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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:05:22
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November 14th. — We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I intended to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the northern bank of the Plata and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, following up the Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on the Rio Negro (one of the many rivers of this name in South America), and from this point to return direct to Monte Video. We slept at the house of my guide at Canelones. In the morning we rose early, in the hopes of being able to ride a good distance; but it was a vain attempt, for all the rivers were flooded. We passed in boats the streams of Canelones, St. Lucia, and San José, and thus lost much time. On a former excursion I crossed the Lucia near its mouth, and I was surprised to observe how easily our horses, although not used to swim, passed over a width of at least six hundred yards. On mentioning this at Monte Video, I was told that a vessel containing some mountebanks and their horses, being wrecked in the Plata, one horse swam seven miles to the shore. In the course of the day I was amused by the dexterity with which a Gaucho forced a restive horse to swim a river. He stripped off his clothes, and jumping on its back, rode into the water till it was out of its depth; then slipping off over the crupper, he caught hold of the tail, and as often as the horse turned round the man frightened it back by splashing water in its face. As soon as the horse touched the bottom on the other side, the man pulled himself on, and was firmly seated, bridle in hand, before the horse gained the bank. A naked man on a naked horse is a fine spectacle; I had no idea how well the two animals suited each other. The tail of a horse is a very useful appendage; I have passed a river in a boat with four people in it, which was ferried across in the same way as the Gaucho. If a man and horse have to cross a broad river, the best plan is for the man to catch hold of the pommel or mane, and help himself with the other arm.

But what has caused these reefs to spring up at such great distances from the shores of the included islands? It cannot be that the corals will not grow close to the land; for the shores within the lagoon-channel, when not surrounded by alluvial soil, are often fringed by living reefs; and we shall presently see that there is a whole class, which I have called Fringing-reefs from their close attachment to the shores both of continents and of islands. Again, on what have the reef- building corals, which cannot live at great depths, based their encircling structures? This is a great apparent difficulty, analogous to that in the case of atolls, which has generally been overlooked. It will be perceived more clearly by inspecting the following sections which are real ones, taken in north and south lines, through the islands with their barrier-reefs, of Vanikoro, Gambier, and Maurua; and they are laid down, both vertically and horizontally, on the same scale of a quarter of an inch to a mile.

The gloomy woods are inhabited by few birds: occasionally the plaintive note of a white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius albiceps) may be heard, concealed near the summit of the most lofty trees; and more rarely the loud strange cry of a black woodpecker, with a fine scarlet crest on its head. A little, dusky-coloured wren (Scytalopus Magellanicus) hops in a skulking manner among the entangled mass of the fallen and decaying trunks. But the creeper (Oxyurus tupinieri) is the commonest bird in the country. Throughout the beech forests, high up and low down, in the most gloomy, wet, and impenetrable ravines, it may be met with. This little bird no doubt appears more numerous than it really is, from its habit of following with seeming curiosity any person who enters these silent woods: continually uttering a harsh twitter, it flutters from tree to tree, within a few feet of the intruder’s face. It is far from wishing for the modest concealment of the true creeper (Certhia familiaris); nor does it, like that bird, run up the trunks of trees, but industriously, after the manner of a willow-wren, hops about, and searches for insects on every twig and branch. In the more open parts, three or four species of finches, a thrush, a starling (or Icterus), two Opetiorhynchi, and several hawks and owls occur.

April 1st. — We arrived in view of the Keeling or Cocos Islands, situated in the Indian Ocean, and about six hundred miles distant from the coast of Sumatra. This is one of the lagoon-islands (or atolls) of coral formation similar to those in the Low Archipelago which we passed near. When the ship was in the channel at the entrance, Mr. Liesk, an English resident, came off in his boat. The history of the inhabitants of this place, in as few words as possible, is as follows. About nine years ago, Mr. Hare, a worthless character, brought from the East Indian archipelago a number of Malay slaves, which now, including children, amount to more than a hundred. Shortly afterwards Captain Ross, who had before visited these islands in his merchant-ship, arrived from England, bringing with him his family and goods for settlement: along with him came Mr. Liesk, who had been a mate in his vessel. The Malay slaves soon ran away from the islet on which Mr. Hare was settled, and joined Captain Ross’s party. Mr. Hare upon this was ultimately obliged to leave the place.

October 5th. — We crossed the Parana to St. Fé Bajada, a town on the opposite shore. The passage took some hours, as the river here consisted of a labyrinth of small streams, separated by low wooded islands. I had a letter of introduction to an old Catalonian Spaniard, who treated me with the most uncommon hospitality. The Bajada is the capital of Entre Rios. In 1825 the town contained 6000 inhabitants, and the province 30,000; yet, few as the inhabitants are, no province has suffered more from bloody and desperate revolutions. They boast here of representatives, ministers, a standing army, and governors: so it is no wonder that they have their revolutions. At some future day this must be one of the richest countries of La Plata. The soil is varied and productive; and its almost insular form gives it two grand lines of communication by the rivers Parana and Uruguay.

The other main line, namely, that of the Portillo, is of a totally different formation: it consists chiefly of grand bare pinnacles of a red potash-granite, which low down on the western flank are covered by a sandstone, converted by the former heat into a quartz-rock. On the quartz there rest beds of a conglomerate several thousand feet in thickness, which have been upheaved by the red granite, and dip at an angle of 45° towards the Peuquenes line. I was astonished to find that this conglomerate was partly composed of pebbles, derived from the rocks, with their fossil shells, of the Peuquenes range; and partly of red potash-granite, like that of the Portillo. Hence we must conclude that both the Peuquenes and Portillo ranges were partially upheaved and exposed to wear and tear when the conglomerate was forming; but as the beds of the conglomerate have been thrown off at an angle of 45 degrees by the red Portillo granite (with the underlying sandstone baked by it), we may feel sure that the greater part of the injection and upheaval of the already partially formed Portillo line took place after the accumulation of the conglomerate, and long after the elevation of the Peuquenes ridge. So that the Portillo, the loftiest line in this part of the Cordillera, is not so old as the less lofty line of the Peuquenes. Evidence derived from an inclined stream of lava at the eastern base of the Portillo might be adduced to show that it owes part of its great height to elevations of a still later date. Looking to its earliest origin, the red granite seems to have been injected on an ancient pre-existing line of white granite and mica-slate. In most parts, perhaps in all parts, of the Cordillera, it may be concluded that each line has been formed by repeated upheavals and injections; and that the several parallel lines are of different ages. Only thus can we gain time at all sufficient to explain the truly astonishing amount of denudation which these great, though comparatively with most other ranges recent, mountains have suffered.


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