The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin

Part 8 out of 11

from the rarefied atmosphere is called by the Chilenos
"puna;" and they have most ridiculous notions concerning
its origin. Some say "all the waters here have puna;" others
that "where there is snow there is puna;" -- and this no
doubt is true. The only sensation I experienced was a slight
tightness across the head and chest, like that felt on leaving
a warm room and running quickly in frosty weather. There
was some imagination even in this; for upon finding fossil
shells on the highest ridge, I entirely forgot the puna in my
delight. Certainly the exertion of walking was extremely
great, and the respiration became deep and laborious: I am
told that in Potosi (about 13,000 feet above the sea) strangers
do not become thoroughly accustomed to the atmosphere for
an entire year. The inhabitants all recommend onions for
the puna; as this vegetable has sometimes been given in
Europe for pectoral complaints, it may possibly be of real
service: -- for my part I found nothing so good as the fossil

When about half-way up we met a large party with seventy
loaded mules. It was interesting to hear the wild cries
of the muleteers, and to watch the long descending string
of the animals; they appeared so diminutive, there being
nothing but the black mountains with which they could be
compared. When near the summit, the wind, as generally
happens, was impetuous and extremely cold. On each side of
the ridge, we had to pass over broad bands of perpetual
snow, which were now soon to be covered by a fresh layer.
When we reached the crest and looked backwards, a glorious
view was presented. The atmosphere resplendently clear;
the sky an intense blue; the profound valleys; the wild
broken forms: the heaps of ruins, piled up during the lapse
of ages; the bright-coloured rocks, contrasted with the quiet
mountains of snow, all these together produced a scene no
one could have imagined. Neither plant nor bird, excepting
a few condors wheeling around the higher pinnacles, distracted
my attention from the inanimate mass. I felt glad
that I was alone: it was like watching a thunderstorm, or
hearing in full orchestra a chorus of the Messiah.

On several patches of the snow I found the Protococcus
nivalis, or red snow, so well known from the accounts of
Arctic navigators. My attention was called to it, by observing
the footsteps of the mules stained a pale red, as if their
hoofs had been slightly bloody. I at first thought that it was
owing to dust blown from the surrounding mountains of red
porphyry; for from the magnifying power of the crystals
of snow, the groups of these microscopical plants appeared
like coarse particles. The snow was coloured only where it
had thawed very rapidly, or had been accidentally crushed.
A little rubbed on paper gave it a faint rose tinge mingled
with a little brick-red. I afterwards scraped some off the
paper, and found that it consisted of groups of little spheres
in colourless cases, each of the thousandth part of an inch in

The wind on the crest of the Peuquenes, as just remarked,
is generally impetuous and very cold: it is said [3] to blow
steadily from the westward or Pacific side. As the observations
have been chiefly made in summer, this wind must be
an upper and return current. The Peak of Teneriffe, with
a less elevation, and situated in lat. 28 degs., in like manner
falls within an upper return stream. At first it appears rather
surprising, that the trade-wind along the northern parts of
Chile and on the coast of Peru, should blow in so very southerly
a direction as it does; but when we reflect that the Cordillera,
running in a north and south line, intercepts, like a
great wall, the entire depth of the lower atmospheric current,
we can easily see that the trade-wind must be drawn northward,
following the line of mountains, towards the equatorial
regions, and thus lose part of that easterly movement which
it otherwise would have gained from the earth's rotation. At
Mendoza, on the eastern foot of the Andes, the climate is
said to be subject to long calms, and to frequent though false
appearances of gathering rain-storms: we may imagine that
the wind, which coming from the eastward is thus banked up
by the line of mountains, would become stagnant and irregular
in its movements.

Having crossed the Peuquenes, we descended into a mountainous
country, intermediate between the two main ranges,
and then took up our quarters for the night. We were now
in the republic of Mendoza. The elevation was probably not
under 11,000 feet, and the vegetation in consequence exceedingly
scanty. The root of a small scrubby plant served as
fuel, but it made a miserable fire, and the wind was
piercingly cold. Being quite tired with my days work, I
made up my bed as quickly as I could, and went to sleep.
About midnight I observed the sky became suddenly clouded:
I awakened the arriero to know if there was any danger of
bad weather; but he said that without thunder and lightning
there was no risk of a heavy snow-storm. The peril is
imminent, and the difficulty of subsequent escape great, to
any one overtaken by bad weather between the two ranges.
A certain cave offers the only place of refuge: Mr. Caldcleugh,
who crossed on this same day of the month, was
detained there for some time by a heavy fall of snow. Casuchas,
or houses of refuge, have not been built in this pass
as in that of Uspallata, and, therefore, during the autumn,
the Portillo is little frequented. I may here remark that
within the main Cordillera rain never falls, for during the
summer the sky is cloudless, and in winter snow-storms alone

At the place where we slept water necessarily boiled, from
the diminished pressure of the atmosphere, at a lower
temperature than it does in a less lofty country; the case being
the converse of that of a Papin's digester. Hence the potatoes,
after remaining for some hours in the boiling water,
were nearly as hard as ever. The pot was left on the fire
all night, and next morning it was boiled again, but yet the
potatoes were not cooked. I found out this, by overhearing
my two companions discussing the cause, they had come
to the simple conclusion, "that the cursed pot [which was a
new one] did not choose to boil potatoes."

March 22nd. -- After eating our potatoless breakfast, we
travelled across the intermediate tract to the foot of the
Portillo range. In the middle of summer cattle are brought
up here to graze; but they had now all been removed: even
the greater number of the Guanacos had decamped, knowing
well that if overtaken here by a snow-storm, they would be
caught in a trap. We had a fine view of a mass of mountains
called Tupungato, the whole clothed with unbroken
snow, in the midst of which there was a blue patch, no
doubt a glacier; -- a circumstance of rare occurrence in these
mountains. Now commenced a heavy and long climb, similar
to that of the Peuquenes. Bold conical hills of red
granite rose on each hand; in the valleys there were several
broad fields of perpetual snow. These frozen masses, during
the process of thawing, had in some parts been converted
into pinnacles or columns, [4] which, as they were high and
close together, made it difficult for the cargo mules to pass.
On one of these columns of ice, a frozen horse was sticking
as on a pedestal, but with its hind legs straight up in
the air. The animal, I suppose, must have fallen with its
head downward into a hole, when the snow was continuous,
and afterwards the surrounding parts must have been
removed by the thaw.

When nearly on the crest of the Portillo, we were enveloped
in a falling cloud of minute frozen spicula. This was
very unfortunate, as it continued the whole day, and quite
intercepted our view. The pass takes its name of Portillo,
from a narrow cleft or doorway on the highest ridge,
through which the road passes. From this point, on a clear
day, those vast plains which uninterruptedly extend to the
Atlantic Ocean can be seen. We descended to the upper
limit of vegetation, and found good quarters for the night
under the shelter of some large fragments of rock. We met
here some passengers, who made anxious inquiries about the
state of the road. Shortly after it was dark the clouds suddenly
cleared away, and the effect was quite magical. The
great mountains, bright with the full moon, seemed impending
over us on all sides, as over a deep crevice: one morning,
very early, I witnessed the same striking effect. As
soon as the clouds were dispersed it froze severely; but as
there was no wind, we slept very comfortably.

The increased brilliancy of the moon and stars at this
elevation, owing to the perfect transparency of the atmosphere,
was very remarkable. Travelers having observed
the difficulty of judging heights and distances amidst lofty
mountains, have generally attributed it to the absence of
objects of comparison. It appears to me, that it is fully as
much owing to the transparency of the air confounding
objects at different distances, and likewise partly to the
novelty of an unusual degree of fatigue arising from a little
exertion, -- habit being thus opposed to the evidence of the
senses. I am sure that this extreme clearness of the air
gives a peculiar character to the landscape, all objects
appearing to be brought nearly into one plane, as in a drawing
or panorama. The transparency is, I presume, owing to
the equable and high state of atmospheric dryness. This
dryness was shown by the manner in which woodwork
shrank (as I soon found by the trouble my geological hammer
gave me); by articles of food, such as bread and sugar,
becoming extremely hard; and by the preservation of the
skin and parts of the flesh of the beasts, which had perished
on the road. To the same cause we must attribute the singular
facility with which electricity is excited. My flannel
waistcoat, when rubbed in the dark, appeared as if it had
been washed with phosphorus, -- every hair on a dog's back
crackled; -- even the linen sheets, and leathern straps of the
saddle, when handled, emitted sparks.

March 23rd. -- The descent on the eastern side of the Cordillera
is much shorter or steeper than on the Pacific side;
in other words, the mountains rise more abruptly from the
plains than from the alpine country of Chile. A level and
brilliantly white sea of clouds was stretched out beneath our
feet, shutting out the view of the equally level Pampas. We
soon entered the band of clouds, and did not again emerge
from it that day. About noon, finding pasture for the animals
and bushes for firewood at Los Arenales, we stopped
for the night. This was near the uppermost limit of bushes,
and the elevation, I suppose, was between seven and eight
thousand feet.

I was much struck with the marked difference between
the vegetation of these eastern valleys and those on the
Chilian side: yet the climate, as well as the kind of soil, is
nearly the same, and the difference of longitude very trifling.
The same remark holds good with the quadrupeds, and in
a lesser degree with the birds and insects. I may instance the
mice, of which I obtained thirteen species on the shores of
the Atlantic, and five on the Pacific, and not one of them
is identical. We must except all those species, which habitually
or occasionally frequent elevated mountains; and certain
birds, which range as far south as the Strait of Magellan.
This fact is in perfect accordance with the geological
history of the Andes; for these mountains have existed as
a great barrier since the present races of animals have
appeared; and therefore, unless we suppose the same species
to have been created in two different places, we ought not to
expect any closer similarity between the organic beings on
the opposite sides of the Andes than on the opposite shores
of the ocean. In both cases, we must leave out of the question
those kinds which have been able to cross the barrier,
whether of solid rock or salt-water. [5]

A great number of the plants and animals were absolutely
the same as, or most closely allied to, those of Patagonia.
We here have the agouti, bizcacha, three species of armadillo,
the ostrich, certain kinds of partridges and other birds,
none of which are ever seen in Chile, but are the characteristic
animals of the desert plains of Patagonia. We have
likewise many of the same (to the eyes of a person who is
not a botanist) thorny stunted bushes, withered grass, and
dwarf plants. Even the black slowly crawling beetles are
closely similar, and some, I believe, on rigorous examination,
absolutely identical. It had always been to me a subject of
regret, that we were unavoidably compelled to give up the
ascent of the S. Cruz river before reaching the mountains:
I always had a latent hope of meeting with some great
change in the features of the country; but I now feel sure,
that it would only have been following the plains of Patagonia
up a mountainous ascent.

March 24th. -- Early in the morning I climbed up a mountain
on one side of the valley, and enjoyed a far extended
view over the Pampas. This was a spectacle to which I had
always looked forward with interest, but I was disappointed:
at the first glance it much resembled a distant view of the
ocean, but in the northern parts many irregularities were
soon distinguishable. The most striking feature consisted
in the rivers, which, facing the rising sun, glittered like
silver threads, till lost in the immensity of the distance. At
midday we descended the valley, and reached a hovel, where
an officer and three soldiers were posted to examine passports.
One of these men was a thoroughbred Pampas
Indian: he was kept much for the same purpose as a bloodhound,
to track out any person who might pass by secretly,
either on foot or horseback. Some years ago, a passenger
endeavoured to escape detection, by making a long circuit
over a neighbouring mountain; but this Indian, having by
chance crossed his track, followed it for the whole day over
dry and very stony hills, till at last he came on his prey
hidden in a gully. We here heard that the silvery clouds,
which we had admired from the bright region above, had
poured down torrents of rain. The valley from this point
gradually opened, and the hills became mere water-worn
hillocks compared to the giants behind: it then expanded
into a gently sloping plain of shingle, covered with low trees
and bushes. This talus, although appearing narrow, must be
nearly ten miles wide before it blends into the apparently
dead level Pampas. We passed the only house in this
neighbourhood, the Estancia of Chaquaio: and at sunset we pulled
up in the first snug corner, and there bivouacked.

March 25th. -- I was reminded of the Pampas of Buenos
Ayres, by seeing the disk of the rising sun, intersected by an
horizon level as that of the ocean. During the night a heavy
dew fell, a circumstance which we did not experience within
the Cordillera. The road proceeded for some distance due
east across a low swamp; then meeting the dry plain, it
turned to the north towards Mendoza. The distance is two
very long days' journey. Our first day's journey was called
fourteen leagues to Estacado, and the second seventeen to
Luxan, near Mendoza. The whole distance is over a level
desert plain, with not more than two or three houses. The
sun was exceedingly powerful, and the ride devoid of all
interest. There is very little water in this "traversia," and
in our second day's journey we found only one little pool.
Little water flows from the mountains, and it soon becomes
absorbed by the dry and porous soil; so that, although we
travelled at the distance of only ten or fifteen miles from
the outer range of the Cordillera, we did not cross a single
stream. In many parts the ground was incrusted with a
saline efflorescence; hence we had the same salt-loving
plants which are common near Bahia Blanca. The landscape
has a uniform character from the Strait of Magellan,
along the whole eastern coast of Patagonia, to the Rio Colorado;
and it appears that the same kind of country extends
inland from this river, in a sweeping line as far as San Luis
and perhaps even further north. To the eastward of this
curved line lies the basin of the comparatively damp and
green plains of Buenos Ayres. The sterile plains of Mendoza
and Patagonia consist of a bed of shingle, worn smooth
and accumulated by the waves of the sea while the Pampas,
covered by thistles, clover, and grass, have been formed by
the ancient estuary mud of the Plata.

After our two days' tedious journey, it was refreshing to
see in the distance the rows of poplars and willows growing
round the village and river of Luxan. Shortly before we
arrived at this place, we observed to the south a ragged cloud
of dark reddish-brown colour. At first we thought that it
was smoke from some great fire on the plains; but we soon
found that it was a swarm of locusts. They were flying
northward; and with the aid of a light breeze, they overtook
us at a rate of ten or fifteen miles an hour. The main body
filled the air from a height of twenty feet, to that, as it
appeared, of two or three thousand above the ground; "and the
sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many
horses running to battle:" or rather, I should say, like a
strong breeze passing through the rigging of a ship. The
sky, seen through the advanced guard, appeared like a mezzotinto
engraving, but the main body was impervious to sight;
they were not, however, so thick together, but that they
could escape a stick waved backwards and forwards. When
they alighted, they were more numerous than the leaves in
the field, and the surface became reddish instead of being
green: the swarm having once alighted, the individuals flew
from side to side in all directions. Locusts are not an uncommon
pest in this country: already during the season, several
smaller swarms had come up from the south, where, as
apparently in all other parts of the world, they are bred in
the deserts. The poor cottagers in vain attempted by lighting
fires, by shouts, and by waving branches to avert the
attack. This species of locust closely resembles, and perhaps
is identical with, the famous Gryllus migratorius of the East.

We crossed the Luxan, which is a river of considerable
size, though its course towards the sea-coast is very
imperfectly known: it is even doubtful whether, in passing over
the plains, it is not evaporated and lost. We slept in the
village of Luxan, which is a small place surrounded by gardens,
and forms the most southern cultivated district in the
Province of Mendoza; it is five leagues south of the capital.
At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a
name) of the _Benchuca_, a species of Reduvius, the great
black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft
wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one's
body. Before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards
they become round and bloated with blood, and in this state
are easily crushed. One which I caught at Iquique, (for they
are found in Chile and Peru,) was very empty. When placed
on a table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger was
presented, the bold insect would immediately protrude its
sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain
was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body
during the act of sucking, as in less than ten minutes it
changed from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form.
This one feast, for which the benchuca was indebted to one
of the officers, kept it fat during four whole months; but,
after the first fortnight, it was quite ready to have another

March 27th. -- We rode on to Mendoza. The country was
beautifully cultivated, and resembled Chile. This neighbourhood
is celebrated for its fruit; and certainly nothing could
appear more flourishing than the vineyards and the orchards
of figs, peaches, and olives. We bought water-melons nearly
twice as large as a man's head, most deliciously cool and
well-flavoured, for a halfpenny apiece; and for the value of
threepence, half a wheelbarrowful of peaches. The cultivated
and enclosed part of this province is very small; there
is little more than that which we passed through between
Luxan and the capital. The land, as in Chile, owes its fertility
entirely to artificial irrigation; and it is really wonderful
to observe how extraordinarily productive a barren
traversia is thus rendered.

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

March 29th. -- We set out on our return to Chile, by the
Uspallata pass situated north of Mendoza. We had to cross
a long and most sterile traversia of fifteen leagues. The
soil in parts was absolutely bare, in others covered by
numberless dwarf cacti, armed with formidable spines, and called
by the inhabitants "little lions." There were, also, a few
low bushes. Although the plain is nearly three thousand feet
above the sea, the sun was very powerful; and the heat as
well as the clouds of impalpable dust, rendered the travelling
extremely irksome. Our course during the day lay nearly
parallel to the Cordillera, but gradually approaching them.
Before sunset we entered one of the wide valleys, or rather
bays, which open on the plain: this soon narrowed into a
ravine, where a little higher up the house of Villa Vicencio
is situated. As we had ridden all day without a drop of
water, both our mules and selves were very thirsty, and we
looked out anxiously for the stream which flows down this
valley. It was curious to observe how gradually the water
made its appearance: on the plain the course was quite dry;
by degrees it became a little damper; then puddles of water
appeared; these soon became connected; and at Villa Vicencio
there was a nice little rivulet.

30th. -- The solitary hovel which bears the imposing name
of Villa Vicencio, has been mentioned by every traveller who
has crossed the Andes. I stayed here and at some neighbouring
mines during the two succeeding days. The geology
of the surrounding country is very curious. The Uspallata
range is separated from the main Cordillera by a long narrow
plain or basin, like those so often mentioned in Chile,
but higher, being six thousand feet above the sea. This
range has nearly the same geographical position with respect
to the Cordillera, which the gigantic Portillo line has, but it
is of a totally different origin: it consists of various kinds
of submarine lava, alternating with volcanic sandstones and
other remarkable sedimentary deposits; the whole having a
very close resemblance to some of the tertiary beds on the
shores of the Pacific. From this resemblance I expected to
find silicified wood, which is generally characteristic of those
formations. I was gratified in a very extraordinary manner.
In the central part of the range, at an elevation of about
seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope some snow-white
projecting columns. These were petrified trees, eleven
being silicified, and from thirty to forty converted into
coarsely-crystallized white calcareous spar. They were abruptly
broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet
above the ground. The trunks measured from three to five
feet each in circumference. They stood a little way apart
from each other, but the whole formed one group. Mr. Robert
Brown has been kind enough to examine the wood: he
says it belongs to the fir tribe, partaking of the character
of the Araucarian family, but with some curious points of
affinity with the yew. The volcanic sandstone in which the
trees were embedded, and from the lower part of which they
must have sprung, had accumulated in successive thin layers
around their trunks; and the stone yet retained the impression
of the bark.

It required little geological practice to interpret the
marvellous story which this scene at once unfolded; though I
confess I was at first so much astonished that I could
scarcely believe the plainest evidence. I saw the spot where
a cluster of fine trees once waved their branches on the
shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now driven back
700 miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that they
had sprung from a volcanic soil which had been raised above
the level of the sea, and that subsequently this dry land,
with its upright trees, had been let down into the depths of
the ocean. In these depths, the formerly dry land was
covered by sedimentary beds, and these again by enormous
streams of submarine lava -- one such mass attaining the
thickness of a thousand feet; and these deluges of molten
stone and aqueous deposits five times alternately had been
spread out. The ocean which received such thick masses,
must have been profoundly deep; but again the subterranean
forces exerted themselves, and I now beheld the bed of
that ocean, forming a chain of mountains more than seven
thousand feet in height. Nor had those antagonistic forces
been dormant, which are always at work wearing down the
surface of the land; the great piles of strata had been
intersected by many wide valleys, and the trees now changed
into silex, were exposed projecting from the volcanic soil,
now changed into rock, whence formerly, in a green and
budding state, they had raised their lofty heads. Now,
all is utterly irreclaimable and desert; even the lichen cannot
adhere to the stony casts of former trees. Vast, and
scarcely comprehensible as such changes must ever appear,
yet they have all occurred within a period, recent when
compared with the history of the Cordillera; and the Cordillera
itself is absolutely modern as compared with many
of the fossiliferous strata of Europe and America.

April 1st. -- We crossed the Upsallata range, and at night
slept at the custom-house -- the only inhabited spot on the
plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a
very extraordinary view; red, purple, green, and quite white
sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were broken
up and thrown into all kinds of disorder by masses of porphyry
of every shade of colour, from dark brown to the
brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, which
really resembled those pretty sections which geologists make
of the inside of the earth.

The next day we crossed the plain, and followed the course
of the same great mountain stream which flows by Luxan.
Here it was a furious torrent, quite impassable, and appeared
larger than in the low country, as was the case with the rivulet
of Villa Vicencio. On the evening of the succeeding day,
we reached the Rio de las Vacas, which is considered the
worst stream in the Cordillera to cross. As all these rivers
have a rapid and short course, and are formed by the melting
of the snow, the hour of the day makes a considerable difference
in their volume. In the evening the stream is muddy
and full, but about daybreak it becomes clearer, and much
less impetuous. This we found to be the case with the Rio
Vacas, and in the morning we crossed it with little difficulty.

The scenery thus far was very uninteresting, compared
with that of the Portillo pass. Little can be seen beyond the
bare walls of the one grand flat-bottomed valley, which the
road follows up to the highest crest. The valley and
the huge rocky mountains are extremely barren: during the
two previous nights the poor mules had absolutely nothing
to eat, for excepting a few low resinous bushes, scarcely a
plant can be seen. In the course of this day we crossed some
of the worst passes in the Cordillera, but their danger has
been much exaggerated. I was told that if I attempted to
pass on foot, my head would turn giddy, and that there was
no room to dismount; but I did not see a place where any
one might not have walked over backwards, or got off his
mule on either side. One of the bad passes, called _las
Animas_ (the souls), I had crossed, and did not find out
till a day afterwards, that it was one of the awful dangers.
No doubt there are many parts in which, if the mule should
stumble, the rider would be hurled down a great precipice;
but of this there is little chance. I dare say, in the spring,
the "laderas," or roads, which each year are formed anew
across the piles of fallen detritus, are very bad; but from
what I saw, I suspect the real danger is nothing. With
cargo-mules the case is rather different, for the loads project
so far, that the animals, occasionally running against
each other, or against a point of rock, lose their balance, and
are thrown down the precipices. In crossing the rivers
I can well believe that the difficulty may be very great: at
this season there was little trouble, but in the summer they
must be very hazardous. I can quite imagine, as Sir F.
Head describes, the different expressions of those who _have_
passed the gulf, and those who _are_ passing. I never heard
of any man being drowned, but with loaded mules it frequently
happens. The arriero tells you to show your mule
the best line, and then allow her to cross as she likes: the
cargo-mule takes a bad line, and is often lost.

April 4th. -- From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del
Incas, half a day's journey. As there was pasture for the
mules, and geology for me, we bivouacked here for the
night. When one hears of a natural Bridge, one pictures
to one's self some deep and narrow ravine, across which a
bold mass of rock has fallen; or a great arch hollowed out
like the vault of a cavern. Instead of this, the Incas
Bridge consists of a crust of stratified shingle cemented
together by the deposits of the neighbouring hot springs. It
appears, as if the stream had scooped out a channel on one
side, leaving an overhanging ledge, which was met by earth
and stones falling down from the opposite cliff. Certainly
an oblique junction, as would happen in such a case, was
very distinct on one side. The Bridge of the Incas is by
no means worthy of the great monarchs whose name it

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

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

8th. -- We left the valley of the Aconcagua, by which we
had descended, and reached in the evening a cottage near the
Villa del St. Rosa. The fertility of the plain was delightful:
the autumn being advanced, the leaves of many of the
fruit-trees were falling; and of the labourers, -- some were
busy in drying figs and peaches on the roofs of their cottages,
while others were gathering the grapes from the vineyards.
It was a pretty scene; but I missed that pensive stillness
which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening
of the year. On the 10th we reached Santiago, where I received
a very kind and hospitable reception from Mr. Caldcleugh.
My excursion only cost me twenty-four days, and
never did I more deeply enjoy an equal space of time. A
few days afterwards I returned to Mr. Corfield's house at

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

[2] I have heard it remarked in Shropshire that the water, when
the Severn is flooded from long-continued rain, is much more
turbid than when it proceeds from the snow melting in the Welsh
mountains. D'Orbigny (tom. i. p. 184), in explaining the cause
of the various colours of the rivers in South America, remarks
that those with blue or clear water have there source in the
Cordillera, where the snow melts.

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

[4] This structure in frozen snow was long since observed by
Scoresby in the icebergs near Spitzbergen, and, lately, with
more care, by Colonel Jackson (Journ. of Geograph. Soc., vol. v.
p. 12) on the Neva. Mr. Lyell (Principles, vol. iv. p. 360) has
compared the fissures by which the columnar structure seems to
be determined, to the joints that traverse nearly all rocks, but
which are best seen in the non-stratified masses. I may observe,
that in the case of the frozen snow, the columnar structure must
be owing to a "metamorphic" action, and not to a process during

[5] This is merely an illustration of the admirable laws, first
laid down by Mr. Lyell, on the geographical distribution of
animals, as influenced by geological changes. The whole
reasoning, of course, is founded on the assumption of the
immutability of species; otherwise the difference in the species
in the two regions might be considered as superinduced during a
length of time.



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

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

28th. -- In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the
foot of the Bell mountain. The inhabitants were freeholders,
which is not very usual in Chile. They supported themselves
on the produce of a garden and a little field, but were
very poor. Capital is here so deficient, that the people are
obliged to sell their green corn while standing in the field,
in order to buy necessaries for the ensuing year. Wheat in
consequence was dearer in the very district of its production
than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The next
day we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there
was a very light shower of rain: this was the first drop that
had fallen since the heavy rain of September 11th and 12th,
which detained me a prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes.
The interval was seven and a half months; but the rain this
year in Chile was rather later than usual. The distant Andes
were now covered by a thick mass of snow, and were a glorious

May 2nd. -- The road continued to follow the coast, at no
great distance from the sea. The few trees and bushes which
are common in central Chile decreased rapidly in numbers,
and were replaced by a tall plant, something like a yucca in
appearance. The surface of the country, on a small scale,
was singularly broken and irregular; abrupt little peaks of
rock rising out of small plains or basins. The indented coast
and the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with breakers,
would, if converted into dry land, present similar forms;
and such a conversion without doubt has taken place in the
part over which we rode.

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

4th. -- Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any
kind, we turned inland towards the mining district and
valley of Illapel. This valley, like every other in Chile, is
level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on each side,
either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky
mountains. Above the straight line of the uppermost irrigating
ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below is of as
bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfalfa, a kind
of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining
district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like
a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race
of men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the
most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on
feast-days, there is no excess of extravagance into which
they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum,
and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon
they can contrive to squander it. They drink excessively,
buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless
to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts
of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently
the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is
found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness: moreover,
temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed
in their power at the same time. On the other hand, in
Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the system
of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from
being obliged to act and think for themselves, are a singularly
intelligent and well-conducted set of men.

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather
picturesque He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured
baize, with a leathern apron; the whole being fastened
round his waist by a bright-coloured sash. His trousers are
very broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit
the head closely. We met a party of these miners in full
costume, carrying the body of one of their companions to be
buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men supporting
the corpse. One set having run as hard as they
could for about two hundred yards, were relieved by four
others, who had previously dashed on ahead on horseback.
Thus they proceeded, encouraging each other by wild cries:
altogether the scene formed a most strange funeral.

We continued travelling northward, in a zigzag line;
sometimes stopping a day to geologize. The country was so
thinly inhabited, and the track so obscure, that we often had
difficulty in finding our way. On the 12th I stayed at some
mines. The ore in this case was not considered particularly
good, but from being abundant it was supposed the mine
would sell for about thirty or forty thousand dollars (that is,
6000 or 8000 pounds sterling); yet it had been bought by
one of the English Associations for an ounce of gold (3l.
8s.). The ore is yellow pyrites, which, as I have already
remarked, before the arrival of the English, was not supposed
to contain a particle of copper. On a scale of profits nearly
as great as in the above instance, piles of cinders, abounding
with minute globules of metallic copper, were purchased;
yet with these advantages, the mining associations, as is well
known, contrived to lose immense sums of money. The folly
of the greater number of the commissioners and shareholders
amounted to infatuation; -- a thousand pounds per annum
given in some cases to entertain the Chilian authorities;
libraries of well-bound geological books; miners brought out
for particular metals, as tin, which are not found in Chile;
contracts to supply the miners with milk, in parts where
there are no cows; machinery, where it could not possibly
be used; and a hundred similar arrangements, bore witness
to our absurdity, and to this day afford amusement to the
natives. Yet there can be no doubt, that the same capital
well employed in these mines would have yielded an immense
return, a confidential man of business, a practical
miner and assayer, would have been all that was required.

Captain Head has described the wonderful load which
the "Apires," truly beasts of burden, carry up from the
deepest mines. I confess I thought the account exaggerated:
so that I was glad to take an opportunity of weighing one
of the loads, which I picked out by hazard. It required
considerable exertion on my part, when standing directly over
it, to lift it from the ground. The load was considered under
weight when found to be 197 pounds. The apire had carried
this up eighty perpendicular yards, -- part of the way by
a steep passage, but the greater part up notched poles, placed
in a zigzag line up the shaft. According to the general
regulation, the apire is not allowed to halt for breath, except
the mine is six hundred feet deep. The average load is
considered as rather more than 200 pounds, and I have been
assured that one of 300 pounds (twenty-two stone and a half)
by way of a trial has been brought up from the deepest mine!
At this time the apires were bringing up the usual load
twelve times in the day; that is 2400 pounds from eighty
yards deep; and they were employed in the intervals in breaking
and picking ore.

These men, excepting from accidents, are healthy, and appear
cheerful. Their bodies are not very muscular. They
rarely eat meat once a week, and never oftener, and then only
the hard dry charqui. Although with a knowledge that the
labour was voluntary, it was nevertheless quite revolting to
see the state in which they reached the mouth of the mine;
their bodies bent forward, leaning with their arms on the
steps, their legs bowed, their muscles quivering, the
perspiration streaming from their faces over their breasts,
their nostrils distended, the corners of their mouth forcibly
drawn back, and the expulsion of their breath most laborious.
Each time they draw their breath, they utter an articulate
cry of "ay-ay," which ends in a sound rising from deep in
the chest, but shrill like the note of a fife. After staggering
to the pile of ore, they emptied the "carpacho;" in two or
three seconds recovering their breath, they wiped the sweat
from their brows, and apparently quite fresh descended the
mine again at a quick pace. This appears to me a wonderful
instance of the amount of labour which habit, for it can be
nothing else, will enable a man to endure.

In the evening, talking with the _mayor-domo_ of these
mines about the number of foreigners now scattered over
the whole country, he told me that, though quite a young
man, he remembers when he was a boy at school at
Coquimbo, a holiday being given to see the captain of an
English ship, who was brought to the city to speak to the
governor. He believes that nothing would have induced
any boy in the school, himself included, to have gone close
to the Englishman; so deeply had they been impressed with
an idea of the heresy, contamination, and evil to be derived
from contact with such a person. To this day they relate
the atrocious actions of the bucaniers; and especially of
one man, who took away the figure of the Virgin Mary, and
returned the year after for that of St. Joseph, saying it
was a pity the lady should not have a husband. I heard
also of an old lady who, at a dinner at Coquimbo, remarked
how wonderfully strange it was that she should have lived
to dine in the same room with an Englishman; for she
remembered as a girl, that twice, at the mere cry of "Los
Ingleses," every soul, carrying what valuables they could,
had taken to the mountains.

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

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

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which
natives and old residents, though some of them known to
be men of great command of mind, so generally experience
during earthquakes. I think, however, this excess of panic
may be partly attributed to a want of habit in governing
their fear, as it is not a feeling they are ashamed of. Indeed,
the natives do not like to see a person indifferent. I
heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open air during
a smart shock, knowing that there was no danger, did not
rise. The natives cried out indignantly, "Look at those
heretics, they do not even get out of their beds!"

I spent some days in examining the step-formed terraces
of shingle, first noticed by Captain B. Hall, and believed
by Mr. Lyell to have been formed by the sea, during the
gradual rising of the land. This certainly is the true
explanation, for I found numerous shells of existing species
on these terraces. Five narrow, gently sloping, fringe-like
terraces rise one behind the other, and where best developed
are formed of shingle: they front the bay, and sweep up both
sides of the valley. At Guasco, north of Coquimbo, the
phenomenon is displayed on a much grander scale, so as to
strike with surprise even some of the inhabitants. The terraces
are there much broader, and may be called plains, in
some parts there are six of them, but generally only five;
they run up the valley for thirty-seven miles from the coast.
These step-formed terraces or fringes closely resemble those
in the valley of S. Cruz, and, except in being on a smaller
scale, those great ones along the whole coast-line of Patagonia.
They have undoubtedly been formed by the denuding
power of the sea, during long periods of rest in the
gradual elevation of the continent.

Shells of many existing species not only lie on the surface
of the terraces at Coquimbo (to a height of 250 feet),
but are embedded in a friable calcareous rock, which in some
places is as much as between twenty and thirty feet in
thickness, but is of little extent. These modern beds rest on an
ancient tertiary formation containing shells, apparently all
extinct. Although I examined so many hundred miles of
coast on the Pacific, as well as Atlantic side of the continent,
I found no regular strata containing sea-shells of
recent species, excepting at this place, and at a few points
northward on the road to Guasco. This fact appears to me
highly remarkable; for the explanation generally given by
geologists, of the absence in any district of stratified
fossiliferous deposits of a given period, namely, that the
surface then existed as dry land, is not here applicable; for we
know from the shells strewed on the surface and embedded
in loose sand or mould that the land for thousands of miles
along both coasts has lately been submerged. The explanation,
no doubt, must be sought in the fact, that the whole
southern part of the continent has been for a long time
slowly rising; and therefore that all matter deposited along
shore in shallow water, must have been soon brought up
and slowly exposed to the wearing action of the sea-beach;
and it is only in comparatively shallow water that the greater
number of marine organic beings can flourish, and in such
water it is obviously impossible that strata of any great
thickness can accumulate. To show the vast power of the
wearing action of sea-beaches, we need only appeal to the
great cliffs along the present coast of Patagonia, and to the
escarpments or ancient sea-cliffs at different levels, one
above another, on that same line of coast.

The old underlying tertiary formation at Coquimbo,
appears to be of about the same age with several deposits
on the coast of Chile (of which that of Navedad is the
principal one), and with the great formation of Patagonia.
Both at Navedad and in Patagonia there is evidence, that
since the shells (a list of which has been seen by Professor
E. Forbes) there entombed were living, there has been a
subsidence of several hundred feet, as well as an ensuing
elevation. It may naturally be asked, how it comes that,
although no extensive fossiliferous deposits of the recent
period, nor of any period intermediate between it and the
ancient tertiary epoch, have been preserved on either side of
the continent, yet that at this ancient tertiary epoch,
sedimentary matter containing fossil remains, should have been
deposited and preserved at different points in north and
south lines, over a space of 1100 miles on the shores of the
Pacific, and of at least 1350 miles on the shores of the
Atlantic, and in an east and west line of 700 miles across the
widest part of the continent? I believe the explanation is
not difficult, and that it is perhaps applicable to nearly
analogous facts observed in other quarters of the world.
Considering the enormous power of denudation which the sea
possesses, as shown by numberless facts, it is not probable
that a sedimentary deposit, when being upraised, could pass
through the ordeal of the beach, so as to be preserved in
sufficient masses to last to a distant period, without it were
originally of wide extent and of considerable thickness: now
it is impossible on a moderately shallow bottom, which
alone is favourable to most living creatures, that a thick
and widely extended covering of sediment could be spread
out, without the bottom sank down to receive the successive
layers. This seems to have actually taken place at about
the same period in southern Patagonia and Chile, though
these places are a thousand miles apart. Hence, if prolonged
movements of approximately contemporaneous subsidence
are generally widely extensive, as I am strongly
inclined to believe from my examination of the Coral Reefs
of the great oceans -- or if, confining our view to South
America, the subsiding movements have been co-extensive
with those of elevation, by which, within the same period
of existing shells, the shores of Peru, Chile, Tierra del
Fuego, Patagonia, and La Plata have been upraised -- then
we can see that at the same time, at far distant points,
circumstances would have been favourable to the formation of
fossiliferous deposits of wide extent and of considerable
thickness; and such deposits, consequently, would have a
good chance of resisting the wear and tear of successive
beach-lines, and of lasting to a future epoch.

May 21st. -- I set out in company with Don Jose Edwards
to the silver-mine of Arqueros, and thence up the valley of
Coquimbo. Passing through a mountainous country, we
reached by nightfall the mines belonging to Mr. Edwards.
I enjoyed my night's rest here from a reason which will not
be fully appreciated in England, namely, the absence of
fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them; but they
will not live here at the height of only three or four
thousand feet: it can scarcely be the trifling diminution
of temperature, but some other cause which destroys these
troublesome insects at this place. The mines are now in a
bad state, though they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds
in weight of silver a year. It has been said that "a person
with a copper-mine will gain; with silver he may gain; but
with gold he is sure to lose." This is not true: all the large
Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the more
precious metals. A short time since an English physician
returned to England from Copiapo, taking with him the
profits of one share of a silver-mine, which amounted to
about 24,000 pounds sterling. No doubt a copper-mine with
care is a sure game, whereas the other is gambling, or rather
taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose great quantities
of rich ores; for no precautions can prevent robberies.
I heard of a gentleman laying a bet with another, that one
of his men should rob him before his face. The ore when
brought out of the mine is broken into pieces, and the useless
stone thrown on one side. A couple of the miners who
were thus employed, pitched, as if by accident, two fragments
away at the same moment, and then cried out for a joke
"Let us see which rolls furthest." The owner, who was
standing by, bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The
miner by this means watched the very point amongst the
rubbish where the stone lay. In the evening he picked it
up and carried it to his master, showing him a rich mass of
silver-ore, and saying, "This was the stone on which you
won a cigar by its rolling so far."

May 23rd. -- We descended into the fertile valley of Coquimbo,
and followed it till we reached an Hacienda belonging
to a relation of Don Jose, where we stayed the next day.
I then rode one day's journey further, to see what were
declared to be some petrified shells and beans, which latter
turned out to be small quartz pebbles. We passed through
several small villages; and the valley was beautifully
cultivated, and the whole scenery very grand. We were here
near the main Cordillera, and the surrounding hills were
lofty. In all parts of northern Chile, fruit trees produce
much more abundantly at a considerable height near the
Andes than in the lower country. The figs and grapes of
this district are famous for their excellence, and are
cultivated to a great extent. This valley is, perhaps, the most
productive one north of Quillota. I believe it contains,
including Coquimbo, 25,000 inhabitants. The next day I
returned to the Hacienda, and thence, together with Don
Jose, to Coquimbo.

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

June 3rd. -- Yerba Buena to Carizal. During the first part
of the day we crossed a mountainous rocky desert, and afterwards
a long deep sandy plain, strewed with broken sea-shells.
There was very little water, and that little saline:
the whole country, from the coast to the Cordillera, is an
uninhabited desert. I saw traces only of one living animal in
abundance, namely, the shells of a Bulimus, which were
collected together in extraordinary numbers on the driest
spots. In the spring one humble little plant sends out a few
leaves, and on these the snails feed. As they are seen only
very early in the morning, when the ground is slightly damp
with dew, the Guascos believe that they are bred from it. I
have observed in other places that extremely dry and sterile
districts, where the soil is calcareous, are extraordinarily
favourable to land-shells. At Carizal there were a few cottages,
some brackish water, and a trace of cultivation: but it
was with difficulty that we purchased a little corn and straw
for our horses.

4th. -- Carizal to Sauce. We continued to ride over desert
plains, tenanted by large herds of guanaco. We crossed also
the valley of Chaneral; which, although the most fertile one
between Guasco and Coquimbo, is very narrow, and produces
so little pasture, that we could not purchase any for our
horses. At Sauce we found a very civil old gentleman,
superintendent of a copper-smelting furnace. As an especial
favour, he allowed me to purchase at a high price an armful
of dirty straw, which was all the poor horses had for supper
after their long day's journey. Few smelting-furnaces are
now at work in any part of Chile; it is found more profitable,
on account of the extreme scarcity of firewood, and from
the Chilian method of reduction being so unskilful, to ship the
ore for Swansea. The next day we crossed some mountains
to Freyrina, in the valley of Guasco. During each day's ride
further northward, the vegetation became more and more
scanty; even the great chandelier-like cactus was here
replaced by a different and much smaller species. During the
winter months, both in northern Chile and in Peru, a uniform
bank of clouds hangs, at no great height, over the Pacific.
From the mountains we had a very striking view of this
white and brilliant aerial-field, which sent arms up the
valleys, leaving islands and promontories in the same manner, as
the sea does in the Chonos archipelago and in Tierra del Fuego.

We stayed two days at Freyrina. In the valley of Guasco
there are four small towns. At the mouth there is the port, a
spot entirely desert, and without any water in the immediate
neighbourhood. Five leagues higher up stands Freyrina, a
long straggling village, with decent whitewashed houses.
Again, ten leagues further up Ballenar is situated, and above
this Guasco Alto, a horticultural village, famous for its dried
fruit. On a clear day the view up the valley is very fine; the
straight opening terminates in the far-distant snowy Cordillera;
on each side an infinity of crossing-lines are blended
together in a beautiful haze. The foreground is singular
from the number of parallel and step-formed terraces; and
the included strip of green valley, with its willow-bushes, is
contrasted on both hands with the naked hills. That the
surrounding country was most barren will be readily believed,
when it is known that a shower of rain had not fallen during
the last thirteen months. The inhabitants heard with the
greatest envy of the rain at Coquimbo; from the appearance
of the sky they had hopes of equally good fortune, which, a
fortnight afterwards, were realized. I was at Copiapo at the
time; and there the people, with equal envy, talked of the
abundant rain at Guasco. After two or three very dry years,
perhaps with not more than one shower during the whole
time, a rainy year generally follows; and this does more harm
than even the drought. The rivers swell, and cover with
gravel and sand the narrow strips of ground, which alone are
fit for cultivation. The floods also injure the irrigating
ditches. Great devastation had thus been caused three years

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

June 11th. -- We rode without stopping for twelve hours
till we reached an old smelting-furnace, where there was
water and firewood; but our horses again had nothing to eat,
being shut up in an old courtyard. The line of road was
hilly, and the distant views interesting, from the varied
colours of the bare mountains. It was almost a pity to see
the sun shining constantly over so useless a country; such
splendid weather ought to have brightened fields and pretty
gardens. The next day we reached the valley of Copiapo.
I was heartily glad of it; for the whole journey was a continued
source of anxiety; it was most disagreeable to hear,
whilst eating our own suppers, our horses gnawing the posts
to which they were tied, and to have no means of relieving
their hunger. To all appearance, however, the animals
were quite fresh; and no one could have told that they had
eaten nothing for the last fifty-five hours.

I had a letter of introduction to Mr. Bingley, who received
me very kindly at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. This
estate is between twenty and thirty miles long, but very narrow,
being generally only two fields wide, one on each side
the river. In some parts the estate is of no width, that is
to say, the land cannot be irrigated, and therefore is
valueless, like the surrounding rocky desert. The small quantity
of cultivated land in the whole line of valley, does not so
much depend on inequalities of level, and consequent unfitness
for irrigation, as on the small supply of water. The
river this year was remarkably full: here, high up the valley,
it reached to the horse's belly, and was about fifteen yards
wide, and rapid; lower down it becomes smaller and smaller,
and is generally quite lost, as happened during one period
of thirty years, so that not a drop entered the sea. The
inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great
interest; as one good fall of snow provides them with water
for the ensuing year. This is of infinitely more consequence
than rain in the lower country. Rain, as often as it falls,
which is about once in every two or three years, is a great
advantage, because the cattle and mules can for some time
afterwards find a little pasture in the mountains. But without
snow on the Andes, desolation extends throughout the
valley. It is on record that three times nearly all the
inhabitants have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This
year there was plenty of water, and every man irrigated his
ground as much as he chose; but it has frequently been
necessary to post soldiers at the sluices, to see that each
estate took only its proper allowance during so many hours
in the week. The valley is said to contain 12,000 souls, but
its produce is sufficient only for three months in the year;
the rest of the supply being drawn from Valparaiso and the
south. Before the discovery of the famous silver-mines of
Chanuncillo, Copiapo was in a rapid state of decay; but now
it is in a very thriving condition; and the town, which was
completely overthrown by an earthquake, has been rebuilt.

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green
in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is
of considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The
valleys of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as
long narrow islands, separated from the rest of Chile by
deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward of
these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo,
which contains about two hundred souls; and then there
extends the real desert of Atacama -- a barrier far worse
than the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at
Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don
Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found
him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too
strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are
received in almost every part of South America. The next
day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera
into the central Cordillera. On the second night the
weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst
lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake.

The connection between earthquakes and the weather has
been often disputed: it appears to me to be a point of great
interest, which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked
in one part of the Personal Narrative, [1] that it would be
difficult for any person who had long resided in New Andalusia,
or in Lower Peru, to deny that there exists some connection
between these phenomena: in another part, however
he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil
it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably
followed by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the
extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding
rain, the probability of accidental coincidences becomes very
small; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly convinced of
some connection between the state of the atmosphere and of
the trembling of the ground: I was much struck by this
when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that there had
been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they immediately cried out,
"How fortunate! there will be plenty of pasture there this
year." To their minds an earthquake foretold rain as surely
as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did so happen
that on the very day of the earthquake, that shower of
rain fell, which I have described as in ten days' time producing
a thin sprinkling of grass. At other times rain has
followed earthquakes at a period of the year when it is a
far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: this happened
after the shock of November, 1822, and again in 1829, at
Valparaiso; also after that of September, 1833, at Tacna.
A person must be somewhat habituated to the climate of
these countries to perceive the extreme improbability of rain
falling at such seasons, except as a consequence of some law
quite unconnected with the ordinary course of the weather.
In the cases of great volcanic eruptions, as that of Coseguina,
where torrents of rain fell at a time of the year most
unusual for it, and "almost unprecedented in Central
America," it is not difficult to understand that the volumes
of vapour and clouds of ashes might have disturbed the
atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt extends this view to
the case of earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions; but I
can hardly conceive it possible, that the small quantity of
aeriform fluids which then escape from the fissured ground,
can produce such remarkable effects. There appears much
probability in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that
when the barometer is low, and when rain might naturally
be expected to fall, the diminished pressure of the atmosphere
over a wide extent of country, might well determine
the precise day on which the earth, already stretched to the
utmost by the subterranean forces, should yield, crack, and
consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful how far this
idea will explain the circumstances of torrents of rain falling
in the dry season during several days, after an earthquake
unaccompanied by an eruption; such cases seem to
bespeak some more intimate connection between the atmospheric
and subterranean regions.

Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we
retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed
two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate
silicified trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were
extraordinarily numerous. I measured one, which was fifteen
feet in circumference: how surprising it is that every
atom of the woody matter in this great cylinder should have
been removed and replaced by silex so perfectly, that each
vessel and pore is preserved! These trees flourished at about
the period of our lower chalk; they all belonged to the fir-
tribe. It was amusing to hear the inhabitants discussing the
nature of the fossil shells which I collected, almost in the
same terms as were used a century ago in Europe, -- namely,
whether or not they had been thus "born by nature." My
geological examination of the country generally created a
good deal of surprise amongst the Chilenos: it was long
before they could be convinced that I was not hunting for
mines. This was sometimes troublesome: I found the most
ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask them
how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning
earthquakes and volcanos? -- why some springs were hot and
others cold? -- why there were mountains in Chile, and not
a hill in La Plata? These bare questions at once satisfied
and silenced the greater number; some, however (like a few
in England who are a century behindhand), thought that all
such inquiries were useless and impious; and that it was
quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains.

An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs
should be killed, and we saw many lying dead on the road. A
great number had lately gone mad, and several men had been
bitten and had died in consequence. On several occasions
hydrophobia has prevailed in this valley. It is remarkable
thus to find so strange and dreadful a disease, appearing
time after time in the same isolated spot. It has been
remarked that certain villages in England are in like manner
much more subject to this visitation than others. Dr. Unanue
states that hydrophobia was first known in South
America in 1803: this statement is corroborated by Azara
and Ulloa having never heard of it in their time. Dr. Unanue
says that it broke out in Central America, and slowly
travelled southward. It reached Arequipa in 1807; and it is
said that some men there, who had not been bitten, were
affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a bullock
which had died of hydrophobia. At Ica forty-two people thus
miserably perished. The disease came on between twelve
and ninety days after the bite; and in those cases where it
did come on, death ensued invariably within five days. After
1808, a long interval ensued without any cases. On inquiry,
I did not hear of hydrophobia in Van Diemen's Land, or in
Australia; and Burchell says, that during the five years he
was at the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an instance
of it. Webster asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has
never occurred; and the same assertion has been made with
respect to Mauritius and St. Helena. [2] In so strange a disease
some information might possibly be gained by considering
the circumstances under which it originates in distant climates;
for it is improbable that a dog already bitten, should
have been brought to these distant countries.

At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito,
and asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been
wandering about the mountains for seventeen days, having
lost his way. He started from Guasco, and being accustomed
to travelling in the Cordillera, did not expect any difficulty
in following the track to Copiapo; but he soon became
involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he could not
escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and he
had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from
not knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that
he was obliged to keep bordering the central ranges.

We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached
the town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad,
forming a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers
a considerable space of ground, each house possessing a garden:
but it is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are
poorly furnished. Every one seems bent on the one object
of making money, and then migrating as quickly as possible.
All the inhabitants are more or less directly concerned with
mines; and mines and ores are the sole subjects of conversation.
Necessaries of all sorts are extremely dear; as the
distance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and
the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six
shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood,
or rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of
two and three days' journey within the Cordillera; and pasturage
for animals is a shilling a day: all this for South
America is wonderfully exorbitant.

June 26th. -- I hired a guide and eight mules to take me
into the Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion.
As the country was utterly desert, we took a cargo
and a half of barley mixed with chopped straw. About two
leagues above the town a broad valley called the "Despoblado,"
or uninhabited, branches off from that one by which
we had arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions,
and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is
completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during
some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains
were furrowed by scarcely any ravines; and the bottom
of the main valley, filled with shingle, was smooth and nearly
level. No considerable torrent could ever have flowed down
this bed of shingle; for if it had, a great cliff-bounded
channel, as in all the southern valleys, would assuredly have
been formed. I feel little doubt that this valley, as well as
those mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the state we
now see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly rose. I
observed in one place, where the Despoblado was joined by a
ravine (which in almost any other chain would have been
called a grand valley), that its bed, though composed merely
of sand and gravel, was higher than that of its tributary.
A mere rivulet of water, in the course of an hour, would have
cut a channel for itself; but it was evident that ages had
passed away, and no such rivulet had drained this great
tributary. It was curious to behold the machinery, if such a
term may be used, for the drainage, all, with the last trifling
exception, perfect, yet without any signs of action. Every one
must have remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide,
imitate in miniature a country with hill and dale; and here
we have the original model in rock, formed as the continent
rose during the secular retirement of the ocean, instead of
during the ebbing and flowing of the tides. If a shower of
rain falls on the mud-bank, when left dry, it deepens the
already-formed shallow lines of excavation; and so it is with
the rain of successive centuries on the bank of rock and soil,
which we call a continent.

We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine
with a small well, called "Agua amarga." The water
deserved its name, for besides being saline it was most
offensively putrid and bitter; so that we could not force
ourselves to drink either tea or mate. I suppose the distance
from the river of Copiapo to this spot was at least twenty-five
or thirty English miles; in the whole space there was not a
single drop of water, the country deserving the name of desert
in the strictest sense. Yet about half way we passed some old
Indian ruins near Punta Gorda: I noticed also in front of
some of the valleys, which branch off from the Despoblado,
two piles of stones placed a little way apart, and directed so
as to point up the mouths of these small valleys. My companions
knew nothing about them, and only answered my
queries by their imperturbable "quien sabe?"

I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera:
the most perfect which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos,
in the Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled
together in separate groups: some of the doorways were
yet standing; they were formed by a cross slab of stone only
about three feet high. Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of
the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These houses,
when perfect, must have been capable of containing a
considerable number of persons. Tradition says, that they were
used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed the
mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered
in many other parts, where it does not appear probable
that they were used as mere resting-places, but yet where
the land is as utterly unfit for any kind of cultivation, as it
is near the Tambillos or at the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo
Pass, at all which places I saw ruins. In the ravine of
Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, I heard of
remains of houses situated at a great height, where it is
extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that these
buildings had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on
the first arrival of the Spaniards; but I have since been
inclined to speculate on the probability of a small change of

In this northern part of Chile, within the Cordillera, old
Indian houses are said to be especially numerous: by digging
amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of
precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently
discovered: an arrow-head made of agate, and of
precisely the same form with those now used in Tierra del
Fuego, was given me. I am aware that the Peruvian Indians
now frequently inhabit most lofty and bleak situations; but
at Copiapo I was assured by men who had spent their lives in
travelling through the Andes, that there were very many
(muchisimas) buildings at heights so great as almost to border
upon the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist
no passes, and where the land produces absolutely nothing,
and what is still more extraordinary, where there is no water.
Nevertheless it is the opinion of the people of the country
(although they are much puzzled by the circumstance), that,
from the appearance of the houses, the Indians must have
used them as places of residence. In this valley, at Punta
Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or eight square little
rooms, which were of a similar form with those at Tambillos,
but built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabitants cannot,
either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in
durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous and
defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad valley.
There was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and
that only in very small quantity, and bad: the soil was
absolutely sterile; I looked in vain even for a lichen adhering
to the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage of beasts
of burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could scarcely
be worked here with profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose
it as a place of residence! If at the present time two or
three showers of rain were to fall annually, instead of one,
as now is the case during as many years, a small rill of water
would probably be formed in this great valley; and then, by
irrigation (which was formerly so well understood by the
Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently
productive to support a few families.

I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of
South America has been elevated near the coast at least from
400 to 500, and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since
the epoch of existing shells; and further inland the rise
possibly may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid character
of the climate is evidently a consequence of the height of the
Cordillera, we may feel almost sure that before the later
elevations, the atmosphere could not have been so completely
drained of its moisture as it now is; and as the rise has been
gradual, so would have been the change in climate. On this
notion of a change of climate since the buildings were
inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme antiquity, but I do
not think their preservation under the Chilian climate any
great difficulty. We must also admit on this notion (and
this perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited
South America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as
any change of climate effected by the elevation of the land
must have been extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within
the last 220 years, the rise has been somewhat less than 19
feet: at Lima a sea-beach has certainly been upheaved from
80 to 90 feet, within the Indo-human period: but such small
elevations could have had little power in deflecting the
moisture-bringing atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund, however,
found human skeletons in the caves of Brazil, the appearance
of which induced him to believe that the Indian race has
existed during a vast lapse of time in South America.

When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects [3] with Mr.
Gill, a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior
country. He told me that a conjecture of a change of climate
had sometimes crossed his mind; but that he thought
that the greater portion of land, now incapable of cultivation,
but covered with Indian ruins, had been reduced to this state
by the water-conduits, which the Indians formerly constructed
on so wonderful a scale, having been injured by
neglect and by subterranean movements. I may here mention,
that the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating
streams in tunnels through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told
me, he had been employed professionally to examine one:
he found the passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uniform
breadth, but of very considerable length. Is it not
most wonderful that men should have attempted such operations,
without the use of iron or gunpowder? Mr. Gill also
mentioned to me a most interesting, and, as far as I am
aware, quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance
having changed the drainage of a country. Travelling from
Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he
found a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient
cultivation but now quite barren. Near it was the dry course of
a considerable river, whence the water for irrigation had
formerly been conducted. There was nothing in the appearance
of the water-course to indicate that the river had not flowed
there a few years previously; in some parts, beds of sand and
gravel were spread out; in others, the solid rock had been
worn into a broad channel, which in one spot was about 40
yards in breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident that a
person following up the course of a stream, will always
ascend at a greater or less inclination: Mr. Gill, therefore,
was much astonished, when walking up the bed of this
ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He
imagined that the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or
50 feet perpendicular. We here have unequivocal evidence
that a ridge had been uplifted right across the old bed of a
stream. From the moment the river-course was thus arched,
the water must necessarily have been thrown back, and a new
channel formed. From that moment, also, the neighbouring
plain must have lost its fertilizing stream, and become a

June 27th. -- We set out early in the morning, and by midday
reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill
of water, with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba
trees, a kind of mimosa. From having firewood, a smelting-
furnace had formerly been built here: we found a solitary
man in charge of it, whose sole employment was hunting
guanacos. At night it froze sharply; but having plenty of
wood for our fire, we kept ourselves warm.

28th. -- We continued gradually ascending, and the valley
now changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several
guanacos, and the track of the closely-allied species, the
Vicuna: this latter animal is pre-eminently alpine in its
habits; it seldom descends much below the limit of perpetual
snow, and therefore haunts even a more lofty and sterile
situation than the guanaco. The only other animal which we
saw in any number was a small fox: I suppose this animal
preys on the mice and other small rodents, which, as long as
there is the least vegetation, subsist in considerable numbers
in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the borders of
the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never be found,
excepting dew, these little animals swarm. Next to lizards,
mice appear to be able to support existence on the smallest
and driest portions of the earth -- even on islets in the midst
of great oceans.

The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and
made palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such
scenery is sublime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it
becomes uninteresting. We bivouacked at the foot of the
"primera linea," or the first line of the partition of waters.
The streams, however, on the east side do not flow to the
Atlantic, but into an elevated district, in the middle of which
there is a large saline, or salt lake; thus forming a little
Caspian Sea at the height, perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where
we slept, there were some considerable patches of snow, but
they do not remain throughout the year. The winds in these
lofty regions obey very regular laws every day a fresh
breeze blows up the valley, and at night, an hour or two after
sunset, the air from the cold regions above descends as
through a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, and the
temperature must have been considerably below the freezing-
point, for water in a vessel soon became a block of ice. No
clothes seemed to oppose any obstacle to the air; I suffered
very much from the cold, so that I could not sleep, and in
the morning rose with my body quite dull and benumbed.

In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives
from snow-storms; here, it sometimes happens from another
cause. My guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was
passing the Cordillera with a party in the month of May;
and while in the central parts, a furious gale of wind arose,
so that the men could hardly cling on their mules, and stones
were flying along the ground. The day was cloudless, and
not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature was low. It is
probable that the thermometer could not have stood very
many degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect on
their bodies, ill protected by clothing, must have been in
proportion to the rapidity of the current of cold air. The gale
lasted for more than a day; the men began to lose their
strength, and the mules would not move onwards. My guide's
brother tried to return, but he perished, and his body was
found two years afterwards, Lying by the side of his mule
near the road, with the bridle still in his hand. Two other
men in the party lost their fingers and toes; and out of two
hundred mules and thirty cows, only fourteen mules escaped
alive. Many years ago the whole of a large party are supposed
to have perished from a similar cause, but their bodies
to this day have never been discovered. The union of a
cloudless sky, low temperature, and a furious gale of wind,
must be, I should think, in all parts of the world an unusual

June 29th -- We gladly travelled down the valley to our
former night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga.
On July 1st we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of
the fresh clover was quite delightful, after the scentless air
of the dry, sterile Despoblado. Whilst staying in the town I
heard an account from several of the inhabitants, of a hill
in the neighbourhood which they called "El Bramador," -- the
roarer or bellower. I did not at the time pay sufficient
attention to the account; but, as far as I understood, the hill
was covered by sand, and the noise was produced only when
people, by ascending it, put the sand in motion. The same
circumstances are described in detail on the authority of
Seetzen and Ehrenberg, [4] as the cause of the sounds which
have been heard by many travellers on Mount Sinai near the
Red Sea. One person with whom I conversed had himself
heard the noise: he described it as very surprising; and he
distinctly stated that, although he could not understand how
it was caused, yet it was necessary to set the sand rolling
down the acclivity. A horse walking over dry coarse sand,
causes a peculiar chirping noise from the friction of the
particles; a circumstance which I several times noticed on the
coast of Brazil.

Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at
the Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is
very little land cultivated down the valley; its wide expanse
supports a wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys can
hardly eat. This poorness of the vegetation is owing to the
quantity of saline matter with which the soil is impregnated.
The Port consists of an assemblage of miserable little hovels,
situated at the foot of a sterile plain. At present, as the
river contains water enough to reach the sea, the inhabitants
enjoy the advantage of having fresh water within a mile and
a half. On the beach there were large piles of merchandise,
and the little place had an air of activity. In the evening
I gave my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my companion
Mariano Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many leagues
in Chile. The next morning the Beagle sailed for Iquique.

July 12th. -- We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat.
20 degs. 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a
thousand inhabitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at
the foot of a great wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here
forming the coast. The whole is utterly desert. A light
shower of rain falls only once in very many years; and the
ravines consequently are filled with detritus, and the
mountain-sides covered by piles of fine white sand, even to a
height of a thousand feet. During this season of the year a
heavy bank of clouds, stretched over the ocean, seldom rises
above the wall of rocks on the coast. The aspect of the place
was most gloomy; the little port, with its few vessels, and
small group of wretched houses, seemed overwhelmed and out of
all proportion with the rest of the scene.

The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship: every
necessary comes from a distance: water is brought in boats
from Pisagua, about forty miles northward, and is sold at
the rate of nine reals (4s. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask: I
bought a wine-bottle full for threepence. In like manner
firewood, and of course every article of food, is imported.
Very few animals can be maintained in such a place: on the
ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at the price of four
pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to take me to the
nitrate of soda works. These are at present the support of
Iquique. This salt was first exported in 1830: in one year an
amount in value of one hundred thousand pounds sterling,
was sent to France and England. It is principally used as a
manure and in the manufacture of nitric acid: owing to its
deliquescent property it will not serve for gunpowder. Formerly
there were two exceedingly rich silver-mines in this
neighbourhood, but their produce is now very small.

Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension.
Peru was in a state of anarchy; and each party having
demanded a contribution, the poor town of Iquique was in
tribulation, thinking the evil hour was come. The people
had also their domestic troubles; a short time before, three
French carpenters had broken open, during the same night,
the two churches, and stolen all the plate: one of the robbers,
however, subsequently confessed, and the plate was recovered.
The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which though the capital
of this province, is two hundred leagues distant, the government
there thought it a pity to punish such useful workmen,
who could make all sorts of furniture; and accordingly
liberated them. Things being in this state, the churches were
again broken open, but this time the plate was not recovered.
The inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and declaring
that none but heretics would thus "eat God Almighty," proceeded
to torture some Englishmen, with the intention of
afterwards shooting them. At last the authorities interfered,
and peace was established.

13th. -- In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works,
a distance of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep
coast-mountains by a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in
view of the mines of Guantajaya and St. Rosa. These two
small villages are placed at the very mouths of the mines;
and being perched up on hills, they had a still more unnatural
and desolate appearance than the town of Iquique. We did
not reach the saltpetre-works till after sunset, having ridden
all day across an undulating country, a complete and utter
desert. The road was strewed with the bones and dried skins
of many beasts of burden which had perished on it from
fatigue. Excepting the Vultur aura, which preys on the
carcasses, I saw neither bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect.
On the coast-mountains, at the height of about 2000 feet
where during this season the clouds generally hang, a very
few cacti were growing in the clefts of rock; and the loose
sand was strewed over with a lichen, which lies on the surface
quite unattached. This plant belongs to the genus
Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the reindeer lichen. In
some parts it was in sufficient quantity to tinge the sand,
as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. Further
inland, during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only
one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute
yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This
was the first true desert which I had seen: the effect on me
was not impressive; but I believe this was owing to my
having become gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I
rode northward from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Copiapo.
The appearance of the country was remarkable, from
being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a
stratified saliferous alluvium, which seems to have been
deposited as the land slowly rose above the level of the sea.
The salt is white, very hard, and compact: it occurs in water
worn nodules projecting from the agglutinated sand, and is
associated with much gypsum. The appearance of this superficial
mass very closely resembled that of a country after
snow, before the last dirty patches are thawed. The existence
of this crust of a soluble substance over the whole face of
the country, shows how extraordinarily dry the climate must
have been for a long period.

At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the
saltpetre mines. The country is here as unproductive as
near the coast; but water, having rather a bitter and brackish
taste, can be procured by digging wells. The well at this
house was thirty-six yards deep: as scarcely any rain falls,
it is evident the water is not thus derived; indeed if it were,
it could not fail to be as salt as brine, for the whole
surrounding country is incrusted with various saline substances.
We must therefore conclude that it percolates under ground
from the Cordillera, though distant many leagues. In that
direction there are a few small villages, where the inhabitants,
having more water, are enabled to irrigate a little land,
and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, employed in
carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda was now
selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred
pounds: the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast.
The mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three
feet thick, of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate
of soda and a good deal of common salt. It lies close beneath
the surface, and follows for a length of one hundred and
fifty miles the margin of a grand basin or plain; this, from
its outline, manifestly must once have been a lake, or more
probably an inland arm of the sea, as may be inferred from
the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. The surface
of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific.

19th. -- We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of
Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks but
from the troubled state of public affairs, I saw very little of
the country. During our whole visit the climate was far
from being so delightful, as it is generally represented. A
dull heavy bank of clouds constantly hung over the land, so
that during the first sixteen days I had only one view of the
Cordillera behind Lima. These mountains, seen in stages,
one above the other, through openings in the clouds, had a
very grand appearance. It is almost become a proverb, that
rain never falls in the lower part of Peru. Yet this can
hardly be considered correct; for during almost every day of
our visit there was a thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient
to make the streets muddy and one's clothes damp: this the
people are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain
does not fall is very certain, for the houses are covered only
with flat roofs made of hardened mud; and on the mole shiploads
of wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks together
without any shelter.

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru: in
summer, however, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter.
In all seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer
from severe attacks of ague. This disease is common on the
whole coast of Peru, but is unknown in the interior. The
attacks of illness which arise from miasma never fail to appear
most mysterious. So difficult is it to judge from the
aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy, that if a
person had been told to choose within the tropics a situation
appearing favourable for health, very probably he would
have named this coast. The plain round the outskirts of
Callao is sparingly covered with a coarse grass, and in some
parts there are a few stagnant, though very small, pools of
water. The miasma, in all probability, arises from these:
for the town of Arica was similarly circumstanced, and its
healthiness was much improved by the drainage of some
little pools. Miasma is not always produced by a luxuriant
vegetation with an ardent climate; for many parts of Brazil,
even where there are marshes and a rank vegetation, are
much more healthy than this sterile coast of Peru. The
densest forests in a temperate climate, as in Chiloe, do not
seem in the slightest degree to affect the healthy condition
of the atmosphere.

The island of St. Jago, at the Cape de Verds, offers another
strongly marked instance of a country, which any one
would have expected to find most healthy, being very much
the contrary. I have described the bare and open plains as
supporting, during a few weeks after the rainy season, a thin
vegetation, which directly withers away and dries up: at this
period the air appears to become quite poisonous; both natives
and foreigners often being affected with violent fevers.
On the other hand, the Galapagos Archipelago, in the Pacific,
with a similar soil, and periodically subject to the same
process of vegetation, is perfectly healthy. Humboldt has
observed, that, "under the torrid zone, the smallest marshes
are the most dangerous, being surrounded, as at Vera Cruz
and Carthagena, with an arid and sandy soil, which raises
the temperature of the ambient air." [5] On the coast of Peru,
however, the temperature is not hot to any excessive degree;
and perhaps in consequence, the intermittent fevers are not
of the most malignant order. In all unhealthy countries the
greatest risk is run by sleeping on shore. Is this owing to
the state of the body during sleep, or to a greater abundance
of miasma at such times? It appears certain that those
who stay on board a vessel, though anchored at only a short
distance from the coast, generally suffer less than those
actually on shore. On the other hand, I have heard of one
remarkable case where a fever broke out among the crew of
a man-of-war some hundred miles off the coast of Africa,
and at the same time one of those fearful periods [6] of death
commenced at Sierra Leone.

No state in South America, since the declaration of
independence, has suffered more from anarchy than Peru. At
the time of our visit, there were four chiefs in arms contending
for supremacy in the government: if one succeeded
in becoming for a time very powerful, the others coalesced
against him; but no sooner were they victorious, than they
were again hostile to each other. The other day, at the
Anniversary of the Independence, high mass was performed, the
President partaking of the sacrament: during the _Te Deum
laudamus_, instead of each regiment displaying the Peruvian
flag, a black one with death's head was unfurled. Imagine
a government under which such a scene could be ordered, on
such an occasion, to be typical of their determination of
fighting to death! This state of affairs happened at a time
very unfortunately for me, as I was precluded from taking
any excursions much beyond the limits of the town. The
barren island of St. Lorenzo, which forms the harbour, was
nearly the only place where one could walk securely. The
upper part, which is upwards of 1000 feet in height, during
this season of the year (winter), comes within the lower
limit of the clouds; and in consequence, an abundant cryptogamic
vegetation, and a few flowers cover the summit. On
the hills near Lima, at a height but little greater, the ground
is carpeted with moss, and beds of beautiful yellow lilies,
called Amancaes. This indicates a very much greater degree
of humidity, than at a corresponding height at Iquique.
Proceeding northward of Lima, the climate becomes damper,
till on the banks of the Guayaquil, nearly under the equator,
we find the most luxuriant forests. The change, however,
from the sterile coast of Peru to that fertile land is described
as taking place rather abruptly in the latitude of Cape Blanco,
two degrees south of Guayaquil.

Callao is a filthy, ill-built, small seaport. The inhabitants,
both here and at Lima, present every imaginable shade of
mixture, between European, Negro, and Indian blood. They
appear a depraved, drunken set of people. The atmosphere
is loaded with foul smells, and that peculiar one, which may
be perceived in almost every town within the tropics, was
here very strong. The fortress, which withstood Lord Cochrane's
long siege, has an imposing appearance. But the
President, during our stay, sold the brass guns, and proceeded
to dismantle parts of it. The reason assigned was,
that he had not an officer to whom he could trust so important
a charge. He himself had good reason for thinking
so, as he had obtained the presidentship by rebelling while
in charge of this same fortress. After we left South America,
he paid the penalty in the usual manner, by being conquered,
taken prisoner, and shot.

Lima stands on a plain in a valley, formed during the
gradual retreat of the sea. It is seven miles from Callao,
and is elevated 500 feet above it; but from the slope being
very gradual, the road appears absolutely level; so that when
at Lima it is difficult to believe one has ascended even one
hundred feet: Humboldt has remarked on this singularly deceptive
case. Steep barren hills rise like islands from the
plain, which is divided, by straight mud-walls, into large
green fields. In these scarcely a tree grows excepting a few
willows, and an occasional clump of bananas and of oranges.
The city of Lima is now in a wretched state of decay: the
streets are nearly unpaved; and heaps of filth are piled up
in all directions, where the black gallinazos, tame as poultry,
pick up bits of carrion. The houses have generally an upper
story, built on account of the earthquakes, of plastered
woodwork but some of the old ones, which are now used by several
families, are immensely large, and would rival in suites
of apartments the most magnificent in any place. Lima, the
City of the Kings, must formerly have been a splendid town.
The extraordinary number of churches gives it, even at the
present day, a peculiar and striking character, especially
when viewed from a short distance.

One day I went out with some merchants to hunt in the
immediate vicinity of the city. Our sport was very poor;


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