« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
TIERRA DEL FUEGO,
often try to imagine what pleasure in life some of the lower animals can enjoy: how much more reasonably the same question may be asked concerning these barbarians ! At night five or six human beings, naked, and scarcely protected from the wind and rain of this tempestuous climate, sleep on the wet ground, coiled up like animals. Whenever it is low
water-winter or summer, night or day—they must rise to pick shell. fish from the rocks; and the women either dire to collect sea-eggs or sit patiently in their canoes, and with a baited hair-line, without any hook, jerk out little fish. If a seal is killed, or the floating carcass of a putrid whale dis. covered, it is a feast; and such miserable food is assisted by a few tasteless berries and fungi.
TIERRA DEL FUEGO,
They often suffer from famine: I heard Mr. Low, a seal. ing-master very well acquainted with the natives of this coun. try, give a curious account of the state of a party of one hun. dred and fifty natives on the west coast, who were very thin, and in great distress. A succession of gales prevented the women from getting shell-fish on the rocks, and they could not go out in their canoes to catch seal. A small party of these men one morning set out on a four days' journey for food; on their return Low went to meet them, and found them excessively tired---each man carrying a great square piece of putrid whale's blubber, with a hole in the middle, through which he put his head, as the Gauchos do through their ponchos or cloaks. As soon as the blubber was brought into a wigwam an old man cut off the slices, and, muttering over them, broiled them for a minute, and distributed them to the famished party, who, during this time, preserved a profound silence. Mr. Low believes that whenever a whale is cast on shore the natives bury large pieces of it in the sand as a resource in time of famine. The different tribes, when at war, are cannibals; and it is cer: tainly true that, when pressed in winter hy hunger, they kill and devour their old women before they kill their dogs. A boy, being asked by Mr. Low why they did this, answered: “ Doggies catch otters, old women no."
Few, if any, of the natives in the Beagle Channel could ever have seen a white man; certainly nothing could exceed their astonishment at the sight of our four boats. Fires were lighted on every point (hence the name of Tierra del Fuego, or the land of fire), both to attract our attention and to
TIERRA DEL FUEGO,
spread far and wide the news. Some of the men ran for miles along the shore. I shall never forget how wild and savage one group appeared: suddenly four or five men came to the edge of an overhanging cliff; they were absolutely naked, and their long hair streamed about their faces. They held rough staves in their hands, and, springing from the ground, waved their arms round their heads, and sent forth the most hideous yells. At dinner-time we landed among a party of Fuegians. At first they were not inclined to be friendly, for, until Captain Fitz Roy pulled in ahead of the other boats, they kept their slings in their hands. We soon, however, delighted them by trifling presents, such as tying red tape round their heads. They liked our biscuit: but one of the savages touched with his finger some of the meat, preserved in tin cases, which I was eating, and feeling it soft and cold, he showed as much disgust at it as I should have done at putrid blubber. It was as easy to please as it was hard to satisfy these savages. Young and old, men and children, never ceased repeating the word “Yammerschooner,” which means “give me,” and pointing to almost every object, one after the other, even to the buttons on our coats. At night we slept close to the junction of Ponsonby Sound with the Beagle Channel. A small family of Fuegians, who were liv. ing in the cove, were quiet and inoffensive, and soon joined our party round a blazing fire. We were well clothed, and, though sitting close to the fire, were far from too warm; yet these naked savages, though farther off, were observed, to our great surprise, to be streaming with perspiration from such a roasting. They seemed, however, very well pleased, and all
joined in the chorus of the seamen's
in which they were always behindhand was very ludicrous.
I believe that man, in this extreme part of South America, exists in a lower state of improvement than in part of the world. The South Sea Islanders, of the two races inhabiting the Pacific, are comparatively civilized. The Es
kimo, in his underground hut, enjoys some of the comforts of life, and in his canoe, when fully equipped, shows much skill. Some of the tribes of Southern Africa, prowling about in search of roots, and living hid on the wild and parched plains, are wretched enough. The Australian, in the simplicity of the arts of life, comes nearest the Fuegian; he can,
however, boast of his boomerang, his spear and throwing. stick; his mode of climbing trees, of tracking animals, and of hunting. But although the Australian may be superior in acquirements, it by no means follows that he is likewise su. perior in mental capacity. Indeed, from what I saw of the Fuegians, and from what I have read of the Australians, I should think the opposite was true.
At Cape Gregory the famous so-called gigantic Patagonians gave us a hearty reception. Their height appears