Atlantis Online
January 24, 2022, 07:06:58 am
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Comet theory collides with Clovis research, may explain disappearance of ancient people
http://uscnews.sc.edu/ARCH190.html
 
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

The Voyage Of The Beagle (1839)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 12 13 14   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: The Voyage Of The Beagle (1839)  (Read 1560 times)
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #90 on: February 09, 2009, 12:36:29 am »

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

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

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

Endnotes

[1] This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact, and of little specific gravity: Professor Ehrenberg has examined it: he states (Konig Akad. der Wissen: Berlin, Feb. 1845) that it is composed of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica, and four phytolitharia. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh-water; this is a beautiful example of the results obtainable through Professor Ehrenberg's microscopic researches; for Jemmy Button told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of mountain-brooks. It is, moreover, a striking fact that in the geographical distribution of the infusoria, which are well known to have very wide ranges, that all the species in this substance, although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra del Fuego, are old, known forms.

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

[3] Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in the Beagle, has been employed on the survey of the Falkland Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842?), that when in the western part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished by a native woman coming on board, who could talk some English. Without doubt this was Fuega Basket. She lived (I fear the term probably bears a double interpretation) some days on board.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #91 on: February 09, 2009, 12:37:08 am »

Chapter XI: Strait of Magellan. -- Climate of the Southern Coasts

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

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

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

The next morning a large party went on shore, to barter for skins and ostrich-feathers; fire-arms being refused, tobacco was in greatest request, far more so than axes or tools. The whole population of the toldos, men, women, and children, were arranged on a bank. It was an amusing scene, and it was impossible not to like the so-called giants, they were so thoroughly good-humoured and unsuspecting: they asked us to come again. They seem to like to have Europeans to live with them; and old Maria, an important woman in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one of his sailors with them. They spend the greater part of the year here; but in summer they hunt along the foot of the Cordillera: sometimes they travel as far as the Rio Negro 750 miles to the north. They are well stocked with horses, each man having, according to Mr. Low, six or seven, and all the women, and even children, their one own horse. In the time of Sarmiento (1580), these Indians had bows and arrows, now long since disused; they then also possessed some horses. This is a very curious fact, showing the extraordinarily rapid multiplication of horses in South America. The horse was first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, and the colony being then for a time deserted, the horse ran wild; [2] in 1580, only forty-three years afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low informs me, that a neighbouring tribe of foot-Indians is now changing into horse-Indians: the tribe at Gregory Bay giving them their worn-out horses, and sending in winter a few of their best skilled men to hunt for them.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #92 on: February 09, 2009, 12:37:28 am »

June 1st. -- We anchored in the fine bay of Port Famine. It was now the beginning of winter, and I never saw a more cheerless prospect; the dusky woods, piebald with snow, could be only seen indistinctly, through a drizzling hazy atmosphere. We were, however, lucky in getting two fine days. On one of these, Mount Sarmiento, a distant mountain 6800 feet high, presented a very noble spectacle. I was frequently surprised in the scenery of Tierra del Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains really lofty. I suspect it is owing to a cause which would not at first be imagined, namely, that the whole mass, from the summit to the water's edge, is generally in full view. I remember having seen a mountain, first from the Beagle Channel, where the whole sweep from the summit to the base was full in view, and then from Ponsonby Sound across several successive ridges; and it was curious to observe in the latter case, as each fresh ridge afforded fresh means of judging of the distance, how the mountain rose in height.

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

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

When the Beagle was here in the month of February, I started one morning at four o'clock to ascend Mount Tarn, which is 2600 feet high, and is the most elevated point in this immediate district. We went in a boat to the foot of the mountain (but unluckily not to the best part), and then began our ascent. The forest commences at the line of high- water mark, and during the first two hours I gave over all hopes of reaching the summit. So thick was the wood, that it was necessary to have constant recourse to the compass; for every landmark, though in a mountainous country, was completely shut out. In the deep ravines, the death-like scene of desolation exceeded all description; outside it was blowing a gale, but in these hollows, not even a breath of wind stirred the leaves of the tallest trees. So gloomy, cold, and wet was every part, that not even the fungi, mosses, or ferns could flourish. In the valleys it was scarcely possible to crawl along, they were so completely barricaded by great mouldering trunks, which had fallen down in every direction. When passing over these natural bridges, one's course was often arrested by sinking knee deep into the rotten wood; at other times, when attempting to lean against a firm tree, one was startled by finding a mass of decayed matter ready to fall at the slightest touch. We at last found ourselves among the stunted trees, and then soon reached the bare ridge, which conducted us to the summit. Here was a view characteristic of Tierra del Fuego; irregular chains of hills, mottled with patches of snow, deep yellowish-green valleys, and arms of the sea intersecting the land in many directions. The strong wind was piercingly cold, and the atmosphere rather hazy, so that we did not stay long on the top of the mountain. Our descent was not quite so laborious as our ascent, for the weight of the body forced a passage, and all the slips and falls were in the right direction.

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the evergreen forests, [3] in which two or three species of trees grow, to the exclusion of all others. Above the forest land, there are many dwarf alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to compose it: these plants are very remarkable from their close alliance with the species growing on the mountains of Europe, though so many thousand miles distant. The central part of Tierra del Fuego, where the clay-slate formation occurs, is most favourable to the growth of trees; on the outer coast the poorer granitic soil, and a situation more exposed to the violent winds, do not allow of their attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I have seen more large trees than anywhere else: I measured a Winter's Bark which was four feet six inches in girth, and several of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Captain King also mentions a beech which was seven feet in diameter, seventeen feet above the roots.

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globular, bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the beech-trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with

[picture]

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #93 on: February 09, 2009, 12:37:43 am »

a smooth surface; but when mature it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its entire surface deeply pitted or honey-combed, as represented in the accompanying wood-cut. This fungus belongs to a new and curious genus, [4] I found a second species on another species of beech in Chile: and Dr. **** informs me, that just lately a third species has been discovered on a third species of beech in Van Diernan's Land. How singular is this relationship between parasitical fungi and the trees on which they grow, in distant parts of the world! In Tierra del Fuego the fungus in its tough and mature state is collected in large quantities by the women and children, and is eaten un-cooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom. With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, the natives eat no vegetable food besides this fungus. In New Zealand, before the introduction of the potato, the roots of the fern were largely consumed; at the present time, I believe, Tierra del Fuego is the only country in the world where a cryptogamic plant affords a staple article of food.

The zoology of Tierra del Fuego, as might have been expected from the nature of its climate and vegetation, is very poor. Of mammalia, besides whales and seals, there is one bat, a kind of mouse (Reithrodon chinchilloides), two true mice, a ctenomys allied to or identical with the tucutuco, two foxes (Canis Magellanicus and C. Azarae), a sea-otter, the guanaco, and a deer. Most of these animals inhabit only the drier eastern parts of the country; and the deer has never been seen south of the Strait of Magellan. Observing the general correspondence of the cliffs of soft sandstone, mud, and shingle, on the opposite sides of the Strait, and on some intervening islands, one is strongly tempted to believe that the land was once joined, and thus allowed animals so delicate and helpless as the tucutuco and Reithrodon to pass over. The correspondence of the cliffs is far from proving any junction; because such cliffs generally are formed by the intersection of sloping deposits, which, before the elevation of the land, had been accumulated near the then existing shores. It is, however, a remarkable coincidence, that in the two large islands cut off by the Beagle Channel from the rest of Tierra del Fuego, one has cliffs composed of matter that may be called stratified alluvium, which front similar ones on the opposite side of the channel, -- while the other is exclusively bordered by old crystalline rocks: in the former, called Navarin Island, both foxes and guanacos occur; but in the latter, Hoste Island, although similar in every respect, and only separated by a channel a little more than half a mile wide, I have the word of Jemmy Button for saying that neither of these animals are found.

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

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

Beetles occur in very small numbers: it was long before I could believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered with vegetable productions and with a variety of stations, could be so unproductive. The few which I found were alpine species (Harpalidae and Heteromidae) living under stones. The vegetable-feeding Chrysomelidae, so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here almost entirely absent; [5] I saw very few flies, butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or Orthoptera. In the pools of water I found but a few aquatic beetles, and not any fresh-water shells: Succinea at first appears an exception; but here it must be called a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage far from the water. Land-shells could be procured only in the same alpine situations with the beetles. I have already contrasted the climate as well as the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego with that of Patagonia; and the difference is strongly exemplified in the entomology. I do not believe they have one species in common; certainly the general character of the insects is widely different.

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter as abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is poorly so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially protected shore perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater number of individual animals than any other station. There is one marine production which, from its importance, is worthy of a particular history. It is the kelp, or Macrocystis pyrifera. This plant grows on every rock from low-water mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast and within the channels. [6] I believe, during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, not one rock near the surface was discovered which was not buoyed by this floating weed. The good service it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy land is evident; and it certainly has saved many a one from being wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to see this plant growing and flourishing amidst those great breakers of the western ocean, which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom has a diameter of so much as an inch. A few taken together are sufficiently strong to support the weight of the large loose stones, to which in the inland channels they grow attached; and yet some of these stones were so heavy that when drawn to the surface, they could scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person. Captain Cook, in his second voyage, says, that this plant at Kerguelen Land rises from a greater depth than twenty-four fathoms; "and as it does not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a very acute angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that some of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards." I do not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length as three hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain Fitz Roy, moreover, found it growing [7] up from the greater depth of forty-five fathoms. The beds of this sea-weed, even when of not great breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It is quite curious to see, in an exposed harbour, how soon the waves from the open sea, as they travel through the straggling stems, sink in height, and pass into smooth water.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #94 on: February 09, 2009, 12:37:55 am »

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

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

June 9th. -- In the morning we were delighted by seeing the veil of mist gradually rise from Sarmiento, and display it to our view. This mountain, which is one of the highest in Tierra del Fuego, has an altitude of 6800 feet. Its base, for about an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky woods, and above this a field of snow extends to the summit. These vast piles of snow, which never melt, and seem destined to last as long as the world holds together, present a noble and even sublime spectacle. The outline of the mountain was admirably clear and defined. Owing to the abundance of light reflected from the white and glittering surface, no shadows were cast on any part; and those lines which intersected the sky could alone be distinguished: hence the mass stood out in the boldest relief. Several glaciers descended in a winding course from the upper great expanse of snow to the sea-coast: they may be likened to great frozen Niagaras; and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice are full as beautiful as the moving ones of water. By night we reached the western part of the channel; but the water was so deep that no anchorage could be found. We were in consequence obliged to stand off and on in this narrow arm of the sea, during a pitch-dark night of fourteen hours long.

June 10th. -- In the morning we made the best of our way into the open Pacific. The western coast generally consists of low, rounded, quite barren hills of granite and greenstone. Sir J. Narborough called one part South Desolation, because it is "so desolate a land to behold:" and well indeed might he say so. Outside the main islands, there are numberless scattered rocks on which the long swell of the open ocean incessantly rages. We passed out between the East and West Furies; and a little farther northward there are so many breakers that the sea is called the Milky Way. One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril, and death; and with this sight we bade farewell for ever to Tierra del Fuego.

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

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #95 on: February 09, 2009, 12:38:10 am »

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


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

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder in winter, and no less than 9.5° less hot in summer, than Dublin. According to von Buch, the mean temperature of July (not the hottest month in the year) at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as 57.8°, and this place is actually 13° nearer the pole than Port Famine! [8] Inhospitable as this climate appears to our feelings evergreen trees flourish luxuriantly under it. Humming-birds may be seen sucking the flowers, and parrots feeding on the seeds of the Winter's Bark, in lat. 55° S. I have already remarked to what a degree the sea swarms with living creatures; and the shells (such as the Patellae, Fissurellae, Chitons, and Barnacles), according to Mr. G. B. Sowerby, are of a much larger size and of a more vigorous growth, than the analogous species in the northern hemisphere. A large Voluta is abundant in southern Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At Bahia Blanca, in lat. 39° S., the most abundant shells were three species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volutas, and a Terebra. Now, these are amongst the best characterized tropical forms. It is doubtful whether even one small species of Oliva exists on the southern shores of Europe, and there are no species of the two other genera. If a geologist were to find in lat 39° on the coast of Portugal a bed containing numerous shells belonging to three species of Oliva, to a Voluta and Terebra, he would probably assert that the climate at the period of their existence must have been tropical; but judging from South America, such an inference might be erroneous.

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del Fuego extends, with only a small increase of heat, for many degrees along the west coast of the continent. The forests for 600 miles northward of Cape Horn, have a very similar aspect. As a proof of the equable climate, even for 300 or 400 miles still further northward, I may mention that in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the northern parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst strawberries and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of barley and wheat [9] are often brought into the houses to be dried and ripened. At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 40°, with Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are not common; olives seldom ripen even partially, and oranges not at all. These fruits, in corresponding latitudes in Europe, are well known to succeed to perfection; and even in this continent, at the Rio Negro, under nearly the same parallel with Valdivia, sweet potatoes (convolvulus) are cultivated; and grapes, figs, olives, oranges, water and musk melons, produce abundant fruit. Although the humid and equable climate of Chiloe, and of the coast northward and southward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native forests, from lat. 45 to 38°, almost rival in luxuriance those of the glowing intertropical regions. Stately trees of many kinds, with smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded by parasitical monocotyledonous plants; large and elegant ferns are numerous, and arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one entangled mass to the height of thirty or forty feet above the ground. Palm-trees grow in lat 37°; an arborescent grass, very like a bamboo, in 40°; and another closely allied kind, of great length, but not erect, flourishes even as far south as 45° S.

An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea compared with the land, seems to extend over the greater part of the southern hemisphere; and, as a consequence, the vegetation partakes of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive luxuriantly in Van Diemen's Land (lat. 45°), and I measured one trunk no less than six feet in circumference. An arborescent fern was found by Forster in New Zealand in 46°, where orchideous plants are parasitical on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns, according to Dr. Dieffenbach [10] have trunks so thick and high that they may be almost called tree-ferns; and in these islands, and even as far south as lat. 55° in the Macquarrie Islands, parrots abound.

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


                                Height in feet
Latitude                         of Snow-line    Observer
----------------------------------------------------------------
Equatorial region; mean result   15,748           Humboldt.
Bolivia, lat. 16 to 18° S.  17,000           Pentland.
Central Chile, lat. 33° S.  14,500 - 15,000  Gillies, and
                                                  the Author.
Chiloe, lat. 41 to 43° S.   6,000            Officers of the
                                                  Beagle and the
                                                  Author.
Tierra del Fuego, 54° S.    3,500 - 4,000    King.
Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #96 on: February 09, 2009, 12:38:29 am »

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to be determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than by the mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be surprised at its descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the summer is so cool, to only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the sea; although in Norway, we must travel to between lat. 67 and 70° N., that is, about 14° nearer the pole, to meet with perpetual snow at this low level. The difference in height, namely, about 9000 feet, between the snow-line on the Cordillera behind Chiloe (with its highest points ranging from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and in central Chile [11] (a distance of only 9° of latitude), is truly wonderful. The land from the southward of Chiloe to near Concepcion (lat. 37°) is hidden by one dense forest dripping with moisture. The sky is cloudy, and we have seen how badly the fruits of southern Europe succeed. In central Chile, on the other hand, a little northward of Concepcion, the sky is generally clear, rain does not fall for the seven summer months, and southern European fruits succeed admirably; and even the sugar-cane has been cultivated. [12] No doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts of the world, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, where the land ceases to be covered with forest-trees; for trees in South America indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded sky and little heat in summer.

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly depend (subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the upper region) on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow on steep mountains near the coast. As the snow-line is so low in Tierra del Fuego, we might have expected that many of the glaciers would have reached the sea. Nevertheless, I was astonished when I first saw a range, only from 3000 to 4000 feet in height, in the latitude of Cumberland, with every valley filled with streams of ice descending to the sea-coast. Almost every arm of the sea, which penetrates to the interior higher chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the coast for 650 miles northwards, is terminated by "tremendous and astonishing glaciers," as described by one of the officers on the survey. Great masses of ice frequently fall from these icy cliffs, and the crash reverberates like the broadside of a man-of-war through the lonely channels. These falls, as noticed in the last chapter, produce great waves which break on the adjoining coasts. It is known that earthquakes frequently cause masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs: how terrific, then, would be the effect of a severe shock (and such occur here [13]) on a body like a glacier, already in motion, and traversed by fissures! I can readily believe that the water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, and then, returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's Sound, in the latitude of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the loftiest neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. In this Sound, about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating outwards, and one of them must have been at least 168 feet in total height. Some of the icebergs were loaded with blocks of no inconsiderable size, of granite and other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. The glacier furthest from the pole, surveyed during the voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, is in lat. 46° 50', in the Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, and in one part 7 broad and descends to the sea-coast. But even a few miles northward of this glacier, in Laguna de San

[picture]

Rafael, some Spanish missionaries [14] encountered "many icebergs, some great, some small, and others middle-sized," in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22nd of the month corresponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding with that of the Lake of Geneva !

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the sea is met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, in lat. 67° Now, this is more than 20° of latitude, or 1230 miles, nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Rafael. The position of the glaciers at this place and in the Gulf of Penas may be put even in a more striking point of view, for they descend to the sea-coast within 7.5° of latitude, or 450 miles, of a harbour, where three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, are the commonest shells, within less than 9° from where palms grow, within 4.5° of a region where the jaguar and puma range over the plains, less than 2.5° from arborescent grasses, and (looking to the westward in the same hemisphere) less than 2° from orchideous parasites, and within a single degree of tree-ferns!

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the climate of the northern hemisphere at the period when boulders were transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of icebergs being charged with fragments of rock, explain the origin and position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego, on the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In Tierra del Fuego, the greater number of boulders lie on the lines of old sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the elevation of the land. They are associated with a great unstratified formation of mud and sand, containing rounded and angular fragments of all sizes, which has originated [15] in the repeated ploughing up of the sea-bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and by the matter transported on them. Few geologists now doubt that those erratic boulders which lie near lofty mountains have been pushed forward by the glaciers themselves, and that those distant from mountains, and embedded in subaqueous deposits, have been conveyed thither either on icebergs or frozen in coast-ice. The connection between the transportal of boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is strikingly shown by their geographical distribution over the earth. In South America they are not found further than 48° of latitude, measured from the southern pole; in North America it appears that the limit of their transportal extends to 53.5° from the northern pole; but in Europe to not more than 40° of latitude, measured from the same point. On the other hand, in the intertropical parts of America, Asia, and Africa, they have never been observed; nor at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in Australia. [16]

On the Climate and Productions of the Antarctic Islands. -- Considering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del Fuego, and on the coast northward of it, the condition of the islands south and south-west of America is truly surprising. Sandwich Land, in the latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook, during the hottest month of the year, "covered many fathoms thick with everlasting snow;" and there seems to be scarcely any vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the latitude of Yorkshire, "in the very height of summer, is in a manner wholly covered with frozen snow." It can boast only of moss, some tufts of grass, and wild burnet; it has only one land-bird (Anthus correndera), yet Iceland, which is 10° nearer the pole, has, according to Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. The South Shetland Islands, in the same latitude as the southern half of Norway, possess only some lichens, moss, and a little grass; and Lieut. Kendall [17] found the bay, in which he was at anchor, beginning to freeze at a period corresponding with our 8th of September. The soil here consists of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified; and at a little depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually congealed, for Lieut. Kendall found the body of a foreign sailor which had long been buried, with the flesh and all the features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fact, that on the two great continents in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken land of Europe between them ), we have the zone of perpetually frozen undersoil in a low latitude -- namely, in 56° in North America at the depth of three feet, [18] and in 62° in Siberia at the depth of twelve to fifteen feet -- as the result of a directly opposite condition of things to those of the southern hemisphere. On the northern continents, the winter is rendered excessively cold by the radiation from a large area of land into a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the warmth-bringing currents of the sea; the short summer, on the other hand, is hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not so excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded sky seldom allows the sun to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent of heat: and hence the mean temperature of the year, which regulates the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It is evident that a rank vegetation, which does not so much require heat as it does protection from intense cold, would approach much nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation under the equable climate of the southern hemisphere, than under the extreme climate of the northern continents.
Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #97 on: February 09, 2009, 12:38:48 am »

The case of the sailor's body perfectly preserved in the icy soil of the South Shetland Islands (lat. 62 to 63° S.), in a rather lower latitude than that (lat. 64° N.) under which Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very interesting. Although it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to show in a former chapter, to suppose that the larger quadrupeds require a luxuriant vegetation for their support, nevertheless it is important to find in the South Shetland Islands a frozen under-soil within 360 miles of the forest-clad islands near Cape Horn, where, as far as the bulk of vegetation is concerned, any number of great quadrupeds might be supported. The perfect preservation of the carcasses of the Siberian elephants and rhinoceroses is certainly one of the most wonderful facts in geology; but independently of the imagined difficulty of supplying them with food from the adjoining countries, the whole case is not, I think, so perplexing as it has generally been considered. The plains of Siberia, like those of the Pampas, appear to have been formed under the sea, into which rivers brought down the bodies of many animals; of the greater number of these, only the skeletons have been preserved, but of others the perfect carcass. Now, it is known that in the shallow sea on the Arctic coast of America the bottom freezes, [19] and does not thaw in spring so soon as the surface of the land, moreover at greater depths, where the bottom of the sea does not freeze the mud a few feet beneath the top layer might remain even in summer below 32°, as in the case on the land with the soil at the depth of a few feet. At still greater depths, the temperature of the mud and water would probably not be low enough to preserve the flesh; and hence, carcasses drifted beyond the shallow parts near an Arctic coast, would have only their skeletons preserved: now in the extreme northern parts of Siberia bones are infinitely numerous, so that even islets are said to be almost composed of them; [20] and those islets lie no less than ten degrees of latitude north of the place where Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand, a carcass washed by a flood into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea, would be preserved for an indefinite period, if it were soon afterwards covered with mud sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer-water penetrating to it; and if, when the sea-bottom was upraised into land, the covering was sufficiently thick to prevent the heat of the summer air and sun thawing and corrupting it.

Recapitulation. -- I will recapitulate the principal facts with regard to the climate, ice-action, and organic productions of the southern hemisphere, transposing the places in imagination to Europe, with which we are so much better acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the commonest sea-shells, namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, would have a tropical character. In the southern provinces of France, magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and with the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face of the land. The puma and the jaguar would haunt the Pyrenees. In the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as far westward as Central North America, tree-ferns and parasitical Orchideae would thrive amidst the thick woods. Even as far north as central Denmark, humming-birds would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods; and in the sea there, we should have a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous growth. Nevertheless, on some islands only 360 miles northward of our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried in the soil (or if washed into a shallow sea, and covered up with mud) would be preserved perpetually frozen. If some bold navigator attempted to penetrate northward of these islands, he would run a thousand dangers amidst gigantic icebergs, on some of which he would see great blocks of rock borne far away from their original site. Another island of large size in the latitude of southern Scotland, but twice as far to the west, would be "almost wholly covered with everlasting snow," and would have each bay terminated by ice-cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly detached: this island would boast only of a little moss, grass, and burnet, and a titlark would be its only land inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a chain of mountains, scarcely half the height of the Alps, would run in a straight line due southward; and on its western flank every deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in "bold and astonishing glaciers." These lonely channels would frequently reverberate with the falls of ice, and so often would great waves rush along their coasts; numerous icebergs, some as tall as cathedrals, and occasionally loaded with "no inconsiderable blocks of rock," would be stranded on the outlying islets; at intervals violent earthquakes would shoot prodigious masses of ice into the waters below. Lastly, some missionaries attempting to penetrate a long arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty surrounding mountains, sending down their many grand icy streams to the sea-coast, and their progress in the boats would be checked by the innumerable floating icebergs, some small and some great; and this would have occurred on our twenty- second of June, and where the Lake of Geneva is now spread out! [21]

Endnotes

[1] The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry. January 29th, being at anchor under Cape Gregory: a very hard gale from W. by S., clear sky with few cumuli; temperature 57°, dew-point 36°, -- difference 21° On January 15th, at Port St. Julian: in the morning, light winds with much rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain, -- settled into heavy gale with large cumuli, -- cleared up, blowing very strong from S.S.W. Temperature 60°, dew-point 42°, -- difference 18°

[2] Rengger, Natur. der Saeugethiere von Paraguay. S. 334.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[9] Agueros, Descrip. Hist. de la Prov. de Chiloe, 1791, p. 94.

[10] See the German Translation of this Journal; and for the other facts, Mr. Brown's Appendix to Flinders's Voyage.


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

[12] Miers's Chile, vol. i. p. 415. It is said that the sugar-cane grew at Ingenio, lat. 32 to 33°, but not in sufficient quantity to make the manufacture profitable. In the valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some large date palm trees.

[13] Bulkeley's and Cummin's Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager. The earthquake happened August 25, 1741.

[14] Agueros, Desc. Hist. de Chiloe, p. 227.

[15] Geological Transactions, vol. vi. p. 415.

[16] I have given details (the first, I believe, published) on this subject in the first edition, and in the Appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent exceptions to the absence of erratic boulders in certain countries, are due to erroneous observations; several statements there given I have since found confirmed by various authors.

[17] Geographical Journal, 1830, pp. 65, 66.

[18] Richardson's Append. to Back's Exped., and Humboldt's Fragm. Asiat., tom. ii. p. 386.

[19] Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in Geograph. Journ., vol. viii. pp. 218 and 220.

[20] Cuvier (Ossemens Fossiles, tom. i. p. 151), from Billing's Voyage.

[21] In the former edition and Appendix, I have given some facts on the transportal of erratic boulders and icebergs in the Atlantic Ocean. This subject has lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the Boston Journal (vol. iv. p. 426). The author does not appear aware of a case published by me (Geographical Journal, vol. ix. p. 528) of a gigantic boulder embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, almost certainly one hundred miles distant from any land, and perhaps much more distant. In the Appendix I have discussed at length the probability (at that time hardly thought of) of icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion; and I cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such cases as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me that the icebergs off North America push before them pebbles and sand, and leave the sub-marine rocky flats quite bare; it is hardly possible to doubt that such ledges must be polished and scored in the direction of the set of the prevailing currents. Since writing that Appendix, I have seen in North Wales (London Phil. Mag., vol. xxi. p. 180) the adjoining action of glaciers and floating icebergs.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #98 on: February 09, 2009, 12:39:49 am »

Chapter XII: Central Chile

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

JULY 23rd. -- The Beagle anchored late at night in the bay of Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chile. When morning came, everything appeared delightful. After Tierra del Fuego, the climate felt quite delicious -- the atmosphere so dry, and the heavens so clear and blue with the sun shining brightly, that all nature seemed sparkling with life. The view from the anchorage is very pretty. The town is built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 1600 feet high, and rather steep. From its position, it consists of one long, straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and wherever a ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. The rounded hills, being only partially protected by a very scanty vegetation, are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a singularly bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz in Teneriffe. In a north- westerly direction there are some fine glimpses of the Andes: but these mountains appear much grander when viewed from the neighbouring hills: the great distance at which they are situated can then more readily be perceived. The volcano of Aconcagua is particularly magnificent. This huge and irregularly conical mass has an elevation greater than that of Chimborazo; for, from measurements made by the officers in the Beagle, its height is no less than 23,000 feet. The Cordillera, however, viewed from this point, owe the greater part of their beauty to the atmosphere through which they are seen. When the sun was setting in the Pacific, it was admirable to watch how clearly their rugged outlines could be distinguished, yet how varied and how delicate were the shades of their colour.

I had the good fortune to find living here Mr. Richard Corfield, an old schoolfellow and friend, to whose hospitality and kindness I was greatly indebted, in having afforded me a most pleasant residence during the Beagle's stay in Chile. The immediate neighbourhood of Valparaiso is not very productive to the naturalist. During the long summer the wind blows steadily from the southward, and a little off shore, so that rain never falls; during the three winter months, however, it is sufficiently abundant. The vegetation in consequence is very scanty: except in some deep valleys, there are no trees, and only a little grass and a few low bushes are scattered over the less steep parts of the hills. When we reflect, that at the distance of 350 miles to the south, this side of the Andes is completely hidden by one impenetrable forest, the contrast is very remarkable. I took several long walks while collecting objects of natural history. The country is pleasant for exercise. There are many very beautiful flowers; and, as in most other dry climates, the plants and shrubs possess strong and peculiar odours -- even one's clothes by brushing through them became scented. I did not cease from wonder at finding each succeeding day as fine as the foregoing. What a difference does climate make in the enjoyment of life! How opposite are the sensations when viewing black mountains half enveloped in clouds, and seeing another range through the light blue haze of a fine day! The one for a time may be very sublime; the other is all gaiety and happy life.

August 14th. -- I set out on a riding excursion, for the purpose of geologizing the basal parts of the Andes, which alone at this time of the year are not shut up by the winter snow. Our first day's ride was northward along the seacoast. After dark we reached the Hacienda of Quintero, the estate which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. My object in coming here was to see the great beds of shells, which stand some yards above the level of the sea, and are burnt for lime. The proofs of the elevation of this whole line of coast are unequivocal: at the height of a few hundred feet old-looking shells are numerous, and I found some at 1300 feet. These shells either lie loose on the surface, or are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. I was much surprised to find under the microscope that this vegetable mould is really marine mud, full of minute particles of organic bodies.

15th. -- We returned towards the valley of Quillota. The country was exceedingly pleasant; just such as poets would call pastoral: green open lawns, separated by small valleys with rivulets, and the cottages, we may suppose of the shepherds scattered on the hill-sides. We were obliged to cross the ridge of the Chilicauquen. At its base there were many fine evergreen forest-trees, but these flourished only in the ravines, where there was running water. Any person who had seen only the country near Valparaiso, would never have imagined that there had been such picturesque spots in Chile. As soon as we reached the brow of the Sierra, the valley of Quillota was immediately under our feet. The prospect was one of remarkable artificial luxuriance. The valley is very broad and quite flat, and is thus easily irrigated in all parts. The little square gardens are crowded with orange and olive trees, and every sort of vegetable. On each side huge bare mountains rise, and this from the contrast renders the patchwork valley the more pleasing. Whoever called "Valparaiso" the "Valley of Paradise," must have been thinking of Quillota. We crossed over to the Hacienda de San Isidro, situated at the very foot of the Bell Mountain.

Chile, as may be seen in the maps, is a narrow strip of land between the Cordillera and the Pacific; and this strip is itself traversed by several mountain-lines, which in this part run parallel to the great range. Between these outer lines and the main Cordillera, a succession of level basins, generally opening into each other by narrow passages, extend far to the southward: in these, the principal towns are situated, as San Felipe, Santiago, San Fernando. These basins or plains, together with the transverse flat valleys (like that of Quillota) which connect them with the coast, I have no doubt are the bottoms of ancient inlets and deep bays, such as at the present day intersect every part of Tierra del Fuego and the western coast. Chile must formerly have resembled the latter country in the configuration of its land and water. The resemblance was occasionally shown strikingly when a level fog-bank covered, as with a mantle, all the lower parts of the country: the white vapour curling into the ravines, beautifully represented little coves and bays; and here and there a solitary hillock peeping up, showed that it had formerly stood there as an islet. The contrast of these flat valleys and basins with the irregular mountains, gave the scenery a character which to me was new and very interesting.

From the natural slope to seaward of these plains, they are very easily irrigated, and in consequence singularly fertile. Without this process the land would produce scarcely anything, for during the whole summer the sky is cloudless. The mountains and hills are dotted over with bushes and low trees, and excepting these the vegetation is very scanty. Each landowner in the valley possesses a certain portion of hill-country, where his half-wild cattle, in considerable numbers, manage to find sufficient pasture. Once every year there is a grand "rodeo," when all the cattle are driven down, counted, and marked, and a certain number separated to be fattened in the irrigated fields. Wheat is extensively cultivated, and a good deal of Indian corn: a kind of bean is, however, the staple article of food for the common labourers. The orchards produce an overflowing abundance of peaches figs, and grapes. With all these advantages, the inhabitants of the country ought to be much more prosperous than they are.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #99 on: February 09, 2009, 12:40:12 am »

16th. -- The mayor-domo of the Hacienda was good enough to give me a guide and fresh horses; and in the morning we set out to ascend the Campana, or Bell Mountain, which is 6400 feet high. The paths were very bad, but both the geology and scenery amply repaid the trouble. We reached by the evening, a spring called the Agua del Guanaco, which is situated at a great height. This must be an old name, for it is very many years since a guanaco drank its waters. During the ascent I noticed that nothing but bushes grew on the northern slope, whilst on the southern slope there was a bamboo about fifteen feet high. In a few places there were palms, and I was surprised to see one at an elevation of at least 4500 feet. These palms are, for their family, ugly trees. Their stem is very large, and of a curious form, being thicker in the middle than at the base or top. They are excessively numerous in some parts of Chile, and valuable on account of a sort of treacle made from the sap. On one estate near Petorca they tried to count them, but failed, after having numbered several hundred thousand. Every year in the early spring, in August, very many are cut down, and when the trunk is lying on the ground, the crown of leaves is lopped off. The sap then immediately begins to flow from the upper end, and continues so doing for some months: it is, however, necessary that a thin slice should be shaved off from that end every morning, so as to expose a fresh surface. A good tree will give ninety gallons, and all this must have been contained in the vessels of the apparently dry trunk. It is said that the sap flows much more quickly on those days when the sun is powerful; and likewise, that it is absolutely necessary to take care, in cutting down the tree, that it should fall with its head upwards on the side of the hill; for if it falls down the slope, scarcely any sap will flow; although in that case one would have thought that the action would have been aided, instead of checked, by the force of gravity. The sap is concentrated by boiling, and is then called treacle, which it very much resembles in taste.

We unsaddled our horses near the spring, and prepared to pass the night. The evening was fine, and the atmosphere so clear, that the masts of the vessels at anchor in the bay of Valparaiso, although no less than twenty-six geographical miles distant, could be distinguished clearly as little black streaks. A ship doubling the point under sail, appeared as a bright white speck. Anson expresses much surprise, in his voyage, at the distance at which his vessels were discovered from the coast; but he did not sufficiently allow for the height of the land, and the great transparency of the air.

The setting of the sun was glorious; the valleys being black whilst the snowy peaks of the Andes yet retained a ruby tint. When it was dark, we made a fire beneath a little arbour of bamboos, fried our charqui (or dried slips of beef), took our mate, and were quite comfortable. There is an inexpressible charm in thus living in the open air. The evening was calm and still; -- the shrill noise of the mountain bizcacha, and the faint cry of a goatsucker, were occasionally to be heard. Besides these, few birds, or even insects, frequent these dry, parched mountains.

August 17th. -- In the morning we climbed up the rough mass of greenstone which crowns the summit. This rock, as frequently happens, was much shattered and broken into huge angular fragments. I observed, however, one remarkable circumstance, namely, that many of the surfaces presented every degree of freshness some appearing as if broken the day before, whilst on others lichens had either just become, or had long grown, attached. I so fully believed that this was owing to the frequent earthquakes, that I felt inclined to hurry from below each loose pile. As one might very easily be deceived in a fact of this kind, I doubted its accuracy, until ascending Mount Wellington, in Van Diemen's Land, where earthquakes do not occur; and there I saw the summit of the mountain similarly composed and similarly shattered, but all the blocks appeared as if they had been hurled into their present position thousands of years ago.

We spent the day on the summit, and I never enjoyed one more thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and the Pacific, was seen as in a map. The pleasure from the scenery, in itself beautiful, was heightened by the many reflections which arose from the mere view of the Campana range with its lesser parallel ones, and of the broad valley of Quillota directly intersecting them. Who can avoid wondering at the force which has upheaved these mountains, and even more so at the countless ages which it must have required to have broken through, removed, and levelled whole masses of them? It is well in this case to call to mind the vast shingle and sedimentary beds of Patagonia, which, if heaped on the Cordillera, would increase its height by so many thousand feet. When in that country, I wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such masses, and not have been utterly obliterated. We must not now reverse the wonder, and doubt whether all-powerful time can grind down mountains -- even the gigantic Cordillera -- into-gravel and mud.

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

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #100 on: February 09, 2009, 12:40:28 am »

Almost every part of the hill had been drilled by attempts to open gold-mines: the rage for mining has left scarcely a spot in Chile unexamined. I spent the evening as before, talking round the fire with my two companions. The Guasos of Chile, who correspond to the Gauchos of the Pampas, are, however, a very different set of beings. Chile is the more civilized of the two countries, and the inhabitants, in consequence, have lost much individual character. Gradations in rank are much more strongly marked: the Guaso does not by any means consider every man his equal; and I was quite surprised to find that my companions did not like to eat at the same time with myself. This feeling of inequality is a necessary consequence of the existence of an aristocracy of wealth. It is said that some few of the greater landowners possess from five to ten thousand pounds sterling per annum: an inequality of riches which I believe is not met with in any of the cattle-breeding countries eastward of the Andes. A traveller does not here meet that unbounded hospitality which refuses all payment, but yet is so kindly offered that no scruples can be raised in accepting it. Almost every house in Chile will receive you for the night, but a trifle is expected to be given in the morning; even a rich man will accept two or three shillings. The Gaucho, although he may be a cutthroat, is a gentleman; the Guaso is in few respects better, but at the same time a vulgar, ordinary fellow. The two men, although employed much in the same manner, are different in their habits and attire; and the peculiarities of each are universal in their respective countries. The Gaucho seems part of his horse, and scorns to exert himself except when on his back: the Guaso may be hired to work as a labourer in the fields. The former lives entirely on animal food; the latter almost wholly on vegetable. We do not here see the white boots, the broad drawers and scarlet chilipa; the picturesque costume of the Pampas. Here, common trousers are protected by black and green worsted leggings. The poncho, however, is common to both. The chief pride of the Guaso lies in his spurs, which are absurdly large. I measured one which was six inches in the diameter of the rowel, and the rowel itself contained upwards of thirty points. The stirrups are on the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block of wood, hollowed out, yet weighing three or four pounds. The Guaso is perhaps more expert with the lazo than the Gaucho; but, from the nature of the country, he does not know the use of the bolas.

August 18th. -- We descended the mountain, and passed some beautiful little spots, with rivulets and fine trees. Having slept at the same hacienda as before, we rode during the two succeeding days up the valley, and passed through Quillota, which is more like a collection of nursery-gardens than a town. The orchards were beautiful, presenting one mass of peach-blossoms. I saw, also, in one or two places the date-palm; it is a most stately tree; and I should think a group of them in their native Asiatic or African deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe, a pretty straggling town like Quillota. The valley in this part expands into one of those great bays or plains, reaching to the foot of the Cordillera, which have been mentioned as forming so curious a part of the scenery of Chile. In the evening we reached the mines of Jajuel, situated in a ravine at the flank of the great chain. I stayed here five days. My host the superintendent of the mine, was a shrewd but rather ignorant Cornish miner. He had married a Spanish woman, and did not mean to return home; but his admiration for the mines of Cornwall remained unbounded. Amongst many other questions, he asked me, "Now that George Rex is dead, how many more of the family of Rexes are yet alive?" This Rex certainly must be a relation of the great author Finis, who wrote all books!

These mines are of copper, and the ore is all shipped to Swansea, to be smelted. Hence the mines have an aspect singularly quiet, as compared to those in England: here no smoke, furnaces, or great steam-engines, disturb the solitude of the surrounding mountains.

The Chilian government, or rather the old Spanish law, encourages by every method the searching for mines. The discoverer may work a mine on any ground, by paying five shillings; and before paying this he may try, even in the garden of another man, for twenty days.

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

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

During my stay here I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling about these huge mountains. The geology, as might have been expected, was very interesting. The shattered and baked rocks, traversed by innumerable dykes of greenstone, showed what commotions had formerly taken place. The scenery was much the same as that near the Bell of Quillota -- dry barren mountains, dotted at intervals by bushes with a scanty foliage. The cactuses, or rather opuntias were here very numerous. I measured one of a spherical figure, which, including the spines, was six feet and four inches in circumference. The height of the common cylindrical, branching kind, is from twelve to fifteen feet, and the girth (with spines) of the branches between three and four feet.

A heavy fall of snow on the mountains prevented me during the last two days, from making some interesting excursions. I attempted to reach a lake which the inhabitants, from some unaccountable reason, believe to be an arm of the sea. During a very dry season, it was proposed to attempt cutting a channel from it for the sake of the water, but the padre, after a consultation, declared it was too dangerous, as all Chile would be inundated, if, as generally supposed, the lake was connected with the Pacific. We ascended to a great height, but becoming involved in the snow-drifts failed in reaching this wonderful lake, and had some difficulty in returning. I thought we should have lost our horses; for there was no means of guessing how deep the drifts were, and the animals, when led, could only move by jumping. The black sky showed that a fresh snowstorm was gathering, and we therefore were not a little glad when we escaped. By the time we reached the base the storm commenced, and it was lucky for us that this did not happen three hours earlier in the day.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #101 on: February 09, 2009, 12:40:47 am »

August 26th. -- We left Jajuel and again crossed the basin of San Felipe. The day was truly Chilian: glaringly bright, and the atmosphere quite clear. The thick and uniform covering of newly fallen snow rendered the view of the volcano of Aconcagua and the main chain quite glorious. We were now on the road to Santiago, the capital of Chile. We crossed the Cerro del Talguen, and slept at a little rancho. The host, talking about the state of Chile as compared to other countries, was very humble: "Some see with two eyes, and some with one, but for my part I do not think that Chile sees with any."

August 27th. -- After crossing many low hills we descended into the small land-locked plain of Guitron. In the basins, such as this one, which are elevated from one thousand to two thousand feet above the sea, two species of acacia, which are stunted in their forms, and stand wide apart from each other, grow in large numbers. These trees are never found near the sea-coast; and this gives another characteristic feature to the scenery of these basins. We crossed a low ridge which separates Guitron from the great plain on which Santiago stands. The view was here pre-eminently striking: the dead level surface, covered in parts by woods of acacia, and with the city in the distance, abutting horizontally against the base of the Andes, whose snowy peaks were bright with the evening sun. At the first glance of this view, it was quite evident that the plain represented the extent of a former inland sea. As soon as we gained the level road we pushed our horses into a gallop, and reached the city before it was dark.

I stayed a week in Santiago, and enjoyed myself very much. In the morning I rode to various places on the plain, and in the evening dined with several of the English merchants, whose hospitality at this place is well known. A never-failing source of pleasure was to ascend the little hillock of rock (St. Lucia) which projects in the middle of the city. The scenery certainly is most striking, and, as I have said, very peculiar. I am informed that this same character is common to the cities on the great Mexican platform. Of the town I have nothing to say in detail: it is not so fine or so large as Buenos Ayres, but is built after the same model. I arrived here by a circuit to the north; so I resolved to return to Valparaiso by a rather longer excursion to the south of the direct road.

September 5th. -- By the middle of the day we arrived at one of the suspension bridges, made of hide, which cross the Maypu, a large turbulent river a few leagues southward of Santiago. These bridges are very poor affairs. The road, following the curvature of the suspending ropes, is made of bundles of sticks placed close together. It was full of holes, and oscillated rather fearfully, even with the weight of a man leading his horse. In the evening we reached a comfortable farm-house, where there were several very pretty senoritas. They were much horrified at my having entered one of their churches out of mere curiosity. They asked me, "Why do you not become a Christian -- for our religion is certain?" I assured them I was a sort of Christian; but they would not hear of it -- appealing to my own words, "Do not your padres, your very bishops, marry?" The absurdity of a bishop having a wife particularly struck them: they scarcely knew whether to be most amused or horror-struck at such an enormity.

6th. -- We proceeded due south, and slept at Rancagua. The road passed over the level but narrow plain, bounded on one side by lofty hills, and on the other by the Cordillera. The next day we turned up the valley of the Rio Cachapual, in which the hot-baths of Cauquenes, long celebrated for their medicinal properties, are situated. The suspension bridges, in the less frequented parts, are generally taken down during the winter when the rivers are low. Such was the case in this valley, and we were therefore obliged to cross the stream on horseback. This is rather disagreeable, for the foaming water, though not deep, rushes so quickly over the bed of large rounded stones, that one's head becomes quite confused, and it is difficult even to perceive whether the horse is moving onward or standing still. In summer, when the snow melts, the torrents are quite impassable; their strength and fury are then extremely great, as might be plainly seen by the marks which they had left. We reached the baths in the evening, and stayed there five days, being confined the two last by heavy rain. The buildings consist of a square of miserable little hovels, each with a single table and bench. They are situated in a narrow deep valley just without the central Cordillera. It is a quiet, solitary spot, with a good deal of wild beauty.

The mineral springs of Cauquenes burst forth on a line of dislocation, crossing a mass of stratified rock, the whole of which betrays the action of heat. A considerable quantity of gas is continually escaping from the same orifices with the water. Though the springs are only a few yards apart, they have very different temperature; and this appears to be the result of an unequal mixture of cold water: for those with the lowest temperature have scarcely any mineral taste. After the great earthquake of 1822 the springs ceased, and the water did not return for nearly a year. They were also much affected by the earthquake of 1835; the temperature being suddenly changed from 118 to 92° [1] It seems probable that mineral waters rising deep from the bowels of the earth, would always be more deranged by subterranean disturbances than those nearer the surface. The man who had charge of the baths assured me that in summer the water is hotter and more plentiful than in winter. The former circumstance I should have expected, from the less mixture, during the dry season, of cold water; but the latter statement appears very strange and contradictory. The periodical increase during the summer, when rain never falls, can, I think, only be accounted for by the melting of the snow: yet the mountains which are covered by snow during that season, are three or four leagues distant from the springs. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of my informer, who, having lived on the spot for several years, ought to be well acquainted with the circumstance, -- which, if true, certainly is very curious: for we must suppose that the snow-water, being conducted through porous strata to the regions of heat, is again thrown up to the surface by the line of dislocated and injected rocks at Cauquenes; and the regularity of the phenomenon would seem to indicate that in this district heated rock occurred at a depth not very great.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #102 on: February 09, 2009, 12:41:01 am »

One day I rode up the valley to the farthest inhabited spot. Shortly above that point, the Cachapual divides into two deep tremendous ravines, which penetrate directly into the great range. I scrambled up a peaked mountain, probably more than six thousand feet high. Here, as indeed everywhere else, scenes of the highest interest presented themselves. It was by one of these ravines, that Pincheira entered Chile and ravaged the neighbouring country. This is the same man whose attack on an estancia at the Rio Negro I have described. He was a renegade half-caste Spaniard, who collected a great body of Indians together and established himself by a stream in the Pampas, which place none of the forces sent after him could ever discover. From this point he used to sally forth, and crossing the Cordillera by passes hitherto unattempted, he ravaged the farm-houses and drove the cattle to his secret rendezvous. Pincheira was a capital horseman, and he made all around him equally good, for he invariably shot any one who hesitated to follow him. It was against this man, and other wandering Indian tribes, that Rosas waged the war of extermination.

September 13th. -- We left the baths of Cauquenes, and, rejoining the main road, slept at the Rio Clara. From this place we rode to the town of San Fernando. Before arriving there, the last land-locked basin had expanded into a great plain, which extended so far to the south, that the snowy summits of the more distant Andes were seen as if above the horizon of the sea. San Fernando is forty leagues from Santiago; and it was my farthest point southward; for we here turned at right angles towards the coast. We slept at the gold-mines of Yaquil, which are worked by Mr. Nixon, an American gentleman, to whose kindness I was much indebted during the four days I stayed at his house. The next morning we rode to the mines, which are situated at the distance of some leagues, near the summit of a lofty hill. On the way we had a glimpse of the lake Tagua-tagua, celebrated for its floating islands, which have been described by M. Gay. [2] They are composed of the stalks of various dead plants intertwined together, and on the surface of which other living ones take root. Their form is generally circular, and their thickness from four to six feet, of which the greater part is immersed in the water. As the wind blows, they pass from one side of the lake to the other, and often carry cattle and horses as passengers.

When we arrived at the mine, I was struck by the pale appearance of many of the men, and inquired from Mr. Nixon respecting their condition. The mine is 450 feet deep, and each man brings up about 200 pounds weight of stone. With this load they have to climb up the alternate notches cut in the trunks of trees, placed in a zigzag line up the shaft. Even beardless young men, eighteen and twenty years old, with little muscular development of their bodies (they are quite naked excepting drawers) ascend with this great load from nearly the same depth. A strong man, who is not accustomed to this labour, perspires most profusely, with merely carrying up his own body. With this very severe labour, they live entirely on boiled beans and bread. They would prefer having bread alone; but their masters, finding that they cannot work so hard upon this, treat them like horses, and make them eat the beans. Their pay is here rather more than at the mines of Jajuel, being from 24 to 28 shillings per month. They leave the mine only once in three weeks; when they stay with their families for two days. One of the rules of this mine sounds very harsh, but answers pretty well for the master. The only method of stealing gold is to secrete pieces of the ore, and take them out as occasion may offer. Whenever the major-domo finds a lump thus hidden, its full value is stopped out of the wages of all the men; who thus, without they all combine, are obliged to keep watch over each other.

When the ore is brought to the mill, it is ground into an impalpable powder; the process of washing removes all the lighter particles, and amalgamation finally secures the gold-dust. The washing, when described, sounds a very simple process; but it is beautiful to see how the exact adaptation of the current of water to the specific gravity of the gold, so easily separates the powdered matrix from the metal. The mud which passes from the mills is collected into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is cleared out, and thrown into a common heap. A great deal of chemical action then commences, salts of various kinds effloresce on the surface, and the mass becomes hard. After having been left for a year or two, and then rewashed, it yields gold; and this process may be repeated even six or seven times; but the gold each time becomes less in quantity, and the intervals required (as the inhabitants say, to generate the metal) are longer. There can be no doubt that the chemical action, already mentioned, each time liberates fresh gold from some combination. The discovery of a method to effect this before the first grinding would without doubt raise the value of gold-ores many fold.

It is curious to find how the minute particles of gold, being scattered about and not corroding, at last accumulate in some quantity. A short time since a few miners, being out of work, obtained permission to scrape the ground round the house and mills; they washed the earth thus got together, and so procured thirty dollars' worth of gold. This is an exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which they contain. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole mountains have passed through this grinding mill, and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #103 on: February 09, 2009, 12:41:21 am »

Bad as the above treatment of the miners appears, it is gladly accepted of by them; for the condition of the labouring agriculturists is much worse. Their wages are lower, and they live almost exclusively on beans. This poverty must be chiefly owing to the feudal-like system on which the land is tilled: the landowner gives a small plot of ground to the labourer for building on and cultivating, and in return has his services (or those of a proxy) for every day of his life, without any wages. Until a father has a grown-up son, who can by his labour pay the rent, there is no one, except on occasional days, to take care of his own patch of ground. Hence extreme poverty is very common among the labouring classes in this country.

There are some old Indian ruins in this neighbourhood, and I was shown one of the perforated stones, which Molina mentions as being found in many places in considerable numbers. They are of a circular flattened form, from five to six inches in diameter, with a hole passing quite through the centre. It has generally been supposed that they were used as heads to clubs, although their form does not appear at all well adapted for that purpose. Burchell [3] states that some of the tribes in Southern Africa dig up roots by the aid of a stick pointed at one end, the force and weight of which are increased by a round stone with a hole in it, into which the other end is firmly wedged. It appears probable that the Indians of Chile formerly used some such rude agricultural instrument.

One day, a German collector in natural history, of the name of Renous, called, and nearly at the same time an old Spanish lawyer. I was amused at being told the conversation which took place between them. Renous speaks Spanish so well, that the old lawyer mistook him for a Chilian. Renous alluding to me, asked him what he thought of the King of England sending out a collector to their country, to pick up lizards and beetles, and to break stones? The old gentleman thought seriously for some time, and then said, "It is not well, -- hay un gato encerrado aqui (there is a cat shut up here). No man is so rich as to send out people to pick up such rubbish. I do not like it: if one of us were to go and do such things in England, do not you think the King of England would very soon send us out of his country?" And this old gentleman, from his profession, belongs to the better informed and more intelligent classes! Renous himself, two or three years before, left in a house at San Fernando some caterpillars, under charge of a girl to feed, that they might turn into butterflies. This was rumoured through the town, and at last the padres and governor consulted together, and agreed it must be some heresy. Accordingly, when Renous returned, he was arrested.

September 19th. -- We left Yaquil, and followed the flat valley, formed like that of Quillota, in which the Rio Tinderidica flows. Even at these few miles south of Santiago the climate is much damper; in consequence there are fine tracts of pasturage, which are not irrigated. (20th.) We l followed this valley till it expanded into a great plain, which reaches from the sea to the mountains west of Rancagua. We shortly lost all trees and even bushes; so that the inhabitants are nearly as badly off for firewood as those in the Pampas. Never having heard of these plains, I was much surprised at meeting with such scenery in Chile. The plains belong to more than one series of different elevations, and they are traversed by broad flat-bottomed valleys; both of which circumstances, as in Patagonia, bespeak the action of the sea on gently rising land. In the steep cliffs bordering these valleys, there are some large caves, which no doubt were originally formed by the waves: one of these is celebrated under the name of Cueva del Obispo; having formerly been consecrated. During the day I felt very unwell, and from that time till the end of October did not recover.

September 22nd. -- We continued to pass over green plains without a tree. The next day we arrived at a house near Navedad, on the sea-coast, where a rich Haciendero gave us lodgings. I stayed here the two ensuing days, and although very unwell, managed to collect from the tertiary formation some marine shells.

24th. -- Our course was now directed towards Valparaiso, which with great difficulty I reached on the 27th, and was there confined to my bed till the end of October. During this time I was an inmate in Mr. Corfield's house, whose kindness to me I do not know how to express.


I will here add a few observations on some of the animals and birds of Chile. The Puma, or South American Lion, is not uncommon. This animal has a wide geographical range; being found from the equatorial forests, throughout the deserts of Patagonia as far south as the damp and cold latitudes (53 to 54°) of Tierra del Fuego. I have seen its footsteps in the Cordillera of central Chile, at an elevation of at least 10,000 feet. In La Plata the puma preys chiefly on deer, ostriches, bizcacha, and other small quadrupeds; it there seldom attacks cattle or horses, and most rarely man. In Chile, however, it destroys many young horses and cattle, owing probably to the scarcity of other quadrupeds: I heard, likewise, of two men and a woman who had been thus killed. It is asserted that the puma always kills its prey by springing on the shoulders, and then drawing back the head with one of its paws, until the vertebrae break: I have seen in Patagonia the skeletons of guanacos, with their necks thus dislocated.

Report Spam   Logged
Deanna Witmer
Superhero Member
******
Posts: 4985



« Reply #104 on: February 09, 2009, 12:41:48 am »

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

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

The second species (or P. albicollis) is allied to the first in its general form. It is called Tapacolo, or "cover your posterior;" and well does the shameless little bird deserve its name; for it carries its tail more than erect, that is, inclined backwards towards its head. It is very common, and frequents the bottoms of hedge-rows, and the bushes scattered over the barren hills, where scarcely another bird can exist. In its general manner of feeding, of quickly hopping out of the thickets and back again, in its desire of concealment, unwillingness to take flight, and nidification, it bears a close resemblance to the Turco; but its appearance is not quite so ridiculous. The Tapacolo is very crafty: when frightened by any person, it will remain motionless at the bottom of a bush, and will then, after a little while, try with much address to crawl away on the opposite side. It is also an active bird, and continually making a noise: these noises are various and strangely odd; some are like the cooing of doves, others like the bubbling of water, and many defy all similes. The country people say it changes its cry five times in the year -- according to some change of season, I suppose. [4]

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

Endnotes

[1] Caldeleugh, in Philosoph. Transact. for 1836.

[2] Annales des Sciences Naturelles, March, 1833. M. Gay, a zealous and able naturalist, was then occupied in studying every branch of natural history throughout the kingdom of Chile.

[3] Burchess's Travels, vol. ii. p. 45.

[4] It is a remarkable fact, that Molina, though describing in detail all the birds and animals of Chile, never once mentions this genus, the species of which are so common, and so remarkable in their habits. Was he at a loss how to classify them, and did he consequently think that silence was the more prudent course? It is one more instance of the frequency of omissions by authors, on those very subjects where it might have been least expected.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Report Spam   Logged
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 12 13 14   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy