Изображения страниц


for defence, because the rubbish is chiefly placed above the mouth of the burrow, which enters the ground at a very small slope. No doubt there must be some good reason, but the inhabitants of the country are quite ignorant of it. The only fact which I know like it is the habit of an extraordinary Australian bird (the Calodera maculata), which makes an elegant vaulted passage of twigs for playing in, and which collects near the spot land and sea shells, bones, and the feathers of birds, especially brightly colored ones. Mr. Gould tells me that the natives, when they lose any hard object, search these playing passages; and he has known a tobacco-pipe thus recovered.

[ocr errors]


I ACCOMPANIED the captain of the Beagle in a boat to the head of a deep creek in the Chonos Archipelago. On the way the number of seals that we saw was quite astonishing: every bit of flat rock, and parts of the beach, were covered with them. They appeared to be of a loving dis position, and lay huddled together, fast asleep, like so many pigs; but even pigs would have been ashamed of their dirt, and of the foul smell which came from them. Each herd was watched by the patient but ill-boding eyes of the turkey-buzzard. This disgusting bird, with its bald scarlet head, formed to wallow in putridity, is very common on the west coast of South America, and their attendance on the seals shows on what they rely for their food. We found the water (probably only that of the surface) nearly fresh:

[merged small][graphic][merged small]

this was caused by the number of torrents which, in the form of cascades, came tumbling over the bold granite moun

[graphic][graphic][merged small][merged small]

tains into the sea. The fresh water attracts the fish, and these bring many terns, gulls, and two kinds of cormorant.


We saw, also, a pair of the beautiful black-necked swans, and several small sea-otters, the fur of which is held in such high estimation. In returning, we were again amused by the impetuous manner in which the heap of seals, old and young, tumbled into the water as the boat passed. They did

[graphic][merged small]

not remain long under water, but, rising, followed us with outstretched necks, expressing great wonder and curiosity.


THE fact of the Beagle Channel being an arm of the sea was made plain by several huge whales spouting in different directions. On one occasion I saw two of these monsters, probably male and female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a stone's throw of the shore, over


which the beech-tree extended its branches. At another time, off the east coast of Tierra del Fuego, we saw a grand sight in several spermaceti whales jumping upright, quite out of the water, with the exception of their tail-fins. As they fell down sideways they splashed the water high up, and the sound re-echoed like a distant broadside.


ON the morning of July 5th, 1832, we got under way, and stood out of the splendid harbor of Rio de Janeiro. In our passage to the Plata we saw nothing particular, excepting on one day a great shoal of porpoises, many hundreds in number. The whole sea was in places furrowed by them; and a most extraordinary spectacle was presented, as hundreds, proceeding together by jumps, in which their whole bodies were exposed, thus cut the water. When the ship was running nine knots an hour these animals could cross and recross the bows with the greatest ease, and then dash away right ahead. As soon as we entered the estuary of the Plata the weather was very unsettled. One dark night we were surrounded by numerous seals and penguins, which made such strange noises that the officer on watch reported he could hear the cattle bellowing on shore. On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of natural fireworks; the mast-head and yard-arm ends shone with St. Elmo's light, and the form of the vane could almost be traced, as if it had been rubbed with phosphorus. The sea was so highly luminous that the tracks of the penguins were mark


ed by a fiery wake, and the darkness of the sky was mo mentarily illuminated by the most vivid lightning.


THE Amblyrhyncus, a remarkable kind of lizard, is confined to the Galapagos (or Turtle) archipelago. There are two species, resembling each other in general form, one being a land, and the other a water species. The latter is extremely common on all the islands throughout the group, and lives altogether on the rocky sea-beaches, being never found (at least I never saw one) even ten yards in-shore. It is a hideous-looking creature, of a dirty black color, stupid, and sluggish in its movements. The usual length of a fullgrown one is about a yard, but there are some even four feet long. Their tails are flattened sideways, and all four feet are partially webbed; and they are occasionally seen some hundred yards from the shore, swimming about. Yet, strange to say, when frightened they will not enter the wa ter. Hence, it is easy to drive these lizards down to any little point overhanging the sea, where they will sooner allow a person to catch hold of their tails than jump into the water. They do not seem to have any notion of biting; but when much frightened they squirt a drop of fluid from each nostril. Several times I threw one as far as I could into a deep pool left by the retreating tide; but it always returned in a straight line to the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom, with a very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally helped itself over the uneven ground

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »