Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

CHILE.

[ocr errors]

trembling. Here we have an eruption relieving and taking the place of an earthquake, as would have happened at Concepcion, according to the belief of the common people, if the volcano of Antuco had not been closed by witchcraft. Two years and three-quarters afterward Valdivia and Chiloe were again shaken, more violently than on the 20th, and an isl.

and in the Chonos Arcbi. pelago was permanently raised more than eight feet. We may, therefore, confidently come to the conclusion that the forces which, slowly and by little starts, uplift conti. nents, and those which at successive periods pour forth volcanic matter from

open orifices, are the same. It is remarkable that while Talcahuano and Callao (near Lima), both situated at the head of large shallow bays, have suffered during every severe earthquake from great waves, Valparaiso, seated close to the edge of profoundly deep water, has never been overwhelmed, though so often shaken by the severest shocks.

I have not attempted to give any detailed description of the appearance of Concepcion, for I feel that it is quite impossible to convey the mingled feelings which I experienced. Several of the officers visited it before me, but their strongest language failed to give a just idea of the scene of

[graphic]

LUSSING-BARAT

CRUSOE.

CHILE,

of

desolation. It is a bitter and humiliating thing to see works which have cost man so much time and labor overthrown in one minute; yet compassion for the inhabitants was almost instantly banished by the surprise in seeing a state of things produced in a moment of time which one was accustomed to attribute to a succession of ages. In my opinion, we have scarcely bebeld, since leaving England, any sight so deeply interesting

Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity

any country. If beneath England the now inert subterranean forces should exert those powers which most assuredly in former geological ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire condition of the country be changed ! What would become of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, great manufactories, the beautiful public and private edifices? If the new period of disturbance were first to commence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, how terrific would be the carnage! England would at once become bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts would from that moment be lost. Government being unable to collect the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of violence and rapine would remain uncontrolled. In every large town famine would go forth, pestilence and death following in its train!

On the 14th of May we reached Coquimbo, and in the evening Captain Fitz Roy and myself were dining with Mr. Edwards, an English resident, when a short earthquake happened. I heard the forthcoming rumble; but, from the screams of the ladies, the running of the servants, and the

CHILE.

rush of several of the gentlemen to the doorway, I could not distinguish the motion. Some of the women afterward were crying with terror, and one gentleman said he should not be able to sleep all night, or if he did, it would only be to dream of falling houses. The father of this person had lately lost all his property at Talcahuano, and he himself had only just escaped a falling roof at Valparaiso, in 1822. He mentioned a curious coincidence which then happened: he was playing at cards, when a German, one of the party, got up, and said he would never sit in a room in these countries with the door shut, as, owing to his having done so, he had nearly lost his life at Copiapó. Accordingly he opened the door, and no sooner had he done this than he cried out, “ Here it comes again !" and the famous shock commenced. The whole party escaped. The danger in an earthquake is not from the time lost in opening a door, but from the chance of its being jammed by the movement of the walls.

It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which natives and old residents, though some of them known to be men of great command of mind, so generally experience during earthquakes. I think, however, this excess of panic may be partly attributed to a want of habit in governing their fear, as it is not a feeling they are ashamed of. Indeed, the natives do not like to see a person indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open air during a smart shock, knowing that there was no danger, did not rise. The natives cried out indignantly, “Look at those heretics ; they will not even get out of their beds!”

CHILE.

RAINFALL.

As we travelled north, along the coast from Valparaiso, (May, 1835), the country became more and more barren. In the valleys there was scarcely water enough for any irrigation, and the intermediate land was quite bare, not supporting even goats. In the spring, after the winter showers, a thin pasture rapidly springs up, and cattle are then driven down from the Cordillera to graze for a short time. It is curious to observe how the seeds of the grass and other plants seem to accommodate themselves, as if by habit, to the quantity of rain which falls on different parts of this coast. One shower far northward at Copiapó produces as great an effect on the vegetation as two at Guasco, and as three or four in the Conchalee district. At Valparaiso a winter so dry as greatly to injure the pasture would, at Guasco, produce the most unusual abundance. At Conchalee, which is only sixty-seven miles north of Valparaiso, rain is not expected until the end of May; whereas, at Valparaiso, some generally falls early in April.

On the morning of the 17th of May, at Coquimbo, it rained lightly, the first time this year, for about fire hours. The farmers, who plant corn near the sea-coast, where the atmosphere is moister, taking advantage of this shower, would break up the ground; after a second, they would put the seed in; and if a third shower should fall, they would reap a good harvest in the spring. It was interesting to watch the effect of this trifling amount of moisture. Twelve hours afterward the ground appeared as dry as ever; yet after an

CHILE.

interval of ten days all the hills were faintly tinged with green patches, the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full inch in length. Before this shower every part of the surface was bare as on a high-road. The epithets“ barren” and “ sterile” are certainly applicable to northern Chile, yet even here there are not many spaces of two hundred yards square where some little bush, cactus, or lichen may not be discovered by careful examination; and in the soil seeds lie dormant, ready to spring up during the first rainy winter.

In the valley of Copiapó the small quantity of cultivated land does not so much depend on inequalities of level and consequent unfitness for irrigation, as on the small supply of water. The river this year was remarkably full: high up in the valley it reached to the horses' bellies, and was about fifteen yards wide, and rapid; lower down it becomes smaller and smaller, and is generally quite lost, as happened during one period of thirty years, so that not a drop entered

The inhabitants watch a storm over the Cordillera with great interest, as one good fall of snow provides them with water for the ensuing year. This is of infinitely more consequence than rain in the lower country. Rain, as often as it falls—which is about once in every two or three years— is a great advantage, because the cattle and mules can for some time afterward find a little pasture on the mountains. But without snow on the Andes, desolation extends through. out the valley. It is on record that three times nearly all the inhabitants have been obliged to emigrate to the south. This

year there was plenty of water, and every man irrigated

the sea.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »