Notwithstanding the author's excessive—and often tedious—cataloging of Latin names for almost everything within his sight, the rest of his account may be worthwhile reading for those interested in 19th century exploration of the area.
These pages are not yet complete -- need more editing, insertion of illustrations, etc.
|Information about the text|
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|I||Departure from England|
|II||Voyage to Rio (1st)|
|V||Seam of Coal, Sandy Point|
|VII||Voyage to Rio (2nd)|
|VIII||Leave Rio for the Strait|
|IX||Excursion to Gallegos River|
|X||Leave Sandy Point for the Westward|
|XI||Leave San Carlos|
|XV||Rio de Janeiro|
Google Earth View of Mt. Burney (coordinates: 52.328235° S, 73.377392° W) and Otter Islands.
In the following pages I have sought to record such of my Natural History observations, made in the course of a three-years' cruise, as I judged most likely to prove of interest to general readers as well as to professed naturalists. For fuller details on the Zoology and Botany of the regions visited by me, I must refer the latter to papers which have been, or which will shortly be, contributed to various scientific journals and societies. Lists of the Birds obtained in the Strait of Magellan and on the West Coast of Patagonia, from the pen of our two highest authorities on South American ornithology, Messrs. Sclater and Salvin, have already appeared in the volumes of the Ibis for 1868, 1869, and 1870,§ which likewise contain several letters by myself on the same subject; and I am at present engaged in drawing up some notes on the anatomy of that remarkable bird, the Steamer-duck (Micropterus cinereus). An article on the Reptiles, Amphibia, Fishes, Molusca, and Crustacea, procured during the expedition, will be found in a forthcoming part of the Linnean Transactions, and I do not despair, in course of time, to undertake the remaining Invertebrata. I hope also, before many months elapse, to institute a careful examination of my collections of plants now in the Royal Herbarium, Kew, and to draw up a report on the same.
§ Probably: 104: “List of Birds collected, during the Survey of the Straits of Magellan, By Dr. Cunningham.” In Ibis, 1868, p.183; 1869, p. 283; 1870, p.499.
It remains for me to make my acknowledgments to the numerous individuals to whom I have been more or less indebted in various ways during my sojourn abroad, and since my return to this country. First of all, I have to express my heartfelt obligations to Captain Richard Charles Mayne, C.B., R.N., for his unwearied kindness and consideration towards me throughout the period in which I served under his command, as well as for the loan of his private journals, and other generous acts. My obligations are hardly less due to my late messmates, the officers of the “Nassau,”† in whose company I spent three very happy years, and who assisted me most materially in the prosecution of my work. To one and all of them I beg to return my most hearty thanks. To the artistic skill of two of their number (Mr. F. Le B. Bedwell, and the Hon. F. C. P. Vereker) I owe the landscape sketches which adorn this volume; while to the exertions of a third, Dr. S. Campbell, my companion in nearly all my rambles, and an invaluable coadjutor, I am indebted for the greater portion of the ornithological collections obtained. References to services of other members of our party will be met with in the course of this narrative.
† Lieutenants D. G. Tandy and J. H. Orlebar; Navigating Lieutenants F. J. Gray and J. T. Hoskyn; Dr. S. Campbell; Messrs. Bedwell and Baverstock; Navigating Sub-Lieutenants E. K. Connor and J. W. Dixon; Mr. H. J. Ollard; and the Hon. F. C. P. Vereker.
My best thanks are also due to the Hydrographer to the Admiralty, Rear-Admiral G. H. Richards, and to Dr. Hooker (to whose kindness I owe more than I can here express), as well as to Professors Huxley, Newton, and Flower; Dr. P. L. Sclater and Mr. Salvin; Dr. Gray, Dr. Günther, Dr. Baird, and other gentlemen connected with the British Museum; Mr. E. F. Ffrench of Coquimbo (Chili), and many others at home and abroad. I have in addition to thank Messrs. Waterston & Son of Edinburgh, for the careful manner in which they have lithographed the sketches which were entrusted to them, and Messrs. W. & A. K. Johnston for the exactness with which they have rendered the Natural History illustrations, which were drawn by myself, and which may, I hope, assist in giving the reader a clear idea of some of the characteristic forms of animal and vegetable life in the Strait of Magellan and elsewhere. The name of Dr. Keith Johnston is a sufficient guarantee for the accuracy of the chart of Patagonia and the Strait of Magellan.
ROBERT O. CUNNINGHAM.
F. C. Manse, prestonpans, N. B., February 20, 1871.
In the month of June 1866 I had the good fortune to receive the appointment of naturalist to H.M.S. “Nassau,” a small steamer of between six and seven hundred tons, then about to leave England, under the command of Captain R. C. Mayne, for the purpose of surveying the Strait of Magellan and the adjacent channels on the west coast of Patagonia; and, about two months later, I joined the above-mentioned ship, which was fitted out at Woolwich Dockyard. On the 24th of August, all preparations being completed, we set forth, leaving the Woolwich Arsenal, off which we had been lying for some days, and proceeded down the river as far as Greenhithe, where we remained for the night. Next morning we started for Spithead, which we reached about 5 o'clock A.M. on the 26th, a beautiful bright Sunday, which displayed the wooded slopes of the Isle of Wight to full advantage. On the following afternoon we left our anchorage, but did not proceed far, in consequence of a strong head-wind, which compelled us to come to a halt in Yarmouth Roads, where we spent the night, leaving early on the 28th for Plymouth. Soon after we got under way I gained a fine view of the Needles, which I had never had an opportunity of seeing previously; and, in the afternoon, I spent some time on deck, gazing with interest on the high and rugged cliffs of the coast of Devonshire. We had a fair wind, though there was rather more motion than was entirely agreeable to a landsman on his first cruise; and late in the evening we arrived in Plymouth Sound, moving up the following day into Hamoaze, where we lay for about two days. This time I occupied, not unprofitably, in making myself acquainted with the pretty country in the neighbourhood, and also in stowing my books and scientific apparatus as advantageously as the limited space at my disposal permitted. Owing to the comparatively small size of the vessel, and the large amount of room occupied by her necessary stores and equipments, there was but little accommodation for specimens, the greater number of which I was in consequence obliged to pack away, as I best could, in my cabin. This, my destined study, museum, and bedroom, for the next three years, though not of large size (6 feet long and broad by 7 high), was wonderfully comfortable, possessing the inestimable advantage of being on deck, and thus providing me with an abundant supply of light and fresh air—important items at any time, and particularly so in connection with the special nature of my work.
Shortly before noon on the 8th of September, a fine day, but with a rather low barometer, we left the harbour on our outward bound voyage. Towards evening, however, it began to blow, and the wind freshening steadily during the night, by the morning of the 9th we encountered a violent south-westerly gale, accompanied with a very heavy sea, which caused the vessel to pitch prodigiously, initiating a series of tortuous evolutions for which she afterwards became famous. It being impossible to struggle on our way against such formidable obstacles, we attempted to make Brest in the course of the forenoon; but, frustrated in this by the fogginess of the atmosphere, we altered course and ran for Plymouth. As may be readily conceived, the circumstances were not favourable for beginning a course of observations on Natural History (with, no doubt, the exception of the phenomena attendant on sea-sickness). I find it, however, recorded in my Journal, that through a mist of “mal de mer” I had my first sight of stormy petrels (Thalassidroma pelagica); that two small land birds (apparently buntings) made their appearance on board; and that in the afternoon a fine school of porpoises (Phocœna communis) were seen close to the vessel, first showing their dorsal fins and then rolling over so as to exhibit nearly the whole of one side, as they rioted through the stormy water, which for them had no terrors. As I lay awake that night, and listened to the tumult of the elements around, while floods of sea-water poured under the door of my cabin, transforming the deck thereof into a pond, in which a variety of books, insufficiently secured in their shelves, were swimming about, I could not help thinking that this was a rather rough beginning of life at sea; and speculating as to how much more of it we were likely to be called upon to endure before the completion of our work.
Late on the evening of the 10th we reached Plymouth Sound, and there lay at anchor for the greater part of a week, the weather being, for some time, of a too unsettled nature to render a fresh start advisable, there being a prevalence of wind and rain every day. Those who have had a like experience will realise the irksomeness and weariness of detention on the coast of England after all farewells had been said, and sympathise with us in our feelings of satisfaction when, on the afternoon of the I7th, a day of mingled showers and sunshine, but with the wind down and the aspect of things in general promising, orders were received to prepare to go to sea. Accordingly, after sunset the same day, on one of the most lovely evenings I have seen, the anchor was weighed, and we steamed out of the Sound, obtaining our last view, for some time to come, of the reaches of purple undulating moorland stretching to the horizon beyond Plymouth, and the tree-covered slopes of Mount Edgecumbe. It was a night of serene beauty, and I lingered on deck for a time, taking a last look at the land. The stars were bright and clear, and the moon cast a track of splendour on the heaving bosom of the water. At length the Eddystone light died out of sight, and I retired to rest, realising that what had been a long-cherished dream was in process of being accomplished—the opportunity of seeing for myself, in their natural condition, the animals and plants of other climes.
On the following day much rain fell. The wind was right ahead, and we steamed on against it, rolling very heavily at times. In the forenoon, several porpoises were seen gamboling about after their peculiar fashion, and a solitary tern was observed flying over the water. Towards the close of the afternoon the weather cleared up, and the sun appeared for a short time before setting. There was a fine yellow, rainy-looking sunset, accompanied by a faint rainbow. On the 19th, we were well into the celebrated Bay of Biscay. It was a bright sunny day, and after a time, the wind shifted into a rather more favourable direction, which permitted of fore-and-aft sails being employed, so that, in addition to being kept more steady, we were materially assisted on our way. A variety of sea-birds, including gulls, terns, and stormy petrels, were seen. The 21st was also fine, but the wind less favourable. In the forenoon a couple of small whales† were seen, and in the afternoon a large merchant-ship, the “Sardis” of London, passed near and compared latitudes with us. The 22d was a stormy day, accompanied with much rain, and nothing whatever to be seen but stormy petrels flying over the waves astern, now dipping into the water, and anon emerging, the bright white patch above the tail showing very distinctly. On the 23d, Sunday, the water had assumed a magnificent deep indigo tint, and the waves on breaking often exhibited immediately below the crest exquisite violet shadows, reminding me of a similar appearance produced in the Khine where it emerges from the Lake of Geneva. The 24th was a glorious day of brilliant sunshine, accompanied with great heat, and the colour of the water now appeared as an almost unnaturally vivid cobalt. A shoal of flying-fish was seen for the first time, as well as one or two turtle basking on the surface of the water; and at the close of the day a fine sunset was succeeded by a wonderful moonrise.
† It may be worth while recording, for the benefit of naturalists who have not travelled abroad, that all Cetacea which are not of very great size, but at the same time are larger than porpoises, are classed by seamen under the generic name of “blackfish,” while unknown species of fish are generally “rock cod” or “mullet.”
Soon after breakfast on the following morning land was reported on the port-bow. This, the rocky islet of Porto Santo, about forty miles distant from Madeira, first became visible in the form of two or three little detached peaks rising out of the water, which, as we lessened our distance from them, were seen to be mountain-tops connected by intermediate low-lying country. Though barren-looking, this satellite of Madeira formed a striking and not unattractive object, as its precipitous cliffs were lit up by the sunshine of this bright day. Despite its limited area, it possesses much interest for the naturalist, both as regards its geological structure and the characters of its flora. As in Madeira, volcanic rocks of the upper miocene period prevail; and the flora, though resembling that of the larger island, embraces a variety of species which are not to be met with upon it. A portion of the entomology has been carefully worked out by Mr. Wollaston, in his Coleoptera Atlantidum, and 160 species of beetles are recorded by him from this island, while 598 are assigned to Madeira, and 87 to the three Desertas. It is also famous for its breed of rabbits, of which Mr. Darwin has given an account in his Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. In 1418 or 1419, a litter of rabbits was placed on the island by J. Gonzales Zarco, and these increased so rapidly “that they became a nuisance, and actually caused the abandonment of the settlement.” Mr. Darwin, who has instituted a careful comparison between this feral breed and the English wild rabbit, has pointed out that they differ conspicuously from it in their much smaller size, as well as in the colouring of their fur, and remarks on the wildness of their habits as observed in a pair kept for some time in the Gardens of the Zoological Society.
By the middle of the forenoon the mountains of Madeira were sighted, emerging from a bank of white cloud; and as we gradually approached, the general aspect of the land became very fine, ridge rising beyond ridge to the horizon. As we passed between the Desertas and the remarkable tongue of land which terminates the eastern portion of the land, the jagged volcanic rocks on S. Lorenzo Point and Fora Island stood out, hard and sharp, like the teeth of a saw, against the yellow sunset sky; and between 7 and 8 P.M. we entered the Bay of Funchal. It was a moonlight night of indescribable beauty, several of the planets showing out clear and bright, and the town of Funchal looked exceedingly pretty; its white houses, with their glancing lights on the hill-slopes, displayed in strong relief against the deep ravines and lofty heights around them.
Next morning we learned, greatly to our disgust, that we were placed in quarantine for five days, with, however, permission to get what coal and provisions were required, and to despatch letters home. I occupied a considerable portion of the forenoon of that day in gazing on the paradise which we were forbidden to enter,—truly a “pearl of the ocean” under any circumstances, and one which appeared all the more inviting to us after the rainy weather we had lately experienced in the south of England, and our rather rough sea cruize, as it lay steeped in sunshine, its gardens glowing with masses of brightly-coloured flowers, and a profusion of prickly pears, sugar-cane, and maize, with here and there a dwarf palm communicating strongly-marked features to the vegetation. The Loo rock, with its fort, formed a prominent object in the foreground; and behind and on either side of it were remarkable cliffs, some of which exhibited very striking examples of perpendicular basaltic columns, resting unconformably on what appeared to be stratified rocks. Before long a boat, with a supply of fruit, embracing bananas, fresh figs, grapes, apples and pears, came alongside; and it is needless to say that its freight was speedily disposed of. The grapes were excellent, but the apples, though pleasant to the eye, being both large and well-coloured, were not at all equal to our English fruit, possessing much hardness and but little flavour. Later in the day we accomplished a little dredging from the ship, the dingy being despatched with one of the dredges to some distance astern, and the dredge being thereafter put over, was gradually hauled in towards the ship. By this means we procured several pretty molluscs and a few echinoderms, including a handsome, though small, Ophiocoma. Of all the molluscs obtained, by far the most plentiful was an elegant minute Dentalium, with a sharp marginal rim. Many of the animals of this species were alive, and there was a regular deposit of dead shells in the fine gray mud of the bottom.
We did our best to vary our term of imprisonment during the two or three days following, which were very hot (the thermometer 85 in the shade), by fishing expeditions, in the course of which we captured one or two specimens of a species of Caranx (probably C. dentex), several splendidly-coloured wrasses (Labridœ), a small example of one of our own British dogfish, and a young hammer-headed shark (Zygœna malleus), which made its presence known to us by tugging viciously at one of our lines, which it succeeded in breaking as it was hauled up to the surface of the water. However, apparently not having learned wisdom by experience, it returned in a short time, and was again hooked, and this time safely landed in the bottom of the boat, where it lay flapping about, no one feeling particularly desirous of handling it. I subsequently examined it with much interest, as it was the first fresh specimen of this curious genus that I had seen. Its length was 27 inches, and the breadth of its extraordinarily-shaped head (measured from eye to eye) 6½ inches. After skinning it, I threw the carcase overboard at one of the gangways, and immediately after became the eye-witness of a most singular spectacle, for a swarm of a species of fish, somewhat resembling a small bream in shape, of a bluish-green colour above and silvery beneath, and which we had observed constantly swimming about the ship, but had not succeeded in obtaining, made their appearance, flying upon the shark, and fighting most vigorously for possession. As nearly as I could calculate the number, there could not have been much fewer than a hundred individuals, varying from 6 to 9 inches long; and in a space of time almost incredibly short, the mortal remains of the shark disappeared from my astonished gaze, having been devoured piecemeal. Dredging was carried on from time to time as opportunities occurred, and a considerable number of molluscs, including species of Rissoa, Natica, Haliotis, Pecten, Gardium, Pullastra, Venus, Tellina, Solecurtus, etc., as well as a few echinoderms, were obtained. That noted dredger, Mr. M'Andrew, who has carefully investigated the molluscan fauna of Madeira, under much more advantageous circumstances, has recorded 156 species, of which 44 per cent are British, 70 per cent common to the Mediterranean, and 83 to the Canaries.† Large gulls, apparently our British greater black-backed species, and small terns, were frequently to be seen fishing about the harbour, the large birds often bullying their smaller neighbours, who sometimes collected in flocks on some of the rugged projecting rocks. Our fishing and dredging operations were not seldom viewed with considerable curiosity, at a safe distance, by the boatmen, who, for the most part, pursued their avocations in a very light and airy costume, consisting of a shirt and an odd little peaked cap.
† S. P. Woodward—Manual of Mollusca, 2d edition, p. 65.
Our period of enthralment at length came to an end at noon on the 1st of October; and, after the dirty-looking old guardiano who had been keeping watch and ward over us for the last five days, had fumigated us to his satisfaction, and the Portuguese doctor had come on board and satisfied himself as to our state and condition, we received the welcome permission to go on shore as soon as we chose. Accordingly, a considerable number of us landed that afternoon, and, under the guidance of one of the officers who had visited Madeira on a previous occasion, I viewed the lions of Funchal. As is always the case in traversing the highways and byways of a foreign town unfamiliar to one, my attention was arrested by a variety of minute circumstances which an English resident would hardly think it worth while to notice. Thus, I remarked with interest the narrowness, steepness, and slipperiness of the streets; the peculiar vehicles, somewhat resembling exaggerated sedan-chairs, resting on curved runners, after the manner of sleighs, and drawn by oxen; the cloth-litters, slung on poles, in which people were being borne along; and last, though certainly not least, the luxuriant growth of the plants in the gardens—the heliotropes, to cite a single instance, attaining a height of six or seven feet.
Next morning three of the officers and myself landed to make an excursion to the well-known Grand Curral, a remarkable deep valley about the middle of the island, surrounded by precipices from 1500 to 2500 feet high, and peaks of very considerable elevation, the Pico Grande attaining a height of between 5000 and 6000 feet. Sir Charles Lyell remarks,† that “it has been compared by some to a crater or caldron, for its upper portion is situated in the region where dikes and ejectamenta abound,” but that it extends to below the region of numerous dikes, that the volcanic masses do not dip away in all directions from it, as from a central point, or from the hollow axis of a cone, and that, in fact, it is only one of three great valleys radiating from the most mountainous district of Madeira, the second valley being that of the Serra d'Agoa, separated from the Curral on the east by a narrow and lofty ridge, part of which is surmounted by the Pico Grande; and the third the valley of the Janella, which, unlike the other two, sends its water to the north.
† Elements of Geology, ed. 6th, p. 644.
It was a day of most exquisite beauty, and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. We found our horses awaiting us at the landing-place, and after having captured a large sphinx-moth, which was flying about over the stones, we mounted, and accompanied by our guides, who occasionally aided their progression by holding on to the quadrupeds' tails, rode out of the town at a brisk pace. The ride, as all who have accomplished it will acknowledge, is a singularly interesting one, the track lying through valleys and along the side of steep hills, alike richly clothed with vegetation, and commanding numerous fine views of the surrounding country; and the horses are admirably trained, very sure-footed, and most willing animals.
The distribution of the plants, native and cultivated, as influenced by the height above the sea-level, was very curious to observe as we gradually ascended the mountain-sides. On the lower ground, vines, guavas, figs, yams, bananas, maize, sugar-cane, prickly pears, and small palms, abounded, while at a higher level walnut and sweet chestnut trees prevailed. A wonderfully accurate register of the increase of elevation to which we attained was afforded by the vine alone; for in the neighbourhood of Funchal the grapes were all gathered, higher up a few over-ripe looking bunches were still to be seen; still higher the fruit was in perfection, while at the utmost limit of the plant, the bunches were not in a sufficiently advanced condition to gather. Roses, fuchsias, and geraniums, ran wild along the roadside on the lower ground; the beautiful belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna) was in profusion at a higher level; farther up the mountain-side occurred a well-marked zone of a species of broom (Spartium virgatum) with small yellow flowers, and this was in its turn succeeded by a stout and tall-growing heath (Erica arborea). This succession of forms only prevails, however, to a limited extent, as Dr. Hooker has observed, that on ascending “the mountains of Madeira, above 5000 feet and up to their summits (6000), we find little or none of that replacement of the species of a lower level by those of a higher northern latitude with which we are so familiar in ascending any continental mountains of equal or less height. Plants become fewer and fewer as we ascend, and their places are not taken by boreal ones, or by very few.”†
† Lecture on Insular Floras, p. 4.
As we rode along, we observed butterflies of various species, including our common small copper (Lycœna phlœas), a white Pontia, and a brilliant yellow species (probably the Colias edusa), flitting about; and multitudes of little lizards basked in the sun, or ran about on the walls, which were richly provided with a garniture of ferns, among which I noted the elegant Davallia canariensis, and some familiar British ferns, and the rare Adiantum capillus Veneris, and the common Asplenium trichomanes and Polypodium vulgare.
At length, after an ascent of several hours, we reached a height of upwards of 4000 feet, having left the region of trees behind us, and were informed by our attendants that we must now dismount and walk up to the summit of the mountain, which constituted our journey's end. This we accordingly did, and proceeded to scramble up a steep grassy slope, some of us aiding our movements with long sticks shod with iron, reminding us of alpenstocks. On reaching our destination, we were rewarded by a magnificent view of a ravine more than 2000 feet deep, together with the neighbouring heights, and the distant quiet blue sea. After resting for a while we retraced our steps to where we had left the horses, and having mounted, rode rapidly back to Funchal, getting on board about 5 P.M.. The same evening we went to sea, to my considerable regret, as I should much have liked to obtain a more familiar acquaintance with the zoology and botany of this interesting spot. The advanced state of the season, however, rendered it advisable that as little time as possible should be occupied in the outward-bound voyage, in order not to lose more than could absolutely be avoided of the summer in the southern hemisphere.
On the 3d nothing specially worthy of record occurred, save that at sunset a most curious effect was produced by heavy rain falling at some distance from the vessel, so as to cause the water in its vicinity to appear of a dull gray colour, while that immediately surrounding us was of a deep purple tint. On the 4th at daylight, Palma, one of the Canaries, noted for its wonderful Caldera, was indistinctly observed looming through the haze. We had a towing-net overboard, and in the course of the afternoon a small Pteropod (Pneumodermon) was taken in it. The heat during the day now began to be very oppressive, and the evenings after sunset were decidedly the seasons [reasons?] when most enjoyment of life was experienced by us, many pleasant hours being spent sitting on deck enjoying the moonlight and watching the phosphorescence of the waves, and the brilliant track cast by the planet Venus on the water. On the 5th, I again tried the towing-net, but with little success, owing to the speed at which the vessel was going, the sole objects captured being a small Ianthina (I. violacea), and a minute fragment of the shell of a Spirula. On the 6th, flying-fish were seen in abundance, and I have no hesitation in affirming, from my own observations, then and on many other occasions, that (as has been recently remarked by both Wallace and Collingwood), the power of genuine flight is possessed to a much greater degree by these animals than was at one time admitted by naturalists. They not only have the faculty of flight for some distance in a direct line, but also are capable of turning while in the air at nearly a right angle, so as entirely to change the direction of their course. We passed into the tropics on the evening of the same day, when there was a magnificent display of phosphorescence on the sea, globes of fire of various sizes passing by close to the vessel. This striking phenomenon, on which so much has been written, though to be witnessed more or less in all seas, is certainly most distinctly manifested in the tropics, where it has attracted the attention of voyagers for centuries. Thus, in “The Second Voyage of John Davis with Sir Edward Michelborne Knight into the East Indies,”† it is recorded that on the 12th of February 1605, when a little to the north of Ascension, “wee found ourselues to bee in seuen degrees fine minutes to the south-ward; in which place at night I think I saw the strangest sea, that euer was seene; which was, That the burning or glittering Light of the Sea did show to us, as though all the sea ouer had been burning flames of fire, and all the night long, the moone being downe, you might see to reade in any book by the light thereof.”
† Purchas his Pilgrimes, vol. i. book ii. p. 132.
Next day I had an opportunity of examining a flying-fish (Exocœtus obtusirostris) for the first time, and was much struck by the approximation of the eye to the termination of the snout. I was also interested to observe a large dragon-fly skimming about the ship; and the following morning, when we were still nearly 200 miles from the nearest land, a small brown butterfly was noticed.
We reached St. Vincent, in the Cape de Verdes, on the 9th, a few hours later than we had calculated upon, in consequence of the neighbouring island of Santa Lucia being mistaken for it, owing to the misty state of the atmosphere which commonly prevails in the neighbourhood of this group of islands. In skirting along the coast of the island, the savage, intensely volcanic, barren appearance, of its ridges and heights, made a profound impression upon me. The ruggedness of the cliffs was added to by the occasional presence of projecting dikes; and, at first sight, with the exception of a few stiff-growing shrubs, which I felt pretty certain were Euphorhias (a conclusion subsequently verified), there appeared to be an utter destitution of vegetation of any description. But as we turned a projecting point, and opened the bay of Porto Grande, I was agreeably surprised by finding that a considerable portion, alike of the low ground near the beach, and of the slopes of the hills, was rendered green by a covering of herbaceous plants. I was the more astonished by this, as I had been informed by some of my companions, who had previously made acquaintance with the island, that I would find that it presented much the appearance of a gigantic cinder. This unusual display of verdure, was, as I afterwards learned, the result of heavy rains shortly before our visit—a phenomenon of very rare occurrence at the present time on this arid spot. The fertility of the Cape de Verdes appears, however, to have been considerably greater three centuries ago than it is now, if we may trust to the accounts given of them by some of the older navigators. Thus Drake, who visited them in 1578, speaks favourably of Mayo, St. Jago, and Brava, remarking on the sweetness of the grapes and the excellence of the cocoa-nuts, on the first; and observing of the second, that it is “faire and large, and, as it seemeth, rich and fruitful;” and, of the third, that it is a “most pleasant and sweet island, the trees whereof are always greene and faire to look upon.” Mr. Darwin also mentions, on the authority of Dr. Dieffenbach, that when St. Jago, which now appears to equal St. Vincent in barrenness, was discovered, “the immediate neighbourhood of Porto Praya was clothed with trees, the reckless destruction of which has caused here, as at St. Helena, and at some of the Canary Islands, almost entire sterility.”
We came to an anchor soon after noon, and shortly after a ceremony, with which all those who have visited foreign parts are familiar, took place,—the arrival alongside of the health-boat, with a doctor and interpreter in her; the former being, in this instance, a queer-looking old fellow in a wide-awake hat, with a handkerchief wound round it, and provided with a symbol of office in the form of a long stick; who was at first anxious to put us in quarantine for a couple of days, but on being told that in that case we would not remain but proceed on our way, graciously relented, and granted us “pratique,” much to our satisfaction. Thereafter several boats came alongside with a cargo of fruit, consisting of very green oranges and bananas, grown on the neighbouring island of San Antonio, which boasts some permanently verdant patches. A cage of beautiful little love-birds (Psittacula pullaria) was in addition offered for sale, but met with no purchasers. But few of us went on shore that day, some of those who remained on board occupying their idle time in fishing, and meeting with tolerable success. Among the fish obtained in this manner was a specimen of the curious Argyreiosus setipinnis; but this was unfortunately thrown overboard by mistake.
The next morning I landed with Captain Mayne and some of the officers who were going to take sights, and walked with them to the office of the British consul, Mr. Miller. As he had not yet come down from his house on the hills, I occupied myself, while the others were engaged in their observations of the sun, in watching the movements of a jumping spider (Salticus), which was keeping an eager look-out for flies, and in gazing out on the blue waters of the bay, in which numbers of negro children were disporting themselves, and on the rugged yellowish peaks of the island, standing out in sharp contrast to the cloudless blue sky of this glaringly hot day. Before long Mr. Miller arrived, and I received a good deal of information from him relative to the leading features of the natural history of St. Vincent, which, he mentioned, had been visited not long before by three well-known naturalists—the Rev. Mr. Lowe, Mr. Vernon Wollaston, and Professor Dohrn of Stettin. In reply to my inquiries, he told me that there were about twenty-seven species of birds on the island, no snakes, two species of lizards, and a considerable number of insects; and that in the bay a variety of fish, mollusca, and Crustacea, were to be met with. He mentioned that sharks were not common; but that a blue shark, on which the inhabitants of Porto Grande had bestowed the cognomen of “Seraphine,” paid periodical visits to the bay, and that a gigantic species of Ray was not uncommon, and much dreaded by the negroes, who believed that it enfolded its victim in its great pectoral fins, and then lacerated his body with a sharp dorsal spine—an account reminding one of the legends of the great devil-fish of North America. Mr. Miller also informed me that the island was at this time more covered with vegetation than it had ever been before during the whole period of his long residence upon it; and kindly offered me the use of a horse and guide if I felt disposed to investigate the state of matters for myself
Gladly accepting this proposal, and my steed having been got ready, I mounted, and rode off at a leisurely pace, accompanied by a negro lad, who had received instructions where to conduct me. I was provided with a small tin vasculum, which I had brought on shore on speculation, and in this I stowed away my specimens as I met with them. I well remember the curious and novel sensations which, while riding over the desert plains, covered with a strangely unfamiliar tropical vegetation, composed principally of succulent plants, salt and bitter to the taste, and brightly-coloured Labiatae, characteristic of such barren situations, I experienced. On the sandy flats, not far from the sea, a thorny species of Acacia, and another plant, which in its general growth, made me think of Tamarisk, were abundant, together with a species of gourd, which covered the sandy soil with its trailing stems, and exhibited flowers and fruit in various stages of maturity. After ascending a little way, the prostrate stems, brilliant yellow flowers, and prickly fruits, of a species of Tribulus became conspicuous, together with a variety of grasses, among which were representatives of the genera Cynodon and Digitaria, and also a millet-like grass, which my companion, with whom I carried on as much conversation as the limited acquaintance which we possessed of each other's languages would permit of, informed me was “much good for bullock.” Still higher up I observed various succulent Crassulaceœ, and Mesemhryaceœ, a yellow-flowered composite plant with a woody stem; a Convolvulus, with beautifully-veined leaves and large pinkish-white flowers, exquisitely pencilled with purple; a yellow-flowered leguminous plant like a Lotus; a wild fig; a shrubby Datura; and the Euphorbia previously mentioned, unmistakable from its stiff artificial-looking manner of growth, and abounding in milky acrid juice. Numbers of Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) were soaring about in the air in all directions, and perching on the crags; the old birds in their characteristic black and white attire, and their offspring in their uniform dark-brown plumage.† Grasshoppers of different species, and all sizes, were in plenty, skipping about among the low herbage, and producing a sound as of a multitude of miniature knife-grinders; and I saw a single specimen of a sphinx, which I believe was the privet hawk moth (Sphinx Ligustri), as well as several dark-coloured butterflies (Diadema Misippus), with large white spots on the wings.
† I did not observe any Guinea-fowl during the short period of our stay in St. Vincent, and was told that they had become very rare.
Low down on the plains the heat was most oppressive, but after ascending to a considerable height on the hills there was a comparatively cool and refreshing breeze. At length we arrived at the summit of an elevated ridge, from whence we had a fine view of the sea and the greater part of the island; and my guide, who had by this time confided to me that his name was “Jeduat,” and that he came from Boavista, another of the islands of the Cape de Verde group, intimated to me that this was to be our terminus. Not far from where we halted was a small cottage surrounded by a little plantation of maize, to all appearance grown under great difficulties, on a scanty sprinkling of soil on the top of the rock, which cropped out between nearly every plant; and as I was very thirsty, I requested my companion to inquire if we could get some water to drink. On his receiviug a reply in the affirmative I dismounted, and scrambling over the low stone wall which surrounded the enclosure, proceeded to the door of the dwelling, where I was accosted with “Walk in” in English, by a pleasant-looking negress, who forthwith provided me with some of the desired fluid. In requital of her civility, I presented her with an English silver threepence, which appeared to delight her greatly, as she thereupon remarked, with much emphasis, “Englishmans very good mans,” and proceeded to arrange a mattress on a rough settle, making me understand that I was to rest myself there while she boiled two hens' eggs for me, which she produced from an old chest. This I was not loath to do, as I was pretty well tired with the heat; and while she went off to prepare the eggs in her kitchen, which was a separate edifice, I had leisure to survey the dwelling, which consisted of two small rooms, divided by a partition. The walls were constructed of blocks of stone, cemented with mud; the roof was formed of a kind of coarse basket-work, supported on rough poles; and there was a single window, with, it is almost needless to say, no sash. A charming little naked negro boy did the honours of the house to me while I rested, chattering most volubly in Portuguese, and pointing out the dog and the hens for my inspection. After my repast I took my departure, my hospitable entertainer accompanying me to my horse, shaking hands very heartily, and bestowing on me a parting gift of a head of green maize, wrenched off from one of the growing plants. I then rode back to the consul's office, passing through the town, where swarms of fat stark-naked children were running about the streets; and after joining the other officers, who had now concluded their observations, returned to the ship with them.
On the following day I landed with three of the officers, and having procured horses through the kindness of Mr. Miller, we set out, accompanied by a negro man and boy (the latter of whom carried my large vasculum, and formed a most efficient plant-gatherer), on a ride over the hills to a sandy bay, between the N.E. and E. points of the island. In the course of the ride I found a very considerable number of species of plants, including a prickly species of Asparagus and a fern, both of which occurred at the summit of one of the hills, and a plant with beautiful purple convolvulaceous flowers, which trailed over the sand at the edge of the beach for yards. I had hoped to have sent home a fair representation of the flora of this island; but my expectations unfortunately came to naught, as the greater number of my specimens were subsequently destroyed in the course of our hot damp voyage through the tropics. This is the less to be regretted, as the Rev. Mr. Lowe has carefully worked out the botany of the entire group. In his lecture on Insular Floras, delivered before the British Association in 1866, Dr. Hooker remarks that, on his visit to the Cape de Verdes in 1839, he found that the plants of the lowlands were purely African and Arabo-Saharan in character, but that on the mountains a few occurred which were very characteristic of the Canaries and Madeira. He also mentions some of the results obtained by the recent investigations of Mr. Lowe, viz. that “the mass of the flora is African, and that the mountains contain many Canarian types; but that all these are the types that have representatives in the Mediterranean region; whilst of these peculiar Canarian, Madeira, and Azorean plants, that have no near allies or representatives in Europe, not one is found in the Cape de Verdes, with the single exception of the Dragon's blood tree. Also, ascending above the tropical zone to 3000 feet and upwards, many of the same middle-European plants are found, that appear at correspondingly lower elevations in Madeira, the Canaries, and the Azores.
On reaching the sandy bay which I have mentioned, we dismounted, and rested for a while close to the beach, on which I observed several large broken shells of a species of Sepia, lying. Here my horse took advantage of a momentary fit of absence of mind on my part to munch off the heads of a bunch of plants which I held in my hand before placing them in my vasculum. In about an hour's time we remounted, and commenced to ascend the hills by a different route from that by which we had come; and, on our way back, our guide caught two large spiders for me, which he appeared to regard as rare and remarkable animals, and I collected some additional plants. At the close of the afternoon we reached Mr. Miller's house, most agreeably situated on a hill commanding a fine view of the bay; and after dining there, this very pleasantly spent day was terminated by a ride down the hills by lantern-light to Porto Grande. On our return to the ship, I found that some of the officers had made me a small collection of Molluscs, Coleoptera, etc., together with a little lizard of the Gecko family—the Tarentola Delalandii—which also occurs in Madeira and on the West Coast of Africa.
On the afternoon of the 12th I again went on shore, and had a pleasant ramble with two of the officers. Our way lay for some time over a tract of sandy low-lying ground near the beach, where the thorny Acacia already mentioned was very plentiful, and a species of Solanum, with prickly leaves and purple flowers, was also observed. We succeeded in capturing a second species of lizard (the Euprepis Stangcri) which is also an inhabitant of West and South Africa. Two species of butterflies were observed—one the white-spotted species seen on my first excursion, and another in which orange was the prevailing colour. Several Coleoptera were taken. A species of Cicindela (0. Hesperidum) was rather plentiful on the outskirts of a salt-marsh, but no specimens were obtained, owing to the activity of the insect, which always took wing when approached. In his Coleoptera Hesperidum, Mr. Wollaston states the number of species of beetles ascertained to exist on St. Vincent as 132; and the prevailing forms in the Cape de Verde group are the genera Oxycara and Trichosternum, belonging to the Heteromous section of the order. In the course of our walk we noticed some fine examples of wind-blown ridges of sand, exactly counterfeiting ripple-mark. After a time, we descended to the beach, and spent an hour or two in search of marine animals. We found the shore at high-water mark thickly strewn with dead shells, among which the genera Conus, Purpura, Cyprœa, Spondylus, Arca, and Venus, predominated, as well as numerous examples of water-worn corals, chiefly belonging to a species of Astrœa. The state of the tide fortunately permitted us to investigate the pools in a flat reef of rocks extending for some distance along the bay; and in these we met with a variety of live animals, the collection of which required to be conducted with caution, as a heavy surf broke over the rocks at short intervals. A curious little blennioid fish, the Clinus nuehipinnis, darted rapidly about the pools in numbers, and required some dexterity to capture; and a small Octopus, probably of the same species as that of which Mr. Darwin has given such a lively description in his account of his visit to St. Jago, caused us much amusement by the agility of its movements—swimming through the water with great rapidity, tail foremost, occasionally discharging the contents of its ink-bag to screen itself from observation, and, when placed on the rock, scrambling along at a great rate, by means of its arms, in such a fashion as to remind us of a frog. A large Aplysia (A. dactylomela), also mentioned by Mr. Darwin, was not uncommon, and discharged a brightly-coloured fluid, varying from purple to carmine, when handled. Among the other molluscs found by us were a Conus, a small Mitra, many specimens of Purpura neritoides, and examples of P. hœmastoma, Littorina striata, Labeo punctata, Leucozonia triserialis, and Siphonaria venosa. A rather large elliptical sea-urchin (Echinometra), with long dark purplish-black spines, was very abundant, adhering with such firmness by its suckers to the semicircular hollows in which it was lodged as to require a considerable amount of force to detach it. A few Crustacea and sponges, and a variety of Algæ (a species of Padina, I may remark in passing, was very common) were also procured; and on our way back to the town I picked up, on the beach, a Cirriped of the genus Coronula (C. halcenaris), with fragments of the integument of the whale, on which it had lived, still sticking between the septa of the shell, as also the cephalic shield of a Palinurus. A specimen of a curious little crustacean, the Remipes scutellatus, was also taken by one of the officers, burrowing in the sand of the beach, close to the water's edge. On the following day I remained on board, busily occupied in putting away the various objects acquired the last three days; and, late in the afternoon, we bid the island farewell, departing under sail, a matter of rejoicing to us all, as securing a greater amount of coolness and general comfort than could be attained in these warm regions under steam.
I availed myself of the opportunity presented while we were under sail, and the revolutions of that useful, but disagreeable piece of apparatus, the screw, temporarily suspended, to bring the towing-net again into operation, and met with a certain amount of success. Thus, on the 14th, a curious little fish, of a blackish colour, with a large mouth armed with long teeth (Astronesthes niger), one of the Erichthoid Crustacea, Alima hyalina,† and a lovely little deep blue Velella, were taken. In the course of the same day a large school of porpoises accompanied the ship for some time, and then signalised their departure by a series of flying leaps through the air. Next day we observed large numbers of Ianthinœ, with their curious floats, on the structure and formation of which so much has been written. According to one of the most recent investigators of the subject, M. Lacaze-Duthiers, the float “is increased by complicated movements of the anterior part of the feet, which result in forming an air-bubble enclosed in a glutinous matter,” and the Ianthina cannot produce a float as long as it is beneath the surface of the water. A fine specimen of this beautiful creature, captured in the towing-net, proved to be the I. globosa, and had two specimens of a small Lepas attached to its fragile shell. A species of Porpita was also present in great abundance, and a number of specimens were taken and consigned to spirits. On the morning of the 16th a large flying-fish came on board, but I had not an opportunity of examining it, gastronomy having prevailed over zeal for science before I was out of bed. A curious parasitic crustacean (Ceratothoa) found in its mouth was, however, preserved and presented to me. Several Pteropoda also occurred in the towing-net, chiefly species of the genus Pneumodermon, as well as several specimens of a curious aquatic insect of the genus Halobates, which swims about on the surface of the sea in the same manner as some of its allies do on that of fresh-water streams. Some swallows were seen at this time, and a young individual was caught. The poor little bird was much exhausted, and drank a little water eagerly, but would not eat, and on being afterwards let go, it flew for some distance and then fell into the water. On the 18th I only obtained a few Acalephae, and my towingnet work was brought to a close by our getting up steam, owing to the failure of the breeze which had thus far accompanied us. A grasshopper was brought to me in the course of the day, but possibly it had travelled with us from St. Vincent.
† In the Annals and Magazine of Natural History for June 1868, Mr. Spence Bate states that he has reason to believe that Alima is but the second stage in the development of Squilla and allied forms, and I have since been informed by Dr. Anton Dohrn that there can be no doubt that such is the case.
On the morning of the 19th a small Remora (Echeneis lineata) was picked up on deck, having probably come in on the log-line. Later in the day two swallows were captured, one of which revived temporarily on being fed with flies, but died a few hours after. On the 20th we fell in with a pleasant breeze, which lasted for some days. On the 21st we saw the sun set in the northern hemisphere for the last time, and in the evening a most brilliant meteor, so closely resembling a rocket bursting, as to be at first supposed to be a signal from some vessel, was observed by a party of us who were sitting on deck enjoying the moonlight. The following morning we crossed the line, but the event was not celebrated by any time-honoured ceremonies—I cannot say to my disappointment; and instead of an orthodox dead calm, we had a most refreshing breeze, which carried us well on our way.
On the 23d the breeze still continued. Large flocks of flying-fish were observed, and a petrel of a uniform sooty colour, and larger than the Mother Carey's chicken, appeared near the ship. I had also my first sight of the Portuguese man-of-war (Physalia), several large and exquisitely-tinted specimens, which I attempted unsuccessfully to capture, passing close to us. Their floats were provided with a beautiful ribbed purple margin. During the afternoon a large shark was seen in our vicinity, and some flocks of birds were descried in the distance. Next day, the breeze continuing steadily to freshen, the screw was got up and sail made. This accomplished, we went along at a capital rate, over a sea the splendour of the blue of which only those who have passed through the tropics can fully understand; while the stormy petrels, which certainly, according to my experience, are as commonly to be seen in fine as in bad weather, followed in our wake, flying over the white-crested waves. On the 25th a tropic bird (Phaethon) was seen, but nothing else worthy of record occurred. We kept a fresh breeze for the next two days, but it gradually fell on the 28th, and died away completely towards evening on the 29th, when, there being a dead calm and no signs of any more wind, preparations were made for getting up steam. While this was going on two sharks paid us a visit, coming alongside the starboard gangway. They were about six feet long, and one of them, which was of a rather light-brown, with the pectoral fins tipped with white, was accompanied by half-a-dozen pilot-fish (Naucrates ductor), which swam slowly around it, displaying their elegantly barred sides very clearly. A few minutes later a very large fish, probably a shark, but, from being at some depth below the surface of the water, impossible to ascertain its nature with certainty, was seen on the port side of the vessel. A shark-hook was thereafter baited with a piece of salt pork, and put over astern, but the tempting morsel having been unfortunately insufficiently secured, the sharks succeeded in making a supper of it, and getting off scot-free. On the morning of this day we had a very heavy tropical shower, which, though it only lasted a quarter of an hour, sufficed to fill a goodly array of water-cans which were brought on deck.
On the 30th we went along under easy steam, and soundings were taken with the deep-sea lead several times during the day, but no bottom obtained at depths of 500 and 300 fathoms. There was a glorious sunset, the luminary leaving a bright red glow on a bank of dark neutral tinted clouds behind it, after it had dipped below the waves.
Early in the morning of next day I was roused by the officer on watch to get my first view of the Southern Cross, which afterwards became such a familiar object to us, and I was much delighted with its beauty, although it is not the sort of pyrotechnic display often represented by travellers. During the last few days we had been shaping our course with the endeavour of picking up the Jaseur Bank discovered by the French man-of-war “Jaseur” in 1825, but apparently not examined since then. This bank is situated in lat. 20° 36' 30" S., and long. 35° 47' W., and is about 60 miles distant from the Victoria Bank, and about 360 from the island of Trinidad. At half-past one P.M. (Oct. 31), as it was believed that we were drawing near the bank, soundings were taken, but no bottom was obtained with 1000 fathoms line. Soon after five P.M. we again sounded, and this time the lead touched bottom at forty fathoms, and one or two fragments of a Millepora, with a few Foraminifera, were found attached to the arming. A few minutes later we again reached the bottom with thirty fathoms line, more Foraminifera being found on the lead. Proceeding onwards for a short distance, the process was repeated with a Fitzgerald's apparatus, and a good sample of the bottom, at a depth of 52 fathoms, procured. By 6:30 P.M. we were in a depth of 800 fathoms, and consequently the conclusion was arrived at that the Jaseur is a narrow elevated ridge, probably extending transversely between the Victoria Bank and Trinidad. I subsequently made a careful microscopic examination of the deposit brought up in the Fitzgerald's apparatus, and found that it was principally composed of animal organisms, and that almost no specimens of rock or minerals were present. The animal, which greatly predominated over the vegetable forms (only represented by a few fragments of an incrusting Melobesia, and a minute portion of the frond of a living Ulva or Enteromorpha), were all dead; and the bulk of them consisted of multitudes of the shells of Foraminifera, principally of the genus Amphistegina, a type characteristic of tropical and sub-tropical regions, but also containing examples of Nodosariœ of the dentaline structure, and of numerous small portions of corals of various species. A few small shells of Molluscs were also present, and among these I recognised an Oliva, a Lima, and a diminutive Pecten. In addition to these, several fragments of a Serpula, and a spine and portion of the dental apparatus of a small Echinus, occurred. Of the shell of Amphistegina, Dr. Carpenter has given an elaborate account in his learned and valuable Introduction to the Foraminifera,† observing that “it closely corresponds in external form with that of Nummulina,” but that “it is only for some of the smaller Nummulines that it could be mistaken, since its diameter seldom exceeds the ⅛ of an inch.” As regards its geographical distribution, he states that it has been found “in various parts of the Indian Ocean, the great Polynesian area, and the West Indian Seas;” that the farthest limits to which it is known to extend northwards are the Red Sea and the neighbourhood of the Canary Islands, while southwards, it has not been traced further than New Zealand; and that it occurs in greatest size and abundance in depths of from 15 to 50 fathoms, but that small specimens have been brought up from abyssal soundings in the Red Sea. The species obtained on the Jaseur Bank, which varied in size from a twentieth to a tenth of an inch, is very convex on the upper, and flattened or concave on the lower surface, and bears a close resemblance to Amphistegina mamillata of D'Orbigny, as figured in the Introduction to the Foraminifera. As regards Nodosaria, on the other hand, Dr. Carpenter remarks, that, under some one or other of its protean forms, it is very generally diffused through the seas of various parts of the globe. Geologically, it possesses a much greater antiquity than the former genus (which has not been met with prior to the tertiary epoch), it having been traced as far back as the carboniferous strata.
† Page 242.
On the 2d of November we made good way, going along under steam and sail at a rate of about ten knots an hour. In the morning some albatrosses were observed at some distance; and in the afternoon, between two and three o'clock, I had my first view of the New World—Cape Frio being sighted, and our approach to the land further indicated by a gradual change in the colour of the water from a brilliant blue to a dull green hue. Between seven and eight P.M., the well-known light on Raza island became visible, and rather more than an hour later the adjacent conical island of Redonda, with the bold outline of the mainland outside of the Bay of Rio, could be clearly recognised. It was a glorious starlight night, the planet Venus casting a broad track of splendour on the almost unruffled surface of the water, as between ten and eleven o'clock, we neared the entrance of the magnificent harbour, believed at the date of its discovery to be the embouchure of a large river, and hence denominated Rio de Janeiro. Gradually, as we steamed slowly in towards its narrow entrance, the light of the Santa Cruz fort on the northern side became clearly visible, and several more distant ones brightened and extended themselves. On passing the fort we were hailed, and on there being no response returned, a blue light was burned to ascertain our nature. A little further on, the lights of the mass of the city—the most brilliantly illuminated that I have ever seen—with those of Gloria Hill and Botafogo, burst on our view, with the mountains behind and around lying in deep shadow—the whole uniting to produce a scene not to be readily effaced from one's memory. We cast anchor at about half-past eleven P.M., and after spending some time in admiring contemplation of the surrounding scene, which was new to the greater number of us, separated for the night.
Next morning, a most brilliant but very hot one, the thermometer +89 in the shade, I spent a long time gazing on the wondrous prospect disclosed on all sides. The atmosphere being very clear, the entire outline of the great harbour could be perceived. In our immediate neighbourhood lay the small island of Villegagnon with its fort, numerous men-of-war, and merchant-vessels of different nationalities, and the town, which, though not particularly attractive on a closer inspection, presents a fine appearance from its remarkable situation, being surrounded on three sides by steep hills, densely clothed with a rich tropical vegetation, of which palms and bananas form conspicuous features. On the opposite side of the bay the towns of Nictheroy and San Domingo§ stretched for some distance close to the beach. Nearer the entrance of the harbour the Corcovado mountain and the remarkable Sugar Loaf, with their precipitous rock-faces, arrested the eye, while at its head the chain of the Organ mountains closed in the view.
§ Now, Nictheroi & São Domingos.
Later in the day a party of us landed, and spent some time inspecting the town, the streets of which, with the exception of the Eua Direita, are for the most part so narrow as not to permit of two vehicles passing one another without seriously encroaching on the footways—a circumstance which, however, does not appear to be productive of any feelings of inconvenience to the coachmen, who drive along utterly regardless of the safety of any unfortunate pedestrians who may chance to be in their way. Coleridge has immortalised the streets of Cologne as distinguished for the variety of evil odours which they possess, but after having visited both cities, I have no hesitation in affirming that Rio bears away the palm in this respect. We encountered a mixed population in the streets, the negro element being very prevalent, and the heads of the women of that race in general decorated with gaily-coloured turbans. We visited the Passao Publico, or public garden, which is very well kept, and forms a pleasant resort in which to spend a vacant hour, as we often subsequently found, an agreeable shade being afforded by the numerous tropical trees which are cultivated in it. Here we noted palms of many species, silk-cotton trees (Bombax), Pandani, Siphoniœ, Cycadeaceœ, beautiful specimens of the traveller's tree (Ravenala Madagascariensis), together with a number of handsome shrubs of various genera, and a variety of water-plants. An artificial strip of water was tenanted by a number of water-fowl, embracing swans, geese, and ducks of various species, while on its grassy banks herons were standing thoughtfully on one leg, or slowly stalking along, each step appearing to require a moment's consideration. Overhead, some white pigeons had built their nests among the crown of leaves of a tall palm, and were sitting there in great content. We lingered about the garden till after dusk, when a few fireflies made their appearance, flitting about the plants, and about an hour later we returned to the ship for the night.
The following day, Sunday, some of us went on shore to church in the forenoon, finding the pretty interior of the English Chapel a pleasing contrast to its dirty and noisy surroundings, as, though there are services in the Catholic churches, and a vast and wasteful expenditure of rockets and other fireworks during the day, Sunday is evidently practically ignored at Rio, the shops being kept open just as on week days, and business going on as usual. There did not even appear to be any of that holiday-keeping for which Sundays in Roman Catholic countries are so famous. In the evening there was a splendid display of phosphorescence on the water, an oar's blade dipped into it emerging every time gleaming with light.†
† In an interesting and valuable paper on the Phosphorescence of the Sea by Dr. E. Giglioli of Florence, late naturalist on board the Italian Frigate “Magenta,” to whose kindness I am indebted for a copy of the article in question, the phosphorescence at Rio Janeiro is referred to the well-known Noctiluca miliaris.
On the 5th I accompanied three of the officers on a walk to the Botanic Gardens beyond the suburb of Botafogo. On the way out we encountered a good deal of drizzling rain, which, however, was felt to be rather a relief as lessening the extreme heat of the weather. I was greatly delighted with the beauty of the flowers cultivated in the gardens on the outskirts of the town, and I remember being especially fascinated by the splendour of the oleanders and various handsome creepers. Many of the suburban houses have a most inviting appearance, with their walls covered with glazed Dutch tiles to reflect the solar heat, their brilliantly coloured cornices (often bright blue or chocolate colour, with a raised white pattern), and their brown-tiled roofs with projecting eaves; and as a rule the little gardens surrounding them are very judiciously and tastefully laid out, many of them boasting one or two palms or other large trees, under the shade of which their owners may sit and enjoy the “dolce far niente” so much appreciated in tropical countries. Some of the wayside plants were very pretty. Among the most plentiful were a scarlet and yellow Asclepias, a little creeper with flowers varying in colour from white or pale lilac to primrose and deep yellow or orange, with a marone heart (Thionbergia), and a highly sensitive Mimosa with little rounded heads of purple flowers, and short semi-prostrate stems covered with minutelypinnated leaves. The irritable nature of the last plant revealed itself to one on stooping to pluck a specimen, by the pinna? of its leaflets immediately folding up on the midribs, and the leaves as a whole becoming rapidly deflexed on the stem. I afterwards found that by stamping smartly on the ground the same effect could be produced, the whole plant collapsing in the most curious way. In some places the ground was covered with this species to the exclusion of any other, and by drawing a stick over a space covered by it, what at first appeared as a green and flourishing patch of vegetation assumed the semblance of a blighted and dying one.
A large and handsome blue butterfly, the first specimen of a species with which we became very familiar in the course of a subsequent visit to Rio, was observed flying along the road, and pursued and captured by two of the party, who afterwards became zealous butterfly-hunters, but was obtained in a too injured condition to be worth preserving. We reached the gardens early in the afternoon, and spent some hours wandering about in them. Though not in that state of good order which one is accustomed to see in European gardens of the same class, they are well worth visiting, possessing much interest for the naturalist, from the wealth of tropical vegetation contained in them. They have been for long justly celebrated for their fine avenue of cabbage-palms (Oreodoxa oleracea), which certainly furnishes a remarkable object, although hardly in my opinion a very attractive one, from the stiff nature of the growth of its constituent members, the stems of which appeared to me like tall and slender stone pillars formed of a number of tiers of masonry, the scars left by the old leaves adding to the effect. In addition to the cabbage-palm, many other species of the order alike from the New and Old World, as well as numerous fine specimens of Pandani, the breadfruit, and the jack (Artocarpus incisa and A. integrifolia), and representatives of many other tjrpes, are cultivated. We saw some enormous specimens of the fruit of the jack, two or three times the size of the human head; and the occasional growth from the trunk of a solitary large fruit unassociated with leaves or branches, had a very peculiar aspect. The milky juice exuding from the young twigs was remarkably adhesive, a property frequently met with in plants belonging to the same order. A large wasp was noticed building on several of the trees, from the branches of which the Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) depended in festoons. Several insects were captured, among which was a large black bee and a round flattened beetle (Cyrtonota) with dark green iridescent elytra spotted with crimson; and a land-shell with a peculiarly shaped mouth (Bulimus auris-muris) was met with at the entrance of the gardens.
We returned to the city at the close of the afternoon, on the top of a Gondola Fluminense, a sort of 'bus drawn by mules, numbers of which are constantly running between Rio and places in the neighbourhood. The following year we became very familiar with them, finding them a great benefit when we were returning fatigued to the city after long walks in the heat, and we often admired the excellent driving displayed by the cocheiros in the narrow and roughly-paved streets of the city. As we drove along we enjoyed a series of fine views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf, the form of both of which eminences varies very remarkably according to the point from which they are regarded; and our attention was attracted by numerous clumps of hoary foliage, contrasting remarkably with the greenness of the other trees on the hills, and which I afterwards found were due to the presence of a species of Cecropia.
Next day several of us landed after breakfast, and made a short excursion into the Rio Comprido valley, where a number of beautiful though well-known Lepidoptera were captured, as also specimens of a small Mantis, one of the curious walking-stick insects (Phasma), a Julus of considerable size, and a large spider, with a hard horny pale yellow body, marked with rounded black spots, and furnished on the dorsal surface of the abdomen with two horns. Like all those who have visited Brazil, I was greatly struck with the profusion of beautiful insects, with the forms of many of which I had long possessed an acquaintance from the illustrations in various works of natural history. In the valley and neighbourhood I collected a number of species of plants, including a fine passion-flower (Passiflora), an Oxalis with purplish rose-coloured flowers, a cucurbitaceous plant with small yellow fruits, ripe specimens of which, on being handled, burst open, disclosing the red seeds; some Leguminosae, and a variety of ferns, some of which, from their peculiarity of habit, would hardly be recognised as members of the group by those persons who merely possess an acquaintance with our British forms.
I may here remark, that although on this and later visits to Brazil I met with many beautiful flowers, my experience on the whole coincides with that of the distinguished traveller and naturalist, Mr. Wallace, who remarks that he is convinced, from his own observations,† “that in the most luxuriant parts of the tropics, flowers are less abundant, on the average less showy, and are far less effective in adding colour to the landscape than in temperate climates,” and that he has never seen in the tropics “such brilliant masses of colour as even England can show in her furze-clad commons, her heathery mountain-sides, her glades of wild hyacinths, her fields of poppies, her meadows of buttercups and orchises—carpets of yellow, azure-blue, and fiery crimson, which the tropics can rarely exhibit.”
† Malayan Archipelago, vol. ii. p. 295.
This, I think, may be partially accounted for, if we take into consideration the fact, that but few of our most brilliantly-coloured flowers occur in the shade of woods, but in comparatively open situations, which, in the tropics, are too much burnt up by the direct rays of the sun to permit of much development of vegetable life, with the exception of certain bulbous and succulent plants (such as Amaryllidaceœ, Cactaceœ, and Mesemhryaceœ), which, from their structure, are capable of thriving on very poor soil. The case is, however, entirely different, it is almost needless to observe, as regards animals—the birds, reptiles, and insects on the land; and the fish, molluscs, Crustacea, and other invertebrates of the seas of the tropics, being, with few exceptions, much more brilliantly attired than their representatives in temperate climates.
The 7th was a day of heavy rain, in consequence of which I did not leave the ship. The warm steamy atmosphere produced was very unpleasant, and caused a most extensive development of mould on articles made of leather, and specimens of all kinds. A few porpoises were observed swimming about the harbour, and in the evening there was a splendid sunset; the summit of the Corcovado and other peaks forming a sharp contrast with the deep rosy sky behind them.
On the 8th, accompanied by the surgeon and paymaster (Dr. Campbell and Mr. Bedwell, my associates on most of my excursions), I landed in the morning, and crossed from the city of Rio to the opposite side of the harbour in one of the odd-looking steamers, like Noah's arks, which are constantly plying to and fro. Landing at Mctheroy, we struck into a path leading up a wooded hill, from the summit of which we gained beautiful views of the harbour with its islands. We obtained a number of species of butterflies, some large bees, ants, and spiders, as well as a curious nest of a lepidopterous insect (Oiketicus) hanging from a twig. This was about three inches long, of an elongated form, tapering to the free and attached extremities, and was constructed of small pieces of stick, covered with a thin gray papyraceous substance similar to that of which wasps' nests are made, and lined with a very tough woolly material. I ascended a neighbouring hill, the summit of which was crowned with palms, by myself, and was greatly impressed by the luxuriance of the vegetation, noticing, among other objects, a great aloe-plant (Agave) growing high up in the fork of a tree. On the way down, there being no path, I lost my way, and not till after a severe struggle through the intricacies of a thicket, where half the plants appeared to be endowed with thorns or prickles, and a species of palm (Bactris), the entire stem of which was clothed with black needle-like spines, nearly two inches long, specially abounded, succeeded in emerging from the wood near the edge of the harbour, at a distance of some miles from where I had left my companions.
The two following days were spent in excursions in the same neighbourhood, and a variety of zoological specimens collected, including a batrachian (Cystignathus ocellatus), taken in a pool of water; several specimens of a small Bulinius (B. papyraceus) found in a torpid state on walls; some curious heteropterous insects, with leaf-like expansions on their legs (Anisoscelis); and a large species of spider, which formed geometric webs between the great leaves of an Agave, and is probably the same with that obtained in similar situations by Mr. Darwin on his visit to Rio.†
† Naturalist's Voyage, p. 36.§
§ p. 36 in 1845 edition; p. 40 in 1839 editions. The accompanying illustration shows that “Darwin's Naturalist's Voyage” is printed on the spine of the 1845 edition, but the title page is Journal of Researches ….
On the morning of the 12th, a day of great heat, we moved up from our anchorage to Coal Island to take in a supply of fuel, and a large party took advantage of the opportunity to land on a portion of the mainland in the neighbourhood, which we had not yet visited, and spend the day roaming about the wooded hills. Near the beach many large mango-trees (Mangifera Indica) were growing, and cast a delightful deep shade, and the cashew-nut (Anacardium occidentale) abounded—its curious fruit in various stages of growth. Many lizards were seen on this as well as on other excursions, but they generally succeeded in eluding capture owing to the extreme rapidity of their motions; and I also caught a momentary glimpse of two snakes in the woods. It was such a perfectly still day that, while resting under the shade of the trees on the side of a hill, the noise made by a wasp scrambling up and down the leaves of an Agave close to me was most distinctly audible. Mosquitoes were rather troublesome, but one afforded me some amusement by its persistent efforts to pierce my coat-sleeve—trying first one spot and then another unsuccessfully. I also saw for the first time a butterfly, which on the following year I met with abundantly, the Ageronia feronia, which has the curious property of making a crackling sound with its wings as it flies. It is very fond of lighting on the trunks of the trees with its head downwards and wings expanded in a horizontal plane, a habit possessed also by an allied species which appeared to us to have a special predilection for the smooth stems of the cabbage-palm. Not far from the beach was a huge mass of detached rock, on the top of which many cacti and aloes were growing, and on the overhanging sides some wasps were busily engaged building their mud cells. From the roof of a neighbouring well I procured two curious Arachnida with hard spiny bodies, the Phalangium acanthopus, of Quoy and Gaimard. As the tide fell, towards the close of the afternoon, a few rocks were left partially uncovered, and I waded out to those in search of marine animals, obtaining fine specimens of Purpura hœmastoma, Littorina flava, and a species of Ostrœa, as well as a couple of sponges, one of which was pale violet in colour, and the other deep orange. Many specimens of a species of Isopod, allied to Ligia oceanica (probably L. baudiniana) were found under the stones in shallow water, and several examples of a crab of the genus Grapsus were seen but none taken, as they escaped into clefts of the rock, from whence they could not be dislodged. Among the few Algæ observed, was the widely-distributed Codium tomentosum, which I afterwards met with in the Strait of Magellan.
Next morning several of the officers landed on a small island in the vicinity, and one of them brought me from thence a very fine specimen of a swimming-crab (Lupa spinimana), which must be tolerably common, as the following year I noticed the species in the Rio market. On the afternoon of the same day we steamed out of the harbour, passing not far from the precipitous island of Redonda, and thereby gaining a good view of the general aspect of its vegetation, which appears to consist principally of palms. The following morning, there being a good north-easterly wind, the screw was got up, and we proceeded under sail. In the afternoon a large whale made its appearance in our immediate vicinity, displaying its dorsal fin and purplish-brown back. The wind continued favourable until the evening, when between 9 and 10 P.M. it suddenly shifted to N.W., dying away to northward on the morning of the 15th, and soon after springing up from the S.W. Sail was accordingly shortened, and the screw again brought into requisition, the breeze meanwhile freshening with such rapidity, that by the afternoon it was blowing hard, with heavy squalls and a heavy sea from the southward, so that we laboured on under steam, the vessel rolling and pitching violently. The gale continued during the next two days, accompanied with thick, gloomy, drizzling weather, and a few large albatrosses and many stormy petrels were seen; but by the morning of the 18th it ceased, and was succeeded by a favourable wind, which permitted us to proceed under sail alone. We took advantage of this circumstance to employ the towing-net, by which we procured some specimens of a bright blue Isopodous crustacean, the Idotea annulata of Dana.§ Mr. Spence Bate, to whose kindness I am indebted for information regarding this and other species of Crustacea submitted to him, remarks that the blue colour appears to be a peculiarity of pelagic species,† and mentions that he has received specimens of the same animal “from Dr. Wallich,” who says, “it is a parasite on Physalia, almost invariably attached to the float,” and that Dr. Wallich's specimens were taken between the Bay of Bengal and the Cape of Good Hope, while those on which Dana founded the species were taken in the Antarctic seas, south of New Holland. The Idotea annulata, therefore, enjoys a wide geographical range. I took it again the next season to the south of the river Plate; and I may remark, that I never found it associated with Physalia, or any other oceanic hydrozoon.
§ James Dwight Dana.
† Our commonest British species, which is to be met with plentifully on stones and among fuci at low water, is of a dull greenish hue.
We kept a fair wind during the 19th, but the barometer fell rapidly and steadily, which, together with a gloomy, murky state of the atmosphere, excited apprehensions, only too soon to be justified, that a second gale was brewing. In the course of the evening the wind freshened considerably, and some hours later it shifted to the north and westward, and rain fell in torrents. By 7 A.M. on the 20th it was west, and steadily increased in force, accompanied by a falling barometer. It soon became clear that we were in for one of the Pamperos for which the Plate and its vicinity have been so long celebrated, and which owe their name to the circumstance of their blowing from off the Pampas or plains. All due preparations in the way of shortening and reefing sail were therefore made for the enemy; but these I do not feel myself competent to describe, and shall therefore not enter into. The wind increased with great rapidity, the force in the forenoon averaging 6-9 and in the afternoon 8-10, the vessel meanwhile rolling beyond the extent (30°) registered by the indicator, and causing serious apprehensions to be entertained for the safety of the steam-cutter, which, despite the very considerable elevation at which she was suspended, was several times dipped beneath the waves. I retain a lively remembrance of the pursuit of dinner under difficulties that day, for, it being impossible to sit at table, the greater number of us were established on the floor of the wardroom, jammed up into corners as well as we could manage, with our plates on our knees. It continued to blow furiously throughout the evening; and about 9 P.M. steam was got up, and the screw lowered for the purpose of easing the ship. At 10 P.M. the barometer had sunk to 29°10'69", but soon after began to rise, rising as rapidly as it fell. There was, however, no perceptible decrease, but rather the contrary, in the force of the wind, which raged with \dolence throughout the night, at one time blowing 11, while the ship rolled 30° in each direction. By the afternoon of next day, however, it appeared to have expended itself, and gradually fell, being succeeded by a beautiful calm night; and on the morning of the 22d it was calm, so that the sails were taken in, and we went on under steam alone.† On that day, which was very fine, a number of albatrosses, which had been our companions during the gale, were no longer to be seen; and the influence of the muddy waters of the Rio de la Plata was indicated by the transition in the colour of the sea from deep blue to dull green.
† For various of these details I am indebted to Captain Mayne's private journal; that gentleman having, as I have mentioned in the preface, most kindly placed his journal at my disposal.
On the 23d land was reported soon after sunrise. As we steamed up the estuary of the Plate, the low land on the northern shore, between Maldonado and Monte Video, brought to my remembrance my first sight of the Dutch coast, to which it bears a considerable resemblance in respect of its sand-dunes, with the low-lying, mostly treeless country beyond them, dotted here and there with windmills. A large wasp flew on board in an exhausted condition, and about the same time the rigging of the ship became covered with immense quantities of cobweb. Everywhere long delicate threads could be seen streaming out into the air, and a considerable number of their constructor, a minute reddish-brown spider, were to be observed associated with them. This curious phenomenon is of frequent occurrence in the Plate on a fine day after stormy weather. We witnessed it again in the same locality in the following season, and Mr. Darwin has given an interesting account, of it in his delightful Naturalist's Voyage. He there remarks that one day (November 1st, 1832) he had paid particular attention to the subject.
The weather had been fine and calm [sic, clear], and in the evening the air was full of patches of the flocculent web, as on an autumnal day in England. The ship was sixty miles distant from the land, in the direction of a steady, though light breeze. Vast numbers of a small spider, about one-tenth of an inch in length, and of a dusky-red colour, were attached to the webs. There must have been, I should suppose, some thousands on the ship. The little spider, when first coming in contact with the rigging, was always seated on a single thread, and not on the flocculent mass. This latter seems merely to be produced by the entanglement of the single threads. The spiders were all of one species, but of both sexes, together with young ones. These latter were distinguished by their smaller size and more dusky colour. … The little aëronaut, as soon as it arrived on board, was very active, running about, sometimes letting itself fall, and then re-ascending the same thread, sometimes employing itself in making a small and very irregular mesh in the corners between the ropes. It could run with facility upon the surface of water. When disturbed, it lifted up its front legs in the attitude of attention. On its first arrival it appeared very thirsty, and, with exserted maxillae, drank eagerly of drops of water. This same circumstance has been observed by Strack; may it not be in consequence of the little insect having passed through a dry and airless atmosphere? Its stock of web seemed inexhaustible. While watching some that were suspended by a single thread, I several times observed that the slightest breath bore them away out of sight in a horizontal line.
On another occasion (25th), under similar circumstances, I repeatedly observed the same kind of small spider, either when placed or having crawled on some little eminence, elevate its abdomen, send forth a thread, and then sail away horizontally, but with a rapidity which was quite unaccountable. I thought I could perceive that the spider, before performing the above preparatory steps, connected its legs together with the most delicate threads; but I am not sure whether this observation was correct.
After communicating with H.M.S. “Narcissus,” the flagship on the station, which, on account of her size, was obliged to lie about two miles out from Monte Video, we steamed up to the inner roads, and anchored not far from the town, which, built on a rising ground, presents rather a fine appearance from the harbour, the towers and dome of the cathedral forming prominent features of its aspect. In the evening a party of us landed, and spent some hours on shore scrutinising the town, which, constructed in the Spanish style so prevalent in South America—namely, in rectangular blocks—struck us as contrasting very favourably with Rio as regarded the width and cleanness of its streets, which intersect each other at right angles. There also appeared to be a much larger proportion of good dwelling-houses and shops, the population seemed to be of a more respectable nature, and there was an entire absence of the negro element, so conspicuous in the Brazilian capital. In the course of our stroll, which was much appreciated after our late experiences at sea, we were amused by noticing a lamplighter's dog accompanying his master with a stick in his mouth, at each end of which was a lighted lantern. We visited the cathedral, which occupies a portion of one side of a square planted with paradise-trees, which furnish a grateful shade during the heat of the day, and came to the conclusion that, with the exception of the marble steps in front of the entrance, it had little but size to recommend it. The exterior of the dome is covered throughout the greater part of its extent with blue glazed tiles, causing it to appear as if constructed of china; and stucco largely prevails in the interior. The architecture is altogether of a very inferior description, the painted windows are very gaudy, and, like nearly all the South American churches which I subsequently visited, there is a profusion of tawdry gilt and tinsel images of our Saviour, the Virgin, John the Baptist, etc.
On the 24th, a day of brilliant sunshine and great heat (the thermometer +87 in the shade), in the morning two of the officers with myself, landed after breakfast, and set out on a walk into the country. It took us long to get fairly beyond the town, which straggles out for a very considerable distance, and after that we pursued our way for some miles along a broad dusty road, flanked on either side with gardens, hedged with aloe (Agave) and cactus plants, and guarded in general by large and fierce dogs, on the watch to repel all intruders. Many of the Agaves were in bloom, and their gigantic flower-stems, from twelve to twenty feet high, with their symmetrically-arranged horizontal branches, covered with greenish-yellow flowers, communicated a most peculiar character to the landscape. The young flower-stem, before the branches manifest themselves, is a Brobdignagian representation of an asparagus-shoot as it comes to table. Split lengthways into slices, the central part of it is employed for razor-strops and a variety of other purposes. In the absence of cork, it is a useful substance for lining entomological boxes, its soft pith-like nature readily admitting of penetration by a pin's point. On the great fleshy leaves, varying in length from three to six feet, a species of Helix, as plentiful as our common garden-snail (H. aspersa), was feeding. This species, I was afterwards informed, was not an indigenous one, but introduced, I rather think accidentally, from the Mediterranean. Along the sides of the road I met with our common red pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), a species of Oxalis with pretty rose-coloured flowers, a white Orchid, and a few ferns, including an Adiantum. The pastures in many places were in a blaze of purple with a species of Echium, and on uncultivated portions of the plains a great thistle (Cynara), with large bluish-purple flowers, and attaining a height of from three to six feet, was everywhere abundant. We also observed numerous brilliant patches of scarlet and purple Verbenas, together with a variety of Leguminosæ, Compositæ, etc. A considerable number of birds, including one or two species of hawks, swallows, a fly-catcher with a deeply-forked tail, and some gray plovers, were seen; and a few species of Lepidoptera and Coleoptera obtained. Erom the branches of some willows we found hanging numerous specimens of a curious insectnest, like that which I have mentioned as seen at Rio, but on a smaller scale, and I almost trod on a brown snake, but did not succeed in securing it. In the course of our walk, many Gauchos cantered past us on their horses, and attracted our attention by the singularly picturesque appearance which they presented, with their dark, swarthy, bearded and moustached faces, and brightlycoloured ponchos.
Two days later I formed one of a number who took a long ride into the country. Riding is certainly not the most favourable method of prosecuting observations in natural history, nevertheless I noticed a variety of objects that were new to me, seeing for the first time a little burrowing owl (Pholeoptynx cunicularius), and the Teru-tero, or spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus cayanus), which appears to be widely distributed over South America, as I met with it later in the Strait of Magellan, and I believe it also occurs in Brazil. Like its British representative, it occasionally proves very troublesome, flying around the pedestrian and frequently uttering its harsh cry. We stopped at noon at a posada to get some country wine, and while we were there a couple of gauchos, very handsome fellows, came in to refresh themselves. At the belt of each, in a sheath, was a sharp dagger-like knife, which upon examination proved, to our amusement, to be of Sheffield manufacture.
On the afternoon of the 29th I took a stroll of a few miles out of the town, along the sea-coast, in the direction of Maldonado. On the rocks, above high-water mark, I found a variety of plants in flower, such as a pretty white Petunia, frequently forming fine masses of white, a Matricaria, and a species of Medicago. I spent a good deal of time watching with much interest the operations of some ants busily engaged in gathering up stores, and carrying such loads as often entirely to conceal their bodies. Some were carrying the spirally-twisted pods of the Medicago, while others bore away the heads of flowers of the chamomile, disappearing with them into the holes leading to their subterranean habitations, for their dwellings were not in ant-hills. I noticed that almost invariably there was a circular hard space of ground around the entrances, I suppose worn by their incessant peregrinations. A beautiful bright green lizard with a long tail was very common, but so fleet that I did not succeed in catching any, and many specimens of the Painted Lady butterfly (Cynthia cardui), which I afterwards discovered both in Brazil and Chili, were flying about the flowers. The beach was singularly destitute of life, a small crab (Cyrto- grapsus angulatus), which was common in pools in the rocks, being almost the only marine animal obtained. The heat was very great, and the air tainted with the putrefying carcases of mules, horses, etc., lying about unburied, with many huge black pigs prowling about in their vicinity.
The following day was chiefly distinguished by a rather unpleasant adventure. A number of us who had spent the afternoon on shore being caught in a pampero on our way back to the ship, and reaching it with much difficulty, drenched to the skin. One of the great drawbacks to Monte Video is, certainly, the prevalence of these gales; and, as Captain Mayne remarks in his Journal, one of its worst features is, that there is not a safe pier in the harbour when there is any wind.
On the 3d of December I accompanied two of the officers, who were appointed to take a set of magnetic observations, to the foot of the Mount, an eminence nearly 500 feet high, from which the city of Monte Video derives its name. While my companions were engaged in their work, I took a ramble over the hill, the greater part of which was of a splendid purple tint, from the profusion of the Echmm I have already mentioned, which covered it. Near the summit I found specimens of a blue and yellow lupine, a red and a yellow Oxalis, a pink-flowered prostrate Mimosa, and an Echino-cactus, with straw-coloured flowers. I carried with me on this occasion two tin japanned vascula, which caused my employment to be somewhat misconstrued by various of the country people, near whose dwellings I passed, at they assailed me with cries of “Que vende, que vende?” §
§ “What [are you] selling?”
Late on the evening of the 6th December we left Monte Video, and proceeding under steam we reached Majdonado, on the north bank of the Plate, near the entrance of the estuary, before breakfast next morning. Here it was determined that we should remain for the day, as Captain Mayne was anxious to obtain sights before proceeding on the southerly voyage. A party of us, taking advantage of the opportunity presented of seeing something of the surrounding country, left the ship after breakfast, and after we had accomplished a landing with some difficulty through the surf which was breaking on the shelving sandy beach, set out in search of a lake at some distance, where the sportsmen of the party had been informed waterfowl were frequently to be procured in considerable numbers. Our way lay for some miles over low-lying, sandy, undulating plains, which presented so many attractions for me in the botanical line, that my companions soon distanced me, and I strolled along in solitude, filling the large vasculum which was my constant companion in the cooler parts of South America. Among the plants I met with on this occasion were several yellow-flowered species of Compositœ, the white Petunia observed at Monte Video, a yellow (Œnothera, a pale pink Convolvulus, a curious dwarf leafless (probably Rhamnaceous) shrub, which had phylloid branches profusely armed with formidable spines and bearing tricoccous fruits; some sand-binding grasses, and a dwarf Myrtaceous plant, the white flowers of which presented a very attractive appearance. These, together with a species of Dyckia, and many other forms, all occurred in very arid soil; while some marshes which I passed yielded a variety of other plants, among which I may instance a sundew (Drosera), several Leguminosæ, a plant unknown to me with pinkish-white flowers, fringed like those of our British bog-bean, but with undivided leaves; a small yellow-flowered Utricularia; a fern (Lomaria Boryana) with a short thick stem (six inches to a foot high, surmounted by a crown of very tough leathery fronds; and a composite plant resembling a Senecio, with a flower-stem six to eight feet in height, on the branches of which flocks of small finches were sitting. I noticed a number of species of birds, including the burrowing owl already referred to, which was very tame, flying about in my vicinity, and perching on the bushes, making a curious thrumming sound. Another remarkable sound which I heard, and which for a time perplexed me from its subterranean character, was produced by a burrowing rodent, the tucu-tuco (Ctenomys Brasiliensis), which tunnels the sandy soil in all directions. A few Coleoptera were picked up, but insect life did not appear to be abundant. I overtook the sportsmen before they reached the lake, and while we halted for luncheon inspected their spoils, which consisted of two species of Falconidae, one of them a handsome harrier (the Circus macropterus); some fly-catchers, including a species with a very long tail; the Xanthornus flavus, many of which we saw flying about, a turtle-dove, and a young partridge (Nothura major?). Pursuing our way for some distance farther, we at length reached the lake, the edges of which were defined by a broad belt of tall-growing rushes. Here but few birds were either seen or obtained (a brownish-black ibis, a single specimen of which was shot, is the only species recorded in my journal); but by dint of wading about among the reeds, I succeeded in procuring a few additional botanical treasures, including another species of Utricularia, a Riccia, etc., as well as some dead shells of a large species of Ampullaria (A. fasciatd), together with clusters of its beautiful rose-coloured eggs attached to the rushes. Not far from the lake, on some sandy ground, I also met with a Solanum (I rather think one of the numerous wild forms of our potato, S. tuberosum), and a Malvaceous plant, with prostrate stems and beautiful purple-hearted flowers. As the afternoon was now wearing on, we decided on “making tracks” homewards, and descended to the beach after a while. Numbers of dead shells were lying about, but, for the most part, much worn and broken. I, however, picked up a tolerable specimen of the Voluta colocynthis, which appears to be not uncommon about Maldonado, as numerous live specimens were subsequently procured there by the officers of H.M.S. “Narcissus,” several of whom were gifted with strong naturalhistory tastes. I also found the cranium of a large seal (probably a species of Otaria) lying above high-water mark.
On our arrival on board we found that a seining-party which had been despatched early in the afternoon had succeeded in procuring a haul of two species of fish. A seal had been also taken in the net, but managed to effect its escape. One of the kinds of fish, a beautiful creature about a foot long, presenting a vague resemblance to an exaggerated smelt, with a broad silver stripe along each side, was the “peje rey” (Atheriniclithys Argentinensis), long known as an inhabitant of the Plate, and justly esteemed for its delicacy of flavour, to which it appears to owe its Spanish name of “king fish.”† [Thomas] Falkner, a Jesuit missionary in South America in the eighteenth century, thus describes it in his interesting account of Patagonia, “and the adjoining parts of South America:”—
The pequareys, or king's fish (so called by the Spaniards), are a kind of smelt or sparling; in colour, shape, and taste, resembling ours, except that the head is very large, and the mouth very wide. Their size is about that of a mackerel. They never frequent salt water; but are in great quantities in the River of Plata. When the Parana increases, in the month of July, they go up the river in vast shoals, a little above Santa Fe, to leave their spawn in the lesser rivers which enter the Parana. The fishermen catch them with hooks, in great quantities, cut them open, and dry them, and sell them to the neighbouring cities. They are of an excellent taste, and their flesh is very white, without any fat; when fresh their flesh is considered as a great dainty. They must be dried without salt, as it would immediately consume them; and if they get any wet or moisture, where they are hung out to dry, they will corrupt.
† An allied species (A. microlepidotus), common at the mouths of rivers in Chili, bears the same popular cognomen.
A remarkable oval semi-transparent body about the size of a turtle's egg was brought to me by one of the crew of the seining-party, and for some time I was in doubt as to its true nature. It turned out to be the peculiar nidus of a mollusc, the Buccinum deforme of King,§ who found specimens of it on the sea-beach of Gorriti, a small island in the bay of Maldonado. He states that in the month of January the eggs were obtained in all stages of growth.
§ 64. Buccinum deforme: “The eggs of this shell contained in a transparent orbicular nidus, the size of a turtle's egg, were found thrown up on the sea-beach of the [Gorriti] Island. In the month of January they were observed in all stages of growth. A series were preserved in spirits, and presented to the College of Surgeons.”
In The Zoological Journal, 1835, vol. V, p. 349. London: G. B. Sowerby.
We left Maldonado at 11 P.M. that night, not sorry that there were no more halting-places between us and our destination, to which a romantic interest was attached in the minds of many of us, from the accounts we had read of the tempestuous weather and majestic scenery to be encountered therein.
Next day was beautifully bright with a favourable wind, an auspicious beginning to the last stage of our voyage. My time was fully taken up in skinning birds, and placing the plants collected the day before in drying paper. Things in general went on in the same quiet routine, so characteristic of fine weather at sea, and the only fact worth recording was the arrival of a large and handsome sphinx-moth.
Sunday, the 9th, also passed very quietly, and enabled us to get the full enjoyment of a quiet Sunday at sea. We had a fine view of the Magellanic clouds in the evening, and there was a magnificent display of phosphorescence on the water, the crests of all the small waves in every direction being brilliantly illuminated.
The 10th was also a bright day during the greater part of it. My time was well filled up with writing journal and sorting specimens. A wonderful amount of time, as I daresay all who have had a like experience with myseK will bear me witness, is occupied in stowing and unstowing books, apparatus, etc., when you have little space and much to cram into it; at the same time, it is certainly wonderful how much can be accommodated in a cabin six feet square, with a due amount of consideration. After a time I used regularly to devote a portion of the day preceding that on which we left harbour to wedging up everything movable, otherwise one had a considerable chance of being buried alive in a chaos of books, dried plants, and animals preserved in spirit. Towards sunset the atmosphere became foggy, and later in the evening I was surprised by finding some live beetles in the towing-net. Some of these were terrestrial, and others fluviatile forms; and as I was greatly interested by the peculiarity of the circumstance, I applied to my friend Mr. Gray (the principal navigating officer) for information as to our exact position with relation to the land. An examination of the chart revealed that we were forty miles off Cape Corrientes on the Argentine coast, and on subsequently turning to Mr. Darwin's Journal, I found that he had observed the same phenomenon in the same latitude, i.e. seventeen miles off Cape Corrientes. He remarks that those specimens which he preserved belonged to the genera Colymbetes, Hydroporus, Notaphus, Cynucus, Adimonia, and Scarabœus, and that he at first thought they had been blown from the shore, but that on reflecting that of the eight species which were obtained, four were aquatic, and two others partly so, it appeared more probable that they had been carried into the sea by a small stream which drains a lake near Cape Corrientes. I am informed by Mr. C. Waterhouse of the British Museum, who has kindly furnished me with the names of some of the Coleoptera which I collected, that among those taken in the towing-net on this occasion are a Pœcilus, a Colymhetes, a Philhydrus, a Coccinella, and the Eriops connexa. It is not a little curious that two observations so identical in character should have been made in nearly the same locality at an interval of more than thirty years from each other.
On the 11th, in the morning watch, we encountered a squall, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Many specimens of that beautiful petrel, the Cape pigeon (Daption capense), wxre observed for the first time; and, in the forenoon, a large mass of floating weed was seen in the distance. In the afternoon, when we were 120 miles off the nearest land, a large dragon-fly flew on board and was captured. In the evening it became almost dead calm, though the vessel still slipped slowly through the water. A fine sunset, accompanied by a frosty haze on the horizon, ushered in a night of exquisite beauty. At this time we all began to perceive a steady decrease in the temperature, the evenings, which, while we were in the Plate, had been very oppressive, now feeling quite chilly.
The morning of the 12th dawned calm and bright, the air being delightfully fresh and exhilarating. In the forenoon we observed great numbers of small moths floating on the almost rippleless surface of the water; and early in the afternoon I obtained in the towing-net some curious gelatinous bodies, of a pyriform shape and firm consistence, marked with rows of small yellowish-white appendages. These, which I preserved in spirit, I then believed to be Tunicata, allied to Pyrosoma; but it was only during the present year (1870) that an examination of the specimens (now at the British Museum) proved that my conjecture was correct, the animals turning out to be the remarkable Sycozoa sigillinoides described and figured by Lesson in the Voyage de la Coquille, but not noticed in any other work that I have met with. Lesson remarks that his specimens were found “flottant par un beau jour de calme, en Decembre 1822, a trente lieues au sud de la Terre-des-Etats,† par 53 degres de latitude australe, dans le voisinage du Cap Horn;”§ and remarks that this genus (Sycozoa) has for its type an aggregate “d'animaux biforés, logés dans un corps pyriforme, au plutot imitant une figue,”§§ and that the animals thus situated are very small, rounded, oblong, and dilated at their posterior extremity, and arranged in regular vertical rows in the mass. Later on the same day more Coleoptera were taken in the net.
† Staten Land.
§ “floating by on a beautiful quiet day, in December 1822, thirty miles south of the Staten Land, at 53 degrees of southern latitude, in the vicinity of Cape Horn.”
§§ “animals (mollusks, with two openings) housed in a pear-shaped body, rather imitating a fig.”
On the 13th I found some small Crustacea in the towing net. These consisted of two species of Amphipods and an Entomostracan, to all appearance identical with the Cypridina gibbosa of Dana, described from specimens taken in the Pacific, in lat. 15° 20' S., long. 148° W. This little creature, of which several examples were taken, in general lay at rest at the bottom of the water of the vessel in which it was placed, but, on being disturbed, came up to the surface and swam rapidly about.
The following day was bright and clear, but the wind, which had again sprung up, was unfortunately not fair, so that we were unable to keep on our course, and tacked westwards in towards the land; but towards afternoon it again fell, and there was a nearly dead calm for the rest of the day. Some albatrosses and a tern were the only signs of life to be seen.
On the 15th we made but little way, as the wind was very uncertain in its direction and continuance, and we were kept much off our course. There was a slight improvement in the state of matters on the 16th. On the evening of that day, while a number of us were on deck, a large mass of floating weed was observed passing the vessel, and, on being hooked, proved to be a specimen of the far-famed “kelp” (Macrocystis pyrifera), with which we subsequently became very familiar. It was a plant about eighteen feet long, with a large branching root, in the crevices of which a variety of small Ophiocomce, Annelids, Tunicata, and other minute marine animals had taken up their abode, while the fronds were loaded with thousands of fine specimens of a pedunculated Cirriped (Lepas australis), widely distributed in the southern seas. We placed a few specimens of the Lepas in a tumbler of sea-water, and it was interesting to watch them bending and twisting their peduncles, and thrusting out and again withdrawing their cirri within the valves of the shell. That portion of the viscera not included in the test appeared of an exquisite blue colour as seen through the integument, and the peduncle, as a whole, was also more or less tinged with the same tint. This fine blue, however, soon changed to a dull pink when the animal was placed in spirit.
Although much has been written on the “kelp,” it would, I think, be unpardonable to pass over this wonderful seaweed, one of the most striking phenomena of vegetable life in the southern temperate and antarctic latitudes, without a more extended notice, as some of my readers may probably be unacquainted with it; and in doing so I shall avail myself largely of the excellent and comprehensive resume of the history of the plant given by Dr. Hooker in the Flora Antarctica. Dr. Hooker there observes that
the Macrocystis is so conspicuous, and from its wandering habits often occurs so unexpectedly, that the attention of our earliest voyagers has been directed to it, and we are consequently led back by our inquiries into its first discovery, to the annals of those perils and privations which have ever marked the progress of discovery or enterprise in the stormy seas of the south.
He proceeds to remark, that the
first notice of the Macrocystis with which we are acquainted, is of so early date as the middle of the sixteenth century, and occurs in a copy of sailing directions for mariners, with the title, ‘A Ruttier from the River Plate to the Streight of Magelana,” and forms part of ‘A special note concerning the currents of the sea between the Cape of Buena Esperanza and the coast of Brazilia, given by a French pilot before Sir John Yorke, Knt., before Sebastian Cabote, which pilot had frequented the shores of Brazilia eighteen voyages.‚—Hakluyt, ed. 2, vol. iv. p. 219. In describing the above-mentioned route, after passing Cape Sta. Martha, the trusty pilot's direction to the mariner is, ’to goe S.W. by W. until he be in forty degrees, where he shall find great store of weedes, which come from the coast:’ and again, in pursuing the voyage, after entering the Straits, ’If you see beds of weede, take heed of them, and keep off from them.’ ”
This wonderful plant, the most gigantic Alga known, exists in vast beds around the coasts of Patagonia, Tierra del Puego, and the Falkland Islands, in general growing in depths of from six to twenty fathoms, and is of the greatest service to the navigator as an indication of the presence of rocks to be avoided by him. From a branching root, in the intricacies of which small Molluscs, Crustacea, Echinoderms, and Annelids nestle, arise small fructiferous bladderless submerged fronds, and long slender stems, which reach the surface of the water, and there give off hundreds of elongated elegantlyshaped, jagged-edged fronds, varying in length from four to six inches to one or two feet, each provided with a pyriform airvesicle at the base. These fronds, derived from one another by a process of vertical splitting, spread out on the surface of the water like so many banners, the manner in which they are directed being an infallible index of the ebb and flow of the tide, and I know few more beautiful sights to be witnessed, than by leaning over the gunwale of a boat on a calm day, and gazing through the clear depths of these submarine forests, in which fish swim about as birds fly through the trees of a wood. It is difficult to fix a limit to the dimensions to which these floating masses of kelp may extend. The distinguished botanist from whom I have already quoted, states, that
in Kerguelen's Land the length of some pieces, which grew in the middle of Christmas Harbour, was estimated at more than 300 feet; but by far the largest seen, during the Antarctic Expedition, were amongst the first of any extraordinary length which the ships encountered, and they were not particularly noticed, from the belief that the report of upwards of 1 000 feet of length was true; or, at any rate, that better opportunities would arise in the course of a three years' voyage, than the first week of our explorations could afford. These occurred in a strait between two of the largest islands, where, far from either shore, in what is believed to be forty fathoms water, somewhat isolated stems of Macrocystis rose at an angle of 45° from the bottom, and streamed along the surface for a distance certainly equal to several times the length of the Erebus; data which, if correct (and we believe them so), give the total length of the stems as about 700 feet.§
§ Joseph Dalton Hooker: The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H. M. Discovery, Vol 1, p. 464. London: Reeve Brothers, 1847.
Although probably the “kelp” has attracted a greater share of the attention of voyagers in the Strait of Magellan and on the coasts of Fuegia than elsewhere, in consequence of being regarded as a salutary warning of hidden dangers, it is by no means limited (as indeed the preceding extract shows) to the southern extremity of the South American continent. Of the wide extent of its geographical range, greater “than that of any of the larger Algœ,” the reader will be able to judge from the following account, also from the pen of Dr. Hooker:—
The Macrocystis girds the globe in the southern temperate zone, but not in the tropics or northern hemisphere, and this is a most curious trait in its history. We may first, however, trace the southern edge of the belt which it forms, and we are the better enabled to do so, because the limits of its existence as a floating plant were observed in six different longitudes in the passage of the Antarctic Expedition as often between the Southern Sea and the southern ice, within which there is no vegetation. The southern boundary of the Macrocystis sea is very much determined by the position of the ice, and the northern by the currents and temperature of the water. Thus, in the longitude of New Zealand, where open sea extends to the 65th degree, this plant is found as far as 64°, the specimens having probably been drifted originally from Kerguelen's Land or the Crozets, which are the great nurseries for it in the eastern hemisphere, and from whence all these drifting islets have been wafted which occur between their longitude and Cape Horn. In the longitude of Cape Horn, 58° or 60° is the highest parallel it attains, for it has not been found among the South Shetlands. Farther east, in the South Atlantic, its parallel is probably still lower, till in the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope it is 40° removed from the Pole, being no farther south than 50° 30.' There the Atlantic Ocean specimens are derived from the southern extreme of America and the neighbouring islands. Its northern range, on the other hand, is dependent—1st, on the temperature of the ocean, for it neither enters the tropics or the Atlantic, nor passes up the shores of Africa or into the Indian Ocean; whilst it does inhabit the whole surface of the Pacific Ocean and the west coast of both Americas; 2dly, on the currents, for when north of the influence of the uniform westerly movement of the waters in the Antarctic Ocean, it is deflected with their courses, and carried, while temperature allows, to whatever seas receive these waters. Thus, the South Polar current divides at Cape Horn, one portion following the west coast of South America to Cape Blanco and the Galapagos Islands under the equator, conveying the Macrocystis with it, which then enters the cold waters which flow from the Arctic Islands of the Pacific, and over whose entire surface it is spread, reaching Kamtschatka, New California, and the Aleutian Islands; so that in the longitude of Western America the Macrocystis ranges from the Arctic to the Antarctic Circle. The eastern branch of the Cape Horn current§ passes between the Falkland Island[s] and Fuegia, conveying vast masses of this seaweed 200 miles north of the Falklands, as low as the 44th degree, and some even reaching the Plate river in 35°, its northern limits in the Western Atlantic. Farther west in the Antarctic Ocean its distribution is less known; but, since it does not occur far north of the Cape of Good Hope in that meridian, we may conclude that it ceases about the 34th degree. With regard to the South African habitat, it is difficult to account for so vast a quantity as the Agulhas Bank exhibits, for these waters, 130 miles in breadth, flowing with a rapid stream from the N.E. or Indian Ocean, literally swarm with Macrocystis, which possibly is taken up from the westerly Polar current (which flows along the parallel of 45° S.) by the Indian (or N.E.) current in question.§§
§ The western and eastern currents are now the Humboldt and Falkland Currents, respectively.
§§ ibid., p. 465.
It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to remark, after the preceding observations, that “kelp” continues to grow long after it is detached from its parent bed; and I need not say that one of the most important qualifications of the “lookout” in vessels in the dangerous regions where it prevails is to be able to distinguish floating from rooted specimens of the plant.
On the l7th, the water having assumed a muddy appearance, I examined a small portion with the microscope, but could not detect anything with the exception of numerous grains of sand. The forenoon of the following day was bright and sunny, and we had a capital breeze, which allowed us to make from eight to nine knots an hour. During the afternoon, however, the barometer fell very rapidly, and the sky presenting a most threatening aspect, sail was shortened at about 5 P.M., and preparations made for a gale, which, however, did not take place, the clouds discharging themselves in heavy rain, which lasted for some time, and was succeeded by a red, stormy sunset.
The 19th was also a bright bracing day, making us experience the physical pleasure of existence, which is not so easy of attainment in the tropics. Towards evening the weather again assumed an unpropitious aspect, the heavens becoming covered with most remarkable masses of heavy cloud, with here and there intervals of wild pale green sky. At length, just as the sun was going down, a squall came on, and the scene that ensued while the vessel tore through the perturbed water, was of the most weird and striking character, for along the horizon stretched a broad brilliant orange belt of sky, banded above by heavy black clouds, and across it and the setting sun a thin veil of falling rain extended. At the close of the squall, which did not last long, the orange colour was succeeded by a splendid green hue.
On the 20th, a fine day but the wind foul, so that we were much off our course, a number of small grayish-white birds, apparently a species of petrel, were observed in the vicinity of the ship, flying close to the water, moving their wings rapidly, and then sailing along for a short space. We altered course early in the afternoon, and shortly after got up steam, as we hoped to enter the Strait next day. The following morning was fine, bright, and cold. In the forenoon land was sighted, the steep cliffs of Cape Virgins, on the northern side of the entrance of the Strait being recognised at a distance of about twenty miles, and not long after the long gravelspit of Dungeness could be distinguished. The land at first presented a far from interesting appearance, resembling a long low black wall, sloping down into the water at one end. As we gradually approached the Cape, it assumed a variety of forms, a phenomenon due to a species of mirage produced by irregular refraction, and which we often subsequently observed strikingly manifested in the eastern portion of the Strait—distant mountain-peaks which in the ordinary condition of the atmosphere were invisible, being thrown up against the sky, and the forms of small islands, boats, and live objects, most singularly distorted.
We entered the celebrated Strait, the scene of our future labours for the next three years, early in the afternoon, with what wind there was ahead and a strong tide running against us, so that for some time we could only make between four and five knots an hour. In the eastern portion of the Strait, I may here observe, the state of the tide demands the careful attention of the navigator, on account of the extent of the rise and fall, and the force of the ebb and flow, which at one narrow part (the First Narrows, see map [by Alexander Keith Johnston]) varies from five to eight knots, so as to be either a great help or an almost insuperable obstacle to progression. As we steamed slowly on our way, a variety of well-marked points, such as Mount Aymond, the Asses' Ears, Mount Dinero, Cape Possession, and Direction Hills, on the Patagonian, and Mount Orange on the Fuegian side, were eagerly and carefully noted, and, at the same time, a line of soundings was taken for future use. I examined the soundings thus obtained, but the only substances to be observed were portions of fine black mud, with fragments of the shells of molluscs and barnacles, the latter of which (Balanus lœvis), which is very abundant in the Strait, were specially prevalent. The afternoon was cold, cloudy, and drizzling, though here and there parts of the Patagonian coast were lighted up with sunshine. Towards the latter part of the afternoon the tide turned in our favour, so that we progressed at a rate of upwards of twelve knots, though against a head wind. About six o'clock the weather cleared up, and along the Fuegian side there was a beautiful pale bluish-gray sky, sprinkled with delicate silvery clouds. By and by part of the Patagonian coast became exquisitely dappled with pale gold and purple tints, and the sun set gloriously right ahead of us, on this the longest day of the year. In the course of the evening a number of minute Diptera flew on board, while earlier in the day a small yellow ichneumon fly was captured. We passed rapidly through the First Narrows, and anchored, between ten and eleven P.M., in Philip Bay on the Fuegian coast. Shortly after this some of the men tried their luck in fishing, and although no fish were procured, a fine mass of a compound Tunicate, a species of the genus Aplidium, was hooked up, and handed over to me. This, which is apparently a new species, to which I have given the specific name of Fuegiense, was of a very firm consistence, a good deal resembling one of the fleshy alcyonoid polyp-masses. The ground colour of the mass was a bluish-gray, while the numerous animals imbedded in the common matrix were a light yellow. Attached to the base were two species of Algae, a hydroid Polyp, and a portion of an Annelid tube, formed of fragments of shells cemented together. We retired to rest, well pleased to be at anchor again, and looking forward with curiosity to the doings of the following day.
Next morning before breakfast, while the anchor was being got up, a jackass penguin (Spheniscus Magellanicus) paid us a visit, and was gazed at with much interest as the first specimen of that singular tribe of birds which we had beheld. The day was fine, though cold, and we pursued our way prosperously along the Strait, our course lying nearer the Patagonian than the Fuegian coast, and noticed many places, the names of which, in the course of time, became “familiar in our mouths as household words.” Our attention was arrested by the smoke of some Fuegian fires on the coast opposite us, and looking southward we descried some noble snow-crowned peaks, one of which was believed to be Mount Sarmiento, a mountain in Fuegia, nearly 7000 feet high, and designated in honour of the famous Spanish navigator Pedro Sarmiento. After clearing the Second Narrows, we passed not far from Elizabeth Island (named after “the bright occidental star”), and our sportsmen were much excited by the numbers of geese to be seen upon it. Many other birds were also noticed swimming in the water or flying about, including a few albatrosses, a number of gulls, and great quantities of cormorants with black and white plumage.
As we neared Cape Negro a change in the aspect of the country took place, for from the entrance of the Strait up to that point low-lying undulating plains, covered with yellow grass and entirely destitute of trees, occurred on both sides of the Strait; while from the Cape, south-westward, on the Patagonian side, the land assumed a much more elevated character, and was densely covered with wood—a few bare intervals, of limited extent only, here and there intervening. The line of demarcation is singularly striking, and, as we afterwards found, a change in the climate is initiated along with the change in the vegetation, the clear bright weather of the north-eastern part of the Strait being gradually succeeded, as the country becomes more and more mountainous and more thickly covered with trees, by an increase in the rainfall (which in the east is exceedingly small), till, in the western portion of the Strait and on the west coast of Patagonia, rain, as a rule, descends in torrents every day, and the whole country is wringing wet.
Between two and three o'clock we reached Punta Arenas, or Sandy Point, the site of a small settlement established by the Chilian government, and anchored in the roadstead—the intendénte [sic, intendente] or governor, Don Damian Riobo, coming off soon after to pay his respects, and, in conformity with instructions from his government, to render offers of assistance to Captain Mayne in carrying out the survey. The settlement, the only one in the Strait with the exception of a small outpost at Freshwater Bay, about twenty miles to the south-westward, was, at the time of our arrival, almost entirely a penal one, the population, with the exception of a few artizans, including a Russian and a Yankee blacksmith, etc., consisting of ChiKan convicts, transported for a variety of offences, and maintained under military discipline; a detachment of about fifty soldiers, under a captain and lieutenant, being stationed here to preserve order. About a year later, however, the number of the inhabitants was considerably increased by the arrival of about five hundred emigrants from Chiloe, who were subsidised by the Chilian government until able to maintain themselves in their new quarters. An intention was also cherished, I believe, to endeavour to establish a colony of Germans, at some future period, to assist in clearing the land; but I believe this has not yet been accomplished. There can, I think, be no doubt that the Chilian government have acted wisely in selecting Punta Arenas as the site of a colony, as, from the character of its climate and situation, it combines many advantages not to be met with in an equal degree in the country to the eastward or westward. Although the anchorage is decidedly inferior to that of Port Pamine to the south and westward, where a settlement was established, first by Sarmiento, in 1583, and afterwards by the Republic of Chili, in the present century, the climate is greatly superior, being much less humid. On the other hand, the situation excels any spot to be met with in the country to the north-eastwards, in possessing a sufficient rainfall, a small river, extensive forests where an abundant supply of timber may be procured, and considerable tracts of open ground suitable for cattle-grazing. There is, however, considerable room for doubting as to whether the colony can ever be seKsupporting. The climate, which, though very pleasant in summer—when there is beautiful weather, resembling that often met with in the end of September and beginning of October in Scotland—does not appear to be warm enough for the ripening of cereals, with the exception of the hardier kinds, such as rye and some forms of barley, although green crops, such as potatoes, pease, cabbages, and lettuce, often come to maturity. A deposit of coal, apparently of tertiary age, and probably of the same date with that occurring at Lota in South Chili, was discovered some years ago, but as yet it has not been worked to any great extent, and, I confess, it appeared to me of very inferior quality. Gold has also been found in the bed of the river; but it remains to be proved whether it occurs in sufficient quantity to pay extensive working. Timber there is in plenty; but, as gigantic forests exist in South Chili, the mother country can be but little benefited by it. Time, however, will alone show whether this opinion is correct; and I need hardly say I should be very glad to find it disproved by the steadily-increasing prosperity of the colony, which, besides owing many improvements to the able management of the present governor, Senor Viel, has, within the last year or two, been brought into more immediate contact with the civilised world by the passage of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's vessels through the Strait, on their way to and from Valparaiso. A curious instance of the changes that may occur within a very short period of years is furnished by the establishment of this new line of steamers; for at the commencement of our survey there was no regular traffic through the Strait, so that it was quite an event to encounter a vessel, while probably before these words are in type there will be a fortnightly service in each direction.
Sandy Point, the general appearance of which may be gathered from the accompanying sketch of one end of it, as seen in winter, with snow on the ground, consists of a number of wooden dwellings, grouped so as to form one long street, running nearly parallel with the beach, but situated on a low ridge, at about five minutes' walk from it, with a few shorter ones directed at right angles to it, and near one end a considerable square space of grass—the future plaza—at one side of which a large wooden house, intended for a school, was erected not long after our first visit. The three principal buildings are the church, the governor's house, and nearly opposite this the Port, an edifice much like a child's house of cards, and which, from the associations suggested by it with the habitation of two time-honoured functionaries, soon received from some of the officers of the “Nassau” the irreverent appellation of “the Punch and Judy House.” The sketch gives a very correct idea of the appearance presented by the citadel in question, and the government house.
I need hardly state that the greater number of us were eager to land; and accordingly, immediately after the governor's visit was over, two boats left the ship, one with Captain Mayne and several of the surveyors, who were anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the clear bright afternoon to obtain a set of sights; and the other well filled with a party equipped with guns and collecting apparatus.
The landing-place, close to which are a couple of boathouses, is not so good as might be, the boats requiring to be run up on a shelving beach, on which, after certain gales, a furious surf beats. A wooden pier, on piles, was in course of construction at the time of our arrival, and when it was finished was found to be of considerable benefit; but, unfortunately, it was carried away nearly bodily by a violent easterly gale at the close of our first season, and when we bid a final farewell to the settlement in April 1869, it had not been replaced.
On landing, my attention was at once arrested by a considerable number of plants in bloom on the flat ground between the beach and the settlement. Among the most plentiful were a beautiful species of Sisyrinchium (Symphyostemon narcissoides, with a flower-stem about nine inches high, crowned with drooping white bells streaked with purple, and possessed of a delicious fragrance; an acaulescent composite plant, with pale purplish-white very fragrant flowers; and a variety of the common dandelion (Taraxicum officinale var. lœvigatum), a plant which enjoys a wide range, being distributed over Europe, Northern and Central Asia, and North America. Here also a pretty little narrow-leaved barberry, now almost out of flower, covered the ground in many spots with its prostrate stems; while, a little further from the beach, the handsome yellow-flowered Geum Magellanicum formed a conspicuous object. On the banks of the ridge on which the houses stand, a Calceolaria (G. plantaginea) with four or five somewhat hairy ovato-rhomboid radical leaves, and a flower-stem varying from six inches to a foot high, surmounted by three or four elegant yellow flowers; a Viola, with similarly coloured flowers; a shrubby composite plant, the Chilabothrium amelloides, growing from two to three feet high, and bearing rather large yellow-disked and white-rayed flowers; and a small fern (Lomaria alpina), common in temperate South America, and also met with in New Zealand, Van Diemen's Land, and the mountains of South Australia, were abundant. A neighbouring watercourse yielded me specimens of a stout-growing Composite, with large heads of white flowers, nearly equalling in size those of the ox-eye daisy, as well as several grasses, one of which, the Flilczum alpinum, is not uncommon on the Highland mountains of Scotland. One still more familiar plant was the shepherd's purse (Capsella Bursa-pastoris); but this evidently must have been introduced through the agency of man, as I never saw it except in the vicinity of the settlement.
Before setting out on our walk, several of us went to see some tame guanacos (quadrupeds to which I shall make frequent reference in this narrative), kept in an enclosure near the governor's house. While we were engaged in inspecting them, they favoured us with a fine illustration of their spitting capacities, as exercised upon a party of Yankee sailors who had run from a ship passing through the Strait some months previously, and were now exercising their ingenuity in teasing the poor animals. Gradually the guanacos approached nearer and nearer the paling which separated them from their assailants, at the same time going through a process of churning up the saliva in their mouths, till, all preparations being completed, a volley was projected to a distance of two or three feet, after the fashion of a hot-house squirt, right in the faces of the enemy, who precipitately retreated.
This instructive exhibition over, I proceeded to walk down to the beach in search of spoils in the shape of marine animals. On the flat ground over which I passed many specimens of a little bird, which reminded me of a Saxicola, were hopping about and lighting on the low bushes. This was the Centrites niger,§ widely distributed over South America, being found, according to Mr. Darwin, “in La Plata, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and on the west coast, at least as far north as the valley of Copiapo, in Northern Chili.”§§ The plumage of the male bird is russet and black, and that of the female grayish; and though a bold little bird, our sportsmen at first found them so difficult to shoot, that the cognomen of “ironclads” was bestowed upon them. I was much perplexed as to the true nature of a large long-necked bird which was stalking about on the open ground at a distance, but, later in the day, saw several specimens on the wing, and ascertained that they were a large species of ibis, the Theristicus melanopis, known to the Chilians under the name of “Bandurria.”
On reaching the shore I found a few additional plants growing in the sand, a little above high-water mark. Of these one was a Plantago, much like P. maritima; and another, a Senecio (S. candidans), with a tall stem and large undivided leaves, clothed with a white woolly substance, and yellow rayless flowers. This latter plant I often met with subsequently, in various localities in the eastern part of the Strait, in general forming a well-marked zone above highwater mark, and also at the edge of small salt lakes near the sea, the peculiar colour of its foliage causing it to be easily recognised at a considerable distance. One or two of the other species of Senecio, occurring in the Strait, also possess this woolly character; but none of them are plants of the same stature, nor do they grow quite so close to the sea.
It was now nearly low tide, and a large spit, from which the name Punta Arenas is derived, was consequently uncovered, and at its outer extremity a flock of terns (Sterna cassini), with black-crowned heads and pale ash-coloured and white bodies, were busily engaged in feeding, where a bed of small mussels (Mytilus Chilensis) extended. The birds allowed me to approach them rather near, and then rose in a body into the air, flying about in a cloud over my head, and uttering a torrent of sharp angry cries, indignant at the stranger who had ventured to disturb them at their meal. I carefully searched the rounded stones on the spit for marine animals, but was not very successful in my quest. Higher up on the beach, however, I met with many stranded masses of MacTocystis, and from their branching roots extracted a number of live specimens of a curious Isopodous crustacean (Sphceroma lanceolatum), which coils itself up in a ball when alarmed, as well as some molluscous horny egg-cases of a pale yellow colour, which subsequent research proved to be those of the Fusus Geversianus, a characteristic Magellan mollusc.
Where the beach was free from stones and formed of fine sand, I picked up many specimens of a species of a very remarkable genus of Isopoda, of which about half-a-dozen species have been described from South America, and all, save one which is found on the Chilian coast, from Patagonia, Fuegia, and the Falkland Islands. This was the Serolis Orbigniana, of which I give a sketch. It is closely allied to the S. Fabricii, the type of the genus, but differs from that species in having the extremity of the last segment of the pleon deeply excavated instead of presenting a rounded tip. In common with the other members of the genus, it certainly presents a wonderful resemblance, at first sight, to the extinct Trilobites, of which it was at one time supposed to be an ally, though differing widely from them in certain important points, such as the possession of well-developed limbs and long antennae.
Pursuing our way along the shore I picked up many fragments of a large crab, of which I afterwards obtained excellent specimens. This was a species of Lithodes, the L. antarctica, much like our northern European species, L. arctica, but sufficiently distinct from it, and attaining a considerably greater size. It is one of the commonest of the Crustacea of the Strait of Magellan, and on the west coast of South America extends as far north as the island of Chiloe, where I saw it. Like the other species of the genus, the pleon or tail-flap of the female is orbicular in form, and remarkable for its enormous development and the absence of bilateral symmetry exhibited in its shelly plates; those of the left side, which alone bear the pleopoda or ovigerous appendages being double (or even more) the size of those on the right. The animal is of a bright brick-red or scarlet colour, and the carapace and limbs are armed with strong spines, which however, are more than twice as numerous in young as in old individuals. The species appears to inhabit rocky ground in rather shallow water, and its movements are very sluggish.† The last joints of the limbs (especially the anterior ones) are provided with numerous fasciculi of short yellowish-brown hairs, and the inner surface of the pincers is partially invested with a blackish horny substance.
† As a curious fact in the history of our northern Lithodes arctica, I may mention that some years ago, in removing the carapace of a female, I found five live specimens of a bivalve mollusc, a species of Saxicava, lying in the branchial chamber under the gills.
Many gulls were feeding on the beach, and here and there a dull brown-coloured hawk was to be seen diligently investigating some of the débris left by the waves. It was a bold bird, not taking alarm till approached very closely, when, uttering a querulous scream, it would fly off and perch again at a short distance. This was the Chimango (Milvago Chimango), very common in the eastern part of the Strait, and throughout Chili. I may here remark that I never observed it feed on living prey, and almost invariably noticed it on the beach or its immediate vicinity.
A few birds were shot on this occasion by the other members of the party, including a specimen of a thrush (Turdus Falklandicus), on the throat of which I found the examples of a large tick (probably a species of Dermanyssus), attached, and two long-tailed green parroquets (Conurus cyanolysius). The occurrence of a member of the parrot family so far south strikes the traveller at first sight as very remarkable, and it is not surprising that it should have attracted the attention of several of the earlier navigators who braved the dangers of the Strait. Thus, in the voyage of Oliver van Noort in 1599, and in that of Spilbergen undertaken fifteen years later, reference is made to fair woods in the Strait of Magellan full of parrots; and Captain Wood, in his interesting narrative of this “Voyage through the Streights of Magellan in 1699-70,” mentions that in a wood at Port Famine he “saw five birds, among which was a small parrot or parakite.” The species appears to be tolerably common throughout the wooded country on the shores of the Strait, and the channels on the west coast of Patagonia, and is also abundant at Chiloe. It generally flies in small flocks, which herald their approach by a series of short screams, lighting on the topmost branches of the trees, where they scramble about with their bodies lying close to the boughs, a habit which, together with their green colour, which closely approximates to that of the foliage, renders them difficult to perceive, and thus screens them from danger. According to Captain King (and an examination of the contents of the stomachs of various individuals has enabled me to verify this observation), they feed chiefly on the seeds of the Winter's-bark tree, to be afterwards mentioned.
Our delightful ramble this day was brought to a close about 8 P.M., when we returned to the ship, and the only circumstance worthy of record that occurred during the evening was the capture on a fishing-line of a cuttle-fish of the genus Octopus, which was exceedingly agile, and exhibited most decided objections to being made a martyr to science. This, almost the only species of Cephalopod which I met with in the Strait, is, I believe, the 0. megalocyathus, characterised by the large size of the sucking cups on the arms, and seems to be far from rare, as I dredged specimens in many localities; and on two or three occasions numerous large individuals were found lying on the beach at Sandy Point after the prevalence of severe gales.
The 23d was a pleasant bright day. A surveying party who went on shore in the morning to take sights, brought off with them, on their return to the ship, a nest with eggs, which they found in a hollow in a sandy bank. In the afternoon a small party of us landed, and had an agreeable walk through the forest at the back of the settlement. Its general aspect reminded us in many respects of our own familiar English woods, with the exception that there was a greater preponderance of prostrate trunks and erect whitened skeletons. The prevailing tree was the antarctic beech (Fagus antarctica), but an evergreen species of the same genus (F. betuloides), which occurs much more plentifully farther west in the Strait, and the Winter's-bark tree, were also present. The accompanying sketch may assist in giving the reader some idea of the foliage of the three trees, which I shall here briefly notice. The first, or antarctic beech, which forms the mass of the woods from where the wooded country begins for some distance to the westward of Port Famine, is a very beautiful tree, frequently attaining very large dimensions, both as regards height and girth. Its method of branching is considerably different from that of our native beech, and its bark likewise differs in having a rough instead of a smooth surface. Young trees growing by themselves on the outskirts of the woods present frequently a most graceful appearance when lit up by the sun's rays, and often reminded me in their habit of growth of a cedar. The leaves are rather small, being seldom more than an inch in length, of an oblong-ovate form, with rounded teeth at the margin, and their surface is rougher than that of the British beech. The tint of the foliage, though not of that delicate tender green shade which is the glory of our beeches in spring, is very beautiful, and the autumnal tints on the fading leaves are fine, varying from golden yellow to a rich reddish brown. The beech-nuts are very small—not a sixth of the size of those with which we are familiar. I was interested by observing that, in the western part of the Strait, where the following species prevails at the level of the sea and for a considerable distance up the mountain sides, almost to the exclusion of the deciduous beech, a well-marked zone of the latter is often to be met with above the evergreen woods, and small stunted bushes also frequently occur on the summits of the mountains, at a height of 1500 to 2000 feet. In autumn, this deciduous zone becomes peculiarly well marked, in consequence of its light reddish-brown colour, which contrasts remarkably with the dark green hues of the woods below.
The evergreen beech (Fagus hetuloides) which, from its peculiar characters, was not recognised to be a species of this genus by the earlier voyagers, some of whom seem to have regarded it as a species of myrtle, is, upon the whole, the commonest tree from the westward of Port Famine, throughout the Strait, and along the west coast of Patagonia, as far as the Chonos Archipelago, where the character of the vegetation is rather more diversified. It sometimes attains a considerable size where the individual tree has space to develop itself, but I do not think ever equals the antarctic species in either height or bulk, and, as a rule, the trees of it grow so close together, that they seldom exceed 15 or 20 feet in height. The bark is smooth and of a gray colour, a good deal resembling that of the common beech, and the leaves are oval, crenulated, or serrated at the edges, and of a dark shining green colour. They vary much in size in different situations: those most exposed to the winds being, in general, much smaller than those that grow in more sheltered localities. They never exhibit those folds which the young leaves of the antarctic species do, in common with these of our native beech. The wood of both the antarctic and the evergreen species is, I believe, of rather good quality; but the value of the larger trunks is considerably depreciated by the tendency to decay to which the heart-wood is liable.
The third tree, or Winter's-bark (Drimys Winteri) is very different in almost all its characters from the other two. It belongs to the same order as the magnolia, and forms a noble tree, with smooth gray bark, leaves from three to four inches long, shaped somewhat like those of a laurel, green on the upper and silver-gray on the under surface, and masses of rather large white flowers at the end of the branches. It extends throughout the wooded country of the Strait and western Patagonia, and is abundant in the wooded parts of Chili, where, however, it becomes somewhat modified in form, and has been regarded as a distinct species, under the name of B. Chilensis. It was noticed by nearly all the older voyagers through the Strait, and derives its popular name of Winter's-bark from Captain Winter, who accompanied Sir Francis Drake in his circumnavigation of the globe, during the years 1577-80, and employed its bark as a medicine, and also in the way of condiment for his crew, finding it a useful anti-scorbutic. It is thus noticed by Sir Eichard Hawkins, who visited the Strait later in the same century:—
Some of our idle time we spent in gathering the barke and fruit of a certaine Tree which we found in all places of the Straits, where we found Trees. This Tree carrieth his fruit in clusters like a Haw-thorne, but that it is greene, each being of the bignesse of a Pepper-corne, and euery of them contayning within four or five granes, twice as bigge as a Musterd-seed, which broken are white within, as the good Pepper, and bite much like it, but hotter. The barke of this Tree hath savour of all kinde of Spices together, most comfortable to the Stomack, and held to be better than any Spice what-soeuer. And for that, a learned Countriman of ours, Doctor Turner, hath written of it by the name of Winter's Barke, what I have said may suffice. The leaf of this Tree is of a whitish greene, and is not vnlike to the Aspen leafe.
A very good description, if we except the remark on the form of the leaf, which inclines one to believe that the worthy knight's conceptions of an aspen leaf must have been somewhat vague.
Two of the party gained a momentary glimpse of a fox in the gorge through which the river, already referred to, flows; and we saw a pair of large woodpeckers—the plumage of the female of which was black, while the male was provided with a scarlet crest—run spirally up the stem of a tree, tapping the bark as they went. This species, the Campephilus Magellanicus, first, I believe, described by Captain King,§ was only met with at Sandy Point, and that but during our first season; for as the colony extended, and a considerable amount of timber was in consequence felled, several species of birds became very scarce, probably retiring into the fastnesses of the forest. Two circumstances specially arrested my attention in the subsequent examination of several specimens of this woodpecker—viz. the enormous quantities of parasitic Anoplura occurring on the feathers, greatly exceeding in number those found on any other birds, with the exception of some of the carrion-feeding hawks; and the extreme tenacity with which the skin adhered to the muscles of the body, neck, and head,—requiring to be carefully dissected off, and adhering to the crown of the skull almost as intimately as periosteum.
§ A possible mixup here: In The Zoological Journal,§§ King describes the Picus Magellanicus King, not the Campephilus Magellanicus cited here by Cunningham. Elsewhere, Campephilus magellanicus Gray is attributed to G. R. Gray and described in his Genera of Birds, vol. II, p. 436.
§§ vol. III, p. 430. London: G. B. Sowerby, 1828.
A few species of Coleoptera were picked up, including a pretty Carabus (O. suturalis) and one of the Rhyncophora, with a blunt projecting spine on each elytron; but insect-life, in general, appeared to be at a discount, and a more intimate acquaintance with the entomology of the Strait did not cause me to alter my opinion in this respect.
In the evening several of the men were amusing themselves in fishing from the ship, and some specimens of a curious worm-like fish, the Myxine Australis, discovered by Mr. Darwin, were taken.§ A dead valve of a bivalve mollusc was also obtained, with a curious flattened disc-like horny case, about an inch and a half in diameter, attached to the inner surface, which, on being opened, was found to contain three shells of a young Gasteropod, apparently a species of Fusus. The shells were about one-fourth of an inch long, of a delicate pink colour, with a thickened and distorted spire.
On the following day I landed with three of the officers who were bent on parrot-shooting, and remained in the woods with them till late in the afternoon botanising and zoologising. On the outskirts of the trees I found several plants that I had not observed in my former walks, and among these were a buttercup growing about a foot high (Ranunculus peduncularis) and a white-flowered Anemone (A. decapetala), which, according to Dr. Hooker, possesses “a very extended range throughout the American continent,”—in North America abounding “from the Arctic Circle to the Columbia river on the west coast, and New York on the east; while, in South America, it reappears in Peru and Chili on the west side, and in South Brazil in the east, extending from each as far south as the Strait of Magellan.” It was a bright sunny day, and numerous butterflies belonging to two species—one apparently a Pieris, and the other a small copper-coloured Lycœna—were fluttering about the flowers. These, with two other species subsequently taken, constitute the only diurnal Lepidoptera observed by me in these regions.
On penetrating into the woods, my interest was speedily excited by a variety of plants, among which the following were the most striking:—On the branches of many of the beech-trees were numerous rounded nest-like masses, about the size of the human head, and of a yellowish colour. These proved to be formed of a curious leafless parasitic plant, allied to mistletoe, a species of the genus Myzodendron, the M. pundulatum. The Myzodendra are, I believe, limited to southern South America, occurring in the forests from Cape Horn as far as Valdivia. Four or five species have been described fromFuegia, and their structure and method of growth have been fully elucidated by Dr. Hooker in the Flora Antarctica, to which I must refer the reader for full details concerning them. The most striking peculiarity of the genus consists in the possession by the fruit of a plumose pappus, composed of three downy-looking setae, formed of very delicate elongated viscid cells, filled with a glutinous matter like that of the fruit of the mistletoe, and which serve to attach the fruit to the tree, till the seed germinates and takes root in the bark. On a subsequent occasion I met with a second species (M. brachystachyum) also occurring on the beeches, but differing from the M. pundulatum in the possession of leaves, and the much greater thickness of the twigs.
Another parasitic plant, of a very different order, of which I obtained many specimens in all stages of growth, was the remarkable Cyttaria Darwinii, an ascomycetous fungus, which, like the Myzodendra, occurs on the stems and branches of the deciduous and evergreen beeches. It is of a nearly spherical form, varying in size, according to its age, from the dimensions of a pea to those of a moderate-sized apple. When young it is of a pale yellowish-white colour, and has a uniform smooth surface; but, as it advances in age, it assumes a bright yellow tint, verging on orange, and the surface becomes perforated with numerous pits, which are lined with the hymenium. It constitutes one of the articles of food of the Fuegian Indians; but, as Mr. Darwin has remarked, it has little to recommend it, being very tasteless and of a tough consistence.§
§ At the above link, note the Darwin says nothing about the fungus being tasteless.
Growing in plenty under the shade of the trees were two species of orchids—one, an Asarca (A. Kingii), with a peduncle sometimes as much as eighteen inches high, and a spike of yellow flowers; and the other, the beautiful Codonorchis Lessonii. The latter elegant species bears a slender stem, about a foot high, with two or three verticillate leaves, and a terminal, solitary, rather large, triangular-shaped white flower, delicately marked with purple, particularly on the labellum, the upper surface of which is covered with peculiar raised glands. The plant appears to possess but a limited range in the Strait of Magellan, as I never met with it to the westward of Port Famine; and it is, therefore, limited (in so far as my observations extend) in the Strait to woods characterised by a prevalence of the Antarctic beech. Two years later I found many specimens of it in woods in the north of Chiloe, and probably it does not extend northwards far beyond this point. Another pretty plant obtained on this occasion was the Gardamine geraniifolia, the flowers of which are of a delicate white tint, and the leaves of a tender green and very elegantly divided; and two species of barberry were also met with—one, the handsome Berberis ilicifolia, now out of bloom; and the other, the B. dulcis, which still presented a few lingering flowers. The former of these is always met with either in woods or their outskirts, sometimes forming dense thickets, and the plants attain a very large size, being sometimes as much as upwards of ten feet in height, with the main stem three inches in diameter. The branches are in general much overgrown with mosses and lichens; the leaves resemble those of the holly; and the flowers, sometimes nearly as large as cherry-blossoms, are of a splendid orange-yellow hue, verging on flame-colour, and are arranged in corymbs. The month of November seems to be the principal flowering time; but a second flowering, much more sparse in its character, frequently takes place in the autumnal months of April and May. The berries are of the bluish-purple colour so common in species of the genus, and of an elongated form. They contain large seeds, and are insipid to the taste. The latter species (B. dulcis s. huxifolia), though often met in the outskirts of woods, is equally characteristic of open situations, occurring very plentifully on the plains of Eastern Patagonia, where it is frequently the only shrub to be seen. It forms thick bushes, from three to eight feet high, which often exist in clumps together, affording a good shelter in camping out, and furnishing a comfortable lair for the puma and other wild animals. The leaves are much smaller than those of B. ilicifolia, and are generally about the size of, or a little larger than, those of a Box, hence one of the specific names. The young leaves are frequently attacked by a parasitic fungus of a bright orange colour, the Æcidium Magellanicum; and those in this condition are generally of much larger size than the healthy ones, as well as distorted in form. The flowers are much smaller than those of the holly-leaved species, of a paler yellow tint, and arranged in a more scattered manner. The berries, which are bluish-purple, with a bloom on the surface, and about the size of black currants, possess a flattened spherical form, and a very agreeable sweet taste, with a dash of acid in it. They are justly mentioned with approval by several of the older voyagers,—Spilbergen speaking of “store of shrubs with sweet blackberries;” and Wood remarking of the country in the eastern part of the Strait between Elizabeth's Island and the Second Narrows, that “it produces also small Berries, which are excellent good Fruit, and to which we gave the Name of Magellan Grapes. They are of a purple Colour, seeded, and taste like our European Grapes: they grow singly on small Bushes, like Berries.” And again, in his description of Port Famine, observing that, betwixt the wood and the water-side, “there grew Abundance of Magellan Grapes, Hearts, and other small Berries, which are all good Fruit, and grow all the Streights over.” The species occurs throughout the Strait and along the west coast of South America. I met with it in abundance as far north as Chiloe, the B. ilicifolia being, so far as my observations go, confined to the wooded portion of the Strait and western channels, and not extending north of the Gulf of Penas. The wood of both species is of a bright yellow colour, and the branches of B. dulcis burn with a vivid flame. I may conclude what I have to say on the barberries of the Strait by remarking, that the only other species of the genus which occurs in this region is the little B. empetrifolia, which grows on sandy ground between the woods and the sea-beach, never occurring under the shade of trees. Like the other two species, it blooms early in the season. The flowers are of a pale yellow colour, and deliciously fragrant; and the fruits, though small, are sweet and pleasant to the taste.
Many parroquets were shot by the sportsmen on this occasion, as well as a specimen of a pretty little hawk (Tinnunculus sparverius) with bluish ash-coloured and rufous plumage, which we afterwards found to be common in the Strait. It is abundant in Chili, where I was told it bears the name of “anicla” and is, I believe, widely distributed over the American continent. It is a bold little bird, as the following incident, which occurred the same day, will show. While walking in an open space near the entrance of the woods, I suddenly heard a rustle of wings, and, on turning round to ascertain the cause, an individual of this species flew right at me, coming within a foot of my head. It then perched on the dead branch of a tree, about a couple of yards off, and scolded at me. As I was without firearms wherewith to secure the prize, I threw some pieces of stick at it, when it made a second swoop at me, again alighting on a neighbouring tree and scolding fiercely. This manoeuvre was repeated several times until I was fairly clear of the wood.
The 25th, Christmas Day, was celebrated by a large party of the officers (for the most part armed with guns) landing in the morning and spending the day on shore; the greater number of us wending our way along the shore, and the open flat country, dotted with shrubs of barberry and Chilahothrium., which stretches for some miles to the north-east of the settlement, between the woods and the shore, and which afterwards received the appellation of the “Bandurria plains,” in consequence of being much frequented by the bird of that name. On the beach I found many dead specimens of two bivalve molluscs, the Chione exalbida and Darina Solenoides, as well as fragments of the shells of the Fusus Geversianus and Voluta Magellanica; and on the plains I obtained several species of plants which I had not previously seen. Among those which specially attracted my attention, I may mention a small papilionaceous yellow-flowered plant, presenting a considerable resemblance to our own Lotus corniculatus, so commonly met with on sandy downs—(the Adesmia lotoides, one of the three Magellanic representatives of a genus chiefly characteristic of Chili and Patagonia); an orchid with large greenish flowers, marked with black veins (the Chloraea Magellanica); a Composite plant with yellowish orange rayless flowers, possessed of a sweet honey-like odour; a plant of the same order, with stiff, narrow leaves, armed with minute spines, and pretty fragrant blue flowers (the Homoianthus echinulatus), and a large fungus of the genus Lycoperdon, forming masses about the size of a child's head, and with the outer coat, in general, cracked into polygonal fragments.
Swallows were sweeping rapidly over the plains, and several small flocks of ibises were seen, but no specimens shot, owing to their extreme wariness when on the ground, and the height at which they flew in the air when they suspected danger. A single specimen of a snipe was, however, procured, as well as an example of that marvellous bird, the Logger-head or steamer-duck, which was suddenly disturbed while it was reposing on the beach, and with great rapidity took to the water, where it was shot, before it had paddled out any great distance, by two of the officers, one of whom afterwards evinced a most commendable zeal for the advancement of science by undressing and swimming out for it. This, our first sight of a bird of which we had heard or read so much, caused great excitement at the time, as we were not then aware that it was one of the most common birds in the Strait. Deferring my observations upon the steamer-duck for a few pages farther, I may here remark that the snipe, which, along with the other specimens of birds collected during the voyage, was submitted to Messrs. Sclater and Salvin for determination, proved to be the Gallinago Paraguice, which, I believe, is also common in the countries bordering on the river Plate. Later in the season (in the month of April), we met with it in considerable numbers on a comparatively limited tract of country covered with low bushes of Chilabothrium. As a rule, it lay very close to the ground, and would not take wing till the sportsman was within two or three yards of it, when it flew off, lighting again at about thirty or forty yards distant. A few specimens were seen on the open ground, nearer the eastern entrance of the Strait, and one or two were also shot in the damp wooded region of the west; but we nowhere met with the bird in plenty save in the neighbourhood of Sandy Point.
A fine female specimen of the large woodpecker, already mentioned, was this day shot by Captain Mayne, and one or two small birds obtained, but nothing else deserving of special record in this place. We returned on board to a late dinner, when the wardroom was decorated with Myzodendron and holly-leaved barberry, in lieu of mistletoe and holly, and a large party sat down to the feast, which, in addition to orthodox viands in the shape of roast goose and sucking-pig, was distinguished by the introduction of a parrot-pie, which was voted excellent by all who partook of it.
Next day I was busily occupied throughout the morning, in skinning birds. In the afternoon I landed with two of the officers, and walked with them over the plains, to visit a strip of brackish water, about five miles distant, which, in consequence of its communicating with the sea at high-tide, was dignified by the name of “the Lagoon.” At the place of its occurrence the open ground ceases, the woods coming down to the edge of the beach; and my companions had been informed that waterfowl were often to be met with in this sheltered situation. It was a most beautiful day, and we reached our destination after a very agreeable walk, almost everything observed on our way possessing the charm of novelty. In the strip of water with which the tide had begun to mingle I noticed many live specimens of the Serolis Orbigniana, some slowly crawling along the bottom, while others rapidly paddled along the surface on their backs. Leaving my associates to walk farther along the beach in pursuit of some ducks at a short distance, I entered the woods, and was greatly delighted by their beauty, for the leaves of the beeches still retained their fresh greenness, and an endless variety of light and shade was produced by the slanting beams of the descending sun stealing in here and there. Perfect silence reigned around, save for the trickling of a small stream which wound its way through the trees, and the occasional hum of a musquito, or the distant tap of a woodpecker. The ground in many places was carpeted with mosses; the lovely Codonorchis displayed its white flowers in abundance, and many of the fallen trunks were thickly fringed with the delicately-cut fronds of the Cystopteris fragilis, which, in common with several other species of our native ferns, possesses a very wide range. In Hooker's Synopsis Filicum its habitat is given as “Europe and Asia everywhere from Iceland to Kamtschatka, from the Arctic regions to Madeira and the Himalayas, where it ascends to 15,000 feet; mountains of Abyssinia and Fernando Po; South Africa; Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Sandwich Islands; temperate N. and S. America; and mountains in the intermediate tropical zone.”
After some time spent in exploration I rejoined my companions, and, as it was getting late, we began to retrace our steps homewards. It was a lovely serene evening, and an exquisite soft light was shed over the sward near the sea, and on the scattered beeches close to the woods, many of which reminded us of cedars in the manner of their growth; and, to add to our pleasure, thrushes made their appearance on some of the topmost boughs of the trees, and poured forth a flood of melody most grateful to the ear.
While we were engaged in looking for a place to cross a stream, with the intricate windings of which it took some experience to become acquainted, a large owl was discovered perched on the branch of a neighbouring tree, and shot. It proved to be a fine specimen of the Bubo Magellanicus, a species which, I am informed by Mr. Sclater, ranges over nearly the whole extent of North and South America, being identical with the well-known Virginian Horned Owl. We were struck with the cat-like appearance which its great yellow eyes cemmunicated to its countenance. The plumage of this species, which sometimes exceeds two feet in length, is beautifully mottled with a variety of shades of black, brown, and gray. In the Strait of Magellan, besides occurring in the wooded districts, it is far from rare in the open country, where it sometimes may be seen perched on the barberry bushes, or sailing quietly along on the lookout for its prey, which consists in great measure of rodents of various species. We got on board that evening between nine and ten P.M.
The following day (27th) I was busily occupied all forenoon in skinning the steamer-duck shot on Christmas day; and as I shall frequently refer to the bird in the course of my narrative, I shall offer a few general remarks on its history in this place. The earliest notice of the steamer duck with which I am acquainted occurs in the voyage of the celebrated Pedro Sarmiento, who visited the Strait in 1582; and in an account of the principal birds of the Strait, describes
patos par das y bermejas sin pluma que ne vuelan, sino a vuela pié corren, y par el agua no se pueden levantar sinó á vuela pié, dando con las alones a manero de remo. Huyen por el agila con mucha velocidad, y desan un rastro por el agua como un bajel quando vaga.§
For the next mention of the bird we are indebted to the narrative of the circumnavigation of the world by Oliver van Noort, undertaken sixteen years later. It is there stated, that while in the Strait of Magellan in January 1600, they were driven by a storm into Goose Bay, “so-called of the store of that Fowle, their found fit for swiming and long diuing, but vnable to flie.”†
† It is plain that steamer-ducks and not penguins are intended, as the [l]atter birds are mentioned elsewhere in the narrative.
There does not appear to be any mention of the bird either in the voyages of Cavendish or of Drake, nor in those of any of the English navigators until after the middle of the seventeenth century; but in Wood's voyage through the Strait in 1669 reference is made to “great Blue Ducks, which last are not very shy”—a very brief description, but which applies more to the steamer-duck than to any other bird which he could have encountered. In the following century, the steamer-duck is noticed by several voyagers, and among these, by one of the most scientific navigators the world has ever seen—the celebrated Captain Cook. In his “Voyage towards the South Pole and round the World, performed by His Majesty's Ships the ‘Resolution’ and ‘Adventure,’ in the years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775,” he remarks, in his account of Christmas Sound, Tierra del Euego, that “here is a kind of duck, called by our people race-horses, on account of the great swiftness with which they run on the water; for they cannot fly, the wings being too short to support the body in the air. This bird is at the Falkland Islands, as appears by Perety's Journal;” and again, in his description of Staten Land:—“Here were ducks, but not many, and some of that sort we called race-horses. We shot some, and found them to weigh twenty-nine or thirty pounds; those who ate of them said they were very good.” The first detailed account, however, of the habits of the steamer-duck is given by that intelligent and accurate observer of nature, Captain Philip [sic, Phillip] Parker King, in his narrative of the voyage of the “Adventure” and “Beagle.” He states that, at Eagle Bay, beyond Cape San Isidro, in the Strait of Magellan,† …
† This was about the beginning of 1827.
Here we saw, for the first time, that most remarkable bird the steamer-duck. Before steam-boats were in general use, this bird was denominated, from its swiftness in skimming over the surface of the water, the ‘race-horse,’ a name which occurs frequently in Cook's, Byron's, and other voyages. It is a gigantic duck, the largest I have met. It has the lobated hind toe placed far backwards, and other characteristics of the oceanic ducks. The principal peculiarity of this bird is the shortness and remarkably small size of the wings, which, not having sufficient power to raise the body, serve only to propel it along rather than through the water, and are used like the paddles of a steam-vessel. Aided by these and its strong broad-webbed feet, it moves with astonishing velocity. It would not be an exaggeration to state its speed at from twelve to fifteen miles an hour. The peculiar form of the wing, and the short rigid feathers which cover it, together with the power this bird possesses of remaining a considerable time under water, constitute a striking link between the genera Anas and Aptenodytes, It has been noticed by many former navigators. The largest we found measured forty inches from the extremity of the bill to that of the tail, and weighed thirteen pounds; but Captain Cook mentions, in his voyage, that the weight of one was twenty-nine pounds. It is very difficult to kill them, on account of their wariness and the thick coat of feathers, which is impenetrable by anything smaller than swan shot. The flavour of their flesh is so strong and fishy, that at first we killed them solely for specimens. Five or six months, however, on salt provisions taught many to think such food palatable, and the seamen never lost an opportunity of eating them. I have preferred these ducks to salt beef, as a preventive against scurvy, rather than from liking their taste.§
§ In King's “Prepare the Beagle” chapter in Proceedings of the First Expedition.
King also distinguished two species of steamer-duck, whereof one (the Anas brachyptera of Latham, Micropterus brachypterus of Quoy and Gaimard), was entirely incapable of flight; and the other, which he denominated by the specific name of Patachonicus, was stated to be smaller in size than the Brachypterus, possessed of volant powers§, and differing also in other points relating to the plumage. Mr. Darwin, who describes the bird as he saw it at the Falklands, mentions but one species, the original Anas brachyptera, which he describes as incapable of flight.
§ The ability to fly.
I will now pass on to offer a few remarks on the bird, as derived from numerous observations which I had opportunities of making with regard to it at the Falkland Islands, in the Strait of Magellan, and on the west coast of Patagonia. At the outset I may state that, though undoubtedly some steamer-ducks fly, and others appear to be either wholly incapable of flight, or do not make use of their faculties in this respect, it is, nevertheless, my belief there is only one species of the genus Micropterus, and that the variations in size, capability of flight, and colouring of plumage, are chiefly dependent on the age of the birds. Secondly, it is my opinion that it is the young birds that can fly, and that the power of flight or the disposition to fly diminishes with age. I have arrived at this conclusion after the examination of a number of specimens of volant and non-volant birds, having ascertained from a careful inspection of the condition of the skeleton, and other points in the structure of the volant specimens (the plumage of which entirely corresponded with King's short description of Micropterus Patachonicus), that they were all immature individuals (probably the young of the year), and having as invariably found that the non-volant specimens were fullgrown birds.
The colouring of the plumage of the adult bird may be shortly described as follows:—The bill is orange-yellow, with the unguis black. The head is cinereous, becoming gradually paler as the individual increases in age, with a small patch beneath the eye, and a streak above it, nearly white. The whole of the upper surface, the throat, the superior part of the breast, and the wings, with the exception of a white speculum, are lead-gray. The lower part of the breast and abdomen vary from a tint verging on primrose-yellow to pale yellowishwhite; and the legs and feet are dark yellow.
Younger individuals (M. Patachonicus) are chiefly distinguished by their smaller size, their greenish-black bills, and prevalence of a reddish-brown hue on the throat and scapulars.
The average length of the adult birds may be stated as about thirty inches, and I do not think that I ever met with specimens measuring more than three feet from the unguis to the tip of the tail; so that I am inclined to believe that the specimen mentioned by King as forty inches in length was of exceptional size, and I feel no doubt that there must have been some mistake as regards the birds stated by Cook as weighing twenty-nine pounds.
The steamer-duck is very plentiful on the shores of the Falkland Islands, in the Strait of Magellan, and in the channels of Western Patagonia, as well as at Chiloe, which is the northernmost locality where I have seen it. It is generally to be observed in pairs, or small flocks of six or seven individuals, stationed on the rocks, or swimming about in the extensive beds of the “kelp,” which girdles the coast in most spots; but, occasionally, large flocks, composed of many hundreds are to be met with. When undisturbed in the water they swim quietly along, producing two peculiar notes,—that of the male being a sort of mew rapidly repeated, while that of the female is a kind of deep growl—and diligently searching the fronds of the kelp for the animals to be found thereon, or diving for mussels, which appear to be one of their staple articles of diet, as I always found fragments of the shells in the stomachs of those which I examined. The stomach is a most powerful organ, with very thick muscular coats, and the lower part of the windpipe or trachea of the male possesses an enlargement of considerable size. This, which is likewise to be met with in the males of many other species of ducks, serves to modify the voice. At the Falkland Islands, in common with many other birds, the steamer-ducks are much tamer than they are in the Strait of Magellan, allowing the observer to come within a few yards of them without accelerating their speed. When alarmed at the prospect of impending danger, however, they lose no time in getting up steam, paddling through the water at a marvellous rate by dint of flapping their little wings, the motion of which is so excessively rapid, that it is difficult to convince one's self that they are not revolving, leaving a long wake of foam like that produced by a miniature steamer behind them, and not ceasing this method of progression till a safe distance has intervened between them and the object of their dread. They often assist their escape, in addition, by diving, and coming up to the surface at a distance of many yards in a direction upon which it is impossible to calculate, when they show their great heads for a moment, and then repeat the manoeuvre. Though the rate of their speed has, I think, been considerably over-estimated by Captain King, it is yet so great as to render it impossible for a boat, however well manned, to overtake them, except by hemming them in to some small cove, where a gun may be used with a tolerable chance of success. It is in general in such situations that those birds which can fly take to the wing, and those which cannot have recourse to their diving powers. Even when hit they very frequently escape, for unless they receive a very heavy charge of shot, their coat of down and feathers protects them from serious injury. Their nests, in general placed on a sloping bank near the sea, and under the shelter of a low bush, are formed principally of grass. In these four or five large creamcoloured eggs (the dimensions of which may be roughly stated as three and a half by two and a quarter inches) are deposited, and covered with a layer of soft gray down. The young brood appear to be tended by the parent birds for a considerable period after they leave the egg, and may often be seen swimming after them. Like the old birds, they swim and dive actively, coming up after the plunge at a long distance. In the Strait and Channels, where only I had an opportunity of observing them, they were, like their parents, very wary. In a specimen shot in the Channels, the entire upper surface of the body, the sides of the head, and a gorget around the lower part of the neck, were covered with grayish-black down, while the under surface and a spot placed obliquely above and behind the eye were white. The bill, legs, and feet were black, with some light-coloured patches along the edge of the toes. The length, from the extremity of the bill to the tip of the tail, was fourteen inches. Ossification proceeds slowly in the bones of the cranium, and many of them continue unanchylosed or separable for a considerable period.
Leaving the reader to form his own conclusions from the data which I have supplied as to whether there are one or two species of steamer-duck, I resume my chronicle. On the afternoon of this day, on which I skinned our first Micropterus, or loggerhead as it is commonly called at the Falkland Islands, I went on shore with Dr. Campbell, whom the governor had asked to lend his medical aid to one or two of the colonists who were ailing, there being at this time no resident medical man at Punta Arenas, a deficiency which was not supplied till a year later. After these services had been rendered, the intendente showed us his house and garden and stock, which last consisted of the previously-mentioned guanacos, a number of calves and oxen, a large flock of kids, some tame upland geese (Chloephaga Magellanica), and two young ostriches (Rhea Americana). The last-mentioned birds succeeded in making their escape from their enclosure at the time of our visit, and rushing up and down the kitchen garden, pursued by the governor's secretary, furnished a most laughable spectacle, as, apparently determined to improve their unwonted opportunities to the uttermost, they ran about, snapping off the heads of the young cabbages and potatoes.
Later in the day, we walked some distance along the beach to the south-westward of the settlement, passing on our way the small Roman Catholic cemetery, with the adjacent space of ground where strangers are buried.
On the sandy beach several large jelly-fish (a species of Cyanœa), common in the Strait and at the Falkland Islands, with a disc in some cases nearly two feet in diameter, variegated with rich brown and purple, and long arms of the same colour, were lying stranded; as also some specimens of a sand-burrowing crab of the family Corystidœ, the Peltarion spinulosum, which was afterwards met with in various other localities to the eastward, though nowhere so abundantly as about Punta Arenas; and the examination of the rounded stones left uncovered by the retiring tide yielded us specimens of some additional marine animals, including a few Annelids, a large limpet (Patella Magellanica), a small Siphonaria, and an odd little flat-backed crab, the Halicarcinus planatus, which is very abundant throughout the Strait, and also at the Falkland Islands.
After laying in a supply of fresh provisions we left Sandy Point on the morning of the 29th December, and proceeded to the eastward to begin the surveying work. Retracing our course through the second and lirst Narrows, we anchored, early in the evening, off Direction Hills, at about two miles and a half from the shore, and here we remained at rest during the 30th, Sunday, a bright day with a cold wind blowing. Next morning we shifted berth farther into Possession Bay, anchoring nearly opposite a spot where a stream of water runs into the sea. In raising the anchor, a star-fish (Aster acanthion), and a fragment of a thin flat sponge, were brought up and consigned to spirits. At an early hour two surveying boats, with three officers, about a dozen men, and a supply of provisions calculated to last for about ten days, were despatched to the opposite Fuegian coast; and some hours later two other boats, in one of which was Captain Mayne and an officer who acted as his assistant, left the ship for the neighbouring Patagonian shore; the arrangement being, that Captain Mayne was to undertake the triangulation of the coast, while the officer in command of the second boat, which was the steam-cutter, was to be employed in taking soundings. Leaving the ship in the steam-cutter about one P.M., I joined the shore party. On my way to the land I noticed a considerable number of penguins and cormorants on the water. The latter swim with almost the whole of the body beneath the surface, the head and neck in general alone being visible; and when in this position they are difficult to shoot, as they dive at the flash of the gun. When on the wing, they are, on the contrary, very readily knocked over, as they commonly fly very close to a boat, apparently possessed of a spirit of great curiosity as to the strange animals on board. In flying they generally keep low down in the air, and flap their wings very rapidly, producing a sound somewhat resembling a distant locomotive.
Many terns were flying about over the water, and a portion of the beach was whitened by a great flock of gulls. Immediately above high-water mark, where the shingle and the turf met, a broad light-blue belt, extending for many hundred yards, formed a prominent object, presenting the appearance of a bed of blue flowers; but a nearer view of it showed that it was composed of a thick bank of dead mussel-shells. On landing I met Captain Mayne and his companion, and set out with them on a walk to Direction Hills, a few miles distant. Close to the beach two plants that I had not previously observed were growing plentifully. One of these was the Adesmia boronioides, belonging to the order Leguminosse, with stems about eighteen inches high, pinnate leaves, and bright yellow flowers, minutely streaked with brown in the heart. The whole surface of the plant, with the exception of the petals, was covered with large glands, from which a viscid substance, with a very aromatic balsamic odour, exuded. The other plant, also highly viscid and aromatic, was a shrubby composite, from one to three feet high, with the general aspect of a dwarf cypress or lignum vitse, very small scale-like leaves, arranged in fours in an imbricated manner, and small yellow flowers. This was the curious Lepidophyllum cupressiforme, originally described from specimens procured by the distinguished Commerson.§ It is a remarkable circumstance that two plants, both viscid, and both possessing the same aromatic odour, though belonging to very different orders, should be met with side by side. The Adesmia, though previously collected in Patagonia, does not appear to have been met with by any botanist in the Strait, and the Lepidophyllum, despite its peculiarity, has received a very small measure of notice from the various navigators through the Strait, as the only book, not of a strictly scientific nature, in which I have found it mentioned is the “Relacion del ultimo viage al Estrecho de Magallanes de la Fregata de S. M. Santa Maria de la Cabeza en los años de 1785 y 1786,” published at Madrid in 1788. The aromatic odour of the plants is so powerful, that we several times subsequently smelt it after a shower of rain, when we were lying at anchor more than half-a-mile from the shore.
On ascending Direction Hill, a low eminence about 200 feet high, I met with two additional plants, one of which was a low, stiff-growing shrub, with lilac flowers, smelling like daphne, and the other a curious little dwarf Calceolaria, the C. nana. This pretty little species, which belongs to a section of the genus confined to the Chilian Andes, Southern Patagonia, and Eastern Fuegia, has three or four small radical ovate leaves, from the midst of which arises a flower-stalk from one to two inches in height, bearing in general a solitary large flower, with a small upper lip, and a wide opening into the slipper-like portion. The ground colouring of this flower is yellow, beautifully freckled with dots and blotches of rich reddish-brown, and there is a thick white under lip, of so much firmer consistence than the rest of the flower, that it often cracks transversely in pressing the specimen for the herbarium. The plant is widely distributed over the open country in the north-eastern portion of the Strait, occurring alike on the Patagonian and Puegian coasts, and presents a very handsome appearance when aggregated in masses.
After we had reached the summit of the hill, and while Captain Mayne was engaged with his theodolite, I occupied myself in strolling about the neighbourhood in search of plants, obtaining, among others, an odd little leafless jointed species, probably belonging to the order Polygonaceœ. I also collected a few species of Coleoptera, including representatives of the Heteromerous genera—Emalodera, Platesthes, and Nydelia; and one of the Lamellicornes—the Taurocerastes Patagonicus. Several of these species afterwards proved to be new to the national collection at the British Museum. A very rare Hymenopterous insect was also captured by the officer assisting Captain Mayne. This was the Chirodamus Kingii of Haliday,§ of which that distinguished hymenopterist, Mr. F. Smith of the British Museum, had previously only seen a single specimen, the type of the species. I noticed a moth flying about from flower to flower, in broad daylight, after the fashion of our British Plusia Gamma, but did not succeed in taking it.
We remained on the top of the hill till about seven P.M., and then began slowly to retrace our steps to camp. It was one of the most perfectly beautiful evenings that I have seen; and as the sun gradually declined, the vast undulating grassy plains were displayed in golden light and delicate shadow, while later in the evening the sunset clouds were gorgeous beyond description, exhibiting the richest shades of orange, purple, and rose-colour. In the course of our descent I found specimens of a little Labiate plant, smelling strongly of peppermint, and our attention was arrested by a number of openings in the ground, wide enough to admit the forefinger, and lined from the entrance to about two inches downwards with a grayish silky substance. The bottom of this excavation, which I afterwards found was the work of a spider, proved, on digging, to be more than a foot below the surface of the ground. Arrived at the tents, in the neighbourhood of which many whitened bones of guanacos and feathers of ostriches were lying scattered about, we had our dinner, after which we spent some time lying luxuriously stretched out on a robe, enjoying our old friend Martin Chuzzlewit, and other works of a like nature. The evening was finally brought to a close by a long talk by our camp fire, which, fed by barberry bushes, made a glorious blaze, revealing our position to our friends on board; and, after discussing how our friends in England were likely to be engaged on this the last night of 1866, we retired to rest about eleven o'clock.
The morning of New Year's Day, 1867, was celebrated by getting up at half-past four o'clock, and after a refreshing bathe and breakfast, we started on a long walk over the low ground in the direction of the first Narrows. Leaving my companions when they had fixed upon their first station for observations, I pursued my solitary way along the beach in search of marine animals. The tide was low, and a great mud flat, known as the Direction Bank, stretched out for a long distance seaward. Over a considerable portion of this I struggled with some difficulty, owing to the extreme slipperiness and tenacity of the mud, on the surface of which I occasionally measured my length; but, with the exception of a few Algpe and Molluscs, and a curious Isopodous crustacean, the Edotia Falkandica, I got but little for my pains. After this I walked along for some distance, a little below highwater mark, observing great numbers of the sterna and other bones of cormorants, as well as fragments of the carapace of Lithodes antarctica, and another species of the same genus, lying scattered about. While thus occupied, I suddenly discovered, to my surprise, at a considerable distance from me, several large dark-brown objects moving along the shore, and occasionally stooping down to pick up something. My first conjecture was, that these were Patagonians; but judging it advisable to make certain of the fact before reporting it to my companions, I resolved to approach as near as I could to them without being perceived. I accordingly left the beach, and after ascending a steep bank to an elevation overlooking the neighbouring plain, beheld not Patagonians, but a herd of between fifty and sixty guanacos, which were speedily joined by several others from the beach, which, I suppose, must have been engaged in licking the salt from off the masses of kelp lying scattered there. As I could not have approached them from the situation where I was without frightening them away, I returned to where I had left the surveying party to inform, them of the circumstance, but found that they had left the station and proceeded some miles farther on. On my way to join them, I found nearly the entire skeleton of a large puma (Felis concolor) lying, witli the skin still adhering to the head and paws; and elsewhere on the beach I met with two large skulls of Cetacea. One of these, which was in a beautiful state of preservation, I regretted much I could not carry off with me, as it measured fully three feet in length. I at last encountered the surveyors, superintending the building of a cairn to support a flagstaff, and that operation completed, we returned to the first station, and there had luncheon. While thus engaged, a number of guanacos appeared on the brow of Direction Hill, and contemplated us with much apparent curiosity. On our attempting to approach them, however, they made off at a rapid trot. Soon after this, as the evening was rapidly advancing, we returned to camp, and the rest of our waking hours were spent in dining, reading, and conversation.
As this was the first occasion on which we had seen the guanaco in the wild state, I will conclude the record of this day's proceedings with a brief account of its history. I may begin by observing, for the benefit of such of my readers as may not possess an acquaintance with it, that it forms one of two species† of the ruminant genus Auchenia, in general included in the same family with the camel, which it resembles in various points (as, for example, the possession of canine teeth in the upper and lower jaws), and that it is widely distributed throughout the length of the South American continent, extending from the southern extremity of Fuegia, over the greater part of Patagonia, and along the chain of the Andes, at least as far as the northern parts of Peru. The earliest mention of it as observed in Patagonia occurs in the narrative of Antonio Pigafetta, who accompanied Magellan on his celebrated voyage. It is there mentioned that the Patagonians, whom they encountered at Port St. Julian, [San Julián] were clothed with the “Skinne of a Beast sewed together,” and that “This Beast (as it seemed vnto vs) had a large head, and great eares like vnto a Mule, with the body of a Camell, and tayle of a Horse.” The next reference appears to be in Oliver van Noort's voyage, where it is stated that at Port Desire they “found Beasts like Stagges and Buffals.” In Schouten's voyage, at the same locality, “beasts like Harts, with very long neckes, which were afraid of us,” are recorded as having been seen; but the first English navigator to take detailed notice of them, appears to have been Wood, to whose Voyage through the Streights of Magellan, in 1670, I have already referred more than once. In his narrative he observes that at Port Desire “the Land is dry and barren, but there is Plenty of Winnackews or Spanish sheep, which are as large as our English Deer, and wild;” and that at Port St. Julian “there are many Deer, or Sheep, which the Spaniards call Wyanaques, being a large sort of an Animal, about twelve Hands high. Their Heads and Necks are long like unto a Camel's, but their Bodies and hinder Parts resembling very much those of an Horse. We found them to be very watchful and shy, but we killed seven of them in the Time we lay here, and found their Wool to be the finest in the World. You may see a Drove of six or seven hundred of them together, which, upon their discovering of you, will make a Snort, and neigh like a Horse; but we should have made a better Hand of them had we but Dogs to run them down.”
† In limiting the number of species to two (i. e. the guanaco and vicugña), I am of course aware that there has been much contrariety of opinion on the subject, and that some zoologists regard the paco or alpaca as distinct; but I think a careful consideration of all the evidence that has been adduced tends to show that the latter animal is only a well-marked variety of the guanaco.
In recent times we owe the fullest accounts of the guanaco, as noticed in the Strait of Magellan, to the narratives of King, Fitzroy, and Darwin, whose observations of its habits coincide in nearly all respects with my own. It is, as the last-named author truly remarks, a very elegant animal, being possessed of a long, slender, gracefully-curved neck, and fine legs. It is not easy to describe its general appearance, which combines some of the characters of a camel, a deer, and a goat. The body, deep at the breast but very small at the loins, is covered with long, soft, very fine hair, which, on the upper parts, is of a kind of fawncolour, and beneath varies from a very pale yellow to the most beautiful snow-white. The head is provided with large ears, in general carried well back, and is covered with short grayish hair, which is darkest on the forehead. Occasionally the face is nearly black. As a rule, it lives in flocks of from half-a-dozen to several hundreds, but solitary individuals are now and then to be met with. They are very difficult to approach sufficiently near to admit of an easy shot, as they are extremely wary, and, on being disturbed, canter off at a pace which soon puts a safe distance between them and the sportsman, even though he should be mounted. Despite their timidity, however, they are possessed of great curiosity, and will sometimes advance within a comparatively short distance of an unknown object, at which they will gaze fixedly till they take alarm, when they effect a speedy retreat. On one or two occasions, when standing motionless or sitting on the ground, I have been within little more than ten yards of a guanaco, which was evidently puzzled by my appearance. Their cry is very peculiar, being something between the belling of a deer and the neigh of a horse. When at a distance, and fired at with the rifle, they in general go through some very singular antics, ducking down their heads, and as it were falling on their knees on the ground—a habit which often at first induced our men to suppose that they were severely wounded, when they were in reality jjerfectly intact. Mr. Darwin has commented on the singular habit which they possess of depositing their droppings on successive days in the same defined heap, and this I have likewise frequently observed. It would be difficult to over-estimate their numbers on the Patagonian plains; for in whatever direction we walked we always came upon numbers of portions of their skeletons and detached bones. Their two principal enemies are the Patagonian Indians and the puma, as they constitute the principal food of both. The flesh is somewhat dry, and with very little fat, but is very palatable, particularly in the absence of other fresh provisions; and the skin is invaluable to the Patagonians, as furnishing the material of which their long robes are constructed. Occasionally bezoar stones are to be met with in the stomach, which are regarded by the Patagonians as of medicinal value.
On the morning of the 2d of January we again arose at an early hour, and while the surveyors were engaged in their work, I took a long walk into the plains by myself, and from the brow of a low hill gained another view of a herd of guanaco, which allowed me to approach them, creeping on all fours, to within about a hundred yards, and then made off. On joining the surveying party soon after noon, I found that one of the men had killed a small quadruped new to us. This was the chinche, zorillo, or skunk (Mephitis Patagonica), a beautiful little animal about a foot long, with a bushy tail; of occasions, and which also occurs at the Falkland Islands, belongs to a genus of which the first species described was found in the Arctic seas, and which appears to be specially characteristic of northern and southern temperate and cold latitudes. The test is generally thick and firm, and the apertures are cruciform or lozenge-shaped. The former mollusc I afterwards found to be abundant in the eastern portion of the Strait, particularly in Possession Bay; and I never dredged it to the west of Port Famine, where the largest specimen, which nearly equals one obtained by Admiral Sulivan at the Falkland Islands, and which has been described by Mr. Davidson, was procured. It is a very fine shell, smooth, with both valves rather convex, and of an oval form, and the largest specimen known (that in the possession of Admiral Sulivan) measures over three inches in length. Farther on in the season, I met with two other species of Brachiopoda, both occurring in considerable abundance—i.e. the Waldheimia dilatata and the Terebratella Magellanica; but neither of these species attains nearly such large dimensions as the Waldheimia venosa. The ribbed shell of the Terebratella varies much in form, being frequently considerably distorted.
On the following morning, Jan. 3d, I again left the ship on an excursion, accompanying one of the surveying officers, who had received instructions to examine that part of the Patagonian coast extending between Cape Possession and Dungeness Spit. Taking our departure between six and seven A.M., we proceeded rapidly on our way for a considerable distance under sail; but on nearing our destination the wind was against us, so that we did not succeed in effecting a landing on the beach, a little to the east of Cape Possession, till between three and four P.M., at the expense of a tough pull on the part of the boat's crew. The prominent steep cliffs of the Cape are formed of hard clay, inclosing pebbles and boulders of various sizes, and are very deeply and remarkably furrowed, presenting at the base a series of coneshaped buttresses, as if to withstand the force of the waves. On landing, we found many relics of old wrecks, including portions of masts and numerous planks and barrels, lying scattered about at high-water mark. As, after a careful scrutiny, we ascertained that there was no suitable place for pitching the tent close to the beach, we had our gear carried up a steep grassy bank to a plateau on a level with the summit of the cliffs; and, after dining, we walked along the high ground at the top of the Cape for some distance, my companion wishing to ascertain the most suitable spot for erecting a flag-staff. Sitting down, after a time, on thÂ« Cape, I watched the glories of the magnificent sunset on the waters of the Strait, not returning to the tent till the last trace of the red glow had died away on the horizon.
Next morning we rose early, and, after breakfasting, separated on our various avocations—my associate setting out with two of his boat's crew to walk along the top of the cliffs to the spot which he had fixed upon the night before for his station; while I descended to the beach, and walked some distance in an easterly direction, enjoying the bright sunshine and exhilarating air, and keeping a look-out for marine animals. I picked up a few specimens of hydroid sertularian polyps, the sternal apparatus of a condor, and a very large broad frond of a sea-weed, of the genus Halymenia, but obtained nothing of great importance. I then returned to camp, and passed some time watching the movements of two porpoises which were swimming lazily along near the shore. On the return of the surveying party about noon, they reported that two condors had been seen flying about the top of the cliffs, and that one had been fired at and apparentlywounded. Accordingly, soon after, I started to look for them, walking along the beach at the base of the cliffs. On coming nearly opposite the place where they had been reported as seen, I was much excited by suddenly coming within sight of no less than eight of these huge birds, half the number of which were perched on a shelf about midway up the cliff, which appeared to be habitually employed as a resting-place, as it was whitened with their droppings; while the remaining four were sailing majestically about in the air, their wings widely extended and the pinions separated so as to produce a jagged edge at the tip. Although the gun which I had with me was only loaded with duckshot, I felt impelled by an irresistible desire to get a shot at them; and accordingly, at the expense of much labour and difficulty, managed to scramble up the lower part of the cliff by dint of planting my feet in the numerous waterworn gulleys in the hard clay. I had almost attained to within range of those on the shelf, when they slowly flapped their great wings and rose into the air, joining their companions, the whole party now soaring round in a circle above my head, gazing at me with malevolent faces, their whole aspect recalling to me the mythical descriptions of griffins. Although, in common with the rest of its tribe, the condor (Sarcoramphus Papa) is disfigured by a naked head, covered with mottled skin, it is a truly magnificent bird when seen in the wild condition and on the wing; and one cannot be surprised that the most exaggerated accounts were given by the older travellers of the dimensions to which it attains—as much as eighteen feet having been sometimes assigned to the expanse of wing. It is widely distributed over the western side of the South American continent, the Cordillera appearing to constitute its head-quarters. On the eastern side, on the other hand, it has a much more limited range—a steep cliff near the mouth of the Rio Negro, according to Mr. Darwin, being its northern limit on the Patagonian coast. He mentions Port Desire and the mouth of the Santa Cruz river, on the same coast, as localities where, it is met with farther south; and we noticed it both at Port Gallegos and in several localities in the eastern part of the Strait of Magellan, almost invariably in the neighbourhood of steep cliffs.
By the time I left the Condor cliff it was nearly low tide, a broad expanse of wet sandy beach being thus uncovered; and as I crossed this, my attention was arrested by a number of horse-shoe shaped depressions, accompanied by neighbouring elevations in the wet sand. On digging into these with my hands, I was much interested to find a number of specimens of a live Volute. The body of the animal, which possessed a very large foot, was in all cases greatly protruded from the shell, and of a fine deep purple colour, with delicate ramifications of a lighter tint, while the under surface of the foot was yellowish-white. Other examples of the mollusc were met with upon the clusters of live mussels which covered many of the large stones on the beach, and were, I suspect, feeding on the bivalve, after the manner of the familiar Purpura Lapillus of our British shores. This volute afterwards proved to be the Voluta Ferussacii, of whose habitat naturalists appear to have been hitherto ignorant, though the species has been known for a long period. It appears to be very plentiful towards the eastern entrance of the Strait, judging from the numbers of dead and broken shells which I subsequently found on many of the beaches, but does not seem to extend farther into the Strait than St. Jago and Philip Bays, where it is replaced by the Valuta Magellanica, a more elegantly formed, and more handsomely coloured species. A single small specimen of the latter was also taken on this occasion. The animal, which has been well figured in the Atlas of one of the French scientific expeditions, is of a much paler colour than that of the V. Ferussacii. The latter species appears to be endowed with considerable powers of vitality, as many of the specimens procured on this occasion were still alive on my return to the ship, though they had been kept tied up in a pocket handkerchief for nearly three days.
On my return to camp, a considerable amount of time was occupied in hauling down the boat to the water, which operation being at length accomplished, the gear was packed into her, and we embarked, with the intention of getting as near Mont Dinero, a small eminence about midway between Cape Possession and Cape Virgins, as time would permit. As a strong tide was running against us, we kept in shore to take advantage of the eddy, and this circumstance afforded me a good opportunity of observing the geological structure of the coast, which consists for the most part of high cliffs of a sort of boulder-clay, diversified here and there with sloping banks. The colour of the cliffs varied considerably in different places, owing to the prevalence of different strata of clay, and occasionally a restricted patch of a dark colour occurred in the centre of a whitish matrix. The imbedded boulders appeared to be of all sorts—limestone, greenstone, granite, etc.; and they varied in size from that of a pebble to a mass of several tons weight. Huge masses of the cliffs had here and there given way, and lay on the beach in angular fragments; and on the perpendicular face were a number of well-marked ledges and cavities (some of which were tenanted by condors), as well as occasional damp patches, indicative of the presence of springs. The sun set with an appearance boding stormy weather, after we had proceeded for a considerable distance, and shortly before dark we landed opposite a broad interval between the masses of cliff, where the land gradually sloped down to the sea, and the beach was strewed with numbers of planks and other fragments of a wreck. The boat having been secured and the tent pitched on the top of a bank overlooking the Strait, and in the immediate neighbourhood of a rill of water, we had our supper and turned in for the night. We awoke between four and five next morning with the consciousness that a gale had set in, and that the tent was in some danger of being blown down about our ears; and rising speedily, we had the tent-pegs driven in, and lay down again, to be roused shortly after by the watch announcing that the sea had reached the boat. Knowing that if left where she was she was certain to be carried away or stove by the waves and that we would thus be left in no enviable predicament, all hands lost no time in rushing down to the beach to drag her up to a place of safety. This was at length accomplished, after nearly a couple of hours' severe exertion; and as, on returning to the tent, we found it almost blown down, we shifted our camp to a more favourable situation, fortunately succeeding in finding a very sheltered locality in a hollow behind a natural hedge of barberries, from six to eight feet in height, and nearly the same in thickness.
As there seemed no prospect of the gale abating, and consequently of our being able to rejoin the ship, for a day or two, we resolved on making ourselves as comfortable as we could on shore—a matter of no great difficulty, as, apart from the high wind, the weather was very fine, and we had no anxieties on the score of food, it being an invariable rule throughout our service in the Strait that every surveying-boat leaving the ship should be provided with a supply of provisions sufficient to last for some days longer than was likely to be required. Early in the afternoon, therefore, we set out on a long ramble to the eastward, descending to the beach, and walking along at high-water mark. Here a strange wild scene presented itself, for on one side high steep cliffs, about which a couple of eagles were soaring, towered above us, and on the other was a mass of foaming billows; while at our feet lay scattered about numerous vestiges of former devastation, the shore being strewn for miles with fragments of masts and spars, and pieces of canvas. On our way we spent a considerable amount of time in endeavouring to ascertain the name of the ill-fated vessel; and at length arriving at a spot somewhat resembling our landing-place, where the land sloped down seawards, we discovered, half drifted up with sand, the remains of a wooden shelter built of planks and oars, evidently the work of the survivors of the disaster. We retraced our steps towards our camp later in the day, walking along the land at the back of the cliffs, which we found covered with long coarse grass, a low shrubbery of Lepidophyllum, and extensive thickets of barberries, evidently the occasional resort of pumas, as I found portions of skeletons of these animals lying about.
We skirted along the edge of one or two marshes, which yielded me a few additions to my botanical collection, including several Graminaceae; a Primulaceous plant, the Samolus spathulatus with smooth spathulate, radical leaves, and pretty purple flowers; and the wild celery, Apium graveolens, which last I subsequently found to be widely distributed throughout the Strait and in the Western Channels. As has been remarked by Dr. Hooker in his Flora Antarctica, it is a very curious fact that this plant which possesses acrid poisonous qualities in the northern hemisphere, is perfectly innocuous and wholesome in its southern habitat. We were able to pronounce judgment on this point from personal experience, as we frequently ate it on our excursions, finding it to possess a very agreeable flavour, though of course it was not so crisp and succulent as the cultivated variety. Another plant that I observed for the first time on this occasion was the Pratia repens, a little Lobeliaceous plant, growing in sandy places, with a pale purple corolla appearing as if split down one side.
On the following day, during the greater part of which the gale continued to blow as violently as ever, we passed the forenoon reading in our tent, a fox paying us an occasional visit in search of plunder, but always succeeding in escaping without injury. About noon, some of the men, who had gone off on a stroll to the westward, returned with the news that there was the wreck of a large iron ship lying on the beach at some distance. We therefore walked down to the beach in the course of the afternoon to see her, and I have seldom witnessed a more eloquent demonstration of the feebleness of human workmanship as contrasted with the power of the elements, than she presented to our gaze as we approached her. She lay on the sand, broken into large fragments. Her bows still remained in one mass, the figure-head crusted over with mussels, and one of her anchors attached in readiness to be let go, while the other two, one of which yet retained its connection with her great chain-cable, lay half-buried in the sand. All around were scattered yards of galvanised iron rigging, and the remains of her cargo, consisting of sledgehammer heads, flat irons, spades, shovels, pincers, bits, stirrups and spurs, together with her strong box, with the door rent off, and fragments of cups and plates, etc. The weather exhibited symptoms of improvement in the course of that evening, and on the morning of the 7th, finding that the wind had gone down, we rose at an early hour, and having struck the tent and packed up our gear, embarked, and proceeded down the coast, by and by perceiving the “Nassau” in the distance, lying between Dungeness Spit and Cape Virgins, as well as another vessel, which we subsequently learned was a Yankee, the “Pensacola,” passing along near the Fuegian shore. Both wind and sea got up before long, and we had in consequence a rather rough passage between Mont Dinero and Dungeness. Numbers of a large black petrel were flying about, and on the gravelly beach of the last-named locality great flocks of gulls, terns, and cormorants were assembled, and took wing on our approach. As we observed a party of human beings on the Spit, we landed to see who they were, and found, to our surprise, that two of the three ofiicers who had been engaged in surveying the Fuegian coast, and whom we had not expected to see for some time, were among the number. From them we learned that their expedition had not been so fortunate as could have been desired, as they had had a fray with Fuegian Indians, who had attempted to help themselves to various articles in the boats, and on being repulsed, had attacked our friends with their bows and arrows, one of the officers receiving a rather severe wound from an arrow in the back of his shoulder. This circumstance, I need hardly state, was a matter of general regret to us all, as we regarded it as an inauspicious beginning to our work on the Fuegian side; and so the event proved, for the natives of that portion of the Fuegian coast steadily avoided holding any intercourse with us on subsequent occasions, while, at the same time, they kept a sharp look-out on all our movements, which necessitated the use of caution in landing surveying parties.
These savages, of whose habits and customs much less is known than those of the Fuegians in the southern and western parts of Tierra del Fuego, appear to constitute a very distinct tribe confined to the northern part of the large eastern island, the climate and productions of which differ very considerably from the remaining portions of the archipelago—the rainfall, at least in the northern portion of the island, being comparatively small, and the country abounding in grassy plains, presenting a close resemblance to those of eastern Patagonia, and characterised by the presence of the same animals and plants. They differ strikingly from the western tribes in their much larger stature, and in their manner of life, which approximates, in some particulars, to that of the Patagonians, as they engage in the chase of the guanaco (the flesh of which appears to be their principal article of diet, although they do not disdain shell-fish), and whose skin furnishes them with garments in the shape of long mantles, like those of the Patagonians, but worn with the hair outermost instead of innermost. Fitzroy justly remarks that this tribe, whom he terms the Yacana-kunny (believing them to be the people described by Falkner under this title), “seem to be now much in the condition in which the Patagonians must have been before they had horses;” and adds that, “with their dogs, with bows and arrows, balls (bolas), slings, and clubs, they kill guanacos, ostriches, birds, and seals.” He also mentions that they frequently make incursions upon the Tekeenica, another tribe in the south-eastern part of Tierra del Fuego, characterised by their small stature, and whose country is separated from that of the Yacana by a range of high mountains. He estimates their number as about 600, but he does not give us the data for this calculation, which, as the tribe is so little known, can be considered of very little value.
On our return on board in the afternoon of this day, I was shown a Fuegian bow and arrows which the surveying party had carried ofiP from their assailants. The bow was short (about a couple of feet long), requiring a considerable amount of force to bend it; and the arrows, which were beautifully fashioned, were furnished with thin triangular heads with jagged edges, so united to the shaft as to be readily detached when an object was struck. One of these heads was of flint and the other of rock-crystal. In general form these weapons did not materially differ from those we observed at a subsequent period in the possession of the western tribes.
On the 8th we remained at anchor all day, a party landing and spending some hours in surveying operations at Cape Virgins. My time was fully occupied in stowing away the specimens obtained during my excursion, and in endeavouring to remedy the state of confusion into which my collections, etc., had been thrown by the gale during my absence. One of the men who had been on shore brought me a portion of a condor's skeleton, and the dredge yielded a few ascidians and encrusting corallines, as well as numbers of a species of Calyptrœa, the C. costellata of Philippi.§ In the evening a remarkable light was seen off the Fuegian shore. Next day the ship was employed taking soundings at the eastern entrance of the Strait, and we anchored in the evening off Catherine Point or Queen Katherine's Fore-Land, as it was originally named by Wood, a low and shingly projection on the Fuegian coast, presenting a considerable resemblance to Dungeness Spit on the opposite side. On the morning of the 10th some fine Tunicata and a few Tubicolous Annelids were taken in the dredge. Sounding was again the order of the day till early in the afternoon, when we returned to our anchorage, and a party landed to take angles and erect a beacon. I availed myself of this opportunity of setting my foot for the first time on the Fuegian shore, accompanying Captain Mayne, who was ever ready to afford me all the facilities in his power for the prosecution of my work. On our way from the ship, a small whale passed very near us, spouting at intervals. Our landing was accomplished with much difficulty, owing to the violence with which the surf broke on the steep shelving beach; and we were well wet in the process. The shore was formed of small, rounded stones, exhibiting several distinct terraces; and as the tide fell, a muddy flat was disclosed, on which were large beds of mussels, affording a feeding ground for numbers of gulls, sand-pipers, and oyster-catchers, the last of whom appeared to take great exception to our presence, flying about in wide circles and screaming. Two species of Hœmatopus, I may here observe, are common throughout the Strait of Magellan, and on the west coast of South America as far north as Chiloe. The plumage of one of these (H. ater) is wholly black, while that of the other (H. palliatus) is pied with black and white, so as closely to resemble the British H. ostralegus. We found them both to be very good eating, and they were therefore entered in the game-book which was kept by one of our number as a register of the skill of the sportsmen. Like many other Grallce, they are possessed of tolerable swimming powers.
§ German-born naturalist Dr. Rudolph Amandus [Rodolfo Amando en español] Philippi 1808-1904).
At high-water mark numbers of broken and worn Volutes (V. Ferussacii) were lying about, some of them very large and strongly formed; and at a short distance from the beach I collected a few plants, all of which, however, with the single exception of a small purple-flowered labiate, the Scutellaria nummulariœfolia, I had previously obtained on the northern shore of the Strait. After spending some hours on shore we got on board late in the evening.
On the 11th we left our anchorage in the morning, and were engaged for some hours in taking soundings, anchoring again off Cape Espiritu Santo, on the coast of Fuegia. Here I again accompanied a surveying party on shore, as I naturally was anxious to leave no spot that was accessible to me unvisited. Owing to the nature of the beach, and the surf upon it, we were compelled to get out of the boat and walk through the water for some distance. The cape resembles Cape Virgins on the Patagonian shore, in presenting a face of high bold cliffs, which, from their white colour, are visible at a long way off; and the stratification of these cliffs is very distinct, their lower and larger half being formed of strata of soft pale yellowish-white sandstone, and their upper of the hard clay abounding in boulders so common on the Patagonian coast. Two large hawks were sitting on their nest built halfway up on a ledge, and a couple of eagles were seen flying about not far off. Leaving my companions engaged in taking their observations on the summit of the cape, I walked along the smooth sandy beach which extended beneath it for about a mile, looking for live Volutes. My search proving fruitless, and nothing of interest being to be met with, I after a time scrambled up to the high ground above the shore, soon observing my friends in the distance making energetic signals to me. Accordingly, I quickened my steps to ascertain the cause, which, on reaching them, soon became apparent, as they pointed out to me that groups of Fuegians were making their appearance on the neighbouring rising grounds, which rendered it highly imprudent for any one, entirely unarmed as I then was, to stray far from the party. We remained for a few minutes on the top of the cliff, watching the movements of the natives, and I was struck by the bright purplish appearance presented by some of the hollows in the land. This I subse quently found was due to the presence of a grass of the genus Hordeum; in other words, a species of wild barley. On our way back to the boats a couple of guanacos were observed at about 500 yards' distance, and afforded some scope for riflepractice. A very large Fuegian dog with long dark brown hair was also seen wandering about, apparently perplexed by our appearance. Soon after we embarked, walking waist-deep into the water to reach the boat, and we got on board at three P.M., soon after which one of the men brought several small Crustacea which he had found adhering to a fishing line. These proved to belong to the Isopodous genus Edotia, of which they appear to constitute a new species, which I have named E. Magellanica. Later in the day we returned to the anchorage between Dungeness and Cape Virgins.
On the 12th we continued at anchor all day, and I remained on board busily occupied with the examination of my zoological and botanical collections. In the morning some very large simple Ascidians were taken in the dredge. These belonged to the genus Cynthia, apparently forming the type of a new species, which I have named C. gigantea, on account of its great size—one specimen subsequently obtained in Gregory Bay measuring no less than eight inches from base to apertures. Upon one of these Cynthiœ was a small pedunculated Cirriped of the genus Scalpellum. Soon after this one of the ship's boys brought me a most wonderful specimen in the shape of a mass of a social Tunicate, about a foot and a haK long, attached to a stone. The animal-mass was of a vivid scarlet colour, and consisted of hundreds of animals imbedded in cells in the circumference of a fibrogelatinous matrix. I subsequently met with it in great abundance in various localities in the eastern portion of the Strait, as well as at the Falkland Islands; and it appears to form the type of a new genus, for which I have proposed the name of Goodsiria, in honour of a late distinguished anatomist.§
John Goodsir (1814-1867).
Later in the day, one of the officers brought me a small specimen of a shark of the genus Acanthias, which he had taken in a pool in Dungeness Spit. In general form and colouring it very closely resembled our commonest British dogfish;† and attached to each side of its head was a parasitic crustacean of the genus Chondracanthus, or some closely-allied form. From Dungeness also Captain Mayne brought me a great prize in the form of a magnificent cranium of a sea-lion (Otaria jubata). This great seal, to which I shall often refer in the course of this narrative, is widely distributed around the western and southern coasts of the South American continent, frequently congregating in large herds on the beaches. Despite its huge size, and the formidable teeth with which it is armed, it appears on the whole to be a very peaceable animal, it being the general testimony of those voyagers who have observed its habits that it will not attack its assailants, thus differing greatly from the walrus of the northern seas, which, when irritated or wounded, is a dangerous enemy to boats. As Cook has well observed, the only danger to be incurred from a herd of sea-lions is by getting between them and the sea, as, if alarmed, individuals in their way would be liable to be run over.
† Since the above was written, Dr. Günther has informed me that it is identical with our common Acanthias vulgaris.
In the evening, a party who had made an excursion to the iron wreck returned to the ship, bringing with them several birds of which I had not previously obtained specimens. Among these was a fine male example of the military starling (Sturnella militaris), a beautiful bird, with a bright red breast, widely distributed over South America, and generally occurring in open plains, where it is to be seen in small flocks. It is common both in the eastern part of the Strait and at the Falkland Islands, and I also observed it in Banda Oriental and Chili. Another bird procured on this occasion was the Upocerthia dumetoria, [sic, Uppucerthia dumetoria] which also possesses a wide range, frequenting much the same localities as the military starling, and concerning which Mr. Darwin has made a curious observation—namely, that in specimens from different localities the beak varies much in length,§ a circumstance which has also been remarked in specimens of another bird, to be afterwards noticed, the Cinclodes Patagonicus, which also has an extended range.
On the following day, which was Sunday, we remained at rest at our anchorage. There was a very fine sunset, the most marvellous red and green tints lingering long on the horizon. A little rain fell in the course of the evening, a comparatively rare phenomenon, as our subsequent experience showed, in the eastern part of the Strait, where frequent gales constituted the great obstacle to be encountered in carrying on our work.
The morning of the 14th was magnificent—clear, bright, and perfectly calm. The day was occupied in sounding the Sarmiento Bank, which stretches across outside the entrance of the Strait. Early in the afternoon, while at work in my cabin, I was summoned to see the extraordinary number of birds around us, and, on ascending to the bridge, I beheld a most remarkable spectacle. As we steamed slowly onwards, numbers of albatrosses and large black petrels rose lazily out of the briny element, where they were resting at only the distance of a few feet from the side of the vessel; and flocks of penguins jumped out of the water in the most absurd manner, throwing their hind quarters in the air, and plunging in again, head foremost, after the manner of porpoises. The sunset was again very beautiful, the calm surface of the sea, which was of a pale emerald tint, exhibiting rosy reflections of the clouds.
The early part of the 15th was likewise very fine, and the sounding of the Sarmiento Bank was continued. In the afternoon we encountered a curious kind of fog-bank, which came down from the northward, completely enveloped the ship for about ten minutes, and then passed away to leeward, leaving all to windward as clear as before. This occurred two or three times in rapid succession; and after we had anchored in the evening we saw several more of these fogclouds pass over the Sarmiento Bank, though they did not reach us. We anchored on this occasion on the western side of Dungeness. The 16th was also occupied in sounding. A number of bridled dolphins (Delphinus bivittatus) appeared in the vicinity of the ship, and we saw them on several subsequent occasions; but, greatly to my regret, I had no opportunity of examining a specimen of the species. In the evening, when we were lying at anchor in Possession Bay, a large fire was observed, extending for more than half-a-mile along the coast. This we supposed at the time to be the work of Patagonians, but we afterwards found that it had been lighted by a party from Sandy Point, who wished to attract our attention.
On the morning of the l7th the dredge yielded live specimens of Lithodes antarctica, and of Peltarion spinulosum, someHolothuridœ, Terehratulœe, Tunicata, and sponges, as well as a variety of Algae. Here I may observe, that while we were in the eastern portion of the Strait, a considerable number of sea-weeds were taken in this manner, including the beautiful Delesseria Lyallii and Ptilota Harveyi, species of Plocamium, Polysiphonia, etc. etc. Preparations were made in the evening for the despatch of a couple of surveying parties, one of which I was to have accompanied; but on the morning of the 18th it was blowing so hard as to render it impossible for any boat to leave the ship. On the 19th, on a piece of Macrocystis which was hooked, I found many live specimens of a molluscan bivalve, afterwards obtained very plentifully in many localities in the Strait and Western Channels. This was the Modiolarca trapezina, the shell of which varies in tint from light straw-colour to dark olive-green. The animals adhered to the fronds of the “kelp” by a process of a tough gelatinous substance. In the afternoon three of the officers took advantage of a lull to go on shore close to Direction Hill to watch the tides. It came on to blow soon after their departure, and continued blowing all next day; and for some days the weather remained too unsettled to admit of surveying operations. On the 23d the tide-watching party returned to the ship, bringing with them a lot of marine animals in a bucket. Among these were specimens of a fish of the genus Notothenia (N. virgata) some long-legged crabs (species of Eurypodius), a few Annelida, and some fine starfish of the genera Uraster, Asterina, and Ganeria. The Ganeriœ—referable, I believe, to G. Falklandica (Gray)—were exceedingly beautiful specimens, of a rich carmine colour. The wind lasted throughout the day; but on the 25th we had an interval of calmer weather, which we employed in passing through the first Narrows, where we met a small vessel, the “Zeta” of Swansea, on her homeward way. We anchored early in the evening in St. Jago Bay, and, as the weather appeared more propitious, preparations were made for despatching boats next morning; but on the 26tli it was again blowing so hard that we were detained prisoners on board.
At length, on the morning of the 28th, the wind appearing to have expended itself for the present, four boats left the ship on surveying work. On this occasion I accompanied Captain Mayne, who was engaged in the triangulation of the coast of the first Narrows. We landed nearly opposite the vessel, which was at this time lying about three miles from the shore, opposite a little hill where we erected a beacon. On the high banks near the beach I again found Adesmia boronioides and Lepidophyllum cupressiforme in abundance, as well as two yellow-flowered species of Senecio and the blue Homoianthus echinulatus; and at the edge of a neighbouring marsh Samolus spathulatus, an Epilobium, and a yellow Sisyrinchium, were met with. On the banks of a small fresh-water lake in the vicinity several geese were seen, and stalked, but unsuccessfully. This species, the Upland goose (Chloephaga Magellanica), is very plentiful in the eastern portion of the Strait of Magellan, but is very seldom to be seen much to the west of Port Famine. It is also very abundant at the Falkland Islands, and is common on the lower slopes of the Chilian Andes. In the Strait of Magellan it breeds in numbers, on Elizabeth, Sta. Magdalena, and Quartermaster islands. The plumage of both male and female birds, as all those who have had an opportunity of seeing them in the Zoological Society's Gardens will, I think, agree with me, is very handsome—that of the male being white, with narrow black transverse bars on the feathers of the back and breast; while that of the female is chiefly composed of various shades of brown, the feathers being also barred with black. Mr. Darwin, in his notes on this species, remarks that “at the Falkland Islands they live in pairs and in small flocks§ throughout the interior of the island, being rarely or never found on the sea-coast, and seldom even near fresh-water lakes”—an observation from which my experience widely differs, as I never saw them either at the Falkland Islands or in the Strait, at any considerable distance from the sea; and I frequently observed them on the banks of small lakes of salt and fresh water. Possibly this discrepancy may have resulted from their having been noticed at different periods of the year.
After spending a short time at the edge of the small lake above mentioned, where I found a yellow-flowered Boraginaceous plant, new to me, we re-embarked, and skirted eastwards along the coast for some distance, a breeze springing up before long, and gradually freshening. At noon we landed on the lee of a long, low, gravelly spit, on which a number of black and white oyster-catchers were settled, but which took wing before we had time to get a shot at them. A fire was here kindled with some trouble; and while the boat's crew's dinner was getting ready, we investigated the neighbourhood, finding, as usual, numerous boards and spars scattered about, as well as a signal-post formed of a piece of plank nailed to a small mast planted firmly in the ground, and probably erected by shipwrecked sailors to attract the attention of passing vessels. As the breeze was rapidly freshening up into a gale. Captain Mayne judged it best for us to remain where we were till the weather moderated. The boat was accordingly hauled up, and a suitable locality selected for our camp. After this we ascended a low hill, where it was thought desirable to take some observations; but on reaching the summit, we found that it was blowing so violently as to render work impossible, and accordingly descended without loss of time, occupying the remainder of the afternoon in a walk down the coast, to ascertain the position of one of the boats which had been appointed to work in concert with us. After struggling along for some miles, with a stinging shower of fine sand driving in our faces, we had the satisfaction of seeing the boat in question lying in a sheltered locality, and accordingly turned our faces homewards, finding on our return to camp the men still engaged in laboriously struggling to pitch the tents, a most difficult process, owing to the violence of the wind. At length, however, this was successfully accomplished, and, comfortably housed, we passed a pleasant evening in reading and conversation.
Next morning (29th) we rose about 4 o'clock, finding the gale as violent as ever; and after we had breakfasted, I strolled about the neighbourhood, while Captain Mayne and his assistant were at work with the theodolite. At one spot I came within twenty yards of a guanaco, which remained stock-still, gazing at me for a few minutes with apparent surprise, and then made off. On the beach many large masses of the curious social Ascidian I have mentioned a few pages back were lying, together with numerous fragments of the skeletons of birds, nine-tenths of which were those of cormorants, readily identified even when the skull was absent, which was generally the case, by the peculiar form of the breast-bone. Early in the forenoon we set out on a walk of about eight miles down the coast of the Narrows, a most fatiguing exploit, owing to the high wind and the uneven nature of the ground, which was everywhere raised into little hillocks by the tunnelling operations of a burrowing rat. These hillocks were in general surmounted by tussocks of grass, and were placed so close together that it was hardly possible to plant both one's feet on a level space of ground at the same time, our experience in this respect being occasionally varied by suddenly sinking over the ankles in a burrow. This troublesome little engineer was the Ctenomys Magellanicus, a species closely allied to the burrowing rodent to which I have at an earlier period referred, as common in the neighbourhood of Maldonado. It is very abundant in the open country on the coast of both sides of the Strait, but, so far as my experience goes, does not penetrate far inland. Like the northern species, it emits a most peculiar cry while in its burrow, and it is much more frequently to be heard than seen, as it is very cautious on the approach of danger. Captain King appears to have been the first to procure specimens of it, and these were taken at Cape Gregory; but the occurrence of the species in the Strait was noticed more than a century before his time, by Wood, who remarks, that at the “first Narrow, the place for the space of five or six Miles, is full of rats, that have holes in the Earth like Coney-Boroughs, and are supposed to feed on Limpids.”
In the course of our expedition we observed a few snipe and many large carrion-feeding hawks. These birds, the carranchas (Polyborus Tharus), are extremely common on the grassy plains, and their vulturine habits, as Mr. Darwin has observed, “are very evident to any one who has fallen asleep on the desolate plains of Patagonia; for when he wakes, he will see, on each surrounding hillock, one of these birds patiently watching him with an evil eye.” When thus perched, they assume a very erect posture, and I have frequently mistaken one in the distance for a human creature. The plumage is handsome, but the naked skin over the crop, which protrudes after a meal, communicates an unpleasant aspect to them, and they are exceedingly disagreeable to skin, as they are invariably swarming with minute and very active Anoplura.
On our way back to camp, which we reached in the evening, pretty well tired out, an addled egg of a Rhea was picked up. Mr. Darwin has remarked, in his account of the habits of the American ostrich, that “the eggs lie either scattered or [sic, and] single, in which case they are never hatched, and are called by the Spaniard huachos; [sic, guachos] § or they are collected together into a shallow excavation, which forms the nest.” These single eggs we often met with on subsequent occasions, and once or twice we found the remnants of a nest. While on this subject, I may remark, that though on several occasions I had an opportunity of examining specimens of Rheas which had been killed, I never met with one of the Rhea Darwinii in Patagonia, although I frequently picked up its feathers on the plains. On the morning of the 30th, as the gale still continued undiminished in force, and our stock of water was waxing low, there being none to be procured in the neighbourhood of our camp, we set forth after breakfast, accompanied by two of the boat's crew, carrying barracoes slung on poles, and walked to the small lake close to which we had landed on the first day of our excursion. In the course of our route many guanacos and several gray foxes were seen, but none obtained. On the beach at one place, we observed the largest number of steamer-ducks ever noticed by us during the whole time we spent in the Strait. There were literally hundreds, and they produced a most singular spectacle as they ran into the water and paddled off. The wind fell considerably during the evening, so that we had a pleasant walk back to the tents, refreshing ourselves on the way with the fruit of the Berberis dulcis. By 10 P.M. it was nearly calm, and rain set in, lasting throughout the greater part of the night. Next morning when we arose, shortly after 5 A.M., it was still raining slightly, but soon after cleared up; and the clouds breaking, disclosed a delicate pale green sky. By and by the sun shone out brightly, and we determined to avail ourselves of this opportunity to return to the ship. We accordingly started as soon as our gear was stowed in the boat, and reached the vessel about 9 A.M., soon after receiving a practical proof that we had taken a prudent step, as the wind again arose before we had been two hours on board. After the return of another of the boats we got under way, and attempted to steam on to Gregory Bay; but the wind by this time had become so strong, that after steaming for four hours, we had only accomplished about three miles, and therefore came to an anchor.
A fresh start was made early next morning, but little way gained, as the wind arose as usual, and kept us back. It blew hard throughout the whole of the 2d of February, and it was only on the morning of the 3d that we got fairly into Gregory Bay, and the two other boats were able to join us. One of the officers, Mr. Gray, who took a special interest in collecting marine animals, and was in consequence a most valuable ally, brought me some very fine specimens of a large Chiton (C. setiger) and a live individual of a bright green spider, apparently a species of Epeira, with its nest; while from another I received a fine specimen of the large owl (Bubo Magellanicm), first seen at Sandy Point. In skinning this bird on the following day (which was warm, bright, and calm, but with a thick fog, which for some time enveloped the ship), I was much struck with the exceeding development of air-cells in the back part of the cranium, and the extreme thinness of the outer and inner tables of the bone.
The morning of the 5th was fine, with but little wind, and the adjacent saddle-backed Gregory Range appeared very beautiful as it lay in mingled light and shadow. During the forenoon we remained at anchor, as various of the boats were employed in sounding about the neighbourhood. It had been intended that we should pass through the second Narrows in the afternoon, but the wind again arose and defeated the plan. The 6th was, however, everything that could be desired as regarded weather, and we accordingly left our anchorage, and, passing through the Narrows, arrived in Royal Road, between Elizabeth Island and the mainland about noon. A few hours later, a large party of us landed on the island, and remained on shore until the evening. Most of the plants I found had gone out of flower, so that I did not succeed in getting many specimens of value; but my companions had some good sport, shooting a number of oyster-catchers and upland geese, as well as a specimen of the large ibis which we had previously seen at Sandy Point. This bird (Theristicus melanopis) the bandurria of the Chilians (so called in consequence of its remarkable note being supposed to resemble that musical instrument), is common in the open country of Patagonia, as well as in Chili and the Argentine Republic. It is of large size, and possesses very handsome plumage—the upper parts, wings, and tail, being of various shades of gray, black, and dark green; while the head, neck, and breast, are of a yellowish-buff hue. The bill and a naked gular space are black, and the legs dull red. The flight is very strong, and the bird requires to be heavily hit to bring it down. The cry is very peculiar and sonorous, and not easy to describe. It has been compared by Mr. Darwin to the neighing of a guanaco, but in this I cannot agree with him. Those specimens examined by the abovementioned distinguished naturalist had “grasshoppers, cicadae, small lizards, and even scorpions,” in their stomachs; while, in those examined by me, caterpillars appeared to have been the principal source of aliment. On carefully examining the respiratory organs of an individual shot in January 1869, I found that the portion of the trachea below the insertion of the sterno-tracheal muscles, though presenting no striking peculiarity of form, had the rings anchylosed so as to form an immovable tube, and this no doubt serves to modify the voice.
In the dredge I obtained a few Molluscs and Crustacea, an apparently undescribed Amphipod of the genus Iphimedia among the latter. We left Elizabeth Island early next morning, leaving behind us two officers, with their boats' crews (who, it had been settled, were to remain in the Strait engaged in surveying work, during a trip to the Falkland Islands, which we were necessitated shortly to make for the purpose of procuring supplies of coal and provisions), and reached the Chilian settlement of Sandy Point before breakfast, finding, to our great satisfaction, that letters from England were awaiting us, which had been left a month before by an American ship, the “Pensacola,” on her way through the Strait. Early in the forenoon I landed with some of the officers, and had a pleasant walk. The greater number of the plants had passed out of bloom, but a pretty purple-flowered Gentiana, which I did not observe on our first visit, was very plentifid on the plains. I also found a white-flowered Ranunculus, very similar to R. aqitatilis, in the water of a small stream, and a large Carex in a damp place at the edge of the woods, together with several mosses, and a Marchantia, to all appearance not distinct from the M. polymorpha so common in damp places in Great Britain. A considerable number of a species of teal were shot by my companions, as well as a single specimen of a small black and white woodpecker, with a red crest. This species, the Picus ligniarius, which does not appear to be common in the Strait, we subsequently met with at Chiloe.
As we had learned from some of the inhabitants of the settlement who had come on board the “Nassau” on our arrival, that a party of the far-famed Patagonians had lately arrived at the settlement for trading purposes, we paid a visit to their camp before returning to the ship in the evening. On approaching their tents, which were placed in a hollow close to the river's bank, we were met by an individual possessed of a small stock of broken English, of which he appeared very proud, and who announced that his name was Pedro, and that he was a little chief. He considered it necessary to shake hands with us all round, and said, “You come to my house and see skin;” and we accordingly accompanied him to his guanaco-skin tent, where were a number of his tribe, who smiled and looked affable, but spoke little. We were then shown some guanaco, puma, and ostrich skins, and asked, “Why you no bring bread, rum, tabac, from ship?”—rum, as we afterwards learned, being an article which, unfortunately for themselves, they value very highly. The whole party on this occasion consisted of about twenty adults and a number of children. The men were in general tall and very strongly made, particularly as regarded their chests and arms, the muscular development of which, strongly favoured by their habits of life, was excessive. The lower limbs, on the other hand, appeared much less muscular, and they walked with an awkward shambling gait, the result, probably, of their spending the greater part of their lives on horseback, never travelling any distance on foot. Their heads were large, and thatched with thick black hair, in general divided in the middle, and hanging down in long straight locks. The hair of one man only was frizzled into innumerable little curls, which had the effect of making his head appear as of prodigious size. All wore bands of white linen round the upper part of their foreheads. Their faces were very broad across the cheek-bones, and, as a rule, they possessed good features—the men in this respect, however, greatly excelling the women, the nose being in general of a form approaching to aquiline, and the teeth very white and perfect, save that, in most cases, the cusps of the grinders (molars and premolars) had disappeared, the upper surface of all the teeth being ground down to a uniform level. Whether this effect was produced by the nature of their diet or by artificial means, I am unable to state. Some of the children were very pretty, and the skin of all, both old and young, was of a dark-brown tint, due in part to nature, but, I suspect, considerably deepened by the scanty extent of their ablutions. The dress in both sexes was much the same, consisting of an ample robe formed of guanaco-skins, neatly and strongly sewn together, and worn with the hair innermost. This mantle extended from the neck nearly to the ankles, and was in general confined at the waist by a leather belt. Around the shoulders of the men the robe was generally folded without any fastening, being merely held together by one hand; but, in the case of the women, it was fastened together by two large, more or less ornamented, gilt pins. In addition to this general covering they possessed buskins of horse-skin, which covered the feet and ankles like boots, extending about half-way to the knee. In the neighbourhood of the tents their steeds were pastured; and a large pack of ugly dogs, of different sorts and sizes, roamed about, and were very unsociable, keeping up a constant barking at us.
I think I may not unfitly bring this chapter to a close by giving my reader a short account of what is known of the habits and customs of this remarkable people, and I shall begin by citing a few of the descriptions given of them by the earlier voyagers. The first of these is given by Antonio Pigafetta, the historian of Magellan's voyage, and is so curiously quaint in its language, that I quote the greater part, as it may amuse some of those who have not been previously acquainted with it. He narrates that after they had spent about two months at Port St Julian—†
† I take the narrative as given in Purchas His Pilgrimes,§ vol. i., p. 34.
§ Actual lengthy title includes the author's last name: Purchas His Pilgrimes, as seen in an earlier footnote.
One day by chance they espyed a man of the stature of a Giant, who came to the Hauen dancing and singing, and shortly after seemed to cast dust ouer his head. The Captaine sent one of his men to the shore with the ship Boat, who made the like sign of peace. The which thing the Giant seeing, was out of feare, and came with the Captaine's seruant to his presence into a little Hand. When hee saw the Captaine with certaine of his companie about him, hee was greatly amazed, and made signes, holding vp his hand to Heauen, signifying thereby that our men came from thence. This Giant was so big, that the head of one of our men of a meane stature came but to his Waste. He was of good corporature, and well made in all parts of his body, with a large Visage, painted with diners colours, but for the most part yellow. Upon his Cheekes were painted two Harts and Ked Circles about his Eyes. The Hayre of his Head was coloured white, and his Apparell was the Skinne of a Beast sewed together. This Beast (as seemed vnto us) had a large head, and great eares like vnto a Mule, with the body of a Cammell, and tayle of a Horse. The feet of the Giant were foulded in the same skin after the manner of shooes. He had in his hand a big and short Bowe, the String whereof was made of a sinew of that Beast. He had also a Bundell of long Arrowes, made of Beedes, feathered after the manner of ours, light, with sharp stones in the stead of Iron heads. The Captaine caused him to eat and drinke, and gave him many things; and, among other, a great Looking-glasse: In the which, as soone as he saw his own likenesse, hee was suddenly afraid, and started backe with such violence that he ouerthrew two that stood nearest about him. When the Captaine had thus given him certain Hawke's Bells and other great Bells, with a Looking-glasse, a Combe, and a payre of Beads of Glasse, he sent him to land with foure of his owne men well armed.
Shortly after they saw another Giant, of somewhat greater stature, with his Bowe and Arrowes in his hand. As hee drew neere vnto our men, he layd his hand on his head, and pointed up toward Heaven, and our men did the like. The Captaine sent his ship Boat to bring him to a little Hand, being in the Hauen. This giant was very tractable and pleasant. Hee sung and danced, and in his dancing, left the print of his feet on the ground. Hee remayned long with our men, who named him John. Hee could well speake, and plainly pronounce these words—Jesus, Ave Maria, Johannes, even as wee doe,-but with a bigger voyce. The Captaine gave him a shirt of Linnen Cloth, and a Coat of white Woollen Cloth; also a Cap, a Combe, a Lookingglasse, with diners such other things, and so sent him to his companie. The day following hee resorted againe to the shippes, and brought with him one of those great Beasts, which hee gaue the Captaine. But after that day they never saw him more, supposing him to be slaine of his owne company, for the conversation he had with our men.
After other fifteene dayes were past, there came foure other Giants without any Weapons, but had hid their Bowes and Arrowes in certaine Bushes. The Captaine retayned two of these, which were youngest and best made. Hee took them by a deceit: giving them Knyves, Sheeres, Looking-glasses, Bells, Beades of Crystall, and such other Trifles, hee so filled their hands that they could hold no more; then caused two payre of shackles of Iron to bee put on their legges, making signes that hee would also give them these Chaynes, which they liked very well, because they were made of bright and shining metall. And, whereas they could not carry them, because their hands were full, the other Giants would have carryed them; but the Captaine would not suffer them. When they felt the shackles fast about their legges, they began to doubt; but the Captaine did put them in comfort and bade them stand still. In fine, when they saw how they were deceived, they roared like Bulls, and cryed upon their great Deuill Setebos to help them. Being thus taken, they were immediately separate and put in sundry shippes. They could never bind the hands of the other two; yet was one of them with much difiicultv overthrown by nine of our men, and his hands bound; but he suddenly loosed himself and fled, as did also the other that came with them. In their flying, they shot off their Arrowes, and slew one of our men. They say, that when any of them die, there appear ten or twelve Deuills, leaping and dancing about the bodie of the dead, and seeme to haue their bodies painted with diuers colours, and that among other there is one seene bigger than the residue, who maketh great mirth and rejoicing. This great Devill they call Setehos, and call the less Ckeleule. One of these Giants which they tooke, declared by signes that hee had seene Devils with two homes above their heads, with long hayre downe to their feet, and that they cast forth fire at their throats, both before and behind. The Captaine named these people Patagoni. The most of them weare the Skinnes of such Beasts whereof I have spoken before, and haue no Houses of continuance; but make certaine Cottages, which they couer with the said Skinnes, and carry them from place to place They live of raw Flesh and a certaine sweet Koot, which they call Gapar They are very jealous of their Women. When they are sicke at the stomacke, they put an Arrow half a yard or more downe the Throat, which makes them vomit greene choler and bloud. For head-ach, they make a cut ouer the for-head, and let themselves bloud. The like they doe on the arme, or legge, in any Aches. They cut their hayre like Friers, but a little longer, and binde it with a Cotton hayre-lace. One of these which they had in their shippes, did eat at one meale a Basket of Bisket, and drinke a Bowie of Water at a draught.
In the narrative of Cavendish's voyage, not far from the close of the same century, namely in 1586, it is related that at Port Desire —
A Man and a Boy, in washing their clothes in a Pit, were hurt by the Savages arrowes, which are made of Canes, headed with flints. They are very wilde. We took the measure of one of their feete, and it was eighteene inches long. Their vse is when any of them die, to bring him or them to the Cliffes by the Sea-side, and upon the top of them they burie them, and in their graves are buried with them their Bowes and Arrowes, and all their Jewels which they have in their lifetime, which are fine shells which they find by the Sea side, which they cut and square after an artificiall maner; and all is laid vnder their heads. The grave is made all with great stones of great length and bignesse, being set all along full of the dead man's Darts, which he vsed when he was liuing. And they colour both their Darts and their Graves with a red colour which they vse in colouring themselves.
In Schouten's Voyage, about thirty years later, it is mentioned that at Port Desire, upon the highest part of the hills, they
Found some burying places, which were heapes of stones, and we not knowing what that meant, pulled the stones off from one of them, and vnder them found men's bones of tenne and eleven feet long: they buried the dead vpon the top of the hils, flat on the ground, and cover them also with stones, which keeps them from being devoured by beasts or birds.
Wood relates that, on his visit to Port St. Julian in 1670, in walking inland, he
Met seven Savages who came running down the Hill to us, making several Signs for us to go back again with much Eoaring and Noise, yet did not offer to draw their Arrows: But one of them who was an old Man, came nearer to us than the rest, and made also Signs we should depart, to whom I threw a Knife, a Bottle of Brandy, and a Neckcloth to pacify him; but, seeing him persist in the same Signs as before, and that the Savageness of the People seemed to be incorrigible, we returned on Board again.
He then adds——
As far as I could observe by these People, they have no Houses nor Habitation, but wander from Place to Place to seek their Food, which consists mostly in Seals and Limpids, with some Fowls and Deer. Having spent the Day in the said Manner, they return at Night, and put themselves behind some Bush, where they may make a small Fire, I suppose on purpose, because they should not be discovered afar off by Night; and they lie upon the cold Earth, without any other Canopy but Heaven. As for the Apparel of these Savages, they have no other but Mantles made of Deer-Skins sewed together, wherein they wrap themselves up, and need no other Covering, they being by Nature very hardy, and of an Olive Complexion, as all the Americans are, in Conformity to most of whom, these also paint their Faces and Bodies with many Colours. It happen'd that some of our Men being on Shoar, August the 1 6th, on the East-Side, in order to fill Water, two of them at a small distance from thence met with two Patagonians behind a Bush, who immediately ran away from them, leaving their Baggage behind them, consisting of some Skins sewed together, made into little Bags; wherein were contained some Flints and Colours, besides two Dogs thay had there also tied together.
It is, however, to the observations of Falkner, a Jesuit missionary in South America during a part of last century, and to the narratives of King and Fitzroy in more recent times, that we are chiefly indebted for authentic information regarding the Patagonians. At the present time, in so far as we were able to ascertain from our repeated interviews with them in the Strait, many of them are, as respects their religion, Roman Catholics, at all events in name; but this altered or perhaps additional creed appears to be of considerably recent date, as Falkner tells us, in his account of their superstitions, that they
Believe in two superior beings—the one good, the other evil. The good power is called by the Moluches, Toquichar, which signifies governor of the people; by the Taluhets and Diuihets, Soychu, which in their tongue signifies the being who presides in the land of strong drink; the Tehuelhets call him Guayana-cunnee, or the lord of the dead.
He farther states that
Their worship is entirely directed to the evil being, except in some particular ceremonies made use of in reverence to the dead. To perform their worship, they assemble together in the tent of the wizard; who is shut up from the sight of the rest in a corner of the tent. In this apartment he has a small drum, one or two round calabashes with small sea-shells in them, and some square bags of painted hide, in which he keeps his spells. He begins the ceremony by making a strange noise with his drum and rattle-bone, after which he feigns a fit or struggle with the devil, who it is then supposed has entered into him; keeps his eyes lifted up, distorts the features of his face, foams at the mouth, screws up his joints, and after many violent and distorting motions, remains stiff and motionless, resembling a man seized with an epilepsy. After some time he comes to himself, as having got the better of the demon; next feigns, within his tabernacle, a faint, shrill, mournful voice, as of the evil spirit, who, by this dismal cry, is supposed to acknowledge himself subdued; and then, from a kind of tripod, answers all questions that are put to him. Whether his answers be true or false, is of no great signification; because, if his intelligence should prove false, it is the faidt of the devil. On all these occasions the wizard is well paid.
We are, however, informed that, although the profession is honourable and lucrative, it is not without its drawbacks, as in the case of any misfortune occurring to the tribe, such as the death of a chief, or the ravages caused by pestilence, the wizards are often put to death. Elsewhere, he states, that the Patagonians say that
“The stars are old Indians, that the Milky Way is the field where the old Indians hunt ostriches, and that the two southern clouds are the feathers of the ostriches which they kill.”
How far the foregoing account of the religious rites of these people is correct we have no means of knowing. Captain King, in his narrative, gives a curious account of a ceremony, apparently founded on Roman Catholicism, of which he was an eye-witness. He states that having shown himself inquisitive about the contents of a red baize bundle in the possession of Maria, a woman who was cacique of her tribe, she said to him, “Quiere mirare mi Cristo?” (Do you wish to see my Christ?), and that the following proceedings then took place:—
Maria, who, by the lead she took in the proceedings, appeared to be high priestess as well as cacique of the tribe, began by pulverising some whitish earth in the hollow of her hand; and then taking a mouthful of water, spit from time to time upon it, until she had formed a sort of pigment, which she distributed to the rest, reserving only suflScient to mark her face, eyelids, arms, and hair, with the figure of the cross. The manner in which this was done was pecuhar. After rubbing the paint in her left hand smooth with the palm of the right, she scored marks across the paint, and again others at right angles, leaving the impression of as many crosses, which she stamped upon different parts of her body; rubbing the paint, and making the crosses afresh after every stamp was made.
The men, after having marked themselves in a similar manner to do which some stripped to the waist, and covered all their body with impressions), proceeded to do the same to the boys, who were not permitted to perform this part of the ceremony themselves. Manuel, Maria's husband, who seemed to be her chief assistant on the occasion, then took from the folds of the sacred wrapper an awl, and with it pierced either the arms or ears of the whole party, each of whom, presented in turn, pinched up between the finger and thumb, that portion of flesh which was to be perforated. The object evidently was to lose blood, and those from whom the blood flowed freely showed marks of satisfaction, while some, whose wounds bled but little, underwent the operation a second time.
When Manuel had finished, he gave the awl to Maria, who pierced his arm; and then, with great solemnity and care, muttering and talking to herself in Spanish (not two words of which I could catch, although I knelt down close to her and listened with the greatest attention), she removed two or three wrappers, and exposed to our view a small figure, carved in wood, representing a dead person stretched out. After exposing the image, to which all paid the greatest attention, and contemplating it for some moments in silence, Maria began to descant upon the virtues of her Christ, telling us it had a good heart (‘buon corazon’) and was very fond of tobacco. Shortly after this the image was carefully packed up again, and the traffic, which had been suspended, recommenced with redoubled activity.
Of another class of ceremonies—namely, those relating to the burial of the dead—Falkner thus writes: —
When an Indian dies, one of the most distinguished women among them is immediately chosen to make a skeleton of the body, which is done by cutting out theentrails, which they burn to ashes, dissecting the flesh from the bones as clean as possible, and then burying them underground till the remaining flesh is entirely rotted off, or till they are removed (which must be within a year after the interment, but is sometimes within two months) to the proper burial-place of their ancestors.
This custom is strictly observed by the Moluches, Taluhets, and Diuihets; but the Chechehets, and Tehuelhets or Patagonians, place the bones on high, upon leaves or twigs woven together, to dry and whiten with the sun and rain.
During the time that the ceremony of making the skeletons lasts, the Indians, covered with long mantles of skins, and their faces blackened with soot, walk round the tent with long poles or lances in their hands, singing in a mournful tone of voice, and striking the ground to frighten away the Valichus or Evil Beings. Some go to visit and console the widow or widows and other relatives of the dead—that is, if there is anything to be got, for nothing is done but with a view of interest. During this visit of condolence, they cry, howl, and sing in the most dismal manner, straining out tears, and pricking their arms and thighs with sharp thorns to make them bleed. For this show of grief they are paid with glass beads, brass cascabels, and such like baubles, which are in high estimation among them. The horses of the dead are also immediately killed, that he may have wherewithal to ride upon in the Altrue Mapu, or Country of the Dead, reserving only a few to grace the last funeral pomp, and to carry the relics to their proper sepulchres.
The same author also mentions that the Moluches, Taluhets, and Diuihets, bury their dead in large square pits about a fathom deep; but that the Tehuelhets, or more southern Patagonians, having dried the bones of their dead, carry them to a great distance from their habitations, and after placing them in order, and adorning them with robes, beads, weapons, and other property of the deceased, deposit them above ground, under a hut or tent, with the skeletons of their dead horses placed around them.
King thus describes a Patagonian tomb at Gregory Bay, which he visited with the father of the deceased:—
It was a conical pile of dried twigs, and branches of bushes about two feet high, and twenty-five in circumference at the base, the whole bound round with thongs of hide, and the top covered with a piece of red cloth, ornamented with brass studs, and surmounted by two poles bearing red flags and a string of bells, which, waved by the wind, kept up a continual tinkling. A ditch about two feet wide and one foot deep, was dug round the tomb, except at the entrance, which had been filled up with bushes. In front of this entrance stood the stuffed skins of two horses, recently killed, each placed upon four poles for legs. The horses' heads were ornamented with brass studs, similar to those on the top of the tomb; and on the outer margin of the ditch were six poles, each carrying two flags, one over the other.
As I have already stated, the Patagonians seen by us on our first meeting with them were generally of a large stature, and such was the case with those we encountered on several occasions subsequently, the men being rarely less than five feet eleven inches in height, and often exceeding six feet by a few inches. Their height, however, appears much greater by reason of their long flowing robes, the comparatively small size of their horses, and the clearness of the atmosphere of the country, which causes comparatively small objects seen at a distance to appear much larger than they really are. It is probably to these circumstances, combined with a love of the marvellous, that we owe the accounts given by the older navigators of the gigantic stature of these people. Their weapons at the present time—for they appear to have discarded the use of bows and arrows—are limited to chuzos or long spears, hunting-knives, and the bolas. The last consist of three rounded stones covered with leather, or of three brass or iron balls, one of which is attached to each end of a plaited leather thong, from six to eight feet long, while the third is fastened equidistant from the other two. When in use this third ball is held in the hand, while the other two are made to revolve rapidly in the air above the head, the missile being then discharged with great force, and generally with unerring dexterity, at the object desired to be taken.
Occasionally the bolas are constructed of but two balls, the intermediate one being omitted; and this kind is principally employed for the capture of the ostrich, the other being reserved for the guanaco.
The guanaco and ostrich, both of which exist in numbers on the plains, form the principal food of the Patagonians, and rows of strips of the flesh of these animals may often be seen hanging up to dry in front of their tents. Their only vegetable aliment, in so far as we could observe, was the long tap-shaped root of an umbelliferous plant, which was either the Balsam-bog (Bolax glebaria), or an allied species of Azorella. Fitzroy, however, speaks of a second root of a bulbous nature, which they sometimes use along with their meat, and which, according to him, they call “tus.”
Except when excited to revenge a real or imaginary injury, or under the influence of alcohol, which is sometimes the cause of frays among them, the Patagonians appear to be an amiable and well-disposed people, and we were always on excellent terms with them. In addition to their own language, nearly all appear to be well acquainted with Spanish, and a few have a little knowledge of English. As to their numbers, it is impossible to speak with certainty, but there can be no doubt that they are rapidly decreasing, owing principally to the influence of strong drink and introduced diseases, such as small-pox, which has destroyed many of them, and in all probability, ere many centuries have elapsed, the race will have entirely disappeared.
There is one point connected with the history of the Patagonians on which I may remark, in conclusion, that I did not succeed in obtaining any definite information throughout the time of our sojourn in the Strait—namely, whether at the present time these people ever hold intercourse with the Fuegians. King mentions having seen a Fuegian in company with one of the bands of Patagonians whom he encountered, and Fitzroy states, apparently on the authority of Mr. Low, captain of a sealer, whom he encountered in these regions, “that there is every reason to conclude that the Canoe-men of the south side of these waters have frequent and even amicable intercourse with the horse-men of Patagonia. A part of that amicable intercourse consists in selling their children to Patagonians as slaves.” That these nations may have frequently met in former times when the islands of Santa Magdalena, Santa Marta,and above all Elizabeth Island,* were tenanted by Fuegians, appears not at all unlikely; but that they have done so for a long time back there is some reason to doubt, as, though we landed on many parts of the coast of N.E. Fuegia, we could never discover the slightest vestiges of canoes or rafts of any description, and in fact, in this part of Fuegia, with the exception of drift wood, no material exists for their manufacture. To the westward, where the Fuegians possess canoes, and are to be met with on both sides of the Strait, the Patagonians do not occur, as they inhabit exclusively the open plains, and do not enter the wooded country, except occasionally for the purpose of trading with the inhabitants of the Chilian colony.
† The Fuegians seem to have disappeared from the first two islands at a very early period, having been exterminated by the men of Oliver van Noort's expedition, but Wood encountered them on Elizabeth Island as late as 1670.
Nothing of a noteworthy description occurs in my journal for the 8th and 9th of February, as I remained on board on both of these days, being busily occupied in skinning birds. A fire took place in the forest behind the settlement at this time, causing some anxiety to the colonists; but in the course of two or three days it expended itself, without doing any damage farther than destroying a considerable amount of timber. On the evening of the 10th there was a very remarkable sunset effect; the gravelly beach at one side of the settlement assuming a grass-green tint, while the water beyond it was tinged with a bright rosy hue. On the 11th I made an excursion with Captain Mayne and one of the officers to visit a seam of coal in the neighbourhood, which the governor of the colony was anxious that we should examine. We landed in the forenoon, and after some delay in procuring horses, set forth in company with the governor, and a convict who acted as guide. The greater portion of our route lay through the woods, following the course of a small river, which, as I have previously mentioned, flows through a gorge in the hills behind Sandy Point, and enters the sea not far from the settlement, and involved rather rough riding, as our steeds were compelled to jump over many tree-trunks, and to scramble up and down the steep banks of the stream, which required to be crossed many times. Soon after entering the forest, we passed through a broad belt of charred trees, the result of the late fire; and after we had penetrated for some distance, we observed a perceptible increase in the numbers of the Winter's-Bark trees, the glossy leaves and white flowers of which showed to great advantage. The banks of the ravine through which the stream flows, after a time became very steep and elevated in their character, occasionally presenting fine geological sections, and several thick beds of fossil shells, principally composed of a species of Ostrea, being laid bare at one spot. At length, after we had ridden to a distance of between three and four miles from the settlement, we reached the site of the seam of coal, which we estimated to be about 400 feet above the level of the sea. The coal appeared to me, on examining it, to be of tertiary age and of inferior quality; and I could not but feel very doubtful whether the working of it would pay. On the bank under the trees, not far from where it occurred, I found a few beautiful specimens of a Calceolaria, closely resembling the C. nana, but with more and larger leaves and more finely coloured flowers; and on our ride back to the colony I gathered specimens of a speciesof currant (Ribes Magellanicum), with ripe fruit of a dull reddish colour and insipid taste. On our return on board, Dr. Campbell gave me specimens of two birds which he had shot. One of these was a fine hawk (Accipiter Chilensis), and the other, a curious little bird of the creeper family, the Oxyurus spinicauda with which we afterwards became very familiar, as it occurred plentifully throughout the wooded country of the Strait of Magellan and Channels on the west coast of Patagonia, in the Chonos Archipelago, and at Chiloe, as well as in many parts of ChiH proper. The shafts of the centre tail-feathers are prolonged, woodpecker-like, though it does not appear to climb the trees in the manner of these birds, being generally to be seen hopping about fallen trunks or low shrubs, in search of insects. It is a bold little bird, and often, in the course of our rambles, we were accompanied by about half-a-dozen at a time, uttering their peculiar sharp note at intervals.
Next morning (12th) we left Sandy Point, and proceeded northwards along the Patagonian coast, on the look-out for the party we had left about a week previously at Elizabeth Island, as we were anxious to ascertain their welfare before leaving for the Falkland Islands. Finding them encamped on one of the small islands in Peckett Harbour to the north of Elizabeth Island, we remained at that port for the rest of the day, which allowed some of us to land for a ramble. I found a fleshy-leaved Chenopodiaceous plant, new to me, but little else of interest; and a considerable number of geese and ducks were shot by the officers. The former were the Chloehaga Magellanica, which I have already noticed as common in this region, while the latter were of two very distinct species, i.e. the steamer-duck and the Anas cristata, which, with perhaps the exception of the steamer, is by far the most abundant of the Anatidse of the Strait, being to be met with almost everywhere in greater or less numbers, generally swimming among the broad belts of kelp at some distance from the shore. The plumage of both male and female is compounded of various shades of gray and brown, the latter colour predominating; and the male is distinguished by the possession of a small crest. We found them rather good eating during some months of the year; but at others they had an unpleasantly fishy flavour. The flesh of the steamer is very dark coloured and very strong tasted, so that, after several experiments in cooking it, we agreed in banishing it from our messtable.
On the morning of the 13th a few Ophiurids of the genus Ophiomastix, some small Echini and Annelids, were taken in the dredge. We left Peckett Harbour early in the day, and passed through the second Narrows, anchoring in St. Jago Bay. A very large albatross was observed swimming about at some distance from the ship in the course of the afternoon; and when we arrived at our anchorage, about four P.M., we noticed a large party of Patagonians riding about the country opposite us. On the following day we remained at anchor, a thick mist prevailing, and the obscurity of the atmosphere being materially increased by the smoke of large fires kindled by the Patagonians on the adjoining coast. Early in the day a party of these people were observed making signals to the effect that they wished to communicate with us, and accordingly two of the officers landed to have an interview with them. On their return, a few hours later, they brought with them a supply of guanaco and ostrich meat, which the Indians had exchanged for sugar, tobacco, etc.; and that day we had a characteristically Patagonian dinner, consisting of guanaco-steaks, roast leg of ostrich, and mussels. The ostrich, which we then tasted for the first time, was highly approved of by all of us (the flesh somewhat resembling roast mutton in flavour and colour), and the mussels were very popular with some of the party. Two species of the genus Mytilus, I may here remark, are abundant in the Strait—one with a shell possessed of a smooth surface (Mytilus Chilensis), which is also common on the coast of Chili; and the other, in which the shell is marked with longitudinal ribs (M. Magellanicus). Small pearls are not unfrequently to be met with in both—a circumstance noted by Sir Eichard Hawkins, who observes, in the course of his narrative of his passage through the Strait towards the close of the sixteenth century— “Otherwhiles we entertained ourselves in gathering Pearles out of Muscles, whereof there are abundance in all places, from Cape Froward to the end of the Straits. The Pearles are but of a bad colour, and small, but it may be that in the great Muscles in deeper water, the Pearles are bigger, and of greater value: of the small seed Pearle, there was great quantitie, and the Muscles were a great refreshing unto us; for they were exceeding good, and in great plenty.” Most of the Patagonians encountered on this occasion were tall in stature, one measuring six feet two, and few of them being less than five feet eleven inches. At night their fires cast up a brilliant red glare against the sky.
The 15th was a miserable day, blowing hard, with torrents of rain, so that we were prevented from making a move; and the only event that occurred was the appearance of a Bolivian steamer, commanded by an English captain, which passed not far from us on her westerly way through the Strait. Next morning, the weather having improved considerably, we left our anchorage, and, passing through the first Narrows, proceeded slowly out of the Strait, taking a line of soundings as we went, and emerging at the eastern entrance late in the afternoon. The l7th was bright and sunny, but there was a heavy swell, and unfortunately but little wind, so that we made rather slow progress. The following day was also fine, and we were favoured with a fair wind. In the evening we reached the Jason Islands, on the north-east of the West Falkland. On passing near Jason West Cay, the westernmost of the group, at about nine P.M., a most pungent odour, compounded of guano and decaying fish, was wafted off to the ship, an unmistakable evidence of an extensive roosting-place of penguins or cormorants; and, at the same time, we encountered a remarkable tide-rip. A little more than an hour later we were drifted by a very strong current unpleasantly close to Jason East Cay, and soon after one of the steep cones of Steeple Jason, upwards of 1000 feet in height, formed a very striking object, looming through the haze. The morning of the 19 th was very misty; but about nine o'clock the remarkable Eddystone Eock, about 280 feet in height, off Cape Dolphin, on the north coast of the East Falkland Island, was sighted, and revealed to us our position. Between five and six P.M. we entered Port-William, and about an hour later we were lying at anchor in Stanley Harbour, which we all concurred in regarding as one of the most wretched-looking places which we had ever seen—the settlement, on this cold, rainy afternoon, appearing very dreary, with its gray stone houses scattered along the side of a bare, low, bleak hill. We had before long, however, the great satisfaction of finding that a large batch of letters, left by H.M.S. °Narcissus” a short time before, was lying for us, and over the perusal of these we passed a pleasant evening.
Next morning the weather was fine, and things had assumed a more cheerful aspect, though the colouring of the landscape was very cold—masses of gray quartz-rock cropping out at intervals on the surface of a rugged country, entirely destitute of trees, and covered with a peaty soil, clothed with yellowish wiry grass. It is perhaps hardly necessary to inform the reader that no native trees of any description exist on these islands, and that attempts to introduce them have been hitherto attended with entire failure. Even shrubs are very scarce, and the only plant perhaps that merits the name, the Veronica decussata, appears to be confined to the West Island. The greater number of the terrestrial and marine animals† are such as are also to be met with in the Strait of Magellan and adjacent coasts of South America; and the same is the case as regards the plants, but few of which appear to be peculiar to these islands, occurring either on the plains of Eastern Patagonia, or in the western wooded Fuegian region. It is, however, interesting to observe, that though there is an entire absence of trees in this inhospitable spot, several species of plants occur, which in the Strait of Magellan are strictly confined to the wooded country, and are not to be met with on the open plains of Patagonia. This is, doubtless, in great measure, due to the amount of rainfall in these regions, which is much greater than in eastern Patagonia.
† The Molluscan fauna has been regarded by some authors as considerably dissimilar from that of the Strait, but this is not the case according to my observations.
On the afternoon of this day a party of three of us landed, and had a pleasant walk over the hill at the back of the settlement. From the summit we had a fine view of the curiously-shaped harbour, and saw one of those extraordinary “streams of stones” which have attracted the attention of most visitors to the Falklands, and for the origin of which it is so difficult to account. They are formed of immense accumulations of great angular fragments of quartz, spread out in belts (sometimes as much as a mile broad, and two or three miles long) in the valleys, extending in some instances to the tops of the gray quartz hills, from which they appear to have been derived. The name “streams of stones” is a very fit title for them, as they frequently resemble the course of a great river, although their deposition and arrangement are probably in no way the result of aqueous agency. Mr. Darwin, in his observations on this wonderful phenomenon, remarks that never did any scene like these “streams of stones” so forcibly convey to his “mind the idea of a convulsion, of which in historical records we might seek in vain for a counterpart; yet that the progress of knowledge will probably some day give a simple explanation of this phenomenon, as it already has of the so-long-thought inexplicable transportal of the erratic boulders which are strewed over the plains of Europe.” As yet, however, no satisfactory solution of the problem seems to have been arrived at.
On the hill-side I observed several species of plants already recognised in the Strait, such as the “Diddle-dee” berry of the Falkland Islanders (a species of Empetrum, at one time regarded as distinct from the E. nigrum of Europe, on account of the red instead of black colour of the berries, to which the Upland geese are very partial); as well as others which were new to me,such as the famous Balsam-bog, Azorella (Bolax) glebaria; the Falkland Island Tea-plant (Myrtus nummularia); and the Almond-flower of the colonists (Callixene marginata). The first of these plants has for a long period attracted the attention of navigators who have touched at the Falklands, and its appearance is so extraordinary that a casual observer would be most unlikely to refer it to the order (Umbelliferœ) to which it truly belongs.†
† I learned, in the course of conversation with some of the inhabitants of Stanley, that they believed it to be a kind of fungus!
Dr. Hooker remarks that—
In whatever portion of this country the voyager may land, he cannot turn his steps inland without seeing scattered over the ground huge, perfectly hemispherical hillocks of a pale and dirty yellow-green colour, and uniform surface, so hard that one may break the knuckles on them. If the day be warm, a faint aromatic smell is perceived in their neighbourhood, and drops or tears of a viscid white gum flow from various parts of these vegetable hillocks. They stand apart from one another, varying from two to four feet in height, and though often hemispherical, are at times much broader than high, and even eight to ten feet long. The very old ones begin to decay near the ground, where a crumbling away commences all round, and having but a narrow attachment, they resemble immense balls or spheres laid upon the earth. Upon close examination, each mass is found to be herbaceous throughout, the outer coat formed of innumerable little shoots rising to the same height, covered with imbricating leaves, and so densely packed that it is even difficult to cut out a portion with a knife, while the surface is of such uniformity that lichens sometimes spread over it, and other plants vegetate on its surface in the occasional holes or decayed places. If at a very early period a young plant of the Bolax be removed and examined, the origin of these great holes can be traced; for each of them, of whatever size, is the product of a single seed, and the result of many, perhaps hundreds of years' growth. In a young state the plant consists of a very long, slender, perpendicular root, like a whip-lash, that penetrates the soil. At its summit are borne two or three small branching stems, each closely covered for its whole length with shooting leaves. As the individual increases in size, the branches divide more and more, radiating regularly from the resting centre, instead of prolonging rapidly; these send out lateral short shoots from their apices, and in such numbers that the mass is rendered very dense; and by the time the plant has gained the diameter of a foot, it is quite smooth and convex on the surface. The solitary root has evidently become insufficient for the wants of the mass of individuals, which are nourished by fibrous radicles, proceeding from below the leaves, and deriving nutriment from the quantity of vegetable matter which the decayed foliage of the lower part of the stems and older branches affords.
The Falkland Island tea-plant is a little species of myrtle, the stems of which, thickly covered with small rounded glossy leaves, creep over the surface of the ground, and has derived its name from having been frequently used as a substitute for tea by sealers who have visited the Islands. Its flowers are of a pinkish-white tint, and the fruit which succeeds them possesses an agreeable sweetish taste. The Almond-flower, so called from the delicious fragrance of its pretty white blossoms, which are succeeded by dark purple berries, belongs to a genus generally referred to the order Liliacece. In the Falkland Islands, I, as a rule, found it clustering in crevices of rock; but in the western part of the Strait it principally occurs half-buried in moss at the base of the trees.
Another plant which I noticed on this occasion was a fern, the Lomaria Boryana, which, though extremely abundant in the wooded region of the Strait, does not occur in Eastern Patagonia. It is a fact worth noting, as regards this species, that while in the western part of the Strait of Magellan. it invariably developes a short stem, from one to two feet high, in the Falklands it appears to be as invariably destitute of one. In the gardens of the settlement I observed a species of Veronica decussata, as well as examples of the famous Tussac-grass, once abundantly distributed around the greater part of the coast of the islands; but now, for the most part, restricted to various small islets and projecting headlands, where it can flourish with immunity from the ravages of the wild cattle which have been its principal destroyers. A little bird, of which many specimens Avere seen by us on this occasion in the neighbourhood of the settlement, was, I believe, the Chlorospiza melanodera, one of the Fringillidœ, somewhat resembling a yellow-hammer in general appearance, and flying in small flocks.
In the evening H.M.S. “Zealous” arrived, anchoring in Port William just outside the harbour; and we were gratified by receiving a fresh supply of letters and papers.
The 21st was fine, though rather windy. In the afternoon I landed, with two companions, at the opposite side of the harbour from the settlement, and walked round to it, a distance of about seven miles. On the beach I found a few Chitons, Tunicata, and Sponges; and we saw several cormorants and a great number of steamer-ducks, which were very tame, but hard to kill. One was, however, shot, and proved to be in no respect different from the species as it occurs in A few additional plants were also obtained, a species of Achyrophorus among the number. On the 25th I went on shore in the morning, and had a long walk to the eastern end of the harbour, crossing over the neck of the peninsula which separates it from the open sea beyond, and descending into a sandy bay, on the beach of which the surf was breaking with a thundering sound. Here I saw, for the first time, many fragments of the stems of a gigantic sea-weed (Lessonia fuscescens) lying strewn about, some of the specimens exceeding three inches in diameter. Dr. Hooker observes of this and an allied species, that they
Are truly wonderful Algae, whether seen on the water or on the beach, for they are arborescent, dichotoraously-branched trees, with the branches pendulous, and again divided into sprays, from which hang linear leaves, from one to three feet long. The trunks usually are about five to ten feet long, as thick, as the human thigh, rather contracted at the very base, and again diminishing upwards. The individual plants are attached in groups or solitary, but gregarious like the pine or oak, extending over a very considerable surface, so as to form a miniature forest, which is entirely submerged during highwater or even halftide, but whose topmost branches project above the surface at the ebb. To sail in a boat over these groves on a calm day, affords the naturalist a delightful recreation; for he may there witness, in the Antarctic regions, and below the surface of the ocean, as busy a scene as is presented by the coral reefs of the tropics. The leaves of the Lessonia are crowded with Sertulariœ and Mollusca, or encrusted with Flustrœ; on the trunks parasitic Algæ abound, together with Chitons, Patellœ, and other shells; at the bases and among the tangled roots swarm thousands of Crustacea and Radiata, whilst fish of several species dart among the leaves and branches.
And the same author adds that “The ignorant observer at once takes the trunks of Lessonla, washed up on the beach, “for pieces of drift-wood;” mentioning, that “on one occasion, no persuasion could prevent the captain of a brig from employing his boat and boat's crew, during two bitterly cold days, in collecting this incombustible weed for fuel.”
On the sandy beach at the eastern end of the harbour a variety of Algæ were strewn, together with a few Molluscs, principally characteristic Magellanic forms, but including one small bivalve that I never met with in the Strait. This was the Cyamium antarcticum of Philippi, and occurred in numerous small clusters, connected together by a sort of byssus. Numbers of a beautiful little Gymnophthalmatous Acaleph were also lying on the sand. I saw many steamerducks, which were most amusingly tame, sitting watching me with an air of grave consideration, until I had approached within a few yards of them, when they would waddle down the beach, or tumble their great heavy bodies into the water, and then steam off to a safe distance, uttering their strange cries. At one place, ten cormorants and three steamer-ducks were assembled on three small rocks, placed side by side, and would not take their departure till I had thrown a succession of stones at them; two of the former birds remaining after several of the stones had struck the rock close to them, contenting themselves with merely flapping their wings slightly, and not taking the trouble to move till I had come within a few feet of them. It was most curious to notice the numbers of cormorants which were perched on old coal-hulks, not in the least disturbed by the presence of the inhabitants of ships in their vicinity. Five porpoises were disporting themselves at one point of the harbour, within three or four yards of the shore, entirely regardless of my near neighbourhood, and did not leave their station until I threw a large stone on the back of one of them, when they hurriedly scudded off in different directions. On the ground near the beach, I found a handsome Senecio (S. Falklandicus) rather plentifully in bloom, as well as one or two specimens of a beautiful Oxalis (0. enneaphylla), long supposed to be peculiar to the Falkland Islands, but which also occurs in eastern Patagonia. It is very plentiful at the Falklands, but flowers early in the season, so that it was nearly out of flower at the time of this our first visit. The leaves are curiously divided into numerous segments, and the flowers are large (about the size of, or a little larger than, our common bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis), and of a beautiful snow-white tint. In common with the other species of the genus, it possesses agreeably acid qualities.
I returned on board early in the afternoon, and soon after a very thick mist came on, and next day we were detained prisoners on board, as it was blowing hard. Eain or wind, or both combined, appear to constitute the normal state of things in these bleak and desolate islands, although fine days now and then occur. On the afternoon of the 27th, a misty November-like day, Dr. Campbell and I landed, and walked for some distance along the shore of the harbour, assiduously employed in searching the stranded masses of Macrocystis for marine animals, of which we found a considerable number among the interlacing roots, including Paguri, Halicarcini, Porcellanœ, a curious Ascidian (Cynthia verrucosa), and another animal of the same order, which recalled the remarkable Chelyosoma of the Arctic Seas; several Annelids, and some Echinoderms, including a small yellow Cucumaria (C. crocea), and a Cidarid, with strong thick spines (Temnocidaris?).† I also picked up an odd relic in the botanical line,—the dried leaf of a banyan, bearing the following inscription:—“Ficus Indica, Banian Tree, India. From the Great Banian Tree in the Botanical Gardens, Calcutta. Dec. 10th, 1865.” The 28th and the 1st of March were two cold, disagreeable days; an easterly wind blowing, rain falling in torrents, and, to add to our discomfort, the process of coaling going on.
† This Cidarid I never met with either in the Strait of Magellan or on the west coast of Patagonia.
On the evening of the 2d we left Stanley Harbour, with but little regret, setting forth under steam on our return voyage to the Strait. The morning of the 3d was fine; and as we moved quietly along, several brilliant scarlet patches, of limited extent, were observed on the surface of the water by the officer of the forenoon watch. We managed to dip up a portion of one of these by means of a bucket attached to a rope, and found that the brilliant colour was due to the presence of multitudes of small Decapodous Crustacea, somewhat resembling miniature lobsters, which moved rapidly about in a backward direction, by means of repeated flexions and extensions of their tails. They measured about three-quarters of an inch in length, and their general colour was a vivid scarlet; the eyes, a central patch on the cephalo-thorax, and a longitudinal line extending along the centre of the tail, being bluish-black. I afterwards ascertained them to be young specimens of the Grimothea gregaria, an animal closely allied to Galathea, and not unfrequently to be met with in these latitudes. The following year I received specimens which had been taken by the officers of the “Narcissus” at San Carlos in Falkland Sound, and they have been observed in the south of Fuegia both by Dana and Dr. Hooker. They appear also to have attracted the attention of various of the older navigators; Sir Eichard Hawkins, among the number, speaking of a cove not far from the Strait of Magellan, where “all the water was full of a small kinde of red Crabbes.” The barometer began to fall during the afternoon of this day, and continued falling rapidly during the night, the wind rising at the same time; so that, by the forenoon of the 4th, it was blowing a gale from S.W., and there was a heavy sea on, and we were therefore obliged to keep greatly off our course. By the evening, however, the barometer had again begun to ascend; and early on the morning of the 5th the wind died almost entirely away; and, accordingly, sail was taken in, and we were able to keep right on our way under steam. Very early on the following morning Cape Yirgins was made, and after we had anchored for a short time on the Sarmiento Bank to await the approach of daylight, we entered the Strait, and finding the “Zealous,” which had left the Falkland Islands a few days before us lying off Cape Possession, we anchored near her, and remained there for the rest of the day, as the weather appeared unpropitious for proceeding farther on. Here we obtained a fine haul of Waldheimia venosa, some Calyptreœ, dead Volutes, etc.
It having been arranged that the “Nassau” should pilot the “Zealous” through the Strait, the two ships set out in company at daylight next morning. On passing Elizabeth Island we communicated with one of the two officers who had been left with the surveying party, and learned that they were all well, and had seen much of the Patagonians, who had been very civil to them. We reached Sandy Point between five and six P.M., and there remained during the following day. In the forenoon, Captain Mayne, on his return from taking sights on shore, brought me specimens of gold, associated with quartz, and samples of copper ore, which the governor had given him to examine, stating that they had been procured in the neighbourhood of the settlement. I spent the afternoon on shore, and found several Fungi that were new to me. One of these was a large Polyporus, of an exquisite mottled crimson colour, growing on the Antarctic beech; and another was the Cyttaria Hookeri, discovered by Dr. Hooker at Cape Horn, and which also occurred on the deciduous beech. A few birds were shot, one of which was a kind of flycatcher (Tœnioptera Pyrope),§ with soft grayish plumage, often noticed by us during our later experiences in the Strait. Mr. Darwin has observed concerning it, that it is not uncommon near Port Famine, and along the whole western coast, even as far as the desert valley of Copiapo. I never, however, saw it in the channels or the west coast of Patagonia, although I believe I observed it at Chiloe. As Mr. Darwin accurately remarks, “it generally takes its station on the branch of a tree on the outskirts of the forest.§ When thus perched, usually at some height above the ground, it sharply looks out for insects passing by, which it takes on the wing.”
We weighed on the forenoon of the 9th, and proceeded southwards, noticing with interest the change in the aspect of the land on either side of us, which by degrees assumed a much bolder and more elevated character, exhibiting many mountain-peaks covered with perpetual snow. The sky also became altered in appearance, being covered with black clouds, which, at intervals, descended in heavy showers, and caused us to realise that we were approaching the confines of the rainy region of the west. At three P.M. we reached Port Famine, situated about thirty miles to the south, and somewhat to the westward of Sandy Point, on the Patagonian coast, and here we came to a halt for the day. The port was thus named by Cavendish in 1587, in commemoration of the sad fate of a colony of Spaniards left there by Sarmiento, between three and four years previously. Sarmiento, having been despatched by the Spanish government to fortify the Strait, in order to prevent the English from passing through it, established two settlements—one at Cape Possession, which he named ISTombre de Jesus; and the other at Port Famine, calling it King Philip's City. But, on the “Approach of Winter,” in the words of Wood's succinct narrative, he “took five-and-twenty seamen along with him, and departed for Spain;” but in his way thither, being captured by Sir Walter Ealeigh and brought prisoner to England, the unfortunate Spaniards were left to starve in the Strait. Their fate appears to have remained unknown until Cavendish visited these parts some years later, when he found only four-and-twenty survivors out of the original four hundred colonists. The following account of their sufferings occurs in the narrative of his voyage:—
“The ninth day wee departed from Penguin Island, and ranne South South West to King Philip's Citie, which the Spaniards had built: which Towne or Citie had foure Forts, and every Fort had in it an cast Peece, which Peeces were buryed in the ground; the Carriages were standing in their places vnbnried; wee digged for them, and had them all. They had contrived their Citie very well, and seated it in the best place of the Straits for Wood and Water. They had builded np their Churches by themselves. They had Lawes very severe among themselves, for they had erected a Gibbet, whereon they had done execution vpon some of their companie. It seemed vnto us that their whole living for a great space was altogether upon Huskies and Lympits; for there was not anything else to be had, except some Deere which came out of the Mountaines downe to the fresh Kivers to drinke. These Spaniards which were there, were only come to fortifie the Straits, to the end that no other Nation should have passed through into the South Sea, saving only their owne; but as it appeared it was not Gods will so to have it. For during the time that they were there, which was two yeares at the least, they could never have anything to growe, or in anywise prosper. And on the other side, the Indians oftentimes preyed upon them, vntill their Victuals grew so short (their store being spent which they had brought with them out of Spaine, and having no meanes to renew the same), that they died like Dogges in their Houses, and in their Clothes, wherein we found them still at our comming, vntill that in the end the Towne being wonderfully taynted with the smell and the savour of the dead people, the rest which remayned alive were driven to burie such things as they had there in their Towne either for provision or for furniture, and so to forsake the Towne, and to goe along the Sea-side, and seek their Victuals, to preserve them from starving, taking nothing with them, but every man his Harquebuze and his furniture that was able to carry it (for some were not able to carry them for weaknesse), and so lived for the space of a yeere or more, with Eootes, Leaves, and sometimes a Fowle which they might kill with their Peece. To conclude, they were determined to have travelled towards the River of Plate, only three and twentie persons being left alive, whereof two were Women, which were the remainder of foure hundred.”
The tragical celebrity of Port Famine was further increased at a much later period by the death of Captain Stokes, who, associated with Captain King in the survey of the Strait at the close of the first quarter of the present century, here put an end to his life, his mind having given way under the anxiety and hardships which he had experienced in the course of his work. About sixteen years later, the Chilian government, as I have elsewhere incidentally remarked, established a colony here, which was removed after some time to Sandy Point. The anchorage has been for long regarded as an excellent one, and is well known to all those who have had occasion to pass through the Strait.
Immediately after we anchored, a large party of us landed and spent some hours on shore, encountering now and then very heavy showers of rain. We found the woods so thick that it was hardly possible to penetrate into them for any distance; and accordingly wended our way along a tract of open ground between the forest and the sea, till our further progress was arrested by the Sedger, one of the largest of the rivers flowing into the Strait, and, according to the chart, navigable by boats for a considerable distance after quarter flood-tide. So many of the plants were out of bloom that I did not add materially to my botanical collection, though I obtained some very fine foliaceous lichens on the stems of the trees. Several teal, and a specimen of the gray flycatcher obtained on the previous day at Sandy Point, were shot, and we saw numerous small flocks of a black starling, or Troopial § (Curœus aterrimus), which we at a later period found to be one of the few land-birds common in the western region of the Strait and western Patagonian Channels, besides occurring abundantly in Chili, where it is frequently kept as a cagebird on account of the facility with which it may be taught to talk. Ordinarily its notes, when in the wild condition, are sufliciently harsh, but on one occasion I saw one that was singing most melodiously on the top of a low tree. Possibly this may have been an escaped bird, the accomplishment having been acquired in a state of captivity. While we were strolling along the northern bank of the river, we had our first sight of the western Fuegian Indians, a party of whom appeared on the opposite side attired in short sealskin cloaks, which hardly covered their bodies, and left their lanky legs bare. They attempted to hold conamunication with us by howling in their language, and repeated with astonishing accuracy various slang phrases that were shouted to them in reply by some of the members of our party. Returning to the landing-place along the sandy beach, I found many specimens of a sand-inhabiting bivalve, the Mactra edulis§§ of Captain King, who thus named it on account of its having furnished an article of food much appreciated by his ship's company, and a portion of a Crustacean of the genus Galathea, the G. subrugosa, a species which I often met with subsequently in the Strait, and which also has been taken at the Auckland Islands. Steady rain set in soon after we got on board, and continued during most of the evening. A seining party, which had been despatched soon after we anchored, returned shortly after dark, tolerably successful, having caught many specimens of a species of Atherinichthys (the A. laticlavia), as well as of a larger fish presenting a general resemblance to a mullet.
§ Or Troupial: Any of several tropical American birds of the genus Icterus, related to the orioles and New World blackbirds, especially I. icterus, having orange and black plumage.
§§ In The Zoological Journal, 1835, vol. V, p. 335. London: G. B. Sowerby.
“ … I have named it, in allusion to its affording us a grateful, as well as seasonable, supply of fresh food.”
We weighed the following morning, and continued our southerly and westerly course. While the anchor was being got up, two canoes of Fuegians came alongside. They brought bows and arrows for barter, and apparently knew no English but “tabac,” which they repeatedly demanded. They had fires in the bottom of their boats, and pulled with quick, short strokes, using paddles resembling short oars. It rained heavily during the greater part of the day, with occasional brief intervals of fair weather, which were occupied by me in contemplating the magnificently savage character of the scenery of the Patagonian and Euegian coasts, the mountains on either side towering up steeply from the water's edge, with their summits in many instances thickly mantled with snow. Turning Cape Froward, the southernmost point of the continent of South America, we kept along the Patagonian side of the Strait, passing, after a time, the striking cliffs of Cape Holland, and towards the close of the afternoon reached Fortescue Bay, at the entrance of Port Gallant, where we anchored for the night.
On the following day (11th) it was blowing very hard squalls, with but brief intervals between them, outside our anchorage, and it was therefore considered unadvisable to make a move—a circumstance regretted by few of us, as aftbrding an opportunity for the examination of the country in the neighbourhood. Early in the forenoon, therefore, a large party of us, well encased in waterproofs, left the ship, landing on a small wooded islet (Wigwam Island of the charts) at the entrance of Port Gallant. As we neared the beach, our attention was attracted by the brilliant red colouring presented by a thicket of tall bushes, which we supposed to be Fuchsias; and on stepping on shore we ascertained that our conjecture was correct, and were greatly delighted with the beautiful appearance of these elegant shrubs, which attained a height of from eight to twelve feet, and were loaded with blossoms. This Fuchsia (the F. Magellanica) is widely distributed throughout the western part of the Strait, the Channels, and the west coast of Patagonia, the Chonos Archipelago, Chiloe, and South Chili, and was, until within the last few years, confounded with the Fuchsia coccinea of Aiton,§ a very distinct species as Dr. Hooker has demonstrated. It very generally occurs in thickets, affording a most serviceable shelter to the wigwams of the Fuegian Indians, and its flowers are eagerly sought after by a little humming-bird which extends as far south as these cold regions. After a short time spent on this island, we crossed from it to the mainland on a gravelly peninsula, uncovered save at high tide. Here I picked up some dead shells of a large species of Fissurella, and I also found a Lichina growing plentifully on the stones. We then skirted along the edge of the thick woods which encircle Port Gallant, separating in various directions as inclination led us; and, despite the heavy rain which set in after a time, I passed some delightful hours in the pursuit of my avocations. The mountain scenery was of a character ineffaceable from the memory. Standing at the water's edge, and directing one's gaze gradually upwards, there was to be observed, first a series of densely wooded, nearly perpendicular slopes; next an almost infinite succession of gray precipices of gneiss and granite, with a multitude of foaming cascades pouring down their fissures; then vast tracks of spotless snow; and finally black jagged peaks, half concealed by the clouds. Drake certainly did not exaggerate, when, in the course of his account of those regions, he observes —
§ William Aiton (1731-1793).
The land on both sides is very huge and mountainous; the lower Mountaines whereof, although they may be monstrous and wonderful to look upon for their height, yet there are others which in height exceede them in a strange manner, reaching themselves above their fellowes so high, that betweene them did appear three Regions of Clouds.
I had a very interesting but most laborious walk through the woods, which were soaking wet, as indeed the entire surface of the land in the western part of the Strait, without exaggeration, may be stated to be. Nowhere was there a level space of ground to be lighted on, but on all sides existed elevations formed by dead stumps and prostrate trunks richly clothed with lichens and Jungermanniae, interspersed with mossy hollows into which I sank above my waist; while in addition the ground was everywhere intersected by numbers of minute rivulets, often concealed from view by the luxuriant growth of the mosses and ferns which fringed their banks. I had hardly entered the woods when one of the officers brought me a specimen of an exquisite rose-coloured flower, which I found in the course of the two succeeding years everywhere abundant in the damp region of the Strait and the Western Channels, and with whose beauty I never ceased to be delighted. This was the elegant Philesia buxifolia, an endogenous plant classed by some botanists with the Smilaceœ, by others with the Liliacœ, and by a third party regarded as the type of a natural order named Philesiaceœ. It varies very much in its growth, for although in ordinary circumstances it forms a suberect under-shrub from one to two feet in height, when it occurs close to the base of trees its branches frequently elongate, and pushing themselves through the coating of moss and lichens, with which the trunks of the trees in this humid country are, with few exceptions, covered, often attain a height of from six to ten feet or more. The leaves are narrow, alternate, and coriaceous, with thickened margins; and the flower is a bell-shaped perianth, about two inches long, by a little more than one inch in diameter at the mouth, formed of six divisions, the three outer of which are much shorter and narrower than the three inner, each of which is provided at the base with a greenish-yellow glandular pit, which secretes a honey-like fluid. The stamens are six in number, and have the lower portion of their filaments united to a tube, through which the long style, bearing at its summit a green trilobed viscid stigma, passes. The appearance presented by a cluster of these beautiful flowers hanging pendant from the branch of a tree is most attractive. The plant ranges from Valdivia in South Chili, where it is denominated Pepino, to the south of Fuegia. In the Strait of Magellan I did not meet with it to the east of Port Gallant, nor did I encounter it in the island of Chiloe, though I found it in the Chonos Archipelago. Double flowers occasionally occur. In one of these I found eighteen instead of six divisions of the perianth present, some of which had been formed at the expense of the stamens, which were reduced in number. The fruit of the plant is a rounded hard green berry, containing rugose seeds imbedded in a gelatinous pulp.
The principal trees of which the woods were here composed were the evergreen beech and the Winter's-bark, but some large specimens of a kind of cypress (Libocedrus tetragonus) were growing round the water's edge. Their bark was of a bright reddish tint, like that of the Scotch fir, and the foliage, which a good deal resembled that of a Thuja, was dark green. Though apparently not very common at Port Gallant, this tree becomes very abundant towards the westward, forming one of the most conspicuous features of the forests in the western part of the Strait and the Channels, and extending at least as far north as Chiloe, where it is termed “Cipres.” The “Alerse” of the Chilians, erroneously referred to this tree by King, belongs to a distinct genus, Fitzroya, which probably does not occur to the south of the Gulf of Penas, if so far. The wood of the “Cipres” is employed by the Chilians for building purposes, although I believe they consider it much inferior in value to that of the “Alerse;” and the Fuegian Indians make use of the straight tough stems of the young trees for shafts for their spears.
Among the other plants which were conspicuous on this occasion were the holly-leaved barberry; the Umpetruinrubrwii, forming clumps nearly two feet high, and bearing red and purplish-black berries in nearly equal abundance; and a great fern, the Lomaria Boryana, with a thick scaly stem sometimes exceeding two feet in height, bearing at its summit a crown of radiating, stout, leathery, pinnate leaves, sometimes exceeding two feet in length by more than six inches in width. This last, which abounds throughout the damp region of Patagonia and northern Fuegia, often imparts a semi-tropical appearance to the forests on the steep mountain-sides, and it is not surprising that it should have been mistaken for a small species of palm by some of the older navigators† I also found two beautiful species of Hymenophyllum, a pretty little Asplenmm (A. Magellanicum), and a Gleichenia (G. acutifolia).
† It is well described as “nova especie de palma” in the Ultimo Viage al Estrecho de Magallanes de la Fregata de S. M. Santa Maria de la Cabeza, etc. etc.
Animal life was but poorly represented, the list of Vertebrata being summed up by a few steamer and brown ducks in the water of the harbour, a solitary specimen of a hawk, and a rather large kingfisher, which last was fortunately shot by one of the party. Two species of insects were captured—one a large dragonfly, and the other an orange humble-bee of considerable size (Bombus Dahlbornii), which appears to be not uncommon in these parts; and the dredge yielded many dead specimens of Terebratella Magellanica, a Pecten (P. Patagonicus), and some pretty branching Nullipores.
On the 12th, the weather still continuing unfavourable, we remained at anchor. During the greater part of the day there was a succession of violent squalls, accompanied with showers of sleet, though now and then brief gleams of sunshine occurred, when rainbow-coloured tints were developed on the land, and a series of fine dissolving views produced—the snowy peaks being lighted up for a moment or two, and then rapidly shrouded in mist. Snow also fell heavily on the higher mountains, descending a considerable distance on their sides, I was busily occupied all day in the examination of the plants procured the previous day, and in skinning the kingfisher. This bird, the Ceryle stellata, we found in the course of the two following years common in the dark and dreary inlets of Fuegia and the Channels, as well as at Port Otway, the Chonos Archipelago, and Chiloe. It is often to be seen perched on the branch of a tree overhanging the water, keeping a vigilant look-out for its finny prey, and is of bold nature, readily allowing the sportsman to come within range of it. On more than one occasion a specimen lighted on the lower rigging of the ship, and sat there for some time, uttering at intervals its harsh cry. Above, the principal tint of the plumage is grayish slate-colour, with white spots, while beneath a somewhat rufous hue prevails. I found a curious muscular peculiarity in all the specimens examined by me—two of the longitudinal superficial muscles of the neck (biventer cervicis) being connected by a transverse tendon. I was not able to ascertain anything as regards the nidification of the species. A female specimen, obtained in December 1868, had ova in a far-advanced state of development in the ovary.
On the 13th, the weather having considerably improved, though there was a westerly wind, we left Fortescue Bay, and continued on our course to the westward. The day, though showery, could not be considered as a bad one for the region; and as we steamed onwards through the narrow reaches which intervene between Port Gallant and the western entrance of the Strait, we had a constant succession of views of the most magnificent description, entirely surpassing my expectations of the mysterious grandeur of this portion of our route, where, as Mr. Darwin has well observed, the distant channels between the mountains appear from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this world. At times the nearer wooded heights were bathed in bright sunlight, while the more distant snowy ones were in shadow, and at others the sun shone brightly on the white slopes and peaks, causing the forest-clad hills to appear as a black wall rising sheer out of the water, while occasionally an entire mountain-side was rainbow-tinted. To add to the glorious effect, were several splendid glaciers, some reaching nearly to the surface of the water, and all in a more or less degree exhibiting deep longitudinal and transverse crevasses, the splendid blue colouring of which formed a fine contrast with the dazzling purity of the surface of the icy mass. Passing with a curious gaze the entrance of the remarkable Otway Water,§ we kept along the coast of the Cordova Peninsula until late in the afternoon, when we anchored in Playa Parda Cove, a beautiful little land-locked nook, surrounded by mountains, and with a cascade pouring down at its head; while the “Zealous,” whose large size unfitted her for such a tiny berth, lay a short distance outside the entrance. Here, being otherwise engaged, I did not go on shore, but a few of the officers took advantage of half-an-hour's daylight which yet remained to land for a scramble, and on their return brought me specimens of plants, including a handsome shrub which was new to me. This was the Desfontainea spinosa,† a plant with bright green holly-like leaves, and tubular scarlet flowers with short yellow lobes. The two following years I found it everywhere abundant, from Playa Parda to the western entrance of the Strait, and from the southern extremity of Smyth's Channel to the Gulf of Peñas [sic, Penas]. It has also been obtained in Staten Land, and is probably common in the wooded region of the south of Puegia; while on the chain of the Andes it appears to extend as far north as Peru. Several other species of the genus, regarding the true affinities of which a considerable amount of difference of opinion has prevailed among botanists, have been described—all, I believe, from the western side of South America, and possibly modified forms of a single stock.
§ Canal Jerónimo, coordinates 53.533631° S, 72.373666° W.
† The Flora Antarctica is my authority for the specific name of this plant, which is perhaps rather D. Hookeri. I have not had leisure as yet to examine my specimens with the care necessary to determine the matter.
The following morning we bid good-bye to the “Zealous,” whose ship's company treated us to a parting cheer as she started to pursue her westerly course, in the hope of clearing the Strait before the evening, while we returned on our track to the eastward. Soon after entering English Reach, we saw several Fuegian canoes, and accordingly halted for a few minutes to allow one of them to come alongside. In her were three men, who shouted and screamed, much after the fashion of sea-birds, as they approached us, at the same time waving their sealskin cloaks above their heads. On coming close to the ship they vociferated “Rope, rope, yammerschooner,” and then kept up a perpetual yell of “tabaca, tabaca,” accompanied with a variety of gesticulations. Though better off in respect of garments than the inhabitants of another canoe previously seen by us, the greater number of whom were entirely naked, they appeared very insufficiently clothed considering the severity of the weather, the snow this day extending half-way down the hills—their sole attire consisting of the above-mentioned cloaks, which only covered their backs and shoulders. They had, however, a fire of green boughs of the evergreen beech, on a bed of hard clay, in the bottom of the canoe, which was formed of five thick strips of bark fastened together with rushes, one piece forming the floor, and the remaining four the sides. They exchanged a bow, arrows, and a quiver, for some tobacco, and when we had given them some ship-biscuit, we moved on. The first revolution of the screw seemed to amuse them very much, after which they appeared rather terrified, and paddled off in a great hurry. I was struck with the difference of their physiognomies, one man being hideously ugly, while another possessed decidedly good features. Travellers, I suspect, often draw erroneous conclusions as to the type of face which prevails in a tribe or nation, from having only seen a few representatives of it; and the same no doubt holds good with regard to the examination of isolated examples of crania.
We noticed many dark-coloured seals (probably Ardocephalus Falklandicus, the fur-seal of commerce, which is not rare in the Strait), leaping out of the water in the distance, the body of the animal being bent during the spring after the manner of a bow. We reached Fortescue Bay early in the afternoon, and on this occasion entered Port Gallant, where we remained during the rest of the day, a number of us landing, as usual, in search of sport and specimens. Many heavy showers of sleet fell, and the surface of the country appeared, if possible, even wetter than on our previous visit. I obtained a few more mosses and lichens by dint of scrambling about in the woods, in which a deathlike silence reigned, only broken occasionally by the note of a little bluish-black bird (Scytalopus Magellanicus), resembling a wren in its general appearance and familiar habits. According to Mr. Darwin, to whose careful and minute observations I have so often to refer, it is widely distributed on the west coast of South America, extending as far north as Central Chili; and “it has found its way over to the Falkland Islands, where, instead of inhabiting forests, it frequents the coarse herbage and low bushes, which in most parts conceal the peaty surface of that island.”§ Several steamer-ducks and teal were shot, and a considerable number of fish of the same species obtained at Port Famine were taken in the seine, together with a single example of a Trachinoid form of most forbidding appearance. This fish, the Aphritis gobio, was first described by Dr. Günther, about ten years ago, from a specimen in the British Museum, procured by Captain King at Port Famine. It has a large broad head, and presents a most ferocious aspect when captured, openingits wide mouth, and erecting its fins and an orbital tentacle situated at the back of each eye. It is of a dusky-brown colour above, variegated with orange-yellow on the sides. The under parts are likewise orange-yellow; and on each side, below the lateral line, there is a row of branched cutaneous appendages attached to the under surface of the scales.
§ Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, Birds: p. 74:
“It has found its way over to the Falkland Islands, where, instead of inhabiting forests, it frequents the coarse herbage and low bushes, which in most parts conceal the peaty surface of that island.”
We left Port Gallant on the morning of the 15th, pursuing our easterly course, and, as we rounded Cape Froward, met H.M.S. “Reindeer” proceeding in the opposite direction. In the evening we reached Sandy Point, where we found the Chilian war-steamer “Concepcion” [sic, Concepción] lying; and next morning I landed, with several other members of our party, and spent the day on shore. We found the river greatly swollen with recent rains, and the open ground in many places was swampy, and abounded in mushrooms. This cosmopolitan Agaric we afterwards met with in many localities, both in Patagonia and north-eastern Fuegia, and it occasionally formed an agreeable addition to our rather monotonous diet. Heavy rain set in before long, and continued throughout the day. I obtained specimens both of Cyttaria Darwinii and G. Hookeri on the boughs of a beechtree under which I took shelter. The I7th was dull and cloudy in the morning, but the weather gradually improved as the day wore on. Early in the afternoon, one of a lot of pigeons which we had brought from the Falkland Islands for the governor of the settlement, lighted on the lower part of the rigging of the mainmast, and soon after a handsome hawk arrived in pursuit of it, perching on one of the boats slung at the davits in the coolest manner. On the cap of a revolver being snapped at it, however, it flew off, and left its intended prey in safety. This pigeon and another accompanied the ship during most of the remainder of the season, becoming very tame, and being a source of considerable interest to the ship's company. On the 18th I remained on board, occupied in the preservation of specimens; but on the afternoon of the following day I landed, and had a long walk along the beach to the south. It was a very still, gray, hazy day, with occasional drizzling rain, and the landscape presented a singularly lifeless aspect. I saw only one bird that was new to me—a kind of night-heron (Nycticorax obscurus), with dusky grayish-brown plumage, which I afterwards observed at the Falkland Islands, and in many localities in the western part of the Strait and Western Channels, as well as at Chiloe. It is of a bold disposition, allowing one to approach within a short distance of it, and then making off with a heavy flapping flight, uttering at the same time a very harsh croak. The skin is exceedingly thin, and rather loosely feathered.
On the 20th we left Sandy Point in the forenoon, and after communicating with one of the surveying boats in Laredo Bay, proceeded on to Peckett Harbour, and anchored there early in the evening. Next morning I left the ship with Captain Mayne, and visited various parts of the harbour with him, rambling out in search of specimens while he was engaged in taking angles at different points. I found many clumps of Balsam-bog (Bolax glebaria), and observed numerous specimens of the large Buff Ball (Lycoperdon) noticed on our first visit to Sandy Point. Empetrum nigrum, var. rubrum, was also very abundant, patches of the ground being rendered scarlet by the profusion of its red berries, which form one of the principal sources of food of the geese and ostriches. In the eastern part of Patagonia the plant seldom exceeds three or four inches in height, but its branches are often prostrate, and then extend along the surface of the ground for a considerable distance. The green plant burns very readily with a bright flame, wliich renders it useful when camping out. Another berry-bearing plant, plentiful in the same situations as well as on the bare summits of many of the Fuegian hills, belongs to the heath order, and to the genus Pernettya. It is the P. pumila, and creeps along the ground so as to be almost concealed by the other vegetation. Its flowers are white, and the berries, frequently of the size of the common snow-berry of our gardens, are of a pale pink colour. The 22d was occupied in the same manner. We left the ship early, and landed at numerous places, ascending an inlet at the western side of the harbour, till brought to a halt by the rapid shoaling of the water.†
† From the configuration of the land at this point it appears not unlikely that at one period a communication existed between Peckett Harbour and the Otway Water.
At one place the putrefying carcass of a large seal, probably the Sea-Leopard (Stenorkyinchus leptonyx), as the remains of the skin were spotted in the manner characteristic of this species, was lying; but unfortunately none of the bones were in a state fit to carry away. Many ducks and geese were seen, but were for the most part very difficult of approach, contrasting in this respect strikingly with the cormorants, which, as if aware of their worthlessness, flew about close to the boat, gazing at us with an expression of stupid wonder. In the course of the day two curious little birds new to us were shot—the Thinocorus rumicivoriis and Attagis Falklandica—the true position of which, in a strictly natural classification of birds, appears to be somewhat doubtful. Of the former bird Mr. Darwin has remarked, that “it nearly equally partakes of the characters, different as they are, of the quail and of the snipe;” and that it “is found in the whole of southern South America, wherever there are sterile plains, or upon open, dry pasture land,” adding, that he saw it as far south as the inland plains of Patagonia, at Santa Cruz, in lat. 50°. In the Strait of Magellan it appears to be not uncommon, as we frequently saw small flocks on subsequent occasions. Its habits, in so far as I had an opportunity of observing them, greatly resembled those of a small plover; and I have several times mistaken it for one of these birds. The latter bird, Attagis, which considerably exceeds the former in size, was seen by Mr. Darwin, “on the mountains in the extreme southern parts of Tierra del Fuego,” where “it frequents, either in pairs or coveys, the zone of alpine plants above the region of forest,” but was never observed by us except on the open low-lying country of the eastern portion of the Strait. The plumage is prettily mottled, somewhat like that of a quail. An allied species of the genus (A. Gayi) occurs on the mountains of Chili.
On the 23d I was occupied on board all day; and on the three succeeding days it was blowing so hard as to render it impossible to leave the ship. On the forenoon of the 27th, as there was but little wind, we weighed anchor and moved on to Oazy Harbour, some miles to the north-eastward, to join two of the officers who had been despatched thither some days previously. This harbour is land-locked, and its entrance additionally narrowed by a very remarkable long, curved gravel-spit; but it is, I believe, of little value as an anchorage, except for very small ships, owing to its excessive shallowness, save at one very limited spot. On our arrival, early in the afternoon, two officers, who had preceded us, came on board, bringing with them a specimen of the heron mentioned above as seen at Sandy Point, as well as a beautiful species of goose, quite new to us. This bird, the Chloephaga poliocephala, is of considerably smaller size than the upland goose (C. Magellanica), and its plumage is exceedingly handsome, the wings being finely bronzed, and a broad band of rich chestnutbrown passing across the breast. It appears to be common in the eastern portion of the Strait, where we observed it to be tamer than the upland goose, and we also met with it on several occasions in the Western Channels, where I only once saw a pair of the C. Magellanica. Its flesh is very good, and possesses a more delicate flavour than that of the other species.
On the 28th it was blowing too hard to permit of any surveying work being accomplished until late in the afternoon, when the boats were engaged for an hour in taking soundings. The 29th was calm and bright, and four of us landed in the morning, glad to be released from our captivity, and spent the day on shore, walking round a considerable portion of the harbour. On the spit at the entrance I noticed many bones of guanacos lying about among the plants of Senecio candidans, which, in the eastern part of the Strait, as I have previously observed, generally forms a conspicuous fringe above high-water mark. As the tide fell, the water dried out for a long distance, leaving extensive mud-flats, which I traversed in many directions, in the vain hope of finding live specimens of the Magellanic Yolute. Large beds of Mytili were uncovered, and many specimens of another bivalve, the Lutraria (Darina) solenoides, were lying scattered about. Immense flocks of Chloephaga poliocephala were observed by us, as well as a considerable number of ducks; and a plentiful supply of both birds was obtained, the sportsmen returning heavily laden to the ship in the evening. On a flat space of ground close to the beach I found specimens of an obscure-flowered composite plant, with a very pungent smell, and on some high ground the foliage of the Oxalis enneaphylla was abundant, the plant having passed out of flower. In a small stream flowing into the head of the harbour I obtained numerous specimens of a Gasteropod of the genus Lymnœa, as well as two additional plants, one of which was a Caltha (sagittata), and the other a familiar old friend, Hippuris vulgaris, the common mare's-tail of our English ditches. The latter, widely distributed over the northern hemisphere, was found at Port Famine by Captain King, while engaged in his survey of the Strait, and this for some time appears to have been the only recorded habitat for it south of the Equator; but it has since, I believe, been ascertained to occur in Chili. In the Strait I afterwards met with it, both at Port Famine and at Sandy Point.
On the 30th and 31st we had bright clear weather, but it was blowing hard, and very cold; and on the 1st of April heavy snow fell in the morning, and a white, ghostly-looking world was presented to my view on coming out of my cabin, the land being almost hidden by heavy snow-clouds, with the exception of a steep cliff which stood out hard and black, while a thick white mist brooded over the water, on the surface of which brown masses of “kelp” were indistinctly visible. Before noon, however, the snow ceased, and early in the afternoon, as it was fair and bright, a party of us landed and spent some hours on shore. Parting soon from my companions, who were bent on sport, I at first directed my steps along the beach, afterwards ascending to the high land above it, walking along the top of some steep cliffs outside the harbour, and pausing now and then to admire the serene beauty of the sunlit points of land stretching out into the calm blue water. In the distance north-eastward, the remarkably furrowed Gregory range of hills had a very fine appearance, the base being of a deep purple tint, while the upper part was covered with a dazzling mantle of snow.
As I pursued my way I was not unaccompanied, as two carranchas (Polylorus tharus) followed me for some time, circling about in the air above me, and slowly turning their heads, first to one side, and then to another, in an eager lookout for prey. The Magellanic currant (Ribes Magellanicum) and the Lepidopliyllum cupressiforme were growing plentifully at the summit of the cliffs; and I was interested by finding, on a patch of sandy soil, two specimens of a common little British fern, Botrychium lunaria. This widely-distributed species was obtained, towards the close of last century, by Banks and Solander in Good Success Bay, in the south of Fuegia, but, I believe, had not been found by any botanist on the coasts of The following year one of the officers brought me specimens of it from Cape Possession.
As heavy snow-clouds began slowly to accumulate, I returned to the spit where we landed, to await the arrival of the other members of the party, occupying myself in wading about in the icy-cold water in search of Volutes, but to no purpose. The clouds continued to gather, and before long a most remarkable spectacle ensued, an immense cloud, in the form of a great dull-red veil falling down to the sea, gradually creeping up to the entrance of the harbour, and presently dissolving in a furious shower of sleet; while from another quarter of the heavens the sun shone out bright yellow from beneath a huge black nimbus, and its rays, striking on the snow-cloud, produced a brilliant fragment of a rainbow. This was all very fine, but I was rapidly becoming cold and drenched, and was therefore well pleased when one of the officers, who had been sounding outside the harbour, arrived in his boat, and took me on board. On the return of the others shortly after, I received from one of them a specimen of a most beautiful buzzard (Buteo erythronotus), ashcoloured on the upper parts, and snow-white beneath. On the 2d, a bright, calm, exhilarating day, we left Oazy Harbour before breakfast, and continued under way until evening, employed in taking lines of soundings. On skinning the buzzard, I found its crop crammed with large fragments of one of the burrowing rats. It was comparatively free from parasitic Anoplura, but smelt very strong, in consequence of which a fox, which, as I have previously mentioned, we had on board for some months, and which had been let loose for a run, kept sniffing round my cabin, and when I came out for a “spell,” would hardly let me alone, jumping up on me, and smelling my clothes. We anchored in Laredo Bay shortly before sunset, which was one of the most magnificent that we had yet seen—fleets of scarlet, purple, and rosy clouds being spread over a clear yellow and pale green sky, contrasting finely with the wooded country about Cape IsTegro, which stood out in dark relief, the trees and bushes forming a serrated edge along the horizon.
On the 3d we remained at our anchorage until the afternoon, when we moved on to Sandy Point, and the following morning the greater number of us landed soon after sunrise and had a ramble over the country to the north of the settlement. Günther shot, as well as one or two specimens of a kind of plover (Oreophilus nigricollis), and one of a little gray bird (Muscisaxicola mentalis), which we noticed for the first time, flying about the bushes in small flocks, and which appears to possess a wide geographical range, as Mr. Darwin mentions that he procured specimens of it from Bahia Blanca, in northern Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Chiloe, and central and northern Chili. The same author observes, what I myself also remarked, that “it frequents open places, so that in the wooded countries it lives entirely on the sea-beaches, or near the summits of mountains where trees do not grow.” On this occasion I again observed the characteristic foliage of Oxalis enneaphylla. We returned to the ship early in the forenoon, soon after which we left Sandy Point; and the remainder of the day was occupied in the examination of the Walker Shoal, a bank lying between and to the south of Elizabeth and Santa Magdalena Islands.
After a day employed in sounding in the neighbourhood of Elizabeth Island, we crossed over to Cape St. Vincent, on the coast of Fuegia, early on the morning of the 6th of April, and there anchored, soon after which several parties were despatched on surveying work, and I made use of the opportunity presented to accompany one of the officers on a visit to Quartermaster Island, at the entrance of a deep bay, named Gente Grande by one of the old voyagers, on account of the people of large stature whom he observed in the neighbourhood. The morning was calm when we set out, and a clear tract of pale green sky was visible in the direction of our destination; but there was a thick mass of dark cloud overhead, and we encountered a hea\y shower before reaching the island, which we did about noon. Quartermaster, which appears to have been much seldomer visited than Elizabeth, Santa Magdalena, and Santa Marta Islands, probably on account of its lying more out of the track of vessels, resembles the other three in general structure, being of considerable elevation, and presenting bold perpendicular clay cliffs, and steep grassy banks sloping down to the water's edge. On approaching it, we saw numbers of the common brown duck swimming about in the belt of kelp which extended along the coast at a little distance from the shore, as well as many gulls and cormorants, the latter of which were roosting on ledges on the cliffs; and on landing, we observed several large dark-brown skua gulls (Lestris antarctica), and disturbed a couple of carranchas (Polyborus tharus) perched on a flat space of ground at the top of a cliff. On arriving at the place where they had been sitting, we found an accumulation of bones of the Ctenomys Magellanicus, including several hundred fragments of crania; and numbers of shells, principally Fissurellœ, together with fragments of Lithodes antarctica (the relics of former feasts), were lying scattered around. While we were roaming about in search of a suitable place whereon to erect a beacon, I as usual made a collection of all the plants that were to be seen, obtaining numerous specimens of an Erodium, which I had not previously met with, one or two species of Senecio, Homoianthus echinulatus, an Azorella, which formed hard clumps like those of the Balsam-bog, a few grasses, and the Cerastium arvense, which occurs plentifully throughout the open country of the Strait, and ranges over a considerable portion of both the Old and the New World. Stunted bushes of Berberis dulcis and of Pernettya mucronata were also common, and a little brown wren (Troglodytes Magellanicus) was flitting about these, and diving into their recesses. After the beacon had been erected, we returned to the neighbourhood of our landing-place, and halted for a short space for luncheon—drizzling rain soon after setting in, which lasted throughout the greater part of the afternoon. Before long we were joined by two officers from another surveying boat, which had been engaged in taking soundings in Lee Bay, and we then proceeded in company to walk round the island. After a time we reached a plateau at the top of some cliffs, and there beheld a most wonderful congregation of cormorants (Phalacrocorax carunculatus). On a moderate computation they must have numbered upwards of a thousand, and they presented a most peculiar appearance as they sat nearly erect, in regular ranks. As we ran up to them, it was most amusing to watch the difficulty which they experienced in taking flight, in consequence of being so closely packed together. Line after line hustled forwards for some paces, and then breaking up, flew over the cliffs into the sea below, where they swam out to a prudent distance. One or two, which had been hit with stones, lay on their backs on the beach for some minutes, emitting strange sounds, and waving about their splay feet in the air, in the most ridiculous manner, till they were sufficiently recovered to take to the water. The space of ground on which they had been assembled was worn perfectly bare of grass for several hundred yards, and the smell of decaying fish, the viscera of which were lying about in innumerable little heaps, was insupportable.
Immediately beyond this roosting-place the high ground sloped steeply down to a long low grass-covered spit, which exhibited at one edge an extensive stratum of cormorants' bones, and upon this tract of ground I found a few additional plants, including a Geranium and a species of Thlaspi, which latter was extremely plentiful. In the long grass we stumbled across one or two half-fledged examples of the skua gull, which hobbled about like decrepit old hens. Two specimens of a small rodent were also caught by the men, as well as several examples of a beetle (Sericoides Reichei), presenting a considerable resemblance to a cockchafer. As we were approaching the boats we heard a gun fired, and shortly after saw the ship standing out from her anchorage, so we embarked as speedily as possible, and got on board about six P.M.. On our return I found that one of the officers who had been on shore at Cape St. Vincent had shot two specimens of the burrowing owl (Pholeoptynx cunicularia), which we had previously seen at Maldonado. Mr. Darwin remarks that he never saw it to the south of the Rio Negro, but we ascertained it to be common in the open country of both eastern Euegia and Patagonia. It appears to be distributed over nearly the entire extent of both Americas, in North America associating with the “prairie dogs” (Ardomys ludovicianus). In the Strait of Magellan it evidently adopts a mixed diet, as we frequently saw it feeding on marine animals on the sea-beach. The merry-thought (furcula), as in some of the other Strigidœ, is not completely ossified.
We remained at anchor in Lee Bay during the night of the 6th, but next morning it came on to blow, which rendered our position unsafe, and accordingly we weighed, and moving over to Koyal Eoad, between Elizabeth Island and the mainland, anchored there for the remainder of the day. The 8th was a remarkably fine day, so that we left Royal Eoad in the morning; we passed through the second Narrows, and anchored in Gregory Bay. In the afternoon a party of us, as usual, went on shore for a ramble, and I had a delightful walk over the high ground above the beach in the direction of the Narrows. The country was of a tumbled character, abounding in little conical hills, and the bright sunshine gilding their slopes had a very pleasing effect. I found a single late specimen of Calceolaria nana in flower, and on the seaward edge of a patch of brackish water, where a number of upland geese were feeding, occurred a curious belt of Senecio candidans. While crossing a little sandy valley where many guanacos' bones were lying, I noticed protruding from a sandbank the orbit and part of the frontal bone of a skull, and on proceeding to disinter it, was much pleased to find it to be a fine cranium of a Patagonian, which has been thus described by Professor Huxley, to whom it was sent:—
This skull (which is that of an adult male) shows very distinct evidence of artificial distortion. Not only is the occiput much flattened and unsymmetrical, but the very retreating forehead has such a surface as appears to me could only have been produced by the application of a frontal compress or bandage. Under these circumstances the cephalic index (·81) is of doubtful value as an indication of the primitive form of the cranium. The supra-orbital ridges are very strongly marked, their real prominence being much exaggerated by the retreat of the forehead. There are no distinct paroccipital processes. The crowns of the teeth are ground quite flat.
Between the undulating country in the vicinity of the Narrows and the Gregory Eange extends a flat plain, covered with the usual yellowish grass, and dotted at distant intervals with barberry bushes. Over part of this I now pursued my way, descending after a time to the beach, which I found had dried out to a considerable extent, leaving broad sandy flats, on which I hoped to have found some live Magellanic Volutes, but as usual sought for them in vain, though the broken dead shells were strewed abundantly along high-water mark. I, however, obtained specimens of a Bullia, a Natica, a Pecten, and one or two other molluscs. Towards the close of the afternoon I ascended one of the high banks overlooking the water, and there awaited the return of the others, enjoying the wonderful beauty of the surrounding scene. It was hard to decide whether the calm blue water of the Strait, with the opposite Fuegian coast stretching along the horizon, or the Gregory Eange, diversified with exquisite lights and shadows, afforded the finer prospect. As the sun went down, the water towards the horizon assumed a delicate pale-green hue, while the sky above it was flushed with pale rose colour, and the Gregory Eange became steeped in a rich dark purple. The advancing winter, however, distinctly proclaimed itself, for after the sun disappeared the air became decidedly frigid. Some teal, a Bubo Magellanictis, and a fox, were shot by the sportsmen of the party on this occasion.
Next morning (9th) I was to have accompanied one of the surveying officers on an excursion to the Fuegian coast, but I was balked in my intention, as the weather had completely changed, and it was blowing too hard to quit the ship. The 10th, however, was fine, and we left the vessel in the forenoon for San Isidro Point at the eastern entrance of the Fuegian side of the second Narrows, while she moved over to Philip Bay to take soundings. We arrived at our destination about noon, and found that the structure of the coast at the point at which we landed was rather remarkable, the beach forming a high shelving bank of shingle, with a flat top about three feet broad, while between it and the turf intervened a deep hollow of considerable extent, which at high-water was filled by percolation through the bank, so as to form a temporary salt-water lake, and at low tide almost dried out. Soon after going on shore we walked along the coast of the Narrows for some miles, as my companion wished to erect beacons at various spots; and while thus engaged we observed two vessels passing southwards, and contemplated them with a good deal of interest, as at that time, when there was no regular service through the Strait, ships were rarities in these regions. We recognised many footprints of Fuegians, as well as of guanacos; and a small species of lizard, a single example of which had been previously taken at Sandy Point, was rather common, running over the sandy soil, and concealing itself among the stones and scanty herbage. This was the Ptygoderus pectinatus, and I was a good deal interested by finding it in Fuegia, as Mr. Darwin has commented on the entire absence of any species of the class of reptiles from that country, though he remarks that it is not improbable that representatives might be found “as far south as the Strait of Magellan, where the country retains the character of Patagonia.” What appears to be the same species I have since found was obtained by MM. Hombron and Jacquinot in Peckett Harbour, and named by them Proctotretus Magellanicus† It is a pretty little creature, of a greenish or dark brown hue above, with in general five white longitudinal lines, with intermediate rows of angular black spots along the back and sides. I afterwards procured it in many localities in eastern Patagonia and Fuegia, discovering it at Port Gallegos, among other places. Though possessed of considerable agility, its movements are not so excessively rapid as those of many of the order to which it belongs, and I was. in consequence able to capture a considerable number of specimens. We saw several specimens of the burrowing owl, one flying about our lieads and uttering its peculiar note as we returned to camp in the dusk, and many broken crania of Ctenomys enveloped in a ball of hair were lying about, bearing evidence as to the nature of their destroyer. I picked up a few plants also, including specimens of Scutellaria nummularicefolia and the common mushroom, but met with nothing new in the botanical line.
†Voyage au Pole Sud. Zoologie, tome troisième, p. 6; Atlas, Rept. Saur, Pl. 2, Fig. 2.
On our return to the tent we had dinner, after which the evening was beguiled in reading, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves being listened to with deep interest and occasional comments by the boat's crew; and, later, we lay down to rest, with arms as usual in readiness, in case of any hostile demonstration on the part of Fuegians. It was a wild, pitch-dark night, the sea roaring and raging on the beach, and a strong breeze blowing and shaking the canvas of the tent, on which heavy rain was pattering, while at intervals the wild cry of a sea-bird came across the water, producing a rather weird sensation. Soon after eleven P.M. we were roused by the watch announcing that he had seen a light, apparently carried by some one, pass rapidly along from the camp fire towards the boat, which intelligence caused us to spring up speedily and sally forth, revolvers in hand, to look for the enemy; but on investigation nothing was to be discovered, and we turned in again, to be disturbed, two hours later, with the information that the sea had reached the boat, which accordingly required to be hauled up out of danger. After this, we were left to sleep in peace, and next morning, when we rose early, the rain had cleared off. While preparations for breakfast were going on I walked along the beach for some distance, and obtained a fine live male and female of a short-spined or rather tuberculated species of Lithodes (L. verrucosa, which appears to be tolerably common in the eastern part of the Strait, as well as in Falkland Sound, where we subsequently found numbers, I also met with two or three specimens of an apparently new species of the genus Serolis, which I have named S. convexus.
On rejoining the ship, early in the forenoon, we found that a few newspapers had been procured from one of the ships which we had seen the day before, and we read with interest the account of the proposed Fenian attack on Chester, with many other details of events occurring at home.
On the 12th, a very fine day, after spending some time in the second Narrows, we anchored in Gregory Bay, where we remained for the next two days, as it was blowing too much to permit of work being accomplished. On the 15th the wind was again down, which allowed me to pay a second visit to the Fuegian coast with the officer who had been my companion on the former excursion. We started in the morning, taking with us the fox which we had had on board for some time, and which it was considered advisable to set at liberty, as it had been suffering for a considerable period from a form of skin-disease. Landing first at San Isidro Point, we let loose our four-footed friend, which at first appeared rather to experience “blank misgivings of a creature moving about in worlds not realised;” but by-and-by trotted off without manifesting any parting tokens of grief or affection. Here I found some specimens of a small green Aphis on the leaves of Senecio candidans; and after a flag which had been torn by the wind from a staff erected by us on our previous excursion had been replaced by a new one, we embarked and coasted along the edge of Philip Bay, landing now and then for the purpose of constructing beacons. We were agreed in thinking that we had never beheld a more uninteresting or monotonous piece of coast, the beach being steep and shelving, composed of innumerable small flattened stones, and presenting no promi. nent points; while the country beyond it, to all appearance, stretched inwards for a distance of nine or ten miles nearly as flat as a board. At the last place where we went on shore, to put up a cairn, we were surprised by finding a long narrow tract of fresh water, apparently a mile or two in extent, running parallel with the beach, at a distance of about two hundred yards from it. Behind it was a long flat-topped ridge, about six or eight feet in height, and it was surrounded on all sides by a broad belt of vegetation, of a much greener and more luxuriant character than we had yet seen in eastern Fuegia. Many plants, which had passed out of flower more than a couple of months previously in drier situations, were still in bloom here, including the Geum Magellanicum, Anemone decapetala, Epilohium tetragonum, and a tall, stout, white-flowered Composite plant, common in marshy places in the eastern part of the Strait. A yellow-flowered viscid plant of the same order, apparently a species of Madia, which had not been previously seen elsewhere, was also procured; and, in addition to these, around the water's edge there extended a very distinct zone of a common species of Acœna, the A. adscendens. I have omitted to mention, up to the present time, what an intolerable pest we found the hooked achenes of the plants of this genus, abundant in the open country of the Strait, in our excursions—our clothes becoming covered with them, and much time and labour requiring to be expended in detaching them. I well remember the sorry spectacle presented by a large brown retriever, which was our ship's dog for a time, after a day's run over country covered with these obnoxious plants—his tail being one mass of burs, and hardly a handbreadth of the hair on his body free from the detached achenes. Great numbers of teal were resting on the surface of the water, but speedily took wing, so that only a few were secured, which furnished an agreeable addition to our dinner.
We saw a considerable number of guanacos during this day, several of which, impelled by curiosity, approached to within a comparatively short distance of us, and then taking fright made off. We landed finally in rather a heavy surf, and pitched the tent for the night, rising next morning at daybreak, and after breakfast proceeding farther along the coast to the northward, which gradually assumed a more raised and undulating character. On landing, after a time, to erect a beacon, we observed on the top of a distant hill several human figures, which we at first supposed to be Tuegians, but presently discovered, by means of the telescope of the theodolite, to be the members of another surveying party, and accordingly set out to meet them. Our progress was, however, unexpectedly barred by the course of a narrow winding river too deep for us to ford. This, which was by far the largest body of running water which we encountered in the eastern part of the Strait, appeared to derive its source from a range of hills some miles inland; and I should much have liked to have made a thorough examination of its banks in search of plants, but this our time did not permit of. We therefore re-embarked, and proceeding a little farther onwards, were joined by the other party, one of whom, to my great satisfaction, had been so fortunate as to find a Fuegian cranium lying partially immersed in a pool of water. This, which is one of the very few Fuegian crania now in England, has been thus described by Professor Huxley. He observes that it
Is in a good state of preservation, except that the nasal bones and the mandible are absent. The cephalic index is ·78; . . . . but as the last molar has not been cut, it is the skull of a young person, and many circumstances lead me to think it may be that of a woman. It is a curious circumstance that in this skull, as in that of the College of Surgeons, there are very large and prominent paroccipital processes, which, as the remains of the cartilage which tipped them shows, would have become considerably larger had the owner of the skull reached maturity. The face is distinctly prognathous.
We rejoined the ship in the course of the afternoon, observing on our way to her several Fuegian fires on that part of the coast visited by us the day before. A number of the natives had been seen from the ship also. Certainly the faculty which these savages possessed, of approaching our tenting-places without being perceived, although a vigilant watch was always maintained by us, was very remarkable.
On the 17th the weather was unfavourable, and we all remained on board, the “Nassau,” at this time lying at anchor in Philip Bay. On the afternoon of the 18th I landed with Captain Mayne on the coast, a few miles to the north-east of our anchorage. From the summit of a little hill which we ascended we noticed several guanacos at no great distance, with nearly black faces, a peculiarity which we had never remarked in those seen by us in Patagonia. In some rock-pools I obtained several small fish (species of Notothenia), and specimens of a tiny red Actinia; and on the beach I found some sponges and many dead shells of a species of Crepidula lying. It was a beautiful, though cold evening, and as we pulled back to the ship we witnessed a splendid orange-yellow moonrise. A few minutes before we got on board an owl lighted on one of the boats' davits, and was shot by one of the officers. It was a different species from those previously obtained, and possessed beautiful soft mottled-yellow and brown plumage, reminding one of the colouring of a large moth when the rounded wings were expanded. It proved to be the British short-eared owl, Otus brachyotus, and was the only example of this species that we ever met with in these regions. The same day one of the men brought me a small live specimen of Valuta Magellanica. The morning of the 19th, Good Friday, was cloudy, with fine drizzling rain falling. Many Fuegians were observed watching the ship, but did not attempt to hold any communication with us. In the afternoon a party of us landed, and passed some hours on shore, but did not succeed in meeting any of these people, though we saw two of their dogs, which were large, rough, shaggy, black and white animals, about the size of the Newfoundland breed, which ran off rapidly on our approach. A little yellowishgreen bird, which we had not previously noticed (the Chrysomitris barbata), was observed flying about in flocks near the ground, but none were obtained on this occasion. On the 20 th heavy rain fell during the morning, and in the afternoon the weather was bright and clear, but blowing pretty hard. The wind continued during the two following days, and nothing particular took place. The Fuegians continued to watch the ship, and we saw several individuals, who had white feathers stuck in their hair, engaged in trampling down some of our turf beacons with, their feet. The wind moderating on the afternoon of the 22d, we moved over to St. Jago Bay, and there anchored. The 23d was clear and bright, the Patagonian coast looking very beautiful, with its diversified lights and shadows, but it was blowing so hard that we could not leave the ship. Great herds of guanacos were observed not far from the beach. The following morning was calm and bright, with the air frosty, and a slight haze over certain portions of the land. Early in the forenoon a sail was announced, which by and by proved to be H.M.S. “Sutlej,” on her homeward-bound course from the westward. She anchored for a few hours at a short distance from us, which allowed of our despatching a mail-bag by her. Not long after her departure, late in the afternoon, I accompanied Captain Mayne on shore, as he proposed on the ensuing day to walk to a hill some distance inland, to obtain a round of angles from its summit. On the beach we met two of the officers who had landed earlier in the day, and were also to be of the party, learning from them that they had wounded a guanaco, and seen some ostriches at no great distance. I occupied the remainder of the daylight in a short ramble along the edge of a patch of fresh water visited by us some months previously, and picked up one or two additional plants. I passed over some large burnt patches of ground, on which I found the partially calcined humerus of a Patagonian charger lying. Many fresh footprints of ostriches were also to be seen. When I returned to camp on this fine frosty evening it was nearly dark, as the nights were now rapidly creeping in, and the appearance presented by our tents, illuminated by the flickering light of the fire, was very picturesque. On this, in common with many other occasions, the men spent a good part of the evening in singing ditties with tremendously vigorous choruses, varied by occasional recitative pieces, which appeared, judging from the amount of applause which they elicited, to meet with special favour, while we enjoyed a comfortable talk around the fire.
Heavy rain fell during the night, and at dawn on the morning of the 25th the appearance of the weather was so threatening, that it was at first thought that it would be necessary for us to defer our excursion until the following day. While we were at breakfast, however, the sim shone out brightly, dispelling the heavy clouds, and the horizon by degrees cleared, so that we determined to set forth. Accordingly, about half-past nine A.M., we started, our party consisting of Captain Mayne, two officers, and myself, together with four men employed in carrying rifles, surveying apparatus, etc. The ground, though undulating and in occasional situations swampy, proved to be well adapted for pedestrianism, as we soon got beyond the region of ratburrows, which appear to be limited to the immediate neighbourhood of the sea-coast; and the air was perfectly still, with a decided tinge of frost. On our way we saw several droves of hundreds of guanacos in the distance, and one or two stragglers were fired at with rifles, but without success. Some small flocks of Attagis Falklandica were also seen, and a single specimen procured. In the way of plants almost the only novelty encountered was a curious little Gasteromycetous fungus, belonging to the genus Geaster, of which we have one or two representatives, more or less local in their distribution, in Great Britain. The general form of the plant may be roughly described as consisting of a small rounded ball, about the size of a bullet, attached to a flat, lobed, starlike plate, the rays of which are spread out on the sandy soil, curling up when they become very dry.
Near the foot of the hill which was our destination we crossed a rivulet of delicionsly cold water, of which we drank and were refreshed, thereafter beginning the ascent, in the course of which we startled an ostrich, which rose out of the long grass about ten yards ahead of us, and went off at a great pace. At the top of the hill we found the vestiges of an old cairn, probably erected by King or Fitzroy while engaged in their surveys of the same regions about thirty years before;§ and on a large boulder, which contained several small pools of water in the hollows in its surface, I found a single specimen of a minute species of earwig (Forficula), similar to one obtained by one of the officers in Fuegia a few days previously. We obtained a fine panoramic view of the country on all sides of us, as well as of the opposite coast of Fuegia; and after the surveyors had obtained the angles they wished, and a large beacon had been erected, we descended, and, having lunched at the edge of the stream already mentioned, began the return journey of ten or twelve miles.
§ But not mentioned by either of them.
It was dusk when we approached our camp, and one of the men left in charge, coming to meet us, informed us that a party of about thirty Patagonians had arrived some hours previously, and encamped on one of the high banks in our vicinity, and that some of the officers left on board the vessel had landed to communicate with them. On reaching the spot, a few minutes later, we found a striking group of these people, consisting of men, women, and children, assembled round our camp fire, some watching the cooking of our dinner with curiosity, while others were engaged in prying about the tents. They had brought two freshly-killed ostriches with them, and these they handed over to us in exchange for biscuit, etc. The chief in command, Cacimiero Biwa§ by name, was a tall, very strongly-made man, of about forty-five or more, and his flowing robe of guanaco-skins caused him to appear of great size. He spoke no English, but talked Spanish fluently, and explained to Captain Mayne that if we would remain on shore during next day he would take us out on a guanaco-hunt. This proposal was agreed to after some deliberation, and the chief then asked how many horses we would like, saying that he could give us twenty or thirty readily, as he had between forty or fifty with him. He was, however, informed that eight or nine would be sufficient. He then gave us a great deal of miscellaneous information about his people only a part of which we could comprehend, and further told us that he was a colonel in the service of the Argentine Kepublic. He sat with us in one of the tents while we were at dinner, after which, under his escort, we paid a visit to the Patagonian camp, which consisted of a row of tents formed of guanaco-skins supported on poles, open in front, where they were about seven feet high, and gradually sloping down towards the back, which did not exceed three feet in elevation. On our approach we were saluted with the loud baying of dogs of all sorts and sizes, and for the most part of very ugly appearance. The inmates of the tents came out to receive us in a polite manner, thereafter conducting us into their dwellings, from the roofs of which, at the entrance, dangled rows of strips of ostrich and guanaco meat hung up to dry. From other parts of the roof many beautiful skunk-skins were also suspended, which diffused anything but an agreeable odour. In one of the tents a woman was rocking a rough cradle, formed of pieces of wood lined with skins, in which was contained a baby with a thick crop of black hair. Our attention was also attracted by the ridiculous aspect of some hideous little pet dogs, apparently much prized by their owners. They were entirely naked, with the exception of the crown of their heads, which were sparsely covered with white hair, contrasting strangely with the dark hue of the body, and they had little guanaco-skin cloaks tied around them to keep them warm. Our visit over, we returned to our own tents, glad to be rid of the company of our friends for a while, and after spending some time by our fire, retired to rest.
§ Seen elsewhere as Casimiro Biwa and/or Kasûmiro.
Next morning we rose between six and seven, much pleased to find that the state of the weather was everything that could be desired for the day's campaign, being bright, still, and rather frosty. Setting out on a stroll by myself before breakfast, I had a cold but refreshing bathe, which effectually removed the stiffness induced by the long walk of the previous day, and then walked for some distance along the edge of the strip of fresh water near our camp, where I found a Patagonian engaged in washing—a proceeding apparently but rarely indulged in by these people. After we had respectively saluted each other with the customary “buenos dias,” he made some remark in Spanish which I did not catch, and consequently had recourse to the usual “no entiende,” whereupon, to my no small amusement, I met with the emphatic rejoinder in English, “Wash your face”—a piece of advice one would have hardly looked for from an individual of this nation. At the close of breakfast we were joined by four officers from the ship, and we then proceeded to make preparations for the start. Horses were to be had in plenty, but horse-furniture was by no means so readily attainable, so that a considerable amount of time was expended in preparing make-shifts for saddles, bridles, and stirrups. The Patagonian saddles consist of wooden frames, provided with a high ridge before and behind, and on these the riders place a pile of skins, on which they sit. But few skins being available, however, for our behoof on the present occasion, pillows, rugs, blankets, and cloaks, were brought into requisition, and arranged according to the particular fancy of the rider. Stirrups were also with difficulty procured, in illustration of which, I may mention that I was furnished by a Patagonian with one so small that I could hardly get the point of the toe of my boot into it, while another was improvised for me by Captain Mayne's coxswain out of a piece of rope-yarn. While we were getting ready, Cacimiero, who had previously made his appearance at breakfast attired in his gorgeous Argentine uniform surmounting a very dirty wliite shirt, and who had unfortunately imbibed more rum than was good for him, explained to Captain Mayne that he himself could not accompany us, as he was “medio borracho” (rather drunk). He, however, lent the captain his steed, arming him with a pair of formidable Mexican spurs, and informed us that a subordinate chief, named Camilo, would act as our guide on the occasion.
Every one being at length in the saddle, we set forth—the party consisting of Captain Mayne, six officers, myself, and half-a-dozen Patagonians, who were accompanied by an equal number of smooth-haired piebald dogs, about the size of foxhounds. All the Indians were armed with the bolas, in addition to their large hunting-knives, which were in general carried in sheaths in their horse-skin boots, and Camilo further possessed a revolver, which, however, appeared as if worn more for ornament than use. The horses with which we were supplied were of rather small size, but very fleet and sure-footed, and we started at a smart pace, two of the Patagonians occasionally riding on in front to reconnoitre. At length a small herd of guanacos was descried in the distance, and thereupon four of the Indians, accompanied by four of our party, rode off to circumvent them, while the remainder of us halted for a short time, and then moved on slowly, so as to be ready to intercept the animals when they were driven down the slope of a neighbouring Mil in front towards us. We had not to wait long ere four of them appeared, tearing along with the dogs at their heels, and followed at a short distance by the horsemen. Receiving a signal from our guide to advance, we dashed forward, the horses going like the wind, and apparently as much excited as their masters. It was a spectacle not readily to be forgotten, to behold Camilo riding along ahead of us at full speed, naked to the waist, his guanaco robe being thrown off his back and shoulders, his black hair streaming in the breeze, and his bolas revolving rapidly in the air above his head. Waiting until he had come within fifteen or twenty yards of the animal which he had selected as his victim, he discharged the missile, which, flying through the air, struck the guanaco, winding round and round its hind-legs so as to lash them firmly together. The poor creature, however, still managed to flounder on for a few yards, but then stumbled and leapt in the air, when its captor, springing from his horse, dragged it to the ground, and stunned it with a blow on the head from one of his balls. A second was secured by another of the Patagonians, who finished it by drawing his long knife across its throat; and a third, which was a young individual, was caught a few minutes later, and preserved alive. The fourth and last, after being pursued for a long distance, escaped in safety. On subsequent reflection, it appeared somewhat surprising that no bipeds suffered on this occasion in addition to the quadrupeds, as one or two of the riders who carried revolvers, in the excitement of the chase wildly discharged them in all directions, without much regard to the safety of their neighbours.
When we had all assembled, we dismounted from our steeds, and witnessed the operation of eviscerating the two animals which had been slaughtered, a process very speedily accomplished. Drawing out their long triangular-bladed knifes from their sheaths, and after giving them a few preliminary wipes on the steels which they always carry with them, the Patagonians made a long, clean incision along the middle line of the breast and abdomen of the guanacos, which had been previously laid on their backs, and then cut through the costal cartilages, so as to separate the ribs of each side from the breast-bone, and expose the thoracic cavity. The viscera were then cleared out in the course of a minute or two, jets of blood spouting from some of the larger wounded vessels, and the stomach, intestines, liver, and lungs thrown to the dogs, who fought over them, and speedily made them disappear from view. The kidneys were extracted separately, and the tunica albuginea having been stripped off, they were eaten, bloody and smoking hot as they were, by the butchers, who evidently regarded them as tit-bits. The carcasses were then turned over to let the blood run out of them, the process being facilitated by a few stamps from the feet of the operators, after which, in common with the young live animal, they were slung across the backs of horses, and sent back to camp with two of the Patagonians. After we had rested for a little while, we rode ofP to see if we could come across the guanaco that had escaped. We found, however, that it had fled too far to allow of our following it without much expenditure of time and very doubtful results, and accordingly rode back to camp. On the way our guide, who was possessed of a remarkably prepossessing expression of countenance, and appeared very amiable, pointed out “ostrich” to us, which was scudding along over the plains, with some of the other members of our party, who were in advance, in pursuit, but it got off without damage. We reached the tents about 1 P.M., and as the appearance of the clouds was strongly indicative of rain, which later in the day came on heavily, we struck our camp, and returned to the ship. The two chiefs accompanied us on board, where they spent about an hour, being regaled with luncheon in the ward-room, and behaving, on the whole, with great discretion, using their knives and forks in the most approved manner. Both of them had several times visited Buenos Ajrres, which probably accounted for these amenities. On their departure they shook hands with us, and Cacimiero, who had considerably exceeded in the way of liquor, warmly pressed one of the officers to take a wife from his camp, being also extremely desirous that a black quartermaster should come on shore with him, embracing him in the most affectionate manner, so as to furnish rather an amusing commentary on Fitzroy's statement (probably derived, like the greater part of his information regarding the Fuegians and Patagonians, from a Mr. Low, captain of a sealing vessel), that “Patagonians have a great antipathy to negroes.”
On the evening of this day on which we had had such an interesting experience of savage life, it came on to blow very hard, and there was a good deal of wind throughout the following day. We remained at our anchorage until the 29th, when we shifted to Gregory Bay. The 30th was a day of most perfect beauty, perhaps the finest of the season, being splendidly clear, bright, and calm; one of those seasons at which one feels the vital powers at their highest pitch. In the afternoon Captain Mayne and I landed, and walked for some miles inland along the plain stretching between Gregory Range and the high ground of the second Narrows, as we were anxious to ascertain whether some Patagonians, who had been observed from the ship in the morning, were still in the neighbourhood. We saw a number of upland geese, as well as some specimens of the Ctenomys at the entrance of their burrows, apparently enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. Some of the officers, who were also on shore, shot some duck of a crested species which we had not previously observed, and also three flamingoes, one of which was handed over to me. This was a young specimen of the Phœnicopterus ignipalliatus, which is, I believe, common in Chili and the northern parts of Patagonia, and the Argentine Republic. Mr. Darwin remarks that he observed these birds wherever there were lakes of brine. Apparently they are but rare in the neighbourhood of the Strait, for this was the only occasion on which we observed specimens. We cooked two of them, but found them extremely fishy, probably owing to the fat, of which there was a considerable layer on the muscles of the breast and abdomen. The plumage was chiefly composed of sombre gray and brown tints, but on the inside of the wings there was a lovely pale rosy hue, recalling a dying sunset flush. I was greatly interested in the examination of the peculiar tongue, dishes composed of which were highly esteemed in the luxurious times of the Roman Empire, and whose structure has been carefully described by Professor Owen, who remarks that its substance “is not muscular, but is chiefly composed of an abundant yielding cellular substance, with fat of an almost oily consistence.”
To employ the language of the above distinguished anatomist—
It is almost cylindrical, but slightly flattened above, and obliquely truncate anteriorly, so as to correspond with the form of the inferior mandible. The lower part of the truncated surface is produced in a pointed form, and is supported beneath by a small bony plate … . Along the middle of the flattened superior surface there is a moderately deep and wide longitudinal furrow, on either side of which are from twenty to twenty-five recurved spines, but of a soft and yielding texture, measuring from one to three lines in length. These spines are arranged in an irregular alternate series, the outer ones being the smallest, and these indeed may be considered as a distinct row.
On the 1st of May one of the officers who was on shore brought me, on his return, a specimen of a pretty species of finch (Phrygilus Aldunatii), with yellow and grayish-blue plumage, several small flocks of which had been noticed by him. This day H.M.S. “Spiteful,#8221; despatched from Monte Video with supplies of coal and provision for our behoof, was due, but she did not make her appearance. The weather had been very fine for the last few days, so as to be eminently fitted for surveying operations, which made us regret all the more that our coal wasgetting so low as to allow of very little expenditure of it in moving from place to place. I had a pleasant walk on the afternoon of the 2d, without, however, noting anything of great importance. I found a species of Sisymbrium (S. Sophia?) growing very plentifully on low ground near the sea, but nearly out of flower; and one of the officers shot a specimen of a small species of sandpiper, the Ægialitis Falklandica. We remained stationary in Gregory Bay until the 6th, when we left for Sandy Point to obtain a load of wood for fuel, as there was no appearance of the missing vessel; and we began to realise that if she did not turn up soon, a second excursion to the Falkland Islands, a result by no means to be desired, would be necessary. On our southerly way we noticed a party of Patagonians riding along the beach not far from Cape Negro. We did not reach our destination until some hours after dark, when a rocket was sent up to indicate our approach to the inhabitants of the settlement, who in return lighted large fires not far from the beach.
Early on the following day a number of us landed, dispersing in various directions—one of the party, along with myself, taking a long walk through the woods in search of fungi. The trees had now assumed brilliant autumnal tints, and the vivid golden yellow of the foliage of some contrasted finely with the rich russet colouring of others. It was a perfectly still, somewhat cloudy day, with the leaves quietly dropping down from the boughs, and adding to the carpeting on the ground, and there was much to remind us of a walk through a wood in autumn in England. At one point in our route we had a severe struggle through a thicket of hollyleaved barherry, many of the plants of which attained a height of more than twelve feet. Here and there, at the tips of the tallest branches, were corymbs of the beautiful large bright orange flowers, appearing at a little distance like tongues of flame. As I have already remarked, this barberry appears to have two distinct times for flowering, one in early spring and the other in autumn. But few birds were to be seen, with the exception of the little Oxyurus, small groups of which accompanied us wherever we went, their sharp notes being almost the only sounds to break the silence of the forest. A woodpecker was shot high up in the fork of a tree, and fell on the ground, but we could not find it. We collected a considerable number of fungi, including about a dozen species not previously obtained by me. The greater number of these were Agaricini, ranging in tint from snow-white to orangetawny and mauve-purple, but representatives of other tribes were also tolerably plentiful. Thus a Tremella, allied to if not identical with T. mesenterica, formed large masses on the stems of some of the trees, and an orange-yellow Exidia was common on dead branches, while the yellow spheres of Cyttaria Darwinii were to be seen in quantities. On emerging from the woods in the course of the afternoon we were much pleased to see the “Spiteful” lying alongside the “Nassau,” and somewhat surprised to observe another steamer approaching from the westward, which last proved to be the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's vessel “Peru,” on her way to England. On the open ground not far from the settlement we met several Patagonians, forerunners of a large party who arrived two or three days later. One of these had a triangular purple mark painted on his face, the base of the figure passing immediately beneath the eyes, and the apex coinciding with the tip of the chin. I do not know whether this colour was produced by barberry juice or by a mineral substance, as they possess a variety of coloured clays, with which they inscribe patterns on the outer (hairless) side of their mantles. This operation is carried on by the women, who stretch out the robes tightly on the ground with small wooden pegs, so as to form a flat surface on which to work. We held a little converse with these people in very fragmentary Spanish, and they requested “Pólvora” (gunpowder), which they imagined I possessed in one of my vascula; so, to satisfy them, I opened the case, and displayed to their wondering eyes my collection of mosses and fungi. At the governor's house we were shown two fine puma cubs which had been brought in by the Patagonians. They were very powerfully-made little animals, with fine large eyes and soft gray fur, and they scratched and bit at us with great determination when we attempted to handle them, fighting with one another also for scraps of raw meat which were thrown to them. On going on board, I found that specimens of a beautiful little owl (Glaucidium nanum), new to us, as well as of a harrier (Circus macropterus), previously procured at Maldónado [sic, Maldonado], had been shot by two of the officers (Dr. Campbell and Mr. Bedwell), whose skill as sportsmen yielded me the majority of my ornithological prizes.
The “Spiteful” had brought us an abundant supply of letters and papers, which were very welcome, as we had had almost no news for nearly three months past, and supplied us with topics of conversation for some time to come, as well as material for occupying our evenings, which were by this time getting very long. On the 8th and 9th it rained nearly all day, and I remained on board skinning birds and drawing fungi. A small ray, taken in the seine of the “Spiteful” was brought to me by one of the officers, and afterwards proved to be the type of a new genus, which Dr. Günther has denominated Psammobatis.† On the 10th we began to take in coal, and accordingly nearly all the officers spent the afternoon on shore, a football-match being played between the representatives of the two ships, and contemplated with much curiosity by the Chilian inhabitants of the settlement. A specimen of a most beautiful species of teal was this day shot by one of the officers of the “Spiteful,” and very kindly presented to me by him. This was the Querquedula cyanopteray and the only example of the species ever seen by us in the Strait. Captain King, who briefly described it under the name of Anas Rafflesii, gives the “Strait of Magalhaens and western coast to Chiloe” as localities where the species occurs, but does not state whether he often met with it, and it had never been previously observed by the governor of Sandy Point, to whom I exhibited it. The principal colour of the plumage of the body is a rich chestnut-red, with small circular black spots, and the wings are exquisitely coloured with beautiful shades of green and blue. In the course of the afternoon I visited, in company with several of the officers, the Patagonian camp, situated near the north bank of the river. Prom some of the tents we heard a lugubrious chanting proceeding, a sure indication that the inhabitants had been partaking freely of rum. The first man encountered by us was our old acquaintance Pedro, who, after asking one of our party, “What man you?” inquired of us each in turn, “You the Capitan?” On one of the officers informing him that I was “un medico,” he introduced me to the medical practitioner of the tribe, who grinned in a complacent manner. Pedro then told me that there was “man very much kill with fire,” adding, “you like to see him?” to which I returned a decided negative, imagining that it was a burnt carcass which was proposed to be submitted to my inspection. However, he repeated his remark, adding very earnestly, “You come with me and see him;” and I at length gathered that the man was alive, and had been burned in consequence of lying too close to the fire when in a state of intoxication, and consented to go and see him. Pedro accordingly conducted me to a wooden shanty where the unfortunate sufferer was lying, telling me on the way that he had visited the “Malouines” (Falkland Islands), and asking, “You know Mr. Tirling? he great friend of mine.” After a little consideration I arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Stirling, the energetic missionary to the Fuegians, and now Bishop of the Falkland Islands, was meant.§ On reaching the hovel and opening the door, the only object at first presented to my view in the darkness (for windows there were none), was a smouldering wood-fire. However, on Pedro's addressing some invisible individual with a command, which he translated for my benefit, as “Make candle,” a torch was produced, by the light of which a number of women, children, and dogs were disclosed, as well as a handsome young man lying on the ground near the fire, wrapped in his guanaco robe. Itwas then explained to him that I had come to see him, and the burn forthwith exhibited. It was not a very deep one, but extended for more than a foot along the outside of one thigh, and was evidently very painful. I felt much at a loss to tell them how to treat the poor fellow, as they have so very few appliances, but endeavoured to explain that they must keep the burnt surface free from dirt, and laid a pocket-handkerchief moistened with water over it, securing it with strips of guanaco-skin.
† British Museum Catalogue of Fishes, vol. viii. p. 470.
§ Waite Hockin Stirling.
I then departed, receiving a “gracias” from the sufferer, to which Pedro, evidently resolved to display his English to the utmost advantage, added an emphatic “Tank you, sir.” I then endeavoured to improve the occasion by telling him that it was not good to take much rum, but I fear with little effect, as Pedro stoutly asserted that “rum very very good.” On our way to the boat we met Cacimiero, who gave plain evidence that he had been imbibing, and laying his great dirty hand on my shoulder, commenced an oration apparently descriptive of the glory of his tribe, from which I had some difficulty in making my escape.
The 11th was a glorious, clear, frosty day, and we had a splendid view of some snowy peaks nearly a hundred miles distant. A fine male of the Campephilus Magellanicus, together with a few other birds, was shot by one of the officers in the woods near the settlement. The weather continued frosty for the next day or two, ice being found on one or two spots on deck, and the thermometer sinking considerably below the freezing point. After this we had a good deal of rainy weather, and there were many evident tokens that before long we must wind up our work for the season, and proceed northwards to Rio, where we had received instructions to winter. We left Sandy Point on the morning of the l7th, in company with the “Spiteful,” and passed north-eastwards, taking lines of soundings as we went, and anchoring in the afternoon in Royal Roads. The next day was very fine, but cold. The dredge yielded some minute Molluscs, Crustacea, and Annelids, a few of which were new to me. We left Royal Roads and moved onwards, anchoring in Gregory Bay at the close of the day. In the evening the moon rose magnificently, appearing as a large orange globe hanging in the air, in front of a pale green sky, while beneath it was a band of dark cloud silvered on the edges. On the 19 th we remained at anchor. It was a fine bright day, though with a very cold wind blowing, and the coast of the bay was finely displayed in mingled light and shadow. One of the ofiicers, who landed in the afternoon, shot a fine specimen of Buteo erythronotus, and two small finches, the Chrysomitris barbata, flocks of which we had previously seen on several occasions. On the 20th the weather was so bad that we did not make a move; but on the following morning, which was clear and frosty, with the surface of the water like oil in point of smoothness, a good deal of work was accomplished. We parted company with the “Spiteful” early in the day—she, her work having been accomplished, proceeding eastwards out of the Strait, on her way to the Falkland Islands. A very dense white mist descended in the course of the forenoon, and lasted for more than an hour, concealing the shores of the Strait from view, and thus suspending our operations. We had intended to pass through the first Narrows, but an untoward easterly breeze sprang up, causing us to come to an anchor in St. Jago Bay, between four and five P.M. In the course of the evening it came on to blow hard from the S.E., and blew with great violence all night, accompanied with drifting rain. Next day matters were not at all improved, as it was blowing hard, with driving rain from between E. and N.E., causing us to roll unpleasantly, while snow fell on the low grassy hills not far off. On the 23d the rain and snow had ceased, but it blew hard all day, and was very cold. The wind, however, fell at 9 P.M., when the moon rose; and the 24th was a very fine though cold day, hard frost having set in. The ship was employed in taking soundings in the first Narrows, and two officers were landed near Direction Hill, to do some work on shore. The 25th was occupied in a similar manner. The thermometer was +27° in the morning, and the day was a splendid one, perfectly still, and very bright—the snow-clad hills sparkling in the sunshine. The frost continued hard, and the air still, during the 26th and 27th, on the latter of which days we were rejoined by the shore party, who had suffered considerably from the cold; but on the morning of the 28th it was again blowing hard from the eastward, with heavy showers of snow and rain. Eain set steadily in during the course of the afternoon, and on the two following days it was blowing too hard to allow of our leaving our anchorage in St. Jago Bay. The night of the 30th was calm and fine, but on the morning of the 31st the wind again arose from the southward. We weighed, nevertheless, and soundings were taken, in the early part of the day, along the coast of Philip Bay. While thus engaged we noticed a considerable number of Fuegians walking along near the beach, accompanied by their dogs, and most of them carrying large bundles composed of drift-wood and dry grass on their shoulders. Owing to the wind being right against us in the afternoon, we were unable to return to our anchorage, and obliged to run through the first Narrows, and anchor in Possession Bay. The wind increased in vehemence during the evening, and throughout the night it blew very hard, causing us to roll to an extent greater than we had yet experienced in the Strait.
The 1st of June was very clear and bright, but it was blowing from the S.W. all day, so that we remained stationary. Mount Aymond and the Asses' Ears, being covered with snow, presented a sharp contrast with the low undulating land in our vicinity, which was covered with grass of a pale yellow colour. The wind fell in the course of the 2d, but on the 3d it again arose and blew pretty hard. While busily occupied in my cabin on this day, in the examination of my dried plants, I was summoned by one of the officers to behold a marvellous spectacle, in the shape of a huge snowcloud, like a solid leaden wall, which descended vertically from the sky to the water, and gradually swept up to the ship. By this time we had received abundant evidence that the winter had set in fairly, as it was getting much too cold to despatch surveying parties on shore, unless they had been equipped in arctic garb, with which they were not provided; and it was therefore determined that, after paying a final visit to Sandy Point to obtain a set of sights, we should bid good-bye to the Strait for the season. On the 4th, therefore, the wind being at last down, we weighed in the morning, and passed through the first Narrows, anchoring soon after four P.M. in Gregory Bay. The sunset that evening was very striking, the sun descending as a fiery red globe behind the snow-white Gregory Eange; and the sunrise next morning was also remarkable, a wide space of pale greenish-yellow sky on the horizon being surmounted by piles of scarlet and rosy cloud. We left our anchorage early, but the wind arose soon after breakfast, so as greatly to retard our progress southwards, although we had the tide in our favour. Two seals were seen close to the ship for a few minutes in the course of the forenoon. We anchored, at half-past two P.M., off Cape Porpesse, and a party landed immediately after; Captain Mayne, one of the officers, and myself, walking over the high ground on the summit of Cape Porpesse and Cape Negro to Laredo Bay. The range of cliffs, formed of boulder-clay, extending between the two capes, is high and precipitous, and presents a series of projecting ridges, with intervening deep furrows; and the high ground behind it (the beginning of the wooded country) is covered with a thick brushwood, formed principally of tall bushes (Ribes Magellanicicm, Pernettya mucronata, Fagus antarctica, Chilahothrinm amelloides, Emhothrium coccineum, and Maytenus Magellanicm). The last-named plant, belonging to the natural order Celastraceœ, is common in the wooded region, where it forms a low tree, with rather slender branches, which bear ovate-elliptical, coriaceous, serrated evergreen leaves, and obscure greenish flowers. Here, owing probably to its exposed situation, it occurred in the form of compact rounded bushes, as symmetrical in form as if they had been artificially trimmed with gardening shears. It was a bright, frosty afternoon, and the walk over the hard frozen ground was very agreeable. We observed a flock of carranchas perched on a clump of bushes, and a number of pretty little crested birds, like tits, were hopping about, making a loud chirping. These were specimens of theAnœretes parulus, which, according to Mr. Darwin, is also common in central ChilL Subsequently I noticed it throughout the Strait and Channels, and also in the island of Chiloe, but I never saw it in such abundance as at Cape Negro, on this occasion. Some good specimens of a fern, Aspidium mohrioides, which also occurs at the Falkland Islands, were found by one of our party in a ravine in the cliffs; and it is worth noting, that this was the sole locality in the Strait where we encountered it.
We left early next morning for Sandy Point, finding on our arrival that the greater part of a wooden pier, which had been constructed at the landing-place, had been carried away by the recent gales, which had covered the beach with great masses of kelp. A large party of us went on shore in the forenoon, and I walked with one of the officers about five miles along the coast to the southward of the settlement. All the small streams and some large patches of fresh water were thickly covered with ice, and the sandy beach was frozen hard. Numbers of damaged shells of Voluta Magellanica and Triton cancellatum were lying scattered at highwater mark (many of them containing their inmates), together with portions of the membranous tubes of a very large Annelid, fragments of Lithodes antarctica, and many specimens of Eurypodius septentrionalis; and a single individual of a very curious little crab, the Pinnotheres transversalis, was also found. Many terns and gulls were seen; and one of the latter (Larus dominicanus), which reminded me of our British lesser blackbacked species, was shot. A specimen of a curious little grebe (Podiceps Bollandi), very common in the Strait, but difficult to shoot on account of its activity in diving, was in addition procured, being found by one of the officers frozen into the ice of a small stream.
A heavy surf on the beach prevented us from landing for the next day or two; but on the 10th, a bright, sunny day, I had another long walk, obtaining some more marine animals, and, among others, many examples of a very large new species of Echiurus, which has been named by Dr. Baird E. farcimen, on account of its sausage-like appearance. Some of the specimens measured upwards of a foot in length, by between five and six inches in circumference; and they appeared to possess the faculty of altering their form in a very marked manner. On the evening of the same day, all our preparations for a start having been completed, we took advantage of the moonlight to proceed as far as Laredo Bay, where we halted for the night. Next day we moved on as far as Baxa Point, at the Fuegian side of the entrance of the first Narrows; and on the 12th we went slowly on our way to the eastward, taking a line of soundings. We passed Dungeness Spit about five P.M., and bid farewell to the Strait on an exquisite moonlight night, proceeding on our northerly course under steam and sail.
Our northerly voyage was prosperous, all things considered, but far from eventful. The morning of the 13th of June dawned clear and bright, and, as we had a fair wind, the screw was got up early, and we proceeded onwards under sail throughout the day, at a rate of from six to eight knots. During the night, however, the breeze died away, and by the morning of the 14th it was nearly calm. Many Cape pigeons (Daption capense) were observed flying about the vessel, and swimming in the water in our immediate vicinity, on the look-out for anything in the shape of food that might be thrown overboard; and these beautiful birds were our companions during the greater part of our passage. A specimen of a larger species of the same tribe, with ashcoloured and white plumage, the Fulmarus glacialioides was taken on a line put out astern on this day; and I preserved the skin and the digestive organs, which latter I subsequently compared with those of specimens of the Cape pigeon, afterwards obtained, with the following results:— The entire length of the alimentary canal in Fulmarus glacialioides I found to be 85 inches, and that of the intestinal tract, taken by itself, 74.5 inches. The caeca measured three lines in length, and were situated two inches above the anus. The stomach was distinctly divided into a cardiac and a pyloric portion, separated by a short and narrow interval. Of these portions, the cardiac division possessed a comparatively feeble muscular coat, and was remarkably glandular; while the pyloric, of a somewhat flattened spheroidal form, was extremely muscular. The former I found distended with a firm mass of semi-digested ship-biscuit; while the latter contained the two mandibles of a small Cephalopod. In the Cape pigeon, on the other hand, the length of the entire alimentary canal was 46 inches; that of the intestinal tract 34.5 inches. The oesophagus enlarged much more abruptly to form the cardiac portion of the stomach than was the case in the Fulmar; and the muscular coat of that portion was considerably thicker, so that the gastric glands were not visible through it. The pyloric division was much more feebly developed than in the Fulmar, but the diameter of the intestinal canal was considerably greater than in that species. The stomach of one of the specimens examined contained ship-biscuit, and that of another a piece of pork-rind, so large that it must have distended the oesophagus greatly in its passage downwards.
The wind freshened up again in the course of the forenoon, so that we made good way throughout the day. It lasted on the 15th until the evening, when it died almost completely, and there was a cloudy sky, with a good deal of fog along the horizon. Many Cape pigeons, a few Fulmars, and one or two albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) were seen all swimming together in a group at no great distance. The calm lasted all day, and during the earlier part of the l7th, and we had therefore again recourse to steam. We went along at an easy rate in this manner till the close of the afternoon, when a favourable breeze sprang up, and soon after enabled us to dispense with our useful but disagreeable auxiliary—the screw. On the 18th we maintained a good rate of speed all day; but, owing to a heavy swell, the vessel rolled to such an extent as to render work, which on my part principally consisted in preparing the specimens obtained during the past season for transmission to England, almost impracticable. The morning of the 19th was beautifully bright, and we began to experience a decided increase in the temperature, causing us to realise that we were leaving winter behind us. It was, however, nearly calm, and when the wind sprang up again after sunset, it was unfortunately ahead, so that we were obliged to tack. A magnificent albatross was soaring about at a short distance astern for some time in the afternoon, and was knocked over, but unfortunately not picked up. All those who have watched those splendid birds must have been struck with the marvellous nature of their flight, as they may often be seen sailing about for more than an hour at a time without any apparent movement of their long narrow wings, and will, I doubt not, agree with a well-known ornithological observer, Captain Hutton, who has remarked that he has never “witnessed anything to equal the ease and grace of this bird, as he sweeps past, often within a few yards, every part of his body perfectly motionless, except the head and eye, which turn slowly, and seem to take notice of everything.”
A good deal of discussion has arisen as to the method by which this sailing flight is maintained, and perhaps the question can hardly be considered as fairly settled. Dr. Pettigrew has observed, in his interesting and valuable memoir. On the Mechanism of Flight, that in sailing or gliding birds “the pinion acts as a long lever, and is wielded with great precision and power, particularly at the shoulder.”
And further, that a careful examination of the movements of skimming birds has led him to conclude—
That by a judicious twisting or screw-like action of the wings at the shoulder, in which the pinions are alternately advanced towards and withdrawn from the head in a manner analogous to what occurs at the pelvis in skating without lifting the feet, birds of this order can not only maintain the motion, which they secure by a few energetic flappings, but, if necessary, actually increase it, and that without either bending the wing, or beating the air.†
† Linn. Trans, vol. xxvi. p. 258.
Whether, however, this is a correct or sufficient explanation of what appears at first sight a very perplexing phenomenon, I do not venture to offer any opinion.
During most of the 20th we were greatly off our course, beating in towards the land. On the 21st we noticed a stormy petrel (Thalassidroma Wilsonii?) for the first time, and on the afternoon of the following day a number of petrels of another species, brown above, and white beneath, with the exception of the throat, which was dark-coloured, were observed flying about astern. We remarked that they soared at a much greater elevation than either the Cape pigeons or Fulmars. We never noticed them light on the surface of the water, and their wings appeared proportionally much longer and narrower. Immediately after the sun went down there was a magnificent flush on the sky, which, at first pale pink, gradually deepened to rose colour, and finally to carmine. About a couple of hours after sunset a remarkable elevation in the temperature of the sea-water, due, in all probability, to the Plate current, was recorded. On the 22d the wind still continued unfavourable, and the vessel pitched severely. Some large black petrels were seen, closely resembling a species occasionally noticed by us in the Strait. The 24th was very mild and warm, with the wind rather variable. Early on the morning of the following day, when we were in the latitude of Monte Video, several flying-fish were observed. There was but little wind during the earlier part of the day, but a little before noon a fresh breeze sprang up, which carried us along at the rate of about eight knots, till the evening, when it became lighter. On the 26th, a charming sunny day, we made from four to five knots, and many stormy petrels were seen. The morning of the 27th was foggy and drizzling. We noticed a marked diminution in the number of Cape pigeons. The 28th and 29th were beautiful days, and the 30th was so warm that we were fain to don lighter clothing than that which we had been accustomed to for many months. One solitary Cape pigeon accompanied us as we steamed on our way,—finding at noon that we were only a hundred and sixteen miles from our destination. Next morning, between five and six A.M., we reached the glorious harbour of Rio, just as the day was breaking, the various striking peaks at the entrance being projected against a pale orange sky. Standing on the bridge, it was curious to observe how, as the light increased, various striking features of the landscape became gradually developed, the forms of the various trees on the wooded hill-sides unfolding themselves, and the palms which crowned many of the ridges becoming very early recognisable. Soon after we anchored we received a large supply of letters and papers, which occupied us so fully that but few of our number went on shore that day, the majority contenting themselves with gazing on the wonderful scene around, which never lost its charm. The whole landscape appeared as if simmering in the heat, and the surface of the calm blue water, dotted with vessels of all nations, was only disturbed by the oars of some passing boat, or the splash produced by the brown gannets as they dived after their prey. These birds were very plentiful, and might be observed fishing in numbers together, particularly in the morning and evening; while frigate-birds (Tachypetes) were, in addition, to be seen soaring high in the air, and now and then closing and opening their deeply-forked tails.
On the following day (2d), we proceeded up the harbour to the coaling island. In weighing anchor a fine species of Comatula came up on the cable, and was consigned to spirits. A party of four of us landed soon after breakfast, and occupied the day in roaming over the country in the neighbourhood of Nictheroy. At the spot where we stepped on shore the ebbing tide had left a few feet of rock uncovered, and on this space a species of Padina was growing in profusion, and one or two specimens of a Gasteropod with a rather handsome shell, the Turbinella Brasiliana, were obtained. Despite the difference of the season of the year, we remarked very little change in the general aspect of the vegetation, from what it presented on our first visit in 1866, only a very few of the trees having shed their foliage, and many of the flowers previously observed being now in bloom. Among those trees which chiefly arrested the eye, were the palms, the bananas, and the mangoes (Mangifera indica), the thickly leaved spreading branches of the last casting a deep shadow on the ground. In the gardens various beautiful plants were cultivated, including a Euphorbiaceous slirub, with a whorl of five or six bracts about three inches long, and of a vivid scarlet or crimson colour, subtending the yellowish flowers, a species of a Plumieria noticed on our former visit, but now almost out of bloom, and a creeper with a light blue corolla about an inch in diameter, and which covered trelliswork, together with a variety of brilliant-flowered Malvaceœ. On the hill-sides the commonest plants were species of Compositse, including a small Zinnia and an Ageratum; and a pretty orange-coloured fungus, of the genus Polyporus, was abundant on dead twigs. I also found some pods of a Leguminous plant, from six to seven inches long by an inch broad. One of the first places visited was a sort of waste garden, partially surrounded by hedges, in which a species of Lantana predominated, my companions, who were zealous butterfly-hunters, being attracted by the variety of gorgeous insects flitting about the flowers; but as we were loudly vociferated at by the proprietor, and a female myrmidon, we thought it advisable to evacuate the premises. Towards the close of the afternoon, after a considerable amount of time occupied at an orange stall, we returned to the neighbourhood of the landing-place, and awaited the arrival of our boat, listening to the cicadas and other insects, which, wakening up at sunset, filled the air with their notes. A small species of Hippocampns (H. guttulatns) was caught on this day, by one of the officers who had remained on board.
On the 3d I crossed over to the city (San Sebastian), with one of the officers, in a ferry-boat, and we spent some hours walking about the streets, and visiting the public garden and market. The former of these, which I have shortly described on our former visit, became a favourite resort to us when we had a spare hour to fill up, one of the great objects of interest being a cow-fish or manatee (Manatus australis), which had been added to the collection of live animals since our last visit. This curious creature, one of the few members of the order Sirenia, or herbivorous Cetacea as they were at one time denominated, is common on the coasts, and near the mouths of rivers, in tropical America, and feeds on herbage and aquatic weeds. Usually the specimen in the garden at Kio was only to be recognised as a dark shadow, moving along beneath the surface of the water; and it evinced a curious predilection for the society of a white swan, following it about in the most assiduous manner, so that the position of the bird often served as an index to that of the mammal. Several times I saw the manatee take a bunch of grass from the hand of the bystander, raising its curious fringed lips above the surface of the water to receive it, and once or twice I watched it feeding on the grass growing at the edge of the strip of water which it inhabited. This it accomplished by supporting itself, by means of one of its pectoral fins, on the top of the narrow stone ledge which bounded the water, so as to reach out its head, and then moving slowly along in a sidelong manner, so as to devour large mouthfuls of the herbage. The snout is very blunt, the eyes are very small, and the prevailing tint is a dull leaden hue, varied with some lighter spots on the belly.
The market was also a considerable source of interest to us, as it usually contained a great variety of fruits, vegetables, and fish, together with birds of many kinds in cages, as well as monkeys of various sorts, including specimens of the beautiful little marmosets. Peccaries were also sometimes to be seen, and on one occasion I saw one led by a string through the streets of Rio.
On the 4th I remained on board all day, but some of the officers landed on a small island near the coaling station, and brought me off some Molluscs and Crustacea, the latter including representatives of three genera—Lupa (L. rubra), Goniograpsus (G. innotatus), and Sesarma (S. angustipes). In the afternoon we moved down to our anchorage near the island of Villegagnon, where we remained during the rest of our stay.
In order to avoid prolixity and repetition, I shall not attempt to give a record of our daily proceedings while at Rio, but content myself with the mention of certain of those observations and occurrences which appear to me to possess the greatest degree of general interest. On the 10th several of us landed after breakfast, and under the guidance of one of the officers of the “Spiteful,” had a delightful long walk, which, new to us at the time, afterwards became a very familiar beat, being generally known by the English officers of the ships in the harbour under the name of the “tank road,” in consequence of its lying alongside a covered aqueduct, which, originating in some large tanks about half-way up the Corcovado mountain, conducts a supply of delicious, pure, cold water to the city of Rio. The road winds along a wooded hill, is for the greater part agreeably shaded, and commands an extensive series of views, of the finest description, of the neighbouring hills and valleys, and the harbour with its numerous islands. Close to the road, palms, bananas, Cecropiœ, Bombaxes, with trunks armed with strong prickles, and Mimosas, the exquisitely delicate foliage of which appears most strikingly beautiful as seen against the blue, cloudless sky, occur in abundance; and there is in addition a profusion of fine shrubs and herbaceous plants. On the walls of the aqueduct a pretty little Begonia, with white flowers and bright green leaves, and an Adiantum, with delicate green fronds with black hair-like midribs, as well as a variety of mosses and lichens of various hues, embracing green, orange, and crimson, were conspicuous; and the banks were covered in many spots with the pretty yellow-flowered Thunbergia, and a scarlet-blossomed Convolvulaceous creeper. A yellow and a purple Oxalis were common, as was also a curious plant of the order Crassulaceœ, the Bryophyllum calycinum† which has the power of developing rootlets and leaf-buds from the indentations of its fleshy leaves, and will even continue to grow between sheets of drying-paper. One shrub specially attracted our attention, from the brilliant azure blue tint of its berries; and the variety of form assumed by the ferns was marvellous, the small fronds of some species clothing the stems of the trees after the manner of ivy, while one (a Lygodium) was a regular twiner, winding itself in coils around the bushes. On damp rocks close to the tanks we noticed a Begonia, with white-spotted dark green leaves; and some elegant Selaginellas were also met with. Several beautiful little humming-birds were seen hovering over the flowers, and occasionally lighting on the branches of the trees, while multitudes of lizards basked in the sun on the walls, or rustled through the grass close to our feet, but were very difficult to obtain uninjured, as they ran with great agility, and snapped off their tails without the slightest warning. A beautiful little tree-frog (Hyla alBomarginata) was caught sitting on one of the leaves of an Agave. It was of an emerald-green colour above, with the feet pale yellow, and the sucking-discs tinged with vermilion. Insects of many sorts also abounded, and a variety of beautiful, though well-known forms of Lepidoptera, were captured.
† This is a naturalised, not an indigenous plant, being an inhabitant of the Old World.
The Ageronia feronia, already noticed as possessing the curious property of producing a crackling noise with its wings when it flies, was observed in numbers, resting with expanded wings, head downwards, on the trunks of the trees; and we often subsequently remarked it as a curious circumstance, that there was one individual tree, a species of Mimosa, from the bark of which a clear brown gum exuded, on which we were almost certain to find specimens of this insect resting.
On the 13th, having received an invitation from a Scotch gentleman, Dr. R. H. Gunning (well known for his exceeding kindness and hospitality to almost all naval officers who have visited Rio), to spend a few days with him at his estate on the Serra de Mar, about 1400 feet above the level of the sea, and fifty miles distant from the city of Rio, on the line of the Dom Pedro Eailway, I landed in the morning, and drove to the Estrado Ferro at Campo Sta. Anna in the back part of the town. Here I met the Doctor, and we took out our tickets for the EodRio station, about two miles from his house, the fare (1st class) being between five and six millereis, equivalent to about ten or eleven shillings. We started about twelve o'clock in a train of moderate length, drawn by a wood-burning engine, with a short, wide-mouthed funnel. The line passes at first through comparatively low-lying country, abounding in plantations of maize, sugar-cane, and oranges, the glossy green leaves and golden fruit of which communicated an exceedingly pretty effect to the landscape. A thinly wooded marshy tract of ground was then traversed, and here I was greatly delighted by the beauty of the flowers, and felt much tantalised by being unable to stop to gather them. I noticed, among others, some water plants, with bright blue flowers, probably Pontederiœ, as well as a variety of epiphytes of various orders on the trees and shrubs, some of the latter of which possessed large white and lilac blossoms. On reaching the foot of the Serra de Mar, the train stopped for about five minutes at the station at Belem, which is only about eighty feet above the level of the sea, to allow the passengers to obtain refreshments (excellent coffee and a variety of eatables and drinkables being procurable), and then commenced the ascent, which is extremely steep, averaging one in fifty feet, and in some places considerably exceeding this. The line here pursues an extraordinarily serpentine course along the side of the range of hills, winding to such an extent that at one point six miles have to be traversed to make a mile and a half good, while some of the curves are so sharp as to permit of a stone being thrown from one side of the arc described to the other. The Serra being densely covered with virgin forest, the scenery on either side of this portion of the track is of the most splendid description. After passing through three tunnels, we arrived opposite Dr. Gunning's house; and, in accordance with a convenient arrangement entered into by the Doctor with the directors of the railway company, we were set down on a small wooden platform at the side of the line, without being carried on to Eodeio, and five minutes' walk sufficed us to reach the house, which is charmingly situated on the crest of the Serra, overlooking a deep densely-wooded valley, and recalled to me a Swiss châlet in its general appearance. Arrived in the veranda in front, the full glory of the magnificent view breaks on the visitor—range after range of hills and of intervening valleys, alike covered with dense wood, stretching away for miles as far as the eye can reach; the nearer ones exhibiting an infinite variety of shades of verdure, from the snow-white leaves of some trees to the dark glossy green foliage of others, while the more distant, of a deep blue tint, terminate in a long range of jagged peaks on the horizon. Here and there a silver thread of water may be seen trickling down into the valleys, and a gap in the Serra discloses a fine glimpse of the low-lying country to the south of Rio, with the buildings of the Emperor's farm gleaming white in the sunlight, and beyond all, the unruffled bosom of the ocean.
The garden-plots were stocked with a variety of beautiful flowers, many of them Brazilian, and others among our most familiar favourites at home. Thus there were handsome yellow Bignoniœ, and a variety of Arads, Euphorhiaceœ, and Solanaccœ, associated with roses and fine plants of double daisies from Edinburgh. Among the domestic animals were a splendid black and white Newfoundland, and a large bay Spanish bull-dog, a fine blue and yellow macaw, and a number of pigeons, guinea-fowls, ducks, etc. After dinner, when I tasted for the first time a number of excellent Brazilian vegetables, including “mandioca” (the roots of the Manihot utilissima, and an admirable substitute for potatoes, whether in the boiled, roasted, or fried condition), the boiled fruit of the Carica, a green herb somewhat like spinach, called “ora pro nobis”§ by the Portuguese, and the national dish of Fejjaõs e Farinha (a kind of bean and flour of Indian corn), I set out on a stroll with my host, enjoying greatly the deliciously cool and fresh air, which afforded an agreeable contrast to the hothouse-like atmosphere of the neighbourhood of Rio. Passing through a tunnel near the house, we visited the scene of a recent land-slip, finding a gang of negro labourers engaged in wheeling away the loads of débris. Land-slips, I was informed, are very common on the Serra after heavy rains, and often occur on a large scale. This one had carried away several small houses bodily, besides mowing down a number of large trees as if they had been so many straws. After walking along the top of a steep bank, on which many coffee-bushes in different stages of fruit were growing, we penetrated a little way into one of the woods, following a narrow path which ran alongside a small stream, in which were many small frogs. On the margin of this rill a very pretty pink-flowered Begonia, and a variety of other plants, were common. Among the bushes near the entrance of the wood a little yellow finch, much like a canary in general appearance, was hopping out in numbers; and another small bird, resembling a sparrow, was also abundant. Two parrots flew screaming through the air over our heads, and we saw an exquisite little green humming-bird sucking the flowers of a tall composite plant. In the woods the luxuriance of the vegetation was very wonderful. I was much struck by the great height, as compared with the slenderness, of many of the trees, not a few towering up for thirty or forty feet before giving off a single branch, as well as by the variety of remarkable forms presented to our gaze, including palms of several species; Garicas, with their characteristic scarred stems, large deeply-lobed leaves, and oblong yellow fruits; Cecropias; Tree-ferns, with tiaras of delicate green minutely cut fronds; and gigantic Leguminosœ. A huge tree, apparently belonging to the last order, which grew in a hollow in the neighbourhood of the house, presented a most extraordinary appearance: the stem, dividing at a distance of about ten or twelve feet from the ground into immense vertical folds which extended outwards and downwards on every side, subdividing in such a manner as to form a number of sloping walls from six to eight feet high, though but little more than two or three inches thick, with interspaces between them large enough to contain several persons standing upright, and yet entirely concealed from view.†
§ Pray for us.
† A similar stem has been figured by Martins. Cf. Lindley,Veg. King., p. 551.
The evening of this day, in common with those during the rest of my stay, was spent most agreeably, sitting in the veranda in the moonlight, drinking in the beauty of the scene around, while all night long a loud ringing tremulous sound was maintained, without intermission, by a multitude of treefrogs, cicadas, crickets, and grasshoppers. The variety of notes emitted by the tree-frogs is very remarkable, ranging from a sort of chirping, like that of a bird, to a sound like that of hammering. They are very often “vox et prœterea nihil”§ however, and I succeeded in capturing but few specimens of the family. Next day I had a long and beautiful ride on mule-back, winding through wooded valleys and along the sides of forest-clad hills. The creepers and lianas, or ropelike twiners, in the woods, were amazing to behold—the latter varying in thickness from the diameter of a stout string to that of a thick cable, and hanging down fifty, sixty, or even a greater number of feet, in loops and festoons from the tops of the trees. The epiphytes, or parasitic plants, were also very noteworthy. They principally consisted of Orchids and Bromeliaceœ (many of the latter of which displayed, high up among the tree-tops, fine spikes of rose-coloured flowers), together with an infinite variety of ferns. Many of the stems of the trees were also covered with creeping Aracece, with deeply-lobed leaves, and many other plants too numerous to mention. In open spaces at the sides of the roads, several handsome species of Solanum, with formidable prickly leaves, were common, together with a leafless composite plant, with sessile flowers and a tri-winged stem, and curious arborescent Lycopodiums; while hedges were formed in some places of a handsome tall Alpinia. The small groves of bananas and the orange plantations presented a most attractive appearance, the long fronds of the former assuming most elegant curves as a slight breeze stirred them now and then. As we rode along, Dr. Gunning gave me much information about the country and its inhabitants. Human life, from his account, appears to be regarded as of but little value among the Brazilians, and murdering each other seems to be the short and easy method adopted among neighbours for the solution of difficulties in their business transactions. One man, armed with a formidable knife and a short double-barrelled carabine, whom we met on the road and exchanged polite salutations with, had, I was told, caused the death of one or two people; and another individual had acquired the soubriquet of “Mata-gente,” from the number of murders committed at his instigation. In reply to my natural inquiry as to how such persons contrived to escape the penalty due to their crimes, I was informed that justice was easily evaded by a little judicious bribery.
§ A voice and nothing more.
On the 15th I took a walk through the woods, accompanied by the Newfoundland dog earlier mentioned, and armed with a kind of bill-hook wherewith to clear my way through the twiners which stretched across the narrow paths. Soon after setting out I descended the side of a steep hill-side, covered with shrubs and herbaceous plants, to a beautiful little stream, arched over by great ferns of various species, and the gigantic sagittate leaves (above two feet long by a foot broad) of an Araceous plant; and having crossed it, found my way into a narrow footpath running along near the edge of a wood on an opposite hill. Here I saw a toucan for the first time, some flocks of anis (Crotophaga), and several beautiful humming-birds, and I also procured a number of fine ferns. As the way was much overgrown I made abundant use of my bill-hook; after a time striking out into a road which commanded a view of a cascade descending into the valley below. Two days later I had an opportunity of examining two species of opossum which had been caught by the negroes. These, respectively denominated “Gumba” and “Quica” by these people, were the Didelphys Azarœ and the D. Quica. The former, much the larger of the two, covered with long coarse black and white hair, also occurs in Paraguay, where its habits have been recorded by Azara; while the latter, clothed with soft grayish hair, is, I believe, limited to Guyana and Brazil. I passed some time on the forenoon of the 19th in watching the operations of a large army of ants which were engaged in carrying along great cockroaches to their holes, dismembering them at the entrance, so as to introduce them more easily. These, I believe, were a species of Eciton and included two classes of workers—one of a black colour, with moderate-sized heads, and the other of a palebrown hue, with great heads, armed with enormous jaws. Mr. Bates, in his delightful Naturalist on the Amazons, to which I may refer the reader for detailed information on the economy of these animals, remarks that “the peculiar feature in the habits of the Eciton genus is their hunting for prey in regular bodies or armies;” and that it is “this which chiefly distinguishes them from the genus of common red stingingants, several species of which inhabit England, whose habit is to search for food in the usual irregular manner.”
I brought this very pleasant visit to a close on the afternoon of the same day, returning to Rio, where I learned that the “Galatea,” with H.RH. the Duke of Edinburgh, had arrived, and was the topic of conversation. A few days later a ball was given in honour of the Prince by the British merchants of Rio, at which a number of celebrities, including the Emperor and Empress of Brazil, and the Comte d'Eu, were present—the great sensation of the evening to the Brazilians being the advent of the Prince's Highland piper, in national costume, blowing on his instrument, the sounds produced being styled “Musica Bretanica,” by those who crowded around the performer.
On the 23d one of the officers, who had been on shore engaged in butterfly-hunting, brought on board with him a live snake, which he had caught and tied up in his net. This was a specimen of the coral-snake (Elaps corallinus), regarded as very venomous by the Brazilians, a beautiful creature, banded transversely with crimson and black, and with the ventral scuta vermilion in colour. On the net being opened, I secured it by catching it by the neck with a pair of forceps, and then dropping it into a jar of spirits. On the 29th I landed in the morning with a companion, and had a long and interesting walk, following the road leading up to the tanks for three or four miles, and then striking into a path leading over a thickly-wooded hill lying behind the Corcovado mountain, and separated from it by a deep valley, and for some distance running parallel with an aqueduct which feeds the tanks from which the aqueduct supplying the town arises. The walk was most agreeably shaded, and the variety of the foliage wonderful. Several remarkable trees attracted my attention, to two of which I shall alone refer,—one, I believe, a kind of fig, which supports itself by wrapping its branches around another tree, till it kills its victim in its tight embrace, when both, as a rule, come to the ground together; and the other, a giant of the forest, the Couratari Estrellensis, or an allied species. The stem of this magnificent tree frequently attains a height of from seventy to a hundred feet, before detaching a single branch, and its boughs, which ramify in a peculiar manner, are almost invariably bristling with epiphytes of various orders, which occur frequently in such masses as almost to conceal the proper foliage. Some beautiful flowers, and a large number of ferns, including representatives of the genera Polypodium, Doryopteris, Gleichenia, Anemia, Lygodium, Lomaria, Hymeneophyllum, etc. etc., were obtained on this occasion, and I captured a rather large spider of the genus Mygale, and found two specimens of a land-shell of the genus Bulimus (B. Taunaisii), about two inches and a half long. Travellers have sometimes expressed a feeling of disappointment in the tropics, somewhat analogous to the exclamation of the Princess in Lander's Gebir, “Is this the mighty ocean,—is this all?” but for my own part I can truly say that the scenery of Rio de Janeiro fully surpassed my highest expectations, and never palled upon me. I often realised, on the contrary, that such an amount of beauty was crowded into a comparatively limited area, as was almost impossible fully to appreciate.
On the afternoon of the 3d of August, while walking along the tank-road, I witnessed a very curious spectacle. A large dark-coloured wasp, a little over an inch long, was flying off with a green grasshopper, fully twice its own size. It appeared to find its burden rather unmanageable, as it took very short flights, resting at intervals. I endeavoured to secure both captor and victim, but only succeeded in obtaining the latter, which was not quite dead. On the 8th several of us landed, and went by steamer to Botafogo, from whence we walked to the Botanical Gardens, which were in a more tidy condition than when we visited them in the previous year. On the trees we found several specimens of a land-shell, the Bulimus auris muris, and we made a vain attempt to capture a dark-green lizard, with a very bright orange throat, and a long slender tail, which was running up the stem of a tree. That evening the sunset was even finer than usual, the whole sky around Rio being one scarlet glare, against which the church spires of the town, and the various fantastic forms of the mountain-peaks, stood out in dark relief. On the 16th I walked up to the summit of the Corcovado, an elevation of nearly 2300 feet, which commands a wonderful view of the harbour of Rio, Botafogo, and the Botanical Garden with its avenue of cabbage-palms, which, viewed from above, presents a very curious formal appearance; and three days later I had a pleasant excursion with four companions to Tijuca, a valley about 700 feet above the level of the sea, about eight or ten miles distant from Rio, and a great resort for English residents there as furnishing a salutary change of air. Taking our places on the top of a 'bus drawn by mules, which started about noon from a square in the city which forms the general rendezvous for public conveyances, we had a prolonged and rather weary, though somewhat amusing journey, owing to the excessive stubbornness of the quadrupeds, which meandered from side to side along the road, and could with extreme difficulty be urged beyond a walk as far as Anderahy, a village at the foot of a steep hill, which requires to be surmounted before descending into the Tijuca valley. The summit of this hill, up which we walked, is well named Boa Vista, as it commands a fine view of the flat tract of country extending between Rio and Anderahy; and in its neighbourhood, on the way to Tijuca Peak, is a beautiful cascade, well known as “the little cascade” (“Cascada pequena [sic, Pequeña]”) of Tijuca, to all who are acquainted with the neighbourhood.
Following a gradual descent from Boa Vista, we arrived in course of time at the well-known Bennet Hotel in the Tijuca valley, where we put up during our visit. On the afternoon of the same day we walked down through a valley stretching from Tijuca to the low-lying country near the sea, outside the harbour of Rio, and which commands a grand view of the curious anvil-shaped peak of La Gavia, or Lord Hood's Nose of seamen. Through a gorge in this valley a stream of considerable size runs, forming several fine cascades; and close to its track lie a number of gigantic boulders, heaped together in the most wonderful manner. So great is the size of some, that cottages in their vicinity appear dwarfed when compared with them, and the broad flat top of one has been utilised for drying coffee upon, a low wall being built round the edges. A most curious effect was produced, as may be well imagined, by the sight of a man walking about on the top of this great stone, and raking out his coffee. Many of these boulders were clothed with a vegetation of Agaves, Cacti, Orchids, Bromeliaceœ, and climbing Arads; and in the cavities left beneath them, where they were piled upon one another, various strange lianas depended. The sides of most were so steep and smooth as to render their ascent impossible, but we contrived to get to the top of one on which various small shrubs and trees were growing. Many fine ferns of various genera were met with on this occasion, and we refreshed ourselves with much satisfaction with the oranges and loquats which were growing in abundance at the sides of the road. The latter tree, Eriobotrya Japonica, a native of Japan, as its name implies, as well as of South China, is doubtless familiar to many of my readers, being cultivated in India and the southern parts of Europe. It bears large oblong evergreen leaves, and white flowers succeeded by pale orange, somewhat pear-shaped, fruits containing large brown seeds, and possessed of a most agreeable sub-acid flavour, which renders them very grateful to the palate in the warm regions where they ripen. The great drawback of this day was furnished by the mosquitoes and “barrachutas,” which were very numerous, and bit most savagely. The latter insect, a minute black fly, settles gravely on any exposed part of its victim, inflicting a minute puncture, to which his attention is first attracted by a minute drop of effused blood immediately beneath the cuticle, and which is shortly afterwards followed by a considerable amount of swelling and violent irritation, often lasting for two or three days. These insects, I may remark, ai e not common in the immediate neighbourhood of Rio, where mosquitoes abound, and their bite is far more virulent in its nature than that of these well-known pests. The following day, while scrambling along the rocks at the side of one of the cascades, I captured a female specimen of a fresh-water crab, of a dull purplish colour, the Trichodactylus fluviatilis, very common in Brazil, and was surprised to find between fifty and sixty fullydeveloped young individuals beneath the pleon or tail-flap, in the position ordinarily occupied by the ova. These little creatures were very active, and several made their escape when their parent was taken. I was much interested by this circumstance, which apparently proves that the young of this species do not pass through any transformation, like the majority of crabs; or, if they do so, that the different phases are assumed when they are still associated with the mother. Professor Westwood, so long ago as 1835, in a very interesting memoir in the Philosophical Transactions, “On the supposed Existence of Metamorphosis in the Crustacea,” pointed out that in certain land-crabs no metamorphosis takes place in the young; but I am not aware that the fact has been previously recorded as regards the above species.
The 21st was a very damp, cloudy day, and I found many specimens of Bulimus auris muris crawling about. Heavy rain came on in the afternoon, and in the evening there was a wonderful display of thunder and lightning, the whole sky being sometimes in a perfect blaze of light. I returned to Rio on the following day, and found that one of the officers had in my absence found a specimen of a curious reptile the Cephalopeltis scutigera, allied to an Amphisœna, and resembling it in its cylindrical worm-like body, and the ringed folds of the investing skin. Some days later, a gurnard-like fish, the Prionotus punctatus, was taken swimming at the surface of the water, close alongside the flagship, H.M.S. “Narcissus,” and sent to me by the kindness of the admiral.
On the 11th of September I accompanied Captain Mayne and a party on an excursion to the island of Paqueta, two or three miles distant from the head of the harbour. On our way thither we were much struck with the beauty of various of the small islands which we passed, which were clothed with a rich vegetation, presenting an infinite variety of shades of green; and we also noticed with interest some remarkable rocks sticking out of the water, and clothed up to high-water mark with a small species of oyster, with which the harbour abounds. We landed on a beach of shell-sand, opposite a house commanding a beautiful prospect of the chain of the Organ mountains, and in the vicinity of which a number of fine cocoanut palms were growing. Hanging up in the veranda of the house was the dried skin of a fish with large scales, and, on going to examine this, I found that a small bird had built its nest in the interior. We remained on the island till the evening, strolling about very agreeably. Numbers of tamarind trees were planted in various spots, and their bright green foliage had a very pleasing effect. Over a flat space of sandy ground, termed the “Campo,” many specimens of a Myrtaceous shrub, called “Pitanga” by the Brazilians, were scattered. These belonged to a species of Eugenia, and, like many of the other plants of the order, had pretty white flowers, which are succeeded by red ribbed fruits, somewhat resembling small tomatoes in form, and consisting of a soft fleshy pulp, enclosing hard seeds in its centre. These fruits are much esteemed by residents in Brazil, but we thought them very unpalatable, possessing a sickly sweetish taste, succeeded by a flavour of coal-tar. We inspected a small vein of copper occurring in one spot, but found it to be of very inferior quality. Lying on the beach I observed several heads of a species of hammer-headed shark, as well as numerous dead shells of bivalve Molluscs, among which the Anomalocardia macrodon was one of the most plentiful. I noticed a number of young Mangroves growing in the water; and on a boulder I found an Aplysia, of a mottled gray colour (A. brasiliana), which emitted a fine purple liquid when handled. One of the boat's crew also brought me some specimens of terrestrial animals, carefully wrapped up in pieces of newspaper, announcing that, among other things, there was a “triantelope,” and thereby exciting my curiosity as to the unknown creature, which proved, when disclosed to view, to be a large spider—a Tarantula being, as I afterwards concluded, the animal intended. At one spot we came across two men in a fishing-boat, and were amused to observe a large live fish tethered below the bottom of the boat by means of a narrow cord, which permitted it to swim about freely. We left the island in the evening, when the fire-flies were beginning to appear in numbers, and returned home in the moonlight without any particular adventure, with the exception of being dragged on to the top of a large boulder by our steamcutter, which had us in tow.
A few days after this the screw of the “Nassau” was got up to be cleaned, and we then found it covered with animal organisms, consisting principally of great quantities of a Tubularian Hydrozoon, in the masses of which numbers of other animals had taken up their abode. Among the most plentiful of these were two small species of fish (a Blenny, apparently the Blennius gentilis, known previously from California, and a minute Gobiesox), and some small Molluscs and Crustacea, including thousands of a species of Caprella, which looped their bodies about in the peculiar restless manner so characteristic of the genus. This species, which I subsequently referred to Mr. Spence Bate for determination, was pronounced by him to be the C. dilatata of Dana, who likewise procured it in Rio harbour. On the 18th, while walking along the aqueduct road, my attention was attracted by the perpetual dripping of large drops of water from the leaves of a Mimosa, to such an extent as to render the ground beneath its shade quite damp, while the soil beneath the other trees was perfectly dry; and I often noticed the phenomenon on subsequent occasions, without ever being able to explain the cause of it. On the 24th, accompanied by two of the officers of H.M.S. “Narcissus,” I went out by bus to Botafogo, and thence walked through a valley between the hills to the sea outside of Rio harbour. Here there was a sloping beach of fine white sand, on which the sea was breaking with a heavy surf, and which gave forth a peculiar squeaking sound when trod upon. Much amusement was afforded us as we walked along the shore by the movements of a crab, the Ocypoda rhombea, with a white bleached-looking body, numbers of which were reposing on the dry sand at the distance of some yards from the water, and, on becoming alarmed at our approach, scuttled down to the sea. I do not know whether, by reason of their projecting eyes, they are more long-sighted than ordinary crabs are, or whether their auditory sense is very acute, but we were surprised to observe many of them begin to run down to the water when we were as much as twenty yards off. They raised themselves very high on their legs, and ran with such rapidity that we found it impossible to overtake them, even running at full speed, as they dashed boldly into the surf, whither we could not follow them. One, apparently less wide-awake than the others, was at last captured by our getting between it and the sea and surrounding it. This individual was consigned to a small tin vasculum, and that evening, being tired with my exertions, I went to bed without removing it from its prison. It contrived, however, to make such a racket as rendered sleep impossible, so that at last I was obliged to get up and put an end to its existence by immersing it in spirit.
On the 1st of October I crossed to the opposite side of the harbour, and walked round part of Five-fathom Bay. Near the shore, several very curious rocky pinnacles, some of which bore a scanty vegetation on their summits, rise out of the water. On the sandy beach I disturbed two black vultures feeding on the putrefying carcass of a lamb. These birds, the Gallinazo (Cathartes atratus), are very common about Rio, where hundreds may be seen in the neighbourhood of slaughter-houses at San Cristobal, perched on palings or the branches of trees, on the look-out for offal. They may be also observed soaring in circles at a great height in the air, with the tips of the primary feathers widely separated. Mr. Darwin remarks that he believes that this species, which has a wide distribution in the northern parts of South America, never extends to the south of the Rio Negro, in lat. 41°, and that, on the western side of the continent, he never observed it in Chili. I obtained specimens of some fine Crustacea on this occasion, including a Hepatus (H. angustatus), a Lupa (L. cribraria), with a beautifully mottled carapace, remarkably produced on each side into a sharp spine, and the curious Hippa emerita, which burrows in the sand.
On the 3d, Dr. Campbell and I ascended the lower part of the Corcovado, and spent much time deeply interested in the contemplation of a number of leaf-cutting (Saüba) ants, which were marching along in armies, each individual carrying a portion of a green leaf, held in its jaws, over its back. The size of the loads carried in many instances was most surprising. I preserved at the time specimens of them; and the pinna of a leaf which was being carried by a single individual now lies before me, measuring nearly two inches and a half long, by almost half-an-inch broad! It was a most curious sight to watch the industrious little creatures cutting semicircular pieces out of large leaves which had been previously detached, and let fall to the ground, by biting through the petiole. There seemed to be two classes of labourers, each with their own special work—one set, with very large jaws, acting as sawyers, while another body, with jaws of smaller size, carried off the loads when they were cut. The rapidity with which they cut out the pieces was also most remarkable, fragments nearly an inch in size being detached in less than five minutes. Another body of these insects observed by us on another occasion, in the public gardens in the city, presented a most curious appearance, marching in single file, each carrying a fragment, from half to three-fourths of an inch long, of the leafy twigs of a Thuja, over its back, so as to recall the celebrated “moving wood” which came to “Dunsinane.”§
§ Shakespeare: Macbeth, who “ …shall never vanquished be, until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.”