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TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
of animals would perish as would here from the destruction
of the kelp. Amidst
the leaves of this
plant numerous species of fish live which nowhere else could find food or shelter; with their destruction the many cormorants and other fishing birds, the otters,
seals and porpoises would soon perish
also; and lastly, the
Fuegian savage, the miserable lord of this miserable land, would redouble his cannibal feast, decrease in numbers, and perhaps cease to exist.
I WAS frequently surprised, in the scenery of Tierra del Fuego, at the little apparent elevation of mountains really lofty. I suspect it is owing to a cause which would not at first be imagined, namely, that the whole mass, from the summit to the water's edge, is generally in full view. I remem ber having seen a mountain first from the Beagle Channel, where the whole sweep from the summit to the base was full in view, and then from Ponsonby Sound, across several suc
TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
cessive ridges; and it was curious to observe, in the latter case, as each fresh ridge afforded fresh means of judging of the distance, how the mountain rose in height.
Mount Sarmiento is one of the highest in Tierra del Fuego, having an altitude of six thousand eight hundred feet. Its base, for about an eighth of its total height, is clothed by dusky woods, and above this a field of snow extends to the summit. These vast piles of snow, which never melt, and seem destined to last as long as the world holds together, present a noble and even sublime spectacle. Several glaciers descended in a winding course from the upper great expanse of snow to the sea-coast: they may be likened to great frozen Niagaras, and perhaps these cataracts of blue ice are full as beautiful as the moving ones of water.
As the snow-line is so low in Tierra del Fuego, we might have expected that many of the glaciers would have reached the sea. Nevertheless I was astonished when I first saw a range, only from three to four thousand feet in height, with every valley filled with streams of ice descending to the seacoast. Almost every arm of the sea which penetrates to the inner higher chain, not only in Tierra del Fuego but on the coast for six hundred and fifty miles northward, is terminated by "tremendous and astonishing glaciers," as described by one of the officers of the survey. Great masses of ice fre quently fall from these icy cliffs, and the crash re-echoes, like the broadside of a man-of-war, through the lonely channels. It is known that earthquakes frequently cause masses of earth to fall from sea-cliffs; how terrific, then, would be the effect of a severe shock (and such do occur here) on a body
like a glacier, already in motion and traversed by fissures! I can readily believe that the water would be fairly beaten back out of the deepest channel, and then, returning with an overwhelming force, would whirl about huge masses of rock like so much chaff. In Eyre's Sound, in a (south) latitude corresponding with that of Paris, there are immense glaciers, and yet the loftiest neighboring mountain is only six thousand two hundred feet high. In this sound about fifty icebergs were seen at one time floating outward, and one of them must have been at least one hundred and sixty-eight feet in total height. Some of the icebergs were loaded with blocks, of no inconsiderable size, of granite and other rocks, different from the clay-slate of the surrounding mountains. The glacier farthest from the Pole, surveyed during the voy ages of the Adventure and Beagle, is in latitude 46° 50′, in the Gulf of Peñas. It is fifteen miles long, and in one part seven broad, and descends to the sea-coast.
From the east coast of the island of Chiloe, on a splendidly clear day (November 26, 1834), we saw the volcano of Osorno spouting out volumes of smoke. This most beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone, and white with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another great volcano, with a saddle-shaped summit, also emitted from its immense. crater little jets of steam. Afterward we saw the lofty-peaked Corcovado (Hunchback)-well deserving the name of "famous" (el famoso Corcovado). Thus we beheld, from one point of view, three great active volcanoes, each about seven thousand feet high. In addition to this, far to the south, there were other lofty cones covered with snow, which, al
though not known to be active, must be in their origin volcanic. The line of the Andes is not, in this neighborhood, nearly so elevated as in Chile; neither does it appear to form so perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. This great range, although running in a straight north and south line, always appeared more or less curved.
IN the central part of the Uspallata range, at an elevation of about seven thousand feet, I observed on a bare slope some snow-white projecting columns. These were petrified fir-trees, abruptly broken off, the upright stumps projecting a few feet above the ground. The trunks, some fifty in number, measured from three to five feet each in circumference. They stood a little way apart from each other, but the whole formed one group. I confess I was at first so much astonished that I could scarcely believe the marvellous story which this scene at once unfolded. I saw the spot where a cluster of fine trees once waved their branches on the shores of the Atlantic, when that ocean (now driven back seven hundred miles) came to the foot of the Andes. I saw that they had sprung from a volcanic soil, which had been raised above the level of the sea, and that afterward this dry land, with its upright trees, had been let down into the depths of the ocean. In these depths the formerly dry land was covered by beds of sediment, and these again by enor mous streams of submarine lava-one such mass attaining the thickness of a thousand feet; and these deluges of molten