The Project Gutenberg Etext The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Project Gutenberg Etext A Naturalist's Voyage Round the World by Darwin
#18 in our series by Charles Darwin

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Title: A Naturalist's Voyage Round the World
Title: The Voyage Of The Beagle

Author: Charles Darwin

Release Date: February, 2003 [Etext #3704]
[Yes, we are about one year ahead of schedule]
[The actual date this file first posted = 07/29/01]

Edition: 10

Language: English

The Project Gutenberg Etext The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Project Gutenberg Etext A Naturalist's Voyage Round the World by Darwin
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This second edition is dedicated with grateful pleasure, as an
acknowledgment that the chief part of whatever scientific merit
this journal and the other works of the author may possess, has
been derived from studying the well-known and admirable



This work was described, on its first appearance, by a writer in
the "Quarterly Review" as "One of the most interesting narratives
of voyaging that it has fallen to our lot to take up, and one which
must always occupy a distinguished place in the history of
scientific navigation."

This prophecy has been amply verified by experience; the
extraordinary minuteness and accuracy of Mr. Darwin's observations,
combined with the charm and simplicity of his descriptions, have
ensured the popularity of this book with all classes of
readers--and that popularity has even increased in recent years. No
attempt, however, has hitherto been made to produce an illustrated
edition of this valuable work: numberless places and objects are
mentioned and described, but the difficulty of obtaining authentic
and original representations of them drawn for the purpose has
never been overcome until now.

Most of the views given in this work are from sketches made on the
spot by Mr. Pritchett, with Mr. Darwin's book by his side. Some
few of the others are taken from engravings which Mr. Darwin had
himself selected for their interest as illustrating his voyage, and
which have been kindly lent by his son.

Mr. Pritchett's name is well known in connection with the voyages
of the "Sunbeam" and "Wanderer," and it is believed that the
illustrations, which have been chosen and verified with the utmost
care and pains, will greatly add to the value and interest of the

December 1889.


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 volunteered 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 received from him the most cordial
friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to
all the Officers of the "Beagle" I shall ever feel most thankful
for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated during our
long voyage. (Preface/1. I 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.)

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 Reverend L. Jenyns; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell.
I have appended to the descriptions of each species an account of
its habits and range. These works, which I owe to the high talents
and disinterested zeal of the above distinguished authors, could
not have been undertaken had it not been for the liberality of the
Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, who, through the
representation of the 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 Transactions"
contains two papers of mine on the Erratic Boulders and Volcanic
Phenomena of South America. Messrs. Waterhouse, Walker, Newman, and
White, have published several able papers on the Insects which were
collected, and I trust that many others will hereafter follow. The
plants from the southern parts of America will be given by Dr. J.
Hooker, in his great work on the Botany of the Southern Hemisphere.
The Flora of the Galapagos 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 assistance 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.


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


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.


Rio Negro -- Estancias attacked by the Indians -- Salt-Lakes --
Flamingoes -- 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.


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 --
Arrowhead -- Antiquarian Relic.


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


Excursion to St. F -- Thistle Beds -- Habits of the Bizcacha --
Little Owl -- Saline streams -- Level plains -- Mastodon -- St.
F -- 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.


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


Santa Cruz -- Expedition up the River -- Indians -- Immense
streams of basaltic lava -- Fragments not transported by the
river -- Excavation of the valley -- Condor, habits of --
Cordillera -- Erratic boulders of great size -- Indian 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


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 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.


Strait of Magellan -- Port Famine -- Ascent of Mount Tarn --
Forests -- Edible fungus -- Zoology -- Great Seaweed -- Leave
Tierra del Fuego -- Climate -- Fruit-trees and productions of the
southern coasts -- Height of snow-line on the Cordillera --
Descent of glaciers to the sea -- Icebergs formed -- Transportal
of boulders -- Climate and productions of the Antarctic Islands
-- Preservation of frozen carcasses -- Recapitulation.


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.


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.


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-chains.


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 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.


Coast-road to Coquimbo -- Great loads carried by the miners --
Coquimbo -- Earthquake -- Step-formed terraces -- Absence of
recent deposits -- Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary formations
-- Excursion up the valley -- Road to Guasco -- Deserts -- Valley
of Copiap -- 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.


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, curious finches -- Reptiles -- Great tortoises,
habits of -- Marine lizard, feeds on seaweed -- Terrestrial
lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous -- Importance of reptiles
in the Archipelago -- Fish, shells, insects -- Botany -- American
type of organisation -- Differences in the species or races on
different islands -- Tameness of the birds -- Fear of man an
acquired instinct.


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.


Sydney -- Excursion to Bathurst -- Aspect of the woods -- Party
of natives -- Gradual extinction of the aborigines -- Infection
generated by associated men in health -- Blue Mountains -- View
of the grand gulf-like valleys -- Their origin and formation --
Bathurst, general civility of the lower orders -- State of
Society -- Van Diemen's Land -- Hobart Town -- Aborigines all
banished -- Mount Wellington -- King George's Sound -- Cheerless
aspect of the country -- Bald Head, calcareous casts of branches
of trees -- Party of natives -- Leave Australia.


Keeling Island -- Singular appearance -- Scanty Flora --
Transport of seeds -- Birds and insects -- Ebbing and flowing
springs -- Fields of dead coral -- Stones transported in the
roots of trees -- Great crab -- Stinging corals -- Coral-eating
fish -- Coral formations -- Lagoon islands or atolls -- Depth at
which reef-building corals can live -- Vast areas interspersed
with low coral islands -- Subsidence 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 volcanoes --
Subsidence slow and vast in amount.


Mauritius, beautiful appearance of -- Great crateriform ring of
mountains -- Hindoos -- St. Helena -- History of the changes in
the vegetation -- Cause of the extinction of land-shells --
Ascension -- Variation in the imported rats -- Volcanic bombs --
Beds of infusoria -- Bahia, Brazil -- Splendour of tropical
scenery -- Pernambuco -- Singular reefs -- Slavery -- Return to
England -- Retrospect on our voyage.






DECK, 1832.



PLATE 5. DIODON MACULATUS (Distended and Contracted).




PLATE 9. VAMPIRE BAT (Desmodus D'Orbigny).





FERONIA, 1889.









PLATE 23. RHEA DARWINII (Avestruz Petise).








PLATE 31. TOXODON PLATENSIS. (Found at Saladillo.)

PLATE 32. FOSSIL TOOTH OF HORSE. (From Bahia Blanca.)









PLATE 41. CONDOR (Sarcorhamphus gryphus).



PLATE 44. YORK MINSTER (Bearing south 66 degrees east.)


PLATE 46. CAPE HORN (Another view).

















PLATE 63. CACTUS (Cereus Peruviana).





















PLATE 84. AVA OR KAVA (Macropiper methysticum), TAHITI.





PLATE 89. SYDNEY, 1835.





















DECK, 1832.)




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.
Burnished Rocks.
Habits of a Diodon.
Pelagic Confervae and Infusoria.
Causes of discoloured Sea.


After having been twice driven back by heavy south-western gales,
Her Majesty's ship "Beagle," a ten-gun brig, under the 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 Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, commenced under Captain
King in 1826 to 1830--to survey the shores of Chile, Peru, and of
some islands in the Pacific--and to carry a chain of chronometrical
measurements round the World. On the 6th of January we reached
Teneriffe, but were prevented landing, by fears of our bringing the
cholera: the next morning we saw the sun rise behind the rugged
outline of the Grand Canary Island, and suddenly illumine the Peak
of Teneriffe, whilst the lower parts were veiled in fleecy clouds.
This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten.
On the 16th of January 1832 we anchored at Porto Praya, in St.
Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd 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 truncate conical hills, and the
horizon is bounded by an irregular chain of more lofty mountains.
The scene, as beheld through the hazy atmosphere of this climate,
is one of great interest; if, indeed, a person, fresh from sea, and
who has just walked, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut
trees, can be a judge of anything but his own happiness. The island
would generally be considered as very uninteresting, but to any one
accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel aspect of an
utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur which more vegetation
might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be discovered over
wide tracts of the lava plains; yet flocks of goats, together with
a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but during a
short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately
afterwards a light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This
soon withers; and upon such naturally formed hay the animals live.
It had not now rained for an entire year. When the island was
discovered, the immediate neighbourhood of Porto Praya was clothed
with trees (1/1. I state this on the authority of Dr. E.
Dieffenbach, in his German translation of the first edition of this
Journal.), the reckless destruction of which has caused here, as at
St. Helena, and at some of the Canary islands, almost entire
sterility. The broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which serve
during a few days only in the season as watercourses, are clothed
with thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit
these valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo
Iagoensis), 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 difference.

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira Grande, a
village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Until we reached the
valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown
appearance; but here, a very small rill of water produces a most
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 presents a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Having
procured a black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who had served
in the Peninsular war as an interpreter, we visited a collection of
buildings, of which an ancient church formed the principal part. It
is here the governors and captain-generals of the islands have been
buried. Some of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth
century. (1/2. 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.) 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 inmates.

We returned to the Vnda to eat our dinners. A considerable number
of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, collected to
watch us. Our companions were extremely merry; and 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 inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest with a
few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, said,
with much candour, he thought his colour made no great difference.
We then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to Porto Praya.

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situated near
the centre of the island. On a small plain which we crossed, a few
stunted acacias were growing; their tops had been bent by the
steady trade-wind, in a singular manner--some of them even at right
angles to their trunks. The direction of the branches was exactly
north-east by north, and south-west by south, 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, indeed, that which ought to do so most--its inhabitants.
The black children, completely naked, and looking very wretched,
were carrying bundles of firewood half as big as their own bodies.

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

The 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 overtook a party of about twenty young black girls, dressed in
excellent taste; their black skins and snow-white linen being set
off by coloured turbans and large shawls. As soon as we approached
near, they suddenly all turned round, and covering the path with
their shawls, sung with great energy a wild song, beating time with
their hands upon their legs. We threw them some vintms, 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 appearance, and from similar cases in
England, I supposed that the air was saturated with moisture. The
fact, however, turned out quite the contrary. The hygrometer gave a
difference of 29.6 degrees, between the temperature of the air, and
the point at which dew was 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

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 consists in great part of infusoria with siliceous shields,
and of the siliceous tissue of plants. (1/3. I must take this
opportunity of acknowledging the great kindness with which this
illustrious naturalist has examined many of my specimens. I have
sent (June 1845) a full account of the falling of this dust to the
Geological Society.) In five little packets which I sent him, he
has ascertained no less than sixty-seven different organic forms!
The infusoria, with the exception of two marine species, are all
inhabitants of fresh-water. I have found no less than fifteen
different accounts of dust having fallen on vessels when far out in
the Atlantic. From the direction of the wind whenever it has
fallen, and from its having always fallen during those months when
the harmattan is known to raise clouds of dust high into the
atmosphere, we may feel sure that it all comes from Africa. It is,
however, a very singular fact, that, although Professor Ehrenberg
knows many species of infusoria peculiar to Africa, he finds none
of these in the dust which I sent him. On the other hand, he finds
in it two species which hitherto he knows as living only in South
America. The dust falls in such quantities as to dirty everything
on board, and to hurt people's eyes; vessels even have run on shore
owing to the obscurity of the atmosphere. It has often fallen on
ships when several hundred, and even more than a thousand miles
from the coast of Africa, and at points sixteen hundred miles
distant in a north and south direction. In some dust which was
collected on a vessel three hundred miles from 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.

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

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

I was much interested, on several occasions, by watching the habits
of an Octopus, or cuttle-fish. Although common in the pools of
water left by the retiring tide, these animals were not easily
caught. By means of their long arms and suckers, they could drag
their bodies into very narrow crevices; and when thus fixed, it
required great force to remove them. At other times they darted
tail first, with the rapidity of an arrow, from one side of the
pool to the other, at the same instant discolouring the water with
a dark chestnut-brown ink. These animals also escape detection by a
very extraordinary, chameleon-like power of changing their colour.
They appear to vary their tints according to the nature of the
ground over which they pass: when in deep water, their general
shade was brownish purple, but when placed on the land, or in
shallow water, this dark tint changed into one of a yellowish
green. The colour, examined more carefully, was a French grey, with
numerous minute spots of bright yellow: the former of these varied
in intensity; the latter entirely disappeared and appeared again by
turns. These changes were effected in such a manner that clouds,
varying in tint between a hyacinth red and a chestnut-brown, were
continually passing over the body. (1/4. So named according to
Patrick Symes's nomenclature.) Any part, being subjected to a
slight shock of galvanism, became almost black: a similar 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. (1/5. See
"Encyclopedia of Anatomy and Physiology" article "Cephalopoda.")

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

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


In crossing the Atlantic we hove-to, during the morning of February
16th, 1832, close to the island of St. Paul's. This cluster of
rocks is situated in 0 degrees 58' north latitude, and 29 degrees
15' west longitude. It is 540 miles distant from the coast of
America, and 350 from the island of Fernando Noronha. The highest
point is only fifty feet above the level of the sea, and the entire
circumference is under three-quarters of a mile. This small point
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 feldspathic 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 sea.


The rocks of St. Paul appear from a distance of a brilliantly white
colour. This is partly owing to the dung of a vast multitude of
seafowl, and 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 nulliporae (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 Plate 4,
certain cryptogamic plants (Marchantiae) often seen on damp walls.
The surface of the fronds is beautifully glossy; and those parts
formed where fully exposed to the light, are of a jet black colour,
but those shaded under ledges are only grey. I have shown specimens
of this 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 to find substances harder than the
enamel of teeth, and coloured surfaces as well polished as those of
a fresh shell, re-formed through inorganic means from dead organic
matter--mocking, also, in shape, some of the lower vegetable
productions. (1/6. Mr. Horner and Sir David Brewster have described
("Philosophical Transactions" 1836 page 65) a singular "artificial
substance resembling shell." It is deposited in fine, transparent,
highly polished, brown-coloured laminae, possessing peculiar
optical properties, on the inside of a vessel, in which cloth,
first prepared with glue and then with lime, is made to revolve
rapidly in water. It is much softer, more transparent, and contains
more animal matter, than the natural incrustation at Ascension; but
we here again see the strong tendency which carbonate of lime and
animal matter evince to form a solid substance allied to shell.)

We found on St. Paul's only two kinds of birds--the booby and the
noddy. The former is a species of gannet, and the latter a tern.
Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unaccustomed
to visitors, that I could have killed any number of them with my
geological hammer. The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock; but
the tern makes a very simple nest with seaweed. By the side of many
of these nests a small flying-fish was placed; which I 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
devouring them. Not a single plant, not even a lichen, grows on
this islet; yet it is inhabited by several insects and spiders. The
following list completes, I believe, the terrestrial fauna: a fly
(Olfersia) living on the booby, and a tick which must have come
here as a parasite on the birds; a small brown moth, belonging to a
genus that feeds on feathers; a beetle (Quedius) and a woodlouse
from beneath the dung; and lastly, numerous spiders, which I
suppose prey on these small attendants and scavengers of the
waterfowl. The often-repeated description of the stately palm and
other noble tropical plants, then birds, and lastly man, taking
possession of the coral islets as soon as formed, in the Pacific,
is probably not quite 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 foundation for
the growth of innumerable kinds of seaweed and compound animals,
supports likewise a large number of fish. The sharks and the seamen
in the boats maintained a constant struggle which should secure the
greater share of the prey caught by the fishing-lines. I have heard
that a rock near the Bermudas, lying many miles out at sea, and at
a considerable depth, was first discovered by the circumstance of
fish having been observed in the neighbourhood.


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 luxuriance. Half-way up the mountain some great
masses of the columnar rock, shaded by laurel-like trees, and
ornamented by others covered with fine pink flowers but without a
single leaf, gave a pleasing effect to the nearer parts of the


The day has past 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 clime, the
greater part would be absorbed or evaporated before it reached the
ground. I will not at present attempt to describe the gaudy scenery
of this noble bay, because, in our homeward voyage, we called here
a second time, and I shall then have occasion to remark on it.

Along the whole coast of Brazil, for a length of at least 2000
miles, and certainly for a considerable space inland, wherever
solid rock occurs, it belongs to a granitic formation. The
circumstance of this enormous area being constituted of materials
which most geologists believe to have been crystallised 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 thousand
square leagues?

On a point not far from the city, where a rivulet entered the sea,
I observed a fact connected with a subject discussed by Humboldt.
(1/7. "Personal Narrative" volume 5 part 1 page 18.) 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 coating is of a rich
brown instead of a black colour, and seems to be composed of
ferruginous matter alone. Hand specimens fail to give a just idea
of these brown burnished stones which glitter in the sun's rays.
They occur only within the limits of the tidal waves; and as the
rivulet slowly trickles down, the surf must supply the polishing
power of the cataracts 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 different but really similar circumstances. The origin,
however, of these coatings of metallic oxides, which seem as if
cemented to the rocks, is not understood; and no reason, I believe,
can be assigned for their thickness remaining the same.


One day I was amused by watching the habits of the Diodon
antennatus, which was caught swimming near the shore. This fish,
with its flabby skin, is well known to possess the singular power
of distending itself into a nearly spherical form. After having
been taken out of water for a short time, and then again immersed
in it, a considerable quantity both of water and air is absorbed by
the mouth, and perhaps likewise by the branchial orifices. This
process is effected by two methods: the air is swallowed, and is
then forced into the cavity of the body, its return being prevented
by a muscular contraction which is externally visible: but the
water enters in a gentle stream through the mouth, which is kept
wide open and motionless; this latter action must, therefore,
depend on suction. The skin about the abdomen is much looser than
that on the back; hence, during the inflation, the lower surface
becomes far more distended than the upper; and the fish, in
consequence, floats with its back downwards. Cuvier doubts whether
the Diodon in this position is able to swim; but not only can it
thus move forward in a straight line, but it can turn round to
either side. This latter movement is effected solely by the aid of
the pectoral fins; the tail being collapsed and not used. From the
body being buoyed up with so much air, the branchial openings are
out of water, but a stream drawn in by the mouth constantly flows
through them.

The fish, having remained in this distended state for a short time,
generally expelled the air and water with considerable force from
the branchial apertures and mouth. It could emit, at will, a
certain portion of the water, and it appears, 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 permanent a manner, that the
tint is retained with all its brightness to the present day: I am
quite ignorant of the nature and use of this secretion. I have
heard from Dr. Allan of Forres, that he has frequently found a
Diodon, floating alive and distended, in the stomach of the shark;
and that on several occasions he has known it eat its way, not only
through the coats of the stomach, but through the sides of the
monster, which has thus been killed. Who would ever have imagined
that a little soft fish could have destroyed the great and savage

MARCH 18, 1832.


We sailed from Bahia. A few days afterwards, when not far distant
from the Abrolhos Islets, my attention was called to a
reddish-brown appearance in the sea. The whole surface of the
water, as it appeared under a weak lens, seemed as if covered by
chopped bits of hay, with their ends jagged. These are minute
cylindrical confervae, in bundles or rafts of from twenty to sixty
in each. Mr. Berkeley informs me that they are the same species
(Trichodesmium erythraeum) with that found over large spaces in the
Red Sea, and whence its name of Red Sea is derived. (1/8. M.
Montagne in "Comptes Rendus" etc. Juillet 1844; and "Annales des
Sciences Naturelles" December 1844.) 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
appear especially common in the sea near Australia; and off Cape
Leeuwin I found an allied, but smaller and apparently different
species. Captain Cook, in his third voyage, remarks that the
sailors gave to this appearance the name of sea-sawdust.

Near Keeling Atoll, in the Indian Ocean, I observed many little
masses of confervae a few inches square, consisting of long
cylindrical threads of excessive thinness, so as to be barely
visible to the naked eye, mingled with other rather larger bodies,
finely conical at both ends. Two of these are shown in Plate 6
united together. They vary in length from .04 to .06, and even to
.08 of an inch in length; and in diameter from .006 to .008 of an
inch. Near one extremity of the cylindrical part, a green septum,
formed of granular matter, and thickest in the middle, may
generally be seen. This, I believe, is the bottom of a most
delicate, colourless sac, composed of a pulpy substance, which
lines the exterior case, but does not extend within the extreme
conical points. In some specimens, small but perfect spheres of
brownish granular matter supplied the places of the septa; and I
observed the curious process by which they were produced. The pulpy
matter of the internal coating suddenly grouped itself into lines,
some of which assumed a form radiating from a common centre; it
then continued, with an irregular and rapid movement, to contract
itself, so that in the course of a second the whole was united into
a perfect little sphere, which occupied the position of the septum
at one end of the now quite hollow case. The formation of the
granular sphere was hastened by any accidental injury. I may add,
that frequently a pair of these bodies were attached to each other,
as represented above, cone beside cone, at that end where the
septum occurs.

I will here add 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 "Beagle" one day
passed through great bands of muddy water, exactly like that of a
swollen river; and again, a degree south of Valparaiso, when fifty
miles from the land, the same appearance was still more extensive.
Some of the water placed in a glass was of a pale reddish tint;
and, examined under a microscope, was seen to swarm with minute
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 crossing the field of
vision, their bodies burst. Sometimes both ends burst at once,
sometimes only one, and a quantity of coarse, brownish, granular
matter was ejected. The animal an instant before bursting expanded
to half again its natural size; and the explosion took place about
fifteen seconds after the rapid progressive motion had ceased: in a
few cases it was preceded for a short interval by a rotatory
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. (1/9. M. Lesson "Voyage de la Coquille" tome 1
page 255, mentions red water off Lima, apparently produced by the
same cause. Peron, the distinguished naturalist, in the "Voyage aux
Terres Australes," gives no less than twelve references to voyagers
who have alluded to the discoloured waters of the sea (volume 2
page 239). To the references given by Peron may be added,
Humboldt's "Personal Narrative" volume 6 page 804; Flinder's
"Voyage" volume 1 page 92; Labillardire, volume 1 page 287;
Ulloa's "Voyage"; "Voyage of the Astrolabe and of the Coquille";
Captain King's "Survey of Australia" etc.)

In the sea around Tierra del Fuego, and at no great distance from
the land, I have seen narrow lines of water of a bright red colour,
from the number of crustacea, which somewhat resemble in form large
prawns. The sealers call them whale-food. Whether whales feed on
them I do not know; but terns, cormorants, and immense herds of
great 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 mud-like water; these
strips were some miles long, but only a few yards wide, and they
were separated from the surrounding water by a sinuous yet distinct
margin. The colour was caused by little gelatinous balls, about the
fifth of an inch in diameter, in which numerous minute spherical
ovules were embedded: 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 direction of the bands
indicates that of the currents; in the described case, however, the
line was caused by the wind. The only other appearance which I have
to notice, is a thin oily coat on the water which displays
iridescent colours. I saw a considerable tract of the ocean thus
covered on the coast of Brazil; the seamen attributed it to the
putrefying carcass of some whale, which probably was floating at no
great distance. I do not here mention the minute gelatinous
particles, hereafter to be referred to, which are frequently
dispersed throughout the water, for they are not sufficiently
abundant to create any change of colour.

There are two circumstances in the above accounts which appear
remarkable: first, how do the various bodies which form the 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 attribute the effect to
a similar action either of the currents of the air or sea. Under
this supposition we must believe that the various organised 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




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


APRIL 4 TO JULY 5, 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 8, 1832.

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 freedom: 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 9, 1832.

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 degrees. The
beautiful view of the distant wooded hills, reflected in the
perfectly calm water of an extensive lagoon, quite refreshed us. As
the vnda 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. (2/1. Vnda, the
Portuguese name for an inn.) These houses are often large, and are
built of thick upright posts, with boughs interwoven, and
afterwards plastered. They seldom have floors, and never glazed
windows; but are generally pretty well roofed. Universally the
front part is open, forming a kind of verandah, in which tables and
benches are placed. The bedrooms join on each side, and here the
passenger may sleep as comfortably as he can, on a wooden platform
covered by a thin straw mat. The vnda 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 senhr 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 unfrequently 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 disagreeable in their manners; their houses and their persons
are often filthily dirty; the want of the accommodation of forks,
knives, and spoons is common; and I am sure no cottage or hovel in
England could be found in a state so utterly destitute of every
comfort. At Campos Novos, however, we fared 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 2 shillings 6 pence per head.
Yet the host of this vnda, 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 intricate
wilderness of lakes; in some of which were fresh, in others salt
water shells. Of the former kind, I found a Limnaea in great
numbers in a lake, into which the inhabitants assured me that the
sea enters once a year, and sometimes oftener, and makes the water
quite salt. I have no doubt many interesting facts in relation to
marine and fresh-water animals might be observed in this chain of
lagoons which skirt the coast of Brazil. M. Gay has stated that he
found in the neighbourhood of Rio shells of the marine genera solen
and mytilus, and fresh-water ampullariae, living together in
brackish water. (2/2. "Annales des Sciences Naturelles" for 1833.)
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.

(PLATE 9. VAMPIRE BAT (Desmodus D'Orbigny). Caught on back of
Darwin's horse near Coquimbo. Head, full size.)

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 notebook,
"wonderful and beautiful flowering parasites," 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 volcanoes at
Jorullo, as figured by Humboldt. We arrived at Engenhodo after it
was dark, having been ten hours on horseback. I never ceased,
during the whole journey, to be surprised at the amount of labour
which the horses were capable of enduring; they appeared also to
recover from any injury much sooner than those of our English
breed. The Vampire bat is often the cause of much trouble, by
biting the horses on their withers. The injury is generally not so
much owing to the loss of blood, as to the inflammation which the
pressure of the saddle afterwards produces. The whole circumstance
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
from being slightly swollen and bloody. The third day afterwards we
rode the horse, without any ill effects.

APRIL 13, 1832.

After three days' travelling we arrived at Socgo, the estate of
Senhr Manuel Figuireda, a relation of one of our party. The house
was simple, and, though like a barn in form, was well suited to the
climate. In the sitting-room gilded chairs and sofas were oddly
contrasted with the whitewashed walls, thatched roof, and windows
without glass. The house, together with the granaries, the stables,
and workshops for the blacks, who had been taught various trades,
formed a rude kind of quadrangle; in the centre of which a large
pile of coffee was drying. These buildings stand on a little hill,
overlooking the cultivated ground, and surrounded on every side by
a wall of dark green luxuriant forest. The chief produce of this
part of the country is coffee. Each tree is supposed to yield
annually, on an average, two pounds; but some give as much as
eight. Mandioca or cassava 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 principal
article of sustenance in the Brazils. It is a curious, though
well-known fact, that the juice of this most nutritious plant is
highly poisonous. A few years ago a cow died at this Faznda, in
consequence of having drunk some of it. Senhr Figuireda told me
that he had planted, the year before, one bag of feija or beans,
and three of rice; the former of which produced eighty, and the
latter three hundred and twenty fold. The pasturage supports a fine
stock of cattle, and the woods are so full of game that a deer had
been killed on each of the three previous days. This profusion of
food showed itself at dinner, where, if the tables did not groan,
the guests surely did; for each 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 employment of a man to drive out of the room
sundry old hounds, and dozens of little black children, which
crawled in together, at every opportunity. As long as the idea of
slavery could be banished, there was something exceedingly
fascinating in this simple and patriarchal style of living: it was
such a perfect retirement and independence from the rest of the
world. As soon as any stranger is seen arriving, a large bell is
set tolling, and generally some small cannon are fired. The event
is thus announced to the rocks and woods, but to nothing else. One
morning I walked out an hour before daylight to admire the solemn
stillness of the scene; at last, the silence was broken by the
morning hymn, raised on high by the whole body of the blacks; and
in this manner their daily work is generally begun. On such
fazndas 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 14, 1832.


Leaving Socgo, we rode to another estate on the Rio Mace, 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 tropical land. Considering the enormous area of
Brazil, the proportion of cultivated ground can scarcely be
considered as anything compared to that which is left in the state
of nature: at some future age, how vast a population it will
support! During the second day's journey we found the road so shut
up that it was necessary that a man should go ahead with a sword to
cut away the creepers. The forest abounded with beautiful objects;
among which the tree ferns, though not large, were, from their
bright green foliage, and the elegant curvature of their fronds,
most worthy of admiration. In the evening it rained very heavily,
and although the thermometer stood at 65 degrees, I felt very cold.
As soon as the rain ceased, it was curious to observe the
extraordinary evaporation which commenced over the whole extent of
the forest. At the height of a hundred feet the hills were buried
in a dense white vapour, which rose like columns of smoke from the
most thickly-wooded parts, and especially from the valleys. I
observed this phenomenon on several occasions: I suppose it is
owing to the large surface of foliage, previously heated by the
sun's rays.

While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an
eye-witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only take
place in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the
owner was on the point of taking all the women and children from
the male slaves, and selling them separately at the public auction
at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, prevented this
act. Indeed, I do not believe the inhumanity of separating thirty
families, who had lived together for many years, even occurred to
the owner. Yet I will pledge myself, that in humanity and good
feeling he was superior to the common run of men. It may be said
there exists no limit to the blindness of interest and selfish
habit. I may mention one very trifling anecdote, which at the time
struck me more forcibly than any story of cruelty. I was crossing a
ferry with a negro who was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to
make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which
I passed my hand 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 18, 1832.


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


APRIL 19, 1832.

Leaving Socgo, 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 Des.
This is one of the principal lines of road in Brazil; yet it was in
so bad a state that no wheel vehicle, excepting the clumsy
bullock-wagon, could pass along. In our whole journey we did not
cross a single bridge built of stone; and those made of logs of
wood were frequently so much out of 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
longitudinal stripes. Their structure is very simple: near the
middle of the under or crawling surface there are two small
transverse slits, from the anterior one of which a funnel-shaped
and highly irritable mouth can be protruded. For some time after
the rest of the animal was completely dead from the effects of salt
water or any other cause, this organ still retained its vitality.

I found no less than twelve different species of terrestrial
Planariae in different parts of the southern hemisphere. (2/3. I
have described and named these species in the "Annals of Natural
History" volume 14 page 241.) 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
corresponding slit was yet open. If the increased heat of the
weather, as we approached the equator, had not destroyed all the
individuals, there can be no doubt that this last step would have
completed its structure. Although so well known an experiment, it
was interesting to watch the gradual production of every essential
organ, out of the simple extremity of another animal. It is
extremely difficult to preserve these Planariae; as soon as the
cessation of life allows the ordinary laws of change to act, their
entire bodies become soft and fluid, with a rapidity which I have
never seen equalled.

I first visited the forest in which these Planariae were found, in
company with an old Portuguese priest who took me out to hunt with
him. The sport consisted in turning into the cover a few dogs, and
then patiently waiting to fire at any animal which might appear. We
were accompanied by the son of a neighbouring farmer--a good
specimen of a wild Brazilian youth. He was dressed in a tattered
old shirt and trousers, and had his head uncovered: he carried an
old-fashioned gun and a large knife. The habit of carrying the
knife is universal; and in traversing a thick wood it is almost
necessary, on account of the creeping plants. The frequent
occurrence of murder may be partly 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 cat.

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

I was often interested by watching the clouds, which, rolling in
from seaward, formed a bank just beneath the highest point of the
Corcovado. This mountain, like most others, when thus partly
veiled, appeared to rise to a far prouder elevation than its real
height of 2300 feet. Mr. Daniell has observed, in his
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 atmosphere of the northern sloping bank,
they were immediately redissolved.

The climate, during the months of May and June, or the beginning of
winter, was delightful. The mean temperature, from observations
taken at nine o'clock, both morning and evening, was only 72
degrees. 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
remarkable, it could be heard at the distance of a quarter of a
mile, and was like the rushing of a great body of water. After the
hotter days, it was delicious to sit quietly in the garden and
watch the evening pass into night. Nature, in these climes, chooses
her vocalists from more humble performers than in Europe. A small
frog, of the genus Hyla, sits on a blade of grass about an inch
above the surface of the water, and sends forth a pleasing chirp:
when several are together they sing in harmony on different notes.
I had some difficulty in catching a specimen of this frog. The
genus Hyla has its toes terminated by small suckers; and I found
this animal could crawl up a pane of glass, when placed absolutely
perpendicular. Various cicadae 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
Pyrosoma), which I have observed, the light has been of a
well-marked green colour. All the fireflies, which I caught here,
belonged to the Lampyridae (in which family the English glowworm is
included), and the greater number of specimens were of Lampyris
occidentalis. (2/4. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Waterhouse for his
kindness in naming for me this and many other insects, and giving
me much valuable assistance.) I found that this insect emitted the
most brilliant flashes when irritated: in the intervals, the
abdominal rings were obscured. The flash was almost coinstantaneous
in the two rings, but it was just perceptible first in the anterior
one. The shining matter was fluid and very adhesive: little spots,
where the skin had been torn, continued bright with a slight
scintillation, whilst the uninjured parts were obscured. When the
insect was decapitated the rings remained uninterruptedly bright,
but not so brilliant as before: local irritation with a needle
always increased the vividness of the light. The rings in one
instance retained their luminous property nearly twenty-four hours
after the death of the insect. From these facts it would appear
probable, that the animal has only the power of concealing or
extinguishing the light for short intervals, and that at other
times the display is involuntary. On the muddy and wet gravel-walks
I found the larvae of this lampyris in great numbers: they
resembled in general form the female of the English glowworm. These
larvae possessed but feeble luminous powers; very differently from
their parents, on the slightest touch they feigned death, and
ceased to shine; nor did irritation excite any fresh display. I
kept several of them alive for some time: their tails are very
singular organs, for they act, by a well-fitted contrivance, as
suckers or organs of attachment, and likewise as reservoirs for
saliva, or some such fluid. I repeatedly fed them on raw meat; and
I invariably observed, that every now and then the extremity of the
tail was applied to the mouth, and a drop of fluid exuded on the
meat, which was then in the act of being consumed. The tail,
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 springing powers of this insect,
which have not, as it appears to me, been properly described. (2/5.
Kirby's "Entomology" volume 2 page 317.) The elater, when placed on
its back and preparing to spring, moved its head and thorax
backwards, so that the pectoral spine was drawn out, and rested on
the edge of its sheath. The same backward movement being continued,
the spine, by the full action of the muscles, was bent like a
spring; and the insect at this moment rested on the extremity of
its head and wing-cases. The effort being suddenly relaxed, the
head and thorax flew up, and in consequence, the base of the
wing-cases struck the supporting surface with such force, that the
insect by the reaction was jerked upwards to the height of one or
two inches. The projecting points of the thorax, and the sheath of
the spine, served to steady the whole body during the spring. In
the descriptions which I have read, sufficient stress does not
appear to have been laid on the elasticity of the spine: so sudden
a spring could not be the result of simple muscular contraction,
without the aid of some mechanical contrivance.

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

During this day I was particularly struck with a remark of
Humboldt's, who often alludes to "the thin vapour which, without
changing the transparency of the air, renders its tints more
harmonious, and softens its effects." This is an appearance which I
have never observed in the temperate zones. The atmosphere, seen
through a short space of half or three-quarters of a mile, was
perfectly lucid, but at a greater distance all colours were blended
into a most beautiful haze, of a pale French grey, mingled with a
little blue. The condition of the atmosphere between the morning
and about noon, when the effect was most evident, had undergone
little change, excepting in its dryness. In the interval, the
difference between the dew point and temperature had increased from
7.5 to 17 degrees.

On another occasion I started early and walked to the Gavia, or
topsail mountain. The air was delightfully cool and fragrant; and
the drops of dew still glittered on the leaves of the large
liliaceous plants, which shaded the streamlets of clear water.
Sitting down on a block of granite, it was delightful to watch the
various insects and birds as they flew past. The humming-bird seems
particularly fond of such shady retired spots. Whenever I saw these
little creatures buzzing round a flower, with their wings vibrating
so rapidly as to be scarcely visible, I was reminded of the sphinx
moths: their movements and habits are indeed in many respects very


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 he knows not
how to express 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 Hymenophallus.
Most people know the English Phallus, which in autumn taints the
air with its odious smell: this, however, as the entomologist is
aware, is to some of our beetles a delightful fragrance. So was it
here; for a Strongylus, attracted by the odour, alighted on the
fungus as I carried it in my hand. We here see in two distant
countries a similar relation between plants and insects of the same
families, though the species of both are different. 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 caterpillars, in the gardens near Rio are

During our stay at Brazil I made a large collection of insects. A
few general observations on the comparative importance of the
different orders may be interesting to the English entomologist.
The large and brilliantly-coloured Lepidoptera bespeak the zone
they inhabit, far more plainly than any other race of animals. I
allude only to the butterflies; for the moths, contrary to what
might have been expected from the rankness of the vegetation,
certainly appeared in much fewer numbers than in our own temperate
regions. I was much surprised at the habits of Papilio feronia.
This butterfly is not uncommon, and generally frequents the
orange-groves. Although a high flier, yet it very frequently
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 vertically, as is
commonly the case. This is the only butterfly which I have ever
seen that uses its legs for running. Not being aware of this fact,
the insect, more than once, as I cautiously approached with my
forceps, shuffled on one side just as the instrument was on the
point of closing, and thus escaped. But a far more singular fact is
the power which this species possesses of making a noise. (2/6. Mr.
Doubleday has lately described (before the Entomological Society,
March 3, 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 Langsdorff's travels (in the years
1803-7 page 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.) Several times when
a pair, probably male and female, were chasing each other in an
irregular course, they passed within a few yards of me; and I
distinctly heard a clicking noise, similar to that produced by a
toothed wheel passing under a spring catch. The noise was continued
at short intervals, and could be distinguished at about twenty
yards' distance: I am certain there is no error in the observation.

I was disappointed in the general aspect of the Coleoptera. The
number of minute and obscurely coloured beetles is exceedingly
great. (2/7. I may mention, as a common instance of one day's (June
23rd) collecting, 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 Rhyncophora, 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.) 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
complete catalogue. The carnivorous beetles, or Carabidae, appear
in extremely few numbers within the tropics: this is the more
remarkable when compared to the case of the carnivorous quadrupeds,
which are so abundant in hot countries. I was struck with this
observation both on entering Brazil, and when I saw the many
elegant and active forms of the Harpalidae reappearing on the
temperate plains of La Plata. Do the very numerous spiders and
rapacious Hymenoptera supply the place of the carnivorous beetles?
The carrion-feeders and 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 countless 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 numerous in the
neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead
spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know how
to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, until
their eggs are hatched; and the larvae feed on the horrid mass of
powerless, half-killed victims--a sight which has been described by
an enthusiastic naturalist as curious and pleasing! (2/8. In a
Manuscript in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his
observations in Georgia; see Mr. A. White's paper in the "Annals of
Natural History" volume 7 page 472. Lieutenant Hutton has described
a sphex with similar habits in India, in the "Journal of the
Asiatic Society" volume 1 page 555.) I was much interested one day
by watching a deadly contest between a Pepsis and a large spider of
the genus Lycosa. The wasp made a sudden dash at its prey, and then
flew away: the spider was evidently wounded, for, trying to escape,
it rolled down a little slope, but had still strength sufficient to
crawl into a thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, and
seemed surprised at not immediately finding its victim. It then
commenced as regular a hunt as ever hound did after fox; making
short semicircular casts, and all the time rapidly vibrating its
wings and antennae. The spider, though well concealed, was soon
discovered, and the wasp, evidently still afraid of its adversary's
jaws, after much manoeuvring, inflicted two stings on the under
side of its thorax. At last, carefully examining with its antennae
the now motionless spider, it proceeded to drag away the body. But
I stopped both tyrant and prey. (2/9. Don Felix Azara volume 1 page
175, mentioning a hymenopterous insect, probably of the same genus,
says he saw it dragging a dead spider through tall grass, in a
straight line to its nest, which was one hundred and sixty-three
paces distant. He adds that the wasp, in order to find the road,
every now and then made "demi-tours d'environ trois palmes.")

The number of spiders, in proportion to other insects, is here
compared with England very much larger; perhaps more so than with
any other division of the articulate animals. The variety of
species among the jumping spiders appears almost infinite. The
genus, or rather family of Epeira, is here characterized by many
singular forms; some species have pointed coriaceous shells, others
enlarged and spiny tibiae. Every path in the forest is barricaded
with the strong yellow web of a species, belonging to the same
division with the Epeira clavipes of Fabricius, which was formerly
said by Sloane to make, in the West Indies, webs so strong as to
catch birds. A small and pretty kind of spider, with very long
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 otherwise be wasted. When frightened, this little
spider either feigns death by extending its front legs, or suddenly
drops from the web. A large Epeira of the same division with Epeira
tuberculata and conica is extremely common, especially in dry
situations. Its web, which is generally placed among the great
leaves of the common agave, is sometimes strengthened near the
centre by a pair or even four zigzag ribbons, which connect two
adjoining rays. When any large insect, as a grasshopper or wasp, is
caught, the spider, by a dexterous movement, makes it revolve very
rapidly, and at the same time emitting a band of threads from its
spinners, soon envelops its prey in a case like the cocoon of a
silkworm. The spider now examines the powerless victim, and gives
the fatal bite on the hinder part of its thorax; then retreating,
patiently waits till the poison has taken effect. The virulence of
this poison may be judged of from the fact that in half a minute I
opened the mesh, and found a large wasp quite lifeless. This Epeira
always stands with its head downwards near the centre of the web.
When disturbed, it acts differently 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. F Bajada, many
large black spiders, with ruby-coloured marks on their backs,
having gregarious habits. The webs were placed vertically, as is
invariably the case with the genus Epeira: they were separated from
each other by a space of about two feet, but were all attached to
certain common lines, which were of great length, and extended to
all parts of the community. In this manner the tops of some large
bushes were encompassed by the united nets. Azara has described a
gregarious spider in Paraguay, which Walckanaer thinks must be a
Theridion, but probably it is an Epeira, and perhaps even the same
species with mine. (2/10. Azara's "Voyage" volume 1 page 213.) I
cannot, however, recollect seeing a central nest as large as a hat,
in which, during autumn, when the spiders die, Azara says the eggs
are deposited. As all the spiders which I saw were of the same
size, they must have been nearly of the same age. This gregarious
habit, in so typical a genus as Epeira, among insects, which are so
bloodthirsty and solitary that even the two sexes attack each
other, is a very singular fact.

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

FERONIA, 1889.)



Monte Video.
Excursion to R. Polanco.
Lazo and Bolas.
Absence of Trees.
Capybara, or River Hog.
Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits.
Carrion Hawks.
Tubes formed by Lightning.
House struck.


JULY 5, 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 hundreds in number. The whole sea was in places
furrowed by them; and a most extraordinary spectacle was presented,
as hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, in which their whole
bodies were exposed, thus cut the water. When the ship was running
nine knots an hour, these animals could cross and recross the bows
with the greatest ease, and then dash away right ahead. As soon as
we entered the estuary of the Plata, the weather was very
unsettled. One dark night we were surrounded by numerous seals and
penguins, which made such strange noises, that the officer on watch
reported he could hear the cattle bellowing on shore. On a second
night we witnessed a splendid scene of natural fireworks; the
mast-head and yard-arm-ends shone with St. Elmo's light; and the
form of the vane could 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 26, 1832.

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

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

I 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 murder.

On the first night we slept at a retired little country-house; and
there I soon found out that I possessed two or three articles,
especially a pocket compass, which created unbounded astonishment.
In every house I was asked to show the compass, and by its aid,
together with a map, to point out the direction of various places.
It excited the liveliest admiration that I, a perfect stranger,
should know the road (for direction and road are synonymous in this
open country) to places where I had never been. At one house a
young woman who was ill in bed, sent to entreat me to come and show
her the compass. If their surprise was great, mine was greater, to
find such ignorance among people who possessed their thousands of
cattle, and "estancias" of great extent. It can only be accounted
for by the circumstance that this retired part of the country is
seldom visited by foreigners. I was asked whether the earth or sun
moved; whether it was hotter or colder to the north; where Spain
was, and many other such questions. The greater number of the
inhabitants had an indistinct idea that England, London, and North
America, were different names for the same place; but the better
informed well knew that London and North America were separate
countries close together, and that England was a large town in
London! I carried with me some promethean matches, which I ignited
by biting; it was thought so wonderful that a man should strike
fire with his teeth, that it was usual to collect the whole family
to see it: I was once offered a dollar for a single one. Washing my
face in the morning caused much speculation at the village of Las
Minas; a superior tradesman closely cross-questioned me about so
singular a practice; and likewise why on board we wore our beards;
for he had heard from my guide that we did so. He eyed me with much
suspicion; perhaps he had heard of ablutions in the Mahomedan
religion, and knowing me to be a heretic, probably he came to the
conclusion that all heretics were Turks. It is the general custom
in this country to ask for a night's lodging at the first
convenient house. The astonishment at the compass, and my other
feats of jugglery, was to a certain degree advantageous, 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 hospitality. I am writing as if I had been
among the inhabitants of Central Africa: Banda Oriental would not
be flattered by the comparison; but such were my feelings at the

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 inhabited, that during the whole day we
scarcely met a single person. Las Minas is much smaller even than
Maldonado. It is seated on a little plain, and is surrounded by low
rocky mountains. It is of the usual symmetrical form, and with its
whitewashed church standing in the centre, had rather a pretty
appearance. The outskirting houses rose out of the plain like
isolated beings, without the accompaniment of gardens or
courtyards. This is generally the case in the country, and all the
houses have, in consequence, an uncomfortable aspect. At night we
stopped at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a great
number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars: their
appearance is very striking; they are generally tall and handsome,
but with a proud and dissolute expression of countenance. They
frequently wear their moustaches, and long black hair curling down
their backs. With their brightly coloured garments, great spurs
clanking about their heels, and knives stuck as daggers (and often
so used) at their waists, they look a very different race of men
from what might be expected from their name of Gauchos, or simple
countrymen. Their 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 occasion
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 appearance. I never met with such tame ostriches in any
other part of the country: it was easy to gallop up within a short
distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, they made all
sail right before the wind, and soon left the horse astern.

At night we came to the house of Don Juan Fuentes, a rich 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
conversation is kept up for a few minutes, till permission is asked
to pass the night there. This is granted as a matter of course. The
stranger then takes his meals with the family, and a room is
assigned him, where with the horsecloths belonging to his recado
(or saddle of the Pampas) he makes his bed. It is curious how
similar circumstances produce such similar results in manners. At
the Cape of Good Hope the same hospitality, and very nearly the
same points of etiquette, are universally observed. The difference,
however, between the character of the Spaniard and that of the
Dutch boor 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
consisted of hardened mud, and the windows were without glass; the
sitting-room boasted only of a few of the roughest chairs and
stools, with a couple of tables. The supper, although several
strangers were present, consisted of two huge piles, one of roast
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 trouble, all the common vegetables. The evening was spent in
smoking, with a little impromptu singing, accompanied by the
guitar. The signoritas all sat together in one corner of the room,
and did not sup with the men.


So many works have been 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, generally
having a diameter of about eight feet. This he whirls round his
head, and by the dexterous movement of his wrist keeps the noose
open; then, throwing it, he causes it to fall on any particular
spot he chooses. The lazo, when not used, is tied up in a small
coil to the after part of the recado. The bolas, or balls, are of
two kinds: the simplest, which is chiefly used for catching
ostriches, consists of two round stones, covered with leather, and
united by a thin plaited thong, about eight feet long. (See Chapter
11.) The other kind differs only in having three balls united by
the thongs to a common centre. The Gaucho holds the smallest of the
three in his hand, and whirls the other two round and round his
head; then, taking aim, sends them like chain shot revolving
through the air. The balls no sooner strike any object, than,
winding round it, they cross each other, and become firmly hitched.
The size and weight of the balls varies, according to the purpose
for which they are made: when of stone, although not larger than an
apple, they are sent with such force as sometimes to break the leg
even of a horse. I have seen the balls made of wood, and as large
as a turnip, for the sake of catching these animals without
injuring them. The balls are 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 accident the free one struck a bush,
and its revolving motion being thus destroyed, it immediately fell
to the ground, and, like magic caught one hind leg of my horse; the
other ball was then jerked out of my hand, and the horse fairly
secured. Luckily he was an old practised animal, and knew what it
meant; otherwise he would probably have kicked till he had thrown
himself down. The Gauchos roared with laughter; they cried out that
they had seen every sort of animal caught, but had never before
seen a man caught by himself.

During the two succeeding days, I reached the farthest 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 frequently thus catch thirty or forty in a
day. In Arctic North America the Indians catch the Varying Hare by
walking spirally round and round it, when on its form: the middle
of the day is reckoned the best time, when the sun is high, and the
shadow of the hunter not very long. (3/1. Hearne's "Journey" page

On our return to Maldonado, we followed rather a different 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
eastward, over the mammillated country of Maldonado. On the summit
of the mountain there were several small heaps of stones, which
evidently had lain there for many years. My companion assured me
that they were the work of the Indians in the old time. The heaps
were similar, but on a much smaller scale, to those so commonly
found on the mountains of Wales. The desire to signalise any event,
on the highest point of the neighbouring land, seems a universal
passion with mankind. At the present day, not a single Indian,
either civilised 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 Animas.

The general, and almost entire absence of trees in Banda Oriental
is remarkable. Some of the rocky hills are partly covered by
thickets, and on the banks of the larger streams, especially to the
north of Las 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 latitude 35
degrees. 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 by the annual
amount of moisture (3/2. Maclaren, article "America" "Encyclopedia
Brittannica."); yet in this province abundant and heavy rain falls
during the winter; and the summer, though dry, is not so in any
excessive degree. (3/3. Azara says "Je crois que la quantit
annuelle des pluies est, dans toutes ces contres, plus
considrable qu'en Espagne."--Volume 1 page 36.) We see nearly the
whole of Australia covered by lofty trees, yet that country
possesses a far more arid climate. Hence we must look to some other
and unknown cause.

Confining our view to South America, we should certainly be tempted
to believe that trees flourished only under a very humid climate;
for the limit of the forest-land follows, in a most 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
latitude 38 degrees to the extreme point of Tierra del Fuego, is
densely covered by impenetrable forests. On the eastern side of the
Cordillera, over the same extent of latitude, where a blue sky and
a fine climate prove that the atmosphere has been deprived of its
moisture by passing over the mountains, the arid plains of
Patagonia support a most scanty vegetation. In the more northern
parts of the continent, within the limits of the constant
south-eastern trade-wind, the eastern side is ornamented by
magnificent forests; whilst the western coast, from latitude 4
degrees South to latitude 32 degrees South, may be described as a
desert; on this western coast, northward of latitude 4 degrees
South, 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 Guayaquil and Panama. Hence in the
southern and northern parts of the continent, the forest and desert
lands occupy reversed positions with respect to the Cordillera, and
these positions are apparently determined by the direction of the
prevalent winds. In the middle of the continent there is a broad
intermediate band, including central Chile and the provinces of La
Plata, where the rain-bringing winds have not to pass over lofty
mountains, and where the land is neither a desert nor covered by
forests. But even the rule, if confined to South America, of trees
flourishing only in a climate rendered humid by rain-bearing winds,
has a strongly marked exception in the case of the Falkland
Islands. These islands, situated in the same latitude with Tierra
del Fuego and only between two and three hundred miles distant from
it, having a nearly similar climate, with a geological formation
almost identical, with favourable situations and the same kind of
peaty soil, yet can boast of few plants deserving even the title of
bushes; whilst in Tierra del Fuego it is impossible to find an acre
of land not covered by the densest forest. In this case, both the
direction of the heavy gales of wind and of the currents of the sea
are favourable to the transport of seeds from Tierra del Fuego, as
is shown by the canoes and trunks of trees drifted from that
country, and frequently thrown on the shores of the Western
Falkland. Hence perhaps it is, that there are many plants in common
to the two countries: but with respect to the trees of Tierra del
Fuego, even attempts made to transplant them have failed.

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

The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the
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 continually used, and it was of course
as repeatedly washed; yet every time, for a space of one year and
seven months, when first unfolded, I distinctly perceived the
odour. This appears an astonishing instance of the permanence of
some matter, which nevertheless in its nature must be most subtile
and volatile. Frequently, when passing at the distance of half a
mile to leeward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted
with the effluvium. I believe the smell from the buck is most
powerful at the period when its horns are perfect, or free from the
hairy skin. When in this state the meat is, of course, quite
uneatable; but the Gauchos assert, that if buried for some time in
fresh earth, the taint is removed. I have somewhere read that the
islanders in the north of Scotland treat the rank carcasses of the
fish-eating birds in the same manner.

The order Rodentia is here very numerous in species: of mice alone
I obtained no less than eight kinds. (3/4. In South America I
collected altogether twenty-seven species of mice, and thirteen
more are known from the works of Azara and other authors. Those
collected by myself have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse
at the meetings of the Zoological Society. I must be allowed to
take this opportunity of returning my cordial thanks to Mr.
Waterhouse, and to the other gentleman attached to that Society,
for their kind and most liberal assistance on all occasions.) The
largest gnawing animal in the world, the Hydrochaerus capybara (the
water-hog), is here also common. One which I shot at Monte Video
weighed ninety-eight pounds: its length, from the end of the snout
to the stump-like tail, was three feet two inches; and its girth
three feet eight. These great Rodents occasionally frequent the
islands in the mouth of the Plata, where the water is quite salt,
but are far more abundant on the borders of fresh-water lakes and
rivers. Near Maldonado three or four generally live together. In
the daytime they either lie among the aquatic plants, or openly
feed on the turf plain. (3/5. 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.)
When viewed at a distance, from their manner of walking and colour
they resemble pigs: but when seated on their haunches, and
attentively watching any object with one eye, they reassume the
appearance of their congeners, cavies and rabbits. Both the front
and side view of their head has quite a ludicrous aspect, from the
great depth of their jaw. These animals, at Maldonado, were very
tame; by cautiously walking, I approached within three yards of
four old ones. This tameness may probably 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 arising
from the sudden expulsion of air: the only noise I know at all like
it, is the first hoarse bark of a large dog. Having watched the
four from almost within arm's length (and they me) for several
minutes, they rushed into the water at full gallop with the
greatest impetuosity, and emitted at the same time their bark.
After diving a short distance they came again to the surface, but
only just showed the upper part of their 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
passing over, sink above their fetlocks. The tucutucos appear, to a
certain degree, to be gregarious: the man who procured the
specimens for me had caught six together, and he said this was a
common occurrence. They are nocturnal in their habits; and their
principal food is the roots of plants, which are the object of
their extensive and superficial burrows. This animal is universally
known by a very peculiar noise which it makes when beneath the
ground. A person, the first time he hears it, is 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 (3/6. 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 cutting down a small tree with an axe, that I have
sometimes remained in doubt concerning it.): the name Tucutuco is
given in imitation of the sound. Where this animal is abundant, it
may be heard at all times of the day, and sometimes directly
beneath one's feet. When kept in a room, the tucutucos move both
slowly and clumsily, which appears owing to the outward action of
their hind legs; and they are quite incapable, from the socket of
the thigh-bone not having a certain ligament, of jumping even the
smallest vertical height. They are very stupid in making any
attempt to escape; when angry or frightened they utter the
tucu-tuco. Of those I kept alive, several, even the first day,
became quite tame, not attempting to bite or to run away; others
were a little wilder.

The man who caught them asserted that very many are invariably
found blind. A specimen which I preserved in spirits 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 tucu-tuco, the blindness, though so common, cannot be a very
serious evil; yet it appears strange that any animal should possess
an organ frequently subject to be injured. Lamarck would have been
delighted with this fact, had he known it, when speculating
(probably with more truth than usual with him) on the
gradually-ACQUIRED blindness of the Aspalax, a Gnawer living under
ground, and of the Proteus, a reptile living in dark caverns filled
with water; in both of which animals the eye is in an almost
rudimentary state, and is covered by a tendinous membrane and skin.
(3/7. "Philosoph. Zoolog." tome 1 page 242.) 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 tucu-tuco, which I believe never
comes to the surface of the ground, the eye is rather larger, but
often rendered blind and useless, though without apparently causing
any inconvenience to the animal; no doubt Lamarck would have said
that the tucu-tuco is now passing into the state of the Aspalax and

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

Mr. Swainson has well remarked, that with the exception of the
Molothrus pecoris, to which must be added the M. niger, the 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." (3/8. "Magazine of Zoology and Botany" volume 1 page
217.) It is remarkable that some of the species, but not all, both
of the Cuckoo and Molothrus should agree in this one strange habit
of their parasitical propagation, whilst opposed to each other in
almost every other habit: the molothrus, like our starling, is
eminently sociable, and lives on the open plains without art or
disguise: the cuckoo, as every one knows, is a singularly shy bird;
it frequents the most retired thickets, and feeds on fruit and
caterpillars. In structure also these two genera are widely removed
from each other. Many theories, even phrenological theories, have
been advanced to explain the origin of the cuckoo laying its eggs
in other birds' nests. M. Prvost alone, I think, has thrown light
by his observations 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. (3/9. Read before the Academy of Sciences in
Paris. L'Institut 1834 page 418.) 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 common, and
render themselves prominent from their habits. The Saurophagus
sulphuratus is typical of the great American tribe of
tyrant-flycatchers. In its structure it closely approaches the true
shrikes, but in its habits may be compared to many birds. I have
frequently observed it, hunting a field, hovering over one spot
like a hawk, and then proceeding on to another. When seen thus
suspended in the air, it might very readily at a short distance be
mistaken for one of the 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 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 change a shrill and rather
agreeable cry, which somewhat resembles articulate words: the
Spaniards say it is like the words "Bien te veo" (I see you well),
and accordingly have given it this name.

A mocking-bird (Mimus orpheus), called by the inhabitants
Calandria, is remarkable, from possessing a song far superior to
that of any other bird in the country: indeed, it is nearly the
only bird in South America which I have observed to take its stand
for the purpose of singing. The song may be compared to that of the
Sedge warbler, but is more powerful; some harsh notes and some very
high ones, being mingled with a pleasant 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 Calandria 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,
however, he was not aware.

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

The Carranchas are said to be very crafty, and to steal great
numbers of eggs. They attempt, also, together with the Chimango, to
pick off the scabs from the sore backs of horses and mules. The
poor animal, on the one hand, with its ears down and its back
arched; and, on the other, the hovering bird, eyeing at the
distance of a yard the disgusting morsel, form a picture, which has
been described by Captain Head with his own peculiar spirit and
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
Patagonia, for when he wakes, he will see, on each surrounding
hillock, one of these birds patiently watching him with an evil
eye: it is a feature in the landscape of these countries, which
will be recognised by every one who has wandered 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 contradistinction to
hopping), but not quite so quickly as some of its congeners. At
times the Carrancha is noisy, but is not generally so: its cry is
loud, very harsh and peculiar, and may be likened to the sound of
the Spanish guttural g, followed by a rough double r r; when
uttering this cry it elevates its head higher and higher, till at
last, with its beak wide open, the crown almost touches the lower
part of the back. This fact, which has been doubted, is quite true;
I have seen them several times with their heads backwards in a
completely inverted position. To these observations I may add, on
the high authority of Azara, that the Carrancha feeds on worms,
shells, slugs, 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 exceedingly common in the Falkland
Islands. These birds in many respects resemble in their habits the
Carranchas. They live on the flesh of dead animals and on marine
productions; and on the Ramirez rocks their whole sustenance must
depend on the sea. They are extraordinarily tame and fearless, and
haunt the neighbourhood of houses for offal. If a hunting party
kills an animal, a number soon collect and patiently await,
standing on the ground on all sides. After eating, their uncovered
craws are largely protruded, giving them a disgusting appearance.
They readily attack wounded birds: a cormorant in this state having
taken to the shore, was immediately seized on by several, and its
death hastened by their blows. The "Beagle" was at the Falklands
only during the summer, but the officers of the "Adventure," who
were there in the winter, mention many extraordinary instances of
the boldness and rapacity of these birds. They actually pounced on
a dog that was lying fast asleep close by one of the party; and the
sportsmen had difficulty in preventing the wounded geese from being
seized before their eyes. It is said that several together (in this
respect resembling the Carranchas) wait at the mouth of a
rabbit-hole, and together seize on the animal when it comes out.
They were constantly flying on board the vessel when in the
harbour; 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 gregarious;
they do not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy; on the
ground they run extremely fast, very much like pheasants. They are
noisy, uttering several harsh cries, one of which is like that of
the English rook, hence the sealers always call them rooks. It is a
curious circumstance that, when crying out, they throw their heads
upwards and backwards, after the same manner as the Carrancha. They
build in the rocky cliffs of the sea-coast, but only on the small
adjoining islets, and not on the two main islands: this is a
singular precaution in so tame and fearless a bird. The sealers say
that the flesh of these birds, when cooked, is quite white, and
very good eating; but bold must the man be who attempts such a

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 latitude 41 degrees. Azara states that there exists a
tradition that these birds, at the time of the conquest, were not
found near Monte Video, but that they subsequently followed the
inhabitants from more northern districts. At the present day they
are numerous in the valley of the Colorado, which is three hundred
miles due south of Monte Video. It seems probable that this
additional migration has happened since the time of Azara. The
Gallinazo generally prefers a humid climate, or rather the
neighbourhood of fresh water; hence it is extremely abundant in
Brazil and La Plata, while it is never found on the desert and arid
plains of Northern Patagonia, excepting near some stream. These
birds frequent the whole Pampas to the foot of the Cordillera, but
I never saw or heard of one in Chile: in Peru they are preserved as
scavengers. These vultures certainly may be called gregarious, for
they seem to have pleasure in society, and are not solely brought
together by the attraction of a common prey. On a fine day a flock
may often be observed at a great height, each bird wheeling round
and round without closing its wings, in the most graceful
evolutions. This is clearly performed for the mere pleasure of the
exercise, or perhaps is connected with their matrimonial alliances.

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

In a broad band of sand-hillocks which separate the Laguna del
Potrero from the shores of the Plata, at the distance of a few
miles from Maldonado, I found a group of those vitrified, siliceous
tubes, which are formed by lightning entering loose sand. These
tubes resemble in every particular those from Drigg in Cumberland,
described in the "Geological Transactions." (3/10. "Geological
Transactions" volume 2 page 528. In the "Philosophical
Transactions" 1790 page 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.) 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 appeared, from the
number of minute entangled air or perhaps steam bubbles, like an
assay fused before the blowpipe. The sand is entirely, or in
greater part, siliceous; but some points are of a black colour, and
from their glossy surface possess a metallic lustre. The thickness
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 crystallisation. In a similar
manner to that described in the "Geological Transactions," the
tubes are generally compressed, and have deep longitudinal furrows,
so as closely to resemble a shrivelled vegetable stalk, or the bark
of the elm or cork tree. Their circumference is about two inches,
but in some fragments, which are cylindrical and without any
furrows, it is as much as four inches. The compression from the
surrounding loose sand, acting while the tube was still softened
from the effects of the intense heat, has evidently caused the
creases or furrows. Judging from the uncompressed fragments, the
measure or bore of the lightning (if such a term may be used) must
have been about one inch and a quarter. At Paris, M. Hachette and
M. Beudant succeeded in making tubes, in most respects similar to
these fulgurites, by passing very strong shocks of galvanism
through finely-powdered glass: when salt was added, so as to
increase its fusibility, the tubes were larger in every dimension.
(3/11. "Annales de Chimie et de Physique" tome 37 page 319.) They
failed both with powdered feldspar and quartz. One tube, formed
with pounded glass, was very nearly an inch long, namely .982, and
had an internal diameter of .019 of an inch. When we hear that the
strongest battery in Paris was used, and that its power on a
substance of such easy fusibility as glass was to form tubes so
diminutive, we must feel greatly astonished at the force of a shock
of lightning, which, striking the sand in several places, has
formed cylinders, in one instance of at least thirty feet long, and
having an internal bore, where not compressed, of full an inch and
a half; and this in a material so extraordinarily refractory as

The tubes, as I have already remarked, enter the sand nearly in a
vertical direction. One, however, which was less regular than the
others, deviated from a right line, at the most considerable bend,
to the amount of thirty-three degrees. From this same tube, two
small branches, about a foot apart, were sent off; one pointed
downwards, and the other upwards. This latter case is remarkable,
as the electric fluid must have turned back at the acute angle of
26 degrees, 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 subject to
electric phenomena. In the year 1793, 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. (3/12. Azara's "Voyage" volume 1 page 36.)
From facts stated in several books of travels, I am inclined to
suspect that thunderstorms are very common near the mouths of great
rivers. Is it not possible that the mixture of large bodies of
fresh and salt water may disturb the electrical equilibrium? Even
during our occasional visits to this part of South America, we
heard of a ship, two churches, and a house having been struck. Both
the church and the house I saw shortly afterwards: the house
belonged to Mr. Hood, the consul-general at Monte Video. Some of
the effects were curious: the paper, for nearly a foot on each side
of the line where the bell-wires had run, was blackened. The metal
had been fused, and although the room was about fifteen feet high,
the globules, dropping on the chairs and furniture, had drilled in
them a chain of minute holes. A part of the wall was shattered as
if by gunpowder, and the fragments had been blown off with force
sufficient to dent the wall on the opposite side of the room. The
frame of a looking-glass was blackened, and the gilding must have
been volatilised, 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.
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.


JULY 24, 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 (latitude 41 degrees) on this eastern
coast of America inhabited by civilised 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 invariably brackish.
The vegetation is scanty; and although there are bushes of many
kinds, all are armed with formidable thorns, which seem to warn the
stranger not to enter on these inhospitable regions.

The settlement is situated eighteen miles up the river. The road
follows the foot of the sloping cliff, which forms the northern
boundary of the great valley in which the Rio Negro flows. On the
way we passed the ruins of some fine estancias, which a few years
since had been destroyed by the Indians. They withstood several
attacks. A man present at one gave me a very lively description of
what took place. The inhabitants had sufficient notice to drive all
the cattle and horses into the corral which surrounded the house,
and likewise to mount some small cannon. (4/1. The corral is an
enclosure made of tall and strong stakes. Every estancia, or
farming estate, has one attached to it.)

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

The town is indifferently called El Carmen or Patagones. It is
built on the face of a cliff which fronts the river, and many of
the houses are excavated even in the sandstone. The river is about
two or three hundred yards wide, and is deep and rapid. The many
islands, with their willow-trees, and the flat headlands, seen 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 Spanish colonies do not, like our British ones,
carry within themselves the elements of growth. Many Indians of
pure blood reside here: the tribe of the Cacique Lucanee constantly
have their Toldos on the outskirts of the town. (4/2. The hovels of
the Indians are thus called.) The local government partly supplies
them with provisions, by giving them all the old worn-out horses,
and they earn a little by making horse-rugs and other articles of
riding-gear. These Indians are considered civilised; but what their
character may have gained by a lesser degree of ferocity, is almost
counterbalanced by their entire immorality. Some of the younger men
are, however, improving; they are willing to labour, and a short
time since a party went on a sealing-voyage, and behaved very well.
They were now enjoying the fruits of their labour, by being dressed
in very gay, clean clothes, and by being very idle. The taste they
showed in their dress was 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 converted 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 neighbourhood many times larger, and with a floor of salt, two
and three feet in thickness, even when under water during the
winter. One of these brilliantly white and level expanses, in the
midst of the brown and desolate plain, offers an extraordinary
spectacle. A large quantity of salt is annually drawn from the
salina: and great piles, some hundred tons in weight, were lying
ready for exportation.

The season for working the salinas forms the harvest of Patagones;
for on it the prosperity of the place depends. Nearly the whole
population encamps on the bank of the river, and the people are
employed in drawing out the salt in bullock-waggons. This salt is
crystallised in great cubes, and is remarkably pure: Mr. Trenham
Reeks has kindly analysed 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, that those salts answer best for preserving
cheese which contain most of the deliquescent chlorides. (4/3.
Report of the Agricultural Chemistry Association in the
"Agricultural Gazette" 1845 page 93.)

The border of the lake is formed of mud: and in this numerous large
crystals of gypsum, some of which are three inches long, lie
embedded; whilst on the surface others of sulphate of soda lie
scattered about. The Gauchos call the former the "Padre del sal,"
and the latter the "Madre;" they state that these progenitive salts
always occur on the borders of the salinas, when the water begins
to evaporate. The mud is black, and has a fetid odour. I could not
at first imagine the cause of this, but I afterwards perceived that
the froth which the wind drifted on shore was coloured green, as if
by 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 salt?

Flamingoes in considerable numbers inhabit this lake, and breed
here, throughout Patagonia, in Northern Chile, and at the Galapagos
Islands, I met with these birds wherever there were lakes of brine.
I saw them here wading about in search of food--probably for the
worms which burrow in the mud; and these latter probably feed on
infusoria or 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. (4/4. "Linnaean Transactions" volume 11 page 205. It is
remarkable how all the circumstances connected with the salt-lakes
in Siberia and Patagonia are similar. Siberia, like Patagonia,
appears to have been recently elevated above the waters of the sea.
In both countries the salt-lakes occupy shallow depressions in the
plains; in both the mud on the borders is black and fetid; beneath
the crust of common salt, sulphate of soda or of magnesia occurs,
imperfectly crystallised; and in both, the muddy sand is mixed with
lentils of gypsum. The Siberian salt-lakes are inhabited by small
crustaceous animals; and flamingoes ("Edinburgh New Philosical
Journal" January 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 pages 129 to
134.) Well may we affirm that every part of the world is habitable!
Whether lakes of brine, or those subterranean ones hidden beneath
volcanic mountains--warm mineral springs--the wide expanse and
depths of the ocean--the upper regions of the atmosphere, and even
the surface of perpetual snow--all support organic beings.

To the northward of the 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 line across the unexplored plains: and as the
country was thus pretty well cleared of Indians, he left behind
him, at wide intervals, a small party of soldiers with a troop of
horses (a posta), so as to be enabled to keep up a communication
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 11, 1833.

Mr. Harris, an Englishman residing at Patagones, a guide, and five
Gauchos who were proceeding to the army on business, were my
companions on the journey. The Colorado, as I have already said, is
nearly eighty miles distant: and as we travelled slowly, we were
two days and a half on the road. The whole line of country deserves
scarcely a better name than that of a desert. Water is found only
in two small wells; it is called fresh; but even at this time of
the year, during the rainy season, it was quite brackish. In the
summer this must be a distressing passage; for now it was
sufficiently desolate.

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

Shortly after passing the first spring we came in sight of a famous
tree, which the Indians reverence as the altar of Walleechu. It is
situated on a high part of the plain; and hence is a landmark
visible at a great distance. As soon as a tribe of Indians come in
sight of it, they offer their adorations by loud shouts. The tree
itself is low, much branched, and thorny: just above the root it
has a diameter of about three feet. It stands by itself without any
neighbour, and was indeed the first tree we saw; afterwards we met
with a few others of the same kind, but they were far from common.
Being winter the tree had no leaves, but in their place numberless
threads, by which the various offerings, such as cigars, bread,
meat, pieces of cloth, etc., had been suspended. Poor Indians, not
having anything better, only pull a thread out of their ponchos,
and fasten it to the tree. Richer Indians are accustomed to pour
spirits and mate into a certain hole, and likewise to smoke
upwards, thinking thus to afford all possible gratification to
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 far more probable that they regard it as the
altar. The only cause which I can imagine for this choice, is its
being a landmark in a dangerous passage. The Sierra de la Ventana
is visible at an immense distance; and a Gaucho told me that he was
once riding with an Indian a few miles to the north of the 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,"--pasture for the horses, water
(only a muddy puddle), meat and firewood. The Gauchos were in high
spirits at finding all these luxuries; and we soon set to work at
the poor cow. This was the first night which I passed under the
open sky, with the gear of the recado for my bed. There is high
enjoyment in the independence of the Gaucho life--to be able at any
moment to pull up your horse, and say, "Here we will pass the
night." The deathlike 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 commonest quadruped. This animal here represents
our hares. It differs, however, from that genus in many essential
respects; for instance, it has only three toes behind. It is also
nearly twice 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 (latitude 37 degrees 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 incrusted with various salts;
and hence is called a salitral. It was covered by low succulent
plants, of the same kind with those growing on the sea-shore. The
Colorado, at the pass where we crossed it, is only about sixty
yards wide; generally it must be nearly double that width. Its
course is very tortuous, being marked by willow-trees and beds of
reeds: in a direct line the distance to the mouth of the river is
said to be nine leagues, but by water twenty-five. We were delayed
crossing in the canoe by some immense troops of mares, which were
swimming the river in order to follow a division of troops into the
interior. A more ludicrous spectacle I never beheld than the
hundreds and hundreds of heads, all directed one way, with pointed
ears and distended snorting nostrils, appearing just above the
water like a great shoal of some amphibious animal. Mare's flesh is
the only food which the soldiers have when on an expedition. This
gives them a great facility of movement; for the distance to which
horses can be driven over these plains is quite surprising: I have
been assured that an unloaded horse can travel a hundred miles a
day for many days successively.

The encampment of General Rosas was close to the river. It
consisted of a square formed by waggons, artillery, straw huts,
etc. The soldiers were nearly all cavalry; and I should think such
a 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. (4/5. I am bound to express, in the
strongest terms, my obligation to the government of Buenos Ayres
for the obliging manner in which passports to all parts of the
country were given me, as naturalist of the "Beagle.") 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 overflowed by the river. My
chief amusement was watching the Indian families as they came to
buy little articles at the rancho where we stayed. It was supposed
that General Rosas had about six hundred Indian allies. The men
were a tall, fine race, yet it was afterwards easy to see in the
Fuegian savage the same countenance rendered hideous by cold, want
of food, and less civilisation.

Some authors, in defining the primary races of mankind, have
separated these Indians into two classes; but this is certainly
incorrect. Among the young women or chinas, some deserve to be
called even beautiful. Their hair was coarse, but bright and black;
and they wore it in two plaits hanging down to the waist. They had
a high colour, and eyes that glistened with brilliancy; their legs,
feet, and arms were small and elegantly formed; their ankles, and
sometimes their waists, were ornamented by broad bracelets of blue
beads. Nothing could be more 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 occupations is to
knock two stones together till they become round, in order to make
the bolas. With this important weapon the Indian catches his game,
and also his horse, 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 influence in the country,
which it seems probable he will use to its prosperity and
advancement. (4/6. This prophecy has turned out entirely and
miserably wrong. 1845.) He is said to be the owner of seventy-four
square leagues of land, and to have about three hundred thousand
head of cattle. His estates are admirably managed, and are far more
productive of corn than those of others. He first gained his
celebrity by his laws for his own estancias, and by disciplining
several hundred men, so as to resist with success the attacks of
the Indians. There are many stories current about the rigid manner
in which his laws were enforced. One of these was, that no man, on
penalty of being put into the stocks, should carry his knife on a
Sunday: this being the principal day for gambling and drinking,
many quarrels arose, which from the general manner of fighting with
the knife often proved fatal.

One Sunday the Governor came in great form to pay the estancia a
visit, and General 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 possessed no power even in
his own house. After a little time the steward was persuaded to
open the stocks, and to let him out, but no sooner was this done,
than he turned to the steward and said, "You now have broken the
laws, so you must take my place in the stocks." Such actions as
these delighted the Gauchos, who all possess high notions of their
own equality and dignity.

General Rosas is also a perfect horseman--an accomplishment of no
small consequence in a country where an assembled army elected its
general by the following trial: A troop of unbroken horses being
driven into a corral, were let out through a gateway, above which
was a cross-bar: it was agreed whoever should drop from the bar on
one of these wild animals, as it rushed out, and should be able,
without saddle or bridle, not only to ride it, but also to bring it
back to the door of the corral, should be their general. The person
who succeeded was accordingly elected; and doubtless made a fit
general for such an army. This extraordinary feat has also been
performed by 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 murdered 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 horizontally, and there left to stretch for several
hours. The idea is evidently taken from the usual method of drying
hides. My interview passed away without a smile, and I obtained a
passport and order for the government post-horses, and this he gave
me in the most obliging and ready manner.

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 tapering chuzo was stuck in the ground. The
toldos were divided into separate groups, which belonged to the
different caciques' tribes, and the groups were again divided into
smaller ones, according to the relationship of the owners. For
several miles we travelled along the valley of the Colorado. The
alluvial plains on the side appeared fertile, and it is supposed
that they are well adapted to the growth of corn.

Turning northward from the river, we soon entered on a country,
differing from the plains south of the river. The land still
continued 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
country is everywhere composed of shingle: the pebbles are chiefly
of porphyry, and probably owe their origin to the rocks of the
Cordillera. North of the Colorado this bed thins out, and the
pebbles become exceedingly small, and here the characteristic
vegetation of Patagonia ceases.

Having ridden about twenty-five miles, we came to a broad belt of
sand-dunes, which stretches, as far as the eye can reach, to the
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

The house was situated at the base of a ridge between one and two
hundred feet high--a most remarkable feature in this country. This
posta was commanded by a negro lieutenant, born in Africa: to his
credit be it said, there was not a ranche between the Colorado and
Buenos Ayres in nearly such neat order as his. He had a little room
for strangers, and a small corral for the horses, all made of
sticks and reeds; he had also dug a ditch round his house as a
defence in case of being attacked. This would, however, have been
of little avail, if the Indians had come; but his chief comfort
seemed to rest in the thought of selling his life dearly. A short
time before, a body of Indians had travelled past in the night; if
they had been aware of the posta, our black friend and his four
soldiers would assuredly have been slaughtered. I did not 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 occupied it by force, instead of following
the wise example of the Spanish Viceroys, who purchased the land
near the older settlement of the Rio 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 luxuriate
only where salt abounds. Bad as the country was, ostriches, deers,
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 without water. Yet many of the smaller rodents managed to exist
even here, and the tucutuco was making its odd little grunt beneath
my head, during half the night. Our horses were very poor ones, and
in the morning they were soon exhausted from not having had
anything to drink, so that we were obliged to walk. About noon the
dogs killed a kid, which we roasted. I ate some of it, but it made
me intolerably thirsty. This was the more distressing as the road,
from some recent rain, was full of little puddles of clear water,
yet not a drop was drinkable. I had scarcely been twenty hours
without water, and only part of the time under a hot sun, yet the
thirst rendered me very weak. How people survive two or three days
under such circumstances, I cannot imagine: at the same time, I
must confess that my guide did not suffer at all, and was
astonished that one day's deprivation should be so troublesome to

I have several times alluded to the surface of the ground being
incrusted with salt. This phenomenon is quite different from that
of the salinas, and more extraordinary. In many parts of South
America, wherever the climate is moderately dry, these
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
returning through one of these tracts, after a week's hot weather,
one is surprised to see square miles of the plain white, as if from
a slight fall of snow, here and there heaped up by the wind into
little drifts. This latter appearance is chiefly caused by the
salts being drawn up, during the slow evaporation of the moisture,
round blades of dead grass, stumps of wood, and pieces of broken
earth, instead of being crystallised at the bottoms of the puddles
of water.

The salitrales occur either on level tracts elevated only a few
feet above the level of the sea, or on alluvial land bordering
rivers. M. Parchappe found that the saline incrustation on the
plain, at the distance of some miles from the sea, consisted
chiefly of sulphate of soda, with only seven per cent of common
salt; whilst nearer to the coast, the common salt increased to 37
parts in a hundred. (4/7. "Voyage dans l'Amerique Merid." par M. A.
d'Orbigny. Part. Hist. tome 1 page 664.) This circumstance would
tempt one to believe that the sulphate of soda is generated in the
soil, from the muriate left on the surface during the slow and
recent elevation of this dry country. The whole phenomenon is well
worthy the attention of naturalists. Have the succulent,
salt-loving plants, which are well known to contain much soda, the
power of decomposing the muriate? Does the black fetid mud,
abounding with organic matter, yield the sulphur and ultimately the
sulphuric acid?

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

The wide expanse of water is choked up by numerous great mudbanks,
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 mudbanks, and mudbanks like

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




Bahia Blanca.
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.
Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard.
Hybernation of Animals.
Habits of Sea-Pen.
Indian Wars and Massacres.
Arrowhead, 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

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

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

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

The remains at Punta Alta were embedded in stratified gravel and
reddish mud, just such as the sea might now wash up on a shallow
bank. They were associated with twenty-three species of shells, of
which thirteen are recent and four others very closely related to
recent forms. (5/1. Since this was written, M. Alcide d'Orbigny has
examined these shells, and pronounces them all to be recent.) From
the bones of the Scelidotherium, including even the kneecap, being
entombed 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. (5/2. M. Aug.
Bravard has described, in a Spanish work "Observaciones Geologicas"
1857, this district, and he believes that the bones of the extinct
mammals were washed out of the underlying Pampean deposit, and
subsequently became embedded with the still existing shells; but I
am not convinced by his remarks. M. Bravard believes that the whole
enormous Pampean deposit is a sub-aerial formation, like
sand-dunes: this seems to me to be an untenable doctrine.) Hence we
have good evidence that the above enumerated gigantic quadrupeds,
more different from those of the present day than the oldest of the
tertiary quadrupeds of Europe, lived whilst the sea was peopled
with most of its present inhabitants; and we have confirmed that
remarkable law so often insisted on by Mr. Lyell, namely, that the
"longevity of the species in the mammalia is upon the whole
inferior to that of the testacea." (5/3. "Principles of Geology"
volume 4 page 40.)

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. (5/4. This theory was first developed in the
"Zoology of the Voyage of the 'Beagle,'" and subsequently in
Professor Owen's "Memoir on Mylodon robustus.") The teeth indicate,
by their simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals lived on
vegetable food, and probably on the leaves and small twigs of
trees; their ponderous forms and great strong curved claws seem so
little adapted for locomotion, that some eminent naturalists have
actually believed that, like the sloths, to which they are
intimately related, they subsisted by climbing back downwards on
trees, and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say
preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees, with
branches strong enough to bear animals as large as elephants.
Professor Owen, with far more probability, believes that, instead
of climbing on the trees, they 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 encumbrance:
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
wretchedly sterile as it now is? As so many of the co-embedded
shells are the same with those now living in the bay, I was at
first inclined to think that the former vegetation was probably
similar to the existing one; but this would have been an erroneous
inference, for some of these same shells live on the luxuriant
coast of Brazil; and generally, the characters of the inhabitants
of the sea are useless as guides to judge of those on the land.
Nevertheless, from the following considerations, I do not believe
that the simple fact of many gigantic quadrupeds having lived on
the plains round Bahia Blanca, is any sure guide that they formerly
were clothed with a luxuriant vegetation: I have no doubt that the
sterile country a little southward, near the 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 together in every one's mind. If, however, we refer to
any work of travels through the southern parts of Africa, we shall
find allusions in almost every page either to the desert character
of the country, or to the numbers of large animals inhabiting it.
The same thing is rendered evident by the many engravings which
have been published of various parts of the interior. When the
"Beagle" was at Cape Town, I made an excursion of some days' length
into the country, which at least was 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 Capricorn, informs me
that, taking into consideration the whole of the southern part of
Africa, there can be no doubt of its being a sterile country. On
the southern and south-eastern coasts there are some fine forests,
but with these exceptions, the traveller may pass for days together
through open plains, covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. It is
difficult to convey any accurate idea of degrees of comparative
fertility; but it may be safely said that the amount of vegetation
supported at any one time by Great Britain, exceeds, perhaps even
tenfold, the quantity on an equal area in the interior parts of
Southern Africa. (5/5. I mean by this to exclude the total amount
which may have been successively produced and consumed during a
given period.) The fact that bullock-waggons can travel in any
direction, excepting near the coast, without more than occasionally
half an hour's delay in cutting down bushes, gives, perhaps, a more
definite notion of the scantiness of the vegetation. Now, if we
look to the animals inhabiting these wide plains, we shall find
their numbers extraordinarily great, and their bulk immense. We
must enumerate the elephant, three species of rhinoceros, and
probably, according to Dr. Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the
giraffe, the bos caffer--as large as a full-grown bull, and the
elan--but little less, two zebras, and the quaccha, two gnus, and
several antelopes even larger than these latter animals. It may be
supposed that although the species are numerous, the individuals of
each kind are few. By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to
show that the case is very different. He informs me, that in
latitude 24 degrees, in one day's march with the bullock-waggons,
he saw, without wandering to any great distance on either side,
between one hundred and one hundred and fifty rhinoceroses, which
belonged to three species: the same 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 previous night, his party
actually killed at one spot eight hippopotamuses, and saw many
more. In this same river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course
it was a case quite extraordinary, to see so many great animals
crowded together, but it evidently proves that they must exist in
great numbers. Dr. Smith describes the country passed through that
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 acquainted with
the natural history of the Cape has read of the herds of antelopes,
which can be compared only with the flocks of migratory birds. The
numbers indeed of the lion, panther, and 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
prowling round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able naturalist
remarked to me, the carnage each day in Southern Africa must indeed
be terrific! I confess it is truly surprising how such a number of
animals can find support in a country 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 nutriment in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me
that the vegetation has a rapid growth; no sooner is a part
consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock. There can be
no doubt, however, that our ideas respecting the apparent amount of
food necessary for the support of large quadrupeds are much
exaggerated: it should have been remembered that the camel, an
animal of no mean bulk, has always been considered as the emblem of
the desert.

The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the vegetation must
necessarily be luxuriant, is the more remarkable, because the
converse is far from true. Mr. Burchell observed to me that when
entering Brazil, nothing struck him more forcibly than the
splendour of the South American vegetation contrasted with that of
South Africa, together with the absence of all large quadrupeds. In
his "Travels," he has suggested that the comparison of the
respective weights (if there were sufficient data) of an equal
number of the largest herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would
be extremely curious. (5/6. "Travels in the Interior of South
Africa" volume 2 page 207.) If we take on the one side, the
elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, certainly three,
and probably five species of rhinoceros; and on the American side,
two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capybara
(after which we must choose from the monkeys to complete the
number), and then place these two groups alongside each other, it
is not easy to conceive ranks more disproportionate in size. (5/7.
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 Surry Gardens,
that a hippopotamus which was sent to England cut up into pieces
was estimated at three tons and a half; we will call it three. From
these premises we may give three tons and a half to each of the
five rhinoceroses; perhaps a ton to the giraffe, and half to the
bos caffer as well as to the elan (a large ox weighs from 1200 to
1500 pounds). This will give an average (from the above estimates)
of 2.7 of a ton for the ten largest herbivorous animals of Southern
Africa. In South America, allowing 1200 pounds for the two tapirs
together, 550 for the guanaco and vicuna, 500 for three deer, 300
for the capybara, peccari, and a monkey, we shall have an average
of 250 pounds, which I believe is overstating the result. The ratio
will therefore be as 6048 to 250, or 24 to 1, for the ten largest
animals from the two continents.) After the above facts, we are
compelled to conclude, against anterior probability, 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. (5/8. 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?)

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

We know that the extreme regions of North America many 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. (5/9. See "Zoological Remarks to Captain Back's
Expedition" by Dr. Richardson. He says, "The subsoil north of
latitude 56 degrees is perpetually frozen, the thaw on the coast
not penetrating above three feet, and at Bear Lake, in latitude 64
degrees, 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.") In a like manner, in
Siberia, we have woods of birch, fir, aspen, and larch, growing in
a latitude (64 degrees) where the mean temperature of the air falls
below the freezing point, and where the earth is so completely
frozen, that the carcass of an animal embedded in it is perfectly
preserved. (5/10. See Humboldt "Fragmens Asiatiques" page 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 degrees.) 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 animals lived,
which now lie buried in the ice. At present I only wish to show,
that as far as QUANTITY of food ALONE is concerned, the ancient
rhinoceroses might have roamed over the STEPPES of central Siberia
(the northern parts probably being under water) even in their
present condition, as well as the living rhinoceroses and elephants
over the KARROS of Southern Africa.

I will now give an account of the habits of some of the 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 mudbanks which are then dry, for the sake, as the
Gauchos say, of feeding on small fish. Although the ostrich in its
habits is so shy, wary, and solitary, and although so fleet in its
pace, it is caught without much difficulty by the Indian or Gaucho
armed with the bolas. When several horsemen appear in a semicircle,
it becomes confounded, and does not know which way to escape. They
generally prefer running against the wind; yet at the first start
they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On one
fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes,
where they squatted concealed, till quite closely approached. It is
not generally known that ostriches readily take to the water. Mr.
King informs me that at the Bay of San Blas, and at Port Valdes in
Patagonia, he saw these birds swimming several times from island to
island. They ran into the water both when driven down to a point,
and likewise of their own accord when not frightened: the distance
crossed was about two hundred yards. When swimming, very little of
their bodies appear above water; their necks are extended a little
forward, and their progress is slow. On two occasions I saw some
ostriches swimming across the Santa Cruz river, where its course
was about four hundred yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain
Sturt, when descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus
in the act of swimming. (5/11. Sturt's Travels, volume 2 page 74.)

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. (5/12. A Gucho assured me
that he had once seen a snow-white or Albino variety, and that it
was a most beautiful bird.) The ostrich, I believe the cock, emits
a singular, deep-toned, hissing note: when first I heard it,
standing in the midst of some sand-hillocks, I thought it was made
by some wild beast, for it is a sound that one cannot tell whence
it comes, or from how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca in
the months of September and October, the eggs, in extraordinary
numbers, were found all over the country. They lie either scattered
and single, in which case they are never hatched, and are called by
the Spaniards huachos; or they are collected together into a
shallow excavation, which forms the nest. Out of the four nests
which I saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth
twenty-seven. In one day's hunting on horseback sixty-four eggs
were found; forty-four of these were in two nests, and the
remaining twenty, scattered huachos. The Gauchos unanimously
affirm, and there is no reason to doubt their statement, that the
male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for some time afterwards
accompanies the young. The cock when on the nest lies very close; I
have myself almost ridden over one. It is asserted that at such
times they are occasionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that
they have been known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick
and leap on him. My informer pointed out to me an old man, whom he
had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe in Burchell's
"Travels in South Africa" that he remarks, "Having killed a male
ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was said by the
Hottentots to be a nest bird." I 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. (5/13. Burchell's
"Travels" volume 1 page 280.) 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, sometimes to seventy or
eighty. Now although it is most probable, from the number of eggs
found in one district being so extraordinarily great in proportion
to the parent birds, and likewise from the state of the ovarium of
the hen, that she may in the course of the season lay a large
number, yet the time required must be very long. Azara states that
a female in a state of domestication laid seventeen eggs, each at
the interval of three days one from another. (5/14. Azara volume 4
page 173.) If the hen was obliged to hatch her own eggs, before the
last was laid the first probably would be addled; but if each laid
a few eggs at successive periods, in different nests, and several
hens, as is stated to be the case, combined together, then the eggs
in one collection would be nearly of the same age. If the number of
eggs in one of these nests is, as I believe, not greater on an
average than the number laid by one female in the season, then
there must be as many nests as females, and each cock bird will
have its fair share of the labour of incubation; and that during a
period when the females probably could not sit, from not having
finished laying. (5/15. Lichtenstein, however, asserts "Travels"
volume 2 page 25, that the hens begin sitting when they have laid
ten or twelve eggs; and 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.) I have before mentioned the great numbers of
huachos, or deserted eggs; so that in one day's hunting twenty were
found in this state. It appears odd that so many should be wasted.
Does it not arise from the difficulty of several females
associating together, and finding a male ready to undertake the
office of incubation? It is evident that there must at first be
some degree of association between at least two females; otherwise
the eggs would remain scattered over the wide plains, at distances
far too great to allow of the male collecting them into one nest:
some authors have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited
for the young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in
America, because the huachos, although often found addled and
putrid, are generally whole.

When at the Rio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly heard the
Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called Avestruz
Petise. They described it as being less than the common 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 different
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 farther south they are tolerably abundant. When at Port
Desire, in Patagonia (latitude 48 degrees), Mr. Martens shot an
ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at 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 perfect specimen
has been put together, and is now exhibited in the museum of the
Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, in describing this new species, has
done me the honour of calling it after my name.

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, we found a
half Indian, who had lived some years with the tribe, but had been
born in the northern provinces. I asked him if he had ever heard of
the Avestruz Petise. He answered by saying, "Why, there are none
others in these southern countries." He informed me that the number
of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less than in that
of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on an average, but
he asserted that more than one female deposited them. At Santa Cruz
we saw several of these birds. They were excessively wary: I think
they could see a person approaching when too far off to be
distinguished themselves. In ascending the river few were seen; but
in our quiet and rapid descent many, in pairs and by fours or
fives, were observed. It was remarked that this bird did not expand
its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner of
the northern kind. In conclusion I may observe that the Struthio
rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far as a little south of
the Rio Negro in latitude 41 degrees, and that the Struthio
Darwinii takes its place in Southern Patagonia; the part about the
Rio Negro being neutral territory. M. A. d'Orbigny, when at the Rio
Negro, made great exertions to procure this bird, but never had the
good fortune to succeed. (5/16. 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 several large
portions of South America, and has made a collection, and is now
publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, which at once
places himself in the list of American travellers second only to
Humboldt.) Dobrizhoffer long ago was aware of there being two kinds
of ostriches, he says, "You must know, moreover, that Emus differ
in size and habits in 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." (5/17. "Account of the Abipones"
A.D. 1749 volume 1 English translation page 314.)

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 affinity with quails. But as
soon as the bird is seen flying, its whole appearance changes; the
long pointed wings, so different from those in the gallinaceous
order, the irregular manner of flight, and plaintive cry uttered at
the moment of rising, recall the idea of a snipe. The sportsmen of
the "Beagle" unanimously called it the short-billed snipe. To this
genus, or rather to the family of the Waders, its skeleton shows
that it is really related.

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

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

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. cunicularius),
resembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint of its plumage,
in a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an odd manner of
running by starts. From its affinity, the Spaniards call it
Casarita (or little housebuilder), although its nidification is
quite different. The Casarita builds its nest at the bottom of a
narrow cylindrical hole, which is said to extend horizontally to
nearly six feet under ground. Several of the country people told
me, that when boys, they had attempted to dig out the nest, but had
scarcely ever succeeded in getting to the end of the passage. The
bird chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a road
or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls round the houses are
built of hardened mud, and I noticed that one, which enclosed a
courtyard where I lodged, was bored through by round holes in a
score of places. On asking the owner the cause of this, he bitterly
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 common 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 farther south than any other kind; a
fourth species, the Mulita, does not come as far south as Bahia
Blanca. The four species have nearly similar habits; the peludo,
however, is nocturnal, while the others wander by day over the open
plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, roots, and even small snakes.
The apar, commonly called mataco, is remarkable by having only
three movable bands; the rest of its tesselated covering being
nearly inflexible. It has the power of rolling itself into a
perfect sphere, like one kind of English woodlouse. In this state
it is safe from the attack of dogs; for the dog not being able to
take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite one side, and the ball
slips away. The smooth hard covering of the mataco offers a better
defence than 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 generally
met with. The instant one was perceived, it was necessary, in order
to catch it, almost to tumble off one's horse; for in soft soil the
animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would almost
disappear before one could alight. It seems almost a pity to kill
such nice little animals, for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening
his knife on the back of one, "Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet).

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigonocephalus, or
Cophias, subsequently called by M. Bibron T. crepitans), from the
size of the poison channel in its fangs, must be very deadly.
Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, makes this a
sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate between it and the
viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which
appears to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every
character, even though it may be in some degree independent of
structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees. The extremity of
the tail of this snake is terminated by a point, which is very
slightly enlarged; and as the animal glides along, it constantly
vibrates the last inch; and this part striking against the dry
grass and brushwood, produces a rattling noise, which can be
distinctly heard at the distance of six feet. As often as the
animal was irritated or surprised, its tail was shaken; and the
vibrations were extremely rapid. Even as long as the body retained
its irritability, a tendency to this habitual movement was evident.
This Trigonocephalus has, therefore, in some respects the structure
of a viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake: the noise, however,
being produced by a simpler device. The 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 terminated in a triangular projection. I do not think I
ever saw anything more ugly, excepting, perhaps, some of the
vampire 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 possess great powers of
cutaneous absorption. At Maldonado, I found one in a situation
nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great
treat, carried it to a pool of water; not only was the little
animal unable to swim, but I think without help it would soon have
been drowned.

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

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernation of animals in this
part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia Blanca,
September 7th, 1832, we thought nature had granted scarcely a
living creature to this sandy and dry country. By digging, however,
in the ground, several insects, large spiders, and lizards were
found in a half-torpid state. On the 15th, a few animals began to
appear, and by the 18th (three days from the equinox), everything
announced the commencement of spring. The plains were ornamented by
the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas, oenotherae, 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 degrees; and in
the middle of the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55
degrees. On the eleven succeeding days, in which all living things
became so animated, the mean was 58 degrees, and the range in the
middle of the day between sixty and seventy. Here then an increase
of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater one of extreme
heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life. At Monte
Video, from which we had just before sailed, in the twenty-three
days included between the 26th of July and the 19th of August, the
mean temperature from 276 observations was 58.4 degrees; the mean
hottest day being 65.5 degrees, and the coldest 46 degrees. The
lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 41.5 degrees, and
occasionally in the middle of the day it rose to 69 or 70 degrees.
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
hybernating animals is governed by the usual climate of the
district, and not by the absolute heat. It is well known that
within the tropics the hybernation, or more properly aestivation,
of animals is 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 depressions had been
filled with water, they were peopled by numerous full-grown shells
and beetles, which must have been lying dormant. Humboldt has
related the strange accident of a hovel having been erected over a
spot where a young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He
adds, "The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call Uji,
or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate them,
they must be irritated or wetted with water."

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe
Virgularia Patagonica), a kind of sea-pen. It consists of a thin,
straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi on each side,
and surrounding an elastic stony axis, varying in length from eight
inches to two feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at
the other is terminated by a vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony
axis which gives strength to the stem may be traced at this
extremity into a mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low
water hundreds of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like
stubble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above 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 distinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these
polypi, in a large specimen, there must be many thousands; yet we
see that they act by one movement: they have also one central axis
connected with a system of obscure circulation, and the ova are
produced in an organ distinct from the separate individuals. (5/18.
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. I have imagined, I know not with
how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in process of
being converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte such appeared
to be the case.) Well may one be allowed to ask, What is an
individual? It is always interesting to discover the foundation of
the strange tales of the old voyagers; and I have no doubt but that
the habits of this Virgularia explain one such case. Captain
Lancaster, in his voyage in 1601, narrates that on the sea-sands of
the Island of Sombrero, in the East Indies, he "found a small twig
growing up like a young tree, and on offering to pluck it up it
shrinks down to the ground, and sinks, unless held very hard. On
being plucked up, a great worm is found to be its root, and as the
tree groweth in greatness, so doth the worm diminish, and as soon
as the worm is entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth,
and so becomes great. This transformation is one of the strangest
wonders that I saw in all my travels: for if this tree is plucked
up, while young, and the leaves and bark stripped off, it becomes a
hard stone when dry, much like white coral: thus is this worm twice
transformed into different natures. Of these we gathered and
brought home many." (5/19. Kerr's "Collection of Voyages" volume 8
page 119.)

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

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with
orders to follow the rastro, or track, even if it led them to
Chile. We subsequently heard that the wild Indians had escaped into
the great Pampas, and from some cause the track had been missed.
One glance at the rastro tells these people a whole history.
Supposing they examine the track of a thousand horses, they will
soon guess the number of mounted ones by seeing how many have
cantered; by the depth of the other impressions, whether any horses
were 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 general appearance, how long
it has been since they passed. They consider a rastro of ten days
or a fortnight quite recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard
that 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 banditti-like
soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the
small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The
Spaniard who brought the orders for this expedition was a very
intelligent man. He gave me an account of the last engagement at
which he was present. Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners,
gave information of a tribe living north of the Colorado. Two
hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the Indians
by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet as they chanced to be
travelling. The country was mountainous and wild, and it must have
been far in the interior, for the Cordillera were in sight. The
Indians, men, women, and children, were about one hundred and ten
in number, and they were nearly all taken or killed, for the
soldiers sabre every man. The Indians are now so terrified that
they offer no resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even
his wife and children; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they
fight against any number to the last moment. One dying Indian
seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and allowed his
own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish his hold. Another,
who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a knife ready to strike one
more fatal blow. My informer said, when 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 civilised
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 s" (I do not know), and were one after the other
shot. The third also said "No s;" adding, "Fire, I am a man, and
can die!" Not one syllable would they breathe to injure the united
cause of their country! The conduct of the above-mentioned cacique
was very different; he saved his life by betraying the intended
plan of warfare, and the point of union in the Andes. It was
believed that there were already six or seven hundred Indians
together, and that in summer their numbers would be doubled.
Ambassadors were to have been sent to the Indians at the small
Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I have mentioned that this same
cacique had betrayed. The communication, 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 themselves
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 carried away by the
Indians when young, and could now only speak the Indian tongue.
From their account they must have come from Salta, a distance in a
straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This gives one a grand
idea of the immense territory over which the Indians roam: yet,
great as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be
a wild Indian northward of the 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 says
that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages
containing two and three thousand inhabitants. (5/20. Purchas's
"Collection of Voyages." I believe the date was really 1537.) 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

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

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, which
I immediately recognised as having been a part of the head of an
arrow. He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and
that they are frequently picked up there. It was between two and
three inches long, and therefore twice as large as those now used
in Tierra del Fuego: it was made of opaque cream-coloured flint,
but the point and barbs had been intentionally broken off. It is
well known that no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I
believe a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they
are widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border close on
those tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It appears,
therefore, that these arrow-heads are antiquarian relics of the
Indians, before the great change in habits consequent on the
introduction of the horse into South America. (5/21. Azara has even
doubted whether the Pampas Indians ever used bows. [Several similar
agate arrow-heads have since been dug up at Chupat, and two were
given to me, on the occasion of my visit there, by the
Governor.--R.T. Pritchett, 1880.])

(PLATE 23. RHEA DARWINII (Avestruz Petise).)



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


SEPTEMBER 8, 1833.

I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on my ride to Buenos Ayres, though
with some difficulty, as the father of one man was afraid to let
him go, and another who seemed willing, was described to me as so
fearful that I was afraid to take him, for I was told that even if
he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would mistake it for an Indian,
and would fly like the wind away. The distance to Buenos Ayres is
about four hundred miles, and nearly the whole way through an
uninhabited country. We started early in the morning; ascending a
few hundred feet from the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca
stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a
crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry nature of
the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered grass,
without a single bush or tree to break the monotonous uniformity.
The weather was fine, but the atmosphere remarkably hazy; I thought
the appearance foreboded a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing
to the plain, at some 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, rapid, little stream, not above
twenty-five feet wide. The second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres
stands on its banks, a little above there is a ford for horses,
where the water does not reach to the horses' belly; but from that
point, in its course to the 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
considerable river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With
respect to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case; for
the Gauchos assured 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 watercourses, which only perform
their proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is the case
with the water which flows into the head of Port Desire, and
likewise with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses of
highly cellular scoriae were found by the officers employed in the

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 Captain Fitz Roy calculates its height to be 3340
feet--an altitude very remarkable on this eastern side of the
continent. I am not aware that any foreigner, previous to my visit,
had 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, however, interesting, as the
mountain began to show its true form. When we reached the foot of
the main ridge, we had much difficulty in finding any water, and we
thought we should have been obliged to have passed the night
without any. At last we discovered some by looking close to the
mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards, the
streamlets were buried and entirely lost in the friable calcareous
stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature ever made a more
solitary, desolate pile of rock;--it well deserves its name of
Hurtado, or separated. The mountain is steep, extremely rugged, and
broken, and so entirely destitute of trees, and even bushes, that
we actually could not make a skewer to stretch out our meat over
the fire of thistle-stalks. (6/1. I call these thistle-stalks for
the want of a more correct name. I believe it is a species of
Eryngium.) The strange aspect of this mountain is contrasted by the
sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep sides, but
likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uniformity of the
colouring gives an extreme quietness to the 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 insensibly sloped up to a
height of between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. In the morning
(9th of September) the guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge,
which he thought would lead me to the four peaks that crown the
summit. The climbing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing; the
sides were so indented, that what was gained in one five minutes
was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the ridge, my
disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous valley as deep
as the plain, which cut the chain traversely in two, and separated
me from the four points. This valley is very narrow, but
flat-bottomed, and it forms a fine horse-pass for the Indians, as
it connects the plains on the northern and southern sides of the
range. Having descended, and while crossing it, I saw two horses
grazing: I immediately hid myself in the long grass, and began to
reconnoitre; but as I could see no signs of Indians I proceeded
cautiously on my second ascent. It was late in the day, and this
part of the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I 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 associated. 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 similar manner aggregated, at a period when the great
calcareous 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 ocean.

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even the view
was insignificant;--a plain like the sea, but without its beautiful
colour and defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, and a
little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a relish. That the danger
was very little was certain, for my two companions made a good
fire--a thing which is never done when it is suspected that Indians
are near. I reached the place of our bivouac by sunset, and
drinking much mat, 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 10, 1833.

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
gulleys, of which one was about twenty feet wide, and at least
thirty deep; we were obliged in consequence to make a considerable
circuit before we could find a pass. We stayed the night at the
posta, the conversation, as was generally the case, being about the
Indians. The Sierra Ventana was formerly a great place of resort;
and three or four years ago there was much fighting there. My guide
had been present when many Indians were killed: the women escaped
to the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately with great
stones; many thus saving themselves.

SEPTEMBER 11, 1833.

Proceeded to the third posta in company with the lieutenant who
commanded it. The distance is called fifteen leagues; but it is
only guess-work, and is generally overstated. The road was
uninteresting, over a dry grassy plain; and on our left hand at a
greater or less distance there were some low hills; a continuation
of which we crossed close to the posta. Before our arrival we met a
large herd of cattle and horses, 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 distant my companions
knew them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming behind their
backs. The Indians generally have a fillet round their heads, but
never any covering; and their black hair blowing across their
swarthy faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the wildness of
their appearance. They turned out to be a party of Bernantio's
friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much
salt, their children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very
different from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same
kind of life, eat scarcely any: according to Mungo Park, it is
people who live on vegetable food who have an unconquerable desire
for salt. (6/2. "Travels in Africa" page 233.) 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 12 AND 13, 1833.

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. The latter were strange beings; the first a fine
young negro; the second half Indian and negro; and the two others
nondescripts; namely, an old Chilian miner, the colour of mahogany,
and another partly a mulatto; but two such mongrels, with such
detestable 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, remnants of deer and ostriches; and their long
spears were stuck in the turf. Farther in the dark background their
horses were tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness
of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, a
soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to the
ground, and thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy
teru-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the
conversation, and every head, for a moment, a little inclined.

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

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


In the morning we all sallied forth to hunt, and although we had
not much success, there were some animated chases. Soon after
starting the party separated, and so arranged their plans, that at
a certain time of the day (in guessing which they show much skill)
they should all meet from different points of the compass on a
plain piece of ground, and thus drive together the wild animals.
One day I went out hunting at Bahia Blanca, but the men there
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, two of which are
as large as hen pheasants. (6/3. Two species of Tinamus and
Eudromia elegans of A. d'Orbigny, which can only be called a
partridge with regard to its habits.) 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 hens' eggs; so that we obtained from
this one nest as much food as 297 hens' eggs would have given.

SEPTEMBER 14, 1833.

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

SEPTEMBER 15, 1833.

Rose very early in the morning, and shortly after passed the posta
where the Indians had murdered the five soldiers. The officer had
eighteen chuzo wounds in his body. By the middle of the day, after
a hard gallop, we reached the fifth posta: on account of some
difficulty in procuring horses we stayed there the night. As this
point was the most exposed on the whole line, twenty-one soldiers
were stationed here; at sunset they returned from hunting, bringing
with them seven deer, three ostriches, and many armadilloes and
partridges. When riding through the country, it is a common
practice to set fire to the plain; and hence at night, as on this
occasion, the horizon was illuminated in several places by
brilliant conflagrations. This is done partly for the sake of
puzzling any stray Indians, 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 inelegance; when wading
about in shallow water, which is its favourite resort, its gait is
far from awkward. These birds in a flock utter a noise, that
singularly resembles the cry of a pack of small dogs in full chase:
waking in the night, I have more than once been for a moment
startled at the distant sound. The teru-tero (Vanellus cayanus) is
another bird which often disturbs the stillness of the night. In
appearance and habits it resembles in many respects our peewits;
its wings, however, are armed with sharp spurs, like those on the
legs of the common cock. As our peewit takes its name from the
sound of its voice, so does the teru-tero. While riding over the
grassy plains, one is constantly pursued by these birds, which
appear to hate mankind, and I am sure deserve to be hated for their
never-ceasing, unvaried, harsh screams. To the sportsman they are
most annoying, by telling every other bird and animal of his
approach: to the traveller in the country they may possibly, as
Molina says, do good, by warning him of the midnight robber. During
the breeding season, they attempt, like our peewits, by feigning to
be wounded, to draw away from their nests dogs and other enemies.
The eggs of this bird are esteemed a great delicacy.

SEPTEMBER 16, 1833.

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 dead 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 back, as if it had been struck with a
paving-stone. A fence of thistle-stalks round the hovel was nearly
broken down, and my informer, putting his head out to see what was
the matter, received a severe cut, and now wore a bandage. The
storm was said to have been of limited extent: we certainly saw
from our last night's bivouac a dense 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 (6/4. "History of the Abipones" volume 2 page 6.): 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 hail-stones were flat, and one
was ten inches in circumference, and another weighed two ounces.
They ploughed up a gravel-walk like musket-balls, and passed
through glass-windows, making round holes, but not cracking them.

Having finished our dinner of hail-stricken meat, we crossed the
Sierra Tapalguen; a low range of hills, a few hundred feet in
height, which commences at Cape Corrientes. The rock in this part
is pure quartz; farther 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 gives a curious
account of the Indians driving troops of wild horses into it, and
then by guarding the entrance keeping them secure. (6/5. Falconer's
"Patagonia" page 70.) 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 excellent.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1833.

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, riding by two or three
together on the same horse: they, as well as many of the young men,
were strikingly handsome,--their fine ruddy complexions being the
picture of health. Besides the toldos, there were three ranchos;
one inhabited by the Commandant, and the two others by Spaniards
with small shops.

We were here able to buy some biscuit. I had now been several days
without tasting anything besides meat: I did not at all dislike
this new regimen; but I felt as if it would only have agreed with
me with hard exercise. I have heard that patients in England, when
desired to confine themselves exclusively to an animal diet, even
with the hope of life before their eyes, have hardly been able to
endure it. Yet the Gaucho in the Pampas, for months together,
touches nothing but beef. But they eat, I observe, a very large
proportion of fat, which is of a less animalised 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" (6/6. "Fauna Boreali-Americana"
volume 1 page 35.): this appears to me a curious physiological
fact. It is, perhaps, from their meat regimen that the Gauchos,
like other carnivorous animals, can abstain long from food. I was
told that at Tandeel some troops voluntarily pursued a party of
Indians for three days, without eating or drinking.

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

SEPTEMBER 18, 1833.

We had a very long ride this day. At the twelfth posta, which is
seven leagues south of the Rio Salado, we came to the first
estancia with cattle and white women. Afterwards we had to ride for
many miles through a country flooded with water above our horses'
knees. By crossing the stirrups, and riding Arab-like with our legs
bent up, we contrived to keep tolerably dry. It was nearly dark
when we arrived at the Salado; the stream was deep, and about forty
yards wide; in summer, however, its bed becomes almost dry, and the
little remaining water nearly as salt as that of the sea. We slept
at one of the great estancias of General 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 employed about this estate,
and they defied all the attacks of the Indians.

SEPTEMBER 19, 1833.

Passed the Guardia del Monte. This is a nice scattered little town,
with many gardens, full of peach and quince trees. The plain here
looked like that around Buenos Ayres; the turf being short and
bright green, with beds of clover and thistles, and with bizcacha
holes. I was very much struck with the marked change in the aspect
of the country after having crossed the Salado. From a coarse
herbage we passed on to a carpet of fine green verdure. I at first
attributed this to some change in the nature of the soil, but the
inhabitants assured me that here, as well as in Banda Oriental,
where there is as great a difference between the country around
Monte Video and the thinly-inhabited savannahs of Colonia, the
whole was to be attributed to the manuring and grazing of the
cattle. Exactly the same fact has been observed in the prairies of
North America, where coarse grass, between five and six feet high,
when grazed by cattle, changes into common pasture land. (6/7. See
Mr. Atwater's "Account of the Prairies" in "Silliman's North
American Journal" volume 1 page 117.) I am not botanist enough to
say whether the change here is owing to the introduction of new
species, to the altered growth of the same, or to a difference in
their proportional numbers. Azara has also observed with
astonishment this change: he is likewise much perplexed by the
immediate appearance of plants not occurring in the neighbourhood,
on the borders of any track that leads to a newly-constructed
hovel. In another part he says, "Ces chevaux (sauvages) ont la
manie de prfrer les chemins, et le bord des routes pour dposer
leurs excrmens, dont on trouve des monceaux dans ces endroits."
(6/8. Azara's "Voyage" volume 1 page 373.) Does this not partly
explain the circumstance? We thus have lines of richly manured land
serving as channels of communication across wide districts.



Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European plants,
now become extraordinarily common. The fennel in great profusion
covers the ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, Monte
Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) has a
far wider range: it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the
Cordillera, across the continent. (6/9. M. A. d'Orbigny volume 1
page 474, says that the cardoon and artichoke are both found wild.
Dr. Hooker "Botanical Magazine" volume 40 page 2862, has described
a variety of the Cynara from this part of South America under the
name of inermis. He states that botanists are now generally agreed
that the cardoon and the artichoke are varieties of one plant. I
may add, that an intelligent farmer assured me that he had observed
in a deserted garden some artichokes changing into the common
cardoon. Dr. Hooker believes that Head's vivid description of the
thistle of the Pampas applies to the cardoon, but this is a
mistake. Captain Head referred to the plant 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.) 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
replaces the peccari; packs of wild dogs may be heard howling on
the wooded banks of the less-frequented streams; and the common
cat, altered into a large and fierce animal, inhabits rocky hills.
As M. d'Orbigny has remarked, the increase in numbers of the
carrion-vulture, since the introduction of the domestic animals,
must have been infinitely great; and we have given reasons for
believing that they have extended their southern range. No doubt
many plants, besides the cardoon and fennel, are naturalised; thus
the islands near the mouth of the Parana are thickly clothed with
peach and orange trees, springing from seeds carried there by the
waters of the river.

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

SEPTEMBER 20, 1833.

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; and I should think one of the
most regular in the world. (6/10. It is said to contain 60,000
inhabitants. Monte Video, the second town of importance on the
banks of the Plata, has 15,000.) Every street is at right angles to
the one it crosses, and the parallel ones being equidistant, the
houses are collected into solid squares of equal dimensions, which
are called quadras. On the other hand, the houses themselves are
hollow squares; all the rooms opening into a neat little courtyard.
They are generally only one story high, with flat roofs, which are
fitted with seats, and are much frequented by the inhabitants in
summer. In the centre of the town is the Plaza, where the public
offices, fortress, cathedral, etc., stand. Here also, the old
viceroys, before the revolution, had their palaces. The general
assemblage of buildings possesses considerable architectural
beauty, although none individually can boast of any.

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




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


SEPTEMBER 27, 1833.

In the evening I set out on an excursion to St. F, which is
situated nearly three hundred English miles from Buenos Ayres, on
the banks of the Parana. The roads in the neighbourhood of the
city, after the rainy weather, were 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

SEPTEMBER 28, 1833.

We passed the small town of Luxan, where there is a wooden bridge
over the river--a most unusual convenience in this country. We
passed also Areco. The plains 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 turnpike-road. The clumps were of the most brilliant
green, and they made a pleasing miniature-likeness of broken forest
land. When the thistles are full grown, the great beds are
impenetrable, except by a few tracks, as intricate as those in a
labyrinth. These are only known to the robbers, who at this season
inhabit them, and sally forth at night to rob and cut throats with
impunity. Upon asking at a house whether robbers were numerous, I
was answered, "The thistles are not up yet;"--the meaning of which
reply was not at first very obvious. There is little interest in
passing over these tracts, for they are inhabited by few animals or
birds, excepting the bizcacha and its friend the little owl.

The bizcacha is well known to form a prominent feature in the
zoology of the Pampas. (7/1. 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
skins of these animals have been sent to England for the sake of
the fur.) It is found as far south as the Rio Negro, in latitude 41
degrees, but not beyond. It cannot, like the agouti, subsist on the
gravelly and desert plains of Patagonia, but prefers a clayey or
sandy soil, which produces a different and more abundant
vegetation. Near Mendoza, at the foot of the Cordillera, it occurs
in close neighbourhood with the allied alpine species. It is a very
curious circumstance in its geographical distribution, that it has
never been seen, fortunately for the inhabitants of Banda Oriental,
to the eastward of the river Uruguay: yet in this province there
are plains which appear admirably adapted to its habits. The
Uruguay has formed an insuperable obstacle to its migration:
although the broader barrier of the Parana has been passed, and the
bizcacha is common in Entre Rios, the province between these two
great rivers. Near Buenos Ayres these animals are exceedingly
common. Their most favourite resort appears to be those parts of
the plain which during one-half of the year are covered with giant
thistles, to the exclusion of other plants. The Gauchos affirm that
it lives on roots; which, from the great strength of its gnawing
teeth, and the kind of places frequented by it, seems probable. In
the evening the bizcachas come out in numbers, and quietly sit at
the mouths of their burrows on their haunches. At such times they
are very tame, and a man on horseback passing by seems only to
present an object for their grave contemplation. They run very
awkwardly, and when running out of danger, from their elevated
tails and short front legs, much resemble great rats. Their flesh,
when cooked, is very white and good, but it is seldom used.

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

The little owl (Athene cunicularia), which has been so often
mentioned, on the plains of Buenos Ayres exclusively inhabits the
holes of the bizcacha; but in Banda Oriental it is its own workman.
During the open day, but more especially in the evening, these
birds may be seen in every direction standing frequently by pairs
on the hillock near their burrows. If disturbed they either enter
the hole, or, uttering a shrill harsh cry, move with a remarkably
undulatory flight to a short distance, and then turning round,
steadily gaze at their pursuer. Occasionally in the evening they
may be heard hooting. I found in the stomachs of two which I opened
the remains of mice, and I one day saw a small snake killed and
carried away. It is said that snakes are their common prey during
the daytime. I may here mention, as showing on what various kinds
of food owls subsist, that a species killed among the islets of the
Chonos Archipelago had its stomach full of good-sized crabs. In
India there is a fishing genus of owls, which likewise catches
crabs. (7/2. "Journal of Asiatic Soc." volume 5 page 363.)

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.

SEPTEMBER 29 AND 30, 1833.


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 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 perpendicular, 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 1, 1833.

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

OCTOBER 2, 1833.

We passed through Corunda, which, from the luxuriance of its
gardens, was one of the prettiest villages I saw. From this point
to St. F the road is not very safe. The western side of the Parana
northward ceases to be inhabited; and hence the Indians sometimes
come down thus far, and waylay travellers. The nature of the
country also favours this, for instead of a grassy plain, there is
an open woodland, composed of low prickly mimosas. We passed some
houses that had been ransacked and since deserted; 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. F. 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 boundary between the
two places, and that the character of the country is nearly
similar, the difference was much greater than I should have

OCTOBER 3 AND 4, 1833.

I was confined for these two days to my bed by a headache. A
good-natured old woman, who attended me, wished me to try many odd
remedies. A common practice is, to bind an orange-leaf or a bit of
black plaster to each temple: and a still more general plan is, to
split a 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. F is a quiet little town, and is kept clean and in good order.
The governor, Lopez, was a common soldier at the time of the
revolution; but has now been seventeen years in power. This
stability of government is owing to his tyrannical habits; for
tyranny seems as yet better adapted to these countries than
republicanism. The governor's favourite occupation is hunting
Indians: a short time since he slaughtered forty-eight, and sold
the children at the rate of three or four pounds apiece.

OCTOBER 5, 1833.

We crossed the Parana to St. F Bajada, a town on the opposite
shore. The passage took some hours, as the river here consisted of
a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low wooded islands. I
had a letter of introduction to an old Catalonian 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 revolutions.
They boast here of representatives, ministers, a standing army, and
governors: so it is no wonder that they have their revolutions. At
some future day this must be one of the richest countries of La
Plata. The soil is varied and productive; and its almost insular
form gives it two grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana
and Uruguay.

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

In the Pampaean deposit at the Bajada I found the osseous armour of
a gigantic armadillo-like animal, the inside of which, when the
earth was removed, was like a great cauldron; I found also teeth of
the Toxodon and Mastodon, and one tooth of a Horse, in the same
stained and decayed state. This latter tooth greatly interested me,
and I took scrupulous care in ascertaining that it had been
embedded contemporaneously with the other remains; for I was not
then aware that amongst the fossils from Bahia Blanca there was a
horse's tooth hidden in the matrix: nor was it then known with
certainty that the remains of horses are common in North America.
(7/3. I need hardly state here that there is good evidence against
any horse living in America at the time of Columbus.) Mr. Lyell has
lately brought from the United States a tooth of a horse; and it is
an interesting fact, that Professor Owen could find in no species,
either fossil or recent, a slight but peculiar curvature
characterising it, until he thought of comparing it with my
specimen found here: he has named this American horse Equus
curvidens. Certainly it is a marvellous fact in the history of the
Mammalia, that in South America a native horse should have lived
and disappeared, to be succeeded in after ages by the countless
herds descended from the few introduced with the Spanish colonists!


The existence in South America of a fossil horse, of the mastodon,
possibly of an elephant (7/4. Cuvier "Ossemens Fossils" tome 1 page
158.), 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 in latitude 20 degrees, 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 zoological provinces of North and South
America strongly contrasted with each other. (7/5. 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
British Association 1836 page 157, talking of the identification of
a Mexican animal with the Synetheres prehensilis, says, "We do not
know with what propriety, but if correct, it is, if not a solitary
instance, at least very nearly so, of a rodent animal being common
to North and South America.") 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
characterised 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
characterised (putting on one side a few wandering species) by
numerous peculiar gnawers, and by four genera (the ox, sheep, goat,
and antelope) of hollow-horned ruminants, of which great division
South America is not known to possess a single species. Formerly,
but within the period when most of the now existing shells were
living, North America possessed, besides hollow-horned ruminants,
the elephant, mastodon, horse, and three genera of Edentata,
namely, the Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Mylodon. Within nearly this
same period (as proved by the shells at Bahia Blanca) South America
possessed, as we have just seen, a mastodon, horse, hollow-horned
ruminant, and the same three genera (as well as several others) of
the Edentata. Hence it is evident that North and South America, in
having within a late geological period these several genera in
common, were much more closely related in the character of their
terrestrial inhabitants than they now are. The more I reflect on
this case, the more interesting it appears: I know of no other
instance where we can almost mark the period and manner of the
splitting up of one great region into two well-characterised
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 platform, or, more probably, on the recent
submergence of land in the West Indian Archipelago, as the cause of
the present zoological separation of North and South America. The
South American character of the West Indian mammals seems to
indicate that this archipelago was formerly united to the southern
continent, and that it has subsequently been an area of subsidence.
(7/6. See Dr. Richardson's "Report" page 157; also "L'Institut"
1837 page 253. Cuvier says the kinkajou is found in the larger
Antilles, but this is doubtful. M. Gervais states that the
Didelphis crancrivora is found there. It is certain that the West
Indies possess some mammifers peculiar to themselves. A tooth of a
mastodon has been brought from Bahama; "Edinburgh New Philosophical
Journal" 1826 page 395.)

(PLATE 33. MYLODON. Height, 7 feet 6 inches; girth round chest, 6
feet 6 inches; maximum breadth of pelvis, 3 feet 7 inches.)

When America, and especially North America, possessed its
elephants, mastodons, horse, and hollow-horned ruminants, 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, we are led to look to the north-western side
of North America as the former point of communication between the
Old and so-called New World. (7/7. See the admirable Appendix by
Dr. Buckland to Beechey's "Voyage"; also the writings of Chamisso
in Kotzebue's "Voyage.") 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

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. F. 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 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. (7/8. In Captain
Owen's "Surveying Voyage" volume 2 page 274, there is a curious
account of the effects of a drought on the elephants, at Benguela
(west coast of Africa). "A number of these animals had some time
since entered the town, in a body, to possess themselves of the
wells, not being able to procure any water in the country. The
inhabitants mustered, when a desperate conflict ensued, which
terminated in the ultimate 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.)
The lowest estimation of the loss of cattle in the province of
Buenos Ayres alone, was taken at one million head. A proprietor at
San Pedro had previously to these years 20,000 cattle; at the end
not one remained. San Pedro is situated in the middle of the finest
country; and even now abounds again with animals; yet during the
latter part of the "gran seco," live cattle were brought in vessels
for the consumption of the inhabitants. The animals roamed from
their estancias, and, wandering far southward, were mingled
together in such multitudes, that a government commission was sent
from Buenos Ayres to settle the disputes of the owners. Sir
Woodbine Parish informed me of another and very curious source of
dispute; the ground being so long dry, such quantities of dust were
blown about, that in this open country the landmarks became
obliterated, and people could not tell the limits of their estates.

I was informed by an eye-witness that the cattle in herds of
thousands rushed into the Parana, and being exhausted by hunger
they were unable to crawl up the muddy banks, and thus were
drowned. The arm of the river which runs by San Pedro was so full
of putrid carcasses, that the master of a vessel told me that the
smell rendered it quite impassable. Without doubt several hundred
thousand animals thus perished in the river: their bodies when
putrid were seen floating down the stream; and many in all
probability were deposited in the estuary of the Plata. All the
small rivers became highly saline, and this caused the death of
vast numbers in particular spots; for when an 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. (7/9. "Travels" volume 1 page 374.) He adds that more
than once he has seen the carcasses of upwards of a thousand wild
horses thus destroyed. I noticed that the smaller streams in the
Pampas were paved with a breccia of bones, but this probably is the
effect of a gradual increase, rather than of the destruction at any
one period. Subsequently to the drought of 1827 to 1832, a very
rainy season followed which caused great floods. Hence it is almost
certain that some thousands of the skeletons were buried by the
deposits of the very next year. What would be the opinion of a
geologist, viewing such an enormous collection of bones, of all
kinds of animals and of all ages, thus embedded in one thick earthy
mass? Would he not attribute it to a flood having swept over the
surface of the land, rather than to the common order of things?
(7/10. These droughts to a certain degree seem to be almost
periodical; I was told the dates of several others, and the
intervals were about fifteen years.)

OCTOBER 12, 1833.

I had intended to push my excursion farther, 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 disappeared, and others
again had been formed and protected by vegetation. They are
composed of muddy sand, without even the smallest pebble, and were
then about four feet above the level of the river; but during the
periodical floods they are inundated. They all present one
character; numerous willows and a few other trees are bound
together by a great variety of creeping plants, thus forming a
thick jungle. These thickets afford a retreat for 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
Indios" had been the subject of conversation, so in this was "el
rastro del tigre."

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

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

Owing to bad weather we remained two days at our moorings. Our only
amusement was catching fish for our dinner: there were several
kinds, and all good eating. A fish called the "armado" (a Silurus)
is remarkable from a harsh grating noise which it makes when caught
by hook and line, and which can 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 degrees. 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 15, 1833.



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 flattened laterally, that is, in a plane at right
angles to that of a spoonbill or duck. It is as flat and elastic as
an ivory paper-cutter, and the lower mandible, differently from
every other bird, is an inch and a half longer than the upper. In a
lake near Maldonado, from which the water had been nearly drained,
and which, in consequence, swarmed with small fry, I saw several of
these birds, generally in small flocks, flying rapidly backwards
and forwards close to the surface of the lake. They kept their
bills wide open, and the lower mandible half buried in the water.
Thus skimming the surface, they ploughed it in their course: the
water was quite smooth, and it formed a most curious spectacle to
behold a flock, each bird leaving its narrow wake on the
mirror-like surface. In their flight they frequently twist about
with extreme quickness, and dexterously manage with their
projecting lower mandible to plough up small fish, which are
secured by the upper and shorter half of their scissor-like bills.
This fact I repeatedly saw, as, like swallows, they continued to
fly backwards and forwards close before me. Occasionally when
leaving the surface of the water their flight was wild, irregular,
and rapid; they then uttered loud harsh cries. When these birds are
fishing, the advantage of the long primary feathers of their wings,
in keeping them dry, is very evident. When thus employed, their
forms resemble the symbol by which many artists represent marine
birds. Their tails are much used in steering their irregular

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 flocks on the
grassy plains, at some distance from the water. Being at anchor, as
I have said, in one of the deep creeks between the islands of the
Parana, as the evening drew to a close, one of these scissor-beaks
suddenly appeared. The water was quite still, and many little fish
were rising. The bird continued for a long time to skim the
surface, flying in its wild and irregular manner up and down the
narrow canal, now dark with the growing night and the shadows of
the overhanging trees. At Monte Video, I observed that some large
flocks during the day remained on the mud-banks at the head of the
harbour, in the same manner as on the grassy plains near the
Parana; and every evening they took flight seaward. From these
facts I suspect that the Rhynchops generally fishes by night, at
which time many of the lower animals come most abundantly to the
surface. M. Lesson states that he has seen these birds opening the
shells of the mactrae buried in the sand-banks on the coast of
Chile: from their weak bills, with the lower 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 direct and rapid, like the course of
an arrow, is weak and undulatory, as among the soft-billed birds.
It utters a low note, like the clicking together of two small
stones. A small green parrot (Conurus murinus), with a grey breast,
appears to prefer the tall trees on the islands to any other
situation for its building-place. A number of nests 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 ombu
tree, near a house, and thence takes a short flight in pursuit of
insects, and returns to the same spot. When on the wing it presents
in its manner of flight and general appearance a
caricature-likeness of the common swallow. It has the power of
turning very shortly in the air, and in so doing opens and shuts
its tail, sometimes in a horizontal or lateral and sometimes in a
vertical direction, just like a pair of scissors.

OCTOBER 16, 1833.

Some leagues below Rozario, the western shore of the Parana is
bounded by perpendicular cliffs, which extend in a long line to
below San Nicolas; hence it more resembles a sea-coast than that of
a fresh-water river. It is a great drawback to the scenery of the
Parana, that, from the soft nature of its banks, the water is very
muddy. The Uruguay, flowing through a granitic country, is much
clearer; and where the two channels unite at the head of the Plata,
the waters may for a long distance be distinguished by their black
and red colours. In the evening, the wind being not quite fair, as
usual we immediately moored, and the next day, as it blew rather
freshly, though with a favouring current, the master was much too
indolent to think of starting. At Bajada, he was described to me as
"hombre muy aflicto"--a man always miserable to get on; but
certainly he bore all delays with admirable resignation. He was an
old Spaniard, and had been many 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

OCTOBER 18 AND 19, 1833.

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
possessing a tropical climate, and a soil which, according to the
best of judges, M. Bonpland, is perhaps unequalled in fertility in
any part of the world. How different would have been the aspect of
this river if English colonists had by good fortune first sailed up
the Plata! What noble towns would now have occupied its shores!
Till the death of Francia, the Dictator of Paraguay, these two
countries must remain distinct, as if placed on opposite sides of
the globe. And when the old bloody-minded tyrant is gone to his
long account, Paraguay will be torn by revolutions, violent in
proportion to the previous 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 20, 1833.

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

This revolution was supported by scarcely any pretext of
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
well knew that by stopping the supply of meat they would certainly
be victorious. General Rosas could not have known of this rising;
but it appears to be quite consonant with the 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.
Horses broken-in, Gauchos Riding.
Character of Inhabitants.
Rio Plata.
Flocks of Butterflies.
Aeronaut Spiders.
Phosphorescence of the Sea.
Port Desire.
Port St. Julian.
Geology of Patagonia.
Fossil gigantic Animal.
Types of Organisation constant.
Change in the Zoology of America.
Causes of Extinction.


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

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

NOVEMBER 14, 1833.

We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I intended to proceed to
Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the northern bank of the Plata
and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, following up the Uruguay,
to the village of Mercedes on the Rio Negro (one of the many rivers
of this name in South America), and from this point to return
direct to Monte Video. We slept at the house of my guide at
Canelones. In the morning we rose early, in the hopes of being able
to ride a good distance; but it was a vain attempt, for all the
rivers were flooded. We passed in boats the streams of Canelones,
St. Lucia, and San Jos, 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 mountebanks
and their horses, being wrecked in the Plata, one horse swam seven
miles to the shore. In the course of the day I was amused by the
dexterity with which a Gaucho forced a restive horse to swim a
river. He stripped off his clothes, and jumping on its back, rode
into the water till it was out of its depth; then slipping off over
the crupper, he caught hold of the tail, and as often as the horse
turned round the man frightened it back by splashing water in its
face. As soon as the horse touched the bottom on the other side,
the man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in hand,
before the 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 pommel or mane, and help himself with the other arm.

We slept and stayed the following day at the post of Cufre. In the
evening the postman or 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 letters! The view from the house was pleasing; an
undulating green surface, with distant glimpses of the Plata. I
find that I look at this province with very different eyes from
what I did upon my first arrival. I recollect I then thought it
singularly level; but now, after galloping over the Pampas, my only
surprise is, what could have induced me ever to have called it
level. The country is a series of undulations, in themselves
perhaps not absolutely great, but, as compared to the plains of St.
F, real mountains. From these inequalities there is an abundance
of small rivulets, and the turf is green and luxuriant.

NOVEMBER 17, 1833.

We crossed the Rozario, which was deep and rapid, and passing the
village of Colla, arrived at mid-day 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 invited
to sleep at Colonia, and to accompany on the following day a
gentleman to his estancia, where there were some limestone rocks.
The town is built on a stony promontory 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 thunderstorms of the Rio Plata. Two-thirds of the building
were blown away to the very foundation; and the rest stands a
shattered and curious monument of the united powers of lightning
and gunpowder. In the evening I wandered about the half-demolished
walls of the town. It was the chief seat of the Brazilian war--a
war most injurious to this country, not so much in its immediate
effects, as in being the origin of a multitude of generals and all
other grades of officers. More generals are numbered (but not paid)
in the United Provinces of La Plata than in the United Kingdom of
Great Britain. These gentlemen have learned to like power, and do
not object to a little skirmishing. Hence there are many always on
the watch to create disturbance and to overturn a government which
as yet has never rested on any stable foundation. I noticed,
however, both here and in 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 representatives; I heard some
men discussing the merits of those for Colonia; and it was said
that, "although they were not men of business, they could all sign
their names:" with this they seemed to think every reasonable man
ought to be satisfied.

NOVEMBER 18, 1833.

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 impassable brooks. There was an excellent port
for little vessels, and an abundance of small wood, which is
valuable as supplying fuel to Buenos Ayres. I was curious to know
the value of so complete an estancia. Of cattle there were 3000,
and it would well support three or 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 pounds
sterling, and he only wanted 500 pounds sterling additional, and
probably would sell it for less. The chief trouble with an estancia
is driving the cattle twice a week to a central spot, in order to
make them tame, and to count them. This latter operation would be
thought difficult, where there are ten or fifteen thousand head
together. It is managed on the principle that the cattle invariably
divide themselves into little troops of from forty to one hundred.
Each troop is recognised 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 nta or niata. They appear externally to hold
nearly the same relation to other cattle, which bull or pug dogs do
to other dogs. Their forehead is very short and broad, with the
nasal end turned up, and the upper lip much drawn back; their lower
jaws project beyond the upper, and have a corresponding upward
curve; hence their teeth are always exposed. Their nostrils are
seated high up and are very open; their eyes project outwards. When
walking they carry their heads low, on a short neck; and their
hinder legs are rather longer compared with the front legs than is
usual. Their bare teeth, their short heads, and upturned nostrils
give them the most ludicrous self-confident air of defiance

Since my return, I have procured a skeleton head, through the
kindness of my friend Captain Sulivan, R.N., which is now deposited
in the College of Surgeons. (8/1. Mr. Waterhouse has drawn up a
detailed description of this head, which I hope he will publish in
some Journal.) Don F. Muniz, of Luxan, has kindly collected for me
all the information which he could respecting this breed. From his
account it seems that about eighty or ninety years ago, they were
rare and kept as curiosities at Buenos Ayres. The breed is
universally believed to have originated amongst the Indians
southward of the Plata; and that it was with them the commonest
kind. Even to this day, those reared in the provinces near the
Plata show their less civilised origin, in being fiercer than
common cattle, and in the cow easily deserting her first calf, if
visited too often or molested. It is a singular fact that an almost
similar structure to the abnormal one of the niata breed,
characterises, as I am informed by Dr. Falconer, that great extinct
ruminant of India, the Sivatherium. (8/2. 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. Geoffroy St. Hilaire tome 1
page 244.) The breed is very TRUE; and a niata bull and cow
invariably produce niata calves. A niata bull with a common cow, or
the reverse cross, produces offspring having an intermediate
character, but with the niata characters strongly displayed:
according to Seor Muniz, there is the clearest evidence, contrary
to the common belief of agriculturists in analogous cases, that the
niata cow when crossed with a common bull transmits her
peculiarities more strongly than the niata bull when crossed with a
common cow. When the pasture is tolerably long, the niata cattle
feed with the tongue and palate as well as common cattle; but
during the great droughts, when so many animals perish, the niata
breed is under a great disadvantage, and would be exterminated if
not attended to; for the common cattle, like horses, are able just
to keep alive, by browsing with their lips on twigs of trees and
reeds; this the niatas cannot 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 19, 1833.

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 Uruguay presented to our
view a noble volume of water. From the clearness and rapidity of
the stream, its appearance was far superior to that of its
neighbour the Parana. On the opposite coast, several branches from
the latter river entered the Uruguay. As the sun was shining, the
two colours of the waters could be seen quite distinct.

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

NOVEMBER 21, 1833.

Started at sunrise, and rode slowly during the whole day. The
geological nature of this part of the province was different from
the rest, and closely resembled that of the Pampas. In 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 people. The extreme
though rather formal courtesy of our host and hostess, considering
their grade of life, was quite delightful.

NOVEMBER 22, 1833.

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 support an
astonishing number of animals, at present the annual export of
hides from Monte Video amounts to three hundred thousand; and the
home consumption, from waste, is very considerable. An estanciero
told me that he often had to send large herds of cattle a long
journey to a salting establishment, and that the tired beasts were
frequently obliged to be killed and skinned; but that he could
never persuade the Gauchos to eat of them, and every evening a
fresh beast was slaughtered for their suppers! The view of the 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. Formerly the Indians used to collect them,
for the purpose of making necklaces and bracelets--a taste, I may
observe, which is common to all savage nations, as well as to the
most polished. I did not know what to understand from this story,
but upon mentioning it at the Cape of Good Hope to Dr. Andrew
Smith, he told me that he recollected finding on the south-eastern
coast of Africa, about one hundred miles to the eastward of St.
John's river, some quartz crystals with their edges blunted from
attrition, and mixed with gravel on the sea-beach. Each crystal was
about five lines in diameter, and from an inch to an inch and a
half in length. Many of them had a small canal extending from one
extremity to the other, perfectly cylindrical, and of a size that
readily admitted a coarse thread or a piece of fine catgut. Their
colour was red or dull white. The natives were acquainted with this
structure in crystals. I have mentioned these circumstances
because, although no crystallised 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. (8/3. M. A. d'Orbigny
has given nearly a similar account of these dogs, tome 1 page 175.)
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,
generally 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 unmercifully.

The shepherd-dog comes to the house every day for some meat, and as
soon as it is given him, he skulks away as if ashamed of himself.
On these occasions the house-dogs are very tyrannical, and the
least of them will attack and pursue the stranger. The minute,
however, the latter has reached the flock, he turns round and
begins to bark, and then all the house-dogs take very quickly to
their heels. In a similar manner a whole pack of the 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 pliability of
the affections in the dog; and yet, whether wild or however
educated, he has a feeling of respect or fear for those that are
fulfilling their instinct of association. For we can understand on
no principle the wild dogs being driven away by the single one with
its flock, except that they consider, from some confused notion,
that the one thus associated gains power, as if in company with its
own kind. F. Cuvier has observed that all animals that readily
enter into domestication consider man as a member of their own
society, and thus fulfil their instinct of association. In the
above case the shepherd-dog ranks the sheep as its fellow-brethren,
and thus gains confidence; and the wild dogs, though knowing that
the individual sheep are not dogs, but are good to eat, yet partly
consent to this view when seeing them in a flock with a
shepherd-dog at their head.

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

Animals are so abundant in these countries, that humanity and
self-interest are not closely united; therefore I fear it is that
the former is here scarcely known. One day, riding in the Pampas
with a very respectable "Estanciero," my horse, being tired, lagged
behind. The man often shouted to me to spur him. When I
remonstrated that it was a pity, for the horse was quite exhausted,
he cried out, "Why not?--never mind--spur him--it is MY horse." I
had then some difficulty in making him comprehend that it was for
the horse's sake, and not on his account, that I did not choose to
use my spurs. He exclaimed, with a look of great surprise, "Ah, Don
Carlos, 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 appears to exert any muscular force. I was one day
watching a good rider, as we were galloping along at a rapid pace,
and thought to myself, "Surely if the horse starts, you appear so
careless on your seat, you must fall." At this moment a male
ostrich sprang from its nest right beneath the horse's nose: the
young colt bounded on one side like a stag; but as for the man, all
that could be said was, that he started and took fright with his

In Chile and Peru more pains are taken with the mouth of the horse
than in La Plata, and this is evidently a consequence of the more
intricate nature of the country. In Chile a horse is not 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 forefinger and thumb,
taken at full gallop across a courtyard, and then made to wheel
round the post of a veranda with great speed, but at so equal a
distance, that the rider, with outstretched arm, all the while kept
one finger rubbing the post. Then making a demi-volte in the air,
with the other arm outstretched in a like manner, he wheeled round,
with astonishing force, in an opposite direction.

Such a horse is well broken; and although this at first may appear
useless, it is far otherwise. It is only carrying that which is
daily necessary into perfection. When a bullock is checked and
caught by the lazo, it will sometimes gallop round and round in a
circle, and the horse being alarmed at the great strain, if not
well broken, will not readily turn like the pivot of a wheel. 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
animal. A respectable man riding one day met two others, one of
whom was mounted on a horse, which he knew to have been stolen from
himself. He challenged them; they answered him by 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 Mameluke, the power of which, though seldom
used, the horse knows full well; and large blunt spurs, that can be
applied either as a mere touch, or as an instrument of extreme
pain. I conceive that with English spurs, the slightest touch of
which pricks the skin, it would be impossible to break in a horse
after the South American fashion.

At an estancia near Las Vacas large numbers of mares are weekly
slaughtered for the sake of their hides, although worth only five
paper dollars, or about half a crown apiece. It seems at first
strange that it can answer to kill mares for such a trifle; but as
it is thought ridiculous in this country ever to break in or ride a
mare, they are of no value except for breeding. The only thing for
which I ever saw mares used, was to tread out wheat 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 missing one, as it rushed past him.
There was another man who said he would enter the corral on foot,
catch a mare, fasten her front legs together, drive her out, throw
her down, kill, skin, and stake the hide for drying (which latter
is a tedious job); and he engaged that he would perform this 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 26, 1833.

I set out on my return in a direct line for Monte Video. Having
heard of some giant's bones at a neighbouring farmhouse on the
Sarandis, a small stream entering the Rio Negro, I rode there
accompanied by my host, and purchased for the value of
eighteenpence the head of the Toxodon. (8/4. I must express my
obligation to Mr. Keane, at whose house I was staying on the
Berquelo, and to Mr. Lumb at Buenos Ayres, for without their
assistance these valuable remains would never have reached
England.) 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 at two other places, so that it must formerly have been
common. I found here, also, some large portions of the armour of a
gigantic armadillo-like animal, and part of the great head of a
Mylodon. The bones of this head are so fresh, that they contain,
according to the analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, seven 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
maintained, the bones themselves grew. As far as I am aware, not
one of these animals perished, as was formerly supposed, in the
marshes or muddy river-beds of the present land, but their bones
have been exposed by the streams intersecting the subaqueous
deposit in which they were originally embedded. We may 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 character, some parts being rather
more rocky and hilly than near the Plata. Not far from Monte Video
we passed through the village of Las Pietras, so named from some
large rounded masses of syenite. Its appearance was rather pretty.
In this country a few fig-trees round a group of houses, and a site
elevated a hundred feet above the general level, ought always to be
called picturesque.

During the last six months I have had an opportunity of seeing a
little of the character of the inhabitants of these provinces. The
Gauchos, or countrymen, are very superior to those who reside in
the towns. The Gaucho is invariably most obliging, polite, and
hospitable: I did not meet with even one instance of rudeness or
inhospitality. He is modest, both respecting himself and country,
but at the same time a spirited, bold fellow. On the other hand,
many robberies are committed, and there is much bloodshed: the
habit of constantly wearing the knife is the chief cause of the
latter. It is lamentable to hear how many lives are lost in
trifling quarrels. In fighting, each party tries to mark the face
of his adversary by slashing his nose or eyes; as is often attested
by deep and horrid-looking scars. Robberies 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 firearms; and the constant habit of carrying
them is the main check to more frequent robberies.

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

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

When speaking of these countries, the manner in which they have
been brought up by their unnatural parent, Spain, should always be
borne in mind. On the whole, perhaps, more credit is due for what
has been done, than blame for that which may be deficient. It is
impossible to doubt but that the extreme liberalism of these
countries must ultimately lead to good results. The very general
toleration of foreign religions, the regard paid to the means of
education, the freedom of the press, the facilities offered to all
foreigners, and 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

DECEMBER 6, 1833.

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 farther, 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 Blas, vast numbers of
butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless myriads, extended as
far as the eye could range. Even by the aid of a telescope it was
not possible to see a space free from butterflies. The seamen cried
out "it was snowing butterflies," and such in fact was the
appearance. More species than one were present, but the main part
belonged to a kind very similar to, but not identical with, the
common English Colias edusa. Some moths and hymenoptera accompanied
the butterflies; and a fine beetle (Calosoma) flew on board. Other
instances are known of this beetle having been caught far out at
sea; and this is the more remarkable, as the greater number of the
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 (8/5. Lyell's "Principles of Geology"
volume 3 page 63.); but the presence of other insects makes the
case distinct, and even less intelligible. Before sunset a strong
breeze sprung up from the north, and this must have caused tens of
thousands of the butterflies and other insects to have perished.

On another occasion, when seventeen miles off Cape Corrientes, I
had a net overboard to catch pelagic animals. Upon drawing it up,
to my surprise I found a considerable number of beetles in it, and
although in the open sea, they did not appear much injured by the
salt water. I lost some of the specimens, but those which I
preserved belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, Hydrobius
(two species), Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and Scarabaeus. At
first I thought that these insects had been blown from the shore;
but upon reflecting that out of the eight species four were
aquatic, and two others partly so in their habits, it appeared to
me most probable that they were floated into the sea by a small
stream which drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. On any supposition
it is an interesting circumstance to find live insects swimming in
the open ocean seventeen miles from the nearest point of land.
There are several accounts of insects having been blown off the
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 offshore 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. (8/6. 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.)

On several occasions, when the "Beagle" has been within the mouth
of the Plata, the rigging has been coated with the web of the
Gossamer Spider. One day (November 1st, 1832) I paid particular
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 flocculent mass.
This latter seems merely to be produced by the entanglement of the
single threads. The spiders were all of one species, but of both
sexes, together with young ones. These latter were distinguished by
their smaller size and more dusky colour. I will not give the
description of this spider, but merely state that it does not
appear to me to be included in any of Latreille's genera. The
little aeronaut as soon as it arrived on board was very active,
running about, sometimes letting itself fall, and then reascending
the same thread; sometimes employing itself in making a small and
very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It could run
with facility on the surface of water. When disturbed it lifted up
its front legs, in the attitude of attention. On its first arrival
it appeared very thirsty, and with exserted 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 inexhaustible. While watching some that were suspended by a
single thread, I several times observed that the slightest breath
of air bore them away out of sight, in a horizontal line. On
another occasion (25th) under similar circumstances, I repeatedly
observed the same kind of small spider, either when placed or
having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its abdomen, send
forth a thread, and then sail away horizontally, but with a
rapidity which was quite 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. F, 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, glittering in the sunshine, might be compared to
diverging rays of light; they were not, however, straight, but in
undulations like films of silk blown by the wind. They were more
than a yard in length, and diverged in an ascending direction from
the orifices. The spider then suddenly let go its hold of the post,
and was quickly borne out of sight. The day was hot and apparently
quite calm; yet under such circumstances, the atmosphere can never
be so tranquil as not to affect a vane so delicate as the thread of
a spider's web. If during a warm day we look either at the shadow
of any object cast on a bank, or over a level plain at a distant
landmark, the effect of an ascending current of heated air is
almost always evident: such upward currents, it has been remarked,
are also shown by the ascent of soap-bubbles, which will not rise
in an indoors room. Hence I think there is not much difficulty in
understanding the ascent of the fine lines projected from a
spider's spinners, and afterwards of the spider itself; the
divergence of the lines has been attempted to be explained, I
believe by Mr. Murray, by their similar electrical condition. The
circumstance of spiders of the same species, but of different sexes
and ages, being found on several occasions at the distance of many
leagues from the land, attached in vast numbers to 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. (8/7.
Mr. Blackwall in his "Researches in Zoology" has many excellent
observations on the habits of spiders.)

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

In deep water, far from the land, the number of living creatures is
extremely small: south of the latitude 35 degrees, 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 degrees 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 albicores; I presume that the numerous
lower pelagic animals feed on the Infusoria, which are now known,
from the researches of Ehrenberg, to abound in the open ocean: but
on what, in the clear blue water, do these Infusoria subsist?

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

As we proceed farther southward the sea is seldom phosphorescent;
and off Cape Horn I do not recollect more than once having seen it
so, and then it was far from being brilliant. This circumstance
probably has a close connection with the scarcity of organic beings
in that part of the ocean. After the elaborate paper by Ehrenberg,
on the phosphorescence of the sea, it is almost superfluous on my
part to make any observations on the subject. (8/8. An abstract is
given in No. 4 of the "Magazine of Zoology and Botany.") 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 phosphorescent.

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 reflection of the moon, or some luminous body; for
the edges were sinuous from the undulations of the surface. The
ship, which drew thirteen feet water, passed over, without
disturbing these patches. Therefore we must suppose that some
animals were congregated together at a greater depth than the
bottom of the vessel.

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

DECEMBER 23, 1833.

We arrived at Port Desire, situated in latitude 47 degrees, 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 scattered tufts of brown wiry grass are supported, and
still more rarely, some low thorny bushes. The weather is dry and
pleasant, and the fine blue sky is but seldom obscured. When
standing in the middle of one of these desert plains and looking
towards the interior, the view is generally bounded by the
escarpment of another plain, rather higher, but equally level and
desolate; and in every other direction the horizon is indistinct
from the trembling mirage which seems to rise from the heated

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 colonise this side of America south of 41 degrees 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 massacred the whole party,
excepting two men, who remained captives during many years. At the
Rio Negro I conversed with one of these men, now in extreme old


The zoology of Patagonia is as limited as its Flora. (8/9. I found
here a species of cactus, described by Professor Henslow, under the
name of Opuntia Darwinii "Magazine of Zoology and Botany" volume 1
page 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" page 221, in the same high latitude as here, namely, in
both cases, in 47 degrees.) 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 central
Africa) is not uncommon on the most desert parts: in their stomachs
I found grasshoppers, cicadae, small lizards, and even scorpions.
(8/10. These insects were not uncommon beneath stones. I found one
cannibal scorpion quietly devouring another.) At one time of the
year these birds go in flocks, at another in pairs, their cry is
very loud and singular, like the neighing of the guanaco.

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

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

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 circumscribed spaces,
which were generally bushy and all near the river, the ground was
actually white with bones. On one such spot I counted between ten
and twenty heads. I particularly examined the bones; they did not
appear, as some scattered ones which I had seen, gnawed or broken,
as if dragged together by beasts of prey. The animals in most cases
must have crawled, before dying, beneath and amongst the bushes.
Mr. Bynoe informs me that during a former voyage he observed the
same circumstance on the banks of the Rio Gallegos. I do not at all
understand the reason of this, but I may observe, that the wounded
guanacos at the St. Cruz invariably walked 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 sedimentary deposits.

"None can reply--all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue,
Which teaches awful doubt."
(8/11. Shelley, Lines on Mt. Blanc.)
One day the yawl was sent under the command of Mr. Chaffers with
three days' provisions to survey the upper part of the harbour. In
the morning we searched for some watering-places mentioned in an
old Spanish chart. We found one creek, at the head of which there
was a trickling rill (the first we had seen) of brackish water.
Here the tide compelled us to wait several hours; and in the
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 hilltop 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.

In the evening we sailed a few miles farther 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 farther, 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
surrounded by bold cliffs and steep pinnacles of porphyry. I do not
think I ever saw a spot which appeared more secluded from the rest
of the world than this rocky crevice in the wide plain.

The second day after our return to the anchorage, a party of
officers and myself went to ransack an old Indian grave, which I
had found on the summit of a neighbouring hill. Two immense 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 contrived to
detach from the ledge a huge fragment, and to throw it over the
pile so as to rest on the two blocks. We undermined the grave on
both sides, but could not find any relics, or even bones. The
latter probably had decayed long since (in which case the grave
must have been of extreme antiquity), for I found in another place
some smaller heaps, beneath which a very few 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 therefore 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 9, 1834.

Before it was dark the "Beagle" anchored in the fine spacious
harbour of Port St. Julian, situated about one hundred and ten
miles to the south of Port Desire. We remained here eight days. The
country is nearly similar to that of Port Desire, but perhaps
rather more sterile. One day a party accompanied Captain Fitz Roy
on a long walk round the head of the harbour. We were eleven hours
without tasting any water, and some of the party were quite
exhausted. From the summit of a hill (since well named Thirsty
Hill) a fine lake was spied, and two of the party proceeded with
concerted signals to show whether it was fresh water. What was our
disappointment to find a snow-white expanse of salt, crystallised
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 tormented us by its painful
bite. The common horsefly, which is so troublesome in the shady
lanes of England, belongs to this same genus. We here have the
puzzle that so frequently occurs in the case of musquitoes--on the
blood of what animals do these insects commonly feed? The guanaco
is nearly the only warm-blooded quadruped, and it is found in quite
inconsiderable numbers compared with the multitude of flies.

The geology of Patagonia is interesting. Differently from Europe,
where the tertiary formations appear to have accumulated in bays,
here along hundreds of miles of coast we have one great deposit,
including many tertiary shells, all apparently extinct. The most
common shell is a massive gigantic oyster, sometimes even a foot in
diameter. These beds are covered by others of a peculiar soft white
stone, including much gypsum, and resembling chalk, but really of a
pumiceous nature. It is highly remarkable, from being composed, to
at least one-tenth part of its bulk, of Infusoria: 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
Cordillera; half way up the river its thickness is more than 200
feet; it probably everywhere extends to this great chain, whence
the well-rounded pebbles of porphyry have been derived: we may
consider its average 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
transported, 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 successive levels the long lines of cliffs or
escarpments, which separate the different plains as they rise like
steps one behind the other. The elevatory movement, and the
eating-back power of the sea during the periods of rest, 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, Patagonia has been upraised 300 to 400 feet: I may add,
that within the period when icebergs transported boulders over the
upper plain of Santa Cruz, the elevation has been at least 1500
feet. Nor has Patagonia been affected only by upward movements: the
extinct tertiary shells from Port St. Julian and Santa Cruz cannot
have lived, according to Professor E. Forbes, in a greater depth of
water than from 40 to 250 feet; but they are now covered with
sea-deposited strata from 800 to 1000 feet in thickness: hence the
bed of the sea, on which these shells once lived, must have sunk
downwards several hundred feet, to allow of the accumulation of the
superincumbent strata. What a history of geological changes does
the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal!


At Port St. Julian, in some red mud capping the gravel on the
90-feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrauchenia
Patachonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel.
(8/12. I have lately heard that Captain Sulivan, R.N., has found
numerous fossil bones, embedded in regular strata, on the banks of
the R. Gallegos, in latitude 51 degrees 4'. Some of the bones are
large; others are small, and appear to have belonged to an
armadillo. This is a most interesting and important discovery.) It
belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata 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 step-formed plains, which must have been
modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited in which the
Macrauchenia was intombed, it is certain that this curious
quadruped 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 latitude 49 degrees 15', on these
wretched gravel plains with their stunted vegetation; but the
relationship of the Macrauchenia to the Guanaco, now an inhabitant
of the most sterile parts, partly explains this difficulty.

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

It is impossible to reflect on the changed state of the American
continent without the deepest astonishment. Formerly it must have
swarmed with great monsters: now we find mere pigmies, compared
with the antecedent allied races. If Buffon had known of the
gigantic sloth and armadillo-like animals, and of the lost
Pachydermata, he might have said with a greater semblance of truth
that the creative force in America had lost its power, rather than
that it had never possessed great vigour. The greater number, if
not all, of these extinct quadrupeds lived at a late period, and
were the contemporaries of most of the existing sea-shells. Since
they lived, no very great change in the form of the land can have
taken place. What, then, has exterminated so many species and whole
genera? The mind at first is irresistibly hurried into the belief
of some great catastrophe; but thus to destroy animals, both large
and small, in Southern Patagonia, in Brazil, on the Cordillera of
Peru, in North America up to Behring's Straits, 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
features of the land result from slow and gradual changes. It
appears from the character of the fossils in Europe, Asia,
Australia, and in North and South America, that those conditions
which favour the life of the LARGER quadrupeds were lately
coextensive 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 pasture, which
have since been overrun by thousands and hundreds of thousands of
the descendants of the stock introduced by the Spaniards? Have the
subsequently introduced species consumed the food of the great
antecedent races? Can we believe that the Capybara has taken the
food of the Toxodon, the Guanaco of the Macrauchenia, the existing
small Edentata of their numerous gigantic prototypes? Certainly, no
fact in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide
and repeated exterminations of its inhabitants.

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

In the cases where we can trace the extinction of a species through
man, either wholly or in one limited district, we know that it
becomes rarer and rarer, and is then lost: it would be difficult to
point out any just distinction between a species destroyed by man
or by the increase of its natural enemies. (8/13. See the excellent
remarks on this subject by Mr. Lyell in his "Principles of
Geology.") The evidence of rarity preceding extinction is more
striking in the successive tertiary strata, as remarked by several
able observers; it has often been found that a shell very common in
a tertiary stratum is now most rare, and has even long been thought
to be extinct. If then, as appears probable, species first become
rare and then extinct--if the too rapid increase of every species,
even the most favoured, is steadily checked, as we must admit,
though how and when it is hard to say--and if we see, without the
smallest surprise, though unable to assign the precise reason, one
species abundant and another closely-allied species rare in the
same district--why should we feel such great astonishment at the
rarity being carried a step farther to extinction? An action going
on, on every side of us, and yet barely appreciable, might surely
be carried a little farther without exciting our observation. Who
would feel any great surprise at hearing that the Magalonyx was
formerly rare compared with the Megatherium, or that one of the
fossil monkeys was few in number compared with one of the now
living monkeys? and yet in this comparative rarity, we should have
the plainest evidence of less favourable conditions for their
existence. To admit that species generally become rare before they
become extinct--to feel no surprise at the comparative rarity of
one species with another, and yet to call in some extraordinary
agent and to marvel greatly when a species ceases to exist, appears
to me much the same as to admit that sickness in the individual is
the prelude to death--to feel no surprise at sickness--but when the
sick man dies to wonder, and to believe that he died through



(PLATE 41. CONDOR (Sarcorhamphus gryphus).)

Santa Cruz.
Expedition up the River.
Immense Streams of basaltic lava.
Fragments not transported by the River.
Excavation of the valley.
Condor, habits of.
Erratic boulders of great size.
Indian relics.
Return to the ship.
Falkland Islands.
Wild horses, cattle, rabbits.
Wolf-like fox.
Fire made of bones.
Manner of hunting wild cattle.
Streams of stones.
Scenes of violence.
Eggs of Doris.
Compound animals.


APRIL 13, 1834.

The "Beagle" anchored within the mouth of the Santa Cruz. This
river is situated about sixty miles south of Port St. Julian.
During the last voyage Captain Stokes proceeded thirty miles up it,
but then, from the want of provisions, was obliged to return.
Excepting what was discovered at that time, scarcely anything was
known about this large river. Captain Fitz Roy now determined to
follow its course as far as time would allow. On the 18th three
whale-boats started, carrying three weeks' 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

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

APRIL 19, 1834.

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 officers of each boat
lived with, ate the same food, and slept in the same tent with
their crew, so that each boat was quite independent of the others.
After sunset the first level spot where any bushes were growing was
chosen for our night's lodging. Each of the crew took it in turns
to be cook. Immediately the boat was hauled up, the cook made his
fire; two others pitched the tent; the coxswain handed the things
out of the boat; the rest carried them up to the tents and
collected firewood. By this order, in half an hour everything was
ready for the night. A watch of two men and an officer was always
kept, whose duty it was to look after the boats, keep up the fire,
and guard against Indians. Each in the party had his one hour every

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

APRIL 20, 1834.

We passed the islands and set to work. Our regular day's march,
although it was hard enough, carried us on an average only ten
miles in a straight line, and perhaps fifteen or twenty altogether.
Beyond the place where we slept last night, the country is
completely terra incognita, for it was there that Captain Stokes
turned back. We saw in the distance a great smoke, and found the
skeleton of a horse, so we knew that Indians were in the
neighbourhood. On the next morning (21st) tracks of a party of
horse, and marks left by the trailing of the chuzos, or long
spears, were observed on the ground. It was generally thought that
the Indians had reconnoitred us during the night. Shortly
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 22, 1834.

The country remained the same, and was extremely uninteresting. The
complete similarity of the productions throughout Patagonia is one
of its most striking characters. The level plains of arid shingle
support the same stunted and dwarf plants; and in the valleys the
same thorn-bearing bushes grow. Everywhere we see the same birds
and insects. Even the very banks of the river and of the clear
streamlets which entered it, were scarcely enlivened by a brighter
tint of green. The curse of sterility is on the land, and the water
flowing over a bed of pebbles partakes of the same curse. Hence the
number of waterfowl 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 than perhaps any other country in
the world. (9/1. The desserts of Syria are characterised, according
to Volney tome 1 page 351, by woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles
and hares. In the landscape of Patagonia the guanaco replaces the
gazelle, and the agouti the hare.) Several species of mice are
externally characterised 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 dislocated and bones broken, showed how
they had met their death.

APRIL 24, 1834.

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 26, 1834.

We this day met with a marked change in the geological structure of
the plains. From the first starting I had carefully examined the
gravel in the river, and for the two last days had noticed the
presence of a few small pebbles of a very cellular basalt. These
gradually increased in number and in size, but none were as large
as a man's head. This morning, however, pebbles of the same rock,
but more compact, suddenly became abundant, and in the course of
half an hour 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 the surrounding boulder-formation, were equally
numerous. None of the fragments of any considerable size had been
washed more than three or four miles down the river below their
parent-source: considering the singular rapidity of the great body
of water in the Santa Cruz, and that no still reaches occur in any
part, this example is a most striking one, of the inefficiency of
rivers in transporting even moderately-sized fragments.

The basalt is only lava which has flowed beneath the sea; but the
eruptions must have been on the grandest scale. At the point where
we first met this formation it was 120 feet in 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 removed? 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 Patagonian coast, sweep up on each side of the
valley of Santa Cruz. No possible action of any flood could thus
have modelled the land, either within the valley or along the open
coast; and by the formation of such step-like plains or terraces
the valley itself has 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 undermined by the waters of this ancient strait
were broken up into huge fragments, and these lying scattered on
the beach were reduced first to smaller blocks, then to pebbles,
and lastly to the most impalpable mud, which the tides drifted far
into the Eastern or Western Ocean.

With the change in the geological structure of the plains the
character of the landscape likewise altered. While rambling 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 circumscribed patches of bright
green herbage.


APRIL 27, 1834.

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

With respect to their propagation, I was told by the country people
in Chile that the condor makes no sort of nest, but in the months
of November and December lays two large white eggs on a shelf of
bare rock. It is said that the young condors cannot fly for an
entire year; and long after they are able, they continue to roost
by night, an 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 guanacos which have died a natural death, or as
more commonly happens, have been killed by the pumas. I believe,
from what I saw in Patagonia, that they do not on ordinary
occasions extend their daily excursions to any great distance from
their regular sleeping-places.

The condors may oftentimes be seen at a great height, soaring over
a certain spot in the most graceful circles. On some occasions I am
sure that they do this only for pleasure, but on others, the
Chileno countryman tells you that they are watching a dying animal,
or the puma devouring its prey. If the condors glide down, and then
suddenly all rise together, the Chileno knows that it is the puma
which, watching the carcass, has sprung out to drive away the
robbers. Besides feeding on carrion, the condors frequently attack
young goats and lambs; and the shepherd-dogs are trained, whenever
they pass over, to run out, and looking upwards to bark violently.
The Chilenos destroy and catch numbers. Two methods are used; one
is to place a carcass on a level piece of ground within an
enclosure of sticks with an opening, and when the condors are
gorged, to gallop up on horseback to the entrance, and thus enclose
them: for when this bird has not space to run, it cannot give its
body sufficient momentum to rise from the ground. The second method
is to mark the trees in which, frequently to the number of five or
six together, they roost, and then at night to climb up and noose
them. They are such heavy sleepers, as I have myself witnessed,
that this is not a difficult task. At Valparaiso I have seen a
living condor sold for sixpence, but the common price 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. The
Chileno countrymen assert that the condor will live, and retain its
vigour, between five and six weeks without eating: I cannot answer
for the truth of this, but it is a cruel experiment, which very
likely has been tried. (9/2. 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 happens.)

When an animal is killed in the country, it is well known that the
condors, like other carrion-vultures, soon gain intelligence of it,
and congregate in an inexplicable manner. In most cases it must not
be overlooked, that the birds have discovered their prey, and have
picked the skeleton clean, before the flesh is in the least degree
tainted. Remembering the experiments of M. Audubon, on the little
smelling powers of carrion-hawks, I tried in the above-mentioned
garden the following experiment: the condors were tied, each by a
rope, in a long row at the bottom of a wall; and having folded up a
piece of meat in white paper, I walked backwards and forwards,
carrying it in my hand at the distance of about three yards from
them, but no notice whatever was taken. I then threw it on the
ground, within one yard of an old male bird; he looked at it for a
moment with attention, but then regarded it no more. With a stick I
pushed it closer and closer, until at last he touched it with his
beak; the paper was then instantly torn off with fury, and at the
same moment, every bird in the long row began struggling and
flapping its wings. Under the same circumstances it would have been
quite impossible to have deceived a dog. The evidence in favour of
and against the acute smelling powers of carrion-vultures is
singularly balanced. Professor Owen has demonstrated that the
olfactory nerves of the turkey-buzzard (Cathartes aura) are highly
developed, and on the evening when Mr. Owen's paper was read at the
Zoological Society, it was mentioned by a gentleman that he had
seen the carrion-hawks in the West Indies on two occasions collect
on the roof of a house, when a corpse had become offensive from not
having been buried: in this case, the intelligence could hardly
have been acquired by sight. On the other hand, besides the
experiments of Audubon and that one by myself, Mr. Bachman has
tried in the United States many varied plans, showing that neither
the turkey-buzzard (the species dissected by Professor Owen) nor
the gallinazo find their food by smell. He covered portions of
highly-offensive offal with a thin canvas cloth, and strewed pieces
of meat on it: these the carrion-vultures ate up, and then remained
quietly standing, with their beaks within the eighth of an inch of
the putrid mass, without discovering it. A small rent was made in
the canvas, and the offal was immediately discovered; the canvas
was replaced by a fresh piece, and meat again put on it, and was
again devoured by the vultures without their discovering the hidden
mass on which they were trampling. These facts are attested by the
signatures of six gentlemen, besides that of Mr. Bachman. (9/3.
Loudon's "Magazine of Natural History" volume 7.)

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

When the condors are wheeling in a flock round an round any spot,
their flight is beautiful. Except when rising from the ground, I do
not recollect ever having seen one of these birds flap its wings.
Near Lima, I watched several for nearly half an hour, without once
taking off my eyes: they moved in large curves, sweeping in
circles, descending and ascending without giving a single flap. As
they glided close over my head, I intently watched from an oblique
position the outlines of the separate and great terminal feathers
of each wing; and these separate feathers, if there had been the
least vibratory movement, would have appeared as if blended
together; 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 movement of the neck and body of the condor, we must suppose is
sufficient for this. However this may be, it is truly wonderful and
beautiful to see so great a bird, hour after hour, without any
apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over mountain and river.

APRIL 29, 1834.

From some high land we hailed with joy the white summits of the
Cordillera, as they were seen occasionally peeping through their
dusky envelope of clouds. During the few succeeding days we
continued to get on slowly, for we found the river-course very
tortuous, and strewed with immense fragments of various ancient
slaty rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley had
here attained an elevation of about 1100 feet above the river, and
its character was much altered. The well-rounded pebbles of
porphyry were mingled with many immense angular fragments of basalt
and of primary rocks. The first of these erratic boulders which I
noticed was sixty-seven miles distant from the nearest mountain;
another which I measured was five yards square, and projected five
feet above the gravel. Its edges were so angular, and its size so
great, that I at first mistook it for a rock in situ, and took out
my compass to observe the direction of its cleavage. The plain here
was not quite so level as that nearer the coast, but yet it
betrayed no signs of any great violence. Under these circumstances
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 4, 1834.

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 temptation to proceed any farther. 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.

MAY 5, 1834.

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 1st, 1833, and again on March 16th, 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 possession of these miserable
islands had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were
left uninhabited. The government of Buenos Ayres then sold them to
a private individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done
before, for a penal settlement. England claimed her right an 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

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An undulating
land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere covered by
a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous brown colour. Here
and there a peak or ridge of 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. (9/4. From accounts published since our voyage, and
more especially from several interesting letters from Captain
Sulivan, R.N., employed on the survey, it appears that we took an
exaggerated view of the badness of the climate on these islands.
But when I reflect on the almost universal covering of peat, and on
the fact of wheat seldom ripening here, I can hardly believe that
the climate in summer is so fine and dry as it has lately been

MAY 16, 1834.

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

In the evening we came across a small herd. One of my companions,
St. Jago by name, soon separated a fat cow; he threw the bolas, and
it struck her legs, but failed in becoming entangled. Then dropping
his hat to mark the spot where the balls were left, while at full
gallop he uncoiled his lazo, and after a most severe chase again
came up to the cow, and caught her round the horns. The other
Gaucho had gone on ahead with the spare horses, so that St. Jago
had some difficulty in killing the furious beast. He managed to get
her on a level piece of ground, by taking advantage of her as often
as she rushed at him; and when she would not move, my horse, from
having been trained, would canter up, and with his chest give her a
violent push. But when on level ground it does not appear an easy
job for one man to kill a beast mad with terror. Nor would it be so
if the horse, when left to itself without its rider, did not soon
learn, for its own safety, to keep the lazo tight; so that, if the
cow or ox moves forward, the horse moves just as quickly forward;
otherwise, it stands motionless leaning on one side. This horse,
however, 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 (17th) was very
stormy, with much hail and snow. We rode across the island to the
neck of land which joins the Rincon del Tor (the great peninsula at
the south-west extremity) to the rest of the island. From the great
number of cows which have been killed, there is a large proportion
of bulls. These wander about single, or two and three together, and
are very savage. I never saw such magnificent beasts; they equalled
in the size of their huge heads and necks the Grecian marble
sculptures. Captain Sulivan informs me that the hide of an
average-sized bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas a hide of
this weight, less thoroughly dried, is considered as a very heavy
one at Monte Video. The young bulls generally run away for a short
distance; but the old ones do not stir a step, except to rush at
man and horse; and many horses have been thus killed. An old bull
crossed a boggy stream, and took his stand on the opposite side to
us; we in vain tried to drive him away, and failing, were obliged
to make a large circuit. The Gauchos in revenge determined to
emasculate him and render him for the future harmless. It was very
interesting to see how art completely 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
apprehend, would it be so if the man was by himself. By the aid,
however, of a second person throwing his lazo so as to catch both
hind legs, it is quickly managed: for the animal, as long as its
hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite helpless, and the first
man can with his hands loosen his lazo from the horns, and then
quietly mount his horse; but the moment the second man, by backing
ever so little, relaxes the strain, the lazo slips off the legs of
the struggling beast which then rises free, shakes himself, and
vainly rushes at his antagonist.

During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wild horses. These
animals, as well as the 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 natural boundary to prevent them from roaming,
and that part of the island is not more tempting than the rest. The
Gauchos whom I asked, though asserting this to be the case, were
unable to account for it, except from the strong attachment which
horses have to any locality to which they are accustomed.
Considering that the island does not appear fully stocked, and that
there are no beasts of prey, I was particularly curious to know
what has checked their originally rapid increase. That in a limited
island some check would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable;
but why has the increase of the horse been checked sooner than that
of the cattle? Captain 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 Captain 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. Captain 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 horses, seem, as
before remarked, to have increased in size; and they are much more
numerous than the horses. Captain Sulivan informs me that they vary
much less in the general form of their bodies and in the shape of
their horns than English cattle. In colour they differ much; and it
is a remarkable circumstance, that in different parts of this one
small island, different colours predominate. 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. Captain 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. Captain Sulivan thinks that the herds do
not mingle; and it is a singular fact, that the mouse-coloured
cattle, though living on the high land, calve about a month earlier
in the season than the other coloured beasts on the lower land. It
is interesting thus to find the once domesticated cattle breaking
into three colours, of which some one colour would in all
probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herd 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. (9/5. Lesson's "Zoology of the Voyage of the
Coquille" tome 1 page 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.) 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 different from the grey, and they said that at all events it
had not extended its range any farther 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 circumstance shows how cautious
naturalists should be in making species; for even Cuvier, on
looking at the skull of one of these rabbits, thought it was
probably distinct!

The only quadruped native to the island is a large wolf-like fox
(Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East and West
Falkland. (9/6. 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.) I have no doubt it is a peculiar species,
and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers, Gauchos,
and Indians, who have visited these islands, all maintain that no
such animal is found in any part of South America. Molina, from a
similarity in habits, thought that this was the same with his
"culpeu" (9/7. The "culpeu" is the Canis Magellanicus brought home
by Captain King from the Strait of Magellan. It is common in
Chile.); 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 Gauchos also
have frequently in the evening killed them, by holding out a piece
of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to stick them.
As far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any part of the
world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from a continent,
possessing so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself.
Their numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished
from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the neck
of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within a very
few years after these islands shall have become regularly settled,
in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as an
animal which has perished from the face of the earth.

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

MAY 18, 1834.

It rained during nearly the whole day. At night we managed,
however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves pretty well dry
and warm; but the ground on which we slept was on each occasion
nearly in the state of a bog, and there was not a dry spot to sit
down on after our day's ride. I have in another part stated how
singular it is that there should be absolutely no trees on these
islands, although Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest.
The largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of
Compositae) 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.

MAY 19, 1834.

Each morning, from not having ridden for some time previously, I
was very stiff. I was surprised to hear the Gauchos, who have from
infancy almost lived on horseback, say that, under similar
circumstances, they always suffer. St. Jago told me, that having
been confined for three months by illness, he went 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
Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet really must
exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting wild cattle, in a
country so difficult to pass as this is on account of the swampy
ground, must be very hard work. The Gauchos say they often pass at
full speed over ground which would be impassable at a slower pace;
in the same manner as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When
hunting, the party endeavours to get as close as possible to the
herd without being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair
of the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as many
cattle, which, when once entangled, are left for some days, till
they become a little exhausted by hunger and struggling. They are
then let free and driven towards a small herd of tame animals,
which have been brought to the spot on purpose. From their previous
treatment, being too much terrified to leave the herd, they are
easily driven, if their strength last out, to the settlement.

The weather continued so very bad that we determine 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

The geological structure of these islands is in most respects
simple. The lower country consists of clay-slate and sandstone,
containing fossils, very closely related to, but not identical
with, those found in the Silurian formations of Europe; the hills
are formed of white granular quartz rock. The strata of the latter
are frequently arched with perfect symmetry, and the appearance of
some of the masses is in consequence most singular. Pernety has
devoted several pages to the description of a Hill of Ruins, the
successive strata of which he has justly compared to the seats of
an amphitheatre. (9/8. Pernety "Voyage aux Isles Malouines" page
526.) 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 cooling
crystallised. 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 up with sand. The
width of these sheets of stones varies from a few hundred feet to a
mile; but the peaty soil daily encroaches on the borders, and even
forms islets wherever a few fragments happen to lie close together.
In a valley south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our party called
the "great valley of fragments," it was necessary to cross an
uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from one pointed
stone to another. So large were the fragments, that being overtaken
by a shower of rain, I readily found shelter beneath one of them.

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance in
these "streams of stones." On the hill-sides I have seen them
sloping at an angle of ten degrees with the horizon; but in some of
the level, broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination is only just
sufficient to be clearly perceived. On so rugged a surface there
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 fragments followed up the course of a valley, and even
extended to the very crest of the hill. On these crests huge
masses, exceeding in dimensions any small building, seemed to stand
arrested in their headlong course: there, also, the curved strata
of the archways lay piled on each other, like the ruins of some
vast and ancient cathedral. In endeavouring to describe these
scenes of violence one is tempted to pass from one simile to
another. We may imagine that streams of white lava had flowed from
many parts of the mountains into the lower country, and that when
solidified they had been rent by some enormous convulsion into
myriads of fragments. The expression "streams of stones," which
immediately occurred to every one, conveys the same idea. These
scenes are on the spot rendered more striking by the contrast of
the low, rounded forms of the neighbouring hills.

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one range (about
700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying on its
convex side, or back downwards. Must we believe that it was fairly
pitched up in the air, and thus turned? Or, with more probability,
that there existed formerly a part of the same range more elevated
than the point on which this monument of a great convulsion of
nature now lies. As the fragments in the valleys are neither
rounded nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that
the period of violence was subsequent to the land having been
raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse section within
these valleys the bottom is nearly level, or rises 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. (9/9. "Nous n'avons
pas t moins saisis d'tonnement la ve de l'innombrable
quantit de pierres de toutes grandeurs, bouleverses les unes sur
les autres, et cependant ranges, comme si elles avoient t
amonceles ngligemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit
pas d'admirer les effets prodigieux de la nature." "Pernety" page
526.) If during the earthquake which in 1835 overthrew Concepcion,
in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should have
been pitched a few inches from the ground, what must we say to a
movement which has caused fragments many tons in weight to move
onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, and find their
level? (9/10. 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 never felt the slightest shock of an
earthquake.) 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 inexplicable 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 waterfowl are
particularly numerous, and they must formerly, from the accounts of
the old navigators, have been much more so. One day I observed a
cormorant playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times
successively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, and
although in deep water, brought it each time to the surface. In the
Zoological Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fish in the same
manner, much as a cat does a mouse: I do not know of any other
instance where dame Nature appears so wilfully cruel. Another day,
having placed myself between a penguin (Aptenodytes demersa) and
the water, I was much amused by watching its habits. It was a brave
bird; and till reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me
backwards. Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him;
every inch he gained he firmly kept, standing close before me erect
and determined. When thus opposed he continually rolled his head
from side to side, in a very odd manner, as if the power of
distinct vision lay only in the anterior and basal part of each
eye. This bird is commonly called the jackass penguin, from its
habit, while on shore, of throwing its head backwards, and making a
loud strange noise, very like the braying of an ass; but while at
sea, and undisturbed, its note is very deep and solemn, and is
often heard in the night-time. In diving, its little wings are used
as fins; but on the land, as front legs. When crawling, it may be
said on four legs, through the tussocks or on the side of a grassy
cliff, it moves so very quickly that it might easily be mistaken
for a quadruped. When at sea and fishing, it comes to the surface
for the purpose of breathing with such a spring, and dives again so
instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to be sure that
it was not a fish leaping for sport.

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The upland species (Anas
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 matter. The rock-goose, so called from living
exclusively on the sea-beach (Anas antarctica), is common both here
and on the west coast of America, as far north as Chile. In the
deep and retired channels of Tierra del Fuego, the snow-white
gander, invariably accompanied by his darker consort, and standing
close by each other on some distant rocky point, is a common
feature in the landscape.

In these islands a great loggerheaded duck or goose (Anas
brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two pounds, is very
abundant. These birds were in former days called, from their
extraordinary manner of paddling and splashing upon the water,
racehorses; 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 penguin as fins, the steamer as
paddles, and the ostrich as sails: and the Apteryx of New Zealand,
as well as its gigantic extinct prototype the Deinornis, possess
only rudimentary representatives of wings. The steamer is able to
dive only to a very short distance. It feeds entirely on shell-fish
from the kelp and tidal rocks; hence the beak and head, for the
purpose of breaking them, are surprisingly heavy and strong: the
head is so strong that I have scarcely been able to fracture it
with my geological hammer; and all our sportsmen soon discovered
how tenacious these birds were of life. When in the evening pluming
themselves in a flock, they make the same odd mixture of sounds
which bull-frogs do within the tropics.

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Falkland Islands, I made
many observations on the lower marine animals, but they are of
little general interest. (9/11. I was surprised to find, on
counting the eggs of a large white Doris (this sea-slug was three
and a half inches long), how extraordinarily numerous they were.
From two to five eggs (each three-thousandths of an inch in
diameter) were contained in spherical little case. These were
arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon
adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found
measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By
counting how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the
row, and how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the
most moderate computation there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet
this Doris was certainly not very common: although I was often
searching under the stones, I saw only seven individuals. NO
mention only one class of facts, relating to certain zoophytes in
the more highly organised division of that class. Several genera
(Flustra, Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) agree in having
singular movable organs (like those of Flustra avicularia, found in
the European seas) attached to their cells. The organ, in the
greater number of cases, very closely resembles the head of a
vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened much wider than in a
real bird's beak. The head itself possesses considerable powers of
movement, by means of a short neck. In one zoophyte the head itself
was fixed, but the lower jaw free: in another it was replaced by a
triangular hood, with a beautifully-fitted trap-door, which
evidently answered to the lower mandible. In the greater number of
species, each cell was provided with one head, but in others each
cell had two.

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

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of the
eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the young polypi appear
in the cells at the end of the growing branches; as they move
independently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any way
connected with them; and as they differ in size on the outer and
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, sometimes only those on
one side, moved together coinstantaneously; sometimes each moved in
regular order one after another. In these actions we apparently
behold as perfect a transmission of will in the zoophyte, though
composed of thousands of distinct polypi, as in any single animal.
The case, indeed, is not different from that of the sea-pens,
which, when touched, drew themselves into the sand on the coast of
Bahia Blanca. I will state one other instance of uniform action,
though of a very different nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to
Clytia, and therefore very simply organised. Having kept a large
tuft of it in a basin of salt-water, when it was dark I found that
as often as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became
strongly phosphorescent with a green light: I do not think I ever
saw any object more beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance
was, that the flashes of light always proceeded up the branches,
from the base towards the extremities.

The examination of these compound animals was always very
interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than to see a
plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swimming about and of
choosing a proper place to adhere to, which then sprouts into
branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, often of
complicated organisations. The branches, moreover, as we have just
seen, sometimes possess organs capable of movement and independent
of the polypi. Surprising as this union of separate individuals in
a common stock must always appear, every tree displays the same
fact, for buds must be considered as individual plants. It is,
however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished with a mouth,
intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual, whereas the
individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised; so that the
union of separate individuals in a common body is more striking in
a coralline than in a tree. Our conception of a compound animal,
where in some respects the individuality of each is not completed,
may be aided, by reflecting on the production of two distinct
creatures by bisecting a single one with a knife, or where Nature
herself performs the task of bisection. We may consider the polypi
in a zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the division
of the individual has not been completely effected. Certainly in
the case of trees, and judging from analogy in that of corallines,
the individuals propagated by buds seem more intimately related to
each other, than eggs or seeds are to their parents. It seems now
pretty well established that plants propagated by buds all partake
of a common duration of life; and it is familiar to every one, what
singular and numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty,
by buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation never or
only casually reappear.




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.
Religious feelings.
Great gale.
Beagle Channel.
Ponsonby Sound.
Build wigwams and settle the Fuegians.
Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel.
Return to the ship.
Second visit in the ship to the settlement.
Equality of condition amongst the natives.


DECEMBER 17, 1832.

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

In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate with the
Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the four natives who
were present advanced to receive us, and began to shout most
vehemently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on
shore the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and
making gestures with great rapidity. It was without exception the
most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I could not
have believed how wide was the difference between savage and
civilised man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated
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 Patagonians of
the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment consists of a mantle
made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside: this they wear just
thrown over their shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed
as covered. Their skin is of a dirty coppery-red colour.

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head,
which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His
face was crossed by two broad transverse bars; one, painted bright
red, reached from ear to 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 demonstration of friendship was repeated several times; it was
concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on the breast
and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom for me to return
the compliment, which being done, he seemed highly pleased. The
language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely
deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a
man clearing 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 instance, could
follow an American Indian through a sentence of more than three
words? All savages appear to possess, to an uncommon degree, this
power of mimicry. I was told, almost in the same words, of the same
ludicrous habit among the Caffres; the Australians, likewise, have
long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe the gait
of any man, so that he may be recognised. 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 civilised?

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 firearms;
nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands. They begged
for knives, calling them by the Spanish word "cuchilla." They
explained also what they wanted, by acting as if they had a piece
of blubber in their mouth, and then pretending to cut instead of
tear it.

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on board. During
the former voyage of the "Adventure" and "Beagle" in 1826 to 1830,
Captain Fitz 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 missionary, R. Matthews; of whom and of the
natives, Captain Fitz Roy has published a full and excellent
account. Two men, one of whom died in England of the smallpox, a
boy and a little girl, were originally taken; and we had now on
board, York Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses his
purchase-money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster was a full-grown,
short, thick, powerful man: his disposition was reserved, taciturn,
morose, and when excited violently passionate; his affections were
very strong towards a few friends on board; his intellect good.
Jemmy Button was a universal favourite, but likewise passionate;
the expression of his face at once showed his nice disposition. He
was merry and often laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic with
any one in pain: when the water was rough, I was often a little
sea-sick, and he used to come to me and say in a plaintive voice,
"Poor, poor fellow!" but the notion, after his aquatic life, of a
man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous, and he was generally obliged
to turn on one side to hide a smile or laugh, and then he would
repeat his "Poor, poor fellow!" He was of a patriotic disposition;
and he liked to praise his own tribe and country, in which he truly
said there were "plenty of trees," and he abused all the other
tribes: he stoutly declared that there was no Devil in his land.
Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his personal
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 perceived this, and used to mock him: Jemmy, who was
always rather jealous of the attention paid to this little boy, did
not at all like this, and used to say, with rather a contemptuous
twist of his head, "Too much skylark." It seems yet wonderful to
me, when I think over all his many 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 anything, 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 difficulty 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 Minster
afterwards came on shore, they noticed him in the same way, and
told him he ought to shave; yet he had not twenty dwarf hairs on
his face, whilst we all wore our untrimmed beards. They examined
the colour of his skin, and compared it with ours. One of our arms
being bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration
at its whiteness, just in the same way in which I have seen the
ourang-outang do at the Zoological Gardens. We thought that they
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 evidently much pleased
at his height being noticed. When placed back to back with the
tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his best to edge on higher
ground, and to stand on tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his
teeth, and turned his face for a side view; and all this was done
with such alacrity, that I daresay 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 mountainous land, partly
submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets and bays occupy the place
where valleys should exist. The mountain sides, except on the
exposed western coast, are covered from the water's edge upwards by
one great forest. The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000
and 1500 feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute
alpine plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual
snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan
descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find an acre of level
land in any part of the country is most rare. I recollect only one
little flat piece near Port Famine, and another of rather larger
extent near Goeree Road. In both places, and everywhere else, the
surface is covered by a thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the
forest, the ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying
vegetable matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to
the foot.

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, I
followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the
waterfalls and number of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along;
but the bed of the stream soon became a little more open, from the
floods having swept the sides. I continued slowly to advance for an
hour along the broken and rocky banks, and was amply repaid by the
grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded
with the universal signs of violence. On every side were lying
irregular masses of rock and torn-up trees; other trees, though
still erect, were decayed to the heart and ready to fall. The
entangled mass of the thriving and the fallen reminded me of the
forests within the tropics--yet there was a difference: for in
these still solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the
predominant spirit. I followed the watercourse till I came to a
spot where a great slip had cleared a straight space down the
mountain side. By this road I ascended to a considerable elevation,
and obtained a good view of the surrounding woods. The trees all
belong to one kind, the Fagus betuloides; for the number of the
other species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark is quite
inconsiderable. 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 20, 1832.

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

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

DECEMBER 21, 1832.



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

DECEMBER 25, 1832.

Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called Kater's Peak, rises to
the height of 1700 feet. The surrounding islands all consist of
conical masses of greenstone, associated sometimes with less
regular hills of baked and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra
del Fuego may be considered as the extremity of the submerged chain
of mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of
"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 himself,
and York Minster said he was "very bad man," and that probably he
had stolen something. On the west coast, however, the wigwams are
rather better, for they are covered with seal-skins. We were
detained here several days by the bad weather. The climate is
certainly wretched: the summer solstice was now past, yet every day
snow fell on the hills, and in the valleys there was rain,
accompanied by sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45
degrees, but in the night fell to 38 or 40 degrees. From the damp
and boisterous state of the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of
sunshine, one fancied the climate even worse than it really was.

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we pulled
alongside a canoe with six 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 gestures
violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself 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 shellfish 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 sealing-master
intimately acquainted with the natives of this country, give a
curious account of the state of a party of one hundred and fifty
natives on the west coast, who were very thin and in great
distress. A succession of gales prevented the women from getting
shell-fish on the rocks, and they could not go out in their canoes
to catch seal. A small party of these men one morning set out, and
the other Indians explained to him that they were going a four
days' journey for food: on their return, Low went to meet them, and
he found them excessively tired, each man carrying a great square
piece of putrid whales-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 independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr.
Low, and of Jemmy Button, it is certainly true, that when pressed
in winter by hunger they kill and devour their old women before
they kill their dogs: the boy, being asked by Mr. Low why they did
this, answered, "Doggies catch otters, old women no." This boy
described the manner in which they are killed by being held over
smoke and thus choked; he imitated their screams as a joke, and
described the parts of their bodies which are considered best to
eat. Horrid as 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 were told that they then
often run away into the mountains, but that they are pursued by the
men and brought back to the slaughter-house at their own firesides!

Captain Fitz Roy could never ascertain that the Fuegians have any
distinct belief in a future life. 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 imitating his manner),
"What that?" and crawling onwards, he peeped over the cliff, and
saw "wild man" picking his birds; he crawled a little nearer, and
then hurled down a great stone and killed him. York declared for a
long time afterwards storms raged, and much rain and snow fell. As
far as we could make out, 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 insane.

The different tribes have no government or chief; yet each is
surrounded by other hostile tribes, speaking different dialects,
and separated from each other only by a deserted border or neutral
territory: the cause of their warfare appears 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 domestic affection; for
the husband is to the wife a brutal master to a laborious slave.
Was a more horrid deed ever perpetrated, than that witnessed on the
west coast by Byron, who saw a wretched mother pick up her bleeding
dying infant-boy, whom her husband had mercilessly dashed on the
stones for dropping a basket of sea-eggs! How little can the higher
powers of the mind be brought into play: what is there for
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 remained the same, as we know from Drake, for the
last two hundred and fifty years.

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, Whence have they come?
What could have tempted, or what change compelled, a tribe of men,
to leave the fine regions of the north, to travel down the
Cordillera or backbone of America, to invent and build canoes,
which are not used by the tribes of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, and
then to enter on one of the most inhospitable countries within the
limits of the globe? Although such reflections must at first seize
on the mind, yet we may feel sure that they are partly erroneous.
There is no reason to believe that the 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 30th 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 degrees 23' south. On the
11th of January, 1833, by carrying a press of sail, we fetched
within a few miles of the great rugged mountain of York Minster (so
called by Captain Cook, and the origin of the name of the elder
Fuegian), when a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail and
stand out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on the coast, and
the spray was carried over a cliff estimated at 200 feet in height.
On the 12th the gale was very heavy, and we did not know exactly
where we were: it was a most unpleasant sound to hear constantly
repeated, "Keep a good lookout to leeward." On the 13th the storm
raged with its full fury: our horizon was narrowly limited by the
sheets of spray borne by the wind. The sea looked ominous, like a
dreary waving plain with patches of drifted snow: whilst the ship
laboured heavily, the albatross glided with its expanded wings
right up the wind. At noon a 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 westward; the
men were worn out with fatigue, and they had not had for many
nights or days a dry thing to put on. Captain Fitz Roy gave up the
attempt to get westward by the outside coast. In the evening we ran
in behind False Cape Horn, and dropped our anchor in forty-seven
fathoms, fire flashing from the windlass as the chain rushed round
it. How delightful was that still night, after having been so long
involved in the din of the warring elements!



JANUARY 15, 1833.

The "Beagle" anchored in Goeree Roads. Captain Fitz Roy having
resolved to settle the Fuegians, according to their wishes, in
Ponsonby Sound, four boats were equipped to 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 Loch Ness in Scotland, with its
chain of lakes and friths. It is about one hundred and twenty miles
long, with an average breadth, not subject to any very great
variation, of about two miles; and is throughout the greater part
so perfectly straight, that the view, bounded on each side by a
line of mountains, gradually becomes indistinct in the long
distance. It crosses the southern part of Tierra del Fuego in an
east and west line, and in the middle is joined at right angles on
the south side by an irregular channel, which has been called
Ponsonby Sound. This is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and

JANUARY 19, 1833.

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
comfortable than this scene. The glassy water of the little
harbour, with the branches of the trees hanging over the rocky
beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed
oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a picture
of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smoothly glided onwards
in our little fleet, and came to a more inhabited district. Few if
any of these natives could ever have seen a white man; certainly
nothing could exceed their astonishment at the apparition of the
four boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the name of
Tierra del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our
attention and to spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran
for miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and savage
one group appeared: suddenly four or five men came to the edge of
an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, and their long
hair streamed about their faces; they held rugged staffs in their
hands, and, springing from the ground, they waved their arms round
their heads, and sent forth the most hideous 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 disgust at it, as I should have done at putrid blubber. Jemmy
was thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen, and declared his own
tribe were quite different, in which he was woefully mistaken. It
was as easy to please as it was difficult to satisfy these savages.
Young and old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word
"yammerschooner," which means "give me." After pointing to almost
every object, one after the other, even to the buttons on our
coats, and saying their favourite word in as many intonations as
possible, they would then use it in a neuter sense, and vacantly
repeat "yammerschooner." After 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 (21st) being joined by others they showed symptoms of
hostility, and we thought that we should have come to a skirmish.
An European labours under great disadvantages when treating with
savages like these who have not the least idea of the power of
firearms. In the very act of levelling his musket he appears to the
savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and arrow, a spear,
or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them our superiority
except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts, they do not
appear to compare numbers; for each individual, if attacked,
instead of retiring, will endeavour to dash your brains out with a
stone, as certainly as a tiger under similar circumstances would
tear you. Captain Fitz Roy, on one occasion being very anxious,
from good reasons, to frighten away a small party, first flourished
a cutlass near them, at which they only laughed; he then twice
fired his pistol close to a native. The man both times looked
astounded, and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then
stared awhile, and gabbled to his companions, but he never seemed
to think of running away. We can hardly put ourselves in the
position of these savages, and understand their actions. In the
case of this Fuegian, the possibility of such a sound as the report
of a gun close to his ear could never have entered his mind. He
perhaps literally did not for a second know whether it was a sound
or a blow, and therefore very naturally rubbed his head. In a
similar manner, when a savage sees a mark struck by a bullet, it
may be some time before he is able at all to understand how it is
effected; for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity
would perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover,
the extreme force of a bullet that penetrates a hard substance
without tearing it, may convince the savage that it has no force at
all. Certainly I believe that many savages of the lowest grade,
such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have seen objects struck, and
even small animals killed by the musket, without being in the least
aware how deadly an instrument it is.

JANUARY 22, 1833.

After having passed an unmolested night, in what would appear to be
neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe and the people whom we saw
yesterday, we sailed pleasantly along. I do not know anything which
shows more clearly the hostile state of the different tribes, than
these wide border or neutral tracts. Although Jemmy Button well
knew the force of our party, he was, at first, unwilling to land
amidst the hostile tribe nearest to his own. He often told us how
the savage Oens men "when the leaf red," crossed the mountains from
the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego, and made inroads on the
natives of this part of the country. It was most curious to watch
him when thus talking, and see his eyes gleaming and his whole face
assume a new and wild expression. As we proceeded along the Beagle
Channel, the scenery assumed a peculiar and very magnificent
character; but the effect was much lessened from the lowness of the
point of view in a boat, and from looking along the valley, and
thus losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. The mountains
were here about three thousand feet high, and terminated in sharp
and jagged points. They rose in one unbroken sweep from the water's
edge, and were covered to the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred
feet by the dusky-coloured forest. It was most curious to observe,
as far as the eye could range, how level and truly horizontal the
line on the mountain side was, at which trees ceased to grow: it
precisely resembled the high-water mark of driftweed 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
farther 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 Tekenika, or Jemmy's
tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their noses were
bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with which
they talked; and with their naked bodies all bedaubed with black,
white, and red, they looked like so many demoniacs who had been
fighting. (10/1. This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact,
and of little specific gravity: Professor Ehrenberg has examined
it: he states "Konig Akad. der Wissen" Berlin February 1845, that
it is composed of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica and
four phytolitharia. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh
water; this is a beautiful example of the results obtainable
through Professor Ehrenberg's microscopic researches; for Jemmy
Button told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of
mountain-brooks. It is, moreover, a striking fact in the
geographical distribution of the infusoria, which are well known to
have very wide ranges, that all the species in this substance,
although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra del
Fuego, are old, known forms.) We then proceeded (accompanied by
twelve canoes, each holding four or five people) down Ponsonby
Sound to the spot where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and
relatives. He had already heard that his father was dead; but as he
had had a "dream in his head" to that effect, he did not seem to
care much about it, and repeatedly comforted himself with the very
natural reflection--"Me no help it." He was not able to learn any
particulars regarding his father's death, as his relations would
not speak about it.

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

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

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 walking--"Oh, Mr. Bynoe, oh, bird all
same horse!" Much as our white skins surprised the natives, by Mr.
Low's account a negro-cook to a sealing vessel did so more
effectually, and the poor fellow was so mobbed and shouted at that
he would never go on shore again. Everything went on so quietly,
that some of the officers and myself took long walks in the
surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, however, on the 27th, every
woman and child disappeared. We were all uneasy at this, as neither
York nor Jemmy could make out the cause. It was thought by some
that they had been frightened by our cleaning and firing off our
muskets on the previous evening: by others, that it was owing to
offence taken by an old savage, who, when told to keep farther 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 advisable for us to sleep at a
cove a few miles distant. Matthews, with his usual quiet fortitude
(remarkable in a man apparently possessing little energy of
character), determined to stay with the Fuegians, who evinced no
alarm for themselves; and so we left them to pass their first awful

On our return in the morning (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 overpoweringly hot, so that our skins were
scorched; with this beautiful weather, the view in the middle of
the Beagle Channel was very remarkable. Looking towards either
hand, no object intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal
between the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the
sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales spouting in
different directions. (10/2. 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.) On one
occasion I saw two of these monsters, probably male and female,
slowly swimming one after the other, within less than a stone's
throw of the shore, over which the beech-tree extended its

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

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

JANUARY 29, 1833.

Early in the morning we arrived at the point where the Beagle
Channel divides into two arms; and we entered the northern one. The
scenery here becomes even grander than before. The lofty mountains
on the north side compose the granitic axis, or backbone of the
country, and boldly rise to a height of between three and four
thousand feet, with one peak above six thousand feet. They are
covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous cascades
pour their waters, through the woods, into the narrow channel
below. In many parts, magnificent glaciers extend from the mountain
side to the water's edge. It is scarcely possible to imagine
anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers,
and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper
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 firearms. 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 unknown desolate islands,
and the weather was wretchedly bad. We met with no natives. The
coast was almost everywhere so steep that we had several times to
pull many miles before we could find space enough to pitch our two
tents: one night we slept on large round boulders, with putrefying
sea-weed between them; and when the tide rose, we had to get up and
move our blanket-bags. The farthest point westward which we reached
was Stewart Island, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles
from our ship. We returned into the Beagle Channel by the southern
arm, and thence proceeded, with no adventure, back to Ponsonby

FEBRUARY 6, 1833.

We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave so bad an account of the
conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain Fitz Roy determined to take
him back to the "Beagle"; and ultimately he was left at New
Zealand, where his brother was a missionary. From the time of our
leaving, a regular system of plunder commenced; fresh parties of
the natives kept arriving: York and Jemmy lost many things, and
Matthews almost everything which had not been concealed
underground. Every article seemed to have been torn up and divided
by the natives. Matthews described the watch he was obliged always
to 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 plunder, and their manner of obtaining it. It was
quite melancholy leaving the three Fuegians with their savage
countrymen; but it was a great comfort that they had no personal
fears. York, being a powerful resolute man, was pretty sure to get
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 remarked, "What fashion call that:" he abused
his countrymen, "all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing" and, though I
never heard him swear before, "damned fools." Our three Fuegians,
though they had been only three years with civilised 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 11th Captain Fitz Roy
paid a visit by himself to the Fuegians and found them going on
well; and that they had lost very few more things.

On the last day of 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 determined on the
bold, and as it proved successful, attempt to beat against the
westerly winds by the same route which we had followed in the boats
to the settlement at Woollya. We did not see many natives until we
were near Ponsonby Sound, where we were followed by ten or twelve
canoes. The natives did not at all understand the reason of our
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 halloo from an all-powerful
voice, heard at a prodigious distance, would reach our ears, and
clearly could we distinguish--"yammerschooner." But now, the more
Fuegians the merrier; and very merry work it was. Both parties
laughing, wondering, gaping at each other; we pitying them, for
giving us good fish and crabs for rags, etc.; they grasping at the
chance of finding people so foolish as to exchange such splendid
ornaments for a good supper. It was most amusing to see the
undisguised smile of satisfaction with which one young woman with
her face painted black, tied several bits of scarlet cloth round
her head with rushes. Her husband, who enjoyed the very universal
privilege in this country of possessing two wives, evidently became
jealous of all the attention paid to his young wife; and, after a
consultation with his naked beauties, was paddled away by them.

Some of the Fuegians plainly showed that they had a fair notion of
barter. I gave one man a large nail (a most valuable present)
without making any signs for a return; but he immediately picked
out two fish, and handed them up on the point of his spear. If any
present was designed for one canoe, and it fell near another, it
was invariably given to the right owner. The Fuegian boy, whom Mr.
Low had on board, showed, by going into the most violent passion,
that he quite understood the reproach of being called a liar, which
in truth he was. We were this time, as on all former occasions,
much surprised at the little notice, or rather none whatever, which
was taken of many things, the use of which must have been evident
to the natives. Simple circumstances--such as the beauty of scarlet
cloth or blue beads, the absence of women, our care in washing
ourselves,--excited their admiration far more than any grand or
complicated object, such as our ship. Bougainville has well
remarked concerning these people, that they treat the "chefs
d'oeuvre de l'industrie humaine, comme ils traitent les loix de la
nature et ses phnomnes."

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 appearance. 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 relations were very good people, and that he did not wish to go
back to England: in the evening we found out the cause of this
great change in Jemmy's feelings, in the arrival of his young and
nice-looking wife. With his usual good feeling, he brought two
beautiful otter-skins for two of his best friends, and some
spear-heads and arrows made with his own hands for the Captain. He
said he had built a canoe for himself, and he boasted that he could
talk a little of his own language! But it is a most singular fact,
that he appears to have taught all his tribe some English: an old
man spontaneously 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 mother to come with him, and
then on the way deserted them by night, stealing every article of
their property. (10/3. Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in
the "Beagle," has been employed on the survey of the Falkland
Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842?), that when in the western
part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished by a native woman
coming on board, who could talk some English. Without doubt this
was Fuegia Basket. She lived (I fear the term probably bears a
double interpretation) some days on board.)

Jemmy went to sleep on shore, and in the morning returned, and
remained on board till the ship got under weigh, which frightened
his wife, who continued crying violently till he got into his
canoe. He returned loaded with valuable property. Every soul on
board was heartily sorry to shake hands with him for the last time.
I do not now doubt that he will be as happy as, perhaps happier
than, if he had never left his own country. Every one must
sincerely hope that Captain Fitz Roy's noble hope may be fulfilled,
of being rewarded for the many generous sacrifices which he made
for these Fuegians, by some shipwrecked sailor being protected by
the descendants of Jemmy Button and his tribe! When 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 civilisation. As we see
those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and
obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the
races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a
consequence, the more civilised always have the most artificial
governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when
first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at
a far higher grade than another branch of the same people, the New
Zealanders,--who, although benefited by being compelled to turn
their attention to agriculture, were republicans in the most
absolute sense. In Tierra del Fuego, until some chief shall arise
with power sufficient to secure any acquired advantage, such as the
domesticated animals, it seems scarcely possible that the political
state of the country can be improved. At present, even a piece of
cloth given to one is torn into shreds and distributed; and no one
individual becomes richer than another. On the other hand, it is
difficult to understand how a chief can arise till there is
property of some sort by which he might manifest his superiority
and increase his power.

I believe, in this extreme part of South America, man exists in a
lower state of improvement than in any other part of the world. The
South Sea Islanders, of the two races inhabiting the Pacific, are
comparatively civilised. The Esquimaux, in his subterranean hut,
enjoys some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully
equipped, manifests much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern
Africa, prowling about in search of roots, and living concealed on
the wild and arid plains, are sufficiently wretched. The
Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest
the Fuegian: he can, however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and
throwing-stick, his method of climbing trees, of tracking animals,
and of hunting. Although the Australian may be 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.
Edible fungus.
Great Seaweed.
Leave Tierra del Fuego.
Fruit-trees and productions of the southern coasts.
Height of snow-line on the Cordillera.
Descent of glaciers to the sea.
Icebergs formed.
Transportal of boulders.
Climate and productions of the Antarctic Islands.
Preservation of frozen carcasses.


In the end of May 1834 we entered for a second time the eastern
mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The country on both sides of this
part of the Strait consists of nearly level plains, like those of
Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within the second Narrows, may be
considered as the point where the land begins to assume the marked
features of Tierra del Fuego. On the east coast, south of the
Strait, broken park-like scenery in a like manner connects these
two countries, which are opposed to each other in almost every
feature. It is truly surprising to find in a space of twenty miles
such a change in the landscape. If we take a rather greater
distance, as between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, that is about
sixty miles, the difference is still more wonderful. At the former
place we have rounded mountains concealed by 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,
although rapid, turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits,
yet seem to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined
course. (11/1. The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry.
January 29th, being at anchor under Cape Gregory: a very hard gale
from west by south, clear sky with few cumuli; temperature 57
degrees, dew-point 36 degrees,--difference 21 degrees. On January
15th, at Port St. Julian: in the morning light winds with much
rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain,--settled into
heavy gale with large cumuli,--cleared up, blowing very strong from
south-south-west. Temperature 60 degrees, dew-point 42
degrees,--difference 18 degrees.)

During our previous visit (in January), we had an interview at Cape
Gregory with the famous so-called gigantic Patagonians, who gave us
a cordial reception. Their height appears greater than it really
is, from their large guanaco mantles, their long flowing hair, and
general figure: on an average their height is about six feet, with
some men taller and only a few shorter; and the women are also
tall; altogether they are certainly the tallest race which we
anywhere saw. In features they strikingly resemble the 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 themselves with knives, forks, and spoons:
nothing was so much relished as sugar. This tribe has had so much
communication with sealers and whalers, that most of the men can
speak a little English and Spanish; and they are half civilised,
and proportionally demoralised.

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 extraordinarily
rapid multiplication of horses in South America. The horse was
first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, and the colony being then for
a time deserted, the horse ran wild (11/2. Rengger "Natur. der
Saugethiere von Paraguay" S. 334.); in 1580, only forty-three years
afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low
informs me, that a neighbouring tribe of foot-Indians is now
changing into horse-Indians: the tribe at Gregory Bay giving them
their worn-out horses, and sending in winter a few of their best
skilled men to hunt for them.

JUNE 1, 1834.


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

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



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 then sent with orders to fire a few
musket-shots wide of them. The Fuegians hid themselves behind the
trees, and for every discharge of the muskets they fired their
arrows; all, however, fell short of the boat, and the 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, in which two or three species of trees grow, to
the exclusion of all others. (11/3. 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.) Above the forest land there are many dwarf
alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to
compose it: these plants are very remarkable from their close
alliance with the species growing on the mountains of Europe,
though so many thousand miles distant. The central part of Tierra
del Fuego, where the clay-slate formation occurs, is most
favourable to the growth of trees; on the outer coast the poorer
granitic soil, and a situation more exposed to the violent winds,
do not allow of their attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I
have seen more large trees than anywhere else: I measured a
Winter's Bark which was four feet six inches in girth, and several
of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Captain King also
mentions a beech which was seven feet in diameter seventeen feet
above the roots.


There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its
importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globular,
bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the
beech-trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with a smooth
surface; but when mature, it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its
entire surface deeply pitted or honeycombed, as represented in
Plate 55. This fungus belongs to a new and curious genus (11/4.
Described from my specimens and notes by the Reverend J.M. Berkeley
in the "Linnean Transactions" volume 19 page 37, under the name of
Cyttaria Darwinii: the Chilean species is the C. Berteroii. This
genus is allied to Bulgaria.); 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 relationship
between parasitical fungi and the trees on which they grow, in
distant parts of the world! In Tierra del Fuego the fungus in its
tough and mature state is collected in large quantities by the
women and children, and is eaten 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 cryptogamic
plant affords a staple article of food.

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been expected from
the nature of its climate and vegetation, is very poor. Of
mammalia, besides whales and seals, there is one bat, a kind of
mouse (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 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 is found.

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds: occasionally the
plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius
albiceps) may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty
trees; and more rarely the loud strange cry of a black woodpecker,
with a fine scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured
wren (Scytalopus Magellanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the
entangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper
(Oxyurus tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the country.
Throughout the beech forests, high up and low down, in the most
gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, it may be met with. This
little bird no doubt appears more numerous than it really is, from
its habit of following with seeming curiosity any person who enters
these silent woods: continually uttering a harsh twitter, it
flutters from tree to tree, within a few feet of the intruder's
face. It is far from wishing for the modest concealment of the true
creeper (Certhia familiaris); nor does it, like that bird, run up
the trunks of trees, but industriously, after the manner of a
willow-wren, hops about, and searches for insects on every twig and
branch. In the more open parts, three or four species of finches, a
thrush, a starling (or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and several
hawks and owls occur.

The absence 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 degrees 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

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 absent (11/5. I believe I must except one alpine
Haltica, and a single specimen of a Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse
informs me, that of the Harpalidae 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,
Elateridae, Cebrionidae, Melolonthidae. The species in the other
orders are even fewer. In all the orders, the scarcity of the
individuals is even more remarkable than that of the species. Most
of the Coleoptera have been carefully described by Mr. Waterhouse
in the "Annals of Natural History."); I saw very few flies,
butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or Orthoptera. In the pools
of water I found but few aquatic beetles, and not any fresh-water
shells: Succinea at first appears an exception; but here it must be
called a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage far
from water. Land-shells could be procured only in the same alpine
situations with the beetles. I have already contrasted the climate
as well as the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego with that of
Patagonia; and the difference is strongly exemplified in the
entomology. I do not believe they have one 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. (11/6. Its geographical range is
remarkably wide; it is found from the extreme southern islets near
Cape Horn, as far north on the eastern coast (according to
information given me by Mr. Stokes) as latitude 43 degrees,--but on
the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells me, it extends to the R. San
Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus
have an immense range in latitude; and as Cook, who must have been
well acquainted with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no
less than 140 degrees in longitude.) 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
service it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy land
is evident; and it certainly has saved many a one from being
wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to see this plant
growing and flourishing amidst those great breakers of the western
ocean, which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long
resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom 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 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 up from the greater depth of
forty-five fathoms. (11/7. "Voyages of the 'Adventure' and
'Beagle'" volume 1 page 363. It appears that seaweed grows
extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found Wilson's "Voyage round
Scotland" volume 2 page 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 beds of this sea-weed, even when of not great
breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It is quite
curious to see, in an exposed harbour, how soon the waves from the
open sea, as they travel through the straggling stems, sink in
height, and pass into smooth water.

The number of living creatures of all Orders, whose existence
intimately depends on the kelp, is wonderful. A great volume might
be written, describing the inhabitants of one of these beds of
seaweed. 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 organised
kinds, and beautiful compound 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, cuttlefish, crabs of all orders, sea-eggs, starfish,
beautiful Holothuriae, 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, however, are of different species from those
in Tierra del Fuego; we see here the fucus possessing a wider range
than the animals which use it as an abode. I can only compare these
great aquatic forests of the southern hemisphere with the
terrestrial ones in the intertropical regions. Yet if in any
country a forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many
species of animals would perish as would here, from the destruction
of the kelp. Amidst the leaves of this plant numerous species of
fish live, which nowhere else could find food or shelter; with
their destruction the many cormorants and other fishing birds, the
otters, seals, and porpoises, would soon perish also; and lastly,
the Fuegian savage, the miserable lord of this miserable land,
would redouble his cannibal feast, decrease in numbers, and perhaps
cease to exist.

JUNE 8, 1834.

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 Sarmiento, which was then hidden in the clouds. At
the base of the lofty and almost perpendicular sides of our little
cove there was one deserted 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 9, 1834.

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

JUNE 10, 1834.

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 recapitulation alone may be read. I shall, however, here give
only an abstract, and must refer for details to the Thirteenth
Chapter and the Appendix of the former edition of this work.


The following table gives the mean temperature of Tierra del
Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for comparison, that of

Latitude Summer Winter Mean of Summer
degrees ' Temp. Temp. and Winter
deg. F. deg. F. deg. F.
Tierra del Fuego 53 38 S. 50 33.08 41.54
Falkland Islands 51 38 S. 51 -- --
Dublin 53 21 N. 59.54 39.2 49.37

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder in
winter, and no less than 9 1/2 degrees 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 degrees, and this place is actually 13 degrees nearer the pole
than Port Famine! (11/8. With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the
results are deduced from the observations of Captain King
"Geographical Journal" 1830, and those taken on board the "Beagle."
For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Captain 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,
namely, December, January, and February. The temperature of Dublin
is taken from Barton.) 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 latitude 55 degrees south. 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 latitude 39 degrees south, the most abundant shells were
three species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volutas, and
a Terebra. Now these are amongst the best characterised 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 latitude 39
degrees 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 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 farther northward, I may
mention that in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the northern
parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst
strawberries and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of
barley and wheat are often brought into the houses to be dried and
ripened. (11/9. Ageros "Descrip. Hist. de la Prov. de Chilo" 1791
page 94.) At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 40 degrees with
Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are not common; olives seldom
ripen even partially, and oranges not at all. These fruits, in
corresponding latitudes in Europe, are well known to succeed to
perfection; and even in this continent, at the Rio Negro, under
nearly the same parallel with 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
southward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native
forests, from latitude 45 to 38 degrees, 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 latitude 37 degrees; an arborescent
grass, very like a bamboo, in 40 degrees; and another closely
allied kind, of great length, but not erect, flourishes even as far
south as 45 degrees south.


For the detailed authorities for the following table, I must
refer to the former edition:--

Height in feet
Latitude of Snow-line Observer
Equatorial region;
mean result 15,748 Humboldt.

Bolivia, latitude
16 to 18 degrees south 17,000 Pentland.

Central Chile, latitude
33 degrees south 14,500 to 15,000 Gillies and the

Chiloe, latitude
41 to 43 degrees south 6,000 Officers of the
"Beagle" and the

Tierra del Fuego
54 degrees south 3,500 - 4,000 King.
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 (latitude 45 degrees), and I measured one trunk no
less than six feet in circumference. An arborescent fern was found
by Forster in New Zealand in 46 degrees, where orchideous plants
are parasitical on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns,
according to Dr. Dieffenbach have trunks so thick and high that
they may be almost called tree-ferns; and in these islands, and
even as far south as latitude 55 degrees in the Macquarie Islands,
parrots abound. (11/10. See the German Translation of this Journal;
and for the other facts Mr. Brown's Appendix to Flinders's

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to be
determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than by the
mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be surprised at its
descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the summer is so cool, to
only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the sea; although in
Norway, we must travel to between latitude 67 and 70 degrees north,
that is, about 14 degrees nearer the pole, to meet with perpetual
snow at this low level. The difference in height, namely, about
9000 feet, between the snow-line on the Cordillera behind Chiloe
(with its highest points ranging from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and
in central Chile (a distance of only 9 degrees of latitude), is
truly wonderful. (11/11. On the Cordillera of central Chile, I
believe the snow-line varies exceedingly in height in different
summers. I was assured that during one very dry and long summer,
all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, although it attains the
prodigious height of 23,000 feet. It is probable that much of the
snow at these great heights is evaporated, rather than thawed.) The
land from the southward of Chiloe to near Concepcion (latitude 37
degrees) 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 European fruits
succeed admirably; and even the sugar-cane has been cultivated.
(11/12. Miers's "Chile" volume 1 page 415. It is said that the
sugar-cane grew at Ingenio, latitude 32 to 33 degrees, but not in
sufficient quantity to make the manufacture profitable. In the
valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some large date-palm
trees.) No doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above
remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts of the
world, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, where the land
ceases to be covered with forest-trees; for trees in South America
indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded sky and little heat in


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 frequently cause masses of earth to
fall from sea-cliffs: how terrific, then, would be the effect of a
severe shock (and such occur here (11/13. Bulkeley's and Cummin's
"Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager." The earthquake
happened August 25, 1741.)) 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 farthest from the Pole, surveyed during the voyages of
the "Adventure" and "Beagle," is in latitude 46 degrees 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
encountered "many icebergs, some great, some small, and others
middle-sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22 of the month
corresponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding with
that of the Lake of Geneva! (11/14. Ageros "Desc. Hist. de Chilo"
page 227.)

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
latitude 67 degrees. Now, this is more than 20 degrees of latitude,
or 1230 miles, nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Rafael. The
position of the glaciers at this place and in the Gulf of Penas may
be put even in a more striking point of view, for they descend to
the sea-coast within 7 1/2 degrees of latitude, or 450 miles, of a
harbour, where three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, are
the commonest shells, within less than 9 degrees from where palms
grow, within 4 1/2 degrees of a region where the jaguar and puma
range over the plains, less than 2 1/2 degrees from arborescent
grasses, and (looking to the westward in the same hemisphere) less
than 2 degrees from orchideous parasites, and within a single
degree of tree-ferns!

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the
climate of the northern hemisphere, at the period when boulders
were transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of
icebergs being charged with fragments of rock explains the origin
and position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego,
on the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In
Tierra del Fuego the greater number of boulders lie on the lines of
old sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the elevation
of the land. They are associated with a great unstratified
formation of mud and sand, containing rounded and angular fragments
of all sizes, which has originated in the repeated ploughing up of
the sea-bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and by the matter
transported on them. (11/15. "Geological Transactions" volume 6
page 415.) 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
strikingly shown by their geographical distribution over the earth.
In South America they are not found farther than 48 degrees of
latitude, measured from the southern pole; in North America it
appears that the limit of their transportal extends to 53 1/2
degrees from the northern pole; but in Europe to not more than 40
degrees of latitude, measured from the same point. On the other
hand, in the intertropical parts of America, Asia, and Africa, they
have never been observed; nor at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in
Australia. (11/16. I have given details (the first, I believe,
published) on this subject in the first edition, and in the
Appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent exceptions to
the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries are due to
erroneous observations; several statements there given I have since
found confirmed by various authors.)


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. Sandwich Land, in
the latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook,
during the hottest month of the year, "covered many fathoms thick
with everlasting snow;" and there seems to be scarcely any
vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the
latitude of Yorkshire, "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 degrees 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
Lieutenant Kendall found the bay in which he was at anchor,
beginning to freeze at a period corresponding with our 8th of
September. (11/17. "Geographical Journal" 1830 pages 65, 66.) The
soil here consists of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified; and
at a little depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually
congealed, for Lieutenant Kendall found the body of a foreign
sailor which had long been buried, with the flesh and all the
features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fact that on the two
great continents in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken
land of Europe between them) we have the zone of perpetually frozen
under-soil in a low latitude--namely, in 56 degrees in North
America at the depth of three feet (11/18. Richardson's "Append. to
Back's Exped." and Humboldt's "Fragm. Asiat." tome 2 page 386.),
and in 62 degrees in Siberia at the depth of twelve to fifteen
feet--as the result of a directly opposite condition of things to
those of the southern hemisphere. On the northern continents, the
winter is rendered excessively cold by the radiation from a large
area of land into a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the
warmth-bringing currents of the sea; the short summer, on the other
hand, is hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not so
excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded
sky seldom allows the sun to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent
of heat: and hence the mean temperature of the year, which
regulates the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It
is evident that a rank vegetation, which does not so much require
heat as it does protection from intense cold, would approach much
nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation under the equable
climate of the southern hemisphere, than 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 (latitude 62 to 63 degrees south), in
a rather lower latitude than that (latitude 64 degrees north) under
which Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very
interesting. Although it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to
show in a former chapter, to suppose that the larger quadrupeds
require a luxuriant vegetation for their support, nevertheless it
is important to find in the South Shetland Islands a frozen
under-soil within 360 miles of the forest-clad islands near Cape
Horn, where, as far as the BULK of vegetation is concerned, any
number of great quadrupeds might be supported. The perfect
preservation of the carcasses of the Siberian elephants and
rhinoceroses is certainly one of the most wonderful facts in
geology; but independently of the imagined difficulty of supplying
them with food from the adjoining countries, the whole case is not,
I think, so perplexing as it has generally been considered. The
plains of Siberia, like those of the Pampas, appear to have been
formed under the sea, into which rivers brought down the bodies of
many animals; of the greater number of these only the skeletons
have been preserved, but of others the perfect carcass. Now it is
known that in the shallow sea on the Arctic coast of America the
bottom freezes (11/19. Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in "Geographical
Journal" volume 8 pages 218 and 220.), 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 degrees,
as is the case on the land with the soil at the depth of a few
feet. At still greater depths the temperature of the mud and water
would probably not be low enough to preserve the flesh; and hence,
carcasses drifted beyond the 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 (11/20. Cuvier
"Ossemens Fossiles" tome 1 page 151, from Billing's "Voyage."); and
those islets lie no less than ten degrees of latitude north of the
place where Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand,
a carcass washed by a flood into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea,
would be preserved for an indefinite period, if it were soon
afterwards covered with mud sufficiently thick to prevent the heat
of the summer water 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




I will recapitulate the principal facts with regard to the climate,
ice-action, and organic productions of the southern hemisphere,
transposing the places in imagination to Europe, with which we are
so much better acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the commonest
sea-shells, namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a
Terebra, would have a tropical character. In the southern provinces
of France, magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and
with the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face
of the land. The puma and the jaguar would haunt the Pyrenees. In
the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as far westward as
Central North America, tree-ferns and parasitical Orchideae would
thrive amidst the thick woods. Even as far north as central Denmark
humming-birds would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and
parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods; and in the sea there we
should have a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous
growth. Nevertheless, on some islands only 360 miles northward of
our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried in the soil (or if
washed into a shallow sea, and covered up with mud) would be
preserved perpetually frozen. If some bold navigator attempted to
penetrate northward of these islands, he would run a thousand
dangers amidst gigantic icebergs, on some of which he would see
great blocks of rock borne far away from their original site.
Another island of large size in the latitude of southern Scotland,
but twice as far to the west, would be "almost wholly covered with
everlasting snow," and would have each bay terminated by
ice-cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly detached: this
island would boast only of a little moss, grass, and burnet, and a
titlark would be its only land inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn
in Denmark, a chain of mountains, scarcely half the height of the
Alps, would run in a straight line due southward; and on its
western flank every deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in
"bold and astonishing glaciers." These lonely channels would
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
penetrate a long arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty
surrounding 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! (11/21. In the former edition
and Appendix, I have given some facts on the transportal of erratic
boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This subject has
lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the "Boston
Journal" volume 4 page 426. The author does not appear aware of a
case published by me "Geographical Journal" volume 9 page 528, of a
gigantic boulder embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean,
almost certainly one hundred miles distant from any land, and
perhaps much more distant. In the Appendix I have discussed at
length the probability (at that time hardly thought of) of
icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like
glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion; and I
cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such
cases as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me that the
icebergs off North America push before them pebbles and sand, and
leave the submarine rocky flats quite bare; it is hardly possible
to doubt that such ledges must be polished and scored in the
direction of the set of the prevailing currents. Since writing that
Appendix I have seen in North Wales "London Philosophical Magazine"
volume 21 page 180) the adjoining action of glaciers and floating



Excursion to the Foot of the Andes.
Structure of the land.
Ascend the Bell of Quillota.
Shattered masses of greenstone.
Immense valleys.
State of miners.
Hot-baths of Cauquenes.
Perforated stones.
Habits of the Puma.
El Turco and Tapacolo.


JULY 23, 1834.

The "Beagle" anchored late at night in the bay of Valparaiso, the
chief seaport of Chile. When morning came, everything appeared
delightful. After Tierra del Fuego, the climate felt quite
delicious--the atmosphere so dry, and the heavens so clear and blue
with the sun shining brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling
with life. The view from the anchorage is very pretty. The town is
built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 1600 feet high,
and rather steep. From its position, it consists of one long,
straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and wherever a
ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. The
rounded hills, being only partially protected by a very scanty
vegetation, are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a
singularly bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low
whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St.
Cruz in Teneriffe. In a north-easterly direction there are some
fine glimpses of the Andes: but these mountains appear much grander
when viewed from the neighbouring hills: the great distance at
which they are situated can then more readily be perceived. The
volcano of Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge and
irregularly 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 Cordillera,
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 productive to the
naturalist. During the long summer the wind blows steadily from the
southward, and a little off shore, so that rain never falls; during
the three winter months, however, it is sufficiently abundant. The
vegetation in consequence is very scanty: except in some deep
valleys there are no trees, and only a little grass and a few low
bushes are scattered over the less steep parts of the hills. When
we reflect that at the distance of 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 flowers; and, as in most
other dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess strong and
peculiar odours--even one's clothes by brushing through them became
scented. I did not cease from wonder at finding each succeeding day
as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does climate make in
the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the sensations when viewing
black mountains half-enveloped in clouds, and seeing another range
through the light blue haze of a fine day! The one for a time may
be very sublime; the other is all gaiety and happy life.

AUGUST 14, 1834.

I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of geologising the
basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time of the year are
not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's ride was northward
along the sea-coast. After dark we reached the Hacienda of
Quintero, the estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. My
object in coming here was to see the great beds of shells which
stand some yards above the level of the sea, and are burnt for
lime. The proofs of the elevation of this whole line of coast are
unequivocal: at the height of a few hundred feet old-looking shells
are numerous, and I found some at 1300 feet. These shells either
lie loose on the surface, or are embedded in a reddish-black
vegetable mould. I was much surprised to find under the microscope
that this vegetable mould is really marine mud, full of minute
particles of organic bodies.

AUGUST 15, 1834.

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 shepherds, scattered on the
hill-sides. We were obliged to cross the ridge of the Chilicauquen.
At its base there were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these
flourished only in the ravines, where there was running water. Any
person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso would never
have imagined that there had been such picturesque spots in Chile.
As soon as we reached the brow of the Sierra, the valley of
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 patchwork valley the more pleasing.
Whoever called "Valparaiso" 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 situated, 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 formerly 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

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very
easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. 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 numbers, manage to find sufficient pasture. Once every
year there is a grand "rodeo," when all the cattle are driven down,
counted, and marked, and a certain number separated to be fattened
in the irrigated fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, and a
good deal of Indian corn: a kind of bean is, however, the staple
article of food for the common labourers. The orchards produce an
overflowing abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. With all these
advantages the inhabitants of the country ought to be much more
prosperous than they are.

AUGUST 16, 1834.

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

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to pass the
night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so clear that the
masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although
no less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, could be
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 mat, and were
quite comfortable. There is an inexpressible charm in thus living
in the open air. The evening was calm and still;--the shrill noise
of the mountain bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goatsucker, were
occasionally to be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even
insects, frequent these dry, parched mountains.

AUGUST 17, 1834.

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 remarkable circumstance, namely, that many of the
surfaces presented every degree of freshness--some appearing as if
broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had either just
become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed that this
was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined 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 Diemen'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

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 Cordillera, would
increase its height by so many thousand feet. When in that country,
I wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such masses,
and not have been utterly obliterated. We must not now reverse the
wonder, and doubt whether all-powerful time can grind down
mountains--even the gigantic Cordillera--into gravel and mud.

The appearance of the Andes was different from that which I had
expected. The lower line of the snow was of course horizontal, and
to this line the even summits of the range seemed quite parallel.
Only at long intervals a group of points or a single cone showed
where a volcano had existed, or does now exist. Hence the range
resembled a great solid wall, surmounted here and there by a tower,
and making a most perfect barrier to the country.

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 civilised of the two countries, and the
inhabitants, in consequence, have lost much individual character.
Gradations in rank are much more strongly marked: the Guaso does
not by any means consider every man his equal; and I was quite
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
cutthroat, 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 excepting when on its back; the Guaso may
be hired to work as a labourer in the fields. The former lives
entirely on animal food; the latter almost wholly on vegetable. We
do not here see the white boots, the broad drawers, and scarlet
chilipa; the picturesque costume of the Pampas. Here, common
trousers are protected by black and green worsted leggings. The
poncho, however, is common to both. The chief pride of the Guaso
lies in his spurs, which are absurdly large. I measured one which
was six inches in the DIAMETER of the rowel, and the rowel itself
contained upwards of thirty points. The stirrups are on the same
scale, each consisting of a square, carved block of wood, hollowed
out, yet weighing three or four pounds. The Guaso is perhaps more
expert with the lazo than the Gaucho; but, from the nature of the
country, he does not know the use of the bolas.

AUGUST 18, 1834.

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

It is now well known that the Chilian method of mining is the
cheapest. My host says that the two principal improvements
introduced by foreigners have been, first, reducing by previous
roasting the copper pyrites--which, being the common ore in
Cornwall, the English miners were astounded on their arrival to
find thrown away as useless: secondly, stamping and washing the
scoriae from the old furnaces--by which process particles of metal
are recovered in abundance. I have actually seen mules carrying to
the coast, for transportation to England, a cargo of such cinders.
But the first case is much the most curious. The Chilian miners
were so convinced that copper pyrites contained not a particle of
copper, that they laughed at the Englishmen for their ignorance,
who laughed in turn, and bought their richest veins for a few
dollars. It is very odd that, in a country where mining had been
extensively carried on for many years, so simple a process as
gently roasting the ore to expel the sulphur previous to smelting
it, had never been discovered. A few improvements have likewise
been introduced in some of the simple machinery; but even to the
present day, water is removed from some mines by men carrying it up
the shaft in leathern bags!


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

(PLATE 63. CACTUS (Cereus Peruviana).)

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 dikes of greenstone, showed what commotions had
formerly taken place. The scenery was much the same as that near
the Bell of Quillota--dry barren mountains, dotted at 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 cylindrical, branching
kind, is from twelve to fifteen feet, and the girth (with spines)
of the branches between three and four feet.

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented me, during the last
two days, from making some interesting excursions. I attempted to
reach a lake which the inhabitants, 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
dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as generally
supposed, the lake was connected with the Pacific. We ascended to a
great height, but becoming involved in the snow-drifts failed in
reaching this wonderful lake, and had some 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 snowstorm
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 26, 1834.

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 volcano of Aconcagua and the main chain quite
glorious. We were now on the road to Santiago, the capital of
Chile. We crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and slept at a little
rancho. The host, talking about the state of Chile as compared to
other countries, was very humble: "Some see with two eyes, and some
with one, but for my part I do not think that Chile sees with any."

AUGUST 27, 1834.

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

I stayed a week in Santiago and enjoyed myself very much. In the
morning I rode to various places on the plain, and in the evening
dined with several of the English merchants, whose 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 excursion to the south of the direct road.

SEPTEMBER 5, 1834.

By the middle of the day we arrived at one of the suspension
bridges made of hide, which cross the Maypu, a large turbulent
river a few leagues southward of Santiago. These bridges are very
poor affairs. The road, following the curvature of the suspending
ropes, is made of bundles of sticks placed close together. It was
full of holes, and oscillated rather fearfully, even with the
weight of a man leading his horse. In the evening we reached a
comfortable farm-house, where there were several very pretty
seoritas. 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.

SEPTEMBER 6, 1834.

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, are generally
taken down during the winter when the rivers are low. Such was the
case in this valley, and we were therefore obliged to cross the
stream on horseback. This is rather 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 hovels, 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
temperatures; and this appears to be the result of an unequal
mixture of cold water: for those with the lowest temperature have
scarcely any mineral taste. After the great earthquake of 1822 the
springs ceased, and the water did not return for nearly a year.
They were also much affected by the earthquake of 1835; the
temperature being suddenly changed from 118 to 92 degrees. (12/1.
Caldcleugh in "Philosophical Transactions" 1836.) 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, probably 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 established himself by a stream
in the Pampas, which place none of the forces sent after him could
ever discover. From this point he used to sally forth, and crossing
the Cordillera by passes hitherto 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 13, 1834.


We left the baths of Cauquenes, and, rejoining the main road, slept
at the Rio Claro. From this place we rode to the town of San
Fernando. Before arriving there, the last land-locked basin had
expanded into a great plain, which extended so far to the south
that the snowy summits of the more distant Andes were seen as if
above the horizon of the sea. San Fernando is forty leagues from
Santiago; and it was my farthest point southward; for we here
turned at right angles towards the coast. We slept at the
gold-mines of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an American
gentleman, to whose kindness I was much indebted during the four
days I stayed at his house. The next morning we rode to the mines,
which are situated at the distance of some leagues, near the summit
of a lofty hill. On the way we had a glimpse of the lake
Tagua-tagua, celebrated for its floating islands, which have been
described by M. Gay. (12/2. "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.) They are composed of the stalks of various dead
plants intertwined together, and on the surface of which other
living ones take root. Their form is generally circular, and their
thickness from four to six feet, of which the greater part is
immersed in the water. As the wind blows, they pass from one side
of the lake to the other, and often carry cattle and horses as

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale 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. 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 mill; they washed the earth thus got
together, and so procured thirty dollars worth of gold. This is an
exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer
degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which
they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the
ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; but gold, platina,
and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from their weight,
sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole 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 labouring
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
states that some of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots by
the aid of a stick pointed at one end, the force and weight of
which are increased by a round stone with a hole in it, into which
the other end is firmly wedged. (12/3. Burchell's "Travels" volume
2 page 45.) It appears probable that the Indians of Chile formerly
used some such rude agricultural instrument.

One day, a German collector in natural history, of the name of
Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Spanish lawyer.
I was amused at being told the conversation which took place
between them. Renous 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 gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up
here). No man is so rich as to send out people to pick up such
rubbish. I do not like it: if one of us were to go and do such
things in England, do not you think the King of England would very
soon send us out of his country?" And this old gentleman, from his
profession, belongs to the better informed and more 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 19, 1834.

We left Yaquil, and followed the flat valley, formed like that of
Quillota, in which the Rio Tinderidica flows. Even at these few
miles south of Santiago the climate is much damper; in consequence
there were fine tracts of pasturage which were not irrigated.
(20th.) We followed this valley till it expanded into a great
plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains west of
Rancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes; so that the
inhabitants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in the
Pampas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much 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 celebrated under the name of Cueva del Obispo; having
formerly been consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and
from that time till the end of October did not recover.

SEPTEMBER 22, 1834.

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.

SEPTEMBER 24, 1834.

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

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 degrees) of Tierra
del Fuego. I have seen its footsteps in the Cordillera of central
Chile, at an elevation of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the
puma preys chiefly on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small
quadrupeds; it there seldom attacks cattle or horses, and most
rarely man. In Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and
cattle, owing probably to the scarcity of other quadrupeds: I
heard, likewise, of two men and a woman who had been thus killed.
It is asserted that the puma always kills its prey by springing on
the shoulders, and then drawing back the head with one of its paws,
until the vertebrae break: I have seen in Patagonia the skeletons
of guanacos, with their necks thus dislocated.

The puma, after eating its fill, covers the carcass with many large
bushes, and lies down to watch it. This habit is often the cause of
its being discovered; for the condors wheeling in the air, every
now and then descend to partake of the feast, and being angrily
driven away, rise all together on the wing. The Chileno Guaso then
knows there is a lion watching his prey--the word is given--and men
and dogs hurry to the chase. Sir F. Head says that a Gaucho in the
Pampas, upon merely seeing some condors wheeling in the air, cried
"A lion!" I could never myself meet with any one who pretended to
such powers of discrimination. It is asserted that if a puma has
once been betrayed by thus watching the carcass, and has then been
hunted, it never resumes this habit; but that having gorged itself,
it wanders far away. The puma is easily killed. In an open country
it is first entangled with the bolas, then lazoed, and dragged
along the ground till rendered insensible. 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 particular breed, called
Leoneros: they are weak, slight animals, like long-legged terriers,
but are born with a particular instinct for this sport. The puma is
described as being very crafty: when pursued, it often returns on
its former track, and then suddenly making a spring on one side,
waits there till the dogs have passed by. It is a very silent
animal, uttering no cry even when wounded, and only rarely during
the breeding season.

Of birds, two species of the genus Pteroptochos (megapodius and
albicollis of Kittlitz) are perhaps the most conspicuous. The
former, called by the Chilenos "el Turco," is as large as a
fieldfare, to which bird it has some alliance; but its legs are
much longer, tail shorter, and beak stronger: its colour is a
reddish brown. The Turco is not uncommon. It lives on the ground,
sheltered among the thickets which are scattered over the dry and
sterile hills. With its tail erect, and stilt-like legs, it may be
seen every now and then popping from one bush to another with
uncommon quickness. It really requires little imagination to
believe that the bird is ashamed of itself, and is aware of its
most ridiculous figure. On first seeing it, one is tempted to
exclaim, "A vilely stuffed specimen has escaped from some museum,
and has come to life again!" It cannot be made to take flight
without the greatest trouble, nor does it run, but only hops. The
various loud cries which it utters when concealed amongst the
bushes are as strange as its appearance. It is said to build its
nest in a deep hole beneath the ground. I dissected several
specimens: the gizzard, which was very muscular, contained beetles,
vegetable fibres, and pebbles. From this character, from the length
of its legs, scratching feet, membranous covering to the nostrils,
short and arched wings, this bird seems in a certain degree to
connect the thrushes with the gallinaceous order.

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first in its
general form. It is called Tapacolo, or "cover your posterior;" and
well does the shameless little bird deserve its name; for it
carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined backwards
towards its head. It is very common, and frequents the bottoms of
hedgerows, 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
country people say it changes its cry five times in the
year--according to some change of season, I suppose. (12/4. It is a
remarkable fact that Molina, though describing in detail all the
birds and animals of Chile, never once mentions this genus, the
species of which are so common, and so remarkable in their habits.
Was he at a loss how to classify them, and did he consequently
think that silence was the more prudent course? It is one more
instance of the frequency of omissions by authors on those very
subjects where it might have been least expected.)

Two species of humming-birds are common; Trochilus forficatus is
found over a space of 2500 miles on the west coast, from the hot
dry country of Lima to the forests of Tierra del Fuego--where it
may be seen flitting about in snow-storms. In the wooded island of
Chiloe, which has an extremely humid climate, this little bird,
skipping from side to side amidst the dripping foliage, is perhaps
more abundant than almost any other kind. I opened the stomachs of
several specimens, shot in different parts of the continent, and in
all, remains of insects were as numerous as in the stomach of a
creeper. When this species migrates in the summer southward, it is
replaced by the arrival of another species coming from the north.
This second kind (Trochilus gigas) is a very large bird for the
delicate family to which it belongs: when on the wing its
appearance is singular. Like others of the genus, it moves from
place to place with a rapidity which may be compared to that of
Syrphus amongst flies, and Sphinx among moths; but whilst hovering
over a flower, it flaps its wings with a very slow and powerful
movement, totally different from that vibratory one common to most
of the species, which produces the humming noise. I never saw any
other bird where the force of its wings appeared (as in a
butterfly) so powerful in proportion to the weight of its body.
When hovering by a flower, its tail is constantly expanded and shut
like a fan, the body being kept in a nearly vertical position. This
action appears to steady and support the bird, between the slow
movements of its wings. Although flying from flower to flower in
search of food, its stomach generally contained abundant remains of
insects, which I suspect are much more the object of its search
than honey. The note of this species, like that of nearly the whole
family, is extremely shrill.




General Aspect.
Boat excursion.
Native Indians.
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.
Singular character of ornithology.


NOVEMBER 10, 1834.

The "Beagle" sailed from Valparaiso to the south, for the purpose
of surveying the southern part of Chile, the island of Chiloe, and
the broken land called the Chonos Archipelago, as far south as the
Peninsula of Tres Montes. On the 21st we anchored in the bay of S.
Carlos, the capital of Chiloe.

This island is about ninety miles long, with a breadth of rather
less than thirty. The land is hilly, but not mountainous, and is
covered by one great forest, except where a few green patches have
been cleared round the thatched cottages. From a distance the view
somewhat resembles that of Tierra del Fuego; but the woods, when
seen nearer, are incomparably more beautiful. Many kinds of fine
evergreen trees, and plants with a tropical character, here take
the place of the gloomy beech of the southern shores. In winter the
climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I
should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate
regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous,
and the sky almost always clouded: to have a week of fine weather
is something wonderful. It is even difficult to get a single
glimpse of the Cordillera: during our first visit, once only the
volcano of Osorno stood out in bold relief, and that was before
sunrise; it was curious to watch, as the sun rose, the outline
gradually fading away in the glare of the eastern sky.

The inhabitants, from their complexion and low stature, appear to
have three-fourths of Indian blood in their veins. They are an
humble, quiet, industrious set of men. Although the fertile soil,
resulting from the decomposition of the volcanic rocks, supports a
rank vegetation, yet the climate is not favourable to any
production which requires much sunshine to ripen it. There is very
little pasture for the larger quadrupeds; and in consequence, the
staple articles of food are pigs, potatoes, and fish. The people
all dress 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 tradesman must
also be a merchant, and again sell the goods which he takes in

NOVEMBER 24, 1834.

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 circumnavigate the whole. I accompanied this expedition,
but instead of going in the boats the first day, I hired horses to
take me to Chacao, at the northern 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

The land in this neighbourhood has been extensively cleared, and
there were many quiet and most picturesque nooks in the forest.
Chacao was formerly the principal port in the island; but many
vessels having been lost, owing to the dangerous currents and rocks
in the straits, the Spanish government burnt the church, and thus
arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants to migrate
to S. Carlos. 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 masthead, he asked with the utmost
indifference, whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In several
places the inhabitants were much astonished at the appearance of
men-of-war's boats, and hoped and believed it was the forerunner of
a Spanish fleet, coming to recover the island from the patriot
government of Chile. All the men in power, however, had been
informed of our intended visit, and were exceedingly civil. While
we were eating our supper, the governor paid us a visit. He had
been a lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish service, but now was
miserably poor. He gave us two sheep, and accepted in return two
cotton handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets, and a little tobacco.

NOVEMBER 25, 1834.

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.

NOVEMBER 26, 1834.

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 thousand feet
high. In addition to this, far to the south there were other lofty
cones covered with snow, which, although not known to be active,
must be in their origin volcanic. The line of the Andes is not, in
this neighbourhood, nearly so elevated as in Chile; neither does it
appear to form so perfect a barrier between the regions of the
earth. This great range, although running in a straight north and
south line, owing to an optical deception always appeared more or
less curved; for the lines drawn from each peak to the beholder's
eye necessarily converged like the radii of a semicircle, and as it
was not possible (owing to the clearness of the atmosphere and the
absence of all intermediate objects) to judge how far distant the
farthest peaks were off, they appeared to stand in a flattish

Landing at midday, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction. The
father was singularly like York Minster; and some of the younger
boys, with their ruddy complexions, might have been mistaken for
Pampas Indians. Everything I have seen convinces 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 civilisation,
however low that may be, which their white conquerors have
attained. More to the south we saw many pure Indians: indeed, all
the inhabitants of some of the islets retain their Indian surnames.
In the census of 1832 there were in Chiloe and its dependencies
forty-two thousand souls: the greater number of these appear to be
of mixed blood. Eleven thousand retain their Indian surnames, but
it is probable that not nearly all of these are of a pure breed.
Their manner of life is the 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.
Formerly, every one convicted of this offence was sent to the
Inquisition at Lima. Many of the inhabitants who are not included
in the eleven thousand with Indian surnames, cannot be
distinguished by their appearance from Indians. Gomez, the governor
of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen of Spain on both sides; but by
constant intermarriages with the natives the present man is an
Indian. On the other hand, the governor of Quinchao boasts much of
his purely kept Spanish blood.

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the island of
Caucahue. The people here complained of want of land. This is
partly owing to their own negligence in not clearing the woods, and
partly to restrictions by the government, which makes it necessary,
before buying 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 countries, forests are
removed without much difficulty by the aid of fire; but in Chiloe,
from the damp nature of the climate, and the sort of trees, it is
necessary first to cut them down. This is a heavy 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 government 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 70 pounds sterling.

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached the
island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated part
of the Archipelago; for a broad strip of land on the coast of the
main island, as well as on many of the smaller adjoining ones, is
almost completely cleared. Some of the farmhouses seemed very
comfortable. I was curious to ascertain how rich any of these
people might be, but Mr. Douglas says that no one can be considered
as possessing a regular income. One of the richest landowners might
possibly accumulate, in a long industrious life, as much as 1000
pounds 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 30, 1834.

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 appearance. 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 afternoon we paid
our respects to the governor--a quiet old man, who, in his
appearance and manner of life, was scarcely superior to an English
cottager. At night heavy rain set in, which was hardly sufficient
to drive away from our tents the large circle of lookers on. An
Indian family, who had come to trade in a canoe from Caylen,
bivouacked near us. They had no shelter during the rain. In the
morning I asked a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had
passed the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, "Muy
bien, seor."

DECEMBER 1, 1834.

We steered for the island of Lemuy. I was anxious to examine a
reported coal-mine which turned out to be lignite of little value,
in the sandstone (probably of an ancient tertiary epoch) of which
these islands are composed. When we reached Lemuy we had much
difficulty in finding any place to pitch our tents, for it was
spring-tide, and the land was wooded down to the water's edge. In a
short time we were surrounded by a large group of the nearly pure
Indian inhabitants. They were much surprised at our arrival, and
said one to the other, "This is the reason we have seen so many
parrots lately; the cheucau (an odd red-breasted little bird, which
inhabits the thick forest, and utters very peculiar noises) has not
cried 'beware' for nothing." They were soon anxious for barter.
Money was scarcely worth anything, but their eagerness for tobacco
was something quite extraordinary. After tobacco, indigo came next
in value; then capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The latter
article was required for a very innocent purpose: each parish has a
public musket, and the gunpowder was wanted for making a noise on
their saint or feast days.

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At certain
seasons they catch also, in "corrales," or hedges under water, many
fish which are left on the mud-banks as the tide falls. They
occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, 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 comforts. At
Caylen, the most southern island, the sailors bought with a stick
of tobacco, of the value of three-halfpence, two fowls, one of
which, the Indian stated, had skin between its toes, and turned out
to be a fine duck; and with some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three
shillings, three sheep and a large bunch of onions were procured.
The yawl at this place was anchored some way from the shore, and we
had fears for her safety from robbers during the night. Our pilot,
Mr. Douglas, accordingly told the constable of the district that we
always placed sentinels with loaded arms, and not 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 margin. I measured one
which was nearly eight feet in diameter, and therefore no less than
twenty-four in circumference! The stalk is rather more than a yard
high, and each plant sends out four or five of these enormous
leaves, presenting together a very noble appearance.

DECEMBER 6, 1834.

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 miserable hovel it was. The latitude is 43 degrees 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

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 absorbed in watching the work of the officers,
that I was able, by quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the
head with my geological hammer. This fox, more curious or more
scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his brethren, is
now mounted in the museum of the Zoological Society.

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 different appearance from those on the
northern part of the island. The rock, also, being micaceous slate,
there was no beach, but the steep sides dipped directly beneath the
water. The general aspect in consequence was more like that of
Tierra del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the
summit: the forest was so impenetrable, that no one who has not
beheld it can imagine so entangled a mass of dying and dead trunks.
I am sure that often, for more than ten minutes together, our feet
never touched the ground, and we were frequently ten or fifteen
feet above it, so that the seamen as a joke called out the
soundings. At other times we crept one after another, on our hands
and knees, under the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the
mountain, noble trees of the Winter's Bark, and a laurel like the
sassafras with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I do
not know, were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. Here
we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any other animal.
On the higher parts, brushwood takes the place of larger trees,
with here and there a red cedar or an 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 10, 1834.


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 southward. On the 13th we ran into an
opening in the southern part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos
Archipelago; and it was fortunate we did so, for on the following
day a storm, worthy of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great fury.
White massive clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, and
across them black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. The
successive mountain ranges appeared like dim shadows, and the
setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much like that
produced by the flame of spirits of wine. The water was white with
the flying spray, and the wind lulled and roared again through the
rigging: it was an ominous, sublime scene. During a few minutes
there was a bright rainbow, and it was curious to observe the
effect of the spray, which, being carried along the surface of the
water, changed the ordinary semicircle into a circle--a band of
prismatic colours being continued, from both feet of the common
arch across the bay, close to the vessel's side: thus forming a
distorted, 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 requires continued scrambling up and down
over the sharp rocks of mica-slate; and as for the woods, our
faces, hands, and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment
we received, in merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden

DECEMBER 18, 1834.

We stood out to sea. On the 20th we bade farewell to the south, and
with a fair wind turned the ship's head northward. From Cape Tres
Montes we sailed pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast,
which is remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the
thick covering of forest even on the almost precipitous flanks. 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
recognised 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 undertaking, for the sides were so steep that in
some parts it was necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were
also several extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its
beautiful drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through. In
these wild countries it gives much delight to gain the summit of
any mountain. There is an indefinite expectation of seeing
something very strange, which, however often it may be balked,
never failed with me to recur 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

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

DECEMBER 28, 1834.

The weather continued very bad, but it at last permitted us to
proceed with the survey. The time hung heavy on our hands, as it
always did when we were delayed from day to day by successive gales
of wind. In the evening another harbour was discovered, where we
anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen waving his shirt, and
a boat was sent which brought back two seamen. A party of six had
run away from an American whaling vessel, and had landed a little
to the southward in a boat, which was shortly afterwards knocked to
pieces by the surf. They had now been wandering up and down the
coast for fifteen months, without knowing which way to go, or where
they were. What a singular piece of good fortune it was that this
harbour was now discovered! Had it not been for this one chance,
they might have wandered till they had grown old men, and at last
have perished on this wild coast. Their sufferings had been very
great, and one of their party had lost his life by falling from the
cliffs. They were sometimes obliged to separate in search of food,
and this explained the bed of the solitary man. Considering what
they had undergone, I think they had kept a very good reckoning of
time, for they had lost only four days.

DECEMBER 30, 1834.

We anchored in a snug little cove at the foot of some high hills,
near the northern extremity of Tres Montes. After breakfast the
next morning a party ascended one of these mountains, which was
2400 feet high. The scenery was remarkable. The chief part of the
range was composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which
appeared as if they had been coeval with the 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
formation. We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock,
and, however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the crust
of this globe to which man has penetrated. The limit of man's
knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest, which is
perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the realms of

JANUARY 1, 1835.

The new year is ushered in with the ceremonies proper to it in
these regions. She lays out no false hopes: a heavy north-western
gale, with steady rain, bespeaks the rising year. Thank God, we are
not destined here to see the end of it, but hope then to be in the
Pacific Ocean, where a blue sky tells one there is a heaven,--a
something beyond the clouds above our heads.

The north-west winds prevailing for the next four days, we only
managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in another secure
harbour. I accompanied the Captain in a boat to the head of a deep
creek. On the way the number of seals which we saw was 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 together, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs
would have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which
came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but
inauspicious eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, with
its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is very
common on the west coast, and their attendance on the seals shows
on what they rely for their food. We found the water (probably only
that of the surface) nearly fresh: this was caused by the number of
torrents which, in the form of cascades, came tumbling over the
bold granite mountains into the sea. The fresh water attracts the
fish, and these bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds of
cormorant. We saw also a pair of the beautiful black-necked swans,
and several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such high
estimation. In returning, we were again amused by the 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 outstretched necks, expressing great
wonder and curiosity.

JANUARY 7, 1835.

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 famoso 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 small, but I found one,
of an oval shape, two inches in diameter: they resembled in every
respect, and had the same smell as English potatoes; but when
boiled they shrunk much, and were watery and insipid, without any
bitter taste. They are undoubtedly here indigenous: they grow as
far south, according to Mr. Low, as latitude 50 degrees, and are
called Aquinas by the wild Indians of that part: the Chilotan
Indians have a different name for them. Professor Henslow, who has
examined the dried specimens which I brought home, says that they
are the same with those described by Mr. Sabine from Valparaiso,
but that they form a variety which by some botanists has been
considered as specifically distinct. (13/1. "Horticultural
Transactions" volume 5 page 249. Mr. Caldeleugh sent home two
tubers, which, being well manured, even the first season produced
numerous potatoes and an abundance of leaves. See Humboldt's
interesting discussion on this plant, which it appears was unknown
in Mexico,--in "Political Essay on New Spain" book 4 chapter 9.) 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

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago (latitude 45
degrees), the forest has very much the same character with that
along the whole west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn.
The arborescent grass of Chiloe is not found here; while the beech
of Tierra del Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a considerable
proportion of the wood; not, however, in the same exclusive manner
as it does farther southward. Cryptogamic plants here find a most
congenial climate. In the Strait of Magellan, as I have before
remarked, the country appears too cold and wet to allow of their
arriving at perfection; but in these islands, within the forest,
the number of species and great abundance of mosses, lichens, and
small ferns, is quite extraordinary. (13/2. 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
characteristic family in number, both of individuals and species,
throughout the more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos is that of
Telephoridae.) In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the
hillsides; every level piece of land being invariably covered by a
thick bed of peat; but in Chiloe flat land supports the most
luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos Archipelago, the nature
of the climate more closely approaches that of Tierra del Fuego
than that of northern Chiloe; for every patch of level ground is
covered by two species of plants (Astelia pumila and Donatia
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 succeeding one to the
other round the central tap-root, the lower ones soon decay, and in
tracing a root downwards in the peat, the leaves, yet holding their
place, can be observed passing through every stage of
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 disorganisation of the vegetable matter, and consolidate the

The climate of the southern part of America appears particularly
favourable to the production of peat. In the Falkland Islands
almost every kind of plant, even the coarse grass which covers the
whole surface of the land, becomes converted into this substance:
scarcely any situation checks its growth; some of the beds are as
much as twelve feet thick, and the lower part becomes so solid when
dry, that it will hardly burn. Although every plant lends its aid,
yet in most parts the Astelia is the most efficient. It is rather a
singular circumstance, as being so very different from what occurs
in Europe, that I nowhere saw moss forming by its decay any portion
of the peat in South America. With respect to the northern limit at
which the climate allows of that peculiar kind of slow
decomposition which is necessary for its production, I believe that
in Chiloe (latitude 41 to 42 degrees), although there is much
swampy ground, no well-characterised 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 (latitude 35 degrees) I
was told by a Spanish resident who had visited Ireland, that he had
often sought for this substance, but had never been able to find
any. He showed me, as the nearest approach to it which he had
discovered, a black peaty soil, so penetrated with roots as to
allow of an extremely slow and imperfect combustion.

The zoology of these broken islets of the Chonos Archipelago is, as
might have been expected, very poor. Of quadrupeds two aquatic
kinds are common. The Myopotamus Coypus (like a beaver, but with a
round tail) is well known from its fine fur, which is an object of
trade throughout the tributaries of La Plata. It here, however,
exclusively frequents salt water; which same circumstance has been
mentioned as sometimes occurring with the great rodent, the
Capybara. A small sea-otter is very numerous; this animal does not
feed exclusively on fish, but, like the seals, draws a large supply
from a small red crab, which swims in shoals near the surface of
the water. Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra del Fuego eating a
cuttle-fish; and at Low's Harbour, another was killed in the act of
carrying to its hole a large volute shell. At one place I caught in
a trap a singular little mouse (M. brachiotis); it appeared common
on several of the islets, but the Chilotans at Low's Harbour said
that it was not found in all. What a succession of chances, or what
changes of level must have been brought into play, thus to spread
these small animals throughout this broken archipelago! (13/3. 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.)

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds occur,
which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapacolo of central
Chile. One is called by the inhabitants "Cheucau" (Pteroptochos
rubecula): it frequents the most gloomy and retired spots within
the damp forests. Sometimes, although its cry may be heard close at
hand, let a person watch ever so attentively he will not see the
cheucau; at other times let him stand motionless and the
red-breasted little bird will approach within a few feet in the
most familiar manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass
of rotting canes and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards.
The cheucau is held in 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 unfavourable; and a third,
which I have forgotten. These words are given in imitation of the
noises; and the natives are in some things absolutely governed by
them. The Chilotans assuredly have chosen a most comical little
creature for their prophet. An allied species, but rather larger,
is called by the natives "Guid-guid" (Pteroptochos 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 may endeavour by
watching, and with still less chance by beating the bushes, to see
the bird; yet at other times the guid-guid fearlessly comes near.
Its manner of feeding and its general habits are very similar to
those of the cheucau.

On the coast, a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus
Patagonicus) is very common. (13/4. 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
latitude 34 degrees, 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.) It is remarkable from its quiet
habits; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sandpiper.
Besides these birds only few others inhabit this broken land. In my
rough notes I describe the strange noises, which, although
frequently heard within these gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb
the general silence. The yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden
whew-whew of the cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and
sometimes from close at hand; the little black wren of Tierra del
Fuego occasionally adds its cry; the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the
intruder screaming and twittering; the humming-bird may be seen
every now and then darting from side to side, and emitting, like an
insect, its shrill chirp; lastly, from the top of some lofty tree
the indistinct but plaintive note of the white-tufted
tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may be noticed. From the great
preponderance in most countries of certain common genera of birds,
such as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meeting with
the peculiar forms above enumerated, as the commonest birds in any
district. In central Chile two of them, namely, the Oxyurus and
Scytalopus, occur, although most rarely. When finding, as in this
case, animals which seem to play so insignificant a part in the
great scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were created.
But it should always be recollected, that in some other country
perhaps they are essential members of society, or at some former
period may have been so. If America south of 37 degrees were sunk
beneath the waters of the ocean, these two birds might continue to
exist in central Chile for a long period, but it is very improbable
that their numbers would increase. We should then see a case which
must inevitably have happened with very many animals.

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels:
the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (quebrantahuesos,
or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common bird, both in the
inland channels and on the open sea. In its habits and manner of
flight there is a very close resemblance with the albatross; and as
with the albatross, a person may watch it for hours together
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 continually struck down, and at last killed by a
blow on its head. At Port St. Julian these great petrels were seen
killing and devouring young gulls. A second species (Puffinus
cinereus), which is common to Europe, Cape Horn, and the coast of
Peru, is of a much smaller size than the P. gigantea, but, like it,
of a dirty black colour. It generally frequents the inland sounds
in very large flocks: I do not think I ever saw so many birds of
any other sort together, as I once saw of these behind the island
of Chiloe. Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for
several hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on
the water the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from
them as of human beings talking in the distance.

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only mention
one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi, which offers an example
of those extraordinary cases, of a bird evidently belonging to one
well-marked family, yet both in its habits and structure allied to
a very distinct tribe. This bird never leaves the quiet inland
sounds. When disturbed it dives to a distance, and on coming to the
surface, with the same movement takes flight. After flying by the
rapid movement of its short wings for a space in a straight line,
it drops, as if struck dead, and dives again. The form of its beak
and nostrils, length of foot, and even the colouring of its
plumage, show that this bird is a petrel: on the other hand, its
short wings and consequent little power of flight, its form of body
and shape of tail, the absence of a hind toe to its foot, its habit
of living, 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 diving and quietly swimming
about the retired channels of Tierra del Fuego.



San Carlos, Chiloe.
Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Aconcagua and
Ride to Cucao.
Impenetrable forests.
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-chains.




On January the 15th, 1835 we sailed from Low's Harbour, and three
days afterwards anchored a second time in the bay of S. Carlos in
Chiloe. On the night of the 19th the volcano of Osorno was in
action. At midnight the sentry observed something like a large
star, which gradually increased in size till about three o'clock,
when it presented a very magnificent spectacle. By the aid of a
glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were seen, in the
midst of a great glare of red light, to be thrown up and to fall
down. The light was sufficient to cast on the water a long bright
reflection. Large masses of molten matter seem very commonly to be
cast out of the craters in this part of the Cordillera. I was
assured that when the Corcovado is in eruption, great masses are
projected upwards and are seen to burst in the air, assuming many
fantastical forms, such as trees: their size must be immense, for
they can be distinguished from the high land behind S. Carlos,
which is no less than ninety-three miles from the Corcovado. In the
morning the volcano became tranquil.

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in Chile, 480
miles northwards, was in action on the same night; and still more
surprised to hear that the great eruption of Coseguina (2700 miles
north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake felt over 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 Vesuvius,
Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer each other
than the corresponding points in South America), suddenly burst
forth in eruption on the same night, the coincidence would be
thought remarkable; but it is far more remarkable in this case,
where the three vents fall on the same great mountain-chain, and
where the vast plains along the entire eastern coast, and the
upraised recent shells along more than 2000 miles on the western
coast, show in how equable and connected a manner the elevatory
forces have acted.

Captain Fitz 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
privilege, so rare in South America, of travelling without
firearms. 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, travelling is
exceedingly difficult. At that time of the year, the ground on each
side becomes a morass, and is often overflowed: hence it is
necessary that the longitudinal logs should be fastened down by
transverse poles, which are pegged on each side into the earth.
These pegs render a fall from a horse 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 occasionally a long
reach of this avenue could be beheld, it presented 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 people had formerly
lost their lives in attempting to cross the forest. The first who
succeeded was an Indian, who cut his way through the canes in eight
days, and reached S. Carlos: he was rewarded by the Spanish
government with a grant of land. During the summer, many of the
Indians wander about the forests (but chiefly in the higher parts,
where the woods are not quite so thick), in search of the half-wild
cattle which live on the leaves of the cane and certain trees. It
was one of these huntsmen who by chance discovered, a few years
since, an English vessel, which had been wrecked on the outer
coast. The crew were beginning to fail in provisions, and it is not
probable that, without the aid of this man, they would ever have
extricated themselves from these scarcely 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 were in full
flower perfumed the air; yet even this could hardly dissipate the
effect of the gloomy dampness of the forest. Moreover, the many
dead trunks that stand like skeletons, never fail to give to these
primeval woods a character of solemnity, absent in those of
countries long civilised. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for
the night. Our female companion, who was rather good-looking,
belonged to one of the most respectable families in Castro: she
rode, however, astride, and without shoes or stockings. I was
surprised at the total want of pride shown by her and her brother.
They brought food with them, but at all 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 23, 1835.

We rose early in the morning, and reached the pretty quiet town of
Castro by two o'clock. The old governor 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--generally following the coast, and passing through several
hamlets, each with its large barn-like chapel built of wood. At
Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the 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 Englishmen really wished
to go to such an out-of-the-way place as Cucao. We were thus
accompanied by the two greatest aristocrats in the country, as was
plainly to be seen in the manner of all the poorer Indians towards
them. At Chonchi we struck across the island, following intricate
winding paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and
sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn and
potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially cultivated,
reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and therefore had to my
eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vilinco, which is situated on the
borders of the lake of Cucao, only a few fields were cleared; and
all the inhabitants appeared to be Indians. This lake is twelve
miles long, and runs in an east and west direction. From local
circumstances, the sea-breeze blows very regularly during the day,
and during the night it falls calm: this has given rise to strange
exaggerations, for the phenomenon, as described to us at S. Carlos,
was quite a prodigy.

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to embark in a
periagua. The commandant, in the most authoritative manner, ordered
six Indians to get ready to pull us over, without deigning to tell
them whether they 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 country on
each side of the lake was one unbroken forest. In the same periagua
with us a cow was embarked. To get so large an animal into a small
boat appears at first a difficulty, but the Indians managed it in a
minute. They brought the cow alongside the boat, which was heeled
towards her; then placing two oars under her belly, with their ends
resting on the gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly
tumbled the poor beast heels over head into the bottom of the boat,
and then lashed her down with ropes. At Cucao we found an
uninhabited hovel (which is the residence of the padre when he pays
this Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we cooked our
supper, and were very comfortable.

The district of Cucao is the only inhabited part on the whole west
coast of Chiloe. It contains about thirty or forty Indian families,
who are scattered along four or five miles of the shore. They are
very much secluded from the rest of Chiloe, and have scarcely any
sort of commerce, except sometimes in a little oil, which they get
from seal-blubber. They are tolerably dressed in clothes of their
own manufacture, and they have plenty to eat. They seemed, however,
discontented, yet humble to a degree which it was quite painful to
witness. These feelings are, I think, chiefly to be attributed to
the harsh and authoritative manner in which they are treated by
their rulers. Our companions, although so very civil to us, behaved
to the poor Indians as if they had been slaves, rather than free
men. They ordered provisions and the use of their horses, without
ever condescending to say how much, or indeed whether the owners
should be paid at all. In the morning, being left alone with these
poor people, we soon ingratiated ourselves by presents of cigars
and mat. A lump of white sugar was divided between all present,
and tasted with the greatest curiosity. The Indians ended all their
complaints by saying, "And it is only because we are poor Indians,
and know nothing; but it was not so when we had a King."

The next day after breakfast we rode a few miles northward to Punta
Huantam. 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
Chepones. In scrambling through the beds, our hands were very much
scratched. I was amused by observing the precaution our Indian
guide took, in turning up his trousers, thinking that they were
more delicate than his own hard skin. This plant bears a fruit, in
shape like an artichoke, in which a number of seed-vessels are
packed: these contain a pleasant sweet pulp, here 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 vegetable 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 Huantam is exceedingly rugged and
broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on which the sea is
eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself were anxious to return, if
it had been possible, on foot along this coast; but even the
Indians said it was quite impracticable. We were told that men have
crossed by striking directly through the woods from Cucao to S.
Carlos, but never by the coast. On these expeditions, the Indians
carry with them only roasted corn, and of this they eat sparingly
twice a day.

JANUARY 26, 1835.

Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across the lake, and then
mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe took advantage of this week
of unusually fine weather, to clear the ground by burning. In every
direction volumes of smoke were curling upwards. Although the
inhabitants were so assiduous in setting fire to every part of the
wood, yet I did not see a single fire which they had succeeded in
making extensive. We dined with our friend the commandant, and did
not reach Castro till after dark. The next morning we started very
early. After having ridden for some time, we obtained from the brow
of a steep hill an extensive view (and it is a rare thing on this
road) of the great forest. Over the horizon of trees, the volcano
of Corcovado, and the great flat-topped one to the north, stood out
in proud pre-eminence: scarcely another peak in the long range
showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before I forget
this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting Chiloe.
At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky, and the next morning
reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the right day, for before evening
heavy rain commenced.

FEBRUARY 4, 1835.

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 features of the
land. I believe every one was glad to say farewell to Chiloe; yet
if we could forget the gloom and ceaseless 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

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick weather did
not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The next morning the
boat proceeded to the town, which is distant about ten miles. We
followed the course of the river, occasionally passing a few
hovels, and patches of ground cleared out of the otherwise unbroken
forest; and sometimes meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The
town is situated on the low banks of the stream, and is so
completely buried in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are
merely paths in an orchard. I have never seen any country where
apple-trees appeared to thrive so well as in this damp part of
South America: on the borders of the roads there were many young
trees evidently self-sown. In Chiloe the inhabitants possess a
marvellously short method of making an orchard. At the lower part
of almost every branch, small, conical, brown, wrinkled points
project: these are always ready to change into roots, as may
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 making
cider, and likewise wine, he extracted from the refuse a white and
finely flavoured spirit; by another process he procured a sweet
treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His children and pigs seemed
almost to live, during this season of the year, in his orchard.

FEBRUARY 11, 1835.

I set out with a guide on a short ride, in which, however, I
managed to see singularly little, either of the geology of the
country or of its inhabitants. There is not much cleared land near
Valdivia: after crossing a river at the distance of a few miles, we
entered the forest, and then passed only one miserable hovel,
before reaching our sleeping-place for the night. The short
difference in latitude, of 150 miles, has given a new aspect to the
forest compared with that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly
different proportion in the kinds of trees. The evergreens do not
appear to be quite so numerous, and the forest in consequence has a
brighter tint. As in Chiloe, the lower parts are matted together by
canes: here also another kind (resembling the bamboo of Brazil and
about twenty feet in height) grows in clusters, and ornaments the
banks of some of the streams in a very pretty manner. It is with
this plant that the Indians make their chuzos, or long tapering
spears. Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping
outside: on these journeys the first night is generally very
uncomfortable, because one is not accustomed to the tickling and
biting of the fleas. I am sure, in the morning, there was not a
space on my legs of the size of a shilling which had not its little
red mark where the flea had feasted.

FEBRUARY 12, 1835.

We continued to ride through the uncleared forest; only
occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop of fine
mules bringing alerce-planks and corn from the southern plains. In
the afternoon one of the horses knocked up; we were then on a brow
of a hill, which commanded a fine view of the Llanos. The view of
these open plains was very refreshing, after being hemmed in and
buried in the wilderness of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon
becomes very wearisome. This west coast makes me remember with
pleasure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet, with the
true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is the
silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile and thickly
peopled parts of the country, as they possess the immense advantage
of being nearly free from trees. Before leaving the forest we
crossed some flat little lawns, around which single trees stood, as
in an English park: I have often noticed with surprise, in wooded
undulatory districts, that the quite level parts have been
destitute of trees. On account of the tired horse, I determined to
stop at the Mission of Cudico, to the friar of which I had a letter
of introduction. Cudico is an intermediate district between the
forest and the Llanos. There are a good many cottages, with patches
of corn and potatoes, nearly all belonging to Indians. The tribes
dependent on Valdivia are "reducidos y cristianos." The Indians
farther northward, about Arauco and Imperial, are still very wild,
and not converted; but they have all much intercourse with the
Spaniards. The padre said that the Christian Indians did not much
like coming to mass, but that otherwise they showed respect for
religion. The greatest difficulty is in making them observe the
ceremonies of marriage. The wild Indians take as many wives as they
can support, and a cacique will sometimes have more than ten: on
entering his house, the number may be told by that of the separate
fires. Each wife lives a week in turn with the cacique; but all are
employed in weaving ponchos, etc., for his profit. To be the wife
of a cacique is an honour much sought after by the Indian women.

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse 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 belong; but their physiognomy seemed
to me to be slightly different from that of any other tribe which I
had before seen. Their expression is generally grave, and even
austere, and possesses much character: this may pass either for
honest bluntness or fierce determination. The long black hair, the
grave and much-lined features, and the dark complexion, called to
my mind old portraits of James I. On the road we met with none of
that humble politeness so universal in Chiloe. Some gave their
"mari-mari" (good morning) with promptness, but the greater number
did not seem inclined to offer any salute. This independence of
manners is probably a consequence of their long wars, and the
repeated victories which they alone, of all the tribes in America,
have gained over the 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 bitterly complained of the total want
of society. With no particular zeal for religion, no business or
pursuit, how completely must this man's life be wasted! The next
day, on our return, we met seven very wild-looking Indians, of whom
some were caciques that had just received from the Chilian
government their yearly small stipend for having long remained
faithful. They were fine-looking men, and they rode one after the
other, with most gloomy faces. An old cacique, who headed them, had
been, I suppose, more excessively drunk than the rest, for he
seemed both extremely grave and very crabbed. Shortly before this,
two Indians joined us, who were travelling from a distant mission
to Valdivia concerning some lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old
man, but from his wrinkled beardless face looked more like an old
woman than a man. I frequently presented both of them with cigars;
and though ready to receive them, and I daresay grateful, they
would hardly condescend to thank me. A Chilotan Indian would have
taken off his hat, and given his "Dios le page!" The travelling was
very tedious, both from the badness of the roads and from the
number of great fallen trees, which it was necessary either to leap
over or to avoid by making long circuits. We slept on the road, and
next morning reached Valdivia, whence I proceeded on board.

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of officers,
and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings were in a
most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages quite rotten. Mr. Wickham
remarked to the commanding officer, that with one discharge they
would certainly all fall to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a
good face upon it, gravely replied, "No, I am sure, sir, they would
stand two!" The Spaniards must have intended to have made this
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the
courtyard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness 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 20,, 1835.

This day has been memorable in the annals of Valdivia, for the most
severe earthquake experienced by the oldest inhabitant. I happened
to be on shore, and was lying down in the wood to rest myself. It
came on suddenly, and lasted two minutes, but the time appeared
much longer. The rocking of the ground was very sensible. The
undulations appeared to 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 direction of
the vibrations. There was no difficulty in standing upright, but
the motion made me almost giddy: it was something like the movement
of a vessel in a little cross-ripple, or still more like that felt
by a person skating over thin ice, which bends under the weight of
his body.

A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations: the
earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet like
a thin crust over a fluid;--one second of time has created in the
mind a strange idea of insecurity, which hours of reflection would
not have produced. In the forest, as a breeze moved the trees, I
felt only the earth tremble, but saw no other effect. Captain Fitz
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 strength.

MARCH 4, 1835.

We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While the ship was beating up
to the anchorage, I landed on the island of Quiriquina. The
mayor-domo of the estate quickly rode down to tell me the terrible
news of the great earthquake of the 20th:--"That not a house in
Concepcion or Talcahuano (the port) was standing; that seventy
villages were destroyed; and that a great wave had almost washed
away the ruins of 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 Talcahuano had been burst open, and great bags of
cotton, yerba, and other valuable merchandise were scattered on the
shore. During my walk round the island, I observed that numerous
fragments of rock, which, from the marine productions adhering to
them, must recently have been lying in deep water, had been cast up
high on the beach; one of these was six feet long, three broad, and
two thick.

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming power of the
earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent great wave. The
ground in many parts was fissured in north and south lines, perhaps
caused by the yielding of the parallel and steep sides of this
narrow island. Some of the fissures near the cliffs were a yard
wide. Many enormous masses had already fallen on the beach; and the
inhabitants thought that when the rains commenced far greater slips
would happen. The effect of the vibration on the hard primary
slate, 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 gunpowder. 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 differently from the central part. It is, perhaps,
owing to this same reason that earthquakes do not cause quite such
terrific havoc within deep mines as would be expected. I believe
this convulsion has been more effectual in lessening the size of
the island of Quiriquina, than the ordinary wear-and-tear of the
sea and weather during the course of a whole century.

The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode to
Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet interesting
spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had formerly known them,
it possibly might have been still more impressive; for the ruins
were so mingled together, and the whole scene possessed so little
the air of a habitable place, that it was scarcely possible to
imagine its former condition. The earthquake commenced at half-past
eleven o'clock in the forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of
the night, the greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one
province amount to many thousands) must have perished, instead of
less than a hundred: as it was, the invariable practice of running
out of doors at the first trembling of the ground, alone saved
them. In Concepcion each house, or row of houses, stood by itself,
a heap or line of ruins; but in Talcahuano, owing to the great
wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, with
here and there part of a wall left standing, could be
distinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although not so
completely desolated, was a more terrible, and if I may so call it,
picturesque sight. The first shock was very sudden. The mayor-domo
at Quiriquina told me that the first notice he received of it, was
finding both the horse he rode and himself rolling together on the
ground. 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 great
difference, for the ruin was now complete. Innumerable small
tremblings followed the great earthquake, and within the first
twelve days no less than three hundred were 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 courtyard, when one
side of his house came thundering down. He retained presence of
mind to remember that, if he once got on the top of that part which
had already fallen, he would be safe. Not being able from the
motion of the ground to stand, he crawled up on his hands and
knees; and no sooner had he ascended this little eminence, than the
other side of the house fell in, the great beams sweeping close in
front of his head. With his eyes blinded and his mouth choked with
the cloud of dust which darkened the sky, at last he gained the
street. As shock succeeded shock, at the interval of a few minutes,
no one dared approach the shattered ruins, and no one knew whether
his dearest friends and relations were not perishing from the want
of help. Those who had saved any property were obliged to keep a
constant watch, for thieves prowled about, and at each little
trembling of the ground, with one hand they beat their breasts and
cried "misericordia!" and then with the other filched what they
could from the ruins. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and
flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves 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 subterranean forces
should exert those powers which most assuredly in former geological
ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire condition
of the country be changed! What would become of the lofty houses,
thickly packed cities, great manufactories, the beautiful public
and private edifices? If the new period of disturbance were first
to commence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, how
terrific would be the carnage! England would at once be bankrupt;
all papers, records, and accounts would from that moment be lost.
Government being unable to collect the taxes, and failing to
maintain its authority, the hand of violence and rapine would
remain uncontrolled. In every large town famine would go forth,
pestilence and death following in its 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
Talcahuano 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 humbled more
than another, or could suspect his friends of coldness--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 discomfort, 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 sulphureous smell." These latter
circumstances were observed in the Bay of Valparaiso during the
earthquake of 1822; they may, I think, be accounted for by the
disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the sea containing organic
matter in decay. In the Bay of Callao, during a calm day, I
noticed, that as the ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its
course was marked by a line of bubbles. The lower orders in
Talcahuano thought that the earthquake was caused by some old
Indian women, who two years ago, being offended, stopped the
volcano of Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows
that experience has taught them to observe that there exists a
relation between the suppressed action of the volcanos, and the
trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the witchcraft
to the point where their perception of cause and effect failed; and
this was the closing of the volcanic vent. This belief is the more
singular in this particular instance because, according to Captain
Fitz Roy, there is reason to believe that Antuco was noways

The town of Concepcion was built in the usual Spanish fashion, with
all the streets running at right angles to each other; one set
ranging south-west by west, and the other set north-west by north.
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 north-east. Both these circumstances
perfectly agree with the general idea of the undulations having
come from the south-west; in which quarter subterranean noises were
also heard; for it is evident that the walls running south-west and
north-east which presented their ends to the point whence the
undulations came, would be much less likely to fall than those
walls which, running north-west and south-east, must in their whole
lengths have been at the same instant thrown out of the
perpendicular; for the undulations, coming from the south-west,
must have extended in north-west and south-east waves, as they
passed under the foundations. This may be illustrated by placing
books edgeways on a carpet, and then, after the manner suggested by
Michell, imitating the undulations of an earthquake: it will be
found that they fall with more or less readiness, according as
their direction more or less nearly coincides with the line of the
waves. The fissures in the ground generally, though not uniformly,
extended in a south-east and north-west 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 south-west as the chief focus of disturbance, it is a very
interesting fact that the island of S. Maria, situated in that
quarter, was, during the general uplifting of the land, raised to
nearly three times the height of any other part of the coast.

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to their
direction, was well exemplified in the case of the Cathedral. The
side which fronted the north-east presented a grand pile of ruins,
in the midst of which door-cases and masses of timber stood up, as
if floating in a stream. Some of the angular blocks of brickwork
were of great dimensions; and they were rolled to a distance on the
level plaza, like fragments of rock at the base of some high
mountain. The side walls (running south-west and north-east),
though exceedingly fractured, yet remained standing; but the vast
buttresses (at right angles to them, and therefore parallel to the
walls that fell) were in many cases cut clean off, as if by a
chisel, and hurled to the ground. Some square ornaments on the
coping of these same walls were moved by the earthquake into a
diagonal position. A similar circumstance was observed after an
earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places, including
some of the ancient Greek temples. (14/1. M. Arago in "L'Institut"
1839 page 337. See also Miers's "Chile" volume 1 page 392; also
Lyell's "Principles of Geology" chapter 15 book 2.) This twisting
displacement at first appears to indicate a vorticose movement
beneath each point thus affected; but this is highly improbable.
May it not be caused by a tendency in each stone to arrange itself
in some particular 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 pieces.

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the
appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impossible to
convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of the
officers visited it before me, but their strongest language failed
to give a just idea of the scene of desolation. It is a bitter and
humiliating thing to see works, which have cost man so much time
and labour, overthrown in one minute; 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 beheld, since leaving England, any sight so deeply

In almost every severe earthquake, the neighbouring waters of the
sea are said to have been greatly agitated. The disturbance seems
generally, as in the case of Concepcion, to have been of two kinds:
first, at the instant of the shock, the water swells high up on the
beach with a gentle motion, and then as quietly retreats; secondly,
some time afterwards, the whole body of the sea retires from the
coast, and then returns in waves of overwhelming force. The first
movement seems to be an immediate consequence of the earthquake
affecting differently a fluid and a solid, so that their respective
levels are slightly deranged: but the second case is a far more
important phenomenon. During most earthquakes, and especially
during those on the west coast of America, it is certain that the
first great movement of the waters has been a retirement. Some
authors have attempted to explain this, by supposing that the water
retains its level, whilst the land oscillates upwards; but surely
the water close to the land, even on a rather steep coast, would
partake of the motion of the bottom: moreover, as urged by Mr.
Lyell, similar movements of the sea have occurred at islands far
distant from the chief line of disturbance, as was the case with
Juan Fernandez during this earthquake, and with 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
situated at the head of large shallow bays, have suffered during
every severe earthquake from great waves, Valparaiso, seated close
to the edge of profoundly deep water, has never been overwhelmed,
though so often shaken by the severest shocks. From the great wave
not immediately following the earthquake, but sometimes after the
interval of even half an hour, and from distant islands being
affected similarly with the coasts near the focus of the
disturbance, it appears that the wave first rises in the offing;
and as this is of general occurrence, the cause must be general: I
suspect we must look to the line where the less disturbed waters of
the deep ocean join the water nearer the coast, which has partaken
of the movements of the land, as the place where the great wave is
first generated; it would also appear that the wave is larger or
smaller, according to the extent of shoal water which has been
agitated together with the bottom on which it rested.

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the permanent
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
found 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 scattered 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
accompanied 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 north-east, was, at
the time of the great shock of the 20th, violently shaken, so that
the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst forth under
water close to the shore: these facts are remarkable 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 subterranean connexion between these
two points. Chiloe, about 340 miles southward of Concepcion,
appears to have been shaken more strongly than the intermediate
district of Valdivia, where the volcano of Villarica was noways
affected, whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe two of the
volcanos burst forth at the same instant in violent action. These
two volcanos, and some neighbouring ones, continued for a long time
in eruption, and ten months afterwards were again influenced by an
earthquake at Concepcion. Some men cutting wood near the base of
one of these volcanos, did not perceive the shock of the 20th,
although the whole surrounding Province was then trembling; here we
have an eruption relieving and taking the place of an earthquake,
as would have happened at Concepcion, according to the belief of
the lower orders, if the volcano at Antuco had not been closed by
witchcraft. Two years and three-quarters afterwards Valdivia and
Chiloe were again shaken, more violently than on the 20th, and an
island in the Chonos Archipelago was permanently elevated more than
eight feet. It will give a better idea of the scale of these
phenomena, if (as in the case of the glaciers) we suppose them to
have taken place at corresponding distances in Europe:--then would
the land from the North Sea to the Mediterranean have been
violently shaken, and at the same instant of time a large tract of
the eastern coast of England would have been permanently elevated,
together with some outlying islands,--a train of volcanos on the
coast of Holland would have burst forth in action, and an eruption
taken place at the bottom of the sea, near the northern extremity
of Ireland--and lastly, the ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and
Mont d'Or would each have sent up to the sky a dark column of
smoke, and have long remained in fierce action. Two years and
three-quarters 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
probability, 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 phenomena, we may
confidently come to the conclusion that the forces which slowly and
by little starts uplift continents, and those which at successive
periods pour forth volcanic matter from open orifices, are
identical. From many reasons, I believe that the frequent quakings
of the earth on this line of coast are caused by the rending of the
strata, necessarily consequent on the tension of the land when
upraised, and their injection by fluidified rock. This rending and
injection would, if repeated often enough (and we know that
earthquakes repeatedly affect the same areas in the same manner),
form a chain of hills;--and the linear island of St. Mary, which
was upraised thrice the height of the neighbouring country, seems
to be undergoing this process. I believe that the solid axis of a
mountain differs in its manner of formation from a volcanic hill,
only in the molten stone having been repeatedly injected, instead
of having been repeatedly ejected. Moreover, I believe that it is
impossible to explain the structure of great mountain-chains, such
as that of the Cordillera, where the strata, capping the injected
axis of plutonic rock, have been thrown on their edges along
several parallel and 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. (14/2.
For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which accompanied the
earthquake of the 20th, and for the conclusions deducible from
them, I must refer to Volume 5 of the "Geological Transactions.")



Portillo Pass.
Sagacity of mules.
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.
Pinnacles of snow.
Dry and clear atmosphere.
Zoology of the opposite sides of the Andes.
Great Bugs.
Uspallata Pass.
Silicified trees buried as they grew.
Incas Bridge.
Badness of the passes exaggerated.


MARCH 7, 1835.

We stayed three days at Concepcion, and then sailed for Valparaiso.
The wind being northerly, we only reached the mouth of the harbour
of Concepcion before it was dark. Being very near the land, and a
fog coming on, the anchor was dropped. Presently a large American
whaler appeared close 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

On the 11th 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 18, 1835.


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
admiration at the natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In
this instance, the contrast with the same class of men in most
other countries was strongly marked. I may mention an anecdote with
which I was at the time much pleased: we met near Mendoza a little
and very fat negress, riding astride on a mule. She had a goitre so
enormous that it was scarcely possible to avoid gazing at her for a
moment; but my two companions almost instantly, by way of apology,
made the common salute of the country by taking off their hats.
Where would one of the lower or higher classes in Europe have shown
such feeling politeness to a poor and miserable object of a
degraded race?

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling was
delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we bought a little
firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and bivouacked in the
corner of the same field with them. Carrying an iron pot, we cooked
and ate our supper under a cloudless sky, and knew no trouble. My
companions were Mariano Gonzales, who had formerly accompanied me
in Chile, and an "arriero," with his ten mules and a "madrina." The
madrina (or godmother) is a most important personage: she is an old
steady mare, with a little bell round her neck; and wherever she
goes, the mules, like good children, follow her. The affection of
these animals for their madrinas saves infinite trouble. If several
large troops 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; and although there may be two or three hundred
together, each mule immediately knows the bell of its own madrina,
and comes to her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule; for
if detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power of
smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the madrina,
for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief object of
affection. The feeling, however, is not of an individual nature;
for I believe I am right in saying that any animal with a bell will
serve as a madrina. In a troop each animal carries on a level road,
a cargo weighing 416 pounds (more than 29 stone), but in a
mountainous country 100 pounds less; yet with what delicate slim
limbs, without any 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 indicate
that art has here outdone nature. Of our ten animals, six were
intended for riding, and four for carrying cargoes, each taking
turn about. We carried a good deal of food in case we should be
snowed up, as the season was rather late for passing the Portillo.

MARCH 19, 1835.

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 characterised 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
valleys, then lower and lower down as the land slowly rose. If this
be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand and broken chain of the
Cordillera, instead of having been suddenly thrown up, as was till
lately the universal, and still is the common opinion of
geologists, has been slowly upheaved in mass, in the same gradual
manner as the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific have risen within
the recent period. A multitude of facts in the structure of the
Cordillera, on this view receive a simple explanation.


The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be called
mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great, and their water
the colour of mud. The roar which the Maypu made, as it rushed over
the great rounded fragments, was like that of the sea. Amidst the
din of rushing waters, the noise from the stones, as they rattled
one over another, was most distinctly audible even from a distance.
This rattling noise, night and day, may be heard along the whole
course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently to the geologist;
the thousands and thousands of stones which, striking against each
other, made the one dull uniform sound, were all hurrying in one
direction. It was like thinking on time, where the minute that now
glides past is 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 repeated so often
that the multiplier itself conveys an idea not more definite than
the savage implies when he points to the hairs of his head. As
often as I have seen beds of mud, sand, and shingle, accumulated 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 geologising. 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 extraordinary situations, as the bleak
summit of the mountain of S. Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place,
metallic veins in this country are generally harder than the
surrounding strata: hence, during the gradual wear of the hills,
they project above the surface of the ground. Secondly, almost
every labourer, especially in the northern parts of Chile,
understands something about the appearance of ores. In the great
mining provinces of Coquimbo and Copiap, 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 occurred at no great distance, standing up
like a wedge of metal. The miners, also, taking a crowbar with
them, often wander on Sundays over the 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.

MARCH 20, 1835.

As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with the exception of a
few pretty alpine flowers, became exceedingly scanty; and of
quadrupeds, birds, or insects, scarcely one could be seen. The
lofty mountains, their summits marked with a few patches of snow,
stood well separated from each other; the valleys being filled up
with an immense thickness of stratified alluvium. The features in
the scenery of the Andes 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 and
continuous wall-like dikes,--the plainly-divided strata which,
where nearly vertical, formed the picturesque and wild central
pinnacles, but where less inclined, composed the great massive
mountains on the outskirts of the range,--and lastly, the smooth
conical piles of fine and brightly coloured detritus, which sloped
up at a high angle from the 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 extraordinary manner
into small angular fragments. Scoresby has observed the same fact
in Spitzbergen. (15/1. Scoresby's "Arctic Regions" volume 1 page
122.) 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 fragments 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. (15/2. I have heard it remarked in Shropshire
that the water, when the Severn is flooded from long-continued
rain, is much more turbid than when it proceeds from the snow
melting on the Welsh mountains. D'Orbigny tome 1 page 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.) Whatever the cause
may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very
great. Occasionally in the spring great masses of this detritus
slide down the mountains, and cover the snow-drifts in the valleys,
thus forming natural ice-houses. We rode over one, the height of
which was far below the limit of perpetual snow.

As the evening drew to a close, we reached a singular basin-like
plain, called the Valle del Yeso. It was covered by a little dry
pasture, and we had the pleasant sight of a herd of cattle amidst
the surrounding rocky deserts. The valley takes its name of Yeso
from a great bed, I should think at least 2000 feet thick, of
white, and in some parts quite pure, gypsum. We slept with a party
of men, who were employed in loading mules with this substance,
which is used in the manufacture of wine. We set out early in the
morning (21st), and continued to follow the course of the river,
which had become very small, till we arrived at the foot of the
ridge that separates the waters flowing into the Pacific and
Atlantic Oceans. The road, which as yet had been good with a steady
but very gradual ascent, now changed into a steep zigzag track up
the great range dividing the republics of Chile and 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 ridge, on the Mendoza
side, which is 14,305 feet. The lower beds of the Peuquenes ridge,
and of the several great lines to the westward of it, are composed
of a vast pile, many thousand feet in thickness, of porphyries
which have flowed as submarine lavas, alternating with angular and
rounded fragments of the same rocks, thrown out of the submarine
craters. These alternating masses are covered in the central parts
by a great thickness of red sandstone, conglomerate, and calcareous
clay-slate, associated with, and passing into, prodigious beds of
gypsum. In these upper beds shells are tolerably frequent; and they
belong to about the period of the lower chalk of Europe. It is an
old story, but not the less wonderful, to hear of shells which were
once crawling on the bottom of the sea, now standing nearly 14,000
feet above its level. The lower beds in this great pile of strata
have been dislocated, baked, crystallised 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 degrees towards the
Peuquenes line. I was astonished to find that this conglomerate was
partly composed of pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their
fossil shells, of the Peuquenes range; and partly of red
potash-granite, like that of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude
that both the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved
and exposed to wear and tear when the conglomerate was forming; but
as the beds of the conglomerate have been thrown off at an angle of
45 degrees by the red Portillo granite (with the underlying
sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure that the greater part of
the injection and upheaval of the already partially formed Portillo
line took place after the accumulation of the conglomerate, and
long after the elevation of the Peuquenes ridge. So that the
Portillo, the loftiest line in this part of the Cordillera, is not
so old as the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. Evidence derived
from an inclined stream of lava at the eastern base of the Portillo
might be adduced to show that it owes part of its great height to
elevations of a still later date. Looking to its earliest origin,
the red granite seems to have been injected on an ancient
pre-existing line of white granite and mica-slate. In most parts,
perhaps in all parts, of the Cordillera, it may be concluded that
each line has been formed by repeated upheavals and injections; and
that the several parallel lines are of different ages. Only thus
can we gain time at all sufficient to explain the truly astonishing
amount of denudation which these great, though comparatively with
most other ranges recent, mountains have suffered.

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge prove, as
before remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 feet since a
Secondary period, which in Europe we are accustomed to consider as
far from ancient; but since these shells lived in a moderately deep
sea, it can be shown that the area now occupied by the Cordillera
must have subsided several thousand feet--in northern Chile as much
as 6000 feet--so as to have allowed that amount of submarine strata
to have been heaped on the bed on which the shells lived. The proof
is the same with that by which it was shown that, at a much later
period since the tertiary shells of 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 earth.

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 supposition of the subsequent and gradual elevation
of the Portillo line, this can be understood; for a chain of islets
would at first appear, and, as these were lifted up, the tides
would be always wearing deeper and broader channels between them.
At the present day, even in the most retired Sounds on the coast of
Tierra del Fuego, the currents in the transverse breaks which
connect the longitudinal channels are very strong, so that in one
transverse channel even a small vessel under sail was whirled round
and round.

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes ridge, and
then for the first time experienced some little difficulty in our
respiration. The mules would halt every fifty yards, and after
resting for a few seconds the poor willing animals started of their
own accord again. The short breathing from the rarefied 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 seventy loaded
mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries of the muleteers,
and to watch the long descending string of the animals; they
appeared so diminutive, there being nothing but the 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, distracted my attention from the inanimate mass. I felt
glad that I was alone: it was like watching a thunderstorm, or
hearing in full orchestra a chorus of the Messiah.

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus nivalis, or
red snow, so well known from the accounts of Arctic navigators. My
attention was called to it by observing the footsteps of the mules
stained a pale red, as if their hoofs had been slightly bloody. I
at first thought that it was owing to dust blown from the
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 the thousandth part of an inch in diameter.

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked, is
generally impetuous and very cold: it is said to blow steadily from
the westward or Pacific side. (15/3. Dr. Gillies in "Journal of
Natural and Geographical Science" August 1830. This author gives
the heights of the Passes.) As the observations have been chiefly
made in summer, this wind must be an upper and return current. The
Peak of Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated in latitude
28 degrees, 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 southerly a direction as it does; but when we reflect that the
Cordillera, running in a north and south line, intercepts, like a
great wall, the entire depth of the lower atmospheric current, we
can easily see that the trade-wind must be drawn northward,
following the line of mountains, towards the equatorial regions,
and thus lose part of that easterly movement which it otherwise
would have gained from the earth's rotation. At Mendoza, on the
eastern foot of the Andes, the climate is said to be subject to
long calms, and to frequent though false appearances of gathering
rain-storms: we may imagine that the wind, which coming from the
eastward is thus banked up by the line of mountains, would become
stagnant and irregular in its movements.

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a mountainous
country, intermediate between the two main ranges, and then took up
our quarters for the night. We were now in the republic of Mendoza.
The elevation was probably not under 11,000 feet, and the
vegetation in consequence exceedingly scanty. The root of a small
scrubby plant served as fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the
wind was piercingly cold. Being quite tired with my days work, I
made up my bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep. About
midnight I observed the sky became suddenly clouded: I awakened the
arriero to know if there was any danger of bad weather; but he said
that without thunder and lightning there was no risk of a heavy
snow-storm. The peril is imminent, and the difficulty of subsequent
escape great, to any one overtaken by bad weather between the two
ranges. A certain cave offers the only place of refuge: Mr.
Caldcleugh, who crossed on this same day of the month, was detained
there for some time by a heavy fall of snow. Casuchas, or houses of
refuge, have not been built in this pass as in that of Uspallata,
and therefore, during the autumn, the Portillo is little
frequented. I may here remark that within the main Cordillera rain
never falls, for during the summer the sky is cloudless, and in
winter snow-storms alone occur.

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from the
diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower temperature than
it does in a less lofty country; the case being the converse of
that of a Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes, after remaining for
some hours in the boiling water, were nearly as hard as ever. The
pot 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 22, 1835.

After eating our potato-less breakfast, we travelled across the
intermediate tract to the foot of the Portillo range. In the middle
of summer cattle are brought up here to graze; but they had now all
been removed: even the greater number of the guanacos had decamped,
knowing well that if overtaken here by a snow-storm, they would be
caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of mountains called
Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken snow, in the midst of
which there was a blue patch, no doubt a glacier;--a circumstance
of rare occurrence in these mountains. Now commenced a heavy and
long climb, similar to that of the Peuquenes. Bold conical hills of
red granite rose on each hand; in the valleys there were several
broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen masses, during the
process of thawing, had in some parts been converted into pinnacles
or columns, which, as they were high and close together, made it
difficult for the cargo mules to pass. (15/4. This structure in
frozen snow was long since observed by Scoresby in the icebergs
near Spitzbergen, and, lately, with more care, by Colonel Jackson
"Journal of Geographical Society" volume 5 page 12, on the Neva.
Mr. Lyell "Principles" volume 4 page 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 DEPOSITION.) On
one of these columns of ice a frozen horse was sticking as on a
pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in the air. The
animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its head 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 enveloped in a
falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was very unfortunate,
as it continued the whole day, and quite intercepted our view. The
pass takes its name of Portillo from a narrow cleft or doorway on
the highest ridge, through which the road passes. From this point,
on a clear day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly extend to
the Atlantic Ocean can be seen. We descended to the upper limit of
vegetation, and found good quarters for the night under the shelter
of some large fragments of rock. We met here some passengers, who
made anxious inquiries about the state of the road. Shortly after
it was dark the clouds suddenly cleared away, and the effect was
quite magical. The great mountains, bright with the full moon,
seemed impending over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice: one
morning, very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. As soon
as the clouds were dispersed it froze severely; but as there was no
wind, we slept very comfortably.

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation,
owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very
remarkable. Travellers having observed the difficulty of judging
heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have generally
attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It appears
to me, that it is fully as much owing to the transparency of the
air confounding objects at different distances, and likewise partly
to the novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a
little exertion,--habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the
senses. I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air gives a
peculiar character to the landscape, all objects appearing to be
brought nearly into one plane, as in a drawing or panorama. The
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
hammer gave me); by articles of food, such as bread and sugar,
becoming extremely hard; and by the preservation of the skin and
parts of the flesh of the beasts which had perished on the road. To
the same cause we must attribute the singular facility with which
electricity is excited. My flannel-waistcoat, when rubbed in the
dark, appeared as if it had been washed with phosphorus,--every
hair on a dog's back crackled;--even the linen sheets, and leathern
straps of the saddle, when handled, emitted sparks.

MARCH 23, 1835.

The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera is much shorter
or steeper than on the Pacific side; in other words, the mountains
rise more abruptly from the plains than from the alpine country of
Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds was stretched
out beneath our feet, shutting out the view of the equally level
Pampas. We soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again
emerge from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the
animals and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, we stopped for the
night. This was near the uppermost limit of bushes, and the
elevation, I suppose, was between seven and eight thousand feet.

I was much struck with the marked difference between the vegetation
of these eastern valleys and those on the Chilian side: yet the
climate, as well as the kind of soil, is nearly the same, and the
difference of longitude very trifling. The same remark holds good
with the quadrupeds, and in a lesser degree with the birds and
insects. I may instance the mice, of which I obtained thirteen
species on the shores of the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and
not one of them is identical. We must except all those species
which habitually or occasionally frequent elevated mountains; and
certain birds, which range as far south as the Strait of Magellan.
This fact is in perfect accordance with the geological history of
the Andes; for these mountains have existed as a great barrier
since the present races of animals have appeared; and therefore,
unless we suppose the same species to have been created in two
different places, we ought not to expect any closer similarity
between the organic beings on the opposite sides of the Andes than
on the opposite shores of the ocean. In both cases, we must leave
out of the question those kinds which have been able to cross the
barrier, whether of solid rock or salt-water. (15/5. 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.)

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely the same
as, or most closely allied to, those of Patagonia. We here have the
agouti, bizcacha, three species of armadillo, the ostrich, certain
kinds of partridges and other birds, none of which are ever seen in
Chile, but are the characteristic animals of the desert plains of
Patagonia. We have likewise many of the same (to the eyes of a
person who is not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered
grass, and dwarf plants. Even the black slowly crawling beetles are
closely similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination,
absolutely identical. It had always been to me a subject of regret
that we were unavoidably compelled to give up the ascent of the S.
Cruz river before reaching the mountains: I always had a latent
hope of meeting with some great change in the features of the
country; but I now feel sure that it would only have been following
the plains of Patagonia up a mountainous ascent.

MARCH 24, 1835.

Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on one side of the
valley, and enjoyed a far extended view over the Pampas. This was a
spectacle to which I had always looked forward with interest, but I
was disappointed: at the first glance it much resembled a distant
view of the ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities
were soon distinguishable. The most striking feature consisted in
the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like silver
threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At mid-day we
descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where an officer and
three soldiers were posted to examine passports. One of these men
was a thoroughbred Pampas Indian: he was kept much for the same
purpose as a bloodhound, to track out any person who might pass by
secretly, either on foot or horseback. Some years ago a passenger
endeavoured to escape detection by making a long circuit over a
neighbouring mountain; but this Indian, having by chance crossed
his track, followed it for the whole day over dry and very stony
hills, till at last he came on his prey hidden in a gully. We here
heard that the silvery clouds, which we had admired from the bright
region above, had poured down torrents of 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 neighbourhood, the Estancia of
Chaquaio: and at sunset we pulled up in the first snug corner, and
there bivouacked.

MARCH 25, 1835.

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 landscape has a uniform character from the Strait
of Magellan, along the whole eastern coast of Patagonia, to the Rio
Colorado; and it appears that the same kind of country extends
inland from this river, in a sweeping line as far as San Luis, and
perhaps even farther north. To the eastward of this curved line
lies the basin of the comparatively damp and green plains of Buenos
Ayres. The sterile plains of Mendoza and Patagonia consist of a bed
of shingle, worn smooth and accumulated by the waves of the sea;
while the Pampas, covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been
formed by the ancient estuary mud of the Plata.

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see in
the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing round the
village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at this place
we observed to the south a ragged cloud of a dark reddish-brown
colour. At first we thought that it was smoke from some great fire
on the plains; but we soon found that it was a swarm of locusts.
They were flying northward; and with the aid of a light breeze,
they overtook us at a rate of ten or fifteen miles an hour. The
main body filled the air from a height of twenty feet to that, as
it appeared, of two or three thousand above the ground; "and the
sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses
running to battle:" or rather, I should say, like a strong breeze
passing through the rigging of a ship. The sky, seen through the
advanced guard, appeared like a mezzotinto engraving, but the main
body was impervious to sight; they were not, however, so thick
together, but that they could escape a stick waved backwards and
forwards. When they alighted, they were more numerous than the
leaves in the field, and the surface became reddish instead of
being green: the swarm having once alighted, the individuals flew
from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an uncommon
pest in this country: already during this season several 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 lighting fires, by shouts, and by
waving branches, to avert the attack. This species of locust
closely resembles, and perhaps is identical with, the famous
Gryllus migratorius of the East.

We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable size, though
its course towards the sea-coast is very imperfectly known: it is
even doubtful whether, in passing over the plains, it is not
evaporated and lost. We slept in the village of Luxan, which is a
small place surrounded by gardens, and forms the most southern
cultivated district in the Province of Mendoza; it is five leagues
south of the capital. At night I experienced an attack (for it
deserves no less a name) of the 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 suck.

MARCH 27, 1835.

We rode on to Mendoza. The country was beautifully cultivated, and
resembled Chile. This neighbourhood is celebrated for its fruit;
and certainly nothing could appear more flourishing than the
vineyards and the orchards of figs, peaches, and olives. We bought
water-melons nearly twice as large as a man's head, most
deliciously cool and well-flavoured, for a halfpenny apiece; and
for the value of threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of peaches. The
cultivated and enclosed part of this province is very small; there
is little more than that which we passed through between Luxan and
the Capital. The land, as in Chile, owes its fertility entirely to
artificial irrigation; and it is really wonderful to observe how
extraordinarily productive a barren traversia is thus rendered.

We stayed the ensuing day in Mendoza. The prosperity of the place
has much declined of late years. The inhabitants say "it is good to
live in, but very bad to grow rich in." The lower orders have the
lounging, reckless manners of the Gauchos of the Pampas; and their
dress, riding-gear, and habits of life, are nearly the same. To my
mind the town had a stupid, forlorn aspect. Neither the boasted
alameda, nor the scenery, is at all comparable with that of
Santiago; but to those who, coming from Buenos Ayres, have just
crossed the unvaried Pampas, the gardens and orchards must appear
delightful. Sir F. Head, speaking of the inhabitants, says, "They
eat their dinners, and it is so very hot, they go to sleep--and
could they do better?" I quite agree with Sir F. Head: the happy
doom of the Mendozinos is to eat, sleep and be idle.

MARCH 29, 1835.

We set out on our return to Chile by the Uspallata pass situated
north of Mendoza. We had to cross a long and most sterile traversia
of fifteen leagues. The soil in parts was absolutely bare, in
others covered by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable
spines, and called by the inhabitants "little lions." There were,
also, a few low bushes. Although the plain is nearly three thousand
feet above the sea, the sun was very powerful; and the heat, as
well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling
extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly parallel to
the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them. Before sunset we
entered one of the wide valleys, or rather bays, which open on the
plain: this soon narrowed into a ravine, where a little higher up
the house of Villa Vicencio is situated. As 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 Vicencio there was a nice
little rivulet.

MARCH 30, 1835.

The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of Villa Vicencio
has been mentioned by every traveller who has crossed the Andes. I
stayed here and at some neighbouring mines during the two
succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding country is very
curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the main Cordillera
by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in
Chile, but higher, being six thousand feet above the sea. This
range has nearly the same geographical position with respect to the
Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo line has, but it is of a
totally different origin: it consists of various kinds of submarine
lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and other remarkable
sedimentary deposits; the whole having a very close resemblance to
some of the tertiary beds on the shores of the Pacific. From this
resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is generally
characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in a very
extraordinary manner. In the central part of the range, at an
elevation of about seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope
some snow-white projecting columns. These were petrified trees,
eleven being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into
coarsely-crystallised white calcareous spar. They were abruptly
broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the
ground. The trunks measured from three to five feet each in
circumference. They stood a little way apart from each other, but
the whole formed one group. Mr. Robert 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 impression of the bark.

It required little geological practice to interpret the marvellous
story which this scene at once unfolded; though I confess I was at
first so much astonished that I could scarcely believe the plainest
evidence. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine trees once waved
their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now
driven back 700 miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that
they had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above
the level of the sea, and that subsequently this dry land, with its
upright trees, had been let down into the depths of the ocean. In
these depths, the formerly dry land was covered by sedimentary
beds, and these again by enormous streams of submarine lava--one
such mass attaining the thickness of a thousand feet; and these
deluges of molten stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately
had been spread out. The ocean which received such thick masses
must have been profoundly deep; but again the subterranean forces
exerted themselves, and I now beheld the bed of that ocean, forming
a chain of mountains more than seven thousand feet in height. Nor
had those antagonistic forces been dormant, which are always at
work wearing down the surface of the land; the great piles of
strata had been intersected by many wide valleys, and the trees,
now changed into silex, were exposed projecting from the volcanic
soil, now changed into rock, whence formerly, in a green and
budding state, they had raised their lofty heads. Now, all is
utterly irreclaimable and desert; even the lichen cannot adhere to
the stony casts of former trees. Vast, and scarcely comprehensible
as such changes must ever appear, yet they have all occurred within
a period, recent when compared with the history of the Cordillera;
and the Cordillera itself is absolutely modern as compared with
many of the fossiliferous strata of Europe and America.

APRIL 1, 1835.

We crossed the Uspallata range, and at night slept at the
custom-house--the only inhabited spot on the plain. Shortly before
leaving the mountains, there was a very extraordinary view; red,
purple, green, and quite white sedimentary rocks, alternating with
black lavas, were broken up and thrown into all kinds of disorder
by masses of porphyry of every shade of colour, from dark brown to
the brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, which really
resembled those pretty sections which geologists make of the inside
of the earth.

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the course of the
same great mountain stream which flows by Luxan. Here it was a
furious torrent, quite impassable, and appeared larger than in the
low country, as was the case with the rivulet of Villa Vicencio. On
the evening of the succeeding day we reached the Rio de las Vacas,
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
difference in their volume. In the evening the stream is muddy and
full, but about daybreak it becomes clearer and much less
impetuous. This we found to be the case with the 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 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 daresay, in the spring, the
"laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew across the
piles of fallen detritus, are very bad; but from what I saw, I
suspect the real danger is nothing. With cargo-mules the case is
rather different, for the loads project so far, that the animals,
occasionally running against each other, or against a point of
rock, lose their balance, and are thrown down the precipices. In
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 frequently happens. The arriero
tells you to show your mule the best line, and then allow her to
cross as she likes: the cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is often

APRIL 4, 1835.

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 oneself some deep and narrow ravine, across which a
bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch hollowed out like the
vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Incas Bridge consists of a
crust of stratified shingle cemented together by the deposits of
the neighbouring hot springs. It appears as if the stream had
scooped out a channel on one side, leaving an overhanging ledge,
which was met by earth and stones falling down from the opposite
cliff. Certainly an oblique junction, as would happen in such a
case, was very distinct on one side. The Bridge of the Incas is by
no means worthy of the great monarchs whose name it bears.

APRIL 5, 1835.

We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from the Incas
Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated near the lowest
casucha on the Chilian side. These casuchas are round little
towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, which is raised some
feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They are eight
in number, and under the Spanish government were kept during the
winter well stored with food and charcoal, and each courier had a
master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of caves, or rather
dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they are not, however,
ill suited to the surrounding scene of desolation. The zigzag
ascent of the Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, was very
steep and tedious; its height, according to Mr. Pentland, is 12,454
feet. The road did not pass over any perpetual snow, although there
were patches of it on both hands. The wind on the summit was
exceedingly cold, but it was impossible not to stop for a few
minutes to admire, again and again, the colour of the heavens, and
the brilliant transparency of the atmosphere. The scenery was
grand: to the westward there was a fine chaos of mountains, divided
by profound ravines. Some snow generally falls before this period
of the season, and it has even happened that the Cordillera have
been finally closed by this time. But we were most fortunate. The
sky, by night and by day, was cloudless, excepting a few round
little masses of vapour, that floated over the highest pinnacles. I
have often seen these islets in the sky, marking the position of
the Cordillera, when the far-distant mountains have been hidden
beneath the horizon.

APRIL 6, 1835.

In the morning we found some thief had stolen one of our mules, and
the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only two or three miles
down the valley, and stayed there the ensuing day in hopes of
recovering the mule, which the arriero thought had been hidden in
some ravine. The scenery in this part had assumed a Chilian
character: the lower sides of the mountains, dotted over with the
pale evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great chandelier-like
cactus, are certainly more to be admired than the bare eastern
valleys; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration expressed by
some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owing
to the prospect of a good fire and of a good supper, after escaping
from the cold regions above: and I am sure I most heartily
participated in these feelings.

APRIL 8, 1835.

We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we had descended, and
reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa de St. Rosa. The
fertility of the plain was delightful: the autumn being advanced,
the leaves of many of the fruit-trees were falling; and of the
labourers,--some were busy in drying figs and peaches on the roofs
of their cottages, while others were gathering the grapes from the
vineyards. It was a pretty scene; but I missed that pensive
stillness which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening of
the year. On the 10th we reached Santiago, where I received a very
kind and hospitable reception from Mr. Caldcleugh. My 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 Valparaiso.



Coast-road to Coquimbo.
Great loads carried by the miners.
Step-formed terraces.
Absence of recent deposits.
Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary formations.
Excursion up the valley.
Road to Guasco.
Valley of Copiap.
Rain and Earthquakes.
The Despoblado.
Indian ruins.
Probable change of climate.
River-bed arched by an earthquake.
Cold gales of wind.
Noises from a hill.
Salt alluvium.
Nitrate of soda.
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 27, 1835.

I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence through Guasco to
Copiap, 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 Copiap 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 Vio 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 Limache, where we slept. Washing for gold
supports the inhabitants of numerous hovels, scattered along the
sides of each little rivulet; but, like all those whose gains are
uncertain, they are unthrifty in their habits, and consequently

APRIL 28, 1835.

In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of the Bell
mountain. The inhabitants were freeholders, which is not very usual
in Chile. They supported themselves 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 11th and 12th, 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 glorious sight.

MAY 2, 1835.

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
breakers, 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.

MAY 3, 1835.

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 Copiap 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
Valparaiso some generally falls early in April: the annual quantity
is likewise small in proportion to the lateness of the season at
which it commences.

MAY 4, 1835.

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 mountains. Above the straight
line of the uppermost irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a
high-road; while all below is of as bright a green as verdigris,
from the beds of alfarfa, a kind of clover. We proceeded to Los
Hornos, another mining district, where the principal hill was
drilled with holes, like a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are
a peculiar race of men in their habits. Living for weeks together
in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on
feast-days there is no excess 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; moreover, temptation and the means of yielding to it
are placed in their power at the same time. On the other hand, in
Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the system of
selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from being
obliged to act and think for themselves, are a singularly
intelligent and well-conducted set of men.

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather picturesque.
He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured baize, with a
leathern apron; the whole being fastened round his waist by a
bright-coloured sash. His trousers are very broad, and his small
cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit the head closely. We met a
party of these miners in full costume, carrying the body of one of
their companions to be buried. They marched at a very quick trot,
four men supporting the corpse. One set having run as hard as they
could for about two hundred yards, were relieved by four others,
who had previously dashed on ahead on horseback. Thus they
proceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries: altogether the
scene formed a most strange funeral.

We continued travelling northward in a zigzag line; sometimes
stopping a day to geologise. The country was so thinly inhabited,
and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding
our way. On the 12th I stayed at some mines. The ore in this case
was not considered particularly good, but from being abundant it
was supposed the mine would sell for about thirty or forty thousand
dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling); yet it had been
bought by one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold
(three pounds eight shillings). The ore is yellow pyrites, which,
as I have already remarked, before the arrival of the English was
not supposed to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits
nearly as great as in the above instance, piles of cinders,
abounding with minute globules of metallic copper, were purchased;
yet with these advantages, the mining associations, as is well
known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the
greater number of the commissioners and shareholders amounted to
infatuation;--a thousand pounds per annum given in some cases to
entertain the Chilian authorities; libraries of well-bound
geological books; miners brought out for particular metals, as tin,
which are not found in Chile; contracts to supply the miners with
milk, in parts where there are no cows; machinery, where it could
not possibly be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore
witness to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the
natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital well
employed in these mines would have yielded an immense return: a
confidential man of business, a practical miner and assayer, would
have been all that was required.

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which the "Apires,"
truly beasts of burden, carry up from the deepest mines. I confess
I thought the account exaggerated: so that I was glad to take an
opportunity of weighing one of the loads, which I picked out by
hazard. It required considerable exertion on my part, when standing
directly over it, to lift it from the ground. The load was
considered under weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire had
carried this up eighty 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, except 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 breaking and
picking ore.

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear
cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They rarely eat meat
once a week, and never oftener, and then only the hard dry charqui.
Although with a knowledge that the labour was 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 perspiration streaming from their faces over their breasts,
their nostrils distended, the corners of their mouth forcibly drawn
back, and the expulsion of their breath most laborious. Each time
they draw their breath they utter an articulate cry of "ay-ay,"
which ends in a sound rising from deep in the chest, but shrill
like the note of a fife. After staggering to the pile of ore, they
emptied the "carpacho;" in two or three seconds recovering their
breath, they wiped the sweat from their brows, and apparently quite
fresh descended the mine again at a quick pace. This appears to me
a wonderful instance of the amount of labour which habit, for it
can be nothing else, will enable a man to endure.

In the evening, talking with the mayor-domo of these mines about
the number of foreigners now scattered over the whole country, he
told me that, though quite a young man, he remembers when he was a
boy at school at Coquimbo, a holiday being given to see the captain
of an English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to the
governor. He believes that nothing would have induced any boy in
the school, himself included, to have gone close to the Englishman;
so deeply had they been impressed with an idea of the heresy,
contamination, and evil to be derived from contact with such a
person. To this day they relate the atrocious actions of the
bucaniers; and especially of one man, who took away the figure of
the Virgin Mary, and returned the year after for that of St.
Joseph, saying it was a pity the lady should not have a husband. I
heard also of an old lady who, at a dinner 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.

MAY 14, 1835.

We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a few days. The town is
remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness. It is said to
contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. On the morning of the 17th
it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about five hours.
The farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast where the atmosphere
is more humid, taking advantage of this shower, would break up the
ground; after a second they would put the seed in; and if a third
shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the spring.
It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of
moisture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared as dry as
ever; yet after an interval of ten days all the hills were faintly
tinged with green patches; the grass being sparingly scattered in
hair-like fibres a full inch in length. Before this shower every
part of the surface was bare as on a high-road.


In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with Mr.
Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality by all
who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake happened. I
heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the ladies,
the running of the servants, and the rush of several of the
gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some
of the women afterwards were crying with terror, and one gentleman
said he should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it
would only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this person
had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he himself had
only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso in 1822. He
mentioned a curious coincidence which then happened: he was playing
at cards, when a German, one of the party, got up, and said he
would never sit in a room in these countries with the door shut,
as, owing to his having done so, he had nearly lost his life at
Copiap. 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. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person
indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open
air during a smart shock, knowing that there was no danger, did not
rise. The natives cried out indignantly, "Look at those 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
phenomenon is displayed on a much grander scale, so as to strike
with surprise even some of the inhabitants. The terraces 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 Patagonia. They have undoubtedly been formed by
the denuding power of the sea, during long periods of rest in the
gradual elevation of the continent.

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface of the
terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet), but are embedded in
a friable calcareous rock, which in some places is as much as
between twenty and thirty feet in thickness, but is of little
extent. These modern beds rest on an ancient tertiary formation
containing shells, apparently all extinct. Although I examined so
many hundred miles of coast on the Pacific, as well as Atlantic
side of the continent, I found no regular strata containing
sea-shells of recent species, excepting at this place, and at a few
points northward on the road to Guasco. This fact appears to me
highly remarkable; for the explanation generally given by
geologists, of the absence in any district of stratified
fossiliferous deposits of a given period, namely, that the surface
then existed as dry land, is not here 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 explanation, no doubt, must be sought in
the fact, that the whole southern part of the continent has been
for a long time slowly rising; and therefore that all matter
deposited along shore in shallow water must have been soon brought
up and slowly exposed to the wearing action of the sea-beach; and
it is only in comparatively shallow water that the greater number
of marine organic beings can flourish, and in such water it is
obviously impossible that strata of any great thickness can
accumulate. To show the vast power of the wearing action of
sea-beaches, we need only appeal to the great cliffs along the
present coast of Patagonia, and to the escarpments or ancient
sea-cliffs at different levels, one above another, on that same
line of coast.

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo appears to be of
about the same age with several deposits on the coast of Chile (of
which that of Navedad is the principal one), and with the great
formation of Patagonia. Both at Navedad and in Patagonia there is
evidence, that since the shells (a list of which has been seen by
Professor E. Forbes) there intombed were living, there has been a
subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing
elevation. It may naturally be asked how it comes that although no
extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent period, nor of any
period intermediate between it and the ancient tertiary epoch, have
been preserved on either side of the continent, yet that at this
ancient tertiary epoch, sedimentary matter containing fossil
remains should have been deposited and preserved at different
points in north and south lines, over a space of 1100 miles on the
shores of the Pacific, and of at least 1350 miles on the shores of
the Atlantic, and in an east and west line of 700 miles across the
widest part of the continent? I believe the explanation is not
difficult, and that it is perhaps applicable to nearly analogous
facts observed in other quarters of the world. Considering the
enormous power of denudation which the sea possesses, as shown by
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 prolonged movements of
approximately contemporaneous subsidence 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, circumstances 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 21, 1835.

I set out in company with Don Jos Edwards to the silver-mine of
Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Coquimbo. Passing through a
mountainous country, we reached by nightfall the mines belonging to
Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed my night's rest here from a reason which
will not be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of
fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them; but they will not
live here at the height of only three or four thousand feet: it can
scarcely be the trifling diminution of temperature, 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 Copiap, taking with him the profits of one share in a
silver-mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds sterling. No
doubt a copper-mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is
gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose
great quantities of rich ores; for no precautions can prevent
robberies. I heard of a gentleman laying a bet with another, that
one of his men should rob him before his face. The ore when brought
out of the mine is broken into pieces, and the useless stone thrown
on one side. A couple of the miners who were thus employed,
pitched, as if by accident, two fragments away at the same moment,
and then cried out for a joke "Let us see which rolls furthest."
The owner, who was standing by, bet a cigar with his friend on the
race. The miner by this means watched the very point amongst the
rubbish where the stone lay. In the evening he picked it up and
carried it to his master, showing him a rich mass of silver-ore,
and saying, "This was the stone on which you won a cigar by its
rolling so far."

MAY 23, 1835.

We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo, and followed it
till we reached an Hacienda belonging to a relation of Don Jos,
where we stayed the next day. I then rode one day's journey
farther, 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 cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand. We were
here near the main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were
lofty. In all parts of Northern Chile fruit trees produce much more
abundantly at a considerable height near the Andes than in the
lower country. The figs and grapes of this district are famous for
their excellence, and are cultivated to a great extent. This valley
is, perhaps, the most productive one north of Quillota. I believe
it contains, including Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The next day I
returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together with Don Jos, to

JUNE 2, 1835.

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 3, 1835.

Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part of the day we crossed
a mountainous rocky desert, and afterwards 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 uninhabited desert. I saw traces only of one
living animal in abundance, namely, the shells of a Bulimus, which
were collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest
spots. In the spring one humble little plant sends out a few
leaves, and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only very
early in the morning, when the ground is slightly damp with dew,
the Guasos 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 cottages, some brackish water, and a
trace of cultivation: but it was with difficulty that we purchased
a little corn and straw for our horses.

JUNE 4, 1835.

Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert plains, tenanted
by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley of Chaeral;
which, although the most fertile one between Guasco and Coquimbo,
is very narrow, and produces so little pasture that we could not
purchase any for our horses. At Sauce we found a very civil old
gentleman, superintending a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial
favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price an armful of
dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper after
their long day's journey. Few smelting-furnaces are now at work in
any part of Chile; it is found more profitable, on account of the
extreme scarcity of firewood, and from the Chilian method of
reduction being so unskilful, to ship the ore for Swansea. The next
day we crossed some mountains to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco.
During each day's ride farther northward, the vegetation became
more and more scanty; even the great chandelier-like cactus was
here replaced by a different and much smaller species. During the
winter months, both in Northern Chile and in Peru, a uniform bank
of clouds hangs, at no great height, over the Pacific. From the
mountains we had a very striking view of this white and brilliant
aerial-field, which sent arms up the valleys, leaving islands and
promontories in the same manner as the 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 Cordillera; on each side an infinity of crossing lines are
blended together in a beautiful haze. The foreground is singular
from the number of parallel and step-formed terraces; and the
included strip of green valley, with its willow-bushes, is
contrasted on both hands with the naked hills. That the surrounding
country was most barren will be readily believed, when it is known
that a shower of rain had not fallen during the last thirteen
months. The inhabitants heard with the greatest envy of the rain at
Coquimbo; from the appearance of the sky they had hopes of equally
good fortune, which, a fortnight afterwards, were realised. I was
at Copiap at the time; and there the people, with equal envy,
talked of the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry
years, perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole time,
a rainy year generally follows; and this does more harm than even
the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with gravel and sand the
narrow strips of ground which alone are fit for cultivation. The
floods also injure the irrigating ditches. Great devastation had
thus been caused three years ago.

JUNE 8, 1835.

We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name from Ballenagh in
Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, who, under the
Spanish government, were presidents and generals in Chile. As the
rocky mountains on each hand were concealed by clouds, the
terrace-like plains gave to the valley an appearance like that of
Santa Cruz in Patagonia. After spending one day at Ballenar I set
out, on the 10th, for the upper part of the valley of Copiap. We
rode all day over an uninteresting country. I am tired of repeating
the epithets barren and sterile. These words, however, as commonly
used, are comparative; I have always applied them to the plains of
Patagonia, which can boast of spiny bushes and some tufts of grass;
and this is absolute fertility, as compared with Northern Chile.
Here again, there are not many spaces of two hundred yards square,
where some little bush, cactus or lichen, may not be discovered by
careful examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready to
spring up 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 of bivouac for us; but for the poor animals there
was not a mouthful to eat.

JUNE 11, 1835.

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 Copiap. I was
heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a continued source
of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear, whilst eating our own
suppers, our horses gnawing the posts to which they were tied, and
to have no means of relieving their hunger. To all appearance,
however, the animals were quite fresh; and no one could have told
that they had eaten nothing for the last fifty-five hours.

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received me very
kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This estate is between
twenty and thirty miles long, but very narrow, being generally only
two fields wide, one on each side the river. In some parts the
estate is of no width, that is to say, the land cannot be
irrigated, and therefore is valueless, like the surrounding rocky
desert. The small quantity of cultivated land in the whole line of
valley does not so much depend on inequalities of level, and
consequent unfitness for irrigation, as on the small supply of
water. The river this year was remarkably full: here, high up the
valley, it reached to the horse's belly, and was about fifteen
yards wide, and rapid; lower down it becomes smaller and smaller,
and is generally quite lost, as happened during one period of
thirty years, so that not a drop entered the sea. The inhabitants
watch a storm over the Cordillera with great interest; as one good
fall of snow provides them with water for the ensuing year. This is
of infinitely more consequence than rain in the lower country.
Rain, as often as it falls, which is about once in every two or
three years, is a great advantage, because the cattle and mules can
for some time afterwards find a little pasture in the mountains.
But without snow on the Andes, desolation extends throughout the
valley. It is on record that three times nearly all the inhabitants
have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This year there was
plenty of water, and every man irrigated his ground as much as he
chose; but it has frequently been necessary to post soldiers at the
sluices, to see that each estate took only its proper allowance
during so many hours in the week. The valley is said to contain
12,000 souls, but its produce is sufficient only for three months
in the year; the rest of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and
the south. Before the discovery of the famous silver-mines of
Chanuncillo, Copiap 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 Copiap, 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
Copiap may both be considered as long narrow islands, separated
from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead of by salt water.
Northward of these, there is one other very miserable valley,
called Paposo, which contains about two hundred souls; and then
there extends the real desert of Atacama--a barrier far worse than
the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at Potrero Seco,
I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom
I had a letter of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed
it is impossible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness with
which travellers are received in almost every part of South
America. The next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine
of Jolquera into the central Cordillera. On the second night the
weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst
lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake.

The connexion between earthquakes and the weather has been often
disputed: it appears to me to be a point of great interest, which
is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part of the
"Personal Narrative," that it would be difficult for any person who
had long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower Peru, to deny that
there exists some connection between these phenomena: in another
part, however, he seems to think the connexion fanciful. (16/1.
Volume 4 page 11 and volume 2 page 217. For the remarks on
Guayaquil see Silliman's "Journal" volume 24 page 384. For those on
Tacna by Mr. Hamilton see "Transactions of British Association"
1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. Caldcleugh in "Philosophical
Transactions" 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.) 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 connexion
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
Copiap that there had been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they
immediately cried out, "How fortunate! there will be plenty of
pasture there this year." To their minds an earthquake foretold
rain as surely as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did
so happen that on the very day of the earthquake that shower of
rain fell which I have described as in ten days' time producing a
thin sprinkling of grass. At other times rain has followed
earthquakes at a period of the year when it is a far greater
prodigy than the earthquake itself: this 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 quite unconnected with the ordinary course
of the weather. In the cases of great volcanic eruptions, as that
of Coseguina, where torrents of rain fell at a time of the year
most unusual for it, and "almost unprecedented in Central America,"
it is not difficult to understand that the volumes of vapour and
clouds of ashes might have disturbed the atmospheric equilibrium.
Humboldt extends this view to the case of earthquakes unaccompanied
by eruptions; but I can hardly conceive it possible that the small
quantity of aeriform fluids which then escape from the fissured
ground can produce such remarkable effects. There appears much
probability in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when
the barometer is low, and when rain might naturally be expected to
fall, the diminished pressure of the atmosphere over a wide extent
of country might well determine the precise day on which the earth,
already stretched to the utmost by the subterranean forces, should
yield, crack, and consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful
how far this idea will explain the circumstance of torrents of rain
falling in the dry season during several days, after an earthquake
unaccompanied by an eruption; such cases seem to bespeak some more
intimate connexion between the atmospheric and subterranean

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 fifteen feet in circumference:
how surprising it is that every atom of the woody matter in this
great cylinder should have been removed and replaced by silex so
perfectly that each vessel and pore is preserved! These trees
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. Unane 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. Unane 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 Ica 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. (16/2. "Observa. sobre el clima de
Lima" page 67.--Azara's "Travels" volume 1 page 381.--Ulloa's
"Voyage" volume 2 page 28.--Burchell's "Travels" volume 2 page
524.--Webster's "Description of the Azores" page 124.--"Voyage
l'Isle de France par un Officier du Roi" tome 1 page
248.--"Description of St. Helena" page 123.) In so strange a
disease some information might possibly be gained by considering
the circumstances under which it originates in distant climates;
for it is improbable that a dog already bitten should have been
brought to these distant 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 Copiap; 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
Copiap. 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 garden: 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 conversation. Necessaries of all sorts are extremely
dear; as the distance from the town to the port is eighteen
leagues, and the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or
six shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood, or
rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of two and
three days' journey within the Cordillera; and pasturage for
animals is a shilling a day: all this for South America is
wonderfully exorbitant.

JUNE 26, 1835.

I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into the Cordillera by a
different line from my last excursion. As the country was utterly
desert, we took a cargo and a half of barley mixed with chopped
straw. About two leagues above the town a broad valley called the
"Despoblado," or uninhabited, branches off from that one by which
we had arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions, and
leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is completely dry,
excepting perhaps for a few days during some very rainy winter. The
sides of the crumbling mountains were furrowed by scarcely any
ravines; and the bottom of the main valley, filled with shingle,
was smooth and nearly level. No considerable torrent could ever
have flowed down this bed of shingle; for if it had, a great
cliff-bounded channel, as in all the southern valleys, would
assuredly have been formed. I feel little doubt that this valley,
as well as those mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the
state we now see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly
rose. I observed in one place where the Despoblado was joined by a
ravine (which in almost any other chain would have been called a
grand valley), that its bed, though composed merely of sand and
gravel, was higher than that of its tributary. A mere rivulet of
water, in the course of an hour, would have cut a channel for
itself; but it was evident that ages had passed away, and no such
rivulet had drained this great tributary. It was curious to behold
the machinery, if such a term may be used, for the drainage, all,
with the last trifling exception, perfect, yet without any signs of
action. Every 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

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine with a
small well, called "Agua amarga." The water deserved its name, for
besides being saline it was most offensively putrid and bitter; so
that we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or mat. I
suppose the distance from the river of Copiap 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 companions knew nothing about
them, and only answered my queries by their imperturbable "quien

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 huddled together in
separate groups: some of the doorways were yet standing; they were
formed by a cross slab of stone only about three feet high. Ulloa
has remarked on the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peruvian
dwellings. These houses, when perfect, must have been capable of
containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition says that
they were used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed
the mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered in
many other parts, where it does not appear probable that they were
used as mere resting-places, but yet where the land is as utterly
unfit for any kind of cultivation as it is near the Tambillos or at
the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo Pass, at all which places I
saw ruins. In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is
no pass, I heard of remains of houses situated at a great height,
where it is extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that
these buildings had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on
the first arrival of the Spaniards; but I have since been inclined
to speculate on the probability of a small change of climate.

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 unfrequently 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 Copiap 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 border on
the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist no passes, and
where the land produces absolutely nothing, and what is still more
extraordinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the
opinion of the people of the country (although they are much
puzzled by the circumstance), that, from the appearance of the
houses, the Indians must have used them as places of residence. In
this valley, at Punta Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or
eight square little rooms, which were of a similar form with those
at Tambillos, but built chiefly of mud, which the present
inhabitants cannot, either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru,
imitate in durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous
and defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad valley.
There was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and that only
in very small quantity, and bad: the soil was absolutely sterile; I
looked in vain even for a lichen adhering to the rocks. At the
present day, with the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine, unless
it were very rich, could scarcely be worked here with profit. Yet
the Indians formerly chose it as a place of residence! If at the
present time two or three showers of rain were to fall annually,
instead of one, as now is the case, during as many years, a small
rill of water would probably be formed in this great valley; and
then, by irrigation (which was formerly so well understood by the
Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently productive
to support a few families.

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of South
America has been elevated near the coast at least from 400 to 500,
and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since the epoch of
existing shells; and farther inland the rise possibly may have been
greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is
evidently a consequence of the height of the Cordillera, we may
feel almost sure that before the later elevations, the atmosphere
could not have been so completely drained of its moisture as it now
is; and as the rise has been gradual, so would have been the change
in climate. On this notion of a change of climate since the
buildings were inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme antiquity,
but I do not think their preservation under the Chilian climate any
great difficulty. We must also admit on this notion (and this
perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited South
America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as any change of
climate effected by the elevation of the land must have been
extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within the last 220 years, the
rise has been somewhat less than 19 feet: at Lima a sea-beach has
certainly been upheaved from 80 to 90 feet, within the Indio-human
period: but such small elevations could have had little power in
deflecting the moisture-bringing atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund,
however, found human skeletons in the caves of Brazil, the
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. (16/3. 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.) He told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had
sometimes crossed his mind; but that he thought that the greater
portion of land, now incapable of cultivation, but covered with
Indian ruins, had been reduced to this state by the water-conduits,
which the Indians formerly constructed on so wonderful a scale,
having been injured by neglect and by subterranean movements. I may
here mention that the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating
streams in tunnels through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me he
had been employed professionally to examine one: he found the
passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of
very considerable length. Is it not most wonderful that men should
have attempted such operations, without the use of iron or
gunpowder? Mr. Gill also mentioned to me a most interesting, and,
as far as I am aware, quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean
disturbance having changed the drainage of a country. Travelling
from Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he found a
plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient cultivation but now
quite barren. Near it was the dry course of a considerable river,
whence the water for irrigation had formerly been conducted. There
was nothing in the appearance of the watercourse to indicate that
the river had not flowed there a few years previously; in some
parts, beds of sand and gravel were spread out; in others, the
solid rock had been worn into a broad channel, which in one spot
was about 40 yards in breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident
that a person following up the course of a stream will always
ascend at a greater or less inclination: Mr. Gill, therefore, was
much astonished, when walking up the bed of this ancient river, to
find himself suddenly going down hill. He imagined that the
downward slope had a fall of about 40 or 50 feet perpendicular. We
here have unequivocal evidence that a ridge had been uplifted right
across the old bed of a stream. From the moment the river-course
was thus arched, the water must necessarily have been thrown back,
and a new channel formed. From that moment, also, the neighbouring
plain must have lost its fertilising stream, and become a desert.

JUNE 27, 1835.

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 firewood, 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.

JUNE 28, 1835.

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 Vicua: 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 the waters. The streams,
however, on the east side do not flow to the Atlantic, but into an
elevated district, in the middle of which there is a large salina,
or salt lake;--thus forming a little Caspian Sea at the height,
perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where we slept, there were some
considerable patches of snow, but they do not remain throughout the
year. The winds in these lofty regions obey very regular laws;
every day a fresh breeze blows up the valley, and at night, an hour
or two after sunset, the air from the cold regions above descends
as through a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, and the
temperature must have been considerably below the freezing-point,
for water in a vessel soon became a block of ice. No clothes seemed
to oppose any obstacle to the air; I suffered very much from the
cold, so that I could not sleep, and in the morning rose with my
body quite dull and benumbed.

In the Cordillera farther southward people lose their lives from
snow-storms; here, it sometimes happens from another cause. My
guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing the Cordillera
with a party in the month of May; and while in the central parts, a
furious gale of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on
their mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day was
cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature was
low. It is probable that the thermometer would not have stood very
many degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect on their
bodies, ill protected by clothing, must have been in proportion 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 supposed to
have perished from a similar cause, but their bodies to this day
have never been discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low
temperature, and a furious gale of wind, must be, I should think,
in all parts of the world an unusual occurrence.

JUNE 29, 1835.

We gladly travelled down the valley to our former night's lodging,
and thence to near the Agua amarga. On July 1st we reached the
valley of Copiap. 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 attention 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, as the cause of the sounds which have been heard by
many travellers on Mount Sinai near the Red Sea. (16/4. "Edinburgh
Philosophical Journal" January 1830 page 74 and April 1830 page
258. Also Daubeny on Volcanoes page 438 and "Bengal Journal" volume
7 page 324.) 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 and coarse sand causes a peculiar chirping noise
from the friction of the particles; a circumstance which I several
times noticed on the coast of Brazil.

Three days afterwards I heard of the "Beagle's" arrival at the
Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is very little
land cultivated down the valley; its wide expanse supports a
wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. This
poorness of the vegetation is owing to the quantity of saline
matter with which the soil is impregnated. The Port consists of an
assemblage of miserable little hovels, situated at the foot of a
sterile plain. At present, as the river contains water enough to
reach the sea, the inhabitants enjoy the advantage of having fresh
water within a mile and a half. On the beach there were large piles
of merchandise, and the little place had an air of activity. In the
evening I gave my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my companion
Mariano Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many leagues in Chile.
The next morning the "Beagle" sailed for Iquique.

JULY 12, 1835.

We anchored in the port of Iquique, in latitude 20 degrees 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 mountainsides 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
(four shillings and sixpence) an eighteen-gallon cask: I bought a
wine-bottle full for threepence. In like manner firewood, and of
course every article of food, is imported. Very few animals can be
maintained in such a place: on the ensuing morning I hired with
difficulty, at the price of four pounds sterling, two mules and a
guide to take me to the nitrate of soda works. These are at present
the support of Iquique. This salt was first exported in 1830: in
one year an amount in value of one hundred thousand pounds sterling
was sent to France and England. It is principally used as a manure
and in the manufacture of nitric acid: owing to its deliquescent
property it will not serve for gunpowder. Formerly there were two
exceedingly rich silver-mines in this neighbourhood, but their
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 government there thought it a pity to punish such
useful workmen who could make all sorts of furniture; and
accordingly liberated them. Things being in this state, the
churches were again broken open, but this time the plate was not
recovered. The inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and declaring
that none but heretics would thus "eat God Almighty," proceeded to
torture some Englishmen, with the intention of afterwards shooting
them. At last the authorities interfered, and peace was

JULY 13, 1835.

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 surface quite unattached. This
plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the
reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to
tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish
colour. Farther 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 Copiap. The appearance of the
country was remarkable, from being covered by a thick crust of
common salt, and of a stratified 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
associated with much gypsum. The appearance of this superficial
mass very closely resembled that of a country after snow, before
the last dirty patches are thawed. The existence of this crust of a
soluble substance over the whole face of the country shows how
extraordinarily dry the climate must have been for a long period.

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the saltpetre
mines. The country is here as unproductive as near the coast; but
water, having rather a bitter and brackish taste, can be 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 surrounding country is incrusted with various
saline substances. We must therefore conclude that it percolates
under ground from the Cordillera, though distant many leagues. In
that direction there are a few small villages, where the
inhabitants, having more water, are enabled to irrigate a little
land, and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, employed in
carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda was now
selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred
pounds: the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. The
mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three feet thick,
of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate of soda and a
good deal of common salt. It lies close beneath the surface, and
follows for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of a
grand basin or plain; this, from its outline, manifestly must once
have been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as may
be inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum.
The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific.

JULY 19, 1835.

We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of Lima, the capital
of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but from the troubled state of
public affairs I saw very little of the country. During our whole
visit the climate was far from being so 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 together without any shelter.

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru: in summer,
however, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all
seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer from severe attacks
of ague. This disease is common on the whole coast of Peru, but is
unknown in the interior. The attacks of illness which arise from
miasma never fail to appear most mysterious. So difficult is it to
judge from the aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy,
that if a person had been told to choose within the tropics a
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 drainage of some little pools. Miasma is not always produced by
a luxuriant vegetation with an ardent climate; for many parts of
Brazil, even where there are marshes and a rank vegetation, are
much more healthy than this sterile coast of Peru. The densest
forests in a 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 another
strongly-marked instance of a country, which any one would have
expected to find most healthy, being very much the contrary. I have
described the bare and open plains as supporting, during a few
weeks after the rainy season, a thin vegetation, which directly
withers away and dries up: at this period the air appears to become
quite poisonous; both natives and foreigners often being affected
with violent fevers. On the other hand, the Galapagos Archipelago,
in the Pacific, with a similar soil, and periodically 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." (16/5. "Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain"
volume 4 page 199.) 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 man-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. (16/6. A
similar interesting case is recorded in the "Madras Medical
Quarterly Journal" 1839 page 340. Dr. Ferguson in his admirable
Paper see 9th volume of "Edinburgh Royal Transactions" shows
clearly that the poison is generated in the drying process; and
hence that dry hot countries are often the most unhealthy.)

No state in South America, since the declaration of independence,
has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At the time of our visit
there were four chiefs in arms contending for supremacy in the
government: if one succeeded in becoming for a time very powerful,
the others coalesced against him; but no sooner were they
victorious than they were again hostile to each other. The other
day, at the Anniversary of the Independence, high mass was
performed, the President partaking of the sacrament: during the "Te
Deum laudamus," instead of each regiment displaying the 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 San 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 cryptogamic
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 degree 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
Blanco, 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 Cochrane's long siege, has an imposing appearance.
But the President, during our stay, sold the brass guns, and
proceeded to dismantle parts of it. The reason assigned was, that
he had not an officer to whom he could trust so important a charge.
He himself had good reason for thinking so, as he had obtained the
presidentship by rebelling while in charge of this same fortress.
After we left South America, he paid the penalty in the usual
manner, by being conquered, taken prisoner, and shot.

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the gradual
retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao, and is elevated
500 feet above it; but from the slope being very gradual, the road
appears absolutely level; so that when at Lima it is difficult to
believe one has ascended even one hundred feet: Humboldt has
remarked on this singularly deceptive case. Steep barren hills rise
like islands from the plain, which is divided, by straight
mud-walls, into large green fields. In these scarcely a tree grows
excepting a few willows, and an occasional clump of bananas and of
oranges. The city of Lima is now in a wretched state of decay: the
streets are nearly unpaved; and heaps of filth are piled up in all
directions, where the black gallinazos, tame as poultry, pick up
bits of carrion. The houses have generally an upper story, built,
on account of the earthquakes, of plastered woodwork; but some of
the old ones, which are now used by several families, are 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 respect the considerable advance made by them in
the arts of civilisation. The burial mounds, called Huacas, are
really stupendous; although in some places they appear to be
natural hills encased and modelled.

There is also another and very different class of ruins which
possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao, overwhelmed
by the great earthquake of 1746, and its accompanying wave. The
destruction must have been more complete even than at Talcahuano.
Quantities of shingle almost conceal the foundations of the walls,
and vast masses of brickwork appear to have been whirled about like
pebbles by the retiring waves. It has been stated that the land
subsided during this memorable shock: I could not discover any
proof of this; yet it seems far from improbable, for the form of
the coast must certainly have undergone some change since the
foundation of the old town; as no people in their senses would
willingly have chosen for their building place the narrow spit of
shingle on which the ruins now stand. Since our voyage, M. Tschudi
has come to the conclusion, by the comparison of old and modern
maps, that the coast both north and south of Lima has certainly

On the island of San Lorenzo there are very satisfactory proofs of
elevation within the recent period; this of course is not opposed
to the belief of a small sinking of the ground having subsequently
taken place. The side of this island fronting the Bay of Callao is
worn into three obscure terraces, the lower one of which is 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 sulphate of
lime (both probably left by the evaporation of the spray, as the
land slowly rose), together with sulphate of soda and muriate of
lime. They rest on fragments of the underlying sandstone, and are
covered by a few inches thick of detritus. The shells higher up on
this terrace could be traced scaling off in flakes, and falling
into an impalpable powder; and on an upper terrace, at the height
of 170 feet, and likewise at some considerably higher points, I
found a layer of saline powder of exactly similar appearance, and
lying in the same relative position. I have no doubt that this
upper layer originally existed as a bed of shells, like that on the
eighty-five-feet ledge; but it does not now contain even a trace of
organic structure. The powder has been analysed for me by Mr. T.
Reeks; it consists of sulphates and muriates both of lime and soda,
with very little carbonate of lime. It is known that common salt
and carbonate of lime left in a mass for some time together partly
decompose each other; though this does not happen with small
quantities in solution. As the half-decomposed shells in the lower
parts are associated with much common salt, together with some of
the saline substances composing the upper saline layer, and as
these shells are corroded and decayed in a remarkable manner, I
strongly suspect that this double 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
country in which abundant rain occasionally fell: on the other hand
this very circumstance, which at first sight appears so highly
favourable to the long preservation of exposed shells, has probably
been the indirect means, through the common salt not having been
washed away, of their 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
underlying red-clay beds, I imagine that the Indians manufactured
their earthen vessels; and that, during some violent earthquake,
the sea broke over the beach, and converted the plain into a
temporary lake, as happened round Callao in 1713 and 1746. The
water would then have deposited mud containing fragments of pottery
from the kilns, more abundant at some spots than at others, and
shells from the sea. This bed with fossil earthenware stands at
about the same height with the shells on the lower terrace of San
Lorenzo, in which the cotton-thread and other relics were embedded.
Hence we may safely conclude that within the Indo-human period
there has been an elevation, as before alluded to, of more than
eighty-five feet; for some little elevation must have been lost by
the coast having subsided since the old maps were engraved. At
Valparaiso, although in the 220 years before our visit the
elevation cannot have exceeded nineteen feet, yet subsequently to
1817 there has been a rise, partly insensible and partly by a start
during the shock of 1822, of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity of
the Indo-human race here, judging by the eighty-five feet rise of
the land since the relics were embedded, is the more remarkable, as
on the coast of Patagonia, when the land stood about the same
number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was a living beast; but as
the 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 entombed; 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
perhaps no way connected with the Cordillera, but rather with a
line of old volcanic rocks in Banda Oriental, so that it may have
been infinitely slower than on the shores of 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 elevation? for we know that
along the whole coast of Patagonia there have certainly been many
and long pauses in the upward action of the elevatory forces.





The whole group volcanic.
Number of craters.
Leafless bushes.
Colony at Charles Island.
James Island.
Salt-lake in crater.
Natural history of the group.
Ornithology, curious finches.
Great tortoises, habits of.
Marine Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed.
Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous.
Importance of reptiles in the Archipelago.
Fish, shells, insects.
American type of organisation.
Differences in the species or races on different islands.
Tameness of the birds.
Fear of man an acquired instinct.

SEPTEMBER 15, 1835.


This archipelago consists of ten principal islands, of which five
exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Equator, and
between 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 and scoriae, or of
finely-stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are
beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of
volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circumstance that
every one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which were examined had
their southern sides either much lower than the other sides, or
quite broken down and removed. As all these craters apparently have
been formed when standing in the sea, and as the waves from the
trade wind and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their
forces on the southern coasts of all the islands, this singular
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 southern 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 (17th) we landed on Chatham Island, which, like the
others, rises with a tame and rounded outline, broken here and
there by scattered hillocks, the remains of former craters. Nothing
could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of
black basaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed
by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sunburnt
brushwood, which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched
surface, being heated by the noonday 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 diligently tried to
collect as many plants as possible, I succeeded in getting very
few; and such wretched-looking little weeds would have better
become an arctic than an equatorial Flora. The brushwood appears,
from a short distance, as leafless as our trees during winter; and
it was some time before I discovered that not only almost every
plant was now in full leaf, but that the greater number were in
flower. The commonest bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae: an acacia
and a great odd-looking cactus are the only trees which afford any
shade. After the season of heavy rains, the islands are said to
appear for a short time partially green. The volcanic island of
Fernando Noronha, placed in many respects under nearly similar
conditions, is the only other country where I have seen a
vegetation at all like this of the Galapagos Islands.

The "Beagle" sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in several
bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the island where
black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one small
eminence I counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters more or
less perfect. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red
scoriae or slags cemented together: and their height above the
plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet: none
had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part of the
island seems to have been permeated, like a sieve, by the
subterranean vapours: here and there the lava, whilst soft, has
been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of
caverns similarly formed have fallen in, leaving circular pits with
steep sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they gave
to the country an artificial appearance, which vividly reminded me
of those parts of Staffordshire where the great iron-foundries are
most numerous. The day was glowing hot, and the scrambling over the
rough surface and through the intricate thickets was very
fatiguing; but I was well repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene. As
I was walking along I met two large tortoises, 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.

SEPTEMBER 23, 1835.

The "Beagle" proceeded to Charles Island. This archipelago 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 ferns 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 scattered 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
subsistence. 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 reduced in this island,
but the people yet count on two days' hunting giving them food for
the rest of the week. It is said that formerly single vessels have
taken away as many as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of
a frigate some years since brought down in one day two hundred
tortoises to the beach.

SEPTEMBER 29, 1835.

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 anchored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle
Island. The next morning I went out walking. To the south of the
broken tuff-crater, in which the "Beagle" was anchored, there was
another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form; its longer
axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about 500 feet.
At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the middle of which a
tiny crater formed an islet. The day was overpoweringly hot, and
the lake looked clear and blue: I hurried down the cindery slope,
and, choked with dust, eagerly tasted the water--but, to my sorrow,
I found it salt as brine.

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, 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 presently describe in more detail the habits of
both these reptiles. The whole of this northern part of Albemarle
Island is miserably sterile.

OCTOBER 8, 1835.

We arrived at James Island: this island, as well as Charles Island,
were long since thus named after our kings of the Stuart line. Mr.
Bynoe, myself, and our servants were left here for a week, with
provisions and a tent, whilst the "Beagle" went for water. We found
here a party of Spaniards who had been sent from Charles Island to
dry fish and to salt tortoise-meat. About six miles inland and at
the height of nearly 2000 feet, a hovel had been built in which two
men lived, who were employed in catching tortoises, whilst the
others were fishing on the coast. I paid this party two visits, and
slept there one night. As in the other islands, the lower region
was covered by nearly leafless bushes, but the trees were here of a
larger growth than elsewhere, several being two feet and some even
two feet nine inches in diameter. The upper region, being kept damp
by the clouds, supports a green and flourishing vegetation. So damp
was the ground, that there were large beds of a coarse cyperus, in
which great numbers of a very small water-rail lived and bred.
While staying in this upper region, we lived entirely upon
tortoise-meat: the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do carne
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 procured. After landing we
had a very rough walk over a rugged field of recent lava, which has
almost surrounded a tuff-crater at the bottom of which the
salt-lake lies. The water is only three or four inches deep and
rests on a layer of beautifully crystallised, white salt. The lake
is quite circular, and is fringed with a border of bright green
succulent plants; the almost precipitous walls of the crater are
clothed with wood, so that the scene was altogether both
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 degrees; but in the open air, in the wind and
sun, at only 85 degrees. The sand was extremely hot; the
thermometer placed in some of a brown colour immediately rose to
137 degrees, and how much above that it would have risen I do not
know for it was not graduated any higher. The black sand felt much
hotter, so that even in thick boots it was quite disagreeable to
walk over it.

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well
deserves attention. Most of the organic productions are 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
productions. Considering the small size of these islands, we feel
the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and
at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its
crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-streams still
distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically
recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space
and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great
fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings
on this earth.

Of terrestrial mammals there is only one which must be considered
as indigenous, namely a mouse (Mus Galapagoensis) and this is
confined, as far as I could ascertain, to Chatham Island, the most
easterly island of the group. It belongs, as I am informed by Mr.
Waterhouse, to a division of the family of mice characteristic of
America. At James Island there is a rat sufficiently distinct from
the common kind to have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse;
but as it belongs to the old-world division of the family, and as
this island has been frequented by ships for the last hundred and
fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is merely a variety
produced by the new and peculiar climate, food, and soil, to which
it has been subjected. Although no one has a right to speculate
without distinct facts, yet even with respect to the Chatham Island
mouse, it should be borne in mind that it may possibly be an
American species imported here; for I have seen, in a most
unfrequented part of the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roof
of a newly built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a
vessel is not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr.
Richardson in North America.

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to the
group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one lark-like
finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) which ranges on
that continent as far north as 54 degrees, and generally frequents
marshes. The other twenty-five birds consist, firstly, of a hawk,
curiously intermediate in structure between a Buzzard and the
American group of carrion-feeding Polybori; and with these latter
birds it agrees most closely in every habit and even tone of voice.
Secondly there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white
barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly a wren, three tyrant-flycatchers (two
of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of which would be
ranked by some ornithologists as only varieties), and a dove--all
analogous to, but distinct from, American species. Fourthly a
swallow, which though differing from the Progne purpurea of both
Americas, only in being rather duller coloured, smaller, and
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.

magnirostris. 2. Geospiza fortis. 3. Geospiza parvula. 4. Certhidea

The most curious fact is the perfect gradation in the size of the
beaks in the different species of Geospiza, from one as large as
that of a hawfinch to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is
right in including his sub-group, Certhidea, in the main group)
even to that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus Geospiza
is shown in (Plate 81) Figure 1, and the smallest in Figure 3; but
instead of there being only one intermediate species, with a beak
of the size shown in Figure 2, there are no less than six species
with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group
Certhidea, is shown in Figure 4. The beak of Cactornis is somewhat
like that of a starling, and that of the fourth sub-group,
Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this 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. Considering 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 species brought
from other places: the swallow is also smaller, though it is
doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its analogue. The two
owls, the two tyrant-flycatchers (Pyrocephalus) and the dove, are
also smaller than the analogous but distinct species, to which they
are most nearly related; on the other hand, the gull is rather
larger. The two owls, the swallow, all three species of
mocking-thrush, the dove in its separate colours though not in its
whole plumage, the Totanus, and the gull, are likewise duskier
coloured than their analogous species; and in the case of the
mocking-thrush and Totanus, than any other species of the two
genera. With the exception of a wren with a fine yellow breast, and
of a tyrant-flycatcher with a scarlet tuft and breast, none of the
birds are brilliantly coloured, as might have been expected in an
equatorial district. Hence it would appear probable that the same
causes which here make the immigrants of some species smaller, make
most of the peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as well as
very generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a wretched,
weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful flower. The
insects, again, are small-sized and dull coloured, and, as Mr.
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. (17/1. 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.) The birds, plants, and insects have
a desert character, and are not more brilliantly coloured than
those from southern Patagonia; we may, therefore, conclude that the
usual gaudy colouring of the intertropical productions is not
related either to the heat or light of those zones, but to some
other cause, perhaps to the conditions of existence being generally
favourable to life.

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives the most
striking character to the zoology of these islands. The species are
not numerous, but the numbers of individuals of each species are
extraordinarily great. There is one small lizard belonging to a
South American genus, and two species (and probably more) of the
Amblyrhynchus--a genus confined to the Galapagos Islands. There is
one snake