The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin

Part 7 out of 11

25th. -- Torrents of rain: we managed, however, to run
down the coast as far as Huapi-lenou. The whole of this
eastern side of Chiloe has one aspect; it is a plain, broken by
valleys and divided into little islands, and the whole thickly
covered with one impervious blackish-green forest. On the
margins there are some cleared spaces, surrounding the high-
roofed cottages.

26th -- The day rose splendidly clear. The volcano of
Orsono was spouting out volumes of smoke. This most
beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, and white
with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another
great volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also emitted
from its immense crater little jets of steam. Subsequently
we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado -- well deserving the name
of "el famoso Corcovado." Thus we beheld, from one point
of view, three great active volcanoes, each about seven thousand
feet high. In addition to this, far to the south, there
were other lofty cones covered with snow, which, although
not known to be active, must be in their origin volcanic.
The line of the Andes is not, in this neighbourhood, nearly
so elevated as in Chile; neither does it appear to form so
perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. This
great range, although running in a straight north and south
line, owing to an optical deception, always appeared more or
less curved; for the lines drawn from each peak to the
beholder's eye, necessarily converged like the radii of a
semicircle, and as it was not possible (owing to the clearness
of the atmosphere and the absence of all intermediate objects)
to judge how far distant the farthest peaks were off,
they appeared to stand in a flattish semicircle.

Landing at midday, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction.
The father was singularly like York Minster; and some
of the younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might
have been mistaken for Pampas Indians. Everything I have
seen, convinces me of the close connexion of the different
American tribes, who nevertheless speak distinct languages.
This party could muster but little Spanish, and talked to each
other in their own tongue. It is a pleasant thing to see the
aborigines advanced to the same degree of civilization, however
low that may be, which their white conquerors have
attained. More to the south we saw many pure Indians:
indeed, all the inhabitants of some of the islets retain their
Indian surnames. In the census of 1832, there were in Chiloe
and its dependencies forty-two thousand souls; the greater
number of these appear to be of mixed blood. Eleven thousand
retain their Indian surnames, but it is probable that not
nearly all of these are of a pure breed. Their manner of life
is the same with that of the other poor inhabitants, and they
are all Christians; but it is said that they yet retain some
strange superstitious ceremonies, and that they pretend to
hold communication with the devil in certain caves. Formerly,
every one convicted of this offence was sent to the
Inquisition at Lima. Many of the inhabitants who are not
included in the eleven thousand with Indian surnames, cannot
be distinguished by their appearance from Indians.
Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen
of Spain on both sides; but by constant intermarriages with
the natives the present man is an Indian. On the other hand
the governor of Quinchao boasts much of his purely kept
Spanish blood.

We reached at night a beautiful little cove, north of the
island of Caucahue. The people here complained of want of
land. This is partly owing to their own negligence in not
clearing the woods, and partly to restrictions by the government,
which makes it necessary, before buying ever so small
a piece, to pay two shillings to the surveyor for measuring
each quadra (150 yards square), together with whatever
price he fixes for the value of the land. After his valuation
the land must be put up three times to auction, and if no one
bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. All these
exactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground,
where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. In most countries,
forests are removed without much difficulty by the aid
of fire; but in Chiloe, from the damp nature of the climate,
and the sort of trees, it is necessary first to cut them down.
This is a heavy drawback to the prosperity of Chiloe. In the
time of the Spaniards the Indians could not hold land; and a
family, after having cleared a piece of ground, might be
driven away, and the property seized by the government.
The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice
by making retribution to these poor Indians, giving to each
man, according to his grade of life, a certain portion of land.
The value of uncleared ground is very little. The government
gave Mr. Douglas (the present surveyor, who informed
me of these circumstances) eight and a half square miles of
forest near S. Carlos, in lieu of a debt; and this he sold for
350 dollars, or about 70 pounds sterling.

The two succeeding days were fine, and at night we reached
the island of Quinchao. This neighbourhood is the most cultivated
part of the Archipelago; for a broad strip of land on
the coast of the main island, as well as on many of the smaller
adjoining ones, is almost completely cleared. Some of the
farm-houses seemed very comfortable. I was curious to
ascertain how rich any of these people might be, but Mr.
Douglas says that no one can be considered as possessing a
regular income. One of the richest landowners might possibly
accumulate, in a long industrious life, as much as 1000 pounds
sterling; but should this happen, it would all be stowed away
in some secret corner, for it is the custom of almost every
family to have a jar or treasure-chest buried in the ground.

November 30th. -- Early on Sunday morning we reached
Castro, the ancient capital of Chiloe, but now a most forlorn
and deserted place. The usual quadrangular arrangement
of Spanish towns could be traced, but the streets and plaza
were coated with fine green turf, on which sheep were
browsing. The church, which stands in the middle, is entirely
built of plank, and has a picturesque and venerable appearance.
The poverty of the place may be conceived from the
fact, that although containing some hundreds of inhabitants,
one of our party was unable anywhere to purchase either a
pound of sugar or an ordinary knife. No individual possessed
either a watch or a clock; and an old man, who was supposed
to have a good idea of time, was employed to strike the
church bell by guess. The arrival of our boats was a rare
event in this quiet retired corner of the world; and nearly all
the inhabitants came down to the beach to see us pitch our
tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house; and one
man even sent us a cask of cider as a present. In the afternoon
we paid our respects to the governor -- a quiet old man,
who, in his appearance and manner of life, was scarcely
superior to an English cottager. At night heavy rain set in,
which was hardly sufficient to drive away from our tents the
large circle of lookers-on. An Indian family, who had come
to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked near us. They
had no shelter during the rain. In the morning I asked a
young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he had passed
the night. He seemed perfectly content, and answered, "Muy
bien, senor."

December 1st. -- We steered for the island of Lemuy. I
was anxious to examine a reported coal-mine which turned
out to be lignite of little value, in the sandstone (probably
of an ancient tertiary epoch) of which these islands are
composed. When we reached Lemuy we had much difficulty in
finding any place to pitch our tents, for it was spring-tide,
and the land was wooded down to the water's edge. In a
short time we were surrounded by a large group of the nearly
pure Indian inhabitants. They were much surprised at our
arrival, and said one to the other, "This is the reason we
have seen so many parrots lately; the cheucau (an odd red-
breasted little bird, which inhabits the thick forest, and utters
very peculiar noises) has not cried 'beware' for nothing."
They were soon anxious for barter. Money was scarcely
worth anything, but their eagerness for tobacco was something
quite extraordinary. After tobacco, indigo came next
in value; then capsicum, old clothes, and gunpowder. The
latter article was required for a very innocent purpose: each
parish has a public musket, and the gunpowder was wanted
for making a noise on their saint or feast days.

The people here live chiefly on shell-fish and potatoes. At
certain seasons they catch also, in "corrales," or hedges
under water, many fish which are left on the mud-banks as
the tide falls. They occasionally possess fowls, sheep, goats,
pigs, horses, and cattle; the order in which they are here
mentioned, expressing their respective numbers. I never
saw anything more obliging and humble than the manners
of these people. They generally began with stating that
they were poor natives of the place, and not Spaniards
and that they were in sad want of tobacco and other comforts.
At Caylen, the most southern island, the sailors
bought with a stick of tobacco, of the value of three-halfpence,
two fowls, one of which, the Indian stated, had skin
between its toes, and turned out to be a fine duck; and with
some cotton handkerchiefs, worth three shillings, three sheep
and a large bunch of onions were procured. The yawl at
this place was anchored some way from the shore, and we
had fears for her safety from robbers during the night. Our
pilot, Mr. Douglas, accordingly told the constable of the
district that we always placed sentinels with loaded arms
and not understanding Spanish, if we saw any person in the
dark, we should assuredly shoot him. The constable, with
much humility, agreed to the perfect propriety of this
arrangement, and promised us that no one should stir out
of his house during that night.

During the four succeeding days we continued sailing
southward. The general features of the country remained
the same, but it was much less thickly inhabited. On the
large island of Tanqui there was scarcely one cleared spot,
the trees on every side extending their branches over the
sea-beach. I one day noticed, growing on the sandstone
cliffs, some very fine plants of the panke (Gunnera scabra),
which somewhat resembles the rhubarb on a gigantic scale.
The inhabitants eat the stalks, which are subacid, and tan
leather with the roots, and prepare a black dye from them.
The leaf is nearly circular, but deeply indented on its margin.
I measured one which was nearly eight feet in diameter,
and therefore no less than twenty-four in circumference!
The stalk is rather more than a yard high, and each
plant sends out four or five of these enormous leaves,
presenting together a very noble appearance.

December 6th. -- We reached Caylen, called "el fin del
Cristiandad." In the morning we stopped for a few minutes
at a house on the northern end of Laylec, which was the
extreme point of South American Christendom, and a miserable
hovel it was. The latitude is 43 degs. 10', which is two
degrees farther south than the Rio Negro on the Atlantic
coast. These extreme Christians were very poor, and, under
the plea of their situation, begged for some tobacco. As a
proof of the poverty of these Indians, I may mention that
shortly before this, we had met a man, who had travelled
three days and a half on foot, and had as many to return,
for the sake of recovering the value of a small axe and a few
fish. How very difficult it must be to buy the smallest article,
when such trouble is taken to recover so small a debt.

In the evening we reached the island of San Pedro, where
we found the Beagle at anchor. In doubling the point, two
of the officers landed to take a round of angles with the
theodolite. A fox (Canis fulvipes), of a kind said to be
peculiar to the island, and very rare in it, and which is a new
species, was sitting on the rocks. He was so intently absorbed
in watching the work of the officers, that I was able,
by quietly walking up behind, to knock him on the head
with my geological hammer. This fox, more curious or
more scientific, but less wise, than the generality of his
brethren, is now mounted in the museum of the Zoological

We stayed three days in this harbour, on one of which
Captain Fitz Roy, with a party, attempted to ascend to the
summit of San Pedro. The woods here had rather a different
appearance from those on the northern part of the island.
The rock, also, being micaceous slate, there was no beach,
but the steep sides dipped directly beneath the water. The
general aspect in consequence was more like that of Tierra
del Fuego than of Chiloe. In vain we tried to gain the
summit: the forest was so impenetrable, that no one who
has not beheld it can imagine so entangled a mass of dying
and dead trunks. I am sure that often, for more than ten
minutes together, our feet never touched the ground, and
we were frequently ten or fifteen feet above it, so that the
seamen as a joke called out the soundings. At other times
we crept one after another on our hands and knees, under
the rotten trunks. In the lower part of the mountain, noble
trees of the Winter's Bark, and a laurel like the sassafras
with fragrant leaves, and others, the names of which I do
not know, were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane.
Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any
other animal. On the higher parts, brushwood takes the
place of larger trees, with here and there a red cedar or an
alerce pine. I was also pleased to see, at an elevation of a
little less than 1000 feet, our old friend the southern beech.
They were, however, poor stunted trees, and I should think
that this must be nearly their northern limit. We ultimately
gave up the attempt in despair.

December 10th. -- The yawl and whale-boat, with Mr.
Sulivan, proceeded on their survey, but I remained on board
the Beagle, which the next day left San Pedro for the southward.
On the 13th we ran into an opening in the southern
part of Guayatecas, or the Chonos Archipelago; and it was
fortunate we did so, for on the following day a storm, worthy
of Tierra del Fuego, raged with great fury. White massive
clouds were piled up against a dark blue sky, and across them
black ragged sheets of vapour were rapidly driven. The
successive mountain ranges appeared like dim shadows, and
the setting sun cast on the woodland a yellow gleam, much
like that produced by the flame of spirits of wine. The water
was white with the flying spray, and the wind lulled and
roared again through the rigging: it was an ominous, sublime
scene. During a few minutes there was a bright rainbow,
and it was curious to observe the effect of the spray,
which being carried along the surface of the water, changed
the ordinary semicircle into a circle -- a band of prismatic
colours being continued, from both feet of the common arch
across the bay, close to the vessel's side: thus forming a
distorted, but very nearly entire ring.

We stayed here three days. The weather continued bad:
but this did not much signify, for the surface of the land
in all these islands is all but impassable. The coast is so
very rugged that to attempt to walk in that direction requires
continued scrambling up and down over the sharp
rocks of mica-slate; and as for the woods, our faces, hands,
and shin-bones all bore witness to the maltreatment we
received, in merely attempting to penetrate their forbidden

December 18th. -- We stood out to sea. On the 20th we
bade farewell to the south, and with a fair wind turned the
ship's head northward. From Cape Tres Montes we sailed
pleasantly along the lofty weather-beaten coast, which is
remarkable for the bold outline of its hills, and the thick
covering of forest even on the almost precipitous flanks. The
next day a harbour was discovered, which on this dangerous
coast might be of great service to a distressed vessel. It
can easily be recognized by a hill 1600 feet high, which is
even more perfectly conical than the famous sugar-loaf at
Rio de Janeiro. The next day, after anchoring, I succeeded
in reaching the summit of this hill. It was a laborious
undertaking, for the sides were so steep that in some parts it
was necessary to use the trees as ladders. There were also
several extensive brakes of the Fuchsia, covered with its
beautiful drooping flowers, but very difficult to crawl through.
In these wild countries it gives much delight to gain the summit
of any mountain. There is an indefinite expectation of seeing
something very strange, which, however often it may be
balked, never failed with me to recur on each successive
attempt. Every one must know the feeling of triumph and
pride which a grand view from a height communicates to the
mind. In these little frequented countries there is also joined
to it some vanity, that you perhaps are the first man who ever
stood on this pinnacle or admired this view.

A strong desire is always felt to ascertain whether any
human being has previously visited an unfrequented spot.
A bit of wood with a nail in it, is picked up and studied as
if it were covered with hieroglyphics. Possessed with this
feeling, I was much interested by finding, on a wild part of
the coast, a bed made of grass beneath a ledge of rock. Close
by it there had been a fire, and the man had used an axe.
The fire, bed, and situation showed the dexterity of an Indian;
but he could scarcely have been an Indian, for the race is
in this part extinct, owing to the Catholic desire of making
at one blow Christians and Slaves. I had at the time some
misgivings that the solitary man who had made his bed on
this wild spot, must have been some poor shipwrecked sailor,
who, in trying to travel up the coast, had here laid himself
down for his dreary night.

December 28th. -- The weather continued very bad, but it
at last permitted us to proceed with the survey. The time
hung heavy on our hands, as it always did when we were
delayed from day to day by successive gales of wind. In
the evening another harbour was discovered, where we
anchored. Directly afterwards a man was seen waving a
shirt, and a boat was sent which brought back two seamen.
A party of six had run away from an American whaling
vessel, and had landed a little to the southward in a boat,
which was shortly afterwards knocked to pieces by the surf.
They had now been wandering up and down the coast for
fifteen months, without knowing which way to go, or where
they were. What a singular piece of good fortune it was
that this harbour was now discovered! Had it not been for
this one chance, they might have wandered till they had
grown old men, and at last have perished on this wild coast.
Their sufferings had been very great, and one of their party
had lost his life by falling from the cliffs. They were
sometimes obliged to separate in search of food, and this
explained the bed of the solitary man. Considering what they
had undergone, I think they had kept a very good reckoning of
time, for they had lost only four days.

December 30th. -- We anchored in a snug little cove at the
foot of some high hills, near the northern extremity of Tres
Montes. After breakfast the next morning, a party ascended
one of these mountains, which was 2400 feet high. The
scenery was remarkable The chief part of the range was
composed of grand, solid, abrupt masses of granite, which
appeared as if they had been coeval with the beginning of
the world. The granite was capped with mica-slate, and this
in the lapse of ages had been worn into strange finger-
shaped points. These two formations, thus differing in their
outlines, agree in being almost destitute of vegetation. This
barrenness had to our eyes a strange appearance, from having
been so long accustomed to the sight of an almost universal
forest of dark-green trees. I took much delight in examining
the structure of these mountains. The complicated and lofty
ranges bore a noble aspect of durability -- equally profitless,
however, to man and to all other animals. Granite to the
geologist is classic ground: from its widespread limits, and its
beautiful and compact texture, few rocks have been more
anciently recognised. Granite has given rise, perhaps, to
more discussion concerning its origin than any other formation.
We generally see it constituting the fundamental rock,
and, however formed, we know it is the deepest layer in the
crust of this globe to which man has penetrated. The limit
of man's knowledge in any subject possesses a high interest,
which is perhaps increased by its close neighbourhood to the
realms of imagination.

January 1st 1835. -- The new year is ushered in with the
ceremonies proper to it in these regions. She lays out no
false hopes: a heavy north-western gale, with steady rain,
bespeaks the rising year. Thank God, we are not destined
here to see the end of it, but hope then to be in the Pacific
Ocean, where a blue sky tells one there is a heaven, -- a
something beyond the clouds above our heads.

The north-west winds prevailing for the next four days,
we only managed to cross a great bay, and then anchored in
another secure harbour. I accompanied the Captain in a
boat to the head of a deep creek. On the way the number of
seals which we saw was quite astonishing: every bit of flat
rock, and parts of the beach, were covered with them. There
appeared to be of a loving disposition, and lay huddled
together, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs would
have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which
came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but
inauspicious eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird,
with its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is
very common on the west coast, and their attendance on the
seals shows on what they rely for their food. We found the
water (probably only that of the surface) nearly fresh: this
was caused by the number of torrents which, in the form
of cascades, came tumbling over the bold granite mountains
into the sea. The fresh water attracts the fish, and these
bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds of cormorant. We
saw also a pair of the beautiful black-necked swans, and
several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such
high estimation. In returning, we were again amused by the
impetuous manner in which the heap of seals, old and young,
tumbled into the water as the boat passed. They did not
remain long under water, but rising, followed us with
outstretched necks, expressing great wonder and curiosity.

7th. -- Having run up the coast, we anchored near the
northern end of the Chonos Archipelago, in Low's Harbour,
where we remained a week. The islands were here, as in
Chiloe, composed of a stratified, soft, littoral deposit; and
the vegetation in consequence was beautifully luxuriant. The
woods came down to the sea-beach, just in the manner of
an evergreen shrubbery over a gravel walk. We also enjoyed
from the anchorage a splendid view of four great snowy
cones of the Cordillera, including "el famoso Corcovado;"
the range itself had in this latitude so little height, that few
parts of it appeared above the tops of the neighbouring
islets. We found here a party of five men from Caylen, "el
fin del Cristiandad," who had most adventurously crossed in
their miserable boat-canoe, for the purpose of fishing, the
open space of sea which separates Chonos from Chiloe. These
islands will, in all probability, in a short time become peopled
like those adjoining the coast of Chiloe.

The wild potato grows on these islands in great abundance,
on the sandy, shelly soil near the sea-beach. The tallest
plant was four feet in height. The tubers were generally
small, but I found one, of an oval shape, two inches in
diameter: they resembled in every respect, and had the same
smell as English potatoes; but when boiled they shrunk much,
and were watery and insipid, without any bitter taste. They
are undoubtedly here indigenous: they grow as far south,
according to Mr. Low, as lat. 50 degs., and are called Aquinas by
the wild Indians of that part: the Chilotan Indians have a
different name for them. Professor Henslow, who has examined
the dried specimens which I brought home, says that
they are the same with those described by Mr. Sabine [1] from
Valparaiso, but that they form a variety which by some
botanists has been considered as specifically distinct. It is
remarkable that the same plant should be found on the sterile
mountains of central Chile, where a drop of rain does not
fall for more than six months, and within the damp forests
of these southern islands.

In the central parts of the Chonos Archipelago (lat. 45 degs.),
the forest has very much the same character with that along
the whole west coast, for 600 miles southward to Cape Horn.
The arborescent grass of Chiloe is not found here; while the
beech of Tierra del Fuego grows to a good size, and forms a
considerable proportion of the wood; not, however, in the
same exclusive manner as it does farther southward. Cryptogamic
plants here find a most congenial climate. In the Strait
of Magellan, as I have before remarked, the country appears
too cold and wet to allow of their arriving at perfection; but
in these islands, within the forest, the number of species and
great abundance of mosses, lichens, and small ferns, is quite
extraordinary. [2] In Tierra del Fuego trees grow only on the
hill-sides; every level piece of land being invariably covered
by a thick bed of peat; but in Chiloe flat land supports the
most luxuriant forests. Here, within the Chonos Archipelago,
the nature of the climate more closely approaches that
of Tierra del Fuego than that of northern Chiloe; for every
patch of level ground is covered by two species of plants
(Astelia pumila and Donatia magellanica), which by their
joint decay compose a thick bed of elastic peat.

In Tierra del Fuego, above the region of woodland, the
former of these eminently sociable plants is the chief agent
in the production of peat. Fresh leaves are always succeeding
one to the other round the central tap-root, the lower
ones soon decay, and in tracing a root downwards in the peat,
the leaves, yet holding their place, can be observed passing
through every stage of decomposition, till the whole becomes
blended in one confused mass. The Astelia is assisted by a
few other plants, -- here and there a small creeping Myrtus
(M. nummularia), with a woody stem like our cranberry and
with a sweet berry, -- an Empetrum (E. rubrum), like our
heath, -- a rush (Juncus grandiflorus), are nearly the only
ones that grow on the swampy surface. These plants, though
possessing a very close general resemblance to the English
species of the same genera, are different. In the more level
parts of the country, the surface of the peat is broken up into
little pools of water, which stand at different heights, and
appear as if artificially excavated. Small streams of water,
flowing underground, complete the disorganization of the
vegetable matter, and consolidate the whole.

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

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

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds
occur, which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapacolo
of central Chile. One is called by the inhabitants
"Cheucau" (Pteroptochos rubecula): it frequents the most
gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Sometimes,
although its cry may be heard close at hand, let a person
watch ever so attentively he will not see the cheucau; at
other times, let him stand motionless and the red-breasted
little bird will approach within a few feet in the most familiar
manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass of
rotting cones and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards.
The cheucau is held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on
account of its strange and varied cries. There are three
very distinct cries: One is called "chiduco," and is an omen
of good; another, "huitreu," which is extremely unfavourable;
and a third, which I have forgotten. These words are
given in imitation of the noises; and the natives are in some
things absolutely governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly
have chosen a most comical little creature for their prophet.
An allied species, but rather larger, is called by the natives
"Guid-guid" (Pteroptochos Tarnii), and by the English the
barking-bird. This latter name is well given; for I defy any
one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping
somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a person
will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain many
endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by beating
the bushes, to see the bird; yet at other times the guid-guid
fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general
habits are very similar to those of the cheucau.

On the coast, [4] a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus
Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from
its quiet habits; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a
sandpiper. Besides these birds only few others inhabit this
broken land. In my rough notes I describe the strange
noises, which, although frequently heard within these gloomy
forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. The yelping
of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the
cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and sometimes from
close at hand; the little black wren of Tierra del Fuego
occasionally adds its cry; the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the
intruder screaming and twittering; the humming-bird may
be seen every now and then darting from side to side, and
emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp; lastly, from the top
of some lofty tree the indistinct but plaintive note of the
white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may be noticed.
From the great preponderance in most countries of certain
common genera of birds, such as the finches, one feels at
first surprised at meeting with the peculiar forms above
enumerated, as the commonest birds in any district. In central
Chile two of them, namely, the Oxyurus and Scytalopus, occur,
although most rarely. When finding, as in this case,
animals which seem to play so insignificant a part in the great
scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were

But it should always be recollected, that in some other
country perhaps they are essential members of society, or
at some former period may have been so. If America
south of 37 degs. were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean,
these two birds might continue to exist in central Chile for
a long period, but it is very improbable that their numbers
would increase. We should then see a case which must inevitably
have happened with very many animals.

These southern seas are frequented by several species of
Petrels: the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly
(quebrantahuesos, or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common
bird, both in the inland channels and on the open sea.
In its habits and manner of flight, there is a very close
resemblance with the albatross; and as with the albatross, a
person may watch it for hours together without seeing on
what it feeds. The "break-bones" is, however, a rapacious
bird, for it was observed by some of the officers at Port St.
Antonio chasing a diver, which tried to escape by diving
and flying, but was continually struck down, and at last
killed by a blow on its head. At Port St. Julian these great
petrels were seen killing and devouring young gulls. A second
species (Puffinus cinereus), which is common to Europe,
Cape Horn, and the coast of Peru, is of much smaller size
than the P. gigantea, but, like it, of a dirty black colour. It
generally frequents the inland sounds in very large flocks:
I do not think I ever saw so many birds of any other sort
together, as I once saw of these behind the island of Chiloe.
Hundreds of thousands flew in an irregular line for several
hours in one direction. When part of the flock settled on the
water the surface was blackened, and a noise proceeded from
them as of human beings talking in the distance.

There are several other species of petrels, but I will only
mention one other kind, the Pelacanoides Berardi which
offers an example of those extraordinary cases, of a bird
evidently belonging to one well-marked family, yet both in
its habits and structure allied to a very distinct tribe. This
bird never leaves the quiet inland sounds. When disturbed
it dives to a distance, and on coming to the surface, with the
same movement takes flight. After flying by a rapid movement
of its short wings for a space in a straight line, it drops,
as if struck dead, and dives again. The form of its beak and
nostrils, length of foot, and even the colouring of its plumage,
show that this bird is a petrel: on the other hand, its
short wings and consequent little power of flight, its form
of body and shape of tail, the absence of a hind toe to its
foot, its habit of diving, and its choice of situation, make it
at first doubtful whether its relationship is not equally close
with the auks. It would undoubtedly be mistaken for an auk,
when seen from a distance, either on the wing, or when diving
and quietly swimming about the retired channels of
Tierra del Fuego.

[1] Horticultural Transact., vol. v. p. 249. Mr. Caldeleugh
sent home two tubers, which, being well manured, even the
first season produced numerous potatoes and an abundance of
leaves. See Humboldt's interesting discussion on this plant,
which it appears was unknown in Mexico, -- in Polit. Essay
on New Spain, book iv. chap. ix.

[2] By sweeping with my insect-net, I procured from these
situations a considerable number of minute insects, of the
family of Staphylinidae, and others allied to Pselaphus,
and minute Hymenoptera. But the most characteristic family
in number, both of individuals and species, throughout the
more open parts of Chiloe and Chonos is that of Telephoridae.

[3] It is said that some rapacious birds bring their prey
alive to their nests. If so, in the course of centuries,
every now and then, one might escape from the young birds.
Some such agency is necessary, to account for the distribution
of the smaller gnawing animals on islands not very near each other.

[4] I may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there
is between the seasons of the wooded and the open parts of
this coast, that on September 20th, in lat. 34 degs., these
birds had young ones in the nest, while among the Chonos
Islands, three months later in the summer, they were only
laying, the difference in latitude between these two places
being about 700 miles.



San Carlos, Chiloe -- Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously
with Aconcagua and Coseguina -- Ride to Cucao -- Impenetrable
Forests -- Valdivia Indians -- Earthquake -- Concepcion --
Great Earthquake -- Rocks fissured -- Appearance of the
former Towns -- The Sea Black and Boiling -- Direction of
the Vibrations -- Stones twisted round -- Great Wave --
Permanent Elevation of the Land -- Area of Volcanic
Phenomena -- The connection between the Elevatory and
Eruptive Forces -- Cause of Earthquakes -- Slow Elevation of

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

I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in
Chile, 480 miles northwards, was in action on the same night;
and still more surprised to hear that the great eruption of
Coseguina (2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by
an earthquake felt over a 1000 miles, also occurred within
six hours of this same time. This coincidence is the more
remarkable, as Coseguina had been dormant for twenty-six
years; and Aconcagua most rarely shows any signs of action.
It is difficult even to conjecture whether this coincidence was
accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesuvius,
Etna, and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer
each other than the corresponding points in South America),
suddenly burst forth in eruption on the same night, the
coincidence would be thought remarkable; but it is far more
remarkable in this case, where the three vents fall on the same
great mountain-chain, and where the vast plains along the
entire eastern coast, and the upraised recent shells along
more than 2000 miles on the western coast, show in how
equable and connected a manner the elevatory forces have acted.

Captain Fitz Roy being anxious that some bearings should
be taken on the outer coast of Chiloe, it was planned that
Mr. King and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across
the island to the Capella de Cucao, situated on the west
coast. Having hired horses and a guide, we set out on
the morning of the 22nd. We had not proceeded far, before
we were joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent on
the same journey. Every one on this road acts on a "hail
fellow well met" fashion; and one may here enjoy the privilege,
so rare in South America, of travelling without fire-arms.
At first, the country consisted of a succession of hills
and valleys: nearer to Castro it became very level. The road
itself is a curious affair; it consists in its whole length,
with the exception of very few parts, of great logs of wood,
which are either broad and laid longitudinally, or narrow and
placed transversely. In summer the road is not very bad; but in
winter, when the wood is rendered slippery from rain, travelling
is exceedingly difficult. At that time of the year, the
ground on each side becomes a morass, and is often overflowed:
hence it is necessary that the longitudinal logs
should be fastened down by transverse poles, which are
pegged on each side into the earth. These pegs render a fall
from a horse dangerous, as the chance of alighting on one of
them is not small. It is remarkable, however, how active
custom has made the Chilotan horses. In crossing bad parts,
where the logs had been displaced, they skipped from one
to the other, almost with the quickness and certainty of a
dog. On both hands the road is bordered by the lofty forest-
trees, with their bases matted together by canes. When
occasionally a long reach of this avenue could be beheld, it
presented a curious scene of uniformity: the white line of logs,
narrowing in perspective, became hidden by the gloomy forest,
or terminated in a zigzag which ascended some steep hill.

Although the distance from S. Carlos to Castro is only
twelve leagues in a straight line, the formation of the road
must have been a great labour. I was told that several people
had formerly lost their lives in attempting to cross the
forest. The first who succeeded was an Indian, who cut his
way through the canes in eight days, and reached S. Carlos:
he was rewarded by the Spanish government with a grant of
land. During the summer, many of the Indians wander
about the forests (but chiefly in the higher parts, where the
woods are not quite so thick) in search of the half-wild cattle
which live on the leaves of the cane and certain trees. It
was one of these huntsmen who by chance discovered, a few
years since, an English vessel, which had been wrecked on the
outer coast. The crew were beginning to fail in provisions,
and it is not probable that, without the aid of this man, they
would ever have extricated themselves from these scarcely
penetrable woods. As it was, one seaman died on the march,
from fatigue. The Indians in these excursions steer by the
sun; so that if there is a continuance of cloudy weather, they
can not travel.

The day was beautiful, and the number of trees which
were in full flower perfumed the air; yet even this could
hardly dissipate the effects of the gloomy dampness of the
forest. Moreover, the many dead trunks that stand like
skeletons, never fail to give to these primeval woods a
character of solemnity, absent in those of countries long
civilized. Shortly after sunset we bivouacked for the night. Our
female companion, who was rather good-looking, belonged to
one of the most respectable families in Castro: she rode,
however, astride, and without shoes or stockings. I was
surprised at the total want of pride shown by her and her
brother. They brought food with them, but at all our meals sat
watching Mr. King and myself whilst eating, till we were
fairly shamed into feeding the whole party. The night was
cloudless; and while lying in our beds, we enjoyed the sight
(and it is a high enjoyment) of the multitude of stars which
illumined the darkness of the forest.

January 23rd. -- We rose early in the morning, and reached
the pretty quiet town of Castro by two o'clock. The old governor
had died since our last visit, and a Chileno was acting
in his place. We had a letter of introduction to Don Pedro,
whom we found exceedingly hospitable and kind, and more
disinterested than is usual on this side of the continent. The
next day Don Pedro procured us fresh horses, and offered
to accompany us himself. We proceeded to the south -- generally
following the coast, and passing through several hamlets,
each with its large barn-like chapel built of wood. At
Vilipilli, Don Pedro asked the commandant to give us a guide
to Cucao. The old gentleman offered to come himself; but
for a long time nothing would persuade him that two Englishmen
really wished to go to such an out-of-the-way place
as Cucao. We were thus accompanied by the two greatest
aristocrats in the country, as was plainly to be seen in the
manner of all the poorer Indians towards them. At Chonchi
we struck across the island, following intricate winding
paths, sometimes passing through magnificent forests, and
sometimes through pretty cleared spots, abounding with corn
and potato crops. This undulating woody country, partially
cultivated, reminded me of the wilder parts of England, and
therefore had to my eye a most fascinating aspect. At Vilinco,
which is situated on the borders of the lake of Cucao,
only a few fields were cleared; and all the inhabitants appeared
to be Indians. This lake is twelve miles long, and
runs in an east and west direction. From local circumstances,
the sea-breeze blows very regularly during the day,
and during the night it falls calm: this has given rise to
strange exaggerations, for the phenomenon, as described to
us at S. Carlos, was quite a prodigy.

The road to Cucao was so very bad that we determined to
embark in a _periagua_. The commandant, in the most authoritative
manner, ordered six Indians to get ready to pull
us over, without deigning to tell them whether they would
be paid. The periagua is a strange rough boat, but the crew
were still stranger: I doubt if six uglier little men ever got
into a boat together. They pulled, however, very well and
cheerfully. The stroke-oarsman gabbled Indian, and uttered
strange cries, much after the fashion of a pig-driver driving
his pigs. We started with a light breeze against us, but yet
reached the Capella de Cucao before it was late. The country
on each side of the lake was one unbroken forest. In the
same periagua with us, a cow was embarked. To get so
large an animal into a small boat appears at first a difficulty,
but the Indians managed it in a minute. They brought the
cow alongside the boat, which was heeled towards her; then
placing two oars under her belly, with their ends resting on
the gunwale, by the aid of these levers they fairly tumbled
the poor beast heels over head into the bottom of the boat,
and then lashed her down with ropes. At Cucao we found
an uninhabited hovel (which is the residence of the padre
when he pays this Capella a visit), where, lighting a fire, we
cooked our supper, and were very comfortable.

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

The next day after breakfast, we rode a few miles northward
to Punta Huantamo. The road lay along a very broad
beach, on which, even after so many fine days, a terrible surf
was breaking. I was assured that after a heavy gale, the
roar can be heard at night even at Castro, a distance of no
less than twenty-one sea-miles across a hilly and wooded
country. We had some difficulty in reaching the point, owing
to the intolerably bad paths; for everywhere in the shade
the ground soon becomes a perfect quagmire. The point
itself is a bold rocky hill. It is covered by a plant allied, I
believe, to Bromelia, and called by the inhabitants Chepones.
In scrambling through the beds, our hands were very much
scratched. I was amused by observing the precaution our
Indian guide took, in turning up his trousers, thinking that
they were more delicate than his own hard skin. This plant
bears a fruit, in shape like an artichoke, in which a number
of seed-vessels are packed: these contain a pleasant sweet
pulp, here much esteemed. I saw at Low's Harbour the
Chilotans making chichi, or cider, with this fruit: so true is
it, as Humboldt remarks, that almost everywhere man finds
means of preparing some kind of beverage from the vegetable
kingdom. The savages, however, of Tierra del Fuego,
and I believe of Australia, have not advanced thus far in
the arts.

The coast to the north of Punta Huantamo is exceedingly
rugged and broken, and is fronted by many breakers, on
which the sea is eternally roaring. Mr. King and myself
were anxious to return, if it had been possible, on foot along
this coast; but even the Indians said it was quite
impracticable. We were told that men have crossed by striking
directly through the woods from Cucao to S. Carlos, but
never by the coast. On these expeditions, the Indians carry
with them only roasted corn, and of this they eat sparingly
twice a day.

26th. -- Re-embarking in the periagua, we returned across
the lake, and then mounted our horses. The whole of Chiloe
took advantage of this week of unusually fine weather, to
clear the ground by burning. In every direction volumes of
smoke were curling upwards. Although the inhabitants were
so assiduous in setting fire to every part of the wood, yet
I did not see a single fire which they had succeeded in making
extensive. We dined with our friend the commandant,
and did not reach Castro till after dark. The next morning
we started very early. After having ridden for some time,
we obtained from the brow of a steep hill an extensive view
(and it is a rare thing on this road) of the great forest.
Over the horizon of trees, the volcano of Corcovado, and
the great flat-topped one to the north, stood out in proud
pre-eminence: scarcely another peak in the long range
showed its snowy summit. I hope it will be long before I
forget this farewell view of the magnificent Cordillera fronting
Chiloe. At night we bivouacked under a cloudless sky,
and the next morning reached S. Carlos. We arrived on the
right day, for before evening heavy rain commenced.

February 4th. -- Sailed from Chiloe. During the last week
I made several short excursions. One was to examine a
great bed of now-existing shells, elevated 350 feet above
the level of the sea: from among these shells, large forest-
trees were growing. Another ride was to P. Huechucucuy.
I had with me a guide who knew the country far too well;
for he would pertinaciously tell me endless Indian names for
every little point, rivulet, and creek. In the same manner as
in Tierra del Fuego, the Indian language appears singularly
well adapted for attaching names to the most trivial features
of the land. I believe every one was glad to say farewell
to Chiloe; yet if we could forget the gloom and ceaseless
rain of winter, Chiloe might pass for a charming island.
There is also something very attractive in the simplicity and
humble politeness of the poor inhabitants.

We steered northward along shore, but owing to thick
weather did not reach Valdivia till the night of the 8th. The
next morning the boat proceeded to the town, which is distant
about ten miles. We followed the course of the river,
occasionally passing a few hovels, and patches of ground
cleared out of the otherwise unbroken forest; and sometimes
meeting a canoe with an Indian family. The town is situated
on the low banks of the stream, and is so completely
buried in a wood of apple-trees that the streets are merely
paths in an orchard I have never seen any country, where
apple-trees appeared to thrive so well as in this damp part of
South America: on the borders of the roads there were
many young trees evidently self-grown. In Chiloe the inhabitants
possess a marvellously short method of making an
orchard. At the lower part of almost every branch, small,
conical, brown, wrinkled points project: these are always
ready to change into roots, as may sometimes be seen, where
any mud has been accidentally splashed against the tree. A
branch as thick as a man's thigh is chosen in the early spring,
and is cut off just beneath a group of these points, all the
smaller branches are lopped off, and it is then placed about
two feet deep in the ground. During the ensuing summer
the stump throws out long shoots, and sometimes even bears
fruit: I was shown one which had produced as many as
twenty-three apples, but this was thought very unusual. In
the third season the stump is changed (as I have myself
seen) into a well-wooded tree, loaded with fruit. An old
man near Valdivia illustrated his motto, "Necesidad es la
madre del invencion," by giving an account of the several
useful things he manufactured from his apples. After making
cider, and likewise wine, he extracted from the refuse a
white and finely flavoured spirit; by another process he
procured a sweet treacle, or, as he called it, honey. His
children and pigs seemed almost to live, during this season of
the year, in his orchard.

February 11th. -- I set out with a guide on a short ride, in
which, however, I managed to see singularly little, either
of the geology of the country or of its inhabitants. There
is not much cleared land near Valdivia: after crossing a
river at the distance of a few miles, we entered the forest, and
then passed only one miserable hovel, before reaching our
sleeping-place for the night. The short difference in latitude,
of 150 miles, has given a new aspect to the forest compared
with that of Chiloe. This is owing to a slightly
different proportion in the kinds of trees. The evergreens
do not appear to be quite so numerous, and the forest in
consequence has a brighter tint. As in Chiloe, the lower
parts are matted together by canes: here also another kind
(resembling the bamboo of Brazil and about twenty feet in
height) grows in clusters, and ornaments the banks of some
of the streams in a very pretty manner. It is with this plant
that the Indians make their chuzos, or long tapering spears.
Our resting-house was so dirty that I preferred sleeping
outside: on these journeys the first night is generally very
uncomfortable, because one is not accustomed to the tickling
and biting of the fleas. I am sure, in the morning, there
was not a space on my legs the size of a shilling which had
not its little red mark where the flea had feasted.

12th. -- We continued to ride through the uncleared forest;
only occasionally meeting an Indian on horseback, or a troop
of fine mules bringing alerce-planks and corn from the southern
plains. In the afternoon one of the horses knocked up:
we were then on a brow of a hill, which commanded a fine
view of the Llanos. The view of these open plains was very
refreshing, after being hemmed in and buried in the wilderness
of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon becomes very
wearisome. This west coast makes me remember with pleasure
the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet, with the
true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is
the silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile
and thickly peopled parts of the country, as they possess the
immense advantage of being nearly free from trees. Before
leaving the forest we crossed some flat little lawns, around
which single trees stood, as in an English park: I have often
noticed with surprise, in wooded undulatory districts, that
the quite level parts have been destitute of trees. On account
of the tired horse, I determined to stop at the Mission
of Cudico, to the friar of which I had a letter of introduction.
Cudico is an intermediate district between the forest
and the Llanos. There are a good many cottages, with
patches of corn and potatoes, nearly all belonging to Indians.
The tribes dependent on Valdivia are "reducidos y cristianos."
The Indians farther northward, about Arauco and
Imperial, are still very wild, and not converted; but they
have all much intercourse with the Spaniards. The padre
said that the Christian Indians did not much like coming
to mass, but that otherwise they showed respect for religion.
The greatest difficulty is in making them observe the ceremonies
of marriage. The wild Indians take as many wives
as they can support, and a cacique will sometimes have more
than ten: on entering his house, the number may be told by
that of the separate fires. Each wife lives a week in turn
with the cacique; but all are employed in weaving ponchos,
etc., for his profit. To be the wife of a cacique, is an honour
much sought after by the Indian women.

The men of all these tribes wear a coarse woolen poncho:
those south of Valdivia wear short trousers, and those north
of it a petticoat, like the chilipa of the Gauchos. All have
their long hair bound by a scarlet fillet, but with no other
covering on their heads. These Indians are good-sized men;
their cheek-bones are prominent, and in general appearance
they resemble the great American family to which they belong;
but their physiognomy seemed to me to be slightly
different from that of any other tribe which I had before
seen. Their expression is generally grave, and even austere,
and possesses much character: this may pass either for honest
bluntness or fierce determination. The long black hair,
the grave and much-lined features, and the dark complexion,
called to my mind old portraits of James I. On the road we
met with none of that humble politeness so universal in
Chiloe. Some gave their "mari-mari" (good morning) with
promptness, but the greater number did not seem inclined to
offer any salute. This independence of manners is probably
a consequence of their long wars, and the repeated victories
which they alone, of all the tribes in America, have gained
over the Spaniards.

I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the
padre. He was exceedingly kind and hospitable; and coming
from Santiago, had contrived to surround himself with some
few comforts. Being a man of some little education, he bitterly
complained of the total want of society. With no particular
zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, how completely
must this man's life be wasted! The next day, on
our return, we met seven very wild-looking Indians, of whom
some were caciques that had just received from the Chilian
government their yearly small stipend for having long remained
faithful. They were fine-looking men, and they rode
one after the other, with most gloomy faces. An old cacique,
who headed them, had been, I suppose, more excessively
drunk than the rest, for he seemed extremely grave and
very crabbed. Shortly before this, two Indians joined us,
who were travelling from a distant mission to Valdivia
concerning some lawsuit. One was a good-humoured old man,
but from his wrinkled beardless face looked more like an
old woman than a man. I frequently presented both of them
with cigars; and though ready to receive them, and I dare
say grateful, they would hardly condescend to thank me. A
Chilotan Indian would have taken off his hat, and given his
"Dios le page!" The travelling was very tedious, both
from the badness of the roads, and from the number of great
fallen trees, which it was necessary either to leap over or to
avoid by making long circuits. We slept on the road, and
next morning reached Valdivia, whence I proceeded on

A few days afterwards I crossed the bay with a party of
officers, and landed near the fort called Niebla. The buildings
were in a most ruinous state, and the gun-carriages
quite rotten. Mr. Wickham remarked to the commanding
officer, that with one discharge they would certainly all fall
to pieces. The poor man, trying to put a good face upon it,
gravely replied, "No, I am sure, sir, they would stand
two!" The Spaniards must have intended to have made this
place impregnable. There is now lying in the middle of the
courtyard a little mountain of mortar, which rivals in hardness
the rock on which it is placed. It was brought from
Chile, and cost 7000 dollars. The revolution having broken
out, prevented its being applied to any purpose, and now it
remains a monument of the fallen greatness of Spain.

I wanted to go to a house about a mile and a half distant,
but my guide said it was quite impossible to penetrate the
wood in a straight line. He offered, however, to lead me, by
following obscure cattle-tracks, the shortest way: the walk,
nevertheless, took no less than three hours! This man is
employed in hunting strayed cattle; yet, well as he must
know the woods, he was not long since lost for two whole
days, and had nothing to eat. These facts convey a good
idea of the impracticability of the forests of these countries.
A question often occurred to me -- how long does any vestige
of a fallen tree remain? This man showed me one which
a party of fugitive royalists had cut down fourteen years
ago; and taking this as a criterion, I should think a bole a
foot and a half in diameter would in thirty years be changed
into a heap of mould.

February 20th. -- This day has been memorable in the
annals of Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experienced
by the oldest inhabitant. I happened to be on shore,
and was lying down in the wood to rest myself. It came on
suddenly, and lasted two minutes, but the time appeared
much longer. The rocking of the ground was very sensible.
The undulations appeared to my companion and myself to
come from due east, whilst others thought they proceeded
from south-west: this shows how difficult it sometimes is to
perceive the directions of the vibrations. There was no
difficulty in standing upright, but the motion made me almost
giddy: it was something like the movement of a vessel in a
little cross-ripple, or still more like that felt by a person
skating over thin ice, which bends under the weight of his body.
A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations:
the earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath
our feet like a thin crust over a fluid; -- one second of time
has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity, which
hours of reflection would not have produced. In the forest,
as a breeze moved the trees, I felt only the earth tremble, but
saw no other effect. Captain Fitz Roy and some officers
were at the town during the shock, and there the scene was
more striking; for although the houses, from being built of
wood, did not fall, they were violently shaken, and the boards
creaked and rattled together. The people rushed out of
doors in the greatest alarm. It is these accompaniments that
create that perfect horror of earthquakes, experienced by all
who have thus seen, as well as felt, their effects. Within the
forest it was a deeply interesting, but by no means an awe-
exciting phenomenon. The tides were very curiously affected.
The great shock took place at the time of low water;
and an old woman who was on the beach told me that the
water flowed very quickly, but not in great waves, to high-
water mark, and then as quickly returned to its proper level;
this was also evident by the line of wet sand. The same kind
of quick but quiet movement in the tide happened a few
years since at Chiloe, during a slight earthquake, and created
much causeless alarm. In the course of the evening there
were many weaker shocks, which seemed to produce in the
harbour the most complicated currents, and some of great

March 4th. -- We entered the harbour of Concepcion. While
the ship was beating up to the anchorage, I landed on the
island of Quiriquina. The mayor-domo of the estate quickly
rode down to tell me the terrible news of the great earthquake
of the 20th: -- "That not a house in Concepcion or
Talcahuano (the port) was standing; that seventy villages
were destroyed; and that a great wave had almost washed
away the ruins of Talcahuano." Of this latter statement I
soon saw abundant proofs -- the whole coast being strewed
over with timber and furniture as if a thousand ships had
been wrecked. Besides chairs, tables, book-shelves, etc., in
great numbers, there were several roofs of cottages, which
had been transported almost whole. The storehouses at Talcahuano
had been burst open, and great bags of cotton, yerba,
and other valuable merchandise were scattered on the shore.
During my walk round the island, I observed that numerous
fragments of rock, which, from the marine productions adhering
to them, must recently have been lying in deep water,
had been cast up high on the beach; one of these was six feet
long, three broad, and two thick.

The island itself as plainly showed the overwhelming
power of the earthquake, as the beach did that of the consequent
great wave. The ground in many parts was fissured
in north and south lines, perhaps caused by the yielding of
the parallel and steep sides of this narrow island. Some of
the fissures near the cliffs were a yard wide. Many enormous
masses had already fallen on the beach; and the inhabitants
thought that when the rains commenced far greater slips would
happen. The effect of the vibration on the hard primary slate,
which composes the foundation of the island, was still more
curious: the superficial parts of some narrow ridges were as
completely shivered as if they had been blasted by gunpowder.
This effect, which was rendered conspicuous by the
fresh fractures and displaced soil, must be confined to near
the surface, for otherwise there would not exist a block of
solid rock throughout Chile; nor is this improbable, as it is
known that the surface of a vibrating body is affected
differently from the central part. It is, perhaps, owing to this
same reason, that earthquakes do not cause quite such terrific
havoc within deep mines as would be expected. I believe this
convulsion has been more effectual in lessening the size of
the island of Quiriquina, than the ordinary wear-and-tear
of the sea and weather during the course of a whole century.

The next day I landed at Talcahuano, and afterwards rode
to Concepcion. Both towns presented the most awful yet
interesting spectacle I ever beheld. To a person who had
formerly know them, it possibly might have been still more
impressive; for the ruins were so mingled together, and the
whole scene possessed so little the air of a habitable place,
that it was scarcely possible to imagine its former condition.
The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven o'clock in the
forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night, the
greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one province
must amount to many thousands) must have perished,
instead of less than a hundred: as it was, the invariable
practice of running out of doors at the first trembling of the
ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion each house, or
row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins; but in
Talcahuano, owing to the great wave, little more than one
layer of bricks, tiles, and timber with here and there part of
a wall left standing, could be distinguished. From this
circumstance Concepcion, although not so completely desolated,
was a more terrible, and if I may so call it, picturesque sight.
The first shock was very sudden. The mayor-domo at Quiriquina
told me, that the first notice he received of it, was
finding both the horse he rode and himself, rolling together
on the ground. Rising up, he was again thrown down. He
also told me that some cows which were standing on the steep
side of the island were rolled into the sea. The great wave
caused the destruction of many cattle; on one low island
near the head of the bay, seventy animals were washed off
and drowned. It is generally thought that this has been the
worst earthquake ever recorded in Chile; but as the very
severe ones occur only after long intervals, this cannot easily
be known; nor indeed would a much worse shock have made
any difference, for the ruin was now complete. Innumerable
small tremblings followed the great earthquake, and within
the first twelve days no less than three hundred were counted.

After viewing Concepcion, I cannot understand how the
greater number of inhabitants escaped unhurt. The houses
in many parts fell outwards; thus forming in the middle of
the streets little hillocks of brickwork and rubbish. Mr.
Rouse, the English consul, told us that he was at breakfast
when the first movement warned him to run out. He had
scarcely reached the middle of the courtyard, when one side
of his house came thundering down. He retained presence
of mind to remember, that if he once got on the top of that
part which had already fallen, he would be safe. Not being
able from the motion of the ground to stand, he crawled up
on his hands and knees; and no sooner had he ascended this
little eminence, than the other side of the house fell in, the
great beams sweeping close in front of his head. With his
eyes blinded, and his mouth choked with the cloud of dust
which darkened the sky, at last he gained the street. As
shock succeeded shock, at the interval of a few minutes, no
one dared approach the shattered ruins, and no one knew
whether his dearest friends and relations were not perishing
from the want of help. Those who had saved any property
were obliged to keep a constant watch, for thieves
prowled about, and at each little trembling of the ground,
with one hand they beat their breasts and cried "Misericordia!"
and then with the other filched what they could
from the ruins. The thatched roofs fell over the fires, and
flames burst forth in all parts. Hundreds knew themselves
ruined, and few had the means of providing food for the day.

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity
of any country. If beneath England the now inert subterranean
forces should exert those powers, which most assuredly
in former geological ages they have exerted, how completely
would the entire condition of the country be changed!
What would become of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities,
great manufactories, the beautiful public and private edifices?
If the new period of disturbance were first to commence
by some great earthquake in the dead of the night,
how terrific would be the carnage! England would at once
be bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts would from
that moment be lost. Government being unable to collect
the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of
violence and rapine would remain uncontrolled. In every
large town famine would go forth, pestilence and death following
in its train.

Shortly after the shock, a great wave was seen from the
distance of three or four miles, approaching in the middle
of the bay with a smooth outline; but along the shore it tore
up cottages and trees, as it swept onwards with irresistible
force. At the head of the bay it broke in a fearful line of
white breakers, which rushed up to a height of 23 vertical
feet above the highest spring-tides. Their force must have
been prodigious; for at the Fort a cannon with its carriage,
estimated at four tons in weight, was moved 15 feet inwards.
A schooner was left in the midst of the ruins, 200 yards
from the beach. The first wave was followed by two others,
which in their retreat carried away a vast wreck of floating
objects. In one part of the bay, a ship was pitched high
and dry on shore, was carried off, again driven on shore, and
again carried off. In another part, two large vessels anchored
near together were whirled about, and their cables were thrice
wound round each other; though anchored at a depth of 36
feet, they were for some minutes aground. The great wave
must have travelled slowly, for the inhabitants of Talcahuano
had time to run up the hills behind the town; and
some sailors pulled out seaward, trusting successfully to their
boat riding securely over the swell, if they could reach it
before it broke. One old woman with a little boy, four or
five years old, ran into a boat, but there was nobody to row
it out: the boat was consequently dashed against an anchor
and cut in twain; the old woman was drowned, but the child
was picked up some hours afterwards clinging to the wreck.
Pools of salt-water were still standing amidst the ruins of
the houses, and children, making boats with old tables and
chairs, appeared as happy as their parents were miserable.
It was, however, exceedingly interesting to observe, how
much more active and cheerful all appeared than could have
been expected. It was remarked with much truth, that from
the destruction being universal, no one individual was humbled
more than another, or could suspect his friends of coldness
-- that most grievous result of the loss of wealth. Mr. Rouse,
and a large party whom he kindly took under his protection,
lived for the first week in a garden beneath some apple-trees.
At first they were as merry as if it had been a picnic; but
soon afterwards heavy rain caused much discomfort, for they
were absolutely without shelter.

In Captain Fitz Roy's excellent account of the earthquake,
it is said that two explosions, one like a column of smoke and
another like the blowing of a great whale, were seen in the
bay. The water also appeared everywhere to be boiling; and
it "became black, and exhaled a most disagreeable sulphureous
smell." These latter circumstances were observed in the
Bay of Valparaiso during the earthquake of 1822; they may,
I think, be accounted for, by the disturbance of the mud at
the bottom of the sea containing organic matter in decay. In
the Bay of Callao, during a calm day, I noticed, that as the
ship dragged her cable over the bottom, its course was marked
by a line of bubbles. The lower orders in Talcahuano thought
that the earthquake was caused by some old Indian women,
who two years ago, being offended, stopped the volcano of
Antuco. This silly belief is curious, because it shows that
experience has taught them to observe, that there exists a
relation between the suppressed action of the volcanos, and
the trembling of the ground. It was necessary to apply the
witchcraft to the point where their perception of cause and
effect failed; and this was the closing of the volcanic vent.
This belief is the more singular in this particular instance,
because, according to Captain Fitz Roy, there is reason to
believe that Antuco was noways affected.

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

The different resistance offered by the walls, according to
their direction, was well exemplified in the case of the
Cathedral. The side which fronted the N.E. presented a grand
pile of ruins, in the midst of which door-cases and masses
of timber stood up, as if floating in a stream. Some of the
angular blocks of brickwork were of great dimensions; and
they were rolled to a distance on the level plaza, like
fragments of rock at the base of some high mountain. The side
walls (running S.W. and N.E.), though exceedingly fractured,
yet remained standing; but the vast buttresses (at
right angles to them, and therefore parallel to the walls that
fell) were in many cases cut clean off, as if by a chisel, and
hurled to the ground. Some square ornaments on the coping
of these same walls, were moved by the earthquake into
a diagonal position. A similar circumstance was observed
after an earthquake at Valparaiso, Calabria, and other places,
including some of the ancient Greek temples. [1] This twisting
displacement, at first appears to indicate a vorticose
movement beneath each point thus affected; but this is highly
improbable. May it not be caused by a tendency in each stone
to arrange itself in some particular position, with respect
to the lines of vibration, -- in a manner somewhat similar to
pins on a sheet of paper when shaken? Generally speaking,
arched doorways or windows stood much better than any
other part of the buildings. Nevertheless, a poor lame old
man, who had been in the habit, during trifling shocks, of
crawling to a certain doorway, was this time crushed to

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of
the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite
impossible to convey the mingled feelings which I experienced.
Several of the officers visited it before me, but their
strongest language failed to give a just idea of the scene of
desolation. It is a bitter and humiliating thing to see works,
which have cost man so much time and labour, overthrown in one
minute; yet compassion for the inhabitants was almost instantly
banished, by the surprise in seeing a state of things produced
in a moment of time, which one was accustomed to attribute
to a succession of ages. In my opinion, we have scarcely beheld,
since leaving England, any sight so deeply interesting.

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

The most remarkable effect of this earthquake was the permanent
elevation of the land, it would probably be far more
correct to speak of it as the cause. There can be no doubt
that the land round the Bay of Concepcion was upraised
two or three feet; but it deserves notice, that owing to the
wave having obliterated the old lines of tidal action on the
sloping sandy shores, I could discover no evidence of this
fact, except in the united testimony of the inhabitants, that
one little rocky shoal, now exposed, was formerly covered
with water. At the island of S. Maria (about thirty miles
distant) the elevation was greater; on one part, Captain Fitz
Roy founds beds of putrid mussel-shells _still adhering to the
rocks_, ten feet above high-water mark: the inhabitants had
formerly dived at lower-water spring-tides for these shells.
The elevation of this province is particularly interesting,
from its having been the theatre of several other violent
earthquakes, and from the vast numbers of sea-shells scattered
over the land, up to a height of certainly 600, and I
believe, of 1000 feet. At Valparaiso, as I have remarked,
similar shells are found at the height of 1300 feet: it is
hardly possible to doubt that this great elevation has been
effected by successive small uprisings, such as that which
accompanied or caused the earthquake of this year, and likewise
by an insensibly slow rise, which is certainly in progress on
some parts of this coast.

The island of Juan Fernandez, 360 miles to the N.E., was,
at the time of the great shock of the 20th, violently shaken,
so that the trees beat against each other, and a volcano burst
forth under water close to the shore: these facts are remarkable
because this island, during the earthquake of 1751, was
then also affected more violently than other places at an equal
distance from Concepcion, and this seems to show some
subterranean connection between these two points. Chiloe, about
340 miles southward of Concepcion, appears to have been
shaken more strongly than the intermediate district of Valdivia,
where the volcano of Villarica was noways affected,
whilst in the Cordillera in front of Chiloe, two of the volcanos
burst-forth at the same instant in violent action. These
two volcanos, and some neighbouring ones, continued for a
long time in eruption, and ten months afterwards were
again influenced by an earthquake at Concepcion. Some
men, cutting wood near the base of one of these volcanos,
did not perceive the shock of the 20th, although the whole
surrounding Province was then trembling; here we have an
eruption relieving and taking the place of an earthquake,
as would have happened at Concepcion, according to the
belief of the lower orders, if the volcano at Antuco had not
been closed by witchcraft. Two years and three-quarters
afterwards, Valdivia and Chiloe were again shaken, more
violently than on the 20th, and an island in the Chonos
Archipelago was permanently elevated more than eight feet.
It will give a better idea of the scale of these phenomena, if
(as in the case of the glaciers) we suppose them to have
taken place at corresponding distances in Europe: -- then
would the land from the North Sea to the Mediterranean
have been violently shaken, and at the same instant of time a
large tract of the eastern coast of England would have been
permanently elevated, together with some outlying islands, -- a
train of volcanos on the coast of Holland would have burst
forth in action, and an eruption taken place at the bottom of
the sea, near the northern extremity of Ireland -- and lastly,
the ancient vents of Auvergne, Cantal, and Mont d'Or would
each have sent up to the sky a dark column of smoke, and
have long remained in fierce action. Two years and three-
quarters afterwards, France, from its centre to the English
Channel, would have been again desolated by an earthquake
and an island permanently upraised in the Mediterranean.

The space, from under which volcanic matter on the 20th
was actually erupted, is 720 miles in one line, and 400 miles
in another line at right angles to the first: hence, in all
probability, a subterranean lake of lava is here stretched out,
of nearly double the area of the Black Sea. From the intimate
and complicated manner in which the elevatory and eruptive
forces were shown to be connected during this train of
phenomena, we may confidently come to the conclusion, that the
forces which slowly and by little starts uplift continents, and
those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter
from open orifices, are identical. From many reasons, I
believe that the frequent quakings of the earth on this line
of coast are caused by the rending of the strata, necessarily
consequent on the tension of the land when upraised, and
their injection by fluidified rock. This rending and injection
would, if repeated often enough (and we know that earthquakes
repeatedly affect the same areas in the same manner),
form a chain of hills; -- and the linear island of S. Mary,
which was upraised thrice the height of the neighbouring
country, seems to be undergoing this process. I believe that
the solid axis of a mountain, differs in its manner of formation
from a volcanic hill, only in the molten stone having
been repeatedly injected, instead of having been repeatedly
ejected. Moreover, I believe that it is impossible to explain
the structure of great mountain-chains, such as that of the
Cordillera, were the strata, capping the injected axis of
plutonic rock, have been thrown on their edges along several
parallel and neighbouring lines of elevation, except on this
view of the rock of the axis having been repeatedly injected,
after intervals sufficiently long to allow the upper parts or
wedges to cool and become solid; -- for if the strata had been
thrown into their present highly inclined, vertical, and even
inverted positions, by a single blow, the very bowels of the
earth would have gushed out; and instead of beholding abrupt
mountain-axes of rock solidified under great pressure, deluges
of lava would have flowed out at innumerable points on every
line of elevation. [2]

[1] M. Arago in L'Institut, 1839, p. 337. See also Miers's
Chile, vol. i. p. 392; also Lyell's Principles of Geology,
chap. xv., book ii.

[2] For a full account of the volcanic phenomena which
accompanied the earthquake of the 20th, and for the conclusions
deducible from them, I must refer to Volume V. of the Geological



Valparaiso -- Portillo Pass -- Sagacity of Mules -- Mountain-
torrents -- Mines, how discovered -- Proofs of the gradual
Elevation of the Cordillera -- Effect of Snow on Rocks --
Geological Structure of the two main Ranges, their distinct
Origin and Upheaval -- Great Subsidence -- Red Snow --
Winds -- Pinnacles of Snow -- Dry and clear Atmosphere --
Electricity -- Pampas -- Zoology of the opposite Side of
the Andes -- Locusts -- Great Bugs -- Mendoza -- Uspallata
Pass -- Silicified Trees buried as they grew -- Incas Bridge --
Badness of the Passes exaggerated -- Cumbre -- Casuchas --

MARCH 7th, 1835. -- We stayed three days at Concepcion,
and then sailed for Valparaiso. The wind
being northerly, we only reached the mouth of the
harbour of Concepcion before it was dark. Being very near
the land, and a fog coming on, the anchor was dropped.
Presently a large American whaler appeared alongside of us;
and we heard the Yankee swearing at his men to keep quiet,
whilst he listened for the breakers. Captain Fitz Roy hailed
him, in a loud clear voice, to anchor where he then was. The
poor man must have thought the voice came from the shore:
such a Babel of cries issued at once from the ship -- every
one hallooing out, "Let go the anchor! veer cable! shorten
sail!" It was the most laughable thing I ever heard. If
the ship's crew had been all captains, and no men, there could
not have been a greater uproar of orders. We afterwards
found that the mate stuttered: I suppose all hands were
assisting him in giving his orders.

On the 11th we anchored at Valparaiso, and two days
afterwards I set out to cross the Cordillera. I proceeded to
Santiago, where Mr. Caldcleugh most kindly assisted me in
every possible way in making the little preparations which
were necessary. In this part of Chile there are two passes
across the Andes to Mendoza: the one most commonly used,
namely, that of Aconcagua or Uspallata -- is situated some
way to the north; the other, called the Portillo, is to the
south, and nearer, but more lofty and dangerous.

March 18th. -- We set out for the Portillo pass. Leaving
Santiago we crossed the wide burnt-up plain on which that
city stands, and in the afternoon arrived at the Maypu, one
of the principal rivers in Chile. The valley, at the point
where it enters the first Cordillera, is bounded on each side
by lofty barren mountains; and although not broad, it is very
fertile. Numerous cottages were surrounded by vines, and by
orchards of apple, nectarine, and peach-trees -- their boughs
breaking with the weight of the beautiful ripe fruit. In the
evening we passed the custom-house, where our luggage was
examined. The frontier of Chile is better guarded by the
Cordillera, than by the waters of the sea. There are very
few valleys which lead to the central ranges, and the
mountains are quite impassable in other parts by beasts of
burden. The custom-house officers were very civil, which
was perhaps partly owing to the passport which the President
of the Republic had given me; but I must express my admiration
at the natural politeness of almost every Chileno. In
this instance, the contrast with the same class of men in
most other countries was strongly marked. I may mention
an anecdote with which I was at the time much pleased: we
met near Mendoza a little and very fat negress, riding astride
on a mule. She had a _goitre_ so enormous that it was scarcely
possible to avoid gazing at her for a moment; but my two
companions almost instantly, by way of apology, made the
common salute of the country by taking off their hats. Where
would one of the lower or higher classes in Europe, have
shown such feeling politeness to a poor and miserable object
of a degraded race?

At night we slept at a cottage. Our manner of travelling
was delightfully independent. In the inhabited parts we
bought a little firewood, hired pasture for the animals, and
bivouacked in the corner of the same field with them. Carrying
an iron pot, we cooked and ate our supper under a
cloudless sky, and knew no trouble. My companions were
Mariano Gonzales, who had formerly accompanied me in
Chile, and an "arriero," with his ten mules and a "madrina."
The madrina (or godmother) is a most important personage:

She is an old steady mare, with a little bell round her neck;
and wherever she goes, the mules, like good children, follow
her. The affection of these animals for their madrinas saves
infinite trouble. If several large troops are turned into one
field to graze, in the morning the muleteers have only to lead
the madrinas a little apart, and tinkle their bells; although
there may be two or three hundred together, each mule
immediately knows the bell of its own madrina, and comes to
her. It is nearly impossible to lose an old mule; for if
detained for several hours by force, she will, by the power
of smell, like a dog, track out her companions, or rather the
madrina, for, according to the muleteer, she is the chief
object of affection. The feeling, however, is not of an
individual nature; for I believe I am right in saying that any
animal with a bell will serve as a madrina. In a troop each
animal carries on a level road, a cargo weighing 416 pounds
(more than 29 stone), but in a mountainous country 100
pounds less; yet with what delicate slim limbs, without any
proportional bulk of muscle, these animals support so great
a burden! The mule always appears to me a most surprising
animal. That a hybrid should possess more reason, memory,
obstinacy, social affection, powers of muscular endurance,
and length of life, than either of its parents, seems to
indicate that art has here outdone nature. Of our ten animals,
six were intended for riding, and four for carrying cargoes,
each taking turn about. We carried a good deal of food in
case we should be snowed up, as the season was rather late
for passing the Portillo.

March 19th. -- We rode during this day to the last, and
therefore most elevated, house in the valley. The number of
inhabitants became scanty; but wherever water could be
brought on the land, it was very fertile. All the main valleys
in the Cordillera are characterized by having, on both sides, a
fringe or terrace of shingle and sand, rudely stratified, and
generally of considerable thickness. These fringes evidently
once extended across the valleys and were united; and the
bottoms of the valleys in northern Chile, where there are no
streams, are thus smoothly filled up. On these fringes the
roads are generally carried, for their surfaces are even, and
they rise, with a very gentle slope up the valleys: hence, also,
they are easily cultivated by irrigation. They may be traced
up to a height of between 7000 and 9000 feet, where they
become hidden by the irregular piles of debris. At the lower
end or mouths of the valleys, they are continuously united to
those land-locked plains (also formed of shingle) at the foot
of the main Cordillera, which I have described in a former
chapter as characteristic of the scenery of Chile, and which
were undoubtedly deposited when the sea penetrated Chile, as
it now does the more southern coasts. No one fact in the
geology of South America, interested me more than these
terraces of rudely-stratified shingle. They precisely resemble
in composition the matter which the torrents in each valley
would deposit, if they were checked in their course by any
cause, such as entering a lake or arm of the sea; but the
torrents, instead of depositing matter, are now steadily at
work wearing away both the solid rock and these alluvial
deposits, along the whole line of every main valley and side
valley. It is impossible here to give the reasons, but I am
convinced that the shingle terraces were accumulated, during
the gradual elevation of the Cordillera, by the torrents
delivering, at successive levels, their detritus on the
beachheads of long narrow arms of the sea, first high up the
valleys, then lower and lower down as the land slowly rose. If
this be so, and I cannot doubt it, the grand and broken chain
of the Cordillera, instead of having been suddenly thrown up,
as was till lately the universal, and still is the common
opinion of geologists, has been slowly upheaved in mass, in the
same gradual manner as the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific
have risen within the recent period. A multitude of facts in the
structure of the Cordillera, on this view receive a simple

The rivers which flow in these valleys ought rather to be
called mountain-torrents. Their inclination is very great,
and their water the colour of mud. The roar which the
Maypu made, as it rushed over the great rounded fragments,
was like that of the sea. Amidst the din of rushing waters,
the noise from the stones, as they rattled one over another,
was most distinctly audible even from a distance. This rattling
noise, night and day, may be heard along the whole
course of the torrent. The sound spoke eloquently to the
geologist; the thousands and thousands of stones, which,
striking against each other, made the one dull uniform sound,
were all hurrying in one direction. It was like thinking on
time, where the minute that now glides past is irrevocable.
So was it with these stones; the ocean is their eternity, and
each note of that wild music told of one more step towards
their destiny.

It is not possible for the mind to comprehend, except by
a slow process, any effect which is produced by a cause repeated
so often, that the multiplier itself conveys an idea,
not more definite than the savage implies when he points to
the hairs of his head. As often as I have seen beds of mud,
sand, and shingle, accumulated to the thickness of many
thousand feet, I have felt inclined to exclaim that causes,
such as the present rivers and the present beaches, could
never have ground down and produced such masses. But, on
the other hand, when listening to the rattling noise of these
torrents, and calling to mind that whole races of animals have
passed away from the face of the earth, and that during this
whole period, night and day, these stones have gone rattling
onwards in their course, I have thought to myself, can any
mountains, any continent, withstand such waste?

In this part of the valley, the mountains on each side were
from 3000 to 6000 or 8000 feet high, with rounded outlines
and steep bare flanks. The general colour of the rock was
dullish purple, and the stratification very distinct. If the
scenery was not beautiful, it was remarkable and grand. We
met during the day several herds of cattle, which men were
driving down from the higher valleys in the Cordillera. This
sign of the approaching winter hurried our steps, more than
was convenient for geologizing. The house where we slept
was situated at the foot of a mountain, on the summit of
which are the mines of S. Pedro de Nolasko. Sir F. Head
marvels how mines have been discovered in such extraordinary
situations, as the bleak summit of the mountain of S.
Pedro de Nolasko. In the first place, metallic veins in this
country are generally harder than the surrounding strata:
hence, during the gradual wear of the hills, they project
above the surface of the ground. Secondly, almost every
labourer, especially in the northern parts of Chile, understands
something about the appearance of ores. In the great
mining provinces of Coquimbo and Copiapo, firewood is very
scarce, and men search for it over every hill and dale; and
by this means nearly all the richest mines have there been
discovered. Chanuncillo, from which silver to the value of
many hundred thousand pounds has been raised in the course
of a few years, was discovered by a man who threw a stone
at his loaded donkey, and thinking that it was very heavy, he
picked it up, and found it full of pure silver: the vein
occurred at no great distance, standing up like a wedge of
metal. The miners, also, taking a crowbar with them, often
wander on Sundays over the mountains. In this south part
of Chile, the men who drive cattle into the Cordillera, and
who frequent every ravine where there is a little pasture, are
the usual discoverers.

20th. -- As we ascended the valley, the vegetation, with
the exception of a few pretty alpine flowers, became exceedingly
scanty, and of quadrupeds, birds, or insects, scarcely
one could be seen. The lofty mountains, their summits
marked with a few patches of snow, stood well separated
from each other, the valleys being filled up with an immense
thickness of stratified alluvium. The features in the scenery
of the Andes which struck me most, as contrasted with the
other mountain chains with which I am acquainted, were, --
the flat fringes sometimes expanding into narrow plains on
each side of the valleys, -- the bright colours, chiefly red and
purple, of the utterly bare and precipitous hills of porphyry,
the grand and continuous wall-like dykes, -- the plainly-
divided strata which, where nearly vertical, formed the
picturesque and wild central pinnacles, but where less inclined,
composed the great massive mountains on the outskirts of the
range, -- and lastly, the smooth conical piles of fine and
brightly coloured detritus, which sloped up at a high angle
from the base of the mountains, sometimes to a height of
more than 2000 feet.

I frequently observed, both in Tierra del Fuego and within
the Andes, that where the rock was covered during the greater
part of the year with snow, it was shivered in a very
extraordinary manner into small angular fragments. Scoresby [1]
has observed the same fact in Spitzbergen. The case
appears to me rather obscure: for that part of the mountain
which is protected by a mantle of snow, must be less subject
to repeated and great changes of temperature than any other
part. I have sometimes thought, that the earth and fragments
of stone on the surface, were perhaps less effectually
removed by slowly percolating snow-water [2] than by rain, and
therefore that the appearance of a quicker disintegration of
the solid rock under the snow, was deceptive. Whatever the
cause may be, the quantity of crumbling stone on the Cordillera
is very great. Occasionally in the spring, great masses
of this detritus slide down the mountains, and cover the
snow-drifts in the valleys, thus forming natural ice-houses.
We rode over one, the height of which was far below the
limit of perpetual snow.

As the evening drew to a close, we reached a singular
basin-like plain, called the Valle del Yeso. It was covered
by a little dry pasture, and we had the pleasant sight of a
herd of cattle amidst the surrounding rocky deserts. The
valley takes its name of Yeso from a great bed, I should think
at least 2000 feet thick, of white, and in some parts quite
pure, gypsum. We slept with a party of men, who were
employed in loading mules with this substance, which is used
in the manufacture of wine. We set out early in the morning
(21st), and continued to follow the course of the river, which
had become very small, till we arrived at the foot of the ridge,
that separates the waters flowing into the Pacific and Atlantic
Oceans. The road, which as yet had been good with a steady
but very gradual ascent, now changed into a steep zigzag
track up the great range, dividing the republics of Chile
and Mendoza.

I will here give a very brief sketch of the geology of the
several parallel lines forming the Cordillera. Of these lines,
there are two considerably higher than the others; namely,
on the Chilian side, the Peuquenes ridge, which, where the
road crosses it, is 13,210 feet above the sea; and the Portillo
ridge, on the Mendoza side, which is 14,305 feet. The lower
beds of the Peuquenes ridge, and of the several great lines
to the westward of it, are composed of a vast pile, many
thousand feet in thickness, of porphyries which have flowed as
submarine lavas, alternating with angular and rounded fragments
of the same rocks, thrown out of the submarine craters.
These alternating masses are covered in the central parts,
by a great thickness of red sandstone, conglomerate, and
calcareous clay-slate, associated with, and passing into,
prodigious beds of gypsum. In these upper beds shells are
tolerably frequent; and they belong to about the period of the
lower chalk of Europe. It is an old story, but not the less
wonderful, to hear of shells which were once crawling on the
bottom of the sea, now standing nearly 14,000 feet above its
level. The lower beds in this great pile of strata, have been
dislocated, baked, crystallized and almost blended together,
through the agency of mountain masses of a peculiar white
soda-granitic rock.

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

Finally, the shells in the Peuquenes or oldest ridge, prove,
as before remarked, that it has been upraised 14,000 feet
since a Secondary period, which in Europe we are accustomed
to consider as far from ancient; but since these shells
lived in a moderately deep sea, it can be shown that the area
now occupied by the Cordillera, must have subsided several
thousand feet -- in northern Chile as much as 6000 feet -- so
as to have allowed that amount of submarine strata to have
been heaped on the bed on which the shells lived. The proof
is the same with that by which it was shown, that at a much
later period, since the tertiary shells of Patagonia lived,
there must have been there a subsidence of several hundred
feet, as well as an ensuing elevation. Daily it is forced home
on the mind of the geologist, that nothing, not even the wind
that blows, is so unstable as the level of the crust of this

I will make only one other geological remark: although
the Portillo chain is here higher than the Peuquenes, the
waters draining the intermediate valleys, have burst through
it. The same fact, on a grander scale, has been remarked in
the eastern and loftiest line of the Bolivian Cordillera,
through which the rivers pass: analogous facts have also
been observed in other quarters of the world. On the supposition
of the subsequent and gradual elevation of the Portillo
line, this can be understood; for a chain of islets would
at first appear, and, as these were lifted up, the tides would
be always wearing deeper and broader channels between them.
At the present day, even in the most retired Sounds on the
coast of Tierra del Fuego, the currents in the transverse
breaks which connect the longitudinal channels, are very
strong, so that in one transverse channel even a small vessel
under sail was whirled round and round.

About noon we began the tedious ascent of the Peuquenes
ridge, and then for the first time experienced some little
difficulty in our respiration. The mules would halt every fifty
yards, and after resting for a few seconds the poor willing
animals started of their own accord again. The short breathing


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