The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin

Part 5 out of 11

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

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

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

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

April 29th. -- From some high land we hailed with joy
the white summits of the Cordillera, as they were seen
occasionally peeping through their dusky envelope of clouds.
During the few succeeding days we continued to get on
slowly, for we found the river-course very tortuous, and
strewed with immense fragments of various ancient slate
rocks, and of granite. The plain bordering the valley has
here attained an elevation of about 1100 feet above the river,
and its character was much altered. The well-rounded pebbles
of porphyry were mingled with many immense angular
fragments of basalt and of primary rocks. The first of these
erratic boulders which I noticed, was sixty-seven miles distant
from the nearest mountain; another which I measured
was five yards square, and projected five feet above the
gravel. Its edges were so angular, and its size so great, that
I at first mistook it for a rock _in situ_, and took out my
compass to observe the direction of its cleavage. The plain here
was not quite so level as that nearer the coast, but yet in
betrayed no signs of any great violence. Under these
circumstances it is, I believe, quite impossible to explain the
transportal of these gigantic masses of rock so many miles
from their parent-source, on any theory except by that of
floating icebergs.

During the two last days we met with signs of horses, and
with several small articles which had belonged to the Indians
-- such as parts of a mantle and a bunch of ostrich feathers --,
but they appeared to have been lying long on the ground.
Between the place where the Indians had so lately crossed
the river and this neighbourhood, though so many miles
apart, the country appears to be quite unfrequented. At first,
considering the abundance of the guanacos, I was surprised
at this; but it is explained by the stony nature of the plains,
which would soon disable an unshod horse from taking part
in the chase. Nevertheless, in two places in this very central
region, I found small heaps of stones, which I do not think
could have been accidentally thrown together. They were
placed on points, projecting over the edge of the highest lava
cliff, and they resembled, but on a small scale, those near
Port Desire.

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

5th. -- Before sunrise we commenced our descent. We
shot down the stream with great rapidity, generally at the
rate of ten knots an hour. In this one day we effected what
had cost us five-and-a-half hard days' labour in ascending.
On the 8th, we reached the Beagle after our twenty-one days'
expedition. Every one, excepting myself, had cause to be
dissatisfied; but to me the ascent afforded a most interesting
section of the great tertiary formation of Patagonia.

On March 1st, 1833, and again on March 16th, 1834, the
Beagle anchored in Berkeley Sound, in East Falkland Island.
This archipelago is situated in nearly the same latitude with
the mouth of the Strait of Magellan; it covers a space of
one hundred and twenty by sixty geographical miles, and is
little more than half the size of Ireland. After the possession
of these miserable islands had been contested by France,
Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited. The government
of Buenos Ayres then sold them to a private individual,
but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before,
for a penal settlement. England claimed her right and
seized them. The Englishman who was left in charge of
the flag was consequently murdered. A British officer was
next sent, unsupported by any power: and when we arrived,
we found him in charge of a population, of which rather
more than half were runaway rebels and murderers.

The theatre is worthy of the scenes acted on it. An undulating
land, with a desolate and wretched aspect, is everywhere
covered by a peaty soil and wiry grass, of one monotonous
brown colour. Here and there a peak or ridge
of grey quartz rock breaks through the smooth surface
Every one has heard of the climate of these regions; it
may be compared to that which is experienced at the height
of between one and two thousand feet, on the mountains of
North Wales; having however less sunshine and less frost
but more wind and rain. [4]

16th. -- I will now describe a short excursion which
made round a part of this island. In the morning I started
with six horses and two Gauchos: the latter were capital
men for the purpose, and well accustomed to living on their
own resources. The weather was very boisterous and cold
with heavy hail-storms. We got on, however, pretty well
but, except the geology, nothing could be less interesting
than our day's ride. The country is uniformly the same
undulating moorland; the surface being covered by light
brown withered grass and a few very small shrubs, all
springing out of an elastic peaty soil. In the valleys here
and there might be seen a small flock of wild geese, and
everywhere the ground was so soft that the snipe were able
to feed. Besides these two birds there were few others.
There is one main range of hills, nearly two thousand feet
in height, and composed of quartz rock, the rugged and barren
crests of which gave us some trouble to cross. On the
south side we came to the best country for wild cattle; we
met, however, no great number, for they had been lately
much harassed.

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

During the night it rained, and the next day (17th) was
very stormy, with much hail and snow. We rode across the
island to the neck of land which joins the Rincon del Toro
(the great peninsula at the S. W. extremity) to the rest of
the island. From the great number of cows which have
been killed, there is a large proportion of bulls. These wander
about single, or two and three together, and are very
savage. I never saw such magnificent beasts; they equalled
in the size of their huge heads and necks the Grecian marble
sculptures. Capt. Sulivan informs me that the hide of an
average-sized bull weighs forty-seven pounds, whereas a
hide of this weight, less thoroughly dried, is considered as
a very heavy one at Monte Video. The young bulls generally
run away, for a short distance; but the old ones do not
stir a step, except to rush at man and horse; and many
horses have been thus killed. An old bull crossed a boggy
stream, and took his stand on the opposite side to us; we
in vain tried to drive him away, and failing, were obliged
to make a large circuit. The Gauchos in revenge determined
to emasculate him and render him for the future
harmless. It was very interesting to see how art completely
mastered force. One lazo was thrown over his horns as he
rushed at the horse, and another round his hind legs: in a
minute the monster was stretched powerless on the ground.
After the lazo has once been drawn tightly round the horns
of a furious animal, it does not at first appear an easy thing
to disengage it again without killing the beast: nor, I
apprehend, would it be so if the man was by himself. By the
aid, however, of a second person throwing his lazo so as to
catch both hind legs, it is quickly managed: for the animal,
as long as its hind legs are kept outstretched, is quite
helpless, and the first man can with his hands loosen his lazo
from the horns, and then quietly mount his horse; but the
moment the second man, by backing ever so little, relaxes
the strain, the lazo slips off the legs of the struggling beast,
which then rises free, shakes himself, and vainly rushes at
his antagonist.

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

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

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced;
and has succeeded very well; so that they abound over large
parts of the island. Yet, like the horses, they are confined
within certain limits; for they have not crossed the central
chain of hills, nor would they have extended even so far as
its base, if, as the Gauchos informed me, small colonies has
not been carried there. I should not have supposed that
these animals, natives of northern Africa, could have existed
in a climate so humid as this, and which enjoys so little
sunshine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It is
asserted that in Sweden, which any one would have thought
a more favourable climate, the rabbit cannot live out of
doors. The first few pairs, moreover, had here to content
against pre-existing enemies, in the fox and some large
hawks. The French naturalists have considered the black variety
a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus. [5]
They imagined that Magellan, when talking of an animal
under the name of "conejos" in the Strait of Magellan,
referred to this species; but he was alluding to a small cavy,
which to this day is thus called by the Spaniards. The
Gauchos laughed at the idea of the black kind being different
from the grey, and they said that at all events it had
not extended its range any further than the grey kind; that
the two were never found separate; and that they readily
bred together, and produced piebald offspring. Of the latter
I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the head
differently from the French specific description. This
circumstance shows how cautious naturalists should be in
making species; for even Cuvier, on looking at the skull
of one of these rabbits, thought it was probably distinct!

The only quadruped native to the island [6]; is a large wolf-
like fox (Canis antarcticus), which is common to both East
and West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species,
and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers,
Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these islands, all
maintain that no such animal is found in any part of South

Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought that this
was the same with his "culpeu;" [7] but I have seen both,
and they are quite distinct. These wolves are well known
from Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity, which
the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistook
for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same.
They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull
some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The
Gauchos also have frequently in the evening killed them,
by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other
a knife ready to stick them. As far as I am aware, there
is no other instance in any part of the world, of so small
a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessing
so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. Their
numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished
from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of
the neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkeley
Sound. Within a very few years after these islands shall
have become regularly settled, in all probability this for
will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished
from the face of the earth.

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land at the head
of Choiseul Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula.
The valley was pretty well sheltered from the cold wind,
but there was very little brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos,
however, soon found what, to my great surprise, made nearly
as hot a fire as coals; this was the skeleton of a bullock
lately killed, from which the flesh had been picked by the
carrion-hawks. They told me that in winter they often killed a
beast, cleaned the flesh from the bones with their knives,
and then with these same bones roasted the meat for their

18th. -- It rained during nearly the whole day. At night
we managed, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves
pretty well dry and warm; but the ground on which
we slept was on each occasion nearly in the state of a bog,
and there was not a dry spot to sit down on after our day's
ride. I have in another part stated how singular it is that
there should be absolutely no trees on these islands, although
Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest. The
largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of
Compositae) is scarcely so tall as our gorse. The best fuel is
afforded by a green little bush about the size of common
heath, which has the useful property of burning while fresh
and green. It was very surprising to see the Gauchos, in
the midst of rain and everything soaking wet, with nothing
more than a tinder-box and a piece of rag, immediately make
a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass and bushel
for a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres; then
surrounding them with coarser twigs, something like a bird's
nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire in the middle
and covered it up. The nest being then held up to the
wind, by degrees it smoked more and more, and at last
burst out in flames. I do not think any other method would
have had a chance of succeeding with such damp materials.

19th. -- Each morning, from not having ridden for some
time previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hear
the Gauchos, who have from infancy almost lived on horseback,
say that, under similar circumstances, they always
suffer. St. Jago told me, that having been confined for three
months by illness, he went out hunting wild cattle, and in
consequence, for the next two days, his thighs were so stiff
that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that the Gauchos,
although they do not appear to do so, yet really must
exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting will
cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this is on account
of the swampy ground, must be very hard work. The
Gauchos say they often pass at full speed over ground which
would be impassable at a slower pace; in the same manner
as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When hunting, the
party endeavours to get as close as possible to the herd without
being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair of
the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as many
cattle, which, when once entangled, are left for some days
till they become a little exhausted by hunger and struggling.
They are then let free and driven towards a small herd of
tame animals, which have been brought to the spot on purpose.
From their previous treatment, being too much terrified
to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if their
strength last out, to the settlement.

The weather continued so very bad that we determine
to make a push, and try to reach the vessel before night.
From the quantity of rain which had fallen, the surface
of the whole country was swampy. I suppose my horse fell
at least a dozen times, and sometimes the whole six horses
were floundering in the mud together. All the little streams
are bordered by soft peat, which makes it very difficult for
the horses to leap them without falling. To complete our
discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of a creek
of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses'
backs; and the little waves, owing to the violence of the
wind, broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Even
the iron-framed Gauchos professed themselves glad when
they reached the settlement, after our little excursion.

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

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys are
covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of great
loose angular fragments of the quartz rock, forming "streams
of stones." These have been mentioned with surprise be
every voyager since the time of Pernety. The blocks are
not water-worn, their angles being only a little blunted; they
vary in size from one or two feet in diameter to ten, or even
more than twenty times as much. They are not thrown
together into irregular piles, but are spread out into level
sheets or great streams. It is not possible to ascertain their
thickness, but the water of small streamlets can be heard
trickling through the stones many feet below the surface.
The actual depth is probably great, because the crevices
between the lower fragments must long ago have been filled
up with sand. The width of these sheets of stones varied
from a few hundred feet to a mile; but the peaty soil daily
encroaches on the borders, and even forms islets wherever
a few fragments happen to lie close together. In a valley
south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our party called
the "great valley of fragments," it was necessary to cross
an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping from
one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments,
that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily found
shelter beneath one of them.

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

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of one
range (about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment,
lying on its convex side, or back downwards. Must
we believe that it was fairly pitched up in the air, and thus
turned? Or, with more probability, that there existed formerly
a part of the same range more elevated than the point
on which this monument of a great convulsion of nature now
lies. As the fragments in the valleys are neither rounded
nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that the
period of violence was subsequent to the land having been
raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse section
within these valleys, the bottom is nearly level, or rises but
very little towards either side. Hence the fragments appear
to have travelled from the head of the valley; but in reality
it seems more probable that they have been hurled down from
the nearest slopes; and that since, by a vibratory movement
of overwhelming force, [9] the fragments have been levelled
into one continuous sheet. If during the earthquake [10] which
in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, in Chile, it was thought wonderful
that small bodies should have been pitched a few
inches from the ground, what must we say to a movement
which has caused fragments many tons in weight, to move
onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, and find
their level? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, the
evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broken
into pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata thrown of
their vertical edges; but never did any scene, like these
"streams of stones," so forcibly convey to my mind the idea
of a convulsion, of which in historical records we might in
vain seek for any counterpart: yet the progress of knowledge
will probably some day give a simple explanation of this
phenomenon, as it already has of the so long-thought
inexplicable transportal of the erratic boulders, which are
strewed over the plains of Europe.

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

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

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

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

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

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Falkland Islands,
made many observations on the lower marine animals, [11] but
they are of little general interest. I will mention only one
class of facts, relating to certain zoophytes in the more highly
organized division of that class. Several genera (Flustra,
Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) agree in having singular
moveable organs (like those of Flustra avicularia, found
in the European seas) attached to their cells. The organ, in
the greater number of cases, very closely resembles the head
of a vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened much
wider than in a real bird's beak. The head itself possessed
considerable powers of movement, by means of a short neck.
In one zoophyte the head itself was fixed, but the lower jaw
free: in another it was replaced by a triangular hood, with
beautifully-fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to the
lower mandible. In the greater number of species, each cell
was provided with one head, but in others each cell had two.

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

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production
of the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the
young polypi appear in the cells at the end of the growing
branches; as they move independently of the polypi, and do
not appear to be in any way connected with them; and as
they differ in size on the outer and inner rows of cells, I have
little doubt, that in their functions, they are related rather
to the horny axis of the branches than to the polypi in the
cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower extremity of the
sea-pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms part of the
zoophyte, as a whole, in the same manner as the roots of a
tree form part of the whole tree, and not of the individual
leaf or flower-buds.

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

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

[1] The desserts of Syria are characterized, according to
Volney (tom. i. p. 351), by woody bushes, numerous rats,
gazelles and hares. In the landscape of Patagonia, the guanaco
replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the hare.

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

[3] London's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii.

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

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

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

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

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

[9] "Nous n'avons pas ete moins saisis d'etonnement a la vue
de l'innombrable quantite de pierres de touts grandeurs,
bouleversees les unes sur les autres, et cependent rangees,
comme si elles avoient ete amoncelees negligemment pour remplir
des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les effets
prodigieux de la nature." -- Pernety, p. 526.

[10] An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of
judging, assured me that, during the several years he had
resided on these islands, he had never felt the slightest
shock of an earthquake.

[11] I was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large
white Doris (this sea-slug was three and a half inches long),
how extraordinarily numerous they were. From two to five eggs
(each three-thousandths of an inch in diameter) were contained
in spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in
transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon adhered by its
edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, measured
nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting
how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the
row, and how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on
the most moderate computation there were six hundred thousand
eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly not very common; although
I was often searching under the stones, I saw only seven
individuals. No fallacy is more common with naturalists,
than that the numbers of an individual species depend on
its powers of propagation.



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

DECEMBER 17th, 1832. -- Having now finished with
Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, I will describe
our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after
noon we doubled Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous
strait of Le Maire. We kept close to the Fuegian shore, but
the outline of the rugged, inhospitable Statenland was visible
amidst the clouds. In the afternoon we anchored in the Bay
of Good Success. While entering we were saluted in a manner
becoming the inhabitants of this savage land. A group
of Fuegians partly concealed by the entangled forest, were
perched on a wild point overhanging the sea; and as we
passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks
sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed
the ship, and just before dark we saw their fire, and again
heard their wild cry. The harbour consists of a fine piece
of water half surrounded by low rounded mountains of clay-
slate, which are covered to the water's edge by one dense
gloomy forest. A single glance at the landscape was sufficient
to show me how widely different it was from anything
I had ever beheld. At night it blew a gale of wind, and
heavy squalls from the mountains swept past us. It would
have been a bad time out at sea, and we, as well as others,
may call this Good Success Bay.

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

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

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of
their countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After
we had presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they
immediately tied round their necks, they became good friends.
This was shown by the old man patting our breasts,
and making a chuckling kind of noise, as people do when
feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, and this
demonstration of friendship was repeated several times; it was
concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on the
breast and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom
for me to return the compliment, which being done, he
seemed highly pleased. The language of these people,
according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called
articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his
throat, but certainly no European ever cleared his throat
with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds.

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

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

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on
board. During the former voyage of the Adventure and
Beagle in 1826 to 1830, Captain Fitz Roy seized on a party
of natives, as hostages for the loss of a boat, which had
been stolen, to the great jeopardy of a party employed on
the survey; and some of these natives, as well as a child
whom he bought for a pearl-button, he took with him to
England, determining to educate them and instruct them in
religion at his own expense. To settle these natives in their
own country, was one chief inducement to Captain Fitz Roy
to undertake our present voyage; and before the Admiralty
had resolved to send out this expedition, Captain Fitz Roy
had generously chartered a vessel, and would himself have
taken them back. The natives were accompanied by a missionary,
R. Matthews; of whom and of the natives, Captain
Fitz Roy has published a full and excellent account. Two
men, one of whom died in England of the small-pox, a boy
and a little girl, were originally taken; and we had now on
board, York Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses
his purchase-money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster
was a full-grown, short, thick, powerful man: his disposition
was reserved, taciturn, morose, and when excited violently
passionate; his affections were very strong towards a few
friends on board; his intellect good. Jemmy Button was a
universal favourite, but likewise passionate; the expression
of his face at once showed his nice disposition. He was
merry and often laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic
with any one in pain: when the water was rough, I was often
a little sea-sick, and he used to come to me and say in a
plaintive voice, "Poor, poor fellow!" but the notion, after
his aquatic life, of a man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous,
and he was generally obliged to turn on one side to hide a
smile or laugh, and then he would repeat his "Poor, poor
fellow!" He was of a patriotic disposition; and he liked to
praise his own tribe and country, in which he truly said there
were "plenty of trees," and he abused all the other tribes:
he stoutly declared that there was no Devil in his land.
Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his personal
appearance; he used always to wear gloves, his hair was
neatly cut, and he was distressed if his well-polished shoes
were dirtied. He was fond of admiring himself in a looking
glass; and a merry-faced little Indian boy from the Rio
Negro, whom we had for some months on board, soon perceived
this, and used to mock him: Jemmy, who was always
rather jealous of the attention paid to this little boy, did not
at all like this, and used to say, with rather a contemptuous
twist of his head, "Too much skylark." It seems yet wonderful
to me, when I think over all his many good qualities
that he should have been of the same race, and doubtless
partaken of the same character, with the miserable, degraded
savages whom we first met here. Lastly, Fuegia Basket was
a nice, modest, reserved young girl, with a rather pleasing but
sometimes sullen expression, and very quick in learning anything,
especially languages. This she showed in picking up
some Portuguese and Spanish, when left on shore for only
a short time at Rio de Janeiro and Monte Video, and in her
knowledge of English. York Minster was very jealous of
any attention paid to her; for it was clear he determined to
marry her as soon as they were settled on shore.

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

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

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the
country. Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountainous
land, partly submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets
and bays occupy the place where valleys should exist. The
mountain sides, except on the exposed western coast, are
covered from the water's edge upwards by one great forest.
The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000 and 1500
feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute alpine
plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual
snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of
Magellan descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find
an acre of level land in any part of the country is most rare.
I recollect only one little flat piece near Port Famine, and
another of rather larger extent near Goeree Road. In both
places, and everywhere else, the surface is covered by a
thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the forest, the
ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying vegetable
matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to the

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

December 20th. -- One side of the harbour is formed by a
hill about 1500 feet high, which Captain Fitz Roy has called
after Sir J. Banks, in commemoration of his disastrous
excursion, which proved fatal to two men of his party, and
nearly so to Dr. Solander. The snow-storm, which was the
cause of their misfortune, happened in the middle of January,
corresponding to our July, and in the latitude of Durham!
I was anxious to reach the summit of this mountain
to collect alpine plants; for flowers of any kind in the lower
parts are few in number. We followed the same water-course
as on the previous day, till it dwindled away, and we
were then compelled to crawl blindly among the trees.
These, from the effects of the elevation and of the impetuous
winds, were low, thick and crooked. At length we reached
that which from a distance appeared like a carpet of fine
green turf, but which, to our vexation, turned out to be a
compact mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet
high. They were as thick together as box in the border of
a garden, and we were obliged to struggle over the flat but
treacherous surface. After a little more trouble we gained
the peat, and then the bare slate rock.

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

December 21st. -- The Beagle got under way: and on the
succeeding day, favoured to an uncommon degree by a fine
easterly breeze, we closed in with the Barnevelts, and running
past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks, about three
o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape Horn. The evening
was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the
surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute,
and before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth.
We stood out to sea, and on the second day again made the
land, when we saw on our weather-bow this notorious promontory
in its proper form -- veiled in a mist, and its dim
outline surrounded by a storm of wind and water. Great
black clouds were rolling across the heavens, and squalls
of rain, with hail, swept by us with such extreme violence,
that the Captain determined to run into Wigwam Cove.
This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape Horn; and
here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water. The
only thing which reminded us of the gale outside, was every
now and then a puff from the mountains, which made the
ship surge at her anchors.

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

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions,
a haycock. It merely consists of a few broken branches
stuck in the ground, and very imperfectly thatched on one
side with a few tufts of grass and rushes. The whole cannot
be the work of an hour, and it is only used for a few days.
At Goeree Roads I saw a place where one of these naked
men had slept, which absolutely offered no more cover than
the form of a hare. The man was evidently living by himself,
and York Minster said he was "very bad man," and
that probably he had stolen something. On the west coast,
however, the wigwams are rather better, for they are covered
with seal-skins. We were detained here several days by the
bad weather. The climate is certainly wretched: the summer
solstice was now passed, yet every day snow fell on the
hills, and in the valleys there was rain, accompanied by
sleet. The thermometer generally stood about 45 degs., but in
the night fell to 38 or 40 degs. From the damp and boisterous
state of the atmosphere, not cheered by a gleam of sunshine,
one fancied the climate even worse than it really was.

While going one day on shore near Wollaston Island, we
pulled alongside a canoe with six Fuegians. These were the
most abject and miserable creatures I anywhere beheld. On
the east coast the natives, as we have seen, have guanaco
cloaks, and on the west they possess seal-skins. Amongst
these central tribes the men generally have an otter-skin, or
some small scrap about as large as a pocket-handkerchief,
which is barely sufficient to cover their backs as low down
as their loins. It is laced across the breast by strings, and
according as the wind blows, it is shifted from side to side.
But these Fuegians in the canoe were quite naked, and even
one full-grown woman was absolutely so. It was raining
heavily, and the fresh water, together with the spray, trickled
down her body. In another harbour not far distant, a
woman, who was suckling a recently-born child, came one
day alongside the vessel, and remained there out of mere
curiosity, whilst the sleet fell and thawed on her naked
bosom, and on the skin of her naked baby! These poor
wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous faces
bedaubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy,
their hair entangled, their voices discordant, and their
gestures violent. Viewing such men, one can hardly make one's
self believe that they are fellow-creatures, and inhabitants
of the same world. It is a common subject of conjecture
what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can enjoy:
how much more reasonably the same question may be asked
with respect to these barbarians! At night, five or six
human beings, naked and scarcely protected from the wind
and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet
ground coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low water,
winter or summer, night or day, they must rise to pick shell-fish
from the rocks; and the women either dive to collect
sea-eggs, or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited
hair-line without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is
killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale is discovered,
it is a feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few
tasteless berries and fungi.

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

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

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

Whilst beholding these savages, one asks, whence have
they come? What could have tempted, or what change compelled
a tribe of men, to leave the fine regions of the north,
to travel down the Cordillera or backbone of America, to
invent and build canoes, which are not used by the tribes
of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, and then to enter on one of the
most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe?
Although such reflections must at first seize on the mind, yet
we may feel sure that they are partly erroneous. There is
no reason to believe that the Fuegians decrease in number;
therefore we must suppose that they enjoy a sufficient share
of happiness, of whatever kind it may be, to render life
worth having. Nature by making habit omnipotent, and its
effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian to the climate and
the productions of his miserable country.

After having been detained six days in Wigwam Cove by
very bad weather, we put to sea on the 30th of December.
Captain Fitz Roy wished to get westward to land York and
Fuegia in their own country. When at sea we had a constant
succession of gales, and the current was against us: we
drifted to 57 degs. 23' south. On the 11th of January, 1833,
by carrying a press of sail, we fetched within a few miles of
the great rugged mountain of York Minster (so called by
Captain Cook, and the origin of the name of the elder Fuegian),
when a violent squall compelled us to shorten sail
and stand out to sea. The surf was breaking fearfully on
the coast, and the spray was carried over a cliff estimated
to 200 feet in height. On the 12th the gale was very heavy,
and we did not know exactly where we were: it was a most
unpleasant sound to hear constantly repeated, "keep a good
look-out to leeward." On the 13th the storm raged with its
full fury: our horizon was narrowly limited by the sheets
of spray borne by the wind. The sea looked ominous, like
a dreary waving plain with patches of drifted snow: whilst
the ship laboured heavily, the albatross glided with its
expanded wings right up the wind. At noon a great sea broke
over us, and filled one of the whale boats, which was
obliged to be instantly cut away. The poor Beagle trembled
at the shock, and for a few minutes would not obey her helm;
but soon, like a good ship that she was, she righted and came
up to the wind again. Had another sea followed the first,
our fate would have been decided soon, and for ever. We
had now been twenty-four days trying in vain to get westward;
the men were worn out with fatigue, and they had not
had for many nights or days a dry thing to put on. Captain
Fitz Roy gave up the attempt to get westward by the outside
coast. In the evening we ran in behind False Cape Horn,
and dropped our anchor in forty-seven fathoms, fire flashing
from the windlass as the chain rushed round it. How delightful
was that still night, after having been so long involved
in the din of the warring elements!

January 15th, 1833. -- The Beagle anchored in Goeree
Roads. Captain Fitz Roy having resolved to settle the Fuegians,
according to their wishes, in Ponsonby Sound, four
boats were equipped to carry them there through the Beagle
Channel. This channel, which was discovered by Captain
Fitz Roy during the last voyage, is a most remarkable feature
in the geography of this, or indeed of any other country: it
may be compared to the valley of Lochness in Scotland, with
its chain of lakes and friths. It is about one hundred and
twenty miles long, with an average breadth, not subject to
any very great variation, of about two miles; and is throughout
the greater part so perfectly straight, that the view,
bounded on each side by a line of mountains, gradually becomes
indistinct in the long distance. It crosses the southern
part of Tierra del Fuego in an east and west line, and
in the middle is joined at right angles on the south side by
an irregular channel, which has been called Ponsonby Sound.
This is the residence of Jemmy Button's tribe and family.

19th. -- Three whale-boats and the yawl, with a party of
twenty-eight, started under the command of Captain Fitz
Roy. In the afternoon we entered the eastern mouth of the
channel, and shortly afterwards found a snug little cove
concealed by some surrounding islets. Here we pitched our
tents and lighted our fires. Nothing could look more comfortable
than this scene. The glassy water of the little harbour,
with the branches of the trees hanging over the rocky
beach, the boats at anchor, the tents supported by the crossed
oars, and the smoke curling up the wooded valley, formed a
picture of quiet retirement. The next day (20th) we smoothly
glided onwards in our little fleet, and came to a more inhabited
district. Few if any of these natives could ever
have seen a white man; certainly nothing could exceed their
astonishment at the apparition of the four boats. Fires were
lighted on every point (hence the name of Tierra del Fuego,
or the land of fire), both to attract our attention and to
spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran for
miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and
savage one group appeared: suddenly four or five men came
to the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely
naked, and their long hair streamed about their faces; they
held rugged staffs in their hands, and, springing from the
ground, they waved their arms round their heads, and sent
forth the most hideous yells.

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

At night we endeavoured in vain to find an uninhabited
cove; and at last were obliged to bivouac not far from a
party of natives. They were very inoffensive as long as they
were few in numbers, but in the morning (21st) being joined
by others they showed symptoms of hostility, and we thought
that we should have come to a skirmish. An European
labours under great disadvantages when treating with savages
like these, who have not the least idea of the power of
fire-arms. In the very act of levelling his musket he appears
to the savage far inferior to a man armed with a bow and
arrow, a spear, or even a sling. Nor is it easy to teach them
our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild
beasts, they do not appear to compare numbers; for each
individual, if attacked, instead of retiring, will endeavour to
dash your brains out with a stone, as certainly as a tiger
under similar circumstances would tear you. Captain Fitz
Roy on one occasion being very anxious, from good reasons,
to frighten away a small party, first flourished a cutlass near
them, at which they only laughed; he then twice fired his
pistol close to a native. The man both times looked astounded,
and carefully but quickly rubbed his head; he then
stared awhile, and gabbled to his companions, but he never
seemed to think of running away. We can hardly put ourselves
in the position of these savages, and understand their
actions. In the case of this Fuegian, the possibility of such
a sound as the report of a gun close to his ear could never
have entered his mind. He perhaps literally did not for a
second know whether it was a sound or a blow, and therefore
very naturally rubbed his head. In a similar manner,
when a savage sees a mark struck by a bullet, it may be some
time before he is able at all to understand how it is effected;
for the fact of a body being invisible from its velocity would
perhaps be to him an idea totally inconceivable. Moreover,
the extreme force of a bullet, that penetrates a hard substance
without tearing it, may convince the savage that it
has no force at all. Certainly I believe that many savages
of the lowest grade, such as these of Tierra del Fuego, have
seen objects struck, and even small animals killed by the
musket, without being in the least aware how deadly an
instrument it is.

22nd. -- After having passed an unmolested night, in what
would appear to be neutral territory between Jemmy's tribe
and the people whom we saw yesterday, we sailed pleasantly
along. I do not know anything which shows more clearly
the hostile state of the different tribes, than these wide
border or neutral tracts. Although Jemmy Button well knew the
force of our party, he was, at first, unwilling to land amidst
the hostile tribe nearest to his own. He often told us how
the savage Oens men "when the leaf red," crossed the mountains
from the eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego, and made
inroads on the natives of this part of the country. It was
most curious to watch him when thus talking, and see his
eyes gleaming and his whole face assume a new and wild
expression. As we proceeded along the Beagle Channel, the
scenery assumed a peculiar and very magnificent character;
but the effect was much lessened from the lowness of the
point of view in a boat, and from looking along the valley,
and thus losing all the beauty of a succession of ridges. The
mountains were here about three thousand feet high, and
terminated in sharp and jagged points. They rose in one
unbroken sweep from the water's edge, and were covered to
the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet by the dusky-
coloured forest. It was most curious to observe, as far as
the eye could range, how level and truly horizontal the line
on the mountain side was, at which trees ceased to grow: it
precisely resembled the high-water mark of drift-weed on a

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

During the night the news had spread, and early in the
morning (23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika,
or Jemmy's tribe. Several of them had run so fast that
their noses were bleeding, and their mouths frothed from
the rapidity with which they talked; and with their naked
bodies all bedaubed with black, white, [1] and red, they looked
like so many demoniacs who had been fighting. We then
proceeded (accompanied by twelve canoes, each holding four
or five people) down Ponsonby Sound to the spot where poor
Jemmy expected to find his mother and relatives. He had
already heard that his father was dead; but as he had had
a "dream in his head" to that effect, he did not seem to
care much about it, and repeatedly comforted himself with
the very natural reflection -- "Me no help it." He was not
able to learn any particulars regarding his father's death, as
his relations would not speak about it.

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

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

Everything went on peaceably during the three next days
whilst the gardens were digging and wigwams building. We
estimated the number of natives at about one hundred and
twenty. The women worked hard, whilst the men lounged
about all day long, watching us. They asked for everything
they saw, and stole what they could. They were delighted
at our dancing and singing, and were particularly interested
at seeing us wash in a neighbouring brook; they did not pay
much attention to anything else, not even to our boats. Of
all the things which York saw, during his absence from his
country, nothing seems more to have astonished him than
an ostrich, near Maldonado: breathless with astonishment
he came running to Mr. Bynoe, with whom he was out walking
-- "Oh, Mr. Bynoe, oh, bird all same horse!" Much as
our white skins surprised the natives, by Mr. Low's account
a negro-cook to a sealing vessel, did so more effectually, and
the poor fellow was so mobbed and shouted at that he would
never go on shore again. Everything went on so quietly
that some of the officers and myself took long walks in the
surrounding hills and woods. Suddenly, however, on the
27th, every woman and child disappeared. We were all uneasy
at this, as neither York nor Jemmy could make out
the cause. It was thought by some that they had been frightened
by our cleaning and firing off our muskets on the previous
evening; by others, that it was owing to offence taken
by an old savage, who, when told to keep further off, had
coolly spit in the sentry's face, and had then, by gestures
acted over a sleeping Fuegian, plainly showed, as it was said,
that he should like to cut up and eat our man. Captain
Fitz Roy, to avoid the chance of an encounter, which would
have been fatal to so many of the Fuegians, thought it advisable
for us to sleep at a cove a few miles distant. Matthews,
with his usual quiet fortitude (remarkable in a man
apparently possessing little energy of character), determined
to stay with the Fuegians, who evinced no alarm for themselves;
and so we left them to pass their first awful night.

On our return in the morning (28th) we were delighted
to find all quiet, and the men employed in their canoes
spearing fish. Captain Fitz Roy determined to send the
yawl and one whale-boat back to the ship; and to proceed
with the two other boats, one under his own command (in
which he most kindly allowed me to accompany him), and
one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the western parts of
the Beagle Channel, and afterwards to return and visit the
settlement. The day to our astonishment was overpoweringly
hot, so that our skins were scorched: with this beautiful
weather, the view in the middle of the Beagle Channel
was very remarkable. Looking towards either hand, no object
intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal between
the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm
of the sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales [2]
spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw two
of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly swimming
one after the other, within less than a stone's throw
of the shore, over which the beech-tree extended its branches.
We sailed on till it was dark, and then pitched our tents
in a quiet creek. The greatest luxury was to find for our
beds a beach of pebbles, for they were dry and yielded to
the body. Peaty soil is damp; rock is uneven and hard;
sand gets into one's meat, when cooked and eaten boat-fashion;
but when lying in our blanket-bags, on a good bed of
smooth pebbles, we passed most comfortable nights.

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

January 20th. -- Early in the morning we arrived at the
point where the Beagle Channel divides into two arms; and
we entered the northern one. The scenery here becomes
even grander than before. The lofty mountains on the north
side compose the granitic axis, or backbone of the country
and boldly rise to a height of between three and four thousand
feet, with one peak above six thousand feet. They are
covered by a wide mantle of perpetual snow, and numerous
cascades pour their waters, through the woods, into the narrow
channel below. In many parts, magnificent glaciers extend
from the mountain side to the water's edge. It is
scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than
the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as
contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow.
The fragments which had fallen from the glacier into the
water were floating away, and the channel with its icebergs
presented, for the space of a mile, a miniature likeness of
the Polar Sea. The boats being hauled on shore at our
dinner-hour, we were admiring from the distance of half a
mile a perpendicular cliff of ice, and were wishing that some
more fragments would fall. At last, down came a mass with
a roaring noise, and immediately we saw the smooth outline
of a wave travelling towards us. The men ran down as
quickly as they could to the boats; for the chance of their
being dashed to pieces was evident. One of the seamen just
caught hold of the bows, as the curling breaker reached it:
he was knocked over and over, but not hurt, and the boats
though thrice lifted on high and let fall again, received no
damage. This was most fortunate for us, for we were a
hundred miles distant from the ship, and we should have
been left without provisions or fire-arms. I had previously
observed that some large fragments of rock on the beach had
been lately displaced; but until seeing this wave, I did not
understand the cause. One side of the creek was formed
by a spur of mica-slate; the head by a cliff of ice about
forty feet high; and the other side by a promontory fifty
feet high, built up of huge rounded fragments of granite
and mica-slate, out of which old trees were growing. This
promontory was evidently a moraine, heaped up at a period
when the glacier had greater dimensions.

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

February 6th. -- We arrived at Woollya. Matthews gave
so bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians, that Captain
Fitz Roy determined to take him back to the Beagle;
and ultimately he was left at New Zealand, where his brother
was a missionary. From the time of our leaving, a regular
system of plunder commenced; fresh parties of the natives
kept arriving: York and Jemmy lost many things, and Matthews
almost everything which had not been concealed underground.
Every article seemed to have been torn up and
divided by the natives. Matthews described the watch he
was obliged always to keep as most harassing; night and
day he was surrounded by the natives, who tried to tire him
out by making an incessant noise close to his head. One day
an old man, whom Matthews asked to leave his wigwam,
immediately returned with a large stone in his hand: another
day a whole party came armed with stones and stakes, and
some of the younger men and Jemmy's brother were crying:
Matthews met them with presents. Another party showed
by signs that they wished to strip him naked and pluck all
the hairs out of his face and body. I think we arrived just
in time to save his life. Jemmy's relatives had been so vain
and foolish, that they had showed to strangers their plunder,
and their manner of obtaining it. It was quite melancholy
leaving the three Fuegians with their savage countrymen;
but it was a great comfort that they had no personal
fears. York, being a powerful resolute man, was pretty sure
to get on well, together with his wife Fuegia. Poor Jemmy
looked rather disconsolate, and would then, I have little
doubt, have been glad to have returned with us. His own
brother had stolen many things from him; and as he remarked,
"What fashion call that:" he abused his countrymen,
"all bad men, no sabe (know) nothing" and, though
I never heard him swear before, "damned fools." Our three
Fuegians, though they had been only three years with civilized
men, would, I am sure, have been glad to have retained
their new habits; but this was obviously impossible. I fear
it is more than doubtful, whether their visit will have been
of any use to them.

In the evening, with Matthews on board, we made sail
back to the ship, not by the Beagle Channel, but by the
southern coast. The boats were heavily laden and the sea
rough, and we had a dangerous passage. By the evening
of the 7th we were on board the Beagle after an absence of
twenty days, during which time we had gone three hundred
miles in the open boats. On the 11th, Captain Fitz Roy
paid a visit by himself to the Fuegians and found them going
on well; and that they had lost very few more things.

On the last day of February in the succeeding year (1834)
the Beagle anchored in a beautiful little cove at the eastern
entrance of the Beagle Channel. Captain Fitz Roy determined
on the bold, and as it proved successful, attempt to
beat against the westerly winds by the same route, which
we had followed in the boats to the settlement at Woollya.
We did not see many natives until we were near Ponsonby
Sound, where we were followed by ten or twelve canoes. The
natives did not at all understand the reason of our tacking,
and, instead of meeting us at each tack, vainly strove to
follow us in our zigzag course. I was amused at finding
what a difference the circumstance of being quite superior
in force made, in the interest of beholding these savages.
While in the boats I got to hate the very sound of their
voices, so much trouble did they give us. The first and last
word was "yammerschooner." When, entering some quiet
little cove, we have looked round and thought to pass a quiet
night, the odious word "yammerschooner" has shrilly sounded
from some gloomy nook, and then the little signal-smoke
has curled up to spread the news far and wide. On leaving
some place we have said to each other, "Thank heaven, we
have at last fairly left these wretches!" when one more faint
hallo from an all-powerful voice, heard at a prodigious
distance, would reach our ears, and clearly could we distinguish
-- "yammerschooner." But now, the more Fuegians the merrier;
and very merry work it was. Both parties laughing,
wondering, gaping at each other; we pitying them, for giving
us good fish and crabs for rags, etc.; they grasping at the
chance of finding people so foolish as to exchange such splendid
ornaments for a good supper. It was most amusing to
see the undisguised smile of satisfaction with which one
young woman with her face painted black, tied several bits
of scarlet cloth round her head with rushes. Her husband,
who enjoyed the very universal privilege in this country of
possessing two wives, evidently became jealous of all the
attention paid to his young wife; and, after a consultation
with his naked beauties, was paddled away by them.

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

On the 5th of March, we anchored in a cove at Woollya,
but we saw not a soul there. We were alarmed at this, for
the natives in Ponsonby Sound showed by gestures, that there
had been fighting; and we afterwards heard that the dreaded
Oens men had made a descent. Soon a canoe, with a little
flag flying, was seen approaching, with one of the men in it
washing the paint off his face. This man was poor Jemmy,
-- now a thin, haggard savage, with long disordered hair, and
naked, except a bit of blanket round his waist. We did not
recognize him till he was close to us, for he was ashamed
of himself, and turned his back to the ship. We had left him
plump, fat, clean, and well-dressed; -- I never saw so complete
and grievous a change. As soon, however, as he was clothed,
and the first flurry was over, things wore a good appearance.
He dined with Captain Fitz Roy, and ate his dinner
as tidily as formerly. He told us that he had "too much"
(meaning enough) to eat, that he was not cold, that his
relations were very good people, and that he did not wish to go
back to England: in the evening we found out the cause of
this great change in Jemmy's feelings, in the arrival of his
young and nice-looking wife. With his usual good feeling
he brought two beautiful otter-skins for two of his best
friends, and some spear-heads and arrows made with his own
hands for the Captain. He said he had built a canoe for himself,
and he boasted that he could talk a little of his own
language! But it is a most singular fact, that he appears to
have taught all his tribe some English: an old man spontaneously
announced "Jemmy Button's wife." Jemmy had lost
all his property. He told us that York Minster had built
a large canoe, and with his wife Fuegia, [3] had several months
since gone to his own country, and had taken farewell by an
act of consummate villainy; he persuaded Jemmy and his
mother to come with him, and then on the way deserted them
by night, stealing every article of their property.

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

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


Back to Full Books