« AnteriorContinuar »
middle of February, the Centigrade thermometer marked 70 below zero.
The road continues rising to the Portezuelo de Vaquillas, which I suppose to be 4200 mètres (5000 Spanish varas). We did not follow the road to Vaquillas, but turned a little to the right ere we got to the Portezuelo and descended rapidly into the valley of Sandon, where we rested, finding water and pasture. The next day's journey conducted us to the water of Chaco, where we found the whole bed of the valley covered with carbonate of soda, mixed with common salt. On the slopes of the ravine I found many fossil shells, principally Ammonites and Posidonia. Here pasture is found, but as this spot is so retired, more than 70 leagues from Copiapo, 90 from Atacama, and 45 from the coast, it is not probable that this salt would pay the working of it. The next water is Juncal; has but little pasture. Then comes the deep ravine of Encantada, and as there was abundance of pasture here we remained a day, so that our animals might get a good feed. The next water is Doña Inez and a little pasture, but nearly all consumed by the animals of those who come into the Desert to catear or hunt for mines. In Pasto Cerrado, which follows, there is much rush, brea, and grama grass; but as the water was very bad we went 11 league farther, to Agua Dulce, the only pasture there being brea and carriza, plants in no way suited to give strength to animals.
The next day we arrived at Chañaral Bajo, also known as the farm of Chañaral, a beautiful oasis in the Desert, where in a narrow valley are seen fine willow trees, algarobos, chañares, figs, vines, melons, and vegetables. I observed that the walnuts and peaches did not thrive, owing to the late frosts of spring. This place appeared to us a terrestrial paradise, as well as to all those, like unto us, who for 24 days had not seen a tree, nor anything green, for the plants of the Desert are all yellow or brown. I continued my journey, and a march of 8 hours brought us to Tres Puntas, where the animals arrived so worn out that their loads, now very light, I had to put into carts and let the poor beasts go free to Copiapo, where we arrived on the 27th February by the railroad, which passes the watering-places of Puquios and Chulo, thus ending my journey into the Desert of Atacama.
I will now advert to the riches of the Desert. There can be no doubt that various metallic matters exist. Near the town of Atacama gold was found, but for want of water a lavadero or gold washing has not been established; near Peine are silver veins, but the ore is poor. I have already spoken of the argentiferous lead ore in the heights of Puquios, and I have seen silver specimens from the Alto del Pajonal ; la Encantada shows indications of copper and silver ; the mountain of Indio Muerto, between
Doña Inez and Pasto Cerrado, is full of holes, where parties have been searching for mines. Many of these mines would pay if they were in other situations, or near to populations, or if the ores could be easily transported to the coast. I do not deny that there exist in the Desert veins of metal as rich as those of Copiapo, but I do not at the same time speak as to the absolute certainty. The farm of Chañaral is an example of such in the Desert, but in these localities one cannot calculate for two years together on crops; then the great rains that occur in the mountains about every 10 or 20 years threaten at such times to cover these farms of irrigation with immense alluvial deposits.
Having returned to Santiago, Mr. Engelhard of Copiapo communicated to me that, at the distance of 2 or 3 leagues from the Aguada de Puquios (to the S. of Tres Puntas), are found indications of coal in the ravine of Ternera. I must not omit saying a few words about the famous road of the Incas. This road was made by the Incas of Peru, after having conquered the northern part of Chile, and it can be seen from Atacama to Copiapo. It has generally followed a straight line, but seldom passes a watering place. When we first crossed between Imilac and Filiposo we did not see it, it being so indistinct; and it appears to me that in making this road, all that has been done has been to pick the stones say 14 yard off the ground, putting them on each side. On the sides of this road are ruins of habitations (pircas) which have served for those who had to make the road.
We remained in the Desert 87 days, from the time we disembarked in Chañaral until our arrival in Copiapo. If we consider as boundaries of the Desert, San Pedro de Atacama in the N, and the valley of Copiapo in the S., its length is of 40, or 108 leagues in a right line-an extension say from Madrid to Lisbon or Gibraltar, or as Venice from Naples; the width of the Desert from the coast to the divisional line of waters in the Andes is about 55 to 60 leagues ; thus its superficial extent is 5900 to 6480 square leagues.
The Desert of Atacama is of greater extent than that of many European kingdoms, and unpopulated, excepting Chañaral de la Costa, Tres Puntas, and the huts between Tres Puntas and Copiapo, and a few on the coast; and if we see in certain maps towns with the names of Chaco Alto, Chaco Bajo, Juncal Alto, Juncal Bajo, such have been placed at the fancy of map makers. The only inhabitants are guanacos, vicuñas, viscachas, a species of mouse called ocultas, small doves, small partridges of the cordillera, and lizards. The vegetation, although very scanty, may have some new plants.
The surface of the Desert consists, with few exceptions, of enormous piles of stones, gravel, and angular pieces of stone, so sharp that the guanaco hunters have to put hide shoes upon the feet of their dogs, to save them from being wounded. More fre
or as Venice freextension say fi dength is of 4mma in the N. and
quently are seen sandy tracks, and others of a marly character. I did not observe continuous ridges of mountains, but isolated groups planted on elevated land; the mountains are round, or slightly conical, and generally consist of heaps of broken stones. It is rarely that picturesque or huge rocks present themselves, and in general it may be said that the whole Desert is very monotonous. Volcanic productions are frequently seen, but I will not enter further into details, for the examination of the productions of the Desert will form the substance of communications to the University of Santiago. The climate, as a matter of course, offers many variations, according to the situation of the various localities. I have already mentioned that in the summer months there is a strong wind during the day from the W., which is cold at great elevations, and it blew with such violence at times that we could not put up our tent. At night the Terral or land breeze from the E. blows but mildly; it is however F' and freezing, because it descends from the Andes. In the basin of Punta Negra, and that of Atacama, the heat of the day is very great, notwithstanding their elevation above the sea, because the soil, which is dry, arid, and stony, is heated strongly by the sun's rays, and because there is, as in all deserts, no shade: thus, to observe the temperature during the day, we had no other shade than under the belly of the mule, the sun being then nearly perpendicular. A consequence of the rarity and dryness of the air is the great cold felt at night, caused by the radiation, so that at many of our resting places the thermometer was below zero in the morning ere the sun rose. In Rio Frio the thermometer at 5 A.M. was at 7° C. below zero, and in the hottest hours of the day did not exceed 19°C., whilst in Atacama it showed 11:2 C. at 6 A.M., and 27°C. at 1 P.M. The dryness and extraordinary scarcity of rain in this desert I' of the globe is, without doubt, the cause of its sterility. n the town of Atacama sometimes it does not rain for 18 months, and even in the Andes the rains and snows are rare. In the month of February moisture is precipitated occasionally, and we experienced three slight falls of hail, and even snow. For this reason there are so few summits covered with snow. The line of perpetual snow may be about 4,500 to 4,800 metres (5,380 to 5,770 varas = about 17,310 feet). Every 10 or 20 years heavy rains occur, which produce in each ravine a deluge, the effects of which are most clearly seen in the rubble and stuff forming the slopes of the valleys. The last rains were in the month of May, in 1848, when the Salado river ran into the sea. I have heard much said as to the great electrical state of the air. of the Desert. We experienced nothing in particular, excepting that every night there was much lightning in the Cordillera, principally between Filiposo and Rio Frio, and generally without thunder. The mirage is very common, and seen daily. We col
lected 5 skins of quadrupeds, 5 heads of same, 73 bird skins, 25 reptiles, 300 insects, 95 molluscas, 387 species of plants, seeds of 125 to 150 species of plants, a small number of bulbs, potatoes, and live plants (quiscos-cacti), 200 specimens of rocks, shells, &c. Mr. Döll is oecupied in the construction of the Map of the Desert.*
1. Itinerary along the coast of the Pacific to the port of Cobija
Leagues. Chañaral de las Animas to Cachinal
de la Costa .. .. .. .. 11 Cachiyuyal ; no pasture or water 10 Agua del Clerigo, Hueso Parado
or Tartal .. .. .. .. .. 18
tween the two latter points.
Cobija - .. " 2. Itinerary from Paposo to San Pedro de Atacama.
Leagnies. Paposo to Cachinal de la Sierra .. 28
Agua de Profetas .. .. .. 9
. .. .. .. .. .. 114 Pingo-pingo; no water. . 94 Filiposo .. .. .. .. . 8
Leagues. Agua de Caravajal .. .. 14 or 15 San Pedro de Atacama .. .. 124 Another road goes from Punta Negra by Zorras, Pajonal, and Puquios to Filiposo. 3. Itinerary from Atacama to Copiapo.
Leagues. San Pedro de Atacama to Agua de
Note. Professor Domeyko, of the University of Santiago, who was most obliging to me during my stay in the capital, gave me the following analysis of the Meteoric Iron of Imilac:-Iron 88:54, Nickel 8.24, Cobalt 1:14, Silica 0:16; and he thinks that the Silica exists here as Silicium. The Professor gives the following analyses of the Olivine from the Volcan of Antuco (Chile) and that of the Atacama Meteorite :
Protoxide Iron . .. 0:133 .. .. .. 0:196 We see by the foregoing that one position at least, that of Imilac, has been visited and reported upon by scientific men.
Dr. Turner's analysis of the iron said to be found at Tocanado is,- Iron, 93• 400 ; Nickel, 6.618; Cobalt, 0.535. Doubtless the specimens sent by Dr. Reid to Munich will be examined.---WM. BOLLAERT, F.R.G.S.
* A copy of this map has been received from Dr. Philippi.-Ed.
the also iron portation. have be
VIII.- Observations on the Coal Formation in Chile, S. America.
By WILLIAM BOLLAERT, Esq., F.R.G.S.
Read, June 11, 1855. SPANISH and some old foreign writers mention the existence of coal as occurring on the coast as well as in the interior of Chile. During the period of the Spanish occupation of the country, for all purposes in which fuel was required, wood or charcoal was resorted to. Since the great political changes and separation of the colonies from Spain, and their formation into independent governments, with the influx of foreigners with their trade and arts, Chile in particular has commenced being a manufacturing country; a very important branch is that of copper-smelting, in which the native coal is now being used; the steamers are supplied with it, also iron and other foundries, and it is used for domestic purposes and exportation.
As various opinions have been expressed as to the character of Chile coal, I propose in the following remarks to consider the subject in its several bearings. ,
In 1825-7, whilst residing in Peru, I saw the Talcahuano coal used in the forge ; it was very light, friable, sulphurous, but slightly bituminous, and so inferior that it was thrown aside :* it was more of a lignite than coal, and little hope was then entertained that a useful article could be extracted from the coal beds of Talcahuano or its vicinity.
In 1828, in company with Mr. George Smith of Iquique, in a survey of the island Quiriquina, in the bay of Concepcion, we found indications of carbonaceous matter, such as was met with at Talcahuano, also at Lirquen in the same bay ; but from its peculiar character, and the soft sandstones accompanying it, our impression was, that we could only refer it to a lignite formation, or at most to that of a very imperfect coal, and it did not appear to us that by following the seam, an article of much better quality would be obtained. t Darwin, who visited Chile 1832-36, is the first who has given us any idea of the geology of the country, and when adverting to that of the coast, indicates granites, schists, sandstones, lignite, &c., and imperfect coals, and states that the coalformation from Chiloe to Concepcion is a very ancient tertiary one. The fact, however, of there being imperfect coal in the country, caused the mines of Talcahuano and Lirquen to be worked, and search to be made in a southern direction, when the bay of Coronel was examined ; † and as coal was then particularly
* Surface and weatherworn coal. + So thought Darwin in 1835.
| Coal was found here and mentioned by Capt. Fitz-Roy in 1835. See Voyages, Adventures, &c., of Beagle, vol. ii.