Monthly Archives: June 2004

The Voyage Of The Beagle

Chapter XI

 

(PLATE 50. WOLLASTON ISLAND, TIERRA DEL FUEGO.)

(PLATE 51. PATAGONIANS FROM CAPE GREGORY.)

Strait of Magellan.
Port Famine.
Ascent of Mount Tarn.
Forests.
Edible fungus.
Zoology.
Great Seaweed.
Leave Tierra del Fuego.
Climate.
Fruit-trees and productions of the southern coasts.
Height of snow-line on the Cordillera.
Descent of glaciers to the sea.
Icebergs formed.
Transportal of boulders.
Climate and productions of the Antarctic Islands.
Preservation of frozen carcasses.
Recapitulation.

STRAIT OF MAGELLAN.–CLIMATE OF THE SOUTHERN COASTS.

In the end of May 1834 we entered for a second time the eastern
mouth of the Strait of Magellan. The country on both sides of this
part of the Strait consists of nearly level plains, like those of
Patagonia. Cape Negro, a little within the second Narrows, may be
considered as the point where the land begins to assume the marked
features of Tierra del Fuego. On the east coast, south of the
Strait, broken park-like scenery in a like manner connects these
two countries, which are opposed to each other in almost every
feature. It is truly surprising to find in a space of twenty miles
such a change in the landscape. If we take a rather greater
distance, as between Port Famine and Gregory Bay, that is about
sixty miles, the difference is still more wonderful. At the former
place we have rounded mountains concealed by impervious forests,
which are drenched with the rain brought by an endless succession
of gales; while at Cape Gregory there is a clear and bright blue
sky over the dry and sterile plains. The atmospheric currents,
although rapid, turbulent, and unconfined by any apparent limits,
yet seem to follow, like a river in its bed, a regularly determined
course. (11/1. The south-westerly breezes are generally very dry.
January 29th, being at anchor under Cape Gregory: a very hard gale
from west by south, clear sky with few cumuli; temperature 57
degrees, dew-point 36 degrees,–difference 21 degrees. On January
15th, at Port St. Julian: in the morning light winds with much
rain, followed by a very heavy squall with rain,–settled into
heavy gale with large cumuli,–cleared up, blowing very strong from
south-south-west. Temperature 60 degrees, dew-point 42
degrees,–difference 18 degrees.)

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

The next morning a large party went on shore, to barter for skins
and ostrich-feathers; fire-arms being refused, tobacco was in
greatest request, far more so than axes or tools. The whole
population of the toldos, men, women, and children, were arranged
on a bank. It was an amusing scene, and it was impossible not to
like the so-called giants, they were so thoroughly good-humoured
and unsuspecting: they asked us to come again. They seem to like to
have Europeans to live with them; and old Maria, an important woman
in the tribe, once begged Mr. Low to leave any one of his sailors
with them. They spend the greater part of the year here; but in
summer they hunt along the foot of the Cordillera: sometimes they
travel as far as the Rio Negro, 750 miles to the north. They are
well stocked with horses, each man having, according to Mr. Low,
six or seven, and all the women, and even children, their one own
horse. In the time of Sarmiento (1580) these Indians had bows and
arrows, now long since disused; they then also possessed some
horses. This is a very curious fact, showing the extraordinarily
rapid multiplication of horses in South America. The horse was
first landed at Buenos Ayres in 1537, and the colony being then for
a time deserted, the horse ran wild (11/2. Rengger “Natur. der
Saugethiere von Paraguay” S. 334.); in 1580, only forty-three years
afterwards, we hear of them at the Strait of Magellan! Mr. Low
informs me, that a neighbouring tribe of foot-Indians is now
changing into horse-Indians: the tribe at Gregory Bay giving them
their worn-out horses, and sending in winter a few of their best
skilled men to hunt for them.

JUNE 1, 1834.

(PLATE 52. PORT FAMINE, MAGELLAN.)

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

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

(PLATE 53. PATAGONIAN BOLAS.)

(PLATE 54. PATAGONIAN SPURS AND PIPE.)

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

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

I have already mentioned the sombre and dull character of the
evergreen forests, in which two or three species of trees grow, to
the exclusion of all others. (11/3. Captain Fitz Roy informs me
that in April (our October) the leaves of those trees which grow
near the base of the mountains change colour, but not those on the
more elevated parts. I remember having read some observations,
showing that in England the leaves fall earlier in a warm and fine
autumn than in a late and cold one. The change in the colour being
here retarded in the more elevated, and therefore colder
situations, must be owing to the same general law of vegetation.
The trees of Tierra del Fuego during no part of the year entirely
shed their leaves.) Above the forest land there are many dwarf
alpine plants, which all spring from the mass of peat, and help to
compose it: these plants are very remarkable from their close
alliance with the species growing on the mountains of Europe,
though so many thousand miles distant. The central part of Tierra
del Fuego, where the clay-slate formation occurs, is most
favourable to the growth of trees; on the outer coast the poorer
granitic soil, and a situation more exposed to the violent winds,
do not allow of their attaining any great size. Near Port Famine I
have seen more large trees than anywhere else: I measured a
Winter’s Bark which was four feet six inches in girth, and several
of the beech were as much as thirteen feet. Captain King also
mentions a beech which was seven feet in diameter seventeen feet
above the roots.

(PLATE 55. CYTTARIA DARWINII.)

There is one vegetable production deserving notice from its
importance as an article of food to the Fuegians. It is a globular,
bright-yellow fungus, which grows in vast numbers on the
beech-trees. When young it is elastic and turgid, with a smooth
surface; but when mature, it shrinks, becomes tougher, and has its
entire surface deeply pitted or honeycombed, as represented in
Plate 55. This fungus belongs to a new and curious genus (11/4.
Described from my specimens and notes by the Reverend J.M. Berkeley
in the “Linnean Transactions” volume 19 page 37, under the name of
Cyttaria Darwinii: the Chilean species is the C. Berteroii. This
genus is allied to Bulgaria.); I found a second species on another
species of beech in Chile: and Dr. Hooker informs me that just
lately a third species has been discovered on a third species of
beech in Van Dieman’s Land. How singular is this relationship
between parasitical fungi and the trees on which they grow, in
distant parts of the world! In Tierra del Fuego the fungus in its
tough and mature state is collected in large quantities by the
women and children, and is eaten un-cooked. It has a mucilaginous,
slightly sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom.
With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus,
the natives eat no vegetable food besides this fungus. In New
Zealand, before the introduction of the potato, the roots of the
fern were largely consumed; at the present time, I believe, Tierra
del Fuego is the only country in the world where a cryptogamic
plant affords a staple article of food.

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

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

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

Beetles occur in very small numbers: it was long before I could
believe that a country as large as Scotland, covered with vegetable
productions and with a variety of stations, could be so
unproductive. The few which I found were alpine species (Harpalidae
and Heteromidae) living under stones. The vegetable-feeding
Chrysomelidae, so eminently characteristic of the Tropics, are here
almost entirely absent (11/5. I believe I must except one alpine
Haltica, and a single specimen of a Melasoma. Mr. Waterhouse
informs me, that of the Harpalidae there are eight or nine
species–the forms of the greater number being very peculiar; of
Heteromera, four or five species; of Rhyncophora, six or seven; and
of the following families one species in each: Staphylinidae,
Elateridae, Cebrionidae, Melolonthidae. The species in the other
orders are even fewer. In all the orders, the scarcity of the
individuals is even more remarkable than that of the species. Most
of the Coleoptera have been carefully described by Mr. Waterhouse
in the “Annals of Natural History.”); I saw very few flies,
butterflies, or bees, and no crickets or Orthoptera. In the pools
of water I found but few aquatic beetles, and not any fresh-water
shells: Succinea at first appears an exception; but here it must be
called a terrestrial shell, for it lives on the damp herbage far
from water. Land-shells could be procured only in the same alpine
situations with the beetles. I have already contrasted the climate
as well as the general appearance of Tierra del Fuego with that of
Patagonia; and the difference is strongly exemplified in the
entomology. I do not believe they have one species in common;
certainly the general character of the insects is widely different.

If we turn from the land to the sea, we shall find the latter as
abundantly stocked with living creatures as the former is poorly
so. In all parts of the world a rocky and partially protected shore
perhaps supports, in a given space, a greater number of individual
animals than any other station. There is one marine production
which, from its importance, is worthy of a particular history. It
is the kelp, or Macrocystis pyrifera. This plant grows on every
rock from low-water mark to a great depth, both on the outer coast
and within the channels. (11/6. Its geographical range is
remarkably wide; it is found from the extreme southern islets near
Cape Horn, as far north on the eastern coast (according to
information given me by Mr. Stokes) as latitude 43 degrees,–but on
the western coast, as Dr. Hooker tells me, it extends to the R. San
Francisco in California, and perhaps even to Kamtschatka. We thus
have an immense range in latitude; and as Cook, who must have been
well acquainted with the species, found it at Kerguelen Land, no
less than 140 degrees in longitude.) I believe, during the voyages
of the “Adventure” and “Beagle,” not one rock near the surface was
discovered which was not buoyed by this floating weed. The good
service it thus affords to vessels navigating near this stormy land
is evident; and it certainly has saved many a one from being
wrecked. I know few things more surprising than to see this plant
growing and flourishing amidst those great breakers of the western
ocean, which no mass of rock, let it be ever so hard, can long
resist. The stem is round, slimy, and smooth, and seldom has a
diameter of so much as an inch. A few taken together are
sufficiently strong to support the weight of the large loose
stones, to which in the inland channels they grow attached; and yet
some of these stones were so heavy that when drawn to the surface,
they could scarcely be lifted into a boat by one person. Captain
Cook, in his second voyage, says that this plant at Kerguelen Land
rises from a greater depth than twenty-four fathoms; “and as it
does not grow in a perpendicular direction, but makes a very acute
angle with the bottom, and much of it afterwards spreads many
fathoms on the surface of the sea, I am well warranted to say that
some of it grows to the length of sixty fathoms and upwards.” I do
not suppose the stem of any other plant attains so great a length
as three hundred and sixty feet, as stated by Captain Cook. Captain
Fitz Roy, moreover, found it growing up from the greater depth of
forty-five fathoms. (11/7. “Voyages of the ‘Adventure’ and
‘Beagle'” volume 1 page 363. It appears that seaweed grows
extremely quick. Mr. Stephenson found Wilson’s “Voyage round
Scotland” volume 2 page 228, that a rock uncovered only at
spring-tides, which had been chiselled smooth in November, on the
following May, that is, within six months afterwards, was thickly
covered with Fucus digitatus two feet, and F. esculentus six feet,
in length.) The beds of this sea-weed, even when of not great
breadth, make excellent natural floating breakwaters. It is quite
curious to see, in an exposed harbour, how soon the waves from the
open sea, as they travel through the straggling stems, sink in
height, and pass into smooth water.

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

JUNE 8, 1834.

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

JUNE 9, 1834.

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

JUNE 10, 1834.

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

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

ON THE CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO AND OF THE
SOUTH-WEST COAST.

The following table gives the mean temperature of Tierra del
Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and, for comparison, that of
Dublin:–

Latitude    Summer Winter Mean of Summer
degrees ‘ Temp.    Temp.     and Winter
deg. F. deg. F.     deg. F.
—————————————————————
Tierra del Fuego 53 38 S.    50     33.08         41.54
Falkland Islands 51 38 S.    51        —            —
Dublin            53 21 N.    59.54    39.2         49.37

Hence we see that the central part of Tierra del Fuego is colder in
winter, and no less than 9 1/2 degrees less hot in summer, than
Dublin. According to von Buch the mean temperature of July (not the
hottest month in the year) at Saltenfiord in Norway, is as high as
57.8 degrees, and this place is actually 13 degrees nearer the pole
than Port Famine! (11/8. With respect to Tierra del Fuego, the
results are deduced from the observations of Captain King
“Geographical Journal” 1830, and those taken on board the “Beagle.”
For the Falkland Islands, I am indebted to Captain Sulivan for the
mean of the mean temperature (reduced from careful observation at
midnight, 8 A.M., noon, and 8 P.M.) of the three hottest months,
namely, December, January, and February. The temperature of Dublin
is taken from Barton.) Inhospitable as this climate appears to our
feelings, evergreen trees flourish luxuriantly under it.
Humming-birds may be seen sucking the flowers, and parrots feeding
on the seeds of the Winter’s Bark, in latitude 55 degrees south. I
have already remarked to what a degree the sea swarms with living
creatures; and the shells (such as the Patellae, Fissurellae,
Chitons, and Barnacles), according to Mr. G.B. Sowerby, are of a
much larger size, and of a more vigorous growth, than the analogous
species in the northern hemisphere. A large Voluta is abundant in
southern Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. At Bahia
Blanca, in latitude 39 degrees south, the most abundant shells were
three species of Oliva (one of large size), one or two Volutas, and
a Terebra. Now these are amongst the best characterised tropical
forms. It is doubtful whether even one small species of Oliva
exists on the southern shores of Europe, and there are no species
of the two other genera. If a geologist were to find in latitude 39
degrees on the coast of Portugal a bed containing numerous shells
belonging to three species of Oliva, to a Voluta, and Terebra, he
would probably assert that the climate at the period of their
existence must have been tropical; but, judging from South America,
such an inference might be erroneous.

The equable, humid, and windy climate of Tierra del Fuego extends,
with only a small increase of heat, for many degrees along the west
coast of the continent. The forests for 600 miles northward of Cape
Horn, have a very similar aspect. As a proof of the equable
climate, even for 300 or 400 miles still farther northward, I may
mention that in Chiloe (corresponding in latitude with the northern
parts of Spain) the peach seldom produces fruit, whilst
strawberries and apples thrive to perfection. Even the crops of
barley and wheat are often brought into the houses to be dried and
ripened. (11/9. Agüeros “Descrip. Hist. de la Prov. de Chiloé” 1791
page 94.) At Valdivia (in the same latitude of 40 degrees with
Madrid) grapes and figs ripen, but are not common; olives seldom
ripen even partially, and oranges not at all. These fruits, in
corresponding latitudes in Europe, are well known to succeed to
perfection; and even in this continent, at the Rio Negro, under
nearly the same parallel with Valdivia, sweet potatoes
(convolvulus) are cultivated; and grapes, figs, olives, oranges,
water and musk melons, produce abundant fruit.

Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fibre content. Learn more about the importance of Vitamin A that it is a fat-soluble thing that

  • Helps in maintaining a good vision
  • Strengthens the immune system of our body along with supporting the cell growth
  • Maintains a healthy and glowing skin

Although the humid
and equable climate of Chiloe, and of the coast northward and
southward of it, is so unfavourable to our fruits, yet the native
forests, from latitude 45 to 38 degrees, almost rival in luxuriance
those of the glowing intertropical regions. Stately trees of many
kinds, with smooth and highly coloured barks, are loaded by
parasitical monocotyledonous plants; large and elegant ferns are
numerous, and arborescent grasses entwine the trees into one
entangled mass to the height of thirty or forty feet above the
ground. Palm-trees grow in latitude 37 degrees; an arborescent
grass, very like a bamboo, in 40 degrees; and another closely
allied kind, of great length, but not erect, flourishes even as far
south as 45 degrees south.

ON THE HEIGHT OF THE SNOW-LINE, AND ON THE DESCENT OF THE GLACIERS,
IN SOUTH AMERICA.

For the detailed authorities for the following table, I must
refer to the former edition:–

Height in feet
Latitude                 of Snow-line         Observer
—————————————————————-
Equatorial region;
mean result             15,748                Humboldt.

Bolivia, latitude
16 to 18 degrees south 17,000                Pentland.

Central Chile, latitude
33 degrees south         14,500 to 15,000     Gillies and the
Author.

Chiloe, latitude
41 to 43 degrees south 6,000                 Officers of the
“Beagle” and the
Author.

Tierra del Fuego
54 degrees south         3,500 – 4,000 King.
An equable climate, evidently due to the large area of sea compared
with the land, seems to extend over the greater part of the
southern hemisphere; and as a consequence, the vegetation partakes
of a semi-tropical character. Tree-ferns thrive luxuriantly in Van
Diemen’s Land (latitude 45 degrees), and I measured one trunk no
less than six feet in circumference. An arborescent fern was found
by Forster in New Zealand in 46 degrees, where orchideous plants
are parasitical on the trees. In the Auckland Islands, ferns,
according to Dr. Dieffenbach have trunks so thick and high that
they may be almost called tree-ferns; and in these islands, and
even as far south as latitude 55 degrees in the Macquarie Islands,
parrots abound. (11/10. See the German Translation of this Journal;
and for the other facts Mr. Brown’s Appendix to Flinders’s
“Voyage.”)

As the height of the plane of perpetual snow seems chiefly to be
determined by the extreme heat of the summer, rather than by the
mean temperature of the year, we ought not to be surprised at its
descent in the Strait of Magellan, where the summer is so cool, to
only 3500 or 4000 feet above the level of the sea; although in
Norway, we must travel to between latitude 67 and 70 degrees north,
that is, about 14 degrees nearer the pole, to meet with perpetual
snow at this low level. The difference in height, namely, about
9000 feet, between the snow-line on the Cordillera behind Chiloe
(with its highest points ranging from only 5600 to 7500 feet) and
in central Chile (a distance of only 9 degrees of latitude), is
truly wonderful. (11/11. On the Cordillera of central Chile, I
believe the snow-line varies exceedingly in height in different
summers. I was assured that during one very dry and long summer,
all the snow disappeared from Aconcagua, although it attains the
prodigious height of 23,000 feet. It is probable that much of the
snow at these great heights is evaporated, rather than thawed.) The
land from the southward of Chiloe to near Concepcion (latitude 37
degrees) is hidden by one dense forest dripping with moisture. The
sky is cloudy, and we have seen how badly the fruits of southern
Europe succeed. In central Chile, on the other hand, a little
northward of Concepcion, the sky is generally clear, rain does not
fall for the seven summer months, and southern European fruits
succeed admirably; and even the sugar-cane has been cultivated.
(11/12. Miers’s “Chile” volume 1 page 415. It is said that the
sugar-cane grew at Ingenio, latitude 32 to 33 degrees, but not in
sufficient quantity to make the manufacture profitable. In the
valley of Quillota, south of Ingenio, I saw some large date-palm
trees.) No doubt the plane of perpetual snow undergoes the above
remarkable flexure of 9000 feet, unparalleled in other parts of the
world, not far from the latitude of Concepcion, where the land
ceases to be covered with forest-trees; for trees in South America
indicate a rainy climate, and rain a clouded sky and little heat in
summer.

(PLATE 56. EYRE SOUND.)

The descent of glaciers to the sea must, I conceive, mainly depend
(subject, of course, to a proper supply of snow in the upper
region) on the lowness of the line of perpetual snow on steep
mountains near the coast. As the snow-line is so low in Tierra del
Fuego, we might have expected that many of the glaciers would have
reached the sea. Nevertheless I was astonished when I first saw a
range, only from 3000 to 4000 feet in height, in the latitude of
Cumberland, with every valley filled with streams of ice descending
to the sea-coast. Almost every arm of the sea, which penetrates to
the interior higher chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego, but on the
coast for 650 miles northwards, is terminated by “tremendous and
astonishing glaciers,” as described by one of the officers on the
survey. Great masses of ice frequently fall from these icy cliffs,
and the crash reverberates like the broadside of a man-of-war
through the lonely channels. These falls, as noticed in the last
chapter, produce great waves which break on the adjoining coasts.
It is known that earthquakes frequently cause masses of earth to
fall from sea-cliffs: how terrific, then, would be the effect of a
severe shock (and such occur here (11/13. Bulkeley’s and Cummin’s
“Faithful Narrative of the Loss of the Wager.” The earthquake
happened August 25, 1741.)) on a body like a glacier, already in
motion, and traversed by fissures! I can readily believe that the
water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, and
then, returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl about huge
masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre’s Sound, in the latitude
of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the loftiest
neighbouring mountain is only 6200 feet high. In this Sound, about
fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating outwards, and one of
them must have been AT LEAST 168 feet in total height. Some of the
icebergs were loaded with blocks of no inconsiderable size, of
granite and other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the
surrounding mountains.

(PLATE 57. GLACIER IN GULF OF PENAS.)

The glacier farthest from the Pole, surveyed during the voyages of
the “Adventure” and “Beagle,” is in latitude 46 degrees 50′, in the
Gulf of Penas. It is 15 miles long, and in one part 7 broad, and
descends to the sea-coast. But even a few miles northward of this
glacier, in the Laguna de San Rafael, some Spanish missionaries
encountered “many icebergs, some great, some small, and others
middle-sized,” in a narrow arm of the sea, on the 22 of the month
corresponding with our June, and in a latitude corresponding with
that of the Lake of Geneva! (11/14. Agüeros “Desc. Hist. de Chiloé”
page 227.)

In Europe, the most southern glacier which comes down to the sea is
met with, according to Von Buch, on the coast of Norway, in
latitude 67 degrees. Now, this is more than 20 degrees of latitude,
or 1230 miles, nearer the pole than the Laguna de San Rafael. The
position of the glaciers at this place and in the Gulf of Penas may
be put even in a more striking point of view, for they descend to
the sea-coast within 7 1/2 degrees of latitude, or 450 miles, of a
harbour, where three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a Terebra, are
the commonest shells, within less than 9 degrees from where palms
grow, within 4 1/2 degrees of a region where the jaguar and puma
range over the plains, less than 2 1/2 degrees from arborescent
grasses, and (looking to the westward in the same hemisphere) less
than 2 degrees from orchideous parasites, and within a single
degree of tree-ferns!

These facts are of high geological interest with respect to the
climate of the northern hemisphere, at the period when boulders
were transported. I will not here detail how simply the theory of
icebergs being charged with fragments of rock explains the origin
and position of the gigantic boulders of eastern Tierra del Fuego,
on the high plain of Santa Cruz, and on the island of Chiloe. In
Tierra del Fuego the greater number of boulders lie on the lines of
old sea-channels, now converted into dry valleys by the elevation
of the land. They are associated with a great unstratified
formation of mud and sand, containing rounded and angular fragments
of all sizes, which has originated in the repeated ploughing up of
the sea-bottom by the stranding of icebergs, and by the matter
transported on them. (11/15. “Geological Transactions” volume 6
page 415.) Few geologists now doubt that those erratic boulders
which lie near lofty mountains have been pushed forward by the
glaciers themselves, and that those distant from mountains, and
embedded in subaqueous deposits, have been conveyed thither either
on icebergs, or frozen in coast-ice. The connection between the
transportal of boulders and the presence of ice in some form, is
strikingly shown by their geographical distribution over the earth.
In South America they are not found farther than 48 degrees of
latitude, measured from the southern pole; in North America it
appears that the limit of their transportal extends to 53 1/2
degrees from the northern pole; but in Europe to not more than 40
degrees of latitude, measured from the same point. On the other
hand, in the intertropical parts of America, Asia, and Africa, they
have never been observed; nor at the Cape of Good Hope, nor in
Australia. (11/16. I have given details (the first, I believe,
published) on this subject in the first edition, and in the
Appendix to it. I have there shown that the apparent exceptions to
the absence of erratic boulders in certain hot countries are due to
erroneous observations; several statements there given I have since
found confirmed by various authors.)

ON THE CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS OF THE ANTARCTIC ISLANDS.

Considering the rankness of the vegetation in Tierra del Fuego, and
on the coast northward of it, the condition of the islands south
and south-west of America is truly surprising. Sandwich Land, in
the latitude of the north part of Scotland, was found by Cook,
during the hottest month of the year, “covered many fathoms thick
with everlasting snow;” and there seems to be scarcely any
vegetation. Georgia, an island 96 miles long and 10 broad, in the
latitude of Yorkshire, “in the very height of summer, is in a
manner wholly covered with frozen snow.” It can boast only of moss,
some tufts of grass, and wild burnet; it has only one land-bird
(Anthus correndera), yet Iceland, which is 10 degrees nearer the
pole, has, according to Mackenzie, fifteen land-birds. The South
Shetland Islands, in the same latitude as the southern half of
Norway, possess only some lichens, moss, and a little grass; and
Lieutenant Kendall found the bay in which he was at anchor,
beginning to freeze at a period corresponding with our 8th of
September. (11/17. “Geographical Journal” 1830 pages 65, 66.) The
soil here consists of ice and volcanic ashes interstratified; and
at a little depth beneath the surface it must remain perpetually
congealed, for Lieutenant Kendall found the body of a foreign
sailor which had long been buried, with the flesh and all the
features perfectly preserved. It is a singular fact that on the two
great continents in the northern hemisphere (but not in the broken
land of Europe between them) we have the zone of perpetually frozen
under-soil in a low latitude–namely, in 56 degrees in North
America at the depth of three feet (11/18. Richardson’s “Append. to
Back’s Exped.” and Humboldt’s “Fragm. Asiat.” tome 2 page 386.),
and in 62 degrees in Siberia at the depth of twelve to fifteen
feet–as the result of a directly opposite condition of things to
those of the southern hemisphere. On the northern continents, the
winter is rendered excessively cold by the radiation from a large
area of land into a clear sky, nor is it moderated by the
warmth-bringing currents of the sea; the short summer, on the other
hand, is hot. In the Southern Ocean the winter is not so
excessively cold, but the summer is far less hot, for the clouded
sky seldom allows the sun to warm the ocean, itself a bad absorbent
of heat: and hence the mean temperature of the year, which
regulates the zone of perpetually congealed under-soil, is low. It
is evident that a rank vegetation, which does not so much require
heat as it does protection from intense cold, would approach much
nearer to this zone of perpetual congelation under the equable
climate of the southern hemisphere, than under the extreme climate
of the northern continents.

The case of the sailor’s body perfectly preserved in the icy soil
of the South Shetland Islands (latitude 62 to 63 degrees south), in
a rather lower latitude than that (latitude 64 degrees north) under
which Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros in Siberia, is very
interesting. Although it is a fallacy, as I have endeavoured to
show in a former chapter, to suppose that the larger quadrupeds
require a luxuriant vegetation for their support, nevertheless it
is important to find in the South Shetland Islands a frozen
under-soil within 360 miles of the forest-clad islands near Cape
Horn, where, as far as the BULK of vegetation is concerned, any
number of great quadrupeds might be supported. The perfect
preservation of the carcasses of the Siberian elephants and
rhinoceroses is certainly one of the most wonderful facts in
geology; but independently of the imagined difficulty of supplying
them with food from the adjoining countries, the whole case is not,
I think, so perplexing as it has generally been considered. The
plains of Siberia, like those of the Pampas, appear to have been
formed under the sea, into which rivers brought down the bodies of
many animals; of the greater number of these only the skeletons
have been preserved, but of others the perfect carcass. Now it is
known that in the shallow sea on the Arctic coast of America the
bottom freezes (11/19. Messrs. Dease and Simpson, in “Geographical
Journal” volume 8 pages 218 and 220.), and does not thaw in spring
so soon as the surface of the land, moreover, at greater depths,
where the bottom of the sea does not freeze, the mud a few feet
beneath the top layer might remain even in summer below 32 degrees,
as is the case on the land with the soil at the depth of a few
feet. At still greater depths the temperature of the mud and water
would probably not be low enough to preserve the flesh; and hence,
carcasses drifted beyond the shallow parts near an arctic coast,
would have only their skeletons preserved: now in the extreme
northern parts of Siberia bones are infinitely numerous, so that
even islets are said to be almost composed of them (11/20. Cuvier
“Ossemens Fossiles” tome 1 page 151, from Billing’s “Voyage.”); and
those islets lie no less than ten degrees of latitude north of the
place where Pallas found the frozen rhinoceros. On the other hand,
a carcass washed by a flood into a shallow part of the Arctic Sea,
would be preserved for an indefinite period, if it were soon
afterwards covered with mud sufficiently thick to prevent the heat
of the summer water penetrating to it; and if, when the sea-bottom
was upraised into land, the covering was sufficiently thick to
prevent the heat of the summer air and sun thawing and corrupting
it.

(PLATE 58. FLORA OF MAGELLAN.)

(PLATE 59. MACROCYSTIS PYRIFERA, OR MAGELLAN KELP.)

RECAPITULATION.

I will recapitulate the principal facts with regard to the climate,
ice-action, and organic productions of the southern hemisphere,
transposing the places in imagination to Europe, with which we are
so much better acquainted. Then, near Lisbon, the commonest
sea-shells, namely, three species of Oliva, a Voluta, and a
Terebra, would have a tropical character. In the southern provinces
of France, magnificent forests, intwined by arborescent grasses and
with the trees loaded with parasitical plants, would hide the face
of the land. The puma and the jaguar would haunt the Pyrenees. In
the latitude of Mont Blanc, but on an island as far westward as
Central North America, tree-ferns and parasitical Orchideae would
thrive amidst the thick woods. Even as far north as central Denmark
humming-birds would be seen fluttering about delicate flowers, and
parrots feeding amidst the evergreen woods; and in the sea there we
should have a Voluta, and all the shells of large size and vigorous
growth. Nevertheless, on some islands only 360 miles northward of
our new Cape Horn in Denmark, a carcass buried in the soil (or if
washed into a shallow sea, and covered up with mud) would be
preserved perpetually frozen. If some bold navigator attempted to
penetrate northward of these islands, he would run a thousand
dangers amidst gigantic icebergs, on some of which he would see
great blocks of rock borne far away from their original site.
Another island of large size in the latitude of southern Scotland,
but twice as far to the west, would be “almost wholly covered with
everlasting snow,” and would have each bay terminated by
ice-cliffs, whence great masses would be yearly detached: this
island would boast only of a little moss, grass, and burnet, and a
titlark would be its only land inhabitant. From our new Cape Horn
in Denmark, a chain of mountains, scarcely half the height of the
Alps, would run in a straight line due southward; and on its
western flank every deep creek of the sea, or fiord, would end in
“bold and astonishing glaciers.” These lonely channels would
frequently reverberate with the falls of ice, and so often would
great waves rush along their coasts; numerous icebergs, some as
tall as cathedrals, and occasionally loaded with “no inconsiderable
blocks of rock,” would be stranded on the outlying islets; at
intervals violent earthquakes would shoot prodigious masses of ice
into the waters below. Lastly, some missionaries attempting to
penetrate a long arm of the sea, would behold the not lofty
surrounding mountains, sending down their many grand icy streams to
the sea-coast, and their progress in the boats would be checked by
the innumerable floating icebergs, some small and some great; and
this would have occurred on our twenty-second of June, and where
the Lake of Geneva is now spread out! (11/21. In the former edition
and Appendix, I have given some facts on the transportal of erratic
boulders and icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean. This subject has
lately been treated excellently by Mr. Hayes, in the “Boston
Journal” volume 4 page 426. The author does not appear aware of a
case published by me “Geographical Journal” volume 9 page 528, of a
gigantic boulder embedded in an iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean,
almost certainly one hundred miles distant from any land, and
perhaps much more distant. In the Appendix I have discussed at
length the probability (at that time hardly thought of) of
icebergs, when stranded, grooving and polishing rocks, like
glaciers. This is now a very commonly received opinion; and I
cannot still avoid the suspicion that it is applicable even to such
cases as that of the Jura. Dr. Richardson has assured me that the
icebergs off North America push before them pebbles and sand, and
leave the submarine rocky flats quite bare; it is hardly possible
to doubt that such ledges must be polished and scored in the
direction of the set of the prevailing currents. Since writing that
Appendix I have seen in North Wales “London Philosophical Magazine”
volume 21 page 180) the adjoining action of glaciers and floating
icebergs.

The Voyage Of The Beagle

Chapter X

 

(PLATE 44. YORK MINSTER (BEARING SOUTH 66 DEGREES EAST.)

Tierra del Fuego, first arrival.
Good Success Bay.
An account of the Fuegians on board.
Interview with the savages.
Scenery of the forests.
Cape Horn.
Wigwam Cove.
Miserable condition of the savages.
Famines.
Cannibals.
Matricide.
Religious feelings.
Great gale.
Beagle Channel.
Ponsonby Sound.
Build wigwams and settle the Fuegians.
Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel.
Glaciers.
Return to the ship.
Second visit in the ship to the settlement.
Equality of condition amongst the natives.

TIERRA DEL FUEGO.

DECEMBER 17, 1832.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DECEMBER 20, 1832.

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

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

DECEMBER 21, 1832.

(PLATE 45. CAPE HORN.)

(PLATE 46. CAPE HORN (ANOTHER VIEW).)

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

DECEMBER 25, 1832.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(PLATE 47. BAD WEATHER, MAGELLAN STRAITS.)

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

(PLATE 48. FUEGIAN BASKET AND BONE WEAPONS.)

(PLATE 49. FALSE HORN, CAPE HORN.)

JANUARY 15, 1833.

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

JANUARY 19, 1833.

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

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

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

JANUARY 22, 1833.

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

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

During the night the news had spread, and early in the morning
(23rd) a fresh party arrived, belonging to the Tekenika, or Jemmy’s
tribe. Several of them had run so fast that their noses were
bleeding, and their mouths frothed from the rapidity with which
they talked; and with their naked bodies all bedaubed with black,
white, and red, they looked like so many demoniacs who had been
fighting. (10/1. This substance, when dry, is tolerably compact,
and of little specific gravity: Professor Ehrenberg has examined
it: he states “Konig Akad. der Wissen” Berlin February 1845, that
it is composed of infusoria, including fourteen polygastrica and
four phytolitharia. He says that they are all inhabitants of fresh
water; this is a beautiful example of the results obtainable
through Professor Ehrenberg’s microscopic researches; for Jemmy
Button told me that it is always collected at the bottoms of
mountain-brooks. It is, moreover, a striking fact in the
geographical distribution of the infusoria, which are well known to
have very wide ranges, that all the species in this substance,
although brought from the extreme southern point of Tierra del
Fuego, are old, known forms.) We then proceeded (accompanied by
twelve canoes, each holding four or five people) down Ponsonby
Sound to the spot where poor Jemmy expected to find his mother and
relatives. He had already heard that his father was dead; but as he
had had a “dream in his head” to that effect, he did not seem to
care much about it, and repeatedly comforted himself with the very
natural reflection–“Me no help it.” He was not able to learn any
particulars regarding his father’s death, as his relations would
not speak about it.

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

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

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

On our return in the morning (28th) we were delighted to find all
quiet, and the men employed in their canoes spearing fish. Captain
Fitz Roy determined to send the yawl and one whale-boat back to the
ship; and to proceed with the two other boats, one under his own
command (in which he most kindly allowed me to accompany him), and
one under Mr. Hammond, to survey the western parts of the Beagle
Channel, and afterwards to return and visit the settlement. The day
to our astonishment was overpoweringly hot, so that our skins were
scorched; with this beautiful weather, the view in the middle of
the Beagle Channel was very remarkable. Looking towards either
hand, no object intercepted the vanishing points of this long canal
between the mountains. The circumstance of its being an arm of the
sea was rendered very evident by several huge whales spouting in
different directions. (10/2. One day, off the East coast of Tierra
del Fuego, we saw a grand sight in several spermaceti whales
jumping upright quite out of the water, with the exception of their
tail-fins. As they fell down sideways, they splashed the water high
up, and the sound reverberated like a distant broadside.) On one
occasion I saw two of these monsters, probably male and female,
slowly swimming one after the other, within less than a stone’s
throw of the shore, over which the beech-tree extended its
branches.

We sailed on till it was dark, and then pitched our tents in a
quiet creek. The greatest luxury was to find for our beds a beach
of pebbles, for they were dry and yielded to the body. Peaty soil
is damp; rock is uneven and hard; sand gets into one’s meat, when
cooked and eaten boat-fashion; but when lying in our blanket-bags,
on a good bed of smooth pebbles, we passed most comfortable nights.

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

JANUARY 29, 1833.

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

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

FEBRUARY 6, 1833.

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

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

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

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

On the 5th of March we anchored in a cove at Woollya, but we saw
not a soul there. We were alarmed at this, for the natives in
Ponsonby Sound showed by gestures that there had been fighting; and
we afterwards heard that the dreaded Oens men had made a descent.
Soon a canoe, with a little flag flying, was seen approaching, with
one of the men in it washing the paint off his face. This man was
poor Jemmy,–now a thin, haggard savage, with long disordered hair,
and naked, except a bit of blanket round his waist. We did not
recognize him till he was close to us, for he was ashamed of
himself, and turned his back to the ship. We had left him plump,
fat, clean, and well-dressed;–I never saw so complete and grievous
a change. As soon however as he was clothed, and the first flurry
was over, things wore a good appearance. He dined with Captain Fitz
Roy, and ate his dinner as tidily as formerly. He told us that he
had “too much” (meaning enough) to eat, that he was not cold, that
his relations were very good people, and that he did not wish to go
back to England: in the evening we found out the cause of this
great change in Jemmy’s feelings, in the arrival of his young and
nice-looking wife. With his usual good feeling, he brought two
beautiful otter-skins for two of his best friends, and some
spear-heads and arrows made with his own hands for the Captain. He
said he had built a canoe for himself, and he boasted that he could
talk a little of his own language! But it is a most singular fact,
that he appears to have taught all his tribe some English: an old
man spontaneously announced “Jemmy Button’s wife.” Jemmy had lost
all his property. He told us that York Minster had built a large
canoe, and with his wife Fuegia, had several months since gone to
his own country, and had taken farewell by an act of consummate
villainy; he persuaded Jemmy and his mother to come with him, and
then on the way deserted them by night, stealing every article of
their property. (10/3. Captain Sulivan, who, since his voyage in
the “Beagle,” has been employed on the survey of the Falkland
Islands, heard from a sealer in (1842?), that when in the western
part of the Strait of Magellan, he was astonished by a native woman
coming on board, who could talk some English. Without doubt this
was Fuegia Basket. She lived (I fear the term probably bears a
double interpretation) some days on board.)

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

The perfect equality among the individuals composing the Fuegian
tribes must for a long time retard their civilisation. As we see
those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and
obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the
races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a
consequence, the more civilised always have the most artificial
governments. For instance, the inhabitants of Otaheite, who, when
first discovered, were governed by hereditary kings, had arrived at
a far higher grade than another branch of the same people.

The Voyage Of The Beagle

Overview

 

CHAPTER I.

Porto Praya — Ribeira Grande — Atmospheric Dust with Infusoria
— Habits of a Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish — St. Paul’s Rocks,
non-volcanic — Singular Incrustations — Insects the first
Colonists of Islands — Fernando Noronha — Bahia — Burnished
Rocks — Habits of a Diodon — Pelagic Confervae and Infusoria —
Causes of discoloured Sea.

This is a brief list of things from my experience of my visit to Porto Praya where the Bitcoin Loophole is not a scam. The exclusive sea view of its neighbouring areas wears an isolated aspect. It was surrounded by the conical lofty mountains and the groves of the cocoa tree. All these would capture the happiness part of nature.

CHAPTER II.

Rio de Janeiro — Excursion north of Cape Frio — Great
Evaporation — Slavery — Botofogo Bay — Terrestrial Planariae
— Clouds on the Corcovado — Heavy Rain — Musical Frogs —
Phosphorescent insects — Elater, springing powers of — Blue
Haze — Noise made by a Butterfly — Entomology — Ants — Wasp
killing a Spider — Parasitical Spider — Artifices of an Epeira
— Gregarious Spider — Spider with an unsymmetrical web.

CHAPTER III.

Monte Video — Maldonado — Excursion to R. Polanco — Lazo and
Bolas — Partridges — Absence of trees — Deer — Capybara, or
River Hog — Tucutuco — Molothrus, cuckoo-like habits —
Tyrant-flycatcher — Mocking-bird — Carrion Hawks — Tubes
formed by lightning — House struck.

CHAPTER IV.

Rio Negro — Estancias attacked by the Indians — Salt-Lakes —
Flamingoes — R. Negro to R. Colorado — Sacred Tree —
Patagonian Hare — Indian Families — General Rosas — Proceed to
Bahia Blanca — Sand Dunes — Negro Lieutenant — Bahia Blanca —
Saline incrustations — Punta Alta — Zorillo.

CHAPTER V.

Bahia Blanca — Geology — Numerous gigantic extinct Quadrupeds
— Recent Extinction — Longevity of Species — Large Animals do
not require a luxuriant vegetation — Southern Africa — Siberian
Fossils — Two Species of Ostrich — Habits of Oven-bird —
Armadilloes — Venomous Snake, Toad, Lizard — Hybernation of
Animals — Habits of Sea-Pen — Indian Wars and Massacres —
Arrowhead — Antiquarian Relic.

CHAPTER VI.

Set out for Buenos Ayres — Rio Sauce — Sierra Ventana — Third
Posta — Driving Horses — Bolas — Partridges and Foxes —
Features of the country — Long-legged Plover — Teru-tero —
Hail-storm — Natural enclosures in the Sierra Tapalguen — Flesh
of Puma — Meat Diet — Guardia del Monte — Effects of cattle on
the Vegetation — Cardoon — Buenos Ayres — Corral where cattle
are slaughtered.

CHAPTER VII.

Excursion to St. Fé — Thistle Beds — Habits of the Bizcacha —
Little Owl — Saline streams — Level plains — Mastodon — St.
Fé — Change in landscape — Geology — Tooth of extinct Horse —
Relation of the Fossil and recent Quadrupeds of North and South
America — Effects of a great drought — Parana — Habits of the
Jaguar — Scissor-beak — Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail —
Revolution — Buenos Ayres — State of Government.

CHAPTER VIII.

Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento — Value of an Estancia —
Cattle, how counted — Singular breed of Oxen — Perforated
pebbles — Shepherd-dogs — Horses broken-in, Gauchos riding —
Character of Inhabitants — Rio Plata — Flocks of Butterflies —
Aeronaut Spiders — Phosphorescence of the Sea — Port Desire —
Guanaco — Port St. Julian — Geology of Patagonia — Fossil
gigantic Animal — Types of Organisation constant — Change in
the Zoology of America — Causes of Extinction.

CHAPTER IX.

Santa Cruz — Expedition up the River — Indians — Immense
streams of basaltic lava — Fragments not transported by the
river — Excavation of the valley — Condor, habits of —
Cordillera — Erratic boulders of great size — Indian relics —
Return to the ship — Falkland Islands — Wild horses, cattle,
rabbits — Wolf-like fox — Fire made of bones — Manner of
hunting wild cattle — Geology — Streams of stones — Scenes of
violence — Penguin — Geese — Eggs of Doris — Compound
animals.

CHAPTER X.

Tierra del Fuego, first arrival — Good Success Bay — An account
of the Fuegians on board — Interview with the savages — Scenery
of the forests — Cape Horn — Wigwam Cove — Miserable condition
of the savages — Famines — Cannibals — Matricide — Religious
feelings — Great Gale — Beagle Channel — Ponsonby Sound —
Build wigwams and settle the Fuegians — Bifurcation of the
Beagle Channel — Glaciers — Return to the Ship — Second visit
in the Ship to the Settlement — Equality of condition amongst
the natives.

CHAPTER XI.

Strait of Magellan — Port Famine — Ascent of Mount Tarn —
Forests — Edible fungus — Zoology — Great Seaweed — Leave
Tierra del Fuego — Climate — Fruit-trees and productions of the
southern coasts — Height of snow-line on the Cordillera —
Descent of glaciers to the sea — Icebergs formed — Transportal
of boulders — Climate and productions of the Antarctic Islands
— Preservation of frozen carcasses — Recapitulation.

CHAPTER XII.

Valparaiso — Excursion to the foot of the Andes — Structure of
the land — Ascend the Bell of Quillota — Shattered masses of
greenstone — Immense valleys — Mines — State of miners —
Santiago — Hot-baths of Cauquenes — Gold-mines —
Grinding-mills — Perforated stones — Habits of the Puma — El
Turco and Tapacolo — Humming-birds.

CHAPTER XIII.

Chiloe — General aspect — Boat excursion — Native Indians —
Castro — Tame fox — Ascend San Pedro — Chonos Archipelago —
Peninsula of Tres Montes — Granitic range — Boat-wrecked
sailors — Low’s Harbour — Wild potato — Formation of peat —
Myopotamus, otter and mice — Cheucau and Barking-bird —
Opetiorhynchus — Singular character of ornithology — Petrels.

CHAPTER XIV.

San Carlos, Chiloe — Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with
Aconcagua and Coseguina — Ride to Cucao — Impenetrable forests
— Valdivia — Indians — Earthquake — Concepcion — Great
earthquake — Rocks fissured — Appearance of the former towns —
The sea black and boiling — Direction of the vibrations —
Stones twisted round — Great Wave — Permanent Elevation of the
land — Area of volcanic phenomena — The connection between the
elevatory and eruptive forces — Cause of earthquakes — Slow
elevation of mountain-chains.

CHAPTER XV.

Valparaiso — Portillo Pass — Sagacity of mules —
Mountain-torrents — Mines, how discovered — Proofs of the
gradual elevation of the Cordillera — Effect of snow on rocks —
Geological structure of the two main ranges, their distinct
origin and upheaval — Great subsidence — Red snow — Winds —
Pinnacles of snow — Dry and clear atmosphere — Electricity —
Pampas — Zoology of the opposite sides of the Andes — Locusts
— Great Bugs — Mendoza — Uspallata Pass — Silicified trees
buried as they grew — Incas Bridge — Badness of the passes
exaggerated — Cumbre — Casuchas — Valparaiso.

CHAPTER XVI.

Coast-road to Coquimbo — Great loads carried by the miners —
Coquimbo — Earthquake — Step-formed terraces — Absence of
recent deposits — Contemporaneousness of the Tertiary formations
— Excursion up the valley — Road to Guasco — Deserts — Valley
of Copiapó — 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.

CHAPTER XVII.

Galapagos Archipelago — The whole group volcanic — Number of
craters — Leafless bushes — Colony at Charles Island — James
Island — Salt-lake in crater — Natural history of the group —
Ornithology, curious finches — Reptiles — Great tortoises,
habits of — Marine lizard, feeds on seaweed — Terrestrial
lizard, burrowing habits, herbivorous — Importance of reptiles
in the Archipelago — Fish, shells, insects — Botany — American
type of organisation — Differences in the species or races on
different islands — Tameness of the birds — Fear of man an
acquired instinct.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Pass through the Low Archipelago — Tahiti — Aspect —
Vegetation on the mountains — View of Eimeo — Excursion into
the interior — Profound ravines — Succession of waterfalls —
Number of wild useful plants — Temperance of the inhabitants —
Their moral state — Parliament convened — New Zealand — Bay of
Islands — Hippahs — Excursion to Waimate — Missionary
establishment — English weeds now run wild — Waiomio — Funeral
of a New Zealand woman — Sail for Australia.

CHAPTER XIX.

Sydney — Excursion to Bathurst — Aspect of the woods — Party
of natives — Gradual extinction of the aborigines — Infection
generated by associated men in health — Blue Mountains — View
of the grand gulf-like valleys — Their origin and formation —
Bathurst, general civility of the lower orders — State of
Society — Van Diemen’s Land — Hobart Town — Aborigines all
banished — Mount Wellington — King George’s Sound — Cheerless
aspect of the country — Bald Head, calcareous casts of branches
of trees — Party of natives — Leave Australia.

CHAPTER XX.

Keeling Island — Singular appearance — Scanty Flora —
Transport of seeds — Birds and insects — Ebbing and flowing
springs — Fields of dead coral — Stones transported in the
roots of trees — Great crab — Stinging corals — Coral-eating
fish — Coral formations — Lagoon islands or atolls — Depth at
which reef-building corals can live — Vast areas interspersed
with low coral islands — Subsidence of their foundations —
Barrier-reefs — Fringing-reefs — Conversion of fringing-reefs
into barrier-reefs, and into atolls — Evidence of changes in
level — Breaches in barrier-reefs — Maldiva atolls, their
peculiar structure — Dead and submerged reefs — Areas of
subsidence and elevation — Distribution of volcanoes —
Subsidence slow and vast in amount.

CHAPTER XXI.

Mauritius, beautiful appearance of — Great crateriform ring of
mountains — Hindoos — St. Helena — History of the changes in
the vegetation — Cause of the extinction of land-shells —
Ascension — Variation in the imported rats — Volcanic bombs —
Beds of infusoria — Bahia, Brazil — Splendour of tropical
scenery — Pernambuco — Singular reefs — Slavery — Return to
England — Retrospect on our voyage.

The Voyage Of The Beagle

Preface

 

I have stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, and
in the “Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle,” that it was in
consequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having some
scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from him of
giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volunteered my
services, which received, through the kindness of the hydrographer,
Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the Admiralty. As I
feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed of studying the Natural
History of the different countries we visited have been wholly due
to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I may here be permitted to repeat my
expression of gratitude to him; and to add that, during the five
years we were together, I received from him the most cordial
friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to
all the Officers of the “Beagle” I shall ever feel most thankful
for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated during our
long voyage. (Preface/1. I must take this opportunity of returning
my sincere thanks to Mr. Bynoe, the surgeon of the “Beagle,” for
his very kind attention to me when I was ill at Valparaiso.)

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of our
voyage, and a sketch of those observations in Natural History and
Geology, which I think will possess some interest for the general
reader. I have in this edition largely condensed and corrected some
parts, and have added a little to others, in order to render the
volume more fitted for popular reading; but I trust that
naturalists will remember that they must refer for details to the
larger publications which comprise the scientific results of the
Expedition. The “Zoology of the Voyage of the ‘Beagle'” includes an
account of the Fossil Mammalia, by Professor Owen; of the Living
Mammalia, by Mr. Waterhouse; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould; of the
Fish, by the Reverend L. Jenyns; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell.
I have appended to the descriptions of each species an account of
its habits and range. These works, which I owe to the high talents
and disinterested zeal of the above distinguished authors, could
not have been undertaken had it not been for the liberality of the
Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury, who, through the
representation of the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one thousand pounds
towards defraying part of the expenses of publication.

I have myself published separate volumes on the “Structure and
Distribution of Coral Reefs”; on the “Volcanic Islands visited
during the Voyage of the ‘Beagle'”; and on the “Geology of South
America.” The sixth volume of the “Geological Transactions”
contains two papers of mine on the Erratic Boulders and Volcanic
Phenomena of South America. Messrs. Waterhouse, Walker, Newman, and
White, have published several able papers on the Insects which were
collected, and I trust that many others will hereafter follow. The
plants from the southern parts of America will be given by Dr. J.
Hooker, in his great work on the Botany of the Southern Hemisphere.
The Flora of the Galapagos Archipelago is the subject of a separate
memoir by him, in the “Linnean Transactions.” The Reverend
Professor Henslow has published a list of the plants collected by
me at the Keeling Islands; and the Reverend J.M. Berkeley has
described my cryptogamic plants.

Each and every beautiful creation of God was splendidly described here like the space art of constellations, the glossy stream of ice or simply, the velvety glaciers that bedspread the freezer continents, the great castle structure formed up by the reef corals, the Ethereum code system and the ferocious volcanoes.

I shall have the pleasure of acknowledging the great assistance
which I have received from several other naturalists in the course
of this and my other works; but I must be here allowed to return my
most sincere thanks to the Reverend Professor Henslow, who, when I
was an undergraduate at Cambridge, was one chief means of giving me
a taste for Natural History,–who, during my absence, took charge
of the collections I sent home, and by his correspondence directed
my endeavours,–and who, since my return, has constantly rendered
me every assistance which the kindest friend could offer.

DOWN, BROMLEY, KENT,
June 1845.