Chapter XVI: Northern Chile And Peru (Page 2)
The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow islands, separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward of these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, which contains about two hundred souls; and then there extends the real desert of Atacama -- a barrier far worse than the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are received in almost every part of South America. The next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera into the central Cordillera. On the second night the weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake.
The connection between earthquakes and the weather has been often disputed: it appears to me to be a point of great interest, which is little understood. Humboldt has remarked in one part of the Personal Narrative,  that it would be difficult for any person who had long resided in New Andalusia, or in Lower Peru, to deny that there exists some connection between these phenomena: in another part, however he seems to think the connection fanciful. At Guayaquil it is said that a heavy shower in the dry season is invariably followed by an earthquake. In Northern Chile, from the extreme infrequency of rain, or even of weather foreboding rain, the probability of accidental coincidences becomes very small; yet the inhabitants are here most firmly convinced of some connection between the state of the atmosphere and of the trembling of the ground: I was much struck by this when mentioning to some people at Copiapo that there had been a sharp shock at Coquimbo: they immediately cried out, "How fortunate! there will be plenty of pasture there this year." To their minds an earthquake foretold rain as surely as rain foretold abundant pasture. Certainly it did so happen that on the very day of the earthquake, that shower of rain fell, which I have described as in ten days' time producing a thin sprinkling of grass. At other times rain has followed earthquakes at a period of the year when it is a far greater prodigy than the earthquake itself: this happened after the shock of November, 1822, and again in 1829, at Valparaiso; also after that of September, 1833, at Tacna. A person must be somewhat habituated to the climate of these countries to perceive the extreme improbability of rain falling at such seasons, except as a consequence of some law quite unconnected with the ordinary course of the weather. In the cases of great volcanic eruptions, as that of Coseguina, where torrents of rain fell at a time of the year most unusual for it, and "almost unprecedented in Central America," it is not difficult to understand that the volumes of vapour and clouds of ashes might have disturbed the atmospheric equilibrium. Humboldt extends this view to the case of earthquakes unaccompanied by eruptions; but I can hardly conceive it possible, that the small quantity of aeriform fluids which then escape from the fissured ground, can produce such remarkable effects. There appears much probability in the view first proposed by Mr. P. Scrope, that when the barometer is low, and when rain might naturally be expected to fall, the diminished pressure of the atmosphere over a wide extent of country, might well determine the precise day on which the earth, already stretched to the utmost by the subterranean forces, should yield, crack, and consequently tremble. It is, however, doubtful how far this idea will explain the circumstances of torrents of rain falling in the dry season during several days, after an earthquake unaccompanied by an eruption; such cases seem to bespeak some more intimate connection between the atmospheric and subterranean regions.
Finding little of interest in this part of the ravine, we retraced our steps to the house of Don Benito, where I stayed two days collecting fossil shells and wood. Great prostrate silicified trunks of trees, embedded in a conglomerate, were extraordinarily numerous. I measured one, which was fifteen feet in circumference: how surprising it is that every atom of the woody matter in this great cylinder should have been removed and replaced by silex so perfectly, that each vessel and pore is preserved! These trees flourished at about the period of our lower chalk; they all belonged to the fir- tribe. It was amusing to hear the inhabitants discussing the nature of the fossil shells which I collected, almost in the same terms as were used a century ago in Europe, -- namely, whether or not they had been thus "born by nature." My geological examination of the country generally created a good deal of surprise amongst the Chilenos: it was long before they could be convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was sometimes troublesome: I found the most ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask them how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning earthquakes and volcanos? -- why some springs were hot and others cold? -- why there were mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata? These bare questions at once satisfied and silenced the greater number; some, however (like a few in England who are a century behindhand), thought that all such inquiries were useless and impious; and that it was quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains.
An order had recently been issued that all stray dogs should be killed, and we saw many lying dead on the road. A great number had lately gone mad, and several men had been bitten and had died in consequence. On several occasions hydrophobia has prevailed in this valley. It is remarkable thus to find so strange and dreadful a disease, appearing time after time in the same isolated spot. It has been remarked that certain villages in England are in like manner much more subject to this visitation than others. Dr. Unanue states that hydrophobia was first known in South America in 1803: this statement is corroborated by Azara and Ulloa having never heard of it in their time. Dr. Unanue says that it broke out in Central America, and slowly travelled southward. It reached Arequipa in 1807; and it is said that some men there, who had not been bitten, were affected, as were some negroes, who had eaten a bullock which had died of hydrophobia. At Ica forty-two people thus miserably perished. The disease came on between twelve and ninety days after the bite; and in those cases where it did come on, death ensued invariably within five days. After
1808, a long interval ensued without any cases. On inquiry, I did not hear of hydrophobia in Van Diemen's Land, or in Australia; and Burchell says, that during the five years he was at the Cape of Good Hope, he never heard of an instance of it. Webster asserts that at the Azores hydrophobia has never occurred; and the same assertion has been made with respect to Mauritius and St. Helena.  In so strange a disease some information might possibly be gained by considering the circumstances under which it originates in distant climates; for it is improbable that a dog already bitten, should have been brought to these distant countries.
At night, a stranger arrived at the house of Don Benito, and asked permission to sleep there. He said he had been wandering about the mountains for seventeen days, having lost his way. He started from Guasco, and being accustomed to travelling in the Cordillera, did not expect any difficulty in following the track to Copiapo; but he soon became involved in a labyrinth of mountains, whence he could not escape. Some of his mules had fallen over precipices, and he had been in great distress. His chief difficulty arose from not knowing where to find water in the lower country, so that he was obliged to keep bordering the central ranges.
We returned down the valley, and on the 22nd reached the town of Copiapo. The lower part of the valley is broad, forming a fine plain like that of Quillota. The town covers a considerable space of ground, each house possessing a garden: but it is an uncomfortable place, and the dwellings are poorly furnished. Every one seems bent on the one object of making money, and then migrating as quickly as possible. All the inhabitants are more or less directly concerned with mines; and mines and ores are the sole subjects of conversation. Necessaries of all sorts are extremely dear; as the distance from the town to the port is eighteen leagues, and the land carriage very expensive. A fowl costs five or six shillings; meat is nearly as dear as in England; firewood, or rather sticks, are brought on donkeys from a distance of two and three days' journey within the Cordillera; and pasturage for animals is a shilling a day: all this for South America is wonderfully exorbitant.
June 26th. -- I hired a guide and eight mules to take me into the Cordillera by a different line from my last excursion. As the country was utterly desert, we took a cargo and a half of barley mixed with chopped straw. About two leagues above the town a broad valley called the "Despoblado," or uninhabited, branches off from that one by which we had arrived. Although a valley of the grandest dimensions, and leading to a pass across the Cordillera, yet it is completely dry, excepting perhaps for a few days during some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains were furrowed by scarcely any ravines; and the bottom of the main valley, filled with shingle, was smooth and nearly level. No considerable torrent could ever have flowed down this bed of shingle; for if it had, a great cliff-bounded channel, as in all the southern valleys, would assuredly have been formed. I feel little doubt that this valley, as well as those mentioned by travellers in Peru, were left in the state we now see them by the waves of the sea, as the land slowly rose. I observed in one place, where the Despoblado was joined by a ravine (which in almost any other chain would have been called a grand valley), that its bed, though composed merely of sand and gravel, was higher than that of its tributary. A mere rivulet of water, in the course of an hour, would have cut a channel for itself; but it was evident that ages had passed away, and no such rivulet had drained this great tributary. It was curious to behold the machinery, if such a term may be used, for the drainage, all, with the last trifling exception, perfect, yet without any signs of action. Every one must have remarked how mud-banks, left by the retiring tide, imitate in miniature a country with hill and dale; and here we have the original model in rock, formed as the continent rose during the secular retirement of the ocean, instead of during the ebbing and flowing of the tides. If a shower of rain falls on the mud-bank, when left dry, it deepens the already-formed shallow lines of excavation; and so it is with the rain of successive centuries on the bank of rock and soil, which we call a continent.
We rode on after it was dark, till we reached a side ravine with a small well, called "Agua amarga." The water deserved its name, for besides being saline it was most offensively putrid and bitter; so that we could not force ourselves to drink either tea or mate. I suppose the distance from the river of Copiapo to this spot was at least twenty-five or thirty English miles; in the whole space there was not a single drop of water, the country deserving the name of desert in the strictest sense. Yet about half way we passed some old Indian ruins near Punta Gorda: I noticed also in front of some of the valleys, which branch off from the Despoblado, two piles of stones placed a little way apart, and directed so as to point up the mouths of these small valleys. My companions knew nothing about them, and only answered my queries by their imperturbable "quien sabe?"
I observed Indian ruins in several parts of the Cordillera: the most perfect which I saw, were the Ruinas de Tambillos, in the Uspallata Pass. Small square rooms were there huddled together in separate groups: some of the doorways were yet standing; they were formed by a cross slab of stone only about three feet high. Ulloa has remarked on the lowness of the doors in the ancient Peruvian dwellings. These houses, when perfect, must have been capable of containing a considerable number of persons. Tradition says, that they were used as halting-places for the Incas, when they crossed the mountains. Traces of Indian habitations have been discovered in many other parts, where it does not appear probable that they were used as mere resting-places, but yet where the land is as utterly unfit for any kind of cultivation, as it is near the Tambillos or at the Incas Bridge, or in the Portillo Pass, at all which places I saw ruins. In the ravine of Jajuel, near Aconcagua, where there is no pass, I heard of remains of houses situated at a great height, where it is extremely cold and sterile. At first I imagined that these buildings had been places of refuge, built by the Indians on the first arrival of the Spaniards; but I have since been inclined to speculate on the probability of a small change of climate.
In this northern part of Chile, within the Cordillera, old Indian houses are said to be especially numerous: by digging amongst the ruins, bits of woollen articles, instruments of precious metals, and heads of Indian corn, are not unfrequently discovered: an arrow-head made of agate, and of precisely the same form with those now used in Tierra del Fuego, was given me. I am aware that the Peruvian Indians now frequently inhabit most lofty and bleak situations; but at Copiapo I was assured by men who had spent their lives in travelling through the Andes, that there were very many
(muchisimas) buildings at heights so great as almost to border upon the perpetual snow, and in parts where there exist no passes, and where the land produces absolutely nothing, and what is still more extraordinary, where there is no water. Nevertheless it is the opinion of the people of the country
(although they are much puzzled by the circumstance), that, from the appearance of the houses, the Indians must have used them as places of residence. In this valley, at Punta Gorda, the remains consisted of seven or eight square little rooms, which were of a similar form with those at Tambillos, but built chiefly of mud, which the present inhabitants cannot, either here or, according to Ulloa, in Peru, imitate in durability. They were situated in the most conspicuous and defenceless position, at the bottom of the flat broad valley. There was no water nearer than three or four leagues, and that only in very small quantity, and bad: the soil was absolutely sterile; I looked in vain even for a lichen adhering to the rocks. At the present day, with the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine, unless it were very rich, could scarcely be worked here with profit. Yet the Indians formerly chose it as a place of residence! If at the present time two or three showers of rain were to fall annually, instead of one, as now is the case during as many years, a small rill of water would probably be formed in this great valley; and then, by irrigation (which was formerly so well understood by the Indians), the soil would easily be rendered sufficiently productive to support a few families.
I have convincing proofs that this part of the continent of South America has been elevated near the coast at least from
400 to 500, and in some parts from 1000 to 1300 feet, since the epoch of existing shells; and further inland the rise possibly may have been greater. As the peculiarly arid character of the climate is evidently a consequence of the height of the Cordillera, we may feel almost sure that before the later elevations, the atmosphere could not have been so completely drained of its moisture as it now is; and as the rise has been gradual, so would have been the change in climate. On this notion of a change of climate since the buildings were inhabited, the ruins must be of extreme antiquity, but I do not think their preservation under the Chilian climate any great difficulty. We must also admit on this notion (and this perhaps is a greater difficulty) that man has inhabited South America for an immensely long period, inasmuch as any change of climate effected by the elevation of the land must have been extremely gradual. At Valparaiso, within the last 220 years, the rise has been somewhat less than 19 feet: at Lima a sea-beach has certainly been upheaved from
80 to 90 feet, within the Indo-human period: but such small elevations could have had little power in deflecting the moisture-bringing atmospheric currents. Dr. Lund, however, found human skeletons in the caves of Brazil, the appearance of which induced him to believe that the Indian race has existed during a vast lapse of time in South America.
When at Lima, I conversed on these subjects  with Mr. Gill, a civil engineer, who had seen much of the interior country. He told me that a conjecture of a change of climate had sometimes crossed his mind; but that he thought that the greater portion of land, now incapable of cultivation, but covered with Indian ruins, had been reduced to this state by the water-conduits, which the Indians formerly constructed on so wonderful a scale, having been injured by neglect and by subterranean movements. I may here mention, that the Peruvians actually carried their irrigating streams in tunnels through hills of solid rock. Mr. Gill told me, he had been employed professionally to examine one: he found the passage low, narrow, crooked, and not of uniform breadth, but of very considerable length. Is it not most wonderful that men should have attempted such operations, without the use of iron or gunpowder? Mr. Gill also mentioned to me a most interesting, and, as far as I am aware, quite unparalleled case, of a subterranean disturbance having changed the drainage of a country. Travelling from Casma to Huaraz (not very far distant from Lima), he found a plain covered with ruins and marks of ancient cultivation but now quite barren. Near it was the dry course of a considerable river, whence the water for irrigation had formerly been conducted. There was nothing in the appearance of the water-course to indicate that the river had not flowed there a few years previously; in some parts, beds of sand and gravel were spread out; in others, the solid rock had been worn into a broad channel, which in one spot was about 40 yards in breadth and 8 feet deep. It is self-evident that a person following up the course of a stream, will always ascend at a greater or less inclination: Mr. Gill, therefore, was much astonished, when walking up the bed of this ancient river, to find himself suddenly going down hill. He imagined that the downward slope had a fall of about 40 or
50 feet perpendicular. We here have unequivocal evidence that a ridge had been uplifted right across the old bed of a stream. From the moment the river-course was thus arched, the water must necessarily have been thrown back, and a new channel formed. From that moment, also, the neighbouring plain must have lost its fertilizing stream, and become a desert.
June 27th. -- We set out early in the morning, and by midday reached the ravine of Paypote, where there is a tiny rill of water, with a little vegetation, and even a few algarroba trees, a kind of mimosa. From having fire-wood, a smelting- furnace had formerly been built here: we found a solitary man in charge of it, whose sole employment was hunting guanacos. At night it froze sharply; but having plenty of wood for our fire, we kept ourselves warm.
28th. -- We continued gradually ascending, and the valley now changed into a ravine. During the day we saw several guanacos, and the track of the closely-allied species, the Vicuna: this latter animal is pre-eminently alpine in its habits; it seldom descends much below the limit of perpetual snow, and therefore haunts even a more lofty and sterile situation than the guanaco. The only other animal which we saw in any number was a small fox: I suppose this animal preys on the mice and other small rodents, which, as long as there is the least vegetation, subsist in considerable numbers in very desert places. In Patagonia, even on the borders of the salinas, where a drop of fresh water can never be found, excepting dew, these little animals swarm. Next to lizards, mice appear to be able to support existence on the smallest and driest portions of the earth -- even on islets in the midst of great oceans.
The scene on all sides showed desolation, brightened and made palpable by a clear, unclouded sky. For a time such scenery is sublime, but this feeling cannot last, and then it becomes uninteresting. We bivouacked at the foot of the "primera linea," or the first line of the partition of waters. The streams, however, on the east side do not flow to the Atlantic, but into an elevated district, in the middle of which there is a large saline, or salt lake; thus forming a little Caspian Sea at the height, perhaps, of ten thousand feet. Where we slept, there were some considerable patches of snow, but they do not remain throughout the year. The winds in these lofty regions obey very regular laws every day a fresh breeze blows up the valley, and at night, an hour or two after sunset, the air from the cold regions above descends as through a funnel. This night it blew a gale of wind, and the temperature must have been considerably below the freezing- point, for water in a vessel soon became a block of ice. No clothes seemed to oppose any obstacle to the air; I suffered very much from the cold, so that I could not sleep, and in the morning rose with my body quite dull and benumbed.
In the Cordillera further southward, people lose their lives from snowstorms; here, it sometimes happens from another cause. My guide, when a boy of fourteen years old, was passing the Cordillera with a party in the month of May; and while in the central parts, a furious gale of wind arose, so that the men could hardly cling on their mules, and stones were flying along the ground. The day was cloudless, and not a speck of snow fell, but the temperature was low. It is probable that the thermometer could not have stood very many degrees below the freezing-point, but the effect on their bodies, ill protected by clothing, must have been in proportion to the rapidity of the current of cold air. The gale lasted for more than a day; the men began to lose their strength, and the mules would not move onwards. My guide's brother tried to return, but he perished, and his body was found two years afterwards, Lying by the side of his mule near the road, with the bridle still in his hand. Two other men in the party lost their fingers and toes; and out of two hundred mules and thirty cows, only fourteen mules escaped alive. Many years ago the whole of a large party are supposed to have perished from a similar cause, but their bodies to this day have never been discovered. The union of a cloudless sky, low temperature, and a furious gale of wind, must be, I should think, in all parts of the world an unusual occurrence.
June 29th -- We gladly travelled down the valley to our former night's lodging, and thence to near the Agua amarga. On July 1st we reached the valley of Copiapo. The smell of the fresh clover was quite delightful, after the scentless air of the dry, sterile Despoblado. Whilst staying in the town I heard an account from several of the inhabitants, of a hill in the neighbourhood which they called "El Bramador," -- the roarer or bellower. I did not at the time pay sufficient attention to the account; but, as far as I understood, the hill was covered by sand, and the noise was produced only when people, by ascending it, put the sand in motion. The same circumstances are described in detail on the authority of Seetzen and Ehrenberg,  as the cause of the sounds which have been heard by many travellers on Mount Sinai near the Red Sea. One person with whom I conversed had himself heard the noise: he described it as very surprising; and he distinctly stated that, although he could not understand how it was caused, yet it was necessary to set the sand rolling down the acclivity. A horse walking over dry coarse sand, causes a peculiar chirping noise from the friction of the particles; a circumstance which I several times noticed on the coast of Brazil.
Three days afterwards I heard of the Beagle's arrival at the Port, distant eighteen leagues from the town. There is very little land cultivated down the valley; its wide expanse supports a wretched wiry grass, which even the donkeys can hardly eat. This poorness of the vegetation is owing to the quantity of saline matter with which the soil is impregnated. The Port consists of an assemblage of miserable little hovels, situated at the foot of a sterile plain. At present, as the river contains water enough to reach the sea, the inhabitants enjoy the advantage of having fresh water within a mile and a half. On the beach there were large piles of merchandise, and the little place had an air of activity. In the evening I gave my adios, with a hearty good-will, to my companion Mariano Gonzales, with whom I had ridden so many leagues in Chile. The next morning the Beagle sailed for Iquique.
July 12th. -- We anchored in the port of Iquique, in lat.
20 degs. 12', on the coast of Peru. The town contains about a thousand inhabitants, and stands on a little plain of sand at the foot of a great wall of rock, 2000 feet in height, here forming the coast. The whole is utterly desert. A light shower of rain falls only once in very many years; and the ravines consequently are filled with detritus, and the mountain-sides covered by piles of fine white sand, even to a height of a thousand feet. During this season of the year a heavy bank of clouds, stretched over the ocean, seldom rises above the wall of rocks on the coast. The aspect of the place was most gloomy; the little port, with its few vessels, and small group of wretched houses, seemed overwhelmed and out of all proportion with the rest of the scene.
The inhabitants live like persons on board a ship: every necessary comes from a distance: water is brought in boats from Pisagua, about forty miles northward, and is sold at the rate of nine reals (4s. 6d.) an eighteen-gallon cask: I bought a wine-bottle full for threepence. In like manner firewood, and of course every article of food, is imported. Very few animals can be maintained in such a place: on the ensuing morning I hired with difficulty, at the price of four pounds sterling, two mules and a guide to take me to the nitrate of soda works. These are at present the support of Iquique. This salt was first exported in 1830: in one year an amount in value of one hundred thousand pounds sterling, was sent to France and England. It is principally used as a manure and in the manufacture of nitric acid: owing to its deliquescent property it will not serve for gunpowder. Formerly there were two exceedingly rich silver-mines in this neighbourhood, but their produce is now very small.
Our arrival in the offing caused some little apprehension. Peru was in a state of anarchy; and each party having demanded a contribution, the poor town of Iquique was in tribulation, thinking the evil hour was come. The people had also their domestic troubles; a short time before, three
French carpenters had broken open, during the same night, the two churches, and stolen all the plate: one of the robbers, however, subsequently confessed, and the plate was recovered. The convicts were sent to Arequipa, which though the capital of this province, is two hundred leagues distant, the government there thought it a pity to punish such useful workmen, who could make all sorts of furniture; and accordingly liberated them. Things being in this state, the churches were again broken open, but this time the plate was not recovered. The inhabitants became dreadfully enraged, and declaring that none but heretics would thus "eat God Almighty," proceeded to torture some Englishmen, with the intention of afterwards shooting them. At last the authorities interfered, and peace was established.
13th. -- In the morning I started for the saltpetre-works, a distance of fourteen leagues. Having ascended the steep coast-mountains by a zigzag sandy track, we soon came in view of the mines of Guantajaya and St. Rosa. These two small villages are placed at the very mouths of the mines; and being perched up on hills, they had a still more unnatural and desolate appearance than the town of Iquique. We did not reach the saltpetre-works till after sunset, having ridden all day across an undulating country, a complete and utter desert. The road was strewed with the bones and dried skins of many beasts of burden which had perished on it from fatigue. Excepting the Vultur aura, which preys on the carcasses, I saw neither bird, quadruped, reptile, nor insect. On the coast-mountains, at the height of about 2000 feet where during this season the clouds generally hang, a very few cacti were growing in the clefts of rock; and the loose sand was strewed over with a lichen, which lies on the surface quite unattached. This plant belongs to the genus Cladonia, and somewhat resembles the reindeer lichen. In some parts it was in sufficient quantity to tinge the sand, as seen from a distance, of a pale yellowish colour. Further inland, during the whole ride of fourteen leagues, I saw only one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This was the first true desert which I had seen: the effect on me was not impressive; but I believe this was owing to my having become gradually accustomed to such scenes, as I rode northward from Valparaiso, through Coquimbo, to Copiapo. The appearance of the country was remarkable, from being covered by a thick crust of common salt, and of a stratified saliferous alluvium, which seems to have been deposited as the land slowly rose above the level of the sea. The salt is white, very hard, and compact: it occurs in water worn nodules projecting from the agglutinated sand, and is associated with much gypsum. The appearance of this superficial mass very closely resembled that of a country after snow, before the last dirty patches are thawed. The existence of this crust of a soluble substance over the whole face of the country, shows how extraordinarily dry the climate must have been for a long period.
At night I slept at the house of the owner of one of the saltpetre mines. The country is here as unproductive as near the coast; but water, having rather a bitter and brackish taste, can be procured by digging wells. The well at this house was thirty-six yards deep: as scarcely any rain falls, it is evident the water is not thus derived; indeed if it were, it could not fail to be as salt as brine, for the whole surrounding country is incrusted with various saline substances. We must therefore conclude that it percolates under ground from the Cordillera, though distant many leagues. In that direction there are a few small villages, where the inhabitants, having more water, are enabled to irrigate a little land, and raise hay, on which the mules and asses, employed in carrying the saltpetre, are fed. The nitrate of soda was now selling at the ship's side at fourteen shillings per hundred pounds: the chief expense is its transport to the sea-coast. The mine consists of a hard stratum, between two and three feet thick, of the nitrate mingled with a little of the sulphate of soda and a good deal of common salt. It lies close beneath the surface, and follows for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of a grand basin or plain; this, from its outline, manifestly must once have been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as may be inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific.Next