: and great piles, some hundred 
tons in weight, were lying ready for exportation. The season 

'The hovels of the Indians are thus called. 


for working the salinas forms the harvest of Patagones ; for 
on it the prosperity of the place depends. Nearly the whole 
population encamps on the bank of the river, and the people 
are employed in drawing out the salt in bullock-waggons. 
This salt is crystallized in great cubes, and is remarkably 
pure: Mr. Trenham Reeks has kindly analyzed some for me, 
and he finds in it only 0.26 of gypsum and 0.22 of earthy 
matter. It is a singular fact, that it does not serve so well 
for preserving meat as sea-salt from the Cape de Verd 
islands; and a merchant at Buenos Ayres told me that he 
considered it as fifty per cent, less valuable. Hence the 
Cape de Verd salt is constantly imported, and is mixed with 
that from these salinas. The purity of the Patagonian salt, 
or absence from it of those other saline bodies found in all 
sea-water, is the only assignable cause for this inferiority: 
a conclusion which no one, I think, would have suspected, 
but which is supported by the fact lately ascertained, 3 that 
those salts answer best for preserving cheese which contain 
most of the deliquescent chlorides. 

The border of this lake is formed of mud: and in this 
numerous large crystals of gypsum, some of which are three 
inches long, lie embedded; whilst on the surface others of 
sulphate of soda lie scattered about. The Gauchos call the 
former the " Padre del sal," and the latter the " Madre ; " 
they state that these progenitive salts always occur on the 
borders of the salinas, when the water begins to evaporate. 
The mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could not at first 
imagine the cause of this, but I afterwards perceived that the 
froth which the wind drifted on shore was coloured green, 
as if by confervae; I attempted to carry home some of this 
green matter, but from an accident failed. Parts of the lake 
seen from a short distance appeared of a reddish colour, and 
this perhaps was owing to some infusorial animalcula. The 
mud in many places was thrown up by numbers of some kind 
of worm, or annelidous animal. How surprising it is that 
any creatures should be able to exist in brine, and that they 
should be crawling among crystals of sulphate of soda and 
lime ! And what becomes of these worms when, during the 
long summer, the surface is hardened into a solid layer of 

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


salt? Flamingoes in considerable numbers inhabit this lake, 
and breed here; throughout Patagonia, in Northern Chile, 
and at the Galapagos Islands, I met with these birds wher- 
ever there were lakes of brine. I saw them here wading 
about in search of food probably for the worms which bur- 
row in the mud ; and these latter probably feed on infusoria or 
confervae. Thus we have a little living world within itself, 
adapted to these inland lakes of brine. A minute crustaceous 
animal (Cancer salinus) is said* to live in countless numbers 
in the brine-pans at Lymington: but only in those in which 
the fluid has attained, from evaporation, considerable 
strength namely, about a quarter of a pound of salt to a 
pint of water. Well may we affirm that every part of the 
world is habitable ! Whether lakes of brine, or those sub- 
terranean ones hidden beneath volcanic mountains warm 
mineral springs the wide expanse and depths of the ocean 
the upper regions of the atmosphere, and even the surface 
of perpetual snow all support organic beings. 

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

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


line across the unexplored plains: and as the country was 
thus pretty well cleared of Indians, he left behind him, at 
wide intervals, a small party of soldiers with a troop of 
horses (a post a), so as to be enabled to keep up a communi- 
cation with the capital. As the Beagle intended to call at 
Bahia Blanca, I determined to proceed there by land; and 
ultimately I extended my plan to travel the whole way by 
the postas to Buenos Ayres. 

August nth. Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at 
Patagones, a guide, and five Gauchos who were proceeding 
to the army on business, were my companions on the jour- 
ney. The Colorado, as I have already said, is nearly eighty 
miles distant: and as we travelled slowly, we were two days 
and a half on the road. The whole line of country deserves 
scarcely a better name than that of a desert. Water is found 
only in two small wells; it is called fresh; but even at this 
time of the year, during the rainy season, it was quite brack- 
ish. In the summer this must be a distressing passage; for 
now it was sufficiently desolate. The valley of the Rio 
Negro, broad as it is, has merely been excavated out of the 
sandstone plain; for immediately above the bank on which 
the town stands, a level country commences, which is inter- 
rupted only by a few trifling valleys and depressions. Every- 
where the landscape wears the same sterile aspect; a dry 
gravelly soil supports tufts of brown withered grass, and 
low scattered bushes, armed with thorns. 

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of 
a famous tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of 
Walleechu. It is situated on a high part of the plain; and 
hence is a landmark visible at a great distance. As soon as a 
tribe of Indians come in sight of it, they offer their adora- 
tions by loud shouts. The tree itself is low, much branched, 
and thorny: just above the root it has a diameter of about 
three feet. It stands by itself without any neighbour, and 
was indeed the first tree we saw ; afterwards we met with a 
few others of the same kind, but they were far from commoa 
Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place num- 
berless threads, by which the various offerings, such as 
cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth, etc., had been suspended. 
Poor Indians, not having anything better, only pull a thread 


out of their ponchos, and fasten it to the tree. Richer 
Indians are accustomed to pour spirits and mate into a cer- 
tain hole, and likewise to smoke upwards, thinking thus to 
afford all possible gratification to Walleechu. To complete 
the scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones 
of horses which had been slaughtered as sacrifices. All 
Indians of every age and sex make their offerings ; they then 
think that their horses will not tire, and that they themselves 
shall be prosperous. The Gaucho who told me this, said that 
in the time of peace he had witnessed this scene, and that 
he and others used to wait till the Indians had passed by, for 
the sake of stealing from Walleechu the offerings. 

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


The next day the country continued similar to that above 
described. It is inhabited by few birds or animals of any 
kind. Occasionally a deer, or a Guanaco (wild Llama) may 
be seen; but the Agouti (Cavia Patagonica) is the common- 
est quadruped. This animal here represents our hares. It 
differs, however, from that genus in many essential respects ; 
for instance, it has only three toes behind. It is also nearly 
twice the size, weighing from twenty to twenty-five pounds. 
The Agouti is a true friend of the desert; it is a common 
feature of the landscape to see two or three hopping quickly 
one after the other in a straight line across these wild plains. 
They are found as far north as the Sierra Tapalguen (lat. 
37 30'), where the plain rather suddenly becomes greener 
and more humid; and their southern limit is between Port 
Desire and St. Julian, where there is no change in the nature 
of the country. It is a singular fact, that although the 
Agouti is not now found as far south as Port St. Julian, yet 
that Captain Wood, in his voyage in 1670, talks of them as 
being numerous there. What cause can have altered, in a 
wide, uninhabited, and rarely-visited country, the range of 
an animal like this? It appears also, from the number shot 
by Captain Wood in one day at Port Desire, that they must 
have been considerably more abundant there formerly than 
at present. Where the Bizcacha lives and makes its burrows, 
the Agouti uses them; but where, as at Bahia Blanca, the 
Bizcacha is not found, the Agouti burrows for itself. The 
same thing occurs with the little owl of the Pampas (Athene 
cunicularia), which has so often been described as standing 
like a sentinel at the mouth of the burrows; for in Banda 
Oriental, owing to the absence of the Bizcacha, it is obliged 
to hollow out its own habitation. 

The next morning, as we approached the Rio Colorado, 
the appearance of the country changed; we soon came on a 
plain covered with turf, which, from its flowers, tall clover, 
and little owls, resembled the Pampas. We passed also a 
muddy swamp of considerable extent, which in summer dries, 
and becomes incrusttd with various salts ; and hence is called 
a salitral. It was covered by low succulent plants, of the 
same kind with those growing on the sea-shore. The Colo- 
rado, at the pass where we crossed it, is only about sixty 


yards wide; generally it must be nearly double that width. 
Its course is very tortuous, being marked by willow-trees 
and beds of reeds: in a direct line the distance to the mouth 
of the river is said to be nine leagues, but by water twenty- 
five. We were delayed crossing in the canoe by some im- 
mense troops of mares, which were swimming the river in 
order to follow a division of troops into the interior. A 
more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld than the hundreds 
and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed 
ears and distended snorting nostrils, appearing just above 
the water like a great shoal of some amphibious animal. 
Mare's flesh is the only food which the soldiers have when 
on an expedition. This gives them a great facility of move- 
ment; for the distance to which horses can be driven over 
these plains is quite surprising: I have been assured that an 
unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a day for many 
days successively. 

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the river. 
It consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, straw 
huts, etc. The soldiers were nearly all cavalry ; and I should 
think such a villainous, banditti-like army was never before 
collected together. The greater number of men were of a 
mixed breed, between Negro, Indian, and Spaniard. I know 
not the reason, but men of such origin seldom have a good 
expression of countenance. I called on the Secretary to show 
my passport. He began to cross-question me in the most 
dignified and mysterious manner. By good luck I had a 
letter of recommendation from the government of Buenos 
Ayres* to the commandant of Patagones. This was taken 
to General Rosas, who sent me a very obliging message ; and 
the Secretary returned all smiles and graciousness. We took 
up our residence in the rancho, or hovel, of a curious old 
Spaniard, who had served with Napoleon in the expedition 
against Russia. 

We stayed two days at the Colorado; I had little to do, 
for the surrounding country was a swamp, which in summer 
(December), when the snow melts on the Cordillera, is over- 
flowed by the river. My chief amusement was watching the 

6 1 am hound to express, in the strongest terms, my obligation to the 
government of Buenos Ayres for the obliging manner in which passports 
to all parts of the country were given me, as naturalist of the Beagle. 


Indian families as they came to buy little articles at the 
rancho where we stayed. It was supposed that General 
Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The men were 
a tall, fine race, yet it was afterwards easy to see in the 
Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by 
cold, want of food, and less civilization. Some authors, 
in defining the primary races of mankind, have separated 
these Indians into two classes; but this is certainly incor- 
rect. Among the young women or chinas, some deserve to 
be called even beautiful. Their hair was coarse, but bright 
and black; and they wore it in two plaits hanging down 
to the waist. They had a high colour, and eyes that 
glistened with brilliancy; their legs, feet, and arms were 
small and elegantly formed; their ankles, and sometimes 
their wrists, were ornamented by broad bracelets of blue 
beads. Nothing could be more interesting than some of the 
family groups. A mother with one or two daughters would 
often come to our rancho, mounted on the same horse. They 
ride like men, but with their knees tucked up much higher. 
This habit, perhaps, arises from their being accustomed, 
when travelling, to ride the loaded horses. The duty of the 
women is to load and unload the horses; to make the tents 
for the night; in short to be, like the wives of all savages, 
useful slaves. The men fight, hunt, take care of the horses, 
and make the riding gear. One of their chief indoor occupa- 
tions is to knock two stones together till they become round, 
in order to make the bolas. With this important weapon the 
Indian catches his game, and also his horse, which roams 
free over the plain. In fighting, his first attempt is to throw 
down the horse of his adversary with the bolas, and when 
entangled by the fall to kill him with the chuzo. If the balls 
only catch the neck or body of an animal, they are often 
carried away and lost. As the making the stones round is 
the labour of two days, the manufacture of the balls is a 
very common employment. Several of the men and women 
had their faces painted red, but I never saw the horizontal 
bands which are so common among the Fuegians. Their 
chief pride consists in having everything made of silver; I 
have seen a cacique with his spurs, stirrups, handle of his 
knife, and bridle made of this metal: the head-stall and reins 


being of wire, were not thicker than whipcord ; and to see a 
fiery steed wheeling about under the command of so light 
a chain, gave to the horsemanship a remarkable character of 

General Rosas intimated a wish to see me; a circumstance 
which I was afterwards very glad of. He is a man of an 
extraordinary character, and has a most predominant influ- 
ence in the country, which it seems he will use to its pros- 
perity and advancement.* He is said to be the owner of 
seventy-four square leagues of land, and to have about three 
hundred thousand head of cattle. His estates are admirably 
managed, and are far more productive of corn than those of 
others. He first gained his celebrity by his laws for his own 
estancias, and by disciplining several hundred men, so as to 
resist with success the attacks of the Indians. There are 
many stories current about the rigid manner in which his 
laws were enforced. One of these was, that no man, on 
penalty of being put into the stocks, should carry his knife 
on a Sunday: this being the principal day for gambling and 
drinking, many quarrels arose, which from the general man- 
ner of fighting with the knife often proved fatal. One 
Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the estancia 
a visit, and General Rosas, in his hurry, walked out to receive 
him with his knife, as usual, stuck in his belt. The steward 
touched his arm, and reminded him of the law ; upon which, 
turning to the Governor, he said he was extremely sorry, but 
that he must go into the stocks, and that till let out, he pos- 
sessed no power even in his own house. After a little time 
the steward was persuaded to open the stocks, and to let 
him out, but no sooner was this done, than he turned to the 
steward and said, " You now have broken the laws, so you 
must take my place in the stocks." Such actions as these 
delighted the Gauchos, who all possess high notions of their 
own equality and dignity. 

General Rosas is also a perfect horseman an accomplish- 
ment of no small consequence in a country where an assem- 
bled army elected its general by the folowing trial: A troop 
of unbroken horses being driven into a corral, were let out 
through a gateway, above which was a cross-bar: it was 

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


agreed whoever should drop from the bar on one of these 
wild animals, as it rushed out, and should be able, without 
saddle or bridle, not only to ride it, but also to bring it back 
to the door of the corral, should be their general. The per- 
son who succeeded was accordingly elected ; and doubtless 
made a fit general for such an army. This extraordinary 
feat has also been performed by Rosas. 

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

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

In the morning we started for Bahia Blanca, which we 
reached in two days. Leaving the regular encampment, we 


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

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


the land occur, such speculations can hardly be neglected by 
any one, although merely considering the physical geography 
of the country. Having crossed the sandy tract, we arrived 
in the evening at one of the post-houses; and, as the fresh 
horses were grazing at a distance we determined to pass 
the night there. 

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

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


Bahia Blanca scarcely deserves the name of a village. A 
few houses and the barracks for the troops are enclosed by 
a deep ditch and fortified wall. The settlement is only of 
recent standing (since 1828) ; and its growth has been one of 
trouble. The government of Buenos Ayres unjustly occu- 
pied it by force, instead of following the wise example of the 
Spanish Viceroys, who purchased the land near the older 
settlement of the Rio Negro, from the Indians. Hence the 
need of the fortifications; hence the few houses and little 
cultivated land without the limits of the walls; even the 
cattle are not safe from the attacks of the Indians beyond 
the boundaries of the plain, on which the fortress stands. 

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

We found the Beagle had not arrived, and consequently 
set out on our return, but the horses soon tiring, we were 


obliged to bivouac on the plain. In the morning we had 
caught an armadillo, which, although a most excellent dish 
when roasted in its shell, did not make a very substantial 
breakfast and dinner for two hungry men. The ground at 
the place where we stopped for the night, was incrusted with 
a layer of sulphate of soda, and hence, of course, was with- 
out water. Yet many of the smaller rodents managed to 
exist even here, and the tucutuco was making its odd little 
grunt beneath my head, during half the night. Our horses 
were very poor ones, and in the morning they were soon 
exhausted from not having had anything to drink, so that 
we were obliged to walk. About noon the dogs killed a kid, 
which we roasted. I ate some of it, but it made me intoler- 
ably thirsty. This was the more distressing as the road, 
from some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear 
water, yet not a drop was drinkable. I had scarcely been 
twenty hours without water, and only part of the time under 
a hot sun, yet the thirst rendered me very weak. How people 
survive two or three days under such circumstances, I cannot 
imagine : at the same time, I must confess that my guide did 
not suffer at all, and was astonished that one day's depriva- 
tion should be so troublesome to me. 

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground 
being incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite differ- 
ent from that of the salinas, and more extraordinary. In 
many parts of South America, wherever the climate is mod- 
erately dry, these incrustations occur; but I have nowhere 
seen them so abundant as near Bahia Blanca. The salt here, 
and in other parts of Patagonia, consists chiefly of sulphate 
of soda with some common salt. As long as the ground 
remains moist in the salitrales (as the Spaniards improperly 
call them, mistaking this substance for saltpetre), nothing is 
to be seen but an extensive plain composed of a black, muddy 
soil, supporting scattered tufts of succulent plants. On return- 
ing through one of these tracts, after a week's hot weather, 
one is surprised to see square miles of the plain white, as if 
from a slight fall of snow, here and there heaped up by the 
wind into little drifts. This latter appearance is chiefly 
caused by the salts being drawn up, during the slow evapora- 
tion of the moisture, round blades of dead grass, stumps of 


wood, and pieces of broken earth, instead of being crystal- 
lized at the bottoms of the puddles of water. The salitrales 
occur either on level tracts elevated only a few feet above 
the level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering rivers. 
M. Parchappe 7 found that the saline incrustation on the plain, 
at the distance of some miles from the sea, consisted chiefly 
of sulphate of soda, with only seven per cent, of common 
salt; whilst nearer to the coast, the common salt increased 
to 37 parts in a hundred. This circumstance would tempt 
one to believe that the sulphate of soda is generated in the 
soil, from the muriate, left on the surface during the slow 
and recent elevation of this dry country. The whole phe- 
nomenon is well worthy the attention of naturalists. Have 
the succulent, salt-loving plants, which are well known to 
contain much soda, the power of decomposing the muriate? 
Does the black fetid mud, abounding with organic matter, 
yield the sulphur and ultimately the sulphuric acid? 

Two days afterwards I again rode to the harbour: when 
not far from our destination, my companion, the same man 
as before, spied three people hunting on horseback. He im- 
mediately dismounted, and watching them intently, said, 
" They don't ride like Christians, and nobody can leave the 
fort." The three hunters joined company, and likewise dis- 
mounted from their horses. At last one mounted again 
and rode over the hill out of sight. My companion said, 
" We must now get on our horses : load your pistol ;" and he 
looked to his own sword. I asked, " Are they Indians ? " 
" Quien sabe? (who knows?) if there are no more than three, 
it does not signify." It then struck me, that the one man 
had gone over the hill to fetch the rest of his tribe. I sug- 
gested this ; but all the answer I could extort was, " Quien 
sabe ? " His head and eye never for a minute ceased scan- 
ning slowly the distant horizon. I thought his uncommon 
coolness too good a joke, and asked him why he did not 
return home. I was startled when he answered, " We are 
returning, but in a line so as to pass near a swamp, into 
which we can gallop the horses as far as they can go, and 
then trust to our own legs ; so that there is no danger." I did 

T Voyage dans 1'Amerique Merid par M. A. d'Orbigny. Part. Hist 
torn. i. p. 664. 


not feel quite so confident of this, and wanted to increase 
our pace. He said, " No, not until they do." When any 
little inequality concealed us, we galloped ; but when in sight, 
continued walking. At last we reached a valley, and turning 
to the left, galloped quickly to the foot of a hill; he gave me 
his horse to hold, made the dogs lie down, and then crawled 
on his hands and knees to reconnoitre. He remained in this 
position for some time, and at last, bursting out in laughter, 
exclaimed, "Mugeres!" (women!). He knew them to be 
the wife and sister-in-law of the major's son, hunting for 
ostrich's eggs. I have described this man's conduct, because 
he acted under the full impression that they were Indians. 
As soon, however, as the absurd mistake was found out, he 
gave me a hundred reasons why they could not have been 
Indians; but all these were forgotten at the time. We then 
rode on in peace and quietness to a low point called Punta 
Alta, whence we could see nearly the whole of the great har- 
bour of Bahia Blanca. 

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

We passed the night in Punta Alta, and I employed my- 
self in searching for fossil bones ; this point being a perfect 
catacomb for monsters of extinct races. The evening was 
perfectly calm and clear; the extreme monotony of the view 
gave it an interest even in the midst of mud-banks and gulls, 
sand-hillocks and solitary vultures. In riding back in the 
morning we came across a very fresh track of a Puma, but 
did not succeed in finding it We saw also a couple of 


Zorillos, or skunks, odious animals, which are far from un- 
common. In general appearance, the Zorillo resembles a 
polecat, but it is rather larger, and much thicker in propor- 
tion. Conscious of its power, it roams by day about the open 
plain, and fears neither dog nor man. If a dog is urged to 
the attack, its courage is instantly checked by a few drops 
of the fetid oil, which brings on violent sickness and run- 
ning at the nose. Whatever is once polluted by it, is for 
ever useless. Azara says the smell can be perceived at a 
league distant; more than once, when entering the harbour 
of Monte Video, the wind being off shore, we have per- 
ceived the odour on board the Beagle. Certain it is, that 
every animal most willingly makes room for the Zorillo. 


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

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

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

First, parts of three heads and other bones of the Mega- 
therium, the huge dimensions of which are expressed by its 
name. Secondly, the Megalonyx, a great allied animal. 
Thirdly, the Scelidotherium, also an allied animal, of which 
I obtained a nearly perfect skeleton. It must have been as 



large as a rhinoceros : in the structure of its head it comes, 
according to Mr. Owen, nearest to the Cape Anteater, but 
in some other respects it approaches to the armadilloes. 
Fourthly, the Mylodon Darwinii, a closely related genus of 
little inferior size. Fifthly, another gigantic edental quadru- 
ped. Sixthly, a large animal, with an osseous coat in com- 
partments, very like that of an armadillo. Seventhly, an 
extinct kind of horse, to which I shall have again to refer. 
Eighthly, a tooth of a Pachydermatous animal, probably the 
same with the Macrauchenia, a huge beast with a long neck 
like a camel, which I shall also refer to again. Lastly, the 
Toxodon, perhaps one of the strangest animals ever dis- 
covered: in size it equalled an elephant or megatherium, but 
the structure of its teeth, as Mr. Owen states, proves in- 
disputably that it was intimately related to the Gnawers, the 
order which, at the present day, includes most of the smallest 
quadrupeds : in many details it is allied to the Pachyder- 
mata: judging from the position of its eyes, ears, and nos- 
trils, it was probably aquatic, like the Dugong and Manatee, 
to which it is also allied. How wonderfully are the different 
Orders, at the present time so well separated, blended to- 
gether in different points of the structure of the Toxodon ! 
The remains of these nine great quadrupeds, and many 
detached bones, were found embedded on the beach, within 
the space of about 200 yards square. It is a remarkable cir- 
cumstance that so many different species should be found 
together; and it proves how numerous in kind the ancient 
inhabitants of this country must have been. At the distance 
of about thirty miles from Punta Alta, in a cliff of red earth, 
I found several fragments of bones, some of large size. 
Among them were the teeth of a gnawer, equalling in size 
and closely resembling those of the Capybara, whose habits 
have been described; and therefore, probably, an aquatic 
animal. There was also part of the head of a Ctenomys ; the 
species being different from the Tucutuco, but with a close 
general resemblance. The red earth, like that of the Pampas, 
in which these remains were embedded, contains, according 
to Professor Ehrenberg, eight fresh-water and one salt-water 
infusorial animalcule; therefore, probably, it was an estuary 


The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in stratified 
gravel and reddish mud, just such as the sea might now wash 
up on a shallow bank. They were associated with twenty- 
three species of shells, of which thirteen are recent and four 
others very closely related to recent forms. 1 From the bones 
of the Scelidotherium, including even the knee-cap, being 
intombed in their proper relative positions, and from the 
osseous armour of the great armadillo-like animal being so 
well preserved, together with the bones of one of its legs, we 
may feel assured that these remains were fresh and united by 
their ligaments, when deposited in the gravel together with 
the shells. 3 Hence we have good evidence that the above 
enumerated gigantic quadrupeds, more different from those 
of the present day than the oldest of the tertiary quadru- 
peds of Europe, lived whilst the sea was peopled with most 
of its present inhabitants; and we have confirmed that re- 
markable law so often insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that 
the " longevity of the species in the mammalia is upon the 
whole inferior to that of the testacea." 3 

The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals, 
including the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and 
Mylodon, is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these 
animals were a complete puzzle to naturalists, until Professor 
Owen* solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The 
teeth indicate, by their simple structure, that these Mega- 
theroid animals lived on vegetable food, and probably on the 
leaves and small twigs of trees ; their ponderous forms and 
great strong curved claws seem so little adapted for locomo- 
tion, that some eminent naturalists have actually believed, 
that, like the sloths, to which they are intimately related, 
they subsisted by climbing back downwards on trees, and 
feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, 

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

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

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

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


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

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only 
from fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high-water; 
and hence the elevation of the land has been small (without 
there has been an intercalated period of subsidence, of which 
we have no evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered 
over the surrounding plains; and the external features of 
the country must then have been very nearly the same as 
now. What, it may naturally be asked, was the character 
of the vegetation at that period ; was the country as wretch- 
edly sterile as it now is? As so many of the co-embedded 
shells are the same with those now living in the bay, I was 
at first inclined to think that the former vegetation was 
probably similar to the existing one; but this would have 
been an erroneous inference, for some of these same shells 
live on the luxuriant coast of Brazil; and generally, the 
character of the inhabitants of the sea are useless as guides 
to judge of those on the land. Nevertheless, from the fol- 
lowing considerations, I do not believe that the simple fact 
of many gigantic quadrupeds having lived on the plains 


round Bahia Blanca, is any sure guide that they formerly 
were clothed with a luxuriant vegetation : I have no doubt 
that the sterile country a little southward, near the Rio 
Negro, with its scattered thorny trees, would support many 
and large quadrupeds. 

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

Dr. Andrew Smith, who, at the head of his adventurous 
party, has lately succeeded in passing the Tropic of Capri- 
corn, informs me that, taking into consideration the whole 
of the southern part of Africa, there can be no doubt of its 
being a sterile country. On the southern and south-eastern 
coasts there are some fine forests, but with these exceptions, 
the traveller may pass for days together through open plains, 
covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It is difficult to 
convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative fertil- 
ity; but it may be safely said that the amount of vegetation 
supported at any one time 5 by Great Britain, exceeds, per- 
haps even tenfold, the quantity on an equal area, in the 
interior parts of Southern Africa. The fact that bullock- 
waggons can travel in any direction, excepting near the 

6 1 mean by this to exclude the total amount which may have been 
successively produced and consumed during a given period. 



coast, without more than occasionally half an hour's delay 
in cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more definite notion 
of the scantiness of the vegetation. Now, if we look to the 
animals inhabiting these wide plains, we shall find their 
numbers extraordinarily great, and their bulk immense. We 
must enumerate the elephant, three species of rhinoceros, 
and probably, according to Dr. Smith, two others, the hippo- 
potamus, the giraffe, the bos caffer as large as a full-grown 
bull, and the elan but little less, two zebras, and the quac- 
cha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these 
latter animals. It may be supposed that although the spe- 
cies are numerous, the individuals of each kind are few. 
By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to show that 
the case is very different. He informs me, that in lat. 24, 
in one day's march with the bullock-waggons, he saw, with- 
out wandering to any great distance on either side, between 
one hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which 
belonged to three species : the same day he saw several herds 
of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a hundred; and 
that although no elephant was observed, yet they are found 
in this district. At the distance of a little more than one 
hour's march from their place of encampment on the pre- 
vious night, his party actually killed at one spot eight hippo- 
potamuses, and saw many more. In this same river there 
were likewise crocodiles. Of course it was a case quite ex- 
traordinary, to see so many great animals crowded together, 
but it evidently proves that they must exist in great num- 
bers. Dr. Smith describes the country passed through that 
day, as " being thinly covered with grass, and bushes about 
four feet high, and still more thinly with mimosa-trees." 
The waggons were not prevented travelling in a nearly 
straight line. 

Besides these large animals, every one the least ac- 
quainted with the natural history of the Cape, has read of 
the herds of antelopes, which can be compared only with the 
flocks of migratory birds. The numbers indeed of the lion, 
panther, and hyaena, and the multitude of birds of prey, 
plainly speak of the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds: 
one evening seven lions were counted at the same time prowl- 
ing round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able naturalist 


remarked to me, the carnage each day in Southern Africa 
must indeed be terrific ! I confess it is truly surprising how 
such a number of animals can find support in a country 
producing so little food. The larger quadrupeds no doubt 
roam over wide tracts in search of it ; and their food chiefly 
consists of underwood, which probably contains much nutri- 
ment in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me that the 
vegetation has a rapid growth ; no sooner is a part consumed, 
than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. There can be 
no doubt, however, that our ideas respecting the apparent 
amount of food necessary for the support of large quadru- 
peds are much exaggerated : it should have been remembered 
that the camel, an animal of no mean bulk, has always been 
considered as the emblem of the desert. 

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegeta- 
tion must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, 
because the converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed 
to me that when entering Brazil, nothing struck him more 
forcibly than the splendour of the South American vegeta- 
tion contrasted with that of South Africa, together with 
the absence of all large quadrupeds. In his Travels,* he has 
suggested that the comparison of the respective weights (if 
there were sufficient data) of an equal number of the largest 
herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would be extremely 
curious. If we take on the one side, the elephant, 7 hippo- 
potamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, certainly three, and prob- 
ably five species of rhinoceros; and on the American side, 
two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capy- 
bara (after which we must choose from the monkeys to 
complete the number), and then place these two groups 

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

T The elephant which was killed at Exeter Change was estimated (being 

partly weighed) at five tons and a half. The elephant actress, as I was 

informed, weighed one ton less; so that we may take five as the average of 

a full-grown elephant. I was told at the Surrey Gardens, that a hippopot- 

, amus which was sent to England cut up into pieces was estimated at three 
tons and a half; we will call it three. From these premises we may give 
three tons and a half to each of the five rhinoceroses; perhaps a ton to the 

, piraffe, and half to the bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs 
from 1200 to 1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above 
estimates) of 2.7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals of South- 

to 250, or 24 to i, for the ten largest animals from the two continents. 


alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks more 
disproportionate in size. After the above facts, we are com- 
pelled to conclude, against anterior probability, 8 that among 
the mammalia there exists no close relation between the 
bulk of the species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in 
the countries which they inhabit. 

With regard to the number of large quadrupeds, there 
certainly exists no quarter of the globe which will bear com- 
parison with Southern Africa. After the different state- 
ments which have been given, the extremely desert character 
of that region will not be disputed. In the European divi- 
sion of the world, we must look back to the tertiary epochs, 
to find a condition of things among the mammalia, resem- 
bling that now existing at the Cape of Good Hope. Those 
tertiary epochs, which we are apt to consider as abounding 
to an astonishing degree with large animals, because we 
find the remains of many ages accumulated at certain spots, 
could hardly boast of more large quadrupeds than Southern 
Africa does at present. If we speculate on the condition 
of the vegetation during these epochs, we are at least bound 
so far to consider existing analogies, as not to urge as 
absolutely necessary a luxuriant vegetation, when we see 
a state of things so totally different at the Cape of Good 

We know 9 that the extreme regions of North America, 
many degrees beyond the limit where the ground at the depth 
of a few feet remains perpetually congealed, are covered by 
forests of large and tall trees. In a like manner, in Siberia, 
we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in a 
latitude 10 (64) where the mean temperature of the air falls 
below the freezing point, and where the earth is so com- 

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

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

10 See Humboldt, Fragments Asiatiques, p. 386 : Barton's Geography of 
Plants: and Malte Brun. In the latter work it is said that the limit of 
the growth of trees in Siberia may be drawn under the parallel of 70. 


pletely frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded in it 
is perfectly preserved. With these facts we must grant, as 
far as quantity alone of vegetation is concerned, that the 
great quadrupeds of the later tertiary epochs might, in most 
parts of Northern Europe and Asia, have lived on the spots 
where their remains are now found. I do not here speak of 
the kind of vegetation necessary for their support; because, 
as there is evidence of physical changes, and as the animals 
have become extinct, so may we suppose that the species of 
plants have likewise been changed. 

These remarks, I may be permitted to add, directly bear 
on the case of the Siberian animals preserved in ice. The 
firm conviction of the necessity of a vegetation possessing 
a character of tropical luxuriance, to support such large 
animals, and the impossibility of reconciling this with the 
proximity of perpetual congelation, was one chief cause of 
the several theories of sudden revolutions of climate, and of 
overwhelming catastrophes, which were invented to account 
for their entombment. I am far from supposing that the 
climate has not changed since the period when those ani- 
mals lived, which now lie buried in the ice. At present I 
only wish to show, that as far as quantity of food alone is 
concerned, the ancient rhinoceroses might have roamed over 
the steppes of central Siberia (the northern parts probably 
being under water) even in their present condition, as well 
as the living rhinoceroses and elephants over the Karros 
of Southern Africa. 

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the 
more interesting birds which are common on the wild plains 
of Northern Patagonia; and first for the largest, or South 
American ostrich. The ordinary habits of the ostrich are 
familiar to every one. They live on vegetable matter, such 
as roots and grass; but at Bahia Blanca I have repeatedly 
seen three or four come down at low water to the extensive 
mud-banks which are then dry, for the sake, as the Gauchos 
say, of feeding on small fish. Although the ostrich in its 
habits is so shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet 
in its pace, it is caught without much difficulty by the In- 
dian or Gaucho armed with the bolas. When several horse- 


men appear in a semicircle, it becomes confounded, and does 
not know which way to escape. They generally prefer run- 
ning against the wind; yet at the first start they expand 
their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On one fine 
hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes, 
where they squatted concealed, till quite closely approached. 
It is not generally known that ostriches readily take to the 
water. Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of San Bias, 
and at Port Valdes in Patagonia, he saw these birds swim- 
ming several times from island to island. They ran into 
the water both when 'driven down to a point, and likewise 
of their own accord when not frightened: the distance 
crossed was about two hundred yards. When swimming, 
very little of their bodies appear above water; their necks 
are extended a little forward, and their progress is slow. 
On two occasions I saw some ostriches swimming across the 
Santa Cruz river, where its course was about four hundred 
yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt, u when 
descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus 
in the act of swimming. 

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even 
at a distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is 
larger and darker-coloured," and has a bigger head. The 
ostrich, I believe the cock, emits a singular, deep-toned, hiss- 
ing note: when first I heard it, standing in the midst of 
some sand-hillocks, I thought it was made by some wild 
beast, for it is a sound that one cannot tell whence it comes, 
or from how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca 
in the months of September and October, the eggs, in extra- 
ordinary numbers, were found all over the country. They 
lie either scattered and single, in which case they are never 
hatched, and are called by the Spaniards huachos; or they 
are collected together into a shallow excavation, which forms 
the nest. Out of the four nests which I saw, three con- 
tained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth twenty-seven. 
In one day's hunting on horseback sixty-four eggs were 
found; forty- four of these were in two nests, and the re- 
maining twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos unani- 

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

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


mously affirm, and there is no reason to doubt their state- 
ment, that the male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for 
some time afterwards accompanies the young. The cock 
when on the nest lies very close ; I have myself almost ridden 
over one. It is asserted that at such times they are occa- 
sionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been 
known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and 
leap on him. My informer pointed out to me an old man, 
whom he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I 
observe in Burchell's travels in South Africa, that he re- 
marks, " Having killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being 
dirty, it was said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird." I 
understand that the male emu in the Zoological Gardens 
takes charge of the nest: this habit, therefore, is common 
to the family. 

The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females 
lay in one nest. I have been positively told that four or 
five hen birds have been watched to go in the middle of the 
day, one after the other, to the same nest. I may add, also, 
that it is believed in Africa, that two or more females lay 
in one nest. u Although this habit at first appears very 
strange, I think the cause may be explained in a simple 
manner. The number of eggs in the nest varies from twenty 
to forty, and even to fifty; and according to Azara, some- 
times to seventy or eighty. Now, although it is most prob- 
able, from the number of eggs found in one district being 
so extraordinarily great in proportion to the parent birds, 
and likewise from the state of the ovarium of the hen, that 
she may in the course of the season lay a large number, yet 
the time required must be very long. Azara states, 1 * that a 
female in a state of domestication laid seventeen eggs, each 
at the interval of three days one from another. If the hen 
was obliged to hatch her own eggs, before the last was laid 
the first probably would be addled; but if each laid a few 
eggs at successive periods, in different nests, and several 
hens, as is stated to be the case, combined together, then 
the eggs in one collection would be nearly of the same age. 
If the number of eggs in one of these nests is, as I believe, 
not greater on an average than the number laid by one 

18 Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280. u Azara, vol. iv. p. 173. 


female in the season, then there must be as many nests as 
females, and each cock bird will have its fair share of the 
labour of incubation; and that during a period when the 
females probably could not sit, from not having finished 
laying. 16 I have before mentioned the great numbers of 
huachos, or deserted eggs ; so that in one day's hunting 
twenty were found in this state. It appears odd that so 
many should be wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty 
of several females associating together, and finding a male 
ready to undertake the office of incubation ? It is evident 
that there must at first be some degree of association be- 
tween at least two females ; otherwise the eggs would remain 
scattered over the wide plain, at distances far too great to 
allow of the male collecting them into one nest : some au- 
thors have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited 
for the young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case 
in America, because the huachos, although often found 
addled and putrid, are generally whole. 

When at the Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I re- 
peatedly heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which 
they called Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less 
than the common ostrich (which is there abundant), but 
with a very close general resemblance. They said its colour 
was dark and mottled, and that its legs were shorter, and 
feathered lower down than those of the common ostrich. 
It is more easily caught by the bolas than the other species. 
The few inhabitants who had seen both kinds, affirmed they 
could distinguish them apart from a long distance. The 
eggs of the small species appeared, however, more generally 
known; and it was remarked, with surprise, that they were 
very little less than those of the Rhea, but of a slightly differ- 
ent form, and with a tinge of pale blue. This species occurs 
most rarely on the plains bordering the Rio Negro ; but about 
a degree and a half further south they are tolerably abun- 
dant. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia (lat. 48), Mr. 
Martens shot an ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at 

15 Liechtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii. p. 25) that t 
begin sitting when they have laid ten or twelve eggs; and that they 

25) that the hens 

__, _J that they continue 

laying, I presume, in another nest. This appears to me very improbable. 
He asserts that four or five hens associate for incubation with one cock, 
who sits only at night. 


the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole 
subject of the Petises, and thought it was a not full-grown 
bird of the common sort. It was cooked and eaten before 
my memory returned. Fortunately the head, neck, legs, 
wings, many of the larger feathers, and a large part of the 
skin, had been preserved; and from these a very nearly per- 
fect specimen has been put together, and is now exhibited 
in the museum of the Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, in de- 
scribing this new species, has done me the honour of calling 
it after my name. 

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, 
we found a half Indian, who had lived some years with 
the tribe, but had been born in the northern provinces. I 
asked him if he had ever heard of the Avestruz Petise? He 
answered by saying, " Why, there are none others in these 
southern countries." He informed me that the number of 
eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less than in that 
of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on an aver- 
age ; but he asserted that more than one female deposited 
them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They 
were excessively wary: I think they could see a person ap- 
proaching when too far off to be distinguished themselves. 
In ascending the river few were seen ; but in our quiet and 
rapid descent, many, in pairs and by fours or fives, were 
observed. It was remarked that this bird did not expand 
its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner 
of the northern kind. In conclusion I may observe, that 
the Struthio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far 
as a little south of the Rio Negro in lat. 41, and that the 
Struthio Darwinii takes its place in Southern Patagonia; 
the part about the Rio Negro being neutral territory. M. 
A. d'Orbigny, 16 when at the Rio Negro, made great exer- 
tions to procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to 
succeed. Dobrizhoffer" long ago was aware of there being 
two kinds of ostriches; he says, "You must know, more- 

18 When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable labours 
of this naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 1833, 
traversed s_everal large portions of South America, and has made a collec- 
tion, and is now publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, which 
at once places himself in the list of American travellers second only to 

17 Account of the Abipones, A.D. 1749, vol. i. (English translation) p. 314. 


over, that Emus differ in size and habits in different tracts 
of land; for those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ayres 
and Tucuman are larger, and have black, white and grey, 
feathers; those near to the Strait of Magellan are smaller 
and more beautiful, for their white feathers are tipped with 
black at the extremity, and their black ones in like manner 
terminate in white." 

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

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South 
American birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in 
almost every respect ptarmigans in their habits; one lives 
in Tierra del Fuego, above the limits of the forest land ; and 
the other just beneath the snow-line on the Cordillera of 
Central Chile. A bird of another closely allied genus, Chi- 
onis alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic regions; it feeds 
on sea-weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although not 


web-footed, from some unaccountable habit, it is frequently 
met with far out at sea. This small family of birds is one 
of those which, from its varied relations to other families, 
although at present offering only difficulties to the sys- 
tematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in revealing the 
grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, on 
which organized beings have been created. 

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

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


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

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

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigono- 
cephalus, or Cophias 18 ), from the size of the poison channel 
in its fangs, must be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to 

13 M. Bibron calls it T. crepitans. 


some other naturalists, makes this a sub-genus of the rattle- 
snake, and intermediate between it and the viper. In con- 
firmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears 
to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every 
character, even though it may be in some degree independ- 
ent of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees. 
The extremity of the tail of this snake is terminated by a 
point, which is very slightly enlarged; and as the animal 
glides along, it constantly vibrates the last inch; and this 
part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, produces 
a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at the dis- 
tance of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or 
surprised, its tail was shaken; and the vibrations were ex- 
tremely rapid. Even as long as the body retained its irrita- 
bility, a tendency to this habitual movement was evident. 
This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some respects the 
structure of a viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake: the 
noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. The 
expression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce ; the 
pupil consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery 
iris; the jaws were broad at the base, and the nose termi- 
nated in a triangular projection. I do not think I ever saw 
anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, some of the vam- 
pire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates from 
the features being placed in positions, with respect to each 
other, somewhat proportional to those of the human face; 
and thus we obtain a scale of hideousness. 

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little 
toad (Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from 
its colour. If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in 
the blackest ink, and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over 
a board, freshly painted with the brightest vermilion, so 
as to colour the soles of its feet and parts of its stomach, a 
good idea of its appearance will be gained. If it had been 
an unnamed species, surely it ought to have been called 
Diabolicus, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve. 
Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, 
and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat 
of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, where 
not a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily 


depend on the dew for its moisture; and this probably is 
absorbed by the skin, for it is known, that these reptiles pos- 
sess great powers of cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, 
I found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, 
and thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of 
water; not only, was the little animal unable to swim, but 
I think without help it would soon have been drowned. 

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proc- 
totretus multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It 
lives on the bare sand near the sea coast, and from its mot- 
tled colour, the brownish scales being speckled with white, 
yellowish red, and dirty blue, can hardly be distinguished 
from the surrounding surface. When frightened, it at- 
tempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with out- 
stretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further 
molested, it buries itself with great quickness in the loose 
sand. This lizard, from its flattened body and short legs, 
cannot run quickly. 

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of ani- 
mals in this part of South America. When we first arrived 
at Bahia Blanca, September 7th, 1832, we thought nature 
had granted scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry 
country. By digging, however, in the ground, several in- 
sects, large spiders, and lizards were found in a half-torpid 
state. On the I5th, a few animals began to appear, and by 
the 1 8th (three days from the equinox), everything an- 
nounced the commencement of spring. The plains were or- 
namented by the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas, 
cenotherae, and geraniums; and the birds began to lay their 
eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and Heteromerous insects, the 
latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured bodies, were 
slowly crawling about; while the lizard tribe, the constant 
inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in every direction. 
During the first eleven days, whilst nature was dormant, the 
mean temperature taken from observations made every two 
hours on board the Beagle, was 51; and in the middle of 
the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55. On the 
eleven succeeding days, in which all living things became so 
animated, the mean was 58, and the range in the middle 
of the day between 60 and 70. Here, then, an increase of 


seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater one of 
extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life. 
At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in 
the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July 
and the igih of August, the mean temperature from 276 ob- 
servations was 58. 4; the mean hottest day being 65. 5, and 
the coldest 46. The lowest point to which the thermometer 
fell was 41 ".5, and occasionally in the middle of the day it 
rose to 69 or 70. Yet with this high temperature, almost 
every beetle, several genera of spiders, snails, and land-shells, 
toads and lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But 
we have seen that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees 
southward, and therefore with a climate only a very little 
colder, this same temperature with a rather less extreme 
heat, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. 
This shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hy- 
bernating animals is governed by the usual climate of the 
district, and not by the absolute heat. It is well known that 
within the tropics, the hybernation, or more properly aestiva- 
tion, of animals is determined not by the temperature, but 
by the times of drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first 
surprised to observe, that, a few days after some little de- 
pressions had been filled with water, they were peopled by 
numerous full-grown shells and beetles, which must have 
been lying dormant. Humboldt has related the strange acci- 
dent of a hovel having been erected over a spot where a 
young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He adds, 
"The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call Uji, 
or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate 
them, they must be irritated or wetted with water." 

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I be- 
lieve Virgularia Patagonica), a kind of sea-pen. It consists 
of a thin, straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi 
on each side, and surrounding an elastic stony axis, varying 
in length from eight inches to two feet. The stem at one ex- 
tremity is truncate, but at the other is terminated by a 
vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis which gives 
strength to the stem may be traced at this extremity into a 
mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low water hun- 
dreds of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like stub- 


ble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above the 
surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled they 
suddenly drew themselves in with force, so as nearly or quite 
to disappear. By this action, the highly elastic axis must 
be bent at the lower extremity, where it is naturally slightly 
curved; and I imagine it is by this elasticity alone that the 
zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each 
polypus, though closely united to its brethren, has a dis- 
tinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large 
specimen, there must be many thousands ; yet we see that 
they act by one movement: they have also one central axis 
connected with a system of obscure circulation, and the ova 
are produced in an organ distinct from the separate indi- 
viduals. 1 ' Well may one be allowed to ask, what is an indi- 
vidual? It is always interesting to discover the foundation 
of the strange tales of the old voyagers ; and I have no doubt 
but that the habits of this Virgularia explain one such case. 
Captain Lancaster, in his voyage 20 in 1601, narrates that on 
the sea-sands of the Island of Sombrero, in the East Indies, 
he " found a small twig growing up like a young tree, and 
on offering to pluck it up it shrinks down to the ground, 
and sinks, unless held very hard. On being plucked up, a 
great worm is found to be its root, and as the tree groweth 
in greatness, so doth the worm diminish ; and as soon as the 
worm is entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth, 
and so becomes great. This transformation is one of the 
strangest wonders that I saw in all my travels: for if this 
tree is plucked up, while young, and the leaves and bark 
stripped off, it becomes a hard stone when dry, much like 
white coral : thus is this worm twice transformed into 

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

* Kerr's Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119. 


different natures. Of these we gathered and brought home 

During my stay at Bahia Blanca, while waiting for the 
Beagle, the place was in a constant state of excitement, from 
rumours of wars and victories, between the troops of Rosas 
and the wild Indians. One day an account came that a small 
party forming one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, 
had been found all murdered. The next day three hundred 
men arrived from the Colorado, under the command of Com- 
mandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were In- 
dians (mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Ca- 
cique Bernantio. They passed the night here; and it was 
impossible to conceive anything more wild and savage than 
the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were 
intoxicated; others swallowed the steaming blood of the 
cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick 
from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared 
with filth and gore. 

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

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, 
with orders to follow the "rastro," or track, even if it led 
them to Chile. We subsequently heard that the wild In- 
dians had escaped into the great Pampas, and from some 
cause the track had been missed. One glance at the rastro 
tells these people a whole history. Supposing they examine 
the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess the num- 
ber of mounted ones by seeing how many have cantered ; by 
the depth of the other impressions, whether any horses were 
loaded with cargoes; by the irregularity of the footsteps, 
how far tired; by the manner in which the food has been 
cooked, whether the pursued travelled in haste; by the gen- 
eral appearance, how long it has been since they passed. 
They consider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite 
recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard that Miranda 
struck from the west end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct 


line to the island of Cholechel, situated seventy leagues up 
the Rio Negro. This is a distance of between two and three 
hundred miles, through a country completely unknown. 
What other troops in the world are so independent? With 
the sun for their guide, mare's flesh for food, their saddle- 
cloths for beds, as long as there is a little water, these men 
would penetrate to the end of the world. 

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these ban- 
ditti-like soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of 
Indians at the small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a 
prisoner cacique. The Spaniard who brought the orders 
for this expedition was a very intelligent man. He gave 
me an account of the last engagement at which he was pres- 
ent. Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave 
information of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two 
hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the 
Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet, as they 
chanced to be travelling. The country was mountainous and 
wild, and it must have been far in the interior, for the Cor- 
dillera were in sight. The Indians, men, women, and chil- 
dren, were about one hundred and ten in number, and they 
were nearly all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every 
man. The Indians are now so terrified that they offer no 
resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife 
and children; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they 
fight against any number to the last moment. One dying In- 
dian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and 
allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish 
his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping 
a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer 
said, when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out 
for mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the 
bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and 
so strike his pursuer. " I however struck him with my sabre 
to the ground, and then got off my horse, and cut his throat 
with my knife." This is a dark picture ; but how much more 
shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who 
appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood ! 
When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he 
answered, " Why, what can be done ? they breed so ! " 


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

In the battle four men ran away together. They were 
pursued, one was killed, and the other three were taken alive. 
They turned out to be messengers or ambassadors from a 
large body of Indians, united in the common cause of 
defence, near the Cordillera. The tribe to which they had 
been sent was on the point of holding a grand council; the 
feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance prepared: in 
the morning the ambassadors were to have returned to the 
Cordillera. They were remarkably fine men, very fair, above 
six feet high, and all under thirty years of age. The three 
survivors of course possessed very valuable information ; and 
to extort this they were placed in a line. The two first being 
questioned, answered, "No se " (I do not know), and were 
one after the other shot. The third also said " No se ; " add- 
ing, " Fire, I am a man, and can die ! " Not one syllable 
would they breathe to injure the united cause of their coun- 
try ! The conduct of the above-mentioned cacique was very 
different; he saved his life by betraying the intended plan 
of warfare, and the point of union in the Andes. It was 
believed that there were already six or seven hundred In- 
dians together, and that in summer their numbers would be 
doubled. Ambassadors were to have been sent to the Indians 
at the small Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I have men- 
tioned that this same cacique had betrayed. The communi- 
cation, therefore, between the Indians, extends from the 
Cordillera to the coast of the Atlantic. 

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having 
driven the remainder to a common point, to attack them in 
a body, in the summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos. 
This operation is to be repeated for three successive years. 
I imagine the summer is chosen as the time for the main 
attack, because the plains are then without water, and the 


Indians can only travel in particular directions. The escape 
of the Indians to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such 
a vast unknown country they would be safe, is prevented by 
a treaty with the Tehuelches to this effect ; that Rosas pays 
them so much to slaughter every Indian who passes to the 
south of the river, but if they fail in so doing, they them- 
selves are to be exterminated. The war is waged chiefly 
against the Indians near the Cordillera; for many of the 
tribes on this eastern side are fighting with Rosas. The 
' general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his 
friends may in a future day become his enemies, always 
places them in the front ranks, so that their numbers may 
be thinned. Since leaving South America we have heard 
that this war of extermination completely failed. 

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, 
there were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been car- 
ried away by the Indians when young, and could now only 
speak the Indian tongue. From their account they must 
have come from Salta, a distance in a straight line of nearly 
one thousand miles. This gives one a grand idea of the 
immense territory over which the Indians roam: yet, great 
as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be 
a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare 
is too bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian, 
and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is 
melancholy to trace how the Indians have given way before 
the Spanish invaders. Schirdel 21 says that in 1535, when 
Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing 
two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's 
time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Luxan, 
Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the 
Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, but 
the remaining Indians have become more barbarous : instead 
of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of 
fishing, as well as of the chase, they now wander about the 
open plains, without home or fixed occupation. 

I heard also some account of an engagement which took 
place, a few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at 
Cholechel. This is a very important station on account of 

"Purchas's Collection of Voyages. I believe the date was really 1537. 


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

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, 
which I immediately recognised as having been a part of the 
head of an arrow. He told me it was found near the island 
of Cholechel, and that they are frequently picked up there. 
It was between two and three inches long, and therefore 
twice as large as those now used in Tierra del Fuego : it was 
made of opaque cream-coloured flint, but the point and barbs 
had been intentionally broken off. It is well known that no 
Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe a small 
tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they are 
widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border close 
on those tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It 
appears, therefore, that these arrow-heads are antiquarian 1 * 
relics of the Indians, before the great change in habits 
consequent on the introduction of the horse into South 

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


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

i8th. I hired a Gaucho to accompany me 
on my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some diffi- 
culty, as the father of one man was afraid to let him 
go, and another, who seemed willing, was described to me 
as so fearful, that I was afraid to take him, for I was told 
that even if he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would mis- 
take it for an Indian, and would fly like the wind away. 
The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred miles, 
and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited country. 
We started early in the morning; ascending a few hundred 
feet from the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca 
stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of 
a crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry 
nature of the climate, supports only scattered tufts of with- 
ered grass, without a single bush or tree to break the monot- 
onous uniformity. The weather was fine, but the atmos- 
phere remarkably hazy; I thought the appearance foreboded 
a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at 
some great distance in the interior, being on fire. After a 
long gallop, having changed horses twice, we reached the Rio 
Sauce : it is a deep, rapidj little stream, not above twenty-five 
feet wide. The second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres 
stands on its banks ; a little above there is a ford for horses, 
where the water does not reach to the horses' belly ; but from 
that point, in its course to the sea, it is quite impassable, 
and hence makes a most useful barrier against the Indians- 



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

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we 
took fresh horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for 
the Sierra de la Ventana. This mountain is visible from 
the anchorage at Bahia Blanca; and Capt. Fitz Roy cal- 
culates its height to be 3340 feet an altitude very remark- 
able on this eastern side of the continent. I am not aware 
that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had ascended this 
mountain; and indeed very few of the soldiers at Bahia 
Blanca knew anything about it. Hence we heard of beds 
of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, all of 
which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The 
distance from the posta was about six leagues, over a level 
plain of the same character as before. The ride was, how- 
ever, interesting, as the mountain began to show its true 
form. When we reached the foot of the main ridge, we had 
much difficulty in finding any water, and we thought we 
should have been obliged to have passed the night without 
any. At last we discovered some by looking close to the 
mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards, 
the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the friable 


calcareous stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature 
ever made a more solitary, desolate pile of rock; it well 
deserves its name of Hurtado, or separated. The mountain 
is steep, extremely rugged, and broken, and so entirely desti- 
tute of trees, and even bushes, that we actually could not 
make a skewer to stretch out our meat over the fire of thistle- 
stalks. 1 The strange aspect of this mountain is contrasted 
by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep 
sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uni- 
formity of the colouring gives an extreme quietness to the 
view; the whitish grey of the quartz rock, and the light 
brown of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved 
by any brighter tint. From custom, one expects to see in 
the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, a broken 
country strewed over with huge fragments. Here nature 
shows that the last movement before the bed of the sea is 
changed into dry land may sometimes be one of tranquillity. 
Under these circumstances I was curious to observe how 
far from the parent rock any pebbles could be found. On 
the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, there 
were some of quartz, which certainly must have come from 
this source: the distance is forty-five miles. 

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the 
saddle-cloths under which we slept, was in the morning 
frozen. The plain, though appearing horizontal, had in- 
sensibly sloped up to a height of between 800 and 900 feet 
above the sea. In the morning (gth of September) the guide 
told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought would 
lead me to the four peaks that crown the summit. The climb- 
ing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing; the sides 
were so indented, that what was gained in one five minutes 
was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge, 
my disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous 
valley as deep as the plain, which cut the chain transversely 
in two, and separated me from the four points. This valley 
is very narrow, but flat-bottomed, and it forms a fine horse- 
pass for the Indians, as it connects the plains on the north- 
ern and southern sides of the range. Having descended, and 

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


while crossing it, I saw two horses grazing: I immediately 
hid myself in the long grass, and began to reconnoitre; but 
as I could see no signs of Indians I proceeded cautiously on 
my second ascent. It was late in the day, and this part of 
the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I was 
on the top of the second peak by two o'clock, but got there 
with extreme difficulty; every twenty yards I had the cramp 
in the upper part of both thighs, so that I was afraid I 
should not have been able to have got down again. It was 
also necessary to return by another road, as it was out of 
the question to pass over the saddle-back. I was therefore 
obliged to give up the two higher peaks. Their altitude was 
but little greater, and every purpose of geology had been 
answered; so that the attempt was not worth the hazard 
of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the cramp 
was the great change in the kind of muscular action, from 
that of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is 
a lesson worth remembering, as in some cases it might cause 
much difficulty. 

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

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even 
the view was insignificant ; a plain like the sea, but with- 
out its beautiful colour and defined outline. The scene, how- 
ever, was novel, and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave 
it a relish. That the danger was very little was certain, for 
my two companions made a good fire a thing which is never 
done when it is suspected that Indians are near. I reached 
the place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much mate, 
and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the 


night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept 
more comfortably. 

September loth. In the morning, having fairly scudded 
before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the 
Sauce posta. On the road we saw great numbers of deer, 
and near the mountain a guanaco. The plain, which abuts 
against the Sierra, is traversed by some curious gullies, of 
which one was about twenty feet wide, and at least thirty 
deep ; we were obliged in consequence to make a considerable 
circuit before we could find a pass. We stayed the night 
at the posta, the conversation, as was generally the case, 
being about the Indians. The Sierra Ventana was formerly 
a great place of resort; and three or four years ago there 
was much fighting there. My guide had been present when 
many Indians were killed: the women escaped to the top of 
the ridge, and fought most desperately with great stones; 
many thus saving themselves. 

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

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


going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their 
children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different 
from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same 
kind of life, eat scarcely any; according to Mungo Park, 8 
it is people who live on vegetable food who have an uncon- 
querable desire for salt. The Indians gave us good-humoured 
nods as they passed at full gallop, driving before them a 
troop of horses, and followed by a train of lanky dogs. 

September I2th and i^th. I stayed at this posta two days, 
waiting for a troop of soldiers, which General Rosas had 
the kindness to send to inform me, would shortly travel to 
Buenos Ayres; and he advised me to take the opportunity 
of the escort. In the morning we rode to some neighbouring 
hills to view the country, and to examine the geology. After 
dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two parties for 
a trial of skill with the bolas. Two spears were stuck in 
the ground twenty-five yards apart, but they were struck 
and entangled only once in four or five times. The balls can 
be thrown fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty. This, 
however, does not apply to a man on horseback; for when 
the speed of the horse is added to the force of the arm, it 
is said, that they can be whirled with effect to the distance 
of eighty yards. As a proof of their force, I may mention, 
that at the Falkland Islands, when the Spaniards murdered 
some of their own countrymen and all the Englishmen, a 
young friendly Spaniard was running away, when a great 
tall man, by name Luciano, came at full gallop after him, 
shouting to him to stop, and saying that he only wanted to 
speak to him. Just as the Spaniard was on the point of 
reaching the boat, Luciano threw the balls: they struck him 
on the legs with such a jerk, as to throw him down and 
to render him for some time insensible. The man, after 
Luciano had had his talk, was allowed to escape. He told 
us that his legs were marked by great weals, where the thong 
had wound round, as if he had been flogged with a whip. 
In the middle of the day two men arrived, who brought a 
parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to the general: 
so that besides these two, our party consisted this evening 
of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers. 
8 Travels in Africa, p. 333. 


The latter were strange beings ; the first a fine young negro ; 
the second half Indian and negro; and the two others non- 
descripts ; namely, an old Chilian miner, the colour of ma- 
hogany, and another partly a mulatto; but two such mon- 
grels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw before. 
At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing 
at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They 
were seated under a low cliff, so that I could look down 
upon them; around the party were lying dogs, arms, rem- 
nants of deer and ostriches ; and their long spears were stuck 
in the turf. Further in the dark background, their horses 
were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness 
of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, 
a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to the 
ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy 
teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the 
conversation, and every head, for a moment, a little inclined. 

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

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

In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although 


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

The plains abound with three kinds of partridge, 3 two 
of which are as large as hen pheasants. Their destroyer, 
a small and pretty fox, was also singularly numerous; in 
the course of the day we could not have seen less than forty 
or fifty. They were generally near their earths, but the dogs 
killed one. When we returned to the posta, we found two 
of the party returned who had been hunting by themselves. 
They had killed a puma, and had found an ostrich's nest with 
twenty-seven eggs in it. Each of these is said to equal in 
weight eleven hen's eggs ; so that we obtained from this one 
nest as much food as 297 hen's eggs would have given. 

September i^th. As the soldiers belonging to the next 
posta meant to return, and we should together make a party 
of five, and all armed, I determined not to wait for the ex- 
pected troops. My host, the lieutenant, pressed me much 
to stop. As he had been very obliging not only providing 
me with food, but lending me his private horses I wanted 
to make him some remuneration. I asked my guide whether 
I might do so, but he told me certainly not; that the only 
answer I should receive, probably would be, " We have meat 
for the dogs in our country, and therefore do not grudge it 
to a Christian." It must not be supposed that the rank of 
lieutenant in such an army would at all prevent the accept- 

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


ance of payment: it was only the high sense of hospitality, 
which every traveller is bound to acknowledge as nearly uni- 
versal throughout these provinces. After galloping some 
leagues, we came to a low swampy country, which extends 
for nearly eighty miles northward, as far as the Sierra Ta- 
palguen. In some parts there were fine damp plains, covered 
with grass, while others had a soft, black, and peaty soil. 
There were also many extensive but shallow lakes, and large 
beds of reeds. The country on the whole resembled the bet- 
ter parts of the Cambridgeshire fens. At night we had some 
difficulty in finding amidst the swamps, a dry place for our 

September i5th. Rose very early in the morning and 
shortly after passed the posta where the Indians had mur- 
dered the five soldiers. The officer had eighteen chuzo 
wounds in his body. By the middle of the day, after a hard 
gallop, we reached the fifth posta : on account of some diffi- 
culty in procuring horses we stayed there the night. As this 
point was the most exposed on the whole line, twenty-one 
soldiers were stationed here; at sunset they returned from 
hunting, bringing with them seven deer, three ostriches, and 
many armadilloes and partridges. When riding through the 
country, it is a common practice to set fire to the plain ; 
and hence at night, as on this occasion, the horizon was 
illuminated in several places by brilliant conflagrations. 
This is done partly for the sake of puzzling any stray In- 
dians, but chiefly for improving the pasture. In grassy 
plains unoccupied by the larger ruminating quadrupeds, it 
seems necessary to remove the superfluous vegetation by fire, 
so as to render the new year's growth serviceable. 

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

The kind of plover, which appears as if mounted on 
stilts (Himantopus nigricollis), is here common in flocks of 
considerable size. It has been wrongfully accused of in- 
elegance; when wading about in shallow water, which is its 
favourite resort, its gait is far from awkward. These birds 


in a flock utter a noise, that singularly resembles the cry of 
a pack of small dogs in full chase: waking in the night, I 
have more than once been for a moment startled at the dis- 
tant sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) is another 
bird, which often disturbs the stillness of the night. In ap- 
pearance and habits it resembles in many respects our pee- 
wits; its wings, however, are armed with sharp spurs, like 
those on the legs of the common cock. As our peewit takes 
its name from the sound of its voice, so does the teru-tero. 
While riding over the grassy plains, one is constantly pur- 
sued by these birds, which appear to hate mankind, and I 
am sure deserve to be hated for their never-ceasing, unvaried, 
harsh screams. To the sportsman they are most annoying, 
by telling every other bird and animal of his approach: to 
the traveller in the country, they may possibly, as Molina 
says, do good, by warning him of the midnight robber. Dur- 
ing the breeding season, they attempt, like our peewits, by 
feigning to be wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs 
and other enemies. The eggs of this bird are esteemed a 
great delicacy. 

September i6th. To the seventh posta at the foot of the 
Sierra Tapalguen. The country was quite level, with a 
coarse herbage and a soft peaty soil. The hovel was here 
remarkably neat, the posts and rafters being made of about 
a dozen dry thistle-stalks bound together with thongs of 
hide; and by the support of these Ionic-like columns, the 
roof and sides were thatched with reeds. We were here told 
a fact, which I would not have credited, if I had not had 
partly ocular proof of it; namely, that, during the previous 
night hail as large as small apples, and extremely hard, had 
fallen with such violence, as to kill the greater number of the 
wild animals. One of the men had already found thirteen 
deer (Cervus campestris) lying dead, and I saw their fresh 
hides; another of the party, a few minutes after my arrival, 
brought in seven more. Now I well know, that one man 
without dogs could hardly have killed seven deer in a week. 
The men believed they had seen about fifteen ostriches (part 
of one of which we had for dinner) ; and they said that 
several were running about evidently blind in one eye. 
Numbers of smaller birds, as ducks, hawks, and partridges, 


were killed. I saw one of the latter with a black mark on 
its bacL, as if it had been struck with a paving-stone. A 
fence of thistle-stalks round the hovel was nearly broken 
down, and my informer, putting his head out to see what was 
the matter, received a severe cut, and now wore a bandage. 
The storm was said to have been of limited extent: we 
certainly saw from our last night's bivouac a dense cloud 
and lightning in this direction. It is marvellous how such 
strong animals as deer could thus have been killed; but I 
have no doubt, from the evidence I have given, that the 
story is not in the least exaggerated. I am glad, however, 
to have its credibility supported by the Jesuit Dobrizhoffen/ 
who, speaking of a country much to the northward, says, 
hail fell of an enormous size and killed vast numbers of cattle : 
the Indians hence called the place Lalegraicavalca, meaning 
" the little white things." Dr. Malcolmson, also, informs me 
that he witnessed in 1831 in India, a hail-storm, which 
killed numbers of large birds and much injured the cattle. 
These hailstones were flat, and one was ten inches in cir- 
cumference, and another weighed two ounces. They 
ploughed up a gravel-walk like musket-balls, and passed 
through glass-windows, making round holes, but not crack- 
ing them. 

Having finished our dinner, of hail-stricken meat, we 
crossed the Sierra Tapalguen; a low range of hills, a few 
hundred feet in height, which commences at Cape Corrientes. 
The rock in this part is pure quartz ; further eastward I 
understand it is granitic. The hills are of a remarkable 
form; they consist of flat patches of table-land, surrounded 
by low perpendicular cliffs, like the outliers of a sedimentary 
deposit. The hill which I ascended was very small, not 
above a couple of hundred yards in diameter; but I saw 
others larger. One which goes by the name of the " Corral," 
is said to be two or three miles in diameter, and encompassed 
by perpendicular cliffs, between thirty and forty feet high, 
excepting at one spot, where the entrance lies. Falconer 5 
gives a curious account of the Indians driving troops of 
wild horses into it, and then by guarding the entrance, keep- 

* History of the Abipones, vol. ii. p. 6. 
6 Falconer's Patagonia, p. 70. 


ing them secure. I have never heard of any other instance 
of table-land in a formation of quartz, and which, in the 
hill I examined, had neither cleavage nor stratification. I 
was told that the rock of the " Corral " was white, and would 
strike fire. 

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

September ifth. We followed the course of the Rio 
Tapalguen, through a very fertile country, to the ninth 
posta. Tapalguen, itself, or the town of Tapalguen, if it 
may be so called, consists of a perfectly level plain, studded 
over, as far as the eye can reach, with the toldos or oven- 
shaped huts of the Indians. The families of the friendly 
Indians, who were fighting on the side of Rosas, resided 
here. We met and passed many young Indian women, rid- 
ing by two or three together on the same horse: they, as 
well as many of the young men, were strikingly handsome, 
their fine ruddy complexions being the picture of health. 
Besides the toldos, there were three ranches; one inhabited 
by the Commandant, and the two others by Spaniards with 
small shops. 

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been 
several days without tasting anything besides meat: I did 
not at all dislike this new regimen ; but I felt as if it would 
only have agreed with me with hard exercise. I have heard 
that patients in England, when desired to confine themselves 
exclusively to an animal diet, even with the hope of life 
before their eyes, have hardly been able to endure it. Yet 
the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together, touches 
VOL. xxix E HC 


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

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

September i8th. We had a very long ride this day. At 
the twelfth posta, which is seven leagues south of the Rio 
Salado, we came to the first estancia with cattle and white 
women. Afterwards we had to ride for many miles through 
a country flooded with water above our horses' knees. By 
crossing the stirrups, and riding Arab-like with our legs 
bent up, we contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly 
dark when we arrived at the Salado; the stream was deep, 
and about forty yards wide; in summer, however, its bed 
becomes almost dry, and the little remaining water nearly 
as salt as that of the sea. We slept at one of the great estan- 
cias of General Rosas. It was fortified, and of such an 
extent, that arriving in the dark I thought it was a town 
and fortress. In the morning we saw immense herds of 
cattle, the general here having seventy-four square leagues 
of land. Formerly nearly three hundred men were em- 
ployed about this estate, and they defied all the attacks of 
the Indians. 

September ipth. Passed the Guardia del Monte. This 
is a nice scattered little town, with many gardens, full of 
Fauna Boreali-Americana, vol. i. p. 35. 


peach and quince trees. The plain here looked like that 
around Buenos Ayres ; the turf being short and bright green, 
with beds of clover and thistles, and with bizcacha holes. 
I was very much struck with the marked change in the 
aspect of the country after having crossed the Salado. From 
a coarse herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green ver- 
dure. I at first attributed this to some change in the nature 
of the soil, but the inhabitants assured me that here, as 
well as in Banda Oriental, where there is as great a differ- 
ence between the country round Monte Video and the 
thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the whole was to be 
attributed to the manuring and grazing of the cattle. Ex- 
actly the same fact has been observed in the prairies 7 of 
North America, where coarse grass, between five and six 
feet high, when grazed by cattle, changes into common pas- 
ture land. I am not botanist enough to say whether the 
change here is owing to the introduction of new species, 
to the altered growth of the same, or to a difference in their 
proportional numbers. Azara has also observed with aston- 
ishment this change: he is likewise much perplexed by the 
immediate appearance of plants not occurring in the neigh- 
bourhood, on the borders of any track that leads to a newly- 
constructed hovel. In another part he says, 8 " ces chevaux 
(sauvages) ont la manie de preferer les chemins, et le bord 
des routes pour deposer leurs excremens, dont on trouve des 
monceaux dans ces endroits." Does this not partly explain 
the circumstance? We thus have lines of richly manured 
land serving as channels of communication across wide dis- 

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two Eu- 
ropean plants, now become extraordinarily common. The 
fennel in great profusion covers the ditch-banks in the neigh- 
bourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and other towns. 
But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) has a far wider 
range: 9 it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the 

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

8 Azara's Voyages, vol. i. p. 373. 

M. A. d'Orbigny (vol. i. p. 474) says that the cardoon and artichoke 
are both found wild. Dr. Hooker (Botanical Magazine, vol. Iv. p. 2862), 
has described a variety of the Cynara from this part of South America 
under the name of incrmis. He states that botanists are now generally 


Cordillera, across the continent. I saw it in unfrequented 
spots in Chile, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental. In the 
latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred) 
square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, 
and are impenetrable by man or beast. Over the undulating 
plains, where these great beds occur, nothing else can now 
live. Before their introduction, however, the surface must 
have supported, as in other parts, a rank herbage. I doubt 
whether any case is on record of an invasion on so grand 
a scale of one plant over the aborigines. As I have already 
said, I nowhere saw the cardoon south of the Salado; but 
it is probable that in proportion as that country becomes 
inhabited, the cardoon will extend its limits. The case is 
different with the giant thistle (with variegated leaves) of 
the Pampas, for I met with it in the valley of the Sauce. 
According to the principles so well laid down by Mr. Lyell, 
few countries have undergone more remarkable changes, 
since the year 1535, when the first colonist of La Plata landed 
with seventy-two horses. The countless herds of horses, 
cattle, and sheep, not only have altered the whole aspect of 
the vegetation, but they have almost banished the guanaco, 
deer and ostrich. Numberless other changes must likewise 
have taken place; the wild pig in some parts probably re- 
places the peccari ; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling 
on the wooded banks of the less-frequented streams; and 
the common cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, in- 
habits rocky hills. As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the in- 
crease in numbers of the carrion-vulture, since the introduc- 
tion of the domestic animals, must have been infinitely great ; 
and we have given reasons for believing that they have ex- 
tended their southern range. No doubt many plants, besides 
the cardoon and fennel, are naturalized; thus the islands 
near the mouth of the Parana, are thickly clothed with 
peach and orange trees, springing from seeds carried there 
by the waters of the river. 

agreed that the cardoon and the artichoke are varieties of one plant. I may 
add, that an intelligent farmer assured me that he had observed in a deserted 

which I have mentioned a few lines lower down, under the title of giant 
thistle. Whether it is a true thistle I do not know; but it is quite different 
from the cardoon; and more like a thistle properly so called. 


While changing horses at the Guardia several people ques- 
tioned us much about the army, I never saw anything like 
the enthusiasm for Rosas, and for the success of the " most 
just of all wars, because against barbarians." This expres- 
sion, it must be confessed, is very natural, for till lately, 
neither man, woman nor horse, was safe from the attacks 
of the Indians. We had a long day's ride over the same 
rich green plain, abounding with various flocks, and with 
here and there a solitary estancia, and its one ombu tree. 
In the evening it rained heavily: on arriving at a post- 
house we were told by the owner, that if we had not a 
regular passport we must pass on, for there were so 
many robbers he would trust no one. When he read, how- 
ever, my passport, which began with " El Naturalista Don 
Carlos," his respect and civility were as unbounded as his 
suspicions had been before. What a naturalist might be, 
neither he nor his countrymen, I suspect, had any idea; 
but probably my title lost nothing of its value from that 

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

The city of Buenos Ayres is large; 10 and I should think 
one of the most regular in the world. Every street is at right 
angles to the one it crosses, and the parallel ones being equi- 
distant, the houses are collected into solid squares of equal 
dimensions, which are called quadras. On the other hand, 
the houses themselves are hollow squares ; all the rooms open- 
ing into a neat little courtyard. They are generally only 
one story high, with flat roofs, which are fitted with seats, 
and are much frequented by the inhabitants in summer. In 
the centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public offices, 
fortress, cathedral, etc., stand. Here also, the old viceroys, 
before the revolution, had their palaces. The general assem- 

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


blage of buildings possesses considerable architectural beauty, 
although none individually can boast of any. 

The great corral, where the animals are kept for slaugh- 
ter to supply food to this beef-eating population, is one of 
the spectacles best worth seeing. The strength of the horse 
as compared to that of the bullock is quite astonishing: a 
man on horseback having thrown his lazo round the horns 
of a beast, can drag it anywhere he chooses. The animal 
ploughing up the ground with outstretched legs, in vain 
efforts to resist the force, generally dashes at full speed to 
one side; but the horse immediately turning to receive the 
shock, stands so firmly that the bullock is almost thrown 
down, and it is surprising that their necks are not broken. 
The struggle is not, however, one of fair strength; the 
horse's girth being matched against the bullock's extended 
neck. In a similar manner a man can hold the wildest horse, 
if caught with the lazo, just behind the ears. When the 
bullock has been dragged to the spot where it is to be 
slaughtered, the matador with great caution cuts the ham- 
strings. Then is given the death bellow; a noise more ex- 
pressive of fierce agony than any I know. I have often dis- 
tinguished it from a long distance, and have always known 
that the struggle was then drawing to a close. The whole 
sight is horrible and revolting : the ground is almost made of 
bones ; and the horses and riders are drenched with gore. 



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

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

The whole apparatus looked like some implement of war. 

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



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

The bizcacha 1 is well known to form a prominent feature 
in the zoology of the Pampas. It is found as far south as 
the Rio Negro, in lat. 41, but not beyond. It cannot, like 
the agouti, subsist on the gravelly and desert plains of Pata- 
gonia, but prefers a clayey or sandy soil, which produces a 
different and more abundant vegetation. Near Mendoza, at 
the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs in close neighbourhood 
with the allied alpine species. It is a very curious circum- 
stance in its geographical distribution, that it has never been 
seen, fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental, to 
the eastward of the river Uruguay : yet in this province there 
are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits. 
The Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle to its 
migration: although the broader barrier of the Parana has 
been passed, and the bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, the 

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


province between these two great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres 
these animals are exceedingly common. Their most favour- 
ite resort appears to be those parts of the plain which during 
one-half of the year are covered with giant thistles, to the 
exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that it lives 
on roots; which, from the great strength of its gnawing 
teeth, and the kind of places frequented by it, seems probable. 
In the evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and quietly 
sit at the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. At 
such times they are very tame, and a man on horseback pass- 
ing by seems only to present an object for their grave con- 
templation. They run very awkwardly, and when running 
out of danger, from their elevated tails and short front legs, 
much resemble great rats. Their flesh, when cooked, is very 
white and good, but it is seldom used. 

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


search the playing passages, and he has known a tobacco- 
pipe thus recovered. 

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so 
often mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively 
inhabits the holes of the bizcacha; but in Banda Oriental it 
is its own workman. During the open day, but more espe- 
cially in the evening, these birds may be seen in every direc- 
tion standing frequently by pairs on the hillock near their 
burrows. If disturbed they either enter the hole, or, utter- 
ing a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably undulatory 
flight to a short distance, and then turning round, steadily 
gaze at their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they may 
be heard hooting. I found in the stomachs of two which 
I opened the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small 
snake killed and carried away. It is said that snakes are 
their common prey during the daytime. I may here men- 
tion, as showing on what various kinds of food owls subsist, 
that a species killed among the islets of the Chonos Archi- 
pelago, had its stomach full of good-sized crabs. In India* 
there is a fishing genus of owls, which likewise catches crabs. 

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

2()th and joth. We continued to ride over plains of the 
same character. At San Nicolas I first saw the noble river 
of the Parana. At the foot of the cliff on which the town 
stands, some large vessels were at anchor. Before arriving 
at Rozario, we crossed the Saladillo, a stream of fine clear 
running water, but too saline to drink. Rozario is a large 
town built on a dead level plain, which forms a cliff about 
sixty feet high over the Parana. The river here is very 
broad, with many islands, which are low and wooded, as is 
"Journal of Asiatic Soc., vol. v. p. 363. 


also the opposite shore. The view would resemble that of a 
great lake, if it were not for the linear-shaped islets, which 
alone give the idea of running water. The cliffs are the most 
picturesque part; sometimes they are absolutely perpendicu- 
lar, and of a red colour; at other times in large broken 
masses, covered with cacti and mimosa-trees. The real 
grandeur, however, of an immense river like this, is derived 
from reflecting how important a means of communication 
and commerce it forms between one nation and another; to 
what a distance it travels; and from how vast a territory 
it drains the great body of fresh water which flows past 
your feet. 

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

October ist. We started by moonlight and arrived at the 
Rio Tercero by sunrise. The river is also called the Sala- 
dillo, and it deserves the name, for the water is brackish. 
I stayed here the greater part of the day, searching for fossil 
bones. Besides a perfect tooth of the Toxodon, and many 
scattered bones, I found two immense skeletons near each 
other, projecting in bold relief from the perpendicular cliff 
of the Parana. They were, however, so completely decayed, 
that I could only bring away small fragments of one of the 
great molar teeth ; but these are sufficient to show that the 
remains belonged to a Mastodon, probably to the same spe- 
cies with that, which formerly must have inhabited the Cor- 
dillera in Upper Peru in such great numbers. The men 
who took me in the canoe, said they had long known of these 
skeletons, and had often wondered how they had got there: 


the necessity of a theory being felt, they came to the con- 
clusion that, like the bizcacha, the mastodon was formerly 
a burrowing animal ! In the evening we rode another stage, 
and crossed the Monge, another brackish stream, bearing the 
dregs of the washings of the Pampas. 

October 2nd. We passed through Corunda, which, from 
the luxuriance of its gardens, was one of the prettiest vil- 
lages I saw. From this point to St. Fe the road is not very 
safe. The western side of the Parana northward, ceases to 
be inhabited; and hence the Indians sometimes come down 
thus far, and waylay travellers. The nature of the country 
also favours this, for instead of a grassy plain, there is an 
open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. We 
passed some houses that had been ransacked and since de- 
serted; we saw also a spectacle, which my guides viewed 
with high satisfaction; it was the skeleton of an Indian 
with the dried skin hanging on the bones, suspended to the 
branch of a tree. 

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

October jrd and 4th. I was confined for these two days 
to my bed by a headache. A good-natured old womai\ 
who attended me, wished me to try many odd remedies. A 
common practice is, to bind an orange-leaf or a bit of black 
plaster to each temple: and a still more general plan is, to 
split a bean into halves, moisten them, and place one on 
each temple, where they will easily adhere. It is not thought 
proper ever to remove the beans or plaster, but to allow 
them to drop off; and sometimes, if a man, with patches on 
his head, is asked, what is the matter? he will answer, "I 


had a headache the day before yesterday." Many of the 
remedies used by the people of the country are ludicrously 
strange, but too disgusting to be mentioned. One of the 
least nasty is to kill and cut open two puppies and bind 
them on each side of a broken limb. Little hairless dogs are 
in great request to sleep at the feet of invalids. 

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

October $th. We crossed the Parana to St. Fe Bajada, 
a town on the opposite shore. The passage took some hours, 
as the river here consisted of a labyrinth of small streams, 
separated by low wooded islands. I had a letter of intro- 
duction to an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me with 
the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is the capital 
of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 inhabitants, 
and the province 30,000; yet, few as the inhabitants are, no 
province has suffered more from bloody and desperate revo- 
lutions. They boast here of representatives, ministers, a 
standing army, and governors : so it is no wonder that they 
have their revolutions. At some future day this must be 
one of the richest countries of La Plata. The soil is varied 
and productive; and its almost insular form gives it two 
grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana and 

I was delayed here five days, and employed myself in ex- 
amining the geology of the surrounding country, which was 
very interesting. We here see at the bottom of the cliffs, 
beds containing sharks' teeth and sea-shells of extinct spe- 
cies, passing above into an indurated marl, and from that 
into the red clayey earth of the Pampas, with its calcareous 
concretions and the bones of terrestrial quadrupeds. This 
vertical section clearly tells us of a large bay of pure salt- 


water, gradually encroached on, and at last converted into 
the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floating carcasses 
were swept. At Punta Gorda, in Banda Oriental, I found 
an alternation of the Pampsean estuary deposit, with a lime- 
stone containing some of the same extinct sea-shells; and 
this shows either a change in the former currents, or more 
probably an oscillation of level in the bottom of the ancient 
estuary. Until lately, my reasons for considering the Pam- 
paean formation to be an estuary deposit were, its general 
appearance, its position at the mouth of the existing great 
river the Plata, and the presence of so many bones of ter- 
restrial quadrupeds: but now Professor Ehrenberg has had 
the kindness to examine for me a little of the red earth, 
taken from low down in the deposit, close to the skeletons 
of the mastodon, and he finds in it many infusoria, partly 
salt-water and partly fresh-water forms, with the latter 
rather preponderating; and therefore, as he remarks, the 
water must have been brackish. M. A. d'Orbigny found on 
the banks of the Parana, at the height of a hundred feet, 
great beds of an estuary shell, now living a hundred miles 
lower down nearer the sea; and I found similar shells at a 
less height on the banks of the Uruguay; this shows that 
just before the Pampas was slowly elevated into dry land, 
the water covering it was brackish. Below Buenos Ayres 
there are upraised beds of sea-shells of existing species, 
which also proves that the period of elevation of the Pam- 
pas was within the recent period. 

In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osse- 
ous armour of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside 
of which, when the earth was removed, was like a great 
cauldron; I found also teeth of the Toxodon and Mastodon, 
and one tooth of a Horse, in the same stained and decayed 
state. This latter tooth greatly interested me,* and I took 
scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been embedded 
contemporaneously with the other remains; for I was not 
then aware that amongst the fossils from Bahia Blanca 
there was a horse's tooth hidden in the matrix: nor was it 
then known with certainty that the remains of horses are 

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


common in North America. Mr. Lyell has lately brought 
from the United States a tooth of a horse; and it is an in- 
teresting fact, that Professor Owen could find in no species, 
either fossil or recent, a slight but peculiar curvature char- 
acterizing it, until he thought of comparing it with my speci- 
men found here: he has named this American horse Equus 
curvidens. Certainly it is a marvellous fact in the history 
of the Mammalia, that in South America a native horse 
should have lived and disappeared, to be succeeded in after- 
ages by the countless herds descended from the few intro- 
duced with the Spanish colonists! 

The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the 
mastodon, possibly of an elephant, 4 and of a hollow-horned 
ruminant, discovered by MM. Lund and Clausen in the 
caves of Brazil, are highly interesting facts with respect to 
the geographical distribution of animals. At the present 
time, if we divide America, not by the Isthmus of Panama, 
but by the southern part of Mexico 5 in lat. 20, where the 
great table-land presents an obstacle to the migration of 
species, by affecting the climate, and by forming, with the 
exception of some valleys and of a fringe of low land on 
the coast, a broad barrier ; we shall then have the two zoo- 
logical provinces of North and South America strongly con- 
trasted with each other. Some few species alone have 
passed the barrier, and may be considered as wanderers from 
the south, such as the puma, opossum, kinkajou, and peccari. 
South America is characterized by possessing many peculiar 
gnawers, a family of monkeys, the llama, peccari, tapir, 
opossums, and, especially, several genera of Edentata, the 
order which includes the sloths, ant-eaters, and armadilloes. 
North America, on the other hand, is characterized (putting 
on one side a few wandering species) by numerous peculiar 
gnawers, and by four genera (the ox, sheep, goat, and ante- 

4 Cuyier. Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 158. 

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


lope) of hollow-horned ruminants, of which great division 
South America is not known to possess a single species. 
Formerly, but within the period when most of the now ex- 
isting shells were living, North America possessed, besides 
hollow-horned ruminants, the elephant, mastodon, horse, and 
three genera of Edentata, namely, the Megatherium, Megal- 
onyx, and Mylodon. Within nearly this same period (as 
proved by the shells at Bahia Blanca) South America pos- 
sessed, as we have just seen, a mastodon, horse, hollow- 
horned ruminant, and the same three genera (as well as 
several others) of the Edentata. Hence it is evident that 
North and South America, in having within a late geo- 
logical period these several genera in common, were much 
more closely related in the character of their terrestrial in- 
habitants than they now are. The more I reflect on this 
case, the more interesting it appears: I know of no other 
instance where we can almost mark the period and manner 
of the splitting up of one great region into two well-char- 
acterized zoological provinces. The geologist, who is fully 
impressed with the vast oscillations of level which have 
affected the earth's crust within late periods, will not fear 
to speculate on the recent elevation of the Mexican plat- 
form, or, more probably, on the recent submergence of land 
in the West Indian Archipelago, as the cause of the present 
zoological separation of North and South America. The 
South American character of the West Indian mammals* 
seems to indicate that this archipelago was formerly united 
to the southern continent, and that it has subsequently been 
an area of subsidence. 

When America, and especially North America, possessed 
its elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned rumi- 
nants, it was much more closely related in its zoological 
characters to the temperate parts of Europe and Asia than 
it now is. As the remains of these genera are found on 
both sides of Behring's Straits' and on the plains of Siberia, 

See Dr. Richards9n's Report, p. 157; also L'Institut, 1837, p. 253. 
Cuvier says the kinkajou is found in the larger Antilles, but this is doubt- 
ful. M. Gervais states that the Didelphis crancrivora is found there. It 
is certain that the West Indies possess some mammifers peculiar to them- 
selves. A tooth of a mastodon has been brought from Bahama; Edin. New 
Phil. Journ., 1826, p. 395. 

7 See the admirable Appendix by Dr. Buckland to Beechey's Voyage; also 
the writings of Chamisso in Kotzebue's Voyage. 


we are led to look to the north-western side of North Amer- 
ica as the former point of communication between the Old 
and so-called New World. And as so many species, both 
living and extinct, of these same genera inhabit and have 
inhabited the Old World, it seems most probable that the 
North American elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow- 
horned ruminants migrated, on land since submerged near 
Behring's Straits, from Siberia into North America, and 
thence, on land since submerged in the West Indies, into 
South America, where for a time they mingled with the 
forms characteristic of that southern continent, and have 
since become extinct. 

While travelling through the country, I received several 
vivid descriptions of the effects of a late great drought; and 
the account of this may throw some light on the cases where 
vast numbers of animals of all kinds have been embedded 
together. The period included between the years 1827 and 
1830 is called the " gran seco," or the great drought. During 
this time so little rain fell, that the vegetation, even to the 
thistles, failed; the brooks were dried up, and the whole 
country assumed the appearance of a dusty high road. This 
was especially the case in the northern part of the province 
of Buenos Ayres and the southern part of St. Fe. Very 
great numbers of birds, wild animals, cattle, and horses 
perished from the want of food and water. A man told me 
that the deer 8 used to come into his courtyard to the well, 
which he had been obliged to dig to supply his own family 
with water; and that the partridges had hardly strength to 
fly away when pursued. The lowest estimation of the loss 
of cattle in the province of Buenos Ayres alone, was taken 
at one million head. A proprietor at San Pedro had pre- 
viously to these years 20,000 cattle; at the end not one re- 

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


mained. San Pedro is situated in the middle of the finest 
country; and even now abounds again with animals; yet, 
during the latter part of the " gran seco," live cattle were 
brought in vessels for the consumption of the inhabitants. 
The animals roamed from their estancias, and, wandering 
far southward, were mingled together in such multitudes, 
that a government commission was sent from Buenos Ayres 
to settle the disputes of the owners. Sir Woodbine Parish 
informed me of another and very curious source of dispute ; 
the ground being so long dry, such quantities of dust were 
blown about, that in this open country the landmarks be- 
came obliterated, and people could not tell the limits of their 

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds 
of thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted 
by hunger they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, 
and thus were drowned. The arm of the river which runs 
by San Pedro was so full of putrid carcasses, that the master 
of a vessel told me that the smell rendered it quite impass- 
able. Without doubt several hundred thousand animals 
thus perished in the river: their bodies when putrid were 
seen floating down the stream; and many in all probability 
were deposited in the estuary of the Plata. All the small 
rivers became highly saline, and this caused the death of 
vast numbers in particular spots ; for when an animal drinks 
of such water it does not recover. Azara describes* the 
fury of the wild horses on a similar occasion, rushing into 
the marshes, those which arrived first being overwhelmed 
and crushed by those which followed. He adds that more 
than once he has seen the carcasses of upwards of a thou- 
sand wild horses thus destroyed. I noticed that the smaller 
streams in the Pampas were paved with a breccia of bones, 
but this probably is the effect of a gradual increase, rather 
than of the destruction at any one period. Subsequently 
to the drought of 1827 to 1832, a very rainy season followed, 
which caused great floods. Hence it is almost certain that 
some thousands of the skeletons were buried by the deposits 
of the very next year. What would be the opinion of a 
geologist, viewing such an enormous collection of bones, of 

9 Travels, vol. i. p. 374. 


all kinds of animals and of all ages, thus embedded in one 
thick earthy mass? Would he not attribute it to a flood 
having swept over the surface of the land, rather than to 
the common order of things? 10 

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

The wooded banks of the great rivers appear to be the 
favourite haunts of the jaguar; but south of the Plata, I 
was told that they frequented the reeds bordering lakes: 
wherever they are, they seem to require water. Their com- 
mon prey is the capybara, so that it is generally said, where 
capybaras are numerous there is little danger from the 
jaguar. Falconer states that near the southern side of the 
mouth of the Plata there are many jaguars, and that they 
chiefly live on fish ; this account I have heard repeated. On 
the Parana they have killed many wood-cutters, and have 

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


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

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


difficulty, by the aid of dogs baying and driving him up a 
tree, where he is despatched with bullets. 

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

October i^th. We got under way and passed Punta 
Gorda, where there is a colony of tame Indians from the 
province of Missiones. We sailed rapidly down the current, 
but before sunset, from a silly fear of bad weather, we 
brought-to in a narrow arm of the river. I took the boat 
and rowed some distance up this creek. It was very narrow, 
winding, and deep; on each side a wall thirty or forty feet 
high, formed by trees intwined with creepers, gave to the 
canal a singularly gloomy appearance. I here saw a very 
extraordinary bird, called the Scissor-beak (Rhynchops 
nigra). It has short legs, web feet, extremely long-pointed 
wings, and is of about the size of a tern. The beak is flat- 
tened laterally, that is, in a plane at right angles to that 
of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat and elastic as an ivory 
paper-cutter, and the lower mandible, differing from every 
other bird, is an inch and a half longer than the upper. In 
a lake near Maldonado, from which the water had been 
nearly drained, and which, in consequence, swarmed with 
small fry, I saw several of these birds, generally in small 
flocks, flying rapidly backwards and forwards close to the > 
surface of the lake. They kept their bills wide open, and 
the lower mandible half buried in the water. Thus skimming 
the surface, they ploughed it in their course : the water was 


quite smooth, and it formed a most curious spectacle to be- 
hold a flock, each bird leaving its narrow wake on the mir- 
ror-like surface. In their flight they frequently twist about 
with extreme quickness, and dexterously manage with their 
projecting lower mandible to plough up small fish, which are 
secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor-like 

bills. This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like swallows, they 
continued to fly backwards and forwards close before me. 
Occasionally when leaving the surface of the water their 
flight was wild, irregular, and rapid; they then uttered loud 
harsh cries. When these birds are fishing, the advantage 
of the long primary feathers of their wings, in keeping them 
dry, is very evident. When thus employed, their forms re- 
semble the symbol by which many artists represent marine 
birds. Their tails are much used in steering their irregular 

These birds are common far inland along the course of 
the Rio Parana ; it is said that they remain here during the 
whole year, and breed in the marshes. During the day they 
rest in liocks on the grassy plains at some distance from 
the water. Being at anchor, as I have said, in one of the 
deep creeks between the islands of the Parana, as the even- 
ing drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks suddenly ap- 
peared. The water was quite still, and many little fish were 
rising. The bird continued for a long time to skim the 
surface, flying in its wild and irregular manner up and down 
the narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the 
shadows of the overhanging trees. At Monte Video, I ob- 
served that some large flocks during the day remained on the 
mud-banks at the head of the harbour, in the same manner 
as on the grassy plains near the Parana; and every even- 


ing they took flight seaward. From these facts I suspect 
that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at which time 
many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the 
surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds 
opening the shells of the mactrse buried in the sand-banks on 
the coast of Chile: from their weak bills, with the lower 
mandible so much projecting, their short legs and long 
wings, it is very improbable that this can be a general habit. 
In our course down the Parana, I observed only three 
other birds, whose habits are worth mentioning. One is a 
small kingfisher (Ceryle Americana) ; it has a longer tail 
than the European species, and hence does not sit in so stiff 
and upright a position. Its flight also, instead of being di- 
rect and rapid, like the course of an arrow, is weak and 
undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds. It utters a low 
note, like the clicking together of two small stones. A small 
green parrot (Conurus murinus), with a grey breast, ap- 
pears to prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other 
situation for its building-place. A number of nests are 
placed so close together as to form one great mass of sticks. 
These parrots always live in flocks, and commit great ravages 
on the corn-fields. I was told, that near Colonia 2500 were 
killed in the course of one year. A bird with a forked tail, 
terminated by two long feathers (Tyrannus savana), and 
named by the Spaniards scissor-tail, is very common near 
Buenos Ayres: it commonly sits on a branch of the ontbu 
tree, near a house, and thence takes a short flight in pursuit 
of insects, and returns to the same spot. When on the wing 
it presents in its manner of flight and general appearance 
a caricature-likeness of the common swallow. It has the 
power of turning very shortly in the air, and in so doing 
opens and shuts its tail, sometimes in a horizontal or lateral 
and sometimes in a vertical direction, just like a pair of 

October i6th. Some leagues below Rozario, the western 
shore of the Parana is bounded by perpendicular cliffs, 
which extend in a long line to below San Nicolas; hence it 

1 more resembles a sea-coast than that of a fresh-water river. 

'it is a great drawback to the scenery of the Parana, that, 
from the soft nature of its banks, the water is very muddy. 


The Uruguay, flowing through a granitic country, is much 
clearer; and where the two channels unite at the head of 
the Plata, the waters may for a long distance be distin- 
guished by their black and red colours. In the evening, the 
wind being not quite fair, as usual we immediately moored, 
and the next day, as it blew rather freshly, though with a 
favouring current, the master was much too indolent to think 
of starting. At Bajada, he was described to me as " hombre 
muy aflicto " a man always miserable to get on ; but cer- 
tainly he bore all delays with admirable resignation. He 
was an old Spaniard, and had been many years in this 
country. He professed a great liking to the English, but 
stoutly maintained that the battle of Trafalgar was merely 
won by the Spanish captains having been all bought over; 
and that the only really gallant action on either side was 
performed by the Spanish admiral. It struck me as rather 
characteristic, that this man should prefer his countrymen 
being thought the worst of traitors, rather than unskilful or 

i8th and ipth. We continued slowly to sail down the 
noble stream: the current helped us but little. We met, 
during our descent, very few vessels. One of the best gifts 
of nature, in so grand a channel of communication, seems 
here wilfully thrown away a river in which ships might 
navigate from a temperate country, as surprisingly abundant 
in certain productions as destitute of others, to another pos- 
sessing a tropical climate, and a soil which, according to 
the best of judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps unequalled in 
fertility in any part of the world. How different would 
have been the aspect of this river if English colonists had 
by good fortune first sailed up the Plata ! What noble towns 
would now have occupied its shores ! Till the death of 
Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, these two countries must 
remain distinct, as if placed on opposite sides of the globe. 
And when the old bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his long 
account, Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, violent in 
proportion to the previous unnatural calm. That country 
will have to learn, like every other South American state, 
that a republic cannot succeed till it contains a certain body 
of men imbued with the principles of justice and honour. 


October 20th. Being arrived at the mouth of the Parana, 
and as I was very anxious to reach Buenos Ayres, I went 
on shore at Las Conchas, with the intention of riding there. 
Upon landing, I found to my great surprise that I was to 
a certain degree a prisoner. A violent revolution having 
broken out, all the ports were laid under an embargo. I 
could not return to my vessel, and as for going by land to 
the city, it was out of the question. After a long conversa- 
tion with the commandant, I obtained permission to go the 
next day to General Rolor, who commanded a division of 
the rebels on this side the capital. In the morning I rode 
to the encampment. The general, officers, and soldiers, all 
appeared, and I believe really were, great villains. The 
general, the very evening before he left the city, voluntarily 
went to the Governor, and with his hand to his heart, pledged 
his word of honour that he at least would remain faithful 
to the last. The general told me that the city was in a state 
of close blockade, and that all he could do was to give me 
a passport to the commander-in-chief of the rebels at Quil- 
mes. We had therefore to take a great sweep round the 
city, and it was with much difficulty that we procured horses. 
My reception at the encampment was quite civil, but I was 
told it was impossible that I could be allowed to enter the 
city. I was very anxious about this, as I anticipated the 
Beagle's departure from the Rio Plata earlier than it took 
place. Having mentioned, however, General Rosas's oblig- 
ing kindness to me when at the Colorado, magic itself could 
not have altered circumstances quicker than did this con- 
versation. I was instantly told that though they could not 
give me a passport, if I chose to leave my guide and horses, 
I might pass their sentinels. I was too glad to accept of 
this, and an officer was sent with me to give directions that 
I should not be stopped at the bridge. The road for the 
space of a league was quite deserted. I met one party of 
soldiers, who were satisfied by gravely looking at an old 
passport : and at length I was not a little pleased to find my- 
self within the city. 

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of 
grievances : but in a state which, in the course of nine months 
(from February to October, 1820), underwent fifteen 


changes in its government each governor, according to the 
constitution, being elected for three years it would be very 
unreasonable to ask for pretexts. In this case, a party of 
men who, being attached to Rosas, were disgusted with 
the governor Balcarce to the number of seventy left the 
city, and with the cry of Rosas the whole country took arms. 
The city was then blockaded, no provisions, cattle or horses, 
were allowed to enter; besides this, there was only a little 
skirmishing, and a few men daily killed. The outside party 
tvell knew that by stopping the supply of meat they would 
certainly be victorious. General Rosas could not have known 
of this rising ; but it appears to be quite consonant with the 
plans of his party. A year ago he was elected governor, but 
he refused it, unless the Sala would also confer on him 
extraordinary powers. This was refused, and since then 
his party have shown that no other governor can keep his 
place. The warfare on both sides was avowedly protracted 
till it was possible to hear from Rosas. A note arrived a 
few days after I left Buenos Ayres, which stated that the 
General disapproved of peace having been broken, but that 
he thought the outside party had justice on their side. On 
the bare reception of this, the Governor, ministers, and part 
of the military, to the number of some hundreds, fled from 
the city. The rebels entered, elected a new governor, and 
were paid for their services to the number of 5500 men. 
From these proceedings, it was clear that Rosas ultimately 
would become the dictator: to the term king, the people in 
this, as in other republics, have a particular dislike. Since 
leaving South America, we have heard that Rosas has 
been elected, with powers and for a time altogether opposed 
to the constitutional principles of the republic. 


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

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

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

November i^ih. We left Monte Video in the afternoon. 



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

We slept and stayed the following day at the post of 
Cufre. In the evening the postman or letter-carrier arrived. 
He was a day after his time, owing to the Rio Rozario being 
flooded. It would not, however, be of much consequence; 
for, although he had passed through some of the principal 
towns in Banda Oriental, his luggage consisted of two let- 
ters ! The view from the house was pleasing ; an undulating 


green surface, with distant glimpses of the Plata. I find 
that I look at this province with very different eyes from 
what I did upon my first arrival. I recollect I then thought 
it singularly level; but now, after galloping over the Pam- 
pas, my only surprise is, what could have induced me ever 
to call it level. The country is a series of undulations, in 
themselves perhaps not absolutely great, but, as compared 
to the plains of St. Fe, real mountains. From these in- 
equalities there is an abundance of small rivulets, and the 
turf is green and luxuriant. 

November i"jih. We crossed the Rozario, which was 
deep and rapid, and passing the village of Colla, arrived 
at midday at Colonia del Sacramiento. The distance is 
twenty leagues, through a country covered with fine grass, 
but poorly stocked with cattle or inhabitants. I was in- 
vited to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the follow- 
ing day a gentleman to his estancia, where there were some 
limestone rocks. The town is built on a stony promontory 
something in the same manner as at Monte Video. It is 
strongly fortified, but both fortifications and town suffered 
much in the Brazilian war. It is very ancient; and the 
irregularity of the streets, and the surrounding groves of 
old orange and peach trees, gave it a pretty appearance. 
The church is a curious ruin; it was used as a powder- 
magazine, and was struck by lightning in one of the ten 
thousand thunder-storms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of 
the building were blown away to the very foundation; and 
the rest stands a shattered and curious monument of the 
united powers of lightning and gunpowder. In the evening 
I wandered about the half-demolished walls of the town. It 
was the chief seat of the Brazilian war ; a war most in- 
jurious to this country, not so much in its immediate effects, 
as in being the origin of a multitude of generals and all 
other grades of officers. More generals are numbered (but 
| not paid) in the United Provinces of La Plata than in the 
United Kingdom of Great Britain. These gentlemen have 
learned to like power, and do not object to a little skirmish- 
ing. Hence there are many always on the watch to create 
disturbance and to overturn a government which as yet 
has never rested on any staple foundation. I noticed, how- 


ever, both here and in other places, a very general interest 
in the ensuing election for the President; and this appears 
a good sign for the prosperity of this little country. The 
inhabitants do not require much education in their repre- 
sentatives; I heard some men discussing the merits of those 
for Colonia ; and it was said that, " although they were not 
men of business, they could all sign their names:" with this 
they seemed to think every reasonable man ought to be 

i8th. Rode with my host to his estancia, at the Arroyo 
de San Juan. In the evening we took a ride round the 
estate: it contained two square leagues and a half, and was 
situated in what is called a rincon; that is, one side was 
fronted by the Plata, and the two others guarded by im- 
passable brooks. There was an excellent port for little ves- 
sels, and an abundance of small wood, which is valuable 
as supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know 
the value of so complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 
3000, and it would well support three or four times that 
number; of mares 800, together with 150 broken-in horses, 
and 600 sheep. There was plenty of water and limestone, 
a rough house, excellent corrals, and a peach orchard. For 
all this he had been offered 2000, and he only wanted 500 
additional, and probably would sell it for less. The chief 
trouble with an estancia is driving the cattle twice a week 
to a central spot, in order to make them tame, and to count 
them. This latter operation would be thought difficult, 
where there are ten or fifteen thousand head together. It 
is managed on the principle that the cattle invariably di- 
vide themselves into little troops of from forty to one hun- 
dred. Each troop is recognized by a few peculiarly marked 
animals, and its number is known: so that, one being lost 
out of ten thousand, it is perceived by its absence from one 
of the tropillas. During a stormy night the cattle all mingle 
together; but the next morning the tropillas separate as 
before ; so that each animal must know its fellow out of ten 
thousand others. 

On two occasions I met with in this province some oxen 
of a very curious breed, called nata or niata. They appear 
externally to hold nearly the same relation to other cattle, 


which bull or pug dogs do to other dogs. Their forehead 
is very short and broad, with the nasal end turned up, and 
the upper lip much drawn back; their lower jaws project 
beyond the upper, and have a corresponding upward curve ; 
hence their teeth are always exposed. Their nostrils are 
seated high up and are very open; their eyes project out- 
wards. When walking they carry their heads low, on a short 
neck; and their hinder legs are rather longer compared 
with the front legs than is usual. Their bare teeth, their 
short heads, and upturned nostrils give them the most ludi- 
crous self-confident air of defiance imaginable. 

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, 
through the kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, R. N., 
which is now deposited in the College of Surgeons. 1 Don 
F. Muniz, of Luxan, has kindly collected for me all the in- 
formation which he could respecting this breed. From his 
account it seems that about eighty or ninety years ago, they 
were rare and kept as curiosities at Buenos Ayres. The 
breed is universally believed to have originated amongst 
the Indians southward of the Plata; and that it was with 
them the commonest kind. Even to this day, those reared 
in the provinces near the Plata show their less civilized 
origin, in being fiercer than common cattle, and in the cow 
easily deserting her first calf, if visited too often or mo- 
lested. It is a singular fact that an almost similar structure 
to the abnormal 2 one of the niata breed, characterizes, as I 
am informed by Dr. Falconer, that great extinct ruminant 
of India, the Sivatherium. The breed is very true; and a 
niata bull and cow invariably produce niata calves. A niata 
bull with a common cow, or the reverse cross, produces off- 
spring having an intermediate character, but with the niata 
characters strongly displayed: according to Senor Muniz, 
there is the clearest evidence, contrary to the common belief 
of agriculturists in analogous cases, that the niata cow when 
crossed with a common bull transmits her peculiarities more 
strongly than the niata bull when crossed with a common 

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

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


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

November ipth. Passing the valley of Las Vacas, we 
slept at a house of a North American, who worked a lime- 
kiln on the Arroyo de las Vivoras. In the morning we rode 
to a projecting headland on the banks of the river, called 
Punta Gorda. On the way we tried to find a jaguar. There 
were plenty of fresh tracks, and we visited the trees, on 
which they are said to sharpen their claws; but we did not 
succeed in disturbing one. From this point the Rio Uru- 
guay presented to our view a noble volume of water. From 
the clearness and rapidity of the stream, its appearance was 
far superior to that of its neighbour the Parana. On the 
opposite coast, several branches from the latter river entered 
the Uruguay. As the sun was shining, the two colours of 
the waters could be seen quite distinct. 

In the evening we proceeded on our road towards Mer- 
cedes on the Rio Negro. At night we asked permission to 
sleep at an estancia at which we happened to arrive. It was 
a very large estate, being ten leagues square, and the owner 
is one of the greatest landowners in the country. His neph- 
ew had charge of it, and with him there was a captain in 
the army, who the other day ran away from Buenos Ayres. 
Considering their station, their conversation was rather 
amusing. They expressed, as was usual, unbounded astonish- 
ment at the globe being round, and could scarcely credit 
that a hole would, if deep enough, come out on the other 
side. They had, however, heard of a country where there 
were six months of light and six of darkness, and where 


the inhabitants were very tall and thin ! They were curious 
about the price and condition of horses and cattle in Eng- 
land. Upon finding out we did not catch our animals with 
the lazo, they cried out, "Ah, then, you use nothing but 
the bolas:" the idea of an enclosed country was quite new 
to them. The captain at last said, he had one question to 
ask me, which he should be very much obliged if I would 
answer with all truth. I trembled to think how deeply sci- 
entific it would be: it was, "Whether the ladies of Buenos 
Ayres were not the handsomest in the world." I replied, like 
a renegade, " Charmingly so." He added, " I have one other 
question: Do ladies in any other part of the world wear 
such large combs ? " I solemnly assured him that they did 
not. They were absolutely delighted. The captain ex- 
claimed, " Look there ! a man who has seen half the world 
says it is the case ; we always thought so, but now we know 
it." My excellent judgment in combs and beauty procured 
me a most hospitable reception; the captain forced me to 
take his bed, and he would sleep on his recado. 

21 st. Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the 
whole day. The geological nature of this part of the prov- 
ince was different from the rest, and closely resembled that 
of the Pampas. In consequence, there were immense beds 
of the thistle, as well as of the cardoon: the whole country, 
indeed, may be called one great bed of these plants. The 
two sorts grow separate, each plant in company with its 
own kind. The cardoon is as high as a horse's back, but the 
Pampas thistle is often higher than the crown of the rider's 
head. To leave the road for a yard is out of the question; 
and the road itself is partly, and in some cases entirely 
closed. Pasture, of course there is none; if cattle or horses 
once enter the bed, they are for the time completely lost. 
Hence it is very hazardous to attempt to drive cattle at 
this season of the year; for when jaded enough to face the 
thistles, they rush among them, and are seen no more. In 
these districts there are very few estancias, and these few 
are situated in the neighbourhood of damp valleys, where 
fortunately neither of these overwhelming plants can exist. 
As night came on before we arrived at our journey's end, 
we slept at a miserable little hovel inhabited by the poorest 
VOL. xxix F HC 


people. The extreme though rather formal courtesy of our 
host and hostess, considering their grade of life, was quite 

November 22nd, Arrived at an estancia on the Berquelo 
belonging to a very hospitable Englishman, to whom I had 
a letter of introduction from my friend Mr. Lumb. I stayed 
here three days. One morning I rode with my host to the 
Sierra del Pedro Flaco, about twenty miles up the Rio 
Negro. Nearly the whole country was covered with good 
though coarse grass, which was as high as a horse's belly; 
yet there were square leagues without a single head of cattle. 
The province of Banda Oriental, if well stocked, would sup- 
port an astonishing number of animals; at present the an- 
nual export of hides from Monte Video amounts to three 
hundred thousand; and the home consumption, from waste, 
is very considerable. An " estanciero " told me that he often 
had to send large herds of cattle a long journey to a salting 
establishment, and that the tired beasts were frequently 
obliged to be killed and skinned; but that he could never 
persuade the Gauchos to eat of them, and every evening 
a fresh beast was slaughtered for their suppers ! The view 
of the Rio Negro from the Sierra was more picturesque than 
any other which I saw in this province. The river, broad, 
deep, and rapid, wound at the foot of a rocky precipitous 
cliff: a belt of wood followed its course, and the horizon 
terminated in the distant undulations of the turf-plain. 

When in this neighbourhood, I several times heard of 
the Sierra de las Cuentas: a hill distant many miles to the 
northward. The name signifies hill of beads. I was assured 
that vast numbers of little round stones, of various colours, 
each with a small cylindrical hole, are found there. For- 
merly the Indians used to collect them, for the purpose of 
making necklaces and bracelets a taste, I may observe, 
which is common to all savage nations, as well as to the most 
polished. I did not know what to understand from this 
story, but upon mentioning it at the Cape of Good Hope 
to Dr. Andrew Smith, he told me that he recollected find- 
ing on the south-eastern coast of Africa, about one hundred 
miles to the eastward of St. John's river, some quartz crys- 
tals with their edges blunted from attrition, and mixed with 


gravel on the sea-beach. Each crystal was about five lines 
in diameter, and from an inch to an inch and a half in 
length. Many of them had a small canal extending from 
one extremity to the other, perfectly cylindrical, and of a 
size that readily admitted a coarse thread or a piece of fine 
catgut. Their colour was red or dull white. The natives 
were acquainted with this structure in crystals. I have 
mentioned these circumstances because, although no crystal- 
lized body is at present known to assume this form, it may 
lead some future traveller to investigate the real nature of 
such stones. 

While staying at this estancia, I was amused with what 
I saw and heard of the shepherd-dogs of the country. 3 When 
riding, it is a common thing to meet a large flock of sheep 
guarded by one or two dogs, at the distance of some miles 
from any house or man. I often wondered how so firm a 
friendship had been established. The method of education 
consists in separating the puppy, while very young, from 
the bitch, and in accustoming it to its future companions. 
An ewe is held three or four times a day for the little thing 
to suck, and a nest of wool is made for it in the sheep-pen ; 
at no time is it allowed to associate with other dogs, or with 
the children of the family. The puppy is, moreover, gen- 
erally castrated; so that, when grown up, it can scarcely 
have any feelings in common with the rest of its kind. From 
this education it has no wish to leave the flock, and just 
as another dog will defend its master, man, so will these 
the sheep. It is amusing to observe, when approaching a 
flock, how the dog immediately advances barking, and the 
sheep all close in his rear, as if round the oldest ram. These 
dogs are also easily taught to bring home the flock, at a 
certain hour in the evening. Their most troublesome fault, 
when young, is their desire of playing with the sheep; for 
in their sport they sometimes gallop their poor subjects most 

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some 
meat, and as soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if 

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


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

One evening a " domidor " (a subduer of horses) came 
for the purpose of breaking-in some colts. I will describe 
the preparatory steps, for I believe they have not been men- 
tioned by other travellers. A troop of wild young horses 
is driven into the corral, or large enclosure of stakes, and 
the door is shut. We will suppose that one man alone has 
to catch and mount a horse, which as yet had never felt 
bridle or saddle. I conceive, except by a Gaucho, such a feat 
would be utterly impracticable. The Gaucho picks out a 
full-grown colt; and as the beast rushes round the circus, 
he throws his lazo so as to catch both the front legs. In- 
stantly the horse rolls over with a heavy shock, and whilst 
struggling on the ground, the Gaucho, holding the lazo 
tight, makes a circle, so as to catch one of the hind legs, 
just beneath the fetlock, and draws it close to the two front 
legs: he then hitches the lazo, so that the three are bound 


together. Then sitting on the horse's neck, he fixes a strong 
bridle, without a bit, to the lower jaw: this he does by pass- 
ing a narrow thong through the eye-holes at the end of the 
reins, and several times round both jaw and tongue. The 
two front legs are now tied closely together with a strong 
leathern thong, fastened by a slip-knot. The lazo, which 
bound the three together, being then loosed, the horse rises 
with difficulty. The Gaucho now holding fast the bridle 
fixed to the lower jaw, leads the horse outside the corral. If 
a second man is present (otherwise the trouble is much 
greater) he holds the animal's head, whilst the first puts on 
the horsecloths and saddle, and girths the whole tog-ether. 
During this operation, the horse, from dread and astonish- 
ment at thus being bound round the waist, throws himself 
over and over again on the ground, and, till beaten, is un- 
willing to rise. At last, when the saddling is finished, the 
poor animal can hardly breathe from fear, and is white with 
foam and sweat. The man now prepares to mount by press- 
ing heavily on the stirrup, so that the horse may not lose 
its balance ; and at the moment that he throws his leg over 
the animal's back, he pulls the slip-knot binding the front 
legs, and the beast is free. Some " domidors " pull the knot 
while the animal is lying on the ground, and, standing over 
the saddle, allow him to rise beneath them. The horse, wild 
with dread, gives a few most violent bounds, and then starts 
off at full gallop: when quite exhausted, the man, by pa- 
tience, brings him back to the corral, where, reeking hot and 
scarcely alive, the poor beast is let free. Those animals 
which will not gallop away, but obstinately throw themselves 
on the ground, are by far the most troublesome. This process 
is tremendously severe, but in two or three trials the horse 
is tamed. It is not, however, for some weeks that the animal 
is ridden with the iron bit and solid ring, for it must learn 
to associate the will of its rider with the feel of the rein, 
before the most powerful bridle can be of any service. 

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


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

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

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


made to wheel round the post of a veranda with great speed, 
but at so equal a distance, that the rider, with outstretched 
arm, all the while kept one finger rubbing the post. Then 
making a demi-volte in the air, with the other arm out- 
stretched in a like manner, he wheeled round, with aston- 
ishing force, in an opposite direction. 

Such a horse is well broken; and although this at first 
may appear useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying 
that which is daily necessary into perfection. When a bul- 
lock is checked and caught by the lazo, it will sometimes 
gallop round and round in a circle, and the horse being 
alarmed at the great strain, if not well broken, will not 
readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. In consequence many 
men have been killed; for if the lazo once takes a twist 
round a man's body, it will instantly, from the power of the 
two opposed animals, almost cut him in twain. On the 
same principle the races are managed ; the course is only 
two or three hundred yards long, the wish being to have 
horses that can make a rapid dash. The racehorses are 
trained not only to stand with their hoofs touching a line, 
but to draw all four feet together, so as at the first spring 
to bring into play the full action of the hind-quarters. In 
Chile I was told an anecdote, which I believe was true; and 
it offers a good illustration of the use of a well-broken ani- 
mal. A respectable man riding one day met two others, one 
of whom was mounted on a horse, which he knew to have 
been stolen from himself. He challenged them ; they an- 
swered him by drawing their sabres and giving chase. The 
man, on his good and fleet beast, kept just ahead: as he 
passed a thick bush he wheeled round it, and brought up 
his horse to a dead check. The pursuers were obliged to 
shoot on one side and ahead. Then instantly dashing on, 
right behind them, he buried his knife in the back of one, 
wounded the other, recovered his horse from the dying 
robber, and rode home. For these feats of horsemanship 
two things are necessary: a most severe bit, like the Mame- 
luke, the power of which, though seldom used, the horse 
knows full well; and large blunt spurs, that can be applied 
either as a mere touch, or as an instrument of extreme pain. 
I conceive that with English spurs, the slightest touch of 

which pricks the skin, it would be impossible to break in a 
horse after the South American fashion. 

At an estancia near Las Vacas large numbers of mares 
are weekly slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although 
worth only five paper dollars, or about half a crown apiece. 
It seems at first strange that it can answer to kill mares 
for such a trifle ; but as it is thought ridiculous in this coun- 
try ever to break in or ride a mare, they are of no value 
except for breeding. The only thing for which I ever saw 
mares used, was to tread out wheat from the ear ; for which 
purpose they were driven round a circular enclosure, where 
the wheat-sheaves were strewed. The man employed for 
slaughtering the mares happened to be celebrated for his 
dexterity with the lazo. Standing at the distance of twelve 
yards from the mouth of the corral, he has laid a wager 
that he would catch by the legs every animal, without miss- 
ing one, as it rushed past him. There was another man 
who said he would enter the corral on foot, catch a mare, 
fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw her down, 
kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter is a 
tedious job) ; and he engaged that he would perform this 
whole operation on twenty-two animals in one day. Or he 
would kill and take the skin off fifty in the same time. This 
would have been a prodigious task, for it is considered a 
good day's work to skin and stake the hides of fifteen or 
sixteen animals. 

November 26th. I set out on my return in a direct line 
for Monte Video. Having heard of some giant's bones at 
a neighbouring farm-house on the Sarandis, a small stream 
entering the Rio Negro, I rode there accompanied by my 
host, and purchased for the value of eighteen pence the head 
of the Toxodon. 4 When found it was quite perfect; but 
the boys knocked out some of the teeth with stones, and then 
set up the head as a mark to throw at. By a most fortunate 
chance I found a perfect tooth, which exactly fitted one of 
the sockets in this skull, embedded by itself on the banks 
of the Rio Tercero, at the distance of about 180 miles from 
this place. I found remains of this extraordinary animal 

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


at two other places, so that it must formerly have been com- 
mon. I found here, also, some large portions of the armour 
of a gigantic armadillo-like animal, and part of the great 
head of a Mylodon. The bones of this head are so fresh, 
that they contain, according to the analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, 
seven per cent of animal matter; and when placed in a 
spirit-lamp, they burn with a small flame. The number 
of the remains embedded in the grand estuary deposit which 
forms the Pampas and covers the granitic rocks of Banda 
Oriental, must be extraordinarily great. I believe a straight 
line drawn in any direction through the Pampas would cut 
through some skeleton or bones. Besides those which I 
found during my short excursions, I heard of many others, 
and the origin of such names as " the stream of the animal," 
" the hill of the giant," is obvious. At other times I heard 
of the marvellous property of certain rivers, which had the 
power of changing small bones into large ; or, as some main- 
tained, the bones themselves grew. As far as I am aware, 
not one of these animals perished, as was formerly supposed, 
in the marshes or muddy river-beds of the present land, but 
. their bones have been exposed by the streams intersecting the 
subaqueous deposit in which they were originally embedded. 
We may conclude that the whole area of the Pampas is one 
wide sepulchre of these extinct gigantic quadrupeds. 

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

During the last six months I have had an opportunity of 
seeing a little of the character of the inhabitants of these 
provinces. The Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior 
to those who reside in the towns. The Gaucho is invariably 
most obliging, polite, and hospitable: I did not meet with 


even one instance of rudeness or inhospitality. He is mod- 
est, both respecting himself and country, but at the same 
time a spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand, many rob- 
beries are committed, and there is much bloodshed: the 
habit of constantly wearing the knife is the chief cause 
of the latter. It is lamentable to hear how many lives are 
lost in trifling quarrels. In fighting, each party tries to 
mark the face of his adversary by slashing his nose or eyes; 
as is often attested by deep and horrid-looking scars. Rob- 
beries are a natural consequence of universal gambling, 
much drinking, and extreme indolence. At Mercedes I asked 
two men why they did not work. One gravely said the days 
were too long; the other that he was too poor. The number 
of horses and the profusion of food are the destruction of 
all industry. Moreover, there are so many feast-days; and 
again, nothing can succeed without it be begun when the 
moon is on the increase; so that half the month is lost from 
these two causes. 

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

The character of the higher and more educated classes 
who reside in the towns, partakes, but perhaps in a lesser 
degree, of the good parts of the Gaucho, but is, I fear, stained 
by many vices of which he is free. Sensuality, mockery of 
all religion, and the grossest corruption, are far from un- 
common. Nearly every public officer can be bribed. The 
head man in the post-office sold forged government franks. 
The governor and prime minister openly combined to plun- 
der the state. Justice, where gold came into play, was 
hardly expected by any one. I knew an Englishman, who 
went to the Chief Justice (he told me, that not then under- 
standing the ways of the place, he trembled as he entered 


the room), and said, " Sir, I have come to offer you two hun- 
dred (paper) dollars (value about five pounds sterling) if 
you will arrest before a certain time a man who has cheated 
me. I know it is against the law, but my lawyer (naming 
him) recommended me to take this step." The Chief Jus- 
tice smiled acquiescence, thanked him, and the man before 
night was safe in prison. With this entire want of prin- 
ciple in many of the leading men, with the country full of 
ill-paid turbulent officers, the people yet hope that a demo- 
cratic form of government can succeed! 

On first entering society in these countries, two or three 
features strike one as particularly remarkable. The polite 
and dignified manners pervading every rank of life, the 
excellent taste displayed by the women in their dresses, and 
the equality amongst all ranks. At the Rio Colorado some 
men who kept the humblest shops used to dine with Gen- 
eral Rosas. A son of a major at Bahia Blanca gained his 
livelihood by making paper cigars, and he wished to accom- 
pany me, as guide or servant, to Buenos Ayres, but his 
father objected on the score of the danger alone. Many 
officers in the army can neither read nor write, yet all meet 
in society as equals. In Entre Rios, the Sala consisted of 
only six representatives. One of them kept a common shop, 
and evidently was not degraded by the office. All this rs 
what would be expected in a new country; nevertheless the 
absence of gentlemen by profession appears to an English- 
man something strange. 

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


December 6th. The Beagle sailed from the Rio Plata, 
never again to enter its muddy stream. Our course was 
directed to Port Desire, on the coast of Patagonia. Before 
proceeding any further, I will here put together a few 
observations made at sea. 

Several times when the ship has been some miles off the 
mouth of the Plata, and at other times when off the shores 
of Northern Patagonia, we have been surrounded by insects. 
One evening, when we were about ten miles from the Bay 
of San Bias, vast numbers of butterflies, in bands or flocks 
of countless myriads, extended as far as the eye could range. 
Even by the aid of a telescope it was not possible to see a 
space free from butterflies. The seamen cried out " it was 
snowing butterflies," and such in fact was the appearance. 
More species than one were present, but the main part be- 
longed to a kind very similar to, but not identical with, the 
common English Colias edusa. Some moths and hymenop- 
tera accompanied the butterflies; and a fine beetle (Calo- 
soma) flew on board. Other instances are known of this 
beetle having been caught far out at sea; and this is the 
more remarkable, as the greater number of the Carabidae 
seldom or never take wing. The day had been fine and calm, 
and the one previous to it equally so, with light and variable 
airs. Hence we cannot suppose that the insects were blown 
off the land, but we must conclude that they voluntarily took 
flight. The great bands of the Colias seem at first to afford 
an instance like those on record of the migrations of another 
butterfly, Vanessa cardui; 5 but the presence of other insects 
makes the case distinct, and even less intelligible. Before 
sunset a strong breeze sprung up from the north, and this 
must have caused tens of thousands of the butterflies and 
other insects to have perished. 

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

8 Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. iii. p. 63. 


cies), Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and Scavabaeus. At 
first I thought that these insects had been blown from the 
shore; but upon reflecting that out of the eight species four 
were aquatic, and two others partly so in their habits, it 
appeared to me most probable that they were floated into the 
sea by a small stream which drains a lake near Cape Cor- 
rientes. On any supposition it is an interesting circum- 
stance to find live insects swimming in the open ocean seven- 
teen miles from the nearest point of land. There are several 
accounts of insects having been blown off the Patagonian 
shore. Captain Cook observed it, as did more lately Captain 
King of the Adventure. The cause probably is due to the 
want of shelter, both of trees and hills, so that an insect on 
the wing with an off-shore breeze, would be very apt to 
be blown out to sea. The most remarkable instance I have 
known of an insect being caught far from the land, was that 
of a large grasshopper (Acrydium), which flew on board, 
when the Beagle was to windward of the Cape de Verd 
Islands, and when the nearest point of land, not directly 
opposed to the trade-wind, was Cape Blanco on the coast of 
Africa, 370 miles distant.* 

On several occasions, when the Beagle has been within 
the mouth of the Plata, the rigging has been coated with 
the web of the Gossamer Spider. One day (November ist, 
1832) I paid particular attention to this subject. The weather 
had been fine and clear, and in the morning the air was full 
of patches of the flocculent web, as on an autumnal day in 
England. The ship was sixty miles distant from the land, in 
the direction of a steady though light breeze. Vast numbers 
of a small spider, about one-tenth of an inch in length, and of 
a dusky red colour, were attached to the webs. There must 
have been, I should suppose, some thousands on the ship. The 
little spider, when first coming in contact with the rigging, 
was always seated on a single thread, and not on the floccu- 
lent mass. This latter seems merely to be produced by the 
entanglement of the single threads. The spiders were all of 
one species, but of both sexes, together with young ones. 
These latter were distinguished by their smaller size and 

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


more dusky colour. I will not give the description of this 
spider, but merely state that it does not appear to me to be 
included in any of Latreille's genera. The little aeronaut as 
soon as it arrived on board was very active, running about, 
sometimes letting itself fall, and then reascending the same 
thread; sometimes employing itself in making a small and 
very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It 
could run with facility on the surface of the water. When 
disturbed it lifted up its front legs, in the attitude of atten- 
tion. On its first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and with 
exserted maxillae drank eagerly of drops of water ; this same 
circumstance has been observed by Strack: may it not be in 
consequence of the little insect having passed through a dry 
and rarefied atmosphere? Its stock of web seemed inex- 
haustible. While watching some that were suspended by a 
single thread, I several times observed that the slightest 
breath of air bore them away out of sight, in a horizontal 

On another occasion (25th) under similar circumstances, 
I repeatedly observed the same kind of small spider, 
either when placed or having crawled on some little emi- 
nence, elevate its abdomen, send forth a thread, and then 
sail away horizontally, but with a rapidity which was quite 
unaccountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider, 
before performing the above preparatory steps, connected 
its legs together with the most delicate threads, but I am not 
sure whether this observation was correct. 

One day, at St. Fe, I had a better opportunity of observing 
some similar facts. A spider which was about three-tenths 
of an inch in length, and which in its general appearance 
resembled a Citigrade (therefore quite different from the 
gossamer), while standing on the summit of a post, darted 
forth four or five threads from its spinners. These, glitter- 
ing in the sunshine, might be compared to diverging rays of 
light; they were not, however, straight, but in undulations 
like films of silk blown by the wind. They were more than a 
yard in length, and diverged in an ascending direction from 
the orifices. The spider then suddenly let go its hold of the 
post, and was quickly borne out of sight. The day was hot 
and apparently calm; yet under such circumstances, the at- 


mosphere can never be so tranquil as not to affect a vane so 
delicate as the thread of a spider's web. If during a warm 
day we look either at the shadow of any object cast on a 
bank, or over a level plain at a distant landmark, the effect 
of an ascending current of heated air is almost always evi- 
dent: such upward currents, it has been remarked, are also 
shown by the ascent of soap-bubbles, which will not rise in 
an in-doors room. Hence I think there is not much difficulty 
in understanding the ascent of the fine lines projected from 
a spider's spinners, and afterwards of the spider itself; the 
divergence of the lines has been attempted to be explained, I 
believe by Mr. Murray, by their similar electrical condition. 
The circumstance of spiders of the same species, but of dif- 
ferent sexes and ages, being found on several occasions at 
the distance of many leagues from the land, attached in vast 
numbers to the lines, renders it probable that the habit of 
sailing through the air is as characteristic of this tribe, as 
that of diving is of the Argyroneta. We may then reject 
Latreille's supposition, that the gossamer owes its origin 
indifferently to the young of several genera of spiders: 
although, as we have seen, the young of other spiders do 
possess the power of performing aerial voyages. 7 

During our different passages south of the Plata, I often 
towed astern a net made of bunting, and thus caught many 
curious animals. Of Crustacea there were many strange 
and undescribed genera. One, which in some respects is 
allied to the Notopods (or those crabs which have their 
posterior legs placed almost on their backs, for the purpose 
of adhering to the under side of rocks), is very remarkable 
from the structure of its hind pair of legs. The penultimate 
joint, instead of terminating in a simple claw, ends in three 
bristle-like appendages of dissimilar lengths the longest 
equalling that of the entire leg. These claws are very thin, 
and are serrated with the finest teeth, directed backwards: 
their curved extremities are flattened, and on this part five 
most minute cups are placed which seem to act in the same 
manner as the suckers on the arms of the cuttle-fish. As 
the animal lives in the open sea, and probably wants a place 

f 1 Mr. Blackwall, in his Researches in Zoology, has many excellent observa- 
tions on the habits of spiders. 


of rest, I suppose this beautiful and most anomalous struc- 
ture is adapted to take hold of floating marine animals. 

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

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

As we proceed further southward the sea is seldom phos- 
phorescent; and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than 
once having seen it so, and then it was far from being bril- 
liant. This circumstance probably has a close connection 
with the scarcity of organic beings in that part of the ocean. 


After the elaborate paper, 8 by Ehrenberg, on the phos- 
phorescence of the sea, it is almost superfluous on my part 
to make any observations on the subject. I may however 
add, that the same torn and irregular particles of gelatinous 
matter, described by Ehrenberg, seem in the southern as 
well as in the northern hemisphere, to be the common cause 
of this phenomenon. The particles were so minute as easily 
to pass through fine gauze ; yet many were distinctly visible 
by the naked eye. The water when placed in a tumbler and 
agitated, gave out sparks, but a small portion in a watch- 
glass scarcely ever was luminous. Ehrenberg states that 
these particles all retain a certain degree of irritability. My 
observations, some of which were made directly after taking 
up the water, gave a different result. I may also mention, 
that having used the net during one night, I allowed it to 
become partially dry, and having occasion twelve hours 
afterwards to employ it again, I found the whole surface 
sparkled as brightly as when first taken out of the water. 
It does not appear probable in this case, that the particles 
could have remained so long alive. On one occasion having 
kept a jelly-fish of the genus Dianaea till it was dead, the 
water in which it was placed became luminous. When the 
waves scintillate with bright green sparks, I believe it is 
generally owing to minute Crustacea. But there can be no 
doubt that very many other pelagic animals, when alive, are 

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

Near Fernando Noronha the sea gave out light in flashes. 

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


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

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

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


is indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to rise 
from the heated surface. 

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

The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its flora.* On 
the arid plains a few black beetles (Heteromera) might be 
seen slowly crawling about, and occasionally a lizard darted 
from side to side. Of birds we have three carrion hawks, 
and in the valleys a few finches and insect-feeders. An ibis 
(Theristicus melanops a species said to be found in cen- 
tral Africa) is not uncommon on the most desert parts: in 
their stomachs I found grasshoppers, cicadas, small lizards, 
and even scorpions. 10 At one time of the year these birds 
go in flocks, at another in pairs; their cry is very loud and 
singular, like the neighing of the guanaco. 

The guanaco, or wild llama, is the characteristic quadru- 
ped of the plains of Patagonia; it is the South American 
representative of the camel of the East. It is an elegant 
animal in a state of nature, with a long slender neck and 

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

10 These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one can- 
nibal scorpion quietly devouring another. 


fine legs. It is very common over the whole of the temperate 
parts of the continent, as far south as the islands near Cape 
Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen 
to thirty in each ; but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw 
one herd which must have contained at least five hundred. 

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes 
told me, that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these 
animals which evidently had been frightened, and were run- 
ning away at full speed, although their distance was so great 
that he could not distinguish them with his naked eye. The 
sportsman frequently receives the first notice of their pres- 
ence, by hearing from a long distance their peculiar shrill 
neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, he will 
probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some 
distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are 
given, and off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick 
canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighbouring 
hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly meets a single ani- 
mal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless 
and intently gaze at him ; then perhaps move on a few yards, 
turn round, and look again. What is the cause of this differ- 
ence in their shyness? Do they mistake a man in the dis- 
tance for their chief enemy the puma? Or does curiosity 
overcome their timidity? That they are curious is certain; 
for if a person lies on the ground, and plays strange antics, 
such as throwing up his feet in the air, they will almost 
always approach by degrees to reconnoitre him. It was an 
artifice that was repeatedly practised by our sportsmen with 
success, and it had moreover the advantage of allowing sev- 
eral shots to be fired, which were all taken as parts of the 
performance. On the mountains of Tierra del Fuego, I have 
more than once seen a guanaco, on being approached, not 
only neigh and squeal, but prance and leap about in the most 
ridiculous manner, apparently in defiance as a challenge. 
These animals are very easily domesticated, and I have seen 
some thus kept in northern Patagonia near a house, though 
not under any restraint. They are in this state very bold, and 
readily attack a man by striking him from behind with both 
knees. It is asserted that the motive for these attacks is 
jealousy on account of their females. The wild guanacos, 


however, have no idea of defence; even a single dog will 
secure one of these large animals, till the huntsman can come 
up. In many of their habits they are like sheep in a flock. 
Thus when they see men approaching in several directions 
on horseback, they soon become bewildered, and know not 
which way to run. This greatly facilitates the Indian method 
of hunting, for they are thus easily driven to a central point, 
and are encompassed. 

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

The guanacos appear to have favourite spots for lying 
down to die. On the banks of the St. Cruz, in certain cir- 
cumscribed spaces, which were generally bushy and all near 
the river, the ground was actually white with bones. On one 
such spot I counted between ten and twenty heads. I par- 
ticularly examined the bones; they did not appear, as some 


scattered ones which I had seen, gnawed or broken, as if 
dragged together by beasts of prey. The animals in most 
cases must have crawled, before dying, beneath and amongst 
the bushes. Mr. Bynoe informs me that during a former 
voyage he observed the same circumstance on the banks of 
the Rio Gallegos. I do not at all understand the reason of 
this, but I may observe, that the wounded guanacos at the 
St. Cruz invariably walked towards the river. At St. Jago 
in the Cape de Verd Islands, I remember having seen in a 
ravine a retired corner covered with bones of the goat; we 
at the time exclaimed that it was the burial ground of all the 
goats in the island. I mention these trifling circumstances, 
because in certain cases they might explain the occurrence 
of a number of uninjured bones in a cave, or buried under 
alluvial accumulations ; and likewise the cause why certain 
animals are more commonly embedded than others in sedi- 
mentary deposits. 

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

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

11 Shelley, Lines on Mt. Blanc. 


In the evening we sailed a few miles further up, and then 
pitched the tents for the night. By the middle of the next 
day the yawl was aground, and from the shoalness of the 
water could not proceed any higher. The water being found 
partly fresh, Mr. Chaffers took the dingey and went up two 
or three miles further, where she also grounded, but in a 
fresh-water river. The water was muddy, and though the 
stream was most insignificant in size, it would be difficult to 
account for its origin, except from the melting snow on the 
Cordillera. At the spot where we bivouacked, we were sur- 
rounded by bold cliffs and steep pinnacles of porphyry. I do 
not think I ever saw a spot which appeared more secluded 
from the rest of the world, than this rocky crevice in the 
wide plain. 

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party 
of officers and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, 
which I had found on the summit of a neighbouring hill. 
Two immense stones, each probably weighing at least a 
couple of tons, had been placed in front of a ledge of rock 
about six feet high. At the bottom of the grave on the hard 
rock there was a layer of earth about a foot deep, which 
must have been brought up from the plain below. Above it a 
pavement of flat stones was placed, on which others were 
piled, so as to fill up the space between the ledge and the two 
great blocks. To complete the grave, the Indians had con- 
trived to detach from the ledge a huge fragment, and to 
throw it over the pile so as to rest on the two blocks. We 
undermined the grave on both sides, but could not find any 
relics, or even bones. The latter probably had decayed long 
since (in which case the grave must have been of extreme 
antiquity), for I found in another place some smaller heaps, 
beneath which a very few crumbling fragments could yet be 
distinguished as having belonged to a man. Falconer states, 
that where an Indian dies he is buried, but that subsequently 
his bones are carefully taken up and carried, let the distance 
be ever so great, to be deposited near the sea-coast. This 
custom, I think, may be accounted for by recollecting, that 
before the introduction of horses, these Indians must have 
led nearly the same life as the Fuegians now do, and there- 
fore generally have resided in the neighbourhood of the sea. 


The common prejudice of lying where one's ancestors have 
lain, would make the now roaming Indians bring the less 
perishable part of their dead to their ancient burial-ground 
on the coast. 

January pth, 1834. Before it was dark the Beagle an- 
chored in the fine spacious harbour of Port St. Julian, situated 
about one hundred and ten miles to the south of Port Desire. 
We remained here eight days. The country is nearly similar 
to that of Port Desire, but perhaps rather more sterile. One 
day a party accompanied Captain Fitz Roy on a long walk 
round the head of the harbour. We were eleven hours with- 
out tasting any water, and some of the party were quite 
exhausted. From the summit of a hill (since well named 
Thirsty Hill) a fine lake was spied, and two of the party pro- 
ceeded with concerted signals to show whether it was fresh 
water. What was our disappointment to find a snow-white 
expanse of salt, crystallized in great cubes! We attributed 
our extreme thirst to the dryness of the atmosphere; but 
whatever the cause might be, we were exceedingly glad late 
in the evening to get back to the boats. Although we could 
nowhere find, during our whole visit, a single drop of fresh 
water, yet some must exist ; for by an odd chance I found on 
the surface of the salt water, near the head of the bay, a 
Colymbetes not quite dead, which must have lived in some 
not far distant pool. Three other insects (a Cincindela, like 
hybrida, a Cymindis, and a Harpalus, which all live on muddy 
flats occasionally overflowed by the sea), and one other 
found dead on the plain, complete the list of the beetles. A 
good-sized fly (Tabanus) was extremely numerous, and tor- 
mented us by its painful bite. The common horsefly, which 
is so troublesome in the shady lanes of England, belongs to 
this same genus. We here have the puzzle that so frequently 
occurs in the case of musquitoes on the blood of what 
animals do these insects commonly feed? The guanaco is 
nearly the only warm-blooded quadruped, and it is found in 
quite inconsiderable numbers compared with the multitude 
of flies. 

The geology of Patagonia is interesting. Differently from 
Europe, where the tertiary formations appear to have accu- 


mulated in bays, here along hundreds of miles of coast we 
have one great deposit, including many tertiary shells, all 
apparently extinct. The most common shell is a massive 
gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot in diameter. These 
beds are covered by others of a peculiar soft white stone, in- 
cluding much gypsum, and resembling chalk, but really of 
a pumiceous nature. It is highly remarkable, from being 
composed, to at least one-tenth of its bulk, of Infusoria. 
Professor Ehrenberg has already ascertained in it thirty 
oceanic forms. This bed extends for 500 miles along the coast, 
and probably for a considerably greater distance. At Port 
St. Julian its thickness is more than 800 feet ! These white 
beds are everywhere capped by a mass of gravel, forming 
probably one of the largest beds of shingle in the world: it 
certainly extends from near the Rio Colorado to between 600 
and 700 nautical miles southward; at Santa Cruz (a river a 
little south of St. Julian), it reaches to the foot of the Cor- 
dillera ; half way up the river, its thickness is more than 200 
feet; it probably everywhere extends to this great chain, 
whence the well-rounded pebbles of porphyry have been 
derived: we may consider its average breadth as 200 miles, 
and its average thickness as about 50 feet. If this great bed 
of pebbles, without including the mud necessarily derived 
from their attrition, was piled into a mound, it would form a 
great mountain chain ! When we consider that all these 
pebbles, countless as the grains of sand in the desert, have 
been derived from the slow falling of masses of rock on the 
old coast-lines and banks of rivers ; and that these fragments 
have been dashed into smaller pieces, and that each of them 
has since been slowly rolled, rounded, and far transported, 
the mind is stupefied in thinking over the long, absolutely 
necessary, lapse of years. Yet all this gravel has been trans- 
ported, and probably rounded, subsequently to the deposition 
of the white beds, and long subsequently to the underlying 
beds with the tertiary shells. 

Everything in this southern continent has been effected 
on a grand scale : the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del 
Fuego, a distance of 1200 miles, has been raised in mass (and 
in Patagonia to a height of between 300 and 400 feet), within 
the period of the now existing sea-shells. The old and 


weathered shells left on the surface of the upraised plain still 
partially retain their colours. The uprising movement has 
been interrupted by at least eight long periods of rest, during 
which the sea ate deeply back into the land, forming at suc- 
cessive levels the long lines of cliffs, or escarpments, which 
separate the different plains as they rise like steps one behind 
the other. The elevatory movement, and the eating-back 
power of the sea during the periods of rest, have been 
equable over long lines of coast; for I was astonished to 
find that the step-like plains stand at nearly corresponding 
heights at far distant points. The lowest plain is 90 feet 
high; and the highest, which I ascended near the coast, is 
950 feet; and of this, only relics are left in the form of flat 
gravel-capped hills. The upper plain of Santa Cruz slopes 
up to a height of 3000 feet at the foot of the Cordillera. I 
have said that within the period of existing sea-shells, Pata- 
gonia has been upraised 300 to 400 feet : I may add, that 
within the period when icebergs transported boulders over 
the upper plain of Santa Cruz, the elevation has been at least 
1500 feet. Nor has Patagonia been affected only by upward 
movements: the extinct tertiary shells from Port St. Julian 
and Santa Cruz cannot have lived, according to Professor E. 
Forbes, in a greater depth of water than from 40 to 250 feet; 
but they are now covered with sea-deposited strata from 800 
to 1000 feet in thickness : hence the bed of the sea, on which 
these shells once lived, must have sunk downwards several 
hundred feet, to allow of the accumulation of the superincum- 
bent strata. What a history of geological changes does the 
simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal ! 

At Port St. Julian, 12 in some red mud capping the gravel 
on the 90- feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrau- 
chenia Patachonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as 
a camel. It belongs to the same division of the Pachy- 
dermata with the rhinoceros, tapir, and palaeotherium ; but 
in the structure of the bones of its long neck it shows a clear 
relation to the camel, or rather to the guanaco and llama. 
From recent sea-shells being found on two of the higher 

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


step-formed plains, which must have been modelled and 
upraised before the mud was deposited in which the Macrau- 
chenia was entombed, it is certain that this curious quadru- 
ped lived long after the sea was inhabited by its present 
shells. I was at first much surprised how a large quadruped 
could so lately have subsisted, in lat. 49 15', on these 
wretched gravel plains, with their stunted vegetation ; but 
the relationship of the Macrauchenia to the Guanaco, now 
an inhabitant of the most sterile parts, partly explains this 

The relationship, though distant, between the Macrau- 
chenia and the Guanaco, between the Toxodon and the 
Capybara, the closer relationship between the many extinct 
Edentata and the living sloths, ant-eaters, and armadillos, 
now so eminently characteristic of South American zoology, 
and the still closer relationship between the fossil and liv- 
ing species of Ctenomys and Hydrochaerus, are most inter- 
esting facts. This relationship is shown wonderfully as 
wonderfully as between the fossil and extinct Marsupial 
animals of Australia by the great collection lately brought 
to Europe from the caves of Brazil by MM. Lund and Clau- 
sen. In this collection there are extinct species of all the 
thirty-two genera, excepting four, of the terrestrial quadru- 
peds now inhabiting the provinces in which the caves occur ; 
and the extinct species are much more numerous than those 
now living: there are fossil ant-eaters, armadillos, tapirs, 
peccaries, guanacos, opossums, and numerous South Ameri- 
can gnawers and monkeys, and other animals. This wonder- 
ful relationship in the same continent between the dead and 
the living, will, I do not doubt, hereafter throw more light 
on the appearance of organic beings on our earth, and their 
disappearance from it, than any other class of facts. 

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the 
American continent without the deepest astonishment. For- 
merly it must have swarmed with great monsters: now we 
find mere pigmies, compared with the antecedent, allied 
races. If Buffon had known of the gigantic sloth and arma- 
dillo-like animals, and of the lost Pachydermata, he might 
have said with a greater semblance of truth that the creative 
force in America had lost its power, rather than that it had 


never possessed great vigour. The greater number, if not all, 
of these extinct quadrupeds lived at a late period, and were 
the contemporaries of most of the existing sea-shells. Since 
they lived, no very great change in the form of the land can 
have taken place. What, then, has exterminated so many 
species and whole genera? The mind at first is irresistibly 
hurried into the belief of some great catastrophe ; but thus 
to destroy animals, both large and small, in Southern Pata- 
gonia, in Brazil, on the Cordillera of Peru, in North America 
up to Behring's Straits, we must shake the entire framework 
of the globe. An examination, moreover, of the geology of 
La Plata and Patagonia, leads to the belief that all the fea- 
tures of the land result from slow and gradual changes. It 
appears from the character of the fossils in Europe, Asia, 
Australia, and in North and South America, that those con- 
ditions which favour the life of the larger quadrupeds were 
lately co-extensive with the world: what those conditions 
were, no one has yet even conjectured. It could hardly have 
been a change of temperature, which at about the same time 
destroyed the inhabitants of tropical, temperate, and arctic 
latitudes on both sides of the globe. In North America we 
positively know from Mr. Lyell, that the large quadrupeds 
lived subsequently to that period, when boulders were 
brought into latitudes at which icebergs now never arrive: 
from conclusive but indirect reasons we may feel sure, that 
in the southern hemisphere the Macrauchenia, also, lived 
long subsequently to the ice-transporting boulder-period. Did 
man, after his first inroad into South America, destroy, as 
has been suggested, the unwieldy Megatherium and the 
other Edentata? We must at least look to some other cause 
for the destruction of the little tucutuco at Bahia Blanca, and 
of the many fossil mice and other small quadrupeds in 
Brazil. No one will imagine that a drought, even far severer 
than those which cause such losses in the provinces of La 
Plata, could destroy every individual of every species from 
Southern Patagonia to Behring's Straits. What shall we say 
of the extinction of the horse ? Did those plains fail of pas- 
ture, which have since been overrun by thousands and hun- 
dreds of thousands of the descendants of the stock intro- 
duced by the Spaniards? Have the subsequently introduced 


species consumed the food of the great antecedent races? 
Can we believe that the Capybara has taken the food of the 
Toxodon, the Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the existing 
small Edentata of their numerous gigantic prototypes? Cer- 
tainly, no fact in the long history of the world is so startling 
as the wide and repeated exterminations of its inhabitants. 

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

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a 
species through man, either wholly or in one limited district, 
we know that it becomes rarer and rarer, and is then lost: 


it would be difficult to point out any just distinction 11 
between a species destroyed by man or by the increase of its 
natural enemies. The evidence of rarity preceding extinc- 
tion, is more striking in the successive tertiary strata, as 
remarked by several able observers ; it has often been found 
that a shell very common in a tertiary stratum is now most 
rare, and has even long been thought to be extinct. If then, 
as appears probable, species first become rare and then 
extinct if the too rapid increase of every species, even the 
most favoured, is steadily checked, as we must admit, though 
how and when it is hard to say and if we see, without the 
smallest surprise, though unable to assign the precise reason, 
one species abundant and another closely allied species rare 
in the same district why should we feel such great aston- 
ishment at the rarity being carried a step further to extinc- 
tion ? An action going on, on every side of us, and yet barely 
appreciable, might surely be carried a little further, without 
exciting our observation. Who would feel any great sur- 
prise at hearing that the Magalonyx was formerly rare com- 
pared with the Megatherium, or that one of the fossil mon- 
keys was few in number compared with one of the now 
living monkeys? and yet in this comparative rarity, we 
should have the plainest evidence of less favourable condi- 
tions for their existence. To admit that species generally 
become rare before they become extinct to feel no surprise 
at the comparative rarity of one species with another, and 
yet to call in some extraordinary agent and to marvel greatly 
when a species ceases to exist, appears to me much the same 
as to admit that sickness in the individual is the prelude 
to death to feel no surprise at sickness but when the sick 
man dies to wonder, and to believe that he died through 

13 See the excellent remarks on this subject by Mr. Lyell, in his Principles 
of Geology. 


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

APRIL ijth, 1834. The Beagle anchored within the 
\ mouth of the Santa Cruz. This river is situated 
about sixty miles south of Port St. Julian. During 
the last voyage Captain Stokes proceeded thirty miles up it, 
but then, from the want of provisions, was obliged to re- 
turn. Excepting what was discovered at that time, scarcely 
anything was known about this large river. Captain Fitz 
Roy now determined to follow its course as far as time 
would allow. On the i8th three whale-boats started, carry- 
ing three weeks' provisions; and the party consisted of 
twenty-five souls a force which would have been sufficient 
to have defied a host of Indians. With a strong flood-tide 
and a fine day we made a good run, soon drank some of the 
fresh water, and were at night nearly above the tidal in- 

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



pebbles, like those which compose the beach and the sur- 
rounding plains. It runs in a winding course through a 
valley, which extends in a direct line westward. This valley 
varies from five to ten miles in breadth ; it is bounded by 
step-formed terraces, which rise in most parts, one above the 
other, to the height of five hundred feet, and have on the 
opposite sides a remarkable correspondence. 

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

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

April 20th. We passed the islands and set to work. Our 
regular day's march, although it was hard enough, carried 
us on an average only ten miles in a straight line, and per- 
haps fifteen or twenty altogether. Beyond the place where 
we slept last night, the country is completely terra incognita, 
for it was there that Captain Stokes turned back. We saw 
in the distance a great smoke, and found the skeleton of a 
horse, so we knew that Indians were in the neighbourhood. 


On the next morning (21 st) tracks of a party of horse, 
and marks left by the trailing of the chuzos, or long spears, 
were observed on the ground. It was generally thought 
that the Indians had reconnoitred us during the night. 
Shortly afterwards we came to a spot where, from the fresh 
footsteps of men, children, and horses, it was evident that 
the party had crossed the river. 

April 22nd. The country remained the same, and was 
extremely uninteresting. The complete similarity of the 
productions throughout Patagonia is one of its most strik- 
ing characters. The level plains of arid shingle support 
the same stunted and dwarf plants; and in the valleys the 
same thorn-bearing bushes grow. Everywhere we see the 
same birds and insects. Even the very banks of the river 
and of the clear streamlets which entered it, were scarcely 
enlivened by a brighter tint of green. The curse of sterility 
is on the land, and the water flowing over a bed of pebbles 
partakes of the same curse. Hence the number of water- 
fowl is very scanty; for there is nothing to support life in 
the stream of this barren river. 

Patagonia, poor as she is in some respects, can however 
boast of a greater stock of small rodents 1 than perhaps any 
other country in the world. Several species of mice are 
externally characterized by large thin ears and a very fine 
fur. These little animals swarm amongst the thickets in the 
valleys, where they cannot for months together taste a drop 
of water excepting the dew. They all seem to be cannibals ; 
for no sooner was a mouse caught in one of my traps than 
it was devoured by others. A small and delicately shaped 
fox, which is likewise very abundant, probably derives its 
entire support from these small animals. The guanaco is 
also in his proper district ; herds of fifty or a hundred were 
common; and, as I have stated, we saw one which must 
have contained at least five hundred. The puma, with the 
condor and other carrion-hawks in its train, follows and 
preys upon these animals. The footsteps of the puma were 
to be seen almost everywhere on the banks of the river; 
and the remains of several guanacos, with their necks 

1 The deserts of Syria are characterized, according to Volney (torn. i. 
p. 35i). by woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles and hares. In the land- 
Scape of Patagonia, the guanaco replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the hare. 



dislocated and bones broken, showed how they had met their 

April 24th. Like the navigators of old when approaching 
an unknown land, we examined and watched for the most 
trivial sign of a change. The drifted trunk of a tree, or a 
boulder of primitive rock, was hailed with joy, as if we had 
seen a forest growing on the flanks of the Cordillera. The 
top, however, of a heavy bank of clouds, which remained 
almost constantly in one position, was the most promising 
sign, and eventually turned out a true harbinger. At first the 
clouds were mistaken for the mountains themselves, instead 
of the masses of vapour condensed by their icy summits. 

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

The basalt is only lava, which has flowed beneath the sea ; 
but the eruptions must have been on the grandest scale. At 
the point where we first met this formation it was 120 feet 
in thickness; following up the river course, the surface 
imperceptibly rose and the mass became thicker, so that at 
forty miles above the first station it was 320 feet thick. 


What the thickness may be close to the Cordillera, I have 
no means of knowing, but the platform there attains a height 
of about three thousand feet above the level of the sea: 
we must therefore look to the mountains of that great chain 
for its source ; and worthy of such a source are streams that 
have flowed over the gently inclined bed of the sea to a 
distance of one hundred miles. At the first glance of the 
basaltic cliffs on the opposite sides of the valley, it was 
evident that the strata once were united. What power, then, 
has removed along a whole line of country, a solid mass of 
very hard rock, which had an average thickness of nearly 
three hundred feet, and a breadth varying from rather less 
than two miles to four miles? The river, though it has so 
little power in transporting even inconsiderable fragments, 
yet in the lapse of ages might produce by its gradual erosion 
an effect of which it is difficult to judge the amount. But 
in this case, independently of the insignificance of such an 
agency, good reasons can be assigned for believing that this 
valley was formerly occupied by an arm of the sea. It is 
needless in this work to detail the arguments leading to this 
conclusion, derived from the form and the nature of the 
step-formed terraces on both sides of the valley, from the 
manner in which the bottom of the valley near the Andes 
expands into a great estuary-like plain with sand-hillocks 
on it, and from the occurrence of a few sea-shells lying in 
the bed of the river. If I had space I could prove that 
South America was formerly here cut off by a strait, joining 
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, like that of Magellan. 
But it may yet be asked, how has the solid basalt been 
moved? Geologists formerly would have brought into play, 
the violent action of some overwhelming debacle ; but in this 
case such a supposition would have been quite inadmissible ; 
because, the same step-like plains with existing sea-shells 
lying on their surface, which front the long line of the Pata- 
gonian coast, sweep up on each side of the valley of Santa 
Cruz. No possible action of any flood could thus have 
modelled the land, either within the valley or along the open 
coast; and by the formation of such step-like plains or ter- 
races the valley itself had been hollowed out. Although we 
know that there are tides, which run within the Narrows 


of the Strait of Magellan at the rate of eight knots an hour, 
yet we must confess that it makes the head almost giddy to 
reflect on the number of years, century after century, which 
the tides, unaided by a heavy surf, must have required to 
have corroded so vast an area and thickness of solid basaltic 
lava. Nevertheless, we must believe that the strata under- 
mined by the waters of this ancient strait, were broken up 
into huge fragments, and these lying scattered on the beach, 
were reduced first to smaller blocks, then to pebbles and 
lastly to the most impalpable mud, which the tides drifted 
far into the Eastern or Western Ocean. 

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

April 2fik. The bed of the river became rather narrower, 
and hence the stream more rapid. It here ran at the rate 
of six knots an hour. From this cause, and from the many 
great angular fragments, tracking the boats became both 
dangerous and laborious. 

This day I shot a condor. It measured from tip to tip 
of the wings, eight and a half feet, and from beak to tail, 
four feet. This bird is known to have a wide geographical 
range, being found on the west coast of South America, 
from the Strait of Magellan along the Cordillera as far as 
eight degrees north of the equator. The steep cliff near the 
mouth of the Rio Negro is its northern limit on the Pata- 
gonian coast; and they have there wandered about four 
hundred miles from the great central line of their habita- 
tion in the Andes. Further south, among the bold preci- 


pices at the head of Port Desire, the condor is not uncom- 
mon; yet only a few stragglers occasionally visit the sea- 
coast. A line of cliff near the mouth of the Santa Cruz is 
frequented by these birds, and about eighty miles up the 
river, where the sides of the valley are formed by steep 
basaltic precipices, the condor reappears. From these facts, 
it seems that the condors require perpendicular cliffs. In 
Chile, they haunt, during the greater part of the year, the 
lower country near the shores of the Pacific, and at night 
several roost together in one tree ; but in the early part of 
summer, they retire to the most inaccessible parts of the 
inner Cordillera, there to breed in peace. 

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the 
country people in Chile, that the condor makes no sort of 
nest, but in the months of November and December lays 
two large white eggs on a shelf of bare rock. It is said that 
the young condors cannot fly for an entire year; and long 
after they are able, they continue to roost by night, and 
hunt by day with their parents. The old birds generally live 
in pairs; but among the inland basaltic cliffs of the Santa 
Cruz, I found a spot, where scores must usually haunt. On 
coming suddenly to the brow of the precipice, it was a grand 
spectacle to see between twenty and thirty of these great 
birds start heavily from their resting-place, and wheel away 
in majestic circles. From the quantity of dung on the rocks, 
they must long have frequented this cliff for roosting and 
breeding. Having gorged themselves with carrion on the 
plains below, they retire to these favourite ledges to digest 
their food. From these facts, the condor, like the gallinazo, 
must to a certain degree be considered as a gregarious bird. 
In this part of the country they live altogether on the guana- 
cos which have died a natural death, or as more commonly 
happens, have been killed by the pumas. I believe, from 
what I saw in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary occa- 
sions extend their daily excursions to any great distance 
from their regular sleeping-places. 

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, 
soaring over a certain spot in the most graceful circles. 
On some occasions I am sure that they do this only for 
pleasure, but on others, the Chileno countryman tells you 


that they are watching a dying animal, or the puma devour- 
ing its prey. If the condors glide down, and then suddenly 
all rise together, the Chileno knows that it is the puma 
which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive away 
the robbers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors fre- 
quently attack young goats and lambs; and the shepherd- 
dogs are trained, whenever they pass over, to run out, and 
looking upwards to bark violently. The Chilenos destroy 
and catch numbers. Two methods are used ; one is to place 
a carcass on a level piece of ground within an enclosure of 
sticks with an opening, and when the condors are gorged, 
to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose 
them: for when this bird has not space to run, it cannot 
give its body sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. 
The second method is to mark the trees in which, frequently 
to the number of five or six together, they roost, and then 
at night to climb up and noose them. They are such heavy 
sleepers, as I have myself witnessed, that this is not a diffi- 
cult task. At Valparaiso, I have seen a living condor sold 
for sixpence, but the common price is eight or ten shillings. 
One which I saw brought in, had been tied with rope, and 
was much injured; yet, the moment the line was cut by 
which its bill was secured, although surrounded by people, 
it began ravenously to tear a piece of carrion. In a garden 
at the same place, between twenty and thirty were kept alive. 
They were fed only once a week, but they appeared in pretty 
good health. 2 The Chileno countrymen assert that the con- 
dor will live, and retain its vigour, between five and six weeks 
without eating: I cannot answer for the truth of this, but 
it is a cruel experiment, which very likely has been tried. 

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

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


mentioned garden the following experiment: the condors 
were tied, each by a rope, in a long row at the bottom of a 
wall; and having folded up a piece of meat in white paper, I 
walked backwards and forwards, carrying it in my hand at 
the distance of about three yards from them, but no notice 
whatever was taken. I then threw it on the ground, within 
one yard of an old male bird ; he looked at it for a moment 
with attention, but then regarded it no more. With a stick 
I pushed it closer and closer, until at last he touched it with 
his beak ; the paper was then instantly torn off with fury, 
and at the same moment, every bird in the long row began 
struggling and flapping its wings. Under the same circum- 
stances, it would have been quite impossible to have deceived 
a dog. The evidence in favour of and against the acute 
smelling powers of carrion-vultures is singularly balanced. 
Professor Owen has demonstrated that the olfactory nerves 
of the turkey-buzzard (Cathartes aura) are highly devel- 
oped; and on the evening when Mr. Owen's paper was read 
at the Zoological Society, it was mentioned by a gentleman 
that he had seen the carrion-hawks in the West Indies on 
two occasions collect on the roof of a house, when a corpse 
had become offensive from not having been buried; in this 
case, the intelligence could hardly have been acquired by 
sight. On the other hand, besides the experiments of Audu- 
bon and that one by myself, Mr. Bachman has tried in the 
United States many varied plans, showing that neither the 
turkey-buzzard (the species dissected by Professor Owen) 
nor the gallinazo find their food by smell. He covered por- 
tions of highly-offensive offal with a thin canvas cloth, and 
strewed pieces of meat on it: these the carrion-vultures ate 
up, and then remained quietly standing, with their beaks 
within the eighth of an inch of the putrid mass, without 
discovering it. A small rent was made in the canvas, and 
the offal was immediately discovered; the canvas was re- 
placed by a fresh piece, and meat again put on it, and was 
again devoured by the vultures without their discovering 
the hidden mass on which they were trampling. These facts 
are attested by the signatures of six gentlemen, besides that 
of Mr. Bachman. 3 

s London's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii. 


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

When the condors are wheeling in a flock round and 
round any spot, their flight is beautiful. Except when rising 
from the ground, I do not recollect ever having seen one 
of these birds flap its wings. Near Lima, I watched several 
for nearly half an hour, without once taking off my eyes: 
they moved in large curves, sweeping in circles, descending 
and ascending without giving a single flap. As they glided 
close over my head, I intently watched from an oblique posi- 
tion, the outlines of the separate and great terminal feathers 
of each wing; and these separate feathers, if there had been 
the least vibratory movement, would have appeared as if 
blended together; but they were seen distinct against the 
blue sky. The head and neck were moved frequently, and 
apparently with force; and the extended wings seemed to 
form the fulcrum on which the movements of the neck, body, 
and tail acted. If the bird wished to descend, the wings 
were for a moment collapsed; and when again expanded 
with an altered inclination, the momentum gained by the 
rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upwards with the 
even and steady movement of a paper kite. In the case of 
any bird soaring, its motion must be sufficiently rapid so 
that the action of the inclined surface of its body on the 
atmosphere may counterbalance its gravity. The force to 
keep up the momentum of a body moving in a horizontal 


plane in the air (in which there is so little friction) cannot 
be great, and this force is all that is wanted. The move- 
ment of the neck and body of the condor, we must suppose, 
is sufficient for this. However this may be, it is truly won- 
derful and beautiful to see so great a bird, hour after hour, 
without any apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over 
mountain and river. 

April zpth. From some high land we hailed with joy 
the white summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen occa- 
sionally peeping through their dusky envelope of clouds. 
During the few succeeding days we continued to get on 
slowly, for we found the river-course very tortuous, and 
strewed with immense fragments of various ancient slaty 
rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley had 
here attained an elevation of about noo feet above the river, 
and its character was much altered. The well-rounded peb- 
bles of porphyry were mingled with many immense angular 
fragments of basalt and of primary rocks. The first of these 
erratic boulders which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles dis- 
tant from the nearest mountain; another which I measured 
was five yards square, and projected five feet above the 
gravel. Its edges were so angular, and its size so great, that 
I at first mistook it for a rock in situ, and took out my com- 
pass to observe the direction of its cleavage. The plain here 
was not quite so level as that nearer the coast, but yet it 
betrayed no signs of any great violence. Under these cir- 
cumstances it is, I believe, quite impossible to explain the 
transportal of these gigantic masses of rock so many miles 
from their parent-source, on any theory except by that of 
floating icebergs. 

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and 
with several small articles which had belonged to the Indians 
such as parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers 
but they appeared to have been lying long on the ground. 
Between the place where the Indians had so lately crossed 
the river and this neighbourhood, though so many miles 
apart, the country appears to be quite unfrequented. At first, 
considering the abundance of the guanacos, I was surprised 
at this ; but it is explained by the stony nature of the plains, 


which would soon disable an unshod horse from taking part 
in the chase. Nevertheless, in two places in this very central 
region, I found small heaps of stones, which I do not think 
could have been accidentally thrown together. They were 
placed on points, projecting over the edge of the highest lava 
cliff, and they resembled, but on a small scale, those near 
Port Desire. 

May 4th. Captain Fitz Roy determined to take the boats 
no higher. The river had a winding course, and was very 
rapid; and the appearance of the country offered no tempta- 
tion to proceed any further. Everywhere we met with the 
same productions, and the same dreary landscape. We were 
now one hundred and forty miles distant from the Atlantic, 
and about sixty from the nearest arm of the Pacific. The 
valley in this upper part expanded into a wide basin, bounded 
on the north and south by the basaltic platforms, and fronted 
by the long range of the snow-clad Cordillera. But we 
viewed these grand mountains with regret, for we were 
obliged to imagine their nature and productions, instead of 
standing, as we had hoped, on their summits. Besides the 
useless loss of time which an attempt to ascend the river any 
higher would have cost us, we had already been for some 
days on half allowance of bread. This, although really 
enough for reasonable men, was, after a hard day's march, 
rather scanty food: a light stomach and an easy digestion 
are good things to talk about, but very unpleasant in practice. 

$th. Before sunrise we commenced our descent. We 
shot down the stream with great rapidity, generally at the 
rate of ten knots an hour. In this one day we effected what 
had cost us five-and-a-half hard days' labour in ascending. 
On the 8th, we reached the Beagle after our twenty-one days' 
expedition. Every one, excepting myself, had cause to be 
dissatisfied; but to me the ascent afforded a most interesting 
section of the great tertiary formation of Patagonia. 

On March ist, 1833," and again on March i6th, 1834, the 
Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island. 
This archipelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with 
the mouth of the Strait of Magellan; it covers a space of 
one hundred and twenty by sixty geographical miles, and is a 


little more than half the size of Ireland. After the posses- 
sion of these miserable islands had been contested by France, 
Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. The gov- 
ernment of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private indi- 
vidual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, 
for a penal settlement. England claimed her right and 
seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge of 
the flag was consequently murdered. A British officer was 
next sent, unsupported by any power : and when we arrived, 
we found him in charge of a population, of which rather 
more than half were runaway rebels and murderers. 

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

i6th. I. will now describe a short excursion which I 
made round a part of this island. In the morning I started 
with six horses and two Gauchos: the latter were capital 
men for the purpose, and well accustomed to living on their 
own resources. The weather was very boisterous and cold, 
with heavy hail-storms. We got on, however, pretty well, 
but, except the geology, nothing could be less interesting 
than our day's ride. The country is uniformly the same 
undulating moorland; the surface being covered by light 
brown withered grass and a few very small shrubs, all 
springing out of an elastic peaty soil. In the valleys here 
and there might be seen a small flock of wild geese, and 
everywhere the ground was so soft that the snipe were able 
to feed. Besides these two birds there were few others. 

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


There is one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet 
in height, and composed of quartz rock, the rugged and bar- 
ren crests of which gave us some trouble to cross. On the 
south side we came to the best country for wild cattle; we 
met, however, no great number, for they had been lately 
much harassed. 

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


If any worthy alderman had supped with us that evening, 
"carne con cuero," without doubt, would soon have been 
celebrated in London. 

During the night it rained, and the next day (i7th) was 
very stormy, with much hail and snow. We rode across the 
island to the neck of land which joins the Rincon del Toro 
(the great peninsula at the S. W. extremity) to the rest of 
the island. From the great number of cows which have 
been killed, there is a large proportion of bulls. These wan- 
der about single, or two and three together, and are very 
savage. I never saw such magnificent beasts; they equalled 
in the size of their huge heads and necks the Grecian marble 
sculptures. Capt. Sulivan informs me that the hide of an 
average-sized bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas a 
hide of this weight, less thoroughly dried, is considered as 
a very heavy one at Monte Video. The young bulls gener- 
ally run away ? for a short distance; but the old ones do not 
stir a step, except to rush at man and horse; and many 
horses have been thus killed. An old bull crossed a boggy 
stream, and took his stand on the opposite side to us; we 
in vain tried to drive him away, and failing, were obliged 
to make a large circuit. The Gauchos in revenge deter- 
mined to emasculate him and render him for the future 
harmless. It was very interesting to see how art completely 
mastered force. One lazo was thrown over his horns as he 
rushed at the horse, and another round his hind legs: in a 
minute the monster was stretched powerless on the ground. 
After the lazo has once been drawn tightly round the horns 
of a furious animal, it does not at first appear an easy thing 
to disengage it again without killing the beast: nor, I ap- 
prehend, would it be so if the man was by himself. By the 
aid, however, of a second person throwing his lazo so as to 
catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed: for the animal, 
as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite help- 
less, and the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo 
from the horns, and then quietly mount his horse; but the 
moment the second man, by backing ever so little, relaxes 
the strain, the lazo slips off the legs of the struggling beast, 
which then rises free, shakes himself, and vainly rushes at 
his antagonist. 


During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild 
horses. These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduced 
by the French in 1764, since which time both have greatly 
increased. It is a curious fact, that the horses have never 
left the eastern end of the island, although there is no natu- 
ral boundary to prevent them from roaming, and that part 
of the island is not more tempting than the rest. The Gau- 
chos whom I asked, though asserting this to be the case, 
were unable to account for it, except from the strong attach- 
ment which horses have to any locality to which they are 
accustomed. Considering that the island does not appear 
fully stocked, and that there are no beasts of prey, I was 
particularly curious to know what has checked their origi- 
nally rapid increase. That in a limited island some check 
would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable; but why has 
the increase of the horse been checked sooner than that of 
the cattle? Capt. Sulivan has taken much pains for me 
in this inquiry. The Gauchos employed here attribute it 
chiefly to the stallions constantly roaming from place to 
place, and compelling the mares to accompany them, whether 
or not the young foals are able to follow. One Gaucho told 
Capt. Sulivan that he had watched a stallion for a whole 
hour, violently kicking and biting a mare till he forced 
her to leave her foal to its fate. Capt. Sulivan can so far 
corroborate this curious account, that he has several times 
found young foals dead, whereas he has never found a dead 
calf. Moreover, the dead bodies of full-grown horses are 
more frequently found, as if more subject to disease or 
accidents, than those of the cattle. From the softness of 
the ground their hoofs often grow irregularly to a great 
length, and this causes lameness. The predominant colours 
are roan and iron-grey. All the horses bred here, both tame 
and wild, are rather small-sized, though generally in good 
condition; and they have lost so much strength, that they 
are unfit to be used in taking wild cattle with the lazo: in 
consequence, it is necessary to go to the great expense of 
importing fresh horses from the Plata. At some future 
period the southern hemisphere probably will have its breed 
of Falkland ponies, as the northern has its Shetland breed. 

The cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horse, 


seem, as before remarked, to have increased in size; and 
they are much more numerous than the horses. Capt. Suli- 
van informs me that they vary much less in the general 
form of their bodies and in the shape of their horns than 
English cattle. In colour they differ much; and it is a re- 
markable circumstance, that in different parts of this one 
small island, different colours predominate. Round Mount 
Usborne, at a height of from 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea, 
about half of some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured, 
a tint which is not common in other parts of the island. 
Near Port Pleasant dark brown prevails, whereas south of 
Choiseul Sound (which almost divides the island into two 
parts), white beasts with black heads and feet are the most 
common: in all parts black, and some spotted animals may 
be observed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, that the difference in 
the prevailing colours was so obvious, that in looking for 
the herds near Port Pleasant, they appeared from a long 
distance like black spots, whilst south of Choiseul Sound 
they appeared like white spots on the hill-sides. Capt. Suli- 
van thinks that the herds do not mingle ; and it is a singular 
fact, that the mouse-coloured cattle, though living on the 
high land, calve about a month earlier in the season than 
the other coloured beasts on the lower land. It is inter- 
esting thus to find the once domesticated cattle breaking 
into three colours, of which some one colour would in all 
probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herds 
were left undisturbed for the next several centuries. 

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced, 
and has succeeded very well ; so that they abound over large 
parts of the island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined 
within certain limits; for they have not crossed the central 
chain of hills, nor would they have extended even so far as 
its base, if, as the Gauchos informed me, small colonies had 
not been carried there. I should not have supposed that 
these animals, natives of northern Africa, could have existed 
in a climate so humid as this, and which enjoys so little 
sunshine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It is 
asserted that in Sweden, which any one would have thought 
a more favourable climate, the rabbit cannot live out of 
doors. The first few pairs, moreover, had here to contend 


against pre-existing enemies, in the fox and some large 
hawks. The French naturalists have considered the black 
variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus. 5 
They imagined that Magellan, when talking of an animal 
under the name of "conejos" in the Strait of Magellan, 
referred to this species ; but he was alluding to a small cavy, 
which to this day is thus called by the Spaniards. The 
Gauchos laughed at the idea of the black kind being differ- 
ent from the grey, and they said that at all events it had 
not extended its range any further than the grey kind; that 
the two were never found separate; and that they readily 
bred together, and produced piebald offspring. Of the latter 
I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the head 
differently from the French specific description. This cir- 
cumstance shows how cautious naturalists should be in 
making species; for even Cuvier, on looking at the skull 
of one of these rabbits, thought it was probably distinct ! 

The only quadruped native to the island 9 is a large wolf- 
like fox (Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East 
and West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species, 
and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers, 
Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these islands, all 
maintain that no such animal is found in any part of South 

Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought that this 
was the same with his "culpeu;" 7 but I have seen both, 
and they are quite distinct. These wolves are well known, 
from Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity, which 
the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistook 
for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same. 
They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull 
some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The 

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

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

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


Gauchos also have frequently in the evening killed them, 
by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other 
a knife ready to stick them. As far. as I am aware, there 
is no other instance in any part of the world, of so small 
a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessing 
so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. Their 
numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished 
from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of 
the neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley 
Sound. Within a very few years after these islands shall 
have become regularly settled, in all probability this fox 
will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has per- 
ished from the face of the earth. 

At night (i7th) we slept on the neck of land at the head 
of Choiseul Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula. 
The valley was pretty well sheltered from the cold wind; 
but there was very little brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos, 
however, soon found what, to my great surprise, made nearly 
as hot a fire as coals; this was the skeleton of a bullock lately 
killed, from which the flesh had been picked by the carrion- 
hawks. They told me that in winter they often killed a 
beast, cleaned the flesh from the bones with their knives, 
and then with these same bones roasted the meat for their 

i8th. It rained during nearly the whole day. At night 
we managed, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep our- 
selves pretty well dry and warm; but the ground on which 
we slept was on each occasion nearly in the state of a bog, 
and there was not a dry spot to sit down on after our day's 
ride. I have in another part stated how singular it is that 
there should be absolutely no trees on these islands, although 
Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest. The 
largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of Com- 
positae) is scarcely so tall as our gorse. The best fuel is 
afforded by a green little bush about the size of common 
heath, which has the useful property of burning while fresh 
and green. It was very surprising to see the Gauchos, in 
the midst of rain and everything soaking wet, with nothing 
more than a tinder-box and a piece of rag, immediately make 
a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass and bushes 


for a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres; then 
surrounding them with coarser twigs, something like a bird's 
nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire in the middle 
and covered it up. The nest being then held up to the 
wind, by degrees it smoked more and more, and at last 
burst out in flames. I do not think any other method would 
have had a chance of succeeding with such damp materials. 

ipth. Each morning, from not having ridden for some 
time previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear 
the Gauchos, who have from infancy almost lived on horse- 
back, say thai, under similar circumstances, they always 
suffer. St. Jago told me, that having been confined for three 
months by illness, he went out hunting wild cattle, and in 
consequence, for the next two days, his thighs were so stiff 
that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that the Gau- 
chos, although they do not appear to do so, yet really must 
exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting wild 
cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this is on account 
of the swampy ground, must be very hard work. The 
Gauchos say they often pass at full speed over ground which 
would be impassable at a slower pace; in the same manner 
as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When hunting, the 
party endeavours to get as close as possible to the herd with- 
out being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair of 
the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as many 
cattle, which, when once entangled, are left for some days, 
till they become a little exhausted by hunger and struggling. 
They are then let free and driven towards a small herd of 
tame animals, which have been brought to the spot on pur- 
pose. From their previous treatment, being too much ter- 
rified to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if their 
strength last out, to the settlement. 

The weather continued so very bad that we determined 
to make a push, and try to reach the vessel before night. 
From the quantity of rain which had fallen, the surface 
of the whole country was swampy. I suppose my horse fell 
at least a dozen times, and sometimes the whole six horses 
were floundering in the mud together. All the little streams 
are bordered by soft peat, which makes it very difficult for 
the horses to leap them without falling. To complete our 


discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of a creek 
of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses' 
backs; and the little waves, owing to the violence of the 
wind, broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Even 
the iron-framed Gauchos professed themselves glad when 
they reached the settlement, after our little excursion. 

The geological structure of these islands is in most 
respects simple. The lower country consists of clay-slate 
and sandstone, containing fossils, very closely related to, but 
not identical with, those found in the Silurian formations 
of Europe; the hills are formed of white granular quartz 
rock. The strata of the latter are frequently arched with 
perfect symmetry, and the appearance of some of the masses 
is in consequence most singular. Pernety 8 has devoted 
several pages to the description of a Hill of Ruins, the 
successive strata of which he has justly compared to the 
seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have been 
quite pasty when it underwent such remarkable flexures 
without being shattered into fragments. As the quartz 
insensibly passes into the sandstone, it seems probable that 
the former owes its origin to the sandstone having been 
heated to such a degree that it became viscid, and upon cool- 
ing crystallized. While in the soft state it must have been 
pushed up through the overlying beds. 

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys are 
covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great 
loose angular fragments of the quartz rock, forming " streams 
of stones." These have been mentioned with surprise by 
every voyager since the time of Pernety. The blocks are 
not waterworn, their angles being only a little blunted; they 
vary in size from one or two feet in diameter to ten, or even 
more than twenty times as much. They are not thrown 
together into irregular piles, but are spread out into level 
sheets or great streams. It is not possible to ascertain their 
thickness, but the water of small streamlets can be heard 
trickling through the stones many feet below the surface. 
The actual depth is probably great, because the crevices 
between the lower fragments must long ago have been filled 

8 Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouines, p. 526. 


up with sand. The width of these sheets of stones varies 
from a few hundred feet to a mile; but the peaty soil daily 
encroaches on the borders, and even forms islets wherever 
a few fragments happen to lie close together. In a valley 
south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our party called 
the " great valley of fragments," it was necessary to cross 
an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from 
one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments, 
that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily found 
shelter beneath one of them. 

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

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one 
range (about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched frag- 
ment, lying on its convex side, or back downwards. Must 
we believe that it was fairly pitched up in the air, and thus 
turned? Or, with more probability, that there existed for- 
merly a part of the same range more elevated than the point 


on which this monument of a great convulsion of nature now 
lies. As the fragments in the valleys are neither rounded 
nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that the 
period of violence was subsequent to the land having been 
raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse section 
within these valleys, the bottom is nearly level, or rises but 
very little towards either side. Hence the fragments appear 
to have travelled from the head of the valley; but in reality 
it seems more probable that they have been hurled down from 
the nearest slopes; and that since, by a vibratory movement 
of overwhelming force," the fragments have been levelled 
into one continuous sheet. If during the earthquake 10 which 
in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, in Chile, it was thought won- 
derful that small bodies should have been pitched a few 
inches from the ground, what must we say to a movement 
which has caused fragments many tons in weight, to move 
onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, and find 
their level? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the 
evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broken 
into pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata thrown on 
their vertical edges; but never did any scene, like these 
" streams of stones," so forcibly convey to my mind the idea 
of a convulsion, of which in historical records we might in 
vain seek for any counterpart : yet the progress of knowledge 
will probably some day give a simple explanation of this 
phenomenon, as it already has of the so long-thought inexpli- 
cable transportal of the erratic boulders, which are strewed 
over the plains of Europe. 

I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. I 
have before described the carrion-vulture of Polyborus. 
There are some other hawks, owls, and a few small land- 
birds. The water-fowl are particularly numerous, and they 
must formerly, from the accounts of the old navigators, 
have been much more so. One day I observed a cormorant 
playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times suc- 

' " Nous n'ayons pas etc tnoins saisis d'etonnement a la vue de 1'innom- 
brable quantite de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur 
les autres, et cependant _ rangees, comme si elles avoient etc amqncelees 
negligemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'adrairer les 
effets prpdigieux de la nature." Pernety, p. 526. 

10 An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, assured 
me that, during the several years he had resided on these islands, he had 
ever felt the slightest shock of an earthquake. 


cessively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, and 
although in deep water, brought it each time to the surface. 
In the Zoological Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fish 
in the same manner, much as a cat does a mouse: I do not 
know of any other instance where dame Nature appears so 
wilfully cruel. Another day, having placed myself between 
a penguin (Aptenodytes demersa) and the water, I was much 
amused by watching its habits. It was a brave bird ; and till 
reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me backwards. 
Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him ; every 
inch he gained he firmly kept, standing close before me erect 
and determined. When thus opposed he continually rolled 
his head from side to side, in a very odd manner, as if the 
power of distinct vision lay only in the anterior and basal 
part of each eye. This bird is commonly called the jackass 
penguin, from its habit, while on shore, of throwing its head 
backwards, and making a loud strange noise, very like the 
braying of an ass ; but while at sea, and undisturbed, its note 
is very deep and solemn, and is often heard in the night-time. 
In diving, its little wings are used as fins ; but on the land, as 
front legs. When crawling, it may be said on four legs, 
through the tussocks or on the side of a grassy cliff, it moves 
so very quickly that it might easily be mistaken for a quadru- 
ped. When at sea and fishing, it comes to the surface for 
the purpose of breathing with such a spring, and dives again 
so instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to be 
sure that it was not a fish leaping for sport. 

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

The rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on the 
sea-beach (Anas antarctica), is common both here and on 
the west coast of America, as far north as Chile. In the deep 
and retired channels of Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white 
gander, invariably accompanied by his darker consort, and 


standing close by each other on some distant rocky point, is 
a common feature in the landscape. 

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

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

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Falkland Islands, I 
made many observations on the lower marine animals," but 

11 1 was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris 
(this sea-slug was three and a half inches long), how extraordinarily nu- 
merous they were. From two to five eggs (each three-thousandths of an 
inch in diameter) were contained in a spherical little case. These were 
arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon 
adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, 
measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By count- 
ing how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and 
how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate com- 
putation there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly 


they are of little general interest. I will mention only one 
class of facts, relating to certain zoophytes in the more highly 
organized division of that class. Several genera (Flustra, 
Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) agree in having singu- 
lar moveable organs (like those of Flustra avicularia, found 
in the European seas) attached to their cells. The organ, in 
the greater number of cases, very closely resembles the head 
of a vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened much 
wider than in a real bird's beak. The head itself possesses 
considerable powers of movement, by means of a short neck. 
In one zoophyte the head itself was fixed, but the lower jaw 
free : in another it was replaced by a triangular hood, with a 
beautifully-fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to the 
lower mandible. In the greater number of species, each cell 
was provided with one head, but in others each cell had two. 

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

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

not very common; although I was often searching under the stones, I saw 
only seven individuals. No fallacy is more common with naturalists, than 
that the numbers of an individual species depend on its powers of propagation. 


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

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

The examination of these compound animals was always 
very interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than 
to see a plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swim- 
ming about and of choosing a proper place to adhere to, 
which then sprouts into branches, each crowded with innu- 
merable distinct animals, often of complicated organizations ? 
The branches, moreover, as we have just seen, sometimes 
possess organs capable of movement and independent of the 
polypi. Surprising as this union of separate individuals in a 
common stock must always appear, every tree displays the 


same fact, for buds must be considered as individual plants. 
It is, however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished with 
a mouth, intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual, 
whereas the individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised ; 
so that the union of separate individuals in a common body 
is more striking in a coralline than in a tree. Our concep- 
tion of a compound animal, where in some respects the indi- 
viduality of each is not completed, may be aided, by reflecting 
on the production of two distinct creatures by bisecting a 
single one with a knife, or where Nature herself performs 
the task of bisection. We may consider the polypi in a 
zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the division 
of the individual has not been completely effected. Certainly 
in the case of trees, and judging from analogy in that of 
corallines, the individuals propagated by buds seem more 
intimately related to each other, than eggs or seeds are to 
their parents. It seems now pretty well established that 
plants propagated by buds all partake of a common duration 
of life; and it is familiar to every one, what singular and 
numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty, by 
buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation never 
or only casually reappear. 



Tierra del Fuego, first arrival Good Success Bay An Account of 
the Fuegians on board Interview with the Savages Scenery of 
the Forests Cape Horn Wigwam Cove Miserable Condition of 
the Savages Famines Cannibals Matricide Religious Feelings 

Great Gale Beagle Channel Ponsonby Sound Build Wig- 
wams and settle the Fuegians Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel 

Glaciers Return to the Ship Second Visit in the Ship to 
the Settlement Equality of Condition amongst the Natives. 

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

In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate 
with the Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the 



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

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

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of 
their countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After 
we had presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they 
immediately tied round their necks, they became good friends. 
This was shown by the old man patting our breasts, 
and making a chuckling kind of noise, as people do when 
feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, and this dem- 
onstration of friendship was repeated several times; it was 
concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on the 
breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom 


for me to return the compliment, which being done, he 
seemed highly pleased. The language of these people, 
according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called artic- 
ulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his 
throat, but certainly no European ever cleared his throat 
with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds. 

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

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

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on 
board. During the former voyage of the Adventure and 
Beagle in 1826 to 1830, Captain Fitz Roy seized on a party 


of natives, as hostages for the loss of a boat, which had 
been stolen, to the great jeopardy of a party employed on 
the survey; and some of these natives, as well as a child 
whom he bought for a pearl-button, he took with him to 
England, determining to educate them and instruct them in 
religion at his own expense. To settle these natives in their 
own country, was one chief inducement to Captain Fitz Roy 
to undertake our present voyage; and before the Admiralty 
had resolved to send out this expedition, Captain Fitz Roy 
had generously chartered a vessel, and would himself have 
taken them back. The natives were accompanied by a mis- 
sionary, R. Matthews ; of whom and of the natives, Captain 
Fitz Roy has published a full and excellent account. Two 
men, one of whom died in England of the small-pox, a boy 
and a little girl, were originally taken ; and we had now on 
board, York Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses 
his purchase-money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster 
was a full-grown, short, thick, powerful man : his disposition 
was reserved, taciturn, morose, and when excited violently 
passionate; his affections were very strong towards a few 
friends on board; his intellect good. Jemmy Button was a 
universal favourite, but likewise passionate; the expression 
of his face at once showed his nice disposition. He was 
merry and often laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic 
with any one in pain : when the water was rough, I was often 
a little searsick, and he used to come to me and say in a 
plaintive voice, " Poor, poor fellow ! " but the notion, after 
his aquatic life, of a man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous, 
and he was generally obliged to turn on one side to hide a 
smile or laugh, and then he would repeat his " Poor, poor 
fellow! " He was of a patriotic disposition; and he liked to 
praise his own tribe and country, in which he truly said there 
were " plenty of trees," and he abused all the other tribes : 
he stoutly declared that there was no Devil in his land. 
Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his personal 
appearance; he used always to wear gloves, his hair was 
neatly cut, and he was distressed if his well-polished shoes 
were dirtied. He was fond of admiring himself in a looking 
glass; and a merry-faced little Indian boy from the Rio 
Negro, whom we had for some months on board, soon per- 


ceived this, and used to mock him : Jemmy, who was always 
rather jealous of the attention paid to this little boy, did not 
at all like this, and used to say, with rather a contemptuous 
twist of his head, " Too much skylark." It seems yet wonder- 
ful to me, when I think over all his many good qualities, 
that he should have been of the same race, and doubtless 
partaken of the same character, with the miserable, degraded 
savages whom we first met here. Lastly, Fuegia Basket was 
a nice, modest, reserved young girl, with a rather pleasing but 
sometimes sullen expression, and very quick in learning any- 
thing, especially languages. This she showed in picking up 
some Portuguese and Spanish, when left on shore for only 
a short time at Rio de Janeiro and Monte Video, and in her 
knowledge of English. York Minster was very jealous of 
any attention paid to her; for it was clear he determined to 
marry her as soon as they were settled on shore. 

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

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, 
when we landed, towards Jemmy Button: they immediately 
perceived the difference between him and ourselves, and held 


much conversation one with another on the subject. The 
old man addressed a long harangue to Jemmy, which it 
seems was to invite him to stay with them. But Jemmy 
understood very little of their language, and was, moreover, 
thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. When York Min- 
ster afterwards came on shore, they noticed him in the 
same way, and told him he ought to shave; yet he had not 
twenty dwarf hairs on his face, whilst we all wore our un- 
trimmed beards. They examined the colour of his skin, and 
compared it with ours. One of our arms being bared, they 
expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration at its white- 
ness, just in the same way in which I have seen the ourang- 
outang do at the Zoological Gardens. We thought that they 
mistook two or three of the officers, who were rather shorter 
and fairer, though adorned with large beards, for the ladies 
of our party. The tallest amongst the Fuegians was evi- 
dently much pleased at his height being noticed. When 
placed back to back with the tallest of the boat's crew, he 
tried his best to edge on higher ground, and to stand on 
tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his teeth, and turned 
his face for a side view; and all this was done with such 
alacrity, that I dare say he thought himself the handsomest 
man in Tierra del Fuego. After our first feeling of grave 
astonishment was over, nothing could be more ludicrous 
than the odd mixture of surprise and imitation which these 
savages every moment exhibited. 

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the 
country. Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountain- 
ous land, partly submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets 
and bays occupy the place where valleys should exist. The 
mountain sides, except on the exposed western coast, are 
covered from the water's edge upwards by one great forest. 
The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000 and 1500 
feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute alpine 
plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual 
snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of 
Magellan descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet To find 
an acre of level land in any part of the country is most rare. 
I recollect only one little flat piece near Port Famine, and 


another of rather larger extent near Goeree Road. In both 
places, and everywhere else, the surface is covered by a 
thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the forest, the 
ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying vegetable 
matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to the 

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the 
wood, I followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, 
from the waterfalls and number of dead trees, I could hardly 
crawl along; but the bed of the stream soon became a little 
more open, from the floods having swept the sides. I con- 
tinued slowly to advance for an hour along the broken and 
rocky banks, and was amply repaid by the grandeur of the 
scene. The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded with 
the universal signs of violence. On every side were lying 
irregular masses of rock and torn-up trees; other trees, 
though still erect, were decayed to the heart and ready to 
fall. The entangled mass of the thriving and the fallen 
reminded me of the forests within the tropics yet there was 
a difference: for in these still solitudes, Death, instead of 
Life, seemed the predominant spirit. I followed the water- 
course till I came to a spot where a great slip had cleared a 
straight space down the mountain side. By this road I 
ascended to a considerable elevation, and obtained a good 
view of the surrounding woods. The trees all belong to 
one kind, the Fagus betuloides ; for the number of the other 
species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark, is quite incon- 
siderable. This beech keeps its leaves throughout the year; 
but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green colour, with 
a tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape is thus coloured, 
it has a sombre, dull appearance; nor is it often enlivened 
by the rays of the sun. 

December zoth. One side of the harbour is formed by a 
hill about 1500 feet high, which Captain Fitz Roy has called 
after Sir J. Banks, in commemoration of his disastrous 
excursion, which proved fatal to two men of his party, and 
nearly so to Dr. Solander. The snowstorm, which was the 
cause of their misfortune, happened in the middle of Janu- 
ary, corresponding to our July, and in the latitude of Dur- 
ham ! I was anxious to reach the summit of this mountain 
VOL. xxix H HC 


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

A ridge connected this hill with another, distant some 
miles, and more lofty, so that patches of snow were lying 
on it. As the day was not far advanced, I determined to 
walk there and collect plants along the road. It would have 
been very hard work, had it not been for a well-beaten and 
straight path made by the guanacos; for these animals, like 
sheep, always follow the same line. When we reached the 
hill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood, 
and the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We 
obtained a wide view over the surrounding country: to the 
north a swampy moorland extended, but to the south we 
had a scene of savage magnificence, well becoming Tierra 
del Fuego. There was a degree of mysterious grandeur 
in mountain behind mountain, with the deep intervening 
valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of forest. The 
atmosphere, likewise, in this climate, where gale succeeds 
gale, with rain, hail, and sleet, seems blacker than anywhere 
else. In the Strait of Magellan looking due southward from 
Port Famine, the distant channels between the mountains 
appeared from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines 
of this world. 

December 2ist. The Beagle got under way: and on the 
succeeding day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine 
easterly breeze, we closed in with the Barnevelts, and run- 
ning past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three 
o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape Horn. The evening 
was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the sur- 


rounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, 
and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. 
We stood out to sea, and on the second day again made the 
land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious prom- 
ontory in its proper form veiled in a mist, and its dim 
outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water. Great 
black clouds were rolling across the heavens, and squalls 
of rain, with hail, swept by us with such extreme violence, 
that the Captain determined to run into Wigwam Cove. 
This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape Horn ; and 
here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water. The 
only thing which reminded us of the gale outside, was every 
now and then a puff from the mountains, which made the 
ship surge at her anchors. 

December 25th. Close by the Cove, a pointed hill, called 
Kater's Peak, rises to the height of 1700 feet. The sur- 
rounding islands all consist of conical masses of greenstone, 
associated sometimes with less regular hills of baked and 
altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra del Fuego may be 
considered as the extremity of the submerged chain of 
mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of 
" Wigwam " from some of the Fuegian habitations ; but every 
bay in the neighbourhood might be so called with equal 
propriety. The inhabitants, living chiefly upon shell-fish, are 
obliged constantly to change their place of residence ; but 
they return at intervals to the same spots, as is evident from 
the piles of old shells, which must often amount to many 
tons in weight. These heaps can be distinguished at a long 
distance by the bright green colour of certain plants, which 
invariably grow on them. Among these may be enumerated 
the wild celery and scurvy grass, two very serviceable plants, 
the use of which has not been discovered by the natives. 

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, 
a haycock. It merely consists of a few broken branches 
stuck in the ground, and very imperfectly thatched on one 
side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot 
be the work of an hour, and it is only used for a few days. 
At Goeree Roads I saw a place where one of these naked 
men had slept, which absolutely offered no more cover than 
the form of a hare. The man was evidently living by him- 


self, and York Minster said he was "very bad man," and 
that probably he had stolen something. On the west coast, 
however, the wigwams are rather better, for they are covered 
with seal-skins. We were detained here several days by the 
bad weather. The climate is certainly wretched: the sum- 
mer solstice was now passed, yet every day snow fell on the 
hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accompanied by 
sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45, but in 
the night fell to 38 or 40. From the damp and boisterous 
state of the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of sun- 
shine, one fancied the climate even worse than it really was. 
While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we 
pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the 
most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On 
the east coast the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco 
cloaks, and on the west they possess seal-skins. Amongst 
these central tribes the men generally have an otter-skin, or 
some small scrap about as large as a pocket-handkerchief, 
which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as low down 
as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and 
according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side. 
But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even 
one full-grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining 
heavily, and the fresh water, together with the spray, trickled 
down her body. In another harbour not far distant, a 
woman, who was suckling a recently-born child, came one 
day alongside the vessel, and remained there out of mere 
curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her naked 
bosom, and on the skin of her naked baby ! These poor 
wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces 
bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, 
their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their ges- 
tures violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make one's 
self believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants 
of the same world. It is a common subject of conjecture 
what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can enjoy: 
how much more reasonably the same question may be asked 
with respect to these barbarians ! At night, five or six 
human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind 
and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet 


ground coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low water, 
winter or summer, night or day, they must rise to pick shell- 
fish from the rocks; and the women either dive to collect 
sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited 
hair-line without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is 
killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale is discovered, 
it is a feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few 
tasteless berries and fungi. 

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


as such a death by the hands of their friends and relatives 
must be, the fears of the old women, when hunger begins 
to press, are more painful to think of; we are told that they 
then often run away into the mountains, but that they are 
pursued by the men and brought back to the slaughter-house 
at their own firesides ! 

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


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

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

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have 
they come ? What could have tempted, or what change com- 
pelled a tribe of men, to leave the fine regions of the north, 
to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of America, to 


invent and build canoes, which are not used by the tribes 
of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, and then to enter on one of the 
most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe? 
Although such reflections must at first seize on the mind, yet 
we may feel sure that they are partly erroneous. There is 
no reason to believe that the Fuegians decrease in number; 
therefore we must suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share 
of happiness, of whatever kind it may be, to render life 
worth having. Nature by making habit omnipotent, and its 
effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and 
the productions of his miserable country. 

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by 
very bad weather, we put to sea on the 3Oth of December. 
Captain Fitz Roy wished to get westward to land York and 
Fuegia in their own country. When at sea we had a constant 
succession of gales, and the current was against us: we 
drifted to 57 23' south. On the nth of January, 1833, by 
carrying a press of sail, we fetched within a few miles of 
the great rugged mountain of York Minster (so called by 
Captain Cook, and the origin of the name of the elder Fu- 
egian), when a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail 
and stand out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on 
the coast, and the spray was carried over a cliff estimated 
to 200 feet in height. On the I2th the gale was very heavy, 
and we did not know exactly where we were : it was a most 
unpleasant sound to hear constantly repeated, " keep a good 
look-out to leeward." On the i3th the storm raged with its 
full fury: our horizon was narrowly limited by the sheets 
of spray borne by the wind. The sea looked ominous, like 
a dreary waving plain with patches of drifted snow: whilst 
the ship laboured heavily, the albatross glided with its ex- 
panded wings right up the wind. At noon a great sea broke 
over us, and filled one of the whale boats, which was 
obliged to be instantly cut away. The poor Beagle trembled 
at the shock, and for a few minutes would not obey her helm ; 
but soon, like a good ship that she was, she righted and came 
up to the wind again. Had another sea followed the first, 
our fate would have been decided soon, and for ever. We 
had now been twenty-four days trying in vain to get west- 


ward ; the men were worn out with fatigue, and they had not 
had for many nights or days a dry thing to put on. Captain 
Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get westward by the outside 
coast. In the evening we ran in behind False Cape Horn, 
and dropped our anchor in forty-seven fathoms, fire flashing 
from the windlass as the chain rushed round it. How de- 
lightful was that still night, after having been so long in- 
volved in the din of the warring elements ! 

January i^th, 1833. The Beagle anchored in Goeree 
Roads. Captain Fitz Roy having resolved to settle the Fu- 
egians, according to their wishes, in Ponsonby Sound, four 
boats were equipped to carry them there through the Beagle 
Channel. This channel, which was discovered by Captain 
Fitz Roy during the last voyage, is a most remarkable feature 
in the geography of this, or indeed of any other country: it 
may be compared to the valley of Lochness in Scotland, with 
its chain of lakes and friths. It is about one hundred and 
twenty miles long, with an average breadth, not subject to 
any very great variation, of about two miles ; and is through- 
out the greater part so perfectly straight, that the view, 
bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually be- 
comes indistinct in the long distance. It crosses the south- 
ern part of Tierra del Fuego in an east and west line, and 
in the middle is joined at right angles on the south side by 
an irregular channel, which has been called Ponsonby Sound. 
This is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and family. 

igih. Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of 
twenty-eight, started under the command of Captain Fitz 
Roy. In the afternoon we entered the eastern mouth of the 
channel, and shortly afterwards found a snug little cove 
concealed by some surrounding islets. Here we pitched our 
tents and lighted our fires. Nothing could look more com- 
fortable than this scene. The glassy water of the little har- 
bour, with the branches of the trees hanging over the rocky 
beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed 
oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a 
picture of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smooth- 
ly glided onwards in our little fleet, and came to a more in- 
habited district. Few if any of these natives could ever 
have seen a white man ; certainly nothing could exceed their 


astonishment at the apparition of the four boats. Fires were 
lighted on every point (hence the name of Tierra del Fuego, 
or the land of fire), both to attract our attention and to 
spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran for 
miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and 
savage one group appeared : suddenly four or five men came 
to the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely 
naked, and their long hair streamed about their faces; they 
held rugged staffs in their hands, and, springing from the 
ground, they waved their arms round their heads, and sent 
forth the most hideous yells. 

At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. 
At first they were not inclined to be friendly; for until the 
Captain pulled in ahead of the other boats, they kept their 
slings in their hands. We soon, however, delighted them by 
trifling presents, such as tying red tape round their heads. 
They liked our biscuit: but one of the savages touched with 
his finger some of the meat preserved in tin cases which I 
was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, showed as much dis- 
gust at it, as I should have done at putrid blubber. Jemmy 
was thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen, and declared his 
own tribe were quite different, in which he was wofully mis- 
taken. It was as easy to please as it was difficult to satisfy 
these savages. Young and old, men and children, never 
ceased repeating the word " yammerschooner," which means 
"give me." After pointing to almost every object, one after 
the other, even to the buttons on our coats, and saying their 
favourite word in as many intonations as possible, they would 
then use it in a neuter sense, and vacantly repeat "yammer- 
schooner." After yammerschoonering for any article very 
eagerly, they would by a simple artifice point to their young 
women or little children, as much as to say, "If you will 
not give it me, surely you will to such as these." 

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited 
cove; and at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a 
party of natives. They were very inoffensive as long as they 
were few in numbers, but in the morning (2ist) being joined 
by others they showed symptoms of hostility, and we thought 
that we should have come to a skirmish. An European 
labours under great disadvantages when treating with sav- 


ages like these, who have not the least idea of the power of 
fire-arms. In the very act of levelling his musket he appears 
to the savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and 
arrow, a spear, or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them 
our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild 
beasts, they do not appear to compare numbers ; for each in- 
dividual, if attacked, instead of retiring, will endeavour to 
dash your brains out with a stone, as certainly as a tiger 
under similar circumstances would tear you. Captain Fitz 
Roy on one occasion being very anxious, from good reasons, 
to frighten away a small party, first flourished a cutlass near 
them, at which they only laughed; he then twice fired his 
pistol close to a native. The man both times looked as- 
tounded, and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then 
stared awhile, and gabbled to his companions, but he never 
seemed to think of running away. We can hardly put our- 
selves in the position of these savages, and understand their 
actions. In the case of this Fuegian, the possibility of such 
a sound as the report of a gun close to his ear could never 
have entered his mind. He perhaps literally did not for a 
second know whether it was a sound or a blow, and there- 
fore very naturally rubbed his head. In a similar manner, 
when a savage sees a mark struck by a bullet, it may be some 
time before he is able at all to understand how it is effected ; 
for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity would 
perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover, 
the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates a hard sub- 
stance without tearing it, may convince the savage that it 
has no force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages 
of the lowest grade, such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have 
seen objects struck, and even small animals killed by the 
musket, without being in the least aware how deadly an in- 
strument it is. 

22nd. After having passed an unmolested night, in what 
would appear to be neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe 
and the people whom we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly 
along. I do not know anything which shows more clearly 
the hostile state of the different tribes, than these wide border 
or neutral tracts. Although Jemmy Button well knew the 
iproe of our party, he was, at first, unwilling to land amidsf 


the hostile tribe nearest to his own. He often told us how 
the savage Oens men " when the leaf red," crossed the moun- 
tains from the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego, and made 
inroads on the natives of this part of the country. It was 
most curious to watch him when thus talking, and see his 
eyes gleaming and his whole face assume a new and wild 
expression. As we proceeded along the Beagle Channel, the 
scenery assumed a peculiar and very magnificent character; 
but the effect was much lessened from the lowness of the 
point of view in a boat, and from looking along the valley, 
and thus losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. The 
mountains were here about three thousand feet high, and 
terminated in sharp and jagged points. They rose in one 
unbroken sweep from the water's edge, and were covered to 
the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet by the dusky- 
coloured forest. It was most curious to observe, as far as 
the eye could range, how level and truly horizontal the line 
on the mountain side was, at which trees ceased to grow : it 
precisely resembled the high-water mark of drift-weed on a 

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

During the night the news had spread, and early in the 
morning (23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Teke- 
nika, or Jemmy's tribe. Several of them had run so fast that 
their noses were bleeding, and their mouths frothed from 
the rapidity with which they talked; and with their naked 
bodies all bedaubed with black, white, 1 and red, they looked 

1 This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific 

gravity: Professor Ehrenberg has examined it: he states (Konig Akad. 
er Wissen: Berlin, Feb. 1845) that it is composed of infusoria, including 
fourteen polygastrica, and four phytolitharia. He says that they are all 


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

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

The next morning after our arrival (the 24th) the Fu- 
egians began to pour in, and Jemmy's mother and brothers 
arrived. Jemmy recognised the stentorian voice of one of 
his brothers at a prodigious distance. The meeting was less 
interesting than that between a horse, turned out into a field, 
when he joins an old companion. There was no demonstra- 
tion of affection; they simply stared for a short time at 
each other; and the mother immediately went to look after 

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


her canoe. We heard, however, through York that the 
mother has been inconsolable for the loss of Jemmy, and had 
searched everywhere for him, thinking that he might have 
been left after having been taken in the boat. The women 
took much notice of and were very kind to Fuegia. We had 
already perceived that Jemmy had almost forgotten his own 
language. I should think there was scarcely another human 
being with so small a stock of language, for his English was 
very imperfect. It was laughable, but almost pitiable, to 
hear him speak to his wild brother in English, and then ask 
him in Spanish ("no sabe?") whether he did not under- 
stand him. 

Everything went on peaceably during the three next days, 
whilst the gardens were digging and wigwams building. We 
estimated the number of natives at about one hundred and 
twenty. The women worked hard, whilst the men lounged 
about all day long, watching us. They asked for everything 
they saw, and stole what they could. They were delighted 
at our dancing and singing, and were particularly interested 
at seeing us wash in a neighbouring brook ; they did not pay 
much attention to anything else, not even to our boats. Of 
all the things which York saw, during his absence from his 
country, nothing seems more to have astonished him than 
an ostrich, near Maldonado : breathless with astonishment, 
he came running to Mr. Bynoe, with whom he was out walk- 
ing " Oh, Mr. Bynoe, oh, bird all same horse ! " Much as 
our white skins surprised the natives, by Mr. Low's account 
a negro-cook to a sealing vessel, did so more effectually ; and 
the poor fellow was so mobbed and shouted at that he would 
never go on shore again. Everything went on so quietly, 
that some of the officers and myself took long walks in the 
surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, however, on the 
27th, every woman and child disappeared. We were all un- 
easy at this, as neither York nor Jemmy could make out 
the cause. It was thought by some that they had been fright- 
ened by our cleaning and firing off our muskets on the pre- 
vious evening ; by others, that it was owing to offence taken 
by an old savage, who, when told to keep further off, had 
coolly spit in the sentry's face, and had then, by gestures 
acted over a sleeping Fuegian, plainly showed, as it was said, 


that he should like to cut up and eat our man. Captain 
Fitz Roy, to avoid the chance of an encounter, which would 
have been fatal to so many of the Fuegians, thought it ad- 
visable for us to sleep at a cove a few miles distant. Mat- 
thews, with his usual quiet fortitude (remarkable in a man 
apparently possessing little energy of character), determined 
to stay with the Fuegians, who evinced no alarm for them- 
selves ; and so we left them to pass their first awful night. 

On our return in the morning (28th) we were delighted 
to find all quiet, and the men employed in their canoes 
spearing fish. Captain Fitz Roy determined to send the 
yawl and one whale-boat back to the ship ; and to proceed 
with the two other boats, one under his own command (in 
which he most kindly allowed me to accompany him), and 
one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the western parts of 
the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to return and visit the 
settlement. The day to our astonishment was overpower- 
ingly hot, so that our skins were scorched: with this beau- 
tiful weather, the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel 
was very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no ob- 
ject intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal be- 
tween the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm 
of the sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales' 
spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw two 
of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly swim- 
ming one after the other, within less than a stone's throw 
of the shore, over which the beech-tree extended its branches. 

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

It was my watch till one o'clock. There is something 
very solemn in these scenes. At no time does the conscious- 
ness in what a remote corner of the world you are then 

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


standing, come so strongly before the mind. Everything 
tends to this effect; the stillness of the night is interrupted 
only by the heavy breathing of the seamen beneath the tents, 
and sometimes by the cry of a night-bird. The occasional 
barking of a dog, heard in the distance, reminds one that it 
is the land of the savage. 

January zpth. Early in the morning we arrived at the 
point where the Beagle Channel divides into two arms; and 
we entered the northern one. The scenery here becomes 
even grander than before. The lofty mountains on the north 
side compose the granitic axis, or backbone of the country, 
and boldly rise to a height of between three and four thou- 
sand feet, with one peak above six thousand feet. They are 
covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous 
cascades pour their waters, through the woods, into the nar- 
row channel below. In many parts, magnificent glaciers ex- 
tend from the mountain side to the water's edge. It is 
scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than 
the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as con- 
trasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow. 
The fragments which had fallen from the glacier into the 
water were floating away, and the channel with its icebergs 
presented, for the space of a mile, a miniature likeness of 
the Polar Sea. The boats being hauled on shore at our 
dinner-hour, we were admiring from the distance of half a 
mile a perpendicular cliff of ice, and were wishing that some 
more fragments would fall. At last, down came a mass with 
a roaring noise, and immediately we saw the smooth outline 
of a wave travelling towards us. The men ran down as 
quickly as they could to the boats; for the chance of their 
being dashed to pieces was evident. One of the seamen just 
caught hold of the bows, as the curling breaker reached it: 
he was knocked over and over, but not hurt; and the boats, 
though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received no 
damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a 
hundred miles distant from the ship, and we should have 
been left without provisions or fire-arms. I had previously 
observed that some large fragments of rock on the beach had 
been lately displaced; but until seeing this wave, I did not 
understand the cause. One side of the creek was formed 


by a spur of mica-slate; the head by a cliff of ice about 
forty feet high; and the other side by a promontory fifty 
feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments of granite 
and mica-slate, out of which old trees were growing. This 
promontory was evidently a moraine, heaped up at a period 
when the glacier had greater dimensions. 

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

February 6th. We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave 
so bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Cap- 
tain Fitz Roy determined to take him back to the Beagle; 
and ultimately he was left at New Zealand, where his brother 
was a missionary. From the time of our leaving, a regular 
system of plunder commenced; fresh parties of the natives 
kept arriving: York and Jemmy lost many things, and Mat- 
thews almost everything which had not been concealed un- 
derground. Every article seemed to have been torn up and 
divided by the natives. Matthews described the watch he 
was obliged always to keep as most harassing; night and 
day he was surrounded by the natives, who tried to tire him 
out by making an incessant noise close to his head. One day 
an old man, whom Matthews asked to leave his wigwam, 
immediately returned with a large stone in his hand : another 
day a whole party came armed with stones and stakes, and 
some of the younger men and Jemmy's brother were crying : 
Matthews met them with presents. Another party showed 
by signs that they wished to strip him naked and pluck all 
the hairs out of his face and body. I think we arrived just 
in time to save his life. Jemmy's relatives had been so vain 


and foolish, that they had showed to strangers their plun- 
der, and their manner of obtaining it. It was quite melan- 
choly leaving the three Fuegians with their savage country- 
men; but it was a great comfort that they had no personal 
fears. York, being a powerful resolute man, was pretty sure 
to get on well, together with his wife Fuegia. Poor Jemmy 
looked rather disconsolate, and would then, I have little 
doubt, have been glad to have returned with us. His own 
brother had stolen many things from him; and as he re- 
marked, "What fashion call that:" he abused his country- 
men, " all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing." and, though 
I never heard him swear before, " damned fools." Our three 
Fuegians, though they had been only three years with civil- 
ized men, would, I am sure, have been glad to have retained 
their new habits; but this was obviously impossible. I fear 
it is more than doubtful, whether their visit will have been 
of any use to them. 

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

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


While in the boats I got to hate the very sound of their 
voices, so much trouble did they give us. The first and last 
word was " yammerschooner." When, entering some quiet 
little cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a quiet 
night, the odious word "yammerschooner" has shrilly sounded 
from some gloomy nook, and then the little signal-smoke 
has curled up to spread the news far and wide. On leaving 
some place we have said to each other, " Thank Heaven, we 
have at last fairly left these wretches ! " when one more faint 
hallo from an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious dis- 
tance, would reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish 
" yammerschooner." But now, the more Fuegians the mer- 
rier ; and very merry work it was. Both parties laughing, 
wondering, gaping at each other; we pitying them, for giv- 
ing us good fish and crabs for rags, etc. ; they grasping at the 
chance of finding people so foolish as to exchange such splen- 
did ornaments for a good supper. It was most amusing to 
see the undisguised smile of satisfaction with which one 
young woman with her face painted black, tied several bits 
of scarlet cloth round her head with rushes. Her husband, 
who enjoyed the very universal privilege in this country of 
possessing two wives, evidently became jealous of all the at- 
tention paid to his young wife; and, after a consultation 
with his naked beauties, was paddled away by them. 

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair 
notion of barter. I gave one man a large nail (a most valu- 
able present) without making any signs for a return; but he 
immediately picked out two fish, and handed them up on the 
point of his spear. If any present was designed for one 
canoe, and it fell near another, it was invariably given to the 
right owner. The Fuegian boy, whom Mr. Low had on 
board, showed, by going into the most violent passion, that 
he quite understood the reproach of being called a liar, which 
in truth he was. We were this time, as on all former occa- 
sions, much surprised at the little notice, or rather none 
whatever, which was taken of many things, the use of which 
must have been evident to the natives. Simple circum- 
stances such as the beauty of scarlet cloth or blue beads, 
the absence of women, our care in washing ourselves, ex- 
cited their admiration far more than any grand or compli- 


cated object, such as our ship. Bougainville has well re- 
marked concerning these people, that they treat the " chefs- 
d'oeuvre de 1'industrie humaine, comme ils traitent les loix 
de la nature et ses phenomenes." 

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

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


mother to come with him, and then on the way deserted them 
by night, stealing every article of their property. 

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

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

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man 


exists in a lower state of improvement than in any other part 
of the world. The South Sea Islanders, of the two races 
inhabiting the Pacific, are comparatively civilized. The 
Esquimau in his subterranean hut, enjoys some of the com- 
forts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, mani- 
fests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, 
prowling about in search of roots, and living concealed on 
the wild and arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. The Aus- 
tralian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the 
Fuegian : he can, however, boast of his boomerang, his spear 
and throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking 
animals, and of hunting. Although the Australian may be 
superior in acquirements, it by no means follows that he is 
likewise superior in mental capacity: indeed, from what I 
saw of the Fuegians when on board, and from what I have 
read of the Australians, I should think the case was exactly 
the reverse. 


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

IN THE end of May, 1834, we entered for a second time 
the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The coun- 
try on both sides of this part of the Strait consists of 
nearly level plains, like those of Patagonia. Cape Negro, a 
little within the second Narrows, may be considered as the 
point where the land begins to assume the marked features 
of Tierra del Fuego. On the east coast, south of the Strait, 
broken park-like scenery in a like manner connects these two 
countries, which are opposed to each other in almost every 
feature. It is truly surprising to find in a space of twenty 
miles such a change in the landscape. If we take a rather 
greater distance, as between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, 
that is about sixty miles, the difference is still more wonder- 
ful. At the former place, we have rounded mountains con- 
cealed by impervious forests, which are drenched with the 
rain, brought by an endless succession of gales; while at 
Cape Gregory, there is a clear and bright blue sky over the 
dry and sterile plains. The atmospheric currents, 1 although 
rapid, turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits, yet 
seem to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined 

1 The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January apth, being 
at anchor under Cape Gregory: a very hard gale from W. by S., clear 
sky with few cumuli; temperature 57, dew-point 36, difference 21. On 
January isth, at Port St. Julian: in the morning, light winds with much 
rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain, settled into heavy gale 
with large cumuli, cleared up, blowing very strong from S.S.W. Tem- 
perature 60, dew-point 42, difference 18. 



During our previous visit (in January), we had an inter- 
view at Cape Gregory with the famous so-called gigantic 
Patagonians, who gave us a cordial reception. Their height 
appears greater than it really is, from their large guanaco 
mantles, their long flowing hair, and general figure: on an 
average, their height is about six feet, with some men taller 
and only a few shorter; and the women are also tall; alto- 
gether they are certainly the tallest race which we anywhere 
saw. In features they strikingly resemble the more northern 
Indians whom I saw with Rosas, but they have a wilder and 
more formidable appearance: their faces were much painted 
with red and black, and one man was ringed and dotted with 
white like a Fuegian. Captain Fitz Roy offered to take any 
three of them on board, and all seemed determined to be of 
the three. It was long before we could clear the boat; at 
last we got on board with our three giants, who dined with 
the Captain, and behaved quite like gentlemen, helping them- 
selves with knives, forks, and spoons: nothing was so much 
relished as sugar. This tribe has had so much communication 
with sealers and whalers that most of the men can speak a 
little English and Spanish; and they are half civilized, and 
proportionally demoralized. 

The next morning a large party went on shore, to barter 
for skins and ostrich-feathers ; fire-arms being refused, 
tobacco was in greatest request, far more so than axes or 
tools. The whole population of the toldos, men, women, and 
children, were arranged on a bank. It was an amusing 
scene, and it was impossible not to like the so-called giants, 
they were so thoroughly good-humoured and unsuspecting: 
they asked us to come again. They seem to like to have 
Europeans to live with them; and old Maria, an important 
woman in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one 
of his sailors with them. They spend the greater part of the 
year here; but in summer they hunt along the foot of the 
Cordillera: sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro, 
750 miles to the north. They are well stocked with horses, 
each man having, according to Mr. Low, six or seven, and 
all the women, and even children, their one own horse. In 
the time of Sarmiento (1580), these Indians had bows and 
arrows, now long since disused; they then also possessed 


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

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

Before reaching Port Famine, two men were seen running 
along the shore and hailing the ship. A boat was sent for 
them. They turned out to be two sailors who had run away 
from a sealing-vessel, and had joined the Patagonians. These 
Indians had treated them with their usual disinterested hos- 
pitality. They had parted company through accident, and 
were then proceeding to Port Famine in hopes of finding 
some ship, i dare say they were worthless vagabonds, but I 
never saw more miserable-looking ones. They had been liv- 
ing for some days on mussel-shells and berries, and their 
tattered clothes had been burnt by sleeping so near their fires. 

a Rengger, Natur. der Saeugethiere von Paraguay. S. 334. 


They had been exposed night and day, without any shelter, 
to the late incessant gales, with rain, sleet, and snow, and yet 
they were in good health. 

During our stay at Port Famine, the Fuegians twice came 
and plagued us. As there were many instruments, clothes, 
and men on shore, it was thought necessary to frighten them 
away. The first time a few great guns were fired, when they 
were far distant. It was most ludicrous to watch through a 
glass the Indians, as often as the shot struck the water, take 
up stones, and, as a bold defiance, throw them towards the 
ship, though about a mile and a half distant ! A boat was 
sent with orders to fire a few musket-shots wide of them. 
The Fuegians hid themselves behind the trees, and for every 
discharge of the muskets they fired their arrows; all, how- 
ever, fell short of the boat, and the officer as he pointed at 
them laughed. This made the Fuegians frantic with passion, 
and they shook their mantles in vain rage. At last, seeing 
the balls cut and strike the trees, they ran away, and we were 
left in peace and quietness. During the former voyage the 
Fuegians were here very troublesome, and to frighten them a 
rocket was fired at night over their wigwams; it answered 
effectually, and one of the officers told me that the clamour 
first raised, and the barking of the dogs, was quite ludicrous 
in contrast with the profound silence which in a minute or 
two afterwards prevailed. The next morning not a single 
Fuegian was in the neighbourhood. 

When the Beagle was here in the month of February, I 
started one morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, 
which is 2600 feet high, and is the most elevated point in this 
immediate district. We went in a boat to the foot of the 
mountain (but unluckily not to the best part), and then 
began our ascent. The forest commences at the line of high- 
water mark, and during the first two hours I gave over all 
hopes of reaching the summit. So thick was the wood, that 
it was necessary to have constant recourse to the compass; 
for every landmark, though in a mountainous country, was 
completely shut out. In the deep ravines, the death-like 
scene of desolation exceeded all description; outside it was 
blowing a gale, but in these hollows, not even a breath of 
wind stirred the leaves of the tallest trees. So gloomy, cold, 


and wet was every part, that not even the fungi, mosses, or 
ferns could flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible 
to crawl along, they were so completely barricaded by great 
mouldering trunks, which had fallen down in every direction. 
When passing over these natural bridges, one's course was 
often arrested by sinking knee deep into the rotten wood ; at 
other times, when attempting to lean against a firm tree, one 
was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready to 
fall at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among 
the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which 
conducted us to the summit. Here was a view characteristic 
of Tierra del Fuego; irregular chains of hills, mottled with 
patches of snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and arms of 
the sea intersecting the land in many directions. The strong 
wind was piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, so 
that we did not stay long on the top of the mountain. Our 
descent was not quite so laborious as our ascent; for the 
weight of the body forced a passage, and all the slips and 
falls were in the right direction. 

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of 
the evergreen forests, 8 in which two or three species of trees 
grow, to the exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, 
there are many dwarf alpine plants, which all spring from the 
mass of peat, and help to compose it: these plants are very 
remarkable from their close alliance with the species growing 
on the mountains of Europe, though so many thousand miles 
distant. The central part of Tierra del Fuego, where the 
clay-slate formation occurs, is most favourable to the growth 
of trees ; on the outer coast the poorer granitic soil, and a 
situation more exposed to the violent winds, do not allow of 
their attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I have seen 
more large trees than anywhere else : I measured a Winter's 
Bark which was four feet six inches in girth, and several of 
the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Captain King also 

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


mentions a beech which was seven feet in diameter, seven- 
teen feet above the roots. 

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from 
its importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a 
globular, bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers 
on the beech-trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with 
a smooth surface; but when mature 
it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has 
its entire surface deeply pitted or 
honey-combed, as represented in the 
accompanying wood-cut. This fun- 
gus belongs to a new and curious 
genus;* I found a second species on 
another species of beech in Chile: 
and Dr. Hooker informs me, that 
just lately a third species has been 
discovered on a third species of 

beech in Van Dieman's Land. How singular is this relation- 
ship between parasitical fungi and the trees on which they 
grow, in distant parts of the world ! In Tierra del Fuego 
the fungus in its tough and mature state is collected in large 
quantities by the women and children, and is eaten un- 
cooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly sweet taste, with a 
faint smell like that of a mushroom. With the exception 
of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, the natives eat 
no vegetable food besides this fungus. In New Zealand, 
before the introduction of the potato, the roots of the fern 
were largely consumed; at the present time, I believe, Tierra 
del Fuego is the only country in the world where a cryp- 
togamic plant affords a staple article of food. 

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been 
expected from the nature of its climate and vegetation, is 
very poor. Of mammalia, besides whales and seals, there is 
one bat, a kind of mouse (Reithrodon chinchilloides), two 
true mice, a ctenomys allied to or identical with the tucutuco, 
two foxes (Canis Magellanicus and C. Azarae), a sea-otter, 
the guanaco, and a deer. Most of these animals inhabit only 

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


the drier eastern parts of the country ; and the deer has never 
been seen south of the Strait of Magellan. Observing the 
general correspondence of the cliffs of soft sandstone, mud, 
and shingle, on the opposite sides of the Strait, and on some 
intervening islands, one is strongly tempted to believe that the 
land was once joined, and thus allowed animals so delicate 
and helpless as the tucutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. 
The correspondence of the cliffs is far from proving any 
junction; because such cliffs generally are formed by the 
intersection of sloping deposits, which, before the elevation 
of the land, had been accumulated near the then existing 
shores. It is, however, a remarkable coincidence, that in the 
two large islands cut off by the Beagle Channel from the 
rest of Tierra del Fuego, one has cliffs composed of matter 
that may be called stratified alluvium, which front similar 
ones on the opposite side of the channel, while the other is 
exclusively bordered by old crystalline rocks : in the former, 
called Navarin Island, both foxes and guanacos occur ; but in 
the latter, Hoste Island, although similar in every respect, 
and only separated by a channel a little more than half a mile 
wide, I have the word of Jemmy Button for saying that 
neither of these animals are found. 

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds: occasion- 
ally the plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher 
(Myiobius albiceps) may be heard, concealed near the sum- 
mit of the most lofty trees ; and more rarely the loud strange 
cry of a black wood-pecker, with a fine scarlet crest on its 
head. A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus Magellani- 
cus) hops in a skulking manner among the entangled mass 
of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper (Oxyurus 
tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the country. Through- 
out the beech forests, high up and low down, in the most 
gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, it may be met with. 
This little bird no doubt appears more numerous than it 
really is, from its habit of following with seeming curiosity 
any person who enters these silent woods: continually utter- 
ing a harsh twitter, it flutters from tree to tree, within a few 
feet of the intruder's face. It is far from wishing for the 
modest concealment of the true creeper (Certhia familiaris) ; 
nor does it, like that bird, run up the trunks of trees, but 


industriously, after the manner of a willow-wren, hops about, 
and searches for insects on every twig and branch. In the 
more open parts, three or four species of finches, a thrush, 
a starling (or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks 
and owls occur. 

The absence of any species whatever in the whole class of 
Reptiles, is a marked feature in the zoology of this country, 
as well as in that of the Falkland Islands. I do not ground 
this statement merely on my own observation, but I heard it 
from the Spanish inhabitants of the latter place, and from 
Jemmy Button with regard to Tierra del Fuego. On the 
banks of the Santa Cruz, in 50 south, I saw a frog; and it 
is not improbable that these animals, as well as lizards, may 
be found as far south as the Strait of Magellan, where the 
country retains the character of Patagonia; but within the 
damp and cold limit of Tierra del Fuego not one occurs. 
That the climate would not have suited some of the orders, 
such as lizards, might have been foreseen ; but with respect 
to frogs, this was not so obvious. 

Beetles occur in very small numbers: it was long before I 
could believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered 
with vegetable productions and with a variety of stations, 
could be so unproductive. The few which I found were 
alpine species (Harpalidae and Heteromidae) living under 
stones. The vegetable- feeding Chrysomelidae, so eminently 
characteristic of the Tropics, are here almost entirely ab- 
sent ; 6 I saw very few flies, butterflies, or bees, and no crick- 
ets or Orthoptera. In the pools of water I found but a few 
aquatic beetles, and not any fresh-water shells: Succinea at 
first appears an exception ; but here it must be called a terres- 
trial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage far from the 
water. Land-shells could be procured only in the same alpine 
situations with the beetles. I have already contrasted the 
climate as well as the general appearance of Tierra del 

5 I believe I must except one alpine Haltica, and a single specimen of a 
Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse informs me, that of the Harpalicke there are 
eight or nine species the forms of the greater number being very peculiar: 
of Heteromera, four or five species; of Rhyncophora, six or seven; and 
of the following families one species in each: Staphylinidae, Elateridse, 
Cebrionidse, Melolonthidse. The species in the other orders are even fewer. 
In all the orders, the scarcity of the individuals is even more remark- 
able than that of the species. Most of the Coleoptera have been carefully 
described by Mr. Waterhouse in the Annals of Nat. Hist. 


Fuego with that of Patagonia ; and the difference is strongly 
exemplified in the entomology. I do not believe they have 
one species in common ; certainly the general character of the 
insects is widely different. 

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter 
as abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is 
poorly so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially 
protected shore perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater 
number of individual animals than any other station. There 
is one marine production which, from its importance, is 
worthy of a particular history. It is the kelp, or Macrocystis 
pyrifera. This plant grows on every rock from low-water 
mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within the 
channels. 8 I believe, during the voyages of the Adventure 
and Beagle, not one rock near the surface was discovered 
which was not buoyed by this floating weed. The good ser- 
vice it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy 
land is evident; and it certainly has saved many a one from 
being wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to 
see this plant growing and flourishing amidst those great 
breakers of the western ocean, which no mass of rock, let it 
be ever so hard, can long resist. The stem is round, slimy, 
and smooth, and seldom has a diameter of so much as an 
inch. A few taken together are sufficiently strong to support 
the weight of the large loose stones, to which in the inland 
channels they grow attached; and yet some of these stones 
were so heavy that when drawn to the surface, they could 
scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person. Captain Cook, 
in his second voyage, says, that this plant at Kerguelen Land 
rises from a greater depth than twenty-four fathoms; "and 
as it does not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a 
very acute angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards 
spreads many fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well 
warranted to say that some of it grows to the length of sixty 
fathoms and upwards." I do not suppose the stem of any 

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


other plant attains so great a length as three hundred and 
sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain Fitz Roy, 
moreover, found it growing 7 up from the greater depth of 
forty-five fathoms. The beds of this sea-weed, even when 
of not great breadth, make excellent natural floating break- 
waters. It is quite curious to see, in an exposed harbour, 
how soon the waves from the open sea, as they travel through 
the straggling stems, sink in height, and pass into smooth 

The number of living creatures of all Orders, whose exist- 
ence intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great 
volume might be written, describing the inhabitants of one 
of these beds of sea-weed. Almost all the leaves, excepting 
those that float on the surface, are so thickly incrusted with 
corallines as to be of a white colour. We find exquisitely 
delicate structures, some inhabited by simple hydra-like 
polypi, others by more organized kinds, and beautiful com- 
pound Ascidiae. On the leaves, also, various patelliform shells, 
Trochi, uncovered molluscs, and some bivalves are attached. 
Innumerable Crustacea frequent every part of the plant. On 
shaking the great entangled roots, a pile of small fish, shells, 
cuttle-fish, crabs of all orders, sea-eggs, star-fish, beautiful 
Holuthuriae, Planariae, and crawling nereidous animals of a 
multitude of forms, all fall out together. Often as I recurred 
to a branch of the kelp, I never failed to discover animals 
of new and curious structures. In Chiloe, where the kelp 
does not thrive very well, the numerous shells, corallines, and 
Crustacea are absent; but there yet remain a few of the 
Flustraceae, and some compound Ascidiae; the latter, how- 
ever, are of different species from those in Tierra del Fuego : 
we see here the fucus possessing a wider range than the ani- 
mals which use it as an abode. I can only compare these 
great aquatic forests of the southern hemisphere with the 
terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if in any 
country a forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so 
many species of animals would perish as would here, from 

7 Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, vol. i. p, 363. It appears that 
sea-weed grows extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found (Wilson s Voyage 
round Scotland, vol. ii. p. 228) that a rock uncovered only at spring-tides, 
which had been chiselled smooth in November, on the following May, that is, 
within six months afterwards, was thickly covered with Fucus digitatus two 
feet, and F. esculentus six feet, in length. 


the destruction of the kelp. Amidst the leaves of this plant 
numerous species of fish live, which nowhere else could find 
food or shelter; with their destruction the many cormorants 
and other fishing birds, the otters, seals, and porpoises, would 
soon perish also; and lastly, the Fuegian savage, the misera- 
ble lord of this miserable land, would redouble his cannibal 
feast, decrease in numbers, and perhaps cease to exist. 

June 8th. We weighed anchor early in the morning and 
left Port Famine. Captain Fitz Roy determined to leave the 
Strait of Magellan by the Magdalen Channel, which had not 
long been discovered. Our course lay due south, down that 
gloomy passage which I have before alluded to as appearing 
to lead to another and worse world. The wind was fair, but 
the atmosphere was very thick; so that we missed much 
curious scenery. The dark ragged clouds were rapidly driven 
over the mountains, from their summits nearly down to their 
bases. The glimpses which we caught through the dusky 
mass were highly interesting; jagged points, cones of snow, 
blue glaciers, strong outlines, marked on a lurid sky, were 
seen at different distances and heights. In the midst of such 
scenery we anchored at Cape Turn, close to Mount Sarmi- 
ento, which was then hidden in the clouds. At the base of 
the lofty and almost perpendicular sides of our little cove 
there was one deserted wigwam, and it alone reminded us 
that man sometimes wandered into these desolate regions. 
But it would be difficult to imagine a scene where he seemed 
to have fewer claims or less authority. The inanimate works 
of nature rock, ice, snow, wind, and water all warring 
with each other, yet combined against man here reigned in 
absolute sovereignty. 

June $th. In the morning we were delighted by seeing 
the veil of mist gradually rise from Sarmiento, and display it 
to our view. This mountain, which is one of the highest in 
Tierra del Fuego, has an altitude of 6800 feet. Its base, for 
about an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky woods, 
and above this a field of snow extends to the summit. These 
vast piles of snow, which never melt, and seem destined to 
last as long as the world holds together, present a noble and 
even sublime spectacle. The outline of the mountain was 
admirably clear and defined. Owing to the abundance of 



light reflected from the white and glittering surface, no 
shadows were cast on any part ; and those lines which inter- 
sected the sky could alone be distinguished: hence the mass 
stood out in the boldest relief. Several glaciers descended in 
a winding course from the upper great expanse of snow to 
the sea-coast : they may be likened to great frozen Niagaras ; 
and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice are full as beautiful 
as the moving ones of water. By night we reached the west- 
ern part of the channel; but the water was so deep that no 
anchorage could be found. We were in consequence obliged 
to stand off and on in this narrow arm of the sea, during a 
pitch-dark night of fourteen hours long. 

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

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

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


T ** A~ Summer Winter Mean of Summer 
Latitude Temp. Temp. and Winter 

Tierra del Fuego. 53 3' S. 50 33-o8 4i-54 

Falkland Islands. 51 38 S. 51 

Dublin S3 21 N. 59.54 39.2 49.37 

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is 
colder in winter, and no less than 9^2 less hot in summer, 
than Dublin. According to von Buch, the mean temperature 
of July (not the hottest month in the year) at Saltenfiord 
in Norway, is as high as 57. 8, and this place is actually 13 
nearer the pole than Port Famine ! * Inhospitable as this 
climate appears to our feelings, evergreen trees flourish 
luxuriantly under it. Humming-birds may be seen sucking 
the flowers, and parrots feeding on the seeds of the Winter's 
Bark, in lat. 55 S. I have already remarked to what a 
degree the sea swarms with living creatures; and the shells 
(such as the Patellae, Fissurellae, Chitons, and Barnacles), 
according to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, are of a much larger size 
and of a more vigorous growth, than the analogous species in 
the northern hemisphere. A large Voluta is abundant in 
southern Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At 
Bahia Blanca, in lat. 39 S., the most abundant shells were 
three species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volu- 
tas, and a Terebra. Now, these are amongst the best char- 
acterized tropical forms. It is doubtful whether even one 
small species of Oliva exists on the southern shores of 
Europe, and there are no species of the two other genera. 
If a geologist were to find in lat. 39 on the coast of Portugal 
a bed containing numerous shells belonging to three species 
of Oliva, to a Voluta and Terebra, he would probably assert 
that the climate at the period of their existence must have 
been tropical; but judging from South America, such an 
inference might be erroneous. 

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del 
Fuego extends, with only a small increase of heat, for many 
degrees along the west coast of the continent. The forests 

8 With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the results are deduced from the 
observations by Capt. King (Geographical Journal, 1830), and those taken 
on board the Beagle. For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Capt. 
Sulivan for the mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful 
observation at midnight. 8 A. M., noon, and 8 p. M.) of the three hottest 
months, viz., December, January, and February. The temperature of Dublin 
is taken from Barton. 


for 600 miles northward of Cape Horn, have a very similar 
aspect. As a proof of the equable climate, even for 300 or 
400 miles still further northward, I may mention that in 
Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the northern parts 
of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst straw- 
berries and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of 
barley and wheat 8 are often brought into the houses to be 
dried and ripened. At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 
40, with Madrid) grapes and fi^s ripen, but are not cpm- 
mon; olives seldom ripen even partially, and oranges not at 
all. These fruits, in corresponding latitudes in Europe, are 
well known to succeed to perfection; and even in this con- 
tinent, at the Rio Negro, under nearly the same parallel 
with Valdivia, sweet potatoes (convolvulus) are cultivated; 
and grapes, figs, olives, oranges, water and musk melons, 
produce abundant fruit. Although the humid and equable 
climate of Chiloe, and of the coast northward and south- 
ward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native 
forests, from lat. 45 to 38, almost rival in luxuriance those 
of the glowing intertropical regions. Stately trees of many 
kinds, with smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded 
by parasitical monocotyledonous plants; large and elegant 
ferns are numerous, and arborescent grasses entwine the 
trees into one entangled mass to the height of thirty or forty 
feet above the ground. Palm-trees grow in lat 37 ; an arbor- 
escent grass, very like a bamboo, in 40 ; and another closely 
allied kind, of great length, but not erect, flourishes even as 
far south as 45 S. 

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea 
compared with the land, seems to extend over the greater 
part of the southern hemisphere ; and, as a consequence, the 
vegetation partakes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns 
thrive luxuriantly in Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45), and I 
measured one trunk no less than six feet in circumference. 
An arborescent fern was found by Forster in New Zealand 
in 46, where orchideous plants are parasitical on the trees. 
In the Auckland Islands, ferns, according to Dr. Dieffen- 
bach 10 have trunks so thick and high that they may be almost 

Agueros, Descrip. Hist, de la Prov. de Chiloe, 1791, p. 94. 
10 See the German Translation of this Journal; and for the other facts. 
Mr. Brown's Appendix to Flinders's Voyage. 


called tree-ferns ; and in these islands, and even as far south 
as lat. 55 in the Macquarrie Islands, parrots abound. 

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

Latitude H c |ffiS? Ob ' 

Equatorial region ; mean result. 15,748 Humboldt. 

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

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

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

and the Author. 

Tierra del Fuego, 54 S 3,50 to 4,000 King. 

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to* 
be determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than 
by the mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be sur- 
prised at its descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the sum- 
mer is so cool, to only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the 
sea ; although in Norway, we must travel to between lat. 67 
and 70 N., that is, about 14 nearer the pole, to meet with 
perpetual snow at this low level. The difference in height, 
namely, about 9000 feet, between the snow-line on the Cor- 
dillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points ranging from 
only 5600 to 7500 feet) and in central Chile" (a distance of 
only 9 of latitude), is truly wonderful. The land from the 
southward of Chiloe to near Concepcion (lat. 37) is hidden 
by one dense forest dripping with moisture. The sky is 
cloudy, and we have seen how badly the fruits of southern 
Europe succeed. In central Chile, on the other hand, a little 
northward of Concepcion, the sky is generally clear, rain does 
not fall for the seven summer months, and southern Euro- 
pean fruits succeed admirably ; and even the sugar-cane has 
been cultivated. 12 No doubt the plane of perpetual snow 
undergoes the above remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unpar- 

u On the Cordillera of central Chile, I believe the snow-line varies ex- 
ceedingly in height in different summers. I was assured that during one 
very dry and long summer, all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, 
although it attains the prodigious height of 23,000 feet. It is probable that 
much of the snow at these great heights is evaporated rather than thawed. 

"Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 4:5. It is said that the sugar-cane grew at 
Ingenio, lat. 32 to 33, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manu- 
facture profitable. In the valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some 
large date palm-trees. 


alleled in other parts of the world, not far from the latitude 
of Concepcion, where the land ceases to be covered with for- 
est-trees; for trees in South America indicate a rainy cli- 
mate, and rain a clouded sky and little heat in summer. 

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly 
depend (subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the 
upper region) on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow 
on steep mountains near the coast. As the snow-line is so 
low in Tierra del Fuego, we might have expected that many 
of the glaciers would have reached the sea. Nevertheless, 
I was astonished when I first saw a range, only from 3000 to 
4000 feet in height, in the latitude of Cumberland, with every 
valley filled with streams of ice descending to the sea-coast. 
"Almost every arm of the sea, which penetrates to the interior 
higher chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the coast 
for 650 miles northwards, is terminated by " tremendous and 
astonishing glaciers/' as described by one of the officers on 
the survey. Great masses of ice frequently fall from these 
icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like the broadside of a 
man-of-war through the lonely channels. These falls, as 
noticed in the last chapter, produce great waves which break 
on the adjoining coasts. It is known that earthquakes fre- 
quently cause masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs: how 
terrific, then, would be the effect of a severe shock (and such 
occur here 13 ) on a body like a glacier, already in motion, and 
traversed by fissures ! I can readily believe that the water 
would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, and 
then, returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl 
about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's 
Sound, in the latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, 
and yet the loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet 
high. In this Sound, about fifty icebergs were seen at one 
time floating outwards, and one of them must have been at 
least 168 feet in total height. Some of the icebergs were 
loaded with blocks of no inconsiderable size, of granite and 
other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the surrounding 
mountains. The glacier furthest from the pole, surveyed 
during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, is in lat. 

18 Bulkeley's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wage 
The earthquake happened August 25, 1741. 



46 50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, and in 
one part 7 broad and descends to the sea-coast. But even a 
few miles northward of this glacier, in the Laguna de San 



Rafael, some Spanish missionaries 14 encountered " many ice- 
bergs, some great, some small, and others middle-sized," in 
a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22nd of the month corre- 
sponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding with 
that of the Lake of Geneva ! 

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

"Agiieros, Desc. Hist, dc Chiloe, p. 227. 


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

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to 
the climate of the northern hemisphere at the period when 
boulders were transported. I will not here detail how simply 
the theory of icebergs being charged with fragments of rock, 
explain the origin and position of the gigantic boulders of 
eastern Tierra del Fuego, on the high plain of Santa Cruz, 
and on the island of Chiloe. In Tierra del Fuego, the greater 
number of boulders lie on the lines of old sea-channels, now 
converted into dry valleys by the elevation of the land. They 
are associated with a great unstratified formation of mud 
and sand, containing rounded and angular fragments of all 
sizes, which has originated M in the repeated ploughing up of 
the sea-bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and by the mat- 
ter transported on them. Few geologists now doubt that 
those erratic boulders which lie near lofty mountains have 
been pushed forward by the glaciers themselves, and that 
those distant from mountains, and embedded in subaqueous 
deposits, have been conveyed thither either on icebergs or 
frozen in coast-ice. The connection between the transportal 
of boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is strik- 
ingly shown by their geographical distribution over the earth. 
In South America they are not found further than 48 of 
latitude, measured from the southern pole ; in North America 
it appears that the limit of their transportal extends to 53^2 
from the northern pole ; but in Europe to not more than 40 
of latitude, measured from the same point. On the other 
hand, in the intertropical parts of America, Asia, and Africa, 
they have never been observed; nor at the Cape of Good 
Hope, nor in Australia." 

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. 
Considering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del 
Fuego, and on the coast northward of it, the condition of the 
islands south and south-west of America is truly surprising. 

1S Geological Transactions, vol. vi. p. 415. 

16 1 have given details (the first, I believe, published) on this subject 
in the first edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have there shown that 
the apparent exceptions to the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot 
countries, are due to erroneous observations; several statements there 
given I have since found confirmed by various authors. 


Sandwich Land, in the latitude of the north part of Scot- 
land, was found by Cook, during the hottest month of the 
year, " covered many fathoms thick with everlasting snow ; " 
and there seems to be scarcely any vegetation. Georgia, an 
island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the latitude of York- 
shire, " in the very height of summer, is in a manner wholly 
covered with frozen snow." It can boast only of moss, some 
tufts of grass, and wild burnet; it has only one land-bird 
(Anthus correndera), yet Iceland, which is 10 nearer the 
pole, has, according to Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. The 
South Shetland Islands, in the same latitude as the southern 
half of Norway, possess only some lichens, moss, and a little 
grass ; and Lieut. Kendall " found the bay, in which he was 
at anchor, beginning to freeze at a period corresponding with 
our 8th of September. The soil here consists of ice and 
volcanic ashes interstratified; and at a little depth beneath 
the surface it must remain perpetually congealed, for Lieut. 
Kendall found the body of a foreign sailor which had long 
been buried, with the flesh and all the features perfectly pre- 
served. It is a singular fact, that on the two great continents 
in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken land of 
Europe between them), we have the zone of perpetually 
frozen undersoil in a low latitude namely, in 56 in North 
America at the depth of three feet, M and in 62 in Siberia at 
the depth of twelve to fifteen feet as the result of a directly 
opposite condition of things to those of the southern hemi- 
sphere. On the northern continents, the winter is rendered 
excessively cold by the radiation from a large area of land 
into a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the warmth-bringing 
currents of the sea ; the short summer, on the other hand, is 
hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not so excessively 
cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded sky sel- 
dom allows the sun to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent 
of heat ; and hence the mean temperature of the year, which 
regulates the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. 
It is evident that a rank vegetation, which does not so much 
require heat as it does protection from intense cold, would 
approach much nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation 

17 Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. 65, 66. 

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


under the equable climate of the southern hemisphere, than 
under the extreme climate of the northern continents. 

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved in the icy 
soil of the South Shetland Islands (lat. 62 to 63 S.), in a 
rather lower latitude than that (lat. 64 N.) under which 
Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very inter- 
esting. Although it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to 
show in a former chapter, to suppose that the larger quadru- 
peds require a luxuriant vegetation for their support, never- 
theless it is important to find in the South Shetland Islands, 
a frozen under-soil within 360 miles of the forest-clad islands 
near Cape Horn, where, as far as the bulk of vegetation is 
concerned, any number of great quadrupeds might be sup- 
ported. The perfect preservation of the carcasses of the 
Siberian elephants and rhinoceroses is certainly one of the 
most wonderful facts in geology; but independently of the 
imagined difficulty of supplying them with food from the 
adjoining countries, the whole case is not, I think, so per- 
plexing as it has generally been considered. The plains of 
Siberia, like those of the Pampas, appear to have been formed 
under the sea, into which rivers brought down the bodies 
of many animals; of the greater number of these, only the 
skeletons have been preserved, but of others the perfect car- 
cass. Now, it is known that in the shallow sea on the Arctic 
coast of America the bottom freezes, 19 and does not thaw in 
spring so soon as the surface of the land; moreover at 
greater depths, where the bottom of the sea does not freeze, 
the mud a few feet beneath the top layer might remain even 
in summer below 32, as in the case on the land with the soil 
at the depth of a few feet. At still greater depths, the tem- 
perature of the mud and water would probably not be low 
enough to preserve the flesh; and hence, carcasses drifted 
beyond the shallow parts near an Arctic coast, would have 
only their skeletons preserved : now in the extreme northern 
parts of Siberia bones are infinitely numerous, so that even 
islets are said to be almost composed of them; 20 and those 
islets lie no less than ten degrees of latitude north of the 
place where Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other 

* Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in Geograph. Journ., vol. viii. pp. 218 
and 220. 
"Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, torn. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage. 


hand, a carcass washed by a flood into a shallow part of the 
Arctic Sea, would be preserved for an indefinite period, if it 
were soon afterwards covered with mud sufficiently thick to 
prevent the heat of the summer-water penetrating to it ; and 
if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, the covering 
was sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer air 
and sun thawing and corrupting it. 

Recapitulation. I will recapitulate the principal facts with 
regard to the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of 
the southern hemisphere, transposing the places in imagina- 
tion to Europe, with which we are so much better acquainted. 
Then, near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, namely, three 
species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, would have a 
tropical character. In the southern provinces of France, 
magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and with 
the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face 
of the land. The puma and the jaguar would haunt the 
Pyrenees. In the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as 
far westward as Central North America, tree-ferns and para- 
sitical Orchidese would thrive amidst the thick woods. Even 
as far north as central Denmark, humming-birds would be 
seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feeding 
amidst the evergreen woods ; and in the sea there, we should 
have a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous 
growth. Nevertheless, on some islands only 360 miles north- 
ward of our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried 
in the soil (or if washed into a shallow sea, and covered up 
with mud) would be preserved perpetually frozen. If some 
bold navigator attempted to penetrate northward of these 
islands, he would run a thousand dangers amidst gigantic 
icebergs, on some of which he would see great blocks of rock 
borne far away from their original site. Another island of 
large size in the latitude of southern Scotland, but twice as 
far to the west, would be " almost wholly covered with ever- 
lasting snow," and would have each bay terminated by ice- 
cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly detached: this 
island would boast only of a little moss, grass, and burnet, 
and a titlark would be its only land inhabitant. From our 
new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain of mountains, scarcely 
half the height of the Alps, would run in a straight line due 


southward ; and on its western flank every deep creek of the 
sea, or fiord, would end in " bold and astonishing glaciers." 
These lonely channels would frequently reverberate with the 
falls of ice, and so often would great waves rush along their 
coasts; numerous icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, and 
occasionally loaded with " no inconsiderable blocks of rock," 
would be stranded on the outlying islets; at intervals violent 
earthquakes would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the 
waters below. Lastly, some missionaries attempting to pene- 
trate a long arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty sur- 
rounding mountains, sending down their many grand icy 
streams to the sea-coast, and their progress in the boats would 
be checked by the innumerable floating icebergs, some small 
and some great ; and this would have occurred on our twenty- 
second of June, and where the Lake of Geneva is now spread 
out! 91 

31 In the former edition and Appendix, I have given some facts on the 
transportal of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This 
subject has lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston 

one hundred miles distant from any land, and perhaps much more distant. 
In the Appendix I have discussed at length the probability (at that time 
hardly thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing 
rocks, like glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion; and 
I cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such cases 
as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me that the icebergs off 
North America push before them pebbles and sand, and leave the sub- 
marine rocky flats quite bare; it is hardly possible to doubt that such 
ledges must be polished and scored in the direction of the set of the pre- 
vailing currents. Since writing that Appendix, I have seen in North 
Wales (London Phil. Mag., vol. xxi. p. 180) the adjoining action of glaciers 
and floating icebergs. 


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

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



admirable to watch how clearly their rugged outlines could 
be distinguished, yet how varied and how delicate were the 
shades of their colour. 

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard 
Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality 
and kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me 
a most pleasant residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. 
The immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very pro- 
ductive to the naturalist. During the long summer the wind 
blows steadily from the southward, and a little off shore, so 
that rain never falls; during the three winter months, how- 
ever, it is sufficiently abundant. The vegetation in conse- 
quence is very scanty : except in some deep valleys, there are 
no trees, and only a little grass and a few low bushes are 
scattered over the less steep parts of the hills. When we 
reflect, that at the distance of 350 miles to the south, this side 
of the Andes is completely hidden by one impenetrable forest, 
the contrast is very remarkable. I took several long walks 
while collecting objects of natural history.. The country is 
pleasant for exercise. There are many very beautiful flow- 
ers; and, as in most other dry climates, the plants and shrubs 
possess strong and peculiar odours even one's clothes by 
brushing through them became scented. I did not cease from 
wonder at finding each succeeding day as fine as the fore- 
going. What a difference does climate make in the enjoy- 
ment of life! How opposite are the sensations when view- 
ing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, and seeing 
another range through the light blue haze of a fine day ! The 
one for a time may be very sublime; the other is all gaiety 
and happy life. 

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


dred feet old-looking shells are numerous, and I found some 
at 1300 feet. These shells either lie loose on the surface, or 
are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. I was 
much surprised to find under the microscope that this vege- 
table mould is really marine mud, full of minute particles of 
organic bodies. 

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

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of 
land between the Cordillera and the Pacific; and this strip 
is itself traversed by several mountain-lines, which in this 
part run parallel to the great range. Between these outer 
lines and the main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, 
generally opening into each other by narrow passages, extend 
far to the southward : in these, the principal towns are situ- 
ated, as San Felipe, Santiago, San Fernando. These basins 
or plains, together with the transverse flat valleys (like that ' 
of Quillota) which connect them with the coast, I have no 
doubt are the bottoms of ancient inlets and deep bays, such 
as at the present day intersect every part of Tierra del Fuego 
and the western coast. Chile must formerly have resembled 


the latter country in the configuration of its land and water. 
The resemblance was occasionally shown strikingly when a 
level fog-bank covered, as with a mantle, all the lower parts 
of the country: the white vapour curling into the ravines, 
beautifully represented little coves and bays; and here and 
there a solitary hillock peeping up, showed that it had for- 
merly stood there as an islet. The contrast of these flat 
valleys and basins with the irregular mountains, gave the 
scenery a character which to me was new and very inter- 

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

i6th. The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was good enough 
to give me a guide and fresh horses ; and in the morning we 
set out to ascend the Campana, or Bell Mountain, which is 
6400 feet high. The paths were very bad, "but both the 
geology and scenery amply repaid the trouble. We reached, 
by the evening, a spring called the Agua del Guanaco, which 
is situated at a great height. This must be an old name, 
for it is very many years since a guanaco drank its waters. 
During the ascent I noticed that nothing but bushes grew 
on the northern slope, whilst on the southern slope there was 
a bamboo about fifteen feet high. In a few places there were 
palms, and I was surprised to see one at an elevation of at 


least 4500 feet. These palms are, for their family, ugly trees. 
Their stem is very large, and of a curious form, being thicker 
in the middle than at the base or top. They are excessively 
numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable on account of 
a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near 
Petorca they tried to count them, but failed, after having 
numbered several hundred thousand. Every year in the early 
spring, in August, very many are cut down, and when the 
trunk is lying on the ground, the crown of leaves is lopped 
off. The sap then immediately begins to flow from the upper 
end, and continues so doing for some months : it is, how- 
ever, necessary that a thin slice should be shaved off from 
that end every morning, so as to expose a fresh surface. A 
good tree will give ninety gallons, and all this must have 
been contained in the vessels of the apparently dry trunk. 
It is said that the sap flows much more quickly on those 
days when the sun is powerful ; and likewise, that it is abso- 
lutely necessary to take care, in cutting down the tree, that 
it should fall with its head upwards on the side of the hill; 
for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap will flow; 
although in that case one would have thought that the action 
would have been aided, instead of checked, by the force of 
gravity. The sap is concentrated by boiling, and is then 
called treacle, which it very much resembles in taste. 

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

The setting of the sun was glorious; the valleys being 
black whilst the snowy peaks of the Andes yet retained a 
ruby tint. When it was dark, we made a fire beneath a little 
arbour of bamboos, fried our charqui (or dried slips of beef), 
took our mate, and were quite comfortable. There is an 
inexpressible charm in thus living in the open air. The even- 


ing was calm and still; the shrill noise of the mountain 
bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goatsucker, were occa- 
sionally to be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even 
insects, frequent these dry, parched mountains. 

August ijth. In the morning we climbed up the rough 
mass of greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as 
frequently happens, was much shattered and broken into 
huge angular fragments. I observed, however, one remark- 
able circumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces pre- 
sented every degree of freshness some appearing as if 
. broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had either 
, just become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed 
that this was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt 
inclined to hurry from below each loose pile. As one might 
very easily be deceived in a fact of this kind, I doubted its 
accuracy, until ascending Mount Wellington, in Van Die- 
men's Land, where earthquakes do not occur ; and there I saw 
the summit of the mountain similarly composed and similarly 
shattered, but all the blocks appeared as if they had been 
hurled into their present position thousands of years ago. 

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

The appearance of the Andes was different from that 
which I had expected. The lower line pf the snow was of 


course horizontal, and to this line the even summits of the 
range seemed quite parallel. Only at long intervals, a group 
of points or a single cone showed where a volcano had 
existed, or does now exist. Hence the range resembled a 
great solid wall, surmounted here and there by a tower, and 
making a most perfect barrier to the country. 

Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts 
to open gold-mines: the rage for mining has left scarcely 
a spot in Chile unexamined. I spent the evening as before, 
talking round the fire with my two companions. The Guasos 
of Chile, who correspond to the Gauchos of the Pampas, are, 
however, a very different set of beings. Chile is the more 
civilized of the two countries, and the inhabitants, in conse- 
quence, have lost much individual character. Gradations in 
rank are much more strongly marked: the Guaso does not 
by any means consider every man his equal ; and I was quite 
surprised to find that my companions did not like to eat at 
the same time with myself. This feeling of inequality is a 
necessary consequence of the existence of an aristocracy of 
wealth. It is said that some few of the greater landowners 
possess from five to ten thousand pounds sterling per annum : 
an inequality of riches which I believe is not met with in 
any of the cattle-breeding countries eastward of the Andes. 
A traveller does not here meet that unbounded hospitality 
which refuses all payment, but yet is so kindly offered that 
no scruples can be raised in accepting it. Almost every house 
in Chile will receive you for the night, but a trifle is expected 
to be given in the morning ; even a rich man will accept two 
or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he may be a cut- 
throat, is a gentleman; the Guaso is in few respects better, 
but at the same time a vulgar, ordinary fellow. The two men, 
although employed much in the same manner, are different in 
their habits and attire; and the peculiarities of each are 
universal in their respective countries. The Gaucho seems 
part of his horse, and scorns to exert himself except when 
on his back : the Guaso may be hired to work as a labourer in 
the fields. The former lives entirely on animal food ; the latter 
almost wholly on vegetable. We do not here see the white 
boots, the broad drawers and scarlet chilipa ; the picturesque 
costume of the Pampas. Here, common trousers are pro- 


tected by black and green worsted leggings. The poncho, 
however, is common to bothu The chief pride of the Guaso 
lies in his spurs, which are absurdly large. I measured one 
which was six inches in the diameter of the rowel, and the 
rowel itself contained upwards of thirty points. The stirrups 
are on the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved 
block of wood, hollowed out, yet weighing three or four 
pounds. The Guaso is perhaps more expert with the lazo 
than the Gaucho; but, from the nature of the country, he 
does not know the use of the bolas. 

August i8th. We descended the mountain, and passed 
some beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Hav- 
ing slept at the same hacienda as before, we rode during the 
two succeeding days up the valley, and passed through Quil- 
lota, which is more like a collection of nursery-gardens than 
a town. The orchards were beautiful, presenting one mass 
of peach-blossoms. I saw, also, in one or two places the 
date-palm ; it is a most stately tree ; and I should think a 
group of them in their native Asiatic or African deserts must 
be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty strag- 
gling town like Quillota. The valley in this part expands into 
one of those great bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the 
Cordillera, which have been mentioned as forming so curious 
a part of the scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached 
the mines of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the 
great chain. I stayed here five days. My host, the superin- 
tendent of the mine, was a shrewd but rather ignorant Cor- 
nish miner. He had married a Spanish woman, and did not 
mean to return home; but his admiration for the mines of 
Cornwall remained unbounded. Amongst many other ques- 
tions, he asked me, " Now that George Rex is dead, how 
many more of the family of Rexes are yet alive? " This Rex 
certainly must be a relation of the great author Finis, who 
wrote all books ! 

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

The Chilian government, or rather the old Spanish law, 


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

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining 
is the cheapest. My host says that the two principal improve- 
ments introduced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by 
previous roasting the copper pyrites which, being the com- 
mon ore in Cornwall, the English miners were astounded on 
their arrival to find thrown away as useless : secondly, stamp- 
ing and washing the scoriae from the old furnaces by which 
process particles of metal are recovered in abundance. I have 
actually seen mules carrying to the coast, for transportation 
to England, a cargo of such cinders. But the first case is 
much the most curious. The Chilian miners were so con- 
vinced that copper pyrites contained not a particle of copper, 
that they laughed at the Englishmen for their ignorance, 
who laughed in turn, and bought their richest veins for a 
few dollars. It is very odd that, in a country where mining 
had been extensively carried on for many years, so simple a 
process as gently roasting the ore to expel the sulphur pre- 
vious to smelting it, had never been discovered. A few im- 
provements have likewise been introduced in some of the 
simple machinery; but even to the present day, water is 
removed from some mines by men carrying it up the shaft in 
leathern bags ! 

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

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling 
about these huge mountains. The geology, as might have 


been expected, was very interesting. The shattered and 
baked rocks, traversed by innumerable dykes of greenstone, 
showed what commotions had formerly taken place. The 
scenery was much the same as that near the Bell of Quil- 
lota dry barren mountains, dotted at intervals by bushes 
with a scanty foliage. The cactuses, or rather opuntias, 
were here very numerous. I measured one of a spherical 
figure, which, including the spines, was six feet and four 
inches in circumference. The height of the common cylin- 
drical, branching kind, is from twelve to fifteen feet, and 
the girth (with spines) of the branches between three and 
four feet. 

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented me, 
during the last two days, from making some interesting 
excursions. I attempted to reach a lake which the inhab- 
itants, from some unaccountable reason, believe to be an arm 
of the sea. During a very dry season, it was proposed to 
attempt cutting a channel from it for the sake of the water, 
but the padre, after a consultation, declared it was too dan- 
gerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as generally 
supposed, the lake was connected with the Pacific. We 
ascended to a great height, but becoming involved in the 
snow-drifts failed in reaching this wonderful lake, and had 
some difficulty in returning. I thought we should have lost 
our horses; for there was no means of guessing how deep 
the drifts were, and the animals, when led, could only move 
by jumping. The black sky showed that a fresh snow- 
storm was gathering, and we therefore were not a little glad 
when we escaped. By the time we reached the base the 
storm commenced, and it was lucky for us that this did not 
happen three hours earlier in the day. 

August 26th. We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin 
of San Felipe. The day was truly Chilian: glaringly bright, 
and the atmosphere quite clear. The thick and uniform 
covering of newly fallen snow rendered the view of the vol- 
cano of Aconcagua and the main chain quite glorious. We 
were now on the road to Santiago, the capital of Chile. We 
crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and slept at a little rancho. 
The host, talking about the state of Chile as compared to 
other countries, was very humble : " Some see with two eyes, 


and some with one, but for my part I do not think that Chile 
sees with any." 

August 2?th. After crossing many low hills we descended 
into the small land-locked plain of Guitron. In the basins, 
such as this one, which are elevated from one thousand to 
two thousand feet above the sea, two species of acacia, which 
are stunted in their forms, and stand wide apart from each 
other, grow in large numbers. These trees are never found 
near the sea-coast ; and this gives another characteristic 
feature to the scenery of these basins. We crossed a low 
ridge which separates Guitron from the great plain on which 
Santiago stands. The view was here pre-eminently striking: 
the dead level surface, covered in parts by woods of acacia, 
and with the city in the distance, abutting horizontally 
against the base of the Andes, whose snowy peaks were 
bright with the evening sun. At the first glance of this 
view, it was quite evident that the plain represented the 
extent of a former inland sea. As soon as we gained the 
level road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and reached 
the city before it was dark. 

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

September $th. By the middle of the day we arrived at 
one of the suspension bridges, made of hide, which cross the 
Maypu, a large turbulent river a few leagues southward of 
Santiago. These bridges are very poor affairs. The road, 
following the curvature of the suspending ropes, is made of 
bundles of sticks placed close together. It was full of holes, 


and oscillated rather fearfully, even with the weight of a 
man leading his horse. In the evening we reached a com- 
fortable farm-house, where there were several very pretty 
senoritas. They were much horrified at my having entered 
one of their churches out of mere curiosity. They asked 
me, " Why do you not become a Christian for our religion 
is certain ? " I assured them I was a sort of Christian ; but 
they would not hear of it appealing to my own words, " Do 
not your padres, your very bishops, marry? " The absurdity 
of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them: they 
scarcely knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck 
at such an enormity. 

6th. We proceeded due south, and slept at Rancagua. 
The road passed over the level but narrow plain, bounded on 
one side by lofty hills, and on the other by the Cordillera. 
The next day we turned up the valley of the Rio Cachapual, 
in which the hot-baths of Cauquenes, long celebrated for 
their medicinal properties, are situated. The suspension 
bridges, in the less frequented parts, ar generally taken down 
during the winter when the rivers are low. Such was the 
case in this valley, and we were therefore obliged to cross 
the stream on horseback. This is rather disagreeable, for 
the foaming water, though not deep, rushes so quickly over 
the bed of large rounded stones, that one's head becomes 
quite confused, and it is difficult even to perceive whether 
the horse is moving onward or standing still. In summer, 
when the snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable ; their 
strength and fury are then extremely great, as might be 
plainly seen by the marks which they had left. We reached 
the baths in the evening, and stayed there five days, being 
confined the two last by heavy rain. The buildings consist 
of a square of miserable little novels, each with a single table 
and bench. They are situated in a narrow deep valley just 
without the central Cordillera. It is a quiet, solitary spot, 
with a good deal of wild beauty. 

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth on a line of 
dislocation, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole 
of which betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity 
of gas is continually escaping from the same orifices with 
the water. Though the springs are only a few yards apart, 


they have very different temperature ; and this appears to be 
the result of an unequal mixture of cold water: for those 
with the lowest temperature have scarcely any mineral taste. 
After the great earthquake of 1822 the springs ceased, and 
the water did not return for nearly a year. They were also 
much affected by the earthquake of 1835; the temperature 
being suddenly changed from 118 to g2. 1 It seems probable 
that mineral waters rising deep from the bowels of the earth, 
would always be more deranged by subterranean disturbances 
than those nearer the surface. The man who had charge of 
the baths assured me that in summer the water is hotter and 
more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance I 
should have expected, from the less mixture, during the dry 
season, of cold water; but the latter statement appears very 
strange and contradictory. The periodical increase during 
the summer, when rain never falls, can, I think, only be 
accounted for by the melting of the snow : yet the mountains 
which are covered by snow during that season, are three or 
four leagues distant from the springs. I have no reason to 
doubt the accuracy of my informer, who, having lived on 
the spot for several years, ought to be well acquainted with 
the circumstance, which, if true, certainly is very curious: 
for we must suppose that the snow-water, being conducted 
through porous strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown 
up to the surface by the line of dislocated and injected rocks 
at Cauquenes; and the regularity of the phenomenon would 
seem to indicate that in this district heated rock occurred at 
a depth not very great. 

One day I rode up the valley to the farthest inhabited 
spot. Shortly above that point, the Cachapual divides into 
two deep tremendous ravines, which penetrate directly into 
the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, prob- 
ably more than six thousand feet high. Here, as indeed 
everywhere else, scenes of the highest interest presented 
themselves. It was by one of these ravines, that Pincheira 
entered Chile and ravaged the neighbouring country. This 
is the same man whose attack on an estancia at the Rio Negro 
I have described. He was a renegade half-caste Spaniard, 
who collected a great body of Indians together and estab- 

1 Caldcleugh, in Fbilosoph. Transact, for 1836. 


lished himself oy a stream in the Pampas, which place none 
of the forces sent after him could ever discover. From this 
point he used to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by 
passes hitherto unattempted, he ravaged the farm-houses 
and drove the cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was 
a capital horseman, and he made all around him equally 
good, for he invariably shot any one who hesitated to follow 
him. It was against this man, and other wandering Indian 
tribes, that Rosas waged the war of extermination. 

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

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale 
appearance of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. 
Nixon respecting their condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, 
and each man brings up about 200 pounds weight of stone. 
With this load they have to climb up the alternate notches cut 
in the trunks of trees, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. 

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


Even beardless young men, eighteen and twenty years old, 
with little muscular development of their bodies (they are 
quite naked excepting drawers) ascend with this great load 
from nearly the same depth. A strong man, who is not 
accustomed to this labour, perspires most profusely, with 
merely carrying up his own body. With this very severe 
labour, they live entirely on boiled beans and bread. They 
would prefer having bread alone; but their masters, finding 
that they cannot work so hard upon this, treat them like 
horses, and make them eat the beans. Their pay is here 
rather more than at the mines of Jajuel, being from 24 to 28 
shillings per month. They leave the mine only once in three 
weeks ; when they stay with their families for two days. One 
of the rules of this mine sounds very harsh, but answers 
pretty well for the master. The only method of stealing gold 
is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take them out as occasion 
may offer. Whenever the major-domo finds a lump thus 
hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the 
men ; who thus, without they all combine, are obliged to keep 
watch over each other. 

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


It is curious to find how the minute particles of gold, being 
scattered about and not corroding, at last accumulate in 
some quantity. A short time since a few miners, being out of 
work, obtained permission to scrape the ground round the 
house and mills ; they washed the earth thus got together, and 
so procured thirty dollars' worth of gold. This is an exact 
counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer 
degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins 
which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpa- 
ble mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed ; 
but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, 
and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. 
After whole mountains have passed through this grinding 
mill, and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue 
becomes metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to 
complete the task of separation. 

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

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, 
and I was shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina 
mentions as being found in many places in considerable 
numbers. They are of a circular flattened form, from five to 
six inches in diameter, with a hole passing quite through the 
centre. It has generally been supposed that they were used 
as heads to clubs, although their form does not appear at all 
well adapted for that purpose. Burchell 8 states that some 
of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots by the aid of a 
stick pointed at one end, the force and weight of which are 

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


increased by a round stone with a hole in it, into which the 
other end is firmly wedged. It appears probable that the 
Indians of Chile formerly used some such rude agricultural 

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

September ipth. We left Yaquil, and followed the flat 
valley, formed like that of Quillota, in which the Rio Tin- 
deridica flows. Even at these few miles south of Santiago 
the climate is much damper; in consequence there are fine 
tracts of pasturage, which are not irrigated. (20th.) We 
followed this valley till it expanded into a great plain, which 
reaches from the sea to the mountains west of Rancagua. 
We shortly lost all trees and even bushes ; so that the inhabi- 
tants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in the Pam- 
pas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much 
surprised at meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains 
belong to more than one series of different elevations, and 
they are traversed by broad flat-bottomed valleys; both of 
which circumstances, as in Patagonia, bespeak the action of 


the sea on gently rising land. In the steep cliffs bordering 
these valleys, there are some large caves, which no doubt 
were originally formed by the waves: one of these is cele- 
brated under the name of Cueva del Obispo ; having formerly 
been consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and 
from that time till the end of October did not recover. 

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

24th. Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, 
which with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was there 
confined to my bed till the end of October. During this time 
I was an inmate in Mr. Corfield's house, whose kindness to 
me I do not know how to express. 

I will here add a few observations on some of the animals 
and birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is 
not uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical range ; 
being found from the equatorial forests, throughout the 
deserts of Patagonia, as far south as the damp and cold 
latitudes (53 to 54) of Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its 
footsteps in the Cordillera of central Chile, at an elevation of 
at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the puma preys chiefly on 
deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small quadrupeds ; it there 
seldom attacks cattle or horses, and most rarely man. In 
Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and cattle, 
owing probably to the scarcity of other quadrupeds : I heard, 
likewise, of two men and a woman who had been thus killed. 
It is asserted that the puma always kills its prey by springing 
on the shoulders, and then drawing back the head with one 
of its paws, until the vertebrae break: I have seen in Pata- 
gonia the skeletons of guanacos, with their necks thus 

The puma, after eating its fill, covers the carcass with 
many large bushes, and lies down to watch it. This habit is 
often the cause of its being discovered; for the condors 
wheeling in the air every now and then descend to partake 


of the feast, and being angrily driven away, rise all together 
on the wing. The Chileno Guaso then knows there is a lion 
watching his prey the word is given and men and dogs 
hurry to the chase. Sir F. Head says that a Gaucho in the 
Pampas, upon merely seeing some condors wheeling in the 
air, cried " A lion ! " I could never myself meet with any one 
who pretended to such powers of discrimination. It is as- 
serted that, if a puma has once been betrayed by thus watch- 
ing the carcass, and has then been hunted, it never resumes 
this habit ; but that, having gorged itself, it wanders far away. 
The puma is easily killed. In an open country, it is first 
entangled with the bolas, then lazoed, and dragged along the 
ground till rendered insensible. At Tandeel (south of the 
Plata), I was told that within three months one hundred 
were thus destroyed. In Chile they are generally driven up 
bushes or trees, and are then either shot, or baited to death 
by dogs. The dogs employed in this chase belong to a par- 
ticular breed, called Leoneros : they are weak, slight animals, 
like long-legged terriers, but are born with a particular 
instinct for this sport. The puma is described as being very 
crafty: when pursued, it often returns on its former track, 
and then suddenly making a spring on one side, waits there 
till the dogs have passed by. It is a very silent animal, 
uttering no cry even when wounded, and only rarely during 
the breeding season. 

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (mega- 
podius and albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most con- 
spicuous. The former, called by the Chilenos " el Turco," 
is as large as a fieldfare, to which bird it has some alliance; 
but its legs are much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger : 
its colour is a reddish brown. The Turco is not uncommon. 
It lives on the ground, sheltered among the thickets which are 
scattered over the dry and sterile hills. With its tail erect, 
and stilt-like legs, it may be seen every now and then pop- 
ping from one bush to another with uncommon quickness. 
It really requires little imagination to believe that the bird is 
ashamed of itself, and is aware of its most ridiculous figure. 
On first seeing it, one is tempted to exclaim, " A vilely stuffed 
specimen has escaped from some museum, and has come to 
life again ! " It cannot be made to take flight without the 


greatest trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The various 
loud cries which it utters when concealed amongst the bushes, 
are as strange as its appearance. It is said to build its 
nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. I dissected several 
specimens : the gizzard, which was very muscular, contained 
beetles, vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this character, 
from the length of its legs, scratching feet, membranous 
covering to the nostrils, short and arched wings, this bird 
seems in a certain degree to connect the thrushes with the 
gallinaceous order. 

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first 
in its general form. It is called Tapacolo, or " cover your 
posterior;" and well does the shameless little bird deserve its 
name; for it carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined 
backwards towards its head. It is very common, and fre- 
quents the bottoms of hedge-rows, and the bushes scattered 
over the barren hills, where scarcely another bird can exist. 
In its general manner of feeding, of quickly hopping out of 
the thickets and back again, in its desire of concealment, 
unwillingness to take flight, and nidification, it bears a close 
resemblance to the Turco; but its appearance is not quite so 
ridiculous. The Tapacolo is very crafty : when frightened by 
any person, it will remain motionless at the bottom of a bush, 
and will then, after a little while, try with much address to 
crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and 
continually making a noise : these noises are various and 
strangely odd ; some are like the cooing of doves, others like 
the bubbling of water, and many defy all similes. The coun- 
try people say it changes its cry five times in the year 
according to some change of season, I suppose. 4 

Two species of humming-birds are common; Trochilus 
forficatus is found over a space of 2500 miles on the west 
coast, from the hot dry country of Lima, to the forests of 
Tierra del Fuego where it may be seen flitting about in 
snow-storms. In the wooded island of Chiloe, which has an 

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


extremely humid climate, this little bird, skipping from side 
to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps more abundant 
than almost any other kind. I opened the stomachs of several 
specimens, shot in different parts of the continent, and in all, 
remains of insects were as numerous as in the stomach of a 
creeper. When this species migrates in the summer south- 
ward, it is replaced by the arrival of another species coming 
from the north. This second kind (Trochilus gigas) is a 
very large bird for the delicate family to which it belongs: 
when on the wing its appearance is singular. Like others 
of the genus, it moves from place to place with a rapidity 
which may be compared to that of Syrphus amongst flies, 
and Sphinx among moths ; but whilst hovering over a flower, 
it flaps its wings with a very slow and powerful movement, 
totally different from that vibratory one common to most of 
the species, which produces the humming noise. I never saw 
any other bird where the force of its wings appeared (as in a 
butterfly) so powerful in proportion to the weight of its body. 
When hovering by a flower, its tail is constantly expanded 
and shut like a fan, the body being kept in a nearly vertical 
position. This action appears to steady and support the bird, 
between the slow movements of its wings. Although flying 
from flower to flower in search of food, its stomach generally 
contained abundant remains of insects, which I suspect are 
much more the object of its search than honey. The note of 
this species, like that of nearly the whole family, is extremely 



Chiloe General Aspect Boat Excursion Native Indians Castro 
Tame Fox Ascend San Pedro Chonos Archipelago Peninsula 
of Tres Montes Granitic Range Boat-wrecked Sailors Low's 
Harbour Wild Potato Formation of Peat Myopotamus, Otter 
and Mice Cheucau and Barking-bird Opetiorhynchus Singular 
Character of Ornithology Petrels. 

71 TOVEMBER lothThe Beagle sailed from Valparaiso 
l\ to the south, for the purpose of surveying the south- 
ern part of Chile, the island of Chiloe, and the broken 
land called the Chonos Archipelago, as far south as the 
Peninsula of Tres Montes. On the 2ist we anchored in the 
bay of S. Carlos, the capital of Chiloe. 

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of 
rather less than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountain- 
ous, and is covered by one great forest, except where a few 
green patches have been cleared round the thatched cottages. 
From a distance the view somewhat resembles that of Tierra 
del Fuego ; but the woods, when seen nearer, are incompara- 
bly more beautiful. Many kinds of fine evergreen trees, and 
plants with a tropical character, here take the place of the 
gloomy beech of the southern shores. In winter the climate 
is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should 
think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate 
regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very bois- 
terous, and the sky almost always clouded : to have a week of 
fine weather is something wonderful. It is even difficult to 
get a single glimpse of the Cordillera : during our first visit, 
once only the volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief, and 
that was before sunrise; it was curious to watch, as the sun 
rose, the outline gradually fading away in the glare of the 
eastern sky. 

The inhabitants, from their complexion and low stature, 



appear to have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. 
They are an humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although 
the fertile soil, resulting from the decomposition of the vol- 
canic rocks, supports a rank vegetation, yet the climate is not 
favourable to any production which requires much sunshine 
to ripen it. There is very little pasture for the larger quad- 
rupeds ; and in consequence, the staple articles of food are 
pigs, potatoes, and fish. The people all dress in strong 
woollen garments, which each family makes for itself, and 
dyes with indigo of a dark blue colour. The arts, however, 
are in the rudest state; as may be seen in their strange 
fashion of ploughing, their method of spinning, grinding 
corn, and in the construction of their boats. The forests are 
so impenetrable, that the land is nowhere cultivated except 
near the coast and on the adjoining islets. Even where paths 
exist, they are scarcely passable from the soft and swampy 
state of the soil. The inhabitants, like those of Tierra del 
Fuego, move about chiefly on the beach or in boats. Although 
with plenty to eat, the people are very poor: there is no 
demand for labour, and consequently the lower orders cannot 
scrape together money sufficient to purchase even the smallest 
luxuries. There is also a great deficiency of a circulating 
medium. I have seen a man bringing on his back a bag of 
charcoal, with which to buy some trifle, and another carrying 
a plank to exchange for a bottle of wine. Hence every trades- 
man must also be a merchant, and again sell the goods which 
he takes in exchange. 

November 24th. The yawl and whale-boat were sent under 
the command of Mr. (now Captain) Sulivan, to survey the 
eastern or inland coast of Chiloe ; and with orders to meet 
the Beagle at the southern extremity of the island ; to which 
point she would proceed by the outside, so as thus to cir- 
cumnavigate the whole. I accompanied this expedition, but 
instead of going in the boats the first day, I hired horses to 
take me to Chacao, at the northern extremity of the island. 
The road followed the coast; every now and then crossing 
promontories covered by fine forests. In these shaded paths 
it is absolutely necessary that the whole road should be made 
of logs of wood, which are squared and placed by the side of 
each other. From the rays of the sun never penetrating the 


evergreen foliage, the ground is so damp and soft, that except 
by this means neither man nor horse would be able to pass 
along. I arrived at the village of Chacao shortly after the 
tents belonging to the boats were pitched for the night. 

The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively 
cleared, and there were many quiet and most picturesque 
nooks in the forest. Chacao was formerly the principal port 
in the island ; but many vessels having been lost, owing to the 
dangerous currents and rocks in the straits, the Spanish gov- 
ernment burnt the church, and thus arbitrarily compelled the 
greater number of inhabitants to migrate to S. Carlos. We 
had not long bivouacked, before the barefooted son of the 
governor came down to reconnoitre us. Seeing the English 
flag hoisted at the yawl's mast-head, he asked with the utmost 
indifference, whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In sev- 
eral places the inhabitants were much astonished at the 
appearance of men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed 
it was the forerunner of a Spanish fleet, coming to recover 
the island from the patriot government of Chile. All the 
men in power, however, had been informed of our intended 
visit, and were exceedingly civil. While we were eating our 
supper, the governor paid us a visit. He had been a lieuten- 
ant-colonel in the Spanish service, but now was miserably 
poor. He gave us two sheep, and accepted in return two cot- 
ton handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco. 

2$th. Torrents of rain: we managed, however, to run 
down the coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this 
eastern side of Chiloe has one aspect ; it is a plain, broken by 
valleys and divided into little islands, and the whole thickly 
covered with one impervious blackish-green forest. On the 
margins there are some cleared spaces, surrounding the high- 
roofed cottages. 

26th. The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of 
Orsono was spouting out volumes of smoke. This most 
beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, and white 
with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another 
great volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also emitted 
from its immense crater little jets of steam. Subsequently 
we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado well deserving the name 
of " el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one point 


of view, three great active volcanoes, each about seven thou- 
sand feet high. In addition to this, far to the south, there 
were other lofty cones covered with snow, which, although 
not known to be active, must be in their origin volcanic. 
The line of the Andes is not, in this neighbourhood, nearly 
so elevated as in Chile; neither does it appear to form so 
perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. This 
great range, although running in a straight north and south 
line, owing to an optical deception, always appeared more or 
less curved; for the lines drawn from each peak to the 
beholder's eye, necessarily converged like the radii of a 
semicircle, and as it was not possible (owing to the clearness 
of the atmosphere and the absence of all intermediate, ob- 
jects) to judge how far distant the farthest peaks were off, 
they appeared to stand in a flattish semicircle. 

Landing at midday, we saw a family of pure Indian extrac- 
tion. The father was singularly like York Minster ; and some 
of the younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might 
have been mistaken for Pampas Indians. Everything I have 
seen, convinces me of the close connexion of the different 
American tribes, who nevertheless speak distinct languages. 
This party could muster but little Spanish, and talked to each 
other in their own tongue. It is a pleasant thing to see the 
aborigines advanced to the same degree of civilization, how- 
ever low that may be, which their white conquerors have 
attained. More to the south we saw many pure Indians: 
indeed, all the inhabitants of some of the islets retain their 
Indian surnames. In the census of 1832, there were in Chiloe 
and its dependencies forty-two thousand souls; the greater 
number of these appear to be of mixed blood. Eleven thou- 
sand retain their Indian surnames, but it is probable that not 
nearly all of these are of a pure breed. Their manner of life 
is the same with that of the other poor inhabitants, and they 
are all Christians; but it is said that they yet retain some 
strange superstitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to 
hold communication with the devil in certain caves. For- 
merly, every one convicted of this offence was sent to the 
Inquisition at Lima. Many of the inhabitants who are not 
included in the eleven thousand with Indian surnames, can- 
not be distinguished by their appearance from Indians. 


Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen 
of Spain on both sides ; but by constant intermarriages with 
the natives the present man is an Indian. On the other hand, 
the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his purely kept 
Spanish blood. 

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the 
island of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of 
land. This is partly owing to their own negligence in not 
clearing the woods, and partly to restrictions by the govern- 
ment, which makes it necessary, before buying ever so small 
a piece, to pay two shillings to the surveyor for measuring 
each quadra (150 yards square), together with whatever 
price he fixes for the value of the land. After his valuation, 
the land must be put up three times to auction, and if no one 
bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. All these 
exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, 
where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most coun- 
tries, forests are removed without much difficulty by the aid 
of fire; but in Chiloe, from the damp nature of the climate, 
and the sort of trees, it is necessary first to cut them down. 
This is a heavy drawback to the prosperity of Chiloe. In the 
time of the Spaniards the Indians could not hold land; and a 
family, after having cleared a piece of ground, might be 
driven away, and the property seized by the government. 
The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice 
by making retribution to these poor Indians, giving to each 
man, according to his grade of life, a certain portion of land. 
The value of uncleared ground is very little. The govern- 
ment gave Mr. Douglas (the present surveyor, who informed 
me of these circumstances) eight and a half square miles of 
forest near S. Carlos, in lieu of a debt; and this he sold for 
350 dollars, or about 7o/. sterling. 

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached 
the island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cul- 
tivated part of the Archipelago; for a broad strip of land on 
the coast of the main island, as well as on many of the smallei 
adjoining ones, is almost completely cleared. Some of the 
farmhouses seemed very comfortable. I was curious to 
ascertain how rich any of these people might be, but Mr. 
Douglas says that no one can be considered as possessing a 


regular income. One of the richest land-owners might pos- 
sibly accumulate, in a long industrious life, as much as iooo/. 
sterling; but should this happen, it would all be stowed away 
in some secret corner, for it is the custom of almost every 
family to have a jar or treasure-chest buried in the ground. 

November joth. Early on Sunday morning we reached 
Castro, the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn 
and deserted place. The usual quadrangular arrangement 
of Spanish towns could be traced, but the streets and plaza 
were coated with fine green turf, on which sheep were 
browsing. The church, which stands in the middle, is entirely 
built of plank, and has a picturesque and venerable appear- 
ance. The poverty of the place may be conceived from the 
fact, that although containing some hundreds of inhabitants, 
one of our party was unable anywhere to purchase either a 
pound of sugar or an ordinary knife. No individual possessed 
either a watch or a clock ; and an old man, who was supposed 
to have a good idea of time, was employed to strike the 
church bell by guess. The arrival of our boats was a rare 
event in this quiet retired corner of the world ; and nearly all 
the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch our 
tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house ; and one 
man even sent us a cask of cider as a present. In the after- 
noon we paid our respects to the governor a quiet old man, 
who, in his appearance and manner of life, was scarcely 
superior to an English cottager. At night heavy rain set in, 
which was hardly sufficient to drive away from our tents the 
large circle of lookers-on. An Indian family, who had come 
to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked near us. They 
had no shelter during the rain. In the morning I asked a 
young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had passed 
the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, " Muy 
bien, senor." 

December ist. We steered for the island of Lemuy. I 
was anxious to examine a reported coal-mine which turned 
out to be lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably 
of an ancient tertiary epoch) of which these islands are com- 
posed. When we reached Lemuy we had much difficulty in 
finding any place to pitch our tents, for it was spring-tide, 
and the land was wooded down to the water's edge. In a 


short time we were surrounded by a large group of the nearly 
pure Indian inhabitants. They were much surprised at our 
arrival, and said one to the other, " This is the reason we 
have seen so many parrots lately; the cheucau (an odd red- 
breasted little bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and utters 
very peculiar noises) has not cried ' beware ' for nothing." 
They were soon anxious for barter. Money was scarcely 
worth anything, but their eagerness for tobacco was some- 
thing quite extraordinary. After tobacco, indigo came next 
in value; then capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The 
latter article was required for a very innocent purpose : each 
parish has a public musket, and the gunpowder was wanted 
for making a noise on their saint or feast days. 

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At 
certain seasons they catch also, in " corrales," or hedges 
under water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks as 
the tide falls. They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, 
pigs, horses, and cattle ; the order in which they are here 
mentioned, expressing their respective numbers. I never 
saw anything more obliging and humble than the manners 
of these people. They generally began with stating that 
they were poor natives of the place, and not Spaniards, 
and that they were in sad want of tobacco and other com- 
forts. At Caylen, the most southern island, the sailors 
bought with a stick of tobacco, of the value of three-half- 
pence, two fowls, one of which, the Indian stated, had skin 
between its toes, and turned out to be a fine duck; and with 
some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three shillings, three sheep 
and a large bunch of onions were procured. The yawl at 
this place was anchored some way from the shore, and we 
had fears for her safety from robbers during the night. Our 
pilot, Mr. Douglas, accordingly told the constable of the 
district that we always placed sentinels with loaded arms, 
and not understanding Spanish, if we saw any person in the 
dark, we should assuredly shoot him. The constable, with 
much humility, agreed to the perfect propriety of this 
arrangement, and promised us that no one should stir out 
of his house during that night. 

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing 
southward. The general features of the country remained 


the same, but it was much less thickly inhabited. On the 
large island of Tanqui there was scarcely one cleared spot, 
the trees on every side extending their branches over the 
sea-beach. I one day noticed, growing on the sandstone 
cliffs, some very fine plants of the panke (Gunnera scabra), 
which somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic scale. 
The inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan 
leather with the roots, and prepare a black dye from them. 
The leaf is nearly circular, but deeply indented on its mar- 
gin. I measured one which was nearly eight feet in diame- 
ter, and therefore no less than twenty-four in circumfer- 
ence ! The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and each 
plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves, pre- 
senting together a very noble appearance. 

December 6th. We reached Caylen, called " el fin del 
Cristiandad." In the morning we stopped for a few minutes 
at a house on the northern end of Laylec, which was the 
extreme point of South American Christendom, and a mis- 
erable hovel it was. The latitude is 43 10', which is two 
degrees farther south than the Rio Negro on the Atlantic 
coast. These extreme Christians were very poor, and, under 
the plea of their situation, begged for some tobacco. As a 
proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may mention that 
shortly before this, we had met a man, who had travelled 
three days and a half on foot, and had as many to return, 
for the sake of recovering the value of a small axe and a few 
fish. How very difficult it must be to buy the smallest article, 
when such trouble is taken to recover so small a debt. 

In the evening we reached the island of San Pedro, where 
we found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two 
of the officers landed to take a round of angles with the 
theodolite. A fox (Canis fulvipes), of a kind said to be 
peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and which is a new 
species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently ab- 
sorbed in watching the work of the officers, that I was able, 
by quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the head 
with my geological hammer. This fox, more curious or 
more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his 
brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological 


We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which 
Captain Fitz Roy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the 
summit of San Pedro. The woods here had rather a differ- 
ent appearance from those on the northern part of the island. 
The rock, also, being micaceous slate, there was no beach, 
but the steep sides dipped directly beneath the water. The 
general aspect in consequence was more like that of Tierra 
del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the 
summit: the forest was so impenetrable, that no one who 
has not beheld it can imagine so entangled a mass of dying 
and dead trunks. I am sure that often, for more than ten 
minutes together, our feet never touched the ground, and 
we were frequently ten or fifteen feet above it, so that the 
seamen as a joke called out the soundings. At other times 
we crept one after another on our hands and knees, under 
the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the mountain, noble 
trees of the Winter's Bark, and a laurel like the sassafras 
with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I do 
not know, were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. 
Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any 
other animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes the 
place of larger trees, with here and there a red cedar or an 
alerce pine. I was also pleased to see, at an elevation of a 
little less than 1000 feet, our old friend the southern beech. 
They were, however, poor stunted trees; and I should think 
that this must be nearly their northern limit. We ultimately 
gave up the attempt in despair. 

December loth. The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr. 
Sulivan, proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board 
the Beagle, which the next day left San Pedro for the south- 
ward. On the I3th we ran into an opening in the southern 
part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos Archipelago; and it was 
fortunate we did so, for on the following day a storm, worthy 
of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great fury. White massive 
clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, and across them 
black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. The suc- 
cessive mountain ranges appeared like dim shadows; and 
the setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much 
like that produced by the flame of spirits of wine. The water 
was white with the flying spray, and the wind lulled and 


roared again through the rigging: it was an ominous, sub- 
lime scene. During a few minutes there was a bright rain- 
bow, and it was curious to observe the effect of the spray, 
which being carried along the surface of the water, changed 
the ordinary semicircle into a circle a band of prismatic 
colours being continued, from both feet of the common arch 
across the bay, close to the vessel's side : thus forming a dis- 
torted, but very nearly entire ring. 

We stayed here three days. The weather continued bad: 
but this did not much signify, for the surface of the land 
in all these islands is all but impassable. The coast is so 
very rugged that to attempt to walk in that direction re- 
quires continued scrambling up and down over the sharp 
rocks of mica-slate ; and as for the woods, our faces, hands, 
and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we 
received, in merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden 

December i8th. We stood out to sea. On the 2oth we 
bade farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the 
ship's head northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed 
pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast, which is 
remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the thick 
covering of forest even on the almost precipitous flanks. The 
next day a harbour was discovered, which on this dangerous 
coast might be of great service to a distressed vessel. It 
can easily be recognized by a hill 1600 feet high, which is 
even more perfectly conical than the famous sugar-loaf at 
Rio de Janeiro. The next day, after anchoring, I succeeded 
in reaching the summit of this hill. It was a laborious under- 
taking, for the sides were so steep that in some parts it was 
necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were also several 
extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its beautiful 
drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In 
these wild countries it gives much delight to gain the summit 
of any mountain. There is an indefinite expectation of seeing 
something very strange, which, however often it may be 
balked, never failed with me to recur on each successive 
attempt. Every one must know the feeling of triumph and 
pride which a grand view from a height communicates to the 
mind. In these little frequented countries there is also joined 


to it some vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever 
stood on this pinnacle or admired this view. 

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

December 28th. The weather continued very bad, but it 
at last permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time 
hung heavy on our hands, as it always did when we were 
delayed from day to day by successive gales of wind. In 
the evening another harbour was discovered, where we 
anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen waving a 
shirt, and a boat was sent which brought back two seamen. 
A party of six had run away from an American whaling 
vessel, and had landed a little to the southward in a boat, 
which was shortly afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf. 
They had now been wandering up and down the coast for 
fifteen months, without knowing which way to go, or where 
they were. What a singular piece of good fortune it was 
that this harbour was now discovered ! Had it not been for 
this one chance, they might have wandered till they had 
grown old men, and at last have perished on this wild coast. 
Their sufferings had been very great, and one of their party 
had lost his life by falling from the cliffs. They were some- 
times obliged to separate in search of food, and this explained 
the bed of the solitary man. Considering what they had 
undergone, I think they had kept a very good reckoning of 
time, for they had lost only four days. 

December joth. We anchored in a snug little cove at the 


foot of some high hills, near the northern extremity of Tres 
Monies. After breakfast the next morning, a party ascended 
one of these mountains, which was 2400 feet high. The 
scenery was remarkable. The chief part of the range was 
composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which 
appeared as if they had been coeval with the beginning of 
the world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and this 
in the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger- 
shaped points. These two formations, thus differing in their 
outlines, agree in being almost destitute of vegetation. This 
barrenness had to our eyes a strange appearance, from having 
been so long accustomed to the sight of an almost universal 
forest of dark-green trees. I took much delight in examining 
the structure of these mountains. The complicated and lofty 
ranges bore a noble aspect of durability equally profitless, 
however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to the 
geologist is classic ground : from its widespread limits, and its 
beautiful and compact texture, few rocks have been more 
anciently recognised. Granite has given rise, perhaps, to 
more discussion concerning its origin than any other forma- 
tion. We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock, 
and, however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the 
crust of this globe to which man has penetrated. The limit 
of man's knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest, 
which is perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the 
realms of imagination. 

January ist, 1835. The new year is ushered in with the 
ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no 
false hopes: a heavy north-western gale, with steady rain, 
bespeaks the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined 
Here to see the end of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific 
Ocean, where a blue sky tells one there is a heaven, a some- 
thing beyond the clouds above our heads. 

The north-west winds prevailing for the next four days, 
we only managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in 
another secure harbour. I accompanied the Captain in a 
boat to the head of a deep creek. On the way the number of 
seals which we saw was quite astonishing: every bit of flat 
rock, and parts of the beach, were covered with them. They 
appeared to be of a loving disposition, and lay huddled to- 


gether, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs would 
have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which 
came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but 
inauspicious eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, 
with its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is 
very common on the west coast, and their attendance on the 
seals shows on what they rely for their food. We found the 
water (probably only that of the surface) nearly fresh: this 
was caused by the number of torrents which, in the form 
of cascades, came tumbling over the bold granite mountains 
into the sea. The fresh water attracts the fish, and these 
bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds of cormorant. We 
saw also a pair of the beautiful black-necked swans, and 
several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such 
high estimation. In returning, we were again amused by the 
impetuous manner in which the heap of seals, old and young, 
tumbled into the water as the boat passed. They did not 
remain long under water, but rising, followed us with out- 
stretched necks, expressing great wonder and curiosity. 

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

The wild potato grows on these islands in great abundance, 
on the sandy, shelly soil near the sea-beach. The tallest 
plant was four feet in height. The tubers were generally 


rmall, but I found one, of an oval shape, two inches in 
diameter : they resembled in every respect, and had the same 
smell as English potatoes ; but when boiled they shrunk much, 
and were watery and insipid, without any bitter taste. They 
are undoubtedly here indigenous : they grow as far south, 
according to Mr. Low, as lat. 50, and are called Aquinas by 
the wild Indians of that part: the Chilotan Indians have a 
different name for them. Professor Henslow, who has ex- 
amined the dried specimens which I brought home, says that 
they are the same with those described by Mr. Sabine 1 from 
Valparaiso, but that they form a variety which by some 
botanists has been considered as specifically distinct. It is 
remarkable that the same plant should be found on the sterile 
mountains of central Chile, where a drop of rain does not 
fall for more than six months, and within the damp forests 
of these southern islands. 

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago (lat. 45), 
the forest has very much the same character with that along 
the whole west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn. 
The arborescent grass of Chiloe is not found here ; while the 
beech of Tierra del Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a 
considerable proportion of the wood; not, however, in the 
same exclusive manner as it does farther southward. Crypto- 
gamic plants here find a most congenial climate. In the Strait 
of Magellan, as I have before remarked, the country appears 
too cold and wet to allow of their arriving at perfection ; but 
in these islands, within the forest, the number of species and 
great abundance of mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite 
extraordinary.* In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the 
hillsides; every level piece of land being invariably covered 
by a thick bed of peat; but in Chiloe flat land supports the 
most luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos Archipel- 
ago, the nature of the climate more closely approaches that 

1 Horticultural Transact., vol. v. p. 249. Mr. Caldcleugh sent home 
two tubers, which, being well manured, even the first season produced 
numerous potatoes and an abundance of leaves. See Humboldt's interest- 
ing discussion on this plant, which it appears was unknown in Mexico, 
in Polit. Essay on New Spain, book iv. chap. ix. 

* By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these situations a 
considerable number of minute insects, of the family of Staphylinidae, and 
others allied to Pselaphus, and minute Hymenoptera. But _the most char- 
acteristic family in number, both of individuals and species, throughout 
the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos is that of the Telephone!*. 


of Tierra del Fuego than that of northern Chiloe; for every 
patch of level ground is covered by two species of plants 
(Astelia pumila and Donatia magellanica), which by their 
joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic peat. 

In Tierra del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the 
former of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent 
in the production of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeed- 
ing one to the other round the central tap-root; the lower 
ones soon decay, and in tracing a root downwards in the peat, 
the leaves, yet holding their place, can be observed passing 
through every stage of decomposition, till the whole becomes 
blended in one confused mass. The Astelia is assisted by a 
few other plants, here and there a small creeping Myrtus 
(M. nummularia), with a woody stem like our cranberry and 
with a sweet berry, an Empetrum (E. rubrum), like our 
heath, a rush (Juncus grandiflorus), are nearly the only 
ones that grow on the swampy surface. These plants, though 
possessing a very close general resemblance to the English 
species of the same genera, are different. In the more level 
parts of the country, the surface of the peat is broken up into 
little pools of water, which stand at different heights, and 
appear as if artificially excavated. Small streams of water, 
flowing underground, complete the disorganization of the 
vegetable matter, and consolidate the whole. 

The climate of the southern part of America appears partic- 
ularly favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland 
Islands almost every kind of plant, even the coarse grass 
which covers the whole surface of the land, becomes con- 
verted into this substance: scarcely any situation checks its 
growth; some of the beds are as much as twelve feet thick, 
and the lower part becomes so solid when dry, that it will 
hardly burn. Although every plant lends its aid, yet in most 
parts the Astelia is the most efficient. It is rather a singular 
circumstance, as being so very different from what occurs 
in Europe, that I nowhere saw moss forming by its decay 
any portion of the peat in South America. With respect to 
the northern limit, at which the climate allows of that pecul- 
iar kind of slow decomposition which is necessary for its 
production, I believe that in Chiloe (lat. 41 to 42), although 
there is much swampy ground, no well-characterized peat 


occurs: but in the Chonos Islands, three degrees farther 
southward, we have seen that it is abundant. On the eastern 
coast in La Plata (lat. 35) I was told by a Spanish resident 
who had visited Ireland, that he had often sought for this 
substance, but had never been able to find any. He showed 
me, as the nearest approach to it which he had discovered, a 
black peaty soil, so penetrated with roots as to allow of an 
extremely slow and imperfect combustion. 

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archi- 
pelago is, as might have been expected, very poor. Of quad- 
rupeds two aquatic kinds are common. The Myopotamus 
Coypus (like a beaver, but with a round tail) is well known 
from its fine fur, which is an object of trade throughout the 
tributaries of La Plata. It here, however, exclusively fre- 
quents salt water; which same circumstance has been men- 
tioned as sometimes occurring with the great rodent, the 
Capybara. A small sea-otter is very numerous; this animal 
does not feed exclusively on fish, but, like the seals, draws a 
large supply from a small red crab, which swims in shoals 
near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra 
del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish ; and at Low's Harbour, another 
was killed in the act of carrying to its hole a large volute 
shell. At one place I caught in a trap a singular little mouse 
(M. brachiotis) ; it appeared common on several of the islets, 
but the Chilotans at Low's Harbour said that it was not found 
in all. What a succession of chances,* or what changes of 
level must have been brought into play, thus to spread these 
small animals throughout this broken archipelago ! 

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds 
occur, which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapa- 
colo of central Chile. One is called by the inhabitants 
"Cheucau" (Pteroptochos rubecula) : it frequents the most 
gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Some- 
times, although its cry may be heard close at hand, let a per- 
son watch ever so attentively he will not see the cheucau ; at 

* It is said that some rapacious birds bring their prey alive to their 
nests. If so, in the course of centuries, every now and then, one might 
.escape from the young birds. Some such agency is necessary, to account 
for the distribution of the smaller gnawing animals on islands not very 
near each other. 


other times, let him stand motionless and the red-breasted 
little bird will approach within a few feet in the most familiar 
manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass of 
rotting canes and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards. 
The cheucau is held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on 
account of its strange and varied cries. There are three 
very distinct cries : one is called " chiduco," and is an omen 
of good ; another, " huitreu," which is extremely unfavour- 
able; and a third, which I have forgotten. These words are 
given in imitation of the noises ; and the natives are in some 
things absolutely governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly 
have chosen a most comical little creature for their prophet. 
An allied species, but rather larger, is called by the natives 
" Guid-guid" (Pteroptochos Tarnii), and by the English the 
barking-bird. This latter name is well given ; for I defy any 
one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping 
somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a person 
will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain many 
endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by beating 
the bushes, to see the bird; yet at other times the guid-guid 
fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general 
habits are very similar to those of the cheucau. 

On the coast* a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhyn- 
chus Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from 
its quiet habits; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a 
sandpiper. Besides these birds only few others inhabit this 
broken land. In my rough notes I describe the strange 
noises, which, although frequently heard within these gloomy 
forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. The yelp- 
ing of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the 
cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and sometimes from 
close at hand ; the little black wren of Tierra del Fuego oc- 
casionally adds its cry; the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the 
intruder screaming and twittering; the humming-bird may 
be seen every now and then darting from side to side, and 
emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp; lastly, from the top 

4 I may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there is between the 
seasons of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on September 
20th, in lat. 34, these birds had young ones in the nest, while among _the 
Chonos Islands, three months later in the summer, they were only laying, 
the difference in latitude between these two places being about 700 miles. 


of some lofty tree the indistinct but plaintive note of the 
white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may be noticed. 
From the great preponderance in most countries of certain 
common genera of birds, such as the finches, one feels at 
first surprised at meeting with the peculiar forms above enu- 
merated, as the commonest birds in any district. In central 
Chile two of them, namely, the Oxyurus and Scytalopus, oc- 
cur, although most rarely. When finding, as in this case, 
animals which seem to play so insignificant a part in the great 
scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were 

But it should always be recollected, that in some other 
country perhaps they are essential members of society, or 
at some former period may have been so. If America 
south of 37 were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, 
these two birds might continue to exist in central Chile for 
a long period, but it is very improbable that their numbers 
would increase. We should then see a case which must in- 
evitably have happened with very many animals. 

These southern seas are frequented by several species of 
Petrels: the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (que- 
brantahuesos, or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a com- 
mon bird, both in the inland channels and on the open sea. 
In its habits and manner of flight, there is a very close re- 
semblance with the albatross; and as with the albatross, a 
person may watch it for hours together without seeing on 
what it feeds. The " break-bones " is, however, a rapacious 
bird, for it was observed by some of the officers at Port St. 
Antonio chasing a diver, which tried to escape by diving 
and flying, but was concinually struck down, and at last 
killed by a blow on its head. At Port St. Julian these great 
petrels were seen killing and devouring young gulls. A sec- 
ond species (Puffinus cinereus), which is common to Europe, 
Cape Horn, and the coast of Peru, is of much smaller size 
than the P. gigantea, but, like it, of a dirty black colour. It 
generally frequents the inland sounds in very large flocks : 
I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any other sort 
together, as I once saw of these behind the island of Chiloe. 
Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for several 
I hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on the 


water the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from 
them as of human beings talking in the distance. 

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only 
mention one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which 
offers an example of those extraordinary cases, of a bird 
evidently belonging to one well-marked family, yet both in 
its habits and structure allied to a very distinct tribe. This 
bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. When disturbed 
it dives to a distance, and on coming to the surface, with the 
same movement takes flight. After flying by a rapid move- 
ment of its short wings for a space in a straight line, it drops, 
as if struck dead, and dives again. The form of its beak and 
nostrils, length of foot, and even the colouring of its plum- 
age, show that this bird is a petrel: on the other hand, its 
short wings and consequent little power of flight, its form 
of body and shape of tail, the absence of a hind toe to its 
foot, its habit of diving, and its choice of situation, make it 
at first doubtful whether its relationship is not equally close 
with the auks. It would undoubtedly be mistaken for an auk, 
when seen from a distance, either on the wing, or when div- 
ing and quietly swimming about the retired channels of 
Tierra del Fuego. 


San Carlos, Chiloe Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with 
Aconcagua and Coseguina Ride to Cucao Impenetrable Forests 
Valdivia Indians Earthquake Concepcion Great Earthquake 
Rocks fissured Appearance of the former Towns The Sea Black 
and Boiling Direction of the Vibrations Stones twisted round 
Great Wave Permanent Elevation of the Land Area of Volcanic 
Phenomena The connection between the Elevatory and Eruptive 
Forces Cause of Earthquakes Slow Elevation of Mountain- 

ON JANUARY the 15th we sailed from Low's Harbour, 
and three days afterwards anchored a second time in 
the bay of S. Carlos in Chiloe. On the night of the 
igth the volcano of Osorno was in action. At midnight the 
sentry observed something like a large star, which gradually 
increased in size till about three o'clock, when it presented 
a very magnificent spectacle. By the aid of a glass, dark 
objects, in constant succession, were seen, in the midst of a 
great glare of red light, to be thrown up and to fall down. 
The light was sufficient to cast on the water a long bright 
reflection. Large masses of molten matter seem very com- 
monly to be cast out of the craters in this part of the Cordil- 
lera. I was assured that when the Corcovado is in eruption, 
great masses are projected upwards and are seen to burst in 
the air, assuming many fantastical forms, such as trees: 
their size must be immense, for they can be distinguished 
from the high land behind S. Carlos, which is no less than 
ninety-three miles from the Corcovado. In the morning the 
volcano became tranquil. 

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in 
Chile, 480 miles northwards, was in action on the same night ; 
and still more surprised to hear that the great eruption of 
Coseguina (2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by 
an earthquake felt over a 1000 miles, also occurred within 



six hours of this same time. This coincidence is the more 
remarkable, as Coseguina had been dormant for twenty-six 
years ; and Aconcagua most rarely shows any signs of action. 
It is difficult even to conjecture whether this coincidence was 
accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesu- 
vius, Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer 
each other than the corresponding points in South America), 
suddenly burst forth in eruption on the same night, the coin- 
cidence would be thought remarkable; but it is far more re- 
markable in this case, where the three vents fall on the same 
great mountain-chain, and where the vast plains along the 
entire eastern coast, and the upraised recent shells along 
more than 2000 miles on the western coast, show in how 
equable and connected a manner the elevatory forces have 

Captain Fitz Roy being anxious that some bearings should 
be taken on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that 
Mr. King and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across 
the island to the Capella de Cucao, situated on the west 
coast. Having hired horses and a guide, we set out on 
the morning of the 22nd. We had not proceeded far, before 
we were joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent on 
the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a " hail 
fellow well met " fashion; and one may here enjoy the privi- 
lege, so rare in South America, of travelling without fire- 
arms. At first, the country consisted of a succession of hills 
and valleys : nearer to Castro it became very level. The road 
itself is a curious affair; it consists in its whole length, with 
the exception of very few parts, of great logs of wood, which 
are either broad and laid longitudinally, or narrow and placed 
transversely. In summer the road is not very bad; but in 
winter, when the wood is rendered slippery from rain, trav- 
elling is exceedingly difficult. At that time of the year, the 
ground on each side becomes a morass, and is often over- 
flowed: hence it is necessary that the longitudinal logs 
should be fastened down by tranverse poles, which are 
pegged on each side into the earth. These pegs render a fall 
from a horse dangerous, as the chance of alighting on one of 
them is not small. It is remarkable, however, how active 
custom has made the Chilotan horses. In crossing bad parts, 


where the logs had been displaced, they skipped from one 
to the other, almost with the quickness and certainty of a 
dog. On both hands the road is bordered by the lofty forest- 
trees, with their bases matted together by canes. When oc- 
casionally a long reach of this avenue could be beheld, it pre- 
sented a curious scene of uniformity: the white line of logs, 
narrowing in perspective, became hidden by the gloomy forest, 
or terminated in a zigzag which ascended some steep hill. 

Although the distance from S. Carlos to Castro is only 
twelve leagues in a straight line, the formation of the road 
must have been a great labour. I was told that several peo- 
ple had formerly lost their lives in attempting to cross the 
forest. The first who succeeded was an Indian, who cut his 
way through the canes in eight days, and reached S. Carlos : 
he was rewarded by the Spanish government with a grant of 
land. During the summer, many of the Indians wander 
about the forests (but chiefly in the higher parts, where the 
woods are not quite so thick) in search of the half-wild cattle 
which live on the leaves of the cane and certain trees. It 
was one of these huntsmen who by chance discovered, a few 
years since, an English vessel, which had been wrecked on the 
outer coast. The crew were beginning to fail in provisions, 
and it is not probable that, without the aid of this man, they 
would ever have extricated themselves from these scarcely 
penetrable woods. As it was, one seaman died on the march, 
from fatigue. The Indians in these excursions steer by the 
sun; so that if there is a continuance of cloudy weather, they 
cannot travel. 

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which 
tfere in full flower perfumed the air; yet even this could 
fiardly dissipate the effects of the gloomy dampness of the 
forest. Moreover, the many dead trunks that stand like 
skeletons, never fail to give to these primeval woods a char- 
acter of solemnity, absent in those of countries long civilized. 
Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. Our fe- 
male companion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to 
one of the most respectable families in Castro: she rode, 
however, astride, and without shoes or stockings. I was sur- 
prised at the total want of pride shown by her and her brother. 
They brought food with them, but at all our meals sat 


watching Mr. King and myself whilst eating, till we were 
fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. The night was 
cloudless; and while lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight 
(and it is a high enjoyment) of the multitude of stars which 
illumined the darkness of the forest. 

January 2$rd. We rose early in the morning, and reached 
the pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old gov- 
ernor had died since our last visit, and a Chileno was acting 
in his place. We had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro, 
whom we found exceedingly hospitable and kind, and more 
disinterested than is usual on this side of the continent. The 
next day Don Pedro procured us fresh horses, and offered 
to accompany us himself. We proceeded to the south gen- 
erally following the coast, and passing through several ham- 
lets, each with it's large barn-like chapel built of wood. At 
Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the commandant to give us a guide 
to Cucao. The old gentleman offered to come himself; but 
for a long time nothing would persuade him that two En- 
glishmen really wished to go to such an out-of-the-way place 
as Cucao. We were thus accompanied by the two greatest 
aristocrats in the country, as was plainly to be seen in the 
manner of all the poorer Indians towards them. At Chonchi 
we struck across the island, following intricate winding 
paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and 
sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn 
and potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially 
cultivated, reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and 
therefore had to my eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vi- 
linco, which is situated on the borders of the lake of Cucao, 
only a few fields were cleared; and all the inhabitants ap- 
peared to be Indians. This lake is twelve miles long, and 
runs in an east and west direction. From local circum- 
stances, the sea-breeze blows very regularly during the day, 
and during the night it falls calm: this has given rise to 
strange exaggerations, for the phenomenon, as described to 
us at S. Carlos, was quite a prodigy. 

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to 
embark in a periagua. The commandant, in the most au- 
thoritative manner, ordered six Indians to get ready to pull 
us over, without deigning to tell them whether they would 


be paid. The periagua is a strange rough boat, but the crew 
were still stranger: I doubt if six uglier little men ever got 
into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well and 
cheerfully. The stroke-oarsman gabbled Indian, and uttered 
strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig-driver driving 
his pigs. We started with a light breeze against us, but yet 
reached the Capella de Cucao before it was late. The coun- 
try on each side of the lake was one unbroken forest. In the 
same periagua with us, a cow was embarked. To get so 
large an animal into a small boat appears at first a difficulty, 
but the Indians managed it in a minute. They brought the 
cow alongside the boat, which was heeled towards her; then 
placing two oars under her belly, with their ends resting on 
the gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled 
the poor beast heels over head into the bottom of the boat, 
and then lashed her down with ropes. At Cucao we found 
an uninhabited hovel (which is the residence of the padre 
when he pays this Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we 
cooked our supper, and were very comfortable. 

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the 
whole west coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty 
Indian families, who are scattered along four or five miles 
of the shore. They are very much secluded from the rest of 
Chiloe, and have scarcely any sort of commerce, except 
sometimes in a little oil, which they get from seal-blubber. 
They are tolerably dressed in clothes of their own manu- 
facture, and they have plenty to eat. They seemed, however, 
discontented, yet humble to a degree which it was quite pain- 
ful to witness. These feelings are, I think, chiefly to be 
attributed to the harsh and authoritative manner in which 
they are treated by their rulers. Our companions, although 
so very civil to us, behaved to the poor Indians as if they 
had been slaves, rather than free men. They ordered pro- 
visions and the use of their horses, without ever condescend- 
ing to say how much, or indeed whether the owners should 
be paid at all. In the morning, being left alone with these 
poor people, we soon ingratiated ourselves by presents of 
cigars and mate. A lump of white sugar was divided be- 
tween all present, and tasted with the greatest curiosity. The 
Indians ended all their complaints by saying, "And it is only 


because we are poor Indians, and know nothing; but it was 
not so when we had a King." 

The next day after breakfast, we rode a few miles north- 
ward to Punta Huantamo. The road lay along a very broad 
beach, on which, even after so many fine days, a terrible surf 
was breaking. I was assured that after a heavy gale, the 
roar can be heard at night even at Castro, a distance of no 
less than twenty-one sea-miles across a hilly and wooded 
country. We had some difficulty in reaching the point, owing 
to the intolerably bad paths; for everywhere in the shade 
the ground soon becomes a perfect quagmire. The point 
itself is a bold rocky hill. It is covered by a plant allied, I 
believe, to Bromelia, and called by the inhabitants depones. 
In scrambling through the beds, our hands were very much 
scratched. I was amused by observing the precaution our 
Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, thinking that 
they were more delicate than his own hard skin. This plant 
bears a fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a number 
of seed-vessels are packed: these contain a pleasant sweet 
pulp, here much esteemed. I saw at Low's Harbour the 
Chilotans making chichi, or cider, with this fruit : so true is 
it, as Humboldt remarks, that almost everywhere man finds 
means of preparing some kind of beverage from the vege- 
table kingdom. The savages, however, of Tierra del Fuego, 
and I believe of Australia, have not advanced thus far in 
the arts. 

The coast to the north of Punta Huantamo is exceedingly 
rugged and broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on 
which the sea is eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself 
were anxious to return, if it had been possible, on foot along 
this coast; but even the Indians said it was quite imprac- 
ticable. We were told that men have crossed by striking 
directly through the woods from Cucao to S. Carlos, but 
never by the coast. On these expeditions, the Indians carry 
with them only roasted corn, and of this they eat sparingly 
twice a day. 

26th. Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across 
the lake, and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe 
took advantage of this week of unusually fine weather, to 
clear the ground by burning. In every direction volumes of 


smoke were curling upwards. Although the inhabitants were 
so assiduous in setting fire to every part of the wood, yet 
I did not see a single fire which they had succeeded in mak- 
ing extensive. We dined with our friend the commandant, 
and did not reach Castro till after dark. The next morning 
we Started very early. After having ridden for some time, 
we obtained from the brow of a steep hill an extensive view 
(and it is a rare thing on this road) of the great forest. 
Over the horizon of trees, the volcano of Corcovado, and 
the great flat-topped one to the north, stood out in proud 
pre-eminence : scarcely another peak in the long range 
showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before I 
forget this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera front- 
ing Chiloe. At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky, 
and the next morning reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the 
right day, for before evening heavy rain commenced. 

February 4th. Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week 
I made several short excursions. One was to examine a 
great bed of now-existing shells, elevated 350 feet above 
the level of the sea: from among these shells, large forest- 
trees were growing. Another ride was to P. Huechucucuy. 
I had with me a guide who knew the country far too well; 
for he would pertinaciously tell me endless Indian names for 
every little point, rivulet, and creek. In the same manner as 
in Tierra del Fuego, the Indian language appears singularly 
well adapted for attaching names to the most trivial fea- 
tures of the land. I believe every one was glad to say fare- 
well to Chiloe; yet if we could forget the gloom and cease- 
less rain of winter, Chiloe might pass for a charming island. 
There is also something very attractive in the simplicity and 
humble politeness of the poor inhabitants. 

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick 
weather did not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The 
next morning the boat proceeded to the town, which is dis- 
tant about ten miles. We followed the course of the river, 
occasionally passing a few hovels, and patches of ground 
cleared out of the otherwise unbroken forest ; and sometimes 
meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The town is situ- 
ated on the low banks of the stream, and is so completely 
buried in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are merely 


paths in an orchard. I have never seen any country, where 
apple-trees appeared to thrive so well as in this damp part of 
South America: on the borders of the roads there were 
many young trees evidently self-grown. In Chiloe the in- 
habitants possess a marvellously short method of making an 
orchard. At the lower part of almost every branch, small, 
conical, brown, wrinkled points project: these are always 
ready to change into roots, as may sometimes be seen, where 
any mud has been accidentally splashed against the tree. A 
branch as thick as a man's thigh is chosen in the early spring, 
and is cut off just beneath a group of these points, all the 
smaller branches are lopped off, and it is then placed about 
two feet deep in the ground. During the ensuing summer 
the stump throws out long shoots, and sometimes even bears 
fruit: I was shown one which had produced as many as 
twenty-three apples, but this was thought very unusual. In 
the third season the stump is changed (as I have myself 
seen) into a well- wooded tree, loaded with fruit. An old 
man near Valdivia illustrated his motto, " Necesidad es la 
madre del invencion," by giving an account of the several 
useful things he manufactured from his apples. After mak- 
ing cider, and likewise wine, he extracted from the refuse a 
white and finely flavoured spirit; by another process he pro- 
cured a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His children 
and pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of the 
year, in his orchard. 

February nth. I set out with a guide on a short ride, in 
which, however, I managed to see singularly little, either 
of the geology of the country or of its inhabitants. There 
is not much cleared land near Valdivia: after crossing a 
river at the distance of a few miles, we entered the forest, and 
then passed only one miserable hovel, before reaching our 
sleeping-place for the night. The short difference in lati- 
tude, of 150 miles, has given a new aspect to the forest, com- 
pared with that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly 
different proportion in the kinds of trees. The evergreens 
do not appear to be quite so numerous, and the forest in 
consequence has a brighter tint. As in Chiloe, the lower 
parts are matted together by canes: here also another kind 
(resembling the bamboo of Brazil and about twenty feet in 


height) grows in clusters, and ornaments the banks of some 
of the streams in a very pretty manner. It is with this plant 
that the Indians make their chuzos, or long tapering spears. 
Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping out- 
side: on these journeys the first night is generally very un- 
comfortable, because one is not accustomed to the tickling 
and biting of the fleas. I am sure, in the morning, there 
was not a space on my legs the size of a shilling which had 
not its little red mark where the flea had feasted. 

1 2th. We continued to ride through the uncleared forest ; 
only occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop 
of fine mules bringing alerce-planks and corn from the south- 
ern plains. In the afternoon one of the horses knocked up: 
we were then on a brow of a hill, which commanded a fine 
view of the Llanos. The view of these open plains was very 
refreshing, after being hemmed in and buried in the wilder- 
ness of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon becomes very 
wearisome. This west coast makes me remember with pleas- 
ure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet, with the 
true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is 
the silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile 
and thickly peopled parts of the country, as they possess the 
immense advantage of being nearly free from trees. Before 
leaving the forest we crossed some flat little lawns, around 
which single trees stood, as in an English park : I have often 
noticed with surprise, in wooded undulatory districts, that 
the quite level parts have been destitute of trees. On ac- 
count of the tired horse, I determined to stop at the Mission 
of Cudico, to the friar of which I had a letter of introduc- 
tion. Cudico is an intermediate district between the forest 
and the Llanos. There are a good many cottages, with 
patches of corn and potatoes, nearly all belonging to Indians. 
The tribes dependent on Valdivia are " reducidos y cris- 
tianos." The Indians farther northward, about Arauco and 
Imperial, are still very wild, and not converted; but they 
have all much intercourse with the Spaniards. The padre 
said that the Christian Indians did not much like coming 
to mass, but that otherwise they showed respect for religion. 
The greatest difficulty is in making them observe the cere- 
monies of marriage. The wild Indians take as many wives 


as they can support, and a cacique will sometimes have more 
than ten : on entering his house, the number may be told by 
that of the separate fires. Each wife lives a week in turn 
with the cacique; but all are employed in weaving ponchos, 
etc., for his profit. To be the wife of a cacique, is an honour 
much sought after by the Indian women. 

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse woolen poncho : 
those south of Valdivia wear short trousers, and those north 
of it a petticoat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have 
their long hair bound by a scarlet fillet, but with no other 
covering on their heads. These Indians are good-sized men ; 
their cheek-bones are prominent, and in general appearance 
they resemble the great American family to which they be- 
long; but their physiognomy seemed to me to be slightly 
different from that of any other tribe which I had before 
seen. Their expression is generally grave, and even austere, 
and possesses much character : this may pass either for hon- 
est bluntness or fierce determination. The long black hair, 
the grave and much-lined features, and the dark complexion, 
called to my mind old portraits of James I. On the road we 
met with none of that humble politeness so universal in 
Chiloe. Some gave their " mari-mari " (good morning) with 
promptness, but the greater number did not seem inclined to 
offer any salute. This independence of manners is probably 
a consequence of their long wars, and the repeated victories 
which they alone, of all the tribes in America, have gained 
over the Spaniards. 

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the 
padre. He was exceedingly kind and hospitable ; and coming 
from Santiago, had contrived to surround himself with some 
few comforts. Being a man of some little education, he bit- 
terly complained of the total want of society. With no par- 
ticular zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, how com- 
pletely must this man's life be wasted! The next day, on 
our return, we met seven very wild-looking Indians, of whom 
some were caciques that had just received from the Chilian 
government their yearly small stipend for having long re- 
mained faithful. They were fine-looking men, and they rode 
one after the other, with most gloomy faces. An old cacique, 
who headed them, had been, I suppose, more excessively 


drunk than the rest, for he seemed extremely grave and 
very crabbed. Shortly before this, two Indians joined us, 
who were travelling from a distant mission to Valdivia con- 
cerning some lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old man, 
but from his wrinkled beardless face looked more like an 
old woman than a man. I frequently presented both of them 
with cigars; and though ready to receive them, and I dare 
say grateful, they would hardly condescend to thank me. A 
Chilotan Indian would have taken off his hat, and given his 
" Dios le page ! " The travelling was very tedious, both 
from the badness of the roads, and from the number of great 
fallen trees, which it was necessary either to leap over or to 
avoid by making long circuits. We slept on the road, and 
next morning reached Valdivia, whence I proceeded on 

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of 
officers, and landed near the fort called Niebla. The build- 
ings were in a most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages 
quite rotten. Mr. Wickham remarked to the commanding 
officer, that with one discharge they would certainly all fall 
to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a good face upon it, 
gravely replied, " No, I am sure, sir, they would stand 
two I " The Spaniards must have intended to have made this 
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the 
court-yard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hard- 
ness the rock on which it is placed. It was brought from 
Chile, and cost 7000 dollars. The revolution having broken 
out, prevented its being applied to any purpose, and now it 
remains a monument of the fallen greatness of Spain. 

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


a party of fugitive royalists had cut down fourteen years 
ago ; and taking this as a criterion, I should think a bole a 
foot and a half in diameter would in thirty years be changed 
into a heap of mould. 

February 20th. This day has been memorable in the 
annals of Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experi- 
enced by the oldest inhabitant. I happened to be on shore, 
and was lying down in the wood to rest myself. It came on 
suddenly, and lasted two minutes, but the time appeared 
much longer. The rocking of the ground was very sensible. 
The undulations appeared to my companion and myself to 
come from due east, whilst others thought they proceeded 
from south-west: this shows how difficult it sometimes is to 
perceive the directions of the vibrations. There was no diffi- 
culty in standing upright, but the motion made me almost 
giddy: it was something like the movement of a vessel in a 
little cross-rip*ple, or still more like that felt by a person skat- 
ing over thin ice, which bends under the weight of his body. 

A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations : 
the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath 
our feet like a thin crust over a fluid; one second of time 
has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which 
hours of reflection would not have produced. In the forest, 
as a breeze moved the trees, I felt only the earth tremble, but 
saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy and some officers 
were at the town during the shock, and there the scene was 
more striking; for although the houses, from being built of 
wood, did not fall, they were violently shaken, and the boards 
creaked and rattled together. The people rushed out of 
doors in the greatest alarm. It is these accompaniments that 
create that perfect horror of earthquakes, experienced by all 
who have thus seen, as well as felt, their effects. Within the 
forest it was a deeply interesting, but by no means an awe- 
exciting phenomenon. The tides were very curiously affected. 
The great shock took place at the time of low water; 
and an old woman who was on the beach told me that the 
water flowed very quickly, but not in great waves, to high- 
water mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper level ; 
this was also evident by the line of wet sand. The same kind 
of quick but quiet movement in the tide happened a few 



years since at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created 
much causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there 
were many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the 
harbour the most complicated currents, and some of great 

March 4th. We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While 
the ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on the 
island of Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly 
rode down to tell me the terrible news of the great earth- 
quake of the 20th: "That not a house in Concepcion or 
Talcahuano (the port) was standing; that seventy villages 
were destroyed; and that a great wave had almost washed 
away the ruins of Talcahuano." Of this latter statement I 
soon saw abundant proofs the whole coast being strewed 
over with timber and furniture as if a thousand ships had 
been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, book-shelves, etc., in 
great numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which 
had been transported almost whole. The storehouses at Tal- 
cahuano had been burst open, and great bags of cotton, yerba, 
and other valuable merchandise were scattered on the shore. 
During my walk round the island, I observed that numerous 
fragments of rock, which, from the marine productions ad- 
hering to them, must recently have been lying in deep water, 
had been cast up high on the beach ; one of these was six feet 
long, three broad, and two thick. 

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming 
power of the earthquake, as the beach did that of the conse- 
quent great wave. The ground in many parts was fissured 
in north and south lines, perhaps caused by the yielding of 
the parallel and steep sides of this narrow island. Some of 
the fissures near the cliffs were a yard wide. Many enormous 
masses had already fallen on the beach; and the inhabitants 
thought that when the rains commenced far greater slips would 
happen. The effect of the vibration on the hard primary slate, 
which composes the foundation of the island, was still more 
curious: the superficial parts of some narrow ridges were as 
completely shivered as if they had been blasted by gun- 
powder. This effect, which was rendered conspicuous by the 
fresh fractures and displaced soil, must be confined to near 




the surface, for otherwise there would not exist a block of 
solid rock throughout Chile; nor is this improbable, as it is 
known that the surface of a vibrating body is affected differ- 
ently from the central part. It is, perhaps, owing to this 
same reason, that earthquakes do not cause quite such terrific 
havoc within deep mines as would be expected. I believe this 
convulsion has been more effectual in lessening the size of 
the island of Quiriquina, than the ordinary wear-and-tear 
of the sea and weather during the course of a whole century. 
The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode 
to Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet 
interesting spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had 
formerly know them, it possibly might have been still more 
impressive; for the ruins were so mingled together, and the 
whole scene possessed so little the air of a habitable place, 
that it was scarcely possible to imagine its former condition. 
The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven o'clock in the 
forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night, the 
greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one prov- 
ince must amount to many thousands) must have perished, 
instead of less than a hundred : as it was, the invariable prac- 
tice of running out of doors at the first trembling of the 
ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion each house, or 
row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins ; but in 
Talcahuano, owing to the great wave, little more than one 
layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, with here and there part of 
a wall left standing, could be distinguished. From this circum- 
stance Concepcion, although not so completely desolated, was 
a more terrible, and if I may so call it, picturesque sight. 
The first shock was very sudden. The mayor-domo at Quiri- 
quina told me, that the first notice he received of it, was 
finding both the horse he rode and himself, rolling together 
on the ground. Rising up, he was again thrown down. He 
also told me that some cows which were standing on the steep 
side of the island were rolled into the sea. The great wave 
caused the destruction of many cattle; on one low island, 
near the head of the bay, seventy animals were washed off 
and drowned. It is generally thought that this has been the 
worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile; but as the very 
severe ones occur only after long intervals, this cannot easily 


be known ; nor indeed would a much worse shock have made 
any difference, for the ruin was now complete. Innumerable 
small tremblings followed the great earthquake, and within 
the first twelve days no less than three hundred were counted. 

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the 
greater number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses 
in many parts fell outwards; thus forming in the middle of 
the streets little hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. Mr. 
Rouse, the English consul, told us that he was at breakfast 
when the first movement warned him to run out. He had 
scarcely reached the middle of the court-yard, when one side 
of his house came thundering down. He retained presence 
of mind to remember, that if he once got on the top of that 
part which had already fallen, he would be safe. Not being 
able from the motion of the ground to stand, he crawled up 
on his hands and knees; and no sooner had he ascended this 
little eminence, than the other side of the house fell in, the 
great beams sweeping close in front of his head. With his 
eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with the cloud of dust 
which darkened the sky, at last he gained the street. As 
shock succeeded shock, at the interval of a few minutes, no 
one dared approach the shattered ruins; and no one knew 
whether his dearest friends and relations were not perish- 
ing from the want of help. Those who had saved any prop- 
erty were obliged to keep a constant watch, for thieves 
prowled about, and at each little trembling of the ground, 
with one hand they beat their breasts and cried " Miseri- 
cordia ! " and then with the other filched what they could 
from the ruins. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and 
flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves 
ruined, and few had the means of providing food for the day. 

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity 
of any country. If beneath England the now inert subter- 
ranean forces should exert those powers, which most assur- 
edly in former geological ages they have exerted, how com- 
pletely would the entire condition of the country be changed ! 
What would become of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, 
great manufactories, the beautiful public and private edi- 
fices? If the new period of disturbance were first to com- 
mence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, 


how terrific would be the carnage ! England would at once 
be bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts would from 
that moment be lost. Government being unable to collect 
the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of 
violence and rapine would remain uncontrolled. In every 
large town famine would go forth, pestilence and death fol- 
lowing in its train. 

Shortly after the shock, a great wave was seen from the 
distance of three or four miles, approaching in the middle 
of the bay with a smooth outline; but along the shore it tore 
up cottages and trees, as it swept onwards with irresistible 
force. At the head of the bay it broke in a fearful line of 
white breakers, which rushed up to a height of 23 vertical 
feet above the highest spring-tides. Their force must have 
been prodigious ; for at the Fort a cannon with its carriage, 
estimated at four tons in weight, was moved 15 feet inwards. 
A schooner was left in the midst of the ruins, 200 yards 
from the beach. The first wave was followed by two others, 
which in their retreat carried away a vast wreck of floating 
objects. In one part of the bay, a ship was pitched high 
and dry on shore, was carried off, again driven on shore, and 
again carried off. In another part, two large vessels anchored 
near together were whirled about, and their cables were thrice 
wound round each other; though anchored at a depth of 36 
feet, they were for some minutes aground. The great wave 
must have travelled slowly, for the inhabitants of Talca- 
huano had time to run up the hills behind the town; and 
some sailors pulled out seaward, trusting successfully to their 
boat riding securely over the swell, if they could reach it 
before it broke. One old woman with a little boy, four or 
five years old, ran into a boat, but there was nobody to row 
it out: the boat was consequently dashed against an anchor 
and cut in twain ; the old woman was drowned, but the child 
was picked up some hours afterwards clinging to the wreck. 
Pools of salt-water were still standing amidst the ruins of 
the houses, and children, making boats with old tables and 
chairs, appeared as happy as their parents were miserable. 
It was, however, exceedingly interesting to observe, how 
much more active and cheerful all appeared than could have 
been expected. It was remarked with much truth, that from 


the destruction being universal, no one individual was hum- 
bled more than another, or could suspect his friends of cold- 
ness that most grievous result of the loss of wealth. Mr. 
Rouse, and a large party whom he kindly took under his 
protection, lived for the first week in a garden beneath some 
apple-trees. At first they were as merry as if it had been a 
picnic ; but soon afterwards heavy rain caused much discom- 
fort, for they were absolutely without shelter. 

In Captain Fitz Roy's excellent account of the earthquake, 
it is said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke and 
another like the blowing of a great whale, were seen in the 
bay. The water also appeared everywhere to be boiling ; and 
it " became black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphure- 
ous smell." These latter circumstances were observed in the 
Bay of Valparaiso during the earthquake of 1822 ; they may, 
I think, be accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at 
the bottom of the sea containing organic matter in decay. In 
the Bay of Callao, during a calm day, I noticed, that as the 
ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its course was marked 
by a line of bubbles. The lower orders in Talcahuano thought 
that the earthquake was caused by some old Indian women, 
who two years ago, being offended, stopped the volcano of 
Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows that 
experience has taught them to observe, that there exists a 
relation between the suppressed action of the volcanos, and 
the trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the 
witchcraft to the point where their perception of cause and 
effect failed; and this was the closing of the volcanic vent. 
This belief is the more singular in this particular instance, 
because, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to 
believe that Antuco was noways affected. 

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish 
fashion, with all the streets running at right angles to each 
other; one set ranging S.W. by W., and the other set N.W. 
by N. The walls in the former direction certainly stood 
better than those in the latter; the greater number of the 
masses of brickwork were thrown down towards the N.E. 
Both these circumstances perfectly agree with the general 
idea, of the undulations having come from the S.W., in which 
quarter subterranean noises were also heard ; for it is evident 


that the walls running S.W. and N.E. which presented their 
ends to the point whence the undulations came, would be 
much less likely to fall than those walls which, running N.W. 
and S.E., must in their whole lengths have been at the same 
instant thrown out of the perpendicular ; for the undulations, 
coming from the S.W., must have extended in N.W. and 
S.E. waves, as they passed under the foundations. This may 
be illustrated by placing books edgeways on a carpet, and 
then, after the manner suggested by Michell, imitating the 
undulations of an earthquake : it will be found that they fall 
with more or less readiness, according as their direction more 
or less nearly coincides with the line of the waves. The fis- 
sures in the ground generally, though not uniformly, extended 
in a S.E. and N.W. direction, and therefore corresponded 
to the lines of undulation or of principal flexure. Bearing in 
mind all these circumstances, which so clearly point to the 
S.W. as the chief focus of disturbance, it is a very interesting 
fact that the island of S. Maria, situated in that quarter, was, 
during the general uplifting of the land, raised to nearly 
three times the height of any other part of the coast. 

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to 
their direction, was well exemplified in the case of the Cathe- 
dral. The side which fronted the N.E. presented a grand 
pile of ruins, in the midst of which door-cases and masses 
of timber stood up, as if floating in a stream. Some of the 
angular blocks of brickwork were of great dimensions; and 
they were rolled to a distance on the level plaza, like frag- 
ments of rock at the base of some high mountain. The side 
walls (running S.W. and N.E.), though exceedingly frac- 
tured, yet remained standing; but the vast buttresses (at 
right angles to them, and therefore parallel to the walls that 
fell) were in many cases cut clean off, as if by a chisel, and 
hurled to the ground. Some square ornaments on the cop- 
ing of these same walls, were moved by the earthquake into 
a diagonal position. A similar circumstance was observed 
after an earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places, 
including some of the ancient Greek temples. 1 This twist- 
ing displacement, at first appears to indicate a vorticose 

1 M. Arago in L'Institut, 1839, p. 337. See also Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 
392; also Ly ell's Principles of Geology, chap, xv., book ii. 


movement beneath each point thus affected ; but this is highly 
improbable. May it not be caused by a tendency in each stone 
to arrange itself in some particular position, with respect 
to the lines of vibration, in a manner somewhat similar to 
pins on a sheet of paper when shaken ? Generally speaking, 
arched doorways or windows stood much better than any 
other part of the buildings. Nevertheless, a poor lame old 
man, who had been in the habit, during trifling shocks, of 
crawling to a certain doorway, was this time crushed to 

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of 
the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impos- 
sible to convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. 
Several of the officers visited it before me, but their strongest 
language failed to give a just idea of the scene of desolation. 
It is a bitter and humiliating thing to see works, which have 
cost man so much time and labour, overthrown in one min- 
ute; yet compassion for the inhabitants was almost instantly 
banished, by the surprise in seeing a state of things produced 
in a moment of time, which one was accustomed to attribute 
to a succession of ages. In my opinion, we have scarcely be- 
held, since leaving England, any sight so deeply interesting. 

In almost every severe earthquake, the neighbouring waters 
of the sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The dis- 
turbance seems generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to 
have been of two kinds: first, at the instant of the shock, 
the water swells high up on the beach with a gentle motion, 
and then as quietly retreats ; secondly, some time afterwards, 
the whole body of the sea retires from the coast, and then 
returns in waves of overwhelming force. The first move- 
ment seems to be an immediate consequence of the earth- 
quake affecting differently a fluid and a solid, so that their 
respective levels are slightly deranged: but the second case 
is a far more important phenomenon. During most earth- 
quakes, and especially during those on the west coast of 
America, it is certain that the first great movement of the 
waters has been a retirement. Some authors have attempted 
to explain this, by supposing that the water retains its level, 
whilst the land oscillates upwards ; but surely the water close 
to the land, even on a rather steep coast, would partake of the 


motion of the bottom: moreover, as urged by Mr. Lyell, 
similar movements of the sea have occurred at islands far 
distant from the chief line of disturbance, as was the case 
with Juan Fernandez during this earthquake, and with 
Madeira during the famous Lisbon shock. I suspect (but the 
subject is a very obscure one) that a wave, however produced, 
first draws the water from the shore, on which it is advancing 
to break: I have observed that this happens with the little 
waves from the paddles of a steam-boat. It is remarkable 
that whilst Talcahuano and Callao (near Lima), both situ- 
ated at the head of large shallow bays, have suffered during 
every severe earthquake from great waves, Valparaiso, 
seated close to the edge of profoundly deep water, has never 
been overwhelmed, though so often shaken by the severest 
shocks. From the great wave not immediately following the 
earthquake, but sometimes after the interval of even half an 
hour, and from distant islands being affected similarly with 
the coasts near the focus of the disturbance, it appears that 
the wave first rises in the offing; and as this is of general 
occurrence, the cause must be general: I suspect we must 
look to the line, where the less disturbed waters of the deep 
ocean join the water nearer the coast, which has partaken 
of the movements of the land, as the place where the great 
wave is first generated; it would also appear that the wave 
is larger or smaller, according to the extent of shoal water 
which has been agitated together with the bottom on which it 

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the per- 
manent elevation of the land ; it would probably be far more 
correct to speak of it as the cause. There can be no doubt 
that the land round the Bay of Concepcion was upraised 
two or three feet; but it deserves notice, that owing to the 
wave having obliterated the old lines of tidal action on the 
sloping sandy shores, I could discover no evidence of this 
fact, except in the united testimony of the inhabitants, that 
one little rocky shoal, now exposed, was formerly covered 
with water. At the island of S. Maria (about thirty miles 
distant) the elevation was greater; on one part, Captain Fitz 
Roy founds beds of putrid mussel-shells still adhering to the 


rocks, ten feet above high-water mark: the inhabitants had 
formerly dived at lower-water spring-tides for these shells. 
The elevation of this province is particularly interesting, 
from its having been the theatre of several other violent 
earthquakes, and from the vast numbers of sea-shells scat- 
tered over the land, up to a height of certainly 600, and I 
believe, of 1000 feet. At Valparaiso, as I have remarked, 
similar shells are found at the height of 1300 feet: it is hardly 
possible to doubt that this great elevation has been effected 
by successive small uprisings, such as that which accompa- 
nied or caused the earthquake of this year, and likewise by 
an insensibly slow rise, which is certainly in progress on 
some parts of this coast. 

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N.E., was, 
at the time of the great shock of the 2Oth, violently shaken, 
so that the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst 
forth under water close to the shore : these facts are remark- 
able because this island, during the earthquake of 1751, was 
then also affected more violently than other places at an equal 
distance from Concepcion, and this seems to show some sub- 
terranean connection between these two points. Chiloe, about 
340 miles southward of Concepcion, appears to have been 
shaken more strongly than the intermediate district of Val- 
divia, where the volcano of Villarica was noways affected, 
whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two of the vol- 
canos burst -forth at the same instant in violent action. These 
two volcanos, and some neighbouring ones, continued for a 
long time in eruption, and ten months afterwards were 
again influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some 
men, cutting wood near the base of one of these volcanos, 
did not perceive the shock of the 20th, although the whole 
surrounding Province was then trembling; here we have an 
eruption relieving and taking the place of an earthquake, 
as would have happened at Concepcion, according to the 
belief of the lower orders, if the volcano at Antuco had not 
been closed by witchcraft. Two years and three-quarters 
afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were again shaken, more 
violently than on the 2oth, and an island in the Chonos 
Archipelago was permanently elevated more than eight feet. 
It will give a better idea of the scale of these phenomena, if 


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

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th 
was actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles 
in another line at right angles to the first : hence, in all prob- 
ability, a subterranean lake of lava is here stretched out, of 
nearly double the area of the Black Sea. From the intimate 
and complicated manner in- which the elevatory and eruptive 
forces were shown to be connected during this train of phe- 
nomena, we may confidently come to the conclusion, that the 
forces which slowly and by little starts uplift continents, and 
those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter 
from open orifices, are identical. From many reasons, I 
believe that the frequent quakings of the earth on this line 
of coast are caused by the rending of the strata, necessarily 
consequent on the tension of the land when upraised, and 
their injection by fluidified rock. This rending and injection 
would, if repeated often enough (and we know that earth- 
quakes repeatedly affect the same areas in the same manner), 
form a chain of hills; and the linear island of S. Mary, 
which was upraised thrice the height of the neighbouring 
country, seems to be undergoing this process. I believe that 
the solid axis of a mountain, differs in its manner of forma- 
tion from a volcanic hill, only in the molten stone having 
been repeatedly injected, instead of having been repeatedly 
ejected. Moreover, I believe that it is impossible to explain 
the structure of great mountain-chains, such as that of the 


Cordillera, where the strata, capping the injected axis of 
plutonic rock, have been thrown on their edges along several 
parallel and neighbouring lines of elevation, except on this 
view of the rock of the axis having been repeatedly injected, 
after intervals sufficiently long to allow the upper parts or 
wedges to cool and become solid; for if the strata had been 
thrown into their present highly inclined, vertical, and even 
inverted positions, by a single blow, the very bowels of the 
earth would have gushed out ; and instead of beholding abrupt 
mountain-axes of rock solidified under great pressure, deluges 
of lava would have flowed out at innumerable points on every 
line of elevation.* 

3 For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the 
earthquake of the aoth, and for the conclusions deducible from them, I must 
refer to Volume V. of the Geological Transactions. 


Valparaiso Portillo Pass Sagacity of Mules Mountain-torrents 
Mines, how discovered Proofs of the gradual Elevation of the 
Cordillera Effect of Snow on Rocks Geological Structure of the 
two main Ranges, their distinct Origin and Upheaval Great Sub- 
sidence Red Snow Winds Pinnacles of Snow Dry and clear 
Atmosphere Electricity Pampas Zoology of the opposite Side 
of the Andes Locusts Great Bugs Mendoza Uspallata Pass 
Silicified Trees buried as they grew Incas Bridge Badness of 
the Passes exaggerated Cumbre Casuchas Valparaiso. 

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

On the nth we anchored at Valparaiso, and two days 
afterwards I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to 
Santiago, where Mr. Caldcleugh most kindly assisted me in 
every possible way in making the little preparations which 
were necessary. In this part of Chile there are two passes 
across the Andes to Mendoza: the one most commonly used 
namely, that of Aconcagua or Uspallata is situated some 



way to the north; the other, called the Portillo, is to the 
south, and nearer, but more lofty and dangerous. 

March i8th. We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving 
Santiago we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which that 
city stands, and in the afternoon arrived at the Maypu, one 
of the principal rivers in Chile. The valley, at the point 
where it enters the first Cordillera, is bounded on each side 
by lofty barren mountains; and although not broad, it is very 
fertile. Numerous cottages were surrounded by vines, and by 
orchards of apple, nectarine, and peach-trees their boughs 
breaking with the weight of the beautiful ripe fruit. In the 
evening we passed the custom-house, where our luggage was 
examined. The frontier of Chile is better guarded by the 
Cordillera, than by the waters of the sea. There are very 
few valleys which lead to the central ranges, and the 
mountains are quite impassable in other parts by beasts of 
burden. The custom-house officers were very civil, which 
was perhaps partly owing to the passport which the President 
of the Republic had given me ; but I must express my admira- 
tion at the natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In 
this instance, the contrast with the same class of men in 
most other countries was strongly marked. I may mention 
an anecdote with which I was at the time much pleased : we 
met near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding astride 
on a mule. She had a goitre so enormous that it was scarcely 
possible to avoid gazing at her for a moment; but my two 
companions almost instantly, by way of apology, made the 
common salute of the country by taking off their hats. Where 
would one of the lower or higher classes in Europe, have 
shown such feeling politeness to a poor and miserable object 
of a degraded race? 

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling 
was delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we 
bought a little firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and 
bivouacked in the corner of the same field with them. Car- 
rying an iron pot, we cooked and ate our supper under a 
cloudless sky, and knew no trouble. My companions were 
Mariano Gonzales, who had formerly accompanied me in 
Chile, and an " arriero," with his ten mules and a " madrina." 
The madrina (or godmother) is a most important personage: 


she is an old steady mare, with a little bell round her neck; 
and wherever she goes, the mules, like good children, follow 
her. The affection of these animals for their madrinas saves 
infinite trouble. If several large troops are turned into one 
field to graze, in the morning the muleteers have only to lead 
the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; although 
there may be two or three hundred together, each mule im- 
mediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and comes to 
her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule; for if 
detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power 
of smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the 
madrina, for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief 
object of affection. The feeling, however, is not of an indi- 
vidual nature; for I believe I am right in saying that any 
animal with a bell will serve as a madrina. In a troop each 
animal carries on a level road, a cargo weighing 416 pounds 
(more than 29 stone), but in a mountainous country 100 
pounds less; yet with what delicate slim limbs, without any 
proportional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great 
a burden ! The mule always appears to me a most surprising 
animal. That a hybrid should possess more reason, memory, 
obstinacy, social affection, powers of muscular endurance, 
and length of life, than either of its parents, seems to indi- 
cate that art has here outdone nature. Of our ten animals, 
six were intended for riding, and four for carrying cargoes, 
each taking turn about. We carried a good deal of food, in 
case we should be snowed up, as the season was rather late 
for passing the Portillo. 

March ipth. We rode during this day to the last, and 
therefore most elevated, house in the valley. The number of 
inhabitants became scanty; but wherever water could be 
brought on the land, it was very fertile. All the main valleys 
in the Cordillera are characterized by having, on both sides, a 
fringe or terrace of shingle and sand, rudely stratified, and 
generally of considerable thickness. These fringes evidently 
once extended across the valleys and were united; and the 
bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where there are no 
streams, are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes the 
roads are generally carried, for their surfaces are even, and 
they rise with a very gentle slope up the valleys : hence, also, 


they are easily cultivated by irrigation. They may be traced 
up to a height of between 7000 and 9000 feet, where they 
become hidden by the irregular piles of debris. At the lower 
end or mouths of the valleys, they are continuously united to 
those land-locked plains (also formed of shingle) at the foot 
of the main Cordillera, which I have described in a former 
chapter as characteristic of the scenery of Chile, and which 
were undoubtedly deposited when the sea penetrated Chile, as 
it now does the more southern coasts. No one fact in the 
geology of South America, interested me more than these 
terraces of rudely-stratified shingle. They precisely resemble 
in composition the matter which the torrents in each valley 
would deposit, if they were checked in their course by any 
cause, such as entering a lake or arm of the sea; but the 
torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now steadily at 
work wearing away both the solid rock and these alluvial 
deposits, along the whole line of every main valley and side 
valley. It is impossible here to give the reasons, but I am 
convinced that the shingle terraces were accumulated, during 
the gradual elevation of the Cordillera, by the torrents 
delivering, at successive levels, their detritus on the beach- 
heads of long narrow arms of the sea, first high up the val- 
leys, then lower and lower down as the land slowly rose. If 
this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand and broken chain 
of the Cordillera, instead of having been suddenly thrown up, 
as was till lately the universal, and still is the common opinion 
of geologists, has been slowly upheaved in mass, in the same 
gradual manner as the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific have 
risen within the recent period. A multitude of facts in the 
structure of the Cordillera, on this view receive a simple 

The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be 
called mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great, 
and their water the colour of mud. The roar which the 
Maypu made, as it rushed over the great rounded fragments, 
was like that of the sea. Amidst the din of rushing waters, 
the noise from the stones, as they rattled one over another, 
was most distinctly audible even from a distance. This rat- 
tling noise, night and day, may be heard along the whole 
course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently to the 


geologist; the thousands and thousands of stones, which, 
striking against each other, made the one dull uniform sound, 
were all hurrying in one direction. It was like thinking on 
time, where the minute that now glides past is irrevocable. 
So was it with these stones ; the ocean is their eternity, and 
each note of that wild music told of one more step towards 
their destiny. 

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by 
a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause re- 
peated so often, that the multiplier itself conveys an idea, 
not more definite than the savage implies when he points to 
the hairs of his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud, 
sand, and shingle, accumulated to the thickness of many 
thousand feet, I have felt inclined to exclaim that causes, 
such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could 
never have ground down and produced such masses. But, on 
the other hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these 
torrents, and calling to mind that whole races of animals have 
passed away from the face of the earth, and that during this 
whole period, night and day, these stones have gone rattling 
onwards in their course, I have thought to myself, can any 
mountains, any continent, withstand such waste? 

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side were 
from 3000 to 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines 
and steep bare flanks. The general colour of the rock was 
dullish purple, and the stratification very distinct. If the 
scenery was not beautiful, it was remarkable and grand. We 
met during the day several herds of cattle, which men were 
driving down from the higher valleys in the Cordillera. This 
sign of the approaching winter hurried our steps, more than 
was convenient for geologizing. The house where we slept 
was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the summit of 
which are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. Head 
marvels how mines have been discovered in such extraordi- 
nary situations, as the bleak summit of the mountain of S. 
Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place, metallic veins in this 
country are generally harder than the surrounding strata: 
hence, during the gradual wear of the hills, they project 
above the surface of the ground. Secondly, almost every 
labourer, especially in the northern parts of Chile, under- 


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

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

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within 
the Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater 
part of the year with snow, it was shivered in a very extraor- 
dinary manner into small angular fragments. Scoresby 1 

1 Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 122. 


has observed the same fact in Spitzbergen. The case 
appears to me rather obscure: for that part of the mountain 
which is protected by a mantle of snow, must be less subject 
to repeated and great changes of temperature than any other 
part. I have sometimes thought, that the earth and frag- 
ments of stone on the surface, were perhaps less effectually 
removed by slowly percolating snow-water* than by rain, and 
therefore that the appearance of a quicker disintegration of 
the solid rock under the snow, was deceptive. Whatever the 
cause may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordil- 
lera is very great. Occasionally in the spring, great masses 
of this detritus slide down the mountains, and cover the 
snow-drifts in the valleys, thus forming natural ice-houses. 
We rode over one, the height of which was far below the 
limit of perpetual snow. 

As the evening drew to a close, we reached a singular 
basin-like plain, called the Valle del Yeso. It was covered 
by a little dry pasture, and we had the pleasant sight of a 
herd of cattle amidst the surrounding rocky deserts. The 
valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, I should think 
at least 2000 feet thick, of white, and in some parts quite 
pure, gypsum. We slept with a party of men, who were 
employed in loading mules with this substance, which is used 
in the manufacture of wine. We set out early in the morning 
(2ist), and continued to follow the course of the river, which 
had become very small, till we arrived at the foot of the ridge, 
that separates the waters flowing into the Pacific and Atlantic 
Oceans. The road, which as yet had been good with a steady 
but very gradual ascent, now changed into a steep zigzag 
track up the great range, dividing the republics of Chile 
and Mendoza. 

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geology of the 
several parallel lines forming the Cordillera. Of these lines, 
there are two considerably higher than the others; namely, 
on the Chilian side, the Peuquenes ridge, which, where the 
road crosses it, is 13,210 feet above the sea; and the Portillo 

1 1 have heard it remarked in Shropshire that the water, when the Severn 
is flooded from long-continued rain, is much more turbid than when it 
proceeds from the snow melting in the Welsh mountains. D'Orbigny (torn. 
i. p. 184), in explaining the cause of the various colours of the rivers in 
South America, remarks that those with blue or clear water have their 
source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts. 


ridge, on the Mendoza side, which is 14,305 feet. The lower 
beds of the Peuquenes ridge, and of the several great lines 
to the westward of it, are composed of a vast pile, many thou- 
sand feet in thickness, of porphyries which have flowed as 
submarine lavas, alternating with angular and rounded frag- 
ments of the same rocks, thrown out of the submarine craters. 
These alternating masses are covered in the central parts, 
by a great thickness of red sandstone, conglomerate, and cal- 
careous clay-slate, associated with, and passing into, pro- 
digious beds of gypsum. In these upper beds shells are toler- 
ably frequent; and they belong to about the period of the 
lower chalk of Europe. It is an old story, but not the less 
wonderful, to hear of shells which were once crawling on the 
bottom of the sea, now standing nearly 14,000 feet above its 
level. The lower beds in this great pile of strata, have been 
dislocated, baked, crystallized and almost blended together, 
through the agency of mountain masses of a peculiar white 
soda-granitic rock. 

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a 
totally different formation : it consists chiefly of grand bare 
pinnacles of a red potash-granite, which low down on the 
western flank are covered by a sandstone, converted by the 
former heat into a quartz-rock. On the quartz, there rest 
beds of a conglomerate several thousand feet in thickness, 
which have been upheaved by the red granite, and dip at an 
angle of 45 towards the Peuquenes line. I was astonished 
to find that this conglomerate was partly composed of peb- 
bles, derived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of the 
Peuquenes range; and partly of red potash-granite, like that 
of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude, that both the Peu- 
quenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved and ex- 
posed to wear and tear, when the conglomerate was forming ; 
but as the beds of the conglomerate have been thrown off at 
an angle of 45 by the red Portillo granite (with the under- 
lying sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure, that the 
greater part of the injection and upheaval of the already 
partially formed Portillo line, took place after the accumula- 
tion of the conglomerate, and long after the elevation of the 
Peuquenes ridge. So that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this 
part of the Cordillera, is not so old as the less lofty line of 


the Peuquenes. Evidence derived from an inclined stream 
of lava at the eastern base of the Portillo, might be adduced 
to show, that it owes part of its great height to elevations of 
a still later date. Looking to its earliest origin, the red gran- 
ite seems to have been injected on an ancient pre-existing line 
of white granite and mica-slate. In most parts, perhaps in 
all parts, of the Cordillera, it may be concluded that each line 
has been formed by repeated upheavals and injections; and 
that the several parallel lines are of different ages. Only 
thus can we gain time, at all sufficient to explain the truly 
astonishing amount of denudation, which these great, though 
comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains have 

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

I will make only one other geological remark: although 
the Portillo chain is here higher than the Peuquenes, the 
waters draining the intermediate valleys, have burst through 
it. The same fact, on a grander scale, has been remarked in 
the eastern and loftiest line of the Bolivian Cordillera, 
through which the rivers pass: analogous facts have also 
been observed in other quarters of the world. On the sup- 
position of the subsequent and gradual elevation of the Por- 
tillo line, this can be understood; for a chain of islets would 
at first appear, and, as these were lifted up, the tides would be 
always wearing deeper and broader channels between them. 


At the present day, even in the most retired Sounds on the 
coast of Tierra del Fuego, the currents in the transverse 
breaks which connect the longitudinal channels, are very 
strong, so that in one transverse channel even a small vessel 
under sail was whirled round and round. 

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes 
ridge, and then for the first time experienced some little 
difficulty in our respiration. The mules would halt every fifty 
yards, and after resting for a few seconds the poor willing 
animals started of their own accord again. The short breath- 
ing from the rarefied atmosphere is called by the Chilenos 
" puna ;" and they have most ridiculous notions concerning 
its origin. Some say " all the waters here have puna ;" others 
that " where there is snow there is puna ;" and this no 
doubt is true. The only sensation I experienced was a slight 
tightness across the head and chest, like that felt on leaving 
a warm room and running quickly in frosty weather. There 
was some imagination even in this; for upon finding fossil 
shells on the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the puna in my 
delight. Certainly the exertion of walking was extremely 
great, and the respiration became deep and laborious: I am 
told that in Potosi (about 13,000 feet above the sea) strangers 
do not become thoroughly accustomed to the atmosphere for 
an entire year. The inhabitants all recommend onions for 
the puna; as this vegetable has sometimes been given in 
Europe for pectoral complaints, it may possibly be of real 
service: for my part I found nothing so good as the fossil 
shells ! 

When about half-way up we met a large party with sev- 
enty loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries 
of the muleteers, and to watch the long descending string 
of the animals ; they appeared so diminutive, there being 
nothing but the black mountains with which they could be 
compared. When near the summit, the wind, as generally 
happens, was impetuous and extremely cold. On each side of 
the ridge, we had to pass over broad bands of perpetual 
snow, which were now soon to be covered by a fresh layer. 
When we reached the crest and looked backwards, a glorious 
view was presented. The atmosphere resplendently clear; 


the sky an intense blue; the profound valleys; the wild 
broken forms; the heaps of ruins, piled up during the lapse 
of ages ; the bright-coloured rocks, contrasted with the quiet 
mountains of snow; all these together produced a scene no 
one could have imagined. Neither plant nor bird, excepting 
a few condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, dis- 
tracted my attention from the inanimate mass. I felt glad 
that I was alone: it was like watching a thunderstorm, or 
hearing in full orchestra a chorus of the Messiah. 

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus 
nivalis, or red snow, so well known from the accounts of 
Arctic navigators. My attention was called to it, by observ- 
ing the footsteps of the mules stained a pale red, as if their 
hoofs had been slightly bloody. I at first thought that it was 
owing to dust blown from the surrounding mountains of red 
porphyry; for from the magnifying power of the crystals 
of snow, the groups of these microscopical plants appeared 
like coarse particles. The snow was coloured only where it 
had thawed very rapidly, or had been accidentally crushed. 
A little rubbed on paper gave it a faint rose tinge mingled 
with a little brick-red. I afterwards scraped some off the 
paper, and found that it consisted of groups of little spheres 
in colourless cases, each of the thousandth part of an inch in 

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked, 
is generally impetuous and very cold: it is said* to blow 
steadily from the westward or Pacific side. As the observa- 
tions have been chiefly made in summer, this wind must be 
an upper and return current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with 
a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28, in like manner falls 
within an upper return stream. At first it appears rather 
surprising, that the trade-wind along the northern parts of 
Chile and on the coast of Peru, should blow in so very south- 
erly a direction as it does ; but when we reflect that the Cor- 
dillera, running in a north and south line, intercepts, like a 
great wall, the entire depth of the lower atmospheric current, 
we can easily see that the trade-wind must be drawn north- 
ward, following the line of mountains, towards the equatorial 

* Dr. Gillies in Jpurn. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug., 1830. This 
author gives the heights of the Passes. 


regions, and thus lose part of that easterly movement which 
it otherwise would have gained from the earth's rotation. At 
Mendoza, on the eastern foot of the Andes, the climate is 
said to be subject to long calms, and to frequent though false 
appearances of gathering rain-storms: we may imagine that 
the wind, which coming from the eastward is thus banked up 
by the line of mountains, would become stagnant and irregu- 
lar in its movements. 

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a moun- 
tainous country, intermediate between the two main ranges, 
and then took up our quarters for the night. We were now 
in the republic of Mendoza. The elevation was probably not 
under 11,000 feet, and the vegetation in consequence exceed- 
ingly scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant served as 
fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the wind was 
piercingly cold. Being quite tired with my day's work, I 
made up my bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep. 
About midnight I observed the sky became suddenly clouded : 
I awakened the arriero to know if there was any danger of 
bad weather ; but he said that without thunder and lightning 
there was no risk of a heavy snow-storm. The peril is 
imminent, and the difficulty of subsequent escape great, to 
any one overtaken by bad weather between the two ranges. 
A certain cave offers the only place of refuge: Mr. Cald- 
cleugh, who crossed on this same day of the month, was 
detained there for some time by a heavy fall of snow. Casu- 
chas, or houses of refuge, have not been built in this pass 
as in that of Uspallata, and, therefore, during the autumn, 
the Portillo is little frequented. I may here remark that 
within the main Cordillera rain never falls, for during the 
summer the sky is cloudless, and in winter snow-storms alone 

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from 
the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower tem- 
perature than it does in a less lofty country; the case being 
the converse of that of a Papin's digester. Hence the pota- 
toes, after remaining for some hours in the boiling water, 
were nearly as hard as ever. The pot was left on the fire 
all night, and next morning it was boiled again, but yet the 
potatoes were not cooked. I found out this, by overhearing 


my two companions discussing the cause; they had come 
to the simple conclusion, " that the cursed pot [which was a 
new one] did not choose to boil potatoes." 

March 22nd. After eating our potatoless breakfast, we 
travelled across the intermediate tract to the foot of the 
Portillo range. In the middle of summer cattle are brought 
up here to graze ; but they had now all been removed : even 
the greater number of the Guanacos had decamped, knowing 
well that if overtaken here by a snow-storm, they would be 
caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of moun- 
tains called Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken 
snow, in the midst of which there was a blue patch, no 
doubt a glacier ; a circumstance of rare occurrence in these 
mountains. Now commenced a heavy and long climb, simi- 
lar to that of the Peuquenes. Bold conical hills of red 
granite rose on each hand ; in the valleys there were several 
broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen masses, during 
the process of thawing, had in some parts been converted 
into pinnacles or columns,* which, as they were high and 
close together, made it difficult for the cargo mules to pass. 
On one of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was stick- 
ing as on a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in 
the air. The animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its 
head downward into a hole, when the snow was continuous, 
and afterwards the surrounding parts must have been 
removed by the thaw. 

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were envel- 
oped in a falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was 
very unfortunate, as it continued the whole day, and quite 
intercepted our view. The pass takes its name of Portillo, 
from a narrow cleft or doorway on the highest ridge, 
through which the road passes. From this point, on a clear 
day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly extend to the 
Atlantic Ocean can be seen. We descended to the upper 

* This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in 
the icebergs near Spitzbergen, and, lately, with more care, by Colonel 
Jackson (Journ. of Geograph. Soc., vol. v. p. 12) on the Neva. Mr. Lyell 
(Principles, vol. iv. p. 360) has compared the fissures by which the 
columnar structure seems to be determined, to the joints that traverse 
nearly all rocks, but which are best seen in the non-stratified masses. I 
may observe, that in the case of the frozen snow, the columnar structure 
must be owing to a " metamorphic " action, and not to a process during 


limit of vegetation, and found good quarters for the night 
under the shelter of some large fragments of rock. We met 
here some passengers, who made anxious inquiries about the 
state of the road. Shortly after it was dark the clouds sud- 
denly cleared away, and the effect was quite magical. The 
great mountains, bright with the full moon, seemed impend- 
ing over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice: one morn- 
ing, very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. As 
soon as the clouds were dispersed it froze severely; but as 
there was no wind, we slept very comfortably. 

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this 
elevation, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmos- 
phere, was very remarkable. Travelers having observed 
the difficulty of judging heights and distances amidst lofty 
mountains, have generally attributed it to the absence of 
objects of comparison. It appears to me, that it is fully as 
much owing to the transparency of the air confounding 
objects at different distances, and likewise partly to the 
novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little 
exertion, habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the 
senses. I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air 
gives a peculiar character to the landscape, all objects 
appearing to be brought nearly into one plane, as in a draw- 
ing or panorama. The transparency is, I presume, owing to 
the equable and high state of atmospheric dryness. This 
dryness was shown by the manner in which woodwork 
shrank (as I soon found by the trouble my geological ham- 
mer gave me) ; by articles of food, such as bread and sugar, 
becoming extremely hard; and by the preservation of the 
skin and parts of the flesh of the beasts, which had perished 
on the road. To the same cause we must attribute the singu- 
lar facility with which electricity is excited. My flannel 
waistcoat, when rubbed in the dark, appeared as if it had 
been washed with phosphorus ; every hair on a dog's back 
crackled; even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of the 
saddle, when handled, emitted sparks. 

March 2$rd. The descent on the eastern side of the Cor- 
dillera is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side; 
in other words, the mountains rise more abruptly from the 
plains than from the alpine country of Chile. A level and 


brilliantly white sea of clouds was stretched out beneath our 
feet, shutting out the view of the equally level Pampas. We 
soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again emerge 
from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the ani- 
mals and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, we stopped 
for the night. This was near the uppermost limit of bushes, 
and the elevation, I suppose, was between seven and eight 
thousand feet. 

I was much struck with the marked difference between 
the vegetation of these eastern valleys and those on the 
Chilian side: yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is 
nearly the same, and the difference of longitude very trifling. 
The same remark holds good with the quadrupeds, and in 
a lesser degree with the birds and insects. I may instance the 
mice, of which I obtained thirteen species on the shores of 
the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and not one of them 
is identical. We must except all those species, which habitu- 
ally or occasionally frequent elevated mountains; and cer- 
tain birds, which range as far south as the Strait of Magel- 
lan. This fact is in perfect accordance with the geological 
history of the Andes; for these mountains have existed as 
a great barrier since the present races of animals have 
appeared ; and therefore, unless we suppose the same species 
to have been created in two different places, we ought not to 
expect any closer similarity between the organic beings on 
the opposite sides of the Andes than on the opposite shores 
of the ocean. In both cases, we must leave out of the ques- 
tion those kinds which have been able to cross the barrier, 
whether of solid rock or salt-water. 6 

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely 
the same as, or most closely allied to, those of Patagonia. 
We here have the agouti, bizcacha, three species of arma- 
dillo, the ostrich, certain kinds of partridges and other birds, 
none of which are ever seen in Chile, but are the character- 
istic animals of the desert plains of Patagonia. We have 
likewise many of the same (to the eyes of a person who is 

5 This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws, first laid down 
by Mr. Lyell, on the geographical distribution of animals, as influenced 
by geological changes. The whole reasoning, of course, is founded on the 
assumption of the immutability of species; otherwise the difference in the 
species in the two regions might be considered as superinduced during a 
length of time. 


not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered grass, and 
dwarf plants. Even the black slowly crawling beetles are 
closely similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination, 
absolutely identical. It had always been to me a subject of 
regret, that we were unavoidably compelled to give up the 
ascent of the S. Cruz river before reaching the mountains: 
I always had a latent hope of meeting with some great 
change in the features of the country; but I now feel sure, 
that it would only have been following the plains of Pata- 
gonia up a mountainous ascent. 

March s^th. Early in the morning I climbed up a moun- 
tain on one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended 
view over the Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had 
always looked forward with interest, but I was disappointed: 
at the first glance it much resembled a distant view of the 
ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities were 
soon distinguishable. The most striking feature consisted 
in the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like 
silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At 
midday we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where 
an officer and three soldiers were posted to examine pass- 
ports. One of these men was a thoroughbred Pampas 
Indian: he was kept much for the same purpose as a blood- 
hound, to track out any person who might pass by secretly, 
either on foot or horseback. Some years ago, a passenger 
endeavoured to escape detection, by making a long circuit 
over a neighbouring mountain ; but this Indian, having by 
chance crossed his track, followed it for the whole day over 
dry and very stony hills, till at last he came on his prey 
hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery clouds, 
which we had admired from the bright region above, had 
poured down torrents of rain. The valley from this point 
gradually opened, and the hills became mere water-worn 
hillocks compared to the giants behind : it then expanded 
into a gently sloping plain of shingle, covered with low trees 
and bushes. This talus, although appearing narrow, must be 
nearly ten miles wide before it blends into the apparently 
dead level Pampas. We passed the only house in this neigh- 
bourhood, the Estancia of Chaquaio ; and at sunset we pulled 
up in the first snug corner, and there bivouacked. 


March 2$th. I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos 
Ayres, by seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an 
horizon level as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy 
dew fell, a circumstance which we did not experience within 
the Cordillera. The road proceeded for some distance due 
east across a low swamp; then meeting the dry plain, it 
turned to the north towards Mendoza. The distance is two 
very long days' journey. Our first day's journey was called 
fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen to 
Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level 
desert plain, with not more than two or three houses. The 
sun was exceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all 
interest. There is very little water in this " traversia," and 
in our second day's journey we found only one little pool. 
Little water flows from the mountains, and it soon becomes 
absorbed by the dry and porous soil ; so that, although we 
travelled at the distance of only ten or fifteen miles from 
the outer range of the Cordillera, we did not cross a single 
stream. In many parts the ground was incrusted with a 
saline efflorescence ; hence we had the same salt-loving 
plants which are common near Bahia Blanca. The land- 
scape has a uniform character from the Strait of Magellan, 
along the whole eastern coast of Patagonia, to the Rio Colo- 
rado; and it appears that the same kind of country extends 
inland from this river, in a sweeping line as far as San Luis, 
and perhaps even further north. To the eastward of this 
curved line lies the basin of the comparatively damp and 
green plains of Buenos Ayres. The sterile plains of Men- 
doza and Patagonia consist of a bed of shingle, worn smooth 
and accumulated by the waves of the sea ; while the Pampas, 
covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been formed by 
the ancient estuary mud of the Plata. 

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to 
see in the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing 
round the village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we 
arrived at this place, we observed to the south a ragged cloud 
of dark reddish-brown colour. At first we thought that it 
was smoke from some great fire on the plains; but we soon 
found that it was a swarm of locusts. They were flying 
northward; and with the aid of a light breeze, they overtook 


us at a rate of ten or fifteen miles an hour. The main body 
filled the air from a height of twenty feet, to that, as it ap- 
peared, of two or three thousand above the ground ; " and the 
sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many 
horses running to battle:" or rather, I should say, like a 
strong breeze passing through the rigging of a ship. The 
sky, seen through the advanced guard, appeared like a mezzo- 
tinto engraving, but the main body was impervious to sight; 
they were not, however, so thick together, but that they 
could escape a stick waved backwards and forwards. When 
they alighted, they were more numerous than the leaves in 
the field, and the surface became reddish instead of being 
green : the swarm having once alighted, the individuals flew 
from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an un- 
common pest in this country : already during the season, sev- 
eral smaller swarms had come up from the south, where, as 
apparently in all other parts of the world, they are bred in 
the deserts. The poor cottagers in vain attempted by light- 
ing fires, by shouts, and by waving branches to avert the 
attack. This species of locust closely resembles, and perhaps 
is identical with, the famous Gryllus migratorius of the East. 
We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable 
size, though its course towards the sea-coast is very imper- 
fectly known: it is even doubtful whether, in passing over 
the plains, it is not evaporated and lost. We slept in the 
village of Luxan, which is a small place surrounded by gar- 
dens, and forms the most southern cultivated district in the 
Province of Mendoza; it is five leagues south of the capital. 
At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a 
name) of the Benchuca, a species of Reduvius, the great 
black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft 
wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's 
body. Before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards 
they become round and bloated with blood, and in this state 
are easily crushed. One which I caught at Iquique, ( for they 
are found in Chile and Peru,) was very empty. When placed 
on a table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger was 
presented, the bold insect would immediately protrude its 
sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain 
was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body 


during the act of sucking, as in less than ten minutes it 
changed from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. 
This one feast, for which the benchuca was indebted to one 
of the officers, kept it fat during four whole months; but, 
after the first fortnight, it was quite ready to have another 

March 2jth. We rode on to Mendoza. The country was 
beautifully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbour- 
hood is celebrated for its fruit; and certainly nothing could 
appear more flourishing than the vineyards and the orchards 
of figs, peaches, and olives. We bought water-melons nearly 
twice as large as a man's head, most deliciously cool and 
well-flavoured, for a halfpenny apiece; and for the value of 
threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of peaches. The culti- 
vated and enclosed part of this province is very small ; there 
is little more than that which we passed through between 
Luxan and the capital. The land, as in Chile, owes its fer- 
tility entirely to artificial irrigation ; and it is really wonder- 
ful to observe how extraordinarily productive a barren 
traversia is thus rendered. 

We stayed the ensuing day in Mendoza. The prosperity 
of the place has much declined of late years. The inhabit- 
ants say " it is good to live in, but very bad to grow rich in." 
The lower orders have the lounging, reckless manners of the 
Gauchos of the Pampas; and their dress, riding-gear, and 
habits of life, are nearly the same. To my mind the town 
had a stupid, forlorn aspect. Neither the boasted alameda, 
nor the scenery, is at all comparable with that of Santiago ; 
but to those who, coming from Buenos Ayres, have just 
crossed the unvaried Pampas, the gardens and orchards must 
appear delightful. Sir F. Head, speaking of the inhabitants, 
says, " They eat their dinners, and it is so very hot, they go 
to sleep and could they do better ? " I quite agree with 
Sir F. Head: the happy doom of the Mendozinos is to eat, 
sleep and be idle. 

March 2pth. We set out on our return to Chile, by the 
Uspallata pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross 
a long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The 
soil in parts was absolutely bare, in others covered by num- 


berless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, and called 
by the inhabitants " little lions." There were, also, a few 
low bushes. Although the plain is nearly three thousand feet 
above the sea, the sun was very powerful ; and the heat, as 
well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling 
extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly 
parallel to the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them. 
Before sunset we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather 
bays, which open on the plain: this soon narrowed into a 
ravine, where a little higher up the house of Villa Vicencio 
is situated. As we had ridden all day without a drop of 
water, both our mules and selves were very thirsty, and we 
looked out anxiously for the stream which flows down this 
valley. It was curious to observe how gradually the water 
made its appearance : on the plain the course was quite dry ; 
by degrees it became a little damper; then puddles of water 
appeared ; these soon became connected ; and at Villa Vicen- 
cio there was a nice little rivulet. 

30th. The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name 
of Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who 
has crossed the Andes. I stayed here and at some neigh- 
bouring mines during the two succeeding days. The geology 
of the surrounding country is very curious. The Uspallata 
range is separated from the main Cordillera by a long nar- 
row plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, 
but higher, being six thousand feet above the sea. This 
range has nearly the same geographical position with respect 
to the Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo line has, but it 
is of a totally different origin : it consists of various kinds of 
submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and 
other remarkable sedimentary deposits; the whole having a 
very close resemblance to. some of the tertiary beds on the 
shores of the Pacific. From this resemblance I expected to 
find silicified wood, which is generally characteristic of those 
formations. I was gratified in a very extraordinary manner. 
In the central part of the range, at an elevation of about 
seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope some snow- 
white projecting columns. These were petrified trees, eleven 
being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into 
coarsely-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were ab- 


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

It required little geological practice to interpret the mar- 
vellous story which this scene at once unfolded; though I 
confess I was at first so much astonished that I could 
scarcely believe the plainest evidence. I saw the spot where 
a cluster of fine trees once waved their branches on the 
shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now driven back 
700 miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that they 
had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above 
the level of the sea, and that subsequently this dry land, 
with its upright trees, had been let down into the depths of 
the ocean. In these depths, the formerly dry land was 
covered by sedimentary beds, and these again by enormous 
streams of submarine lava one such mass attaining the 
thickness of a thousand feet; and these deluges of molten 
stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately had been 
spread out. The ocean which received such thick masses, 
must have been profoundly deep ; but again the subterranean 
forces exerted themselves, and I now beheld the bed of 
that ocean, forming a chain of mountains more than beven 
thousand feet in height. Nor had those antagonistic forces 
been dormant, which are always at work wearing down the 
surface of the land; the great piles of strata had been in- 
tersected by many wide valleys, and the trees now changed 
into silex, were exposed projecting from the volcanic soil, 
now changed into rock, whence formerly, in a green and 
budding state, they had raised their lofty heads. Now, 
all is utterly irreclaimable and desert; even the lichen can- 
not adhere to the stony casts of former trees. Vast, and 


scarcely comprehensible as such changes must ever appear, 
yet they have all occurred within a period, recent when 
compared with the history of the Cordillera; and the Cor- 
dillera itself is absolutely modern as compared with many 
of the fossiliferous strata of Europe and America. 

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

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

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared 
with that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the 
bare walls of the one grand flat-bottomed valley, which the 
road follows up to the highest crest. The valley and 
the huge rocky mountains are extremely barren: during the 
two previous nights the poor mules had absolutely nothing 
to eat, for excepting a few low resinous bushes, scarcely a 
plant can be seen. In the course of this day we crossed some 
of the worst passes in the Cordillera, but their danger has 
been much exaggerated. I was told that if I attempted to 
pass on foot, my head would turn giddy, and that there was 
no room to dismount; but I did not see a place where any 
VOL. xxix L HC 


one might not have walked over backwards, or got off his 
mule on either side. One of the bad passes, called las 
Animas (the souls), I had crossed, and did not find out 
till a day afterwards, that it was one of the awful dangers. 
No doubt there are many parts in which, if the mule should 
stumble, the rider would be hurled down a great precipice; 
but of this there is little chance. I dare say, in the spring, 
the " laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew 
across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad ; but from 
what I saw, I suspect the real danger is nothing. With 
cargo-mules the case is rather different, for the loads pro- 
ject so far, that the animals, occasionally running against 
each other, or against a point of rock, lose their balance, and 
are thrown down the precipices. In crossing the rivers 
I can well believe that the difficulty may be very great: at 
this season there was little trouble, but in the summer they 
must be very hazardous. I can quite imagine, as Sir F. 
Head describes, the different expressions of those who have 
passed the gulf, and those who are passing. I never heard 
of any man being drowned, but with loaded mules it fre- 
quently happens. The arriero tells you to show your mule 
the best line, and then allow her to cross as she likes: the 
cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is often lost. 

April 4th. From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del 
Incas, half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the 
mules, and geology for me, we bivouacked here for the 
night. When one hears of a natural Bridge, one pictures 
to one's self some deep and narrow ravine, across which a 
bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch hollowed out 
like the vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Incas 
Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle cemented to- 
gether by the deposits of the neighbouring hot springs. It 
appears, as if the stream had scooped out a channel on one 
side, leaving an overhanging ledge, which was met by earth 
and stones falling down from the opposite cliff. Certainly 
an oblique junction, as would happen in such a case, was 
very distinct on one side. The Bridge of the Incas is by 
no means worthy of the great monarchs whose name it 

$th. We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, 


from the Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situ- 
ated near the lowest casucha on the Chilian side. These 
casuchas are round little towers, with steps outside to reach 
the floor, which is raised some feet above the ground on ac- 
count of the snow-drifts. They are eight in number, and 
under the Spanish government were kept during the winter 
well stored with food and charcoal, and each courier had a 
master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of caves, or 
rather dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they are 
not, however, ill suited to the surrounding scene of desola- 
tion. The zigzag ascent of the Cumbre, or the partition of 
the waters, was very steep and tedious; its height, according 
to Mr. Pentland, is 12,454 f eet - The road did not pass over 
any perpetual snow, although there were patches of it on 
both hands. The wind on the summit was exceedingly cold, 
but it was impossible not to stop for a few minutes to ad- 
mire, again and again, the colour of the heavens, and the 
brilliant transparency of the atmosphere. The scenery was 
grand : to the westward there was a fine chaos of mountains, 
divided by profound ravines. Some snow generally falls be- 
fore this period of the season, and it has even happened that 
the Cordillera have been finally closed by this time. But 
we were most fortunate. The sky, by night and by day, was 
cloudless, excepting a few round little masses of vapour, that 
floated over the highest pinnacles. I have often seen these 
islets in the sky, marking the position of the Cordillera, 
when the far-distant mountains have been hidden beneath 
the horizon. 

April 6th. In the morning we found some thief had 
stolen one of our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We 
therefore rode only two or three miles down the valley, and 
stayed there the ensuing day in hopes of recovering the mule, 
which the arriero thought had been hidden in some ravine. 
The scenery in this part had assumed a Chilian character: 
the lower sides of the mountains, dotted over with the pale 
evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great chandelier-like 
cactus, are certainly more to be admired than the bare east- 
ern valleys; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration 
expressed by some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I sus- 
pect, is chiefly owing to the prospect of a good fire and of a 


good supper, after escaping from the cold regions above : and 
I am sure I most heartily participated in these feelings. 

8th. We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we 
had descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the 
Villa del St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was delight- 
ful : the autumn being advanced, the leaves of many of the 
fruit-trees were falling; and of the labourers, some were 
busy in drying figs and peaches on the roofs of their cot- 
tages, while others were gathering the grapes from the vine- 
yards. It was a pretty scene ; but I missed that pensive still- 
ness which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening 
of the year. On the loth we reached Santiago, where I re- 
ceived a very kind and hospitable reception from Mr. Cald- 
cleugh. My excursion only cost me twenty-four days, and 
never did I more deeply enjoy an equal space of time. A 
few days afterwards I returned to Mr. Corfield's house at 


Coast-road to Coquimbo Great Loads carried by the Miners Co- 
quimbo Earthquake Step-formed Terraces Absence of recent 
Deposits Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations 
Excursion up the Valley Road to Guasco Deserts Valley of 
Copiapo Rain and Earthquakes Hydrophobia The Despoblado 
Indian Ruins Probable Change of Climate River-bed arched 
by an Earthquake Cold Gales of Wind Noises from a Hill 
Iquique Salt Alluvium Nitrate of Soda Lima Unhealthy 
Country Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake Recent 
subsidence Elevated Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition 
Plain with embedded Shells and fragments of Pottery Antiquity 
of the Indian Race. 

APRIL 2?th. I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and 
\ thence through Guasco to Copiapo, where Captain 
Fitz Roy kindly offered to pick me up in the Beagle. 
The distance in a straight line along the shore northward is 
only 420 miles; but my mode of travelling made it a very 
long journey. I bought four horses and two mules, the 
latter carrying the luggage on alternate days. The six 
animals together only cost the value of twenty-five pounds 
sterling, and at Copiapo I sold them again for twenty-three. 
We travelled in the same independent manner as before, 
cooking our own meals, and sleeping in the open air. As 
we rode towards the Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view 
of Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For 
geological purposes I made a detour from the high road 
to the foot of the Bell of Quillota. We passed through an 
alluvial district rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of Li- 
mache, where we slept. Washing for gold supports the in- 
habitants of numerous hovels, scattered along the sides of 
each little rivulet; but, like all those whose gains are un- 
certain, they are unthrifty in all their habits, and con- 
sequently poor. 



28th. In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the 
foot of the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were freehold- 
ers, which is not very usual in Chile. They supported them- 
selves on the produce of a garden and a little field, but were 
very poor. Capital is here so deficient, that the people are 
obliged to sell their green corn while standing in the field, 
in order to buy necessaries for the ensuing year. Wheat in 
consequence was dearer in the very district of its production 
than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The next 
day we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there 
was a very light shower of rain : this was the first drop that 
had fallen since the heavy rain of September nth and I2th, 
which detained me a prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes. 
The interval was seven and a half months ; but the rain this 
year in Chile was rather later than usual. The distant Andes 
were now covered by a thick mass of snow, and were a glo- 
rious sight. 

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

3rd. Quilimari to Conchalee. The country became more 
and more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely sufficient 
water for any irrigation; and the intermediate land was 
quite bare, not supporting even goats. In the spring, after 
the winter showers, a thin pasture rapidly springs up, and 
cattle are then driven down from the Cordillera to graze 
for a short time. It is curious to observe how the seeds of 
the grass and other plants seem to accommodate themselves, 
as if by an acquired habit, to the quantity of rain which 
falls upon different parts of this coast. One shower far 
northward at Copiapo produces as great an effect on the 
vegetation, as two at Guasco, and three or four in this 


district. At Valparaiso a winter so dry as greatly to injure 
the pasture, would at Guasco produce the most unusual 
abundance. Proceeding northward, the quantity of rain does 
not appear to decrease in strict proportion to the latitude. 
At Conchalee, which is only 67 miles north of Valparaiso, 
rain is not expected till the end of May; whereas at Val- 
paraiso some generally falls early in April : the annual quan- 
tity is likewise small in proportion to the lateness of the 
season at which it commences. 

4th. Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any 
kind, we turned inland towards the mining district and 
valley of Illapel. This valley, like every other in Chile, is 
level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on each side, 
either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky moun- 
tains. Above the straight line of the uppermost irrigating 
ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below is of as 
bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfalfa, a kind 
of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining 
district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like 
a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race 
of men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the 
most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on 
feast-days, there is no excess of extravagance into which 
they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, 
and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon 
they can contrive to squander it. They drink excessively, 
buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless 
to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts 
of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently 
the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is 
found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness: more- 
over, temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed 
in their power at the same time. On the other hand, in 
Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the sys- 
tem of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from 
being obliged to act and think for themselves, are a singu- 
larly intelligent and well-conducted set of men. 

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather 
picturesque. He wears a very long shirt of some dark-col- 
oured baize, with a leathern apron ; the whole being fastened 


round his waist by a bright-coloured sash. His trousers are 
very broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit 
the head closely. We met a party of these miners in full 
costume, carrying the body of one of their companions to be 
buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men sup- 
porting the corpse. One set having run as hard as they 
could for about two hundred yards, were relieved by four 
others, who had previously dashed on ahead on horseback. 
Thus they proceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries: 
altogether the scene formed a most strange funeral. 

We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line; 
sometimes stopping a day to geologize. The country was so 
thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often had 
difficulty in finding our way. On the I2th I stayed at some 
mines. The ore in this case was not considered particularly 
good, but from being abundant it was supposed the mine 
would sell for about thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is, 
6000 or 8000 pounds sterling) ; yet it had been bought by 
one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (3/. 
8^.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already re- 
marked, before the arrival of the English, was not supposed 
to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits nearly 
as great as in the above instance, piles of cinders, abounding 
with minute globules of metallic copper, were purchased; 
yet with these advantages, the mining associations, as is well 
known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly 
of the greater number of the commissioners and shareholders 
amounted to infatuation; a thousand pounds per annum 
given in some cases to entertain the Chilian authorities; 
libraries of well-bound geological books ; miners brought out 
for particular metals, as tin, which are not found in Chile; 
contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where 
there are no cows; machinery, where it could not possibly 
be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore witness 
to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the 
natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital 
well employed in these mines would have yielded an im- 
mense return, a confidential man of business, a practical 
miner and assayer, would have been all that was required. 

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which 


the " Apires," truly beasts of burden, carry up from the 
deepest mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated ; 
so that I was glad to take an opportunity of weighing one 
of the loads, which I picked out by hazard. It required con- 
siderable exertion on my part, when standing directly over 
it, to lift it from the ground. The load was considered under 
weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire had car- 
ried this up eighty perpendicular yards, part of the way by 
a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, placed 
in a zigzag line up the shaft. According to the general 
regulation, the apire is not allowed to halt for breath, ex- 
cept the mine is six hundred feet deep. The average load is 
considered as rather more than 200 pounds, and I have been 
assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty-two stone and a half) 
by way of a trial has been brought up from the deepest mine! 
At this time the apires were bringing up the usual load 
twelve times in the day; that is 2400 pounds from eighty 
yards deep ; and they were employed in the intervals in break- 
ing and picking ore. 

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

In the evening, talking with the tnayor-domo of these 


mines about the number of foreigners now scattered over 
the whole country, he told me that, though quite a young 
man, he remembers when he was a boy at school at 
Coquimbo, a holiday being given to see the captain of an 
English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to the 
governor. He believes that nothing would have induced 
any boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close 
to the Englishman; so deeply had they been impressed with 
an idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to be derived 
from contact with such a person. To this day they relate 
the atrocious actions of the bucaniers; nd especially of 
one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin Mary, and 
returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying it 
was a pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard 
also of an old lady who, at a dinner at Coquimbo, remarked 
how wonderfully strange it was that she should have lived 
to dine in the same room with an Englishman; for she 
remembered as a girl, that twice, at the mere cry of " Los 
Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables they could, 
had taken to the mountains. 

iqth. We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a few 
days. The town is remarkable for nothing but its extreme 
quietness. It is said to contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. 
On the morning of the I7th it rained lightly, the first time 
this year, for about five hours. The farmers, who plant 
corn near the sea-coast where the atmosphere is most humid, 
taking advantage of this shower, would break up the ground; 
after a second they would put the seed in; and if a third 
shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the 
spring. It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling 
amount of moisture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground 
appeared as dry as ever; yet after an interval of ten days, 
all the hills were faintly tinged with green patches; the 
grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full 
inch in length. Before this shower every part of the sur- 
face was bare as on a high road. 

In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining 
with Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his 
hospitality by all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp 
earthquake happened. I heard the forecoming rumble, but 


from the screams of the ladies, the running of the servants, 
and the rush of several of the gentlemen to the doorway, I 
could not distinguish the motion. Some of the women after- 
wards were crying with terror, and one gentleman said he 
should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would 
only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this per- 
son had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he 
himself had only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, 
in 1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then 
happened: he was playing at cards, when a German, one of 
the party, got up, and said he would never sit in a room in 
these countries with the door shut, a? owing to his having 
done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapo. Accordingly 
he opened the door ; and no sooner had he done this, than he 
cried out, " Here it comes again ! " and the famous shock 
commenced. The whole party escaped. The danger in an 
earthquake is not from the time lost in opening the door, but 
from the chance of its becoming jammed by the movement 
of the walls. 

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

I spent some days in examining the step-formed terraces 
of shingle, first noticed by Captain B. Hall, and believed 
by Mr. Lyell to have been formed by the sea, during the 
gradual rising of the land. This certainly is the true 
explanation, for I found numerous shells of existing species 
on these terraces. Five narrow, gently sloping, fringe-like 
terraces rise one behind the other, and where best developed 
are formed of shingle : they front the bay, and sweep up both 
sides of the valley. At Guasco, north of Coquimbo, the phe- 


nomenon is displayed on a much grander scale, so as to 
strike with surprise even some of the inhabitants. The ter- 
races are there much broader, and may be called plains; in 
some parts there are six of them, but generally only five; 
they run up the valley for thirty-seven miles from the coast. 
These step-formed terraces or fringes closely resemble those 
in the valley of S. Cruz, and, except in being on a smaller 
scale, those great ones along the whole coast-line of Pata- 
gonia. They have undoubtedly been formed by the denud- 
ing power of the sea, during long periods of rest in the 
gradual elevation of the continent. 

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the sur- 
face of the terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), 
but are embedded in a friable calcareous rock, which in some 
places is as much as between twenty and thirty feet in thick- 
ness, but is of little extent. These modern beds rest on an 
ancient tertiary formation containing shells, apparently all 
extinct. Although I examined so many hundred miles of 
coast on the Pacific, as well as Atlantic side of the conti- 
nent, I found no regular strata containing sea-shells of 
recent species, excepting at this place, and at a few points 
northward on the road to Guasco. This fact appears to me 
highly remarkable ; for the explanation generally given by 
geologists, of the absence in any district of stratified fossil- 
iferous deposits of a given period, namely, that the surface 
then existed as dry land, is not here applicable; for we 
know from the shells strewed on the surface and embedded 
in loose sand or mould, that the land for thousands of miles 
along both coasts has lately been submerged. The explana- 
tion, no doubt, must be sought in the fact, that the whole 
southern part of the continent has been for a long time 
slowly rising; and therefore that all matter deposited along 
shore in shallow water, must have been soon brought up 
and slowly exposed to the wearing action of the sea-beach ; 
and it is only in comparatively shallow water that the greater 
number of marine organic beings can flourish, and in such 
water it is obviously impossible that strata of any great 
thickness can accumulate. To show the vast power of the 
wearing action of sea-beaches, we need only appeal to the 
great cliffs along the present coast of Patagonia, and to the 


escarpments or ancient sea-cliffs at different levels, one 
above another, on that same line of coast. 

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo, 
appears to be of about the same age with several deposits 
on the coast of Chile (of which that of Navedad is the 
principal one), and with the great formation of Patagonia. 
Both at Navedad and in Patagonia there is evidence, that 
since the shells (a list of which has been seen by Professor 
E. Forbes) there entombed were living, there has been a 
subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing 
elevation. It may naturally be asked, how it comes that, 
although no extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent 
period, nor of any period intermediate between it and the 
ancient tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either side of 
the continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary epoch, sedi- 
mentary matter containing fossil remains, should have been 
deposited and preserved at different points in north and 
south lines, over a space of noo miles on the shores of the 
Pacific, and of at least 1350 miles on the shores of the Atlan- 
tic, and in an east and west line of 700 miles across the 
widest part of the continent? I believe the explanation is 
not difficult, and that it is perhaps applicable to nearly analo- 
gous facts observed in other quarters of the world. Consid- 
ering the enormous power of denudation which the sea 
possesses, as shown by numberless facts, it is not probable 
that a sedimentary deposit, when being upraised, could pass 
through the ordeal of the beach, so as to be preserved in 
sufficient masses to last to a distant period, without it were 
originally of wide extent and of considerable thickness : now 
it is impossible on a moderately shallow bottom, which 
alone is favourable to most living creatures, that a thick 
and widely extended covering of sediment could be spread 
out, without the bottom sank down to receive the successive 
layers. This seems to have actually taken place at about 
the same period in southern Patagonia and Chile, though 
these places are a thousand miles apart. Hence, if pro- 
longed movements of approximately contemporaneous sub- 
sidence are generally widely extensive, as I am strongly 
inclined to believe from my examination of the Coral Reefs 
of the great oceans or if, confining our view to South 


America, the subsiding movements have been coextensive 
with those of elevation, by which, within the same period 
of existing shells, the shores of Peru, Chile, Tierra del 
Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata have been upraised then 
we can see that at the same time, at far distant points, cir- 
cumstances would have been favourable to the formation of 
fossiliferous deposits of wide extent and of considerable 
thickness; and such deposits, consequently, would have a 
good chance of resisting the wear and tear of successive 
beach-lines, and of lasting to a future epoch. 

May 2 1 st. I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards 
to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of 
Coquimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we 
reached by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. 
I enjoyed my night's rest here from a reason which will not 
be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of 
fleas ! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them ; but they 
will not live here at the height of only three or four thou- 
sand feet: it can scarcely be the trifling diminution of tem- 
perature, but some other cause which destroys these 
troublesome insects at this place. The mines are now in a 
bad state, though they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds 
in weight of silver a year. It has been said that "a person 
with a copper-mine will gain; with silver he may gain; but 
with gold he is sure to lose." This is not true: all the large 
Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the more 
precious metals. A short time since an English physician 
returned to England from Copiapo, taking with him the 
profits of one share of a silver-mine, which amounted to 
about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt a copper-mine with 
care is a sure game, whereas the other is gambling, or rather 
taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose great quan- 
tities of rich ores; for no precautions can prevent robberies. 
I heard of a gentleman laying a bet with another, that one 
of his men should rob him before his face. The ore when 
brought out of the mine is broken into pieces, and the use- 
less stone thrown on one side. A couple of the miners who 
were thus employed, pitched, as if by accident, two fragments 
away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke 


" Let us see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was 
standing by, bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The 
miner by this means watched the very point amongst the 
rubbish where the stone lay. In the evening he picked it 
up and carried it to his master, showing him a rich mass of 
silver-ore, and saying, " This was the stone on which you 
won a cigar by its rolling so far." 

May 2$rd. We descended into the fertile valley of Co- 
quimbo, and followed it till we reached an Hacienda belong- 
ing to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the next day. 
I then rode one day's journey further, to see what were 
declared to be some petrified shells and beans, which latter 
turned out to be small quartz pebbles. We passed through 
several small villages; and the valley was beautifully culti- 
vated, and the whole scenery very grand. We were here 
near the main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were 
lofty. In all parts of northern Chile, fruit trees produce 
much more abundantly at a considerable height near the 
Andes than in the lower country. The figs and grapes of 
this district are famous for their excellence, and are cul- 
tivated to a great extent. This valley is, perhaps, the most 
productive one north of Quillota. I believe it contains, 
including Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The next day I 
returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together with Don 
Jose, to Coquimbo. 

June 2nd. We set out for the valley of Guasco, following 
the coast-road, which was considered rather less desert than 
the other. Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called 
Yerba Buena, where there was pasture for our horses. The 
shower mentioned as having fallen, a fortnight ago, only 
reached about half-way to Guasco; we had, therefore, in the 
first part of our journey a most faint tinge of green, which 
soon faded quite away. Even where brightest, it was scarcely 
sufficient to remind one of the fresh turf and budding 
flowers of the spring of other countries. While travelling 
through these deserts one feels like a prisoner shut up in 
a gloomy court, who longs to see something green and to 
smell a moist atmosphere. 

June jrd. Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part 
of the day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert, and after- 


wards a long deep sandy plain, strewed with broken sea- 
shells. There was very little water, and that little saline : 
the whole country, from the coast to the Cordillera, is an un- 
inhabited desert. I saw traces only of one living animal in 
abundance, namely, the shells of a Bulimus, which were 
collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest 
spots. In the spring one humble little plant sends out a few 
leaves, and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only 
very early in the morning, when the ground is slightly damp 
with dew, the Guascos believe that they are bred from it. I 
have observed in other places that extremely dry and sterile 
districts, where the soil is calcareous, are extraordinarily 
favourable to land-shells. At Carizal there were a few cot- 
tages, some brackish water, and a trace of cultivation : but it 
was with difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw 
for our horses. 

4th. Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert 
plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also 
the valley of Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one 
between Guasco and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces 
so little pasture, that we could not purchase any for our 
horses. At Sauce we found a very civil old gentleman, super- 
intendent of a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial 
favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price an armful 
of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper 
after their long day's journey. Few smelting- furnaces are 
now at work in any part of Chile ; it is found more profitable, 
on account of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from 
the Chilian method of reduction being so unskilful, to ship the 
ore for Swansea. The next day we crossed some mountains 
to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco. During each day's ride 
further northward, the vegetation became more and more 
scanty; even the great chandelier-like cactus was here re- 
placed by a different and much smaller species. During the 
winter months, both in northern Chile and in Peru, a uniform 
bank of clouds hangs, at no great height, over the Pacific. 
From the mountains we had a very striking view of this 
white and brilliant aerial-field, which sent arms up the valleys, 
leaving islands and promontories in the same manner, as the 
sea does in the Chonos archipelago and in Tierra del Fuego. 


We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco 
there are four small towns. At the mouth there is the port, a 
spot entirely desert, and without any water in the immediate 
neighbourhood. Five leagues higher up stands Freyrina, a 
long straggling village, with decent whitewashed houses. 
Again, ten leagues further up Ballenar is situated, and above 
this Guasco Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried 
fruit. On a clear day the view up the valley is very fine ; the 
straight opening terminates in the far-distant snowy Cordil- 
lera; on each side an infinity of crossing-lines are blended 
together in a beautiful haze. The foreground is singular 
from the number of parallel and step- formed terraces; and 
the included strip of green valley, with its willow-bushes, is 
contrasted on both hands with the naked hills. That the sur- 
rounding country was most barren will be readily believed, 
when it is known that a shower of rain had not fallen during 
the last thirteen months. The inhabitants heard with the 
greatest envy of the rain at Coquimbo; from the appearance 
of the sky they had hopes of equally good fortune, which, a 
fortnight afterwards, were realized. I was at Copiapo at the 
time; and there the people, with equal envy, talked of the 
abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years, 
perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole 
time, a rainy year generally follows ; and this does more harm 
than even the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with 
gravel and sand the narrow strips of ground, which alone are 
fit for cultivation. The floods also injure the irrigating 
ditches. Great devastation had thus been caused three years 

June 8th. We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name 
from Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of 
O'Higgins, who, under the Spanish government, were presi- 
dents and generals in Chile. As the rocky mountains on each 
hand were concealed by clouds, the terrace-like plains gave 
to the valley an appearance like that of Santa Cruz in Pata- 
gonia. After spending one day at Ballenar I set out, on the 
loth, for the upper part of the valley of Copiapo. We rode 
all day over an uninteresting country. I am tired of repeat- 
ing the epithets barren and sterile. These words, however, 
as commonly used, are comparative; I have always applied 


them to the plains of Patagonia, which can boast of spiny 
bushes and some tufts of grass ; and this is absolute fertility, 
as compared with northern Chile. Here again, there are not 
many spaces of two hundred yards square, where some little 
bush, cactus or lichen, may not be discovered by careful 
examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready to 
spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru real deserts 
occur over wide tracts of country. In the evening we 
arrived at a valley, in which the bed of the streamlet was 
damp: following it up, we came to tolerably good water. 
During the night, the stream, from not being evaporated 
and absorbed so quickly, flows a league lower down than 
during the day. Sticks were plentiful for firewood, so that 
it was a good place to bivouac for us; but for the poor ani- 
mals there was not a mouthful to eat. 

June nth. We rode without stopping for twelve hours, 
till we reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was 
water and firewood ; but our horses again had nothing to eat, 
being shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road was 
hilly, and the distant views interesting, from the varied 
colours of the bare mountains. It was almost a pity to see 
the sun shining constantly over so useless a country; such 
splendid weather ought to have brightened fields and pretty 
gardens. The next day we reached the valley of Copiapo. 
I was heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a con- 
tinued source of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear, 
whilst eating our own suppers, our horses gnawing the posts 
to which they were tied, and to have no means of relieving 
their hunger. To all appearance, however, the animals 
were quite fresh; and no one could have told that they had 
eaten nothing for the last fifty-five hours. 

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received 
me very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This 
estate is between twenty and thirty miles long, but very nar- 
row, being generally only two fields wide, one on each side 
the river. In some parts the estate is of no width, that is 
to say, the land cannot be irrigated, and therefore is value- 
less, like the surrounding rocky desert. The small quantity 
of cultivated land in the whole line of valley, does not so 
much depend on inequalities of level, and consequent unfit- 


ness for irrigation, as on the small supply of water. The 
river this year was remarkably full : here, high up the valley, 
it reached to the horse's belly, and was about fifteen yards 
wide, and rapid ; lower down it becomes smaller and smaller, 
and is generally quite lost, as happened during one period 
of thirty years, so that not a drop entered the sea. The 
inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great 
interest; as one good fall of snow provides them with water 
for the ensuing year. This is of infinitely more consequence 
than rain in the lower country. Rain, as often as it falls, 
which is about once in every two or three years, is a great 
advantage, because the cattle and mules can for some time 
afterwards find a little pasture in the mountains. But with- 
out snow on the Andes, desolation extends throughout the 
valley. It is on record that three times nearly all the inhab- 
itants have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This year 
there was plenty of water, and every man irrigated his 
ground as much as he chose; but it has frequently been 
necessary to post soldiers at the sluices, to see that each 
estate took only its proper allowance during so many hours 
in the week. The valley is said to contain 12,000 souls, but 
its produce is sufficient only for three months in the year; 
the rest of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and the 
south. Before the discovery of the famous silver-mines of 
Chanuncillo, Copiapo was in a rapid state of decay ; but now 
it is in a very thriving condition ; and the town, which was 
completely overthrown by an earthquake, has been rebuilt. 

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green 
in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is 
of considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The 
valleys of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as 
long narrow islands, separated from the rest of Chile by 
deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward of 
these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, 
which contains about two hundred souls; and then there 
extends the real desert of Atacama a barrier far worse 
than the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at 
Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don 
Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found 
him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too 


strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are 
received in almost every part of South America. The next 
day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jol- 
quera into the central Cordillera. On the second night the 
weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst 
lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake. 

The connection between earthquakes and the weather has 
been often disputed : it appears to me to be a point of great 
interest, which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked 
in one part of the Personal Narrative, 1 that it would be 
difficult for any person who had long resided in New Anda- 
lusia, or in Lower Peru, to deny that there exists some con- 
nection between these phenomena: in another part, however, 
he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil, 
it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably 
followed by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the 
extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding 
rain, the probability of accidental coincidences becomes very 
small; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly convinced of 
some connection between the state of the atmosphere and of 
the trembling of the ground: I was much struck by this, 
when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that there had 
been a sharp shock at Coquimbo : they immediately cried out, 
" How fortunate ! there will be plenty of pasture there this 
year." To their minds an earthquake foretold rain, as surely 
as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did so hap- 
pen that on the very day of the earthquake, that shower of 
rain fell, which I have described as in ten days' time pro- 
ducing a thin sprinkling of grass. At other times rain has 
followed earthquakes at a period of the year when it is a 
far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: this happened 
after the shock of November, 1822, and again in 1829, at 
Valparaiso; also after that of September, 1833, at Tacna. 
A person must be somewhat habituated to the climate of 
these countries to perceive the extreme improbability of rain 
falling at such seasons, except as a consequence of some law 

1 Vol. iv, p. n, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on Guayaquil, see 
Silliman's Journ., vol. xxiv. jp. .384. For those on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, 
see Trans, of British Association, 1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. 
Caldcleugh in Phil. Trans., 1835. In the former edition I collected several 
references on the coincidences between sudden falls in the barometer and 
earthquakes; and between earthquakes and meteors. 


quite unconnected with the ordinary course of the weather. 
In the cases of great volcanic eruptions, as that of Co- 
seguina, where torrents of rain fell at a time of the year most 
unusual for it, and " almost unprecedented in Central 
America," it is not difficult to understand that the volumes 
of vapour and clouds of ashes might have disturbed the 
atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt extends this view to 
the case of earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions; but I 
can hardly conceive it possible, that the small quantity of 
aeriform fluids which then escape from the fissured ground, 
can produce such remarkable effects. There appears much 
probability in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that 
when the barometer is low, and when rain might naturally 
be expected to fall, the diminished pressure of the atmos- 
phere over a wide extent of country, might well determine 
the precise day on which the earth, already stretched to the 
utmost by the subterranean forces, should yield, crack, and 
consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful how far this 
idea will explain the circumstances of torrents of rain fall- 
ing in the dry season during several days, after an earth- 
quake unaccompanied by an eruption; such cases seem to 
bespeak some more intimate connection between the atmos- 
pheric and subterranean regions. 

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we 
retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed 
two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate 
silicified trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were 
extraordinarily numerous. I measured one, which was fif- 
teen feet in circumference: how surprising it is that every 
atom of the woody matter in this great cylinder should have 
been removed and replaced by silex so perfectly, that each 
vessel and pore is preserved ! These trees flourished at about 
the period of our lower chalk; they all belonged to the fir- 
tribe. It was amusing to hear the inhabitants discussing the 
nature of the fossil shells which I collected, almost in the 
same terms as were used a century ago in Europe, namely, 
whether or not they had been thus " born by nature." My 
geological examination of the country generally created a 
good deal of surprise amongst the Chilenos : it was long 
before they could be convinced that I was not hunting for 


mines. This was sometimes troublesome: I found the most 
ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask them 
how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning 
earthquakes and volcanos? why some springs were hot and 
others cold? why there were mountains in Chile, and not 
a hill in La Plata? These bare questions at once satisfied 
and silenced the greater number; some, however (like a few 
in England who are a century behindhand), thought that all 
such inquiries were useless and impious; and that it was 
quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains. 

An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs 
should be killed, and we saw many lying dead on the road. A 
great number had lately gone mad, and several men had been 
bitten and had died in consequence. On several occasions 
hydrophobia has prevailed in this valley. It is remarkable 
thus to find so strange and dreadful a disease, appearing 
time after time in the same isolated spot. It has been 
remarked that certain villages in England are in like manner 
much more subject to this visitation than others. Dr. Una- 
nue states that hydrophobia was first known in South 
America in 1803: this statement is corroborated by Azara 
and Ulloa having never heard of it in their time. Dr. Una- 
nue says that it broke out in Central America, and slowly 
travelled southward. It reached Arequipa in 1807; and it is 
said that some men there, who had not been bitten, were 
affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a bullock 
which had died of hydrophobia. At lea forty-two people thus 
miserably perished. The disease came on between twelve 
and ninety days after the bite; and in those cases where it 
did come on, death ensued invariably within five days. After 
1808, a long interval ensued without any cases. On inquiry, 
I did not hear of hydrophobia in Van Diemen's Land, or in 
Australia ; and Burchell says, that during the five years he 
was at the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an instance 
of it. Webster asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has 
never occurred ; and the same assertion has been made with 
respect to Mauritius and St. Helena.* In so strange a disease 

2 Observa. sobre el Clima de Lima, p. 67. Azara's Travels, vol. i. p. 381. 
Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. Burchell's Travels, vol. ii. p. 524. Web- 
ster's Description of the Azores, p. 124. Voyage a 1'Isle de r ranee par un 
Officier du Roi, torn. i. p. 248. Description of St. Helena, p. 123. 


some information might possibly be gained by considering 
the circumstances under which it originates in distant cli- 
mates ; for it is improbable that a dog already bitten, should 
have been brought to these distant countries. 

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, 
and asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been 
wandering about the mountains for seventeen days, having 
lost his way. He started from Guasco, and being accustomed 
to travelling in the Cordillera, did not expect any difficulty 
in following the track to Copiapo; but he soon became 
involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he could not 
escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and he 
had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from 
not knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that 
he was obliged to keep bordering the central ranges. 

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached 
the town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, 
forming a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers 
a considerable space of ground, each house possessing a gar- 
den : but it is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are 
poorly furnished. Every one seems bent on the one object 
of making money, and then migrating as quickly as possible. 
All the inhabitants are more or less directly concerned with 
mines; and mines and ores are the sole subjects of conver- 
sation. Necessaries of all sorts are extremely dear; as the 
distance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and 
the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six 
shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood, 
or rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of 
two and three days' journey within the Cordillera; and pas- 
turage for animals is a shilling a day : all this for South 
America is wonderfully exorbitant. 

June 26th. I hired a guide and eight mules to take me 
into the Cordillera by a different line from my last excur- 
sion. As the country was utterly desert, we took a cargo 
and a half of barley mixed with chopped straw. About two 
leagues above the town a broad valley called the " Despo- 
blado," or uninhabited, branches off from that one by which 
we had arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimen- 


sions, and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is 
completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during 
some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling moun- 
tains were furrowed by scarcely any ravines ; and the bottom 
of the main valley, filled with shingle, was smooth and nearly 
level. No considerable torrent could ever have flowed down 
this bed of shingle; for if it had, a great cliff-bounded chan- 
nel, as in all the southern valleys, would assuredly have been 
formed. I feel little doubt that this valley, as well as those 
mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the state we now 
see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly rose. I 
observed in one place, where the Despoblado was joined by a 
ravine (which in almost any other chain would have been 
called a grand valley), that its bed, though composed merely 
of sand and gravel, was higher than that of its tributary. 
A mere rivulet of water, in the course of an hour, would have 
cut a channel for itself; but it was evident that ages had 
passed away, and no such rivulet had drained this great tribu- 
tary. It was curious to behold the machinery, if such a term 
may be used, for the drainage, all, with the last trifling excep- 
tion, perfect, yet without any signs of action. Every one 
must have remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide, 
imitate in miniature a country with hill and dale; and here 
we have the original model in rock, formed as the continent 
rose during the secular retirement of the ocean, instead of 
during the ebbing and flowing of the tides. If a shower of 
rain falls on the mud-bank, when left dry, it deepens the 
already-formed shallow lines of excavation ; and so it is with 
the rain of successive centuries on the bank of rock and soil, 
which we call a continent. 

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine 
with a small well, called " Agua amarga." The water 
deserved its name, for besides being saline it was most offen- 
sively putrid and bitter ; so that we could not force ourselves 
to drink either tea or mate. I suppose the distance from the 
river of Copiapo to this spot was at least twenty-five or thirty 
English miles; in the whole space there was not a single 
drop of water, the country deserving the name of desert in 
the strictest sense. Yet about half way we passed some old 
Indian ruins near Punta Gorda: I noticed also in front of 


some of the valleys, which branch off from the Despoblado, 
two piles of stones placed a little way apart, and directed so 
as to point up the mouths of these small valleys. My com- 
panions knew nothing about them, and only answered my 
queries by their imperturbable " quien sabe ? " 

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera: 
the most perfect which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, 
in the Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there hud- 
dled together in separate groups : some of the doorways were 
yet standing ; they were formed by a cross slab of stone only 
about three feet high. Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of 
the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These houses, 
when perfect, must have been capable of containing a con- 
siderable number of persons. Tradition says, that they were 
used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed the 
mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been dis- 
covered in many other parts, where it does not appear proba- 
ble that they were used as mere resting-places, but yet where 
the land is as utterly unfit for any kind of cultivation, as it is 
near the Tambillos or at the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo 
Pass, at all which places I saw ruins. In the ravine of 
Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, I heard of 
remains of houses situated at a great height, where it is 
extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that these 
buildings had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on 
the first arrival of the Spaniards; but I have since been 
inclined to speculate on the probability of a small change of 

In this northern part of Chile, within the Cordillera, old 
Indian houses are said to be especially numerous : by digging 
amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of 
precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfre- 
quently discovered: an arrow-head made of agate, and of 
precisely the same form with those now used in Tierra del 
Fuego, was given me. I am aware that the Peruvian Indians 
now frequently inhabit most lofty and bleak situations; but 
at Copiapo I was assured by men who had spent their lives in 
travelling through the Andes, that there were very many 
(muchisimas) buildings at heights so great as almost to bor- 
der upon the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist 


no passes, and where the land produces absolutely nothing, 
and what is still more extraordinary, where there is no water. 
Nevertheless it is the opinion of the people of the country 
(although they are much puzzled by the circumstance), that, 
from the appearance of the houses, the Indians must have 
used them as places of residence. In this valley, at Punta 
Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or eight square little 
rooms, which were of a similar form with those at Tambillos, 
but built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabitants can- 
not, either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in 
durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous and 
defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad valley. 
There was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and 
that only in very small quantity, and bad : the soil was abso- 
lutely sterile ; I looked in vain even for a lichen adhering to 
the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage of beasts 
of burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could scarcely 
be worked here with profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose 
it as a place of residence ! If at the present time two or 
three showers of rain were to fall annually, instead of one, 
as now is the case during as many years, a small rill of water 
would probably be formed in this great valley; and then, by 
irrigation (which was formerly so well understood by the 
Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently pro- 
ductive to support a few families. 

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of 
South America has been elevated near the coast at least from 
400 to 500, and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since 
the epoch of existing shells; and further inland the rise pos- 
sibly may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid character 
of the climate is evidently a consequence of the height of the 
Cordillera, we may feel almost sure that before the later ele- 
vations, the atmosphere could not have been so completely 
drained of its moisture as it now is ; and as the rise has been 
gradual, so would have been the change in climate. On this 
notion of a change of climate since the buildings were 
inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme antiquity, but I do 
not think their preservation under the Chilian climate any 
great difficulty. We must also admit on this notion (and 
this perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited 


South America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as 
any change of climate effected by the elevation of the land 
must have been extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within 
the last 220 years, the rise has been somewhat less than 19 
feet : at Lima a sea-beach has certainly been upheaved from 
80 to 90 feet, within the Indo-human period: but such small 
elevations could have had little power in deflecting the mois- 
ture-bringing atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund, however, 
found human skeletons in the caves of Brazil, the appearance 
of which induced him to believe that the Indian race has 
existed during a vast lapse of time in South America. 

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects* with Mr. 
Gill, a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior 
country. He told me that a conjecture of a change of cli- 
mate had sometimes crossed his mind; but that he thought 
that the greater portion of land, now incapable of cultivation, 
but covered with Indian ruins, had been reduced to this state 
by the water-conduits, which the Indians formerly con- 
structed on so wonderful a scale, having been injured by 
neglect and by subterranean movements. I may here men- 
tion, that the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating 
streams in tunnels through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told 
me, he had been employed professionally to examine one: 
he found the passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uni- 
form breadth, but of very considerable length. Is it not 
most wonderful that men should have attempted such opera- 
tions, without the use of iron or gunpowder ? Mr. Gill also 
mentioned to me a most interesting, and, as far as I am 
aware, quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance 
having changed the drainage of a country. Travelling from 
Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he 
found a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient culti- 
vation, but now quite barren. Near it was the dry course of 
a considerable river, whence the water for irrigation had for- 
merly been conducted. There was nothing in the appearance 
of the water-course to indicate that the river had not flowed 

s Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in going from 
Potosi to Oruro, says, " I saw many Indian villages or dwellings in ruins, 
up even to the very tops of the mountains, attesting a former population 
where now all is desolate." He makes similar remarks in another place; 
but I cannot tell whether this desolation has been caused by a want of 
population, or by an altered condition of the land. 


there a few years previously ; in some parts, beds of sand and 
gravel were spread out; in others, the solid rock had been 
worn into a broad channel, which in one spot was about 40 
yards in breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident that a 
person following up the course of a stream, will always 
ascend at a greater or less inclination: Mr. Gill, therefore, 
was much astonished, when walking up the bed of this 
ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He 
imagined that the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or 
50 feet perpendicular. We here have unequivocal evidence 
that a ridge had been uplifted right across the old bed of a 
stream. From the moment the river-course was thus arched, 
the water must necessarily have been thrown back, and a new 
channel formed. From that moment, also, the neighbouring 
plain must have lost its fertilizing stream, and become a 

June 2?th. We set out early in the morning, and by mid- 
day reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill 
of water, with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba 
trees, a kind of mimosa. From having fire-wood, a smelting- 
furnace had formerly been built here: we found a solitary 
man in charge of it, whose sole employment was hunting 
guanacos. At night it froze sharply; but having plenty of 
wood for our fire, we kept ourselves warm. 

28th. We continued gradually ascending, and the valley 
now changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several 
guanacos, and the track of the closely-allied species, the 
Vicuna: this latter animal is pre-eminently alpine in its 
habits; it seldom descends much below the limit of perpetual 
snow, and therefore haunts even a more lofty and sterile 
situation than the guanaco. The only other animal which we 
saw in any number was a small fox: I suppose this animal 
preys on the mice and other small rodents, which, as long as 
there is the least vegetation, subsist in considerable numbers 
in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the borders of 
the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never be found, 
excepting dew, these little animals swarm. Next to lizards, 
mice appear to be able to support existence on the smallest 
and driest portions of the earth even on islets in the midst 
of great oceans. 


The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and 
made palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such 
scenery is sublime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it 
becomes uninteresting. We bivouacked at the foot of the 
" primera linea," or the first line of the partition of waters. 
The streams, however, on the east side do not flow to the 
Atlantic, but into an elevated district, in the middle of which 
there is a large saline, or salt lake ; thus forming a little Cas- 
pian Sea at the height, perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where 
we slept, there were some considerable patches of snow, but 
they do not remain throughout the year. The winds in these 
lofty regions obey very regular laws: every day a fresh 
breeze blows up the valley, and at night, an hour or two after 
sunset, the air from the cold regions above descends as 
through a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, and the 
temperature must have been considerably below the freezing- 
point, for water in a vessel soon became a block of ice. No 
clothes seemed to oppose any obstacle to the air; I suffered 
very much from the cold, so that I could not sleep, and in 
the morning rose with my body quite dull and benumbed. 

In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives 
from snowstorms; here, it sometimes happens from another 
cause. My guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was 
passing the Cordillera with a party in the month of May; 
and while in the central parts, a furious gale of wind arose, 
so that the men could hardly cling on their mules, and stones 
were flying along the ground. The day was cloudless, and 
not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature was low. It is 
probable that the thermometer could not have stood very 
many degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect on 
their bodies, ill protected by clothing, must have been in pro- 
portion to the rapidity of the current of cold air. The gale 
lasted for more than a day; the men began to lose their 
strength, and the mules would not move onwards. My guide's 
brother tried to return, but he perished, and his body was 
found two years afterwards, lying by the side of his mule 
near the road, with the bridle still in his hand. Two other 
men in the party lost their fingers and toes; and out of two 
hundred mules and thirty cows, only fourteen mules escaped 
alive. Many years ago the whole of a large party are sup- 


posed to have perished from a similar cause, but their bodies 
to this day have never been discovered. The union of a 
cloudless sky, low temperature, and a furious gale of wind, 
must be, I should think, in all parts of the world an unusual 

June zpth. We gladly travelled down the valley to our 
former night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. 
On July ist we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of 
the fresh clover was quite delightful, after the scentless air 
of the dry, sterile Despoblado. Whilst staying in the town I 
heard an account from several of the inhabitants, of a hill 
in the neighbourhood which they called " El Bramador," the 
roarer or bellower. I did not at the time pay sufficient atten- 
tion to the account ; but, as far as I understood, the hill was 
covered by sand, and the noise was produced only when 
people, by ascending it, put the sand in motion. The same 
circumstances are described in detail on the authority of 
Seetzen and Ehrenberg, 4 as the cause of the sounds which 
have been heard by many travellers on Mount Sinai near the 
Red Sea. One person with whom I conversed had himself 
heard the noise: he described it as very surprising; and he 
distinctly stated that, although he could not understand how 
it was caused, yet it was necessary to set the sand rolling 
down the acclivity. A horse walking over dry coarse sand, 
causes a peculiar chirping noise from the friction of the par- 
ticles; a circumstance which I several times noticed on the 
coast of Brazil. 

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at 
the Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is 
very little land cultivated down the valley ; its wide expanse 
supports a wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys can 
hardly eat. This poorness of the vegetation is owing to the 
quantity of saline matter with which the soil is impregnated. 
The Port consists of an assemblage of miserable little hovels, 
situated at the foot of a sterile plain. At present, as the 
river contains water enough to reach the sea, the inhabitants 
enjoy the advantage of having fresh water within a mile and 
a half. On the beach there were large piles of merchandise, 

Edinburgh Phil. Journ., Jan., 1830, p. 74; and April, 1830, p. 258 also 
Daubeny on Volcanoes, p. 438; and Bengal Jouru., vol. vii. p. 324. 


and the little place had an air of activity. In the evening 
I gave my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my companion 
Mariano Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many leagues 
in Chile. The next morning the Beagle sailed for Iquique. 

July 12th. We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat- 
20 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a 
thousand inhabitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at 
the foot of a great wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here 
forming the coast. The whole is utterly desert. A light 
shower of rain falls only once in very many years ; and the 
ravines consequently are filled with detritus, and the moun- 
tain-sides covered by piles of fine white sand, even to a height 
of a thousand feet. During this season of the year a heavy 
bank of clouds, stretched over the ocean, seldom rises above 
the wall of rocks on the coast. The aspect of the place was 
most gloomy; the little port, with its few vessels, and small 
group of wretched houses, seemed overwhelmed and out of 
all proportion with the rest of the scene. 

The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship: every 
necessary comes from a distance : water is brought in boats 
from Pisagua, about forty miles northward, and is sold at 
the rate of nine reals (43. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask: I 
bought a wine-bottle full for threepence. In like manner 
firewood, and of course every article of food, is imported. 
Very few animals can be maintained in such a place : on the 
ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at the price of four 
pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to take me to the 
nitrate of soda works. These are at present the support of 
Iquique. This salt was first exported in 1830: in one year an 
amount in value of one hundred thousand pounds sterling, 
was sent to France and England. It is principally used as a 
manure and in the manufacture of nitric acid: owing to its 
deliquescent property it will not serve for gunpowder. For- 
merly there were two exceedingly rich silver-mines in this 
neighbourhood, but their produce is now very small. 

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension. 
Peru was in a state of anarchy; and each party having 
demanded a contribution, the poor town of Iquique was in 
tribulation, thinking the evil hour was come. The people 
had also their domestic troubles; a short time before, three 


French carpenters had broken open, during the same night, 
the two churches, and stolen all the plate : one of the robbers, 
however, subsequently confessed, and the plate was recovered. 
The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which though the capital 
of this province, is two hundred leagues distant ; the govern- 
ment there thought it a pity to punish such useful workmen, 
who could make all sorts of furniture; and accordingly 
liberated them. Things being in this state, the churches were 
again broken open, but this time the plate was not recovered. 
The inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and declaring 
that none but heretics would thus " eat God Almighty," pro- 
ceeded to torture some Englishmen, with the intention of 
afterwards shooting them. At last the authorities interfered, 
and peace was established. 

ijth. In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works, 
a distance of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep 
coast-mountains by a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in 
view of the mines of Guantajaya and St. Rosa. These two 
small villages are placed at the very mouths of the mines; 
and being perched up on hills, they had a still more unnatural 
and desolate appearance than the town of Iquique. We did 
not reach the saltpetre-works till after sunset, having ridden 
all day across an undulating country, a complete and utter 
desert. The road was strewed with the bones and dried skins 
of many beasts of burden which had perished on it from 
fatigue. Excepting the Vultur aura, which preys on the 
carcasses, I saw neither bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect. 
On the coast-mountains, at the height of about 2000 feet, 
where during this season the clouds generally hang, a very 
few cacti were growing in the clefts of rock ; and the loose 
sand was strewed over with a lichen, which lies on the sur- 
face quite unattached. This plant belongs to the genus 
Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the reindeer lichen. In 
some parts it was in sufficient quantity to tinge the sand, 
as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. Further 
inland, during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only 
one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute 
yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This 
was the first true desert which I had seen: the effect on me 


was not impressive; but I believe this was owing to my 
having become gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I 
rode northward from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Co- 
piapo. The appearance of the country was remarkable, from 
being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a strat- 
ified saliferous alluvium, which seems to have been deposited 
as the land slowly rose above the level of the sea. The salt 
is white, very hard, and compact: it occurs in water- worn 
nodules projecting from the agglutinated sand, and is asso- 
ciated with much gypsum. The appearance of this super- 
ficial mass very closely resembled that of a country after 
snow, before the last dirty patches are thawed. The existence 
of this crust of a soluble substance over the whole face of 
the country, shows how extraordinarily dry the climate must 
have been for a long period. 

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the 
saltpetre mines. The country is here as unproductive as 
near the coast ; but water, having rather a bitter and brackish 
taste, can be procured by digging wells. The well at this 
house was thirty-six yards deep: as scarcely any rain falls, 
it is evident the water is not thus derived ; indeed if it were, 
it could not fail to be as salt as brine, for the whole sur- 
rounding country is incrusted with various saline substances. 
We must therefore conclude that it percolates under ground 
.from the Cordillera, though distant many leagues. In that 
direction there are a few small villages, where the inhabit- 
ants, having more water, are enabled to irrigate a little land, 
and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, employed in 
carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda was now 
selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred 
pounds: the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. 
The mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three 
feet thick, of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate 
of soda and a good deal of common salt. It lies close beneath 
the surface, and follows for a length of one hundred and 
fifty miles the margin of a grand basin or plain; this, from 
its outline, manifestly must once have been a lake, or more 
probably an inland arm of the sea, as may be inferred from 
the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. The surface 
of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific. 



ipth. We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of 
Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but 
from the troubled state of public affairs, I saw very little of 
me country. During our whole visit the climate was far 
from being so delightful, as it is generally represented. A 
dull heavy bank of clouds constantly hung over the land, so 
that during the first sixteen days I had only one view of the 
Cordillera behind Lima. These mountains, seen in stages, 
one above the other, through openings in the clouds, had a 
very grand appearance. It is almost become a proverb, that 
rain never falls in the lower part of Peru. Yet this can 
hardly be considered correct ; for during almost every day of 
our visit there was a thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient 
to make the streets muddy and one's clothes damp: this the 
people are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain 
does not fall is very certain, for the houses are covered only 
with flat roofs made of hardened mud ; and on the mole ship- 
loads of wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks to- 
gether without any shelter. 

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru: in 
summer, however, it is said that the climate is much pleas- 
anter. In all seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer 
from severe attacks of ague. This disease is common on the 
whole coast of Peru, but is unknown in the interior. The 
attacks of illness which arise from miasma never fail to ap- 
pear most mysterious. So difficult is it to judge from the 
aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy, that if a 
person had been told to choose within the tropics a situation 
appearing favourable for health, very probably he would 
have named this coast. The plain round the outskirts of 
Callao is sparingly covered with a coarse grass, and in some 
parts there are a few stagnant, though very small, pools of 
water. The miasma, in all probability, arises from these: 
for the town of Arica was similarly circumstanced, and its 
healthiness was much improved by the d/ainage of some 
little pools. Miasma is not always produced by a luxuriant 
vegetation with an ardent climate; for many parts of Bra- 
zil, even where there are marshes and a rank vegetation, are 
much more healthy than this sterile coast of Peru. The 
densest forests in a temperate climate, as in Chiloe, do not 


seem in the slightest degree to affect the healthy condition 
of the atmosphere. 

The island of St. Jago, at the Cape de Verds, offers an- 
other strongly marked instance of a country, which any one 
would have expected to find most healthy, being very much 
the contrary. I have described the bare and open plains as 
supporting, during a few weeks after the rainy season, a thin 
vegetation, which directly withers away and dries up : at this 
period the air appears to become quite poisonous; both na- 
tives and foreigners often being affected with violent fevers. 
On the other hand, the Galapagos Archipelago, in the Pa- 
cific, with a similar soil, and periodically subject to the same 
process of vegetation, is perfectly healthy. Humboldt has 
observed, that, " under the torrid zone, the smallest marshes 
are the most dangerous, being surrounded, as at Vera Cruz 
and Carthagena, with an arid and sandy soil, which raises 
the temperature of the ambient air." 6 On the coast of Peru, 
however, the temperature is not hot to any excessive degree ; 
and perhaps in consequence, the intermittent fevers are not 
of the most malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the 
greatest risk is run by sleeping on-shore. Is this owing to 
the state of the body during sleep, or to a greater abundance 
of miasma at such times? It appears certain that those 
who stay on board a vessel, though anchored at only a short 
distance from the coast, generally suffer less than those 
actually on shore. On the other hand, I have heard of one 
remarkable case where a fever broke out among the crew of 
a rnan-of-war some hundred miles off the coast of Africa, 
and at the same time one of those fearful periods' of death 
commenced at Sierra Leone. 

No state in South America, since the declaration of inde- 
pendence, has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At 
the time of our visit, there were four chiefs in arms con- 
tending for supremacy in the government: if one succeeded 
in becoming for a time very powerful, the others coalesced 
against him; but no sooner were they victorious, than they 

6 Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, vol. iv. p. 199. 

8 A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras Medical Quart. 
Tourn., 1839, p. 340. Dr. Ferguson, in his admirable Paper (see 9th vol. of 
Edinburgh Royal Trans.), shows clearly that the poison is generated in 
the drying process; and hence that dry hot countries are often the most 


were again hostile to each other. The other day, at the An- 
niversary of the Independence, high mass was performed, the 
President partaking of the sacrament: during the Te Deum 
laudamus, instead of each regiment displaying the Peruvian 
flag, a black one with death's head was unfurled. Imagine 
a government under which such a scene could be ordered, on 
such an occasion, to be typical of their determination of 
fighting to death ! This state of affairs happened at a time 
very unfortunately for me, as I was precluded from taking 
any excursions much beyond the limits of the town. The 
barren island of St. Lorenzo, which forms the harbour, was 
nearly the only place where one could walk securely. The 
upper part, which is upwards of 1000 feet in height, during 
this season of the year (winter), comes within the lower 
limit of the clouds ; and in consequence, an abundant crypto- 
gamic vegetation, and a few flowers cover the summit. On 
the hills near Lima, at a height but little greater, the ground 
is carpeted with moss, and beds of beautiful yellow lilies, 
called Amancaes. This indicates a very much greater de- 
gree of humidity, than at a corresponding height at Iquique. 
Proceeding northward of Lima, the climate becomes damper, 
till on the banks of the Guayaquil, nearly under the equator, 
we find the most luxuriant forests. The change, however, 
from the sterile coast of Peru to that fertile land is described 
as taking place rather abruptly in the latitude of Cape Blan- 
co, two degrees south of Guayaquil. 

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants, 
both here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of 
mixture, between European, Negro, and Indian blood. They 
appear a depraved, drunken set of people. The atmosphere 
is loaded with foul smells, and that peculiar one, which may 
be perceived in almost every town within the tropics, was 
here very strong. The fortress, which withstood Lord Coch- 
rane's long siege, has an imposing appearance. But the 
President, during our stay, sold the brass guns, and pro- 
ceeded to dismantle parts of it. The reason assigned was, 
that he had not an officer to whom he could trust so im- 
portant a charge. He himself had good reason for thinking 
so, as he had obtained the presidentship by rebelling while 
in charge of this same fortress. After we left South Amer- 


ica, he paid the penalty in the usual manner, by being con- 
quered, taken prisoner, and shot. 

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the 
gradual retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, 
and is elevated 500 feet above it; but from the slope being 
very gradual, the road appears absolutely level ; so that when 
at Lima it is difficult to believe one has ascended even one 
hundred feet : Humboldt has remarked on this singularly de- 
ceptive case. Steep, barren hills rise like islands from the 
plain, which is divided, by straight mud-walls, into large 
green fields. In these scarcely a tree grows excepting a few 
willows, and an occasional clump of bananas and of oranges. 
The city of Lima is now in a wretched state of decay: the 
streets are nearly unpaved; and heaps of filth are piled up 
in all directions, where the black gallinazos, tame as poultry, 
pick up bits of carrion. The houses have generally an upper 
story, built on account of the earthquakes, of plastered wood- 
work ; but some of the old ones, which are now used by sev- 
eral families, are immensely large, and would rival in suites 
of apartments the most magnificent in any place. Lima, the 
City of the Kings, must formerly have been a splendid town. 
The extraordinary number of churches gives it, even at the 
present day, a peculiar and striking character, especially 
when viewed from a short distance. 

One day I went out with some merchants to hunt in the 
immediate vicinity of the city. Our sport was very poor; 
but I had an opportunity of seeing the ruins of one of the 
ancient Indian villages, with its mound like a natural hill in 
the centre. The remains of houses, enclosures, irrigating 
streams, and burial mounds, scattered over this plain, cannot 
fail to give one a high idea of the condition and number of 
the ancient population. When their earthenware, woollen 
clothes, utensils of elegant forms cut out of the hardest rocks, 
tools of copper, ornaments of precious stones, palaces, and 
hydraulic works, are considered, it is impossible not to re- 
spect the considerable advance made by them in the arts of 
civilization. The burial mounds, called Huacas, are really 
stupendous; although in some places they 'appear to be nat- 
ural hills incased and modelled. 

There is also another and very different class of. ruins, 


which possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao. 
overwhelmed by the great earthquake of 1746, and its ac- 
companying wave. The destruction must have been more 
complete even than at Talcahuano. Quantities of shingle 
almost conceal the foundations of the walls, and vast masses 
of brickwork appear to have been whirled about like pebbles 
by the retiring waves. It has been stated that the land sub- 
sided during this memorable shock: I could not discover any 
proof of this; yet it seems far from improbable, for the 
form of the coast must certainly have undergone some change 
since the foundation of the old town; as no people in their 
senses would willingly have chosen for their building place, 
the narrow spit of shingle on which the ruins now stand. 
Since our voyage, M. Tschudi has come to the conclusion, 
by the comparison of old and modern maps, that the coast 
both north and south of Lima has certainly subsided. 

On the island of San Lorenzo, there are very satisfactory 
proofs of elevation within the recent period; this of course 
is not opposed to the belief, of a small sinking of the ground 
having subsequently taken place. The side of this island 
fronting the Bay of Callao, is worn into three obscure ter- 
races, the lower one of which is covered by a bed a mile in 
length, almost wholly composed of shells of eighteen species, 
now living in the adjoining sea. The height of this bed is 
eighty-five feet. Many of the shells are deeply corroded, and 
have a much older and more decayed appearance than those 
at the height of 500 or 600 feet on the coast of Chile. These 
shells are associated with much common salt, a little sul- 
phate of lime (both probably left by the evaporation of the 
spray, as the land slowly rose), together with sulphate of 
soda and muriate of lime. They rest on fragments of the 
underlying sandstone, and are covered by a few inches thick 
of detritus. The shells, higher up on this terrace, could be 
traced scaling off in flakes, and falling into an impalpable 
powder; and on an upper terrace, at the height of 170 feet, 
and likewise at some considerably higher points, I found a 
layer of saline powder of exactly similar appearance, and 
lying in the same relative position. I have no doubt that this 
upper layer originally existed as a bed of shells, like that on 
the eighty-five-feet ledge ; but it does not now contain even a 


trace of organic structure. The powder has been analyzed 
for me by Mr. T. Reeks; it consists of sulphates and muri- 
ates both of lime and soda, with very little carbonate of 
lime. It is known that common salt and carbonate of lime 
left in a mass for some time together, partly decompose each 
other; though this does not happen with small quantities in 
solution. As the half-decomposed shells in the lower parts 
are associated with much common salt, together with some 
of the saline substances composing the upper saline layer, 
and as these shells are corroded and decayed in a remarkable 
manner, I strongly suspect that this double decomposition 
has here taken place. The resultant salts, however, ought 
to be carbonate of soda and muriate of lime; the latter is 
present, but not the carbonate of soda. Hence I am led to 
imagine that by some unexplained means, the carbonate of 
soda becomes changed into the sulphate. It is obvious that 
the saline layer could not have been preserved in any coun- 
try in which abundant rain occasionally fell: on the other 
hand, this very circumstance, which at first sight appears so 
highly favourable to the long preservation of exposed shells, 
has probably been the indirect means, through the common 
salt not having been washed away, of their decomposition 
and early decay. 

I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the 
height of eighty-five feet, embedded amidst the shells and 
much sea-drifted rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, plaited 
rush, and the head of a stalk of Indian corn: I compared 
these relics with similar ones taken out of the Huacas, or old 
Peruvian tombs, and found them identical in appearance. 
On the mainland in front of San Lorenzo, near Bellavista, 
there is an extensive and level plain about a hundred feet 
high, of which the lower part is formed of alternating layers 
of sand and impure clay, together with some gravel, and the 
surface, to the depth of from three to six feet, of a reddish 
loam, containing a few scattered sea-shells and numerous 
small fragments of coarse red earthenware, more abundant 
at certain spots than at others. At first I was inclined to 
believe that this superficial bed, from its wide extent and 
smoothness, must have been deposited beneath the sea; but 
I afterwards found in one spot, that it lay on an artificial 


floor of round stones. It seems, therefore, most probable 
that at a period when the land stood at a lower level there 
was a plain very similar to that now surrounding Callao, 
which being protected by a shingle beach, is raised but very 
little above the level of the sea. On this plain, with its un- 
derlying red-clay beds, I imagine that the Indians manu- 
factured their earthen vessels ; and that, during some violent 
earthquake, the sea broke over the beach, and converted the 
plain into a temporary lake, as happened round Callao in 
1713 and 1746. The water would then have deposited mud, 
containing fragments of pottery from the kilns, more abun- 
dant at some spots than at others, and shells from the sea. 
This bed, with fossil earthenware, stands at about the 
same height with the shells on the lower terrace of San 
Lorenzo, in which the cotton-thread and other relics were 

Hence we may safely conclude, that within the Indo-human 
period there has been an elevation, as before alluded to, of 
more than eighty-five feet; for some little elevation must 
have been lost by the coast having subsided since the old 
maps were engraved. At Valparaiso, although in the 220 
years before our visit, the elevation cannot have exceeded 
nineteen feet, yet subsequently to 1817, there has been a rise, 
partly insensible and partly by a start during the shock of 
1822, of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity of the Indo-human 
race here, judging by the eighty-five feet rise of the land 
since the relics were embedded, is the more remarkable, as on 
the coast of Patagonia, when the land stood about the same 
number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was a living beast ; 
but as the Patagonian coast is some way distant from the 
Cordillera, the rising there may have been, slower than here. 
At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a few feet 
since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there en- 
tombed; and, according to the generally received opinion, 
when these extinct animals were living, man did not exist. 
But the rising of that part of the coast of Patagonia, is per- 
haps no way connected with the Cordillera, but rather with 
a line of old volcanic rocks in Banda Oriental, so that it 
may have been infinitely slower than on the shores of Peru. 
All these speculations, however, must be vague ; for who will 


pretend to say that there may not have been several periods 
of subsidence, intercalated between the movements of ele- 
vation; for we know that along the whole coast of Pata- 
gonia, there have certainly been many and long pauses in 
the upward action of the elevatory forces. 


The whole Group Volcanic Numbers of Craters Leafless Bushes 
Colony at Charles Island James Island Salt-lake in Crater 
Natural History of the Group Ornithology, curious Finches Rep- 
tilesGreat Tortoises, habits of Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea- 
weed Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous Impor- 
tance of Reptiles in the Archipelago Fish, Shells, Insects 
Botany American Type of Organization Differences in the 
Species or Races on different Islands Tameness of the Birds- 
Fear of Man, an acquired Instinct. 

C^EPTEMBER ijth. This archipelago consists of ten 
i\ principal islands, of which five exceed the others in 
size. They are situated under the Equator, and be- 
tween five and six hundred miles westward of the coast of 
America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few 
fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the 
heat, can hardly be considered as an exception. Some of 
the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are of immense 
size, and they rise to a height of between three and four 
thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable 
smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there 
must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand 
craters. These consist either of lava or scoriae, or of finely- 
stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are beau- 
tifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of 
volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circum- 
stance that every one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which 
were examined, had their southern sides either much lower 
than the other sides, or quite broken down and removed. As 
all these craters apparently have been formed when standing 
in the sea, and as the waves from the trade wind and the 
swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the 
southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity 




in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and 
yielding tuff, is easily explained. 

Considering that these islands are placed directly under 
the equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot; 
this seems chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature 
of the surrounding water, brought here by the great south- 

Culpepper L 

Wenman I, 


'bingdon !. 





Indefatigable I 

ern Polar current. Excepting during one short season, very 
little rain falls, and even then it is irregular; but the clouds 
generally hang low. Hence, whilst the lower parts of the 
islands are very sterile, the upper parts, at a height of a 
thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate and a 
tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is especially the case 
on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive and 
condense the moisture from the atmosphere. 

In the morning (i7th) we landed on Chatham Island^ 
which, like the others, rises with a tame an*8~T5unded out- 
line, broken here and there by scattered hillocks, the remains 


of former craters. Nothing could be less inviting than the 
first appearance. A broken field of black basaltic lava, 
thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed by great 
fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brush- 
wood, which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched 
surface, being heated by the noon-day sun, gave to the air 
a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove: we fancied 
even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. Although I dili- 
gently tried to collect as many plants as possible, I suc- 
ceeded in getting very few ; and such wretched-looking little 
weeds would have better become an arctic than an equatorial 
Flora. The brushwood appears, from a short distance, as 
leafless as bur trees during winter; and it was some time 
before I discovered that ^lotpnly almost every_4ilaiit-was 
now in full leaf, but that the^greatcr iiumbeT'were in flower. 
The commonest bush is one ot the 1 'Kupnoroiaceae : an acacia 
and a great odd-looking cactus are the only trees which 
afford any shade. After the season of heavy rains, the isl- 
ands are said to appear for a short time partially green. The 
volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many re- 
spects under nearly similar conditions, is the only other 
country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of 
the Galapagos Islands. 

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored 
in several bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the 
island, where black truncated cones were extraordinarily 
numerous : from one small eminence I counted sixty of 
them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The 
greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae 
or slags, cemented together : and their height above the plain 
of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet ; none 
had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part 
of the island seems to have been permeated, like a sieve, by 
the subterranean vapours: here and there the lava, whilst 
soft, has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, 
the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in, leaving 
circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form of the 
many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appear- 
ance, which vividly reminded me of those parts of Stafford- 
shire, where the great iron-foundries are most numerous. 


The day was glowing hot, and the scrambling over the rough 
surface and through the intricate thickets, was very fatigu- 
ing; but I was well repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene. 
As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of 
which must have weighed at least two hundred pounds : one 
was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared 
at me and slowly walked away; the other gave a deep hiss, 
and drew in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by 
the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to 
my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull- 
coloured birds cared no more for me than they did for the 
great tortoises. 

2$rd. The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This ar- 
chipelago has long been frequented, first by the bucaniers, 
and latterly by whalers, but it is only within the last six 
years, that a small colony has been established here. The 
inhabitants are between two and three hundred in number; 
they are nearly all people of colour, who have been banished 
for political crimes from the Republic of the Equator, of 
which Quito is the capital. The settlement is placed about 
four and a half miles inland, and at a height probably of a 
thousand feet. In the first part of the road we passed 
through leafless thickets, as in Chatham Island. Higher up, 
the woods gradually became greener; and as soon as we 
crossed the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine 
southerly breeze, and our sight refreshed by a green and 
thriving vegetation. In this upper region coarse grasses and 
fej-ns. abound ; but there are no tree-ferns : I saw nowhere 
any member of the palm family, which is the more singular, 
as 360 miles northward, Cocos Island takes its name from 
the number of cocoa-nuts. The houses are irregularly scat- 
tered over a flat space of ground, which is cultivated with 
sweet potatoes and bananas. It will not easily be imagined 
how pleasant the sight of black mud was to us, after having 
been so long accustomed to the parched soil of Peru and 
northern Chile. The inhabitants, although complaining of 
poverty, obtain, without much trouble, the means of sub- 
sistence. In the woods there are many wild pigs and goats ; 
but the staple article of animal food is supplied by the 
tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly re- 


duced in this island, but the people yet count on two days' 
hunting giving them food for the rest of the week. It is 
said that formerly single vessels have taken away as many 
as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate 
some years since brought down in one day two hundred 
tortoises to the beach. 

September zpth. We doubled the south-west extremity of 
Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed 
between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with 
immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed 
either over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the 
rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth 
from smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they 
have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both of these 
islands, eruptions are known to have taken place; and in 
Albemarle, we saw a small jet of smoke curling from the 
summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we an- 
chored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next 
morning I went out walking. To the south of the broken 
tuff -crater, in which the Beagle was anchored, there was 
another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form; its 
longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about 
500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the 
middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was 
overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue: I 
hurried down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust, 
eagerly tasted the water but, to my sorrow, I found it salt 
as brine. 

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, 
between three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly 
yellowish-brown species was equally common. We saw 
many of this latter kind, some clumsily running out of the 
way, and others shuffling into their burrows. I shall pres- 
ently describe in more detail the habits of both these reptiles. 
The whole of this northern part of Albemarle Island is 
miserably sterile. 

October 8th. We arrived at James Island: this island, as 
well as Charles Island, were long since thus named after our 
kings of the Stuart line. Mr. Bynoe, myself, and our serv- 
ants were left here for a week, with provisions and a tent, 


whilst the Beagle went for water. We found here a party 
of Spaniards, who had been sent from Charles Island to dry 
fish, and to salt tortoise-meat. About six miles inland, and 
at the. height of nearly 2000 feet, a hovel had been built in 
which two men lived, who were employed in catching tor- 
toises, whilst the others were fishing on the coast. I paid 
this party two visits, and slept there one night. As in the 
other islands, the lower region was covered by nearly leafless 
bushes, but the trees were here of a larger growth than else- 
where, several being two feet and some even two feet nine 
inches in diameter. The upper region being kept damp by 
the clouds, supports a green and flourishing vegetation. So 
damp was the ground, that there were large beds of a coarse 
cyperus, in which great numbers of a very small water-rail 
lived and bred. While staying in this upper region, we lived 
entirely upon tortoise-meat: the breast-plate roasted (as the 
Gauchos do came con cuero), with the flesh on it, is very 
good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but 
otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent. 

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in 
their whale-boat to a salina, or lake from which salt is pro- 
cured. After landing, we had a very rough walk over a 
rugged field of recent lava, which has almost surrounded a 
tuff-crater, at the bottom of which the salt-lake lies. The 
water is only three or four inches deep, and rests on a layer 
of beautifully crystallized, white salt. The lake is quite cir- 
cular, and is fringed with a border of bright green succulent 
plants ; the almost precipitous walls of the crater are clothed 
with wood, so that the scene was altogether both picturesque 
and curious. A few years since, the sailors belonging to a 
sealing- vessel murdered their captain in this quiet spot; and 
we saw his skull lying among the bushes. 

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky 
was cloudless, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, the 
heat became very oppressive. On two days, the thermometer 
within the tent stood for some hours at 93 ; but in the open 
air, in the wind and sun, at only 85. The sand was ex- 
tremely hot; the thermometer placed in some of a brown 
colour immediately rose to 137, and how much above that 
it would have risen, I do not know, for it was not gradu- 


ated any higher. The black sand felt much hotter, so that 
even in thick boots it was quite disagreeable to walk over it. 

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, 
and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions 
are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even 
a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands; 
yet all show a marked relationship with those of America, 
though separated from that continent by an open space of 
ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago 
is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to 
America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and 
has received the general character of its indigenous produc- 
tions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel 
the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, 
and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned 
with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava- 
streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a 
period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here 
spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be 
brought somewhat near to that great fact that mystery of 
mysteries the first appearance of new beings on this earth. 

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only jane,. which must be 
considered as indigenous, namely, a mouse (Mus Galapa- 
goensis), and this is confined, as far as I could: ascertain, to 
Chatham Island, the most easterly island of the group. It 
belongs, as I am informed by Mr. Waterhouse, to a division 
of the family of mice characteristic of America. At James 
Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct from the common 
kind to have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse ; 
but as it belongs to the old-world division of the family, and 
as this island has been frequented by ships for the last hun- 
dred and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is 
merely a variety produced by the new and peculiar climate, 
food, and soil, to which it has been subjected. Although no 
one has a right to speculate without distinct facts, yet even 
with respect to the Chatham Island mouse, it should be borne 
in mind, that it may possibly be an American species im- 
ported here ; for I have seen, in a most unfrequented part of 
the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roof of a newly 


built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a vessel is 
not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr. 
Richardson in North America. 

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to 
the group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one 
lark-like finch from North America (Dolichonyxoryzivorus), 
which ranges on that continent as far north as 54, and gen- 
erally frequents marshes. The other twenty-five birds con- 
sist, firstly, of a hawk, curiously intermediate in structure 
between a buzzard and the American group of carrion-feed- 
ing Polybori; and with these latter birds it agrees most 
closely in every habit and even tone of voice. Secondly, 
there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white 
barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three tyrant-flycatch- 
ers (two of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of 
which would be ranked by some ornithologists as only varie- 
ties), and a dove all analogous to, but distinct from, Amer- 
ican species. Fourthly, a swallow, which though differing 
from the Progne purpurea of both Americas, only in being 
rather duller colored, smaller, and slenderer, is considered 
by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, there are three 
species of mocking thrush a form highly characteristic of 
America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular 
group of finches, related to each other in the structure of 
their beaks, short tails, form of body and plumage : there are 
thirteen species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four sub- 
groups. All these species are peculiar to this archipelago; 
and so is the whole group, with the exception of one species 
of the sub-group Cactornis, lately brought from Bow Island, 
in the Low Archipelago. Of Cactornis, the two species may 
be often seen climbing about the flowers of the great cactus- 
trees; but all the other species of this group of finches, 
mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and sterile ground 
of the lower districts. The males of all, or certainly of the 
greater number, are jet black; and the females (with perhaps 
one or two exceptions) are brown. Thp most curious fart is 
the perfect gradation in the size of the beaks in the different 
species of Geospiza, from one as large as that of a hawfinch 
to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is right in includ- 
ing his sub-group, Certhidea, in the main group) even to 



that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus Geospiza 
is shown in Fig. i, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but instead of 
there being only one intermediate species, with a beak of 
the size shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species 
with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group 
Certhidea, is shown in Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is 

i. Geospiza magnirostris. 
3. Geospiza parvula. 

2. Geospiza fortis. 
4. Certhidea olivasea. 

somewhat like that of a starling; and that of the fourth sub- 
group, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this 
gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately 
related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an 
original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had 
been taken and modified for different ends. In a like manner 
it might be fancied that a bird originally a buzzard, had been 
induced here to undertake the office of the carrion-feeding 
Polybori of the American continent. 

Of waders and water-birds I was able to get only eleven 
kinds, and of these only three (including a rail confined to 
the damp summits of the islands) are new species. Consid- 
ering the wandering habits of the gulls, I was surprised to 
find that the species inhabiting these islands is peculiar, but 
allied to one from the southern parts of South America. 


The far greater peculiarity of the land-birds, namely, twenty- 
five out of twenty-six, being new species, or at least new 
races, compared with the waders and web-footed birds, is 
in accordance with the greater range which these latter 
orders have in all parts of the world. We shall hereafter 
see this law of aquatic forms, whether marine or fresh- 
water, being less peculiar at any given point of the earth's 
surface than the terrestrial forms of the same classes, 
strikingly illustrated in the shells, and in a lesser degree in 
the insects of this archipelago. 

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same spe- 
cies brought from other places : the swallow is also smaller, 
though it is doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its 
analogue. The two owls, the two tyrant-catchers (Pyro- 
cephalus) and the dove, are also smaller than the analogous 
but distinct species, to which they are most nearly related; 
on the other hand, the gull is rather larger. The two owls, 
the swallow, all three species of mocking-thrush, the dove 
in its separate colours though not in its whole plumage, the 
Tetanus, and the gull, are likewise duskier coloured than 
their analogous species; and in the case of the mocking- 
thrush and Totanus, than any other species of the two gen- 
era. With the exception of a wren with a fine yellow breast, 
and of a tyrant-flycatcher with a scarlet tuft and breast, none 
of the birds are brilliantly coloured, as might have been ex- 
pected in an equatorial district. Hence it would appear 
probable, that the same causes which here make the im- 
migrants of some peculiar species smaller, make most of the 
peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as well as very 
generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a 
wretched, weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful 
flower. The insects, again, are small-sized and dull-coloured, 
and, as Mr. Waterhouse informs me, there is nothing in their 
general appearance which would have led him to imagine 
that they had come from under the equator. 1 The birds, 

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


plants, and insects have a desert character, and are not more 
brilliantly coloured than those from southern Patagonia; we 
may, therefore, conclude that the usual gaudy colouring of 
the inter-tropical productions, is not related either to the 
heat or light of those zones, but to some other cause, per- 
haps to the conditions of existence being generally favour- 
able to life. 

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives 
the most striking character to the zoology of these islands. 
The species are not numerous, but the numbers of individ- 
uals of each species are extraordinarily great. There is one 
small lizard belonging to a South American genus, and two 
species (and probably more) of the Amblyrhynchus a genus 
confined to the Galapagos Islands. There is one snake which 
is numerous ; it is identical, as I am informed by M. Bibron, 
with the Psammophis Temminckii from Chile.* Of sea- 
turtle I believe there are more than one species; and of tor- 
toises there are, as we shall presently show, two or three 
species or races. Of toads and frogs there are none: I was 
surprised at this, considering how well suited for them the 
temperate and damp upper woods appeared to be. It re- 
called to my mind the remark made by Bory St. Vincent,* 
namely, that none of this family are found on any of the vol- 
canic islands in the great oceans. As far as I can ascertain 
from various works, this seems to hold good throughout the 
Pacific, and even in the large islands of the Sandwich archi- 
pelago. Mauritius offers an apparent exception, where I 
saw the Rana Mascariensis in abundance: this frog is said 
now to inhabit the Seychelles, Madagascar, and Bourbon; 
but on the other hand, Du Bois, in his voyage in 1669, states 
that there were no reptiles in Bourbon except tortoises ; and 
the Officier du Roi aserts that before 1768 it had been at- 
tempted, without success, to introduce frogs into Mauritius 
I presume for the purpose of eating : hence it may be well 

3 This is stated by Dr. Gunther (Zoolog. Soc., Jan 24th, 1859) to be a 
peculiar species, not known to inhabit any other country. 

3 Voyage aux Quatre lies d'Afrique. With respect to the Sandwich 
Islands, see Tyerman and Bennett's Journal, vol. i. p. 434. For Mauritius, 
see Voyage par un Officier, etc., part i. p. 170. There are no frogs in the 
Canary Islands (Webb et Berthelot, Hist. Nat. des lies Canaries). I saw 
none at St. Jago in the Cape de Verds. There are none at St. Helena. 


doubted whether this frog is an aboriginal of these islands. 
The absence of the frog family in the oceanic islands is the 
more remarkable, when contrasted with the case of lizards, 
which swarm on most of the smallest islands. May this dif- 
ference not be caused, by the greater facility with which the 
eggs of lizards, protected by calcareous shells, might be 
transported through salt-water, than could the slimy spawn 
of frogs? 

I will first describe the habits of the tortoise (Testudo 
nigra, formerly called Indica), which has been so frequently 
alluded to. These animals are found, I believe, on all the 
islands of the archipelago; certainly on the greater number. 
They frequent in preference the high damp parts, but they 
likewise live in the lower and arid districts. I have already 
shown, from the numbers which have been caught in a single 
day, how very numerous they must be. Some grow to an 
immense size: Mr. Lawson, an Englishman, and vice-gov- 
ernor of the colony, told us that he had seen several so large, 
that it required six or eight men to lift them from the 
ground ; and that some had afforded as much as two hundred 
pounds of meat. The old males are the largest, the females 
rarely growing to so great a size: the male can readily be 
distinguished from the female by the greater length of its 
tail. The tortoises which live on those islands where there 
is no water, or in the lower and arid parts of the others, feed 
chiefly on the succulent cactus. Those which frequent the 
higher and damp regions, eat the leaves of various trees, a 
kind of berry (called guayavita) which is acid and austere, 
and likewise a pale green filamentous lichen (Usneraplicata), 
that hangs from the boughs of the trees. 

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large quan- 
tities, and wallowing in the mud. The larger islands alone 
possess springs, and these are always situated towards the 
central parts, and at a considerable height. The tortoises, 
therefore, which frequent the lower districts, when thirsty, 
are obliged to travel from a long distance. Hence broad and 
well-beaten paths branch off in every direction from the 
wells down to the sea-coast ; and the Spaniards by following 
them up, first discovered the watering-places. When I landed 
at Chatham Island, I could not imagine what animal travelled 


so methodically along well-chosen tracks. Near the springs 
it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge 
creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with out- 
stretched necks, and another set returning, after having 
drunk their fill. When the tortoise arrives at the spring, 
quite regardless of any spectator, he buries his head in the 
water above his eyes, and greedily swallows great mouthfuls, 
at the rate of about ten in a minute. The inhabitants say 
each animal stays three or four days in the neighbourhood 
of the water, and then returns to the lower country; but 
they differed respecting the frequency of these visits. The 
animal probably regulates them according to the nature of 
the food on which it has lived. It is, however, certain, that 
tortoises can subsist even on these islands where there is no 
other water than what falls during a few rainy days in the 

I believe it is well ascertained, that the bladder of the frog 
acts as a reservoir for the moisture necessary to its exist- 
ence : such seems to be the case with the tortoise. For some 
time after a visit to the springs, their urinary bladders are 
distended with fluid, which is said gradually to decrease in 
volume, and to become less pure. The inhabitants, when 
walking in the lower district, and overcome with thirst, often 
take advantage of this circumstance, and drink the contents 
of the bladder if full : in one I saw killed, the fluid was quite 
limpid, and had only a very slightly bitter taste. The inhabit- 
ants, however, always first drink the water in the pericar- 
dium, which is described as being best. 

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point, 
travel by night and day, and arrive at their journey's end 
much sooner than would be expected. The inhabitants, from 
observing marked individuals, consider that they travel a 
distance of about eight miles in two or three days. One large 
tortoise, which I watched, walked at the rate of sixty yards 
in ten minutes, that is 360 yards in the hour, or four miles a 
day, allowing a little time for it to eat on the road. During 
the breeding season, when the male and female are together, 
the male utters a hoarse roar or bellowing, which, it is said, 
can be heard at the distance of more than a hundred yards. 
The female never uses her voice, and the male only at these 


times; so that when the people hear this noise, they know 
that the two are together. They were at this time (October) 
laying their eggs. The female, where the soil is sandy, de- 
posits them together, and covers them up with sand; but 
where the ground is rocky she drops them indiscriminately 
in any hole : Mr. Bynoe found seven placed in a fissure. The 
egg is white and spherical ; one which I measured was seven 
inches and three-eighths in circumference, and therefore 
larger than a hen's egg. The young tortoises, as soon as they 
are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers to the carrion- 
feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to die from 
accidents, as from falling down precipices : at least, several 
of the inhabitants told me, that they never found one dead 
without some evident cause. 

The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely 
deaf; certainly they do not overhear a person walking close 
behind them. I was always amused when overtaking one of 
these great monsters, as it was quietly pacing along, to see 
how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head 
and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a 
heavy sound, as if struck dead. I frequently got on their 
backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder part of their 
shells, they would rise up and walk away ; but I found it 
very difficult to keep my balance. The flesh of this animal is 
largely employed, both fresh and salted; and a beautifully 
clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught, 
the man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see 
inside its body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is 
thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated and it is said to 
recover soon from this strange operation. In order to secure 
the tortoise, it is not sufficient to turn them like turtle, for 
they are often able to get on their legs again. 

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal 
inhabitant of the Galapagoes ; for it is found on all, or nearly 
all, the islands, even on some of the smaller ones where there 
is no water; had it been an imported species, this would 
hardly have been the case in a group which has been so little 
h frequented. Moreover, the old Bucaniers found this tortoise 
in greater numbers even than at present : Wood and Rogers 
also, in 1708, say that it is the opinion of the Spaniards, that 


it is found nowhere else in this quarter of the world. It is 
now widely distributed; but it may be questioned whether 
it is in any other place an aboriginal. The bones of a tor- 
toise at Mauritius, associated with those of the extinct Dodo, 
have generally been considered as belonging to this tortoise ; 
if this had been so, undoubtedly it must have been there 
indigenous; but M. Bibron informs me that he believes that 
it was distinct, as the species now living there certainly is. 

The Amblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is con- 
fined to this archipelago; there are two species, resembling 

Amblyrhynchus cristatus. a, Tooth of, natural size, and likewise magnified. 

each other in general form, one being terrestrial and the 
other aquatic. This latter species (A. cristatus) was first 
characterized by Mr. Bell, who well foresaw, from its short, 
broad head, and strong claws of equal length, that its habits 
of life would turn out very peculiar, and different from those 
of its nearest ally, the Iguana. It is extremely common on all 
the islands throughout the group, and lives exclusively on the 
rocky sea-beaches, being never found, at least I never saw 
one, even ten yards in-shore. It is a hideous-looking crea- 
ture, of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish in its move- 
ments. The usual length of a full-grown one is about a yard, 
but there are some even four feet long; a large one weighed 
twenty pounds: on the island of Albemarle they seem to 
grow to a greater size than elsewhere. Their tails are flat- 
tened sideways, and all four feet partially webbed. They are 
occasionally seen some hundred yards from the shore, 
swimming about; and Captain Collnett, in his Voyage says, 


" They go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun themselves on 
the rocks ; and may be called alligators in miniature." It 
must not, however, be supposed that they live on fish. When 
in the water this lizard swims with perfect ease and quick- 
ness, by a serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail 
the legs being motionless and closely collapsed on its sides. 
A seaman on board sank one, with a heavy weight attached 
to it, thinking thus to kill it directly ; but when, an hour after- 
wards, he drew up the line, it was quite active. Their limbs 
and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling over the 
rugged and fissured masses of lava, which everywhere form 
the coast. In such "situations, a group of six or seven of 
these hideous reptiles may oftentimes be seen on the black 
rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the sun with out- 
stretched legs. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely 
distended with minced sea-weed (Ulvse), which grows in 
thin foliaceous expansions of a bright green or a dull red 
colour. I do not recollect having observed this sea-weed in 
any quantity on the tidal rocks ; and I have reason to believe 
it grows at the bottom of the sea, at some little distance from 
the coast. If such be the case, the object of these animals 
occasionally going out to sea is explained. The stomach con- 
tained nothing but the sea-weed. Mr. Baynoe, however, found 
a piece of crab in one; but this might have got in acci- 
dentally, in the same manner as I have seen a caterpillar, in 
the midst of some lichen, in the paunch of a tortoise. The 
intestines were large, as in other herbivorous animals. The 
nature of this lizard's food, as well as the structure of its 
tail and feet, and the fact of its having been seen voluntarily 
swimming out at sea, absolutely prove its aquatic habits; 
yet there is in this respect one strange anomaly, namely, that 
when frightened it will not enter the water. Hence it is 
easy to drive these lizards down to any little point overhang- 
ing the sea, where they will sooner allow a person to catch 
hold of their tails than jump into the water. They do not 
seem to have any notion of biting ; but when much frightened 
they squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril. I threw one 
several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the 
retiring tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to 


the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom, with a 
very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally aided 
itself over the uneven ground with its feet. As soon as it 
arrived near the edge, but still being under water, it tried to 
conceal itself in the tufts of sea-weed, or it entered some 
crevice. As soon as it thought the danger was past, it 
crawled out on the dry rocks, and shuffled away as quickly 
as it could. I several times caught this same lizard, by driv- 
ing it down to a point, and though possessed of such perfect 
powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to 
enter the water ; and as often as I threw it in, it returned in 
the manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of 
apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circum- 
stance, that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore, 
whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous 
sharks. Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary 
instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever the 
emergency may be, it there takes refuge. 

During our visit (in October), I saw extremely few snjall 
individuals of this species, and none I should think under 
a year old. From this circumstance it seems probable that 
the breeding season had not then commenced. I asked sev- 
eral of the inhabitants if they knew where it laid its eggs: 
they said that they knew nothing of its propagation, although 
well acquainted with the eggs of the land kind a fact, con- 
sidering how very common this lizard is, not a little extra- 

We will now turn to the terrestrial species (A. Demarlii), 
with a round tail, and toes without webs. This lizard, 
instead of being found like the other on all the islands, is 
confined to the central part of the archipelago, namely to 
, Albemarle, James, Harrington, and Indefatigable islands. To 
the southward, in Charles, Hood, and Chatham islands, and 
to the northward, in Towers, Bindloes, and Abingdon, I 
neither saw nor heard of any. It would appear as_ifjtjhail 
been created in the centre of the archipelago, and thence had 
been dispersed only to a certain distance. Some of these 
lizards inhabit the high and damp parts of the islands, but 
they are much more numerous in the lower and sterile 
districts near the coast. I cannot give a more forcible proof 


of their numbers, than by stating that when we were left at 
James Island, we could not for some time find a spot free 
from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent. Like 
their brothers the sea-kind, they are ugly animals, of a yellow- 
ish orange beneath, and of a brownish red colour above: 
from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid 
appearance. They are, perhaps, of a rather less size than the 
marine species; but several of them weighed between ten and 
fifteen pounds. In their movements they are lazy and half 
torpid. When not frightened, they slowly crawl along with 
their tails and bellies dragging on the ground. They often 
stop, and doze for a minute or two, with closed eyes and hind 
legs spread out on the parched soil. 

They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make between 
fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the 
soft sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not appear to be very 
deep, and they enter the ground at a small angle; so that 
when walking over these lizard-warrens, the soil is constantly 
giving way, much to the annoyance of the tired walker. This 
animal, when making its burrow, works alternately the oppo- 
site sides of its body. One front leg for a short time 
scratches up the soil, and throws it towards the hind foot, 
which is well placed so as to heave it beyond the mouth of 
the hole. That side of the body being tired, the other takes 
up the task, and so on alternately. I watched one for a long 
time, till half its body was buried ; I then walked up and pulled 
it by the tail ; at this it was greatly astonished, and soon 
shuffled up to see what was the matter; and then stared me 
in the face, as much as to say, " What made you pull my 

They feed by day, and do not wander far from their bur- 
rows; if frightened, they rush to them with a most awkward 
gait. Except when running down hill, they cannot move 
very fast, apparently from the lateral position of their legs. 
They are not at all timorous : when attentively watching any 
one, they curl their tails, and, raising themselves on their 
front legs, nod their heads vertically, with a quick movement, 
and try to look very fierce ; but in reality they are not at all 
so: if one just stamps on the ground, down go their tails, 
and off they shuffle as quickly as they can. I have frequently 


observed small fly-eating lizards, when watching anything, 
nod their heads in precisely the same manner; but I do not 
at all know for what purpose. If this Amblyrhynchus is held 
and plagued with a stick, it will bite it very severely ; but 
I caught many by the tail, and they never tried to bite me. 
If two are placed on the ground and held together, they will 
fight, and bite each other till blood is drawn. 

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which 
inhabit the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water 
throughout the year; but they consume much of the succulent 
cactus, the branches of which are occasionally broken off 
by the wind. I several times threw a piece to two or three 
of them when together ; and it was amusing enough to see 
them trying to seize and carry it away in their mouths, like 
so many hungry dogs with a bone. They eat very deliber- 
ately, but do not chew their food. The little birds are aware 
how harmless these creatures are : I have seen one of the 
thick-billed finches picking at one end of a piece of cactus 
(which is much relished by all the animals of the lower 
region), whilst a lizard was eating at the other end; and 
afterwards the little bird with the utmost indifference hopped 
on the back of the reptile. 

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them full of 
vegetable fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of 
an acacia. In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid 
and astringent berries of the guayavita, under which trees 
I have seen these lizards and the huge tortoises feeding 
together. To obtain the acacia-leaves they crawl up the low 
stunted trees; and it is not uncommon to see a pair quietly 
browsing, whilst seated on a branch several feet above the 
ground. These lizards, when cooked, yield a white meat, 
which is liked by those whose stomachs soar above all 

Humboldt has remarked that in intertropical South 
America, all lizards which inhabit dry regions are esteemed 
delicacies for the table. The inhabitants state that those 
which inhabit the upper damp parts drink water, but that 
the others do not, like the tortoises, travel up for it from 
the lower sterile country. At the time of our visit, the 
females had within their bodies numerous, large, elongated 


eggs, which they lay in their burrows: the inhabitants seek 
them for food. 

These two species of Amblyrhynchus agree, as I have 
already stated, in their general structure, and in many of 
their habits. Neither have that rapid movement, so charac- 
teristic of the genera Lacerta and Iguana. They are both 
herbivorous, although the kind of vegetation on which they 
feed is so very different. Mr. Bell has given the name to the 
genus from the shortness of the snout: indeed, the form of 
the mouth may almost be compared to that of the tortoise: 
one is led to suppose that this is an adaptation to their 
herbivorous appetites. It is very interesting thus to find a 
well-characterized genus, having its marine and terrestrial 
species, belonging to so confined a portion of the world. The 
aquatic species is by far the most remarkable, because it is 
the only existing lizard which lives on marine vegetable pro- 
ductions. As I at first observed, these islands are not so 
remarkable for the number of the species of reptiles, as for 
that of the individuals; when we remember the well-beaten 
paths made by the thousands of huge tortoises the many 
turtles the great warrens of the terrestrial Amblyrhynchus 
and the groups of the marine species basking on the coast- 
rocks of every island we must admit that there is no other 
quarter of the world where this Order replaces the herbivo- 
rous mammalia in so extraordinary a manner. The geologist 
on hearing this will probably refer back in his mind to the 
Secondary epochs, when lizards, some herbivorous, some 
carnivorous, and of dimensions comparable only with our 
existing whales, swarmed on the land and in the sea. It is, 
therefore, worthy of his observation, that this archipelago, 
instead of possessing a humid climate and rank vegetation, 
cannot be considered otherwise than extremely arid, and, for 
an equatorial region, remarkably temperate. 

To finish with the zoology: the fifteen kinds of sea-fish 
which I procured here are all new species; they belong to 
twelve genera, all widely distributed, with the exception of 
Prionotus, of which the four previously known species live 
on the eastern side of America. Of land-shells I collected 
sixteen kinds (and two marked varieties), of which, with the 
exception of one Helix found at Tahiti, all are peculiar to 


this archipelago: a single fresh-water shell (Paludina) is 
common to Tahiti and Van Diemen's Land. Mr. Cuming, 
before our voyage, procured here ninety species of sea-shells, 
and this does not include several species not yet specifically 
examined, of Trochus, Turbo, Monodonta, and Nassa. He 
has been kind enough to give me the following interesting 
results: Of the ninety shells, no less than forty-seven are 
unknown elsewhere a wonderful fact, considering how 
widely distributed sea-shells generally are. Of the forty- 
three shells found in other parts of the world, twenty-five 
inhabit the western coast of America, and of these eight are 
distinguishable as varieties; the remaining eighteen (includ- 
ing one variety) were found by Mr. Cuming in the Low 
Archipelago, and some of them also at the Philippines. This 
fact of shells from islands in the central parts of the Pacific 
occurring here, deserves notice, for not one single sea-shell is 
known to be common to the islands of that ocean and to the 
west coast of America. The space of open sea running north 
and south off the west coast, separates two quite distinct 
conchological provinces; but at the Galapagos Archipelago 
we have a halting-place, where many new forms have been 
created, and whither these two great conchological provinces 
have each sent up several colonists. The American province 
has also sent here representative species ; for there is a Gala- 
pageian species of Monoceros, a genus only found on the 
west coast of America; and there are Galapageian species 
of Fissurella and Cancellaria, genera common on the west 
coast, but not found (as I am informed by Mr. Cuming) in 
the central islands of the Pacific. On the other hand, there 
are Galapageian species of Oniscia and Stylifer, genera com- 
mon to the West Indies and to the Chinese and Indian seas, 
but not found either on the west coast of America or in the 
central Pacific. I may here add, that after the comparison 
by Messrs. Cuming and Hinds of about 2000 shells from 
the eastern and western coasts of America, only one single 
shell was found in common, namely, the Purpura patula, 
which inhabits the West Indies, the coast of Panama, 
and the Galapagos. We have, therefore, in this quarter 
of the world, three great conchological sea-provinces, quite 
distinct, though surprisingly near each other, being sepa- 


rated by long north and south spaces either of land or of 
open sea. 

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but excepting 
Tierra del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a coun- 
try. Even in the upper and damp region I procured very few, 
excepting some minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of 
common mundane forms. As before remarked, the insects, 
for a tropical region, are of very small size and dull colours. 
Of beetles I collected twenty-five species (excluding a Der- 
mestes and Corynetes imported, wherever a ship touches) ; 
of these, two belong to the Harpalidae, two to the Hydro- 
philidae, nine to three families of the Heteromera, and the 
remaining twelve to as many different families. This cir- 
cumstance of insects (and I may add plants), where few in 
number, belonging to many different families, is, I believe, 
very general. Mr. Waterhouse, who has published* an 
account of the insects of this archipelago, and to whom I am 
indebted for the above details, informs me that th'ere are 
several new genera: and that of the genera not new, one 
or two are American, and the rest of mundane distribution. 
With the exception of a wood-feeding Apate, and of one or 
probably two water-beetles from the American continent, 
all the species appear to be new. 

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the 
zoology. Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the " Linnean 
Transactions " a full account of the Flora, and I am much 
indebted to him for the following details. Of flowering 
plants there are, as far as at present is known, 185 species, 
and 40 cryptogamic species, making altogether 225; of this 
number I was fortunate enough to bring home 193. Of the 
flowering plants, 100 are new species, and are probably con- 
fined to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives that, of the 
plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near the 
cultivated ground at Charles Island, have been imported. 
It is, I think, surprising that more American species have 
not been introduced naturally, considering that the distance 
is only between 500 and 600 miles from the continent ; and 
that (according to Collnet, p. 58) drift-wood, bamboos, canes, 
and the nuts of a palm, are often washed on the south-eastern 
Ann. and Mag. of Nat. Hist, vol. xvi. p. 19. 


shores. The proportion of 100 flowering plants out of 185 
(or 175 excluding the imported weeds) being new, is suffi- 
cient, I conceive, to make the Galapagos Archipelago a dis- 
tinct botanical province ; but this Flora is not nearly so 
peculiar as that of St. Helena, nor, as I am informed by 
Dr. Hooker, of Juan Fernandez. The peculiarity of the 
Galapageian Flora is best shown in certain families; thus 
there are 21 species of Composite, of which 20 are peculiar 
to this archipelago; these belong to twelve genera, and of 
these genera no less than ten are confined to the archipelago ! 
Dr. Hooker informs me that the Flora has an undoubtedly 
Western American character; nor can he detect in it any 
affinity with that of the Pacific. If, therefore, we except the 
eighteen marine, the one fresh-water, and one land-shell, 
which have apparently come here as colonists from the 
central islands of the Pacific, and likewise the one distinct 
Pacific species of the Galapageian group of finches, we see 
that this archipelago, though standing in the Pacific Ocean, 
is zoologically part of America. 

'if this character were owing merely to immigrants from 
America, there would be little remarkable in it ; but we see 
that a vast majority of all the land animals, and that more 
than half of the flowering plants, are aboriginal productions. 
"It was most striking to be surrounded by new birds, new rep- 
tiles, new shells, new insects, new plants, and yet by innumer- 
able trifling details of structure, and even by the tones of 
voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temperate plains 
of Patagonia, or rather the hot dry deserts of Northern Chile, 
vividly brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points 
of land, which within a late geological period must have 
been covered by the ocean, which are formed by basaltic lava, 
and therefore differ in geological character from the Ameri- 
can continent, and which are placed under a peculiar climate, 
why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, I may 
add, in different proportions both in kind and number from 
those on the continent, and therefore acting on each other 
in a different manner why were they created on American 
types of organization ? It is probable that the islands of the 
Cape de Verd group resemble, in all their physical conditions, 
far more closely the Galapagos Islands, than these latter 


physically resemble the coast of America, yet the aboriginal 
inhabitants of the two groups are totally unlike ; those of the 
Cape de Verd Islands bearing the impress of Africa, as 
the inhabitants of the Galapagos Archipelago are stamped 
with that of America. 

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable fea- 
ture in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that 
the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by 
a different set of beings. My attention was first called to 
this fact by the Vice-Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that 
the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he 
could with certainty tell from which island any one was 
brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention 
to this statement, and I had already partially mingled to- 
gether the collections from two of the islands. I never 
dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of 
them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same 
rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly 
equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we 
shall soon see that this is the case. It is the fate of most 
voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in 
any locality, than they are hurried from it; but I ought, per- 
haps, to be thankful that I obtained sufficient materials to 
establish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of 
organic beings. 

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can dis- 
tinguish the tortoises from the different islands; and that 
they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain 
Porter has described 3 those from Charles and from the near- 
est island to it, namely, Hood Island, as having their shells 
in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst 
the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and 
have a better taste when cooked. M. Bibron, moreover, 
informs me that he has seen what he considers two distinct 
species of tortoise from the Galapagos, but he does not know 
from which islands. The specimens that I brought from 
three islands were young ones : and probably owing to this 
cause neither Mr. Gray nor myself could find in them any 

* Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex, vol. i. p. 215. 



specific differences. I have remarked that the marine 
Amblyrhynchus was larger at Albemarle Island than else- 
where; and M. Bibron informs me that he has seen two dis- 
tinct aquatic species of this genus; so that the different 
islands probably have their representative species or races 
of the Amblyrhynchus, as well as of the tortoise. My atten- 
tion was first thoroughly aroused, by comparing together 
the numerous specimens, shot by myself and several other 
parties on board, of the mocking-thrushes, when, to my aston- 
ishment, I discovered that all those from Charles Island 
belonged to one species (Mimus trifasciatus) ; all from 
Albemarle Island to M. parvulus; and all from James and 
Chatham Islands (between which two other islands are sit- 
uated, as connecting links) belonged to M. melanotis. These 
two latter species are closely allied, and would by some 
ornithologists be considered as only well-marked races or 
varieties; but the Mimus trifasciatus is very distinct. Un- 
fortunately most of the specimens of the finch tribe were 
mingled together; but I have strong reasons to suspect that 
some of the species of the sub-group Geospiza are confined 
to separate islands. If the different islands have their repre- 
sentatives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the singularly 
large number of the species of this sub-group in this one 
small archipelago, and as a probable consequence of their 
numbers, the perfectly graduated series in the size of their 
beaks. Two species of the sub-group Cactornis, and two of 
the Camarhynchus, were procured in the archipelago; and 
of the numerous specimens of these two sub-groups shot by 
four collectors at James Island, all were found to belong to 
one species of each; whereas the numerous specimens shot 
either on Chatham or Charles Island (for the two sets were 
mingled together) all belonged to the two other species: 
hence we may feel almost sure that these islands possess > 
their respective species of these two sub-groups. In land- 
shells this law of distribution does not appear to hold good. 
In my very small collection of insects, Mr. Waterhouse 
remarks, that of those which were ticketed with their local- 
ity, not one was common to any two of the islands. 

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal 
plants of the different islands wonderfully different. I give 



all the following results on the high authority of my friend 
Dr. J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately col- 
lected everything in flower on the different islands, and for- 
tunately kept my collections separate. Too much confidence, 
however, must not be placed in the proportional results, as 
the small collections brought home by some other naturalists, 
though in some respects confirming the results, plainly show 
that much remains to be done in the botany of this group: 
the Leguminosae, moreover, has as yet been only approxi- 
mately worked out : 


No. of 

No. of 
found in 
other parts 
of the 

No. of 
to the 

to the 

No. of Species 
confined to the 
but found on 
more than the 
one Island. 

James Island 
Albemarle Island 








Chatham Island 






Charles Island 






(or 29. if the 

probably im- 

ported plants 

be subtracted) 

Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James 
Island, of the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those found 
in no other part of the world, thirty are exclusively confined 
to this one island; and in Albemarle Island, of the twenty- 
six aboriginal Galapageian plants, twenty-two are confined 
to this one island, that is, only four are at present known to 
grow in the other islands of the archipelago; and so on, as 
shown in the above table, with the plants from Chatham and 
Charles Islands. This fact will, perhaps, be rendered even 
more striking, by giving a few illustrations: thus, Scalesia, 
a remarkable arborescent genus of the Compositae, is con- 
fined to the archipelago: it has six species: one from Chat- 
ham, one from Albemarle, one from Charles Island, two from 
James Island, and the sixth from one of the three latter 
islands, but it is not known from which : not one of these six 
species grows on any two islands. Again, Euphorbia, a mun- . 


dane or widely distributed genus, has here eight species, of 
which seven are confined to the archipelago, and not one 
found on any two islands : Acalypha and Borreria, both mun- 
dane genera, have respectively six and seven species, none 
of which have the same species on two islands, with the 
exception of one Borreria, which does occur on two islands. 
The species of the Compositae are particularly local ; and Dr. 
Hooker has furnished me with several other most striking 
illustrations of the difference of the species on the different 
islands. He remarks that this law of distribution holds good 
both with those genera confined to the archipelago, and those 
distributed in other quarters of the world: in like manner 
we have seen that the different islands have their proper spe- 
cies of the mundane genus of tortoise, and of the widely 
distributed American genus of the mocking-thrush, as well 
as of two of the Galapageian sub-groups of finches, and 
almost certainly of the Galapageian genus Amblyrhynchus. 

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would 
not be nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had 
a mocking-thrush, and a second island some other quite dis- 
tinct genus; if one island had its genus of lizard, and a 
second island another distinct genus, or none whatever; or 
if the different islands were inhabited, not by representative 
species of the same genera of plants, but by totally different 
genera, as does to a certain extent hold good: for, to give 
one instance, a large berry-bearing tree at James Island has 
no representative species in Charles Island. [JBut it is the 
circumstance, that several of the islands possess their own 
species of the tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numer- 
ous plants, these species having the same general habits, 
occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the 
same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that 
strikes me with wonder.^JTt may be suspected that some of 
these representative species, at least in the case of the tor- 
toise and of some of the birds, may hereafter prove to be 
only well-marked races ; but this would be of equally great 
interest to the philosophical naturalist. I have said that most 
of the islands are in sight of each other: I may specify that 
Charles Island is fifty miles from the nearest part of Chat- 
ham Island, and thirty-three miles from the nearest part of 


Albemarle Island. Chatham Island is sixty miles from the 
nearest part of James Island, but there are two intermediate 
islands between them which were not visited by me. James 
Island is only ten miles from the nearest part of Albemarle 
Island, but the two points where the collections were made 
are thirty-two miles apart. I must repeat, that neither the 
nature of the soil, nor height of the land, nor the climate, 
nor the general character of the associated beings, and there- 
fore their action one on another, can differ much in the dif- 
ferent islands. If there be any sensible difference in their 
climates, it must be between the Windward group (namely, 
Charles and Chatham Islands), and that to leeward; but 
there seems to be no corresponding difference in the produc- 
tions of these two halves of the archipelago. 

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable dif- 
ference in the inhabitants of the different islands, is, that 
very strong currents of the sea running in a westerly and 
W.N.W. direction must separate, as far as transportal by the 
sea is concerned, the southern islands from the northern 
ones ; and between these northern islands a strong N.W. cur- 
rent was observed, which must effectually separate James 
and Albemarle Islands. (As the archipelago is free to a 
most remarkable degree from gales of wind, neither the 
birds, insects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from island 
to island^/ And lastly, the profound depth of the ocean be- 
tween the islands, and their apparently recent (in a geologi- 
cal sense) volcanic origin, render it highly unlikely that they 
were ever united ; and this, probably, is a far more important 
consideration than any other, with respect to the geographi- 
cal distribution of their inhabitants. Reviewing the facts 
here given, one is astonished at the amount of creative force, 
if such an expression may be used, displayed on these small, 
barren, and rocky islands; and still more so, at its diverse 
yet analogous action on points so near each other. I have 
said that the Galapagos Archipelago might be called a satel- 
lite attached to America, but it should rather be called a 
group of satellites, physically similar, organically distinct, 
yet intimately related to each other, and all related in a 
marked, though much lesser degree, to the great American 


I will conclude my description of the natural history of 
these islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness 
of the birds. 

This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species; 
namely, to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant- 
flycatchers, the dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them are 
often approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, 
and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun 
is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a 
hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, whilst lying down, 
a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of a pitcher, made of 
the shell of a tortoise, which I held in my hand, and began 
very quietly to sip the water; it allowed me to lift it from 
the ground whilst seated on the vessel: I often tried, and 
very nearly succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs. 
Formerly the birds appear to have been even tamer than at 
present. Cowley (in the year 1684) says that the " Turtle- 
doves were so tame, that they would often alight on our hats 
and arms, so as that we could take them alive ; they not fear- 
ing man, until such time as some of our company did fire at 
them, whereby they were rendered more shy." Dampier 
also, in the same year, says that a man in a morning's walk 
might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At present, 
although certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's 
arms, nor do they suffer themselves to be killed in such large 
numbers. It is surprising that they have not become wilder ; 
for these islands during the last hundred and fifty years have 
been frequently visited by bucaniers and whalers; and the 
sailors, wandering through the wood in search of tortoises, 
always take cruel delight in knocking down the little birds. 

These birds, although now still more persecuted, do not 
readily become wild. In Charles Island, which had then 
been colonized about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well 
with a switch in his hand, with which he killed the doves 
and finches as they came to drink. He had already procured 
a little heap of them for his dinner; and he said that he had 
constantly been in the habit of waiting by this well for the 
same purpose. It would appear that the birds of this archi- 
pelago, not having as yet learnt that man is a more danger- 
ous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus, disregard 


him, in the same manner as in England shy birds, such as 
magpies, disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields. 

The Falkland Islands offer a second instance of birds 
with a similar disposition. The extraordinary tameness of 
the little Opetiorhynchus has been remarked by Pernety, 
Lesson, and other voyagers. It is not, however, peculiar to 
that bird: the Polyborus, snipe, upland and lowland goose, 
thrush, bunting, and even some true hawks, are all more or 
less tame. As the birds are so tame there, where foxes, 
hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the absence of all 
rapacious animals at the Galapagos, is not the cause of their 
tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, by 
the precaution they take in building on the islets, that they 
are aware of their danger from the foxes ; but they are not 
by this rendered wild towards man. This tameness of the 
birds, especially of the waterfowl, is strongly contrasted with 
the habits of the same species in Tierra del Fuego, where for 
ages past they have been persecuted by the wild inhabitants. 
In the Falklands, the sportsman may sometimes kill more 
of the upland geese in one day than he can carry home; 
whereas in Tierra del Fuego it is nearly as difficult to kill 
one, as it is in England to shoot the common wild goose. 

In the time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear 
to have been much tamer than at present ; he states that the 
Opetiorhynchus would almost perch on his finger; and that 
with a wand he killed ten in half an hour. At that period 
the birds must have been about as tame as they now are at 
the Galapagos. They appear to have learnt caution more 
slowly at these latter islands than at the Falklands, where 
they have had proportionate means of experience; for be- 
sides frequent visits from vessels, those islands have been at 
intervals colonized during the entire period. Even formerly, 
when all the birds were so tame, it was impossible by Per- 
nety's account to kill the black-necked swan a bird of 
passage, which probably brought with it the wisdom learnt 
in foreign countries. 

I may add that, according to Du Bois, all the birds at 
Bourbon in 1571-72, with the exception of the flamingoes 
and geese, were so extremely tame, that they could be caught 
by the hand, or killed in any number with a stick. Again, 


at Tristan d'Acunha in the Atlantic, Carmichael* states that 
the only two land-birds, a thrush and a bunting, were " so 
tame as to suffer themselves to be caught with a hand-net." 
From these several facts we may, I think, conclude, first, that 
the wildness of birds with regard to man, is a particular 
instinct directed against him, and not dependent upon any 
general degree of caution arising from other sources of 
danger; secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds 
in a short time, even when much persecuted; but that in the 
course of successive generations it becomes hereditary. With 
domesticated animals we are accustomed to see new mental 
habits or instincts acquired or rendered hereditary; but with 
animals in a state of nature, it must always be most difficult 
to discover instances of acquired hereditary knowledge. In 
regard to the wildness of birds towards man, there is no way 
of accounting for it, except as an inherited habit: compara- 
tively few young birds, in any one year, have been injured 
by man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, are afraid 
of him; many individuals, on the other hand, both at the 
Galapagos and at the Falklands, have been pursued and 
injured by man, yet have not learned a salutary dread of 
him. We may infer from these facts, what havoc the intro- 
duction of any new beast of prey must cause in a country, 
before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have 
become adapted to the stranger's craft or power. 

6 Linn. Trans., vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on this sub- 
ject which I have met with is the wildness of the small birds in the Arctic 
parts of North America (as described by Richardson, Fauna Bor., vol. ii. 
P- 332). where they are said never to be persecuted. This case is the more 
strange, because it is asserted that some of the same species in their winter- 
quarters in the United States are tame. There is much, as Dr. Richardson 
well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the different degrees of 
shyness and care with which birds conceal their nests. How strange it 
is that the English wood-pigeon, generally so wild a bird, should very fre 
quently rear its young in shrubberies close to houses 1 


Pass through the Low Archipelago Tahiti Aspect Vegetation on 
the Mountains View of Eimeo Excursion into the Interior 
Profound Ravines Succession of Waterfalls Number of wild 
useful Plants Temperance of the Inhabitants Their moral state 
Parliament convened New Zealand Bay of Islands Hippahs 
Excursion to Waimate Missionary Establishment English 
Weeds now run wild Waiomio Funeral of a New Zealand 
Woman Sail for Australia. 

OCTOBER 20th. The survey of the Galapagos Archi- 
pelago being concluded, we steered towards Tahiti 
and commenced our long passage of 3200 miles. In 
the course of a few days we sailed out of the gloomy and 
clouded ocean-district which extends during the winter far 
from the coast of South America. We then enjoyed bright 
and clear weather, while running pleasantly along at the 
rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before the steady trade-wind. 
The temperature in this more central part of the Pacific is 
higher than near the American shore. The thermometer in 
the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged between 80 and 
83, which feels very pleasant; but with one degree or two 
higher, the heat becomes oppressive. We passed through 
the Low or Dangerous Archipelago, and saw several of 
those most curious rings of coral land, just rising above the 
water's edge, which have been called Lagoon Islands. A 
long and brilliantly white beach is capped by a margin of 
green vegetation; and the strip, looking either way, rapidly 
narrows away in the distance, and sinks beneath the horizon. 
From the mast-head a wide expanse of smooth water can be 
seen within the ring. These low hollow coral islands bear 
no proportion to the vast ocean out of which they abruptly 
rise; and it seems wonderful, that such weak invaders are 
not overwhelmed, by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves 
of that great sea, miscalled the Pacific. 



November i^th. At daylight, Tahiti, an island which 
must for ever remain classical to the voyager in the South 
Sea, was in view. At a distance the appearance was not 
attractive. The luxuriant vegetation of the lower part could 
not yet be seen, and as the clouds rolled past, the wildest 
and most precipitous peaks showed themselves towards the 
centre of the island. As soon as we anchored in Matavai 
Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. This was our Sunday, 
but the Monday of Tahiti: if the case had been reversed, 
we should not have received a single visit; for the injunction 
not to launch a canoe on the sabbath is rigidly obeyed. 
After dinner we landed to enjoy all the delights produced 
by the first impressions of a new country, and that country 
the charming Tahiti. A crowd of men, women, and children, 
was collected on the memorable Point Venus, ready to 
receive us with laughing, merry faces. They marshalled 
us towards the house of Mr. Wilson, the missionary of the 
district, who met us on the road, and gave us a very friendly 
reception. After sitting a very short time in his house, we 
separated to walk about, but returned there in the evening. 

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part 
more than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round 
the base of the mountains, and protected from the waves of 
the sea by a coral reef, which encircles the entire line of 
coast. Within the reef there is an expanse of smooth water, 
like that of a lake, where the canoes of the natives can ply 
with safety and where ships anchor. The low land which 
comes down to the beach of coral-sand, is covered by the 
most beautiful productions of the intertropical regions. In 
the midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and bread-fruit 
trees, spots are cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, and 
sugar-cane, and pine-apples are cultivated. Even the brush- 
wood is an imported fruit-tree, namely, the guava, which 
from its abundance has become as noxious as a weed. In 
Brazil I have often admired the varied beauty of the 
bananas, palms, and orange-trees contrasted together; and 
here we also have the bread-fruit, conspicuous from its large, 
glossy, and deeply digitated leaf. It is admirable to behold 
groves of a tree, sending forth its branches with the vigour 
of an English oak, loaded with large and most nutritious 


fruit. However seldom the usefulness of an object can 
account for the pleasure of beholding it, in the case of these 
beautiful woods, the knowledge of their high productiveness 
no doubt enters largely into the feeling of admiration. The 
little winding paths, cool from the surrounding shade, led 
to the scattered houses; the owners of which everywhere 
gave us a cheerful and most hospitable reception. 

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabit- 
ants. There is a mildness in the expression of their coun- 
tenances which at once banishes the idea of a savage; and 
an intelligence which shows that they are advancing in civili- 
zation. The common people, when working, keep the upper 
part of their bodies quite naked; and it is then that the 
Tahitians are seen to advantage. They are very tall, broad- 
shouldered, athletic, and well-proportioned. It has been 
remarked, that it requires little habit to make a dark skin 
more pleasing and natural to the eye of an European than 
his own colour. A white man bathing by the side of a 
Tahitian, was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art 
compared with a fine dark green one growing vigorously in 
the open fields. Most of the men are tattooed, and the orna- 
ments follow the curvature of the body so gracefully, that 
they have a very elegant effect. One common pattern, vary- 
ing in its details, is somewhat like the crown of a palm-tree. 
It springs from the central line of the back, and gracefully 
curls round both sides. The simile may be a fanciful one, 
but I thought the body of a man thus ornamented was like 
the trunk of a noble tree embraced by a delicate creeper. 

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with 
small figures, so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion, 
however, is partly gone by, and has been succeeded by others. 
Here, although fashion is far from immutable, every one 
must abide by that prevailing in his youth. An old man 
has thus his age for ever stamped on his body, and he cannot 
assume the airs of a young dandy. The women are tattooed 
in the same manner as the men, and very commonly on their 
fingers. One unbecoming fashion is now almost universal: 
namely, shaving the hair from the upper part of the head, 
in a circular form, so as to leave only an outer ring. The 
missionaries have tried to persuade the people to change this 


habit; but it is the fashion, and that is a sufficient answer 
at Tahiti, as well as at Paris. I was much disappointed in 
the personal appearance of the women: they are far inferior 
in every respect to the men. The custom of wearing a white 
or scarlet flower in the back of the head, or through a small 
hole in each ear, is pretty. A crown of woven cocoa-nut 
leaves is also worn as a shade for the eyes. The women 
appear to be in greater want of some becoming costume even 
than the men. 

Nearly all the natives understand a little English that is, 
they know the names of common things; and by the aid of 
this, together with signs, a lame sort of conversation could 
be carried on. In returning in the evening to the boat, we 
stopped to witness a very pretty scene. Numbers of chil- 
dren were playing on the beach, and had lighted bonfires 
which illumined the placid sea and surrounding trees; 
others, in circles, were singing Tahitian verses. We seated 
ourselves on the sand, and joined their party. The songs 
were impromptu, and I believe related to our arrival: one 
little girl sang a line, which the rest took up in parts, form- 
ing a very pretty chorus. The whole scene made us une- 
quivocally aware that we were seated on the shores of an 
island in the far-famed South Sea. 

lyth. This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday 
the i7th, instead of Monday the i6th, owing to our, so far, 
successful chase of the sun. Before breakfast the ship was 
hemmed in by a flotilla of canoes; and when the natives 
were allowed to come on board, I suppose there could not 
have been less than two hundred. It was the opinion of 
every one that it would have been difficult to have picked out 
an equal number from any other nation, who would have 
given so little trouble. Everybody brought something for 
sale: shells were the main articles of trade. The Tahitians 
now fully understand the value of money, and prefer it to 
old clothes or other articles. The various coins, however, of 
English and Spanish denomination puzzle them, and they 
never seemed to think the small silver quite secure until 
changed into dollars. Some of the chiefs have accumulated 
considerable sums of money. One chief, not long since, 
offered 800 dollars (about i6ol. sterling) for a small vessel; 


and frequently they purchase whale-boats and horses at the 
rate of from 50 to 100 dollars. 

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest 
slope to a height of between two and three thousand feet. 
The outer mountains are smooth and conical, but steep; and 
the old volcanic rocks, of which they are formed, have been 
cut through by many profound ravines, diverging from the 
central broken parts of the island to the coast. Having 
crossed the narrow low girt of inhabited and fertile land, 
I followed a smooth steep ridge between two of the deep 
ravines. The vegetation was singular, consisting almost 
exclusively of small dwarf ferns, mingled higher up, with 
coarse grass; it was not very dissimilar from that on some 
of the Welsh hills, and this so close above the orchard of 
tropical plants on the coast was very surprising. At the 
highest point, which I reached, trees again appeared. Of 
the three zones of comparative luxuriance, the lower one 
owes its moisture, and therefore fertility, to its flatness ; for, 
being scarcely raised above the level of the sea, the water 
from the higher land drains away slowly. The intermediate 
zone does not, like the upper one, reach into a damp and 
cloudy atmosphere, and therefore remains sterile. The 
woods in the upper zone are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing 
the cocoa-nuts on the coast. It must not, however, be 
supposed that these woods at all equal in splendour the 
forests of Brazil. The vast numbers of productions, which 
characterize a continent, cannot be expected to occur in 
an island. 

From the highest point which I attained, there was a good 
view of the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on the same 
sovereign with Tahiti. On the lofty and broken pinnacles, 
white massive clouds were piled up, which formed an island 
in the blue sky, as Eimeo itself did in the blue ocean. The 
island, with the exception of one small gateway, is completely 
encircled by a reef. At this distance, a narrow but well- 
defined brilliantly white line was alone visible, where the 
waves first encountered the wall of coral. The mountains 
rose abruptly out of the glassy expanse of the lagoon, in- 
cluded within this narrow white line, outside which the heav- 
ing waters of the ocean were dark-coloured. The view was 


striking: it may aptly be compared to a framed engraving, 
where the frame represents the breakers, the marginal paper 
the smooth lagoon, and the drawing the island itself. When 
in the evening I descended from the mountain, a man, whom 
I had pleased with a trifling gift, met me, bringing with him 
hot roasted bananas, a pine-apple, and cocoa-nuts. After 
walking under a burning sun, I do not know anything more 
delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. Pine-apples 
are here so abundant that the people eat them in the same 
wasteful manner as we might turnips. They are of an excel- 
lent flavor perhaps even better than those cultivated in 
England; and this I believe is the highest compliment which 
can be paid to any fruit. Before going on board, Mr. Wilson 
interpreted for me to the Tahitian who had paid me so adroit 
an attention, that I wanted him and another man to accom- 
pany me on a short excursion into the mountains. 

i8th. In the morning I came on shore early, bringing 
with me some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for my- 
self and servant. These were lashed to each end of a long 
pole, which was alternately carried by my Tahitian com- 
panions on their shoulders. These men are accustomed thus 
to carry, for a whole day, as much as fifty pounds at each 
end of their poles. I told my guides to provide themselves 
with food and clothing; but they said that there was plenty 
of food in the mountains, and for clothing, that their skins 
were sufficient. Our line of march was the valley of Tia- 
auru, down which a river flows into the sea by Point Venus. 
This is one of the principal streams in the island, and its 
source lies at the base of the loftiest central pinnacles, 
which rise to a height of about 7000 feet. The whole island 
is so mountainous that the only way to penetrate into the 
interior is to follow up the valleys. Our road, at first, lay 
through woods which bordered each side of the river; and 
the glimpses of the lofty central peaks, seen as through an 
avenue, with here and there a waving cocoa-nut tree on one 
side, were extremely picturesque. The valley soon began to 
narrow, and the sides to grow lofty and more precipitous. 
After having walked between three and four hours, we 
found the width of the ravine scarcely exceeded that of the 
bed of the stream. On each hand the walls were nearly ver- 


tical; yet from the soft nature of the volcanic strata, trees 
and a rank vegetation sprung from every projecting ledge. 
These precipices must have been some thousand feet high; 
and the whole formed a mountain gorge far more magnifi- 
cent than anything which I had ever before beheld. Until 
the midday sun stood vertically over the ravine, the air felt 
cool and damp, but now it became very sultry. Shaded by a 
ledge of rock, beneath a faqade of columnar lava, we ate our 
dinner. My guides had already procured a dish of small 
fish and fresh-water prawns. They carried with them a 
small net stretched on a hoop; and where the water was 
deep and in eddies, they dived, and like otters, with their 
eyes open followed the fish into holes and corners, and thus 
caught them. 

The Tahitians have the dexterity of amphibious animals 
in the water. An anecdote mentioned by Ellis shows how 
much they feel at home in this element. When a horse was 
landing for Pomarre in 1817, * ne slings broke, and it fell 
into the water; immediately the natives jumped overboard, 
and by their cries and vain efforts at assistance almost 
drowned it. As soon, however, as it reached the shore, the 
whole population took to flight, and tried to hide themselves 
from the man-carrying pig, as they christened the horse. 

A little higher up, the river divided itself into three little 
streams. The two northern ones were impracticable, owing 
to a succession of waterfalls which descended from the 
jagged summit of the highest mountain; the other to all 
appearance was equally inaccessible, but we managed to as- 
cend it by a most extraordinary road. The sides of the 
valley were here nearly precipitous; but, as frequently hap- 
pens with stratified rocks, small ledges projected, which were 
thickly covered by wild bananas, lilaceous plants, and other 
luxuriant productions of the tropics. The Tahitians, by 
climbing amongst these ledges, searching for fruit, had dis- 
covered a track by which the whole precipice could be scaled. 
The first ascent from the valley was very dangerous; for it 
was necessary to pass a steeply inclined face of naked rock, 
by the aid of ropes which we brought with us. How any 
person discovered that this formidable spot was the only 
point where the side of the mountain was practicable, I can- 


not imagine. We then cautiously walked along one of the 
ledges till we came to one of the three streams. This ledge 
formed a flat spot, above which a beautiful cascade, some 
hundred feet in height, poured down its waters, and beneath, 
another high cascade fell into the main stream in the val- 
ley below. From this cool and shady recess we made a 
circuit to avoid the overhanging waterfall. As before, we 
followed little projecting ledges, the danger being partly 
concealed by the thickness of the vegetation. In passing 
from one of the ledges to another, there was a vertical wall 
of rock. One of the Tahitians, a fine active man, placed 
the trunk of a tree against this, climbed up it, and then by 
the aid of crevices reached the summit. He fixed the ropes 
to a projecting point, and lowered them for our dog and 
luggage, and then we clambered up ourselves. Beneath the 
ledge on which the dead tree was placed, the precipice must 
have been five or six hundred feet deep; and if the abyss 
had not been partly concealed by the overhanging ferns and 
lilies my head would have turned giddy, and nothing should 
have induced me to have attempted it. We continued to 
ascend, sometimes along ledges, and sometimes along knife- 
edged ridges, having on each hand profound ravines. In 
the Cordillera I have seen mountains on a far grander 
scale, but for abruptness, nothing at all comparable with this. 
In the evening we reached a flat little spot on the banks 
of the same stream, which we had continued to follow, and 
which descends in a chain of waterfalls : here we bivouacked 
for the night. On each side of the ravine there were great 
beds of the mountain-banana, covered with ripe fruit. Many 
of these plants were from twenty to twenty-five feet high, 
and from three to four in circumference. By the aid of 
strips of bark for rope, the stems of bamboos for rafters, 
and the large leaf of the banana for a thatch, the Tahitians 
in a few minutes built us an excellent house; and with 
withered leaves made a soft bed. 

They then proceeded to make a fire, and cook our evening 
meal. A light was procured, by rubbing a blunt pointed 
stick in a groove made in another, as if with intention of 
deepening it, until by the friction the dust became ignited. 
A peculiarly white and very light wood (the Hibiscus tilia- 


ceus) is alone used for this purpose: it is the same which 
serves for poles to carry any burden, and for the floating 
out-riggers to their canoes. The fire was produced in a few 
seconds: but to a person who does not understand the art, 
it requires, as I found, the greatest exertion; but at last, to 
my great pride, I succeeded in igniting the dust. The 
Gaucho in the Pampas uses a different method: taking an 
elastic stick about eighteen inches long, he presses one end 
on his breast, and the other pointed end into a hole in a piece 
of wood, and then rapidly turns the curved part, like a car- 
penter's centre-bit. The Tahitians having made a small fire 
of sticks, placed a score of stones, of about the size of 
cricket-balls, on the burning wood. In about ten minutes the 
sticks were consumed, and the stones hot. They had previ- 
ously folded up in small parcels of leaves, pieces of beef, 
fish, ripe and unripe bananas, and the tops of the wild arum. 
These green parcels were laid in a layer between two layers 
of the hot stones, and the whole then covered up with 
earth, so that no smoke or steam could escape. In about 
a quarter of an hour, the whole was most deliciously cooked. 
The choice green parcels were now laid on a cloth of 
banana leaves, and with a cocoa-nut shell we drank the 
cool water of the running stream ; and thus we enjoyed our 
rustic meal. 

I could not look on the surrounding plants without ad- 
miration. On every side were forests of banana; the fruit 
of which, though serving for food in various ways, lay in 
heaps decaying on the ground. In front of us there was an 
extensive brake of wild sugar-cane; and the stream was 
shaded by the dark green knotted stem of the Ava, so fa- 
mous in former days for its powerful intoxicating effects. I 
chewed a piece, and found that it had an acrid and unpleasant 
taste, which would have induced any one at once to 
have pronounced it poisonous. Thanks to the missionaries, 
this plant now thrives only in these deep ravines, innocuous to 
every one. Close by I saw the wild arum, the roots of which, 
when well baked, are good to eat, and the young leaves 
better than spinach. There was the wild yam, and a liliaceous 
plant called Ti, which grows in abundance, and has a soft 
brown root, in shape and size like a huge log of wood: this 


served us for dessert, for it is as sweet as treacle, and with 
a pleasant taste. There were, moreover, several other wild 
fruits, and useful vegetables. The little stream, besides its 
cool water, produced eels, and cray-fish. I did indeed admire 
this scene, when I compared it with an uncultivated one in 
the temperate zones. I felt the force of the remark, that 
man, at least savage man, with his reasoning powers only 
partly developed, is the child of the tropics. 

As the evening drew to a close, I strolled beneath the 
gloomy shade of the bananas up the course of the stream. 
My walk was soon brought to a close, by coming to a water- 
' fall between two and three hundred feet high; and again 
above this there was another. I mention all these waterfalls 
in this one brook, to give a general idea of the inclination 
of the land. In the little recess where the water fell, it did 
not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown. The thin 
edges of the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray, 
were unbroken, instead of being, as is so generally the case, 
split into a thousand shreds. From our position, almost sus- 
pended on the mountain side, there were glimpses into the 
depths of the neighbouring valleys; and the lofty points of 
the central mountains, towering up within sixty degrees of 
the zenith, hid half the evening sky. Thu