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V O L . I I .

P E R S O N A L N A R R A T I V E |
D U R I N G T H E Y E A R S 1 7 9 9 — 1 8 0 4 .
BY A L E X A N D E R V O N H U M B O L D T A N D A I M É B O N P L A N D .
T R A N S L A T E D A N D E D I T E D B Y T H O M A S I N A R O S S .
V O L . I I .
B E L L & D A L D Y , Y O R K S T R E E T , C O V E N T G A R D E N .


V O L U M E TH E S E C O N D .
C H A P T E R X V I .
Lake of Tacarigua.—Hot Springs of Mariara.—Town of Nuera
Valencia del Rey—Descent towards the Coasts of Porto

. 1
C H A P T E R X V I I .
Mountains which separate the Valleys of Aragua from the Llanos
of Caracas.—Villa de Cura.—Parapara.—Llanos or Steppes,
—Calabozo . . . . . . . 6 8

C H A P T E R X V I I I .
San Fernando de Apure.—Intertwinings and Bifurcations of the
Rivers Apure and Arauca.—Navigation on the Rio Apure . 137
C H A P T E R X I X .
Junction of the Apure and the Orinoco.—Mountains of Enca-
ramada. — Uruana.—Baraguan.—Carichana. — Mouth of the
Meta.—Island of Panumana . . .

C H A P T E R X X .
The Mouth of the Rio Anaveni.—Peak of Uniana. —Mission of
Atures. —Cataract, or Raudal of Mapara.—Islets of Suru-
pamana and Uirapuri . 234

Raudal of Garcita.—Maypures.—Cataracts of Quituna.—Mouth of
the Vichada and the Zama.—Rock of Aricagua.—Siquita 289
a 2

C O N T E S T S .
C H A P T E R X X I I .
San Fernando de Atabapo.—San Balthasar.—The rivers Temi and
Tuamini.—Javita.—Portage from the Tuamini to the Rio
Negro . . • . • . . . 329
C H A P T E R X X I I I .
The Rio Negro.— Boundaries of Brazil.—The Cassiquiare.— Bifur-
cation of the Orinoco . . . . . 3 7 2
C H A P T E R X X I V .
The Upper Orinoco, from the Esmeralda to the confluence of the
Guaviare.— Second passage across the Cataracts of Atures and
Maypures.—The Lower Orinoco, between the mouth of the
Rio Apure, and Angostura the capital of Spanish Guiana .

C H A P T E R X V I .
Lake of Tacarigua.—Hot Springs of Mariara.—Town of Nueva Valencia
del Rey.—Descent towards the Coasts of Porto Cabello.
T H E valleys o f A r a g u a form a narrow basin between gra-
nitic and calcareous mountains of unequal height. O n the
north, they are separated b y the Sierra Mariara from the
sea-coast; and towards the south, the chain o f Guacimo
and Y u s m a serves them as a rampart against the heated
air o f the steppes. G r o u p s of hills, high enough to deter-
mine the course o f the waters, close this basin o n the east
and west like transverse dykes. W e find these hills between
the T u y and L a Victoria, as well as o n the road from
Valencia t o Nirgua, and at the mountains of Torito.* F r o m
* The lofty mountains of Los Teques, where the Tuy takes its source,
may be looked upon as the eastern boundary of the valleys of Aragua
The level of the ground continues, in fact, to rise from La Victoria to the

Hacienda de Tuy ; but the river Tuy, turning southward in the direction
of the sierras of Guairaima and Tiara, has found an issue on the east;

this extraordinary configuration of the land, the little rivers
o f the valleys of A r a g u a form a peculiar system, and direct
their course towards a basin closed on all sides. These
rivers do n o t bear their waters to the ocean ; they are
collected in a lake ; and subject to the peculiar influence
o f evaporation, they lose themselves, if w e may use the
expression, in the atmosphere. O n the existence of rivers
and lakes, the fertility of the soil and the produce o f culti-
vation in these valleys depend. T h e aspect o f the spot,
and the experience of half a century, have proved that the
level o f the waters is not invariable; the waste b y evapora-
tion, and the increase from the waters running into the
lake, do n o t uninterruptedly balance each other. The lake
being elevated one thousand feet above the neighbouring
steppes o f Calabozo, and one thousand three hundred and
thirty-two feet above the level of the ocean, it has been
suspected that there are subterranean communications and
filtrations. The appearance of new islands, and the gradual
retreat of the waters, have led to the belief that the lake
may perhaps, in time, b e c o m e entirely dry. A n assemblage
o f physical circumstances so remarkable was well fitted t o
fix my attention on those valleys where the wild beauty o f
nature is embellished by agricultural industry, and the arts
o f rising civilization.
T h e lake o f Valencia, called Tacarigua b y the Indians,
exceeds in magnitude the lake o f Neufchatel in Switzerland;
but its general form has more resemblance to the lake o f
Geneva, which is nearly at the same height above the level
o f the sea. A s the slope o f the ground in the valleys o f
A r a g u a tends towards the south and the west, that part
o f the basin still covered with water is the nearest to the
southern chain o f the mountains o f G u i g u e , o f Yusma,
and of Guacimo, which stretch towards the high savannahs
o f Ocumare. The opposite banks o f the lake o f Valencia
display a singular c o n t r a s t ; those o n the south are desert,
and almost uninhabited, and a screen o f high mountains
and it is more natural to consider as the limits of the basin of Aragua a
line drawn through the sources of the streams flowing into the lake of
Valencia. The charts and sections
I have traced of the road from Cara-
cas to Nueva Valencia, and from Porto Cabello to Villa de Cura, exhibit
the whole of these geological relations.

gives them a gloomy and monotonous aspect. The northern
shore on the contrary, is cheerful, pastoral, and decked with
the rich cultivation of the sugar-cane, coffee-tree, and
cotton. Paths bordered with cestrums, azedaracs, and other
shrubs always in flower, cross the plain, and join the scat-
tered farms. Every house is surrounded b y clumps of trees.
The ceiba with its large yellow flowers* gives a peculiar
character to the landscape, mingling its branches with those
of the purple erythrina. This mixture o f vivid vegetable
colours contrasts finely with the uniform tint of an u n -
clouded sky. I n the season of drought, where the burning
soil is covered with an undulating vapour, artificial irriga-
tions preserve verdure and promote fertility. H e r e and
there the granite rock pierces through the cultivated ground.
Enormous stony masses rise abruptly in the midst of the
valley. Bare and forked, they nourish a few succulent
plants, which prepare mould for future ages. Often on the
summit o f these lonely hills may b e seen a fig-tree or a
clusia with fleshy leaves, which has fixed its roots in the
rock, and towers over the landscape. W i t h their dead and
withered branches, these trees look like signals erected on
a steep cliff. T h e form of these mounts unfolds the secret
o f their ancient origin ; for when the whole o f this valley
was filled with water, and the waves beat at the foot of the
peaks of Mariara (the Devil's N o o k ) † and the chain o f the
coast, these rocky hills were shoals or islets.
These features of a rich landscape, these contrasts b e -
tween the two banks of the lake of Valencia, often reminded
me o f the Pays de V a u d , where the soil, everywhere cul-
tivated, and everywhere fertile, offers the husbandman, the
shepherd, and the vine-dresser, the secure fruit o f their
labours, while, on the opposite side, Chablais presents only
a mountainous and halt-desert country. I n these distant
climes surrounded b y exotic productions, I loved to recall
t o mind the enchanting descriptions with which the aspect
of the L e m a n lake and the rocks of L a Meillerie inspired
a great writer. N o w , while in the centre of civilized E u r o p e ,
I endeavour in my turn t o paint the scenes o f the New-
W o r l d , I do not imagine I present the reader with clearer
* Carnes tollendas (Bombax hibiscifolius).
† El Rincon del Diablo.
B 2

images, or more precise ideas, b y comparing our landscapes
with those of the equinoctial regions. I t cannot be t o o
often repeated that nature, in every zone, whether wild
o r cultivated, smiling or majestic, has an individual cha-
racter. T h e impressions which she excites are infinitely
varied, like the emotions produced by works o f genius,
according to the age in which they were conceived, and the
diversity of language from which they in part derive their
charm. W e must limit our comparisons merely to dimen-
sions and external form. W e may institute a parallel
between the colossal summit o f M o n t Blanc and the
Himalaya M o u n t a i n s ; the cascades o f the Pyrenees and
those of the Cordilleras : b u t these comparisons, useful with
respect t o science, fail t o convey an idea o f the character-
istics o f nature in the temperate and torrid zones. O n the
banks of a lake, in a vast forest, at the foot o f summits
covered with eternal snow, it is n o t the mere magnitude
o f the objects which excites our admiration. That which
speaks to the soul, which causes such profound and varied
emotions, escapes our measurements as it does the forms
o f language. Those w h o feel powerfully the charms o f
nature cannot venture on comparing one with another,
scenes totally different in character.
B u t it is not alone the picturesque beauties o f the lake
o f Valencia that have given celebrity to its banks. This
basin presents several other phenomena, and suggests ques-
tions, the solution o f which is interesting alike to physical
science and to the well-being o f the inhabitants. W h a t are
the causes o f the diminution o f the waters o f the lake ?
I s this diminution more rapid now than in former ages ?
Can we presume that an equilibrium between the waters
flowing in and the waters lost will be shortly re-established,
or may we apprehend that the lake will entirely disappear?
A c c o r d i n g to astronomical observations made at L a V i c -
toria, Hacienda de Cura, N u e v a Valencia, and Guigue, the
length o f the lake in its present state from Cagua t o
Guayos, is ten leagues, or twenty-eight thousand eight
hundred toises. Its breadth is very unequal. If we j u d g e
from the latitudes of the mouth o f the R i o Cura and the
village o f Guigue, it nowhere surpasses 23 leagues, or six
thousand five hundred toises ; most commonly it is but four

or five miles. T h e dimensions, as deduced from m y observa-
tions are much less than those hitherto adopted b y the
natives. I t might be thought that, to form a precise idea
of the progressive diminution of the waters, it would be
sufficient to compare the present dimensions of the lake
with those attributed t o it b y ancient chroniclers; b y
Oviedo for instance, in his H i s t o r y of the Province of V e n e -
zuela, published about the year 1723. This writer in his
emphatic style, assigns to “ this inland sea. this monstruoso
cuerpo de la laguna de Valencia”*
fourteen leagues in length
and six in breadth. H e affirms that at a small distance
from the shore the lead finds n o bottom ; and that large
floating islands cover the surface of the waters, which are
constantly agitated b y the winds. N o importance can be
attached to estimates which, without being founded on any
measurement, are expressed in leagues (leguas) reckoned in
the colonies at three thousand, five thousand, and six thou-
sand six hundred and fifty varas.† Oviedo, who must so
often have passed over the valleys of Aragua, asserts that
the t o w n of N u e v a Valencia del Rey was built in 1555,
at the distance o f half a league from the lake ; and that
the proportion between the length o f the lake and its
breadth, is as seven t o three. A t present, the t o w n o f
Valencia is separated from the lake b y level ground of more
than t w o thousand seven hundred toises (which Oviedo
would no doubt have estimated as a space of a league and
a half) ; and the length o f the basin of the lake is to its
breadth as 10 t o 2 3 , or as 7 t o 1-6. The appearance of the
* “ Enormous body of the lake of Valencia.”
† Seamen being the first, and for a long time the only, persons who
introduced into the Spanish colonies any precise ideas on the astrono-
mical position and distances of places, the legua nautica of 6650 varas,
or of 2854 toises (20 in a degree), was originally used in Mexico and

throughout South America; but this legua nautica has been gradually
reduced to one-half or one-third, on account of the slowness of tra-
velling across steep mountains, or dry and burning plains. The common

people measure only time directly; and then, by arbitrary hypotheses,
infer from the time the space of ground travelled over. In the course of
my geographical researches, I have had frequent opportunities of exa-
mining the real value of these leagues, by comparing the itinerary dis-

tances between points lying under the same meridian with the difference
of latitudes.

soil between Valencia and G u i g u e , the little hills rising
abruptly in the plain east o f the Caño de Cambury, some o f
which (el Islote and la Isla de la N e g r a or Caratapona)
have even preserved the name of islands, sufficiently prove
that the waters have retired considerably since the time o f
Oviedo. W i t h respect t o the change in the general form
o f the lake, it appears to me improbable that in the seven-
teenth century its breadth was nearly the half o f its length.
T h e situation o f the granite mountains o f Mariara and o f
G u i g u e , the slope o f the ground which rises more rapidly
towards the north and south than towards the east and
west, are alike repugnant to this supposition.
I n treating the long-discussed question of the diminution
o f the waters, I conceive w e must distinguish between the
different periods at which the sinking o f their level has
taken place. W h e r e v e r we examine the valleys o f rivers, o r
the basins of lakes, w e see the ancient shore at great dis-
tances. N o doubt seems n o w to bo entertained, that o u r
rivers and lakes have undergone immense diminutions; but
many geological facts remind us also, that these great
changes in the distribution of the waters have preceded all
historical t i m e s ; and that for many thousand years most
lakes have attained a permanent equilibrium between the
produce o f the water flowing in, and that of evaporation and
filtration. W h e n e v e r we find this equilibrium broken, it
will be well rather to examine whether the rupture be
n o t owing to causes merely local, and of very recent date,
than t o admit an uninterrupted diminution o f the water.
This reasoning is conformable t o the more circumspect
method o f modern science. A t a time when the physical
history of the world, traced by the genius o f some eloquent
writers, borrowed all its charms from the fictions o f imagi-
nation, the phenomenon of which we are treating would
have been adduced as a new proof o f the contrast these
writers sought to establish between the t w o continents.
T o demonstrate that A m e r i c a rose later than Asia and
Europe from the bosom o f the waters, the lake o f Tacarigua
would have been described as one o f those interior basins
which have not vet b e c o m e dry by the effects of slow and
gradual evaporation. I have no doubt that, in very remote
times, the whole valley, from the foot o f the mountains o f

Cocuyza to those of Torito and Nirgua, and from L a Sierra
de Mariara to the chain of G u i g u e , o f Guacimo, and L a
Palma, was tilled with water. Everywhere the form o f the
promontories, and their steep declivities, seem t o indicate
the shore of an alpine lake, similar t o those o f Styria and
Tyrol. T h e same little helicites, the same valvatæ, which n o w
live in the lake of Valencia, are found in layers of three or
four feet thick as far inland as Turmero and L a Concesion
near L a Victoria. These facts undoubtedly prove a retreat
o f the w a t e r s ; b u t nothing indicates that this retreat has
continued from a very remote period to our days. T h e
valleys of Aragua are among the portions of Venezuela most
anciently p e o p l e d ; and yet there is n o mention in Oviedo,
or any other old chronicler, of a sensible diminution of the
lake. M u s t we suppose, that this phenomenon escaped
their observation, at a time when the Indians far exceeded
the white population, and when the banks of the lake were
less inhabited? W i t h i n half a century, and particularly
within these thirty years, the natural desiccation of this
great basin has excited general attention. W e find vast
tracts of land which were formerly inundated, n o w dry, and
already cultivated with plantains, sugar-canes, or cotton.
W h e r e v e r a hut is erected o n the bank of the lake, w e see
the shore receding from year t o year. W e discover islands,
which, in consequence of the retreat of the waters, are j u s t
beginning t o be joined to the continent, as for instance the
rocky island of Culebra, in the direction of G u i g u e ; other
islands already form promontories, as the M o r r o , between
G u i g u e and Nueva Valencia, and L a Cabrera, south-east of
M a r i a r a ; others again are n o w rising, in the islands them-
selves like scattered hills. A m o n g these last, so easily
recognized at a distance, some are only a quarter o f a mile,
others a league from the present shore. I may cite as the
most remarkable three granite islands, thirty or forty toises
high, on the road from the Hacienda de Cura t o Aguas
Calientes; and at the western extremity o f the lake, the
Serrito de D o n P e d r o , Islote, and Caratapona. O n visiting
t w o islands* entirely surrounded by water, w e found in the
* Isla de Cura and Cabo Blanco. The promontory of Cabrera has
been connected with the shore ever since the year 1750 or 1760 by a little
valley, which bears the name of Portachuelo.

midst o f brushwood, on small flats (four, six, and even eight
toises height above the surface of the lake,) fine sand mixed
with helicites, anciently deposited by the waters. I n each o f
these islands may be perceived the most certain traces o f the
gradual sinking o f the waters. B u t still farther (and this
accident is regarded by the inhabitants as a marvellous phe-
n o m e n o n ) in 1796 three new islands appeared to the east
o f the island Caiguira, in the same direction as the islands
B u r r o , Otama, and Zorro. These new islands, called b y the
people Los nuevos Peñones, or Los Aparecidos* form a kind
o f banks with surfaces quite flat. T h e y rose, in 1800, more
than a foot above the mean level o f the water.
I t has already been observed that the lake of Valencia,
like the lakes o f the valley o f M e x i c o , forms the centre
of a little system of rivers, none of which have any c o m -
munication with the ocean. These rivers, most o f which
deserve only the name o f torrents, or brooks,† are twelve
or fourteen in number. T h e inhabitants, little acquainted
with the effects o f evaporation, have long imagined that
the lake has a subterranean outlet, b y which a quantity o f
water runs out equal t o that which flows in by the rivers.
Some suppose that this outlet communicates with grottos,
supposed t o be at great d e p t h ; others believe that the
water flows through an oblique channel into the basin
o f the ocean. These bold hypotheses o n the c o m m u n i -
cation between two neighbouring basins have presented
themselves in every zone t o the imagination o f the igno-
rant, as well as to that o f the learned; for the latter,
without confessing it, sometimes repeat popular opinions
in scientific language. W e hear o f subterranean gulfs and
outlets in the N e w W o r l d , as on the shores of the Caspian
sea, though the lake o f Tacarigua is t w o hundred and
twenty-two toises higher, and the Caspian sea fifty-four
toises lower, than the s e a ; and though it is well known,
that fluids find the same level, when they communicate by a
lateral channel.
* Lot Nuevos Peñones (the New Rocks). Los Aparecidos (the U n -
† The following are their names : Rios de Aragua, Turmero, Maracay,
Tapatapa, Aguas Calientes, Mariara, Cura, Guacara, Guataparo, Valencia,
Caño Grande de Cambury, &c.

T h e changes which the destruction of forests, the clearing
of plains, and the cultivation of indigo, have produced within
half a century in the quantity of water flowing in o n the
one hand, and o n the other the evaporation of the soil, and
the dryness of the atmosphere, present causes sufficiently
powerful to explain the progressive diminution of the lake of
Valencia. I cannot concur in the opinion o f M . D e p o n s *
(who visited these countries since I was there) “that t o
set the mind at rest, and for the honour o f science,” a sub-
terranean issue must be admitted. B y felling the trees
which cover the tops and the sides of mountains, men in
every climate prepare at once t w o calamities for future g e n e -
rations ; want of fuel and scarcity o f water. Trees, b y the
nature of their perspiration, and the radiation from their
leaves in a sky without clouds, surround themselves with an
atmosphere constantly cold and misty. T h e y affect the
copiousness of springs, not, as was long believed, b y a p e c u -
liar attraction for the vapours diffused through the air, b u t
because, b y sheltering the soil from the direct action of the
sun, they diminish the evaporation o f water produced b y
rain. W h e n forests are destroyed, as they are everywhere
in America by the European planters, with imprudent pre-
cipitancy, the springs are entirely dried up, or b e c o m e less
abundant. The beds of the rivers, remaining dry during
a part o f the year, are converted into torrents whenever
great rains fall o n the heights. A s the sward and moss
disappear with the brushwood from the sides of the m o u n -
tains, the waters falling in rain are n o longer impeded in
their c o u r s e ; and instead o f slowly augmenting the level o f
the rivers by progressive filtrations, they furrow, during
heavy showers, the sides o f the hills, bearing d o w n the
loosened soil, and forming sudden and destructive inunda-
tions. H e n c e it results, that the clearing of forests, the
want of permanent springs, and the existence o f torrents,
are three phenomena closely connected together. Countries
* In his ‘Voyage a la Terre Ferme,’ M . Depons says, “The small
extent of the surface of the lake renders impossible the supposition that
evaporation alone, however considerable within the tropics, could remove

as much water as the rivers furnish.” In the sequel, the author himself
seems to abandon what he terms “ this occult case, the hypothesis of an

situated in opposite hemispheres, as, for example, L o m b a r d y
bordered by the Alps, and L o w e r Peru inclosed between the
Pacific and the Cordillera o f the A n d e s , afford striking proofs
o f the justness o f this assertion.
Till the middle o f the last century, the mountains round
the valleys o f Aragua were covered with forests. Great
trees o f the families o f mimosa, ceiba, and the fig-tree,
shaded and spread coolness along the banks o f the lake.
T h e plain, then thinly inhabited, was filled with brushwood,
interspersed with trunks o f scattered trees and parasite
plants, enveloped with a thick sward, less capable o f emitting
radiant caloric than the soil that is cultivated and conse-
quently n o t sheltered from the rays o f the sun. W i t h the
destruction o f the trees, and the increase o f the cultivation
o f sugar, indigo, and cotton, the springs, and all the natural
supplies o f the lake o f Valencia, have diminished from year
t o year. I t is difficult t o form a just idea o f the enormous
quantity o f evaporation which takes place under the torrid
zone, in a valley surrounded with steep declivities, where
a regular breeze and descending currents o f air are felt
towards evening, and the bottom o f which is flat, and looks
as if levelled by the waters. I t has been remarked, that
the heat which prevails throughout the year at Cura,
Guacara, Nueva Valencia, and on the borders o f the lake,
is the same as that felt at midsummer in Naples and
Sicily. T h e mean annual temperature o f the valleys o f
A r a g u a is nearly 25-5°; m y hygrometrical observations o f
the month o f February, taking the mean o f day and night,
gave 7 1 ' 4 ° o f the hair hygrometer. A s the words great
drought and great humidity have n o determinate significa-
tion, and air that would be called very dry in the lower
regions o f the tropics would b e regarded as humid in
E u r o p e , w e can j u d g e o f these relations between climates
only by comparing spots situated in the same zone. N o w
at Cumana, where it sometimes does n o t rain during a
whole year, and where I had the means o f collecting a
great number o f hygrometric observations made at different
hours o f the day and night, the mean humidity o f the air
is 8 6 ° ; corresponding to the mean temperature o f 2 7 7 ° .
Taking into account the influence o f the rainy months, that
is t o say, estimating the difference observed in other parts

of South America between the mean humidity of the dry
months and that of the whole y e a r ; an annual mean humi-
dity is obtained, for the valleys of Aragua, at farthes of 74°,
the temperature being 25-5°. I n this air, so hot, and at the
same time so little humid, the quantity of water evaporated
is enormous. T h e theory o f Dalton estimates, under the
conditions just stated, for the thickness o f the sheet o f
water evaporated in an hour's time, 0 3 6 mill., or 3 8 lines
in twenty-four hours. A s s u m i n g for the temperate zone,
for instance at Paris, the mean temperature to be 10 6°, and
the mean humidity 82°, we find, according to the same
formulae, 0 1 0 mill, an hour, and 1 line for twenty-four
hours. I f w e prefer substituting for the uncertainty o f
these theoretical deductions the direct results of observa-
tion, we may recollect that in Paris, and at M o n t m o r e n c y ,
the mean annual evaporation was found b y Sedileau and
Cotte, to be from 32 in. 1 line t o 38 in. 4 lines. T w o able
engineers in the south o f France, Messrs. Clausade and
Pin, found, that in subtracting the effects o f filtrations, the
waters of the canal of L a n g u e d o c , and the basin o f Saint
Ferréol lose every year from 0 7 5 8 met. t o 0-812 met., o r
from 336 to 360 lines. M . de P r o n y found nearly simdar
results in the Pontine marshes. T h e whole o f these experi-
ments, made in the latitudes of 41° and 49°, and at 10-5°
and 16° o f mean temperature, indicate a mean evaporation
o f one line, or one and three-tenths a day. I n the
torrid zone, in the W e s t India Islands for instance, the
effect o f evaporation is three times as much, according t o
L e Gaux, and double according t o Cassan. A t Cumana, i n
a place where the atmosphere is far more loaded with humi-
dity than in the valley of Aragua, I have often seen evapo-
rate during twelve hours, in the sun, 8 8 mill., in the shade
3-4 mill.; and I believe, that the annual produce o f evapo-
ration in the rivers near Cumana is not less than one
hundred and thirty inches. Experiments of this kind are
extremely delicate, b u t what I nave stated will suffice t o
demonstrate how great must be the quantity of vapour that
rises' from the lake of Valencia, and from the surrounding
country, the waters of which flow into the lake. I shall
have occasion elsewhere t o resume this s u b j e c t ; for, in a
work which displays the great laws of nature in different

zones, w e must endeavour t o solve the problem o f the mean
tension o f the vapours contained in t h e atmosphere in dif-
ferent latitudes, and at different heights above the surface
o f the ocean.
A great number o f local circumstances cause the produce
o f evaporation t o vary; it changes in proportion as more o r
less shade covers the basin o f the waters, with their state
of motion or repose, with their depth, and the nature and
colour o f their bottom ; b u t in general evaporation depends
only o n three circumstances, the temperature, the tension o f
the vapours contained in the atmosphere, and the resistance
which the air, more or less dense, more o r less agitated,
opposes t o the diffusion o f vapour. T h e quantity o f water
that evaporates in a given spot, everything else being equal,
is proportionate t o the difference between the quantity o f
vapour which the ambient air can contain when saturated,
and the quantity which it actually contains. H e n c e it
follows that t h e evaporation is n o t so great in t h e torrid
zone as might b e expected from the enormous augmentation
o f temperature; because, in those ardent climates, the air is
habitually very humid.
Since the increase o f agricultural industry in the valleys o f
Aragua, the little rivers which run into the lake o f Valencia
can n o longer be regarded as positive supplies during t h e
six months succeeding D e c e m b e r . T h e y remain dried u p
in the lower part o f their course, because the planters o f
indigo, coffee, and sugar-canes, have made frequent drainings
(azequias), in order t o water the g r o u n d b y trenches. We
may observe also, that a pretty considerable river, the R i o
Pao, which rises at the entrance o f the Llanos, at the foot o f
the range o f hills called L a Galera, heretofore mingled its
waters with those o f the lake, b y uniting with the Caño d e
Cambury, o n the road from the t o w n o f N u e v a Valencia t o
G u i g u e . T h e course o f this river was from south t o north.
A t the end o f the seventeenth century, the proprietor o f a
neighbouring plantation dug at the back o f the hill a n e w
bed for t h e R i o Pao. H e turned the river; and, after
having employed part o f the water f o r the irrigation o f his
fields, he caused the rest t o flow at a venture southward,
following the declivity o f the Llanos. I n this new southern
direction the R i o P a o , mingled with three other rivers, the

Tinaco, the Guanarito, and the Chilua, falls into the P o r t u -
guesa, which is a branch o f the A p u r e . I t is a remarkable
phenomenon, that b y a particular position o f the ground,
and the lowering of the ridge o f division t o south-west, the
R i o P a o separates itself from the little system o f interior
rivers t o which it originally belonged, and for a century
past has communicated, through the channel o f the A p u r e
and the Orinoco, with the ocean. W h a t has been here
effected on a small scale b y the hand o f man, nature often
performs, either b y progressively elevating the level o f the
soil, or b y those falls o f the ground occasioned b y violent
earthquakes. I t is probable, that in the lapse o f ages,
several rivers o f Soudan, and o f N e w Holland, which are
n o w lost in the sands, or in inland basins, will open for
themselves a course t o the shores o f t h e ocean. W e cannot
at least doubt, that in both continents there are systems o f
interior rivers, which m a y b e considered as n o t entirely
developed; and which communicate with each other, either
in the time o f great risings, o r b y permanent bifurcations.
T h e R i o P a o has scooped itself o u t a b e d so deep and
broad, that in the season o f rains, when the Caño Grande d e
Cambury inundates all the land t o the north-west o f G u i g u e ,
the waters o f this Caño, and those o f the lake o f Valencia,
flow back into the R i o P a o itself; so that this river, instead
o f adding water t o the lake, tends rather t o carry it away.
W e see something similar in N o r t h America, where g e o -
graphers have represented o n their maps an imaginary chain
o f mountains, between the great lakes o f Canada and the
country o f the Miamis. A t the time o f floods, the waters
flowing into the lakes communicate with those which r u n
into the Mississippi; and it is practicable t o proceed by
boats from the sources o f the river St. M a r y t o the Wabash,
as well as from the Chicago t o the Illinois. These analo-
gous facts appear t o m e well worthy o f the attention o f
T h e land that surrounds the lake o f Valencia being e n -
tirely flat and even, a diminution o f a few inches in the level
o f the water exposes t o view a vast extent of ground covered
with fertile m u d and organic remains.* I n proportion as
the lake retires, cultivation advances towards the new shore.
* This I observed daily in the Lake of Mexico.

These natural desiccations, so important t o agriculture,
have been considerable during the Last ten years, in which
America has suffered from great droughts. Instead o f mark-
ing the sinuosities o f the present banks o f the lake, I have
advised t h e rich landholders in these countries t o fix
columns o f granite in the basin itself, in order t o observe
from year t o year t h e mean height o f t h e waters. T h e
Marquis del T o r o has undertaken t o p u t this design into
execution, employing the fine granite o f t h e Sierra d e
Mariara, and establishing linnometers, o n a bottom o f gneiss
rock, so c o m m o n in the lake o f Valencia.
I t is impossible t o anticipate the limits, more o r less
narrow, t o which this basin o f water will o n e day b e c o n -
fined, when an equilibrium between the streams flowing i n
and the produce o f evaporation and filtration, shall b e c o m -
pletely established. T h e idea very generally spread, that
the lake will soon entirely disappear, seems t o me chimerical.
I f in consequence o f great earthquakes, o r other causes
equally mysterious, t e n very humid years should succeed
t o l o n g d r o u g h t s ; if the mountains should again b e c o m e
clothed with forests, and great trees overshadow the shore
and the plains o f Aragua, w e should more probably see t h e
volume o f the waters augment, and menace that beautiful
cultivation which now trenches o n the basin o f the lake.
While some o f t h e cultivators o f the valleys o f Aragua
fear the total disappearance o f the lake, a n d others its re-
turn t o the banks it has deserted, w e hear t h e question
gravely discussed at Caracas, whether it would not b e advis-
able, in order t o give greater extent t o agriculture, t o
conduct the waters o f the lake into the Llanos, by digging a
canal towards the Rio P a o . T h e possibility* o f this enter-
* The dividing ridge, namely, that which divides the waters between
the valleys of Aragua and the Llanos, lowers so much towards the west of
Guigue, as we have already observed, that there are ravines which conduct
the waters of the Caño de Cambury, the Rio Valencia, and the Guataparo,
in the time of floods, to the Rio Pao; but it would be easier to open a
navigable canal from the lake of Valencia to the Orinoco, by the Pao, the
Portuguesa, and the Apure, than to dig a draining canal level with the

bottom of the lake. This bottom, according to the sounding, and my
barometric measurements, is 40 toises less than 222, or 182 above the
surface of the ocean. On the road from Guigue to the Llanos, by the
table-land of La Villa de Cura,
I found, to the south of the dividing

1 5
prise cannot b e denied, particularly b y having recourse to
tunnels, or subterranean canals. The progressive retreat of
the waters has given birth to the beautiful and luxuriant
plains of Maracay, Cura, M o c u n d o , Guigue, and Santa Cruz
del Escoval, planted with tobacco, sugar-canes, coffee, indigo,
and c a c a o ; but how can it be doubted for a moment that
the lake alone spreads fertility over this country ? I f de-
prived of the enormous mass of vapour which the surface
of the waters sends forth daily into the atmosphere, the
valleys o f Aragua would become as dry and barren as the
surrounding mountains.
The mean depth o f the lake is from twelve to fifteen
fathoms; the deepest parts are not, as is generally admitted,
eighty, but thirty-five or forty deep. Such is the result o f
soundings made with the greatest care b y D o n A n t o n i o
Manzano. W h e n we reflect on the vast depths of all the
lakes of Switzerland, which, notwithstanding their position
in high valleys, almost reach the level o f the Mediterranean,
it appears surprising that greater cavities are not found at
the bottom o f the lake o f Valencia, which is also an A l p i n e
lake. The deepest places are between the rocky island o f
Burro and the point of Caña Fistula, and opposite the high
mountains of Mariara. B u t in general the southern part
o f the lake is deeper than the northern : nor must we forget
that, if all the shores be now low, the southern part of the
basin is the nearest to a chain o f mountains with abrupt
declivities ; and we know that even the sea is generally
deepest where the coast is elevated, rocky, or perpendicular.
T h e temperature o f the lake at the surface during m y
abode in the valleys o f Aragua, in the month of February,
was constantly from 23° to 23 7°, consequently a little below
the mean temperature o f the air. This may be from the
effect o f evaporation, which carries off caloric from the air
and the w a t e r ; or because a great mass o f water does not
follow with an equal rapidity the changes in the tempera-
ridge, and on its southern declivity, no point of level corresponding to
the 182 toises, except near San Juan. The absolute height of this village
is 194 toises. But. I repeat that, farther towards the west, in the
between the Caño de Cambury and the sources of the Rio Pao, which I
was not able to visit, the point of level of the bottom of the lake is much
further north.

ture of the atmosphere, and the lake receives streams which
rise from several cold springs in the neighbouring mountains.
I have to regret that, notwithstanding its small depth, I could
not determine the temperature o f the water at thirty or
forty fathoms. I was not provided with the thermometrical
sounding apparatus which I had used in the Alpine lakes
of Salzburg, and in the Caribbean Sea. T h e experiments
o f Saussure prove that, on both sides o f the A l p s , the lakes
which are from one hundred and ninety t o two hundred and
seventy-four toises of absolute elevation* have, in the middle
o f winter, at nine hundred, at six hundred, and sometimes
even at one hundred and fifty feet of depth, a uniform
temperature from 4 3 to 6 d e g r e e s : but these experiments
have n o t yet been repeated in lakes situated under the
torrid zone. The strata o f cold water in Switzerland are
o f an enormous thickness. They have been found so near
the surface in the lakes o f Geneva and Bienne, that the
decrement o f heat in the water was one centesimal degree
for ten or fifteen f e e t ; that is to say, eight times more rapid
than in the ocean, and forty-eight times more rapid than in
the atmosphere. I n the temperate zone, where the heat o f
the atmosphere sinks to the freezing point, and far lower,
the bottom o f a lake, even were it not surrounded b y glaciers
and mountains covered with eternal snow, must contain
particles o f water which, having during winter acquired at
the surface the maximum o f their density, between 3'4° and
4'4°, have consequently fallen to the greatest depth. Other
particles, the temperature of which is + 0"5°, far from
placing themselves below the stratum at 4°, can only find
their hydrostatic equilibrium above that stratum. They
will descend lower only when their temperature is aug-
mented 3 ° or 4° by the contact o f strata less cold. I f
water in cooling continued t o condense uniformly to the
freezing point, there would be found, in very deep lakes
and basins having n o communication with each other (what-
ever the latitude of the place), a stratum o f water, the
temperature o f which would be nearly equal t o the maxi-
m u m o f refrigeration above the freezing point, which the
lower regions o f the ambient atmosphere annually attain.
* This is the difference between the absolute elevatious of the lakes of
Geneva and Thun.

H e n c e it is probable, that, in the plains o f the torrid zone,
Of in the valleys but little elevated, the mean heat of which
is from 25 5° to 27°, the temperature o f the bottom o f the
lakes can never be below 21° or 22°. I f in the same zone
the ocean contain at depths o f seven o r eight hundred
lathoms, water the temperature o f which is at 7°, that is to
say, twelve or thirteen degrees colder than the maximum
of the heat* of the equinoctial atmosphere over the sea,
I think it must be considered as a direct proof of a sub-
marine current, carrying the waters of the pole towards the
equator. W e will not here solve the delicate problem, as
to the manner in which, within the tropics and in the t e m -
perate zone, (for example, in the Caribbean Sea and in the
takes of Switzerland,) these inferior strata o f water, cooled
to 4° or 7°, act upon the temperature o f the stony strata of
the globe which they c o v e r ; and how these same strata, the
primitive temperature of which is, within the tropics, 27°,
and at the lake o f Geneva 10°, react upon the half-frozen
waters at the bottom of the lakes, and o f the equinoctial
ocean. These questions are of the highest importance, both
with regard to the economy of animals that live habitually
at the bottom of fresh and salt waters, and to the theory
of the distribution o f heat in lands surrounded b y vast and
deep seas.
The lake of Valencia is full of islands, which embellish
the scenery b y the picturesque form o f their rocks, and the
beauty of the vegetation with which they are c o v e r e d :
an advantage which this tropical lake possesses over those
of the A l p s . T h e islands are fifteen in number, distributed
in three groups ;† without reckoning M o r r o and Cabrera,
which are already j o i n e d to the shore. T h e y are partly
It is almost superfluous to observe that 1 am considering here only
** part of the atmosphere lying on the ocean between 10° north and 10°
south latitude. Towards the northern limits of the torrid zone, in latitude
23° , whither the north winds bring with an extreme rapidity the cold air
of Canada the thermometer falls at sea as low as 16°, and even lower.
† the position of these islands is as follows: northward, near the
shore, the Isla de Cura; on the south-east, Burro, Horno, Otama, Sorro,
Caigura, Nuevos Peñones, or the Aparecidos; on the north-west, Cabo
Blanco, or Isla de Aves, and Chamberg; on the south-west, Brucha and
Culebra. In the centre of the lake rise, like shoals or small detached rocks,

Vagre, Fraile, Peñasco, and Pan de Azucar.
V O L . II. C

I N H A B I T A N T S O F T H E I S L A N D S .
cultivated, and extremely fertile on account o f the vapours
that rise from the lake. B u r r o , the largest o f these islands,
is t w o miles in length, and is inhabited b y some families
o f mestizos, w h o rear goats. These simple people seldom
visit the shore o f M o c u n d o . T o them the lake appears o f
immense e x t e n t ; they have plantains, cassava, milk, and a
little fish. A hut constructed o f reeds ; hammocks woven
from the cotton which the neighbouring fields p r o d u c e ; a
large stone o n which the fire is m a d e ; the ligneous fruit o f
the tutuma (the calabash) in which they draw water, con-
stitute their domestic establishment. A n old mestizo w h o
offered us some goat's milk had a beautiful daughter. We
learned from our guide, that solitude had rendered him as
mistrustful as he might perhaps have been made b y the
society o f men. T h e day before o u r arrival, some hunters
had visited the island. They were overtaken b y the shades
o f n i g h t ; and preferred sleeping in the open air t o return-
ing to M o c u n d o . This news spread alarm throughout the
island. T h e father obliged the y o u n g girl t o climb u p a
very lofty zamang o r acacia, which grew in the plain at
some distance from the hut, while he stretched himself at
the foot o f the tree, and did n o t permit his daughter t o
descend till the hunters had departed.
T h e lake is in general well stocked with fish; though it
furnishes only three kinds, the flesh o f which is soft and
insipid, the guavina, the vagre, and the sardina. T h e t w o
last descend into the lake with the streams that flow into
it. T h e guavina, o f which I made a drawing o n the spot,
is 2 0 inches long and 3 5 broad. I t is perhaps a n e w
species o f the genus erythrina o f Gronovius. I t has large
silvery scales edged with green. This fish is extremely
voracious, and destroys other kinds. T h e fishermen as-
sured us that a small crocodile, the b a v a * which often
approached us when w e were bathing, contributes also t o
the destruction o f the fish. We never could succeed in pro-
curing this reptile so as t o examine it closely : it generally

* The bava, or bavilla, is very common at Bordones, near Cumana.
See vol. i, p. 160. The name of bava (baveuse) has misled M . Depons;
he takes this reptile for a fish of our seas, the Blennius pholis. (Voyage

a la Terre Ferine.) The Blennius pholis (smooth blenny), is called by
the French baveuse (slaverer), in Spanish, baba.

C R O C O D I L E S .
attains only three or four feet in length. I t is said t o b e
very harmless ; its habits however, as well as its form, much
resemble those o f the alligator (Crocodilus a c u t u s ) . I t
swims in such a manner as to show only the point of its
snout, and the extremity o f its t a i l ; and places itself
at mid-day o n the bare beach. I t is certainly neither a
monitor (the real monitors living only in the old continent,)
nor the sauvegarde o f Seba (Lacerta teguixin,) which dives
and does not swim. I t is somewhat remarkable that the
lake o f Valencia, and the whole system o f small rivers
flowing into it, have no large alligators, though this dan-
gerous animal abounds a few leagues off in the streams
that flow either into the A pure or the Orinoco, or i m m e -
diately into the Caribbean Sea between P o r t o Cabello and
La Guayra.
I n the islands that rise like bastions in the midst of the
waters, and wherever the rocky b o t t o m o f the lake is visible,
I recognised a uniform direction in the strata of gneiss.
This direction is nearly that o f the chains o f mountains o n
the north and south of the lake. I n the hills o f Cabo
Blanco there are found among the gneiss, angular masses
of opaque quartz, slightly translucid o n the edges, and vary-
ing from grey t o deep black. This quartz passes sometimes
into hornstein, and sometimes into kieselschiefer (schistose
jasper). I do n o t think it constitutes a vein. T h e waters
of the lake* decompose the gneiss by erosion in a very
extraordinary manner. I have found parts of it p o r o u s ,
almost cellular, and split in the form of cauliflowers, fixed
on gneiss perfectly compact. Perhaps the. action ceases
with the movement o f the waves, and the alternate contact
of air and water.
The island of Chamberg is remarkable for its height.
I t is a rock o f gneiss, with t w o summits in the form o f
a saddle, and raised t w o hundred feet above the surface of
the water. T h e slope of this rock is barren, and affords
only nourishment for a few plants o f clusia with large white
* The water of the lake is not salt, as is asserted at Caracas. It may
be drunk without being filtered. On evaporation it leaves a very small
residuum of carbonate of lime, and perhaps a little nitrate of potash. It
is surprising that an inland lake should not be richer in alkaline and
earthy salts, acquired from the neighbouring soils.
c 2

flowers. B u t the view o f the lake and o f the richly culti-
vated neighbouring valleys is beautiful, and their aspect is
wonderful aFter sunset, when thousands o f aquatic birds,
herons, flamingoes, and wild ducks cross the lake to roost
in the islands, and the broad zone o f mountains which
surrounds the horizon is covered with fire. T h e inhabitants,
as we have already mentioned, burn the meadows in order
to produce fresher and finer grass. Gramineous plants
abound, especially at the summit of the c h a i n ; and those
vast conflagrations extend sometimes the length of a thou-
sand toises, and appear like streams o f lava overflowing
the ridge o f the mountains. W h e n reposing o n the banks
o f the lake to enjoy the soft freshness of the air in one o f
those beautiful evenings peculiar t o the tropics, it is delight-
ful to contemplate in the waves as they beat the shore, the
reflection o f the red fires that illumine the horizon.
A m o n g the plants which grow o n the rocky islands of the
lake of Valencia, many have been believed to be peculiar
t o those spots, because till now they have not been dis-
covered elsewhere. Such are the papaw-trees of the lake;
and the t o m a t o * of the island o f Cura. The latter differs
from our Solanum lycopersieum ; the fruit is round and
small, but has a fine flavour; it is n o w cultivated at L a
Victoria, at N u e v a Valencia, and everywhere in the valleys
o f Aragua. T h e papaw-tree o f the lake (papaya de la
laguna) abounds also in the island of Cura and at Cabo
Blanco ; its trunk shoots higher than that o f the c o m m o n
papaw (Carica papaya), but its fruit is only half as large,
perfectly spherical, without projecting ribs, and four or five
inches in diameter. W h e n cut open it is found quite filled
with seeds, and without those hollow places which o c c u r
constantly in the c o m m o n papaw. T h e taste of this fruit,
o f which I have often eaten, is extremely sweet.† I know
not whether it be a variety o f the Carica microcarpa, d e -
scribed by Jacquin.
T h e environs o f the lake are insalubrious only in times
o f great drought, when the waters in their retreat leave a
* The tomatos are cultivated, as well as the papaw-tree of the lake,
in the Botanical Garden of Berlin, to which I had sent some seeds.
f The people of the country attribute to it an astringent quality, and
call it tapaculo.

muddy sediment exposed t o t h e rays o f t h e sun. T h e
banks, shaded b y tufts o f Coccoloba barbadensis, and
decorated with fine liliaceous plants,* remind u s , b y t h e
appearance o f the aquatic vegetation, o f the marshy shores
of our lakes in Europe. W e find there, pondweed (pota-
m o g e t o n ) , chara, and cats’-tail three feet high, which it
is difficult n o t t o confound with the T y p h a angustifolia o f
our marshes. I t is only after a careful examination, that
we recognise each o f these plants for distinct species,†
peculiar t o the n e w continent. H o w many plants o f t h e
Straits o f Magellan, o f Chile, and the Cordilleras o f Quito
have formerly been confounded with the productions o f the
northern temperate zone, owing t o their analogy in form
and appearance.
The inhabitants o f t h e valleys o f A r a g u a often inquire
why the southern shore o f the lake, particularly the south-
west part towards los Aguacotis, is generally more shaded,
and exhibits fresher verdure than t h e northern side. W e
saw, in the month o f February, many trees stripped o f their
foliage, near t h e Hacienda d e Cura, at M o c u n d o , and at
Guacara; while t o t h e south-east o f Valencia everything
presaged the approach o f the rains. I believe that i n t h e
early part o f the year, when the sun has southern declina-
tion, the hills around Valencia, Guacara, a n d Cura are
scorched b y the heat o f t h e solar rays, while the southern
shore receives, along with t h e breeze when i t enters t h e
valley b y the A b r a de Porto Cabello, an atmosphere which
has crossed t h e lake, a n d is loaded with aqueous vapour.
O n this southern shore, near Guaruto, are situated t h e
finest plantations o f tobacco i n the whole province.
A m o n g the rivers flowing into the lake o f Valencia some
owe their origin t o thermal springs, and deserve particular
attention. These springs gush o u t at three points o f the
granitic Cordillera o f the c o a s t ; near O n o t o , between T u r -
mero and Maracay; near Mariara, north-east o f the Hacienda
de C u r a ; and near Las Trincheras, o n the road from Nueva
Valencia t o Porto Cabello. I could examine with care only
the physical and geological relations o f the thermal waters o f
Mariara and Las Trincheras. I n going u p the small river
• Pancratium undulatum, Amaryllis nervosa,
† Potamogeton tenuifolium, Chara compressa, Typha tenuifolia.

Cura towards its source, the mountains o f Mariara are seen
advancing into the plain in the form of a vast amphitheatre,
composed o f perpendicular rocks, crowned by peaks with
rugged summits. T h e central point o f the amphitheatre
bears the strange name o f the Devil's N o o k ( R i n c o n del
D i a b l o ) . T h e range stretching to the east is called El
C h a p a r r o ; that to the west, Las Viruelas. These ruin-like
rocks command the p l a i n ; they are composed o f a coarse-
grained granite, nearly p o r p h y n t i c , the yellowish white feld-
spar crystals o f which are more than an inch and a half long.
M i c a is rare in them, and is of a fine silvery lustre. N o t h i n g
can be more picturesque and solemn than the aspect o f this
group of mountains, half covered with vegetation. T h e
Peak o f Calavera, which unites the Rincon del Diablo to the
Chaparro, is visible from afar. I n it the granite is separated
by perpendicular fissures info prismatic masses. I t would
seem as if the primitive rock were crowned with columns o f
basalt. I n the rainy season, a considerable sheet o f water
rushes down like a cascade from these cliffs. T h e m o u n -
tains connected on the east with the Rincon del Diablo,
are much less lofty, and contain, like the promontory of L a
Cabrera, and the little detached hills in the plain, gneiss
and mica-slate, including garnets.
I n these lower mountains, t w o or three miles north-east
o f Mariara, w e find the ravine o f hot waters called Q u e -
brada de A g u a s Calientes. This ravine, running N . W . 75°,
contains several small basins. O f these the two uppermost,
which have n o communication with each other, are only
eight inches in diameter; the three lower, from two t o three
feet. Their depth varies from three to fifteen inches. The
temperature of these different funnels (pozos) is from 56°
to 5 9 ° ; and what is remarkable, the lower funnels are
hotter than the upper, though the difference of the level
is only seven or eight inches. T h e hot waters, collected
together, form a little rivulet, called the Rio de A g u a s
Calientes, which, thirty feet lower, has a temperature o f only
48°. I n seasons o f great drought, the time at which w e
visited the ravine, the whole body o f the thermal waters
forms a section of only twenty-six square inches. This is
considerably augmented in the rainy season; the rivulet is
then transformed into a torrent, and its heat diminishes;

for it appears that the hot springs themselves are subject
only to imperceptible variations. A l l these springs are
slightly impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen gas. T h e
fetid smell, peculiar t o this gas, can be perceived only b y
approaching very near the springs. I n one o f these wells
only, the temperature o f which is 5 6 2 ° , bubbles of air are
evolved at nearly regular intervals o f t w o or three minutes.
I observed that these bubbles constantly rose from the same
points, which are four in n u m b e r ; and that it was n o t p o s -
sible to change the places from which the gas is emitted, b y
stirring the b o t t o m o f the basin with a stick. These places
correspond n o doubt to holes or fissures on the g n e i s s ; and
indeed when the bubbles rise from one o f the apertures, the
emission o f gas follows instantly from the other three. I
could not succeed in inflaming the small quantities o f gas
that rise above the thermal waters, or those I collected in
a glass phial held over the springs, an operation that ex-
cited in me a nausea, caused less by the smell o f the gas,
than by the excessive heat prevailing in this ravine. I s this
sulphuretted hydrogen mixed with a great proportion o f car-
bonic acid or atmospheric air? I am doubtful o f the first
of these mixtures, though so c o m m o n in thermal w a t e r s ; for
example at A i x la Chapelle, Enghien, and Barèges. T h e
gas collected in the t u b e o f Fontana’s eudiometer had been
shaken for a long time with water. T h e small basins are
covered with a light film o f sulphur, deposited b y the sul-
phuretted hydrogen in its slow combustion in contact with
the atmospheric oxygen. A few plants near the springs
were incrusted with sulphur. This deposit is scarcely
visible when the water o f Mariara is suffered to cool in an
open vessel; no doubt because the quantity o f disengaged
gas is very small, and is n o t renewed. T h e water, when
cold, gives n o precipitate with a solution o f nitrate o f c o p p e r ;
it is destitute of flavour, and very drinkable. I f it contain
any saline substances, for example, the sulphates o f soda o r
magnesia, their quantities must be very insignificant. B e i n g
almost destitute o f chemical tests,* w e contented ourselves
A small case, containing acetate of lead, nitrate of silver, alcohol,
prussiate of potash, &c., had been left by mistake at Cumana. I evapo-
rated some of the water of Mariara, and it yielded only a very small
residuum, which, digested with nitric acid, appeared to contain only a
little silica and extractive vegetable matter.

with filling at the spring t w o bottles, which were sent,
along with the nourishing milk of the tree called palo de
to M M . Fourcroy and Vauquelin, by the way of
Porto Cabello and the Havannah. This purity in hot
waters issuing immediately from granite mountains is in
Europe, as well as in the N e w Continent, a most curious
phenomenon.* H o w can we explain the origin o f the
sulphuretted hydrogen ? I t cannot proceed from the de-
composition o f sulphurets o f iron, or pyritic strata. Is it
owing to sulphurets o f calcium, of magnesium, or other
earthy metalloids, contained in the interior o f our planet,
under its rocky and oxidated crust ?
I n the ravine of the hot waters o f Mariara, amidst little
funnels, the temperature o f which rises from 56° to 59°, two
species o f aquatic plants v e g e t a t e ; the one is membrana-
ceous, and contains bubbles o f air; the other has parallel
fibres. The first much resembles the Ulva labyrinthiformis
o f Vandelli, which the thermal waters o f Europe furnish.
A t the island of Amsterdam, tufts o f lycopodium and mar-
chantia have been seen in places where the heat o f the soil
was far greater: such is the effect o f an habitual stimulus
o n the organs of plants. T h e waters o f Mariara contain no
aquatic insects. F r o g s are found in them, which, being
probably chased by serpents, have leaped into the funnels,
and there perished.
South o f the ravine, in the plain extending towards the
shore o f the lake, another sulphureous spring gushes out,
less hot and less impregnated with gas. T h e crevice whence
this water issues is six toises higher than the funnel just
described. T h e thermometer did n o t rise in the crevice
above 42°. T h e water is collected in a basin surrounded b y
large trees ; it is nearly circular, from fifteen to eighteen feet
diameter, and three feet deep. The slaves throw themselves
into this bath at the end o f the day, when covered with
dust, after having worked in the neighbouring fields of in-
digo and sugar-cane. Though the water of this bath ( b a ñ o )
is habitually from 12° to 14° hotter than the air, the negroes
call it refreshing; because in the torrid zone this term is
* Warm springs equally, pure are found issuing from the granites
of Portugal, and those of Cantal. In Italy, the Pisciarelli of the lake
Agnano have a temperature equal to 93°. Are these pure, waters pro-
duced by condensed vapours ?

T H E V O L A D O R .
used for whatever restores strength, calms the irritation o f
the nerves, or causes a feeling o f comfort. W e ourselves ex-
perienced the salutary effects of the bath. H a v i n g slung our
hammocks on the trees round the basin, w e passed a whole
day in this charming spot, which abounds in plants. W e
found near the baño of Mariara the volador, or gyrocarpus.
The winged fruits of this large tree turn like a fly-wheel,
when they fall from the stalk. O n shaking the branches o f
the volador, we saw the air filled with its fruits, the simul-
taneous fall of which presents the most singular spectacle.
The t w o membranaceous and striated wings are turned so
as to meet the air, in falling, at an angle of 45°. F o r t u -
nately the fruits w e gathered were at their maturity. W e
sent some to E u r o p e , and they have germinated in the
gardens of Berlin, Paris, and Malmaison. T h e numerous
plants o f the volador, n o w seen in hot-houses, o w e their
origin t o the only tree o f the kind found near Mariara.
The geographical distribution of the different species of g y r o -
carpus, which M r . B r o w n considers as one of the laurineæ,
is very singular. Jacquin saw one species near Carthagena
in America.* This is the same which w e met with again
in M e x i c o , near Zumpango, on the road from A c a p u l c o t o
the capital.† A n o t h e r species, which grows o n the m o u n -
tains of Coromandel,† has been described b y R o x b u r g h ;
the third and fourth § grow in the southern hemisphere, o n
the coasts of Australia.
After getting out of the bath, while, half-wrapped in a
sheet, w e were drying ourselves in the sun, according t o
the custom of the country, a little man of the mulatto race
approached us. After bowing gravely, he made us a l o n g
speech on the virtues of the waters o f Mariara, adverting
to the numbers of invalids b y whom they have been visited
for some years past, and to the favourable situation of the
springs, between the two towns Valencia and Caracas. H e
* The Gyrocarpus Jacquini of Gärtner, or Gyrocarpus americanus o f
The natives of Mexico called it quitlacoctli. I saw some of its
young leaves with three and five lobes; the full-grown leaves are in the
form of a heart, and always with three lobes. W e never met with
volador in flower.
This is the Gyrocarpus asiaticus of Willdenow.
§ Gyrocarpus •sphenopterus, and G. rugosus.

showed us his house, a little hut covered with palm-leaves,
situated in an enclosure at a small distance, on the bank
o f a rivulet, communicating with the bath. H e assured us
that we should there find all the conveniences o f l i f e ; nails
t o suspend our hammocks, ox-leather to stretch over benches
made of reeds, earthern vases always filled with cool water,
and what, after the bath, would be most salutary o f all,
those great lizards (iguanas), the flesh o f which is known
to be a refreshing aliment. W e j u d g e d from his harangue,
that this g o o d man t o o k us for invalids, who had come to
stay near the spring. H i s counsels and oilers of hospitality
were not altogether disinterested. H e styled h i m s e l f ‘ t h e
inspector o f the waters, and the pulpero* o f the place.’
Accordingly all his obliging attentions to us ceased as soon
as he heard that we had come merely to satisfy our curi-
osity; or as they express it in the Spanish colonies, those
lands of idleness, para ver, no mas, ‘ to see, and nothing
more.’ The waters o f Mariara are used with success in
rheumatic swellings, and affections of the skin. A s the
waters are but very feebly impregnated with sulphuretted
hydrogen, it is necessary to bathe at the spot where the
springs issue. Farther on, these same waters are employed
for the irrigation o f fields o f indigo. A wealthy landed
proprietor o f Mariara, H o n H o m i n g o Tovar, had formed
the project of erecting a bathing-house, and an establish-
ment which would furnish visitors with better resources
than lizard's flesh for food, and leather stretched on a bench
for their repose.
O n the 21st o f February, in the evening, we set out from
the beautiful Hacienda de Cura for Guacara and Nueva
Valencia. W e preferred travelling by night, o n account
o f the excessive heat of the day. W e passed by the hamlet
o f Punta Zamuro, at the foot of the high mountains of Las
Viruelas. T h e road is bordered with large zamang-trees,
or mimosas, the trunks of which rise to sixty feet high.
Their branches, nearly horizontal, meet at more than one
hundred and fifty feet distance. I have nowhere seen a
vault o f verdure more beautiful and luxuriant. T h e night
was g l o o m y : the Rincon del Diablo with its denticulated
rocks appeared from time t o time at a distance, illumined
• Proprietor of a pulperia, or little shop where refreshments are s o l d .

by the burning of tbe savannahs, or wrapped in ruddy
smoke. A t the spot where the bushes were thickest, our
horses were frightened b y the yell o f an animal that seemed
to follow us closely. I t was a large jaguar, which had
roamed for three years among these mountains. H e had
constantly escaped the pursuits o f the boldest hunters, and
had carried off horses and mules from the midst o f enclo-
sures ; but, having no want of food, had not vet attacked
men. The negro who conducted us uttered wild cries,
expecting by these means to frighten the t i g e r ; but his
efforts were ineffectual. The jaguar, like the wolf of Europe,
follows travellers even when he will not attack t h e m ; the
wolf in the open fields and in unsheltered places, the jaguar
skirting the road and appearing only at intervals between
the bushes.
W e passed the day on the 23rd in the house of the
Marquis do T o r o , at the village o f Guacara, a very c o n -
siderable Indian community. A n avenue of carolineas leads
from Guacara t o M o c u n d o . I t was the first time I had
seen in the open air this majestic plant, which forms one
of the principal ornaments o f the extensive conservatories
of Schönbrunn.* M o c u n d o is a rich plantation o f sugar-
canes, belonging t o the family o f T o r o . W e there find,
what is so rare in that country, a garden, artificial clumps
o f trees, and on the border of the water, upon a rock o f
gneiss, a pavilion with a mirador, or belvidere. T h e view
is delightful over the western part o f the lake, the surround-
ing mountains, and a forest o f palm-trees that separates
Guacara from the city o f Nueva Valencia. The fields o f
sugar-cane, from the soft verdure o f the y o u n g reeds, re-
semble a vast meadow. Everything denotes a b u n d a n c e ;
but it is at the price o f the liberty o f the cultivators. A t
M o c u n d o , with t w o hundred and thirty negroes, seventy-
seven tablones, or cane-fields, are cultivated, each of which,
ten thousand varas square,† yields a net profit o f t w o
* Every tree of the Carolinea princeps at Schönbrunn lias sprung from
seeds collected from one single tree of enormous size, near Chacao, east
of Caracas.

A tablon, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and
one-fifth : a legal acre has 1314 square toises, and 1 95 legal acre is equal
to one hectare.

hundred or t w o hundred and forty piastres a-year. T h e
creole cane and the cane o f Otaheite* are planted in the
month o f April, the first at four, the second at five feet
distance. T h e cane ripens in fourteen months. I t flowers
in the month o f October, if the plant he sufficiently vigo-
rous ; b u t the t o p is cut off before the panicle unfolds.
I n all the monocotyledonous plants (for example, the ma-
guey cultivated at M e x i c o for extracting pulque, the wine-
yielding palm-tree, and the sugar-cane), the flowering alters
the quality o f the juices. T h e preparation o f sugar, the
boiling, and the claying, are very imperfect in Terra Firma,
because it is made only for home c o n s u m p t i o n ; and for
wholesale, papelon is preferred t o sugar, either refined o r
raw. This papelon is an impure sugar, in the form o f little
loaves, o f a yellow-brown colour. I t contains a mixture o f
molasses and mucilaginous matter. T h e poorest man eats
papelon, as in Europe he eats cheese. I t is believed to have
nutritive qualities. Fermented with water it yields the
guarapo, the favourite beverage o f the people. I n the p r o -
vince o f Caracas subcarbonate o f potash is used, instead o f
lime, t o purify the juice o f the sugar-cane. T h e ashes o f
the bucare, which is the Erytlirina corallodendrum, arc pre-
The sugar-cane was introduced very late, probably towards
the e n d o f the sixteenth century, from the W e s t India
Islands, into the valleys o f A ragua. I t was known in India,
in China, and in all the islands o f the Pacific, from the
most remote antiquity; and it was planted at Khorassan, in
Persia, aS early as the fifth century o f our era, in order t o
obtain from it solid sugar.† The Arabs carried this reed,
so useful to the inhabitants o f hot and temperate countries,
to the shores o f the Mediterranean. I n 1306, its culti-
vation was yet unknown in Sicily; but was already c o m m o n
in the island o f Cyprus, at Rhodes, and in the Morea. A
hundred years after it enriched Calabria, Sicily, and the
coasts o f Spain. F r o m Sicily the Infante D o n Henry trans-
* In the island of Palma, where in the latitude of 29° the sugar-cane
is said to be cultivated as high as 140 toises above the level of the
Atlantic, the Otaheite cane requires more heat than the Creole cane.

† The Indian name for the sugar-cane is sharkara. Thence the word

planted the cane t o M a d e i r a : from Madeira it passed t o
the Canary Islands, where it was entirely u n k n o w n ; for
the ‘ ferulaæ of Juba, ‘ quæ expressæ liquorem fundunt potui
ucundum,’ are euphorbias (the Tabayba dulce), and not,
as has been recently asserted,* sugar-canes. Twelve sugar-
manufactories (ingenios de azucar) were soon established
in the island of Great Canary, in that o f Talma, and between
A d e x e , Icod, and Guarachico, in the island of Teneriffe.
N e g r o e s were employed in this cultivation, and their de-
scendants still inhabit the grottos of Tiraxana, in the
Great Canary. Since the sugar-cane has been transplanted
to the W e s t Indies, and the N e w World has given maize
to the Canaries, the cultivation of the latter has taken the
place o f the cane at Teneriffe and the Great Canary. T h e
cane is now found only in the island o f Talma, near Argual
and Tazacorte,t where it yields scarcely one thousand quin-
tals of sugar a year. T h e sugar-cane o f the Canaries, which
Aiguilon transported t o St. D o m i n g o , was there cultivated
extensively as early as 1513, or during the six or seven
following years, under the auspices of the monks o f St.
Jerome. N e g r o e s were employed in this cultivation from
its c o m m e n c e m e n t ; and in 1519 representations were made
t o government, as in our o w n time, that the W e s t India
Islands would be ruined and made desert, if slaves were
not conveyed thither annually from the coast of Guinea.
F o r some years past the culture and preparation o f sugar
has been much improved in Terra F i r m a ; and, as the p r o -
cess of refining is prohibited by the laws at Jamaica, they
reckon on the fraudulent exportation o f refined sugar to
the English colonies. B u t the consumption o f the pro-
vinces of Venezuela, in papelon, and in raw sugar employed
in making chocolate and sweetmeats (dulces) is so enor-
mous, that the exportation has been hitherto entirely null.
T h e finest plantations o f sugar are in the valleys of Aragua
and of the T u y , near Pao de Zarate, between L a Victoria
On the origin of cane-sugar, in the Journal de Pharmacie, 1816,
p. 387. The Tabayba dulce is, according to Von Buch, the Euphorbia
balsamifera, the juice of which is neither corrosive nor bitter like that of
the cardon, or Euphorbia canariensis.

† “ Notice sur la Culture du Sucre dans les Isles Canariennes,” by
Leopold von Buch.

and San Sebastian, near Guatire, Guarenas, and Caurimare.
T h e first canes arrived in the N e w W o r l d from the Canary
Islands; and even n o w Canarians, or Isleños, are placed at
the head o f most of the great plantations, and superintend
the labours of cultivation and refining.
I t is this connexion between the Canarians and the
inhabitants o f Venezuela, that has given rise to the in-
troduction of camels into those provinces. The Marquis
del T o r o caused three to be brought from Lancerote. T h e
expense o f conveyance was very considerable, o w i n g to the
space which these animals occupy o n board merchant-vessels,
and the great quantity o f water they require during a long
sea-voyage. A camel, b o u g h t for thirty piastres, costs
between eight and nine hundred before it reaches the coast
o f Caracas. W e saw four of these animals at M o c u n d o ;
three o f which had been bred in America. T w o others had
died of the bite o f the coral, a venomous serpent very
c o m m o n o n the banks o f the lake. These camels have
hitherto been employed only in the conveyance o f the sugar-
canes to the mill. The males, stronger than the females,
carry from forty to fifty arrobas. A wealthy landholder in
the province of Varinas, encouraged by the example o f the
Marquis del T o r o , has allotted a sum o f 15,000 piastres for
the purpose o f bringing fourteen or fifteen camels at once
from the Canary Islands. I t is presumed these beasts o f
burden may be employed in the conveyance of merchandise
across the burning plains o f Casanare, from the A pure and
Calabozo, which in the season o f drought resemble the
deserts o f Africa. H o w advantageous it would have been
had the Conquistadores, from the beginning of the sixteenth
century, peopled America with camels, as they have peopled
it with horned cattle, horses, and mules. W h e r e v e r there
are immense distances to cross in uninhabited lands; where-
ever the construction of canals becomes difficult (as in the
isthmus of Panama, on the table-land of M e x i c o , and in the
deserts that separate the kingdom of Quito from Peru, and
Peru from Chile), camels would be o f the highest import-
ance, to facilitate inland commerce. I t seems the more
surprising, that their introduction was not encouraged b y
the government at the beginning of the conquest, as, long
after the taking o f Grenada, camels, for which the M o o r s

had a great predilection, were still very c o m m o n in the
south of Spain. A Biscayan, J u a n de Reinaga, carried
some o f these animals at his own expense to Peru. Father
A costa saw them at the foot o f the A n d e s , about the end
o f the sixteenth century; b u t little care being taken o f
them, they scarcely ever bred, and the race soon became
extinct. I n those times of oppression and cruelty, which
have been described as the era o f Spanish glory, the c o m -
mendataries (encomenderos) let out the Indians to travel-
lers like beasts o f burden. They were assembled by hun-
dreds, either to carry merchandise across the Cordilleras,
or to follow the armies in their expeditions o f discovery and
pillage. The Indians endured this service more patiently,
because, owing to the almost total want of domestic ani-
mals, they had long been constrained to perform it, though
in a less inhuman manner, under the government o f their
o w n chiefs. T h e introduction of camels attempted b y
J u a n de Keinaga spread an alarm among the encomen-
who were, not by law, but in fact, lords of the Indian
villages. The court listened to the complaints o f the e n c o -
m e n d e r o s ; and in consequence A m e r i c a was deprived o f
one o f the means which would have most facilitated inland
communication, and the exchange o f productions. N o w ,
however, there is no reason why the introduction o f camels
should not be attempted as a general measure. Some
hundreds o f these useful animals, spread over the vast
surface o f America, in hot and barren places, would in a
few years have a powerful influence on the public prosperity.
Provinces separated by steppes would then appear t o be
brought nearer to each o t h e r ; several kinds of inland mer-
chandize would diminish in price o n the c o a s t ; and b y in-
creasing the number of camels, above all the species called
hedjin, o r ' t h e ship o f the desert,' a new life w o u l d be
given to the industry and commerce of the N e w W o r l d .
O n the evening of the 22nd we continued our journey from
M o c u n d o by L o s G u a y o s t o the city o f N u e v a Valencia.
W e passed a little forest o f palm-trees, which resembled, b y
their appearance, and their leaves spread like a fan, the
Chamærops humilis o f the coast o f Barbary. T h e trunk,
however, rises t o twenty-four and sometimes thirty feet

high. I t is probably a n e w species o f the genus corypha;
and is called in the country palma de sombrero, the footstalks
o f the leaves being employed in weaving hats resembling
o u r straw hats. This grove o f palm-trees, the withered
foliage o f which rustles at the least breath o f a i r — t h e
camels feeding in the plain—the undulating motion o f the
vapours on a soil scorched b y the ardour o f the sun, give the
landscape an African aspect. T h e aridity o f the land aug-
ments as the traveller approaches the town, after passing
the western extremity of the lake. I t is a clayey soil, which
has been levelled and abandoned b y the waters. T h e neigh-
bouring hills, called L o s M o r r o s de Valencia, are composed
o f white tufa, a very recent limestone formation, i m m e -
diately covering the gneiss. I t is again found at Victoria,
and on several other points along the chain o f the coast.
T h e whiteness of this tufa, which reflects the rays o f the sun,
contributes greatly t o the excessive heat felt in this place.
Everything seems smitten with sterility; scarcely are a few
plants o f cacao found o n the banks o f the Rio de V a l e n c i a ;
the rest o f the plain is bare, and destitute o f vegetation.
This appearance o f sterility is here attributed, as it is every-
where in the valleys of Aragua, to the cultivation o f i n d i g o ;
which, according to the planters, is, o f all plants, that which
most exhausts (cansa) the ground. T h e real physical causes
o f this phenomenon would he an interesting inquiry, since,
like the effects o f fallowing land, and o f a rotation o f crops,
it is far from being sufficiently understood. I shall only
observe in general, that the complaints o f the increasing
sterility o f cultivated land b e c o m e more frequent between
the tropics, in proportion as they are near the period o f
their first breaking-up. I n a region almost destitute o f
herbs, where every plant has a ligneous stem, and tends to
raise itself as a shrub, the virgin soil remains shaded either
by great trees, o r b y bushes; and under this tufted shade it
preserves everywhere coolness and humidity. H o w e v e r
active the vegetation o f the tropics may appear, the number
o f roots that penetrate into the earth, is n o t so great in an
uncultivated soil ; while the plants are nearer to each other
in lands subjected to cultivation, and covered with indigo,
sugar-canes, or cassava. T h e trees and shrubs, loaded with

branches and leaves, draw a great part o f their nourishment
from the ambient a i r ; and the virgin soil augments its fer-
tility b y the decomposition o f the vegetable substances
which progressively accumulate. I t is not so in the fields
covered with indigo, or other herbaceous plants; where the
rays o f the sun penetrate freely into the earth, and by the
accelerated combustion o f the hydrurets o f carbon and other
acidifiable principles, destroy the germs o f fecundity. These
effects strike the imagination o f the planters the more for-
cibly, as in lands newly inhabited they compare the fertility
o f a soil which has been abandoned to itself during thou-
sands of years, with the produce o f ploughed fields. T h e
Spanish colonies on the continent, and the great islands o f
P o r t o - R i c o and Cuba, possess remarkable advantages with
respect to the produce of agriculture over the lesser W e s t
India Islands. The former, from their extent, the variety
o f their scenery, and their small relative population, still
bear all the characters o f a new sod; while at Barbadoes,
T o b a g o , St. Lucia, the Virgin Islands, and the French part
o f St. D o m i n g o , it may be perceived that long cultivation
has begun to exhaust the soil. I f in the valleys of Aragua,
instead of abandoning the indigo grounds, and leaving them
fallow, they were covered during several years, not with
corn, but with other alimentary plants and forage; if a m o n g
these plants such as belong to different families were pre-
ferred, and which shade the soil b y their large leaves, the
amelioration of the fields would be gradually accomplished,
and they would be restored to a part of their former fer-
T h e city of Nueva Valencia occupies a considerable extent
of ground, but its population scarcely amounts to six or
seven thousand souls. The streets are very broad, the
market place, (plaza mayor,) is of vast dimensions; and, the
houses being low, the disproportion between the population
o f the town, and the space that it occupies, is still greater
than at Caracas. M a n y of the whites, (especially the
poorest,) forsake their houses, and live the greater part o f
the year in their little plantations of indigo and cotton,
where they can venture to work with their o w n h a n d s ;
which, according to the inveterate prejudices of that country,
would be a disgrace to them in the town.
V O L . I I . D

Nueva Valencia, founded in 1555 under the government
of Villacinda, b y A l o n z o Diaz M o r e n o , is twelve years older
than Caracas. Valencia was at first only a dependency of
Burburata; b u t this latter t o w n is nothing now but a place
of embarkation for mules. I t is regretted, and perhaps
justly, that Valencia has n o t b e c o m e the capital o f the
country. Its situation in a plain, o n the banks o f a lake,
recalls to mind the position of M e x i c o . W h e n we reflect o n
the easy communication afforded b y the valleys o f A r a g u a
with the Llanos and the rivers that flow into the O r i n o c o ;
when we recognize the possibility of opening an inland
navigation, by the Rio Pao and the Portuguesa, as far as the
mouths of the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the A m a z o n ,
it may be conceived that the capital o f the vast provinces of
Venezuela would have been better placed near the fine
harbour of P o r t o Cabello, beneath a pure and serene sky,
than near the unsheltered road o f L a Guayra, in a t e m -
perate but constantly foggy valley. N e a r the kingdom of
N e w Grenada, and situate between the fertile corn-lands of
L a Victoria and Barquesimeto, the city o f Valencia ought t o
have prospered; but, notwithstanding these advantages, it
has been unable to maintain tho contest with Caracas.
Only those who have seen the myriads o f ants, that infest
the countries within the torrid zone, can form an idea o f the
destruction and the sinking of the ground occasioned b y
these insects. T h e y abound to such a degree on the site o f
Valencia, that their excavations resemble subterranean
canals, which are filled with water in the time of the rains,
and become very dangerous to the buildings. H e r e recourse
has not been had to tho extraordinary means employed at
the beginning o f the sixteenth century in the island o f
St. D o m i n g o , when troops of ants ravaged the fine plains o f
L a V e g a , and the rich possessions o f the order of St. Francis.
T h e monks, after having in vain burnt the larvæ o f the ants,
and had recouse to fumigations, advised the inhabitants to
choose by lot a saint, who would act as a mediator against
tho plague o f tho ants.* T h e honour o f the choice fell on
St. Saturnin; and tho ants disappeared as soon as the first
festival of this saint was celebrated. Incredulity has made
great progress since the time o f the conquest; and it was
* Un abogado contra los harmigos.

only on the back of the Cordilleras that I found a small
chapel, destined, according t o its inscription, for prayers to
be addressed to Heaven for the destruction of the termites.
Valencia affords some historical remembrances; but these,
like everything connected with the colonies, have n o remote
date, and recall to mind either civil discords or sanguinary
conflicts with the savages. L o p e z de A g u i r r e , whose crimes
and adventures form some o f the most dramatic episodes of
the history o f the conquest, proceeded in 1 5 6 1 , from Peru,
by the river A m a z o n to the island o f Margareta; and
thence, b y the port o f Burburata, into the valleys o f Aragua.
O n his entrance into Valencia, which proudly entitles itself
the City of the K i n g , ' he proclaimed the independance of
the country, and the deposition o f Philip I I . The inha-
bitants withdrew to the islands o f the lake o f Tacarigua,
taking with them all the boats from the shore, t o be more
secure in their retreat. I n consequence of this stratagem,
A g u i r r e could exercise his cruelties only on his own people.
P r o m Valencia he addressed to the king o f Spain, a remark-
able letter, in which he boasts alternately of his crimes and
his piety; at the same time giving advice t o the king on the
government of the colonies, and the system of missions.
Surrounded b y savage Indians, navigating on a great sea o f
fresh water, as he calls the A m a z o n , he is alarmed at the
heresies o f Martin Luther, and the increasing influence of
schismatics in E u r o p e . * L o p e z de Aguirre, or as he is still
• T h e following are s o m e remarkable passages in the letter from
A g u i r r e to the k i n g of Spain.
" K i n g Philip, native of S p a i n , son of Charles the I n v i n c i b l e ! I ,
L o p e z de A g u i r r e , thy vassal, an old Christian, o f p o o r but noble parents,
and a native of the town of O n a t e in Biscay, passed over y o u n g to Peru, to
labour lance in h a n d . I rendered thee great services in the c o n q u e s t o f
I n d i a . I fought for thy g l o r y , without d e m a n d i n g pay o f thy officers, as
is proved b y the b o o k s o f thy treasury. I firmly believe, Christian K i n g
and L o r d , that, very ungrateful t o m e a n d m y c o m p a n i o n s , all t h o s e w h o
write to thee from this land [ A m e r i c a ] , deceive thee m u c h , because thou
seest things from too far off. I r e c o m m e n d to thee to be m o r e just toward
the g o o d vassals w h o m thou hast in this c o u n t r y : for I and m i n e ,

weary o f the cruelties and injustice which t h y viceroys, thy governors,
and thy j u d g e s , exercise in thy n a m e , are resolved to o b e y thee n o m o r e .
W e regard ourselves no longer as Spaniards. W e wage a cruel war against
t h e e , because we w i l l not endure the oppression of thy m i n i s t e r s ; w h o ,
to give places to their nephews and their children, dispose of our lives,
D 2

called by the c o m m o n people, ' t h e Tyrant,' was killed at
Barquesimeto, after having been abandoned by his own men.
A t the moment when he fell, he plunged a dagger into the
bosom o f his only daughter, " t h a t she might not have to
our reputation, and our fortune. I am lame in the left foot from two
shots of an arquebuss, which I received in the valley of Coquimbo,
fighting under the orders of thy marshal, Alonzo de Alvarado, against

Francis Hernandez Giron, then a rebel, as I am at present, and shall be
always; for since thy viceroy, the Marquis de Cañete, a cowardly, am-
bitious, and effeminate man, has hanged our most valiant warriors, 1 care
no more for thy pardon than for the books of Martin Luther. It is not
well in thee, King of Spain, to be ungrateful toward thy vassals; for it,
was whilst thy father, the emperor Charles, remained quietly in Castile,
that they procured for thee so many kingdoms and vast countries.

Remember, King Philip, that thou hast no right to draw revenues from
these provinces, the conquest of which has been without danger to thee,
but inasmuch as thou recompensest those who have rendered thee such
great services. I am certain that few kings go to heaven. Therefore
we regard ourselves as very happy to be here in the Indies, preserving in
all their purity the commandments of God, and of the Roman Church;
and we intend, though sinners during life, to become one day martyrs
the glory of God. On going out of the river Amazon, we landed in an
island called La Margareta. We there received news from Spain of the
great faction and machination (maquina) of the Lutherans. This news
alarmed us extremely ; we found among us one of that faction ; his
name was Monteverde. I had him cut to pieces, as was just: for, believe
me, Señior, wherever I am, people live according to the law. But the
corruption of morals among the monks is so great in this land that it is
necessary to chastise it severely. There is not an ecclesiastic here who
does not think himself higher than the governor of a province. I beg
thee, great King, not to believe what the monks tell thee down yonder in
Spain. They are always talking of the sacrifices they make, as well as
the hard and bitter life they arc forced to lead in America: while they
occupy the richest lands, and the Indians hunt and fish for them every
day. If they shed tears before thy throne, it is that thou mayest send
them hither to govern provinces. Dost thou know what sort of life they

lead here ? Given up to luxury, acquiring possessions, selling the sacra-
ments, being at once ambitious, violent, and gluttonous ; such is the life
they lead in America. The faith of the Indians suffer by such bad ex-
amples. If thou dost not change all this, O King of Spain, thy govern-

ment will not be stable.
" What a misfortune that the Emperor, thy father, should have con-
quered Germany at such a price, and spent, on that conquest, the money
we procured for him in these very Indies! In the year 1559 the
Marquis de Cañete sent to the Amazon, Pedro de Ursua,
a Navarrese, or
rather a Frenchman : we sailed on the largest rivers of Peru till we came
a gulf of fresh water. W e had already gone three hundred leagues

blush before the Spaniards at the name of the daughter of a
traitor." The soul of the tyrant (such is the belief o f the
natives) wanders in the savannahs, like a flame that flies the
approach of men.*
The second historical event connected with the name o f
Valencia is the great incursion made by the Caribs of the
Orinoco in 1578 and 1580. That cannibal horde w e n t up
the banks of the Guarico, crossing the plains or llanos.
T h e y were happily repulsed by the valour of Garcia G o n -
zales, one of the captains whose names are still most revered
in those provinces. I t is gratifying to recollect, that the
descendants of those very Caribs n o w live in the missions
as peaceable husbandmen, and that no savage nation o f
Guiana dares to cross the plains which separate the region
o f the forests from that o f cultivated land. T h e Cordillera
o f the coast is intersected by several ravines, very uniformly
directed from south-east to north-west. This phenomenon
is general from the Quebrada o f T o c u m e , between Petares
and Caracas, as far as P o r t o Cabello. I t would seem as if
the impulsion had everywhere come from the south-east;
and this fact is the more striking, as the strata o f gneiss and
when we killed that bad and ambitious captain. W e chose a caballero
of Seville, Fernando de Guzman, for king : and we swore fealty to him,
as is done to thyself. I was named quarter-master-general: and because

I did not consent to all he willed, he wanted to kill me. But I killed this
new king, the captain of his guards, his lieutenant-general, his chaplain,
a woman, a knight of the order of Rhodes, two ensigns, and five or six
domestics of the pretended king. I then resolved to punish thy ministers
and thy auditors (counsellors of the audiencia). I named captains and
sergeants : these again wanted to kill me, but I had them all hanged.
In the midst of these adventures we navigated for eleven months, till w e
reached the mouth of the river. W e sailed more than fifteen hundred

leagues. God knows how we got through that great mass of water. I
advise thee, O great King, never to send Spanish fleets into that accursed

river. God preserve thee in his holy keeping."
This letter was given by Aguirre to the vicar of the island of Mar-
gareta, Pedro de Contreras, in order to be transmitted to King Philip I I .
Fray Pedro Simon, Provincial of the Franciscans in New Grenada, saw
several manuscript copies of it both in America and in Spain. It was
printed, for the first time, in 1723, in the History of the Province of
Venezuela, by Oviedo, vol. i, p. 206. Complaints no less violent, o n

the conduct of the monks of the 16th century, were addressed directly to
the pope by the Milanese traveller, Girolamo Benzoni.
* See vol. i, p. 164.

mica-slate in the Cordillera of the coast are generally di-
directed from the south-west t o the north-east. M o s t o f
these ravines penetrate into the mountains at their southern
declivity, without crossing them entirely. But there is an
opening (abra) on the meridian o f Nueva Valencia, which
leads towards the coast, and by which a cooling sea-breeze
penetrates every evening into the valleys of Aragua. This
breeze rises regularly t w o or three hours after sunset.
B y this abra, the farm o f Barbula, and an eastern branch
o f tho ravine, a new road is being constructed from V a -
lencia to P o r t o Cabello. I t will be so short, that it will
require only four hours to reach the p o r t ; and the traveller
will be able to g o and return in the same day from the coast
to the valleys o f Aragua. I n order t o examine this road, w e
set out on the 2Gth o f February in the evening for the farm
of Barbula.
O n the morning of the 27th we visited the hot springs o f
L a Trinchera, three leagues from Valencia. T h e ravine is
very large, and the descent almost continual from the banks
o f the lake to the sea-coast. L a Trinchera takes its name
from some fortifications of earth, thrown up in 1677 by the
French buccaneers, who sacked the t o w n of Valencia. T h e
hot springs (and this is a remarkable geological fact,) do n o t
issue on the south side o f the mountains, like those of M a -
riara, O n o t o , and the Brigantine; but they issue from the
chain itself, almost at its northern declivity. They are much
more abundant than any we had till then seen, forming a
rivulet which, in times o f tho greatest drought, is t w o feet
deep and eighteen wide. T h e temperature of the water,
measured with great care, was 90'3° of the centigrade ther-
mometer. N e x t to the springs of Urijino, in Japan, which
are asserted t o be pure water at 100° o f temperature, the
waters o f the Trinchera o f Porto Cabello appear to be the
hottest in the world. W e breakfasted near the s p r i n g ;
eggs plunged into the water were boiled in less than four
minutes. These waters, strongly charged with sulphuretted
hydrogen, gush out from the back o f a hill rising one hun-
dred and fifty feet above the bottom of tho ravine, and tend-
ing from south-south-east t o north-north-west. The rock
from which the springs gush, is a real coarse-grained granite,
resembling that o f the Rincon del Diablo, in the mountains

o f Mariara. W h e r e v e r the waters evaporate in the air, they
form sediments and incrustations of carbonate of lime; pos-
sibly they traverse strata o f primitive limestone, so c o m m o n
in the mica-slate and gneiss of the coasts of Caracas. W e
were surprised at the luxuriant vegetation that surrounds
the basin; mimosas with slender pinnate leaves, clusias, and
fig-trees, have pushed their roots into the bottom of a pool,
the temperature o f which is 85° ; and the branches of these
trees extended over the surface of the water, at two or three
inches distance. T h e foliage of the mimosas, though con-
stantly enveloped in the hot vapours, displayed the most
beautiful verdure. A n arum, with a w o o d y stem, and with
largo sagittate leaves, rose in the very middle of a pool the
temperature of which was 70°. Plants o f the same species
vegetate in other parts of those mountains at the brink of
torrents, the temperature of which is not 18°. W h a t is still
more singular, forty feet distant from the point whence the
springs gush out at a temperature of 90°, other springs are
found perfectly cold. They all follow for some time a parallel
direction; and the natives showed us that, b y digging a hole
between the two rivulets, they could procure a bath of any
given temperature they pleased. I t seems remarkable, that
in the hottest as well as the coldest climates, people display
the same predilection for heat. O n the introduction o f
Christianity into Iceland, the inhabitants would be baptized
only in the hot springs of H e c l a : and in the torrid zone,
in the plains, as well as on the Cordilleras, the natives flock
from all parts to the thermal waters. T h e sick, w h o c o m e
t o L a Trinchera to use vapour-baths, form a sort of frame-
work over the spring with branches o f trees and very slender
reeds. They stretch themselves naked on this frame, which
appeared to me to possess little strength, and to be danger-
ous of access. The Rio de Aguas Calientes runs towards the
north-east, and becomes, near the coast, a considerable river,
swarming with great crocodiles, and contributing, by its
inundations, to the insalubrity of the shore.
W e descended towards Porto Cabello, having constantly
the river of hot water on our right. The road is extremely
picturesque, and the waters roll down o n the shelves o f
rock. W e might have fancied we were gazing on the cas-
cades o f the Reuss, that flows d o w n M o u n t St. G o t h a r d ;

but what a contrast in the vigour and richness of the vege-
tation ! The white trunks of the cecropia rise majestically
amid bignonias and melastomas. They do not disappear till
we are within a hundred toises above the level o f the ocean.
A small thorny palm-tree extends also to this l i m i t ; the
slender pinnate leaves of which look as if they had been
curled toward the edges. This tree is yery c o m m o n in
these mountains; but not having seen either its fruit or its
llowers, we are ignorant whether it be the piritu palm-tree
o f the Caribbees, or the Cocos aculeata of Jacquin.
T h e rock on this road presents a geological phenome-
non, the more remarkable as the existence of real stratified
granite has long b e e n disputed. Between La Trinchera and
the H a t o de Cambury a coarse-grained granite appears,
which, from the disposition o f the spangles of mica, collected
in small groups, scarcely admits of confounding with gneiss,
or with rocks of a schistose texture. This granite, divided
into ledges o f t w o or three feet thick, is directed 52° north-
east, and slopes to the north-west regularly at an angle of
from 30° or 40°. The feldspar, crystallized in prisms with
four unequal sides, about an inch long, passes through every
variety o f tint from a flesh-red to yellowish white. T h e
mica, united in hexagonal plates, is black, and sometimes
green. The quartz predominates in the m a s s ; and is g e -
nerally of a milky white. 1 observed neither hornblende,
black schorl, nor rutile titanite, in this granite. I n
some ledges we recognised round masses, o f a blackish
gray, very quartzose, and almost destitute of mica. They
are from one to two inches diameter; and are found in
every zone, in all granite mountains. These are not im-
bedded fragments, as at Greiffenstein in Saxony, but aggre-
gations of particles which seem to have been subjected t o
partial attractions. I could not follow the line of j u n c -
tion of the gneiss and granitic formations. According to
angles taken in the valleys of Aragua, the gneiss appears to
descend below the granite, which must consequently be o f
a more recent formation. The appearance of a stratified
granite excited my attention the more, because, having had
the direction of the mines o f Fichtelberg in Franconia for
several years. I was accustomed to see granites divided into
ledges o f three or four feet thick, but little inclined, and

forming masses like towers, o r old ruins, at the summit o f
the highest mountains.*
The heat became stifling as w e approached the coast. A
reddish vapour veiled the horizon. I t was near sunset, and
the breeze was n o t y e t stirring. W e rested in the lonely
farms known under the names o f the H a t o de Cambury and
' t h e House o f the Canarian' (Casa del Isleño). T h e river o f
hot water, along the banks o f which we passed, became deeper.
A crocodile, more than nine feet long, lay dead o n t h e
strand. W e wished t o examine its teeth, and the inside o f
its m o u t h ; but having been exposed t o the sun for several
weeks, it exhaled a smell so fetid that w e were obliged t o
relinquish our design and remount o u r horses. W h e n w e
arrived at the level o f the sea, the road turned eastward, and
crossed a barren shore a league and a half broad, resembling
that o f Cumana. W e there found some scattered cactuses,
a sesuvium, a few plants o f Coccoloba uvifera, and along the
coast some avicennias and mangroves. W e forded the G u a y -
guaza and the Rio Estevan, which, b y their frequent over-
flowing, form great pools o f stagnant water. Small rocks o f
meandrites, madrepores, and other corals, either ramilied o r
with a rounded surface, rise in this vast p l a i n ; and seem t o
attest the recent retreat o f the sea. B u t these masses,
which are the habitations o f polypi, are only fragmenta i m -
bedded in a breccia with a calcareous cement. I say a
breccia, because w e must n o t confound the fresh and white
corallites o f this very recent littoral formation, with t h e
corallites blended in the mass o f transition-rocks, grau-
wacke, and black limestone. W e were astonished t o find
in this uninhabited spot a large Parkinsonia aculeata loaded
with flowers. O u r botanical works indicate this tree as
peculiar to the N e w W o r l d ; but during five years w e saw it
only twice in a wild state, once in the plains o f the B i o
Guayguaza, and once in the llanos o f Cumana, thirty leagues
* At Ochsenkopf, at Rudolphstein. at Epprechtstein, at Luxburg, and
at Schneeberg. The dip of the strata of these granites of Fichtelberg is
generally only from 6° to 10°, rarely (at Scheeberg) 18°. According to
the dips I observed in the neighbouring strata of gneiss and mica-slate, I
should think that the granite of Fiehtelberg is very ancient, and serves
a basis for other formations ; but the strata of grünstein, and the disse-
minated tin-ore which it contains, may lead us to doubt its great
a n -
tiquity, from the analogy of the granites of Saxony containing tin.

from the coast, near la Villa del Pao, but there was reason
t o believe that this latter place had once been a conuco, or
cultivated enclosure. Everywhere else on the continent o f
America w e saw the Parkinsonia, like the Plumeria, only in
the gardens o f the Indians.
A t Porto Cabello, as at L a Guayra, it is disputed whether
the port lies east or west o f the town, with which the c o m -
munications are the most frequent. T h e inhabitants believe
that P o r t o Cabello is north-north-west o f Nueva V a l e n c i a ;
and my observations give a longitude of three or four
minutes more towards the west.
W e were received with the utmost kindness in the house
o f a French physician, M . Juliac, who had studied medicine
at Montpelier. His small house contained a collection o f
things the most various, but which were all calculated t o
interest travellers. W e found works o f literature and
natural history; notes o n m e t e o r o l o g y ; skins o f the jaguar
and of large aquatic serpents; live animals, monkeys, arma-
dilloes, and birds. O u r host was principal surgeon to the
royal hospital o f P o r t o Cabello, and was celebrated in the
country for his skilful treatment o f the yellow fever.
D u r i n g a period of seven years he had seen six or eight
thousand persons enter the hospitals, attacked by this
cruel malady. H e had observed the ravages that the epi-
demic caused in Admiral Ariztizabal's fleet, in 1793. That
fleet lost nearly a third o f its m e n ; for the sailors were
almost all unseasoned Europeans, and held unrestrained
intercourse with the shore. M . Juliac had heretofore treated
the sick as was c o m m o n l y practised in Terra Firma, and in
the island, by bleeding, aperient medicines, and acid drinks.
I n this treatment no attempt was made to raise the vital
powers by the action o f stimulants, so that, in attempting to
allay the fever, the languor and debility were augmented.
I n the hospitals, where the sick were crowded, the mortality
was often thirty-three per cent, among the white C r e o l e s ;
and sixty-five in a hundred among the Europeans recently
disembarked. Since a stimulant treatment, the use of opium,
o f benzoin, and o f alcoholic draughts, has been substituted
for the old debilitating method, the mortality has c o n -
siderably diminished. I t was believed to bo reduced to
twenty in a hundred among Europeans, and ten among

4 3
Creoles ;* even when black vomiting, and hæmorrhage from
the nose, ears, and gums, indicated a high degree of exacer-
bation in the malady. I relate faithfully what was then
given as the general result of observation: but I think, in
these numerical comparisons, it must not be forgotten, that,
notwithstanding appearances, the epidemics of several suc-
cessive years do not resemble each other; and that, in order
to decide on the use of fortifying or debilitating remedies,
(if indeed this difference exist in an absolute sense,) we
must distinguish between the various periods of the malady.
The climate of Porto Cabello is less ardent than that of
La Guayra. The breeze there is stronger, more frequent,
and more regular. The houses do not lean against rocks
that absorb the rays of the sun during the day, and emit
caloric at night, and. the air can circulate more freely between
the coast and the mountains of llaria. The causes of the
insalubrity of the atmospere must be sought in the shores
that extend to the east, as far as the eye can reach, towards
the Punta de Tucasos, near the fine port of Chichiribiche.
There are situated the salt-works; and there, at the begin-

ning of the rainy season, tertian fevers prevail, and easily
degenerate into asthenic fevers. It is affirmed that the
mestizoes who are employed in the salt-works are more
tawny, and have a yellower skin, when they have suffered
several successive years from those fevers, which are called
'the malady of the coast.' The poor fishermen, who dwell
on this shore, are of opinion that it is not the inundations
of the sea, and the retreat of the salt-water, which render
the lands covered with mangroves so unhealthful ;f they

• I have treated in another work of the proportions of mortality in the
yellow fever. ( N o u v e l l e E s p a g n e , v o l . ii, p . 7 7 7 , 7 8 5 , and 8 6 7 . ) A t
Cadiz the average mortality was, in 1 8 0 0 , twenty per c e n t ; at Seville, in
1 8 0 1 , it a m o u n t e d to sixty per cent. A t V e r a C r u z the mortality does
not exceed twelve or fifteen per cent, when the sick can be properly
attended. In the civil hospitals of Paris the n u m b e r of deaths, one year
with another, is from fourteen to eighteen per c e n t . ; b u t it is asserted
that a great number of patients enter the hospitals almost dying, or at a
very advanced time of life.

† In the W e s t India Islands all the dreadful maladies which prevail
during the wintry season, have been for a long time attributed to the
Bouth winds. T h e s e winds convey the emanations of the m o u t h s o f the

O r i n o c o and of the small rivers of Terra Firma toward the high latitudes.

believe that the insalubrity of the air is owing to the fresh
water, that is, to the overflowings of the Guayguaza and Este-
van, the swell of which is so great and sudden in the months
o f October and November. The banks of the R i o Estevan
have been less insalubrious since little plantations o f maize
and plantains have been established; and, by raising and
hardening the ground, the river has been confined within
narrower limits. A plan is formed of giving another issue
t o the R i o San Estevan, and thus to render the environs o f
P o r t o Cabello more wholesome. A canal is to lead the
waters toward that part o f the coast which is opposite the
island o f Guayguaza.
T h e salt-works o f Porto Cabello somewhat resemble those
o f the peninsula o f Araya, near Cumana. The earth, h o w -
ever, which they lixivate by collecting the rain-water into
small basins, contains less salt. I t is questioned here, as
at Cumana, whether the ground be impregnated with saline
particles because it has been for ages covered at intervals
with sea-water evaporated by the heat o f the sun, o r
whether the soil be muriatiferous, as in a mine very p o o r
in native salt. I had not leisure to examine this plain with
the same attention as the peninsula of Araya. Besides,
does not this problem reduce itself t o the simple question,
whether the salt be o w i n g to new or very ancient inunda-
tions ? T h e labouring at the salt-works o f Porto Cabello
being extremely unhealthy, the poorest men alone engage
in it. They collect the salt in little stores, and afterwards
sell it to the shopkeepers in the town.
D u r i n g our abode at Porto Cabello, the current on tho
coast, generally directed towards the west,* ran from west
t o east. This upward current (corriente por arriba), is
very frequent during two or three months of the year, from
September to N o v e m b e r . I t is believed to be owing to
some north-west winds that have blown between Jamaica
and Cape St. A n t o n y in the island o f Cuba.
* The wrecks of the Spanish ships, burnt at the island of Trinidad, at
the time of its occupation by the English in 1797, were carried by the
general or rotary current to Punta Brava, near Porto Cabello. This
general current toward the east, from the coasts of Paria to the isthmus
of Panama and the western extremity of the island of Cuba, was the
subject of a violent dispute between Don Diego Columbus, Oviedo, and
the pilot Andres, in the sixteenth century.

T h e military defence of the coasts o f Terra Firma rests
on six p o i n t s : the castle of San A n t o n i o at C u m a n a ;
the M o r r o of Nueva B a r c e l o n a ; the fortifications o f L a
Guayra, (mounting one hundred and thirty-four g u n s ) ;
P o r t o C a b e l l o ; fort San Carlos, (at the mouth of the lake
o f Maracaybo) ; and Carchagena. P o r t o Cabello is, next to
Carthagena, the most important fortified place. T h e town
o f Porto Cabello is quite modern, and the port is one of
the finest in the world. A r t has had scarcely any-
thing to add to the advantages which the nature of the
spot presents. A neck o f land stretches first towards the
north, and then towards the west. I t s western extremity
is opposite to a range o f islands connected by bridges, and
so close together that they might be taken for another neck
o f land. These islands are all composed of a calcareous
breccia of extremely recent formation, and analagous t o
that on the coast of Cumana, and near the castle of Araya.
I t is a conglomerate, containing fragments o f madrepores
and other corals cemented b y a limestone basis and grains
o f sand. W e had already seen this conglomerate near the
R i o Guayguaza. B y a singular disposition o f the ground
the port resembles a basin or a little inland lake, the south-
ern extremity of which is filled with little islands covered
with mangroves. The opening of the port towards the west
contributes much to the smoothness of the water.* O n e
vessel only can enter at a time ; b u t the largest ships o f the
line can anchor very near land to take in water. There is
n o other danger in entering the harbour than the reefs o f
Punta Brava, opposite which a battery of eight guns has
been erected. Towards the west and south-west w e see the
fort, which is a regular pentagon with five bastions, the
battery o f the reef, and the fortifications that surround the
ancient town, founded on an island of a trapezoidal form.
A bridge and the fortified gate of the Staccado join the old
to the n e w t o w n ; the latter is already larger than the
* It is disputed at Porto Cabello whether the port takes its name
from the tranquillity of its waters, " which would not move a hair
(cabello)," or (which is more probable) derived from Antonio Cabello,
one of the fishermen with whom the smugglers of Curaçoa had formed a

connexion at the period when the first hamlet was constructed on this
half desert coast

former, though considered only as its suburb. The b o t t o m
o f the basin or lake which forms the harbour o f P o r t o
Cabello, turns behind this suburb to the south-west. I t is
a marshy ground filled with noisome and stagnant water.
T h e town, which has at present nearly nine thousand inha-
bitants, owes its origin to an illicit commerce, attracted to
these shores by the proximity o f the t o w n of Burburata,
which was founded in 1549. I t is only since the adminis-
tration of the Biscayans, and o f the company of Guipuzcoa,
that Porto Cabello, which was b u t a hamlet, has been
converted into a well-fortified town. The vessels o f L a
Guayra, which is less a port than a bad open roadstead,
come to Porto Cabello to be caulked and repaired.
The real defence o f the harbour consists in the low bat-
teries o n the neck of land at Punta Brava, and on the r e e f ;
but from ignorance of this principle, a new fort, the Mira-
dor of Solano* has been constructed at a great expense, o n
the mountains commanding the suburb towards the south.
M o r e than ten thousand mules are annually exported from
Porto Cabello. I t is curious enough to see these animals
embarked; they are thrown d o w n with ropes, and then
hoisted on board the vessels by means of a machine resem-
bling a crane. Ranged in two files, the mules with difficulty
keep their footing during the rolling and pitching of the ship;
and in order to frighten and render them more docile, a
drum is beaten during a great part o f the day and night.
W e may guess what quiet a passenger enjoys, who has the
courage to embark for Jamaica in a schooner laden with
W e left Porto Cabello on the first o f M a r c h , at sunrise.
W o saw with surprise the great number of boats that were
laden with fruit to be sold at the market. I t reminded me
o f a fine morning at V e n i c e . T h e t o w n presents in general,
o n the side towards the sea, a cheerful and agreeable aspect.
Mountains covered with vegetation, and crowned with
peaks called Las Tetas de Ilaria, which, from their outline
would be taken for rocks o f a trap-formation, form the
background o f the landscape. Near the coast all is bare,
white, and strongly illumined, while the screen of mountains
* The Mirador is situate eastward of the Vigia Alts, and south-east of
the battery of the salt-works and the powder-mill.

4 7
is clothed with trees of thick foliage that project their vast
shadows upon the brown and rocky ground. On going out
of the town we visited an aqueduct that had been just
finished. It is five thousand
varas long, and conveys the
waters of the Rio Estevan by a trench to the town. This
work has cost more than thirty thousand piastres; but its
waters gush out in every street.

W e returned from Porto Cabello to the valleys of Aragua,
and stopped at the Farm of Barbula, near which, a new
road to Valencia is in the course of construction. AVe had

heard, several weeks before, of a tree, the sap of which is
a nourishing milk. It is called 'the cow-tree' ; and we were
assured that the negroes of the farm, who drink plentifully
of this vegetable milk, consider it a wholesome aliment.
All the milky juices of plants being acrid, bitter, and more
or less poisonous, this account appeared to us very extraor-

dinary ; but we found by experience during our stay at
Barbula, that the virtues of this tree had not been exag-

gerated. This fine tree rises like the broad-leaved star-
apple.* Its oblong and pointed leaves, rough and alternate,
are marked by lateral ribs, prominent at the lower surface,
and parallel. Some of them are ten inches long. W e
did not see the flower: the fruit is somewhat fleshy, and
contains one and sometimes two nuts. When incisions are
made in the trunk of this tree, it yields abundance of a
glutinous milk, tolerably thick, devoid of all acridity, and
of an agreeable and balmy smell. It was offered to us in

the shell of a calabash. We drank considerable quantities
of it in the evening before we went to bed, and very early
in the morning, without feeling the least injurious effect.
The viscosity of this milk alone renders it a little disagree-
able. The negroes and the free people who work in the
plantations drink it, dipping into it their bread of maize or

cassava. The overseer of the farm told us that the negroes
grow sensibly fatter during the season when the
palo de
furnishes them with most milk. This juice, exposed to
the air, presents at its surface (perhaps in consequence of
the absorption of the atmospheric oxygen) membranes of a
strongly annualized substance, yellowish, stringy, and resem-
bling cheese. These membranes, separated from the rest of

* Chrysophyllum caïnito.

the more aqueous liquid, are elastic, almost like caoutchouc;
but they undergo, in time, the same phenomena o f putre-
faction as gelatine. T h e people call the coagulum that
separates by the contact o f the air, cheese. This coagulum
grows sour in the space of five or six days, as I observed in
the small portions which I carried to Nueva Valencia. The
milk contained in a stopped phial, had deposited a little
c o a g u l u m ; and, far from becoming fetid, it exhaled c o n -
stantly a balsamic odour. T h e fresh juice mixed with cold
water was scarcely coagulated at a l l ; but o n the contact o f
nitric acid the separation o f the viscous membranes took
place. W e sent t w o bottles o f this milk to M . Fourcroy at
P a r i s : in one it was in its natural state, and in the other,
mixed with a certain quantity o f carbonate o f soda. The
F r e n c h consul residing in the island o f St. Thomas, under-
took t o convey them to him.
T h e extraordinary tree o f which w e have been speaking
appears to be peculiar to the Cordillera o f the coast, par-
ticularly from Barbula t o the lake o f Maracaybo. Some
stocks o f it exist near the village o f San M a t e o ; and, ac-
cording t o M . Bredemeyer, whose travels have so much
enriched the fine conservatories o f Schönbrunn and Vienna,
in the valley o f Caucagua, three days journey east o f Caracas.
This naturalist found, like us, that the vegetable milk o f the
palo de vaca had an agreeable taste and an aromatic smell.
A t Caucagua, the natives call the tree that furnishes this
nourishing juice, ' t h e milk-tree' (arbol del l e c h e ) . They
profess t o recognize, from the thickness and colour o f the
foliage, the trunks that yield the most j u i c e ; as the herds-
man distinguishes, from external signs, a good milch-cow.
N o botanist has hitherto known the existence o f this plant.
I t seems, according t o M . K u n t h , t o belong t o the sapota
family. L o n g after m y return t o Europe, I found in the
Description o f the East Indies by Laet, a D u t c h traveller,
a passage that seems t o have some relation t o the cow-tree.
" T h e r e exist t r e e s . " says Laet,* "in the province of C u -
" Inter arbores quæ sponte hic passim nascuntur, memorantur a
scriptoribus Hispanis quædam quæ lacteum quemdam liquorem fundunt,
qui durus admodum evadit instar gummi, et suavem odorem de se fundit;
aliæ quaæ liquorem quemdam edunt, instar lactis coagulati, qui in cibis ab
ipsis usurpatur sine noxa." (Among the trees growing here, it is re-

m a t a , the sap o f which much resembles curdled milk, and
affords a salubrious nourishment."
A m i d s t the great number o f curious phenomena which I
have observed in t h e course o f m y travels, I confess there
are few that have made so powerful an impression o n m e
as the aspect o f t h e cow-tree. W h a t e v e r relates t o milk
or t o corn, inspires an interest which is n o t merely that
o f the physical knowledge o f things, but is connected with
another order o f ideas and sentiments. W e can scarcely
conceive h o w the human race could exist without farina-
ceous substances, and without that nourishing juice which
the breast o f t h e mother contains, and which is appro-
priated t o t h e long feebleness o f the infant. T h e amy-
laceous matter o f corn, t h e object o f religious veneration
among so many nations, ancient and modern, is diffused in
the seeds, and deposited i n the roots o f vegetables; milk,
which serves as an aliment, appears t o us exclusively the
produce o f animal organization. Such are the impressions
w e have received in o u r earliest infancy: such is also
the source o f that astonishment created b y the aspect o f
the tree just described. I t is n o t here t h e solemn shades
o f forests, t h e majestic course o f rivers, t h e mountains
wrapped in eternal snow, that excite o u r emotion. A few
drops o f vegetable juice recall t o our minds all the power-
fulness and t h e fecundity o f nature. O n the barren flank
o f a rock grows a tree with coriaceous and dry leaves. I t s
large w o o d y roots c a n scarcely penetrate into t h e stone.
F o r several months o f the year not a single shower moistens
its foliage. I t s branches appear dead and d r i e d ; b u t when
the trunk is pierced there flows from it a sweet and nourish-
ing milk. I t is at the rising o f the sun that this vegetable
fountain is most abundant. T h e negroes and natives are
then seen hastening from all quarters, furnished with large
bowls t o receive the milk, which grows yellow, and thickens
at its surface. Some empty their bowls under t h e tree
itself, others carry the juice h o m e t o their children.
marked by Spanish writers that there are some which pour out a milky
juice which soon grows solid, like gum, affording a pleasant odour ; and
also others that give out a liquid which coagulates like cheese, and which
they eat at meals without any ill effects). Descriptio lndiarum Occiden-
talium, lib. 18.

VOL. I I . E

I n examining the physical properties of animal and vege-
table products, science displays them as closely linked
t o g e t h e r ; b u t it strips them o f what is marvellous, and
perhaps, therefore, o f a part o f their charms. N o t h i n g
appears isolated; the chemical principles that were believed
t o be peculiar t o animals are found in p l a n t s ; a c o m m o n
chain links together all organic nature.
Long before chemists had recognized small portions o f
wax in the pollen of flowers, the varnish o f leaves, and the
whitish dust of our plums and grapes, the inhabitants of tho
A n d e s o f Quindiu made tapers with the thick layer o f wax
that covers the trunk o f a palm-tree.* I t is but a few
years since w e discovered, in Europe, caseum, the basis o f
cheese, in t h e emulsion o f a l m o n d s ; yet for ages past, in
the mountains of the c o a s t of V e n e z u e l a , the milk of a free,
and the cheese separated from that vegetable milk, have
been considered as a salutary aliment. H o w are w e t o
account for this singular courso in the development o f
knowledge ? H o w have the unlearned inhabitants o f one
hemisphere become cognizant of a fact, w h i c h , in the other,
so l o n g escaped the sagacity of the scientific ? I t is because
a s m a l l number of elements and principles differently c o m -
bined are spread through several families o f p l a n t s ; it is
because the genera and species o f these natural families are
n o t equally distributed i n the torrid, the frigid, and tho
temperate z o n e s ; it is that tribes, excited b y want, and
deriving almost all their subsistence from the vegetable
kingdom, discover nutritive principles, farinaceous and ali-
mentary substances, wherever nature has deposited them
in the sap, the bark, tho roots, or tho fruits of vegetables.
That amylaceous fecula which the seeds o f the cereal plants
furnish in all its purity, is found united with an acrid and
sometimes even poisonous juice, in the roots o f the arums,
the Tacca pinnatifida, and the Jatropha manihot. The
savage o f America, like tho savage o f the South Sea
i s l a n d s , has learned t o dulcify th e fecula, b y pressing an d
separating it from its juice. I n the milk of plants, and in
the m i l k y emulsions, matter extremely nourishing, albumen,
caseum, and sugar, are found mixed with caoutchouc and
with d e l e t e r i o u s and c a u s t i c p r i n c i p l e s . such as morphine
* Coroxylon andicola.

5 1
and hydrocyanic acid.* These mixtures vary not only in
the different families, b u t also in the species which belong
t o the same genus. Sometimes it is morphine or the nar-
cotic principle, that characterises the vegetable milk, as in
some papaverous p l a n t s ; sometimes it is caoutchouc, as in
the hevea and the castilloa; sometimes albumen and caseum,
as in the cow-tree.
T h e lactescent plants belong chiefly t o the three families
of the euphorbiaceæ, the urticeae, and the apocineæ †. Since,
o n examining the distribution o f vegetable forms over the
globe, we find that those three families are more n u m e -
rous in species in the low regions o f the tropics, w e must
thence conclude, that a very elevated temperature contri-
butes to the elaboration of the milky juices, to the formation
o f caoutchouc, albumen, and caseous matter. T h e sap of
the palo Je vaca furnishes unquestionably the most striking
example o f a vegetable milk in which the acrid and de-
leterious principle is not united with albumen, caseum,
and c a o u t c h o u c : the genera euphorbia and asclepias, h o w -
ever, though generally k n o w n for their caustic properties,
already present us with a few species, the juice of which
is sweet and harmless. Such are the Tabayba dulce of the
Canary Islands, which we have already mentioned, and the
Asclepias lactifera o f Ceylon. Burman relates that, in the
latter country, when cow's milk is wanting, the milk o f this
asclepias is u s e d ; and that the aliments commonly pre-
pared with animal milk are boiled with its leaves. I t may
be possible, as Decandolle has well observed, that the
natives employ only the juico that flows from the y o u n g
lplant, at a period when the acrid principle is not yet deve-
oped. I n fact, the first shoots of the apocyneous plants are
eaten in several countries.
* Opium contains morphine, caoutchouc, &c.
† After these three great families follow the papaveraceæ, the chico-
raceæ, the lobeliaceæ, the campanulaceæ, the sapoteæ, and the cucurbi-
tacere. The hydrocyanic acid is peculiar to the group of rosaceo-amyg-

dalaceæ. In the monocotyledonous plants there is no milky juice ; but
the perisperm of the palms, which yields such sweet and agreeable milky
emulsions, contains, no doubt, caseum. Of what nature is the milk of

mushrooms ?
‡ Euphorbia balsamifera. The milky juice of the Cactus mamillaris is
equally sweet.
E 2

I have e n d e a v o u r e d b y t h e s e comparisons t o b r i n g into
consideration, u n d e r a m o r e general point of view, t h e m i l k y
j u i c e s that circulate in v e g e t a b l e s ; and t h e m i l k y e m u l s i o n s
t h a t t h e fruits o f t h e a m y g d a l a c e o u s plants a n d p a l m s y i e l d .
I m a y be p e r m i t t e d to a d d t h e r e s u l t of s o m e e x p e r i m e n t s
w h i c h I a t t e m p t e d t o m a k e o n t h e j u i c e of t h e Carica
papaya d u r i n g m y s t a y in t h e valleys o f A r a g u a , t h o u g h
I w a s t h e n a l m o s t d e s t i t u t e o f chemical t e s t s . T h e j u i c e
has been since e x a m i n e d b y V a u q u e l i n , and this celebrated
c h e m i s t has very clearly recognized the a l b u m e n a n d caseous
m a t t e r ; he c o m p a r e s t h e m i l k y sap t o a substance s t r o n g l y
annualized, t o t h e b l o o d of a n i m a l s ; b u t his researches
w e r e confined to a f e r m e n t e d j u i c e and a c o a g u l u m of a

fœtid smell, formed d u r i n g the passage from t h e M a u r i t i u s
t o France. H e has expressed a wish t h a t s o m e traveller
w o u l d e x a m i n e t h e m i l k o f t h e p a p a w - t r e e j u s t as it f l o w s
from the stem or the fruit.

T h e y o u n g e r t h e fruit of t h e carica, t h e m o r e m i l k it
y i e l d s : it is even found in t h e g e r m e n scarcely fecundated.
In proportion a s the fruit ripens, the milk becomes less a b u n -
d a n t , and more aqueous. Less o f that animal m a t t e r w h i c h
is coagulable b y acids a n d by the absorption of atmospheric
o x y g e n , is found i n i t . As t h e w h o l e fruit is v i s c o u s , * it
m i g h t be supposed that, as it g r o w s larger, t h e coagulable
m a t t e r is d e p o s e d in t h e organs, a n d forms a part o f the

p u l p , or the fleshy s u b s t a n c e . W h e n nitric acid, diluted
with four parts of water, is added drop b y drop t o t h e milk
expressed from a very y o u n g fruit, a very extraordinary p h e -
n o m e n o n appears. A t t h e centre o f each drop a g e l a t i n o u s

pellicle is formed, divided by greyish s t r e a k s . T h e s e streaks
are simply the juice rendered m o r e aqueous, o w i n g t o t h e
contact of the acid having deprived it of t h e a l b u m e n . A t
t h e same l i m e , t h e centre of t h e pellicles becomes opaque,
a n d of the colour of the yolk of an e g g ; they enlarge as if
b y t h e prolongation o f d i v e r g e n t fibres. T h e w h o l e liquid

T h e s a m e v i s c o s i t y i s a l s o r e m a r k e d i n t h e f r e s h m i l k o f t h e
palo de vaca. I t i s n o d o u b t o c c a s i o n e d b y t h e c a o u t c h o u c , w h i c h is
n o t y e t s e p a r a t e d , a n d w h i c h f o r m s o n e m a s s w i t h t h e a l b u m e n a n d t h e
c a s e u m , a s t h e b u t t e r and t h e c a s e u m in a m i m a l m i l k . T h e j u i c e o f a
e u p h o r b i a c e o u s p l a n t ( S a p i u m a u c u p a r i u m ) , w h i c h a l s o yields c a o u t c h o u c ,
is so g l u t i n o u s t h a t i t is u s e d t o c a t c h p a r r o t s .

A N A L Y S I S O F V E G E T A B L E M I L K .
assumes at first the appearance o f an agate with milky-
clouds ; and it seems as if organic membranes were forming
under the eve o f the observer. When the coagulum extends
t o the whole mass, the yellow spots again disappear. B y
agitation it becomes granulous like soft cheese.* T h e
yellow colour reappears o n adding a few more drops of
nitric acid. T h e acid acts in this instance as the o x y g e n of
the atmosphere at a temperature from 27° t o 35° ; for the
white coagulum grows yellow in t w o or three minutes, when
exposed t o the sun. A f t e r a few hours the yellow colour
turns to brown, n o doubt because the carbon is set more
free progressively as the hydrogen, with which it was c o m -
bined, is burnt. T h e coagulum formed b y the acid becomes
viscous, and acquires that smell o f wax which I have
observed in treating muscular flesh and mushrooms (morels)
with nitric acid. A c c o r d i n g to the fine experiments o f M r .
H a t c h e t t , the albumen may b e supposed t o pass partly t o
the state of gelatine. T h e coagulum o f the papaw-tree,
when newly prepared, being thrown into water, softens, dis-
solves in part, and gives a yellowish tint t o the fluid. T h e
milk, placed in contact with water only, forms also m e m -
branes. I n an instant a tremulous jelly is precipitated,
resembling starch. This phenomenon is particularly striking
if the water employed b e heated t o 40° o r 60°. T h e jelly
condenses in proportion as more water is poured upon it.
I t preserves a long time its whiteness, only growing yellow
b y the contact of a few drops o f nitric acid. Guided by the
experiments of Fourcroy and Vauquelin o n the juice o f t h o
* T h e substance which falls down in g r u m o u s and filamentous clots is
not pure caoutchouc, b u t perhaps a mixture of this substance with caseum
and a l b u m e n . A c i d s precipitate the caoutchouc from the milky juice o f
the e u p h o r b i u m s , fig-trees, and h e v e a ; they precipitate the caseum from
the milk of animals. A white c o a g u l u m was f o r m e d in phials closely

s t o p p e d , containing the milk o f the hevea, and preserved a m o n g our c o l -
lections, during o u r j o u r n e y t o the O r i n o c o . I t is perhaps the d e v e l o p -
m e n t of a vegetable acid which then furnishes o x y g e n t o the a l b u m e n .
T h e formation of the c o a g u l u m of the hevea, or of real caoutchouc, is
nevertheless m u c h m o r e rapid in contact with the air. T h e absorption of

a t m o s p h e r i c o x y g e n is n o t in the least necessary t o t h e production of
butter which exists already formed in t h e milk of a n i m a l s ; b u t I believe
it cannot b e doubted that, in t h e milk of plants, this absorption produces

the pellicles of caoutchouc, of coagulated a l b u m e n , and of c a s e u m , which
are successively formed in vessels exposed t o the open air.

hevea, I mixed a solution o f carbonate o f soda with the
milk o f the papaw. N o clot is formed, even when pure
water is poured o n a mixture o f the milk with the alkaline
solution. T h e membranes appear only when, by adding an
acid, the soda is neutralized, and the acid is in excess. I
made the coagulum formed by nitric acid, the juice o f
lemons, or hot water, likewise disappear by mixing it with
carbonate o f soda. T h e sap again becomes milky and liquid,
as in its primitive s t a t e ; but this experiment succeeds only
when the coagulum has been recently formed.
O n comparing the milky juices of the papaw, the cow-tree,
and the hevea, there appears a striking analogy between the
juices which abound in caseous matter, and those in which
caoutchouc prevails. All the white and newly prepared
caoutchouc, as well as the waterproof cloaks, manufactured
in Spanish America by placing a layer of milk of hevea
between two pieces o f cloth, exhale an animal and nauseat-
ing smell. This seems to indicate that the caoutchouc, in
coagulating, carries with it the caseum, which is perhaps
only an altered albumen.
T h e produce o f the bread-fruit tree can n o more b e
considered as bread than plantains before the state o f
maturity, or the tuberous and amylaceous roots o f the cas-
sava, the dioscorea, the Convolvulus batatas, and the potato.
T h e milk o f the cow-tree contains, o n the contrary, a
caseous matter, like the milk of mammiferous animals.
A d v a n c i n g t o more general considerations, we may regard,
with M . Gay-Lussac, the caoutchouc as the oily p a r t , —
the butter of vegetable milk. W e find in the milk of
plants caseum and c a o u t c h o u c ; in the milk o f animals,
caseum and butter. T h e proportions of the two albuminous
and oily principles differ in the various species of animals
and o f lactescent plants. I n these last they are most fre-
quently mixed with other substances hurtful as f o o d ; b u t o f
which the separation might perhaps be obtained by chemical
processes. A vegetable milk becomes nourishing when it is
destitute of acrid and narcotic principles; and abounds less
in caoutchouc than in caseous matter.*
* The milk of the lactescent agarics has not been separately analysed ;
it contains an acrid principle in the Agaricus piperatus ; and in other
species it is sweet and harmless. The experiments of M M . Braconnot.

W h i l s t the palo de vaca manifests the immense fecundity
and the b o u n t y o f nature in the torrid zone, it also
reminds us o f the n u m e r o u s causes which favour in those
fine climates the careless indolence o f man. M u n g o Park
has made k n o w n the butter-tree o f Bambarra, which M . D e
Candolle suspects to b e o f the family o f sapotas, as well as
o u r milk-tree. T h e plantain, the sago-tree, and the mauritia
o f the O r i n o c o , are as much bread-trees as the rema o f the
South Sea. T h e fruits o f the crescentia and the lecythis
serve as vessels for containing food, while the spathes of the
palms, and the bark o f trees, furnish caps and garments
without a scam. T h e k n o t s , or rather the interior cells o f
Bouillon-Lagrange, and Vauquelin (Annales de Chimie, vol. xlvi, vol. li,
vol. lxxix, vol. lxxx, vol. lxxxv, have pointed out a great quantity of al-
bumen in the substance of the Agaricus deliciosus, an edible mushroom.

It is this albumen contained in their juice which renders them so hard when
boiled. It has been proved that morels (Morchella esculenta) can be con-

verted into sebaceous and adipocerous matter, capable of being used in the
fabrication of soap. (De Candolle, sur les Propriétés médicinales des
Plantes.) Saccharine matter has also been found in mushrooms by Gun-
ther. It is in the family of the fungi, more especially in the clavariæ, phalli,
helvetiæ, the merulii, and the small gymnopæ which display themselves
in a few hours after a storm of rain, that organic nature produces with
most rapidity the greatest variety of chemical principles — sugar, albumen,
adipocire, acetate of potash, fat, ozmazome, the aromatic principles, &c.

It would be interesting to examine, besides the milk of the lactescent
fungi, those species which, when cut in pieces, change their colour on the
contact of atmospheric air.
Though we have referred the palo de vaca to the family of the sapotas,
we have nevertheless found in it a great resemblance to some plants of the
Urticeous kind, especially to the fig-tree, because of its terminal stipula;
in the shape of a horn ; and to the brosimum, on account of the struc-
ture of its fruit. M . Kunth would even have preferred this last classifi-
cation ; if the description of the fruit, made on the spot, and the nature
of the milk, which is acrid in the urticeæ, and sweet in the sapotas, did
not seem to confirm our conjecture. Bredemeyer saw, like us, the fruit,
and not the flower of the cow-tree. He asserts that he observed [some,
times?] two seeds, lying one against the other, as in the alligator pear-
tree (Laurus persea). Perhaps this botanist had the intention of ex-
pressing tho same conformation of the nucleus that Swartz indicates in the
description of the brosimum : — "nucleus bilobus aut bipartibilis." W e
have mentioned the places where this remarkable tree grows : it will be

easy for botanical travellers to procure the flower of the palo de vaca,
and to remove the doubts which still remain, of the family to which it

t h e t r u n k s of b a m b o o s , s u p p l y ladders, and facilitate in a
t h o u s a n d w a y s t h e c o n s t r u c t i o n of a h u t , and t h e fabrication
o f chairs, b e d s , and o t h e r articles o f furniture t h a t c o m p o s e
t h e wealth of a savage h o u s e h o l d . I n t h e m i d s t of t h i s
lavish v e g e t a t i o n , so varied in its productions, it requires

v e r y powerful m o t i v e s t o excite m a n to labour, t o r o u s e him
from his lethargy, and to unfold his intellectual faculties.
C a c a o and cotton a r e cultivated at Barbula. W e t h e r e
f o u n d , w h a t is very rare in t h a t c o u n t r y , t w o large c y l i n -
drical m a c h i n e s for separating the c o t t o n from its s e e d ;
o n e p u t in m o t i o n by an hydraulic w h e e l , a n d t h e o t h e r b y
a wheel t u r n e d b y m u l e s . T h e overseer o f t h e farm, w h o

had c o n s t r u c t e d these machines, was a native of M e r i d a .
H e w a s acquainted with the road that leads from N u e v a
V a l e n c i a , by the way of Guanare and M i s a g u a l , t o V a r i n a s ;
a n d t h e n c e by the ravine of Collojones, t o t h e P a r a m o do
M u c u c h i e s and the m o u n t a i n s of Merida covered with eternal
s n o w s . T h e n o t i o n s he gave u s of t h e t i m e requisite for
g o i n g f r o m Valencia by Varinas to t h e Sierra N e v a d a , a n d

t h e n c e by t h e port of T o r u n o s , and t h e B i o S a n t o D o m i n g o ,
t o San Fernando de A pure, were of infinite value t o u s . I t
can scarcely be imagined in E u r o p e , how difficult it is t o
obtain accurate information in a c o u n t r y w h e r e t h e c o m m u -
nications are so r a r e ; and where distances are d i m i n i s h e d o r

e x a g g e r a t e d according to the desire that m a y be felt to e n c o u -
r a g e t h e traveller, or to d e t e r him from his purpose. I had
resolved t o visit t h e eastern e x t r e m i t y o f t h e Cordilleras o f

X e w G r e n a d a , where they lose themselves in the paramos
o f T i m o t e s and N i q u i t a o . I learned at Barbula, that this
excursion would retard o u r arrival at t h e O r i n o c o thirty-five
d a y s . T h i s delay appeared to us so m u c h t h e l o n g e r , as t h o
rains w e r e e x p e c t e d t o b e g i n s o o n e r than u s u a l . W e had
t h e h o p e o f e x a m i n i n g afterwards a great n u m b e r of m o u n -
tains covered with perpetual s n o w , at Q u i t o , P e r u , a n d
M e x i c o ; and it appeared to m e still more p r u d e n t t o relin-
quish o u r project of visiting the m o u n t a i n s of M e r i d a , since
b y so doing w e m i g h t miss the real object of o u r j o u r n e y ,
that of ascertaining by astronomical observations t h e p o i n t
o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n b e t w e e n the O r i n o c o , t h e Rio N e g r o ,

und the river A m a z o n . W e returned in c o n s e q u e n c e from
B a r b u l a to G u a c a r a , to take leave of t h e family o f the

Marquis del T o r o , and pass three days more on the borders
of the lake.
I t was the carnival season, and all was gaiety. T h e
sports in which the people indulge, and which are called
carnes tollendas,* assume occasionally somewhat o f a savage
character. Some led an ass loaded with water, and, where-
ever they found a window open, inundated the apartment
within by means o f a p u m p . Others carried bags filled with
hairs o f picapica ; † and blew the hair, which causes a great
irritation o f the skin, into the faces of those who passed by.
From Guacara we returned t o N u e v a Valencia. W e
found there a few French emigrants, the o n l y ones we saw
during five years passed in the Spanish colonies. N o t w i t h -
standing the ties o f blood which unite the royal families of
France and Spain, even French priests were not permitted
to take refuge in that part o f the N e w W o r l d , where man
with such facility finds food and shelter. B e y o n d the A t -
lantic, the United States of A m e r i c a afford the only asylum
to misfortune. A government, strong because it is free, c o n -
fiding because it is just, has nothing t o fear in giving refuge
to the proscribed.
W e have endeavoured above to give some notions o f the
state of the cultivation of indigo, cotton, and sugar, in the
province of Caracas. Before we quit the valley o f Aragua
and its neighbouring coast, it remains for us to speak o f the
cacao-plantations, which have at all times been considered as
the principal source o f the prosperity o f those countries.
The province of Caracas, ‡ at the end o f the eighteenth
century, produced annually a hundred and fifty thousand
fanegas, of which a hundred thousand were consumed in
Spain, and thirty thousand in the province. Estimating a
fanega o f cacao at only twenty-five piastres for the price
given at Cadiz, we find that the total value o f the exporta-
tion of cacao, by the six ports of the Capitania General of
* Or "farewell to flesh." The word carnival has the same meaning,
these sports being always held just before the commencement of Lent.
Dolichos pruriens (cowage).
† The province, not the capitania-general, consequently not including
the cacao plantations of Cumana, the province of Barcelona, of Maracaybo,
of Varinas, and of Spanish Guiana.

Caracas, amounts to four million eight hundred thousand
piastres. So important an object of commerce merits a
careful discussion ; and I flatter myself, that, from the great
n u m b e r o f materials 1 have collected on all the branches o f
colonial agriculture, I shall be able to add something to the
information published by M . D e p o n s , in his valuable work
o n the provinces o f Venezuela.
T h e tree which produces the cacao is not at present found
wild in the forests o f Terra Firma to the north of the
O r i n o c o ; we began to find it only beyond the cataracts o f
A t u r o and M a y p u r e . I t abounds particularly near the
banks o f the Ventuari, and on the U p p e r Orinoco, between
the Fadamo and the Gehette. This scarcity of wild cacao-
trees in South America, north o f the latitude o f 6°, is a very
curious phenomenon o f botanical geography, and yet little
known. This phenomenon appears the more surprising, as,
according to the annual produce of the harvest, the number
o f trees in full bearing in the cacao-plantations o f Caracas,
Nueva Barcelona, Venezuela, Varinas, and Maracaybo, is
estimated at more than sixteen millions. Tho wild cacao-
tree has many branches, and is covered with a tufted and
dark foliage. It bears a very small fruit, like that variety
which the ancient Mexicans called tlalcacahuatl. Trans-
planted into the conucos of the Indians o f Cassiquiare and
the Rio N e g r o , the wild tree preserves for several genera-
tions that force of vegetable life, which makes it bear fruit
in the fourth y e a r ; while, in the province of Caracas, tho
harvest begins only the sixth, seventh, or eighth year. I t
is later in the inland parts than on the coasts and in tho
valley o f G u a p o . W e met with no tribe on the Orinoco
that prepared a beverage with the seeds of the cacao-tree.
The savages suck the pulp o f the pod, and throw away the
seeds, which are often found in heaps where they have
passed the night. Though chorote, which is a very weak
infusion of cacao, is considered o n the coast t o be a very
ancient beverage, n o historical fact proves that chocolate,
or any preparation whatever of cacao, was known to tho
natives of Venezuela before the arrival of the Spaniards.
I t appears to me more probable that the cacao-plantations of
Caracas were suggested by those of Mexico and Guatimala;
and that the Spaniards inhabiting Terra Firma learned the

cultivation o f the cacao-tree, sheltered in its youth b y the
foliage of the erythrina and plantain ;* the fabrication o f
cakes of chocolatl, and the use o f the liquid of the same
name, in course of their communications with M e x i c o , Grua-
timala, and Nicaragua.
D o w n to the sixteenth century travellers differed i n '
opinion respecting the chocolatl. Benzoni plainly says that
it is a drink fitter for hogs than m e n . " † T h e Jesuit
A c o s t a asserts, that " the Spaniards w h o inhabit A m e r i c a
are fond o f chocolate t o e x c e s s ; but that it requires to be
accustomed t o that black beverage n o t t o be disgusted at
the mere sight of its froth, which swims on it like yeast
o n a fermented liquor." He adds, " the cacao is a prejudice
(una supersticion) o f the Mexicans, as the coca is a pre-
judice of the Peruvians." These opinions remind us of
Madame de Sevigné's prediction respecting the use of coffee.
T e m a n d o Cortez and his page, the gentilhombre del gran
Conquistador, whose memoirs were published b y Bamusio,
on the contrary, highly praise chocolate, n o t only as an
agreeable drink, though prepared cold,‡ but in particular
as a nutritious substance. " H e w h o has drunk one c u p , "
says the page of Fernando Cortez, " can travel a whole day
without any other food, especially in very hot climates; for
chocolate is b y its nature cold and refreshing." W e shall
not subscribe to the latter part o f this assertion; but we
shall soon have occasion, in our voyage on the Orinoco, and
our excursions towards the summit o f the Cordilleras, t o
celebrate the salutary properties o f chocolate. I t is easily
conveyed and readily e m p l o y e d : as an aliment it contains a
large quantity o f nutritive and stimulating particles in a
small compass. I t has been said with truth, that in the
East, rice, g u m , and ghee (clarified b u t t e r ) , assist man in
crossing the deserts; and so, in the N e w World, c h o -
* This process of the Mexican cultivators, practised on the coast of
Caracas, is described in the memoirs known under the title of " Rela-
zione di certo Gentiluomo del Signor Cortez, Conquistadore del Messico."

(Ramusio, tom. ii, p. 134).
† Benzoni, Istoria del Mondo Nuovo, 1572, p. 104.
Father Gili has very clearly shown, from two passages in Torque-
mada (Monarquia Indiana, lib. xiv.) that the Mexicans prepared the
infusion cold, and that the Spaniards introduced the custom of preparing

chocolate by boiling water with the paste of cacao.

colate and the flour o f maize, have rendered accessible to
the traveller the table-lands o f the A n d e s , and vast unin-
habited forests.
T h e cacao harvest is extremely variable. T h e tree vege-
tates with such vigour that flowers spring out even from the
roots, wherever the earth leaves them uncovered. I t suffers
from the north-east winds, even when they lower the t e m -
perature only a few degrees. The heavy showers that fall
irregularly after the rainy season, during the winter months,
from D e c e m b e r to M a r c h , are also very hurtful to the
cacao-tree. The proprietor o f a plantation o f fifty thousand
trees often loses the value of more than four or five thou-
sand piastres in cacao in one hour. Great humidity is
favourable to the tree only when it augments progressively,
and is for a long time uninterrupted. If, in the season o f
drought, the leaves and the young fruit be wetted by a
violent shower, the fruit falls from the s t e m ; for it appears
that the vessels which absorb water break from being ren-
dered turgid. Besides, the cacao-harvest is one of the most
uncertain, on account of the fatal effects of inclement sea-
sons, and the great number of worms, insects, birds, and
quadrupeds,* which devour the pod of the cacao-tree; and
this branch o f agriculture has the disadvantage of obliging
the new planter to wait eight or ten years for the fruit of
his labours, and o f yielding after all an article of very
difficult preservation.
T h e finest plantations o f cacao are found in the province
o f Caracas, along the coast, between Caravalleda and the
mouth o f the Rio T o c u v o , in the valleys of Caucagua,
Capaya, Curiepe, and G u a p o ; and in those of Cupira,
between cape Conare and cape Unare, near A r o a , Bar-
quesimeto, G u i g u e , and Uritucu. T h e cacao that grows
o n the banks of the Uritucu, at the entrance of the llanos, in
the jurisdiction of San Sebastian de las Reyes, is considered
t o be o f the finest quality. N e x t to the cacao o f Uritucu
comes that o f G u i g u e , o f Caucagua, of Capaya, and o f
Cupira. The merchants of Cadiz assign the first rank t o
the cacao o f Caracas, immediately after that of S o c o m u s c o ;
and its price is generally from thirty to forty per cent,
higher than that of Guayaquil.
* Parrots, monkeys, agoutis, squirrels, and stags.

I t is only since the middle of the seventeenth century,
when the D u t c h , tranquil possessors of the island of Curaçoa,
awakened, b y their smuggling, the agricultural industry o f
the inhabitants o f the neighbouring coasts, that cacao
has become an object o f exportation in the province o f
Caracas. W e are ignorant of everything that passed in
those countries before the establishment o f the Biscay
Company of Guipuzcoa, in 1728. N o precise statistical
data have reached u s : we only know that the exportation
of cacao from Caracas scarcely amounted, at the beginning
o f the eighteenth century, to thirty thousand fanegas a-year.
From 1730 to 1748, the company sent to Spain eight hun-
dred and fifty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventy-
eight fanegas, which make, o n an average, forty-seven t h o u -
sand seven hundred fanegas a-year; the price o f the fanega
fell, in 1732, to forty-five piastres, when it had before kept
at eighty piastres. I n 17G3 the cultivation had so much
augmented, that the exportation rose to eighty thousand
six hundred and fifty-nine fanegas.
I n an official document, taken from the papers o f the
minister of finance, the annual produce (la cosecha) o f the
province o f Caracas is estimated at a hundred and thirty-
five thousand fanegas of c a c a o ; thirty-three thousand o f
which are for home consumption, ten thousand for other
Spanish colonics, seventy-seven thousand for the mother-
country, fifteen thousand for the illicit commerce with the
French, English, D u t c h , and Danish colonies. F r o m 1789
to 1793, the importation o f cacao from Caracas into Spain
was, on an average, seventy-seven thousand seven hundred
and nineteen fanegas a-year, of which sixty-five thousand
seven hundred and sixty-six were consumed in the country,
and eleven thousand nine hundred and fifty-three exported
to France, Italy, and Germany.
The late wars have had much more fatal effects on the
cacao trade o f Caracas than o n that o f Guayaquil. O n
account o f the increase of price, less cacao of the first quality
has been consumed in Europe. Instead o f mixing, as was
done formerly for c o m m o n chocolate, one quarter of the
cacao o f Caracas, with three-quarters of that of Guayaquil,
the latter has been employed pure in Spain. W e must here

remark, that a great deal o f cacao o f an inferior quality,
such as that o f Maranon, t h e Rio N e g r o , Honduras, and
the island o f St. Lucia, bears t h e name, i n commerce, o f
Guayaquil cacao. T h e exportation from that port amounts
only t o sixty thousand fanegas; consequently it is t w o -
thirds less than that o f the ports o f t h e Capitania-General
o f Caracas.
Though the plantations o f cacao have augmented in the
provinces o f Cumana, Barcelona, a n d Maracaybo, i n p r o -
portion as they have diminished in the province o f Caracas,
it is still believed that, in general, this ancient branch o f
agricultural industry gradually declines. I n many parts
coffee and cotton-trees progressively take place o f the cacao,
o f which the lingering harvests weary the patience o f t h e
cultivator. I t is also asserted, that t h e new plantations o f
c a c a o ar c less productiv e tha n t h e o l d ; th e trees d o n o t
acquire the same vigour, and yield later and less abundant
fruit. T h e soil is still said t o be-exhausted; but probably
it is rather the atmosphere that is changed b y the progress
o f clearing and cultivation. The air that reposes o n a virgin
soil covered with forests is loaded with humidity and those
gaseous mixtures that serve for the nutriment o f plants,
and arise from the decomposition o f organic substances.
W h e n a country has been long subjected t o cultivation, it
is n o t the proportions between the azote and oxygen that
vary. T h e constituent bases o f t h e atmosphere remain
unaltered; b u t it n o longer contains, in a state o f suspen-
sion, those binary and ternary mixtures o f carbon, hydrogen,
and nitrogen, which a virgin soil exhales, and which aro
regarded a s a source o f fecundity. The air, p u r e r and less
charged with miasmata and heterogeneous emanations, b e -
comes at the same time drier. The elasticity o f the vapours
undergoes a sensible diminution. O n land long cleared,
and consequently little favourable t o the cultivation o f t h e
cacao-tree (as, for instance, in tho W e s t India Islands), the
fruit is almost as small as that o f the wild cacao-tree. I t is
on the banks o f the U p p e r Orinoco, after having crossed the
Llanos, that w e find the true country o f t h e cacao-tree;
thick forests, in which, o n a virgin soil, and surrounded b y
an atmosphere continually humid, t h e trees furnish, from

A D U L T E R A T I O N O F C A C A O .
the fourth year, abundant crops. W h e r e v e r the soil is n o t
exhausted, the fruit has b e c o m e b y cultivation larger and
bitter, but also later.
O n seeing the produce o f cacao gradually diminish in
Terra Firma, it may be inquired, whether the consumption
will diminish in the same proportion in Spain, Italy, and
the rest o f E u r o p e ; or whether it b e n o t probable, that b y
the destruction o f the cacao plantations, the price will
augment sufficiently to rouse anew the industry o f the
cultivator. This latter opinion is generally admitted b y
those who deplore, at Caracas, the diminution o f so ancient
and profitable a branch o f commerce. I n proportion as
civilization extends towards the humid forests of the inte-
rior, the banks o f the Orinoco and the A m a z o n , o r towards
the valleys that furrow the eastern declivity o f the A n d e s ,
the n e w planters will find lands and an atmosphere equally
favourable to the culture o f the cacao-tree.
T h e Spaniards, in general, dislike a mixture o f vanilla
with the cacao, as irritating the nervous s y s t e m ; the fruit,
therefore, o f that orchideous plant is entirely neglected in
the province o f Caracas, though abundant crops o f it might
be gathered on the moist and feverish coast between P o r t o
Cabello and O c u m a r e ; especially at Turiamo, where t h e
fruits o f the Epidendrum vanilla attain the length o f eleven
or twelve inches. T h e English and the A n g l o - A m e r i c a n s
often seek t o make purchases o f vanilla at the port o f L a
Guayra, but the merchants procure with difficulty a very
small quantity. I n the valleys that descend from the chain
o f the coast towards the Caribbean Sea, in the province o f
Truxillo, as well as in the Missions o f Guiana, near the
cataracts o f the Orinoco, a great quantity o f vanilla might
be collected; the produce o f which would b e still more
abundant, if, according t o the practice o f the Mexicans the
plant were disengaged, from time t o time, from the creeping
plants b y which it is entwined and stifled.
The h o t and fertile valleys o f the Cordillera o f the coast
o f Venezuela occupy a tract o f land which, o n the west
towards the lake o f Maracaybo, displays a remarkable
variety o f scenery. I shall exhibit in o n e view, t o close
this chapter, the facts I have been able t o collect respecting

the quality o f the soil and the metallic riches of the districts
o f Aroa, of Barquesimeto, and o f Carora.
F r o m the Sierra Nevada o f Merida, and the paramos o f
Niquitao, B o c o n o , and Las Rosas,* which contain the valu-
able bark-tree, the eastern Cordillera o f N e w Granada †
decreases in height so rapidly, that, between the ninth and
tenth degrees o f latitude, it forms only a chain of little
mountains, which, stretching to the north-east by the Altar
and Torito, separates the rivers that j o i n the A pure and
the Orinoco from those numerous rivers that flow either
into the Caribbean Sea or the lake o f Maracaybo. O n this
dividing ridge are built the towns o f Nirgua, San Felipe
el Fuerte, Barquesimeto, and T o c u y o . T h e first three an
in a very hot c l i m a t e ; but T o c u y o enjoys great coolness,
and we heard with surprise, that, beneath so fine a sky, the
inhabitants have a strong propensity t o suicide. T h e
g r o u n d rises towards the s o u t h ; for Truxillo, the lake of
U r a o , from which carbonate o f soda is extracted, and L a
Grita, all to the east o f the Cordillera, though no farther
distant, are four or five hundred toises high.
O n examining the law which the primitive strata of the
Cordillera o f the coast follow in their dip, we believe we
recognize one o f the causes of the extreme humidity o f the
land bounded by this Cordillera and the ocean. The dip of
the strata is most frequently t o the n o r t h - w e s t ; so that the
waters flow in that direction on the ledges o f rock ; and
form, as we have stated above, that multitude of torrents
and rivers, the inundations o f which become so fatal to the
* M a n y t r a v e l l e r s , w h o w e r e m o n k s , h a v e a s s e r t e d that the l i t t l e
P a r a m o d e L a s R o s a s , t h e h e i g h t o f w h i c h a p p e a r s t o be m o r e t h a n
1,600 t o i s e s , i s c o v e r e d w i t h r o s e m a r y , a n d t h e r e d a n d w h i t e r o s e s of
E u r o p e g r o w w i l d t h e r e . T h e s e r o s e s a r e g a t h e r e d t o d e c o r a t e t h e a l t a r s
i n t h e n e i g h b o u r i n g v i l l a g e s o n t h e f e s t i v a l s o f t h e c h u r c h . By w h a t
a c c i d e n t h a s o u r R o s a c e n t i f o l i a b e c o m e w i l d i n t h i s c o u n t r y , w h i l e w e
n o w h e r e f o u n d i t i n t h e A n d e s o f Q u i t o a n d P e r u ? C a n i t r e a l l y b e t h e
r o s e - t r e e o f o u r garden ?
† T h e b a r k e x p o r t e d f r o m t h e p o r t o f M a r a c a y b o d o e s n o t c o m e from
t h e t e r r i t o r y o f V e n e z u e l a , b u t f r o m t h e m o u n t a i n s of P a m p l o n a i n N e w
G r e n a d a , b e i n g b r o u g h t d o w n t h e R i o d e S a n F a u s t i n o , t h a t f l o w s i n t o
t h e l a k e o f M a r a c a y b o . (Pombo, N o t i c i a s s o b r e l a s Q u i n a s . 1814,
p. 65.) S o m e i s c o l l e c t e d n e a r M e r i d a , i n t h e r a v i n e of V i s c u c u c u y .

health o f the inhabitants, from cape Codera as far as t h e
lake o f Maracaybo.
A m o n g the rivers which descend north-east toward t h e
coast o f Porto Cabello, and L a Punta d e l l i c a c o s , the most
remarkable are those o f T o c u y o , Aroa, and Yaracuy. W e r e
it not for the miasmata which infect the atmosphere, the val-
leys o f A r o a and o f Yaracuy would perhaps b e more popu-
lous than those o f Aragua. Navigable rivers would even
give the former the advantage o f facilitating the exportation
o f their own crops o f sugar and cacao, and that o f the pro-
ductions o f the neighbouring l a n d s ; as the wheat o f Quibor,
the cattle o f M o n a i , and the copper o f A r o a . T h e mines
from which this copper is extracted, are in a lateral valley,
opening into that o f A r o a ; and which is less hot, and less
un healthy, than th e ravines nearer the sea. I n th e latter
the Indians have their gold-washings, and the soil conceals
rich copper-ores, which n o one has y e t attempted t o extract.
T h e ancient mines o f A r o a , after having been long neglected,
have been wrought anew b y the care o f D o n A n t o n i o H e n -
riquez, whom w e met at San Fernando o n the borders o f the
A p u r e . T h e total produce o f metallic copper is twelve o r
fifteen hundred quintals a year. This copper, k n o w n at
Cadiz b y the name o f Caracas copper, is o f excellent quality.
I t is even preferred t o that o f Sweden, and o f Coquimbo in
Chile. Part o f the copper o f A r o a is employed for making
bells, which are cast o n the spot. Some ores o f silver have
been recently discovered between A r o a and Nirgua, near
Guanita, in the mountain o f San Pablo. Grains o f gold
are found in all the mountainous lands between the K i o
Yaracuy, the t o w n o f San Felipe, Nirgua, and Barque-
simeto; particularly in the Kio de Santa Cruz, in which the
Indian gold-gatherers have sometimes found lumps o f t h e
value o f four o r five piastres. D o the neighbouring rocks
o f mica-slate and gneiss contain veins ? o r is the gold dis-
seminated here, as in the granites o f Guadarama in Spain,
and o f the Fichtelberg in Franconia, throughout the whole
mass o f the rock? Possibly the waters, in filtering through
it, bring together t h e disseminated grains o f g o l d ; in
which case every attempt t o work the rock would b e useless.
I n the Savana de la M i e l , near the t o w n o f Barquesimeto, a
shaft has been sunk in a black shining slate resembling
V O L . I I . f

ampelite. T h e minerals extracted from this shaft, which
were sent t o m e at Caracas, were quartz, non-auriferous
pyrites, and carbonated lead, crystallized in needles o f a
silky lustre.
I n the early times o f the conquest the working o f the
mines o f Nirgua and o f B u r i a * was begun, notwithstanding
the incursions o f the warlike nation o f the Giraharas. I n
this very district the accumulation o f negro slaves in 1 5 5 3
gave riso to an event bearing some analogy t o the insur-
rection in St. D o m i n g o . A negro slave excited an insur-
rection among the miners o f the Real de San Felipe d e
Buria. H e retired into the woods, and founded, with t w o
hundred o f his companions, a town, where he was proclaimed
king. M i g u e l , this new king, was a friend t o p o m p and
parade. H e caused his wife Guiomar, to assume the the o f
q u e e n ; and, according t o Oviedo, he appointed ministers
and counsellors o f state, officers o f the royal household, and
even a negro bishop. He soon after ventured to attack tho
neighbouring t o w n o f Nueva Segovia de Barquesimeto; b u t ,
being repulsed by D i e g o de Losada, he perished in the conflict.
This African monarchy was succeeded at N i r g u a by a republic
of Zamboes, the descendants o f negroes and Indians. T h e
whole municipality (cabildo) is c o m p o s e d o f m e n o f colour
to whom tho king o f Spain has given tho title o f " h i s
faithful and loyal subjects, the Z a m b o e s o f N i r g u a . " T e w
families of Whites will inhabit a country where the system
o f government is so adverse t o their pretensions; and the
little town is called in derision La república de Zambos y

I f the h o t vallies o f A r o a , o f Y a r a c u y , and o f tho B i o
T o c u v o , celebrated for their excellent timber, b e rendered
feverish by luxuriance o f vegetation, and extreme atmo-
spheric humidity, it is different in the savannahs o f M o n a i
and Carora. These Llanos aro separated by the m o u n -
tainous tract o f T o c u y o and Nirgua from the great plains o f
L a Portuguesa and Calabozo. I t is very extraordinary t o
see barren savannahs loaded with miasmata. N o marshy
ground is found thero, b u t several phenomena indicate a
* The valley of Buria, and the little river of the same name, com-
municate with the valley of the Rio Coxede, or the Rio de Barque-

disengagement o f hydrogen.* W h e n travellers, w h o are n o t
acquainted with natural inflammable gases, are shown the
Cueva del Serrito de Monai, th e people o f the country love
to frighten them b y setting fire to the gaseous combination
which is constantly accumulated in the upper part o f t h e
cavern. M a y we attribute the insalubrity of the atmosphere
t o the same causes as those which operate in the plains b e -
tween Tivoli and Rome, viz., disengagements o f sulphuretted
hydrogen ? † Possibly, also, the mountainous lands, near
the llanos o f M o n a i , may have a baneful influence o n t h e
surrounding plains. T h e south-easterly winds may convey
to them the putrid exhalations that rise from the ravine
of Villegas, and from L a Sienega de Cabra, between Carora
and Carache. I am desirous o f collecting every circum-
stance having a relation t o the salubrity o f the a i r ; for, in a
matter so obscure, it is only b y the comparison o f a great n u m -
ber o f phenomena, that we can hope to discover the truth.
T h e barren y e t feverish savannahs, extending from Bar-
quesimeto to the eastern shore o f the lake o f Maracaybo, are
partly covered with cactus; b u t t h e g o o d silvester-cochineal,
known b y the vague name o f grana de Carora, comes from a
more temperate region, between Carora and Truxillo. and
* What is that luminous phenomenon known under the name of the
Lantern (farol) of Maracaybo, which is perceived every night toward the
seaside as well as in the inland parts, at Merida for example, where M .
Palacios observed it during two years ? The distance, greater than 40
leagues, at which the light is observed, has led to the supposition that it
might be owing to the effects of a thunderstorm, or of electrical explo-
sions which might daily take place in a pass in the mountains. It is
asserted that, on approaching the farol, the rolling of thunder is heard.
Others vaguely allege that it is an air-volcano, and that asphaltic soils,
like those of Mena, cause these inflammable exhalations which are so
constant in their appearance. The phenomenon is observed on a moun-
tainous and uninhabited spot, on the borders of the Rio Catatumbo, near
its junction with the Rio Sulia. The situation of the farol is such that,
being nearly in the meridian of the opening (boca) of the lake of Mara-
caybo, navigators are guided by it as by a lighthouse.

† Don Carlos del Pozo has discovered in this district, at the bottom of
the Quebrada de Moroturo, a stratum of clayey earth, black, strongly
soiling the fingers, emitting a powerful smell of sulphur, and inflaming
spontaneously when slightly moistened and exposed for a long time to
the rays of the tropical sun. The detonation of this muddy substance is
very violent.

F 2

particularly from the valley of the Rio M u c u j u , * to the east
o f Merida. The inhabitants altogether neglect this p r o d u c -
tion, so much sought for in commerce.
C H A P T E R X V I I .
Mountains which separate the Valleys of Aragua from the Llanos of
Caracas. — Villa de Cura. — Parapara. — Llanos or Steppes. — Calabozo.
T H E chain o f mountains, bordering the lake of Tacarigua
towards the south, forms in some sort the northern shore o f
the great basin of the Llanos or savannahs of Caracas. T o
descend from the valleys o f A r a g u a into these savannahs, it
is necessary to cross the mountains of G u i g u e and of T u c u -
tunemo. F r o m a peopled country embellished by culti-
vation, we plunge into a vast solitude. A c c u s t o m e d to the
aspect of rocks, and to the shade o f valleys, the traveller
beholds with astonishment these savannahs without trees,
these immense plains, which seem to ascend to the horizon.
Before I trace the scenery of the Llanos, or of the region
o f pasturage, I will briefly describe the road we took
from Nueva Valencia, by Villa de Cura and San Juan, to
the little village o f Ortiz, at the entrance of the steppes.
We left the valleys o f A r a g u a on the 6th of March before
sunrise. W e passed over a plain richly cultivated, keeping
along the south-west side of the lake of Valencia, and cross-
ing the ground left uncovered by the waters of the lake.
W e were never weary of admiring the fertility of the soil,
oovered with calabashes, water-melons, and plantains. The
rising of the sun was announced by the distant noise of tho
howling monkeys. Approaching a group of trees, which rise
in the; midst of the plain, between those parts which were
anciently the islets o f Don Pedro and L a Negra, we saw
numerous bands o f araguatos moving as in procession and
very slowly, from one tree to another. A male was followed
by a great number of females; several o f the hitter carrying
* This little river descends from the Paramo de los Conejos, and flows
into the Rio Albarregas.

E X A G G E R A T E D T A L E S .
their y o u n g o n their shoulders. T h e howling monkeys,
which live in society in different parts o f America, every-
where resemble each other in their manners, though the
species are n o t always the same. T h e uniformity with
which the araguatos* perform their movements is extremely
striking. Whenever the branches o f neighbouring trees d o
not touch each other, the male w h o leads the party sus-
pends himself b y the callous and prehensile part o f his
tail; and, letting fall the rest o f his body, swings himself
till in o n e o f his oscillations he reaches the neighbouring
branch. T h e whole file performs the same movements o n
the same spot. I t is almost superfluous to add h o w dubious
is the assertion o f Ulloa, and so many otherwise well-
informed travellers, according t o w h o m , the marimondos, †
the araguatos, and other monkeys with a prehensile tail,
form a sort o f chain, in order t o reach the opposite side
o f a river. ‡ W e had opportunities, during five years, o f
observing thousands o f these animals; and for this very
reason w e place n o confidence i n statements possibly
invented b y the Europeans themselves, though repeated b y
the Indians o f the Missions, as if they had been transmitted
t o them by their fathers. M a n , the most remote from civi-
lization, enjoys the astonishment he excites in recounting
the marvels o f his country. H e says he has seen what he
imagines may have been seen b y others. Every savage is a
hunter, and the stories o f hunters borrow from the imagi-
nation in proportion as the animals, o f which they boast the
artifices, are endowed with a high degree o f intelligence.
Hence arise t h e fictions o f which foxes, monkeys, crows,
and the condor o f the A n d e s , have been the subjects in both
T h e araguatos are accused o f sometimes abandoning their
y o u n g , that they may be lighter for flight when pursued b y
the Indian hunters. I t is said that mothers have been seen
removing their y o u n g from their shoulders, and throwing
them down t o the foot o f the tree. I am inclined t o believe
that a movement merely accidental has been mistaken for
• Simia ursina. Simia belzebuth.
Ulloa has not hesitated to represent in an engraving this extraordi-
nary feat of the monkeys with a prehensile tail.—See Viage a la America
Meridional (Madrid, 1748).

one premeditated. T h e Indiana have a dislike and a pre-
dilection for certain races o f m o n k e y s ; they love the viu-
ditas, the titis, and generally all the little sagoins; while
the araguatos, o n account of their mournful aspect, and
their uniform howling, are at once detested and abused.
I n reflecting on the causes that may facilitate the pro-
pagation of sound in the air during the night, I thought
it important to determine with precision the distance at
which, especially in damp and stormy weather, the howling
o f a band of araguatos is heard. I believe I obtained proof
of its being distinguished at eight hundred toises distance.
The monkeys which are furnished with four hands cannot
make excursions in the Llanos; and it is easy, amidst vast
plains covered with grass, to recognize a solitary group of
trees, whence the noise proceeds, and which is inhabited b y
howling monkeys. N o w , by approaching or withdrawing
from this group of trees, the maximum of the distance may
be measured, at which the howling is heard. These dis-
tances appeared to me sometimes one-third greater during
the night, especially when the weather was cloudy, very hot,
and humid.
The Indians pretend that when the araguatos fill the
forests with their howling, there is always one that chaunts
as leader o f the chorus. T h e observation is pretty accurate.
D u r i n g a long interval one solitary and strong voice is gene-
rally distinguished, till its place is taken by another voice o f
a different pitch. W o may observe from time t o time tho
same instinct o f imitation among frogs, and almost all
animals which live together and exert their voices in union.
The Missionaries further assert, that, when a female among
the araguatos is on the point o f bringing forth, the choir
suspends its howlings till the moment o f the birth o f tho
y o u n g . I could not myself j u d g e of the accuracy o f this
assertion ; but I do not believe it to be entirely unfounded.
I have observed that, when an extraordinary incident, the
moans for instance o f a wounded araguato, fixed the atten-
tion of the hand, the howlings were for some minutes
suspended. Our guides assured us gravely, that, " t o cure
an asthma, it is sufficient to drink out o f the bony drum o f
the hyoïdal bone o f the araguato." This animal having so
extraordinary a volume of voice, it is supposed that its

larynx must necessarily impart t o the water poured into it
the virtue o f curing affections o f the lungs. Such is the
science o f the vulgar, which sometimes resembles that o f the
W e passed the night at the village o f Guigue, the latitude
of which I found b y observations o f Canopus to b e 10° 4'
11". T h e village, surrounded with the richest cultivation,
is only a thousand toises distant from the lake o f Tacarigua.
W e lodged with an old sergeant, a native o f Murcia, a man
o f a very original character. T o prove t o us that he had
studied among the Jesuits, ho recited the history o f the
creation o f the world in Latin. H e knew the names o f
A u g u s t u s , Tiberius, and D i o c l e t i a n ; and while enjoying the
agreeable coolness o f the nights in an enclosure planted with
bananas, he employed himself in reading all that related t o
the courts o f the Roman emperors. H e inquired o f us with
earnestness for a remedy for the gout, from which he suffered
severely. " I k n o w , " said he, " a Z a m b o o f Valencia, a
famous curioso, w h o could cure m e ; b u t the Z a m b o would
expect t o be treated with attentions which I cannot pay t o
a man o f his colour, and I prefer remaining as I a m . "
O n leaving G u i g u e w e began t o ascend the chain o f
mountains, extending o n the south o f the lake towards
G u a c i m o and L a Talma. P r o m the t o p o f a table-land, at
three hundred and twenty toises o f elevation, w o saw for the
last time the valleys o f Aragua. T h e gneiss appeared u n c o -
vered, presenting the same direction o f strata, and the same
dip towards the north-west. Veins o f quartz, that traverse
the gneiss, are auriferous; and hence the neighbouring
ravine bears the name o f Quebrada del O r o . W e heard with
surprise at every step the name o f " r a v i n e o f g o l d , " in a
country where only one single mine o f copper is wrought.
W e travelled five leagues t o the village o f Maria Magdalena
and t w o leagues more to the Villa de Cura. I t was Sunday
and at the village o f Maria Magdalena the inhabitants were
assembled before the church. They wanted to force our
muleteers to stop and hear mass. W e resolved t o remain ;
but, after a long altercation, the muleteers pursued their
way. I may observe, that this is the only dispute i n which
w e became engaged from such a cause. Very erroneous ideas

are formed in Europe of the intolerance, and even of the
religious fervour of the Spanish colonists.
San Luis de Cura, or, as it is c o m m o n l y called, the Villa
de Cura, lies in a very barren valley, running north-west and
south-east, and elevated, according to my barometrical obser-
vations, two hundred and sixty-six toises above the level o f
the ocean. The country, with the exception o f some fruit-
trees, i s almost destitute o f vegetation. The dryness o f the
plateau is the greater, because (and this circumstance is
rather extraordinary in a country of primitive rocks) several
rivers lose themselves in crevices in the ground. The Rio
de Las Minas, north o f t h e Villa de Cura, is lost in a rock,
again appears, and t h e n is ingulphed anew without reaching
the lake o f Valencia, towards which it flows. Cura resembles
a village more than a town. W e lodged with a family
who had excited the resentment of government during the
revolution at Caracas in 1797. O n e o f the sons, after
having languished in a dungeon, had been sent to the
Havannah, to be imprisoned in a strong fortress. W i t h
what j o y his mother heard that after our return from the
Orinoco, we should visit the Havannah ! She entrusted m e
with live piastres, " t h e whole fruit o f her savings." I
earnestly wished to return them t o h e r ; b u t I feared to
w o u n d her d e l i c a c y , and give pain to a mother, who felt a
pleasure in the privations she imposed on herself. All the
society of the t o w n w a s assembled in the evening, to admire
in a magic lantern views of the great capitals of Europe.
W e w e r e shown t h e p a l a c e of the Tuileries, and the statue
of the Elector at Berlin.
A n apothecary who had been ruined by an unhappy p r o -
pensity f o r working mines, accompanied us in our excursion
t o the Serro de Chacao, very rich in auriferous pyrites. "We
continued to descend the southern declivity of the Cordil-
lera of the coast, in which the plains of Aragtia form a
longitudinal valley. W e passed a part of the night of the
11th of March at the village of San Juan, remarkable for
its thermal waters, and t h e singular form of two neighbour-
ing mountains, called the Morros o f San Juan. They form
slender peaks, which rise from a wall o f rocks with a very
extensive base. T h e wall is perpendicular, and resembles

the Devil's Wall, which surrounds a part of the group o f
mountains in the H a r t z . * These peaks, when seen from afar
in the Llanos, strike the imagination of the inhabitants o f
the plain, who are not accustomed to the least unequal
ground, and the height o f the peaks is singularly exag-
gerated b y them. T h e y were described t o us as being in
the middle o f the steppes (which they in reality b o u n d o n
the north) far beyond a range o f hills called L a Galera.
J u d g i n g from angles taken at the distance of two miles, these
hills are scarcely more than a hundred and fifty-six toises
higher than the village of San Juan, and three hundred and
fifty toises above the level o f the Llanos, T h e thermal
waters glide out at the foot of these hills, which are formed
o f transition-limestone. The waters are impregnated with
sulphuretted hydrogen, like those of Mariara, and form a
little pool or lagoon, in which the thermometer rose only t o
31 3°. I found, on the night of the 9th of March, by very
satisfactory observations o f the stars, the latitude o f Villa
de Cura to be 10° 2' 47".
T h e Villa de Cura is celebrated in the country for the
miracles of an image of the Virgin, k n o w n b y the name o f
Nuestra Señora de los Valencianos. This image was found
in a ravine by an Indian, about the middle of the eighteenth
Century, when it became the object of a contest between
the towns of Cura and San Sebastian de los B e y e s . T h e
vicars of the latter t o w n asserting that the Virgin had made
her first appearance on the territory o f their parish, the
Bishop of Caracas, in order to put an end to the scandal o f
this long dispute, caused the image to b e placed in the
archives of his bishopric, and kept it thirty years under
seal. I t was not restored to the inhabitants of Cura till
After having bathed in the cool and limpid water of the
little river of San Juan, the b o t t o m of which is of basaltic
grünstein, we continued our journey at t w o in the morning,
b y Ortiz and Parapara, to the M e s a de Paja. T h e road t o
the Llanos being at that time infested with robbers, several
travellers joined us so as to form a sort of caravan. W e
proceeded down hill during six or seven h o u r s ; and w e
skirted the Cerro de Flores, near which the road turns off,
* " Die Teufels M a u e r , " near Wernigerode in Germany.

A N C I E N T S E A - S H O R E .
leading t o the great village o f San Jose de Tisnao. W e
passed the farms o f L u q u e and Juncalito, t o enter the
valleys which, o n account o f the bad road, and t h e blue
colour o f the slates, bear the names o f Malpaso and Pie-
dras Azules.

This ground is t h e ancient shore o f the great basin o f
the steppes, and it furnishes an interesting subject o f r e -
search t o the geologist. W o there find trap-formations, pro-
bably more recent than the veins o f diabasis near the town
o f Caracas, which seem t o belong t o the rocks o f igneous
formation. They are n o t l o n g and narrow streams as i n
A u v e r g n e , b u t large sheets, streams that appear like real
strata. T h e lithoid masses hero cover, if w e may use the
expression, the shore o f the ancient interior s e a ; everything
subject t o destruction, such as the liquid dejections, and the
scoriæ filled with hubbies, has been carried away. These
phenomena are particularly worthy o f attention o n account
o f the close affinities observed between the phonolites and
the amygdaloids, which, containing pyroxenes and horn-
blende-grunsteins, form strata in a transition-slate. T h e
better t o convey an idea o f the whole situation and super-
position o f these rocks, w o will name the formations as they
occur in a profile drawn from north t o south.
W o find at first, in the Sierra de Mariara, which belongs
t o t h e northern branch o f the Cordillera o f t h e coast, a
coarse-grained granite; then, in the valleys o f Aragua, o n
the borders o f the lake, and in the islands, it contains, as
in t h e southern branch o f the chain o f the coast, gneiss
and mica-slate. These last-named rocks arc auriferous in
the Quebrada del O r o , near G u i g u e ; and between Villa
de Cura and the Morros de San Juan, in the mountain o f
Chacao. T h e gold is contained in pyrites, which are found
sometimes disseminated almost imperceptibly in the whole
mass o f the gneiss,* and sometimes united in small veins
o f quartz. M o s t o f the torrents that traverse the m o u n -
tains bear along with them grains o f gold. The poor i n -
habitants o f Villa de Cura and San Juan have sometimes
gained thirty piastres a-day b y washing the s a n d ; but most
* The four metals, which arc found disseminated in the granite rocks,
as if they were of contemporaneous formation, are gold, tin, titanium,
and cobalt.

7 5
commonly, in spite o f their industry, they do n o t in a week
find particles of gold o f the value of t w o piastres. H e r e ,
however, as in every place where native gold and auriferous
pyrites are disseminated in the rock, or by the destruction
of the rocks, are deposited in alluvial lands, the people c o n -
ceive the most exaggerated ideas of the metallic riches o f
the soil. B u t the success of the workings, which depends
less o n the abundance o f the ore in a vast space of land
than on its accumulation in one point, has not justified
these favourable prepossessions. T h e mountain of Chacao,
bordered by the ravine of T u c u t u n e m o , rises seven hundred
feet above the village of San Juan. I t is formed of gneiss,
which, especially in the superior strata, passes into mica-
slate. We saw the remains of an ancient mine, known b y
the name o f Real de Santa Barbara. T h e works were
directed to a stratum of cellular quartz,* full of polyhedric
cavities, mixed with iron-ore, containing auriferous pyrites
and small grains o f gold, sometimes, it is said, visible t o
the naked eye. i t appears that the gneiss o f the Cerro de
Chacao also furnishes another metallic deposit, a mixture o f
copper and silver-ores. This deposit has been the object o f
works attempted with great ignorance b y some M e x i c a n
miners under the superintendance o f M . Avalo. T h e gal-
lery† directed t o the north-east, is only twenty-five toises
long. W e there found some fine specimens of blue carbo-
nated copper mingled with sulphate of barytes and quartz ;
but we could not ourselves j u d g e whether the ore contained
any argentiferous fahlerz, and whether it occurred in a
stratum, or, as the apothecary who was our guide asserted,
in real veins. This much is certain, that the attempt at
working the mine cost more than twelve thousand piastres
in t w o years. I t would no doubt have been more prudent
to have resumed the works on the auriferous stratum o f the
Real de Santa Barbara.
* This stratum of quartz, and the gneiss in which it is contained, lie
hor. 8 of the Freyberg compass, and dip 70° to the south-west. At a
hundred toises distance from the auriferous quartz, the gneiss resumes its
ordinary situation, hor. 3-4, with 60° dip to the north-west. A few
strata of gneiss abound in silvery mica, and contain, instead of garnets,
an immense quantity of small octohedrons of pyrites. This silvery gneiss
resembles that of the famous mine of Himmelsfürst, in Saxony.
† La Cueva de los Mexicanos.

S T R A T A O F G N E I S S .
T h e zone of gneiss just mentioned is, in the coast-chain
from the sea to the Villa de Cura, ten leagues broad. I n
this great extent o f land, gneiss and mica-slate are found
exclusively, and they constitute one formation.* Beyond
the town o f Villa de Cura and the Cerro de Chacao the
aspect o f the country presents greater geognostic variety.
There are still eight leagues of declivity from the table-land
of Cura to the entry of the L l a n o s ; and on the southern
slope of the mountains of the coast, four different forma-
tions o f rock cover the gneiss. W e shall first give the
description of the different strata, without grouping them
O n the south o f the Cerro de Chacao, between the ravine
of Tucutunem o and Piedras Negras, the gneiss is concealed
beneath a formation of serpentine, o f which the composition
varies in the different superimposed strata. Sometimes it
is very pure, very homogeneous, of a dusky olive-green, and
of a conchoidal fracture: sometimes it is veined, mixed with
bluish steatite, of an unequal fracture, and containing
spangles of mica. In both these states I could not discover
in it either garnets, hornblende, or diallage. Advancing
farther to the south (and we always passed over this ground
in that direction) the green of the serpentine grows deeper,
and feldspar and hornblende are recognised in i t : it is
difficult to determine whether it passes into diabasis or
alternates with it. There is, however, no doubt o f its c o n -
* This formation, which we shall call gneiss-mica-slate, is pecu-
liar to the chain of the coast of Caracas. Five formations must be dis-
tinguished, as M M . von Buch and Raumer have so ably demonstrated
in their excellent papers on Landeck and the Riesengebirge, namely,
granite, granite-gneiss, gneiss, gneiss mica-slate, and mica-slate. Geo-

logists whose researches have been confined to a small tract of land,
having confounded these formations which nature has separated in several
countries in the most distinct manner, have admitted that the gneiss and
mica-slate alternate everywhere in superimposed beds, or furnish in-
sensible transitions from one rock to the other. These transitions and
alternating superpositions take place no doubt in formations of granite-
gneiss mid gneiss-mica-slate ; but because these phenomena are observed
in one region, it does not follow that in other regions we may not find
very distinct circumscribed formations of granite, gneiss, and mica-slate.
The same considerations may be applied to the formations of serpentine,
which are sometimes isolated, and sometimes belong to the eurite, mica-
slate, and grünstein.

T H E M O R R O S O F S A N J U A N . 77
taining veins o f copper-ore.* A t the foot of this mountain
t w o fine springs gush out from the serpentine. Near the
village of San Juan, the granular diabasis appears alone
uncovered, and takes a greenish black hue. The feldspar
intimately mixed with the mass, may be separated into
distinct crystals. T h e mica is very rare, and there is no
quartz. The mass assumes at the surface a yellowish crust
like dolerite and basalt.
I n the midst of this tract of trap-formation, the M o r r o s
o f San Juan rise like two castles in ruins. They appear
linked to the mornes of St Sebastian, and to L a Galera
which bounds the Llanos like a rocky wall. The M o r r o s of
San Juan are formed o f limestone of a crystalline t e x t u r e ;
sometimes very compact, sometimes spongy, of a greenish-
grey, shining, composed o f small grains, and mixed with
scattered spangles of mica. This limestone yields a strong
effervescence with acids. I could not find in it any vestige
o f organized bodies. I t contains in subordinate strata,
masses of hardened clay of a blackish blue, and carburetted.
These masses are fissile, very heavy, and loaded with
iron ; their streak is whitish, and they produce no efferves-
cence with acids. They assume at their surface, by their
decomposition in the air, a yellow colour. W e seem to
recognize in these argillaceous strata a tendency either
to the transition-slates, or to the kieselschiefer (schistose
jasper), which everywhere characterise the black transition-
limestones. W h e n in fragments, they might be taken at
first sight for basalt or hornblende.† A n o t h e r white lime-
stone, compact, and containing some fragments o f shells,
backs the M o r r o s de San Juan. I could not see the line of
junction o f these t w o limestones, or that of the calcareous
formation and the diabasis.
* One of these veins, on which, two shafts have been sunk, was
directed hor. 2 1, and dipped 80° east. The strata of the serpentine,
where it is stratified with some regularity, run hor. 8, and dip almost
perpendicularly. I found malachite disseminated in this serpentine,

where it passes into grünstein.
† I had an opportunity of examining again, with the greatest care, the
rocks of San Juan, of Chacao, of Parapara, and of Calabozo, during my
stay at Mexico, where, conjointly with M. del Rio, one of the most dis-
tinguished pupils of the school of Freyberg, I formed a geognostical col-
lection for the Colegio de Mineria of New Spain.

The transverse valley which descends from Piedras Negras
and the village of San Juan, towards Parapara and the
Llanos, is filled with trap-rocks, displaying close affinity
with the formation of green slates, which they cover. Some-
times we seem to see serpentine, sometimes grünstein, and
sometimes dolerite and basalt. T h e arrangement o f these
problematical masses is not less extraordinary. Between
San Juan, Malpaso, and Piedras Azules, they form strata
parallel to each o t h e r ; and dipping regularly northward
at an angle o f 40° or 50°, they cover even the green slates
in concordant stratification. L o w e r down, towards Para-
para and Ortiz, where the amygdaloids and phonolites are
connected with the grünstein, everything assumes a basaltic
aspect. Palls o f grünstein heaped one upon another, form
those rounded c o n e s , which are found so frequently in the
Mittelgebirge in Bohemia, near Bilin, the country o f pho-
nolites. T h e following is the result o f m y partial obser-
T h e grünstein, which at first alternated with strata o f
serpentine, or was connected with that rock by insensible
transitions, is seen alone, sometimes in strata considerably
inclined, and sometimes in balls with concentric strata, im-
bedded in strata o f the same substance. I t lies, near M a l -
paso, o n green slates, steatitic, mingled with hornblende,
d e s t i t u t e o f m i c a a n d g r a i n s o f quartz, dipping , like the
grünsteins, 45° toward the north, and directed, like them,
75° north-west.
A great sterility prevails where these green slates predo-
minate, n o doubt o n account o f the magnesia they contain,
which (as is proved by the magnesian-limestone o f England*)
is very hurtful to vegetation. The dip of the green slates
continues the s a m e ; but by degrees the direction o f their
strata becomes parallel to the general direction o f the pri-
mitive rocks o f the chain o f the coast. A t Piedras Azules
these slates, mingled with hornblende, cover in concordant
stratification a blackish-blue slate, very fissile, and traversed
b y small veins o f quartz. T h e green slates include some
strata o f grünstein, and even contain balls o f that sub-
stance. I nowhere saw the green slates alternate with
• Magnesian limestone is of a straw-yellow colour, and contains
madrepores: it lies beneath red marl, or muriatiferous red sandstone.

t h e black slates o f the ravine o f Piedras A z u l e s : at the line
o f j u n c t i o n these t w o slates appear rather t o pass o n e i n t o
the other, the green slates b e c o m i n g o f a pearl­grey in p r o ­
p o r t i o n as they lose their h o r n b l e n d e .
Farther south, towards Parapara and Ortiz, the slates d i s ­
appear. T h e y are c o n c e a l e d u n d e r a trap­formation m o r e
varied in its aspect. T h e soil b e c o m e s m o r e f e r t i l e ; t h e
r o c k y masses alternate with strata o f clay, which appear t o
b e p r o d u c e d b y the d e c o m p o s i t i o n o f the grünsteins, the
amygdaloids, and the phonolites.
T h e grünstein, which farther n o r t h was loss g r a n u l o u s ,
and passed i n t o serpentine, here assumes a very different
character. I t contains balls o f mandelstein, o r a m y g d a l o i d ,
eight o r t e n inches in diameter. T h e s e balls, sometimes a
little flattened, are divided i n t o c o n c e n t r i c l a y e r s : this is
the effect o f d e c o m p o s i t i o n . T h e i r nucleus is almost as hard
as basalt, and they are intermingled with little cavities, o w i n g
t o b u b b l e s o f gas, filled with g r e e n earth, and crystals o f
p y r o x e n e and m e s o t y p e . T h e i r basis is greyish b l u e , rather
soft, and s h o w i n g small white spots w h i c h , b y the regular
form they present, I should conceive t o b e d e c o m p o s e d feld­
spar. M . v o n B u c h examined with a p o w e r f u l lens t h e
species w e b r o u g h t . H e discovered that each crystal o f
p y r o x e n e , enveloped in the earthy mass, is separated f r o m
it b y fissures parallel t o the sides o f the crystal. T h e s e
fissures seem t o b e the effect o f a c o n t r a c t i o n w h i c h t h e
mass or basis o f t h e mandelstein has u n d e r g o n e . I s o m e ­
times saw these balls o f mandelstein arranged in strata, and
separated f r o m each other b y b e d s o f grünstein o f t e n o r
fourteen inches thick ; sometimes ( a n d this situation is m o s t
c o m m o n ) t h e balls o f mandelstein, t w o o r three feet i n
diameter, arc f o u n d in heaps, and form little m o u n t s w i t h
r o u n d e d summits, like spheroidal basalt. T h e clay w h i c h
separates these amygdaloid c o n c r e t i o n s arises f r o m t h e d e ­
c o m p o s i t i o n o f their crust. T h e y acquire b y t h e c o n t a c t o f
t h e air a very thin coating o f y e l l o w o c h r e .
South­west o f the village o f Parapara rises the little C e r r o
de Flores, which is discerned from afar in t h e s t e p p e s .
A l m o s t at its foot, and in the midst o f the mandelstein
t r a c t w e have j u s t b e e n describing, a p o r p h y r i t i c p h o n o l i t e ,
a mass o f c o m p a c t feldspar o f a greenish g r e y , o r m o u n t a i n ­

8 0
green, containing long crystals of vitreous feldspar, appears
exposed. I t is the real porphyrschiefer of W e r n e r ; and it
would be difficult to distinguish, in a collection of stones,
the phonolite of Parapara from that of Bilin, in Bohemia.
I t does not, however, here form rocks in grotesque shapes,
but little hills covered with tabular blocks, large plates
extremely sonorous, translucid on the edges, and wounding
the hands when broken.
Such are the successions o f rocks, which I described on
the spot as I progressively found them, from the lake o f
Tacarigua to the entrance of the steppes. F e w places in
Europe display a geological arrangement so well worthy o f
being studied. W e saw there in succession six formations:
viz., mica-slate-gneiss, green transition-slate, black transi-
tion-limestone, serpentine and grünstein, amygdaloid (with
pyroxene), and phonolite.
I must observe, in the first place, that the substance just
described under the name o f grünstein, in every respect
resembles that which forms layers in the mica-slate o f
Cabo Blanco, and veins near Caracas. It differs only by
containing neither quartz, garnets, nor pyrites. The
close relations we observed near the Cerro de Chacao,
between the grünstein and the serpentine, cannot surprise
these geologists who have studied the mountains of Fran-
conia and Silesia. Near Z o b t e n b e r g * a serpentine rock al-
ternates also will: gabbro. In the district of Glatz the
fissures of the- gabbro are filled with a steatite of a greenish
white colour, and the rock which was long thought to
belong to the grünsteins† is a close mixture of feldspar and
• Between Tampadel and Silsterwiz.
† In the mountains of Bareuth, in Franconia, so abundant in grunstein

and serpentine, these formations are not connected together. The ser-
pentine there belongs rather to the schistose hornblende (hornblend-
schiefer), as in the island of Cuba. Near Guanaxuato, in Mexico, I saw
it alternating with syenite. These phenomena of serpentine rocks form-

ing layers in eurite (weisstein), in schistose hornblende, in gabbro, and
in syenite, are so much the more remarkable, as the great mass of gar-
netiferous serpentines, which are found in the mountains of gneiss and

mica-slate, form little distinct mounts, masses not covered by other for-
mations. It is not the same in the mixtures of serpentine and granul

8 1
T h e grünsteins o f T u c u t u n e m o , which w e consider as
constituting the same formation as the serpentine rock,
contain veins o f malachite and copper-pyrites. These same
metalliferous combinations are found also in Franconia, in
the grünsteins o f the mountains of Steben and Lichtenberg.
W i t h respect t o the green slates o f Malpaso, which have all
the characters of transition-slates, they are identical with
those which M . von Buch has so well described, near
Schönau, in Silesia. They contain beds o f grünstein, like
the slates o f the mountains o f Steben j u s t mentioned.*
The black limestone o f the M o r r o s de San Juan is also
a transition-limestone. I t forms perhaps a subordinate
stratum in the slates o f Malpaso. This situation would be
analogous to what is observed in several parts o f Switzer-
land.† T h e slaty zone, the centre o f which is the ravine o f
Piedras Azules, appears divided into t w o formations. O n
some points we think w e observe o n e passing into the other.
The grünsteins, which begin again t o the south of these
slates, appear t o me t o differ little from those found north
of the ravine o f Piedras Azules. I did not see there any
p y r o x e n e ; but o n the very spot I recognized a number o f
crystals in the amygdaloid, which appears so strongly linked
to the grünstein that they alternate several times.
The geologist may consider his task as fulfilled when he
has traced with accuracy the positions of the diverse strata;
and haS pointed out the analogies traceable between these
positions and what has been observed in other countries.
But how can he avoid being tempted to go back to the origin
of so many different substances, and t o inquire how far the
dominion of fire has extended in the mountains that b o u n d
the great basin o f the steppes ? I n researches o n the posi-
tion of rocks we have generally to complain of not suffi-
ciently perceiving the connection between the masses, which
We believe to be superimposed on one another. H e r e the
* On advancing into the adit for draining the Friedrich-Wilhelmstollen
mine, which I caused to be begun in 1794, near Steben, and which is yet
only 340 toises long, there have successively been found, in the transition-
slate subordinate strata of pure and porphyritic grünstein, strata, of

Lydian stone and ampelite (alaunschiefer), and strata of fine-grained
grünstein. All these strata characterise the transition-slates.
† For instance, at the Glyshorn, at the Col de Balme, &c.

difficulty seems to arise from the too intimate and t o o
numerous relations observed in rocks that are thought not
to belong to the same family.
T h e phonolite (or leucostine compacte o f Cordier) is pretty
generally regarded by all who have at once examined burn-
ing and extinguished volcanos, as a flow of lithoid lava. I
found no real basalt or dolerite; but the presence o f
pyroxene in the amygdaloid o f Parapara leaves little doubt
o f the igneous origin of those spheroidal masses, fissured,
and full of cavities. Balls of this amygdaloid are enclosed
in the grünstein; and this grünstein alternates on one
side with a green slate, o n the other with the serpentine
of Tucutunemo. H e r e , then, is a connexion sufficiently
close established between the phonolites and the green
slates, between the pyroxenic amygdaloids and the serpen-
tines containing copper-ores, between volcanic substances
and others that are included under the vague name o f
transition-traps. All these masses are destitute o f quartz
like the real trap-porphyries, or volcanic trachytes. This
phenomenon is the more remarkable, as the grünsteins
which are called primitive almost always contain quartz in
Europe. T h e most general dip of the slates of Piedras
Azules, o f the grünsteins o f Parapara, and of the pyroxenic
amygdaloids embedded in strata of grünstein, does not follow
the slope of the ground from north to south, but is pretty
regular towards the north. The strata incline towards the
chain of the coast, as substances which had not been in fusion
might be supposed to do. Can we admit that so many al-
ternating rocks, imbedded one in the other, have a common
origin? T h e nature of the phonolites, which are lithoid
lavas with a feldspar basis, and the nature of the green slates
intermixed with hornblende, oppose this opinion. I n this
state of things we may choose between two solutions of the
problem in question. I n one of these solutions the phono-
lite o f the Cerro do Flores is to b e regarded as the sole
volcanic production of the t r a c t ; and we are forced to unite
the pyroxenic amygdaloids with the rest of the grünsteins,
in one single formation, that which is so common in the
transition-mountains of Europe, considered hitherto as not
volcanic. I n the other solution of the problem, the masses
of phonolite, amygdaloid, and grünstein, w h i c h are found

in the south of the ravine of Piedras Azules, are separated
from the grünsteins and serpentine rocks that cover the
declivity of the mountains north of the ravine. In the
present state of knowledge I find difficulties almost equally-
great in adopting either of these suppositions; but I have
no doubt that, when the real grünsteins (not the hornblende-
grünsteins) contained in the gneiss and mica-slates, shall
have been more attentively examined in other places; when
the basalts (with pyroxene) forming strata in primitive
rocks* and the diabases and amygdaloids in the transition
mountains, shall have been carefully studied; when the
texture of the masses shall have been subjected to a kind
of mechanical analysis, and the hornblendes better distin-
guished from the pyroxenes, † and the grünsteins from the
dolerites; a great number of phenomena which now appear
isolated and obscure, will be ranged under general laws.
The phonolite and other rocks of igneous origin at Parapara
are so much the more interesting, as they indicate ancient
eruptions in a granite zone; as they belong to the shore of
the basin of the steppes, as the basalts of Harutsh belong
to the shore of the desert of Sahara; and lastly, as they
are the only rocks of the kind we observed in the mountains
of the Capitania-General of Caracas, which are also destitute
of trachytes or trap-porphyry, basalts, and volcanic produc-
The southern declivity of the western chain is tolerably
steep the steppes, according to my barometrical measure-
ments, being a thousand feet lower than the bottom of the
basin of Aragua. From the extensive table-land of the
Villa de Cura we descended towards the banks of the Rio
Tucutunemo, which has hollowed for itself, in a serpentine
rock, a longitudinal valley running from east to west, at
nearly the same level as La Victoria. A transverse valley,
lying generally north and south, led us into the Llanos, by
* For instance, at Krobsdorf, in Silesia, a stratum of basalt has been
recognized in the mica-slate by two celebrated geologists, M M . von Buch
and Raumer. ( V o m Granite des Riesengehirges, 1813.)
† The grünsteins or diabases of the Fichtelgebirge, in Franconia, which
belong to the transition-slate, sometimes conain pyroxenes.
+ From the Rio Negro to the coasts of Cumana and Caracas, to the
of the mountains of Mericia, which we did not visit.

the villages o f Parapara and Ortiz. I t grows very narrow
in several parts. Basins, the bottoms o f which are perfectly
horizontal, communicate together b y narrow passes with
steep declivities. T h e y were, n o doubt, formerly small lakes,
which, owing t o the accumulation o f the waters, or some
more violent catastrophe, have broken down the dykes by
which they were separated. This phenomenon is found
in both continents, wherever we examine the longitudinal
valleys forming the passages of the A n d e s , the Alps,* or
the Pyrenees. I t is probable, that the irruption o f the
waters towards the Llanos have given, by extraordinary
rents, the form o f ruins t o the M o r r o s o f San Juan and
of San Sebastian. T h e volcanic tract o f Parapara and Ortis
is now only 3 0 or 4 0 toises above the Llanos. T h e eruptions
consequently took place at the lowest point o f the granitic
I n the M e s a de Paja, in the ninth degree o f latitude,
we entered the basin of the Llanos. T h e sun was almost at
its z e n i t h ; the earth, wherever it appeared sterile and des-
titute o f vegetation, was at the temperature o f 4 8 ° or 50°.†
N o t a breath o f air was felt at the height at which w e were
on o u r m u l e s ; y e t , in the midst o f this apparent calm,
whirls o f dust incessantly arose, driven o n by those small
currents o f air which glide only over the surface o f the
ground, and are occasioned by the difference o f temperature
between the naked sand and the spots covered with grass.
These sand-winds augment the suffocating beat o f the air.
Every grain o f quartz, hotter than the surrounding air,
radiates heat in every direction; and it is difficult to o b -
serve the temperature of the atmosphere, owing to these
particles o f sand striking against the bulb o f the thermo-
meter. All around us the plains seemed t o ascend to the
sky, and the vast and profound solitude appeared like an
ocean covered with sea-weed. A c c o r d i n g to the unequal
mass o f vapours diffused through the atmosphere, and the
variable decrement in the temperature o f the different strata
of air, the horizon in some parts was clear and distinct; in
other parts it appeared undulating, sinuous, and as if striped.
* For example, the road from the valley of Ursern to the Hospice of
St. Gothard, and thence to Airolo.
† A thermometer, placed in the sand, rose to 38-4° and 40° Reaumur.

The earth there was confounded with the sky. Through the
dry mist and strata o f vapour the trunks of palm-trees were
seen from afar, stripped of their foliage and their verdant
summits, and looking like the masts of a ship descried u p o n
the horizon.
There is something awful, as well as sad and g l o o m y ,
in the uniform aspect o f these steppes. Everything seems
motionless; scarcely does a small cloud, passing across the
zenith, and denoting the approach o f the rainy season, cast
its shadow on the earth. I k n o w n o t whether the first
aspect of the Llanos excite less astonishment than that o f the
chain o f the A n d e s . M o u n t a i n o u s countries, wnatever may
be the absolute elevation of the highest summits, have an
anologous p h y s i o g n o m y ; but we accustom ourselves with
difficulty to the view of the Llanos of Venezuela and Casa-
nare, t o that o f the Pampas of B u e n o s A y r e s and o f Chaco,
which recal to mind incessantly, and during journeys o f
twenty or thirty days, the smooth surface of the ocean. I
had seen the plains or llanos of L a Mancha in Spain, and
the heaths (ericeta) that extend from the extremity o f J u t -
land, through L u n e b u r g and Westphalia, to Belgium. These
last are really steppes, and, during several ages, only small
portions of them have yielded t o cultivation; but the plains
of the west and north of Europe present only a feeble image
of the immense llanos o f South America. I t is in the south-
east o f our continent, in H u n g a r y , between the D a n u b e and
the T h e i s s ; in Russia, between the Borysthenes, the D o n ,
and the V o l g a , that w e find those vast pastures, which seem
to have been levelled by a long abode of the waters, and
Which meet the horizon on every side. T h e plains o f H u n -
g r y , where I traversed them on the frontiers o f G e r m a n y ,
between Presburg and Œdenburg, strike the imagination of
the traveller b y the constant m i r a g e ; b u t their greatest
extent is more t o the east, between Czegled, Debreczin, and
Tittel. There they present the appearance of a vast ocean
of verdure, having only two outlets, one near Gran and
W a i t z e n , the other between Belgrade and W i d d i n .
The different quarters o f the world have been supposed t o
be characterized by the remark, that E u r o p e has its heaths,
Asia its steppes, Africa its deserts, and A m e r i c a its savan-
nahs ; but by this distinction, contrasts are established that

are not founded either on the nature o f things, or the
genius o f languages. The existence of a heath always sup-
poses an association o f plants of the family of ericæ; the
steppes o f A s i a are not everywhere covered with saline
plants; the savannahs o f Venezuela furnish not only the
gramina, but with them small herbaceous mimosas, legu-
mina, and other dicotyledonous plants. The plains o f Son-
garia, those which extend between the D o n and the Volga,
and the puszta of Hungary, are real savannahs, pasturages
abounding in grasses;* while the savannahs to the east and
west o f the Rocky Mountains and o f N e w M e x i c o produce
chenopodiums containing carbonate and muriate o f soda.
Asia has real deserts destitute of vegetation, in Arabia, in
G o b i , and in Persia. Since we have become better ac-
quainted with the deserts in the interior of Africa, so long
and so vaguely confounded together under the name o f
desert o f Sahara ( Z a h r a ) ; it has been observed, that in this
continent, towards the east, savannahs and pastures are
found, as in Arabia, situated in the midst o f naked and
barren tracts. I t is these deserts, covered with gravel
and destitute o f plants, which are almost entirely wanting
in the N e w W o r l d . I saw them only in that part o f
Peru, between Amotapo and Coquimbo, on the shores o f
the Pacific. These are called by the Spaniards, not llanos,
* These vast steppes of Hungary are elevated only thirty or forty
toises above the level of the sea, which is more than eighty leagues
distant from them. (See Wahlenberg's Flora Carpathianica.) Baron

Podmanitzky, an Hungarian nobleman, highly distinguished for his
knowledge of the physical sciences, caused the level of these plains to
be taken, to facilitate the formation of a canal then projected between
the Danube and the Theiss. He found the line of division, or the con-
vexity of the ground, which slopes on each side towards the beds of the
two rivers, to be only thirteen toises above the height of the Danube.
The widely extended pastures, which reach in every direction to the

horizon, are called in the country, Puszta, and, over a distance of many
leagues, are without any human habitation. Plains of this kind, inter-
mingled with marshes and sandy tracts, are found on the western side of
the Theiss, between Czegled, Csaba, Komloss, and Szarwass; and on the
eastern side, between Debreczin, Karczag, and Szoboszlo. The area of
these plains of the interior basin of Hungary has been estimated, by a
pretty accurate calculation, to be between two thousand five hundred
and three thousand square leagues (twenty to a degree). Between

Czegled, Szolnok, and Ketskemet, the plain resembles a sea of sand.

but the desiertos of Sechura and Atacamez. This solitary
tract is not broad, but it is four hundred and forty leagues
long. The rock pierces everywhere though the quicksands.
N o drop o f rain ever falls on i t ; and, like the desert o f
Sahara, north of T i m b u c t o o , the Peruvian desert affords,
near Huaura, a rich mine o f native salt. Everywhere else,
in the N e w W o r l d , there are plains desert because not
inhabited, but no real deserts.*
The same phenomena are repeated in the most distant
r e g i o n s ; and, instead o f designating those vast treeless
plains in accordance with the nature o f the plants they
produce, it seems natural to class them into deserts, steppes,
or savannahs; into bare lands without any appearance o f
vegetation, and lands covered with gramina or small plants
of the dicotyledonous tribe. T h e savannahs o f America,
especially those o f the temperate zone, have in many works
been designated by the French term prairies; b u t this
appears t o me little applicable to pastures which are often
very dry, though covered with grass o f four or five feet in
height. T h e Llanos and the Pampas of South America are
really steppes. They are covered with beautiful verdure in
the rainy season, but in the time o f great drought they
assume the aspect o f a desert. T h e grass is then reduced t o
p o w d e r ; the earth c r a c k s ; the alligators and the great ser-
pents remain buried in the dried mud, till awakened from
their long lethargy b y the first showers o f spring. These
phenomena are observed on barren tracts o f fifty or sixty
leagues in length, wherever the savannahs are not traversed
by rivers; for on the borders o f rivulets, and around little
pools o f stagnant water, the traveller finds at certain dis-
tances, even during the period of the great droughts, thickets
of mauritia, a palm, the leaves of which spread out like a
fan, and preserve a brilliant verdure.
The steppes of Asia are all beyond the tropics, and form
very elevated table-lands. America also has savannahs o f
* W e are almost tempted, however, to give the name of desert to that
vast and sandy table-land of Brazil, the Campos dos Parecis, which gives
birth to the rivers Tapajos, Pariguay, and Madeira, and which reaches
the summit of the highest mountains. Almost destitute of vegetation, it
reminds us
of Gobi, in Mongolia.

considerable extent on the backs of the mountains of M e x i c o ,
Peru, and Q u i t o ; but its most extensive steppes, the Llanos
o f Cumana, Caracas, and Meta, are little raised above the
level of the ocean, and all belong to the equinoctial zone.
These circumstances give them a peculiar character. They
have not, like the steppes of southern Asia, and the deserts
o f Persia, those lakes without issue, those small systems o f
rivers which lose themselves either in the sands, or by sub-
terranean filtrations. The Llanos of America incline to the
east and s o u t h ; and their running waters are branches o f
the Orinoco.
The course o f these rivers once led me to believe, that the
plains formed table-lands, raised at least from one hundred
to one hundred and fifty toises above the level of the ocean.
I supposed that the deserts of interior Africa were also at a
considerable height; and that they rose one above another
as in tiers, from the coast to the interior o f the continent.
N o barometer has yet been carried into the Sahara. W i t h
respect to the Llanos o f America, I found by barometric
heights observed at Calabozo, at the Villa del Pao, and at
the mouth o f the Meta, that their height is only forty or
fifty toises above the level of the sea. T h e fall o f the rivers
is extremely gentle, often nearly imperceptible; and there-
fore the least wind, or the swelling of the Orinoco, causes a
reflux in those rivers that flow into it. T h e Indians believe
themselves t o be descending - during a whole day, when
navigating from the mouths o f these rivers to their sources.
The descending waters are separated from those that flow
back by a great body o f stagnant water, in which, the
equilibrium being disturbed, whirlpools are formed very
dangerous for boats.
T h e chief characteristic of the savannahs or steppes of
South America is the absolute want of hills and inequalities,
— t h e perfect level o f every part of the soil. Accordingly
the Spanish conquerors, who first penetrated from Coro to
the banks o f the A pure, did not call them deserts o r
savannahs, or meadows, but plains (llanos). Often within a
distance of thirty square leagues there is not an eminence
o f a foot high. This resemblance to the surface of the sea
strikes the imagination most powerfully where the plains are

altogether destitute of palm-trees; and where the mountains
of the shore and o f the Orinoco are so distant that they
cannot be seen, as in the M e s a de Pavones. A person would
be tempted there to take the altitude of the sun with a quad-
rant, if the horizon o f the land were not constantly misty o n
account o f the variable effects o f refraction. This equality
of surface is still more perfect in the meridian of Calabozo,
than towards the east, between Cari, L a Villa del Pao, and
Nueva Barcelona; but it extends without interruption from
the mouths of the Orinoco to L a Villa de Araure and to
Ospiños, on a parallel of a hundred and eighty leagues in
length ; and from San Carlos to the savannahs of Caqueat,
on a meridian o f t w o hundred leagues. I t particularly cha-
racterises the N e w Continent, as it does the low steppes o f
Asia, between the Borysthenes and the Volga, between the
Irtish and the Obi. The deserts of central Africa, of Arabia,
Syria, and Persia, G o b i , and Casna, present, on the contrary,
many inequalities, ranges of hills, ravines without water,
and rocks which pierce the sands.
The Llanos, however, notwithstanding the apparent uni-
formity of their surface, present two kinds of inequalities,
which cannot escape the observation o f the traveller. T h e
first is known by the name of banks (bancos) ; they are in
reality shoals in the basin o f the steppes, fractured strata of
sandstone, or compact limestone, standing four or five feet
higher than the rest o f the plain. These banks are some-
tunes three or four leagues in length ; they are entirely
smooth, with a horizontal surface; their existence is per-
ceived only by examining their margins. The second species
of inequality can be recognised only by geodesical or baro-
metric levellings, or by the course o f rivers. I t is called a
mesa or table, and is composed o f small flats, or rather
convex eminences, that rise insensibly to the height o f a
few toises. Such are, towards the east, in the province o f
Cumana, on the north of the Villa de la M e r c e d and Can-
delaria, the Mesas of Amana, of Guanipa, and of J o n o r o , the
direction of which is south-west and north-east; and which,
in spite of their inconsiderable elevation, divide the waters
between the Orinoco and the northern coast o f Terra Firma.
The convexity of the savannah alone occasions this partition :
we there find the ‘dividing of the waters’ (divortia aqua-

r u m * ) , as in Poland, where, far from the Carpathian moun-
tains, the plain itself divides the waters between the Baltic
and the Black Sea. Geographers, who suppose the existence
o f a chain of mountains wherever there is a line o f divi-
sion, have not failed to mark one in the maps, at the sources
o f the B i o Neveri, the Unare, the Guarapiche, and the
Pao. Thus the priests of M o n g o l race, according to ancient
and superstitious custom, erect oboes, or little mounds of
stone, on every point where the rivers flow in an opposite
direct ion.
The uniform landscapo o f the L l a n o s ; the extremely
small number of their inhabitants; the fatigue o f travelling
beneath a burning sky, and an atmosphere darkened by
d u s t ; the view of that horizon, which seems for ever to fly
before us ; those lonely trunks o f palm-trees, which have ail
the same aspect, and which we despair of reaching, because
they are confounded with other trunks that rise by degrees
o n the visual h o r i z o n ; all these causes combine to make the
steppes appear far more extensive than they are in reality.
T h e planters who inhabit the southern declivity o f the chain
o f the coast see the steppes extend towards the south, as far
as the eye can reach, like an ocean o f verdure. They know
that from the Delta o f the Orinoco to the province o f
Varinas, and thence, by traversing the banks of the M e t a ,
the Guaviare, and the Caguan, they can advance three
hundred and eighty leagues† into the plains, first from east
t o west, and then from north-east to south-east beyond the
Equator, to the foot o f the A n d e s o f Pasto. They know b y
the accounts of travellers the Pampas of Buenos A y r e s ,
which are also Llanos covered with line grass, destitute
o f trees, and filled with oxen and horses b e c o m e wild.
They suppose that, according to the greater part o f o u r
maps o f America, this continent has only one chain o f m o u n -
tains, that o f the A n d e s , which stretches from south t o
n o r t h ; and they form a vague idea of the contiguity of all
the plains from the Orinoco and the A p u r e to the Rio de la
Plata and the Straits of Magellan.
W i t h o u t stopping here to give a mineralogical description
* “ C. M MANLIUM prope jugis [Tauri] ad divortia aquarum castra
posuisse." Livy, lib. 38, c. 75.
This is the distance from Timbuctoo to the northern coast of Africa.

of the transverse chains which divide America from east t o
west, it will be sufficient t o notice the general structure o f a
continent, the extremities o f which, though situated in cli-
mates little analogous, nevertheless present several features
of resemblance. I n order to have an exact idea o f the plains,
their configuration, and their limits, w e must know the chains
of mountains that form their houndaries. We have already
described the Cordillera o f the coast, o f which the highest
summit is the Silla de Caraccas, and which is linked by the
Paramo de las Rosas to the Nevada de Merida, and the
A n d e s o f N e w Grenada. W e have seen that, in the tenth
degree o f north latitude, it stretches from Quibor and B a r -
quesimeto as far as the point of Paria. A second chain of
mountains, o r rather a less elevated b u t much larger group,
extends between the parallels o f and from the mouths
of the Guaviare and the Meta to the sources o f the Orinoco,
the M a r o n y , and the Essequibo, towards French and D u t c h
Guiana, I call this chain the Cordillera o f Parime, o r of
the great cataracts of the Orinoco. I t may be followed for
a length o f two hundred and fifty leagues ; b u t it is less a
chain, than a collection o f granitic mountains, separated b y
small plains, without being everywhere disposed in lines.
The group o f the mountains of Parime narrows considerably
between the sources of the Orinoco and t h e mountains of
Demerara, in the Sierras o f Quimiropaca and Pacaraimo,
which divide the waters between the Carony and the Rio
Parime, or Rio de A g u a s Blancas. This is the scene of t h e
expeditions which were undertaken in search o f El D o r a d o ,
and the great city of Manoa, the Timbuctoo o f the N e w C o n -
s e n t . The Cordillera o f Parime does not join the Andes of
New Grenada, bu t is separated from them b y a space eighty
leagues broad. I f we suppose it t o have been destroyed in
this space by some great revolution o f the globe (which is
scarcely probable) we must admit that it anciently branched
on from the A n d e s between Santa do Bogotá and P a m -
plona. This remark serves t o fix more easily in the memory
of the reader the geographical position o f a Cordillera till
now very imperfectly known. A third chain o f mountains
unites in 16° and 18° south latitude ( b y Santa Cruz de
la Sierra, the Serranias of A g u a p e h y , and t h e famous

Campos dos Parocis) the A n d e s o f Peru, to the mountains
o f Brazil. I t is the Cordillera o f Chiquitos which widens in
the Capitania de Minas Gerães, and divides the rivers flowing
into the A m a z o n from those o f the Rio de la Plata,* not only
in the interior o f the country, in the meridian of Villa B o a ,
but also at a few leagues from the coast, between Rio
Janeiro and Bahia.†
These three transverse chains, o r rather these three groups
o f mountains stretching from west t o cast, within the
limits o f the torrid zone, are separated by tracts entirely
level, the plains o f Caracas, or o f the Lower O r i n o c o ; the
plains o f the Amazon and the Rio N e g r o ; and the plains o f
B u e n o s A y r e s , o r o f L a Plata. I use the term plains,
because the L o w e r Orinoco and the A m a z o n , far from
flowing in a valley, form b u t a little furrow in the midst
o f a vast level. T h e t w o basins, placed at the extremi-
ties o f South America, are savannahs or steppes, pasturage
without t r e e s ; the intermediate basin, which receives the
equatorial rains during the whole year, is almost entirely
o n e vast forest, through which n o other roads are known
save the rivers. T h e strong vegetation which conceals the
soil, renders also the uniformity o f its level less perceptible;
and the plains o f Caracas and La Plata hear n o other name.
T h e three basins we have just described are called, in the
language o f the colonists, the Llanos o f Varinas and o f
Caracas, the bosques or selvas (forests) o f the Amazon, and
the Pampas o f Buenos Ayres. T h e trees not only for the
most part cover the plains o f the Amazon, from the Cor-
dillera de Chiquitos, as far as that o f P a r i m e ; they also
crown these t w o chains o f mountains, which rarely attain
the height o f the Pyrenees.+ O n this account, the vast
plains o f the Amazon, the .Madeira, and the Rio Negro, are
not so distinctly bounded as the Llanos o f Caracas, and the
* There is only a portage or carrying-place of 5,322 braças between
the Guapore (a branch of the Marmore and of the Madeira), and the Rio
Aguapehy (a branch of the Jaura and of the Paraguay).
The Cordillera of Chiquitos and of Brazil stretches toward the south-
east, in the government of the Rio Grande, beyond the latitude of 30°

+ We must except the most western part of the Cordillera of Chiquitos,
between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where the summits

Pampas o f Bueno s A y r e s . A s the region o f forests c o m -
prises at once the plains and the mountains, it extends from
18° south to 7° and 8° north,* and occupies an extent o f
near a hundred and twenty thousand square leagues. This
forest o f South America, for in fact there is only one, is six
times larger than France. I t is known to Europeans only
o n the shores o f a few rivers, b y which it is traversed ; and
has its openings, the extent of which is in proportion t o that
o f the forests. W e shall soon skirt the marshy savannahs,
between the U p p e r Orinoco, the Conorichite, and the Cassi-
quiare, in the latitude o f 3° and 4°. There are other open-
i n g s , or as they are called, ‘ clear savannahs,’† in the same
parallel, between the sources of the M a o and the B i o de
Aguas Blancas, south of the Sierra de Pacaraima. These
last savannahs, which are inhabited by Caribs, and nomad
Macusis, lie near the frontiers o f D u t c h and F r e n c h
Having noticed the geological constitution of South A m e -
rica, we shall now mark its principal features. The western
coasts are bordered by an enormous wall of mountains, rich
in precious metals wherever volcanic fire has not pierced
through the eternal snow. This i s the Cordillera o f the
Andes. Summits o f trap-porphyry rise beyond three thou-
sand three hundred toises, and the mean height of the
chain + is one thousand eight hundred and fifty toises. I t
stretches in the direction of a meridian, and sends into each
hemisphere a lateral branch, in the latitudes o f 10° north,
and 16° and 18° south. T h e first of these t w o branches,
that of the coast of Caracas, is o f considerable length, and
forms in fact a chain. T h e second branch, the Cordillera of
are covered with snow; but this colossal group almost belongs to the
Andes de la Paz, of which it forms a promontory or spur, directed toward
the east.

* To the west, in consequence of the Llanos of Manso, and the Pampas
de Huanacos, the forests do not extend generally beyond the parallels of
18° or 19° south latitude; but to the east, in Brazil (in the capitanias of
San Pablo and Rio Grande), as well as in Paraguay, on the borders of the
Parana, they advance as far as 25° south.

Savannas limpias, that is to say, clear of trees.
+ In New Grenada, Quito, and Peru, according to measurements
taken by Bouguer, La Condamine, and myself.

Chiquitos and o f the sources o f the Guapore, is very rich in
gold, and widens toward the east, in Brazil, into vast table-
lands, having a mild and temperate climate. Between these
two transverse chains, contiguous to the Andes, an isolated
group o f granitic mountains is situated, from t o north
latitude; which also runs parallel t o the Equator, but, n o t
passing the meridian o f 71°, terminates abruptly towards
the w e s t , and is not united to the Andes of .New Grenada.
These three transverse chains have no active volcanos; we
know not whether the most southern, like the two others,
be destitute of trachytes or trap-porphyry. N o n e o f their
summits enter the limit o f perpetual s n o w ; and the mean
height o f the Cordillera o f L a Parime, and o f the littoral
chain o f Caracas, does n o t reach six hundred toises, though
some o f its summits rise fourteen hundred toises above the
level o f the sea.* The three transverse chains are separated
by plains entirely closed towards the west, and open towards
the east and south-east. W h e n we reflect on their small
elevation above the surface o f the ocean, we are tempted to
consider them as gulfs stretching in the direction o f the cur-
rent of rotation. If, from the effect of some peculiar attrac-
tion, the waters of the Atlantic w e r e to rise fifty toises at
the mouth o f the Orinoco, and t w o hundred toises at the
mouth of the Amazon, the flood would submerge more than
the half o f South America. T h e eastern declivity, o r the
foot o f the Andes, n o w six hundred leagues distant from the
coast o f Brazil, would become a shore beaten by the waves.
This consideration is the result of a barometric measurement,
taken in the province o f Jaen do Bracamoros, where the
river Amazon issues from the Cordilleras. I found the mean
height of this immense river only one hundred and ninety-
four toises above the present level o f the Atlantic. T h e
intermediate plains, however, covered with forests, are still
five times higher than the Pampas of Buenos Ayres, and
the grass-covered Llanos o f Caracas and the Mela.
Those Llanos which form the basin o f the Orinoco, and
which we crossed twice in o n e year, in the months o f M a r c h
* W e do not reckon here, as belonging to the chain of the coast, the
Nevados and Paramos of Merida and of Truxillo, which are a prolongs
tion of the Andes of New Grenada.

C O N N E X I O N O F T H E P L A I N S .
and July, communicate with the basin of the A m a z o n and
the Rio N e g r o , b o u n d e d o n one side by the Cordillera o f
Chiquitos, and on the other by the mountains of Parime.
The opening which is left between the latter and the
Andes of N e w Grenada, occasions this communication. T h e
aspect of the country here reminds us, but on a m u c h
larger scale, of the plains of Lombardy, which also are only
fifty or sixty toises above the level o f the o c e a n ; and are
directed first from L a Prenta to Turin, east and w e s t ; and
then from Turin to Coni, north and south. I f w e were
authorized, from other geological facts, to regard the three
great plains of the L o w e r Orinoco, the Amazon, and the
Rio de la Plata as basins of ancient lakes,* we should
imagine we perceived in the plains o f the Rio Vichada and
the Meta, a channel b y which the waters of the upper
lake (those o f the plains o f the A m a z o n ) forced their way
towards the lower basin, (that of the Llanos of Caracas,)
separating the Cordillera o f L a Parime from that of the
Andes. This channel is a kind of land-strait. The ground,
which is perfectly level between the Guaviare, the M e t a ,
and the A p u r e , displays n o vestige o f a violent irruption o f
the w a t e r s ; but o n the edge o f the Cordillera of Parime,
between the latitudes o f 4° and 7°, the Orinoco, flowing in
a westerly direction from its source to the mouth of the
Guaviare, has forced its way through the rocks, directing
its course from south to north. A l l the great cataracts, as
we shall soon see, are within the latitudes j u s t named.
When the river has reached the mouth of the A p u r e in that
very low ground whore the slope towards the north is met
by the counter-slope towards the south-east, that is to say,
by the inclination o f the plains which rise imperceptibly
towards the mountains o f Caracas, the river turns anew and
flows eastward. I t appeared t o me, that it was proper t o
fix the attention of the reader on these singular inflexions
of the Orinoco because, belonging at once to t w o basins, its
course marks, in some sort, even o n the most imperfect
maps, the direction o f that part of the plains intervening
* In Siberia, the great steppes between the Irtish and the Obi, espe-
cially that of Baraba, full of salt lakes (Tchabakly, Tchany, Karasouk,
and Topolony), appear to have been, according to the Chinese traditions,
even within historical times, an inland sea.

between N e w Grenada and the western border o f t h e
mountains o f L a Parime.
The Llanos o r steppes o f the L o w e r Orinoco and o f the
M e t a , like the deserts o f Africa, bear different names in
different parts. From the mouths o f the Dragon the Llanos
o f Cumana, o f Barcelona, and o f Caracas o r Venezuela,*
follow, running f r o m east t o west. W h e r e the steppes turn
towards t h e s o u t h a n d s o u t h - s o u t h - w e s t , from the l a t i t u d e
o f 8°, between the meridians o f 7 0 ° and 7 3 ° , w e find from
north t o south, the Llanos o f Varinas, Casanare, the M e t a ,
Guaviare, Caguau, and Caqueta.† T h e plains o f Varinas
contain some f e w monuments o f the industry o f a n a t i o n
t h a t h a s
diappeared. B e t w e e n Mijagual and the Ca ñ o d e la
Hacha, w e find s o m e real tumuli, c a l l e d in the country the
Serillos de loS Indios. T h e y a r e h i l l o c k s in t h e s h a p e o f c o n e s ,
artificially formed o f earth, and probably contain hones, l i k e
the tumuli in the steppes o f Asia. A fine road is also
discovered near Hato de la Calzada, between Varinas and
Canagua, five leagues long, made before the conquest, in
the m o s t r e m o t e times, by the natives. It is a causeway o f
earth fifteen feet high, crossing a plain often overflowed.
D i d nations farther advanced in civilization descend from
the mountains o f Truxillo and Merido t o the plains o f the
Rio A p u r e ? The Indians whom w e n o w find between this
river and the M e t a , are in t o o rude a state t o think o f
making roads o r raising tumuli.
I calculated the area o f these Llanos from t h e Caqueta
t o t h e A p u r e , and from the A p u r e t o t h e Delta o f the
Orinoco, and found t o b o it seventeen thousand square
* The following are subdivisions of these three great Llanos, as I
marked them down on the spot. The Llanos of Cumana and New Anda-
lusia include those of Maturin and Terecen, of Amana, Guanipa, Jonoro,

and Cari. The Llanos of Nueva Barcelona comprise those of Aragua,
Pariaguan, and Villa del Pao. W e distinguish in the Llanos of Caracas
those of Chaguaramas, Uritucu, Calabozo or Guarico, La Portuguesa,
San Carlos, and Araure.

† The inhabitants of these plains distinguish as subdivisions, from the
Rio Portuguesa to Caqueta, the Llanos of Guanare, Bocono, Nutrius or
the Apure, Palmerito near Quintero, Guardalito and Arauca, the Meta,
Apiay near the port of Pachaquiaro, Vichada, Guaviare, Arriari, Inirida,
the Rio Hacha, and Caguan. The limits between the savannahs and the
in the plains that extend from the sources of the Rio Negro to
Putumayo, are not sufficiently known.

leagues twenty t o a degree. T h e part running from north
to south is almost double that which stretches from east t o
west, between the L o w e r Orinoco and the littoral chain o f
Caracas. T h e Pampas o n the north and north-west o f
Buenos A y r e s , between this city and Cordova, Jujuy, and
the Tucuman, are o f nearly the same extent as the L l a n o s ;
but the Pampas stretch still farther o n t o the length o f 18°
southward; and the land they o c c u p y is so vast, that they
produce palm-trees at one of their extremities, while the
other, equally low and level, is covered with eternal frost.
The Llanos o f America, where they extend in the direc-
tion of a parallel o f the equator, are three-fourths narrower
than the great desert o f Africa. This circumstance is very
important in a region where the winds constantly blow from
east to west. T h e farther the plains stretch in this direc-
tion, the more ardent is their climate. T h e great ocean o f
wind in Africa communicates by Y e m e n * with Gedrosia and
Beloochistan, as far as the right bank o f the Indus. I t is
from the effect o f winds that have passed over the deserts
situated t o the east, that the little basin o f the B e d Sea,
surrounded b y plains which send forth from all sides
radiant caloric, is one of the hottest regions of the globe.
The unfortunate captain T u c k e y relates,† that the centi-
grade thermometer keeps there generally in the night at
and by day from 40° t o 44°. W e shall soon see that,
even in the westernmost part o f the steppes of Caracas, w e
seldom found the temperature o f the air, in the shade,
above 37°.
* W e cannot be surprised that the Arabic should be richer than any
other language of the East in words expressing the ideas of desert, unin-
habited plains, and plains covered with gramina. I could give a list of

thirty-five of these words, which the Arabian authors employ without
always distinguishing them by the shades of meaning which each separate
word expresses. Makadh and kaâh indicate, in preference, plains;

bakaâh, a table-land; kafr, mikfar, smlis, mahk, and habaucer, a naked
desert, covered with sand and gravel; tanufah, a steppe. Zahra means
at once a naked desert and a savannah. The word steppe, or step, is

Russian, and not Tartarian. In the Turco-Tartar dialect a heath is
called tala or tschol. The word gobi, which Europeans have cor-
rupted into cobi, signifies in the Mongol tongue a naked desert. It is
equivalent to the scha-mo or khan-hai of the Chinese. A steppe, or

plain covered with herbs, is in Mongol, kudah ; in Chinese, kouang.
Expedition to explore the river Zahir, 1818.
VOL. I I . H

These physical considerations on the steppes o f the N e w
W o r l d are linked with others more interesting, inasmuch as
they are connected with the history o f our speeies. T h e
great sea o f sand in Africa, the deserts without water, are
frequented only by caravans, that take fifty days to traverse
t h e m . * Separating the N e g r o race from the M o o r s , and
the Berber and Kahyle tribes, the Sahara is inhabited only
in the oases. I t affords pasturage only in the eastern
part, where, from the effect o f the trade-winds, the layer o f
sand being less thick, the springs appear at the surface of the
earth. I n America, the steppes, less vast, less scorching,
fertilized by fine rivers, present fewer obstacles to the inter-
course o f nations. T h e Llanos separate the chain o f the
coast of Caracas and the Andes of New Grenada from
the region o f forests; from that w o o d y region of the Orinoco
which, from the first discovery of America, has been inha-
bited by nations more rude, and farther removed from
civilization, than the inhabitants o f the coast, and still more
than the mountaineers o f the Cordilleras. T h e steppes,
however, were no more heretofore the rampart o f civiliza-
tion than they are n o w the rampart o f the liberty o f the
hordes that live in the forests. They have not hindered the
nations o f the L o w e r Orinoco from going u p the little
rivers and making incursions to the north and the west.
If. according to the various distribution of animals on the
globe, the pastoral life could have existed in the N e w
W o r l d , — i f , before the arrival o f the Spaniards, the Llanos
and the Pampas had been filled with those numerous herds
o f cows and horses that graze there, Columbus would have
found the human nice in a state quite different. Pastoral
nations living on milk and cheese, real nomad races, would
have spread themselves over those vast plains which c o m -
municate with each other. T h e y would have been seen at
the period of great droughts, and even at that o f inunda-
tions, fighting for the possession of pastures; subjugating
one another mutually ; and, united by the c o m m o n tie o f
manners, language, and worship, they would have risen
t o that state o f demi-civilization which w e observe with
surprise in the nations o f the M o n g o l and Tartar race.
* This is the maximum of the time, according to Major Rennell.
(Travels of Mungo Park, vol. ii.)

America would then, like the centre o f Asia, have had its
conquerors, who, ascending from the plains to the table-
lands o f the Cordilleras, and abandoning a wandering life,
would have subdued the civilized nations o f Peru and N e w
Grenada, overturned the throne o f the Incas and o f the
Zaque,* and substituted for the despotism which is the
fruit o f theocracy, that despotism which arises from the
patriarchal government o f a pastoral people. I n the N e w
W o r l d the human race has not experienced these great
moral and political changes, because the steppes, though
more fertile than those o f Asia, have remained without
h e r d s ; because none o f the animals that furnish milk in
abundance are natives o f the plains o f South A m e r i c a ; and
because, in the progressive unfolding of American civiliza-
tion, the intermediate link is wanting that connects the
hunting with the agricultural nations.
W e have thought proper to bring together these general
notions on the plains o f the N e w Continent, and the c o n -
trast they exhibit to the deserts o f Africa and the fertile
steppes of Asia, in order to give some interest t o the nar-
rative of a j o u r n e y across lands o f so monotonous an aspect.
Having n o w accomplished this task, I shall trace the route
by which we proceeded from the volcanic mountains of Para-
para and the northern side o f the Llanos, to the banks o f
the A pure, in the province of Varinas.
A f t e r having passed t w o nights o n horseback, and sought
in vain, by day, for some shelter from the heat o f the
sun beneath the tufts o f the moriche palm-trees, we arrived
before night at the little Hato del Cayman,t called also La
Guadaloupe. I t was a solitary house in the steppes, sur-
rounded by a few small huts, covered with reeds and skins.
The cattle, oxen, horses, and mules are n o t penned, b u t
wander freely over an extent o f several square leagues.
There is nowhere any enclosure; men, naked to the waist and
armed with a lance, ride over the savannahs t o inspect the
animals; bringing back those that wander too far from the
pastures o f the farm, and branding all that do not already bear
the mark of their proprietor. These mulattos, who are k n o w n
* The Zaque was the secular chief of Cundinamarca. His power was
shared with the high priest (lama) of Iraca.
† The Farm of the Alligator.
H 2

by the name of peones llaneros, are partly freed-men and
partly slaves. T h e y are constantly exposed t o the burn-
ing heat o f the tropical sun. Their food is meat, dried in
the air, and a little salted; and o f this even their horses
sometimes partake. Being always in the saddle, they fancy
they cannot make the slightest excursion o n foot. W e
found an old negro slave, w h o managed the farm in the
absence of his master. H e told us o f herds c o m p o s e d o f
several thousand cows, that were grazing in the steppes; yet
w e a s k e d in vain for a bowl o f milk. W e were offered, in a
calabash, some yellow, muddy, and fetid water, drawn from a
neighbouring pool. T h e indolence o f the inhabitants of the
L l a n o s is such that they d o not dig wells, thoug h they know
that almost everywhere, at ten feet deep, fine springs are
found in a stratum o f conglomerate, or red sandstone.
A f t e r suffering during one half of the year from the effect
of inundations, they quietly resign themselves, during the
other half, to the most distressing deprivation o f water.
T h e old negro advised us to cover the cup with a linen
cloth, and drink as through a filter, that we might not be
i n c o m m o d e d by the smell, and might swallow less of the
yellowish mud suspended in the water. W e did not then
think that we should afterwards be forced, during whole
months, to have recourse to this expedient. T h e waters o f
the Orinoco are always loaded with earthy particles; they
are even putrid, where dead bodies o f alligators are found
in the creeks, lying on banks o f sand, or half-buried in the
N o sooner were o u r instruments unloaded and safely-
placed, than our mules were set at liberty to g o , as they
say here, para buscar agua, that is, “to search for water.”
There are little pools round the farm, which the animals
find, guided by their instinct, by the view o f some scattered
tufts of mauritia, and by the sensation of humid coolness,
caused by little currents of air amid an atmosphere which to
us appears calm and tranquil. W h e n the pools o f water
are far distant, and the people o f the farm are t o o lazy to
lead the cattle to these; natural watering-places, they confine
them during five or six hours in a very hot stable before
they let them loose. Excess of thirst then augments their
sagacity, sharpening as it were their senses and their

instinct. N o sooner is the stable opened, than the horses
and mules, especially the latter (for the penetration o f these
animals exceeds the intelligence o f the horses), rush into
the savannahs. W i t h upraised tails and heads thrown back
they run against the wind, stopping from time t o time a s
if exploring s p a c e ; they follow less the impressions o f sight
than of s m e l l ; and at length announce, b y prolonged neigh-
ings, that there is water in the direction o f their course.
All these movements are executed more promptly, and with
readier success, b y horses born in the Llanos, and which
have long enjoyed their liberty, than b y those that c o m e
from the coast, and descend from domestic horses. In
animals, for the most part, as in man, the quickness o f the
senses is diminished by long subjection, and by the habits
that arise from a fixed abode and the progress o f culti-
W e followed our mules in search of one of those pools,
whence the muddy water had been drawn, that so ill
quenched our thirst. W e were covered with dust, and
tanned by the sandy wind, which burns the skin even more
than the rays o f the sun. W e longed impatiently to take
a bath, but we found only a great pool o f feculent water,
surrounded with palm-trees. The water was turbid, though,
to our great astonishment, a little cooler than the air.
A c c u s t o m e d during our long journey to bathe whenever w e
had an opportunity, often several times in one day, w e
hastened to plunge* into the pool. W e had scarcely begun
to enjoy the coolness o f the bath, when a noise which w e
heard on the opposite bank, made us leave the water preci-
pitately. I t was an alligator plunging into the mud.
W e were only at the distance o f a quarter o f a league
from the farm, yet w e continued walking more than an hour
without reaching it. W e perceived too late that w e had
taken a w r o n g direction. H a v i n g left it at the decline o f
day, before the stars were visible, we had gone forward into
the plain at hazard. W e were, as usual, provided with
a compass, and it might have been easy for us to steer o u r
course from the position o f Canopus and the Southern
C r o s s ; b u t unfortunately w e were uncertain whether, o n
leaving the farm, we had gone towards the east or the south.
We attempted to return to the spot where we had bathed,

and we again walked three quarters of an hour without
finding the pool. W e sometimes thought w e saw fire o n
the horizon; but it was the light of the rising stars enlarged
by the vapours. A f t e r having wandered a long time in the
savannah, w e resolved to seat ourselves beneath the trunk
o f a palm-tree, in a spot perfectly dry, surrounded b y short
g r a s s ; for the fear o f water-snakes is always greater than
that of jaguars among Europeans recently disembarked.
W e could not flatter ourselves that our guides, o f whom w e
knew the insuperable indolence, would come in search o f us
in the savannah before they had prepared their food and
finished their repast. W h i l s t somewhat perplexed by the
uncertainty of our situation, we were agreeably affected b y
hearing from afar the sound of a horse advancing towards us.
T h e rider was an Indian, armed with a lance, who had j u s t
made the rodeo, or round, in order to collect the cattle
within a determinate space o f ground. The sight o f t w o
white men, who said they had lost their way, led him at
first to suspect some trick. W e found it difficult to inspire
him with confidence; he at last consented to guide us t o
the farm o f the Cayman, b u t without slackening the gentle
trot o f his horse. O u r guides assured us that “they had
already begun to be uneasy about us;” and, to justify this
inquietude, they gave a long enumeration o f persons who,
having lost themselves in the Llanos, had been found nearly
exhausted. It may be supposed that the danger is immi-
nent only to those who lose themselves far from any habi-
tation, or who, having been stripped by robbers, as has
h a p p e n e d o f late years, have been fastened by the body and
hands to the trunk o f a palm-tree.
I n order t o escape as much as possible from the heat o f
the day, wo set off at t w o in the morning, with the hope o f
reaching Calabozo before n o o n , a small but busy trading-
t o w n , situated in the midst of the Llanos. T h e aspect of the
country was still the same. There was no m o o n l i g h t ; b u t
the great masses o f nebulæ that spot the southern sky e n -
lighten, as they set, a part o f the terrestrial horizon. T h e
solemn spectacle o f the starry vault, seen in its immense
expanse; the cool breeze which blows over the plain during
the n i g h t : — t h e waving motion o f the grass, wherever it has
attained any h e i g h t ; everything recalled to our minds the

surface o f the ocean. T h e illusion was augmented when
the disk o f the sun appearing o n t h e horizon, repeated its
image b y t h e effects o f refraction, and, soon losing its
flattened form, ascended rapidly and straight towards t h e
Sunrise in the plains is the coolest m o m e n t o f the d a y ;
but this change o f temperature does not make a very lively
impression o n the organs. W e did n o t find the thermo-
meter in general sink below 27 5 ; while near A c a p u l c o , at
M e x i c o , and in places equally low, the temperature at n o o n
is often 32°, and at sunrise only 17° or 18°. T h e level surface
o f the ground in the Llanos, which, during the day, is never
in the shade, absorbs so much heat that, notwithstanding
the nocturnal radiation toward a sky without clouds, the
earth and air have not time t o cool very sensibly from mid-
night t o sunrise.
In proportion as the sun rose towards the zenith, and the
earth and the strata o f superincumbent air took different
temperatures, the phenomenon o f t h e mirage displayed
itself in its numerous modifications. This phenomenon
is so c o m m o n i n every zone, that I mention it only
because w e stopped t o measure with some precision the
breadth o f the aërial distance between the horizon and the
suspended object. There was a constant suspension, with-
out inversion. T h e little currents o f air that swept t h e
surface o f t h e soil had so variable a temperature that, in a
drove o f wild oxen, one part appeared with th e legs raised
above the surface o f the ground, while the other rested o n
it. T h e aërial distance was, according t o the distance o f
the animal, from 3' t o 4'. W h e r e tufts o f the moriche palm
were found growing in long ranges, the extremities o f these
green rows were suspended like the capes which were, for
so long a time, the subject o f m y observations at Cumana.
A well-informed person assured us, that he had seen, b e -
tween Calabozo and Uritucu, the image o f an animal i n -
verted, without there being any direct image. N i e b u h r
made a similar observation i n Arabia. W e several times
thought w e saw on the horizon the figures o f tumuli and
towers, which disappeared at intervals, without o u r being
able t o discern th e real shape o f the objects. T h e y were
perhaps hillocks, o r small eminences, situated b e y o n d t h e

ordinary visual horizon. I need not mention those tracts
destitute o f vegetation, which appear like large lakes with
an undulating surface. This phenomenon, observed in very
remote times, has occasioned the mirage t o receive in
Sanscrit the expressive name of desire of the antelope. We
admire the frequent allusions in the Indian, Persian, and
A r a b i c poets, t o the magical effects o f terrestrial refraction.
I t was scarcely k n o w n to the Greeks and Romans. Proud
o f the riches of their soil, and the mild temperature o f the
air, they would have felt no envy o f this poetry o f the
desert. I t had its birth in A s i a ; and the oriental poets
found its source in the nature o f the country they in-
habited. T h e y were inspired with the aspect o f those vast
solitudes, interposed like arms of the sea or gulfs, between
lands which nature had adorned with her most luxuriant
T h e plain assumes at sunrise a more animated aspect.
T h e cattle, which had reposed during the night along
the pools, or beneath clumps o f mauritias and rhopalas,
were n o w collected in h e r d s ; and these solitudes became
peopled with horses, mules, and oxen, that live here free,
rather than wild, without settled habitat ions, and disdaining
the care and protection o f man. I n these hot climates,
the oxen, though o f Spanish breed, like those o f the cold
table-lands o f Quito, are o f a gentle disposition. A
traveller runs no risk o f being attacked or pursued, as we
often were in our excursions o n the back o f the Cordilleras,
where the climate is rude, the aspect of the country more
wild, and food less abundant. A s we approached Calabozo,
w e saw herds o f roebucks browsing peacefully in the midst
o f horses and oxen. T h e y are called matacani; their flesh
is g o o d ; they are a little larger than our rocs, and resemble
deer with a very sleek skin, o f a fawn-colour, spotted with
while. Their horns appear to me to have single points.
They had little fear of the presence o f m a n : and in herds
o f thirty or forty w o observed several that were entirely
white. This variety, common enough among the large stags
o f the cold climates of the A n d e s , surprised us in these low
and burning plains. I have; since learned, that even the
jaguar, in the hot regions o f Paraguay, sometimes affords
albino varieties, the skin o f which is of such uniform white-

ness that the spots or rings can be distinguished only in the
sunshine. The number of
matacani, or little deer,* is so
considerable in the Llanos, that a trade might be carried on
with their skins.† A skilful hunter could easily kill more
than twenty in a day; but such is the indolence of the
inhabitants, that often they will not give themselves the
trouble of taking the skin. The same indifference is evinced
in the chase of the jaguar, a skin of which fetches only one

piastre in the steppes of Varinas, while at Cadiz it costs
four or five.

The steppes that we traversed are principally covered
with grasses of the genera Killingia, Cenchrus, and Pas-
palum.† At this season, near Calabozo and San Jerome
del Pirital, these grasses scarcely attain the height of nine
or ten inches. Near the banks of the Apure and the Por-
tuguesa they rise to four feet in height, so that the jaguar
can conceal himself among them, to spring upon the mules
and horses that cross the plain. Mingled with these gra-

mina some plants of the dicotyledonous class are found; as
turnoras, malvaceæ, and, what is very remarkable, little
mimosas with irritable leaves,|| called by the Spaniards

dormideras. The same breed of cows, which fatten in
Europe on sainfoin and clover, find excellent nourishment
in the herbaceous sensitive plants. The pastures where
these shrubs particularly abound are sold at a higher price
than others. To the east, in the llanos of Cari and Bar-
celona, the cypura and the craniolaria,§ the beautiful white
flower of which is from six to eight inches long, rise soli-
tarily amid the gramina. The pastures are richest not only
around the rivers subject to inundations, but also wherever
the trunks of palm-trees are near each other. The least
fertile spots are those destitute of trees; and attempts to
cultivate them would be nearly fruitless. We cannot attri-

* They are called in the country ‘ Venados de tierras calientes’ (deer
of the warm lands.)
This trade is carried on, but on a very limited scale, at Carora and
at Barquesimeto.
† Killingia monocephala, K. odorata, Cenchrus pilosus, Vilfa tenacis-
sima, Andropogon plumosum, Panicum micranthum, Poa repens, Paspa-
lum leptostachyum, P. conjugatum, Aristida recurvata. (Nova Genera
et Species Plantarum, vol. i, pp. 84-213.)

|| The sensitive-plant (Mimosa dormiens).
§ Cypura graminea, Craniolaria annua (the scorzonera of the natives).

bute this difference to the shelter afforded by the palm-trees,
in preventing the solar rays from drying and burning up
the soil. I have seen, it is true, trees o f this family, in the
forests o f the Orinoco, spreading a tufted foliage; but w e
cannot say much for the shade o f the palm-tree o f the llanos,
the palma de cobija* which has but a tew folded and palmate
leaves, like those o f the chamærops, and of which the lower-
most are constantly withered. W e were surprised to see
that almost all these trunks o f the corypha were nearly o f
the same size, viz., from twenty to twenty-four feet, high,
and from eight t o ten inches diameter at the foot. Nature
has produced few species o f palm-trees in such prodigious
numbers. A m i d s t thousands of trunks loaded with olive-
shaped fruits wo found about one hundred without fruit.
M a y w e suppose that there are some trees with flowers
purely monœcious, mingled with others furnished with her-
maphrodite flowers?
The Llaneros, or inhabitants o f the plains, believe that
all these trees, though so low, are many centuries old.
Their growth is almost imperceptible, being scarcely to be
noticed in the lapse o f twenty or thirty years. T h e w o o d
o f the palma de cobija is excellent for building. I t is so
hard, that it is difficult t o drive a nail into it. T h e leaves,
folded like a fan, are employed to cover the roofs o f the huts
scattered through the Llanos; a n d these r o o f s last more
than twenty years. T h e leaves are fixed by bending the
extremity of the footstalks, which have been beaten before-
hand between t w o stones, so that they may bend without
Beside the solitary trunks o f this palm-tree, w e find dis-
persed here and there in the steppes a few clumps, real
groves (palmares), in which the corypha is intermingled
with a tree o f the proteaceous family, called chaparro by the
natives. It is a new species o f rhopala,† with hard and
resonant leaves. T h e little groves o f rhopala are called
chaparales; and it may be supposed that, in a vast plain,
where only two or three species o f trees are to be found,
* The roofing palm-tree (Corypha tectorum).
† Resembling the Embothrium, of which we found no species in South

America. The embothriums are represented in American vegetation by
the genera Lomatia and Oreocallis.

the chaparro, which affords shade, is considered a highly-
valuable plant. T h e corypha spreads through the Llanos o f
Caracas from M e s a de Peja as far as Guayaval; farther
north and north-west, near Guanare and San Carlos, its
place is taken by another species o f the same genus, with
leaves alike palmate but larger. I t is called the ‘royal
palm o f the plains’ (palma real do los L l a n o s ) . * Other
palm-trees rise south o f Guayaval, especially the piritu with
pinnate leaves,† and the moriche (Mauritia flexuosa), cele-
brated by Father Gumilla under the name o f arbol de la vida,
or tree of life. It is the sago-tree o f America, furnishing
flour, wine, thread for weaving hammocks, baskets, nets,
and clothing, i t s fruit, of the form of the cones o f the
pine, and covered with scales, perfectly resembles that o f
the Calamus rotang. I t has somewhat the taste o f the
apple. W h e n arrived at its maturity it is yellow within and
red without. T h e araguato monkeys eat it with avidity;
and the nation of the Guaraounos, whose whole existence, it
may b e said, is closely linked with that of the moriche palm-
tree, produce from it a fermented liquor, slightly acid, and
extremely refreshing. This palm-tree, with its large shining
leaves, folded like a fan, preserves a beautiful verdure at the
period of the greatest drought. T h e mere sight of it p r o -
duces an agreeable sensation o f coolness, and when loaded
With scaly fruit, it contrasts singularly with the mournful
aspect of the palma de cobija, the foliage o f which is always
grey and covered with dust. T h e Llaneros believe that the
former attracts the vapours in the air ;† and that for this
reason, water is constantly found at its foot, when d u g for
to a certain depth. T h e effect is confounded with the cause.
The moriche grows best in moist p l a c e s ; and it may rather
be said that the water attracts the tree. T h e natives o f the
Orinoco, by analogous reasoning, admit, that the great
serpents contribute t o preserve humidity in a province.
“You would look in vain for water-serpents,” said an old
* This palm-tree of the plains must not be confounded with the palma
real of Caracas and of Curiepe, with pinnate leaves,
†Perhaps an Aiphanes.
If the head of the moriche were better furnished with leaves than it
generally is, we might perhaps admit that the soil round the tree pre-
serves its humidity through the influence of the shade.

Indian o f Javita t o us gravely, “ where there are no marshes;
because the water ceases t o collect when y o u imprudently
kill the serpents that attract it.”
W e suffered greatly from the heat in crossing the Mesa
de Calabozo. The temperature o f the air augmented sensibly
every time that the wind began to blow. T h e air was
loaded with d u s t ; and during these gusts the thermometer
rose to 40° or 41°. W e went slowly forward, for it would
have been dangerous t o leave the mules that carried our
instruments. O u r guides advised us to fill our hats with
the leaves o f the rhopala, to diminish the action o f the solar
rays on the hair and the crown of the head. W e found
relief from this expedient, which was particularly agreeable,
when we could procure the thick leaves of the pothos or
some ot h e r similar plant.
I t is impossible to cross these burning plains, without
inquiring whether they have always been in the same state;
or whether they have been stripped o f their vegetation by
some revolution o f nature. The stratum o f mould n o w
found o n them is in fact very thin. T h e natives believe
that the palmares and the chaparales (the little groves of
p a l m - t r e e s and rhopala) were more frequent and more exten-
sive before the arrival o f the Spaniards. S i n c e the Llanos
have b e e n inhabited and peopled with cattle become wild,
the savannah is often set o n fire, in order t o ameliorate
the pasturage. G r o u p s o f scattered trees are accidently
destroyed w i t h the grasses. T h e plains were n o doubt less
bare i n the fifteenth century, than they n o w a r e ; y e t the
first Conquistadores, who came from Coro, described them
then a s savannahs, where nothing could he perceived but
the sky and the turf, generally destitute o f trees, and dif-
ficult t o traverse on account o f the reverberation of heat
from the s o i l . W h y does not the great forest o f the Orinoco
extend t o the north, on the left bank o f that river? W h y
does it not till that vast space that reaches as far as the
Cordillera o f the coast, and which i s fertilized by numerous
rivers? T h e s e questions are connected w i t h all t h a t relates
t o the history o f our planet. If, indulging in geological
r e v e r i e s , w e suppos e that the s t e p p e s o f America , and the
d e s e r t o f Sahara, have been stripped o f their v e g e t a t i o n b y
an irruption o f the ocean, or that they formed originally the

bottom of an inland sea, w e may conceive that thousands of
years have not sufficed for the trees and shrubs to advance
from the borders o f the forests, from the skirts of the plains
either naked or covered with turf, toward the centre, and
darken so vast a space with their shade. I t is more difficult to
explain the origin o f bare savannahs, encircled by forests,
than to recognize the causes that maintain forests and savan-
nahs within their ancient limits, like continents and seas.
W e found the most cordial hospitality at Calabozo, in the
house of the superintendent o f the royal plantations, D o n
Miguel Cousin. The town, situated between the banks of
the Guarico and the Uritucu, contained at this period only
five thousand inhabitants; but everything denoted increasing
prosperity. T h e wealth of most o f the inhabitants consists
in herds, under the management o f farmers, w h o are called
hateros, from the word hato, which signifies in Spanish a
house or farm placed in the midst o f pastures. T h e scat-
tered population of the Llanos being accumulated on certain
points, principally around towns, Calabozo reckons already
five villages or missions in its environs. I t is computed,
that 98,000 head of cattle wander in the pastures nearest
to the town. I t is very difficult to form an exact idea
of the herds contained in the Llanos o f Caracas, Barce-
lona, Cumana, and Spanish Guiana. M. D e p o n s , w h o lived
in the t o w n o f Caracas longer than I, and whose statis-
tical statements are generally accurate, reckons in those
vast plains, from the mouths of the Orinoco to the lake o f
Maracaybo, 1,200,000 oxen, 180,000 horses, and 90,000
mules. He estimates the produce of these herds at 5,000,000
francs; adding t o the value o f the exportation the price of
the hides consumed in the country. There exist, it is
believed, in the Pampas o f B u e n o s A y r e s , 12,000,000 cows,
and 3,000,000 horses, without comprising in this enume-
meration the cattle that have no acknowledged proprietor.
I shall not hazard any general estimates, which from their
nature are t o o u n c e r t a i n ; but shall only observe that, in
the Llanos of Caracas, the proprietors o f the great hatos are
entirely ignorant of the number of the cattle they possess.
They only k n o w that of the y o u n g cattle, which are branded
every year with a letter or mark peculiar to each herd. T h e
richest proprietors mark as many as 11,000 head every

y e a r ; and sell t o the n u m b e r o f five or six thousand.
A c c o r d i n g t o official documents, the exportation o f hides
from the whole capitania-general o f Caracas amounted
annually t o 174,000 skins of oxen, and 11,500 of goats.
W h e n we reflect, that these documents are taken from
the b o o k s o f the custom-houses, where n o mention is made
o f the fraudulent dealings in hides, w e are tempted to
believe that the estimate of 1,200,000 oxen wandering in
the Llanos, from the R i o Carony and the Guarapiche t o the
lake of Maracaybo, is much underrated. The port o f L a
Guayra alone exported annually from 1789 to 1792, 70,000
or 80,000 hides, entered in the custom-house b o o k s , scarcely
one-fifth of which was sent to Spain. T h e exportation from
B u e n o s A y r e s , at the end o f the eighteenth century, was,
according to D o n Felix de Azara, 800,000 skins. The hides
o f Caracas are preferred in the Peninsula to those of Buenos
A y r e s ; because the latter, on account of a longer passage,
u n d e r g o a loss o f twelve per cent, in the tanning. T h e
southern part o f the savannahs, c o m m o n l y called the U p p e r
Plains ( L l a n o s de arriba), is very productive in mules and
o x e n ; but the pasturage being in general less g o o d , these
animals are obliged to b e sent to other plains to be fattened
before they are sold. T h e Llano de M o n a i , and all the
L o w e r Plains (Llanos de a b a x o ) , abound less in herds, but
the pastures are so fertile, that they furnish meat o f an
excellent quality for the supply o f the coast. T h e mules,
which are n o t fit for labour before the fifth year, are pur-
chased on the spot at the price of fourteen or eighteen pias-
tres. T h e horses o f the Llanos, descending from the fine
Spanish breed, are n o t very l a r g e ; they are generally o f a
uniform colour, brown bay, like most of the wild animals.
Suffering alternately from drought and floods, tormented by
the stings o f insects and the bites o f the large bats, they
lead a sorry life. A f t e r having enjoyed for some months
the care of man, their good qualities are developed. H e r e
there are no s h e e p : we saw flocks only o n the table-land o f
Q u i t o .
The hatos o f oxen have suffered considerably of late from
troops of marauders, who roam over the steppes killing the
a n i m a l s merely to lake their hides. This robbery has in-
creased since the trade of the L o w e r O r i n o c o has b e c o m e

N U M B E R O F E U R O P E A N C A T T L E .
more flourishing. F o r half a century, the banks o f that
great river, from the mouth of the A p u r e as far as A n g o s t u r a ,
wero k n o w n only to the missionary-monks. T h e exportata-
tion o f cattle took place from the ports of the northern coast
only, viz. from Cumana, Barcelona, Burburata, and P o r t o
Cabello. This dependence o n the coast is n o w much dimi-
nished. T h e southern part o f the plains has established an
internal communication with the L o w e r O r i n o c o ; and this
trade is the more brisk, as those w h o devote themselves t o it
easily escape the trammels of the prohibitory laws.
T h e greatest herds o f cattle in the Llanos o f Caracas are
those o f the hatos of M e r e c u r e , L a Cruz, Belen, A l t a Gracia,
and Pavon. T h e Spanish cattle came from C o r o and T o c u y o
into the plains. H i s t o r y has preserved the name o f the
colonist w h o first conceived the idea of peopling these pas-
turages, inhabited only by deer, and a largo species of cavy.
Christoval Rodriguez sent the first horned cattle into the
Llanos, about the year 1548. H e was an inhabitant o f the
town o f T o c u y o , and had long resided in N e w Grenada.
W h e n w e hear o f the ‘ innumerable quantity ’ of oxen,
horses, and mules, that are spread over the plains o f A m e -
rica, we seem generally to forget that in civilized Europe,
on lands of much less extent, there exist, in agricultural
countries, quantities n o less prodigious. Prance, accord-
ing to M . Peuchet, feeds 6,000,000 large horned cattle, o f
which 3,500,000 are o x e n employed in drawing the plough.
I n the Austrian monarchy, the n u m b e r o f oxen, cows,
and calves, has been estimated at 13,100,000 head. Paris
alone consumes annually 155,000 horned cattle. G e r m a n y
receives 150,000 o x e n yearly from H u n g a r y . D o m e s t i c
animals, collected in small herds, are considered by agricul-
tural nations as a secondary object in the riches of the state.
A c c o r d i n g l y they strike the imagination m u c h less than
those wandering droves o f o x e n and horses which alone fill
the uncultivated tracts o f the N e w W o r l d . Civilization and
social order favour alike the progress o f population, and the
multiplication of animals useful t o man.
W e found at Calabozo, in the midst o f the L l a n o s , an
electrical machine with largo plates, electrophori, batteries,
* The thick-nosed tapir, or river cavy (Cavia capybara), called
chiguire in those countries.

A S C I E N T I F I C N A T I V E .
electrometers; an apparatus nearly as complete as our
first scientific m e n in Europe possess. A l l these articles
had not been purchased in the U n i t e d States; they were
the work of a man who had never seen any instrument,
w h o had n o person to consult, and who was acquainted with
the phenomena of electricity only by reading the treatise o f
D e Lafond, and Franklin's M e m o i r s . Señor Carlos del
P o z o , the name of this enlightened and ingenious man, had
begun to malve cylindrical electrical machines, by employing
large glass jars, after having cut off the necks. It was only
within a few years he had been able to procure, b y way o f
Philadelphia, two plates, to construct a plate machine, and
to obtain more considerable effects. It is easy to j u d g e
what difficulties Señor Pozo had to encounter, since the first
works, u p o n electricity had fallen into his hands, and that
he had the courage to resolve to procure himself, by his
own industry, all that he had seen described in his books.
Till now he had enjoyed only the astonishment and admi-
ration produced by his experiments on persons destitute o f
all information, and who had never quitted the solitude o f
the Llanos; our abode at Calabozo gave him a satisfaction
altogether new. I t may bo supposed that he set some value
on the opinions o f t w o travellers who could compare his
apparatus with those constructed in Europe. I had brought
with me electrometers mounted with straw, pith-balls, and
gold-leaf; also a small Leyden jar which could be charged
by friction according to the method of Ingenhousz, and
which served for my physiological experiments. Señor del
P o z o could not contain his j o y o n seeing for the first time
instruments which he had not made, yet which appeared t o
be copied from his o w n . W o also showed him the effect o f
the contact of heterogeneous metals on the nerves of frogs.
The name o f Galvani and Volta had not previously been
heard in those vast solitudes.
N e x t to his electrical apparatus, the work o f the industry
and intelligence of an inhabitant o f the Llanos, nothing at
Calabozo excited in us so great an interest as the gymnoti,
which are animated electrical apparatuses. I was impatient,
from the time of my arrival at C u m a n a , to procure electrical
eels. W e had been promised them often, but our hopes
had always been disappointed. M o n e y loses its value as

you withdraw from the coast; and h o w is the imperturbable
apathy o f the ignorant people to be vanquished, when they
arc not excited by the desire of g a i n ?
The Spaniards confound all electric fishes under the name
of tembladores* There are some o f these in the Caribbean
Sea, on the coast o f Cumana, T h e Guayquerie Indians,
who are the most skilful and active fishermen in those
parts, brought us a fish, which, they said, benumbed their
hands. This fish ascends the little river Manzanares. It
is a new species o f ray, the lateral spots o f which are
scarcely visible, and which much resembles the torpedo.
T h e torpedos, which are furnished with an electric organ e x -
ternally visible, on account o f the transparency of the skin,
form a genus or subgenus different from the rays properly
so called.† T h e torpedo o f Cumana was very lively, very
energetic in its muscular movements, and yet the electric
shocks it gave us were extremely feeble. They became
stronger on galvanizing the animal by the contact of zinc
and gold. Other tembladores, real gymnoti or electric eels,
inhabit the Rio Colorado, the Guarapiche, and several little
streams which traverse the Missions o f the Chayma Indians.
They abound also in the large rivers of America, the Ori-
n o c o , the A m a z o n , and the M e t a ; b u t the force o f the
currents and the depth of the water, prevent them from
being caught by the Indians. They see these fish less fre-
quently than they feel shocks from them when swimming or
bathing in the river. I n the Llanos, particularly in the
environs of Calabozo, between the farms o f Morichal and
the U p p e r and L o w e r Missions, the basins of stagnant
water and the confluents of the Orinoco (the R i o Guarico
and the caños Rastro, Berito, and Paloma) are filled with
electric eels. W e at first wished t o make our experiments
in the house we inhabited at C a l a b o z o ; but the dread of the
shocks caused by the gymnoti is so great, and so exag-
* Literally " tremblers," or "producers of trembling."
† Cuvier, Règne Animal, vol. ii. The Mediterranean contains, ac-

cording to M . Risso, four species of electrical torpedos, all formerly
confounded under the name of Raia torpedo; these are Torpedo narke,
T. unimaculata, T. galvanii, and T. marmorata. The torpedo of the
Cape of Good Hope, the subject of the recent experiments of Mr. Todd,
is, no doubt, a nondescript species.

VOL. I I . I

114 S U P P O S E D P R E V E N T I V E O F T H E S H O C K .
gerated among the c o m m o n people, that during three days
w e could not obtain one, though they are easily caught, and
w e had promised the Indians two piastres for every strong
and vigorous fish. This fear o f the Indians is the more
extrordinary, as they do not attempt to adopt precautions
in which they profess t o have great confidence. W h e n
interrogated on the effect of the tembladores, they never fail
to tell the W h i t e s , that they may be touched with impunity
while y o u are chewing tobacco. This supposed influence of
tobacco o n animal electricity is as general o n the continent
o f South America, as the belief among mariners o f the effect
of garlic and tallow on the magnetic needle.
Impatient o f waiting, and having obtained very uncertain
results from an electric eel which had been b r o u g h t t o us
alive, but much enfeebled, we repaired to the Caño de Bera,
t o make our experiments in the open air, and at the edge
o f the water. W e set off o n the 19th o f M a r c h , at a
very early hour, for the village o f R a s t r o ; thence w e were
conducted by the Indians to a stream, which, in the time
o f drought, forms a basin of muddy water, surrounded b y
fine trees,* the clusia, the amyris, and the mimosa with
fragrant flowers. T o catch the gymnoti with nets is very
difficult, on account of the extreme agility of the fish, which
bury themselves in the mud. W e would n o t employ the
barbasco, that is to say, the roots o f the Piscidea erithyrna,
the Jacquinia armillaris, and some species o f phyllanthus,
which thrown into the pool, intoxicate or benumb the eels.
These methods have the effect o f enfeebling the gymnoti.
T h e Indians therefore told us that they would “fish with
horses,” (embarbascar c o n caballos.†) W e found it difficult
to form an idea of this extraordinary manner o f fishing; b u t
w e soon saw o u r guides return from the savannah, which
they had been scouring for wild horses and mules. T h e y
brought about thirty with them, which they forced to enter
the pool.
T h e extraordinary noise caused b y the horses’ hoofs,
makes the fish issue from the mud, and excites them to the
attack. These yellowish and livid eels, resembling large
* Amyris lateriflora, A. coriacea, Laurus pichurin, Myroxylon secun-
dum, Malpighia reticulata.
† Meaning to excite the fish by horses.

aquatic serpents, swim on the surface of the water, and
crowd under the bellies of the horses and mules. A contest
between animals o f so different an organization presents
a very striking spectacle. T h e Indians, provided with
harpoons and long slender reeds, surround the pool closely ;
and some climb up the trees, the branches of which extend
horizontally over the surface o f the water. B y their wild
cries, and the length of their reeds, they prevent the horses
from running away and reaching the bank of the pool.
The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by the
repeated discharge of their electric batteries. T o r a long
interval they seem likely to prove victorious. Several horses
sink beneath the violence of the invisible strokes which they
receive from all sides, in organs the most essential to life ;
and stunned by the force and frequency o f the shocks, they
disappear under the water. Others, panting, with mane
erect, and haggard eyes expressing anguish and dismay,
raise themselves, and endeavour to flee from the storm
b y which they are overtaken. T h e y are driven back b y
the Indians into the middle of the w a t e r ; b u t a small
number succeed in eluding the active vigilence o f the
fishermen. These regain the shore, stumbling at every
step, and stretch themselves o n the sand, exhausted with
fatigue, and with limbs benumbed by the electric shocks
o f the gymnoti.
I n less than five minutes t w o o f our horses were drowned.
The eel being five feet long, and pressing itself against the
belly o f the horses, makes a discharge along the whole extent
o f its electric organ. I t attacks at once the heart, the in-
testines, and the cæliac fold of the abdominal nerves. I t is
natural that the effect felt b y the horses should be more
powerful than that produced upon man b y the touch o f the
same fish at only one of his extremities. The horses are
probably not killed, but only stunned. T h e y are drowned
from the impossibility of rising amid the prolonged struggle
between the other horses and the eels.
W e had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by
killing successively all the animals e n g a g e d ; but b y degrees
the impetuosity of this unequal combat diminished, and the
wearied gymnoti dispersed. They require a long rest, and
abundant nourishment, to repair the galvanic force which
I 2

S I Z E OF T H E G Y M N O T U S .
they have lost.* The mules and horses appear less fright-
e n e d ; their manes are n o longer bristled, and their eyes
express less dread. T h e gymnoti approach timidly the edge
o f the marsh, where they are taken by means o f small
harpoons fastened to long cords. W h e n the cords are very
dry the Indians feel no shock in raising the fish into the
air. I n a few minutes w e had five large eels, most of which
were but slightly wounded. Some others were taken, by
the same means, towards evening.
T h e temperature o f the waters in which the g y m n o t i
habitually five, is from 26° to 27°. Their electric force
diminishes it is said, in colder waters ; and it is remarkable
that, in general, animals endowed with electromotive organs,
the effects of winch are sensible t o man, are not found in
the air, but in a fluid that is a conductor of electricity. T h e
gymnotus is the largest o f electrical fishes. I measured
some that were from five feet to five feet three inches long ;
and the Indians assert that they have seen them still larger.
W e found that a fish o f three feet ten inches long weighed
twelve pounds. T h e transverse diameter o f the body, with-
out reckoning the anal fin, which is elongated in the form
o f a keel, was three inches and a half. T h e gymnoti of the
Caño de Bera are o f a fine olive-green. T h e under part o f
the head is yellow mingled with red. T w o rows of small
yellow spots are placed symmetrically along the back, from
the head to the end o f the tail. Every spot contains an
excretory aperture. I n consequence, the skin of the animal
is constantly covered with a mucous matter, which, as V o l t a
has proved, conducts electricity twenty or thirty times
better than pure water. I t is in general somewhat remark-
able, that no electric fish yet discovered in the different
parts of the world, is covered with scales.†
* The Indians assured us that when the horses are made to run two
days successively into the same pool, none are killed the secoud day.
See, on the fishing for gymnoti, " Views of Nature." (Holm's ed., p. 18.)

† W e yet know with certainty only seven electric fishes ; Torpedo
narke, Risso, T. unimaculata, T. marmorata, T. galvanii, Silurus elec-
tricus, Tetraodon electricus, Gymnotus electricus. It appears uncertain
whether the Trichiurus indicus has electrical properties or not. (See
Cuvier's Règne Animal, vol. ii.) But the genus Torpedo, very different
from that of the rays properly so called, has numerous species in the
equatorial seas; and it is probable that there exist several gymnoti

R E S P I R A T I O N O F F I S H E S .
T h e gymnoti, like our eels, are fond of swallowing and
breathing air on the surface o f the w a t e r ; b u t we must not
thence conclude that the fish would perish if it could n o t
come up to breathe the air. T h e European eel will creep
during the night upon the g r a s s ; but I have seen a very
vigorous gymnotus that had sprung out o f the water, die on
the ground. M . Provençal and myself have proved by our
researches on the respiration of fishes, that their humid
bronchiæ perform the double function o f decomposing the
atmospheric air, and of appropriating the o x y g e n contained
in water. They do not suspend their respiration in the
air; but they absorb the o x y g e n like a reptile furnished
with lungs. I t is known that carp may be fattened by being
fed, out of the water, if their gills are wet from time t o
time with humid moss, to prevent them from becoming dry.
Fish separate their gill-covers wider in oxygen gas than in
water. Their temperature however, does n o t rise ; and they
live the same length o f time in pure vital air, and in a
mixture o f ninety parts nitrogen and ten oxygen. W e
found that tench placed under inverted jars filled with air,
absorb half a cubic centimetre o f oxygen in an hour. This
action takes place in the gills o n l y ; for fishes on which a
collar o f cork has been fastened, and leaving their head out
o f the jar filled with air, do not act upon the o x y g e n by the
rest o f their b o d y .
The swimming-bladder o f the gymnotus is t w o feet five
inches long in a fish of three feet ten inches.† I t is sepa-
rated b y a mass o f fat from the external skin ; and rests upon
the electric organs, which o c c u p y more than two-thirds o f
specifically different. The Indians mentioned to us a black and very
powerful species, inhabiting the marshes of the Apure, which never
a length of more than two feet, but which we were not able to
procure. The raton of the Rio de la Magdalena, which I have described
under the name of Gymnotus æquilabiatus (Observations de Zoologie,
vol. i.) forms
a particular sub-genus. This is a Carapa, not scaly, and
without an electric organ. This organ is also entirely wanting in the
Brazilian Carapo, and in all the rays which were carefully examined by

† Cuvier has shown that in the Gymnotus electricus there exists,
besides the large swimming-bladder, another situated before it, and much
smaller. It looks like the bifurcated swimming-bladder in the Gymnotus

the animal's b o d y . The same vessels which penetrate b e -
tween the plates or leaves of these organs, and which cover
them with blood when they are cut transversely, also send
out numerous branches t o the exterior surface o f the air-
bladder. I found in a hundred parts o f the air o f the swim-
ming-bladder four of oxygen and ninety-six o f nitrogen.
T h e medullary substance of the brain displays but a feeble
analogy with the albuninous and gelatinous matter of the
electric organs. B u t these two substances have in c o m m o n
the great quantity o f arterial blood which they receive, and
which is deoxidated in them. W e may again remark, on
this occasion, that an e x t r e m e activity in the functions of
the brain causes the blood to flow more abundantly towards
the head, as the energy o f the movement of the muscles
accelerates the deoxidation of the arterial blood. W h a t a
contrast between the multitude and the diameter o f the
blood-vessels o f the gymnotus, and the small space occupied
by its muscular s y s t e m ! This contrast reminds the observer,
that three functions of animal life, which appear in other r e -
spects sufficiently distinct,—the functions o f the brain, those
of the electrical organ, and those of the muscles, all require
the afflux and concourse of arterial or oxygenated blood.
I t would be temerity t o expose ourselves t o the first
shocks o f a very large and strongly irritated gymnotus. I f
by chance a stroke be received before the fish is wounded
or wearied by long pursuit, the pain and numbness are so
violent that it is impossible to describe the nature o f the
feeling they excite. I do not remember having ever received
from the discharge of a large L e y d e n jar, a more dreadful
shock than that which I experienced by imprudently placing
both m y feet on a gymnotus just taken out of the water.
I was affected during the rest of the day with a violent pain
in the knees, and in almost every joint. T o be aware of the
difference that exists between the sensation produced by the
Voltaic battery and an electric fish, the latter should be
touched when they are in a state o f extreme weakness. The
gymnoti and the torpedos then cause a twitching of the
muscles, which is propagated from the part that rests on the
electric organs, as far as the elbow. W e seem to feel, at
every stroke, an internal vibration, which lasts two or three
seconds, and is followed by a painful numbness. A c c o r d -

ingly, the Tamanac Indians call the gymnotus, in their
expressive language, arimna, which means ‘ something that
deprives of motion.’
T h e sensation caused b y the feeble shocks o f an electric
eel appeared to me analogous to that painful twitching
with which I have been seized at each contact of t w o
heterogeneous metals applied t o wounds which I had made
o n m y back b y means o f cantharides. This difference o f
sensation between the effects of electric fishes and those
o f a Voltaic battery or a L e y d e n jar feebly charged has
struck every observer; there is, however, nothing in this
contrary to the supposition o f the identity o f electricity and
the galvanic action of fishes. T h e electricity may be the
s a m e ; b u t its effects will be variously modified by the dis-
position of the electrical apparatus, by the intensity o f the
fluid, b y the rapidity of the current, and by the particular
m o d e o f action.
I n D u t c h Guiana, at Demerara for instance, electric
eels were formerly employed to cure paralytic affections.
A t a time when the physicians of Europe had great confi-
dence in the effects of electricity, a surgeon of Essequibo,
named V a n der L o t t , published in Holland a treatise on
the medical properties o f the gymnotus. These electric
remedies are practised among the savages of America, as
they were among the Greeks. W e are told by Scribonius
Largus, Galen, and Dioscorides, that torpedos cure the head-
ache and the gout. I did n o t hear o f this mode o f treat-
ment in the Spanish colonies which I visited ; and I can
assert that, after having made experiments during four hours
successively with gymnoti, M . Bonpland and myself felt, till
the next day, a debility in the muscles, a pain in the joints,
and a general uneasiness, the effect o f a strong irritation of
the nervous system.
T h e gymnotus is neither a charged conductor, n o r a
battery, nor an electromotive apparatus, the shock o f which
is received every time they are touched with one hand, or
when both hands are applied to form a conducting circle
between the opposite poles. T h e electric action of the fish
depends entirely on its w i l l ; because it does not keep its
electric organs always charged, or whether by the secretion
o f some fluid, or by any other means alike mysterious to us,

it be capable of directing the action of its organs t o an
external object. W e often tried, both insulated and other-
wise, to touch the fish, without feeling the least shock.
W h e n M . Bonpland held it by the head, or by the middle o f
the body, while I held it b y the tail, and, standing o n the
moist ground, did not take each other's hand, one o f us
received shocks, which the other did not feel. I t depends
upon the gymnotus to direct its action towards the point
where it finds itself most strongly irritated. The discharge
is then made at one point only, and not at the neighbouring
points. I f two persons touch the belly of the fish with their
fingers, at an inch distance, aud press it simultaneously,
sometimes one, sometimes the other, will receive the shock.
I n the same manner, when one insulated person holds the
tail of a vigorous gymnotus, and another pinches the gills or
pectoral fin, it is often the first only by whom the shock is
received. I t did not appear to us that these differences
could be attributed to the dryness or moisture o f our hands,
or to their unequal conducting power. The gymnotus
seemed to direct its strokes sometimes from the whole sur-
face o f its body, sometimes from one point only. This
effect indicates less a partial discharge o f the organ c o m -
posed o f an innumerable quantity o f layers, than the faculty
which the animal possesses, (perhaps by the instantaneous
s e c r e t i o n of a fluid s p r e a d through the cellular membrane, )
of establishing the communication between its organs and
the skin only, in a very limited space.
N o t h i n g proves more strongly the faculty, which the
gymnotus possesses, o f darting and directing its stroke
at will, than the observations made at Philadelphia and
Stockholm,* on gymnoti rendered extremely tame. W h e n
* By M M . Williamson and Fahlberg. The following account is given
by the latter gentleman. " The gymnotus sent from Surinam to M .
Nörderling, at Stockholm, lived more than four months in a state of
perfect health. It was twenty-seven inches long; and the shocks it gave

were so violent, especially in the open air, that I found scarcely any
means of protecting myself by non-conductors, in
transporting the fish
from one place to another. Its stomach being very small, it ate little
at a time, but fed often. It approached living fish, first sending them
from afar a shock, the energy of which was proportionate to the size of
the prey. The gymnotus seldom failed in its aim ; one single stroke
was almost always sufficient to overcome the resistance which the strata

H A B I T S O F T H E E L E C T R I C E E L .
they had been made t o fast a long time, they killed small
fishes put into the t n b . They acted from a distance; that
is to say, their electrical shock passed through a very thick
stratum of water. W e need not be surprised that what was
observed in Sweden, o n a single gymnotus only, we could
not perceive in a great number of individuals in their native
country. The electric action of animals being a vital action,
and subject to their will, it does not depend solely on their
state of health and vigour. A gymnotus that has been
kept a long time in captivity, accustoms itself to the i m -
prisonment to which is is r e d u c e d ; it resumes by degrees
the same habits in the tub, which it had in the rivers and
marshes. A n electrical eel was brought to me at C a l a b o z o :
it had been taken in a net, and consequently having n o
wound. I t ate meat, and terribly frightened the little tor-
toises and frogs which, not aware of their danger, placed
themselves o n its back. T h e frogs did not receive the stroke
till the m o m e n t when they touched the body of the
gymnotus. W h e n they recovered, they leaped out of the
tub ; and when replaced near the fish, they were frightened
at the mere sight o f it. W e then observed nothing that
indicated an action at a distance ; but our gymnotus, recently
taken, was n o t yet sufficiently tame t o attack and devour
frogs. O n approaching the finger, or the metallic points,
very close to the electric organs, no shock was felt. Perhaps
the animal did not perceive the proximity of a foreign body ;
or, if it did, w e must suppose that in the commencement o f
its captivity, timidity prevented it from darting forth its
energetic strokes except when strongly irritated by an
immediate contact. T h e gymnotus being immersed in water,
I placed m y hand, both armed and unarmed with metal,
within a very small distance from the electric o r g a n s ; yet
the strata of water transmitted no shock, while M . Bonpland
irritated the animal strongly b y an immediate contact, and
of water, more or less thick according to the distance, opposed to the
electrical current. When very much pressed by hunger, it sometimes
directed the shocks against the person who daily brought its food of
boiled meat. Persons afflicted with rheumatism came to touch it in hopes
of being cured. They took it at once by the neck and tail : the shocks

were in this case stronger than when touched with one hand only. It
almost entirely lost its electrical power a short time before its death."

received some very violent shocks. H a d w e placed a very
delicate electroscope in the contiguous strata o f water, i t
might possibly have deen influenced at the m o m e n t when
the gymnotus seemed t o direct its stroke elsewhere, P r e -
pared frogs, placed immediately o n the body o f a torpedo,
experience, according t o Galvani, a strong contraction at
every discharge o f the fish.
T h e electrical organ o f the gymnoti acts only under t h e
immediate influence o f the brain and the heart. O n cutting
a very vigorous fish through the middle o f the body, t h e
fore part alone gave shocks. These are equally strong in
whatever part o f the body the fish is t o u c h e d ; it is most
disposed, however, t o emit them when the pectoral fin, t h e
electrical organ, the lips, the eyes, o r the gills, are pinched.
Sometimes t h e animal struggles violently with a person
holding it b y the tail, without communicating the least
shock. N o r did I feel any when I made a slight incision
near the pectoral fin o f the fish, and galvanized the wound
b y the contact o f t w o pieces o f zinc and silver. T h e g y m -
notus bent itself convulsively, and raised its head out o f the
water, as if terrified b y a sensation altogether n e w ; b u t I
felt n o vibration in t h e hands which held the t w o metals.
T h e most violent muscular movements are n o t always a c -
companied b y electric discharges.
T h e action o f the fish on the human organs is transmitted
and intercepted b y the same bodies that transmit and inter-
cept the electrical current o f a conductor charged b y a
L e y d e n jar, o r Voltaic battery. Some anomalies, which we
thought w e observed, are easily explained, when w e recollect
that even metals (as is proved from their ignition when
exposed t o the action of t h e battery) present a slight
obstacle t o t h e passage o f electricity; and that a bad c o n -
ductor annihilates the effect, o n o u r organs, o f a feeble
electric charge, whilst it transmits t o us the effect o f a
very strong one. T h e repulsive force which zinc and silver
exercise together being far superior t o that o f gold and
silver, I have found that when a frog, prepared and armed
with silver, is galvanized under water, the conducting arc
o f zinc produces contraction as soon as o n e o f its extre-
mities approaches t h e muscles within three lines distance;
while an arc o f gold does n o t excite the organs, when the

stratum of water between the gold and the muscles is more
than half a line thick. I n the same manner, by employing
a conducting arc composed of two pieces o f zinc and silver
soldered together e n d w a y s ; and resting, as before, one o f
the extremities o f the metallic circuit o n the femoral nerve,
it is necessary, in order to produce contractions, to bring
the other extremity o f the conductor nearer and nearer t o
the muscles, in proportion as the irritability of the organs
diminishes. Toward the end o f the experiment the slightest
stratum of water prevents the passage o f the electrical cur-
rent, and it is only by the immediate contact o f the arc with
the muscles, that the contractions take place. These effects
are, however, dependent o n three variable circumstances;
the energy o f the electromotive apparatus, the conducti-
bility o f the medium, and the irritability of the organs which
receive the impressions: it is because experiments have
not been sufficiently multiplied with a view t o these three
variable elements, that, in the action of electric eels and
torpedos, accidental circumstances have been taken for
absolute conditions, without which the electric shocks are
not felt.
I n w o u n d e d gymnoti, which give feeble b u t very equal
shocks, these shocks appeared to us constantly stronger on
touching the body o f the fish with a hand armed with metal,
than with the naked hand. They are stronger also, when,
instead of touching the fish with one hand, naked, or armed
with metal, we press it at once with both hands, either
naked or armed. These differences b e c o m e sensible only
when one has gymnoti enough at disposal to be able t o
choose the w e a k e s t ; and when the extreme equality o f the
electric discharges admits of distinguishing between the sen-
sations felt alternately by the hand naked or armed with a
metal, by one or both hands naked, and by one or both
hands armed with metal. I t is also in the case only of
small shocks, feeble and uniform, that they are more sen-
sible on touching the gymnotus with one hand (without
forming a chain) with zinc, than with copper or iron.
Resinous substances, glass, very dry w o o d , horn, and even
bones, which are generally believed to be g o o d conductors,
prevent the action of the gymnoti from being transmitted to
man. I was surprised at not feeling the least shock on

A B S E N C E O F A T T R A C T I O N .
pressing wet sticks o f sealing-wax against the organs of the
fish, while the same animal gave me the most violent
strokes, when excited b y means o f a metallic rod. M . B o n -
pland received shocks, when carrying a g y m n o t u s on t w o
cords o f the fibres of the palm-tree, which appeared to us
extremely dry. A strong discharge makes its way through
very imperfect conductors. Perhaps also the obstacle which
the conductor presents renders the discharge more painful.
I touched the g y m n o t u s with a wet pot o f brown clay,
without effect; y e t I received violent shocks when I carried
the gymnotus in the same pot, because the contact was
W h e n t w o persons, insulated or otherwise, hold each
other's hands, and only one o f these persons touches the
fish with the hand, either naked or armed with metal, the
shock is most commonly felt by both at once. H o w e v e r , it
sometimes happens that, in the most severe shocks, the
person w h o comes into immediate contact with the fish
alone feels them. W h e n the gymnotus is exhausted, or in
a very reduced state o f excitability, and will no longer emit
strokes o n being irritated with one hand, the shocks are
felt in a very vivid manner, o n forming the chain, and e m -
ploying both hands. Even then, however, the electric shock
takes place only at the will o f the animal. T w o persons,
one o f whom holds the tail, and the other the head, cannot,
by joining hands and forming a chain, force the g y m n o t u s t o
dart his stroke.
Though employing the most delicate electrometers in
various ways, insulating them on a plate o f glass, and receiv-
ing very strong shocks which passed through the electro-
meter, I could never discover any phenomenon o f attraction
or repulsion. T h e same observation was made b y M . Fahl-
berg at Stockholm. That philosopher, however, has seen
an electric spark, as Walsh and Ingenhousz had before
him, in L o n d o n , by placing the g y m n o t u s in the air, and
interrupting the conducting chain by t w o gold leaves pasted
upon glass, and a line distant from each other. N o person,
o n the contrary, has ever perceived a spark issue from the
b o d y o f the fish itself. W e irritated it for a long time
during the night, at Calabozo, in perfect darkness, without
observing any luminous appearance. H a v i n g placed four

gymnoti, of unequal strength, in such a manner as to receive
the shocks of the most vigorous fish by contact, that is to
say, b y touching only one o f the other fishes, I did n o t
observe that these last were agitated at the m o m e n t when
the current passed their bodies. Perhaps the current
did not penetrate below the humid surface of the skin.
W e will not, however, conclude from this, that the gymnoti
are insensible to electricity; and that they cannot fight with
each other at the bottom o f the pools. Their nervous
system must be subject to the same agents as the nerves o f
other animals. I have indeed seen, that, on laying open
their nerves, they undergo muscular contractions at the
mere contact o f two opposite m e t a l s ; and M . Fahlberg, of
Stockholm, found that his gymnotus was convulsively agi-
tated when placed in a copper vessel, and feeble discharges
from a L e y d e n jar passed through its skin.
After the experiments I had made on gymnoti, it became
highly interesting to me, o n m y return to Europe, to ascer-
tain with precision the various circumstances in which
another electric fish, the torpedo o f o u r seas, gives or docs
not give shocks. Though this fish had been examined b y
numerous men o f science, I found all that had been p u b -
lished o n its electrical effects extremely vague. I t has been
very arbitrarily supposed, that this fish acts like a L e y d e n
jar, which may be discharged at will, b y touching it with
both h a n d s ; and this supposition appears to have led into
error observers who have devoted themselves to researches
of this kind. M . Gay-Lussac and myself, during our j o u r n e y
to Italy, made a great number o f experiments o n torpedos
taken in the gulf o f Naples. These experiments furnish
many results somewhat different from those I collected o n
the gymnoti. I t is probable that the cause o f these anoma-
lies is owing rather to the inequality o f electric power in
the two fishes, than t o the different disposition o f their
T h o u g h the power o f the torpedo cannot be compared
with that o f the g y m n o t u s , it is sufficient to cause very
painful sensations. A person accustomed to electric shocks
can with difficulty hold in his hands a torpedo o f twelve or
fourteen inches, and in possession o f all its vigour. W h e n
the torpedo gives only very feeble strokes under water,

they become more sensible if the animal be raised above the
surface. I have often observed the same p h e n o m e n o n in
experimenting on frogs.
T h e torpedo moves the pectoral fins convulsively every
time it emits a s t r o k e ; and this stroke is more or less
painful, according as the immediate contact takes place
b y a greater or less surface. W e observed that the
g y m n o t u s gives the strongest shocks without making any
movement with the eyes, head, or fins.* I s this difference
caused by the position of the electric organ, which is n o t
double in the g y m n o t i ? or does the movement o f the
pectoral fins of the torpedo directly prove that the fish
restores the electrical equilibrium by its o w n skin, dis-
charges itself b y its o w n body, and that we generally feel
only the effect of a lateral shock ?
W e cannot discharge at will either a torpedo or a g y m -
notus, as w e discharge at will a L e y d e n jar or a Voltaic
battery. A shock is not always felt, even on touching the
electric fish with both hands. W e must irritate it to make
it give the shock. This action in the torpedos, as well as in
the gymnoti, is a vital a c t i o n ; it depends on the will only
o f the animal, which perhaps does not always keep its elec-
tric organs charged, or does not always employ the action
o f its nerves to establish the chain between the positive and
negative poles. I t is certain that the torpedo gives a long
series o f shocks with astonishing celerity; whether it is that
the plates or laminæ of its organs are not wholly exhausted,
or that the fish recharges them instantaneously.
T h e electric stroke is felt, when the animal is disposed t o
give it, whether w e touch with a single finger only one o f
the surfaces of the organs, or apply both hands to the t w o
surfaces, the superior and inferior, at once. I n either case
it is altogether indifferent whether the person who touches
the fish with one finger or both hands be insulated or not.
A l l that has been said on the necessity o f a communication
with the damp ground to establish a circuit, is founded on
inaccurate observations.
M . Gay-Lussac made the important observation that
when an insulated person touches the torpedo with one
* The anal fin of the gymnoti only has a sensible motion when these
fishes are excited under the belly, where the electric organ is placed.

finger, it is indispensible that the contact be direct. T h e
fish may with impunity be touched with a key, or any
other metallic i n s t r u m e n t ; no shock is felt when a c o n -
ducting or non-conducting b o d y is interposed between the
finger and the electrical organ o f the t o r p e d o . This cir-
cumstance proves a great difference between the torpedo
and the gymnotus, the latter giving his strokes through an
iron rod several feet long.
W h e n the torpedo is placed on a metallic plate of very
little thickness, so that the plate touches the inferior surface
of the organs, the hand that supports the plate never feels
any shock, though another insulated person may excite the
animal, and the convulsive movement of the pectoral fins
may denote the strongest and most reiterated discharges.
If, on the contrary, a person support the torpedo placed
upon a metallic plate, with the left hand, as in the foregoing
experiment, and the same person touch the superior surface
of the electrical organ with the right hand, a strong shock
is then felt in both arms. T h e sensation is the same when
the fish is placed between t w o metallic plates, the edges o f
which do not touch, and the person applies both hands at
once to these plates. T h e interposition of one metallic
plate prevents the communication if that plate be touched
with one hand only, while the interposition of t w o metallic
plates does n o t prevent the shock when both hands are
applied. I n the latter case it cannot b o doubted that the
circulation of the fluid is established by the t w o arms.
If, in this situation o f the fish between two plates, there
exist any immediate communication between the edges o f
these t w o plates, n o shock takes place. T h e chain between
the t w o surfaces of the electric organ is then formed b y
the plates, and the n e w communication, established by the
contact o f the t w o hands with the two plates, remains with-
out effect. W e carried the torpedo with impunity between
two plates o f metal, and felt the strokes it gave only at the
instant when they ceased to touch each other at the
N o t h i n g in the torpedo or in the g y m n o t u s indicates that
the animal modifies the electrical state o f the bodies b y
which it is surrounded. T h e most delicate electrometer is
no way affected in whatever manner it is employed, whether

bringing it near the organs or insulating the fish, covering
it with a metallic plate, and causing the plate to communi.
cate b y a conducting wire with the condenser o f Volta.
W e were at great pains to vary the experiments by which
w e sought to render the electrical tension o f the torpedo
sensible ; but they were constantly without effect, and per-
fectly confirmed what M . Bonpland and myself had observed
respecting the gymnoti, during our abode in South America.
Electrical fishes, when very vigorous, act, with equal
energy under water and in the air. This observation led us
to examine the conducting property of water ; and we found
that, when several persons form the chain between the
superior and inferior surface o f the organs o f the torpedo,
the shock is felt only when these persons join hands. T h e
action is n o t intercepted if t w o persons, who support the
torpedo with their right hands, instead o f taking one
another by the left hand, plunge each a metallic point into
a drop o f water placed on an insulating substance. O n
substituting flame for the drop of water, the communication
is interrupted, and is only re-established, as in the g y m -
notus, when the two points immediately touch each other in
the interior o f the flame.
W e are, doubtless, very far from having discovered all
the secrets o f the electrical action of fishes which is modified
by the influence o f the brain and the nerves ; b u t the
experiments we have; just described are sufficient to prove
that these fishes act b y a concealed electricity, and by elec-
tromotive organs o f a peculiar construction, which are
recharged with extreme rapidity. V o l t a admits that the
discharges o f the opposite electricities in the torpedos and
the gymnoti are made by their o w n skin, and that when w e
touch them with one hand only, or b y means o f a metallic
point, we feel the effect o f a lateral shock, the electrical
current not being directed solely the shortest way. W h e n
a L e y d e n jar is placed on a wet woollen cloth (which is a
bad c o n d u c t o r ) , and the jar is discharged in such a manner
that the cloth makes part of the chain, prepared frogs,
placed at different distances, indicate by their contractions
that the current spreads itself over the whole cloth in a
thousand different ways. A c c o r d i n g t o this analogy, the
most violent shock given by the g y m n o t u s at a distance

would be but a feeble part o f the stroke which re-establishes
the equilibrium in the interior o f the fish.* A s the g y m -
notus directs its stroke wherever it pleases, it must also b e
admitted that the discharge is not made b y the whole skin
at once, but that the animal, excited perhaps b y the motion
of a fluid poured into one part o f the cellular membrane,
establishes at will the communication between its organs
and some particular part o f the skin. I t may be conceived
that a lateral stroke, out o f the direct current, must b e c o m e
imperceptible under the t w o conditions o f a very weak
discharge, or a very great obstacle presented b y the nature
and length o f the conductor. Notwithstanding these c o n -
siderations, it appears to me very surprising that shocks
o f the torpedo, strong in appearance, are not propagated
to the hand when a very thin plate of metal is interposed
between it and the fish.
Schilling declared that the g y m n o t u s approached the
magnet involuntarily. W e tried in a thousand ways this
supposed influence of the magnet on the electrical organs,
without having ever observed any sensible effect. The fish
no more approached the magnet, than a bar o f iron not
magnetic. Iron-filings, thrown on its back, remained motion-
T h e gymnoti, which are objects of curiosity and o f the
the deepest interest to the philosophers of Europe, are at
once dreaded and detested by the natvies. They furnish,
indeed, in their muscular flesh, pretty g o o d aliment; but
the electric organ fills the greater part o f their body, and
this organ is slimy, and disagreeable t o the t a s t e ; it is
* The heterogeneous poles of the double electrical organs must
exist in each organ. Mr. Todd has recently proved, by experiments
made on torpedos at the Cape of Good Hope, that the animal continues

to give violent shocks when one of these organs is extirpated. On the
contrary, all electrical action is stopped (and this point, as elucidated by

Galvani, is of the greatest importance) if injury be inflicted on the
brain, or if the nerves which supply the plates of the electrical organs be
divided. In the latter case, the nerves being cut, and the brain left un-
touched, the torpedo continues to live, and perform every muscular
movement. A fish, exhausted by too numerous electrical discharges,
suffered much more than another fish deprived, by dividing the nerves,
of any communication between the brain and the electromotive apparatus.
(Philosophical Transactions, 1816).

VOL. I I . K

accordingly separated with care from the rest o f the eel.
T h e presence o f gymnoti is also considered as the principal
cause o f the want o f fish in the ponds and pools o f the
Llanos. They, however, kill many more than they d e v o u r :
and the Indians told us, that when y o u n g alligators and
g y m n o t i are caught at the same time in very strong nets,
the latter never show the slightest trace o f a wound,
because they disable the y o u n g alligators before they are
attacked by them. A l l the inhabitants o f the waters dread
the society o f the gymnoti. Lizards, tortoises, and frogs,
seek pools where they are secure from the electric action.
It became necessary t o change the direction o f a road
near Uritucu, because the electric eels were so numerous
in one river, that they every year killed a great number o f
mules, as they forded the water with their burdens.
Though in the present state o f o u r knowledge w e may
flatter ourselves with having thrown some light o n the
extraordinary effects o f electric fishes, y e t a vast number o f
physical and physiological researches still remain t o b e made.
T h e brilliant results which chemistry has obtained b y means
o f the Voltaic battery, have occupied all observers, and turned
attention for some time from the examinations o f the p h e -
nomena o f vitality. L e t us hope that these phenomena, the
most awful and the most mysterious o f all, will in their turn
occupy the earnest attention o f natural philosophers. This
hope will b e easily realized if they succeed in procuring
anew living gymnoti in some o n e o f the great capitals o f
Europe. T h e discoveries that will be made o n the electro-
motive apparatus o f these fish, much more energetic, and
more easy o f preservation, than the torpedos,* will extend
* In order to investigate the phenomena of the living electromotive
apparatus in its greatest simplicity, and not to mistake for general
conditions circumstances which depend on the degree of energy of the
electric organs, it is necessary to perform the experiments on those
electrical fishes most easily tamed. If the gymnoti were not known, we
might suppose, from the observations made on torpedos, that fishes can-
not give their shocks from a distance through very thick strata of water,

or through a bar of iron, without forming a circuit. Mr. Williamson has
felt strong shocks when he held only one hand in the water, and this
hand, without touching the gymnotus, was placed between it and the
small fish towards which the stroke was directed from ten or fifteen
inches distance. (Philosophical Transactions, vol. lxv, pp. 99 and 1 0 8 ) .

D E P A R T U R E F R O M C A L A B O Z O .
to all the phenomena o f muscular motion subject to voli-
tion. I t will perhaps be found that, in most animals, every
contraction of the muscular fibre is preceded by a discharge
from the nerve into the m u s c l e ; and that the mere simple
contact of heterogeneous substances is a source of move-
ment and of life in all organized beings. D i d an ingenious
and lively people, the Arabians, guess from remote antiquity,
that the same force which inflames the vault of Heaven in
storms, is the living and invisible weapon of inhabitants of
the waters ? I t is said, that the electric fish of the Nile
bears a name in E g y p t , that signifies thunder*
W e left the t o w n o f Calabozo on the 24th of M a r c h ,
highly satisfied with our stay, and the experiments we had
made o n an object so worthy o f the attention of physio-
logists. I had besides obtained some g o o d observations o f
the stars; and discovered with surprise, that the errors of
maps amounted here also t o a quarter o f a degree of lati-
tude. N o person had taken an observation before me on
this s p o t ; and geographers, magnifying as usual the distance
from the coast to the islands, have carried back beyond
measure all the localities towards the south.
A s we advanced into the southern part of the Llanos, we
found the ground more dusty, more destitute o f herbage,
and more cracked by the effect o f long drought. The palm-
trees disappeared b y degrees. T h e thermometer kept, from
eleven in the morning till sunset, at 34° or 35°. The calmer
t h e air appeared at eight or ten feet high, the more we were
enveloped in those whirlwinds o f dust, caused by the little
currents o f air that sweep the ground. A b o u t four o'clock
in the afternoon, w e found a y o u n g Indian girl stretched
u p o n the savannah. She was almost in a state o f nudity, and
appeared to be about twelve or thirteen years o f age. E x -
hausted with fatigue and thirst, her eyes, nostrils, and mouth
When the gymnotus was enfeebled by bad health, the lateral shock
was imperceptible; and in order to feel the shock, it was necessary to
form a chain, and touch the fish with both hands at once. Cavendish,
in his ingenious experiments on an artificial torpedo, had well remarked
these differences, depending on the greater or less energy of the charge.
(Philosophical Transactions, 1770, p. 212).

* It appears, however, that a distinction is to be made between rahd
thunder, and rahadh, the electrical fish ; and that this latter word means
simply ‘ that which causes trembling.’

K 2

filled with dust, she breathed with a rattling in her throat,
and was unable to answer our questions. A pitcher, over-
turned, and half filled with sand, was lying at her side.
Happily one of our mules was laden with w a t e r ; and w e
roused the girl from her lethargic state b y bathing her face,
and forcing her to drink a few drops of wine. She was at
first alarmed on seeing herself surrounded by so many per-
sons ; but by degrees she t o o k courage, and conversed with
our guides. She j u d g e d , from the position o f the sun, that
she must have remained during several hours in that state
o f lethargy. W e could not prevail o n her t o m o u n t one o f
our beasts o f burden, and she would not return to Uritucu.
She had been in service at a neighbouring farm ; and she
had been discharged, because at the end o f a long sickness
she was less able to work than before. O u r menaces and
prayers were alike fruitless ; insensible t o suffering, like the
rest o f her race, she persisted in her resolution o f g o i n g t o
one o f the Indian Missions near the city of Calabozo. W e
removed the sand from her pitcher, and filled it with water.
She resumed her way along the steppe, before w e had re-
mounted our horses, and was soon separated from us by a
cloud o f dust. D u r i n g the night we forded the Rio U r i t u c u ,
which abounds with a breed o f crocodiles remarkable for
their ferocity. W e were advised t o prevent our dogs from
g o i n g to drink in the rivers, for it often happens that the
crocodiles of Uritucu c o m e out of the water, and pursue
dogs upon the shore. This intrepidity is so much the more
striking, as at eight leagues distance, the crocodiles o f the
Rio Tisnao are extremely timid, and little dangerous. T h e
manners o f animals vary in the same species according t o
local circumstances dillicult to be determined. W e were
shown a hut, or rather a kind of shed, in which our host o f
Calabozo, D o n M i g u e l Cousin, had witnessed a very extra-
ordinary scene. Sleeping with one of his friends on a bench
or couch covered with leather, D o n M i g u e l was awakened
early in the morning by a violent shaking and a horrible
noise. Clods o f earth were thrown into the middle o f the
hut. Presently a y o u n g crocodile t w o or three feet long
issued from under the bed, darted at a dog which lay on the
threshold o f the door, and, missing him in the impetuosity
o f his spring, ran towards the beach to gain the river. O n

S U M M E R - S L E E P O F S N A K E S .
examining the spot where the barbacoa, or couch, was placed,
the cause o f this strange adventure was easily discovered.
The ground was disturbed to a considerable depth. I t was
dried mud, which had covered the crocodile in that state of
lethargy, or summer-sleep, in which many o f the species lie
during the absence o f the rains in the Llanos. T h e noise of
men and horses, perhaps the smell o f the dog, had aroused
the crocodile. T h e hut being built at the edge o f the pool,
and inundated during part o f the year, the crocodile had n o
doubt entered, at the time o f the inundation o f the savan-
nahs, by the same opening at which it was seen to g o out.
T h e Indians often find enormous boas, which they call uji,
or water-serpents,* in the same lethargic state. T o reanimate
them, they must be irritated, or wetted with water. Boas
are killed, and immersed in the streams, t o obtain, by means
of putrefaction, the tendinous parts o f the dorsal muscles,
of which excellent guitar-strings are made at Calabozo,
preferable to those furnished by the intestines of the alouate
The drought and heat o f the Llanos act like cold upon
animals and plants. B e y o n d the tropics the trees lose their
leaves in a very dry air. Reptiles, particularly crocodiles
and boas, having very indolent habits, leave with reluctance
the basins in which they have found water at the period o f
great inundations. I n proportion as the pools become
dry, these animals penetrate into the mud, t o seek that
degree of humidity which gives flexibility to their skin and
integuments. I n this state o f repose they are seized with
stupefaction; b u t possibly they preserve a communication
with the external air; and, however little that communica-
tion may be, it possibly suffices to keep up the respiration o f
an animal o f the saurian family, provided with enormous
pulmonary sacs, exerting n o muscular motion, and in which
almost all the vital functions are suspended. I t is probable
that the mean temperature o f the dried mud, exposed t o
the solar rays, is more than 40°. W h e n the north o f E g y p t ,
where the coolest month does not fall below 1 3 4 ° , was
inhabited by crocodiles, they were often found torpid with
cold. They were subject to a winter-sleep, like the E u r o -
* Culebra de agua, named by the common people traga-venado, ‘the
swallower of stags.’ The word uji belongs to the Tamanac language.

pean frog, lizard, sand-martin, and marmot. I f the hibernal
lethargy be observed, both in cold-blooded and i n h o t -
blooded animals, w e shall b e less surprised t o learn, that
these t w o classes furnish alike examples o f a summer-sleep.
In t h e same manner as the crocodiles o f South America,
the tanrecs, o r Madagascar hedgehogs, in the midst o f the
torrid zone, pass three months o f the year in lethargy.
O n the 25th o f March w e traversed the smoothest part
of the steppes o f Caracas, the M e s a de Pavones. It is
entirely destitute o f th e corypha and moriche palm-trees.
A s far as the e y e c a n reach, n o t a single object fifteen
inches high can be discovered. The air was clear, and the
sky of a very deep b l u e ; b u t the horizon reflected a livid
and yellowish light, caused n o doubt b y the quantity o f
sand suspended in the atmosphere. W e m e t some large
herds o f cattle, and with them flocks o f birds o f a black
colour with an olive shade. They are o f the genus Croto-
phaga,* and follow the cattle. W e had often seen them
perched o n the backs o f cows, seeking for gadflies and other
insects. Like many birds o f these desert places, they fear
so little the approach o f man, that children often catch them
in their hands. I n the valleys o f Aragua, where they are
very c o m m o n , w e have seen them perch upon the hammocks
on which w e were reposing, in open day.
W e discover, between Calabozo, Uritucu, and the Mesa
de Pavones, wherever there are excavations o f some feet
deep, the geological constitution o f the Llanos. A formation
o f red sandstone (ancient conglomerate) covers an extent
o f several thousand square leagues. W e shall find it again
in t h e vast plains o f the A m a z o n , o n the eastern boundary
o f the province o f Jaën de Bracamoros. This prodigious
extension o f red sandstone in the low grounds stretching
along the east o f the A n d e s , is o n e of the most striking
phenomena I observed during m y examination o f rocks in
the equinoctial regions.
T h e r e d sandstone o f the Llanos o f Caracas lies in a
concave position, between the primitive mountains o f the
shore and of Parime. O n the north it is backed b y the
* The Spanish colonists call the Crotophaga ani, zamurito (little car-
rion vulture,—Vultur aura minuta), or garapatero, ‘ the eater of gara-
patas,’ insects of the Acarus family.

transition-slates,* and o n the south it rests immediately o n
the granites o f the Orinoco. W e observed in it rounded
fragments o f quartz (kieselschiefer), and Lydian stone,
cemented b y an olive-brown ferruginous clay. T h e cement
is sometimes o f so bright a red that the people o f the
country take it for cinnabar. W e met a Capuchin m o n k at
Calabozo, who was in vain attempting t o extract mercury
from this red sandstone. I n the M e s a de Paja this rock c o n -
tains strata o f another quartzose sandstone, very fine-grained ;
more t o the south it contains masses o f b r o w n iron, and
fragments o f petrified trees o f the monocotyledonous family,
but w e did n o t see in it any shells. T h e red sandstone,
called b y the Llaneros, the stone of the reefs (piedra de
arrecifes), is everywhere covered with a stratum o f clay.
This clay, dried and hardened in the sun, splits into separate
prismatic pieces with five or six sides. D o e s it belong t o
the trap-formation o f Parapara ? I t becomes thicker, and
mixed with sand, as w e approach the Rio A p u r e ; for near
Calabozo it is one toise thick, near the mission o f Guayaval
five toises, which may lead t o the belief that the strata o f
red sandstone dips towards the south. W e gathered in the
Mesa de Pavones little nodules o f blue iron-ore disseminated
in the clay.
A dense whitish-gray limestone, with a smooth fracture,
somewhat analogous to that o f Caripe, and consequently
t o that o f .Jura, lies o n the red sandstone between Tisnao
and Calabozo.† I n several other places, for instance in the
M e s a de San D i e g o , and between Ortiz and the M e s a de
Paja,‡ we find above the limestone lamellar gypsum alter-
nating with strata o f marl. Considerable quantities o f this
g y p s u m are sent t o the city o f Caracas,§ which is situated
amidst primitive mountains.
This g y p s u m generally forms only small beds, and is
mixed with a great deal o f fibrous g y p s u m . I s it o f the
* At Malpaso and Piedra Azules.
Does this formation of secondary limestone of the Llanos contain
galena ? It has been found in strata of black marl, at Barbacoa, between
Truxillo and
Barquesimeto, north-west of the Llanos.
Also near Cachipe and San Joacquim, in the Llanos of Barcelona.
§ This trade is carried on at Parapara. A load of eight arrobas sells at
Caracas for twenty-four piastres.

H A T O D E A L T A G R A C I A .
same formation as that o f Guire, on the coast of Paria,
which contains s u l p h u r ? or do the masses o f this latter
substance, found in the valley of B u e n Pastor and on the
banks o f the Orinoco, belong, with the argillaceous g y p -
sum of the Llanos, to a secondary formation much more
These questions are very interesting in the study o f the
relative antiquity of rocks, which is the principal basis of
geology. I know n o t of any salt-deposits in the L l a n o s .
H o r n e d cattle prosper here without those famous bareros,
o r muriatiferous lands, which abound in the Pampas of
Buenos A y r e s . *
A f t e r having wandered for a long time, and without any
traces o f a road, in the desert savannahs o f the M e s a de
Pavones, w e were agreeably surprised when w e came to a
solitary farm, the H a t o de Alta Gracia, surrounded with
gardens and basins of limpid water. H e d g e s of bead-trees
encircled groups of icacoes laden with fruit. Farther o n
we passed the night near the small village o f San G e r o n y m o
del Guayaval, founded b y Capuchin missionaries. I t is
situated near the banks o f the Rio Guarico, which falls
into the A p u r e . I visited the missionary, who had no other
habitation than his church, not having yet built a house.
H e was a y o u n g man, and he received us in the most
obliging manner, giving us all the information w e desired.
H i s village, or to use the word established among the
monks, his Mission, was n o t easy t o govern. The founder,
who had not hesitated t o establish for his o w n profit a
pulperia, in other words, t o sell bananas and guarapo in the
church itself, had shown himself to be not very nice in the
choice o f the new colonists. M a n y marauders o f the Llanos
had settled at Guayaval, because the inhabitants o f a M i s -
sion are exempt from tbe authority o f secular law. H e r e ,
as in Australia, it cannot be expected that g o o d colonists
will be formed before the second or third generation.
W e passed the Guarico, and encamped in the savannahs
south o f Guayaval. Enormous bats, no doubt of the tribe
o f Phyllostomas, hovered as usual over o u r hammocks
during a great part of the night. Every moment they
seemed t o be about to fasten on our faces. Early in the
* Known in North America under the name of ‘ salt-licks.’

S A N F E R N A N D O D E A P U R E .
morning we pursued our way over l o w grounds, often i n -
undated. I n the season o f rains, a boat may b e navigated,
as o n a lake, between t h e Guarico a n d t h e A p u r e . W e
arrived o n t h e 27th o f M a r c h at t h e Villa de San F e r -
nando, the capital o f the Mission o f t h e Capuchins i n the
province o f Varinas. This w a s t h e termination o f o u r
journey over the L l a n o s ; f o r w e passed t h e three m o n t h s
o f April, M a y , and J u n e o n the rivers.
San Fernando de Apure.—Intertwinings and Bifurcations of the Rivers
Apure and Arauca.—Navigation on the Rio Apure.
T I L L the second half o f the eighteenth century the names
o f the great rivers A p u r e , Arauca, and M e t a were scarcely
k n o w n in E u r o p e : certainly less than they had been in t h e
t w o preceding centuries, when the valiant Felipe de U r r e
and the conquerors o f T o c u y o traversed the Llanos, t o seek,
b e y o n d t h e A p u r e , t h e great legendary city o f E l D o r a d o ,
and the rich country o f the Omeguas, the T i m b u c t o o o f the
N e w Continent. Such daring expeditions could not b e car-
ried o u t without all the apparatus o f w a r ; and the weapons,
which had been destined f o r t h e defence o f the n e w c o l o -
nists, were employed without intermission against t h e
unhappy natives. W h e n more peaceful times succeeded
to those o f violence a n d public calamity, t w o powerful
Indian tribes, t h e Cabres and t h e Caribs o f t h e O r i n o c o ,
made themselves masters o f the country which t h e C o n -
quistadores had ceased t o ravage. N o n e b u t p o o r m o n k s
were then permitted t o advance t o the south o f the steppes.
B e y o n d t h e U r i t u c u an u n k n o w n world opened t o t h e
Spanish c o l o n i s t s ; a n d t h e descendants o f those intrepid
warriors w h o had extended their conquests from Peru t o
the coasts o f N e w Grenada and the m o u t h o f the A m a z o n ,
k n e w not t h e roads that lead from C o r o t o t h e Rio M e t a .
T h e shore o f Venezuela remained a separate country ; a n d
the slow conquests o f the Jesuit missionaries were success-
ful only b y skirting t h e banks o f the Orinoco. These

S I T U A T I O N O F T H E T O W N .
fathers had already penetrated beyond the great cataracts o f
Atures and Maypures, when the Andalusian Capuchins had
scarcely reached the plains o f Calabozo, from the coast and
the valleys o f Aragua. I t would b e difficult to explain these
contrasts b y the system according to which, the different
monastic orders are governed ; for the aspect o f the country
contributes powerfully t o the more or less rapid progress o f
the Missions. They extend b u t slowly into the interior o f
the land, over mountains, or in steppes, wherever they do
n o t follow the course o f a particular river. I t will scarcely
be believed, that the Villa de Fernando de A p u r e , only fifty
leagues distant in a direct line from that part of the coast
o f Caracas which has been longest inhabited, was founded
at no earlier a date than 1789. W e were shown a parch-
ment, full o f fine paintings, containing the privileges o f this
little town. T h e parchment was sent from Madrid at the
solicitation o f the monks, whilst y e t only a few huts o f reeds
were t o b e seen around a great cross raised in the centre o f
the hamlet. T h e missionaries and the secular governments
being alike interested in exaggerating in Europe what they
have done t o augment the culture and population o f the
provinces b e y o n d sea, it often happens that names o f towns
and villages are placed o n the list o f n e w conquests, long
before their foundation.
T h e situation o f San Fernando, on a large navigable river,
near the mouth o f another river which traverses the whole
province o f Varinas, is extremely advantageous for trade.
Every production o f that province, hides, cacao, cotton, and
the indigo o f Mijagual, which is o f the first quality, passes
through this t o w n towards the mouths o f the Orinoco.
D u r i n g the season o f rains large vessels g o from A n g o s t u r a
as far as San Fernando de A p u r e , and by the Rio Santo
D o m i n g o as far as Toruños, the port o f the town o f Varinas.
A t that period the inundations o f the rivers, which form a
labyrinth o f branches between the A p u r e , the Arauca, the
Capanaparo, and the Sinaruco, cover a country o f nearly
four hundred square leagues. A t this point, the Orinoco,
turned aside from its course, n o t b y neighbouring moun-
tains, but by the rising o f counterslopes, runs eastward
instead o f following its previous direction in the line o f
the meridian. Considering the surface o f the globe as a

polyhedron, formed of planes variously inclined, w e may
conceive b y the mere inspection o f the maps, that the inter-
section of these slopes, rising towards the north, the west,
and south,* between San Fernando de A p u r e , Caycara, and
the mouth of the M e t a , must cause a considerable depres-
sion. T h e savannahs in this basin are covered with twelve
or fourteen feet o f water, and present, at the period o f
rains, the aspect of a great lake. T h e farms and villages
which seem as if situated o n shoals, scarcely rise t w o
or three feet above the surface o f the water. Everything
here calls to mind the inundations of L o w e r E g y p t , and the
lake of Xarayes, heretofore so celebrated among geogra-
phers, though it exists only during some months o f the year.
The swellings o f the rivers A p u r e , M e t a , and Orinoco, are
also periodical. I n the rainy season, the horses that wander
in the savannah, and have not time to reach the rising
grounds of the Llanos, perish by hundreds. T h e mares are
seen, followed b y their colts,† swimming during a part o f
the day to feed u p o n the grass, the tops o f which alone
wave above the waters. I n this state they are pursued b y
the crocodiles, and it is by no means u n c o m m o n to find the
prints of the teeth o f these carnivorous reptiles o n their
thighs. The carcases of horses, mules, and cows, attract an
innumerable quantity o f vultures. T h e zamuros are the
ibisis o f this country, and they render the same service t o
the inhabitants o f the Llanos as the V u l t u r percnopterus
to the inhabitants o f E g y p t .
W e cannot reflect o n the effects of these inundations
without admiring the prodigious pliability o f the organiza-
tion o f the animals which man has subjected to his sway.
I n Greenland the d o g eats the refuse o f the fisheries ; and
when fish are wanting, feeds o n seaweed. T h e ass and the
* The risings towards the north and west are connected with two lines
of ridges, the mountains of Villa de Cura and of Merida. The third
slope, running from north to south, is that of the land-strait between
the Andes and the chain of Parime. It determines the general inclina-
tion of the Orinoco, from the mouth of the Guaviare to that of the

† The colts are drowned everywhere in large numbers, because they
are sooner tired of swimming, and strive to follow the mares in places
where the latter alone can touch the ground.

horse, originally natives of the cold and barren plains o f
U p p e r Asia, follow man t o the N e w W o r l d , return t o the
wild state, and lead a restless and weary life in the
burning climates of the tropics. Pressed alternately b y
excess o f drought and of humidity, they sometimes seek a
pool in the midst o f a bare and dusty plain, to quench their
t h i r s t ; and at other times flee from water, and the over-
flowing rivers, as menaced by an enemy that threatens them
on all sides. Tormented during the day by gadflies and
mosquitos, the horses, mules, and cows find themselves
attacked at night by enormous bats, which fasten o n their
backs, and cause wounds that become dangerous, because
they are filled with acaridæ and other hurtful insects. In
the time of great drought the mules gnaw even the thorny
cactus* in order to imbibe its cooling juice, and draw it forth
as from a vegetable fountain. D u r i n g the great inunda-
tions these same animals lead an amphibious life, surrounded
by crocodiles, water-serpents, and manatis. Y e t , such are
the immutable laws of nature, that their races are preserved
in the struggle with the elements, and amid so many suffer-
ings and dangers. W h e n the waters retire, and the rivers
return again into their beds, the savannah is overspread
with a beautiful scented grass ; and the animals of Europe
and U p p e r Asia seem t o enjoy, as in their native climes,
the renewed vegetation o f spring.
D u r i n g the time of great floods, the inhabitants o f these
countries, to avoid the force o f the currents, and the danger
arising from the trunks o f trees which these currents bring
down, instead o f ascending the beds of rivers in their boats,
cross the savannahs. T o go from San Fernando t o the
villages o f San Juan de Payara, San Raphael de Atamaica,
or San Francisco de Capanaparo, they direct their course
due south, as if they were crossing a single river of twenty
leagues broad. T h e junctions of the Guarico, the A p u r e ,
the Cabullare, and the Arauca with the Orinoco, form, at a
hundred and sixty leagues from the coast o f Guiana, a kind
o f interior Delta, of which hydrography furnishes few ex-
amples in the Old W o r l d . A c c o r d i n g to the height o f the
* The asses are particularly adroit in extracting the moisture con-
tained in the Cactus melocatus. They push aside the thorns with their
hoofs ; but sometimes lame themselves in performing this feat.

mercury in the barometer, the waters o f the A p u r e have
only a fall of thirty-four toises from San Fernando to the
sea. The fall from the mouths o f the Osage and the
Missouri to the bar o f the Mississippi is not more c o n -
siderable. T h e savannahs o f L o w e r Louisiana everywhere
remind us o f the savannahs of the L o w e r Orinoco.
D u r i n g our stay of three days in the little t o w n o f San
Fernando, w e lodged with the Capuchin missionary, who
lived much at his ease. W e were recommended to him b y
the bishop of Caracas, and he showed us the most obliging
attention. H e consulted me o n the works that had been
undertaken to prevent the flood from undermining the shore
on which the town was built. T h e flowing o f the Portuguesa
into the A p u r e gives the latter an impulse towards south-
east ; and, instead o f procuring a freer course for the river,
attempts were made to confine it by dykes and piers. I t
was easy to predict that these would be rapidly destroyed
by the swell of the waters, the shore having been weakened
by taking away the earth from behind the dyke t o employ
it in these hydraulic constructions.
San Fernando is celebrated for the excessive heat which
prevails there the greater part o f the y e a r ; and before I
begin the recital o f our long navigation on the rivers, I
shall relate some facts calculated t o throw light o n the
meteorology of the tropics. W e went, provided with ther-
mometers, to the flat shores covered with white sand which
border the river A p u r e . A t t w o in the afternoon I found
the sand, wherever it was exposed to the sun, at 5 2 5 ° .
The instrument, raised eighteen inches above the sand,
marked 42·8°, and at six feet high 38·7°. T h e temperature
o f the air under the shade o f a ceiba was 36·2°. These
observations were made during a dead calm. A s soon as
the wind began to blow, the temperature o f the air rose 3°
higher, yet we were not enveloped by a wind of sand, but
the strata of air had been in contact with a soil more
strongly heated, or through which whirlwinds o f sand had
passed. This western part o f the Llanos is the hottest,
because it receives air that has already crossed the rest of
the barren steppe. The same difference has been observed
between the eastern and western parts of the deserts o f
Africa, where the trade-winds blow.

The heat augments sensibly in the Llanos during the
rainy season, particularly in the month of July, when the
sky is cloudy, and reflects the radiant heat toward the earth.
D u r i n g this season the breeze entirely ceases; and, accord-
ing to good thermometrical observations made b y M . T o z o ,
the thermometer rises in the shade to 39° and 39·5°, though
kept at the distance o f more than fifteen feet from the
ground. A s we approached the banks of the Portuguesa,
the A pure, and the Apurito, the air became cooler from the
evaporation of so considerable a mass of water. This effect
is more especially perceptible at sunset. During the day
the shores of the rivers, covered with white sand, reflect
the heat in an insupportable degree, even more than the
yellowish brown clayey grounds of Calabozo and Tisnao.
O n the 28th of March I was on the shore at sunrise to
measure the breadth o f the A pure, which is two hundred
and six toises. The thunder rolled in all directions around.
I t was the first storm and the first rain o f the season. The
river was swelled by the easterly w i n d ; but it soon became
calm, and then some great cetacea, much resembling the
porpoises o f our seas, began to play in long files on the
surface o f the water. The slow and indolent crocodiles
seem to dread the neighbourhood of these animals, so noisy
and impetuous in their evolutions, for we saw them dive
whenever they approached. I t is a very extraordinary phe-
nomenon to find cetacea at such a distance from the coast.
T h e Spaniards o f the Missions designate them, as they do
the porpoises of the ocean, b y the name of toninas. T h e
Tamanacs call them orinucna. They are three or four feet
long; and bending their back, and pressing with their tail
on the inferior strata o f the water, they expose to view a
part o f the back and o f the dorsal fin. I did not succeed
in obtaining any, though I often engaged Indians to
shoot at them with their arrows. Father Gili asserts
that the Gumanos eat their flesh. A r e these cetacea
peculiar to the great rivers o f South America, like the
manati, which, according to Cuvier, is also a fresh water
cetaceous animal ? or must we admit that they g o up from
the sea against the current, as the beluga sometimes does in
the rivers of A s i a ? W h a t would lead me to doubt this last
supposition is, that we saw toninas above the great cataracts

o f the Orinoco, in the Rio A t a b a p o . D i d they penetrate
into the centre o f equinoctial A m e r i c a from the mouth o f
the A m a z o n , by the communication o f that river with the
Rio N e g r o , the Cassiquiare, and the Orinoco ? T h e y are
found here at all seasons, and nothing seems to denote
that they make periodical migrations like salmon.
W h i l e the thunder rolled around us, the sky displayed
only scattered clouds, that advanced slowly toward the
zenith, and in an opposite direction. T h e hygrometer o f
D e l u c was at 53°, the centigrade thermometer 23·7°, and
Saussure's hygrometer 87·5°. T h e electrometer gave no
sign o f electricity. A s the storm gathered, the blue o f the
sky changed at first to deep azure and then t o grey. T h e
vesicular vapour became visible, and the thermometer rose
three degrees, as is almost always the case, within the
tropics, from a cloudy sky which reflects the radiant heat o f
the soil. A heavy rain fell. B e i n g sufficiently habituated
to the climate not to fear the effect o f tropical rains, w e
remained on the shore to observe the electrometer. I held
it more than twenty minutes in my hand, six feet above the
ground, and observed that in general the pith-balls separated
only a few seconds before the lightning was seen. The
separation was four lines. T h e electric charge remained
the same during several m i n u t e s ; and having time t o deter-
mine the nature o f the electricity, b y approaching a stick o f
sealing-wax, I saw here what I had often observed on the
ridge o f the A n d e s during a storm, that the electricity o f
the atmosphere was first positive, then nil, and then n e -
gative. These oscillations from positive to negative were
often repeated. Y e t the electrometer constantly denoted, a
little before the lightning, only E., or + E., and never — E.
Towards the end o f the storm the west wind blew very
strongly. T h e clouds dispersed, and the thermometer sunk
to 22° o n account o f the evaporation from the soil, and the
freer radiation towards the sky.
I have entered into these details on the electric charge
o f the atmosphere because travellers in general confine
themselves to the description of the impressions produced
on a European newly arrived b y the solemn spectacle o f a
tropical storm. I n a country where the year is divided into

E L E C T R I C P H E N O M E N A .
great seasons of drought and wet, or, as the Indians say in
their expressive language, of s u n * and rain,† it is highly
interesting to follow the progress of meteorological p h e n o -
mena in the transition from one season t o another. W e
had already observed, in the valleys o f Aragua from the
18th and 19th of February, clouds forming at the c o m -
mencement of the night. I n the beginning o f the month
o f March the accumulation of the vesicular vapours, visible
t o the eye, and with them signs of atmospheric electricity,
augmented daily. W e saw flashes of heat-lightning to the
south ; and the electrometer of Volta constantly displayed,
at sunset, positive electricity. T h e pith balls, unexcited
during the day, separated to the width of three or four lines
at the commencement o f the night, which is triple what I
generally observed in Europe, with the same instrument, in
calm weather. U p o n the whole, from the 26th of M a y , the
electrical equilibrium o f the atmosphere seemed disturbed.
D u r i n g whole hours the electricity was nil, then it became
very strong, and soon after was again imperceptible. The
hygrometer o f D e l u c continued to indicate great dryness
(from 33° t o 3 5 ° ) , and yet the atmosphere appeared n o
longer the same. A m i d s t these perpetual variations o f the
electric state o f the air, the trees, divested o f their foliage,
already began to unfold new leaves, and seemed to feel the
approach of spring.
T h e variations which we have just described are n o t
peculiar to one year. Everything in the equinoctial zone
has a wonderful uniformity o f succession, because the active
powers of nature limit and balance each other, according t o
laws that are easily recognized. I shall here note the
progress of atmospherical phenomena in the islands to the
east of the Cordilleras o f Merida and of N e w Grenada, in
the Llanos o f Venezuela and the Rio M e t a , from four t o ten
degrees of north latitude, wherever the rains are constant
* In the Maypure dialect camoti, properly “the heat [of the sun].”
The Tamanacs call the season of drought uamu, “the time of grass-

† In the Tamanac language canepo. The year is designated, among
several nations, by the name of one of the two seasons. The Maypures
say, “so many suns,” (or rather “so many heats;”) the Tamanacs,

“ so many rains.”

A P P R O A C H O F T H E R A I N Y S E A S O N .
from M a y to October, and comprehending consequently the
periods o f the greatest heats, which occur in July and
A u g u s t . *
N o t h i n g can equal the clearness o f the atmosphere from
the month of D e c e m b e r to that o f February. T h e sky is
then constantly without c l o u d s ; and if one should appear,
it is a phenomenon that engages the whole attention of the
inhabitants. A breeze from the east, and from east-north-
east, blows with violence. A s it brings with it air always o f
the same temperature, the vapours cannot b e c o m e visible b y
A b o u t the end of February and the beginning of M a r c h ,
the blue o f the sky is less intense, the hygrometer indicates
by degrees greater humidity, the stars are sometimes veiled
by a slight stratum of vapour, and their light is no longer
steady and planetary ; they are seen twinkling from time t o
time when at 20° above the horizon. T h e breeze at this
period becomes less strong, less regular, and is often inter-
rupted by dead calms. T h e clouds accumulate towards
south-south-east, appearing like distant mountains, with
outlines strongly marked. F r o m time t o time they detach
themselves from the horizon, and traverse the vault of the
sky with a rapidity which little corresponds with the feeble
wind prevailing in the lower strata of the air. A t the end
of March, the southern region of the atmosphere is illumined
by small electric explosions. T h e y are like phosphorescent
gleams, circumscribed by vapour. T h e breeze then shifts
from time to time, and for several hours together, to the
west and south-west. This is a certain sign of the approach
of the rainy season, which begins at the Orinoco about the
end of April. T h e blue sky disappears, and a grey tint
spreads uniformly over it. A t the same time the heat of the
atmosphere progressively increases; and soon the heavens
are no longer obscured by clouds, but by condensed vapours.
T h e plaintive cry o f the howling apes begins t o be heard
before sunrise. T h e atmospheric electricity, which, during
* The maximum of the heat is not felt on the coast, at Cumana, at La
Guayra, and in the neighbouring island of Margareta, before the month of
September; and the rains, if the name can be given to a few drops
that fall at intervals, are observed only in the months of October and

V O L . I I .

the season o f drought, from D e c e m b e r t o March, had been
constantly, in the day-time, from 1·7 t o 2 lines, becomes
extremely variable from the month o f March. I t appears
nil during whole d a y s ; and then f o r some hours the pith-
balls diverge three o r four lines. T h e atmosphere, which
is generally, in the torrid as well as in the temperate
zone, in a state o f positive electricity, passes alternately,
for eight o r ten minutes, t o the negative state. T h e season
o f rains is that o f s t o r m s ; and y e t a great number o f
experiments made during three years, prove t o m e that it
is precisely in this season o f storms w e find the smallest
degree o f electric tension in t h e lower regions o f the atmo-
sphere. A r e storms the effect o f this unequal charge o f
the different superincumbent strata o f a i r ? W h a t pre-
vents the electricity from descending towards the earth, in
air which becomes more humid after the month o f March ?
T h e electricity at this period, instead o f being diffused
throughout the whole atmosphere, appears accumulated o n
the exterior envelope, at the surface o f the clouds. A c c o r -
ding t o M . Gay-Lussac it is the formation o f the cloud itself
that carries the fluid toward its surface. T h e storm rises in
the plains two hours after the sun has passed the meridian;
consequently a short time after the moment o f the maxi-
mum o f diurnal heat within the tropics. I t is extremely rare
in the islands t o hear thunder during the night, o r in the
morning. Storms at night are peculiar t o certain valleys o f
rivers, having a peculiar climate.
W h a t then are the causes o f this rupture o f the equili-
brium in the electric tension o f the air ? o f this continual
condensation o f the vapours into w a t e r ? o f this interruption
o f the breezes ? o f this commencement and duration of the
rainy seasons? I doubt whether electricity have a n y i n -
fluence o n the formation o f vapours. I t is rather the for-
mation o f these vapours that augments and modifies t h e
electrical tension. N o r t h and south o f the equator, storms
or great explosions take place at t h e same time in the
temperate and in the equinoctial zone. Is there an action
propagated through the great aerial ocean from the t e m -
perate zone towards the tropics ? H o w can it b e c o n -
ceived, that in that zone where the sun rises constantly
to so great a height above the horizon, its passage through

the zenith can have so powerful an influence on the m e t e o -
rological variations ? I am o f opinion that no local cause
determines the commencement of the rains within the tro-
pics ; and that a more intimate knowledge of the higher
currents o f air will elucidate these problems, so complicated
in appearance. W e can observe only what passes in the
lower strata of the atmosphere. T h e A n d e s are scarcely
inhabited beyon d the height of t w o thousand toises ; and at
that height the proximity of the soil, and the masses o f m o u n -
tains, which form the shoals o f the aerial ocean, have a sen-
sible influence on the ambient air. W h a t we observe o n
the table-land o f Antisana is not what we should find at the
same height in a balloon, hovering over the Llanos or the
surface of the ocean.
W e have just seen that the season of rains and storms in
the northern equinoctial zone coincides with the passage o f
the sun through the zenith o f the place,* with the ces-
sation o f the north-east breezes, and with the frequency
of calms and bendavales, which are stormy winds from
south-east and south-west, accompanied by a cloudy sky.
I believe that, in reflecting on the general laws o f the
equilibrium o f the gaseous masses constituting our atmo-
sphere, we may find, in the interruption of the current that
blows from an homonymous pole, in the want of the renewal
o f air in the torrid zone, and in the continued action o f
an ascending humid current, a very simple cause o f the
coincidence o f these phenomena, W h i l e the north-easterly
breeze blows with all its violence north o f the equator, it
prevents the atmosphere which covers the equinoctial lands
and seas from saturating itself with moisture. The hot and
moist air o f the torrid zone rises aloft, and flows off again
towards the p o l e s ; while inferior polar currents, bringing
drier and colder strata, are every instant taking the place o f
the columns of ascending air. B y this constant action o f
t w o opposite currents, the humidity, far from being accumu-
lated in the equatorial region, is carried towards the cold
and temperate regions. L u r i n g this season of breezes,
which is that when the sun is in the southern signs, the
* These passages take place, in the fifth and tenth degrees of north lat.
between the 3rd and the 16th of April, and between the 27th of August
and the 8th of September.

L 2

sky in the northern equinoctial zone is constantly serene.
T h e vesicular vapours are not condensed, because the air,
unceasingly renewed, is far from the point o f saturation.
In proportion as the sun, entering the northern signs, rises
towards the zenith, the breeze from the north-cast moderates,
and by degrees entirely ceases. T h e difference of tempera-
ture between the tropics and the temperate northern zone is
then the least possible. I t is the summer of the boreal p o l e ;
and, if the mean temperature of the winter, between 42° and
52° of north latitude, be from 20° to 26° o f the centigrade
thermometer less than the equatorial heat, the difference in
summer is scarcely from 4° to 6°. T h e sun being in the
zenith, and the breeze having ceased, the causes which pro-
duce humidity, and accumulate it in the northern equinoc-
tial zone, become at once more active. T h e column o f
air reposing on this zone, is saturated with vapours,
because it is n o longer renewed by the polar current.
Clouds form in this air saturated and cooled b y the c o m -
bined effects of radiation and the dilatation o f the ascending
air. This air augments its capacity for heat in proportion
as it rarefies. W i t h the formation and collection o f the
vesicular vapours, electricity accumulates in the higher re-
gions o f the atmosphere. The precipitation o f the vapours is
continual during the d a y ; but it generally ceases at night,
and frequently even before sunset. T h e showers are regu-
larly more violent, and accompanied with electric explosions,
a short time after the maximum o f the diurnal heat. This
state of things remains unchanged, till the sun enters into the
southern signs. This is the commencement o f cold in the
northern temperate zone. The current from the north-pole
is then re-established, because the difference between the
heat o f the equinoctial and temperate regions augments
daily. T h e north-east breeze blows with violence, the air o f
the tropics is renewed, and can no longer attain the degree
o f saturation. T h e rains consequently cease, the vesicular
vapour is dissolved, and the sky resumes its clearness and
its azure tint. Electrical explosions are no longer heard,
doubtless because electricity n o longer comes in contact with
the groups o f vesicular vapours in the high regions of the
air, I had almost said the coating o f clouds, on which the
fluid can accumulate.

W e have here considered the cessation of the breezes as
the principal cause of the equatorial rains. These rains in
each hemisphere last only as l o n g as the sun has its decli-
nation in that hemisphere. I t is necessary to observe, that
the absence of the breeze is not always succeeded by a dead
c a l m ; b u t that the calm is often interrupted, particularly
along the western coast o f America, by bendavales, or south-
west and south-east winds. This phenomenon seems to
demonstrate that the columns o f humid air which rise in the
northern equatorial zone, sometimes flow off toward the
south pole. I n fact, the countries situated in the torrid
zone, both north and south of the equator, furnish, during
their summer, while the sun is passing through their zenith,
the maximum of difference of temperature with the air of the
opposite pole. T h e southern temperate zone has its winter,
while it rains on the north of the equator; and while a mean
heat prevails from 5° to 6° greater than in the time o f
drought, when the sun is lower.* T h e continuation o f the
rains, while the bendavales blow, proves that the currents
from the remoter pole do n o t act in the northern equi-
noctial zone like the currents of the nearer pole, o n account
of the greater humidity of the southern polar current. T h e
air, wafted by this current, comes from a hemisphere consist-
ing almost entirely of water. I t traverses all the southern
equatorial zone to reach the parallel o f 8° north latitude;
and is consequently less dry, less cold, less adapted to act as
a counter-current to renew the equinoctial air and prevent
its saturation, than the northern polar current, or the breeze
from the north-east.† W e may suppose that the bendavales
are impetuous winds which, on some coasts, for instance o n
that o f Guatimala, (because they are not the effect o f a
regular and progressive descent o f the air o f the tropics
towards the south pole, b u t they alternate with calms), are
accompanied by electrical explosions, and are in fact squalls,
* From the equator to 1 0 ° of north lat. the mean temperatures of the
summer and winter months scarcely differ 2° or 3 ° ; but at the limits of
the torrid zone, toward the tropic of Cancer, the difference amounts
to 8° or 9°.

† In the two temperate zones the air loses its transparency every time
that the wind blows from the opposite pole, that is to say, from the pole
that has not the same denomination as the hemisphere in which the wind

P R E P A R A T I O N S F O R O U R V O Y A G E .
that indicate a reflux, an abrupt and instantaneous rupture,
of equilibrium in the aërial ocean.
W e have here discussed one of the most important phe-
nomena of the meteorology of the tropics, considered in its
most general view. I n the same manner as the limits o f the
trade-winds do not form circles parallel with the equator, the
action o f the polar currents is variously felt in different
meridians. The chains of mountains and the coasts in the
same hemisphere have often opposite seasons. There are
several examples o f these anomalies; but, in order to dis-
cover the laws of nature, we must know, before we examine
into the causes o f local perturbations, the average state o f
the atmosphere, and the constant type of its variations.
T h e aspect o f the sky, the progress o f the electricity, and
the shower of the 28th of March, announced the c o m m e n c e -
ment of the rainy season; we were still advised, however, t o
g o from San Fernando de A p u r e by San Francisco de Capa-
naparo, the Rio Sinaruco, and the Hato de San A n t o n i o , to
the village o f the Ottomacs, recently founded near the
banks o f the Meta, and to embark on the Orinoco a little
above Carichana. This way by land lies across an unhealthy
and feverish country. A n old farmer named Francisco San-
chez obligingly offered to conduct us. H i s dress denoted
the great simplicity of manners prevailing in those distant
countries. He had acquired a fortune o f more than 100,000
piastres, and yet he mounted on horseback with his feet bare,
and wearing large silver spurs. W e knew b y the experience
o f several weeks the dull uniformity of the vegetation o f the
Llanos, and preferred the longer road, which leads by the
Rio A p u r e to the Orinoco. W e chose one of those very large
canoes called lanchas by the Spaniards. A pilot and four
Indians were sufficient to manage it. They constructed,
near the stern, in the space o f a few hours, a cabin covered
with palm-leaves, sufficiently spacious to contain a table
and benches. These were made of ox-hides, strained tight,
and nailed to frames o f brazil-wood. I mention these mi-
nute circumstances, to prove that our accommodations o n
the Rio A p u r e were far different from those to which we
were afterwards reduced in the narrow boats o f the Orinoco.
W e loaded the canoe with provision for a month. Fowls,
eggs, plantains, cassava, and cacao, are found in abundance

at San Fernando. T h e g o o d Capuchin, Fray Jose Maria de
Malaga, gave us sherry wine, oranges, and tamarinds, t o
make cooling beverages. W e could easily foresee that a
roof constructed o f palm-tree leaves would become exces-
sively h o t o n a large river, where w e were almost always
exposed t o the perpendicular rays o f the sun. T h e Indians
relied less on the provision w e had purchased, than o n their
hooks and nets. W e took also some fire-arms, which w e
found in general use as far as t h e cataracts; b u t farther
south the great humidity o f the air prevents t h e mission-
aries from using them. T h e Rio A p u r e abounds in fish,
manatis, and turtles, t h e eggs o f which afford an aliment
more nutritious than agreeable t o the taste. I t s banks are
inhabited b y an innumerable quantity o f birds, among which
the pauxi and the guacharaca, which may b e called the tur-
keys and pheasants o f those countries, are found t o b e t h e
most useful. Their flesh appeared t o b e harder and less
white than that o f the gallinaceous tribe in Europe, because
they use much more muscular exercise. W e did n o t forget
to add t o our provision, fishing-tackle, fire-arms, and a f e w
casks o f brandy, t o serve as a medium o f barter with the
Indians o f the Orinoco.
W e departed from San Fernando o n t h e 30th o f M a r c h ,
at four in the afternoon. T h e weather was extremely hot;
the thermometer rising in the shade t o 3 4 ° , though the
breeze blew very strongly from the south-east. O w i n g t o
this contrary wind w e could n o t set o u r sails. W e were
accompanied, in the whole o f this voyage o n the A p u r e , the
Orinoco, and the Rio N e g r o , b y t h e brother-in-law o f t h e
governor o f the province o f Varinas, D o n Nicolas Soto,
w h o had recently arrived from Cadiz. Desirous o f visiting
countries so calculated t o excite t h e curiosity o f a E u r o -
pean, he did n o t hesitate t o confine himself with us during
Plenty-four days in a narrow boat infested with mosquitos.
H i s amiable disposition and gay temper often helped t o
make us forget the sufferings o f a voyage which was n o t
wholly exempt from danger. W e passed the mouth o f t h e
A p u r i t o , and coasted the island o f t h e same name, formed
b y the A p u r e and the Guarico. This island is in fact only
a very l o w spot o f ground, bordered b y t w o great rivers,
both o f which, at a little distance from each other, fall into

the Orinoco, after having formed a junction below San F e r -
nando b y the first bifurcation of the A p u r e . The Isla del
Apurito is twenty-two leagues in length, and t w o or three
leagues in breadth. I t is divided b y the Caño de la Tigrera
and the Caño del Manati into three parts, the t w o extremes
o f which bear the names of Isla de Blanco and Isla de los
Garzitas. T h e right bank o f the A p u r e , below the A p u r i t o ,
is somewhat better cultivated than the left bank, where the
Yaruros, or Japuin Indians, have constructed a few huts
with reeds and stalks o f palm-leaves. These people, w h o
live b y hunting and fishing, are very skilful in killing
jaguars. I t is they w h o principally carry the skins, known
in Europe by the name o f tiger-skins, to the Spanish vil-
lages. Some of these Indians have been baptized, but they
never visit the Christian churches. T h e y are considered as
savages because they choose to remain independent. Other
tribes of Yaruros live under the rule o f the missionaries, in
the village o f Achaguas, situated south o f the Rio Payara.
T h e individuals of this nation, w h o m I had an opportunity
o f seeing at the Orinoco, have a stern expression of c o u n t e -
nance ; and some features in their physiognomy, erroneously
called Tartarian, belong to branches of the M o n g o l race,
the eye very long, the cheekbones high, but the nose p r o -
minent throughout its whole length. T h e y are taller,
browner, and less thick-set than the Chayma Indians. T h e
missionaries praise the intellectual character o f the Yaruros,
w h o were formerly a powerful and numerous nation on the
banks o f the Orinoco, especially in the environs o f Cuycara,
below the mouth o f the Guarico. W e passed the night at
Diamante, a small sugar-plantation formed opposite the
island o f the same name.
D u r i n g the whole of my voyage from San Fernando t o
San Carlos del Rio N e g r o , and thence to the t o w n o f
Angostura, I noted down day by day, either in the boat or
where we disembarked at night, all that appeared to me
worthy of observation. Violent rains, and the prodigious
quantity o f mosquitos with which the air is filled on the
banks o f the Orinoco and the Cassiquiare, necessarily occa-
sioned some interruptions; but I supplied the omission b y
notes taken a few days after. I here subjoin some extracts
from my journal. W h a t e v e r is written while the objects we

describe are before our eyes bears a character of truth and
individuality which gives attraction to things the least
O n the 31st M a r c h a contrary wind obliged us to remain
on shore till noon. W e saw a part o f some cane-fields laid
waste b y the effect of a conflagration which had spread from
a neighbouring forest. The wandering Indians everywhere
set fire to the forest where they have encamped at n i g h t ;
and during the season o f drought, vast provinces would be
the prey of these conflagrations if the extreme hardness of
the w o o d did not prevent the trees from being entirely
consumed. W e found trunks o f desmanthus and mahogany
which were scarcely charred t w o inches deep.
H a v i n g passed the Diamante we entered a land inhabited
only b y tigers, crocodiles, and chiguires; the latter are a
large species of the genus Cavia of Linnæus. W e saw flocks
of birds, crowded so closely together as to appear against the
sky like a dark cloud which every instant changed its form.
The river widens by degrees. O n e of its banks is generally
barren and sandy from the effect of inundations; the other
is higher, and covered with lofty trees. I n some parts the
river is bordered b y forests on each side, and forms a
straight canal a hundred and fifty toises broad. The
manner in which the trees are disposed is very remarkable.
W e first find bushes o f sauso* forming a kind o f hedge
four feet high, and appearing as if they had been clipped
b y the hand o f man. A copse of cedar, brazilletto, and
lignum-vitæ, rises behind this hedge. Palm-trees are r a r e ;
w e saw only a few scattered trunks o f the thorny piritu
and corozo. T h e large quadrupeds of those regions, the
jaguars, tapirs, and peccaries, have made openings in the
hedge o f sauso which w e have j u s t described. Through
these the wild animals pass when they come to drink at the
river. A s they fear but little the approach o f a boat, w e
had the pleasure o f viewing them as they paced slowly
along the shore till they disappeared in the forest, which
they entered b y one o f the narrow passes left at intervals
between the bushes. These scenes, which were often re-
peated, had ever for me a peculiar attraction. T h e pleasure
* Hermesia castaneifolia. This is a new genus, approaching the
alchornea of Swartz.

they excite is n o t owing solely to the interest which the
naturalist takes in the objects o f his study, it is connected
with a feeling c o m m o n to all men who have been brought
u p in the habits o f civilization. Y o u find yourself in a n e w
world, in the midst of untamed and savage nature. N o w
the jaguar,—the beautiful panther o f America,—appears
upon the s h o r e ; and n o w the h o c c o , * with its black
plumage and tufted head, moves slowly along the sausos.
Animals o f the most different classes succeed each other.
“ E s s e como en el Paradiso,” “It is just as it was in
Paradise,” said our pilot, an old Indian o f the Missions.
Everything, indeed, in these regions recalls to mind the
state o f the primitive world with its innocence and felicity.
B u t in carefully observing the manners o f animals among
themselves, we see that they mutually avoid and fear each
other. T h e golden age has ceased; and in this Paradise o f
the American forests, as well as everywhere else, sad and
l o n g experience has taught all beings that benignity is
seldom found in alliance with strength.
W h e n the shore is of considerable breadth, the hedge o f
sauso remains at a distance from the river. I n the inter-
mediate space w e see crocodiles, sometimes t o the number
o f eight or ten, stretched o n the sand. Motionless, with
their jaws wide open, they repose b y each other, without
displaying any o f those marks o f affection observed in other
animals living in society. T h e troop separates as soon as
they quit the shore. I t is, however, probably composed of
o n e male only, and many females; for as M . Descourtils,
w h o has so much studied the crocodiles o f St. D o m i n g o ,
observed to me, the males are rare, because they kill one
another in fighting during the season o f their loves. These
monstrous creatures are so numerous, that throughout the
whole course o f the river w e had almost at every instant five
or six in view. Vet at this period the swelling of the Rio
A p u r e was scarcely perceived; and consequently hundreds
o f crocodiles were still buried in the mud of the savannahs.
A b o u t four in the afternoon w o stopped to measure a dead
crocodile which had been cast ashore. I t was only sixteen
feet eight inches l o n g ; some days after M . Bonpland found
another, a male, twenty-two feet three inches long. I n
• Ceyx alector, the peacock-pheasant; C. pauxi, the cashew-bird.

every zone, in America as in Egypt, this animal attains the
same size. T h e species so abundant in t h e A p u r e , the
Orinoco,* and the Rio de la Magdalena, is n o t a cayman,
but a real crocodile, analagous t o that o f the Nile, having
feet dentated at the external edges. W h e n it is recollected
that the male enters the a g e of puberty only at t e n years,
and that its length is then eight feet, w e may presume that
the crocodile measured b y M . Bonpland was at least twenty-
eight years old. The Indians told us, that at San Fernando
scarcely a year passes, without t w o o r three grown-up
persons, particularly women who fetch water from t h e river,
being drowned by these carnivorous reptiles. They related
to us the history o f a y o u n g girl o f Uritucu, who b y singular
intrepidity and presence o f mind, saved herself from the jaws
of a crocodile. W h e n she felt herself seized, she sought the
eyes of the animal, and plunged her fingers into them with
such violence, that the pain forced the crocodile t o let her
go, after having bitten off the lower part o f her left arm.
The girl, notwithstanding the enormous quantity o f blood she
lost, reached the shore, swimming with the hand that still
remained t o her. I n those desert countries, where man is
ever wrestling with nature, discourse daily turns on the best
means that may be employed t o escape from a tiger, a boa, or
a crocodile; every one prepares himself in some sort for the
dangers that may await him. “I knew,” said the y o u n g
girl o f Uritucu coolly, “that the cayman lets g o his hold, if
you push your fingers into his eyes.” L o n g after my
return t o Europe, I learned that in the interior o f Africa the
negroes know and practise the same means o f defence. W h o
does not recollect, with lively interest, Isaac, the guide of
the unfortunate M u n g o Park, w h o was seized twice b y a
crocodile, and twice escaped from the jaws o f the monster,
having succeeded in thrusting his fingers into the creature's
eyes while under water. The African Isaac, and the young
American girl, owed their safety t o t h e same presence of
mind, and the same combination of ideas.
The movements o f the crocodile o f the A p u r e are sudden
and rapid when it attacks any object; b u t it moves with
the slowness o f a salamander, when n o t excited b y rage
* It is the arua of the Tamanac Indians, the amana of the Maypure
Indians, the Crocodilus acutus of Cuvier.

or hunger. The animal in running makes a rustling noise,
which seems to proceed from the rubbing of the scales o f its
skin one against another. I n this movement it bends its
back, and appears higher o n its legs than when at rest. We
often heard this rattling o f the scales very near us on the
s h o r e ; but it is not true, as the Indians pretend, that, like
the armadillo, the old crocodiles " c a n erect their scales, and
every part of their a r m o u r . " The motion of these animals
is no doubt generally in a straight line, or rather like that of
an arrow, supposing it to change its direction at certain
distances. H o w e v e r , notwithstanding the little apparatus of
false ribs, which connects the vertebræ of the neck, and
seems to impede the lateral movement, crocodiles can turn
easily when they please. I often saw y o u n g ones biting
their tails; and other observers have seen the same action in
crocodiles at their full growth. I f their movements almost
always appear to be straight forward, it is because, like our
small lizards, they move by starts. Crocodiles are excellent
s w i m m e r s ; they g o with facility against the most rapid
current. I t appeared to me, however, that in descending
the river, they had some difficulty in turning quickly about.
A large dog, which had accompanied us in our j o u r n e y
from Caracas to the Rio N e g r o , was one day pursued
m swimming by an enormous crocodile. T h e latter had
nearly reached its prey, when the d o g escaped b y turn-
ing round suddenly and swimming against the current.
The crocodile performed the same movement, but much
more slowly than the dog, which succeeded in gaining the
The crocodiles of the A p u r e find abundant food in the
chiguires (thick-nosed tapirs),* which live fifty or sixty
together in troops on the banks o f the river. These animals,
as large as our pigs, have no weapons of defence ; they swim
somewhat better than they r u n : yet they b e c o m e the prey
* Cavia capybara, Linn. The word chiguire belongs to the language
of the Palenkas and the Cumanagotos. The Spaniards call this animal
guardatinaja; the Caribs, capigua; the Tamanaes, cappiva; and the
Maypures, chiato. According to Azara, it is known at Buenos Ayres by
the Indian names of capiygua and capiguara. These various denomi-
nations show a striking analogy between the languages of the Orinoco
and those of the Rio de la Plata.

o f the crocodiles in the water, and o f the tigers on land.
I t is difficult to conceive, how, being thus persecuted by
two powerful enemies, they become so n u m e r o u s ; but they
breed with the same rapidity as the little cavies or guinea-
pigs, which come to us from Brazil.
W e stopped below the mouth o f the Caño de la Tigrera,
in a sinuosity called la Vuelta del Joval, to measure the
velocity of the water at its surface. I t was not more than
3.2 f e e t * in a second, which gives 2.56 feet for the mean velo-
city. The height of the barometer indicated barely a slope o f
seventeen inches in a mile o f nine hundred and fifty toises.
T h e velocity is the simultaneous effect of the slope o f the
ground, and the accumulation o f the waters by the swelling
o f the upper parts o f the river. W e were again surrounded
b y chiguires, which swim like dogs, raising their heads and
necks above the water. W e saw with surprise a large
crocodile on the opposite shore, motionless, and sleeping in
the midst o f these nibbling animals. I t awoke at the ap-
proach o f our canoe, and went into the water slowly, without
frightening the chiguires. O u r Indians accounted for this
indifference b y the stupidity o f the animals, but it is more
probable that the chiguires k n o w by long experience, that
the crocodile of the A p u r e and the Orinoco does n o t attack
Upon land, unless he finds the object he would seize imme-
diately in his way, at the instant when he throws himself
into the water.
Near the Joval nature assumes an awful and extremely wild
aspect. W e there saw the largest jaguar we had ever met
with. T h e natives themselves were astonished at its p r o -
digious length, which surpassed that o f any Bengal tiger I
had ever seen in the museums of Europe. T h e animal lay
Stretched beneath the shade o f a large z a m a n g * I t had
just killed a chiguire, but had not yet touched its prey, o n
which it kept one o f its paws. T h e zamuro vultures were
assembled in great numbers t o devour the remains of the
jaguar's repast. They presented the most curious spectacle,
* In order to measure the velocity of the surface of a river, I generally
measured on the beach a base of 250 feet, and observed with the chrono-
meter the time that a floating body, abandoned to the current, required
to reach this distance.
† A species of mimosa.

by a singular mixture of boldness and timidity. They ad-
vanced within the distance o f two feet from the animal, b u t at
the least movement he made they drew back. I n order t o
observe more nearly the manners o f these creatures, w e
went into the little skiff that accompanied our canoe. Tigers
very rarely attack boats by swimming to t h e m ; and never
but when their ferocity is heightened by a long privation o f
food. T h e noise o f our oars led the animal t o rise slowly,
and hide itself behind the sauso bushes that bordered the
shore. The vultures tried to profit by this m o m e n t o f
absence to devour the c h i g u i r e ; b u t the tiger, notwith-
standing the proximity of our boat, leaped into the midst o f
them, and in a fit o f rage, expressed by his gait and the
movement of his tail, carried off his prey to the forest.
T h e Indians regretted that they were not provided with
their lances, in order to g o on shore and attack the tiger.
They are accustomed to this weapon, and were right in
n o t trusting to our fire-arms. I n so excessively damp an
atmosphere muskets often miss fire.
Continuing t o descend the river, w e met with the great
herd o f chiguires which the tiger had put to flight, and from
which he had selected his prey. These animals saw us land
very u n c o n c e r n e d l y ; some o f them were seated, and gazed
u p o n us, moving the upper lip like rabbits. They seemed
n o t to be afraid o f man, but the sight o f our dog put them
t o flight. Their hind legs being longer than their fore legs,
their pace is a slight gallop, but with so little swiftness that
w e succeeded in catching t w o o f them. T h e chiguire, which
swims with the greatest agility, utters a short moan in
running, as if its respiration were impeded. I t is the largest
o f the family o f rodentia or gnawing animals. I t defends
itself only at the last extremity, when it is surrounded and
wounded. H a v i n g great strength in its grinding teeth,*
particularly the hinder ones, which are pretty long, it can
tear the paw o f a tiger, or the leg of a horse, with its bite.
* We counted eighteen on each side. On the hind feet, at the upper
end of the metatarsus, there is a callosity three inches long and three
quarters of an inch broad, destitute of hair. The animal, when seated,
rests upon this part. No tail is visible externally; but on putting aside
the hair we discover a tubercle, a mass of naked and wrinkled flesh, of a
conical figure, and half an inch long.

Its flesh has a musky smell somewhat disagreeable; yet
hams are made of it in this country, a circumstance which
almost justifies the name o f ' w a t e r - h o g , ' given t o the
chiguire b y some o f the older naturalists. T h e missionary
monks do n o t hesitate t o eat these hams during L e n t .
A c c o r d i n g to their zoological classification they place the
armadillo, the thick-nosed taper, and the manati, near the
tortoises; the first, because it is covered with a hard ar-
mour like a sort o f shell; and the others because they are
amphibious. T h e chiguires are found in such numbers o n
the banks o f the rivers Santo D o m i n g o , A p u r e , and Arauca,
in the marshes and in the inundated savannahs * o f the
Llanos, that the pasturages sutler from them. They browze
the grass which fattens the horses best, and which bears the
name of chiguirero, or chiguire-grass. They feed also upon
fish; and we saw with surprise, that, when scared b y the
approach o f a boat, the animal in diving remains eight or
ten minutes under water.
W e passed the night as usual, in the open air, though in
a plantation, the proprietor of which employed himself in
hunting tigers. H e wore scarcely any clothing, and was of
a dark brown complexion like a Z a m b o . This did not pre-
vent his classing himself amongst the W h i t e s . H e called
his wife and his daughter, w h o were as naked as himself,
D o n a Isabella and D o n a Manuela. W i t h o u t having ever
quitted the banks of the A p u r e , he took a lively interest in
the news o f Madrid,—enquiring eagerly respecting " t h o s e
never-ending wars, and everything d o w n yonder (todas las
cosas de a l l a ) . " H e knew, he said, that the king was soon to
come and visit " the grandees o f the country of Caracas," but
he added with some pleasantry, " as the people o f the court
can eat only wheaten bread, they will never pass b e y o n d
the t o w n o f Victoria, and we shall not see them h e r e . "
1 had brought with me a chiguire, which I had intended t o
have roasted; but our host assured us, that such ' I n d i a n
g a m e ' was not food fit for "nos otros caballeros blancos"
(white gentlemen like ourselves and h i m ) . A c c o r d i n g l y he
offered us some venison, which he had killed the day before
with an arrow, for he had neither powder nor fire-arms.
* Near Uritucu, in the Caño del Ravanal, we saw a flock of eighty or
one hundred of these animals.

W e supposed that a small w o o d of plantain-trees c o n -
cealed from us the hut o f the f a r m ; but this man, so proud
o f his nobility and the colour o f his skin, had not taken the
trouble o f constructing even an ajoupa, or hut o f palm-
leaves. H e invited us t o have our hammocks hung near
his own, between two t r e e s ; and he assured us, with an
air of complacency, that, if we came u p the river in the
rainy season, we should find him beneath a roof (baxo
t e c h o ) . W e soon had reason to complain of a system o f
philosophy which is indulgent to indolence, and renders a
man indifferent to the conveniences o f life. A furious wind
arose after midnight, lightnings flashed over the horizon,
thunder rolled, and we were wet to the skin. D u r i n g this
storm a whimsical incident served to amuse us for a moment.
D o ñ a Isabella's cat had perched upon the tamarind-tree,
at the foot of which w e lay. I t fell into the hammock o f
one of our companions, who, being hurt by the claws o f the
cat, and suddenly aroused from a profound sleep, imagined
he was attacked by some wild beast o f the forest. W e ran
to him on hearing his cries, and had some trouble to c o n -
vince him of his error. W h i l e it rained in torrents o n o u r
hammocks and o n our instruments which we had brought
ashore, D o n Ignacio congratulated us o n our good fortune
in not sleeping on the strand, but finding ourselves in his
domain, among whites and persons o f respectability (entre
gente blanca y de t r a t o ) . W e t as we were, we could not
easily persuade ourselves of the advantages o f our situation,
and we listened with some impatience t o the long narrative
our host gave us o f his pretended expedition to the Rio
M e t a , of the valour he had displayed in a sanguinary c o m -
bat with the Guahibo Indians, and " t h e services that he
had rendered to G o d and his king, in carrying away Indian
children (los Indiecitos) from their parents, t o distribute
them in the M i s s i o n s . " W e were struck with the singu-
larity of finding in that vast solitude a man believing him-
self to be of European race and knowing no other shelter
than the shade of a tree, and yet having all the vain pre-
tensions, hereditary prejudices, and errors of long-standing
O n the 1st of April, at sunrise, we quitted Señor D o n
Ignacio and Señora D o ñ a Isabella his wife. T h e weather

T H E G U A M O I N D I A N S .
was cooler, for the thermometer (which generally kept u p
in the daytime to 30° or 35°) had sunk to 24°. The tempera-
ture of the river was little c h a n g e d : it continued constantly
at 26° or 27°. T h e current carried with it an enormous
number o f trunks o f trees. I t might be imagined that o n
ground entirely smooth, and where the eye cannot dis-
tinguish the least hill, the river would have formed by the
force o f its current a channel in a straight l i n e ; b u t a
glance at the map, which I traced b y the compass, will
prove the contrary. T h e t w o banks, worn b y the waters,
do not furnish an equal resistance; and almost impercep-
tible inequalities of the level suffice to produce great sinuo-
sities. Y e t below the Joval, where the bed of the river
enlarges a little, it forms a channel that appears perfectly
straight, and is shaded o n each side by very tall trees.
This part o f the river is called Caho R i c o . I found it t o
be one hundred and thirty-six toises broad. "We passed
a low island, inhabited by thousands o f flamingos, rose-
coloured spoonbills, herons, and moorhens, which displayed
plumage o f the most various colours. These birds were
so close together that they seemed to b e unable to stir.
T h e island they frequent is called Isla de A v e s , or Bird
Island. L o w e r d o w n w e passed the point where the Rio
Arichuna, an arm o f the A p u r e , branches off to the Cabu-
lare, carrying away a considerable b o d y o f its waters. W e
stopped, o n the right bank, at a little Indian mission, inha-
bited by the tribe of the G u a m o s , called the village o f
Santa Barbara de Arichuna.
T h e G u a m o s * are a race of Indians very difficult to fix
on a settled spot. T h e y have great similaritv o f manners
with the Achaguas, the Guajibos,t and the Ottomacs, par-
taking their disregard o f cleanliness, their spirit o f ven-
geance, and their taste for w a n d e r i n g ; b u t their language
differs essentially. T h e greater part o f these four tribes
live by fishing and hunting, in plains often inundated,
situated between the A p u r e , the M e t a , and the Guaviare.
T h e nature o f these regions seems to invite the natives t o
a wandering life. O n entering the mountains o f the Cata-
* Father Gili observes that their Indian name is Uamu and Pau, and
that they originally dwelt on the Upper Apure.
t Their Indian name is Guahiva.

racts o f the Orinoco, we shall soon find, among the Piraoas,
the M a c o s , and the Maquiritaras, milder manners, a love
o f agriculture, and great cleanliness in the interior o f their
huts. O n mountain ridges, in the midst of impenetrable
forests, man is compelled t o fix himself, and cultivate a
small spot o f land. This cultivation requires little c a r e ;
while, in a country where there are n o other roads than
rivers, the life of the hunter is laborious and difficult. T h e
G u a m o s of the mission o f Santa Barbara could not furnish
us with the provision we wanted. They cultivate o n l y a
little cassava. They appeared hospitable; and when w e
entered their huts, they offered us dried fish, and water
cooled in porous vessels.
B e y o n d the Vuelta del Cochino R o t o , in a spot where
the river has scooped itself a new bed, we passed the night
o n a bare and very extensive strand. T h e forest being
impenetrable, w e had the greatest difficulty to find dry
w o o d to light fires, near which the Indians believe them-
selves in safety from the nocturnal attacks o f the tiger.
O u r o w n experience seems to bear testimony in favour of
this o p i n i o n ; b u t Azara asserts that, in his time, a tiger
in Paraguay carried off a man who was seated near a fire
lighted in the savannah.
T h e night was calm and serene, and there was a beautiful
moonlight. T h e crocodiles, stretched along the shore,
placed themselves in such a manner as to be able t o see the
fire. "We thought we observed that its blaze attracted
them, as it attracts fishes, crayfish, and other inhabitants of
the water. T h e Indians showed us the tracks of three tigers
in the sand, two of which were very young. A female had
no doubt conducted her little ones to drink at the river.
Kinding no tree on the strand, we stuck our oars in the
ground, and to these w e fastened our hammocks. Every-
thing passed tranquilly till eleven at n i g h t ; and then a noise
so terrific arose in the neighbouring forest, that it was
almost impossible t o close our eyes. A m i d the cries o f so
many wild beasts howling at once, the Indians discriminated
such only as were at intervals heard separately. These
were the little soft cries o f the sapajous, the moans of the
alouate apes, the bowlings of the jaguar and couguar, the
peccary, and the sloth, and the cries of the curassao, the

parraka, and other gallinaceous birds. W h e n the jaguars
approached the skirt o f the forest, our dog, which till then
had never ceased barking, began to howl and seek for
shelter beneath our hammocks. Sometimes, after a long
silence, the cry o f the tiger came from the tops o f the t r e e s ;
and then it was followed b y the sharp and long whistling
of the monkeys, which appeared to flee from the danger
that threatened them. W e heard the same noises repeated,
during the course o f whole months, whenever the forest
approached the bed o f the river. T h e security evinced by
the Indians inspires confidence in the minds o f travellers,
who readily persuade themselves that the tigers are afraid o f
fire, and that they do not attack a man lying in his ham-
mock. These attacks are in fact extremely r a r e ; and,
during a l o n g abode in South America, 1 remember only
one example, of a llanero, who was found mutilated in his
hammock opposite the island o f Achaguas.
W h e n the natives are interrogated on the causes of the
tremendous noise made by the beasts o f the forest at certain
hours o f the night, the answer i s , " They are keeping the
feast of the full m o o n . "
I believe this agitation is most frequently the effect o f
some conflict that has arisen in the depths o f the forest.
The jaguars, for instance, pursue the peccaries and the
tapirs, which, having no defence b u t in their numbers, flee
in close troops, and break down the bushes they find in their
way. Terrified at this struggle, the timid and mistrustful
monkies answer, from the tops of the trees, the cries o f the
large animals. They awaken the birds that live in society,
and by degrees the whole assembly is in commotion. I t is
not always in a fine moonlight, but more particularly at the
time o f a storm and violent showers, that this tumult takes
place among the wild beasts. " M a y Heaven grant them a
quiet night and repose, and us a l s o ! " said the m o n k w h o
accompanied us to the Rio N e g r o , when, sinking with
fatigue, he assisted in arranging our accommodations for the
night. I t was indeed strange, to find n o silence in the
solitude o f woods. I n the inns o f Spain we dread the sound
o f guitars from the next apartment; o n the Orinoco, where
the traveller's resting-place is the open beach, or beneath
M 2

R I V E R - S C E N E R Y .
the shelter o f a solitary tree, his slumbers are disturbed b y
a serenade from the forest.
W e set sad before sunrise, on the 2nd o f April. T h e
morning was beautiful and cool, according to the feelings o f
those who are accustomed t o the heat o f these climates.
T h e thermometer rose only to 28° in the air, b u t the dry
and white sand o f the beach, notwithstanding its radiation
towards a cloudless sky, retained a temperature o f 36°. T h e
porpoises (toninas) ploughed the river in long files. T h e
shore was covered with fishing-birds. Some o f these perched
o n the floating w o o d as it passed d o w n the river, and
surprised the fish that preferred the middle of the stream.
O u r canoe was aground several times during the morning.
These shocks are sufficiently violent to split a light bark.
W e struck on the points of several largo trees, which remain
for years in an oblique position, sunk in the mud. These
trees descend from Sarare, at the period of great inun-
dations, and they so fill the bed o f the river, that canoes in
g o i n g up find it difficult sometimes to make their way over
the shoals, or wherever there are eddies. W e reached a
spot near the island o f Carizales, where we saw trunks o f
the locust-tree, o f an enormous size, above the surface of the
water. T h e y were covered with a species of plotus, nearly
resembling the anhinga, or white bellied darter. These
birds perch in files, like pheasants and parrakas, and they
remain for hours entirely motionless, with their beaks raised
toward the sky.
B e l o w the island o f Carizales we observed a diminution o f
the waters o f the river, at which we were the more sur-
prised, as, after the bifurcation at la Boca de Arichuna, there
is n o branch, n o natural drain, which takes away water from
the A p u r e . T h e loss is solely the effect of evaporation, and
o f filtration o n a sandy and wet shore. Some idea o f the
magnitude o f these effects may be formed, from the fact
that we found the heat of the dry sands, at different hours of
the day, from 36° to 52°, and that o f sands covered with
three or four inches o f water 32°. T h e beds of rivers are
heated as far as the depth to which the solar rays can
penetrate without undergoing t o o great an extinction in
their passage through the superincumbent strata o f water.

Besides, filtration extends in a lateral direction far b e y o n d
the bed o f the river. T h e shore, which apears dry to us,
imbibes water as far up as to the level .of the surface o f
the river. "We saw water gush out at the distance of fifty
toises from the shore, every time that the Indians struck
their oars into the ground. N o w these sands, wet below,
but dry above, and exposed t o the solar rays, act like
sponges, and lose the infiltrated water every instant b y
evaporation. T h e vapour that is emitted, traverses the
upper stratum o f sand strongly heated, and becomes sensible
to the eye when the air cools towards evening. A s the beach
dries, it draws from the river n e w portions o f w a t e r ; and it
may be easily conceived that this continual alternation o f va-
porization and lateral absorption must cause an immense
loss, difficult to submit to exact calculation. T h e increase
of these losses would be in proportion t o the length o f the
course of the rivers, if from their source to their mouth they
were equally surrounded by a fiat s h o r e ; b u t these shores
being formed b y deposits from the water, and the water
having less velocity in proportion as it is more remote from
its source, throwing d o w n more sediment in the lower than
in the upper part o f its course, many rivers in hot climates
undergo a diminution in the quantity of their water, as they
approach their outlets. M r . Barrow observed these curious
effects o f sands in the southern part o f Africa, on the banks
o f the Orange River. T h e y have also b e c o m e the subject
of a very important discussion, in the various hypotheses
that have been formed respecting the course of the N i g e r . *
Near the V u e l t a de Basilio, where we landed t o collect
plants, w e saw o n the top o f a tree t w o beautiful little
monkeys, black as j e t , o f the size o f the sai, with prehensile
tails. Their physiognomy and their movements sufficiently
showed that they were neither the quato (Simia beelzebub)
* Geographers supposed, for a long period, that the Niger was entirely
absorbed by the sands, and evaporated by the heat of the tropical sun, as
no embouchure could be found on the western coast of Africa to meet
the requirements of so enormous a river. It was discovered, however,
by the Landers, in 1830, that it does really flow into the Atlantic; yet
the cause mentioned above is so powerful, that of all the numerous
branches into which it separates at its mouth, only one (the Nun River)
is navigable even for light ships, and for half the year even those are
unable to enter.

nor the chamek, n o r any o f the A t e l e s . O u r Indians them-
selves had never seen any that resembled them. M o n k e y s ,
especially those living in troops, make long emigrations
at certain periods, and consequently it happens that at the
beginning o f the rainy seasons the natives discover round
their huts different kinds which they have n o t before
observed. O n this same bank our guides showed us a
nest o f y o u n g iguanas only four inches long. I t was
difficult to distinguish them from c o m m o n lizards. There
was no distinguishing mark yet formed but the dewlap
below the throat. The dorsal spines, the large erect scales,
all those appendages that render the iguana so remarkable
when it attains its full growth, were scarcely traceable.
T h e flesh o f this animal o f the saurian family appeared to
us to have an agreeable taste in every country where the
climate is very d r y ; we even found it so at periods when w e
were not in want of other food. I t is extremely white, and
next to the flesh of the armadillo, one o f the best kinds of
food to be found in the huts of the natives.
I t rained toward evening, and before the rain fell, swal-
lows, exactly resembling our own, skimmed over the surface
o f the water. We saw also a flock of paroquets pursued b y
little goshawks without crests. T h e piercing cries of these
paroquets contrasted singularly with the whistling of the
birds o f prey. W e passed the night in the open air, u p o n
the beach, near the island of Carizales. There were several
Indian huts in the neighbourhood, surrounded with plan-
tations. O u r pilot assured us beforehand that we should
n o t hear the cries o f the jaguar, which, when not extremely
pressed by hunger, withdraws from places where he does
not reign unmolested. " M e n put h i m out o f h u m o u r "
(los hombres lo enfadan), say the people in the Missions. A
pleasant and simple expression, that marks a well-observed
Since our departure from San Fernando we had not met
a single boat on this fine river. Everything denoted the
most profound solitude. O n the morning of the 3rd o f
April our Indians caught with a hook the fish known in the
country by the name o f caribe* or caribito, because no other
fish has such a thirst for blood. I t attacks bathers and
* Caribe ill the Spanish language signifies cannibal.

swimmers, from w h o m it often bites away considerable
pieces of flesh. T h e Indians dread extremely these caribes;
and several of them showed us the sears o f deep wounds in
the calf o f the leg and in the thigh, made b y these little
animals. They swim at the bottom o f rivers; but if a few
drops of blood be shed on the water, they rise by thou-
sands to the surface, so that if a person be only slightly
bitten, it is difficult for him t o get out o f the water without
receiving a severer wound. W h e n we reflect on the numbers
o f these fish, the largest and most voracious o f which are
only four or five inches long, o n the triangular form of their
sharp and cutting teeth, and on the amplitude of their re-
tractile mouths, w e need not be surprised at the fear which
the caribe excites in the inhabitants o f the banks o f the
A p u r e and the Orinoco. I n places where the river was
very limpid, where not a fish appeared, w e threw into the
water little morsels of raw flesh, and in a few minutes a
perfect cloud o f caribes had come to dispute their prey.
The belly o f this fish has a cutting edge, indented like
a saw, a characteristic which may be also traced in the
serra-salmes, the myletes, and the pristigastres. The pre-
sence of a second adipous dorsal fin, and the form of the
teeth, covered b y lips distant from each other, and largest
in the lower jaw, place the caribe among the serra-salmes.
Its mouth is much wider than that o f the myletes of Cuvier.
Its body, toward the back, is ash-coloured with a tint o f
green, b u t the belly, the gill-covers, and the pectoral, anal,
and ventral fins, are o f a fine orange hue. Three species are
known in the Orinoco, and are distinguished by their size.
The intermediate appears to be identical with the medium
species o f the piraya, or piranha, of Marcgrav.* The cari-
bito has a very agreeable flavour. A s n o one dares t o
bathe where it is found, it may be considered as one of the
greatest scourges of those climates, in which the sting o f
the mosquitos and the general irritation o f the skin render
the use of baths so necessary.
W e stopped at n o o n in a desert spot called Algodonal.
I left my companions while they drew the boat ashore and
were occupied in preparing our dinner. I went along the
beach to get a near view o f a group o f crocodiles sleeping in
* Salmo rhombeus, Linn.

the sun, and lying in such a manner as to have their tails,
which were furnished with broad plates, resting on one an-
other. Some little herons,* white as snow, walked along their
backs, and even upon their heads, as if passing over trunks
o f trees. T h e crocodiles were o f a greenish grey, half
covered with dried m u d ; from their colour and immobility
they might have been taken for statues o f bronze. This ex-
cursion had nearly proved fatal to me. I had kept m y eyes
constantly turned towards the river; but, whilst picking up
some spangles of mica agglomerated together in the sand, I
discovered the recent footsteps of a tiger, easily distinguish-
able from their form and size. T h e animal had gone towards
the forest, and turning m y eyes on that side, I found myself
within eighty paces o f a jaguar that was lying under the
thick foliage of a ceiba. N o tiger had ever appeared to me
so large.
There are accidents in life against which we may seek
in vain to fortify our reason. I was extremely alarmed, y e t
sufficiently master o f myself and o f m y motions to enable
me to follow the advice which the Indians had so often
given us as to how we ought t o act in such cases. I c o n -
tinued to walk on without running, avoided moving m y arms,
and I thought I observed that the jaguar's attention was
fixed on a herd of capybaras which was crossing the river. I
then began to return, making a large circuit toward the edge
o f the water. A s the distance increased, I thought 1 might
accelerate m y pace. H o w often was I tempted to look back
in order to assure myself that I was not p u r s u e d ! Happily
I yielded very tardily to this desire. T h e jaguar had r e -
mained motionless. These enormous cats with spotted robes
are so well fed in countries abounding in capybaras, pecaries,
and deer, that they rarely attack men. I arrived at the
boat out of breath, and related my adventure to the Indians.
They appeared very little interested by my s t o r y ; yet, after
having loaded our guns, they accompanied us to the ceiba
† Garzon chico. It is believed, in Upper Egypt, that herons
have an affection for crocodiles, because they take advantage in fishing
of the terror that monstrous animal causes among the fishes, which
he drives from the bottom to the surface of the water; but on the banks
of the Nile, the heron keeps prudently at some distance from the cro-

beneath which the jaguar had lain. H e was there no longer,
and it would have been imprudent to have pursued him into
the forest, where we must have dispersed, or advanced in
single file, amidst the intertwining lianas.
I n the evening w e passed the mouth of the Caño del
Manati, thus named o n account o f the immense quantity o f
manatis caught there every year. This herbivorous animal
of the cetaceous family, is called by the Indians apcia and
avia* and it attains here generally ten or twelve feet in
length. I t usually weighs from five hundred to eight hun-
dred pounds, but it is asserted that one has been taken o f
eight thousand pounds weight. T h e manati abounds in the
Orinoco below the cataracts, in the Rio M e t a , and in the
A p u r e , between the t w o islands o f Carizales and Conserva.
W e found no vestiges o f nails on the external surface o r
the edges o f the fins, which are quite s m o o t h ; but little
rudiments o f nails appear at the third phalanx, when the
skin o f the fins is taken off. W e dissected one o f these
animals, which was nine feet long, at Carichana, a Mission
of the Orinoco. T h e upper lip was four inches longer than
the lower one. I t was covered with a very fine skin, and served
as a proboscis. T h e inside of the mouth, which has a sensi-
ble warmth in an animal newly killed, presented a very
singular conformation. T h e tongue was almost motionless ;
but in front of the tongue there was a fleshy excrescence in
each jaw, and a cavity lined with a very hard skin, into which
the excrescence fitted. T h e manati eats such quantities o f
grass, that we have found its stomach, which is divided into
several cavities, and its intestines, (one hundred and eight
feet long,) filled with it. O n opening the animal at the
back, w e were struck with the magnitude, form, and situa-
tion of its lungs. They have very large cells, and resemble
immense swimming-bladders. They are three feet long.
Filled with air, they have a bulk o f more than a thousand
cubic inches. I was surprised to see that, possessing such
* The first of these words belongs to the Tamanac language, and the
second to the Ottomae. Father Gili proves, in opposition to Oviedo,
that the manati (fish with hands) is not Spanish, but belongs to the
languages of Hayti (St. Domingo) and the Maypures. I believe also
that, according to the genius of the Spanish tongue, the animal would
have been called manudo or manon, but not manati.

considerable receptacles for air, the manati comes so often
t o the surface o f the water to breathe. I t s flesh is very
savoury, though, from what prejudice I know not, it is c o n -
sidered unwholesome and apt to produce fever. I t a p -
peared to me to resemble pork rather than beef. I t is most
esteemed by the Guamos and the Ottomacs ; and these t w o
nations are particularly expert in catching the manati. I t s
flesh, when salted and dried in the sun, can be preserved a
whole y e a r ; and, as the clergy regard this mammiferous
animal as a fish, it is much sought during Lent. T h e
vital principal is singularly strong in the m a n a t i ; it is tied
after being harpooned, but is not killed till it has been
taken into the canoe. This is effected, when the animal is
very large, in the middle o f the river, b y filling the canoe
two-thirds with water, sliding it under the animal, and then
baling out the water b y means o f a calabash. This fishery
is most easy after great inundations, when the manati has
passed from the great rivers into the lakes and surrounding
marshes, and the waters diminish rapidly. A t the period
when the Jesuits governed the Missions o f the L o w e r
Orinoco, they assembled every year at Cabruta, below the
mouth of the A p u r e , t o have a grand fishing for manatis,
with the Indians of their Missions, at the foot o f the m o u n -
tain n o w called El Capuchino. T h e fat o f the animal,
known b y the name of manati-butter (manteca de manati,)
is used for lamps in the churches ; and is also employed in
preparing food. I t has not the fetid smell o f whale-oil,
or that of the other cetaceous animals which spout water.
T h e hide of the manati, which is more than an inch and half
thick, is cut into slips, and serves, like thongs o f ox-leather,
t o supply the place of cordage in the Llanos. W h e n im-
mersed in water, it has the defect of undergoing a slight
degree o f putrefaction. "Whips are made of it in the Spa-
nish colonies. H e n c e the words latigo and manati are
synonymous. These whips o f manati-leather are a cruel
instrument of punishment for the unhappy slaves, and even
for the Indians of the Missions, though, according to the
laws, the latter ought to be treated like freemen.
W e passed the night opposite the island o f Conserva. I n
skirting the forest we were surprised by the sight of an enor-
mous trunk of a tree seventy feet high, and thickly set with

T H E V A M P I R E - B A T .
branching thorns. I t is called hy the natives barba de tigre.
I t was perhaps a tree o f the berberideous family.* T h e
Indians had kindled fires at the edge o f the water. "We
again perceived, that their light attracted the crocodiles,
and even the porpoises (toninas), the noise o f which inter-
rupted our sleep, till the fire was extinguished. A female
jaguar approached our station whilst taking her y o u n g one
to drink at the river. T h e Indians succeeded in chasing her
away, but w e heard for a long time the cries o f the little
jaguar, which mewed like a y o u n g cat. Soon after, our great
dog was bitten, or, as the Indians say, stung, at the point
o f the nose, by some enormous bats that hovered around
our hammocks*. These bats had long tails, like the M o -
losses : I believe, however, that they were Thyllostomes, the
tongue o f which, furnished with p a p i l æ , is an organ o f
suction, and is capable o f being considerably elongated.
The dog's wound was very small and r o u n d ; and though he
uttered a plaintive cry when he felt himself bitten, it was
not from pain, but because he was frightened at the sight o f
the bats, which came out from beneath our hammocks.
These accidents are much more rare than is believed even
in the country itself. I n the course o f several years, n o t -
withstanding we slept so often in the open air, in climates
where vampire-bats,† and other analagous species are so
c o m m o n , we were never wounded. Besides, the puncture
is no-way dangerous, and in general causes so little pain,
that it often does not awaken the person till after the bat
has withdrawn.
T h e 4th o f A p r i l was the last day we passed on the B i o
A p u r e . T h e vegetation o f its banks became more and more
uniform. D u r i n g several days, and particularly since w e
bad left the Mission o f Arichuna, w e had suffered cruelly
from the stings o f insects, which covered our faces and
bands. They were not mosquitos, which have the appear-
* We found, on the banks of the Apure, Ammania apurensis, Cordia
cordifolia, C. grandiflora, Mollugo sperguloides, Myosotis lithosper-
moïdes, Spermacocce diffusa, Coronilla occidentalis, Bignonia apurensis,
Pisonia pubescens, Ruellia viscosa, some new species of Jussieua, and a
new genus of the composite family, approximating to Rolandra, the
Trichospira menthoïdes of M. Kunth.
† Veispertilio spectrum.

ance o f little flies, or o f the genus Simulium, b u t zancudos,
which are really gnats, though very different from our E u r o -
pean species.* These insects appear only after sunset. Their
proboscis is so l o n g that, when they fix on the lower surface
o f a hammock, they pierce through it and the thickest gar-
ments with their sting.
"We had intended to pass the night at the V u e l t a del
Palmito, b u t the number o f jaguars at that part o f the
A p u r e is so great, that our Indians found t w o hidden
behind the trunk o f a locust-tree, at the m o m e n t when they
were going to sling our hammocks. W e were advised t o
re-embark, and take our station in the island o f A p u r i t o ,
near its j u n c t i o n with the Orinoco. That portion of the
island belongs t o the province o f Caracas, while the right
banks o f the A p u r e and the Orinoco form a part, the one o f
the province o f Varinas, the other of Spanish Guiana. W e
found no trees t o which w e could suspend our hammocks,
and were obliged to sleep on ox-hides spread on the ground.
T h e boats were too narrow and too full of zancudos to permit
us t o pass the night in them.
I n the place where w e had landed our instruments, the
banks being steep, w e saw n e w proofs o f the indolence o f
the gallinaceous birds o f the tropics. The curassaos and
cashew-birdsf have the habit o f going down several times
a-day to the river t o allay their thirst. They drink a great
deal, and at short intervals. A vast number o f these birds
had joined, near our station, a flock o f parraka pheasants.
T h e y had great difficulty in climbing u p the steep b a n k s ;
they attempted it several times without using their wings.
W e drove them before us, as if we had been driving sheep.
T h e zamuro vultures raise themselves from the ground with
great reluctance.
W e were singularly struck at the small quantity o f water
which the Rio Apure furnishes at this season to the Ori-
n o c o . T h e A p u r e , which, according to m y measurements,
was still one hundred and thirty-six toises broad at the Caño
Rico, was only sixty or eighty at its m o u t h . * I t s depth
* M. Latreille has discovered that the mosquitos of South Carolina are
of the genus Simuliuin (Atractocera meigen.)
The latter (Crax pauxi) is less common than the former.
++Not quite so broad as the Seine at the Pont Royal, opposite the

here was only three or four toises. I t loses, no doubt, a
part of its waters b y the Rio Arichuna and the Caño del
Manati, t w o branches o f the A p u r e that flow into the
Payara and the G u a r i c o ; b u t its greatest loss appears to
be caused b y filtrations o n the beach, o f which we have
before spoken. T h e velocity o f the A p u r e near its mouth
was only 3 2 feet per s e c o n d ; so that I could easily have
calculated the whole quantity of the water if I had taken,
by a series of proximate soundings, the whole dimensions
of the tranverse section.
W e touched several times o n shoals before we entered
the Orinoco. T h e ground gained from the water is immense
towards the confluence o f the t w o rivers. W e were obliged
t o be towed along b y the bank. W h a t a contrast between
this state o f the river immediately before the entrance o f
the rainy season, when all the effects o f dryness o f the air
and o f evaporation have attained their maximum, and that
autumnal state when the A p u r e , like an arm o f the sea,
covers the savannahs as far as the eye can r e a c h ! W e
discerned towards the south the lonely hills o f C o r u a t o ;
while to the east the granite rocks of Curiquima, the Sugar
L o a f o f Cay cara, and the mountains o f the T y r a n t * (Cerros
del Tirano) began t o rise on the horizon. I t was not without
emotion that w e beheld for the first time, after long ex-
pectation, the waters o f the Orinoco, at a point so distant
from the coast.
palace of the Tuileries, and a little more than half the width of the
Thames at Westminster Bridge.
* This name alludes, no doubt, to the expedition of Antonio Sedeno.
The port of Caycara, opposite Cabruta, still bears the name of that Con-

C H A P T E R X I X .
Junction of the Apure and the Orinoco.—Mountains of Encaramada.—
Uruana. — Baraguan.— Carichana.—Mouth of the Meta.— Island of
O N leaving the E i o A p u r e we found ourselves in a c o u n -
try presenting a totally different aspect. A n immense plain
of water stretched before us like a lake, as far as we could
see. White-topped waves rose to the height o f several
feet, from the conflict of the breeze and the current. T h e
air resounded no longer with the piercing cries of herons,
flamingos, and spoonbills, crossing in long files from one
shore to the other. O u r eyes sought in vain those water-
fowls, the habits of which vary in each tribe. All nature
appeared less animated. Scarcely could we discover in the
hollows o f the waves a few large crocodiles, cutting obliquely,
b y the help of their long tails, the surface of the agitated
waters. T h e horizon was bounded b y a zone of forests,
which nowhere reached so far as the bed o f the river. A
vast beach, constantly parched by the heat o f the sun, desert
and bare as the shores of the sea, resembled at a distance,
from the effect of the mirage, pools of stagnant water.
These sandy shores, far from fixing the limits o f the river,
render them uncertain, b y enlarging or contracting them
alternately, according to the variable action o f the solar
I n these scattered features o f the landscape, in this cha-
racter o f solitude and o f greatness, we recognize the course
o f the Orinoco, one o f the most majestic rivers o f the N e w
W o r l d . T h e water, like the land, displays everywhere a
characteristic and peculiar aspect. T h e bed of the Orinoco
resembles not the bed of the M e t a , the Guaviare, the R i o
N e g r o , or the A m a z o n . These differences do not. depend
altogether on the breadth or the velocity o f the c u r r e n t ;
they are connected with a multitude of impressions which
it is easier to perceive upon the spot than to define with
precision. Thus, the mere form o f the waves, the tint of

the waters, the aspect o f the sky and the clouds, would lead
an experienced navigator to guess whether he were in the
Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, or in the equinoctial part o f
the Pacific.
T h e wind blew fresh from east-north-east. I t s direc-
tion was favourable for sailing up the Orinoco, towards the
Mission o f Encaramada; but our canoes were so ill calcu-
lated t o resist the shocks of the waves, that, from the
violence of the motion, those who suffered habitually at sea
Were equally incommoded on the river. T h e short, broken
waves are caused by the conflict of the waters at the j u n c -
tion o f the two rivers. This conflict is very violent, but far
from being so dangerous as Father Gumilla describes. W e
passed the Tunta Curiquima, which is an isolated mass o f
quartzose granite, a small promontory composed o f rounded
blocks. There, on the right bank of the Orinoco, Father
Rotella founded, in the time of the Jesuits, a Mission o f
the Palenka and Viriviri o r Guire Indians. B u t during
inundations, the rock Curiquima and the village at its foot
were entirely surrounded by w a t e r ; and this serious incon-
venience, together the sufferings o f the missionaries and I n -
dians from the innumerable quantity of mosquitos and niguas*
led them to forsake this humid spot. I t is now entirely
deserted, while opposite to it, on the right bank of the river,
the little mountains of Coruato are the retreat o f wandering
Indians, expelled either from the Missions, or from tribes
that are not subject to the government o f the monks.
Struck with the extreme breadth of the Orinoco, between
the mouth o f the A p u r e and the rock Curiquima, I ascer-
tained it b y means of a base measured twice on the western
beach. T h e bed o f the Orinoco, at low water, was 1906
toises b r o a d ; b u t this breadth increases t o 5517 toises,
when, in the rainy season, the rock Curiquima, and the farm
of Capuchino near the hill o f Pocopocori, b e c o m e islands.
The swelling of the Orinoco is augmented b y the impulse o f
the waters o f the A pure, which, far from forming, like other
rivers, an acute angle with the upper part o f that into which
it flows, meets it at right angles.
W e first proceeded south-west, as far as the shore inhabited
* The chego (Pulex penetrans), which penetrates under the nails of the
toes in men and monkeys, and there deposits its eggs.

b y the Guaricoto Indians o n the left bank o f the Orinoco,
and then we advanced straight toward the south. T h e river
is so broad that the mountains of Encaramada appear to rise
from the water, as if seen above the horizon o f the sea. T h e y
form a continued chain from east to west. These mountains
are composed o f enormous blocks of granite, cleft and piled
one upon another. Their division into blocks is the effect
o f decomposition. W h a t contributes above all to embellish
the scene at Encaramada is the luxuriance o f vegetation
that covers the sides o f the rocks, leaving bare only their
rounded summits. They look like ancient ruins rising in
the midst o f a forest. T h e mountain immediately at the
back o f the Mission, the Tepupano* of the Tamanac Indians,
is terminated by three enormous granitic cylinders, t w o o f
which are inclined, while the third, though w o r n at its base,
and more than eighty feet high, has preserved a vertical
position. This rock, which calls t o mind the form o f the
Schnarcher in the Hartz mountains, or that o f the Organs
o f A c t o p a n in Mexico,† composed formerly a part o f the
rounded summit o f the mountain. I n every climate, u n -
stratified granite separates by decomposition into blocks o f
prismatic, cylindric, or columnar figures.
Opposite the shore of the Guaricotos, w e drew near
another heap o f rocks, which is very low, and three or four
toises long. I t rises in the midst o f the plain, and has less
resemblance t o a tumulus than t o those masses o f granitic
stone, which in N o r t h Holland and Germany bear the name
o f hünenbette, beds (or t o m b s ) o f heroes. T h e shore, at this
part of the Orinoco, is no longer o f pure and quartzose s a n d ;
but is composed o f clay and spangles o f mica, deposited in
very thin strata, and generally at an inclination of forty or
fifty degrees. I t looks like decomposed mica-slate. This
change in the geological configuration o f the shore extends
* Tepu-pano, 'place of stones,' in which we recognize tepu 'stone,
rock,' as in tepu-uri 'mountain.' We here perceive that Lesgian Oigour-
Tartar root tep 'stone' (found in America among the Americans, in
teptl; among the Caribs, in tebou; among the Tamanacs, in tepuiri)
a striking analogy between the languages of Caucasus and Upper Asia
and those of the banks of the Orinoco.
t In Captain Tuckey's Voyage on the river Congo, we find repre-
sented a granitic rock, Taddi Enzazi, which bears a striking resemblance
to the mountain of Encaramada.

far beyond the mouth of the A p u r e . W e had begun to
observe it in this latter river as far off as Algodonal and the
Caño del Manati. T h e spangles of mica come, no doubt,
from the granite mountains of Curiquima and Encaramada;
since further north-east we find only quartzose sand, sand-
stone, compact limestone, and gypsum. Alluvial earth car-
ried successively from south t o north, need not surprise us
in the O r i n o c o ; but to what shall w e attribute the same
phenomenon in the bed of the A p u r e , seven leagues west o f
its mouth ? I n the present state of things, notwithstanding
the swellings of the Orinoco, the waters o f the A p u r e never
retrograde so f a r ; and, to explain this phenomenon, we are
forced to admit that the micaceous strata were deposited at
a time when the whole o f the very low country lying be-
tween Caycara, Algodonal, and the mountains o f Encara-
mada, formed the basin of an inland lake.
W e stopped some time at the port of Encaramada, which
is a sort of embarcadero, a place where boats assemble. A
rock of forty or fifty feet high forms the shore. I t is c o m -
posed o f blocks o f granite, heaped one upon another, as
at the Schneeberg in Franconia, and in almost all the
granitic mountains o f Europe. Some o f these detached
masses have a spheroidal f o r m ; they are not balls with
concentric layers, but merely rounded blocks, nuclei se-
parated from their envelopes by the effect o f decompo-
sition. This granite is of a greyish lead-colour, often black,
as if covered with oxide o f manganese; but this colour does
not penetrate one fifth o f a line into the rock, which is o f a
reddish white colour within, coarse-grained, and destitute o f
T h e Indian names o f the Mission of San Luis del Encara-
mada, are Guaja and Caramana* This small village was
* All the Missions of South America have names composed of two
words, the first of which is necessarily the name of a saint, the patron of
the church, and the second an Indian name, that of the nation, or the
Pot where the establishment is placed. Thus we say, San Jose de
Maypures, Santa Cruz de Cachipo, San Juan Nepomuceno de los Atures,

These compound names appear only in official documents; the
inhabitants adopt but one of the two names, and generally, provided it
be sonorous, the Indian. As the names of saints are several times
repeated in neighbouring places, great confusion in geography arises from
these repetitions. The names of San Juan, San Diego, and San Pedro,

founded in 1749 by Father Gili, the Jesuit, author of the
Storia dell' Orinoco, published at R o m e . This missionary,
learned in the Indian tongues, lived in these solitudes during
eighteen years, till the expulsion of the Jesuits. T o form a
precise idea of the savage state of these countries it must be
recollected that Father Gili speaks o f Carichana,* which
is forty leagues from Encaramada, as o f a spot far
distant; and that he never advanced so far as the first
cataract in the river of which he ventured t o undertake the
I n the port of Encaramada we met with some Caribs of
Panapana. A cacique was going up the Orinoco in his
canoe, to join in the famous fishing of turtles' eggs. H i s
canoe was rounded toward the bottom like a bongo, and
followed by a smaller boat called a curiam. H e was seated
beneath a sort o f tent, constructed, like the sail of palm-
leaves. H i s cold and silent gravity, the respect with
which he was treated b y his attendants, everything denoted
him to be a person of importance. H e was equipped,
however, in the same manner as his Indians. They were all
equally naked, armed with bows and arrows, and painted
with onoto, which is the colouring fecula of the Bixa orellana.
T h e chief, the domestics, the furniture, the boat, and the
were all painted red. These Caribs are men o f an
almost athletic stature; they appeared t o us much taller
than any Indians we had hitherto seen. Their smooth and
thick hair, cut short on the forehead like that of choristers,
their eyebrows painted black, their look at once gloomy and
animated, gave a singular expression to their countenances.
Having till then seen only the skulls o f some Caribs of the
W e s t India Islands preserved in the collections of Europe,
we were surprised to find that these Indians, who were of
pure race, had foreheads much more rounded than they are
described. T h e women, who were very tall, and disgusting
are scattered in our maps as if by chance. It is pretended that the
Mission of Guaja affords a very rare example of the composition of two
Spanish words. The word Encaramada means things raised one upon
another, from encaramar, 'to raise up.' It is derived from the figure
of Tepupano and the neighbouring rocks: perhaps it is only an Indian
word caramana, in which, as in manati, a Spanish signification was
believed to be discovered,
* Saggio di Storia Americana, vol. i. p. 122.

from their want of cleanliness, carried their infants on their
backs. The thighs and legs of the infants were bound at
certain distances by broad strips of cotton cloth, and the
flesh, strongly compressed beneath the ligatures, was swelled
in the interstices. I t is generally to be observed, that the
Caribs are as attentive to their exterior and their ornaments,
as it is possible for men to b e , who are naked and painted
red. They attach great importance to certain configurations
o f the b o d y ; and a mother would be accused o f culpable
indifference toward her children, if she did not employ arti-
ficial means to shape the calf o f the leg after the fashion o f
the country. A s none o f our Indians of A p u r e understood
the Caribbee language, we could obtain no information from
the cacique o f Tanama respecting the encampments that are
made at this season in several islands o f the Orinoco for
collecting turtles' eggs.
Near Encaramada a very long island divides the river
into t w o branches. W e passed the night in a rocky creek,
opposite the mouth of the R i o Cabullare, which is formed b y
the Payara and the Atamaica, and is sometimes considered
as one o f the branches o f the A p u r e , because it c o m m u -
nicates with that river by the Rio Arichuna. T h e evening
was beautiful. The moon illumined the tops o f the granite
rocks. T h e heat was so uniformly distributed, that, n o t -
Withstanding the humidity of the air, n o twinkling o f the
stars was observable, even at four or five degrees above the
horizon. T h e light o f the planets was singularly d i m m e d ;
and if, on account o f the smallness of the apparent diameter
o f Jupiter, I had not suspected some error in the observation,
I should say, that here, for the first time, w e thought w e
distinguished the disk o f Jupiter with the naked eye.
Towards midnight, the north-east wind became extremely
S o l e n t . I t brought no clouds, but the vault of the sky was
covered more and more with vapours. Strong gusts were
felt, and made us fear for the safety o f o u r canoe. D u r i n g
this whole day we had seen very few crocodiles, but all o f
an extraordinary size, from twenty to twenty-four feet. T h e
Indians assured us that the y o u n g crocodiles prefer the
marshes, and the rivers that are less broad, and less deep.
They crowd together particularly in the Caños, and we may
say o f them, what Abdallatif says of the crocodiles o f the
N 2

Nile,* " t h a t they swarm like worms in the shallow waters of
the river, and in the shelter o f uninhabited islands."
O n the 6th of April, whilst continuing t o ascend the
Orinoco, first southward and then to south-west, we perceived
the southern side o f the Serrania, or chain of the mountains
o f Encaramada. T h e part nearest the river is only one
hundred and forty or one hundred and sixty toises h i g h ;
but from its abrupt declivities, its situation in the midst o f
a savannah, and its rocky summits, cut into shapeless prisms,
the Serrania appears singularly elevated. Its greatest
breadth is only three leagues. A c c o r d i n g to information
given me by trie Indians o f the Pareka nation, it is c o n -
siderably wider toward the east. T h e summits o f Encara-
mada form the northernmost link of a group of mountains
which border the right bank o f the Orinoco, between the la-
titudes o f 5° and 7° 30' from the mouth o f the R i o Zama t o
that o f the Cabullare. T h e different links into which this
group is divided are separa ted by little grassy plains. They
do not preserve a direction perfectly parallel to each o t h e r ;
for the most northern stretch from west to east, and the
most southern from north-west to south-east. This change
o f direction sufficiently explains the increase o f breadth
observed in the Cordillera o f Parime towards the east,
between the sources o f the Orinoco and o f the Rio Paruspa.
O n penetrating beyond the great cataracts o f A t u r e s and
o f Maypures, we shall see seven principal links, those o f
Encaramada or Sacuina, o f Chaviripa, of Baraguan, o f Cari-
chana, of Uniama, of Calitamini, and of Sipapo, successively
appear. This sketch may serve to give a general idea of
the geological configuration o f the ground. W e recognize
everywhere on the globe a tendency toward regular forms,
in those mountains that appear the most irregularly grouped.
Every link appears, in a transverse section, like a distinct
summit, to those w h o navigate the O r i n o c o ; but this divi-
sion is merely in appearance. T h e regularity in the direc-
tion and separation of the links seems to diminish in pro-
portion as we advance towards the east. T h e mountains o f
Encaramada join those o f M a t o , which give birth to the
Rio Asiveru or C u c h i v e r o ; those of Chaviripe are p r o -
longed by the granite chain o f the Corosal, o f A m o c o , and
* Description de l'Egypte, translated by De Sacy.

1 8 1
of Murcielago, towards the sources o f the Erevato and the
I t was across these mountains, which are inhabited
by Indians of gentle character, employed in agriculture,*
that, at the time o f the expedition for settling boundaries,
General Iturriaga took some horned cattle for the supply
o f the new town o f San Fernando de Atabapo. T h e in-
habitants of Encaramada then showed the Spanish soldiers
the way by the Rio Manapiari,† which falls into the V e n -
tuari. B y descending these two rivers, the Orinoco and the
Atabapo may be reached without passing the great cataracts,
which present almost insurmountable obstacles to the c o n -
veyance of cattle. The spirit o f enterprise which had so
eminently distinguished the Castilians at the period o f the
discovery of America, was again roused for a time in the
middle o f the eighteenth century, when Ferdinand V I was
desirous of knowing the true limits o f his vast possessions ¡
and in the forests o f Guiana, that land o f fiction and
fabulous tradition, the wily Indians revived the chimerical
idea of the wealth o f El Dorado, which had so much occu-
pied the imagination of the first conquerors.
Amidst the mountains of Encaramada, which, like most
coarse-grained granite rocks, are destitute o f metallic veins,
we cannot help inquiring whence came those grains o f gold
which Juan Martinez ++ and Raleigh profess to have seen in
such abundance in the hands o f the Indians of the Orinoco.
From what I observed in that part of America, I am led t o
think that gold, like tin,|| is sometimes disseminated in an
* The Mapoyes, Parecas, Javaranas, and Curacicanas, who possess
fine plantations (conucos) in the savannahs by which these forests are
† Between Encarmada and the Rio Manapiare, Don Miguel Sanchez,
chief of this little expedition, crossed the Rio Guainaima, which flows
into the Cuchivero. Sanchez died, from the fatigue of this journey, on
the borders of the Ventuari.
++ The companion of Diego Ordaz.
|| Thus tin is found in granite of recent formation, at Geyer ; in hya-
lomicte or graisen, at Zinnwald ; and in syenitic porphyry, at Altenberg,
in Saxony, as well as near Naila, in the Fichtelgebirge. I have also seen,
in the Upper Palatinate, micaceous iron, and black earthy cobalt, far from
any kind of vein, disseminated in a granite destitute of mica, as magnetic
iron-sand is in volcanic rocks.

almost imperceptible manner in the very mass o f granite
rocks, without our being able to perceive that there is a
ramification and an intertwining o f small veins. N o t l o n g
ago the Indians of Encaramada found in the Quebrada del
T i g r e * a piece of native gold two lines in diameter. I t was
rounded, and appeared to have been washed along b y the
waters. This discovery excited the attention o f the mis-
sionaries much more than of the natives; it was followed by
n o other of the same kind.
I cannot quit this first link o f the mountains o f Enca-
ramada without recalling to mind a fact that was not un-
known to Father Gili, and which was often mentioned to
me during our abode in the Missions o f the Orinoco. T h e
natives of those countries have retained the belief that, " a t
the time of the great waters, when their fathers were forced
to have recourse to boats, t o escape the general inundation,
the waves o f the sea beat against the rocks o f Encaramada."
This belief is not confined to one nation singly, the Tama-
n a c s ; it makes part o f a system of historical tradition, o f
which we find scattered notions among the Maypures of the
great cataracts ; among the Indians o f the Rio Erevato, which
runs into the C a u r a ; and among almost all the tribes of the
U p p e r Orinoco. W h e n the Tamanacs are asked h o w the
human race survived this great deluge, the ' age of water,'
o f the Mexicans, they say, " a man and a woman saved
themselves on a high mountain, called Tamanacu, situated on
the banks of the A s i v e r u ; and casting behind them, over
their heads, the fruits o f the mauritia palm-tree, they saw
the seeds contained in those fruits produce men and women,
w h o repeopled the earth." Thus we find in all its simpli-
city, among nations n o w in a savage state, a tradition which
the Greeks embellished with all the charms of imagination!
A few leagues from Encaramada, a rock, called Tepu-mereme,
o r ' the painted rock,' rises in the midst of the savannah.
U p o n it are traced representations o f animals, and symbolic
figures resembling those we saw in going down the Orinoco,
at a small distance below Encaramada, near the t o w n Cay-
cara. Similar rocks in Africa are called by travellers fetish
I shall not make use of this term, because fetishism
does not prevail among the natives o f the O r i n o c o ; and the
* The Tiger-ravine.

figures of stars, of the sun, of tigers, and o f crocodiles, which
we found traced upon the rocks in spots now uninhabited,
appeared to me in no way to denote the objects o f worship
of those nations. Between the banks of the Cassiquiare
and the Orinoco, between Encaramada, the Capuchino, and
Caycara, these hieroglyphic figures are often seen at great
heights, on rocky cliffs which could be accessible only b y
constructing very lofty scaffolds. W h e n the natives are
asked how those figures could have been sculptured, they
answer with a smile, as if relating a fact o f which only a
white man could be ignorant, that " a t the period o f the
great waters, their fathers went to that height in b o a t s . "
These ancient traditions of the human race, which we find
dispersed over the whole surface of the globe, like the relics
of a vast shipwreck, are highly interesting in the philo-
sophical study o f our o w n species. L i k e certain families o f
the vegetable kingdom, which, notwithstanding the diversity
of climates and the influence of heights, retain the impres-
sion of a c o m m o n type, the traditions o f nations respecting
the origin of the world, display everywhere the same phy-
siognomy, and preserve features of resemblance that fill us
with astonishment. H o w many different tongues, belonging
to branches that appear totally distinct, transmit to us the
same facts ! T h e traditions concerning races that have been
destroyed, and the renewal o f nature, scarcely vary in
reality, though every nation gives them a local colouring.
In the great continents, as in the smallest islands of the
Pacific Ocean, it is always on the loftiest and nearest m o u n -
tain that the remains o f the human race have been saved ;
and this event appears the more recent, in proportion as the
nations are uncultivated, and as the knowledge they have
of their o w n existence has no very remote date. A f t e r
having studied with attention the Mexican monuments,
anterior to the discovery of the N e w W o r l d ; after having
penetrated into the forests o f the Orinoco, and observed
the diminutive size o f the European establishments, their
solitude, and the state of the tribes that have remained
i n d e p e n d e n t ; we cannot allow ourselves to attribute the
analogies just cited to the influence exercised by the mis-
sionaries, and by Christianity, on the national traditions.
N o r is it more probable, that the discovery of sea-shells on

the summit o f mountains gave birth, among the nations of
the Orinoco, t o the tradition o f some great inundation
which extinguished for a time the germs of organic life o n
our globe. T h e country that extends from the right bank
o f the Orinoco to the Cassiquiare and the R i o N e g r o , is a
country o f primitive rocks. I saw there one small formation
o f sandstone or conglomerate ; but n o secondary limestone,
and n o trace o f petrifactions.
A fresh north-east breeze carried us full-sail towards the
B o c a de la Tortuga. W e landed, at eleven in the m o r n -
ing, on an island which the Indians of the Missions of U r u -
ana considered as their property, and which lies in the
middle of the river. This island is celebrated for the turtle
fishery, or, as they say here, the cosecha, ' the harvest [ o f
e g g s , ] ' that takes place annually. W e here found an
assemblage of Indians, encamped under huts made o f
palm-leaves. This encampment contained more than three
h u n d r e d persons. A c c u s t o m e d , since w e had left San
Fernando de A p u r e , t o see only desert shores, w e were
singularly struck b y the bustle that prevailed here. W e
found, besides the G u a m o s and the Ottomacs of Uruana,
who are both considered as savage races, Caribs and other
Indians o f the L o w e r Orinoco. Every tribe was separately
encamped, and was distinguished by the pigments with which
their skins were painted. Some white men were seen amidst
this tumultuous assemblage, chiefly pulperos, or little traders
o f Angostura, who had come up the river to purchase turtle
oil from the natives. T h e missionary o f Uruana, a native
o f Alcala, came to meet us, and he was extremely astonished
at seeing us. A f t e r having admired our instruments, he
gave us an exaggerated picture o f the sufferings to which
w e should be necessarily exposed in ascending the Orinoco
beyond the cataracts. The object o f our journey appeared
to him very mysterious. " H o w is it possible to believe,"
said he, " that yo u have left y o u r country, t o come and b e
devoured b y mosquitos on this river, and to measure lands
that are not your o w n ? " W e were happily furnished with
recommendations from the Superior o f the Franciscan M i s -
sions, and the brother-in-law of the governor of Varinas,
who accompanied us, soon dissipated the doubts to which
our dress, our accent, and our arrival in this sandy island,

had given rise among the W h i t e s . The missionary invited
us to partake a frugal repast o f fish and plantains. H e told
Us that he had c o m e t o encamp with the Indians during
the time of the 'harvest of eggs,' " t o celebrate mass every
morning in the open air, to procure the oil necessary for the
church-lamps, and especially to govern this mixed republic
(república de Indios y Castellanos) in which every one
wished t o profit singly by what G o d had granted to all."
W e made the tour o f the island, accompanied by the
missionary and by a pulpero, who boasted of having, for ten
successive years, visited the camp of the Indians, and at-
tended the turtle-fishery. W e were on a plain o f sand per-
fectly s m o o t h ; and were told that, as far as we could see
along the beach, turtles' eggs were concealed under a layer
of earth. The missionary carried a long pole in his hand.
H e showed us, that by means of this pole, the extent of the
stratum o f eggs could be determined as accurately as the
miner determines the limits of a bed of marl, of b o g iron-
ore, or o f coal. O n thrusting the rod perpendicularly into
the ground, the sudden want o f resistance shows that the
cavity or layer o f loose earth containing the eggs, has been
reached. W e saw that the stratum is generally spread with
so much uniformity, that the pole finds it everywhere in a
radius of ten toises around any given spot. H e r e they talk
continually of square perches of eggs ; it is like a mining-
country, divided into lots, and worked with the great-
est regularity. The stratum of eggs, however, is far from
covering the whole island: they are not found wherever the
ground rises abruptly, because the turtle cannot mount
heights. I related to my guides the emphatic description
of Father Gumilla, w h o asserts, that the shores o f the
Orinoco contain fewer grains o f sand than the river c o n -
tains turtles ; and that these animals would prevent vessels
from advancing, if m e n and tigers did not annually destroy
so great a number.* "Son cuentos de frailes" " t h e y are
* " I t would be as difficult to count the grains of sand on the shores of
the Orinoco, as to count the immense number of tortoises which inhabit
its margins and waters. Were it not for the vast consumption of tor-
toises and their eggs, the river Orinoco, despite its great magnitude,
would be unnavigable, for vessels would he impeded by the enormous

Multitude of the tortoises." — Gumilla, Orinoco Ulustrata, vol. i. pp.

monkish legends," said the pulpero of Angostura, in a low
voice; for the only travellers in this country being the
missionaries, they here call' monks' stories,' what we call

'travellers' tales,' in Europe.
The Indians assured us that, in going up the Orinoco
from its mouth to its junction with the Apure, not one island
or one beach is to be found, where eggs can be collected in
abundance. The great turtle
(arrau)* dreads places inha-
bited bv men, or much frequented by boats. It is a timid
and mistrustful animal, raising only its head above the
water, and hiding itself at the least noise. The shores where
almost all the turtles of the Orinoco appear to assemble
annually, are situated between the junction of the Ori-

noco with the Apure, and the great cataracts; that is to
say, between Cabruta and the Mission of Atures. There
are found the three famous fisheries; those of Encaramada,
or Boca del Cabullare; of Cucuruparu, or Boca de la Tor-
tuga; and of Pararuma, a little below Carichana. It seems
that the
arrau does not pass beyond the cataracts; and we
were assured, that only the turtles called
terekay, (in Spanish
terecayas,) are found above Atures and Maypures.
The arrau, called by the Spaniards of the Missions simply
tortuga, is an animal whose existence is of great importance
to the nations on the Lower Orinoco. It is a large fresh-
water tortoise, with palmate and membraneous feet; the

head very flat, with two fleshy and acutely-pointed append-
ages under the chin; five claws to the fore feet, and four to

the hind feet, which are furrowed underneath. The upper
shell has five central, eight lateral, and twenty-four marginal
plates. The colour is darkish grey above, and orange
beneath. The feet are yellow, and very long. There is a
deep furrow between the eyes. The claws are very strong
and crooked. The anus is placed at the distance of one-fifth
from the extremity of the tail. The full-grown animal
weighs from forty to fifty pounds. Its eggs are much larger
than those of pigeons, and less elongated than the eggs of the
terekay. They are covered with a calcareous crust, and, it is
* This word belongs to the Maypure language, and must not be con-
founded with arua, which means a crocodile, among the Tamanacs,
neighbours of the Maypures. The Ottomacs call the turtle of Uruana,
achea; the Tamanacs, peje.

said, they have sufficient firmness for the children o f the
Ottomac Indians, who are great players at ball, to throw them
into the air from one to another. I f the arrau inhabited
the bed o f the river above the cataracts, the Indians o f the
Upper Orinoco would not travel so far to procure the flesh
and the eggs of this tortoise. Y e t , formerly, whole tribes
from the Atabapo and the Cassiquiare have been known t o
pass the cataracts, in order to take part in the fishery at
The terekay is less than the arrau. I t is in general only
fourteen inches in diameter. T h e number of plates in the
upper shell is the same, but they are somewhat differently
arranged. I counted three in the centre of the disk, and
five hexagonal o n each side. T h e margins contain twenty-
four, all quadrangular, and much curved. The upper shell
is o f a black colour inclining to g r e e n ; the feet and claws
are like those o f the arrau. The whole animal is o f an
olive-green, but it has t w o spots o f red mixed with yellow on
the top of the head. The throat is also yellow, and fur-
nished with a prickly appendage. T h e terekays do n o t
assemble in numerous societies like the arraus, to lay their
eggs in c o m m o n , and deposit them upon the same shore.
The eggs o f the terekay have an agreeable taste, and are
much sought after by the inhabitants of Spanish Guiana.
They are found in the U p p e r Orinoco, as well as below the
cataracts, and even in the A pure, the Uritucu, the Guarico,
and the small rivers that traverse the Llanos o f Caracas.
The form o f the feet and head, the appendages o f the chin
and throat, and the position of the anus, seem to indicate
that the arrau, and probably the terekay also, belong to a
new subdivision of the tortoises, that may be separated from
the emydes. T h e period at which the large arrau tortoise
lays its eggs coincides with the period of the lowest waters.
The Orinoco beginning to increase from the vernal equinox,
the lowest flats are found uncovered from the end o f J a -
nuary till the 20th or 25th of March. The arrau tor-
toise's collect in troops in the month of January, then issue
from the water, and warm themselves in the sun, reposing
on the sands. The Indians believe that great heat is in-
dispensable to the health of the animal, and that its e x p o -

sure to the sun favours the laying of the eggs. T h e arraus
are found o n the beach a great part o f the day during the
whole month of February. A t the beginning of M a r c h the
straggling troops assemble, and swim towards the small n u m -
ber o f islands on which they habitually deposit their eggs.
I t is probable that the same tortoise returns every year to
the same locality. A t this period, a few days before they
lay their eggs, thousands of these animals may be seen
ranged in long files, on the borders of the islands o f C u c u -
ruparu, Uruana, and Pararuma, stretching out their necks
and holding their heads above water, to see whether they
have anything to dread. The Indians, who are anxious that
the bands when assembled should not separate, that the
tortoises should not disperse, and that the laving of the
eggs should be performed tranquilly, place sentinels at cer-
tain distances along the shore. The people who pass in
boats are told to keep in the middle of the river, and not
frighten the tortoises by cries. The laying of the eggs
takes place always during the night, and it begins soon after
sunset. "With its hind feet, which are very long, and fur-
nished with crooked claws, the animal digs a hole of three
feet in diameter and two in depth. These tortoises feel so
pressing a desire to lay their eggs, that some o f them
descend into boles that have been dug by others, but which
are not yet covered with earth. There they deposit a n e w
layer o f eggs on that which has been recently laid. I n this
tumultuous movement an immense number o f eggs are
broken. The missionary showed us, by removing the sand
in several places, that this loss probably amounts to a fifth
o f the whole quantity. The yolk of the broken eggs c o n -
tributes, in drying, to cement the s a n d ; and we found very
large concretions o f grains of quartz and broken shells.
The number o f animals working on the beach during the
night is so considerable, that day surprises many o f them
before the laying of their eggs is terminated. They are
then urged on by the double necessity of depositing their
eggs, and closing the holes they have dug, that they may
not be perceived by the jaguars. T h e tortoises that thus
remain too late are insensible t o their o w n danger. T h e y
work in the presence o f the Indians, who visit the beach

at a very early hour, and who call them 'mad tortoises.'
Notwithstanding the rapidity o f their movements, they are
then easily caught with the hand.
T h e three encampments formed b y the Indians, in the
places indicated above, begin about the end of March or
c o m m e n c e m e n t of April. The gathering of the eggs is c o n -
ducted in a uniform manner, and with that regularity which
characterises all monastic institutions. Before the arrival o f
the missionaries o n the banks o f the river, the Indians pro-
fited much less from a production which nature has sup-
plied in such abundance. Every tribe searched the beach
in its own way; and an immense number of eggs were use-
lessly broken, because they were not dug up with precau-
tion, and more eggs were uncovered than could be carried
away. I t was like a mine worked by unskilful hands. The
Jesuits have the merit o f having reduced this operation t o
regularity; and though the Franciscan monks, who suc-
ceeded the Jesuits in the Missions of the Orinoco, boast o f
having followed the example o f their predecessors, they
unhappily do n o t effect all that prudence requires. T h e
Jesuits did not suffer the whole beach to be searched; they
left a part untouched, from the fear o f seeing the breed o f
arrau tortoises, if not destroyed, at least considerably dimi-
nished. The whole beach is now dug up without reserve;
and accordingly it seems to be perceived that the gathering
is less productive from year to year.
W h e n the camp is formed, the missionary o f Uruana
names his lieutenant, or commissary, who divides the ground
where the eggs are found into different portions, according
to the number o f the Indian tribes who take part in the
gathering. They are all ' I n d i a n s of Missions,' as naked
and rude as the ' Indians of the w o o d s ; ' though they are
called reducidos and neofitos, because they g o to church at
the sound o f the bell, and have learned to kneel down
during the consecration of the host.
The lieutenant (commissionado del Padre) begins his
operations by sounding. H e examines b y means of a long
wooden pole or a cane of bamboo, how far the stratum o f
eggs extends. This stratum, according to our measurements,
extended to the distance o f one hundred and twenty feet from
the shore. Its average depth is three feet. T h e commis-

sionado places m a r k s to indicate the point where each tribe
s h o u l d sto p in its labours . W e wer e surprised t o h e a r t h i s
'harvest o f e g g s ' estimated like the produce o f a well-
cultivated field. A n area accurately measured of one hun-
dred and twenty feet long, and thirty feet wide, has been
k n o w n t o yiel d on e hundre d jar s of oil, valued at abou t
forty pounds sterling. The Indians remove the e a r t h
with their h a n d s ; they place the eggs they have collected
in small baskets, carry them to their encampment, and
throw them into long troughs o f w o o d filled with water.
I n these troughs the eggs, broken and stirred with shovels,
remain exposed to the sun till the oily part, which swims on
the surface, has time to inspissate. A s fast as this collects
o n the surface of the water, it is taken off and boiled over
a quick lire. This animal oil, called tortoise butter (manteca
de t o r t u g a s ) * keeps the better, it is said, in proportion as it
has undergone a strong ebullition. W h e n well prepared,
it is limpid, inodorous, and scarcely yellow. The missiona-
ries compare it to the best olive oil, and it is used not
merely for burning in lamps, but for cooking. I t is n o t
e a s y , however , t o procur e oil o f turtles ' egg s quite pure . I t
has generally a putrid smell, owing to the mixture of eggs
in which the y o u n g are already formed.
I acquired some general statistical notions on the spot, by
consulting the missionary o f Uruana, his lieutenant, a n d the
traders of Angostura. The shore o f Uruana furnishes one
thousand botijas, or jars o f oil, annually. The price o f each
j a r at Angostura varies from t w o piastres to two and a half.
W e may admit that the total produce of the three shores,
where the cosecha, or gathering of eggs, is annually m a d e , is
five thousand botijas. N o w as two hundred eggs y i e l d oil
enough to fill a bottle (limeta), it requires five thousand
eggs for a jar or botija of oil. Estimating at one hundred,
or one hundred and sixteen, the number of eggs that one
tortoise produces, and reckoning that one third o f these is
broken at the time o f laying, particularly by the ' m a d
tortoises,' w o may presume that, to obtain annually five
thousand jars of oil, three hundred and thirty thousand
arrau tortoises, the weight o f which amounts to one hundred
* The Tamanac Indians give it the name of carapa; the Maypures
call it timi.

and sixty-five thousand quintals, must lay thirty-three
millions o f eggs on the three shores where this harvest
is gathered. T h e results of these calculations are much
below the truth. M a n y tortoises lay only sixty or seventy
e g g s ; and a great number o f these animals are devoured b y
jaguars at the m o m e n t they emerge from the water. T h e
Indians bring away a great n u m b e r of eggs to eat them
dried in the s u n ; and they break a considerable number
through carelessness during the gathering. The number o f
eggs that are hatched before the people can dig them up is
so prodigious, that near the encampment of Uruana I saw
the whole shore o f the Orinoco swarming with little tor-
toises an inch in diameter, escaping with difficulty from the
pursuit of the Indian children. I f to these considerations
be added, that all the arraus do no t assemble o n the three
shores of the e n c a m p m e n t s ; and that there are many which
lay their eggs in solitude, and some weeks later,* between
the mouth of the Orinoco and the confluence o f the A p u r e ;
We must admit that the number o f turtles which annually
deposit their eggs on the banks o f the L o w e r Orinoco, is
near a million. This n u m b e r is very great for so large an
animal. I n general large animals multiply less considerably
than the smaller ones.
The labour of collecting the eggs, and preparing the oil,
occupies three weeks. I t is at this period only that the mis-
sionaries have any communication with the coast and the
civilized neighbouring countries. T h e Franciscan monks
who live south of the cataracts, c o m e to the 'harvest o f
e g g s ' less to procure oil, than t o see, as they say, ' w h i t e
faces;' and to learn whether the king inhabits the Escurial
or San Ildefonso, whether convents are still suppressed
In France, and above all, whether the Turks continue t o
keep quiet. O n these subjects, (the only ones interesting
* The arraus, which lay their eggs before the beginning of March,
(for in the same species the more or less frequent basking in the sun, the
food, and the peculiar organization of each individual, occasion differ-

ences,) come out of the water with the terekays, which lay in January and
February. Father Gumilla believes them to be arraus that were not
able to lay their eggs the preceding year. It is difficult to find the eggs
of the terekays, because these animals, far from collecting in thousands
on the same beach, deposit their eggs as they are scattered about.

t o a m o n k o f the O r i n o c o ) , the small traders o f Angostura,
who visit the encampments, can give, unfortunately, n o very
exact information. But in these distant countries no doubt
is ever entertained of the news brought b y a white man
from the capital. The profit o f the traders in oil amounts
t o seventy or eighty per c e n t . ; for the Indians sell it them
at the price o f a piastre a jar or botija, and the expense of
carriage is not more than two-fifths of a piastre per jar.
T h e Indians bring away also a considerable quantity of eggs
dried in the sun, or slightly boiled. O u r rowers had baskets
or little bags of cotton-cloth filled with these eggs. Their
taste is not disagreeable, when well preserved. W e were
shown large shells o f turtles, which had been destroyed b y
the jaguars. These animals follow the arraus towards those
places o n the beach where the eggs are laid. T h e y surprise
the arraus o n the s a n d ; and, in order to devour them at
their ease, turn them in such a manner that the under shell
is uppermost. I n this situation the turtles cannot r i s e ;
and as the jaguar turns many more than he can eat in one
night, the Indians often avail themselves o f his cunning and
W h e n we reflect o n the difficulty experienced b y the
naturalist in getting out the b o d y of the turtle without
separating the upper and under shells, we cannot sufficiently
wonder at the suppleness o f the tiger's paw, which is able to
remove the double armour o f the arrau, as if the adhering
parts o f the muscles had been cut b y a surgical instrument.
T h e jaguar pursues the turtle into the water when it is not
very deep. I t even digs up the e g g s ; and together with
the crocodile, the heron, and the galinazo vulture, is the
most cruel enemy of the little turtles recently hatched. T h e
island o f Pararuma had been so much infested with croco-
diles the preceding year, during the egg-harvest, that the
Indians in one night caught eighteen, of twelve or fifteen
feet long, by means of curved pieces of iron, baited with the
flesh of the manati. Besides the beasts of the forests w e
have just named, the wild Indians also very much diminish
the quantity o f the oil. W a r n e d by the first slight rains,
which they call ' turtie-rains' (peje canepori),* they hasten
to the banks o f the Orinoco, and kill the turtles with poi-
* In the Tamanac language, from peje, a tortoise, and canepo, rain.

soned arrows, whilst, with upraised heads and paws ex-
tended, the animals are wanning themselves in the sun.
Though the little turtles (tortuguillos) may have hurst
the shells o f their eggs during the day, they are never seen to
come out of the ground but at night. The Indians assert
that the y o u n g animal fears the heat of the sun. They
tried also to show us, that when the tortuguillo is carried in
a bag t o a distance from the shore, and placed in such a
manner that its tail is turned to the river, it takes without
hesitation the shortest way to the water. I confess, that
this experiment, o f which Father Gumilla speaks, does not
always succeed equally w e l l : yet in general it does appear
that at great distances from the shore, and even in an
island, these little animals feel with extreme delicacy in
what direction the most humid air prevails.
Reflecting on the almost uninterrupted layer of eggs that
extends along the beach, and on the thousands of little
turtles that seek the water as soon as they are hatched, it
IS difficult t o admit that the many turtles which have made
their nests in the same spot, can distinguish their own
young, and lead them, like the crocodiles, to the lakes in
the vicinity o f the Orinoco. I t is certain, however, that
the animal passes the first years o f its life in pools where
the water is shallow, and does n o t return t o the bed o f the
great river till it is full-grown. H o w then do the tortuguillos
mid these pools ? A r e they led thither by female turtles,
which adopt the y o u n g as b y chance ? T h e crocodiles, less
numerous, deposit their eggs in separate h o l e s ; and, in this
family o f saurians, the female returns about the time when
the incubation is terminated, calls her young, which answer
to her voice, and often assists them to get out o f the ground.
The arrau tortoise, no doubt, like the crocodile, knows the
spot where she has made her n e s t ; but, n o t daring t o
return t o the beach o n which the Indians have formed their
encampment, how can she distinguish her o w n y o u n g from
those which do not belong t o h e r ? O n the other hand,
Ottomac Indians declare that, at the period of inun-
dation, they have met with female turtles followed b y a
great number o f y o u n g ones. These were perhaps arraus
whose eggs had been deposited on a desert beach to which
they could return. Males are extremely rare among these
VOL. II. o

animals. Scarcely is one male found among several hun-
dred females. T h e cause of this disparity cannot he the
same as with the crocodiles, which fight in the coupling
O u r pilot had anchored at the Playa de huevos, t o pur-
chase some provisions, our store having began to run short.
W e found there fresh meat, Angostura rice, and even biscuit
made of wheat-flour. O u r Indians filled the boat with
little live turtles, and eggs dried in the sun, for their own
use. Having taken leave of the missionary o f Uruana, who
had treated us with great kindness, we set sail about four
in the afternoon. The wind was fresh, and blew in squalls.
Since we had entered the mountainous part of the country,
we had discovered that our canoe carried sail very badly ;
but the master was desirous of showing the Indians w h o
were assembled o n the beach, that, b y going close to the
wind, he could reach, at one single tack, the middle of the
river. A t the very moment when he was boasting of his
dexterity, and the boldness o f his manœuvre, the force of
the wind upon the sail became so great that we were o n
the point o f going down. One side o f the boat was under
water, which rushed in with such violence that it was soon
up to our knees. I t washed over a little table at which I was
writing at the stern o f the boat. I had some difficulty to
save my journal, and in an instant we saw our books, papers,
and dried plants, all afloat. M . Bonpland was lying asleep
in the middle o f the canoe. A w a k e n e d b y the entrance o f
the water and the cries o f the Indians, he understood the
danger o f our situation, whilst he maintained that coolness
which he always displayed in the most difficult circumstances.
The lee-side righting itself from time t o time during the
squall, he did not consider the boat as lost. H e thought
that, were we even forced to abandon it, we might save our-
selves by swimming, since there was no crocodile in sight
Amidst this uncertainty the cordage of the sad suddenly
gave way. The same gust of wind, that had thrown us on
our beam, served also to right us. W e laboured to bale the
water out of the boat with calabashes, the sail was again set,
and in less than half an hour wo were in a state to proceed.
The wind now abated a little. Squalls alternating with
dead calms are c o m m o n in that part o f the Orinoco which

is bordered b y mountains. They are very dangerous for
boats deeply laden, and without decks. W e had escaped
as if by miracle. T o the reproaches that were heaped o n
our pilot for having kept too near the wind, he replied with
the phlegmatic coolness peculiar to the Indians, observing
that the whites would find sun enough on those banks
to dry their papers." W e lost only one b o o k — t h e first
volume of the ' G e n e r a Plantarum' o f Schreber—which had
fallen overboard. A t nightfall we landed on a barren island
Mi t h e middle of the river, near the Mission of TJruana.
W e supped in a clear moonlight, seating ourselves o n
some large turtle-shells that were found scattered about
the beach. W h a t satisfaction we felt on finding ourselves
thus comfortably landed ! W e figured to ourselves the
situation of a man who had been saved alone from ship-
wreck, wandering on these desert shores, meeting at every
step with other rivers which fall into t h e Orinoco, and which
it is dangerous to pass b y swimming, on account of the
multitude o f crocodiles and caribe fishes. W e pictured to
ourselves such a man, alive t o the most tender affections
of t h e soul, ignorant o f the fate o f his companions, and
thinking more o f them than o f himself. I f w e love t o
indulge such melancholy meditations, it is because, when
just escaped from danger, w e seem t o feel as it were the
necessity of strong emotions. O u r minds were full o f w h a t
we had just witnessed. There are periods in life when, with-
out being discouraged, the future appears more uncertain.
It was only three days since w e had entered t h e Orinoco,
and there yet remained three m o n t h s for u s to navigate
fivers encumbered with rocks, and in boats smaller than that
in which we had so nearly perished.
The night was intensely hot. W e l a y u p o n skins spread
in t h e ground, there being n o trees t o which we could
fasten o u r hammocks. T h e torments o f t h e mosquitos
increased every d a y ; and w e were surprised t o find that
on this spot our fires did n o t prevent the approach o f the
jaguars. They swam across the arm of the river that sepa-
rated us from the mainland. Towards morning w e heard
their cries very near. They had come to the island w h e n
we passed the night. T h e Indians told us that, during the
collecting of the turtles' eggs, tigers are always more fre-
o 2

quent in those regions, and display at that period the
greatest intrepidity.
O n the following day, the 7th, we passed, on our right„the
mouth o f the great Rio Auraca, celebrated for the immense
number o f birds that frequent i t ; and, on our left, the
Mission o f Uruana, commonly called La Concepcion de Ur-
This small village, which contains five hundred souls,
was founded b y the Jesuits, about the year 1748, by the
union of the Ottomac and Cavere Indians. I t lies at the
foot o f a mountain composed o f detached blocks o f granite,
which, I believe, bears the name o f Saraguaca. Masses of
rock, separated one from the other b y the effect o f d e c o m -
position, form caverns, in which we find indubitable proofs
o f the ancient civilization of the natives. Hieroglyphic
figures, and even characters in regular lines, arc seen sculp-
tured on their sides; though I doubt whether they bear
any analogy to alphabetic writing. W e visited the Mission
of Uruana on our return from the R i o N e g r o , and saw with
o u r own eyes those heaps of earth which the Ottomacs eat,
and which have become the subject o f such lively discussion
in E u r o p e . *
O n measuring the breadth of the Orinoco between the
islands called Isla de Uruana and Isla de la Manteca, we
found it, during the high waters, 2674 toises, which make
nearly four nautical miles. This is eight times the breadth
o f the Nile at Manfalout and Syout, yet we were at the
distance of a hundred and ninety-four leagues from the
mouth of the Orinoco.
T h e temperature o f the water at its surface was 27 8° o f
the centigrade thermometer, near Uruana. That o f the
river Zaire, or C o n g o , in Africa, at an equal distance from
the equator, was found by Captain Tuckey, in the months
of July and August, to be only from 23 9° to 25 6°.
The western bank of the Orinoco remains low farther
* This earth is a greasy kind of clay, which, in seasons of scarcity, the
natives use to assuage the cravings of hunger ; it having been proved by
their experience as well as by physiological researches, that want of food
can be more easily borne by filling the cavity of the stomach with some
substance, even although it may be in itself very nearly or totally innu-
tritious. The Indian hunters of North America, for the same purpose,
tie boards tightly across the abdomen ; and most savage races are found

to have recourse to expedients that answer the same end.

than t h e mouth o f the M e t a ; while from the Mission o f
T r u a n a the mountains approach the eastern bank more and
more. A s the strength o f the current increases in propor-
tion as the river grows narrower, the progress o f our boat
became much slower. W e continued to ascend the Orinoco
under sail, but the high and w o o d y grounds deprived us o f
the wind. A t other times the narrow passes between the
mountains by which we sailed, sent us violent gusts, but of
short duration. T h e number o f crocodiles increased below
the junction of the R i o Arauca, particularly opposite t h e
great lake o f Capanaparo, which communicates with t h e
Orinoco, as the Laguna de Cabullarito communicates at t h e
same time with the Orinoco and the R i o Arauca. T h e
Indians told us that the crocodiles came from the inlands,
Where they had been buried in the dried m u d o f the
savannahs. A s soon as the first showers arouse them from
their lethargy, they crowd together in troops, and hasten
toward the river, there to disperse again. H e r e , in the
equinoctial zone, it is the increase of humidity that recalls
them t o l i f e ; while in Georgia and Florida, in the temperate
zone, it is the augmentation of heat that rouses these
animals from a state o f nervous and muscular debility,
during which the active powers o f respiration are suspended
or singularly diminished. T h e season of great drought, im-
properly called the summer o f the torrid zone, corresponds
with the winter of the temperate z o n e ; and it is a curious
physiological phenomenon t o observe the alligators of N o r t h
America plunged into a winter-sleep by excess of cold, a t
same period when the crocodiles o f the Llanos begin
their siesta or summer-sleep. I f it were probable that
these animals of the same family had heretofore inhabited
the same northern country, we might suppose that, in ad-
vancing towards the equator, they feel the want o f repose
after having exercised their muscles for seven or eight months,
and that they retain under a new sky the habits which appear
to be essentially linked with their organization.
Having passed the mouths of the channels communicat-
ing with the lake of Capanaparo, we entered a part of t h e
Orinoco, where the b e d of the river is narrowed b y t h e
mountains of Baraguan. I t is a kind o f strait, reaching

nearly to the confluence o f the R i o Suapure. F r o m these
granite mountains the natives heretofore gave the name o f
Baraguan to that part o f the Orinoco comprised between
the mouths of the Arauca and the Atabapo. A m o n g
savage nations great rivers bear different denominations
in the different portions of their course. T h e Passage
o f Baraguan presents a picturesque scene. The granite
rocks are perpendicular. They form a range o f mountains
lying north-west and south-east; and the river cutting this
dyke nearly at a right angle, the summits of the mountains
appear like separate peaks. Their elevation in general does
not surpass one hundred and twenty t o i s e s ; but their situa-
tion in the midst of a small plain, their steep declivities, and
their flanks destitute of vegetation, give them a majestic
character. They are composed of enormous masses o f
granite o f a parallelopipedal figure, but rounded at the
edges, and heaped one upon another. The blocks are often
eighty feet long, and twenty or thirty broad. They would
seem to have been piled up b y some external force, if the
proximity of a rock identical in its composition, not sepa-
rated into blocks but filled with veins, did not prove that
the parallelopipedal form is owing solely t o the action o f
the atmosphere. These veins, two or three inches thick,
are distinguished b y a fine-grained quartz-granite crossing a
coarse-grained granite almost porphyritic, and abounding in
fine crystals o f red feldspar. I sought in vain, in the
Cordillera of Baraguan, for hornblende, and those steatitic
masses that characterise several granites of the Higlier A l p s
in Switzerland.
W e landed in the middle o f the strait o f Baraguan t o
measure its breadth. T h e rocks project so much towards
the river that I measured with difficulty a base o f eighty
toises. I found the river eight hundred and eighty-nine
toises broad. I n order to conceive how this passage bears
the name o f a strait, we must recollect that the breadth o f
the river from Uruana to the junction o f the M e t a is in
general from 1500 to 2500 toises. I n this place, which is
extremely hot and barren, I measured two granite summits,
much r o u n d e d : one was only a hundred and ten, and the
other eighty-five, toises. There are higher summits in the

interior of the group, but in general these mountains, o f so
wild an aspect, have not the elevation that is assigned to
them by the missionaries.
W e looked in vain for plants in the clefts o f the rocks,
which are as steep as walls, and furnish some traces of
stratification. W e found only an old trunk of aubletia,*
with largo apple-shaped fruit, and a n e w species of the
family of the apocyneæ. † A l l the stones were covered with
an innumerable quantity o f iguanas and geckos with spread-
ing and membranous fingers. These lizards, motionless,
with heads raised, and mouths open, seemed to suck in the
heated air. The thermometer placed against the rock rose
to 5 0 2 ° . T h e soil appeared to undulate, from the effect of
mirage, without a breath of wind being felt. The sun was
near the zenith, and its dazzling light, reflected from the sur-
face o f the river, contrasted with the reddish vapours that
enveloped every surrounding object. H o w vivid is he im-
pression produced by the calm o f nature, at noon, in these
burning climates ! The beasts of the forests retire to the
thickets; the birds hide themselves beneath the foliage o f
the trees, or in the crevices of the rocks. Y e t , amidst this
apparent silence, when we lend an attentive ear to the most
feeble sounds transmitted through the air, we hear a dull
Vibration, a continual murmur, a hum of insects, filling, if
We may use the expression, all the lower strata of the air.
N o t h i n g is better fitted t o make man feel the extent and
power o f organic life. Myriads of insects creep upon the
sod, and flutter round the plants parched by the heat of the
sun. A confused noise issues from every bush, from the
decayed trunks o f trees, from the clefts of the rocks, and
from the ground undermined b y lizards, millepedes, and
cecilias. These are so many voices proclaiming to us that
all nature breathes; and that, under a thousand different
forms, life is diffused throughout the cracked and dusty sod,
as well as in the bosom of the waters, and in the air that
circulates around us.
The sensations which I hero recall to mind are n o t
unknown t o those who, without having advanced to the
equator, have visited Italy, Spain, or E g y p t . That contrast
° f motion and silence, that aspect of nature at once calm and
* Aubletia tiburba. Allamanda salicifolia.

animated, strikes the imagination o f the traveller when he
enters the basin o f the Mediterranean, within the zone o f
olives, dwarf palms, and date-trees.
W e passed the night on the eastern bank of the Orinoco,
at the foot o f a granitic hill. Near this desert spot was
formerly seated the Mission o f San Regis. W e could have
wished t o find a spring in the Baraguan, for the water o f
the river had a smell o f musk, and a sweetish taste e x -
tremely disagreeable. I n the Orinoco, as well as in the
A pure, w e are struck with the difference observable in the
various parts o f the river near the most barren shore. T h e
water is sometimes very drinkable, and sometimes seems t o
be loaded with a slimy matter. " I t is t h e bark (meaning
the coriaceous covering) o f the putrified cayman that is the
cause," say the natives. " T h e more aged the cayman, t h e
more bitter is his bark." I have n o doubt that the carcasses
o f these large reptiles, those o f the manatis, which weigh five
hundred pounds, and the presence o f the porpoises (toninas)
with their mucilaginous skin, may contaminate the water,
especially in the creeks, where the river has little velocity,
Y e t the spots where w e found the most fetid water, were
not always those where dead animals were accumulated o n
the beach. W h e n , in such burning climates, where w e are
constantly tormented b y thirst, w e are reduced t o drink the
water o f a river at the temperature o f 27° or 28°, w e cannot
help wishing at least that water so hot, and so loaded with
sand, should be free from smell.
O n the 8th o f April we passed the mouths o f the Suapure
or Sivapuri, and the Caripo, o n the east, and the outlet o f
the Sinaruco o n the west. This last river is, next t o the
R i o Arauca, the most considerable between the A p u r e and
the Meta. The Suapure, full of little cascades, is celebrated
among the Indians for the quantity o f wild honey obtained
from the forests in its neighbourhood. T h e melipones there
suspend their enormous hives to the branches o f trees.
Father Gili, in 1766, made an excursion on the Suapure, and
on the Turiva, which falls into it. He there found tribes
o f the nation o f Areverians. W e passed the night a little
below the island Macapina.
Early on the following morning w e arrived at the beach
of Pararuma, where we found an encampment of Indians,

similar to that we had seen at the Boca de la Tortuga.
They had assembled to search the sands, for collecting the
turtles' eggs, and extracting the oil ; but they had unfortu-
nately made a mistake of several days. The young turtles
had come out of their shells before the Indians had formed
their camp ; and consequently the crocodiles and the garzes,
a species of large white herons, availed themselves of the
delay. These animals, alike fond of the flesh of the young
turtles, devour an innumerable quantity. They fish during
the night, for the tortuguillos do not come out of the earth
to gain the neighbouring river till after the evening twilight.
The zamuro vultures are too indolent to hunt after sunset.
They stalk along the shores in the daytime, and alight
the midst of the Indian encampment to steal provisions; but
they often find no other means of satisfying their voracity
than by attacking young crocodiles of seven or eight inches
long, either on land or in water of little depth. It is curious
to see the address with which these little animals defend
themselves for a time against the vultures. As soon as they
perceive the enemy, they raise themselves on their fore

paws, bend their backs, and lift up their heads, opening
their wide jaws. They turn continually, though slowly,
toward their assailant to show him their teeth, which,
when the animal has but recently issued from the egg, are
very long and sharp. Often while the attention of a young
crocodile is wholly engaged by one of the zamuros, another

seizes the favourable opportunity for an unforeseen attack.
He pounces on the crocodile, grasps him
by the neck, and
bears him off to the higher regions of the air. We had
an opportunity of observing this manœuvre during several
mornings, at Mompex, on the banks of the Magdalena, where

we had collected more than forty very young crocodiles, in a
spacious court surrounded by a wall.
We found among the Indians assembled at Pararuma
Some white men, who had come from Angostura to purchaso
the tortoise-butter. After having wearied us for a long
time with their complaints of the 'bad harvest,'
and the
mischief done by the tigers among the turtles, at the
time of laying their eggs, they conducted us beneath
ajoupa, that rose in the centre of the Indian camp. We
there found the missionary-monks of Carichana and the

2 0 2
Cataracts seated on the ground, playing at cards, and
smoking tobacco in long pipes. Their ample blue garments,
their shaven heads, and their long beards, might have led us
t o mistake them for natives of the East. These poor priests
received us in the kindest manner, giving us every informa-
tion necessary for the continuation of our voyage. T h e y
had suffered from tertian fever for some m o n t h s ; and their
pale and emaciated aspect easily convinced us that the
countries we were about to visit were n o t without danger to
the health o f travellers.
The Indian pilot, who bad brought us from San Fernando
de A p u r e as far as the shore of Pararuma, was unacquainted
with the passage o f the rapids* o f the Orinoco, and would
not undertake to conduct our bark any farther. W e were
obliged to conform to his will. Happily for us, the mis-
sionary o f Carichana consented to sell us a fine canoe at a
very moderate price: and Father Bernardo Zea, missionary
o f the A t u r e s and Maypures near the great cataracts,
offered, though still unwell, to accompany us as far as tho
frontiers o f Brazil. The number of natives who can assist in
guiding boats through the Raudales is so inconsiderable that,
b u t for the presence o f the monk, w o should have risked
spending whole weeks in these humid and unhealthy
regions. On the banks of the Orinoco, the forests of the
R i o N e g r o are considered as delicious spots. The air is
indeed cooler and more healthful. The river is free from
c r o c o d i l e s ; one may bathe without apprehension, and b y
night as well as by day there is less torment from the sting
o f insects than o n the Orinoco. Father Zea hoped to r e -
establish his health by visiting the Missions o f R i o N e g r o .
H e talked o f those places with that enthusiasm which is felt
in all the colonies of South America for everything far off.
T h e assemblage o f Indians at Pararuma again excited
in us that interest, which everywhere attaches man in a
cultivated state to the study o f man in a savage condition,
and tho successive development of his intellectual faculties.
H o w difficult to recognize in this infancy of society, in this
assemblage of dull, silent, inanimate Indians, the primitive
character o f our s p e c i e s ! H u m a n naturo does not hero
manifest those features o f artless simplicity, o f which
* Little cascades (chorros raudalitos).

2 0 3
poets in every language have drawn such enchanting
pictures. The savage o f the Orinoco appeared to us to he
as hideous as the savage o f the Mississippi, described b y
that philosophical traveller V o l n e y , who so well knew h o w
to paint man in different climates. W e are eager to persuade
ourselves that these natives, crouching before the fire, or
seated on large turtle-shells, their bodies covered with earth
and grease, their eyes stupidly fixed for whole hours on the
beverage they are preparing, far from being the primitive
type of our species, are a degenerate race, the feeble remains
o f nations who, after having been long dispersed in the
forests, are replunged into barbarism.
Bed paint being in some sort the only clothing o f the
Indians, t w o kinds may be distinguished among them,
according as they are more or less affluent. T h e c o m m o n
decoration of the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and the Jaruros,
is onoto* called by the Spaniards achote, and by the planters
o f Cayenne, rocou. I t is the colouring matter extracted
from the pulp o f the Bixa orellana. † T h e Indian w o m e n
prepare the anato b y throwing the seeds of the plant into a
tub filled with water. They beat this water for an hour,
and then leave it to deposit the colouring fecula, which is o f
an intense brick-red. A f t e r having separated the water,
they take out the fecula, dry it between their hands, knead
it with oil of turtles' eggs, and form it into round cakes o f
three or four ounces weight. W h e n turtle oil is wanting,
some tribes mix with the anato the fat of the crocodile.
Another pigment, much more valuable, is extracted from
a plant of the family o f the bignoniæ, which M . Bonpland
has made known by the name o f Bignonia chica. I t climbs
up and clings to tho tallest trees b y the aid o f tendrils. I t s
bilabiate flowers are an inch long, o f a fine violet colour,
and disposed b y twos or threes. T h e bipinnate leaves
b e c o m e reddish in drying. T h e fruit is a pod, filled with
winged seeds, and is t w o feet long. This plant grows
* Properly anoto. This word belongs to the Tamanac Indians. The
Maypures call it majepa. The Spanish missionaries say onotarse, 'to
rub the skin with anato.'

The word bixa, adopted by botanists, is derived from the ancient
language of Hayti (the island of St. Domingo). Rocou, the term c o m -
monly used by the French, is derived from the Brazilian word, urucu.

I N D I A N M O M E N T S .
spontaneously, and in great abundance, near Maypures ; and
in going up the Orinoco, beyond the mouth of the G u a -
viare, from Santa Barbara to the lofty mountain of Duida,
particularly near Esmeralda. W e also found it on the banks
o f the Cassiquiare. T h e red pigment of chica is not o b -
tained from the fruit, like the onoto, but from the leaves
macerated in water. The colouring matter separates in the
form of a light powder. I t is collected, without being mixed
with turtle-oil, into little lumps eight or nine inches long,
and from two to three high, rounded at the edges. These
lumps, when heated, emit an agreeable smell o f benzoin.
W h e n the chica is subjected to distillation, it yields no
sensible traces o f ammonia. I t is not, like indigo, a s u b -
stance combined with azote. I t dissolves slightly in sul-
phuric and muriatic acids, and even in alkalis. G r o u n d
with oil, the chica furnishes a red colour that has a tint o f
lake. Applied to wool, it might be confounded with mad-
der-red. There is no doubt but that the chica, unknown in
Europe before our travels, may be employed usefully in the
arts. T h e nations o n the Orinoco, by whom this pigment
is best prepared, are the Salivas, the Guipuñaves,* the
Caveres, and the Piraoas. T h e processes of infusion and
maceration are in general very c o m m o n among all the
nations on the Orinoco. Thus the Maypures carry on a
trade of barter with the little loaves o f puruma, which is a
vegetable fecula, dried in the manner of indigo, and yield-
ing a very permanent yellow colour. The chemistry of the
savage is reduced to the preparation of pigments, that o f
poisons, and the dulcification of the amylaceous roots, which
the aroïdes and the euphorbiaceous plants afford.
M o s t of the missionaries of the Upper and Lower O r i -
n o c o permit the Indians o f their Missions to paint their
skins. It is painful to add, that some of them speculate
o n this barbarous practice o f the natives. In their huts,
pompously called conventos. † I have often seen stores of
chica, which they sold as high as four francs the cake. T o
form a just idea o f the extravagance o f the decoration o f
these naked Indians, I must observe, that a man o f large
* Or Guaypuñaves ; they call themselves Uipuñavi.
† In the Missions, the priest's house bears the name of 'the con-

stature gains with difficulty enough b y the labour o f a fort-
night, to procure in exchange the chica necessary t o paint
himself red. Thus as w e say, in temperate climates, o f a
poor man, " h e has n o t enough t o clothe himself," y o u hear
the Indians o f the Orinoco say, " that man is so poor, that
he has n o t enough t o paint half his b o d y . " T h e little trade
in chica is carried o n chiefly with the tribes o f the L o w e r
Orinoco, whose country docs n o t produce the plant which
furnishes this much-valued substance. T h e Caribs and the
Ottomacs paint only the head and the hair with chica, b u t
the Salives possess this pigment in sufficient abundance to
cover their whole bodies. "When the missionaries send o n
their o w n account small cargoes o f cacao, tobacco, a n d
chiquichiqui* from the Rio N e g r o t o Angostura, they always
add some cakes o f chica, as being articles o f merchandise
in great request.
The custom o f painting is not equally ancient among all
the tribes o f the Orinoco. I t has increased since the time
when the powerful nation o f the Caribs made frequent i n -
cursions into those countries. T h e victors and the van-
quished were alike naked ; and t o please the conqueror it
was necessary t o paint like him, and t o assume his colour.
T h e influence o f the Caribs has n o w ceased, and they
remain circumscribed between the rivers Carony, Cuyuni,
and Paraguamuzi; b u t t h e Caribbean fashion o f painting
the whole b o d y is still preserved. T h e custom has sur-
vived the conquest.
D o e s the use o f the anato and chica derive its origin
from the desire o f pleasing, and the taste for ornament, so
c o m m o n a m o n g the most savage nations ? o r must w e sup-
pose it t o be founded o n the observation, that these colour-
ing and oily matters with which the skin is plastered,
preserve it from the sting o f the mosquitos ? I have often
heard this question discussed in E u r o p e ; but in the Mis-
sions o f the Orinoco, and wherever, within t h e tropics,
the air is filled with venomous insects, the inquiry would
appear absurd. T h e Carib and the Salive, w h o are painted
red, are n o t less cruelly tormented b y the mosquitos
and t h e zancudos, than t h e Indians whose bodies are
plastered with n o colour. T h e sting o f the insect causes
* Ropes made with the petioles of a palm-tree with pinnate leaves.

no swelling in e i t h e r ; and scarcely ever produces those
little pustules which occasion such smarting and itching
t o Europeans recently arrived. B u t the native and the
W h i t e sutler equally from the sting, till the insect has with­
drawn its sucker from the skin. A f t e r a thousand useless
essays, M . Bonpland and myself tried the expedient o f
rubbing our hands and arms with the fat of the crocodile,
and the oil o f turtle-eggs, b u t w e never felt the least
relief, and were stung as before. I know that the L a p ­
landers boast of oil and fat as the most useful preservatives;
but the insects of Scandinavia are not of the same species
as those o f the Orinoco. T h e smoke of tobacco drives
away our gnats, while it is employed in vain against the
zancudos. I f the application o f fat and astringent* sub­
stances preserved the inhabitants o f these countries from
the torment of insects, as Father Gumilla alleges, why has
n o t the custom of painting the skin become general on these
shores? W h y do so many naked natives paint only the
face, though living in the neighbourhood o f those w h o
paint the whole body ? †
W e are struck with the observation, that the Indians of
the Orinoco, like the natives o f N o r t h America, prefer the
substances that yield a red colour to every other. I s this
predilection founded on the facility with which the savage
procures ochreous earths, or the colouring fecula of anato
and o f chica ? I doubt this much. Indigo grows wild in a
great part o f equinoctial America. This plant, like so many
other leguminous plants, would have; furnished the natives
abundantly with pigments to colour themselves blue like tho
ancient Britons. ‡ Y e t wo see no American tribe painted
with indigo. I t appears to me probable, as I have already
hinted above, that the preference given by the Americans
t o tho red colour is generally founded on the tendency
which nations feel to attribute the idea of beauty to what­
ever characterises their national physiognomy. M e n whoso
skin is naturally o f a brownish red, love a red colour. I f
* The pulp of the unato, and even the chica, are astringent and
slightly purgative.
The Caribs, the Salives, the Tamanacs, and the Maypures.
The half-clad nations of the temperate zone often paint their skin of
the same colour as that with which their clothes are dyed.

they be born with a forehead little raised, and the head flat,
they endeavour to depress the foreheads o f their children.
I f they he distinguished from other nations by a thin beard,
they try to eradicate the few hairs that nature has given
them. They think themselves embellished in proportion as
they heighten the characteristic marks of their race, or o f
their national conformation.
W e were surprised to see, that, in the camp of Tararuma,
the women far advanced in years were more occupied with
their ornaments than the youngest w o m e n . W e saw an
Indian female o f the nation o f the Ottomacs employing t w o
o f her daughters in the operation o f rubbing her hair with
the oil of turtles' eggs, and painting her back with anato
and caruto. T h e ornament consisted o f a sort of lattice-
work formed of black lines crossing each other o n a red
ground. Each little square had a black dot in the centre.
I t was a work of incredible patience. W e returned from
a very long herborization, and the painting was not half
finished. This research of ornament seems the more singu-
lar when we reflect that the figures and marks are n o t
produced by the process o f tattooing, but that paintings
executed with so much care are effaced,* if the Indian e x -
poses himself imprudently t o a heavy shower. There are
some nations who paint only to celebrate festivals; others
are covered with colour during the whole y e a r : and the latter
consider the use of anato as so indispensable, that both
men and women would perhaps be less ashamed to present
themselves without a guayuc † than destitute o f paint.
These guayucos o f the Orinoco are partly bark o f trees, and
partly cotton-cloth. Those of the men are broader than
those worn by the w o m e n , who, the missionaries say, have
in general a less lively feeling o f modesty. A similar o b -
servation was made by Christopher Columbus. M a y w e
not attribute this indifference, this want of delicacy in
* The black and caustic pigment of the caruto (Genipa americana)
however, resists a long time the action of water, as we found with regret,
having one day, in sport with the Indians, caused our faces to be marked
with spots and strokes of caruto. When we returned to Angostura, in
the midst of Europeans, these marks were still visible.
A word of the Caribbean language. The perizoma of the Indiana
of the Orinoco is rather a band than an apron.

women belonging t o nations o f which the manners are n o t
much depraved, to that rude state o f slavery to winch
the sex is reduced in South America b y male injustice and
tyranny ?
"When w e speak in Europe o f a native o f Guiana, we
figure to ourselves a man whose head and waist are deco-
rated with the fine feathers o f the macaw, the toucan, and t h e
humming-bird. O u r painters and sculptors have long since
regarded these ornaments as the characteristic marks o f
an American. W e were surprised at n o t finding in the
Chayma Missions, in t h e encampments o f Uruana and o f
Pararuma ( 1 might almost say o n all t h e shores o f t h e
Orinoco and the Cassiquiare) those fine plumes, those fea-
thered aprons, which are so often brought by travellers
from Cayenne and Demerara. These tribes for the most
part, even those whose intellectual faculties are most ex-
panded, w h o cultivate alimentary plants, and know h o w t o
weave cotton, are altogether as naked,* as poor, and as
destitute o f ornaments as the natives o f New Holland. T h e
excessive heat of the air, the profuse perspiration in w h i c h
the body is bathed at every hour of the day and a great part
o f the night, render the use o f clothes insupportable. Their
objects o f ornament, and particularly their plumes o f fea-
thers, are reserved for dances and solemn festivals. T h e
plumes worn by the Guipuñavest are the most celebrated;
being composed o f the fine feathers o f manakins and
T h e Indians are n o t always satisfied with o n e colour
uniformly spread; they sometimes imitate, in the most
whimsical manner, in painting their skin, the form o f E u r o -
pean garments. W e saw some at Pararuma, w h o were
painted with blue jackets and black buttons. T h e mission-
aries related to us that the Guaynaves o f the Kio Caura
are accustomed to stain themselves red with anato, and to
make broad transverse stripes on the body, on which they
stick spangles o f silvery mica. Seen at a distance, these
* For instance, the Macos and the Piraoas. The Caribs must be ex-
cepted, whose perizoma is a cotton cloth, so broad that it might cover
the shoulders.

These came originally from the banks of the Inirida, one of the
rivers that fall into the Guaviare.

naked men appear to be dressed in laced clothes. If painted
nations had b e e n examined with the same attention as
those who are clothed, it would have been perceived that
the most fertile imagination, and the most mutable caprice,
have created the fashions o f painting, as well as those o f
Painting and tattooing are not restrained, in either the
N e w or the O l d W o r l d , t o one race or one zone only. These
ornaments are most c o m m o n among the Malays and A m e -
rican r a c e s ; but in the time o f the R o m a n s they were also
employed by the white race in the north of Europe. A s the
most picturesque garments and modes of dress are found
in the Grecian Archipelago and western Asia, so the type o f
beauty in painting and tattooing is displayed by the islanders
o f the Pacific. Some clothed nations still paint their hands,
their nails, and their faces. It would seem that painting
is then confined t o those parts of the b o d y that remain
uncovered ; and while rouge, which recalls to mind the
savage state o f man, is disappearing by degrees in Europe,
in some towns o f the province o f P e r u the ladies think
they embellish their delicate skins b y covering them with
colouring vegetable matter, starch, white-of-egg, and flour.
A f t e r having lived a long time a m o n g men painted with
anato and chica, w e are singularly struck with these re-
mains o f ancient barbarism retained amidst all the usages
o f civilization.
T h e encampment at Pararuma afforded us an opportunity
o f examining several animals in their natural state, which,
till then, we had seen only in the collections o f E u r o p e .
These little animals form a branch of commerce for the
missionaries. They exchange tobacco, the resin called mani,
the pigment of chica, gallitos (rock-manakins), orange m o n -
keys, capuchin monkeys, and other species o f monkeys in
great request on the coast, for cloth, nails, hatchets, fish-
hooks, and pins. T h e productions of the Orinoco are bought
at a low price from the Indians, who live in dependence on
the m o n k s ; and these same Indians purchase fishing and
gardening implements from the monks at a very high
price, with the money they have gained at the egg-harvest.
W e ourselves b o u g h t several animals, which w e kept with
VOL. I I . P

2 1 0
as throughout the rest o f o u r passage on the river, and
studied their manners.
T h e gallitos, or rock-manakins, are sold at Pararuma in
pretty little cages made o f the footstalks of palm-leaves.
These birds are infinitely m o r e rare on the banks o f the Ori-
n o c o , and in the north and west o f equinoctial America, than
in French Guiana. They have hitherto been found only near
the Mission of Encaramada, and in the Raudales or cataracts
o f Maypures. I say expressly in the cataracts, because
the gallitos choose for their habitual dwelling the hollows o f
the little granitic rocks that cross the Orinoco and form
such numerous cascades. We sometimes saw them appear
in the morning in the midst o f the foam o f the river, calling
their females, and fighting in the manner o f o u r cocks,
folding the double moveable crest that decorates the crown
o f the head. A s the Indians very rarely take the full-grown
gallitos, and those males only are valued in Europe , which
from the third year have beautiful saffron-coloured plumage,
purchasers should be on their guard n o t to confound y o u n g
females with y o u n g males. Both the male and female
gallitos are o f an olive-brown ; b u t the polio, or y o u n g male,
is distinguishable at the earliest age, b y its size and its
yellow feet. After the third year the plumage o f the males
assumes a beautiful saffron t i n t ; but the female remains
always o f a dull dusky brown colour, with yellow only on
the wing-coverts and tips of the wings.* T o preserve in
our collections the fine tint o f the plumage o f a male and
full-grown rock-manakin, it must n o t bo exposed t o the
light. This tint grows pale more easy than in the other
genera of the passerine order. The y o u n g males, as in most
other birds, have the plumage or livery of their mother.
I am surprised to see that so skilful a naturalist as Le
Vaillant † can doubt whether the females always remain o f
a dusky olive tint. The Indians o f the Raudales all assured
me that they had never seen a saffron-coloured female.
A m o n g the monkeys, brought by the Indians to the fair
of Pararuma, w o distinguished several varieties o f the sai, ‡
* Especially the part which ornithologists call the carpus.
† Oiseaux de Paradis, vol. ii, p. 61.
Simia capucinu, (the capuchin monkey).

belonging to the little groups o f creeping monkeys called
matchi in the Spanish colonies ; marimondes,* or ateles with
a red belly ; titis, and viuditas. T h e last t w o species parti-
cularly attracted our attention, and we purchased them t o
send to Europe.
T h e titi of the Orinoco (Simia sciurea), well-known in o u r
collections, is called bititeni by the M a y p u r e Indians. I t is
very c o m m o n o n the south o f the cataracts. Its face is
w h i t e ; and a little spot of bluish-black covers the mouth
and tho point of the nose. T h e titis o f the most elegant
form, and the most beautiful colour (with hair o f a golden
y e l l o w ) , come from the banks of the Cassiquiare. Those
that are taken o n the shores o f the Guaviare are large and
difficult to tame. No other monkey has so much the p h y -
siognomy of a child as the titi; there is the same expression
o f innocence, the same playful smile, the same rapidity in
the transition from j o y to sorrow. Its large eyes are instantly
filled with tears, when it is seized with fear. I t is ex-
tremely fond of insects, particularly o f spiders. The saga-
city of this little animal is so great, that one o f those w e
brought in o u r boat to A n g o s t u r a distinguished perfectly the
different plates annexed to Cuvier's ' T a b l e a u élémentaire
d'Histoire naturelle.' T h e engravings o f this work are not
coloured ; y e t the titi advanced rapidly its little hand in the
hope o f catching a grasshopper or a wasp, every time that
W E showed it the eleventh plate, on which these insects are
represented. I t remained perfectly indifferent when it was
shown engravings o f skeletons or heads o f mammiferous
animals. † W h e n several of these little monkeys, shut
u p in the same cage, are exposed to the rain, and the
habitual temperature o f the air sinks suddenly two or three
degrees, they twist their tail (which, however, is not pre-
hensile) round their neck, and intertwine their arms and
legs to warm one another. T h e Indian hunters told us, that
* Simia belzebuth.
† I may observe, that I have never heard o f an instance in which a
picture, representing, in the greatest perfection, hares o r deer of their
natural size, has made the least impression even o n spurting d o g s ,
the intelligence o f which appears the m o s t i m p r o v e d . Is there any
authenticated instance of a dog having recognized a full length picture of

his master ? I n all these cases, the sight is n o t assisted by the s m e l l .
p 2

in the forests they often met groups of ten or twelve of these
animals, whilst others sent forth lamentable cries, because
they wished to enter amid the group t o find warmth and
shelter. By shooting arrows dipped in weak poison at one
o f these groups, a great number of y o u n g monkeys are taken
alive at once. T h e titi in falling remains clinging t o its
mother, and if it be not wounded by the fall, it does not
quit the shoulder or the neck of the dead animal. Most o f
those that are found alive in the huts of the Indians have
been thus taken from the dead bodies o f their mothers.
Those that are full grown, when cured o f a slight wound,
commonly die before they can accustom themselves to a
domestic state. T h e titis are in general delicate and timid
little animals. It is very difficult to convey them from the
Missions o f the Orinoco to the coast o f Caracas, or o f C u -
mana. They become melancholy and dejected in proportion
as they quit the region of the forests, and enter the Llanos.
This change cannot be attributed to the slight elevation of the
temperature; it seems rather t o depend on a greater inten-
sity o f light, a less degree o f humidity, and some chemical
property of the air of the coast.
The saimiri, or titi o f the Orinoco, the atele, the sajou,
and other quadrumanous animals long known in Europe,
form a striking contrast, both in their gait and habits, with
the macavahu, called by the missionaries viudita, or ' w i d o w
in mourning.' The hair of this little animal is soft, glossy,
and of a line black. Its face is covered with a mask o f a
square form and a whitish colour tinged with blue. This
mask contains the eyes, nose, and mouth. T h e ears have a
r i m : they are small, very pretty, and almost bare. T h e
n e c k of the widow presents in front a white band, an inch
broad, and forming a semicircle. The feet, or rather the
hinder hands, are black like the rest of the b o d y ; but the
fore paws are white without, and of a glossy black within.
I n these marks, or white spots, the missionaries think they
recognize the veil, the neckerchief, and the gloves of a
widow in mourning. The character of this little monkey,
which sits up on its hinder extremities only when eating, is
but little; indicated in its appearance. It has a wild and
timid air; it often refuses the food offered to it, even when
tormented by a ravenous appetite. I t has little inclination

for the society o f other monkeys. The sight o f the smallest
saimiri puts it to flight, i t s eye denotes great vivacity.
W e have seen it remain whole hours motionless without
sleeping, and attentive to everything that was passing
around. B u t this wildness and timidity are merely apparent.
T h e viudifa, when alone, and left to itself, becomes furious
at the sight of a bird. I t then climbs and runs with asto-
nishing rapidity; darts u p o n its prey like a c a t ; and kills
whatever it can seize. This rare and delicate monkey is
found on the right bank of the Orinoco, in the granite m o u n -
tains which rise behind the Mission o f Santa Barbara. I t
inhabits also the banks of the Guaviare, near San Fernando
de Atabapo.
T h e viudita accompanied us on our whole voyage on the
Cassiquiare and the B i o N e g r o , passing the cataracts twice.
I n studying the manners of animals, it is a great advantage
t o observe them during several months in the open air, and
not in houses, where they lose all their natural vivacity.
The new canoe intended for us was, like all Indian boats,
a trunk of a tree hollowed out partly b y the hatchet and
partly by fire. I t was forty feet long, and three broad.
Three persons could not sit in it side b y side. These canoes
are so crank, and they require, from their instability, a cargo
so equally distributed, that when you want to rise for an
instant, y o u must warn the rowers to lean to the opposite
side. W i t h o u t this precaution the water would necessarily
enter the side pressed down. I t is difficult to form an idea
o f the inconveniences that are suffered in such wretched
T h e missionary from the cataracts made the preparations
for our voyage with greater energy than we wished. L e s t
there might not bo a sufficient number o f the M a c o and G u a -
hibe Indians, who are acquainted with the labyrinth of small
channels and cascades of which the Baudales or cataracts
are composed, t w o Indians were, during the night, placed in
the cepo—a sort of stocks in which they were made to lie
with their legs between t w o pieces o f wood, notched and
fastened together by a chain with a padlock. Early in the
morning we were awakened by the cries of a y o u n g man,
mercilessly beaten with a whip of manati skin. His name
was Zerepe, a very intelligent y o u n g Indian, w h o proved

highly useful to us in the sequel, b u t who n o w refused t o
accompany us. H e was born in the Mission o f A t u r e s ; but
his father was a M a c o , and his mother a native of the nation
o f the Maypures. H e had returned to the woods (al
m o n t e ) , and having lived some years with the unsubdued
Indians, ho had thus acquired the knowledge o f several
languages, and the missionary employed him as an inter-
preter. W e obtained with difficulty the pardon of this
y o u n g man. " W i t h o u t these acts o f severity," we were
told, " y o u would want for everything. T h e Indians o f the
Raudales and the U p p e r Orinoco are a stronger and more
laborious race than the inhabitants o f the L o w e r Orinoco.
T h e y know that they are much sought after at Angostura.
I f left to their own will, they would all g o down the river t o
sell their productions, and live in full liberty among the
whites. T h e Missions would be totally deserted."
These reasons, I confess, appeared to me more specious
than sound. M a n , in order to enjoy the advantages o f a
social state, must no doubt sacrifice a part of his natural
rights, and his original independence; but, if the sacrifice
imposed on him be not compensated by the benefits o f civi-
lization, the savage, wise in his simplicity, retains the wish
o f returning to the forests that gave him birth. I t is because
the Indian of the woods is treated like a person in a state
o f villanage in the greater part of the Missions, because he
enjoys not the fruit o f his labours, that the Christian esta-
blishments o n the Orinoco remain deserts. A government
founded o n the ruins o f the liberty o f the natives extin-
guishes the intellectual faculties, or stops their progress.
T o say that the savage, like the child, can be governed
only by force, is merely to establish false analogies. The
Indians o f the Orinoco have something infantine in the
expression o f their j o y , and the quick succession o f their
emotions, b u t they are not great children ; they are as little
so as the poor labourers in the east o f E u r o p e , whom tho
barbarism o f our feudal institutions has held in the rudest
state. T o consider the employment o f force as the first and
sole means of the civilization of the savage, is a principle as
far from being true in the education of nations as in tho
education o f youth. Whatever may be the state o f weak-
ness or degradation in our species, no faculty is entirely

annihilated. The human understanding exhibits only dif-
ferent degrees of strength and development. T h e savage,
like the child, compares the present with the p a s t ; he
directs his actions, not according t o blind instinct, b u t
motives o f interest, Reason can everywhere enlighten
r e a s o n ; and its progress will be retarded in proportion as
the me n who arc called u p o n to bring up youth, or govern
nations, substitute constraint and force for that moral
influence which can alone unfold the rising faculties, calm
the irritated passions, and give stability t o social order.
W e could n o t set sail before ten on the morning of the
10th. T o gain something in breadth in our new canoe, a
sort o f lattice-work had been constructed on the stern with
branches o f trees, that extended on each side beyond the
gunwale. Unfortunately, the toldo or r o o f o f leaves, that
covered this lattice-work, was so low that w e were obliged
to lie down , without seeing anything, or, if seated, to sit
nearly double. T h e necessity of carrying the canoe across
the rapids, and even from one river to a n o t h e r ; and the fear
of giving too much hold to the wind, by making the toldo
higher, render this construction necessary for vessels that
go up towards the B i o N e g r o . T h e toldo was intended to
cover four persons, lying on the deck or lattice-work of
b r u s h - w o o d ; but our legs reached far beyond it, and when it
half our bodies were wet. O u r couches consisted of
-hides or tiger-skins, spread upon branches o f trees, which
Were painfully
felt through so thin a covering. T h e fore
part o f the boat was filled with Indian rowers, furnished
with paddles, three feet long, in the form o f spoons. They
were all naked, seated t w o by two, and they kept time in
rowing with a surprising uniformity, singing songs of a
sad and monotonous character. T h e small cages contain-
ing our birds and our monkeys, the number o f which aug-
mented as w e advanced, were h u n g some t o the toldo
and others to the b o w o f the boat. This was our travelling
menagerie. Notwithstanding the frequent losses occasioned
b y accidents, and above all by the fatal effects o f exposure
to the sun, we had fourteen o f these little animals alive at
our return from the Cassiquiare. Naturalists, who wish to
collect and bring living animals to Europe, might cause
boats to be constructed expressly for this purpose at A n g o s -

tura, or at G r a n d Para, t h e t w o capitals situated o n t h e
banks o f t h e Orinoco and the A m a z o n , the fore-deck o f
which boats might b e fitted u p with t w o rows o f cages shel-
tered from the rays o f the sun. Every night, when we esta-
blished our watch, our-collection o f animals and our instru-
ments occupied the c e n t r e ; around these were placed first
o u r hammocks, then the hammocks o f the I n d i a n s ; and o n
the outside were the fires which are thought indispensable
against the attacks o f the jaguar. A b o u t sunrise the m o n -
keys in our cages answered the cries o f the monkeys o f t h e
forest. These communications between animals o f the same
species sympathizing with o n e another, though unseen, one
party enjoying that liberty which the other regrets, have
something melancholy and affecting.
In a canoe not three feet wide, and so incumbered, there
remained n o other place for the dried plants, trunks, a
sextant, a dipping-needle, a n d t h e meteorological instru-
ments, than the space below the lattice-work o f branches, o n
which we were compelled t o remain stretched the greater
part o f the day. I f we wished t o take the least object o u t
o f a trunk, or to use an instrument, it was necessary t o
row ashore and land. T o these inconveniences were joined
the torment o f the mosquitos which swarmed under t h e
toldo, and the heat radiated from the leaves o f the palm-
trees, the upper surface o f which was continually exposed t o
the solar rays. W e attempted every instant, b u t always
without success, t o amend our situation. W h i l e one o f us
hid himself under a sheet to ward off the insects, the other
insisted o n having green wood lighted beneath the toldo, in
the hope o f driving away the mosquitos by the smoke. T h e
painful sensations o f the eyes, and the increase o f heat,
already stilling, rendered both these contrivances alike i m -
practucable. With some gaiety o f temper, with feelings o f
mutual g o o d - w i l l , and with a vivid taste for the majestic
grandeur o f these vast valleys o f rivers, travellers easily
support evils that become habitual.
O u r Indians showed us, on the right bank o f the river,
the place which was formerly the site o f the Mission o f
Pararuma, founded by the Jesuits about t h e year 1733.
The mortality occasioned by the small-pox among the Salive
Indians was the principal cause o f the dissolution o f t h e

mission. The few inhabitants who survived this cruel epi-
demic, removed t o the village o f Carichana. I t was at Pa-
raruma, that, according t o the testimony o f Father T o m a n ,
hail was seen to fall during a great storm, about the middle
o f the last century. This is almost the only instance o f it
I k n o w in a plain that is nearly on a level with the s e a ;
for hail falls generally, between the tropics, only at three
hundred toises of elevation. I f it form at an equal height
over plains and table-lands, we must suppose that it melts
as it falls, in passing through the lowest strata of the a t m o -
sphere, the mean temperature of which is from 27 5° to 24°
o f the centigrade thermometer. I acknowledge it is very
difficult to explain, in the present state of meteorology, why
it hails at Philadelphia, at Rome, and at Montpelier, during
the hottest months, the mean temperature of which attains
25° or 2 0 ° ; while the same phenomenon is not observed at
Cumana, at L a Guayra, and in general, in the equatorial
plains. I n the United States, and in the south of E u r o p e ,
the heat o f the plains (from 40° to 43° latitude) is nearly
the same as within the t r o p i c s ; and according to m y r e -
searches the decrement of caloric equally varies but little.
I f then the absence of hail within the torrid zone, at the
level of the sea, be produced by the melting o f the hail-
stones in crossing the lower strata o f the air, w e must
suppose that these hail-stones, at the m o m e n t of their for-
mation, are larger in the temperate than in the torrid zone.
W e y e t know so little o f the conditions under which water
congeals in a stormy cloud in our climates, that we can-
n o t j u d g e whether the same conditions be fulfilled on the
equator above the plains. The clouds in which we hear the
rattling o f the hailstones against one another before they
fid I, and which move horizontally, have always appeared to
me of little elevation; and at these small heights we may
conceive that extraordinary refrigerations are caused by the
dilatation of the ascending air, of which the capacity for
caloric a u g m e n t s ; b y currents of cold air coming from a
higher latitude, and above all, according to M . G a y Lussac,
by the radiation from the upper surface o f the clouds. I
shall have occasion to return to this subject when speaking
of the different forms under which hail and hoar-frost appear
o n the Andes, at two thousand and two thousand six hun-

tired toises of h e i g h t ; and when examining the question
whether we may consider the stratum o f clouds that enve-
lops the mountains as a horizontal continuation of the
stratum which we see immediately above us in the plains.
T h e Orinoco, full of islands, begins t o divide itself into
several branches, of which the most western remain dry
during the months o f January and February. T h e total
breadth o f the river exceeds t w o thousand five hundred or
three thousand toises. W e perceived to the East, opposite
the island o f Javanavo, the mouth o f the Caño Aujacoa.
Between this Caño and the Rio Paruasi or Paruati, the
country becomes more and more w o o d y . A solitary rock,
o f extremely picturesque aspect, rises in the midst o f a
forest o f palm-trees, not far from the Orinoco. I t is a
pillar o f granite, a prismatic mass, the bare and steep sides
o f which attain nearly two hundred feet in height. Its
point, which overtops the highest trees o f the forest, is
terminated by a shelf o f rock with a horizontal and smooth
surface. Other trees crown this summit, which tho mis-
sionaries call the peak, or Mogote de Cocuyza. This m o n u -
ment o f nature, in its simple grandeur recalls to mind the
Cyclopean remains of antiquity. Its strongly-marked out-
lines, and the group o f trees and shrubs b y which it is
crowned, stand out from the azure o f the sky. I t seems a
forest rising above a forest.
Further on, near the mouth o f the Paruasi, the Orinoco
narrows. O n the east is perceived a mountain with a bare
top, projecting like a promontory. It is nearly three hun-
dred feet high, and served as a fortress for the Jesuits.
They had constructed there a small fort, with three batteries
o f cannon, and it was constantly occupied b y a military
detachment. W e saw the cannon dismounted, and half-
buried in the sand, at Carichana and at A t u r e s . This fort o f
the Jesuits has been destroyed since the dissolution of their
society; but the place is still called El Castillo. I find it
set down, in a manuscript map, lately completed at Caracas
by a member of the secular clergy, under the denomination
of Trinchera del despotismo m o n a c a l . " *
The garrison which the Jesuits maintained on this rock,
was not intended merely to protect the Missions against
* Intrenchment of monachal despotism.

2 1 9
the incursions of the C a r i b s : it was employed also in an
offensive war, or, as they say here, in the conquest o f souls
(conquista do almas). T h e soldiers, excited by the allure-
ment of gain, made military incursions (entradas) into the
lands o f the independent Indians. They killed all those
who dared to make any resistance, burnt their huts, d e -
stroyed their plantations, and carried away the w o m e n ,
children, and old men, as prisoners. These prisoners were
divided among the Missions o f the M e t a , the Rio N e g r o ,
and the U p p e r Orinoco. T h e most distant places were
chosen, that they might not be tempted to return to their
native country. This violent manner o f conquering souls,
though prohibited by the Spanish laws, was tolerated by the
civil governors, and vaunted by the superiors of the society,
as beneficial to religion, and the aggrandizement of the
Missions. " T h e voice o f the Gospel is heard o n l y , " said
a Jesuit o f the O r i n o c o , very candidly, in the ' C a r t a s
Edifiantes,' " where the Indians have heard also the sound
of'lirc-arms (el eco de la polvora). Mildness is a very slow
measure. B y chastising the natives, we facilitate their c o n -
version." These principles, which degrade humanity, were
certainly not c o m m o n t o all the members o f a society which,
in the N e w W o r l d , and wherever education has remained
exclusively in the hands o f monks, has rendered service t o
letters and civilization. B u t the entradas, the spiritual con
quests with the assistance of bayonets, was an inherent vice
in a system, that tended to the rapid aggrandizement o f the
Missions. I t is pleasing to find that the same system is n o t
followed by the Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian
monks who now govern a vast portion o f South A m e r i c a ; and
who, by the mildness or harshness o f their manners, exert a
powerful influence over the fate o f so many thousands o f
natives. Military incursions are almost entirely abolished;
and when they do take place, they are disavowed b y the
superiors o f the orders. W e will not decide at present,
whether this amelioration of the monachal system be o w i n g
to want of activity and cold i n d o l e n c e ; or whether it must b e
attributed, as we would wish to believe, to the progress of
knowledge, and to feelings more elevated, and more conform-
a b l e to the tru e spirit o f Christianity.
B e y o n d the mouth of the Rio Paruasi, the Orinoco again

narrows. Full of little islands and masses of granite rock,
it presents rapids, or small cascades (remolinos), which at
first sight may alarm the traveller b y the continual eddies
o f the water, but which at n o season o f the year are dan-
gerous for boats. A range o f shoals, that crosses almost
the whole river, bears the name o f the Raudal de Marimara.
W e passed it without difficulty by a narrow channel, in
which the water seems to boil up as it issues out impetu-
o u s l y * below the Piedra de Mariniara, a compact mass o f
granite eighty feet high, and three hundred feet in cir-
cumference, without fissures, or any trace o f stratification.
T h e river penetrates far into the land, and forms spacious
bays in the rocks. O n e of these bays, inclosed between
two promontories destitute of vegetation, is called the Port
o f Carichana. † The spot has a very wild aspect. In the
evening the rocky coasts project their vast shadows over
the surface of the river. T h e waters appear black from
reflecting the image of these granitic masses, which, in the
colour o f their external surface, sometimes resemble coal,
and sometimes lead-ore. W e passed the night in the small
village of Carichana, where we were received at the priest's
house, or convento. I t was nearly a fortnight since w e had
slept under a roof.
T o avoid the effects o f the inundations, often so fatal t o
health, the Mission of Carichana has been established at
three quarters of a league from the river. The Indians in
this Mission are of the nation o f the Salives, and they have
a disagreeable and nasal pronunciation. Their language, o f
which the Jesuit Anisson has composed a grammar still in
manuscript, is, with the Caribbean, the Tamanac, the M a y -
pure, the Ottomac, the Guahive, and the Jaruro, one o f the
mother-tongues most general on the Orinoco. Father Gili
thinks that the A t u r e , the Piraoa, and the Quaqua or
M a p o y e , are only dialects o f the Salive. M y journey was
much too rapid to enable me to j u d g e of the accuracy o f
this opinion ; but we shall soon see that, in the village o f
A t u r e , celebrated on account o f its situation near the great
cataracts, neither the Salive nor the A t u r e is n o w spoken,
but the language of the Maypures. In the Salive of Cari-
* These places are called chorreras in the Spanish colonies,
† Piedra y puerto de Carichana.

2 2 1
chana, man is called cocco; woman, gnacu; water, cagua;
fire, eyussa; the earth, seke; the sky, mumeseke (earth on
h i g h ) ; the jaguar, impii; the crocodile, cuipoo; maize,
giomu; the plaintain, paratuna ; cassava, peibe. I may here
mention one of those descriptive compounds that seem t o
characterise the infancy o f language, though they are r e -
tained in some very perfect idioms.* Thus, as in the Bis-
cayan, thunder is called ' t h e noise o f the cloud (odotsa);
the sun bears the name, in the Salive dialect, o f mume-seke-
' t h e man (cocco) of the earth (seke) above (mume).'
T h e most ancient abode of the Salive nation appears t o
have been on the western banks o f the Orinoco, between
the Rio Vichada † and the Guaviare, and also between the
M e t a and the Rio Paute. Salives are now found not only
at Carichana, but in the Missions o f the province o f Casanre,
at Cabapuna, Guanapalo, Cabiuna, and M a c u c o . They are
a social, mild, almost timid p e o p l e ; and more easy, I will
not say to civilize, but to subdue, than the other tribes on
the Orinoco. T o escape from the dominion of the Caribs,
the Salives willingly joined the first Missions of the Jesuits.
A c c o r d i n g l y these fathers everywhere in their writings
praise the docility and intelligence o f that people. T h e
Salives have a great taste for m u s i c : in the most remote
times they had trumpets o f baked earth, four or five feet
long, with several large globular cavities communicating
with one another by narrow pipes. These trumpets send
forth most dismal sounds. The Jesuits have cultivated with
success the natural taste o f the Salives for instrumental
m u s i c ; and even since the destruction of the society, the
missionaries of Rio Meta have continued at San Miguel de
M a c u c o a fine church choir, and musical instruction for the
Indian youth. Very lately a traveller was surprised to see
the natives playing on the violin, the violoncello, the tri-
angle, the guitar, and the flute.
We found among these Salive Indians, at Carichana, a
white woman, the sister of a Jesuit o f New Grenada. It is
difficult to define the satisfaction that is felt when, in the
midst o f nations o f whose language we are ignorant, we
meet with a being with w h o m we can converse without an
* See vol. i, p. 326.
† The Salive mission, on the Rio Vichada, was destroyed by the Caribs.

interpreter. E v e r y mission has at least t w o interpreters
(lenguarazes). They arc Indians, a little less stupid than the
rest, through whose medium the missionaries of the Orinoco,
who n o w very rarely give themselves the trouble o f studying
the idioms of the country, communicate with the neophytes.
These interpreters attended us in all our herborizations;
b u t they rather understand than speak Castilian. W i t h
their indolent indifference, they answer us by chance, but
always with an officious smile, " Y e s , F a t h e r ; n o , F a t h e r , "
to every question addressed to them.
T h e vexation that arises from such a style of conversation
continued for months may easily be conceived, when y o u
wish to be enlightened upon objects in which y o u take the
most lively interest. W e were often forced to employ several
interpreters at a time, and several successive translators, in
order to communicate with the natives.*
" A f t e r leaving m y Mission," said the g o o d m o n k o f
Uruana, " y o u will travel like mutes." This prediction was
nearly accomplished ; and, not to lose the advantage w e
might derive from intercourse even with the rudest Indians,
we sometimes preferred the language of signs. W h e n a
a native perceives that y o u will not employ an interpreter;
when y o u interrogate him directly, showing him the o b j e c t s ;
he rouses himself from his habitual apathy, and manifests an
extraordinary capacity to make himself comprehended. He
varies his signs, pronounces his words slowly, and repeats
them without being desired. The consequence conferred
upon him, in Buffering yourself t o be instructed b y him,
flatters his self-love. This facility in making himself c o m -
prehended is particularly remarkable in the independent
Indian. I t cannot be doubted that direct intercourse with
the natives is more instructive and more certain than the
communication by interpreters, provided the questions b e
* To form a just idea of the perplexity of these communications by
interpreters, we may recollect that, in the expedition of Lewis and
Clarke to the river Columbia, in order to converse with the Chopunnish

Indians, Captain Lewis addressed one of his men in English ; that man
translated the question into French to Chaboneau ; Chaboneau translated
it to bis Indian wife in Minnetaree; the woman translated it into
Shoshonee to a prisoner; and the prisoner translated it into Chopunnish.
It may be feared that the sense of the question was a little altered
these successive translations.

simplified, and repeated t o several individuals under dif-
ferent forms. T h e variety of idioms spoken o n the banks o f
the M e t a , the Orinoco, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio N e g r o ,
is so prodigious, that a traveller, however great may be his
talent for languages, can never hope to learn enough t o
make himself understood along the navigable rivers, from
Angostura to the small fort o f San Carlos del R i o N e g r o .
I n Peru and Quito it is sufficient to k n o w the Quichua, or
the Inca l a n g u a g e ; in Chile, the Araucan; and in Paraguay,
the G u a r a n y ; in order to be understood by most o f the
population. P u t it is different in the Missions o f Spanish
Guiana, where nations o f various races are mingled in the
same village. I t is not even sufficient to have learned the
Caribee or Carina, the G u a m o , the Guahive, the Jaruro,
the Ottomac, the M a y p u r e , the Salive, the Marivitan, the
Maquiritare, and the Guaica, ten dialects, o f which there
exist only imperfect grammars, and which have less affinity
with each other than the Greek, German, and Persian
T h e environs o f the Mission o f Carichana appeared t o us
to be delightful. The little village is situated in one o f
those plains covered with grass that separate all the links
o f the granitic mountains, from Encaramada t o b e y o n d
the Cataracts of Maypures. T h e line o f the forests is seen
only in the distance. T h e horizon is everywhere bounded
by mountains, partly wooded and o f a dark tint, partly bare,
with rocky summits gilded by the beams of the setting sun.
W h a t gives a peculiar character to the scenery o f this c o u n -
try are banks o f rock (laxas) nearly destitute o f vege-
tation, and often more than eight hundred feet in circum-
ference, y e t scarcely rising a few inches above the surounding
savannahs. They now make a part of the plain. W e ask
Ourselves with surprise, whether some extraordinary revolu-
tions may have carried away the earth and plants ; or whether
the granite nucleus o f our planet shows itself bare, because
the germs o f life are not yet developed o n all its points.
T h e same phenomenon seems t o be found also in the desert
o f Shamo, which separates M o n g o l i a from China. Those
banks o f solitary rock in the desert are called tsy. I think
they would be real table-lands, if the surrounding plains
were stripped o f the sand and mould that cover them, and
which the waters have accumulated in the lowest places.

O n these stony flats o f Carichana we observed with inte-
rest the rising vegetation in the different degrees o f its
development. W e there found lichens cleaving the rock,
and collected in crusts more or less thick ; little portions of
sand nourishing succulent p l a n t s ; and lastly layers of black-
mould deposited in the hollows, formed from the decay of
roots and leaves, and shaded by tufts o f evergreen shrubs.
A t the distance o f two or three leagues from the Mission,
we find, in these plains intersected by granitic hills, a vege-
tation no less rich than varied. On comparing the site of
Carichana with that of all the villages above the Great Ca-
taracts, w e are surprised at the facility with which we tra-
verse the country, without following the banks of the rivers,
or being stopped by the thickness of the forests. M . B o n -
pland made several excursions on horseback, which fur-
nished him with a rich harvest o f plants. I shall mention
only the paraguatan, a magnificent species of the macroc-
n e m u m , the bark o f which yields a red dye ;* the guaricamo,
with a poisonous root ; † the Jacaranda obtusifolia; and the
serrape, or jape ‡ of the Salive Indians, which is the Couma-
rouna of Aublet, so celebrated throughout Terra Firma for
its aromatic fruit. This fruit, which at Caracas is placed
among linen, as in Europe it is in snuff, under the name of
or Tonquin bean, is regarded as poisonous. It is a
false notion, very genera] in the province of Cumana, that
the excellent liqueur fabricated at Martinique owes its pecu-
liar flavour to the jape. In the Missions it is called sima-
ruba ;
a name that may occasion serious mistakes, the true
simaruba being a febrifuge species of the Quassia genus,
found in Spanish Guiana only in the valley of Rio Caura,
where the Paudacot Indians give; it the name o f achecchari.
I found the dip of the magnetic needle, in the great square
at Carichana, 33.7° ( n e w division). T h e intensity o f the
magnetic action was expressed by two hundred and twenty-
seven oscillations in ten minutes of t i m e ; an increase of
force that would seem to indicate some local attraction.
Yet the blocks of the granite, blackened by the waters of the
Orinoco, have no perceptible action upon the needle.
The river had risen several inches during the day on the
* Mucrocnemum tinctorium. Ityania coccidea.
‡ Dopterix odorata, Willd. or Baryosmo tongo of Gaertner. The jape
frnishes Carichana with excellent timber.

A N C I E N T W A T E R - L E V E L .
10th of A p r i l ; this phenomenon surprised the natives so much
the more, as the first swellings are almost imperceptible,
and are usually followed in the month o f A p r i l by a fall for
some days. T h e Orinoco was already three feet higher than
the level of the lowest waters. T h e natives showed us on a
granite wall the traces o f the great rise of the waters of late
years. W e found them to be forty-two feet high, which is
double the mean rise of the Nile. B u t this measure was
taken in a place where the bed o f the Orinoco is singularly
hemmed in by rocks, and I could only notice the marks
shown me by the natives. I t may easily be conceived that
the effect and the height of the increase differs according to
the profile o f the river, the nature o f the banks more or less
elevated, the number o f rivers flowing in that collect the
pluvial waters, and the length o f ground passed over. I t is
an unquestionable fact that at Carichana, at San Borja, at
A t u r e s , and at Maypures, wherever the river has forced its
way through the mountains, y o u see at a hundred, some-
times at a hundred and thirty feet, above the highest
present swell of the river, black bands and erosions, that
indicate the ancient levels of the waters. I s then this river,
which appears t o us so grand and so majestic, only the
feeble remains of those immense currents o f fresh water
which heretofore traversed the country at the east o f the
A n d e s , like arms of inland seas? W h a t must have been
the state of those low countries o f Guiana that now undergo
the effects o f annual inundations ? W h a t immense numbers
o f crocodiles, manatis, and boas must have inhabited these
vast spaces o f land, converted alternately into marshes o f
stagnant water, and into barren and fissured plains! T h e
more peaceful world which we inhabit has then succeeded
t o a world o f tumult. T h e bones o f mastodons and
American elephants are found dispersed o n the table-lands
o f the A n d e s . T h e megatherium inhabited the plains o f
U r u g u a y . O n digging deep into the ground, in high
valleys, where neither palm-trees n o r arborescent ferns can
g r o w , strata o f coal are discovered, that still show vestiges
o f gigantic monocotyledonous plants.
There was a remote period then, in which the classes of
plants were otherwise distributed, when the animals were
larger, and the rivers broader and of greater depth. There
V O L . I I . Q

end those records of nature, that it is in our power to c o n -
sult. W e are ignorant whether the human race, which at
the time o f the discovery of A m e r i c a scarcely formed a few
feeble tribes o n the cast o f the Cordilleras, had already
descended into the plains ; or whether the ancient tradition
o f the great waters,' which is found among the nations o f
the Orinoco, the Erevato, and the Caura, belong to other
climates, whence it has been propagated to this part of the
N e w Continent.
O n the 11th o f April, we left Carichana at t w o in the
afternoon, and found the course o f the river more and more
encumbered by blocks of granite rocks. W e passed on the
west the Caño Orupe, and then the great rock known by
the name of Piedra del Tigre. T h e river is there so deep,
that n o b o t t o m can be found with a line of twenty-two
fathoms. Towards evening the weather became cloudy
and gloomy. The proximity o f the storm was marked by
squalls alternating with dead calms. T h e rain was violent,
and the roof of foliage, under which we lay, afforded but
little shelter. Happily these showers drove away the m o s -
quitos, at least for some time. W e found ourselves before
the cataract o f Cariven, and the impulse o f the waters was
so strong, that we had great difficulty in gaining the land.
W e were continually driven back t o the middle of the cur-
rent. A t length two Salive Indians, excellent swimmers,
leaped into the water, and having drawn the boat to shore
b y means o f a rope, made it fast to the Piedra de Carichana
V i e j a , a shelf of hare rock, on which we passed the night.
T h e thunder continued to roll during a part o f the n i g h t ;
the swell o f the river became considerable; and w e were
several times afraid that our frail bark would be driven from
the shore by the impetuosity o f the waves.
T h e granitic rock on which we lay is one of those, where
travellers on the Orinoco have heard from time t o time,
towards sunrise, subterraneous sounds, resembling those
o f the organ. T h e missionaries call these stones laxas de
' I t is witchcraft (cosa de bruxas),' said our y o u n g
Indian pilot, who could speak Spanish. W e never our-
selves heard these mysterious sounds, either at Carichana
Vieja, or in the Upper O r i n o c o ; but from information given
us by witnesses worthy o f belief, the existence o f a pheno-

menon that seems t o depend o n a certain state o f the
atmosphere, cannot be denied. T h e shelves o f rock are full
o f very narrow and deep crevices. T h e y are heated during
the day to 48° or 50°. I several times found their t e m p e -
rature at the surface, during the night, at 30°, the surround-
ing atmosphere being at 28°. I t may easily be conceived,
that the difference o f temperature between the subterranean
and the external air attains its maximum about sunrise, or
at that m o m e n t which is at the same time farthest from
tho period of the maximum o f the heat o f the preced-
ing day. M a y n o t these organ-like sounds, which are
heard when a person lays his ear in contact with the
stone, be the effect o f a current o f air that issues o u t
through the crevices ? D o e s n o t the impulse of t h e air
against the elastic spangles o f mica that intercept the
crevices, contribute t o modify the sounds ? M a y w e n o t
abmit that the ancient inhabitants o f E g y p t , in passing
incessantly u p and d o w n the N i l e , had made the same
observation o n some rock o f the T h e b a i d ; and that the
' m u s i c o f the rocks' there led to the jugglery o f the priests
in the statue o f M e m n o n ? Perhaps, when ' t h e rosy-
fingered A u r o r a rendered her son, the glorious M e m n o n ,
vocal,'* the voice was that o f a man hidden beneath the
pedestal of the s t a t u e ; b u t the observation o f the natives
o f the Orinoco, which w e relate, seems to explain in a
natural manner what gave rise to the Egyptian belief o f a
stone that poured forth Bounds at sunrise.
A l m o s t at the same period at which 1 communicated these
conjectures to some o f the learned o f Europe, three French
travellers, M M . Jomard, Jollois, and Devilliers, were led
to analogous ideas. T h e y beard, at sunrise, in a m o n u m e n t
o f granite, at the centre o f the spot on which stands the
palace o f Karnak, a noise resembling that o f a string break-
ing. N o w this comparison is precisely that which the
ancients employed in speaking of the voice o f M e m n o n .
T h e French travellers thought, like me, that the passage o f
* These are the words of an inscription, which attests that sounds
were heard on the 13th of the month Pachon, in the tenth year of the
reign of Antoninus. See Monuments de 1'Egypte Ancienne.
Q 2

rarefied air through the fissures o f a sonorous stone might
have suggested to the Egyptian priests the invention of the
juggleries of the M e m n o n i u m .
W e left the rock at four in the morning. T h e mission-
ary had told us that we should have; great difficulty in
passing the rapids and the mouth of the Meta. T h e Indians
rowed twelve hours and a half without intermission, and
during all that time, they took n o other nourishment than
cassava and plantains. W h e n we consider the difficulty o f
overcoming the force o f the current, and o f passing the
cataracts; when we reflect on the constant employment o f
the muscular powers during a navigation o f t w o m o n t h s ;
we are equally surprised at the constitutional vigour and
the abstinence o f the Indians o f the Orinoco and the
A m a z o n . Amylaceous and saccharine substances, some-
times fish and the fat o f turtles' eggs, supply the place o f
food drawn from the first two classes of the animal king-
dom, those of quadrupeds and birds.
W e found the bed o f the river, to the length o f six hun-
dred toises, full of granite rocks. Here is what is called the
Raudal de Cariven. W e passed through channels that were
not five feet broad. O u r canoe was sometimes jammed
between two blocks o f granite. W e sought t o avoid these
passages, into which the waters rushed with a fearful n o i s e ;
nut there is really little danger, in a canoe steered by a g o o d
Indian pilot. W h e n the current is too violent to be resisted
the rowers leap into the water, and fasten a rope to the
point o f a rock, to warp the boat along. This manœuvre is
very t e d i o u s ; and we sometimes availed ourselves of it, t o
climb the rocks among which we were entangled. They are
of all dimensions, rounded, very black, glossy like lead, and
destitute of vegetation. It is an extraordinary phenomenon
to see the waters of one of the largest rivers on the globe in
some sort disappear. W e perceived, even far from the shore,
those immense blocks of granite, rising from the ground,
and leaning one against another. The intervening channels
in the rapids are more than twenty-live fathoms d e e p ; and
are the more difficult to be observed, as the rocks are often
narrow toward their bases, and form vaults suspended over
the surface of the river. W e perceived no crocodiles in the
r a u d a l ; these animals seem to shun the noise of cataracts.

F r o m Cabruta to the mouth o f the R i o Sinaruco, a
distance o f nearly two degrees of latitude, the left bank o f
the Orinoco is entirely uninhabited; b u t to the west o f
the Raudal de Cariven an enterprising man, D o n Felix
Relinchon, had assembled some Jaruro and Ottomac Indians
in a small village. I t is an attempt at civilization, on which
the monks have had no direct influence. I t is superfluous
to add, that D o n Felix lives at open war with the mis-
sionaries on the right bank of the Orinoco.
Proceeding up the river we arrived, at nine in the morning,
before the mouth of the M e t a , opposite the spot where the
Mission of Santa Teresa, founded by the Jesuits, was here-
tofore situated.
N e x t to the Guaviare, the M e t a is the most considerable
river that flows into the Orinoco. I t may be compared to
the D a n u b e , not for the length o f its course, but for the
volume o f its waters. Its mean depth is thirty-six feet,
and it sometimes reaches eighty-four. The union of these
t w o rivers presents a very impressive spectacle. Lonely
rocks rise on the eastern bank. Blocks o f granite, piled
upon one another, appear from afar like castles in ruins.
Vast sandy shores keep the skirting of the forest at a distance
from the river; but we discover amid them, in the horizon,
solitary palm-trees, backed by the sky, and crowning the
tops o f the mountains. W e passed two hours on a large
rock, standing in the middle o f the Orinoco, and called the
Piedra de la Paciencia, or the Stone o f Patience, because
the canoes, in going up, are sometimes detained there t w o
days, t o extricate themselves from the whirlpool caused by
this rock.
T h e R i o Meta, which traverses the vast plains o f Casa-
nare, and which is navigable as far as the foot of the A n d e s
o f N e w Grenada, will one day be of great political import-
ance to the inhabitants o f Guiana and Venezuela. From
the Golfo Triste and the B o c a del D r a g o a small fleet
may go up the Orinoco and the M e t a t o within fifteen or
twenty leagues of Santa Fé de Bogotá. The flour of N e w
Grenada may be conveyed the same way. The Meta is like
a canal of communication between countries placed in the
same latitude, but differing in their productions as much as
France and Senegal. T h e M e t a has its source in the union

2 3 0
o f t w o rivers which descend from the paramos o f Chingasa
and Suma Paz. T h e first is the Rio N e g r o , which, lower
down, receives the Pachaquiaro; the second is the Rio de
A g u a s Blancas, or Umadea. T h e j u n c t i o n takes place near
the port o f Marayal. I t is only eight or ten leagues
from the Passo de la Cabulla, where y o u quit the Kio
N e g r o , t o the capital o f Santa Fé. P r o m the villages
o f X i r a m e n a and Cabullaro to those o f Guanapalo and
Santa Rosalia de Cabapuna, a distance of sixty leagues, the
hanks o f the M e t a are more inhabited than those o f the
Orinoco. W e find in this space fourteen Christian settle-
ments, in part very p o p u l o u s ; but from the mouths o f the
rivers Pauto and Casanare, for a space o f more than fifty
leagues, the M e t a is infested b y the Guahibos, a race o f
T h e navigation o f this river was much more active in the
time o f the Jesuits, and particularly during the expedition
o f Iturriaga, in 1756, than it is at present. Missionaries o f
the same order then governed the banks of the M e t a and o f
the Orinoco. The villages of Macuco, Zurimena, and Casi-
mena, were founded b y the Jesuits, as well as those o f
Uruana, Encaramada, and Carichana.
These Fathers had conceived the project o f forming a
series o f Missions from the junction o f the Casanare with
the M e t a to that o f the M e t a with the Orinoco. A narrow
zone o f cultivated land would have crossed the vast steppes
that separate the forests o f Guiana from the A n d e s o f N e w
A t the period o f the " h a r v e s t of turtles' e g g s , " n o t only
the flour o f Santa Fé descended the river, b u t the salt o f
Chita, † the cotton cloth o f San Gil, and the printed c o u n -
terpanes of Socorro. T o g i v e some security to the little
traders who devoted themselves to this inland c o m m e r c e ,
attacks w e r e made from time to time from the castillo or
fort of Carichana, on the Guahibos.
T o keep these Guahibos in awe, the Capuchin mission-
aries, who succeeded the Jesuits in the government o f the
* I find the word written Guajibos, Guahivos, and Guagivos. They
call themselves G u a - i v a .
† East of Labranza Grande, and the north-west of Pore, now the
capital of the province of Casanare.

2 3 1
Missions of the Orinoco, formed the project o f founding a
city at the mouth of the Meta, under the name of the Villa
de San Carlos. Indolence, and the dread o f tertian fevers,
have prevented the execution of this p r o j e c t ; and all that
has ever existed o f the city o f San Carlos, is a coat o f arms
painted on fine parchment, with an enormous cross erected
o n the bank o f the M e t a . The Guahibos, w h o , it is said,
are some thousands in number, have become so insolent,
that, at the time of our passage by Carichana, they sent
word to the missionary that they would come on rafts, and
b u m his village. These rafts (valzas), which we had an
opportunity of seeing, are scarcely three feet broad, and
twelve feet long. T h e y carry only t w o or three I n d i a n s ;
but fifteen or sixteen o f these rafts are fastened to each
other with the stems o f the paullinia, the dolichos, and other
creeping plants. I t is difficult to conceive how these small
craft remain tied together in passing the rapids. M a n y
fugitives from the villages of the Casanare and the A p u r e
have joined the Guahibos, and taught them the practice o f
eating beef, and preparing hides. T h e farms o f San Vicente,
B u b i o , and San A n t o n i o , have lost great numbers o f their
horned cattle b y the incursions of the Indians, who also
prevent travellers, as far as the junction o f the Casanare,
from sleeping on the shore in going up the M e t a . I t often
happens, while the waters are low, that the traders o f N e w
Grenada, some o f whom still visit the encampment o f Tara-
ruma, are killed by the poisoned arrows o f the Guahibos.
From the mouth of the M e t a , the Orinoco appeared t o us
to be freer o f shoals and rocks. W e navigated in a channel
five hundred toises broad. The Indians remained rowing in
the boat, without towing or pushing it forward with their
arms, and wearying us with their wild cries. W e passed
the Caños of Uita and Endava on the west. I t was night
when we reached the Raudal de Tabaje. The Indians would
n o t hazard passing the cataract; and we slept o n a very
incommodious spot, on the shelf of a rock, with a slope
o f more than eighteen degrees, and o f which the crevices
sheltered a swarm o f bats. W e heard the cries o f the
jaguar very near us during the whole night. T h e y were
answered by our great dog in lengthened howlings. I
waited the appearance of the stars in v a i n : the sky was

exceedingly b l a c k ; and the hoarse sounds o f the cascades of
the Orinoco mingled with the rolling o f the distant thunder.
Early in t h e morning o f t h e 13th April we passed t h e
rapids o f Tabaje, and again disembarked. Father Zea, w h o
accompanied us, desired t o perform mass in the n e w Mission
of San Borja, established t w o years before. W e there found
six houses inhabited b y uncatechised Guahibos. T h e y differ
in nothing from t h e wild Indians. Their eyes, which are
large and black, have more vivacity than those o f the Indians
who inhabit the ancient missions. We in vain offered them
brandy ; they would n o t even taste it. T h e faces o f all the
y o u n g girls were marked with round black s p o t s ; like the
patches b y which t h e ladies o f Europe formerly imagined
they set off the whiteness o f their skins. T h e bodies o f the
Guahibos were n o t painted. Several o f them had beards, o f
which they seemed p r o u d ; and, taking u s b y t h e chin,
showed us b y signs, that they were made like u s . Their
shape was in general slender. I was again struck, as I had
been a m o n g t h e Salives and t h e M a c o s , with t h e little
uniformity of features t o b e found among the Indians o f the
Orinoco. Their look is sad and gloomy; b u t neither stern
nor ferocious. W i t h o u t having any notion o f t h e practices
o f t h e Christian religion, they behaved with t h e utmost
decency at church. T h e Indians love to exhibit themselves;
and will submit temporarily t o any restraint o r subjection,
provided they are sure of drawing attention. A t the moment
of the consecration, they made signs t o o n e another, t o
indicate beforehand that the priest was going to raise t h e
chalice t o his lips. W i t h the exception o f this gesture, they
remained motionless and in imperturbable apathy.
T h e interest with which we examined these poor savages
became perhaps the cause o f the destruction o f the mission.
Some a m o n g them, w h o preferred a wandering life t o t h e
labours o f agriculture, persuaded the rest to return t o t h e
plains o f the M e t a . T h e y told them, that the white men
would c o m e back t o San Borja, t o take t h e m away in t h e
boats, and sell them as poitos, or slaves, at Angostura.”
The Guahibos awaited the news o f our return from the Rio
N e g r o by the Cassiquiare; and when they heard that we
were arrived at the first great, cataract, that o f Atures, they
all deserted, and fled to the savannahs that border t h e

Orinoco on the west. T h e Jesuit Fathers had already
formed a mission on this spot, and bearing th e same name.
N o tribe is more difficult t o fix t o the soil than the G u a -
hibos. They would rather feed o n stale fish, scolopendras,
and worms, than cultivate a little spot o f ground. T h e
other Indians say, that “a Guahibo eats everything that
exists, both o n and under the ground.”
In ascending the Orinoco more t o the south, the heat, far
from increasing, became more bearable. The air in the day
was at 20° o r 2 7 . 5 ° ; and at night, at 23.7°. T h e water o f
the Orinoco retained its habitual temperature of 27.7°. T h e
torment o f the mosquitos augmented severely, notwithstand-
ing the decrease o f heat. W e never suffered so much from
them as at San Borja. W e could neither speak nor uncover
our faces without having o u r mouths and noses filled with
insects. We were surprised n o t t o find the thermometer
at 35° or 3 6 ° ; the extreme irritation o f t h e skin made u s
believe that the air was scorching. W e passed the night on
the beach o f Guaripo. T h e fear o f the little caribe fish
prevented us from bathing. T h e crocodiles w e had m e t
with this day were all of an extraordinary size, from twenty-
t w o t o twenty-four feet.
O u r sufferings from the zancudos made us depart at five
o'clock on the morning o f the 14th. There are fewer insects
in the strata o f air lying immediately o n the river, than
near the edge o f the forests. W e stopped t o breakfast
at the island o f Guachaco, o r Vachaco, where the granite is
immediately covered b y a formation o f sandstone, o r c o n -
glomerate. This sandstone contains fragments o f quartz,
and even o f feldspar, cemented b y indurated clay. i t exhi-
bits little veins o f brown iron-ore, which separate in laminæ,
or plates, of one line in thickness. We had already found
these plains o n the shores between Encaramada and Bara-
guan, where the missionaries had sometimes taken them for
an ore o f gold, and sometimes for tin. I t is probable, that
this secondary formation occupied formerly a larger space.
Having passed the mouth o f the R i o Parueni, beyond which
the M a c o Indians dwell, w e spent the night o n the island of
Panumana. I could with difficulty take t h e altitudes o f
Canopus, in order to fix the longitude o f the point, near
which the river suddenly turns towards t h e west. T h e

2 3 4
island of Panumana is rich in plants. We there a g a i n
found those shelves o f bare rock, those tufts of melastomas,
those thickets o f small shrubs, the blended scenery o f which
had charmed us in the plains of Carichana. T h e mountains
o f the Great Cataracts bounded the horizon towards the
south-east. I n proportion as we advanced, the shores o f
the Orinoco exhibited a more imposing and picturesque
T h e M o u t h of the R i o A n a v e n i . — P e a k of U n i a n a . — M i s s i o n of Atures.
— C a t a r a c t , o r R a u d a l o f M a p a r a . — I s l e t s of S u r u p a m a n a and
U i r a p u r i .
THE river o f the O r i n o c o , in running from south to north,
is crossed by a chain of granitic mountains. Twice confined
in its course, it turbulently breaks on the rocks, that form
steps and transverse dykes. Nothing can be grander than
the aspect of this spot. Neither the fall of the Tequendama,
near Santa Fé de Bogotá, nor the magnificent scenes o f the
Cordilleras, could weaken the impression produced u p o n
m y mind by the first view of the rapids of Atures and o f
M a y p u r e s . W h e n the spectator is so stationed that the
eye can at once take in the long succession of cataracts, the
immense sheet o f foam and vapours illumined by the rays
o f the setting sun, the whole river seems as it were sus-
pended over its bed.
Scenes so astonishing must for ages have fixed the atten-
tion of the inhabitants of the New W o r l d . W h e n D i e g o de
Todaz. Alfonzo de Herrera, and the intrepid Raleigh, an-
chored at the mouth o f the Orinoco, they were informed
by the Indians o f the Great Cataracts, which they t h e m -
selves had never visited, and which they even confounded
with cascades farther to the east. What e v e r obstacles the
force o f vegetation under the torrid zone may throw in the
way of intercourse a m o n g nations, all that relates to the
course of great, rivers acquires a celebrity which extends t o
vast distances. T h e O r i n o c o , the A m a z o n , and the U r u -
guay, traverse, like inland arms of seas, in different direc-
tions, a land covered with forests, and inhabited by tribes,

2 3 5
part o f whom are cannibals. I t is n o t y e t t w o hundred
years since civilization and t h e light o f a more humane
religion have pursued their way along t h e banks o f these
ancient canals traced b y the hand o f n a t u r e ; long, however,
before the introduction o f agriculture, before communica-
tions for the purposes o f barter were established among
these scattered and often hostile tribes, the knowledge o f
extraordinary phenomena, o f falls o f water, o f volcanic fires,
and o f snows resisting all t h e ardent heat o f summer, was
propagated by a thousand fortuitous circumstances. Three
hundred leagues from t h e coast, i n t h e centre o f South
America, among nations whose excursions d o n o t extend t o
three days' journey, w e find an idea o f the ocean, and words
that denote a mass o f salt water extending as far as the e y e
can discern. Various events, which repeatedly o c c u r i n
savage life, contribute t o enlarge these conceptions. I n
consequence of the petty wars between neighbouring tribes,
a prisoner is brought into a strange country, and treated as
a poito o r mero, that is t o say, as a slave. A f t e r being often
sold, he is dragged t o new wars, escapes, and returns h o m e ;
he relates what he has seen, and what he has heard from
those whose tongue he has been compelled t o learn. A s on
discovering a coast, we hear o f great inland animals, so, on
entering the valley o f a vast river, w e are surprised t o find
that savages, who are strangers t o navigation, have acquired
a knowledge o f distant things. I n t h e infant state o f
society, the exchange o f ideas precedes, t o a certain point,
the exchange o f productions.
T h e t w o great cataracts o f t h e Orinoco, the celebrity of
which is so far-spread and so ancient, are formed b y t h e
passage o f the river across the mountains o f Parima. T h e y
are called b y the natives Mapara and Quittuna; b u t t h e
missionaries have substituted f o r these names those o f
A hires and Maypures, after the names o f t h e tribes which
were first assembled together in the nearest villages. O n
the coast o f Caracas, the t w o Great Cataracts are denoted
by the simple appellation o f the t w o Raudales, o r r a p i d s ;
a denomination which implies that the other falls o f water,
even the rapids o f Camiseta and o f Carichana, are not c o n -
sidered as worthy o f attention when compared with t h e
cataracts o f Atures and M a y p u r e s .

T h e s e last, s i t u a t e d b e t w e e n five and six degrees of north
l a t i t u d e , and a h u n d r e d l e a g u e s w e s t of t h e Cordilleras o f
New G r e n a d a , in t h e meridian o f P o r t o C a b e l l o , are o n l y
t w e l v e l e a g u e s d i s t a n t from each other. I t is surprising
t h a t their e x i s t e n c e w a s n o t k n o w n to D ' A n v i l l e , w h o , in
his fine m a p of S o u t h A m e r i c a , m a r k s t h e inconsiderable
cascades o f M a r i m a r a and San Borja, by the n a m e s of t h e
rapids of Carichana and T a b a j e . T h e Great Cataracts divide
the Christian e s t a b l i s h m e n t s of Spanish G u i a n a into t w o
unequal parts. T h o s e situated b e t w e e n t h e Raudal o f

A t u r e s and the m o u t h o f the river are called the M i s s i o n s
o f t h e L o w e r O r i n o c o ; t h e M i s s i o n s of t h e U p p e r O r i n o c o
C o m p r e h e n d t h e villages between the Raudal of M a y p u r e s
and the m o u n t a i n s of Duida. T h e course of the L o w e r

O r i n o c o , if we estimate the sinuosities at o n e - t h i r d o f t h e
distance in a direct line, is t w o hundred and sixty nautical
l e a g u e s : t h e course of the U p p e r O r i n o c o , s u p p o s i n g its
sources t o be t h r e e d e g r e e s east of D u i d a , includes o n e h u n -
dred and sixty-seven leagues.

B e y o n d t h e G r e a t C a t a r a c t s an u n k n o w n land b e g i n s .
T h e c o u n t r y is partly m o u n t a i n o u s and partly flat, receiving
at o n c e t h e confluents o f t h e A m a z o n a n d t h e O r i n o c o .
F r o m the facility of its c o m m u n i c a t i o n s with the Rio N e g r o
a n d G r a n d Para. it. appears to b e l o n g still m o r e to Brazil
than to the Spanish colonies. N o n e of the missionaries
w h o have described t h e O r i n o c o before me, neither f a t h e r

G u m i l l a , G i l i , nor C a u l i n , had passed the Raudal of M a y -
p u r e s . W e found b u t t h r e e Christian e s t a b l i s h m e n t s above
t h e G r e a t C a t a r a c t s , a l o n g t h e shores o f t h e O r i n o c o , in an
extent of more than a hundred l e a g u e s ; and these t h r e e
e s t a b l i s h m e n t s contained scarcely six or e i g h t white persons,
t h a t is to say, persons of European race. W e c a n n o t be
surprised that such a desert region should have been at
all times the land of fable and fairy visions. T h e r e , accord-
ing to the s t a t e m e n t s of certain missionaries, are found
races o f m e n , s o m e of w h o m have an eye in the centre of
t h e forehead, whilst o t h e r s have d o g s ’ heads, and m o u t h s
b e l o w their s t o m a c h s . T h e r e t h e y p r e t e n d to have f o u n d
all that the ancients relate of the G a r a m a n t e s , of the A r i -
maspes, and of the H y p e r b o r e a n s . It would be an error
t o s u p p o s e that these s i m p l e a n d often rustic m i s s i o n a r i e s

2 3 7
had themselves invented all these exaggerated fictions; they
derived them in great part from the recitals of the Indians.
A fondness for narration prevails in the Missions, as it does
at sea, in the East, and in every place where the mind
seeks amusement. A missionary, from his vocation, is not
inclined to scepticism; he imprints o n his memory what
the natives have so often repeated t o h i m ; and, when
returned to Europe, and restored to the civilized world, he
finds a pleasure in creating astonishment by a recital o f
facts which he thinks he has collected, and by an animated
description o f remote things. These stories, which the
Spanish colonists call ‘tales o f travellers and o f monks’
(cuentos de viageros y frailes), increase in improbability in
proportion as y o u increase y o u r distance from the forests
of the Orinoco, and approach the coasts inhabited b y the
whites. W h e n , at Cumana, Nueva Barcelona, and other
seaports which have frequent communication with the M i s -
sions, yo u betray any sign of incredulity, y o u are reduced
to silence by these few w o r d s : “ T h e fathers have seen it,
but far above the Great Cataracts (mas arriba de los Rau-
O n the 15th of April, we left the island o f Panumana at
four in the morning, t w o hours before sunrise. T h e sky
was in great part obscured, and lightnings flashed over dense
clouds at more than forty degrees of elevation. W e were
surprised at not hearing t h u n d e r ; but possibly this was
owing to the prodigious height of the s t o r m ? I t appears
t o us, that in Europe the electric flashes without thunder,
vaguely called heat-lightning, are seen generally nearer the
horizon. U n d e r a cloudy sky, that sent back the radiant
caloric of the soil, the heat was stifling; not a breath of
wind agitated the foliage o f the trees. T h e jaguars, as
usual, had crossed the arm o f the Orinoco b y which w e were
separated from the shore, and we heard their cries extremely
near. During the night the Indians had advised us t o quit
our station in the open air, and retire to a deserted hut
belonging to the conucos of the inhabitants of Atures. They
had taken care to barricade the opening with planks, a
precaution which seemed to us superfluous; but near the
Cataracts tigers are very numerous, and t w o years before,
in these very conucos o f Panumana, an Indian returning to

S A N J U A N D E L O S A T U R E S .
his hut, towards the close o f the rainy season, found a tigress
settled in it with her t w o y o u n g . These animals had inha-
bited the dwelling for several m o n t h s ; they were dislodged
from it with difficulty, and it was only after an obstinate
combat that the former master regained possession o f his
dwelling. T h e jaguars are fond o f retiring t o deserted
ruins, and I believe it is more prudent in general for a
solitary traveller t o encamp in the open air, between t w o
fires, than t o seek shelter in uninhabited huts.
O n quitting the island o f Panumana, w e perceived o n
the western bank o f the river the fires of an encampment o f
Guahibo savages. T h e missionary w h o accompanied us
caused a few musket-shots t o b e fired in the air, which he
said would intimidate them, and shew that we were in a
state t o defend ourselves. T h e savages most likely had no
canoes, and were n o t desirous o f troubling us in the middle
of the river. W e passed at sunrise the mouth of the Rio
Anaveni, which descends from the eastern mountains. O n
its banks, n o w deserted, Father Olmos had established, in
the time o f the Jesuits, a small village o f Japuins or Jaru-
ros. T h e heat was so excessive that w e rested a long time
in a w o o d y spot, to fish with a hook and line, and it was n o t
without some trouble that we carried away all the fish w e
had caught. W e did not arrive till very late at the foot o f
the Great Cataract, in a bay called the lower harbour (puerto
de a b a x o ) ; and we followed, n o t without difficulty, in a dark
night, the narrow path that leads t o the Mission o f A t u r e s ,
a league distant from the river. W e crossed a plain covered
with large blocks o f granite.
T h e little village o f San Juan N e p o m u c e n o de los Atures
was founded by the Jesuit Francisco Gonzales, in 1 7 4 8 . I n
g o i n g u p the river this is the last of the Christian mis-
sions that o w e their origin t o the order o f St. Ignatius.
T h e more s o u t h e r n establishments, those o f A t a b a p o , o f
Cassiquiare, and of Rio Negro, were formed by the fathers
o f the Observance o f St. Francis. T h e Orinoco appears t o
have flowed heretofore where the village o f A t u r e s now
stands, and the flat savannah that surrounds the village no
doubt formed part o f the river. I saw t o the east o f the
mission a succession o f rocks, which seemed to have; been
the ancient shore o f the Orinoco. I n the lapse o f ages the

river has been impelled westward, in consequence of the
accumulations of earth, which occur more frequently on the
side o f the eastern mountains, that are furrowed by torrents.
The cataract bears the name of Mapara,* as w e have men-
tioned a b o v e ; while the name o f the village is derived from
that o f the nation o f A t u r e s , n o w believed to be extinct.
I find on the maps of the seventeenth century, Island and
Cataract of Athule; which is the wor d Atures written ac-
cording to the pronunciation o f the Tamanacs, who con-
found, like so many other people, the consonants l and r.
This mountainous region was so little known in Europe,
even in the middle of the eighteenth century, that D ' A n v i l l e ,
in the first edition of his South America, makes a branch
issue from the Orinoco, near Salto de los Atures, and fall
into the A m a z o n , to which branch he gives the name o f
R i o N e g r o .
Early maps, as well as Father Gumilla's work, place
the Mission in latitude 1° 30'. A b b e Gili gives it 3 ° 5 0 ' .
I found, by meridian altitudes o f Canopus and a o f the
Southern Cross, 5° 38' 4" for the latitude; and by the chro-
nometer 4 4 1 ' 17" o f longitude west o f the meridian o f
W e found this small Mission in the most deplorable state.
It contained, even at the time o f the expedition o f Solano,
commonly called the ‘expedition o f the boundaries,’ three
hundred and twenty Indians. This number had diminished,
at the time o f our passage b y the Cataracts, to forty-seven;
and the missionary assured us that this diminution became
from year to year more sensible. H e showed us, that in the
* I am ignorant of the etymology of this world, which I believe means
only a fall of water. Gili translates into Maypure a small cascade
(raudalito) by uccamatisi mapara canacapatirri. Should we not
spell this word matpara ? mat being a radical of the Maypure tongue,
and meaning bad (Hervas, Saggio, N. 29). The radical par (para) is
found among American tribes more than five hundred leagues distant

from each other, the Caribs, Maypures, Brazilians, and Peruvians, in the
words sea, rain, water, lake. W e must not confound mapara with mapaja;
this last word signifies, in Maypure and Tamanac, the papaw or melon-
tree, no doubt on account of the sweetness of its fruit, for mapa means

in the Maypure, as well as in the Peruvian and Omagua tongues, ‘ the honey
of bees.’ The Tamanacs call a cascade, or raudal, in general uatapurutpe;

the Maypures, uca.

space of thirty-two months only one marriage had been
entered in the registers o f the parish church. T w o others
had been contracted by uncatechised natives, and celebrated
before the Indian Gobernador. At the first foundation o f
the Mission, the A t u r e s , M a y p u r e s , M e y e p u r e s , Abanis, and
Quirupas, had been assembled togethe. Instead o f these
tribes we found only Guahibos, and a few families of the
nation of M a c o s . T h e A t u r e s have almost entirely disap-
peared; they are no longer known, except by the tombs in
the cavern of Ataruipe, which recall to mind the sepulchres
of the Guanches at Teneriffe. W e learned on the spot, that
the Atures, as well as the Quaquas, and the Macos or
Piaroas, belong to the great stock o f the Salive n a t i o n s ;
while the M a y p u r e s , the A b a n i s , the Parenis, and the G u a y -
puñaves, are o f the same race as the Cabres or Caveres,
celebrated for their long wars with the Caribs. In this
labyrinth of petty nations, divided from one another as the
nations of Latium, Asia Minor, and Sogdiana, formerly were,
we can trace n o general relations but b y following the
analogy of tongues. These are the only monuments that
have reached us from the early ages of the w o r l d ; the only
monuments, which, not being fixed to the soil, are at o n c e
moveable and lasting, and have as it were traversed time
and space. They owe their duration, and the extent they
occupy, much less to conquering and polished nations, than
to those wandering and half-savage tribes, who, fleeing
before a powerful enemy, carried along with them in their
extreme wretchedness only their wives, their children, and
the languages of their fathers.
Between the latitudes of 4° and 8°; the Orinoco not only
separates the great forest of the Parime from the bare
savannahs of the A pure, Meta, and Guaviare, but also forms
the boundary between tribes of very different manners.
T o the westward, over treeless plains, wander the Guahibos,
the Chiricoas, and the G u a m o s ; nations, proud o f their
savage independence, whom it is difficult to fix to the soil,
or habituate to regular labour. The Spanish missionaries
characterise them well b y the name of Indios andantes
(errant or vagabond Indians), because they are perpetually
moving from place to place. T o the east o f the O r i n o c o ,
between the neighbouring sources of the Caura, Cataniapo,

and Ventuari, live the M a c o s , the Salives, the Curacicanas,
Parecas, and Maquiritares, mild, tranquil tribes, addicted t o
agriculture, and easily subjected to the discipline of the
Missions. The Indian of the plains differs from the Indian
of the forests in language as well as manners and mental
disposition; both have an idiom abounding in spirited and
bold t e r m s ; but the language of the former is harsher, more
concise, and more impassioned; that o f the latter, softer,
more diffuse, and fuller of ambiguous expressions.
The Mission of Atures, like most o f the Missions o f the
Orinoco, situated between the mouths of the A p u r e and the
A t a b a p o , is composed of both the classes o f tribes we have
just described. W e there find the Indians of the forests,
and the Indians heretofore nomadic* (Indios monteros and
Indios llaneros, or andantes). W e visited with the mis­
sionary the huts of M a c o s , w h o m the Spaniards call Piraoas,
and those of the Guahibos. The first indicated more love
o f order, cleanliness, and ease. T h e independent M a c o s ( I
do not designate them by the name o f savages) have their
rochelas, or fixed dwellings, t w o or three days' journey east
o f Atures, toward the sources of the little river Cataniapo.
They are very numerous. Like most of the natives o f the
woods, they cultivate, not maize, but cassava; and they live
in great harmony with the Christian Indians o f the mission.
T h e harmony was established and wisely cultivated by t h e
Franciscan monk, Bernardo Zea. This alcalde of the re­
duced M a c o s quitted the village of Atures for a few months
every year, to live in the plantations which he possessed in
the midst of the forests near the hamlet o f the independent
M a c o s . In consequence o f this peaceful intercourse, many
o f the Indios monteros came and established themselves some
time ago in the mission. They asked eagerly for knives,
fishing books, and those coloured glass-beads, which, n o t ­
withstanding the positive prohibition o f the priests, were
employed not as necklaces, but as ornaments of the guayuco
(perizoma). H a v i n g obtained what they sought, they r e -
* I employ the word nomadic as synonymous with wandering, and not
in its primitive signification. The wandering nations of America (those of
the indigenous tribes, it is to be understood) are never shepherds; they
live by fishing and hunting, on the fruit of a few trees, the farinaceous
pith of palm-trees, &c.


turned to the w o o d s , weary of the regulations o f the mission.
Epidemic- fevers, which prevailed with violence at the en-
trance of the rainy season, contributed greatly t o this unex-
pected flight. I n 1799 the mortality was very considerable
at Carichana, on the banks o f the M e t a , and at the Raudal
o f A t u r e s . T h e Indian of the forest conceives a horror o f
the life o f the civilized man, when, I will n o t say any mis-
fortune befalls his family settled in the mission, but merely
any disagreeable or unforeseen accident. Natives, who were
neophytes, have been k n o w n to desert for ever the Christian
establishments, on account o f a great d r o u g h t ; as if this
calamity would not have reached them equally in their plan-
tations, had they remained in their primitive independence.
The fevers winch prevail during a great part o f the year
in the villages of Atures and Maypures, around the two
Great Cataracts of the Orinoco, render these spots highly
dangerous to European travellers. T h e y are caused by
violent heats, in combination with the excessive humidity of
the air, bad nutriment, and, if we may believe the natives,
the pestilent exhalations rising from the bare rocks o f the
Raudales. These fevers o f the Orinoco appeared to us to
resemble those; which prevail every year between New Bar-
celona. La Guayra, and P o r t o Cabello, in the vicinity of the
sea; and which often degenerate into adynamic fevers. " I
have had my little fever (mi calenturita) only eight m o n t h s , "
said the g o o d missionary o f the A t u r e s , who accompanied us
to the Rio N e g r o ; speaking of it as of an habitual evil, easy
to be borne. The fits were violent, but of short duration.
H e was sometimes seized with them when lying along in
the boat under a shelter o f branches o f trees, sometimes
when exposed to the burning rays of the sun on an o p e n
beach. These tertian agues are attended with great debility
o f the muscular s y s t e m ; yet we find poor ecclesiastics o n
the Orinoco, who endure for several years these calenturitas,
o r tercianas :
their effects are not, so fatal as those which are
experienced from fevers o f much shorter duration in t e m -
perate climates.
I have just alluded to the noxious influence on the salu-
brity of the atmosphere, which is attributed by the natives,
and even the missionaries, to the bare rocks. This opinion
is the more worthy o f attention, as it is connected with

a physical phenomenon lately observed in different parts
o f the globe, and n o t y e t sufficiently explained. A m o n g
the cataracts, and wherever the Orinoco, between the M i s -
sions o f Carichana and of Santa Barbara, periodically washes
the granitic rocks, they b e c o m e smooth, black, and as if
coated with plumbago. T h e colouring matter does n o t
penetrate the stone, which is coarse-grained granite, c o n -
taining a few solitary crystals o f hornblende. T a k i n g a
general view o f the primitive formation o f A t u r e s , w e per-
ceive, that, like the granite o f Syene in E g y p t , it is a granite
with hornblende, and n o t a real syenite formation. M a n y
o f the layers are entirely destitute o f hornblende. T h e black
crust is 0.3 of a line in thickness; it is found chiefly on t h e
quartzose parts. T h e crystals o f feldspar sometimes pre-
serve externally their reddish-white colour, and rise above
the black crust. O n breaking the stone with a hammer,
the inside is found to b e white, and without any trace o f d e -
composition. These enormous stony masses appear some-
times in rhombs, sometimes under those hemispheric forms,
peculiar t o granitic rocks when they separate in blocks.
T h e y give the landscape a singularly g l o o m y aspect; their
colour being in strong contrast with that o f the foam o f the
river which covers them, and o f t h e vegetation b y which
they are surrounded. T h e Indians say, that the rocks are
' b u r n t ' ( o r carbonized) ' b y the rays o f the sun.' W e saw
them n o t only in the b e d of the Orinoco, but in some spots
as far as five hundred toises from its present shore, on
heights which the waters n o w never reach even in their
greatest swellings.
W h a t is this brownish black crust, which gives these
rocks, when they have a globular form, the appearance o f
meteoric s t o n e s ? W h a t idea can w e form o f the action of
the water, which produces a deposit, o r a change o f colour, so
extraordinary ? W e must observe, in the first place, that
this phenomenon does n o t belong t o the cataracts o f the
Orinoco alone, b u t is found in both hemispheres. A t m y
return from M e x i c o in 1807, when I showed the granites of
A t u r e s and Maypures t o M . Rozière, w h o had travelled
the valley o f E g y p t , the coasts o f t h e Red Sea, and
M o u n t Sinai, this learned geologist pointed o u t t o m e that
the primitive rocks o f the little cataracts o f Syene display,
R 2

like the rocks of the Orinoco, a glossy surface, of a blackish-
grey, or almost leaden colour, and o f which some o f the
fragments seem coated with tar. Recently, in the un-
fortunate expedition o f Captain Tuckey, the English natu-
ralists were struck with the same appearance in the yellalas
(rapids and shoals) that obstruct the river C o n g o or Zaire.
D r . K œ n i g has placed in the British M u s e u m , beside the
syenites of the C o n g o , the granites of Atures, taken from a
series of rocks which were presented by M . Bonpland and
myself to the illustrious president of the Royal Society o f
L o n d o n . " T h e s e fragments," says Mr. Kœnig, " a l i k e re-
semble meteoric s t o n e s ; in both rocks, those of the Orinoco
and of Africa, the black crust is composed, according t o the
analysis o f Mr. Children, o f the oxide o f iron and man-
g a n e s e . " Some experiments made at Mexico, conjointly with
Señor del Rio, led me to think that the rocks of A t u r e s ,
which blacken the paper in which they are wrapped,* contain,
besides oxide o f manganese, carbon, and supercarburetted
iron. A t the Orinoco, granitic masses of forty or fifty feet
thick are uniformly coated with these o x i d e s ; and, however
thin these crusts may appear, they must nevertheless contain
pretty considerable quantities of iron and manganese, since
they occupy a space o f above a league square.
It must be observed that all these phenomena o f colora-
tion have hitherto appeared in the torrid zone only, in rivers
that have periodical overflowings, of which the habitual
temperature is from twenty-four to twenty-eight centesimal
degrees, and which flow, not over gritstone or calcareous
rocks, but over granite, gneiss, and hornblende rocks.
Quartz and feldspar scarcely contain five or six thousandths
o f oxide o f iron and of manganese; but in mica and horn-
blende these oxides, and particularly that of iron, amount,
according to Klaproth and Herrmann, to fifteen or twenty
parts in a hundred. The hornblende contains also some
carbon, like the Lydian stone and kieselschiefer. N o w , if
these black crusts were formed by a slow decomposition of
* I remarked the name phenomenon from spongy grains of platina one
or two lines in length, collected at the stream-works of Taddo, in the pro-
vince of Choco. Having been wrapped up in white paper during a journey
of several months, they left a black stain, like that of plumbago or super-
carburetted iron.

the granitic rock, under the double influcnce o f humidity
and the tropical sun, h o w is it t o b e conceived that these
oxides are spread so uniformly over the whole surface o f
the stony masses, and are n o t more abundant round a
crystal o f mica or hornblende than on the feldspar and
milky quartz ? T h e ferruginous sandstones, granites, and
marbles, that b e c o m e cinereous and sometimes brown in
damp air, have an aspect altogether different. I n reflecting
upon the lustre and equal thickness o f the crusts, we are
rather inclined to think that this matter is deposited by the
Orinoco, and that the water has penetrated even into the
clefts o f the rocks. A d o p t i n g this hypothesis, it may be
asked whether the river holds the oxides suspended like
sand and other earthy substances, or whether they are
found in a state o f chemical solution. T h e first supposition
is less admissible, on account o f the homogeneity o f the
crusts, which contain neither grains o f sand, nor spangles
o f mica, mixed with the oxides. W e must then recur t o
the idea of a chemical solution; and this idea is no way at
variance with the phenomena daily observable in our labo-
ratories. T h e waters o f great rivers contain carbonic a c i d ;
and, were they even entirely pure, they would still b e
capable, in very great volumes, o f dissolving some portions
of oxide, or those metallic hydrates which are regarded as
the least soluble. T h e m u d o f the Nile, which is the
sediment o f the matters which the river holds suspended,
is destitute o f m a n g a n e s e ; but it contains, according to the
analysis o f M . Regnault, six parts in a hundred o f oxide
o f i r o n ; and its colour, at first black, changes to yellowish
brown b y desiccation and the contact o f air. T h e m u d
consequently is not the cause o f the black crusts on the
rocks o f Syene. Berzelius, w h o , at m y request, examined
these crusts, recognized in them, as in those of the gra-
nites o f the Orinoco and River C o n g o , the union o f iron and
manganese. That celebrated chemist was o f opinion that
the rivers d o n o t take u p these oxides from the soil over
which they flow, but that they derive them from their sub-
terranean sources, and deposit them o n the rocks in the
manner o f cementation, b y the action o f particular affini-
perhaps by that of the potash o f the feldspar. A long
residence at the cataracts o f the Orinoco, the Nile, and the

Rio C o n g o , and an examination o f the circumstances atten-
dant on this phenomenon o f coloration, could alone lead to
the complete solution o f the problem w e have discussed.
Is this phenomenon independent o f the nature o f the rocks ?
I shall content myself with observing, in general, that
neither the granitic masses remote from the ancient bed o f
the Orinoco, b u t exposed during the rainy season t o t h e
alternations o f heat and moisture, n o r the granitic rocks
bathed by the brownish waters o f the Rio N e g r o , assume
the appearance o f meteoric stones. T h e Indians say, " that
the rocks are black only where the waters are white." They
ought, perhaps, t o add, " where the waters acquire great swift-
ness, and strike with force against the rocks o f the b a n k s . "
Cementation seems to explain why the crusts augment so
little in thickness.
I know n o t whether it b e an error, b u t in the Missions
o f the Orinoco, the neighbourhood o f bare rocks, and espe-
cially o f the masses that have crusts o f carbon, oxide o f
iron, and manganese, are considered injurious to health.
I n the torrid zone, still more than in others, the people
multiply pathogenic causes at will. They are afraid t o
sleep in the open air, if forced to expose the face t o the
rays o f the full m o o n . T h e y also think it dangerous t o
sleep on granite near the river; and many examples are
cited o f persons, w h o , after having passed the night on
these black and naked rocks, have awakened in the morning
with a strong paroxysm o f fever. W i t h o u t entirely lending
faith t o the assertions o f the missionaries and natives, w e
generally avoided the laxas negras, and stretched ourselves
on the beach covered with white sand, when we found no
tree from which to suspend our hammocks. At Carichana,
the village is intended to be destroyed, and its place changed,
merely t o remove it from the ' b l a c k rocks,' or from a site
where, for a space o f more than ten thousand square toises,
banks o f bare granite form the surface. F r o m similar
motives, which must appear very chimerical t o the natu-
ralists of Europe, the Jesuits Olmo, Forneri, and Mellis,
removed a village o f Jaruros to three different spots, be-
tween the Raudal of Tabaje and the Rio Anaveni. I merely
state these facts as they were related to me, because we are
almost wholly ignorant o f the nature o f the gaseous mixtures

which cause the insalubrity o f t h e atmosphere. Can it b e
admitted that, under the influence o f excessive heat and o f
constant humidity, the black crusts o f the granitic rocks are
capable o f acting u p o n the ambient air, and producing
miasmata with a triple basis o f carbon, azote, and h y d r o g e n ?
This I doubt. The granites o f the Orinoco, it is true, often
contain h o r n b l e n d e ; and those w h o are accustomed t o
practical labour in mines are n o t ignorant that the most
noxious exhalations rise from galleries wrought in syenitic
and hornblende r o c k s : b u t in an atmosphere renewed every
instant b y the action o f little currents o f air, the effect can-
not b e the same as in a mine.
It is probably dangerous t o sleep o n the laxas negras,
only because these rocks retain a very elevated temperature
during the night. I have found their temperature in t h e
day at 48°, the air in the shade being at 2 9 - 7 ° ; during the
night the thermometer o n the rock indicated 36°, the air
being at 26°. W h e n the accumulation o f heat in the stony
masses has reached a stationary degree, these masses b e -
c o m e at t h e same hours nearly o f the same temperature.
W h a t they have acquired more in the day they lose at night
by radiation, the force o f which depends o n the state o f the
surface o f the radiating body, the interior arrangement of
its particles, and, above all, o n the clearness o f the sky, that
is, o n the transparency o f the atmosphere and the absence
o f clouds. W h e n the declination o f the sun varies very
little, this luminary adds daily nearly the same quantities
o f heat, and the rocks are not hotter at the e n d than in
the middle o f summer. There is a certain maximum which
they cannot pass, because they d o n o t change t h e state o f
their surface, their density, o r their capacity for caloric.
O n the shores o f the Orinoco, o n getting out o f one's ham-
mock during the night, and touching with the bare feet the
rocky surface o f th e ground, th e sensation o f heat expe-
rienced is very remarkable. I observed pretty constantly,
in putting the bulb o f the thermometer i n contact with the
ledges o f bare rocks, that the laxas negras are hotter during
the day than the reddish-white granites at a distance from
the river; b u t the latter cool during the night less rapidly
than t h e former. I t m a y be easily conceived that the
emission and loss o f caloric is more rapid in masses with

black crusts than in those which abound in lamina? o f silvery
mica. W h e n walking between the hours o f on e and three
in the afternoon, at Carichana, A t u r e s , or M a y p u r e s , a m o n g
those blocks of stone destitute o f vegetable mould, and piled
up to great heights, one feels a sensation o f suffocation, as
if standing before the opening of a furnace. T h e winds, if
ever felt in those w o o d y regions, far from bringing coolness,
appear more heated when they have passed over beds o f
stone, and heaps of rounded blocks of granite. This aug-
mentation of heat adds to the insalubrity of the climate.
A m o n g the causes of the depopulation o f the Raudales,
I have no t reckoned the small-pox, that malady which in
other parts of America makes such cruel ravages that the
natives, seized with dismay, burn their huts, kill their
children, and renounce every kind of society. This scourge
is almost unknown on the banks of the Orinoco, and should
it penetrate thither, it is to be hoped that its effects may
b e immediately counteracted by vaccination, the blessings
o f which are daily felt along the coasts o f Terra Firma.
T h e causes which depopulate the Christian settlements
are, the repugnance o f the Indians for the regulations
of the missions, insalubrity of climate, bad nourishment,
want o f care in the diseases of children, and the guilty
practice of preventing pregnancy by the use of deleterious
herbs. A m o n g the barbarous people; of Guiana, as well as
those o f the half-civilized islands o f the South Sea, y o u n g
wives are fearful of becoming mothers. If they have chil-
dren, their offspring are exposed not only to the dangers
of savage life, but also to other dangers arising from the
strangest popular prejudices. W h e n twins are born, false
notions o f propriety and family honour require that one o f
them should b e destroyed. " T o bring twins into the
w o r l d , " say the Indians, " is to be exposed to public s c o r n ;
it is to resemble rats, opossums, and the vilest animals,
which bring forth a great, number of y o u n g at a t i m e . "
Nay, more, they affirm that " t w o children born at the same
time cannot belong t o the same father." This is an axiom
o f physiology among the Salives; and in every zone, and in
different states of society, when the vulgar seize upon an
axiom, they adhere to it with more stedfastness than the
better-informed men by whom it was first hazarded. To

2 4 9
avoid the disturbance o f conjugal tranquillity, the old female
relations of the mother take care, that when twins are born
one of them shall disappear. I f a new-born infant, though
n o t a twin, have any physical deformity, the father instantly
puts it to death. T h e y will have none but robust and well-
made children, for deformities indicate some influence o f
the evil spirit Ioloquiamo, or the bird Tikitiki, the enemy
o f the human race. Sometimes children o f a feeble c o n -
stitution undergo the same fate. W h e n the father is asked
what is become of one of his sons, be will pretend that he
has lost him by a natural death. H e will disavow an action
that appears to him blameable, but not criminal. " T h e
poor b o y , " he will tell y o u , "could not follow u s ; we must
have waited for him every m o m e n t ; he has not been seen
a g a i n ; he did not come to sleep where we passed the n i g h t . "
Such is the candour and simplicity o f manners—such the
boasted happiness—of man in the state of nature! H e kills
his son to escape the ridicule o f having twins, or t o avoid
j o u r n e y i n g more s l o w l y ; in fact, to avoid a little incon-
These acts of cruelty, I confess, are less frequent than
they are believed to b e ; yet they occur even in the Missions,
during the time when the Indians leave the village, to retire
to the conucos o f the neighbouring forests. I t would be
erroneous to attribute these actions to the state of polygamy
in which the uncatechized Indians live. Polygamy no doubt
diminishes the domestic happiness and internal union o f
families; but this practice, sanctioned by Ismaelism, does
not prevent the people of the east from loving their children
with tenderness. A m o n g the Indians o f the Orinoco, the
father returns home only to eat, or to sleep in his h a m m o c k ;
he lavishes no caresses on his infants, or o n his wives, whose
office it is to serve him. Parental affection begins to display
itself only when the son has b e c o m e strong enough to take
a part in hunting, fishing, and the agricultural labours of the
W h i l e our boat was unloading, we examined closely,
wherever the shore could be approached, the terrific spec-
tacle of a great river narrowed and reduced as it were t o
foam. I shall endeavour to paint, not the sensations we felt,
b u t the aspect of a spot so celebrated among the scenes of

2 5 0
the N e w W o r l d . T h e more imposing and majestic the objects
we describe, the more essential it becomes to seize them in
their smallest details, to fix the outline o f the picture w e
would present to the imagination o f the reader, and to
describe with simplicity what characterises the great and
imperishable monuments of nature.
T h e navigation of the Orinoco from its mouth as far a s
the confluence o f the Anaveni, an extent o f 2 6 0 leagues, i s
not impeded. There are shoals and eddies near M u i t a c o ,
in a cove that bears the name o f the M o u t h of Hell ( B o c a
del Infierno); and there are rapids (raudalitos) near Cari-
chana and San Borja; but in all these places the river is
never entirely barred, as a channel is left by which boats
can pass up and down.
I n all this navigation o f the L o w e r Orinoco travellers
experience no other danger than that of the natural rafts
formed by trees, which are uprooted by the river, and swept
along in its great floods. W o e t o the canoes that during
the night strike against these rafts o f wood interwoven with
lianas! Covered with aquatic plants, they resemble here,
as in the Mississippi, floating meadows, the chinampas o r
floating gardens of the Mexican lakes. The Indians, when
they wish to surprise a tribe o f their enemies, bring
together several canoes, fasten them to each other with
cords, and cover them with grass and branches, to imitate
this assemblage of trunks of trees, which the O r i n o c o
sweeps along in its middle current. T h e Caribs are a c -
cused of having heretofore excelled in the use o f this
artifice; at present the Spanish smugglers in the neigh-
bourhood of Angostura have recourse to the same expedient
to escape the vigilance of the custom-house officers.
After proceeding up the O r i n o c o beyond the; Rio A n a -
veni, we find, between the mountains of Uniana and Sipapu,
the Great Cataracts o f Mapara and Quittuna, or, as they
are more c o m m o n l y called by the missionaries, the Raudales
o f A t u r e S and M a y p u r e s . These bars, which extend from
o n e bank to the other, present in general a similar a s p e c t :
they are composed of innumerable islands, dikes o f rock,
and blocks of granite- piled on one another and covered with
palm-trees. But, notwithstanding a uniformity of aspect,
each o f these cataracts preserves an individual character.

T h e first, the A t u r e s , is most easily passable when the
waters are low. T h e Indians prefer crossing the second,
the M a y p u r e s , at the time of great floods. B e y o n d the
Maypures and the mouth o f the Caño Cameji, the Orinoco
is again unobstructed for the length of more than one
hundred and sixty-seven leagues, or nearly to its s o u r c e ;
that is to say. as far as the Raudalito o f Guaharibos, east o f
the Caño Chiguire and the lofty mountains o f Yumariquin.
Having visited the basins of the two rivers Orinoco and
A m a z o n , I was singularly struck by the differences they
display in their course of unequal extent. T h e falls o f the
A m a z o n , which is nearly nine hundred and eighty nautical
leagues (twenty to a degree) in length, are pretty near its
source in the first sixth o f its total length, and five-sixths
o f its course are entirely free. W e find the great falls o f
the Orinoco on a point far more unfavourable to navigation;
if not at the half, at least much b e y o n d the first third o f its
length. In both rivers it is neither the mountains, nor the
different stages of flat lands lying over one another, whence
they take their origin, that cause the cataracts; they are
produced by other mountains, other ledges which, after a
long and tranquil course, the rivers have to pass over,
precipitating themselves from step to step.
T h e A m a z o n does not pierce its way through the prin-
cipal chain of the Andes, as was affirmed at a period when
it was gratuitously supposed that, wherever mountains are
divided into parallel chains, the intermedial or central ridge
must be more elevated than the others. This great river
rises (and this is a point o f some importance to g e o l o g y )
eastward of the western chain, which alone in this latitude
merits the denomination o f the high chain o f the A n d e s .
It is formed by the junction o f the river Aguamiros with
the Rio Chavinillo, which issues from the lake Llauricocha
in a longitudinal valley bounded by the western and the
intermedial chain of the A n d e s . T o form an accurate idea
o f these; hydrographical relations, it must be borne in mind
that a division into three chains takes place in the colossal
group or knot o f the mountains o f Pasco and Huanuco.
T h e western chain, which is the loftiest, and takes the name
o f the Cordillera Real de Nieve, directs its course (between
Huary and Caxatamba, Guamachuco and L u e m a , M i c u i -

p a m p a and G u a n g a m a r c a ) b y t h e N e v a d o s of V i u d a , P e l a -
gatos, M o y o p a t a , and Huaylillas, and by the Paramos of

G u a m a n i and G u a r i n g a , t o w a r d s t h e t o w n o f L o x a . T h e
intermedial chain separates the waters of the Upper M a r a -

ñon from t h o s e o f t h e G u a l l a g a , a n d over a l o n g s p a c e
reaches o n l y t h e s m a l l elevation o f a t h o u s a n d t o i s e s ; it
e n t e r s the region of perpetual s n o w to t h e s o u t h o f

Huanuco in the Cordillera of Sasaguanca. It stretches at
first northward by Huacrachuco, C h a c h a p o y a s , M o y o b a m b a ,
and the Paramo of P i s c o g u a n n u n a ; then it progressively

lowers toward Peca, C o p a l l i n , and the M i s s i o n of S a n t i a g o ,
at the eastern e x t r e m i t y of the province of Jaen de Braca-
moros. T h e third, or e a s t e r n m o s t chain, skirts t h e r i g h t
b a n k o f the Rio G u a l l a g a , and loses itself in t h e s e v e n t h

degree; of latitude. S o long as the A m a z o n f l o w s from
s o u t h t o n o r t h in t h e longitudinal valley, b e t w e e n t w o
chains of unequal height (that is, from the farms o f Q u i
villa and G u a n c a y b a m b a , where the river is crossed o n
w o o d e n bridges, as far as t h e confluence of t h e Rio C h i n -
c h i p e ) , there are neither bars, n o r a n y obstacle w h a t e v e r t o
t h e navigation of boats. T h e falls o f w a t e r b e g i n only

w h e r e the A m a z o n turns t o w a r d the east, crossing t h e
intermedial chain of the A n d e s , which w i d e n s considerably
toward the north. If m e e t s with the first rocks o f red

s a n d s t o n e , or ancient c o n g l o m e r a t e , b e t w e e n T a m b i l l o and
t h e P o n g o of R e n t e m a near which I m e a s u r e d t h e breadth,
d e p t h , a n d swiftness of the w a t e r s ) , a n d it leaves t h e rocks
o f red s a n d s t o n e east of the famous strait of M a n s e r i c h e ,

near the P o n g o of T a y u c h u c , where the hills rise no higher
than forty or fifty toises a b o v e t h e level o f its w a t e r s . The
river does not reach t h e m o s t easterly chain, which b o u n d s

t h e Pampas del S a c r a m e n t o . From the hills of T a y u c h u c
as far as G r a n d Para, d u r i n g a course of m o r e than seven
h u n d r e d and fifty leagues, t h e navigation is free from
o b s t a c l e s . It results from this rapid s k e t c h , t h a t , if the

Mat-anon had not to pass over the hilly c o u n t r y b e t w e e n
S a n t i a g o and T o m e p e n d a which belongs to the central
chain of the A n d e s ) it would be navigable from its m o u t h
as far as P u m p o , near Piscobamba in the province of C o n -
c h u c o s , forty-three leagues north of its source.

W e have j u s t seen t h a t , in the O r i n o c o , as in the A m a z o n ,

the great cataracts are n o t found near the sources o f t h e
rivers. A f t e r a tranquil course o f more than o n e hundred
and sixty leagues from the little Raudal o f Guaharibos, east
o f Esmeralda, as far as the mountains o f Sipapu, the river,
augmented b y the waters o f t h e J a o , t h e Ventuari, t h e
Atabapo, and the Guaviare, suddenly changes its primitive
direction from east t o west, and runs from south t o n o r t h :
then, in crossing the land-strait* in the plains o f M e t a ,
meets the advanced buttresses o f the Cordillera o f Parima.
This obstacle causes cataracts far more considerable, and
presents greater impediments t o navigation, than all the
Pongos o f the U p p e r Marañon, because they are propor-
tionally nearer t o the mouth o f the river. These geogra-
phical details serve t o prove, in the instances o f t h e t w o
greatest rivers o f the N e w World, 1st, that it cannot b e
ascertained in an absolute manner that, beyond a certain
number o f toises, o r a certain height above the level o f the
sea, rivers are not navigable; 2ndly, that the rapids are n o t
always occasioned, as several treatises o f general topography
affirm, by the height of the first obstacles, b y the first lines
o f ridges which the waters have t o surmount near their
T h e most northern o f the great cataracts o f t h e Orinoco
is the only one bounded on each side b y lofty mountains.
T h e left bank o f the river is generally lower, but it makes
part o f a plane which rises again west o f Atures, towards the
Peak o f Uniana, a pyramid nearly three thousand feet high,
and placed o n a wall o f rock with steep slopes. T h e situa-
tion o f this solitary peak in the plain contributes t o render
its aspect more imposing and majestic. N e a r the Mission,
in the country which surrounds the cataract, the aspect of
the landscape varies at every step. W i t h i n a small space
we find all that is most rude and gloomy in nature, united
with an open country and lovely pastoral scenery. In the
physical, as in the moral world, the contrast o f effects, the
comparison o f what is powerful and menacing with what is
soft and peaceful, is a never-failing source o f o u r pleasures
and our emotions.
I shall here repeat some scattered features o f a picture
* This strait, which I have several times mentioned, is formed by the
Cordilleras of the Andes of New Granada, and the Cordillera of Parima.

which I traced in another work shortly after m y return to
E u r o p e . * T h e savannahs o f A t u r e s , covered with slender
plants and grasses, are really meadows resembling those o f
E u r o p e . They are never inundated b y the rivers, and seem
as if waiting t o b e ploughed b y the hand o f man. N o t w i t h -
standing their extent, these savannahs d o n o t exhibit the
m o n o t o n y o f o u r p l a i n s ; they surround groups o f rocks and
blocks o f granite piled o n o n e another. O n the very b o r -
ders o f these plains and this open country, glens are seen
scarcely lighted b y the rays o f t h e setting sun, and hollows
where t h e humid soil, loaded with arums, heliconias, and
lianas, manifests at every step the wild fecundity o f nature.
Everywhere, just rising above the earth, appear those
shelves o f granite completely bare, which w e saw at Cari-
chana, and which I have already described. W h e r e springs
gush from the bosom o f these rocks, verrucarias, psoras, and
lichens are fixed on the decomposed granite, and have there
accumulated mould. Little euphorbias, peperomias, a n d
other succulent plants, have taken the place o f the c r y p t o -
gamous t r i b e s ; and evergreen shrubs, rhexias, and purple-
flowered melastomas, form verdant isles amid desert and
rocky plains. T h e distribution o f these spots, the clusters
o f small trees with coriaceous and shining leaves scattered
in the savannahs, the limpid rills that dig channels across
the rocks, and wind alternately through fertile places and
over bare shelves o f granite, all call t o mind the most lovely
and picturesque plantations and pleasure-grounds o f Europe.
W e seem t o recognise the industry o f man, and the traces
o f cultivation, amid this wild scenery.
T h e lofty mountains that bound the horizon o n every
side, contribute also, by their forms and the nature o f their
vegetation, t o give an extraordinary character to the land-
scape. T h e average height o f these mountains is n o t more
than seven o r eight hundred feet above the surrounding
plains. Their summits are rounded, as for the most part in
granitic mountains, and covered with thick forests o f t h e
laurel-tribe. Clusters o f palm-trees,† the leaves o f which,
curled like feathers, rise majestically at an angle o f seventy
degrees, are dispersed amid trees with horizontal b r a n c h e s ;
• Views of Nature, p. 153 (Bohn's edition).
† El cucurito.

and their bare trunks, like columns o f a hundred or a
hundred and twenty feet high, shoot up into the air, and
when seen in distinct relief against the azure vault of the
sky, they resemble a forest planted upon another forest.
W h e n , as the m o o n was going down behind the mountains
o f Uniana, her reddish disc was hidden behind the pinnated
foliage of the palm-trees, and again appeared in the aerial
zone that separates the t w o forests, I thought myself trans-
ported for a few m o m e n t s to the hermitage which Bernardin
de Saint-Pierre has described as one o f the most delicious
scenes o f the Isle o f B o u r b o n , and I felt how much the
aspect o f the plants and their groupings resembled each
other in the t w o worlds. I n describing a small spot o f land
in an island o f the Indian Ocean, the inimitable author o f
Paul and Virginia has sketched the vast picture o f the land-
scape of the tropics. H e k n e w h o w t o paint nature, not
because ho had studied it scientifically, b u t because he felt
it in all its harmonious analogies o f forms, colours, and
interior powers.
East o f the A t u r e s , near these rounded mountains c r o w n e d ,
as it were, b y t w o superimposed forests o f laurels and
palms, other mountains o f a very different aspect arise.
Their ridge is bristled with pointed rocks, towering like
pillars above the summits o f the trees and shrubs. These
effects are c o m m o n t o all granitic table-lands, at the Harz,
in the metalliferous mountains of Bohemia, in Galicia, o n
the limit o f the t w o Castiles, or wherever a granite o f n e w
formation appears above the ground. The rocks, which are
at distances from each other, are c o m p o s e d o f blocks piled
together, or divided into regular and horizontal beds. O n
the summits o f those situated near the O r i n o c o , flamingos,
soldados * and other fishing-birds perch, and look like m e n
posted as sentinels. This resemblance is so striking, that
the inhabitants o f A n g o s t u r a , soon after the foundation o f
their city, were one day alarmed b y the sudden appearance
o f soldados and garzas, o n a mountain towards the south.
T h e y believed they were menaced with an attack o f Indios
monteros (wild Indians called mountaineers) ; and the people
were n o t perfectly tranquillized, till they saw the birds soar-
* The soldado (soldier) is a large species of heron.

ing in the air, and continuing their migration towards the
mouths o f the Orinoco.
T h e fine vegetation o f the mountains spreads over the
plains, wherever the rock is covered with mould. W e
generally find that this black mould, mixed with fibrous
vegetable matter, is separated from the granitic rock by a
layer o f white sand. T h e missionary assured us that verdure
of perpetual freshness prevails in the vicinity of the cataracts,
produced by the quantity of vapour which the river, broken
into torrents and cascades for the length of three or four
thousand toises, diffuses in the air.
W e had not heard thunder more than once or twice at
Atures, and the vegetation every where displayed that vigorous
aspect, that, brilliancy of colour, seen on the coast only at
the end of the rainy season. T h e old trees were decorated
with beautiful orchideas,* yellow bannisterias, blue-flowered
bignonias, peperomias, arums, and pothoses. A single trunk
displays a greater variety of vegetable forms than are c o n -
tained within an extensive space of ground in our countries.
Close to the parasite plants peculiar to very hot climates we
observed, not without surprise, in the centre of the torrid
zone, and near the level of the sea, mosses resembling in
every respect those of Europe. W e gathered, near the Great
Cataract of Atures, that line specimen of Grimmia † with
fontinalis leaves, which has so much fixed the attention of
botanists. It is suspended t o the branches of the loftiest
trees. O f the p h a n e r o g a m o u s plants, those which prevail
in the w o o d y spots are the mimosa, ficus, and laurinea.
This fact is the more characteristic as, according t o the
observations of Mr. B r o w , the laurineæ appear to be almost
entirely wanting on the opposite continent, in the equinoctial
part of Africa. Plants that love humidity adorn the scenery
surrounding the cataracts. W e there find in the plains groups
of heliconias and other scitamineæ with large and glossy
leaves, bamboos, and the three palm-trees, the murichi,
* Cymbidium violaceum, Habenaria angustifolia, &c.
† Grimmia fontinaloïdes. Sec Hooker's Musci Exotici, 1818, tab. ii.
The learned author of the Monography of the Jungermanniæ (Mr. Jackson
Hooker), with noble disinterestedness, published at his own expense, in
London, the whole collection of cryptogamous plants, brought by Bonpland
and Humboldt from the equinoctiai regions of America.

jagua, and vadgiai, each o f which forms a separate group.
T h e murichi, or mauritia with scaly fruits, is the celebrated
sago-tree o f the Guaraon Indians. I t has palmate leaves,
and has no relation to the palm-trees with pinnate and
curled leaves ; to the jagua, which appears to be a species o f
the cocoa-tree ; or to the vadgiai or cucurito, which may b e
assimilated to the fine species Oreodoxa. The cucurito,
which is the palm most prevalent around the cataracts o f
the Atures and Maypures, is remarkable for its stateliness.
I t s leaves, or rather its palms, crown a trunk of eighty or
one hundred feet high ; their direction is almost perpen-
dicular when young, as well as at their full growth, the
points only being incurvated. They look like plumes o f the
most soft and verdant green. The cucurito, the pirijao, the
fruit o f which resembles the apricot, the Oreodoxa regia or
palma real of the island o f Cuba, and the ceroxylon of the
high Andes, are the most majestic of all the palm-trees w e
saw in the N e w W o r l d . A s we advance toward the t e m -
perate zone, the plants of this family decrease in size and
beauty. W h a t a difference between the species we have just
mentioned, and the date-tree of the East, which unfor-
tunately has become to the landscape painters of Europe the
type of a group of palm-trees !
I t is not suprising that persons who have travelled only
in the north of Africa, in Sicily, or in Spain, cannot conceive
that, of all large trees, the palm is the most grand and beau-
tiful in form. Incomplete analogies prevent Europeans from
having a just idea of the aspect of the torrid zone. A l l the
world knows, for instance, that this zone is embellished by
the contrasts exhibited in the foliage o f the trees, and
particularly by the great number of those with pinnate
leaves. T h e ash, the service-tree, the inga, the acacia of the
United States, the gleditsia, the tamarind, the mimosa, the
desmanthus, have all pinnate leaves, with foliolæ more or
less long, slender, tough, and shining. B u t can a group o f
ash-trees, o f service-trees, or of sumach, recall the picturesque
effect of tamarinds or mimosas, when the azure o f the sky
appears through their small, slender, and delicately pinnated
leaves? These considerations are more important than they
may at first seem. T h e forms o f plants determine the p h y -
siognomy of nature ; and this physiognomy influences the

moral dispositions o f nations. Every type comprehends
species, which, while exhibiting the same general appear-
ance, differ in the varied development of the similar organs.
T h e palm-trees, the scitamineæ, the malvaceæ, the trees with
pinnate leaves, do n o t all display the same picturesque
b e a u t i e s ; and generally the most beautiful species of each
t y p e , in plants as in animals, belong to the equinoctial zone.
T h e proteaceaæ, crotons, agaves, and the great tribe of
the cactuses, which inhabit exclusively the N e w W o r l d , dis-
appear gradually, as w e ascend the Orinoco above the
A pure and the M e t a . I t is, however, the shade and humi-
dity, rather than the distance from the coast, which oppose
the migration o f the cactuses southward. W e found forests
o f them mingled with crotons, covering a great space o f arid
land to the east o f the A n d e s , in the province of Bracamoros,
towards the U p p e r Maranon. T h e arborescent ferns seem
to fail entirely near the cataracts of the O r i n o c o ; we found
no species as far as San Fernando de Atabapo, that is, t o
the confluence of the Orinoco and the Guaviare.
Having now examined the vicinity of the Atures, it re-
mains for me to speak o f the rapids themselves, which occur
in a part o f the valley where the bed of the river, deeply
ingulfed, has almost inaccessible banks. I t was only in a
very few spots that we could enter the Orinoco to bathe,
between the two cataracts, in coves where the waters have
eddies o f little velocity. Persons who have dwelt in the
A l p s , the Pyrenees, or even the Cordilleras, so celebrated
for the fractures and the vestiges o f destruction which
they display at every step, can scarcely picture to them-
selves, from a mere narration, the state of the bed of the
river. I t is traversed, in an extent of more than live miles,
by innumerable dikes of rock, forming so many natural
dams, so many barriers resembling those of the Dnieper,
winch the ancients designated by the name o f phragmoi..
The space bet ween the rocky dikes of the Orinoco is filled
with islands of different dimensions; some billy, divided into
several peaks, and two or three hundred toises in length,
others small, low, and like mere shoals. These islands
divide the river into a number of torrents, which boil up as
* Ropalas, which characterise the vegetation of the Llanos.

they break against the rocks. T h e jaguas and cucuritos
with plumy leaves, with which all the islands are covered,
в е е т like groves o f palm-trees rising from the foamy surface
o f the waters. T h e Indians, whose task it is to pass the boats
empty over the raudales, distinguish every shelf, and every
rock, by a particular name. O n entering from the south y o u
find first the L e a p of the Toucan (Salto del P i a p o c o ) ; and
between the islands o f Avaguri and Javariveni is the Raudal
of Javariveni, where, on our return from Rio N e g r o , w e
passed some hours amid the rapids, waiting for our boat. A
great part of the river appeared dry. Blocks of granite are
neaped together, as in the moraines which the glaciers o f
Switzerland drive before them. T h e river is ingulfed in
c a v e r n s ; and in one of these caverns we heard the water roll
at once over our heads and beneath our feet. The Orinoco
seems divided into a multitude of arms or torrents, each o f
which seeks to force a passage through the rocks. W e
were struck with the little water t o be seen in the bed o f
the river, the frequency o f subterraneous falls, and the
tumult of the waters breaking on the rocks in foam.
Cuncta fremunt undis ; ac multo murmure montis
Spumeus invictis canescit fluctibus amnis.*
H a v i n g passed the Raudal of Javariveni ( I name here
only the principal falls) we come to the liaudal of Canucari,
formed by a ledge o f rocks uniting the islands of Surupa-
mana and Uirapuri. W h e n the dikes, or natural dams, are
only t w o or three feet high, the Indians venture t o descend
them in boats. In going up the river, they swim on before,
and if, after many vain efforts, they succeed in fixing a rope
t o one o f the points of rock that crown the dike, they then,
by means o f that rope, draw the bark t o the top o f the
raudal. T h e bark, during this arduous task, often fills with
w a t e r ; at other times it is stove against the rocks, and the
Indians, their bodies bruised and bleeding, extricate them­
selves with difficulty from the whirlpools, and reach, b y
swimming, the nearest island. W h e n the steps or rocky
barriers are very high, and entirely bar the river, light boats
are carried on shore, and with the help of branches o f trees
* Lucan, Pharsalia, lib. x, v. 132.
s 2

placed under them to serve as rollers, they are drawn as far
as the place where the river again becomes navigable. This
operation is seldom necessary when the water is high. We
cannot speak of the cataracts o f the Orinoco without recal-
ling to mind the manner heretofore employed for descending
the cataracts of the Nile, o f which Seneca has left us a
description probably more poetical than accurate. I shall
cite the passage, which traces with fidelity what may be seen
every day at Atures, Maypures, and in some pongos o f the
Amazon. " T w o men embark in a small b o a t ; one steers,
and the other empties it as it fills with water. Long buffeted
by the rapids, the whirlpools, and the contrary currents,
they pass through the narrowest channels, avoid the shoals,
and rush down the whole river, guiding the course of tho
boat in its accelerated fall." *
I n hydrographic descriptions of countries, the vague
names of cataracts, cascades, falls, and rapids. † denoting
those tumultuous movements o f water which arise from
very different circumstances, are generally confounded with
one another. Sometimes a whole river precipitating
itself from a great height, and by one single fall, renders
navigation impossible. Such is the majestic fall o f the
Rio Tequendama, which I have represented in m y " V i e w s
o f the Cordilleras;' such are the falls o f Niagara and
of the Rhine, much less remarkable for their elevation,
than for the mass of water they contain. Sometimes stony
dikes of small height succeed each other at great distances,
and form distinct falls; such are the cachoeiras of the Rio
N e g r o and the Rio Madeira, the saltos of the Rio Cauca,
and the greater part of the pongos that are found in the
Upper Marañon, from the confluence of the Chinchipe to
the village of San Borja. The highest and most formidable
o f these pongos, which are descended o n rafts, that o f
Mayasi, is however only three feet in height. Sometimes
small rocky dikes are so near each other that they form
for several miles an uninterrupted succession of cascades
and whirlpools (chorros and remolinos) ; these are properly
* Nat. Quæst., lib. iv, cap. 2. (edit. Elzev., tom. ii, p. 609.)
† The corresponding terms in use among the people of South America,
re saltos, chorros, pongos , cachoeiras, and raudales.

what are called rapids (raudales). Such are yellalas, or
rapids o f the River Zaire,* or C o n g o , which Captain Tuckey
has recently made known t o u s ; the rapids of the Orange
River in Africa, above Pella; and the falls of the Missouri,
which are four leagues in length, where the river issues
from the R o c k y Mountains. Such also are the cataracts o f
Atures and M a y p u r e s ; the only cataracts which, situated
in the equinoctial region o f the N e w W o r l d , are adorned
with the noble growth o f palm-trees. A t all seasons they
exhibit the aspect o f cascades, and present the greatest
obstacles to the navigation of the Orinoco, while the rapids
of the Ohio and o f Upper E g y p t arc scarcely visible at the
period o f floods. A solitary cataract, like Niagara, or the
cascade of Terni, affords a grand but single picture, varying
only as the observer changes his place. Rapids, o n the
contrary, especially when adorned with large trees, embel-
lish a landscape during a length o f several leagues. Some-
times the tumultuous movement of the waters is caused
only b y extraordinary contractions o f the beds o f the rivers.
Such is the angostura o f Carare, in the river Magdalena,
a strait that impedes communication between Santa Fé de
B o g o t a and the coast of Carthagena; and such is the ponge
o f Manseriche, in the U p p e r Maranon.
T h e Orinoco, the Rio N e g r o , and almost all the c o n -
fluents of the A m a z o n and the Maranon, have falls or rapids,
either because they cross the mountains where they take
rise, or because they meet other mountains in their course.
I f the A m a z o n , from the pongo o f Manseriche (or, to speak
with more precision, from the pongo o f T a y u c h u c ) as far as
its mouth, a space of more than seven hundred and fifty
leagues, exhibit no tumultuous movement of the waters, the
river owes this advantage t o the uniform direction o f its
course. I t flows from west to east in a vast plain, forming
* Voyage to explore the River Zaire, 1818, pp. 152, 327, 340. W h a t
the inhabitants of Upper Egypt and Nubia call chellal in the Nile, is called
yellala in the River Congo. This analogy between words signifying
rapids is remarkable, on account of the enormous distance of the yellalas
of the Congo from the chellâl and djenadel of the Nile. Did the word
chellal penetrate with the Moors into the west of Africa? If, with
Burckhardt, we consider the origin of this word as Arabic (Travels in
Nubia, 1819), it must be derived from the root challa, 'to disperse,' which
forms chelil, ' water fulling through a narrow channel.'

a longitudinal valley between the mountains o f Parima and
the great mass of the mountains of Brazil.
I was surprised to find by actual measurement that the
rapids o f the Orinoco, the roar o f which is heard at the
distance of more than a league, and winch are so eminently
picturesque from the varied appearance o f the waters, the
palm-trees and the rocks, have not probably, on their whole
length, a height o f more than twenty-eight feet perpen-
dicular. I n reflecting on this, we find that it is a great
deal for rapids, while it would be very little for a single
cataract. T h e Yellalas of the K i o C o n g o , in the contracted
part o f the river from Banza N o k i as far as Banza Inga,
furnish, between the upper and lower levels, a much more
considerable difference; but M r . Barrow observes, that
among the great number of these rapids there is one fall,
which alone is thirty feet high. O n the other hand, the
famous pongos of the river Amazon, so dangerous to go up,
the falls of Rentema, o f Escurrebragas, and of Mayasi, are
but a few feet in perpendicular height. Those who are
engaged in hydraulic works know the effect that a bar o f
eighteen or twenty inches' height produces in a great river.
The whirling and tumultuous movement o f the water does
not depend solely on the greatness o f partial falls; what
determines the force and impetuosity is the nearness of
these falls, the steepness of the rocky ledges, the returning
sheets of water which strike against and surmount each
other, the form o f the islands and shoals, the direction o f
the counter-currents, and the contraction and sinuosity o f
the channels through which the waters force a passage
between two adjacent levels. I n t w o rivers equally large,
that of which the falls have least height may sometimes
present the greatest dangers and the most impetuous move-
I t is probable that the river Orinoco loses part o f
its waters in the cataracts, not only by increased evapo-
ration, caused by the dispersion o f minute drops in the
atmosphere, hut still more by filtrations into the subter-
raneous cavities. These losses, however, are not very per-
ceptible when we compare the mass o f waters entering into
the raudal with that which issues out near the mouth of the
Rio Anaveni. It was by a similar comparison that the

existence of subterraneous cavities in the yellalas or rapids
o f the river C o n g o was discovered. The pongo of M a n s e -
riche, which ought rather to be called a strait than a fall,
ingulfs, in a manner not yet sufficiently explored, a part of
the waters and all the floating w o o d o f the U p p e r Maranon.
T h e spectator, seated on the bank o f the Orinoco, with
his eyes fixed o n those rocky dikes, is naturally led t o
inquire whether, in the lapse o f ages, the falls change their
form or height. I am n o t much inclined to believe in such
effects of the shock of water against blocks o f granite, and
in the erosion o f siliceous matter. T h e holes narrowed
toward the bottom, the funnels that are discovered in the
muddles, as well as near so many other cascades in E u r o p e ,
are owing only to the friction of the sand, and the move-
ment of quartz pebbles. W e saw many such, whirled per-
petually by the current at the b o t t o m o f the funnels, and
contributing to enlarge them in every direction. T h e
pongos o f the river A m a z o n are easily destroyed, because
the rocky dikes are not granite, but a conglomerate, or red
sandstone with large fragments. A part of the pongo of
R e n t e m a was broken down eighty years ago, and the course
o f the waters being interrupted by a n e w bar, the bed o f
the river remained dry for some hours, to the great astonish-
ment of the inhabitants of the village of Payaya, seven
leagues below the pongo. T h e Indians o f Atures assert
(and in this their testimony is contrary to the opinion o f
Caulin) that the rocks o f the raudal preserve the same
a s p e c t ; b u t that the partial torrents into which the great
river divides itself as it passes through the heaped blocks
o f granite, change their direction, and carry sometimes
more, sometimes less water towards one or the other bank ;
but the causes o f these changes may be very remote from
the cataracts, for in the rivers that spread life over the
surface o f the globe, as in the arteries by which it is
diffused through organized bodies, all the movements are
propagated to great distances. Oscillations, that at first
seem partial, react on the whole liquid mass contained in
the trunk as well as in its numerous ramifications.
Some of the Missionaries in their writings have alleged
that the inhabitants o f A t u r e s and M a y p u r e s have b e e n
struck with deafness by the noise o f the Great Cataracts;

but this is untrue. W h e n the noise is heard in the plain
that surrounds the mission, at the distance o f more than a
league, y o u seem t o b e near a coast skirted b y reefs a n d
breakers. T h e noise is three times as loud by night as b y
day, and gives an inexpressible charm t o these solitary
scenes. W h a t can be the cause o f this increased intensity
o f sound, in a desert where nothing seems t o interrupt
the silence o f n a t u r e ? T h e velocity o f the propagation o f
sound, far from augmenting, decreases with the lowering o f
the temperature. T h e intensity diminishes in air agitated
by a wind which is contrary t o the direction o f the s o u n d ;
it diminishes also by dilatation o f the air, and is weaker in
the higher than in the lower regions o f the atmosphere,
where the number o f particles o f air in motion is greater in
the saint; radius. The intensity is the same in dry air, and
in air mingled with vapours; but it is feebler in carbonic
acid gas than in mixtures o f azote and oxygen. F r o m these
facts, which are all we know with any certainty, it is
difficult to explain a phenomenon observed near every
cascade in Europe, and which, long before our arrival in
the village o f Atures, had struck the missionary and the
It may be thought that, even in places not inhabited by
man, the hum o f insects, the song o f birds, the rustling o f
leaves agitated by the feeblest winds, occasion during the
day a confused noise, which we perceive the less because it
is uniform, and constantly strikes the ear. Mow this noise,
however slightly perceptible it may be. may diminish the
intensity o f a louder noise ; and this diminution may cease
if during the calm o f the night the song o f birds, the hum
of insects, and the action o f the wind upon the leaves bo
interrupted. Hut this reasoning, even admitting its j u s t -
ness, can scarcely be applied to the forests o f the Orinoco,
where the air is constantly filled by an innumerable quantity
of mosquitos, where the hum o f insects is much louder by
night than by day, and where the breeze, if ever it be felt,
blows only after sunset.
I rather think that the presence o f the sun acts upon the
propagation and intensity o f sound by the obstacles met in
currents o f air o f different density, and by the partial un-
dulations o f the atmosphere arising from the unequal heating

of different parts o f the soil. In calm air, whether dry or
mingled with vesicular vapours equally distributed, sound-
waves are propagated without difficulty. B u t when the air
is crossed in every direction by small currents of hotter
air, the sonorous undulation is divided into t w o undulations
where the density o f the medium changes abruptly; partial
echoes are formed that weaken the sound, because one o f
the streams comes back upon itself; and those divisions o f
undulations take place of winch M . Poisson has developed
the theory with great sagacity.* I t is not therefore the
movement o f the particles of air from below to above in the
ascending current, or the small oblique currents that w e
consider as opposing b y a shock the propagation o f the
sonorous undulations. A shock given to the surface o f a .
liquid will form circles around the centre of percussion,
even when the liquid is agitated. Several kinds o f undu-
lations may cross each other in water, as in air, without
being disturbed in their propagation : little movements may,
as it were, ride over each other, and the real cause of the
less intensity of sound during the day appears to be the
interruption of homogeneity in the elastic medium. D u r i n g
the day there is a sudden interruption of density wherever
small streamlets of air of a high temperature rise over parts
o f the soil unequally heated. The sonorous undulations are
divided, as the rays of light are refracted and form the
mirage wherever strata o f air of unequal density are c o n -
tiguous. T h e propagation o f sound is altered when a
stratum of hydrogen gas is made to rise in a tube closed
at one end above a stratum o f atmospheric a i r ; and M .
Biot has well explained, by the interposition of bubbles o f
carbonic acid gas, why a glass filled with champagne is not
sonorous so long as that gas is evolved, and passing through
the st rata of t he liquid.
In support of these ideas, I might almost rest on the
authority of an ancient philosopher, w h o m the moderns d o
n o t esteem in proportion to his merits, though the most dis-
tinguished zoologists have long rendered ample justice to the
sagacity of his observations. " W h y , " says Aristotle in his
curious book o f Problems, " w h y is sound better heard
* Annales de Chimie, tom. vii, p. 293.

during the n i g h t ? Because there is more calmness o n
account o f the absence of caloric (of the hottest).* This
absence renders every thing calmer, for the sun is the prin-
ciple of all m o v e m e n t . " Aristotle had no doubt a vague
presentiment of the cause o f the phenomenon ; but he attri-
butes to the motion of the atmosphere, and the shock o f the
particles of air, that which seems to be rather o w i n g t o
abrupt changes of density in the contiguous strata o f air.
On the 16th o f April, towards evening, we received tidings
that in less than six hours our boat had passed the rapids,
and had arrived in good condition in a cove called el Puerto
de arriba,
or the Fort of the Expedition. W e were shown
in the little church o f A t u r e s some remains o f the ancient
wealth of the Jesuits. A silver lamp o f considerable weight
lay on the ground half-buried in the sand. Such an object,
it is true, would nowhere tempt the cupidity of a savage;
yet I may here remark, to the honor of the natives of the
Orinoco, that they are not addicted to stealing, like the less
savage tribes of the islands in the Pacific. The former have
a great respect for p r o p e r t y ; they do not even attempt t o
steal provision, hooks, or hatchets. A t Maypures and
Atures, locks on doors are unknown : they will be introduced
only when whites and men o f mixed race establish themselves
in the missions.
T h e Indians of Atures are mild and moderate, and accus-
tomed, from the effects of their idleness, to the greatest pri-
vations. Formerly, being excited to labour by the Jesuits,
they did not want for food. The fathers cultivated maize,
French beans (frijoles), and other European vegetables;
they even planted sweet oranges and tamarinds round tho
villages; and they possessed twenty or thirty thousand
head of cows and horses, in the savannahs of Atures and
* I have placed in a parenthesis, a literal version of the term employed
by Aristotle, to express in reality what we now term the matter of heat.
Theodore of Gaza, in bis Latin translation, expresses in the shape of
a doubt what Aristotle positively asserts. I may here remark, that,
notwithstanding the imperfect state of science among the ancients,
the works of the Stagirite contain more ingenious observations than those
of many later philosophers. It is in vain we look in Aristoxenes (De
Musica), in Theophylactus Simocatta (De Quæstionibus physicis), or in
the .5th Book of the Quæst. Nat. of Seneca, for un explanation of the
nocturnal augmentation of sound

Carichana. T h e y had at their sendee a great number of
slaves and servants ( p e o n e s ) , to tend their herds. N o t h i n g
is n o w cultivated but a little cassava, and a few plantains.
Such however is the fertility of the soil, that at Atures I
counted on a single branch o f a musa one hundred and eight
fruits, four or live of which would almost have sufficed for a
man's daily food. T h e culture of maize is entirely neglected,
and the horses and cows have entirely disappeared. N e a r
the raudal, a part of the village still bears the name o f Passo
del ganado
(ford o f the cattle), while the descendants o f
those very Indians w h o m the Jesuits had assembled in a
mission, speak of horned cattle as of animals of a race n o w
lost. In going up the Orinoco, toward San Carlos del Bio
N e g r o , we saw the last cow at Carichana. The Fathers o f
the Observance, who n o w govern these vast countries, did
n o t immediately succeed the Jesuits. D u r i n g an inter-
regnum of eighteen years, the missions were visited only
from time to time, and by Capuchin monks. T h e agents o f
the secular government, under the title of R o y a l C o m m i s -
sioners, managed the hatos or farms o f the Jesuits with
culpable negligence. They killed the cattle for the sake
o f selling the hides. M a n y heifers were devoured b y the
jaguars, and a great number perished in consequence o f
wounds made by the bats o f the raudales, which, though
smaller, are far bolder than the bats of the Llanos. A t tho
time of the expedition of the boundaries, horses from Enca-
ramada, Carichana, and Atures, were conveyed as far as San
Jose de Maravitanos, where, on the banks o f the R i o N e g r o ,
the Portuguese could only procure them, after a long passage,
and of a very inferior quality, by the rivers A m a z o n and
Grand Para. Since the year 1795, the cattle of the Jesuits
have entirely disappeared. There now remain as monuments
o f the ancient cultivation o f these countries, and the active
industry of the first missionaries, only a few trunks o f tho
orange and tamarind, in the savannahs, surrounded by wild
The tigers, or jaguars, which are less dangerous for the
cattle than the bats, come into the village at Atures, and
devour the swine o f the p o o r Indians. T h e missionary
related t o us a striking instance of the familiarity o f these
animals, usually so ferocious. Some months before our

arrival, a jaguar, which was thought to be y o u n g , though
o f a large size, had wounded a child in playing with him.
The facts of this case, which were verified to us on the spot,
are not without interest in the history of the manners of
animals. T w o Indian children, a boy and a girl, about
eight and n i n e years of age, were seated on the grass near
the village o f A t u r e s , in the middle o f a savannah, which
w e several times traversed. A t t w o o'clock in the after-
noon, a jaguar issued from the forest, and approached the
children, bounding around t h e m ; sometimes he hid himself
in the high grass, sometimes he sprang forward, his back
bent, his head hung down, in the manner of our cats. The
little boy, ignorant o f bis danger, seemed to b e sensible o f
it only when the jaguar with o n e o f his paws gave him
some blows on the head. These blows, at first slight,
became ruder and r u d e r ; the claws of the jaguar wounded
the child, and the blood flowed freely. The little girl then
took a branch o f a tree, struck the animal, and it fled from
her. The Indians r a n up at the cries of the children, and
saw the jaguar, which then bounded off without making
the least show of resistance.
The little boy was brought to us, who appeared lively
and intelligent. The claw of the jaguar had torn away the
skin from the lower part of the forehead, and there was a
second s c a r at the top of the head. This was a singular
fit of playfulness in an animal which, though not difficult to
be tamed in our menageries, nevertheless shows itself always
wild and ferocious in its natural state. If we admit that,
being sure of its prey, it played with the little Indian a s
our cats [day with birds whose wings have been clipped,
how shall we explain the patience o f a jaguar of large size,
which finds itself attacked b y a girl ? If the jaguar were
not pressed by hunger, why did it approach the children
at all ? T h e r e is something mysterious in the affections
and hatreds of animals. W e have known lions kill three
or four dogs that were put into their den, and instantly
caress a fifth, which, less timid, t o o k the king of animals
by the mane. These are instincts o f which we know not
the secret.
W e have mentioned that domestic pigs are attacked by
the jaguars. There are in these countries, besides the

c o m m o n swine of European race, several species of peccaries,
or pigs with lumbar glands, two o f which only are known
t o the naturalists of Europe. T h e Indians call the little
peccary (Dicotiles torquatus, C u v . ) , in the M a y p u r e tongue,
chacharo; while they give the name o f apida to a species o f
pig which they say has no pouch, is larger, and o f a dark
brown colour, with the belly and lower j a w white. T h e
chacharo, reared in the houses, becomes tame like our sheep
and goats. I t reminds us, by the gentleness o f its manners,
o f the curious analogies which anatomists have observed
between the peccaries and the ruminating animals. T h e
apida, which is domesticated like our swine in E u r o p e ,
wanders in large herds composed of several hundreds. T h e
presence of these herds is announced from afar, not only b y
their hoarse gruntings, but above all by the impetuosity
with which they break down the shrubs in their way. M .
Bonpland, in an herborizing excursion, warned b y his
Indian guide to hide himself behind the trunk o f a tree,
saw a number o f these peccaries (cochinos or puercos del
monte) pass close by him. T h e herd marched in a close
body, the males proceeding first; and each sow was accom-
panied by her young. The flesh o f the chacharo is flabby,
and not very agreeable; it aflbrds, however, a plentiful
nourishment t o the natives, w h o kill these animals with
small lances tied to cords. W e were assured at A t u r e s ,
that the tiger dreads being surrounded in the forests by
these herds of wild p i g s ; and that, to avoid being stilled,
he tries to save himself by climbing up a tree. I s this a
hunter's tale, or a fact that has really been observed ? In
several parts o f America the hunters believe in the existence
o f a javali, or native boar with tusks curved outwardly. I
never saw one, but this animal is mentioned in the works
o f the Spanish missionaries, a source too much neglected
by zoologists; for amidst much incorrectness and extrava-
gance, they contain many curious local observations.
A m o n g the monkeys which we saw at the mission o f the
Atures, we found one new species, o f the tribe o f sais and
sajous, which the Creoles vulgarly call machis. I t is the
avavapavi with grey hair and a bluish face. I t has the
orbits o f the eyes and the forehead as white as snow, a
peculiarity which at first sight distinguishes it from the

2 7 0
Simia capucina, the Simia apella, the Simia trepida, and the
weeping monkeys hitherto so confusedly described.
This little animal is as gentle as it is ugly. A monkey of
this species, which was kept in the courtyard o f the mis-
sionary, would frequently mount on the back of a pig, and
in this manner traverse the savannahs. W e have also seen
it upon the back of a large cat, which had been brought up
with it in Father Zea's house.
I t was among the cataracts that wo began t o hear o f the
hairy man of the woods, called salvaje, that carries off
w o m e n , constructs huts, and sometimes eats human flesh.
Tho Tamanacs call it achi, and the Maypures vasitri, o r
' g r e a t devil.' T h e natives and the missionaries have n o
d o u b t of the existence of this man-shaped monkey, of which
they entertain a singular dread. Father Gili gravely relates
the history of a lady in the town of San Carlos, in the
Llanos of Venezuela, who much praised the gentle character
and attentions of the man of the woods. She is stated to
have lived several years with one in great domestic harmony,
and only requested some hunters to take her back, " b e c a u s e
she and her children (a little hairy also) were weary o f
living far from the church and the sacraments." T h e same
author, notwithstanding his credulity, acknowledges that he
never knew an Indian who asserted positively that he had
seen the salvaje with his own eyes. This wild legend,
which the missionaries, the European planters, and the
negroes of Africa, have no doubt embellished with many
features taken from the description o f the manners o f tho
orang-otang,* the gibbon, the j o c k o or chimpanzee, and the
p o n g o , followed us, during five years, from the northern t o
the southern hemisphere. W e were everywhere blamed,
in the most cultivated class of society, for being the only
persons to doubt the existence of the great anthropomorphous
* Simia satyrus. We must not believe, notwithstanding the assertions
of almost all zoological writers, that the word orang-otang is applied
exclusively in the Malay language to the Simia satyrus of Borneo. This
expression, on the contrary, means any very large monkey, that resembles
man in figure. (Marsden's Hist. of Sumatra, 3rd edit., p. 117.) Modern
zoologists have arbitrarily appropriated provincial names to certain species;
and by continuing to prefer these names, strangely disfigured in their
orthography, to the Latin systematic names, the confusion of the nomen-
clature bus been increased.

m o n k e y of America. There are certain regions where this
belief i s particularly prevalent among the p e o p l e ; such are
the banks of the U p p e r Orinoco, the valley o f U p a r near
the lake of Maracaybo, the mountains o f Santa Martha and
o f Merida, the provinces o f Quixos, and the banks o f the
A m a z o n near Tomependa. I n all these places, so distant
ono from the other, it is asserted that the salvaje is easily
recognized by the traces o f its feet, the toes o f which are
turned backward. B u t if there exist a monkey o f a large
size in the N e w Continent, how has it happened that for
three centuries no man worthy of belief has been able to
procure the skin o f one ? Several hypotheses present them-
selves to the mind, in order to explain the source o f so
ancient an error or belief. Has the famous capuchin m o n -
key of Esmeralda (Simia chiropotes), with its long canine
teeth, and physiognomy much more like m a n ' s * than that
o f the orang-otang, given rise to the fable of the salvaje ?
I t is not so large indeed as the coaïta (Simia paniscus) ;
but when seen at the top o f a tree, and the head only
visible, it might easily be taken for a human being. I t may
be also (and this opinion appears to me the most probable)
that the ' man o f the woods ' was one o f those large bears,
the footsteps o f which resemble those o f a man, and which
are believed in every country to attack w o m e n . The animal
killed in my time at the foot o f the mountains of Merida,
and sent, b y the name o f salvaje, to Colonel U n g a r o , the
governor of the province of Varinas, was in fact a bear with
black and smooth fur. Our fellow-traveller, D o n Nicolas
Soto, had examined it closely. D i d the strange idea o f a
plantigrade animal, the toes o f which are placed as if it
walked backward, take its origin from the habit o f the real
savages o f the woods, the Indians of the weakest and most
timid tribes, of deceiving their enemies, when they enter
a forest, or cross a sandy shore, by covering the traces of
their feet with sand, or walking backward ?
Though I have expressed my doubts o f the existence o f
an unknown species o f large monkey in a continent which
appears entirely destitute of quadrumanous animals o f the
family of the orangs, cynocephali, mandrils, and p o n g o s ; yet
* The whole of the feutures—the expression of the physiognomy ; b u t
not the forehead.

it should bo remembered that almost all matters o f popular
belief, even those most absurd in appearance, rest on real
facts, but facts ill observed. I n treating them with disdain,
the traces of a discovery may often be lost, in natural philo-
sophy as well as in zoology. W e will not then admit, with
a Spanish author, that the fable of the ' m a n of the w o o d s '
was invented by the artifice of Indian women, who pre-
tended to have been carried off, when they had been l o n g
absent unknown to their husbands. Travellers who may
hereafter visit the missions of the O r i n o c o will do well to
follow up our researches on the salvaje or great devil o f the
woods; and examine whether it be some unknown species
o f bear, or some very rare monkey analogous to the Simia
chiropotes, or Simia satanas, which may have given rise t o
such singular tales.
After having spent t w o days near the cataract o f A t u r e s ,
we were not sorry when our boat was reladen, and we were
enabled t o leave a spot where the temperature of the air
is generally by day twenty-nine degrees, and by night
twenty-six degrees, o f the centigrade thermometer. This
temperature seemed to us to be still much more elevated,
from the feeling of heat which we experienced. The want
o f concordance between the instruments and the sensations
must be attributed to the continual irritation of the skin
excited by the mosquitos. An atmosphere filled with veno-
mous insects always appears to be more heated than it is
in reality. W e were horribly tormented in the day by
mosquitos and the jejen, a small venomous fly (simulium),
and at night by the zancudos, a large species of gnat,
dreaded even by the natives. O u r hands began to swell
considerably, and this swelling increased daily till our arrival
on the banks of the Temi. The means that are employed
to escape from these little plagues are very extraordinary.
The good missionary Bernardo Zea, who passed his life
tormented by mosquitos, had constructed near the church,
on a scaffolding of trunks of palm-trees, a small apartment,
in which we breathed more freely. T o this w e went up in
the evening, by means of a ladder, to dry our plants and
write our journal. The missionary had justly observed,
that the injects abounded more particularly in the lowest
strata of the atmosphere, that which reaches from the

ground to the height o f twelve or fifteen feet. A t M a y -
pures the Indians quit the village at night, to g o and sleep
on the little islets in the midst o f the cataracts. There
they enjoy some r e s t ; the mosquitos appearing to shun
air loaded with vapours. W e found everywhere fewer in
the middle of the river than near its b a n k s ; and thus less
is suffered in descending the Orinoco than in going up in a
Tersons who have not navigated the great rivers of
equinoctial America, for instance, the Orinoco and the
Magdalena, can scarcely conceive how, at every instant,
without intermission, y o u may be tormented by insects
flying in the air; and how the multitude o f these little
animals may render vast regions almost uninhabitable.
W h a t e v e r fortitude be exercised to endure pain without
complaint, whatever interest may be felt in the objects o f
scientific research, it is impossible not t o be constantly
disturbed by the mosquitos, zancudos, jejens, and tempra-
neros, that cover the face and hands, pierce the clothes
with their long needle-formed suckers, and getting into
the mouth and nostrils, occasion coughing and sneezing
whenever any attempt is made t o speak in the open air.
In the missions o f the Orinoco, in the villages on the banks
o f the river, surrounded by immense forests, the plaga de las
moscas, or the plague oí the mosquitos, affords an inex-
haustible subject of conversation. W h e n two persons meet
in the morning, the first questions they address to each
other are : " How did y o u find the zancudos during the
night ? H o w are w e to-day for the mosquitos ? " * These
questions remind us o f a Chinese form of politeness, which
indicates the ancient state of the country where it took
birth. Salutations were made heretofore in the Celestial
empire in the following words, vou-to-hou, " H a v e y o u been
incommoded in the night by the s e r p e n t s ? "
The geographical distribution of the insects of the family
o f tipulæ presents very remarkable phenomena. It does
not appear to depend solely on heat o f climate, excess of
humidity, or the thickness o f forests, but o n local cir-
* Que le han parecido los zancudos de noche ? Como stamos hoy de
mosquitos ?
VoL. II. T

c u m s t a n c e s t h a t a r c d i f f i c u l t t o c h a r a c t e r i s e . I t m a y be
o b s e r v e d t h a t t h e p l a g u e o f m o s q u i t o s a n d z a n c u d o s is not
s o g e n e r a l i n t h e t o r r i d z o n e a s is c o m m o n l y b e l i e v e d . On
t h e t a b l e - l a n d s e l e v a t e d m o r e t h a n f o u r h u n d r e d t o i s e s
a b o v e t h e l e v e l o f t h e o c e a n , i n t h e v e r y d r y p l a i n s r e m o t e
f r o m t h e b e d s o f g r e a t r i v e r s ( f o r i n s t a n c e , a t C u m a n a a n d
C a l a b o z o ) , t h e r e a r e n o t s e n s i b l y m o r e g n a t s t h a n i n the
m o s t p o p u l o u s p a r t s o f E u r o p e . T h e y a r e p e r c e i v e d to
a u g m e n t e n o r m o u s l y a t N u e v a B a r c e l o n a , a n d m o r e t o t h e
w e s t , o n t h e c o a s t t h a t e x t e n d s t o w a r d s C a p e C o d e r a .
B e t w e e n t h e l i t t l e h a r b o u r o f H i g u e r o t e a n d t h e m o u t h o f
t h o Rio U n a r e , t h e w r e t c h e d i n h a b i t a n t s are a c c u s t o m e d
t o s t r e t c h t h e m s e l v e s o n t h e g r o u n d , a n d p a s s t h e n i g h t
b u r i e d in t h e s a n d t h r e e o r f o u r i n c h e s d e e p , l e a v i n g o u t
t h e h e a d o n l y , w h i c h t h e y c o v e r w i t h a h a n d k e r c h i e f . You
s u f f e r f r o m t h e s t i n g o f i n s e c t s , b u t i n a m a n n e r e a s y to
b e a r , i n d e s c e n d i n g t h e O r i n o c o f r o m C a b r u t a t o w a r d s
A n g o s t u r a , a n d in g o i n g u p f r o m C a b r u t a t o w a r d s U r u a n a ,
b e t w e e n t h e l a t i t u d e s of 7° a n d 8°. B u t b e y o n d t h e m o u t h
o f t h e Rio A r a u c a , a f t e r h a v i n g p a s s e d t h e s t r a i t o f B a r a -
g u a n , t h e s c e n e s u d d e n l y c h a n g e s . F r o m t h i s s p o t t h e
t r a v e l l e r m a y b i d f a r e w e l l t o r e p o s e . I f h e h a v e a n y
p o e t i c a l r e m e m b r a n c e o f D a n t e , h e m a y e a s i l y i m a g i n e h o
has e n t e r e d t h e città dolente, a n d he will s e e m t o r e a d o n
t h e g r a n i t e r o c k s o f B a r a g u a n t h e s e l i n e s o f t h e I n f e r n o : —
N o i sem v e n u t i al l u o g o , o v ' i' t ' h o d e t t o
C h e t u v e d r a i l e g e n t i d o l o r o s e .
T h e l o w e r s t r a t a o f a i r , f r o m t h e s u r f a c e o f t h e g r o u n d to
t h e h e i g h t o f fifteen o r t w e n t y f e e t , a r e a b s o l u t e l y filled with
v e n o m o u s i n s e c t s . I f i n a n o b s c u r e s p o t , f o r i n s t a n c e in tho
g r o t t o s o f t h e c a t a r a c t s f o r m e d b y s u p e r i n c u m b e n t b l o c k s o f
g r a n i t e , y o u d i r e c t y o u r e y e s t o w a r d t h e o p e n i n g e n l i g h t e n e d
by t h e s u n . y o u s e c c l o u d s o f m o s q u i t o s m o r e o r less t h i c k .
A t t h e m i s s i o n o f S a n Borja, t h e s u f f e r i n g f r o m m o s q u i t o s is
g r e a t e r t h a n a t C a r i c h a n a ; b u t i n t h e R a u d a l e s , a t A t u r e s ,
a n d a b o v e ; all a t M a y p u r e s . t h i s s u f f e r i n g m a y b e s a i d to
a t t a i n its m a x i m u m . I d o u b t w h e t h e r there! b e a c o u n t r y
u p o n e a r t h w h e r e m a n is e x p o s e d t o m o r e c r u e l t o r m e n t s in
t h e r a i n y s e a s o n . H a v i n g p a s s e d t h e fifth d e g r e e o f l a t i t u d e ,
y o u a r e s o m e w h a t less s t u n g ; b u t o n t h e Upper O r i n o c o
t h e s t i n g s a r e m o r e p a i n f u l , b e c a u s e t h e h e a t a n d the abso-

lute want o f wind render the air more burning and more
irritating in its contact with the skin.
" H o w comfortable must people be in the m o o n ! " said a
Salivo Indian to Father G u m i l l a ; " s h e looks so beautiful
and so clear, that she must bo free from m o s q u i t o s . " These
words, which denote the infancy o f a people, are very remark-
able. T h e satellite o f the earth appears t o all savage
nations the abode o f the blessed, the country of abundance.
T h e Esquimaux, who counts among his riches a plank or
trunk of a tree, thrown by the currents o n a coast destitute
of vegetation, sees in the moon plains covered with forests ;
the Indian of the forests of Orinoco there beholds open savan-
nahs, where the inhabitants are never stung by mosquitos.
After proceeding further to the south, where the system
of yellowish-brown waters commences,* on the banks of the
Atabapo, the Tuni, the Tuamini, and the K i o N e g r o , w e
enjoyed an unexpected repose. These rivers, like the
Orinoco, cross thick forests, but the tipulary insects, as well
as the crocodiles, shun the proximity of the black waters.
Possibly these waters, which are a little colder, and chemically
different from the white waters, are adverse to the larvæ of
tipulary insects and gnats, which may be considered as real
aquatic animals. Some small rivers, the colour o f which is
deep blue, or yellowish-brown (as the Toparo, the Mataveni,
and the Z a m a ) , are exceptions to the almost general rule of
the absence of mosquitos over the black waters. These
three rivers swarm with them ; and the Indians themselves
fixed our attention on the problematic causes o f this p h e n o -
menon. I n going down the Rio N e g r o , we breathed freely
at Maroa, Daripe, and San Carlos, villages situated o n the
boundaries of Brazil. B u t this improvement of our situation
was o f short continuance; our sufferings recommenced as soon
as we entered the Cassiquiare. A t Esmeralda, at the eastern
extremity o f the U p p e r Orinoco, where ends the known
world ot the Spaniards, the clouds of mosquitos are almost
as thick as at the Great Cataracts. A t Mandavaca we found
an old missionary, who told us with an air or sadness, that
he had had " h i s twenty years of m o s q u i t o s " * in America.
* Generally called 'black waters' (aguas negras).
† "Yo tengo mis veinte años de mosquitos."
T 2

H e desired us to look at his legs, " t h a t we might be able to
tell one day, beyond sea (por alla), what the poor monks
suffer in the forests of Cassiquiare." Every sting leaving
small darkish brown point, his legs were so speckled that it
was difficult to recognize the whiteness of his skin through
the spots of coagulated blood. If the insects of the genus

Simulium abound in the Cassiquiare, which has white waters,
the culices or zancudos are so much the more rare; you
scarcely find an) there; while on the rivers of black waters,
in the Atabapo and the Kio, there are generally some zan
cudos and no mosquitos.
I have just shown, from my own observations, how much
the geographical distribution of venomous insects varies in
this labyrinth of rivers with white and black waters. It
were to be wished that a learned entomologist could study
on the spot the specific differences of these noxious insects,*
which in the torrid zone, in spite of their minute size,
an important point in the economy of nature. What ap-
peared to us very remarkable, and is a fact known to all the
missionaries, is. that the different species do not associate

together, and that at different hours of the day you are
stung by distinct species. Every time that the scene changes,
and. to use the simple expression of the missionaries, other

insects 'mount guard,' you have a few minutes, often a
quarter of an hour, of repose. The insects that disappear
have not their places instantly supplied by their successors.
From half-past-six in the morning till five in the afternoon,
the air is filled with mosquitos; which have not, as some
travellers have slated, the form of our gnats, † but that
of a small fly. They are simuliums of the family Nemo-
cera of the system of Latreille. Their sting is as painful

as that of the genus Stoinox. It leaves a little reddish
brown spot, which is extravased and coagulated blood, where

their proboscis has pierced the skin. An hour before sunset
*The mosquito bovo or tenbiguài ; the melero, which always settles
upon the eyes ; the tempranero, or putchiki; the jejen; the gnat rivaù ;
the great zancudo, or matchaki , the cafafi, &c.
† Culex pipiens. This difference between mosquito (little fly,—simulium)
and zancudo (gnat,—eulex) exists in all the Spanish colonies. The word
zancudo signifies 'longlegs,'—qui tiene las zanrax largas. The mosquitos
of the Orinoco are the moustiques
; the zancudos are the maringouins of
French travellers.

a species o f small gnats, called tempraneros,* because they
appear also at sunrise, take the place o f the mosquitos
Their presence scarcely lasts an hour and a half; they dis-
appear between six and seven in the evening, or, as thev
say here, after the Angelus (a la oracion). A f t e r a few mi-
nutes' repose, y o u feel yourself stung by zancudos, another
species of gnat with very long legs. T h e zancudo, the p r o -
boscis of which contains a sharp-pointed sucker, causes the
most acute pain, and a swelling that remains several weeks.
Its hum resembles that of the European gnat, but is louder
and more prolonged. T h e Indians pretend to distinguish
the zancudos and the tempraneros " b y their s o n g ; " the
latter are real twilight insects, while the zaucudos are most
frequently nocturnal insects, and disappear toward sunrise.
I n our way from Carthagena to Santa Fé de Bogotá, w e
observed that between M o m p o x and H o n d a , in the valley o f
the Rio Magdalena, the zancudos darkened the air from
eight in the evening till m i d n i g h t ; that towards midnight
they diminished in number, and were hidden for three o r
four h o u r s ; and lastly that they returned in crowds, about
four in the morning. What is the cause of these alternations
o f motion and r e s t ? A r e these animals fatigued by long
flight? It is rare on the Orinoco to see real gnats by d a y ;
while at the Rio Magdalena we were stung night and day,
except from noon till about t w o o'clock. The zancudos of
the two rivers are no doubt of different species.
We have seen that the insects o f the tropics everywhere
follow a certain standard in the periods at which they alter-
nately arrive and disappear. A t fixed and invariable hours,
in the same season, and the same latitude, the air is peopled
with new inhabitants, and in a zone where the barometer
becomes a clock,* where everything proceeds with such ad-
mirable regularity, we might guess blindfold the hour o f the
day or night, by the hum o f the insects, and by their stings,
* 'Which appear at an early hour' (temprano). Some persons say,
that the zancudo is the same as the tempranero, which returns at night,
after hiding itself for sometime. I have doubts of this identity of the
species ; the pain caused by the sting of the two insects appeared to me

† By the extreme regularity of the horary variations of the atmospheric

t h e pain o f which differs according t o t h e n a t u r e o f the
poison that each species deposits in t h e w o u n d .
A t a period when the geography of animals and of plants
had n o t y e t been studied, the a n a l o g o u s species o f different
climates were often c o n f o u n d e d . I t was believed that the
pines and r a n u n c u l u s e s , t h e stags, t h e rats, a n d t h e tipulary

insects o f the north of E u r o p e , were to be f o u n d in Japan,
on the ridge of the A n d e s , and at the Straits of M a g e l l a n .
J u s t l y celebrated naturalists have t h o u g h t that t h e zaneudo

o f the torrid z o n e was t h e g n a t o f our marshes, b e c o m e m o r e
vigorous, m o r e voracious, a n d m o r e n o x i o u s , u n d e r t h e i n -
fluence o f a b u r n i n g climate. T h i s is a very e r r o n e o u s
opinion. I carefully examined and described upon the spot
those zancudos, the stings of which are most t o r m e n t i n g . I n

t h e rivers M a g d a l e n a a n d G u a y a q u i l alone there are live dis-
tinct species.

T h e culices of South America have generally the w i n g s ,
corslet, and legs of an azure colour, ringed and variegated
with a m i x t u r e o f spots o f metallic lustre. H e r e as in
E u r o p e , the males, which are distinguished by their feathered
a n t e n n æ , are e x t r e m e l y r a r e ; you are seldom s t u n g e x c e p t
by females. T h e preponderance o f this sex explains tho
i m m e n s e increase of the species, each female laying several

hundred e g g s . In g o i n g up one of the great rivers o f
A m e r i c a , it, is observed, that the appearance of a new species
of culex denotes t h e proximity of a new stream flowing in.
I shall mention an instance of this curious p h e n o m e n o n .
T h e C u l e x lineatus, which belongs to the C a ñ o T a m a l a m e c ,
is o n l y perceived in t h e valley o f t h e Rio G r a n d e do la
M a g d a l e n a , a t a l e a g u e north of the j u n c t i o n o f the t w o
r i v e r s ; it g o e s u p , b u t scarcely ever d e s c e n d s t h e Rio

G r a n d e . I t is thus, that, on a principal vein, the appearance
o f a new substance in the g a n g u e indicates to the miner tho
neighbourhood of a secondary vein that j o i n s the first.

O n recapitulating t h e observations here recorded, w e see,
that within t h e tropics, the m o s q u i t o s and zancudos do n o t
rise on the slope of the Cordilleras* toward the t e m p e r a t e

* The Culex pipiens of Europe does not, like the culex of the torrid
zone, shun mountainous places. Giesecke suffered from these insects in
Greenland, at Disco, in latitude 70°. They are found in Lapland in
summer, at three or four hundred toises high, and at a temperature of
11° or 12°.

region, where the mean heat is below 19° or 2 0 ° ; and that,
with few exceptions, they shun the black waters, and dry
and unwooded spots.* T h e atmosphere swarms with them
much more in the U p p e r than in the L o w e r Orinoco,
because in the former the river is surrounded with thick
forests on its banks, and the skirts o f the forests are n o t
separated from the river b y a barren and extensive beach.
T h e mosquitos diminish on the N e w Continent with the
diminution of the water, and the destruction o f the w o o d s ;
b u t the effects o f these changes are as slow as the progress
of cultivation. T h e towns of Angostura, Nuev a Barcelona,
and M o m p o x , where from the want of police, the streets, the
great squares, and the interior of court-yards are overgrown
with brushwood, are sadly celebrated for the abundance of
People born in the country, whether whites, mulattoes,
negroes, or Indians, all suffer from the sting o f these insects.
B u t as cold does n o t render the north of Europe uninha-
bitable, so the mosquitos do not prevent men from dwelling
in the countries where they abound, provided that, by their
situation and government, they afford resources for agricul-
ture and industry. T h e inhabitants pass their lives in c o m -
plaining of the insufferable torment of the mosquitos, yet,
notwithstanding these continual complaints, they seek, and
even with a sort of predilection, the commercial towns of
M o m p o x , Santa Marta, and B i o de la llaeha. Such is the
force o f habit in evils which we suffer every hour of the day,
that the three missions of San Borja, Atures, and Esmeralda,
where, to make use of an hyperbolical expression o f the
monks, " t h e r e are more mosquitos than a i r , " * would n o
doubt b e c o m e flourishing towns, if the Orinoco afforded
planters the same advantages for the exchange o f produce,
as the Ohio and the L o w e r Mississippi.
I t is a curious fact, that the whites born in the torrid
zone may walk barefoot with impunity, in the same apart-
* Trifling modifications in the waters, or in the air, often appear to
prevent the development of the mosquitos. Mr. Bowdich remarks that
there are none at Coomassie, in the kingdom of the Ashantees, though the
town is surrounded by marshes, and though the thermometer keeps up
between seventeen and twenty-eight centesimal degrees, day and night.
† Mas moscas que aire.

ment where a European recently landed is exposed to the
attack o f the nigua or chegoe (Pulex penetrans). This
animal, almost invisible to the eye, gets under the toe-nails,
and there acquires the size o f a small pea, by the quick
increase o f its eggs, which are placed in a bag under the
belly of the insect. The nigua therefore distinguishes what
the most delicate chemical analysis could not distinguish,
the cellular membrane and blood of a European from those
o f a creole white. T h e mosquitos, on the contrary, attack
equally the natives and the Europeans; but the effects o f
the sting are different in the two races of men. The same
venomous liquid, deposited in the skill of a copper-coloured
man o f Indian race, and in that o f a white man newly
landed, causes no swelling in the former, while in the latter
it products hard blisters, greatly inflamed, and painful for
several d a y s ; so different is the action on the epidermis,
according to the degree o f irritability o f the organs in
different races and different individuals!
I shall here recite several facts, which prove that the
Indians, and in general all the people o f colour, at the
moment of being stung, suffer like the whites, although
perhaps with less intensity o f pain. In the day-time, and
even when labouring at the oar, the natives, in order t o
chase the insects, are continually giving one another smart
slaps with the palm of the hand. They even strike them-
selves and their comrades mechanically during their sleep.
The violence o f their blows reminds one o f the Persian talo
of the bear that tried to kill with his paw the insects on the
forehead o f his sleeping master. Near Maypures we saw
some y o u n g Indians seated in a circle and rubbing cruelly
each others' backs with the bark of trees dried at the lire.
Judian women were occupied, with a degree o f patience o f
which the copper-coloured race alone are capable, in extract-
tracting, by means o f a sharp bone, the little muss of coagu-
lated blood that forms the centre of every sting, and gives
the skin a speckled appearance. O n e of the most barbarous
nations of the Orinoco, that of the Ottomacs. is acquainted
with the use of mosquito-curtains (mosquiteros) woven
from the fibres o f the moriche palm-tree. At Higuerote,
on the coast: o f Caracas, the copper-coloured people sleep
buried in the sand. I n the villages o f the Rio Magdalena

2 8 1
the Indians often invited us to stretch ourselves as they did
on ox-skins, near the church, in the middle of the plaza
where they had assembled all the cows in the neigh-
bourhood. The proximity of cattle gives some repose to
man. The Indians of the Upper Orinoco and the Cassi
quiare, seeing that M . Bonpland could not prepare his
Herbal, owing to the continual torment of the mosquitos,
invited him to enter their ovens (hornitos). Thus they call
little chambers, without doors or windows, into which they
creep horizontally through a very low opening. When they
have driven away the insects by means of a lire of wet
brushwood, which emits a great deal of smoke, they close
the opening of the oven. The absence of the mosquitos is
purchased dearly enough by the excessive heat of the stag-
nated air, and the smoke of a torch of copal, which lights
the oven during your stay in it. M . Bonpland, with courage
and patience well worthy of praise, dried hundreds of plants,

shut up in these hornitos of the Indians.
These precautions of the Indians sufficiently prove that,
notwithstanding the different organization of the epidermis,
the copper-coloured man, like the white man, suffers from
the stings of insects; but the former seems to feel less pain,
and the sting is not followed by those swellings which,
during several weeks, heighten the irritability of the skin,
and throw persons of a delicate constitution into that
feverish state which always accompanies eruptive maladies.
Whites born in equinoctial America, and Europeans who
have long sojourned in the Missions, on the borders of
forests and great rivers, sutler much more than the Indians,
but infinitely less than Europeans newly arrived. It is not,
therefore, as some travellers assert, the thickness of tho
skin that renders the sting more or less painful at tho
moment when it is received; nor is it owing to the parti-
cular organization of the integuments, that in the Indians
the sting is followed by less of swelling and inflammatory
symptoms; it is on the nervous irritability of the epidermis
that the acuteness and duration of the pain depend. This
irritability is augmented by very warm clothing, by the use
of alcoholic liquors, by the habit of scratching the wounds,

and lastly, (and this physiological observation is the result of
my own experience,) that of baths repeated at too short

intervals. In places where the absence o f crocodiles permits
p e o p l e t o enter a river, M . B o n p l a n d and myself observed
that the immoderate use o f baths, while it moderated the
pain o f old stings o f z a n c u d o s , rendered us m o r e sensible
t o new stings. Bу bathing more than t w i c e a day, the skin
is b r o u g h t into a state o f nervous irritability, o f which n o
idea can b e formed in Europe. It w o u l d s e e m as if all
feeling w e r e carried toward the i n t e g u m e n t s .
A s t h e mosquitos and gnats p a s s two­thirds o f their lives
in the water, it is n o t surprising that these n o x i o u s insects
b e c o m e less numerous in proportion as y o u recede from t h o
banks o f the great rivers which intersect tho forests. T h e y
seem t o prefer the spots w h e r e their m e t a m o r p h o s i s t o o k
place, ami w h e r e they go t o d e p o s i t their e g g s . In fact the
wild Indians ( I n d i e s m o n t e r o s ) experience the greater diffi­
c u l t y in a c c u s t o m i n g themselves t o the life o f the missions,
as they sutler in t h e Christian establishments a t o r m e n t
which they scarcely know in their own inland dwellings.
The natives at M a y p u r e s , A t u r e s , and Esmeralda, have b e e n
s e e n Hoeing to t h e woods, or , a s they say, аl monte, solel y
from t h e d r e a d of mosquitos. Unfortunately, all the M i s s i o n s
o f the O r i n o c o have b e e n established t o o near the banks o f
t h e river. At Esmeralda t h e inhabitants assured us that if
t h e village were situated in o n e o f t h e live plains s u r r o u n d i n g
the high mountains o f Duida and Maraguaca, t h e y should
breathe f r e e l y , and e n j o y s o m e repose. T h e great cloud o f
m o s q u i t o s (la n u b e de m o s c a s ) t o use t h o expression o f t h o
m o n k s , is suspended only o v e r the O r i n o c o and its tributary
streams, and is dissipated in proportion as y o u remove from
t h o rivers. W e should form a very inaccurate idea o f
G u i a n a and Brazil, w e r e we t o judge of that great forest four
h u n d r e d leagues wide, lying between the sources o f t h e
M a d e i r a and t h e L o w e r O r i n o c o , f r o m the vallies o f the
rivers b y w h i c h it is crossed.
I learned that t h e l i t t l e i n s e c t s o f the family o f the nemo-
ceræ migrate f r o m time t o t i m e like the alouate m o n k e y s ,
which live in s o c i e t y . In certain s p o t s , at the c o m m e n c e ­
m e n t o f the rainy season, different s p e c i e s a p p e a r , the sting
o f which has not y e t b e e n felt. W e were informed at the
Rio M a g d a l e n a , that at Simiti no other culex than the jejen
Was formerly k n o w n ; and it was then possible to enjoy a

tranquil night's rest, for the jejen is not a nocturnal insec1
Since the year 1801, the great blue-winged gnat (Cule
cyanopterus) has appeared in such numbers, that the pool
inhabitnats of Simiti know not how to procure an undis-
turbed sleep. In the marshy channels (esteros) of the isle
of Baru, near Carthagena, is found a little white fly called

cafafi. It is scarcely visible to the naked eye, and causes
very painful swellings. The toldos or cottons used for

mosquito-curtains, are wetted to prevent the cafafi pene-
trating through the interstices left by the crossing threads.
This insect, happily rare elsewhere, goes up in January, by
the channel (dique) of Mahates, as far as Morales. When
we went to this village in the month of May, we found
cimuliœ and zancudos, but no jejens.
The insects most troublesome at Orinoco, or as the Creoles
say, the most ferocious (los mas feroces), are those of the
great cataracts of Esmeralda and Mandavaca. On the Rio
Magdalena the Culex cyanopterus is dreaded, particularly at
Mompox, Chiloa, and Tamalameca. At these places this
insect is larger and stronger, and its legs blacker. It is dif-
ficult to avoid smiling on hearing the missionaries dispute
about the size and voracity of the mosquitos at different
parts of the same river. In a region the inhabitants of which
are ignorant of all that is passing in the rest of the world,
this is the favourite subject of conversation. " How I pity
your situation ! " said the missionary of the Raudales to the

missionary of Cassiquiare, at our departure ; " you are alone,
like me, in this country of tigers and monkeys ; with you
fish is still more rare, and the heat more violent ; but as for
my mosquitos (mias moscas) I can boast that with one of
mine I would beat three of yours."
This voracity of insects in certain spots, the fury with
which they attack man,* the activity of the venom varying
in the same species, are very remarkable facts ; which find

their analogy, however, in the classes of large animals. The
crocodile of Angostura pursues men, while at Neuva Barce-
* Thin voracity, this appetite for blood, seems surprising in little
insects, that live on vegetable juices, and in a country almost entirely
uninhabited. " What would these animals eat, if we did not pass this
way ? " say the Creoles, in going through countries where there are only
crocodiles covered with
a scaly skin, and hairy monkeys.

L o n a y o u m a y b a t h e tranquilly in the Rio N e v e r i a m i d s t
chese carnivorous reptiles. The j a g u a r s of M a t u r i n , C u m a -
nacoa, and t h e isthmus o f Panama, are timid in c o m p a r i s o n
of t h o s e o f t h e U p p e r O r i n o c o . T h e I n d i a n s well k n o w

t h a t t h e m o n k e y s o f s o m e valleys are easily t a m e d , while
others o f t h e same species, c a u g h t elsewhere, will rather die
of h u n g e r than s u b m i t t o s l a v e r y . *

T h e c o m m o n p e o p l e in A m e r i c a have framed s y s t e m s
respecting t h e salubrity o f climates a n d pathological p h e n o -
m e n a , as well as t h e learned o f Europe ; a n d their s y s t e m s ,
like ours, are diametrically opposed to each other, according

t o t h e provinces into which t h e N e w C o n t i n e n t is divided.
At t h e Rio M a g d a l e n a t h e frequency o f mosquitos i s
regarded as t r o u b l e s o m e , but salutary. T h e s e animals, s a y
t h e inhabitants, give us slight bleedings, and preserve us, in
a country excessively h o t , from the scarlet fever, a n d o t h e r
inflammatory diseases. But at the O r i n o c o , t h e banks o f
which a r e very insalubrious, t h e sick b l a m e t h e m o s q u i t o s
for all their sufferings. I t is u n n e c e s s a r y t o refute
t h e
fallacy o f t h e popular belief that this action o f t h e m o s q u i t o s
is salutary by its local bleedings. In E u r o p e t h e inhabit-
a n t s o f marshy countries are not ignorant that t h e insects

irritate t h e epidermis, a n d s t i m u l a t e its functions b y t h e
venom which they deposit in t h e w o u n d s they m a k e . F a r
from diminishing t h e inflammatory state o f t h e skin,
t h e
s t i n g s increase it.
T h e frequency o f g n a t s a n d m o s q u i t o s characterises u n -
healthy climates only s o far a s t h e d e v e l o p m e n t a n d m u l t i -
plication of these insects depend o n t h e same causes that

g i v e rise t o m i a s m a t a . T h e s e noxious animals love a fertile
soil covered with plants, stagnant waters, and a h u m i d air
n e v e r agitated by t h e wind ; they prefer t o an open c o u n t r y
t h o s e shades, that softened d a y , that t e m p e r e d degree o f

* I might have added the example of the scorpion of Cumana, which
it is very difficult to distinguish from that of the island of Trinidad, Jamaica,
Carthagena, and Guayaquil ; yet the former is not more to be feared than
the Scorpio europæus (of the south of France), while the latter produces
consequences far more alarming than the Scorpio occitanus (of Spain and

Barbary). At Carthagena and Guayaquil, the sting of the scorpion
(alacran) instantly causes the loss of speech. Sometimes a singular
torpor of the tongue is observed for fifteen or sixteen hours. The patient,
when stung in the legs, stammers as if he had been struck with apoplexy.

light, heat, and moisture which, while it favours the action
of chemical affinities, accelerates the putrefaction of organ-
ised substances. M a y n o t the mosquitos themselves in-
crease the insalubrity o f the atmosphere ? When w e reflect
that to the height o f three or four toises a cubic foot o f air
is often peopled by a million o f winged insects,* which
contain a caustic and venomous liquid; when we recollect
that several species o f culex are 1 8 line long from the head
t o the extremity o f the corslet (without reckoning the l e g s ) ;
lastly, when w e consider that in t h i s swarm o f mosquitos
and gnats, diffused in the atmosphere like smoke, there is
a great number of dead insects raised by the force o f the
ascending air, or b y that of the lateral currents which are
caused b y the unequal heating o f the soil, w e are led t o
inquire whether the presence o f so many animal substances
in the air must not o c c a s i o n particular miasmata. I t h i n k
that these substances act on the atmosphere differently from
sand and dust ; but it will be prudent to affirm nothing
positively on this subject. Chemistry has n o t y e t unveiled
the numerous mysteries of the insalubrity o f the air ; it has
only taught us that w e are ignorant o f many things with
which a few years ago we believed w e were acquainted.
Daily experience appears in a certain degree to prove the
fact that at the Orinoco, Cassiquiare, Rio Caura, and where-
ever the air is very unhealthy, the sting o f the mosquito
augments the disposition o f the organs to receive the i m -
pression o f miasmata. W h e n y o u are exposed day and
night, during whole months, t o the torment o f insects, t h e
continual irritation o f the skin causes febrile commotions ;
and, from the sympathy existing between the dermoid and
the gastric systems, injures the functions o f the stomach.
Digestion first becomes difficult, the cutaneous inflamma-
tion excites profuse perspirations, an unquenchable thirst
succeds. and, in persons of a feeble constitution, increasing
impatience is succeeded by depression o f mind, during
which all the pathogenic causes act with increased violence.
I t is neither the dangers o f navigating in small boats, the
savage Indians, nor the serpents, crocodiles, or jaguars, t h a t
make Spaniards dread a voyage o n the Orinoco ; it is, as
* It is sufficient to mention, that the cubic foot contains 2,985,984 cubic

they say with simplicity, " el sudar y las moscas," (the perspi-
ration and the flies). W e have reason to believe that man-
kind, as they change the surface of the soil, will succeed in
altering by degrees the constitution o f the atmosphere.
T h e insects will diminish when the old trees o f the forest
have disappeared ; when, in those countries n o w desert,
the rivers are seen bordered with cottages, and the plains
covered with pastures and harvosts.
W h o e v e r has lived long in countries infested b y m o s -
quitos will be convinced, as w e were, that there exists n o
remedy for the torment of these insects. T h e Indians,
covered with anoto, bolar earth, or turtle oil, are not pro-
tected from their attacks. I t is doubtful whether the
painting even relieves: it certainly does not prevent the
evil. Europeans, recently arrived at the Orinoco, the Rio
Magdalena, the river Guayaquil, or Rio Chagres ( I mention
the four rivers where the insects are must to be dreaded) at
first obtain some relief by covering their faces and hands,
but they soon feel it difficult to endure the heat, are weary
of being condemned to complete inactivity, and finish with
leaving the face and hands uncovered. Persons who would
renounce all kind of occupation during the navigation of
these lasers, might bring some particular garment from
Europe in the form of a bag, under which they could
remain covered, opening it only every half-hour. This bag
should be distended by whalebone hoops, for a close mask
and gloves would be perfectly insupportable. Sleeping o n
the ground, on skins, or in hammocks, we could not make
use of mosquito-curtains (toldos) while on the Orinoco.
The toldo is useful only where it forms a tent so well closed
around the bed that there is not the smallest opening by
which a gnat can pass. This is difficult to accomplish ; and
often when you succeed (for instance, in going up the Rio
Magdalena, where you travel with some degree of con-
venience), you are forced, in order to avoid being suffocated
by the heat, to come out, from beneath your toldo, and walk
about, in the open air. A feeble wind, smoke, and powerful
smells, scarcely afford any relief in places where the insects
are very numerous and very voracious. It is erroneously
affirmed that these little animals fly from the peculiar smell
emitted by the crocodile. We were fearfully stung at

Bataillez, in the road from Carthagena to H o n d a , while w e
were dissecting a crocodile eleven feet long, the smell o f
which infested all the surrounding atmosphere. T h e Indians
much commend the fumes of burnt cow-dung. W h e n the
wind is very strong, and accompanied by rain, the mosquitos
disappear for some time : they sting most cruelly at the
approach of a storm, particularly when the electric explo-
sions are not followed by heavy showers.
A n y t h i n g waved about the head and the hands contri-
butes to chase away the insects. " T h e more y o u stir your-
self, the less y o u will be stung, " say the missionaries. T h e
zancudo makes a buzzing before it settles ; but, when it
has assumed confidence, when it has once begun to fix its
sucker, and distend itself, y o u may touch its wings without
its being frightened. I t remains the whole time with its
t w o hind legs raised ; and, if left to suck to satiety, n o
swelling lakes place, and no pain is left behind. W e often
repeated this experiment on ourselves in the valley of the
Rio Magdalena. I t may be asked whether the insect
deposits the stimulating liquid only at the moment o f its
flight, when it is driven away, or whether it draws the
liquid up again when left to suck undisturbed. I incline to
this latter opinion ; for on quietly presenting the back o f
m y hand to the Culex cyanopterus, I observed that the
pain, though violent in the beginning, diminishes in p r o -
portion as the insect continues to suck, and ceases altogether
when it voluntarily flies away. I also wounded my skin
with a pin, and rubbed the pricks with bruised mosquitos,
and no swelling ensued. T h e irritating liquid, in which
chemists have not yet recognized any acid properties, is
contained, as in the ant and other hymenopterous insects,
in particular glands ; and is probably t o o much diluted, and
consequently too much weakened, if the skin be rubbed
with the whole of the bruised insect.
I have thrown together at the closo o f this chapter all
we learned during the course of our travels o n phenomena
which naturalists have hitherto singularly neglected, though
they exercise a great influence on the welfare of the inha-
bitants, the salubrity of the climate, and the establishment
o f new colonies on the rivers of equinoctial America. I
might justly have incurred the charge of having treated

this subject too much in detail, were it not connected with
general physiological views. Our imagination is struck
only by what is great ; but the lover of natural philosophy

should reflect equally on little things. We have just seen
that winged insects, collected in society, and concealing in
their sucker a liquid that irritates the skin, are capable of
rendering vast countries almost uninhabitable. Other insects
equally small, the termites (cornejen),* create obstacles
the progress of civilization, in several hot and temperate
parts of the equinoctial zone, that are difficult to be sur­
mounted. They devour paper, pasteboard, and parchment
with frightful rapidity, utterly destroying records and libra­
ries. W
hole provinces of Spanish America do not possess
one written document that dates a hundred years back.
What improvement can the civilization of nations acquire if
nothing link the present with the past ; if the depositaries
of human knowledge must be repeatedly renewed ; if the
records of genius and reason cannot be transmitted to
posterity ?

In proportion as you ascend the table­land of the Andes
these evils disappear. Man breathes a fresh and pure air.
Insects no more disturb the labours of the day or
slumbers of the night. Documents can be collected in
archives without our having to complain of the voracity of
the termites. Mosquitos are no longer feared at a height
of two hundred toises ; and the termites, still very frequent
at three hundred toises of elevation,* become very rare
Mexico, Santa Fé de Bogota, and Quito. In these great
capitals, situated on the back of the Cordilleras, we find

linaries and archives, augmented from day to day by the
enlightened zeal of the inhabitants. These circumstances,
combined with others, insure a moral preponderance
to the
Alpine region over the lower regions of the torrid zone. If
we admit, agreeably to the ancient traditions collected in
both the old and new worlds, that at the time of the catas-
trophe which preceded the renewal of our species, man
descended from the mountains into the plains, we may
admit, with still greater confidence, that these mountains,
• Literally, ' the eaters,' or ' the devourers.'
+ There are some at Popayan (height 910 toises ; mean temperature
18'7°), but they are species that gnaw wood only.

the cradle o f so many various nations, will for ever remain
the centre o f human civilization in the torrid zone. F r o m
these fertile and temperate table-lands, from these islets
scattered in the aërial ocean, knowledge and the blessings
o f social institutions will b e spread over those vast forests
extending along the foot o f the A n d e s , n o w inhabited only
b y savage tribes whom the very wealth of nature has
retained in indolence and barbarism.
Raudal of Garcita. — Maypures. — Cataracts of Quituna. — Mouth of the
Vichada and the Zama. — Rock of Aricagua. — Siquita.
We directed our course to the Puerto de arriba, above
the cataract o f A t u r e s , opposite the mouth o f the Rio
Cataniapo, where our boat was t o b e ready for us. I n the
narrow path that leads to the embarcadero we beheld for
the last time the peak o f Uniana. I t appeared like a cloud
rising above the horizon o f the plains. T h e Guahibos
wander at the foot of the mountains, and extend their
course as far as the banks o f the Vichada. W e were
shown at a distance, on the right o f the river, the rocks
that surround the cavern o f Ataruipe ; but w e had not
time t o visit that cemetery of the destroyed tribe of the
A t u r e s . Father Zea had repeatedly described t o us this
extraordinary cavern, the skeletons painted with anoto, the
large vases of baked earth, in which the bones of separate
families appear to be collected ; and many other curious
objects, which we proposed to examine on our return from
the Rio N e g r o . " Y o u will scarcely believe," said the
missionaries, " that these skeletons, these painted vases,
things which we believed were unknown to the rest of the
world, have brought trouble u p o n m e and m y neighbour,
the missionary o f Carichana. Y o u have seen the misery
in which I live in the raudales. Though devoured by mos-
quitos, and often in want of plantains and cassava, yet I
have found envious people even in this country ! A white
man, who inhabits the pastures between the M e t a and the
A p u r e , denounced me recently in the A u d e n c i a of Caracas,
V O L . I I . U

2 9 0
as concealing a treasure I had discovered, jointly with the
missionary of Carichana, amid the t o m b s o f the Indians.
It is asserted that the Jesuits of Santa Fé de Bogota were
apprised beforehand of the destruction o f their company ;
and that, in order to save the riches they possessed i n
money and precious vases, they sent them, either by the
Rio M e t a or the Vichada, t o the Orinoco, with orders to
have them hidden in the islets amid the raudales. These
treasures I am supposed to have appropriated unknown to
m y superiors. The Audencia o f Caracas brought a c o m -
plaint before the governor o f Guiana, and we were ordered
to appear in person. W e uselessly performed a journey of
one hundred and fifty leagues ; and, although we declared
that we had found in the cavern only human bones, and
dried bats and polecats, commissioners were gravely no-
minated to c o m e hither and search on the spot for the
supposed treasures of the Jesuits. W e shall wait long for
these commissioners. W h e n they have gone up the Ori-
noco as far as San Borja, the fear o f the mosquitos will
prevent them from going farther. The cloud of flies which
envelopes us in the raudales is a good d e f e n c e . "
The account given by the missionary was entirely con-
formable to what we afterwards learned at Angostura from
the governor himself. Fortuitous circumstances had given
rise to the strangest suspicions. In the caverns where the
mummies and skeletons of the nation of the Atures are
found, even in the midst of the cataracts, and in the most
inaccessible islets, the Indians long ago discovered boxes
bound with iron, containing various European tools, r e m -
nants of clothes, rosaries, and glass trinkets. These objects
arc thought to have belonged t o Portuguese traders of the
Rio Negro and Grand Para, who, before the establishment
o f the Jesuits on the banks o f the Orinoco, went u p to
A t u r e s by the portages and interior communications of
rivers, to trade with the natives. If is supposed that these
men sunk beneath the epidemic maladies so common in the
raudales, and that their chests became the property of the
Indians, the wealthiest of whom were usually buried with
all they possessed most valuable during their lives. F r o m
these very uncertain traditions the tale of hidden treasures
has been fabricated. A s in the A n d e s of Quito every ruined

building, not excepting the foundations of the pyramids
erected by the French savans for the measurement of the
meridian, is regarded as Inga, pilca,* that is, the work o f
the I n c a ; so o n the Orinoco every hidden treasure can
belong only to the Jesuits, an order which, n o doubt,
governed the missions better than the Capuchins and
the monks o f the Observance, b u t whose riches and
success in the civilization o f the Indians have been much
exaggerated. W h e n the Jesuits o f Santa Fé were arrested,
those heaps o f piastres, those emeralds o f M u z o , those bars
o f gold o f Choco, which the enemies o f the company sup-
posed they possessed, were n o t found in their dwellings.
I can cite a respectable testimony, which proves i n c o n -
testibly, that the viceroy o f N e w Granada had not warned
the Jesuits o f Santa Fé of the danger with which they were
menaced. D o n Vicente O r o s c o , an engineer officer in the
Spanish army, related to me that, being arrived at A n -
gostura, with D o n M a n u e l Centurion, to arrest the mis-
sionaries o f Carichana, he m e t an Indian boat that was
going down the Rio Meta. T h e boat being manned with
Indians who could speak none of the tongues o f the country,
gave rise to suspicions. A f t e r useless researches, a bottle
was at length discovered, containing a letter, in which the
Superior o f the company residing at Santa Fé informed the
missionaries o f the Orinoco o f the persecutions to which
the Jesuits were exposed in N e w Grenada. This letter
recommended no measure o f precaution ; it was short, with-
out ambiguity, and respectful towards the government,
whose orders were executed with useless and unreasonable
Eight Indians o f Atures had conducted our boat through
the raudales, and seemed well satisfied with the slight re-
compence we gave them. They gain little b y this e m p l o y -
ment ; and in order to give a j u s t idea o f the poverty and
want o f commerce in the missions o f the Orinoco, I shall
observe that during three years, with the exception of the
boats sent annually to Angostura by the commander of
San Carlos du Rio Negro, to fetch the pay of the soldiers,
the missionary had seen but five canoes o f the U p p e r
* Pilca (properly in Quichua pirca), wall of the Inca.
U 2

Orinoco pass the cataract, which were bound for the
harvest of turtles' eggs, and eight boats laden with mer-

About eleven on the morning of the 17th of April we
reached our boat. Father Zea caused to be embarked, with
our instruments, the small store of provisions he had been
able to procure for the voyage, on which he was to accom-
pany us ; these provisions consisted of a few bunches of

plantains, some cassava, and fowls. Leaving the embar-
cadero, we immediately passed the mouth of the Cataniapo,
a small river, the banks of which are inhabited by the

Macos, or Piaroas, who belong to the great family of the
Salive nations.

Besides the Piaroas of Cataniapo, who pierce their ears,
and wear as ear-ornaments the teeth of caymans and pec-
caries, three other tribes of Macos are known : one, on the

Ventuari, above the Rin Manata ; the second, on the
Padamo, north of the mountains of Maraguaca ; and the

third, near the Guaharibos, towards the sources of the
Orinoco, above the Rio Gehette. This last tribe bears the
name of Macos-Macos. I collected the following words from

a young Maco of the banks of the Cataniapo, whom we
met near the embarcadero, and who wore in his ears, instead
of a tusk of the peccary, a large wooden cylinder.*
Plantain, Paruru (in Tamanac also, paruru).
Cassava, Elente (in Maco, cahig).
Maize, Niarne.
The sun. .Jama (in Salive, mvme-seke-cocco).
The moon,
Jama (in Salive, vexio).
Water. Ahia (in Salive, cagua).
One, Nianti.
Two, Tajus.
Three, Percotahuja.

Four, Imontegroa.
The young man could not reckon as far as five, which cer-
tainly is no proof that the word live does not exist in the

Maco tongue. I know not whether this tongue be a dialect
of the Salive, as is pretty generally asserted ; for idioms
* This custom is observed among the Cabres, the Maypures, and the
Pevas of the Amazon. These last, described by La Condamine, stretch
their ears by weights of a considerable size.

derived from one another, sometimes furnish words utterly
different for the most c o m m o n and most important things.*
B u t in discussions o n mother-tongues and derivative lan-
guages, it is n o t the sounds, the roots only, that are
decisive ; b u t rather the interior structure and grammatical
forms. I n the American idioms, which are notwithstanding
rich, the m o o n is commonly enough called the sun of night,
or even the sun of leep ; b u t the moon and sun very rarely
bear the same name, as among the, M a c o s . I know only
a few examples in the most northerly part o f America,
among the W o c c o n s , the Ojibbeways, the Muskogulges,
and the Mohawks. + O u r missionary asserted that jama,
in M a c o , indicated at the same time the Supreme Being,
and the great orbs o f night and day ; while many other
American tongues, for instance the Tamanac, and the
Caribbee, have distinct words t o denote G o d , the M o o n ,
and the Sun. W e shall soon see h o w anxious the mission-
aries o f the Orinoco are not t o employ, in their translations
o f the prayers o f the church, the native words which denote
the Divinity, the Creator (Amanene), the Great Spirit w h o
animates all nature. They choose rather t o Indianize the
Spanish word Dios, converting it, according t o the differ-
ences o f pronunciation, and the genius o f t h e different,
dialects, into Dioso, Tiosu, o r Piosu.
When we again embarked on the Orinoco, we found the
river free from shoals. After a few hours w e passed the
Raudal o f Garcita, the rapids o f which are easy o f ascent,
when the waters are high. T o the eastward is seen a small
chain o f mountains called the chain o f Cumadaminari, con-
sisting o f gneiss, and n o t o f stratified granite. W e were
struck with a succession o f great holes at more than o n e
hundred and eighty feet above the present level o f the
Orinoco, yet which, notwithstanding, appear to be the effects
o f the erosion o f the waters. W e shall see hereafter, that
this phenomenon occurs again nearly at the same height,
both in t h e rocks that border the cataracts o f Maypures,
and fifty leagues t o the east, near the mouth o f the Rio Jao.
* The great family of the Esthonian (or Tschoudi) languages, and of
the Samoiede languages, affords numerous examples of these differences.
+ Nipia-kisathwa in the Shawanese (the idiom of Canada), from nippi,
to sleep, and kixathwa, the sun.

We slept in the open air, on the left bank o f the river,
below the island of T o m o . T h e night was beautiful and
serene, but the torment o f the mosquitos was so great near
the ground, that I could not succeed in levelling the artificial
horizon ; consequently I lost the opportunity o f making an
On the 18th we set out at three in the morning, t o b e
more sure of arriving before the close o f the day at t h e
cataract known by the name of the Raudal de los Guahibos.
W e stopped at the mouth o f the Rio T o m o . T h e I n d i a n s
went on shore, t o prepare their food, and take some repose.
W h e n we reached the foot of the raudal, it was near five in
the afternoon. I t was extremely difficult to g o up the cur-
rent against a mass o f water, precipitated from a bank of
gneiss several feet high. A n Indian threw himself into t h e
water, to reach, by swimming, the rock that divides t h e
cataract into two parts. A rope was fastened to the point
of this rock, and when the canoe was hauled near enough,
our instruments, our dry plants, and the provision we had
collected at Atu
res, were landed in the raudal itself. W e
remarked with surprise, that the natural dam over which t h e
is precipitated, presents a dry space o f considerable
extent ; where we stopped to see the boat g o up.
T h e rock of gneiss exhibits circular holes, the largest o f
which are four feet deep, and eighteen inches wide. These
funnels contain quartz pebbles, and appear to have been
formed by the friction of masses rolled along by the impulse
of the waters. O u r situation, in the midst of the cataract,
was singular enough, but unattended by the smallest danger.
T h e missionary, who accompanied us, had his fever-fit on
him. In order to quench the thirst by which he was tor-
mented, the idea suggested itself to us of preparing a re-
freshing beverage for him in one of the excavations of the
rock. We had taken on board at Atures an Indian basket
called a mapire, filled with sugar, limes, and those grenadillas,
or fruits of the passion-flower, to which the Spaniards give
the name of parchas. A s we were absolutely destitute o f
large vessels for holding and mixing liquids, we poured the
water of the river, by means of a calabash, into one o f the
holes of the rock : to this we added sugar and lime-juice.
In a few minutes we had an excellent beverage, which is

almost a refinement of luxury, in that wild spot ; but our
wauls rendered us every day more and more ingenious.

After an hour of expetation, we saw the boat arrive above
the raudal, and we were soon ready to depart. After quit-
ting the rock, our passage was not exempt from danger.
The river is eight hundred toises broad, and must be crossed
obliquely, above the cataract, at the point where the waters,
impelled by the slope of their bed, rush with extreme

violence toward the ledge from which they are precipitated.
W e were overtaken by a storm, accompanied happily by no
wind, but the rain fell in torrents. After rowing for twenty
minutes, the pilot declared, that, far from gaining upon the

current, we were again approaching the raudal. These mo-
ments of uncertainty appeared to us very long : the Indians

spoke only in whispers, as they do always when they think
their situation perilous. They redoubled their efforts, and
we arrived at nightfall, without any accident, in the port of

M a y p u r e s .
Storms within the tropics are as short a they are violent.
The lightning had fallen twice near our boat, and had no
doubt struck the surface of the water. I mention this phe-
nomenon, because it is pretty generally believed in those
countries that the clouds, the surface of which is charged
with electricity, arc at so great a height that the lightning
reaches the ground more rarely than in Europe. The night
was extremely dark, and we could not in less than two

hours reach the village of Maypures. W e were wet to the
skin. In proportion as the rain ceased, the zancudos re-
appeared, with that voracity which tipulary insects always
display immediately after a storm. My fellow-travellers

were uncertain whether it would be best to stop in the port
or proceed on our way on foot, in spite of the darkness of
the night. Father Zea was determined to reach his home.

He had given directions for the construction of a large
house of two stories, which was to be begun by the Indians
of the mission. " You will there find," said he gravely,
" the same conveniences as in the open air ; I have neither
a bench nor a table, but you will not suffer so much from
the flies, which are less troublesome in the mission than
on the banks of the river." We followed the counsel of
the missionary, who caused torches of copal to be lighted.

These torches are tubes made of bark, three inches in
diameter, and filled with copal resin. We walked at first
over beds of rock, which were bare and slippery, and then

we entered a thick grove of palm trees. We were twice
obliged to pass a stream on trunks of trees hewn down.
The torches had already ceased to give light. Being formed
on a strange principle, the woody substance which resembles
the wick surrounding
the resin, they emit more smoke
than light, and are easily extinguished. The Indian pilot,
who expressed himself with some facility in Spanish, told us
of snakes, water-serpents, and tigers, by which we might be
attacked. Such conversations may be expected as matters
of course, by persons who travel at night with the natives.

By intimidating the European traveller, the Indians imagine
they render themselves more necessary, and gain the con-
fidence of the stranger. The rudest inhabitant of the
missions fully understands the deceptions which everywhere

arise from the relations between men of unequal fortune
and civilization. Under the absolute and sometimes vexa-
tious government of the monks, the Indian seeks to ame-

liorate his condition by those little artifices which are the
weapons of physical and intellectual weakness.

Having arrived during the night at San Jose de Maypures
we were forcibly s t r u c k by the solitude of the place ; the
Indians were plunged in profound sleep, and nothing was
heard but the cries of nocturnal b i r d s , and the distant sound
of the cataract. In the calm of the night, amid the deep
repose of nature, the monotonous sound of a fall of water
has in it something sad and solemn. W e remained three

days at Maypures, a small village founded by Don Jose
Solano at the time of the expedition o f the boundaries, the
situation of which is
more picturesque, it might be said still
m o r e admirable, than that of Atures.
The raudal of Maypures, tailed by the Indians Quituna,
is formed, as all cataracts are, by the resistance which the
river encounters in its way across a ridge of rocks, or a
chain of mountains. The lofty mountains of Cunavami and

Calitamini, between the sources of the rivers Cataniapo and
Ventuari, stretch toward the west in a chain of granitic
hills, from this chain flow three small rivers, which em-
brace in some sort the cataract of Maypures. There are, on

A L T E R A T I O N O F T H E W A T E R - L E V E L .
the eastern bank, the Sanariapo, and on the western, t h e
Cameji and the Toparo. Opposite the village of Maypures,
the mountains fall back in an arch, and, like a rocky coast,
form a gulf open to the south-east. T h e irruption of the
river is effected between the mouths o f the Toparo and the
Sanariapo, at the western extremity of this majestic amphi-
T h e waters o f the Orinoco n o w roll at the foot o f the
eastern chain of the mountains, and have receded from the
west, where, in a deep valley, the ancient shore is easily
recognized. A savannah, scarcely raised thirty feet above
the mean level of the river, extends from this valley as far
as the cataracts. There the small church o f Maypures has
been constructed. I t is built o f trunks o f palm-trees, and
is surrounded by seven or eight huts. The dry valley, which
runs in a straight line from south to north, from the Cameji
to the Toparo, is filled with granitic and solitary mounds,
all resembling those found in the shape of islands and shoals
in the present bed of the river. I was struck with this
analogy o f form, o n comparing the rocks of K e r i and O c o ,
situated in the deserted bed of the river, west o f Maypures,
with the islets o f Ouivitari and Caminitamini, which rise
like old castles amid the cataracts to the east of the mission.
T h e geological aspect o f these scenes, the insular form o f
the elevations farthest from the present shore of the Orinoco,
the cavities which the waves appear to have hollowed in the
rock O c o , and which are precisely o n the same level ( t w e n t y -
five or thirty toises high) as the excavations perceived o p p o -
site to them in the isle of Ouivitari ; all these appearances
prove that the whole o f this bay, n o w dry, was formerly
covered by water. Those waters probably formed a lake,
the northern dike preventing their running out : but, when
this dike was broken down, the savannah that surrounds
the mission appeared at first like a very low island, bounded
by two arms o f the same river. It may be supposed that
the Orinoco continued for some time to till the ravine, which
We shall call the valley of Keri, because it contains the rock
o f that name ; and that the waters retired wholly toward
the eastern chain, leaving dry the western arm o f the river,
only as they gradually diminished. Coloured stripes, which
n o doubt owe their black tint to the oxides of iron and

manganese, seem to justify this conjecture. They are found
on all the stones, far from the mission, and indicate the
former abode o f the waters. I n going u p the river, all
merchandise is discharged at the confluence o f the Rio
Toparo and the Orinoco. T h e boats are entrusted to the
natives, who have so perfect a knowledge o f the raudal, that
they have a particular name for every step. They c o n d u c t
the boats as far as the mouth of the Cameji, where the
danger is considered as past.
I will here describe the cataract of Quituna or M a y p u r e s
as it appeared at the t w o periods when I examined it, in
g o i n g down and up the river. I t is formed, like that of
Mapara or Attires, by an archipelago of islands, which, to
the length of three thousand toises, till the bed of the river;
and by rocky dikes, which j o i n the islands together. T h e
most remarkable of these dikes, or natural dams, are Puri-
marimi, Manini, and the Leap of the Sardine (Salto de la
Sardina). I name them in the order in which I saw them
in succession from south to north. The last of these three
stages is near nine feet high, and forms by its breadth a
magnificent cascade. I must here repeat, however, that the
turbulent shock o f the precipitated and broken waters d e -
pends not so much on the absolute height of each step or
dike, as upon the multitude of counter-currents, the g r o u p -
ing o f the islands and shoals, that lie at the foot of the
raudalitos or partial cascades, and the contraction of the
channels, which often do not leave a free navigable passage
o f twenty or thirty feet. T h e eastern part of the cataract
o f Maypures is much more dangerous than the w e s t e r n ;
and therefore the Indian pilots prefer the left bank of the
river t o c o n d u c t the boats down or u p . Unfortunately, in
the season of low waters, this bank remains partly dry, and
recourse must be had to the process of portage; that is, the
boats are obliged to be dragged on cylinders, or round logs.
T o command a comprehensive view of these stupendous
scenes, the spectator must, be stationed on the little moun-
tain of Manimi, a granitic ridge, which rises from the
savannah, north of the church of the mission, and is itself
only a continuation of the ridges of which the raudalito of
Manimi is composed. W e often visited this mountain, for
we were never weary of gazing on this astonishing spectacle.

F r o m the summit o f the rock is descried a sheet o f foam,
extending the length o f a whole mile. Enormous masses o f
stone, black as iron, issue from its bosom. Some are paps
grouped in pairs, like basaltic hills; others resemble towers,
fortified castles, and ruined buildings. Their gloomy tint
contrasts with the silvery splendour o f the foam. Every
rock, every islet is covered with vigorous trees, collected in
clusters. A t the foot o f those paps, far as the eye can reach,
a thick vapour is suspended over the river, and through this
whitish fog the tops o f the lofty palm-trees shoot u p . W h a t
name shall we give t o these majestic plants? I suppose
them t o be the vadgiai, a n e w species o f the genus Oreodoxa,
the trunk o f which is more than eighty feet high. T h e fea-
thery leaves o f this palm-tree have a brilliant lustre, and rise
almost straight toward the sky. A t every hour o f the day
the sheet o f foam displays different aspects. Sometimes the
hilly islands and the palm-trees project their broad s h a d o w s ;
sometimes the rays o f the setting sun are refracted in the
cloud that hangs over the cataract, and coloured arcs are
formed which vanish and appear alternately.
Such is the character o f the landscape discovered from the
top o f the mountain o f Manimi, which no traveller has y e t
described. I do n o t hesitate to repeat, that neither time,
nor the view of the Cordilleras, nor any abode in the t e m -
perate vallies o f M e x i c o , has effaced from m y mind the
powerful impression of the aspect of the cataracts. W h e n I
read a description o f those places in India that are embel-
lished by running waters and a vigorous vegetation, m y
imagination retraces a sea of foam and palm-trees, the tops
of which rise above a stratum o f vapour. T h e majestic
scenes of nature, like the sublime works o f poetry and the
arts, leave remembrances that are incessantly awakening,
and which, through the whole o f life, mingle with all our
feelings of what, is grand and beautiful.
T h e calm o f the atmosphere, and the tumultuous move-
ment of the waters, produce a contrast peculiar to this zone
Here no breath o f wind ever agitates the foliage, n o cloud
veils the splendour o f the azure vault o f heaven; a great
mass o f light is diffused in the air. on the earth strewn with
plants with glossy leaves, and on the bed of the river, which
extends as far as the eye can reach. This appearance sur-

3 0 0
prises t h e traveller born in t h e north o f E u r o p e . T h e idea
o f wild scenery, o f a torrent r u s h i n g from rock t o rock, is
linked in his imagination with that o f a climate where t h e

noise o f the t e m p e s t is mingled with t h e sound of the cataract;
a n d w h e r e , in a g l o o m y a n d m i s t y d a y , s w e e p i n g clouds s e e m
t o d e s c e n d into t h e valley, a n d to rest u p o n t h e t o p s o f t h e
p i n e s . T h e landscape o f t h e tropics in t h e l o w r e g i o n s of

t h e c o n t i n e n t s has a peculiar p h y s i o g n o m y , s o m e t h i n g of
greatness and repose, which it preserves even where o n e of
t h e e l e m e n t s is s t r u g g l i n g with invincible obstacles. N e a r
t h e equator, hurricanes and t e m p e s t s belong to islands o n l y ,
t o deserts d e s t i t u t e o f plants, a n d t o t h o s e spots where parts
o f t h e a t m o s p h e r e repose upon surfaces from which t h e

radiation o f heat is very unequal.
T h e m o u n t a i n o f M a n i m i forms t h e eastern limit o f a
plain which furnishes for t h e history o f v e g e t a t i o n , t h a t is,
for its progressive d e v e l o p m e n t in bare a n d desert places,

t h e s a m e p h e n o m e n a which w e have described above i n
s p e a k i n g o f t h e raudal o f A t u r e s . D u r i n g the rainy season,
t h e waters heap vegetable earth upon t h e granitic rock, t h e
bare shelves o f which extend horizontally. T h e s e islands of
m o u l d , decorated with beautiful a n d odoriferous p l a n t s ,

resoluble the blocks o f granite covered with flowers, which
t h e inhabitants o f t h e A l p s call gardens or courtils, a n d
which pierce t h e glaciers o f Switzerland.

In a place where we had bathed t h e day before, at t h e
foot o f t h e rock o f M a n i m i , t h e Indians killed a s e r p e n t
seven feet and a-half long. T h e M a c o s called it a camudu.
Its back displayed, upon a yellow g r o u n d , transverse b a n d s ,
partly black, and partly inclining to a brown g r e e n : under
t h e belly t h e bands were blue, and united in rhombic spots.
T h i s animal, which is n o t v e n o m o u s , is said by t h e natives to
attain more than fifteen feet in l e n g t h . I thought at first,
t h a t the camudu was a boa ; but I saw with surprise, that
the scales beneath t h e tail were divided into t w o rows. I t
was therefore a viper, ( c o l u b e r ) ; perhaps a python o f the
N e w C o n t i n e n t : I say perhaps, for great, naturalists appear

t o a d m i t that all t h e p y t h o n s b e l o n g t o t h e O l d , and all
the boas to the New World. A s the boa of Pliny was a
serpent o f Africa and o f t h e south o f E u r o p e , it w o u l d have
been well if t h e boas o f A m e r i c a had been named p y t h o n s ,

W A T E R S N A K E S .
3 0 1
and the pythons of India been called boas. T h e first
notions o f an enormous reptile capable o f seizing man, and
even the great quadrupeds, came to us from India and the
coast o f Guinea. H o w e v e r indifferent names may be, w e
can scarcely admit the idea, that the hemisphere in which
Virgil described the agonies o f L a o c o o n , (a fable which the
Greeks of Asia borrowed from much more southern nations)
does n o t possess the boa-constrictor. I will n o t augment
the confusion o f zoological nomenclature by proposing n e w
changes, and shall confine myself t o observing that at least
the missionaries and the latinized Indians o f the missions,
if n o t the planters o f Guiana, clearly distinguish the traga-
(real boas, with simple anal plates) from the culebras
de agua, o r water-snakes, like the camudu (pythons with
double anal scales). T h e traga-venados have n o transverse
bands on the back, b u t a chain o f rhombic or hexagonal
spots. S o m e species prefer the driest p l a c e s ; others love
the water, as the pythons, or culebras de agua.
Advancing towards the west, w e find the hills or islets in
the deserted branch o f the Orinoco crowned with the same
palm-trees that rise on the rocks o f the cataracts. O n e of
these hills, called K e r i , is celebrated in the country on
account o f a white spot which shines from afar, and in
which the natives profess to see the image o f the full m o o n .
I could n o t climb this steep rock, b u t I believe the white
spot to b e a large nodule o f quartz, formed by the union o f
several o f those veins so c o m m o n in granites passing into
gneiss. Opposite Keri, or the Rock o f the M o o n , o n the
twin mountain Ouivitari, which is an islet in the midst o f
the cataracts, the Indians point o u t with mysterious awe a
similar white spot. It has the form o f a d i s c ; and they
say this is the image o f the sun ( C a m o s i ) . Perhaps t h e
geographical situation o f these t w o objects has contributed
to their having received these names. Keri is on the side
of the setting, Camosi on that o f the rising sun. Languages
being the most ancient historical monuments o f nations,
some learned men have been singularly struck b y the ana-
logy between the American w o r d camosi and camosch, which
seems to have signified originally, the sun, in o n e o f the
Semitic dialects. This analogy has given rise to hypotheses

3 0 2
T H E M A Y P U R E T O N G U E .
which appear to m o at least very problematical. T h e god
o f the Moabites, Chemosh, or Camosch, who has so wearied
the patience o f the l e a r n e d ; A p o l l o Chomens, cited by
Strabo and by A m m i a n u s M a r c e l l i n u s ; B e l p h e g o r ; A m u n
or H a m o n ; and A d o n i s : all, without doubt, represent the
sun in the winter solstice; but what can we conclude from
a solitary and fortuitous resemblance; of sounds in languages
that have nothing besides in c o m m o n ?
T h e M a y p u r e t o n g u e is still spoken at A t u r e s , although
the mission is inhabited only by Guahibos and M a c o s . A t
Maypures the Guareken and Pareni tongues only are now
spoken. F r o m the R i o Anaveni, which falls into the
Orinoco north o f Atures, as far as b e y o n d Jao, and to the
m o u t h o f the Guaviaro (between the fourth and sixth
degrees of latitude), we everywhere find rivers, the termi-
nation of which, veni,* recalls to mind the extent to which
the M a y p u r e t o n g u e heretofore prevailed. Veni, o r weni,
signifies wafer, or a river. T h e words camosi and keri,
which we have j u s t cited, are o f the idiom of the Pareni
Indians,† w h o , I think I have heard from the natives,
lived originally on the banks o f the Mataveni.‡ T h e A b b e
Gili considers the Pareni as a simple dialect of the M a y -
pure. This question cannot b e solved b y a comparison of
the roots merely. B e i n g totally ignorant o f the g r a m -
matical structure of the Pareni, I can raise but feeble
doubts against the opinion of the Italian missionary. T h e
Pareni is perhaps a mixture of two tongues that belong to
different families; like the Maquiritari, which is composed
of the Maypure and the C a r i b b e e ; or, to cite an example
better known, the m o d e r n Persian, which is allied at the
same time t o the Sanscrit and to the Semitic tongues. The
* Anaveni, Mataveni, Maraveni, &c.
† Or Parenas, who must not be confounded either with the Paravenes

of the Rio Caura (Caulin p. 69), or with the Parecas, whose language
belongs to the great family of the Tamanac tongues. A young Indian of

Maypures, who called himself a Paragini, answered my questions almost
in the same words that M . Bonpland heard from a Pareni. I have
indicated the differences in the table, see pp. 303-4.

South of the Rio Zama. W e slept in the open air near the mouth
of the Mataveni on the 28th day of May, in our return from the Rio Negro.

3 0 3
following are Paroni words, which I carefully compared
with M a y p u r e words.*
The sun
Kiè (Kiepurig)
The moon
Kejapi (Cagijapi)
A star
The devil
Oueni (ût)
The head
Nuchibucu ‡
The hair
The eyes
The nose
The mouth
The teeth
The tongue
The ear
The cheek
The neck
The arm
The hand
The breast
The back
The thigh
The nipples
The foot
The toes
The calf of the leg
A crocodile
A fish
Paratana (Teot)§
* The words of the Maypure language have been taken from the works
of Gili and Hervas. I collected the words placed between parentheses from
a young Maco Indian, who understood the Maypure language.

† I am ignorant of what ima signifies in this compound word. Eno
means in Maypure the sky and thunder. Ina signifies mother.
The syllables no and nu, joined to the words that designate parts of
the body, might have been suppressed ; they answer to the possessive
pronoun my.

§ W e may be surprised to find the word teot denote the eminently
nutritive substance that supplies the place of corn (the gift of a bene-
ficent divinity), and on which the subsistence of man within the tropics

Mimosa inga
Cecropia peltata
Puziana (Pagiana)
Papeta (Popetas)
Sinapa (Achinafe)
Avanume (Avanome)
Apekiva Pejiiveji)
Puriana vacavi
Puriana vacavi
Puriassima vacavi
This comparison seems to prove that the analogies ob­
served in the roots of the Pareni and the Maypure tongues
are not to he neglected; they are, however, scarcely more
frequent than those that have been observed between t h e
Maypure of the Upper Orinoco and the language of t h e
Moxos, which is spoken on the banks of the Marmora,
from 15° to 20° of south latitude. The Parenis have in
their pronunciation the English th, or tsa of the Arabians,
as I clearly heard in the word Amethami (devil, evil spirit).
I need not again notice the origin of the word c a m o s i .
Solitary resemblances of sounds are as little proof of com­
munication between nations as the dissimilitude of a few
roots furnishes evidence against the affiliation o f t h e
German from the Persian and the Greek. It is remarkable,
however, that the names of the sun and moon are sometimes
found to be identical in languages, the grammatical con­
depends. I may here mention, that the word Teo, or Teot, which in
Aztec signifies God (Teotl, properly Teo, for tl is only a termination), is
found in the language of the Betoï of the Rio Mela. The name of the
moon, in this language so remarkable for the complication of its gram­
matical structure, is
Teo-ro. The name of the sun is Teo-umasoi. The
ro designates a woman, umasoi a man. Among the Betoï, the
Maypures, and so many other nations of both continents, the moon is
believed to be the wife of the sun. But what is this root
Teo? It appears
to me very doubtful, that Teo-ro should signify God-woman, for Memelu
is the name of the All­powerful Being in the Betoï language.
* Has this word been introduced from a communication with Europeans?
It is almost identical with the Mexican (Aztec) word cacava.

struction of which is entirely different; I may cite as
examples the Guarany and the Omagua,* languages of na-
tions formerly very powerful. It may be conceived that,
with the worship of the stars and of the powers of nature,

words which have a relation to these objects might pass
from one idiom to another. I showed the constellation of
the Southern Cross to a Pareni Indian, who covered the

lantern while I was taking the circum-meridian heights of
the stars; and he called it
Bahumehi, a name which the
caribe fish, or
serra salme, also bears in Pareni. He
was ignorant of the name of the belt of Orion; but a Poig-
nave Indian,† who knew the constellations better, assured
me that in his tongue the belt of Orion bore the name of
Fuebot; he called the moon
Zenquerot. These two words
have a very peculiar character for words of American origin.
As the names of the constellations may have been trans-
mitted to immense distances from one nation to another,
these Poignave words have fixed the attention of the learned,

who have imagined they recognize the Phœnician and
Moabite tongues in the word camosi of the Pareni. Fuebot
and zenquerot seem to remind us of the Phœnician words
mot (clay), ardod (oak-tree), ephod, &c. But what can we
conclude from simple terminations which are most fre-
quently foreign to the roots ? In Hebrew the feminine

plurals terminate also in oth. I noted entire phrases in
Poignave; but the young man whom I interrogated spoke
so quick that I could not seize the division of the words,
and should have mixed them confusedly together had I

attempted to write them down.‡
* Sun and Moon, in Guarany, Quarasi and Jasi; in Omagua, Huarassi
and Jase. I shall give, farther on, these same words in the principal
languages of the old and new worlds. (See note at pp. 326-328.)
† At the Orinoco the Puignaves, or Poignaves, are distinguished from the
Guipuñaves (Uipunavi). The latter, on account of their language, are
considered as belonging to the Maypure and Cabre nations ; yet water is
called in Poignave, as well as in Maypure, oueni.

‡ For a curious example of this, see the speech of Artabanes in
Aristophanes, (Acharn. act 1, scene 3,) where a Greek has attempted to
give a Persian oration. See also Gibbon's Roman Empire, chap, liii,
note 5 4 , for a curious example of the way in which foreign languages
have been disfigured when it has been attempted to represent them in a
totally different tongue.


The Mission near the raudal of Maypures was very con-
siderable in the time o f the Jesuits, when it reckoned six
hundred inhabitants, among whom were several families
o f whites. U n d e r the government of the Fathers o f the
Observance the population was reduced to less than sixty.
It must be observed that in this part of South A m e r i c a
cultivation has been diminishing for half a century, while
b e y o n d the forests, in the provinces near the sea, w e find
villages that contain from t w o or three thousand Indians.
The inhabitants of Maypures are a mild, temperate people,
and distinguished by great cleanliness. The savages of the
Orinoco for the most part have not that inordinate fondness
for strong liquors which prevails in N o r t h America. I t is
true that the Ottomacs, the Jaruros, the Achaguas, and the
Caribs, are often intoxicated by the immoderate use of chiza
and many other fermented liquors, which they know how to
prepare with cassava, maize, and the saccharine fruit of the
palm-tree; but travellers have as usual generalized what
belongs only to the manners of some tribes. W e were
frequently unable to prevail upon the Guahibos, or the
Maco-Piroas, to taste brandy while they were labouring for
us, and seemed exhausted b y fatigue. I t will require a
longer residence o f Europeans in these countries to spread
there the vices that are already common among the Indians
on the coast. I n the huts o f the natives of M a y p u r e s we
found an appearance of order and neatness, rarely met with
in the houses of the missionaries.
These natives cultivate plantains and cavassa, but n o
maize. Cassava, made into thin cakes, is the bread o f the
country. Like the greater part of the Indians of the Ori-
noco, the inhabitants of Maypures have beverages which
may be considered nourishing ; one of these, much celebrated
in that country, is furnished by a palm-tree which grows
wild in the vicinity o f the mission on the banks of the A u -
vana. This tree is the seje : I estimated the number o f
flowers on one cluster at forty-four thousand; and that of
the fruit, o f which the greater part fall without ripening,
at eight thousand. T h e fruit is a small fleshy drupe. I t is
immersed for a few minutes in boiling water, to separate
the kernel from the parenchymatous part o f the sarcocarp,
which has a sweet taste, and is pounded and bruised in a

largo vessel filled with water. T h e infusion yields a yellow-
ish liquor, which tastes like milk of almonds. Sometimes
papelon (unrefined sugar) is added. The missionary told us
that the natives become visibly fatter during the two or three
months in which they drink this seje, into which they dip
their cakes of cassava. T h e piaches, or Indian jugglers, g o
into the forests, and sound the botuto (the sacred trumpet)
under the seje palm-trees, " to force the tree," they say, " to
yield an ample produce the following y e a r . " The people
pay for this operation, as the M o n g o l s , the Arabs, and
nations still nearer to us, pay the chamans, the marabouts,
and other classes o f priests, to drive away the white ants
and the locusts by mystic words or prayers, or to procure
a cessation o f continued rain, and invert the order o f the
" I have a manufacture o f pottery in m y village," said
Father Zea, when accompanying us o n a visit to an Indian
family, who were occupied in baking, by a fire of brushwood,
in the open air, large earthen vessels, two feet and a half
high. This branch o f manufacture is peculiar to the various
tribes o f the great family of Maypures, and they appear to
have followed it from time immemorial. In every part o f
the forests, far from any human habitation, on digging the
earth, fragments of pottery and delf are found. The taste
for this kind of manufacture seems to have been c o m m o n
heretofore to the natives of both N o r t h and South America.
T o the north o f M e x i c o , on the banks of the Rio Gila,
among the ruins o f an A z t e c c i t y ; in the United States,
near the tumuli of the Miamis ; in Florida, and in every place
where any traces o f ancient civilization are found, the soil
covers fragments of painted pottery; and the extreme resem-
blance o f the ornaments they display is striking. Savage
nations, and those civilized people* who are condemned by
their political and religious institutions always to imitate
themselves, strive, as if by instinct, to perpetuate the same
forms, to preserve a peculiar type or style, and to follow the
methods and processes which were employed by their ances-
tors. I n North America, fragments of delf ware have been
• The Hindoos, the Tibetians, the Chinese, the ancient Egyptians, the
Aztecs, the Peruvians ; with whom the tendency toward civilization in a
body has prevented the free development of the faculties of individuals.

X 2

discovered in places w h e r e there exist lines o f fortification,
a n d t h e walls of t o w n s c o n s t r u c t e d by s o m e u n k n o w n na­
tion, now entirely e x t i n c t . T h e paintings on t h e s e f r a g m e n t s

have a great similitude t o t h o s e which are e x e c u t e d in o u r
days on earthenware by t h e natives of Louisiana a n d F l o ­
rida. T h u s t o o , t h e I n d i a n s of M a y p u r e s often p a i n t e d b e ­
fore o u r eyes t h e s a m e o r n a m e n t s as those w e had o b s e r v e d
in t h e cavern o f A t a r u i p e , o n t h e vases c o n t a i n i n g h u m a n

bones. T h e y were grеcques, m e a n d e r s , and figures o f c r o c o ­
diles, of m o n k e y s , an d of a large q u a d r u p e d whic h I c o u l d n o t
recognize, t h o u g h it had always t h e same squat form. I m i g h t
hazard t h e h y p o t h e s i s that it b e l o n g s t o a n o t h e r c o u n t r y ,

a n d that t h e t y p e had b e e n b r o u g h t t h i t h e r in t h e g r e a t
migration of t h e A m e r i c a n nations from t h e n o r t h - w e s t t o
the south and s o u t h - e a s t ; but I am rather inclined t o b e ­

lieve t h a t t h e figure is i n t e n d e d t o r e p r e s e n t a tapir, a n d
that the deformed image of a native animal has b e c o m e b y
d e g r e e s o n e o f t h e t y p e s that has been preserved.

T h e M a y p u r e s e x e c u t e with t h e greatest skill grecques, or
o r n a m e n t s formed by straight lines variously c o m b i n e d ,
similar t o those that we find on t h e vases of M a g n a Grecia,
on t h e M e x i c a n edifices at M i t l a , and in t h e works o f so

many nations w h o , without c o m m u n i c a t i o n with each o t h e r ,
find alike a sensible pleasure in the s y m m e t r i c repetition o f
the s a m e forms. A r a b e s q u e s , meanders, and g r e c q u e s ,
please o u r eyes, because t h e e l e m e n t s o f which their series is
c o m p o s e d , follow in r h y t h m i c order. T h e
e y e finds in this
order, in t h e periodical return of t h e same forms, w h a t t h e
ear d i s t i n g u i s h e s in t h e cadenced succession of s o u n d s a n d
c o n c o r d s . C a n we t h e n a d m i t a doubt that t h e feeling o f

rhythm manifests itself in man at t h e first dawn of civiliza­
tion, and in t h e rudest essays o f p o e t r y a n d s o n g ?

A m o n g t h e natives o f M a y p u r e s , t h e m a k i n g o f p o t t e r y
is an occupation principally confined t o t h e w o m e n . T h e y
purify t h e clay by repeated w a s h i n g s , form
it into cylinders,
and m o u l d t h e largest vases with their hands. T h e A m e ­
rican Indian is unacquainted with t h e p o t t e r ' s wheel, which
was familiar to the nations o f t h e east in t h e r e m o t e s t a n t i ­
q u i t y . W e may be surprised that t h e missionaries have n o t
introduced this s i m p l e and useful machine a m o n g t h e natives
of the O r i n o c o , y e t w e m u s t recollect that three c e n t u r i e s

have not sufficed to make it known,among the Indians o f
the peninsula of Araya, opposite the port of Cumana. The
colours used by the Maypures are the oxides o f iron and
manganese, and particularly the yellow and red ochres that
are found in the hollows o f sandstone. Sometimes the
fecula of the Bignonia chica is employed, after the pottery
has been exposed to a feeble fire. This painting is covered
with a varnish o f algarobo, which is the transparent resin of
the Hymenæa courbaril. The large vessels in which the
chiza is preserved are called ciamacu; the smallest bear the
name of mucra, from which word the Spaniards o f the coast
have framed murcura. N o t only the Maypures, but also the
Guaypunaves, the Caribs, the Ottomacs, and even the Gua-
mos, are distinguished at the Orinoco as makers of painted
pottery, and this manufacture extended formerly towards the
banks of the Amazon. Orellana was struck with the painted
ornaments on the ware o f the Omaguas, who in his time were
a populous commercial nation.
The following facts throw some light on the history o f
American civilization. In the United States, west of the
Alleghany mountains, particularly between the Ohio and
the great lakes o f Canada, on digging the earth, frag-
ments of painted pottery, mingled with brass tools, are con-
stantly found. This mixture may well surprise us in a
country where, on the first, arrival of Europeans, the natives
were ignorant o f the use o f metals. In the forests of South
America, which extend from the equator as far as the
eighth degree o f north latitude, from the foot o f the A n d e s
to the Atlantic, this painted pottery is discovered in the
most desert places, but it is found accompanied by hatchets
of jade and other hard stones, skilfully perforated. N o me-
tallic tools or ornaments have ever been discovered; though
in the mountains on the shore, and at the back of the Cor-
dilleras, the art of melting gold and copper, and o f mixing
the latter metal with tin to make cutting instruments, was
known. How can we account for these contrasts between the
temperate and the torrid zone? The Incas of Peru had
pushed their conquests and their religious wars as far as the
banks of the Napo and the Amazon, where their language
extended over a small space of land : but the civilization of
the Peruvians, o f the inhabitants of Quito, and of the

3 1 0
M u y s c a s of N e w G r e n a d a , never appears to have had a n y
sensible influence on the moral s l a t e of the nations of
Guiana. It m u s t be observed further, that in N o r t h
A m e r i c a , b e t w e e n t h e O h i o , M i a m i , a n d t h e L a k e s , an u n -

k n o w n p e o p l e , w h o m s y s t e m a t i c a u t h o r s w o u l d m a k e t h e
d e s c e n d a n t s o f t h e T o l t e c s and A z t e c s , c o n s t r u c t e d walls o f
earth a n d s o m e t i m e s o f s t o n e w i t h o u t m o r t a r , * from t e n t o

fifteen feet high, and seven or eight t h o u s a n d feet l o n g .
T h e s e singular circumvallations s o m e t i m e s enclosed a h u n -
dred and fifty acres of g r o u n d . In the plains of the O r i n o c o ,
as in those of Marietta, the M i a m i , and the Ohio, the centre
of an ancient civilization is f o u n d in t h e w e s t on t h e back o f
the m o u n t a i n s ; b u t t h e O r i n o c o , and t h e c o u n t r i e s l y i n g b e -
t w e e n that great river and the A m a z o n , appear never t o
have b e e n inhabited by nations w h o s e c o n s t r u c t i o n s have r e -
sisted the ravages of t i m e . T h o u g h symbolical figures are
found engraved on the hardest rocks, y e t further south t h a n

eight degrees of latitude, no t u m u l u s , no circumvallation, n o
dike of earth similar to those that exist farther north in t h e
plains of Varinas and C a n a g u a , has been found. S u c h is t h e
contrast that may be observed between the eastern parts o f
N o r t h and S o u t h America, those parts which e x t e n d from the
table-land of Cundinamarca† and I be m o u n t a i n s of C a y e n n e
towards the Atlantic, and those which stretch from the A n d e s

of New Spain towards the A l l e g h a n i e s . N a t i o n s advanced in
civilization, of which we discover traces on the banks of lake
T e g u y o and in the Casas grandes of the Rio G i l a , might have
s e n t s o m e tribes eastward into the open c o u n t r i e s o f t h e

Missouri and the O h i o , where the climate differs little from
that of New M e x i c o ; but in S o u t h A m e r i c a , where t h e great
flux of nations has c o n t i n u e d from north to s o u t h , those w h o
had long enjoyed the mild t e m p e r a t u r e of the back of the

equinoctial Cordilleras no d o u b t dreaded a d e s c e n t into
b u r n i n g plains bristled with forests, and inundated by t h e
periodical swellings of rivers. It is easy to conceive how
m u c h the force of vegetation, and the nature of the soil a n d

* Of siliceous limestone, at Pique, on the Great Miami ; of sandstone
at. Creek Point, ten leagues from Chillakothe, where the wall is fifteen
hundred toises long.

† This is the ancient name of the empire of the Zaques. founded by
Bochica or Idacanzas, the high priest of Iraca, in New Grenada.

D O M E S T I C A T E D B I R D S A N D A N I M A L S .
3 1 1
climate, within the torrid zone, embarrassed the natives in
regard t o migration in numerous bodies, prevented settle-
ments requiring an extensive space, and perpetuated the
misery and barbarism of solitary hordes.
The feeble civilization introduced in our days b y the
Spanish monks pursues a retrograde course. Father Gili
relates that, at the time of the expedition to the boundaries,
agriculture began to make some progress on the banks of
the O r i n o c o ; and that cattle, especially goats, had mul-
tiplied considerably at Maypures. W e found n o goats,
either in the mission or in any other village of the O r i n o c o ;
they had all been devoured by the tigers. T h e black and
white breeds o f pigs only, the latter o f which are called
French pigs (puercos franceses), because they are believed
to have com e from the Caribbee Islands, have resisted the
pursuit o f wild beasts. W e saw with much pleasure gua-
or tame macaws, round the huts of the Indians,
and flying to the fields like our pigeons. This bird is the
largest and most majestic species o f parrot with naked
checks that we found in our travels. I t is called in Mara-
tivitan, cahuei. Including the tail, it is t w o feet three
inches long. W e had observed it also on the banks o f the
A t a b a p o , the Temi, and the Rio N e g r o . T h e flesh o f the
cahuei, which is frequently eaten, is black and somewhat
tough. These macaws, whose plumage glows with vivid
tints o f purple, blue, and yellow, are a great ornament to
the Indian farm-yards; they do not yield in beauty to the
peacock, the golden pheasant, the pauxi, or the alector.
T h e practice of rearing parrots, birds of a family so different
from the gallinaceous tribes, was remarked by Columbus.
When he discovered America ho saw macaws, or large
parrots, which served as food to the natives of the Caribbee
Islands, instead of fowls.
A majestic tree, more than sixty feet high, which the
planters call fruta de burro, grows in the vicinity o f the
little village of Maypures. I t is a new species o f the
unona, and has the stateliness of the Uvaria zeylanica of
A u b l e t . Its branches are straight, and rise in a pyramid,
nearly like the poplar of the Mississippi, erroneously called
the Lombardy poplar. The tree is celebrated for its aro-
matic fruit, the infusion o f which is a powerful febrifuge.

T h e p o o r missionaries o f t h e O r i n o c o , w h o a r e afflicted
with tertian fevers during a great part o f t h e year, sel-
d o m travel w i t h o u t a little b a g filled w i t h
frutas de burro.
I have already observed, that b e t w e e n t h e tropics, the
u s e o f a r o m a t i c s , for instance very s t r o n g coffee, the Croton
cascarilla, o r the pericarp o f t h e U n o n a xylopioïdes, is
generally preferred to that o f t h e astringent bark o f cin-

chona, or of Bonplandia trifolatia, which is t h e A n g o s t u r a
bark. T h e people o f A m e r i c a have t h e m o s t inveterate
prejudice against t h e e m p l o y m e n t o f different kinds of

c i n c h o n a ; a n d i n t h e very countries w h e r e this valuable
remedy g r o w s , they t r y ( t o u s e their o w n phrase) to c u t
off the fever, by infusions o f Scoparia dulcis, and hot l e m o n -

ade prepared with s u g a r a n d t h e small wild lime, t h e rind
o f which is equally oily and aromatic.

T h e weather was unfavourable for astronomical obser-
vations. I obtained, however, on t h e 20th o f April, a good
series o f c o r r e s p o n d i n g altitudes o f t h e s u n . according t o
which t h e c h r o n o m e t e r gave 70° 37' 33 for t h e l o n g i t u d e

of t h e mission o f M a y p u r e s ; t h e latitude was found, b y a
star observed towards t h e north, to be 5° 13' 57'' ; and by a
star observed t o w a r d s t h e s o u t h , 5° 13' 7". T h e error o f
the most recent m a p s is half a degree o f longitude a n d half

a degree o f latitude. I t w o u l d be difficult t o relate t h e
t r o u b l e a n d t o r m e n t s which t h e s e nocturnal observations
c o s t us. N o w h e r e i s a d e n s e r c l o u d o f m o s q u i t o s t o be
found. I t formed, a s it were, a particular s t r a t u m some
feet above t h e g r o u n d , and it thickened as w e b r o u g h t lights

to illumine o u r artificial horizon. T h e inhabitants o f May-
pures, for t h e m o s t part, quit t h e village t o sleep in t h e
islets amid t h e cataracts, where t h e n u m b e r of insects is
l e s s ; others make a fire o f brushwood in their huts, and

s u s p e n d their h a m m o c k s in t h e midst o f the s m o k e .
W e spent, t w o days and a half in t h e little village o f
M a y p u r e s , on the banks o f t h e great Upper Cataract, and
on t h e 21st April we e m b a r k e d in t h e canoe we had o b -
tained from t h e missionary o f Carichana. It was m u c h

d a m a g e d by t h e shoals it had struck against. and t h e care-
lessness of the I n d i a n s ; b u t still greater dangers awaited
it. It was t o be dragged over laud, across an isthmus o f

thirty-six t h o u s a n d f e e t ; from the Rio T u a m i n i t o the

R i o N e g r o , to go up b y the Cassiquiare to the Orinoco, and
t o repass the two raudales.
W h e n the traveller has passed the Great Cataracts, he
feels as if be were in a new world, and had overstepped
the barriers which nature seems to have raised between the
civilized countries of the coast and the savage and unknown
interior. Towards the east, in the bluish distance, we saw
for the last time the high chain of the Cunavami mountains.
Its long, horizontal ridge reminded us o f the M e s a of the
Brigantine, near C u m a n a ; but it terminates by a truncated
summit. The Peak o f Calitamini (the name given to this
summit) glows at sunset as with a reddish fire. This
appearance is every day the same. No one ever approached
this mountain, the height o f which does not exceed six
hundred toises. I believe this splendour, commonly reddish
but sometimes silvery, to be a reflection produced by large
plates of talc, or by gneiss passing into mica-slate. T h e
whole o f this country contains granitic rocks, on which
here and there, in little plains, an argillaceous grit-stone
immediately reposes, containing fragments o f quartz and o f
brown iron-ore.
I n going to the embarcadero, we caught on the trunk o f
a hevea* a new species o f tree-frog, remarkable for its
beautiful c o l o u r s ; it had a yellow belly, the back and head
o f a line velvety purple, and a very narrow stripe of white
from the point of the nose to the hinder extremities. This
frog was two inches long, and allied to the Rana tinctoria,
the blood o f which, it is asserted, introduced into the skin
o f a parrot, in places where the feathers have been plucked
out, occasions the growth of frizzled feathers o f a yellow
or red colour. The Indians showed us on the way, what
is no doubt very curious in that country, traces o f cart-
wheels in the rock. They spoke, as of an unknown animal,
o f those beasts with large horns, which, at the time of the
expedition to the boundaries, drew the boats through the
valley of Keri, from the R i o Toparo to the R i o Cameji, t o
avoid the cataracts, and save the trouble o f unloading the
merchandize. I believe these poor inhabitants of Maypures
would now be as much astonished at the sight of an ox
of the Spanish breed, as the Romans were at the sight o f
* One of those trees whose milk yields caoutchouc.

t h e ‘ L u c a n i a n o x e n , ' as t h e y called the e l e p h a n t s of the
a r m y of Pyrrhus.

We e m b a r k e d at Puerto de Arriba, and passed t h e
Raudal de Cameji with s o m e difficulty. This passage is
r e p u t e d t o b e d a n g e r o u s w h e n t h e w a t e r is very high ; b u t
w e f o u n d t h e surface o f t h e river b e y o n d t h e raudal as
s m o o t h as glass. W e passed t h e n i g h t in a rocky island
called Piedra Raton, which is three-quarters o f a league
long, and displays that s i n g u l a r aspect of rising v e g e t a t i o n ,

t h o s e clusters o f shrubs, scattered over a bare and r o c k y
soil, of which we have often s p o k e n .
O n t h e 2 2 n d of A p r i l we departed an h o u r a n d a half
before sunrise. T h e m o r n i n g was humid but d e l i c i o u s ; not
a breath o f w i n d was f e l t ; for s o u t h of A t u r e s a n d M a y -
pures a perpetual calm prevails. O n t h e b a n k s o f the Rio
N e g r o and the Cassiquiare, at the foot of Cerro Duida, and
at t h e mission of Santa Barbara, we never heard that r u s t -
ling of the leaves which has such a peculiar charm in very hot
climates. T h e windings of rivers, the shelter o f m o u n t a i n s ,
the thickness o f the forests, and t h e a l m o s t continual rains,
at o n e or t w o degrees of latitude north of t h e e q u a t o r , c o n -

tribute no doubt to this p h e n o m e n o n , which is peculiar to
the missions of the Orinoco.
In that part of the valley o f the A m a z o n which is s o u t h
of the equator, but at the same distance from it, as the places
j u s t m e n t i o n e d , a s t r o n g wind always rises t w o hours after
m i d - d a y . T h i s wind blows constantly against the stream,
and is felt only in the bed of the river. Below San Borja it
is an easterly w i n d ; at T o m e p e n d a I found it between north
and n o r t h - n o r t h - e a s t ; it is still the same breeze, the w i n d

o f the rotation o f the g l o b e , but modified by slight local cir-
c u m s t a n c e s . B y favour of this general breeze y o u m a y g o u p

the A m a z o n under sail, from Grand Para as far as T e f e , a
distance of seven hundred and fifty leagues. In the province
o f Jaen de Bracamoros, at the foot of the western declivity

o f the Cordilleras, this A t l a n t i c breeze rises s o m e t i m e s to a
tempest .
It is highly probable that the great salubrity of t h e
A m a z o n is o w i n g to this c o n s t a n t breeze. In the s t a g n a n t
air o f the U p p e r O r i n o c o the chemical affinities act m o r e
powerfully, and m o r e deleterious m i a s m a t a are f o r m e d .

3 1 5
T h e insalubrity o f the climate would b e t h e same o n t h e
woody banks o f the A m a z o n , if that river, running like the
Niger from west to east, did n o t follow in its immense
length the same direction, which is that o f the trade-winds.
T h e valley o f t h e A m a z o n is closed only at its western
extremity, where it approaches the Cordilleras o f the A n d e s .
Towards the east, where t h e sea-breeze strikes t h e New
Continent, the shore is raised but a few feet above the level
o f the Atlantic. T h e Upper Orinoco first runs from east to
west, and then from north t o south. W h e r e its course is
nearly parallel t o that o f the A m a z o n , a very hilly country
(the group o f t h e mountains o f Parima a n d of Dutch and
French Guiana) separates it from the Atlantic, and prevents
the wind o f rotation from reaching Esmeralda. This wind
begins t o b e powerfully felt only from the confluence o f t h e
A p u r e , where the Lower Orinoco runs from west to east in
a vast plain open towards the Atlantic, a n d therefore t h e
climate of this part o f the river is less noxious than that of
the U p p e r Orinoco.
I n order t o add a third point o f comparison, I m a y
mention the valley of t h e Rio Magdalena, which, like t h e
A m a z o n , has o n e direction only, but unfortunately, instead
o f being that o f t h e breeze, it is from south t o north.
Situated in the region o f the trade-winds, the R i o M a g d a -
lena has the stagnant air o f the Upper Orinoco. From t h e
canal o f Mahates as far as Honda, particularly south o f t h e
town o f M o m p o x , w e never felt the wind blow b u t at the
approach o f t h e evening storms. W h e n , o n the contrary,
you proceed up the river beyond Honda, y o u find t h e a t -
mosphere often agitated. T h e strong winds that are i n -
gulfed in the valley o f Neiva are n o t e d for their excessive
heat. W e may be at first surprised to perceive that t h e
calm ceases as we approach the lofty mountains in the
upper course o f the river, but this astonishment ends when
we recollect that the dry and burning winds o f the Llanos
de Neiva are the effect o f descending currents. T h e
columns o f cold air rush from t h e t o p of t h e Nevados of
Quindiu and o f Guanacas into the valley, driving before
them the lower strata o f the atmosphere. Everywhere t h e
unequal heating o f the soil, and the proximity of mountains
covered with perpetual snow, cause partial currents within

t h e tropics, as w e l l as in t h e t e m p e r a t e z o n e . T h e violent
w i n d s o f N e i v a are n o t t h e effect o f a repercussion of t h e
t r a d e - w i n d s ; t h e y rise w h e r e t h o s e w i n d s c a n n o t p e n e t r a t e ;

and if the m o u n t a i n s of the Uрреr O r i n o c o , t h e tops of which
are generally c r o w n e d w i t h t r e e s , w e r e m o r e elevated, t h e y
w o u l d p r o d u c e t h e s a m e i m p e t u o u s m o v e m e n t s in t h e a t ­

m o s p h e r e as we o b s e r v e in t h e Cordilleras o f P e r u , of
A b y s s i n i a , a n d o f T h i b e t . T h e intimate c o n n e c t i o n t h a t
exists b e t w e e n t h e direction o f rivers, the h e i g h t a n d dis-

position of the adjacent m o u n t a i n s , the m o v e m e n t s of t h e
a t m o s p h e r e , and the salubrity of the climate, are subjects
well worthy of a t t e n t i o n . T h e s t u d y o f t h e surface a n d t h e
inequalities o f t h e soil w o u l d indeed be i r k s o m e and useless

were it not connected with more general considerations.
At the distance of six miles from the island of Piedra
R a t o n w e passed, first, o n t h e east, t h e m o u t h of t h e R i o
Sipapo, called T i p a p u b y t h e I n d i a n s ; a n d t h e n , on the
west, the m o u t h of t h e Rio Vichada. N e a r the latter are
s o m e rocks covered by the water, that form a small cascade

o r raudalito. T h e Rio S i p a p o , which Father Gili w e n t u p
1757, and which he says is twice as broad as t h e T i b e r ,
c o m e s from a considerable chain of m o u n t a i n s , which in its
southern part bears the n a m e of the river, and joins t h e
g r o u p of Calitamini and of C u n a v a m i . Next to the Peak

of Duida, which rises above the mission of Esmeralda, t h e
C e r r o s of Sipapo appeared to m e the m o s t lofty of the whole
Cordillera of Parima. T h e y form an i m m e n s e wall of rocks,

s h o o t i n g up a b r u p t l y from the plain, its craggy ridge o f
r u n n i n g from S.S.E. to N . N . W . I believe these c r a g s ,
these indentations, which equally occur in the s a n d s t o n e o f

Montserrat in C a t a l o n i a , * are o w i n g to blocks of granite
heaped t o g e t h e r . T h e Cerros de Sipapo wear a different
aspect every hour of the day. A t sunrise the thick v e g e ­
tation with which these m o u n t a i n s are clothed is t i n g e d
with that dark green inclining to b r o w n , which is peculiar
to a region where trees with coriaceous leaves prevail.

Broad and s t r o n g s h a d o w s are projected on the neigh­
b o u r i n g plain, and form a c o n t r a s t with t h e vivid light
* From them the name of Montserrat is derived, Monte Serrato
signifying a mountain ridged or jugged like a saw.

diffused over the g r o u n d , in t h e air, a n d on the surface o f
t h e waters. B u t t o w a r d s n o o n , w h e n t h e s u n reaches i t s
zenith, t h e s e s t r o n g shadows gradually disappear, a n d t h e

whole g r o u p is veiled by an aerial vapour o f a m u c h deeper
azure than that o f t h e l o w e r regions o f t h e celestial vault.
T h e s e vapours, circulating a r o u n d t h e rocky r i d g e , soften

its o u t l i n e , t e m p e r t h e effects o f t h e light, a n d give t h e
landscape that aspect of calmness a n d repose which i n

nature, as in t h e w o r k s o f C l a u d e L o r r a i n e a n d P o u s s i n ,
arises from the harmony of forms and colours.

C r u z e r o , t h e powerful chief o f t h e G u a y p u n a v e s , l o n g
resided behind t h e m o u n t a i n s o f Sipapo, after having
q u i t t e d with his warlike horde t h e plains b e t w e e n t h e Rio

Inirida a n d t h e C h a m o c h i q u i n i . T h e I n d i a n s t o l d u s that
t h e forests which cover t h e Sipapo abound in t h e c l i m b i n g
plant called vehuco de maimure. T h i s species o f liana is
celebrated a m o n g t h e Indians, a n d serves for m a k i n g
baskets a n d w e a v i n g m a t s . T h e forests o f Sipapo are
altogether u n k n o w n , a n d there t h e missionaries place t h e
nation o f t h e R a y a s , * w h o s e m o u t h s are believed t o b e in
their navels. A n o l d I n d i a n , w h o m w e m e t a t Carichana,
a n d w h o b o a s t e d o f h a v i n g often e a t e n h u m a n flesh, had

seen t h e s e acephali " w i t h his o w n eyes." T h e s e a b s u r d
fables are spread as far as t h e L l a n o s , w h e r e y o u are n o t
always p e r m i t t e d t o doubt t h e existence o f t h e Raya Indians.
In every zone intolerance a c c o m p a n i e s c r e d u l i t y ; a n d it
might be said that t h e fictions of ancient g e o g r a p h e r s had
passed from o n e hemisphere t o t h e other, did we n o t k n o w
that t h e m o s t fantastic p r o d u c t i o n s o f t h e i m a g i n a t i o n , like
t h e works o f n a t u r e , furnish e v e r y w h e r e a certain analogy
of aspect and of form.

W e landed at t h e m o u t h o f the Rio Vichada or V i s a t a t o
e x a m i n e t h e plants of that part o f t h e c o u n t r y . T h e scenery is
very singular. T h e forest is thin, and an i n n u m e r a b l e q u a n t i t y
*Rays, on account of the pretended analogy with the fish of this name,
the mouth of which seems as if forced downwards below the body. This
singular legend has been spread far and wide over the earth. Shakespeare
has described Othello as recounting marvellous tales

" of cannibals that do each other eat :
Of Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders."

o f small rocks rise from the plain. These form massy
prisms, ruined pillars, and solitary towers fifteen or twenty
feet high. Some are shaded by the trees of the forest,
others have their summits crowned with palms. These
rocks are of granite passing into gneiss. At the confluence
o f the Vichada the rocks of granite, and what is still more
remarkable, the soil itself, are covered with moss and lichens.
These latter resemble the Cladonia pyxidata and the L i c h e n
rangiferinus, so common in the north of Europe. W e could
scarcely persuade ourselves that we were elevated less than one
hundred toises above the level o f the sea, in the fifth degree
of latitude, in the centre of the torrid zone, which has so
l o n g been thought to be destitute o f cryptogamous plants.
T h e mean temperature of this shady and humid spot pro-
bably exceeds twenty-six degrees o f the centigrade thermo-
meter. Inflecting on the small quantity of rain which had
hitherto fallen, we were surprised at the beautiful verdure
of the forests. This peculiarity characterises the valley
of the Upper Orinoco ; on the coast of Caracas, and in the
Llanos, the trees in winter (in the season called summer in
South America, north of the equator) are stripped of their
leaves, and the ground is covered only with yellow and
withered grass. Between the solitary rocks just described
arise some high plants of columnar cactus (Cactus septem-
angularis), a very rare appearance south o f the cataracts o f
A t u r e s and Maypures.
A m i d this picturesque scene M . Bonpland was fortunate
enough to find several specimens of Laurus cinnamomoïdes,
a very aromatic species of cinnamon, known at the Orinoco
by the names o f varimacu and o f canelilla* This valuable
production is found also in the valley of the Rio Caura, as well
as near Esmeralda, and eastward of the Great Cataracts.
The Jesuit Francisco de Olmo appears to have been the
first w h o discovered the canelilla, which he did in the
country of the Piaroas, near the sources of the Cataniapo.
The missionary Gili, who did not advance so far as the
regions I am now describing, seems to confound the vari-
or guarimacu, with the myristica, or nutmeg-tree o f
America. These barks and aromatic fruits, the cinnamon,
the nutmeg, the Myrtus pimenta, and the Laurus pucheri,
* The diminutive of the Spanish word canela, which signifies cinnamon.

would have b e c o m e important objects o f trade, if Europe, at
the period o f the discovery o f the N e w W o r l d , had n o t
already been accustomed to the spices and aromatics o f
India. T h e cinnamon o f the Orinoco, and that o f the
Andaquies missions, are, however, less aromatic than t h e
cinnamon o f Ceylon, and would still be so even if dried and
prepared by similar processes.
Every hemisphere produces plants o f a different species ;
and it is n o t by the diversity of climates that we can attempt
t o explain w h y equinoctial Africa has n o laurels, and the
N e w W o r l d n o heaths ; why calceolariæ are found wild only
in th e southern hemisphere ; w h y th e birds o f the East
Indies glow with colours less splendid than those o f the h o t
parts o f A m e r i c a ; finally, why the tiger is peculiar t o Asia,
and the ornithorynchus t o Australia. I n the vegetable as
well as in the animal kingdom, the causes o f the distribution
o f the species are among the mysteries which natural philo-
sophy cannot solve. The attempts made to explain the dis-
tribution o f various species on the globe b y the solo influence
o f climate, take their date from a period when physical g e o -
graphy was still in its infancy ; when, recurring incessantly
to pretended contrasts between the t w o worlds, it was ima-
gined that the whole o f Africa and o f America resembled the
deserts o f E g y p t and the marshes of Cayenne. A t present,
when men j u d g e o f the state o f things n o t from one type
arbitrarily chosen, but from positive knowledge, if is ascer-
tained that the two continents, in their immense extent, c o n -
tain countries that are altogether analagous. There are
regions o f America as barren and burning as the interior of
Africa. Those islands which produce the spices o f India are
scarcely remarkable for their d r y n e s s ; and it is n o t o n
account o f the humidity o f the climate, as has been affirmed
in recent works, that the N e w Continent, is deprived o f those
fine species of lauriniæ and myristicæ, which are found united
in one little corner o f the earth in the archipelago o f India.
For some years past, cinnamon has been cultivated with
success in several parts o f the N e w C o n t i n e n t ; and a zone
that produces the coumarouna, the vanilla, the pucheri, t h e
pine-apple, the pimento, the balsam o f tolu, the M y r o x y l o n
peruvianum, the croton, the citroma, the pejoa, the incienso

of the Silla o f Caracas, the quereme, the pancratium, and
so many majestic liliaceous plants, cannot be considered аs
destitute of aromatics. Besides, a dry air favours the deve­
lopment of the aromatic or exciting properties, only in cer­
tain species of plants. The most inveterate poisons
produced in the most humid zone of America; and it is
precisely under the influence of the long rains of the tropics,
that the American pimento, (Capsicum baccatum), the
fruit of which is of often as caustic and fiery as I n ­
dian pepper, vegetates best. From all these considerations
it follows, 1st, that the N e w Continent possesses spices,
aromatics, and very active vegetable poisons, peculiar to

itself, and differing specifically from those of the Old World ;
2 n d l y , that the primitive distribution of species in the torrid
zone cannot be explained by the influence of climate solely,
or by the distribution of temperature, which we observe in
the present state of our planet ; but that this difference of
climates leads us to perceive why a given type of organization
developes itself more vigorously in such or such local
cumstances. W e can conceive that a small number of the
families of plants, for instance the musaceæ and the palms,
cannot belong to very cold regions, on account of their
internal structure. and the importance of certain organs;
but we cannot explain why no one of the family of the Me­
lastomaceæ vegetates north of the parallel of the thirtieth

degree of latitude, or why no rose­tree belongs to the southern
hemisphere. Analogy of climates is often found in the t w o
continents, without identity of productions.
The Rio Vichada, which has a small raudal at its conflu­
ence with the Orinoco, appeared to me, next to the Meta
and the Guaviare, to be the most considerable river coming
from the west. Dining the last forty years no European
has navigated the Vichada. I could learn nothing of its
sources; they rise, I believe, with those of the Tomo, in the
plains that extend to the south of Casimena.
Fugitive I n ­
dians of Santa Rosalia de Cabapuna. a village situate on the
banks of the Meta, have arrived even recently, by the Rio
Vichada, at the cataract of Maypures ; which sufficiently
proves that the sources of this river are not very distant
from the, Meta Father Gumilla has preserved the names

of several German and Spanish Jesuits, w h o in 1734 fe
victims to their zeal for religion, by the hands o f the Caribs
on the now desert banks o f the Vichada.
Having passed the Caño Pirajavi on the east, and then a
small river on the west, which issues, as the Indians say,
from a lake; called N a o , we rested for the night o n the shore
o f the Orinoco, at the mouth o f the Zama, a very conside-
rable river, but as little known as the Vichada. Notwithstand-
ing the ‘ black waters' o f the Zama, w e suffered greatly from
insects. T h e night was beautiful, without a breath o f wind
in the lower regions o f the atmosphere, but towards t w o in
the morning we saw thick clouds crossing the zenith rapidly
from east t o west. W h e n , declining toward the horizon,
they traversed the great nebulæ o f Sagittarius and the Ship,
they appeared o f a dark blue. The light o f the nebulæ is
never more splendid than when they are in part covered b y
sweeping clouds. W e observe the same phenomenon in
E u r o p e in the Milky W a y , in the aurora borealis when it
beams with a silvery l i g h t ; and at the rising and setting o f
the sun in that part o f the sky that is whitened* from causes
which philosophers have n o t y e t sufficiently explained.
The vast tract o f country lying between the Meta, the
Vichada, and the Guaviare, is altogether unknown a league
from the banks ; b u t it is believed t o b e inhabited b y wild
Indians of the tribe o f Chiricoas, w h o fortunately build no
boats. Formerly, when the Caribs, and their enemies the
Cabres, traversed these regions with their little fleets o f
rafts and canoes, it would have been imprudent t o have
passed the night near the mouth o f a river running from the
west. T h e little settlements o f the Europeans having n o w
caused the independent Indians to retire from the banks o f
the U p p e r Orinoco, the solitude o f these regions is such,
that from Carichana to Javita, and from Esmeralda t o San
Fernando do Atabapo, during a course of one hundred and
eighty leagues, we did not meet a single boat.
A t the mouth o f the Rio Zama we approach a class of
rivers, that merits great attention. T h e Zama the Mata-
veni, the Atabapo, the Tuamini, the Temi, and the Guainia,
are aguas negras, that is, their waters, seen in a large b o d y ,
* The dawn ; in French aube (alba, albente cœlo.)

3 2 2
appear brown like coffee, or o f a greenish black. These
waters, notwithstanding, are most beautiful, clear, and
agreeable to the taste. I have observed above, that the
crocodiles, and, if not the zancudos, at least the m o s -
quitos, generally shun the black waters. The people
assert too, that these waters do not colour the rocks ; and
that the white rivers have black borders, while the black
rivers have white. I n fact, the shores of the Guainia, known
t o Europeans b y the name of the Rio N e g r o , frequently
exhibit masses of quartz issuing from granite, and o f a
dazzling whiteness. The waters of the Mataveni, when
examined in a glass, are pretty w h i t e ; those of the A t a b a p o
retain a slight tinge o f yellowish-brown. W h e n the least
breath of wind agitates the surface of these ‘black rivers’
they appear of a fine grass-green, like the lakes o f Switzer-
land. I n the shade, the Zama, the A t a b a p o , and the
Guainia, are as dark as coffee-grounds. These phenomena
are so striking, that the Indians everywhere distinguish the
waters by the terms black and white. T h e former have
often served me for an artificial horizon; they reflect the
image o f the stars with admirable clearness.
T h e colour of the waters of springs, rivers, and lakes,
ranks among those physical problems which it is difficult, if
not impossible, to solve by direct, experiments. The tints o f
reflected light are generally very different from the tints of
transmitted l i g h t ; particularly when the transmission takes
place through a great portion of fluid. If there were no
absorption of rays, the transmitted light would be of a colour
corresponding with that of the reflected light; and in general
we judge imperfectly of transmitted light, by filling with water
a shallow glass with a narrow aperture. In a river, the
colour o f the reflected light comes t o us always from the
interior strata of the fluid, and not from the upper stratum.
Some celebrated naturalists, who have examined the purest
waters of the glaciers, and those which flow from mountains
covered with perpetual snow, where the earth is destitute o f
the relics of vegetation, have thought that the proper colour
of water might be blue, or green. Nothing, in fact, proves,
that water is by nature white; and wo must always admit
the presence of a colouring principle, when water viewed by
reduction is coloured. I n the rivers that contain a colouring

3 2 3
principle, that principle is generally so little in quantity, that
it eludes all chemical research. The tints o f the ocean seem
often t o depend neither o n the nature o f the bottom, nor on
the reflection o f the sky o n the clouds. Sir H u m p h r e y D a v y
was o f opinion that the tints o f different seas m a y very
likely be owing t o different proportions o f iodine.
O n consulting the geographers o f antiquity, w e find that
the Greeks had noticed the blue waters of Thermopylæ, t h e
red waters o f Joppa, and the black waters o f the hot-baths
o f Astyra, opposite Lesbos. Some rivers, t h e Rhone for
instance, near Geneva, have a decidedly blue colour. I t is
said, that the snow-waters o f the A l p s are sometimes o f a
dark emerald green. Several lakes o f Savoy and of P e r u
have a brown colour approaching black. M o s t o f these
phenomena of coloration are observed in waters that are
believed t o b e th e p u r e s t ; and it is rather from reasonings
founded o n analogy, than from any direct analysis, that w e
may throw any light o n so uncertain a matter. I n the vast
system o f rivers near the mouth o f the Rio Zama, a fact which
appears to me remarkable is, that the black waters are princi-
pally restricted t o the equatorial regions. They begin about
five degrees o f north latitude; and abound thence t o beyond
the equator as far as about two degrees of south latitude. T h e
mouth o f the Rio N e g r o is indeed in the latitude o f 3° 9 ' ;
but in this interval the black and white waters are so singu-
larly mingled in the forests and the savannahs, that w e
k n o w not to what cause the coloration must b e attributed.
T h e waters of the Cassiquiare, which fall into the Rio N e g r o ,
are as white as those of the Orinoco, from which it issues.
O f two tributary streams of the Cassiquiare very near each
other, the Siapa and the Pacimony, one is white, the other
W h e n the Indians are interrogated respecting the causes
o f these strange colorations, they answer, as questions in
natural philosophy o r physiology are sometimes answered in
Europe, by repeating the fact in other terms. I f you address
yourself t o the missionaries, they reply, as if they had the
most convincing proofs o f the fact, that " the waters are
coloured b y washing the roots o f t h e sarsaparilla." T h e
Smilaceæ n o doubt abound on the banks o f the Rio N e g r o ,
the Pacimony, and the C a b a b u r y ; their roots, macerated in
Y 2

the water, yield an extractive matter, that is brown, bitter,
and mucilaginous; but how many tufts
of smilax h a v e
seen in places, where the waters were entirely white. In
the marshy forest which we traversed, to convey our canoe
from the Rio Tuamini to the Caño Pimichin and the Rio

Negro, why, in the same soil, did we ford alternately rivulets
o f black and white water? W h y did we find no river
white near its springs, and black in the lower part o f its
course? I know not whether the Rio Negro preserves its
yellowish brown colour as far as its mouth, notwithstanding
the great quantity of white water it receives from the Cassi-
quiare and the R
io Blanco.
Although, o n account o f the abundance o f rain, vege-
tation is more vigorous close to the equator than eight or
ten degrees north or south, it cannot be affirmed, that the

rivers with black waters rise principally in the most shady
and thickest forests. On the contrary, a great number of
the aguas negras come from the open savannahs that extend
from the Meta beyond the Guaviare towards the Caqueta.

In a journey which I made with Señor Montufar from the
port of Guayaquil to the Bodegas de Babaojo, at the period of
the great inundations, I was struck by the analogy of colour
displayed by the vast savannahs of the Invernadero del
and of the Lagartero, as well as by the Rio Negro and the
Atabapo. These savannahs, partly inundated during three
months, are composed of paspalum, eriochloa, and several
species of cyperacæ. W e sailed on waters that were from
four to live feet deep; their temperature was by day from

33° 34° o f the centigrade thermometer; they exhaled a
strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, to which no doubt
some rotten plants of arum and heliconia, that swam on the
surface of the pools, contributed. The waters of the
were of a golden yellow by transmitted, and coffee-brown by
reflected light. They are no doubt coloured by
a carburet
o f hydrogen. An analogous phenomenon is observed in the
dunghill-waters prepared by our gardeners, and in the

waters that issue from bogs. May we not also admit, that
it is a mixture of carbon and hydrogen, an extractive vege-
table matter, that colours the black rivers, the Atabapo, the
Zama, the Mataveni, and the Guainia? The frequency of
of the equatorial rains contributes no doubt to this colora-

tion by filtration through a thick mass o f grasses. I suggest
these ideas only in the form of a doubt. The colouring
principle seems t o be in little abundance ; for I observed
that the waters of the Guaina or Rio N e g r o , when subjected
to ebullition, do not become brown like other fluids charged
with carburets of hydrogen.
I t is also very remarkable, that this phenomenon o f black
waters, which might bo supposed to belong only to the low
regions of the torrid zone, is found also, though rarely, o n
the table-lands of the Andes . T h e town of Cuenca in the
kingdom of Quito, is surrounded by three small rivers, the
Machangara, the Rio del Matadero, and the Yanuncai; o f
which the two former are white, and the waters o f the last
are black (aguas negras). These waters, like those o f the
A t a b a p o , are of a coffee-colour by reflection, and pale yellow
by transmission. They are very clear, and the inhabitants of
Cuenca, who drink them in preference t o any other, attri-
bute their colour to the sarsaparilla, which it is said grows
abundantly on the banks of the Rio Yanunçai.
W e left the mouth of the Zama at five in the morning o f
the 23rd of April. T h e river continued to be skirted o n
both sides by a thick forest. T h e mountains on the east
seemed gradually to retire farther back. W e passed first
the mouth of the R i o Mataveni, and afterward an islet o f a
very singular form ; a square granitic rock that rises in the
middle o f the water. I t is called by the missionaries E l
Castillito, or the Little Castle. Black bands seem to indi-
cate, that the highest swellings o f the Orinoco do not rise
at this place above eight f e e t ; and that the great swellings
observed lower down are owing to the tributary streams
which flow into it north o f the raudales o f Atures and M a y -
pures. W e passed the night on the right bank opposite the
mouth o f the R i o Siucurivapu, near a rock called Aricagua.
D u r i n g the night an innumerable quantity o f bats issued
from the clefts o f the rock, and hovered around our ham-
m o c k s .
O n the 24th a violent rain obliged us early to return to our
boat. W e departed at t w o o'clock, after having lost some
books, which we could not find in the darkness of the night,
on the rock of Aricagua. The river runs straight from
south to north ; its banks are low, and shaded on both sides

by thick forests. We passed the mouths of the Ucata, the
Arapa, and the Caranaveni. About four in the afternoon
we landed at the
Conucos de Siquita, the Indian plantations
of the mission of San Fernando. The good people wished
to detain us among them, but we continued to go up against
the current, which ran at the rate of live feet a second,
according to a measurement I made by observing the time

that a floating body took to go down a given distance. W e
entered the mouth of the Guaviare on a dark night, passed
the point where the Rio Atabapo joins the Guaviare, and

arrived at the mission after midnight. We were lodged as
usual at the Convent, that is, in the house of the missionary,
who, though much surprised at our unexpected visit, never-
theless received us with the kindest hospitality.

If, in the philosophical study of the structure of languages, the analogy
of a few roots acquires value only when they can be geographically con-
nected together, neither is the want of resemblance in roots any very
strong proof against the common origin of nations. In the different
dialects of the Totonac language (that of one of the most ancient tribes of
Mexico) the sun and the moon have names which custom has rendered
entirely different. This difference is found among the Caribs between the

language of men and women; a phenomenon that probably arises from
the circumstance that, among prisoners, men were oftener put to death
than women. Females introduced by degrees words of a foreign language
into the Caribbee; and, as the girls followed the occupations of the
women much more than the boys, a language was formed peculiar to the
women. I shall record in this note the names of the sun and moon in a
great number of American and Asiatic idioms, again reminding the reader
of the uncertainty of all judgments founded merely on the comparison of
solitary words.

Eastern Esquimaux
Ajut, kaumat, saka-
Anningat, kaumei,
(Greenland )
Western Esquimaux
Tschingugak, mad-
Igaluk, tangeik

Aztec or Mexican
Zuhè (sua)
Caribbee and Tamanac
Veïou (hueiou)
Nouno (nonum)
Tupi (Brasil)
Peruvian (Quichua)
Araucan (Chili)
Naia (naran)
Sara (saran)
Ossête (of Caucasus)
Surya, aryama, mitra,
Tschandra, tschan-
aditya, arka, hamsa
drama, soma, masi
Chor, chorschid,
Schemschia, zabzoba, Kokma
Aramean or Chaldean


M I G R A T I O N OK T H E R O O T S O F W O O D S .
The American words arc written according to the Spanish orthography
I would not change the orthography of the Nootka word onulszth, taken
from Cook's Voyages, to show how much Volney's idea of introducing
an uniform notation of sounds is worthy of attention, if not applied to
the languages of the East written without vowels. In Onulszth there a r e

tour signs for one single consonant. We have already seen that Ame-
rican nations, speaking languages of a very different structure, call the
sun by the same name ; that the moon is sometimes called
sleeping sun,
sun of night, light of night ; and that sometimes the two orbs have the
same denomination. These examples are taken from the Guarany, the
Omagna, Shawanese, Miami, Maco, and Ojibbeway idioms. Thus in the

Old World, the sun and moon are denoted in Arabic by niryn, 'the
luminaries;' thus, in Persian, the most common words,
aß/ab and
rhorschid, are compounds. By the migration of tribes from Asia to
America, and from America to Asia, a certain number of roots have
passed from one language into others ; and these roots have been trans-
ported, like the fragments of a shipwreck, far from the coast, into the
(Sun, in New England, kone; in Tschagatai, koun; in Yakout,
kouini. Star, in Huastee, ot; in Mongol, oddon ; in Aztec, citlal, citl;
in Persian, sitareh. House, in Aztec, calli . in Wogoul, kualla or kolla.
Water, in Aztec, atel (itets, a river, in Vilela) ; in Mongol, Tscheremiss,
and Tschouvass, atl, atelch, etet, or idel. Stone, in Caribbee, tebou ; in
the Lesgian of Caucasus, teb ; in Aztec, tepetl; in Turkish,
tepe. Food,
in Quichua, micunnan ; in Malay, macannon. Boat, in Haytian, canoa ;
in Ayno,
cahani; in Greenlandish, kayak; in Turkish, kayik; in
Samoyiede, kayou
k ; in the Germanic tongues, kahn.) But we must
distinguish from these foreign elements what belongs fundamentally
to the American idioms themselves. Such is the effect of time, and
communication among nations, that the mixture with an heterogenous

language has not only an influence upon roots, but most frequently ends
by modifying and denaturalizing grammatical forms. " When a language
resists a regular analysis," observes William von Humboldt, in his con-
siderations on the Mexican, Cora, Totonac, and Tarahumar tongues, " w e
may suspect some mixture, some foreign influence ; for the faculties of
man, which are, as we may say, reflected in the structure of languages,
and in their grammatical forms, act constantly in a regular and uniform

San Fernando de Atabapo. — San Balthasar. — The rivers Temi and
Tuamini. — Javita. — Portage from the Tuamini to the Rio Negro.
D U R I N G th e night, w e had left, almost unperceived, the
waters o f the O r i n o c o ; and at sunrise found ourselves as if
transported to a new country, on the banks of a river the
name of which w e had scarcely ever heard pronounced, and
which was t o conduct us, by the portage o f Pimichin, to the
Rio N e g r o , on the frontiers of Brazil. " Y o u will g o u p , "
said the president of the missions, w h o resides at San
Fernando, " f i r s t the A t a b a p o , then th e Temi, and finally,
the Tuamini. W h e n the force of the current of ' b l a c k
w a t e r s ' hinders y o u from advancing, YOU will be conducted
out of the b e d of the river through forests, which y o u will
find inundated. T w o monks only are settled in those desert
places, between the O r i n o c o and the B i o N e g r o ; b u t at
Javita y o u will be furnished with the means of having your
canoe drawn over land in the course of four days t o Caño
Pimichin. I f it b e n o t broken t o pieces y o u will descend
the Rio Negro without any obstacle (from north-west t o
south-east) as far as the little fort o f San C a r l o s ; y o u will
go up the Cassiquiare (from south to n o r t h ) , and then
return to San Fernando in a month, descending the Upper
Orinoco from east t o w e s t . " Such was the plan traced for
our passage, and w o carried it into effect without danger,
though not without some suffering, in the space o f thirty-
three days. T h e O r i n o c o runs from its source, or at least
from Esmeralda, as far as San Fernando de Atabapo. from
east t o w e s t ; from San Fernando, (where the j u n c t i o n o f
the Guaviare and the Atabapo takes place,) as far as the
mouth o f the Rio A p u r e , it flows from south to north,
forming the Great Cataracts; and from the mouth of the
A p u r e as far as A n g o s t u r a and the coast of the Atlantic its
direction is from west to east. In the first part of its
course, where the river flows from east t o west, it forms that
celebrated bifurcation so often d i s p u t e d by geographers, of
which I was the first enabled to determine the situation b y

3 3 0
astronomical observations. O n e arm o f the Orinoco, (the
Cassiquiare.) running from north to south, falls into the
Guainia, or Rio N e g r o , which, in its turn, joins the Marañon,
or river Amazon. The most natural way, therefore, to g o
from Angostura to Grand Para, would be to ascend the
Orinoco as far as Fsmeralda, and then to go down the
Cassiquiare, the R i o N e g r o , and the A m a z o n ; but, as tho
R i o Negro in the upper part of its course approaches very
near the sources o f some rivers that fall into the Orinoco
near San Fernando de Atabapo (where the Orinoco abruptly
changes its direction from east to west to take that from
south to n o r t h ) , the passage up that part of the river between
San Fernando and Fsmeralda, in order to reach the R i o
N e g r o , may be avoided. Leaving the Orinoco near the
mission of San Fernando, the traveller proceeds up the little
black rivers (the Atabapo, the Temi, and the Tuamini), and
the boats are carried across an isthmus six thousand toises
broad, to the banks o f a stream (the Caño Pimichin) which
flows into the R i o N e g r o . This was the course which wo
T h e road from San Carlos to San Fernando de Atabapo
is far more disagreeable, and is half as long again by the
Cassiquiare as by Javita and the Caño Pumichin. In this
region I determined, by means o f a chronometer by Ber-
thoud, and by the meridional heights of stars, the situation
of San Balthasar de Atabapo, Javita, San Carlos del R i o
N e g r o , the rock Culimacavi, and Esmeralda. W h e n n o
roads exist save tortuous and intertwining rivers, when
little villages are hidden amid thick forests, and when, in a
country entirely flat, no mountain, no elevated object is
visible from two points at once, it is only in the sky that w o
CAN read where we are Upon the earth.
San Fernando de Atabapo stands near the confluence o f
three great rivers; the Orinoco, the Guaviare, and tho
Atabapo. Its situation is similar to that of Saint Louis or o f
New Madrid, at the junction of the Mississippi with the
Missouri and the Ohio. In proportion as the activity o f
commerce increases In these countries traversed by immense
rivers, the towns situated at their confluence will necessarily
become bustling ports, depots of merchandise, and centre
points of civilization. Father G u m i l l a confesses, that in

his time no person had any knowledge o f the course o f the
Orinoco above the mouth of the Guaviare.
D ' A n v i l l e , in the first edition o f his great map of South
America, laid down the Rio N e g r o as an arm o f the Orinoco,
that branched off from the principal body of the river between
the mouths of the M e t a and the Vichada, near the cataract
o f Atures. That great geographer was entirely ignorant o f
the existence o f the Cassiquiare and the A t a b a p o ; and he
makes the Orinoco or Rio Paragua, the Japura, and the
Putumayo, take their rise from three branchings o f the
Caqueta. The expedition o f the boundaries, commanded
by Iturriaga and Solano, corrected these errors. Solano,
who was the geographical engineer of this expedition, ad-
vanced in 1750 as far as the mouth o f the Guaviare, after
having passed the Great Cataracts. He found that, t o
continue to g o up the Orinoco, he must direct his course
towards the e a s t ; and that the river received, at the point
o f its great inflection, in latitude 4° 4', the waters o f
the Guaviare, which two miles higher had received those o f
the Atabapo. Interested in approaching the Portuguese
possessions as near as possible, Solano resolved to proceed
onward to the south. A t the confluence o f the A t a b a p o
and the Guaviare he found an Indian settlement o f the
warlike nation o f the Guaypunaves. H e gained their
favour by presents, and with their aid founded the mission o f
San Fernando, to which he gave the appellation o f villa, or
T o make known the political importance o f this Mission,
w e must recollect what was at that period the balance o f
power between the petty Indian tribes o f Guiana. The
hanks of the Lower Orinoco had been long ensanguined
b y the obstinate struggle between t w o powerful nations,
the Cabres and the Caribs. T h e latter, whose principal
abode since the close o f the seventeenth century has been
between the sources of the Carony, the Essequibo, the
Orinoco, and the Rio Parima, once not only held sway as
far as the Great Cataracts, but made incursions also into
tho U p p e r Orinoco, employing portages between tho P a -
ruspa* and the Caura, tho Erevato and tho Ventuari, the
* The Rio Paruspa falls into the Rio Paragua, and the latter into the
Rio Carony, wich is one of the tributary streams of the Lower Orinoco.

Conorichite and the Atacavi. N o n e knew better than the
Caribs the intertwinings of the rivers, the proximity of
the tributary streams, and the roads by which distances
might bo diminished. The Caribs had vanquished and
almost exterminated the Cabres. Having made them-
selves masters o f the L o w e r Orinoco, they met with re-
s i s t a n t ' from the Guaypunaves, who had founded their
dominion on the Upper O r i n o c o ; and who, together with
the Cabres, the Manitivitanos, and the Parents, are tho
greatest cannibals of these countries. They originally inha-
bited the banks of the great river Inirida, at its confluence
with the Chamochiquini, and the hilly country o f Mabicore.
A b o u t the year 1744, their chief, or as the natives call him,
their king ( a p o t o ) , was named Macapu. He was a man no
less distinguished by his intelligence than his valour; had
led a part of the nation to the banks of the A t a b a p o ; and
when t h e . Jesuit Roman made his memorable expedition
from the Orinoco to the Rio Negro, Macapu suffered that
missionary to take with him some families of the Guay-
punaves to settle them at Uruana, and near the cataract
o f Maypures. This people are connected by their language
with the great branch o f the Maypure nations. They are
more industrious, we might also say more civilized, than the
other nations of the Upper Orinoco. The missionaries
relate, that the Guaypunaves, at the time of their sway
in those countries, were generally clothed, and had c o n -
siderable villages. After the death of Macapu, the c o m -
mand devolved on another warrior, Cuseru, called by tho
Spaniard El capitan Cusero. He established lines of de-
fence on the banks of the Inirida, with a kind of little fort,
constructed of earth and limber. The piles were more than
sixteen feet high, and surrounded both the house of the
apoto and a magazine o f bows and arrows. These structures,
There is also an ancient portage of the Caribs between the Paruspa and
the Rio Chavaro, which flows into the Rio Caura above the mouth of the
Erevato. In going up the Erevato you reach the savannahs that are
traversed by the Rio Manipiare above the tributary streams of the
Ventuari. The Caribs in their distant excursions sometimes passed from
the Rio Caura to the Ventuari, thence to the Padamo, and then by the
Upper Orinoco to the Atacavi, which, westward of Manuteso, takes the
name of the Atabapo.

remarkable in a country in other respects so wild, have
been described by Father Forneri.
The Marepizanas and the Manitivitanos were the pre-
ponderant nations o n the banks o f the Rio N e g r o . T h e
former had for its chiefs, about the year 1750, t w o warriors
called I m u and Cajamu. T h e king o f the Manitivitanos
was Cocuy, famous for his cruelty. T h e chiefs o f the
Guaypunaves and the Manitivitanos fought with small
bodies of two or three hundred m e n ; but in their p r o -
tracted struggles they destroyed the missions, in some o f
which the poor monks had only fifteen or twenty Spanish
soldiers at their disposal. W h e n the expedition o f I t u r -
riaga and Solano arrived at the Orinoco, the missions had
no longer t o fear the incursions of the Caribs. Cuseru,
the chief o f the Guaypunaves, had fixed his dwelling behind
the granitic mountains of Sipapo. He was the friend o f
the J e s u i t s ; but other nations of the Upper Orinoco and
the Rio N e g r o , led by I m u , Cajamu, and Cocuy, penetrated
from time to time to the north of the Great Cataracts.
They had other motives for lighting than that of hatred;
they hunted men, as was formerly the custom of the Caribs,
a n d is still the practice in Africa. Sometimes they fur-
nished slaves (poitos) to the Dutch (in their language,
Paranaquiri—inhabitants of the sea) ; sometimes they sold
them to the Portuguese (Iaranavi—sons of musicians).*
I n America, as in Africa, the cupidity o f the Europeans
has produced the same evils, b y exciting the natives t o
make war, in order t o procure slaves. Everywhere the
contact of nations, widely different from each other in the
scale of civilization, leads to the abuse of physical strength,
and of intellectual preponderance. The Phœnicians and
Carthaginians formerly sought slaves in Europe. Europe
now presses in her turn both on the countries whence she
gathered the first germs o f science, and on those where she
now almost involuntarily spreads them by carrying thither
the produce of her industry.
I have faithfully recorded what I could collect on the
* The savage tribes designate every commercial nation of Europe by
surnames, the origin of which appears altogether accidental. The
Spaniards were called ' c l o t h e d men,' Pongheme or Uavemi, by way of

state o f these countries, where the vanquished nations
have become gradually extinct, leaving no other signs of their
existence than a few words of their language, mixed with
that o f the conquerors. In the north, beyond the cataracts,
the preponderant nations were at first the Caribs and the
C a b r e s ; towards the south, o n the U p p e r Orinoco, the
G u a y p u n a v e s ; and on the R i o N e g r o , the Marepizanos and
the Manitivitanos. T h e l o n g resistance which the Cabres,
united under a valiant chief, had made to the Caribs,
became fatal to the latter subsequently to the year 1720.
They at first vanquished their enemies near the mouth of
the R i o C a u r a ; and a great number of Caribs perished in
a precipitate flight, between the rapids o f T o r n o and the
Isla del Infierno. T h e prisoners were d e v o u r e d ; and, by
o n e o f those refinements of cunning and cruelty which are
c o m m o n to the savage nations o f both North and South
A m e r i c a , the Cabres spared the life o f one Carib, whom
they forced to climb up a free to witness this barbarous
spectacle, and carry back the tidings to the vanquished.
Tho triumph o f T o p , the chief of the Cabres, was but o f
short duration. T h e Caribs returned in such great numbers
that only a feeble; remnant o f the Cabres was left o n the
banks of the Cuchivero.
C o c u y and Cuseru were carrying on a war o f extermin-
ation o n the U p p e r O r i n o c o when Solano arrived at the
mouth of the Guaviare. T h e former bad embraced the
cause o f the P o r t u g u e s e ; the latter was a friend of the
Jesuits, and gave them warning whenever the Manitivitanos
were marching against the christian establishments o f
A t u r e s and Carichana. Cuseru became a christian only a
few days before his death ; but in battle he had for some
time worn on his left hip a crucifix, given him by the mis-
sionaries, and which ho believed rendered him invulnerable.
"We were told an anecdote that paints the violence of his
character. He had married the daughter of an Indian chief
of the Rio Tend. In a paroxysm of rage against his father-
in-law, he declared to his wife that he was going to fight
against him. She reminded him of the courage and singular
strength o f her father; when Cuseru, without uttering a
single word, took a poisoned arrow, and plunged it into
her bosom. T h e arrival o f a small body o f Spaniards in

1756, under the order of Solano, awakened suspicion in
this chief of the Guaypunaves. H e was on the point o f
attempting a contest with them, when the Jesuits made
him sensible that it would be his interest to remain at
peace with the Christians. Whilst dining at the table o f
the Spanish general, Cuseru was allured by promises, and
the prediction of the approaching fall o f his enemies. F r o m
being a king he became the mayor o f a village; and c o n -
sented to settle with his people at the new mission o f
San Fernando de Atabapo. Such is most frequently the
end of those chiefs w h o m travellers and missionaries stylo
Indian princes. " I n my mission," says the honest father
Gili, "I had five reyecillos, or petty kings, those o f the
Tamanacs, the Avarigotes, the Parecas, the Quaquas, and
the Maypures. A t church I placed them in file o n the same
b e n c h ; but I took care t o give the first place t o M o n a i t i ,
king of the Tamanacs, because he had helped me to found
the village; and ho seemed quite proud o f this prece-
W h e n Cuseru, the chief o f the Guaypunaves, saw the
Spanish troops pass the cataracts, he advised D o n Joso
Solano to wait a whole year before he formed a settlement
o n the A t a b a p o ; predicting the misfortunes which were not
slow to arrive. " L e t me labour with my people in clearing
the g r o u n d , " said Cuseru to the Jesuits ;' I will plant cassava,
and y o u will find hereafter wherewith t o feed all these
men." Solano, impatient to advance, refused to listen t o
the counsel o f the Indian chief, and the now inhabitants of San
Fernando had to suffer all the evils o f scarcity. Canoes
were sent at a great expense to N e w Grenada, b y the M e t a
and the Vichada, in search of Hour. T h e provision arrived
t o o late, and many Spaniards and Indians perished o f those
diseases which are produced in every climate by want and
moral dejection.
Some traces of cultivation are still found at San Fernando.
Every Indian has a small plantation o f cacao-trees, which
produce abundantly in the fifth y e a r ; but they cease to bear
fruit sooner than in the valleys o f Aragua. There are some
savannahs and good pasturage round San Fernando, b u t
hardly seven or eight cows are to be found, the remains of a
considerable herd which was brought into these countries at

the expedition for settling the boundaries. The Indians a.
a little more civilized here than in the rest, of the missions ;
and we found to our surprise a blacksmith of the native race.
I n the mission of San Fernando, a tree which gives a pecu-
liar physiognomy to the landscape, is the piritu or pirijao
p a l m . Its trunk, armed with thorns, is more than sixty feet
h i g h ; its leaves are pinnated, very thin, undulated", and
frizzled towards the points. T h e fruits of this tree are very
extraordinary; every (duster contains from fifty to e i g h t y ;
they are yellow like apples, grow purple in proportion as they
ripen, two or three inches thick, and generally, from abor-
tion, without a kernel. A m o n g the eighty or ninety species
o f palm-trees peculiar to the New Continent, which I
have enumerated in the ' N o v a Genera Plantarum æqui-
noctialium there are none in which the sarcocarp is developed
in a manner so extraordinary. The fruit of the pirijao
furnishes a farinaceous substance, as yellow as the yolk of an
egg, slightly saccharine, and extremely nutritious. It is
eaten like plantains or potatoes, boiled or roasted in the
ashes, and affords a wholesome and agreeable aliment. T h e
Indians and the missionaries are unwearied in their praises
o f this noble palm-tree, which might be called the peach-
palm. W e found it cultivated in .abundance at San Fer-
nando, San Balthasar, Santa Barbara, and wherever we
advanced towards the south or the east along the banks of
the Atabapo and the Upper Orinoco. In those wild regions
we are involuntarily reminded of the assertion of Linnæus,
that the country of palm-trees was the first abode of our
species, and that man is essentially palmivorous.* O n
examining the provision accumulated in the huts of the
Indians, we perceive that their subsistence during several
months of the year depends as much on the farinaceous fruit
of the pirijao, as on the cassava and plantain. The tree bears
fruit but once a year, but to the amount of three clusters,
consequently from one hundred and fifty to two hundred
* Homo habitat intra tropicos, vescitur palmis, lotophagus; hospitatur
extra tropicos sub novercante Cerere, carnivorus. — "Man dwells natu.
rally within the tropics, and lives on the fruits of the palm-tree ; he
exists in other parts of the world, and there makes shift to feed on corn
and flesh." (Syst. Nat., vol. i, p. 24.)

San F e r n a n d o de A t a b a p o , S a n Carlos, a n d S a n F r a n c i s c o
S o l a n o , art; t h e m o s t considerable s e t t l e m e n t s a m o n g t h e
missions o f t h e U p p e r O r i n o c o . A t S a n F e r n a n d o , as well
as in t h e n e i g h b o u r i n g villages of S a n Balthasar a n d Javita,

the abodes of the priests are neatly-built houses, covered by
lianas, a n d s u r r o u n d e d b y g a r d e n s . T h e tall t r u n k s o f t h e

pirijao p a l m s were t h e m o s t beautiful o r n a m e n t s of these
plantations. I n o u r walks, t h e president
of t h e mission
g a v e us an a n i m a t e d account o f his incursions on t h e Rio
G u a v i a r e . He related t o us h o w m u c h these j o u r n e y s ,
u n d e r t a k e n " f o r t h e c o n q u e s t
of s o u l s , " are desired b y t h e
Indians of t h e missions. A l l , even w o m e n and old m e n , t a k e
part in t h e m . Under t h e pretext of recovering n e o p h y t e s
w h o have deserted the village, children above eight o r ten

y e a r s of a g e are carried off, a n d distributed a m o n g t h e
I n d i a n s o f t h e missions as serfs, or poitos. A c c o r d i n g to t h e
astronomical observations I took on t h e banks of t h e A t a -
bapo, and on t h e western declivity of the Cordillera o f t h e
A n d e s , near t h e
Paramo de la suma Paz, t h e distance is o n e
hundred and seven leagues only from San Fernando t o t h e
first villages of the provinces of C a g u a n and San J u a n de
los L l a n o s . I w a s assured also by s o m e Indians, w h o dwelt

formerly to t h e w e s t o f t h e island o f A m a n a v e n i , beyond
the confluence o f t h e Rio Supavi, that g o i n g in a boat on
the G u a v i a r e (in t h e m a n n e r of t h e savages) b e y o n d t h e
strait ( a n g o s t u r a ) and t h e principal cataract, they m e t , at
t h r e e d a y s ' distance, bearded and clothed m e n , w h o c a m e in

standi o f t h e e g g s o f t h e terekay t u r t l e . T h i s m e e t i n g
alarmed t h e Indians so m u c h , that they fled precipitately,

redescending t h e G u a v i a r e . I t is probable, that these
bearded white m e n c a m e from t h e villages of A r o m a and
San M a r t i n , t h e Rio G u a v i a r e being formed by t h e union of

the rivers Ariari and G u a y a v e r o . W e m u s t n o t b e sur-
prised that the missionaries of t h e O r i n o c o and t h e A t a b a p o
little s u s p e c t h o w n e a r t h e y live t o t h e missionaries
M o c o a , Rio Fragua, and C a g u a n . In these desert countries,
the real distances can be k n o w n only by observations o f
the l o n g i t u d e . I t w a s in c o n s e q u e n c e
of astronomical
data, and t h e information I gathered in t h e c o n v e n t s of

Popayan and of Pasto, to the west of the Cordillera of
the A n d e s , that 1 formed an accurate idea idea of t h e respective
v o l . I I .

3 3 8
situations o f the christian settlements on the A t a b a p o , t h e
G u a y a v e r o , and the Caqueta.*
Everything changes on entering the Rio A t a b a p o ; t h e
c o n s t i t u t i o n o f t h e a t m o s p h e r e , t h e c o l o u r o f the waters, and
the form o f the trees that cover the shore. Y o u no longer
suffer during the day the t o r m e n t o f m o s q u i t o s ; and the l o n g ­
legged gnats ( z a n c u d o s ) b e c o m e rare during the night. Be­
y o n d the mission o f San Fernando these nocturnal insects
disappear altogether. T h e water o f the O r i n o c o is turbid,
and loaded with earthy m a t t e r ; and in the coves, from the
accumulation o f d e a d crocodiles and other putrescent s u b ­
stances, it diffuses a musky and faint smell. W e were s o m e ­
times obliged t o strain this water through a linen cloth b e f o r e
we drank it. T h e w a t e r of the Atabapo. on the contrary, is
pure, agreeable to the t a s t e , without any trace o f smell, b r o w n ­
ish by reflected, and o f a pale y e l l o w by transmitted light.
T h e people call it light, in opposition t o the heavy and
turbid waters o f the O r i n o c o . Its temperature is generally
t w o degrees, and when you approach the mouth o f the R i o
T e m i , three d e g r e e s , c o o l e r than the t e m p e r a t u r e o f the U p p e r
O r i n o c o . After having been compelled during a whole y e a r
t o drink water at '27° o r 28°, a lowering o f a few d e g r e e s i n
the temperature p r o d u c e s a very agreeable sensation. I
think this lowering o f the temperature may be attributed
to the river being less broad, and without the sandy beach,
the heat o f which, at the O r i n o c o , is by day m o r e than 5 0 ° ,
and also to the thick shade o f the forests which are traversed
b y the A t a b a p o , the T e m i , the T u a m i n i , and the Guainia, o r
Rio N e g r o .
T h e extremo purity o f the black waters is proved by their
limpidity, their transparency, and the clearness with which
they reflect the images and colours o f surrounding o b j e c t s .
T h e smallest fish are visible in them at a depth o f twenty or
thirty f e e t ; and most c o m m o n l y the b o t t o m o f the river
may be distinguished, which is not a yellowish or brownish
mud, like the c o l o u r o f the wafer, but a quartzose and
granitic sand o f dazzling whiteness. N o t h i n g can be c o m ­
pared to the beauty o f the banks o f the A t a b a p o . Loaded
with plants, a m o n g which rise the palms with feathery
l e a v e s ; the banks are reflected in the waters, and this
* The Caqueta bears, lower down, the name of the Yupurà.

3 3 9
reflex verdure seems to have the same vivid hue as that
which clothes the real vegetation. The surface o f the fluid
is homogeneous, smooth, and destitute of that mixture of
suspended sand and decomposed organic matter, which
roughens and streaks the surface of less limpid rivers.
O n quitting the Orinoco, several small rapids must he
passed, but without any appearance of danger. A m i d these
raudalitos, according to the opinion o f the missionaries, the
Rio Atabapo falls into the Orinoco. I am however disposed
to think that the Atabapo falls into the Guaviare. T h e Rio
Guaviare, which is much wider than the Atabapo, has white
waters, and in the aspect of its banks, its fishing-birds, its
fish, and the great crocodiles which live in it, resembles the
Orinoco much more than that part of the Atabapo which
comes from the Esmeralda, When a river springs from the
junction of t w o other rivers, nearly alike in size, it is difficult
to j u d g e which o f the two confluent streams must be re-
garded as its source. T h e Indians o f San Fernando affirm
that the Orinoco rises from t w o rivers, the Guaviare and
the Kio Paragua. They give this latter name to the U p p e r
Orinoco, from San Fernando and Santa Barbara to beyond
the Esmeralda, and they say that the Cassiquiare is not an
arm of the Orinoco, but o f the Rio Paragua. It matters b u t
little whether or not the name o f Orinoco be given to the
K i o Paragua, provided w e trace the course o f these rivers
as it is in nature, and do not separate by a chain o f m o u n -
tains, (as was done previously t o my travels,) rivers that
communicate together, and form one system. W h e n we
would give the name of a large river to one o f the t w o
branches by which if is formed, if should be applied to that
branch which furnishes most water. N o w , at the t w o
seasons of the year when I saw the Guaviare and the Upper
Orinoco or Rio Paragua (between the Esmeralda and San
F e r n a n d o ) , it appeared to me that the latter was n o t
so large as the Guaviare. Similar doubts have been
entertained by geographers respecting the j u n c t i o n of the
U p p e r Mississippi with the Missouri and the O h i o , the
junction of the Marañon with the Guallaga and the U c a -
yale, and the j u n c t i o n o f the Indus with the Chunab
( H y d a s p e s of Cashmere) and the Gurra, or Sutlej.* T o
* The Hydaspes is properly a tributary stream of the Chunab or
z 2

avoid embroiling farther a nomenclature of rivers so arbi-
trarily fixed, I will not propose new denominations. I shall
continue, with Father Caulin and the Spanish geographers,
to call the river Esmeralda the Orinoco, or Upper Orinoco ;
but I must observe that if the Orinoco, from San Fernando
de Atabapo as far as the delta which it forms opposite the
island of T r i n i d a d , w e r e regarded as the continuance of
the Rio Guaviare; and if that part of the Upper Orinoco
between the Esmeralda and the mission of San Fernando
were considered a tributary s t r e a m ; the Orinoco w o u l d
preserve, from the savannahs of San Juan de los Llanos
and the eastern declivity of the Andes to its mouth, a more
uniform and natural direction, that from south-west t o
The Rio Piragua, or that part of the Orinoco east of
the mouth of the Guaviare, has clearer, more transparent,
and purer water than the part of the Orinoco below San
Fernando. The waters of the Guaviare, on the contrary,
are white and t u r b i d ; they have the same taste, according
to the Indians, (whose organs of sense are extremely deli-
cate and well practised.) as the waters of the Orinoco near
the Great Cataracts. " Bring me the waters of three or
four great rivers of these countries," an old Indian of the
mission of Javita said to u s ; " o n tasting each of them I
will tell you, without fear of mistake, whence it was taken;
whether it comes from a white or black river; the Orinoco
or the Atabapo, the Paragua or the Guaviare." The great
crocodiles and porpoises (toninas) which are alike common
in the Rio Guaviare and the Lower Orinoco, are entirely
wanting, as we were told, in the Rio Paragua (or Upper
Orinoco, between San Fernando and the Esmeralda). These
are very remarkable differences in the nature of the waters,
and the distribution of animals. T h e Indians do not fail
to mention them, when they would prove to travellers that
the Upper Orinoco, to the east, of San Fernando, is a
distinct river which falls into the Orinoco, and that the
real origin of the latter must be sought in the sources o f
the Guaviare.
Acesines. The Sutlej or Hysudrus forms, together with the Beyah or
Hyphases, the river Gurra. These are the beautiful regions of the
Punjab and Douab, celebrated from the time of Alexander to the
present day.

The astronomical observations made in the night o f the
25th of April did not give me the latitude with satisfactory
precision. The latitude o f the mission of San Fernando
appeared t o me t o be 4° 2' 4 8 " . I n Father Caulin's map,
founded on the observations of Solano made in 1756, it is
4° 1'. This agreement proves the justness of a result which,
however, I could only deduce from altitudes considerably
distant from the meridian. A good observation o f the stars
at Guapasoso gave me 4° 2' for San Fernando de Atabapo.
1 was able to fix the longitude with much more precision
in m y way to the Rio N e g r o , and in returning from that
river. I t is 70° 30' 4 6 " (or 4° 0' west of the meridian o f
O n the 20th o f April we advanced only t w o or three
leagues, and passed the night on a rock near the Indian
plantations or conucos of Guapasoso. The river losing itself
by its inundations in the forests, and its real banks being
unseen, the traveller can venture to land only where a rock
or a small table-land rises above the water. T h e granite
o f those countries, owing to the position o f the thin
laminæ of black mica, sometimes resembles graphic g r a n i t e ;
but most frequently (and this determines the age of its for-
mation) it passes into a real gneiss. Its beds, very regularly
stratified, run from south-west to north-east, as in the Cor-
dillera on the shore o f Caracas. The dip o f the granite-
gneiss is 70° north-west. It is traversed by an infinito
number of veins of quartz, which are singularly transparent,
and three or four, and sometimes fifteen inches thick. I
found no cavity ( d r u s e ) , no crystallized substance, not even
rock-crystal; and no trace of pyrites, or any other metallic
substance. I enter into these particulars on account o f the
chimerical ideas that have been spread ever since the six-
teenth century, after the voyages of Berreo and Raleigh,*
" o n the immense riches o f the great and fine empire o f
G u i a n a . "
The river Atabapo presents throughout a peculiar aspect ;
you see nothing of its real banks formed by flat lauds eight
* Raleigh's work bears the high Rounding title of "The Discovery of
the large, rich, and beautiful Empire of Guiana." (Lond. 1596.) See
also Raleghi admiranda Descriptio Regni Guianæ, auri abundantissimi.
(Hondius, Noribergœ, 1599.)

3 4 2
or ten feet high ; they are concealed b y a row of palms, a n d
small trees with slender trunks, the roots of which are hat lied
by the waters. There are many crocodiles from the point
where you quit the Orinoco to the mission of San Fernando,
and their presence indicates that this part of the river b e -
longs to the R i o Guaviare and not to the A t a b a p o . In the
real bed o f the latter river, above the mission of San
Fernando, there are no crocodiles: w e find there BOUIO
a great many fresh-water dolphins, but n o manatis.
W e also seek in vain on these hanks for the thick-
nosed tapir, the araguato, or great howling monkey, the
zamuro, or Vultur aura, and the crested pheasant, known by
the name of guacharaca. E n o r m o u s water-snakes, in shape
resembling the boa, are unfortunately very c o m m o n , and a r e
dangerous to Indians who bathe. W e saw them almost
from the first day we embarked, swimming by the side of
our canoe ; they were at most twelve or fourteen feet long.
Tho jaguars of the banks of the Atabapo and the Tend are
large and well fed ; they are said, however, to be less daring
than the jaguars of the Orinoco.
T h e night, of the 27th was beautiful; dark clouds passed
from time to time over the zenith with extreme rapidity.
Not a breath of wind was felt in the lower strata of t h e
atmosphere ; the breeze was at the height of a thousand
toises. I dwell upon this peculiarity ; for the movement we
saw was not produced by the counter-currents (from west t o
east) which are sometimes thought to be observed in t h e
torrid zone o n the loftiest mountains of the Cordilleras ; it
was the effect of a real breeze, an east wind. W e left
the conucos of Guapasoso at two o ' c l o c k ; and continued t o
ascend the river toward the south, finding it (or rather t h a t
part o f its bed which is free from trees) growing more a n d
more narrow. I t began t o rain toward sunrise. I n these
forests, which are less inhabited by animals than those of
the Orinoco, wo no longer heard the howlings of the mon-
keys. T h e dolphins, or toninas, sported by the side of our
boat. According to the relation of Mr. Colebrooke, the
Delphinus gangeticus, which is the fresh-water porpoise of
the Old W o r l d , in like manner accompanies the boats t h a t
g o tip towards B e n a r e s ; but, from Benares to the point
where the Ganges receives the salt waters is only t w o hun-

dred leagues, while from the Atabapo to thE mouth o f the
Orinoco is more than three hundred and twenty.
A b o u t noon we passed the mouth o f the little river Ipuricha-
pano on the east, and afterwards the granitic rock, known by
the name of Piedra del Tigre. Between the fourth and fifth
degrees o f latitude, a little to the south of the mountains o f
Sipapo, we reach the southern extremity of that chain of
cataracts, which I proposed, in a memoir published in 1800,
t o call the Chain of Parima. A t 4° 20' it stretches from the,
right hank of the Orinoco toward the east, and east-south-
east. T h e whole o f the land extending from the mountains
o f the Parima towards the river Amazon, which is traversed
b y the Atabapo, the Cassiquiare, and the Rio N e g r o , is an
immense plain, covered partly with forests, and partly with
grass. Small rocks rise here and there like castles. "We
regretted that we had not stopped to rest near the Piedra
del T i g r e ; for on going up the Atabapo w e had great diffi-
culty to find a spot of dry ground, open and spacious enough
to light a lire, and place our instrument and our hammocks.
O n the 28th of April, it rained hard after sunset, and we
were afraid that our collections would be damaged. T h e
poor missionary had his lit of tertian fever, and besought
us to re-embark immediately after midnight. W e passed a.t
day-break the Piedra and the Raudalitos* of Guarinuma.
T h e rock is on the east bank ; it is a shelf of granite,
covered with psora, cladonia, and other lichens. I could have
fancied myself transported to the north o f Europe, to the
ridge of the mountains o f gneiss and granite between Frei-
berg and Marienberg in Saxony. The cladonias appeared to
me to be identical with the Lichen rangiferinus, the L . pixi-
datus, and the L. p o l y m o r p h i c of Linnæus. After having
passed the rapids of Guarinuma, the Indians showed us in
the middle of the forest, on our right, the ruins of the mis-
sion of Mendaxari, which has been long abandoned. On the
east bank o f the river, near the little rock of K e m a r u m o , in
the midst of Indian plantations, a gigantic bombax † attracted
our curiosity. W e landed to measure i t ; the height was
nearly one hundred and twenty feet, and the diameter
between fourteen and fifteen. This enormous specimen of
* The rock and little cascades.
† Bombax ceiba.

vegetation surprised us the more, as we had till then seen
on the banks of the Atabapo only small trees with slender
trunks, which from afar resembled y o u n g cherry-trees. The
Indians assured that these small trees do not form a very
extensive group. They are checked in their growth b y the
inundations of the river; while the dry grounds near the
Atabapo, the Temi, and the Tuamini, furnish excellent
timber for building. These forests do not stretch indefi-
nitely to the east and west, toward the Cassiquiare and the
G u a v i a r e ; they are bounded by the open savannahs of Ma-
nuteso, and the Rio Inirida. W e found it difficult in the
evening to stem the current, and we passed the night in a
wood a little above Mondaxari ; which is a not her granitic rock
traversed by a stratum of quartz. We found in it a group
of fine crystals of black schorl.
On the 29th, the air was cooler. W e had no zancudos,
but the sky was constantly clouded. and without stars. 1 began
to regret the Lower Orinoco. W e st ill advanced but slowly
from the force of the current, and we stopped a great part
of the day to seek for plants. It was night when we arrived
at the mission of San Balthasar, or, as the monks style it,
the mission of In divina Pastora de Balthasar de Atabapo.
W e were lodged with a Catalonian missionary, a lively and
agreeable man, who displayed in these wild countries the
activity that characterises his nation. He had planted a
garden, where the Fig-tree of Europe was found in company
with the persea, and the lemon-tree with the mammee. The
village was built with that regularity which, in the north o f
Germany, and in protestant America, we find in the hamlets
of the Moravian brethren ; and the Indian plantations seemed
better cultivated than elsewhere. Here we saw for the first
time that white and fungous substance which I have made
known by the name of dapicho and zapis.* W e immediately
perceived that it was analogous to india-rubber; but, as the
Indians made us understand by signs, that it was found
underground, we were inclined to think, till we arrived at
the mission o f Javita, that the dapicho was a fossil caout-
chouc, though different from the elastic bitumen of Derby-
shire. A Poimisano Indian, seated by the fire in the hut of
* These two words belong to the Poimisano and Paragini tongues.

the missionary, was employed in reducing the dapicho into
black caoutchouc. He had spitted several bits on a slender
stick, and was roasting them like meat. The dapicho black-
ens in proportion as it grows soft, and becomes elastic.
The resinous and aromatic smell which tilled the hut, seemed
to indicate that this coloration is the effect o f the d e c o m -
position of a carburet of hydrogen, and that the carbon
appears in proportion as the hydrogen burns at a low heat.
The Indian beat the softened and blackened mass with a
niece of brazil-wood, formed at one end like a club ; he then
kneaded the dapicho into balls of three or four inches in
diameter, and let it cool. These balls exactly resemble the
Caoutchouc of the shops, but their surface remains in general
slightly viscous. They are used at San Balthasar in the
Indian game of tennis, which is celebrated among the inha-
bitants of Uruana and Encaramada ; they are also cut into
cylinders, to be used as corks, and are far preferable to
those made of the bark of the cork-tree.
This use of caoutchouc appeared to us the more worthy
notice, as we had been often embarrassed by t he want of Euro-
pean corks. The great utility of cork is fully understood in
countries where trade has not supplied this bark in plenty.
Equinoctial America nowhere produces, not even on the
back o f the A n d e s , an oak resembling the Quercus s u b e r ;
and neither the light Wood of the bombax, the ochroma, and
other malvaceous plants, nor the rhachis of maize, of which
the natives make use, can well supply the place of our corks.
T h e missionary showed us, before the Casa de los Solteros
(the house where the y o u n g unmarried men reside), a drum,
which was a hollow cylinder of wood, two feet long and
eighteen inches thick. This drum was beaten with great
masses o f dapicho, which served as d r u m s t i c k s ; it bad
openings which could be stopped by the hand at will, to
vary the sounds, ami was lived on two light supports. Sa-
vage notions love noisy music ; the drum and the botuto, or
trumpet of baked earth, in which a tube of three or four
feet long communicates with several barrels, are indis-
pensable instruments among the Indians for their grand
pieces of music.
T h e night, of the 30th of April was sufficiently fine for
observing the meridian heights of x of Southern Cross,

and the two largo stars in the feet of the Centuar. I found
the latitude o f San Balthasar 3° 14' 23". H o r a r y angles of
the sun gave 70° 14' 2 1 " for the longitude by the chrono-
meter. T h e dip of the magnetic needle was 27 8° (cent.
div.) W e left the mission at a late hour in the morning,
and continued to g o up the Atabapo for five m i l e s ; then,
instead of following that river to its source in the cast,
where it bears the name of Atacavi, we entered the Rio
Temi. Before we reached its continence, a granitic eminence
on the western bank, near the mouth of the Guasacavi, fixed
our attention: it is called Piedra de la Guahiba, ( R o c k of
the Guahiba woman), or the Piedra de la Madre ( M o t h e r ' s
R o c k . ) W e inquired the cause o f so singular a denomina-
tion. Father Zea could not satisfy our curiosity ; but some
weeks after, another missionary, one of the predecessors o f
that ecclesiastic, whom we found settled at San Fernando as
president of the missions, related to us an event which
excited in our minds the most painful feedings. If, in these
solitary scenes, man scarcely haves behind hint any trace o f
his existence, it is doubly humiliating for a European to see
perpetuated by so imperishable a monument of nature as a
rock, the remembrance of the moral degradation of our
species, and the contrast between the virtue of a savage, and
the barbarism of civilized man !
In 1797 the missionary of San Fernando had led his
Indians to the banks of the Rio Guaviare, on one of those
hostile incursions which are prohibited alike by religion
and the Spanish laws. They found in an Indian hut a
Guahiba women with her three children (two of whom were
still infants), occupied in preparing the flour of cassava.
Resistance wa si m p o s s i b l e was gone to fish, and
the mother tried in vain to flee with her children. Scarcely
had she reached the savannah when she was seized by the
Indians of the mission, who hunt human beings, like the
Whites and the N e g r o e s in Africa. T h e mot her and her chil-
dren were bound, and dragged to the bank of the river. The
monk, seated in his boat, waited the issue of an expedition
o f which he shared not the danger. Had the mother
made too violent a resistance the Indians would have killed
her, for everything is permitted for the sake of the conquest
o f souls (la conquista espirituel), and it is particularly

3 4 7
desirable t o capture children, who may bo treated in the
m i n i o n as poitos, or slaves of the Christians. The prisoners
were carried to San Fernando, in the hope that the mother
would be unable to find her way back to her home by land.
Separated from her other children who had accompanied their
father o n the day in which she had been carried off, the
unhappy woman showed signs of the deepest despair. She
attempted to take back to her home the children who had
been seized by the missionary; and she fled with them
repeatedly from the village o f San Fernando. B u t the
Indians never failed to recapture her ; and the missionary,
after having caused her t o be mercilessly beaten, took the
cruel resolution o f separating the mother from the t w o
children who had been carried off with her. She was c o n -
veyed alone t o the missions o f the Rio N e g r o , going up
the Atabapo. Slightly bound, she was seated at the b o w
o f the boat, ignorant of the fate that awaited h e r ; but she
j u d g e d by the direction o f the sun, that she was removing
farther and farther from her hut and her native country.
She succeeded in breaking her bonds, threw herself into
the water, and swam to the left bank o f the A t a b a p o . T h e
current carried her to a shelf of rock, which bears her
name to this day. She landed and took shelter in the
woods, but the president of the missions ordered the
Indians t o row to the shore, and follow the traces o f the
Guahiba. In the evening she was brought back. Stretched
upon the rock (la Piedra de la Madre) a cruel punishment
was indicted on her with those straps of manati leather,
which serve for whips in that country, and with which tho
alcaldes are always furnished. This unhappy woman, her
hands tied behind her back with strong stalks of mavacure,
was then dragged to the mission of Javita.
She was there thrown into one o f tho caravanserais,
called las Casas del Rey. It was the rainy season, and the
night was profoundly dark. Forests till then believed t o
be impenetrable separated the mission of Javita from that
o f San Fernando, which was twenty-five leagues distant in
a straight line. N o other route is known than that by tho
rivers; no man ever attempted to go by land from o n o
village to another. But such difficulties could not deter
a mother, separated from her children. T h e Guahiba was

carelessly gaarded in the caravanserai. Her arms being
wounded, the Indians of Javita had loosened her bonds,
unknown to the missionary and the alcaldes. Having suc-
ceeded by the help
of her teeth in breaking them entirely,
she disappeared during the night ; and at the fourth sunrise
was seen at the mission of San Fernando, hovering around
the but where her children Were confined. " What, 1 hat
woman performed," added the missionary, who gave us
this sad narrative, " t h e most robust Indian would
have ventured to undertake!" She traversed the woods at
a season when the sky is constantly covered with clouds,
and the sun during whole days appears but for
a few
minutes. Did the course of the waters direct her way?
The inundations of the rivers forced her to go far from the
banks of the main stream, through the midst of woods
where the movement of the water is almost, imperceptible.
How often must she have been stopped by the thorny
lianas, that form a network around the trunks they e n -
twine! How often must she have swum across the rivulets
that run into the Atabapo ! This unfortunate woman was
asked how she had sustained herself during four days. She
Said that, exhausted with fatigue, she could find no other
nourishment than those great, black ants called vachacos,
which climb the trees in long bands, to suspend
on them
their resinous nests. W e pressed the missionary to tell
us whether the Guahiba had peacefully enjoyed the
piness of remaining with her children; and if any repen-
tance had followed this excess of cruelty. He would not
satisfy our curiosity ; but at our return from the Rio
Negro we learned that the Indian mother was again sepa-
rated from her children, and scut, to one of the mision-. of
tin; Upper Orinoco. There she died, refusing all kind
o f
nourishment, as savages frequently do in great calamities.
Such is the remembrance annexed to this fatal rock, the
I'II Jni tii l,t Mmlrr. In this relation of mv travels I feel
no desire to dwell on pictures of individual sulfering—
evils which are frequent wherever (here are masters and
slaves, civilized Europeans living with people in a state of
barbarism, and priests exercising the plenitude of arbitrary
power over men ignorant and without defence. In describing
the countries through which 1 passed, 1 generally confine

myself to pointing out what is imperfect, or fatal to huma-
nity, in their civil or religious institutions. If I have dwelt
longer on the Rock of the Ouahiba, it was to record an
affecting instance of maternal tenderness in a race of people
so long calumniated ; and because 1 thought some benefit
might accrue from publishing a fact, which 1 had from the
monks of San Francisco, and which proves how much the
system of the missions calls for the care o f the legislator.
Above the mouth of the Guasucavi we entered the Rio
T e n d , the course of which is from south to north. H a d
we continued to ascend the Atabapo, we should have turned
t o east-south-east, going farther from the banks of the
Guainia or Rio N e g r o . The Temi is only eighty or ninety
toises broad, but in any other country than Guiana it would
be a considerable river. The country exhibits the uniform
aspect of forests covering ground perfectly flat. The line
pirijao palm, with its fruit like peaches, and a new species
of bache, or mauritia, its trunk bristled with thorns, rise
amid smaller trees, the vegetation of which appears to be
retarded by the continuance of the inundations. T h e
Mauritia aculcata is called by the Indians juria or cauvaja ;
its leaves are in the form of a fan, and they bend towards
the ground. A t the centre of every leaf, n o doubt from
the effect of some disease of the parenchyma, concentric
circles of alternate blue and yellow appear, the yellow pre-
vailing towards the middle. W e were singularly struck by
this appearance; the leaves, coloured like the peacock's
tail, are supported by short and very thick trunks. The
thorns are not slender and long like those o f the corozo
and other thorny palm-trees; but on the contrary. very-
Woody, short, ami broad at the base, like the thorns of the
Hura crepitans. On the banks of the Atabapo and the
Temi, this palm-tree is distributed in groups of twelve or
fifteen stems, (dose together, and looking as if they rose
from the same root. These trees resemble in their appear-
ance, form, and scarcity of leaves, the fan-palms ami pal-
mettos of the Old W o r l d . W e remarked that some plants
o f the juria were entirely destitute of fruit, and others
exhibited a considerable q u a n t i t y ; this circumstance seems
to indicate a palm-tree of separate sexes.
Wherever the R i o Temi forms coves, the forest is inun-

3 5 0
dated to the extent of more than half a square league. To
avoid the sinuosities of the river and shorten the passage,
the navigation is here performed in a very extraordinary
manner. The Indians made us leave the bed of the river;
and we proceeded southward across the forest, through

paths (sendas), that is, through open channels of four or
five feet broad. The depth of the water seldom exceeds
half a fathom. These sendas are formed in the inundated
forest like paths on dry ground. The Indians, in going
from one mission to another, pass with their boats as much
as possible by the same way; but tho communications not

being frequent, the force of vegetation sometimes produces
unexpected obstacles. AN Indian, furnished with a machete
(a great knife, the blade of which is fourteen inches long),
stood at the head of our boat, employed continually in

chopping off the branches that crossed each other from the
two sides of the channel. In the thickest part of the

forest we were astonished by an extraordinary noise. On
beating the bushes, a shoal of toninas (fresh-water dolphins)
four feet long, surrounded our boat. These animals had
concealed themselves beneath the branches of a fromager,
or Bonibax ceiba. They fled across the forest, throwing
out those spouts of compressed air and water which have
given them in every language the name of ' blowers.' How
singular was this spectacle in an inland spot, three or four

hundred leagues from the mouths of the Orinoco and tho
Amazon ! I am aware that the pleuronectes (dabs) of the
Atlantic go up the Loire as far as Orleans; but I am,

nevertheless, of opinion that the dolphins of the Temi,
like those of the Ganges, and like the skate (raia) of the
Orinoco, are of a species essentially different from the

dolphins and skates of the ocean. In the immense rivers
of South America, and the great lakes of North America,

nature seems to repeat several pelagic forms. The Nile
has no porpoises:* those of the sea go up the Delta no

farther than Biana and Metonbis towards Sclamoun.
At five in the evening we regained with some difficulty
* Those dolphins that enter the mouth of the Nile, did not escape the
observation of the ancients. In a bust in syenite, preserved in the
museum at Paris, the sculptor has represented them half concealed in the
uudulatory beard of the god of the river.

3 5 1
the bed o f the river. O u r canoe remained fast for somo
minutes between two trunks of t r e e s ; and it was no sooner
disengaged than we reached a spot where several paths, or
small channels, crossed each other, so that the pilot was
puzzled t o distinguish the most open path. W o navigated
through a forest so thick that we could guide ourselves
neither by the sun nor by the stars. W o were again struck
during this day by the want of arborescent ferns in that
country ; they diminish visibly from the sixth degree of north
latitude, while the palm-trees augment prodigiously towards
the equator. Fern-trees belong to a climate less hot, and
a soil but little mountainous. I t is only where there aro
mountains that these majestic plants descend towards the
plains; they seem to avoid perfectly flat grounds, as those
through which run the Cassiquiare, the Tend, Inirida, and
the Rio Negro. W e passed in the night near a rock, called
the Piedra de Astor by the missionaries. The ground from
the mouth o f the Guaviare constantly displays the same
geological formation. It is a vast granitic plain, in which
from league to league the rock pierces the soil, and forms,
not hillocks, but small masses, that resemble pillars or
ruined buildings.
O n the 1st o f M a y the Indians chose t o depart long
before sunrise. W e wen; stirring before them, however,
because I waited (though vainly) for a star ready t o pass
the meridian. I n those humid regions covered with forests,
the nights became more obscure in proportion as we drew
nearer to the B i o N e g r o and the interior o f Brazil. We
remained in the bed of the river till daybreak, being afraid
o f losing ourselves among the trees. A t sunrise we again
entered the inundated forest, to avoid the force o f the
current. O n reaching the j u n c t i o n o f the Tend with an-
other little river, the Tuamini, the waters o f which are
equally black, w e proceeded along the latter to the south-
west. This direction led us near the mission o f Javita,
which is founded on the banks of the T u a m i n i ; and at
this christian settlement we were t o find the aid necessary
for transporting our canoe by land to the Rio N e g r o . W e
did not arrive at San A n t o n i o de Javita till near eleven in
the morning. A n accident, unimportant in itself, but
which shows the excessive timidity o f the little sagoins,

3 5 2
detained us some time at the mouth of the Tuamini. The
noise of the blowers had frightened our monkeys, and one
o f them fell into the water. Animals o f this species, per­
haps o n account o f their extreme meagreness, swim badly ;
and consequently it was saved with some difficulty.
At Javita we had the pleasure of finding a very intelligent
a n d obliging monk, at whoso mission wo were forced t o
remain four or five days, the time required for transporting
our boat across the portage of Pimichin. This delay enabled
us to visit the surrounding country, as also to relieve our­
selves from an annoyance which we had suffered for two
days. W e felt an extraordinary irritation on the joints o f
our fingers, and on the backs of our hands. The missionary
told us it was caused by the aradores,* which get under the
skin. W e could distinguish with a lens nothing but streaks,
or parallel and whitish furrows. It is the form of these
furrows, that has obtained for the insect the name of ' plough­
man.' A mulatto woman was sent for, who professed to be
thoroughly acquainted with all the little insects that burrow
in the human s k i n ; the chego, The nuche, the coya, and the
arador; she was the curandera, or surgeon of the place.
She promised to extirpate, one by one, the insects which
caused this smarting irritation, Having heated at a lamp
the point a little bit of hard wood, she dug with it into
the furrows that marked the skin. After long examina­
tion, she announced with the pedantic gravity peculiar to the
mulatto race, that an arador was found. I saw a little
round bag. which I suspected to be the egg of an acarus. I
was to find relief when the mulatto woman had succeeded in
taking out three or four of these aradores. Having the skin
of both hands filled with acari, I had not the patience to wait
the end of an operation, which had already lasted till late at
night. The next day an Indian of Javita cured us radically,
and with surprising promptitude. He brought us the
branch of a shrub, called uzao, with small leaves like those
of cassia, very coriaceous and glossy. H e made a cold
infusion of the bark of this shrub, which had a bluish colour,
and the taste of liquorice. When beaten, it yields a great
deal of froth. The irritation of the aradores ceased by using
simple lotions of this uzao-water. W e could not find this
* Literally, 'the ploughers.'

shrub in flower, or bearing fruit; it appears to belong to the
family of the leguminous plants, the chemical properties of
which are singularly varied. W e dreaded so much the
sufferings to which we had been exposed, that we constantly
kept some branches of the uzao in our boat, till we reached
San Carlos. This shrub grows in abundance on the banks
of the Pimichin. W h y has no remedy been discovered for
the irritation produced by the sting of the zancudos, as well
as for that, occasioned by the aradores or microscopic acari ?
In 1700, before the expedition for fixing the boundaries,
better known by the name of the expedition of Solano, the
whole country bet ween the missions of Javita and San Bal-
thasar was regarded as dependent on Brazil. The Portuguese
had advanced from the Rio N e g r o , by the portage of the Cano
Pimichin, as far as the banks of the' Temi. An Indian chief
o f the name of Javita, celebrated for his courage and his
spirit of enterprise, was the ally of the Portuguese. H e
pushed his hostile incursions from the K i o Jupura, or
Caqueta, one of the great tributary streams of the Amazon,
by the rivers t a u p e and X i o , as far as the black waters of
the Temi and the Tuamini, a distance of more than a
hundred leagues. He was furnished with letters patent,
which authorised him " t o bring the Indians from the forest,
for the conquest of s o u l s . " H e availed himself amply o f
this permission; but his incursions had an object which was
not altogether spiritual, that of making slaves to sell to the
Portuguese. W h e n Solano, the second chief of the expedi­
tion of the boundaries, arrived at San Fernando de Atabapo,
he had Javita seized, in one of his incursions to the banks of
the Temi. He treated him with gentleness, and succeeded
in gaining him over to the interests of the Spanish govern­
ment by promises that were not fulfilled. The Portuguese,
who had already formed some stable settlements in these
countries, were driven back as far as the lower part o f the
Rio N e g r o ; and the mission o f San A n t o n i o , ot which the
more usual name is Javita, so called after its Indian founder,
was removed farther north of the sources of the Tuamini, to
the spot where it is now established. This captain. Javita,
was still living, at an advanced age. when we proceeded to the
Bio Negro, He was an Indian of great vigour of mind and
body, He spoke Spanish with facility, and preserved a certain
VOL. 11.
2 л

influence over the neighbouring nations. A s he attended
in all our herborizations, we obtained from his own
mouth information so much the more useful, as the mis-
sionaries have great confidence in his veracity. He assured
us. that in his youth he bad seen almost all the Indian
tribes, that inhabit the vast regions between the U p p e r
Orinoco, the Rio Negro, the Inirida, and the Jupura, eat
human flesh. The Daricavanas, the Puchirmavis, and the
Manitivitanos, appeared to him to be the greatest cannibals
among them. He believes that, this abominable practice is
with them the effect, of a system of v e n g e a n c e ; they eat
only enemies who are made prisoners in battle. The
instances where, by a refinement of cruelly, the Indian eats
his nearest relations, his wife, or an unfaithful mistress, are
extremely rare. The strange custom of the Scythians and
Massagetes, the Capanaguas of the Rio Ucayale, and the
ancient inhabitants of the West Indian Islands, of honour-
ing the dead by eating a part of their remains, is unknown
on the banks of the Orinoco. In both continents this trait
o f manners belongs only to nations that hold in horror t h e
flesh of a prisoner. The Indian of Hayti (Saint, D o m i n g o )
Would think himself wanting in regard to the memory of a
relation, if he did not throw into his drink a small portion o f
the body of the deceased, after having dried it like one o f
1 he mummies of the Guanches, and reduced it to powder.
This gives us just, occasion to repeat with an eastern poet,
" o f all animals man is the most fantastic in his manners,
and the most disorderly in his propensities."
The climate of the mission of San Antonio de Javita is
extremely rainy. W h e n you have passed the latitude o f
three degrees north, and approach the equator, y o u have
seldom an opportunity of observing the sun or the stars.
It rains almost the whole year, and the sky is constantly
cloudy. A s the breeze is not felt in these immense forests
of Guiana, and the refluent polar currents do not penetrate
them, the column of air which reposes on this wooded zone
is not renewed by dryer strata. It is saturated with vapours
which tire condensed into equatorial rains. The missionary
assured us that it often rains here four or live months
without cessation.
The temperature of Javita is cooler than that of Maypures,

but considerably hotter than that of the Guainia or Rio
N e g r o . T h e centigrade thermometer kept up in the day t o
twenty-six or twenty-seven d e g r e e s ; and in the night t o
twenty-one degrees.
F r o m the 30th of April t o the 11th o f M a y , I had not
been able t o see any star in the meridian so as to determine
the latitude of places. I watched whole nights in order t o
make use o f the method of double altitudes; but all m y
efforts were useless. T h e fogs o f the north o f Europe are
n o t more constant than those o f the equatorial regions o f
Guiana. O n the 4th of M a y , I saw the sun for some
m i n u t e s ; and found by the chronometer and the horary-
angles the longitude of Javita t o be 70° 22', or 1° 15' father
west than the longitude o f the j u n c t i o n of the A p u r e with
the Orinoco. This result is interesting for laying d o w n on
our maps the unknown country lying between the Xiè and
the sources of the Issana, situated o n the same meridian
with the mission of Javita.
The Indians o f Javita, whose number amounts t o one
hundred and sixty, now belong fur the most part to the na-
tions of the Poimisanos, the Echinavis, and the Paraganis.
They are employed in the construction of boat's, formed
o f the trunks o f sassafras, a largo species of laurel, hol-
lowed by means o f fire and the hatchet. These trees are
moro than one hundred feet h i g h ; the w o o d is yellow,
resinous, almost incorruptible in water, and has a very agree-
able smell. W e saw them at San Fernando, at Javita, and
more particularly at Esmeralda, where most of the canoes of
the Orinoco are const landed, because the adjacent forests
furnish the largest trunks of sassafras.
The forest bed ween Javita and the Caño Pimichin, contains
an immense quantity of gigantic trees, ocoteas, and laurels,
the Amasonia arborea,* the Retiniphyllum secundiflorum,
the curvana, the jacio, the iacifate, of which the wood is red
like the brazilletto, the guamufate, with its fine leaves o f
• This is a now species of the genus taligalea of Aublet. On the same
•pot grow the Bignonia magnolia-folia, B. jasminifolia, Solanum topiro,
Justicia pertoralis, Faramea cymosa. Piper javitense, Scleria hirtella,
Echites javitensis, Lindsea javitensis, and that curious plant of the family
of the verbenaceæ, winch I have dedicated to the illustrious Leopold von
Buch, in whose early labours I participated.
2 A 2

calophyllum from seven to eight inches long, the Amyris
caraña, ami the mani. All these trees ( w i t h the exception
o f o u r new g e n u s Retiniphyllum) were more than one hun­
dred o r o n e hundred and ten feet high. A s their trunks
t h r o w o u t branches only toward the s u m m i t , w e had s o m e
t r o u b l e in p r o c u r i n g both leaves ami flowers. T h e latter
were frequently strewed upon the ground at the foot o f the
t r e e s ; but, the plants o f different families being grouped
t o g e t h e r in these forests, and every tree being covered with
lianas, we could not, with any degree o f confidence, rely on
t h e authority o f the natives, when they assured us that a
flower b e l o n g e d t o such o r such a t r e e . A m i d these riches o f
nature heborizations caused us more chagrin than satis­
faction. W h a t we could gather appeared to us o f little
interest, c o m p a r e d to what we could not reach. It rained
unceasingly d u r i n g several m o n t h s , and M . Bonpland lost
t h e g r e a t e r part of the s p e c i m e n s which he had been c o m ­
pelled to dry by artificial heat. Our Indians distinguished
the leaves better than the corollæ or the fruit O c c u p i e d
in seeking t i m b e r for canoes, they are inattentive t o
flowers. " A l l those great trees bear neither flowers nor
f r u i t s , " they repeated unceasingly. Like the botanists o f
antiquity, they denied what they had not taken the
t r o u b l e to observe. T h e y were tired with our quest ions, and
exhausted o u r patience in return.
W e have already mentioned that the same chemical pro­
perties being sometimes found in the same organs o f dif­
ferent families o f plants, these families supply each o t h e r ' s
places in various climates. Several species of palms* furnish
the inhabitants o f equinoctial America and Africa with the
oil which we derive from the (dive. What, the coniferæ are
to the temperate zone, the terebinthaceæ and the guttiferæ
are t o the torrid. In the forests o f those burning climates,
* In Africa, the elais or malm ; in America the cocoa­tree. In the
cocoa­tree it is the pensperm ; and in the elais (an in the olive, and the
oleineæ in general) it is the sarcocarp, or the pulp of the pericarp, that
yields oil. This difference, observed in the same family, appears to me
very remarkable, though it is ill no way contradictory to the results
obtained by De Candolle in his ingenious researches on the chemical p r o ­
perties of plants. If our Alfonsia oleifera belong to the genus Elais, las
Brown, with great reason believes,) it follows, that in the same genus the
oil is found in the surcocarp and in the perisperm.

(where there is neither pine, thuya, taxodium, n o r even a
podooarpus,) resins, balsams, and aromatic gums, are fur-
nished b y the maronobea, the icica, and the amyris. T h e
collecting o f these g u m m y and resinous substances is a
trade in the village of Javita. T h e most celebrated resin
bears the name o f mani; and o f this w e saw masses o f
several hundred-weight, resembling colophony and mastic.
The tree called mani by the Paraginis, which M . Bonpland
believes to be t h e M o r o n o b æ a coccinea, furnishes b u t a
small quantity of the substance employed in t h e trade with
Angostura. T h e greatest part comes from the mararo o r
caragna, which is an amyris. I t is remarkable enough, that
the name mani, which Aublet heard among the Galibis* o f
Cayenne, was again heard by us at Javita, three hundred
leagues distant from French Guiana. The moronobæa o r
symphonia o f Javita yields a yellow r e s i n ; t h e caragna, a
resin strongly odoriferous, and white as s n o w ; t h e latter
beomes yellow where it is adherent t o the internal part o f
old bark.
W e went every day t o see h o w o u r canoo advanced on
the portages. Twenty-three Indians were employed in
dragging it by land, placing branches of trees t o serve
as rollers. In this manner a small boat proceeds in a
day or a day and a half, from the waters o f the Tuamini
to those of the Cano Pimichin, which flow into tho
Rio N e g r o . O u r canoe being very large, and having t o
pass the cataracts a second time, it was necessary t o avoid
with particular care any fried ion on t h e b o t t o m ; conse-
quently the passage occupied more than four days. I t is only
since 1795 that a road has been traced through the forest.
By substituting a canal for this portage, as I proposed t o
the ministry of king Charles I V , the communication between
the Rio Negro and Angostura, between the Spanish Orinoco
and the Portuguese possessions on the Amazon, would be
singularly facilitated.
In this forest we at length obtained precise information
* The Galibis or Caribis (the r has been changed into l, as often
happens) are of the great stock of the Carib nations. T h e products use-
ful in commerce and in domestic life have received the same denomina-
tion in every part of America which this warlike and commercial people
have overrun.

respecting the pretended fossil caoutchouc, called dapicho b y
the Indians. T h e old chief Javita led us to the brink o f a
rivulet which runs into the T u a m i n i ; and showed us that,
after digging two or three feet deep, in a marshy soil, this
substance was found between the roots of two trees known
by the name of the jacio and the curvana. The first is the
hevea o f Auhlet, or siphonia of tho modern botanists, k n o w n
to furnish the caoutchouc of commerce in Cayenne and
Grand Para; the second has pinnate leaves, and its juice is
milky, but very thin, and almost destitute o f viscosity. T h o
dapicho appears to be the result o f an extravasation of the sap
from the roots. This extravasation takes place more espe-
cially when the trees have attained a great age, and the inte-
rior o f the trunk begins to decay. T h e bark and alburnum
c r a c k ; and thus is effected naturally, what the art o f man
performs for tho purpose of collecting the milky juices o f
the hevea, the castilloa, and the caoutchouc fig-tree. Aublet
relates, that the Galibis and the Garipons of Cayenne begin
by making a deep incision at the foot of the trunk, so as to
penetrate into the wood ; soon after they join with this hori-
zontal notch others both perpendicular and oblique, reaching
from the t o p o f the trunk nearly to the roots. All these
incisions conduct the milky juice towards one point, where
the vase of (day is placed, in which the caoutchouc is to be
deposited. W e saw the Indians of Carichana operate nearly
in the same manner.
If, as I suppose, the accumulation and overflowing of the
milk in the jacio and the curvana be a pathological p h e n o -
menon, it must sometimes tako place at the extremity o f
the longest roots, for we found masses of dapicho two feet
in diameter and four inches thick, eight feet distant from
the trunks. Sometimes the Indians dig in vain at the foot
of dead t r e e s ; at other times the dapicho is found beneath
the hevea or jacio still green. T h e substance is white, corky,
fragile, and resembles by its laminated structure and undu-
lating edge, the Boletus ignarius. The dapicho perhaps
takes a long time t o form ; it is probably a j u i c e thickened
by a particular disposition of the vegetable organs, diffused
and coagulated in a humid soil secluded from the contact o f
l i g h t ; it is caoutchouc in a particular state, I may almost

I T S F O R M A T I O N .
say an etiolated caoutchouc. T h e humidity of the soil seems
to account for the undulating form o f the edges o f the
dapicho, and its division into layers.
I often observed in Peru, that on pouring slowly tho
milky juice o f the hevea, or the sap o f the carica, into a
large quantity o f water, the coagulum forms undulating
outlines. The dapicho is certainly not peculiar to the
forest that extends from Javita t o Pimichin, although that
is the only spot where it has hitherto been found. I have
no doubt, that on digging in French Guiana beneath the
roots and the old trunks o f the hevea, those enormous
masses o f corky caoutchouc,* which I have just described,
would from time t o time b o found. A s it is observed in
Europe, that at the fall of the leaf the sap is c o n v e y e d
towards the root, it would be curious to examine whether,
within the tropics, the milky j u i c e s o f the urticca), the
euphorbiaceæ, and the a