Alexander von Humboldt.

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then existing by half a degree of longitude and as much
of latitude. The thermometer during the night indicated
from 80° to 84°, and in the day 86°. The water of the
river was 81-7°, and that of a spring 82°.

Having spent some days at the mission of Maypures, change of
the travellers embarked at two in the afternoon in the scenerj-.
canoe procured at the turtle island, which, although
considerably damaged by the carelessness of the Indians,
was judged sufficient for the long voyage they had yet
to perform. Above the great cataracts they found
themselves as it were in a new world. Toward the
east, in the extreme distance, rose the great chain of the
Cunavami mountains, one of the peaks of which, named
Calitamini, reflects at sunset a reddish glare of light.
After encountering one more rapid, they entered upon
smooth water, and passed the night in a rocky island.

On the 22d they set out at an early hour. The
morning was damp but delicious, and not a breath of
wind was felt ; a perpetual calm reigning to the south


CHAP.Xviii. of tlie cataracts, which Humholdt attributes to the
Perpluial windings of the rivers, the shelter of mountains, and the
c»ilm- almost incessant rains. In the valley of the Amazon,

on the contrary, a strong breeze rises every day at two
in the afternoon, which, however, is felt only along the
line of the current. It always moves against the stream,
and bv means of it a boat may go up the Amazon under
sail a length of 2590 miles. The great salubrity of this
district is probably owing to the gale. They passed the
moutiis of several streams, and admired the grandeur of
the cerros of Sipapo, a branch of-the cordillera of Parime,
tile aspect of which varied every hour of the day. At
sunrise, the dense vegetation with which they are
covered was tinged with a dark-green inclining to brown,
while broad and deep shadows were projected over the
neigh])Ouring plain, forming a strong contrast with the
vivid light diffused around. Toward noon the shadows
disappeared, and the whole group was veiled in an azure
vapour, which softened the outlines of the rocks, mode-
rated the effects of light, and gave the landscape an
Mouth of tiie aspect of calmness and repose. Landing at the mouth
Wo Vichada. q^- ^j,g j^j^ Vichada to examine the vegetation, they
found numberless small granitic rocks rising from the
plain, and presenting the appearance of prisms, ruined
columns, and towers. The forest was thin, and at the
confluence of the two rivers, the rocks and even the soil
were covered with mosses and lichens. M. Bonpland
found several specimens of Laurus cinnamomoides, a
Cinnamon very aromatic species of cinnamon, which, together
'"l" """"'•'fe' with the American nutmeg, the pimento, and Laurus
pucheri, Humboldt remarks, would have become import-
ant objects of trade, had not Europe, at the i>eriod when
the New World was discovered, been already accustomed
to tlie spices of India. The travellers rested at night on
tile bank of the Orinoco, at the mouth of the Zama.
This river is one of those which are said to have Ijlack
water, as it appears of a dark-brown or greenish-black ;
and here they entered the system of rivers to which the


name of Aguas Negras is given. The colour is supposed CHAP, xvili.
to be owing to a solution of vegetable matter, and the ^ —
Indians attribute it to the roots of sarsaparilla. Negras.

At three in the morning of the 23d they continued Mouth of tlie
their voyage, and passed the mouth of the Rio IMataveni. ''!« /"^lata-
The banks were still skirted by forests, but tlie moun-
tains on the east retired farther back. The traces left
by the floods were not higher than eight feet. At the
place where they passed the night, multitudes of bats
issued from the crevices, and hovered around their
hammocks. Next day a violent rain obliged them to
set out at a very early hour. In the afternoon they
landed at the Indian plantation of San Fernando, and
after midnight arrived at the mission, where they were
received with the kindest hospitality.

The village of San Fernando de Atabapo is situated San Fernando
near the confluence of the Orinoco, the Atabapo, and the ^'^ Atabapo.
Guaviare ; the latter of which Humboldt thinks might
with more propriety be considered the continuation of
the Orinoco than a branch. The number of inhabitants
did not exceed 226. The missionary liad the title of
president of the stations on the Orinoco, and superin-
tended the twenty-six ecclesiastics settled on its banks
as well as on those of the Rio Negro, Casiquiare,
Atabapo, and Caura. The Indians were a little more Indians,
civilized than the inmates of the other establishments,
and cultivated cacao in small quantities, together with
cassava and plantains. Tliey were surrounded with
good jjasturage, but not more than seven or eight cows
were to be seen. The most striking object in the
neighbourhood was the pirijao palm, which lias a
thorny trunk more than sixty-four feet high, pinnated
leaves, and clusters of fruit two or three inches in
diameter, and of a purple colour. The fruit furnishes a
farinaceous substance, of a colour resembling that of the
yolk of an egg, which when boiled or roasted affords a
very wholesome and agreeable aliment.

On entering the Rio Atabapo the travellers found a
great change in the scenery, the colour of the stream.



Slow pro-

CHAP XVIII. and the constitution of the atmosphere. The trees were
—7^ of a different species ; the mosquitoes had entirely dis-
appeared ; and the waters, instead of being turbid and
loaded with earthy matter, were of a dark colour, clear,
agreeable to the taste, and four degrees cooler. So
great is their transparency, tliat the smallest fishes are
distinguishable at tlie depth of twenty or thirty feet ;
and the bottom, which consists of white quartzy sand,
is usually visible. The banks covered with plants,
among which rise numerous palms, are reflected by the
surface of the river with a vividness almost as bright as
that of the objects themselves. Above the mission no
crocodiles occur, but their place is supplied by bavas
and fresli-water dolphins. The chiguires, howling-
monkeys, and zamuro-vultures had disappeared, though
jaguars were still seen, and the water-snakes were
extremely numerous.

On the 26th the travellers advanced only eight or
ten miles, and passed the night on a rock near the
Indian plantations of Guapasoso. At two in the morning
they again set out, and continued to ascend the river.
About noon the\' passed the granitic rock named Piedra
del Tigre, and at the close of the day had great difficulty
in finding a suitable place for sleeping, owing to the
inundation of the banks. It rained hard from sunset,
and as tlie missionary had a fit of tertian fever they re-
ombarked immediately after midnight. At dawn they
landed to examine a gigantic ceiba-tree, which was
nearly 128 feet in height, with a diameter of fifteen or
sixteen feet. On the 29th the air was cooler, but
loaded with vapours, and the current being strong they
advanced slowly. It was niglit when they arrived at
tile mission of San Baltasar, where they lodged with a
C.italan priest, a livel^^ and agreeable person. The
village was l)uilt with great regularity, and the planta-
tions seemed l^etter cultivated than elsewhere.

At a late hour in tlie morning they left his abode,
and after ascending the Atabapo for five miles entered
the Rio Tcmi. A granitic rock on the western bank of



the former river attracted tlieir attention. It is called the CHAP.xvm
Piedra de la Gualiiba or Picdra de la Madrc, and com- xiie rT
memorates one of those acts of oppression of which Guaviaro.
Europeans are guilty in all countries whenever they
come into contact with savages. The missionary of San
Fernando had led his people to the banks of the Rio
Guaviare on a hostile excursion. In an Indian hut they
found a Guahibo woman, with three children, occupied
in preparing cassava-flour. She and her little ones
attempted to escape, but were seized and carried away.
The unhappy female repeatedly fled Avith her children ouahibo
from the village, but was always traced by her Christian woman,
countrymen. ^ At length the friar, after causing her to
be severely beaten, resolved to separate her from her
family, and sent her up the Atabapo toward the missions
of the Rio Negro. Ignorant of the fate intended for
her, but judging by the direction of the sun that her
persecutors were carrying her far from her native coun-
try, she burst her fetters, leaped from the boat, and
swam to the left bank of the river. She landed on a
rock ; but the president of the establishment ordered
the Indians to row to the shore and lay hands on her.
She was brought back in the evening, stretched upon
the bai"e stone (the Piedra de la Madre), scourged with
straps of manatee leather, which are the ordinary whips
of the country, and then dragged to the mission of
Javita, her hands bound behind her back. It was the
rainy season, the night was excessively dark, forests
believed to be impenetrable stretched from that station
to San Fernando over an extent of 86 miles, and the
only communication between these places was by the
river ; yet the Guahibo mother, breaking her bonds, jiatenijU
and eluding the vigilance of her guards, escaped under ^flection.
night, and on the fourth morning was seen at the vil-
lage, hovering around the hut which contained her
children. On this journey she must have undergone
hai-dships from which the most robust man would have
shrunk ; was forced to live upon ants, to swim numerous
streams, and to make her way through thickets and


CHAP. XVIII. tliorny lianas. And the reward of all tliis courage and

r, r~Z devotion was — her removal to one of the missions of
Barbanty , . . ,, . ,

of fhe the U})i)er Orinoco, where, despainng oi ever seenig her

missionaries, ijp]^^.^.,] cliildren, and refusing all kind of nourishment,
she died, a victim to the bigotry and barbarity of wretches
blasphemously calling themselves the ministers of a
reliirion wliich inculcates universal benevolence.
EioTeinj. Above the mouth of the Guasucavi the travellers

entered the Rio Tenii, which runs from south to north.
The ground was flat and covered with trees, over which
rose the pirijao palm with its clusters of peach-like
fruits, and the Manritia aculeata, with fan-shaped leaves
pointing downwards, and marked with concentric circles
blue and green. Wherever the river forms sinuosities
the forest is flooded to a great extent ; and, to shorten
the route, the boat frequently pushed through the woods
along open avenues of water four or five feet broad.
An Indian furnished with a large knife stood at the
bow continually cutting the branches wliich obstructed
the passage. In the thickest part of it a shoal of fresh-
water dolphins issued from beneath the trees and sur-
rounded the vessel. At five in the evening tlie travel-
lers, after sticking for some time between two trunks,
and experiencing other difficulties, regained the proper
channel, and passed the night near one of the columnar
masses of granite which occasionally protrude from tlie
level surface.
Saiiinc Setting out before daybreak, they remained in the

througli tlie bed of the river till sunrise, when, to avoid the force of
the current, they again entered the inundated forest ;
and soon arriving at the junction of the Temi with the
Tuamini, they followed the latter toward the south-
west. At eleven they reached San Antonio de Javita,
where they liad the pleasure of finding a very intelli-
gent and agreeable monk : though they were obliged to
remain nearly a week, while the boat was carried by
land to the Rio Negro. For two days the travellers
Jiad felt an extraordinary irritation on the joints of the
fingers and on the back of the hands, which the mission-


ary informed them was caused by insects. Nothing CHAP.xviit
could be distinguished with a lens but parallel streaks ... r~~
of a whitish colour, the form of which has obtained for
these animalculae the name of aradores, or ploughmen.
A mulatto woman engaged to extirpate them one by
one, and digging with a small bit of pointed wood, at
length succeeded in extracting a little round bag ; but
Humboldt did not possess suflficient patience to wait for
relief from so tedious an operation. Next day, how-
ever, an Indian effected a radical cure by means of the
infusion of bark stripped from a certain shrub.

In 1755, before the expedition to the boundaries, the Slave trade,
country between the missions of Javita and San Baltasar
was dependent on Brazil, and the Portuguese had ad-
vanced from the Rio Negro as far as the banks of the
Temi. An Indian chief named Javita, one of their
auxiliaries, pushed his hostile excursions to a distance
of more than 345 miles ; and, being furnished with a
patent for drawing the natives from the forest " for the
conquest of souls," did not fail to make use of it for
selling slaves to his allies. When Solano, one of the javita.
leaders of the expedition just described, arrived at San
Fernando de Atabapo, he seized the adventurer, and by
treating him with gentleness gained him over to the
interests of the Spaniards. He was still living when the
travellers proceeded to the Rio Negro ; and, as he at-
tended them in all their botanical excursions, they
obtained much information from him. He assured
them, that he had seen almost all the Indian tribes
which inhabit the vast countries between the Upper
Orinoco, tlie Rio Negro, the Irinida, and the Jupura,
devour human flesh. Their cannibalism he considered
as the effect of a system of revenge, as they eat only
enemies who are made prisoners in battle.

The climate of the mission of San Antonio dc Javita Rainy
is so rainy that the sun and stars are seldom to be seen, '^'™i'p-
and the padre informed the travellers that it sometimes
rained without intermission for four or five months.
The water that fell in five hours on the first of May,


CHAP.XVIIL Ilumholdt found to be 21 lines in height, and on the
Quaiiuty of 2*^ ^^ ^^'"^y '^^ collected 14 lines in three hours ; whereas
ruin. at Paris tliere fall only 28 or 80 lines in as many weeks.

The temperature is lower than at Maypures, hut higher
than on the Rio Negro ; the thermometer standing at
79~ or 80-6° by da^-, and at 69-8' by night.
Indian boats. The Indians of the mission amounted only to 160.
Some of them were employed in the construction of boats,
which are formed of the trunks of a species of laurel
(Ocotea cynibarum), hollowed by means of fire and the
axe. These trees attain a height of more than a hundred
feet, and have a yellow resinous wood which emits an
agreeable odour. The forest between Javita and Pimi-
chin affords an immense quantity of gigantic timber, as
tall occasionally as 106 or 117 feet; but as the trees
give out branches only towards the summit, the tra-
vellers were disappointed, amid so great a profusion of
unknown species, in not being able to procure the
leaves and flowers. Besides, as it rained incessantly so
long a time, M. Bonpland lost the greater part of his
dried specimens. Although no pines or firs occur in
these woods, balsams, resins, and aromatic gums, are
abundantly furnished by many other trees, and are col-
lected as objects of trade by the people of Javita.
Gum of the ^^ *'^^ mission of San Baltasar they had seen the
licvta tixc natives jireparing a kind of elastic gum, which they said
was found under ground ; and in the forests at Javita,
the old Indian who accom])anied them showed that it
was obtained by digging several feet deep among the roots
of two particular trees, the ITcvea of Aubletand one with
pinnate leaves. This substance, which bears the nanie
of dapicho, is white, corky, and brittle, with a laminated
structure and undulating edges ; but on being roasted it
assumes a black colour, and acquires the properties of
Knth-e The native's of these countries live in hordes of forty

liurdu-s. Qf fifty, and unite under a common chief only when

they wage war with tlieir neighbours. As the different
tribes speak different languages, they have little com-


munication. They cultivate cassava, plantains, and CIIAP.XVIIL

sometimes maize ; but shift from place to place, so that ^ , r~ .
., ,-11 ^1 1 , , . . , Cultivation,

they entirely lose the advantages resulting m other

countries from agricultural habits. They have two
great objects of worship, — the good principle, Cachimana,
who regulates the seasons and favours the harvests ; and
the evil principle, Jolokiamo, less powerful, but more
active and artful. They have no idols ; but the botuto,
or sacred trumpet, is an oliject of veneration, the initia-
tion into the mysteries of which requires pure manners
and a single life. Women are not permitted to see it,
and are excluded from all the ceremonies of this religion.

It took the Indians more than four days to drag the Bite of a
boat upon rollers to the Rio Fimichin. One of them, a *"^®'
tall strong man, was bitten by a snake, and was brought
to the mission in a very alarming condition. He had
dropped down senseless, and was afterwards seized with
nausea, vertigo, and a determination of blood to the head,
but was cured by an infusion of raiz de mato ; respecting
the plant furnishing which, Humboldt could obtain no Ciuo.
satisfactory information, although he supposes it to be of
the family of Apocynese. In the hut of this individual
he observed balls of an earthy and impure salt, two or
three inches in diametei*. It is obtained by reducing to
ashes the spadix and fruit of a palm-tree, and consists
of muriate of potash and soda, caustic lime, and otlier
ingredients. The Indians dissolve a few grains in water,
which they drop on their food.

On the 5th May the travellers setoff on foot to follow Dangerous
their canoe. They had to ford numerous streams, the ^"'^'^
passage of which was somewhat dangerous on account
of the number of snakes in the marshes. After passing
through dense forests of lofty trees, among which they
noted several new species of coffee and other plants, they
arrived toward evening at a small farm on the Pimichin,
where they passed the night in a deserted hut, not
without apprehension of being bitten by serpents, as
they were obliged to lie on the floor. Before they took
possession of this shed their attendants killed two great



Kio N'ctn-o.

CHAP. XV III. Mapanarc snakes, and in the morning a large viper was
Snakes and found heneatli the jaguar-skin on which one of them
vipei-s. had slept. This species of serpent is white on the belly,

spotted with brown and black on the back, and grows to
the length of four or five feet. Humboldt remarks, that
if vipers and rattlesnakes had such a disposition for
offence as is usually supposed, the human race could not
have resisted them in some parts of America.

Embarking at sunrise they proceeded down the Pimi-
chin, whieli is celebrated for the number of its windings.
It is navigal)le during tlie whole year, and has only one
rapid. In four hours and a half they entered the Rio
Negro. " The morning," says Humboldt, " was cool
and beautiful ; we had been confined thirty-six days in
a narrow canoe, so unsteady that it would have been
overset by any one rising imprudently from his seat,
without warning the rowers to preserve its balance by
leaning to tlie opposite side. We had suffered severely
from the stings of insects, but we had withstood the in-
saluln-ity of the climate ; we had passed without accident
the numerous falls and bars that impede the navigation
of the rivers, and often render it more dangerous than
long voyages by sea.

" After all that we had endured, I may be allowed to
of Humboldt mention the satisfaction which we felt in having reached
the tributaries of the Amazon, — in having passed the
isthmus which separates two great systems of rivers, —
and in having attained a certainty of fulfilling the most
important object of our journey, — that of determining
l)y astronomical observations the course of that arm of
the Orinoco whieli joins the Rio Negro, and whose ex-
istence had been alternately proved and denied for half a
century. In these inland regions of the New Continent
we almost accustom ourselves to consider man as inessen-
tial to the order of nature. The earth is overloaded with
plants, of which nothing impedes the development. An
immense layer of mould evinces the uninterrupted action
of the organic powers. The crocodiles and boas are
masters of the river ; the jaguar, pecari, dante, and



monkeys of numerous species, traverse the forest witliout CIIAP.XVIII
fear and without danger, residing there as in an ancient Jr^^J^ —
heritage. On the ocean and on the sands of Africa, we of wiw
with difficulty reconcile ourselves to the disapj^earance '""^''^
of man ; but here his absence, in a fertile country
clothed with perpetual verdure, produces a strange and
melanclioly feeling."

The Rio Negro, which flows eastward into the Amazon, importance
was for ages considered of great political importance by «/ ii'« li'"
the Spanish government, as it would have furnished to
the Portuguese an easy introduction into the missions of
Guiana. The jealousies of these rival nations, the
ignorance and diversified languages of the Indians, the
difficulty of penetrating into these inland regions, and
other causes, rendered the knowledge of the sources,
as well as the tributaries of the Negro and Orinoco,
extremely defective. To endeavour to throw some light
on this geographical point, and in particular to determine
the course of that branch of the Orinoco which joins the Object of
Rio Negro, was the great object of Humboldt's journey. Humboidfs
This last, or Black River, is so named on account of the
dark colour of its waters, wliich are of an amber hue
wherever it is shallow, and dark-brown wherever the
depth is great. After entering it by the Pimichin, and
passing the rapid at the confluence of the two streams,
the travellers soon reached the mission of Maroa, con-
taining 150 Indians, where they purchased some fine
toucans. Passing the station of Tomo they visited that
of Davipe, where they were received by the missionary pavipe
with great hospitality. Here they bought some fowls station,
and a pig, which interested their servants so much that
they pressed them to depart, in order to reach the island
of Dapa where the animal might be roasted. They
arrived at sunset, and found some cultivated ground and
an Indian hut. Four natives were seated round a fire
eating a kind of paste, consisting of large ants, of which
several bags were suspended over the fire. There were
more than fourteen persons in this small cabin, lying
naked in the hammocks placed above each other. They




The Casi-

CHAP. XVIII. received Father Zea with great joy, and two young
wonien prepared cassava-cakes ; after which the tra-
vellers retired to rest. The family slept only till two in
the morning, when they began to converse in their
hammocks. This custom of being awake four or five
hours before sunrise Humboldt found to be general among
the people of Guiana ; and hence, when an attempt is
made to surprise them, the first part of the night is
chosen for the purpose.

Proceeding down the Rio Negro they passed the
mouth of the Casiquiare, the river by which a commu-
nication is effected between the former and the Orinoco ;
and towards evening reached the mission of San Carlos
del Rio Negro, with the commander of which they
lodged. The military establishment of this frontier-
post consisted of seventeen soldiers, ten of whom were
detached for the security of the neighbouring stations.
The voyage from the mouth of the Rio Negro to Grand
Para occupying only twenty or twenty-five days, it
would not have taken much more time to have ,gone
down the Amazon to the coast of Brazil, than to return
by the Casiquiare and Orinoco to that of Caraccas ; but
our travellers were informed that it was difficult to pass
from the Spanish to the Portuguese settlements ; and it
was well for them that they declined this route, for they
afterwards learned that instructions had been issued to

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