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The Voyage Of The Beagle (1839)

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Author Topic: The Voyage Of The Beagle (1839)  (Read 1550 times)
Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #120 on: February 09, 2009, 12:48:42 am »

March 19th. -- We rode during this day to the last, and therefore most elevated, house in the valley. The number of inhabitants became scanty; but wherever water could be brought on the land, it was very fertile. All the main valleys in the Cordillera are characterized by having, on both sides, a fringe or terrace of shingle and sand, rudely stratified, and generally of considerable thickness. These fringes evidently once extended across the valleys and were united; and the bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where there are no streams, are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes the roads are generally carried, for their surfaces are even, and they rise, with a very gentle slope up the valleys: hence, also, they are easily cultivated by irrigation. They may be traced up to a height of between 7000 and 9000 feet, where they become hidden by the irregular piles of debris. At the lower end or mouths of the valleys, they are continuously united to those land-locked plains (also formed of shingle) at the foot of the main Cordillera, which I have described in a former chapter as characteristic of the scenery of Chile, and which were undoubtedly deposited when the sea penetrated Chile, as it now does the more southern coasts. No one fact in the geology of South America, interested me more than these terraces of rudely-stratified shingle. They precisely resemble in composition the matter which the torrents in each valley would deposit, if they were checked in their course by any cause, such as entering a lake or arm of the sea; but the torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now steadily at work wearing away both the solid rock and these alluvial deposits, along the whole line of every main valley and side valley. It is impossible here to give the reasons, but I am convinced that the shingle terraces were accumulated, during the gradual elevation of the Cordillera, by the torrents delivering, at successive levels, their detritus on the beachheads 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 geologizing. The house where we slept was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the summit of which are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. Head marvels how mines have been discovered in such 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 Copiapo, firewood is very scarce, and men search for it over every hill and dale; and by this means nearly all the richest mines have there been discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver to the value of many hundred thousand pounds has been raised in the course of a few years, was discovered by a man who threw a stone at his loaded donkey, and thinking that it was very heavy, he picked it up, and found it full of pure silver: the vein 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.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #121 on: February 09, 2009, 12:48:53 am »

20th. -- 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 dykes, -- the plainly- divided strata which, where nearly vertical, formed the picturesque and wild central pinnacles, but where less inclined, composed the great massive mountains on the outskirts of the range, -- and lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and brightly coloured detritus, which sloped up at a high angle from the 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 [1] has observed the same fact in Spitzbergen. The case appears to me rather obscure: for that part of the mountain which is protected by a mantle of snow, must be less subject to repeated and great changes of temperature than any other part. I have sometimes thought, that the earth and fragments of stone on the surface, were perhaps less effectually removed by slowly percolating snow-water [2] than by rain, and therefore that the appearance of a quicker disintegration of the solid rock under the snow, was deceptive. Whatever the cause may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordillera is very great. Occasionally in the spring, great masses of this detritus slide down the mountains, and cover the snow-drifts in the valleys, thus forming natural ice-houses. We rode over one, the height of which was far below the limit of perpetual snow.

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, crystallized and almost blended together, through the agency of mountain masses of a peculiar white soda-granitic rock.

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a totally different formation: it consists chiefly of grand bare pinnacles of a red potash-granite, which low down on the western flank are covered by a sandstone, converted by the former heat into a quartz-rock. On the quartz, there rest beds of a conglomerate several thousand feet in thickness, which have been upheaved by the red granite, and dip at an angle of 45° towards the Peuquenes line. I was astonished to find that this conglomerate was partly composed of pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of the Peuquenes range; and partly of red potash-granite, like that of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude, that both the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved and exposed to wear and tear, when the conglomerate was forming; but as the beds of the conglomerate have been thrown off at an angle of 45° by the red Portillo granite (with the underlying sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure, that the greater part of the injection and upheaval of the already partially formed Portillo line, took place after the accumulation of the conglomerate, and long after the elevation of the Peuquenes ridge. So that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this part of the Cordillera, is not so old as the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. Evidence derived from an inclined stream of lava at the eastern base of the Portillo, might be adduced to show, that it owes part of its great height to elevations of a still later date. Looking to its earliest origin, the red granite seems to have been injected on an ancient pre-existing line of white granite and mica-slate. In most parts, perhaps in all parts, of the Cordillera, it may be concluded that each line has been formed by repeated upheavals and injections; and that the several parallel lines are of different ages. Only thus can we gain time, at all sufficient to explain the truly astonishing amount of denudation, which these great, though comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains have suffered.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #122 on: February 09, 2009, 12:49:09 am »

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.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #123 on: February 09, 2009, 12:49:33 am »

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 of 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 [3] to blow steadily from the westward or Pacific side. As the observations have been chiefly made in summer, this wind must be an upper and return current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28°, in like manner falls within an upper return stream. At 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 22nd. -- After eating our potatoless breakfast, we travelled across the intermediate tract to the foot of the Portillo range. In the middle of summer cattle are brought up here to graze; but they had now all been removed: even the greater number of the Guanacos had decamped, knowing well that if overtaken here by a snow-storm, they would be caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of mountains called Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken snow, in the midst of which there was a blue patch, no doubt a glacier; -- a circumstance of rare occurrence in these 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, [4] which, as they were high and close together, made it difficult for the cargo mules to pass. On one of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was sticking as on a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in the air. The animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its head 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.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #124 on: February 09, 2009, 12:49:49 am »

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this elevation, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere, was very remarkable. Travelers having observed the difficulty of judging heights and distances amidst lofty mountains, have generally attributed it to the absence of objects of comparison. It appears to me, that it is fully as much owing to the transparency of the air confounding objects at different distances, and likewise partly to the novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little exertion, -- habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the senses. I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air gives a peculiar character to the landscape, all objects appearing to be brought nearly into one plane, as in a 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 23rd. -- The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side; in other words, the mountains rise more abruptly from the plains than from the alpine country of Chile. A level and brilliantly white sea of clouds was stretched out beneath our feet, shutting out the view of the equally level Pampas. We soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again emerge from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the animals and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, 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. [5]

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.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #125 on: February 09, 2009, 12:50:05 am »

March 24th. -- Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain on one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended view over the Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had always looked forward with interest, but I was disappointed: at the first glance it much resembled a distant view of the ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities were soon distinguishable. The most striking feature consisted in the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At midday we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where an officer and three soldiers were posted to examine passports. One of these men was a thoroughbred Pampas Indian: he was kept much for the same purpose as a bloodhound, to track out any person who might pass by secretly, either on foot or horseback. Some years ago, a passenger endeavoured to escape detection, by making a long circuit over a neighbouring mountain; but this Indian, having by chance crossed his track, followed it for the whole day over dry and very stony hills, till at last he came on his prey hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery clouds, which we had admired from the bright region above, had poured down torrents of 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 25th. -- I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, by seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an horizon level as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy dew fell, a circumstance which we did not experience within the Cordillera. The road 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 further north. To the eastward of this curved line lies the basin of the comparatively damp and green plains of Buenos Ayres. The sterile plains of Mendoza and Patagonia consist of a bed of shingle, worn smooth and accumulated by the waves of the sea while the Pampas, covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been formed by the ancient estuary mud of the Plata.

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to see in the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing round the village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we arrived at this place, we observed to the south a ragged cloud of 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 the 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 27th. -- 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.

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« Reply #126 on: February 09, 2009, 12:50:21 am »

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


March 29th. -- We set out on our return to Chile, by the Uspallata pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross a long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The soil in parts was absolutely bare, in others covered by numberless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, and called by the inhabitants "little lions." There were, also, a few low bushes. Although the plain is nearly three thousand feet above the sea, the sun was very powerful; and the heat as well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly parallel to the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them. Before sunset we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather bays, which open on the plain: this soon narrowed into a ravine, where a little higher up the house of Villa Vicencio is situated. As 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.

30th. -- The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name of Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who has crossed the Andes. I stayed here and at some neighbouring mines during the two succeeding days. The geology of the surrounding country is very curious. The Uspallata range is separated from the main Cordillera by a long narrow plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile, but higher, being six thousand feet above the sea. This range has nearly the same geographical position with respect to the Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo line has, but it is of a totally different origin: it consists of various kinds of submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and other remarkable sedimentary deposits; the whole having a very close resemblance to some of the tertiary beds on the shores of the Pacific. From this resemblance I expected to find silicified wood, which is generally characteristic of those formations. I was gratified in a very extraordinary manner. In the central part of the range, at an elevation of about seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope some snow-white projecting columns. These were petrified trees, eleven being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into coarsely-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were abruptly broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the ground. The trunks measured from three to five feet each in circumference. They stood a little way apart from each other, but the whole formed one group. Mr. 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 1st. -- We crossed the Upsallata range, and at night slept at the custom-house -- the only inhabited spot on the plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a very extraordinary view; red, purple, green, and quite white sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were broken up and thrown into all kinds of disorder by masses of 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.

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« Reply #127 on: February 09, 2009, 12:50:40 am »

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 dare say, in the spring, the "laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad; but from what I saw, I suspect the real danger is nothing. With cargo-mules the case is rather different, for the loads project so far, that the animals, occasionally running against each other, or against a point of rock, lose their balance, and are thrown down the precipices. In 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 lost.

April 4th. -- From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del Incas, half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the mules, and geology for me, we bivouacked here for the night. When one hears of a natural Bridge, one pictures to one's self some deep and narrow ravine, across which a bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch hollowed out like the vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Incas Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle cemented 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.

5th. -- We had a long day's ride across the central ridge, from the Incas Bridge to the Ojos del Agua, which are situated near the lowest casucha on the Chilian side. These casuchas are round little towers, with steps outside to reach the floor, which is raised some feet above the ground on account of the snow-drifts. They are eight in number, and under the Spanish government were kept during the winter well stored with food and charcoal, and each courier had a master-key. Now they only answer the purpose of caves, or rather dungeons. Seated on some little eminence, they are not, however, ill suited to the surrounding scene of desolation. The zigzag ascent of the Cumbre, or the partition of the waters, was very steep and tedious; its height, according to Mr. Pentland, is 12,454 feet. The road did not pass over any perpetual snow, although there were patches of it on both hands. The wind on the summit was exceedingly cold, but it was impossible not to stop for a few minutes to admire, again and again, the colour of the heavens, and the brilliant transparency of the atmosphere. The scenery was grand: to the westward there was a fine chaos of mountains, divided by profound ravines. Some snow generally falls before this period of the season, and it has even happened that the Cordillera have been finally closed by this time. But we were most fortunate. The sky, by night and by day, was cloudless, excepting a few round little masses of vapour, that floated over the highest pinnacles. I have often seen these islets in the sky, marking the position of the Cordillera, when the far-distant mountains have been hidden beneath the horizon.

April 6th. -- In the morning we found some thief had stolen one of our mules, and the bell of the madrina. We therefore rode only two or three miles down the valley, and stayed there the ensuing day in hopes of recovering the mule, which the arriero thought had been hidden in some ravine. The scenery in this part had assumed a Chilian character: the lower sides of the mountains, dotted over with the pale evergreen Quillay tree, and with the great chandelier-like cactus, are certainly more to be admired than the bare eastern valleys; but I cannot quite agree with the admiration expressed by some travellers. The extreme pleasure, I suspect, is chiefly owing to the prospect of a good fire and of a good supper, after escaping from the cold regions above: and I am sure I most heartily participated in these feelings.

8th. -- We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we had descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa del St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was 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.

Endnotes

[1] Scoresby's Arctic Regions, vol. i. p. 122.

[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 in the Welsh mountains. D'Orbigny (tom. i. p. 184), in explaining the cause of the various colours of the rivers in South America, remarks that those with blue or clear water have there source in the Cordillera, where the snow melts.

[3] Dr. Gillies in Journ. of Nat. and Geograph. Science, Aug., 1830. This author gives the heights of the Passes.

[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 (Journ. of Geograph. Soc., vol. v. p. 12) on the Neva. Mr. Lyell (Principles, vol. iv. p. 360) has compared the fissures by which the columnar structure seems to be determined, to the joints that traverse nearly all rocks, but which are best seen in the non-stratified masses. I may observe, that in the case of the frozen snow, the columnar structure must be owing to a "metamorphic" action, and not to a process during deposition.

[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.


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« Reply #128 on: February 09, 2009, 12:51:17 am »

Chapter XVI: Northern Chile and Peru

Coast-road to Coquimbo -- Great Loads carried by the Miners -- Coquimbo -- Earthquake -- Step-formed Terrace -- Absence of recent Deposits -- Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary Formations -- Excursion up the Valley -- Road to Guasco -- Deserts -- Valley of Copiapo -- Rain and Earthquakes -- Hydrophobia -- The Despoblado -- Indian Ruins -- Probable Change of Climate -- River-bed arched by an Earthquake -- Cold Gales of Wind -- Noises from a Hill -- Iquique -- Salt Alluvium -- Nitrate of Soda -- Lima -- Unhealthy Country -- Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake -- Recent Subsidence -- Elevated Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition -- Plain with embedded Shells and fragments of Pottery -- Antiquity of the Indian Race.


APRIL 27th. -- I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence through Guasco to Copiapo, where Captain Fitz Roy kindly offered to pick me up in the Beagle. The distance in a straight line along the shore northward is only 420 miles; but my mode of travelling made it a very long journey. I bought four horses and two mules, the latter carrying the luggage on alternate days. The six animals together only cost the value of twenty-five pounds sterling, and at Copiapo I sold them again for twenty-three. We travelled in the same independent manner as before, cooking our own meals, and sleeping in the open air. As we rode towards the Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view of Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a detour from the high road to the foot of the Bell of Quillota. We passed through an alluvial district rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of 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 all their habits, and consequently poor.

28th. -- 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 2nd. -- The road continued to follow the coast, at no great distance from the sea. The few trees and bushes which are common in central Chile decreased rapidly in numbers, and were replaced by a tall plant, something like a yucca in appearance. The surface of the country, on a small scale, was singularly broken and irregular; abrupt little peaks of rock rising out of small plains or basins. The indented coast and the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with 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.

3rd. -- Quilimari to Conchalee. The country became more and more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely sufficient water for any irrigation; and the intermediate land was quite bare, not supporting even goats. In the spring, after the winter showers, a thin pasture rapidly springs up, and cattle are then driven down from the Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious to observe how the seeds of the grass and other plants seem to accommodate themselves, as if by an acquired habit, to the quantity of rain which falls upon different parts of this coast. One shower far northward at Copiapo produces as great an effect on the vegetation, as two at Guasco, and three or four in this district. At Valparaiso a winter so dry as greatly to injure the pasture, would at Guasco produce the most unusual abundance. Proceeding northward, the quantity of rain does not appear to decrease in strict proportion to the latitude. At Conchalee, which is only 67 miles north of Valparaiso, rain is not expected till the end of May; whereas at 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.

4th. -- Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, we turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on each side, either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky 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 alfalfa, a kind of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race of men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on feast-days, there is no excess of extravagance into which they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon they can contrive to squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness: 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 geologize. The country was so thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often had difficulty in finding our way. On the 12th I stayed at some mines. The ore in this case was not considered particularly good, but from being abundant it was supposed the mine would sell for about thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is, 6000 or 8000 pounds sterling); yet it had been bought by one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (3l. 8s.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already remarked, before the arrival of the English, was not supposed to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits nearly as great as in the above instance, piles of cinders, abounding with minute globules of metallic copper, were purchased; yet with these advantages, the mining associations, as is well known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly of the greater number of the commissioners and shareholders amounted to infatuation; -- a thousand pounds per annum given in some cases to entertain the Chilian authorities; libraries of well-bound geological books; miners brought out for particular metals, as tin, which are not found in Chile; contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where there are no cows; machinery, where it could not possibly be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore witness to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital well employed in these mines would have yielded an immense return, a confidential man of business, a practical miner and assayer, would have been all that was required.

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« Reply #129 on: February 09, 2009, 12:51:32 am »

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.

14th. -- We reached Coquimbo, where we stayed a few days. The town is remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness. It is said to contain from 6000 to 8000 inhabitants. On the morning of the 17th it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about five hours. The farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast where the atmosphere is most humid, taking advantage of this shower, would break up the ground; after a second they would put the seed in; and if a third shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the spring. It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of moisture. Twelve hours afterwards the ground appeared as dry as ever; yet after an interval of ten days, all the hills were faintly tinged with green patches; the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full inch in length. Before this shower every part of the surface was bare as on a high road.

In the evening, Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with Mr. Edwards, an English resident well known for his hospitality by all who have visited Coquimbo, when a sharp earthquake happened. I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the ladies, the running of the servants, and the rush of several of the gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some of the women afterwards were crying with terror, and one gentleman said he should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this person had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he himself had only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, in 1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then happened: he was playing at cards, when a German, one of the party, got up, and said he would never sit in a room in these countries with the door shut, as owing to his having done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapo. Accordingly he opened the door; and no sooner had he done this, than he cried out, "Here it comes again!" and the famous shock commenced. The whole party escaped. The danger in an earthquake is not from the time lost in opening 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.

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« Reply #130 on: February 09, 2009, 12:51:45 am »

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 entombed were living, there has been a subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. It may naturally be asked, how it comes that, although no extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent period, nor of any period intermediate between it and the ancient tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either side of the continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary epoch, 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 21st. -- I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of Coquimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we reached by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards. I enjoyed my night's rest here from a reason which will not be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them; but they will not live here at the height of only three or four thousand feet: it can scarcely be the trifling diminution of 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 Copiapo, taking with him the profits of one share of a silver-mine, which amounted to about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt a copper-mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose great 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."

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« Reply #131 on: February 09, 2009, 12:51:57 am »

May 23rd. -- We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo, and followed it till we reached an Hacienda belonging to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the next day. I then rode one day's journey further, to see what were declared to be some petrified shells and beans, which latter turned out to be small quartz 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 Jose, to Coquimbo.

June 2nd. -- We set out for the valley of Guasco, following the coast-road, which was considered rather less desert than the other. Our first day's ride was to a solitary house, called Yerba Buena, where there was pasture for our horses. The shower mentioned as having fallen, a fortnight ago, only reached about half-way to Guasco; we had, therefore, in the first part of our journey a most faint tinge of green, which soon faded quite away. Even where brightest, it was scarcely sufficient to remind one of the fresh turf and budding flowers of the spring of other countries. While travelling through these deserts one feels like a prisoner shut up in a gloomy court, who longs to see something green and to smell a moist atmosphere.

June 3rd. -- 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 seashells. There was very little water, and that little saline: the whole country, from the coast to the Cordillera, is an uninhabited desert. I saw traces only of one living animal in abundance, namely, the shells of a Bulimus, which were collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest spots. In the spring one humble little plant sends out a few leaves, and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only very early in the morning, when the ground is slightly damp with dew, the Guascos believe that they are bred from it. I have observed in other places that extremely dry and sterile districts, where the soil is calcareous, are extraordinarily 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.

4th. -- Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also the valley of Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one between Guasco and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces so little pasture, that we could not purchase any for our horses. At Sauce we found a very civil old gentleman, superintendent of a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price an armful of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper after their long day's journey. Few smelting-furnaces are now at work in any part of Chile; it is found more profitable, on account of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from the Chilian method of reduction being so unskilful, to ship the ore for Swansea. The next day we crossed some mountains to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco. During each day's ride further northward, the vegetation became more and more scanty; even the great chandelier-like cactus was here 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.

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« Reply #132 on: February 09, 2009, 12:52:12 am »

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 realized. I was at Copiapo at the time; and there the people, with equal envy, talked of the abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years, perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole time, a rainy year generally follows; and this does more harm than even the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with gravel and sand the narrow strips of ground, which alone are fit for cultivation. The floods also injure the irrigating ditches. Great devastation had thus been caused three years ago.

June 8th. -- We rode on to Ballenar, which takes its name from Ballenagh in Ireland, the birthplace of the family of O'Higgins, who, under the Spanish government, were presidents and generals in Chile. As the rocky mountains on each hand were concealed by clouds, the terrace-like plains gave to the valley an appearance like that of Santa Cruz in Patagonia. After spending one day at Ballenar I set out, on the 10th, for the upper part of the valley of Copiapo. We rode all day over an uninteresting country. I am tired of repeating the epithets barren and sterile. These words, however, as commonly used, are comparative; I have always applied them to the plains of Patagonia, which can boast of spiny bushes and some tufts of grass; and this is absolute fertility, as compared with northern Chile. Here again, there are not many spaces of two hundred yards square, where some little bush, cactus or lichen, may not be discovered by careful examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant ready to spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru real deserts occur over wide tracts of country. In the evening we arrived at a valley, in which the bed of the streamlet was damp: following it up, we came to tolerably good water. During the night, the stream, from not being evaporated and absorbed so quickly, flows a league lower down than during the day. Sticks were plentiful for firewood, so that it was a good place to bivouac for us; but for the poor animals there was not a mouthful to eat.

June 11th. -- We rode without stopping for twelve hours till we reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was water and firewood; but our horses again had nothing to eat, being shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road was hilly, and the distant views interesting, from the varied colours of the bare mountains. It was almost a pity to see the sun shining constantly over so useless a country; such splendid weather ought to have brightened fields and pretty gardens. The next day we reached the valley of Copiapo. I was heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a 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, Copiapo was in a rapid state of decay; but now it is in a very thriving condition; and the town, which was completely overthrown by an earthquake, has been rebuilt.

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« Reply #133 on: February 09, 2009, 12:52:25 am »

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow islands, separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward of these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, which contains about two hundred souls; and then there extends the real desert of Atacama -- a barrier far worse than the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are received in almost every part of South America. The next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of 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 connection between earthquakes and the weather has been often disputed: it appears to me to be a point of great interest, which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part of the Personal Narrative, [1] that it would be difficult for any person who had long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower Peru, to deny that there exists some connection between these phenomena: in another part, however he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably followed by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of accidental coincidences becomes very small; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly convinced of some connection between the state of the atmosphere and of the trembling of the ground: I was much struck by this when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that there had been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they immediately cried out, "How fortunate! there will be plenty of pasture there this year." To their minds an earthquake foretold rain as surely as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did so 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 circumstances 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 connection between the atmospheric and subterranean regions.

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate silicified trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were extraordinarily 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.

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« Reply #134 on: February 09, 2009, 12:52:38 am »

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. Unanue 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. Unanue 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. [2] 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 Copiapo; but he soon became involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he could not escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and he had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from not knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that he was obliged to keep bordering the central ranges.

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached the town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, forming a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a considerable space of ground, each house possessing a 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 26th. -- 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 continent.

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