The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Henry Walter Bates

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The Naturalist on the River Amazons

by Henry Walter Bates


Author of "The Origin of Species," etc.

From Natural History Review, vol. iii. 1863.

IN April, 1848, the author of the present volume left England in
company with Mr. A. R. Wallace--"who has since acquired wide fame
in connection with the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection"--on
a joint expedition up the river Amazons, for the purpose of
investigating the Natural History of the vast wood-region
traversed by that mighty river and its numerous tributaries. Mr.
Wallace returned to England after four years' stay, and was, we
believe, unlucky enough to lose the greater part of his
collections by the shipwreck of the vessel in which he had
transmitted them to London. Mr. Bates prolonged his residence in
the Amazon valley seven years after Mr. Wallace's departure, and
did not revisit his native country again until 1859. Mr. Bates
was also more fortunate than his companion in bringing his
gathered treasures home to England in safety. So great, indeed,
was the mass of specimens accumulated by Mr. Bates during his
eleven years' researches, that upon the working out of his
collection, which has been accomplished (or is now in course of
being accomplished) by different scientific naturalists in this
country, it has been ascertained that representatives of no less
than 14,712 species are amongst them, of which about 8000 were
previously unknown to science. It may be remarked that by far the
greater portion of these species, namely, about 14,000, belong to
the class of Insects--to the study of which Mr. Bates principally
devoted his attention--being, as is well known, himself
recognised as no mean authority as regards this class of organic
beings. In his present volume, however, Mr. Bates does not
confine himself to his entomological discoveries, nor to any
other branch of Natural History, but supplies a general outline
of his adventures during his journeyings up and down the mighty
river, and a variety of information concerning every object of
interest, whether physical or political, that he met with by the

Mr. Bates landed at Para in May, 1848. His first part is entirely
taken up with an account of the Lower Amazons--that is, the river
from its sources up to the city of Manaos or Barra do Rio Negro,
where it is joined by the large northern confluent of that name--
and with a narrative of his residence at Para and his various
excursions in the neighbourhood of that city. The large
collection made by Mr. Bates of the animal productions of Para
enabled him to arrive at the following conclusions regarding the
relations of the Fauna of the south side of the Amazonian delta
with those of other regions.

"It is generally allowed that Guiana and Brazil, to the north and
south of the Para district, form two distinct provinces, as
regards their animal and vegetable inhabitants. By this it means
that the two regions have a very large number of forms peculiar
to themselves, and which are supposed not to have been derived
from other quarters during modern geological times. Each may be
considered as a centre of distribution in the latest process of
dissemination of species over the surface of tropical America.
Para lies midway between the two centres, each of which has a
nucleus of elevated table-land, whilst the intermediate river-
valley forms a wide extent of low-lying country. It is,
therefore, interesting to ascertain from which the latter
received its population, or whether it contains so large a number
of endemic species as would warrant the conclusion that it is
itself an independent province. To assist in deciding such
questions as these, we must compare closely the species found in
the district with those of the other contiguous regions, and
endeavour to ascertain whether they are identical, or only
slightly modified, or whether they are highly peculiar.

"Von Martius when he visited this part of Brazil forty years ago,
coming from the south, was much struck with the dissimilarity of
the animal and vegetable productions to those of other parts of
Brazil. In fact the Fauna of Para, and the lower part of the
Amazons has no close relationship with that of Brazil proper; but
it has a very great affinity with that of the coast region of
Guiana, from Cayenne to Demerara. If we may judge from the
results afforded by the study of certain families of insects, no
peculiar Brazilian forms are found in the Para district; whilst
more than one-half of the total number are essentially Guiana
species, being found nowhere else but in Guiana and Amazonia.
Many of them, however, are modified from the Guiana type, and
about one-seventh seem to be restricted to Para. These endemic
species are not highly peculiar, and they may yet be found over a
great part of Northern Brazil when the country is better
explored. They do not warrant us in concluding that the district
forms an independent province, although they show that its Fauna
is not wholly derivative, and that the land is probably not
entirely a new formation. From all these facts, I think we must
conclude that the Para district belongs to the Guiana province
and that, if it is newer land than Guiana, it must have received
the great bulk of its animal population from that region. I am
informed by Dr. Sclater that similar results are derivable from
the comparison of the birds of these countries."

One of the most interesting excursions made by Mr. Bates from
Para was the ascent of the river Tocantins--the mouth of which
lies about 4-5 miles from the city of Para. This was twice
attempted. On the second occasion--our author being in company
with Mr. Wallace--the travellers penetrated as far as the rapids
of Arroyos, about 130 miles from its mouth. This district is one
of the chief collecting-grounds of the well-known Brazil-nut
(Bertholletia excelsa), which is here very plentiful, grove after
grove of these splendid trees being visible, towering above their
fellows, with the "woody fruits, large and round as cannon-balls,
dotted over the branches." The Hyacinthine Macaw (Ara
hyacinthina) is another natural wonder, first met with here. This
splendid bird, which is occasionally brought alive to the
Zoological Gardens of Europe, "only occurs in the interior of
Brazil, from 16' S.L. to the southern border of the Amazon
valley." Its enormous beak--which must strike even the most
unobservant with wonder--appears to be adapted to enable it to
feed on the nuts of the Mucuja Palm (Acrocomia lasiospatha).
"These nuts, which are so hard as to be difficult to break with a
heavy hammer, are crushed to a pulp by the powerful beak of this

Mr. Bates' later part is mainly devoted to his residence at
Santarem, at the junction of the Rio Tapajos with the main
stream, and to his account of Upper Amazon, or Solimoens--the
Fauna of which is, as we shall presently see, in many respects
very different from that of the lower part of the river. At
Santarem--"the most important and most civilised settlement on
the Amazon, between the Atlantic and Para "--Mr. Bates made his
headquarters for three years and a half, during which time
several excursions up the little-known Tapajos were effected.
Some 70 miles up the stream, on its affluent, the Cupari, a new
Fauna, for the most part very distinct from that of the lower
part of the same stream, was entered upon. "At the same time a
considerable proportion of the Cupari species were identical with
those of Ega, on the Upper Amazon, a district eight times further
removed than the village just mentioned." Mr. Bates was more
successful here than on his excursion up the Tocantins, and
obtained twenty new species of fishes, and many new and
conspicuous insects, apparently peculiar to this part of the
Amazonian valley.

In a later chapter Mr. Bates commences his account of the
Solimoens, or Upper Amazons, on the banks of which he passed four
years and a half. The country is a "magnificent wilderness, where
civilised man has, as yet, scarcely obtained a footing-the
cultivated ground, from the Rio Negro to the Andes, amounting
only to a few score acres." During the whole of this time Mr.
Bates' headquarters were at Ega, on the Teffe, a confluent of the
great river from the south, whence excursions were made sometimes
for 300 or 400 miles into the interior. In the intervals Mr.
Bates followed his pursuit as a collecting naturalist in the same
"peaceful, regular way," as he might have done in a European
village. Our author draws a most striking picture of the quiet,
secluded life he led in this far-distant spot. The difficulty of
getting news and the want of intellectual society were the great
drawbacks--"the latter increasing until it became almost
insupportable." "I was obliged at last," Mr. Bates naively
remarks, "to come to the conclusion that the contemplation of
Nature, alone is not sufficient to fill the human heart and
mind." Mr. Bates must indeed have been driven to great straits as
regards his mental food, when, as he tell us, he took to reading
the Athenaeum three times over, "the first time devouring the
more interesting articles--the second, the whole of the
remainder--and the third, reading all the advertisements from
beginning to end."

Ega was, indeed, as Mr. Bates remarks, a fine field for a Natural
History collector, the only previous scientific visitants to that
region having been the German Naturalists, Spix and Martius, and
the Count de Castelnau when he descended the Amazons from the
Pacific. Mr. Bates' account of the monkeys of the genera
Brachyuyus, Nyctipithecus and Midas met with in this region, and
the whole of the very pregnant remarks which follow on the
American forms of the Quadrumana, will be read with interest by
every one, particularly by those who pay attention to the
important subject of geographical distribution. We need hardly
say that Mr. Bates, after the attention he has bestowed upon this
question, is a zealous advocate of the hypothesis of the origin
of species by derivation from a common stock. After giving an
outline of the general distribution of Monkeys, he clearly argues
that unless the "common origin at least of the species of a
family be admitted, the problem of their distribution must remain
an inexplicable mystery." Mr. Bates evidently thoroughly
understands the nature of this interesting problem, and in
another passage, in which the very singular distribution of the
Butterflies of the genus Heliconius is enlarged upon, concludes
with the following significant remarks upon this important

"In the controversy which is being waged amongst Naturalists
since the publication of the Darwinian theory of the origin of
species, it has been rightly said that no proof at present
existed of the production of a physiological species, that is, a
form which will not interbreed with the one from which it was
derived, although given ample opportunities of doing so, and does
not exhibit signs of reverting to its parent form when placed
under the same conditions with it. Morphological species, that
is, forms which differ to an amount that would justify their
being considered good species, have been produced in plenty
through selection by man out of variations arising under
domestication or cultivation. The facts just given are therefore
of some scientific importance, for they tend to show that a
physiological species can be and is produced in nature out of the
varieties of a pre-existing closely allied one. This is not an
isolated case, for I observed in the course of my travels a
number of similar instances. But in very few has it happened that
the species which clearly appears to be the parent, co-exists
with one that has been evidently derived from it. Generally the
supposed parent also seems to have been modified, and then the
demonstration is not so clear, for some of the links in the chain
of variation are wanting. The process of origination of a species
in nature as it takes place successively, must be ever, perhaps,
beyond man's power to trace, on account of the great lapse of
time it requires. But we can obtain a fair view of it by tracing
a variable and far-spreading species over the wide area of its
present distribution; and a long observation of such will lead to
the conclusion that new species must in all cases have arisen out
of variable and widely-disseminated forms. It sometimes happens,
as in the present instance, that we find in one locality a
species under a certain form which is constant to all the
individuals concerned; in another exhibiting numerous varieties;
and in a third presenting itself as a constant form quite
distinct from the one we set out with. If we meet with any two of
these modifications living side by side, and maintaining their
distinctive characters under such circumstances, the proof of the
natural origination of a species is complete; it could not be
much more so were we able to watch the process step by step. It
might be objected that the difference between our two species is
but slight, and that by classing them as varieties nothing
further would be proved by them. But the differences between them
are such as obtain between allied species generally. Large genera
are composed in great part of such species, and it is interesting
to show the great and beautiful diversity within a large genus as
brought about by the working of laws within our comprehension."

But to return to the Zoological wonders of the Upper Amazon,
birds, insects, and butterflies are all spoken of by Mr. Bates in
his chapter on the natural features of the district, and it is
evident that none of these classes of beings escaped the
observation of his watchful intelligence. The account of the
foraging ants of the genus Eciton is certainly marvellous, and
would, even of itself, be sufficient to stamp the recorder of
their habits as a man of no ordinary mark.

The last chapter of Mr. Bates' work contains the account of his
excursions beyond Ega. Fonteboa, Tunantins--a small semi-Indian
settlement, 240 miles up the stream--and San Paulo de Olivenca,
some miles higher up, were the principal places visited, and new
acquisitions were gathered at each of these localities. In the
fourth month of Mr. Bates' residence at the last-named place, a
severe attack of ague led to the abandonment of the plans he had
formed of proceeding to the Peruvian towns of Pebas and
Moyobamba, and "so completing the examination of the Natural
History of the Amazonian plains up to the foot of the Andes."
This attack, which seemed to be the culmination of a gradual
deterioration of health, caused by eleven years' hard work under
the tropics, induced him to return to Ega, and finally to Para,
where he embarked, on the 2nd June 1859, for England. Naturally
enough, Mr. Bates tells us he was at first a little dismayed at
leaving the equator, "where the well-balanced forces of Nature
maintain a land-surface and a climate typical of mind, and order
and beauty," to sail towards the "crepuscular skies" of the cold
north. But he consoles us by adding the remark that "three years'
renewed experience of England" have convinced him "how
incomparably superior is civilised life to the spiritual
sterility of half-savage existence, even if it were passed in the
Garden of Eden."

The following is the list of H. W. Bates' published works:

Contributions to an insect Fauna of the Amazon Valley, Paper read
before the Linnean Society, June 21, 1861; The Naturalist on the
Amazons, a Record of Adventure, Habits of Animals, Sketches of
Brazilian and Indian Life . . . during Eleven Years of Travel,
1863; 3rd Edition, 1873, with a Memoir of the author by E. Clodd
to reprint of unabridged edition, 1892.

Bates was for many years the editor of the Transactions of the
Royal Geographical Society; the following works were edited and
revised, or supplemented by him:--Mrs. Somerville's Physical
Geography, 1870; A. Humbert, Japan and the Japanese, 1874; C.
Koldewey, the German Arctic Expedition, 1874; P. E. Warburton,
Journey across the Western Interior of Australia, 1875; Cassell's
Illustrated Travels, 6 vols., 1869-1875; E. Whymper, Travels
among the Great Andes of the Equator (Introduction to Appendix
volume), 1892, etc.; Central America, the West Indies and South
America; Stanford's Compendium of Geography and Travel, 2nd
revised Ed., 1882; he also added a list of Coleoptera collected
by J. S. Jameson on the Aruwini to the latter's Story of the Rear
Column of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition, etc., 1890; and an
appendix to a catalogue of Phytophaga by H. Clark, 1866, etc.;
and contributed a biographical notice of Keith Johnson to J.
Thomson's Central African Lakes and Back, 1881.

He contributed largely to the Zoologist, Entomological Society's
journal, Annals and Magazine of Natural History, and

LIFE--Memoir by E. Clodd, 1892; short notice in Clodd's Pioneers
of Evolution, 1897.


HAVING been urged to prepare a new edition of this work for a
wider circle than that contemplated in the former one, I have
thought it advisable to condense those portions which, treating
of abstruse scientific questions, presuppose a larger amount of
Natural History knowledge than an author has a right to expect of
the general reader. The personal narrative has been left entire,
together with those descriptive details likely to interest all
classes, young and old, relating to the great river itself, and
the wonderful country through which it flows,--the luxuriant
primaeval forests that clothe almost every part of it, the
climate, productions, and inhabitants.

Signs are not wanting that this fertile, but scantily peopled
region will soon become, through recent efforts of the Peruvian
and Brazilian governments to make it accessible and colonise it,
of far higher importance to the nations of Northern Europe than
it has been hitherto. The full significance of the title, the
"largest river in the world," which we are all taught in our
schoolboy days to apply to the Amazons, without having a distinct
idea of its magnitude, will then become apparent to the English
public. It will be new to most people, that this noble stream has
recently been navigated by steamers to a distance of 2200
geographical miles from its mouth at Para, or double the distance
which vessels are able to reach on the Yang-tze-Kiang, the
largest river of the old world; the depth of water in the dry
season being about seven fathoms up to this terminus of
navigation. It is not, however, the length of the trunk stream,
that has earned for the Amazons the appellation of the
"Mediterranean of South America," given it by the Brazilians of
Para; but the network of by-channels and lakes, which everywhere
accompanies its course at a distance from the banks, and which
adds many thousands of miles of easy inland navigation to the
total presented by the main river and its tributaries. The
Peruvians, especially, if I may judge from letters received
within the past few weeks, seem to be stirring themselves to
grasp the advantages which the possession of the upper course of
the river places within their reach. Vessels of heavy tonnage
have arrived in Para, from England, with materials for the
formation of shipbuilding establishments, at a point situated two
thousand miles from the mouth of the river. Peruvian steamers
have navigated from the Andes to the Atlantic, and a quantity of
cotton (now exported for the first time), the product of the rich
and healthy country bordering the Upper Amazons, has been
conveyed by this means, and shipped from Para to Europe. The
probability of general curiosity in England being excited before
long with regard to this hitherto neglected country, will be
considered, of itself, a sufficient reason for placing an account
of its natural features and present condition within reach of all

LONDON, January, 1864.



Arrival--Aspect of the Country--The Para River--First Walk in the
Suburbs of Para--Birds, Lizards, and Insects of the Suburbs--
Leaf-carrying Ant--Sketch of the Climate, History, and present
Condition of Para.

I embarked at Liverpool, with Mr. Wallace, in a small trading
vessel, on the 26th of April, 1848; and, after a swift passage
from the Irish Channel to the equator, arrived, on the 26th of
May, off Salinas. This is the pilot-station for vessels bound to
Para, the only port of entry to the vast region watered by the
Amazons. It is a small village, formerly a missionary settlement
of the Jesuits, situated a few miles to the eastward of the Para
River. Here the ship anchored in the open sea at a distance of
six miles from the shore, the shallowness of the water far out
around the mouth of the great river not permitting, in safety, a
nearer approach; and, the signal was hoisted for a pilot.

It was with deep interest that my companion and myself, both now
about to see and examine the beauties of a tropical country for
the first time, gazed on the land where I, at least, eventually
spent eleven of the best years of my life. To the eastward the
country was not remarkable in appearance, being slightly
undulating, with bare sandhills and scattered trees; but to the
westward, stretching towards the mouth of the river, we could see
through the captain's glass a long line of forest, rising
apparently out of the water; a densely-packed mass of tall trees,
broken into groups, and finally into single trees, as it dwindled
away in the distance. This was the frontier, in this direction,
of the great primaeval forest characteristic of this region,
which contains so many wonders in its recesses, and clothes the
whole surface of the country for two thousand miles from this
point to the foot of the Andes.

On the following day and night we sailed, with a light wind,
partly aided by the tide, up the Para river. Towards evening we
passed Vigia and Colares, two fishing villages, and saw many
native canoes, which seemed like toys beneath the lofty walls of
dark forest. The air was excessively close, the sky overcast, and
sheet lightning played almost incessantly around the horizon-- an
appropriate greeting on the threshold of a country lying close
under the equator! The evening was calm, this being the season
when the winds are not strong, so we glided along in a noiseless
manner, which contrasted pleasantly with the unceasing turmoil to
which we had been lately accustomed on the Atlantic. The
immensity of the river struck us greatly, for although sailing
sometimes at a distance of eight or nine miles from the eastern
bank, the opposite shore was at no time visible. Indeed, the Para
river is thirty-six miles in breadth at its mouth; and at the
city of Para, nearly seventy miles from the sea, it is twenty
miles wide; but at that point, a series of islands commences
which contracts the riverview in front of the port.

On the morning of the 28th of May, we arrived at our destination.
The appearance of the city at sunrise was pleasing in the highest
degree. It is built on a low tract of land, having only one small
rocky elevation at its southern extremity; it, therefore, affords
no amphitheatral view from the river; but the white buildings
roofed with red tiles, the numerous towers and cupolas of
churches and convents, the crowns of palm trees reared above the
buildings, all sharply defined against the clear blue sky, give
an appearance of lightness and cheerfulness which is most
exhilarating. The perpetual forest hems the city in on all sides
landwards; and towards the suburbs, picturesque country houses
are seen scattered about, half buried in luxuriant foliage. The
port was full of native canoes and other vessels, large and
small; and the ringing of bells and firing of rockets, announcing
the dawn of some Roman Catholic festival day, showed that the
population was astir at that early hour.

We went ashore in due time, and were kindly received by Mr.
Miller, the consignee of the vessel, who invited us to make his
house our home until we could obtain a suitable residence. On
landing, the hot moist mouldy air, which seemed to strike from
the ground and walls, reminded me of the atmosphere of tropical
stoves at Kew. In the course of the afternoon a heavy shower
fell, and in the evening, the atmosphere having been cooled by
the rain, we walked about a mile out of town to the residence of
an American gentleman to whom our host wished to introduce us.

The impressions received during this first walk can never wholly
fade from my mind. After traversing the few streets of tall,
gloomy, convent-looking buildings near the port, inhabited
chiefly by merchants and shopkeepers, along which idle soldiers,
dressed in shabby uniforms carrying their muskets carelessly over
their arms, priests, negresses with red water-jars on their
heads, sad-looking Indian women carrying their naked children
astride on their hips, and other samples of the motley life of
the place, we passed down a long narrow street leading to the
suburbs. Beyond this, our road lay across a grassy common into a
picturesque lane leading to the virgin forest. The long street
was inhabited by the poorer class of the population. The houses
were of one story only, and had an irregular and mean appearance.
The windows were without glass, having, instead, projecting
lattice casements. The street was unpaved, and inches deep in
loose sand. Groups of people were cooling themselves outside
their doors-- people of all shades in colour of skin, European,
Negro and Indian, but chiefly an uncertain mixture of the three.
Amongst them were several handsome women dressed in a slovenly
manner, barefoot or shod in loose slippers, but wearing richly-
decorated earrings, and around their necks strings of very large
gold beads. They had dark expressive eyes, and remarkably rich
heads of hair. It was a mere fancy, but I thought the mingled
squalor, luxuriance and beauty of these women were pointedly in
harmony with the rest of the scene-- so striking, in the view,
was the mixture of natural riches and human poverty. The houses
were mostly in a dilapidated condition, and signs of indolence
and neglect were visible everywhere. The wooden palings which
surrounded the weed-grown gardens were strewn about and broken;
hogs, goats, and ill-fed poultry wandered in and out through the

But amidst all, and compensating every defect, rose the
overpowering beauty of the vegetation. The massive dark crowns of
shady mangos were seen everywhere amongst the dwellings, amidst
fragrant blossoming orange, lemon, and many other tropical fruit
trees, some in flower, others in fruit, at varying stages of
ripeness. Here and there, shooting above the more dome-like and
sombre trees, were the smooth columnar stems of palms, bearing
aloft their magnificent crowns of finely-cut fronds. Amongst the
latter the slim assai-palm was especially noticeable, growing in
groups of four or five; its smooth, gently-curving stem, twenty
to thirty feet high, terminating in a head of feathery foliage,
inexpressibly light and elegant in outline. On the boughs of the
taller and more ordinary-looking trees sat tufts of curiously-
leaved parasites. Slender, woody lianas hung in festoons from the
branches, or were suspended in the form of cords and ribbons;
whilst luxuriant creeping plants overran alike tree-trunks, roofs
and walls, or toppled over palings in a copious profusion of
foliage. The superb banana (Musa paradisiaca), of which I had
always read as forming one of the charms of tropical vegetation,
grew here with great luxuriance-- its glossy velvety-green
leaves, twelve feet in length, curving over the roofs of
verandahs in the rear of every house. The shape of the leaves,
the varying shades of green which they present when lightly moved
by the wind, and especially the contrast they afford in colour
and form to the more sombre hues and more rounded outline of the
other trees, are quite sufficient to account for the charm of
this glorious tree.

Strange forms of vegetation drew our attention at almost every
step. Amongst them were the different kinds of Bromelia, or
pineapple plants, with their long, rigid, sword-shaped leaves, in
some species jagged or toothed along their edges. Then there was
the bread-fruit tree--an importation, it is true; but remarkable
from its large, glossy, dark green, strongly digitated foliage,
and its interesting history. Many other trees and plants, curious
in leaf, stem, or manner of growth, grew on the borders of the
thickets along which lay our road; they were all attractive to
newcomers, whose last country ramble of quite recent date was
over the bleak moors of Derbyshire on a sleety morning in April.

As we continued our walk the brief twilight commenced, and the
sounds of multifarious life came from the vegetation around. The
whirring of cicadas; the shrill stridulation of a vast number and
variety of field crickets and grasshoppers, each species sounding
its peculiar note; the plaintive hooting of tree frogs--all
blended together in one continuous ringing sound--the audible
expression of the teeming profusion of Nature. As night came on,
many species of frogs and toads in the marshy places joined in
the chorus-- their croaking and drumming, far louder than
anything I had before heard in the same line, being added to the
other noises, created an almost deafening din. This uproar of
life, I afterwards found, never wholly ceased, night or day. In
the course of time I became, like other residents, accustomed to
it. It is, however, one of the peculiarities of a tropical--at
least, a Brazilian--climate which is most likely to surprise a
stranger. After my return to England, the deathlike stillness of
summer days in the country appeared to me as strange as the
ringing uproar did on my first arrival at Para. The object of our
visit being accomplished, we returned to the city. The fire-flies
were then out in great numbers, flitting about the sombre woods,
and even the frequented streets. We turned into our hammocks,
well pleased with what we had seen, and full of anticipation with
regard to the wealth of natural objects we had come to explore.

During the first few days, we were employed in landing our
baggage and arranging our extensive apparatus. We then accepted
the invitation of Mr. Miller to make use of his rocinha, or
country-house in the suburbs, until we finally decided on a
residence. Upon this, we made our first essay in housekeeping. We
bought cotton hammocks, the universal substitute for beds in this
country, cooking utensils and crockery, and engaged a free negro,
named Isidoro, as cook and servant-of-all-work.

Our first walks were in the immediate suburbs of Para. The city
lies on a corner of land formed by the junction of the river
Guama with the Para. As I have said before, the forest, which
covers the whole country, extends close up to the city streets;
indeed, the town is built on a tract of cleared land, and is kept
free from the jungle only by the constant care of the Government.
The surface, though everywhere low, is slightly undulating, so
that areas of dry land alternate throughout with areas of swampy
ground, the vegetation and animal tenants of the two being widely
different. Our residence lay on the side of the city nearest the
Guama, on the borders of one of the low and swampy areas which
here extends over a portion of the suburbs. The tract of land is
intersected by well-macadamised suburban roads, the chief of
which, the Estrada das Mongubeiras (the Monguba road), about a
mile long, is a magnificent avenue of silk-cotton trees (Bombax
monguba and B. ceiba), huge trees whose trunks taper rapidly from
the ground upwards, and whose flowers before opening look like
red balls studding the branches. This fine road was constructed
under the governorship of the Count dos Arcos, about the year
1812. At right angles to it run a number of narrow green lanes,
and the whole district is drained by a system of small canals or
trenches through which the tide ebbs and flows, showing the
lowness of the site.

Before I left the country, other enterprising presidents had
formed a number of avenues lined with cocoanut palms, almond and
other trees, in continuation of the Monguba road, over the more
elevated and drier ground to the north-east of the city. On the
high ground the vegetation has an aspect quite different from
that which it presents in the swampy parts. Indeed, with the
exception of the palm trees, the suburbs here have an aspect like
that of a village green at home. The soil is sandy, and the open
commons are covered with a short grassy and shrubby vegetation.
Beyond this, the land again descends to a marshy tract, where, at
the bottom of the moist hollows, the public wells are situated.
Here all the linen of the city is washed by hosts of noisy
negresses, and here also the water-carts are filled--painted
hogsheads on wheels, drawn by bullocks. In early morning, when
the sun sometimes shines through a light mist, and everything is
dripping with moisture, this part of the city is full of life;
vociferous negroes and wrangling Gallegos, [Natives of Galicia,
in Spain, who follow this occupation in Lisbon and Oporto, as
well as at Para] the proprietors of the water-carts, are gathered
about, jabbering continually, and taking their morning drams in
dirty wineshops at the street corners.

Along these beautiful roads we found much to interest us during
the first few days. Suburbs of towns, and open, sunny cultivated
places in Brazil, are tenanted by species of animals and plants
which are mostly different from those of the dense primaeval
forests. I will, therefore, give an account of what we observed
of the animal world during our explorations in the immediate
neighbourhood of Para.

The number and beauty of the birds and insects did not at first
equal our expectations. The majority of the birds we saw were
small and obscurely coloured; they were indeed similar, in
general appearance, to such as are met with in country places in
England. Occasionally a flock of small parroquets, green, with a
patch of yellow on the forehead, would come at early morning to
the trees near the Estrada. They would feed quietly, sometimes
chattering in subdued tones, but setting up a harsh scream, and
flying off, on being disturbed. Hummingbirds we did not see at
this time, although I afterwards found them by hundreds when
certain trees were in flower. Vultures we only saw at a distance,
sweeping round at a great height, over the public slaughter-
houses. Several flycatchers, finches, ant-thrushes, a tribe of
plainly-coloured birds, intermediate in structure between
flycatchers and thrushes, some of which startle the new-comer by
their extraordinary notes emitted from their places of
concealment in the dense thickets; and also tanagers, and other
small birds, inhabited the neighbourhood. None of these had a
pleasing song, except a little brown wren (Troglodytes furvus),
whose voice and melody resemble those of our English robin. It is
often seen hopping and climbing about the walls and roofs of
houses and on trees in their vicinity. Its song is more
frequently heard in the rainy season, when the Monguba trees shed
their leaves. At those times the Estrada das Mongubeiras has an
appearance quite unusual in a tropical country. The tree is one
of the few in the Amazon region which sheds all its foliage
before any of the new leaf-buds expand. The naked branches, the
sodden ground matted with dead leaves, the grey mist veiling the
surrounding vegetation, and the cool atmosphere soon after
sunrise, all combine to remind one of autumnal mornings in
England. Whilst loitering about at such times in a half-oblivious
mood, thinking of home, the song of this bird would create for
the moment a perfect illusion. Numbers of tanagers frequented the
fruit and other trees in our garden. The two principal kinds
which attracted our attention were the Rhamphoccelus Jacapa and
the Tanagra Episcopus. The females of both are dull in colour,
but the male of Jacapa has a beautiful velvety purple and black
plumage, the beak being partly white, whilst the same sex in
Episcopus is of a pale blue colour, with white spots on the
wings. In their habits they both resemble the common house-
sparrow of Europe, which does not exist in South America, its
place being in some measure filled by these familiar tanagers.
They are just as lively, restless, bold, and wary; their notes
are very similar, chirping and inharmonious, and they seem to be
almost as fond of the neighbourhood of man. They do not, however,
build their nests on houses.

Another interesting and common bird was the Japim, a species of
Cassicus ( C. icteronotus). It belongs to the same family of
birds as our starling, magpie, and rook--it has a rich yellow and
black plumage, remarkably compact and velvety in texture. The
shape of its head and its physiognomy are very similar to those
of the magpie; it has light grey eyes, which give it the same
knowing expression. It is social in its habits, and builds its
nest, like the English rook, on trees in the neighbourhood of
habitations. But the nests are quite differently constructed,
being shaped like purses, two feet in length, and suspended from
the slender branches all around the tree, some of them very near
the ground. The entrance is on the side near the bottom of the
nest. The bird is a great favourite with the Brazilians of Para--
it is a noisy, stirring, babbling creature, passing constantly to
and fro, chattering to its comrades, and is very ready at
imitating other birds, especially the domestic poultry of the
vicinity. There was at one time a weekly newspaper published at
Para, called "The Japim"; the name being chosen, I suppose, on
account of the babbling propensities of the bird. Its eggs are
nearly round, and of a bluish-white colour, speckled with brown.

Of other vertebrate animals we saw very little, except of the
lizards. These are sure to attract the attention of the newcomer
from Northern Europe, by reason of their strange appearance,
great numbers, and variety. The species which are seen crawling
over the walls of buildings in the city are different from those
found in the forest or in the interior of houses. They are
unpleasant-looking animals, with colours assimilated to those of
the dilapidated stone and mud walls on which they are seen. The
house lizards belong to a peculiar family, the Geckos, and are
found even in the best-kept chambers, most frequently on the
walls and ceilings, to which they cling motionless by day, being
active only at night. They are of speckled grey or ashy colours.
The structure of their feet is beautifully adapted for clinging
to and running over smooth surfaces; the underside of their toes
being expanded into cushions, beneath which folds of skin form a
series of flexible plates. By means of this apparatus they can
walk or run across a smooth ceiling with their backs downwards;
the plated soles, by quick muscular action, exhausting and
admitting air alternately. The Geckos are very repulsive in
appearance. The Brazilians give them the name of Osgas, and
firmly believe them to be poisonous; they are, however, harmless
creatures. Those found in houses are small; but I have seen
others of great size, in crevices of tree trunks in the forest.
Sometimes Geckos are found with forked tails; this results from
the budding of a rudimentary tail at the side, from an injury
done to the member. A slight rap will cause their tails to snap
off; the loss being afterwards partially repaired by a new
growth. The tails of lizards seem to be almost useless appendages
to these animals. I used often to amuse myself in the suburbs,
whilst resting in the verandah of our house during the heat of
mid-day, by watching the variegated green, brown, and yellow
ground-lizards. They would come nimbly forward, and commence
grubbing with their forefeet and snouts around the roots of
herbage, searching for insect larvae. On the slightest alarm,
they would scamper off, their tails cocked up in the air as they
waddled awkwardly away, evidently an incumbrance to them in their

Next to the birds and lizards, the insects of the suburbs of Para
deserve a few remarks. The species observed in the weedy and open
places, as already remarked, were generally different from those
which dwell in the shades of the forest. In the gardens, numbers
of fine showy butterflies were seen. There were two swallow-
tailed species, similar in colours to the English Papilio
Machaon; a white Pieris (P. Monuste), and two or three species of
brimstone and orange coloured butterflies, which do not belong,
however, to the same genus as our English species. In weedy
places a beautiful butterfly, with eye-like spots on its wings
was common, the Junonia Lavinia, the only Amazonian species which
is at all nearly related to our Vanessas, the Admiral and Peacock
Butterflies. One day, we made our first acquaintance with two of
the most beautiful productions of nature in this department--
namely, the Helicopis Cupido and Endymion. A little beyond our
house, one of the narrow green lanes which I have already
mentioned diverged from the Monguba avenue, and led, between
enclosures overrun with a profusion of creeping plants and
glorious flowers, down to a moist hollow, where there was a
public well in a picturesque nook, buried in a grove of Mucaja
palm trees. On the tree trunks, walls, and palings, grew a great
quantity of climbing Pothos plants, with large glossy heart-
shaped leaves. These plants were the resort of these two
exquisite species, and we captured a great number of specimens.
They are of extremely delicate texture. The wings are cream-
coloured, the hind pair have several tail-like appendages, and
are spangled beneath as if with silver. Their flight is very slow
and feeble; they seek the protected under-surface of the leaves,
and in repose close their wings over the back, so as to expose
the brilliantly spotted under-surface.

I will pass over the many other orders and families of insects,
and proceed at once to the ants. These were in great numbers
everywhere, but I will mention here only two kinds. We were
amazed at seeing ants an inch and a quarter in length, and stout
in proportion, marching in single file through the thickets.
These belonged to the species called Dinoponera grandis. Its
colonies consist of a small number of individuals, and are
established about the roots of slender trees. It is a stinging
species, but the sting is not so severe as in many of the smaller
kinds. There was nothing peculiar or attractive in the habits of
this giant among the ants. Another far more interesting species
was the Sauba (Oecodoma cephalotes). This ant is seen everywhere
about the suburbs, marching to and fro in broad columns. From its
habit of despoiling the most valuable cultivated trees of their
foliage, it is a great scourge to the Brazilians. In some
districts it is so abundant that agriculture is almost
impossible, and everywhere complaints are heard of the terrible

The workers of this species are of three orders, and vary in size
from two to seven lines; some idea of them may be obtained from
the accompanying woodcut. The true working-class of a colony is
formed by the small-sized order of workers, the worker-minors as
they are called (Fig. I). The two other kinds, whose functions,
as we shall see, are not yet properly understood, have enormously
swollen and massive heads; in one (Fig. 2), the head is highly
polished; in the other (Fig. 3), it is opaque and hairy. The
worker-minors vary greatly in size, some being double the bulk of
others. The entire body is of very solid consistency, and of a
pale reddish-brown colour. The thorax or middle segment is armed
with three pairs of sharp spines; the head, also, has a pair of
similar spines proceeding from the cheeks behind.

In our first walks we were puzzled to account for large mounds of
earth, of a different colour from the surrounding soil, which
were thrown up in the plantations and woods. Some of them were
very extensive, being forty yards in circumference, but not more
than two feet in height. We soon ascertained that these were the
work of the Saubas, being the outworks, or domes, which overlie
and protect the entrances to their vast subterranean galleries.
On close examination, I found the earth of which they are
composed to consist of very minute granules, agglomerated without
cement, and forming many rows of little ridges and turrets. The
difference in colour from the superficial soil of the vicinity is
owing to their being formed of the undersoil, brought up from a
considerable depth. It is very rarely that the ants are seen at
work on these mounds; the entrances seem to be generally closed;
only now and then, when some particular work is going on, are the
galleries opened. The entrances are small and numerous; in the
larger hillocks it would require a great amount of excavation to
get at the main galleries; but, I succeeded in removing portions
of the dome in smaller hillocks, and then I found that the minor
entrances converged, at the depth of about two feet, into one
broad, elaborately-worked gallery or mine, which was four or five
inches in diameter.

This habit of the Sauba ant, of clipping and carrying away
immense quantities of leaves, has long been recorded in books on
natural history. When employed on this work, their processions
look like a multitude of animated leaves on the march. In some
places I found an accumulation of such leaves, all circular
pieces, about the size of a sixpence, lying on the pathway,
unattended by ants, and at some distance from any colony. Such
heaps are always found to be removed when the place is revisited
the next day. In course of time I had plenty of opportunities of
seeing them at work. They mount the tree in multitudes, the
individuals being all worker-minors. Each one places itself on
the surface of a leaf, and cuts, with its sharp scissor-like
jaws, a nearly semicircular incision on the upper side; it then
takes the edge between its jaws, and by a sharp jerk detaches the
piece. Sometimes they let the leaf drop to the ground, where a
little heap accumulates, until carried off by another relay of
workers; but, generally, each marches off with the piece it has
operated upon, and as all take the same road to their colony, the
path they follow becomes in a short time smooth and bare, looking
like the impression of a cartwheel through the herbage.

It is a most interesting sight to see the vast host of busy
diminutive labourers occupied on this work. Unfortunately, they
choose cultivated trees for their purpose. This ant is quite
peculiar to Tropical America, as is the entire genus to which it
belongs; it sometimes despoils the young trees of species growing
wild in its native forests, but seems to prefer, when within
reach, plants imported from other countries, such as the coffee
and orange trees. It has not hitherto been shown satisfactorily
to what use it applies the leaves. I discovered this only after
much time spent in investigation. The leaves are used to thatch
the domes which cover the entrances to their subterranean
dwellings, thereby protecting from the deluging rains the young
broods in the nests beneath. The larger mounds, already
described, are so extensive that few persons would attempt to
remove them for the purpose of examining their interior; but
smaller hillocks, covering other entrances to the same system of
tunnels and chambers, may be found in sheltered places, and these
are always thatched with leaves, mingled with granules of earth.
The heavily-laden workers, each carrying its segment of leaf
vertically, the lower edge secured in its mandibles, troop up and
cast their burdens on the hillock; another relay of labourers
place the leaves in position, covering them with a layer of
earthy granules, which are brought one by one from the soil

The underground abodes of this wonderful ant are known to be very
extensive. The Rev. Hamlet Clark has related that the Sauba of
Rio de Janeiro, a species closely allied to ours, has excavated a
tunnel under the bed of the river Parahyba, at a place where it
is broad as the Thames at London Bridge. At the Magoary Rice
Mills, near Para, these ants once pierced the embankment of a
large reservoir; the great body of water which it contained
escaped before the damage could be repaired. In the Botanic
Gardens, at Para, an enterprising French gardener tried all he
could think of to extirpate the Sauba. With this object, he made
fires over some of the main entrances to their colonies, and blew
the fumes of sulphur down the galleries by means of bellows. I
saw the smoke issue from a great number of outlets, one of which
was seventy yards distant from the place where the bellows were
used. This shows how extensively the underground galleries are

Besides injuring and destroying young trees by despoiling them of
their foliage, the Sauba ant is troublesome to the inhabitants
from its habit of plundering the stores of provisions in houses
at night, for it is even more active by night than in the day-
time. At first I was inclined to discredit the stories of their
entering habitations and carrying off grain by grain the farinha
or mandioca meal, the bread of the poorer classes of Brazil. At
length, whilst residing at an Indian village on the Tapajos, I
had ample proof of the fact. One night my servant woke me three
or four hours before sunrise, by calling out that the rats were
robbing the farinha baskets--the article at that time being
scarce and dear. I got up, listened, and found the noise was very
unlike that made by rats. So, I took the light and went into the
storeroom, which was close to my sleeping-place. I there found a
broad column of Sauba ants, consisting of thousands of
individuals, as busy as possible, passing to and fro between the
door and my precious baskets. Most of those passing outwards were
laden each with a grain of farinha, which was, in some cases,
larger and many times heavier than the bodies of the carriers.
Farinha consists of grains of similar size and appearance to the
tapioca of our shops; both are products of the same root, tapioca
being the pure starch, and farinha the starch mixed with woody
fibre, the latter ingredient giving it a yellowish colour. It was
amusing to see some of the dwarfs, the smallest members of their
family, staggering along, completely hidden under their load. The
baskets, which were on a high table, were entirely covered with
ants, many hundreds of whom were employed in snipping the dry
leaves which served as lining. This produced the rustling sound
which had at first disturbed us. My servant told me that they
would carry off the whole contents of the two baskets (about two
bushels) in the course of the night, if they were not driven off;
so we tried to exterminate them by killing them with our wooden
clogs. It was impossible, however, to prevent fresh hosts coming
in as fast as we killed their companions. They returned the next
night; and I was then obliged to lay trains of gunpowder along
their line, and blow them up. This, repeated many times, at last
seemed to intimidate them, for we were free from their visits
during the remainder of my residence at the place. What they did
with the hard dry grains of mandioca I was never able to
ascertain, and cannot even conjecture. The meal contains no
gluten, and therefore would be useless as cement. It contains
only a smallrelative portion of starch, and, when mixed with
water, it separates and falls away like so much earthy matter. It
may serve as food for the subterranean workers. But the young or
larvae of ants are usually fed by juices secreted by the worker

Ants, it is scarcely necessary to observe, consist, in each
species, of three sets of individuals, Or, as some express it, of
three sexes--namely, males, females, and workers; the last-
mentioned being undeveloped females. The perfect sexes are winged
on their first attaining the adult state; they alone propagate
their kind, flying away, previous to the act of reproduction,
from the nest in which they have been reared. This winged state
of the perfect males and females, and the habit of flying abroad
before pairing, are very important points in the economy of ants;
for they are thus enabled to intercross with members of distant
colonies which swarm at the same time, and thereby increase the
vigour of the race, a proceeding essential to the prosperity of
any species. In many ants, especially those of tropical climates,
the workers, again, are of two classes, whose structure and
functions are widely different. In some species they are
wonderfully unlike each other, and constitute two well-defined
forms of workers. In others, there is a gradation of individuals
between the two extremes. The curious differences in structure
and habits between these two classes form an interesting, but
very difficult, study. It is one of the great peculiarities of
the Sauba ant to possess three classes of workers. My
investigations regarding them were far from complete; I will
relate, however, what I have observed on the subject.

When engaged in leaf-cutting, plundering farinha, and other
operations, two classes of workers are always seen (Figs. 1 and
2, page 10). They are not, it is true, very sharply defined in
structure, for individuals of intermediate grades occur. All the
work, however, is done by the individuals which have small heads
(Fig. 1), while those which have enormously large heads, the
worker-majors (Fig. 2), are observed to be simply walking about.
I could never satisfy myself as to the function of these worker-
majors. They are not the soldiers or defenders of the working
portion of the community, like the armed class in the termites,
or white ants, for they never fight. The species has no sting,
and does not display active resistance when interfered with. I
once imagined they exercised a sort of superintendence over the
others; but this function is entirely unnecessary in a community
where all work with a precision and regularity resembling the
subordinate parts of a piece of machinery. I came to the
conclusion, at last, that they have no very precisely defined
function. They cannot, however, be entirely useless to the
community, for the sustenance of an idle class of such bulky
individuals would be too heavy a charge for the species to
sustain. I think they serve, in some sort, as passive instruments
of protection to the real workers. Their enormously large, hard,
and indestructible heads may be of use in protecting them against
the attacks of insectivorous animals. They would be, on this
view, a kind of "pieces de resistance," serving as a foil against
onslaughts made on the main body of workers.

The third order of workers is the most curious of all. If the top
of a small, fresh hillock, one in which the thatching process is
going on, is taken off, a broad cylindrical shaft is disclosed at
a depth of about two feet from the surface. If this is probed
with a stick, which may be done to the extent of three or four
feet without touching bottom, a small number of colossal fellows
(Fig. 3) will slowly begin to make their way up the smooth sides
of the mine. Their heads are of the same size as those of the
class Fig. 2, but the front is clothed with hairs, instead of
being polished, and they have in the middle of the forehead a
twin, ocellus, or simple eye, of quite different structure from
the ordinary compound eyes, on the sides of the head. This
frontal eye is totally wanting in the other workers, and is not
known in any other kind of ant. The apparition of these strange
creatures from the cavernous depths of the mine reminded me, when
I first observed them, of the Cyclopes of Homeric fable. They
were not very pugnacious, as I feared they would be, and I had no
difficulty in securing a few with my fingers. I never saw them
under any other circumstances than those here related, and what
their special functions may be I cannot divine.

The whole arrangement of a Formicarium, or ant-colony, and all
the varied activity of ant-life, are directed to one main
purpose--the perpetuation and dissemination of the species. Most
of the labour which we see performed by the workers has for its
end the sustenance and welfare of the young brood, which are
helpless grubs. The true females are incapable of attending to
the wants of their offspring; and it is on the poor sterile
workers, who are denied all the other pleasures of maternity,
that the entire care devolves. The workers are also the chief
agents in carrying out the different migrations of the colonies,
which are of vast importance to the dispersal and consequent
prosperity of the species. The successful debut of the winged
males and females depends likewise on the workers. It is amusing
to see the activity and excitement which reigns in an ant's nest
when the exodus of the winged individuals is taking place. The
workers clear the roads of exit, and show the most lively
interest in their departure, although it is highly improbable
that any of them will return to the same colony. The swarming or
exodus of the winged males and females of the Sauba ant takes
place in January and February, that is, at the commencement of
the rainy season. They come out in the evening in vast numbers,
causing quite a commotion in the streets and lanes. They are of
very large size, the female measuring no less than two-and-a-
quarter inches in expanse of wing; the male is not much more than
half this size. They are so eagerly preyed upon by insectivorous
animals that on the morning after their flight not an individual
is to be seen, a few impregnated females alone escaping the
slaughter to found new colonies.

At the time of our arrival, Para had not quite recovered from the
effects of a series of revolutions, brought about by the hatred
which existed between the native Brazilians and the Portuguese;
the former, in the end, calling to their aid the Indian and mixed
coloured population. The number of inhabitants of the city had
decreased, in consequence of these disorders, from 24,500 in
1819, to 15,000 in 1848. Although the public peace had not been
broken for twelve years before the date of our visit, confidence
was not yet completely restored, and the Portuguese merchants and
tradesmen would not trust themselves to live at their beautiful
country houses or rocinhas, which lie embosomed in the luxuriant
shady gardens around the city. No progress had been made in
clearing the second-growth forest which had grown over the once
cultivated grounds, and now reached the end of all the suburban
streets. The place had the aspect of one which had seen better
days; the public buildings, including the palaces of the
President and Bishop, the cathedral, the principal churches and
convents, all seemed constructed on a scale of grandeur far
beyond the present requirements of the city. Streets full of
extensive private residences, built in the Italian style of
architecture, were in a neglected condition, weeds and
flourishing young trees growing from large cracks in the masonry.
The large public squares were overgrown with weeds and
impassable, on account of the swampy places which occupied
portions of their areas. Commerce, however, was now beginning to
revive, and before I left the country I saw great improvements,
as I shall have to relate towards the conclusion of this

The province of which Para is the capital, was at the time I
allude to, the most extensive in the Brazilian empire, being
about 1560 miles in length from east to west, and about 600 in
breadth. Since that date--namely in 1853--it has been divided
into two by the separation of the Upper Amazons as a distinct
province. It formerly constituted a section, capitania, or
governorship of the Portuguese colony. Originally it was well
peopled by Indians, varying much in social condition according to
their tribe, but all exhibiting the same general physical
characters, which are those of the American red man, somewhat
modified by long residence in an equatorial forest country.

Most of the tribes are now extinct or forgotten, at least those
which originally peopled the banks of the main river, their
descendants having amalgamated with the white and negro
immigrants. [The mixed breeds which now form, probably, the
greater part of the population, each have a distinguishing name.
Mameluco denotes the offspring of White with Indian; Mulatto,
that of White with Negro; Cafuzo, the mixture of the Indian and
Negro; Curiboco, the cross between the Cafuzo and the Indian;
Xibaro, that between the Cafuzo and Negro. These are seldom,
however, well-demarcated, and all shades of colour exist; the
names are generally applied only approximatively. The term Creole
is confined to negroes born in the country. The civilised Indian
is called Tapuyo or Caboclo.] Many still exist, however, in
their original state on the Upper Amazons and most of the branch
rivers. On this account, Indians in this province are far more
numerous than elsewhere in Brazil, and the Indian element may be
said to prevail in the mongrel population-- the negro proportion
being much smaller than in South Brazil.

The city is built on the best available site for a port of entry
to the Amazons region, and must in time become a vast emporium;
the northern shore of the main river, where alone a rival capital
could be founded, is much more difficult of access to vessels,
and is besides extremely unhealthy. Although lying so near the
equator (1 28' S. lat.) the climate is not excessively hot. The
temperature during three years only once reached 95 degrees
Fahrenheit. The greatest heat of the day, about 2 p.m., ranges
generally between 89 and 94; but on the other hand, the air is
never cooler than 73, so that a uniformly high temperature
exists, and the mean of the year is 81. North American residents
say that the heat is not so oppressive as it is in summer in New
York and Philadelphia. The humidity is, of course, excessive, but
the rains are not so heavy and continuous in the wet season as in
many other tropical climates. The country had for a long time a
reputation for extreme salubrity. Since the small-pox in 1819,
which attacked chiefly the Indians, no serious epidemic had
visited the province. We were agreeably surprised to find no
danger from exposure to the night air or residence in the low
swampy lands. A few English residents, who had been established
here for twenty or thirty years, looked almost as fresh in colour
as if they had never left their native country. The native women,
too, seemed to preserve their good looks and plump condition
until late in life. I nowhere observed that early decay of
appearance in Brazilian ladies, which is said to be so general in
the women of North America.

Up to 1848 the salubrity of Para was quite remarkable for a city
lying in the delta of a great river, in the middle of the tropics
and half surrounded by swamps. It did not much longer enjoy its
immunity from epidemics. In 1850 the yellow fever visited the
province for the first time, and carried off in a few weeks more
than four percent of the population. One disease after another
succeeded, until in 1855 cholera swept through the country and
caused fearful havoc. Since then, the healthfulness of the
climate has been gradually restored, and it is now fast
recovering its former good reputation. Para is free from serious
endemic disorders, and was once a resort of invalids from New
York and Massachusetts. The equable temperature, the perpetual
verdure, the coolness of the dry season when the sun's heat is
tempered by the strong sea-breezes and the moderation of the
periodical rains, make the climate one of the most enjoyable on
the face of the earth.

The province is governed, like all others in the empire, by a
President, as chief civil authority. At the time of our arrival
he also held, exceptionally, the chief military command. This
functionary, together with the head of the police administration
and the judges, is nominated by the central Government at Rio
Janeiro. The municipal and internal affairs are managed by a
provincial assembly elected by the people. Every villa or borough
throughout the province also possesses its municipal council, and
in thinly-populated districts the inhabitants choose every four
years a justice of the peace, who adjudicates in small disputes
between neighbours. A system of popular education exists, and
every village has its school of first letters, the master being
paid by the government, the salary amounting to about 70, or the
same sum as the priests receive. Besides common schools, a well-
endowed classical seminary is maintained at Para, to which the
sons of most of the planters and traders in the interior are sent
to complete their education. The province returns its quota of
members every four years to the lower and upper houses of the
imperial parliament. Every householder has a vote. Trial by jury
has been established, the jurymen being selected from
householders, no matter what their race or colour; and I have
seen the white merchant, the negro husbandman, the mameluco, the
mulatto, and the Indian, all sitting side by side on the same
bench. Altogether the constitution of government in Brazil seems
to combine happily the principles of local self-government and
centralisation, and only requires a proper degree of virtue and
intelligence in the people to lead the nation to great

The province of Para, or, as we may now say, the two provinces of
Para and the Amazons, contain an area of 800,000 square miles,
the population of which is only about 230,000, or in the ratio of
one person to four square miles! The country is covered with
forests, and the soil is fertile in the extreme, even for a
tropical country. It is intersected throughout by broad and deep
navigable rivers. It is the pride of the Paraenses to call the
Amazons the Mediterranean of South America. The colossal stream
perhaps deserves the name, for not only have the main river and
its principal tributaries an immense expanse of water bathing the
shores of extensive and varied regions, but there is also
throughout a system of back channels, connected with the main
rivers by narrow outlets and linking together a series of lakes,
some of which are fifteen, twenty, and thirty miles in length.
The whole Amazons valley is thus covered by a network of
navigable waters, forming a vast inland freshwater sea with
endless ramifications-- rather than a river.

The city of Para was founded in 1615, and was a place of
considerable importance towards the latter half of the eighteenth
century, under the government of the brother of Pombal, the
famous Portuguese statesman. The province was the last in Brazil
to declare its independence of the mother-country and acknowledge
the authority of the first emperor, Don Pedro. This was owing to
the great numbers and influence of the Portuguese, and the rage
of the native party was so great in consequence, that immediately
after independence was proclaimed in 1823, a counter revolution
broke out, during which many hundred lives were lost and much
hatred engendered. The antagonism continued for many years,
partial insurrections taking place when the populace thought that
the immigrants from Portugal were favoured by the governors sent
from the capital of the empire. At length, in 1835, a serious
revolt took place which in a short time involved the entire
province. It began by the assassination of the President and the
leading members of the government; the struggle was severe, and
the native party in an evil hour called to their aid the ignorant
and fanatic part of the mongrel and Indian population. The cry of
death to the Portuguese was soon changed to death to the
freemasons, then a powerfully organised society embracing the
greater part of the male white inhabitants. The victorious native
party endeavoured to establish a government of their own.

After this state of things had endured six months, they accepted
a new President sent from Rio Janeiro, who, however, again
irritated them by imprisoning their favourite leader, Vinagre.
The revenge which followed was frightful. A vast host of half-
savage coloured people assembled in the retired creeks behind
Para, and on a day fixed, after Vinagre's brother had sent a
message three times to the President demanding, in vain, the
release of their leader, the whole body poured into the city
through the gloomy pathways of the forest which encircles it. A
cruel battle, lasting nine days, was fought in the streets; an
English, French, and Portuguese man-of-war, from the side of the
river, assisting the legal authorities. All the latter, however,
together with every friend of peace and order, were finally
obliged to retire to an island a few miles distant. The city and
province were given up to anarchy; the coloured people, elated
with victory, proclaimed the slaughter of all whites, except the
English, French, and American residents. The mistaken principals
who had first aroused all this hatred of races were obliged now
to make their escape. In the interior, the supporters of lawful
authority including, it must be stated, whole tribes of friendly
Indians and numbers of the better disposed negroes and mulattos,
concentrated themselves in certain strong positions and defended
themselves, until the reconquest of the capital and large towns
of the interior in 1836 by a force sent from Rio Janeiro-- after
ten months of anarchy.

Years of conciliatory government, the lesson learned by the
native party and the moderation of the Portuguese, aided by the
indolence and passive goodness of the Paraenses of all classes
and colours, were only beginning to produce their good effects
about the time I am speaking of. Life, however, was now and had
been for some time quite safe throughout the country. Some few of
the worst characters had been transported or imprisoned, and the
remainder, after being pardoned, were converted once more into
quiet and peaceable citizens.

I resided at Para nearly a year and a half altogether, returning
thither and making a stay of a few months after each of my
shorter excursions into the interior, until the 6th of November,
1851, when I started on my long voyage to the Tapajos and the
Upper Amazons, which occupied me seven years and a half. I became
during this time tolerably familiar with the capital of the
Amazons region, and its inhabitants. Compared with other
Brazilian seaport towns, I was always told, Para shone to great
advantage. It was cleaner, the suburbs were fresher, more rural
and much pleasanter on account of their verdure, shade, and
magnificent vegetation. The people were simpler, more peaceable
and friendly in their manners and dispositions; and
assassinations, which give the southern provinces so ill a
reputation, were almost unknown. At the same time the Para people
were much inferior to Southern Brazilians in energy and industry.
Provisions and house rents being cheap and the wants of the
people few--for they were content with food and lodging of a
quality which would be spurned by paupers in England--they spent
the greater part of their time in sensual indulgences and in
amusements which the government and wealthier citizens provided
for them gratis.

The trade, wholesale and retail, was in the hands of the
Portuguese, of whom there were about 2500 in the place. Many
handicrafts were exercised by coloured people, mulattos,
mamelucos, free negroes, and Indians. The better sort of
Brazilians dislike the petty details of shop-keeping, and if they
cannot be wholesale merchants, prefer the life of planters in the
country, however small may be the estate and the gains. The
negroes constituted the class of field-labourers and porters;
Indians were universally the watermen, and formed the crews of
the numberless canoes of all sizes and shapes which traded
between Para and the interior. The educated Brazilians, not many
of whom are of pure Caucasian descent--for the immigration of
Portuguese, for many years, has been almost exclusively of the
male sex--are courteous, lively, and intelligent people. They
were gradually weaning themselves of the ignorant, bigoted
notions which they inherited from their Portuguese ancestors,
especially those entertained with regard to the treatment of
women. Formerly, the Portuguese would not allow their wives to go
into society, or their daughters to learn reading and writing. In
1848, Brazilian ladies were only just beginning to emerge from
this inferior position, and Brazilian fathers were opening their
eyes to the advantages of education for their daughters. Reforms
of this kind are slow. It is, perhaps, in part owing to the
degrading position always held by women, that the relations
between the sexes were, and are still, on so unsatisfactory a
footing, and private morality at so low an ebb, in Brazil. In
Para, I believe that an improvement is now taking place, but
formerly promiscuous intercourse seemed to be the general rule
among all classes, and intrigues and love-making the serious
business of the greater part of the population. That this state
of things is a necessity depending on the climate and
institutions I do not believe, as I have resided at small towns
in the interior, where the habits, and the general standard of
morality of the inhabitants, were as pure as they are in similar
places in England.



The Swampy Forests of Para--A Portuguese Landed Proprietor--
Country House at Nazareth--Life of a Naturalist under the
Equator--The drier Virgin Forests--Magoary--Retired Creeks--

After having resided about a fortnight at Mr. Miller's rocinha,
we heard of another similar country-house to be let, much better
situated for our purpose, in the village of Nazareth, a mile and
a half from the city and close to the forest. The owner was an
old Portuguese gentleman named Danin, who lived at his tile
manufactory at the mouth of the Una, a small river lying two
miles below Para. We resolved to walk to his place through the
forest, a distance of three miles, although the road was said to
be scarcely passable at this season of the year, and the Una much
more easily accessible by boat. We were glad, however, of this
early opportunity of traversing the rich swampy forest which we
had admired so much from the deck of the ship; so, about eleven
o'clock one sunny morning, after procuring the necessary
information about the road, we set off in that direction. This
part of the forest afterwards became one of my best hunting-
grounds. I will narrate the incidents of the walk, giving my
first impressions and some remarks on the wonderful vegetation.
The forest is very similar on most of the low lands, and
therefore, one description will do for all.

On leaving the town we walked along a straight, suburban road
constructed above the level of the surrounding land. It had low
swampy ground on each side, built upon, however, and containing
several spacious rocinhas which were embowered in magnificent
foliage. Leaving the last of these, we arrived at a part where
the lofty forest towered up like a wall five or six yards from
the edge of the path to the height of, probably, a hundred feet.
The tree trunks were only seen partially here and there, nearly
the whole frontage from ground to summit being covered with a
diversified drapery of creeping plants, all of the most vivid
shades of green; scarcely a flower to be seen, except in some
places a solitary scarlet passion-flower set in the green mantle
like a star. The low ground on the borders between the forest
wall and the road was encumbered with a tangled mass of bushy and
shrubby vegetation, amongst which prickly mimosas were very
numerous, covering the other bushes in the same way as brambles
do in England. Other dwarf mimosas trailed along the ground close
to the edge of the road, shrinking at the slightest touch of the
feet as we passed by. Cassia trees, with their elegant pinnate
foliage and conspicuous yellow flowers, formed a great proportion
of the lower trees, and arborescent arums grew in groups around
the swampy hollows. Over the whole fluttered a larger number of
brilliantly-coloured butterflies than we had yet seen; some
wholly orange or yellow (Callidryas), others with excessively
elongated wings, sailing horizontally through the air, coloured
black, and varied with blue, red, and yellow (Heliconii). One
magnificent grassy-green species (Colaenis Dido) especially
attracted our attention. Near the ground hovered many other
smaller species very similar in appearance to those found at
home, attracted by the flowers of numerous leguminous and other
shrubs. Besides butterflies, there were few other insects except
dragonflies, which were in great numbers, similar in shape to
English species, but some of them looking conspicuously different
on account of their fiery red colours.

After stopping repeatedly to examine and admire, we at length
walked onward. The road then ascended slightly, and the soil and
vegetation became suddenly altered in character. The shrubs here
were grasses, low sedges and other plants, smaller in foliage
than those growing in moist grounds. The forest was second
growth, low, consisting of trees which had the general aspect of
laurels and other evergreens in our gardens at home-- the leaves
glossy and dark green. Some of them were elegantly veined and
hairy (Melastomae), while many, scattered amongst the rest, had
smaller foliage (Myrtles), but these were not sufficient to
subtract much from the general character of the whole.

The sun, now, for we had loitered long on the road, was
exceedingly powerful. The day was most brilliant; the sky without
a cloud. In fact, it was one of those glorious days which
announce the commencement of the dry season. The radiation of
heat from the sandy ground was visible by the quivering motion of
the air above it. We saw or heard no mammals or birds; a few
cattle belonging to an estate down a shady lane were congregated,
panting, under a cluster of wide spreading trees. The very soil
was hot to our feet, and we hastened onward to the shade of the
forest which we could see not far ahead. At length, on entering
it, what a relief! We found ourselves in a moderately broad
pathway or alley, where the branches of the trees crossed
overhead and produced a delightful shade. The woods were at first
of recent growth, dense, and utterly impenetrable; the ground,
instead of being clothed with grass and shrubs as in the woods of
Europe, was everywhere carpeted with Lycopodiums (fern-shaped
mosses). Gradually the scene became changed. We descended
slightly from an elevated, dry, and sandy area to a low and
swampy one; a cool air breathed on our faces, and a mouldy smell
of rotting vegetation greeted us. The trees were now taller, the
underwood less dense, and we could obtain glimpses into the
wilderness on all sides. The leafy crowns of the trees, scarcely
two of which could be seen together of the same kind, were now
far away above us, in another world as it were. We could only see
at times, where there was a break above, the tracery of the
foliage against the clear blue sky. Sometimes the leaves were
palmate, or of the shape of large outstretched hands; at others,
finely cut or feathery, like the leaves of Mimosae. Below, the
tree trunks were everywhere linked together by sipos; the woody,
flexible stems of climbing and creeping trees, whose foliage is
far away above, mingled with that of the taller independent
trees. Some were twisted in strands like cables, others had thick
stems contorted in every variety of shape, entwining snake-like
round the tree trunks, or forming gigantic loops and coils among
the larger branches; others, again, were of zigzag shape, or
indented like the steps of a staircase, sweeping from the ground
to a giddy height.

It interested me much afterwards to find that these climbing
trees do not form any particular family. There is no distinct
group of plants whose special habit is to climb, but species of
many and the most diverse families, the bulk of whose members are
not climbers, seem to have been driven by circumstances to adopt
this habit. There is even a climbing genus of palms (Desmoncus),
the species of which are called, in the Tupi language, Jacitara.
These have slender, thickly-spined, and flexuous stems, which
twine about the taller trees from one to the other, and grow to
an incredible length. The leaves, which have the ordinary pinnate
shape characteristic of the family, are emitted from the stems at
long intervals, instead of being collected into a dense crown,
and have at their tips a number of long recurved spines. These
structures are excellent contrivances to enable the trees to
secure themselves by in climbing, but they are a great nuisance
to the traveller, for they sometimes hang over the pathway and
catch the hat or clothes, dragging off the one or tearing the
other as he passes. The number and variety of climbing trees in
the Amazons forests are interesting, taken in connection with the
fact of the very general tendency of the animals, also, to become

All the Amazonian, and in fact all South American, monkeys are
climbers. There is no group answering to the baboons of the Old
World, which live on the ground. The Gallinaceous birds of the
country, the representatives of the fowls and pheasants of Asia
and Africa, are all adapted by the position of the toes to perch
on trees, and it is only on trees, at a great height, that they
are to be seen. A genus of Plantigrade Carnivora, allied to the
bears (Cercoleptes), found only in the Amazonian forests, is
entirely arboreal, and has a long flexible tail like that of
certain monkeys. Many other similar instances could be
enumerated, but I will mention only the Geodephaga, or
carnivorous ground beetles, a great proportion of whose genera
and species in these forest regions are, by the structure of
their feet, fitted to live exclusively on the branches and leaves
of trees.

Many of the woody lianas suspended from trees are not climbers,
but the air-roots of epiphytous plants (Aroideae), which sit on
the stronger boughs of the trees above and hang down straight as
plumb-lines. Some are suspended singly, others in clusters; some
reach halfway to the ground and others touch it, striking their
rootlets into the earth. The underwood in this part of the forest
was composed partly of younger trees of the same species as their
taller neighbours, and partly of palms of many species, some of
them twenty to thirty feet in height, others small and delicate,
with stems no thicker than a finger. These latter (different
kinds of Bactris) bore small bunches of fruit, red or black,
often containing a sweet, grape-like juice.

Further on, the ground became more swampy and we had some
difficulty in picking our way. The wild banana (Urania Amazonica)
here began to appear, and, as it grew in masses, imparted a new
aspect to the scene. The leaves of this beautiful plant are like
broad-sword blades, eight feet in length and a foot broad; they
rise straight upwards, alternately, from the top of a stem five
or six feet high. Numerous kinds of plants with leaves similar in
shape to these but smaller clothed the ground. Amongst them were
species of Marantaceae, some of which had broad glossy leaves,
with long leaf-stalks radiating from joints in a reed-like stem.
The trunks of the trees were clothed with climbing ferns, and
Pothos plants with large, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves. Bamboos
and other tall grass and reed-like plants arched over the
pathway. The appearance of this part of the forest was strange in
the extreme; description can convey no adequate idea of it. The
reader who has visited Kew may form some notion by conceiving a
vegetation like that in the great palm-house, spread over a large
tract of swampy ground, but he must fancy it mingled with large
exogenous trees similar to our oaks and elms covered with
creepers and parasites, and figure to himself the ground
encumbered with fallen and rotting trunks, branches, and leaves;
the whole illuminated by a glowing vertical sun, and reeking with

At length we emerged from the forest, on the banks of the Una,
near its mouth. It was here about one hundred yards wide. The
residence of Senor Danin stood on the opposite shore; a large
building, whitewashed and red-tiled as usual, raised on wooden
piles above the humid ground. The second story was the part
occupied by the family, and along it was an open verandah, where
people, both male and female, were at work. Below were several
employed carrying clay on their heads. We called out for a boat,
and one of them crossed over to fetch us. Senor Danin received
us with the usual formal politeness of the Portuguese, he spoke
English very well, and after we had arranged our business, we
remained conversing with him on various subjects connected with
the country. Like all employers in this province, he was full of
one topic--the scarcity of hands. It appeared that he had made
great exertions to introduce white labour, but had failed, after
having brought numbers of men from Portugal and other countries
under engagement to work for him. They all left him one by one
soon after their arrival. The abundance of unoccupied land, the
liberty that exists, a state of things produced by the half-wild
canoe-life of the people, and the case with which a mere
subsistence can be obtained with moderate work, tempt even the
best-disposed to quit regular labour as soon as they can. He
complained also of the dearness of slaves, owing to the
prohibition of the African traffic, telling us that formerly a
slave could be bought for 120 dollars, whereas they are now
difficult to procure at 400 dollars.

Mr. Danin told us that he had travelled in England and the United
States, and that he had now two sons completing their education
in those countries. I afterwards met with many enterprising
persons of Mr. Danin's order, both Brazilians and Portuguese;
their great ambition is to make a voyage to Europe or North
America, and to send their sons to be educated there. The land on
which his establishment is built, he told us, was an artificial
embankment on the swamp; the end of the house was built on a
projecting point overlooking the river, so that a good view was
obtained, from the sitting-rooms, of the city and the shipping.
We learned there was formerly a large and flourishing cattle
estate on this spot, with an open grassy space like a park. On
Sundays, gay parties of forty or fifty persons used to come by
land and water, in carriages and gay galliotas, to spend the day
with the hospitable owner. Since the political disorders which I
have already mentioned, decay had come upon this as on most other
large establishments in the country. The cultivated grounds, and
the roads leading to them, were now entirely overgrown with dense
forest. When we were ready to depart, Senor Danin lent a canoe
and two negroes to take us to the city, where we arrived in the
evening after a day rich in new experiences.

Shortly afterwards, we took possession of our new residence. The
house was a square building, consisting of four equal-sized
rooms; the tiled roof projected all round, so as to form a broad
verandah, cool and pleasant to sit and work in. The cultivated
ground, which appeared as if newly cleared from the forest, was
planted with fruit trees and small plots of coffee and mandioca.
The entrance to the grounds was by an iron-grille gateway from a
grassy square, around which were built the few houses and palm-
thatched huts which then constituted the village. The most
important building was the chapel of our Lady of Nazareth, which
stood opposite our place. The saint here enshrined was a great
favourite with all orthodox Paraenses, who attributed to her the
performance of many miracles. The image was to be seen on the
altar, a handsome doll about four feet high, wearing a silver
crown and a garment of blue silk, studded with golden stars. In
and about the chapel were the offerings that had been made to
her, proofs of the miracles which she had performed. There were
models of legs, arms, breasts, and so forth, which she had cured.
But most curious of all was a ship's boat, deposited here by the
crew of a Portuguese vessel which had foundered, a year or two
before our arrival, in a squall off Cayenne; part of them having
been saved in the boat, after invoking the protection of the
saint here enshrined. The annual festival in honour of our Lady
of Nazareth is the greatest of the Para holidays; many persons
come to it from the neighbouring city of Maranham, 300 miles
distant. Once the President ordered the mail steamer to be
delayed two days at Para for the convenience of these visitors.
The popularity of the festival is partly owing to the beautiful
weather that prevails when it takes place, namely, in the middle
of the fine season, on the ten days preceding the full moon in
October or November. Para is then seen at its best. The weather
is not too dry, for three weeks never follow in succession
without a shower; so that all the glory of verdure and flowers
can be enjoyed with clear skies. The moonlit nights are then
especially beautiful, the atmosphere is transparently clear, and
the light sea-breeze produces an agreeable coolness.

We now settled ourselves for a few months' regular work. We had
the forest on three sides of us; it was the end of the wet
season; most species of birds had finished moulting, and every
day the insects increased in number and variety. Behind the
rocinha, after several days' exploration, I found a series of
pathways through the woods, which led to the Una road; about half
way was the house in which the celebrated travellers Spix and
Martius resided during their stay at Para, in 1819. It was now in
a neglected condition, and the plantations were overgrown with
bushes. The paths hereabout were very productive of insects, and
being entirely under shade, were very pleasant for strolling.
Close to our doors began the main forest road. It was broad
enough for two horsemen abreast, and branched off in three
directions; the main line going to the village of Ourem, a
distance of fifty miles. This road formerly extended to Maranham,
but it had been long in disuse and was now grown up, being
scarcely passable between Para and Ourem.

Our researches were made in various directions along these paths,
and every day produced us a number of new and interesting
species. Collecting, preparing our specimens, and making notes,
kept us well occupied. One day was so much like another, that a
general description of the diurnal round of incidents, including
the sequence of natural phenomena, will be sufficient to give an
idea of how days pass to naturalists under the equator.

We used to rise soon after dawn, when Isidoro would go down to
the city, after supplying us with a cup of coffee, to purchase
the fresh provisions for the day. The two hours before breakfast
were devoted to ornithology. At that early period of the day the
sky was invariably cloudless (the thermometer marking 72 or 73
Fahr.); the heavy dew or the previous night's rain, which lay on
the moist foliage, becoming quickly dissipated by the glowing
sun, which rising straight out of the east, mounted rapidly
towards the zenith. All nature was fresh, new leaf and flower-
buds expanding rapidly. Some mornings a single tree would appear
in flower amidst what was the preceding evening a uniform green
mass of forest--a dome of blossom suddenly created as if by
magic. The birds were all active; from the wild-fruit trees, not
far off, we often heard the shrill yelping of the Toucans
(Ramphastos vitellinus). Small flocks of parrots flew over on
most mornings, at a great height, appearing in distinct relief
against the blue sky, always two-by-two chattering to each other,
the pairs being separated by regular intervals; their bright
colours, however, were not apparent at that height. After
breakfast we devoted the hours from 10 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. to
entomology; the best time for insects in the forest being a
little before the greatest heat of the day.

The heat increased rapidly towards two o'clock (92 and 93 Fahr.),
by which time every voice of bird or mammal was hushed; only in
the trees was heard at intervals the harsh whirr of a cicada. The
leaves, which were so moist and fresh in early morning, now
become lax and drooping; the flowers shed their petals. Our
neighbours, the Indian and Mulatto inhabitants of the open palm-
thatched huts, as we returned home fatigued with our ramble, were
either asleep in their hammocks or seated on mats in the shade,
too languid even to talk. On most days in June and July a heavy
shower would fall some time in the afternoon, producing a most
welcome coolness. The approach of the rain-clouds was after a
uniform fashion very interesting to observe. First, the cool sea-
breeze, which commenced to blow about ten o'clock, and which had
increased in force with the increasing power of the sun, would
flag and finally die away. The heat and electric tension of the
atmosphere would then become almost insupportable. Languor and
uneasiness would seize on every one, even the denizens of the
forest, betraying it by their motions. White clouds would appear
in the cast and gather into cumuli, with an increasing blackness
along their lower portions. The whole eastern horizon would
become almost suddenly black, and this would spread upwards, the
sun at length becoming obscured. Then the rush of a mighty wind
is heard through the forest, swaying the tree-tops; a vivid flash
of lightning bursts forth, then a crash of thunder, and down
streams the deluging rain. Such storms soon cease, leaving
bluish-black, motionless clouds in the sky until night. Meantime
all nature is refreshed; but heaps of flower-petals and fallen
leaves are seen under the trees. Towards evening life revives
again, and the ringing uproar is resumed from bush and tree. The
following morning the sun again rises in a cloudless sky, and so
the cycle is completed; spring, summer, and autumn, as it were,
in one tropical day.

The days are more or less like this throughout the year in this
country. A little difference exists between the dry and wet
but generally, the dry season, which lasts from July to December,
varied with showers, and the wet, from January to June, with
sunny days.
It results from this, that the periodical phenomena of plants and
do not take place at about the same time in all species, or in
individuals of any given species, as they do in temperate
countries. Of course there is no hybernation; nor, as the dry
season is not excessive, is there any summer torpidity as in some
tropical countries. Plants do not flower or shed their leaves,
nor do birds moult, pair, or breed simultaneously. In Europe, a
woodland scene has its spring, its summer, its autumn, and its
winter aspects. In the equatorial forests the aspect is the same
or nearly so every day in the year: budding, flowering, fruiting,
and leaf shedding are always going on in one species or other.
The activity of birds and insects proceeds without interruption,
each species having its own separate times; the colonies of
wasps, for instance, do not die off annually, leaving only the
queens, as in cold climates; but the succession of generations
and colonies goes on incessantly. It is never either spring,
summer, or autumn, but each day is a combination of all three.
With the day and night always of equal length, the atmospheric
disturbances of each day neutralising themselves before each
succeeding morn; with the sun in its course proceeding midway
across the sky, and the daily temperature the same within two or
three degrees throughout the year--how grand in its perfect
equilibrium and simplicity is the march of Nature under the

Our evenings were generally fully employed preserving our
collections, and making notes. We dined at four, and took tea
about seven o'clock. Sometimes we walked to the city to see
Brazilian life or enjoy the pleasures of European and American
society. And so the time passed away from June 15th to August
26th. During this period we made two excursions of greater length
to the rice and saw-mills of Magoary, an establishment owned by
an American gentleman, Mr. Upton, situated on the banks of a
creek in the heart of the forest, about twelve miles from Para. I
will narrate some of the incidents of these excursions, and give
an account of the more interesting observations made on the
Natural History and inhabitants of these interior creeks and

Our first trip to the mills was by land. The creek on whose banks
they stand, the Iritiri, communicates with the river Pars,
through another larger creek, the Magoary; so that there is a
passage by water; but this is about twenty miles round. We
started at sunrise, taking Isidoro with us. The road plunged at
once into the forest after leaving Nazareth, so that in a few
minutes we were enveloped in shade. For some distance the woods
were of second growth, the original forest near the town having
been formerly cleared or thinned. They were dense and
impenetrable on account of the close growth of the young trees
and the mass of thorny shrubs and creepers. These thickets
swarmed with ants and ant-thrushes; they were also frequented by
a species of puff-throated manikin, a little bird which flies
occasionally across the road, emitting a strange noise, made, I
believe, with its wings, and resembling the clatter of a small
wooden rattle.

A mile or a mile and a half further on, the character of the
woods began to change, and we then found ourselves in the
primaeval forest. The appearance was greatly different from that
of the swampy tract I have already described. The land was rather
more elevated and undulating; the many swamp plants with their
long and broad leaves were wanting, and there was less underwood,
although the trees were wider apart. Through this wilderness the
road continued for seven or eight miles. The same unbroken forest
extends all the way to Maranham and in other directions, as we
were told, a distance of about 300 miles southward and eastward
of Para. In almost every hollow part the road was crossed by a
brook, whose cold, dark, leaf-stained waters were bridged over by
tree trunks. The ground was carpeted, as usual, by Lycopodiums,
but it was also encumbered with masses of vegetable debris and a
thick coating of dead leaves. Fruits of many kinds were scattered
about, amongst which were many sorts of beans, some of the pods a
foot long, flat and leathery in texture, others hard as stone. In
one place there was a quantity of large empty wooden vessels,
which Isidoro told us fell from the Sapucaya tree. They are
called Monkey's drinking-cups (Cuyas de Macaco), and are the
capsules which contain the nuts sold under the name just
mentioned, in Covent Garden Market. At the top of the vessel is a
circular hole, in which a natural lid fits neatly. When the nuts
are ripe this lid becomes loosened and the heavy cup falls with a
crash, scattering the nuts over the ground. The tree which yields
the nut (Lecythis ollaria), is of immense height. It is closely
allied to the Brazil-nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa), whose seeds
are also enclosed in large woody vessels; but these have no lid,
and fall to the ground intact. This is the reason why the one
kind of nut is so much dearer than the other. The Sapucaya is not
less abundant, probably, than the Bertholletia, but its nuts in
falling are scattered about and eaten by wild animals; whilst the
full, whole capsules of Brazil-nuts are collected by the natives.

What attracted us chiefly were the colossal trees. The general
run of trees had not remarkably thick stems; the great and
uniform height to which they grow without emitting a branch, was
a much more noticeable feature than their thickness; but at
intervals of a furlong or so a veritable giant towered up. Only
one of these monstrous trees can grow within a given space; it
monopolises the domain, and none but individuals of much inferior
size can find a footing near it. The cylindrical trunks of these
larger trees were generally about twenty to twenty-five feet in
circumference. Von Martius mentions having measured trees in the
Para district belonging to various species (Symphonia coccinea,
Lecythis sp. and Crataeva Tapia), which were fifty to sixty feet
in girth at the point where they become cylindrical. The height
of the vast column-like stems could not be less than 100 feet
from the ground to their lowest branch. Mr. Leavens, at the
sawmills, told me they frequently squared logs for sawing a
hundred feet long, of the Pao d'Arco and the Massaranduba. The
total height of these trees, stem and crown together, may be
estimated at from 180 to 200 feet; where one of them stands, the
vast dome of foliage rises above the other forest trees as a
domed cathedral does above the other buildings in a city.

A very remarkable feature in these trees is the growth of
buttress-shaped projections around the lower part of their stems.
The spaces between these buttresses, which are generally thin
walls of wood, form spacious chambers, and may be compared to
stalls in a stable; some of them are large enough to hold a half-
dozen persons. The purpose of these structures is as obvious, at
the first glance, as that of the similar props of brickwork which
support a high wall. They are not peculiar to one species, but
are common to most of the larger forest trees. Their nature and
manner of growth are explained when a series of young trees of
different ages is examined. It is then seen that they are the
roots which have raised themselves ridge-like out of the earth;
growing gradually upwards as the increasing height of the tree
required augmented support. Thus, they are plainly intended to
sustain the massive crown and trunk in these crowded forests,
where lateral growth of the roots in the earth is rendered
difficult by the multitude of competitors.

The other grand forest trees whose native names we learned, were
the Moiratinga (the White or King tree), probably the same as, or
allied to, the Mora Excelsa, which Sir Robert Schomburgh
discovered in British Guiana; the Samauma (Eriodendron Samauma)
and the Massaranduba, or Cow tree. The last-mentioned is the most
remarkable. We had already heard a good deal about this tree, and
about its producing from its bark a copious supply of milk as
pleasant to drink as that of the cow. We had also eaten its fruit
in Para, where it is sold in the streets by negro market women;
and had heard a good deal of the durableness in water of its
timber. We were glad, therefore, to see this wonderful tree
growing in its native wilds. It is one of the largest of the
forest monarchs, and is peculiar in appearance on account of its
deeply-scored reddish and ragged bark. A decoction of the bark, I
was told, is used as a red dye for cloth. A few days afterwards
we tasted its milk, which was drawn from dry logs that had been
standing many days in the hot sun, at the saw-mills. It was
pleasant with coffee, but had a slight rankness when drunk pure;
it soon thickens to a glue, which is excessively tenacious, and
is often used to cement broken crockery. I was told that it was
not safe to drink much of it, for a slave had recently nearly
lost his life through taking it too freely.

In some parts of the road ferns were conspicuous objects. But I
afterwards found them much more numerous on the Maranham road,
especially in one place where the whole forest glade formed a
vast fernery; the ground was covered with terrestrial species,
and the tree trunks clothed with climbing and epiphytous kinds. I
saw no tree ferns in the Para district; they belong to hilly
regions; some occur, however, on the Upper Amazons.

Such were the principal features in the vegetation of the
wilderness; but where were the flowers? To our great
disappointment we saw none, or only such as were insignificant in
appearance. Orchids are very rare in the dense forests of the low
lands. I believe it is now tolerably well ascertained that the
majority of forest trees in equatorial Brazil have small and
inconspicuous flowers. Flower-frequenting insects are also rare
in the forest. Of course they would not be found where their
favourite food was wanting, but I always noticed that even where
flowers occurred in the forest, few or no insects were seen upon
them. In the open country or campos of Santarem on the Lower
Amazons, flowering trees and bushes are more abundant, and there
a large number of floral insects are attracted. The forest bees
of South America belonging to the genera Melipona and Euglossa
are more frequently seen feeding on the sweet sap which exudes
from the trees or on the excrement of birds on leaves, rather
on flowers.

We were disappointed also in not meeting with any of the larger
animals in the forest. There was no tumultuous movement, or sound
of life. We did not see or hear monkeys, and no tapir or jaguar
crossed our path. Birds, also, appeared to be exceedingly
scarce. We heard, however, occasionally, the long-drawn, wailing
note of the Inambu, a kind of partridge (Crypturus cincreus?);
and, also, in the hollows on the banks, of the rivulets, the
notes of another bird, which seemed to go in pairs, amongst the
tree-tops, calling to each other as they went. These notes
resounded through the wilderness. Another solitary bird had
a most sweet and melancholy song; it consisted simply of a
few notes, uttered in a plaintive key, commencing high, and
descending by harmonic intervals. It was probably a species
of warbler of the genus Trichas. All these notes of birds
are very striking and characteristic of the forest.

I afterwards saw reason to modify my opinion, founded on these
first impressions, with regard to the amount and variety of
animal life in this and other parts of the Amazonian forests.
There is, in fact, a great variety of mammals, birds, and
reptiles, but they are widely scattered, and all excessively shy
of man. The region is so extensive, and uniform in the forest
clothing of its surface, that it is only at long intervals that
animals are seen in abundance when some particular spot is found
which is more attractive than others. Brazil, moreover, is
poor throughout in terrestrial mammals, and the species are of
small size; they do not, therefore, form a conspicuous feature in
its forests. The huntsman would be disappointed who expected to
find here flocks of animals similar to the buffalo herds of North
America, or the swarms of antelopes and herds of ponderous
pachyderms of Southern Africa. The largest and most interesting
portion of the Brazilian mammal fauna is arboreal in its habits;
this feature of the animal denizens of these forests I have
already alluded to. The most intensely arboreal animals in the
world are the South American monkeys of the family Cebidae, many
of which have a fifth hand for climbing in their prehensile
tails, adapted for this function by their strong muscular
development, and the naked palms under their tips. This seems to
teach us that the South American fauna has been slowly adapted to
a forest life, and, therefore, that extensive forests must have
always existed since the region was first peopled by mammalia.
But to this subject, and to the natural history of the monkeys,
of which thirty-eight species inhabit the Amazon region, I shall
have to return.

We often read, in books of travels, of the silence and gloom of
the Brazilian forests. They are realities, and the impression
deepens on a longer acquaintance. The few sounds of birds are of
that pensive or mysterious character which intensifies the
feeling of solitude rather than imparts a sense of life and
cheerfulness. Sometimes, in the midst of the stillness, a sudden
yell or scream will startle one; this comes from some defenseless
fruit-eating animal, which is pounced upon by a tiger-cat or
stealthy boa-constrictor. Morning and evening the howling monkeys
make a most fearful and harrowing noise, under which it is
difficult to keep up one's buoyancy of spirit. The feeling of
inhospitable wildness, which the forest is calculated to inspire,
is increased tenfold under this fearful uproar. Often, even in
the still hours of midday, a sudden crash will be heard
resounding afar through the wilderness, as some great bough or
entire tree falls to the ground. There are, besides, many sounds
which it is impossible to account for. I found the natives
generally as much at a loss in this respect as myself. Sometimes
a sound is heard like the clang of an iron bar against a hard,
hollow tree, or a piercing cry rends the air; these are not
repeated, and the succeeding silence tends to heighten the
unpleasant impression which they make on the mind. With the
native it is always the Curupira, the wild man or spirit of the
forest, which produces all noises they are unable to explain. For
myths are the rude theories which mankind, in the infancy of
knowledge, invent to explain natural phenomena. The Curupira is a
mysterious being, whose attributes are uncertain, for they vary
according to locality. Sometimes he is described as a kind of
orangutang, being covered with long, shaggy hair, and living in
trees. At others, he is said to have cloven feet and a bright red
face. He has a wife and children, and sometimes comes down to the
rocas to steal the mandioca. At one time I had a Mameluco youth
in my service, whose head was full of the legends and
superstitions of the country. He always went with me into the
forest; in fact, I could not get him to go alone, and whenever we
heard any of the strange noises mentioned above. he used to
tremble with fear. He would crouch down behind me, and beg of me
to turn back; his alarm ceasing only after he had made a charm to
protect us from the Curupira. For this purpose, he took a young
palm leaf, plaited it, and formed it into a ring, which he hung
to a branch on our track.

At length, after a six hour walk, we arrived at our
destination, the last mile or two having been again through
second-growth forest. The mills formed a large pile of buildings,
pleasantly situated in a cleared tract of land, many acres in
extent, and everywhere surrounded by the perpetual forest. We
were received in the kindest manner by the overseer, Mr. Leavens,
who showed us all that was interesting about the place, and took
us to the best spots in the neighbourhood for birds and insects.
The mills were built a long time ago by a wealthy Brazilian. They
had belonged to Mr. Upton for many years. I was told that when
the dark-skinned revolutionists were preparing for their attack
on Para, they occupied the place, but not the slightest injury
was done to the machinery or building, for the leaders said it
was against the Portuguese and their party that they were at war,
not against the other foreigners.

The Iritiri Creek at the mills is only a few yards wide; it winds
about between two lofty walls of forest for some distance, then
becomes much broader, and finally joins the Magoary. There are
many other ramifications, creeks or channels, which lead to
retired hamlets and scattered houses, inhabited by people of
mixed white, Indian, and negro descent. Many of them did business
with Mr. Leavens, bringing for sale their little harvests of
rice, or a few logs of timber. It was interesting to see them in
their little, heavily-laden montarias. Sometimes the boats were
managed by handsome, healthy young lads, loosely clad in a straw
hat, white shirt, and dark blue trousers, turned up to the knee.
They steered, paddled, and managed the varejao (the boating
pole), with much grace and dexterity.

We made many excursions down the Iritiri, and saw much of these
creeks; besides, our second visit to the mills was by water. The
Magoary is a magnificent channel; the different branches form
quite a labyrinth, and the land is everywhere of little
elevation. All these smaller rivers, throughout the Para
Estuary, are of the nature of creeks. The land is so level, that
the short local rivers have no sources and downward currents like
rivers as we generally understand them. They serve the purpose of
draining the land, but instead of having a constant current one
way, they have a regular ebb and flow with the tide. The natives
call them, in the Tupi language, Igarapes, or canoe-paths. The
igarapes and furos or channels, which are infinite in number in
this great river delta, are characteristic of the country. The
land is everywhere covered with impenetrable forests; the houses
and villages are all on the waterside, and nearly all
communication is by water. This semi-aquatic life of the people
is one of the most interesting features of the country. For short
excursions, and for fishing in still waters, a small boat, called
montaria, is universally used. It is made of five planks; a broad
one for the bottom, bent into the proper shape by the action of
heat, two narrow ones for the sides, and two small triangular
pieces for stem and stern. It has no rudder; the paddle serves
for both steering and propelling. The montaria takes here the
place of the horse, mule, or camel of other regions. Besides one
or more montarias, almost every family has a larger canoe, called
igarite. This is fitted with two masts, a rudder, and keel, and
has an arched awning or cabin near the stern, made of a framework
of tough lianas thatched with palm leaves. In the igarite they
will cross stormy rivers fifteen or twenty miles broad. The
natives are all boat-builders. It is often remarked, by white
residents, that an Indian is a carpenter and shipwright by
intuition. It is astonishing to see in what crazy vessels these
people will risk themselves. I have seen Indians cross rivers in
a leaky montaria, when it required the nicest equilibrium to keep
the leak just above water; a movement of a hair's breadth would
send all to the bottom, but they managed to cross in safety. They
are especially careful when they have strangers under their
charge, and it is the custom of Brazilian and Portuguese
travellers to leave the whole management to them. When they are
alone they are more reckless, and often have to swim for their
lives. If a squall overtakes them as they are crossing in a
heavily-laden canoe, they all jump overboard and swim about until
the heavy sea subsides, then they re-embark.


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