Alexander von Humboldt.

The travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt : being a condensed narrative of his journeys in the equinoctial regions of America, and in Asiatic Russia : together with analysis of his more important investigations online

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Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt : being a condensed narrative of his journeys in the equinoctial regions of America, and in Asiatic Russia : together with analysis of his more important investigations → online text (page 1 of 28)
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TRAVELS AND RESEARCHES



BARON HUMEOLDT.




NEW- YORK:

J. & J. HARPER, 82 CLIFF-STREET,

1833.



THE



, TRAVELS AND RESEARCHES



ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT;

BEING
A CONDENSED NARRATIVE OF HIS JOURNEYS IN THE

EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS OP AMERICA, AND IN
ASIATIC RUSSIA: TOGETHER WITH
ANALYSES OP HIS MORE IMPORT-
ANT INVESTIGATIONS.



BY W. MACGILLIVRAY, A.M.,

Conservator of the Museums of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Member of
the Natural History Societies of Edinburgh and Philadelphia, &c.



.WITH A MAP OF THE ORINOCO, AND ENGRAVINGS.



NEW-YORK:

PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY J. & J. HARPER,

No. 82 CLIFF-STREET,

AND SOLD BY THE BOOKSELLERS GENERALLY THROUGHOUT
THE UNITED STATES.

1833.



PREFACE.



THE celebrity which Baron Humboldt enjoys, and
which he has earned by a life of laborious investiga-
tion and perilous enterprise, renders his name fami-
liar to every person whose attention has been drawn
to political statistics or natural philosophy. In the
estimation of the learned no author of the present
day occupies a higher place among those who have
enlarged the boundaries of human knowledge. To
every one, accordingly, whose aim is the general cul-
tivation of the mental faculties, his works are recom-
mended by the splendid pictures of scenery which
they contain, the diversified information which they
afford respecting objects of universal interest, and
the graceful attractions with which he has succeeded
in investing the majesty of science.

These considerations have induced the publishers
to offer a condensed account of his Travels and Re-
seaVches, such as, without excluding subjects even
of laboured investigation, might yet chiefly embrace
those which are best suited to the purposes of the
general reader. The public taste has of late years
gradually inclined towards objects of useful know-
ledge, works of imagination have in a great mea-
A2



O PREFACE.

sure given place to those occupied with descriptions
of nature, physical or moral, and the phenomena
of the material world now afford entertainment to
many who in former times would have sought for it
at a different source. Romantic incidents, perilous
adventures, the struggles of conflicting armies, and
vivid delineations of national manners and individ-
ual character, naturally excite a lively interest in
every bosom, whatever may be the age or sex ; but,
surely, the great facts of creative power and wis-
dom, as exhibited in regions of the globe of which
they have no personal knowledge, are net less cal-
culated to fix the attention of all reflecting minds.
The magnificent vegetation of the tropical regions,
displaying forests of gigantic trees, interspersed with
the varied foliage of innumerable shrubs, and adorned
with festoons of climbing and odoriferous plants ;
the elevated table-lands of the Andes, crowned by
volcanic cones whose summits shoot high into the
region of perennial snow ; the earthquakes that have
desolated populous and fertile countries ; the vast
expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, with its circling cur-
rents ; and the varied aspect of the heavens in those
distant lands, are subjects suited to the taste of
every individual who is capable of contemplating the
wonderful machinery of the universe.

It is unnecessary here to present an analysis of
the labours of the illustrious philosopher whose foot-
steps are traced in this volume. Suffice it to observe,
that some notices respecting his early life introduce
the reader to an acquaintance with his character and
motives, as the adventurous traveller, who, crossing



PREFACE 7

the Atlantic, traversed the ridges and plains of Vene-
zuela, ascended the Orinoco to its junction with the
Amazon, sailed down the former river to the capital
of Guiana, and after examining the island of Cuba,
mounted by the valley of the Magdalena to the ele-
vated platforms of the Andes, explored the majestic
solitudes of the great Cordilleras of Quito, navigated
the margin of the Pacific Ocean, and wandered over
the extensive and interesting provinces of New-
Spain, whence he made his way back by the United
States to Europe. The publication of the important
results of this journey was not completed when he
undertook another to Asiatic Russia and the con-
fines of China, from which he has but lately re-
turned.

From the various works which he has given to the
world have been derived the chief materials of this
narrative ; and, when additional particulars were
wanted, application was made to M. de Humboldt
himself, who kindly pointed out the sources whence
the desired information might be obtained. The
life of a man of letters, he justly observed, ought
to be sought for in his books ; and for this reason
little has been said respecting his occupations during
the intervals of repose which have succeeded his
perilous journeys.

It is only necessary further to apprize the reader,
that the several measurements, the indications of the
thermometer, and the value of articles of industry
or commerce, which in the original volumes are ex-
pressed according to French, Spanish, and Russian
usage, have been reduced to English equivalents.



8 PREFACE.

Finally, the publishers, confident that this abridged
account of the travels of Humboldt will prove bene-
ficial in diffusing a knowledge of the researches of
that eminent naturalist, and in leading to the study
of those phenomena which present themselves daily
to the eye, send it forth with a hope that its reception
will be as favourable and extensive as that bestowed
upon its predecessors.

EDINBURGH, October, 1832.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION.

Birth and Education of Humboldt His early Occupations He resolves
to visit Africa Is disappointed in his Views, and goes to Madrid,
where he is introduced to the King, and obtains Permission to visit
the Spanish Colonies Observations made on the Journey through
Spain Geological Constitution of the Country between Madrid and
Corunna Climate Ancient Submersion of the Shores of the Medi-
terranean Reception at Corunna, and Preparations for the Voyage to
South America Page 15

CHAPTER II.

VOYAGE FROM CORUNNA TO TENERIFFE.

Departure from Corunna Currents of the Atlantic Ocean Marine Ani-
mals Falling Stars Swallows Canary Islands Lancerota Fucus
vitifolius Causes of the Green Colour of Plants La Graciosa
Stratified Basalt alternating with Marl Hyalite Quartz Sand-
Remarks on the Distance at which Mountains are visible at Sea, and
the Causes by which it is modified Landing at Teneriffe . 22

CHAPTER III.

ISLAND OF TENERIFFE.

Santa Cruz Villa de la Laguna Guanches Present Inhabitants of
Teneriffe Climate Scenery of the Coast Orotava Dragon-tree
Ascent of the Peak Its Geological Character Eruptions Zones of
Vegetation Fires of St. John 35

CHAPTER IV.

PASSAGE FROM TENERIFFE TO CUMANA.

Departure from Santa Cru/, Floating Seaweeds Flying-fish Stars-
Malignant Fever Island of Tobago Death of a Passenger Island
of Coche Port of Cumana Observations made during the Voyage ;
Temperature of the Air ; Temperature of the Sea ; Hygrometrical
State of the Air ; Colour of the Sky and Ocean 47



10 CONTENTS.

CHAPTER V.

CUMANA.

Landing at Cumana Introduction to the Governor State of the Sick-
Description of the Country and City of Cumana Mode of Bathing in
the Manzanares Port of Cumana Earthquakes ; Their Periodicity ;
Connexion with the State of the Atmosphere ; Gaseous Emanations ;
Subterranean Noises ; Propagation of Shocks ; Connexion between
those of Cumana and the West Indies ; and general Phenomena. . . 59

CHAPTER VI.

RESIDENCE AT CUMANA.

Lunar Halo African Slaves Excursion to the Peninsula of Araya
Geological Constitution of the Country Salt-works of Araya Indians
and Mulattoes Pearl-fishery Maniquarez Mexican Deer Spring
of Naphtha 66

CHAPTER VII.

MISSIONS OF THE CHAYMAS.

Excursion to the Missions of the Chayma Indians Remarks on Cul-
tivation The Impossible Aspect of the Vegetation San Fernando
Account of a Man who suckled a Child Cumanacoa Cultivation of
Tobacco Igneous Exhalations Jaguars Mountain of Cocollar
Turimiquiri Missions of San Antonio and Guanaguana 73

CHAPTER VIH.

EXCURSION CONTINUED, AND RETURN TO CUMANA.

Convent of Caripe Cave of Guacharo, inhabited by Nocturnal Birds
Purgatory Forest Scenery Howling Monkeys Vera Cruz Cariaco
Intermittent Fevers Cocoa-trees Passage across the Gulf of Cari-
aco to Cumana 86

CHAPTER IX.

INDIANS OF NEW-ANDALUSIA.

Physical Constitution and Manners of the Chaymas Their Languages
American Races 96

CHAPTER X.

RESIDENCE AT CUMANA.

Residence at Cumana Attack of a Zambo Eclipse of the San-
Extraordinary Atmospherical Phenomena Shocks of an Earthquake
Luminous Meteors 104



CONTENTS. 1 1

CHAPTER XI.

VOYAGE FROM CUMANA TO GUAYRA. ,

Passage from Cumana to La Guayra Phosphorescence of the Sea-
Group of the Caraccas and Chimauas Port of New-BarcelonaLa
Guayra Yellow Fever Coast and Cape Blanco Road from La
Guayra to Caraccas HO

CHAPTER XII.

CITY OF CARACCAS AND SURROUNDING DISTRICT.

City of Caraccas General View of Venezuela Population Climate-
Character of the Inhabitants of Caraccas Ascent of the Silla Geo-
logical Nature of the District, and the Mines 123

CHAPTER XIII.

EARTHQUAKES OF CARACCAS.

Extensive Connexion of Earthquakes Eruption of the Volcano of St.
Vincent's Earthquake of the 26th March, 1812 Destruction of the
City Ten Thousand of the Inhabitants killed Consternation of the
Survivors Extent of the Commotions 135

CHAPTER XIV.

JOURNEY FROM CARACCAS TO THE LAKE OF VALENCIA.

Departure from Caraccas La Buenavista Valleys of San Pedro and the
Tuy Manterola Zamang-tree Valleys of Aragua Lake of Valencia

. Diminution of its Waters Hot Springs Jaguar New- Valencia
Thermal Waters of La Trinchera Porto Cabello Cow-tree Cocoa-
plantations General View of the Littoral District of Venezuela. . 142

CHAPTER XV.

JOURNEY ACROSS THE LLANOS FROM ARAGUA TO SAN
FERNANDO.

Mountains between the Valleys of Aragua and the Llanos Their Geologi-
cal Constitution The Llanos of Caraccas Route over the Savanna
to the Rio Apure Cattle and Deer Vegetation Calabozo Gymnoti
or Electric Eels Indian Girl Alligators and Boas Arrival at San
Fernando de Apure 160

CHAPTER XVI.

VOYAGE DOWN THE RIO APURE.

San Fernando Commencement of the Rainy Season Progress of At-
mospherical Phenomena Cetaceous Animals Voyage down the Rio
Apure Vegetation and Wild Animals Crocodiles, Chiguires, and



12 CONTENTS.

Jaguars Don Ignacio and Donna Isabella Water-fowl Nocturnal
Ilovvlings in the Forest Caribe-fish Adventure with a Jaguar Ma-
natees Mouth of the Rio Apure 174

CHAPTER XVII.
VOYAGE UP THE ORINOCO.

Ascent of the Orinoco Port of Encaramadm Traditions of a universal
Deluge Gathering of Turtles' Eggs Two Species described Mode
of collecting the Eggs and of manufacturing the Oil Probable Num-
ber of these Animals on the Orinoco Decorations of the Indians-
Encampment of Pararuma Height of the Inundations of the Ori-
noco Ilapids of Tabage 189

CHAPTER XVIII.

VOYAGE UP THE ORINOCO CONTINUED.

Mission of Atures Epidemic Fevers Black Crust of Granitic Rocks-
Causes of Depopulation of the Missions Falls of Apures Scenery
Anecdote of a Jaguar Domestic Animals Wild Man of the Wooda
Mosquitoes and other poisonous Insects Mission and Cataracts of
Maypures Scenery Inhabitants Spice-trees San Fernando de Ata-
bipo San Baltasar The] Mother's Rock Vegetation Dolphins
San Antonio de Javita Indians Elastic Gum Serpents Portage of
the Pimichin Arrival at the Rio Negro, a Branch of the Amazon
Ascent of the Casiquiare 206

CHAPTER XIX.

ROUTE FROM ESMERALDA TO ANGOSTURA.

Mission of Esmeralda Curare Poison Indians Duida Mountain-
Descent of the Orinoco Cave of Ataruipe Raudalito of Carucari
Mission of Uruana Character of the Otomacs Clay eaten by the Na-
tives Arrival at Angostura The Travellers attacked by Fever Fe-
rocity of the Crocodiles 234

CHAPTER XX.

JOURNEY ACROSS THE LLANOS TO NEW-BARCELONA.

Departure from Angostura Village of Cari Natives New-Barcelona
Hot Springs Crocodiles Passage to Cumana 248

CHAPTER XXI.

PASSAGE TO HAVANA, AND RESIDENCE IN CUBA.

Passage from New-Barcelona to Havana Description of the latter Ex
tent of Cuba Geological Constitution Vegetation Climate Popula



CONTENTS. 13

lion Agriculture Exports Preparations for Joining Captain Baudin'y
Expedition Journey to Batabano, and Voyage to Trinidad de Cuba 25*

CHAPTER XXII.

VOYAGE FROM CUBA TO CARTHAGENA.

Passage from Trinidad of Cuba to Carthagena Description of the laUer
Village of Turbaco Air-volcanoes Preparations for ascending the
RioMagdalena 266

CHAPTER XXIII.

BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE JOURNEY FROM CARTHAGENA TO
QUITO AND MEXICO.

Ascent of the Rio Magdalena Santa Fe de Bogota Cataract of Tequen-
dama Natural Bridges of Icononzo Passage of Quindiu Cargueros
Popayan Quito Cotopaxi and Chimborazo Route from Quito to
Lima Guayaquil Mexico Guanaxuato Volcano of Jorullo Pyra-
mid of Cholula 279

CHAPTER XXIV.

DESCRIPTION OF NEW-SPAIN OR MEXICO.

General Description of New- Spain or Mexico Cordilleras Climates
Mines-^-Ri vers^ Lakes S oil-=- Volcan oes- Harbours Popul ation
Provinces Valley Of Mexico, and Description of the Capital Inunda-
tions, and Works undertaken for the Purpose of preventing them. . 297

CHAPTER XXV.

STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF NEW-SPAIN CONTINUED.

Agriculture of Mexico Banana, Manioc, and Maize Cereal Plants-
Nutritive Roots and Vegetables Agave Americana Colonial Com-
modities Cattle, and Animal Productions 325

CHAPTER XXVI.

MINES OF NEW-SPAIN.

Mining Districts Metalliferous Veins and Beds Geological Relations
of the Ores Produce of the Mines Recapitulation 338

CHAPTER XXVII.

PASSAGE FROM VERA CRUZ TO CUBA AND PHILADELPHIA,
AND VOYAGE TO EUROPE.

Departure from Mexico Passage fo Havana and Philadelphia Return

to Europe Results of the Journeys in America 347

B



14 CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

JOURNEY TO ASIA.

Brief Account of Humboldt's Journey to Asia, with a Sketch of the Four
great Chains of Mountains which intersect the central Part of that
Continent 352



ENGRAVINGS.

VIGNETTE Basaltic Rocks and Cascade of Regla.

Dragon-tree of Orotava Page 42

Humboldt's Route on the Orinoco 112

Jaguar, or American Tiger 183

Air- volcanoes of Turbaco 274

Costumes of the Indians of Mechoacan 295



THE

TRAVELS AND RESEARCHES

OF

BARON HUMBOLDT.



CHAPTER i.;;

Introduction.

Birth and Education of Humboldt His early Occupations He resolves
to visit Africa Is disappointed in his Views, and goes to Madrid,
where he is introduced to the King, and obtains Permission to visit
the Spanish Colonies Observations made on the Journey through
Spain Geological Constitution of the Country between Madrid and
Corurma Climate Ancient Submersion of the Shores of the Medi-
terranean Reception at Corunna, and Preparations for the Voyage to
South America.

WITH the name of Humboldt we associate all that
is interesting in the physical sciences. No travel-
ler who has visited remote regions of the globe, for
the purpose of observing the varied phenomena of
nature, has added so much to our stock of positive
knowledge. While the navigator has explored the
coasts of unknown lands, discovered islands and
shores, marked the depths of the sea, estimated the
force of currents, and noted the more obvious traits
in the aspect of the countries at which he has
touched; while the zoologist -has investigated the
multiplied forms of animal life, the botanist the di-
versified vegetation, the geologist the structure and



16 INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

relations of the rocky masses of which the exterior
of the earth is composed ; and while each has thus
contributed to the illustration of the wonderful con-
stitution of our planet, the distinguished traveller
whose discoveries form the subject of this volume
stands alone as uniting in himself a knowledge of all
these sciences. Geography, meteorology, magnet-
ism, the distribution of heat, the various depart-
ments of natural history, together with the affinities
of races and languages, the history of nations, the
political constitution of countries, statistics, com-
merce, and agriculture, all have received accumu-
lated and valuable additions from the exercise of his
rare talents. The narrative of no traveller, there-
fore, could be more interesting to the man of varied
information. But as from a work like that of which
the present volume constitutes a part subjects strictly
scientific must be excluded, unless when they can
be treated in a manner intelligible to the public at
large, it may here be statfl^that many of the inves-
tigations of which we present the results must be
traced in the voluminous works which the author
himself has published. At the same time enough
will be given to gratify the scientific reader ; and
while the narrative of personal adventure, the diver-
sified phenomena of the physical world, the condi-
tion of societies, and the numerous other subjects
discussed, will afford amusement and instruction, let
it be remembered that truths faithfully extracted
from the book of nature are alone calculated to en-
large the sphere of mental vision ; and that, while
fanciful description is more apt to mislead than to
direct the footsteps of the student, there is reflected
from the actual examination of the material universe
a light which never fails to conduct the mind at once
to sure knowledge and to pious sentiment.

Frederick Henry Alexander Von Humboldt was
born at Berlin, on the 14th of September, 1769. He
received his academic education at Gottingen and



BIRTH AND EDUCATION OF HUMBOLDT. 17

Frankfort on the Oder. In 1790 he ^isited Holland
and England in company with Messrs. George Fors-
ter and Van Getms, and in the same year published
his first work, entitled " Observations on the Basalts
of the Rhine." In 1791 he went to Freyberg to re-
ceive the instructions of the celebrated Werner, the
fouiyler of geological science. The results of some
of his observations in the mines of that district
were published in 1793, under the title of Specimen
Flora. Fribergensis Subterranean.

Having been appointed assessor of the Council of
Mines at Berlin in 1792, and afterward director-
general of the mines of the principalities of Bareith
and Anspach in Franconia, he directed his efforts to
the formation of public establishments in these dis-
tricts ; but in 1795 he resigned his office with the
view of travelling, and visited part of Italy. His
active and comprehensive mind engaged in the study
of all the physical sciences ; but the discoveries of
Galvani seem at this period to have more particularly-
attracted his attention. The results of his experi-
ments on animal electricity were published in 1796,
with notes by Professor Blumenbach. In 1795 he
had gone to Vienna, where he remained some time,
ardently engaged in the study of a fine collection of
exotic plants in that city. He travelled through
several cantons of Salzburg and Styria with the
celebrated Von Buch, but was prevented by the war
which then raged in Italy from extending his journey
to that country, whither he was anxious to proceed
for the purpose of examining the/ volcanic districts
of Naples and Sicily. Accompanied by his brother
William Von Humboldt and Mr. Fischer, he then
visited Paris, where he formed an acquaintance with
M. Aime Bonpland, a pupil of the School of Medicine
arid Garden of Plants, who, afterward becoming his
associate in travel, has greatly distinguished himself
by his numerous discoveries in botany.

Humboldt, from his earliest youth, had cherished
B2



18 JOURNEY TO SPAIN.

an ardent desire to travel into distant regions little
known to Europeans; and having at the age of
eighteen resolved to visit the New Continent, he
prepared himself by examining some of the most
interesting parts of Europe, that he might be enabled
to compare the geological structure of these two
portions of the globe, and acquire a practical ac-
quaintance with the instalments best adapted for
aiding him in his observations. Fortunate in pos-
sessing ample pecuniary resources, he did not expe-
rience the privations which have disconcerted the
plans and retarded the progress of many eminent
individuals ; but, not the less subject to unforeseen
vicissitudes, he had to undergo several disappoint-
ments that thwarted the schemes which, like all
men of ardent mind, he had indulged himself in
forming. Meeting with a person passionately fond
of the fine arts, and anxious to visit Upper Egypt, he
resolved to accompany him to that interesting coun-
try ; but political events interfered, and forced him
to abandon the project. The knowledge of the
monuments of the more ancient nations of the Old
World, which he acquired at this period, was sub-
sequently of great use to him in his researches in
the New Continent. An expedition of discovery to
the southern hemisphere, under the direction of
Captain Baudin, then preparing in France, and \vith
which MM. Michaux and Bonpland were to be asso-
ciated as naturalists, held out to him the hope of
gratifying his desire of exploring unknown regions.
But the war which broke out in Germany and Italy
compelled the government to withdraw the funds
allotted to this enterprise. Becoming acquainted
with a Swedish consul who happened to pass through
Paris, with the view of embarking at Marseilles on
a mission to Algiers, he resolved to embrace the
opportunity thus offered of visiting Africa, in order
to examine the lofty chain of mountains in the em-
pire of Morocco, and ultimately to join the body of



GEOLOGY AND CLIMATE OF SPAIN. 19

scientific men attached to the French army in Egypt,
Accompanied by his friend Bonpland, he therefore
betook himself to Marseilles, where he waited for
two months the arrival of the frigate which was to
convey the consul to his destination. At length,
learning that this vessel had been injured by a
storm, he resolved to pass the winter in Spain, in
hopes of finding another the following spring.

On his way to Madrid, he determined the geo-
graphical position of several important parts, and
ascertained the height of the central plain of Castile.
In March, 1799, he was presented at the court of
Aranjuez, and graciously received by the king, to
whom he explained the motives which induced him
to undertake a voyage to the New Continent. Be-
ing .seconded in his application by the representa-
tions of an enlightened minister, Don Mariano Luis
de Urquijo, he to his great joy obtained leave to visit
and explore, without impediment or restriction, all
the Spanish territories in America. The impatience
of the travellers to take advantage of the permission
thus granted did not allow them to bestow much
time upon preparations; and about the middle of
May they left Madrid, crossed part of Old Castile,
Leon, and Galicia, and betook themselves to Co-
runna, whence they were to sail for the island of
Cuba.

According to the observations made by our travel-
lers, the interior of Spain consists of an elevated
table-land, formed of secondary deposites, sand-
stone, gypsum, rock-salt, and Jura limestone. The
climate of the Castiles is much colder than that of
Toulon and Genoa, its mean temperature scarcely
rising to 59 of Fahrenheit's thermometer. The
central plain is surrounded by a low and narrow belt,
in several parts of which the fan-palm, the date, the
sugar-cane, the banana, and many plants common to
Spain and the north of Africa vegetate, without suf-
fering from the severity of the winter. In the space



ARRIVAL AT CORUNNA.

included between the parallels of thirty-six and forty
degrees of north latitude the mean temperature
ranges from 62'6 to 68'2 Fahrenheit, and by a con-
currence of favourable circumstances this section
has become the principal seat of industry and intel-
lectual cultivation.

Ascending from the shores of the Mediterranean,
towards the elevated plains of La Mancha and the
Castiles, one imagines that he sees far inland, in the
extended precipices, the ancient coast of the Penin-
sula ; a circumstance which brings to mind the tra-
ditions of the Samothracians and certain historical
testimonies, according to which the bursting of the
waters through the Dardanelles, while it enlarged the
basin of the Mediterranean, overwhelmed the south-
ern part of Europe. The high central plain just de-
scribed would, it may be presumed, resist the effects
of the inundation until the escape of the waters by
the strait formed between the Pillars of Hercules,



Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt : being a condensed narrative of his journeys in the equinoctial regions of America, and in Asiatic Russia : together with analysis of his more important investigations → online text (page 1 of 28)