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Chapter IX: Santa Cruz, Patagonia, And The Falkland Islands (Page 2)


During our whole ride we saw only one troop of wil horses. These animals, as well as the cattle, were introduce by the French in 1764, since which time both have greatl increased. It is a curious fact, that the horses have neve left the eastern end of the island, although there is no natural boundary to prevent them from roaming, and that par of the island is not more tempting than the rest. The Gauchos whom I asked, though asserting this to be the case were unable to account for it, except from the strong attachment which horses have to any locality to which they ar accustomed. Considering that the island does not appea fully stocked, and that there are no beasts of prey, I wa particularly curious to know what has checked their originally rapid increase. That in a limited island some chec would sooner or later supervene, is inevitable; but why ha the increase of the horse been checked sooner than that o the cattle? Capt. Sulivan has taken much pains for m in this inquiry. The Gauchos employed here attribute i chiefly to the stallions constantly roaming from place t place, and compelling the mares to accompany them, whethe or not the young foals are able to follow. One Gaucho tol Capt. Sulivan that he had watched a stallion for a whol hour, violently kicking and biting a mare till he force her to leave her foal to its fate. Capt. Sulivan can so fa corroborate this curious account, that he has several time found young foals dead, whereas he has never found a dea calf. Moreover, the dead bodies of full-grown horses ar more frequently found, as if more subject to disease o accidents, than those of the cattle. From the softness o the ground their hoofs often grow irregularly to a grea length, and this causes lameness. The predominant colour are roan and iron-grey. All the horses bred here, both tam and wild, are rather small-sized, though generally in goo condition; and they have lost so much strength, that the are unfit to be used in taking wild cattle with the lazo: i consequence, it is necessary to go to the great expense o importing fresh horses from the Plata. At some futur period the southern hemisphere probably will have its bree of Falkland ponies, as the northern has its Shetland breed.

The cattle, instead of having degenerated like the horse seem, as before remarked, to have increased in size; an they are much more numerous than the horses Capt. Sulivan informs me that they vary much less in the genera form of their bodies and in the shape of their horns tha English cattle. In colour they differ much; and it is a remarkable circumstance, that in different parts of this on small island, different colours predominate. Round Moun Usborne, at a height of from 1000 to 1500 feet above the sea about half of some of the herds are mouse or lead-coloured a tint which is not common in other parts of the island Near Port Pleasant dark brown prevails, whereas south o Choiseul Sound (which almost divides the island into tw parts), white beasts with black heads and feet are the mos common: in all parts black, and some spotted animals ma be observed. Capt. Sulivan remarks, that the difference i the prevailing colours was so obvious, that in looking fo the herds near Port Pleasant, they appeared from a lon distance like black spots, whilst south of Choiseul Soun they appeared like white spots on the hill-sides. Capt. Sulivan thinks that the herds do not mingle; and it is a singula fact, that the mouse-coloured cattle, though living on th high land, calve about a month earlier in the season tha the other coloured beasts on the lower land. It is interesting thus to find the once domesticated cattle breakin into three colours, of which some one colour would in al probability ultimately prevail over the others, if the herd were left undisturbed for the next several centuries.

The rabbit is another animal which has been introduced and has succeeded very well; so that they abound over larg parts of the island. Yet, like the horses, they are confine within certain limits; for they have not crossed the centra chain of hills, nor would they have extended even so far a its base, if, as the Gauchos informed me, small colonies ha not been carried there. I should not have supposed tha these animals, natives of northern Africa, could have existe in a climate so humid as this, and which enjoys so littl sunshine that even wheat ripens only occasionally. It i asserted that in Sweden, which any one would have though a more favourable climate, the rabbit cannot live out o doors. The first few pairs, moreover, had here to conten against pre-existing enemies, in the fox and some larg hawks. The French naturalists have considered the black variety a distinct species, and called it Lepus Magellanicus. [5 They imagined that Magellan, when talking of an anima under the name of "conejos" in the Strait of Magellan referred to this species; but he was alluding to a small cavy which to this day is thus called by the Spaniards. Th Gauchos laughed at the idea of the black kind being different from the grey, and they said that at all events it ha not extended its range any further than the grey kind; tha the two were never found separate; and that they readil bred together, and produced piebald offspring. Of the latte I now possess a specimen, and it is marked about the hea differently from the French specific description. This circumstance shows how cautious naturalists should be i making species; for even Cuvier, on looking at the skul of one of these rabbits, thought it was probably distinct!

The only quadruped native to the island [6]; is a large wolf like fox (Canis antarcticus), which is common to both Eas and West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these islands, al maintain that no such animal is found in any part of Sout America.

Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought that thi was the same with his "culpeu;" [7] but I have seen both and they are quite distinct. These wolves are well know from Byron's account of their tameness and curiosity, whic the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistoo for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pul some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. Th Gauchos also have frequently in the evening killed them by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the othe a knife ready to stick them. As far as I am aware, ther is no other instance in any part of the world, of so smal a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessin so large an aboriginal quadruped peculiar to itself. Thei numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banishe from that half of the island which lies to the eastward o the neck of land between St. Salvador Bay and Berkele Sound. Within a very few years after these islands shal have become regularly settled, in all probability this fo will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished from the face of the earth.

At night (17th) we slept on the neck of land at the hea of Choiseul Sound, which forms the south-west peninsula The valley was pretty well sheltered from the cold wind but there was very little brushwood for fuel. The Gauchos however, soon found what, to my great surprise, made nearl as hot a fire as coals; this was the skeleton of a bullock lately killed, from which the flesh had been picked by the carrion-hawks. They told me that in winter they often killed a beast, cleaned the flesh from the bones with their knives and then with these same bones roasted the meat for thei suppers.

18th. -- It rained during nearly the whole day. At nigh we managed, however, with our saddle-cloths to keep ourselves pretty well dry and warm; but the ground on whic we slept was on each occasion nearly in the state of a bog and there was not a dry spot to sit down on after our day' ride. I have in another part stated how singular it is tha there should be absolutely no trees on these islands, althoug Tierra del Fuego is covered by one large forest. Th largest bush in the island (belonging to the family of Compositae) is scarcely so tall as our gorse. The best fuel i afforded by a green little bush about the size of commo heath, which has the useful property of burning while fres and green. It was very surprising to see the Gauchos, i the midst of rain and everything soaking wet, with nothin more than a tinder-box and a piece of rag, immediately mak a fire. They sought beneath the tufts of grass and bushe for a few dry twigs, and these they rubbed into fibres; the surrounding them with coarser twigs, something like a bird' nest, they put the rag with its spark of fire in the middl and covered it up. The nest being then held up to th wind, by degrees it smoked more and more, and at las burst out in flames. I do not think any other method woul have had a chance of succeeding with such damp materials.

19th. -- Each morning, from not having ridden for som time previously, I was very stiff. I was surprised to hea the Gauchos, who have from infancy almost lived on horseback, say that, under similar circumstances, they alway suffer. St. Jago told me, that having been confined for thre months by illness, he went out hunting wild cattle, and i consequence, for the next two days, his thighs were so stif that he was obliged to lie in bed. This shows that the Gauchos, although they do not appear to do so, yet really mus exert much muscular effort in riding. The hunting wil cattle, in a country so difficult to pass as this is on accoun of the swampy ground, must be very hard work. Th Gauchos say they often pass at full speed over ground whic would be impassable at a slower pace; in the same manne as a man is able to skate over thin ice. When hunting, th party endeavours to get as close as possible to the herd with out being discovered. Each man carries four or five pair o the bolas; these he throws one after the other at as man cattle, which, when once entangled, are left for some day till they become a little exhausted by hunger and struggling They are then let free and driven towards a small herd o tame animals, which have been brought to the spot on purpose. From their previous treatment, being too much terrified to leave the herd, they are easily driven, if thei strength last out, to the settlement.

The weather continued so very bad that we determine to make a push, and try to reach the vessel before night From the quantity of rain which had fallen, the surfac of the whole country was swampy. I suppose my horse fel at least a dozen times, and sometimes the whole six horse were floundering in the mud together. All the little stream are bordered by soft peat, which makes it very difficult fo the horses to leap them without falling. To complete ou discomforts we were obliged to cross the head of a cree of the sea, in which the water was as high as our horses backs; and the little waves, owing to the violence of th wind, broke over us, and made us very wet and cold. Eve the iron-framed Gauchos professed themselves glad whe they reached the settlement, after our little excursion

The geological structure of these islands is in mos respects simple. The lower country consists of clay-slat and sandstone, containing fossils, very closely related to, bu not identical with, those found in the Silurian formation of Europe; the hills are formed of white granular quart rock. The strata of the latter are frequently arched wit perfect symmetry, and the appearance of some of the masse is in consequence most singular. Pernety [8] has devote several pages to the description of a Hill of Ruins, th successive strata of which he has justly compared to th seats of an amphitheatre. The quartz rock must have bee quite pasty when it underwent such remarkable flexure without being shattered into fragments. As the quart insensibly passes into the sandstone, it seems probable tha the former owes its origin to the sandstone having bee heated to such a degree that it became viscid, and upon cooling crystallized. While in the soft state it must have bee pushed up through the overlying beds.

In many parts of the island the bottoms of the valleys ar covered in an extraordinary manner by myriads of grea loose angular fragments of the quartz rock, forming "stream of stones." These have been mentioned with surprise b every voyager since the time of Pernety. The blocks ar not waterworn, their angles being only a little blunted; the vary in size from one or two feet in diameter to ten, or eve more than twenty times as much. They are not throw together into irregular piles, but are spread out into leve sheets or great streams. It is not possible to ascertain thei thickness, but the water of small streamlets can be hear trickling through the stones many feet below the surface The actual depth is probably great, because the crevice between the lower fragments must long ago have been fille up with sand. The width of these sheets of stones varie from a few hundred feet to a mile; but the peaty soil dail encroaches on the borders, and even forms islets whereve a few fragments happen to lie close together. In a valle south of Berkeley Sound, which some of our party calle the "great valley of fragments," it was necessary to cros an uninterrupted band half a mile wide, by jumping fro one pointed stone to another. So large were the fragments that being overtaken by a shower of rain, I readily foun shelter beneath one of them.

Their little inclination is the most remarkable circumstance in these "streams of stones." On the hill-sides I hav seen them sloping at an angle of ten degrees with the horizon but in some of the level, broad-bottomed valleys, the inclination is only just sufficient to be clearly perceived. On so rugged a surface there was no means of measuring th angle, but to give a common illustration, I may say that th slope would not have checked the speed of an English mail-coach. In some places, a continuous stream of these fragments followed up the course of a valley, and eve extended to the very crest of the hill. On these crests hug masses, exceeding in dimensions any small building, seeme to stand arrested in their headlong course: there, also, th curved strata of the archways lay piled on each other, lik the ruins of some vast and ancient cathedral. In endeavouring to describe these scenes of violence one is tempted to pas from one simile to another. We may imagine that stream of white lava had flowed from many parts of the mountain into the lower country, and that when solidified they had bee rent by some enormous convulsion into myriads of fragments. The expression "streams of stones," which immediately occurred to every one, conveys the same idea. Thes scenes are on the spot rendered more striking by the contrast of the low rounded forms of the neighbouring hills.

I was interested by finding on the highest peak of on range (about 700 feet above the sea) a great arched fragment, lying on its convex side, or back downwards. Mus we believe that it was fairly pitched up in the air, and thu turned? Or, with more probability, that there existed formerly a part of the same range more elevated than the poin on which this monument of a great convulsion of nature no lies. As the fragments in the valleys are neither rounde nor the crevices filled up with sand, we must infer that th period of violence was subsequent to the land having bee raised above the waters of the sea. In a transverse sectio within these valleys, the bottom is nearly level, or rises bu very little towards either side. Hence the fragments appea to have travelled from the head of the valley; but in realit it seems more probable that they have been hurled down fro the nearest slopes; and that since, by a vibratory movemen of overwhelming force, [9] the fragments have been levelle into one continuous sheet. If during the earthquake [10] whic in 1835 overthrew Concepcion, in Chile, it was thought wonderful that small bodies should have been pitched a fe inches from the ground, what must we say to a movemen which has caused fragments many tons in weight, to mov onwards like so much sand on a vibrating board, and fin their level? I have seen, in the Cordillera of the Andes, th evident marks where stupendous mountains have been broke into pieces like so much thin crust, and the strata thrown o their vertical edges; but never did any scene, like thes "streams of stones," so forcibly convey to my mind the ide of a convulsion, of which in historical records we might i vain seek for any counterpart: yet the progress of knowledg will probably some day give a simple explanation of thi phenomenon, as it already has of the so long-thought inexplicable transportal of the erratic boulders, which are strewed over the plains of Europe.

I have little to remark on the zoology of these islands. have before described the carrion-vulture of Polyborus There are some other hawks, owls, and a few small land-birds. The water-fowl are particularly numerous, and the must formerly, from the accounts of the old navigators have been much more so. One day I observed a cormoran playing with a fish which it had caught. Eight times successively the bird let its prey go, then dived after it, an although in deep water, brought it each time to the surface In the Zoological Gardens I have seen the otter treat a fis in the same manner, much as a cat does a mouse: I do no know of any other instance where dame Nature appears s wilfully cruel. Another day, having placed myself betwee a penguin (Aptenodytes demersa) and the water, I was muc amused by watching its habits. It was a brave bird; and til reaching the sea, it regularly fought and drove me backwards Nothing less than heavy blows would have stopped him; ever inch he gained he firmly kept, standing close before me erec and determined. When thus opposed he continually rolle his head from side to side, in a very odd manner, as if th power of distinct vision lay only in the anterior and basa part of each eye. This bird is commonly called the jackas penguin, from its habit, while on shore, of throwing its hea backwards, and making a loud strange noise, very like th braying of an ass; but while at sea, and undisturbed, its not is very deep and solemn, and is often heard in the night-time In diving, its little wings are used as fins; but on the land, as front legs. When crawling, it may be said on four legs through the tussocks or on the side of a grassy cliff, it move so very quickly that it might easily be mistaken for a quadruped. When at sea and fishing, it comes to the surface fo the purpose of breathing with such a spring, and dives agai so instantaneously, that I defy any one at first sight to b sure that it was not a fish leaping for sport.

Two kinds of geese frequent the Falklands. The uplan species (Anas Magellanica) is common, in pairs and in smal flocks, throughout the island. They do not migrate, but buil on the small outlying islets. This is supposed to be fro fear of the foxes: and it is perhaps from the same caus that these birds, though very tame by day, are shy and wil in the dusk of the evening. They live entirely on vegetabl matter.

The rock-goose, so called from living exclusively on th sea-beach (Anas antarctica), is common both here and o the west coast of America, as far north as Chile. In the dee and retired channels of Tierra del Fuego, the snow-whit gander, invariably accompanied by his darker consort, an standing close by each other on some distant rocky point, i a common feature in the landscape.

In these islands a great loggerheaded duck or goose (Ana brachyptera), which sometimes weighs twenty-two pounds is very abundant. These birds were in former days called from their extraordinary manner of paddling and splashin upon the water, race-horses; but now they are named, muc more appropriately, steamers. Their wings are too small an weak to allow of flight, but by their aid, partly swimming an partly flapping the surface of the water, they move ver quickly. The manner is something like that by which th common house-duck escapes when pursued by a dog; but am nearly sure that the steamer moves its wings alternately instead of both together, as in other birds. These clumsy loggerheaded ducks make such a noise and splashing, that th effect is exceedingly curious.

Thus we find in South America three birds which use thei wings for other purposes besides flight; the penguins as fins the steamer as paddles, and the ostrich as sails: and th Apteryz of New Zealand, as well as its gigantic extinct prototype the Deinornis, possess only rudimentary representatives of wings. The steamer is able to dive only to a very short distance. It feeds entirely on shell-fish from the kelp and tidal rocks: hence the beak and head, for the purpose of breaking them, are surprisingly heavy and strong: the head is so strong that I have scarcely been able to fracture it with my geological hammer; and all our sportsmen soon discovered how tenacious these birds were of life. When in the evening pluming themselves in a flock, they make the sam odd mixture of sounds which bull-frogs do within the tropics

In Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Falkland Islands, made many observations on the lower marine animals, [11] bu they are of little general interest. I will mention only on class of facts, relating to certain zoophytes in the more highl organized division of that class. Several genera (Flustra Eschara, Cellaria, Crisia, and others) agree in having singular moveable organs (like those of Flustra avicularia, foun in the European seas) attached to their cells. The organ, i the greater number of cases, very closely resembles the hea of a vulture; but the lower mandible can be opened muc wider than in a real bird's beak. The head itself possesse considerable powers of movement, by means of a short neck In one zoophyte the head itself was fixed, but the lower ja free: in another it was replaced by a triangular hood, with beautifully-fitted trap-door, which evidently answered to th lower mandible. In the greater number of species, each cel was provided with one head, but in others each cell had two.

The young cells at the end of the branches of these corallines contain quite immature polypi, yet the vulture-head attached to them, though small, are in every respect perfect When the polypus was removed by a needle from any of th cells, these organs did not appear in the least affected. Whe one of the vulture-like heads was cut off from the cell, th lower mandible retained its power of opening and closing Perhaps the most singular part of their structure is, tha when there were more than two rows of cells on a branch the central cells were furnished with these appendages, o only one-fourth the size of the outside ones. Their movements varied according to the species; but in some I neve saw the least motion; while others, with the lower mandibl generally wide open, oscillated backwards and forwards a the rate of about five seconds each turn, others moved rapidly and by starts. When touched with a needle, the bea generally seized the point so firmly, that the whole branc might be shaken.

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of the eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before th young polypi appear in the cells at the end of the growin branches; as they move independently of the polypi, and d not appear to be in any way connected with them; and a they differ in size on the outer and inner rows of cells, I hav little doubt, that in their functions, they are related rathe to the horny axis of the branches than to the polypi in th cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower extremity of th sea-pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms part of th zoophyte, as a whole, in the same manner as the roots of tree form part of the whole tree, and not of the individua leaf or flower-buds.

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?), each cell wa furnished with a long-toothed bristle, which had the powe of moving quickly. Each of these bristles and each of th vulture-like heads generally moved quite independently o the others, but sometimes all on both sides of a branch, sometimes only those on one side, moved together coinstantaneously, sometimes each moved in regular order one after another. In these actions we apparently behold as perfect a transmission of will in the zoophyte, though composed o thousands of distinct polypi, as in any single animal. Th case, indeed, is not different from that of the sea-pens, which when touched, drew themselves into the sand on the coast o Bahia Blanca. I will state one other instance of unifor action, though of a very different nature, in a zoophyt closely allied to Clytia, and therefore very simply organized Having kept a large tuft of it in a basin of salt-water, whe it was dark I found that as often as I rubbed any part of branch, the whole became strongly phosphorescent with green light: I do not think I ever saw any object more beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance was, that th flashes of light always proceeded up the branches, from th base towards the extremities.

The examination of these compound animals was alway very interesting to me. What can be more remarkable tha to see a plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swimming about and of choosing a proper place to adhere to which then sprouts into branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, often of complicated organizations The branches, moreover, as we have just seen, sometime possess organs capable of movement and independent of th polypi. Surprising as this union of separate individuals in common stock must always appear, every tree displays th same fact, for buds must be considered as individual plants It is, however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished wit a mouth, intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual whereas the individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised so that the union of separate individuals in a common bod is more striking in a coralline than in a tree. Our conception of a compound animal, where in some respects the individuality of each is not completed, may be aided, by reflectin on the production of two distinct creatures by bisecting single one with a knife, or where Nature herself perform the task of bisection. We may consider the polypi in zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the divisio of the individual has not been completely effected. Certainl in the case of trees, and judging from analogy in that o corallines, the individuals propagated by buds seem mor intimately related to each other, than eggs or seeds are t their parents. It seems now pretty well established tha plants propagated by buds all partake of a common duratio of life; and it is familiar to every one, what singular an numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty, b buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation neve or only casually reappear

[1] The desserts of Syria are characterized, according to Volney (tom. i. p. 351), by woody bushes, numerous rats, gazelles and hares. In the landscape of Patagonia, the guanaco replaces the gazelle, and the agouti the hare.

[2] I noticed that several hours before any one of the condors died, all the lice, with which it was infested, crawled to the outside feathers. I was assured that this always happens.

[3] London's Magazine of Nat. Hist., vol. vii.

[4] From accounts published since our voyage, and more especially from several interesting letters from Capt. Sulivan, R. N., employed on the survey, it appears that we took an exaggerated view of the badness of the climate on these islands. But when I reflect on the almost universal covering of peat, and on the fact of wheat seldom ripening here, I can hardly believe that the climate in summer is so fine and dry as it has lately been represented.

[5] Lesson's Zoology of the Voyage of the Coquille, tom. i. p. 168. All the early voyagers, and especially Bougainville, distinctly state that the wolf-like fox was the only native animal on the island. The distinction of the rabbit as a species, is taken from peculiarities in the fur, from the shape of the head, and from the shortness of the ears. I may here observe that the difference between the Irish and English hare rests upon nearly similar characters, only more strongly marked

[6] I have reason, however, to suspect that there is a field- mouse. The common European rat and mouse have roamed far from the habitations of the settlers. The common hog has also run wild on one islet; all are of a black colour: the boars are very fierce, and have great trunks.

[7] The "culpeu" is the Canis Magellanicus brought home by Captain King from the Strait of Magellan. It is common in Chile

[8] Pernety, Voyage aux Isles Malouines, p. 526.

[9] "Nous n'avons pas ete moins saisis d'etonnement a la vue de l'innombrable quantite de pierres de touts grandeurs, bouleversees les unes sur les autres, et cependent rangees, comme si elles avoient ete amoncelees negligemment pour remplir des ravins. On ne se lassoit pas d'admirer les effets prodigieux de la nature." -- Pernety, p. 526.

[10] An inhabitant of Mendoza, and hence well capable of judging, assured me that, during the several years he had resided on these islands, he had never felt the slightest shock of an earthquake.

[11] I was surprised to find, on counting the eggs of a large white Doris (this sea-slug was three and a half inches long), how extraordinarily numerous they were. From two to five eggs

(each three-thousandths of an inch in diameter) were contained in spherical little case. These were arranged two deep in transverse rows forming a ribbon. The ribbon adhered by its edge to the rock in an oval spire. One which I found, measured nearly twenty inches in length and half in breadth. By counting how many balls were contained in a tenth of an inch in the row, and how many rows in an equal length of the ribbon, on the most moderate computation there were six hundred thousand eggs. Yet this Doris was certainly not very common; although I was often searching under the stones, I saw only seven individuals. No fallacy is more common with naturalists, than that the numbers of an individual species depend on its powers of propagation.

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