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The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Part 9 out of 11

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but I had an opportunity of seeing the ruins of one of the
ancient Indian villages, with its mound like a natural hill in
the centre. The remains of houses, enclosures, irrigating
streams, and burial mounds, scattered over this plain, cannot
fail to give one a high idea of the condition and number of
the ancient population. When their earthenware, woollen
clothes, utensils of elegant forms cut out of the hardest rocks,
tools of copper, ornaments of precious stones, palaces, and
hydraulic works, are considered, it is impossible not to respect
the considerable advance made by them in the arts of
civilization. The burial mounds, called Huacas, are really
stupendous; although in some places they appear to be natural
hills incased and modelled.

There is also another and very different class of ruins,
which possesses some interest, namely, those of old Callao,
overwhelmed by the great earthquake of 1746, and its
accompanying wave. The destruction must have been more
complete even than at Talcahuano. Quantities of shingle
almost conceal the foundations of the walls, and vast masses
of brickwork appear to have been whirled about like pebbles
by the retiring waves. It has been stated that the land subsided
during this memorable shock: I could not discover any
proof of this; yet it seems far from improbable, for the
form of the coast must certainly have undergone some change
since the foundation of the old town; as no people in their
senses would willingly have chosen for their building place,
the narrow spit of shingle on which the ruins now stand.
Since our voyage, M. Tschudi has come to the conclusion,
by the comparison of old and modern maps, that the coast
both north and south of Lima has certainly subsided.

On the island of San Lorenzo, there are very satisfactory
proofs of elevation within the recent period; this of course
is not opposed to the belief, of a small sinking of the ground
having subsequently taken place. The side of this island
fronting the Bay of Callao, is worn into three obscure terraces,
the lower one of which is covered by a bed a mile in
length, almost wholly composed of shells of eighteen species,
now living in the adjoining sea. The height of this bed is
eighty-five feet. Many of the shells are deeply corroded, and
have a much older and more decayed appearance than those
at the height of 500 or 600 feet on the coast of Chile. These
shells are associated with much common salt, a little sulphate
of lime (both probably left by the evaporation of the
spray, as the land slowly rose), together with sulphate of
soda and muriate of lime. They rest on fragments of the
underlying sandstone, and are covered by a few inches thick
of detritus. The shells, higher up on this terrace could be
traced scaling off in flakes, and falling into an impalpable
powder; and on an upper terrace, at the height of 170 feet,
and likewise at some considerably higher points, I found a
layer of saline powder of exactly similar appearance, and
lying in the same relative position. I have no doubt that this
upper layer originally existed as a bed of shells, like that on
the eighty-five-feet ledge; but it does not now contain even a
trace of organic structure. The powder has been analyzed
for me by Mr. T. Reeks; it consists of sulphates and muriates
both of lime and soda, with very little carbonate of
lime. It is known that common salt and carbonate of lime
left in a mass for some time together, partly decompose each
other; though this does not happen with small quantities in
solution. As the half-decomposed shells in the lower parts
are associated with much common salt, together with some
of the saline substances composing the upper saline layer,
and as these shells are corroded and decayed in a remarkable
manner, I strongly suspect that this double decomposition
has here taken place. The resultant salts, however, ought
to be carbonate of soda and muriate of lime, the latter is
present, but not the carbonate of soda. Hence I am led to
imagine that by some unexplained means, the carbonate of
soda becomes changed into the sulphate. It is obvious that
the saline layer could not have been preserved in any country
in which abundant rain occasionally fell: on the other
hand, this very circumstance, which at first sight appears so
highly favourable to the long preservation of exposed shells,
has probably been the indirect means, through the common
salt not having been washed away, of their decomposition
and early decay.

I was much interested by finding on the terrace, at the
height of eighty-five feet, _embedded_ amidst the shells and
much sea-drifted rubbish, some bits of cotton thread, plaited
rush, and the head of a stalk of Indian corn: I compared
these relics with similar ones taken out of the Huacas, or old
Peruvian tombs, and found them identical in appearance.
On the mainland in front of San Lorenzo, near Bellavista,
there is an extensive and level plain about a hundred feet
high, of which the lower part is formed of alternating layers
of sand and impure clay, together with some gravel, and the
surface, to the depth of from three to six feet, of a reddish
loam, containing a few scattered sea-shells and numerous
small fragments of coarse red earthenware, more abundant
at certain spots than at others. At first I was inclined to
believe that this superficial bed, from its wide extent and
smoothness, must have been deposited beneath the sea; but
I afterwards found in one spot, that it lay on an artificial
floor of round stones. It seems, therefore, most probable
that at a period when the land stood at a lower level there
was a plain very similar to that now surrounding Callao,
which being protected by a shingle beach, is raised but very
little above the level of the sea. On this plain, with its
underlying red-clay beds, I imagine that the Indians
manufactured their earthen vessels; and that, during some
violent earthquake, the sea broke over the beach, and converted
the plain into a temporary lake, as happened round Callao in
1713 and 1746. The water would then have deposited mud,
containing fragments of pottery from the kilns, more abundant
at some spots than at others, and shells from the sea.
This bed, with fossil earthenware, stands at about the
same height with the shells on the lower terrace of San
Lorenzo, in which the cotton-thread and other relics were

Hence we may safely conclude, that within the Indo-human
period there has been an elevation, as before alluded to, of
more than eighty-five feet; for some little elevation must
have been lost by the coast having subsided since the old
maps were engraved. At Valparaiso, although in the 220
years before our visit, the elevation cannot have exceeded
nineteen feet, yet subsequently to 1817, there has been a rise,
partly insensible and partly by a start during the shock of
1822, of ten or eleven feet. The antiquity of the Indo-human
race here, judging by the eighty-five feet rise of the land
since the relics were embedded, is the more remarkable, as on
the coast of Patagonia, when the land stood about the same
number of feet lower, the Macrauchenia was a living beast;
but as the Patagonian coast is some way distant from the
Cordillera, the rising there may have been slower than here.
At Bahia Blanca, the elevation has been only a few feet
since the numerous gigantic quadrupeds were there entombed;
and, according to the generally received opinion,
when these extinct animals were living, man did not exist.
But the rising of that part of the coast of Patagonia, is
perhaps no way connected with the Cordillera, but rather with
a line of old volcanic rocks in Banda Oriental, so that it
may have been infinitely slower than on the shores of Peru.
All these speculations, however, must be vague; for who will
pretend to say that there may not have been several periods
of subsidence, intercalated between the movements of elevation;
for we know that along the whole coast of Patagonia,
there have certainly been many and long pauses in
the upward action of the elevatory forces.

[1] Vol. iv. p. 11, and vol. ii. p. 217. For the remarks on
Guayaquil, see Silliman's Journ., vol. xxiv. p. 384. For those
on Tacna by Mr. Hamilton, see Trans. of British Association,
1840. For those on Coseguina see Mr. Caldcleugh in Phil. Trans.,
1835. In the former edition I collected several references on
the coincidences between sudden falls in the barometer and
earthquakes; and between earthquakes and meteors.

[2] Observa. sobre el Clima de Lima, p. 67. -- Azara's Travels,
vol. i. p. 381. -- Ulloa's Voyage, vol. ii. p. 28. -- Burchell's
Travels, vol. ii. p. 524. -- Webster's Description of the
Azores, p. 124. -- Voyage a l'Isle de France par un Officer du
Roi, tom. i. p. 248. -- Description of St. Helena, p. 123.

[3] Temple, in his travels through Upper Peru, or Bolivia, in
going from Potosi to Oruro, says, "I saw many Indian villages or
dwellings in ruins, up even to the very tops of the mountains,
attesting a former population where now all is desolate." He
makes similar remarks in another place; but I cannot tell
whether this desolation has been caused by a want of population,
or by an altered condition of the land.

[4] Edinburgh, Phil. Journ., Jan., 1830, p. 74; and April, 1830,
p. 258 -- also Daubeny on Volcanoes, p. 438; and Bengal
Journ., vol. vii. p. 324.

[5] Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, vol. iv.
p. 199.

[6] A similar interesting case is recorded in the Madras
Medical Quart. Journ., 1839, p. 340. Dr. Ferguson, in his
admirable Paper (see 9th vol. of Edinburgh Royal Trans.),
shows clearly that the poison is generated in the drying
process; and hence that dry hot countries are often the most



The whole Group Volcanic -- Numbers of Craters -- Leafless
Bushes Colony at Charles Island -- James Island -- Salt-lake in
Crater -- Natural History of the Group -- Ornithology, curious
Finches -- Reptiles -- Great Tortoises, habits of -- Marine
Lizard, feeds on Sea-weed -- Terrestrial Lizard, burrowing
habits, herbivorous -- Importance of Reptiles in the
Archipelago -- Fish, Shells, Insects -- Botany -- American Type
of Organization -- Differences in the Species or Races on
different Islands -- Tameness of the Birds -- Fear of Man, an
acquired Instinct.

SEPTEMBER 15th. -- This archipelago consists of ten
principal islands, of which five exceed the others in
size. They are situated under the Equator, and between
five and six hundred miles westward of the coast of
America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few
fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the
heat, can hardly be considered as an exception. Some of
the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are of immense
size, and they rise to a height of between three and four
thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable
smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there
must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand
craters. These consist either of lava or scoriae, or of finely-
stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are
beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of
volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circumstance
that every one of the twenty-eight tuff-craters which
were examined, had their southern sides either much lower
than the other sides, or quite broken down and removed. As
all these craters apparently have been formed when standing
in the sea, and as the waves from the trade wind and the
swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the
southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity
in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and
yielding tuff, is easily explained.

Considering that these islands are placed directly under
the equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot;
this seems chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature
of the surrounding water, brought here by the great southern


Polar current. Excepting during one short season, very
little rain falls, and even then it is irregular; but the clouds
generally hang low. Hence, whilst the lower parts of the
islands are very sterile, the upper parts, at a height of a
thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate and a
tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is especially the case
on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive and
condense the moisture from the atmosphere.

In the morning (17th) we landed on Chatham Island,
which, like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline,
broken here and there by scattered hillocks, the remains
of former craters. Nothing could be less inviting than the
first appearance. A broken field of black basaltic lava,
thrown into the most rugged waves, and crossed by great
fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood,
which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched
surface, being heated by the noon-day sun, gave to the air
a close and sultry feeling, like that from a stove: we fancied
even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. Although I diligently
tried to collect as many plants as possible, I succeeded
in getting very few; and such wretched-looking little
weeds would have better become an arctic than an equatorial
Flora. The brushwood appears, from a short distance, as
leafless as our trees during winter; and it was some time
before I discovered that not only almost every plant was
now in full leaf, but that the greater number were in flower.
The commonest bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae: an acacia
and a great odd-looking cactus are the only trees which
afford any shade. After the season of heavy rains, the islands
are said to appear for a short time partially green. The
volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many respects
under nearly similar conditions, is the only other
country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of
the Galapagos Islands.

The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored
in several bays. One night I slept on shore on a part of the
island, where black truncated cones were extraordinarily
numerous: from one small eminence I counted sixty of
them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The
greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae
or slags, cemented together: and their height above the plain
of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet; none
had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part
of the island seems to have been permeated, like a sieve, by
the subterranean vapours: here and there the lava, whilst
soft, has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts,
the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in, leaving
circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form of the
many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appearance,
which vividly reminded me of those parts of Staffordshire,
where the great iron-foundries are most numerous.
The day was glowing hot, and the scrambling over the rough
surface and through the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing;
but I was well repaid by the strange Cyclopean scene.
As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of
which must have weighed at least two hundred pounds: one
was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared
at me and slowly walked away; the other gave a deep hiss,
and drew in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by
the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to
my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull-
coloured birds cared no more for me than they did for the
great tortoises.

23rd. -- The Beagle proceeded to Charles Island. This
archipelago has long been frequented, first by the bucaniers,
and latterly by whalers, but it is only within the last six
years, that a small colony has been established here. The
inhabitants are between two and three hundred in number;
they are nearly all people of colour, who have been banished
for political crimes from the Republic of the Equator, of
which Quito is the capital. The settlement is placed about
four and a half miles inland, and at a height probably of a
thousand feet. In the first part of the road we passed
through leafless thickets, as in Chatham Island. Higher up,
the woods gradually became greener; and as soon as we
crossed the ridge of the island, we were cooled by a fine
southerly breeze, and our sight refreshed by a green and
thriving vegetation. In this upper region coarse grasses and
ferns abound; but there are no tree-ferns: I saw nowhere
any member of the palm family, which is the more singular,
as 360 miles northward, Cocos Island takes its name from
the number of cocoa-nuts. The houses are irregularly scattered
over a flat space of ground, which is cultivated with
sweet potatoes and bananas. It will not easily be imagined
how pleasant the sight of black mud was to us, after having
been so long, accustomed to the parched soil of Peru and
northern Chile. The inhabitants, although complaining of
poverty, obtain, without much trouble, the means of subsistence.
In the woods there are many wild pigs and goats;
but the staple article of animal food is supplied by the
tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly reduced
in this island, but the people yet count on two days'
hunting giving them food for the rest of the week. It is
said that formerly single vessels have taken away as many
as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate
some years since brought down in one day two hundred
tortoises to the beach.

September 29th. -- We doubled the south-west extremity of
Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed
between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with
immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either
over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the
rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth
from smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they
have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both of these
islands, eruptions are known to have taken place; and in
Albemarle, we saw a small jet of smoke curling from the
summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we
anchored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next
morning I went out walking. To the south of the broken
tuff-crater, in which the Beagle was anchored, there was
another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form; its
longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about
500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the
middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was
overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue: I
hurried down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust,
eagerly tasted the water -- but, to my sorrow, I found it salt
as brine.

The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards,
between three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly
yellowish-brown species was equally common. We saw many of this
latter kind, some clumsily running out of the way, and others
shuffling into their burrows. I shall presently describe in
more detail the habits of both these reptiles. The whole of
this northern part of Albemarle Island is miserably sterile.

October 8th. -- We arrived at James Island: this island, as
well as Charles Island, were long since thus named after our
kings of the Stuart line. Mr. Bynoe, myself, and our servants
were left here for a week, with provisions and a tent,
whilst the Beagle went for water. We found here a party
of Spaniards, who had been sent from Charles Island to dry
fish, and to salt tortoise-meat. About six miles inland, and
at the height of nearly 2000 feet, a hovel had been built in
which two men lived, who were employed in catching tortoises,
whilst the others were fishing on the coast. I paid
this party two visits, and slept there one night. As in the
other islands, the lower region was covered by nearly leafless
bushes, but the trees were here of a larger growth than
elsewhere, several being two feet and some even two feet nine
inches in diameter. The upper region being kept damp by
the clouds, supports a green and flourishing vegetation. So
damp was the ground, that there were large beds of a coarse
cyperus, in which great numbers of a very small water-rail
lived and bred. While staying in this upper region, we lived
entirely upon tortoise-meat: the breast-plate roasted (as the
Gauchos do _carne con cuero_), with the flesh on it, is very
good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but
otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent.

One day we accompanied a party of the Spaniards in
their whale-boat to a salina, or lake from which salt is
procured. After landing, we had a very rough walk over a
rugged field of recent lava, which has almost surrounded a
tuff-crater, at the bottom of which the salt-lake lies. The
water is only three or four inches deep, and rests on a layer
of beautifully crystallized, white salt. The lake is quite
circular, and is fringed with a border of bright green succulent
plants; the almost precipitous walls of the crater are clothed
with wood, so that the scene was altogether both picturesque
and curious. A few years since, the sailors belonging to a
sealing-vessel murdered their captain in this quiet spot; and
we saw his skull lying among the bushes.

During the greater part of our stay of a week, the sky
was cloudless, and if the trade-wind failed for an hour, the
heat became very oppressive. On two days, the thermometer
within the tent stood for some hours at 93 degs.; but in the open
air, in the wind and sun, at only 85 degs. The sand was extremely
hot; the thermometer placed in some of a brown colour
immediately rose to 137 degs., and how much above that
it would have risen, I do not know, for it was not graduated
any higher. The black sand felt much hotter, so that
even in thick boots it was quite disagreeable to walk over it.

The natural history of these islands is eminently curious,
and well deserves attention. Most of the organic productions
are aboriginal creations, found nowhere else; there is even
a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands;
yet all show a marked relationship with those of America,
though separated from that continent by an open space of
ocean, between 500 and 600 miles in width. The archipelago
is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached
to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and
has received the general character of its indigenous
productions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel
the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings,
and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned
with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava-
streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a
period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here
spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be
brought somewhat near to that great fact -- that mystery of
mysteries -- the first appearance of new beings on this earth.

Of terrestrial mammals, there is only one which must be
considered as indigenous, namely, a mouse (Mus Galapagoensis),
and this is confined, as far as I could ascertain, to
Chatham Island, the most easterly island of the group. It
belongs, as I am informed by Mr. Waterhouse, to a division
of the family of mice characteristic of America. At James
Island, there is a rat sufficiently distinct from the common
kind to have been named and described by Mr. Waterhouse;
but as it belongs to the old-world division of the family, and
as this island has been frequented by ships for the last hundred
and fifty years, I can hardly doubt that this rat is
merely a variety produced by the new and peculiar climate,
food, and soil, to which it has been subjected. Although no
one has a right to speculate without distinct facts, yet even
with respect to the Chatham Island mouse, it should be borne
in mind, that it may possibly be an American species imported
here; for I have seen, in a most unfrequented part of
the Pampas, a native mouse living in the roof of a newly
built hovel, and therefore its transportation in a vessel is
not improbable: analogous facts have been observed by Dr.
Richardson in North America.

Of land-birds I obtained twenty-six kinds, all peculiar to
the group and found nowhere else, with the exception of one
lark-like finch from North America (Dolichonyx oryzivorus),
which ranges on that continent as far north as 54 degs., and
generally frequents marshes. The other twenty-five birds
consist, firstly, of a hawk, curiously intermediate in structure
between a buzzard and the American group of carrion-feeding
Polybori; and with these latter birds it agrees most
closely in every habit and even tone of voice. Secondly,
there are two owls, representing the short-eared and white
barn-owls of Europe. Thirdly, a wren, three tyrant-flycatchers
(two of them species of Pyrocephalus, one or both of
which would be ranked by some ornithologists as only varieties),
and a dove -- all analogous to, but distinct from, American
species. Fourthly, a swallow, which though differing
from the Progne purpurea of both Americas, only in being
rather duller colored, smaller, and slenderer, is considered
by Mr. Gould as specifically distinct. Fifthly, there are three
species of mocking thrush -- a form highly characteristic of
America. The remaining land-birds form a most singular
group of finches, related to each other in the structure of
their beaks, short tails, form of body and plumage: there are
thirteen species, which Mr. Gould has divided into four
sub-groups. All these species are peculiar to this archipelago;
and so is the whole group, with the exception of one species
of the sub-group Cactornis, lately brought from Bow Island,
in the Low Archipelago. Of Cactornis, the two species may
be often seen climbing about the flowers of the great cactus-
trees; but all the other species of this group of finches,
mingled together in flocks, feed on the dry and sterile ground
of the lower districts. The males of all, or certainly of the
greater number, are jet black; and the females (with perhaps
one or two exceptions) are brown. The most curious fact is
the perfect gradation in the size of the beaks in the different
species of Geospiza, from one as large as that of a hawfinch
to that of a chaffinch, and (if Mr. Gould is right in including
his sub-group, Certhidea, in the main group) even to
that of a warbler. The largest beak in the genus Geospiza
is shown in Fig. 1, and the smallest in Fig. 3; but instead of
there being only one intermediate species, with a beak of
the size shown in Fig. 2, there are no less than six species
with insensibly graduated beaks. The beak of the sub-group
Certhidea, is shown in Fig. 4. The beak of Cactornis is


1. Geospiza magnirostris. 2. Geospiza fortis.
3. Geospiza parvula. 4. Certhidea olivasea.

somewhat like that of a starling, and that of the fourth
sub-group, Camarhynchus, is slightly parrot-shaped. Seeing this
gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately
related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an
original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had
been taken and modified for different ends. In a like manner
it might be fancied that a bird originally a buzzard, had been
induced here to undertake the office of the carrion-feeding
Polybori of the American continent.

Of waders and water-birds I was able to get only eleven
kinds, and of these only three (including a rail confined to
the damp summits of the islands) are new species. Considering
the wandering habits of the gulls, I was surprised to
find that the species inhabiting these islands is peculiar, but
allied to one from the southern parts of South America.
The far greater peculiarity of the land-birds, namely,
twenty-five out of twenty-six, being new species, or at least
new races, compared with the waders and web-footed birds, is
in accordance with the greater range which these latter
orders have in all parts of the world. We shall hereafter
see this law of aquatic forms, whether marine or fresh-water,
being less peculiar at any given point of the earth's
surface than the terrestrial forms of the same classes,
strikingly illustrated in the shells, and in a lesser degree in
the insects of this archipelago.

Two of the waders are rather smaller than the same species
brought from other places: the swallow is also smaller,
though it is doubtful whether or not it is distinct from its
analogue. The two owls, the two tyrant-catchers (Pyrocephalus)
and the dove, are also smaller than the analogous
but distinct species, to which they are most nearly related;
on the other hand, the gull is rather larger. The two owls,
the swallow, all three species of mocking-thrush, the dove
in its separate colours though not in its whole plumage, the
Totanus, and the gull, are likewise duskier coloured than
their analogous species; and in the case of the mocking-
thrush and Totanus, than any other species of the two genera.
With the exception of a wren with a fine yellow breast,
and of a tyrant-flycatcher with a scarlet tuft and breast, none
of the birds are brilliantly coloured, as might have been
expected in an equatorial district. Hence it would appear
probable, that the same causes which here make the immigrants
of some peculiar species smaller, make most of the
peculiar Galapageian species also smaller, as well as very
generally more dusky coloured. All the plants have a
wretched, weedy appearance, and I did not see one beautiful
flower. The insects, again, are small-sized and dull-coloured,
and, as Mr. Waterhouse informs me, there is nothing in their
general appearance which would have led him to imagine
that they had come from under the equator. [1] The birds,
plants, and insects have a desert character, and are not more
brilliantly coloured than those from southern Patagonia; we
may, therefore, conclude that the usual gaudy colouring of
the intertropical productions, is not related either to the
heat or light of those zones, but to some other cause, perhaps
to the conditions of existence being generally favourable
to life.

We will now turn to the order of reptiles, which gives
the most striking character to the zoology of these islands.
The species are not numerous, but the numbers of individuals
of each species are extraordinarily great. There is one
small lizard belonging to a South American genus, and two
species (and probably more) of the Amblyrhynchus -- a genus
confined to the Galapagos Islands. There is one snake which
is numerous; it is identical, as I am informed by M. Bibron,
with the Psammophis Temminckii from Chile. [2] Of sea-
turtle I believe there are more than one species, and of
tortoises there are, as we shall presently show, two or three
species or races. Of toads and frogs there are none: I was
surprised at this, considering how well suited for them the
temperate and damp upper woods appeared to be. It recalled
to my mind the remark made by Bory St. Vincent, [3]
namely, that none of this family are found on any of the
volcanic islands in the great oceans. As far as I can ascertain
from various works, this seems to hold good throughout the
Pacific, and even in the large islands of the Sandwich
archipelago. Mauritius offers an apparent exception, where I
saw the Rana Mascariensis in abundance: this frog is said
now to inhabit the Seychelles, Madagascar, and Bourbon;
but on the other hand, Du Bois, in his voyage in 1669, states
that there were no reptiles in Bourbon except tortoises; and
the Officier du Roi asserts that before 1768 it had been
attempted, without success, to introduce frogs into Mauritius
-- I presume for the purpose of eating: hence it may be well
doubted whether this frog is an aboriginal of these islands.
The absence of the frog family in the oceanic islands is the
more remarkable, when contrasted with the case of lizards,
which swarm on most of the smallest islands. May this difference
not be caused, by the greater facility with which the
eggs of lizards, protected by calcareous shells might be
transported through salt-water, than could the slimy spawn
of frogs?

I will first describe the habits of the tortoise (Testudo
nigra, formerly called Indica), which has been so frequently
alluded to. These animals are found, I believe, on all the
islands of the archipelago; certainly on the greater number.
They frequent in preference the high damp parts, but they
likewise live in the lower and arid districts. I have already
shown, from the numbers which have been caught in a single
day, how very numerous they must be. Some grow to an
immense size: Mr. Lawson, an Englishman, and vice-governor
of the colony, told us that he had seen several so large,
that it required six or eight men to lift them from the
ground; and that some had afforded as much as two hundred
pounds of meat. The old males are the largest, the females
rarely growing to so great a size: the male can readily be
distinguished from the female by the greater length of its
tail. The tortoises which live on those islands where there
is no water, or in the lower and arid parts of the others, feed
chiefly on the succulent cactus. Those which frequent the
higher and damp regions, eat the leaves of various trees, a
kind of berry (called guayavita) which is acid and austere,
and likewise a pale green filamentous lichen (Usnera plicata),
that hangs from the boughs of the trees.

The tortoise is very fond of water, drinking large quantities,
and wallowing in the mud. The larger islands alone
possess springs, and these are always situated towards the
central parts, and at a considerable height. The tortoises,
therefore, which frequent the lower districts, when thirsty,
are obliged to travel from a long distance. Hence broad and
well-beaten paths branch off in every direction from the
wells down to the sea-coast; and the Spaniards by following
them up, first discovered the watering-places. When I landed
at Chatham Island, I could not imagine what animal travelled
so methodically along well-chosen tracks. Near the springs
it was a curious spectacle to behold many of these huge
creatures, one set eagerly travelling onwards with outstretched
necks, and another set returning, after having
drunk their fill. When the tortoise arrives at the spring,
quite regardless of any spectator, he buries his head in the
water above his eyes, and greedily swallows great mouthfuls,
at the rate of about ten in a minute. The inhabitants say
each animal stays three or four days in the neighbourhood
of the water, and then returns to the lower country; but
they differed respecting the frequency of these visits. The
animal probably regulates them according to the nature of
the food on which it has lived. It is, however, certain, that
tortoises can subsist even on these islands where there is no
other water than what falls during a few rainy days in the

I believe it is well ascertained, that the bladder of the frog
acts as a reservoir for the moisture necessary to its existence:
such seems to be the case with the tortoise. For some
time after a visit to the springs, their urinary bladders are
distended with fluid, which is said gradually to decrease in
volume, and to become less pure. The inhabitants, when
walking in the lower district, and overcome with thirst, often
take advantage of this circumstance, and drink the contents
of the bladder if full: in one I saw killed, the fluid was quite
limpid, and had only a very slightly bitter taste. The
inhabitants, however, always first drink the water in the
pericardium, which is described as being best.

The tortoises, when purposely moving towards any point,
travel by night and day, and arrive at their journey's end
much sooner than would be expected. The inhabitants, from
observing marked individuals, consider that they travel a
distance of about eight miles in two or three days. One large
tortoise, which I watched, walked at the rate of sixty yards
in ten minutes, that is 360 yards in the hour, or four miles a
day, -- allowing a little time for it to eat on the road. During
the breeding season, when the male and female are together,
the male utters a hoarse roar or bellowing, which, it is said,
can be heard at the distance of more than a hundred yards.
The female never uses her voice, and the male only at these
times; so that when the people hear this noise, they know
that the two are together. They were at this time (October)
laying their eggs. The female, where the soil is sandy, deposits
them together, and covers them up with sand; but
where the ground is rocky she drops them indiscriminately
in any hole: Mr. Bynoe found seven placed in a fissure. The
egg is white and spherical; one which I measured was seven
inches and three-eighths in circumference, and therefore
larger than a hen's egg. The young tortoises, as soon as they
are hatched, fall a prey in great numbers to the carrion-
feeding buzzard. The old ones seem generally to die from
accidents, as from falling down precipices: at least, several
of the inhabitants told me, that they never found one dead
without some evident cause.

The inhabitants believe that these animals are absolutely
deaf; certainly they do not overhear a person walking close
behind them. I was always amused when overtaking one of
these great monsters, as it was quietly pacing along, to see
how suddenly, the instant I passed, it would draw in its head
and legs, and uttering a deep hiss fall to the ground with a
heavy sound, as if struck dead. I frequently got on their
backs, and then giving a few raps on the hinder part of their
shells, they would rise up and walk away; -- but I found it
very difficult to keep my balance. The flesh of this animal is
largely employed, both fresh and salted; and a beautifully
clear oil is prepared from the fat. When a tortoise is caught,
the man makes a slit in the skin near its tail, so as to see
inside its body, whether the fat under the dorsal plate is
thick. If it is not, the animal is liberated and it is said to
recover soon from this strange operation. In order to secure
the tortoise, it is not sufficient to turn them like turtle, for
they are often able to get on their legs again.

There can be little doubt that this tortoise is an aboriginal
inhabitant of the Galapagos; for it is found on all, or nearly
all, the islands, even on some of the smaller ones where there
is no water; had it been an imported species, this would
hardly have been the case in a group which has been so little
frequented. Moreover, the old Bucaniers found this tortoise
in greater numbers even than at present: Wood and Rogers
also, in 1708, say that it is the opinion of the Spaniards, that
it is found nowhere else in this quarter of the world. It is
now widely distributed; but it may be questioned whether
it is in any other place an aboriginal. The bones of a tortoise
at Mauritius, associated with those of the extinct Dodo,
have generally been considered as belonging to this tortoise;
if this had been so, undoubtedly it must have been there
indigenous; but M. Bibron informs me that he believes that
it was distinct, as the species now living there certainly is.

The Amblyrhynchus, a remarkable genus of lizards, is confined
to this archipelago; there are two species, resembling


each other in general form, one being terrestrial and the
other aquatic. This latter species (A. cristatus) was first
characterized by Mr. Bell, who well foresaw, from its short,
broad head, and strong claws of equal length, that its habits
of life would turn out very peculiar, and different from those
of its nearest ally, the Iguana. It is extremely common on all
the islands throughout the group, and lives exclusively 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 colour, stupid, and sluggish in its movements.
The usual length of a full-grown one is about a yard,
but there are some even four feet long; a large one weighed
twenty pounds: on the island of Albemarle they seem to
grow to a greater size than elsewhere. Their tails are flattened
sideways, and all four feet partially webbed. They are
occasionally seen some hundred yards from the shore,
swimming about; and Captain Collnett, in his Voyage says,
"They go to sea in herds a-fishing, and sun themselves on
the rocks; and may be called alligators in miniature." It
must not, however, be supposed that they live on fish. When
in the water this lizard swims with perfect ease and quickness,
by a serpentine movement of its body and flattened tail
-- the legs being motionless and closely collapsed on its sides.
A seaman on board sank one, with a heavy weight attached
to it, thinking thus to kill it directly; but when, an hour
afterwards, he drew up the line, it was quite active. Their
limbs and strong claws are admirably adapted for crawling over
the rugged and fissured masses of lava, which everywhere form
the coast. In such situations, a group of six or seven of
these hideous reptiles may oftentimes be seen on the black
rocks, a few feet above the surf, basking in the sun with
outstretched legs.

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them largely
distended with minced sea-weed (Ulvae), which grows in
thin foliaceous expansions of a bright green or a dull red
colour. I do not recollect having observed this sea-weed in
any quantity on the tidal rocks; and I have reason to believe
it grows at the bottom of the sea, at some little distance from
the coast. If such be the case, the object of these animals
occasionally going out to sea is explained. The stomach
contained nothing but the sea-weed. Mr. Baynoe, however, found
a piece of crab in one; but this might have got in accidentally,
in the same manner as I have seen a caterpillar, in
the midst of some lichen, in the paunch of a tortoise. The
intestines were large, as in other herbivorous animals. The
nature of this lizard's food, as well as the structure of its
tail and feet, and the fact of its having been seen voluntarily
swimming out at sea, absolutely prove its aquatic habits;
yet there is in this respect one strange anomaly, namely, that
when frightened it will not enter the water. 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. I threw one
several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the
retiring tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to
the spot where I stood. It swam near the bottom, with a
very graceful and rapid movement, and occasionally aided
itself over the uneven ground with its feet. As soon as it
arrived near the edge, but still being under water, it tried to
conceal itself in the tufts of sea-weed, or it entered some
crevice. As soon as it thought the danger was past, it
crawled out on the dry rocks, and shuffled away as quickly
as it could. I several times caught this same lizard, by driving
it down to a point, and though possessed of such perfect
powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to
enter the water; and as often as I threw it in, it returned in
the manner above described. Perhaps this singular piece of
apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance,
that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore,
whereas at sea it must often fall a prey to the numerous
sharks. Hence, probably, urged by a fixed and hereditary
instinct that the shore is its place of safety, whatever the
emergency may be, it there takes refuge.

During our visit (in October), I saw extremely few small
individuals of this species, and none I should think under
a year old. From this circumstance it seems probable that
the breeding season had not then commenced. I asked several
of the inhabitants if they knew where it laid its eggs:
they said that they knew nothing of its propagation, although
well acquainted with the eggs of the land kind -- a fact,
considering how very common this lizard is, not a little

We will now turn to the terrestrial species (A. Demarlii),
with a round tail, and toes without webs. This lizard,
instead of being found like the other on all the islands, is
confined to the central part of the archipelago, namely to
Albemarle, James, Barrington, and Indefatigable islands. To
the southward, in Charles, Hood, and Chatham islands, and
to the northward, in Towers, Bindloes, and Abingdon, I
neither saw nor heard of any. It would appear as if it had
been created in the centre of the archipelago, and thence had
been dispersed only to a certain distance. Some of these
lizards inhabit the high and damp parts of the islands, but
they are much more numerous in the lower and sterile
districts near the coast. I cannot give a more forcible proof
of their numbers, than by stating that when we were left at
James Island, we could not for some time find a spot free
from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent. Like
their brothers the sea-kind, they are ugly animals, of a
yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish red colour above:
from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid
appearance. They are, perhaps, of a rather less size than the
marine species; but several of them weighed between ten and
fifteen pounds. In their movements they are lazy and half
torpid. When not frightened, they slowly crawl along with
their tails and bellies dragging on the ground. They often
stop, and doze for a minute or two, with closed eyes and hind
legs spread out on the parched soil.

They inhabit burrows, which they sometimes make between
fragments of lava, but more generally on level patches of the
soft sandstone-like tuff. The holes do not appear to be very
deep, and they enter the ground at a small angle; so that
when walking over these lizard-warrens, the soil is constantly
giving way, much to the annoyance of the tired walker. This
animal, when making its burrow, works alternately the opposite
sides of its body. One front leg for a short time
scratches up the soil, and throws it towards the hind foot,
which is well placed so as to heave it beyond the mouth of
the hole. That side of the body being tired, the other takes
up the task, and so on alternately. I watched one for a long
time, till half its body was buried; I then walked up and pulled
it by the tail, at this it was greatly astonished, and soon
shuffled up to see what was the matter; and then stared me
in the face, as much as to say, "What made you pull my

They feed by day, and do not wander far from their burrows;
if frightened, they rush to them with a most awkward
gait. Except when running down hill, they cannot move
very fast, apparently from the lateral position of their legs.
They are not at all timorous: when attentively watching any
one, they curl their tails, and, raising themselves on their
front legs, nod their heads vertically, with a quick movement,
and try to look very fierce; but in reality they are not at all
so: if one just stamps on the ground, down go their tails,
and off they shuffle as quickly as they can. I have frequently
observed small fly-eating lizards, when watching anything,
nod their heads in precisely the same manner; but I do not
at all know for what purpose. If this Amblyrhynchus is held
and plagued with a stick, it will bite it very severely; but
I caught many by the tail, and they never tried to bite me.
If two are placed on the ground and held together, they will
fight, and bite each other till blood is drawn.

The individuals, and they are the greater number, which
inhabit the lower country, can scarcely taste a drop of water
throughout the year; but they consume much of the succulent
cactus, the branches of which are occasionally broken off
by the wind. I several times threw a piece to two or three
of them when together; and it was amusing enough to see
them trying to seize and carry it away in their mouths, like
so many hungry dogs with a bone. They eat very deliberately,
but do not chew their food. The little birds are aware
how harmless these creatures are: I have seen one of the
thick-billed finches picking at one end of a piece of cactus
(which is much relished by all the animals of the lower
region), whilst a lizard was eating at the other end; and
afterwards the little bird with the utmost indifference hopped
on the back of the reptile.

I opened the stomachs of several, and found them full of
vegetable fibres and leaves of different trees, especially of
an acacia. In the upper region they live chiefly on the acid
and astringent berries of the guayavita, under which trees
I have seen these lizards and the huge tortoises feeding
together. To obtain the acacia-leaves they crawl up the low
stunted trees; and it is not uncommon to see a pair quietly
browsing, whilst seated on a branch several feet above the
ground. These lizards, when cooked, yield a white meat,
which is liked by those whose stomachs soar above all

Humboldt has remarked that in intertropical South
America, all lizards which inhabit dry regions are esteemed
delicacies for the table. The inhabitants state that those
which inhabit the upper damp parts drink water, but that
the others do not, like the tortoises, travel up for it from
the lower sterile country. At the time of our visit, the
females had within their bodies numerous, large, elongated
eggs, which they lay in their burrows: the inhabitants seek
them for food.

These two species of Amblyrhynchus agree, as I have
already stated, in their general structure, and in many of
their habits. Neither have that rapid movement, so
characteristic of the genera Lacerta and Iguana. They are both
herbivorous, although the kind of vegetation on which they
feed is so very different. Mr. Bell has given the name to the
genus from the shortness of the snout: indeed, the form of
the mouth may almost be compared to that of the tortoise:
one is led to suppose that this is an adaptation to their
herbivorous appetites. It is very interesting thus to find a
well-characterized genus, having its marine and terrestrial
species, belonging to so confined a portion of the world. The
aquatic species is by far the most remarkable, because it is
the only existing lizard which lives on marine vegetable
productions. As I at first observed, these islands are not so
remarkable for the number of the species of reptiles, as for
that of the individuals, when we remember the well-beaten
paths made by the thousands of huge tortoises -- the many
turtles -- the great warrens of the terrestrial Amblyrhynchus
-- and the groups of the marine species basking on the coast-
rocks of every island -- we must admit that there is no other
quarter of the world where this Order replaces the herbivorous
mammalia in so extraordinary a manner. The geologist
on hearing this will probably refer back in his mind to the
Secondary epochs, when lizards, some herbivorous, some
carnivorous, and of dimensions comparable only with our
existing whales, swarmed on the land and in the sea. It is,
therefore, worthy of his observation, that this archipelago,
instead of possessing a humid climate and rank vegetation,
cannot be considered otherwise than extremely arid, and, for
an equatorial region, remarkably temperate.

To finish with the zoology: the fifteen kinds of sea-fish
which I procured here are all new species; they belong to
twelve genera, all widely distributed, with the exception of
Prionotus, of which the four previously known species live
on the eastern side of America. Of land-shells I collected
sixteen kinds (and two marked varieties), of which, with the
exception of one Helix found at Tahiti, all are peculiar to
this archipelago: a single fresh-water shell (Paludina) is
common to Tahiti and Van Diemen's Land. Mr. Cuming,
before our voyage procured here ninety species of sea-shells,
and this does not include several species not yet specifically
examined, of Trochus, Turbo, Monodonta, and Nassa. He
has been kind enough to give me the following interesting
results: Of the ninety shells, no less than forty-seven are
unknown elsewhere -- a wonderful fact, considering how
widely distributed sea-shells generally are. Of the forty-
three shells found in other parts of the world, twenty-five
inhabit the western coast of America, and of these eight are
distinguishable as varieties; the remaining eighteen (including
one variety) were found by Mr. Cuming in the Low
Archipelago, and some of them also at the Philippines. This
fact of shells from islands in the central parts of the Pacific
occurring here, deserves notice, for not one single sea-shell is
known to be common to the islands of that ocean and to the
west coast of America. The space of open sea running north
and south off the west coast, separates two quite distinct
conchological provinces; but at the Galapagos Archipelago
we have a halting-place, where many new forms have been
created, and whither these two great conchological provinces
have each sent up several colonists. The American province
has also sent here representative species; for there is a
Galapageian species of Monoceros, a genus only found on the
west coast of America; and there are Galapageian species
of Fissurella and Cancellaria, genera common on the west
coast, but not found (as I am informed by Mr. Cuming) in
the central islands of the Pacific. On the other hand, there
are Galapageian species of Oniscia and Stylifer, genera common
to the West Indies and to the Chinese and Indian seas,
but not found either on the west coast of America or in the
central Pacific. I may here add, that after the comparison
by Messrs. Cuming and Hinds of about 2000 shells from
the eastern and western coasts of America, only one single
shell was found in common, namely, the Purpura patula,
which inhabits the West Indies, the coast of Panama,
and the Galapagos. We have, therefore, in this quarter
of the world, three great conchological sea-provinces, quite
distinct, though surprisingly near each other, being separated
by long north and south spaces either of land or of
open sea.

I took great pains in collecting the insects, but excepting
Tierra del Fuego, I never saw in this respect so poor a country.
Even in the upper and damp region I procured very few,
excepting some minute Diptera and Hymenoptera, mostly of
common mundane forms. As before remarked, the insects,
for a tropical region, are of very small size and dull colours.
Of beetles I collected twenty-five species (excluding a
Dermestes and Corynetes imported, wherever a ship touches);
of these, two belong to the Harpalidae, two to the
Hydrophilidae, nine to three families of the Heteromera, and the
remaining twelve to as many different families. This
circumstance of insects (and I may add plants), where few in
number, belonging to many different families, is, I believe,
very general. Mr. Waterhouse, who has published [4] an
account of the insects of this archipelago, and to whom I am
indebted for the above details, informs me that there are
several new genera: and that of the genera not new, one
or two are American, and the rest of mundane distribution.
With the exception of a wood-feeding Apate, and of one or
probably two water-beetles from the American continent,
all the species appear to be new.

The botany of this group is fully as interesting as the
zoology. Dr. J. Hooker will soon publish in the "Linnean
Transactions" a full account of the Flora, and I am much
indebted to him for the following details. Of flowering
plants there are, as far as at present is known, 185 species,
and 40 cryptogamic species, making altogether 225; of this
number I was fortunate enough to bring home 193. Of the
flowering plants, 100 are new species, and are probably confined
to this archipelago. Dr. Hooker conceives that, of the
plants not so confined, at least 10 species found near the
cultivated ground at Charles Island, have been imported.
It is, I think, surprising that more American species have
not been introduced naturally, considering that the distance
is only between 500 and 600 miles from the continent, and
that (according to Collnet, p. 58) drift-wood, bamboos, canes,
and the nuts of a palm, are often washed on the south-eastern
shores. The proportion of 100 flowering plants out of 183
(or 175 excluding the imported weeds) being new, is sufficient,
I conceive, to make the Galapagos Archipelago a distinct
botanical province; but this Flora is not nearly so
peculiar as that of St. Helena, nor, as I am informed by
Dr. Hooker, of Juan Fernandez. The peculiarity of the
Galapageian Flora is best shown in certain families; -- thus
there are 21 species of Compositae, of which 20 are peculiar
to this archipelago; these belong to twelve genera, and of
these genera no less than ten are confined to the archipelago!
Dr. Hooker informs me that the Flora has an undoubtedly
Western American character; nor can he detect in it any
affinity with that of the Pacific. If, therefore, we except the
eighteen marine, the one fresh-water, and one land-shell,
which have apparently come here as colonists from the
central islands of the Pacific, and likewise the one distinct
Pacific species of the Galapageian group of finches, we see
that this archipelago, though standing in the Pacific Ocean,
is zoologically part of America.

If this character were owing merely to immigrants from
America, there would be little remarkable in it; but we see
that a vast majority of all the land animals, and that more
than half of the flowering plants, are aboriginal productions
It was most striking to be surrounded by new birds, new
reptiles, new shells, new insects, new plants, and yet by
innumerable trifling details of structure, and even by the tones
of voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temperate plains
of Patagonia, or rather the hot dry deserts of Northern Chile,
vividly brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points
of land, which within a late geological period must have
been covered by the ocean, which are formed by basaltic lava,
and therefore differ in geological character from the American
continent, and which are placed under a peculiar climate,
-- why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, I may
add, in different proportions both in kind and number from
those on the continent, and therefore acting on each other
in a different manner -- why were they created on American
types of organization? It is probable that the islands of the
Cape de Verd group resemble, in all their physical conditions,
far more closely the Galapagos Islands, than these latter
physically resemble the coast of America, yet the aboriginal
inhabitants of the two groups are totally unlike; those of the
Cape de Verd Islands bearing the impress of Africa, as
the inhabitants of the Galapagos Archipelago are stamped
with that of America.

I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature
in the natural history of this archipelago; it is, that
the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by
a different set of beings. My attention was first called to
this fact by the Vice-Governor, Mr. Lawson, declaring that
the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he
could with certainty tell from which island any one was
brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention
to this statement, and I had already partially mingled together
the collections from two of the islands. I never
dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of
them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same
rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly
equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we
shall soon see that this is the case. It is the fate of most
voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in
any locality, than they are hurried from it; but I ought,
perhaps, to be thankful that I obtained sufficient materials to
establish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of
organic beings.

The inhabitants, as I have said, state that they can distinguish
the tortoises from the different islands; and that
they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain
Porter has described [5] those from Charles and from the nearest
island to it, namely, Hood Island, as having their shells
in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst
the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and
have a better taste when cooked. M. Bibron, moreover,
informs me that he has seen what he considers two distinct
species of tortoise from the Galapagos, but he does not know
from which islands. The specimens that I brought from
three islands were young ones: and probably owing to this
cause neither Mr. Gray nor myself could find in them any
specific differences. I have remarked that the marine
Amblyrhynchus was larger at Albemarle Island than elsewhere;
and M. Bibron informs me that he has seen two distinct
aquatic species of this genus; so that the different
islands probably have their representative species or races
of the Amblyrhynchus, as well as of the tortoise. My attention
was first thoroughly aroused, by comparing together
the numerous specimens, shot by myself and several other
parties on board, of the mocking-thrushes, when, to my
astonishment, I discovered that all those from Charles Island
belonged to one species (Mimus trifasciatus) all from
Albemarle Island to M. parvulus; and all from James and
Chatham Islands (between which two other islands are situated,
as connecting links) belonged to M. melanotis. These
two latter species are closely allied, and would by some
ornithologists be considered as only well-marked races or
varieties; but the Mimus trifasciatus is very distinct.
Unfortunately most of the specimens of the finch tribe were
mingled together; but I have strong reasons to suspect that
some of the species of the sub-group Geospiza are confined
to separate islands. If the different islands have their
representatives of Geospiza, it may help to explain the
singularly large number of the species of this sub-group in this
one small archipelago, and as a probable consequence of their
numbers, the perfectly graduated series in the size of their
beaks. Two species of the sub-group Cactornis, and two of
the Camarhynchus, were procured in the archipelago; and
of the numerous specimens of these two sub-groups shot by
four collectors at James Island, all were found to belong to
one species of each; whereas the numerous specimens shot
either on Chatham or Charles Island (for the two sets were
mingled together) all belonged to the two other species:
hence we may feel almost sure that these islands possess
their respective species of these two sub-groups. In land-
shells this law of distribution does not appear to hold good.
In my very small collection of insects, Mr. Waterhouse
remarks, that of those which were ticketed with their locality,
not one was common to any two of the islands.

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal
plants of the different islands wonderfully different. I give
all the following results on the high authority of my friend
Dr. J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately collected
everything in flower on the different islands, and fortunately
kept my collections separate. Too much confidence,
however, must not be placed in the proportional results, as
the small collections brought home by some other naturalists
though in some respects confirming the results, plainly show
that much remains to be done in the botany of this group:
the Leguminosae, moreover, has as yet been only approximately
worked out: --

Number of
to the
Number of Number of Galapagos
species species Number Archipelago
Total found in confined confined but found
Name Number other to the to the on more
of of parts of Galapagos one than the
Island Species the world Archipelago island one island
James 71 33 38 30 8
Albemarle 4 18 26 22 4
Chatham 32 16 16 12 4
Charles 68 39 29 21 8
(or 29, if
the probably
plants be

Hence we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James
Island, of the thirty-eight Galapageian plants, or those found
in no other part of the world, thirty are exclusively confined
to this one island; and in Albemarle Island, of the twenty-
six aboriginal Galapageian plants, twenty-two are confined
to this one island, that is, only four are at present known to
grow in the other islands of the archipelago; and so on, as
shown in the above table, with the plants from Chatham and
Charles Islands. This fact will, perhaps, be rendered even
more striking, by giving a few illustrations: -- thus, Scalesia,
a remarkable arborescent genus of the Compositae, is confined
to the archipelago: it has six species: one from Chatham,
one from Albemarle, one from Charles Island, two from
James Island, and the sixth from one of the three latter
islands, but it is not known from which: not one of these six
species grows on any two islands. Again, Euphorbia, a mundane
or widely distributed genus, has here eight species, of
which seven are confined to the archipelago, and not one
found on any two islands: Acalypha and Borreria, both mundane
genera, have respectively six and seven species, none
of which have the same species on two islands, with the
exception of one Borreria, which does occur on two islands.
The species of the Compositae are particularly local; and Dr.
Hooker has furnished me with several other most striking
illustrations of the difference of the species on the different
islands. He remarks that this law of distribution holds good
both with those genera confined to the archipelago, and those
distributed in other quarters of the world: in like manner
we have seen that the different islands have their proper
species of the mundane genus of tortoise, and of the widely
distributed American genus of the mocking-thrush, as well
as of two of the Galapageian sub-groups of finches, and
almost certainly of the Galapageian genus Amblyrhynchus.

The distribution of the tenants of this archipelago would
not be nearly so wonderful, if, for instance, one island had
a mocking-thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct
genus, -- if one island had its genus of lizard, and a
second island another distinct genus, or none whatever; -- or
if the different islands were inhabited, not by representative
species of the same genera of plants, but by totally different
genera, as does to a certain extent hold good: for, to give
one instance, a large berry-bearing tree at James Island has
no representative species in Charles Island. But it is the
circumstance, that several of the islands possess their own
species of the tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous
plants, these species having the same general habits,
occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the
same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that
strikes me with wonder. It may be suspected that some of
these representative species, at least in the case of the
tortoise and of some of the birds, may hereafter prove to be
only well-marked races; but this would be of equally great
interest to the philosophical naturalist. I have said that most
of the islands are in sight of each other: I may specify that
Charles Island is fifty miles from the nearest part of Chatham
Island, and thirty-three miles from the nearest part of
Albemarle Island. Chatham Island is sixty miles from the
nearest part of James Island, but there are two intermediate
islands between them which were not visited by me. James
Island is only ten miles from the nearest part of Albemarle
Island, but the two points where the collections were made
are thirty-two miles apart. I must repeat, that neither the
nature of the soil, nor height of the land, nor the climate,
nor the general character of the associated beings, and
therefore their action one on another, can differ much in the
different islands. If there be any sensible difference in their
climates, it must be between the Windward group (namely,
Charles and Chatham Islands), and that to leeward; but
there seems to be no corresponding difference in the productions
of these two halves of the archipelago.

The only light which I can throw on this remarkable difference
in the inhabitants of the different islands, is, that
very strong currents of the sea running in a westerly and
W.N.W. direction must separate, as far as transportal by the
sea is concerned, the southern islands from the northern
ones; and between these northern islands a strong N.W. current
was observed, which must effectually separate James
and Albemarle Islands. As the archipelago is free to a
most remarkable degree from gales of wind, neither the
birds, insects, nor lighter seeds, would be blown from island
to island. And lastly, the profound depth of the ocean between
the islands, and their apparently recent (in a geological
sense) volcanic origin, render it highly unlikely that they
were ever united; and this, probably, is a far more important
consideration than any other, with respect to the geographical
distribution of their inhabitants. Reviewing the facts
here given, one is astonished at the amount of creative force,
if such an expression may be used, displayed on these small,
barren, and rocky islands; and still more so, at its diverse
yet analogous action on points so near each other. I have
said that the Galapagos Archipelago might be called a satellite
attached to America, but it should rather be called a
group of satellites, physically similar, organically distinct,
yet intimately related to each other, and all related in a
marked, though much lesser degree, to the great American

I will conclude my description of the natural history of
these islands, by giving an account of the extreme tameness
of the birds.

This disposition is common to all the terrestrial species;
namely, to the mocking-thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant-
flycatchers, the dove, and carrion-buzzard. All of them are
often approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch,
and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun
is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a
hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, whilst lying down,
a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of a pitcher, made of
the shell of a tortoise, which I held in my hand, and began
very quietly to sip the water; it allowed me to lift it from
the ground whilst seated on the vessel: I often tried, and
very nearly succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs.
Formerly the birds appear to have been even tamer than at
present. Cowley (in the year 1684) says that the "Turtledoves
were so tame, that they would often alight on our hats
and arms, so as that we could take them alive, they not fearing
man, until such time as some of our company did fire at
them, whereby they were rendered more shy." Dampier
also, in the same year, says that a man in a morning's walk
might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At present,
although certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's
arms, nor do they suffer themselves to be killed in such large
numbers. It is surprising that they have not become wilder;
for these islands during the last hundred and fifty years have
been frequently visited by bucaniers and whalers; and the
sailors, wandering through the wood in search of tortoises,
always take cruel delight in knocking down the little birds.
These birds, although now still more persecuted, do not
readily become wild. In Charles Island, which had then
been colonized about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well
with a switch in his hand, with which he killed the doves
and finches as they came to drink. He had already procured
a little heap of them for his dinner, and he said that he had
constantly been in the habit of waiting by this well for the
same purpose. It would appear that the birds of this
archipelago, not having as yet learnt that man is a more
dangerous animal than the tortoise or the Amblyrhynchus,
disregard him, in the same manner as in England shy birds, such
as magpies, disregard the cows and horses grazing in our fields.

The Falkland Islands offer a second instance of birds
with a similar disposition. The extraordinary tameness of
the little Opetiorhynchus has been remarked by Pernety,
Lesson, and other voyagers. It is not, however, peculiar to
that bird: the Polyborus, snipe, upland and lowland goose,
thrush, bunting, and even some true hawks, are all more or
less tame. As the birds are so tame there, where foxes,
hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the absence of all
rapacious animals at the Galapagos, is not the cause of their
tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, by
the precaution they take in building on the islets, that they
are aware of their danger from the foxes; but they are not
by this rendered wild towards man. This tameness of the
birds, especially of the water-fowl, is strongly contrasted with
the habits of the same species in Tierra del Fuego, where for
ages past they have been persecuted by the wild inhabitants.
In the Falklands, the sportsman may sometimes kill more
of the upland geese in one day than he can carry home;
whereas in Tierra del Fuego it is nearly as difficult to kill
one, as it is in England to shoot the common wild goose.

In the time of Pernety (1763), all the birds there appear
to have been much tamer than at present; he states that the
Opetiorhynchus would almost perch on his finger; and that
with a wand he killed ten in half an hour. At that period
the birds must have been about as tame as they now are at
the Galapagos. They appear to have learnt caution more
slowly at these latter islands than at the Falklands, where
they have had proportionate means of experience; for besides
frequent visits from vessels, those islands have been at
intervals colonized during the entire period. Even formerly,
when all the birds were so tame, it was impossible by Pernety's
account to kill the black-necked swan -- a bird of
passage, which probably brought with it the wisdom learnt
in foreign countries.

I may add that, according to Du Bois, all the birds at
Bourbon in 1571-72, with the exception of the flamingoes
and geese, were so extremely tame, that they could be caught
by the hand, or killed in any number with a stick. Again,
at Tristan d'Acunha in the Atlantic, Carmichael [6] states that
the only two land-birds, a thrush and a bunting, were "so
tame as to suffer themselves to be caught with a hand-net."
From these several facts we may, I think, conclude, first, that
the wildness of birds with regard to man, is a particular
instinct directed against _him_, and not dependent upon any
general degree of caution arising from other sources of
danger; secondly, that it is not acquired by individual birds
in a short time, even when much persecuted; but that in the
course of successive generations it becomes hereditary. With
domesticated animals we are accustomed to see new mental
habits or instincts acquired or rendered hereditary; but with
animals in a state of nature, it must always be most difficult
to discover instances of acquired hereditary knowledge. In
regard to the wildness of birds towards man, there is no way
of accounting for it, except as an inherited habit:
comparatively few young birds, in any one year, have been
injured by man in England, yet almost all, even nestlings, are
afraid of him; many individuals, on the other hand, both at the
Galapagos and at the Falklands, have been pursued and
injured by man, yet have not learned a salutary dread of
him. We may infer from these facts, what havoc the introduction
of any new beast of prey must cause in a country,
before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have
become adapted to the stranger's craft or power.

[1] The progress of research has shown that some of these birds,
which were then thought to be confined to the islands, occur on
the American continent. The eminent ornithologist, Mr. Sclater,
informs me that this is the case with the Strix punctatissima
and Pyrocephalus nanus; and probably with the Otus Galapagoensis
and Zenaida Galapagoensis: so that the number of endemic birds
is reduced to twenty-three, or probably to twenty-one. Mr.
Sclater thinks that one or two of these endemic forms should be
ranked rather as varieties than species, which always seemed to
me probable.

[2] This is stated by Dr. Gunther (Zoolog. Soc. Jan 24th,
1859) to be a peculiar species, not known to inhabit any other

[3] Voyage aux Quatre Iles d'Afrique. With respect to the
Sandwich Islands, see Tyerman and Bennett's Journal, vol. i.
p. 434. For Mauritius, see Voyage par un Officier, etc.,
part i. p. 170. There are no frogs in the Canary Islands
(Webb et Berthelot, Hist. Nat. des Iles Canaries). I saw
none at St. Jago in the Cape de Verds. There are none at
St. Helena.

[4] Ann. and Mag. of Nat. Hist., vol. xvi. p. 19.

[5] Voyage in the U. S. ship Essex, vol. i. p. 215.

[6] Linn. Trans., vol. xii. p. 496. The most anomalous fact on
this subject which I have met with is the wildness of the small
birds in the Arctic parts of North America (as described by
Richardson, Fauna Bor., vol. ii. p. 332), where they are said
never to be persecuted. This case is the more strange, because
it is asserted that some of the same species in their winter-
quarters in the United States are tame. There is much, as Dr.
Richardson well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the
different degrees of shyness and care with which birds conceal
their nests. How strange it is that the English wood-pigeon,
generally so wild a bird, should very frequently rear its young
in shrubberies close to houses!



Pass through the Low Archipelago -- Tahiti -- Aspect --
Vegetation on the Mountains -- View of Eimeo -- Excursion into
the Interior -- Profound Ravines -- Succession of Waterfalls --
Number of wild useful Plants -- Temperance of the Inhabitants --
Their moral state -- Parliament convened -- New Zealand -- Bay
of Islands -- Hippahs -- Excursion to Waimate -- Missionary
Establishment -- English Weeds now run wild -- Waiomio --
Funeral of a New Zealand Woman -- Sail for Australia.

OCTOBER 20th. -- The survey of the Galapagos Archipelago
being concluded, we steered towards Tahiti
and commenced our long passage of 3200 miles. In
the course of a few days we sailed out of the gloomy and
clouded ocean-district which extends during the winter far
from the coast of South America. We then enjoyed bright
and clear weather, while running pleasantly along at the
rate of 150 or 160 miles a day before the steady trade-wind.
The temperature in this more central part of the Pacific is
higher than near the American shore. The thermometer in
the poop cabin, by night and day, ranged between 80 and
83 degs., which feels very pleasant; but with one degree or two
higher, the heat becomes oppressive. We passed through
the Low or Dangerous Archipelago, and saw several of
those most curious rings of coral land, just rising above the
water's edge, which have been called Lagoon Islands. A
long and brilliantly white beach is capped by a margin of
green vegetation; and the strip, looking either way, rapidly
narrows away in the distance, and sinks beneath the horizon
From the mast-head a wide expanse of smooth water can be
seen within the ring. These low hollow coral islands bear
no proportion to the vast ocean out of which they abruptly
rise; and it seems wonderful, that such weak invaders are
not overwhelmed, by the all-powerful and never-tiring waves
of that great sea, miscalled the Pacific.

November 15th. -- At daylight, Tahiti, an island which
must for ever remain classical to the voyager in the South
Sea, was in view. At a distance the appearance was not
attractive. The luxuriant vegetation of the lower part could
not yet be seen, and as the clouds rolled past, the wildest
and most precipitous peaks showed themselves towards the
centre of the island. As soon as we anchored in Matavai
Bay, we were surrounded by canoes. This was our Sunday,
but the Monday of Tahiti: if the case had been reversed,
we should not have received a single visit; for the injunction
not to launch a canoe on the sabbath is rigidly obeyed.
After dinner we landed to enjoy all the delights produced
by the first impressions of a new country, and that country
the charming Tahiti. A crowd of men, women, and children,
was collected on the memorable Point Venus, ready to
receive us with laughing, merry faces. They marshalled
us towards the house of Mr. Wilson, the missionary of the
district, who met us on the road, and gave us a very friendly
reception. After sitting a very short time in his house, we
separated to walk about, but returned there in the evening.

The land capable of cultivation, is scarcely in any part
more than a fringe of low alluvial soil, accumulated round
the base of the mountains, and protected from the waves of
the sea by a coral reef, which encircles the entire line of
coast. Within the reef there is an expanse of smooth water,
like that of a lake, where the canoes of the natives can ply
with safety and where ships anchor. The low land which
comes down to the beach of coral-sand, is covered by the
most beautiful productions of the intertropical regions. In
the midst of bananas, orange, cocoa-nut, and bread-fruit
trees, spots are cleared where yams, sweet potatoes, and
sugar-cane, and pine-apples are cultivated. Even the brushwood
is an imported fruit-tree, namely, the guava, which
from its abundance has become as noxious as a weed. In
Brazil I have often admired the varied beauty of the
bananas, palms, and orange-trees contrasted together; and
here we also have the bread-fruit, conspicuous from its large,
glossy, and deeply digitated leaf. It is admirable to behold
groves of a tree, sending forth its branches with the vigour
of an English oak, loaded with large and most nutritious
fruit. However seldom the usefulness of an object can
account for the pleasure of beholding it, in the case of these
beautiful woods, the knowledge of their high productiveness
no doubt enters largely into the feeling of admiration. The
little winding paths, cool from the surrounding shade, led
to the scattered houses; the owners of which everywhere
gave us a cheerful and most hospitable reception.

I was pleased with nothing so much as with the inhabitants.
There is a mildness in the expression of their countenances
which at once banishes the idea of a savage; and
intelligence which shows that they are advancing in
civilization. The common people, when working, keep the upper
part of their bodies quite naked; and it is then that the
Tahitians are seen to advantage. They are very tall, broad-
shouldered, athletic, and well-proportioned. It has been
remarked, that it requires little habit to make a dark skin
more pleasing and natural to the eye of an European than
his own colour. A white man bathing by the side of a
Tahitian, was like a plant bleached by the gardener's art
compared with a fine dark green one growing vigorously in
the open fields. Most of the men are tattooed, and the ornaments
follow the curvature of the body so gracefully, that
they have a very elegant effect. One common pattern, varying
in its details, is somewhat like the crown of a palm-tree.
It springs from the central line of the back, and gracefully
curls round both sides. The simile may be a fanciful one,
but I thought the body of a man thus ornamented was like
the trunk of a, noble tree embraced by a delicate creeper.

Many of the elder people had their feet covered with
small figures, so placed as to resemble a sock. This fashion,
however, is partly gone by, and has been succeeded by others.
Here, although fashion is far from immutable, every one
must abide by that prevailing in his youth. An old man
has thus his age for ever stamped on his body, and he cannot
assume the airs of a young dandy. The women are tattooed
in the same manner as the men, and very commonly on their
fingers. One unbecoming fashion is now almost universal:
namely, shaving the hair from the upper part of the head,
in a circular form, so as to leave only an outer ring. The
missionaries have tried to persuade the people to change this
habit; but it is the fashion, and that is a sufficient answer
at Tahiti, as well as at Paris. I was much disappointed in
the personal appearance of the women: they are far inferior
in every respect to the men. The custom of wearing a white
or scarlet flower in the back of the head, or through a small
hole in each ear, is pretty. A crown of woven cocoa-nut
leaves is also worn as a shade for the eyes. The women
appear to be in greater want of some becoming costume even
than the men.

Nearly all the natives understand a little English -- that is,
they know the names of common things; and by the aid of
this, together with signs, a lame sort of conversation could
be carried on. In returning in the evening to the boat, we
stopped to witness a very pretty scene. Numbers of children
were playing on the beach, and had lighted bonfires
which illumined the placid sea and surrounding trees;
others, in circles, were singing Tahitian verses. We seated
ourselves on the sand, and joined their party. The songs
were impromptu, and I believe related to our arrival: one
little girl sang a line, which the rest took up in parts,
forming a very pretty chorus. The whole scene made us
unequivocally aware that we were seated on the shores of an
island in the far-famed South Sea.

17th. -- This day is reckoned in the log-book as Tuesday
the 17th, instead of Monday the 16th, owing to our, so far,
successful chase of the sun. Before breakfast the ship was
hemmed in by a flotilla of canoes; and when the natives
were allowed to come on board, I suppose there could not
have been less than two hundred. It was the opinion of
every one that it would have been difficult to have picked out
an equal number from any other nation, who would have
given so little trouble. Everybody brought something for
sale: shells were the main articles of trade. The Tahitians
now fully understand the value of money, and prefer it to
old clothes or other articles. The various coins, however, of
English and Spanish denomination puzzle them, and they
never seemed to think the small silver quite secure until
changed into dollars. Some of the chiefs have accumulated
considerable sums of money. One chief, not long since,
offered 800 dollars (about 160 pounds sterling) for a small
vessel; and frequently they purchase whale-boats and horses at
the rate of from 50 to 100 dollars.

After breakfast I went on shore, and ascended the nearest
slope to a height of between two and three thousand feet.
The outer mountains are smooth and conical, but steep; and
the old volcanic rocks, of which they are formed, have been
cut through by many profound ravines, diverging from the
central broken parts of the island to the coast. Having
crossed the narrow low girt of inhabited and fertile land,
I followed a smooth steep ridge between two of the deep
ravines. The vegetation was singular, consisting almost
exclusively of small dwarf ferns, mingled higher up, with
coarse grass; it was not very dissimilar from that on some
of the Welsh hills, and this so close above the orchard of
tropical plants on the coast was very surprising. At the
highest point, which I reached, trees again appeared. Of
the three zones of comparative luxuriance, the lower one
owes its moisture, and therefore fertility, to its flatness;
for, being scarcely raised above the level of the sea, the water
from the higher land drains away slowly. The intermediate
zone does not, like the upper one, reach into a damp and
cloudy atmosphere, and therefore remains sterile. The
woods in the upper zone are very pretty, tree-ferns replacing
the cocoa-nuts on the coast. It must not, however, be
supposed that these woods at all equal in splendour the
forests of Brazil. The vast numbers of productions, which
characterize a continent, cannot be expected to occur in
an island.

From the highest point which I attained, there was a good
view of the distant island of Eimeo, dependent on the same
sovereign with Tahiti. On the lofty and broken pinnacles,
white massive clouds were piled up, which formed an island
in the blue sky, as Eimeo itself did in the blue ocean. The
island, with the exception of one small gateway, is completely
encircled by a reef. At this distance, a narrow but well-
defined brilliantly white line was alone visible, where the
waves first encountered the wall of coral. The mountains
rose abruptly out of the glassy expanse of the lagoon, included
within this narrow white line, outside which the heaving
waters of the ocean were dark-coloured. The view was
striking: it may aptly be compared to a framed engraving,
where the frame represents the breakers, the marginal paper
the smooth lagoon, and the drawing the island itself. When
in the evening I descended from the mountain, a man, whom
I had pleased with a trifling gift, met me, bringing with him
hot roasted bananas, a pine-apple, and cocoa-nuts. After
walking under a burning sun, I do not know anything more
delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. Pine-apples
are here so abundant that the people eat them in the same
wasteful manner as we might turnips. They are of an excellent
flavor -- perhaps even better than those cultivated in
England; and this I believe is the highest compliment which
can be paid to any fruit. Before going on board, Mr. Wilson
interpreted for me to the Tahitian who had paid me so adroit
an attention, that I wanted him and another man to accompany
me on a short excursion into the mountains.

18th. -- In the morning I came on shore early, bringing
with me some provisions in a bag, and two blankets for myself
and servant. These were lashed to each end of a long
pole, which was alternately carried by my Tahitian companions
on their shoulders. These men are accustomed thus
to carry, for a whole day, as much as fifty pounds at each
end of their poles. I told my guides to provide themselves
with food and clothing; but they said that there was plenty
of food in the mountains, and for clothing, that their skins
were sufficient. Our line of march was the valley of Tiaauru,
down which a river flows into the sea by Point Venus.
This is one of the principal streams in the island, and its
source lies at the base of the loftiest central pinnacles,
which rise to a height of about 7000 feet. The whole island
is so mountainous that the only way to penetrate into the
interior is to follow up the valleys. Our road, at first, lay
through woods which bordered each side of the river; and
the glimpses of the lofty central peaks, seen as through an
avenue, with here and there a waving cocoa-nut tree on one
side, were extremely picturesque. The valley soon began to
narrow, and the sides to grow lofty and more precipitous.
After having walked between three and four hours, we
found the width of the ravine scarcely exceeded that of the
bed of the stream. On each hand the walls were nearly vertical,
yet from the soft nature of the volcanic strata, trees
and a rank vegetation sprung from every projecting ledge.
These precipices must have been some thousand feet high;
and the whole formed a mountain gorge far more magnificent
than anything which I had ever before beheld. Until
the midday sun stood vertically over the ravine, the air felt
cool and damp, but now it became very sultry. Shaded by a
ledge of rock, beneath a facade of columnar lava, we ate our
dinner. My guides had already procured a dish of small
fish and fresh-water prawns. They carried with them a
small net stretched on a hoop; and where the water was
deep and in eddies, they dived, and like otters, with their
eyes open followed the fish into holes and corners, and thus
caught them.

The Tahitians have the dexterity of amphibious animals
in the water. An anecdote mentioned by Ellis shows how
much they feel at home in this element. When a horse was
landing for Pomarre in 1817, the slings broke, and it fell
into the water; immediately the natives jumped overboard,
and by their cries and vain efforts at assistance almost
drowned it. As soon, however, as it reached the shore, the
whole population took to flight, and tried to hide themselves
from the man-carrying pig, as they christened the horse.

A little higher up, the river divided itself into three little
streams. The two northern ones were impracticable, owing
to a succession of waterfalls which descended from the
jagged summit of the highest mountain; the other to all
appearance was equally inaccessible, but we managed to ascend
it by a most extraordinary road. The sides of the
valley were here nearly precipitous, but, as frequently happens
with stratified rocks, small ledges projected, which were
thickly covered by wild bananas, lilaceous plants, and other
luxuriant productions of the tropics. The Tahitians, by
climbing amongst these ledges, searching for fruit, had
discovered a track by which the whole precipice could be scaled.
The first ascent from the valley was very dangerous; for it
was necessary to pass a steeply inclined face of naked rock,
by the aid of ropes which we brought with us. How any
person discovered that this formidable spot was the only
point where the side of the mountain was practicable, I cannot
imagine. We then cautiously walked along one of the
ledges till we came to one of the three streams. This ledge
formed a flat spot, above which a beautiful cascade, some
hundred feet in height, poured down its waters, and beneath,
another high cascade fell into the main stream in the valley
below. From this cool and shady recess we made a
circuit to avoid the overhanging waterfall. As before, we
followed little projecting ledges, the danger being partly
concealed by the thickness of the vegetation. In passing
from one of the ledges to another, there was a vertical wall
of rock. One of the Tahitians, a fine active man, placed
the trunk of a tree against this, climbed up it, and then by
the aid of crevices reached the summit. He fixed the ropes
to a projecting point, and lowered them for our dog and
luggage, and then we clambered up ourselves. Beneath the
ledge on which the dead tree was placed, the precipice must
have been five or six hundred feet deep; and if the abyss
had not been partly concealed by the overhanging ferns and
lilies my head would have turned giddy, and nothing should
have induced me to have attempted it. We continued to
ascend, sometimes along ledges, and sometimes along knife-
edged ridges, having on each hand profound ravines. In
the Cordillera I have seen mountains on a far grander
scale, but for abruptness, nothing at all comparable with this.
In the evening we reached a flat little spot on the banks
of the same stream, which we had continued to follow, and
which descends in a chain of waterfalls: here we bivouacked
for the night. On each side of the ravine there were great
beds of the mountain-banana, covered with ripe fruit. Many
of these plants were from twenty to twenty-five feet high,
and from three to four in circumference. By the aid of
strips of bark for rope, the stems of bamboos for rafters,
and the large leaf of the banana for a thatch, the Tahitians
in a few minutes built us an excellent house; and with
withered leaves made a soft bed.

They then proceeded to make a fire, and cook our evening
meal. A light was procured, by rubbing a blunt pointed
stick in a groove made in another, as if with intention of
deepening it, until by the friction the dust became ignited.
A peculiarly white and very light wood (the Hibiscus tiliareus)
is alone used for this purpose: it is the same which
serves for poles to carry any burden, and for the floating
out-riggers to their canoes. The fire was produced in a few
seconds: but to a person who does not understand the art,
it requires, as I found, the greatest exertion; but at last, to
my great pride, I succeeded in igniting the dust. The
Gaucho in the Pampas uses a different method: taking an
elastic stick about eighteen inches long, he presses one end
on his breast, and the other pointed end into a hole in a piece
of wood, and then rapidly turns the curved part, like a
carpenter's centre-bit. The Tahitians having made a small fire
of sticks, placed a score of stones, of about the size of
cricket-balls, on the burning wood. In about ten minutes the
sticks were consumed, and the stones hot. They had previously
folded up in small parcels of leaves, pieces of beef,
fish, ripe and unripe bananas, and the tops of the wild arum.
These green parcels were laid in a layer between two layers
of the hot stones, and the whole then covered up with
earth, so that no smoke or steam could escape. In about
a quarter of an hour, the whole was most deliciously cooked.
The choice green parcels were now laid on a cloth of
banana leaves, and with a cocoa-nut shell we drank the
cool water of the running stream; and thus we enjoyed our
rustic meal.

I could not look on the surrounding plants without admiration.
On every side were forests of banana; the fruit
of which, though serving for food in various ways, lay in
heaps decaying on the ground. In front of us there was an
extensive brake of wild sugar-cane; and the stream was
shaded by the dark green knotted stem of the Ava, -- so famous
in former days for its powerful intoxicating effects. I
chewed a piece, and found that it had an acrid and unpleasant
taste, which would have induced any one at once to
have pronounced it poisonous. Thanks to the missionaries,
this plant now thrives only in these deep ravines, innocuous to
every one. Close by I saw the wild arum, the roots of which,
when well baked, are good to eat, and the young leaves
better than spinach. There was the wild yam, and a liliaceous
plant called Ti, which grows in abundance, and has a soft
brown root, in shape and size like a huge log of wood: this
served us for dessert, for it is as sweet as treacle, and with
a pleasant taste. There were, moreover, several other wild
fruits, and useful vegetables. The little stream, besides its
cool water, produced eels, and cray-fish. I did indeed admire
this scene, when I compared it with an uncultivated one in
the temperate zones. I felt the force of the remark, that
man, at least savage man, with his reasoning powers only
partly developed, is the child of the tropics.

As the evening drew to a close, I strolled beneath the
gloomy shade of the bananas up the course of the stream.
My walk was soon brought to a close, by coming to a waterfall
between two and three hundred feet high; and again
above this there was another. I mention all these waterfalls
in this one brook, to give a general idea of the inclination
of the land. In the little recess where the water fell, it did
not appear that a breath of wind had ever blown. The thin
edges of the great leaves of the banana, damp with spray,
were unbroken, instead of being, as is so generally the case,
split into a thousand shreds. From our position, almost
suspended on the mountain side, there were glimpses into the
depths of the neighbouring valleys; and the lofty points of
the central mountains, towering up within sixty degrees of
the zenith, hid half the evening sky. Thus seated, it was
a sublime spectacle to watch the shades of night gradually
obscuring the last and highest pinnacles.

Before we laid ourselves down to sleep, the elder Tahitian
fell on his knees, and with closed eyes repeated a long
prayer in his native tongue. He prayed as a Christian should
do, with fitting reverence, and without the fear of ridicule
or any ostentation of piety. At our meals neither of the men
would taste food, without saying beforehand a short grace.
Those travellers who think that a Tahitian prays only when
the eyes of the missionary are fixed on him, should have
slept with us that night on the mountain-side. Before morning
it rained very heavily; but the good thatch of banana-
leaves kept us dry.

November 19th. -- At daylight my friends, after their
morning prayer, prepared an excellent breakfast in the same
manner as in the evening. They themselves certainly partook
of it largely; indeed I never saw any men eat near so
much. I suppose such enormously capacious stomachs must
be the effect of a large part of their diet consisting of fruit
and vegetables, which contain, in a given bulk, a comparatively
small portion of nutriment. Unwittingly, I was the
means of my companions breaking, as I afterwards learned,
one of their own laws, and resolutions: I took with me a
flask of spirits, which they could not refuse to partake of;
but as often as they drank a little, they put their fingers
before their mouths, and uttered the word "Missionary."
About two years ago, although the use of the ava was prevented,
drunkenness from the introduction of spirits became
very prevalent. The missionaries prevailed on a few good
men, who saw that their country was rapidly going to ruin,
to join with them in a Temperance Society. From good
sense or shame, all the chiefs and the queen were at last
persuaded to join. Immediately a law was passed, that no
spirits should be allowed to be introduced into the island,
and that he who sold and he who bought the forbidden
article should be punished by a fine. With remarkable justice,
a certain period was allowed for stock in hand to be
sold, before the law came into effect. But when it did, a
general search was made, in which even the houses of the
missionaries were not exempted, and all the ava (as the
natives call all ardent spirits) was poured on the ground.
When one reflects on the effect of intemperance on the
aborigines of the two Americas, I think it will be acknowledged
that every well-wisher of Tahiti owes no common debt
of gratitude to the missionaries. As long as the little island
of St. Helena remained under the government of the East
India Company, spirits, owing to the great injury they had
produced, were not allowed to be imported; but wine was
supplied from the Cape of Good Hope. It is rather a striking
and not very gratifying fact, that in the same year
that spirits were allowed to be sold in Helena, their use was
banished from Tahiti by the free will of the people.

After breakfast we proceeded on our Journey. As my object
was merely to see a little of the interior scenery, we
returned by another track, which descended into the main
valley lower down. For some distance we wound, by a most
intricate path, along the side of the mountain which formed
the valley. In the less precipitous parts we passed through
extensive groves of the wild banana. The Tahitians, with
their naked, tattooed bodies, their heads ornamented with
flowers, and seen in the dark shade of these groves, would
have formed a fine picture of man inhabiting some primeval
land. In our descent we followed the line of ridges; these
were exceedingly narrow, and for considerable lengths steep
as a ladder; but all clothed with vegetation. The extreme
care necessary in poising each step rendered the walk fatiguing.
I did not cease to wonder at these ravines and
precipices: when viewing the country from one of the knife-
edged ridges, the point of support was so small, that the
effect was nearly the same as it must be from a balloon. In
this descent we had occasion to use the ropes only once, at
the point where we entered the main valley. We slept under
the same ledge of rock where we had dined the day before:
the night was fine, but from the depth and narrowness of the
gorge, profoundly dark.

Before actually seeing this country, I found it difficult
to understand two facts mentioned by Ellis; namely, that
after the murderous battles of former times, the survivors
on the conquered side retired into the mountains, where a
handful of men could resist a multitude. Certainly half
a dozen men, at the spot where the Tahitian reared the old
tree, could easily have repulsed thousands. Secondly, that
after the introduction of Christianity, there were wild men
who lived in the mountains, and whose retreats were unknown
to the more civilized inhabitants.

November 20th. -- In the morning we started early, and
reached Matavai at noon. On the road we met a large party
of noble athletic men, going for wild bananas. I found that
the ship, on account of the difficulty in watering, had moved
to the harbour of Papawa, to which place I immediately
walked. This is a very pretty spot. The cove is surrounded
by reefs, and the water as smooth as in a lake. The
cultivated ground, with its beautiful productions, interspersed
with cottages, comes close down to the water's edge.
From the varying accounts which I had read before reaching
these islands, I was very anxious to form, from my own
observation, a judgment of their moral state, -- although such
judgment would necessarily be very imperfect. First impressions
at all times very much depend on one's previously
acquired ideas. My notions were drawn from Ellis's "Polynesian
Researches" -- an admirable and most interesting
work, but naturally looking at everything under a favourable
point of view, from Beechey's Voyage; and from that of
Kotzebue, which is strongly adverse to the whole missionary
system. He who compares these three accounts will, I think,
form a tolerably accurate conception of the present state of
Tahiti. One of my impressions which I took from the two
last authorities, was decidedly incorrect; viz., that the
Tahitians had become a gloomy race, and lived in fear of the
missionaries. Of the latter feeling I saw no trace, unless,
indeed, fear and respect be confounded under one name.
Instead of discontent being a common feeling, it would be
difficult in Europe to pick out of a crowd half so many merry
and happy faces. The prohibition of the flute and dancing
is inveighed against as wrong and foolish; -- the more than
presbyterian manner of keeping the sabbath is looked at in
a similar light. On these points I will not pretend to offer
any opinion to men who have resided as many years as I
was days on the island.

On the whole, it appears to me that the morality and
religion of the inhabitants are highly creditable. There are
many who attack, even more acrimoniously than Kotzebue,
both the missionaries, their system, and the effects produced
by it. Such reasoners never compare the present state with
that of the island only twenty years ago; nor even with that
of Europe at this day; but they compare it with the high
standard of Gospel perfection. They expect the missionaries
to effect that which the Apostles themselves failed to do.
Inasmuch as the condition of the people falls short of
this high standard, blame is attached to the missionary, instead
of credit for that which he has effected. They forget,
or will not remember, that human sacrifices, and the power
of an idolatrous priesthood -- a system of profligacy
unparalleled in any other part of the world -- infanticide a
consequence of that system -- bloody wars, where the conquerors
spared neither women nor children -- that all these have been
abolished; and that dishonesty, intemperance, and licentiousness
have been greatly reduced by the introduction of Christianity.
In a voyager to forget these things is base ingratitude; for
should he chance to be at the point of shipwreck on some
unknown coast, he will most devoutly pray that the lesson of
the missionary may have extended thus far.

In point of morality, the virtue of the women, it has been
often said, is most open to exception. But before they are
blamed too severely, it will be well distinctly to call to mind
the scenes described by Captain Cook and Mr. Banks, in

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