Countries visited during the voyage of h. M. S beagle bound the world

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00 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. v.

running against the wind; yet at the first start they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On*one fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes, where they squatted concealed, till quite closely approached. It is not generally known that ostriches readily take to the water. Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of San Bias, and at Port Valdes in Patagonia, he saw these birds swimming several times from island to island. They ran into the water both when driven down to a point, and likewise of their own accord when not frightened: the distance crossed was about two hundred yards. When swimming, very little of their bodies appear above water; their necks are extended a little forward, and their progress is slow. On two occasions I saw some ostriches swimming across the Santa Cruz river, where its course was about four hundred yards wide, and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt,* when descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming.

The inhabitants of the country readily distinguish, even at a distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger and darker-coloured,t and has a bigger head. The ostrich, I believe the cock, emits a singular, deep-toned, hissing note: when first

1 heard it, standing in the midst of some sand-hillocks, I thought
it was made by some wild beast, for it is a sound that one cannot
tell whence it comes, or from how far distant. When we were
at Bahía Blanca in the months of September and October, the
eggs, in extraordinary numbers, were found all over the country.
They lie either scattered and single, in which case they are
never hatched, and are called by the Spaniards huachos ; or they
are collected together into a shallow excavation, which forms the
nest. Out of the four nests which I saw, three contained twenty-
two eggs each, and the fourth twenty-seven. In one day's
hunting on horseback sixty-four eggs were found ; forty-four of
these were in two nests, and the remaining twenty, scattered
huachos. The Gauchos unanimously affirm, and there is no
reason to doubt their statement, that the male bird alone hatches
the eggs, and for some time afterwards accompanies the.young.

* Start's Travels, vol. ii. p. 74.

f A Gaucho assured me that lie had once seen a snow-white 01* Albino variety, and that it was a most beautiful bird.


The cock when on the nest lies very close; I have myself almost ridden over one. It is asserted that at such times they are occasionally fierce, and even dangerous, and that they have been known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on him. My informer pointed out to me an old man, whom he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe in Eurchell's travels in South Africa, that he remarks, " Having killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was said by the Hottentots to be a nest bird/' I understand that the male emu in the Zoological Gardens.takes charge of the nest: this habit, therefore, is common to the family.

The Gauchos unanimously affirm that several females lay in one nest. I have been positively told that four or five hen birds have been watched to go in the middle of the day, one after the other, to the same nest. I may add, also, that it is believed in Africa, that two or more females lay in one nest.* Although this habit at first appears very strange, I think the cause may be explained in a simple manner. The number of eggs in the nest varies from twenty to forty, and even to fifty ; and according to Azara, sometimes to seventy or eighty. Now although it is most probable, from the number of eggs found in one district being so extraordinarily great in proportion to the parent birds, and likewise from the state of the ovarium of the hen, that she may in the course of the season lay a large number, yet the time required must be very long. Azara states,"j* that a female in a state* of domestication laid seventeen eggs, each at the interval of three days one from another. If the hen was obliged to hatch her own eggs, before the last was laid the first probably would be addled; but if each laid a few eggs at successive periods, in different nests, and several hens, as is stated to be the case, combined together, then the eggs in one collection would be nearly of the same age. If the number of eggs in one of these nests is, as I believe, not greater on an average than the number laid by one female in the season, then there must be as many nests as females, and each cock bird will have its fair share of the labour of incubation ; and that during a period when the

* Burchell's Travels, vol. i. p. 280. •f; Azara, vol. iv. p. 173.

92 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. v.

females probably could not sit, from not having finished laying.** I have before mentioned the great numbers of huachos, or deserted eggs; so that in one day's hunting twenty were found in this state. It appears odd that so many should be wasted. Does it not arise from the difficulty of several females associating together, and finding a male ready to undertake the office of incubation ? It is evident that there must at first be some degree of association between at least two females; otherwise the eggs would remain scattered over the wide plains, at distances far too great to allow of the male collecting them into one nest: some authors have believed that the scattered eggs were deposited for the young birds to feed on. This can hardly be the case in America, because the huachos, although often found addled and putrid, are generally whole.

When at the Eio Negro in Northern Patagonia, I repeatedly heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less than the common ostrich (which is there abundant), but with a very close general resemblance. They said its colour was dark and mottled, and that its legs wrere shorter, and feathered lower down than those of the common ostrich. It is more easily caught by the bolas than the other species. The few inhabitants who had seen both kinds, affirmed they could distinguish them apart from a long distance. The eggs of the small species appeared, however, more generally known; and it was remarked, with surprise, that they were very little less than those of the Rhea, but of a slightly different form, and with a tinge of pale blue. This species occurs most rarely on the plains bordering the Iiio Negro; but about a degree and a half further south they are tolerably abundant. When at Port Desire, in Patagonia (lat. 48°), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole subject of the Petises, and thought it was a not full-grown bird of the common sort. It was cooked and eaten before my memory returned.

* Lichtenstein, however, asserts (Travels, vol. ii. p. 25) that the hens b^gin sitting when they have laid ten or twelve eggs; and that they continue laying, I presume, in another nest. This appears to me very improbable. He asserts that four or five hens associate for incubation with one cock, who site only at night.


Fortunately the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger feathers, and a large part of the skin, had been preserved; and from these a very nearly perfect specimen has been put together, and is now exhibited in the museum of the Zoological Society. Mr. Gould, in describing this new species, has done me the honour of calling it after my name.

Among the Patagonian Indians in the Strait of Magellan, we found a half Indian, who had lived some years with the tribe, but had been born in the northern provinces. I asked him if he liad ever heard of the Avestruz Petise ? He answered by saying, Ci
Why there are none others in these southern countries." He informed me that the number of eggs in the nest of the petise is considerably less than in that of the other kind, namely, not more than fifteen on an average; but he asserted that more than one female deposited them. At Santa Cruz we saw several of these birds. They were excessively wary: I think they could see a person approaching when too far off to be distinguished themselves. In ascending the river few were seen ; but in our quiet and rapid descent, many, in pairs and by fours or fives, were observed. It was remarked that this bird did not expand its wings, when first starting at full speed, after the manner of the northern kind. In conclusion I may observe, that the Stru-ihio rhea inhabits the country of La Plata as far as a little south of the Rio Negro in lat. 41°, and that the Struthio Darwinii takes its place in Southern Patagonia; the part about the Rio Negro being neutral territory. M. A. d'Orbigny,* when at the Rio Negro, made great exertions to procure this bird, but never had the good fortune to succeed. Dobrizhoffer f long ago was aware of there being two kinds of ostriches; he says, u You must know, moreover, that Emus differ in size and habits in different tracts of land; for those that inhabit the plains of Buenos Ay res and Tucuman are larger, and have black, white, and gray feathers; those near to the Strait of Magellan are smaller and more beautiful, for their white feathers are tipped

* When at the Rio Negro, we heard much of the indefatigable labours of this naturalist. M. Alcide d'Orbigny, during the years 1825 to 1833, traversed several large portions of South America, and has made a collection, and is now publishing the results on a scale of magnificence, which at once places himself in the list of American travellers second only to Humboldt

f Account of the Abipones, a.d. 1749, vol. i. (English translation), p. 314.

94 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. v.

with black at the extremity, and their black ones in like manner terminate in white."

A very singular little bird, Tinochorus rumicivorus, is here common: in its habits and general appearance, it nearly equally partakes of the characters, different as they are, of the quail and snipe. The Tinochorus is found in the whole of southern South America, wherever there are sterile plains, or open, dry pasture land. It frequents in pairs or small flocks the most desolate places, where scarcely another living creature can exist. Upon being approached they squat close, and then are very difficult to be distinguished from the ground. When feeding they walk rather slowly, with their legs wide apart. They dust themselves in roads and sandy places, and frequent particular spots, where they may be found day after day: like partridges, they take wing in a flock. In all these respects, in the muscular gizzard adapted for vegetable food, in the arched beak and fleshy nostrils, short legs and form of foot, the Tinochorus has a close affinity with quails. But as soon as the bird is seen flying, its whole appearance changes; the long pointed wings, so different from those in the gallinaceous order, the irregular manner of flight, and plaintive cry uttered at the moment of rising, recal the idea of a snipei The sportsmen of the Beagle unanimously called it the short-billed snipe. To this genus, or rather to the family of the "Waders, its skeleton shows that it is really related.

The Tinochorus is closely related to some other South American birds. Two species of the genus Attagis are in almost every respect ptarmigans in their habits; one lives in Tierra del Fuego, above the limits of the forest land; and the other just beneath the snow-line on the Cordillera of Central Chile. A bird of another closely allied genus, Chionis alba, is an inhabitant of the antarctic regions; it feeds on sea-weed and shells on the tidal rocks. Although not web-footed, from some unaccountable habit, it is frequently met with far out at sea. This small family of birds is one of those which, from its varied relations to other families, although at present offering only difficulties to the systematic naturalist, ultimately may assist in revealing the grand scheme, common to the present and past ages, oh which organized beings have been created

1838.] THE OVEN-BIRD. 95

The genus Furnarius contains several species, all small birds, living on the ground, and inhabiting open dry countries. In structure they cannot be compared to any European form. Ornithologists have generally included them among the creepers, although opposed to that family in every habit. The best known species is the common oven-bird of La Plata, the Casara or housemaker of the Spaniards. The nest? whence it takes its name, is placed in the most exposed situations, as on the top of a post, a bare rock, or on a cactus. It is composed of mud and bits of straw, and has strong thick walls: in shape it precisely resembles an oven, or depressed beehive. The opening is large and arched, and directly in front, within the nest, there is a partition, which reaches nearly to the roof, thus forming a passage or antechamber to the true nest.

Another and smaller species of Furnarius (F. cunicularius), resembles the oven-bird in the general reddish tint of its plumage, in a peculiar shrill reiterated cry, and in an odd manner of running by starts. From its affinity, the Spaniards call it Casarita (or little housebuilder), although its nidification is quite different. The Casarita builds its nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under ground. Several of the country people told me, that when boys, they had attempted to dig out the nest, but had scarcely ever succeeded in getting to the end of the passage. The bird chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls round the houses are built of hardened mud ; and I noticed that one, which enclosed a courtyard where I lodged, was bored through by round holes in a score of places. On asking the owner the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the little casarita, several of which I afterwards observed at work. It is rather curious to find how incapable these birds must be of acquiring any notion of thickness, for although they were constantly flitting over the low wall, they continued vainly to bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank for their nests. I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it came to daylight on the opposite side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous fact.

I have already mentioned nearly all the mammalia common in this country. Of armadilloes three species occur, namely.

90 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. v.

the Dasypus mirmtus or pichy, the D. villosus or peludo, and the apar. The first extends ten degrees further south than any other kind: a fourth species, the Mulita, does not come as far south as Bahia Blanca. The four species have nearly similar habits; the peludo, however, is nocturnal, while the others wander by day over the open plains, feeding on beetles, larvae, roots, and even small snakes. The apar, commonly called mataco, is remarkable by having only three - moveable bands ; the rest of its tesselated covering being nearly inflexible. It has the power of rolling itself into a perfect sphere, like one kind of English woodlouse. In this state it is safe from the attack of dogs; for the dog not being able to take the whole in its mouth, tries to bite one side, and the ball slips away. The smooth hard covering of the mataco offers a better defence than the sharp spines of the hedgehog. The pichy prefers a very dry soil; and the sand-dunes near the coast, where for many months it can never taste water, is its favourite resort: it often tries to escape notice, by squatting close to the ground. In the course of a day's ride, near Bahia Blanca, several were generally met with. The instant one was perceived, it was necessary, in order to catch it, almost to tumble off one's horse; for in soft soil the animal burrowed so quickly, that its hinder quarters would almost disappear before one could alight. It seems almost a pity to kill such nice little animals, for as a Gaucho said, while sharpening his knife on the back of one, "Son tan mansos" (they are so quiet).

Of reptiles there are many kinds: one snake (a Trigono-cephalus, or Cophias), from the size of the poison channel in its fangs, must be very deadly. Cuvier, in opposition to some other naturalists, makes this a sub-genus of the rattlesnake, and intermediate between it and the viper. In confirmation of this opinion, I observed a fact, which appears to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every character, even though it may be in some degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees. The extremity of the tail of this snake is terminated by a point, which is very slightly enlarged; and as the animal glides along, it constantly vibrates the last inch; and this part striking against the dry grass and brushwood, produces a rattling noise, which can be distinctly heard at the dis-

1833.] CURIOUS SNAKE. 9?

tan ce of six feet. As often as the animal was irritated or surprised, its tail was shaken; and the vibrations were extremely rapid. Even as long as the body retained its irritability, a tendency to this habitual movement wras evident. This Trigo nocephalus has, therefore, in some respects the structure of a viper, with the habits of a rattlesnake: the noise, however, being produced by a simpler device. The expression of this snake's face was hideous and fierce; the pupil consisted of a vertical slit in a mottled and coppery iris; the jaws were broad at the base, and the nose terminated in a triangular projection. I do not think I ever saw any thing more ugly, excepting, perhaps^ some of the vampire bats. I imagine this repulsive aspect originates from the features being placed in positions, with respect to each other, somewhat proportional to those of the human face; and thus we obtain a scale of hideousness.

Amongst the Batrachian reptiles, I found only one little toad (Phryniscus nigricans), which was most singular from its colour. If we imagine, first, that it had been steeped in the blackest ink, and then, when dry, allowed to crawl over a board, freshly painted with the brightest vermilion, so as to colour the soles of its feet and parts of its stomach, a good idea of its appearance will be gained. If it had been an unnamed species, surely it ought to have been called Diabólicas, for it is a fit toad to preach in the ear of Eve. Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains, where not a single drop of water can be found. It must necessarily depend on the dew for its moisture; and this probably is absorbed by the skin, for it is known, that these reptiles possess great powers of cutaneous absorption. At Mal-donado, I found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of water; not only was the little animal unable to swim, but, I think without help it would soon have been drowned.

Of lizards there were many kinds, but only one (Proctotretus multimaculatus) remarkable from its habits. It lives on the bare sand near the sea coast, and from its mottled colour, the brownish scales being speckled with white, yellowish red, and dirty blue, can hardly be distinguished from the surrounding

98 BAHÍA. BLANCA. [chap. v.

surface. When frightened, it attempts to avoid discovery by feigning death, with outstretched legs, depressed body, and closed eyes: if further molested, it buries itself with great quickness in the loose sand. This lizard, from its flattened body and short legs, cannot run quickly.

I will here add a few remarks on the hybernatiori of animals in this part of South America. When we first arrived at Bahia Blanca, September 7th,. 1832, we thought nature had granted scarcely a living creature to this sandy and dry country. By digging, however, in the ground, several insects, large spiders, and lizards were found in a half torpid state. On the 15th, a few animals began to appear, and by the 18th (three days from the equinox), every thing announced the commencement of spring. The plains were ornamented by the flowers of a pink wood-sorrel, wild peas, oenotherse, and geraniums; and the birds began to lay their eggs. Numerous Lamellicorn and Hetero-merous insects, the latter remarkable for their deeply sculptured bodies, were slowly crawling about; while the lizard tribe, the constant inhabitants of a sandy soil, darted about in every direction. During the first eleven aays, whilst nature was dormant, the mean temperature taken from observations made every two hours on board the Beagle, was 51°; and in the middle of the day the thermometer seldom ranged above 55°. On the eleven succeeding days, in which all living things became so animated, the mean was 58°, and the range in the middle of the day between sixty and seventy. Here then an increase of seven degrees in mean temperature, but a greater one of extreme heat, was sufficient to awake the functions of life. At Monte Video, from which we had just before sailed, in the twenty-three days included between the 26th of July and the 19th of August, the mean temperature from 27G observations was 58°.4; the mean hottest day being 65°.5, and the coldest 46°. The lowest point to which the thermometer fell was 4Io.5, and occasionally in the middle of the day it rose to 69° or 70°. Yet with this high temperature, almost every beetle, several genera of spiders, snails, and land-shells, toads and lizards were all lying torpid beneath stones. But we have seen that at Bahia Blanca, which is four degrees southward, and therefore with a climate only a very little colder, this same temperature with a rather less ex-

1833.] SEA-PEN. 99

treme heat, was sufficient to awake all orders of animated beings. This shows how nicely the stimulus required to arouse hybernat-mg animals is governed by the usual climate of the district, and not by the absolute heat. It is well known that within the tropics, the hybernation, or more properly aestivation, of animals is determined not by the temperature, but by the times of drought. Near Rio de Janeiro, I was at first surprised to observe, that, a few days after some little depressions had been filled with, water, they were peopled by numerous full-grown shells and beetles, which must have been lying dormant. Humboldt has related the strange accident of a hovel having been erected over a spot where a young crocodile lay buried in the hardened mud. He adds, " The Indians often find enormous boas, which they call Uji, or water serpents, in the same lethargic state. To reanimate them, they must be irritated or wetted with water."

I will only mention one other animal, a zoophyte (I believe Virgularla Patagónica) a kind of sea-pen. It consists of a thin5 straight, fleshy stem, with alternate rows of polypi on each side, and surrounding an elastic stony axis, varying in length from eight inches to two feet. The stem at one extremity is truncate, but at the other, is terminated by a vermiform fleshy appendage. The stony axis which gives strength to the stem may be traced at this extremity into a mere vessel filled with granular matter. At low water hundreds of these zoophytes might be seen, projecting like stubble, with the truncate end upwards, a few inches above the surface of the muddy sand. When touched or pulled they suddenly drew themselves in with force, so as nearly or quite to disappear. By this action, the highly elastic axis must bent at the lower extremity, where it is naturally slightly curved; and I imagine it is by this elasticity alone that the zoophyte is enabled to rise again through the mud. Each polypus, though closely united to its brethren, has a distinct mouth, body, and tentacula. Of these polypi, in a large specimen, there must be many thousands ; yet we see that they act by one movement: they have also one central axis connected with a system of obscure circulation, and the ova are produced in an organ distinct from the separate individuals.* Well may one be

* The cavities leading from the fleshy compartments of the extremity,

100 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. \.

allowed to ask, what is an individual ? It is always interesting to discover the foundation of the strange tales of the old voyagers ; and I have no doubt but that the habits of this Virgularia explain one such case. Captain Lancaster, in his voyage* in 1601, narrates that on the sea-sands of the Island of Sombrero, in the East Indies, he " found a small twig growing up like a young tree, and on offering to pluck it up it shrinks down to the ground, and sinks, unless held very hard. On being plucked up, a great worm is found to be its root, and as the tree groweth in greatness, so doth the worm diminish; and as soon as the worm is entirely turned into a tree it rooteth in the earth, and so becomes great. This transformation is one of the strangest wonders that I saw in all my travels : for if this tree is plucked up, while young, and the leaves and bark stripped off, it becomes a hard stone when dry, much like white coral: thus is this worm twice transformed into different natures. Of these we gathered and brought home many."

During my stay at Bahía Blanca, while waiting for the Beagle,-the place was in a constant state of excitement, from rumours of wars and victories, between the troops of Eosas and the wild Indians. One day an account came that a small party forming one of the postas on the line to Buenos Ayres, had been found all murdered. The next day three hundred men arrived from the Colorado, under the command of Commandant Miranda. A large portion of these men were Indians {mansos, or tame), belonging to the tribe of the Cacique Bernantio. They passed

were filled with a yellow pulpy matter, which, examined under a microscope, presented an extraordinary appearance. The mass consisted of rounded, semi-transparent, irregular grains, aggregated together into particles of various sizes. All such particles, and the separate grains, possessed the power of rapid movement; generally revolving around different axes, but sometimes progressive. The movement was visible with a very weak power, but even with the highest its cause could not be perceived. It was very different from the circulation of the fluid in the elastic bag, containing the thin extremity of the axis. On other occasions, when dissecting small marine animals beneath the microscope, I have seen particles of pulpy matter, some of large size, as soon as they were disengaged, commence revolving. I have imagined, I know not with how much truth, that this granulo-pulpy matter was in process of being converted into ova. Certainly in this zoophyte such appeared to be the case. * Kerfs Collection of Voyages, vol. viii. p. 119.


the night here ; and it was impossible to conceive any thing more wild and savage than the scene of their bivouac. Some drank till they were intoxicated ; others swallowed the steaming blood of the cattle slaughtered for their suppers, and then, being sick from drunkenness, they cast it up again, and were besmeared with filth and gore.

Nam simul expletus dapibus, -vinoque sepultus Cervicem inflexam posuit, jacuitque per antrum Immensus, saniem eructans, ac frusta cruenta Per somnum commixta mero.

In the morning they started for the scene of the murder, with orders to follow the " rastro/' or track, even if it led them to Chile. "We subsequently heard that the wild Indians had escaped into the» great Pampas, and from some cause the track had been missed. One glance at the rastro tells these people a whole history. Supposing they examine the track of a thousand horses, they will soon guess the number of mounted ones by seeing how many have cantered; by the depth of the other impressions, whether any horses were loaded with cargoes; by the irregularity of the footsteps, how far tired; by the manner in which the food has been cooked, whether the pursued travelled in haste; by the general appearance, how long it has been since they passed. They consider a rastro of ten days or a fortnight, quite recent enough to be hunted out. We also heard that Miranda struck from the west end of the Sierra Ventana, in a direct line to the island of Choleche!, situated seventy leagues up the Bio Negro. This is a distance of between two and three hundred miles, through a country completely unknown. "What other troops in the world are so independent ? "With the sun for their guide, mares' flesh for food, their saddle-cloths for beds,—as long as there is a little water, these men would penetrate to the end of the world.

A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique. The Spaniard who brought the orders for this expedition was a very intelligent man. He gave me an account of the last engagement at which he was present. Some Indians, who had been taken prisoners, gave information of a tribe living north of the

102 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap v.

Colorado. Two hundred soldiers were sont; and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses' feet5 as they chanced to be travelling. The country was mountainous and wild, and it must have been far in the interior, for the Cordillera were in sight. The Indians, men, women, and children, were about one hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The Indians are now so terrified that they offer no resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife and children ; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they fight against any number to the last moment. One dying Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping1 a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and so strike his pursuer. " I however struck him with my sabre to the ground, and then got off my horse, and cut his throat with my knife." This is a dark picture; but how much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood ! When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman, he answered, " Why, what can be done ? they breed so P5

Everyone here is fully convinced that this* is* the most just war, because it is. against barbarians. Who would believe in this age that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian civilized country ? The children of the Indians are saved, to be sold or given away as servants, or rather slaves for as long a time as the owners can make them believe themselves slaves; but I believe in their treatment there is little to complain of.

In the battle four men ran away togther. They were pursued, one was killed, and the other three were taken alive. They turned put to be messengers or ambassadors from a large body of Indians, united in the common cause of defence, near the Cordillera. The tribe to which they had been sent was on the point of holding a grand council; the feast of mare's flesh was ready, and the dance prepared: in the morning the ambassadors were to have returned to the Cordillera. They were remarkably fine


men, very fair, above six feet Jiigh, and all under thirty years of age. The three survivors of course possessed very valuable information; and to extort this they were placed in a line. The two first being questioned, answered, " No sé " (I do not know), and were one after the other shot. The third also said " No ;" adding,." Fire, I am a man, and can die!" Not one syllable would they breathe to injure the united cause of their country! The conduct of the above-mentioned cacique was very different: he saved his life by betraying the intended plan of warfare, and the point of union in the Andes. It was believed that there were already six or seven hundred Indians together, and that in summer their numbers would be doubled. Ambassadors were to have been sent to the Indians at the small Salinas, near Bahia Blanca, whom I have mentioned that this same cacique had betrayed. The communication, therefore, between the Indians, extends from the Cordillera to the coast of the Atlantic.

General Rosas's plan is to kill all stragglers, and having driven the remainder to a common point, to attack them in a body, in the summer, with the assistance of the Chilenos. This operation is to be repeated for three successive years. I imagine the summer is chosen as the time for the main attack, because the plains are then without water, and the Indians can only travel in particular directions. The escape of the Indians to the south of the Rio Negro, where in such a vast unknown country they would be safe, is prevented by a treaty with the Tehuelches to this effect;—that Rosas pays them so much to slaughter every Indian who passes to the south of the river, but if they fail in so doing, they themselves are to be exterminated. The war is waged chiefly against the Indians near the Cordillera; for many of the tribes on this eastern side are fighting with Rosas. The general, however, like Lord Chesterfield, thinking that his friends may in a future day become his enemies, always places them in the front ranks, so that their numbers may be thinned. Since leaving South America we have heard that this war of extermination completely failed.

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried away by the Indians \yjhen young, and could now only speak the Indian tongue. Erom their account they must have come from

104 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap, v

Salta, a distance in a straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This gives one a grand idea of the immense territory over which the Indians roam: yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare is too bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian, and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is melancholy to trace how the Indians have given way before the Spanish invaders. Schirdel* says that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer's time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, but the remaining Indians have become more barbarous: instead of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of fishing, as well as of the chace, they now wander about the open plains, without home or fixed occupation.

I heard also some account of an engagement which took place, a few weeks previously to the one mentioned, at Cholechel. This is a very important station on account of being a pass for horses; and it was, in consequence, for some time the headquarters of a division of the army. When the troops first arrived there they found a tribe of Indians, of whom they killed twenty or thirty. The cacique escaped in a manner which astonished every one. The chief Indians always have one or two picked horses, which they keep ready for any urgent occasion. On one of these, an old white horse, the cacique sprung, taking with him his little son. The horse had neither saddle nor bridle. To avoid the shots, the Indian rode in the peculiar method of his nation; namely, with an arm round the horse's neck, and one leg only on its back. Thus hanging on one side, he was seen patting the horse*s head, and talking to him. The pursuers urged every effort in the chace; the Commandant three times changed his horse, but all in vain. The old Indian father and his son escaped, and were free. What a fine picture one can form in one's, mind,—the naked, bronze-like figure of the

* Purchas's Collection of Vovages. I believe the date "was really 1537.


old man with his little boy, riding like a Mazeppa on the white horse, thus leaving far behind him the host of his pursuers!

I saw one day a soldier striking fire with a piece of flint, which I immediately recognised as having been a part of the head of an arrow. He told me it was found near the island of Cholechel, and that they are frequently picked up there. It was between two and three inches long, and therefore twice as large as those now used in Tierra del Fuego : it was made of opake cream-coloured flint, but the point and barbs had been intentionally broken off. It is well known that no Pampas Indians now use bows and arrows. I believe a small tribe in Banda Oriental must be excepted; but they are widely separated from the Pampas Indians, and border ciose on those tribes that inhabit the forest, and live on foot. It appears, therefore, that these arrow-heads are antiquarian* relics of the Indians, before the great change in habits consequent on the introduction of tho horse into South America.

* Azara lias even doubted -whether the Pampas Indians ever used bows.

106 BAHÍA BLANCA. [chap. vi.


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


September 8th.—I hired a Gaucho to accompany me on my ride to Buenos Ayres, though with some difficulty, as the father of one man was afraid to let him go, and another, who seemed willing, was described to me as so fearful, that I- was afraid to take him, for I was told that even if he saw an ostrich at a distance, he would mistake it for an Indian, and would fly like the wind away. The distance to Buenos Ayres is about four hundred miles, and nearly the whole way through an uninhabited country. We started early in the morning; ascending a few liundred feet from the basin of green turf on which Bahia Blanca stands, we entered on a wide desolate plain. It consists of a crumbling argillaceo-calcareous rock, which, from the dry nature of the climate, supports only scattered tufts of withered - grass, without a single bush or tree to break the monotonous uniformity. The weather was fine, but the atmosphere remarkably hazy; I thought the appearance foreboded a gale, but the Gauchos said it was owing to the plain, at some great distance in the interior, being on fire. After a long gallop, having changed horses twice, we reached the Rio Sauce : it is a deep, rapid, little stream, not above twenty-five feet wide. The second posta on the road to Buenos Ayres stands on its banks ; a little above there is a ford for horses, where the water does not reach to the horses' belly; but from that point, in its course to the sea, it is quite impassable, and hence makes a most useful barrier against the Indians.


Insignificant as this stream is, the Jesuit Falconer, whose information is generally so very correct, figures it as a considerable river, rising at the foot of the Cordillera. With respect to its source, I do not doubt that this is the case; for the Gauchos assured me, that in the middle of the dry summer, this stream, at the same time with the Colorado, has periodical floods ; which can only originate in the snow melting on the Andes. It is extremely improbable that a stream so small as the Sauce then was, should traverse the entire width of the continent; and indeed, if it were the residue of a large river., its waters, as in other ascertained cases, would be saline. During the winter we must look to the springs round the Sierra Ventana as the source of its pure and limpid stream. I suspect the plains of Patagonia, like those of Australia, are traversed by many watercourses, which only perform their proper parts at certain periods. Probably this is the case with the water which flows into the head of Port Desire, and likewise with the Rio Chupat, on the banks of which masses of highly cellular scoriae were found by the officers employed in the survey.

As it was early in the afternoon when we arrived, we took fresh horses, and a soldier for a guide, and started for the Sierra de la Ventana. This mountain is visible from the anchorage at Bahía Blanca; and Capt. Fitz Roy calculates its height to be 3340 feet—an altitude very remarkable on this eastern side of the continent. I am not aware that any foreigner, previous to my visit, had ascended this mountain; and indeed very few of the soldiers at Bahia Blanca knew anything about it. Hence we heard of beds of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint it. The distance from the posta was about six leagues, over a level plain of the same character as before. The ride was, however, interesting, as the mountain began to show its true form. When we reached the foot of the main ridge, we had much difficulty in finding any water, and we thought we should have been obliged to have passed the night without any. At last we discovered some by looking close to the mountain, for at the distance even of a few hundred yards, the streamlets were buried and entirely lost in, the friable calcareous stone and loose detritus. I do not think Nature ever made a more solitary, desolate pile of rock;


it well deserves its name of Hurtado>9 or separated. The mountain is steep, extremely rugged, and broken, and so entirely destitute of trees, and even bushes, that we actually could not make a skewer to stretch out our meat over the fire of thistle-stalks.* The strange aspect of this mountain is contrasted by the sea-like plain, which not only abuts against its steep.sides, but likewise separates the parallel ranges. The uniformity of the colouring gives an extreme quietness to the view;—the whitish grey of the quartz rock, and the light brown of the withered grass of the plain, being unrelieved by any brighter tint. From custom, one expects to see in the neighbourhood of a lofty and bold mountain, a broken country strewed over with huge fragments. Here nature shows that the last movement before the Ded of the sea is changed into dry land may sometimes be one of tranquillity. Under these circumstances I was curious to observe how far from the parent rock any pebbles could be found. On the shores of Bahia Blanca, and near the settlement, there were some of quartz, which certainly must have come from thi? source: the distance is forty-five miles.

The dew, which in the early part of the night wetted the saddle-cloths under which we slept, was in the morning frozen. The plain, though appearing horizontal, had insensibly sloped up to a height of between 800 and 900 feet above the sea. In the morning (9th of September) the guide told me to ascend the nearest ridge, which he thought would lead me to* the four peaks that crown the summit. The climbing up such rough rocks was very fatiguing; the sides were so indented, that what was gained in one five minutes was often lost in the next. At last, when I reached the .ridge, my disappointment was extreme in finding a precipitous valley as deep as the plain, which cut the chain trans-versely in two, and separated me from the four points. This valley is very narrow, but flat-bottomed, and it forms a fine horse-pass for the Indians, as it connects the plains on the northern and southern sides of the range. Having descended, and while crossing it, I saw two horses grazing: I immediately hid myself in the long grass, and began to reconnoitre; but as I could see no signs of Indians I proceeded cautiously on my

* I call these thistle-stalks for the want of a more correct name. I believe it is a species of Eryngium.

1833.| SIERRA VENTANA. 109

second ascent. It was late in the day, and this part of the mountain, like the other, was steep and rugged. I was on the top of the second peak by two o'clock, but got there with extreme difficulty ; every twenty yards I had the cramp in the upper part of both thighs, so that I was afraid I should not have been able to have got down again.- It was also necessary to return by another road, as it was out of the question to pass over the saddle-back. I was therefore obliged to give up the two higher peaks. Their altitude was but little greater, and every purpose of geology had been answered; so that the attempt was not worth the hazard of any further exertion. I presume the cause of the cramp was the great change in the kind of muscular action, from that of hard riding to that of still harder climbing. It is a lesson worth remembering, as in some cases it might cause much difficulty.

I have already said the mountain is composed of white quartz rock, and with it a little glossy clay-slate is associated. At the height of a few hundred feet above the plain, patches of conglomerate adhered in several places to the solid rock. They resembled in hardness, and in the nature of the cement, the masses which may be seen daily forming on some coasts. I do not doubt these pebbles were in a similar manner aggregated, at a period when the great calcareous formation was depositing beneath the surrounding sea. We may believe that the jagged and battered forms of the hard quartz yet show the effects of the waves of an open ocean.

I was, on the whole, disappointed with this ascent. Even the view was insignificant;—a plain like the sea, but without its beautiful colour and defined outline. The scene, however, was novel, and a little danger, like salt to meat, gave it a relish. That the danger was very little was certain, for my two companions made a good fire—a thing which is never done when it is suspected that Indians are near. I reached the place of our bivouac by sunset, and drinking much maté, and smoking several cigaritos, soon made up my bed for the night. The wind was very strong and cold, but I never slept more comfortably.

September'10th.— In the morning, having fairly scudded before the gale, we arrived by the middle of the day at the Sauce posta. On the road we saw great numbers of deer, and near the


mountain a guanaco. The plain, which abuts against the Sierra, is traversed by some curious gulleys, of which one was about twenty feet wide, and at least thirty deep ; we were obliged in consequence to make a considerable circuit before we could find a pass. We stayed the night at the posta, the conversation, as was generally the case, being about the Indians. The Sierra Yen-tana was formerly a great place of resort; and three or four years ago there was much fighting there. My guide had been present when many Indians were killed : the women escaped to the top of the ridge, and fought most desperately with great stones ; many thus saving themselves.

September lltk,—Proceeded to the third posta in company with the lieutenant who commanded it. The distance is called fifteen leagues; but it is only guess-work, and is generally overstated. The road was uninteresting, over a dry grassy plain; and on our left hand at a greater or less distance there were some low hills; a continuation of which we crossed close to the posta. Before our arrival we met a large herd of cattle and horses, guarded by fifteen soldiers; but we were told many had been lost. It is very difficult to drive animals across the plains ; for if in the night a puma, or even a fox, approaches, nothing can prevent the horses dispersing in every direction; and a storm will have the same effect. A short time since, an officer left Buenos Ayres with five hundred horses, and when he arrived at the army he had under twenty.

Soon afterwards we perceived by the cloud of dust, that a party of horsemen were coming towards us; when far distant my companions knew them to be Indians, by their long hair streaming behind their backs. The Indians generally have a fillet round their heads, but never any covering; and their black hair blowing across their swarthy faces, heightens to an uncommon degree the wildness of their appearance. They turned out to be a party of Bernantio's friendly tribe, going to a salina for salt. The Indians eat much salt, their children sucking it like sugar. This habit is very different from that of the Spanish Gauchos, who, leading the same kind of life, eat scarcely any : according to Mungo Park,* it is people who live on vegetable

* Travels in Africa, p. 233.


food who have an unconquerable desire for salt. The Indians gave us good-humoured nods as they passed at full gallop, driving before them a troop of horses, and followed by a train of lanky dogs.

September 12th and 13th.'—I staid at this posta two clays, waiting for a troop of soldiers, which General Rosas had the kindness to send to inform me, would shortly travel to Buenos Ayres ; and he advised me to take the opportunity of the escort. In the morning we rode to some neighbouring hills to view the country, and to examine the geology. After dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two parties for a trial of skill with tha bolas. Two spears were stuck in the ground thirty-five yards apart, but they were struck and entangled only once in four or five times. The balls can be thrown fifty or sixty yards, but with little certainty. This, however, does not apply to a man on horseback; for when the speed of the horse is added to the force of the arm, it is said, that they can be whirled with effect to the distance of eighty yards. As a proof of their force, I may mention, that at the Falkland Islands, when the Spaniards murdered some of their own countrymen and all the Englishmen, a young friendly Spaniard was running away, when a great tall man, by name Luciano, came at full gallop after him, shouting to him to stop, and saying that he only wanted to speak to him. Just as the Spaniard was on the point of reaching the boat, Luciano threw the balls: they struck him on the legs with such a jerk, as to throw him down and to render him for some time insensible. The man, after Luciano had had his talk, was allowed to escape. He told us that his legs were marked by great weals, where the thong had wound round, as if he had been flogged with a whip. In the middle of the day two men arrived, who brought a parcel from the next posta to be forwarded to the general: so that besides these two, our party consisted this evening of my guide and self, the lieutenant, and his four soldiers. The latter were strange beings; the first a fine young negro ; the second half Indian and negro ; and the two others nondescripts ; namely, an old Chilian miner, the ^colour of mahogany, and another partly a mulatto ; but two such mongrels, with such detestable expressions, I never saw before. At night, when they were sitting round the fire, and playing at cards, I retired to

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