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Title: Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of America, During the Year 1799-1804 — Volume 1
Author: Bonpland, Aimé, 1773-1858, Humboldt, Alexander von, 1769-1859
Language: English
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Equinoctial Regions of America

Alexander von Humboldt
















The increasing interest attached to all that part of the American
Continent situated within and near the tropics, has suggested the
publication of the present edition of Humboldt's celebrated work,
as a portion of the SCIENTIFIC LIBRARY.

Prior to the travels of Humboldt and Bonpland, the countries
described in the following narrative were but imperfectly known to
Europeans. For our partial acquaintance with them we were chiefly
indebted to the early navigators, and to some of the followers of
the Spanish Conquistadores. The intrepid men whose courage and
enterprise prompted them to explore unknown seas for the discovery
of a New World, have left behind them narratives of their
adventures, and descriptions of the strange lands and people they
visited, which must ever be perused with curiosity and interest;
and some of the followers of Pizarro and Cortez, as well as many
learned Spaniards who proceeded to South America soon after the
conquest, were the authors of historical and other works of high
value. But these writings of a past age, however curious and
interesting, are deficient in that spirit of scientific
investigation which enhances the importance and utility of accounts
of travels in distant regions. In more recent times, the researches
of La Condamine tended in a most important degree to promote
geographical knowledge; and he, as well as other eminent botanists
who visited the coasts of South America, and even ascended the
Andes, contributed by their discoveries and collections to augment
the vegetable riches of the Old World. But, in their time, geology
as a science had little or no existence. Of the structure of the
giant mountains of our globe scarcely anything was understood;
whilst nothing was known beneath the earth in the New World, except
what related to her mines of gold and silver.

It remained for Humboldt to supply all that was wanting, by the
publication of his Personal Narrative. In this, more than in any
other of his works, he shows his power of contemplating nature in
all her grandeur and variety.

The researches and discoveries of Humboldt's able coadjutor and
companion, M. Bonpland, afford not only a complete picture of the
botany of the equinoctial regions of America, but of that of other
places visited by the travellers on their voyage thither. The
description of the Island of Teneriffe and the geography of its
vegetation, show how much was discovered by Humboldt and Bonpland
which had escaped the observation of discerning travellers who had
pursued the same route before them. Indeed, the whole account of
the Canary Islands presents a picture which cannot be contemplated
without the deepest interest, even by persons comparatively
indifferent to the study of nature.

It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to remind the reader that since
the time when this work was first published in Paris, the
separation of the Spanish Colonies from the mother-country,
together with subsequent political events, have wrought great
changes in the governments of the South American States, as well as
in the social condition of their inhabitants. One consequence of
these changes has been to render obsolete some facts and
observations relating to subjects, political, commercial, and
statistical, interspersed through this work. However useful such
matter might have been on its original publication, it is wholly
irrelevant to the existing state of things, and consequently it has
been deemed advisable to omit it. By this curtailment, together
with that of some meteorological tables and discussions of very
limited interest, the work has been divested of its somewhat
lengthy and discursive character, and condensed within dimensions
better adapted to the taste and requirements of the present time.

An English translation of this work by Helen Maria Williams, was
published many years ago, and is now out of print. Though faultless
as respects correctness of interpretation, it abounds in foreign
turns of expression, and is somewhat deficient in that fluency of
style without which a translated work is unsatisfactory to the
English reader. In the edition now presented to the public it is
hoped that these objections are in some degree removed.

A careful English version is given of all the Spanish and
Portuguese terms, phrases, and quotations which occur in this work.
Though the author has only in some few instances given a French
translation of these passages, yet it is presumed that the
interpretation of the whole in English will not be deemed
superfluous; this new edition of the "Personal Narrative" having
been undertaken with the view of presenting the work in the form
best suited for the instruction and entertainment of the general


London, December 1851.



In this narrative, as well as in the Political Essay on New Spain,
all the prices are reckoned in piastres, and silver reals (reales
de plata). Eight of these reals are equivalent to a piastre, or one
hundred and five sous, French money (4 shillings 4 1/2 pence
English). Nouv. Esp. volume 2 pages 519, 616 and 866.

The magnetic dip is always measured in this work, according to the
centesimal division, if the contrary be not expressly mentioned.

One flasco contains 70 or 80 cubic inches, Paris measure.

112 English pounds = 105 French pounds; and 160 Spanish pounds = 93
French pounds.

An arpent des eaux et forets, or legal acre of France, of which 1.
95 = 1 hectare. It is about 1 1/4 acre English.

A tablon, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and
one-fifth: a legal acre has 1344 square toises, and 1.95 legal acre
is equal one hectare.

For the sake of accuracy, the French Measures, as given by the
Author, and the indications of the Centigrade Thermometer, are
retained in the translation. The following tables may, therefore,
be found useful.


  1 toise = 6 feet 4.73 inches.
  1 foot  = 12.78 inches.
  1 metre = 3 feet 3.37 inches.

(Transcriber's Note: The 'toise' was introduced by Charlemagne
in 790; it originally represented the distance between the
fingertips of a man with outstretched arms, and is thus the same
as the British 'fathom'. During the founding of the Metric System,
less than 20 years before the date of this work, the 'toise' was
assigned a value of 1.949 meters, or a little over two yards. The
'foot'; actually the 'French foot', or 'pied', is defined as
1/6 of a 'toise', and is a little over an English foot.)


Cent. Fahr.  Cent. Fahr.  Cent. Fahr.  Cent. Fahr.
100  212      65  149      30  86       -5   23
 99  210.2    64  147.2    29  84.2     -6   21.2
 98  208.4    63  145.4    28  82.4     -7   19.4
 97  206.6    62  143.6    27  80.6     -8   17.6
 96  204.8    61  141.8    26  78.8     -9   15.8
 95  203      60  140      25  77      -10  14
 94  201.2    59  138.2    24  75.2    -11  12.2
 93  199.4    58  136.4    23  73.4    -12  10.4
 92  197.6    57  134.6    22  71.6    -13   8.6
 91  195.8    56  132.8    21  69.8    -14   6.8
 90  194      55  131      20  68      -15   5
 89  192.2    54  129.2    19  66.2    -16   3.2
 88  190.4    53  127.4    18  64.4    -17   1.4
 87  188.6    52  125.6    17  62.6    -18  -0.4
 86  186.8    51  123.8    16  60.8    -19  -2.2
 85  185      50  122      15  59      -20  -4
 84  183.2    49  120.2    14  57.2    -21  -5.8
 83  181.4    48  118.4    13  55.4    -22  -7.6
 82  179.6    47  116.6    12  53.6    -23  -9.4
 81  177.8    46  114.8    11  51.8    -24  -11.2
 80  176      45  113      10  50      -25  -13
 79  174.2    44  111.2     9  48.2    -26  -14.8
 78  172.4    43  109.4     8  46.4    -27  -16.6
 77  170.6    42  107.6     7  44.6    -28  -18.4
 76  168.8    41  105.8     6  42.8    -29  -20.2
 75  167      40  104       5  41      -30  -22
 74  165.2    39  102.2     4  39.2    -31  -23.8
 73  163.4    38  100.4     3  37.4    -32  -25.6
 72  161.6    37   98.6     2  35.6    -33  -27.4
 71  159.8    36   96.8     1  33.8    -34  -29.2
 70  158      35   95       0  32      -35  -31
 69  156.2    34   93.2    -1  30.2    -36  -32.8
 68  154.4    33   91.4    -2  28.4    -37  -34.6
 67  152.6    32   89.6    -3  26.6    -38  -36.4
 66  150.8    31   87.8    -4  24.8    -39  -38.2






































Many years have elapsed since I quitted Europe, to explore the
interior of the New Continent. Devoted from my earliest youth to
the study of nature, feeling with enthusiasm the wild beauties of a
country guarded by mountains and shaded by ancient forests, I
experienced in my travels, enjoyments which have amply compensated
for the privations inseparable from a laborious and often agitated
life. These enjoyments, which I endeavoured to impart to my readers
in my 'Remarks upon the Steppes,' and in the 'Essay on the
Physiognomy of Plants,' were not the only fruits I reaped from an
undertaking formed with the design of contributing to the progress
of natural philosophy. I had long prepared myself for the
observations which were the principal object of my journey to the
torrid zone. I was provided with instruments of easy and convenient
use, constructed by the ablest makers, and I enjoyed the special
protection of a government which, far from presenting obstacles to
my investigations, constantly honoured me with every mark of regard
and confidence. I was aided by a courageous and enlightened friend,
and it was singularly propitious to the success of our participated
labour, that the zeal and equanimity of that friend never failed,
amidst the fatigues and dangers to which we were sometimes exposed.

Under these favourable circumstances, traversing regions which for
ages have remained almost unknown to most of the nations of Europe,
I might add even to Spain, M. Bonpland and myself collected a
considerable number of materials, the publication of which may
throw some light on the history of nations, and advance the study
of nature.

I had in view a two-fold purpose in the travels of which I now
publish the historical narrative. I wished to make known the
countries I had visited; and to collect such facts as are fitted to
elucidate a science of which we as yet possess scarcely the
outline, and which has been vaguely denominated Natural History of
the World, Theory of the Earth, or Physical Geography. The last of
these two objects seemed to me the most important. I was
passionately devoted to botany and certain parts of zoology, and I
flattered myself that our investigations might add some new species
to those already known, both in the animal and vegetable kingdoms;
but preferring the connection of facts which have been long
observed, to the knowledge of insulated facts, although new, the
discovery of an unknown genus seemed to me far less interesting
than an observation on the geographical relations of the vegetable
world, on the migrations of the social plants, and the limit of the
height which their different tribes attain on the flanks of the

The natural sciences are connected by the same ties which link
together all the phenomena of nature. The classification of the
species, which must be considered as the fundamental part of
botany, and the study of which is rendered attractive and easy by
the introduction of natural methods, is to the geography of plants
what descriptive mineralogy is to the indication of the rocks
constituting the exterior crust of the globe. To comprehend the
laws observed in the position of these rocks, to determine the age
of their successive formations, and their identity in the most
distant regions, the geologist should be previously acquainted with
the simple fossils which compose the mass of mountains, and of
which the names and character are the object of oryctognostical
knowledge. It is the same with that part of the natural history of
the globe which treats of the relations plants have to each other,
to the soil whence they spring, or to the air which they inhale and
modify. The progress of the geography of plants depends in a great
measure on that of descriptive botany; and it would be injurious to
the advancement of science, to attempt rising to general ideas,
whilst neglecting the knowledge of particular facts.

I have been guided by these considerations in the course of my
inquiries; they were always present to my mind during the period of
my preparatory studies. When I began to read the numerous
narratives of travels, which compose so interesting a part of
modern literature, I regretted that travellers, the most
enlightened in the insulated branches of natural history, were
seldom possessed of sufficient variety of knowledge to avail
themselves of every advantage arising from their position. It
appeared to me, that the importance of the results hitherto
obtained did not keep pace with the immense progress which, at the
end of the eighteenth century, had been made in several departments
of science, particularly geology, the history of the modifications
of the atmosphere, and the physiology of animals and plants. I saw
with regret, (and all scientific men have shared this feeling) that
whilst the number of accurate instruments was daily increasing, we
were still ignorant of the height of many mountains and elevated
plains; of the periodical oscillations of the aerial ocean; of the
limit of perpetual snow within the polar circle and on the borders
of the torrid zone; of the variable intensity of the magnetic
forces, and of many other phenomena equally important.

Maritime expeditions and circumnavigatory voyages have conferred
just celebrity on the names of the naturalists and astronomers who
have been appointed by various governments to share the dangers of
those undertakings; but though these eminent men have given us
precise notions of the external configuration of countries, of the
natural history of the ocean, and of the productions of islands and
coasts, it must be admitted that maritime expeditions are less
fitted to advance the progress of geology and other parts of
physical science, than travels into the interior of a continent.
The advancement of the natural sciences has been subordinate to
that of geography and nautical astronomy. During a voyage of
several years, the land but seldom presents itself to the
observation of the mariner, and when, after lengthened expectation,
it is descried, he often finds it stripped of its most beautiful
productions. Sometimes, beyond a barren coast, he perceives a ridge
of mountains covered with verdure, but its distance forbids
examination, and the view serves only to excite regret.

Journeys by land are attended with considerable difficulties in the
conveyance of instruments and collections, but these difficulties
are compensated by advantages which it is unnecessary to enumerate.
It is not by sailing along a coast that we can discover the
direction of chains of mountains, and their geological
constitution, the climate of each zone, and its influence on the
forms and habits of organized beings. In proportion to the extent
of continents, the greater on the surface of the soil are the
riches of animal and vegetable productions; the more distant the
central chain of mountains from the sea-shore, the greater is the
variety in the bosom of the earth, of those stony strata, the
regular succession of which unfolds the history of our planet. As
every being considered apart is impressed with a particular type,
so, in like manner, we find the same distinctive impression in the
arrangement of brute matter organized in rocks, and also in the
distribution and mutual relations of plants and animals. The great
problem of the physical description of the globe, is the
determination of the form of these types, the laws of their
relations with each other, and the eternal ties which link the
phenomena of life, and those of inanimate nature.

Having stated the general object I had in view in my expeditions, I
will now hasten to give a slight sketch of the whole of the
collections and observations which we have accumulated, and the
union of which is the aim and end of every scientific journey. The
maritime war, during our abode in America, having rendered
communication with Europe very uncertain, we found ourselves
compelled, in order to diminish the chance of losses, to form three
different collections. Of these, the first was embarked for Spain
and France, the second for the United States and England, and the
third, which was the most considerable, remained almost constantly
under our own eyes. Towards the close of our expedition, this last
collection formed forty-two boxes, containing an herbal of six
thousand equinoctial plants, seeds, shells, insects, and (what had
hitherto never been brought to Europe) geological specimens, from
the Chimborazo, New Grenada, and the banks of the river Amazon.

After our journey to the Orinoco, we left a part of these
collections at the island of Cuba, intending to take them on our
return from Peru to Mexico. The rest followed us during the space
of five years, on the chain of the Andes, across New Spain, from
the shores of the Pacific to the coasts of the Caribbean Sea. The
conveyance of these objects, and the minute care they required,
occasioned embarrassments scarcely conceiveable even by those who
have traversed the most uncultivated parts of Europe. Our progress
was often retarded by the necessity of dragging after us, during
expeditions of five or six months, twelve, fifteen, and sometimes
more than twenty loaded mules, exchanging these animals every eight
or ten days, and superintending the Indians who were employed in
driving the numerous caravan. Often, in order to add to our
collections of new mineral substances, we found ourselves obliged
to throw away others, which we had collected a considerable time
before. These sacrifices were not less vexatious than the losses we
accidentally sustained. Sad experience taught us but too late, that
from the sultry humidity of the climate, and the frequent falls of
the beasts of burden, we could preserve neither the skins of
animals hastily prepared, nor the fishes and reptiles placed in
phials filled with alcohol. I enter into these details, because,
though little interesting in themselves, they serve to show that we
had no means of bringing back, in their natural state, many objects
of zoology and comparative anatomy, of which we have published
descriptions and drawings. Notwithstanding some obstacles, and the
expense occasioned by the carriage of these articles, I had reason
to applaud the resolution I had taken before my departure, of
sending to Europe the duplicates only of the productions we
collected. I cannot too often repeat, that when the seas are
infested with privateers, a traveller can be sure only of the
objects in his own possession. A very few of the duplicates, which
we shipped for Europe during our abode in America, were saved; the
greater part fell into the hands of persons who feel no interest
for science. When a ship is condemned in a foreign port, boxes
containing only dried plants or stones, instead of being sent to
the scientific men to whom they are addressed, are put aside and
forgotten. Some of our geological collections taken in the Pacific
were, however, more fortunate. We were indebted for their
preservation to the generous activity of Sir Joseph Banks,
President of the Royal Society of London, who, amidst the political
agitations of Europe, unceasingly laboured to strengthen the bonds
of union between scientific men of all nations.

In our investigations we have considered each phenomenon under
different aspects, and classed our remarks according to the
relations they bear to each other. To afford an idea of the method
we have followed, I will here add a succinct enumeration of the
materials with which we were furnished for describing the volcanoes
of Antisana and Pichincha, as well as that of Jorullo: the latter,
during the night of the 20th of September, 1759, rose from the
earth one thousand five hundred and seventy-eight French feet above
the surrounding plains of Mexico. The position of these singular
mountains in longitude and latitude was ascertained by astronomical
observations. We took the heights of the different parts by the aid
of the barometer, and determined the dip of the needle and the
intensity of the magnetic forces. Our collections contain the
plants which are spread over the flanks of these volcanoes, and
specimens of different rocks which, superposed one upon another,
constitute their external coat. We are enabled to indicate, by
measures sufficiently exact, the height above the level of the
ocean, at which we found each group of plants, and each volcanic
rock. Our journals furnish us with a series of observations on the
humidity, the temperature, the electricity, and the degree of
transparency of the air on the brinks of the craters of Pichincha
and Jorullo; they also contain topographical plans and geological
profiles of these mountains, founded in part on the measure of
vertical bases, and on angles of altitude. Each observation has
been calculated according to the tables and the methods which are
considered most exact in the present state of our knowledge; and in
order to judge of the degree of confidence which the results may
claim, we have preserved the whole detail of our partial

It would have been possible to blend these different materials in a
work devoted wholly to the description of the volcanoes of Peru and
New Spain. Had I given the physical description of a single
province, I could have treated separately everything relating to
its geography, mineralogy, and botany; but how could I interrupt
the narrative of a journey, a disquisition on the manners of a
people, or the great phenomena of nature, by an enumeration of the
productions of the country, the description of new species of
animals and plants, or the detail of astronomical observations. Had
I adopted a mode of composition which would have included in one
and the same chapter all that has been observed on one particular
point of the globe, I should have prepared a work of cumbrous
length, and devoid of that clearness which arises in a great
measure from the methodical distribution of matter. Notwithstanding
the efforts I have made to avoid, in this narrative, the errors I
had to dread, I feel conscious that I have not always succeeded in
separating the observations of detail from those general results
which interest every enlightened mind. These results comprise in
one view the climate and its influence on organized beings, the
aspect of the country, varied according to the nature of the soil
and its vegetable covering, the direction of the mountains and
rivers which separate races of men as well as tribes of plants; and
finally, the modifications observable in the condition of people
living in different latitudes, and in circumstances more or less
favourable to the development of their faculties. I do not fear
having too much enlarged on objects so worthy of attention: one of
the noblest characteristics which distinguish modern civilization
from that of remoter times is, that it has enlarged the mass of our
conceptions, rendered us more capable of perceiving the connection
between the physical and intellectual world, and thrown a more
general interest over objects which heretofore occupied only a few
scientific men, because those objects were contemplated separately,
and from a narrower point of view.

As it is probable that these volumes will obtain the attention of a
greater number of readers than the detail of my observations merely
scientific, or my researches on the population, the commerce, and
the mines of New Spain, I may be permitted here to enumerate all
the works which I have hitherto published conjointly with M.
Bonpland. When several works are interwoven in some sort with each
other, it may perhaps be interesting to the reader to know the
sources whence he may obtain more circumstantial information.


This work, to which are added historical researches on the position
of several points important to navigators, contains, first, the
original observations which I made from the twelfth degree of
southern to the forty-first degree of northern latitude; the
transits of the sun and stars over the meridian; distances of the
moon from the sun and the stars; occultations of the satellites;
eclipses of the sun and moon; transits of Mercury over the disc of
the sun; azimuths; circum-meridian altitudes of the moon, to
determine the longitude by the differences of declination;
researches on the relative intensity of the light of the austral
stars; geodesical measures, etc. Secondly, a treatise on the
astronomical refractions in the torrid zone, considered as the
effect of the decrement of caloric in the strata of the air;
thirdly, the barometric measurement of the Cordillera of the Andes,
of Mexico, of the province of Venezuela, of the kingdom of Quito,
and of New Grenada; followed by geological observations, and
containing the indication of four hundred and fifty-three heights,
calculated according to the method of M. Laplace, and the new
co-efficient of M. Ramond; fourthly, a table of near seven hundred
geographical positions on the New Continent; two hundred and
thirty-five of which have been determined by my own observations,
according to the three co-ordinates of longitude, latitude, and


M. Bonpland has in this work given figures of more than forty new
genera of plants of the torrid zone, classed according to their
natural families. The methodical descriptions of the species are
both in French and Latin, and are accompanied by observations on
the medicinal properties of the plants, their use in the arts, and
the climate of the countries in which they are found.


Comprising upwards of a hundred and fifty species of melastomaceae,
which we collected during the course of our expeditions, and which
form one of the most beautiful ornaments of tropical vegetation. M.
Bonpland has added the plants of the same family, which, among many
other rich stores of natural history, M. Richard collected in his
interesting expedition to the Antilles and French Guiana, and the
descriptions of which he has communicated to us.


I have endeavoured to collect in one point of view the whole of the
physical phenomena of that part of the New Continent comprised
within the limits of the torrid zone from the level of the Pacific
to the highest summit of the Andes; namely, the vegetation, the
animals, the geological relations, the cultivation of the soil, the
temperature of the air, the limit of perpetual snow, the chemical
constitution of the atmosphere, its electrical intensity, its
barometrical pressure, the decrement of gravitation, the intensity
of the azure colour of the sky, the diminution of light during its
passage through the successive strata of the air, the horizontal
refractions, and the heat of boiling water at different heights.
Fourteen scales, disposed side by side with a profile of the Andes,
indicate the modifications to which these phenomena are subject
from the influence of the elevation of the soil above the level of
the sea. Each group of plants is placed at the height which nature
has assigned to it, and we may follow the prodigious variety of
their forms from the region of the palms and arborescent ferns to
those of the johannesia (chuquiraga, Juss.), the gramineous plants,
and lichens. These regions form the natural divisions of the
vegetable empire; and as perpetual snow is found in each climate at
a determinate height, so, in like manner, the febrifuge species of
the quinquina (cinchona) have their fixed limits, which I have
marked in the botanical chart belonging to this essay.


I have comprised in this work the history of the condor;
experiments on the electrical action of the gymnotus; a treatise on
the larynx of the crocodiles, the quadrumani, and birds of the
tropics; the description of several new species of reptiles,
fishes, birds, monkeys, and other mammalia but little known. M.
Cuvier has enriched this work with a very comprehensive treatise on
the axolotl of the lake of Mexico, and on the genera of the Protei.
That naturalist has also recognized two new species of mastodons
and an elephant among the fossil bones of quadrupeds which we
brought from North and South America. For the description of the
insects collected by M. Bonpland we are indebted to M. Latreille,
whose labours have so much contributed to the progress of
entomology in our times. The second volume of this work contains
figures of the Mexican, Peruvian, and Aturian skulls, which we have
deposited in the Museum of Natural History at Paris, and respecting
which Blumenbach has published observations in the 'Decas quinta
Craniorum diversarum gentium.'


This work, based on numerous official memoirs, presents, in six
divisions, considerations on the extent and natural appearance of
Mexico, on the population, on the manners of the inhabitants, their
ancient civilization, and the political division of their
territory. It embraces also the agriculture, the mineral riches,
the manufactures, the commerce, the finances, and the military
defence of that vast country. In treating these different subjects
I have endeavoured to consider them under a general point of view;
I have drawn a parallel not only between New Spain, the other
Spanish colonies, and the United States of North America, but also
between New Spain and the possessions of the English in Asia; I
have compared the agriculture of the countries situated in the
torrid zone with that of the temperate climates; and I have
examined the quantity of colonial produce necessary to Europe in
the present state of civilization. In tracing the geological
description of the richest mining districts in Mexico, I have, in
short, given a statement of the mineral produce, the population,
the imports and exports of the whole of Spanish America. I have
examined several questions which, for want of precise data, had not
hitherto been treated with the attention they demand, such as the
influx and reflux of metals, their progressive accumulation in
Europe and Asia, and the quantity of gold and silver which, since
the discovery of America down to our own times, the Old World has
received from the New. The geographical introduction at the
beginning of this work contains the analysis of the materials which
have been employed in the construction of the Mexican Atlas.

  NATIONS OF THE NEW CONTINENT.* (*Atlas Pittoresque, ou Vues des
  Cordilleres, 1 volume folio, with 69 plates, part of which are
  coloured, accompanied by explanatory treatises. This work may be
  considered as the Atlas to the historical narrative of the travels.)

This work is intended to represent a few of the grand scenes which
nature presents in the lofty chain of the Andes, and at the same
time to throw some light on the ancient civilization of the
Americans, through the study of their monuments of architecture,
their hieroglyphics, their religious rites, and their astrological
reveries. I have given in this work a description of the teocalli,
or Mexican pyramids, and have compared their structure with that of
the temple of Belus. I have described the arabesques which cover
the ruins of Mitla, the idols in basalt ornamented with the
calantica of the heads of Isis; and also a considerable number of
symbolical paintings, representing the serpent-woman (the Mexican
Eve), the deluge of Coxcox, and the first migrations of the natives
of the Aztec race. I have endeavoured to prove the striking
analogies existing between the calendar of the Toltecs and the
catasterisms of their zodiac, and the division of time of the
people of Tartary and Thibet, as well as the Mexican traditions on
the four regenerations of the globe, the pralayas of the Hindoos,
and the four ages of Hesiod. In this work I have also included (in
addition to the hieroglyphical paintings I brought to Europe),
fragments of all the Aztec manuscripts, collected in Rome, Veletri,
Vienna, and Dresden, and one of which reminds us, by its lineary
symbols, of the kouas of the Chinese. Together with the rude
monuments of the aborigines of America, this volume contains
picturesque views of the mountainous countries which those people
inhabited; for example, the cataract of Tequendama, Chimborazo, the
volcano of Jorullo and Cayambe, the pyramidal summit of which,
covered with eternal ice, is situated directly under the
equinoctial line. In every zone the configuration of the ground,
the physiognomy of the plants, and the aspect of lovely or wild
scenery, have great influence on the progress of the arts, and on
the style which distinguishes their productions. This influence is
so much the more perceptible in proportion as man is farther
removed from civilization.

I could have added to this work researches on the character of
languages, which are the most durable monuments of nations. I have
collected a number of materials on the languages of America, of
which MM. Frederic Schlegel and Vater have made use; the former in
his Considerations on the Hindoos, the latter in his Continuation
of the Mithridates of Adelung, in the Ethnographical Magazine, and
in his Inquiries into the Population of the New Continent. These
materials are now in the hands of my brother, William von Humboldt,
who, during his travels in Spain, and a long abode at Rome, formed
the richest collection of American vocabularies in existence. His
extensive knowledge of the ancient and modern languages has enabled
him to trace some curious analogies in relation to this subject, so
important to the philosophical study of the history of man. A part
of his labours will find a place in this narrative.

Of the different works which I have here enumerated, the second and
third were composed by M. Bonpland, from the observations which he
made in a botanical journal. This journal contains more than four
thousand methodical descriptions of equinoctial plants, a ninth
part only of which have been made by me. They appear in a separate
publication, under the title of Nova Genera et Species Plantariem.
In this work will be found, not only the new species we collected,
which, after a careful examination by one of the first botanists of
the age, Professor Willdenouw, are computed to amount to fourteen
or fifteen hundred, but also the interesting observations made by
M. Bonpland on plants hitherto imperfectly described. The plates of
this work are all engraved according to the method followed by M.
Labillardiere, in the Specimen Planterum Novae Hollandiae, a work
remarkable for profound research and clearness of arrangement.

After having distributed into separate works all that belongs to
astronomy, botany, zoology, the political description of New Spain,
and the history of the ancient civilization of certain nations of
the New Continent, there still remained many general results and
local descriptions, which I might have collected into separate
treatises. I had, during my journey, prepared papers on the races
of men in South America; on the Missions of the Orinoco; on the
obstacles to the progress of society in the torrid zone arising
from the climate and the strength of vegetation; on the character
of the landscape in the Cordilleras of the Andes compared with that
of the Alps in Switzerland; on the analogies between the rocks of
the two hemispheres; on the physical constitution of the air in the
equinoctial regions, etc. I had left Europe with the firm intention
of not writing what is usually called the historical narrative of a
journey, but to publish the fruit of my inquiries in works merely
descriptive; and I had arranged the facts, not in the order in
which they successively presented themselves, but according to the
relation they bore to each other. Amidst the overwhelming majesty
of Nature, and the stupendous objects she presents at every step,
the traveller is little disposed to record in his journal matters
which relate only to himself, and the ordinary details of life.

I composed a very brief itinerary during the course of my
excursions on the rivers of South America, and in my long journeys
by land. I regularly described (and almost always on the spot) the
visits I made to the summits of volcanoes, or mountains remarkable
for their height; but the entries in my journal were interrupted
whenever I resided in a town, or when other occupations prevented
me from continuing a work which I considered as having only a
secondary interest. Whenever I wrote in my journal, I had no other
motive than the preservation of some of those fugitive ideas which
present themselves to a naturalist, whose life is almost wholly
passed in the open air. I wished to make a temporary collection of
such facts as I had not then leisure to class, and note down the
first impressions, whether agreeable or painful, which I received
from nature or from man. Far from thinking at the time that those
pages thus hurriedly written would form the basis of an extensive
work to be offered to the public, it appeared to me, that my
journal, though it might furnish certain data useful to science,
would present very few of those incidents, the recital of which
constitutes the principal charm of an itinerary.

The difficulties I have experienced since my return, in the
composition of a considerable number of treatises, for the purpose
of making known certain classes of phenomena, insensibly overcame
my repugnance to write the narrative of my journey. In undertaking
this task, I have been guided by the advice of many estimable
persons, who honour me with their friendship. I also perceived that
such a preference is given to this sort of composition, that
scientific men, after having presented in an isolated form the
account of their researches on the productions, the manners, and
the political state of the countries through which they have
passed, imagine that they have not fulfilled their engagements with
the public, till they have written their itinerary.

An historical narrative embraces two very distinct objects; the
greater or the less important events connected with the purpose of
the traveller, and the observations he has made during his journey.
The unity of composition also, which distinguishes good works from
those on an ill-constructed plan, can be strictly observed only
when the traveller describes what has passed under his own eye; and
when his principal attention has been fixed less on scientific
observations than on the manners of different people and the great
phenomena of nature. Now, the most faithful picture of manners is
that which best displays the relations of men towards each other.
The character of savage or civilized life is portrayed either in
the obstacles a traveller meets with, or in the sensations he
feels. It is the traveller himself whom we continually desire to
see in contact with the objects which surround him; and his
narration interests us the more, when a local tint is diffused over
the description of a country and its inhabitants. Such is the
source of the interest excited by the history of those early
navigators, who, impelled by intrepidity rather than by science,
struggled against the elements in their search for the discovery of
a new world. Such is the irresistible charm attached to the fate of
that enterprising traveller (Mungo Park.), who, full of enthusiasm
and energy, penetrated alone into the centre of Africa, to discover
amidst barbarous nations the traces of ancient civilization.

In proportion as travels have been undertaken by persons whose
views have been directed to researches into descriptive natural
history, geography, or political economy, itineraries have partly
lost that unity of composition, and that simplicity which
characterized those of former ages. It is now become scarcely
possible to connect so many different materials with the detail of
other events; and that part of a traveller's narrative which we may
call dramatic gives way to dissertations merely descriptive. The
numerous class of readers who prefer agreeable amusement to solid
instruction, have not gained by the exchange; and I am afraid that
the temptation will not be great to follow the course of travellers
who are incumbered with scientific instruments and collections.

To give greater variety to my work, I have often interrupted the
historical narrative by descriptions. I first represent phenomena
in the order in which they appeared; and I afterwards consider them
in the whole of their individual relations. This mode has been
successfully followed in the journey of M. de Saussure, whose most
valuable work has contributed more than any other to the
advancement of science. Often, amidst dry discussions on
meteorology, it contains many charming descriptions; such as those
of the modes of life of the inhabitants of the mountains, the
dangers of hunting the chamois, and the sensations felt on the
summit of the higher Alps.

There are details of ordinary life which it may be useful to note
in an itinerary, because they serve for the guidance of those who
afterwards journey through the same countries. I have preserved a
few, but have suppressed the greater part of those personal
incidents which present no particular interest, and which can be
rendered amusing only by the perfection of style.

With respect to the country which has been the object of my
investigations, I am fully sensible of the great advantages enjoyed
by persons who travel in Greece, Egypt, the banks of the Euphrates,
and the islands of the Pacific, in comparison with those who
traverse the continent of America. In the Old World, nations and
the distinctions of their civilization form the principal points in
the picture; in the New World, man and his productions almost
disappear amidst the stupendous display of wild and gigantic
nature. The human race in the New World presents only a few
remnants of indigenous hordes, slightly advanced in civilization;
or it exhibits merely the uniformity of manners and institutions
transplanted by European colonists to foreign shores. Information
which relates to the history of our species, to the various forms
of government, to monuments of art, to places full of great
remembrances, affect us far more than descriptions of those vast
solitudes which seem destined only for the development of vegetable
life, and to be the domain of wild animals. The savages of America,
who have been the objects of so many systematic reveries, and on
whom M. Volney has lately published some accurate and intelligent
observations, inspire less interest since celebrated navigators
have made known to us the inhabitants of the South Sea islands, in
whose character we find a striking mixture of perversity and
meekness. The state of half-civilization existing among those
islanders gives a peculiar charm to the description of their
manners. A king, followed by a numerous suite, presents the fruits
of his orchard; or a funeral is performed amidst the shade of the
lofty forest. Such pictures, no doubt, have more attraction than
those which pourtray the solemn gravity of the inhabitant of the
banks of the Missouri or the Maranon.

America offers an ample field for the labours of the naturalist. On
no other part of the globe is he called upon more powerfully by
nature to raise himself to general ideas on the cause of phenomena
and their mutual connection. To say nothing of that luxuriance of
vegetation, that eternal spring of organic life, those climates
varying by stages as we climb the flanks of the Cordilleras, and
those majestic rivers which a celebrated writer (M. Chateaubriand.)
has described with such graceful accuracy, the resources which the
New World affords for the study of geology and natural philosophy
in general have been long since acknowledged. Happy the traveller
who may cherish the hope that he has availed himself of the
advantages of his position, and that he has added some new facts to
the mass of those previously acquired!

Since I left America, one of those great revolutions, which at
certain periods agitate the human race, has broken out in the
Spanish colonies, and seems to prepare new destinies for a
population of fourteen millions of inhabitants, spreading from the
southern to the northern hemisphere, from the shores of the Rio de
la Plata and Chile to the remotest part of Mexico. Deep
resentments, excited by colonial legislation, and fostered by
mistrustful policy, have stained with blood regions which had
enjoyed, for the space of nearly three centuries, what I will not
call happiness but uninterrupted peace. At Quito several of the
most virtuous and enlightened citizens have perished, victims of
devotion to their country. While I am giving the description of
regions, the remembrance of which is so dear to me, I continually
light on places which recall to my mind the loss of a friend.

When we reflect on the great political agitations of the New World,
we observe that the Spanish Americans are by no means in so
favourable a position as the inhabitants of the United States; the
latter having been prepared for independence by the long enjoyment
of constitutional liberty. Internal dissensions are chiefly to be
dreaded in regions where civilization is but slightly rooted, and
where, from the influence of climate, forests may soon regain their
empire over cleared lands if their culture be abandoned. It may
also be feared that, during a long series of years, no foreign
traveller will be enabled to traverse all the countries which I
have visited. This circumstance may perhaps add to the interest of
a work which pourtrays the state of the greater part of the Spanish
colonies at the beginning of the 19th century. I even venture to
indulge the hope that this work will be thought worthy of attention
when passions shall be hushed into peace, and when, under the
influence of a new social order, those countries shall have made
rapid progress in public welfare. If then some pages of my book are
snatched from oblivion, the inhabitant of the banks of the Orinoco
and the Atabapo will behold with delight populous cities enriched
by commerce, and fertile fields cultivated by the hands of free
men, on those very spots where, at the time of my travels, I found
only impenetrable forests and inundated lands.





From my earliest youth I felt an ardent desire to travel into
distant regions, seldom visited by Europeans. This desire is
characteristic of a period of our existence when appears an
unlimited horizon, and when we find an irresistible attraction in
the impetuous agitations of the mind, and the image of positive
danger. Though educated in a country which has no direct
communication with either the East or the West Indies, living
amidst mountains remote from coasts, and celebrated for their
numerous mines, I felt an increasing passion for the sea and
distant expeditions. Objects with which we are acquainted only by
the animated narratives of travellers have a peculiar charm;
imagination wanders with delight over that which is vague and
undefined; and the pleasures we are deprived of seem to possess a
fascinating power, compared with which all we daily feel in the
narrow circle of sedentary life appears insipid. The taste for
herborisation, the study of geology, rapid excursions to Holland,
England, and France, with the celebrated Mr. George Forster, who
had the happiness to accompany captain Cook in his second
expedition round the globe, contributed to give a determined
direction to the plan of travels which I had formed at eighteen
years of age. No longer deluded by the agitation of a wandering
life, I was anxious to contemplate nature in all her variety of
wild and stupendous scenery; and the hope of collecting some facts
useful to the advancement of science, incessantly impelled my
wishes towards the luxuriant regions of the torrid zone. As
personal circumstances then prevented me from executing the
projects by which I was so powerfully influenced, I had leisure to
prepare myself during six years for the observations I proposed to
make on the New Continent, as well as to visit different parts of
Europe, and to explore the lofty chain of the Alps, the structure
of which I might afterwards compare with that of the Andes of Quito
and of Peru.

I had traversed a part of Italy in 1795, but had not been able to
visit the volcanic regions of Naples and Sicily; and I regretted
leaving Europe without having seen Vesuvius, Stromboli, and Etna. I
felt, that in order to form a proper judgment of many geological
phenomena, especially of the nature of the rocks of trap-formation,
it was necessary to examine the phenomena presented by burning
volcanoes. I determined therefore to return to Italy in the month
of November, 1797. I made a long stay at Vienna, where the fine
collections of exotic plants, and the friendship of Messrs. de
Jacquin, and Joseph van der Schott, were highly useful to my
preparatory studies. I travelled with M. Leopold von Buch, through
several cantons of Salzburg and Styria, countries alike interesting
to the landscape-painter and the geologist; but just when I was
about to cross the Tyrolese Alps, the war then raging in Italy
obliged me to abandon the project of going to Naples.

A short time before, a gentleman passionately fond of the fine
arts, and who had visited the coasts of Greece and Illyria to
inspect their monuments, made me a proposal to accompany him in an
expedition to Upper Egypt. This expedition was to occupy only eight
months. Provided with astronomical instruments and able
draughtsmen, we were to ascend the Nile as far as Assouan, after
minutely examining the positions of the Said, between Tentyris and
the cataracts. Though my views had not hitherto been fixed on any
region but the tropics, I could not resist the temptation of
visiting countries so celebrated in the annals of human
civilization. I therefore accepted this proposition, but with the
express condition, that on our return to Alexandria I should be at
liberty to continue my journey through Syria and Palestine. The
studies which I entered upon with a view to this new project, I
afterwards found useful, when I examined the relations between the
barbarous monuments of Mexico, and those belonging to the nations
of the old world. I thought myself on the point of embarking for
Egypt, when political events forced me to abandon a plan which
promised me so much satisfaction.

An expedition of discovery in the South Sea, under the direction of
captain Baudin, was then preparing in France. The plan was great,
bold, and worthy of being executed by a more enlightened commander.
The purpose of this expedition was to visit the Spanish possessions
of South America, from the mouth of the river Plata to the kingdom
of Quito and the isthmus of Panama. After visiting the archipelago
of the Pacific, and exploring the coasts of New Holland, from Van
Diemen's Land to that of Nuyts, both vessels were to stop at
Madagascar, and return by the Cape of Good Hope. I was in Paris
when the preparations for this voyage were begun. I had but little
confidence in the personal character of captain Baudin, who had
given cause of discontent to the court of Vienna, when he was
commissioned to conduct to Brazil one of my friends, the young
botanist, Van der Schott; but as I could not hope, with my own
resources, to make a voyage of such extent, and view so fine a
portion of the globe, I determined to take the chances of this
expedition. I obtained permission to embark, with the instruments I
had collected, in one of the vessels destined for the South Sea,
and I reserved to myself the liberty of leaving captain Baudin
whenever I thought proper. M. Michaux, who had already visited
Persia and a part of North America, and M. Bonpland, with whom I
then formed the friendship that still unites us, were appointed to
accompany this expedition as naturalists.

I had flattered myself during several months with the idea of
sharing the labours directed to so great and honourable an object
when the war which broke out in Germany and Italy, determined the
French government to withdraw the funds granted for their voyage of
discovery, and adjourn it to an indefinite period. Deeply mortified
at finding the plans I had formed during many years of my life
overthrown in a single day, I sought at any risk the speediest
means of quitting Europe, and engaging in some enterprise which
might console me for my disappointment.

I became acquainted with a Swedish consul, named Skioldebrand, who
having been appointed by his court to carry presents to the dey of
Algiers, was passing through Paris, to embark at Marseilles. This
estimable man had resided a long time on the coast of Africa; and
being highly respected by the government of Algiers, he could
easily procure me permission to visit that part of the chain of the
Atlas which had not been the object of the important researches of
M. Desfontaines. He despatched every year a vessel for Tunis, where
the pilgrims embarked for Mecca, and he promised to convey me by
the same medium to Egypt. I eagerly seized so favourable an
opportunity, and thought myself on the point of executing a plan
which I had formed previously to my arrival in France. No
mineralogist had yet examined that lofty chain of mountains which,
in the empire of Morocco, rises to the limits of the perpetual
snow. I flattered myself, that, after executing some operations in
the alpine regions of Barbary, I should receive in Egypt from those
illustrious men who had for some months formed the Institute of
Cairo, the same kind attentions with which I had been honoured
during my abode in Paris. I hastily completed my collection of
instruments, and purchased works relating to the countries I was
going to visit. I parted from a brother who, by his advice and
example, had hitherto exercised a great influence on the direction
of my thoughts. He approved the motives which determined me to quit
Europe; a secret voice assured us that we should meet again; and
that hope, which did not prove delusive, assuaged the pain of a
long separation. I left Paris with the intention of embarking for
Algiers and Egypt; but by one of those vicissitudes which sway the
affairs of this life, I returned to my brother from the river
Amazon and Peru, without having touched the continent of Africa.

The Swedish frigate which was to convey M. Skioldebrand to Algiers,
was expected at Marseilles toward the end of October. M. Bonpland
and myself repaired thither with great celerity, for during our
journey we were tormented with the fear of being too late, and
missing our passage.

M. Skioldebrand was no less impatient than ourselves to reach his
place of destination. Several times a day we climbed the mountain
of Notre Dame de la Garde, which commands an extensive view of the
Mediterranean. Every sail we descried in the horizon excited in us
the most eager emotion; but after two months of anxiety and vain
expectation, we learned by the public papers, that the Swedish
frigate which was to convey us, had suffered greatly in a storm on
the coast of Portugal, and had been forced to enter the port of
Cadiz, to refit. This news was confirmed by private letters,
assuring us that the Jaramas, which was the name of the frigate,
would not reach Marseilles before the spring.

We felt no inclination to prolong our stay in Provence till that
period. The country, and especially the climate, were delightful,
but the aspect of the sea reminded us of the failure of our
projects. In an excursion we made to Hyeres and Toulon, we found in
the latter port the frigate la Boudeuse, which had been commanded
by M. de Bougainville, in his voyage round the world. She was then
fitting out for Corsica. M. de Bougainville had honoured me with
particular kindness during my stay in Paris, when I was preparing
to accompany the expedition of captain Baudin. I cannot describe
the impression made upon my mind by the sight of the vessel which
had carried Commerson to the islands of the South Sea. In some
conditions of the mind, a painful emotion blends itself with all
our feelings.

We still persisted in the intention of visiting the African coast,
and were nearly becoming the victims of our perseverance. A small
vessel of Ragusa, on the point of setting sail for Tunis, was at
that time in the port of Marseilles; we thought the opportunity
favourable for reaching Egypt and Syria, and we agreed with the
captain for our passage. The vessel was to sail the following day;
but a circumstance trivial in itself happily prevented our
departure. The live-stock intended to serve us for food during our
passage, was kept in the great cabin. We desired that some changes
should be made, which were indispensable for the safety of our
instruments; and during this interval we learnt at Marseilles, that
the government of Tunis persecuted the French residing in Barbary,
and that every person coming from a French port was thrown into a
dungeon. Having escaped this imminent danger, we were compelled to
suspend the execution of our projects. We resolved to pass the
winter in Spain, in hopes of embarking the next spring, either at
Carthagena, or at Cadiz, if the political situation of the East

We crossed Catalonia and the kingdom of Valencia, on our way to
Madrid. We visited the ruins of Tarragona and those of ancient
Saguntum; and from Barcelona we made an excursion to Montserrat,
the lofty peaks of which are inhabited by hermits, and where the
contrast between luxuriant vegetation and masses of naked and arid
rocks, forms a landscape of a peculiar character. I employed myself
in ascertaining by astronomical observations the position of
several points important for the geography of Spain, and determined
by means of the barometer the height of the central plain. I
likewise made several observations on the inclination of the
needle, and on the intensity of the magnetic forces.

On my arrival at Madrid I had reason to congratulate myself on the
resolution I had formed of visiting the Peninsula. Baron de Forell,
minister from the court of Saxony, treated me with a degree of
kindness, of which I soon felt the value. He was well versed in
mineralogy, and was full of zeal for every undertaking that
promoted the progress of knowledge. He observed to me, that under
the administration of an enlightened minister, Don Mariano Luis de
Urquijo, I might hope to obtain permission to visit, at my own
expense, the interior of Spanish America. After the disappointments
I had suffered, I did not hesitate a moment to adopt this idea.

I was presented at the court of Aranjuez in March 1799 and the king
received me graciously. I explained to him the motives which led me
to undertake a voyage to the new world and the Philippine Islands,
and I presented a memoir on the subject to the secretary of state.
Senor de Urquijo supported my demand, and overcame every obstacle.
I obtained two passports, one from the first secretary of state,
the other from the council of the Indies. Never had so extensive a
permission been granted to any traveller, and never had any
foreigner been honoured with more confidence on the part of the
Spanish government.

Many considerations might have induced us to prolong our abode in
Spain. The abbe Cavanilles, no less remarkable for the variety of
his attainments than his acute intelligence; M. Nee, who, together
with M. Haenke, had, as botanist, made part of the expedition of
Malaspina, and who had formed one of the greatest herbals ever seen
in Europe; Don Casimir Ortega, the abbe Pourret, and the learned
authors of the Flora of Peru, Messrs. Ruiz and Pavon, all opened to
us without reserve their rich collections. We examined part of the
plants of Mexico, discovered by Messrs. Sesse, Mocino, and
Cervantes, whose drawings had been sent to the Museum of Natural
History of Madrid. This great establishment, the direction of which
was confided to Senor Clavijo, author of an elegant translation of
the works of Buffon, offered us, it is true, no geological
representation of the Cordilleras, but M. Proust, so well known by
the great accuracy of his chemical labours, and a distinguished
mineralogist, M. Hergen, gave us curious details on several mineral
substances of America. It would have been useful to us to have
employed a longer time in studying the productions of the countries
which were to be the objects of our research, but our impatience to
take advantage of the permission given us by the court was too
great to suffer us to delay our departure. For a year past, I had
experienced so many disappointments, that I could scarcely persuade
myself that my most ardent wishes would be at length fulfilled.

We left Madrid about the middle of May, crossed a part of Old
Castile, the kingdoms of Leon and Galicia, and reached Corunna,
whence we were to embark for Cuba. The winter having been
protracted and severe, we enjoyed during the journey that mild
temperature of the spring, which in so southern a latitude usually
occurs during March and April. The snow still covered the lofty
granitic tops of the Guadarama; but in the deep valleys of Galicia,
which resemble the most picturesque spots of Switzerland and the
Tyrol, cistuses loaded with flowers; and arborescent heaths clothed
every rock. We quitted without regret the elevated plain of the two
Castiles, which is everywhere devoid of vegetation, and where the
severity of the winter's cold is followed by the overwhelming heat
of summer. From the few observations I personally made, the
interior of Spain forms a vast plain, elevated three hundred toises
(five hundred and eighty-four metres) above the level of the ocean,
is covered with secondary formations, grit-stone, gypsum, sal-gem,
and the calcareous stone of Jura. The climate of the Castiles is
much colder than that of Toulon and Genoa; its mean temperature
scarcely rises to 15 degrees of the centigrade thermometer.

We are astonished to find that, in the latitude of Calabria,
Thessaly, and Asia Minor, orange-trees do not flourish in the open
air. The central elevated plain is encircled by a low and narrow
zone, where the chamaerops, the date-tree, the sugar-cane, the
banana, and a number of plants common to Spain and the north of
Africa, vegetate on several spots, without suffering from the
rigours of winter. From the 36th to 40th degrees of latitude, the
medium temperature of this zone is from 17 to 20 degrees; and by a
concurrence of circumstances, which it would be too long to
explain, this favoured region has become the principal seat of
industry and intellectual improvement.

When, in the kingdom of Valencia, we ascend from the shore of the
Mediterranean towards the lofty plains of La Mancha and the
Castiles, we seem to discern, far inland, from the lengthened
declivities, the ancient coast of the Peninsula. This curious
phenomenon recalls the traditions of the Samothracians, and other
historical testimonies, according to which it is supposed that the
irruption of the waters through the Dardanelles, augmenting the
basin of the Mediterranean, rent and overflowed the southern part
of Europe. If we admit that these traditions owe their origin, not
to mere geological reveries, but to the remembrance of some ancient
catastrophe, we may conceive the central elevated plain of Spain
resisting the efforts of these great inundations, till the draining
of the waters, by the straits formed between the pillars of
Hercules, brought the Mediterranean progressively to its present
level, lower Egypt emerging above its surface on the one side, and
the fertile plains of Tarragona, Valencia, and Murcia, on the
other. Everything that relates to the formation of that sea,* (*
Some of the ancient geographers believed that the Mediterranean,
swelled by the waters of the Euxine, the Palus Maeotis, the Caspian
Sea, and the Sea of Aral, had broken the pillars of Hercules;
others admitted that the irruption was made by the waters of the
ocean. In the first of these hypotheses, the height of the land
between the Black Sea and the Baltic, and between the ports of
Cette and Bordeaux, determine the limit which the accumulation of
the waters may have reached before the junction of the Black Sea,
the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, as well to the north of the
Dardanelles, as to the east of this strip of land which formerly
joined Europe to Mauritania, and of which, in the time of Strabo,
certain vestiges remained in the Islands of Juno and the Moon.)
which has had so powerful an influence on the first civilization of
mankind, is highly interesting. We might suppose, that Spain,
forming a promontory amidst the waves, was indebted for its
preservation to the height of its land; but in order to give weight
to these theoretic ideas, we must clear up the doubts that have
arisen respecting the rupture of so many transverse dikes;--we must
discuss the probability of the Mediterranean having been formerly
divided into several separate basins, of which Sicily and the
island of Candia appear to mark the ancient limits. We will not
here risk the solution of these problems, but will satisfy
ourselves in fixing attention on the striking contrast in the
configuration of the land in the eastern and western extremities of
Europe. Between the Baltic and the Black Sea, the ground is at
present scarcely fifty toises above the level of the ocean, while
the plain of La Mancha, if placed between the sources of the Niemen
and the Borysthenes, would figure as a group of mountains of
considerable height. If the causes, which may have changed the
surface of our planet, be an interesting speculation,
investigations of the phenomena, such as they offer themselves to
the measures and observations of the naturalist, lead to far
greater certainty.

From Astorga to Corunna, especially from Lugo, the mountains rise
gradually. The secondary formations gently disappear, and are
succeeded by the transition rocks, which indicate the proximity of
primitive strata. We found considerable mountains composed of that
ancient grey stone which the mineralogists of the school of
Freyberg name grauwakke, and grauwakkenschiefer. I do not know
whether this formation, which is not frequent in the south of
Europe, has hitherto been discovered in other parts of Spain.
Angular fragments of Lydian stone, scattered along the valleys,
seemed to indicate that the transition schist is the basis of the
strata of greywacke. Near Corunna even granitic ridges stretch as
far as Cape Ortegal. These granites, which seem formerly to have
been contiguous to those of Britanny and Cornwall, are perhaps the
wrecks of a chain of mountains destroyed and sunk in the waves.
Large and beautiful crystals of feldspar characterise this rock.
Common tin ore is sometimes discovered there, but working the mines
is a laborious and unprofitable operation for the inhabitants of

The first secretary of state had recommended us very particularly
to brigadier Don Raphael Clavijo, who was employed in forming new
dock-yards at Corunna. He advised us to embark on board the sloop
Pizarro,* (* According to the Spanish nomenclature, the Pizarro was
a light frigate (fragata lijera).) which was to sail in company
with the Alcudia, the packet-boat of the month of May, which, on
account of the blockade, had been detained three weeks in the port.
Senor Clavijo ordered the necessary arrangements to be made on
board the sloop for placing our instruments, and the captain of the
Pizarro received orders to stop at Teneriffe, as long as we should
judge necessary to enable us to visit the port of Orotava, and
ascend the peak.

We had yet ten days to wait before we embarked. During this
interval, we employed ourselves in preparing the plants we had
collected in the beautiful valleys of Galicia, which no naturalist
had yet visited: we examined the fuci and the mollusca which the
north-west winds had cast with great profusion at the foot of the
steep rock, on which the lighthouse of the Tower of Hercules is
built. This edifice, called also the Iron Tower, was repaired in
1788. It is ninety-two feet high, its walls are four feet and a
half thick, and its construction clearly proves that it was built
by the Romans. An inscription discovered near its foundation, a
copy of which M. Laborde obligingly gave me, informs us, that this
pharos was constructed by Caius Sevius Lupus, architect of the city
of Aqua Flavia (Chaves), and that it was dedicated to Mars. Why is
the Iron Tower called in the country by the name of Hercules? Was
it built by the Romans on the ruins of a Greek or Phoenician
edifice? Strabo, indeed, affirms that Galicia, the country of the
Callaeci, had been peopled by Greek colonies. According to an
extract from the geography of Spain, by Asclepiades the Myrlaean,
an ancient tradition stated that the companions of Hercules had
settled in these countries.

The ports of Ferrol and Corunna both communicate with one bay, so
that a vessel driven by bad weather towards the coast may anchor in
either, according to the wind. This advantage is invaluable where
the sea is almost always tempestuous, as between capes Ortegal and
Finisterre, which are the promontories Trileucum and Artabrum of
ancient geography. A narrow passage, flanked by perpendicular rocks
of granite, leads to the extensive basin of Ferrol. No port in
Europe has so extraordinary an anchorage, from its very inland
position. The narrow and tortuous passage by which vessels enter
this port, has been opened, either by the irruption of the waves,
or by the reiterated shocks of very violent earthquakes. In the New
World, on the coasts of New Andalusia, the Laguna del Obispo
(Bishop's lake) is formed exactly like the port of Ferrol. The most
curious geological phenomena are often repeated at immense
distances on the surface of continents; and naturalists who have
examined different parts of the globe, are struck with the extreme
resemblance observed in the rents on coasts, in the sinuosities of
the valleys, in the aspect of the mountains, and in their
distribution by groups. The accidental concurrence of the same
causes must have everywhere produced the same effects; and amidst
the variety of nature, an analogy of structure and form is observed
in the arrangement of inanimate matter, as well as in the internal
organization of plants and of animals.

Crossing from Corunna to Ferrol, over a shallow, near the White
Signal, in the bay, which according to D'Anville is the Portus
Magnus of the ancients, we made several experiments by means of a
valved thermometrical sounding lead, on the temperature of the
ocean, and on the decrement of caloric in the successive strata of
water. The thermometer on the bank, and near the surface, was from
12.5 to 13.3 degrees centigrades, while in deep water it constantly
marked 15 or 15.3 degrees, the air being at 12.8 degrees. The
celebrated Franklin and Mr. Jonathan Williams* (* Author of a work
entitled "Thermometrical Navigation," published at Philadelphia.)
were the first to invite the attention of naturalists to the
phenomena of the temperature of the Atlantic over shoals, and in
that zone of tepid and flowing waters which runs from the gulf of
Mexico to the banks of Newfoundland and the northern coasts of
Europe. The observation, that the proximity of a sand-bank is
indicated by a rapid descent of the temperature of the sea at its
surface, is not only interesting to the naturalist, but may become
also very important for the safety of navigators. The use of the
thermometer ought certainly not to lead us to neglect the use of
the lead; but experiments sufficiently prove, that variations of
temperature, sensible to the most imperfect instruments, indicate
danger long before the vessel reaches the shoals. In such cases,
the frigidity of the water may induce the pilot to heave the lead
in places where he thought himself in the most perfect safety. The
waters which cover the shoals owe in a great measure the diminution
of their temperature to their mixture with the lower strata of
water, which rise towards the surface on the edge of the banks.

The moment of leaving Europe for the first time is attended with a
solemn feeling. We in vain summon to our minds the frequency of the
communication between the two worlds; we in vain reflect on the
great facility with which, from the improved state of navigation,
we traverse the Atlantic, which compared to the Pacific is but a
larger arm of the sea; the sentiment we feel when we first
undertake so distant a voyage is not the less accompanied by a deep
emotion, unlike any other impression we have hitherto felt.
Separated from the objects of our dearest affections, entering in
some sort on a new state of existence, we are forced to fall back
on our own thoughts, and we feel within ourselves a dreariness we
have never known before. Among the letters which, at the time of
our embarking, I wrote to friends in France and Germany, one had a
considerable influence on the direction of our travels, and on our
succeeding operations. When I left Paris with the intention of
visiting the coast of Africa, the expedition for discoveries in the
Pacific seemed to be adjourned for several years. I had agreed with
captain Baudin, that if, contrary to his expectation, his voyage
took place at an earlier period, and intelligence of it should
reach me in time, I would endeavour to return from Algiers to a
port in France or Spain, to join the expedition. I renewed this
promise on leaving Europe, and wrote to M. Baudin, that if the
government persisted in sending him by Cape Horn, I would endeavour
to meet him either at Monte Video, Chile, or Lima, or wherever he
should touch in the Spanish colonies. In consequence of this
engagement, I changed the plan of my journey, on reading in the
American papers, in 1801, that the French expedition had sailed
from Havre, to circumnavigate the globe from east to west. I hired
a small vessel from Batabano, in the island of Cuba, to Portobello,
and thence crossed the isthmus to the coast of the Pacific; this
mistake of a journalist led M. Bonpland and myself to travel eight
hundred leagues through a country we had no intention to visit. It
was only at Quito, that a letter from M. Delambre, perpetual
secretary of the first class of the Institute, informed us, that
captain Baudin went by the Cape of Good Hope, without touching on
the eastern or western coasts of America.

We spent two days at Corunna, after our instruments were embarked.
A thick fog, which covered the horizon, at length indicated the
change of weather we so anxiously desired. On the 4th of June, in
the evening, the wind turned to north-east, a point which, on the
coast of Galicia, is considered very constant during the summer.
The Pizarro prepared to sail on the 5th, though we had intelligence
that only a few hours previously an English squadron had been seen
from the watch-tower of Sisarga, appearing to stand towards the
mouth of the Tagus. Those who saw our ship weigh anchor asserted
that we should be captured in three days, and that, forced to
follow the fate of the vessel, we should be carried to Lisbon. This
prognostic gave us the more uneasiness, as we had known some
Mexicans at Madrid, who, in order to return to Vera Cruz, had
embarked three times at Cadiz, and having been each time taken at
the entrance of the port, were at length obliged to return to Spain
through Portugal.

The Pizarro set sail at two in the afternoon. As the long and
narrow passage by which a ship sails from the port of Corunna opens
towards the north, and the wind was contrary, we made eight short
tacks, three of which were useless. A fresh tack was made, but very
slowly, and we were for some moments in danger at the foot of fort
St. Amarro, the current having driven us very near the rock, on
which the sea breaks with considerable violence. We remained with
our eyes fixed on the castle of St. Antonio, where the unfortunate
Malaspina was then a captive in a state prison. On the point of
leaving Europe to visit the countries which this illustrious
traveller had visited with so much advantage, I could have wished
to have fixed my thoughts on some object less affecting.

At half-past six we passed the Tower of Hercules, which is the
lighthouse of Corunna, as already mentioned, and where, from a very
remote time, a coal-fire has been kept up for the direction of
vessels. The light of this fire is in no way proportionate to the
noble construction of so vast an edifice, being so feeble that
ships cannot perceive it till they are in danger of striking on the
shore. Towards the close of day the wind increased and the sea ran
high. We directed our course to north-west, in order to avoid the
English frigates, which we supposed were cruising off these coasts.
About nine we spied the light of a fishing-hut at Sisarga, which
was the last object we beheld in the west of Europe.

On the 7th we were in the latitude of Cape Finisterre. The group of
granitic rocks, which forms part of this promontory, like that of
Torianes and Monte de Corcubion, bears the name of the Sierra de
Torinona. Cape Finisterre is lower than the neighbouring lands, but
the Torinona is visible at seventeen leagues' distance, which
proves that the elevation of its highest summit is not less than
300 toises (582 metres). Spanish navigators affirm that on these
coasts the magnetic variation differs extremely from that observed
at sea. M. Bory, it is true, in the voyage of the sloop Amaranth,
found in 1751, that the variation of the needle determined at the
Cape was four degrees less than could have been conjectured from
the observations made at the same period along the coasts. In the
same manner as the granite of Galicia contains tin disseminated in
its mass, that of Cape Finisterre probably contains micaceous iron.
In the mountains of the Upper Palatinate there are granitic rocks
in which crystals of micaceous iron take the place of common mica.

On the 8th, at sunset, we descried from the mast-head an English
convoy sailing along the coast, and steering towards south-east. In
order to avoid it we altered our course during the night. From this
moment no light was permitted in the great cabin, to prevent our
being seen at a distance. This precaution, which was at the time
prescribed in the regulations of the packet-ships of the Spanish
navy, was extremely irksome to us during the voyages we made in the
course of the five following years. We were constantly obliged to
make use of dark-lanterns to examine the temperature of the water,
or to read the divisions on the limb of the astronomical
instruments. In the torrid zone, where twilight lasts but a few
minutes, our operations ceased almost at six in the evening. This
state of things was so much the more vexatious to me as from the
nature of my constitution I never was subject to sea-sickness, and
feel an extreme ardour for study during the whole time I am at sea.

On the 9th of June, in latitude 39 degrees 50 minutes, and
longitude 16 degrees 10 minutes west of the meridian of the
observatory of Paris, we began to feel the effects of the great
current which from the Azores flows towards the straits of
Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. This current is commonly
attributed to that tendency towards the east, which the straits of
Gibraltar give to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. M. de Fleurieu
observes that the Mediterranean, losing by evaporation more water
than the rivers can supply, causes a movement in the neighbouring
ocean, and that the influence of the straits is felt at the
distance of six hundred leagues. Without derogating from the
respect I entertain for the opinion of that celebrated navigator, I
may be permitted to consider this important object in a far more
general point of view.

When we cast our eyes over the Atlantic, or that deep valley which
divides the western coasts of Europe and Africa from the eastern
coasts of the new world, we distinguish a contrary direction in the
motion of the waters. Within the tropics, especially from the coast
of Senegal to the Caribbean Sea, the general current, that which
was earliest known to mariners, flows constantly from east to west.
This is called the equinoctial current. Its mean rapidity,
corresponding to different latitudes, is nearly the same in the
Atlantic and in the Pacific, and may be estimated at nine or ten
miles in twenty-four hours, consequently from 0.59 to 0.65 of a
foot every second! In those latitudes the waters run towards the
west with a velocity equal to a fourth of the rapidity of the
greater part of the larger rivers of Europe. The movement of the
ocean in a direction contrary to that of the rotation of the globe,
is probably connected with this last phenomenon only as far as the
rotation converts into trade winds* (* The limits of the trade
winds were, for the first time, determined by Dampier in 1666.) the
polar winds, which, in the low regions of the atmosphere bring back
the cold air of the high latitudes toward the equator. To the
general impulsion which these trade-winds give the surface of the
sea, we must attribute the equinoctial current, the force and
rapidity of which are not sensibly modified by the local variations
of the atmosphere.

In the channel which the Atlantic has dug between Guiana and
Guinea, on the meridian of 20 or 23 degrees, and from the 8th or
9th to the 2nd or 3rd degrees of northern latitude, where the
trade-winds are often interrupted by winds blowing from the south
and south-south-west, the equinoctial current is more inconstant in
its direction. Towards the coasts of Africa, vessels are drawn in
the direction of south-east; whilst towards the Bay of All Saints
and Cape St. Augustin, the coasts of which are dreaded by
navigators sailing towards the mouth of the Plata, the general
motion of the waters is masked by a particular current (the effects
of which extend from Cape St. Roche to the Isle of Trinidad)
running north-west with a mean velocity of a foot and a half every

The equinoctial current is felt, though feebly, even beyond the
tropic of Cancer, in the 26th and 28th degrees of latitude. In the
vast basin of the Atlantic, at six or seven hundred leagues from
the coasts of Africa, vessels from Europe bound to the West Indies,
find their sailing accelerated before they reach the torrid zone.
More to the north, in 28 and 35 degrees, between the parallels of
Teneriffe and Ceuta, in 46 and 48 degrees of longitude, no constant
motion is observed: there, a zone of 140 leagues in breadth
separates the equinoctial current (the tendency of which is towards
the west) from that great mass of water which runs eastward, and is
distinguished for its extraordinary high temperature. To this mass
of waters, known by the name of the Gulf-stream,* (* Sir Francis
Drake observed this extraordinary movement of the waters, but he
was unacquainted with their high temperature.) the attention of
naturalists was directed in 1776 by the curious observations of
Franklin and Sir Charles Blagden.

The equinoctial current drives the waters of the Atlantic towards
the coasts inhabited by the Mosquito Indians, and towards the
shores of Honduras. The New Continent, stretching from south to
north, forms a sort of dyke to this current. The waters are carried
at first north-west, and passing into the Gulf of Mexico through
the strait formed by Cape Catoche and Cape St. Antonio, follow the
bendings of the Mexican coast, from Vera Cruz to the mouth of the
Rio del Norte, and thence to the mouths of the Mississippi, and the
shoals west of the southern extremity of Florida. Having made this
vast circuit west, north, east, and south, the current takes a new
direction northward, and throws itself with impetuosity into the
Gulf of Florida. At the end of the Gulf of Florida, in the parallel
of Cape Cannaveral, the Gulf-stream, or current of Florida, runs
north-east. Its rapidity resembles that of a torrent, and is
sometimes five miles an hour. The pilot may judge, with some
certainty, of the proximity of his approach to New York,
Philadelphia, or Charlestown when he reaches the edge of the
stream; for the elevated temperature of the waters, their saltness,
indigo-blue colour, and the shoals of seaweed which cover their
surface, as well as the heat of the surrounding atmosphere, all
indicate the Gulf-stream. Its rapidity diminishes towards the
north, at the same time that its breadth increases and the waters
become cool. Between Cayo Biscaino and the bank of Bahama the
breadth is only 15 leagues, whilst in the latitude of 28 1/2
degrees, it is 17, and in the parallel of Charlestown, opposite
Cape Henlopen, from 40 to 50 leagues. The rapidity of the current
is from three to five miles an hour where the stream is narrowest,
and is only one mile as it advances towards the north. The waters
of the Mexican Gulf; forcibly drawn to north-east, preserve their
warm temperature to such a point, that in 40 and 41 degrees of
latitude I found them at 22.5 degrees (18 degrees R.) when, out of
the current, the heat of the ocean at its surface was scarcely 17.5
degrees (14 degrees R.). In the parallel of New York and Oporto,
the temperature of the Gulf-stream is consequently equal to that of
the seas of the tropics in the 18th degree of latitude, as, for
instance, in the parallel of Porto Rico and the islands of Cape

To the east of the port of Boston, and on the meridian of Halifax,
in latitude 41 degrees 25 minutes, and longitude 67 degrees, the
current is near 80 leagues broad. From this point it turns suddenly
to the east, so that its western edge, as it bends, becomes the
western limit of the running waters, skirting the extremity of the
great bank of Newfoundland, which M. Volney ingeniously calls the
bar of the mouth of this enormous sea-river. The cold waters of
this bank, which according to my experiments are at a temperature
of 8.7 or 10 degrees (7 or 8 degrees R.) present a striking
contrast with the waters of the torrid zone, driven northward by
the Gulf-stream, the temperature of which is from 21 to 22.5
degrees (17 to 18 degrees R.). in these latitudes, the caloric is
distributed in a singular manner throughout the ocean; the waters
of the bank are 9.4 degrees colder than the neighbouring sea; and
this sea is 3 degrees colder than the current. These zones can have
no equilibrium of temperature, having a source of heat, or a cause
of refrigeration, which is peculiar to each, and the influence of
which is permanent.

From the bank of Newfoundland, or from the 52nd degree of longitude
to the Azores, the Gulf-stream continues its course to east and
east-south-east. The waters are still acted upon by the impulsion
they received near a thousand leagues distance, in the straits of
Florida, between the island of Cuba and the shoals of Tortoise
Island. This distance is double the length of the course of the
river Amazon, from Jaen or the straits of Manseriche to Grand Para.
On the meridian of the islands of Corvo and Flores, the most
western of the group of the Azores, the breadth of the current is
160 leagues. When vessels, on their return from South America to
Europe, endeavour to make these two islands to rectify their
longitude, they are always sensible of the motion of the waters to
south-east. At the 33rd degree of latitude the equinoctial current
of the tropics is in the near vicinity of the Gulf-stream. In this
part of the ocean, we may in a single day pass from waters that
flow towards the west, into those which run to the south-east or

From the Azores, the current of Florida turns towards the straits
of Gibraltar, the isle of Madeira, and the group of the Canary
Islands. The opening of the Pillars of Hercules has no doubt
accelerated the motion of the waters towards the east. We may in
this point of view assert, that the strait, by which the
Mediterranean communicates with the Atlantic, produces its effects
at a great distance; but it is probable also, that, without the
existence of this strait, vessels sailing to Teneriffe would be
driven south-east by a cause which we must seek on the coasts of
the New World. Every motion is the cause of another motion in the
vast basin of the seas as well as in the aerial ocean. Tracing the
currents to their most distant sources, and reflecting on their
variable celerity, sometimes decreasing as between the gulf of
Florida and the bank of Newfoundland; at other times augmenting, as
in the neighbourhood of the straits of Gibraltar, and near the
Canary Islands, we cannot doubt but the same cause which impels the
waters to make the circuitous sweep of the gulf of Mexico, agitates
them also near the island of Madeira.

On the south of that island, we may follow the current, in its
direction south-east and south-south-east towards the coast of
Africa, between Cape Cantin and Cape Bojador. In those latitudes a
vessel becalmed is running on the coast, while, according to the
uncorrected reckoning, it was supposed to be a good distance out at
sea. Were the motion of the waters caused by the opening at the
straits of Gibraltar, why, on the south of those straits, should it
not follow an opposite direction? On the contrary, in the 25th and
26th degrees of latitude, the current flows at first direct south,
and then south-west. Cape Blanc, which, after Cape Verd, is the
most salient promontory, seems to have an influence on this
direction, and in this parallel the waters, of which we have
followed the course from the coasts of Honduras to those of Africa,
mingle with the great current of the tropics to resume their tour
from east to west. Several hundred leagues westward of the Canary
Islands, the motion peculiar to the equinoctial waters is felt in
the temperate zone from the 28th and 29th degrees of north
latitude; but on the meridian of the island of Ferro, vessels sail
southward as far as the tropic of Cancer, before they find
themselves, by their reckoning, eastward of their right course.* (*
See Humboldt's Cosmos volume 1 page 312 Bohn's edition.)

We have just seen that between the parallels of 11 and 43 degrees,
the waters of the Atlantic are driven by the currents in a
continual whirlpool. Supposing that a molecule of water returns to
the same place from which it departed, we can estimate, from our
present knowledge of the swiftness of currents, that this circuit
of 3800 leagues is not terminated in less than two years and ten
months. A boat, which may be supposed to receive no impulsion from
the winds, would require thirteen months to go from the Canary
Islands to the coast of Caracas, ten months to make the tour of the
gulf of Mexico and reach Tortoise Shoals opposite the port of the
Havannah, while forty or fifty days might be sufficient to carry it
from the straits of Florida to the bank of Newfoundland. It would
be difficult to fix the rapidity of the retrograde current from
this bank to the shores of Africa; estimating the mean velocity of
the waters at seven or eight miles in twenty-four hours, we may
allow ten or eleven months for this last distance. Such are the
effects of the slow but regular motion which agitates the waters of
the Atlantic. Those of the river Amazon take nearly forty-five days
to flow from Tomependa to Grand Para.

A short time before my arrival at Teneriffe, the sea had left in
the road of Santa Cruz the trunk of a cedrela odorata covered with
the bark. This American tree vegetates within the tropics, or in
the neighbouring regions. It had no doubt been torn up on the coast
of the continent, or of that of Honduras. The nature of the wood,
and the lichens which covered its bark, bore evidence that this
trunk had not belonged to these submarine forests which ancient
revolutions of the globe have deposited in the polar regions. If
the cedrela, instead of having been cast on the strand of
Teneriffe, had been carried farther south, It would probably have
made the whole tour of the Atlantic, and returned to its native
soil with the general current of the tropics. This conjecture is
supported by a fact of more ancient date, recorded in the history
of the Canaries by the abbe Viera. In 1770, a small vessel laden
with corn, and bound from the island of Lancerota, to Santa Cruz,
in Teneriffe, was driven out to sea, while none of the crew were on
board. The motion of the waters from east to west, carried it to
America, where it went on shore at La Guayra, near Caracas.

Whilst the art of navigation was yet in its infancy, the
Gulf-stream suggested to the mind of Christopher Columbus certain
indications of the existence of western regions. Two corpses, the
features of which indicated a race of unknown men, were cast ashore
on the Azores, towards the end of the 15th century. Nearly at the
same period, the brother-in-law of Columbus, Peter Correa, governor
of Porto Santo, found on the strand of that island pieces of bamboo
of extraordinary size, brought thither by the western currents. The
dead bodies and the bamboos attracted the attention of the Genoese
navigator, who conjectured that both came from a continent situate
towards the west. We now know that in the torrid zone the
trade-winds and the current of the tropics are in opposition to
every motion of the waves in the direction of the earth's rotation.
The productions of the new world cannot reach the old but by the
very high latitudes, and in following the direction of the current
of Florida. The fruits of several trees of the Antilles are often
washed ashore on the coasts of the islands of Ferro and Gomera.
Before the discovery of America, the Canarians considered these
fruits as coming from the enchanted isle of St. Borondon, which
according to the reveries of pilots, and certain legends, was
situated towards the west in an unknown part of the ocean, buried,
as was supposed, in eternal mists.

My chief view in tracing a sketch of the currents of the Atlantic
is to prove that the motion of the waters towards the south-east,
from Cape St. Vincent to the Canary Islands, is the effect of the
general motion to which the surface of the ocean is subjected at
its western extremity. We shall give but a very succinct account of
the arm of the Gulf-stream, which in the 45th and 50th degrees of
latitude, near the bank called the Bonnet Flamand, runs from
south-west to north-east towards the coasts of Europe. This partial
current becomes very strong at those times when the west winds are
of long continuance: and, like that which flows along the isles of
Ferro and Gomera, it deposits every year on the western coasts of
Ireland and Norway the fruit of trees which belong to the torrid
zone of America. On the shores of the Hebrides, we collect seeds of
Mimosa scandens, of Dolichos urens, of Guilandina bonduc, and
several other plants of Jamaica, the isle of Cuba, and of the
neighbouring continent. The current carries thither also barrels of
French wine, well preserved, the remains of the cargoes of vessels
wrecked in the West Indian seas. To these examples of the distant
migration of the vegetable world, others no less striking may be
added. The wreck of an English vessel, the Tilbury, burnt near
Jamaica, was found on the coast of Scotland. On these same coasts
are sometimes found various kinds of tortoises, that inhabit the
waters of the Antilles. When the western winds are of long
duration, a current is formed in the high latitudes, which runs
directly towards east-south-east, from the coasts of Greenland and
Labrador, as far as the north of Scotland. Wallace relates, that
twice (in 1682 and 1684), American savages of the race of the
Esquimaux, driven out to sea in their leathern canoes, during a
storm, and left to the guidance of the currents, reached the
Orkneys. This last example is the more worthy of attention, as it
proves at the same time how, at a period when the art of navigation
was yet in its infancy, the motion of the waters of the ocean may
have contributed to disseminate the different races of men over the
face of the globe.

In reflecting on the causes of the Atlantic currents, we find that
they are much more numerous than is generally believed; for the
waters of the sea may be put in motion by an external impulse, by
difference of heat and saltness, by the periodical melting of the
polar ice, or by the inequality of evaporation, in different
latitudes. Sometimes several of these causes concur to one and the
same effect, and sometimes they produce several contrary effects.
Winds that are light, but which, like the trade-winds, are
continually acting on the whole of a zone, cause a real movement of
transition, which we do not observe in the heaviest tempests,
because these last are circumscribed within a small space. When, in
a great mass of water, the particles at the surface acquire a
different specific gravity, a superficial current is formed, which
takes its direction towards the point where the water is coldest,
or where it is most saturated with muriate of soda, sulphate of
lime, and muriate or sulphate of magnesia. In the seas of the
tropics we find, that at great depths the thermometer marks 7 or 8
centesimal degrees. Such is the result of the numerous experiments
of commodore Ellis and of M. Peron. The temperature of the air in
those latitudes being never below 19 or 20 degrees, it is not at
the surface that the waters can have acquired a degree of cold so
near the point of congelation, and of the maximum of the density of
water. The existence of this cold stratum in the low latitudes is
an evident proof of the existence of an under-current, which runs
from the poles towards the equator: it also proves that the saline
substances which alter the specific gravity of the water, are
distributed in the ocean, so as not to annihilate the effect
produced by the differences of temperature.

Considering the velocity of the molecules, which, on account of the
rotatory motion of the globe, vary with the parallels, we may be
tempted to admit that every current, in the direction from south to
north, tends at the same time eastward, while the waters which run
from the pole towards the equator, have a tendency to deviate
westward. We may also be led to think that these tendencies
diminish to a certain point the speed of the tropical current, in
the same manner as they change the direction of the polar current,
which in July and August, is regularly perceived during the melting
of the ice, on the parallel of the bank of Newfoundland, and
farther north. Very old nautical observations, which I have had
occasion to confirm by comparing the longitude given by the
chronometer with that which the pilots obtained by their reckoning,
are, however, contrary to these theoretical ideas. In both
hemispheres, the polar currents, when they are perceived, decline a
little to the east; and it would seem that the cause of this
phenomenon should be sought in the constancy of the westerly winds
which prevail in the high latitudes. Besides, the particles of
water do not move with the same rapidity as the particles of air;
and the currents of the ocean, which we consider as most rapid,
have only a swiftness of eight or nine feet a second; it is
consequently very probable, that the water, in passing through
different parallels, gradually acquires a velocity correspondent to
those parallels, and that the rotation of the earth does not change
the direction of the currents.

The variable pressure on the surface of the sea, caused by the
changes in the weight of the air, is another cause of motion which
deserves particular attention. It is well known, that the
barometric variations do not in general take place at the same
moment in two distant points, which are on the same level. If in
one of these points the barometer stands a few lines lower than in
the other, the water will rise where it finds the least pressure of
air, and this local intumescence will continue, till, from the
effect of the wind, the equilibrium of the air is restored. M.
Vaucher thinks that the tides in the lake of Geneva, known by the
name of the seiches, arise from the same cause. We know not whether
it be the same, when the movement of progression, which must not be
confounded with the oscillation of the waves, is the effect of an
external impulse. M. de Fleurieu, in his narrative of the voyage of
the Isis, cites several facts, which render it probable that the
sea is not so still at the bottom as naturalists generally suppose.
Without entering here into a discussion of this question, we shall
only observe that, if the external impulse is constant in its
action, like that of the trade-winds, the friction of the particles
of water on each other must necessarily propagate the motion of the
surface of the ocean even to the lower strata; and in fact this
propagation in the Gulf-stream has long been admitted by
navigators, who think they discover the effects in the great depth
of the sea wherever it is traversed by the current of Florida, even
amidst the sand-banks which surround the northern coasts of the
United States. This immense river of hot waters, after a course of
fifty days, from the 24th to the 45th degree of latitude, or 450
leagues, does not lose, amidst the rigours of winter in the
temperate zone, more than 3 or 4 degrees of the temperature it had
under the tropics. The greatness of the mass, and the small
conductibility of water for heat, prevent a more speedy
refrigeration. If, therefore, the Gulf-stream has dug a channel at
the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, and if its waters are in motion
to considerable depths, they must also in their inferior strata
keep up a lower temperature than that observed in the same
parallel, in a part of the sea which has neither currents nor deep
shoals. These questions can be cleared up only by direct
experiments, made by thermometrical soundings.

Sir Erasmus Gower remarks, that, in the passage from England to the
Canary islands, the current, which carries vessels towards the
south-east, begins at the 39th degree of latitude. During our
voyage from Corunna to the coast of South America, the effect of
this motion of the waters was perceived farther north. From the
37th to the 30th degree, the deviation was very unequal; the daily
average effect was 12 miles, that is, our sloop drove towards the
east 75 miles in six days. In crossing the parallel of the straits
of Gibraltar, at a distance of 140 leagues, we had occasion to
observe, that in those latitudes the maximum of the rapidity does
not correspond with the mouth of the straits, but with a more
northerly point, which lies on the prolongation of a line passing
through the strait and Cape St. Vincent. This line is parallel to
the direction which the waters follow from the Azores to Cape
Cantin. We should moreover observe (and this fact is not
uninteresting to those who examine the nature of fluids), that in
this part of the retrograde current, on a breadth of 120 or 140
leagues, the whole mass of water has not the same rapidity, nor
does it follow precisely the same direction. When the sea is
perfectly calm, there appears at the surface narrow stripes, like
small rivulets, in which the waters run with a murmur very sensible
to the ear of an experienced pilot. On the 13th of June, in 34
degrees 36 minutes north latitude, we found ourselves in the midst
of a great number of these beds of currents. We took their
direction with the compass, and some ran north-east, others
east-north-east, though the general movement of the ocean,
indicated by comparing the reckoning with the chronometrical
longitude, continued to be south-east. It is very common to see a
mass of motionless waters crossed by threads of water, which run in
different directions, and we may daily observe this phenomenon on
the surface of lakes; but it is much less frequent to find partial
movements, impressed by local causes on small portions of waters in
the midst of an oceanic river, which occupies an immense space, and
which moves, though slowly, in a constant direction. In the
conflict of currents, as in the oscillation of the waves, our
imagination is struck by those movements which seem to penetrate
each other, and by which the ocean is continually agitated.

We passed Cape St. Vincent, which is of basaltic formation, at the
distance of more than eighty leagues. It is not distinctly seen at
a greater distance than 15 leagues, but the granitic mountain
called the Foya de Monchique, situated near the Cape, is
perceptible, as pilots allege, at the distance of 26 leagues. If
this assertion be exact, the Foya is 700 toises (1363 metres), and
consequently 116 toises (225 metres) higher than Vesuvius.

From Corunna to the 36th degree of latitude we had scarcely seen
any organic being, excepting sea-swallows and a few dolphins. We
looked in vain for sea-weeds (fuci) and mollusca, when on the 11th
of June we were struck with a curious sight which afterwards was
frequently renewed in the southern ocean. We entered on a zone
where the whole sea was covered with a prodigious quantity of
medusas. The vessel was almost becalmed, but the mollusca were
borne towards the south-east, with a rapidity four times greater
than the current. Their passage lasted near three quarters of an
hour. We then perceived but a few scattered individuals, following
the crowd at a distance as if tired with their journey. Do these
animals come from the bottom of the sea, which is perhaps in these
latitudes some thousand fathoms deep? or do they make distant
voyages in shoals? We know that the mollusca haunt banks; and if
the eight rocks, near the surface, which captain Vobonne mentions
having seen in 1732, to the north of Porto Santo, really exist, we
may suppose that this innumerable quantity of medusas had been
thence detached; for we were but 28 leagues from the reef. We
found, beside the Medusa aurita of Baster, and the Medusa pelagica
of Bosc with eight tentacula (Pelagia denticulata, Peron), a third
species which resembles the Medusa hysocella, and which Vandelli
found at the mouth of the Tagus. It is known by its brownish-yellow
colour, and by its tentacula, which are longer than the body.
Several of these sea-nettles were four inches in diameter: their
reflection was almost metallic: their changeable colours of violet
and purple formed an agreeable contrast with the azure tint of the

In the midst of these medusas M. Bonpland observed bundles of
Dagysa notata, a mollusc of a singular construction, which Sir
Joseph Banks first discovered. These are small gelatinous bags,
transparent, cylindrical, sometimes polygonal, thirteen lines long
and two or three in diameter. These bags are open at both ends. In
one of these openings, we observed a hyaline bladder, marked with a
yellow spot. The cylinders lie longitudinally, one against another,
like the cells of a bee-hive, and form chaplets from six to eight
inches in length. I tried the galvanic electricity on these
mollusca, but it produced no contraction. It appears that the genus
dagysa, formed at the time of Cook's first voyage, belongs to the
salpas (biphores of Bruguiere), to which M. Cuvier joins the Thalia
of Brown, and the Tethys vagina of Tilesius. The salpas journey
also by groups, joining in chaplets, as we have observed of the

On the morning of the 13th of June, in 34 degrees 33 minutes
latitude, we saw large masses of this last mollusc in its passage,
the sea being perfectly calm. We observed during the night, that,
of three species of medusas which we collected, none yielded any
light but at the moment of a very slight shock. This property does
not belong exclusively to the Medusa noctiluca, which Forskael has
described in his Fauna Aegyptiaca, and which Gmelin has applied to
the Medusa pelagica of Loefling, notwithstanding its red tentacula,
and the brownish tuberosities of its body. If we place a very
irritable medusa on a pewter plate, and strike against the plate
with any sort of metal, the slight vibrations of the plate are
sufficient to make this animal emit light. Sometimes, in
galvanising the medusa, the phosphorescence appears at the moment
that the chain closes, though the exciters are not in immediate
contact with the organs of the animal. The fingers with which we
touch it remain luminous for two or three minutes, as is observed
in breaking the shell of the pholades. If we rub wood with the body
of a medusa, and the part rubbed ceases shining, the
phosphorescence returns if we pass a dry hand over the wood. When
the light is extinguished a second time, it can no longer be
reproduced, though the place rubbed be still humid and viscous. In
what manner ought we to consider the effect of the friction, or
that of the shock? This is a question of difficult solution. Is it
a slight augmentation of temperature which favours the
phosphorescence? or does the light return, because the surface is
renewed, by putting the animal parts proper to disengage the
phosphoric hydrogen in contact with the oxygen of the atmospheric
air? I have proved by experiments published in 1797, that the
shining of wood is extinguished in hydrogen gas, and in pure azotic
gas, and that its light reappears whenever we mix with it the
smallest bubble of oxygen gas. These facts, to which several others
may be added, tend to explain the causes of the phosphorescence of
the sea, and of that peculiar influence which the shock of the
waves exercises on the production of light.

When we were between the island of Madeira and the coast of Africa,
we had slight breezes and dead calms, very favourable for the
magnetic observations, which occupied me during this passage. We
were never weary of admiring the beauty of the nights; nothing can
be compared to the transparency and serenity of an African sky. We
were struck with the innumerable quantity of falling stars, which
appeared at every instant. The farther progress we made towards the
south, the more frequent was this phenomenon, especially near the
Canaries. I have observed during my travels, that these igneous
meteors are in general more common and luminous in some regions of
the globe than in others; but I have never beheld them so
multiplied as in the vicinity of the volcanoes of the province of
Quito, and in that part of the Pacific ocean which bathes the
volcanic coasts of Guatimala. The influence which place, climate,
and season appear to exercise on the falling stars, distinguishes
this class of meteors from those to which we trace stones that drop
from the sky (aerolites), and which probably exist beyond the
boundaries of our atmosphere. According to the observations of
Messrs. Benzenberg and Brandes, many of the falling stars seen in
Europe have been only thirty thousand toises high. One was even
measured which did not exceed fourteen thousand toises, or five
nautical leagues. These measures, which can give no result but by
approximation, deserve well to be repeated. In warm climates,
especially within the tropics, falling stars leave a tail behind
them, which remains luminous 12 or 15 seconds: at other times they
seem to burst into sparks, and they are generally lower than those
in the north of Europe. We perceive them only in a serene and azure
sky; they have perhaps never been below a cloud. Falling stars
often follow the same direction for several hours, which direction
is that of the wind. In the bay of Naples, M. Gay-Lussac and myself
observed luminous phenomena very analogous to those which fixed my
attention during a long abode at Mexico and Quito. These meteors
are perhaps modified by the nature of the soil and the air, like
certain effects of the looming or mirage, and of the terrestrial
refraction peculiar to the coasts of Calabria and Sicily.

When we were forty leagues east of the island of Madeira, a
swallow* (* Hirundo rustica, Linn.) perched on the topsail-yard. It
was so fatigued, that it suffered itself to be easily taken. It was
remarkable that a bird, in that season, and in calm weather, should
fly so far. In the expedition of d'Entrecasteaux, a common swallow
was seen 60 leagues distant from Cape Blanco; but this was towards
the end of October, and M. Labillardiere thought it had newly
arrived from Europe. We crossed these latitudes in June, at a
period when the seas had not for a long time been agitated by
tempests. I mention this last circumstance, because small birds and
even butterflies, are sometimes forced out to sea by the
impetuosity of the winds, as we observed in the Pacific ocean, when
we were on the western coast of Mexico.

The Pizarro had orders to touch at the isle of Lancerota, one of
the seven great Canary Islands; and at five in the afternoon of the
16th of June, that island appeared so distinctly in view that I was
able to take the angle of altitude of a conic mountain, which
towered majestically over the other summits, and which we thought
was the great volcano which had occasioned such devastation on the
night of the 1st of September, 1730.

The current drew us toward the coast more rapidly than we wished.
As we advanced, we discovered at first the island of Forteventura,
famous for its numerous camels;* (* These camels, which serve for
labour, and sometimes for food, did not exist till the Bethencourts
made the conquest of the Canaries. In the sixteenth century, asses
were so abundant in the island of Forteventura, that they became
wild and were hunted. Several thousands were killed to save the
harvest. The horses of Forteventura are of singular beauty, and of
the Barbary race.--"Noticias de la Historia General de las Islas
Canarias" por Don Jose de Viera, tome 2 page 436.) and a short time
after we saw the small island of Lobos in the channel which
separates Forteventura from Lancerota. We spent part of the night
on deck. The moon illumined the volcanic summits of Lancerota, the
flanks of which, covered with ashes, reflected a silver light.
Antares threw out its resplendent rays near the lunar disk, which
was but a few degrees above the horizon. The night was beautifully
serene and cool. Though we were but a little distance from the
African coast, and on the limit of the torrid zone, the centigrade
thermometer rose no higher than 18 degrees. The phosphorescence of
the ocean seemed to augment the mass of light diffused through the
air. After midnight, great black clouds rising behind the volcano
shrouded at intervals the moon and the beautiful constellation of
the Scorpion. We beheld lights carried to and fro on shore, which
were probably those of fishermen preparing for their labours. We
had been occasionally employed, during our passage, in reading the
old voyages of the Spaniards, and these moving lights recalled to
our fancy those which Pedro Gutierrez, page of Queen Isabella, saw
in the isle of Guanahani, on the memorable night of the discovery
of the New World.

On the 17th, in the morning, the horizon was foggy, and the sky
slightly covered with vapour. The outlines of the mountains of
Lancerota appeared stronger: the humidity, increasing the
transparency of the air, seemed at the same time to have brought
the objects nearer our view. This phenomenon is well known to all
who have made hygrometrical observations in places whence the chain
of the Higher Alps or of the Andes is seen. We passed through the
channel which divides the isle of Alegranza from Montana Clara,
taking soundings the whole way; and we examined the archipelago of
small islands situated northward of Lancerota. In the midst of this
archipelago, which is seldom visited by vessels bound for
Teneriffe, we were singularly struck with the configuration of the
coasts. We thought ourselves transported to the Euganean mountains
in the Vicentin, or the banks of the Rhine near Bonn. The form of
organized beings varies according to the climate, and it is that
extreme variety which renders the study of the geography of plants
and animals so attractive; but rocks, more ancient perhaps than the
causes which have produced the difference of the climate on the
globe, are the same in both hemispheres. The porphyries containing
vitreous feldspar and hornblende, the phonolite, the greenstone,
the amygdaloids, and the basalt, have forms almost as invariable as
simple crystallized substances. In the Canary Islands, and in the
mountains of Auvergne, in the Mittelgebirge in Bohemia, in Mexico,
and on the banks of the Ganges, the formation of trap is indicated
by a symmetrical disposition of the mountains, by truncated cones,
sometimes insulated, sometimes grouped, and by elevated plains,
both extremities of which are crowned by a conical rising.

The whole western part of Lancerota, of which we had a near view,
bears the appearance of a country recently convulsed by volcanic
eruptions. Everything is black, parched, and stripped of vegetable
mould. We distinguished, with our glasses, stratified basalt in
thin and steeply-sloping strata. Several hills resembled the Monte
Novo, near Naples, or those hillocks of scoria and ashes which the
opening earth threw up in a single night at the foot of the volcano
of Jorullo, in Mexico. In fact, the abbe Viera relates, that in
1730, more than half the island changed its appearance. The great
volcano, which we have just mentioned, and which the inhabitants
call the volcano of Temanfaya, spread desolation over a most
fertile and highly cultivated region: nine villages were entirely
destroyed by the lavas. This catastrophe had been preceded by a
tremendous earthquake, and for several years shocks equally violent
were felt. This last phenomenon is so much the more singular, as it
seldom happens after an eruption, when the elastic vapours have
found vent by the crater, after the ejection of the melted matter.
The summit of the great volcano is a rounded hill, but not entirely
conic. From the angles of altitude which I took at different
distances, its absolute elevation did not appear to exceed three
hundred toises. The neighbouring hills, and those of Alegranza and
Isla Clara, were scarcely above one hundred or one hundred and
twenty toises. We may be surprised at the small elevation of these
summits, which, viewed from the sea, wear so majestic a form; but
nothing is more uncertain than our judgment on the greatness of
angles, which are subtended by objects close to the horizon. From
illusions of this sort it arose, that before the measures of
Messrs. de Churruca and Galleano, at Cape Pilar, navigators
considered the mountains of the straits of Magellan, and those of
Terra del Fuego, to be extremely elevated.

The island of Lancerota bore formerly the name of Titeroigotra. On
the arrival of the Spaniards, its inhabitants were distinguished
from the other Canarians by marks of greater civilization. Their
houses were built with freestone, while the Guanches of Teneriffe
dwelt in caverns. At Lancerota, a very singular custom prevailed at
that time, of which we find no example except among the people of
Thibet. A woman had several husbands, who alternately enjoyed the
prerogatives due to the head of a family. A husband was considered
as such only during a lunar revolution, and whilst his rights were
exercised by others, he remained classed among the household
domestics. In the fifteenth century the island of Lancerota
contained two small distinct states, divided by a wall; a kind of
monument which outlives national enmities, and which we find in
Scotland, in China, and Peru.

We were forced by the winds to pass between the islands of
Alegranza and Montana Clara, and as none on board the sloop had
sailed through this passage, we were obliged to be continually
sounding. We found from twenty-five to thirty-two fathoms. The lead
brought up an organic substance of so singular a structure that we
were for a long time doubtful whether it was a zoophyte or a kind
of seaweed. The stem, of a brownish colour and three inches long,
has circular leaves with lobes, and indented at the edges. The
colour of these leaves is a pale green, and they are membranous and
streaked like those of the adiantums and Gingko biloba. Their
surface is covered with stiff whitish hairs; before their opening
they are concave, and enveloped one in the other. We observed no
mark of spontaneous motion, no sign of irritability, not even on
the application of galvanic electricity. The stem is not woody, but
almost of a horny substance, like the stem of the Gorgons. Azote
and phosphorus having been abundantly found in several cryptogamous
plants, an appeal to chemistry would be useless to determine
whether this organized substance belonged to the animal or
vegetable kingdom. Its great analogy to several sea-plants, with
adiantum leaves, especially the genus caulerpa of M. Lamoureux, of
which the Fucus proliter of Forskael is one of the numerous
species, engaged us to rank it provisionally among the sea-wracks,
and give it the name of Fucus vitifolius. The bristles which cover
this plant are found in several other fuci.* (* Fucus
lycopodioides, and F. hirsutus.) The leaf, examined with a
microscope at the instant we drew it up from the water, did not
present, it is true, those conglobate glands, or those opaque
points, which the parts of fructification in the genera of ulva and
fucus contain; but how often do we find seaweeds in such a state
that we cannot yet distinguish any trace of seeds in their
transparent parenchyma.

The vine-leaved fucus presents a physiological phenomenon of the
greatest interest. Fixed to a piece of madrepore, this seaweed
vegetates at the bottom of the ocean, at the depth of 192 feet,
notwithstanding which we found its leaves as green as those of our
grasses. According to the experiments of Bouguer, light is weakened
after a passage of 180 feet in the ratio of 1 to 1477.8. The
seaweed of Alegranza consequently presents a new example of plants
which vegetate in great obscurity without becoming white. Several
germs, enveloped in the bulbs of the lily tribes, the embryo of the
malvaceae, of the rhamnoides, of the pistacea, the viscum, and the
citrus, the branches of some subterraneous plants; in short,
vegetables transported into mines, where the ambient air contains
hydrogen or a great quantity of azote, become green without light.
From these facts we are inclined to admit that it is not
exclusively by the influence of the solar rays that this carburet
of hydrogen is formed in the organs of plants, the presence of
which makes the parenchyma appear of a lighter or darker green,
according as the carbon predominates in the mixture.

Mr. Turner, who has so well made known the family of the seaweeds,
as well as many other celebrated botanists, are of opinion that
most of the fuci which we gather on the surface of the ocean, and
which, from the 23rd to the 35th degree of latitude and 32nd of
longitude, appear to the mariner like a vast inundated meadow, grow
primitively at the bottom of the ocean, and float only in their
ripened state, when torn up by the motion of the waves. If this
opinion be well founded, we must agree that the family of seaweeds
offers formidable difficulties to naturalists, who persist in
thinking that absence of light always produces whiteness; for how
can we admit that so many species of ulvaceae and dictyoteae, with
stems and green leaves, which float on the ocean, have vegetated on
rocks near the surface of the water?

From some notions which the captain of the Pizarro had collected in
an old Portuguese itinerary, he thought himself opposite to a small
fort, situated north of Teguisa, the capital of the island of
Lancerota. Mistaking a rock of basalt for a castle, he saluted it
by hoisting the Spanish flag, and sent a boat with an officer to
inquire of the commandant whether any English vessels were cruising
in the roads. We were not a little surprised to learn that the land
which we had considered as a prolongation of the coast of
Lancerota, was the small island of Graciosa, and that for several
leagues there was not an inhabited place. We took advantage of the
boat to survey the land, which enclosed a large bay.

The small part of the island of Graciosa which we traversed,
resembles those promontories of lava seen near Naples, between
Portici and Torre del Greco. The rocks are naked, with no marks of
vegetation, and scarcely any of vegetable soil. A few crustaceous
lichen-like variolariae, leprariae, and urceorariae, were scattered
about upon the basalts. The lavas which are not covered with
volcanic ashes remain for ages without any appearance of
vegetation. On the African soil excessive heat and lengthened
drought retard the growth of cryptogamous plants.

The basalts of Graciosa are not in columns, but are divided into
strata ten or fifteen inches thick. These strata are inclined at an
angle of 80 degrees to the north-west. The compact basalt
alternates with the strata of porous basalt and marl. The rock does
not contain hornblende, but great crystals of foliated olivine,
which have a triple cleavage.* (* Blaettriger olivin.) This
substance is decomposed with great difficulty. M. Hauy considers it
a variety of the pyroxene. The porous basalt, which passes into
mandelstein, has oblong cavities from two to eight lines in
diameter, lined with chalcedony, enclosing fragments of compact
basalt. I did not remark that these cavities had the same
direction, or that the porous rock lay on compact strata, as
happens in the currents of lava of Etna and Vesuvius. The marl,* (*
Mergel.) which alternates more than a hundred times with the
basalts, is yellowish, friable by decomposition, very coherent in
the inside, and often divided into irregular prisms, analogous to
the basaltic prisms. The sun discolours their surface, as it
whitens several schists, by reviving a hydro-carburetted principle,
which appears to be combined with the earth. The marl of Graciosa
contains a great quantity of chalk, and strongly effervesces with
nitric acid, even on points where it is found in contact with the
basalt. This fact is the more remarkable, as this substance does
not fill the fissures of the rock, but its strata are parallel to
those of the basalt; whence we may conclude that both fossils are
of the same formation, and have a common origin. The phenomenon of
a basaltic rock containing masses of indurated marl split into
small columns, is also found in the Mittelgebirge, in Bohemia.
Visiting those countries in 1792, in company with Mr. Freiesleben,
we even recognized in the marl of the Stiefelberg the imprint of a
plant nearly resembling the Cerastium, or the Alsine. Are these
strata, contained in the trappean mountains, owing to muddy
irruptions, or must we consider them as sediments of water, which
alternate with volcanic deposits? This last hypothesis seems so
much the less admissible, since, from the researches of Sir James
Hall on the influence of pressure in fusions, the existence of
carbonic acid in substances contained in basalt presents nothing
surprising. Several lavas of Vesuvius present similar phenomena. In
Lombardy, between Vicenza and Albano, where the calcareous stone of
the Jura contains great masses of basalt, I have seen the latter
enter into effervescence with the acids wherever it touches the
calcareous rock.

We had not time to reach the summit of a hill very remarkable for
having its base formed of banks of clay under strata of basalt,
like a mountain in Saxony, called the Scheibenbergen Hugel, which
is become celebrated on account of the disputes of volcanean and
neptunean geologists. These basalts were covered with a mammiform
substance, which I vainly sought on the Peak of Teneriffe, and
which is known by the names of volcanic glass, glass of Muller, or
hyalite: it is the transition from the opal to the chalcedony. We
struck off with difficulty some fine specimens, leaving masses that
were eight or ten inches square untouched. I never saw in Europe
such fine hyalites as I found in the island of Graciosa, and on the
rock of porphyry called el Penol de los Banos, on the bank of the
lake of Mexico.

Two kinds of sand cover the shore; one is black and basaltic, the
other white and quartzose. In a place exposed to the rays of the
sun, the first raised the thermometer to 51.2 degrees (41 degrees
R.) and the second to 40 degrees (32 degrees R.) The temperature of
the air in the shade was 27.7 or 7.5 degrees higher than that of
the air over the sea. The quartzose sand contains fragments of
feldspar. It is thrown back by the water, and forms, in some sort,
on the surface of the rocks, small islets on which seaweed
vegetates. Fragments of granite have been observed at Teneriffe;
the island of Gomora, from the details furnished me by M.
Broussonnet, contains a nucleus of micaceous schist:--the quartz
disseminated in the sand, which we found on the shore of Graciosa,
is a different substance from the lavas and the trappean porphyries
so intimately connected with volcanic productions. From these facts
it seems to be evident that in the Canary Islands, as well as on
the Andes of Quito, in Auvergne, in Greece, and throughout the
greater part of the globe, subterraneous fires have pierced through
the rocks of primitive formation. In treating hereafter of the
great number of warm springs which we have seen issuing from
granite, gneiss, and micaceous schist, we shall have occasion to
return to this subject, which is one of the most important of the
physical history of the globe.

We re-embarked at sunset, and hoisted sail, but the breeze was too
feeble to permit us to continue our course to Teneriffe. The sea
was calm; a reddish vapour covered the horizon, and seemed to
magnify every object. In this solitude, amidst so many uninhabited
islets, we enjoyed for a long time the view of rugged and wild
scenery. The black mountains of Graciosa appeared like
perpendicular walls five or six hundred feet high. Their shadows,
thrown over the surface of the ocean, gave a gloomy aspect to the
scenery. Rocks of basalt, emerging from the bosom of the waters,
wore the resemblance of the ruins of some vast edifice, and carried
our thoughts back to the remote period when submarine volcanoes
gave birth to new islands, or rent continents asunder. Every thing
which surrounded us seemed to indicate destruction and sterility;
but the back-ground of the picture, the coasts of Lancerota
presented a more smiling aspect. In a narrow pass between two
hills, crowned with scattered tufts of trees, marks of cultivation
were visible. The last rays of the sun gilded the corn ready for
the sickle. Even the desert is animated wherever we can discover a
trace of the industry of man.

We endeavoured to get out of this bay by the pass which separates
Alegranza from Montana Clara, and through which we had easily
entered to land at the northern point of Graciosa. The wind having
fallen, the currents drove us very near a rock, on which the sea
broke with violence, and which is noted in the old charts under the
name of Hell, or Infierno. As we examined this rock at the distance
of two cables' length, we found that it was a mass of lava three or
four toises high, full of cavities, and covered with scoriae
resembling coke. We may presume that this rock,* (* I must here
observe, that this rock is noted on the celebrated Venetian chart
of Andrea Bianco, but that the name of Infierno is given, as in the
more ancient chart of Picigano, made in 1367, to Teneriffe, without
doubt because the Guanches considered the peak as the entrance into
hell. In the same latitudes an island made its appearance in 1811.)
which modern charts call the West Rock (Roca del Oeste), was raised
by volcanic fire; and it might heretofore have been much higher;
for the new island of the Azores, which rose from the sea at
successive periods, in 1638 and 1719, had reached 354 feet when it
totally disappeared in 1723, to the depth of 480 feet. This opinion
on the origin of the basaltic mass of the Infierno is confirmed by
a phenomenon, which was observed about the middle of the last
century in these same latitudes. At the time of the eruption of the
volcano of Temanfaya, two pyramidal hills of lithoid lava rose from
the bottom of the ocean, and gradually united themselves with the
island of Lancerota.

As we were prevented by the fall of the wind, and by the currents,
from repassing the channel of Alegranza, we resolved on tacking
during the night between the island of Clara and the West Rock.
This resolution had nearly proved fatal. A calm is very dangerous
near this rock, towards which the current drives with considerable
force. We began to feel the effects of this current at midnight.
The proximity of the stony masses, which rise perpendicularly above
the water, deprived us of the little wind which blew: the sloop no
longer obeyed the helm, and we dreaded striking every instant. It
is difficult to conceive how a mass of basalt, insulated in the
vast expanse of the ocean, can cause so considerable a motion of
the waters. These phenomena, worthy the attention of naturalists,
are well known to mariners; they are extremely to be dreaded in the
Pacific ocean, particularly in the small archipelago of the islands
of Galapagos. The difference of temperature which exists between
the fluid and the mass of rocks does not explain the direction
which these currents take; and how can we admit that the water is
engulfed at the base of these rocks, (which often are not of
volcanic origin) and that this continual engulfing determines the
particles of water to fill up the vacuum that takes place.

The wind having freshened a little towards the morning on the 18th,
we succeeded in passing the channel. We drew very near the Infierno
the second time, and remarked the large crevices, through which the
gaseous fluids probably issued, when this basaltic mass was raised.
We lost sight of the small islands of Alegranza, Montana Clara, and
Graciosa, which appear never to have been inhabited by the
Guanches. They are now visited only for the purpose of gathering
archil, which production is, however, less sought after, since so
many other lichens of the north of Europe have been found to yield
materials proper for dyeing. Montana Clara is noted for its
beautiful canary-birds. The note of these birds varies with their
flocks, like that of our chaffinches, which often differs in two
neighbouring districts. Montana Clara yields pasture for goats, a
fact which proves that the interior of this islet is less arid than
its coasts. The name of Alegranza is synonymous with the Joyous,
(La Joyeuse,) which denomination it received from the first
conquerors of the Canary Islands, the two Norman barons, Jean de
Bethencourt and Gadifer de Salle. This was the first point on which
they landed. After remaining several days at Graciosa, a small part
of which we examined, they conceived the project of taking
possession of the neighbouring island of Lancerota, where they were
welcomed by Guadarfia, sovereign of the Guanches, with the same
hospitality that Cortez found in the palace of Montezuma. The
shepherd king, who had no other riches than his goats, became the
victim of base treachery, like the sultan of Mexico.

We sailed along the coasts of Lancerota, of the island of Lobos,
and of Forteventura. The second of these islands seems to have
anciently formed part of the two others. This geological hypothesis
was started in the seventeenth century by the Franciscan, Juan
Galindo. That writer supposed that king Juba had named six Canary
Islands only, because, in his time, three among them were
contiguous. Without admitting the probability of this hypothesis,
some learned geographers have imagined they recognized, in the two
islands Nivaria and Ombrios, the Canaria and Capraria of the

The haziness of the horizon prevented us, during the whole of our
passage from Lancerota to Teneriffe, from discovering the summit of
the peak of Teyde. If the height of this volcano is 1905 toises, as
the last trigonometrical measure of Borda indicates, its summit
ought to be visible at a distance of 43 leagues, supposing the eye
on a level with the ocean, and a refraction equal to 0.079 of
distance. It has been doubted whether the peak has ever been seen
from the channel which separates Lancerota from Forteventura, and
which is distant from the volcano, according to the chart of
Varela, 2 degrees 29 minutes, or nearly 50 leagues. This phenomenon
appears nevertheless to have been verified by several officers of
the Spanish navy. I had in my hand, on board the Pizarro, a
journal, in which it was noted, that the peak of Teneriffe had been
seen at 135 miles distance, near the southern cape of Lancerota,
called Pichiguera. Its summit was discovered under an angle
considerable enough to lead the observer, Don Manual Baruti, to
conclude that the volcano might have been visible at nine miles
farther. It was in September, towards evening, and in very damp
weather. Reckoning fifteen feet for the elevation of the eye, I
find, that to render an account of this phenomenon, we must suppose
a refraction equal to 0.158 of the arch, which is not very
extraordinary for the temperate zone. According to the observations
of General Roy, the refractions vary in England from one-twentieth
to one-third; and if it be true that they reach these extreme
limits on the coast of Africa, (which I much doubt,) the peak, in
certain circumstances, may be seen on the deck of a vessel as far
off as 61 leagues.

Navigators who have much frequented these latitudes, and who can
reflect on the physical causes of the phenomena, are surprised that
the peaks of Teyde and of the Azores* (* The height of this peak of
the Azores, according to Fleurieu, is 1100 toises; to Ferrer, 1238
toises; and to Tofino, 1260 toises: but these measures are only
approximative estimates. The captain of the Pizarro, Don Manuel
Cagigal, proved to me, by his journal, that he observed the peak of
the Azores at the distance of 37 leagues, when he was sure of his
latitude within two minutes. The volcano was seen at 4 degrees
south-east, so that the error in longitude must have an almost
imperceptible influence in the estimation of the distance.
Nevertheless, the angle which the peak of the Azores subtended was
so great, that the captain of the Pizarro was of opinion this
volcano must be visible at more than 40 or 42 leagues. The distance
of 37 leagues supposes an elevation of 1431 toises.) are sometimes
visible at a very great distance, though at other times they are
not seen when the distance is much less, and the sky appears serene
and the horizon free from fogs. These circumstances are the more
worthy of attention because vessels returning to Europe, sometimes
wait impatiently for a sight of these mountains, to rectify their
longitude; and think themselves much farther off than they really
are, when in fine weather these peaks are not perceptible at
distances where the angles subtended must be very considerable. The
constitution of the atmosphere has a great influence on the
visibility of distant objects. It may be admitted, that in general
the peak of Teneriffe is seldom seen at a great distance, in the
warm and dry months of July and August; and that, on the contrary,
it is seen at very extraordinary distances in the months of January
and February, when the sky is slightly clouded, and immediately
after a heavy rain, or a few hours before it falls. It appears that
the transparency of the air is prodigiously increased, as we have
already observed, when a certain quantity of water is uniformly
diffused through the atmosphere. Independent of these observations,
it is not astonishing, that the peak of Teyde should be seldomer
visible at a very remote distance, than the summits of the Andes,
to which, during so long a time, my observations were directed.
This peak, inferior in height to those parts of the chain of Mount
Atlas at the foot of which is the city of Morocco, is not, like
those points, covered with perpetual snows. The Piton, or
Sugar-loaf, which terminates the peak, no doubt reflects a great
quantity of light, owing to the whitish colour of the pumice-stone
thrown up by the crater; but the height of that little truncated
cone does not form a twenty-second part of the total elevation. The
flanks of the volcano are covered either with blocks of black and
scorified lava, or with a luxuriant vegetation, the masses of which
reflect the less light, as the leaves of the trees are separated
from each other by shadows of more considerable extent than that of
the part enlightened.

Hence it results that, setting aside the Piton, the peak of Teyde
belongs to that class of mountains, which, according to the
expression of Bouger, are seen at considerable distances only in a
NEGATIVE MANNER, because they intercept the light which is
transmitted to us from the extreme limits of the atmosphere; and we
perceive their existence only on account of the difference of
intensity subsisting between the aerial light which surrounds them,
and that which is reflected by the particles of air placed between
the mountains and the eye of the observer. As we withdraw from the
isle of Teneriffe, the Piton or Sugar-loaf is seen for a
considerable space of time in a POSITIVE MANNER, because it
reflects a whitish light, and clearly detaches itself from the sky.
But as this cone is only 80 toises high, by 40 in breadth at its
summit, it has recently been a question whether, from the
diminutiveness of its mass, it can be visible at distances which
exceed 40 leagues; and whether it be not probable, that navigators
distinguish the peaks as a small cloud above the horizon, only when
the base of the Piton begins to be visible on it. If we admit, that
the mean breadth of the Sugar-loaf is 100 toises, we find that the
little cone, at 40 leagues distance, still subtends, in the
horizontal direction, an angle of more than three minutes. This
angle is considerable enough to render an object visible; and if
the height of the Piton greatly exceeded its base, the angle in the
horizontal direction might be still smaller, and the object still
continue to make an impression on our visual organs; for
micrometrical observations have proved that the limit of vision is
but a minute only, when the dimensions of the objects are the same
in every direction. We distinguish at a distance, by the eye only,
trunks of trees insulated in a vast plain, though the subtended
angle be under twenty-five seconds.

As the visibility of an object detaching itself in a brown colour,
depends on the quantities of light which the eye meets on two
lines, one of which ends at the mountain, and the other extends to
the surface of the aerial ocean, it follows that the farther we
remove from the object, the smaller the difference becomes between
the light of the surrounding atmosphere, and that of the strata of
air before the mountain. For this reason, when less elevated
summits begin to appear above the horizon, they present themselves
at first under a darker hue than those we discern at very great
distances. In the same manner, the visibility of mountains seen
only in a negative manner, does not depend solely on the state of
the lower regions of the air, to which our meteorological
observations are limited, but also on the transparency and physical
constitution of the air in the most elevated parts; for the image
detaches itself better in proportion as the aerial light, which
comes from the limits of the atmosphere, has been originally more
intense, or has undergone less loss in its passage. This
consideration explains to a certain point, why, under a perfectly
serene sky, the state of the thermometer and the hygrometer being
precisely the same in the air nearest the earth, the peak is
sometimes visible, and at other times invisible, to navigators at
equal distances. It is even probable, that the chance of perceiving
this volcano would not be greater, if the ashy cone, at the summit
of which is the mouth of the crater, were equal, as in Vesuvius, to
a quarter of the total height. These ashes, being pumice-stone
crumbled into dust, do not reflect as much light as the snow of the
Andes; and they cause the mountain, seen from afar, to detach
itself not in a bright, but in a dark hue. The ashes also
contribute, if we may use the expression, to equalize the portions
of aerial light, the variable difference of which renders the
object more or less distinctly visible. Calcareous mountains,
devoid of vegetable earth, summits covered with granitic sand, the
high savannahs of the Cordilleras,* (* Los Pajonales, from paja,
straw. This is the name given to the region of the gramina, which
encircles the zone of the perpetual snows.) which are of a golden
yellow, are undoubtedly distinguished at small distances better
than objects which are seen in a negative manner; but the theory
indicates a certain limit, beyond which these last detach
themselves more distinctly from the azure vault of the sky.

The colossal summits of Quito and Peru, towering above the limit of
the perpetual snows, concentre all the peculiarities which must
render them visible at very small angles. The circular summit of
the peak of Teneriffe is only a hundred toises in diameter.
According to the measures I made at Riobamba, in 1803, the dome of
the Chimborazo, 153 toises below its summit, consequently in a
point which is 1300 toises higher than the peak, is still 673
toises (1312 metres) in breadth. The zone of perpetual snows also
forms a fourth of the height of the mountain; and the base of this
zone, seen on the coast of the Pacific, fills an extent of 3437
toises (6700 metres). But though Chimborazo is two-thirds higher
than the peak, we do not see it, on account of the curve of the
globe, at more than 38 miles and a third farther distant. The
radiant brilliancy of its snows, when, at the port of Guayaquil, at
the close of the rainy season, Chimborazo is discerned on the
horizon, may lead us to suppose, that it must be seen at a very
great distance in the South Sea. Pilots highly worthy of credit
have assured me, that they have seen it from the rock of Muerto, to
the south west of the isle of Puna, at a distance of 47 leagues.
Whenever it has been seen at a greater distance, the observers,
uncertain of their longitude, have not been in a situation to
furnish precise data.

Aerial light, projected on mountains, increases the visibility of
those which are seen positively; its power diminishes, on the
contrary, the visibility of objects which, like the peak of
Teneriffe and that of the Azores, detach themselves in a brown
tint. Bouguer, relying on theoretical considerations, was of
opinion that, according to the constitution of our atmosphere,
mountains seen negatively cannot be perceived at distances
exceeding 35 leagues. It is important here to observe, that these
calculations are contrary to experience. The peak of Teneriffe has
been often seen at the distance of 36, 38, and even at 40 leagues.
Moreover, in the vicinity of the Sandwich Islands, the summit of
Mowna-Roa, at a season when it was without snows, has been seen on
the skirt of the horizon, at the distance of 53 leagues. This is
the most striking example we have hitherto known of the visibility
of a mountain; and it is the more remarkable, that an object seen
negatively furnishes this example.

The volcanoes of Teneriffe, and of the Azores, the Sierra Nevada of
Santa Martha, the peak of Orizaba, the Silla of Caracas, Mowna-Roa,
and Mount St. Elias, insulated in the vast extent of the seas, or
placed on the coasts of continents, serve as sea-marks to direct
the pilot, when he has no means of determining the position of the
vessel by the observation of the stars; everything which has a
relation to the visibility of these natural seamarks, is
interesting to the safety of navigation.



From the time of our departure from Graciosa, the horizon continued
so hazy, that, notwithstanding the considerable height of the
mountains of Canary,* (* Isla de la Gran Canaria.) we did not
discover that island till the evening of the 18th of June. It is
the granary of the archipelago of the Fortunate Islands; and, what
is very remarkable in a region situated beyond the limits of the
tropics, we were assured, that in some districts, there are two
wheat harvests in the year; one in February, and the other in June.
Canary has never been visited by a learned mineralogist; yet this
island is so much the more worthy of observation, as the
physiognomy of its mountains, disposed in parallel chains, appeared
to me to differ entirely from that of the summits of Lancerota and
Teneriffe. Nothing is more interesting to the geologist, than to
observe the relations, on the same point of the globe, between
volcanic countries, and those which are primitive or secondary.
When the Canary Islands shall have been examined, in all the parts
which compose the system of these mountains, we shall find that we
have been too precipitate in considering the whole group as raised
by the action of submarine fires.

On the morning of the 19th, we discovered the point of Naga, but
the peak of Teneriffe was still invisible: the land, obscured by a
thick mist, presented forms that were vague and confused. As we
approached the road of Santa Cruz we observed that the mist, driven
by the winds, drew nearer to us. The sea was strongly agitated, as
it most commonly is in those latitudes. We anchored after several
soundings, for the mist was so thick, that we could scarcely
distinguish objects at a few cables' distance; but at the moment we
began to salute the place, the fog was instantly dispelled. The
peak of Teyde appeared in a break above the clouds, and the first
rays of the sun, which had not yet risen on us, illumined the
summit of the volcano.

We hastened to the prow of the vessel to behold the magnificent
spectacle, and at the same instant we saw four English vessels
lying to, and very near our stern. We had passed without being
perceived, and the same mist which had concealed the peak from our
view, had saved us from the risk of being carried back to Europe.
The Pizarro stood in as close as possible to the fort, to be under
its protection. It was on this shore, that, in the landing
attempted by the English two years before our arrival, in July
1797, admiral Nelson had his arm carried off by a cannon-ball.

The situation of the town of Santa Cruz is very similar to that of
La Guayra, the most frequented port of the province of Caraccas.
The heat is excessive in both places, and from the same causes; but
the aspect of Santa Cruz is more gloomy. On a narrow and sandy
beach, houses of dazzling whiteness, with flat roofs, and windows
without glass, are built close against a wall of black
perpendicular rock, devoid of vegetation. A fine mole, built of
freestone, and the public walk planted with poplars, are the only
objects which break the sameness of the landscape. The view of the
peak, as it presents itself above Santa Cruz, is much less
picturesque than that we enjoy from the port of Orotava. There, a
highly cultured and smiling plain presents a pleasing contrast to
the wild aspect of the volcano. From the groups of palm trees and
bananas which line the coast, to the region of the arbutus, the
laurel, and the pine, the volcanic rock is crowned with luxuriant
vegetation. We easily conceive how the inhabitants, even of the
beautiful climates of Greece and Italy, might fancy they recognised
one of the Fortunate Isles in the western part of Teneriffe. The
eastern side, that of Santa Cruz, on the contrary, is every where
stamped with sterility. The summit of the peak is not more arid
than the promontory of basaltic lava, which stretches towards the
point of Naga, and on which succulent plants, springing up in the
clefts of the rocks, scarcely indicate a preparation of soil. At
the port of Orotava, the top of the Piton subtends an angle in
height of more than eleven degrees and a half; while at the mole of
Santa Cruz* (* The oblique distances from the top of the volcano to
Orotava and to Santa Cruz are nearly 8600 toises and 22,500 toises.)
the angle scarcely exceeds 4 degrees 36 minutes.

Notwithstanding this difference, and though in the latter place the
volcano rises above the horizon scarcely as much as Vesuvius seen
from the mole of Naples, the aspect of the peak is still very
majestic, when those who anchor in the road discern it for the
first time. The Piton alone was visible to us; its cone projected
itself on a sky of the purest blue, whilst dark thick clouds
enveloped the rest of the mountain to the height of 1800 toises.
The pumice-stone, illumined by the first rays of the sun, reflected
a reddish light, like that which tinges the summits of the higher
Alps. This light by degrees becomes dazzlingly white; and, deceived
like most travellers, we thought that the peak was still covered
with snow, and that we should with difficulty reach the edge of the

We have remarked, in the Cordillera of the Andes, that the conical
mountains, such as Cotopaxi and Tungurahua, are oftener seen free
from clouds, than those of which the tops are broken into bristly
points, like Antisana and Pichincha; but the peak of Teneriffe,
notwithstanding its pyramidical form, is a great part of the year
enveloped in vapours, and is sometimes, during several weeks,
invisible from the road of Santa Cruz. Its position to the west of
an immense continent, and its insulated situation in the midst of
the sea, are no doubt the causes of this phenomenon. Navigators are
well aware that even the smallest islets, and those which are
without mountains, collect and harbour the clouds. The decrement of
heat is also different above the plains of Africa, and above the
surface of the Atlantic; and the strata of air, brought by the
trade winds, cool in proportion as they advance towards the west.
If the air has been extremely dry above the burning sands of the
desert, it is very quickly saturated when it enters into contact
with the surface of the sea, or with the air that lies on that
surface. It is easy to conceive, therefore, why vapours become
visible in the atmospherical strata, which, at a distance from the
continent, have no longer the same temperature as when they began
to be saturated with water. The considerable mass of a mountain,
rising in the midst of the Atlantic, is also an obstacle to the
clouds, which are driven out to sea by the winds.

On entering the streets of Santa Cruz, we felt a suffocating heat,
though the thermometer was not above twenty-five degrees. Those who
have for a long time inhaled the air of the sea suffer every time
they land; not because this air contains more oxygen than the air
on shore, as has been erroneously supposed, but because it is less
charged with those gaseous combinations, which the animal and
vegetable substances, and the mud resulting from their
decomposition, pour into the atmosphere. Miasms that escape
chemical analysis have a powerful effect on our organs, especially
when they have not for a long while been exposed to the same kind
of irritation.

Santa Cruz, the Anaza of the Guanches, is a neat town, with a
population of 8000 souls. I was not struck with the vast number of
monks and secular ecclesiastics, which travellers have thought
themselves bound to find in every country under the Spanish
government; nor shall I stop to enter into the description of the
churches; the library of the Dominicans, which contains scarcely a
few hundred volumes; the mole, where the inhabitants assemble to
inhale the freshness of the evening breeze; or the famed monument
of Carrara marble, thirty feet high, dedicated to Our Lady of
Candelaria, in memory of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin,
in 1392, at Chimisay, near Guimar. The port of Santa Cruz may be
considered as a great caravanserai, on the road to America and the
Indies. Every traveller who writes the narrative of his adventures,
begins by a description of Madeira and Teneriffe; and if in the
natural history of these islands there yet remains an immense field
untrodden, we must admit that the topography of the little towns of
Funchal, Santa Cruz, Laguna, and Orotava, leaves scarcely anything

The recommendation of the court of Madrid procured for us, in the
Canaries, as in all the other Spanish possessions, the most
satisfactory reception. The captain-general gave us immediate
permission to examine the island. Colonel Armiaga, who commanded a
regiment of infantry, received us into his house with kind
hospitality. We could not cease admiring the banana, the papaw
tree, the Poinciana pulcherrima, and other plants, which we had
hitherto seen only in hot-houses, cultivated in his garden in the
open air. The climate of the Canaries however is not warm enough to
ripen the real Platano Arton, with triangular fruit from seven to
eight inches long, and which, requiring a temperature of 24
centesimal degrees, does not flourish even in the valley of
Caracas. The bananas of Teneriffe are those named by the Spanish
planters Camburis or Guineos, and Dominicos. The Camburi, which
suffers least from cold, is cultivated with success even at Malaga,
where the temperature is only 18 degrees; but the fruit we see
occasionally at Cadiz comes from the Canary Islands by vessels
which make the passage in three or four days. In general, the musa,
known by every people under the torrid zone, though hitherto never
found in a wild state, has as great a variety of fruit as our apple
and pear trees. These varieties, which are confounded by the
greater part of botanists, though they require very different
climates, have become permanent by long cultivation.

We went to herborize in the evening in the direction of the fort of
Passo Alto, along the basaltic rocks that close the promontory of
Naga. We were very little satisfied with our harvest, for the
drought and dust had almost destroyed vegetation. The Cacalia
Kleinia, the Euphorbia canariensis, and several other succulent
plants, which draw their nourishment from the air rather than the
soil on which they grow, reminded us by their appearance, that this
group of islands belongs to Africa, and even to the most arid part
of that continent.

Though the captain of the Pizarro had orders to stop long enough at
Teneriffe to give us time to scale the summit of the peak, if the
snows did not prevent our ascent, we received notice, on account of
the blockade of the English ships, not to expect a longer delay
than four or five days. We consequently hastened our departure for
the port of Orotava, which is situated on the western declivity of
the volcano, where we were sure of finding guides. I could find no
one at Santa Cruz who had mounted the peak, and I was not surprised
at this. The most curious objects become less interesting, in
proportion as they are near to us; and I have known inhabitants of
Schaffhausen, in Switzerland, who had never seen the fall of the
Rhine but at a distance.

On the 20th of June, before sunrise, we began our excursion by
ascending to the Villa de Laguna, estimated to be at the elevation
of 350 toises above the port of Santa Cruz. We could not verify
this estimate of the height, the surf not having permitted us to
return on board during the night, to take our barometers and
dipping-needle. As we foresaw that our expedition to the peak would
be very precipitate, we consoled ourselves with the reflection that
it was well not to expose instruments which were to serve us in
countries less known by Europeans. The road by which we ascended to
Laguna is on the right of a torrent, or baranco, which in the rainy
season forms fine cascades; it is narrow and tortuous. Near the
town we met some white camels, which seemed to be very slightly
laden. The chief employment of these animals is to transport
merchandise from the custom-house to the warehouses of the
merchants. They are generally laden with two chests of Havannah
sugar, which together weigh 900 pounds; but this load may be
augmented to thirteen hundred-weight, or 52 arrobas of Castile.
Camels are not numerous at Teneriffe, whilst they exist by
thousands in the two islands of Lancerota and Forteventura; the
climate and vegetation of these islands, which are situated nearer
Africa, are more analogous to those of that continent. It is very
extraordinary, that this useful animal, which breeds in South
America, should be seldom propagated at Teneriffe. In the fertile
district of Adexe only, where the plantations of the sugar-cane are
most considerable, camels have sometimes been known to breed. These
beasts of burden, as well as horses, were brought into the Canary
Islands in the fifteenth century by the Norman conquerors. The
Guanches were previously unacquainted with them; and this fact
seems to be very well accounted for by the difficulty of
transporting an animal of such bulk in frail canoes, without the
necessity of considering the Guanches as a remnant of the people of
Atlantis, or a different race from that of the western Africans.

The hill, on which the town of San Christobal de la Laguna is
built, belongs to the system of basaltic mountains, which,
independent of the system of less ancient volcanic rocks, form a
broad girdle around the peak of Teneriffe. The basalt on which we
walked was darkish brown, compact, half-decomposed, and when
breathed on, emitted a clayey smell. We discovered amphibole,
olivine,* (* Peridot granuliforme. Hauy.) and translucid pyroxenes,
* (* Augite.--Werner.) with a perfectly lamellar fracture, of a
pale olive green, and often crystallized in prisms of six planes.
The first of these substances is extremely rare at Teneriffe; and I
never found it in the lavas of Vesuvius; but those of Etna contain
it in abundance. Notwithstanding the great number of blocks, which
we stopped to break, to the great regret of our guides, we could
discover neither nepheline, leucite,* (* Amphigene.--Hauy.) nor
feldspar. This last, which is so common in the basaltic lavas of
the island of Ischia, does not begin to appear at Teneriffe, till
we approach the volcano. The rock of Laguna is not columnar, but is
divided into ledges, of small thickness, and inclined to the east
at an angle of 30 or 40 degrees. It has nowhere the appearance of a
current of lava flowing from the sides of the peak. If the present
volcano has given birth to these basalts, we must suppose, that,
like the substances which compose the Somma, at the back of
Vesuvius, they are the effect of a submarine effusion, in which the
liquid mass has formed strata. A few arborescent Euphorbias, the
Cacalia Kleinia, and Indian figs (Cactus), which have become wild
in the Canary Islands, as well as in the south of Europe and the
whole continent of Africa, are the only plants we see on these arid
rocks. The feet of our mules were slipping every moment on beds of
stone, which were very steep. We nevertheless recognized the
remains of an ancient pavement. In these colonies we discover at
every step some traces of that activity which characterized the
Spanish nation in the 16th century.

As we approached Laguna, we felt the temperature of the atmosphere
gradually become lower. This sensation was so much the more
agreeable, as we found the air of Santa Cruz very oppressive. As
our organs are more affected by disagreeable impressions, the
change of temperature becomes still more sensible when we return
from Laguna to the port: we seem then to be drawing near the mouth
of a furnace. The same impression is felt, when, on the coast of
Caracas, we descend from the mountain of Avila to the port of La
Guayra. According to the law of the decrement of heat, three
hundred and fifty toises in height produce in this latitude only
three or four degrees difference in temperature. The heat which
overpowers the traveller on his entrance into Santa Cruz, or La
Guayra, must consequently be attributed to the reverberation from
the rocks, against which these towns are built.

The perpetual coolness which prevails at Laguna causes it to be
considered in the Canaries a delightful abode. Situated in a small
plain, surrounded by gardens, protected by a hill which is crowned
by a wood of laurels, myrtle, and arbutus, the capital of Teneriffe
is very beautifully placed. We should be mistaken if, relying on
the account of some travellers, we believed it seated on the border
of a lake. The rain sometimes forms a sheet of water of
considerable extent; and the geologist, who beholds in everything
the past rather than the present state of nature, can have no doubt
but that the whole plain is a great basin dried up. Laguna has
fallen from its opulence, since the lateral eruptions of the
volcano have destroyed the port of Garachico, and since Santa Cruz
has become the central point of the commerce of the island. It
contains only 9000 inhabitants, of whom nearly 400 are monks,
distributed in six convents. The town is surrounded with a great
number of windmills, which indicate the cultivation of wheat in
these high countries. I shall observe on this occasion, that
different kinds of grain were known to the Guanches. They called
wheat at Teneriffe tano, at Lancerota triffa; barley, in the grand
Canary, bore the name of aramotanoque, and at Lancerota it was
called tamosen. The flour of roasted barley (gofio) and goat's-milk
constituted the principal food of the people, on the origin of
which so many systematic fables have been current. These aliments
sufficiently prove that the race of the Guanches belonged to the
nations of the old continent, perhaps to those of Caucasus, and not
like the rest of the Atlantides,* to the inhabitants of the New
World (* Without entering here into any discussion respecting the
existence of the Atlantis, I may cite the opinion of Diodorus
Siculus, according to whom the Atlantides were ignorant of the use
of corn, because they were separated from the rest of mankind
before these gramina were cultivated.); these, before the arrival
of the Europeans, were unacquainted with corn, milk, and cheese.

A great number of chapels, which the Spaniards call ermitas,
encircle the town of Laguna. Shaded by trees of perpetual verdure,
and erected on small eminences, these chapels add to the
picturesque effect of the landscape. The interior of the town is
not equal to its external appearance. The houses are solidly built,
but very antique, and the streets seem deserted. A botanist ought
not to complain of the antiquity of the edifices. The roofs and
walls are covered with Canary house-leek and those elegant
trichomanes, mentioned by every traveller. These plants are
nourished by the abundant mists.

Mr. Anderson, the naturalist in the third voyage of captain Cook,
advises physicians to send their patients to Teneriffe, on account
of the mildness of the temperature and the equal climate of the
Canaries. The ground on these islands rises in an amphitheatre, and
presents simultaneously, as in Peru and Mexico, the temperature of
every climate, from the heat of Africa to the cold of the higher
Alps. Santa Cruz, the port of Orotava, the town of the same name,
and that of Laguna, are four places, the mean temperatures of which
form a descending series. In the south of Europe the change of the
seasons is too sensibly felt to present the same advantages.
Teneriffe, on the contrary, situated as it were on the threshold of
the tropics, though but a few days' sail from Spain, shares in the
charms which nature has lavished on the equinoctial regions.
Vegetation here displays some of her fairest and most majestic
forms in the banana and the palm-tree. He who is alive to the
charms of nature finds in this delicious island remedies still more
potent than the climate. No abode appeared to me more fitted to
dissipate melancholy, and restore peace to the perturbed mind, than
that of Teneriffe or Madeira. These advantages are the effect not
of the beauty of the site and the purity of the air alone: the
moral feeling is no longer harrowed up by the sight of slavery, the
presence of which is so revolting in the West Indies, and in every
other place to which European colonists have conveyed what they
call their civilization and their industry.

In winter the climate of Laguna is extremely foggy, and the
inhabitants often complain of the cold. A fall of snow, however,
has never been seen; a fact which may seem to indicate that the
mean temperature of this town must be above 18.7 degrees (15
degrees R.), that is to say, higher than that of Naples. I do not
lay this down as an unexceptional conclusion, for in winter the
refrigeration of the clouds does not depend so much on the mean
temperature of the whole year, as on the instantaneous diminution
of heat to which a district is exposed by its local situation. The
mean temperature of the capital of Mexico, for instance, is only
16.8 degrees (13.5 degrees R.), nevertheless, in the space of a
hundred years snow has fallen only once, while in the south of
Europe and in Africa it snows in places where the mean temperature
is above 19 degrees.

The vicinity of the sea renders the climate of Laguna more mild in
winter than might be expected, arising from its elevation above the
level of the ocean. I was astonished to learn that M. Broussonnet
had planted in the midst of this town, in the garden of the Marquis
de Nava, the bread-fruit tree (Artocarpus incisa), and
cinnamon-tree (Laurus Cinnamomum). These valuable productions of
the South Sea and the East Indies are naturalized there as well as
at Orotava. Does not this fact prove that the bread-fruit might
flourish in Calabria, Sicily, and Granada? The culture of the
coffee-tree has not equally succeeded at Laguna, though its fruit
ripens at Teguesta, as well as between the port of Orotava and the
village of St. Juan de la Rambla. It is probable that some local
circumstances, perhaps the nature of the soil and the winds that
prevail in the flowering season, are the cause of this phenomenon.
In other regions, in the neighbourhood of Naples, for instance, the
coffee-tree thrives abundantly, though the mean temperature
scarcely rises above 18 centigrade degrees.

No person has ascertained in the island of Teneriffe, the lowest
height at which snow falls every year. This fact, though easy of
verification by barometrical measurements, has hitherto been
generally neglected under every zone. It is nevertheless highly
interesting both to agriculture in the colonies and meteorology,
and fully as important as the measure of the limit of the perpetual
snows. My observations furnished me with the data, set down in the
following table:--

Column 1: North latitude.

Column 2: Lowest height in toises at which snow falls.

Column 3: Lowest height in metres at which snow falls.

Column 4: Inferior limit in toises of the perpetual snows.

Column 5: Inferior limit in metres of the perpetual snows.

Column 6: Difference in toises of columns 4 and 5.

Column 7: Difference in metres of columns 4 and 5.

Column 8: Mean temperature degrees centigrade.

Column 9: Mean temperature degrees Reaum.

  0  : 2040 : 3976 : 2460 : 4794 :  420 :  818 : 27   : 21.6.

  20 : 1550 : 3020 : 2360 : 4598 :  810 : 1578 : 24.5 : 19.6.

  40 :    0 :    0 : 1540 : 3001 : 1540 : 3001 : 17   : 13.6.

This table presents only the ordinary state of nature, that is to
say, the phenomena as they are annually observed. Exceptions
founded on particular local circumstances, exist. Thus it sometimes
snows, though seldom, at Naples, at Lisbon, and even at Malaga,
consequently as low as the 37th degree of latitude: and, as we have
just observed, snow has been seen to fall at Mexico, the elevation
of which is 1173 toises above the level of the ocean. This
phenomenon, which had not been seen for several centuries, took
place on the day that the Jesuits were expelled, and was attributed
by the people to that act of severity. A more striking exception
was found in the climate of Valladolid, the capital of the province
of Mechoacan. According to my measures, the height of this town,
situate in latitude 19 degrees 42 minutes, is only a thousand
toises: and yet, a few years before our arrival in New Spain, the
streets were covered with snow for some hours.

Snow had been seen to fall also at Teneriffe, in a place lying
above Esperanza de la Laguna, very near the town of that name, in
the gardens of which the artocarpus flourishes. This extraordinary
fact was confirmed to M. Broussonnet by very aged persons. The
Erica arborea, the Myrica Faya, and the Arbutus callicarpa,* (*
This fine arbutus, imported by M. Broussonnet, is very different
from the Arbutus laurifolia, with which it has been confounded, but
which belongs to North America.) did not suffer from the snow; but
it destroyed all the vines in the open air. This observation is
interesting to vegetable physiology. In hot countries, the plants
are so vigorous, that cold is less injurious to them, provided it
be of short duration. I have seen the banana cultivated in the
island of Cuba, in places where the thermometer descends to seven
centesimal degrees, and sometimes very near freezing point. In
Italy and Spain the orange and date-trees do not perish, though the
cold during the night may be two degrees below freezing point. In
general it is remarked by cultivators, that the trees which grow in
a fertile soil are less delicate, and consequently less affected by
great changes in the temperature, than those which grow in land
that affords but little nutriment.* (* The mulberries, cultivated
in the thin and sandy soils of countries bordering on the Baltic
Sea, are examples of this feebleness of organization. The late
frosts do more injury to them, than to the mulberries of Piedmont.
In Italy a cold of 5 degrees below freezing point does not destroy
robust orange trees. According to M. Galesio, these trees, less
tender than the lemon and bergamot orange trees, freeze only at ten
centesimal degrees below freezing point.)

In order to pass from the town of Laguna to the port of Orotava and
the western coast of Teneriffe, we cross at first a hilly region
covered with black and argillaceous earth, in which are found some
small crystals of pyroxene. The waters most probably detach these
crystals from the neighbouring rocks, as at Frascati, near Rome.
Unfortunately, strata of ferruginous earth conceal the soil from
the researches of the geologist. It is only in some ravines, that
we find columnar basalts, somewhat curved, and above them very
recent breccia, resembling volcanic tufa. The breccia contain
fragments of the same basalts which they cover; and it is asserted
that marine petrifactions are observed in them. The same phenomenon
occurs in the Vicentin, near Montechio Maggiore.

The valley of Tacoronte is the entrance into that charming country,
of which travellers of every nation have spoken with rapturous
enthusiasm. Under the torrid zone I found sites where nature is
more majestic, and richer in the display of organic forms; but
after having traversed the banks of the Orinoco, the Cordilleras of
Peru, and the most beautiful valleys of Mexico, I own that I have
never beheld a prospect more varied, more attractive, more
harmonious in the distribution of the masses of verdure and of
rocks, than the western coast of Teneriffe.

The sea-coast is lined with date and cocoa trees. Groups of the
musa, as the country rises, form a pleasing contrast with the
dragon-tree, the trunks of which have been justly compared to the
tortuous form of the serpent. The declivities are covered with
vines, which throw their branches over towering poles. Orange trees
loaded with flowers, myrtles, and cypress trees encircle the
chapels reared to devotion on the isolated hills. The divisions of
landed property are marked by hedges formed of the agave and the
cactus. An innumerable quantity of cryptogamous plants, among which
ferns are the most predominant, cover the walls, and are moistened
by small springs of limpid water. In winter, when the volcano is
buried under ice and snow, this district enjoys perpetual spring.
In summer, as the day declines, the breezes from the sea diffuse a
delicious freshness. The population of this coast is very
considerable; and it appears to be still greater than it is,
because the houses and gardens are distant from each other, which
adds to the picturesque beauty of the scene. Unhappily the real
welfare of the inhabitants does not correspond with the exertions
of their industry, or with the advantages which nature has lavished
on this spot. The farmers are not land-owners; the fruits of their
labour belong to the nobles; and those feudal institutions, which,
for so long a time, spread misery throughout Europe, still press
heavily on the people of the Canary Islands.

From Tegueste and Tacoronte to the village of St. Juan de la Rambla
(which is celebrated for its excellent malmsey wine), the rising
hills are cultivated like a garden. I might compare them to the
environs of Capua and Valentia, if the western part of Teneriffe
was not infinitely more beautiful on account of the proximity of
the peak, which presents on every side a new point of view. The
aspect of this mountain is interesting not merely from its gigantic
mass; it excites the mind, by carrying it back to the mysterious
source of its volcanic agency. For thousands of years, no flames or
light have been perceived on the summit of the Piton, nevertheless
enormous lateral eruptions, the last of which took place in 1798,
are proofs of the activity of a fire still far from being
extinguished. There is also something that leaves a melancholy
impression on beholding a crater in the centre of a fertile and
well cultivated country. The history of the globe informs us, that
volcanoes destroy what they have been a long series of ages in
creating. Islands, which the action of submarine fires has raised
above the waters, are by degrees clothed in rich and smiling
verdure; but these new lands are often laid waste by the renewed
action of the same power which caused them to emerge from the
bottom of the ocean. Islets, which are now but heaps of scoriae and
volcanic ashes, were once perhaps as fertile as the hills of
Tacoronte and Sauzal. Happy the country, where man has no distrust
of the soil on which he lives!

Pursuing our course to the port of Orotava, we passed the smiling
hamlets of Matanza and Victoria. These names are mingled together
in all the Spanish colonies, and they form an unpleasing contrast
with the peaceful and tranquil feelings which those countries
inspire. Matanza signifies slaughter, or carnage; and the word
alone recalls the price at which victory has been purchased. In the
New World it generally indicates the defeat of the natives: at
Teneriffe, the village of Matanza was built in a place* (* The
ancient Acantejo.) where the Spaniards were conquered by those same
Guanches who soon after were sold as slaves in the markets of

Before we reached Orotava, we visited a botanic garden at a little
distance from the port. We there found M. Le Gros, the French
vice-consul, who had often scaled the summit of the Peak, and who
served us as an excellent guide. He was accompanying captain Baudin
in a voyage to the West Indies, when a dreadful tempest, of which
M. Le Dru has given an account in the narrative of his voyage to
Porto Rico, forced the vessel to put into Teneriffe. There M. Le
Gros was led by the beauty of the spot to settle. It was he who
augmented scientific knowledge by the first accurate ideas of the
great lateral eruption of the Peak, which has been very improperly
called the explosion of the volcano of Chahorra. This eruption took
place on the 8th of June, 1798.

The establishment of a botanical garden at Teneriffe is a very
happy idea, on account of the influence it is likely to have on the
progress of botany, and on the introduction of useful plants into
Europe. For the first conception of it we are indebted to the
Marquis de Nava. He undertook, at an enormous expense, to level the
hill of Durasno, which rises as an amphitheatre, and which was
begun to be planted in 1795. The marquis thought that the Canary
Islands, from the mildness of their climate and geographical
position, were the most suitable place for naturalising the
productions of the East and West Indies, and for inuring the plants
gradually to the colder temperature of the south of Europe. The
plants of Asia, Africa, and South America, may easily be brought to
Orotava; and in order to introduce the bark-tree* into Sicily,
Portugal, or Grenada, it should be first planted at Durasno, or at
Laguna, and the shoots of this tree may afterwards be transported
into Europe from the Canaries. (* I speak of the species of
bark-tree (cinchona), which at Peru, and in the kingdom of New
Granada, flourish on the back of the Cordilleras, at the height of
between 1000 and 1500 toises, in places where the thermometer is
between nine and ten degrees during the day, and from three to four
during the night. The orange bark-tree (Cinchona lancifolia) is
much less delicate than the red bark-tree (C. oblongifolia).) In
happier times, when maritime wars shall no longer interrupt
communication, the garden of Teneriffe may become extremely useful
with respect to the great number of plants which are sent from the
Indies to Europe; for ere they reach our coasts, they often perish,
owing to the length of the passage, during which they inhale an air
impregnated with salt water. These plants would meet at Orotava
with the care and climate necessary for their preservation. At
Durasno, the protea, the psidium, the jambos, the chirimoya of
Peru,* (* Annona cherimolia. Lamarck.) the sensitive plant, and the
heliconia, grow in the open air. We gathered the ripened seeds of
several beautiful species of glycine from New Holland, which the
governor of Cumana, Mr. Emparan, had successfully cultivated, and
which grow wild on the coasts of South America.

We arrived very late at the port of Orotava,* (* Puerto de la Cruz.
The only fine port of the Canary Islands is that of St. Sebastian,
in the isle of Gomara.) if we may give the name of port to a road
in which vessels are obliged to put to sea whenever the winds blow
violently from the north-west. It is impossible to speak of Orotava
without recalling to the remembrance of the friends of science the
name of Don Bernardo Cologan, whose house at all times was open to
travellers of every nation.

We could have wished to have sojourned for some time in Don
Bernardo's house, and to have visited with him the charming scenery
of St. Juan de la Rambla and of Rialexo de Abaxo.* (* This
last-named village stands at the foot of the lofty mountain of
Tygayga.) But on a voyage such as we had undertaken, the present is
but little enjoyed. Continually haunted by the fear of not
executing the designs of the morrow, we live in perpetual
uneasiness. Persons who are passionately fond of nature and the
arts feel the same sensations, when they travel through Switzerland
and Italy. Enabled to see but a small portion of the objects which
allure them, they are disturbed in their enjoyments by the
restraints they impose on themselves at every step.

On the morning of the 21st of June, we were on our way to the
summit of the volcano. M. Le Gros, whose attentions were unwearied,
M. Lalande, secretary to the French Consulate at Santa Cruz, and
the English gardener at Durasno, joined us on this excursion. The
day was not very fine, and the summit of the peak, which is
generally visible at Orotava from sunrise till ten o'clock, was
covered with thick clouds.

We were agreeably surprised by the contrast between the vegetation
of this part of Teneriffe, and that of the environs of Santa Cruz.
Under the influence of a cool and humid climate, the ground was
covered with beautiful verdure; while on the road from Santa Cruz
to Laguna the plants exhibited nothing but capsules emptied of
their seeds. Near the port of Santa Cruz, the strength of the
vegetation is an obstacle to geological research. We passed along
the base of two small hills, which rise in the form of bells.
Observations made at Vesuvius and in Auvergne lead us to think that
these hills owe their origin to lateral eruptions of the great
volcano. The hill called Montanita de la Villa seems indeed to have
emitted lavas; and according to the tradition of the Guanches, an
eruption took place in 1430. Colonel Franqui assured Borda, that
the place is still to be seen whence the melted matter issued; and
that the ashes which covered the ground adjacent, were not yet
fertilized. Whenever the rock appeared, we discovered basaltic
amygdaloid* (* Basaltartiger Mandelstein. Werner.) covered with
hardened clay,* (* Bimstein-Conglomerat. W.) which contains
rapilli, or fragments of pumice-stone. This last formation
resembles the tufas of Pausilippo, and the strata of puzzolana,
which I found in the valley of Quito, at the foot of the volcano of
Pichincha. The amygdaloid has very long pores, like the superior
strata of the lavas of Vesuvius, arising probably from the action
of an elastic fluid forcing its way through the matter in fusion.
Notwithstanding these analogies, I must here repeat, that in all
the low region of the peak of Teneriffe, on the side of Orotava, I
have met with no flow of lava, nor any current, the limits of which
are strongly marked. Torrents and inundations change the surface of
the globe, and when a great number of currents of lava meet and
spread over a plain, as I have seen at Vesuvius, in the Atrio dei
Cavalli, they seem to be confounded together, and wear the
appearance of real strata.

The villa de Orotava has a pleasant aspect at a distance, from the
great abundance of water which runs through the principal streets.
The spring of Agua Mansa, collected in two large reservoirs, turns
several mills, and is afterward discharged among the vineyards of
the adjacent hills. The climate is still more refreshing at the
villa than at the port of La Cruz, from the influence of the
breeze, which blows strong after ten in the morning. The water,
which has been dissolved in the air at a higher temperature,
frequently precipitates itself; and renders the climate very foggy.
The villa is nearly 160 toises (312 metres) above the level of the
sea, consequently 200 toises lower than the site on which Laguna is
built: it is observed also, that the same kind of plants flower a
month later in this latter place.

Orotava, the ancient Taoro of the Guanches, is situated on a very
steep declivity. The streets seem deserted; the houses are solidly
built, and of a gloomy appearance. We passed along a lofty
aqueduct, lined with a great number of fine ferns; and visited
several gardens, in which the fruit trees of the north of Europe
are mingled with orange trees, pomegranate, and date trees. We were
assured, that these last were as little productive here as on the
coast of Cumana. Although we had been made acquainted, from the
narratives of many travellers, with the dragon-tree of the garden
of M. Franqui, we were not the less struck with its enormous
magnitude. We were told, that the trunk of this tree, which is
mentioned in several very ancient documents as marking the
boundaries of a field, was as gigantic in the fifteenth century as
it is at the present time. Its height appeared to us to be about 50
or 60 feet; its circumference near the roots is 45 feet. We could
not measure higher, but Sir George Staunton found that, 10 feet
from the ground, the diameter of the trunk is still 12 English
feet; which corresponds perfectly with the statement of Borda, who
found its mean circumference 33 feet 8 inches, French measure. The
trunk is divided into a great number of branches, which rise in the
form of a candelabrum, and are terminated by tufts of leaves, like
the yucca which adorns the valley of Mexico. This division gives it
a very different appearance from that of the palm-tree.

Among organic creations, this tree is undoubtedly, together with
the Adansonia or baobab of Senegal, one of the oldest inhabitants
of our globe. The baobabs are of still greater dimensions than the
dragon-tree of Orotava. There are some which near the root measure
34 feet in diameter, though their total height is only from 50 to
60 feet. But we should observe, that the Adansonia, like the
ochroma, and all the plants of the family of bombax, grow much more
rapidly* than the dracaena, the vegetation of which is very slow.
(* It is the same with the plane-tree (Platanus occidentalis) which
M. Michaux measured at Marietta, on the banks of the Ohio, and
which, at twenty feet from the ground, was 15.7 feet in diameter.
--"Voyage a l'Ouest des Monts Alleghany" 1804 page 93. The yew,
chestnut, oak, plane-tree, deciduous cypress, bombax, mimosa,
caesalpina, hymenaea, and dracaena, appear to me to be the plants
which, in different climates, present specimens of the most
extraordinary growth. An oak, discovered together with some Gallic
helmets in 1809, in the turf pits of the department of the Somme,
near the village of Yseux, seven leagues from Abbeville, was about
the same size as the dragon-tree of Orotava. According to a memoir
by M. Traullee, the trunk of this oak was 14 feet in diameter.)
That in M. Franqui's garden still bears every year both flowers and
fruit. Its aspect forcibly exemplifies "that eternal youth of
nature," which is an inexhaustible source of motion and of life.

The dracaena, which is seen only in cultivated spots in the Canary
Islands, at Madeira, and Porto Santo, presents a curious phenomenon
with respect to the migration of plants. It has never been found in
a wild state on the continent of Africa. The East Indies is its
real country. How has this tree been transplanted to Teneriffe,
where it is by no means common? Does its existence prove, that, at
some very distant period, the Guanches had connexions with other
nations originally from Asia?* (* The form of the dragon-tree is
exhibited in several species of the genus Dracaena, at the Cape of
Good Hope, in China, and in New Zealand. But in New Zealand it is
superseded by the form of the yucca; for the Dracaena borealis of
Aiton is a Convallaria, of which it has all the appearance. The
astringent juice, known in commerce by the name of dragon's blood,
is, according to the inquiries we made on the spot, the produce of
several American plants, which do not belong to the same genus and
of which some are lianas. At Laguna, toothpicks steeped in the
juice of the dragon-tree are made in the nunneries, and are much
extolled as highly useful for keeping the gums in a healthy state.)

On leaving Orotava, a narrow and stony pathway led us through a
beautiful forest of chestnut trees (el monte de Castanos), to a
site covered with brambles, some species of laurels, and
arborescent heaths. The trunks of the latter grow to an
extraordinary size; and the flowers with which they are loaded form
an agreeable contrast, during a great part of the year, to the
Hypericum canariense, which is very abundant at this height. We
stopped to take in our provision of water under a solitary
fir-tree. This station is known in the country by the name of Pino
del Dornajito. Its height, according to the barometrical
measurement of M. de Borda, is 522 toises; and it commands a
magnificent prospect of the sea, and the whole of the northern part
of the island. Near Pino del Dornajito, a little on the right of
the pathway, is a copious spring of water, into which we plunged
the thermometer, which fell to 15.4 degrees. At a hundred toises
distance from this spring is another equally limpid. If we admit
that these waters indicate nearly the mean heat of the place whence
they issue, we may fix the absolute elevation of the station at 520
toises, supposing the mean temperature of the coast to be 21
degrees, and allowing one degree for the decrement of caloric
corresponding under this zone to 93 toises. We should not be
surprised if this spring remained a little below the heat of the
air, since it probably takes its source in some more elevated part
of the peak, and possibly communicates with the small subterranean
glaciers of which we shall speak hereafter. The accordance just
observed between the barometrical and thermometrical measures is so
much more striking, because in mountainous countries, with steep
declivities, the springs generally indicate too great a decrement
of caloric, for they unite small currents of water, which filtrate
at different heights, and their temperature is consequently the
mean between the temperature of these currents. The spring of
Dornajito has considerable reputation in the country; and at the
time I was there, it was the only one known on the road which leads
to the summit of the volcano. The formation of springs demands a
certain regularity in the direction and inclination of the strata.
On a volcanic soil, porous and splintered rocks absorb the rain
waters, and convey them to considerable depths. Hence arises that
aridity observed in the greater part of the Canary Islands,
notwithstanding the considerable height of their mountains, and the
mass of clouds which navigators behold incessantly overhanging this

From Pino del Dornajito to the crater of the volcano we continued
to ascend without crossing a single valley; for the small ravines
(barancos) do not merit this name. To the eye of the geologist the
whole island of Teneriffe is but one mountain, the almost
elliptical base of which is prolonged to the north-east, and in
which may be distinguished several systems of volcanic rocks formed
at different epochs. The Chahorra, or Montana Colorada, and the
Urca, considered in the country as insulated volcanoes, are only
little hills abutting on the peak, and masking its pyramidal form.
The great volcano, the lateral eruptions of which have given birth
to vast promontories, is not however precisely in the centre of the
island, and this peculiarity of structure appears the less
surprising, if we recollect that, as the learned mineralogist M.
Cordier has observed, it is not perhaps the small crater of the
Piton which has been the principal agent in the changes undergone
by the island of Teneriffe.

Above the region of arborescent heaths, called Monte Verde, is the
region of ferns. Nowhere, in the temperate zone, have I seen such
an abundance of the pteris, blechnum, and asplenium; yet none of
these plants have the stateliness of the arborescent ferns which,
at the height of five or six hundred toises, form the principal
ornament of equinoctial America. The root of the Pteris aquilina
serves the inhabitants of Palma and Gomera for food; they grind it
to powder, and mix with it a quantity of barley-meal. This
composition, when boiled, is called gofio; the use of so homely an
aliment is a proof of the extreme poverty of the lower order of
people in the Canary Islands.

Monte Verde is intersected by several small and very arid ravines
(canadas), and the region of ferns is succeeded by a wood of
juniper trees and firs, which has suffered greatly from the
violence of hurricanes. In this place, mentioned by some travellers
under the name of Caravela,* (* "Philosophical Transactions" volume
29 page 317. Carabela is the name of a vessel with lateen sails.
The pines of the peak formerly were used as masts of vessels.) Mr.
Eden states that in the year 1705 he saw little flames, which,
according to the doctrine of the naturalists of his time, he
attributes to sulphurous exhalations igniting spontaneously. We
continued to ascend, till we came to the rock of La Gayta and to
Portillo: traversing this narrow pass between two basaltic hills,
we entered the great plain of Spartium. At the time of the voyage
of Laperouse, M. Manneron had taken the levels of the peak, from
the port of Orotava to this elevated plain, near 1400 toises above
the level of the sea; but the want of water, and the misconduct of
the guides, prevented him from taking the levels to the top of the
volcano. The results of the operation, (which was two-thirds
completed,) unfortunately were not sent to Europe, and the work is
still to be recommenced from the sea-coast.

We spent two hours and a half in crossing the Llano del Retama,
which appears like an immense sea of sand. Notwithstanding the
elevation of this site, the centigrade thermometer rose in the
shade toward sunset, to 13.8 degrees, or 3.7 degrees higher than
toward noon at Monte Verde. This augmentation of heat could be
attributed only to the reverberation from the ground, and the
extent of the plain. We suffered much from the suffocating dust of
the pumice-stone, in which we were continually enveloped. In the
midst of this plain are tufts of the retama, which is the Spartium
nubigenum of Aiton. M. de Martiniere, one of the botanists who
perished in the expedition of Laperouse, wished to introduce this
beautiful shrub into Languedoc, where firewood is very scarce. It
grows to the height of nine feet, and is loaded with odoriferous
flowers, with which the goat hunters, that we met in our road, had
decorated their hats. The goats of the peak, which are of a deep
brown colour, are reckoned delicious food; they browse on the
spartium, and have run wild in the deserts from time immemorial.
They have been transported to Madeira, where they are preferred to
the goats of Europe.

As far as the rock of Gayta, or the entrance of the extensive Llano
del Retama, the peak of Teneriffe is covered with beautiful
vegetation. There are no traces of recent devastation. We might
have imagined ourselves scaling the side of some volcano, the fire
of which had been extinguished as remotely as that of Monte Cavo,
near Rome; but scarcely had we reached the plain covered with
pumice-stone, when the landscape changed its aspect, and at every
step we met with large blocks of obsidian thrown out by the
volcano. Everything here speaks perfect solitude. A few goats and
rabbits only bound across the plain. The barren region of the peak
is nine square leagues; and as the lower regions viewed from this
point retrograde in the distance, the island appears an immense
heap of torrefied matter, hemmed round by a scanty border of

From the region of the Spartium nubigenum we passed through narrow
defiles, and small ravines hollowed at a very remote time by the
torrents, first arriving at a more elevated plain (el Monton de
Trigo), then at the place where we intended to pass the night. This
station, which is more than 1530 toises above the coast, bears the
name of the English Halt (Estancia de los Ingleses* (* This
denomination was in use as early as the beginning of the last
century. Mr. Eden, who corrupts all Spanish words, as do most
travellers in our own times, calls it the Stancha: it is the
Station des Rochers of M. Borda, as is proved by the barometrical
heights there observed. These heights were in 1803, according to M.
Cordier, 19 inches 9.5 lines; and in 1776, according to Messrs.
Borda and Varela, 19 inches 9.8 lines; the barometer at Orotava
keeping within nearly a line at the same height.)), no doubt
because most of the travellers, who formerly visited the peak, were
Englishmen. Two inclined rocks form a kind of cavern, which affords
a shelter from the winds. This point, which is higher than the
summit of the Canigou, can be reached on the backs of mules; and
here has ended the expedition of numbers of travellers, who on
leaving Orotava hoped to have ascended to the brink of the crater.
Though in the midst of summer, and under an African sky, we
suffered from cold during the night. The thermometer descended as
low as to five degrees. Our guides made a large fire with the dry
branches of retama. Having neither tents nor cloaks, we lay down on
some masses of rock, and were singularly incommoded by the flame
and smoke, which the wind drove towards us. We had attempted to
form a kind of screen with cloths tied together, but our enclosure
took fire, which we did not perceive till the greater part had been
consumed by the flames. We had never passed a night on a point so
elevated, and we then little imagined that we should, one day, on
the ridge of the Cordilleras, inhabit towns higher than the summit
of the volcano we were to scale on the morrow. As the temperature
diminished, the peak became covered with thick clouds. The approach
of night interrupts the play of the ascending current, which,
during the day, rises from the plains towards the high regions of
the atmosphere; and the air, in cooling, loses its capacity of
suspending water. A strong northerly wind chased the clouds; the
moon at intervals, shooting through the vapours, exposed its disk
on a firmament of the darkest blue; and the view of the volcano
threw a majestic character over the nocturnal scenery. Sometimes
the peak was entirely hidden from our eyes by the fog, at other
times it broke upon us in terrific proximity; and, like an enormous
pyramid, threw its shadow over the clouds rolling beneath our feet.

About three in the morning, by the sombrous light of a few fir
torches, we started on our journey to the summit of the Piton. We
scaled the volcano on the north-east side, where the declivities
are extremely steep; and after two hours' toil, we reached a small
plain, which, on account of its elevated position, bears the name
of Alta Vista. This is the station of the neveros, those natives,
whose occupation it is to collect ice and snow, which they sell in
the neighbouring towns. Their mules, better practised in climbing
mountains than those hired by travellers, reach Alta Vista, and the
neveros are obliged to transport the snow to that place on their
backs. Above this point commences the Malpays, a term by which is
designated here, as well as in Mexico, Peru, and every other
country subject to volcanoes, a ground destitute of vegetable
mould, and covered with fragments of lava.

We turned to the right to examine the cavern of ice, which is at
the elevation of 1728 toises, consequently below the limit of the
perpetual snows in this zone. Probably the cold which prevails in
this cavern, is owing to the same causes which perpetuate the ice
in the crevices of Mount Jura and the Apennines, and on which the
opinions of naturalists are still much divided. This natural
ice-house of the peak has, nevertheless, none of those
perpendicular openings, which give emission to the warm air, while
the cold air remains undisturbed at the bottom. It would seem that
the ice is preserved in it on account of its mass, and because its
melting is retarded by the cold, which is the consequence of quick
evaporation. This small subterraneous glacier is situated in a
region, the mean temperature of which is probably not under three
degrees; and it is not, like the true glaciers of the Alps, fed by
the snow waters that flow from the summits of the mountains. During
winter the cavern is filled with ice and snow; and as the rays of
the sun do not penetrate beyond the mouth, the heats of summer are
not sufficient to empty the reservoir. The existence of a natural
ice-house depends, consequently, rather on the quantity of snow
which enters it in winter, and the small influence of the warm
winds in summer, than on the absolute elevation of the cavity, and
the mean temperature of the layer of air in which it is situated.
The air contained in the interior of a mountain is not easily
displaced, as is exemplified by Monte Testaccio at Rome, the
temperature of which is so different from that of the surrounding
atmosphere. On Chimborazo enormous heaps of ice are found covered
with sand, and, in the same manner as at the peak, far below the
inferior limit of the perpetual snows.

It was near the Ice-Cavern (Cueva del Hielo), that, in the voyage
of Laperouse, Messrs. Lamanon and Monges made their experiments on
the temperature of boiling water. These naturalists found it 88.7
degrees, the barometer at nineteen inches one line. In the kingdom
of New Grenada, at the chapel of Guadaloupe, near Santa-Fe de
Bogota, I have seen water boil at 89.9 degrees, under a pressure of
19 inches 1.9 lines, At Tambores, in the province of Popayan, Senor
Caldas found the heat of boiling water 89.5 degrees, the barometer
being at 18 inches 11.6 lines. These results might lead us to
suspect, that, in the experiment of M. Lamanon, the water had not
reached the maximum of its temperature.

Day was beginning to dawn when we left the ice-cavern. We observed,
during the twilight, a phenomenon which is not unusual on high
mountains, but which the position of the volcano we were scaling
rendered very striking. A layer of white and fleecy clouds
concealed from us the sight of the ocean, and the lower region of
the island. This layer did not appear above 800 toises high; the
clouds were so uniformly spread, and kept so perfect a level, that
they wore the appearance of a vast plain covered with snow. The
colossal pyramid of the peak, the volcanic summits of Lancerota, of
Forteventura, and the isle of Palma, were like rocks amidst this
vast sea of vapours, and their black tints were in fine contrast
with the whiteness of the clouds.

While we were climbing over the broken lavas of the Malpays, we
perceived a very curious optical phenomenon, which lasted eight
minutes. We thought we saw on the east side small rockets thrown
into the air. Luminous points, about seven or eight degrees above
the horizon, appeared first to move in a vertical direction; but
their motion was gradually changed into a horizontal oscillation.
Our fellow-travellers, our guides even, were astonished at this
phenomenon, without our having made any remark on it to them. We
thought, at first sight, that these luminous points, which floated
in the air, indicated some new eruption of the great volcano of
Lancerota; for we recollected that Bouguer and La Condamine, in
scaling the volcano of Pichincha, were witnesses of the eruption of
Cotopaxi. But the illusion soon ceased, and we found that the
luminous points were the images of several stars magnified by the
vapours. These images remained motionless at intervals, they then
seemed to rise perpendicularly, descended sideways, and returned to
the point whence they had departed. This motion lasted one or two
seconds. Though we had no exact means of measuring the extent of
the lateral shifting, we did not the less distinctly observe the
path of the luminous point. It did not appear double from an effect
of mirage, and left no trace of light behind. Bringing, with the
telescope of a small sextant by Troughton, the stars into contact
with the lofty summit of a mountain in Lancerota, I observed that
the oscillation was constantly directed towards the same point,
that is to say, towards that part of the horizon where the disk of
the sun was to appear; and that, making allowance for the motion of
the star in its declination, the image returned always to the same
place. These appearances of lateral refraction ceased long before
daylight rendered the stars quite invisible. I have faithfully
related what we saw during the twilight, without undertaking to
explain this extraordinary phenomenon, of which I published an
account in Baron Zach's Astronomical Journal, twelve years ago. The
motion of the vesicular vapours, caused by the rising of the sun;
the mingling of several layers of air, the temperature and density
of which were very different, no doubt contributed to produce an
apparent movement of the stars in the horizontal direction. We see
something similar in the strong undulations of the solar disk, when
it cuts the horizon; but these undulations seldom exceed twenty
seconds, while the lateral motion of the stars, observed at the
peak, at more than 1800 toises, was easily distinguished by the
naked eye, and seemed to exceed all that we have thought it
possible to consider hitherto as the effect of the refraction of
the light of the stars. On the top of the Andes, at Antisana, I
observed the sun-rise, and passed the whole night at the height of
2100 toises, without noting any appearance resembling this

I was anxious to make an exact observation of the instant of
sun-rising at an elevation so considerable as that we had reached
on the peak of Teneriffe. No traveller, furnished with instruments,
had as yet taken such an observation. I had a telescope and a
chronometer, which I knew to be exceedingly correct. In the part
where the sun was to appear the horizon was free from vapour. We
perceived the upper limb at 4 hours 48 minutes 55 seconds apparent
time, and what is very remarkable, the first luminous point of the
disk appeared immediately in contact with the limit of the horizon,
consequently we saw the true horizon; that is to say, a part of the
sea farther distant than 43 leagues. It is proved by calculation
that, under the same parallel in the plain, the rising would have
begun at 5 hours 1 minute 50.4 seconds, or 11 minutes 51.3 seconds
later than at the height of the peak. The difference observed was
12 minutes 55 seconds, which arose no doubt from the uncertainty of
the refraction for a zenith distance, of which observations are

We were surprised at the extreme slowness with which the lower limb
of the sun seemed to detach itself from the horizon. This limb was
not visible till 4 hours 56 minutes 56 seconds. The disc of the
sun, much flattened, was well defined; during the ascent there was
neither double image nor lengthening of the lower limb. The
duration of the sun's rising being triple that which we might have
expected in this latitude, we must suppose that a fog-bank, very
uniformly extended, concealed the true horizon, and followed the
sun in its ascent. Notwithstanding the libration of the stars,*
which we had observed towards the east, we could not attribute the
slowness of the rising to an extraordinary refraction of the rays
occasioned by the horizon of the sea; for it is precisely at the
rising of the sun, as Le Gentil daily observed at Pondicherry, and
as I have several times remarked at Cumana, that the horizon sinks,
on account of the elevation of temperature in the stratum of the
air which lies immediately over the surface of the ocean. (* A
celebrated astronomer, Baron Zach, has compared this phenomenon of
an apparent libration of the stars to that described in the
Georgics (lib. 50 v. 365). But this passage relates only to the
falling stars, which the ancients, (like the mariners of modern
times) considered as a prognostic of wind.)

The road, which we were obliged to clear for ourselves across the
Malpays, was extremely fatiguing. The ascent is steep, and the
blocks of lava rolled from beneath our feet. I can compare this
part of the road only to the Moraine of the Alps or that mass of
pebbly stones which we find at the lower extremity of the glaciers.
At the peak the lava, broken into sharp pieces, leaves hollows, in
which we risked falling up to our waists. Unfortunately the
listlessness of our guides contributed to increase the difficulty
of this ascent. Unlike the guides of the valley of Chamouni, or the
nimble-footed Guanches, who could, it is asserted, seize the rabbit
or wild goat in its course, our Canarian guides were models of the
phlegmatic. They had wished to persuade us on the preceding evening
not to go beyond the station of the rocks. Every ten minutes they
sat down to rest themselves, and when unobserved they threw away
the specimens of obsidian and pumice-stone, which we had carefully
collected. We discovered at length that none of them had ever
visited the summit of the volcano.

After three hours' walking, we reached, at the extremity of the
Malpays, a small plain, called La Rambleta, from the centre of
which the Piton, or Sugar-loaf, takes its rise. On the side toward
Orotava the mountain resembles those pyramids with steps that are
seen at Fayoum and in Mexico; for the elevated plains of Retama and
Rambleta form two tiers, the first of which is four times higher
than the second. If we suppose the total height of the Peak to be
1904 toises, the Rambleta is 1820 toises above the level of the
sea. Here are found those spiracles, which are called by the
natives the Nostrils of the Peak (Narices del Pico). Watery and
heated vapours issue at intervals from several crevices in the
ground, and the thermometer rose to 43.2 degrees. M. Labillardiere
had found the temperature of these vapours, eight years before us,
53.7 degrees; a difference which does not perhaps prove so much a
diminution of activity in the volcano, as a local change in the
heating of its internal surface. The vapours have no smell, and
seem to be pure water. A short time before the great eruption of
Mount Vesuvius, in 1805, M. Gay-Lussac and myself had observed that
water, under the form of vapour, in the interior of the crater, did
not redden paper which had been dipped in syrup of violets. I
cannot, however, admit the bold hypothesis, according to which the
Nostrils of the Peak are to be considered as the vents of an
immense apparatus of distillation, the lower part of which is
situated below the level of the sea. Since the time when volcanoes
have been carefully studied, and the love of the marvellous has
been less apparent in works on geology, well founded doubts have
been raised respecting these direct and constant communications
between the waters of the sea and the focus of the volcanic fire.*
(* This question has been examined with much sagacity by M.
Brieslak, in his "Introduzzione alla Geologia," tome 2 pages 302,
323, 347. Cotopaxi and Popocatepetl, which I saw ejecting smoke and
ashes, in 1804, are farther from both the Pacific and the Gulf of
the Antilles, than Grenoble is from the Mediterranean, and Orleans
from the Atlantic. We must not consider the fact as merely
accidental, that we have not yet discovered an active volcano more
than 40 leagues distant from the ocean; but I consider the
hypothesis, that the waters of the sea are absorbed, distilled, and
decomposed by volcanoes, as very doubtful.) We may find a very
simple explanation of a phenomenon, that has in it nothing very
surprising. The peak is covered with snow during part of the year;
we ourselves found it still so in the plain of Rambleta. Messrs.
O'Donnel and Armstrong discovered in 1806 a very abundant spring in
the Malpays, a hundred toises above the cavern of ice, which is
perhaps fed partly by this snow. Everything consequently leads us
to presume that the peak of Teneriffe, like the volcanoes of the
Andes, and those of the island of Manilla, contains within itself
great cavities, which are filled with atmospherical water, owing
merely to filtration. The aqueous vapours exhaled by the Narices
and crevices of the crater, are only those same waters heated by
the interior surfaces down which they flow.

We had yet to scale the steepest part of the mountain, the Piton,
which forms the summit. The slope of this small cone, covered with
volcanic ashes, and fragments of pumice-stone, is so steep, that it
would have been almost impossible to reach the top, had we not
ascended by an old current of lava, the debris of which have
resisted the ravages of time. These debris form a wall of scorious
rock, which stretches into the midst of the loose ashes. We
ascended the Piton by grasping these half-decomposed scoriae, which
often broke in our hands. We employed nearly half an hour to scale
a hill, the perpendicular height of which is scarcely ninety
toises. Vesuvius, three times lower than the peak of Teneriffe, is
terminated by a cone of ashes almost three times higher, but with a
more accessible and easy slope. Of all the volcanoes which I have
visited, that of Jorullo, in Mexico, is the only one that is more
difficult to climb than the Peak, because the whole mountain is
covered with loose ashes.

When the Sugar-loaf (el Piton) is covered with snow, as it is in
the beginning of winter, the steepness of its declivity may be very
dangerous to the traveller. M. Le Gros showed us the place where
captain Baudin was nearly killed when he visited the Peak of
Teneriffe. That officer had the courage to undertake, in company
with the naturalists Advenier, Mauger, and Riedle, an excursion to
the top of the volcano about the end of December, 1797. Having
reached half the height of the cone, he fell, and rolled down as
far as the small plain of Rambleta; happily a heap of lava, covered
with snow, hindered him from rolling farther with accelerated
velocity. I have been told, that in Switzerland a traveller was
suffocated by rolling down the declivity of the Col de Balme, over
the compact turf of the Alps.

When we gained the summit of the Piton, we were surprised to find
scarcely room enough to seat ourselves conveniently. We were
stopped by a small circular wall of porphyritic lava, with a base
of pitchstone, which concealed from us the view of the crater.* (*
Called La Caldera, or the caldron of the peak, a denomination which
recalls to mind the Oules of the Pyrenees.) The west wind blew with
such violence that we could scarcely stand. It was eight in the
morning, and we suffered severely from the cold, though the
thermometer kept a little above freezing point. For a long time we
had been accustomed to a very high temperature, and the dry wind
increased the feeling of cold, because it carried off every moment
the small atmosphere of warm and humid air, which was formed around
us from the effect of cutaneous perspiration.

The brink of the crater of the peak bears no resemblance to those
of most of the other volcanoes which I have visited: for instance,
the craters of Vesuvius, Jorullo, and Pichincha. In these the Piton
preserves its conic figure to the very summit: the whole of their
declivity is inclined the same number of degrees, and uniformly
covered with a layer of pumice-stone very minutely divided; when we
reach the top of these volcanoes, nothing obstructs the view of the
bottom of the crater. The peaks of Teneriffe and Cotopaxi, on the
contrary, are of very different construction. At their summit a
circular wall surrounds the crater; which wall, at a distance, has
the appearance of a small cylinder placed on a truncated cone. On
Cotopaxi this peculiar construction is visible to the naked eye at
more than 2000 toises distance; and no person has ever reached the
crater of that volcano. On the peak of Teneriffe, the wall, which
surrounds the crater like a parapet, is so high, that it would be
impossible to reach the Caldera, if, on the eastern side, there was
not a breach, which seems to have been the effect of a flowing of
very old lava. We descended through this breach toward the bottom
of the funnel, the figure of which is elliptic. Its greater axis
has a direction from north-west to south-east, nearly north 35
degrees west. The greatest breadth of the mouth appeared to us to
be 300 feet, the smallest 200 feet, which numbers agree very nearly
with the measurement of MM. Verguin, Varela, and Borda.

It is easy to conceive, that the size of a crater does not depend
solely on the height and mass of the mountain, of which it forms
the principal air-vent. This opening is indeed seldom in direct
ratio with the intensity of the volcanic fire, or with the activity
of the volcano. At Vesuvius, which is but a hill compared with the
Peak of Teneriffe, the diameter of the crater is five times
greater. When we reflect, that very lofty volcanoes throw out less
matter from their summits than from lateral openings, we should be
led to think, that the lower the volcanoes, their force and
activity being the same, the more considerable ought to be their
craters. In fact, there are immense volcanoes in the Andes, which
have but very small openings; and we might establish as a
geological principle, that the most colossal mountains have craters
of little extent at the summits, if the Cordilleras did not present
many instances to the contrary.* (* The great volcanoes of Cotopaxi
and Rucupichincha have craters, the diameters of which, according
to my measurements, exceed 400 and 700 toises.) I shall have
occasion, in the progress of this work, to cite a number of facts,
which will throw some light on what may be called the external
structure of volcanoes. This structure is as varied as the volcanic
phenomena themselves; and in order to raise ourselves to geological
conceptions worthy of the greatness of nature, we must set aside
the idea that all volcanoes are formed after the model of Vesuvius,
Stromboli, and Etna.

The external edges of the Caldera are almost perpendicular. Their
appearance is somewhat like the Somma, seen from the Atrio dei
Cavalli. We descended to the bottom of the crater on a train of
broken lava, from the eastern breach of the enclosure. The heat was
perceptible only in a few crevices, which gave vent to aqueous
vapours with a peculiar buzzing noise. Some of these funnels or
crevices are on the outside of the enclosure, on the external brink
of the parapet that surrounds the crater. We plunged the
thermometer into them, and saw it rise rapidly to 68 and 75
degrees. It no doubt indicated a higher temperature, but we could
not observe the instrument till we had drawn it up, lest we should
burn our hands. M. Cordier found several crevices, the heat of
which was that of boiling water. It might be thought that these
vapours, which are emitted in gusts, contain muriatic or sulphurous
acid; but when condensed, they have no particular taste; and
experiments, which have been made with re-agents, prove that the
chimneys of the peak exhale only pure water. This phenomenon,
analogous to that which I observed in the crater of Jorullo,
deserves the more attention, as muriatic acid abounds in the
greater part of volcanoes, and as M. Vauquelin has discovered it
even in the porphyritic lavas of Sarcouy in Auvergne.

I sketched on the spot a view of the interior edge of the crater,
as it presented itself in the descent by the eastern break. Nothing
is more striking than the manner in which these strata of lava are
piled on one another, exhibiting the sinuosities of the calcareous
rock of the higher Alps. These enormous ledges, sometimes
horizontal, sometimes inclined and undulating, are indicative of
the ancient fluidity of the whole mass, and of the combination of
several deranging causes, which have determined the direction of
each flow. The top of the circular wall exhibits those curious
ramifications which we find in coke. The northern edge is most
elevated. Towards the south-west the enclosure is considerably sunk
and an enormous mass of scorious lava seems glued to the extremity
of the brink. On the west the rock is perforated; and a large
opening gives a view of the horizon of the sea. The force of the
elastic vapours perhaps formed this natural aperture, at the time
of some inundation of lava thrown out from the crater.

The inside of this funnel indicates a volcano, which for thousands
of years has vomited no fire but from its sides. This conclusion is
not founded on the absence of great openings, which might be
expected in the bottom of the Caldera. Those whose experience is
founded on personal observation, know that several volcanoes, in
the intervals of an eruption, appear filled up, and almost
extinguished; but that in these same mountains, the crater of the
volcano exhibits layers of scoriae, rough, sonorous, and shining.
We observe hillocks and intumescences caused by the action of the
elastic vapours, cones of broken scoriae and ashes which cover the
funnels. None of these phenomena characterise the crater of the
peak of Teneriffe; its bottom is not in the state which ensues at
the close of an eruption. From the lapse of time, and the action of
the vapours, the inside walls are detached, and have covered the
basin with great blocks of lithoid lavas.

The bottom of the Caldera is reached without danger. In a volcano,
the activity of which is principally directed towards the summit,
such as Vesuvius, the depth of the crater varies before and after
each eruption; but at the peak of Teneriffe the depth appears to
have remained unchanged for a long time. Eden, in 1715, estimated
it at 115 feet; Cordier, in 1803, at 110 feet. Judging by mere
inspection, I should have thought the funnel of still less depth.
Its present state is that of a solfatara; and it is rather an
object of curious investigation, than of imposing aspect. The
majesty of the site consists in its elevation above the level of
the sea, in the profound solitude of these lofty regions, and in
the immense space over which the eye ranges from the summit of the

The wall of compact lava, forming the enclosure of the Caldera, is
snow-white at its surface. The same colour prevails in the inside
of the Solfatara of Puzzuoli. When we break these lavas, which
might be taken at some distance for calcareous stone, we find in
them a blackish brown nucleus. Porphyry, with basis of pitch-stone,
is whitened externally by the slow action of the vapours of
sulphurous acid gas. These vapours rise in abundance; and what is
rather remarkable, through crevices which seem to have no
communication with the apertures that emit aqueous vapours. We may
be convinced of the presence of the sulphurous acid, by examining
the fine crystals of sulphur, which are everywhere found in the
crevices of the lava. This acid, combined with the water with which
the soil is impregnated, is transformed into sulphuric acid by
contact with the oxygen of the atmosphere. In general, the humidity
in the crater of the peak is more to be feared than the heat; and
they who seat themselves for a while on the ground find their
clothes corroded. The porphyritic lavas are affected by the action
of the sulphuric acid: the alumine, magnesia, soda, and metallic
oxides gradually disappear; and often nothing remains but the
silex, which unites in mammillary plates, like opal. These
siliceous concretions,* (* Opalartiger kieselsinter. The siliceous
gurh of the volcanoes of the Isle of France contains, according to
Klaproth, 0.72 silex, and 0.21 water; and thus comes near to opal,
which Karsten considers as a hydrated silex.) which M. Cordier
first made known, are similar to those found in the isle of Ischia,
in the extinguished volcanoes of Santa Fiora, and in the Solfatara
of Puzzuoli. It is not easy to form an idea of the origin of these
incrustations. The aqueous vapours, discharged through great
spiracles, do not contain alkali in solution, like the waters of
the Geyser, in Iceland. Perhaps the soda contained in the lavas of
the peak acts an important part in the formation of these deposits
of silex. There may exist in the crater small crevices, the vapours
of which are not of the same nature as those on which travellers,
whose attention has been directed simultaneously to a great number
of objects, have made experiments.

Seated on the northern brink of the crater, I dug a hole of some
inches in depth; and the thermometer placed in this hole rose
rapidly to 42 degrees. Hence we may conclude what must be the heat
in this solfatara at the depth of thirty or forty fathoms. The
sulphur reduced into vapour is condensed into fine crystals, which
however are not equal in size to those M. Dolomieu brought from
Sicily. They are semi-diaphanous octahedrons, very brilliant on the
surface, and of a conchoidal fracture. These masses, which will one
day perhaps be objects of commerce, are constantly bedewed with
sulphurous acid. I had the imprudence to wrap up a few, in order to
preserve them, but I soon discovered that the acid had consumed not
only the paper which contained them, but a part also of my
mineralogical journal. The heat of the vapours, which issue from
the crevices of the caldera, is not sufficiently great to combine
the sulphur while in a state of minute division, with the oxygen of
the atmospheric air; and after the experiment I have just cited on
the temperature of the soil, we may presume that the sulphurous
acid is formed at a certain depth,* in cavities to which the
external air has free access. (* An observer, in general very
accurate, M. Breislack, asserts that the muriatic acid always
predominates in the vapours of Vesuvius. This assertion is contrary
to what M. Gay-Lussac and myself observed, before the great
eruption of 1805, and while the lava was issuing from the crater.
The smell of the sulphurous acid, so easy to distinguish, was
perceptible at a great distance; and when the volcano threw out
scoriae, the smell was mingled with that of petroleum.)

The vapours of heated water, which act on the fragments of lava
scattered about on the caldera, reduce certain parts of it to a
state of paste. On examining, after I had reached America, those
earthy and friable masses, I found crystals of sulphate of alumine.
MM. Davy and Gay-Lussac have already made the ingenious remark,
that two bodies highly inflammable, the metals of soda and potash,
have probably an important part in the action of a volcano; now the
potash necessary to the formation of alum is found not only in
feldspar, mica, pumice-stone, and augite, but also in obsidian.
This last substance is very common at Teneriffe, where it forms the
basis of the tephrinic lava. These analogies between the peak of
Teneriffe and the Solfatara of Puzzuoli, might no doubt be shown to
be more numerous, if the former were more accessible, and had been
frequently visited by naturalists.

An expedition to the summit of the volcano of Teneriffe is
interesting, not solely on account of the great number of phenomena
which are the objects of scientific research; it has still greater
attractions from the picturesque beauties which it lays open to
those who are feelingly alive to the majesty of nature. It is a
difficult task to describe the sensations, which are the more
forcible, inasmuch as they have something undefined, produced by
the immensity of the space as well as by the vastness, the novelty,
and the multitude of the objects, amidst which we find ourselves
transported. When a traveller attempts to describe the loftiest
summits of the globe, the cataracts of the great rivers, the
tortuous valleys of the Andes, he incurs the danger of fatiguing
his readers by the monotonous expression of his admiration. It
appears to me more conformable to the plan I have proposed to
myself in this narrative, to indicate the peculiar character that
distinguishes each zone: we exhibit with more clearness the
physiognomy of the landscape, in proportion as we endeavour to
sketch its individual features, to compare them with each other,
and to discover by this kind of analysis the sources of the
enjoyments, furnished by the great picture of nature.

Travellers have learned by experience, that views from the summits
of very lofty mountains are neither so beautiful, picturesque, nor
so varied, as those from heights which do not exceed that of
Vesuvius, Righi, and the Puy-de-Dome. Colossal mountains, such as
Chimborazo, Antisana, or Mount Rosa, compose so large a mass, that
the plains covered with rich vegetation are seen only in the
immensity of distance, and a blue and vapoury tint is uniformly
spread over the landscape. The peak of Teneriffe, from its slender
form and local position, unites the advantages of less lofty
summits with those peculiar to very great heights. We not only
discern from its top a vast expanse of sea, but we perceive also
the forests of Teneriffe, and the inhabited parts of the coasts, in
a proximity calculated to produce the most beautiful contrasts of
form and colour. We might say, that the volcano overwhelms with its
mass the little island which serves as its base, and it shoots up
from the bosom of the waters to a height three times loftier than
the region where the clouds float in summer. If its crater, half
extinguished for ages past, shot forth flakes of fire like that of
Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands, the peak of Teneriffe, like a
lighthouse, would serve to guide the mariner in a circuit of more
than 260 leagues.

When we were seated on the external edge of the crater, we turned
our eyes towards the north-west, where the coasts are studded with
villages and hamlets. At our feet, masses of vapour, constantly
drifted by the winds, afforded us the most variable spectacle. A
uniform stratum of clouds, similar to that already described, and
which separated us from the lower regions of the island, had been
pierced in several places by the effect of the small currents of
air, which the earth, heated by the sun, began to send towards us.
The port of Orotava, its vessels at anchor, the gardens and the
vineyards encircling the town, shewed themselves through an opening
which seemed to enlarge every instant. From the summit of these
solitary regions our eyes wandered over an inhabited world; we
enjoyed the striking contrast between the bare sides of the peak,
its steep declivities covered with scoriae, its elevated plains
destitute of vegetation, and the smiling aspect of the cultured
country beneath. We beheld the plants divided by zones, as the
temperature of the atmosphere diminished with the elevation of the
site. Below the Piton, lichens begin to cover the scorious and
lustrous lava: a violet,* (* Viola cheiranthifolia.) akin to the
Viola decumbens, rises on the slope of the volcano at 1740 toises
of height; it takes the lead not only of the other herbaceous
plants, but even of the gramina, which, in the Alps and on the
ridge of the Cordilleras, form close neighbourhood with the plants
of the family of the cryptogamia. Tufts of retama, loaded with
flowers, adorn the valleys hollowed out by the torrents, and
encumbered with the effects of the lateral eruptions. Below the
retama, lies the region of ferns, bordered by the tract of the
arborescent heaths. Forests of laurel, rhamnus, and arbutus, divide
the ericas from the rising grounds planted with vines and fruit
trees. A rich carpet of verdure extends from the plain of spartium,
and the zone of the alpine plants even to the groups of the date
tree and the musa, at the feet of which the ocean appears to roll.
I here pass slightly over the principal features of this botanical
chart, as I shall enter hereafter into some farther details
respecting the geography of the plants of the island of Teneriffe.*
(* See below.)

The seeming proximity, in which, from the summit of the peak, we
behold the hamlets, the vineyards, and the gardens on the coast, is
increased by the prodigious transparency of the atmosphere.
Notwithstanding the great distance, we could distinguish not only
the houses, the sails of the vessels, and the trunks of the trees,
but we could discern the vivid colouring of the vegetation of the
plains. These phenomena are owing not only to the height of the
site, but to the peculiar modifications of the air in warm
climates. In every zone, an object placed on a level with the sea,
and viewed in a horizontal direction, appears less luminous, than
when seen from the top of a mountain, where vapours arrive after
passing through strata of air of decreasing density. Differences
equally striking are produced by the influence of climate. The
surface of a lake or large river is less resplendent, when we see
it at an equal distance, from the top of the higher Alps of
Switzerland, than when we view it from the summit of the
Cordilleras of Peru or of Mexico. In proportion as the air is pure
and serene, the solution of the vapours becomes more complete, and
the light loses less in its passage. When from the shores of the
Pacific we ascend the elevated plain of Quito, or that of Antisana,
we are struck for some days by the nearness at which we imagine we
see objects which are actually seven or eight leagues distant. The
peak of Teyde has not the advantage of being situated in the
equinoctial region; but the dryness of the columns of air which
rise perpetually above the neighbouring plains of Africa, and which
the eastern winds convey with rapidity, gives to the atmosphere of
the Canary Islands a transparency which not only surpasses that of
the air of Naples and Sicily, but perhaps exceeds the purity of the
sky of Quito and Peru. This transparency may be regarded as one of
the chief causes of the beauty of landscape scenery in the torrid
zone; it heightens the splendour of the vegetable colouring, and
contributes to the magical effect of its harmonies and contrasts.
If the mass of light, which circulates about objects, fatigues the
external senses during a part of the day, the inhabitant of the
southern climates has his compensation in moral enjoyment. A lucid
clearness in the conceptions, and a serenity of mind, correspond
with the transparency of the surrounding atmosphere. We feel these
impressions without going beyond the boundaries of Europe. I appeal
to travellers who have visited countries rendered famous by the
great creations of the imagination and of art,--the favoured climes
of Italy and Greece.

We prolonged in vain our stay on the summit of the Peak, awaiting
the moment when we might enjoy the view of the whole of the
archipelago of the Fortunate Islands:* we, however, descried Palma,
Gomera, and the Great Canary, at our feet. (* Of all the small
islands of the Canaries, the Rock of the East is the only one which
cannot be seen, even in fine weather, from the top of the Peak. Its
distance is 3 degrees 5 minutes, while that of the Salvage is only
2 degrees 1 minute. The island of Madeira, distant 4 degrees 29
minutes, would be visible, if its mountains were more than 3000
toises high.) The mountains of Lancerota, free from vapours at
sunrise, were soon enveloped in thick clouds. Supposing only an
ordinary refraction, the eye takes in, in calm weather, from the
summit of the volcano, a surface of the globe of 5700 square
leagues, equal to a fourth of the superficies of Spain. The
question has often been agitated, whether it be possible to
perceive the coast of Africa from the top of this colossal pyramid;
but the nearest parts of that coast are still farther from
Teneriffe than 2 degrees 49 minutes, or 56 leagues. The visual ray
of the horizon from the Peak being 1 degree 57 minutes, cape
Bojador can be seen only on the supposition of its height being 200
toises above the level of the ocean. We are ignorant of the height
of the Black Mountains near cape Bojador, as well as of that peak,
called by navigators the Penon Grande, farther to the south of this
promontory. If the summit of the volcano of Teneriffe were more
accessible, we should observe without doubt, in certain states of
the wind, the effects of an extraordinary refraction. On perusing
what Spanish and Portuguese authors relate respecting the existence
of the fabulous isle of San Borondon, or Antilia, we find that it
is particularly the humid wind from west-south-west, which produces
in these latitudes the phenomena of the mirage. We shall not
however admit with M. Vieyra, "that the play of the terrestrial
refractions may render visible to the inhabitants of the Canaries
the islands of Cape Verd, and even the Apalachian mountains of
America."* (* The American fruits, frequently thrown by the sea on
the coasts of the islands of Ferro and Gomera, were formerly
supposed to emanate from the plants of the island of San Borondon.
This island, said to be governed by an archbishop and six bishops,
and which Father Feijoa believed to be the image of the island of
Ferro, reflected on a fog-bank, was ceded in the 16th century, by
the King of Portugal, to Lewis Perdigon, at the time the latter was
preparing to take possession of it by conquest.)

The cold we felt on the top of the Peak, was very considerable for
the season. The centigrade thermometer, at a distance from the
ground, and from the apertures that emitted the hot vapours, fell
in the shade to 2.7 degrees. The wind was west, and consequently
opposite to that which brings to Teneriffe, during a great part of
the year, the warm air that floats above the burning desert of
Africa. As the temperature of the atmosphere, observed at the port
of Orotava by M. Savagi, was 22.8 degrees, the decrement of caloric
was one degree every 94 toises. This result perfectly corresponds
with those obtained by Lamanon and Saussure on the summits of the
Peak and Etna, though in very different seasons. The tall slender
form of these mountains facilitates the means of comparing the
temperature of two strata of the atmosphere, which are nearly in
the same perpendicular plane; and in this point of view the
observations made in an excursion to the volcano of Teneriffe
resemble those of an ascent in a balloon. We must nevertheless
remark, that the ocean, on account of its transparency and
evaporation, reflects less caloric than the plains, into the upper
regions of the air; and also that summits which are surrounded by
the sea are colder in summer, than mountains which rise from a
continent; but this circumstance has very little influence on the
decrement of atmospherical heat; the temperature of the low regions
being equally diminished by the proximity of the ocean.

It is not the same with respect to the influence exercised by the
direction of the wind, and the rapidity of the ascending current;
the latter sometimes increases in an astonishing manner the
temperature of the loftiest mountains. I have seen the thermometer
rise, on the slope of the volcano of Antisana, in the kingdom of
Quito, to 19 degrees, when we were 2837 toises high. M.
Labillardiere has seen it, on the edge of the crater of the peak of
Teneriffe, at 18.7 degrees, though he had used every possible
precaution to avoid the effect of accidental causes.

On the summit of the Peak, we beheld with admiration the azure
colour of the sky. Its intensity at the zenith appeared to
correspond to 41 degrees of the cyanometer. We know, by Saussure's
experiment, that this intensity increases with the rarity of the
air, and that the same instrument marked at the same period 39
degrees at the priory of Chamouni, and 40 degrees at the top of
Mont Blanc. This last mountain is 540 toises higher than the
volcano of Teneriffe; and if, notwithstanding this difference, the
sky is observed there to be of a less deep blue, we must attribute
this phenomenon to the dryness of the African air, and the
proximity of the torrid zone.

We collected on the brink of the crater, some air which we meant to
analyse on our voyage to America. The phial remained so well
corked, that on opening it ten days after, the water rushed in with
impetuosity. Several experiments, made by means of nitrous gas in
the narrow tube of Fontana's eudiometer, seemed to prove that the
air of the crater contained 0.09 degrees less oxygen than the air
of the sea; but I have little confidence in this result obtained by
means which we now consider as very inexact. The crater of the Peak
has so little depth, and the air is renewed with so much facility,
that it is scarcely probable the quantity of azote is greater there
than on the coasts. We know also, from the experiments of MM.
Gay-Lussac and Theodore de Saussure, that in the highest as well as
in the lowest regions of the atmosphere, the air equally contains
0.21 of oxygen.* (* During the stay of M. Gay-Lussac and myself at
the hospice of Mont Cenis, in March 1805, we collected air in the
midst of a cloud loaded with electricity. This air, analysed in
Volta's eudiometer, contained no hydrogen, and its purity did not
differ 0.002 of oxygen from the air of Paris, which we had carried
with us in phials hermetically sealed.)

We saw on the summit of the Peak no trace of psora, lecidea, or
other cryptogamous plants; no insect fluttered in the air. We found
however a few hymenoptera adhering to masses of sulphur moistened
with sulphurous acid, and lining the mouths of the funnels. These
are bees, which appear to have been attracted by the flowers of the
Spartium nubigenum, and which oblique currents of air had carried
up to these high regions, like the butterflies found by M. Ramond
at the top of Mont Perdu. The butterflies perished from cold, while
the bees on the Peak were scorched on imprudently approaching the
crevices where they came in search of warmth.

Notwithstanding the heat we felt in our feet on the edge of the
crater, the cone of ashes remains covered with snow during several
months in winter. It is probable, that under the cap of snow
considerable hollows are found, like those existing under the
glaciers of Switzerland, the temperature of which is constantly
less elevated than that of the soil on which they repose. The cold
and violent wind, which blew from the time of sunrise, induced us
to seek shelter at the foot of the Piton. Our hands and faces were
nearly frozen, while our boots were burnt by the soil on which we
walked. We descended in the space of a few minutes the Sugar-loaf
which we had scaled with so much toil; and this rapidity was in
part involuntary, for we often rolled down on the ashes. It was
with regret that we quitted this solitude, this domain where Nature
reigns in all her majesty. We consoled ourselves with the hope of
once again visiting the Canary Islands, but this, like many other
plans we then formed, has never been executed.

We traversed the Malpays but slowly; for the foot finds no sure
foundation on the loose blocks of lava. Nearer the station of the
rocks, the descent becomes extremely difficult; the compact
short-swarded turf is so slippery, that we were obliged to incline
our bodies continually backward, in order to avoid falling. In the
sandy plain of Retama, the thermometer rose to 22.5 degrees; and
this heat seemed to us suffocating in comparison with the cold,
which we had suffered from the air on the summit of the volcano. We
were absolutely without water; our guides, not satisfied with
drinking clandestinely the little supply of malmsey wine, for which
we were indebted to Don Cologan's kindness, had broken our water
jars. Happily the bottle which contained the air of the crater
escaped unhurt.

We at length enjoyed the refreshing breeze in the beautiful region
of the arborescent erica and fern; and we were enveloped in a thick
bed of clouds stationary at six hundred toises above the plain. The
clouds having dispersed, we remarked a phenomenon which afterwards
became familiar to us on the declivities of the Cordilleras. Small
currents of air chased trains of cloud with unequal velocity, and
in opposite directions: they bore the appearance of streamlets of
water in rapid motion and flowing in all directions, amidst a great
mass of stagnant water. The causes of this partial motion of the
clouds are probably very various; we may suppose them to arise from
some impulsion at a great distance; from the slight inequalities of
the soil, which reflects in a greater or less degree the radiant
heat; from a difference of temperature kept up by some chemical
action; or perhaps from a strong electric charge of the vesicular

As we approached the town of Orotava, we met great flocks of
canaries.* (* Fringilla Canaria. La Caille relates, in the
narrative of his voyage to the Cape, that on Salvage Island these
canaries are so abundant, that you cannot walk there in a certain
season without breaking their eggs.) These birds, well known in
Europe, were in general uniformly green. Some, however, had a
yellow tinge on their backs; their note was the same as that of the
tame canary. It is nevertheless remarked, that those which have
been taken in the island of the Great Canary, and in the islet of
Monte Clara, near Lancerota, have a louder and at the same time a
more harmonious song. In every zone, among birds of the same
species, each flock has its peculiar note. The yellow canaries are
a variety, which has taken birth in Europe; and those we saw in
cages at Orotava and Santa Cruz had been bought at Cadiz, and in
other ports of Spain. But of all the birds of the Canary Islands,
that which has the most heart-soothing song is unknown in Europe.
It is the capirote, which no effort has succeeded in taming, so
sacred to his soul is liberty. I have stood listening in admiration
of his soft and melodious warbling, in a garden at Orotava; but I
have never seen him sufficiently near to ascertain to what family
he belongs. As to the parrots, which were supposed to have been
seen at the period of captain Cook's abode at Teneriffe, they never
existed but in the narratives of a few travellers, who have copied
from each other. Neither parrots nor monkeys inhabit the Canary
Islands; and though in the New Continent the former migrate as far
as North Carolina, I doubt whether in the Old they have ever been
met with beyond the 28th degree of north latitude.

Toward the close of day we reached the port of Orotava, where we
received the unexpected intelligence that the Pizarro would not set
sail till the 24th or 25th. If we could have calculated on this
delay, we should either have lengthened our stay on the Peak,* or
have made an excursion to the volcano of Chahorra. (* As a great
number of travellers who land at Santa Cruz, do not undertake the
excursion to the Peak, because they are ignorant of the time it
occupies, it may be useful to lay down the following data: In
making use of mules as far as the Estancia de los Ingleses, it
takes twenty-one hours from Orotava to arrive at the summit of the
Peak, and return to the port; namely, from Orotava to the Pino del
Dornajito three hours; from the Pino to the Station of the Rocks
six hours; and from this station to the Caldera three hours and a
half. I reckon nine hours for the descent. In this calculation I
count only the time employed in walking, without reckoning that
which is necessary for examining the productions of the Peak, or
for taking rest. Half a day is sufficient for going from Santa Cruz
to Orotava.) We passed the following day in visiting the environs
of Orotava, and enjoying the agreeable company we found at Don
Cologan's. We perceived that Teneriffe had attractions not only to
those who devote themselves to the study of nature: we found at
Orotava several persons possessing a taste for literature and
music, and who have transplanted into these distant climes the
amenity of European society. In these respects the Canary Islands
have no great resemblance to the other Spanish colonies, excepting
the Havannah.

We were present on the eve of St. John at a pastoral fete in the
garden of Mr. Little. This gentleman, who rendered great service to
the Canarians during the last famine, has cultivated a hill covered
with volcanic substances. He has formed in this delicious site an
English garden, whence there is a magnificent view of the Peak, of
the villages along the coast, and the isle of Palma, which is
bounded by the vast expanse of the Atlantic. I cannot compare this
prospect with any, except the views of the bays of Genoa and
Naples; but Orotava is greatly superior to both in the magnitude of
the masses and in the richness of vegetation. In the beginning of
the evening the slope of the volcano exhibited on a sudden a most
extraordinary spectacle. The shepherds, in conformity to a custom,
no doubt introduced by the Spaniards, though it dates from the
highest antiquity, had lighted the fires of St. John. The scattered
masses of fire and the columns of smoke driven by the wind, formed
a fine contrast with the deep verdure of the forests which covered
the sides of the Peak. Shouts of joy resounding from afar were the
only sounds that broke the silence of nature in these solitary

Don Cologan's family has a country-house nearer the coast than that
I have just mentioned. This house, called La Paz, is connected with
a circumstance that rendered it peculiarly interesting to us. M. de
Borda, whose death we deplored, was its inmate during his last
visit to the Canary Islands. It was in a neighbouring plain that he
measured the base, by which he determined the height of the Peak.
In this geometrical operation the great dracaena of Orotava served
as a mark. Should any well-informed traveller at some future day
undertake a new measurement of the volcano with more exactness, and
by the help of astronomical repeating circles, he ought to measure
the base, not near Orotava, but near Los Silos, at a place called
Bante. According to M. Broussonnet there is no plain near the Peak
of greater extent. In herborizing near La Paz we found a great
quantity of Lichen roccella on the basaltic rocks bathed by the
waters of the sea. The archil of the Canaries is a very ancient
branch of commerce; this lichen is however found in less abundance
in the island of Teneriffe than in the desert islands of Salvage,
La Graciosa, and Alegranza, or even in Canary and Hierro. We left
the port of Orotava on the 24th of June.

To avoid disconnecting the narrative of the excursion to the top of
the Peak, I have said nothing of the geological observations I made
on the structure of this colossal mountain, and on the nature of
the volcanic rocks of which it is composed. Before we quit the
archipelago of the Canaries, I shall linger for a moment, and bring
into one point of view some facts relating to the physical aspect
of those countries.

Mineralogists who think that the end of the geology of volcanoes is
the classification of lavas, the examination of the crystals they
contain, and their description according to their external
characters, are generally very well satisfied when they come back
from the mouth of a burning volcano. They return loaded with those
numerous collections, which are the principal objects of their
research. This is not the feeling of those who, without confounding
descriptive mineralogy (oryctognosy) with geognosy, endeavour to
raise themselves to ideas generally interesting, and seek, in the
study of nature, for answers to the following questions:--

Is the conical mountain of a volcano entirely formed of liquified
matter heaped together by successive eruptions, or does it contain
in its centre a nucleus of primitive rocks covered with lava, which
are these same rocks altered by fire? What are the affinities which
unite the productions of modern volcanoes with the basalts, the
phonolites, and those porphyries with bases of feldspar, which are
without quartz, and which cover the Cordilleras of Peru and Mexico,
as well as the small groups of the Monts Dores, of Cantal, and of
Mezen in France? Has the central nucleus of volcanoes been heated
in its primitive position, and raised up, in a softened state, by
the force of the elastic vapours, before these fluids communicated,
by means of a crater, with the external air? What is the substance,
which, for thousands of years, keeps up this combustion, sometimes
so slow, and at other times so active? Does this unknown cause act
at an immense depth; or does this chemical action take place in
secondary rocks lying on granite?

The farther we are from finding a solution of these problems in the
numerous works hitherto published on Etna and Vesuvius, the greater
is the desire of the traveller to see with his own eyes. He hopes
to be more fortunate than those who have preceded him; he wishes to
form a precise idea of the geological relations which the volcano
and the neighbouring mountains bear to each other: but how often is
he disappointed, when, on the limits of the primitive soil,
enormous banks of tufa and puzzolana render every observation on
the position and stratification impossible! We reach the inside of
the crater with less difficulty than we at first expect; we examine
the cone from its summit to its base; we are struck with the
difference in the produce of each eruption, and with the analogy
which still exists between the lavas of the same volcano; but,
notwithstanding the care with which we interrogate nature, and the
number of partial observations which present themselves at every
step, we return from the summit of a burning volcano less satisfied
than when we were preparing to visit it. It is after we have
studied them on the spot, that the volcanic phenomena appear still
more isolated, more variable, more obscure, than we imagine them
when consulting the narratives of travellers.

These reflections occurred to me on descending from the summit of
the peak of Teneriffe, the first unextinct volcano I had yet
visited. They returned anew whenever, in South America, or in
Mexico, I had occasion to examine volcanic mountains. When we
reflect how little the labours of mineralogists, and the
discoveries in chemistry, have promoted the knowledge of the
physical geology of mountains, we cannot help being affected with a
painful sentiment; and this is felt still more strongly by those,
who, studying nature in different climates, are more occupied by
the problems they have not been able to solve, than with the few
results they have obtained.

The peak of Ayadyrma, or of Echeyde,* (* The word Echeyde, which
signifies Hell in the language of the Guanches, has been corrupted
by the Europeans into Teyde.) is a conic and isolated mountain,
which rises in an islet of very small circumference. Those who do
not take into consideration the whole surface of the globe,
believe, that these three circumstances are common to the greater
part of volcanoes. They cite, in support of their opinion, Etna,
the peak of the Azores, the Solfatara of Guadaloupe, the
Trois-Salazes of the isle of Bourbon, and the clusters of volcanoes
in the Indian Sea and in the Atlantic. In Europe and in Asia, as
far as the interior of the latter continent is known, no burning
volcano is situated in the chains of mountains; all being at a
greater or less distance from those chains. In the New World, on
the contrary, (and this fact deserves the greatest attention,) the
volcanoes the most stupendous for their masses form a part of the
Cordilleras themselves. The mountains of mica-slate and gneiss in
Peru and New Grenada immediately touch the volcanic porphyries of
the provinces of Quito and Pasto. To the south and north of these
countries, in Chile and in the kingdom of Guatimala, the active
volcanoes are grouped in rows. They are the continuation, as we may
say, of the chains of primitive rocks, and if the volcanic fire has
broken forth in some plain remote from the Cordilleras, as in mount
Sangay and Jorullo,* (* Two volcanoes of the Provinces of Quixos
and Mechoacan, the one in the southern, and the other in the
northern hemisphere.) we must consider this phenomenon as an
exception to the law, which nature seems to have imposed on these
regions. I may here repeat these geological facts, because this
presumed isolated situation of every volcano has been cited in
opposition to the idea that the peak of Teneriffe, and the other
volcanic summits of the Canary Islands, are the remains of a
submerged chain of mountains. The observations which have been made
on the grouping of volcanoes in America, prove that the ancient
state of things represented in the conjectural map of the Atlantic
by M. Bory de St. Vincent* (* Whether the traditions of the
ancients respecting the Atlantis are founded on historical facts,
is a matter totally distinct from the question whether the
archipelago of the Canaries and the adjacent islands are the
vestiges of a chain of mountains, rent and sunk in the sea during
one of the great convulsions of our globe. I do not pretend to form
any opinion in favour of the existence of the Atlantis; but I
endeavour to prove, that the Canaries have no more been created by
volcanoes, than the whole body of the smaller Antilles has been
formed by madrepores.) is by no means contradictory to the
acknowledged laws of nature; and that nothing opposes the
supposition that the summits of Porto Santo, Madeira, and the
Fortunate Islands, may heretofore have formed, either a distinct
range of primitive mountains, or the western extremity of the chain
of the Atlas.

The peak of Teyde forms a pyramidal mass like Etna, Tungurahua, and
Popocatepetl. This physiognomic character is very far from being
common to all volcanoes. We have seen some in the southern
hemisphere, which, instead of having the form of a cone or a bell,
are lengthened in one direction, having the ridge sometimes smooth,
and at others bristled with small pointed rocks. This structure is
peculiar to Antisana and Pichincha, two burning mountains of the
province of Quito; and the absence of the conic form ought never to
be considered as a reason excluding the idea of a volcanic origin.
I shall develop, in the progress of this work, some of the
analogies, which I think I have perceived between the physiognomy
of volcanoes and the antiquity of their rocks. It is sufficient to
state, generally speaking, that the summits, which are still
subject to eruptions of the greatest violence, and at the nearest
periods to each other, are SLENDER PEAKS of a conic form; that the
mountains with LENGTHENED SUMMITS, and rugged with small stony
masses, are very old volcanoes, and near being extinguished; and
that rounded tops, in the form of domes, or bells, indicate those
problematic porphyries, which are supposed to have been heated in
their primitive position, penetrated by vapours, and forced up in a
mollified state, without having ever flowed as real lithoidal
lavas. To the first class belong Cotopaxi, the peak of Teneriffe,
and the peak of Orizava in Mexico. In the second may be placed
Cargueirazo and Pichincha, in the province of Quito; the volcano of
Puracey, near Popayan; and perhaps also Hecla, in Iceland. In the
third and last we may rank the majestic figure of Chimborazo, and,
(if it be allowable to place by the side of that colossus a hill of
Europe,) the Great Sarcouy in Auvergne.

In order to form a more exact idea of the external structure of
volcanoes, it is important to compare their perpendicular height
with their circumference. This, however, cannot be done with any
exactness, unless the mountains are isolated, and rising on a plain
nearly on a level with the sea. In calculating the circumference of
the peak of Teneriffe in a curve passing through the port of
Orotava, Garachico, Adexe, and Guimar, and setting aside the
prolongations of its base towards the forest of Laguna, and the
north-east cape of the island, we find that this extent is more
than 54,000 toises. The height of the Peak is consequently one
twenty-eighth of the circumference of its basis. M. von Buch found
a thirty-third for Vesuvius; and, which perhaps is less certain, a
thirty-fourth for Etna.* (* Gilbert, Annalen der Physik B. 5 page
455. Vesuvius is 133,000 palmas, or eighteen nautical miles in
circumference. The horizontal distance from Resina to the crater is
3700 toises. Italian mineralogists have estimated the circumference
of Etna at 840,000 palmas, or 119 miles. With these data, the ratio
of the height to the circumference would be only a seventy-second;
but I find on tracing a curve through Catania, Palermo, Bronte, and
Piemonte, only 62 miles in circumference, according to the best
maps. This increases the ratio to a fifty-fourth. Does the basis
fall on the outside of the curve that I assume?) If the slope of
these three volcanoes were uniform from the summit to the base, the
peak of Teyde would have an inclination of 12 degrees 29 minutes,
Vesuvius 12 degrees 41 minutes, and Etna 10 degrees 13 minutes, a
result which must astonish those who do not reflect on what
constitutes an average slope. In a very long ascent, slopes of
three or four degrees alternate with others which are inclined from
25 to 30 degrees; and the latter only strike our imagination, because
we think all the slopes of mountains more steep than they really are.
I may cite in support of this consideration the example of the
ascent from the port of Vera Cruz to the elevated plain of Mexico.
On the eastern slope of the Cordillera a road has been traced,
which for ages has not been frequented except on foot, or on the
backs of mules. From Encero to the small Indian village of Las
Vigas, there are 7500 toises of horizontal distance; and Encero
being, according to my barometric measurement, 746 toises lower
than Las Vigas, the result, for the mean slope, is only an angle of
5 degrees 40 minutes.

In the following note will be seen the results of some experiments
I have made on the difficulties arising from the declivities in
mountainous countries.*

(* In places where there were at the same time slopes covered with
tufted grass and loose sands, I took the following measures:--

  5 degrees, slope of a very marked inclination. In France the high
    roads must not exceed 4 degrees 46 minutes by law;
 15 degrees, slope extremely steep, and which we cannot descend in a
 37 degrees, slope almost inaccessible on foot, if the ground be
    naked rock, or turf too thick to form steps. The body falls
    backwards when the tibia makes a smaller angle than 53 degrees with
    the sole of the foot;
 42 degrees, the steepest slope that can be climbed on foot in a
    ground that is sandy, or covered with volcanic ashes.

When the slope is 44 degrees, it is almost impossible to scale it,
though the ground permits the forming of steps by thrusting in the
foot. The cones of volcanoes have a medium slope from 33 to 40
degrees. The steepest parts of these cones, either of Vesuvius, the
Peak of Teneriffe, the volcano of Pichincha, or Jorullo, are from
40 to 42 degrees. A slope of 55 degrees is quite inaccessible. If
seen from above it would be estimated at 75 degrees.)

Isolated volcanoes, in the most distant regions, are very analogous
in their structure. At great elevations all have considerable
plains, in the middle of which arises a cone perfectly circular.
Thus at Cotopaxi the plains of Suniguaicu extend beyond the farm of
Pansache. The stony summit of Antisana, covered with eternal snow,
forms an islet in the midst of an immense plain, the surface of
which is twelve leagues square, while its height exceeds that of
the peak of Teneriffe by two hundred toises. At Vesuvius, at three
hundred and seventy toises high, the cone detaches itself from the
plain of Atrio dei Cavalli. The peak of Teneriffe presents two of
these elevated plains, the uppermost of which, at the foot of the
Piton, is as high as Etna, and of very little extent; while the
lowermost, covered with tufts of retama, reaches as far as the
Estancia de los Ingleses. This rises above the level of the sea
almost as high as the city of Quito, and the summit of Mount

The greater the quantity of matter that has issued from the crater
of a mountain, the more elevated is its cone of ashes in proportion
to the perpendicular height of the volcano itself. Nothing is more
striking, under this point of view, than the difference of
structure between Vesuvius, the peak of Teneriffe, and Pichincha. I
have chosen this last volcano in preference, because its summit*
enters scarcely within the limit of the perpetual snows. (* I have
measured the summit of Pichincha, that is the small mountain
covered with ashes above the Llano del Vulcan, to the north of Alto
de Chuquira. This mountain has not, however, the regular form of a
cone. As to Vesuvius, I have indicated the mean height of the
Sugar-loaf, on account of the great difference between the two
edges of the crater.) The cone of Cotopaxi, the form of which is
the most elegant and most regular known, is 540 toises in height;
but it is impossible to decide whether the whole of this mass is
covered with ashes.


Column 1: Name of the volcano.

Column 2: Total height in toises.

Column 3: Height of the cone covered with ashes.

Column 4: Proportion of the cone to the total height.

  Vesuvius          : 606  : 200 : 1/3.

  Peak of Teneriffe : 1904 : 84  : 1/22.

  Pichincha         : 2490 : 240 : 1/10.

This table seems to indicate, what we shall have an opportunity of
proving more amply hereafter, that the peak of Teneriffe belongs to
that group of great volcanoes, which, like Etna and Antisana, have
had more copious eruptions from their sides than from their
summits. Thus the crater at the extremity of the Piton, which is
called the Caldera, is extremely small. Its diminutive size struck
M. de Borda, and other travellers, who took little interest in
geological investigations.

As to the nature of the rocks which compose the soil of Teneriffe,
we must first distinguish between productions of the present
volcano, and the range of basaltic mountains which surround the
Peak, and which do not rise more than five or six hundred toises
above the level of the ocean. Here, as well as in Italy, Mexico,
and the Cordilleras of Quito, the rocks of trap-formation* are at a
distance from the recent currents of lava (* The trap-formation
includes the basalts, green-stone (grunstein), the trappean
porphyries, the phonolites or porphyrschiefer, etc.); everything
shows that these two classes of substances, though they owe their
origin to similar phenomena, date from very different periods. It
is important to geology not to confound the modern currents of
lava, the heaps of basalt, green-stone, and phonolite, dispersed
over the primitive and secondary formations, with those porphyroid
masses having bases of compact feldspar,* which perhaps have never
been perfectly liquified, but which do not less belong to the
domain of volcanoes. (* These petrosiliceous masses contain
vitreous and often calcined crystals of feldspar, of amphibole, of
pyroxene, a little of olivine, but scarcely any quartz. To this
very ambiguous formation belong the trappean porphyries of
Chimborazo and of Riobamba in America, of the Euganean mountains in
Italy, and of the Siebengebirge in Germany; as well as the domites
of the Great-Sarcouy, of Puy-de-Dome, of the Little Cleirsou, and
of one part of the Puy-Chopine in Auvergne.)

In the island of Teneriffe, strata of tufa, puzzolana, and clay,
separate the range of basaltic hills from the currents of recent
lithoid lava, and from the eruptions of the present volcano. In the
same manner as the eruptions of Epomeo in the island of Ischia, and
those of Jorullo in Mexico, have taken place in countries covered
with trappean porphyry, ancient basalt, and volcanic ashes, so the
peak of Teyde has raised itself amidst the wrecks of submarine
volcanoes. Notwithstanding the difference of composition in the
recent lavas of the Peak, there is a certain regularity of
position, which must strike the naturalist least skilled in
geognosy. The great elevated plain of Retama separates the black,
basaltic, and earthlike lava, from the vitreous and feldsparry
lava, the basis of which is obsidian, pitch-stone, and phonolite.
This phenomenon is the more remarkable, inasmuch as in Bohemia and
in other parts of Europe, the porphyrschiefer with base of
phonolite* (* Klingstein. Werner.) covers also the convex summits
of basaltic mountains.

It has already been observed, that from the level of the sea to
Portillo, and as far as the entrance on the elevated plain of the
Retama, that is, two-thirds of the total height of the volcano, the
ground is so covered with plants, that it is difficult to make
geological observations. The currents of lava, which we discover on
the slope of Monte Verde, between the beautiful spring of Dornajito
and Caravela, are black masses, altered by decomposition, sometimes
porous, and with very oblong pores. The basis of these lower lavas
is rather wacke than basalt; when it is spongy, it resembles the
amygdaloids* of Frankfort-on-the-Main. (* Wakkenartiger
mandelstein. Steinkaute.) Its fracture is generally irregular;
wherever it is conchoidal, we may presume that the cooling has been
more rapid, and the mass has been exposed to a less powerful
pressure. These currents of lava are not divided into regular
prisms, but into very thin layers, not very regular in their
inclination; they contain much olivine, small grains of magnetic
iron, and augite, the colour of which often varies from deep
leek-green to olive green, and which might be mistaken for
crystallized olivine, though no transition from one to the other of
these substances exists.* (* Steffens, Handbuch der Oryktognosie
tome 1 s. 364. The crystals which Mr. Friesleben and myself have
made known under the denomination of foliated olivine (blattriger
olivin) belong, according to Mr. Karsten, to the pyroxene augite.
Journal des Mines de Freiberg 1791 page 215.) Amphibole is in
general very rare at Teneriffe, not only in the modern lithoid
lavas, but also in the ancient basalts, as has been observed by M.
Cordier, who resided longer at the Canaries than any other
mineralogist. Nepheline, leucite, idocrase, and meionite have not
yet been seen at the peak of Teneriffe; for a reddish-grey lava,
which we found on the slope of Monte Verde, and which contains
small microscopic crystals, appears to me to be a close mixture of
basalt and analcime.* (* This substance, which M. Dolomieu
discovered in the amygdaloids of Catania in Sicily, and which
accompanies the stilbites of Fassa in Tyrol, forms, with the
chabasie of Hauy, the genus Cubicit of Werner. M. Cordier found at
Teneriffe xeolite in an amygdaloid which covers the basalts of La
Punta di Naga.) In like manner the lava of Scala, with which the
city of Naples is paved, contains a close mixture of basalt,
nepheline, and leucite. With respect to this last substance, which
has hitherto been observed only at Vesuvius and in the environs of
Rome, it exists perhaps at the peak of Teneriffe, in the old
currents of lava now covered by more recent ejections. Vesuvius,
during a long series of years, has also thrown out lavas without
leucites: and if it be true, as M. von Buch has rendered very
probable, that these crystals are formed only in the currents which
flow either from the crater itself, or very near its brink, we must
not be surprised at not finding them in the lavas of the peak. The
latter almost all proceed from lateral eruptions, and consequently
have been exposed to an enormous pressure in the interior of the

In the plain of Retama, the basaltic lavas disappear under heaps of
ashes, and pumice-stone reduced to powder. Thence to the summit,
from 1500 to 1900 toises in height, the volcano exhibits only
vitreous lava with bases of pitch-stone* (* Petrosilex resinite.
Hauy.) and obsidian. These lavas, destitute of amphibole and mica,
are of a blackish brown, often varying to the deepest olive green.
They contain large crystals of feldspar, which are not fissured,
and seldom vitreous. The analogy of those decidedly volcanic masses
with the resinite porphyries* (* Pechstein-porphyr. Werner.) of the
valley of Tribisch in Saxony is very remarkable; but the latter,
which belong to an extended and metalliferous formation of
porphyry, often contain quartz, which is wanting in the modern
lavas. When the basis of the lavas of the Malpays changes from
pitchstone to obsidian, its colour is paler, and is mixed with
grey; in this case, the feldspar passes by imperceptible gradations
from the common to the vitreous. Sometimes both varieties meet in
the same fragment, as we observed also in the trappean porphyries
of the valley of Mexico. The feldsparry lavas of the Peak, of a
much less black tinge than those of Arso in the island of Ischia,
whiten at the edge of the crater from the effect of the acid
vapours; but internally they are not found to be colourless like
that of the feldsparry lavas of the Solfatara at Naples, which
perfectly resemble the trappean porphyries at the foot of
Chimborazo. In the middle of the Malpays, at the height of the
cavern of ice, we found among the vitreous lavas with pitch-stone
and obsidian bases, blocks of real greenish-grey, or mountain-green
phonolite, with a smooth fracture, and divided into thin laminae,
sonorous and keen edged. These masses were the same as the
porphyrschiefer of the mountain of Bilin in Bohemia; we recognised
in them small long crystals of vitreous feldspar.

This regular disposition of lithoid basaltic lava and feldsparry
vitreous lava is analogous to the phenomena of all trappean
mountains; it reminds us of those phonolites lying in very ancient
basalts, those close mixtures of augite and feldspar which cover
the hills of wacke or porous amygdaloids: but why are the
porphyritic or feldsparry lavas of the Peak found only on the
summit of the volcano? Should we conclude from this position that
they are of more recent formation than the lithoid basaltic lava,
which contains olivine and augite? I cannot admit this last
hypothesis; for lateral eruptions may have covered the feldsparry
nucleus, at a period when the crater had ceased its activity. At
Vesuvius also, we perceive small crystals of vitreous feldspar only
in the very ancient lavas of the Somma. These lavas, setting aside
the leucite, very nearly resemble the phonolitic ejections of the
Peak of Teneriffe. In general, the farther we go back from the
period of modern eruptions, the more the currents increase both in
size and extent, acquiring the character of rocks, by the
regularity of their position, by their division into parallel
strata, or by their independence of the present form of the ground.

The Peak of Teneriffe is, next to Lipari, the volcano that has
produced most obsidian. This abundance is the more striking, as in
other regions of the earth, in Iceland, in Hungary, in Mexico, and
in the kingdom of Quito, we meet with obsidians only at great
distances from burning volcanoes. Sometimes they are scattered over
the fields in angular pieces; for instance, near Popayan, in South
America; at other times they form isolated rocks, as at Quinche,
near Quito. In other places (and this circumstance is very
remarkable), they are disseminated in pearl-stone, as at
Cinapecuaro, in the province of Mechoacan,* (* To the west of the
city of Mexico.) and at the Cabo de Gates, in Spain. At the peak of
Teneriffe the obsidian is not found towards the base of the
volcano, which is covered with modern lava: it is frequent only
towards the summit, especially from the plain of Retama, where very
fine specimens may be collected. This peculiar position, and the
circumstance that the obsidian of the Peak has been ejected by a
crater which for ages past has thrown out no flames, favour the
opinion, that volcanic vitrifications, wherever they are found, are
to be considered as of very ancient formation.

Obsidian, jade, and Lydian-stone,* (* Lydischerstein.) are three
minerals, which nations ignorant of the use of copper or iron, have
in all ages employed for making keen-edged weapons. We see that
wandering hordes have dragged with them, in their distant journeys,
stones, the natural position of which the mineralogist has not yet
been able to determine. Hatchets of jade, covered with Aztec
hieroglyphics, which I brought from Mexico, resemble both in their
form and nature those made use of by the Gauls, and those we find
among the South Sea islanders. The Mexicans dug obsidian from
mines, which were of vast extent; and they employed it for making
knives, sword-blades, and razors. In like manner the Guanches, (in
whose language obsidian was called tabona,) fixed splinters of that
mineral to the ends of their lances. They carried on a considerable
trade in it with the neighbouring islands; and from the consumption
thus occasioned, and the quantity of obsidian which must have been
broken in the course of manufacture, we may presume that this
mineral has become scarce from the lapse of ages. We are surprised
to see an Atlantic nation substituting, like the natives of
America, vitrified lava for iron. In both countries this variety of
lava was employed as an object of ornament: and the inhabitants of
Quito made beautiful looking-glasses with an obsidian divided into
parallel laminae.

There are three varieties of obsidian at the Peak. Some form
enormous blocks, several toises long, and often of a spheroidal
shape. We might suppose that they had been thrown out in a softened
state, and had afterwards been subject to a rotary motion. They
contain a quantity of vitreous feldspar, of a snow-white colour,
and the most brilliant pearly lustre. These obsidians are,
nevertheless, but little transparent on the edges; they are almost
opaque, of a brownish black, and of an imperfect conchoidal
fracture. They pass into pitch-stone; and we may consider them as
porphyries with a basis of obsidian. The second variety is found in
fragments much less considerable. It is in general of a greenish
black, sometimes of murky grey, very seldom of a perfect black,
like the obsidian of Hecla and Mexico. Its fracture is perfectly
conchoidal, and it is extremely transparent on the edges. I have
found in it neither amphibole nor pyroxene, but some small white
points, which seem to be feldspar. None of the obsidians of the
Peak appear in those grey masses of pearl or lavender-blue,
striped, and in separate wedge-formed pieces, like the obsidian of
Quito, Mexico, and Lipari, and which resemble the fibrous plates of
the crystalites of our glass-houses, on which Sir James Hall, Dr.
Thompson, and M. de Bellevue, have published some curious
observations.* (* The name crystalites has been given to the
crystalized thin plates observed in glass cooling slowly. The term
glastenized glass is employed by Dr. Thompson and others to
indicate glass which by slow cooling is wholly unvitrified, and has
assumed the appearance of a fossil substance, or real glass-stone.)

The third variety of obsidian of the Peak is the most remarkable of
the whole, from its connexion with pumice-stone. It is, like that
above described, of a greenish black, sometimes of a murky grey,
but its very thin plates alternate with layers of pumice-stone. Dr.
Thomson's fine collection at Naples contained similar examples of
lithoid lava of Vesuvius, divided into very distinct plates, only a
line thick. The fibres of the pumice-stone of the Peak are very
seldom parallel to each other, and perpendicular to the strata of
obsidian; they are most commonly irregular, asbestoidal, like
fibrous glass-gall; and instead of being disseminated in the
obsidian, like crystalites, they are found simply adhering to one
of the external surfaces of this substance. During my stay at
Madrid, M. Hergen showed me several specimens in the mineralogical
collection of Don Jose Clavijo; and for a long time the Spanish
mineralogists considered them as furnishing undoubted proofs, that
pumice-stone owes its origin to obsidian, in some degree deprived
of colour, and swelled by volcanic fire. I was formerly of this
opinion, which, however, must be understood to refer to one variety
only of pumice. I even thought, with many other geologists, that
obsidian, so far from being vitrified lava, belonged to rocks that
were not volcanic; and that the fire, forcing its way through the
basalts, the green-stone rocks, the phonolites, and the porphyries
with bases of pitchstone and obsidian, the lavas and pumice-stone
were no other than these same rocks altered by the action of the
volcanoes. The deprivation of colour and extraordinary swelling
which the greater part of the obsidians undergo in a forge-fire,
their transition into pitch-stone, and their position in regions
very distant from burning volcanoes, appear to be phenomena very
difficult to reconcile, when we consider the obsidians as volcanic
glass. A more profound study of nature, new journeys, and
observations made on the productions of burning volcanoes, have led
me to renounce those ideas.

It appears to me at present extremely probable, that obsidians, and
porphyries with bases of obsidian, are vitrified masses, the
cooling of which has been too rapid to change them into lithoid
lava. I consider even the pearlstone as an unvitrified obsidian:
for among the minerals in the King's cabinet at Berlin there are
volcanic glasses from Lipari, in which we see striated crystalites,
of a pearl-grey colour, and of an earthy appearance, forming
gradual approaches to a granular lithoid lava, like the pearlstone
of Cinapecuaro, in Mexico. The oblong bubbles observed in the
obsidians of every continent are incontestible proofs of their
ancient state of igneous fluidity; and Dr. Thompson possesses
specimens from Lipari, which are very instructive in this point of
view, because fragments of red porphyry, or porphyry lavas, which
do not entirely fill up the cavities of the obsidian, are found
enveloped in them. We might say, that these fragments had not time
to enter into complete solution in the liquified mass. They contain
vitreous feldspar, and augite, and are the same as the celebrated
columnar porphyries of the island of Panaria, which, without having
been part of a current of lava, seem raised up in the form of
hillocks, like many of the porphyries in Auvergne, in the Euganean
mountains, and in the Cordilleras of the Andes.

The objections against the volcanic origin of obsidians, founded on
their speedy loss of colour, and their swelling by a slow fire,
have been shaken by the ingenious experiments of Sir James Hall.
These experiments prove, that a stone which is fusible only at
thirty-eight degrees of Wedgwood's pyrometer, yields a glass that
softens at fourteen degrees; and that this glass, melted again and
unvitrified (glastenized), is fusible again only at thirty-five
degrees of the same pyrometer. I applied the blowpipe to some black
pumice-stone from the volcano of the isle of Bourbon, which, on the
slightest contact with the flame, whitened and melted into an

But whether obsidians be primitive rocks which have undergone the
action of volcanic fire, or lavas repeatedly melted within the
crater, the origin of the pumice-stones contained in the obsidian
of the Peak of Teneriffe is not less problematic. This subject is
the more worthy of being investigated, since it is generally
interesting to the geology of volcanoes; and since that excellent
mineralogist, M. Fleuriau de Bellevue, after having examined Italy
and the adjacent islands with great attention, affirms, that it is
highly improbable that pumice-stone owes its origin to the swelling
of obsidian.

The experiments of M. da Camara, and those I made in 1802, tend to
support the opinion, that the pumice-stones adherent to the
obsidians of the Peak of Teneriffe do not unite to them
accidentally, but are produced by the expansion of an elastic
fluid, which is disengaged from the compact vitreous matter. This
idea had for a long time occupied the mind of a person highly
distinguished for his talents and reputation at Quito, who,
unacquainted with the labours of the mineralogists of Europe, had
devoted himself to researches on the volcanoes of his country. Don
Juan de Larea, one of those men lately sacrificed to the fury of
faction, had been struck with the phenomena exhibited by obsidians
exposed to a white heat. He had thought, that, wherever volcanoes
act in the centre of a country covered with porphyry with base of
obsidian, the elastic fluids must cause a swelling of the liquified
mass, and perform an important part in the earthquakes preceding
eruptions. Without adopting an opinion, which seems somewhat bold,
I made, in concert with M. Larea, a series of experiments on the
tumefaction of the volcanic vitreous substances at Teneriffe, and
on those which are found at Quinche, in the kingdom of Quito. To
judge of the augmentation of their bulk, we measured pieces exposed
to a forge-fire of moderate heat, by the water they displaced from
a cylindric glass, enveloping the spongy mass with a thin coating
of wax. According to our experiments, the obsidians swelled very
unequally: those of the Peak and the black varieties of Cotopaxi
and of Quinche increased nearly five times their bulk.

The colour of the pumice-stones of the Peak leads to another
important observation. The sea of white ashes which encircles the
Piton, and covers the vast plain of Retama, is a certain proof of
the former activity of the crater: for in all volcanoes, even when
there are lateral eruptions, the ashes and the rapilli issue
conjointly with the vapours only from the opening at the summit of
the mountain. Now, at Teneriffe, the black rapilli extend from the
foot of the Peak to the sea-shore; while the white ashes, which are
only pumice ground to powder, and among which I have discovered,
with a lens, fragments of vitreous feldspar and pyroxene,
exclusively occupy the region next to the Peak. This peculiar
distribution seems to confirm the observations made long ago at
Vesuvius, that the white ashes are thrown out last, and indicate
the end of the eruption. In proportion as the elasticity of the
vapours diminishes, the matter is thrown to a less distance; and
the black rapilli, which issue first, when the lava has ceased
running, must necessarily reach farther than the white rapilli. The
latter appear to have been exposed to the action of a more intense

I have now examined the exterior structure of the Peak, and the
composition of its volcanic productions, from the region of the
coast to the top of the Piton:--I have endeavoured to render these
researches interesting, by comparing the phenomena of the volcano
of Teneriffe with those that are observed in other regions, the
soil of which is equally undermined by subterranean fires. This
mode of viewing Nature in the universality of her relations is no
doubt adverse to the rapidity desirable in an itinerary; but it
appears to me that, in a narrative, the principal end of which is
the progress of physical knowledge, every other consideration ought
to be subservient to those of instruction and utility. By isolating
facts, travellers, whose labours are in every other respect
valuable, have given currency to many false ideas of the pretended
contrasts which Nature offers in Africa, in New Holland, and on the
ridge of the Cordilleras. The great geological phenomena are
subject to regular laws, as well as the forms of plants and
animals. The ties which unite these phenomena, the relations which
exist between the varied forms of organized beings, are discovered
only when we have acquired the habit of viewing the globe as a
great whole; and when we consider in the same point of view the
composition of rocks, the causes which alter them, and the
productions of the soil, in the most distant regions.

Having treated of the volcanic substances of the isle of Teneriffe,
there now remains to be solved a question intimately connected with
the preceding investigation. Does the archipelago of the Canary
Islands contain any rocks of primitive or secondary formation; or
is there any production observed, that has not been modified by
fire? This interesting problem has been considered by the
naturalists of Lord Macartney's expedition, and by those who
accompanied captain Baudin in his voyage to the Austral regions.
Their opinions are in direct opposition to each other; and the
contradiction is the more striking, as the question does not refer
to one of those geological reveries which we are accustomed to call
systems, but to a positive fact.

Doctor Gillan imagined that he observed, between Laguna and the
port of Orotava, in very deep ravines, beds of primitive rocks.
This, however, is a mistake. What Dr. Gillan calls somewhat
vaguely, mountains of hard ferruginous clay, are nothing but an
alluvium which we find at the foot of every volcano. Strata of clay
accompany basalts, as tufas accompany modern lavas. Neither M.
Cordier nor myself observed in any part of Teneriffe a primitive
rock, either in its natural place, or thrown out by the mouth of
the Peak; and the absence of these rocks characterizes almost every
island of small extent that has an unextinguishied volcano. We know
nothing positive of the mountains of the Azores; but it is certain,
that the island of Bourbon as well as Teneriffe, exhibits only a
heap of lavas and basalts. No volcanic rock rears its head, either
on the Gros Morne, or on the volcano of Bourbon, or on the colossal
pyramid of Cimandef, which is perhaps more elevated than the Peak
of the Canary Islands.

Bory St. Vincent nevertheless asserted, that lavas including
fragments of granite have been found on the elevated plain of
Retama; and M. Broussonnet informed me, that on a hill above
Guimar, fragments of mica-slate, containing beautiful plates of
specular iron, had been found. I can affirm nothing respecting the
accuracy of this latter statement, which it would be so much the
more important to verify, as M. Poli, of Naples, is in possession
of a fragment of rock thrown out by Vesuvius,* which I found to be
a real mica-slate. (* In the valuable collection of Dr. Thomson,
who resided at Naples till 1805, is a fragment of lava enclosing a
real granite, which is composed of reddish feldspar with a pearly
lustre like adularia, quartz, mica, hornblende, and, what is very
remarkable, lazulite. But in general the masses of known primitive
rocks, (I mean those which perfectly resemble our granites, our
gneiss, and our mica-slates) are very rare in lavas; the substances
we commonly denote by the name of granite, thrown out by Vesuvius,
are mixtures of nepheline, mica, and pyroxene. We are ignorant
whether these mixtures constitute rocks sui generis placed under
granite, and consequently of more ancient date; or simply form
either intermediate strata on veins, in the interior of the
primitive mountains, the tops of which appear at the surface of the
globe.) Every thing that tends to enlighten us with respect to the
site of the volcanic fire, and the position of rocks subject to its
action, is highly interesting to geology.

It is possible, that at the Peak of Teneriffe, the fragments of
primitive rocks thrown out by the mouth of the volcano may be less
rare than they at present appear to be, and may be heaped together
in some ravine, not yet visited by travellers. In fact, at
Vesuvius, these same fragments are met with only in one single
place, at the Fossa Grande, where they are hidden under a thick
layer of ashes. If this ravine had not long ago attracted the
attention of naturalists, when masses of granular limestone, and
other primitive rocks, were laid bare by the rains, we might have
thought them as rare at Vesuvius, as they are, at least in
appearance, at the Peak of Teneriffe.

With respect to the fragments of granite, gneiss, and mica-slate,
found on the shores of Santa Cruz and Orotava, they were probably
brought in ships as ballast. They no more belong to the soil where
they lie, than the feldsparry lavas of Etna, seen in the pavements
of Hamburg and other towns of the north. The naturalist is exposed
to a thousand errors, if he lose sight of the changes, produced on
the surface of the globe by the intercourse between nations. We
might be led to say, that man, when expatriating himself; is
desirous that everything should change country with him. Not only
plants, insects, and different species of small quadrupeds, follow
him across the ocean; his active industry covers the shores with
rocks, which he has torn from the soil in distant climes.

Though it be certain, that no scientific observer has hitherto
found at Teneriffe primitive strata, or even those trappean and
ambiguous porphyries, which constitute the bases of Etna, and of
several volcanoes of the Andes, we must not conclude from this
isolated fact, that the whole archipelago of the Canaries is the
production of submarine fires. The island of Gomera contains
mountains of granite and mica-slate; and it is, undoubtedly, in
these very ancient rocks, that we must seek there, as well as on
all other parts of the globe, the centre of the volcanic action.
Amphibole, sometimes pure and forming intermediate strata, at other
times mixed with granite, as in the basanites or basalts of the
ancients, may, of itself, furnish all the iron contained in the
black and stony lavas. This quantity amounts in the basalt of the
modern mineralogists only to 0.20, while in amphibole it exceeds 0.

From several well-informed persons, to whom I addressed myself, I
learned that there are calcareous formations in the Great Canary,
Forteventura, and Lancerota.* (* At Lancerota calcareous stone is
burned to lime with a fire made of the alhulaga, a new species of
thorny and arborescent Sonchus.) I was not able to determine the
nature of this secondary rock; but it appears certain, that the
island of Teneriffe is altogether destitute of it; and that in its
alluvial lands it exhibits only clayey calcareous tufa, alternating
with volcanic breccia, said to contain, (near the village of La
Rambla, at Calderas, and near Candelaria,) plants, imprints of
fishes, buccinites, and other fossil marine productions. M. Cordier
brought away some of this tufa, which resembles that in the
environs of Naples and Rome, and contains fragments of reeds. At
the Salvages, which islands La Perouse took at a distance for
masses of scoriae, even fibrous gypsum is found.

I had seen, while herborizing between the port of Orotava and the
garden of La Paz, heaps of greyish calcareous stones, of an
imperfect conchoidal fracture, and analogous to that of Mount Jura
and the Apennines. I was informed that these stones were extracted
from a quarry near Rambla; and that there were similar quarries
near Realejo, and the mountain of Roxas, above Adexa. This
information led me into an error. As the coasts of Portugal consist
of basalts covering calcareous rocks containing shells, I imagined
that a trappean formation, like that of the Vicentin in Lombardy,
and of Harutsh in Africa, might have extended from the banks of the
Tagus and Cape St. Vincent as far as the Canary Islands; and that
the basalts of the Peak might perhaps conceal a secondary
calcareous stone. These conjectures exposed me to severe
animadversions from M. G.A. de Luc, who is of opinion that every
volcanic island is only an accumulation of lavas and scoriae. M. de
Luc declares it is impossible that real lava should contain
fragments of vegetable substances. Our collections, however,
contain pieces of trunks of palm-trees, enclosed and penetrated by
the very liquid lava of the isle of Bourbon.

Though Teneriffe belongs to a group of islands of considerable
extent, the Peak exhibits nevertheless all the characteristics of a
mountain rising on a solitary islet. The lead finds no bottom at a
little distance from the ports of Santa Cruz, Orotava, and
Garachico: in this respect it is like St. Helena. The ocean, as
well as the continents, has its mountains and its plains; and, if
we except the Andes, volcanic cones are formed everywhere in the
lower regions of the globe.

As the Peak rises amid a system of basalts and old lava, and as the
whole part which is visible above the surface of the waters
exhibits burnt substances, it has been supposed that this immense
pyramid is the effect of a progressive accumulation of lavas; or
that it contains in its centre a nucleus of primitive rocks. Both
of these suppositions appear to me ill-founded. I think there is as
little probability that mountains of granite, gneiss, or primitive
calcareous stone have existed where we now see the tops of the
Peak, of Vesuvius, and of Etna, as in the plains where almost in
our own time has been formed the volcano of Jorullo, which is more
than a third of the height of Vesuvius. On examining the
circumstances which accompanied the formation of the new island,
called Sabrina, in the archipelago of the Azores;* (* At Sabrina
island, near St. Michael's, the crater opened at the foot of a
solid rock, of almost a cubical form. This rock, surmounted by a
small elevated plain perfectly level, is more than two hundred
toises in breadth. Its formation was anterior to that of the
crater, into which, a few days after its opening, the sea made an
irruption. At Kameni, the smoke was not even visible till
twenty-six days after the appearance of the upheaved rocks.
Philosophical Transactions volume 26 pages 69 and 200, volume 27
page 353. All these phenomena, on which Mr. Hawkins collected very
valuable observations during his abode at Santorino, are
unfavourable to the idea commonly entertained of the origin of
volcanic mountains. They are usually ascribed to a progressive
accumulation of liquified matter, and the diffusion of lavas
issuing from a central mouth.) on carefully reading the minute and
simple narrative, given by the Jesuit Bourguignon of the slow
appearance of the islet of the little Kameni, near Santorino; we
find that these extraordinary eruptions are generally preceded by a
swelling of the softened crust of the globe. Rocks appear above the
waters before the flames force their way, or lavas issue from the
crater: we must distinguish between the nucleus raised up, and the
mass of lavas and scoriae, which successively increases its

It is true that from all existing records of revolutions of this
kind, the perpendicular height of the stony nucleus appears never
to have exceeded one hundred and fifty or two hundred toises; even
taking into the account the depth of the sea, the bottom of which
had been lifted up: but when considering the great effects of
nature, and the intensity of its forces, the bulk of the masses
must not deter the geologist in his speculations. Every thing
indicates that the physical changes of which tradition has
preserved the remembrance, exhibit but a feeble image of those
gigantic catastrophes which have given mountains their present
form, changed the positions of the rocky strata, and buried
sea-shells on the summits of the higher Alps. Doubtless, in those
remote times which preceded the existence of the human race, the
raised crust of the globe produced those domes of trappean
porphyry, those hills of isolated basalt on vast elevated plains,
those solid nuclei which are clothed in the modern lavas of the
Peak, of Etna, and of Cotopaxi. The volcanic revolutions have
succeeded each other after long intervals, and at very different
periods: of this we see the vestiges in the transition mountains,
in the secondary strata, and in those of alluvium. Volcanoes of
earlier date than the sandstone and calcareous rocks have been for
ages extinguished; those which are yet in activity are in general
surrounded only with breccias and modern tufas; but nothing hinders
us from admitting, that the archipelago of the Canaries may exhibit
some real rocks of secondary formation, if we recollect that
subterranean fires have been there rekindled in the midst of a
system of basalts and very ancient lavas.

We seek in vain in the Periplus of Hanno or of Scylax for the first
written notions on the eruptions of the Peak of Teneriffe. Those
navigators sailed timidly along the coast, anchoring every evening
in some bay, and had no knowledge of a volcano distant fifty-six
leagues from the coast of Africa. Hanno nevertheless relates, that
he saw torrents of light, which seemed to fall on the sea; that
every night the coast was covered with fire; and that the great
mountain, called the Car of the Gods, appeared to throw up sheets
of flame, which rose even to the clouds. But this mountain,
situated northward of the island of the Gorilli, formed the western
extremity of the Atlas chain; and it is also very uncertain whether
the flames seen by Hanno were the effect of some volcanic eruption,
or whether they must be attributed to the custom, common to many
nations, of setting fire to the forests and dry grass of the
savannahs. In our own days similar doubts were entertained by the
naturalists, who, in the voyage of d'Entrecasteaux, saw the island
of Amsterdam covered with a thick smoke. On the coast of the
Caracas, trains of reddish fire, fed by the burning grass, appeared
to me, for several nights, under the delusive semblance of a
current of lava, descending from the mountains, and dividing itself
into several branches.

Though the narratives of Hanno and Scylax, in the state in which
they have reached us, contain no passage which we can reasonably
apply to the Canary Islands, it is very probable that the
Carthaginians, and even the Phoenicians, had some knowledge of the
Peak of Teneriffe. In the time of Plato and Aristotle, vague
notions of it had reached the Greeks, who considered the whole of
the coast of Africa, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, as thrown into
disorder by the fire of volcanoes. The Abode of the Blessed, which
was sought first in the north, beyond the Riphaean mountains, among
the Hyperboreans, and next to the south of Cyrenaica, was supposed
to be situated in regions that were considered to be westward,
being the direction in which the world known to the ancients
terminated. The name of Fortunate Islands was long in as vague
signification, as that of El Dorado among the conquerors of
America. Happiness was thought to reside at the end of the earth,
as we seek for the most exquisite enjoyments of the mind in an
ideal world beyond the limits of reality.* (* The idea of the
happiness, the great civilization, and the riches of the
inhabitants of the north, was common to the Greeks, to the people
of India, and to the Mexicans.)

We must not be surprised that, previous to the time of Aristotle,
we find no accurate notion respecting the Canary Islands and the
volcanoes they contain, among the Greek geographers. The only
nation whose navigations extended toward the west and the north,
the Carthaginians, were interested in throwing a veil of mystery
over those distant regions. While the senate of Carthage was averse
to any partial emigration, it pointed out those islands as a place
of refuge in times of trouble and public misfortune; they were to
the Carthaginians what the free soil of America has become to
Europeans amidst their religious and civil dissensions.

The Canaries were not better known to the Romans till eighty-four
years before the reign of Augustus. A private individual was
desirous of executing the project, which wise foresight had
dictated to the senate of Carthage. Sertorius, conquered by Sylla,
and weary of the din of war, looked out for a safe and peaceable
retreat. He chose the Fortunate Islands, of which a delightful
picture had been drawn for him on the shores of Baetica. He
carefully combined the notions he acquired from travellers; but in
the little that has been transmitted to us of those notions, and in
the more minute descriptions of Sebosus and Juba, there is no
mention of volcanoes or volcanic eruptions. Scarcely can we
recognise the isle of Teneriffe, and the snows with which the
summit of the Peak is covered in winter, in the name of Nivaria,
given to one of the Fortunate Islands. Hence we might conclude,
that the volcano at that time threw out no flames, if it were
allowable so to interpret the silence of a few authors, whom we
know only by short fragments or dry nomenclatures. The naturalist
vainly seeks in history for documents of the first eruptions of the
Peak; he nowhere finds any but in the language of the Guanches, in
which the word Echeyde denotes, at the same time, hell and the
volcano of Teneriffe.

Of all the written testimonies, the oldest I have found in relation
to the activity of this volcano dates from the beginning of the
sixteenth century. It is contained in the narrative of the voyage
of Aloysio Cadamusto, who landed at the Canaries in 1505. This
traveller was witness of no eruptions, but he positively affirms
that, like Etna, this mountain burns without interruption, and that
the fire has been seen by christians held in slavery by the
Guanches of Teneriffe. The Peak, therefore, was not at that time in
the state of repose in which we find it at present; for it is
certain that no navigator or inhabitant of Teneriffe has seen issue
from the mouth of the Peak, I will not say flames, but even any
smoke visible at a distance. It would be well, perhaps, were the
funnel of the Caldera to open anew; the lateral eruptions would
thereby be rendered less violent, and the whole group of islands
would be less endangered by earthquakes.

The eruptions of the Peak have been very rare for two centuries
past, and these long intervals appear to characterize volcanoes
highly elevated. The smallest one of all, Stromboli, is almost
always burning. At Vesuvius, the eruptions are rarer than formerly,
though still more frequent than those of Etna and the Peak of
Teneriffe. The colossal summits of the Andes, Cotopaxi and
Tungurahua, scarcely have an eruption once in a century. We may
say, that in active volcanoes the frequency of the eruptions is in
the inverse ratio of the height and the mass. The Peak also had
seemed extinguished during ninety-two years, when, in 1798, it made
its last eruption by a lateral opening formed in the mountain of
Chahorra. In this interval Vesuvius had sixteen eruptions.

The whole of the mountainous part of the kingdom of Quito may be
considered as an immense volcano, occupying more than seven hundred
square leagues of surface, and throwing out flames by different
cones, known under the particular denominations of Cotopaxi,
Tungurahua, and Pichincha. The group of the Canary Islands is
situated on the same sort of submarine volcano. The fire makes its
way sometimes by one and sometimes by another of these islands.
Teneriffe alone contains in its centre an immense pyramid
terminating in a crater, and throwing out, from one century to
another, lava by its flanks. In the other islands, the different
eruptions have taken place in various parts; and we nowhere find
those isolated mountains to which the volcanic effects are
confined. The basaltic crust, formed by ancient volcanoes, seems
everywhere undermined; and the currents of lava, seen at Lancerota
and Palma, remind us, by every geological affinity, of the eruption
which took place in 1301 at the island of Ischia, amid the tufas of

The exclusively lateral action of the peak of Teneriffe is a
geological phenomenon, the more remarkable as it contributes to
make the mountains which are backed by the principal volcano appear
isolated. It is true, that in Etna and Vesuvius the great flowings
of lava do not proceed from the crater itself, and that the
abundance of melted matter is generally in the inverse ratio of the
height of the opening whence the lava is ejected. But at Vesuvius
and Etna a lateral eruption constantly terminates by flashes of
flame and by ashes issuing from the crater, that is, from the
summit of the mountain. At the Peak this phenomenon has not been
witnessed for ages: and yet recently, in the eruption of 1798, the
crater remained quite inactive. Its bottom did not sink in; while
at Vesuvius, as M. von Buch has observed, the greater or less depth
of the crater is an infallible indication of the proximity of a new

I might terminate these geological sketches by enquiring into the
nature of the combustible which has fed for so many thousands of
years the fire of the peak of Teneriffe;--I might examine whether
it be sodium or potassium, the metallic basis of some earth,
carburet of hydrogen, or pure sulphur combined with iron, that
burns in the volcano;--but wishing to limit myself to what may be
the object of direct observation, I shall not take upon me to solve
a problem for which we have not yet sufficient data. We know not
whether we may conclude, from the enormous quantity of sulphur
contained in the crater of the Peak, that it is this substance
which keeps up the heat of the volcano; or whether the fire, fed by
some combustible of an unknown nature, effects merely the
sublimation of the sulphur. What we learn from observation is, that
in craters which are still burning, sulphur is very rare; while all
the ancient volcanoes end in becoming sulphur-pits. We might
presume that, in the former, the sulphur is combined with oxygen,
while, in the latter, it is merely sublimated; for nothing hitherto
authorises us to admit that it is formed in the interior of
volcanoes, like ammonia and the neutral salts. When we were yet
unacquainted with sulphur, except as disseminated in the
muriatiferous gypsum and in the Alpine limestone, we were almost
forced to the belief, that in every part of the globe the volcanic
fire acted on rocks of secondary formation; but recent observations
have proved that sulphur exists in great abundance in those
primitive rocks which so many phenomena indicate as the centre of
the volcanic action. Near Alausi, at the back of the Andes of
Quito, I found an immense quantity in a bed of quartz, which formed
a layer of mica-slate. This fact is the more important, as it is in
strict conformity with the conclusions deduced from the observation
of those fragments of ancient rocks which are thrown out intact by

We have just considered the island of Teneriffe merely in a
geological point of view; we have seen the Peak towering amid
fractured strata of basalt and mandelstein; let us examine how
these fused masses have been gradually adorned with vegetable
clothing, what is the distribution of plants on the steep declivity
of the volcano, and what is the aspect or physiognomy of vegetation
in the Canary Islands.

In the northern part of the temperate zone, the cryptogamous plants
are the first that cover the stony crust of the globe. The lichens
and mosses, that develop their foliage beneath the snows, are
succeeded by grumina and other phanerogamous plants. This order of
vegetation differs on the borders of the torrid zone, and in the
countries between the tropics. We there find, it is true, whatever
some travellers may have asserted, not only on the mountains, but
also in humid and shady places, almost on a level with the sea,
Funaria, Dicranum, and Bryum; and these genera, among their
numerous species, exhibit several which are common to Lapland, to
the Peak of Teneriffe, and to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. (This
extraordinary fact was first observed by M. Swarz. It was confirmed
by M. Willdenouw when he carefully examined our herbals, especially
the collection of cryptogamous plants, which we gathered on the
tops of the Andes, in a region of the world where organic life is
totally different from that of the old world.) Nevertheless, in
general, it is not by mosses and lichens that vegetation in the
countries near the tropics begins. In the Canary Islands, as well
as in Guinea, and on the rocky coasts of Peru, the first vegetation
which prepares the soil are the succulent plants; the leaves of
which, provided with an infinite number of orifices* (* The pores
corticaux of M. Decandolle, discovered by Gleichen, and figured by
Hedwig.) and cutaneous vessels, deprive the ambient air of the
water it holds in solution. Fixed in the crevices of volcanic
rocks, they form, as it were, that first layer of vegetable earth
with which the currents of lithoid lava are clothed. Wherever these
lavas are scorified, and where they have a shining surface, as in
the basaltic mounds to the north of Lancerota, the development of
vegetation is extremely slow, and many ages may pass away before
shrubs can take root. It is only when lavas are covered with tufa
and ashes, that the volcanic islands, losing that appearance of
nudity which marks their origin, bedeck themselves in rich and
brilliant vegetation.

In its present state, the island of Teneriffe, the Chinerfe* (* Of
Chinerfe the Europeans have formed, by corruption, Tchineriffe and
Teneriffe.) of the Guanches, exhibits five zones of plants, which
we may distinguish by the names--region of vines, region of
laurels, region of pines, region of the retama, and region of
grasses. These zones are ranged in stages, one above another, and
occupy, on the steep declivity of the Peak, a perpendicular height
of 1750 toises; while fifteen degrees farther north, on the
Pyrenees, snow descends to thirteen or fourteen hundred toises of
absolute elevation. If the plants of Teneriffe do not reach the
summit of the volcano, it is not because the perpetual snow and the
cold of the surrounding atmosphere mark limits which they cannot
pass; it is the scorified lava of the Malpays, the powdered and
barren pumice-stone of the Piton, which impede the migration of
plants towards the brink of the crater.

The first zone, that of the vines, extends from the sea-shore to
two or three hundred toises of height; it is that which is most
inhabited, and the only part carefully cultivated. In the low
regions, at the port of Orotava, and wherever the winds have free
access, the centigrade thermometer stands in winter, in the months
of January and February, at noon, between fifteen and seventeen
degrees; and the greatest heats of summer do not exceed twenty-five
or twenty-six degrees. The mean temperature of the coasts of
Teneriffe appears at least to rise to twenty-one degrees (16.8
degrees Reaumur); and the climate in those parts keeps at the
medium between the climate of Naples and that of the torrid zone.

The region of the vines exhibits, among its vegetable productions,
eight kinds of arborescent Euphorbia; Mesembrianthema, which are
multiplied from the Cape of Good Hope to the Peloponnesus; the
Cacalia Kleinia, the Dracaena, and other plants, which in their
naked and tortuous trunks, in their succulent leaves, and their
tint of bluish green, exhibit distinctive marks of the vegetation
of Africa. It is in this zone that the date-tree, the plantain, the
sugar-cane, the Indian fig, the Arum Colocasia, the root of which
furnishes a nutritive fecula, the olive-tree, the fruit trees of
Europe, the vine, and corn are cultivated. Corn is reaped from the
end of March to the beginning of May: and the culture of the
bread-fruit tree of Otaheite, that of the cinnamon tree of the
Moluccas, the coffee-tree of Arabia, and the cacao-tree of America,
have been tried with success. On several points of the coast the
country assumes the character of a tropical landscape; and we
perceive that the region of the palms extends beyond the limits of
the torrid zone. The chamaerops and the date-tree flourish in the
fertile plains of Murviedro, on the coasts of Genoa, and in
Provence, near Antibes, between the thirty-ninth and forty-fourth
degrees of latitude; a few trees of the latter species, planted
within the walls of the city of Rome, resist even the cold of 2.5
degrees below freezing point. But if the south of Europe as yet
only partially shares the gifts lavished by nature on the zone of
palms, the island of Teneriffe, situated on the parallel of Egypt,
southern Persia, and Florida, is adorned with the greater part of
the vegetable forms which add to the majesty of the landscape in
the regions near the equator.

On reviewing the different tribes of indigenous plants, we regret
not finding trees with small pinnated leaves, and arborescent
gramina. No species of the numerous family of the sensitive-plants
has migrated as far as the archipelago of the Canary Islands, while
on both continents they have been seen in the thirty-eighth and
fortieth degrees of latitude. On a more careful examination of the
plants of the islands of Lancerota and Forteventura, which are
nearest the coast of Morocco, we may perhaps find a few mimosas
among many other plants of the African flora.

The second zone, that of the laurels, comprises the woody part of
Teneriffe: this is the region of the springs, which gush forth
amidst turf always verdant, and never parched with drought. Lofty
forests crown the hills leading to the volcano, and in them are
found four species of laurel,* (* Laurus indica, L. foetens, L.
nobilis, and L. Til. With these trees are mingled the Ardisia
excelsa, Rhamnus glandulosus, Erica arborea and E. texo.) an oak
nearly resembling the Quercus Turneri* (* Quercus canariensis,
Broussonnet.) of the mountains of Tibet, the Visnea mocanera, the
Myrica Faya of the Azores, a native olive (Olea excelsa), which is
the largest tree of this zone, two species of Sideroxylon, the
leaves of which are extremely beautiful, the Arbutus callicarpa,
and other evergreen trees of the family of myrtles. Bindweeds, and
an ivy very different from that of Europe (Hedera canariensis)
entwine the trunks of the laurels; at their feet vegetate a
numberless quantity of ferns,* (* Woodwardia radicans, Asplenium
palmatum, A. canariensis, A. latifolium, Nothalaena subcordata,
Trichomanes canariensis, T. speciosum, and Davallia canariensis.)
of which three species* (* Two Acrostichums and the Ophyoglossum
lusitanicum.) alone descend as low as the region of the vines. The
soil, covered with mosses and tender grass, is enriched with the
flowers of the Campanula aurea, the Chrysanthemum pinnatifidum, the
Mentha canariensis, and several bushy species of Hypericum.* (*
Hypericum canariense, H. floribundum, and H. glandulosum.)
Plantations of wild and grafted chestnut-trees form a broad border
round the region of the springs, which is the greenest and most
agreeable of the whole.

In the third zone (beginning at nine hundred toises of absolute
height), the last groups of Arbutus, of Myrica Faya, and of that
beautiful heath known to the natives by the name of Texo, appear.
This zone, four hundred toises in breadth, is entirely filled by a
vast forest of pines, among which mingles the Juniperus cedro of
Broussonnet. The leaves of these pines are very long and stiff, and
they sprout sometimes by pairs, but oftener by threes in one
sheath. Having had no opportunity of examining the fructification,
we cannot say whether this species, which has the appearance of the
Scotch fir, is really different from the eighteen species of pines
with which we are already acquainted in Europe. M. Decandolle is of
opinion that the pine of Teneriffe is equally distinct from the
Pinus atlantica of the neighbouring mountains of Mogador, and from
the pine of Aleppo,* (* Pinus halepensis. M. Decandolle observes,
that this species, which is not found in Portugal, but grows on the
Mediterranean shores of France, Spain, and Italy, in Asia Minor,
and in Barbary, would be better named Pinus mediterranea. It
composes the principal part of the pine-forests of the south-east
of France, where Gouan and Gerard have confounded it with the Pinus
sylvestris. It comprehends the Pinus halepensis, Mill., Lamb., and
Desfont., and the Pinus maritima, Lamb.) which belongs to the basin
of the Mediterranean, and does not appear to have passed the
Pillars of Hercules. We met with these last pines on the slope of
the Peak, near twelve hundred toises above the level of the sea. In
the Cordilleras of New Spain, under the torrid zone, the Mexican
pines extend to the height of two thousand toises. Notwithstanding
the similarity of structure existing between the different species
of the same genus of plants, each of them requires a certain degree
of temperature and rarity in the ambient air to attain its due
growth. If in temperate climates, and wherever snow falls, the
uniform heat of the soil be somewhat above the mean heat of the
atmosphere, it is probable that at the height of Portillo the roots
of the pines draw their nourishment from a soil, in which, at a
certain depth, the thermometer rises at most to nine or ten

The fourth and fifth zones, the regions of the retama and the
gramina, occupy heights equal to the most inaccessible summits of
the Pyrenees. It is the sterile part of the island where heaps of
pumice-stone, obsidian, and broken lava, form impediments to
vegetation. We have already spoken of those flowery tufts of alpine
broom (Spartium nubigenum), which form oases amidst a vast desert
of ashes. Two herbaceous plants, the Scrophularia glabrata and the
Viola cheiranthifolia, advance even to the Malpays. Above a turf
scorched by the heat of an African sun, an arid soil is overspread
by the Cladonia paschalis. Towards the summit of the Peak the
Urceolarea and other plants of the family of the lichens, help to
work the decomposition of the scorified matter. By this unceasing
action of organic force the empire of Flora is extended over
islands ravaged by volcanoes.

On surveying the different zones of the vegetation of Teneriffe, we
perceive that the whole island may be considered as a forest of
laurels, arbutus, and pines, containing in its centre a naked and
rocky soil, unfit either for pasturage or cultivation. M.
Broussonnet observes, that the archipelago of the Canaries may be
divided into two groups of islands; the first comprising Lancerota
and Forteventura, the second Teneriffe, Canary, Gomera, Ferro, and
Palma. The appearance of the vegetation essentially differs in
these two groups. The eastern islands, Lancerota and Forteventura,
consist of extensive plains and mountains of little elevation; they
have very few springs, and bear the appearance, still more than the
other islands, of having been separated from the continent. The
winds blow in the same direction, and at the same periods: the
Euphorbia mauritanica, the Atropa frutescens, and the arborescent
Sonchus, vegetate there in the loose sands, and afford, as in
Africa, food for camels. The western group of the Canaries presents
a more elevated soil, is more woody, and is watered by a greater
number of springs.

Though the whole archipelago contains several plants found also in
Portugal,* (* M. Willdenouw and myself found, among the plants of
the peak of Teneriffe, the beautiful Satyrium diphyllum (Orchis
cordata, Willd.) which Mr. Link discovered in Portugal. The
Canaries have, in common with the Flora of the Azores, not the
Dicksonia culcita, the only arborescent heath found at the
thirty-ninth degree of latitude, but the Asplenium palmatum, and
the Myrica Faya. This last tree is met with in Portugal, in a wild
state. Count Hoffmansegg has seen very old trunks of it; but it was
doubtful whether it was indigenous, or imported into that part of
our continent. In reflecting on the migrations of plants, and on
the geological possibility, that lands sunk in the ocean may have
heretofore united Portugal, the Azores, the Canaries, and the chain
of Atlas, we conceive, that the existence of the Myrica Faya in
western Europe is a phenomenon at least as striking as that of the
pine of Aleppo would be at the Azores.), in Spain, at the Azores,
and in the north-west of Africa, yet a great number of species, and
even some genera, are peculiar to Teneriffe, to Porto Santo, and to
Madeira. Such are the Mocanera, the Plocama, the Bosea, the
Canarina, the Drusa, and the Pittosporum. A form which may be
called northern, that of the cruciform plant (Among the small
number of cruciform species contained in the Flora of Teneriffe, we
shall here mention Cheiranthus longifolius, l'Herit.; Ch.
fructescens, Vent.; Ch. scoparius, Brouss.; Erysimum bicorne,
Aiton; Crambe strigosa, and C. laevigata, Brouss.), is much rarer
in the Canaries than in Spain and in Greece. Still farther to the
south, in the equinoctial regions of both continents, where the
mean temperature of the air rises above twenty-two degrees, the
cruciform plants are scarcely ever to be seen.

A question highly interesting to the history of the progressive
marks of organization on the globe has been very warmly discussed
in our own times, that of ascertaining whether the polymorphous
plants are more common in the volcanic islands. The vegetation of
Teneriffe is unfavourable to the hypothesis that nature in new
countries is but little subject to permanent forms. M. Broussonnet,
who resided so long at the Canaries, asserts that the variable
plants are not more common there than in the south of Europe. May
it not to be presumed, that the polymorphous species, which are so
abundant in the isle of Bourbon, are assignable to the nature of
the soil and climate rather than to the newness of the vegetation?

Before we take leave of the old world to pass into the new, I must
advert to a subject which is of general interest, because it
belongs to the history of man, and to those fatal revolutions which
have swept off whole tribes from the face of the earth. We inquire
at the isle of Cuba, at St. Domingo, and in Jamaica, where is the
abode of the primitive inhabitants of those countries? We ask at
Teneriffe what is become of the Guanches, whose mummies alone,
buried in caverns, have escaped destruction? In the fifteenth
century almost all mercantile nations, especially the Spaniards and
the Portuguese, sought for slaves at the Canary Islands, as in
later times they have been sought on the coast of Guinea.* (* The
Spanish historians speak of expeditions made by the Huguenots of
Rochelle to carry off Guanche slaves. I have some doubt respecting
these expeditions, which are said to have taken place subsequently
to the year 1530.) The Christian religion, which in its origin was
so highly favourable to the liberty of mankind, served afterwards
as a pretext to the cupidity of Europeans. Every individual, made
prisoner before he received the rite of baptism, became a slave. At
that period no attempt had yet been made to prove that the blacks
were an intermediate race between man and animals. The swarthy
Guanche and the African negro were simultaneously sold in the
market of Seville, without a question whether slavery should be the
doom only of men with black skins and woolly hair.

The archipelago of the Canaries was divided into several small
states hostile to each other, and in many instances the same island
was subject to two independent princes. The trading nations,
influenced by the hideous policy still exercised on the coast of
Africa, kept up intestine warfare. One Guanche then became the
property of another, who sold him to the Europeans; several, who
preferred death to slavery, killed themselves and their children.
The population of the Canaries had considerably suffered by the
slave trade, by the depredations of pirates, and especially by a
long period of carnage, when Alonzo de Lugo completed the conquest
of the Guanches. The surviving remnants of the race perished mostly
in 1494, in the terrible pestilence called the modorra, which was
attributed to the quantity of dead bodies left exposed in the open
air by the Spaniards after the battle of La Laguna. The nation of
the Guanches was extinct at the beginning of the seventeenth
century; a few old men only were found at Candelaria and Guimar.

It is, however, consoling to find that the whites have not always
disdained to intermarry with the natives; but the Canarians of the
present day, whom the Spaniards familiarly call Islenos
(Islanders), have very powerful motives for denying this mixture.
In a long series of generations time effaces the characteristic
marks of a race; and as the descendants of the Andalusians settled
at Teneriffe are themselves of dark complexion, we may conceive
that intermarriages cannot have produced a perceptible change in
the colour of the whites. It is very certain that no native of pure
race exists in the whole island. It is true that a few Canarian
families boast of their relationship to the last shepherd-king of
Guimar, but these pretensions do not rest on very solid
foundations, and are only renewed from time to time when some
Canarian of more dusky hue than his countrymen is prompted to
solicit a commission in the service of the king of Spain.

A short time after the discovery of America, when Spain was at the
highest pinnacle of her glory, the gentle character of the Guanches
was the fashionable topic, as we in our times laud the Arcadian
innocence of the inhabitants of Otaheite. In both these pictures
the colouring is more vivid than true. When nations, wearied with
mental enjoyments, behold nothing in the refinement of manners but
the germ of depravity, they are pleased with the idea, that in some
distant region, in the first dawn of civilization, infant society
enjoys pure and perpetual felicity. To this sentiment Tacitus owed
a part of his success, when he sketched for the Romans, subjects of
the Caesars, a picture of the manners of the inhabitants of
Germany. The same sentiment gives an ineffable charm to the
narrative of those travellers who, at the close of the last
century, visited the South Sea Islands.

The inhabitants of those islands, too much vaunted (and previously
anthropophagi), resemble, under more than one point of view, the
Guanches of Teneriffe. Both nations were under the yoke of feudal
government. Among the Guanches, this institution, which facilitates
and renders a state of warfare perpetual, was sanctioned by
religion. The priests declared to the people: "The great Spirit,
Achaman, created first the nobles, the achimenceys, to whom he
distributed all the goats that exist on the face of the earth.
After the nobles, Achaman created the plebeians, achicaxnas. This
younger race had the boldness to petition also for goats; but the
supreme Spirit answered, that this race was destined to serve the
nobles, and that they had need of no property." This tradition was
made, no doubt, to please the rich vassals of the shepherd-kings.
The faycan, or high priest, also exercised the right of conferring
nobility; and the law of the Guanches expressed that every
achimencey who degraded himself by milking a goat with his own
hands, lost his claim to nobility. This law does not remind us of
the simplicity of the Homeric age. We are astonished to see the
useful labours of agriculture, and of pastoral life, exposed to
contempt at the very dawn of civilization.

The Guanches, famed for their tall stature, were the Patagonians of
the old world. Historians exaggerated the muscular strength of the
Guanches, as, previous to the voyage of Bougainville and Cordoba,
colossal proportions were attributed to the tribe that inhabited
the southern extremity of America. I never saw Guanche mummies but
in the cabinets of Europe. At the time I visited the Canaries they
were very scarce; a considerable number, however, might be found if
miners were employed to open the sepulchral caverns which are cut
in the rock on the eastern slope of the Peak, between Arico and
Guimar. These mummies are in a state of desiccation so singular,
that whole bodies, with their integuments, frequently do not weigh
above six or seven pounds; or a third less than the skeleton of an
individual of the same size, recently stripped of the muscular
flesh. The conformation of the skull has some slight resemblance to
that of the white race of the ancient Egyptians; and the incisive
teeth of the Guanches are blunted, like those of the mummies found
on the banks of the Nile. But this form of teeth is the result of
art; and on examining more carefully the physiognomy of the ancient
Canarians, Blumenbach and other able anatomists have recognized in
the cheek bones and the lower jaw perceptible differences from the
Egyptian mummies. On opening those of the Guanches, remains of
aromatic plants are discovered, among which the Chenopodium
ambrosioides is constantly perceived: the bodies are often
decorated with small laces, to which are hung little discs of baked
earth, which appear to have served as numerical signs, and resemble
the quippoes of the Peruvians, the Mexicans, and the Chinese.

The population of islands being in general less exposed than that
of continents to the effect of migrations, we may presume that, in
the time of the Carthaginians and the Greeks, the archipelago of
the Canaries was inhabited by the same race of men as were found by
the Norman and Spanish conquerors. The only monument that can throw
any light on the origin of the Guanches is their language; but
unhappily there are not above a hundred and fifty words extant, and
several express the same object, according to the dialect of the
different islanders. Independently of these words, which have been
carefully noted, there are still some valuable fragments existing
in the names of a great number of hamlets, hills, and valleys. The
Guanches, like the Biscayans, the Hindoos, the Peruvians, and all
primitive nations, named places after the quality of the soil, the
shape of the rocks, the caverns that gave them shelter, and the
nature of the tree that overshadowed the springs.*

(* It has been long imagined, that the language of the Guanches had
no analogy with the living tongues; but since the travels of
Hornemann, and the ingenious researches of Marsden and Venturi,
have drawn the attention of the learned to the Berbers, who, like
the Sarmatic tribes, occupy an immense extent of country in the
north of Africa, we find that several Guanche words have common
roots with words of the Chilha and Gebali dialects. We shall cite,
for instance, the words:


Column 1: Word.

Column 2: In Guanche.

Column 3: In Berberic.

  Heaven : Tigo     : Tigot.
  Milk   : Aho      : Acho.
  Barley : Temasen  : Tomzeen.
  Basket : Carianas : Carian.
  Water  : Aenum    : Anan.

I doubt whether this analogy is a proof of a common origin; but it
is an indication of the ancient connexion between the Guanches and
Berbers, a tribe of mountaineers, in which the ancient Numidians,
Getuli, and Garamanti are confounded, and who extend themselves
from the eastern extremity of Atlas by Harutsh and Fezzan, as far
as the oasis of Siwah and Augela. The natives of the Canary Islands
called themselves Guanches, from guan, man; as the Tonguese call
themselves bye, and tongui, which have the same signification as
guan. Besides the nations who speak the Berberic language are not
all of the same race; and the description which Scylax gives, in
his Periplus, of the inhabitants of Cerne, a shepherd people of
tall stature and long hair, reminds us of the features which
characterize the Canarian Guanches.)

The greater attention we direct to the study of languages in a
philosophical point of view, the more we must observe that no one
of them is entirely distinct. The language of the Guanches would
appear still less so, had we any data respecting its mechanism and
grammatical construction; two elements more important than the form
of words, and the identity of sounds. It is the same with certain
idioms, as with those organized beings that seem to shrink from all
classification in the series of natural families. Their isolated
state is merely apparent; for it ceases when, on embracing a
greater number of objects, we come to discover the intermediate
links. Those learned enquirers who trace Egyptians wherever there
are mummies, hieroglyphics, or pyramids, will imagine perhaps that
the race of Typhon was united to the Guanches by the Berbers, real
Atlantes, to whom belong the Tibboes and the Tuarycks of the
desert: but this hypothesis is supported by no analogy between the
Berberic and Coptic languages, which are justly considered as
remnants of the ancient Egyptian.

The people who have succeeded the Guanches are descended from the
Spaniards, and in a more remote degree from the Normans. Though
these two races have been exposed during three centuries past to
the same climate, the latter is distinguished by the fairer
complexion. The descendants of the Normans inhabit the valley of
Teganana, between Punta de Naga and Punta de Hidalgo. The names of
Grandville and Dampierre are still pretty common in this district.
The Canarians are a moral, sober, and religious people, of a less
industrious character at home than in foreign countries. A roving
and enterprising disposition leads these islanders, like the
Biscayans and Catalonians, to the Philippines, to the Ladrone
Islands, to America, and wherever there are Spanish settlements,
from Chile and La Plata to New Mexico. To them we are in a great
measure indebted for the progress of agriculture in those colonies.
The whole archipelago does not contain 160,030 inhabitants, and the
Islenos are perhaps more numerous in the new continent than in
their own country.



We left the road of Santa Cruz on the 25th of June, and directed
our course towards South America. We soon lost sight of the Canary
Islands, the lofty mountains of which were covered with a reddish
vapour. The Peak alone appeared from time to time, as at intervals
the wind dispersed the clouds that enveloped the Piton. We felt,
for the first time, how strong are the impressions left on the mind
from the aspect of those countries situated on the limits of the
torrid zone, where nature appears at once so rich, so various, and
so majestic. Our stay at Teneriffe had been very short, and yet we
withdrew from the island as if it had long been our home.

Our passage from Santa Cruz to Cumana, the most eastern part of the
New Continent, was very fine. We cut the tropic of Cancer on the
27th; and though the Pizarro was not a very fast sailer, we made,
in twenty days, the nine hundred leagues, which separate the coast
of Africa from that of the New Continent. We passed fifty leagues
west of Cape Bojador, Cape Blanco, and the Cape Verd islands. A few
land birds, which had been driven to sea by the impetuosity of the
wind followed us for several days.

The latitude diminished rapidly, from the parallel of Madeira to
the tropic. When we reached the zone where the trade-winds are
constant, we crossed the ocean from east to west, on a calm sea,
which the Spanish sailors call the Ladies' Gulf, el Golfo de las
Damas. In proportion as we advanced towards the west, we found the
trade-winds fix to eastward.

These winds, the most generally adopted theory of which is
explained in a celebrated treatise of Halley,* are a phenomenon
much more complicated than most persons admit. (* The existence of
an upper current of air, which blows constantly from the equator to
the poles, and of a lower current, which blows from the poles to
the equator, had already been admitted, as M. Arago has shown, by
Hooke. The ideas of the celebrated English naturalist are developed
in a Discourse on Earthquakes published in 1686. "I think (adds he)
that several phenomena, which are presented by the atmosphere and
the ocean, especially the winds, may be explained by the polar
currents."--Hooke's Posthumous Works page 364.) In the Atlantic
Ocean, the longitude, as well as the declination of the sun,
influences the direction and limits of the trade-winds. In the
direction of the New Continent, in both hemispheres, these limits
extend beyond the tropics eight or nine degrees; while in the
vicinity of Africa, the variable winds prevail far beyond the
parallel of 28 or 27 degrees. It is to be regretted, on account of
the progress of meteorology and navigation, that the changes of the
currents of the equinoctial atmosphere in the Pacific are much less
known than the variation of these same currents in a sea that is
narrower, and influenced by the proximity of the coasts of Guinea
and Brazil. The difference with which the strata of air flow back
from the two poles towards the equator cannot be the same in every
degree of longitude, that is to say, on points of the globe where
the continents are of very different breadths, and where they
stretch away more or less towards the poles.

It is known, that in the passage from Santa Cruz to Cumana, as in
that from Acapulco to the Philippine Islands, seamen are scarcely
ever under the necessity of working their sails. We pass those
latitudes as if we were descending a river, and we might deem it no
hazardous undertaking if we made the voyage in an open boat.
Farther west, on the coast of Santa Martha and in the Gulf of
Mexico, the trade-wind blows impetuously, and renders the sea very
stormy.* (* The Spanish sailors call the rough trade-winds at
Carthagena in the West Indies los brisotes de Santa Martha; and in
the Gulf of Mexico, las brizas pardas. These latter winds are
accompanied with a grey and cloudy sky.)

The wind fell gradually the farther we receded from the African
coast: it was sometimes smooth water for several hours, and these
short calms were regularly interrupted by electrical phenomena.
Black thick clouds, marked by strong outlines, rose on the east,
and it seemed as if a squall would have forced us to hand our
topsails; but the breeze freshened anew, there fell a few large
drops of rain, and the storm dispersed without our hearing any
thunder. Meanwhile it was curious to observe the effect of several
black, isolated, and very low clouds, which passed the zenith. We
felt the force of the wind augment or diminish progressively,
according as small bodies of vesicular vapour approached or
receded, while the electrometers, furnished with a long metallic
rod and lighted match, showed no change of electric tension in the
lower strata of the air. It is by help of these squalls, which
alternate with dead calms, that the passage from the Canary Islands
to the Antilles, or southern coast of America, is made in the
months of June and July.

Some Spanish navigators have lately proposed going to the West
Indies and the coasts of Terra Firma by a course different from
that which was taken by Columbus. They advise, instead of steering
directly to the south in search of the trade-winds, to change both
latitude and longitude, in a diagonal line from Cape St. Vincent to
America. This method, which shortens the way, cutting the tropic
nearly twenty degrees west of the point where it is commonly cut by
pilots, was several times successfully adopted by Admiral Gravina.
That able commander, who fell at the battle of Trafalgar, arrived
in 1802 at St. Domingo, by the oblique passage, several days before
the French fleet, though orders of the court of Madrid would have
forced him to enter Ferrol with his squadron, and stop there some

This new system of navigation shortens the passage from Cadiz to
Cumana one-twentieth; but as the tropic is attained only at the
longitude of forty degrees, the chance of meeting with contrary
winds, which blow sometimes from the south, and at other times from
the south-west, is more unfavourable. In the old system, the
disadvantage of making a longer passage is compensated by the
certainty of catching the trade-winds in a shorter space of time,
and keeping them the greater part of the passage. At the time of my
abode in the Spanish colonies, I witnessed the arrival of several
merchant-ships, which from the fear of privateers had chosen the
oblique course, and had had a very short passage.

Nothing can equal the beauty and mildness of the climate of the
equinoctial region on the ocean. While the trade wind blew
strongly, the thermometer kept at 23 or 24 degrees in the day, and
at 22 or 22.5 degrees during the night. The charm of the lovely
climates bordering on the equator, can be fully enjoyed only by
those who have undertaken the voyage from Acapulco or the coasts of
Chile to Europe in a very rough season. What a contrast between the
tempestuous seas of the northern latitudes and the regions where
the tranquillity of nature is never disturbed! If the return from
Mexico or South America to the coasts of Spain were as expeditious
and as agreeable as the passage from the old to the new continent,
the number of Europeans settled in the colonies would be much less
considerable than it is at present. To the sea which surrounds the
Azores and the Bermuda Islands, and which is traversed in returning
to Europe by the high latitudes, the Spaniards have given the
singular name of Golfo de las Yeguas (the Mares' Gulf). Colonists
who are not accustomed to the sea, and who have led solitary lives
in the forests of Guiana, the savannahs of the Caracas, or the
Cordilleras of Peru, dread the vicinity of the Bermudas more than
the inhabitants of Lima fear at present the passage round Cape

To the north of the Cape Verd Islands we met with great masses of
floating seaweeds. They were the tropic grape, (Fucus natans),
which grows on submarine rocks, only from the equator to the
fortieth degree of north and south latitude. These weeds seem to
indicate the existence of currents in this place, as well as to
south-west of the banks of Newfoundland. We must not confound the
latitudes abounding in scattered weeds with those banks of marine
plants, which Columbus compares to extensive meadows, the sight of
which dismayed the crew of the Santa Maria in the forty-second
degree of longitude. I am convinced, from the comparison of a great
number of journals, that in the basin of the Northern Atlantic
there exist two banks of weeds very different from each other. The
most extensive is a little west of the meridian of Fayal, one of
the Azores, between the twenty-fifth and thirty-sixth degrees of
latitude.* (* It would appear that Phoenician vessels came "in
thirty days' sail, with an easterly wind," to the weedy sea, which
the Portuguese and Spaniards call mar de zargasso. I have shown, in
another place (Views of Nature Bohn's edition page 46), that the
passage of Aristotle, De Mirabil. (ed. Duval page 1157), can
scarcely be applied to the coasts of Africa, like an analogous
passage of the Periplus of Scylax. Supposing that this sea, full of
weeds, which impeded the course of the Phoenician vessels, was the
mar de zargasso, we need not admit that the ancients navigated the
Atlantic beyond thirty degrees of west longitude from the meridian
of Paris.) The temperature of the Atlantic in those latitudes is
from sixteen to twenty degrees, and the north winds, which
sometimes rage there very tempestuously, drive floating isles of
seaweed into the low latitudes as far as the parallels of
twenty-four and even twenty degrees. Vessels returning to Europe,
either from Monte Video or the Cape of Good Hope, cross these banks
of Fucus, which the Spanish pilots consider as at an equal distance
from the Antilles and Canaries; and they serve the less instructed
mariner to rectify his longitude. The second bank of Fucus is but
little known; it occupies a much smaller space, in the
twenty-second and twenty-sixth degrees of latitude, eighty leagues
west of the meridian of the Bahama Islands. It is found on the
passage from the Caiques to the Bermudas.

Though a species of seaweed* (* The baudreux of the Falkland
Islands; Fucus giganteus, Forster; Laminaria pyrifera, Lamour.) has
been seen with stems eight hundred feet long, the growth of these
marine cryptogamia being extremely rapid, it is nevertheless
certain, that in the latitudes we have just described, the Fuci,
far from being fixed to the bottom, float in separate masses on the
surface of the water. In this state, the vegetation can scarcely
last longer than it would in the branch of a tree torn from its
trunk; and in order to explain how moving masses are found for ages
in the same position, we must admit that they owe their origin to
submarine rocks, which, lying at forty or sixty fathoms' depth,
continually supply what has been carried away by the equinoctial
currents. This current bears the tropic grape into the high
latitudes, toward the coasts of Norway and France; and it is not
the Gulf-stream, as some mariners think, which accumulates the
Fucus to the south of the Azores.

The causes that unroot these weeds at depths where it is generally
thought the sea is but slightly agitated, are not sufficiently
known. We learn only, from the observations of M. Lamouroux, that
if the fucus adhere to the rocks with the greatest firmness before
its fructification, it separates with great facility after that
period, or during the season which suspends its vegetation like
that of the terrestrial plants. The fish and mollusca which gnaw
the stems of the seaweeds no doubt contribute also to detach them
from their roots.

From the twenty-second degree of latitude, we found the surface of
the sea covered with flying-fish,* (* Exocoetus volitans.) which
threw themselves up into the air, twelve, fifteen, or eighteen
feet, and fell down on the deck. I do not hesitate to speak on a
subject of which voyagers discourse as frequently as of dolphins,
sharks, sea-sickness, and the phosphorescence of the ocean. None of
these topics can fail to afford interesting observations to
naturalists, provided they make them their particular study. Nature
is an inexhaustible source of investigation, and in proportion as
the domain of science is extended, she presents herself to those
who know how to interrogate her, under forms which they have never
yet examined.

I have named the flying-fish, in order to direct the attention of
naturalists to the enormous size of their natatory bladder, which,
in an animal of 6.4 inches, is 3.6 inches long, 0.9 of an inch
broad, and contains three cubic inches and a half of air. As this
bladder occupies more than half the size of the fish, it is
probable that it contributes to its lightness. We may assert that
this reservoir of air is more fitted for flying than swimming; for
the experiments made by M. Provenzal and myself have proved, that,
even in the species which are provided with this organ, it is not
indispensably necessary for the ascending movement to the surface
of the water. In a young flying-fish, 5.8 inches long, each of the
pectoral fins, which serve as wings, presented a surface to the air
of 3 7/16 square inches. We observed, that the nine branches of
nerves, which go to the twelve rays of these fins, are almost three
times the size of the nerves that belong to the ventral fins. When
the former of these nerves are excited by galvanic electricity, the
rays which support the membrane of the pectoral fin extend with
five times the force with which the other fins move when galvanised
by the same metals. Thus, the fish is capable of throwing itself
horizontally the distance of twenty feet before retouching the
water with the extremity of its fins. This motion has been aptly
compared to that of a flat stone, which, thrown horizontally,
bounds one or two feet above the water. Notwithstanding the extreme
rapidity of this motion, it is certain, that the animal beats the
air during the leap; that is, it alternately extends and closes its
pectoral fins. The same motion has been observed in the flying
scorpion of the rivers of Japan: they also contain a large
air-bladder, with which the great part of the scorpions that have
not the faculty of flying are unprovided. The flying-fish, like
almost all animals which have gills, enjoy the power of equal
respiration for a long time, both in water and in air, by the same
organs; that is, by extracting the oxygen from the atmosphere as
well as from the water in which it is dissolved. They pass a great
part of their life in the air; but if they escape from the sea to
avoid the voracity of the Dorado, they meet in the air the
Frigate-bird, the Albatross, and others, which seize them in their
flight. Thus, on the banks of the Orinoco, herds of the Cabiai,
which rush from the water to escape the crocodile, become the prey
of the jaguar, which awaits their arrival.

I doubt, however, whether the flying-fish spring out of the water
merely to escape the pursuit of their enemies. Like swallows, they
move by thousands in a right line, and in a direction constantly
opposite to that of the waves. In our own climates, on the brink of
a river, illumined by the rays of the sun, we often see solitary
fish fearlessly bound above the surface as if they felt pleasure in
breathing the air. Why should not these gambols be more frequent
with the flying-fish, which from the strength of their pectoral
fins, and the smallness of their specific gravity, can so easily
support themselves in the air? I invite naturalists to examine
whether other flying-fish, for instance the Exocoetus exiliens, the
Trigla volitans, amid the T. hirundo, have as capacious an
air-bladder as the flying-fish of the tropics. This last follows
the heated waters of the Gulf-stream when they flow northward. The
cabin-boys amuse themselves with cutting off a part of the pectoral
fins, and assert, that these wings grow again; which seems to me
not unlikely, from facts observed in other families of fishes.

At the time I left Paris, experiments made at Jamaica by Dr.
Brodbelt, on the air contained in the natatory bladder of the
sword-fish, had led some naturalists to think, that within the
tropics, in sea-fish, that organ must be filled with pure oxygen
gas. Full of this idea, I was surprised at finding in the
air-bladder of the flying-fish only 0.04 of oxygen to 0.94 of azote
and 0.02 of carbonic acid. The proportion of this last gas,
measured by the absorption of lime-water in graduated tubes,
appeared more uniform than that of the oxygen, of which some
individuals yielded almost double the quantity. From the curious
phenomena observed by MM. Biot, Configliachi, and Delaroche, we
might suppose, that the swordfish dissected by Dr. Brodbelt had
inhabited the lower strata of the ocean, where some fish* have as
much as 0.92 of oxygen in the air-bladder. (* Trigla cucullus.)

On the 3rd and 4th of July, we crossed that part of the Atlantic
where the charts indicate the bank of the Maal-stroom; and towards
night we altered our course to avoid the danger, the existence of
which is, however, as doubtful as that of the isles Fonseco and St.
Anne. It would have been perhaps as prudent to have continued our
course. The old charts are filled with rocks, some of which really
exist, though most of them are merely the offspring of those
optical illusions which are more frequent at sea than in inland
places. As we approached the supposed Maal-stroom, we observed no
other motion in the waters than the effect of a current which bore
to the north-west, and which hindered us from diminishing our
latitude as much as we wished. The force of this current augments
as we approach the new continent; it is modified by the
configuration of the coasts of Brazil and Guiana, and not by the
waters of the Orinoco and the Amazon, as some have supposed.

From the time we entered the torrid zone, we were never weary of
admiring, at night, the beauty of the southern sky, which, as we
advanced to the south, opened new constellations to our view. We
feel an indescribable sensation when, on approaching the equator,
and particularly on passing from one hemisphere to the other, we
see those stars, which we have contemplated from our infancy,
progressively sink, and finally disappear. Nothing awakens in the
traveller a livelier remembrance of the immense distance by which
he is separated from his country, than the aspect of an unknown
firmament. The grouping of the stars of the first magnitude, some
scattered nebulae, rivalling in splendour the milky way, and tracts
of space remarkable for their extreme blackness, give a peculiar
physiognomy to the southern sky. This sight fills with admiration
even those who, uninstructed in the several branches of physical
science, feel the same emotion of delight in the contemplation of
the heavenly vault, as in the view of a beautiful landscape, or a
majestic site. A traveller needs not to be a botanist, to recognize
the torrid zone by the mere aspect of its vegetation. Without
having acquired any notions of astronomy, without any acquaintance
with the celestial charts of Flamsteed and De La Caille, he feels
he is not in Europe, when he sees the immense constellation of the
Ship, or the phosphorescent Clouds of Magellan, arise on the
horizon. The heavens and the earth,--everything in the equinoctial
regions, presents an exotic character.

The lower regions of the air were loaded with vapours for some
days. We saw distinctly for the first time the Southern Cross only
on the night of the 4th of July, in the sixteenth degree of
latitude. It was strongly inclined, and appeared from time to time
between the clouds, the centre of which, furrowed by uncondensed
lightnings, reflected a silvery light. If a traveller may be
permitted to speak of his personal emotions, I shall add, that on
that night I experienced the realization of one of the dreams of my
early youth.

When we begin to fix our eyes on geographical maps, and to read the
narratives of navigators, we feel for certain countries and
climates a sort of predilection, which we know not how to account
for at a more advanced period of life. These impressions, however,
exercise a considerable influence over our determinations; and from
a sort of instinct we endeavour to connect ourselves with objects
on which the mind has long been fixed as by a secret charm. At a
period when I studied the heavens, not with the intention of
devoting myself to astronomy, but only to acquire a knowledge of
the stars, I was disturbed by a feeling unknown to those who are
devoted to sedentary life. It was painful to me to renounce the
hope of beholding the beautiful constellations near the south pole.
Impatient to rove in the equinoctial regions, I could not raise my
eyes to the starry firmament without thinking of the Southern
Cross, and recalling the sublime passage of Dante, which the most
celebrated commentators have applied to that constellation:--

    Io mi volsi a man' destra e posi mente
    All' altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle
    Non viste mai fuorch' alla prima gente.

    Goder parea lo ciel di lor fiammelle;
    O settentrional vedovo sito
    Poiche privato sei di mirar quelle!

The pleasure we felt on discovering the Southern Cross was warmly
shared by those of the crew who had visited the colonies. In the
solitude of the seas we hail a star as a friend, from whom we have
long been separated. The Portuguese and the Spaniards are
peculiarly susceptible of this feeling; a religious sentiment
attaches them to a constellation, the form of which recalls the
sign of the faith planted by their ancestors in the deserts of the
New World.

The two great stars which mark the summit and the foot of the Cross
having nearly the same right ascension, it follows that the
constellation is almost perpendicular at the moment when it passes
the meridian. This circumstance is known to the people of every
nation situated beyond the tropics, or in the southern hemisphere.
It has been observed at what hour of the night, in different
seasons, the Cross is erect or inclined. It is a timepiece which
advances very regularly nearly four minutes a-day, and no other
group of stars affords to the naked eye an observation of time so
easily made. How often have we heard our guides exclaim in the
savannahs of Venezuela, or in the desert extending from Lima to
Truxillo, "Midnight is past, the Cross begins to bend!" How often
those words reminded us of that affecting scene, where Paul and
Virginia, seated near the source of the river of Lataniers,
conversed together for the last time, and where the old man, at the
sight of the Southern Cross, warns them that it is time to

The last days of our passage were not so felicitous as the mildness
of the climate and the calmness of the ocean had led us to hope.
The dangers of the sea did not disturb us, but the germs of a
malignant fever became manifest on board our vessel as we drew near
the Antilles. Between decks the ship was excessively hot, and very
much crowded. From the time we passed the tropic, the thermometer
was at thirty-four or thirty-six degrees. Two sailors, several
passengers, and, what is remarkable enough, two negroes from the
coast of Guinea, and a mulatto child, were attacked with a disorder
which appeared to be epidemic. The symptoms were not equally
alarming in all the cases; nevertheless, several persons, and
especially the most robust, fell into delirium after the second
day. No fumigation was made. A Gallician surgeon, ignorant and
phlegmatic, ordered bleedings, because he attributed the fever to
what he called heat and corruption of the blood. There was not an
ounce of bark on board; for we had emitted to take any with us,
under the impression that this salutary production of Peru could
not fail to be found on board a Spanish vessel.

On the 8th of July, a sailor, who was near expiring, recovered his
health from a circumstance worthy of being mentioned. His hammock
was so hung, that there was not ten inches between his face and the
deck. It was impossible to administer the sacrament in this
situation; for, agreeably to the custom on board Spanish vessels,
the viaticum must be carried by the light of tapers, and followed
by the whole crew. The patient was removed into an airy place near
the hatchway, where a small square berth had been formed with
sailcloth. Here he was to remain till he died, which was an event
expected every moment; but passing from an atmosphere heated,
stagnant, and filled with miasma, into fresher and purer air, which
was renewed every instant, he gradually revived from his lethargic
state. His recovery dated from the day when he quitted the middle
deck; and as it often happens in medicine that the same facts are
cited in support of systems diametrically opposite, this recovery
confirmed our doctor in his idea of the inflammation of the blood,
and the necessity of bleeding, evacuating, and all the asthenic
remedies. We soon felt the fatal effects of this treatment.

For several days the pilot's reckoning differed 1 degree 12 minutes
in longitude from that of my time. This difference was owing less
to the general current, which I have called the current of
rotation, than to that particular movement, which, drawing the
waters toward the north-west, from the coast of Brazil to the
Antilles, shortens the passage from Cayenne to Guadaloupe.* (* In
the Atlantic Ocean there is a space where the water is constantly
milky, though the sea is very deep. This curious phenomenon exists
in the parallel of the island of Dominica, very near the 57th
degree of longitude. May there not be in this place some sunken
volcanic islet, more easterly still than Barbadoes?) On the 12th of
July, I thought I might foretell our seeing land next day before
sunrise. We were then, according to my observations, in latitude 10
degrees 46 minutes, and west longitude 60 degrees 54 minutes. A few
series of lunar distances confirmed the chronometrical result; but
we were surer of the position of the vessel, than of that of the
land to which we were directing our course, and which was so
differently marked in the French, Spanish, and English charts. The
longitudes deduced from the accurate observations of Messrs.
Churruca, Fidalgo, and Noguera, were not then published.

The pilots trusted more to the log than the timekeeper; they smiled
at the prediction of so speedily making land, and thought
themselves two or three days' sail from the coast. It was therefore
with great pleasure, that on the 13th, about six in the morning, I
learned that very high land was seen from the mast-head, though not
clearly, as it was surrounded with a thick fog. The wind blew hard,
and the sea was very rough. Large drops of rain fell at intervals,
and every indication menaced tempestuous weather. The captain of
the Pizarro intended to pass through the channel which separates
the islands of Tobago and Trinidad; and knowing that our sloop was
very slow in tacking, he was afraid of falling to leeward towards
the south, and approaching the Boca del Drago. We were in fact
surer of our longitude than of our latitude, having had no
observation at noon since the 11th. Double altitudes which I took
in the morning, after Douwes's method, placed us in 11 degrees 6
minutes 50 seconds, consequently 15 minutes north of our reckoning.
Though the result clearly proved that the high land on the horizon
was not Trinidad, but Tobago, yet the captain continued to steer
north-north-west, in search of this latter island.

An observation of the meridian altitude of the sun fully confirmed
the latitude obtained by Douwes's method. No more doubt remained as
to the position of the vessel, with respect to the island, and we
resolved to double Cape North (Tobago) to pass between that island
and Grenada, and steer towards a port in Margareta.

The island of Tobago presents a very picturesque aspect. It is
merely a heap of rocks carefully cultivated. The dazzling whiteness
of the stone forms an agreeable contrast to the verdure of some
scattered tufts of trees. Cylindric and very lofty cactuses crown
the top of the mountains, and give a peculiar physiognomy to this
tropical landscape. The sight of the trees alone is sufficient to
remind the navigator that he has reached an American coast; for
these cactuses are as exclusively peculiar to the New World, as the
heaths are to the Old.

We crossed the shoal which joins Tobago to the island of Grenada.
The colour of the sea presented no visible change; but the
centigrade thermometer, plunged into the water to the depth of some
inches, rose only to 23 degrees; while farther at sea eastward on
the same parallel, and equally near the surface, it kept at 25.6
degrees. Notwithstanding the currents, the cooling of the water
indicated the existence of the shoal, which is noted in only a very
few charts. The wind slackened after sunset, and the clouds
disappeared as the moon reached the zenith. The number of falling
stars was very considerable on this and the following nights; they
appeared less frequent towards the north than the south over Terra
Firma, which we began to coast. This position seems to prove the
influence of local causes on meteors, the nature of which is not
yet sufficiently known to us.

On the 14th at sunrise, we were in sight of the Boca del Drago. We
distinguished Chacachacarreo, the most westerly of the islands
situated between Cape Paria and the north-west cape of Trinidad.
When we were five leagues distant from the coast, we felt, near
Punta de la Boca, the effect of a particular current which carried
the ship southward. The motion of the waters which flow through the
Boca del Draco, and the action of the tides, occasion an eddy. We
cast the lead, and found from thirty-six to forty-three fathoms on
a bottom of very fine green clay. According to the rules
established by Dampier, we ought not to have expected so little
depth near a coast formed by very high and perpendicular mountains.
We continued to heave the lead till we reached Cabo de tres
Puntas* (* Cape Three Points, the name given to it by Columbus.) and
we every where found shallow water, apparently indicating the
prolongation of the ancient coast. In these latitudes the
temperature of the sea was from twenty-three to twenty-four
degrees, consequently from 1.5 to two degrees lower than in the
open ocean, beyond the edge of the bank.

The Cabo de tres Puntas is, according to my observations, in 65
degrees 4 minutes 5 seconds longitude. It seemed to us the more
elevated, as the clouds concealed the view of its indented top.
The aspect of the mountains of Paria, their colour, and especially
their generally rounded forms, made us suspect that the coast was
granitic; but we afterwards recognized how delusive, even to those
who have passed their lives in scaling mountains, are impressions
respecting the nature of rocks seen at a distance.

A dead calm, which lasted several hours, permitted us to determine
with exactness the intensity of the magnetic forces opposite the
Cabo de tres Puntas. This intensity was greater than in the open
sea, to the east of the island of Tobago, in the ratio of from 237
to 229. During the calm the current drew us on rapidly to the west.
Its velocity was three miles an hour, and it increased as we
approached the meridian of Testigos, a heap of rocks which rises up
amidst the waters. At the setting of the moon, the sky was covered
with clouds, the wind freshened anew, and the rain descended in one
of those torrents peculiar to the torrid zone.

The malady which had broken out on board the Pizarro had made rapid
progress, from the time when we approached the coasts of Terra
Firma; but having then almost reached the end of our voyage we
flattered ourselves that all who were sick would be restored to
health, as soon as we could land them at the island of St.
Margareta, or the port of Cumana, places remarkable for their great

This hope was unfortunately not realised. The youngest of the
passengers attacked with the malignant fever fell a victim to the
disease. He was an Asturian, nineteen years of age, the only son of
a poor widow. Several circumstances rendered the death of this
young man affecting. His countenance bore the expression of
sensibility and great mildness of disposition. He had embarked
against his own inclination; and his mother, whom he had hoped to
assist by the produce of his efforts, had made a sacrifice of her
affection in the hope of securing the fortune of her son, by
sending him to the colonies to a rich relation, who resided at the
island of Cuba. The unfortunate young man expired on the third day
of his illness, having fallen from the beginning into a lethargic
state interrupted only by fits of delirium. The yellow fever, or
black vomit, at Vera Cruz, scarcely carries off the sick with so
alarming a rapidity. Another Asturian, still younger, did not leave
for one moment the bed of his dying friend; and, what is very
remarkable, did not contract the disorder.

We were assembled on the deck, absorbed in melancholy reflections.
It was no longer doubtful, that the fever which raged on board had
assumed within the last few days a fatal aspect. Our eyes were
fixed on a hilly and desert coast on which the moon, from time to
time, shed her light athwart the clouds. The sea, gently agitated,
emitted a feeble phosphoric light. Nothing was heard but the
monotonous cry of a few large sea-birds, flying towards the shore.
A profound calm reigned over these solitary regions, but this calm
of nature was in discordance with the painful feelings by which we
were oppressed. About eight o'clock the dead man's knell was slowly
tolled. At this lugubrious sound, the sailors suspended their
labours, and threw themselves on their knees to offer a momentary
prayer: an affecting ceremony, which brought to our remembrance
those times when the primitive christians all considered themselves
as members of the same family. All were united in one common sorrow
for a misfortune which was felt to be common to all. The corpse of
the young Asturian was brought upon deck during the night, but the
priest entreated that it might not be committed to the waves till
after sunrise, that the last rites might be performed, according to
the usage of the Romish church. There was not an individual on
board, who did not deplore the death of this young man, whom we had
beheld, but a few days before, full of cheerfulness and health.

Those among the passengers who had not yet felt symptoms of the
disease, resolved to leave the vessel at the first place where she
might touch, and await the arrival of another packet, to pursue
their course to the island of Cuba and to Mexico. They considered
the between-decks of the ship as infected; and though it was by no
means clear to me that the fever was contagious, I thought it most
prudent to land at Cumana. I wished not to visit New Spain, till I
had made some sojourn on the coasts of Venezuela and Paria; a few
of the productions of which had been examined by the unfortunate
Loefling. We were anxious to behold in their native site, the
beautiful plants which Bose and Bredemeyer had collected during
their journey to the continent, and which adorn the conservatories
of Schoenbrunn and Vienna. It would have been painful to have
touched at Cumana, or at Guayra, without visiting the interior of a
country so little frequented by naturalists.

The resolution we formed during the night of the 14th of July, had
a happy influence on the direction of our travels; for instead of a
few weeks, we remained a whole year in this part of the continent.
Had not the fever broken out on board the Pizarro, we should never
have reached the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, or even the limits of
the Portuguese possessions on the Rio Negro. To this direction
given to our travels we were perhaps also indebted for the good
health we enjoyed during so long an abode in the equinoctial

It is well known, that Europeans, during the first months after
their arrival under the scorching sky of the tropics, are exposed
to the greatest dangers. They consider themselves to be safe, when
they have passed the rainy season in the West India islands, at
Vera Cruz, or at Carthagena. This opinion is very general, although
there are examples of persons, who, having escaped a first attack
of the yellow fever, have fallen victims to the same disease in one
of the following years. The facility of becoming acclimated, seems
to be in the inverse ratio of the difference that exists between
the mean temperature of the torrid zone, and that of the native
country of the traveller, or colonist, who changes his climate;
because the irritability of the organs, and their vital action, are
powerfully modified by the influence of the atmospheric heat. A
Prussian, a Pole, or a Swede, is more exposed on his arrival at the
islands or on the continent, than a Spaniard, an Italian, or even
an inhabitant of the South of France. With respect to the people of
the north, the difference of the mean temperature is from nineteen
to twenty-one degrees, while to the people of southern countries it
is only from nine to ten. We were fortunate enough to pass safely
through the interval during which a European recently landed runs
the greatest danger, in the extremely hot, but very dry climate of
Cumana, a city celebrated for its salubrity.

On the morning of the 15th, when nearly on a line with the hill of
St. Joseph, we were surrounded by a great quantity of floating
seaweed. Its stems had those extraordinary appendages in the form
of little cups and feathers, which Don Hippolyto Ruiz remarked on
his return from the expedition to Chile, and which he described in
a separate memoir as the generative organs of the Fucus natans. A
fortunate accident allowed us the means of verifying a fact which
had been but once observed by naturalists. The bundles of fucus
collected by M. Bonpland were completely identical with the
specimens given us by the learned authors of the Flora of Peru. On
examining both with the microscope, we found that the supposed
parts of fructification, the stamina and pistils, belong to a new
genus, of the family of the Ceratophytae.

The coast of Paria stretches to the west, forming a wall of rocks
of no great height, with rounded tops and a waving outline. We were
long without perceiving the bold coasts of the island of Margareta,
where we were to stop for the purpose of ascertaining whether we
could touch at Guayra. We had learned, by altitudes of the sun,
taken under very favourable circumstances, how incorrect at that
period were the most highly-esteemed marine charts. On the morning
of the 15th, when the time-keeper placed us in 66 degrees 1 minute
15 seconds longitude, we were not yet in the meridian of Margareta
island; though according to the reduced chart of the Atlantic ocean,
we ought to have passed the very lofty western cape of this island,
which is laid down in longitude 66 degrees 0 minutes. The
inaccuracy with which the coasts were delineated previously to the
labours of Fidalgo, Noguera, and Tiscar, and I may venture to add,
before the astronomical observations I made at Cumana, might have
become dangerous to navigators, were not the sea uniformly calm in
those regions. The errors in latitude were still greater than those
in longitude, for the coasts of New Andalusia stretch to the
westward of Cape Three Points (or tres Puntas) fifteen or twenty
miles more to the north, than appears in the charts published
before the year 1800.

About eleven in the morning we perceived a very low islet, covered
with a few sandy downs, and on which we discovered with our glasses
no trace of habitation or culture. Cylindrical cactuses rose here
and there in the form of candelabra. The soil, almost destitute of
vegetation, seemed to have a waving motion, in consequence of the
extraordinary refraction which the rays of the sun undergo in
traversing the strata of air in contact with plains strongly
heated. Under every zone, deserts and sandy shores appear like an
agitated sea, from the effect of mirage.

The coasts, seen at a distance, are like clouds, in which each
observer meets the form of the objects that occupy his imagination.
Our bearings and our chronometer being at variance with the charts
which we had to consult, we were lost in vain conjectures. Some
took mounds of sand for Indian huts, and pointed out the place
where they alleged the fort of Pampatar was situated; others saw
herds of goats, which are so common in the dry valley of St. John;
or descried the lofty mountains of Macanao, which seemed to them
partly hidden by the clouds. The captain resolved to send a pilot
on shore, and the men were preparing to get out the long-boat when
we perceived two canoes sailing along the coast. We fired a gun as
a signal for them, and though we had hoisted Spanish colours, they
drew near with distrust. These canoes, like all those in use among
the natives, were constructed of the single trunk of a tree. In
each canoe there were eighteen Guayqueria Indians, naked to the
waist, and of very tall stature. They had the appearance of great
muscular strength, and the colour of their skin was something
between brown and copper-colour. Seen at a distance, standing
motionless, and projected on the horizon, they might have been
taken for statues of bronze. We were the more struck with their
appearance, as it did not correspond with the accounts given by
some travellers respecting the characteristic features and extreme
feebleness of the natives. We afterwards learned, without passing
the limits of the province of Cumana, the great contrast existing
between the physiognomy of the Guayquerias and that of the Chaymas
and the Caribs.

When we were near enough to hail them in Spanish, the Indians threw
aside their mistrust, and came straight on board. They informed us
that the low islet near which we were at anchor was Coche, which
had never been inhabited; and that Spanish vessels coming from
Europe were accustomed to sail farther north, between this island
and that of Margareta, to take a coasting pilot at the port of
Pampatar. Our inexperience had led us into the channel to the south
of Coche; and as at that period the English cruisers frequented
this passage, the Indians had at first taken us for an enemy's
ship. The southern passage is, in fact, highly advantageous for
vessels going to Cumana and Barcelona. The water is less deep than
in the northern passage, which is much narrower; but there is no
risk of touching the ground, if vessels keep very close to the
island of Lobos and the Moros del Tunal. The channel between Coche
and Margareta is narrowed by the shoals off the north-west cape of
Coche, and by the bank that surrounds La Punta de los Mangles.

The Guayquerias belong to that tribe of civilized Indians who
inhabit the coasts of Margareta and the suburbs of the city of
Cumana. Next to the Caribs of Spanish Guiana they are the finest
race of men in Terra Firma. They enjoy several privileges, because
from the earliest times of the conquest they remained faithful
friends to the Castilians. The king of Spain styles them in his
public acts, "his dear, noble, and loyal Guayquerias." The Indians
of the two canoes we had met had left the port of Cumana during the
night. They were going in search of timber to the forests of cedar
(Cedrela odorata, Linn.), which extend from Cape San Jose to beyond
the mouth of Rio Carupano. They gave us some fresh cocoa-nuts, and
very beautifully coloured fish of the Chaetodon genus. What riches
to our eyes were contained in the canoes of these poor Indians!
Broad spreading leaves of Vijao* (* Heliconia bihai.) covered
bunches of plantains. The scaly cuirass of an armadillo (Dasypus),
the fruit of the Calabash tree (Crescentia cujete), used as a cup
by the natives, productions common in the cabinets of Europe, had a
peculiar charm for us, because they reminded us that, having
reached the torrid zone, we had attained the end to which our
wishes had been so long directed.

The master of one of the canoes offered to remain on board the
Pizarro as coasting pilot (practico). He was a Guayqueria of an
excellent disposition, sagacious in his observations, and he had
been led by intelligent curiosity to notice the productions of the
sea as well as the plants of the country. By a fortunate chance,
the first Indian we met on our arrival was the man whose
acquaintance became the most useful to us in the course of our
researches. I feel a pleasure in recording in this itinerary the
name of Carlos del Pino, who, during the space of sixteen months,
attended us in our course along the coasts, and into the inland

The captain of the corvette weighed anchor towards evening. Before
we left the shoal or placer of Coche, I ascertained the longitude
of the east cape of the island, which I found to be 66 degrees 11
minutes 53 seconds. As we steered westward, we soon came in sight
of the little island of Cubagua, now entirely deserted, but formerly
celebrated for its fishery of pearls. There the Spaniards,
immediately after the voyages of Columbus and Ojeda, founded, under
the name of New Cadiz, a town, of which there now remains no
vestige. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the pearls of
Cubagua were known at Seville, at Toledo, and at the great fairs of
Augsburg and Bruges. New Cadiz having no water, that of the Rio
Manzanares was conveyed thither from the neighbouring coast, though
for some reason, I know not what, it was thought to be the cause of
diseases of the eyes. The writers of that period all speak of the
riches of the first planters, and the luxury they displayed. At
present, downs of shifting sand cover this uninhabited land, and
the name of Cubagua is scarcely found in our charts.

Having reached these latitudes, we saw the high mountains of Cape
Macanao, on the western side of the island of Margareta, which rose
majestically on the horizon. If we might judge from the angles of
altitude of the tops, taken at eighteen miles' distance, they
appeared to be about 500 or 600 toises high. According to
Berthoud's time-keeper, the longitude of Cape Macanao is 66 degrees
47 minutes 5 seconds. I speak of the rocks at the extremity of the
cape, and not that strip of very low land which stretches to the
west, and loses itself in a shoal. The position of Macanao and that
which I have assigned to the east point of the island of Coche,
differ only four seconds in time, from the results obtained by
M. Fidalgo.

There being little wind, the captain preferred standing off and on
till daybreak. We passed a part of the night on deck. The
Guayqueria pilot conversed with us respecting the animals and
plants of his country. We learned with great satisfaction that
there was, a few leagues from the coast, a mountainous region
inhabited by the Spaniards, in which the cold was sensibly felt;
and that in the plains there were two species of crocodiles, very
different from each other, besides, boas, electric eels, and
several kinds of tigers. Though the words bava, cachicamo, and
temblador, were entirely unknown to us, we easily guessed, from the
pilot's simple description of their manners and forms, the species
which the creoles distinguished by these denominations.



On the 16th of July, 1799, at break of day, we beheld a verdant
coast, of picturesque aspect. The mountains of New Andalusia,
half-veiled by mists, bounded the horizon to the south. The city of
Cumana and its castle appeared between groups of cocoa-trees. We
anchored in the port about nine in the morning, forty-one days
after our departure from Corunna; the sick dragged themselves on
deck to enjoy the sight of a land which was to put an end to their
sufferings. Our eyes were fixed on the groups of cocoa-trees which
border the river: their trunks, more than sixty feet high, towered
over every object in the landscape. The plain was covered with the
tufts of Cassia, Caper, and those arborescent mimosas, which, like
the pine of Italy, spread their branches in the form of an
umbrella. The pinnated leaves of the palms were conspicuous on the
azure sky, the clearness of which was unsullied by any trace of
vapour. The sun was ascending rapidly toward the zenith. A dazzling
light was spread through the air, along the whitish hills strewed
with cylindric cactuses, and over a sea ever calm, the shores of
which were peopled with alcatras,* (* A brown pelican, of the size
of a swan. (Pelicanus fuscus, Linn.)) egrets, and flamingoes. The
splendour of the day, the vivid colouring of the vegetable world,
the forms of the plants, the varied plumage of the birds,
everything was stamped with the grand character of nature in the
equinoctial regions.

The city of Cumana, the capital of New Andalusia, is a mile distant
from the embarcadero, or the battery of the Boca, where we landed,
after having passed the bar of the Manzanares. We had to cross a
vast plain, called el Salado, which divides the suburb of the
Guayquerias from the sea-coast. The excessive heat of the
atmosphere was augmented by the reverberation of the soil, partly
destitute of vegetation. The centigrade thermometer, plunged into
the white sand, rose to 37.7 degrees. In the small pools of salt
water it kept at 30.5 degrees, while the heat of the ocean, at its
surface, is generally, in the port of Cumana, from 25.2 to 26.3
degrees. The first plant we gathered on the continent of America
was the Avicennia tomentosa,8 (* Mangle prieto.) which in this
place scarcely reaches two feet in height. This shrub, together
with the sesuvium, the yellow gomphrena, and the cactus, cover soil
impregnated with muriate of soda; they belong to that small number
of plants which live in society like the heath of Europe, and which
in the torrid zone are found only on the seashore, and on the
elevated plains of the Andes.* (* On the extreme rarity of the
social plants in the tropics, see my Essay on the Geog. of Plants
page 19; and a paper by Mr. Brown on the Proteacea, Transactions of
the Lin. Soc. volume 10 page 1, page 23, in which that great
botanist has extended and confirmed by numerous facts my ideas on
the association of plants of the same species.) The Avicennia of
Cumana is distinguished by another peculiarity not less remarkable:
it furnishes an instance of a plant common to the shores of South
America and the coasts of Malabar.

The Indian pilot led us across his garden, which rather resembled a
copse than a piece of cultivated ground. He showed us, as a proof
of the fertility of this climate, a silk-cotton tree (Bombax
heptaphyllum), the trunk of which, in its fourth year, had reached
nearly two feet and a half in diameter. We have observed, on the
banks of the Orinoco and the river Magdalena, that the bombax, the
carolinea, the ochroma, and other trees of the family of the
malvaceae, are of extremely rapid growth. I nevertheless think that
there was some exaggeration in the report of the Indian respecting
the age of his bombax; for under the temperate zone, in the hot and
damp lands of North America, between the Mississippi and the
Alleghany mountains, the trees do not exceed a foot in diameter, in
ten years. Vegetation in those parts is in general but a fifth more
speedy than in Europe, even taking as an example the Platanus
occidentalis, the tulip tree, and the Cupressus disticha, which
reach from nine to fifteen feet in diameter. On the strand of
Cumana, in the garden of the Guayqueria pilot, we saw for the first
time a guama* loaded with flowers, and remarkable for the extreme
length and silvery splendour of its numerous stamina. (* Inga
spuria, which we must not confound with the common inga, Inga vera,
Willd. (Mimosa Inga, Linn.). The white stamina, which, to the
number of sixty or seventy, are attached to a greenish corolla,
have a silky lustre, and are terminated by a yellow anther. The
flower of the guama is eighteen lines long. The common height of
this fine tree, which prefers a moist soil, is from eight to ten
toises.) We crossed the suburb of the Guayqueria Indians, the
streets of which are very regular, and formed of small houses,
quite new, and of a pleasing appearance. This part of the town had
just been rebuilt, for the earthquake had laid Cumana in ruins
eighteen months before our arrival. By a wooden bridge, we crossed
the river Manzanares, which contains a few bavas, or crocodiles of
the smaller species.

We were conducted by the captain of the Pizarro to the governor of
the province, Don Vincente Emparan, to present to him the passports
furnished to us by the first Secretary of State at Madrid. He
received us with that frankness and unaffected dignity which have
at all times characterized the natives of Biscay. Before he was
appointed governor of Portobello and Cumana, Don Vincente Emparan
had distinguished himself as captain of a vessel in the navy. His
name recalls to mind one of the most extraordinary and distressing
events recorded in the history of maritime warfare. At the time of
the last rupture between Spain and England, two brothers of Senor
Emperan, both of whom commanded ships in the Spanish navy, engaged
with each other before the port of Cadiz, each supposing that he
was attacking an enemy. A fierce battle was kept up during a whole
night, and both the vessels were sunk almost simultaneously. A very
small part of the crew was saved, and the two brothers had the
misfortune to recognize each other a little before they expired.

The governor of Cumana expressed his great satisfaction at the
resolution we had taken to remain for some time in New Andalusia, a
province which at that period was but little known even by name in
Europe, and which in its mountains, and on the banks of its
numerous rivers, contains a great number of objects worthy of
fixing the attention of naturalists. Senor Emperan showed us
cottons dyed with native plants, and fine furniture made
exclusively of the wood of the country. He was much interested in
everything that related to natural philosophy; and asked, to our
great astonishment, whether we thought, that, under the beautiful
sky of the tropics, the atmosphere contained less azote (azotico)
than in Spain; or whether the rapidity with which iron oxidates in
those climates, were only the effect of greater humidity as
indicated by the air hygrometer. The name of his native country
pronounced on a distant shore would not have been more agreeable to
the ear of a traveller, than those words azote, oxide of iron, and
hygrometer, were to ours. Senor Emparan was a lover of science, and
the public marks of consideration which he gave us during a long
abode in his government, contributed greatly to procure us a
favourable welcome in every part of South America.

We hired a spacious house, the situation of which was favourable
for astronomical observations. We enjoyed an agreeable coolness
when the breeze arose; the windows were without glass, and even
without those paper panes which are often substituted for glass at
Cumana. The whole of the passengers of the Pizarro left the vessel,
but the recovery of those who had been attacked by the fever was
very slow. We saw some who, a month after, notwithstanding the care
bestowed on them by their countrymen, were still extremely weak and
reduced. Hospitality, in the Spanish colonies, is such, that a
European who arrives, without recommendation or pecuniary means, is
almost sure of finding assistance, if he land in any port on
account of sickness. The Catalonians, the Galicians, and the
Biscayans, have the most frequent intercourse with America. They
there form as it were three distinct corporations, which exercise a
remarkable influence over the morals, the industry, and commerce of
the colonies. The poorest inhabitant of Siges or Vigo is sure of
being received into the house of a Catalonian or Galician pulpero,*
(* A retail dealer.) whether he land in Chile or the Philippine

Among the sick who landed at Cumana was a negro, who fell into a
state of insanity a few days after our arrival; he died in that
deplorable condition, though his master, almost seventy years old,
who had left Europe to settle at San Blas, at the entrance of the
gulf of California, had attended him with the greatest care. I
relate this fact as affording evidence that men born under the
torrid zone, after having dwelt in temperate climates, sometimes
feel the pernicious effects of the heat of the tropics. The negro
was a young man, eighteen years of age, very robust, and born on
the coast of Guinea; an abode of some years on the high plain of
Castile, had imparted to his organization that kind of irritability
which renders the miasma of the torrid zone so dangerous to the
inhabitants of the countries of the north.

The site on which Cumana is built is part of a tract of ground,
very remarkable in a geological point of view. The chain of the
calcareous Alps of the Brigantine and the Tataraqual stretches east
and west from the summit of the Imposible to the port of Mochima
and to Campanario. The sea, in times far remote, appears to have
divided this chain from the rocky coasts of Araya and Maniquarez.
The vast gulf of Cariaco has been caused by an irruption of the
sea; and no doubt can be entertained but that the waters once
covered, on the southern bank, the whole tract of land impregnated
with muriate of soda, through which flows the Manzanares. The slow
retreat of the waters has turned into dry ground this extensive
plain, in which rises a group of small hills, composed of gypsum
and calcareous breccias of very recent formation. The city of
Cumana is backed by this group, which was formerly an island of the
gulf of Cariaco. That part of the plain which is north of the city,
is called Plaga Chica, or the Little Plain, and extends eastwards
as far as Punta Delgada, where a narrow valley, covered with yellow
gomphrena, still marks the point of the ancient outlet of the

The hill of calcareous breccias, which we have just mentioned as
having once been an island in the ancient gulf, is covered with a
thick forest of cylindric cactus and opuntia. Some of these trees,
thirty or forty feet high, are covered with lichens, and are
divided into several branches in the form of candelabra. Near
Maniquarez, at Punta Araya, we measured a cactus,* the trunk of
which was four feet nine inches in circumference (* Tuna macho. We
distinguish in the wood of the cactus the medullary prolongations,
as M. Desfontaines has already observed.). A European acquainted
only with the opuntia in our hot-houses is surprised to see the
wood of this plant become so hard from age, that it resists for
centuries both air and moisture: the Indians of Cumana therefore
employ it in preference to any other for oars and door-posts.
Cumana, Coro, the island of Margareta, and Curassao, are the parts
of South America that abound most in plants of the nopal family.
There only, a botanist, after a long residence, could compose a
monography of the genus cactus, the species of which vary not only
in their flowers and fruits, but also in the form of their
articulated stems, the number of costae, and the disposition of the
thorns. We shall see hereafter how these plants, which characterize
a warm and singularly dry climate, like that of Egypt and
California, gradually disappear in proportion as we remove from the
coasts, and penetrate into the inland country.

The groups of columnar cactus and opuntia produce the same effect
in the arid lands of equinoctial America as the junceae and the
hydrocharides in the marshes of our northern climes. Places in
which the larger species of the strong cactus are collected in
groups are considered as almost impenetrable. These places are
called Tunales; and they are impervious not only to the native, who
goes naked to the waist, but are formidable even to those who are
fully clothed. In our solitary rambles we sometimes endeavoured to
penetrate into the Tunal that crowns the summit of the castle hill,
a part of which is crossed by a pathway, where we could have
studied, amidst thousands of specimens, the organization of this
singular plant. Sometimes night suddenly overtook us, for there is
scarcely any twilight in this climate; and we then found ourselves
dangerously situated, as the Cascabel, or rattle-snake, the Coral,
and other vipers armed with poisonous fangs, frequent these
scorched and arid haunts, to deposit their eggs in the sand.

The castle of San Antonio is built at the western extremity of the
hill, but not on the most elevated point, being commanded on the
east by an unfortified summit. The Tunal is considered both here
and everywhere in the Spanish colonies as a very important means of
military defence; and when earthen works are raised, the engineers
are eager to propagate the thorny opuntia, and promote its growth,
as they are careful to keep crocodiles in the ditches of fortified
places. In regions where organized nature is so powerful and
active, man summons as auxiliaries in his defence the carnivorous
reptile, and the plant with its formidable armour of thorns.

The castle is only thirty toises above the level of the water in
the gulf of Cariaco. Standing on a naked and calcareous hill, it
commands the town, and has a very picturesque effect when viewed
from a vessel entering the port. It forms a bright object against
the dark curtains of those mountains which raise their summits to
the clouds, and of which the vaporous and bluish tint blends with
the azure sky. On descending from Fort San Antonio to the
south-west, we find on the slope of the same rock the ruins of the
old castle of Santa Maria. This site is delightful to those who
wish to enjoy at the approach of sunset the freshness of the breeze
and the view of the gulf. The lofty summits of the island of
Margareta are seen above the rocky coast of the isthmus of Araya,
and towards the west the small islands of Caracas, Picuita, and
Boracha, recall to mind the catastrophes that have overwhelmed the
coasts of Terra Firma. These islets resemble fortifications, and
from the effect of the mirage (while the inferior strata of the
air, the ocean, and the soil, are unequally heated by the sun),
their points appear raised like the extremity of the great
promontories of the coast. It is pleasing, during the day, to
observe these inconstant phenomena; we see, as night approaches,
these stony masses which had been suspended in the air, settle down
on their bases; and the luminary, whose presence vivifies organic
nature, seems by the variable inflection of its rays to impress
motion on the stable rock, and give an undulating movement to
plains covered with arid sands.* (* The real cause of the mirage,
or the extraordinary refraction which the rays undergo when strata
of air of different densities lie over each other, was guessed at
by Hooke.--See his Posthumous Works page 472.)

The town of Cumana, properly so called, occupies the ground lying
between the castle of San Antonio and the small rivers of
Manzanares and Santa Catalina. The Delta, formed by the bifurcation
of the first of these rivers, is a fertile plain covered with
Mammees, Sapotas (achras), plantains, and other plants cultivated
in the gardens or charas of the Indians. The town has no remarkable
edifice, and the frequency of earthquakes forbids such
embellishments. It is true, that strong shocks occur less
frequently in a given time at Cumana than at Quito, where we
nevertheless find sumptuous and very lofty churches. But the
earthquakes of Quito are violent only in appearance, and, from the
peculiar nature of the motion and of the ground, no edifice there
is overthrown. At Cumana, as well as at Lima, and in several cities
situated far from the mouths of burning volcanoes, it happens that
the series of slight shocks is interrupted after a long course of
years by great catastrophes, resembling the effects of the
explosion of a mine. We shall have occasion to return to this
phenomenon, for the explanation of which so many vain theories have
been imagined, and which have been classified according to
perpendicular and horizontal movements, shock, and oscillation.* (*
This classification dates from the time of Posidonius. It is the
successio and inclinatio of Seneca; but the ancients had already
judiciously remarked, that the nature of these shocks is too
variable to permit any subjection to these imaginary laws.)

The suburbs of Cumana are almost as populous as the ancient town.
They are three in number:--Serritos, on the road to the Plaga
Chicha, where we meet with some fine tamarind trees; St. Francis,
towards the south-east; and the great suburb of the Guayquerias, or
Guayguerias. The name of this tribe of Indians was quite unknown
before the conquest. The natives who bear that name formerly
belonged to the nation of the Guaraounos, of which we find remains
only in the swampy lands of the branches of the Orinoco. Old men
have assured me that the language of their ancestors was a dialect
of the Guaraouno; but that for a century past no native of that
tribe at Cumana, or in the island of Margareta, has spoken any
other language than Castilian.

The denomination Guayqueria, like the words Peru and Peruvian, owes
its origin to a mere mistake. The companions of Christopher
Columbus, coasting along the island of Margareta, the northern
coast of which is still inhabited by the noblest portion of the
Guayqueria nation,* (* The Guayquerias of La Banda del Norte
consider themselves as the most noble race, because they think they
are less mixed with the Chayma Indian, and other copper-coloured
races. They are distinguished from the Guayquerias of the continent
by their manner of pronouncing the Spanish language, which they
speak almost without separating their teeth. They show with pride
to Europeans the Punta de la Galera, or Galley's Point, (so called
on account of the vessel of Columbus having anchored there), and
the port of Manzanillo, where they first swore to the whites in
1498, that friendship which they have never betrayed, and which has
obtained for them, in court phraseology, the title of fieles,
loyal.--See above.) encountered a few natives who were harpooning
fish by throwing a pole tied to a cord, and terminating in an
extremely sharp point. They asked them in the Haiti language their
name; and the Indians, thinking that the question of the strangers
related to their harpoons, which were formed of the hard and heavy
wood of the Macana palm, answered guaike, guaike, which signifies
pointed pole. A striking difference at present exists between the
Guayquerias, a civilized tribe of skilled fishermen, and those
savage Guaraounos of the Orinoco, who suspend their habitations on
the trunks of the Moriche palm. The population of Cumana has been
singularly exaggerated, but according to the most authentic
registers it does not exceed 16,000 souls.

Probably the Indian suburb will by degrees extend as far as the
Embarcadero; the plain, which is not yet covered with houses or
huts, being more than 340 toises in length. The heat is somewhat
less oppressive on the side near the seashore, than in the old
town, where the reverberation of the calcareous soil, and the
proximity of the mountain of San Antonio, raise the temperature to
an excessive degree. In the suburb of the Guayquerias, the sea
breezes have free access; the soil is clayey, and, for that reason,
it is thought to be less exposed to violent shocks of earthquake,
than the houses at the foot of the rocks and hills on the right
bank of the Manzanares.

The shore near the mouth of the small river Santa Catalina is
bordered with mangrove trees,* but these mangroves are not
sufficiently spread to diminish the salubrity of the air of Cumana.
(* Rhizophora mangle. M. Bonpland found on the Plaga Chica the
Allionia incarnata, in the same place where the unfortunate
Loefling had discovered this new genus of Nyctagineae.) The soil of
the plain is in part destitute of vegetation, in part covered with
tufts of Sesuvium portulacastrum, Gomphrena flava, G. myrtifolia,
Talinum cuspidatum, T. cumanense, and Portulaca lanuginosa. Among
these herbaceous plants we find at intervals the Avicennia
tomentosa, the Scoparia dulcis, a frutescent mimosa with very
irritable leaves,* and particularly cassias, the number of which is
so great in South America, that we collected, in our travels, more
than thirty new species. (* The Spaniards designate by the name of
dormideras (sleeping plants), the small number of mimosas with
irritable leaves. We have increased this number by three species
previously unknown to botanists, namely, the Mimosa humilis of
Cumana, the M. pellita of the savannahs of Calabozo, and the M.
dormiens of the banks of the Apure.)

On leaving the Indian suburb, and ascending the river southward, we
found a grove of cactus, a delightful spot, shaded by tamarinds,
brazilettos, bombax, and other plants, remarkable for their leaves
and flowers. The soil here is rich in pasturage, and dairy-houses
built with reeds, are separated from each other by clumps of trees.
The milk remains fresh, when kept, not in the calabashes* of very
thick ligneous fibres (* These calabashes are made from the fruit
of the Crescentia cujete.), but in porous earthen vessels from
Maniquarez. A prejudice prevalent in northern countries had long
led me to believe, that cows, under the torrid zone, did not yield
rich milk; but my abode at Cumana, and especially an excursion
through the vast plains of Calabozo, covered with grasses, and
herbaceous sensitive plants, convinced me that the ruminating
animals of Europe become perfectly habituated to the hottest
climates, provided they find water and good nourishment. Milk is
excellent in the provinces of New Andalusia, Barcelona, and
Venezuela; and butter is better in the plains of the equinoctial
zone, than on the ridge of the Andes, where the Alpine plants,
enjoying in no season a sufficiently high temperature, are less
aromatic than on the Pyrenees, on the mountains of Estremadura, or
of Greece. As the inhabitants of Cumana prefer the coolness of the
sea breeze to the sight of vegetation, their favourite walk is the
open shore. The Spaniards, who in general have no great
predilection for trees, or for the warbling of birds, have
transported their tastes and their habits into the colonies. In
Terra Firma, Mexico, and Peru, it is rare to see a native plant a
tree, merely with the view of procuring shade; and if we except the
environs of the great capitals, walks bordered with trees are
almost unknown in those countries. The arid plain of Cumana
exhibits after violent showers an extraordinary phenomenon. The
earth, when drenched with rain, and heated again by the rays of the
sun, emits that musky odour which in the torrid zone, is common to
animals of very different classes, namely: to the jaguar, the small
species of tiger cat, the cabiai or thick-nosed tapir,* (* Cavia
capybara, Linn.; chiguire.) the galinazo vulture,* (* Vultur aura,
Linn., Zamuro, or Galinazo: the Brazilian vulture of Buffon. I
cannot reconcile myself to the adoption of names, which designate,
as belonging to a single country, animals common to a whole
continent.) the crocodile, the viper, and the rattlesnake. The
gaseous emanations, which are the vehicles of this aroma, seem to
be evolved in proportion only as the mould, containing the spoils
of an innumerable quantity of reptiles, worms, and insects, begins
to be impregnated with water. I have seen Indian children, of the
tribe of the Chaymas, draw out from the earth and eat millipedes or
scolopendras* eighteen inches long, and seven lines broad. (*
Scolopendras are very common behind the castle of San Antonio, on
the summit of the hill.) Whenever the soil is turned up, we are
struck with the mass of organic substances, which by turns are
developed, transformed, and decomposed. Nature in these climates
appears more active, more fruitful, we may even say more prodigal,
of life.

On this shore, and near the dairies just mentioned, we enjoy,
especially at sunrise, a very beautiful prospect over an elevated
group of calcareous mountains. As this group subtends an angle of
three degrees only at the house where we dwelt, it long served me
to compare the variations of the terrestrial refraction with the
meteorological phenomena. Storms are formed in the centre of this
Cordillera; and we see from afar thick clouds resolve into abundant
rains, while during seven or eight months not a drop of water falls
at Cumana. The Brigantine, which is the highest part of this chain,
raises itself in a very picturesque manner behind Brito and
Tataraqual. It takes its name from the form of a very deep valley
on the northern declivity, which resembles the interior of a ship.
The summit of this mountain is almost bare of vegetation, and is
flat like that of Mowna Roa, in the Sandwich Islands. It is a
perpendicular wall, or, to use a more expressive term of the
Spanish navigators, a table (mesa). This peculiar form, and the
symmetrical arrangement of a few cones which surround the
Brigantine, made me at first think that this group, which is wholly
calcareous, contained rocks of basaltic or trappean formation.

The governor of Cumana sent, in 1797, a band of determined men to
explore this entirely desert country, and to open a direct road to
New Barcelona, by the summit of the Mesa. It was reasonably
expected that this way would be shorter, and less dangerous to the
health of travellers, than the route taken by the couriers along
the coasts; but every attempt to cross the chain of the mountains
of the Brigantine was fruitless. In this part of America, as in
Australia* to the west of Sydney, it is not so much the height of
the mountain chains, as the form of the rocks, that presents
obstacles difficult to surmount. (* The Blue Mountains of
Australia, and those of Carmarthen and Lansdowne, are not visible,
in clear weather, beyond fifty miles.--Peron, Voyage aux Terres
Australes page 389. Supposing the angle of altitude half a degree,
the absolute height of these mountains would be about 620 toises.)

The longitudinal valley formed by the lofty mountains of the
interior and the southern declivity of the Cerro de San Antonio, is
intersected by the Rio Manzanares. This plain, the only thoroughly
wooded part in the environs of Cumana, is called the Plain of the
Charas,* on account of the numerous plantations which the
inhabitants have begun, for some years past, along the river. (*
Chacra, by corruption chara, signifies a hut or cottage surrounded
by a garden. The word ipure has the same signification.) A narrow
path leads from the hill of San Francisco across the forest to the
hospital of the Capuchins, a very agreeable country-house, which
the Aragonese monks have built as a retreat for old infirm
missionaries, who can no longer fulfil the duties of their
ministry. As we advance to the west, the trees of the forest become
more vigorous, and we meet with a few monkeys,* (* The common
machi, or weeping monkey.) which, however, are very rare in the
environs of Cumana. At the foot of the capparis, the bauhinia, and
the zygophyllum with flowers of a golden yellow, there extends a
carpet of Bromelia,* (* Chihuchihue, of the family of the ananas.)
akin to the B. karatas, which from the odour and coolness of its
foliage attracts the rattlesnake.

The waters of the Manzanares are very limpid in quality, and this
river has no resemblance to the Manzanares of Madrid, which appears
the more magnificent in contrast with the fine bridge by which it
is crossed. It takes its source, like all the rivers of New
Andalusia, in the savannahs (llanos) known by the names of the
plateaux of Jonoro, Amana, and Guanipa,* (* These three eminences
bear the names of mesas, tables. An immense plain has an almost
imperceptible rise from both sides to the middle, without any
appearance of mountains or hills.) and it receives, near the Indian
village of San Fernando, the waters of the Rio Juanillo. It has
been several times proposed to the government, but without success,
to construct a dyke at the first ipure, in order to form artificial
irrigations in the plain of Charas; for, notwithstanding its
apparent sterility, the soil is extremely productive, wherever
humidity is combined with the heat of the climate. The cultivators
were gradually to refund the money advanced for the construction of
the sluices. Meanwhile, pumps worked by mules, and other hydraulic
but imperfect machines, have been erected, to serve till this
project is carried into execution.

The banks of the Manzanares are very pleasant, and are shaded by
mimosas, erythrinas, ceibas, and other trees of gigantic growth. A
river, the temperature of which, in the season of the floods,
descends as low as twenty-two degrees, when the air is at thirty
and thirty-three degrees, is an inestimable benefit in a country
where the heat is excessive during the whole year, and where it is
so agreeable to bathe several times in the day. The children pass a
considerable part of their lives in the water; all the inhabitants,
even the women of the most opulent families, know how to swim; and
in a country where man is so near the state of nature, one of the
first questions asked on meeting in the morning is, whether the
water is cooler than it was on the preceding evening. One of the
modes of bathing is curious. We every evening visited a family, in
the suburb of the Guayquerias. In a fine moonlight night, chairs
were placed in the water; the men and women were lightly clothed,
as in some baths of the north of Europe; and the family and
strangers, assembled in the river, passed some hours in smoking
cigars, and in talking, according to the custom of the country, of
the extreme dryness of the season, of the abundant rains in the
neighbouring districts, and particularly of the extravagancies of
which the ladies of Cumana accuse those of Caracas and the
Havannah. The company were under no apprehensions from the bavas,
or small crocodiles, which are now extremely scarce, and which
approach men without attacking them. These animals are three or
four feet long. We never met with them in the Manzanares, but with
a great number of dolphins (toninas), which sometimes ascend the
river in the night, and frighten the bathers by spouting water.

The port of Cumana is a roadstead capable of receiving the fleets
of Europe. The whole of the Gulf of Cariaco, which is about 35
miles long and 48 broad, affords excellent anchorage. The Pacific
is not more calm on the shores of Peru, than the Caribbean Sea from
Porto-cabello, and especially from Cape Codera to the point of
Paria. The hurricanes of the West Indies are never felt in these
regions. The only danger in the port of Cumana is a shoal, called
Morro Roxo. There are from one to three fathoms water on this
shoal, while just beyond its edges there are eighteen, thirty, and
even thirty-eight. The remains of an old battery, situated
north-north-east of the castle of San Antonio, and very near it,
serve as a mark to avoid the bank of Morro Roxo.

The city lies at the foot of a hill destitute of verdure, and is
commanded by a castle. No steeple or dome attracts from afar the
eye of the traveller, but only a few trunks of tamarind, cocoa, and
date trees, which rise above the houses, the roofs of which are
flat. The surrounding plains, especially those on the coasts, wear
a melancholy, dusty, and arid appearance, while a fresh and
luxuriant vegetation marks from afar the windings of the river,
which separates the city from the suburbs; the population of
European and mixed race from the copper-coloured natives. The hill
of fort San Antonio, solitary, white, and bare, reflects a great
mass of light, and of radiant heat: it is composed of breccia, the
strata of which contain numerous fossils. In the distance, towards
the south, stretches a vast and gloomy curtain of mountains. These
are the high calcareous Alps of New Andalusia, surmounted by
sandstone, and other more recent formations. Majestic forests cover
this Cordillera of the interior, and they are joined by a woody
vale to the open clayey lands and salt marshes of the environs of
Cumana. A few birds of considerable size contribute to give a
peculiar character to these countries. On the seashore, and in the
gulf, we find flocks of fishing herons, and alcatras of a very
unwieldy form, which swim, like the swan, raising their wings.
Nearer the habitation of man, thousands of galinazo vultures, the
jackals of the winged tribe, are ever busy in disinterring the
carcases of animals.* (* Buffon Hist. Nat. des Oiseaux tome 1 page
114.) A gulf, containing hot and submarine springs, divides the
secondary from the primary and schistose rocks of the peninsula of
Araya. Each of these coasts is washed by a tranquil sea, of azure
tint, and always gently agitated by a breeze from one quarter. A
bright clear sky, with a few light clouds at sunset, reposes on the
ocean, on the treeless peninsula, and on the plains of Cumana,
while we see the storms accumulate and descend in fertile showers
among the inland mountains. Thus on these coasts, as well as at the
foot of the Andes, the earth and the sky present the extremes of
clear weather and fogs, of drought and torrents of rain, of
absolute nudity and never-ceasing verdure.

The analogies which we have just indicated, between the sea-coasts
of New Andalusia and those of Peru, extend also to the recurrence
of earthquakes, and the limits which nature seems to have
prescribed to these phenomena. We have ourselves felt very violent
shocks at Cumana; and we learned on the spot, the most minute
circumstances that accompanied the great catastrophe of the 14th
December, 1797.

It is a very generally received opinion on the coasts of Cumana,
and in the island of Margareta, that the gulf of Cariaco owes its
existence to a rent of the continent attended by an irruption of
the sea. The remembrance of that great event was preserved among
the Indians to the end of the fifteenth century; and it is related
that, at the time of the third voyage of Christopher Columbus, the
natives mentioned it as of very recent date. In 1530, the
inhabitants were alarmed by new shocks on the coasts of Paria and
Cumana. The land was inundated by the sea, and the small fort,
built by James Castellon at New Toledo,* was entirely destroyed. (*
This was the first name given to the city of Cumana--Girolamo
Benzoni Hist. del Mondo Nuovo pages 3, 31, and 33. James Castellon
arrived at St. Domingo in 1521, after the appearance of the
celebrated Bartholomew de las Casas in these countries. On
attentively reading the narratives of Benzoni and Caulin, we find
that the fort of Castellon was built near the mouth of the
Manzanares (alla ripa del fiume de Cumana); and not, as some modern
travellers have asserted, on the mountain where now stands the
castle of San Antonio.) At the same time an enormous opening was
formed in the mountains of Cariaco, on the shores of the gulf
bearing that name, when a great body of salt-water, mixed with
asphaltum, issued from the micaceous schist. Earthquakes were very
frequent about the end of the sixteenth century; and, according to
the traditions preserved at Cumana, the sea often inundated the
shores, rising from fifteen to twenty fathoms.

As no record exists at Cumana, and its archives, owing to the
continual devastations of the termites, or white ants, contain no
document that goes back farther than a hundred and fifty years, we
are unacquainted with the precise dates of the ancient earthquakes.
We only know, that, in times nearer our own, the year 1776 was at
once the most fatal to the colonists, and the most remarkable for
the physical history of the country. The city of Cumana was
entirely destroyed, the houses were overturned in the space of a
few minutes, and the shocks were hourly repeated during fourteen
months. In several parts of the province the earth opened, and
threw out sulphureous waters. These irruptions were very frequent
in a plain extending towards Casanay, two leagues east of the town
of Cariaco, and known by the name of the hollow ground (tierra
hueca), because it appears entirely undermined by thermal springs.
During the years 1766 and 1767, the inhabitants of Cumana encamped
in their streets; and they began to rebuild their houses only when
the earthquakes recurred once a month. What was felt at Quito,
immediately after the great catastrophe of February 1797, took
place on these coasts. While the ground was in a state of continual
oscillation, the atmosphere seemed to dissolve itself into water.

Tradition states that in the earthquake of 1766, as well as in
another remarkable one in 1794, the shocks were mere horizontal
oscillations; it was only on the disastrous 14th of December, 1797,
that for the first time at Cumana the motion was felt by an
upheaving of the ground. More than four-fifths of the city were
then entirely destroyed; and the shock, attended by a very loud
subterraneous noise, resembled, as at Riobamba, the explosion of a
mine at a great depth. Happily the most violent shock was preceded
by a slight undulating motion, so that most of the inhabitants were
enabled to escape into the streets, and a small number only
perished of those who had assembled in the churches. It is a
generally received opinion at Cumana, that the most destructive
earthquakes are announced by very feeble oscillations, and by a
hollow sound, which does not escape the observation of persons
habituated to this kind of phenomenon. In those fatal moments the
cries of 'misericordia! tembla! tembla!'* are everywhere heard (*
"Mercy! the earthquake! the earthquake!"--See Tschudi's Travels in
Peru page 170.); and it rarely happens that a false alarm is given
by a native. Those who are most apprehensive attentively observe
the motions of dogs, goats, and swine. The last-mentioned animals,
endowed with delicate olfactory nerves, and accustomed to turn up
the earth, give warning of approaching danger by their restlessness
and their cries. We shall not attempt to decide, whether, being
nearer the surface of the ground, they are the first to hear the
subterraneous noise; or whether their organs receive the impression
of some gaseous emanation which issues from the earth. We cannot
deny the possibility of this latter cause. During my abode at Peru,
a fact was observed in the inland country, which has an analogy
with this kind of phenomenon, and which is not unfrequent. At the
end of violent earthquakes, the herbs that cover the savannahs of
Tucuman acquired noxious properties; an epidemic disorder broke out
among the cattle, and a great number of them appeared stupified or
suffocated by the deleterious vapours exhaled from the ground.

At Cumana, half an hour before the catastrophe of the 14th of
December, 1797, a strong smell of sulphur was perceived near the
hill of the convent of San Francisco; and on the same spot the
subterraneous noise, which seemed to proceed from south-east to
north-west, was loudest. At the same time flames appeared on the
banks of the Manzanares, near the hospital of the Capuchins, and in
the gulf of Cariaco, near Mariguitar. This last phenomenon, so
extraordinary in a country not volcanic, is pretty frequent in the
Alpine calcareous mountains near Cumanacoa, in the valley of
Bordones, in the island of Margareta, and amidst the Llanos or
savannahs of New Andalusia. In these savannahs, flakes of fire
rising to a considerable height, are seen for hours together in the
dryest places; and it is asserted, that, on examining the ground no
crevice is perceptible. This fire, which resembles the springs of
hydrogen, or Salse, of Modena, or what is called the
will-o'-the-wisp of our marshes, does not burn the grass; because,
no doubt, the column of gas, which develops itself, is mixed with
azote and carbonic acid, and does not burn at its basis. The
people, although less superstitious here than in Spain, call these
reddish flames by the singular name of 'the soul of the tyrant
Aguirre;' imagining that the spectre of Lopez Aguirre, harassed by
remorse, wanders over these countries sullied by his crimes.* (*
When at Cumana, or in the island of Margareta, the people pronounce
the words el tirano (the tyrant), it is always to denote the hated
Lopez d'Aguirre, who, after having taken part, in 1560, in the
revolt of Fernando de Guzman against Pedro de Ursua, governor of
the Omeguas and Dorado, voluntarily took the title of traidor, or
traitor. He descended the river Amazon with his band, and reached
by a communication of the rivers of Guyana the island of Margareta.
The port of Paraguache still bears, in this island, the name of the
Tyrant's Port.)

The great earthquake of 1797 produced some changes in the
configuration of the shoal of Morro Roxo, towards the mouth of the
Rio Bordones. Similar swellings were observed at the time of the
total destruction of Cumana, in 1766. At that period, the Punta
Delgado, on the southern coast of the gulf of Cariaco, became
perceptibly enlarged; and in the Rio Guarapiche, near the village
of Maturin, a shoal was formed, no doubt by the action of the
elastic fluids, which displaced and raised up the bed of the river.

In order to follow a plan conformable to the end we proposed in
this work, we shall endeavour to generalize our ideas, and to
comprehend in one point of view everything that relates to these
phenomena, so terrific, and so difficult to explain. If it be the
duty of the men of science who visit the Alps of Switzerland, or
the coasts of Lapland, to extend our knowledge respecting the
glaciers and the aurora borealis, it may be expected that a
traveller who has journeyed through Spanish America, should have
chiefly fixed his attention on volcanoes and earthquakes. Each part
of the globe is an object of particular study; and when we cannot
hope to penetrate the causes of natural phenomena, we ought at
least to endeavour to discover their laws, and distinguish, by the
comparison of numerous facts, that which is permanent and uniform
from that which is variable and accidental.

The great earthquakes, which interrupt the long series of slight
shocks, appear to have no regular periods at Cumana. They have
taken place at intervals of eighty, a hundred, and sometimes less
than thirty years; while on the coasts of Peru, for instance at
Lima, a certain regularity has marked the periods of the total
destruction of the city. The belief of the inhabitants in the
existence of this uniformity has a happy influence on public
tranquillity, and the encouragement of industry. It is generally
admitted, that it requires a sufficiently long space of time for
the same causes to act with the same energy; but this reasoning is
just only inasmuch as the shocks are considered as a local
phenomenon; and a particular focus, under each point of the globe
exposed to those great catastrophes, is admitted. Whenever new
edifices are raised on the ruins of the old, we hear from those who
refuse to build, that the destruction of Lisbon on the first day of
November, 1755, was soon followed by a second, and not less fatal
convulsion, on the 31st of March, 1761.

It is a very ancient opinion,* (* Aristotle de Meteor. lib. 2 (ed.
Duval, tome 1 page 798). Seneca Nat. Quaest. lib. 6 c. 12.) and one
that is commonly received at Cumana, Acapulco, and Lima, that a
perceptible connection exists between earthquakes and the state of
the atmosphere that precedes those phenomena. But from the great
number of earthquakes which I have witnessed to the north and south
of the equator; on the continent, and on the seas; on the coasts,
and at 2500 toises height; it appears to me that the oscillations
are generally very independent of the previous state of the
atmosphere. This opinion is entertained by a number of intelligent
residents of the Spanish colonies, whose experience extends, if not
over a greater space of the globe, at least over a greater number
of years, than mine. On the contrary, in parts of Europe where
earthquakes are rare compared to America, scientific observers are
inclined to admit an intimate connection between the undulations of
the ground, and certain meteors, which appear simultaneously with
them. In Italy for instance, the sirocco and earthquakes are
suspected to have some connection; and in London, the frequency of
falling-stars, and those southern lights which have since been
often observed by Mr. Dalton, were considered as the forerunners of
those shocks which were felt from 1748 to 1756.

On days when the earth is shaken by violent shocks, the regularity
of the horary variations of the barometer is not disturbed within
the tropics. I had opportunities of verifying this observation at
Cumana, at Lima, and at Riobamba; and it is the more worthy of
attention, as at St. Domingo, (in the town of Cape Francois,) it is
asserted, that a water-barometer sank two inches and a half
immediately before the earthquake of 1770. It is also related,
that, at the time of the destruction of Oran, a druggist fled with
his family, because, observing accidentally, a few minutes before
the earthquake, the height of the mercury in his barometer, he
perceived that the column sank in an extraordinary manner. I know
not whether we can give credit to this story; but as it is nearly
impossible to examine the variations of the weight of the
atmosphere during the shocks, we must be satisfied with observing
the barometer before or after these phenomena have taken place.

We can scarcely doubt, that the earth, when opened and agitated by
shocks, spreads occasionally gaseous emanations through the
atmosphere, in places remote from the mouths of volcanoes not
extinct. At Cumana, it has already been observed that flames and
vapours mixed with sulphurous acid spring up from the most arid
soil. In other parts of the same province, the earth ejects water
and petroleum. At Riobamba, a muddy and inflammable mass, called
moya, issues from crevices that close again, and accumulates into
elevated hills. At about seven leagues from Lisbon, near Colares,
during the terrible earthquake of the 1st of November, 1755, flames
and a column of thick smoke were seen to issue from the flanks of
the rocks of Alvidras, and, according to some witnesses, from the
bosom of the sea.

Elastic fluids thrown into the atmosphere may act locally on the
barometer, not by their mass, which is very small, compared to the
mass of the atmosphere, but because, at the moment of great
explosions, an ascending current is probably formed, which
diminishes the pressure of the air. I am inclined to think that in
the majority of earthquakes nothing escapes from the agitated
earth; and that, when gaseous emanations and vapours are observed,
they oftener accompany or follow, than precede the shocks. This
circumstance would seem to explain the mysterious influence of
earthquakes in equinoctial America, on the climate, and on the
order of the dry and rainy seasons. If the earth generally act on
the air only at the moment of the shocks, we can conceive why a
sensible meteorological change so rarely precedes those great
revolutions of nature.

The hypothesis according to which, in the earthquakes of Cumana,
elastic fluids tend to escape from the surface of the soil, seems
confirmed by the great noise which is heard during the shocks at
the borders of the wells in the plain of Charas. Water and sand are
sometimes thrown out twenty feet high. Similar phenomena were
observed in ancient times by the inhabitants of those parts of
Greece and Asia Minor abounding with caverns, crevices, and
subterraneous rivers. Nature, in her uniform progress, everywhere
suggests the same ideas of the causes of earthquakes, and the means
by which man, forgetting the measure of his strength, pretends to
diminish the effect of the subterraneous explosions. What a great
Roman naturalist has said of the utility of wells and caverns* is
repeated in the New World by the most ignorant Indians of Quito,
when they show travellers the guaicos, or crevices of Pichincha. (*
"In puteis est remedium, quale et crebri specus praebent: conceptum
enim spiritum exhalant: quod in certis notatur oppidis, quae minus
quatiuntur, crebris ad eluviem cuniculis cavata."--Pliny lib. 2 c.
82 (ed. Par. 1723 t. 1 page 112.) Even at present, in the capital
of St. Domingo, wells are considered as diminishing the violence of
the shocks. I may observe on this occasion, that the theory of
earthquakes, given by Seneca, (Nat. Quaest. lib. 6 c. 4-31),
contains the germ of everything that has been said in our times on
the action of the elastic vapours confined in the interior of the

The subterranean noise, so frequent during earthquakes, is
generally not in the ratio of the force of the shocks. At Cumana it
constantly precedes them, while at Quito, and recently at Caracas,
and in the West India Islands, a noise like the discharge of a
battery was heard a long time after the shocks had ceased. A third
kind of phenomenon, the most remarkable of the whole, is the
rolling of those subterranean thunders, which last several months,
without being accompanied by the least oscillatory motion of the
ground.* (* The subterranean thunders (bramidos y truenos
subterraneos) of Guanaxuato. The phenomenon of a noise without
shocks was observed by the ancients.--Aristot. Meteor. lib. 2 (ed.
Duval page 802). Pliny lib. 2 c. 80.)

In every country subject to earthquakes, the point at which,
probably owing to a particular disposition of the stony strata, the
effects are most sensibly felt, is considered as the cause and the
focus of the shocks. Thus, at Cumana, the hill of the castle of San
Antonio, and particularly the eminence on which stands the convent
of St. Francis, are believed to contain an enormous quantity of
sulphur and other inflammable matter. We forget that the rapidity
with which the undulations are propagated to great distances, even
across the basin of the ocean, proves that the centre of action is
very remote from the surface of the globe. From this same cause no
doubt earthquakes are not confined to certain species of rocks, as
some naturalists suppose, but all are fitted to propagate the
movement. Keeping within the limits of my own experience I may here
cite the granites of Lima and Acapulco; the gneiss of Caracas; the
mica-slate of the peninsula of Araya; the primitive thonschiefer of
Tepecuacuilco, in Mexico; the secondary limestones of the
Apennines, Spain, and New Andalusia; and finally, the trappean
porphyries of the provinces of Quito and Popayan.* (* I might add
to the list of secondary rocks, the gypsum of the newest formation,
for instance, that of Montmartre, situated on a marine calcareous
rock, which is posterior to the chalk.--See the Memoires de
l'Academie tome 1 page 341 on the earthquake felt at Paris and its
environs in 1681.) In these different places the ground is
frequently agitated by the most violent shocks; but sometimes, in
the same rock, the superior strata form invincible obstacles to the
propagation of the motion. Thus, in the mines of Saxony, we have
seen workmen hasten up alarmed by oscillations which were not felt
at the surface of the ground.

If, in regions the most remote from each other, primitive,
secondary, and volcanic rocks, share equally in the convulsive
movements of the globe; we cannot but admit also that within a
space of little extent, certain classes of rocks oppose themselves
to the propagation of the shocks. At Cumana, for instance, before
the great catastrophe of 1797, the earthquakes were felt only along
the southern and calcareous coast of the gulf of Cariaco, as far as
the town of that name; while in the peninsula of Araya, and at the
village of Maniquarez, the ground did not share the same agitation.
But since December 1797, new communications appear to have been
opened in the interior of the globe. The peninsula of Araya is now
not merely subject to the same agitations as the soil of Cumana,
but the promontory of mica-slate, previously free from earthquakes,
has become in its turn a central point of commotion. The earth is
sometimes strongly shaken at the village of Maniquarez, when on the
coast of Cumana the inhabitants enjoy the most perfect
tranquillity. The gulf of Cariaco, nevertheless, is only sixty or
eighty fathoms deep.

It has been thought from observations made both on the continent
and in the islands, that the western and southern coasts are most
exposed to shocks. This observation is connected with opinions
which geologists have long formed respecting the position of the
high chains of mountains, and the direction of their steepest
declivities; but the existence of the Cordillera of Caracas, and
the frequency of the oscillations on the eastern and northern coast
of Terra Firma, in the gulf of Paria, at Carupano, at Cariaco, and
at Cumana, render the accuracy of that opinion doubtful.

In New Andalusia, as well as in Chile and Peru, the shocks follow
the course of the shore, and extend but little inland. This
circumstance, as we shall soon find, indicates an intimate
connection between the causes which produce earthquakes and
volcanic eruptions. If the earth was most agitated on the coasts,
because they are the lowest part of the land, why should not the
oscillations be equally strong and frequent on those vast savannahs
or prairies,* which are scarcely eight or ten toises above the
level of the ocean? (* The Llanos of Cumana, of New Barcelona, of
Calabozo, of Apure, and of Meta.)

The earthquakes of Cumana are connected with those of the West
India Islands; and it has even been suspected that they have some
connection with the volcanic phenomena of the Cordilleras of the
Andes. On the 4th of February 1797, the soil of the province of
Quito suffered such a destructive commotion, that near 40,000
natives perished. At the same period the inhabitants of the eastern
Antilles were alarmed by shocks, which continued during eight
months, when the volcano of Guadaloupe threw out pumice-stones,
ashes, and gusts of sulphureous vapours. The eruption of the 27th
of September, during which very long-continued subterranean noises
were heard, was followed on the 14th of December by the great
earthquake of Cumana. Another volcano of the West India Islands,
that of St. Vincent, affords an example of these extraordinary
connections. This volcano had not emitted flames since 1718, when
they burst forth anew in 1812. The total ruin of the city of
Caracas preceded this explosion thirty-five days, and violent
oscillations of the ground were felt both in the islands and on the
coasts of Terra Firma.

It has long been remarked that the effects of great earthquakes
extend much farther than the phenomena arising from burning
volcanoes. In studying the physical revolutions of Italy, in
carefully examining the series of the eruptions of Vesuvius and
Etna, we can scarcely recognise, notwithstanding the proximity of
these mountains, any traces of a simultaneous action. It is on the
contrary beyond a doubt, that at the period of the last and
preceding destruction of Lisbon,* the sea was violently agitated
even as far as the New World, for instance, at the island of
Barbados, more than twelve hundred leagues distant from the coasts
of Portugal.

(* Destruction of Lisbon: The 1st of November, 1755, and 31st of
March, 1761. During the first of these earthquakes, the sea
inundated, in Europe, the coasts of Sweden, England, and Spain; in
America, the islands of Antigua, Barbados, and Martinique. At
Barbados, where the ordinary tides rise only from twenty-four to
twenty-eight inches, the water rose twenty feet in Carlisle Bay. It
became at the same time as black as ink; being, without doubt,
mixed with the petroleum, or asphaltum, which abounds at the bottom
of the sea, as well on the coasts of the gulf of Cariaco, as near
the island of Trinidad. In the West Indies, and in several lakes of
Switzerland, this extraordinary motion of the waters was observed
six hours after the first shock that was felt at
Lisbon--Philosophical Transactions volume 49 pages 403, 410, 544,
668; ibid. volume 53 page 424. At Cadiz a mountain of water sixty
feet high was seen eight miles distant at sea. This mass threw
itself impetuously on the coasts, and beat down a great number of
houses; like the wave eighty-four feet high, which on the 9th of
June, 1586, at the time of the great earthquake of Lima, covered
the port of Callao.--Acosta Hist. Natural de las Indias edition de
1591 page 123. In North America, on Lake Ontario, violent
agitations of the water were observed from the month of October
1755. These phenomena are proofs of subterraneous communications at
enormous distances. On comparing the periods of the great
catastrophes of Lima and Guatimala, which generally succeed each
other at long intervals, it has sometimes been thought, that the
effect of an action slowly propagating along the Cordilleras,
sometimes from north to south, at other times from south to north,
may be perceived.--Cosmo Bueno Descripcion del Peru ed. de Lima
page 67. Four of these remarkable catastrophes, with their dates,
may be here enumerated.)


COLUMN 1 : MEXICO. (Latitude 13 degrees 32 minutes north.)

COLUMN 2 : PERU. (Latitude 12 degrees 2 minutes south.)

  30th of November, 1577  : 17th of June, 1578.

  4th of March, 1679      : 17th of June, 1678.

  12th of February, 1689  : 10th of October, 1688.

  27th of September, 1717 : 8th of February, 1716.

When the shocks are not simultaneous, or do not follow each other
at short intervals, great doubts may be entertained with respect to
the supposed communication of the movement.)

Several facts tend to prove that the causes which produce
earthquakes have a near connection with those which act in volcanic
eruptions. The connection of these causes was known to the
ancients, and it excited fresh attention at the period of the
discovery of America. The discovery of the New World not only
offered new productions to the curiosity of man, it also extended
the then existing stock of knowledge respecting physical geography,
the varieties of the human species, and the migrations of nations.
It is impossible to read the narratives of early Spanish
travellers, especially that of the Jesuit Acosta, without
perceiving the influence which the aspect of a great continent, the
study of extraordinary appearances of nature, and intercourse with
men of different races, must have exercised on the progress of
knowledge in Europe. The germ of a great number of physical truths
is found in the works of the sixteenth century; and that germ would
have fructified, had it not been crushed by fanaticism and
superstition. We learned, at Pasto, that the column of black and
thick smoke, which, in 1797, issued for several months from the
volcano near that shore, disappeared at the very hour, when, sixty
leagues to the south, the towns of Riobamba, Hambato, and Tacunga
were destroyed by an enormous shock. In the interior of a burning
crater, near those hillocks formed by ejections of scoriae and
ashes, the motion of the ground is felt several seconds before each
partial eruption takes place. We observed this phenomenon at
Vesuvius in 1805, while the mountain threw out incandescent
scoriae; we were witnesses of it in 1802, on the brink of the
immense crater of Pichincha, from which, nevertheless, at that
time, clouds of sulphureous acid vapours only issued.

Everything in earthquakes seems to indicate the action of elastic
fluids seeking an outlet to diffuse themselves in the atmosphere.
Often, on the coasts of the Pacific, the action is almost
instantaneously communicated from Chile to the gulf of Guayaquil, a
distance of six hundred leagues; and, what is very remarkable, the
shocks appear to be the stronger in proportion as the country is
distant from burning volcanoes. The granitic mountains of Calabria,
covered with very recent breccias, the calcareous chain of the
Apennines, the country of Pignerol, the coasts of Portugal and
Greece, those of Peru and Terra Firma, afford striking proofs of
this fact. The globe, it may be said, is agitated with the greater
force, in proportion as the surface has a smaller number of funnels
communicating with the caverns of the interior. At Naples and at
Messina, at the foot of Cotopaxi and of Tunguragua, earthquakes are
dreaded only when vapours and flames do not issue from the craters.
In the kingdom of Quito, the great catastrophe of Riobamba led
several well-informed persons to think that that country would be
less frequently disturbed, if the subterranean fire should break
the porphyritic dome of Chimborazo; and if that colossal mountain
should become a burning volcano. At all times analogous facts have
led to the same hypotheses. The Greeks, who, like ourselves,
attributed the oscillations of the ground to the tension of elastic
fluids, cited in favour of their opinion, the total cessation of
the shocks at the island of Euboea, by the opening of a crevice in
the Lelantine plain.* (* "The shocks ceased only when a crevice,
which ejected a river of fiery mud, opened in the plain of
Lelantum, near Chalcis."--Strabo.)

The phenomena of volcanoes, and those of earthquakes, have been
considered of late as the effects of voltaic electricity, developed
by a particular disposition of heterogeneous strata. It cannot be
denied, that often, when violent shocks succeed each other within
the space of a few hours, the electricity of the air sensibly
increases at the instant the ground is most agitated; but to
explain this phenomenon, it is unnecessary to recur to an
hypothesis, which is in direct contradiction to everything hitherto
observed respecting the structure of our planet, and the
disposition of its strata.



THE first weeks of our abode at Cumana were employed in testing our
instruments, in herborizing in the neighbouring plains, and in
examining the traces of the earthquake of the 14th of December,
1797. Overpowered at once by a great number of objects, we were
somewhat embarrassed how to lay down a regular plan of study and
observation. Whilst every surrounding object was fitted to inspire
in us the most lively interest, our physical and astronomical
instruments in their turns excited strongly the curiosity of the
inhabitants. We had numerous visitors; and in our desire to satisfy
persons who appeared so happy to see the spots of the moon through
Dollond's telescope, the absorption of two gases in a eudiometrical
tube, or the effects of galvanism on the motions of a frog, we were
obliged to answer questions often obscure, and to repeat for whole
hours the same experiments. These scenes were renewed for the space
of five years, whenever we took up our abode in a place where it
was understood that we were in possession of microscopes,
telescopes, and electrical apparatus.

I could not begin a regular course of astronomical observations
before the 28th of July, though it was highly important for me to
know the longitude given by Berthoud's time-keeper; but it
happened, that in a country where the sky is constantly clear and
serene, no stars appeared for several nights. The whole series of
the observations I made in 1799 and 1800 give for their results,
that the latitude of the great square at Cumana is 10 degrees 27
minutes 52 seconds, and its longitude 66 degrees 30 minutes 2
seconds. This longitude is founded on the difference of time, on
lunar distances, on the eclipse of the sun (on the 28th of October,
1799), and on ten immersions of Jupiter's satellites, compared with
observations made in Europe. The oldest chart we have of the
continent, that of Don Diego Ribeiro, geographer to the emperor
Charles the Fifth, places Cumana in latitude 9 degrees 30 minutes;
which differs fifty-eight minutes from the real latitude, and half
a degree from that marked by Jefferies in his American Pilot,
published in 1794. During three centuries the whole of the coast
of Terra Firma has been laid down too far to the south: this has
been owing to the current near the island of Trinidad, which sets
toward the north, and mariners are led by their dead-reckoning to
think themselves farther south than they really are.

On the 17th of August a halo round the moon fixed the attention of
the inhabitants of Cumana, who considered it as the presage of some
violent earthquake; for, according to popular notions, all
extraordinary phenomena are immediately connected with each other.
Coloured circles around the moon are much more rare in northern
countries than in Provence, Italy, and Spain. They are seen
particularly (and this fact is singular enough) when the sky is
clear, and the weather seems to be most fair and settled. Under the
torrid zone beautiful prismatic colours appear almost every night,
and even at the time of the greatest droughts; often in the space
of a few minutes they disappear several times, because, doubtless,
the superior currents change the state of the floating vapours, by
which the light is refracted. I sometimes even observed, between
the fifteenth degree of latitude and the equator, small halos
around the planet Venus; the purple, orange, and violet, were
distinctly perceived: but I never saw any colours around Sirius,
Canopus, or Acherner.

While the halo was visible at Cumana, the hygrometer denoted great
humidity; nevertheless the vapours appeared so perfectly in
solution, or rather so elastic and uniformly disseminated, that
they did not alter the transparency of the atmosphere. The moon
arose after a storm of rain, behind the castle of San Antonio. As
soon as she appeared on the horizon, we distinguished two circles:
one large and whitish, forty-four degrees in diameter; the other a
small circle of 1 degree 43 minutes, displaying all the colours of
the rainbow. The space between the two circles was of the deepest
azure. At four degrees height, they disappeared, while the
meteorological instruments indicated not the slightest change in
the lower regions of the air. This phenomenon had nothing
extraordinary, except the great brilliancy of the colours, added to
the circumstance, that, according to the measures taken with
Ramsden's sextant, the lunar disk was not exactly in the centre of
the haloes. Without this actual measurement we might have thought
that the excentricity was the effect of the projection of the
circles on the apparent concavity of the sky.

If the situation of our house at Cumana was highly favourable for
the observation of the stars and meteorological phenomena, it
obliged us to be sometimes the witnesses of painful scenes during
the day. A part of the great square is surrounded with arcades,
above which is one of those long wooden galleries, common in warm
countries. This was the place where slaves, brought from the coast
of Africa, were sold. Of all the European governments Denmark was
the first, and for a long time the only power, which abolished the
traffic; yet notwithstanding that fact, the first negroes we saw
exposed for sale had been landed from a Danish slave-ship. What are
the duties of humanity, national honour, or the laws of their
country, to men stimulated by the speculations of sordid interest?

The slaves exposed to sale were young men from fifteen to twenty
years of age. Every morning cocoa-nut oil was distributed among
them, with which they rubbed their bodies, to give their skin a
black polish. The persons who came to purchase examined the teeth
of these slaves, to judge of their age and health; forcing open
their mouths as we do those of horses in a market. This odious
custom dates from Africa, as is proved by the faithful pictures
drawn by the inimitable Cervantes,* who after his long captivity
among the Moors, described the sale of Christian slaves at Algiers.
(* El Trato de Argel. Jorn. 2 Viage al Parnasso 1784 page 316.) It
is distressing to think that even at this day there exist European
colonists in the West Indies who mark their slaves with a hot iron,
to know them again if they escape. This is the treatment bestowed
on those "who save other men the labour of sowing, tilling, and
reaping."* (* La Bruyere Caracteres edition 1765 chapter 11 page
300. I will here cite a passage strongly characteristic of La
Bruyere's benevolent feeling for his fellow-creatures. "We find
(under the torrid zone) certain wild animals, male and female,
scattered through the country, black, livid, and all over scorched
by the sun, bent to the earth which they dig and turn up with
invincible perseverance. They have something like articulate
utterance; and when they stand up on their feet, they exhibit a
human face, and in fact these creatures are men.")

In 1800 the number of slaves did not exceed six thousand in the two
provinces of Cumana and Barcelona, when at the same period the
whole population was estimated at one hundred and ten thousand
inhabitants. The trade in African slaves, which the laws of the
Spaniards have never favoured, is almost as nothing on these coasts
where the trade in American slaves was carried on in the sixteenth
century with desolating activity. Macarapan, anciently called
Amaracapana, Cumana, Araya, and particularly New Cadiz, built on
the islet of Cubagua, might then be considered as commercial
establishments for facilitating the slave trade. Girolamo Benzoni
of Milan, who at the age of twenty-two visited Terra Firma, took
part in some expeditions in 1542 to the coasts of Bordones,
Cariaco, and Paria, to carry off the unfortunate natives, he
relates with simplicity, and often with a sensibility not common in
the historians of that time, the examples of cruelty of which he
was a witness. He saw the slaves dragged to New Cadiz, to be marked
on the forehead and on the arms, and for the payment of the quint
to the officers of the crown. From this port the Indians were sent
to the island of Haiti or St. Domingo, after having often changed
masters, not by way of sale, but because the soldiers played for
them at dice.

The first excursion we made was to the peninsula of Araya, and
those countries formerly celebrated for the slave-trade and the
pearl-fishery. We embarked on the Rio Manzanares, near the Indian
suburb, on the 19th of August, about two in the morning. The
principal objects of this excursion were, to see the ruins of the
castle of Araya, to examine the salt-works, and to make a few
geological observations on the mountains forming the narrow
peninsula of Maniquarez. The night was delightfully cool; swarms of
phosphorescent insects* glistened in the air (* Elater noctilucus.
), and over a soil covered with sesuvium, and groves of mimosa
which bordered the river. We know how common the glow-worm* (*
Lampyris italica, L. noctiluca.) is in Italy and in all the south
of Europe, but the picturesque effect it produces cannot be
compared to those innumerable, scattered, and moving lights, which
embellish the nights of the torrid zone, and seem to repeat on the
earth, along the vast extent of the savannahs, the brilliancy of
the starry vault of heaven.

When, on descending the river, we drew near plantations, or charas,
we saw bonfires kindled by the negroes. A light and undulating
smoke rose to the tops of the palm-trees, and imparted a reddish
hue to the disk of the moon. It was on a Sunday night, and the
slaves were dancing to the music of the guitar. The people of
Africa, of negro race, are endowed with an inexhaustible store of
activity and gaiety. After having ended the labours of the week,
the slaves, on festival days, prefer to listless sleep the
recreations of music and dancing.

The bark in which we passed the gulf of Cariaco was very spacious.
Large skins of the jaguar, or American tiger, were spread for our
repose during the night. Though we had yet scarcely been two months
in the torrid zone, we had already become so sensible to the
smallest variation of temperature that the cold prevented us from
sleeping; while, to our surprise, we saw that the centigrade
thermometer was as high as 21.8 degrees. This fact is familiar to
those who have lived long in the Indies, and is worthy the
attention of physiologists. Bouguer relates, that when he reached
the summit of Montagne Pelee, in the island of Martinique, he and
his companions shivered with cold, though the heat was above 21.5
degrees. In reading the interesting narrative of captain Bligh,
who, in consequence of a mutiny on board the Bounty, was forced to
make a voyage of twelve hundred leagues in an open boat, we find
that that navigator, in the tenth and twelfth degrees of south
latitude, suffered much more from cold than from hunger. During our
abode at Guayaquil, in the month of January 1803, we observed that
the natives covered themselves, and complained of the cold, when
the thermometer sank to 23.8 degrees, whilst they felt the heat
suffocating at 30.5 degrees. Six or seven degrees were sufficient
to cause the opposite sensations of cold and heat; because, on
these coasts of South America, the ordinary temperature of the
atmosphere is twenty-eight degrees. The humidity, which modifies
the conducting power of the air for heat, contributes greatly to
these impressions. In the port of Guayaquil, as everywhere else in
the low regions of the torrid zone, the weather grows cool only
after storms of rain: and I have observed that when the thermometer
sinks to 23.8 degrees, De Luc's hygrometer keeps up to fifty and
fifty-two degrees; it is, on the contrary, at thirty-seven degrees
in a temperature of 30.5 degrees. At Cumana, during very heavy
showers, people in the streets are heard exclaiming, que hielo!
estoy emparamado;* though the thermometer exposed to the rain sinks
only to 21.5 degrees. (* "What an icy cold! I shiver as if I was on
the top of the mountains." The provincial word emparamarse can be
translated only by a very long periphrasis. Paramo, in Peruvian
puna, is a denomination found on all the maps of Spanish America.
In the colonies it signifies neither a desert nor a heath, but a
mountainous place covered with stunted trees, exposed to the winds,
and in which a damp cold perpetually reigns. In the torrid zone,
the paramos are generally from one thousand six hundred to two
thousand toises high. Snow often falls on them, but it remains only
a few hours; for we must not confound, as geographers often do, the
words paramo and puna with that of nevado, in Peruvian ritticapa, a
mountain which enters into the limits of perpetual snow. These
notions are highly interesting to geology and the geography of
plants; because, in countries where no height has been measured, we
may form an exact idea of the lowest height to which the
Cordilleras rise, on looking into the map for the words paramo and
nevado. As the paramos are almost continually enveloped in a cold
and thick fog, the people say at Santa Fe and at Mexico, cae un
paramito when a thick small rain falls, and the temperature of the
air sinks considerably. From paramo has been made emparamarse,
which signifies to be as cold as if we were on the ridge of the
Andes.) From these observations it follows, that between the
tropics, in plains where the temperature of the air is in the
day-time almost invariably above twenty-seven degrees, warmer
clothing during the night is requisite, whenever in a damp air the
thermometer sinks four or five degrees.

We landed about eight in the morning at the point of Araya, near
the new salt-works. A solitary house, near a battery of three guns,
the only defence of this coast, since the destruction of the fort
of Santiago, is the abode of the inspector. It is surprising that
these salt-works, which formerly excited the jealousy of the
English, Dutch, and other maritime powers, have not created a
village, or even a farm; a few huts only of poor Indian fishermen
are found at the extremity of the point of Araya.

This spot commands a view of the islet of Cubagua, the lofty hills
of Margareta, the ruins of the castle of Santiago, the Cerro de la
Vela, and the calcareous chain of the Brigantine, which bounds the
horizon towards the south. I availed myself of this view to take
the angles between these different points, from a basis of four
hundred toises, which I measured between the battery and the hill
called the Pena. As the Cerro de la Vela, the Brigantine, and the
castle of San Antonio at Cumana, are equally visible from the Punta
Arenas, situated to the west of the village of Maniquarez, the same
objects were available for an approximate determination of the
respective positions of several points, which are laid down in the
mineralogical chart of the peninsula of Araya.

The abundance of salt contained in the peninsula of Araya was known
to Alonzo Nino, when, following the tracks of Columbus, Ojeda, and
Amerigo Vespucci, he visited these countries in 1499. Though of all
the people on the globe the natives of South America consume the
least salt, because they scarcely eat anything but vegetables, it
nevertheless appears, that at an early period the Guayquerias dug
into the clayey and muriatiferous soil of Punta Arenas. Even the
brine-pits, now called new, (la salina nueva,) situated at the
extremity of Cape Araya, were worked in very remote times. The
Spaniards, who settled at first at Cubagua, and soon after on the
coasts of Cumana, worked, from the beginning of the sixteenth
century, the salt marshes which stretch away like a lagoon to the
north of Cerro de la Vela. As at that period the peninsula of Araya
had no settled population, the Dutch availed themselves of the
natural riches of a soil which appeared to be property common to
all nations. In our days, each colony has its own salt-works, and
navigation is so much improved, that the merchants of Cadiz can
send, at a small expense, salt from Spain and Portugal to the
southern hemisphere, a distance of 1900 leagues, to cure meat at
Monte Video and Buenos Ayres. These advantages were unknown at the
time of the conquest; colonial industry had then made so little
progress, that the salt of Araya was carried, at great expense, to
the West India Islands, Carthagena, and Portobello. In 1605, the
court of Madrid sent armed ships to Punta Araya, with orders to
expel the Dutch by force of arms. The Dutch, however, continued to
carry on a contraband trade in salt till, in 1622, there was built
near the salt-works a fort, which afterwards became celebrated
under the name of the Castillo de Santiago, or the Real Fuerza de
Araya. The great salt-marshes are laid down on the oldest Spanish
maps, sometimes as a bay, and at other times as a lagoon. Laet, who
wrote his Orbis Novus in 1633, and who had some excellent notions
respecting these coasts, expressly states, that the lagoon was
separated from the sea by an isthmus above the level of high water.
In 1726, an impetuous hurricane destroyed the salt-works of Araya,
and rendered the fort, the construction of which had cost more than
a million of piastres, useless. This hurricane was a very rare
phenomenon in these regions, where the sea is in general as calm as
the water in our large rivers. The waves overflowed the land to a
great extent; and by the effect of this eruption of the ocean the
salt lake was converted into a gulf several miles in length. Since
that period, artificial reservoirs, or pits, (vasets,) have been
formed, to the north of the range of hills which separates the
castle from the north coast of the peninsula.

The consumption of salt amounted, in 1799 and 1800, in the two
provinces of Cumana* and Barcelona, to nine or ten thousand
fanegas, each sixteen arrobas, or four hundredweight. This
consumption is very considerable, and gives, if we deduct from the
total population fifty thousand Indians, who eat very little salt,
sixty pounds for each person. Salt beef, called tasajo, is the most
important article of export from Barcelona. Of nine or ten thousand
fanegas furnished by the two provinces conjointly, three thousand
only are produced by the salt-works of Araya; the rest is extracted
from the sea-water at the Morro of Barcelona, at Pozuelos, at
Piritu, and in the Golfo Triste. In Mexico, the salt lake of Penon
Blanco alone furnishes yearly more than two hundred and fifty
thousand fanegas of unpurified salt. (* At the period of my visit
to that country the government of Cumana comprehended the two
provinces of New Andalusia and New Barcelona. The words province
and govierno, or government of Cumana, are consequently not
synonymous. A Catalonian, Juan de Urpin, who had been by turns a
canon, a doctor of laws, a counsellor in St. Domingo, and a private
soldier in the castle of Araya, founded in 1636, the city of New
Barcelona, and attempted to give the name of New Catalonia (Nueva
Cathaluna) to the province of which this newly constructed city
became the capital. This attempt was fruitless; and it is from the
capital that the whole province took its name. Since my departure
from America, it has been raised to the rank of a Govierno. In New
Andalusia, the Indian name of Cumana has superseded the names Nueva
Toledo and Nueva Cordoba, which we find on the maps of the
seventeenth century.)

The province of Caracas possesses fine salt-works at Los Roques;
those which formerly existed at the small island of Tortuga, where
the soil is strongly impregnated with muriate of soda, were
destroyed by order of the Spanish government. A canal was made by
which the sea has free access to the salt-marshes. Foreign nations
who have colonies in the West Indies frequented this uninhabited
island; and the court of Madrid, from views of suspicious policy,
was apprehensive that the salt-works of Tortuga would give rise to
settlements, by means of which an illicit trade would be carried on
with Terra Firma.

The royal administration of the salt-works of Araya dates only from
the year 1792. Before that period they were in the hands of Indian
fishermen, who manufactured salt at their pleasure, and sold it,
paying the government the moderate sum of three hundred piastres.
The price of the fanega was then four reals;* (* In this narrative,
as well as in the Political Essay on New Spain, all the prices are
reckoned in piastres, and silver reals (reales de plata). Eight of
these reals are equivalent to a piastre, or one hundred and five
sous, French money (4 shillings 4 1/2 pence English). Nouv. Esp.
volume 2 pages 519, 616 and 866.) but the salt was extremely
impure, grey, mixed with earthy particles, and surcharged with
muriate and sulphate of magnesia. Since the province of Cumana has
become dependent on the intendancia of Caracas, the sale of salt is
under the control of the excise; and the fanega, which the
Guayquerias sold at half a piastre, costs a piastre and a half.* (*
The fanega of salt is sold to those Indians and fishermen who do
not pay the duties (derechos reales), at Punta Araya for six, at
Cumana for eight reals. The prices to the other tribes are, at
Araya ten, at Cumana twelve reals.) This augmentation of price is
slightly compensated by greater purity of the salt, and by the
facility with which the fishermen and farmers can procure it in
abundance during the whole year. The salt-works of Araya yielded to
the treasury, in 1799, a clear income of eight thousand piastres.

Considered as a branch of industry the salt produced here is not of
any great importance, but the nature of the soil which contains the
salt-marshes is well worthy of attention. In order to obtain a
clear idea of the geological connection existing between this
muriatiferous soil and the rocks of more ancient formation, we
shall take a general view of the neighbouring mountains of Cumana,
and those of the peninsula of Araya, and the island of Margareta.

Three great parallel chains extend from east to west. The two most
northerly chains are primitive, and contain the mica-slates of
Macanao, and the San Juan Valley, of Maniquarez, and of
Chuparipari. These we shall distinguish by the names of Cordillera
of the island of Margareta, and Cordillera of Araya. The third
chain, the most southerly of the whole, the Cordillera of the
Brigantine and of the Cocollar, contains rocks only of secondary
formation; and, what is remarkable enough, though analogous to the
geological constitution of the Alps westward of St. Gothard, the
primitive chain is much less elevated than that which was composed
of secondary rocks.* (* In New Andalusia, the Cordillera of the
Cocollar nowhere contains primitive rocks. If these rocks form the
nucleus of this chain, and rise above the level of the neighbouring
plains, which is scarcely probable, we must suppose that they are
all covered with limestone and sandstone. In the Swiss Alps, on the
contrary, the chain which is designated under the too vague
denomination of lateral and calcareous, contains primitive rocks,
which, according to the observations of Escher and Leopold von
Buch, are often visible to the height of eight hundred or a
thousand toises.) The sea has separated the two northern
Cordilleras, those of the island of Margareta and the peninsula of
Araya; and the small islands of Coche and of Cubagua are remnants
of the land that was submerged. Farther to the south, the vast gulf
Cariaco stretches away, like a longitudinal valley formed by the
irruption of the sea, between the two small chains of Araya and the
Cocollar, between the mica-slate and the Alpine limestone. We shall
soon see that the direction of the strata, very regular in the
first of these rocks, is not quite parallel with the general
direction of the gulf. In the high Alps of Europe, the great
longitudinal valley of the Rhone also sometimes cuts at an oblique
angle the calcareous banks in which it has been excavated.

The two parallel chains of Araya and the Cocollar were connected,
to the east of the town of Cariaco, between the lakes of Campoma
and Putaquao, by a kind of transverse dyke, which bears the name of
Cerro de Meapire, and which in distant times, by resisting the
impulse of the waves, has hindered the waters of the gulf of
Cariaco from uniting with those of the gulf of Paria. Thus, in
Switzerland, the central chain, that which passes by the Col de
Ferrex, the Simplon, St. Gothard, and the Splugen, is connected on
the north and the south with two lateral chains, by the mountains
of Furca and Maloya. It is interesting to recall to mind those
striking analogies exhibited in both continents by the external
structure of the globe.

The primitive chain of Araya ends abruptly in the meridian of the
village of Maniquarez; and the western slope of the peninsula, as
well as the plains in the midst of which stands the castle of San
Antonio, is covered with very recent formations of sandstone and
clay mixed with gypsum. Near Maniquarez, breccia or sandstone with
calcareous cement, which might easily be confounded with real
limestone, lies immediately over the mica-slate; while on the
opposite side, near Punta Delgada, this sandstone covers a compact
bluish grey limestone, almost destitute of petrifactions, and
traversed by small veins of calcareous spar. This last rock is
analogous to the limestone of the high Alps.* (* Alpenkalkstein.)

The very recent sandstone formation of the peninsula of Araya
contains:--first, near Punta Arenas, a stratified sandstone,
composed of very fine grains, united by a calcareous cement in
small quantity;--secondly, at the Cerro de la Vela, a schistose
sandstone,* (* Sandsteinschiefer.) without mica, and passing into
slate-clay,* (* Thonschiefer.) which accompanies coal;--thirdly, on
the western side, between Punta Gorda and the ruins of the castle
of Santiago, breccia composed of petrified sea-shells united by a
calcareous cement, in which are mingled grains of quartz;--fourthly,
near the point of Barigon, whence the stone employed
for building at Cumana is obtained, banks of yellowish white shelly
limestone, in which are found some scattered grains of
quartz;--fifthly, at Penas Negras, at the top of the Cerro de la Vela, a
bluish grey compact limestone, very tender, almost without
petrifactions, and covering the schistose sandstone. However
extraordinary this mixture of sandstone and compact limestone* (*
Dichter kalkstein.) may appear, we cannot doubt that these strata
belong to one and the same formation. The very recent secondary
rocks everywhere present analogous phenomena; the molasse of the
Pays de Vaud contains a fetid shelly limestone, and the cerite
limestone of the banks of the Seine is sometimes mixed with

The strata of calcareous breccia are composed of an infinite number
of sea-shells, from four to six inches in diameter, and in part
well preserved. We find they contain not ammonites, but
ampullaires, solens, and terebratulae. The greater part of these
shells are mixed: the oysters and pectinites being sometimes
arranged in families. The whole are easily detached, and their
interior is filled with fossil madrepores and cellepores. We have
now to speak of a fourth formation, which probably rests* on the
calcareous sandstone of Araya, I mean the muriatiferous clay. (* It
were to be wished that mineralogical travellers would examine more
particularly the Cerro de la Vela. The limestone of the Penas
Negras rests on a slate-clay, mixed with quartzose sand; but there
is no proof of the muriatiferous clay of the salt-works being of
more ancient formation than this slate-clay, or of its alternating
with banks of sandstone. No well having been dug in these
countries, we can have no information respecting the superposition
of the strata. The banks of calcareous sandstone, which are found
at the mouth of the salt lake, and near the fishermen's huts on the
coast opposite Cape Macano, appeared to me to lie beneath the
muriatiferous clay.) This clay, hardened, impregnated with
petroleum, and mixed with lamellar and lenticular gypsum, is
analogous to the salzthon, which in Europe accompanies the sal-gem
of Berchtesgaden, and in South America that of Zipaquira. It is
generally of a smoke-grey colour, earthy, and friable; but it
encloses more solid masses of a blackish brown, of a schistose, and
sometimes conchoidal fracture. These fragments, from six to eight
inches long, have an angular form. When they are very small, they
give the clay a porphyroidal appearance. We find disseminated in
it, as we have already observed, either in nests or in small veins,
selenite, and sometimes, though seldom, fibrous gypsum. It is
remarkable enough, that this stratum of clay, as well as the banks
of pure sal-gem and the salzthon in Europe, scarcely ever contains
shells, while the rocks adjacent exhibit them in great abundance.

Although the muriate of soda is not found visible to the eye in the
clay of Araya, we cannot doubt of its existence. It shows itself in
large crystals, if we sprinkle the mass with rain-water and expose
it to the sun. The lagoon to the east of the castle of Santiago
exhibits all the phenomena which have been observed in the salt
lakes of Siberia, described by Lepechin, Gmelin, and Pallas. This
lagoon receives, however, only the rain-waters, which filter
through the banks of clay, and unite at the lowest point of the
peninsula. While the lagoon served as a salt-work to the Spaniards
and the Dutch, it did not communicate with the sea; at present this
communication has been interrupted anew, by faggots placed at the
place where the waters of the ocean made an irruption in 1726.
After great droughts, crystallized and very pure muriate of soda,
in masses of three or four cubic feet, is still drawn from time to
time from the bottom of the lagoon. The salt waters of the lake,
exposed to the heat of the sun, evaporate at their surface; crusts
of salt, formed in a saturated solution, fall to the bottom; and by
the attraction between crystals of a similar nature and form, the
crystallized masses daily augment. It is generally observed that
the water is brackish wherever lagoons are formed in clayey ground.
It is true, that for the new salt-work near the battery of Araya,
the seawater is received into pits, as in the salt marshes of the
south of France; but in the island of Margareta, near Pampatar,
salt is manufactured by employing only fresh water, with which the
muriatiferous clay has first been lixiviated.

We must not confound the salt disseminated in these clayey soils
with that contained in the sands of the seashore, on the coasts of
Normandy. These phenomena, considered in a geognostical point of
view, have scarcely any properties in common. I have seen
muriatiferous clay at the level of the ocean at Punta Araya, and at
two thousand toises' height in the Cordilleras of New Grenada. If
in the former of these places it lies on very recent shelly
breccia, it forms, on the contrary, in Austria near Ischel, a
considerable stratum in the Alpine limestone, which, though equally
posterior to the existence of organic life on the globe, is
nevertheless of high antiquity, as is proved by the great number of
rocks with which it is covered. We shall not question, that
sal-gem, either pure or mixed with muriatiferous clay, may have
been deposited by an ancient sea; but everything evinces that it
was formed during an order of things bearing no resemblance to that
in which the sea at present, by a slower operation, deposits a few
particles of muriate of soda on the sands of our shores. In the
same manner as sulphur and coal belong to periods of formation very
remote from each other, the sal-gem is also found sometimes in
transition gypsum,* (* Uebergangsgyps, in the transition slate of
White Alley (l'Allee Blanche), and between the grauwacke and black
transition limestone near Bex, below the Dent de Chamossaire,
according to M. von Buch.) sometimes in the Alpine limestone,* (*
At Halle in the Tyrol.) sometimes in a muriatiferous clay lying on
a very recent sandstone,* (* At Punta Araya.) and lastly, sometimes
in a gypsum* posterior to the chalk. (* Gypsum of the third
formation among the secondary gypsums. The first formation contains
the gypsum in which are found the brine-springs of Thuringia, and
which is placed either in the Alpine limestone or zechstein, to
which it essentially belongs (Freiesleben Geognost. Arbeiten tome 2
page 131), or between the zechstein and the limestone of the Jura,
or between the zechstein and the new sandstone. It is the ancient
gypsum of secondary formation of Werner's school (alterer
flozgyps), which we almost preferably call muriatiferous gypsum.
The second formation is composed of fibrous gypsum, placed either
in the molasse or new sandstone, or between this and the upper
limestone. It abounds in common clay, which differs essentially
from the salzthon or muriatiferous clay. The third formation of
gypsum is more recent than chalk. To this belongs the bony gypsum
of Paris; and, as appears from the researches of Mr. Steffens
(Geogn. Aufsatsze 1810 page 142), the gypsum of Segeberg, in
Holstein, in which sal-gem is sometimes disseminated in very small
nests (Jenaische Litteratur-Zeitung 1813 page 100). The gypsum of
Paris, lying between a cerite limestone, which covers chalk and a
sandstone without shells, is distinguished by fossil bones of
quadrupeds, while the Segeberg and Lunebourg gypsums, the position
of which is more uncertain, are characterized by the boracits which
they contain. Two other formations, far anterior to the three we
have just mentioned, are the transition gypsum (ubergangsgyps) of
Aigle, and the primitive gypsum (urgyps) of the valley of Canaria,
near Airolo. I flatter myself that I may render some service to
those geologists who prefer the knowledge of positive facts to
speculation on the origin of things, by furnishing them with
materials from which they may generalize their ideas on the
formation of rocks in both hemispheres. The relative antiquity of
the formations is the principal object of a science which is to
render us acquainted with the structure of the globe; that is to
say, the nature of the strata which constitute the crust of our

The new salt-works of Araya have five reservoirs, or pits, the
largest of which have two thousand three hundred square toises
surface. Their mean depth is eight inches. Use is made both of the
rain-water, which by filtration collects at the lowest part of the
plain, and of the water of the sea, which enters by canals, or
martellieres, when the flood-tide is favoured by the winds. The
situation of these new salt-works is less advantageous than that of
the lagoon. The waters which fall into the latter pass over steeper
slopes, washing a greater extent of ground.

The earth already lixiviated is never carried away here, as it is
from time to time in the island of Margareta; nor have wells been
dug in the muriatiferous clay, with the view of finding strata
richer in muriate of soda. The salineros, or salt-workers generally
complain of want of rain; and in the new salt-works, it appears to
me difficult to determine what quantity of salt is derived solely
from the waters of the sea. The natives estimate it at a sixth of
the total produce. The evaporation is extremely strong, and
favoured by the constant motion of the air; so that the salt is
collected in eighteen or twenty days after the pits are filled.

Though the muriate of soda is manufactured with less care in the
peninsula of Araya than at the salt-works of Europe, it is
nevertheless purer, and contains less of earthy muriates and
sulphates. We know not whether this purity may be attributed to
that portion of the salt which is furnished by the sea; for though
it is extremely probable, that the quantity of salt dissolved in
the waters of the ocean is nearly the same under every zone, it is
not less uncertain whether the proportion between the muriate of
soda, the muriate and sulphate of magnesia, and the sulphate and
carbonate of lime, be equally invariable.

Having examined the salt-works, and terminated our geodesical
operations, we departed at the decline of day to sleep at an Indian
hut, some miles distant, near the ruins of the castle of Araya.
Directing our course southward, we traversed first the plain
covered with muriatiferous clay, and stripped of vegetation; then
two chains of hills of sandstone, between which the lagoon is
situated. Night overtook us while we were in a narrow path,
bordered on one side by the sea, and on the other by a range of
perpendicular rocks. The tide was rising rapidly, and narrowed the
road at every step. We at length arrived at the foot of the old
castle of Araya, where we enjoyed a prospect that had in it
something lugubrious and romantic. The ruins stand on a bare and
arid mountain, crowned with agave, columnar cactus, and thorny
mimosas: they bear less resemblance to the works of man, than to
those masses of rock which were ruptured at the early revolutions
of the globe.

We were desirous of stopping to admire this majestic spectacle, and
to observe the setting of Venus, whose disk appeared at intervals
between the yawning crannies of the castle; but the muleteer, who
served as our guide, was parched with thirst, and pressed us
earnestly to return. He had long perceived that we had lost our
way; and as he hoped to work on our fears he continually warned us
of the danger of tigers and rattlesnakes. Venomous reptiles are,
indeed, very common near the castle of Araya; and two jaguars had
been lately killed at the entrance of the village of Maniquarez. If
we might judge from their skins, which were preserved, their size
was not less than that of the Indian tiger. We vainly represented
to our guide that those animals did not attack men where the goats
furnished them with abundant prey; we were obliged to yield, and
return. After having proceeded three quarters of an hour along a
shore covered by the tide we were joined by the negro, who carried
our provision. Uneasy at not seeing us arrive, he had come to meet
us, and he led us through a wood of nopals to a hut inhabited by an
Indian family. We were received with the cordial hospitality
observed in this country among people of every tribe. The hut in
which we slung our hammocks was very clean; and there we found
fish, plantains, and what in the torrid zone is preferable to the
most sumptuous food, excellent water.

The next day at sunrise we found that the hut in which we had
passed the night formed part of a group of small dwellings on the
borders of the salt lake, the remains of a considerable village
which had formerly stood near the castle. The ruins of a church
were seen partly buried in the sand, and covered with brushwood.
When, in 1762, to save the expense of the garrison, the castle of
Araya was totally dismantled, the Indians and Mulattoes who were
settled in the neighbourhood emigrated by degrees to Maniquarez, to
Cariaco, and in the suburb of the Guayquerias at Cumana. A small
number, bound from affection to their native soil, remained in this
wild and barren spot. These poor people live by catching fish,
which are extremely abundant on the coast and the neighbouring
shoals. They appear satisfied with their condition, and think it
strange when they are asked why they have no gardens or culinary
vegetables. Our gardens, they reply, are beyond the gulf; when we
carry our fish to Cumana, we bring back plantains, cocoa-nuts, and
cassava. This system of economy, which favours idleness, is
followed at Maniquarez, and throughout the whole peninsula of
Araya. The chief wealth of the inhabitants consists in goats, which
are of a very large and very fine breed, and rove in the fields
like those at the Peak of Teneriffe. They have become entirely
wild, and are marked like the mules, because it would be difficult
to recognize them from their colour or the arrangement of their
spots. These wild goats are of a brownish yellow, and are not
varied in colour like domestic animals. If in hunting, a colonist
kills a goat which he does not consider as his own property, he
carries it immediately to the neighbour to whom it belongs. During
two days we heard it everywhere spoken of as a very extraordinary
circumstance, that an inhabitant of Maniquarez had lost a goat, on
which it was probable that a neighbouring family had regaled

Among the Mulattoes, whose huts surround the salt lake, we found it
shoemaker of Castilian descent. He received us with the air of
gravity and self-sufficiency which in those countries characterize
almost all persons who are conscious of possessing some peculiar
talent. He was employed in stretching the string of his bow, and
sharpening his arrows to shoot birds. His trade of a shoemaker
could not be very lucrative in a country where the greater part of
the inhabitants go barefooted; and he only complained that, on
account of the dearness of European gunpowder, a man of his quality
was reduced to employ the same weapons as the Indians. He was the
sage of the plain; he understood the formation of the salt by the
influence of the sun and full moon, the symptoms of earthquakes,
the marks by which mines of gold and silver are discovered, and the
medicinal plants, which, like all the other colonists from Chile to
California, he classified into hot and cold.* (* Exciting or
debilitating, the sthenic and asthenic, of Brown's system.) Having
collected the traditions of the country, he gave us some curious
accounts of the pearls of Cubagua, objects of luxury, which he
treated with the utmost contempt. To show us how familiar to him
were the sacred writings he took a pride in reminding us that Job
preferred wisdom to all the pearls of the Indies. His philosophy
was circumscribed to the narrow circle of the wants of life. The
possession of a very strong ass, able to carry a heavy load of
plantains to the embarcadero, was the consummation of all his

After a long discourse on the emptiness of human greatness, he drew
from a leathern pouch a few very small opaque pearls, which he
forced us to accept, enjoining us at the same time to note on our
tablets that a poor shoemaker of Araya, but a white man, and of
noble Castilian race, had been enabled to give us something which,
on the other side of the sea,* was sought for as very precious. (*
'Por alla,' or, 'del otro lado del charco,' (properly 'beyond,' or
'on the other side of the great lake'), a figurative expression, by
which the people in the Spanish colonies denote Europe.) I here
acquit myself of the promise I made to this worthy man, who
disinterestedly refused to accept of the slightest retribution. The
Pearl Coast presents the same aspect of misery as the countries of
gold and diamonds, Choco and Brazil; but misery is not there
attended with that immoderate desire of gain which is excited by
mineral wealth.

The pearl-breeding oyster (Avicula margaritifera, Cuvier) abounds
on the shoals which extend from Cape Paria to Cape la Vela. The
islands of Margareta, Cubagua, Coche, Punta Araya, and the mouth of
the Rio la Hacha, were, in the sixteenth century, as celebrated as
were the Persian Gulf and the island of Taprobana among the
ancients. It is incorrectly alleged by some historians that the
natives of America were unacquainted with the luxury of pearls. The
first Spaniards who landed in Terra Firma found the savages decked
with pearl necklaces and bracelets; and among the civilized people
of Mexico and Peru, pearls of a beautiful form were extremely
sought after. I have published a dissertation on the statue of a
Mexican priestess in basalt, whose head-dress, resembling the
calantica of the heads of Isis, is ornamented with pearls. Las
Casas and Benzoni have described, but not without some
exaggeration, the cruelties which were exercised on the unhappy
Indian slaves and negroes employed in the pearl fishery. At the
beginning of the conquest the island of Coche alone furnished
pearls amounting in value to fifteen hundred marks per month.

The quint which the king's officers drew from the produce of
pearls, amounted to fifteen thousand ducats; which, according to
the value of the precious metals in those times, and the
extensiveness of contraband trade, may be regarded as a very
considerable sum. It appears that till 1530 the value of the pearls
sent to Europe amounted yearly on an average to more than eight
hundred thousand piastres. In order to judge of the importance of
this branch of commerce to Seville, Toledo, Antwerp, and Genoa, we
should recollect that at the same period the whole of the mines of
America did not furnish two millions of piastres; and that the
fleet of Ovando was thought to contain immense wealth, because it
had on board nearly two thousand six hundred marks of silver.
Pearls were the more sought after, as the luxury of Asia had been
introduced into Europe by two ways diametrically opposite: that of
Constantinople, where the Palaeologi wore garments covered with
strings of pearls; and that of Grenada, the residence of the
Moorish kings, who displayed at their court all the luxury of the
East. The pearls of the East were preferred to those of the West;
but the number of the latter which circulated in commerce was
nevertheless considerable at the period immediately following the
discovery of America. In Italy as well as in Spain, the islet of
Cubagua became the object of numerous mercantile speculations.

Benzoni* relates the adventure of one Luigi Lampagnano, to whom
Charles the Fifth granted the privilege of proceeding with five
caravels to the coasts of Cumana to fish for pearls. (* La Hist.
del Mondo Nuovo page 34. Luigi Lampagnano, a relation of the
assassin of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, could not pay
the merchants of Seville who had advanced the money for his voyage;
he remained five years at Cubagua, and died in a fit of insanity.)
The colonists sent him back with this bold message: "That the
emperor was too liberal of what was not his own, and that he had no
right to dispose of the oysters which live at the bottom of the

The pearl fishery diminished rapidly about the end of the sixteenth
century; and, according to Laet, it had long ceased in 1633.* (*
"Insularum Cubaguae et Coches quondam magna fuit dignitas, quum
Unionum captura floreret: nunc, illa deficiente, obscura admodum
fama." Laet Nova Orbis page 669. This accurate compiler, speaking
of Punta Araya, adds, this country is so forgotten, "ut vix ulla
Americae meridionalis pars hodie obscurior sit.") The industry of
the Venetians, who imitated fine pearls with great exactness, and
the frequent use of cut diamonds,* rendered the fisheries of
Cubagua less lucrative. (* The cutting of diamonds was invented by
Lewis de Berquen, in 1456, but the art became common only in the
following century.) At the same time, the oysters which yielded the
pearls became scarcer, not, because, according to a popular
tradition, they were frightened by the sound of the oars, and
removed elsewhere; but because their propagation had been impeded
by the imprudent destruction of the shells by thousands. The
pearl-bearing oyster is of a more delicate nature than most of the
other acephalous mollusca. At the island of Ceylon, where, in the
bay of Condeatchy, the fishery employs six hundred divers, and
where the annual produce is more than half a million of piastres,
it has vainly been attempted to transplant the oysters to other
parts of the coast. The government permits fishing there only
during a single month; while at Cubagua the bank of shells was
fished at all seasons. To form an idea of the destruction of the
species caused by the divers, we must remember that a boat
sometimes collects, in two or three weeks, more than thirty-five
thousand oysters. The animal lives but nine or ten years; and it is
only in its fourth year that the pearls begin to show themselves.
In ten thousand shells there is often not a single pearl of value.
Tradition records that on the bank of Margareta the fishermen
opened the shells one by one: in the island of Ceylon the animals
are thrown into heaps to rot in the air; and to separate the pearls
which are not attached to the shell, the animal pulp is washed, as
miners wash the sand which contains grains of gold, tin, or

At present Spanish America furnishes no other pearls for trade than
those of the gulf of Panama, and the mouth of the Rio de la Hacha.
On the shoals which surround Cubagua, Coche, and the island of
Margareta, the fishery is as much neglected as on the coasts of
California.* (* I am astonished at never having heard, in the
course of my travels, of pearls found in the fresh-water shells of
South America, though several species of the Unio genus abound in
the rivers of Peru.) It is believed at Cumana, that the
pearl-oyster has greatly multiplied after two centuries of repose;
and in 1812, some new attempts were made at Margareta for the
fishing of pearls. It has been asked, why the pearls found at
present in shells which become entangled in the fishermen's nets
are so small, and have so little brilliancy,* whilst, on the
Spaniards' arrival, they were extremely beautiful, though the
Indians doubtless had not taken the trouble of diving to collect
them. (* The inhabitants of Araya sometimes sell these small pearls
to the retail dealers of Cumana. The ordinary price is one piastre
per dozen.) The problem is so much the more difficult to solve, as
we know not whether earthquakes may have altered the nature of the
bottom of the sea, or whether the changes of the submarine currents
may have had an influence either on the temperature of the water,
or on the abundance of certain mollusca on which the Aronde feeds.

On the morning of the 20th our host's son, a young and very robust
Indian, conducted us by the way of Barigon and Caney to the village
of Maniquarez, which was four hours' walk. From the effect of the
reverberation of the sands, the thermometer kept up to 31.3
degrees. The cylindric cactus, which bordered the road, gave the
landscape an appearance of verdure, without affording either
coolness or shade. Before our guide had walked a league, he began
to sit down every moment, and at length he wished to repose under
the shade of a fine tamarind tree near Casas de la Vela, to await
the approach of night. This characteristic trait, which we observed
every time we travelled with Indians, has given rise to very
erroneous ideas of the physical constitutions of the different
races of men. The copper-coloured native, more accustomed to the
burning heat of the climate, than the European traveller, complains
more, because he is stimulated by no interest. Money is without
attraction for him; and if he permits himself to be tempted by gain
for a moment, he repents of his resolution as soon as he is on the
road. The same Indian, who would complain, when in herborizing we
loaded him with a box filled with plants, would row his canoe
fourteen or fifteen hours together, against the strongest current,
because he wished to return to his family. In order to form a true
judgment of the muscular strength of the people, we should observe
them in circumstances where their actions are determined by a
necessity and a will equally energetic.

We examined the ruins of Santiago,* the structure of which is
remarkable for its extreme solidity. (* On the map accompanying
Robertson's History of America, we find the name of this castle
confounded with that of Nueva Cordoba. This latter denomination was
formerly synonymous with Cumana.--Herrera, page 14.) The walls of
freestone, five feet thick, have been blown up by mines; but we
still found masses of seven or eight hundred feet square, which
have scarcely a crack in them. Our guide showed us a cistern
(aljibe) thirty feet deep, which, though much damaged, furnishes
water to the inhabitants of the peninsula of Araya. This cistern
was finished in 1681, by the governor Don Juan de Padilla
Guardiola, the same who built at Cumana the small fort of Santa
Maria. As the basin is covered with an arched vault, the water,
which is of excellent quality, keeps very cool: the confervae,
while they decompose the carburetted hydrogen, also shelter worms
which hinder the propagation of small insects. It had been believed
for ages, that the peninsula of Araya was entirely destitute of
springs of fresh water; but in 1797, after many useless researches,
the inhabitants of Maniquarez succeeded in discovering some.

In crossing the arid hills of Cape Cirial, we perceived a strong
smell of petroleum. The wind blew from the direction in which the
springs of this substance are found, and which were mentioned by
the first historians of these countries.* (* Oviedo terms it "A
resinous, aromatic, and medicinal liquor.") Near the village of
Maniquarez, the mica-slate* (* The Piedra pelada of the Creoles.)
comes out from below the secondary rock, forming a chain of
mountains from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty
toises in height. The direction of the primitive rock near Cape
Sotto is from north-east to south-west; its strata incline fifty
degrees to the north-west. The mica-slate is silvery white, of
lamellar and undulated texture, and contains garnets. Strata of
quartz, the thickness of which varies from three to four toises,
traverse the mica-slate, as we may observe in several ravines
hollowed out by the waters. We detached with difficulty a fragment
of cyanite from a block of splintered and milky quartz, which was
isolated on the shore. This was the only time we found this
substance in South America.* (* In New Spain, the cyanite has been
discovered only in the province of Guatimala, at Estancia
Grande,--Del Rio Tablas Min. 1804 page 27.)

The potteries of Maniquarez, celebrated from time immemorial, form
a branch of industry which is exclusively in the hands of the
Indian women. The manufacture is still carried on according to the
method used before the conquest. It indicates both the infancy of
the art, and that unchangeability of manners which is
characteristic of all the natives of America. Three centuries have
been insufficient to introduce the potter's-wheel, on a coast which
is not above thirty or forty days' sail from Spain. The natives
have some confused notions with respect to the existence of this
machine, and they would no doubt make use of it if it were
introduced among them. The quarries whence they obtain the clay are
half a league to the east of Maniquarez. This clay is produced by
natural decomposition of a mica-slate reddened by oxide of iron.
The Indian women prefer the part most abounding in mica; and with
great skill fashion vessels two or three feet in diameter, giving
them a very regular curve. As they are not acquainted with the use
of ovens, they place twigs of desmanthus, cassia, and the
arborescent capparis, around the pots, and bake them in the open
air. To the east of the quarry which furnishes the clay is the
ravine of La Mina. It is asserted that, a short time after the
conquest, some Venetians extracted gold from the mica-slate. It
appears that this metal was not collected in veins of quartz, but
was found disseminated in the rock, as it is sometimes in granite
and gneiss.

At Maniquarez we met with some creoles, who had been hunting at
Cubagua. Deer of a small breed are so common in this uninhabited
islet, that a single individual may kill three or four in a day. I
know not by what accident these animals have got thither, for Laet
and other chroniclers of these countries, speaking of the
foundation of New Cadiz, mention only the great abundance of
rabbits. The venado of Cubagua belongs to one of those numerous
species of small American deer, which zoologists have long
confounded under the vague name of Cervus mexicanus. It does not
appear to be the same as the hind of the savannahs of Cayenne, or
the guazuti of Paraguay, which live also in herds. Its colour is a
brownish red on the back, and white under the belly; and it is
spotted like the axis. In the plains of Cari we were shown, as a
thing very rare in these hot climates, a variety quite white. It
was a female of the size of the roebuck of Europe, and of a very
elegant shape. White varieties are found in the New Continent even
among the tigers. Azara saw a jaguar, the skin of which was wholly
white, with merely the shadow, as it might be termed, of a few
circular spots.

Of all the productions on the coasts of Araya, that which the
people consider as the most extraordinary, or we may say the most
marvellous, is 'the stone of the eyes,' (piedra de los ojos.) This
calcareous substance is a frequent subject of conversation: being,
according to the natural philosophy of the natives, both a stone
and an animal. It is found in the sand, where it is motionless; but
if placed on a polished surface, for instance on a pewter or
earthen plate, it moves when excited by lemon juice. If placed in
the eye, the supposed animal turns on itself, and expels every
other foreign substance that has been accidentally introduced. At
the new salt-works, and at the village of Maniquarez, these stones
of the eyes* were offered to us by hundreds, and the natives were
anxious to show us the experiment of the lemon juice. (* They are
found in the greatest abundance near the battery at the point of
Cape Araya.) They even wished to put sand into our eyes, in order
that we might ourselves try the efficacy of the remedy. It was easy
to see that the stones are thin and porous opercula, which have
formed part of small univalve shells. Their diameter varies from
one to four lines. One of their two surfaces is plane, and the
other convex. These calcareous opercula effervesce with lemon
juice, and put themselves in motion in proportion as the carbonic
acid is disengaged. By the effect of a similar reaction, loaves
placed in an oven move sometimes on a horizontal plane; a
phenomenon that has given occasion, in Europe, to the popular
prejudice of enchanted ovens. The piedras de los ojos, introduced
into the eye, act like the small pearls, and different round grains
employed by the American savages to increase the flowing of tears.
These explanations were little to the taste of the inhabitants of
Araya. Nature has the appearance of greatness to man in proportion
as she is veiled in mystery; and the ignorant are prone to put
faith in everything that borders on the marvellous.

Proceeding along the southern coast, to the east of Maniquarez, we
find running out into the sea very near each other, three strips of
land, bearing the names of Punta de Soto, Punta de la Brea, and
Punta Guaratarito. In these parts the bottom of the sea is
evidently formed of mica-slate, and from it near Cape de la Brea,
but at eighty feet distant from the shore, there issues a spring of
naphtha, the smell of which penetrates into the interior of the
peninsula. It is necessary to wade into the sea up to the waist, to
examine this interesting phenomenon. The waters are covered with
zostera; and in the midst of a very extensive bank of weeds, we
distinguish a free and circular spot of three feet in diameter, on
which float a few scattered masses of Ulva lactuca. Here the
springs are found. The bottom of the gulf is covered with sand; and
the petroleum, which, from its transparency and its yellow colour,
resembles naphtha, rises in jets, accompanied by air bubbles. On
treading down the bottom with the foot, we perceive that these
little springs change their place. The naphtha covers the surface
of the sea to more than a thousand feet distant. If we suppose the
dip of the strata to be regular, the mica-slate must be but a few
toises below the sand.

We have already observed, that the muriatiferous clay of Araya
contains solid and friable petroleum. This geological connection
between the muriate of soda and the bitumens is evident wherever
there are mines of sal-gem or salt springs: but a very remarkable
fact is the existence of a fountain of naphtha in a primitive
formation. All those hitherto known belong to secondary mountains;*
(* As at Pietra Mala; Fanano; Mont Zibio; and Amiano (in these
places are found the springs that furnish the naphtha burned in
lamps in Genoa) and also at Baikal.) a circumstance which has been
supposed to favour the idea that all mineral bitumens are owing to
the destruction of vegetables and animals, or to the burning of
coal. In the peninsula of Araya, the naphtha flows from the
primitive rock itself; and this phenomenon acquires new importance,
when we recollect that the same primitive rocks contain the
subterranean fires, that on the brink of burning craters the smell
of petroleum is perceived from time to time, and that the greater
part of the hot springs of America rise from gneiss and micaceous

After having examined the environs of Maniquarez, we embarked at
night in a fishing-boat for Cumana. The small crazy boats employed
by the natives here, bear testimony to the extreme calmness of the
sea in these regions. Our boat, though the best we could procure,
was so leaky, that the pilot's son was constantly employed in
baling out the water with a tutuma, or shell of the Crescentia
cujete (calabash). It often happens in the gulf of Cariaco, and
especially to the north of the peninsula of Araya, that canoes
laden with cocoa-nuts are upset in sailing too near the wind, and
against the tide.

The inhabitants of Araya, whom we visited a second time on
returning from the Orinoco, have not forgotten that their peninsula
was one of the points first peopled by the Spaniards. They love to
talk of the pearl fishery; of the ruins of the castle of Santiago,
which they hope to see some day rebuilt; and of everything that
recalls to mind the ancient splendour of those countries. In China
and Japan those inventions are considered as recent, which have not
been known above two thousand years; in the European colonies an
event appears extremely old, if it dates back three centuries, or
about the period of the discovery of America.



Our first visit to the peninsula of Araya was soon succeeded by an
excursion to the mountains of the missions of the Chayma Indians,
where a variety of interesting objects claimed our attention. We
entered on a country studded with forests, and visited a convent
surrounded by palm-trees and arborescent ferns. It was situated in
a narrow valley, where we felt the enjoyment of a cool and
delicious climate, in the centre of the torrid zone. The
surrounding mountains contain caverns haunted by thousands of
nocturnal birds; and, what affects the imagination more than all
the wonders of the physical world, we find beyond these mountains a
people lately nomad, and still nearly in a state of nature, wild
without being barbarous. It was in the promontory of Paria that
Columbus first descried the continent; there terminate these
valleys, laid waste alternately by the warlike anthropophagic Carib
and by the commercial and polished nations of Europe. At the
beginning of the sixteenth century the ill-fated Indians of the
coasts of Carupano, of Macarapan, and of Caracas, were treated in
the same manner as the inhabitants of the coast of Guinea in our
days. The soil of the islands was cultivated, the vegetable produce
of the Old World was transplanted thither, but a regular system of
colonization remained long unknown on the New Continent. If the
Spaniards visited its shores, it was only to procure, either by
violence or exchange, slaves, pearls, grains of gold, and
dye-woods; and endeavours were made to ennoble the motives of this
insatiable avarice by the pretence of enthusiastic zeal in the
cause of religion.

The trade in the copper-coloured Indians was accompanied by the
same acts of inhumanity as that which characterizes the traffic in
African negroes; it was attended also by the same result, that of
rendering both the conquerors and the conquered more ferocious.
Thence wars became more frequent among the natives; prisoners were
dragged from the inland countries to the coast, to be sold to the
whites, who Loaded them with chains in their ships. Yet the
Spaniards were at that period, and long after, one of the most
polished nations of Europe. The light which art and literature then
shed over Italy, was reflected on every nation whose language
emanated from the same source as that of Dante and Petrarch. It
might have been expected that a general improvement of manners
would be the natural consequence of this noble awakening of the
mind, this sublime soaring of the imagination. But in distant
regions, wherever the thirst of wealth has introduced the abuse of
power, the nations of Europe, at every period of their history,
have displayed the same character. The illustrious era of Leo X was
signalized in the New World by acts of cruelty that seemed to
belong to the most barbarous ages. We are less surprised, however,
at the horrible picture presented by the conquest of America when
we think of the acts that are still perpetrated on the western
coast of Africa, notwithstanding the benefits of a more humane

The principles adopted by Charles V had abolished the slave trade
on the New Continent. But the Conquistadores, by the continuation
of their incursions, prolonged the system of petty warfare which
diminished the American population, perpetuated national
animosities, and during a long period crushed the seeds of rising
civilization. At length the missionaries, under the protection of
the secular arm, spoke words of peace. It was the privilege of
religion to console humanity for a part of the evils committed in
its name; to plead the cause of the natives before kings, to resist
the violence of the commendatories, and to assemble wandering
tribes into small communities called Missions.

But these institutions, useful at first in stopping the effusion of
blood, and in laying the first basis of society, have become in
their result hostile to its progress. The effects of this insulated
system have been such that the Indians have remained in a state
little different from that in which they existed whilst yet their
scattered dwellings were not collected round the habitation of a
missionary. Their number has considerably augmented, but the sphere
of their ideas is not enlarged. They have progressively lost that
vigour of character and that natural vivacity which in every state
of society are the noble fruits of independence. By subjecting to
invariable rules even the slightest actions of their domestic life,
they have been rendered stupid by the effort to render them
obedient. Their subsistence is in general more certain, and their
habits more pacific, but subject to the constraint and the dull
monotony of the government of the Missions, they show by their
gloomy and reserved looks that they have not sacrificed their
liberty to their repose without regret.

On the 4th of September, at five in the morning, we began our
journey to the Missions of the Chayma Indians and the group of
lofty mountains which traverse New Andalusia. On account of the
extreme difficulties of the road, we had been advised to reduce our
baggage to a very small bulk. Two beasts of burden were sufficient
to carry our provision, our instruments, and the paper necessary to
dry our plants. One chest contained a sextant, a dipping-needle, an
apparatus to determine the magnetic variation, a few thermometers,
and Saussure's hygrometer. The greatest changes in the pressure of
the air in these climates, on the coasts, amount only to 1 to 1.3
of a line; and if at any given hour or place the height of the
mercury be once marked, the variations which that height
experiences throughout the whole year, at every hour of the day or
night, may with some accuracy be determined.

The morning was deliciously cool. The road, or rather path, which
leads to Cumanacoa, runs along the right bank of the Manzanares,
passing by the hospital of the Capuchins, situated in a small wood
of lignum-vitae and arborescent capparis.* (* These caper-trees are
called in the country, by the names pachaca, olivo, and ajito: they
are the Capparis tenuisiliqua, Jacq., C. ferruginea, C. emarginata,
C. elliptica, C. reticulata, C. racemosa.) On leaving Cumana we
enjoyed during the short duration of the twilight, from the top of
the hill of San Francisco, an extensive view over the sea, the
plain covered with bera* and its golden flowers (* Palo sano,
Zygophyllum arboreum, Jacq. The flowers have the smell of vanilla.
It is cultivated in the gardens of the Havannah under the strange
name of the dictanno real (royal dittany).), and the mountains of
the Brigantine. We were struck by the great proximity in which the
Cordillera appeared before the disk of the rising sun had reached
the horizon. The tint of the summits is of a deeper blue, their
outline is more strongly marked, and their masses are more
detached, as long as the transparency of the air is undisturbed by
the vapours, which, after accumulating during the night in the
valleys, rise in proportion as the atmosphere acquires warmth.

At the hospital of the Divina Pastora the path turns to north-east,
and stretches for two leagues over a soil without trees, and
formerly levelled by the waters. We there found not only cactuses,
tufts of cistus-leaved tribulus, and the beautiful purple
euphorbia,* (* Euphorbia tithymaloides.) but also the avicennia,
the allionia, the sesuvium, the thalinum, and most of the
portulaceous plants which grow on the banks of the gulf of Cariaco.
This geographical distribution of plants appears to designate the
limits of the ancient coast, and to prove that the hills along the
southern side of which we were passing, formed heretofore a small
island, separated from the continent by an arm of the sea.

After walking two hours, we arrived at the foot of the high chain
of the interior mountains, which stretches from east to west; from
the Brigantine to the Cerro de San Lorenzo. There, new rocks
appear, and with them another aspect of vegetation. Every object
assumes a more majestic and picturesque character; the soil,
watered by springs, is furrowed in every direction; trees of
gigantic height, covered with lianas, rise from the ravines; their
bark, black and burnt by the double action of the light and the
oxygen of the atmosphere, contrasts with the fresh verdure of the
pothos and dracontium, the tough and shining leaves of which are
sometimes several feet long. The parasite monocotyledons take
between the tropics the place of the moss and lichens of our
northern zone. As we advanced, the forms and grouping of the rocks
reminded us of Switzerland and the Tyrol. The heliconia, costus,
maranta, and other plants of the family of the balisiers (Canna
indica), which near the coasts vegetate only in damp and low
places, flourish in the American Alps at considerable height. Thus,
by a singular similitude, in the torrid zone, under the influence
of an atmosphere continually loaded with vapours the mountain
vegetation presents the same features as the vegetation of the
marshes in the north of Europe on soil moistened by melting snow.*
(* Wahlenberg, de Vegetatione Helvetiae et summi Septentrionis
pages 47, 59.)

Before we leave the plains of Cumana, and the breccia, or
calcareous sandstone, which constitutes the soil of the seaside, we
will describe the different strata of which this very recent
formation is composed, as we observed it on the back of the hills
that surround the castle of San Antonio.

This breccia, or calcareous sandstone, is a local and partial
formation, peculiar to the peninsula of Araya, the coasts of
Cumana, and Caracas. We again found it at Cabo Blanco, to the west
of the port of Guayra, where it contains, besides broken shells and
madrepores, fragments, often angular, of quartz and gneiss. This
circumstance assimilates the breccia to that recent sandstone
called by the German mineralogists nagelfluhe, which covers so
great a part of Switzerland to the height of a thousand toises,
without presenting any trace of marine productions. Near Cumana the
formation of the calcareous breccia contains:--first, a compact
whitish grey limestone, the strata of which, sometimes horizontal,
sometimes irregularly inclined, are from five to six inches thick;
some beds are almost unmixed with petrifactions, but in the
greatest part the cardites, the turbinites, the ostracites, and
shells of small dimension, are found so closely connected, that the
calcareous matter forms only a cement, by which the grains of
quartz and the organized bodies are united: second, a calcareous
sandstone, in which the grains of sand are much more frequent than
the petrified shells; other strata form a sandstone entirely free
from organic fragments, yielding but a small effervescence with
acids, and enclosing not lamellae of mica, but nodules of compact
brown iron-ore: third, beds of indurated clay containing selenite
and lamellar gypsum.

The breccia, or agglomerate of the sea-coast, just described, has a
white tint, and it lies immediately on the calcareous formation of
Cumanacoa, which is of a bluish grey. These two rocks form a
contrast no less striking than the molasse (bur-stone) of the Pays
de Vaud, with the calcareous limestone of the Jura. It must be
observed, that, by contact of the two formations lying upon each
other, the beds of the limestone of Cumanacoa, which I consider as
an Alpine limestone, are always largely mixed with clay and marl.
Lying, like the mica-slate of Araya, north-east and south-west,
they are inclined, near Punta Delgada, under an angle of 60
degrees to south-east.

We traversed the forest by a narrow path, along a rivulet, which
rolls foaming over a bed of rocks. We observed, that the vegetation
was more brilliant, wherever the Alpine limestone was covered by a
quartzose sandstone without petrifactions, and very different from
the breccia of the sea-coast. The cause of this phenomenon depends
probably not so much on the nature of the ground, as on the greater
humidity of the soil. The quartzose sandstone contains thin strata
of a blackish clay-slate,* (* Schieferthon.) which might easily be
confounded with the secondary thonschiefer; and these strata hinder
the water from filtering into the crevices, of which the Alpine
limestone is full. This last offers to view here, as in Saltzburg,
and on the chain of the Apennines, broken and steep beds. The
sandstone, on the contrary, wherever it is seated on the calcareous
rock, renders the aspect of the scene less wild. The hills which it
forms appear more rounded, and the gentler slopes are covered with
a thicker mould.

In humid places, where the sandstone envelopes the Alpine
limestone, some trace of cultivation is constantly found. We met
with huts inhabited by mestizoes in the ravine of Los Frailes, as
well as between the Cuesta de Caneyes, and the Rio Guriental. Each
of these huts stands in the centre of an enclosure, containing
plantains, papaw-trees, sugar-canes, and maize. We might be
surprised at the small extent of these cultivated spots, if we did
not recollect that an acre planted with plantains* (* Musa
paradisiaca.) produces nearly twenty times as much food as the same
space sown with corn. In Europe, our wheat, barley, and rye cover
vast spaces of ground; and in general the arable lands touch each
other, wherever the inhabitants live upon corn. It is different
under the torrid zone, where man obtains food from plants which
yield more abundant and earlier harvests. In those favoured climes,
the fertility of the soil is proportioned to the heat and humidity
of the atmosphere. An immense population finds abundant nourishment
within a narrow space, covered with plantains, cassava, yams, and
maize. The isolated situation of the huts dispersed through the
forest indicates to the traveller the fecundity of nature, where a
small spot of cultivated land suffices for the wants of several

These considerations on the agriculture of the torrid zone
involuntarily remind us of the intimate connexion existing between
the extent of land cleared, and the progress of society. The
richness of the soil, and the vigour of organic life, by
multiplying the means of subsistence, retard the progress of
nations in the paths of civilization. Under so mild and uniform a
climate, the only urgent want of man is that of food. This want
only, excites him to labour; and we may easily conceive why, in the
midst of abundance, beneath the shade of the plantain and
bread-fruit tree, the intellectual faculties unfold themselves less
rapidly than under a rigorous sky, in the region of corn, where our
race is engaged in a perpetual struggle with the elements. In
Europe we estimate the number of the inhabitants of a country by
the extent of cultivation: within the tropics, on the contrary, in
the warmest and most humid parts of South America, very populous
provinces appear almost deserted; because man, to find nourishment,
cultivates but a small number of acres. These circumstances modify
the physical appearance of the country and the character of its
inhabitants, giving to both a peculiar physiognomy; the wild and
uncultivated stamp which belongs to nature, ere its primitive type
has been altered by art. Without neighbours, almost unconnected
with the rest of mankind, each family of settlers forms a separate
tribe. This insulated state arrests or retards the progress of
civilization, which advances only in proportion as society becomes
numerous, and its connexions more intimate and multiplied. But, on
the other hand, it is solitude that develops and strengthens in man
the sentiment of liberty and independence; and gives birth to that
noble pride of character which has at all times distinguished the
Castilian race.

From these causes, the land in the most populous regions of
equinoctial America still retains a wild aspect, which is destroyed
in temperate climates by the cultivation of corn. Within the
tropics the agricultural nations occupy less ground: man has there
less extended his empire; he may be said to appear, not as an
absolute master, who changes at will the surface of the soil, but
as a transient guest, who quietly enjoys the gifts of nature.
There, in the neighbourhood of the most populous cities, the land
remains studded with forests, or covered with a thick mould,
unfurrowed by the plough. Spontaneous vegetation still predominates
over cultivated plants, and determines the aspect of the landscape.
It is probable that this state of things will change very slowly.
If in our temperate regions the cultivation of corn contributes to
throw a dull uniformity upon the land we have cleared, we cannot
doubt, that, even with increasing population, the torrid zone will
preserve that majesty of vegetable forms, those marks of an
unsubdued, virgin nature, which render it so attractive and so
picturesque. Thus it is that, by a remarkable concatenation of
physical and moral causes, the choice and production of alimentary
plants have an influence on three important objects at once; the
association or the isolated state of families, the more or less
rapid progress of civilization, and the individual character of the

In proportion as we penetrated into the forest, the barometer
indicated the progressive elevation of the land. The trunks of the
trees presented here an extraordinary phenomenon; a gramineous
plant, with verticillate branches,* climbs, like a liana, eight or
ten feet high, and forms festoons, which cross the path, and swing
about with the wind. (* Carice, analogous to the chusque of Santa
Fe, of the group of the Nastusas. This gramineous plant is
excellent pasture for mules.) We halted, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, on a small flat, known by the name of Quetepe, and
situated about one hundred and ninety toises above the level of the
sea. A few small houses have been erected near a spring, well known
by the natives for its coolness and great salubrity. We found the
water delicious. Its temperature was only 22.5 degrees of the
centigrade thermometer, while that of the air was 28.7 degrees. The
springs which descend from the neighbouring mountains of a greater
height often indicate a too rapid decrement of heat. If indeed we
suppose the mean temperature of the water on the coast of Cumana
equal to 26 degrees, we must conclude, unless other local causes
modify the temperature of the springs, that the spring of Quetepe
acquires its great coolness at more than 350 toises of absolute
elevation. With respect to the springs which gush out in the plains
of the torrid zone, or at a small elevation, it may be observed, in
general, that it is only in regions where the mean temperature of
summer essentially differs from that of the whole year, that the
inhabitants have extremely cold spring water during the season of
great heat. The Laplanders, near Umea and Soersele, in the 65th
degree of latitude, drink spring-water, the temperature of which,
in the month of August, is scarcely two or three degrees above
freezing point; while during the day the heat of the air rises in
the shade, in the same northern regions, to 26 or 27 degrees. In
the temperate climates of France and Germany, the difference
between the air and the springs never exceeds 16 or 17 degrees;
between the tropics it seldom rises to 5 or 6 degrees. It is easy
to account for these phenomena, when we recollect that the interior
of the globe, and the subterraneous waters, have a temperature
almost identical with the annual mean temperature of the air; and
that the latter differs from the mean heat of summer, in proportion
to the distance from the equator.

From the top of a hill of sandstone, which overlooks the spring of
Quetepe, we had a magnificent view of the sea, of cape Macanao, and
the peninsula of Maniquarez. At our feet an immense forest extended
to the edge of the ocean. The tops of the trees, intertwined with
lianas, and crowned with long wreaths of flowers, formed a vast
carpet of verdure, the dark tint of which augmented the splendour
of the aerial light. This picture struck us the more forcibly, as
we then first beheld those great masses of tropical vegetation. On
the hill of Quetepe, at the foot of the Malpighia cocollobaefolia,
the leaves of which are extremely coriaceous, we gathered, among
tufts of the Polygala montana, the first melastomas, especially
that beautiful species described under the name of the Melastoma

As we advanced toward the south-west, the soil became dry and
sandy. We climbed a group of mountains, which separate the coast
from the vast plains, or savannahs, bordered by the Orinoco. That
part of the group, over which passes the road to Cumanacoa, is
destitute of vegetation, and has steep declivities both on the
north and the south. It has received the name of the Imposible,
because it is believed that, in the case of hostile invasion, this
ridge of mountains would be inaccessible to the enemy, and would
offer an asylum to the inhabitants of Cumana. We reached the top a
little before sunset, and I had scarcely time to take a few horary
angles, to determine the longitude of the place by means of the

The view from the Imposible is finer and more extensive than that
from the table-land of Quetepe. We distinguished clearly by the
naked eye the flattened top of the Brigantine (the position of
which it would be important to fix accurately), the embarcadero or
landing-place, and the roadstead of Cumana. The rocky coast of the
peninsula of Araya was discernible in its whole length. We were
particularly struck with the extraordinary configuration of a port,
known by the name of Laguna Grande, or Laguna del Obispo. A vast
basin, surrounded by high mountains, communicates with the gulf of
Cariaco by a narrow channel which admits only of the passage of one
ship at a time. This port is capable of containing several
squadrons at once. It is an uninhabited place, but annually
frequented by vessels, which carry mules to the West India Islands.
There are some pasture grounds at the farther end of the bay. We
traced the sinuosities of this arm of the sea, which, like a river,
has dug a bed between perpendicular rocks destitute of vegetation.
This singular prospect reminded us of the fanciful landscape which
Leonardo da Vinci has made the back-ground of his famous portrait
of Mona Lisa, the wife of Francisco del Giacondo.

We could observe by the chronometer the moment when the disk of the
sun touched the horizon of the sea. The first contact was at 6
hours 8 minutes 13 seconds; the second, at 6 hours 10 minutes 26
seconds; mean time. This observation, which is not unimportant for
the theory of terrestrial refractions, was made on the summit of
the mountain, at the absolute height of 296 toises. The setting of
the sun was attended by a very rapid cooling of the air. Three
minutes after the last apparent contact of the disk with the
horizon of the sea, the thermometer suddenly fell from 25.2 to 21.3
degrees. Was this extraordinary refrigeration owing to some
descending current? The air was however calm, and no horizontal
wind was felt.

We passed the night in a house where there was a military post
consisting of eight men, under the command of a Spanish serjeant.
It was an hospital, built by the side of a powder magazine. When
Cumana, after the capture of Trinidad by the English, in 1797, was
threatened with an attack, many of the inhabitants fled to
Cumanacoa, and deposited whatever articles of value they possessed
in sheds hastily constructed on the top of the Imposible. It was
then resolved, in case of any unforeseen invasion, to abandon the
castle of San Antonio, after a short resistance, and to concentrate
the whole force of the province round the mountains, which may be
considered as the key of the Llanos.

The top of the Imposible, as nearly as I could perceive, is covered
with a quartzose sandstone, free from petrifactions. Here, as on
the ridge of the neighbouring mountains, the strata pretty
regularly take the direction from north-north-east to
south-south-west. This direction is also most common in the
primitive formations in the peninsula of Araya, and along the
coasts of Venezuela. On the northern declivity of the Imposible,
near the Penas Negras, an abundant spring issues from sandstone,
which alternates with a schistose clay. We remarked on this point
fractured strata, which lie from north-west to south-east, and the
dip of which is almost perpendicular.

The Llaneros, or inhabitants of the plains, send their produce,
especially maize, leather, and cattle, to the port of Cumana by the
road over the Imposible. We continually saw mules arrive, driven by
Indians or mulattoes. Several parts of the vast forests which
surround the mountain, had taken fire. Reddish flames, half
enveloped in clouds of smoke, presented a very grand spectacle. The
inhabitants set fire to the forests, to improve the pasturage, and
to destroy the shrubs that choke the grass. Enormous
conflagrations, too, are often caused by the carelessness of the
Indians, who neglect, when they travel, to extinguish the fires by
which they have dressed their food. These accidents contribute to
diminish the number of old trees in the road from Cumana to
Cumanacoa; and the inhabitants observe justly, that, in several
parts of their province, the dryness has increased, not only
because every year the frequency of earthquakes causes more
crevices in the soil; but also because it is now less thickly
wooded than it was at the time of the conquest.

I arose during the night to determine the latitude of the place by
the passage of Fomalhaut over the meridian; but the observation was
lost, owing to the time I employed in taking the level of the
artificial horizon. It was midnight, and I was benumbed with cold,
as were also our guides: yet the thermometer kept at 19.7 degrees.
At Cumana I have never seen it sink below 21 degrees; but then the
house in which we dwelt on the Imposible was 258 toises above the
level of the sea. At the Casa de la Polvora I determined the dip of
the magnetic needle, which was 42.5 degrees.* (* The magnetic dip
is always measured in this work, according to the centesimal
division, if the contrary be not expressly mentioned.) The number
of oscillations correspondent to 10 minutes of time was 233. The
intensity of the magnetic forces had consequently augmented from
the coast to the mountain, perhaps from the influence of some
ferruginous matter, hidden in the strata of sandstone which cover
the Alpine limestone.

We left the Imposible on the 5th of September before sunrise. The
descent is very dangerous for beasts of burden; the path being in
general but fifteen inches broad, and bordered by precipices. In
descending the mountain, we observed the rock of Alpine limestone
reappearing under the sandstone. The strata being generally
inclined to the south and south-east, a great number of springs
gush out on the southern side of the mountain. In the rainy season
of the year, these springs form torrents, which descend in
cascades, shaded by the hura, the cuspa, and the silver-leaved
cecropia or trumpet-tree.

The cuspa, a very common tree in the environs of Cumana and of
Bordones, is yet unknown to the botanists of Europe. It was long
used only for the building of houses, and has become celebrated
since 1797, under the name of the cascarilla or bark-tree
(cinchona) of New Andalusia. Its trunk rises scarcely above fifteen
or twenty feet. Its alternate leaves are smooth, entire, and oval.*
(* At the summit of the boughs, the leaves are sometimes opposite
to each other, but invariably without stipules.) Its bark very
thin, and of a pale yellow, is a powerful febrifuge. It is even
more bitter than the bark of the real cinchona, but is less
disagreeable. The cuspa is administered with the greatest success,
in a spirituous tincture, and in aqueous infusion, both in
intermittent and in malignant fevers.

On the coasts of New Andalusia, the cuspa is considered as a kind
of cinchona; and we were assured, that some Aragonese monks, who
had long resided in the kingdom of New Grenada, recognised this
tree from the resemblance of its leaves to those of the real
Peruvian bark-tree. This, however, is unfounded; since it is
precisely by the disposition of the leaves, and the absence of
stipules, that the cuspa differs totally from the trees of the
rubiaceous family. It may be said to resemble the family of the
honeysuckle, or caprifoliaceous plants, one section of which has
alternate leaves, and among which we find several cornel-trees,
remarkable for their febrifuge properties.* (* Cornus florida, and
C. sericea of the United States.--Walker on the Virtues of the
Cornus and the Cinchona compared. Philadelphia 1803.)

The taste, at once bitter and astringent, and the yellow colour of
the bark led to the discovery of the febrifugal virtue of the
cuspa. As it blossoms at the end of November, we did not see it in
flower, and we know not to what genus it belongs; and I have in
vain for several years past applied to our friends at Cumana for
specimens of the flower and fruit. I hope that the botanical
determination of the bark-tree of New Andalusia will one day fix
the attention of travellers, who visit this region after us; and
that they will not confound, notwithstanding the analogy of the
names, the cuspa with the cuspare. The latter not only vegetates in
the missions of the Rio Carony, but also to the west of Cumana, in
the gulf of Santa Fe. It furnishes the druggists of Europe with the
famous Cortex Angosturae, and forms the genus Bonplandia, described
by M. Willdenouw in the Memoirs of the Academy of Berlin, from
notes communicated to him by us.

It is singular that, during our long abode on the coast of Cumana
and the Caracas, on the banks of the Apure, the Orinoco, and the
Rio Negro, in an extent of country comprising forty thousand square
leagues, we never met with one of those numerous species of
cinchona, or exostema, which are peculiar to the low and warm
regions of the tropics, especially to the archipelago of the West
India Islands. Yet we are far from affirming, that, throughout the
whole of the eastern part of South America, from Porto Bello to
Cayenne, or from the equator to the 10th degree of north latitude
between the meridians of 54 and 71 degrees, the cinchona absolutely
does not exist. How can we be expected to know completely the flora
of so vast an extent of country? But, when we recollect, that even
in Mexico no species of the genera cinchona and exostema has been
discovered, either in the central table-land or in the plains, we
are led to believe, that the mountainous islands of the West Indies
and the Cordillera of the Andes have peculiar floras; and that they
possess particular species of vegetation, which have neither passed
from the islands to the continent, nor from South America to the
coasts of New Spain.

It may be observed farther, that, when we reflect on the numerous
analogies which exist between the properties of plants and their
external forms, we are surprised to find qualities eminently
febrifuge in the bark of trees belonging to different genera, and
even different families.* (* It may be somewhat interesting to
chemistry, physiology, and descriptive botany, to consider under
the same point of view the plants which have been employed in
intermittent fevers with different degrees of success. We find
among rubiaceous plants, besides the cinchonas and exostemas, the
Coutarea speciosa or Cayenne bark, the Portlandia grandiflora of
the West Indies, another portlandia discovered by M. Sesse at
Mexico, the Pinkneia pubescens of the United States, the berry of
the coffee-tree, and perhaps the Macrocnemum corymbosum, and the
Guettarda coccinea; among magnoliaceous plants, the tulip-tree and
the Magnolia glauca; among zanthoxylaceous plants, the Cuspare of
Angostura, known in America under the name of Orinoco bark, and the
Zanthoxylon caribaeum; among leguminous plants, the geoffraeas, the
Swietenia febrifuga, the Aeschynomene grandiflora, the Caesalpina
bonducella; among caprifoliaceous plants, the Cornus florida and
the Cuspa of Cumana; among rosaceous plants, the Cerasus virginiana
and the Geum urbanum; among amentaceous plants, the willows, oaks,
and birch-trees, of which the alcoholic tincture is used in Russia
by the common people; the Populus tremuloides, etc.; among
anonaceous plants, the Uvaria febrifuga, the fruit of which we saw
administered with success in the Missions of Spanish Guiana; among
simarubaceous plants, the Quassia amara, celebrated in the feverish
plains of Surinam; among terebinthaceous plants, the Rhus glabrum;
among euphorbiaceous plants, the Croton cascarilla; among composite
plants, the Eupatorium perfoliatum, the febrifuge qualities of
which are known to the savages of North America. Of the tulip-tree
and the quassia, it is the bark of the roots that is used. Eminent
febrifuge virtues have also been found in the cortical part of the
roots of the Cinchona condaminea at Loxa; but it is fortunate, for
the preservation of the species, that the roots of the real
cinchona are not employed in pharmacy. Chemical researches are yet
wanting upon the very powerful bitters contained in the roots of
the Zanthoriza apiifolia, and the Actaea racemosa: the latter have
sometimes been employed with success as a remedy against the
epidemic yellow fever in New York.) Some of these barks so much
resemble each other, that it is not easy to distinguish them at
first sight. But before we examine the question, whether we shall
one day discover, in the real cinchona, in the cuspa of Cumana, the
Cortex Angosturae, the Indian swietenia, the willows of Europe, the
berries of the coffee-tree and uvaria, a matter uniformly diffused,
and exhibiting (like starch, caoutchouc, and camphor) the same
chemical properties in different plants, we may ask whether, in the
present state of physiology and medicine, a febrifuge principle
ought to be admitted. Is it not probable, that the particular
derangement in the organization, known under the vague name of the
febrile state, and in which both the vascular and the nervous
systems are at the same time attacked, yields to remedies which do
not operate by the same principle, by the same mode of action on
the same organs, by the same play of chemical and electrical
attractions? We shall here confine ourselves to this observation,
that, in the species of the genus cinchona, the antifebrile virtues
do not appear to belong to the tannin (which is only accidentally
mingled in them), or to the cinchonate of lime; but in a resiniform
matter, soluble both by alcohol and by water, and which, it is
believed, is composed of two principles, the cinchonic bitter and
the cinchonic red.* (* In French, l'amer et le rouge cinchoniques.)
May it then be admitted, that this resiniform matter, which
possesses different degrees of energy according to the combinations
by which it is modified, is found in all febrifuge substances?
Those by which the sulphate of iron is precipitated of a green
colour, like the real cinchona, the bark of the white willow, and
the horned perisperm of the coffee-tree, do not on this account
denote identity of chemical composition;* and that identity might
even exist, without our concluding that the medical virtues were
analogous. (* The cuspare bark (Cort. Angosturae) yields with iron
a yellow precipitate; yet it is employed on the banks of the
Orinoco, and particularly at the town of St. Thomas of Angostura,
as an excellent cinchona; and on the other hand, the bark of the
common cherry tree, which has scarcely any febrifuge quality,
yields a green precipitate like the real cinchonas. Notwithstanding
the extreme imperfection of vegetable chemistry, the experiments
already made on cinchonas sufficiently show, that to judge of the
febrifuge virtues of a bark, we must not attach too much importance
either to the principle which turns to green the oxides of iron, or
to the tannin, or to the matter which precipitates infusions of
tan.) We see that specimens of sugar and tannin extracted from
plants, not of the same family, present numerous differences: while
the comparative analysis of sugar, gum, and starch; the discovery
of the radical of the prussic acid (the effects of which are so
powerful on the organization), and many other phenomena of
vegetable chemistry, clearly prove that substances composed of
identical elements, few in number and proportional in quantity,
exhibit the most heterogeneous properties, on account of that
particular mode of combination which corpuscular chemistry calls
the arrangement of the particles.

Leaving the ravine which descends from the Imposible, we entered a
thick forest traversed by many small rivers, which are easily
forded. We observed that the cecropia, which in the disposition of
its branches and its slender trunk, resembles the palm-tree, is
covered with leaves more or less silvery, in proportion as the soil
is dry or moist. We saw some small plants of the cecropia, the
leaves of which were on both sides entirely green.* (* Is not the
Cecropia concolor of Willdenouw a variety of the Cecropia peltata?)
The roots of these trees are hid under tufts of dorstenia, which
flourishes only in humid and shady places. In the midst of the
forest, on the banks of the Rio Cedeno, as well as on the southern
declivity of the Cocollar, we find, in their wild state, papaw and
orange-trees, bearing large and sweet fruit. These are probably the
remains of some conucos, or Indian plantations; for in those
countries the orange-tree cannot be counted among the indigenous
plants, any more than the banana-tree, the papaw-tree, maize,
cassava, and many other useful plants, with the true country of
which we are unacquainted, though they have accompanied man in his
migrations from the remotest times.

When a traveller newly arrived from Europe penetrates for the first
time into the forests of South America, he beholds nature under an
unexpected aspect. He feels at every step, that he is not on the
confines but in the centre of the torrid zone; not in one of the
West India Islands, but on a vast continent where everything is
gigantic,--mountains, rivers, and the mass of vegetation. If he
feel strongly the beauty of picturesque scenery he can scarcely
define the various emotions which crowd upon his mind; he can
scarcely distinguish what most excites his admiration, the deep
silence of those solitudes, the individual beauty and contrast of
forms, or that vigour and freshness of vegetable life which
characterize the climate of the tropics. It might be said that the
earth, overloaded with plants, does not allow them space enough to
unfold themselves. The trunks of the trees are everywhere concealed
under a thick carpet of verdure; and if we carefully transplanted
the orchideae, the pipers, and the pothoses, nourished by a single
courbaril, or American fig-tree,* (* Ficus nymphaeifolia.) we
should cover a vast extent of ground. By this singular assemblage,
the forests, as well as the flanks of the rocks and mountains,
enlarge the domains of organic nature. The same lianas which creep
on the ground, reach the tops of the trees, and pass from one to
another at the height of more than a hundred feet. Thus, by the
continual interlacing of parasite plants, the botanist is often led
to confound one with another, the flowers, the fruits, and leaves,
which belong to different species.

We walked for some hours under the shade of these arcades, which
scarcely admit a glimpse of the sky; the latter appeared to me of
an indigo blue, the deeper in shade because the green of the
equinoctial plants is generally of a stronger hue, with somewhat of
a brownish tint. A great fern tree,* (* Possibly our Aspidium
caducum.) very different from the Polypodium arboreum of the West
Indies, rose above masses of scattered rocks. In this place we were
struck for the first time with the sight of those nests in the
shape of bottles, or small bags, which are suspended from the
branches of the lowest trees, and which attest the wonderful
industry of the orioles, which mingle their warbling with the
hoarse cries of the parrots and the macaws. These last, so well
known for their vivid colours, fly only in pairs, while the real
parrots wander about in flocks of several hundreds. A man must have
lived in those regions, particularly in the hot valleys of the
Andes, to conceive how these birds sometimes drown with their
voices the noise of the torrents, which dash down from rock to

We left the forests, at the distance of somewhat more than a league
from the village of San Fernando. A narrow path led, after many
windings, into an open but extremely humid country. In such a site
in the temperate zone, the cyperaceous and gramineous plants would
have formed vast meadows; here the soil abounded in aquatic plants,
with sagittate leaves, and especially in basil plants, among which
we noticed the fine flowers of the costus, the thalia, and the
heliconia. These succulent plants are from eight to ten feet high,
and in Europe one of their groups would be considered as a little

Near San Fernando the evaporation caused by the action of the sun
was so great that, being very lightly clothed, we felt ourselves as
wet as in a vapour bath. The road was bordered with a kind of
bamboo,* (* Bambusa guadua.) which the Indians call iagua, or
guadua, and which is more than forty feet in height. Nothing can
exceed the elegance of this arborescent gramen. The form and
disposition of its leaves give it a character of lightness which
contrasts agreeably with its height. The smooth and glossy trunk of
the iagua generally bends towards the banks of rivulets, and it
waves with the slightest breath of air. The highest reeds* in the
south of Europe (* Arundo donax.), can give no idea of the aspect
of the arborescent gramina. The bamboo and fern-tree are, of all
the vegetable forms between the tropics, those which make the most
powerful impression on the imagination of the traveller. Bamboos
are less common in South America than is usually believed. They are
almost wanting in the marshes and in the vast inundated plains of
the Lower Orinoco, the Apure, and the Atabapo, while they form
thick woods, several leagues in length, in the north-west, in New
Grenada, and in the kingdom of Quito. It might be said that the
western declivity of the Andes is their true country; and, what is
remarkable enough, we found them not only in the low regions at the
level of the ocean, but also in the lofty valleys of the
Cordilleras, at the height of 860 toises.

The road skirted with the bamboos above mentioned led us to the
small village of San Fernando, situated in a narrow plain,
surrounded by very steep calcareous rocks. This was the first
Mission* we saw in America. (* A certain number of habitations
collected round a church, with a missionary monk performing the
ministerial duties, is called in the Spanish colonies Mision, or
Pueblo de mision. Indian villages, governed by a priest, are called
Pueblos de doctrina. A distinction is made between the Cura
doctrinero, who is the priest of an Indian parish, and the Cura
rector, priest of a village inhabited by whites and men of mixed
race.) The houses, or rather the huts of the Chayma Indians, though
separate from each other, are not surrounded by gardens. The
streets, which are wide and very straight, cross each other at
right angles. The walls of the huts are made of clay, strengthened
by lianas. The uniformity of these huts, the grave and taciturn air
of their inhabitants, and the extreme neatness of the dwellings,
reminded us of the establishments of the Moravian Brethren. Besides
their own gardens, every Indian family helps to cultivate the
garden of the community, or, as it is called, the conuco de la
comunidad, which is situated at some distance from the village. In
this conuco the adults of each sex work one hour in the morning and
one in the evening. In the missions nearest the coast the garden of
the community is generally a sugar or indigo plantation, under the
direction of the missionary; and its produce, if the law were
strictly observed, could be employed only for the support of the
church and the purchase of sacerdotal ornaments. The great square
of San Fernando, in the centre of the village, contains the church,
the dwelling of the missionary, and a very humble-looking edifice
pompously called the king's house (Casa del Rey). This is a
caravanserai, destined for lodging travellers; and, as we often
experienced, infinitely valuable in a country where the name of an
inn is still unknown. The Casas del Rey are to be found in all the
Spanish colonies, and may be deemed an imitation of the tambos of
Peru, which were established in conformity with the laws of Manco

We had been recommended to the friars who govern the Missions of
the Chayma Indians, by their syndic, who resides at Cumana. This
recommendation was the more useful to us, as the missionaries,
either from zeal for the purity of the morals of their
parishioners, or to conceal the monastic system from the indiscreet
curiosity of strangers, often adhere with rigour to an old
regulation, by which a white man of the secular state is not
permitted to sojourn more than one night in an Indian village. The
Missions form (I will not say according to their primitive and
canonical institutions, but in reality) a distinct and nearly
independent hierarchy, the views of which seldom accord with those
of the secular clergy.

The missionary of San Fernando was a Capuchin, a native of Aragon,
far advanced in years, but strong and healthy. His extreme
corpulency, his hilarity, the interest he took in battles and
sieges, ill accorded with the ideas we form in northern countries
of the melancholy reveries and the contemplative life of
missionaries. Though extremely busy about a cow which was to be
killed next day, the old monk received us with kindness, and
permitted us to hang up our hammocks in a gallery of his house.
Seated, without doing anything, the greater part of the day, in an
armchair of red wood, he bitterly complained of what he called the
indolence and ignorance of his countrymen. Our missionary, however,
seemed well satisfied with his situation.

He treated the Indians with mildness; he beheld his Mission
prosper, and he praised with enthusiasm the waters, the bananas,
and the dairy-produce of the district. The sight of our
instruments, our books, and our dried plants, drew from him a
sarcastic smile; and he acknowledged, with the naivete peculiar to
the inhabitants of those countries, that of all the enjoyments of
life, without excepting sleep, none was comparable to the pleasure
of eating good beef (carne de vaca): thus does sensuality obtain an
ascendancy, where there is no occupation for the mind.

The mission of San Fernando was founded about the end of the 17th
century, near the junction of the small rivers of the Manzanares
and Lucasperez. A fire, which consumed the church and the huts of
the Indians, induced the Capuchins to build the village in its
present fine situation. The number of families is increased to one
hundred, and the missionary observed to us, that the custom of
marrying at thirteen or fourteen years of age contributes greatly
to this rapid increase of population. He denied that old age was so
premature among the Chaymas, as is commonly believed in Europe. The
government of these Indian parishes is very complicated; they have
their governor, their major-alguazils, and their
militia-commanders, all copper-coloured natives. The company of
archers have their colours, and perform their exercise with the bow
and arrow, in shooting at a mark; this is the national guard
(militia) of the country. This military establishment, under a
purely monastic system, seemed to us very singular.

On the night of the 5th of September, and the following morning,
there was a thick fog; yet we were not more than a hundred toises
above the level of the sea. I determined geometrically, at the
moment of our departure, the height of the great calcareous
mountain which rises at 800 toises distance to the south of San
Fernando, and forms a perpendicular cliff on the north side. It is
only 215 toises higher than the great square; but naked masses of
rock, which here exhibit themselves in the midst of a thick
vegetation, give it a very majestic aspect.

The road from San Fernando to Cumana passes amidst small
plantations, through an open and humid valley. We forded a number
of rivulets. In the shade the thermometer did not rise above 30
degrees: but we were exposed to the direct rays of the sun, because
the bamboos, which skirted the road, afforded but small shelter,
and we suffered greatly from the heat. We passed through the
village of Arenas, inhabited by Indians, of the same race as those
at San Fernando. But Arenas is no longer a mission; and the
natives, governed by a regular priest,* (* The four villages of
Arenas, Macarapana, Mariguitar, and Aricagua, founded by Aragonese
Capuchins, are called Doctrinas de Encomienda.) are better clothed,
and more civilized. Their church is also distinguished in the
country by some rude paintings which adorn its walls. A narrow
border encloses figures of armadilloes, caymans, jaguars, and other
animals peculiar to the new world.

In this village lives a labourer, Francisco Lozano, who presented a
highly curious physiological phenomenon. This man has suckled a
child with his own milk. The mother having fallen sick, the father,
to quiet the infant, took it into his bed, and pressed it to his
bosom. Lozano, then thirty-two years of age, had never before
remarked that he had milk: but the irritation of the nipple, sucked
by the child, caused the accumulation of that liquid. The milk was
thick and very sweet. The father, astonished at the increased size
of his breast, suckled his child two or three times a day during
five months. He drew on himself the attention of his neighbours,
but he never thought, as he probably would have done in Europe, of
deriving any advantage from the curiosity he excited. We saw the
certificate, which had been drawn up on the spot, to attest this
remarkable fact, eye-witnesses of which are still living. They
assured us that, during this suckling, the child had no other
nourishment than the milk of his father. Lozano, who was not at
Arenas during our journey in the missions, came to us at Cumana. He
was accompanied by his son, then thirteen or fourteen years of age.
M. Bonpland examined with attention the father's breasts, and found
them wrinkled like those of a woman who has given suck. He observed
that the left breast in particular was much enlarged; which Lozano
explained to us from the circumstance, that the two breasts did not
furnish milk in the same abundance. Don Vicente Emparan, governor
of the province, sent a circumstantial account of this phenomenon
to Cadiz.

It is not a very uncommon circumstance, to find, among animals,
males whose breasts contain milk; and climate does not appear to
exercise any marked influence on the greater or less abundance of
this secretion. The ancients cite the milk of the he-goats of
Lemnos and Corsica. In our own time, we have seen in Hanover, a
he-goat, which for a great number of years was milked every other
day, and yielded more milk than a female goat. Among the signs of
the alleged weakness of the Americans, travellers have mentioned
the milk contained in the breasts of men. It is, however,
improbable, that it has ever been observed in a whole tribe, in
some part of America unknown to modern travellers; and I can affirm
that at present it is not more common in the new continent, than in
the old. The labourer of Arenas, whose case has just been
mentioned, was not of the copper-coloured race of Chayma Indians,
but was a white man, descended from Europeans. Moreover, the
anatomists of St. Petersburgh have observed that, among the lower
orders of the people in Russia, milk in the breasts of men is much
more frequent than among the more southern nations: yet the
Russians have never been deemed weak and effeminate. There is among
the varieties of the human species a race of men whose breasts at
the age of puberty acquire a considerable bulk. Lozano did not
belong to that race; and he often repeated to us his conviction,
that it was only the irritation of the nipple, in consequence of
the suction, which caused the flow of milk.

When we reflect on the whole of the vital phenomena, we find that
no one of them is entirely isolated. In every age examples are
cited of very young girls and women in extreme old age, who have
suckled children. Among men these examples are more rare; and after
numerous researches, I have not found above two or three. One is
cited by the anatomist of Verona, Alexander Benedictus, who lived
about the end of the fifteenth century. He relates the history of
an inhabitant of Syria, who, to calm the fretfulness of his child,
after the death of the mother, pressed it to his bosom. The milk
soon became so abundant, that the father could take on himself the
nourishment of his child without assistance. Other examples are
related by Santorellus, Faria, and Robert, bishop of Cork. The
greater part of these phenomena having been noticed in times very
remote, it is not uninteresting to physiology, that we can confirm
them in our own days.

On approaching the town of Cumanacoa we found a more level soil,
and a valley enlarging itself progressively. This small town is
situated in a naked plain, almost circular, and surrounded by lofty
mountains. It was founded in 1717 by Domingo Arias, on the return
of an expedition to the mouth of the Guarapiche, undertaken with
the view of destroying an establishment which some French
freebooters had attempted to found. The new town was first called
San Baltazar de las Arias; but the Indian name Cumanacoa prevailed;
in like manner the name of Santiago de Leon, still to be found in
our maps, is forgotten in that of Caracas.

On opening the barometer we were struck at seeing the column of
mercury scarcely 7.3 lines shorter than on the coasts. The plain,
or rather the table-land, on which the town of Cumanacoa is
situated, is not more than 104 toises above the level of the sea,
which is three or four times less than is supposed by the
inhabitants of Cumana, on account of their exaggerated ideas of the
cold of Cumanacoa. But the difference of climate observable between
places so near each other is perhaps less owing to comparative
height than to local circumstances. Among these causes we may cite
the proximity of the forests; the frequency of descending currents,
so common in these valleys, closed on every side; the abundance of
rain; and those thick fogs which diminish during a great part of
the year the direct action of the solar rays. The decrement of the
heat being nearly the same within the tropics, and during the
summer under the temperate zone, the small difference of level of
one hundred toises should produce only a change in the mean
temperature of 1 or 1.5 degrees. But we shall soon find that at
Cumanacoa the difference rises to more than four degrees. This
coolness of the climate is sometimes the more surprising, as very
great heat is felt at Carthago (in the province of Popayan); at
Tomependa, on the bank of the river Amazon, and in the valleys of
Aragua, to the west of Caracas; though the absolute height of these
different places is between 200 and 480 toises. In plains as well
as on mountains the isothermal lines (lines of similar heat) are
not constantly parallel to the equator, or the surface of the
globe. It is the grand problem of meteorology to determine the
inflections of these lines, and to discover, amid modifications
produced by local causes, the constant laws of the distribution of

The port of Cumana is only seven nautical leagues from Cumanacoa.
It scarcely ever rains in the first-mentioned place, while in the
latter there are seven months of wintry weather. At Cumanacoa, the
dry season begins at the winter solstice, and lasts till the vernal
equinox. Light showers are frequent in the months of April, May,
and June. The dry weather then returns again, and lasts from the
summer solstice to the end of August. Then come the real winter
rains, which cease only in the month of November, and during which
torrents of water pour down from the skies.

It was during the winter season that we took up our first abode in
the Missions. Every night a thick fog covered the sky, and it was
only at intervals that I succeeded in taking some observations of
the stars. The thermometer kept from 18.5 to 20 degrees, which
under this zone, and to the sensations of a traveller coming from
the coasts, appears a great degree of coolness. I never perceived
the temperature in the night at Cumana below 21 degrees. The
greatest heat is felt from noon to 3 o'clock, the thermometer
keeping between 26 and 27 degrees. The maximum of the heat, about
two hours after the passage of the sun over the meridian, was very
regularly marked by a storm which murmured near. Large black and
low clouds dissolved in rain, which came down in torrents: these
rains lasted two or three hours, and lowered the thermometer five
or six degrees. About five o'clock the rain entirely ceased, the
sun reappeared a little before it set, and the hygrometer moved
towards the point of dryness; but at eight or nine we were again
enveloped in a thick stratum of vapour. These different changes
follow successively, we were assured, during whole months, and yet
not a breath of wind is felt. Comparative experiments led us to
believe that in general the nights at Cumanacoa are from two to
three, and the days from four to five centesimal degrees cooler
than at the port of Cumana. These differences are great; and if,
instead of meteorological instruments, we consulted only our own
feelings, we should suppose they were still more considerable.

The vegetation of the plain which surrounds the town is monotonous,
but, owing to the extreme humidity of the air, remarkable for its
freshness. It is chiefly characterized by an arborescent solanum,
forty feet in height, the Urtica baccifera, and a new species of
the genus Guettarda.* (* These trees are surrounded by Galega
pilosa, Stellaria rotundifolia, Aegiphila elata of Swartz,
Sauvagesia erecta, Martinia perennis, and a great number of
Rivinas. We find among the gramineous plants, in the savannah of
Cumanacoa, the Paspalus lenticularis, Panicum ascendens, Pennisetum
uniflorum, Gynerium saccharoides, Eleusine indica, etc.) The ground
is very fertile, and might be easily watered if trenches were cut
from a great number of rivulets, the springs of which never dry up
during the whole year. The most valuable production of the district
is tobacco. Since the introduction of the farm* (* Estanco real de
tabaco, royal monopoly of tobacco.) in 1779, the cultivation of
tobacco in the province of Cumana is nearly confined to the valley
of Cumanacoa; as in Mexico it is permitted only in the two
districts of Orizaba and Cordova. The farm system is a monopoly
odious to the people. All the tobacco that is gathered must be sold
to government; and to prevent, or rather to diminish fraud, it has
been found most easy to concentrate the cultivation in one point.
Guards scour the country, to destroy any plantations without the
boundaries of the privileged districts; and to inform against those
inhabitants who smoke cigars prepared by their own hands.

Next to the tobacco of the island of Cuba and of the Rio Negro,
that of Cumana is the most aromatic. It excels all the tobacco of
New Spain and of the province of Varinas. We shall give some
particulars of its culture, which essentially differs from the
method practised in Virginia. The prodigious expansion which is
remarked in the solaneous plants of the valley of Cumanacoa,
especially in the abundant species of the Solanum arborescens, of
aquartia, and of cestrum, seems to indicate the favourable nature
of this spot for plantations of tobacco. The seed is sown in the
open ground, at the beginning of September; though sometimes not
till the month of December, which period is however less favourable
for the harvest. The cotyledons appear on the eighth day, and the
young plants are covered with large leaves of heliconia and
plantain, and shelter them from the direct action of the sun. Great
care also is taken to destroy weeds, which, between the tropics,
spring up with astonishing rapidity. The tobacco is transplanted
into a rich and well-prepared soil, a month or two after it has
risen from the seed. The plants are disposed in regular rows, three
or four feet distant from each other. Care is taken to weed them
often, and the principal stalk is several times topped, till
greenish blue spots indicate to the cultivator the maturity of the
leaves. They begin to gather them in the fourth month, and this
first gathering generally terminates in the space of a few days. It
would be better if the leaves were plucked only as they dry. In
good years the cultivators cut the plant when it is only four feet
high; and the shoot which springs from the root, throws out new
leaves with such rapidity that they may be gathered on the
thirteenth or fourteenth day. These last have the cellular tissue
very much extended, and they contain more water, more albumen and
less of that acrid, volatile principle, which is but little soluble
in water, and in which the stimulant property of tobacco seems to

At Cumanacoa the tobacco, after being gathered, undergoes a
preparation which the Spaniards call cura seca. The leaves are
suspended by threads of cocuiza;* (* Agave Americana.) their ribs
are taken out, and they are twisted into cords. The prepared
tobacco should be carried to the king's warehouses in the month of
June; but the indolence of the inhabitants, and the preference they
give to the cultivation of maize and cassava, usually prevent them
from finishing the preparation before the month of August. It is
easy to conceive that the leaves, so long exposed to very moist
air, must lose some of their flavour. The administrator of the farm
keeps the tobacco deposited in the king's warehouses sixty days
without touching it. When this time is expired, the manoques are
opened to examine the quality. If the administrator find the
tobacco well prepared, he pays the cultivator three piastres for
the aroba of twenty-five pounds weight. The same quantity is resold
for the king's profit at twelve piastres and a half. The tobacco
that is rotten (podrido), that is, again gone into a state of
fermentation, is publicly burnt; and the cultivator, who has
received money in advance from the royal farm, loses irrevocably
the fruits of his long labour. We saw heaps, amounting to five
hundred arobas, burnt in the great square, which in Europe might
have served for making snuff.

The soil of Cumanacoa is so favourable to this branch of culture,
that tobacco grows wild, wherever the seed finds any moisture. It
grows thus spontaneously at Cerro del Cuchivano, and around the
cavern of Caripe. The only kind of tobacco cultivated at Cumanacoa,
as well as in the neighbouring districts of Aricagua and San
Lorenzo, is that with large sessile leaves,* (* Nicotiana tabacum.)
called Virginia tobacco. The tobacco with petiolate leaves,* (*
Nicotiana rustica.) which is the yetl of the ancient Mexicans, is

In studying the history of our cultivated plants, we are surprised
to find that, before the conquest, the use of tobacco was spread
through the greater part of America, while the potato was unknown
both in Mexico and the West India Islands, where it grows well in
the mountainous regions. Tobacco has also been cultivated in
Portugal since the year 1559, though the potato did not become an
object of European agriculture till the end of the seventeenth and
beginning of the eighteenth century. This latter plant, which has
had so powerful an influence on the well-being of society, has
spread in both continents more slowly than tobacco, which can be
considered only as an article of luxury.

Next to tobacco, the most important culture of the valley of
Cumanacoa is that of indigo. The manufacturers of Cumanacoa, of San
Fernando, and of Arenas, produce indigo of greater commercial value
than that of Caracas; and often nearly equalling in splendour and
richness of colour the indigo of Guatimala. It was from that
province that the coasts of Cumana received the first seeds of the
Indigofera anil,* which is cultivated jointly with the Indigofera
tinctoria. (* The indigo known in commerce is produced by four
species of plants; the Indigofera tinctoria, I. anil, I. argentea,
and I. disperma. At the Rio Negro, near the frontiers of Brazil, we
found the I. argentea growing wild, but only in places anciently
inhabited by Indians.) The rains being very frequent in the valley
of Cumanacoa, a plant of four feet high yields no more colouring
matter than one of a third part that size in the arid valleys of
Aragua, to the west of the town of Caracas.

The manufactories we examined are all built on uniform principles.
Two steeping vessels, or vats, which receive the plants intended to
be brought into a state of fermentation, are joined together. Each
vat is fifteen feet square, and two and a half deep. From these
upper vats the liquor runs into beaters, between which is placed
the water-mill. The axletree of the great wheel crosses the two
beaters. It is furnished with ladles, fixed to long handles,
adapted for the beating. From a spacious settling-vat, the
colouring fecula is carried to the drying place, and spread on
planks of brasiletto, which, having small wheels, can be sheltered
under a roof in case of sudden rains. Sloping and very low roofs
give the drying place the appearance of hot-houses at some
distance. In the valley of Cumanacoa, the fermentation of the plant
is produced with astonishing rapidity. It lasts in general but four
or five hours. This short duration can be attributed only to the
humidity of the climate, and the absence of the sun during the
development of the plant. I think I have observed, in the course of
my travels, that the drier the climate, the slower the vat works,
and the greater the quantity of indigo, at the minimum of
oxidation, contained in the stalks. In the province of Caracas,
where 562 cubic feet of the plant slightly piled up yield
thirty-five or forty pounds of dry indigo, the liquid does not pass
into the beater till after twenty, thirty, or thirty-five hours. It
is probable that the inhabitants of Cumanacoa would extract more
colouring matter if they left the plants longer steeping in the
first vat.* (* The planters are pretty generally of opinion, that
the fermentation should never continue less than ten hours.
Beauvais-Raseau, Art de l'Indigotier page 81.) During my abode at
Cumana I made solutions of the indigo of Cumanacoa, which is
somewhat heavy and coppery, and that of Caracas, in sulphuric acid,
in order to compare them, and the solution of the former appeared
to me to be of a much more intense blue.

The plain of Cumanacoa, spotted with farms and small plantations of
indigo and tobacco, is surrounded with mountains, which towards the
south rise to considerable height. Everything indicates that the
valley is the bottom of an ancient lake. The mountains, which in
ancient times formed its shores, all rise perpendicularly in the
direction of the plain. The only outlet for the waters of the lake
was on the side of Arenas. In digging foundations, beds of round
pebbles, mixed with small bivalve shells, are found; and according
to the report of persons worthy of credit, there were discovered,
thirty years ago, at the bottom of the ravine of San Juanillo, two
enormous femoral bones, four feet long, and weighing more than
thirty pounds. The Indians imagined that these were giants' bones;
whilst the half-learned sages of the country, who assume the right
of explaining everything, gravely asserted that they were mere
sports of nature, and little worthy of attention; an opinion
founded on the circumstance that human bones decay rapidly in the
soil of Cumanacoa. In order to decorate their churches on the
festival of the dead, they take skulls from the cemeteries on the
coast, where the earth is impregnated with saline substances. These
pretended thigh-bones of giants were carried to the port of Cumana,
where I sought for them in vain; but from the analogy of some
fossil bones which I brought from other parts of South America, and
which have been carefully examined by M. Cuvier, it is probable
that the gigantic femoral bones of Cumanacoa belonged to elephants
of a species now extinct. It may appear surprising that they were
found in a place so little elevated above the present level of the
waters; since it is a remarkable fact, that the fragments of the
mastodons and fossil elephants which I brought from the equinoctial
regions of Mexico, New Grenada, Quito, and Peru, were not found in
low regions (as were the megatherium of Rio Luxan* (* One league
south-east from the town of Buenos Ayres.) and Virginia,* (* The
megatherium of Virginia is the megalonyx of Mr. Jefferson. All the
enormous remains found in the plains of the new continent, either
north or south of the equator, belong, not to the torrid, but to
the temperate zone. On the other hand, Pallas observes that in
Siberia, consequently also northward of the tropics, fossil bones
are never found in mountainous parts. These facts, intimately
connected together, seem calculated to lead to the discovery of a
great geological law.) the great mastodons of the Ohio, and the
fossil elephants of the Susquehanna, in the temperate zone), but on
table-lands having from six to fourteen hundred toises of

As we approached the southern bank of the basin of Cumanacoa, we
enjoyed the view of the Turimiquiri.* (* Some of the inhabitants
pronounce this name Tumuriquiri, others Turumiquiri, or
Tumiriquiri. During the whole time of our stay at Cumanacoa, the
summit of this mountain was covered with clouds. It appeared
uncovered on the evening of the 11th of September, but only for a
few minutes. The angle of elevation, taken from the great square of
Cumanacoa, was 8 degrees 2 minutes. This determination, and the
barometrical measurement which I made on the 13th, may enable us to
fix, within a certain approximation, the distance of the mountain
at six miles and a third, or 6050 toises; admitting that the part
uncovered by clouds was 850 toises above the plain of Cumanacoa.)
An enormous wall of rocks, the remains of an ancient cliff, rises
in the midst of the forests. Farther to the west, at Cerro del
Cuchivano, the chain of mountains seems as if broken by the effects
of an earthquake. The crevice is more than a hundred and fifty
toises wide, is surrounded by perpendicular rocks, and is filled
with trees, the interwoven branches of which find no room to
spread. This cleft appears like a mine opened by the falling in of
the earth. It is intersected by a torrent, the Rio Juagua, and its
appearance is highly picturesque. It is called Risco del Cuchivano.
The river rises at the distance of seven leagues south-west, at the
foot of the mountain of the Brigantine, and it forms some beautiful
cascades before it spreads through the plain of Cumanacoa.

We visited several times a small farm, the Conuco of Bermudez,
opposite the Risco del Cuchivano, where tobacco, plantains, and
several species of cotton-trees,* are cultivated in the moist soil
(* Gossypium uniglandulosum, improperly called herbaceum, and G.
barbadense.); especially that tree, the cotton of which is of a
nankeen colour, and which is so common in the island of Margareta.*
(* G. religiosum.) The proprietor of the farm told us that the
Risco or crevice was inhabited by jaguar tigers. These animals pass
the day in caverns, and roam around human habitations at night.
Being well fed, they grow to the length of six feet. One of them
had devoured, in the preceding year, a horse belonging to the farm.
He dragged his prey on a fine moonlight night, across the savannah,
to the foot of a ceiba* of an enormous size. (* Bombax ceiba:
five-leaved silk-cotton tree.) The groans of the dying horse awoke
the slaves of the farm, who went out armed with lances and
machetes.* (* Great knives, with very long blades, like a couteau
de chasse. No one enters the woods in the torrid zone without being
armed with a machete, not only to cut his way through the woods,
but as a defence against wild beasts.) The tiger, crouching over
his prey, awaited their approach with tranquillity, and fell only
after a long and obstinate resistance. This fact, and many others
verified on the spot, prove that the great jaguar* of Terra Firma
(* Felis onca, Linn., which Buffon called panthere oillee, and
which he believed came from Africa.), like the jaguarete of
Paraguay, and the real tiger of Asia, does not flee from man when
it is dared to close combat, and when not intimidated by the number
of its assailants. Naturalists at present admit that Buffon was
entirely mistaken with respect to the greatest of the feline race
of America. What Buffon says of the cowardice of tigers of the new
continent, relates to the small ocelots.* (* Felis pardalis, Linn.,
or the chibiguazu of Azara, different from the Tlateo-Ocelotl, or
tiger-cat of the Aztecs.) At the Orinoco, the real jaguar of
America sometimes leaps into the water, to attack the Indians in
their canoes.

Opposite the farm of Bermudez, two spacious caverns open into the
crevice of Cuchivano, whence at times there issue flames, which may
be seen at a great distance in the night; and, judging by the
elevation of the rocks, above which these fiery exhalations ascend,
we should be led to think that they rise several hundred feet. This
phenomenon was accompanied by a subterranean, dull, and long
continued noise, at the time of the last great earthquake of
Cumana. It is observed chiefly during the rainy season; and the
owners of the farms opposite the mountain of Cuchivano allege that
the flames have become more frequent since December 1797.

In a herborizing excursion we made at Rinconada we attempted to
penetrate into the crevice, wishing to examine the rocks which
seemed to contain in their bosom the cause of these extraordinary
conflagrations; but the strength of the vegetation, the
interweaving of the lianas, and thorny plants, hindered our
progress. Happily the inhabitants of the valley themselves felt a
warm interest in our researches, less from the fear of a volcanic
explosion, than because their minds were impressed with the idea
that the Risco del Cuchivano contained a gold mine; and although we
expressed our doubts of the existence of gold in a secondary
limestone, they insisted on knowing "what the German miner thought
of the richness of the vein." Ever since the time of Charles V and
the government of the Welsers, the Alfingers, and the Sailers, at
Coro and Caracas, the people of Terra Firma have entertained a
great confidence in the Germans with respect to all that relates to
the working of mines. Wherever I went in South America, when the
place of my birth was known, I was shown samples of ore. In these
colonies every Frenchman is supposed to be a physician, and every
German a miner.

The farmers, with the aid of their slaves, opened a path across the
woods to the first fall of the Rio Juagua; and on the 10th of
September we made our excursion to the Cuchivano. On entering the
crevice we recognised the proximity of tigers by a porcupine
recently emboweled. For greater security the Indians returned to
the farm, and brought back some dogs of a very small breed. We were
assured that in the event of our meeting a jaguar in a narrow path
he would spring on the dog rather than on a man. We did not proceed
along the brink of the torrent, but on the slope of the rocks which
overhung the water. We walked on the side of a precipice from two
to three hundred feet deep, on a kind of very narrow cornice, like
the road which leads from the Grindelwald along the Mettenberg to
the great glacier. When the cornice was so narrow that we could
find no place for our feet, we descended into the torrent, crossed
it by fording, and then climbed the opposite wall. These descents
are very fatiguing, and it is not safe to trust to the lianas,
which hang like great cords from the tops of the trees. The
creeping and parasite plants cling but feebly to the branches which
they embrace; the united weight of their stalks is considerable,
and you run the risk of pulling down a whole mass of verdure, if,
in walking on a sloping ground, you support your weight by the
lianas. The farther we advanced the thicker the vegetation became.
In several places the roots of the trees had burst the calcareous
rock, by inserting themselves into the clefts that separate the
beds. We had some trouble to carry the plants which we gathered at
every step. The cannas, the heliconias with fine purple flowers,
the costuses, and other plants of the amomum family, here attain
eight or ten feet in height, and their fresh tender verdure, their
silky gloss, and the extraordinary development of the parenchyma,
form a striking contrast with the brown colour of the arborescent
ferns, the foliage of which is delicately shaped. The Indians made
incisions with their large knives in the trunks of the trees, and
fixed our attention on those beautiful red and gold-coloured woods,
which will one day be sought for by our turners and cabinet-makers.
They showed us a plant of the compositae order, twenty feet high
(the Eupatorium laevigatum of Lamarck), the rose of Belveria,* (*
Brownea racemosa.) celebrated for the brilliancy of its purple
flowers, and the dragon's-blood of this country, which is a kind of
croton not yet described.* (* Plants of families entirely different
are called in the Spanish colonies of both continents, sangre de
draco; they are dracaenas, pterocarpi, and crotons. Father Caulin
Descrip. Corografica page 25, in speaking of resins found in the
forests of Cumana, makes a just distinction between the Draco de la
Sierra de Unare, which has pinnate leaves (Pterocarpus Draco), and
the Draco de la Sierra de Paria, with entire and hairy leaves. The
latter is the Croton sanguifluum of Cumanacoa, Caripe, and Cariaco.
) The red and astringent juice of this plant is employed to
strengthen the gums. The Indians recognize the species by the
smell, and more particularly by chewing the woody fibres. Two
natives, to whom the same wood was given to chew, pronounced
without hesitation the same name. We could avail ourselves but
little of the sagacity of our guides, for how could we procure
leaves, flowers, and fruits growing on trunks, the branches of
which commence at fifty or sixty feet high? We were struck at
finding in this hollow the bark of trees, and even the soil,
covered with moss* and lichens. (* Real musci frondosi. We also
found, besides a small Boletus stipitatus, of a snow-white colour,
the Boletus igniarius, and the Lycoperdon stellatum of Europe. I
had found this last only in very dry places in Germany and Poland.)
The cryptogamous plants are here as common as in northern
countries. Their growth is favoured by the moisture of the air, and
the absence of the direct rays of the sun. Nevertheless the
temperature is generally at 25 degrees in the day, and 19 degrees
at night.

The rocks which bound the crevice of Cuchivano are perpendicular
like walls, and are of the same calcareous formation which we
observed the whole way from Punta Delgada. It is here a blackish
grey, of compact fracture, tending sometimes towards the sandy
fracture, and crossed by small veins of white carbonated lime. In
these characteristic marks we thought we discovered the alpine
limestone of Switzerland and the Tyrol, of which the colour is
always deep, though in a less degree than that of the transition
limestone.* (* Escher, in the Alpina volume 4 page 340.) The first
of these formations constitutes the Cuchivano, the nucleus of the
Imposible, and in general the whole group of the mountains of New
Andalusia. I saw no petrifactions in it; but the inhabitants assert
that considerable masses of shells are found at great heights. The
same phenomenon occurs in the country about Salzburg.* (* In
Switzerland, the solitary beds of shells, at the height of from
1300 to 2000 toises (in the Jungfrauhorn, the Dent de Morcle, and
the Dent du Midi), belong to transition limestone.) At the
Cuchivano the alpine limestone contains beds of marly clay,*
(*Mergelschiefer.) three or four toises thick; and this geological
fact proves on the one hand the identity of the alpenkalkstein with
the zechstein of Thuringia, and on the other the affinity of
formation existing between the alpine limestone and that of the
Jura.* (* The Jura and the Alpine limestone are kindred formations,
and they are sometimes difficult to be distinguished, where they
lie immediately one upon another, as in the Apennines. The alpine
limestone and the zechstein, famous among the geologists of
Freyberg, are identical formations. This identity, which I noticed
in the year 1793 (Uber die Grubenwetter), is a geological fact the
more interesting, as it seems to unite the northern European
formations to those of the central chain. It is known that the
zechstein is situated between the muriatiferous gypsum and the
conglomerate (ancient sandstone); or where there is no
muriatiferous gypsum, between the slaty sandstone with roestones
(buntesandstein, Wern.), and the conglomerate or ancient sandstone.
It contains strata of schistous and coppery marl (bituminoce mergel
and kupferschiefer) which form an important object in the working
of mines at Mansfeld in Saxony, near Riegelsdorf in Hesse, and at
Hasel and Prausnitz, in Silesia. In the southern part of Bavaria
(Oberbaiern), I saw the alpine limestone, containing these same
strata of schistous clay and marl, which, though thinner, whiter,
and especially more frequent, characterize the limestone of Jura.
Respecting the slates of Blattenberg, in the canton of Glaris which
some mineralogists, because of their numerous impressions of fish,
have long mistaken for the cupreous slates of Mansfeld, they
belong, according to M. von Buch, to a real transition formation.
All these geological data tend to prove that strata of marl, more
or less mixed with carbon, are to be found in the limestone of
Jura, in the alpine limestone, and in the transition schists. The
mixture of carbon, sulphuretted iron, and copper, appears to me to
augment with the relative antiquity of the formations.) The strata
of marl effervesce with acids, though silex and alumina predominate
in them: they are strongly impregnated with carbon, and sometimes
blacken the hands, like a real vitriolic schistus. The supposed
gold mine of Cuchivano, which was the object of our examination, is
nothing but an excavation cut into one of those black strata of
marl, which contain pyrites in abundance. The excavation is on the
right bank of the river Juagua, and must be approached with
caution, because the torrent there is more than eight feet deep.
The sulphurous pyrites are found, some massive, and others
crystallized and disseminated in the rock; their colour, of a very
clear golden yellow, does not indicate that they contain copper.
They are mixed with fibrous sulphuret of iron,* (* Haarkies.) and
nodules of swinestone, or fetid carbonate of lime. The marly
stratum crosses the torrent; and, as the water washes out metallic
grains, the people imagine, on account of the brilliancy of the
pyrites, that the torrent bears down gold. It is reported that,
after the great earthquake which took place in 1766, the waters of
the Juagua were so charged with gold that "men who came from a
great distance, and whose country was unknown," established
washing-places on the spot. They disappeared during the night,
after having collected a great quantity of gold. It would be
needless to show that this is a fable. Pyrites dispersed in
quartzose veins, crossing the mica-slate, are often auriferous, no
doubt; but no analogous fact leads to the supposition that the
sulphuretted iron which is found in the schistose marls of the
alpine limestone, contains gold. Some direct experiments, made with
acids, during my abode at Caracas, showed that the pyrites of
Cuchivano are not auriferous. Our guides were amazed at my
incredulity. In vain I repeated that alum and sulphate of iron only
could be obtained from this supposed gold mine; they continued
picking up secretly every bit of pyrites they saw sparkling in the
water. In countries possessing few mines, the inhabitants entertain
exaggerated ideas respecting the facility with which riches are
drawn from the bowels of the earth. How much time did we not lose
during five years' travels, in visiting, on the pressing
invitations of our hosts, ravines, of which the pyritous strata
have borne for ages the imposing names of 'Minas de oro!' How often
have we been grieved to see men of all classes, magistrates,
pastors of villages, grave missionaries, grinding, with
inexhaustible patience, amphibole, or yellow mica, in the hope of
extracting gold from it by means of mercury! This rage for the
search of mines strikes us the more in a climate where the ground
needs only to be slightly raked to produce abundant harvests.

After visiting the pyritous marls of the Rio Juagua, we continued
following the course of the crevice, which stretches along like a
narrow canal overshadowed by very lofty trees. We observed strata
on the left bank, opposite Cerro del Cuchivano, singularly crooked
and twisted. This phenomenon I had often admired at the Ochsenberg,
* in passing the lake of Lucerne. (* This mountain of Switzerland
is composed of transition limestone. We find these same inflexions
in the strata near Bonneville, at Nante d'Arpenas in Savoy, and in
the valley of Estaubee in the Pyrenees. Another transition rock,
the grauwakke of the Germans (very near the English killas),
exhibits the same phenomenon in Scotland.) The calcareous beds of
the Cuchivano and the neighbouring mountains keep pretty regularly
the direction of north-north-east and south-south-west. Their
inclination is sometimes north and sometimes south; most commonly
they seem to take a direction towards the valley of Cumanacoa; and
it cannot be doubted that the valley has an influence* on the
inclination of the strata. (* The same observation may apply to the
lake of Gemunden in Styria, which I visited with M. von Buch, and
which is one of the most picturesque situations in Europe.)

We had suffered great fatigue, and were quite drenched by
frequently crossing the torrent, when we reached the caverns of the
Cuchivano. A wall of rock there rises perpendicularly to the height
of eight hundred toises. It is seldom that in a zone where the
force of vegetation everywhere conceals the soil and the rocks, we
behold a great mountain presenting naked strata in a perpendicular
section. In the middle of this section, and in a position
unfortunately inaccessible to man, two caverns open in the form of
crevices. We were assured that they are inhabited by nocturnal
birds, the same as those we were soon to become acquainted with in
the Cueva del Guacharo of Caripe. Near these caverns we saw strata
of schistose marl, and found, with great astonishment,
rock-crystals encased in beds of alpine limestone. They were
hexahedral prisms, terminated with pyramids, fourteen lines long
and eight thick. The crystals, perfectly transparent, were
solitary, and often three or four toises distant from each other.
They were enclosed in the calcareous mass, as the quartz crystals
of Burgtonna,* (* In the duchy of Gotha.) and the boracite of
Lunebourg, are contained in gypsum. There was no crevice near, or
any vestige of calcareous spar.* (* This phenomenon reminds us of
another equally rare, the quartz crystals found by M. Freiesleben
in Saxony, near Burgorner, in the county of Mansfeld, in the middle
of a rock of porous limestone (rauchwakke), lying immediately on
the alpine limestone. The rock crystals, which are pretty common in
the primitive limestone of Carrara, line the insides of cavities in
the rocks, without being enveloped by the rock itself.)

We reposed at the foot of the cavern whence those flames were seen
to issue, which of late years have become more frequent. Our guides
and the farmer, an intelligent man, equally acquainted with the
localities of the province, discussed, in the manner of the
Creoles, the dangers to which the town of Cumanacoa would be
exposed if the Cuchivano became an active volcano, or, as they
expressed it, "se veniesse a reventar." It appeared to them
evident, that since the great earthquakes of Quito and Cumana in
1797, New Andalusia was every day more and more undermined by
subterranean fires. They cited the flames which had been seen to
issue from the earth at Cumana; and the shocks felt in places where
heretofore the ground had never been shaken. They recollected that
at Macarapan, sulphurous emanations had been frequently perceived
for some months past. We were struck with these facts, upon which
were founded predictions that have since been almost all realized.
Enormous convulsions of the earth took place at Caracas in 1812,
and proved how tumultuously nature is agitated in the north-east
part of Terra Firma.

But what is the cause of the luminous phenomena which are observed
in the Cuchivano? The column of air which rises from the mouth of a
burning volcano* is sometimes observed to shine with a splendid
light. (* We must not confound this very rare phenomenon with the
glimmering commonly observed a few toises above the brink of a
crater, and which (as I remarked at Mount Vesuvius in 1805) is only
the reflection of great masses of inflamed scoria, thrown up
without sufficient force to pass the mouth of the volcano.) This
light, which is believed to be owing to the hydrogen gas, was
observed from Chillo, on the summit of the Cotopaxi, at a time when
the mountain seemed in the greatest repose. According to the
statements of the ancients, the Mons Albanus, near Rome, known at
present under the name of Monte Cavo, appeared at times on fire
during the night; but the Mons Albanus is a volcano recently
extinguished, which, in the time of Cato, threw out rapilli;* (*
"Albano monte biduum continenter lapidibus pluit."--Livy lib. 25
cap. 7. (Heyne, Opuscula Acad. tome 3 page 261.)) while the
Cuchivano is a calcareous mountain, remote from any trap formation.
Can these flames be attributed to the decomposition of water,
entering into contact with the pyrites dispersed through the
schistose marl? or is it inflamed hydrogen that issues from the
cavern of Cuchivano? The marls, as the smell indicates, are
pyritous and bituminous at the same time; and the petroleum springs
at the Buen Pastor, and in the island of Trinidad, proceed probably
from these same beds of alpine limestone. It would be easy to
suppose some connexion between the waters filtering through this
calcareous stone, and decomposed by pyrites and the earthquakes of
Cumana, the springs of sulphuretted hydrogen in New Barcelona, the
beds of native sulphur at Carupano, and the emanations of
sulphurous acid which are perceived at times in the savannahs. It
cannot be doubted also, that the decomposition of water by the
pyrites at an elevated temperature, favoured by the affinity of
oxidated iron for earthy substances, may have caused that
disengagement of hydrogen gas, to the action of which several
modern geologists have attributed so much importance. But in
general, sulphurous acid is perceived more commonly than hydrogen
in the eruption of volcanoes, and the odour of that acid
principally prevails while the earth is agitated by violent shocks.
When we take a general view of the phenomena of volcanoes and
earthquakes, when we recollect the enormous distance at which the
commotion is propagated below the basin of the sea, we readily
discard explanations founded on small strata of pyrites and
bituminous marls. I am of opinion that the shocks so frequently
felt in the province of Cumana are as little to be attributed to
the rocks above the surface of the earth, as those which agitate
the Apennines are assignable to asphaltic veins or springs of
burning petroleum. The whole of these phenomena depend on more
general, I would almost say on deeper, causes; and it is not in the
secondary strata which form the exterior crust of our globe, but in
the primitive rocks, at an enormous distance from the soil, that we
should seek the focus of volcanic action. The greater progress we
make in geology, the more we feel the insufficiency of theories
founded on observations merely local.

On the 12th of September we continued our journey to the convent of
Caripe, the principal settlement of the Chayma missions. We chose,
instead of the direct road, that by the mountains of the
Cocollar* (* Is this name of Indian origin? At Cumana I heard
it derived in a manner somewhat far-fetched from the Spanish word
cogollo, signifying the heart of oleraceous plants. The Cocollar
forms the centre of the whole group of the mountains of New
Andalusia.) and the Turimiquiri, the height of which little exceeds
that of Jura. The road first runs eastward, crossing over the length
of three leagues the table-land of Cumanacoa, in a soil formerly
levelled by the waters: it then turns to the south. We passed the
little Indian village of Aricagua surrounded by woody hills. Thence
we began to ascend, and the ascent lasted more than four hours. We
crossed two-and-twenty times the river of Pututucuar, a rapid
torrent, full of blocks of calcareous rock. When, on the Cuesta del
Cocollar, we reached an elevation two thousand feet above the level
of the sea, we were surprised to find scarcely any forests or great
trees. We passed over an immense plain covered with gramineous
plants. Mimosas with hemispheric tops, and stems only four or five
feet high, alone vary the dull uniformity of the savannahs. Their
branches are bent towards the ground or spread out like umbrellas.
Wherever there are deep declivities, or masses of rocks half
covered with mould, the clusia or cupey, with great nymphaea
flowers, displays its beautiful verdure. The roots of this tree are
eight inches in diameter, and they sometimes shoot out from the
trunk at the height of fifteen feet above the soil.

After having climbed the mountain for a considerable time, we
reached a small plain at the Hato del Cocollar. This is a solitary
farm, situated on a table-land 408 toises high. We rested three
days in this retreat, where we were treated with great kindness by
the proprietor, Don Mathias Yturburi, a native of Biscay, who had
accompanied us from the port of Cumana. We there found milk,
excellent meat from the richness of the pasture, and above all, a
delightful climate. During the day the centigrade thermometer did
not rise above 22 or 23 degrees; a little before sunset it fell to
19, and at night it scarcely kept up to 14 degrees.* (* 11.2
degrees Reaum.) The nightly temperature was consequently seven
degrees colder than that of the coasts, which is a fresh proof of
an extremely rapid decrement of heat, the table-land of Cocollar
being less elevated than the site of the town of Caracas.

As far as the eye could reach, we perceived, from this elevated
point, only naked savannahs. Small tufts of scattered trees rise in
the ravines; and notwithstanding the apparent uniformity of
vegetation, great numbers of curious plants* are found here. (*
Cassia acuta, Andromeda rigida, Casearia hypericifolia, Myrtus
longifolia, Buettneria salicifolia, Glycine picta, G. pratensis, G.
gibba, Oxalis umbrosa, Malpighia caripensis, Cephaelis salicifolia,
Stylosanthes angustifolia, Salvia pseudococcinea, Eryngium
foetidum. We found a second time this last plant, but at a
considerable height, in the great forests of bark trees surrounding
the town of Loxa, in the centre of the Cordilleras.) We shall only
speak of a superb lobelia* with purple flowers (* Lobelia
spectabilis.); the Brownea coccinea, which is upwards of a hundred
feet high; and above all; the pejoa, celebrated in the country on
account of the delightful and aromatic perfume emitted by its
leaves when rubbed between the fingers.* (* It is the Gualtheria
odorata. The pejoa is found round the lake of Cocollar, which gives
birth to the great river Guarapiche. We met with the same shrub at
the Cuchilla de Guanaguana. It is a subalpine plant, which forms at
the Silla de Caracas a zone much higher than in the province of
Cumana. The leaves of the pejoa have even a more agreeable smell
than those of the Myrtus pimenta, but they yield no perfume when
rubbed a few hours after their separation from the tree.) But the
great charms of this solitary place were the beauty and serenity of
the nights. The proprietor of the farm, who spent his evenings with
us, seemed to enjoy the astonishment produced on Europeans newly
transplanted to the tropics, by that vernal freshness of the air
which is felt on the mountains after sunset. In those distant
regions, where men yet feel the full value of the gifts of nature,
a land-holder boasts of the water of his spring, the absence of
noxious insects, the salutary breeze that blows round his hill, as
we in Europe descant on the conveniences of our dwellings, and the
picturesque effect of our plantations.

Our host had visited the new world with an expedition which was to
form establishments for felling wood for the Spanish navy on the
shores of the gulf of Paria. In the vast forests of mahogany,
cedar, and brazil-wood, which border the Caribbean Sea, it was
proposed to select the trunks of the largest trees, giving them in
a rough way the shape adapted to the building of ships, and sending
them every year to the dockyard near Cadiz. White men, unaccustomed
to the climate, could not support the fatigue of labour, the heat,
and the effect of the noxious air exhaled by the forests. The same
winds which are loaded with the perfume of flowers, leaves, and
woods, infuse also, as we may say, the germs of dissolution into
the vital organs. Destructive fevers carried off not only the
ship-carpenters, but the persons who had the management of the
establishment; and this bay, which the early Spaniards named Golfo
Triste (Melancholy Bay), on account of the gloomy and wild aspect
of its coasts, became the grave of European seamen. Our host had
the rare good fortune to escape these dangers. After having
witnessed the death of a great number of his friends, he withdrew
from the coast to the mountains of Cocollar.

Nothing can be compared to the majestic tranquillity which the
aspect of the firmament presents in this solitary region. When
tracing with the eye, at night-fall, the meadows which bounded the
horizon,--the plain covered with verdure and gently undulated, we
thought we beheld from afar, as in the deserts of the Orinoco, the
surface of the ocean supporting the starry vault of Heaven. The
tree under which we were seated, the luminous insects flying in the
air, the constellations which shone in the south; every object
seemed to tell us how far we were from our native land. If amidst
this exotic nature we heard from the depth of the valley the
tinkling of a bell, or the lowing of herds, the remembrance of our
country was awakened suddenly. The sounds were like distant voices
resounding from beyond the ocean, and with magical power
transporting us from one hemisphere to the other. Strange mobility
of the imagination of man, eternal source of our enjoyments and our

We began in the cool of the morning to climb the Turimiquiri. This
is the name given to the summit of the Cocollar, which, with the
Brigantine, forms one single mass of mountain, formerly called by
the natives the Sierra de los Tageres. We travelled along a part of
the road on horses, which roam about these savannahs; but some of
them are used to the saddle. Though their appearance is very heavy,
they pass lightly over the most slippery turf. We first stopped at
a spring issuing, not from the calcareous rock, but from a layer of
quartzose sandstone. The temperature was 21 degrees, consequently
1.5 degrees less than the spring of Quetepe; and the difference of
the level is nearly 220 toises. Wherever the sandstone appears
above ground the soil is level, and constitutes as it were small
platforms, succeeding each other like steps. To the height of 700
toises, and even beyond, this mountain, like those in its vicinity,
is covered only with gramineous plants.* (* The most abundant
species are the paspalus; the Andropogon fastigiatum, which forms
the genus Diectomis of M. Palissot de Beauvais; and the Panicum
olyroides.) The absence of trees is attributed at Cumana to the
great elevation of the ground; but a slight reflection on the
distribution of plants in the Cordilleras of the torrid zone will
lead us to conceive that the summits of New Andalusia are very far
from reaching the superior limit of the trees, which in this
latitude is at least 1800 toises of absolute height. The smooth
turf of the Cocollar begins to appear at 350 toises above the level
of the sea, and the traveller may contrive to walk upon this turf
till he reaches a thousand toises in height. Farther on, beyond
this band covered with gramineous plants, we found, amidst peaks
almost inaccessible to man, a small forest of cedrela, javillo,* (*
Huras crepitans, of the family of the euphorbias. The growth of its
trunk is so enormous, that M. Bonpland measured vats of javillo
wood, 14 feet long and 8 wide. These vats, made from one log of
wood, are employed to keep the guarapo, or juice of the sugar-cane,
and the molasses. The seeds of javillo are a very active poison,
and the milk that issues from the petioles, when broken, frequently
produced inflammation in our eyes, if by chance the least quantity
penetrated under the eyelids.) and mahogany. These local
circumstances induce me to think that the mountainous savannahs of
the Cocollar and Turimiquiri owe their existence only to the
destructive custom practised by the natives of setting fire to the
woods when they want to convert the soil into pasturage. Where,
during the lapse of three centuries, grasses and alpine plants have
covered the soil with a thick carpet, the seeds of trees can no
longer germinate and fix themselves in the earth, though birds and
winds convey them continually from the distant forests into the

The climate of these mountains is so mild that at the farm of the
Cocollar the cotton and coffee tree, and even the sugar cane, are
cultivated with success. Whatever the inhabitants of the coasts may
allege, hoar-frost has never been found in the latitude of 10
degrees, on heights scarcely exceeding those of the Mont d'Or, or
the Puy-de-Dome. The pastures of Turimiquiri become less rich in
proportion to the elevation. Wherever scattered rocks afford shade,
lichens and some European mosses are found. The Melastoma guacito,*
(* Melastoma xanthostachys, called guacito at Caracas.) and a
shrub, the large and tough leaves of which rustle like parchment*
when shaken by the winds, (* Palicourea rigida, chaparro bovo. In
the savannahs, or llanos, the same Castilian name is given to a
tree of the family of the proteaceae.) rise here and there in the
savannah. But the principal ornament of the turf of these mountains
is a liliaceous plant with golden flowers, the Marica
martinicensis. It is generally observed in the province of Cumana
and Caracas only at 400 or 500 toises of elevation.* (* For
example, in the Montana de Avila, on the road from Caracas to La
Guayra, and in the Silla de Caracas. The seeds of the marica are
ripe at the end of December.) The whole rocky mass of the
Turimiquiri is composed of an alpine limestone, like that of
Cumanacoa, and a pretty thin strata of marl and quartzose
sandstone. The limestone contains masses of brown oxidated iron and
carbonate of iron. I have observed in several places, and very
distinctly, that the sandstone not only reposes on the limestone,
but that this last rock frequently includes and alternates with the

We distinguished clearly the round summit of the Turimiquiri and
the lofty peaks or, as they are called, the Cucuruchos, covered
with thick vegetation, and infested by tigers which are hunted for
the beauty of their skin. This round summit, which is covered with
turf, is 707 toises above the level of the ocean. A ridge of steep
rocks stretches out westward, and is broken at the distance of a
mile by an enormous crevice that descends toward the gulf of
Cariaco. At the point which might be supposed to be the
continuation of the ridge, two calcareous paps or peaks arise, the
most northern of which is the loftiest. It is this last which is
more particularly called the Cucurucho de Turimiquiri, and which is
considered to be higher than the mountain of the Brigantine, so
well known by the sailors who frequent the coasts of Cumana. We
measured, by angles of elevation, and a basis, rather short, traced
on the round summit, the peak of Cucurucho, which was about 350
toises higher than our station, so that its absolute height
exceeded 1050 toises.

The view we enjoyed on the Turimiquiri is of vast extent, and
highly picturesque. From the summer to the ocean we perceived
chains of mountains extended in parallel lines from east to west,
and bounding longitudinal valleys. These valleys are intersected at
right angles by an infinite number of small ravines, scooped out by
the torrents: the consequence is, that the lateral ranges are
transformed into so many rows of paps, some round and others
pyramidal. The ground in general is a gentle slope as far as the
Imposible; Farther on the precipices become bold, and continue so
to the shore of the gulf of Cariaco. The form of this mass of
mountains reminded us of the chain of the Jura; and the only plain
that presents itself is the valley of Cumanacoa. We seemed to look
down into the bottom of a funnel, in which we could distinguish,
amidst tufts of scattered trees, the Indian village of Aricagua.
Towards the north, a narrow slip of land, the peninsula of Araya,
formed a dark stripe on the sea, which, being illumined by the rays
of the sun, reflected a strong light. Beyond the peninsula the
horizon was bounded by Cape Macanao, the black rocks of which rise
amid the waters like an immense bastion.

The farm of the Cocollar, situated at the foot of the Turimiquiri,
is in latitude 19 degrees 9 minutes 32 seconds. I found the dip of
the needle 42.1 degrees. The needle oscillates 229 times in ten
minutes. Possibly masses of brown iron-ore, included in the
calcareous rock, caused a slight augmentation in the intensity of
the magnetic forces.

On the 14th of September we descended the Cocollar, toward the
Mission of San Antonio. After crossing several savannahs strewed
with large blocks of calcareous stone, we entered a thick forest.
Having passed two ridges of extremely steep mountains,* (* These
ridges, which are rather difficult to climb towards the end of the
rainy season, are distinguished by the names of Los Yepes and
Fantasma.) we discovered a fine valley five or six leagues in
length, pretty uniformly following the direction of east and west.
In this valley are situated the Missions of San Antonio and
Guanaguana; the first is famous on account of a small church with
two towers, built of brick, in pretty good style, and ornamented
with columns of the Doric order. It is the wonder of the country.
The prefect of the Capuchins completed the building of this church
in less than two summers, though he employed only the Indians of
his village. The mouldings of the capitals, the cornices, and a
frieze decorated with suns and arabesques, are executed in clay
mixed with pounded brick. If we are surprised to find churches in
the purest Grecian style on the confines of Lapland,* (* At
Skelefter, near Torneo.--Buch, Voyage en Norwege.) we are still
more struck with these first essays of art, in a region where
everything indicates the wild state of man, and where the basis of
civilization has not been laid by Europeans more than forty years.

I stopped at the Mission of San Antonio only to open the barometer,
and to take a few altitudes of the sun. The elevation of the great
square above Cumana is 216 toises. After having crossed the
village, we forded the rivers Colorado and Guarapiche, both of
which rise in the mountains of the Cocollar, and blend their waters
lower down towards the east. The Colorado has a very rapid current,
and becomes at its mouth broader than the Rhine. The Guarapiche, at
its junction with the Rio Areo, is more than twenty-five fathoms
deep. Its banks are ornamented by a superb gramen, of which I made
a drawing two years afterward on ascending the river Magdalena. The
distich-leaved stalk of this gramen often reaches the height of
fifteen or twenty feet.* (* Lata, or cana brava. It is a new genus,
between aira and arundo. This colossal gramen looks like the donax
of Italy. This, the arundinaria of the Mississippi, (ludolfia,
Willd., miegia of Persoon,) and the bamboos, are the highest
gramens of the New Continent. Its seed has been carried to St.
Domingo, where its stalk is employed to thatch the negroes' huts.)

Towards evening we reached the Mission of Guanaguana, the site of
which is almost on a level with the village of San Antonio. The
missionary received us cordially; he was an old man, and he seemed
to govern his Indians with great intelligence. The village has
existed only thirty years on the spot it now occupies. Before that
time it was more to the south, and was backed by a hill. It is
astonishing with what facility the Indians are induced to remove
their dwellings. There are villages in South America which in less
than half a century have thrice changed their situation. The native
finds himself attached by ties so feeble to the soil he inhabits,
that he receives with indifference the order to take down his house
and to rebuild it elsewhere. A village changes its situation like a
camp. Wherever clay, reeds, and the leaves of the palm or heliconia
are found, a house is built in a few days. These compulsory changes
have often no other motive than the caprice of a missionary, who,
having recently arrived from Spain, fancies that the situation of
the Mission is feverish, or that it is not sufficiently exposed to
the winds. Whole villages have been transported several leagues,
merely because the monk did not find the prospect from his house
sufficiently beautiful or extensive.

Guanaguana has as yet no church. The old monk, who during thirty
years had lived in the forests of America, observed to us that the
money of the community, or the produce of the labour of the
Indians, was employed first in the construction of the missionary's
house, next in that of the church, and lastly in the clothing of
the Indians. He gravely assured us that this order of things could
not be changed on any pretence, and that the Indians, who prefer a
state of nudity to the slightest clothing, are in no hurry for
their turn in the destination of the funds. The spacious abode of
the padre had just been finished, and we had remarked with
surprise, that the house, the roof of which formed a terrace, was
furnished with a great number of chimneys that looked like turrets.
This, our host told us, was done to remind him of a country dear to
his recollection, and to picture to his mind the winters of Aragon
amid the heat of the torrid zone. The Indians of Guanaguana
cultivate cotton for their own benefit as well as for that of the
church and the missionary. The natives have machines of a very
simple construction to separate the cotton from the seeds. These
are wooden cylinders of extremely small diameter, within which the
cotton passes, and which are made to turn by a treadle. These
machines, however imperfect, are very useful, and they begin to be
imitated in other Missions. The soil of Guanaguana is not less
fertile than that of Aricagua, a small neighbouring village, which
has also preserved its ancient Indian name. An almuda of land, 1850
square toises, produces in abundant years from 25 to 30 fanegas of
maize, each fanega weighing 100 pounds. But here, as in other
places, where the bounty of nature retards industry, a very small
number of acres are cleared, and the culture of alimentary plants
is neglected. Scarcity of subsistence is felt, whenever the harvest
is lost by a protracted drought. The Indians of Guanaguana related
to us as a fact not uncommon, that in the preceding year they,
their wives, and their children, had been for three months al
monte; by which they meant, wandering in the neighbouring forests,
to live on succulent plants, palm-cabbages, fern roots, and fruits
of wild trees. They did not speak of this nomad life as of a state
of privation.

The beautiful valley of Guanaguana stretches towards the east,
opening into the plains of Punzera and Terecen. We wished to visit
those plains, and examine the springs of petroleum, lying between
the river Guarapiche and the Rio Areo; but the rainy season had
already arrived, and we were in daily perplexity how to dry and
preserve the plants we had collected. The road from Guanaguana to
the village of Punzera runs either by San Felix or by Caycara and
Guayuta, which is a farm for cattle (hato) of the missionaries. In
this last place, according to the report of the Indians, great
masses of sulphur are found, not in a gypseous or calcareous rock,
but at a small depth below the soil, in a bed of clay. This
singular phenomenon appears to me peculiar to America; we found it
also in the kingdom of Quito, and in New Spain. On approaching
Punzera, we saw in the savannahs small bags, formed of a silky
tissue suspended from the branches of the lowest trees. It is the
seda silvestre, or wild silk of the country, which has a beautiful
lustre, but is very rough to the touch. The phalaena which produces
it is probably analogous with that of the provinces of Gua[?]uato
and Antioquia, which also furnish wild silk. We found in the
beautiful forest of Punzera two trees known by the names of curucay
and canela; the former, of which we shall speak hereafter, yields a
resin very much sought after by the Piaches, or Indian sorcerers;
the leaves of the latter have the smell of the real cinnamon of
Ceylon.* (* Is this the Laurus cinnamomoides of Mutis? What is that
other cinnamon tree which the Indians call tuorco, common in the
mountains of Tocayo, and at the sources of the Rio Uchere, the bark
of which is mixed with chocolate? Father Caulin gives the name of
curucay to the Copaifera officinalis, which yields the Balsam of
Capivi.--Hist. Corograf., pages 24 and 34.) From Punzera the road
leads by Terecin and Nueva Palencia, (a new colony of Canarians,)
to the port of San Juan, situated on the right bank of the river
Areo; and it is only by crossing this river in a canoe, that the
traveller can arrive at the famous petroleum springs (or mineral
tar) of the Buen Pastor. They were described to us as small wells
or funnels, hollowed out by nature in a marshy soil. This
phenomenon reminded us of the lake of asphaltum, or of chopapote,
in the island of Trinidad,* (* Laguna de la Brea, south-east of the
port of Naparima. There is another spring of asphaltum on the
eastern coast of the island, in the bay of Mayaro.) which is
distant from the Buen Pastor, in a straight line, only thirty-five
sea leagues.

Having long struggled to overcome the desire we felt to descend the
Guarapiche to the Golfo Triste, we took the direct road to the
mountains. The valleys of Guanaguana and Caripe are separated by a
kind of dyke, or calcareous ridge, well known by the name of the
Cuchilla* de Guanaguana. (* Literally "blade of a knife".
Throughout all Spanish America the name of "cuchilla" is given to
the ridge of a mountain terminated on each side by very steep
declivities.) We found this passage difficult, because at that time
we had not climbed the Cordilleras; but it is by no means so
dangerous as the people at Cumana love to represent it. The path is
indeed in several parts only fourteen or fifteen inches broad; and
the ridge of the mountain, along which the road runs, is covered
with a short slippery turf. The slopes on each side are steep, and
the traveller, should he stumble, might slide down to the depth of
seven or eight hundred feet. Nevertheless, the flanks of the
mountain are steep declivities rather than precipices; and the
mules of this country are so sure-footed that they inspire the
greatest confidence. Their habits are identical with those of the
beasts of burden in Switzerland and the Pyrenees. In proportion as
a country is wild, the instinct of domestic animals improves in
address and sagacity. When the mules feel themselves in danger,
they stop, turning their heads to the right and to the left; and
the motion of their ears seems to indicate that they reflect on the
decision they ought to take. Their resolution is slow, but always
just, if it be spontaneous; that is to say, if it be not thwarted
or hastened by the imprudence of the traveller. On the frightful
roads of the Andes, during journeys of six or seven months across
mountains furrowed by torrents, the intelligence of horses and
beasts of burden is manifested in an astonishing manner. Thus the
mountaineers are heard to say, "I will not give you the mule whose
step is the easiest, but the one which is most intelligent (la mas
racional)." This popular expression, dictated by long experience,
bears stronger evidence against the theory of animated machines,
than all the arguments of speculative philosophy.

When we had reached the highest point of the ridge or cuchilla of
Guanaguana, an interesting spectacle unfolded itself before us. We
saw comprehended in one view the vast savannahs or meadows of
Maturin and of the Rio Tigre;* (* These natural meadows are part of
the llanos or immense steppes bordered by the Orinoco.) the peak of
the Turimiquiri;* (* El Cucurucho.) and an infinite number of
parallel ridges, which, seen at a distance, looked like the waves
of the sea. On the north-east opens the valley in which is situated
the convent of Caripe. The aspect of this valley is peculiarly
attractive, for being shaded by forests, it forms a strong contrast
with the nudity of the neighbouring mountains, which are bare of
trees, and covered with gramineous plants. We found the absolute
height of the Cuchilla to be 548 toises.

Descending from the ridge by a winding path, we entered into a
completely woody country. The soil is covered with moss, and a new
species of drosera,* (* Drosera tenella.) which by its form
reminded us of the drosera of the Alps. The thickness of the
forests, and the force of vegetation, augmented as we approached
the convent of Caripe. Everything here changes its aspect, even to
the rock that accompanied us from Punta Delgada. The calcareous
strata becomes thinner, forming graduated steps, which stretch out
like walls, cornices, and turrets, as in the mountains of Jura,
those of Pappenheim in Germany, and near Oizow in Galicia. The
colour of the stone is no longer of a smoky or bluish grey; it
becomes white; its fracture is smooth, and sometimes even
imperfectly conchoidal. It is no longer the calcareous formation of
the Higher Alps, but a formation to which this serves as a basis,
and which is analogous to the Jura limestone. In the chain of the
Apennines, between Rome and Nocera, I observed this same immediate
superposition.* (* In like manner, near Geneva, the rock of the
Mole, belonging to the Alpine limestone, lies under the Jura
limestone which forms Mount Saleve.) It indicates, not the
transition from one rock to another, but the geological affinity
existing between two formations. According to the general type of
the secondary strata, recognised in a great part of Europe, the
Alpine limestone is separated from the Jura limestone by the
muriatiferous gypsum; but often this latter is entirely wanting, or
is contained as a subordinate layer in the Alpine limestone. In
this case the two great calcareous formations succeed each other
immediately, or are confounded in one mass.

The descent from the Cuchilla is far shorter than the ascent. We
found the level of the valley of Caripe 200 toises higher than that
of the valley of Guanaguana.* (* Absolute height of the convent
above the level of the sea, 412 toises.) A group of mountains of
little breadth separates two valleys, one of which is of delicious
coolness, while the other is famed for the heat of its climate.
These contrasts, so common in Mexico, New Grenada, and Peru, are
very rare in the north-east part of South America. Thus Caripe is
the only one of the high valleys of New Andalusia which is much



An alley of perseas led us to the Hospital of the Aragonese
Capuchins. We stopped near a cross of Brazil-wood, erected in the
midst of a square, and surrounded with benches, on which the infirm
monks seat themselves to tell their rosaries. The convent is backed
by an enormous wall of perpendicular rock, covered with thick
vegetation. The stone, which is of resplendent whiteness, appears
only here and there between the foliage. It is difficult to imagine
a more picturesque spot. It recalled forcibly to my remembrance the
valleys of Derbyshire, and the cavernous mountains of Muggendorf,
in Franconia. Instead of the beeches and maple trees of Europe we
here find the statelier forms of the ceiba and the palm-tree, the
praga and irasse. Numberless springs gush from the sides of the
rocks which encircle the basin of Caripe, and of which the abrupt
slopes present, towards the south, profiles of a thousand feet in
height. These springs issue, for the most part, from a few narrow
crevices. The humidity which they spread around favours the growth
of the great trees; and the natives, who love solitary places, form
their conucos along the sides of these crevices. Plantains and
papaw trees are grouped together with groves of arborescent fern;
and this mixture of wild and cultivated plants gives the place a
peculiar charm. Springs are distinguished from afar, on the naked
flanks of the mountains, by tufted masses of vegetation* which at
first sight seem suspended from the rocks, and descending into the
valley, they follow the sinuosities of the torrents.* (* Among the
interesting plants of the valley of Caripe, we found for the first
time a calidium, the trunk of which was twenty feet high (C.
arboreum); the Mikania micrantha, which may probably possess some
of the alexipharmic properties of the famous guaco of the Choco;
the Bauhinia obtusifolia, a very large tree, called guarapa by the
Indians; the Weinnannia glabra; a tree psychotria, the capsules of
which, when rubbed between the fingers, emit a very agreeable
orange smell; the Dorstenia Houstoni (raiz de resfriado); the
Martynia Craniolaria, the white flowers of which are six or seven
inches long; a scrophularia, having the aspect of the Verbascum
miconi, and the leaves of which, all radical and hairy, are marked
with silvery glands.)

We were received with great hospitality by the monks of Caripe. The
building has an inner court, surrounded by an arcade, like the
convents in Spain. This enclosed place was highly convenient for
setting up our instruments and making observations. We found a
numerous society in the convent. Young monks, recently arrived from
Spain, were just about to settle in the Missions, while old infirm
missionaries sought for health in the fresh and salubrious air of
the mountains of Caripe. I was lodged in the cell of the superior,
which contained a pretty good collection of books. I found there,
to my surprise, the Teatro Critico of Feijoo, the Lettres
Edifiantes, and the Traite d'Electricite by abbe Nollet. It seemed
as if the progress of knowledge advanced even in the forests of
America. The youngest of the capuchin monks of the last Mission had
brought with him a Spanish translation of Chaptal's Treatise on
Chemistry, and he intended to study this work in the solitude where
he was destined to pass the remainder of his days. During our long
abode in the Missions of South America we never perceived any sign
of intolerance. The monks of Caripe were not ignorant that I was
born in the protestant part of Germany. Furnished as I was with
orders from the court of Spain, I had no motives to conceal from
them this fact; nevertheless, no mark of distrust, no indiscreet
question, no attempt at controversy, ever diminished the value of
the hospitality they exercised with so much liberality and

The convent is founded on a spot which was anciently called
Areocuar. Its height above the level of the sea is nearly the same
as that of the town of Caracas, or of the inhabited part of the
Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Thus the mean temperatures of these
three points, all situated within the tropics, are nearly the same.
The necessity of being well clothed at night, and especially at
sunrise, is felt at Caripe. We saw the centigrade thermometer at
midnight, between 16 and 17.5 degrees; in the morning, between 19
and 20 degrees. About one o'clock it had risen only to 21, or 22.5
degrees. This temperature is sufficient for the development of the
productions of the torrid zone; though, compared with the excessive
heat of the plains of Cumana, we might call it the temperature of
spring. Water exposed to currents of air in vessels of porous clay,
cools at Caripe, during the night, as low as 13 degrees.

Experience has proved that the temperate climate and rarefied air
of this spot are singularly favourable to the cultivation of the
coffee-tree, which is well known to flourish on heights. The
prefect of the capuchins, an active and enlightened man, has
introduced into the province this new branch of agricultural
industry. Indigo was formerly planted at Caripe, but the small
quantity of fecula yielded by this plant, which requires great
heat, caused the culture to be abandoned. We found in the conuco of
the community many culinary plants, maize, sugar cane, and five
thousand coffee-trees, which promised a fine harvest. The friars
were in hopes of tripling the number in a few years. We cannot help
remarking the uniform efforts for the cultivation of the soil which
are manifested in the policy of the monastic hierarchy. Wherever
convents have not yet acquired wealth in the New Continent, as
formerly in Gaul, in Syria, and in the north of Europe, they
exercise a happy influence on the clearing of the ground and the
introduction of exotic vegetation. At Caripe, the conuco of the
community presents the appearance of an extensive and beautiful
garden. The natives are obliged to work in it every morning from
six to ten, and the alcaldes and alguazils of Indian race overlook
their labours. These men are looked upon as great state
functionaries, and they alone have the right of carrying a cane.
The selection of them depends on the superior of the convent. The
pedantic and silent gravity of the Indian alcaldes, their cold and
mysterious air, their love of appearing in form at church and in
the assemblies of the people, force a smile from Europeans. We were
not yet accustomed to these shades of the Indian character, which
we found the same at the Orinoco, in Mexico, and in Peru, among
people totally different in their manners and their language. The
alcaldes came daily to the convent, less to treat with the monks on
the affairs of the Mission, than under the pretence of inquiring
after the health of the newly-arrived travellers. As we gave them
brandy, their visits became more frequent than the monks desired.

That which confers most celebrity on the valley of Caripe, besides
the extraordinary coolness of its climate, is the great Cueva, or
Cavern of the Guacharo.* (* The province of Guacharucu, which
Delgado visited in 1534, in the expedition of Hieronimo de Ortal,
appears to have been situated south or south-east of Macarapana.
Has its name any connexion with those of the cavern and the bird?
or is this last of Spanish origin? (Laet Nova Orbis page 676).
Guacharo means in Castilian "one who cries and laments;" now the
bird of the cavern of Caripe, and the guacharaca (Phasianus
parraka) are very noisy birds.) In a country where the people love
the marvellous, a cavern which gives birth to a river, and is
inhabited by thousands of nocturnal birds, the fat of which is
employed in the Missions to dress food, is an everlasting object of
conversation and discussion. The cavern, which the natives call "a
mine of fat" is not in the valley of Caripe itself, but three short
leagues distant from the convent, in the direction of
west-south-west. It opens into a lateral valley, which terminates
at the Sierra del Guacharo.

We set out for the Sierra on the 18th of September, accompanied by
the alcaldes, or Indian magistrates, and the greater part of the
monks of the convent. A narrow path led us at first towards the
south, across a fine plain, covered with beautiful turf. We then
turned westward, along the margin of a small river which issues
from the mouth of the cavern. We ascended during three quarters of
an hour, sometimes in the water, which was shallow, sometimes
between the torrent and a wall of rocks, on a soil extremely
slippery and miry. The falling down of the earth, the scattered
trunks of trees, over which the mules could scarcely pass, and the
creeping plants that covered the ground, rendered this part of the
road fatiguing. We were surprised to find here, at scarcely 500
toises above the level of the sea, a cruciferous plant, Raphanus
pinnatus. Plants of this family are very rare in the tropics; they
have in some sort a northern character, and therefore we never
expected to see one on the plain of Caripe at so inconsiderable an
elevation. The northern character also appears in the Galium
caripense, the Valeriana scandens, and a sanicle not unlike the S.

At the foot of the lofty mountain of the Guacharo, we were only
four hundred paces from the cavern, without yet perceiving the
entrance. The torrent runs in a crevice hollowed out by the waters,
and we went on under a cornice, the projection of which prevented
us from seeing the sky. The path winds in the direction of the
river; and at the last turning we came suddenly before the immense
opening of the grotto. The aspect of this spot is majestic, even to
the eye of a traveller accustomed to the picturesque scenery of the
higher Alps. I had before this seen the caverns of the peak of
Derbyshire, where, lying down flat in a boat, we proceeded along a
subterranean river, under an arch two feet high. I had visited the
beautiful grotto of Treshemienshiz, in the Carpathian mountains,
the caverns of the Hartz, and those of Franconia, which are vast
cemeteries,* containing bones of tigers, hyenas, and bears, as
large as our horses. (* The mould, which has covered for thousands
of years the soil of the caverns of Gaylenreuth and Muggendorf in
Franconia, emits even now choke-damps, or gaseous mixtures of
hydrogen and nitrogen, which rise to the roof of the caves. This
fact is known to the persons who show these caverns to travellers;
and when I was director of the mines of the Fichtelberg, I observed
it frequently in the summer-time. M. Laugier found in the mould of
Muggendorf, besides phosphate of lime, 0.10 of animal matter. I was
struck, during my stay at Steeben, with the ammoniacal and fetid
smell produced by it, when thrown on a red-hot iron.) Nature in
every zone follows immutable laws in the distribution of rocks, in
the form of mountains, and even in those changes which the exterior
crust of our planet has undergone. So great a uniformity led me to
believe that the aspect of the cavern of Caripe would differ little
from what I had observed in my preceding travels. The reality far
exceeded my expectations. If the configuration of the grottoes, the
splendour of the stalactites, and all the phenomena of inorganic
nature, present striking analogies, the majesty of equinoctial
vegetation gives at the same time an individual character to the
aperture of the cavern.

The Cueva del Guacharo is pierced in the vertical profile of a
rock. The entrance is towards the south, and forms an arch eighty
feet broad and seventy-two high. The rock which surmounts the
grotto is covered with trees of gigantic height. The mammee-tree
and the genipa,* (* Caruto, Genipa americana. The flower at Caripe,
has sometimes five, sometimes six stamens.) with large and shining
leaves, raise their branches vertically towards the sky; whilst
those of the courbaril and the erythrina form, as they extend, a
thick canopy of verdure. Plants of the family of pothos, with
succulent stems, oxalises, and orchideae of a singular structure,*
(* A dendrobium, with a gold-coloured flower, spotted with black,
three inches long.) rise in the driest clefts of the rocks; while
creeping plants waving in the winds are interwoven in festoons
before the opening of the cavern. We distinguished in these
festoons a bignonia of a violet blue, the purple dolichos, and for
the first time, that magnificent solandra,* (* Solandra scandens.
It is the gousaticha of the Chayma Indians.) which has an
orange-coloured flower and a fleshy tube more than four inches

But this luxury of vegetation embellishes not only the external
arch, it appears even in the vestibule of the grotto. We saw with
astonishment plantain-leaved heliconias eighteen feet high, the
praga palm-tree, and arborescent arums, following the course of the
river, even to those subterranean places. The vegetation continues
in the cave of Caripe as in those deep crevices of the Andes,
half-excluded from the light of day, and does not disappear till,
penetrating into the interior, we advance thirty or forty paces
from the entrance. We measured the way by means of a cord; and we
went on about four hundred and thirty feet without being obliged to
light our torches. Daylight penetrates far into this region,
because the grotto forms but one single channel, keeping the same
direction, from south-east to north-west. Where the light began to
fail, we heard from afar the hoarse sounds of the nocturnal birds;
sounds which the natives think belong exclusively to those
subterraneous places.

The guacharo is of the size of our fowls. It has the mouth of the
goat-suckers and procnias, and the port of those vultures whose
crooked beaks are surrounded with stiff silky hairs. Suppressing,
with M. Cuvier, the order of picae, we must refer this
extraordinary bird to the passeres, the genera of which are
connected with each other by almost imperceptible transitions. It
forms a new genus, very different from the goatsucker, in the
loudness of its voice, in the vast strength of its beak (containing
a double tooth), and in its feet without the membranes which unite
the anterior phalanges of the claws. It is the first example of a
nocturnal bird among the Passeres dentirostrati. Its habits present
analogies both with those of the goatsuckers and of the alpine
crow.* (* Corvus Pyrrhocorax.) The plumage of the guacharo is of a
dark bluish grey, mixed with small streaks and specks of black.
Large white spots of the form of a heart, and bordered with black,
mark the head, wings, and tail. The eyes of the bird, which are
dazzled by the light of day, are blue, and smaller than those of
the goatsucker. The spread of the wings, which are composed of
seventeen or eighteen quill feathers, is three feet and a half. The
guacharo quits the cavern at nightfall, especially when the moon
shines. It is almost the only frugiferous nocturnal bird yet known;
the conformation of its feet sufficiently shows that it does not
hunt like our owls. It feeds on very hard fruits, like the
nutcracker* (* Corvus caryocatactes, C. glandarius. Our Alpine crow
builds its nest near the top of Mount Libanus, in subterranean
caverns, nearly like the guacharo. It also has the horribly shrill
cry of the latter.) and the pyrrhocorax. The latter nestles also in
clefts of rocks, and is known by the name of the night-crow. The
Indians assured us that the guacharo does not pursue either the
lamellicornous insects or those phalaenae which serve as food to
the goatsuckers. A comparison of the beaks of the guacharo and the
goatsucker serves to denote how much their habits must differ. It
would be difficult to form an idea of the horrible noise occasioned
by thousands of these birds in the dark part of the cavern. Their
shrill and piercing cries strike upon the vaults of the rocks, and
are repeated by the subterranean echoes. The Indians showed us the
nests of the guacharos by fixing a torch to the end of a long pole.
These nests were fifty or sixty feet high above our heads, in holes
in the shape of funnels, with which the roof of the grotto is
pierced like a sieve. The noise increased as we advanced, and the
birds were scared by the light of the torches of copal. When this
noise ceased a few minutes around us, we heard at a distance the
plaintive cries of the birds roosting in other ramifications of the
cavern. It seemed as if different groups answered each other

The Indians enter the Cueva del Guacharo once a year, near
midsummer. They go armed with poles, with which they destroy the
greater part of the nests. At that season several thousand birds
are killed; and the old ones, as if to defend their brood, hover
over the heads of the Indians, uttering terrible cries. The young,*
(* Called Los pollos del Guacharo.) which fall to the ground, are
opened on the spot. Their peritoneum is found extremely loaded with
fat, and a layer of fat reaches from the abdomen to the anus,
forming a kind of cushion between the legs of the bird. This
quantity of fat in frugivorous animals, not exposed to the light,
and exerting very little muscular motion, reminds us of what has
been observed in the fattening of geese and oxen. It is well known
how greatly darkness and repose favour this process. The nocturnal
birds of Europe are lean, because, instead of feeding on fruits,
like the guacharo, they live on the scanty produce of their prey.
At the period commonly called, at Caripe, the oil harvest,* (* La
cosecha de la manteca.) the Indians build huts with palm-leaves,
near the entrance, and even in the porch of the cavern. There, with
a fire of brushwood, they melt in pots of clay the fat of the young
birds just killed. This fat is known by the name of butter or oil
(manteca, or aceite) of the guacharo. It is half liquid,
transparent, without smell, and so pure that it may be kept above a
year without becoming rancid. At the convent of Caripe no other oil
is used in the kitchen of the monks but that of the cavern; and we
never observed that it gave the aliments a disagreeable taste or

The race of the guacharos would have been long ago extinct, had not
several circumstances contributed to its preservation. The natives,
restrained by their superstitious ideas, seldom have courage to
penetrate far into the grotto. It appears also, that birds of the
same species dwell in neighbouring caverns, which are too narrow to
be accessible to man. Perhaps the great cavern is repeopled by
colonies which forsake the small grottoes; for the missionaries
assured us that hitherto no sensible diminution of the birds has
been observed. Young guacharos have been sent to the port of
Cumana, and have lived there several days without taking any
nourishment, the seeds offered to them not suiting their taste.
When the crops and gizzards of the young birds are opened in the
cavern, they are found to contain all sorts of hard and dry fruits,
which furnish, under the singular name of guacharo seed (semilla
del guacharo), a very celebrated remedy against intermittent
fevers. The old birds carry these seeds to their young. They are
carefully collected, and sent to the sick at Cariaco, and other
places of the low regions, where fevers are generally prevalent.

As we continued to advance into the cavern, we followed the banks
of the small river which issues from it, and is from twenty-eight
to thirty feet wide. We walked on the banks, as far as the hills
formed of calcareous incrustations permitted us. Where the torrent
winds among very high masses of stalactites, we were often obliged
to descend into its bed, which is only two feet deep. We learned
with surprise, that this subterranean rivulet is the origin of the
river Caripe, which, at the distance of a few leagues, where it
joins the small river of Santa Maria, is navigable for canoes. It
flows into the river Areo under the name of Cano do Terezen. We
found on the banks of the subterranean rivulet a great quantity of
palm-tree wood, the remains of trunks, on which the Indians climb
to reach the nests hanging from the roofs of the cavern. The rings,
formed by the vestiges of the old footstalks of the leaves, furnish
as it were the steps of a ladder perpendicularly placed.

The Grotto of Caripe preserves the same direction, the same
breadth, and its primitive height of sixty or seventy feet, to the
distance of 472 metres, or 1458 feet, accurately measured. We had
great difficulty in persuading the Indians to pass beyond the
anterior portion of the grotto, the only part which they annually
visit to collect the fat. The whole authority of 'los padres' was
necessary to induce them to advance as far as the spot where the
soil rises abruptly at an inclination of sixty degrees, and where
the torrent forms a small subterranean cascade.* (* We find the
phenomenon of a subterranean cascade, but on a much larger scale,
in England, at Yordas Cave, near Kingsdale in Yorkshire.) The
natives connect mystic ideas with this cave, inhabited by nocturnal
birds; they believe that the souls of their ancestors sojourn in
the deep recesses of the cavern. "Man," say they, "should avoid
places which are enlightened neither by the sun (zis), nor by the
moon (nuna)." 'To go and join the guacharos,' is with them a phrase
signifying to rejoin their fathers, to die. The magicians (piaches)
and the poisoners (imorons) perform their nocturnal tricks at the
entrance of the cavern, to conjure the chief of the evil spirits
(ivorokiamo). Thus in every region of the earth a resemblance may
be traced in the early fictions of nations, those especially which
relate to two principles governing the world, the abode of souls
after death, the happiness of the virtuous and the punishment of
the guilty. The most different and most barbarous languages present
a certain number of images, which are the same, because they have
their source in the nature of our intelligence and our sensations.
Darkness is everywhere connected with the idea of death. The Grotto
of Caripe is the Tartarus of the Greeks; and the guacharos, which
hover over the rivulet, uttering plaintive cries, remind us of the
Stygian birds.

At the point where the river forms the subterranean cascade, a hill
covered with vegetation, which is opposite to the opening of the
grotto, presents a very picturesque aspect. It is seen at the
extremity of a straight passage, 240 toises in length. The
stalactites descending from the roof, and resembling columns
suspended in the air, are relieved on a back-ground of verdure. The
opening of the cavern appeared singularly contracted, when we saw
it about the middle of the day, illumined by the vivid light
reflected at once from the sky, the plants, and the rocks. The
distant light of day formed a strange contrast with the darkness
which surrounded us in the vast cavern. We discharged our guns at a
venture, wherever the cries of the nocturnal birds and the flapping
of their wings, led us to suspect that a great number of nests were
crowded together. After several fruitless attempts M. Bonpland
succeeded in killing a couple of guacharos, which, dazzled by the
light of the torches, seemed to pursue us. This circumstance
afforded me the means of making a drawing of this bird, which had
previously been unknown to naturalists. We climbed, not without
difficulty, the small hill whence the subterranean rivulet
descends. We saw that the grotto was perceptibly contracted,
retaining only forty feet in height, and that it continued
stretching to north-east, without deviating from its primitive
direction, which is parallel to that of the great valley of Caripe.

In this part of the cavern, the rivulet deposits a blackish mould,
very like the matter which, in the grotto of Muggendorf, in
Franconia, is called "the earth of sacrifice."* (* Opfer-erde of
the cavern of Hohle Berg (or Hole Mountain,--a mountain pierced
entirely through.)) We could not discover whether this fine and
spongy mould falls through the cracks which communicate with the
surface of the ground above, or is washed down by the rain-water
penetrating into the cavern. It was a mixture of silex, alumina,
and vegetable detritus. We walked in thick mud to a spot where we
beheld with astonishment the progress of subterranean vegetation.
The seeds which the birds carry into the grotto to feed their
young, spring up wherever they fix in the mould which covers the
calcareous incrustations. Blanched stalks, with some half-formed
leaves, had risen to the height of two feet. It was impossible to
ascertain the species of these plants, their form, colour, and
aspect having been changed by the absence of light. These traces of
organization amidst darkness forcibly excited the curiosity of the
natives, who examined them with silent meditation inspired by a
place they seemed to dread. They evidently regarded these
subterranean plants, pale and deformed, as phantoms banished from
the face of the earth. To me the scene recalled one of the happiest
periods of my early youth, a long abode in the mines of Freyberg,
where I made experiments on the effects of blanching (etiolement),
which are very different, according as the air is pure or
overcharged with hydrogen or azote.

The missionaries, with all their authority, could not prevail on
the Indians to penetrate farther into the cavern. As the roof
became lower the cries of the guacharos were more and more shrill.
We were obliged to yield to the pusillanimity of our guides, and
trace back our steps. The appearance of the cavern was however very
uniform. We found that a bishop of St. Thomas of Guiana had gone
farther than ourselves. He had measured nearly 2500 feet from the
mouth to the spot where he stopped, but the cavern extended still
farther. The remembrance of this fact was preserved in the convent
of Caripe, without the exact period being noted. The bishop had
provided himself with great torches of white Castile wax. We had
torches composed only of the bark of trees and native resin. The
thick smoke which issued from these torches, in a narrow
subterranean passage, hurts the eyes and obstructs the respiration.

On turning back to go out of the cavern, we followed the course of
the torrent. Before our eyes became dazzled with the light of day
we saw on the outside of the grotto the water of the river
sparkling amid the foliage of the trees which shaded it. It was
like a picture placed in the distance, the mouth of the cavern
serving as a frame. Having at length reached the entrance, we
seated ourselves on the bank of the rivulet, to rest after our
fatigues. We were glad to be beyond the hoarse cries of the birds,
and to leave a place where darkness does not offer even the charm
of silence and tranquillity. We could scarcely persuade ourselves
that the name of the Grotto of Caripe had hitherto been unknown in
Europe;* for the guacharos alone might have sufficed to render it
celebrated. (* It is surprising that Father Gili, author of the
Saggio di Storia Americana, does not mention it, though he had in
his possession a manuscript written in 1780 at the convent of
Caripe. I gave the first information respecting the Cueva del
Guacharo in 1800, in my letters to Messrs. Delambre and
Delametherie, published in the Journal de Physique.) These
nocturnal birds have been no where yet discovered, except in the
mountains of Caripe and Cumanacoa. The missionaries had prepared a
repast at the entry of the cavern. Leaves of the banana and the
vijao,* (* Heliconia bihai, Linn. The Creoles have changed the b of
the Haitian word bihao into v, and the h into j, agreeably to the
Castilian pronunciation.) which have a silky lustre, served us as a
table-cloth, according to the custom of the country. Nothing was
wanting to our enjoyment, not even remembrances, which are so rare
in those countries, where generations disappear without leaving a
trace of their existence.

Before we quit the subterranean rivulet and the nocturnal birds,
let us cast a last glance at the cavern of the Guacharo, and the
whole of the physical phenomena it presents. When we have step by
step pursued a long series of observations modified by the
localities of a place, we love to stop and raise our views to
general considerations. Do the great cavities, which are
exclusively called caverns, owe their origin to the same causes as
those which have produced the lodes of veins and of metalliferous
strata, or the extraordinary phenomenon of the porosity of rocks?
Do grottoes belong to every formation, or to that period only when
organized beings began to people the surface of the globe? These
geological questions can be solved only so far as they are directed
by the actual state of things, that is, of facts susceptible of
being verified by observation.

Considering rocks according to the succession of eras, we find that
primitive formations exhibit very few caverns. The great cavities
which are observed in the oldest granite, and which are called
fours (ovens) in Switzerland and in the south of France, when they
are lined with rock crystals, arise most frequently from the union
of several contemporaneous veins of quartz,* (* Gleichzeitige
Trummer. To these stone veins which appear to be of the same age as
the rock, belong the veins of talc and asbestos in serpentine, and
those of quartz traversing schist (Thonschiefer). Jameson on
Contemporaneous Veins, in the Mem. of the Wernerian Soc.) of
feldspar, or of fine-grained granite. The gneiss presents, though
more seldom, the same phenomenon; and near Wunsiedel,* (* In
Franconia, south-east of Luchsburg.) at the Fichtelgebirge, I had
an opportunity of examining crystal fours of two or three feet
diameter, in a part of the rock not traversed by veins. We are
ignorant of the extent of the cavities which subterranean fires and
volcanic agitations may have produced in the bowels of the earth in
those primitive rocks, which, containing considerable quantities of
amphibole, mica, garnet, magnetic iron-stone, and red schorl
(titanite), appear to be anterior to granite. We find some
fragments of these rocks among the matters ejected by volcanoes.
The cavities can be considered only as partial and local phenomena;
and their existence is scarcely any contradiction to the notions we
have acquired from the experiments of Maskelyne and Cavendish on
the mean density of the earth.

In the primitive mountains open to our researches, real grottoes,
those which have some extent, belong only to calcareous formations,
such as the carbonate or sulphate of lime. The solubility of these
substances appears to have favoured the action of the subterranean
waters for ages. The primitive limestone presents spacious caverns
as well as transition limestone,* and that which is exclusively
called secondary. (* In the primitive limestone are found the
Kuetzel-loch, near Kaufungen in Silesia, and probably several
caverns in the islands of the Archipelago. In the transition
limestone we remark the caverns of Elbingerode, of Rubeland, and of
Scharzfeld, in the Hartz; those of the Salzfluhe in the Grisons;
and, according to Mr. Greenough, that of Torbay in Devonshire.) If
these caverns be less frequent in the first, it is because this
stone forms in general only layers subordinate to the mica-slate,*
(* Sometimes to gneiss, as at the Simplon, between Dovredo and
Crevola.) and not a particular system of mountains, into which the
waters may filter, and circulate to great distances. The erosions
occasioned by this element depend not only on its quantity, but
also on the length of time during which it remains, the velocity it
acquires by its fall, and the degree of solubility of the rock. I
have observed in general, that the waters act more easily on the
carbonates and the sulphates of lime of secondary mountains than on
the transition limestones, which have a considerable mixture of
silex and carbon. On examining the internal structure of the
stalactites which line the walls of caverns, we find in them all
the characters of a chemical precipitate.

As we approach those periods in which organic life develops itself
in a greater number of forms, the phenomenon of grottoes becomes
more frequent. There exist several under the name of baumen,* (* In
the dialect of the German Swiss, Balmen. The Baumen of the Sentis,
of the Mole, and of the Beatenberg, on the borders of the lake of
Thun, belong to the Alpine limestone.) not in the ancient sandstone
to which the great coal formation belongs, but in the Alpine
limestone, and in the Jura limestone, which is often only the
superior part of the Alpine formation. The Jura limestone* (* I may
mention only the grottoes of Boudry, Motiers-Travers, and Valorbe,
in the Jura; the grotto of Balme near Geneva; the caverns between
Muggendorf and Gaylenreuth in Franconia; Sowia Jama, Ogrodzimiec,
and Wlodowice, in Poland.) so abounds with caverns in both
continents, that several geologists of the school of Freyberg have
given it the name of cavern-limestone (hohlenkalkstein). It is this
rock which so often interrupts the course of rivers, by engulfing
them into its bosom. In this also is formed the famous Cueva del
Guacharo, and the other grottoes of the valley of Caripe. The
muriatiferous gypsum,* (* Gypsum of Bottendorf, schlottengyps.)
whether it be found in layers in the Jura or Alpine limestone, or
whether it separate these two formations, or lie between the Alpine
limestone and argillaceous sandstone, also presents, on account of
its great solubility, enormous cavities, sometimes communicating
with each other at several leagues distance. After the limestone
and gypseous formations, there would remain to be examined, among
the secondary rocks, a third formation, that of the argillaceous
sandstone, newer than the brine-spring formations; but this rock,
composed of small grains of quartz cemented by clay, seldom
contains caverns; and when it does, they are not extensive.
Progressively narrowing towards their extremity, their walls are
covered with a brown ochre.

We have just seen, that the form of grottoes depends partly on the
nature of the rocks in which they are found; but this form,
modified by exterior agents, often varies even in the same
formation. The configuration of caverns, like the outline of
mountains, the sinuosity of valleys, and so many other phenomena,
present at first sight only irregularity and confusion. The
appearance of order is resumed, when we can extend our observations
over a vast space of ground, which has undergone violent, but
periodical and uniform revolutions. From what I have seen in the
mountains of Europe, and in the Cordilleras of America, caverns may
be divided, according to their interior structure, into three
classes. Some have the form of large clefts or crevices, like veins
not filled with ore; such as the cavern of Rosenmuller, in
Franconia, Elden-hole, in the peak of Derbyshire, and the Sumideros
of Chamacasapa in Mexico. Other caverns are open to the light at
both ends. These are rocks really pierced; natural galleries, which
run through a solitary mountain: such are the Hohleberg of
Muggendorf, and the famous cavern called Dantoe by the Ottomite
Indians, and the Bridge of the Mother of God, by the Mexican
Spaniards. It is difficult to decide respecting the origin of these
channels, which sometimes serve as beds for subterranean rivers.
Are these pierced rocks hollowed out by the impulse of a current?
or should we rather admit that one of the openings of the cavern is
owing to a falling down of the earth subsequent to its original
formation; to a change in the external form of the mountain, for
instance, to a new valley opened on its flank? A third form of
caverns, and the most common of the whole, exhibits a succession of
cavities, placed nearly on the same level, running in the same
direction, and communicating with each other by passages of greater
or less breadth.

To these differences of general form are added other circumstances
not less remarkable. It often happens, that grottoes of little
space have extremely wide openings; whilst we have to creep under
very low vaults, in order to penetrate into the deepest and most
spacious caverns. The passages which unite partial grottoes, are
generally horizontal. I have seen some, however, which resemble
funnels or wells, and which may be attributed to the escape of some
elastic fluid through a mass before being hardened. When rivers
issue from grottoes, they form only a single, horizontal,
continuous channel, the dilatations of which are almost
imperceptible; as in the Cueva del Guacharo we have just described,
and the cavern of San Felipe, near Tehuilotepec in the western
Cordilleras of Mexico. The sudden disappearance* of the river (* In
the night of the 16th April, 1802.), which took its rise from this
last cavern, has impoverished a district in which farmers and
miners equally require water for refreshing the soil and for
working hydraulic machinery.

Considering the variety of structure exhibited by grottoes in both
hemispheres, we cannot but refer their formation to causes totally
different. When we speak of the origin of caverns we must choose
between two systems of natural philosophy: one of these systems
attributes every thing to instantaneous and violent commotions (for
example, to the elastic force of vapours, and to the heavings
occasioned by volcanoes); while the other rests on the operation of
small powers, which produce effects almost insensibly by
progressive action. Those who love to indulge in geological
hypotheses must not, however, forget the horizontality so often
remarked amidst gypseous and calcareous mountains, in the position
of grottoes communicating with each other by passages. This almost
perfect horizontality, this gentle and uniform slope, appears to be
the result of a long abode of the waters, which enlarge by erosion
clefts already existing, and carry off the softer parts the more
easily, as clay or muriate of soda is found mixed with the gypsum
and fetid limestone. These effects are the same, whether the
caverns form one long and continued range, or several of these
ranges lie one over another, as happens almost exclusively in
gypseous mountains.

That which in shelly or Neptunean rocks is caused by the action of
the waters, appears sometimes to be in the volcanic rocks the
effect of gaseous emanations* acting in the direction where they
find the least resistance. (* At Vesuvius, the Duke de la Torre
showed me, in 1805, in currents of recent lava, cavities extending
in the direction of the current, six or seven feet long and three
feet high. These little volcanic caverns were lined with specular
iron, which cannot be called oligiste iron, since M. Gay-Lussac's
last experiments on the oxides of iron.) When melted matter moves
on a very gentle slope, the great axis of the cavity formed by the
elastic fluids is nearly horizontal, or parallel to the plane on
which the movement of transition takes place. A similar
disengagement of vapours, joined to the elastic force of the gases,
which penetrate strata softened and raised up, appears sometimes to
have given great extent to the caverns found in trachytes or
trappean porphyries. These porphyritic caverns, in the Cordilleras
of Quito and Peru, bear the Indian name of Machays.* (* Machay is a
word of the Quichua language, commonly called by the Spaniards the
Incas' language. Callancamachay means a cavern as large as a house,
a cavern that serves as a tambo or caravansarai.) They are in
general of little depth. They are lined with sulphur, and differ by
the enormous size of their openings from those observed in volcanic
tufas* in Italy, at Teneriffe, and in the Andes. (*Sometimes fire
acts like water in carrying off masses, and thus the cavities may
be caused by an igneous, though more frequently by an aqueous
erosion or solution.) It is by connecting in the mind the
primitive, secondary, and volcanic rocks, and distinguishing
between the oxidated crust of the globe, and the interior nucleus,
composed perhaps of metallic and inflammable substances, that we
may account for the existence of grottoes everywhere. They act in
the economy of nature as vast reservoirs of water and of elastic

The gypseous caverns glitter with crystallized selenites. Vitreous
crystallized plates of brown and yellow stand out on a striated
ground composed of layers of alabaster and fetid limestone. The
calcareous grottoes have a more uniform tint. They are more
beautiful, and richer in stalactites, in proportion as they are
narrower, and the circulation of air is less free. By being
spacious, and accessible to air, the cavern of Caripe is almost
destitute of those incrustations, the imitative forms of which are
in other countries objects of popular curiosity. I also sought in
vain for subterranean plants, those cryptogamia of the family of
the Usneaceae, which we sometimes find fixed on the stalactites,
like ivy on walls, when we penetrate for the first time into a
lateral grotto.* (* Lichen tophicola was discovered when the
beautiful cavern of Rosenmuller in Franconia was first opened. The
cavity containing the lichen was found closed on all sides by
enormous masses of stalactite.)

The caverns in mountains of gypsum often contain mephitic
emanations and deleterious gases. It is not the sulphate of lime
that acts on the atmospheric air, but the clay slightly mixed with
carbon, and the fetid limestone, so often mingled with the gypsum.
We cannot yet decide, whether the swinestone acts as a
hydrosulphuret, or by means of a bituminous principle.* (* That
description of fetid limestone called by the German mineralogists
stinkstein is always of a blackish brown colour. It is only by
decomposition that it becomes white, after having acted on the
surrounding air. The stinkstein which is of secondary formation,
must not be confounded with a very white primitive granular
limestone of the island of Thasos, which emits, when scraped, a
smell of sulphuretted hydrogen. This marble is coarser grained than
Carrara (Marmor lunense). It was frequently employed by the Grecian
sculptors, and I often picked up fragments of it at the Villa
Adriani, near Rome.) Its property of absorbing oxygen gas is known
to all the miners of Thuringia. It is the same as the action of the
carburetted clay of the gypseous grottoes, and of the great
chambers (sinkwerke) dug in mines of fossil salt which are worked
by the introduction of fresh water. The caverns of calcareous
mountains are not exposed to those decompositions of the
atmospheric air, unless they contain bones of quadrupeds, or the
mould mixed with animal gluten and phosphate of lime, from which
arise inflammable and fetid gases.

Though we made many enquiries among the inhabitants of Caripe,
Cumanacoa, and Cariaco, we did not learn that they had ever
discovered in the cavern of Guacharo either the remains of
carnivorous animals, or those bony breccias of herbivorous animals,
which are found in the caverns of Germany and Hungary, and in the
clefts of the calcareous rocks of Gibraltar. The fossil bones of
the megatherium, of the elephant, and of the mastodon, which
travellers have brought from South America, have all been found in
the light soil of the valleys and table-lands. Excepting the
megalonyx,* a kind of sloth of the size of an ox, described by Mr.
Jefferson, I know not a single instance of the skeleton of an
animal buried in a cavern of the New World. (* The megalonyx was
found in the caverns of Green Briar, in Virginia, at the distance
of 1500 leagues from the megatherium, which resembles it very much,
and is of the size of the rhinoceros.) The extreme scarcity of this
geological phenomenon will appear the less surprising to us, if we
recollect, that in France, England, and Italy, there are also a
great number of grottoes in which we have never met with any
vestige of fossil bones.

Although, in primitive nature, whatever relates to ideas of extent
and mass is of no great importance, yet I may observe, that the
cavern of Caripe is one of the most spacious known to exist in
limestone formations. It is at least 900 metres or 2800 feet in
length.* (* The famous Baumannshohle in the Hartz, according to
Messrs. Gilbert and Ilsen, is only 578 feet in length; the cavern
of Scharzfeld 350; that of Gaylenreuth 304; that of Antiparos 300.
But according to Saussure, the Grotto of Balme is 1300 feet.) Owing
to the different degrees of solubility in rocks, it is generally
not in calcareous mountains, but in gypseous formations, that we
find the most extensive succession of grottoes. In Saxony there are
some in gypsum several leagues in length; for instance, that of
Wimelburg, which communicates with the cavern of Cresfield.

The determination of the temperature of grottoes presents a field
for interesting observation. The cavern of Caripe, situated nearly
in the latitude of 10 degrees 10 minutes, consequently in the
centre of the torrid zone, is elevated 506 toises above the level
of the sea in the gulf of Cariaco. We found that, in every part of
it, in the month of September, the temperature of the internal air
was between 18.4 and 18.9 degrees of the centesimal thermometer;
the external atmosphere being at 16.2 degrees. At the entrance of
the cavern, the thermometer in the open air was at 17.6 degrees;
but when immersed in the water of the little subterranean river, it
marked, even to the end of the cavern, 16.8 degrees. These
experiments are very interesting, if we reflect on the tendency to
equilibrium of heat, in the waters, the air, and the earth. When I
left Europe, men of science were regretting that they had not
sufficient data on what is called the temperature of the interior
of the globe; and it is but very recently that efforts have been
made, and with some success, to solve the grand problem of
subterranean meteorology. The stony strata that form the crust of
our planet, are alone accessible to our examination; and we now
know that the mean temperature of these strata varies not only with
latitudes and heights, but that, according to the position of the
several places, it performs also, in the space of a year, regular
oscillations round the mean heat of the neighbouring atmosphere.
The time is gone by when men were surprised to find, in other
zones, the heat of grottoes and wells differing from that observed
in the caves of the observatory at Paris. The same instrument which
in those caves marks 12 degrees, rises in the subterraneous caverns
of the island of Madeira, near Funchal, to 16.2 degrees; in
Joseph's Well, at Cairo* to 21.2 degrees (* At Funchal (latitude 32
degrees 37 minutes) the mean temperature of the air is 20.4
degrees, and at Cairo (latitude 30 degrees 2 minutes), according to
Nouet, it is 22.4 degrees.); in the grottoes of the island of Cuba
to 22 or 23 degrees.* (* The mean temperature of the air at the
Havannah, according to Mr. Ferrer, is 25.6 degrees.) This increase
is nearly in proportion to that of the mean temperature of the
atmosphere, from latitude 48 degrees to the tropics.

We have just seen that, in the Cueva del Guacharo, the water of the
river is nearly 2 degrees colder than the ambient air of the
cavern. The water, whether in filtering through the rocks, or in
running over stony beds, doubtless imbibes the temperature of these
beds. The air contained in the grotto, on the contrary, is not in
repose; it communicates with the external atmosphere. Though under
the torrid zone, the changes of the external temperature are
exceedingly trifling, currents are formed, which modify
periodically the internal air. It is consequently the temperature
of the waters, that of 16.8 degrees, which we might look upon as
the temperature of the earth in those mountains, if we were sure
that the waters do not descend rapidly from more elevated
neighbouring mountains.

It follows from these observations, that when we cannot obtain
results perfectly exact, we find at least under each zone certain
numbers which indicate the maximum and minimum. At Caripe, in the
equinoctial zone, at an elevation of 500 toises, the mean
temperature of the globe is not below 16.8 degrees, which was the
degree indicated by the water of the subterranean river. We can
even prove that this temperature of the globe is not above 19
degrees, since the air of the cavern, in the month of September,
was found to be at 18.7 degrees. As the mean temperature of the
atmosphere, in the hottest month, does not exceed 19.5 degrees,* it
is probable that a thermometer in the grotto would not rise higher
than 19 degrees at any season of the year. (* The mean temperature
of the month of September at Caripe is 18.5 degrees; and on the
coast of Cumana, where we had opportunities of making numerous
observations, the mean heat of the warmest months differs only 1.8
degrees from that of the coldest.)



The days we passed at the Capuchin convent in the mountains of
Caripe, glided swiftly away, though our manner of living was simple
and uniform. From sunrise to nightfall we traversed the forests and
neighbouring mountains, to collect plants. When the winter rains
prevented us from undertaking distant excursions, we visited the
huts of the Indians, the conuco of the community, or those
assemblies in which the alcaldes every evening arrange the labours
of the succeeding day. We returned to the monastery only when the
sound of the bell called us to the refectory to share the repasts
of the missionaries. Sometimes, very early in the morning, we
followed them to the church, to attend the doctrina, that is to
say, the religious instruction of the Indians. It was rather a
difficult task to explain dogmas to the neophytes, especially those
who had but a very imperfect knowledge of the Spanish language. On
the other hand, the monks are as yet almost totally ignorant of the
language of the Chaymas; and the resemblance of sounds confuses the
poor Indians and suggests to them the most whimsical ideas. Of this
I may cite an example. I saw a missionary labouring earnestly to
prove that infierno, hell, and invierno, winter, were not one and
the same thing; but as different as heat and cold. The Chaymas are
acquainted with no other winter than the season of rains; and
consequently they imagined the Hell of the whites to be a place
where the wicked are exposed to frequent showers. The missionary
harangued to no purpose: it was impossible to efface the first
impression produced by the analogy between the two consonants. He
could not separate in the minds of the neophytes the ideas of rain
and hell; invierno and infierno.

After passing almost the whole day in the open air, we employed our
evenings, at the convent, in making notes, drying our plants, and
sketching those that appeared to form new genera. Unfortunately the
misty atmosphere of a valley, where the surrounding forests fill
the air with an enormous quantity of vapour, was unfavourable to
astronomical observations. I spent a part of the nights waiting to
take advantage of the moment when some star should be visible
between the clouds, near its passage over the meridian. I often
shivered with cold, though the thermometer only sunk to 16 degrees,
which is the temperature of the day in our climates towards the end
of September. The instruments remained set up in the court of the
convent for several hours, yet I was almost always disappointed in
my expectations. Some good observations of Fomalhaut and of Deneb
have given 10 degrees 10 minutes 14 seconds as the latitude of
Caripe; which proves that the position indicated in the maps of
Caulin is 18 minutes wrong, and in that of Arrowsmith 14 minutes.

Observations of corresponding altitudes of the sun having given me
the true time, within about 2 seconds, I was enabled to determine
the magnetic variation with precision, at noon. It was, on the 20th
of September, 1799, 3 degrees 15 minutes 30 seconds north-east;
consequently 0 degrees 58 minutes 15 seconds less than at Cumana.
If we attend to the influence of the horary variations, which in
these countries do not in general exceed 8 minutes, we shall find,
that at considerable distances the variation changes less rapidly
than is usually supposed. The dip of the needle was 42.75 degrees,
centesimal division, and the number of oscillations, expressing the
intensity of the magnetic forces, rose to 229 in ten minutes.

The vexation of seeing the stars disappear in a misty sky was the
only disappointment we felt in the valley of Caripe. The aspect of
this spot presents a character at once wild and tranquil, gloomy
and attractive. In the solitude of these mountains we are perhaps
less struck by the new impressions we receive at every step, than
with the marks of resemblance we trace in climates the most remote
from each other. The hills by which the convent is backed, are
crowned with palm-trees and arborescent ferns. In the evenings,
when the sky denotes rain, the air resounds with the monotonous
howling of the alouate apes, which resembles the distant sound of
wind when it shakes the forest. Yet amid these strange sounds,
these wild forms of plants, and these prodigies of a new world,
nature everywhere speaks to man in a voice familiar to him. The
turf that overspreads the soil: the old moss and fern that cover
the roots of the trees; the torrents that gush down the sloping
banks of the calcareous rocks; in fine, the harmonious accordance
of tints reflected by the waters, the verdure, and the sky;
everything recalls to the traveller, sensations which he has
already felt.

The beauties of this mountain scenery so much engaged us, that we
were very tardy in observing the embarrassment felt by our kind
entertainers the monks. They had but a slender provision of wine
and wheaten bread; and although in those high regions both are
considered as belonging merely to the luxuries of the table, yet we
saw with regret, that our hosts abstained from them on our account.
Our portion of bread had already been diminished three-fourths, yet
violent rains still obliged us to delay our departure for two days.
How long did this delay appear! It made us dread the sound of the
bell that summoned us to the refectory.

We departed at length on the 22nd of September, followed by four
mules, laden with our instruments and plants. We had to descend the
north-east slope of the calcareous Alps of New Andalusia, which we
have called the great chain of the Brigantine and the Cocollar. The
mean elevation of this chain scarcely exceeds six or seven hundred
toises: in respect to height and geological constitution, we may
compare it to the chain of the Jura. Notwithstanding the
inconsiderable elevation of the mountains of Cumana, the descent is
extremely difficult and dangerous in the direction of Cariaco. The
Cerro of Santa Maria, which the missionaries ascend in their
journey from Cumana to their convent at Caripe, is famous for the
difficulties it presents to travellers. On comparing these
mountains with the Andes of Peru, the Pyrenees, and the Alps, which
we successively visited, it has more than once occurred to us, that
the less lofty summits are sometimes the most inaccessible.

On leaving the valley of Caripe, we first crossed a ridge of hills
north-east of the convent. The road led us along a continual ascent
through a vast savannah, as far as the table-land of Guardia de San
Augustin. We there halted to wait for the Indian who carried the
barometer. We found ourselves to be at 533 toises of absolute
elevation, or a little higher than the bottom of the cavern of
Guacharo. The savannahs or natural meadows, which yield excellent
pasture for the cows of the convent, are totally devoid of trees or
shrubs. It is the domain of the monocotyledonous plants; for amidst
the gramina only a few Maguey* plants rise here and there (* Agave
Americana.); their flowery stalks being more than twenty-six feet
high. Having reached the table-land of Guardia, we appeared to be
transported to the bed of an old lake, levelled by the
long-continued abode of the waters. We seemed to trace the
sinuosities of the ancient shore in the tongues of land which jut
out from the craggy rock, and even in the distribution of the
vegetation. The bottom of the basin is a savannah, while its banks
are covered with trees of full growth. This is probably the most
elevated valley in the provinces of Venezuela and Cumana. One
cannot but regret, that a spot favoured by so temperate a climate,
and which without doubt would be fit for the culture of corn, is
totally uninhabited.

From the table-land of Guardia we continued to descend, till we
reached the Indian village of Santa Cruz. We passed at first along
a slope extremely slippery and steep, to which the missionaries had
given the name of Baxada del Purgatorio, or Descent of Purgatory.
It is a rock of schistose sandstone, decomposed, covered with clay,
the talus of which appears frightfully steep, from the effect of a
very common optical illusion. When we look down from the top to the
bottom of the hill the road seems inclined more than 60 degrees.
The mules in going down draw their hind legs near to their fore
legs, and lowering their cruppers, let themselves slide at a
venture. The rider runs no risk, provided he slacken the bridle,
thereby leaving the animal quite free in his movements. From this
point we perceived towards the left the great pyramid of Guacharo.
The appearance of this calcareous peak is very picturesque, but we
soon lost sight of it, on entering the thick forest, known by the
name of the Montana de Santa Maria. We descended without
intermission for seven hours. It is difficult to conceive a more
tremendous descent; it is absolutely a road of steps, a kind of
ravine, in which, during the rainy season, impetuous torrents dash
from rock to rock. The steps are from two to three feet high, and
the beasts of burden, after measuring with their eyes the space
necessary to let their load pass between the trunks of the trees,
leap from one rock to another. Afraid of missing their mark, we saw
them stop a few minutes to scan the ground, and bring together
their four feet like wild goats. If the animal does not reach the
nearest block of stone, he sinks half his depth into the soft
ochreous clay, that fills up the interstices of the rock. When the
blocks are wanting, enormous roots serve as supports for the feet
of men and beasts. Some of these roots are twenty inches thick, and
they often branch out from the trunks of the trees much above the
level of the soil. The Creoles have sufficient confidence in the
address and instinct of the mules, to remain in their saddles
during this long and dangerous descent. Fearing fatigue less than
they did, and being accustomed to travel slowly for the purpose of
gathering plants and examining the nature of the rocks, we
preferred going down on foot; and, indeed, the care which our
chronometers demanded, left us no liberty of choice.

The forest that covers the steep flank of the mountain of Santa
Maria, is one of the thickest I ever saw. The trees are of
stupendous height and size. Under their bushy, deep green foliage,
there reigns continually a kind of dim daylight, a peculiar sort of
obscurity, of which our forests of pines, oaks, and beech-trees,
convey no idea. Notwithstanding its elevated temperature, it is
difficult to believe that the air can dissolve the quantity of
water exhaled from the surface of the soil, the foliage of the
trees, and their trunks: the latter are covered with a drapery of
orchideae, peperomia, and other succulent plants. With the aromatic
odour of the flowers, the fruit, and even the wood, is mingled that
which we perceive in autumn in misty weather. Here, as in the
forests of the Orinoco, fixing our eyes on the top of the trees, we
discerned streams of vapour, whenever a solar ray penetrated, and
traversed the dense atmosphere. Our guides pointed out to us among
those majestic trees, the height of which exceeded 120 or 130 feet,
the curucay of Terecen. It yields a whitish liquid, and very
odoriferous resin, which was formerly employed by the Cumanagoto
and Tagiri Indians, to perfume their idols. The young branches have
an agreeable taste, though somewhat astringent. Next to the curucay
and enormous trunks of hymenaea, (the diameter of which was more
than nine or ten feet), the trees which most excited our attention
were the dragon's blood (Croton sanguifluum), the purple-brown
juice of which flows down a whitish bark; the calahuala fern,
different from that of Peru, but almost equally medicinal;* (* The
calahuala of Caripe is the Polypodium crassifolium; that of Peru,
the use of which has been so much extended by Messrs. Ruiz and
Pavon, comes from the Aspidium coriaceum, Willd. (Tectaria
calahuala, Cav.) In commerce the diaphoretic roots of the
Polypodium crassifolium, and of the Acrostichum huascaro, are mixed
with those of the calahuala or Aspidium coriaceum.) and the
palm-trees, irasse, macanilla, corozo, and praga.* (* Aiphanes
praga.) The last yields a very savoury palm-cabbage, which we had
sometimes eaten at the convent of Caripe. These palms with pinnated
and thorny leaves formed a pleasing contrast to the fern-trees. One
of the latter, the Cyathea speciosa,* grows to the height of more
than thirty-five feet, a prodigious size for plants of this family.
(* Possibly a hemitelia of Robert Brown. The trunk alone is from 22
to 24 feet long. This and the Cyathea excelsa of the Mauritius, are
the most majestic of all the fern-trees described by botanists. The
total number of these gigantic cryptogamous plants amounts at
present to 25 species, that of the palm-trees to 80. With the
cyathea grow, on the mountain of Santa Maria, Rhexia juniperina,
Chiococca racemosa, and Commelina spicata.) We discovered here, and
in the valley of Caripe, five new kinds of arborescent ferns.* (*
Meniscium arborescens, Aspidium caducum, A. rostratum, Cyathea
villosa, and C. speciosa.) In the time of Linnaeus, botanists knew
no more than four on both continents.

We observed that the fern-trees are in general much more rare than
the palm-trees. Nature has confined them to temperate, moist, and
shady places. They shun the direct rays of the sun, and while the
pumos, the corypha of the steppes and other palms of America,
flourish on the barren and burning plains, these ferns with
arborescent trunks, which at a distance look like palm-trees,
preserve the character and habits of cryptogamous plants. They love
solitary places, little light, moist, temperate and stagnant air.
If they sometimes descend towards the sea-coast, it is only under
cover of a thick shade. The old trunks of the cyathea and the
meniscium are covered with a carbonaceous powder, which, probably
being deprived of hydrogen, has a metallic lustre like plumbago. No
other plant presents this phenomenon; for the trunks of the
dicotyledons, in spite of the heat of the climate, and the
intensity of the light, are less burnt within the tropics than in
the temperate zone. It may be said that the trunks of the ferns,
which, like the monocotyledons, are enlarged by the remains of the
petioles, decay from the circumference to the centre; and that,
deprived of the cortical organs through which the elaborated juices
descend to the roots, they are burnt more easily by the action of
the oxygen of the atmosphere. I brought to Europe some powders with
metallic lustre, taken from very old trunks of Meniscium and

In proportion as we descended the mountain of Santa Maria, we saw
the arborescent ferns diminish, and the number of palm-trees
increase. The beautiful large-winged butterflies (nymphales), which
fly at a prodigious height, became more common. Everything denoted
our approach to the coast, and to a zone in which the mean
temperature of the day is from 28 to 30 degrees.

The weather was cloudy, and led us to fear one of those heavy
rains, during which from 1 to 1.3 inches of water sometimes falls
in a day. The sun at times illumined the tops of the trees; and,
though sheltered from its rays, we felt an oppressive heat. Thunder
rolled at a distance; the clouds seemed suspended on the top of the
lofty mountains of the Guacharo; and the plaintive howling of the
araguatoes, which we had so often heard at Caripe, denoted the
proximity of the storm. We now for the first time had a near view
of these howling apes. They are of the family of the alouates,* (*
Stentor, Geoffroy.) the different species of which have long been
confounded one with another. The small sapajous of America, which
imitate in whistling the tones of the passeres, have the bone of
the tongue thin and simple, but the apes of large size, as the
alouates and marimondes,* (* Ateles, Geoffroy.) have the tongue
placed on a large bony drum. Their superior larynx has six pouches,
in which the voice loses itself; and two of which, shaped like
pigeons' nests, resemble the inferior larynx of birds. The air
driven with force into the bony drum produces that mournful sound
which characterises the araguatoes. I sketched on the spot these
organs, which are imperfectly known to anatomists, and published
the description of them on my return to Europe.

The araguato, which the Tamanac Indians call aravata,* (* In the
writings of the early Spanish missionaries, this monkey is
described by the names of aranata and araguato. In both names we
easily discover the same root. The v has been transformed into g
and n. The name of arabata, which Gumilla gives to the howling apes
of the Lower Orinoco, and which Geoffroy thinks belongs to the S.
straminea of Great Paria, is the same Tamanac word aravata. This
identity of names need not surprise us. The language of the Chayma
Indians of Cumana is one of the numerous branches of the Tamanac
language, and the latter is connected with the Caribbee language of
the Lower Orinoco.) and the Maypures marave, resembles a young
bear.* (* Alouate ourse (Simia ursina).) It is three feet long,
reckoning from the top of the head (which is small and very
pyramidal) to the beginning of the prehensile tail. Its fur is
bushy, and of a reddish brown; the breast and belly are covered
with fine hair, and not bare as in the mono colorado, or alouate
roux of Buffon, which we carefully examined in going from
Carthagena to Santa Fe de Bogota. The face of the araguato is of a
blackish blue, and is covered with a fine and wrinkled skin: its
beard is pretty long; and, notwithstanding the direction of the
facial line, the angle of which is only thirty degrees, the
araguato has, in the expression of the countenance, as much
resemblance to man as the marimonde (S. belzebuth, Bresson) and the
capuchin of the Orinoco (S. chiropotes). Among thousands of
araguatoes which we observed in the provinces of Cumana, Caracas,
and Guiana, we never saw any change in the reddish brown fur of the
back and shoulders, whether we examined individuals or whole
troops. It appeared to me in general, that variety of colour is
less frequent among monkeys than naturalists suppose.

The araguato of Caripe is a new species of the genus Stentor, which
I have above described. It differs equally from the ouarine (S.
guariba) and the alouate roux (S. seniculus, old man of the woods).
Its eye, voice, and gait, denote melancholy. I have seen young
araguatoes brought up in Indian huts. They never play like the
little sagoins, and their gravity was described with much
simplicity by Lopez de Gomara, in the beginning of the sixteenth
century. "The Aranata de los Cumaneses," says this author, "has the
face of a man, the beard of a goat, and a grave demeanour (honrado
gesto.)" Monkeys are more melancholy in proportion as they have
more resemblance to man. Their sprightliness diminishes, as their
intellectual faculties appear to increase.

We stopped to observe some howling monkeys, which, to the number of
thirty or forty, crossed the road, passing in a file from one tree
to another over the horizontal and intersecting branches. While we
were observing their movements, we saw a troop of Indians going
towards the mountains of Caripe. They were without clothing, as the
natives of this country generally are. The women, laden with rather
heavy burdens, closed the march. The men were all armed; and even
the youngest boys had bows and arrows. They moved on in silence,
with their eyes fixed on the ground. We endeavoured to learn from
them whether we were yet far from the Mission of Santa Cruz, where
we intended passing the night. We were overcome with fatigue, and
suffered from thirst. The heat increased as the storm drew near,
and we had not met with a single spring on the way. The words si,
patre; no, patre; which the Indians continually repeated, led us to
think they understood a little Spanish. In the eyes of a native
every white man is a monk, a padre; for in the Missions the colour
of the skin characterizes the monk, more than the colour of the
garment. In vain we questioned them respecting the length of the
way: they answered, as if by chance, si and no, without our being
able to attach any precise sense to their replies. This made us the
more impatient, as their smiles and gestures indicated their wish
to direct us; and the forest seemed at every step to become thicker
and thicker. At length we separated from the Indians; our guides
were able to follow us only at a distance, because the beasts of
burden fell at every step in the ravines.

After journeying for several hours, continually descending on
blocks of scattered rock, we found ourselves unexpectedly at the
outlet of the forest of Santa Maria. A savannah, the verdure of
which had been renewed by the winter rains, stretched before us
farther than the eye could reach. On the left we discovered a
narrow valley, extending as far as the mountains of the Guacharo,
and covered with a thick forest. Looking downward, the eye rested
on the tops of the trees, which, at eight hundred feet below the
road, formed a carpet of verdure of a dark and uniform tint. The
openings in the forest appeared like vast funnels, in which we
could distinguish by their elegant forms and pinnated leaves, the
Praga and Irasse palms. But what renders this spot eminently
picturesque, is the aspect of the Sierra del Guacharo. Its northern
slope, in the direction of the gulf of Cariaco, is abrupt. It
presents a wall of rock, an almost vertical profile, exceeding 3000
feet in height. The vegetation which covers this wall is so scanty,
that the eye can follow the lines of the calcareous strata. The
summit of the Sierra is flat, and it is only at its eastern
extremity, that the majestic peak of the Guacharo rises like an
inclined pyramid, its form resembles that of the needles and horns*
of the Alps. (* The Shreckhorner, the Finsteraarhorn, etc.)

The savannah we crossed to the Indian village of Santa Cruz is
composed of several smooth plateaux, lying above each other like
terraces. This geological phenomenon, which is repeated in every
climate, seems to indicate a long abode of the waters in basins
that have poured them from one to the other. The calcareous rock is
no longer visible, but is covered with a thick layer of mould. The
last time we saw it in the forest of Santa Maria it was slightly
porous, and looked more like the limestone of Cumanacoa than that
of Caripe. We there found brown iron-ore disseminated in patches,
and if we were not deceived in our observation, a Cornu-ammonis,
which we could not succeed in our attempt to detach. It was seven
inches in diameter. This fact is the more important, as in this
part of America we have never seen ammonites. The Mission of Santa
Cruz is situated in the midst of the plain. We reached it towards
the evening, suffering much from thirst, having travelled nearly
eight hours without finding water. The thermometer kept at 26
degrees; accordingly we were not more than 190 toises above the
level of the sea.

We passed the night in one of those ajupas called King's houses,
which, as I have already said, serve as tambos or caravanserais to
travellers. The rains prevented any observations of the stars; and
the next day, the 23rd of September, we continued our descent
towards the gulf of Cariaco. Beyond Santa Cruz a thick forest again
appears; and in it we found, under tufts of melastomas, a beautiful
fern, with osmundia leaves, which forms a new genus of the order of
polypodiaceous plants.* (* Polybotya.)

Having reached the mission of Catuaro, we were desirous of
continuing our journey eastward by Santa Rosalia, Casanay, San
Josef, Carupano, Rio Carives, and the Montana of Paria; but we
learnt with great regret, that torrents of rain had rendered the
roads impassable, and that we should run the risk of losing the
plants we had already gathered. A rich planter of cacao-trees was
to accompany us from Santa Rosalia to the port of Carupano; but
when the time of departure approached, we were informed that his
affairs had called him to Cumana. We resolved in consequence to
embark at Cariaco, and to return directly by the gulf, instead of
passing between the island of Margareta and the isthmus of Araya.
The Mission of Catuaro is situated on a very wild spot. Trees of
full growth still surround the church, and the tigers come by night
to devour the poultry and swine belonging to the Indians. We lodged
at the dwelling of the priest, a monk of the congregation of the
Observance, to whom the Capuchins had confided the Mission, because
priests of their own community were wanting.

At this Mission we met Don Alexandro Mexia, the corregidor of the
district, an amiable and well-educated man. He gave us three
Indians, who, armed with their machetes, were to precede us, and
cut our way through the forest. In this country, so little
frequented, the power of vegetation is such at the period of the
great rains, that a man on horseback can with difficulty make his
way through narrow paths, covered with lianas and intertwining
branches. To our great annoyance, the missionary of Catuaro
insisted on conducting us to Cariaco; and we could not decline the
proposal. The movement for independence, which had nearly broken
out at Caracas in 1798, had been preceded and followed by great
agitation among the slaves at Coro, Maracaybo, and Cariaco. At the
last of these places an unfortunate negro had been condemned to
die, and our host, the vicar of Catuaro, was going thither to offer
him spiritual comfort. During our journey we could not escape
conversations, in which the missionary pertinaciously insisted on
the necessity of the slave-trade, on the innate wickedness of the
blacks, and the benefit they derived from their state of slavery
among the Christians! The mildness of Spanish legislation, compared
with the Black Code of most other nations that have possessions in
either of the Indies, cannot be denied. But such is the state of
the negroes, that justice, far from efficaciously protecting them
during their lives, cannot even punish acts of barbarity which
cause their death.

The road we took across the forest of Catuaro resembled the descent
of the mountain Santa Maria; here also, the most difficult and
dangerous places have fanciful names. We walked as in a narrow
furrow, scooped out by torrents, and filled with fine tenacious
clay. The mules lowered their cruppers and slid down the steepest
slopes. This descent is called Saca Manteca.* (* Or the
Butter-Slope. Manteca in Spanish signifies butter.) There is no
danger in the descent, owing to the great address of the mules of
this country. The clay, which renders the soil so slippery, is
produced by the numerous layers of sandstone and schistose clay
crossing the bluish grey alpine limestone. This last disappears as
we draw nearer to Cariaco. When we reached the mountain of Meapira,
we found it formed in great part of a white limestone, filled with
fossil remains, and from the grains of quartz agglutinated in the
mass, it appeared to belong to the great formation of the sea-coast
breccias. We descended this mountain on the strata of the rock, the
section of which forms steps of unequal height. Farther on, going
out of the forest, we reached the hill of Buenavista,* (* Mountain
of the Fine Prospect.) well deserving the name it bears; since it
commands a view of the town of Cariaco, situated in the midst of a
vast plain filled with plantations, huts, and scattered groups of
cocoa-palms. To the west of Cariaco extends the wide gulf; which a
wall of rock separates from the ocean: and towards the east are
seen, like bluish clouds, the high mountains of Paria and Areo.
This is one of the most extensive and magnificent prospects that
can be enjoyed on the coast of New Andalusia. In the town of
Cariaco we found a great part of the inhabitants suffering from
intermittent fever; a disease which in autumn assumes a formidable
character. When we consider the extreme fertility of the
surrounding plains, their moisture, and the mass of vegetation with
which they are covered, we may easily conceive why, amidst so much
decomposition of organic matter, the inhabitants do not enjoy that
salubrity of air which characterizes the climate of Cumana.

The chain of calcareous mountains of the Brigantine and the
Cocollar sends off a considerable branch to the north, which joins
the primitive mountains of the coast. This branch bears the name of
Sierra de Meapire; but towards the town of Cariaco it is called
Cerro Grande de Curiaco. Its mean height did not appear to be more
than 150 or 200 toises. It was composed, where I could examine it,
of the calcareous breccias of the sea-coast. Marly and calcareous
beds alternate with other beds containing grains of quartz. It is a
very striking phenomenon for those who study the physical aspect of
a country, to see a transverse ridge connect at right angles two
parallel ridges, of which one, the more southern, is composed of
secondary rocks, and the other, the more northern, of primitive
rocks. The latter presents, nearly as far as the meridian of
Carupano, only mica-slate; but to the east of this point, where it
communicates by a transverse ridge (the Sierra de Meapire) with the
limestone range, it contains lamellar gypsum, compact limestone,
and other rocks of secondary formation. It might be supposed that
the southern ridge has transferred these rocks to the northern

When standing on the summit of the Cerro del Meapire, we see the
mountain currents flow on one side to the gulf of Paria, and on the
other to the gulf of Cariaco. East and west of the ridge there are
low and marshy grounds, spreading out without interruption; and if
it be admitted that both gulfs owe their origin to the sinking of
the earth, and to rents caused by earthquakes, we must suppose that
the Cerro de Meapire has resisted the convulsive movements of the
globe, and hindered the waters of the gulf of Paria from uniting
with those of the gulf of Cariaco. But for this rocky dyke, the
isthmus itself in all probability would have had no existence; and
from the castle of Araya as far as Cape Paria, the whole mass of
the mountains of the coast would have formed a narrow island,
parallel to the island of Santa Margareta, and four times as long.
Not only do the inspection of the ground, and considerations
deduced from its relievo, confirm these opinions; but a mere glance
of the configuration of the coasts, and a geological map of the
country, would suggest the same ideas. It would appear that the
island of Margareta has been heretofore attached to the coast-chain
of Araya by the peninsula of Chacopata and the Caribbee islands,
Lobo and Coche, in the same manner as this chain is still connected
with that of the Cocollar and Caripe by the ridge of Meapire.

At present we perceive that the humid plains which stretch east and
west of the ridge, and which are improperly called the valleys San
Bonifacio and Cariaco, are enlarging by gaining on the sea. The
waters are receding, and these changes of the shore are very
remarkable, more particularly on the coast of Cumana. If the level
of the soil seem to indicate that the two gulfs of Cariaco and
Paria formerly occupied a much more considerable space, we cannot
doubt that at present the land is progressively extending. Near
Cumana, a battery, called La Boca, was built in 1791 on the very
margin of the sea; in 1799 we saw it very far inland. At the mouth
of the Rio Neveri, near the Morro of Nueva Barcelona, the retreat
of the waters is still more rapid. This local phenomenon is
probably assignable to accumulations of sand, the progress of which
has not yet been sufficiently examined. Descending the Sierra de
Meapire, which forms the isthmus between the plains of San
Bonifacio and Cariaco, we find towards the east the great lake of
Putacuao, which communicates with the river Areo, and is four or
five leagues in diameter. The mountainous lands that surround this
basin are known only to the natives. There are found those great
boa serpents known to the Chayma Indians by the name of guainas,
and to which they fabulously attribute a sting under the tail.
Descending the Sierra de Meapire to the west, we find at first a
hollow ground (tierra hueca) which, during the great earthquakes of
1766, threw out asphaltum enveloped in viscous petroleum. Farther
on, a numberless quantity of sulphureous thermal springs* are seen
issuing from the soil (* El Llano de Aguas calientes,
east-north-east of Cariaco, at the distance of two leagues.); and
at length we reach the borders of the lake of Campoma, the
exhalations from which contribute to the insalubrity of the climate
of Cariaco. The natives believe that the hollow is formed by the
engulfing of the hot springs; and, judging from the sound heard
under the hoofs of the horses, we must conclude that the
subterranean cavities are continued from west to east nearly as far
as Casanay, a length of three or four thousand toises. A little
river, the Rio Azul, runs through these plains which are rent into
crevices by earthquakes. These earthquakes have a particular centre
of action, and seldom extend as far as Cumana. The waters of the
Rio Azul are cold and limpid; they rise on the western declivity of
the mountain of Meapire, and it is believed that they are augmented
by infiltrations from the lake Putacuao, situated on the other side
of the chain. The little river, together with the sulphureous hot
springs, fall into the Laguna de Campoma. This is a name given to a
great lagoon, which is divided in dry weather into three basins
situated north-west of the town of Cariaco, near the extremity of
the gulf. Fetid exhalations arise continually from the stagnant
water of this lagoon. The smell of sulphuretted hydrogen is mingled
with that of putrid fishes and rotting plants.

Miasms are formed in the valley of Cariaco, as in the Campagna of
Rome; but the hot climate of the tropics increases their
deleterious energy. These miasms are probably ternary or quaternary
combinations of azote, phosphorus, hydrogen, carbon, and sulphur.

The situation of the lagoon of Campoma renders the north-west wind,
which blows frequently after sunset, very pernicious to the
inhabitants of the little town of Cariaco. Its influence can be the
less doubted, as intermitting fevers are observed to degenerate
into typhoid fevers, in proportion as we approach the lagoon, which
is the principal focus of putrid miasms. Whole families of free
negroes, who have small plantations on the northern coast of the
gulf of Cariaco, languish in their hammocks from the beginning of
the rainy season. These intermittent fevers assume a dangerous
character, when persons, debilitated by long labour and copious
perspiration, expose themselves to the fine rains, which frequently
fall as evening advances. Nevertheless, the men of colour, and
particularly the Creole negroes, resist much better than any other
race, the influence of the climate. Lemonade and infusions of
Scoparia dulcis are given to the sick; but the cuspare, which is
the cinchona of Angostura, is seldom used.

It is generally observed, that in these epidemics of the town of
Cariaco the mortality is less considerable than might be supposed.
Intermitting fevers, when they attack the same individual during
several successive years, enfeeble the constitution; but this state
of debility, so common on the unhealthy coasts, does not cause
death. What is remarkable enough, is the belief which prevails here
as in the Campagna of Rome, that the air has become progressively
more vitiated in proportion as a greater number of acres have been
cultivated. The miasms exhaled from these plains have, however,
nothing in common with those which arise from a forest when the
trees are cut down, and the sun heats a thick layer of dead leaves.
Near Cariaco the country is but thinly wooded. Can it be supposed
that the mould, fresh stirred and moistened by rains, alters and
vitiates the atmosphere more than the thick wood of plants which
covers an uncultivated soil? To local causes are joined other
causes less problematic. The neighbouring shores of the sea are
covered with mangroves, avicennias, and other shrubs with
astringent bark. All the inhabitants of the tropics are aware of
the noxious exhalations of these plants; and they dread them the
more, as their roots and stocks are not always under water, but
alternately wetted and exposed to the heat of the sun.* The
mangroves produce miasms, because they contain vegeto-animal matter
combined with tannin. (* The following is a list of the social
plants that cover those sandy plains on the sea-side, and
characterize the vegetation of Cumana and the gulf of Cariaco.
Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia nitida, Gomphrena flava, G. brachiata,
Sesuvium portulacastrum (vidrio), Talinum cuspidatum (vicho), T.
cumanense, Portulacca pilosa (zargasso), P. lanuginosa, Illecebrum
maritimum, Atriplex cristata, Heliotropium viride, H. latifolium,
Verbena cuneata, Mollugo verticillata, Euphorbia maritima,
Convolvulus cumanensis.)

The town of Cariaco has been repeatedly sacked in former times by
the Caribs. Its population has augmented rapidly since the
provincial authorities, in spite of prohibitory orders from the
court of Madrid have often favoured the trade with foreign
colonies. The population amounted, in 1800, to more than 6000
souls. The inhabitants are active in the cultivation of cotton,
which is of a very fine quality. The capsules of the cotton-tree,
when separated from the woolly substance, are carefully burnt; as
those husks if thrown into the river, and exposed to putrefaction,
yield noxious exhalations. The culture of the cacao-tree has of
late considerably diminished. This valuable tree bears only after
eight or ten years. Its fruit keeps very badly in the warehouses,
and becomes mouldy at the expiration of a year, notwithstanding all
the precautions employed for drying it.

It is only in the interior of the province, to the east of the
Sierra de Meapire, that new plantations of the cacao-tree are seen.
They become there the more productive, as the lands, newly cleared
and surrounded by forests, are in contact with an atmosphere damp,
stagnant, and loaded with mephitic exhalations. We there see
fathers of families, attached to the old habits of the colonists,
slowly amass a little fortune for themselves and their children.
Thirty thousand cacao-trees will secure competence to a family for
a generation and a half. If the culture of cotton and coffee have
led to the diminution of cacao in the province of Caracas and in
the small valley of Cariaco, it must be admitted that this last
branch of colonial industry has in general increased in the
interior of the provinces of New Barcelona and Cumana. The causes
of the progressive movement of the cacao-tree from west to east may
be easily conceived. The province of Caracas has been from a remote
period cultivated: and, in the torrid zone, in proportion as a
country has been cleared, it becomes drier and more exposed to the
winds. These physical changes have been adverse to the propagation
of cacao-trees, the plantations of which, diminishing in the
province of Caracas, have accumulated eastward on a newly-cleared
and virgin soil. The cacao of Cumana is infinitely superior to that
of Guayaquil. The best is produced in the valley of San Bonifacio;
as the best cacao of New Barcelona, Caracas, and Guatimala, is that
of Capiriqual, Uritucu, and Soconusco. Since the island of Trinidad
has become an English colony, the whole of the eastern extremity of
the province of Cumana, especially the coast of Paria, and the gulf
of the same name, have changed their appearance. Foreigners have
settled there, and have introduced the cultivation of the
coffee-tree, the cotton-tree, and the sugar-cane of Otaheite. The
population has greatly increased at Carupano, in the beautiful
valley of Rio Caribe, at Guira, and at the new town of Punta di
Piedra, built opposite Spanish Harbour, in the island of Trinidad.
The soil is so fertile in the Golfo Triste, that maize yields two
harvests in the year, and produces three hundred and eighty fold
the quantity sown.

Early in the morning we embarked in a sort of narrow canoe, called
a lancha, in hopes of crossing the gulf of Cariaco during the day.
The motion of the waters resembles that of our great lakes, when
they are agitated by the winds. From the embarcadero to Cumana the
distance is only twelve nautical leagues. On quitting the little
town of Cariaco, we proceeded westward along the river of
Carenicuar, which, in a straight line like an artificial canal,
runs through gardens and plantations of cotton-trees. On the banks
of the river of Cariaco we saw the Indian women washing their linen
with the fruit of the parapara (Sapindus saponaria, or soap-berry),
an operation said to be very injurious to the linen. The bark of
the fruit produces a strong lather; and the fruit is so elastic
that if thrown on a stone it rebounds three or four times to the
height of seven or eight feet. Being a spherical form, it is
employed in making rosaries.

After we embarked we had to contend against contrary winds. The
rain fell in torrents, and the thunder rolled very near. Swarms of
flamingoes, egrets, and cormorants filled the air, seeking the
shore, whilst the alcatras, a large species of pelican, alone
continued peaceably to fish in the middle of the gulf. The gulf of
Cariaco is almost everywhere forty-five or fifty fathoms deep; but
at its eastern extremity, near Curaguaca, along an extent of five
leagues, the lead does not indicate more than three or four
fathoms. Here is found the Baxo de la Cotua, a sand-bank, which at
low-water appears like a small island. The canoes which carry
provisions to Cumana sometimes ground on this bank; but always
without danger, because the sea is never rough or heavy. We crossed
that part of the gulf where hot springs gush from the bottom of the
sea. It was flood-tide, so that the change of temperature was not
very perceptible: besides, our canoe drove too much towards the
southern shore. It may be supposed that strata of water must be
found of different temperatures, according to the greater or less
depth, and according as the mingling of the hot waters with those
of the gulf is accelerated by the winds and currents. The existence
of these hot springs, which we were assured raise the temperature
of the sea through an extent of ten or twelve thousand square
toises, is a very remarkable phenomenon. (* In the island of
Guadaloupe, there is a fountain of boiling water, which rushes out
on the beach. Hot-water springs rise from the bottom of the sea in
the gulf of Naples, and near the island of Palma, in the
archipelago of the Canary Islands.) Proceeding from the promontory
of Paria westward, by Irapa, Aguas Calientes, the gulf of Cariaco,
the Brigantine, and the valley of Aragua, as far as the snowy
mountains of Merida, a continued band of thermal waters is found in
an extent of 150 leagues.

Adverse winds and rainy weather forced us to go on shore at
Pericantral, a small farm on the south side of the gulf. The whole
of this coast, though covered with beautiful vegetation, is almost
wholly uncultivated. There are scarcely seven hundred inhabitants:
and, excepting in the village of Mariguitar, we saw only
plantations of cocoa-trees, which are the olives of the country.
This palm occupies on both continents a zone, of which the mean
temperature of the year is not below 20 degrees.* (* The cocoa-tree
grows in the northern hemisphere from the equator to latitude 28
degrees. Near the equator we find it from the plains to the height
of 700 toises above the level of the sea.) It is, like the
chamaerops of the basin of the Mediterranean, a true palm-tree of
the coast. It prefers salt to fresh water; and flourishes less
inland, where the air is not loaded with saline particles, than on
the shore. When cocoa-trees are planted in Terra Firma, or in the
Missions of the Orinoco, at a distance from the sea, a considerable
quantity of salt, sometimes as much as half a bushel, is thrown
into the hole which receives the nut. Among the plants cultivated
by man, the sugar-cane, the plantain, the mammee-apple, and
alligator-pear (Laurus persea), alone have the property of the
cocoa-tree; that of being watered equally well with fresh and salt
water. This circumstance is favourable to their migrations; and if
the sugarcane of the sea-shore yield a syrup that is a little
brackish, it is believed at the same time to be better fitted for
the distillation of spirit than the juice produced from the canes
in inland situations.

The cocoa-tree, in the other parts of America, is in general
cultivated around farm-houses, and the fruit is eaten; in the gulf
of Cariaco, it forms extensive plantations. In a fertile and moist
ground, the tree begins to bear fruit abundantly in the fourth
year; but in dry soils it bears only at the expiration of ten
years. The duration of the tree does not in general exceed eighty
or a hundred years; and its mean height at that age is from seventy
to eighty feet. This rapid growth is so much the more remarkable,
as other palm-trees, for instance, the moriche,* (* Mauritia
flexuosa.) and the palm of Sombrero,* (* Corypha tectorum.) the
longevity of which is very great, frequently do not attain a
greater height than fourteen or eighteen feet in the space of sixty
years. In the first thirty or forty years, a cocoa-tree of the gulf
of Cariaco bears every lunation a cluster of ten or fourteen nuts,
all of which, however, do not ripen. It may be reckoned that, on an
average, a tree produces annually a hundred nuts, which yield eight
flascos* of oil. (One flasco contains 70 or 80 cubic inches, Paris
measure.) In Provence, an olive-tree thirty years old yields twenty
pounds, or seven flascos of oil, so that it produces something less
than a cocoa-tree. There are in the gulf of Cariaco plantations
(haciendas) of eight or nine thousand cocoa-trees. They resemble,
in their picturesque appearance, those fine plantations of
date-trees near Elche, in Murcia, where, over the superficies of
one square league, there may be found upwards of 70,000 palms. The
cocoa-tree bears fruit in abundance till it is thirty or forty
years old; after that age the produce diminishes, and a trunk a
hundred years old, without being altogether barren, yields very
little. In the town of Cumana there is prepared a great quantity of
cocoa-nut oil, which is limpid, without smell, and very fit for
burning. The trade in this oil is not less active than that on the
coast of Africa for palm-oil, which is obtained from the Elais
guineensis, and is used as food. I have often seen canoes arrive at
Cumana laden with 3000 cocoa-nuts.

We did not quit the farm of Pericantral till after sunset. The
south coast of the gulf presents a most fertile aspect, while the
northern coast is naked, dry, and rocky. In spite of this aridity,
and the scarcity of rain, of which sometimes none falls for the
space of fifteen months,* the peninsula of Araya, like the desert
of Canound in India, produces patillas, or water-melons, weighing
from fifty to seventy pounds. (* The rains appear to have been more
frequent at the beginning of the 16th century. At any rate, the
canon of Granada (Peter Martyr d'Anghiera), speaking in the year
1574, of the salt-works of Araya, or of Haraia, described in the
fifth chapter of this work, mentions showers (cadentes imbres) as a
very common phenomenon. The same author, who died in 1526, affirms
that the Indians wrought the salt-works before the arrival of the
Spaniards. They dried the salt in the form of bricks; and our
writer even then discussed the geological question, whether the
clayey soil of Haraia contained salt-springs, or whether it had
been impregnated with salt by the periodical inundations of the
ocean for ages.) In the torrid zone, the vapours contained by the
air form about nine-tenths of the quantity necessary to its
saturation: and vegetation is maintained by the property which the
leaves possess of attracting the water dissolved in the atmosphere.

At sunrise, we saw the Zamuro vultures,* (* Vultur aura.) in flocks
of forty or fifty, perched on the cocoa-trees. These birds range
themselves in files to roost together like fowls. They go to roost
long before sunset, and do not awake till after the sun is above
the horizon. This sluggishness seems as if it were shared in those
climates by the trees with pinnate leaves. The mimosas and the
tamarinds close their leaves, in a clear and serene sky,
twenty-five or thirty-five minutes before sunset, and unfold them
in the morning when the solar disk has been visible for an equal
space of time. As I noticed pretty regularly the rising and setting
of the sun, for the purpose of observing the effect of the mirage,
or of the terrestrial refractions, I was enabled to give continued
attention to the phenomena of the sleep of plants. I found them the
same in the steppes, where no irregularity of the ground
interrupted the view of the horizon. It appears, that, accustomed
during the day to an extreme brilliancy of light, the sensitive and
other leguminous plants with thin and delicate leaves are affected
in the evening by the smallest decline in the intensity of the
sun's rays; so that for vegetation, night begins there, as with us,
before the total disappearance of the solar disk. But why, in a
zone where there is scarcely any twilight, do not the first rays of
the sun stimulate the leaves with the more strength, as the absence
of light must have rendered them more susceptible? Does the
humidity deposited on the parenchyma by the cooling of the leaves,
which is the effect of the nocturnal radiation, prevent the action
of the first rays of the sun? In our climates, the leguminous
plants with irritable leaves awake during the twilight of the
morning, before the sun appears.



I did not wish to mingle with the narrative of our journey to the
Missions of Caripe any general considerations on the different
tribes of the indigenous inhabitants of New Andalusia; their
manners, their languages, and their common origin. Having returned
to the spot whence we set out, I shall now bring into one point of
view these considerations which are so nearly connected with the
history of the human race. As we advance into the interior of the
country, these subjects will become even more interesting than the
phenomena of the physical world. The north-east part of equinoctial
America, Terra Firma, and the banks of the Orinoco, resemble in
respect to the numerous races of people who inhabit them, the
defiles of the Caucasus, the mountains of Hindookho, at the
northern extremity of Asia, beyond the Tungouses, and the Tartare
settled at the mouth of the Lena. The barbarism which prevails
throughout these different regions is perhaps less owing to a
primitive absence of all kind of civilization, than to the effects
of long degradation; for most of the hordes which we designate
under the name of savages, are probably the descendants of nations
highly advanced in cultivation. How can we distinguish the
prolonged infancy of the human race (if, indeed, it anywhere
exists), from that state of moral degradation in which solitude,
want, compulsory misery, forced migration, or rigour of climate,
obliterate even the traces of civilization? If everything connected
with the primitive state of man, and the first population of a
continent, could from its nature belong to the domain of history,
we might appeal to the traditions of India. According to the
opinion frequently expressed in the laws of Menou and in the
Ramajan, savages were regarded as tribes banished from civilized
society, and driven into the forests. The word barbarian, which we
have borrowed from the Greeks and Romans, was possibly merely the
proper name of one of those rude hordes.

In the New World, at the beginning of the conquest, the natives
were collected into large societies only on the ridge of the
Cordilleras and the coasts opposite to Asia. The plains, covered
with forests, and intersected by rivers; the immense savannahs,
extending eastward, and bounding the horizon; were inhabited by
wandering hordes, separated by differences of language and manners,
and scattered like the remnants of a vast wreck. In the absence of
all other monuments, we may endeavour, from the analogy of
languages, and the study of the physical constitution of man, to
group the different tribes, to follow the traces of their distant
emigrations, and to discover some of those family features by which
the ancient unity of our species is manifested.

In the mountainous regions which we have just traversed,--in the
two provinces of Cumana and New Barcelona, the natives, or
primitive inhabitants, still constitute about one-half of the
scanty population. Their number may be reckoned at sixty thousand;
of which twenty-four thousand inhabit New Andalusia. This number is
very considerable, when compared with that of the hunting nations
of North America; but it appears small, when we consider those
parts of New Spain in which agriculture has existed more than eight
centuries: for instance, the Intendencia of Oaxaca, which includes
the Mixteca and the Tzapoteca of the old Mexican empire. This
Intendencia is one-third smaller than the two provinces of Cumana
and Barcelona; yet it contains more than four hundred thousand
natives of pure copper-coloured race. The Indians of Cumana do not
all live within the Missions. Some are dispersed in the
neighbourhood of the towns, along the coasts, to which they are
attracted by the fisheries, and some dwell in little farms on the
plains or savannahs. The Missions of the Aragonese Capuchins which
we visited, alone contain fifteen thousand Indians, almost all of
the Chayma race. The villages, however, are less populous there
than in the province of Barcelona. Their average population is only
between five or six hundred Indians; while more to the west, in the
Missions of the Franciscans of Piritu, we find Indian villages
containing two or three thousand inhabitants. In computing at sixty
thousand the number of natives in the provinces of Cumana and
Barcelona, I include only those who inhabit the mainland, and not
the Guayquerias of the island of Margareta, and the great mass of
the Guaraunos, who have preserved their independence in the islands
formed by the Delta of the Orinoco. The number of these is
generally reckoned at six or eight thousand; but this estimate
appears to me to be exaggerated. Except a few families of Guaraunos
who roam occasionally in the marshy grounds, called Los Morichales,
and between the Cano de Manamo and the Rio Guarapiche,
consequently, on the continent itself, there have not been for
these thirty years, any Indian savages in New Andalusia.

I use with regret the word savage, because it implies a difference
of cultivation between the reduced Indian, living in the Missions,
and the free or independent Indian; a difference which is often
belied by fact. In the forests of South America there are tribes of
natives, peacefully united in villages, and who render obedience to
chiefs.* (* These chiefs bear the designations of Pecannati, Apoto,
or Sibierne.) They cultivate the plantain-tree, cassava, and
cotton, on a tolerably extensive tract of ground, and they employ
the cotton for weaving hammocks. These people are scarcely more
barbarous than the naked Indians of the Missions, who have been
taught to make the sign of the cross. It is a common error in
Europe, to look on all natives not reduced to a state of
subjection, as wanderers and hunters. Agriculture was practised on
the American continent long before the arrival of Europeans. It is
still practised between the Orinoco and the river Amazon, in lands
cleared amidst the forests, places to which the missionaries have
never penetrated. It would be to imbibe false ideas respecting the
actual condition of the nations of South America, to consider as
synonymous the denominations of 'Christian,' 'reduced,' and
'civilized;' and those of 'pagan,' 'savage,' and 'independent.' The
reduced Indian is often as little of a Christian as the independent
Indian is of an idolater. Both, alike occupied by the wants of the
moment, betray a marked indifference for religious sentiments, and
a secret tendency to the worship of nature and her powers. This
worship belongs to the earliest infancy of nations; it excludes
idols, and recognises no other sacred places than grottoes,
valleys, and woods.

If the independent Indians have nearly disappeared for a century
past northward of the Orinoco and the Apure, that is, from the
Snowy Mountains of Merida to the promontory of Paria, it must not
thence be concluded, that there are fewer natives at present in
those regions, than in the time of the bishop of Chiapa, Bartolomeo
de las Casas. In my work on Mexico, I have shown that it is
erroneous to regard as a general fact the destruction and
diminution of the Indians in the Spanish colonies. There still
exist more than six millions of the copper-coloured race, in both
Americas; and, though numberless tribes and languages are either
extinct, or confounded together, it is beyond a doubt that, within
the tropics, in that part of the New World where civilization has
penetrated only since the time of Columbus, the number of natives
has considerably increased. Two of the Carib villages in the
Missions of Piritu or of Carony, contain more families than four or
five of the settlements on the Orinoco. The state of society among
the Caribbees who have preserved their independence, at the sources
of the Essequibo and to the south of the mountains of Pacaraimo,
sufficiently proves how much, even among that fine race of men, the
population of the Missions exceeds in number that of the free and
confederate Caribbees. Besides, the state of the savages of the
torrid zone is not like that of the savages of the Missouri. The
latter require a vast extent of country, because they live only by
hunting; whilst the Indians of Spanish Guiana employ themselves in
cultivating cassava and plantains. A very little ground suffices to
supply them with food. They do not dread the approach of the
whites, like the savages of the United States; who, being
progressively driven back behind the Alleghany mountains, the Ohio,
and the Mississippi, lose their means of subsistence, in proportion
as they find themselves reduced within narrow limits. Under the
temperate zone, whether in the provincias internas of Mexico, or in
Kentucky, the contact of European colonists has been fatal to the
natives, because that contact is immediate.

These causes have no existence in the greater part of South
America. Agriculture, within the tropics, does not require great
extent of ground. The whites advance slowly. The religious orders
have founded their establishments between the domain of the
colonists and the territory of the free Indians. The Missions may
be considered as intermediary states. They have doubtless
encroached on the liberty of the natives; but they have almost
everywhere tended to the increase of population, which is
incompatible with the restless life of the independent Indians. As
the missionaries advance towards the forests, and gain on the
natives, the white colonists in their turn seek to invade in the
opposite direction the territory of the Missions. In this
protracted struggle, the secular arm continually tends to withdraw
the reduced Indian from the monastic hierarchy, and the
missionaries are gradually superseded by vicars. The whites, and
the castes of mixed blood, favoured by the corregidors, establish
themselves among the Indians. The Missions become Spanish villages,
and the natives lose even the remembrance of their natural
language. Such is the progress of civilization from the coasts
toward the interior; a slow progress, retarded by the passions of
man, but nevertheless sure and steady.

The provinces of New Andalusia and Barcelona, comprehended under
the name of Govierno de Cumana, at present include in their
population more than fourteen tribes. Those in New Andalusia are
the Chaymas, Guayqueries, Pariagotos, Quaquas, Aruacas, Caribbees,
and Guaraunos; in the province of Barcelona, Cumanagotos, Palenkas,
Caribbees, Piritus, Tomuzas, Topocuares, Chacopatas, and Guarivas.
Nine or ten of these fifteen tribes consider themselves to be of
races entirely distinct. The exact number of the Guaraunos, who
make their huts on the trees at the mouth of the Orinoco, is
unknown; the Guayqueries, in the suburbs of Cumana and in the
peninsula of Araya, amount to two thousand. Among the other Indian
tribes, the Chaymas of the mountains of Caripe, the Caribs of the
southern savannahs of New Barcelona, and the Cumanagotos in the
Missions of Piritu, are most numerous. Some families of Guaraunos
have been reduced and dwell in Missions on the left bank of the
Orinoco, where the Delta begins. The languages of the Guaraunos and
that of the Caribs, of the Cumanagotos and of the Chaymas, are the
most general. They seem to belong to the same stock; and they
exhibit in their grammatical forms those affinities, which, to use
a comparison taken from languages more known, connect the Greek,
the German, the Persian, and the Sanscrit.

Notwithstanding these affinities, we must consider the Chaymas, the
Guaraunos, the Caribbees, the Quaquas, the Aruacas or Arrawaks, and
the Cumanagotos, as different nations. I would not venture to
affirm the same of the Guayqueries, the Pariagotos, the Piritus,
the Tomuzas, and the Chacopatas. The Guayquerias themselves admit
the analogy between their language and that of the Guaraunos. Both
are a littoral race, like the Malays of the ancient continent. With
respect to the tribes who at present speak the Cumanagota,
Caribbean, and Chayma tongues, it is difficult to decide on their
first origin, and their relations with other nations formerly more
powerful. The historians of the conquest, as well as the
ecclesiastics who have described the progress of the Missions,
continually confound, like the ancients, geographical denominations
with the names of races. They speak of Indians of Cumana and of the
coast of Paria, as if the proximity of abode proved the identity of
origin. They most commonly even give to tribes the names of their
chiefs, or of the mountains or valleys they inhabit. This
circumstance, by infinitely multiplying the number of tribes, gives
an air of uncertainty to all that the monks relate respecting the
heterogeneous elements of which the population of their Missions
are composed. How can we now decide, whether the Tomuza and Piritu
be of different races, when both speak the Cumanagoto language,
which is the prevailing tongue in the western part of the Govierno
of Cumana; as the Caribbean and the Chayma are in the southern and
eastern parts. A great analogy of physical constitution increases
the difficulty of these inquiries. In the new continent a
surprising variety of languages is observed among nations of the
same origin, and which European travellers scarcely distinguish by
their features; while in the old continent very different races of
men, the Laplanders, the Finlanders, and the Estonians, the
Germanic nations and the Hindoos, the Persians and the Kurds, the
Tartar and Mongol tribes, speak languages, the mechanism and roots
of which present the greatest analogy.

The Indians of the American Missions are all agriculturists.
Excepting those who inhabit the high mountains, they all cultivate
the same plants; their huts are arranged in the same manner; their
days of labour, their work in the conuco of the community; their
connexions with the missionaries and the magistrates chosen from
among themselves, are all subject to uniform regulations.
Nevertheless (and this fact is very remarkable in the history of
nations), these analogous circumstances have not effaced the
individual features, or the shades of character which distinguish
the American tribes. We observe in the men of copper hue, a moral
inflexibility, a steadfast perseverance in habits and manners,
which, though modified in each tribe, characterise essentially the
whole race. These peculiarities are found in every region; from the
equator to Hudson's Bay on the one hand, and to the Straits of
Magellan on the other. They are connected with the physical
organization of the natives, but they are powerfully favoured by
the monastic system.

There exist in the missions few villages in which the different
families do not belong to different tribes and speak different
languages. Societies composed of elements thus heterogeneous are
difficult to govern. In general, the monks have united whole
nations, or great portions of the same nations, in villages
situated near to each other. The natives see only those of their
own tribe; for the want of communication, and the isolated state of
the people, are essential points in the policy of the missionaries.
The reduced Chaymas, Caribs, and Tamanacs, retain their natural
physiognomy, whilst they have preserved their languages. If the
individuality of man be in some sort reflected in his idioms, these
in their turn re-act on his ideas and sentiments. It is this
intimate connection between language, character, and physical
constitution, which maintains and perpetuates the diversity of
nations; that unfailing source of life and motion in the
intellectual world.

The missionaries may have prohibited the Indians from following
certain practices and observing certain ceremonies; they may have
prevented them from painting their skin, from making incisions on
their chins, noses and cheeks; they may have destroyed among the
great mass of the people superstitious ideas, mysteriously
transmitted from father to son in certain families; but it has been
easier for them to proscribe customs and efface remembrances, than
to substitute new ideas in the place of the old ones.

The Indian of the Mission is secure of subsistence; and being
released from continual struggles against hostile powers, from
conflicts with the elements and man, he leads a more monotonous
life, less active, and less fitted to inspire energy of mind, than
the habits of the wild or independent Indian. He possesses that
mildness of character which belongs to the love of repose; not that
which arises from sensibility and the emotions of the soul. The
sphere of his ideas is not enlarged, where, having no intercourse
with the whites, he remains a stranger to those objects with which
European civilization has enriched the New World. All his actions
seem prompted by the wants of the moment. Taciturn, serious, and
absorbed in himself; he assumes a sedate and mysterious air. When a
person has resided but a short time in the Missions, and is but
little familiarized with the aspect of the natives, he is led to
mistake their indolence, and the torpid state of their faculties,
for the expression of melancholy, and a meditative turn of mind.

I have dwelt on these features of the Indian character, and on the
different modifications which that character exhibits under the
government of the missionaries, with the view of rendering more
intelligible the observations which form the subject of the present
chapter. I shall begin by the nation of the Chaymas, of whom more
than fifteen thousand inhabit the Missions above noticed. The
Chayma nation, which Father Francisco of Pampeluna* began to reduce
to subjection in the middle of the seventeenth century (* The name
of this monk, celebrated for his intrepidity, is still revered in
the province. He sowed the first seeds of civilization among these
mountains. He had long been captain of a ship; and before he became
a monk, was known by the name of Tiburtio Redin.), has the
Cumanagotos on the west, the Guaraunos on the east, and the
Caribbees on the south. Their territory occupies a space along the
elevated mountains of the Cocollar and the Guacharo, the banks of
the Guarapiche, of the Rio Colorado, of the Areo, and of the Cano
de Caripe. According to a statistical survey made with great care
by the father prefect, there were, in the Missions of the Aragonese
Capuchins of Cumana, nineteen Mission villages, of which the oldest
was established in 1728, containing one thousand four hundred and
sixty-five families, and six thousand four hundred and thirty-three
persons: sixteen doctrina villages, of which the oldest dates from
1660, containing one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six families,
and eight thousand one hundred and seventy persons. These Missions
suffered greatly in 1681, 1697, and 1720, from the invasions of the
Caribbees (then independent), who burnt whole villages. From 1730
to 1736, the population was diminished by the ravages of the
small-pox, a disease always more fatal to the copper-coloured
Indians than to the whites. Many of the Guaraunos, who had been
assembled together, fled back again to their native marshes.
Fourteen old Missions were deserted, and have not been rebuilt.

The Chaymas are in general short of stature and thick-set. Their
shoulders are extremely broad, and their chests flat. Their limbs
are well rounded, and fleshy. Their colour is the same as that of
the whole American race, from the cold table-lands of Quito and New
Grenada to the burning plains of the Amazon. It is not changed by
the varied influence of climate; it is connected with organic
peculiarities which for ages past have been unalterably transmitted
from generation to generation. If the uniform tint of the skin be
redder and more coppery towards the north, it is, on the contrary,
among the Chaymas, of a dull brown inclining to tawny. The
denomination of copper-coloured men could never have originated in
equinoctial America to designate the natives.

The expression of the countenance of the Chaymas, without being
hard or stern, has something sedate and gloomy. The forehead is
small, and but little prominent, and in several languages of these
countries, to express the beauty of a woman, they say that 'she is
fat, and has a narrow forehead.' The eyes of the Chaymas are black,
deep-set, and very elongated: but they are neither so obliquely
placed, nor so small, as in the people of the Mongol race. The
corner of the eye is, however, raised up towards the temple; the
eyebrows are black, or dark brown, thin, and but little arched; the
eyelids are edged with very long eyelashes, and the habit of
casting them down, as if from lassitude, gives a soft expression to
the women, and makes the eye thus veiled appear less than it really
is. Though the Chaymas, and in general all the natives of South
America and New Spain, resemble the Mongol race in the form of the
eye, in their high cheek-bones, their straight and smooth hair, and
the almost total absence of beard; yet they essentially differ from
them in the form of the nose. In the South Americans this feature
is rather long, prominent through its whole length, and broad at
the nostrils, the openings of which are directed downward, as with
all the nations of the Caucasian race. Their wide mouths, with lips
but little protuberant though broad, have generally an expression
of good nature. The passage from the nose to the mouth is marked in
both sexes by two furrows, which run diverging from the nostrils
towards the corners of the mouth. The chin is extremely short and
round; and the jaws are remarkable for strength and width.

Though the Chaymas have fine white teeth, like all people who lead
a very simple life, they are, however, not so strong as those of
the Negroes. The habit of blackening the teeth, from the age of
fifteen, by the juices of certain herbs* and caustic lime,
attracted the attention of the earliest travellers; but the
practice has now fallen quite into disuse. (* The early historians
of the conquest state that the blackening of the teeth was effected
by the leaves of a tree which the natives called hay, and which
resembled the myrtle. Among nations very distant from each other,
the pimento bears a similar name; among the Haitians aji or ahi,
among the Maypures of the Orinoco, ai. Some stimulant and aromatic
plants, which mostly belonging to the genus capsicum, were
designated by the same name.) Such have been the migrations of the
different tribes in these countries, particularly since the
incursions of the Spaniards, who carried on the slave-trade, that
it may be inferred the inhabitants of Paria visited by Christopher
Columbus and by Ojeda, were not of the same race as the Chaymas. I
doubt much whether the custom of blackening the teeth was
originally suggested, as Gomara supposed, by absurd notions of
beauty, or was practised with the view of preventing the toothache.
* This disorder is, however, almost unknown to the Indians; and the
whites suffer seldom from it in the Spanish colonies, at least in
the warm regions, where the temperature is so uniform. They are
more exposed to it on the back of the Cordilleras, at Santa Fe, and
at Popayan. (* The tribes seen by the Spaniards on the coast of
Paria, probably observed the practice of stimulating the organs of
taste by caustic lime, as other races employed tobacco, the chimo,
the leaves of the coca, or the betel. This practice exists even in
our days, but more towards the west, among the Guajiros, at the
mouth of the Rio de la Hacha. These Indians, still savage, carry
small shells, calcined and powdered, in the husk of a fruit, which
serves them as a vessel for various purposes, suspended to their
girdle. The powder of the Guajiros is an article of commerce, as
was anciently, according to Gomara, that of the Indians of Paria.
The immoderate habit of smoking also makes the teeth yellow and
blackens them; but would it be just to conclude from this fact,
that Europeans smoke because we think yellow teeth handsomer than

The Chaymas, like almost all the native nations I have seen, have
small, slender hands. Their feet are large, and their toes retain
an extraordinary mobility. All the Chaymas have a sort of family
look; and this resemblance, so often observed by travellers, is the
more striking, as between the ages of twenty and fifty, difference
of years is no way denoted by wrinkles of the skin, colour of the
hair, or decrepitude of the body. On entering a hut, it is often
difficult among adult persons to distinguish the father from the
son, and not to confound one generation with another. I attribute
this air of family resemblance to two different causes, the local
situation of the Indian tribes, and their inferior degree of
intellectual culture. Savage nations are subdivided into an
infinity of tribes, which, bearing violent hatred one to another,
form no intermarriages, even when their languages spring from the
same root, and when only a small arm of a river, or a group of
hills, separates their habitations. The less numerous the tribes,
the more the intermarriages repeated for ages between the same
families tend to fix a certain similarity of conformation, an
organic type, which may be called national. This type is preserved
under the system of the Missions, each Mission being formed by a
single horde, and marriages being contracted only between the
inhabitants of the same hamlet. Those ties of blood which unite
almost a whole nation, are indicated in a simple manner in the
language of the Indians born in the Missions, or by those who,
after having been taken from the woods, have learned Spanish. To
designate the individuals who belong to the same tribe, they employ
the expression mis parientes, my relations.

With these causes, common to all isolated classes, and the effects
of which are observable among the Jews of Europe, among the
different castes of India, and among mountain nations in general,
are combined some other causes hitherto unnoticed. I have observed
elsewhere, that it is intellectual culture which most contributes
to diversify the features. Barbarous nations have a physiognomy of
tribe or of horde, rather than individuality of look or features.
The savage and civilized man are like those animals of an
individual species, some of which roam in the forest, while others,
associated with mankind, share the benefits and evils which
accompany civilization. Varieties of form and colour are frequent
only in domestic animals. How great is the difference, with respect
to mobility of features and variety of physiognomy, between dogs
which have again returned to the savage state in the New World, and
those whose slightest caprices are indulged in the houses of the
opulent! Both in men and animals the emotions of the soul are
reflected in the features; and the countenance acquires the habit
of mobility, in proportion as the emotions of the mind are
frequent, varied, and durable. But the Indian of the Missions,
being remote from all cultivation, influenced only by his physical
wants, satisfying almost without difficulty his desires, in a
favoured climate, drags on a dull, monotonous life. The greatest
equality prevails among the members of the same community; and this
uniformity, this sameness of situation, is pictured on the features
of the Indians.

Under the system of the monks, violent passions, such as resentment
and anger, agitate the native more rarely than when he lives in the
forest. When man in a savage state yields to sudden and impetuous
emotions, his physiognomy, till then calm and unruffled, changes
instantly to convulsive contortions. His passion is transient in
proportion to its violence. With the Indians of the Missions, as I
have often observed on the Orinoco, anger is less violent, less
earnest, but of longer duration. Besides, in every condition of
man, it is not the energetic or the transient outbreaks of the
passions, which give expression to the features. It is rather that
sensibility of the soul, which brings us continually into contact
with the external world, multiplies our sufferings and our
pleasures, and re-acts at once on the physiognomy, the manners, and
the language. If the variety and mobility of the features embellish
the domain of animated nature, we must admit also, that both
increase by civilization, without being solely produced by it. In
the great family of nations, no other race unites these advantages
in so high a degree as the Caucasian or European. It is only in
white men that the instantaneous penetration of the dermoidal
system by the blood can produce that slight change of the colour of
the skin which adds so powerful an expression to the emotions of
the soul. "How can those be trusted who know not how to blush?"
says the European, in his dislike of the Negro and the Indian. We
must also admit, that immobility of features is not peculiar to
every race of men of dark complexion: it is much less marked in the
African than in the natives of America.

The Chaymas, like all savage people who dwell in excessively hot
regions, have an insuperable aversion to clothing. The writers of
the middle ages inform us, that in the north of Europe, articles of
clothing distributed by missionaries, greatly contributed to the
conversion of the pagan. In the torrid zone, on the contrary, the
natives are ashamed (as they say) to be clothed; and flee to the
woods, when they are compelled to cover themselves. Among the
Chaymas, in spite of the remonstrances of the monks, men and women
remain unclothed within their houses. When they go into the
villages they put on a kind of tunic of cotton, which scarcely
reaches to the knees. The men's tunics have sleeves; but women, and
young boys to the age of ten or twelve, have the arms, shoulders,
and upper part of the breast uncovered. The tunic is so shaped,
that the fore-part is joined to the back by two narrow bands, which
cross the shoulders. When we met the natives, out of the boundaries
of the Mission, we saw them, especially in rainy weather, stripped
of their clothes, and holding their shirts rolled up under their
arms. They preferred letting the rain fall on their bodies to
wetting their clothes. The elder women hid themselves behind trees,
and burst into loud fits of laughter when they saw us pass. The
missionaries complain that in general the young girls are not more
alive to feelings of decency than the men. Ferdinand Columbus*
relates that, in 1498, his father found the women in the island of
Trinidad without any clothing (* Life of the Adelantado:
Churchill's Collection 1723. This Life, written after the year
1537, from original notes in the handwriting of Christopher
Columbus himself, is the most valuable record of the history of his
discoveries. It exists only in the Italian and Spanish translations
of Alphonso de Ulloa and Gonzales Barcia: for the original, carried
to Venice in 1571 by the learned Fornari, has not been published,
and is supposed to be lost. Napione della Patria di Colombo 1804.
Cancellieri sopra Christ. Colombo 1809. ); while the men wore the
guayuco, which is rather a narrow bandage than an apron. At the
same period, on the coast of Paria, young girls were distinguished
from married women, either, as Cardinal Bembo states, by being
quite unclothed, or, according to Gomara, by the colour of the
guayuco. This bandage, which is still in use among the Chaymas, and
all the naked nations of the Orinoco, is only two or three inches
broad, and is tied on both sides to a string which encircles the
waist. Girls are often married at the age of twelve; and until they
are nine years old, the missionaries allow them to go to church
unclothed, that is to say, without a tunic. Among the Chaymas, as
well as in all the Spanish Missions and the Indian villages, a pair
of drawers, a pair of shoes, or a hat, are objects of luxury
unknown to the natives. An Indian servant, who had been with us
during our journey to Caripe and the Orinoco, and whom I brought to
France, was so much struck, on landing, when he saw the ground
tilled by a peasant with his hat on, that he thought himself in a
miserable country, where even the nobles (los mismos caballeros)
followed the plough. The Chayma women are not handsome, according
to the ideas we annex to beauty; yet the young girls have a look of
softness and melancholy, contrasting agreeably with the expression
of the mouth, which is somewhat harsh and wild. They wear their
hair plaited in two long tresses; they do not paint their skin; and
wear no other ornaments than necklaces and bracelets made of
shells, birds' bones, and seeds. Both men and women are very
muscular, but at the same time fleshy and plump. I saw no person
who had any natural deformity; and I may say the same of thousands
of Caribs, Muyscas, and Mexican and Peruvian Indians, whom we
observed during the course of five years. Bodily deformities, and
deviations from nature, are exceedingly rare among certain races of
men, especially those who have the epidermis highly coloured; but I
cannot believe that they depend solely on the progress of
civilization, a luxurious life, or the corruption of morals. In
Europe a deformed or very ugly girl marries, if she happen to have
a fortune, and the children often inherit the deformity of the
mother. In the savage state, which is a state of equality, no
consideration can induce a man to unite himself to a deformed
woman, or one who is very unhealthy. Such a woman, if she resist
the accidents of a restless and troubled life, dies without
children. We might be tempted to think, that savages all appear
well-made and vigorous, because feeble children die young for want
of care, and only the strongest survive; but these causes cannot
operate among the Indians of the Missions, whose manners are like
those of our peasants, or among the Mexicans of Cholula and
Tlascala, who enjoy wealth, transmitted to them by ancestors more
civilized than themselves. If, in every state of cultivation, the
copper-coloured race manifests the same inflexibility, the same
resistance to deviation from a primitive type, are we not forced to
admit that this peculiarity belongs in great measure to hereditary
organization, to that which constitutes the race? With
copper-coloured men, as with whites, luxury and effeminacy weaken
the physical constitution, and heretofore deformities were more
common at Cuzco and Tenochtitlan. Among the Mexicans of the present
day, who are all labourers, leading the most simple lives,
Montezuma would not have found those dwarfs and humpbacks whom
Bernal Diaz saw waiting at his table when he dined.* (* Bernal Diaz
Hist. Verd. de la Nueva Espana 1630.) The custom of marrying very
young, according to the testimony of the monks, is no way
detrimental to population. This precocious nubility depends on the
race, and not on the influence of a climate excessively warm. It is
found on the north-west coast of America, among the Esquimaux, and
in Asia, among the Kamtschatdales, and the Koriaks, where girls of
ten years old are often mothers. It may appear astonishing, that
the time of gestation--the duration of pregnancy, never alters in a
state of health, in any race, or in any climate.

The Chaymas are almost without beard on the chin, like the
Tungouses, and other nations of the Mongol race. They pluck out the
few hairs which appear; but independently of that practice, most of
the natives would be nearly beardless.* (* Physiologists would
never have entertained any difference of opinion respecting the
existence of the beard among the Americans, if they had considered
what the first historians of the Conquest have said on this
subject; for example, Pigafetta, in 1519, in his journal, preserved
in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, and published (in 1800) by
Amoretti; Benzoni Hist. del Mundo Nuovo 1572; Bembo Hist. Venet.
1557.) I say most of them, because there are tribes which, as they
appear distinct from the others, are more worthy of fixing our
attention. Such are, in North America, the Chippewas visited by
Mackenzie, and the Yabipaees, near the Toltec ruins at Moqui, with
bushy beards; in South America, the Patagonians and the Guaraunos.
Among these last are some who have hairs on the breast. When the
Chaymas, instead of extracting the little hair they have on the
chin, attempt to shave themselves frequently, their beards grow. I
have seen this experiment tried with success by young Indians, who
officiated at mass, and who anxiously wished to resemble the
Capuchin fathers, their missionaries and masters. The great mass of
the people, however, dislike the beard, no less than the Eastern
nations hold it in reverence. This antipathy is derived from the
same source as the predilection for flat foreheads, which is
evinced in so singular a manner in the statues of the Aztec heroes
and divinities. Nations attach the idea of beauty to everything
which particularly characterizes their own physical conformation,
their national physiognomy.* (* Thus, in their finest statues, the
Greeks exaggerated the form of the forehead, by elevating beyond
proportion the facial line.) Hence it ensues that among a people to
whom Nature has given very little beard, a narrow forehead, and a
brownish red skin, every individual thinks himself handsome in
proportion as his body is destitute of hair, his head flattened,
and his skin besmeared with annatto, chica, or some other
copper-red colour.

The Chaymas lead a life of singular uniformity. They go to rest
very regularly at seven in the evening, and rise long before
daylight, at half-past four in the morning. Every Indian has a fire
near his hammock. The women are so chilly, that I have seen them
shiver at church when the centigrade thermometer was not below 18
degrees. The huts of the Indians are extremely clean. Their
hammocks, their reed mats, their pots for holding cassava and
fermented maize, their bows and arrows, everything is arranged in
the greatest order. Men and women bathe every day; and being almost
constantly unclothed, they are exempted from that uncleanliness, of
which the garments are the principal cause among the lower class of
people in cold countries. Besides a house in the village, they have
generally, in their conucos, near some spring, or at the entrance
of some solitary valley, a small hut, covered with the leaves of
the palm or plantain-tree. Though they live less commodiously in
the conuco, they love to retire thither as often as they can. The
irresistible desire the Indians have to flee from society, and
enter again on a nomad life, causes even young children sometimes
to leave their parents, and wander four or five days in the
forests, living on fruits, palm-cabbage, and roots. When travelling
in the Missions, it is not uncommon to find whole villages almost
deserted, because the inhabitants are in their gardens, or in the
forests (al monte). Among civilized nations, the passion for
hunting arises perhaps in part from the same causes: the charm of
solitude, the innate desire of independence, the deep impression
made by Nature, whenever man finds himself in contact with her in

The condition of the women among the Chaymas, like that in all
semi-barbarous nations, is a state of privation and suffering. The
hardest labour devolves on them. When we saw the Chaymas return in
the evening from their gardens, the man carried nothing but the
knife or hatchet (machete), with which he clears his way among the
underwood; whilst the woman, bending under a great load of
plantains, carried one child in her arms, and sometimes two other
children placed upon the load. Notwithstanding this inequality of
condition, the wives of the Indians of South America appear to be
in general happier than those of the savages of the North. Between
the Alleghany mountains and the Mississippi, wherever the natives
do not live chiefly on the produce of the chase, the women
cultivate maize, beans, and gourds; and the men take no share in
the labours of the field. In the torrid zone, hunting tribes are
not numerous, and in the Missions, the men work in the fields as
well as the women.

Nothing can exceed the difficulty experienced by the Indians in
learning Spanish, to which language they have an absolute aversion.
Whilst living separate from the whites, they have no ambition to be
called educated Indians, or, to borrow the phrase employed in the
Missions, 'latinized Indians' (Indios muy latinos). Not only among
the Chaymas, but in all the very remote Missions which I afterwards
visited, I observed that the Indians experience vast difficulty in
arranging and expressing the most simple ideas in Spanish, even
when they perfectly understand the meaning of the words and the
turn of the phrases. When a European questions them concerning
objects which have surrounded them from their cradles, they seem to
manifest an imbecility exceeding that of infancy. The missionaries
assert that this embarrassment is neither the effect of timidity
nor of natural stupidity, but that it arises from the impediments
they meet with in the structure of a language so different from
their native tongue. In proportion as man is remote from
cultivation, the greater is his mental inaptitude. It is not,
therefore, surprising that the isolated Indians in the Missions
should experience in the acquisition of the Spanish language, less
facility than Indians who live among mestizoes, mulattoes, and
whites, in the neighbourhood of towns. Nevertheless, I have often
wondered at the volubility with which, at Caripe, the native
alcalde, the governador, and the sergento mayor, will harangue for
whole hours the Indians assembled before the church; regulating the
labours of the week, reprimanding the idle, or threatening the
disobedient. Those chiefs who are also of the Chayma race, and who
transmit the orders of the missionary, speak all together in a loud
voice, with marked emphasis, but almost without action. Their
features remain motionless; but their look is imperious and severe.

These same men, who manifest quickness of intellect, and who were
tolerably well acquainted with the Spanish, were unable to connect
their ideas, when, in our excursions in the country around the
convent, we put questions to them through the intervention of the
monks. They were made to affirm or deny whatever the monks pleased:
and that wily civility, to which the least cultivated Indian is no
stranger, induced them sometimes to give to their answers the turn
that seemed to be suggested by our questions. Travellers cannot be
enough on their guard against this officious assent, when they seek
to confirm their own opinions by the testimony of the natives. To
put an Indian alcalde to the proof, I asked him one day, whether he
did not think the little river of Caripe, which issues from the
cavern of the Guacharo, returned into it on the opposite side by
some unknown entrance, after having ascended the slope of the
mountain. The Indian seemed gravely to reflect on the subject, and
then answered, by way of supporting my hypothesis: "How else, if it
were not so, would there always be water in the bed of the river at
the mouth of the cavern?"

The Chaymas are very dull in comprehending anything relating to
numerical facts. I never knew one of these people who might not
have been made to say that he was either eighteen or sixty years of
age. Mr. Marsden observed the same peculiarity in the Malays of
Sumatra, though they have been civilized more than five centuries.
The Chayma language contains words which express pretty large
numbers, yet few Indians know how to apply them; and having felt,
from their intercourse with the missionaries, the necessity of so
doing, the more intelligent among them count in Spanish, but
apparently with great effort of mind, as far as thirty, or perhaps
fifty. The same persons, however, cannot count in the Chayma
language beyond five or six. It is natural that they should employ
in preference the words of a language in which they have been
taught the series of units and tens. Since learned Europeans have
not disdained to study the structure of the idioms of America with
the same care as they study those of the Semitic languages, and of
the Greek and Latin, they no longer attribute to the imperfection
of a language, what belongs to the rudeness of the nation. It is
acknowledged, that almost everywhere the Indian idioms display
greater richness, and more delicate gradations, than might be
supposed from the uncultivated state of the people by whom they are
spoken. I am far from placing the languages of the New World in the
same rank with the finest languages of Asia and Europe; but no one
of these latter has a more neat, regular, and simple system of
numeration, than the Quichua and the Aztec, which were spoken in
the great empires of Cuzco and Anahuac. It is a mistake to suppose
that those languages do not admit of counting beyond four, because
in villages where they are spoken by the poor labourers of Peruvian
and Mexican race, individuals are found, who cannot count beyond
that number. The singular opinion, that so many American nations
reckon only as far as five, ten, or twenty, has been propagated by
travellers, who have not reflected, that, according to the genius
of different idioms, men of all nations stop at groups of five,
ten, or twenty units (that is, the number of the fingers of one
hand, or of both hands, or of the fingers and toes together); and
that six, thirteen, or twenty are differently expressed, by
five-one, ten-three, and feet-ten.* (* Savages, to express great
numbers with more facility, are in the habit of forming groups of
five, ten, or twenty grains of maize, according as they reckon in
their language by fives, tens, or twenties.) Can it be said that
the numbers of the Europeans do not extend beyond ten, because we
stop after having formed a group of ten units?

The construction of the languages of America is so opposite to that
of the languages derived from the Latin, that the Jesuits, who had
thoroughly examined everything that could contribute to extend
their establishments, introduced among their neophytes, instead of
the Spanish, some Indian tongues, remarkable for their regularity
and copiousness, such as the Quichua and the Guarani. They
endeavoured to substitute these languages for others which were
poorer and more irregular in their syntax. This substitution was
found easy: the Indians of the different tribes adopted it with
docility, and thenceforward those American languages generalized
became a ready medium of communication between the missionaries and
the neophytes. It would be a mistake to suppose, that the
preference given to the language of the Incas over the Spanish
tongue had no other aim than that of isolating the Missions, and
withdrawing them from the influence of two rival powers, the
bishops and civil governors. The Jesuits had other motives,
independently of their policy, for wishing to generalize certain
Indian tongues. They found in those languages a common tie, easy to
be established between the numerous hordes which had remained
hostile to each other, and had been kept asunder by diversity of
idioms; for, in uncultivated countries, after the lapse of several
ages, dialects often assume the form, or at least the appearance,
of mother tongues.

When it is said that a Dane learns the German, and a Spaniard the
Italian or the Latin, more easily than they learn any other
language, it is at first thought that this facility results from
the identity of a great number of roots, common to all the Germanic
tongues, or to those of Latin Europe; it is not considered, that,
with this resemblance of sounds, there is another resemblance,
which acts more powerfully on nations of a common origin. Language
is not the result of an arbitrary convention. The mechanism of
inflections, the grammatical constructions, the possibility of
inversions, all are the offspring of our own minds, of our
individual organization. There is in man an instinctive and
regulating principle, differently modified among nations not of the
same race. A climate more or less severe, a residence in the
defiles of mountains, or on the sea-coasts, or different habits of
life, may alter the pronunciation, render the identity of the roots
obscure, and multiply the number; but all these causes do not
affect that which constitutes the structure and mechanism of
languages. The influence of climate, and of external circumstances,
vanishes before the influence which depends on the race, on the
hereditary and individual dispositions of men.

In America (and this result of recent researches* (* See Vater's
Mithridates.) is extremely important with respect to the history of
our species) from the country of the Esquimaux to the banks of the
Orinoco, and again from these torrid regions to the frozen climate
of the Straits of Magellan, mother-tongues, entirely different in
their roots, have, if we may use the expression, the same
physiognomy. Striking analogies of grammatical construction are
acknowledged, not only in the more perfect languages, as in that of
the Incas, the Aymara, the Guarauno, the Mexican, and the Cora, but
also in languages extremely rude. Idioms, the roots of which do not
resemble each other more than the roots of the Sclavonic and the
Biscayan, have those resemblances of internal mechanism which are
found in the Sanscrit, the Persian, the Greek, and the German
languages. Almost everywhere in the New World we recognize a
multiplicity of forms and tenses in the verb,* (* In the Greenland
language, for example, the multiplicity of the pronouns governed by
the verb produces twenty-seven forms for every tense of the
Indicative mood. It is surprising to find, among nations now
ranking in the lowest degree of civilization, this desire of
graduating the relations of time, this superabundance of
modifications introduced into the verb, to characterise the object.
Matarpa, he takes it away: mattarpet, thou takest it away:
mattarpatit, he takes it away from thee: mattarpagit, I take away
from thee. And in the preterite of the same verb, mattara, he has
taken it away: mattaratit, he has taken it away from thee. This
example from the Greenland language shows how the governed and the
personal pronouns form one compound, in the American languages,
with the root of the verb. These slight differences in the form of
the verb, according to the nature of the pronouns governed by it,
is found in the Old World only in the Biscayan and Congo languages
(Vater, Mithridates. William von Humboldt, On the Basque Language).
Strange conformity in the structure of languages on spots so
distant, and among three races of men so different,--the white
Catalonians, the black Congos, and the copper-coloured Americans!)
an ingenious method of indicating beforehand, either by inflexion
of the personal pronouns, which form the terminations of the verb,
or by an intercalated suffix, the nature and the relation of its
object and its subject, and of distinguishing whether the object be
animate or inanimate, of the masculine or the feminine gender,
simple or in complex number. It is on account of this general
analogy of structure,--it is because American languages which have
no words in common (for instance, the Mexican and the Quichua),
resemble each other by their organization, and form complete
contrasts to the languages of Latin Europe, that the Indians of the
Missions familiarize themselves more easily with an American idiom
than with the Spanish. In the forests of the Orinoco I have seen
the rudest Indians speak two or three tongues. Savages of different
nations often communicate their ideas to each other by an idiom not
their own.

If the system of the Jesuits had been followed, languages, which
already occupy a vast extent of country, would have become almost
general. In Terra Firma and on the Orinoco, the Caribbean and the
Tamanac alone would now be spoken; and in the south and south-west,
the Quichua, the Guarano, the Omagua, and the Araucan. By
appropriating to themselves these languages, the grammatical forms
of which are very regular, and almost as fixed as those of the
Greek and Sanscrit, the missionaries would place themselves in more
intimate connection with the natives whom they govern. The
numberless difficulties which occur in the system of a Mission
consisting of Indians of ten or a dozen different nations would
disappear with the confusion of idioms. Those which are little
diffused would become dead languages; but the Indian, in preserving
an American idiom, would retain his individuality--his national
character. Thus by peaceful means might be effected what the Incas
began to establish by force of arms.

How indeed can we be surprised at the little progress made by the
Chaymas, the Caribbees, the Salives, or the Otomacs, in the
knowledge of the Spanish language, when we recollect that one white
man, one single missionary, finds himself alone amidst five or six
hundred Indians? and that it is difficult for him to establish
among them a governador, an alcalde, or a fiscal, who may serve him
as an interpreter? If, instead of the missionary system, some other
means of civilization were substituted, if, instead of keeping the
whites at a distance, they could be mingled with the natives
recently united in villages, the American idioms would soon be
superseded by the languages of Europe, and the natives would
receive in those languages the great mass of new ideas which are
the fruit of civilization. Then the introduction of general
tongues, such as that of the Incas, or the Guaranos, without doubt
would become useless. But after having lived so long in the
Missions of South America, after having so closely observed the
advantages and the abuses of the system of the missionaries, I may
be permitted to doubt whether that system could be easily
abandoned, though it is doubtless very capable of being improved,
and rendered more conformable with our ideas of civil liberty. To
this it may be answered, that the Romans* succeeded in rapidly
introducing their language with their sovereignty into the country
of the Gauls, into Boetica, and into the province of Africa. (* For
the reason of this rapid introduction of Latin among the Gauls, I
believe we must look into the character of the natives and the
state of their civilization, and not into the structure of their
language. The brown-haired Celtic nations were certainly different
from the race of the light-haired Germanic nations; and though the
Druid caste recalls to our minds one of the institutions of the
Ganges, this does not demonstrate that the idiom of the Celts
belongs, like that of the nations of Odin, to a branch of the
Indo-Pelasgic languages. From analogy of structure and of roots,
the Latin ought to have penetrated more easily on the other side of
the Danube, than into Gaul; but an uncultivated state, joined to
great moral inflexibility, probably opposed its introduction among
the Germanic nations.) But the natives of these countries were not
savages;--they inhabited towns; they were acquainted with the use
of money; and they possessed institutions denoting a tolerably
advanced state of cultivation. The allurement of commerce, and a
long abode of the Roman legions, had promoted intercourse between
them and their conquerors. We see, on the contrary, that the
introduction of the languages of the mother-countries was met by
obstacles almost innumerable, wherever Carthaginian, Greek, or
Roman colonies were established on coasts entirely barbarous. In
every age, and in every climate, the first impulse of the savage is
to shun the civilized man.

The language of the Chayma Indians was less agreeable to my ear
than the Caribbee, the Salive, and other languages of the Orinoco.
It has fewer sonorous terminations in accented vowels. We are
struck with the frequent repetition of the syllables guaz, ez,
puec, and pur. These terminations are derived in part from the
inflexion of the verb to be, and from certain prepositions, which
are added at the ends of words, and which, according to the genius
of the American idioms, are incorporated with them. It would be
wrong to attribute this harshness of sound to the abode of the
Chaymas in the mountains. They are strangers to that temperate
climate. They have been led thither by the missionaries; and it is
well known that, like all the inhabitants of warm regions, they at
first dreaded what they called the cold of Caripe. I employed
myself, with M. Bonpland, during our abode at the hospital of the
Capuchins, in forming a small catalogue of Chayma words. I am aware
that languages are much more strongly characterised by their
structure and grammatical forms than by the analogy of their sounds
and of their roots; and that the analogy of sounds is sometimes so
disguised in different dialects of the same tongue, as not to be
recognizable; for the tribes into which a nation is divided, often
designate the same objects by words altogether heterogeneous. Hence
it follows that we readily fall into mistakes, if, neglecting the
study of the inflexions, and consulting only the roots (for
instance, in the words which designate the moon, sky, water, and
earth), we decide on the absolute difference of two idioms from the
mere want of resemblance in sounds. But, while aware of this source
of error, travellers would do well to continue to collect such
materials as may be within their reach. If they do not make known
the internal structure, and general arrangement of the edifice,
they may point out some important parts.

The three languages now most used in the provinces of Cumana and
Barcelona, are the Chayma, the Cumanagota, and the Caribbee. They
have always been regarded in these countries as different idioms,
and a dictionary of each has been written for the use of the
Missions, by Fathers Tauste, Ruiz-blanco, and Breton. The
Vocabulario y Arte de la Lengua de los Indios Chaymas has become
extremely scarce. The few American grammars, printed for the most
part in the seventeenth century, passed into the Missions, and have
been lost in the forests. The dampness of the air and the voracity
of insects* render the preservation of books almost impossible in
those regions (* The termites, so well known in Spanish America
under the name of comegen, or 'devourer,' is one of these
destructive insects.): they are destroyed in a short space of time,
notwithstanding every precaution that may be employed. I had much
difficulty to collect in the Missions, and in the convents, those
grammars of American languages, which, on my return to Europe, I
placed in the hands of Severin Vater, professor and librarian at
the university of Konigsberg. They furnished him with useful
materials for his great work on the idioms of the New World. I
omitted, at the time, to transcribe from my journal, and
communicate to that learned gentleman, what I had collected in the
Chayma tongue. Since neither Father Gili, nor the Abbe Hervas, has
mentioned this language, I shall here explain succinctly the result
of my researches.

On the right bank of the Orinoco, south-east of the Mission of
Encaramada, and at the distance of more than a hundred leagues from
the Chaymas, live the Tamanacs (Tamanacu), whose language is
divided into several dialects. This nation, formerly very powerful,
is separated from the mountains of Caripe by the Orinoco, by the
vast steppes of Caracas and of Cumana; and by a barrier far more
difficult to surmount, the nations of Caribbean origin. But
notwithstanding distance, and the numerous obstacles in the way of
intercourse, the language of the Chayma Indians is a branch of the
Tamanac tongue. The oldest missionaries of Caripe are ignorant of
this curious fact, because the Capuchins of Aragon seldom visit the
southern banks of the Orinoco, and scarcely know of the existence
of the Tamanacs. I recognized the analogy between the idiom of this
nation, and that of the Chayma Indians long after my return to
Europe, in comparing the materials which I had collected with the
sketch of a grammar published in Italy by an old missionary of the
Orinoco. Without knowing the Chaymas, the Abbe Gili conjectured
that the language of the inhabitants of Paria must have some
relation to the Tamanac.* (* Vater has also advanced some
well-founded conjectures on the connexion between the Tamanac and
Caribbean tongues and those spoken on the north-east coast of South
America. I may acquaint the reader, that I have written the words
of the American languages according to the Spanish orthography, so
that the u should be pronounced oo, the ch like ch in English, etc.
Having during a great number of years spoken no other language than
the Castilian, I marked down the sounds according to the
orthography of that language, and now I am afraid of changing the
value of these signs, by substituting others no less imperfect. It
is a barbarous practice, to express, like the greater part of the
nations of Europe, the most simple and distinct sounds by many
vowels, or many united consonants, while they might be indicated by
letters equally simple. What a chaos is exhibited by the
vocabularies written according to English, German, French, or
Spanish notations! A new essay, which the illustrious author of the
travels in Egypt, M. Volney, is about to publish on the analysis of
sounds found in different nations, and on the notation of those
sounds according to a uniform system, will lead to great progress
In the study of languages.)

I will prove this connection by two means which serve to show the
analogy of idioms; namely, the grammatical construction, and the
identity of words and roots. The following are the personal
pronouns of the Chaymas, which are at the same time possessive
pronouns; u-re, I, me; eu-re, thou, thee; teu-re, he, him. In the
Tamanac, u-re, I; amare or anja, thou; iteu-ja, he. The radical of
the first and of third person is in the Chayma u and teu.* (* We
must not wonder at those roots which reduce themselves to a single
vowel. In a language of the Old Continent, the structure of which
is so artificially complicated, (the Biscayan,) the family name
Ugarte (between the waters) contains the u of ura (water) and arte
between. The g is added for the sake of euphony.) The same roots
are found in the Tamanac.


COLUMN 1 : English.



  I               : Ure         : Ure.
  water           : Tuna        : Tuna.
  rain            : Conopo*     : Canopo.* (* The same word, conopo,
                                    signifies rain and year. The years
                                    are counted by the number of winters,
                                    or rainy seasons. They say in Chayma,
                                    as in Sanscrit, 'so many rains,'
                                    meaning so many years. In the Basque
                                    language, the word urtea, year, is
                                    derived from urten, to bring forth
                                    leaves in spring.)
  to know         : Poturu      : Puturo.
  fire            : Apoto       : Uapto (in Caribbean uato).
the moon, a month : Nuna        : Nuna.* (* In the Tamanac and Caribbean
                                    languages, Nono signifies the earth,
                                    Nuna the moon; as in the Chayma.
                                    This affinity appears to me very
                                    curious; and the Indians of the
                                    Rio Caura say, that the moon is
                                    'another earth.' Among savage nations,
                                    amidst so many confused ideas, we find
                                    certain reminiscences well worthy of
                                    attention. Among the Greenlanders Nuna
                                    signifies the earth, and Anoningat
                                    the moon.)
  a tree          : Je          : Jeje.
  a house         : Ata         : Aute.
  to you          : Euya        : Auya.
  to you          : Toya        : Iteuya.
  honey           : Guane       : Uane.
  he has said it  : Nacaramayre : Nacaramai.
 a physician,
    a sorcerer    : Piache      : Psiache.
  one             : Tibin       : Obin (in Jaoi, Tewin).
  two             : Aco         : Oco (in Caribbean, Occo).
  two             : Oroa        : Orua (in Caribbean, Oroa).
  flesh           : Pun         : Punu.
  no (negation)   : Pra         : Pra.

The verb to be, is expressed in Chayma by az. On adding to the verb
the personal pronoun I (u from u-re), a g is placed, for the sake
of euphony, before the u, as in guaz, I am, properly g-u-az. As the
first person is known by an u, the second is designated by an m,
the third by an i; maz, thou art; muerepuec araquapemaz? why art
thou sad? properly what for sad thou art; punpuec topuchemaz, thou
art fat in body, properly flesh (pun) for (puec) fat (topuche) thou
art (maz). The possessive pronouns precede the substantive; upatay,
in my house, properly my house in. All the prepositions and the
negation pra are incorporated at the end, as in the Tamanac. They
say in Chayma, ipuec, with him, properly him with; euya, to thee,
or thee to; epuec charpe guaz, I am gay with thee, properly thee
with gay I am; ucarepra, not as I, properly I as not; quenpotupra
quoguaz, I do not know him, properly him knowing not I am; quenepra
quoguaz, I have not seen him, properly him seeing not I am. In the
Tamanac tongue, acurivane means beautiful, and acurivanepra,
ugly--not beautiful; outapra, there is no fish, properly fish none;
uteripipra, I will not go, properly I to go will not, composed of
uteri,* to go, ipiri, to choose, and pra, not. (* In Chayma:
utechire, I will go also, properly I (u) to go (the radical ute,
or, because of the preceding vowel, te) also (chere, or ere, or
ire). In utechire we find the Tamanac verb to go, uteri, of which
ute is also the radical, and ri the termination of the Infinitive.
In order to show that in Chayma chere or ere indicates the adverb
also, I shall cite from the fragment of a vocabulary in my
possession, u-chere, I also; nacaramayre, he said so also;
guarzazere, I carried also; charechere, to carry also. In the
Tamanac, as in the Chayma, chareri signifies to carry.) Among the
Caribbees, whose language also bears some relation to the Tamanac,
though infinitely less than the Chayma, the negation is expressed
by an m placed before the verb: amoyenlengati, it is very cold; and
mamoyenlengati, it is not very cold. In an analogous manner, the
particle mna added to the Tamanac verb, not at the end, but by
intercalation, gives it a negative sense, as taro, to say,
taromnar, not to say.

The verb to be, very irregular in all languages, is az or ats in
Chayma; and uochiri (in composition uac, uatscha) in Tamanac. It
serves not only to form the Passive, but it is added also, as by
agglutination, to the radical of attributive verbs, in a number of
tenses.* (* The present in the Tamanac, jarer-bae-ure, appears to
me nothing else then the verb bac, or uac (from uacschiri, to be ),
added to the radical to carry, jare (in the infinitive jareri), the
result of which is carrying to be I.) These agglutinations remind
us of the employment in the Sanscrit of the auxiliary verbs as and
bhu (asti and bhavati* (* In the branch of the Germanic languages
we find bhu under the forms bim, bist; as, in the forms vas, vast,
vesum (Bopp page 138).)); the Latin, of es and fu, or fus;* (*
Hence fu-ero; amav-issem; amav-eram; pos-sum (pot-sum).) the
Biscayan, of izan, ucan, and eguin. There are certain points in
which idioms the most dissimilar concur one with another. That
which is common in the intellectual organization of man is
reflected in the general structure of language; and every idiom,
however barbarous it may appear, discloses a regulating principle
which has presided at its formation.

The plural, in Tamanac, is indicated in seven different ways,
according to the termination of the substantive, or according as it
designates an animate or inanimate object.* (* Tamanacu, a Tamanac
(plur. Tamanakemi): Pongheme, a Spaniard (properly a man clothed);
Pongamo, Spaniards, or men clothed. The plural in cne characterizes
inanimate objects: for example, cene, a thing; cenecne, things:
jeje, a tree; jejecne, trees.) In Chayma the plural is formed as in
Caribbee, in on; teure, himself; teurecon, themselves; tanorocon,
those here; montaonocon, those below, supposing that the
interlocutor is speaking of a place where he was himself present;
miyonocon, those below, supposing he speaks of a place where he was
not present. The Chaymas have also the Castilian adverbs aqui and
alla, shades of difference which can be expressed only by
periphrasis, in the idioms of Germanic and Latin origin.

Some Indians, who were acquainted with Spanish, assured us, that
zis signified not only the sun, but also the Deity. This appeared
to me the more extraordinary, as among all other American nations
we find distinct words for God and the sun. The Carib does not
confound Tamoussicabo, the Ancient of Heaven, with veyou, the sun.
Even the Peruvian, though a worshipper of the sun, raises his mind
to the idea of a Being who regulates the movements of the stars.
The sun, in the language of the Incas, bears the name of inti,* (*
In the Quichua, or language of the Incas, the sun is inti; love,
munay; great, veypul; in Sanscrit, the sun, indre: love, manya;
great, vipulo. (Vater Mithridates tome 3 page 333.) These are the
only examples of analogy of sound, that have yet been noticed. The
grammatical character of the two languages is totally different.)
nearly the same as in Sanscrit; while God is called Vinay Huayna,
the eternally young.'* (* Vinay, always, or eternal; huayna, in the
flower of age.)

The arrangement of words in the Chayma is similar to that found in
all the languages of both continents, which have preserved a
certain primitive character. The object is placed before the verb,
the verb before the personal pronoun. The object, on which the
attention should be principally fixed, precedes all the
modifications of that object. The American would say, liberty
complete love we, instead of we love complete liberty; Thee with
happy am I, instead of I am happy with thee. There is something
direct, firm, demonstrative, in these turns, the simplicity of
which is augmented by the absence of the article. May it be
presumed that, with advancing civilization, these nations, left to
themselves, would have gradually changed the arrangement of their
phrases? We are led to adopt this idea, when we reflect on the
changes which the syntax of the Romans has undergone in the
precise, clear, but somewhat timid languages of Latin Europe.

The Chayma, like the Tamanac and most of the American languages, is
entirely destitute of certain letters, as f, b, and d. No word
begins with an l. The same observation has been made on the Mexican
tongue, though it is overcharged with the syllables tli, tla, and
itl, at the end or in the middle of words. The Chaymas substitute r
for l; a substitution that arises from a defect of pronunciation
common in every zone.* (* For example, the substitution of r for l,
characterizes the Bashmurie dialect of the Coptic language.) Thus,
the Caribbees of the Orinoco have been transformed into Galibi in
French Guiana by confounding r with l, and softening the c. The
Tamanac has made choraro and solalo of the Spanish word soldado
(soldier). The disappearance of the f and b in so many American
idioms arises out of that intimate connection between certain
sounds, which is manifested in all languages of the same origin.
The letters f, v, b, and p, are substituted one for the other; for
instance, in the Persian, peder, father (pater); burader,* (*
Whence the German bruder, with the same consonants.) brother
(frater); behar, spring (ver); in Greek, phorton (forton), a
burthen; pous (pous) a foot, (fuss, Germ.). In the same manner,
with the Americans, f and b become p; and d becomes t. The Chayma
pronounces patre, Tios, Atani, aracapucha, for padre, Dios, Adan,
and arcabuz (harquebuss).

In spite of the relations just pointed out, I do not think that the
Chayma language can be regarded as a dialect of the Tamanac, as the
Maitano, Cuchivero, and Crataima undoubtedly are. There are many
essential differences; and between the two languages there appears
to me to exist merely the same connection as is found in the
German, the Swedish, and the English. They belong to the same
subdivision of the great family of the Tamanac, Caribbean, and
Arowak tongues. As there exists no absolute measure of resemblance
between idioms, the degrees of parentage can be indicated only by
examples taken from known tongues. We consider those as being of
the same family, which bear affinity one to the other, as the
Greek, the German, the Persian, and the Sanscrit.

Some philologists have imagined, on comparing languages, that they
may all be divided into two classes, of which some, comparatively
perfect in their organization, easy and rapid in their movements,
indicate an interior development by inflexion; while others, more
rude and less susceptible of improvement, present only a crude
assemblage of small forms or agglutinated particles, each
preserving the physiognomy peculiar to itself; when it is
separately employed. This very ingenious view would be deficient in
accuracy were it supposed that there exist polysyllabic idioms
without any inflexion, or that those which are organically
developed as by interior germs, admit no external increase by means
of suffixes and affixes;* (* Even in the Sanscrit several tenses
are formed by aggregation; for example, in the first future, the
substantive verb to be is added to the radical. In a similar manner
we find in the Greek mach-eso, if the s be not the effect of
inflexion, and in Latin pot-ero (Bopp pages 26 and 66). These are
examples of incorporation and agglutination in the grammatical
system of languages which are justly cited as models of an interior
development by inflexion. In the grammatical system of the American
tongues, for example in the Tamanac, tarecschi, I will carry, is
equally composed of the radical ar (infin. jareri, to carry) and of
the verb ecschi (Infin. nocschiri, to be). There hardly exists in
the American languages a triple mode of aggregation, of which we
cannot find a similar and analogous example in some other language
that is supposed to develop itself only by inflexion.) an increase
which we have already mentioned several times under the name of
agglutination or incorporation. Many things, which appear to us at
present inflexions of a radical, have perhaps been in their origin
affixes, of which there have barely remained one or two consonants.
In languages, as in everything in nature that is organized, nothing
is entirely isolated or unlike. The farther we penetrate into their
internal structure, the more do contrasts and decided characters
vanish. It may be said that they are like clouds, the outlines of
which do not appear well defined, except when viewed at a distance.

But though we may not admit one simple and absolute principle in
the classification of languages, yet it cannot be decided, that in
their present state some manifest a greater tendency to inflexion,
others to external aggregation. It is well known, that the
languages of the Indian, Pelasgic, and German branch, belong to the
first division; the American idioms, the Coptic or ancient
Egyptian, and to a certain degree, the Semitic languages and the
Biscayan, to the second. The little we have made known of the idiom
of the Chaymas of Caripe, sufficiently proves that constant
tendency towards the incorporation or aggregation of certain forms,
which it is easy to separate; though from a somewhat refined
sentiment of euphony some letters have been dropped and others have
been added. Those affixes, by lengthening words, indicate the most
varied relations of number, time, and motion.

When we reflect on the peculiar structure of the American
languages, we imagine we discover the source of the opinion
generally entertained from the most remote time in the Missions,
that these languages have an analogy with the Hebrew and the
Biscayan. At the convent of Caripe as well as at the Orinoco, in
Peru as well as in Mexico, I heard this opinion expressed,
particularly by monks who had some vague notions of the Semitic
languages. Did motives supposed to be favourable to religion, give
rise to this extraordinary theory? In the north of America, among
the Choctaws and the Chickasaws, travellers somewhat credulous have
heard the strains of the Hallelujah* of the Hebrews (* L'Escarbot,
Charlevoix, and even Adair (Hist. of the American Indians 1775).);
as, according to the Pundits, the three sacred words of the
mysteries of the Eleusis* (konx om pax) resound still in the
Indies. (* Asiat. Res. volume 5, Ouvaroff on the Eleusinian
Mysteries 1816.) I do not mean to suggest, that the nations of
Latin Europe may have called whatever has a foreign physiognomy
Hebrew or Biscayan, as for a long time all those monuments were
called Egyptian, which were not in the Grecian or Roman style. I am
rather disposed to think that the grammatical system of the
American idioms has confirmed the missionaries of the sixteenth
century in their ideas respecting the Asiatic origin of the nations
of the New World. The tedious compilation of Father Garcia, Tratado
del Origen de los Indios,* (* Treatise on the Origin of the
Indians.) is a proof of this. The position of the possessive and
personal pronouns at the end of the noun and the verb, as well as
the numerous tenses of the latter, characterize the Hebrew and the
other Semitic languages. Some of the missionaries were struck at
finding the same peculiarities in the American tongues: they did
not reflect, that the analogy of a few scattered features does not
prove languages to belong to the same stock.

It appears less astonishing, that men, who are well acquainted with
only two languages extremely heterogeneous, the Castilian and the
Biscayan, should have found in the latter a family resemblance to
the American languages. The composition of words, the facility with
which the partial elements are detected, the forms of the verbs,
and their different modifications, may have caused and kept up this
illusion. But we repeat, an equal tendency towards aggregation or
incorporation does not constitute an identity of origin. The
following are examples of the relations between the American and
Biscayan languages; idioms totally different in their roots.

In Chayma, quenpotupra quoguaz, I do not know, properly, knowing
not I am. In Tamanac, jarer-uac-ure, bearing am I,--I bear;
anarepra aichi, he will not bear, properly, bearing not will he;
patcurbe, good; patcutari, to make himself good; Tamanacu, a
Tamanac; Tamanacutari, to make himself a Tainanac; Pongheme, a
Spaniard; ponghemtari, to Spaniardize himself; tenecchi, I will
see; teneicre, I will see again; teecha, I go; tecshare, I return;
maypur butke, a little Maypure Indian; aicabutke, a little woman;
maypuritaje, an ugly Maypure Indian; aicataje, an ugly woman.* (*
The diminutive of woman (aica) or of Maypure Indian is formed by
adding butke, which is the termination of cujuputke, little: taje
answers to the accio of the Italians.)

In Biscayan: maitetutendot, I love him, properly, I loving have
him; beguia, the eye, and beguitsa, to see; aitagana, towards the
father: by adding tu, we form the verb aitaganatu, to go towards
the father; ume-tasuna, soft and infantile ingenuity; umequeria,
disagreeable childishness.

I may add to these examples some descriptive compounds, which call
to mind the infancy of nations, and strike us equally in the
American and Biscayan languages, by a certain ingenuousness of
expression. In Tamanac, the wasp (uane-imu), father (im-de) of
honey (uane);* (* It may not be unnecessary here to acquaint the
reader that honey is produced by an insect of South America,
belonging to, or nearly allied, to the wasp genus. This honey,
however, possesses noxious qualities which are by some naturalists
attributed to the plant Paulinia Australis, the juices of which are
collected by the insect.) the toes, ptarimucuru, properly, the sons
of the foot; the fingers, amgnamucuru, the sons of the hand;
mushrooms, jeje-panari, properly, the ears (panari) of a tree
(jeje); the veins of the hand, amgna-mitti, properly, the ramified
roots; leaves, prutpe-jareri, properly, the hair at the top of the
tree; puirene-veju, properly, the sun (veju), straight or
perpendicular; lightning, kinemeru-uaptori, properly, the fire
(uapto) of the thunder, or of the storm. (I recognise in kinemeru,
thunder or storm, the root kineme black.) In Biscayan, becoquia,
the forehead, what belongs (co and quia) to the eye (beguia);
odotsa, the noise (otsa) of the cloud (odeia), or thunder;
arribicia, an echo, properly, the animated stone, from arria,
stone, and bicia, life.

The Chayma and Tamanac verbs have an enormous complication of
tenses: two Presents, four Preterites, three Futures. This
multiplicity characterises the rudest American languages. Astarloa
reckons, in like manner, in the grammatical system of the Biscayan,
two hundred and six forms of the verb. Those languages, the
principal tendency of which is inflexion, are to the common
observer less interesting than those which seem formed by
aggregation. In the first, the elements of which words are
composed, and which are generally reduced to a few letters, are no
longer recognisable: these elements, when isolated, exhibit no
meaning; the whole is assimilated and mingled together. The
American languages, on the contrary, are like complicated machines,
the wheels of which are exposed to view. The mechanism of their
construction is visible. We seem to be present at their formation,
and we should pronounce them to be of very recent origin, did we
not recollect that the human mind steadily follows an impulse once
given; that nations enlarge, improve, and repair the grammatical
edifice of their languages, according to a plan already determined;
finally, that there are countries, whose languages, institutions,
and arts, have remained unchanged, we might almost say stereotyped,
during the lapse of ages.

The highest degree of intellectual development has been hitherto
found among the nations of the Indian and Pelasgic branch. The
languages formed principally by aggregation seem themselves to
oppose obstacles to the improvement of the mind. They are devoid of
that rapid movement, that interior life, to which the inflexion of
the root is favourable, and which impart such charms to works of
imagination. Let us not, however, forget, that a people celebrated
in remote antiquity, a people from whom the Greeks themselves
borrowed knowledge, had perhaps a language, the construction of
which recalls involuntarily that of the languages of America. What
a structure of little monosyllabic and disyllabic forms is added to
the verb and to the substantive, in the Coptic language! The
semi-barbarous Chayma and Tamanac have tolerably short abstract
words to express grandeur, envy, and lightness, cheictivate, uoite,
and uonde; but in Coptic, the word malice,* metrepherpetou, is
composed of five elements, easy to be distinguished. (* See, on the
incontestable identity of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic, and on
the particular system of synthesis of the latter language, the
ingenious reflexions of M. Silvestre de Sacy, in the Notice des
Recherches de M. Etienne Quatremere sur La Litterature de l'Epypte.
) This compound signifies the quality (met) of a subject (reph),
which makes (er) the thing which is (pet), evil (ou). Nevertheless
the Coptic language has had its literature, like the Chinese, the
roots of which, far from being aggregated, scarcely approach each
other without immediate contact. We must admit that nations once
roused from their lethargy, and tending towards civilization, find
in the most uncouth languages the secret of expressing with
clearness the conceptions of the mind, and of painting the emotions
of the soul. Don Juan de la Rea, a highly estimable man, who
perished in the sanguinary revolutions of Quito, imitated with
graceful simplicity some Idylls of Theocritus in the language of
the Incas; and I have been assured, that, excepting treatises on
science and philosophy, there is scarcely any work of modern
literature that might not be translated into the Peruvian.

The intimate connection established between the natives of the New
World and the Spaniards since the conquest, have introduced a
certain number of American words into the Castilian language. Some
of these words express things not unknown before the discovery of
the New World, and scarcely recall to our minds at present their
barbarous origin.* (* For example savannah, and cannibal.) Almost
all belong to the language of the great Antilles, formerly termed
the language of Haiti, of Quizqueja, or of Itis.* (* The word Itis,
for Haiti or St. Domingo (Hispaniola), is found in the Itinerarium
of Bishop Geraldini (Rome 1631.)--"Quum Colonus Itim insulam
cerneret.") I shall confine myself to citing the words maiz,
tabaco, canoa, batata, cacique, balsa, conuco, etc. When the
Spaniards, after the year 1498, began to visit the mainland, they
already had words* to designate the vegetable productions most
useful to man, and common both to the islands and to the coasts of
Cumana and Paria. (* The following are Haitian words, in their real
form, which have passed into the Castilian language since the end
of the 15th century. Many of them are not uninteresting to
descriptive botany. Ahi (Capsicum baccatum), batata (Convolvus
batatas), bihao (Heliconia bihai), caimito (Chrysophyllum caimito),
cahoba (Swietenia mahagoni), jucca and casabi (Jatropba manihot);
the word casabi or cassava is employed only for the bread made with
the roots of the Jatropha (the name of the plant jucca was also
heard by Americo Vespucci on the coast of Paria); age or ajes
(Dioscorea alata), copei (Clusia alba), guayacan (Guaiacum
officinale), guajaba (Psidium pyriferum), guanavano (Anona
muricata), mani (Arachis hypogaea), guama (Inga), henequen (was
supposed from the erroneous accounts of the first travellers to be
an herb with which the Haitians used to cut metals; it means now
every kind of strong thread), hicaco (Chrysobalanus icaco), maghei
(Agave Americana), mahiz or maiz (Zea, maize), mamei (Mammea
Americana), mangle (Rhizophora), pitahaja (Cactus pitahaja), ceiba
(Bombax), tuna (Cactus tuna), hicotea (a tortoise), iguana (Lacerta
iguana), manatee (Trichecus manati), nigua (Pulex penetrans),
hamaca (a hammock), balsa (a raft; however balsa is an old
Castilian word signifying a pool of water), barbacoa (a small bed
of light wood, or reeds), canei or buhio (a hut), canoa (a canoe),
cocujo (Elater noctilucus, the fire-fly), chicha (fermented
liquor), macana (a large stick or club, made with the petioles of a
palm-tree), tabaco (not the herb, but the pipe through which it is
smoked), cacique (a chief). Other American words, now as much in
use among the Creoles, as the Arabic words naturalized in the
Spanish, do not belong to the Haitian tongue; for example, caiman,
piragua, papaja (Carica), aguacate (Persea), tarabita, paramo. Abbe
Gili thinks with some probability, that they are derived from the
tongue of some people who inhabited the temperate climate between
Coro, the mountains of Merida, and the tableland of Bogota. (Saggio
volume 3 page 228.) How many Celtic and German words would not
Julius Caesar and Tacitus have handed down to us, had the
productions of the northern countries visited by the Romans
differed as much from the Italian and Roman, as those of
equinoctial America!) Not satisfied with retaining these words
borrowed from the Haitians, they helped also to spread them all
over America (at a period when the language of Haiti was already a
dead language), and to diffuse them among nations who were ignorant
even of the existence of the West India Islands. Some words, which
are in daily use in the Spanish colonies, are attributed
erroneously to the Haitians. Banana is from the Chaconese, the
Mbaja language; arepa (bread of manioc, or of the Jatropha manihot)
and guayuco (an apron, perizoma) are Caribbee: curiara (a very long
boat) is Tamanac: chinchorro (a hammock), and tutuma (the fruit of
the Crescentia cujete, or a vessel to contain a liquid), are Chayma

I have dwelt thus long on considerations respecting the American
tongues, because I am desirous of directing attention to the deep
interest attached to this kind of research. This interest is
analogous to that inspired by the monuments of semi-barbarous
nations, which are examined not because they deserve to be ranked
among works of art, but because the study of them throws light on
the history of our species, and the progressive development of our

It now remains for me to speak of the other Indian nations
inhabiting the provinces of Cumana and Barcelona. These I shall
only succinctly enumerate.

1. The Pariagotos or Parias.

It is thought that the terminations in goto, as Pariagoto,
Purugoto, Avarigoto, Acherigoto, Cumanagoto, Arinagoto,
Kirikirisgoto,* (* The Kirikirisgotos (or Kirikiripas) are of Dutch
Guiana. It is very remarkable, that among the small Brazilian
tribes who do not speak the language of the Tupis, the Kiriris,
notwithstanding the enormous distance of 650 leagues, have several
Tamanac words.) imply a Caribbean origin.* (* In the Tamanac
tongue, which is of the same branch as the Caribbean, we find also
the termination goto, as in anekiamgoto an animal. Often an analogy
in the termination of names, far from showing an identity of race,
only indicates that the names of the nations are borrowed from one
language.) All these tribes, excepting the Purugotos of the Rio
Caura, formerly occupied the country which has been so long under
the dominion of the Caribbees; namely, the coasts of Berbice and of
Essequibo, the peninsula of Paria, the plains of Piritu and Parima.
By this last name the little-known country, between the sources of
the Cujuni, the Caroni, and the Mao, is designated in the Missions.
The Paria Indians are mingled in part with the Chaymas of Cumana;
others have been settled by the Capuchins of Aragon in the Missions
of Caroni; for instance, at Cupapuy and Alta-Gracia, where they
still speak their own language, apparently a dialect between the
Tamanac and the Caribbee. But it may be asked, is the name Parias
or Pariagotos, a name merely geographical? Did the Spaniards, who
frequented these coasts from their first establishment in the
island of Cubagua and in Macarapana, give the name of the
promontory of Paria* to the tribe by which it was inhabited? (*
Paria, Uraparia, even Huriaparia and Payra, are the ancient names
of the country, written as the first navigators thought they heard
them pronounced. It appears to me by no means probable, that the
promontory of Paria should derive its name from that of a cacique
Uriapari, celebrated for the manner in which he resisted Diego
Ordaz in 1530, thirty-two years after Columbus had heard the name
of Paria from the mouths of the natives themselves. The Orinoco at
its mouth had also the name of Uriapari, Yuyapari, or Iyupari. In
all these denominations of a great river, of a shore, and of a
rainy country, I think I recognise the radical par, signifying
water, not only in the languages of these countries, but also in
those of nations very distant from one another on the eastern and
western coasts of America. The sea, or great water, is in the
Caribbean, Maypure, and Brazilian languages, parana: in the
Tamanac, parava. In Upper Guiana also the Orinoco is called Parava.
In the Peruvian, or Quichua, I find rain, para; to rain, parani.
Besides, there is a lake in Peru that has been very anciently
called Paria. (Garcia, Origen de los Indios, page 292.) I have
entered into these minute details concerning the word Paria,
because it has recently been supposed that some connection might be
traced between this word and the country of the Hindoo caste called
the Parias.) This we will not positively affirm; for the Caribbees
themselves give the name of Caribana to a country which they
occupied, and which extended from the Rio Sinu to the gulf of
Darien. This is a striking example of identity of name between an
American nation and the territory it possessed. We may conceive,
that in a state of society, where residence is not long fixed, such
instances must be very rare.

2. The Guaraons or Gu-ara-una, almost all free and independent, are
dispersed in the Delta of the Orinoco, with the variously ramified
channels of which they alone are well acquainted. The Caribbees
call the Guaraons U-ara-u. They owe their independence to the
nature of their country; for the missionaries, in spite of their
zeal, have not been tempted to follow them to the tree-tops. The
Guaraons, in order to raise their abodes above the surface of the
waters at the period of the great inundations, support them on the
hewn trunks of the mangrove-tree and of the Mauritia palm-tree.* (*
Their manners have been the same from time immemorial. Cardinal
Bembo described them at the beginning of the 16th century,
"quibusdam in locis propter paludes incolae domus in arboribus
aedificant." (Hist. Venet. 1551.) Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1595,
speaks of the Guaraons under the names of Araottes, Trivitivas, and
Warawites. These were perhaps the names of some tribes, into which
the great Guaraonese nation was divided. (Barrere Essai sur l'Hist.
Naturelle de la France Equinoctiale.)) They make bread of the
medullary flour of this palm-tree, which is the sago of America.
The flour bears the name of yuruma: I have eaten it at the town of
St. Thomas, in Guiana, and it was very agreeable to the taste,
resembling rather the cassava-bread than the sago of India.* (* M.
Kunth has combined together three genera of the palms, Calamus,
Sigus, and Mauritia, in a new section, the Calameae.) The Indians
assured me that the trunks of the Mauritia, the tree of life so
much vaunted by father Gumilla, do not yield meal in any abundance,
unless the palm-tree is cut down just before the flowers appear.
Thus too the maguey,* (* Agave Americana, the aloe of our gardens.)
cultivated in New Spain, furnishes a saccharine liquor, the wine
(pulque) of the Mexicans, only at the period when the plant shoots
forth its long stem. By interrupting the blossoming, nature is
obliged to carry elsewhere the saccharine or amylaceous matter,
which would accumulate in the flowers of the maguey and in the
fruit of the Mauritia. Some families of Guaraons, associated with
the Chaymas, live far from their native land, in the Missions of
the plains or llanos of Cumana; for instance, at Santa Rosa de
Ocopi. Five or six hundred of them voluntarily quitted their
marshes, a few years ago, and formed, on the northern and southern
banks of the Orinoco, twenty-five leagues distant from Cape Barima,
two considerable villages, under the names of Zacupana and Imataca.
When I made my journey in Caripe, these Indians were still without
missionaries, and lived in complete independence. Their excellent
qualities as boatmen, their perfect knowledge of the mouths of the
Orinoco, and of the labyrinth of branches communicating with each
other, give the Guaraons a certain political importance. They
favour that clandestine commerce of which the island of Trinidad is
the centre. The Guaraons run with extreme address on muddy lands,
where the European, the Negro, or other Indians except themselves,
would not dare to walk; and it is, therefore, commonly believed,
that they are of lighter weight than the rest of the natives. This
is also the opinion that is held in Asia of the Burat Tartars. The
few Guaraons whom I saw were of middle size, squat, and very
muscular. The lightness with which they walk in places newly dried,
without sinking in, when even they have no planks tied to their
feet, seemed to me the effect of long habit. Though I sailed a
considerable time on the Orinoco, I never went so low as its mouth.
Future travellers, who may visit those marshy regions, will rectify
what I have advanced.

3. The Guaiqueries or Guaikeri, are the most able and most intrepid
fishermen of these countries. These people alone are well
acquainted with the bank abounding with fish, which surrounds the
islands of Coche, Margareta, Sola, and Testigos; a bank of more
than four hundred square leagues, extending east and west from
Maniquarez to the Boca del Draco. The Guaiqueries inhabit the
island of Margareta, the peninsula of Araya, and that suburb of
Cumana which bears their name. Their language is believed to be a
dialect of that of the Guaraons. This would connect them with the
great family of the Caribbee nations; and the missionary Gili is of
opinion that the language of the Guaiqueries is one of the numerous
branches of the Caribbean tongue.* (* If the name of the port
Pam-patar, in the island of Margareta, be Guaiquerean, as we have
no reason to doubt, it exhibits a feature of analogy with the
Cumanagoto tongue, which approaches the Caribbean and Tamanac. In
Terra Firma, in the Piritu Missions, we find the village of
Cayguapatar, which signifies house of Caygua.) These affinities are
interesting, because they lead us to perceive an ancient connection
between nations dispersed over a vast extent of country, from the
mouth of the Rio Caura and the sources of the Erevato, in Parima,
to French Guiana, and the coasts of Paria.* (* Are the Guaiqueries,
or O-aikeries, now settled on the borders of the Erevato, and
formerly between the Rio Caura and the Cuchivero near the little
town of Alta Gracia, of a different origin from the Guaikeries of
Cumana? I know also, in the interior of the country, in the
Missions of the Piritus, near the village of San Juan Evangelista
del Guarive, a ravine very anciently called Guayquiricuar. These
resemblances seem to prove migrations from the south-west towards
the coast. The termination cuar, found so often in Cumanagoto and
Caribbean names, means a ravine, as in Guaymacuar (ravine of
lizards), Pirichucuar (a ravine overshaded by pirichu or piritu
palm-trees), Chiguatacuar (a ravine of land-shells). Raleigh
describes the Guaiqueries under the name of Ouikeries. He calls the
Chaymas, Saimas, changing (according to the Caribbean
pronunciation) the ch into s.)

4. The Quaquas, whom the Tamanacs call Mapoje, are a tribe formerly
very warlike and allied to the Caribbees. It is a curious
phenomenon to find the Quaquas mingled with the Chaymas in the
Missions of Cumana, for their language, as well as the Atura, of
the cataracts of the Orinoco, is a dialect of the Salive tongue;
and their original abode was on the banks of the Assiveru, which
the Spaniards call Cuchivero. They have extended their migrations
one hundred leagues to the north-east. I have often heard them
mentioned on the Orinoco, above the mouth of the Meta; and, what is
very remarkable, it is asserted* that missionary Jesuits have found
Quaquas as far distant as the Cordilleras of Popayan. (* Vater tome
3 part 2 page 364. The name of Quaqua is found on the coast of
Guinea. The Europeans apply it to a horde of Negroes to the east of
Cape Lahou.) Raleigh enumerates, among the natives of the island of
Trinidad, the Salives, a people remarkable for their mild manners;
they came from the Orinoco, and settled south of the Quaquas.
Perhaps these two nations, which speak almost the same language,
travelled together towards the coasts.

5. The Cumanagotos, or, according to the pronunciation of the
Indians, Cumanacoto, are now settled westward of Cumana, in the
Missions of Piritu, where they live by cultivating the ground. They
number more than twenty-six thousand. Their language, like that of
the Palencas, or Palenques, and Guarivas, is between the Tamanac
and the Caribbee, but nearer to the former. These are indeed idioms
of the same family; but if we are to consider them as simple
dialects, the Latin must be also called a dialect of the Greek, and
the Swedish a dialect of the German. In considering the affinity of
languages one with another, it must not be forgotten that these
affinities may be very differently graduated; and that it would be
a source of confusion not to distinguish between simple dialects
and languages of the same family. The Cumanagotos, the Tamanacs,
the Chaymas, the Guaraons, and the Caribbees, do not understand
each other, in spite of the frequent analogy of words and of
grammatical structure exhibited in their respective idioms. The
Cumanagotos inhabited, at the beginning of the sixteenth century,
the mountains of the Brigantine and of Parabolata. I am unable to
determine whether the Piritus, Cocheymas, Chacopatas, Tomuzas, and
Topocuares, now confounded in the same villages with the
Cumanagotos, and speaking their language, were originally tribes of
the same nation. The Piritus take their name from the ravine
Pirichucuar, where the small thorny palm-tree,* called piritu,
grows in abundance (* Caudice gracili aculeato, foliis pinnatis.
Possibly of the genus Aiphanes of Willdenouw.); the wood of this
tree, which is excessively hard, and little combustible, serves to
make pipes. On this spot the village of La Concepcion de Piritu was
founded in 1556; it is the chief settlement of the Cumanagoto
Missions, known by the name of the Misiones de Piritu.

6. The Caribbees (Carives). This name, which was given them by the
first navigators, is retained throughout all Spanish America. The
French and the Germans have transformed it, I know not why, into
Caraibes. The people call themselves Carina, Calina, and Callinago.
I visited some Caribbean Missions in the Llanos,* (* I shall in
future use the word Llanos (loca plana, suppressing the p), without
adding the equivalent words pampas, savannahs, meadows, steppes, or
plains. The country between the mountains of the coast and the left
bank of the Orinoco, constitutes the llanos of Cumana, Barcelona,
and Caracas.) on returning from my journey to the Orinoco; and I
shall merely mention that the Galibes (Caribi of Cayenne), the
Tuapocas, and the Cunaguaras, who originally inhabited the plains
between the mountains of Caripe (Caribe) and the village of
Maturin, the Jaoi of the island of Trinidad and of the province of
Cumana, and perhaps also the Guarivas, allies of the Palencas, are
all tribes of the great Caribbee nation.

With respect to the other nations whose affinities of language with
the Tamanac and Caribbee have been mentioned, they are not
necessarily to be considered as of the same race. In Asia, the
nations of Mongol origin differ totally in their physical
organisation from those of Tartar origin. Such has been, however,
the intermixture of these nations, that, according to the able
researches of Klaproth, the Tartar languages (branches of the
ancient Oigour) are spoken at present by hordes incontestably of
Mongol race. Neither the analogy nor the diversity of language
suffice to solve the great problem of the filiation of nations;
they merely serve to point out probabilities. The Caribbees,
properly speaking, those who inhabit the Missions of the Cari, in
the llanos of Cumana, the banks of the Caura, and the plains to the
north-east of the sources of the Orinoco, are distinguished by
their almost gigantic size from all the other nations I have seen
in the new continent. Must it on this account be admitted, that the
Caribbees are an entirely distinct race? and that the Guaraons and
the Tamanacs, whose languages have an affinity with the Caribbee,
have no bond of relationship with them? I think not. Among the
nations of the same family, one branch may acquire an extraordinary
development of organization. The mountaineers of the Tyrol and
Salzburgh are taller than the other Germanic races; the Samoiedes
of the Altai are not so little and squat as those of the sea-coast.
In like manner it would be difficult to deny that the Galibis are
really Caribbees; and yet, notwithstanding the identity of
languages, how striking is the difference in their stature and
physical constitution!

Before Cortez entered the capital of Montezuma in 1521, the
attention of Europe was fixed on the regions we have just
traversed. In depicting the manners of the inhabitants of Paria and
Cumana, it was thought that the manners of all the inhabitants of
the new continent were described. This remark cannot escape those
who read the historians of the Conquest, especially the letters of
Peter Martyr of Anghiera, written at the court of Ferdinand the
Catholic. These letters are full of ingenious observations upon
Christopher Columbus, Leo X, and Luther, and are stamped by noble
enthusiasm for the great discoveries of an age so rich in
extraordinary events. Without entering into any detail on the
manners of the nations which have been so long confounded one with
another, under the vague denomination of Cumanians (Cumaneses), it
appears to me important to clear up a fact which I have often heard
discussed in Spanish America.

The Pariagotos of the present time are of a brown red colour, as
are the Caribbees, the Chaymas, and almost all the nations of the
New World. Why do the historians of the sixteenth century affirm
that the first navigators saw white men with fair hair at the
promontory of Paria? Were they of the same race as those Indians of
a less tawny hue, whom M. Bonpland and myself saw at Esmeralda,
near the sources of the Orinoco? But these Indians had hair as
black as the Otomacs and other tribes, whose complexion is the
darkest. Were they albinos, such as have been found heretofore in
the isthmus of Panama? But examples of that degeneration are very
rare in the copper-coloured race; and Anghiera, as well as Gomara,
speaks of the inhabitants of Paria in general, and not of a few
individuals. Both describe them as if they were people of Germanic
origin,* (* "Aethiopes nigri, crispi lanati; Pariae incolae albi,
capillis oblongis protensis flavis."--Pet. Martyr Ocean., dec. 50
lib. 6 (edition 1574). "Utriusque sexus indigenae albi veluti
nostrates, praeter eos qui sub sole versantur." (The natives of
both sexes are as white as our people [Spaniards], except those who
are exposed to the sun.)--Ibid. Gomara, speaking of the natives
seen by Columbus at the mouth of the river of Cumana, says: "Las
donzellas eran amorosas, desnudas y blancas (las de la casa); los
Indios que van al campo estan negros del sol." (The young women are
engaging in their manners: they wear no clothing, and those who
live in the houses ARE WHITE. The Indians who are much in the open
country are black, from the effect of the sun.)--Hist. de los
Indios, cap. 74. "Los Indios de Paria son BLANCOS y rubios."--(The
Indians of Paria are WHITE and red.) Garcia, Origen de los Indios
1729, lib. 4 cap. 9.) they call them 'Whites with light hair;' they
even add, that they wore garments like those of the Turks.* (*
"They wear round their head a striped cotton handkerchief"--Ferd.
Columb. cap. 71. (Churchill volume 2.) Was this kind of head-dress
taken for a turban? (Garcia, Origen de los Ind., page 303). I am
surprised that people of these regions should have worn a
head-dress; but, what is more curious still, Pinzon, in a voyage
which he made alone to the coast of Paria, the particulars of which
have been transmitted to us by Peter Martyr of Anghiera, professes
to have seen natives who were clothed: "Incolas omnes genu tenus
mares, foeminas surarum tenus, gossampinis vestibus amictos
simplicibus repererunt; sed viros more Turcorum insuto minutim
gossypio ad belli usum duplicibus." (The natives were clothed in
thin cotton garments; the men's reaching to the knee, and the
women's to the calf of the leg. Their war-dress was thicker, and
closely stitched with cotton after the Turkish manner.)--Pet.
Martyr, dec. 2 lib. 7. Who were these people described as being
comparatively civilized, and clothed with tunics (like those who
lived an the summit of the Andes), and seen on a coast, where
before and since the time of Pinzon, only naked men have ever been
seen?) Gomara and Anghiera wrote from such oral information as they
had been able to collect.

These marvels disappear, if we examine the recital which Ferdinand
Columbus drew up from his father's papers. There we find simply,
that "the admiral was surprised to see the inhabitants of Paria,
and those of the island of Trinidad, better made, more civilized
(de buena conversacion), and whiter than the natives whom he had
previously seen."* (* Churchill's Collection volume 2, Herrera
pages 80, 83, 84. Munoz, Hist. del Nuevo Mundo volume 1, "El color
era baxo como es regular en los Indios, pero mas clara que en las
islas reconocidas." (Their colour was dark, as is usual among the
Indians; but lighter than that of the people of the islands
previously known.) The missionaries are accustomed to call those
Indians who are less black, less tawny, WHITISH, and even ALMOST
WHITE.--Gumilla, Hist. de l'Orenoque volume 1 chapter 5 paragraph
2. Such incorrect expressions may mislead those who are not
accustomed to the exaggerations in which travellers often indulge.)
This certainly did not mean that the Pariagotos are white. The
lighter colour of the skin of the natives and the great coolness of
the mornings on the coast of Paria, seemed to confirm the fantastic
hypothesis which that great man had framed, respecting the
irregularity of the curvature of the earth, and the height of the
plains in this region, which he regarded as the effect of an
extraordinary swelling of the globe in the direction of the
parallels of latitude. Amerigo Vespucci (in his pretended FIRST
voyage, apparently written from the narratives of other navigators)
compares the natives to the Tartar nations,* (* Vultu non multum
speciosi sunt, quoniam latas facies Tartariis adsimilatas habent.
(Their countenances are not handsome, their cheek-bones being broad
like those of the Tartars.)--Americi Vesputii Navigatio Prima, in
Gryn's Orbis Novus 1555.) not in regard to their colour, but on
account of the breadth of their faces, and the general expression
of their physiognomy.

But if it be certain, that at the end of the fifteenth century
there were on the coast of Cumana a few men with white skins, as
there are in our days, it must not thence be concluded, that the
natives of the New World exhibit everywhere a similar organization
of the dermoidal system. It is not less inaccurate to say, that
they are all copper-coloured, than to affirm that they would not
have a tawny hue, if they were not exposed to the heat of the sun,
or tanned by the action of the air. The natives may be divided into
two very unequal portions with respect to numbers; to the first
belong the Esquimaux of Greenland, of Labrador, and the northern
coast of Hudson's Bay, the inhabitants of Behring's Straits, of the
peninsula of Alaska, and of Prince William's Sound. The eastern and
western branches* of this polar race (* Vater, in Mithridates
volume 3. Egede, Krantz, Hearne, Mackenzie, Portlock, Chwostoff,
Davidoff, Resanoff, Merk, and Billing, have described the great
family of these Tschougaz-Esquimaux.), the Esquimaux and the
Tschougases, though at the vast distance of eight hundred leagues
apart, are united by the most intimate analogy of languages. This
analogy extends even to the inhabitants of the north-east of Asia;
for the idiom of the Tschouktsches* at the mouth of the Anadir (* I
mean here only the Tschouktsches who have fixed dwelling-places,
for the wandering Tschouktsches approach very near the Koriaks.),
has the same roots as the language of the Esquimaux who inhabit the
coast of America opposite to Europe. The Tschouktsches are the
Esquimaux of Asia. Like the Malays, that hyperborean race reside
only on the sea-coasts. They are almost all smaller in stature than
the other Americans, and are quick, lively, and talkative. Their
hair is almost straight, and black; but their skin (and this is
very characteristic of the race, which I shall designate under the
name of Tschougaz-Esquimaux) is originally whitish. It is certain
that the children of the Greenlanders are born white; some retain
that whiteness; and often in the brownest (the most tanned) the
redness of the blood is seen to appear on their cheeks.* (* Krantz,
Hist. of Greenland 1667 tome 1. Greenland does not seem to have
been inhabited in the eleventh century; at least the Esquimaux
appeared only in the fourteenth, coming from the west.)

The second portion of the natives of America includes all those
nations which are not Tschougaz-Esquimaux, beginning from Cook's
River to the Straits of Magellan, from the Ugaljachmouzes and the
Kinaese of Mount St. Elias, to the Puelches and Tehuelhets of the
southern hemisphere. The men who belong to this second branch, are
taller, stronger, more warlike, and more taciturn than the others.
They present also very remarkable differences in the colour of
their skin. In Mexico, Peru, New Grenada, Quito, on the banks of
the Orinoco and of the river Amazon, in every part of South America
which I have explored, in the plains as well as on the coldest
table-lands, the Indian children of two or three months old have
the same bronze tint as is observed in adults. The idea that the
natives may be whites tanned by the air and the sun, could never
have occurred to a Spanish inhabitant of Quito, or of the banks of
the Orinoco. In the north-east of America, on the contrary, we meet
with tribes among whom the children are white, and at the age of
virility they acquire the bronze colour of the natives of Mexico
and Peru. Michikinakoua, chief of the Miamis, had his arms, and
those parts of his body not exposed to the sun, almost white. This
difference of hue between the parts covered and not covered is
never observed among the natives of Peru and Mexico, even in
families who live much at their ease, and remain almost constantly
within doors. To the west of the Miamis, on the coast opposite to
Asia, among the Kolouches and Tchinkitans* of Norfolk Sound (*
Between 54 and 58 degrees of latitude. These white nations have
been visited successively by Portlock, Marchand, Baranoff, and
Davidoff. The Tchinkitans, or Schinkit, are the inhabitants of the
island of Sitka. Vater Mithridates volume 3 page 2. Marchand
Voyages volume 2.), grown-up girls, when they have gashed their
skin, display the white hue of Europeans. This whiteness is found
also, according to some accounts, among the mountaineers of Chile.*
(* Molina, Saggio sull' Istoria Nat. del Chile edition 2 page 293.
May we believe the existence of those blue eyes of the Boroas of
Chile and Guayanas of Uruguay; represented to us as nations of the
race of Odin? Azara Voyage tome 2.)

These facts are very remarkable, and contrary to the opinion so
generally spread, of the extreme conformity of organization among
the natives of America. If we divide them into Esquimaux and
non-Esquimaux, we readily admit that this classification is not
more philosophical than that of the ancients, who saw in the whole
of the habitable world only Celts and Scythians, Greeks, and
Barbarians. When, however, our purpose is to group numerous
nations, we gain something by proceeding in the mode of exclusion.
All we have sought to establish here is, that, in separating the
whole race of Tschougaz-Esquimaux, there remain still, among the
coppery-brown Americans, other races, the children of which are
born white, without our being able to prove, by going back as far
as the history of the Conquest, that they have been mingled with
European blood. This fact deserves to be cleared up by travellers
who may possess a knowledge of physiology, and may have
opportunities of examining the brown children of the Mexicans at
the age of two years, as well as the white children of the Miamis,
and those hordes* on the Orinoco (* These whitish tribes are the
Guaycas, the Ojos, and the Maquiritares.), who, living in the most
sultry regions, retain during their whole life, and in the fulness
of their strength, the whitish skin of the Mestizoes.

In man, the deviations from the common type of the whole race are
apparent in the stature, the physiognomy, or the form of the body,
rather than on the colour of the skin.* (* The circumpolar nations
of the two continents are small and squat, though of races entirely
different.) It is not so with animals, where varieties are found
more in colour than in form. The hair of the mammiferous class of
animals, the feathers of birds, and even the scales of fishes,
change their hue, according to the lengthened influence of light
and darkness, and the intensity of heat and cold. In man, the
colouring matter seems to be deposited in the epidermis by the
roots or the bulbs of the hair:* (* Adverting to the interesting
researches of M. Gaultier, on the organisation of the human skin,
John Hunter observes, that in several animals the colorating of the
hair is independent of that of the skin.) and all sound
observations prove, that the skin varies in colour from the action
of external stimuli on individuals, and not hereditarily in the
whole race. The Esquimaux of Greenland and the Laplanders are
tanned by the influence of the air; but their children are born
white. We will not decide on the changes which nature may have
produced in a space of time exceeding all historical tradition.
Reason stops short in these matters, when no longer under the
guidance of experience and analogy.

All white-skinned nations begin their cosmogony by white men; they
allege that the negroes and all tawny people have been blackened or
embrowned by the excessive heat of the sun. This theory, adopted by
the Greeks,* (* Strabo, liv. 15.) though it did not pass without
contradiction,* (* Onesicritus, apud Strabonem, lib. 15.
Alexander's expedition appears to have contributed greatly to fix
the attention of the Greeks on the great question of the influence
of climates. They had learned from the accounts of travellers, that
in Hindostan the nations of the south were of darker colour than
those of the north, near the mountains: and they supposed that they
were both of the same race.) has been propagated even to our own
times. Buffon has repeated in prose what Theodectes had expressed
in verse two thousand years before: "that nations wear the livery
of the climate in which they live." If history had been written by
black nations, they would have maintained what even Europeans have
recently advanced,* that man was originally black, or of a very
tawny colour (* See the work of Mr. Prichard, abounding with
curious research. "Researches into the Physical History of Man,
1813," page 239.); and that mankind have become white in some
races, from the effect of civilization and progressive
debilitation, as animals, in a state of domestication, pass from
dark to lighter colours. In plants and in animals, accidental
varieties, formed under our own eyes, have become fixed, and have
been propagated;* (* For example, the sheep with very short legs,
called ancon sheep in Connecticut, and examined by Sir Everard
Home. This variety dates only from the year 1791.) but nothing
proves, that in the present state of human organization, the
different races of black, yellow, copper-coloured, and white men,
when they remain unmixed, deviate considerably from their primitive
type, by the influence of climate, of food, and other external

These opinions are founded on the authority of Ulloa.* (* "The
Indians [Americans] are of a copper-colour, which by the action of
the sun and the air grows darker. I must remark, that neither heat
nor cold produces any sensible change in the colour, so that the
Indians of the Cordilleras of Peru are easily confounded with those
of the hottest plains; and those who live under the Line cannot be
distinguished, by their colour, from those who inhabit the fortieth
degree of north and south latitude."--Noticias Americanas. No
ancient author has so clearly stated the two forms of reasoning, by
which we still explain in our days the differences of colour and
features among neighbouring nations, as Tacitus. He makes a just
distinction between the influence of climate, and hereditary
dispositions; and, like a philosopher persuaded of our profound
ignorance of the origin of things, he leaves the question
undecided. "Habitus corporum varii; atque ex eo argumenta, seu
durante originis vi, seu procurrentibus in diversa terris, positio
coeli corporibus habitum dedit."--Agricola, cap 2.) That learned
writer saw the Indians of Chile, of the Andes of Peru, of the
burning coasts of Panama, and those of Louisiana, situated in the
northern temperate zone. He had the good fortune to live at a
period when theories were less numerous; and, like me, he was
struck by seeing the natives equally bronzed under the Line, in the
cold climate of the Cordilleras, and in the plains. Where
differences of colour are observed, they depend on the race. We
shall soon find on the burning banks of the Orinoco Indians with a
whitish skin. Durans originis vis est.



We remained a month longer at Cumana, employing ourselves in the
necessary preparations for our proposed visit to the Orinoco and
the Rio Negro. We had to choose such instruments as could be most
easily transported in narrow boats; and to engage guides for an
inland journey of ten months, across a country without
communication with the coasts. The astronomical determination of
places being the most important object of this undertaking, I felt
desirous not to miss the observation of an eclipse of the sun,
which was to be visible at the end of October: and in consequence I
preferred remaining till that period at Cumana, where the sky is
generally clear and serene. It was now too late to reach the banks
of the Orinoco before October; and the high valleys of Caracas
promised less favourable opportunities, on account of the vapours
which accumulate round the neighbouring mountains.

I was, however, near being compelled by a deplorable occurrence, to
renounce, or at least to delay for a long time, my journey to the
Orinoco. On the 27th of October, the day before the eclipse, we
went as usual, to take the air on the shore of the gulf, and to
observe the instant of high water, which in those parts is only
twelve or thirteen inches. It was eight in the evening, and the
breeze was not yet stirring. The sky was cloudy; and during a dead
calm it was excessively hot. We crossed the beach which separates
the suburb of the Guayqueria Indians from the embarcadero. I heard
some one walking behind us, and on turning, I saw a tall man of the
colour of the Zambos, naked to the waist. He held almost over my
head a macana, which is a great stick of palm-tree wood, enlarged
to the end like a club. I avoided the stroke by leaping towards the
left; but M. Bonpland, who walked on my right, was less fortunate.
He did not see the Zambo so soon as I did, and received a stroke
above the temple, which levelled him with the ground. We were
alone, without arms, half a league from any habitation, on a vast
plain bounded by the sea. The Zambo, instead of attacking me, moved
off slowly to pick up M. Bonpland's hat, which, having somewhat
deadened the violence of the blow, had fallen off and lay at some
distance. Alarmed at seeing my companion on the ground, and for
some moments senseless, I thought of him only. I helped him to
raise himself, and pain and anger doubled his strength. We ran
toward the Zambo, who, either from cowardice, common enough in
people of this caste, or because he perceived at a distance some
men on the beach, did not wait for us, but ran off in the direction
of the Tunal, a little thicket of cactus and arborescent avicennia.
He chanced to fall in running; and M. Bonpland, who reached him
first, seized him round the body. The Zambo drew a long knife; and
in this unequal struggle we should infallibly have been wounded, if
some Biscayan merchants, who were taking the air on the beach, had
not come to our assistance. The Zambo seeing himself surrounded,
thought no longer of defence. He again ran away, and we pursued him
through the thorny cactuses. At length, tired out, he took shelter
in a cow-house, whence he suffered himself to be quietly led to

M. Bonpland was seized with fever during the night; but being
endowed with great energy and fortitude, and possessing that
cheerful disposition which is one of the most precious gifts of
nature, he continued his labours the next day. The stroke of the
macana had extended to the top of his head, and he felt its effect
for the space of two or three months during the stay we made at
Caracas. When stooping to collect plants, he was sometimes seized
with giddiness, which led us to fear that an internal abscess was
forming. Happily these apprehensions were unfounded, and the
symptoms, at first alarming, gradually disappeared. The inhabitants
of Cumana showed us the kindest interest. It was ascertained that
the Zambo was a native of one of the Indian villages which surround
the great lake of Maracaybo. He had served on board a privateer
belonging to the island of St. Domingo, and in consequence of a
quarrel with the captain he had been left on the coast of Cumana,
when the ship quitted the port. Having seen the signal which we had
fixed up for the purpose of observing the height of the tides, he
had watched the moment when he could attack us on the beach. But
why, after having knocked one of us down, was he satisfied with
simply stealing a hat? In an examination he underwent, his answers
were so confused and stupid, that it was impossible to clear up our
doubts. Sometimes he maintained that his intention was not to rob
us; but that, irritated by the bad treatment he had suffered on
board the privateer of St. Domingo, he could not resist the desire
of attacking us, when he heard us speak French. Justice is so tardy
in this country, that prisoners, of whom the jail is full, may
remain seven or eight years without being brought to trial; we
learnt, therefore, with some satisfaction, that a few days after
our departure from Cumana, the Zambo had succeeded in breaking out
of the castle of San Antonio.

On the day after this occurrence, the 28th of October, I was, at
five in the morning, on the terrace of our house, making
preparations for the observation of the eclipse. The weather was
fine and serene. The crescent of Venus, and the constellation of
the Ship, so splendid from the disposition of its immense nebulae,
were lost in the rays of the rising sun. I had a complete
observation of the progress and the close of the eclipse. I
determined the distance of the horns, or the differences of
altitude and azimuth, by the passage over the threads of the
quadrant. The eclipse terminated at 2 hours 14 minutes 23.4 seconds
mean time, at Cumana.

During a few days which preceded and followed the eclipse of the
sun, very remarkable atmospherical phenomena were observable. It
was what is called in those countries the season of winter; that
is, of clouds and small electrical showers. From the 10th of
October to the 3rd of November, at nightfall, a reddish vapour
arose in the horizon, and covered, in a few minutes, with a veil
more or less thick, the azure vault of the sky. Saussure's
hygrometer, far from indicating greater humidity, often went back
from 90 to 83 degrees. The heat of the day was from 28 to 32
degrees, which for this part of the torrid zone is very
considerable. Sometimes, in the midst of the night, the vapours
disappeared in an instant; and at the moment when I had arranged my
instruments, clouds of brilliant whiteness collected at the zenith,
and extended towards the horizon. On the 18th of October these
clouds were so remarkably transparent, that they did not hide stars
even of the fourth magnitude. I could distinguish so perfectly the
spots of the moon, that it might have been supposed its disk was
before the clouds. The latter were at a prodigious height, disposed
in bands, and at equal distances, as from the effect of electric
repulsions:--these small masses of vapour, similar to those I saw
above my head on the ridge of the highest Andes, are, in several
languages, designated by the name of sheep. When the reddish vapour
spreads lightly over the sky, the great stars, which in general, at
Cumana, scarcely scintillate below 20 or 25 degrees, did not retain
even at the zenith, their steady and planetary light. They
scintillated at all altitudes, as after a heavy storm of rain.* (*
I have not observed any direct relation between the scintillation
of the stars and the dryness of that part of the atmosphere open to
our researches. I have often seen at Cumana a great scintillation
of the stars of Orion and Sagittarius, when Saussure's hygrometer
was at 85 degrees. At other times, these same stars, considerably
elevated above the horizon, emitted a steady and planetary light,
the hygrometer being at 90 or 93 degrees. Probably it is not the
quantity of vapour, but the manner in which it is diffused, and
more or less dissolved in the air, which determines the
scintillation. The latter is invariably attended with a coloration
of light. It is remarkable enough, that, in northern countries, at
a time when the atmosphere appears perfectly dry, the scintillation
is most decided in very cold weather.) It was curious that the
vapour did not affect the hygrometer at the surface of the earth. I
remained a part of the night seated in a balcony, from which I had
a view of a great part of the horizon. In every climate I feel a
peculiar interest in fixing my eyes, when the sky is serene, on
some great constellation, and seeing groups of vesicular vapours
appear and augment, as around a central nucleus, then,
disappearing, form themselves anew.

After the 28th of October, the reddish mist became thicker than it
had previously been. The heat of the nights seemed stifling, though
the thermometer rose only to 26 degrees. The breeze, which
generally refreshed the air from eight or nine o'clock in the
evening, was no longer felt. The atmosphere was burning hot, and
the parched and dusty ground was cracked on every side. On the 4th
of November, about two in the afternoon, large clouds of peculiar
blackness enveloped the high mountains of the Brigantine and the
Tataraqual. They extended by degrees as far as the zenith. About
four in the afternoon thunder was heard over our heads, at an
immense height, not regularly rolling, but with a hollow and often
interrupted sound. At the moment of the strongest electric
explosion, at 4 hours 12 minutes, there were two shocks of
earthquake, which followed each other at the interval of fifteen
seconds. The people ran into the streets, uttering loud cries. M.
Bonpland, who was leaning over a table examining plants, was almost
thrown on the floor. I felt the shock very strongly, though I was
lying in a hammock. Its direction was from north to south, which is
rare at Cumana. Slaves, who were drawing water from a well more
than eighteen or twenty feet deep, near the river Manzanares, heard
a noise like the explosion of a strong charge of gunpowder. The
noise seemed to come from the bottom of the well; a very curious
phenomenon, though very common in most of the countries of America
which are exposed to earthquakes.

A few minutes before the first shock there was a very violent blast
of wind, followed by electrical rain falling in great drops. I
immediately tried the atmospherical electricity by the electrometer
of Volta. The small balls separated four lines; the electricity
often changed from positive to negative, as is the case during
storms, and, in the north of Europe, even sometimes in a fall of
snow. The sky remained cloudy, and the blast of wind was followed
by a dead calm, which lasted all night. The sunset presented a
picture of extraordinary magnificence. The thick veil of clouds was
rent asunder, as in shreds, quite near the horizon; the sun
appeared at 12 degrees of altitude on a sky of indigo-blue. Its
disk was enormously enlarged, distorted, and undulated toward the
edges. The clouds were gilded; and fascicles of divergent rays,
reflecting the most brilliant rainbow hues, extended over the
heavens. A great crowd of people assembled in the public square.
This celestial phenomenon,--the earthquake,--the thunder which
accompanied it,--the red vapour seen during so many days, all were
regarded as the effect of the eclipse.

About nine in the evening there was another shock, much slighter
than the former, but attended with a subterraneous noise. The
barometer was a little lower than usual; but the progress of the
horary variations or small atmospheric tides, was no way
interrupted. The mercury was precisely at the minimum of height at
the moment of the earthquake; it continued rising till eleven in
the evening, and sank again till half after four in the morning,
conformably to the law which regulates barometrical variations. In
the night between the 3rd and 4th of November the reddish vapour
was so thick that I could not distinguish the situation of the
moon, except by a beautiful halo of 20 degrees diameter.

Scarcely twenty-two months had elapsed since the town of Cumana had
been almost totally destroyed by an earthquake. The people regard
vapours which obscure the horizon, and the subsidence of wind
during the night, as infallible pregnostics of disaster. We had
frequent visits from persons who wished to know whether our
instruments indicated new shocks for the next day; and alarm was
great and general when, on the 5th of November, exactly at the same
hour as on the preceding day, there was a violent gust of wind,
attended by thunder, and a few drops of rain. No shock was felt.
The wind and storm returned during five or six days at the same
hour, almost at the same minute. The inhabitants of Cumana, and of
many other places between the tropics, have long since observed
that atmospherical changes, which are, to appearance, the most
accidental, succeed each other for whole weeks with astonishing
regularity. The same phenomenon occurs in summer, in the temperate
zone; nor has it escaped the perception of astronomers, who often
observe, in a serene sky, during three or four days successively,
clouds which have collected at the same part of the firmament, take
the same direction, and dissolve at the same height; sometimes
before, sometimes after the passage of a star over the meridian,
consequently within a few minutes of the same point of true time.*
(* M. Arago and I paid a great deal of attention to this phenomenon
during a long series of observations made in the year 1809 and
1810, at the Observatory of Paris, with the view of verifying the
declination of the stars.)

The earthquake of the 4th of November, the first I had felt, made
the greater impression on me, as it was accompanied with remarkable
meteorological variations. It was, moreover, a positive movement
upward and downward, and not a shock by undulation. I did not then
imagine, that after a long abode on the table-lands of Quito and
the coasts of Peru, I should become almost as familiar with the
abrupt movements of the ground as we are in Europe with the sound
of thunder. In the city of Quito, we never thought of rising from
our beds when, during the night, subterraneous rumblings
(bramidos), which seem always to come from the volcano of
Pichincha, announced a shock, the force of which, however, is
seldom in proportion to the intensity of the noise. The
indifference of the inhabitants, who bear in mind that for three
centuries past their city has not been destroyed, readily
communicates itself to the least intrepid traveller. It is not so
much the fear of the danger, as the novelty of the sensation, which
makes so forcible an impression when the effect of the slightest
earthquake is felt for the first time.

From our infancy, the idea of certain contrasts becomes fixed in
our minds: water appears to us an element that moves; earth, a
motionless and inert mass. These impressions are the result of
daily experience; they are connected with everything that is
transmitted to us by the senses. When the shock of an earthquake is
felt, when the earth which we had deemed so stable is shaken on its
old foundations, one instant suffices to destroy long-fixed
illusions. It is like awakening from a dream; but a painful
awakening. We feel that we have been deceived by the apparent
stability of nature; we become observant of the least noise; we
mistrust for the first time the soil we have so long trod with
confidence. But if the shocks be repeated, if they become frequent
during several successive days, the uncertainty quickly disappears.
In 1784, the inhabitants of Mexico were accustomed to hear the
thunder roll beneath their feet,* (* Los bramidos de Guanazuato.)
as it is heard by us in the region of the clouds. Confidence easily
springs up in the human breast: on the coasts of Peru we become
accustomed to the undulations of the ground, as the sailor becomes
accustomed to the tossing of the ship, caused by the motion of the

The reddish vapour which at Cumana had spread a mist over the
horizon a little before sunset, disappeared after the 7th of
November. The atmosphere resumed its former purity, and the
firmament appeared, at the zenith, of that deep blue tint peculiar
to climates where heat, light, and a great equality of electric
charge seem all to promote the most perfect dissolution of water in
the air. I observed, on the night of the 7th, the immersion of the
second satellite of Jupiter. The belts of the planet were more
distinct than I had ever seen them before.

I passed a part of the night in comparing the intensity of the
light emitted by the beautiful stars which shine in the southern
sky. I pursued this task carefully in both hemispheres, at sea, and
during my abode at Lima, at Guayaquil, and at Mexico. Nearly half a
century has now elapsed since La Caille examined that region of the
sky which is invisible in Europe. The stars near the south pole are
usually observed with so little perseverance and attention, that
the greatest changes may take place in the intensity of their light
and their own motion, without astronomers having the slightest
knowledge of them. I think I have remarked changes of this kind in
the constellation of the Crane and in that of the Ship. I compared,
at first with the naked eye, the stars which are not very distant
from each other, for the purpose of classing them according to the
method pointed out by Herschel, in a paper read to the Royal
Society of London in 1796. I afterwards employed diaphragms
diminishing the aperture of the telescope, and coloured and
colourless glasses placed before the eye-glass. I moreover made use
of an instrument of reflexion calculated to bring simultaneously
two stars into the field of the telescope, after having equalized
their light by receiving it with more or fewer rays at pleasure,
reflected by the silvered part of the mirror. I admit that these
photometric processes are not very precise; but I believe the last,
which perhaps had never before been employed, might he rendered
nearly exact, by adding a scale of equal parts to the moveable
frame of the telescope of the sextant. It was by taking the mean of
a great number of valuations, that I saw the relative intensity of
the light of the great stars decrease in the following manner:
Sirius, Canopus, a Centauri, Acherner, b Centauri, Fomalhaut,
Rigel, Procyon, Betelgueuse, e of the Great Dog, d of the Great
Dog, a of the Crane, a of the Peacock. These experiments will
become more interesting when travellers shall have determined anew,
at intervals of forty or fifty years, some of those changes which
the celestial bodies seem to undergo, either at their surface or
with respect to their distances from our planetary system.

After having made astronomical observations with the same
instruments, in our northern climates and in the torrid zone, we
are surprised at the effect produced in the latter (by the
transparency of the air, and the less extinction of light), on the
clearness with which the double stars, the satellites of Jupiter,
or certain nebulae, present themselves. Beneath a sky equally
serene in appearance, it would seem as if more perfect instruments
were employed; so much more distinct and well defined do the
objects appear between the tropics. It cannot be doubted, that at
the period when equinoctial America shall become the centre of
extensive civilization, physical astronomy will make immense
improvements, in proportion as the skies will be explored with
excellent glasses, in the dry and hot climates of Cumana, Coro, and
the island of Margareta. I do not here mention the ridge of the
Cordilleras, because, with the exception of some high and nearly
barren plains in Mexico and Peru, the very elevated table-lands, in
which the barometric pressure is from ten to twelve inches less
than at the level of the sea, have a misty and extremely variable
climate. The extreme purity of the atmosphere which constantly
prevails in the low regions during the dry season, counterbalances
the elevation of site and the rarity of the air on the table-lands.
The elevated strata of the atmosphere, when they envelope the
ridges of mountains, undergo rapid changes in their transparency.

The night of the 11th of November was cool and extremely fine. From
half after two in the morning, the most extraordinary luminous
meteors were seen in the direction of the east. M. Bonpland, who
had risen to enjoy the freshness of the air, perceived them first.
Thousands of bolides and falling stars succeeded each other during
the space of four hours. Their direction was very regular from
north to south. They filled a space in the sky extending from due
east 30 degrees to north and south. In an amplitude of 60 degrees
the meteors were seen to rise above the horizon at east-north-east
and at east, to describe arcs more or less extended, and to fall
towards the south, after having followed the direction of the
meridian. Some of them attained a height of 40 degrees, and all
exceeded 25 or 30 degrees. There was very little wind in the low
regions of the atmosphere, and that little blew from the east. No
trace of clouds was to be seen. M. Bonpland states that, from the
first appearance of the phenomenon, there was not in the firmament
a space equal in extent to three diameters of the moon, which was
not filled every instant with bolides and falling stars. The first
were fewer in number, but as they were of different sizes, it was
impossible to fix the limit between these two classes of phenomena.
All these meteors left luminous traces from five to ten degrees in
length, as often happens in the equinoctial regions. The
phosphorescence of these traces, or luminous bands, lasted seven or
eight seconds. Many of the falling stars had a very distinct
nucleus, as large as the disk of Jupiter, from which darted sparks
of vivid light. The bolides seem to burst as by explosion; but the
largest, those from 1 to 1 degree 15 minutes in diameter,
disappeared without scintillation, leaving behind them
phosphorescent bands (trabes) exceeding in breadth fifteen or
twenty minutes. The light of these meteors was white, and not
reddish, which must doubtless be attributed to the absence of
vapour and the extreme transparency of the air. For the same
reason, within the tropics, the stars of the first magnitude have,
at their rising, a light decidedly whiter than in Europe.

Almost all the inhabitants of Cumana witnessed this phenomenon,
because they had left their houses before four o'clock, to attend
the early morning mass. They did not behold these bolides with
indifference; the oldest among them remembered that the great
earthquakes of 1766 were preceded by similar phenomena. The
Guaiqueries in the Indian suburb alleged "that the bolides began to
appear at one o'clock; and that as they returned from fishing in
the gulf, they had perceived very small falling stars towards the
east." They assured us that igneous meteors were extremely rare on
those coasts after two o'clock in the morning.

The phenomenon ceased by degrees after four o'clock, and the
bolides and falling stars became less frequent; but we still
distinguished some to north-east by their whitish light, and the
rapidity of their movement, a quarter of an hour after sunrise.
This circumstance will appear less extraordinary, when I mention
that in broad daylight, in 1788, the interior of the houses in the
town of Popayan was brightly illumined by an aerolite of immense
magnitude. It passed over the town, when the sun was shining
clearly, about one o'clock. M. Bonpland and myself, during our
second residence at Cumana, after having observed, on the 26th of
September, 1800, the immersion of the first satellite of Jupiter,
succeeded in seeing the planet distinctly with the naked eye,
eighteen minutes after the disk of the sun had appeared in the
horizon. There was a very slight vapour in the east, but Jupiter
appeared on an azure sky. These facts bear evidence of the extreme
purity and transparency of the atmosphere in the torrid zone. The
mass of diffused light is the less, in proportion as the vapours
are more perfectly dissolved. The same cause which checks the
diffusion of the solar light, diminishes the extinction of that
which emanates either from bolides from Jupiter, or from the moon,
seen on the second day after its conjunction. The 12th of November
was an extremely hot day, and the hygrometer indicated a very
considerable degree of dryness for those climates. The reddish
vapour clouded the horizon anew, and rose to the height of 14
degrees. This was the last time it appeared that year; and I must
here observe, that it is no less rare under the fine sky of Cumana,
than it is common at Acapulco, on the western coast of Mexico.

We did not neglect, during the course of our journey from Caracas
to the Rio Negro, to enquire everywhere, whether the meteors of the
12th of November had been perceived. In a wild country, where the
greater number of the inhabitants sleep in the open air, so
extraordinary a phenomenon could not fail to be remarked, unless it
had been concealed from observation by clouds. The Capuchin
missionary at San Fernando de Apure,* (* North latitude 7 degrees
53 minutes 12 seconds; west longitude 70 degrees 20 minutes.), a
village situated amid the savannahs of the province of Varinas; the
Franciscan monks stationed near the cataracts of the Orinoco and at
Maroa,* (* North latitude 2 degrees 42 minutes 0 seconds; west
longitude 70 degrees 21 minutes.) on the banks of the Rio Negro;
had seen numberless falling-stars and bolides illumine the heavens.
Maroa is south-west of Cumana, at one hundred and seventy-four
leagues distance. All these observers compared the phenomenon to
brilliant fireworks; and it lasted from three till six in the
morning. Some of the monks had marked the day in their rituals;
others had noted it by the proximate festivals of the Church.
Unfortunately, none of them could recollect the direction of the
meteors, or their apparent height. From the position of the
mountains and thick forests which surround the Missions of the
Cataracts and the little village of Maroa, I presume that the
bolides were still visible at 20 degrees above the horizon. On my
arrival at the southern extremity of Spanish Guiana, at the little
fort of San Carlos, I found some Portuguese, who had gone up the
Rio Negro from the Mission of St. Joseph of the Maravitans. They
assured me that in that part of Brazil the phenomenon had been
perceived at least as far as San Gabriel das Cachoeiras,
consequently as far as the equator itself.* (* A little to the
north-west of San Antonio de Castanheiro. I did not meet with any
persons who had observed this meteor, at Santa Fe de Bogota, at
Popayan, or in the southern hemisphere, at Quito and Peru. Perhaps
the state of the atmosphere, so changeable in these western regions,
prevented observation.)

I was forcibly struck by the immense height which these bolides
must have attained, to have rendered them visible simultaneously at
Cumana, and on the frontiers of Brazil, in a line of two hundred
and thirty leagues in length. But what was my astonishment, when,
on my return to Europe, I learned that the same phenomenon had been
perceived on an extent of the globe of 64 degrees of latitude, and
91 degrees of longitude; at the equator, in South America, at
Labrador, and in Germany! I saw accidentally, during my passage
from Philadelphia to Bordeaux,* (* In the Memoirs of the
Pennsylvanian Society.) the corresponding observation of Mr.
Ellicot (latitude 30 degrees 42); and upon my return from Naples to
Berlin, I read the account of the Moravian missionaries among the
Esquimaux, in the Bibliothek of Gottingen.

The following is a succinct enumeration of the facts:

First. The fiery meteors were seen in the east, and the
east-north-east, at 40 degrees of elevation, from 2 to 6 a.m. at
Cumana (latitude 10 degrees 27 minutes 52 seconds, longitude 66
degrees 30 minutes); at Porto Cabello (latitude 10 degrees 6
minutes 52 seconds, longitude 67 degrees 5 minutes); and on the
frontiers of Brazil, near the equator, in longitude 70 degrees
west of the meridian of Paris.

Second. In French Guiana (latitude 4 degrees 56 minutes, longitude
54 degrees 35 minutes) "the northern part of the sky was suffused
with fire. Numberless falling-stars traversed the heavens during
the space of an hour and a half, and shed so vivid a light, that
those meteors might be compared to the blazing sheaves which shoot
out from fireworks." The knowledge of this fact rests upon the
highly trustworthy testimony of the Count de Marbois, then living
in exile at Cayenne, a victim to his love of justice and of
rational, constitutional liberty.

Third. Mr. Ellicot, astronomer to the United States, having
completed his trigonometric operations for the rectification of the
limits on the Ohio, being on the 12th of November in the gulf of
Florida, in latitude 25 degrees, and longitude 81 degrees 50
minutes, saw in all parts of the sky, "as many meteors as stars,
moving in all directions. Some appeared to fall perpendicularly;
and it was expected every minute that they would drop into the
vessel." The same phenomenon was perceived upon the American
continent as far as latitude 30 degrees 42 minutes.

Fourth. In Labrador, at Nain (latitude 56 degrees 55 minutes), and
Hoffenthal (latitude 58 degrees 4 minutes); in Greenland, at
Lichtenau (latitude 61 degrees 5 minutes), and at New Herrnhut
(latitude 64 degrees 14 minutes, longitude 52 degrees 20 minutes);
the Esquimaux were terrified at the enormous quantity of bolides
which fell during twilight at all points of the firmament, and some
of which were said to be a foot broad.

Fifth. In Germany, Mr. Zeissing, vicar of Ittetsadt, near Weimar
(latitude 50 degrees 59 minutes, longitude 9 degrees 1 minute
east), perceived, on the 12th of November, between the hours of six
and seven in the morning (half-past two at Cumana), some
falling-stars which shed a very white light. Soon after, in the
direction of south and south-west, luminous rays appeared from four
to six feet long; they were reddish, and resembled the luminous
track of a sky-rocket. During the morning twilight, between the
hours of seven and eight, the sky, in the direction of south-west,
was observed from time to time to be brightly illumined by white
lightning, running in serpentine lines along the horizon. At night
the cold increased and the barometer rose. It is very probable,
that the meteors might have been observed more to the east, in
Poland and in Russia.* (* In Paris and in London the sky was
cloudy. At Carlsruhe, before dawn, lightning was seen in the
north-west and south-east. On the 13th of November a remarkable
glare of light was seen at the same place in the south-east.)

The distance from Weimar to the Rio Negro is 1800 nautical leagues;
and from the Rio Negro to Herrnhut in Greenland, 1300 leagues.
Admitting that the same fiery meteors were seen at points so
distant from each other, we must suppose that their height was at
least 411 leagues. Near Weimar, the appearance like sky-rockets was
observed in the south and south-east; at Cumana, in the east and
east-north-east. We may therefore conclude, that numberless
aerolites must have fallen into the sea, between Africa and South
America, westward of the Cape Verd Islands. But since the direction
of the bolides was not the same at Labrador and at Cumana, why were
they not perceived in the latter place towards the north, as at
Cayenne? We can scarcely be too cautious on a subject, on which
good observations made in very distant places are still wanting. I
am rather inclined to think, that the Chayma Indians of Cumana did
not see the same bolides as the Portuguese in Brazil and the
missionaries in Labrador; but at the same time it cannot be doubted
(and this fact appears to me very remarkable) that in the New
World, between the meridians of 46 and 82 degrees, between the
equator and 64 degrees north, at the same hour, an immense number
of bolides and falling-stars were perceived; and that those meteors
had everywhere the same brilliancy, throughout a space of 921,000
square leagues.

Astronomers who have lately been directing minute attention to
falling-stars and their parallaxes, consider them as meteors
belonging to the farthest limits of our atmosphere, between the
region of the Aurora Borealis and that of the lightest clouds.* (*
According to the observations which I made on the ridge of the
Andes, at an elevation of 2700 toises, on the moutons, or little
white fleecy clouds, it appeared to me, that their elevation is
sometimes not less than 6000 toises above the level of the coast.)
Some have been seen, which had not more than 14,000 toises, or
about five leagues of elevation. The highest do not appear to
exceed thirty leagues. They are often more than a hundred feet in
diameter: and their swiftness is such, that they dart in a few
seconds through a space of two leagues. Of some which have been
measured, the direction was almost perpendicularly upward, or
forming an angle of 50 degrees with the vertical line. This
extremely remarkable circumstance has led to the conclusion, that
falling-stars are not aerolites which, after having hovered a long
time in space, unite on accidentally entering into our atmosphere,
and fall towards the earth.* (* M. Chladni, who at first considered
falling-stars to be aerolites, subsequently abandoned that idea.)

Whatever may be the origin of these luminous meteors, it is
difficult to conceive an instantaneous inflammation taking place in
a region where there is less air than in the vacuum of our
air-pumps; and where (at the height of 25,000 toises) the mercury
in the barometer would not rise to 0.012 of a line. We have
ascertained the uniform mixture of atmospheric air to be about 0.
003, only to an elevation of 3000 toises; consequently not beyond
the last stratum of fleecy clouds. It may be admitted that, in the
first revolutions of the globe, gaseous substances, which yet
remain unknown to us, have risen towards that region through which
the falling-stars pass; but accurate experiments, made upon
mixtures of gases which have not the same specific gravity, show
that there is no reason for supposing a superior stratum of the
atmosphere entirely different from the inferior strata. Gaseous
substances mingle and penetrate each other on the least movement;
and a uniformity of their mixture may have taken place in the lapse
of ages, unless we believe them to possess a repulsive action of
which there is no example in those substances we can subject to our
observations. Farther, if we admit the existence of particular
aerial fluids in the inaccessible regions of luminous meteors, of
falling-stars, bolides, and the Aurora Borealis; how can we
conceive why the whole stratum of those fluids does not at once
ignite, but that the gaseous emanations, like the clouds, occupy
only limited spaces? How can we suppose an electrical explosion
without some vapours collected together, capable of containing
unequal charges of electricity, in air, the mean temperature of
which is perhaps 25 degrees below the freezing point of the
centigrade thermometer, and the rarefaction of which is so
considerable, that the compression of the electrical shock could
scarcely disengage any heat? These difficulties would in great part
be removed, if the direction of the movement of falling-stars
allowed us to consider them as bodies with a solid nucleus, as
cosmic phenomena (belonging to space beyond the limits of our
atmosphere), and not as telluric phenomena (belonging to our planet

Supposing the meteors of Cumana to have been only at the usual
height at which falling-stars in general move, the same meteors
were seen above the horizon in places more than 310 leagues distant
from each other.* (* It was this circumstance that induced Lambert
to propose the observation of falling-stars for the determination
of terrestrial longitudes. He considered them to be celestial
signals seen at great distances.) How great a disposition to
incandescence must have prevailed on the 12th November, in the
higher regions of the atmosphere, to have rendered during four
hours myriads of bolides and falling stars visible at the equator,
in Greenland, and in Germany!

M. Benzenberg observes, that the same cause which renders the
phenomenon more frequent, has also an influence on the large size
of the meteors, and the intensity of their light. In Europe, the
greatest number of falling stars are seen on those nights on which
very bright ones are mingled with very small ones. The periodical
nature of the phenomenon augments the interest it excites. There
are months in which M. Brandes has reckoned in our temperate zone
only sixty or eighty falling-stars in one night; and in other
months their number has risen to two thousand. Whenever one is
observed, which has the diameter of Sirius or of Jupiter, we are
sure of seeing the brilliant meteor succeeded by a great number of
smaller ones. If the falling stars be very numerous during one
night, it is probable that they will continue equally so during
several weeks. It would seem, that in the higher regions of the
atmosphere, near that extreme limit where the centrifugal force is
balanced by gravity, there exists at regular periods a particular
disposition for the production of bolides, falling-stars, and the
Aurora Borealis.* (* Ritter, like several others, makes a
distinction between bolides mingled with falling-stars and those
luminous meteors which, enveloped in vapour and smoke, explode with
great noise, and let fall (chiefly in the day-time) aerolites. The
latter certainly do not belong to our atmosphere.) Does the
periodical recurrence of this great phenomenon depend upon the
state of the atmosphere? or upon something which the atmosphere
receives from without, while the earth advances in the ecliptic? Of
all this we are still as ignorant as mankind were in the days of

With respect to the falling-stars themselves, it appears to me,
from my own experience, that they are more frequent in the
equinoctial regions than in the temperate zone; and more frequent
above continents, and near certain coasts, than in the middle of
the ocean. Do the radiation of the surface of the globe, and the
electric charge of the lower regions of the atmosphere (which
varies according to the nature of the soil and the positions of the
continents and seas), exert their influence as far as those heights
where eternal winter reigns? The total absence of even the smallest
clouds, at certain seasons, or above some barren plains destitute
of vegetation, seems to prove that this influence can be felt as
far as five or six thousand toises high.

A phenomenon analogous to that which appeared on the 12th of
November at Cumana, was observed thirty years previously on the
table-land of the Andes, in a country studded with volcanoes. In
the city of Quito there was seen in one part of the sky, above the
volcano of Cayamba, such great numbers of falling-stars, that the
mountain was thought to be in flames. This singular sight lasted
more than an hour. The people assembled in the plain of Exido,
which commands a magnificent view of the highest summits of the
Cordilleras. A procession was on the point of setting out from the
convent of San Francisco, when it was perceived that the blaze on
the horizon was caused by fiery meteors, which ran along the skies
in all directions, at the altitude of twelve or thirteen degrees.



On the 16th of November, at eight in the evening, we were under
sail to proceed along the coast from Cumana to the port of La
Guayra, whence the inhabitants of the province of Venezuela export
the greater part of their produce. The passage is only a distance
of sixty leagues, and it usually occupies from thirty-six to forty
hours. The little coasting vessels are favoured at once by the wind
and by the currents, which run with more or less force from east to
west, along the coasts of Terra Firma, particularly from cape Paria
to the cape of Chichibacoa. The road by land from Cumana to New
Barcelona, and thence to Caracas, is nearly in the same state as
that in which it was before the discovery of America. The traveller
has to contend with the obstacles presented by a miry soil, large
scattered rocks, and strong vegetation. He must sleep in the open
air, pass through the valleys of the Unare, the Tuy, and the
Capaya, and cross torrents which swell rapidly on account of the
proximity of the mountains. To these obstacles must be added the
dangers arising from the extreme insalubrity of the country. The
very low lands, between the sea-shore and the chain of hills
nearest the coast, from the bay of Mochima as far as Coro, are
extremely unhealthy. But the last-mentioned town, which is
surrounded by an immense wood of thorny cactuses, owes its great
salubrity, like Cumana, to its barren soil and the absence of rain.

In returning from Caracas to Cumana, the road by land is sometimes
preferred to the passage by sea, to avoid the adverse current. The
postman from Caracas is nine days in performing this journey. We
often saw persons, who had followed him, arrive at Cumana ill of
nervous and miasmatic fevers. The tree of which the bark* furnishes
a salutary remedy for those fevers (* Cortex Angosturae of our
pharmacopaeias, the bark of the Bonplandia trifoliata.), grows in
the same valleys, and upon the edge of the same forests which send
forth the pernicious exhalations. M. Bonpland recognised the
cuspare in the vegetation of the gulf of Santa Fe, situated between
the ports of Cumana and Barcelona. The sickly traveller may
perchance repose in a cottage, the inhabitants of which are
ignorant of the febrifuge qualities of the trees that shade the
surrounding valleys.

Having proceeded by sea from Cumana to La Guayra, we intended to
take up our abode in the town of Caracas, till the end of the rainy
season. From Caracas we proposed to direct our course across the
great plains or llanos, to the Missions of the Orinoco; to go up
that vast river, to the south of the cataracts, as far as the Rio
Negro and the frontiers of Brazil; and thence to return to Cumana
by the capital of Spanish Guiana, commonly called, on account of
its situation, Angostura, or the Strait. We could not determine the
time we might require to accomplish a tour of seven hundred
leagues, more than two-thirds of that distance having to be
traversed in boats. The only parts of the Orinoco known on the
coasts are those near its mouth. No commercial intercourse is kept
up with the Missions. The whole of the country beyond the llanos is
unknown to the inhabitants of Cumana and Caracas. Some think that
the plains of Calabozo, covered with turf, stretch eight hundred
leagues southward, communicating with the Steppes or Pampas of
Buenos Ayres; others, recalling to mind the great mortality which
prevailed among the troops of Iturriaga and Solano, during their
expedition to the Orinoco, consider the whole country, south of the
cataracts of Atures, as extremely pernicious to health. In a region
where travelling is so uncommon, people seem to feel a pleasure in
exaggerating to strangers the difficulties arising from the
climate, the wild animals, and the Indians. Nevertheless we
persisted in the project we had formed. We could rely upon the
interest and solicitude of the governor of Cumana, Don Vicente
Emparan, as well as on the recommendations of the Franciscan monks,
who are in reality masters of the shores of the Orinoco.

Fortunately for us, one of those monks, Juan Gonzales, was at that
time in Cumana. This young monk, who was only a lay-brother, was
highly intelligent, and full of spirit and courage. He had the
misfortune shortly after his arrival on the coast to displease his
superiors, upon the election of a new director of the Missions of
Piritu, which is a period of great agitation in the convent of New
Barcelona. The triumphant party exercised a general retaliation,
from which the lay-brother could not escape. He was sent to
Esmeralda, the last Mission of the Upper Orinoco, famous for the
vast quantity of noxious insects with which the air is continually
filled. Fray Juan Gonzales was thoroughly acquainted with the
forests which extend from the cataracts towards the sources of the
Orinoco. Another revolution in the republican government of the
monks had some years before brought him to the coast, where he
enjoyed (and most justly) the esteem of his superiors. He confirmed
us in our desire of examining the much-disputed bifurcation of the
Orinoco. He gave us useful advice for the preservation of our
health, in climates where he had himself suffered long from
intermitting fevers. We had the satisfaction of finding Fray Juan
Gonzales at New Barcelona, on our return from the Rio Negro.
Intending to go from the Havannah to Cadiz, he obligingly offered
to take charge of part of our herbals, and our insects of the
Orinoco; but these collections were unfortunately lost with himself
at sea. This excellent young man, who was much attached to us, and
whose zeal and courage might have rendered him very serviceable to
the missions of his order, perished in a storm on the coast of
Africa, in 1801.

The boat which conveyed us from Cumana to La Guayra, was one of
those employed in trading between the coasts and the West India
Islands. They are thirty feet long, and not more than three feet
high at the gunwale; they have no decks, and their burthen is
generally from two hundred to two hundred and fifty quintals.
Although the sea is extremely rough from Cape Codera to La Guayra,
and although the boats have an enormous triangular sail, somewhat
dangerous in those gusts which issue from the mountain-passes, no
instance has occurred during thirty years, of one of these boats
being lost in the passage from Cumana to the coast of Caracas. The
skill of the Guaiqueria pilots is so great, that accidents are very
rare, even in the frequent trips they make from Cumana to
Guadaloupe, or the Danish islands, which are surrounded with
breakers. These voyages of 120 or 150 leagues, in an open sea, out
of sight of land, are performed in boats without decks, like those
of the ancients, without observations of the meridian altitude of
the sun, without charts, and generally without a compass. The
Indian pilot directs his course at night by the pole-star, and in
the daytime by the sun and the wind. I have seen Guaiqueries and
pilots of the Zambo caste, who could find the pole-star by the
direction of the pointers alpha and beta of the Great Bear, and
they seemed to me to steer less from the view of the pole-star
itself, than from the line drawn through these stars. It is
surprising, that at the first sight of land, they can find the
island of Guadaloupe, Santa Cruz, or Porto Rico; but the
compensation of the errors of their course is not always equally
fortunate. The boats, if they fall to leeward in making land, beat
up with great difficulty to the eastward, against the wind and the

We descended rapidly the little river Manzanares, the windings of
which are marked by cocoa-trees, as the rivers of Europe are
sometimes bordered by poplars and old willows. On the adjacent arid
land, the thorny bushes, on which by day nothing is visible but
dust, glitter during the night with thousands of luminous sparks.
The number of phosphorescent insects augments in the stormy season.
The traveller in the equinoctial regions is never weary of admiring
the effect of those reddish and moveable fires, which, being
reflected by limpid water, blend their radiance with that of the
starry vault of heaven.

We quitted the shore of Cumana as if it had long been our home.
This was the first land we had trodden in a zone, towards which my
thoughts had been directed from earliest youth. There is a powerful
charm in the impression produced by the scenery and climate of
these regions; and after an abode of a few months we seemed to have
lived there during a long succession of years. In Europe, the
inhabitant of the north feels an almost similar emotion, when he
quits even after a short abode the shores of the Bay of Naples, the
delicious country between Tivoli and the lake of Nemi, or the wild
and majestic scenery of the Upper Alps and the Pyrenees. Yet
everywhere in the temperate zone, the effects of vegetable
physiognomy afford little contrast. The firs and the oaks which
crown the mountains of Sweden have a certain family air in common
with those which adorn Greece and Italy. Between the tropics, on
the contrary, in the lower regions of both Indies, everything in
nature appears new and marvellous. In the open plains and amid the
gloom of forests, almost all the remembrances of Europe are
effaced; for it is vegetation that determines the character of a
landscape, and acts upon the imagination by its mass, the contrast
of its forms, and the glow of its colours. In proportion as
impressions are powerful and new, they weaken antecedent
impressions, and their force imparts to them the character of
duration. I appeal to those who, more sensible to the beauties of
nature than to the charms of society, have long resided in the
torrid zone. How dear, how memorable during life, is the land on
which they first disembarked! A vague desire to revisit that spot
remains rooted in their minds to the most advanced age. Cumana and
its dusty soil are still more frequently present to my imagination,
than all the wonders of the Cordilleras. Beneath the bright sky of
the south, the light, and the magic of the aerial hues, embellish a
land almost destitute of vegetation. The sun does not merely
enlighten, it colours the objects, and wraps them in a thin vapour,
which, without changing the transparency of the air, renders its
tints more harmonious, softens the effects of the light, and
diffuses over nature a placid calm, which is reflected in our
souls. To explain this vivid impression which the aspect of the
scenery in the two Indies produces, even on coasts but thinly
wooded, it is sufficient to recollect that the beauty of the sky
augments from Naples to the equator, almost as much as from
Provence to the south of Italy.

We passed at high water the bar formed at the mouth of the little
river Manzanares. The evening breeze gently swelled the waves in
the gulf of Cariaco. The moon had not risen, but that part of the
milky way which extends from the feet of the Centaur towards the
constellation of Sagittarius, seemed to pour a silvery light over
the surface of the ocean. The white rock, crowned by the castle of
San Antonio, appeared from time to time between the high tops of
the cocoa-trees which border the shore; and we soon recognized the
coasts only by the scattered lights of the Guaiqueria fishermen.

We sailed at first to north-north-west, approaching the peninsula
of Araya; we then ran thirty miles to west and west-south-west. As
we advanced towards the shoal that surrounds Cape Arenas and
stretches as far as the petroleum springs of Maniquarez, we enjoyed
one of those varied sights which the great phosphorescence of the
sea so often displays in those climates. Bands of porpoises
followed our bark. Fifteen or sixteen of these animals swam at
equal distances from each other. When turning on their backs, they
struck the surface of the water with their broad tails; they
diffused a brilliant light, which seemed like flames issuing from
the depth of the ocean.* (* See Views of Nature Bohn's edition page
246.) Each band of porpoises, ploughing the surface of the waters,
left behind it a track of light, the more striking as the rest of
the sea was not phosphorescent. As the motion of an oar, and the
track of the bark, produced on that night but feeble sparks, it is
natural to suppose that the vivid phosphorescence caused by the
porpoises was owing not only to the stroke of their tails, but also
to the gelatinous matter that envelopes their bodies, and is
detached by the shock of the waves.

We found ourselves at midnight between some barren and rocky
islands, which uprise like bastions in the middle of the sea, and
form the group of the Caracas and Chimanas.* (* There are three of
the Caracas islands and eight of the Chimanas.) The moon was above
the horizon, and lighted up these cleft rocks which are bare of
vegetation and of fantastic aspect. The sea here forms a sort of
bay, a slight inward curve of the land between Cumana and Cape
Codera. The islets of Picua, Picuita, Caracas, and Boracha, appear
like fragments of the ancient coast, which stretches from Bordones
in the same direction east and west. The gulfs of Mochima and Santa
Fe, which will no doubt one day become frequented ports, lie behind
those little islands. The rents in the land, the fracture and dip
of the strata, all here denote the effects of a great revolution:
possibly that which clove asunder the chain of the primitive
mountains, and separated the mica-schist of Araya and the island of
Margareta from the gneiss of Cape Codera. Several of the islands
are visible at Cumana, from the terraces of the houses, and they
produce, according to the superposition of layers of air more or
less heated, the most singular effects of suspension and mirage.
The height of the rocks does not probably exceed one hundred and
fifty toises; but at night, when lighted by the moon, they seem to
be of a very considerable elevation.

It may appear extraordinary, to find the Caracas Islands so distant
from the city of that name, opposite the coast of the Cumanagotos;
but the denomination of Caracas denoted at the beginning of the
Conquest, not a particular spot, but a tribe of Indians, neighbours
of the Tecs, the Taramaynas, and the Chagaragates. As we came very
near this group of mountainous islands, we were becalmed; and at
sunrise, small currents drifted us toward Boracha, the largest of
them. As the rocks rise nearly perpendicular, the shore is abrupt;
and in a subsequent voyage I saw frigates at anchor almost touching
the land. The temperature of the atmosphere became sensibly higher
whilst we were sailing among the islands of this little
archipelago. The rocks, heated during the day, throw out at night,
by radiation, a part of the heat absorbed. As the sun arose on the
horizon, the rugged mountains projected their vast shadows on the
surface of the ocean. The flamingoes began to fish in places where
they found in a creek calcareous rocks bordered by a narrow beach.
All these islands are now entirely uninhabited; but upon one of the
Caracas are found wild goats of large size, brown, and extremely
swift. Our Indian pilot assured us that their flesh has an
excellent flavour. Thirty years ago a family of whites settled on
this island, where they cultivated maize and cassava. The father
alone survived his children. As his wealth increased, he purchased
two black slaves; and by these slaves he was murdered. The goats
became wild, but the cultivated plants perished. Maize in America,
like wheat in Europe, connected with man since his first
migrations, appears to be preserved only by his care. We sometimes
see these nutritive gramina disseminate themselves; but when left
to nature the birds prevent their reproduction by destroying the

We anchored for some hours in the road of New Barcelona, at the
mouth of the river Neveri, of which the Indian (Cumanagoto) name is
Enipiricuar. This river is full of crocodiles, which sometimes
extend their excursions into the open sea, especially in calm
weather. They are of the species common in the Orinoco, and bear so
much resemblance to the crocodile of Egypt, that they have long
been confounded together. It may easily be conceived that an
animal, the body of which is surrounded with a kind of armour, must
be nearly indifferent to the saltness of the water. Pigafetta
relates in his journal recently published at Milan that he saw, on
the shores of the island of Borneo, crocodiles which inhabit alike
land and sea. These facts must be interesting to geologists, since
attention has been fixed on the fresh-water formations, and the
curious mixture of marine and fluviatile petrifactions sometimes
observed in certain very recent rocks.

The port of Barcelona has maintained a very active commerce since
1795. From Barcelona is exported most of the produce of those vast
steppes which extend from the south side of the chain of the coast
as far as the Orinoco, and in which cattle of every kind are almost
as abundant as in the Pampas of Buenos Ayres. The commercial
industry of these countries depends on the demand in the West India
Islands for salted provision, oxen, mules, and horses. The coasts
of Terra Firma being opposite to the island of Cuba, at a distance
of fifteen or eighteen days' sail, the merchants of the Havannah
prefer, especially in time of peace, obtaining their provision from
the port of Barcelona, to the risk of a long voyage in another
hemisphere to the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. The situation of
Barcelona is singularly advantageous for the trade in cattle. The
animals have only three days' journey from the llanos to the port,
while it requires eight or nine days to reach Cumana, on account of
the chain of mountains of the Brigantine and the Imposible.

Having landed on the right bank of the Neveri, we ascended to a
little fort called El Morro de Barcelona, situated at the elevation
of sixty or seventy toises above the level of the sea. The Morro is
a calcareous rock which has been lately fortified.

The view from the summit of the Morro is not without beauty. The
rocky island of Boracha lies on the east, the lofty promontory of
Unare is on the west, and below are seen the mouth of the river
Neveri, and the arid shores on which the crocodiles come to sleep
in the sun. Notwithstanding the extreme heat of the air, for the
thermometer, exposed to the reflection of the white calcareous
rock, rose to 38 degrees, we traversed the whole of the eminence. A
fortunate chance led us to observe some very curious geological
phenomena, which we again met with in the Cordilleras of Mexico.
The limestone of Barcelona has a dull, even, or conchoidal
fracture, with very flat cavities. It is divided into very thin
strata, and exhibits less analogy with the limestone of Cumanacoa,
than with that of Caripe, forming the cavern of the Guacharo. It is
traversed by banks of schistose jasper,* (Kieselschiefer of Werner.
)* black, with a conchoidal fracture, and breaking into fragments
of a parallelopipedal figure. This fossil does not exhibit those
little streaks of quartz so common in the Lydian stone. It is found
decomposed at its surface into a yellowish grey crust, and it does
not act upon the magnet. Its edges, a little translucid, give it
some resemblance to the hornstone, so common in secondary
limestones.* (* In Switzerland, the hornstone passing into common
jasper is found in kidney-stones, and in layers both in the Alpine
and Jura limestone, especially in the former.) It is remarkable
that we find the schistose jasper which in Europe characterizes the
transition rocks,* (The transition-limestone and schist.) in a
limestone having great analogy with that of Jura. In the study of
formations, which is the great end of geognosy, the knowledge
acquired in the old and new worlds should be made to furnish
reciprocal aid to each other. It appears that these black strata
are found also in the calcareous mountains of the island of
Boracha.* (* We saw some of it as ballast, in a fishing boat at
Punta Araya. Its fragments might have been mistaken for basalt.)
Another jasper, that known by the name of the Egyptian pebble, was
found by M. Bonpland near the Indian village of Curacatiche or
Curacaguitiche, fifteen leagues south of the Morro of Barcelona,
when, on our return from the Orinoco, we crossed the llanos, and
approached the mountains on the coast. This stone presented
yellowish concentric lines and bands, on a reddish brown ground. It
appeared to me that the round pieces of Egyptian jasper belonged
also to the Barcelona limestone. Yet, according to M. Cordier, the
fine pebbles of Suez owe their origin to a breccia formation, or
siliceous agglomerate.

At the moment of our setting sail, on the 19th of November, at
noon, I took some altitudes of the moon, to determine the longitude
of the Morro. The difference of meridian between Cumana and the
town of Barcelona, where I made a great number of astronomical
observations in 1800, is 34 minutes 48 seconds. I found the dip of
the needle 42.20 degrees: the intensity of the forces was equal to
224 oscillations.

From the Morro of Barcelona to Cape Codera, the land becomes low,
as it recedes southward; and the soundings extend to the distance
of three miles. Beyond this we find the bottom at forty-five or
fifty fathoms. The temperature of the sea at its surface was 25.9
degrees; but when we were passing through the narrow channel which
separates the two Piritu Islands, in three fathoms water, the
thermometer was only 24.5 degrees. The difference would perhaps be
greater, if the current, which runs rapidly westward, stirred up
deeper water; and if, in a pass of such small width, the land did
not contribute to raise the temperature of the sea. The Piritu
Islands resemble those shoals which become visible when the tide
falls. They do not rise more than eight or nine inches above the
mean height of the sea. Their surface is smooth, and covered with
grass. We might have thought we were gazing on some of our own
northern meadows. The disk of the setting sun appeared like a globe
of fire suspended over the savannah; and its last rays, as they
swept the earth, illumined the grass, which was at the same time
agitated by the evening breeze. In the low and humid parts of the
equinoctial zone, even when the gramineous plants and reeds present
the aspect of a meadow, a rich accessory of the picture is usually
wanting; I allude to that variety of wild flowers, which, scarcely
rising above the grass, seem as it were, to lie upon a smooth bed
of verdure. Within the tropics, the strength and luxury of
vegetation give such a development to plants, that the smallest of
the dicotyledonous family become shrubs. It would seem as if the
liliaceous plants, mingling with the gramina, assumed the place of
the flowers of our meadows. Their form is indeed striking; they
dazzle by the variety and splendour of their colours; but being too
high above the soil, they disturb that harmonious proportion which
characterizes the plants of our European meadows. Nature has in
every zone stamped on the landscape the peculiar type of beauty
proper to the locality.

We must not be surprised that fertile islands, so near Terra Firma,
are not now inhabited. It was only at the early period of the
discovery, and whilst the Caribbees, Chaymas, and Cumanagotos were
still masters of the coast, that the Spaniards formed settlements
at Cubagua and Margareta. When the natives were subdued, or driven
southward in the direction of the savannahs, the preference was
given to settlements on the continent, where there was a choice of
land, and where there were Indians, who might be treated like
beasts of burden. Had the little islands of Tortuga, Blanquilla,
and Orchilla been situated in the group of the Antilles, they would
not have remained without traces of cultivation.

Vessels of heavy burthen pass between the main land and the most
southern of the Piritu Islands. Being very low, their northern
point is dreaded by pilots who near the coast in those latitudes.
When we found ourselves to westward of the Morro of Barcelona, and
the mouth of the river Unare, the sea, till then calm, became
agitated and rough in proportion as we approached Cape Codera. The
influence of that vast promontory is felt from afar, in that part
of the Caribbean Sea. The length of the passage from Cumana to La
Guayra depends on the degree of ease or difficulty with which Cape
Codera can be doubled. Beyond this cape the sea constantly runs so
high, that we can scarcely believe we are near a coast where (from
the point of Paria as far as Cape San Roman) a gale of wind is
never known. On the 20th of November at sunrise we were so far
advanced, that we might expect to double the cape in a few hours.
We hoped to reach La Guayra the same day; but our Indian pilot
being afraid of the privateers who were near that port, thought it
would be prudent to make for land, and anchor in the little harbour
of Higuerote, which we had already passed, and await the shelter of
night to proceed on our voyage.

On the 20th of November at nine in the morning we were at anchor in
the bay just mentioned, situated westward of the mouth of the Rio
Capaya. We found there neither village nor farm, but merely two or
three huts, inhabited by Mestizo fishermen. Their livid hue, and
the meagre condition of their children, sufficed to remind us that
this spot is one of the most unhealthy of the whole coast. The sea
has so little depth along these shores, that even with the smallest
barks it is impossible to reach the shore without wading through
the water. The forests come down nearly to the beach, which is
covered with thickets of mangroves, avicennias, manchineel-trees,
and that species of suriana which the natives call romero de la
mar.* (* Suriana maritima.) To these thickets, and particularly to
the exhalations of the mangroves, the extreme insalubrity of the
air is attributed here, as in other places in both Indies. On
quitting the boats, and whilst we were yet fifteen or twenty toises
distant from land, we perceived a faint and sickly smell, which
reminded me of that diffused through the galleries of deserted
mines, where the lights begin to be extinguished, and the timber is
covered with flocculent byssus. The temperature of the air rose to
34 degrees, heated by the reverberation from the white sands which
form a line between the mangroves and the great trees of the
forest. As the shore descends with a gentle slope, small tides are
sufficient alternately to cover and uncover the roots and part of
the trunks of the mangroves. It is doubtless whilst the sun heats
the humid wood, and causes the fermentation, as it were, of the
ground, of the remains of dead leaves and of the molluscs enveloped
in the drift of floating seaweed, that those deleterious gases are
formed, which escape our researches. We observed that the
sea-water, along the whole coast, acquired a yellowish brown tint,
wherever it came into contact with the mangrove trees.

Struck with this phenomenon, I gathered at Higuerote a considerable
quantity of branches and roots, for the purpose of making some
experiments on the infusion of the mangrove, on my arrival at
Caracas. The infusion in warm water had a brown colour and an
astringent taste. It contained a mixture of extractive matter and
tannin. The rhizophora, the mistletoe, the cornel-tree, in short,
all the plants which belong to the natural families of the
lorantheous and the caprifoliaceous plants, have the same
properties. The infusion of mangrove-wood, kept in contact with
atmospheric air under a glass jar for twelve days, was not sensibly
deteriorated in purity. A little blackish flocculent sediment was
formed, but it was attended by no sensible absorption of oxygen.
The wood and roots of the mangrove placed under water were exposed
to the rays of the sun. I tried to imitate the daily operations of
nature on the coasts at the rise of the tide. Bubbles of air were
disengaged, and at the expiration of ten days they formed a volume
of thirty-three cubic inches. They were a mixture of azotic gas and
carbonic acid. Nitrous gas scarcely indicated the presence of
oxygen.* (* In a hundred parts there were eighty-four of nitrogen,
fifteen of carbonic acid gas that the water had not absorbed, and
one of oxygen.) Lastly, I set the wood and the roots of the
mangrove thoroughly wetted, to act on a given volume of atmospheric
air in a phial with a ground-glass stopple. The whole of the oxygen
disappeared; and, far from being superseded by carbonic acid,
lime-water indicated only 0.02. There was even a diminution of the
volume of air, more than correspondent with the oxygen absorbed.
These slight experiments led me to conclude that it is the
moistened bark and wood which act upon the atmosphere in the
forests of mangrove-trees, and not the water strongly tinged with
yellow, forming a distinct band along the coasts. In pursuing the
different stages of the decomposition of the ligneous matter, I
observed no appearance of a disengagement of sulphuretted hydrogen,
to which many travellers attribute the smell perceived amidst
mangroves. The decomposition of the earthy and alkaline sulphates,
and their transition to the state of sulphurets, may no doubt
favour this disengagement in many littoral and marine plants; for
instance, in the fuci: but I am rather inclined to think that the
rhizophora, the avicennia, and the conocarpus, augment the
insalubrity of the air by the animal matter which they contain
conjointly with tannin. These shrubs belong to the three natural
families of the Lorantheae, the Combretaceae, and the Pyrenaceae,
in which the astringent principle abounds; this principle
accompanies gelatin, even in the bark of beech, alder, and

Moreover, a thick wood spreading over marshy grounds would diffuse
noxious exhalations in the atmosphere, even though that wood were
composed of trees possessing in themselves no deleterious
properties. Wherever mangroves grow on the sea-shore, the beach is
covered with infinite numbers of molluscs and insects. These
animals love shade and faint light, and they find themselves
sheltered from the shock of the waves amid the scaffolding of thick
and intertwining roots, which rises like lattice-work above the
surface of the waters. Shell-fish cling to this lattice; crabs
nestle in the hollow trunks; and the seaweeds, drifted to the coast
by the winds and tides, remain suspended on the branches which
incline towards the earth. Thus, maritime forests, by the
accumulation of a slimy mud between the roots of the trees,
increase the extent of land. But whilst these forests gain on the
sea, they do not enlarge their own dimensions; on the contrary,
their progress is the cause of their destruction. Mangroves, and
other plants with which they live constantly in society, perish in
proportion as the ground dries and they are no longer bathed with
salt water. Their old trunks, covered with shells, and half-buried
in the sand, denote, after the lapse of ages, the path they have
followed in their migrations, and the limits of the land which they
have wrested from the ocean.

The bay of Higuerote is favourably situated for examining Cape
Codera, which is there seen in its full extent seven miles distant.
This promontory is more remarkable for its size than for its
elevation, being only about two hundred toises high. It is
perpendicular on the north-west and east. In these grand profiles
the dip of the strata appears to be distinguishable. Judging from
the fragments of rock found along the coast, and from the hills
near Higuerote, Cape Codera is not composed of granite with a
granular texture, but of a real gneiss with a foliated texture. Its
laminae are very broad and sometimes sinuous.* (* Dickflasriger
gneiss.) They contain large nodules of reddish feldspar and but
little quartz. The mica is found in superposed lamellae, not
isolated. The strata nearest the bay were in the direction of 60
degrees north-east, and dipped 80 degrees to north-west. These
relations of direction and of dip are the same at the great
mountain of the Silla, near Caracas, and to the east of Maniquarez,
in the isthmus of Araya. They seem to prove that the primitive
chain of that isthmus, after having been ruptured or swallowed up
by the sea along a space of thirty-five leagues,* (* Between the
meridians of Maniquarez and Higuerote.) appears anew in Cape
Codera, and continues westward as a chain of the coast.

I was assured that, in the interior of the earth, south of
Higuerote, limestone formations are found. The gneiss did not act
upon the magnetic needle; yet along the coast, which forms a cove
near Cape Codera, and which is covered with a fine forest, I saw
magnetic sand mixed with spangles of mica, deposited by the sea.
This phenomenon occurs again near the port of La Guayra. Possibly
it may denote the existence of some strata of hornblende-schist
covered by the waters, in which schist the sand is disseminated.
Cape Codera forms on the north an immense spherical segment. A
shallow which stretches along its foot is known to navigators by
the name of the points of Tutumo and of San Francisco.

The road by land from Higuerote to Caracas, runs through a wild and
humid tract of country, by the Montana of Capaya, north of
Caucagua, and the valley of Rio Guatira and Guarenas. Some of our
fellow-travellers determined on taking this road, and M. Bonpland
also preferred it, notwithstanding the continual rains and the
overflowing of the rivers. It afforded him the opportunity of
making a rich collection of new plants.* (* Bauhinia ferruginea,
Brownea racemosa, B ed. Inga hymenaeifolia, I. curiepensis (which
Willdenouw has called by mistake I. caripensis), etc.) For my part,
I continued alone with the Guaiqueria pilot the voyage by sea; for
I thought it hazardous to lose sight of the instruments which we
were to make use of on the banks of the Orinoco.

We set sail at night-fall. The wind was unfavourable, and we
doubled Cape Codera with difficulty. The surges were short, and
often broke one upon another. The sea ran the higher, owing to the
wind being contrary to the current, till after midnight. The
general motion of the waters within the tropics towards the west is
felt strongly on the coast during two-thirds of the year. In the
months of September, October, and November, the current often flows
eastward for fifteen or twenty days in succession; and vessels on
their way from Guayra to Porto Cabello have sometimes been unable
to stem the current which runs from west to east, although they
have had the wind astern. The cause of these anomalies is not yet
discovered. The pilots think they are the effect of gales of wind
from the north-west in the gulf of Mexico.

On the 21st of November, at sunrise, we were to the west of Cape
Codera, opposite Curuao. The coast is rocky and very elevated, the
scenery at once wild and picturesque. We were sufficiently near
land to distinguish scattered huts surrounded by cocoa-trees, and
masses of vegetation, which stood out from the dark ground of the
rocks. The mountains are everywhere perpendicular, and three or
four thousand feet high; their sides cast broad and deep shadows
upon the humid land, which stretches out to the sea, glowing with
the freshest verdure. This shore produces most of those fruits of
the hot regions, which are seen in such great abundance in the
markets of the Caracas. The fields cultivated with sugar-cane and
maize, between Camburi and Niguatar, stretch through narrow
valleys, looking like crevices or clefts in the rocks: and
penetrated by the rays of the sun, then above the horizon, they
presented the most singular contrasts of light and shade.

The mountain of Niguatar and the Silla of Caracas are the loftiest
summits of this littoral chain. The first almost reaches the height
of Canigou; it seems as if the Pyrenees or the Alps, stripped of
their snows, had risen from the bosom of the ocean; so much more
stupendous do mountains appear when viewed for the first time from
the sea. Near Caravalleda, the cultivated lands enlarge; we find
hills with gentle declivities, and the vegetation rises to a great
height. The sugar-cane is here cultivated, and the monks of La
Merced have a plantation with two hundred slaves. This spot was
formerly extremely subject to fever; and it is said that the air
has acquired salubrity since trees have been planted round a small
lake, the emanations of which were dreaded, and which is now less
exposed to the ardour of the sun. To the west of Caravalleda, a
wall of bare rock again projects forward in the direction of the
sea, but it has little extent. After having passed it, we
immediately discovered the pleasantly situated village of Macuto;
the black rocks of La Guayra, studded with batteries rising in
tiers one over another, and in the misty distance, Cabo Blanco, a
long promontory with conical summits, and of dazzling whiteness.
Cocoa-trees border the shore, and give it, under that burning sky,
an appearance of fertility.

I landed in the port of La Guayra, and the same evening made
preparations for transporting my instruments to Caracas. Having
been recommended not to sleep in the town, where the yellow fever
had been raging only a few weeks previously, I fixed my lodging in
a house on a little hill, above the village of Maiquetia, a place
more exposed to fresh winds than La Guayra. I reached Caracas on
the 21st of November, four days sooner than M. Bonpland, who, with
the other travellers on the land journey, had suffered greatly from
the rain and the inundations of the torrents, between Capaya and

Before proceeding further, I will here subjoin a description of La
Guayra, and the extraordinary road which leads from thence to the
town of Caracas, adding thereto all the observations made by M.
Bonpland and myself, in an excursion to Cabo Blanco about the end
of January 1800.

La Guayra is rather a roadstead than a port. The sea is constantly
agitated, and ships suffer at once by the violence of the wind, the
tideways, and the bad anchorage. The lading is taken in with
difficulty, and the swell prevents the embarkation of mules here,
as at New Barcelona and Porto Cabello. The free mulattoes and
negroes, who carry the cacao on board the ships, are a class of men
remarkable for muscular strength. They wade up to their waists
through the water; and it is remarkable that they are never
attacked by the sharks, so common in this harbour. This fact seems
connected with what I have often observed within the tropics, with
respect to other classes of animals which live in society, for
instance monkeys and crocodiles. In the Missions of the Orinoco,
and on the banks of the river Amazon, the Indians, who catch
monkeys to sell them, know very well that they can easily succeed
in taming those which inhabit certain islands; while monkeys of the
same species, caught on the neighbouring continent, die of terror
or rage when they find themselves in the power of man. The
crocodiles of one lake in the llanos are cowardly, and flee even
when in the water; whilst those of another lake will attack with
extreme intrepidity. It would be difficult to explain this
difference of disposition and habits, by the mere aspect of the
respective localities. The sharks of the port of La Guayra seem to
furnish an analogous example. They are dangerous and blood-thirsty
at the island opposite the coast of Caracas, at the Roques, at
Bonayre, and at Curassao; while they forbear to attack persons
swimming in the ports of La Guayra and Santa Martha. The natives,
who like the ignorant mass of people in every country, in seeking
the explanation of natural phenomena, always have recourse to the
marvellous, affirm that in the ports just mentioned, a bishop gave
his benediction to the sharks.

The situation of La Guayra is very singular, and can only be
compared to that of Santa Cruz in Teneriffe. The chain of mountains
which separates the port from the high valley of Caracas, descends
almost directly into the sea; and the houses of the town are backed
by a wall of steep rocks. There scarcely remains one hundred or one
hundred and forty toises breadth of flat ground between the wall
and the ocean. The town has six or eight thousand inhabitants, and
contains only two streets, running parallel with each other east
and west. It is commanded by the battery of Cerro Colorado; and its
fortifications along the sea-shore are well disposed, and kept in
repair. The aspect of this place has in it something solitary and
gloomy; we seemed not to be on a continent, covered with vast
forests, but on a rocky island, destitute of vegetation. With the
exception of Cabo Blanco and the cocoa-trees of Maiquetia, no view
meets the eye but that of the horizon, the sea, and the azure vault
of heaven. The heat is excessive during the day, and most
frequently during the night. The climate of La Guayra is justly
considered to be hotter than that of Cumana, Porto Cabello, and
Coro, because the sea-breeze is less felt, and the air is heated by
the radiant caloric which the perpendicular rocks emit from the
time the sun sets. The examination of the thermometric observations
made during nine months at La Guayra by an eminent physician,
enabled me to compare the climate of this port, with those of
Cumana, of the Havannah, and of Vera Cruz. This comparison is the
more interesting, as it furnishes an inexhaustible subject of
conversation in the Spanish colonies, and among the mariners who
frequent those latitudes. As nothing is more deceiving in such
matters than the testimony of the senses, we can judge of the
difference of climates only by numerical calculations.

The four places of which we have been speaking are considered as
the hottest on the shores of the New World. A comparison of them
may serve to confirm what we have several times observed, that it
is generally the duration of a high temperature, and not the excess
of heat, or its absolute quantity, which occasions the sufferings
of the inhabitants of the torrid zone.

A series of thermometric observations shows, that La Guayra is one
of the hottest places on the earth; that the quantity of heat which
it receives in the course of a year is a little greater than that
felt at Cumana; but that in the months of November, December, and
January (at equal distance from the two passages of the sun through
the zenith of the town), the atmosphere cools more at La Guayra.
May not this cooling, much slighter than that which is felt almost
at the same time at Vera Cruz and at the Havannah, be the effect of
the more westerly position of La Guayra? The aerial ocean, which
appears to form only one mass, is agitated by currents, the limits
of which are fixed by immutable laws; and its temperature is
variously modified by the configuration of the lands and seas by
which it is sustained. It may be subdivided into several basins,
which overflow into each other, and of which the most agitated (for
instance, that over the gulf of Mexico, or between the sierra of
Santa Martha and the gulf of Darien) have a powerful influence on
the refrigeration and the motion of the neighbouring columns of
air. The north winds sometimes cause influxes and counter-currents
in the south-west part of the Caribbean Sea, which seem, during
particular months, to diminish the heat as far as Terra Firma.

At the time of my abode at La Guayra, the yellow fever, or
calentura amarilla, had been known only two years; and the
mortality it occasioned had not been very great, because the
confluence of strangers on the coast of Caracas was less
considerable than at the Havannah or Vera Cruz. A few individuals,
even creoles and mulattoes, were sometimes carried off suddenly by
certain irregular remittent fevers; which, from being complicated
with bilious appearances, hemorrhages, and other symptoms equally
alarming, appeared to have some analogy with the yellow fever. The
victims of these maladies were generally men employed in the hard
labour of cutting wood in the forests, for instance, in the
neighbourhood of the little port of Carupano, or the gulf of Santa
Fe, west of Cumana. Their death often alarmed the unacclimated
Europeans, in towns usually regarded as peculiarly healthy; but the
seeds of the sporadic malady were propagated no farther. On the
coast of Terra Firma, the real typhus of America, which is known by
the names vomito prieto (black vomit) and yellow fever, and which
must be considered as a morbid affection sui generis, was known
only at Porto Cabello, at Carthagena, and at Santa Martha, where
Gastelbondo observed and described it in 1729. The Spaniards
recently disembarked, and the inhabitants of the valley of Caracas,
were not then afraid to reside at La Guayra. They complained only
of the oppressive heat which prevailed during a great part of the
year. If they exposed themselves to the immediate action of the
sun, they dreaded at most only those attacks of inflammation of the
skin or eyes, which are felt everywhere in the torrid zone, and are
often accompanied by a febrile affection and congestion in the
head. Many individuals preferred the ardent but uniform climate of
La Guayra to the cool but extremely variable climate of Caracas;
and scarcely any mention was made of the insalubrity of the former

Since the year 1797 everything has changed. Commerce being thrown
open to other vessels besides those of the mother country, seamen
born in colder parts of Europe than Spain, and consequently more
susceptible to the climate of the torrid zone, began to frequent La
Guayra. The yellow fever broke out. North Americans, seized with
the typhus, were received in the Spanish hospitals; and it was
affirmed that they had imported the contagion, and that the disease
had appeared on board a brig from Philadelphia, even before the
vessel had entered the roads of La Guayra. The captain of the brig
denied the fact; and asserted that, far from having introduced the
malady, his crew had caught it in the port. We know from what
happened at Cadiz in 1800, how difficult it is to elucidate facts,
when their uncertainty serves to favour theories diametrically
opposite one to another. The more enlightened inhabitants of
Caracas and La Guayra, divided in opinion, like the physicians of
Europe and the United States, on the question of the contagion of
yellow fever, cited the instance of the American vessel; some for
the purpose of proving that the typhus had come from abroad, and
others, to show that it had taken birth in the country itself.
Those who advocated the latter opinion, admitted that an
extraordinary alteration had been caused in the constitution of the
atmosphere by the overflowings of the Rio de La Guayra. This
torrent, which in general is not ten inches deep, was swelled after
sixty hours' rain in the mountains, in so extraordinary a manner,
that it bore down trunks of trees and masses of rock of
considerable size. During this flood the waters were from thirty to
forty feet in breadth, and from eight to ten feet deep. It was
supposed that, issuing from some subterranean basin, formed by
successive infiltrations, they had flowed into the recently cleared
arable lands. Many houses were carried away by the torrent; and the
inundation became the more dangerous for the stores, in consequence
of the gate of the town, which could alone afford an outlet to the
waters, being accidentally closed. It was necessary to make a
breach in the wall on the sea-side. More than thirty persons
perished, and the damage was computed at half a million of
piastres. The stagnant water, which infected the stores, the
cellars, and the dungeons of the public prison, no doubt diffused
miasms in the air, which, as a predisposing cause, may have
accelerated the development of the yellow fever; but I believe that
the inundation of the Rio de la Guayra was no more the primary
cause, than the overflowings of the Guadalquivir, the Xenil, and
the Gual-Medina, were at Seville, at Ecija, and at Malaga, the
primary causes of the fatal epidemics of 1800 and 1804. I examined
with attention the bed of the torrent of La Guayra; and found it to
consist merely of a barren soil, blocks of mica-slate, and gneiss,
containing pyrites detached from the Sierra de Avila, but nothing
that could have had any effect in deteriorating the purity of the

Since the years 1797 and 1798, at which periods there prevailed
dreadful mortality at Philadelphia, St. Lucia, and St. Domingo, the
yellow fever has continued its ravages at La Guayra. It has proved
fatal not only to the troops newly arrived from Spain, but also to
those levied in parts remote from the coasts, in the llanos between
Calabozo and Uritucu, regions almost as hot as La Guayra, but
favourable to health. This latter fact would seem more surprising,
did we not know, that even the natives of Vera Cruz, who are not
attacked with typhus in their own town, sometimes sink under it
during the epidemics of the Havannah and the United States. As the
black vomit finds an insurmountable barrier at the Encero (four
hundred and seventy-six toises high), on the declivity of the
mountains of Mexico, in the direction of Xalapa, where oaks begin
to appear, and the climate begins to be cool and pleasant, so the
yellow fever scarcely ever passes beyond the ridge of mountains
which separates La Guayra from the valley of Caracas. This valley
has been exempt from the malady for a considerable time; for we
must not confound the vomito and the yellow fever with the
irregular and bilious fevers. The Cumbre and the Cerro do Avila
form a very useful rampart to the town of Caracas, the elevation of
which a little exceeds that of the Encero, but of which the mean
temperature is above that of Xalapa.

I have published in another work* (* Nouvelle Espagne tome 2.) the
observations made by M. Bonpland and myself on the locality of the
towns periodically subject to the visitation of yellow fever; and I
shall not hazard here any new conjectures on the changes observed
in the pathogenic constitution of particular localities. The more I
reflect on this subject, the more mysterious appears to me all that
relates to those gaseous emanations which we call so vaguely the
seeds of contagion, and which are supposed to be developed by a
corrupted air, destroyed by cold, conveyed from place to place in
garments, and attached to the walls of houses. How can we explain
why, for the space of eighteen years prior to 1794, there was not a
single instance of the vomito at Vera Cruz, though the concourse of
unacclimated Europeans and of Mexicans from the interior, was very
considerable; though sailors indulged in the same excesses with
which they are still reproached; and though the town was not so
clean as it has been since the year 1800?

The following is the series of pathological facts, considered in
their simplest point of view. When a great number of persons, born
in a cold climate, arrive at the same period in a port of the
torrid zone, not particularly dreaded by navigators, the typhus of
America begins to appear. Those persons have not had typhus during
their passage; it appears among them only after they have landed.
Is the atmospheric constitution changed? or is it that a new form
of disease develops itself among individuals whose susceptibility
is highly increased?

The typhus soon begins to extend its ravages among other Europeans,
born in more southern countries. If propagated by contagion, it
seems surprising that in the towns of the equinoctial continent it
does not attach itself to certain streets; and that immediate
contact* does not augment the danger, any more than seclusion
diminishes it. (* In the oriental plague (another form of typhus
characterised by great disorder of the lymphatic system) immediate
contact is less to be feared than is generally thought. Larrey
maintains that the tumified glands may be touched or cauterized
without danger; but he thinks we ought not to risk putting on the
clothes of persons attacked with the plague.--Memoire sur les
Maladies de l'Armee Francoise en Egypte page 35.) The sick, when
removed to the inland country, and especially to cooler and more
elevated spots, to Xalapa, for instance, do not communicate typhus
to the inhabitants of those places, either because the disease is
not contagious in its nature, or because the predisposing causes
are not the same as in the regions of the shore. When there is a
considerable lowering of the temperature, the epidemic usually
ceases, even on the spot where it first appeared. It again breaks
out at the approach of the hot season, and sometimes long before;
though during several months there may have been no sick person in
the harbour, and no ship may have entered it.

The typhus of America appears to be confined to the shore, either
because persons who bring the disease disembark there, and goods
supposed to be impregnated with deleterious miasms are there
accumulated; or because on the sea-side gaseous emanations of a
particular nature are formed. The aspect of the places subject to
the ravages of typhus seems often to exclude all idea of a local or
endemical origin. It has been known to prevail in the Canaries, the
Bermudas, and among the small West India Islands, in dry places
formerly distinguished for the great salubrity of their climate.
Examples of the propagation of the yellow fever in the inland parts
of the torrid zone appear very doubtful: that malady may have been
confounded with remitting bilious fevers. With respect to the
temperate zone, in which the contagious character of the American
typhus is more decided, the disease has unquestionably spread far
from the shore, even into very elevated places, exposed to cool and
dry winds, as in Spain at Medina-Sidonia, at Carlotta, and in the
city of Murcia. That variety of phenomena which the same epidemic
exhibits, according to the difference of climate, the union of
predisposing causes, its shorter or longer duration, and the degree
of its exacerbation, should render us extremely circumspect in
tracing the secret causes of the American typhus. M. Bailly, who,
at the time of the violent epidemics in 1802 and 1803, was chief
physician to the colony of St. Domingo, and who studied that
disease in the island of Cuba, the United States, and Spain, is of
opinion that the typhus is very often, but not always, contagious.

Since the yellow fever has made such ravages in La Guayra,
exaggerated accounts have been given of the uncleanliness in that
little town as well as of Vera Cruz, and of the quays or wharfs of
Philadelphia. In a place where the soil is extremely dry, destitute
of vegetation, and where scarcely a few drops of water fall in the
course of seven or eight months, the causes that produce what are
called miasms, cannot be of very frequent occurrence. La Guayra
appeared to me in general to be tolerably clean, with the exception
of the quarter of the slaughter-houses. The sea-side has no beach
on which the remains of fuci or molluscs are heaped up; but the
neighbouring coast, which stretches eastward towards Cape Codera,
and consequently to the windward of La Guayra, is extremely
unhealthy. Intermitting, putrid, and bilious fevers often prevail
at Macuto and at Caravalleda; and when from time to time the breeze
is interrupted by a westerly wind, the little bay of Cotia sends
air loaded with putrid emanations towards the coast of La Guayra,
notwithstanding the rampart opposed by Cabo Blanco.

The irritability of the organs being so different in the people of
the north and those of the south, it cannot be doubted, that with
greater freedom of commerce, and more frequent and intimate
communication between countries situated in different climates, the
yellow fever will extend its ravages in the New World. It is even
probable that the concurrence of so many exciting causes, and their
action on individuals so differently organized, may give birth to
new forms of disease and new deviations of the vital powers. This
is one of the evils that inevitably attend rising civilization.

The yellow fever and the black vomit cease periodically at the
Havannah and Vera Cruz, when the north winds bring the cold air of
Canada towards the gulf of Mexico. But from the extreme equality of
temperature which characterizes the climates of Porto Cabello, La
Guayra, New Barcelona, and Cumana, it may be feared that the typhus
will there become permanent, whenever, from a great influx of
strangers, it has acquired a high degree of exacerbation.

Tracing the granitic coast of La Guayra westward, we find between
that port (which is in fact but an ill-sheltered roadstead) and
that of Porto Cabello, several indentations of the land, furnishing
excellent anchorage for ships. Such are the small bay of Catia, Los
Arecifes, Puerto-la-Cruz, Choroni, Sienega de Ocumare, Turiamo,
Burburata, and Patanebo. All these ports, with the exception of
that of Burburata, from which mules are exported to Jamaica, are
now frequented only by small coasting vessels, which are there
laden with provisions and cacao from the surrounding plantations.
The inhabitants of Caracas are desirous to avail themselves of the
anchorage of Catia, to the west of Cabo Blanco. M. Bonpland and
myself examined that point of the coast during our second abode at
La Guayra. A ravine, called the Quebrada de Tipe, descends from the
table-land of Caracas towards Catia. A plan has long been in
contemplation for making a cart-road through this ravine and
abandoning the old road to La Guayra, which resembles the passage
over St. Gothard. According to this plan, the port of Catia,
equally large and secure, would supersede that of La Guayra.
Unfortunately, however, all that shore, to leeward of Cabo Blanco,
abounds with mangroves, and is extremely unhealthy. I ascended to
the summit of the promontory, which forms Cabo Blanco, in order to
observe the passage of the sun over the meridian. I wished to
compare in the morning the altitudes taken with an artificial
horizon and those taken with the horizon of the sea; to verify the
apparent depression of the latter, by the barometrical measurement
of the hill. By this method, hitherto very little employed, on
reducing the heights of the sun to the same time, a reflecting
instrument may be used like an instrument furnished with a level. I
found the latitude of the cape to be 10 degrees 36 minutes 45
seconds; I could only make use of the angles which gave the image
of the sun reflected on a plane glass; the horizon of the sea was
very misty, and the windings of the coast prevented me from taking
the height of the sun on that horizon.

The environs of Cabo Blanco are not uninteresting for the study of
rocks. The gneiss here passes into the state of mica-slate
(Glimmerschiefer.), and contains, along the sea-coast, layers of
schistose chlorite. (Chloritschiefer.) In this latter I found
garnets and magnetical sand. On the road to Catia we see the
chloritic schist passing into hornblende schist.
(Hornblendschiefer.) All these formations are found together in the
primitive mountains of the old world, especially in the north of
Europe. The sea at the foot of Cabo Blanco throws up on the beach
rolled fragments of a rock, which is a granular mixture of
hornblende and lamellar feldspar. It is what is rather vaguely
called PRIMITIVE GRUNSTEIN. In it we can recognize traces of quartz
and pyrites. Submarine rocks probably exist near the coast, which
furnish these very hard masses. I have compared them in my journal
to the PATERLESTEIN of Fichtelberg, in Franconia, which is also a
diabase, but so fusible, that glass buttons are made of it, which
are employed in the slave-trade on the coast of Guinea. I believed
at first, according to the analogy of the phenomena furnished by
the mountains of Franconia, that the presence of these hornblende
masses with crystals of common (uncompact) feldspar indicated the
proximity of transition rocks; but in the high valley of Caracas,
near Antimano, balls of the same diabase fill a vein crossing the
mica-slate. On the western declivity of the hill of Cabo Blanco,
the gneiss is covered with a formation of sandstone, or
conglomerate, extremely recent. This sandstone combines angular
fragments of gneiss, quartz, and chlorite, magnetical sand,
madrepores, and petrified bivalve shells. Is this formation of the
same date as that of Punta Araya and Cumana?

Scarcely any part of the coast has so burning a climate as the
environs of Cabo Blanco. We suffered much from the heat, augmented
by the reverberation of a barren and dusty soil; but without
feeling any bad consequences from the effects of insolation. The
powerful action of the sun on the cerebral functions is extremely
dreaded at La Guayra, especially at the period when the yellow
fever begins to be felt. Being one day on the terrace of the house,
observing at noon the difference of the thermometer in the sun and
in the shade, a man approached me holding in his hand a potion,
which he conjured me to swallow. He was a physician, who from his
window, had observed me bareheaded, and exposed to the rays of the
sun. He assured me, that, being a native of a very northern
climate, I should infallibly, after the imprudence I had committed,
be attacked with the yellow fever that very evening, if I refused
to take the remedy against it. I was not alarmed by this
prediction, however serious, believing myself to have been long
acclimated; but I could not resist yielding to entreaties, prompted
by such benevolent feelings. I swallowed the dose; and the
physician doubtless counted me among the number of those he had

The road leading from the port to Caracas (the capital of a
government of near 900,000 inhabitants) resembles, as I have
already observed, the passage over the Alps, the road of St.
Gothard, and of the Great St. Bernard. Taking the level of the road
had never been attempted before my arrival in the province of
Venezuela. No precise idea had even been formed of the elevation of
the valley of Caracas. It had indeed been long observed, that the
descent was much less from La Cumbre and Las Vueltas (the latter is
the culminating point of the road towards the Pastora at the
entrance of the valley of Caracas), than towards the port of La
Guayra; but the mountain of Avila having a very considerable bulk,
the eye cannot discern simultaneously the points to be compared. It
is even impossible to form a precise idea of the elevation of
Caracas, from the climate of the valley, where the atmosphere is
cooled by the descending currents of air, and by the mists, which
envelope the lofty summit of the Silla during a great part of the

When in the season of the great heats we breathe the burning
atmosphere of La Guayra, and turn our eyes towards the mountains,
it seems scarcely possible that, at the distance of five or six
thousand toises, a population of forty thousand individuals
assembled in a narrow valley, enjoys the coolness of spring, a
temperature which at night descends to 12 degrees of the centesimal
thermometer. This near approach of different climates is common in
the Cordillera of the Andes; but everywhere, at Mexico, at Quito,
in Peru, and in New Granada, it is only after a long journey into
the interior, either across plains or along rivers, that we reach
the great cities, which are the central points of civilization. The
height of Caracas is but a third of that of Mexico, Quito, and
Santa Fe de Bogota; yet of all the capitals of Spanish America
which enjoy a cool and delicious climate in the midst of the torrid
zone, Caracas is nearest to the coast. What a privilege for a city
to possess a seaport at three leagues distance, and to be situated
among mountains, on a table-land, which would produce wheat, if the
cultivation of the coffee-tree were not preferred!

The road from La Guayra to the valley of Caracas is infinitely
finer than the road from Honda to Santa Fe, or that from Guayaquil
to Quito. It is kept in better order than the old road, which led
from the port of Vera Cruz to Perote, on the eastern declivity of
the mountains of New Spain. With good mules it takes but three
hours to go from the port of La Guayra to Caracas; and only two
hours to return. With loaded mules, or on foot, the journey is from
four to five hours. The road runs along a ridge of rocks extremely
steep, and after passing the stations bearing respectively the
names of Torre Quemada, Curucuti, and Salto, we arrive at a large
inn (La Venta) built at six hundred toises above the level of the
sea. The name Torre Quemada, or Burnt Tower, indicates the
sensation that is felt in descending towards La Guayra. A
suffocating heat is reflected from the walls of rock, and
especially from the barren plains on which the traveller looks
down. On this road, as on that from Vera Cruz to Mexico, and
wherever on a rapid declivity the climate changes, the increase of
muscular strength and the sensation of well-being, which we
experience as we advance into strata of cooler air, have always
appeared to me less striking than the feeling of languor and
debility which pervades the frame, when we descend towards the
burning plains of the coast. But such is the organization of man;
and even in the moral world, we are less soothed by that which
ameliorates our condition than annoyed by a new sensation of

From Curucuti to Salto the ascent is somewhat less laborious. The
sinuosities of the way render the declivity easier, as in the old
road over Mont Cenis. The Salto (or Leap) is a crevice, which is
crossed by a draw-bridge. Fortifications crown the summit of the
mountain. At La Venta the thermometer at noon stood at 19.3
degrees, when at La Guayra it kept up at the same hour at 26.2
degrees. La Venta enjoys some celebrity in Europe and in the United
States, for the beauty of its surrounding scenery. When the clouds
permit, this spot affords a magnificent view of the sea, and the
neighbouring coasts. An horizon of more than twenty-two leagues
radius is visible; the white and barren shore reflects a dazzling
mass of light; and the spectator beholds at his feet Cabo Blanco,
the village of Maiquetia with its cocoa-trees, La Guayra, and the
vessels in the port. But I found this view far more extraordinary,
when the sky was not serene, and when trains of clouds, strongly
illumined on their upper surface, seemed projected like floating
islands on the ocean. Strata of vapour, hovering at different
heights, formed intermediary spaces between the eye and the lower
regions. By an illusion easily explained, they enlarged the scene,
and rendered it more majestic. Trees and dwellings appeared at
intervals through the openings, which were left by the clouds when
driven on by the winds, and rolling over one another. Objects then
appear at a greater depth than when seen through a pure and
uniformly serene air. On the declivity of the mountains of Mexico,
at the same height (between Las Trancas and Xalapa), the sea is
twelve leagues distant, and the view of the coast is confused;
while on the road from La Guayra to Caracas we command the plains
(the tierra caliente), as from the top of a tower. How
extraordinary must be the impression created by this prospect on
natives of the inland parts of the country, who behold the sea and
ships for the first time from this point.

I determined by direct observations the latitude of La Venta, that
I might be enabled to give a more precise idea of the distance of
the coasts. The latitude is 10 degrees 33 minutes 9 seconds. Its
longitude appeared to me by the chronometer, nearly 2 minutes 47
seconds west of the town of Caracas. I found the dip of the needle
at this height to be 41.75 degrees, and the intensity of the
magnetic forces equal to two hundred and thirty-four oscillations.
From the Venta, called also La Venta Grande, to distinguish it from
three or four small inns formerly established along the road, but
now destroyed, there is still an ascent of one hundred and fifty
toises to Guayavo. This is nearly the most lofty point of the road.

Whether we gaze on the distant horizon of the sea, or turn our eyes
south-eastward, in the direction of the serrated ridge of rocks,
which seems to unite the Cumbre and the Silla, though separated
from them by the ravine (quebrada) of Tocume, everywhere we admire
the grand character of the landscape. From Guayavo we proceed for
half an hour over a smooth table-land, covered with alpine plants.
This part of the way, on account of its windings, is called Las
Vueltas. We find a little higher up the barracks or magazines of
flour, which were constructed in a spot of cool temperature by the
Guipuzcoa Company, when they had the exclusive monopoly of the
trade of Caracas, and supplied that place with provision. On the
road to Las Vueltas we see for the first time the capital, situated
three hundred toises below, in a valley luxuriantly planted with
coffee and European fruit-trees. Travellers are accustomed to halt
near a fine spring, known by the name of Fuente de Sanchorquiz,
which flows down from the Sierra on sloping strata of gneiss. I
found its temperature 16.4 degrees; which, for an elevation of
seven hundred and twenty-six toises, is considerably cool, and it
would appear much cooler to those who drink its limpid water, if,
instead of gushing out between La Cumbre and the temperate valley
of Caracas, it were found on the descent towards La Guayra. But at
this descent on the northern side of the mountain, the rock, by an
uncommon exception in this country, does not dip to north-west, but
to south-east, which prevents the subterranean waters from forming
springs there.

We continued to descend from the small ravine of Sanchorquiz to la
Cruz de la Guayra, a cross erected on an open spot, six hundred and
thirty-two toises high, and thence (entering by the custom-house
and the quarter of the Pastora) to the city of Caracas. On the
south side of the mountain of Avila, the gneiss presents several
geognostical phenomena worthy of the attention of travellers. It is
traversed by veins of quartz, containing cannulated and often
articulated prisms of rutile titanite two or three lines in
diameter. In the fissures of the quartz we find, on breaking it,
very thin crystals, which crossing each other form a kind of
network. Sometimes the red schorl occurs only in dendritic crystals
of a bright red.* (* Especially below the Cross of La Guayra, at
594 toises of absolute elevation.) The gneiss of the valley of
Caracas is characterized by the red and green garnets it contains;
they however disappear when the rock passes into mica-slate. This
same phenomenon has been remarked by Von Buch in Sweden; but in the
temperate parts of Europe garnets are in general contained in
serpentine and mica-slates, not in gneiss. In the walls which
enclose the gardens of Caracas, constructed partly of fragments of
gneiss, we find garnets of a very fine red, a little transparent,
and very difficult to detach. The gneiss near the Cross of La
Guayra, half a league from Caracas, presented also vestiges of
azure copper-ore* (* Blue carbonate of copper.) disseminated in
veins of quartz, and small strata of plumbago (black lead), or
earthy carburetted iron. This last is found in pretty large masses,
and sometimes mingled with sparry iron-ore, in the ravine of
Tocume, to the west of the Silla.

Between the spring of Sanchorquiz and the Cross of La Guayra, as
well as still higher up, the gneiss contains considerable beds of
saccharoidal bluish-grey primitive limestone, coarse-grained,
containing mica, and traversed by veins of white calcareous spar.
The mica, with large folia, lies in the direction of the dip of the
strata. I found in the primitive limestone a great many
crystallized pyrites, and rhomboidal fragments of sparry iron-ore
of Isabella yellow. I endeavoured, but without success, to find
tremolite (Grammatite of Hauy. The primitive limestone above the
spring of Sanchorquiz, is directed, as the gneiss in that place,
hor. 5.2, and dips 45 degrees north; but the general direction of
the gneiss is, in the Cerro de Avila, hor. 3.4 with 60 degrees of
dip north-west. Exceptions merely local are observed in a small
space of ground near the Cross of La Guayra (hor. 6.2, dip 8
degrees north); and higher up, opposite the Quebrada of Tipe (hor.
12, dip 50 degrees west).), which in the Fichtelberg, in Franconia,
is common in the primitive limestone without dolomite. In Europe
beds of primitive limestone are generally observed in the
mica-slates; but we find also saccharoidal limestone in gneiss of
the most ancient formation, in Sweden near Upsala, in Saxony near
Burkersdorf, and in the Alps in the road over the Simplon. These
situations are analogous to that of Caracas. The phenomena of
geognosy, particularly those which are connected with the
stratification of rocks, and their grouping, are never solitary;
but are found the same in both hemispheres. I was the more struck
with these relations, and this identity of formations, as, at the
time of my journey in these countries, mineralogists were
unacquainted with the name of a single rock of Venezuela, New
Grenada, and the Cordilleras of Quito.



In all those parts of Spanish America in which civilization did not
exist to a certain degree before the Conquest (as it did in Mexico,
Guatimala, Quito, and Peru), it has advanced from the coasts to the
interior of the country, following sometimes the valley of a great
river, sometimes a chain of mountains, affording a temperate
climate. Concentrated at once in different points, it has spread as
if by diverging rays. The union into provinces and kingdoms was
effected on the first immediate contact between civilized parts, or
at least those subject to permanent and regular government. Lands
deserted, or inhabited by savage tribes, now surround the countries
which European civilization has subdued. They divide its conquests
like arms of the sea difficult to be passed, and neighbouring
states are often connected with each other only by slips of
cultivated land. It is less difficult to acquire a knowledge of the
configuration of coasts washed by the ocean, than of the
sinuosities of that interior shore, on which barbarism and
civilization, impenetrable forests and cultivated land, touch and
bound each other. From not having reflected on the early state of
society in the New World, geographers have often made their maps
incorrect, by marking the different parts of the Spanish and
Portuguese colonies, as though they were contiguous at every point
in the interior. The local knowledge which I obtained respecting
these boundaries, enables me to fix the extent of the great
territorial divisions with some certainty, to compare the wild and
inhabited parts, and to appreciate the degree of political
influence exercised by certain towns of America, as centres of
power and of commerce.

Caracas is the capital of a country nearly twice as large as Peru,
and now little inferior in extent to the kingdom of New Grenada.*
(* The Capitania-General of Caracas contains near 48,000 square
leagues (twenty-five to a degree). Peru, since La Paz, Potosi,
Charcas and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, have been separated from it,
contains only 30,000. New Grenada, including the province of Quito,
contains 65,000. Reinos, Capitanias-Generales, Presidencies,
Goviernos, and Provincias, are the names by which Spain formerly
distinguished her transmarine possessions, or, as they were called,
Dominios de Ultramar (Dominions beyond Sea.)) This country which
the Spanish government designates by the name of Capitania-General
de Caracas,* (* The captain-general of Caracas has the title of
"Capitan-General de las Provincias de Venezuela y Ciudad do
Caracas.") or of the united provinces of Venezuela, has nearly a
million of inhabitants, among whom are sixty thousand slaves. It
comprises, along the coasts, New Andalusia, or the province of
Cumana (with the island of Margareta),* (* This island, near the
coast of Cumana, forms a separate govierno, depending immediately
on the captain-general of Caracas.) Barcelona, Venezuela or
Caracas, Coro, and Maracaybo; in the interior, the provinces of
Varinas and Guiana; the former situated on the rivers of Santo
Domingo and the Apure, the latter stretching along the Orinoco, the
Casiquiare, the Atabapo, and the Rio Negro. In a general view of
the seven united provinces of Terra Firma, we perceive that they
form three distinct zones, extending from east to west.

We find, first, cultivated land along the sea-shore, and near the
chain of the mountains on the coast; next, savannahs or pasturages;
and finally, beyond the Orinoco, a third zone, that of the forests,
into which we can penetrate only by the rivers which traverse them.
If the native inhabitants of the forests lived entirely on the
produce of the chase, like those of the Missouri, we might say that
the three zones into which we have divided the territory of
Venezuela, picture the three states of human society; the life of
the wild hunter, in the woods of the Orinoco; pastoral life, in the
savannahs or llanos; and the agricultural state, in the high
valleys, and at the foot of the mountains on the coast. Missionary
monks and some few soldiers occupy here, as throughout all Spanish
America, advanced posts along the frontiers of Brazil. In this
first zone are felt the preponderance of force, and the abuse of
power, which is its necessary consequence. The natives carry on
civil war, and sometimes devour one another. The monks endeavour to
augment the number of little villages of their Missions, by taking
advantage of the dissensions of the natives. The military live in a
state of hostility to the monks, whom they were intended to
protect. Everything presents a melancholy picture of misery and
privation. We shall soon have occasion to examine more closely that
state of man, which is vaunted as a state of nature, by those who
inhabit towns. In the second region, in the plains and
pasture-grounds, food is extremely abundant, but has little
variety. Although more advanced in civilization, the people beyond
the circle of some scattered towns are not less isolated from one
another. At sight of their dwellings, partly covered with skins and
leather, it might be supposed that, far from being fixed, they are
scarcely encamped in those vast plains which extend to the horizon.
Agriculture, which alone consolidates the bases, and strengthens
the bonds of society, occupies the third zone, the shore, and
especially the hot and temperate valleys among the mountains near
the sea.

It may be objected, that in other parts of Spanish and Portuguese
America, wherever we can trace the progressive development of
civilization, we find the three ages of society combined. But it
must be remembered that the position of the three zones, that of
the forests, the pastures, and the cultivated land, is not
everywhere the same, and that it is nowhere so regular as in
Venezuela. It is not always from the coast to the interior, that
population, commercial industry, and intellectual improvement,
diminish. In Mexico, Peru, and Quito, the table-lands and central
mountains possess the greatest number of cultivators, the most
numerous towns situated near to each other, and the most ancient
institutions. We even find, that, in the kingdom of Buenos Ayres,
the region of pasturage, known by the name of the Pampas, lies
between the isolated part of Buenos Ayres and the great mass of
Indian cultivators, who inhabit the Cordilleras of Charcas, La Paz,
and Potosi. This circumstance gives birth to a diversity of
interests, in the same country, between the people of the interior
and those who inhabit the coasts.

To form an accurate idea of those vast provinces which have been
governed for ages, almost like separate states, by viceroys and
captains-general, we must fix our attention at once on several
points. We must distinguish the parts of Spanish America opposite
to Asia from those on the shores of the Atlantic; we must ascertain
where the greater portion of the population is placed; whether near
the coast, or concentrated in the interior, on the cold and
temperate table-lands of the Cordilleras. We must verify the
numerical proportions between the natives and other castes; search
into the origin of the European families, and examine to what race,
in each part of the colonies, belongs the greater number of whites.
The Andalusian-Canarians of Venezuela, the Mountaineers* (*
Montaneses. The inhabitants of the mountains of Santander are
called by this name in Spain.) and the Biscayans of Mexico, the
Catalonians of Buenos Ayres, differ essentially in their aptitude
for agriculture, for the mechanical arts, for commerce, and for all
objects connected with intellectual development. Each of those
races has preserved, in the New as in the Old World, the shades
that constitute its national physiognomy; its asperity or mildness
of character; its freedom from sordid feelings, or its excessive
love of gain; its social hospitality, or its taste for solitude. In
the countries where the population is for the most part composed of
Indians and mixed races, the difference between the Europeans and
their descendants cannot indeed be so strongly marked, as that
which existed anciently in the colonies of Ionian and Doric origin.
The Spaniards transplanted to the torrid zone, estranged from the
habits of their mother-country, must have felt more sensible
changes than the Greeks settled on the coasts of Asia Minor, and of
Italy, where the climates differ so little from those of Athens and
Corinth. It cannot be denied that the character of the Spanish
Americans has been variously modified by the physical nature of the
country; the isolated sites of the capitals on the table-lands or
in the vicinity of the coasts; the agricultural life; the labour of
the mines, and the habit of commercial speculation: but in the
inhabitants of Caracas, Santa Fe, Quito, and Buenos Ayres, we
recognize everywhere something which belongs to the race and the
filiation of the people.

If we examine the state of the Capitania-General of Caracas,
according to the principles here laid down, we perceive that
agricultural industry, the great mass of population, the numerous
towns, and everything connected with advanced civilization, are
found near the coast. This coast extends along a space of two
hundred leagues. It is washed by the Caribbean Sea, a sort of
Mediterranean, on the shores of which almost all the nations of
Europe have founded colonies; which communicates at several points
with the Atlantic; and which has had a considerable influence on
the progress of knowledge in the eastern part of equinoctial
America, from the time of the Conquest. The kingdoms of New Grenada
and Mexico have no connection with foreign colonies, and through
them with the nations of Europe, except by the ports of Carthagena,
of Santa Martha, of Vera Cruz, and of Campeachy. These vast
countries, from the nature of their coasts, and the isolation of
their inhabitants on the back of the Cordilleras, have few points
of contact with foreign lands. The gulf of Mexico also is but
little frequented during a part of the year, on account of the
danger of gales of wind from the north. The coasts of Venezuela, on
the contrary, from their extent, their eastward direction, the
number of their ports, and the safety of their anchorage at
different seasons, possess all the advantages of the Caribbean Sea.
The communications with the larger islands, and even with those
situated to windward, can nowhere be more frequent than from the
ports of Cumana, Barcelona, La Guayra, Porto Cabello, Coro, and
Maracaybo. Can we wonder that this facility of commercial
intercourse with the inhabitants of free America, and the agitated
nations of Europe, should in the provinces united under the
Capitania-General of Venezuela, have augmented opulence, knowledge,
and that restless desire of a local government, which is blended
with the love of liberty and republican forms?

The copper-coloured natives, or Indians, constitute an important
mass of the agricultural population only in those places where the
Spaniards, at the time of the Conquest, found regular governments,
social communities, and ancient and very complicated institutions;
as, for example, in New Spain, south of Durango; and in Peru, from
Cuzco to Potosi. In the Capitania-General of Caracas, the Indian
population is inconsiderable, at least beyond the Missions and in
the cultivated zone. Even in times of great political excitement,
the natives do not inspire any apprehension in the whites or the
mixed castes. Computing, in 1800, the total population of the seven
united provinces at nine hundred thousand souls, it appeared to me
that the Indians made only one-ninth; while at Mexico they form
nearly one half of the inhabitants.

Considering the Caribbean Sea, of which the gulf of Mexico makes a
part, as an interior sea with several mouths, it is important to
fix our attention on the political relations arising out of this
singular configuration of the New Continent, between countries
placed around the same basin. Notwithstanding the isolated state in
which most of the mother-countries endeavour to hold their
colonies, the agitations that take place are not the less
communicated from one to the other. The elements of discord are
everywhere the same; and, as if by instinct, an understanding is
established between men of the same colour, although separated by
difference of language, and inhabiting opposite coasts. That
American Mediterranean formed by the shores of Venezuela, New
Grenada, Mexico, the United States, and the West India Islands,
counts upon its borders near a million and a half of free and
enslaved blacks; but so unequally distributed, that there are very
few to the south, and scarcely any in the regions of the west.
Their great accumulation is on the northern and eastern coasts,
which may be said to be the African part of the interior basin. The
commotions which since 1792 have broken out in St. Domingo, have
naturally been propagated to the coasts of Venezuela. So long as
Spain possessed those fine colonies in tranquillity, the little
insurrections of the slaves were easily repressed; but when a
struggle of another kind, that for independence, began, the blacks
by their menacing position excited alternately the apprehensions of
the opposite parties; and the gradual or instantaneous abolition of
slavery has been proclaimed in different regions of Spanish
America, less from motives of justice and humanity, than to secure
the aid of an intrepid race of men, habituated to privation, and
fighting for their own cause. I found in the narrative of the
voyage of Girolamo Benzoni, a curious passage, which proves that
the apprehensions caused by the increase of the black population
are of very old date. These apprehensions will cease only where
governments shall second by laws the progressive reforms which
refinement of manners, opinion, and religious sentiment, introduce
into domestic slavery. "The negroes," says Benzoni, "multiply so
much at St. Domingo, that in 1545, when I was in Terra Firma [on
the coast of Caracas], I saw many Spaniards who had no doubt that
the island would shortly be the property of the blacks."* (* "Vi
sono molti Spagnuoli che tengono per cosa certa, che quest' isola
(San Dominico) in breve tempo sara posseduta da questi Mori di
Guinea." (Benzoni Istoria del Mondo Nuovo ediz. 2da 1672 page 65.)
The author, who is not very scrupulous in the adoption of
statistical facts, believes that in his time there were at St.
Domingo seven thousand fugitive negroes (Mori cimaroni), with whom
Don Luis Columbus made a treaty of peace and friendship.) It was
reserved for our age to see this prediction accomplished; and a
European colony of America transform itself into an African state.

The sixty thousand slaves which the seven united provinces of
Venezuela are computed to contain, are so unequally divided, that
in the province of Caracas alone there are nearly forty thousand,
one-fifth of whom are mulattoes; in Maracaybo, there are ten or
twelve thousand; but in Cumana and Barcelona, scarcely six
thousand. To judge of the influence which the slaves and men of
colour exercise on the public tranquility, it is not enough to know
their number, we must consider their accumulation at certain
points, and their manner of life, as cultivators or inhabitants of
towns. In the province of Venezuela, the slaves are assembled
together on a space of no great extent, between the coast, and a
line which passes (at twelve leagues from the coast) through
Panaquire, Yare, Sabana de Ocumare, Villa de Cura, and Nirgua. The
llanos or vast plains of Calaboso, San Carlos, Guanare, and
Barquecimeto, contain only four or five thousand slaves, who are
scattered among the farms, and employed in the care of cattle. The
number of free men is very considerable; the Spanish laws and
customs being favourable to affranchisement. A master cannot refuse
liberty to a slave who offers him the sum of three hundred
piastres, even though the slave may have cost double that price, on
account of his industry, or a particular aptitude for the trade he
practises. Instances of persons who voluntarily bestow liberty on a
certain number of their slaves, are more common in the province of
Venezuela than in any other place. A short time before we visited
the fertile valleys of Aragua and the lake of Valencia, a lady who
inhabited the great village of Victoria, ordered her children, on
her death-bed, to give liberty to all her slaves, thirty in number.
I feel pleasure in recording facts that do honour to the character
of a people from whom M. Bonpland and myself received so many marks
of kindness.

If we compare the seven united provinces of Venezuela with the
kingdom of Mexico and the island of Cuba, we shall succeed in
finding the approximate number of white Creoles, and even of
Europeans. The white Creoles, whom I may call Hispano-Americans,*
(* In imitation of the word Anglo-American, adapted in all the
languages of Europe. In the Spanish colonies, the whites born in
America are called Spaniards; and the real Spaniards, those born in
the mother country, are called Europeans, Gachupins, or Chapetons.)
form in Mexico nearly a fifth, and in the island of Cuba, according
to the very accurate enumeration of 1801, a third of the whole
population. When we reflect that the kingdom of Mexico contains two
millions and a half of natives of the copper-coloured race; when we
consider the state of the coasts bordering on the Pacific, and the
small number of whites in the intendencias of Puebla and Oaxaca,
compared with the natives, we cannot doubt that the province of
Venezuela at least, if not the capitania-general, has a greater
proportion than that of one to five. The island of Cuba,* (* I do
not mention the kingdom of Buenos Ayres, where, among a million of
inhabitants, the whites are extremely numerous in parts near the
coast; while the table-lands, or provinces of the sierra are almost
entirely peopled with natives.) in which the whites are even more
numerous than in Chile, may furnish us with a limiting number, that
is to say, the maximum which may be supposed in the
capitania-general of Caracas. I believe we must stop at two
hundred, or two hundred and ten thousand Hispano-Americans, in a
total population of nine hundred thousand souls. The number of
Europeans included in the white race (not comprehending the troops
sent from the mother-country) does not exceed twelve or fifteen
thousand. It certainly is not greater at Mexico than sixty
thousand; and I find by several statements, that, if we estimate
the whole of the Spanish colonies at fourteen or fifteen millions
of inhabitants, there are in that number at most three millions of
Creole whites, and two hundred thousand Europeans.

When Tupac-Amaru, who believed himself to be the legitimate heir to
the empire of the Incas, made the conquest of several provinces of
Upper Peru, in 1781, at the head of forty thousand Indian
mountaineers, all the whites were filled with alarm. The
Hispano-Americans felt, like the Spaniards born in Europe, that the
contest was between the copper-coloured race and the whites;
between barbarism and civilization. Tupac-Amaru, who himself was
not destitute of intellectual cultivation, began with flattering
the creoles and the European clergy; but soon, impelled by events,
and by the spirit of vengeance that inspired his nephew, Andres
Condorcanqui, he changed his plan. A rising for independence became
a cruel war between the different castes; the whites were
victorious, and excited by a feeling of common interest, from that
period they kept watchful attention on the proportions existing in
the different provinces between their numbers and those of the
Indians. It was reserved for our times to see the whites direct
this attention towards themselves; and examine, from motives of
distrust, the elements of which their own caste is composed. Every
enterprise in favour of independence and liberty puts the national
or American party in opposition to the men of the mother-country.
When I arrived at Caracas, the latter had just escaped from the
danger with which they thought they were menaced by the
insurrection projected by Espana. The consequences of that bold
attempt were the more deplorable, because, instead of investigating
the real causes of the popular discontent, it was thought that the
mother-country would be saved by employing vigorous measures. At
present, the commotions which have arisen throughout the country,
from the banks of the Rio de la Plata to New Mexico, an extent of
fourteen hundred leagues, have divided men of a common origin.

The Indian population in the united provinces of Venezuela is not
considerable, and is but recently civilized. All the towns were
founded by the Spanish conquerors, who could not carry out, as in
Mexico and Peru, the old civilization of the natives. Caracas,
Maracaybo, Cumana, and Coro, have nothing Indian but their names.
Compared with the three capitals of equinoctial America,* (*
Mexico, Santa Fe de Bogota, and Quito. The elevation of the site of
the capital of Guatimala is still unknown. Judging from the
vegetation, we may infer that it is less than 500 toises.) situated
on the mountains, and enjoying a temperate climate, Caracas is the
least elevated. It is not a central point of commerce, like Mexico,
Santa Fe de Bogota, and Quito. Each of the seven provinces united
in one capitania-general has a port, by which its produce is
exported. It is sufficient to consider the position of the
provinces, their respective degree of intercourse with the Windward
Islands, the direction of the mountains, and the course of the
great rivers, to perceive that Caracas can never exercise any
powerful political influence over the territories of which it is
the capital. The Apure, the Meta, and the Orinoco, running from
west to east, receive all the streams of the llanos, or the region
of pasturage. St. Thomas de la Guiana will necessarily, at some
future day, be a trading-place of high importance, especially when
the flour of New Grenada, embarked above the confluence of the Rio
Negro and the Umadea, and descending by the Meta and Orinoco, shall
be preferred at Caracas and Guiana to the flour of New England. It
is a great advantage to the provinces of Venezuela, that their
territorial wealth is not directed to one point, like that of
Mexico and New Grenada, which flows to Vera Cruz and Carthagena;
but that they possess a great number of towns equally well peopled,
and forming various centres of commerce and civilization.

The city of Caracas is seated at the entrance of the plain of
Chacao, which extends three leagues eastward, in the direction of
Caurimare and the Cuesta de Auyamas, and is two leagues and a half
in breadth. This plain, through which runs the Rio Guayra, is at
the elevation of four hundred and fourteen toises above the level
of the sea. The ground on which the city of Caracas is built is
uneven, and has a steep slope from north-north-west to
south-south-east. To form an accurate idea of the situation of
Caracas, we must bear in mind the general direction of the
mountains of the coast, and the great longitudinal valleys by which
they are traversed. The Rio Guayra rises in the group of primitive
mountains of Higuerote, which separates the valley of Caracas from
that of Aragua. It is formed near Las Ajuntas, by the junction of
the little rivers of San Pedro and Macarao, and runs first eastward
as far as the Cuesta of Auyamas, and then southward, uniting its
waters with those of the Rio Tuy, below Yare. The Rio Tuy is the
only considerable river in the northern and mountainous part of the

The river flows in a direct course from west to east, the distance
of thirty leagues, and it is navigable along more than three
quarters of that distance. By barometrical measurements I found the
slope of the Tuy along this length, from the plantation of
Manterola* (* At the foot of the high mountain of Cocuyza, 3 east
from Victoria.) to its mouth, east of Cape Codera, to be two
hundred and ninety-five toises. This river forms in the chain of
the coast a kind of longitudinal valley, while the waters of the
llanos, or of five-sixths of the province of Caracas, follow the
slope of the land southward, and join the Orinoco. This
hydrographic sketch may throw some light on the natural tendency of
the inhabitants of each particular province, to export their
productions by different roads.

The valleys of Caracas and of the Tuy run parallel for a
considerable length. They are separated by a mountainous tract,
which is crossed in going from Caracas to the high savannahs of
Ocumare, passing by La Valle and Salamanca. These savannahs
themselves are beyond the Tuy; and the valley of the Tuy being a
great deal lower than that of Caracas, the descent is almost
constantly from north to south. As Cape Codera, the Silla, the
Cerro de Avila between Caracas and La Guayra, and the mountains of
Mariara, constitute the most northern and elevated range of the
coast chain; so the mountains of Panaquire, Ocumare, Guiripa, and
of the Villa de Cura, form the most southern range. The general
direction of the strata composing this vast chain of the coast is
from south-east to north-west; and the dip is generally towards
north-west: hence it follows, that the direction of the primitive
strata is independent of that of the whole chain. It is extremely
remarkable, tracing this chain* from Porto Cabello as far as
Maniquarez and Macanao, in the island of Margareta (* I have
spoken, in the preceding chapter, of the interruption in the chain
of the coast to the east of Cape Codera.), to find, from west to
east, first granite, then gneiss, mica-slate, and primitive schist;
and finally, compact limestone, gypsum, and conglomerates
containing sea-shells.

It is to be regretted that the town of Caracas was not built
farther to the east, below the entrance of the Anauco into the
Guayra; on that spot near Chacao, where the valley widens into an
extensive plain, which seems to have been levelled by the waters.
Diego de Losada, when he founded* the town, followed no doubt the
traces of the first establishment made by Faxardo. At that time,
the Spaniards, attracted by the high repute of the two gold mines
of Los Teques and Baruta, were not yet masters of the whole valley,
and preferred remaining near the road leading to the coast. (* The
foundation of Santiago de Leon de Caracas dates from 1567, and is
posterior to that of Cumana, Coro, Nueva Barcelona, and
Caravalleda, or El Collado.) The town of Quito is also built in the
narrowest and most uneven part of a valley, between two fine
plains, Turupamba and Rumipamba.

The descent is uninterrupted from the custom-house of the Pastora,
by the square of Trinidad and the Plaza Mayor, to Santa Rosalia,
and the Rio Guayra. This declivity of the ground does not prevent
carriages from going about the town; but the inhabitants make
little use of them. Three small rivers, descending from the
mountains, the Anauco, the Catuche, and the Caraguata, intersect
the town, running from north to south. Their banks are very high;
and, with the dried-up ravines which join them, furrowing the
ground, they remind the traveller of the famous Guaicos of Quito,
only on a smaller scale. The water used for drinking at Caracas is
that of the Rio Catuche; but the richer class of the inhabitants
have their water brought from La Valle, a village a league distant
on the south. This water and that of Gamboa are considered very
salubrious, because they flow over the roots of sarsaparilla.* (*
Throughout America water is supposed to share the properties of
those plants under the shade of which it flows. Thus, at the
Straits of Magellan, that water is much praised which comes in
contact with the roots of the Canella winterana.) I could not
discover in them any aromatic or extractive matter. The water of
the valley does not contain lime, but a little more carbonic acid
than the water of the Anauco. The new bridge over this river is a
handsome structure. Caracas contains eight churches, five convents,
and a theatre capable of holding fifteen or eighteen hundred
persons. When I was there, the pit, in which the seats of the men
are apart from those of the women, was uncovered. By this means the
spectators could either look at the actors or gaze at the stars. As
the misty weather made me lose a great many observations of
Jupiter's satellites, I was able to ascertain, as I sat in a box in
the theatre, whether the planet would be visible that night. The
streets of Caracas are wide and straight, and they cross each other
at right angles, as in all the towns built by the Spaniards in
America. The houses are spacious, and higher than they ought to be
in a country subject to earthquakes. In 1800, the two squares of
Alta Gracia and San Francisco presented a very agreeable aspect; I
say in the year 1800, because the terrible shocks of the 26th of
March, 1812, almost destroyed the whole city, which is only now
slowly rising from its ruins. The quarter of Trinidad, in which I
resided, was destroyed as completely as if a mine had been sprung
beneath it.

The small extent of the valley, and the proximity of the high
mountains of Avila and the Silla, give a gloomy and stern character
to the scenery of Caracas; particularly in that part of the year
when the coolest temperature prevails, namely, in the months of
November and December. The mornings are then very fine; and on a
clear and serene sky we could perceive the two domes or rounded
pyramids of the Silla, and the craggy ridge of the Cerro de Avila.
But towards evening the atmosphere thickens; the mountains are
overhung with clouds; streams of vapour cling to their evergreen
slopes, and seem to divide them into zones one above another. These
zones are gradually blended together; the cold air which descends
from the Silla, accumulates in the valley, and condenses the light
vapours into large fleecy clouds. These often descend below the
Cross of La Guayra, and advance, gliding on the soil, in the
direction of the Pastora of Caracas, and the adjacent quarter of
Trinidad. Beneath this misty sky, I could scarcely imagine myself
to be in one of the temperate valleys of the torrid zone; but
rather in the north of Germany, among the pines and the larches
that cover the mountains of the Hartz.

But this gloomy aspect, this contrast between the clearness of
morning and the cloudy sky of evening, is not observable in the
midst of summer. The nights of June and July are clear and
delicious. The atmosphere then preserves, almost without
interruption, the purity and transparency peculiar to the
table-lands and elevated valleys of these regions in calm weather,
as long as the winds do not mingle together strata of air of
unequal temperature. That is the season for enjoying the beauty of
the landscape, which, however, I saw clearly illumined only during
a few days at the end of January. The two rounded summits of the
Silla are seen at Caracas, almost under the same angles of
elevation* as the peak of Teneriffe at the port of Orotava.* (* I
found, at the square of Trinidad, the apparent height of the Silla
to be 11 degrees 12 minutes 49 seconds. It was about four thousand
five hundred toises distant.) The first half of the mountain is
covered with short grass; then succeeds the zone of evergreen trees,
reflecting a purple light at the season when the befaria, the
alpine rose-tree* (* Rhododendron ferrugineum of the Alps.) of
equinoctial America, is in blossom. The rocky masses rise above
this wooded zone in the form of domes. Being destitute of
vegetation, they increase by the nakedness of their surface the
apparent height of a mountain which, in the temperate parts of
Europe, would scarcely rise to the limit of perpetual snow. The
cultivated region of the valley, and the gay plains of Chacao,
Petare, and La Vega, form an agreeable contrast to the imposing
aspect of the Silla, and the great irregularities of the ground on
the north of the town.

The climate of Caracas has often been called a perpetual spring.
The same sort of climate exists everywhere, halfway up the
Cordilleras of equinoctial America, between four hundred and nine
hundred toises of elevation, except in places where the great
breadth of the valleys, combined with an arid soil, causes an
extraordinary intensity* of radiant caloric. (* As at Carthago and
Ibague in New Grenada.) What can we conceive to be more delightful
than a temperature which in the day keeps between 20 and 26 degrees
(Between 16 and 20.8 degrees Reaum.); and at night between 16 and
18 degrees (Between 12.8 and 14.4 degrees Reaum.), which is equally
favourable to the plantain, the orange-tree, the coffee-tree, the
apple, the apricot, and corn? Jose de Oviedo y Banos, the
historiographer of Venezuela, calls the situation of Caracas that
of a terrestrial paradise, and compares the Anauco and the
neighbouring torrents to the four rivers of the Garden of Eden.

It is to be regretted that this delightful climate is generally
inconstant and variable. The inhabitants of Caracas complain of
having several seasons in one and the same day; and of the rapid
change from one season to another. In the month of January, for
instance, a night, of which the mean temperature is 16 degrees, is
sometimes followed by a day when the thermometer during eight
successive hours keeps above 22 degrees in the shade. In the same
day, we may find the temperature of 24 and 18 degrees. These
variations are extremely common in our temperate climates of
Europe, but in the torrid zone, Europeans themselves are so
accustomed to the uniform action of exterior stimulus, that they
suffer from a change of temperature of 6 degrees. At Cumana, and
everywhere in the plains, the temperature from eleven in the
morning to eleven at night changes only 2 or 3 degrees. Moreover,
these variations act on the human frame at Caracas more violently
than might be supposed from the mere indications of the
thermometer. In this narrow valley the atmosphere is in some sort
balanced between two winds, one blowing from the west, or the
seaside, the other from the east, or the inland country. The first
is known by the name of the wind of Catia, because it blows from
Catia westward of Cabo Blanco through the ravine of Tipe. It is,
however, only a westerly wind in appearance, and it is oftener the
breeze of the east and north-east, which, rushing with extreme
impetuosity, engulfs itself in the Quebrada de Tipe. Rebounding
from the high mountains of Aguas Negras, this wind finds its way
back to Caracas, in the direction of the hospital of the Capuchins
and the Rio Caraguata. It is loaded with vapours, which it deposits
as its temperature decreases, and consequently the summit of the
Silla is enveloped in clouds, when the catia blows in the valley.
This wind is dreaded by the inhabitants of Caracas; it causes
headache in persons whose nervous system is irritable. In order to
shun its effects, people sometimes shut themselves up in their
houses, as they do in Italy when the sirocco is blowing. I thought
I perceived, during my stay at Caracas, that the wind of Catia was
purer (a little richer in oxygen) than the wind of Petare. I even
imagined that its purity might explain its exciting property. The
wind of Petare coming from the east and south-east, by the eastern
extremity of the valley of the Guayra, brings from the mountains
and the interior of the country, a drier air, which dissipates the
clouds, and the summit of the Silla rises in all its beauty.

We know that the modifications produced by winds in the composition
of the air in various places, entirely escape our eudiometrical
experiments, the most precise of which can estimate only as far
as .0003 degrees of oxygen. Chemistry does not yet possess any
means of distinguishing two jars of air, the one filled during the
prevalence of the sirocco or the catia, and the other before these
winds have commenced. It appears to me probable, that the singular
effects of the catia, and of all those currents of air, to the
influence of which popular opinion attaches so much importance,
must be looked for rather in the changes of humidity and of
temperature, than in chemical modifications. We need not trace
miasms to Caracas from the unhealthy shore on the coast: it may be
easily conceived that men accustomed to the drier air of the
mountains and the interior, must be disagreeably affected when the
very humid air of the sea, pressed through the gap of Tipe, reaches
in an ascending current the high valley of Caracas, and, getting
cooler by dilatation, and by contact with the adjacent strata,
deposits a great portion of the water it contains. This inconstancy
of climate, these somewhat rapid transitions from dry and
transparent to humid and misty air, are inconveniences which
Caracas shares in common with the whole temperate region of the
tropics--with all places situated between four and eight hundred
toises of elevation, either on table-lands of small extent, or on
the slope of the Cordilleras, as at Xalapa in Mexico, and Guaduas
in New Granada. A serenity, uninterrupted during a great part of
the year, prevails only in the low regions at the level of the sea,
and at considerable heights on those vast table-lands, where the
uniform radiation of the soil seems to contribute to the perfect
dissolution of vesicular vapours. The intermediate zone is at the
same height as the first strata of clouds which surround the
surface of the earth; and the climate of this zone, the temperature
of which is so mild, is essentially misty and variable.

Notwithstanding the elevation of the spot, the sky is generally
less blue at Caracas than at Cumana. The aqueous vapour is less
perfectly dissolved; and here, as in our climates, a greater
diffusion of light diminishes the intensity of the aerial colour,
by introducing white into the blue of the air. This intensity,
measured with the cyanometer of Saussure, was found from November
to January generally 18, never above 20 degrees. On the coasts it
was from 22 to 25 degrees. I remarked, in the village of Caracas,
that the wind of Petare sometimes contributes singularly to give a
pale tint to the celestial vault. On the 22nd of January, the blue
of the sky was at noon in the zenith feebler than I ever saw it in
the torrid zone.* (* At noon, thermometer in the shade 23.7 (in the
sun, out of the wind, 30.4 degrees); De Luc's hygrometer, 36.2;
cyanometer, at the zenith, 12, at the horizon 9 degrees. The wind
ceased at three in the afternoon. Thermometer 21; hygrometer 39.3;
cyanometer 16 degrees. At six o'clock, thermometer 20.2; hygrometer
39 degrees.) It corresponded only to 12 degrees of the cyanometer.
The atmosphere was then remarkably transparent, without clouds, and
of extraordinary dryness. The moment the wind of Petare ceased, the
blue colour rose at the zenith as high as 16 degrees. I have often
observed at sea, but in a smaller degree, a similar effect of the
wind on the colour of the serenest sky.

We know less exactly the mean temperature of Caracas, than that of
Santa Fe de Bogota and of Mexico. I believe, however, I can
demonstrate, that it cannot be very distant from twenty to
twenty-two degrees. I found by my own observations, during the
three very cool months of November, December, and January, taking
each day the maximum and minimum of the temperature, the heights
were 20.2; 20.1; 20.2 degrees.

Rains are extremely frequent at Caracas in the months of April,
May, and June. The storms always come from the east and south-east,
from the direction of Petare and La Valle. No hail falls in the low
regions of the tropics; yet it occurs at Caracas almost every four
or five years. Hail has even been seen in valleys still lower; and
this phenomenon, when it does happen, makes a powerful impression
on the people. Falls of aerolites are less rare with us than hail
in the torrid zone, notwithstanding the frequency of thunder-storms
at the elevation of three hundred toises above the level of the

The cool and delightful climate we have just been describing is
also suited for the culture of equinoctial productions. The
sugar-cane is reared with success, even at heights exceeding that
of Caracas; but in the valley, owing to the dryness of the climate,
and the stony soil, the cultivation of the coffee-tree is
preferred: it yields indeed but little fruit, but that little is of
the finest quality. When the shrub is in blossom, the plain
extending beyond Chacao presents a delightful aspect. The
banana-tree, which is seen in the plantations near the town, is not
the great Platano harton; but the varieties camburi and dominico,
which require less heat. The great plantains are brought to the
market of Caracas from the haciendas of Turiamo, situated on the
coast between Burburata and Porto Cabello. The finest flavoured
pine-apples are those of Baruto, of Empedrado, and of the heights
of Buenavista, on the road to Victoria. When a traveller for the
first time visits the valley of Caracas, he is agreeably surprised
to find the culinary plants of our climates, as well as the
strawberry, the vine, and almost all the fruit-trees of the
temperate zone, growing beside the coffee and banana-tree. The
apples and peaches esteemed the best come from Macarao, or from the
western extremity of the valley. There, the quince-tree, the trunk
of which attains only four or five feet in height, is so common,
that it has almost become wild. Preserved apples and quinces,
particularly the latter,* (* "Dulce de manzana y de membrillo," are
the Spanish names of these preserves.) are much used in a country
where it is thought that, before drinking water, thirst should be
excited by sweetmeats. In proportion as the environs of the town
have been planted with coffee, and the establishment of plantations
(which dates only from the year 1795) has increased the number of
agricultural negroes,* the apple and quince-trees scattered in the
savannahs have given place, in the valley of Caracas, to maize and
pulse. (* The consumption of provisions, especially meat, is so
considerable in the towns of Spanish America, that at Caracas, in
1800, there were 40,000 oxen killed every year: while in Paris, in
1793, with a population fourteen times as great, the number
amounted only to 70,000.) Rice, watered by means of small trenches,
was formerly more common than it now is in the plain of Chacao. I
observed in this province, as in Mexico and in all the elevated
lands of the torrid zone, that, where the apple-tree is most
abundant, the culture of the pear-tree is attended with great
difficulty. I have been assured, that near Caracas the excellent
apples sold in the markets come from trees not grafted. There are
no cherry-trees. The olive-trees which I saw in the court of the
convent of San Felipe de Neri, were large and fine; but the
luxuriance of their vegetation prevented them from bearing fruit.

If the atmospheric constitution of the valley be favourable to the
different kinds of culture on which colonial industry is based, it
is not equally favourable to the health of the inhabitants, or to
that of foreigners settled in the capital of Venezuela. The extreme
inconstancy of the weather, and the frequent suppression of
cutaneous perspiration, give birth to catarrhal affections, which
assume the most various forms. A European, once accustomed to the
violent heat, enjoys better health at Cumana, in the valley of
Aragua, and in every place where the low region of the tropics is
not very humid, than at Caracas, and in those mountain-climates
which are vaunted as the abode of perpetual spring.

Speaking of the yellow fever of La Guayra, I mentioned the opinion
generally adopted, that this disease is propagated as little from
the coast of Venezuela to the capital, as from the coast of Mexico
to Xalapa. This opinion is founded on the experience of the last
twenty years. The contagious disorders which were severely felt in
the port of La Guayra, were scarcely felt at Caracas. I am not
convinced that the American typhus, rendered endemic on the coast
as the port becomes more frequented, if favoured by particular
dispositions of the climate, may not become common in the valley:
for the mean temperature of Caracas is considerable enough to allow
the thermometer, in the hottest months, to keep between twenty-two
and twenty-six degrees. The situation of Xalapa, on the declivity
of the Mexican mountains, promises more security, because that town
is less populous, and is five times farther distant from the sea
than Caracas, and two hundred and thirty toises higher: its mean
temperature being three degrees cooler. In 1696, a bishop of
Venezuela, Diego de Banos, dedicated a church (ermita) to Santa
Rosalia of Palermo, for having delivered the capital from the
scourge of the black vomit (vomito negro), which is said to have
raged for the space of sixteen months. A mass celebrated every year
in the cathedral, in the beginning of September, perpetuates the
remembrance of this epidemic, in the same manner as processions
fix, in the Spanish colonies, the date of the great earthquakes.
The year 1696 was indeed very remarkable for the yellow fever,
which raged with violence in all the West India Islands, where it
had only begun to gain an ascendancy in 1688. But how can we give
credit to an epidemical black vomit, having lasted sixteen months
without interruption, and which may be said to have passed through
that very cool season when the thermometer at Caracas falls to
twelve or thirteen degrees? Can the typhus be of older date in the
elevated valley of Caracas, than in the most frequented ports of
Terra Firma. According to Ulloa, it was unknown in Terra Firma
before 1729. I doubt, therefore, the epidemic of 1696 having been
the yellow fever, or real typhus of America. Some of the symptoms
which accompany yellow fever are common to bilious remittent
fevers; and are no more characteristic than haematemeses of that
severe disease now known at the Havannah and Vera Cruz by the name
of vomito. But though no accurate description satisfactorily
demonstrates that the typhus of America existed at Caracas as early
as the end of the seventeenth century, it is unhappily too certain,
that this disease carried off in that capital a great number of
European soldiers in 1802. We are filled with dismay when we
reflect that, in the centre of the torrid zone, a table-land four
hundred and fifty toises high, but very near the sea, does not
secure the inhabitants against a scourge which was believed to
belong only to the low regions of the coast.



I remained two months at Caracas, where M. Bonpland and I lived in
a large house in the most elevated part of the town. From a gallery
we could survey at once the summit of the Silla, the serrated ridge
of the Galipano, and the charming valley of the Guayra, the rich
culture of which was pleasingly contrasted with the gloomy curtain
of the surrounding mountains. It was in the dry season, and to
improve the pasturage, the savannahs and the turf covering the
steepest rocks were set on fire. These vast conflagrations, viewed
from a distance, produce the most singular effects of light.
Wherever the savannahs, following the undulating slope of the
rocks, have filled up the furrows hollowed out by the waters, the
flame appears in a dark night like currents of lava suspended over
the valley. The vivid but steady light assumes a reddish tint, when
the wind, descending from the Silla, accumulates streams of vapour
in the low regions. At other times (and this effect is still more
curious) these luminous bands, enveloped in thick clouds, appear
only at intervals where it is clear; and as the clouds ascend,
their edges reflect a splendid light. These various phenomena, so
common in the tropics, acquire additional interest from the form of
the mountains, the direction of the slopes, and the height of the
savannahs covered with alpine grasses. During the day, the wind of
Petare, blowing from the east, drives the smoke towards the town,
and diminishes the transparency of the air.

If we had reason to be satisfied with the situation of our house,
we had still greater cause for satisfaction in the reception we met
with from all classes of the inhabitants. Though I have had the
advantage, which few Spaniards have shared with me, of having
successively visited Caracas, the Havannah, Santa Fe de Bogota,
Quito, Lima, and Mexico, and of having been connected in these six
capitals of Spanish America with men of all ranks, I will not
venture to decide on the various degrees of civilization, which
society has attained in the several colonies. It is easier to
indicate the different shades of national improvement, and the
point towards which intellectual development tends, than to compare
and class things which cannot all be considered under one point of
view. It appeared to me, that a strong tendency to the study of
science prevailed at Mexico and Santa Fe de Bogota; more taste for
literature, and whatever can charm an ardent and lively
imagination, at Quito and Lima; more accurate notions of the
political relations of countries, and