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was removed by a needle from any of the cells, these organs did not
appear in the least affected. When one of the vulture-like heads
was cut off from the cell, the lower mandible retained its power of
opening and closing. Perhaps the most singular part of their
structure is, that when there were more than two rows of cells on a
branch, the central cells were furnished with these appendages, of
only one-fourth the size of the outside ones. Their movements
varied according to the species; but in some I never saw the least
motion; while others, with the lower mandible generally wide open,
oscillated backwards and forwards at the rate of about five seconds
each turn; others moved rapidly and by starts. When touched with a
needle, the beak generally seized the point so firmly that the
whole branch might be shaken.

These bodies have no relation whatever with the production of the
eggs or gemmules, as they are formed before the young polypi appear
in the cells at the end of the growing branches; as they move
independently of the polypi, and do not appear to be in any way
connected with them; and as they differ in size on the outer and
inner rows of cells, I have little doubt that in their functions
they are related rather to the horny axis of the branches than to
the polypi in the cells. The fleshy appendage at the lower
extremity of the sea-pen (described at Bahia Blanca) also forms
part of the zoophyte, as a whole, in the same manner as the roots
of a tree form part of the whole tree, and not of the individual
leaf or flower-buds.

In another elegant little coralline (Crisia?) each cell was
furnished with a long-toothed bristle, which had the power of
moving quickly. Each of these bristles and each of the vulture-like
heads generally moved quite independently of the others, but
sometimes all on both sides of a branch, sometimes only those on
one side, moved together coinstantaneously; sometimes each moved in
regular order one after another. In these actions we apparently
behold as perfect a transmission of will in the zoophyte, though
composed of thousands of distinct polypi, as in any single animal.
The case, indeed, is not different from that of the sea-pens,
which, when touched, drew themselves into the sand on the coast of
Bahia Blanca. I will state one other instance of uniform action,
though of a very different nature, in a zoophyte closely allied to
Clytia, and therefore very simply organised. Having kept a large
tuft of it in a basin of salt-water, when it was dark I found that
as often as I rubbed any part of a branch, the whole became
strongly phosphorescent with a green light: I do not think I ever
saw any object more beautifully so. But the remarkable circumstance
was, that the flashes of light always proceeded up the branches,
from the base towards the extremities.

The examination of these compound animals was always very
interesting to me. What can be more remarkable than to see a
plant-like body producing an egg, capable of swimming about and of
choosing a proper place to adhere to, which then sprouts into
branches, each crowded with innumerable distinct animals, often of
complicated organisations. The branches, moreover, as we have just
seen, sometimes possess organs capable of movement and independent
of the polypi. Surprising as this union of separate individuals in
a common stock must always appear, every tree displays the same
fact, for buds must be considered as individual plants. It is,
however, natural to consider a polypus, furnished with a mouth,
intestines, and other organs, as a distinct individual, whereas the
individuality of a leaf-bud is not easily realised; so that the
union of separate individuals in a common body is more striking in
a coralline than in a tree. Our conception of a compound animal,
where in some respects the individuality of each is not completed,
may be aided, by reflecting on the production of two distinct
creatures by bisecting a single one with a knife, or where Nature
herself performs the task of bisection. We may consider the polypi
in a zoophyte, or the buds in a tree, as cases where the division
of the individual has not been completely effected. Certainly in
the case of trees, and judging from analogy in that of corallines,
the individuals propagated by buds seem more intimately related to
each other, than eggs or seeds are to their parents. It seems now
pretty well established that plants propagated by buds all partake
of a common duration of life; and it is familiar to every one, what
singular and numerous peculiarities are transmitted with certainty,
by buds, layers, and grafts, which by seminal propagation never or
only casually reappear.


(PLATE 43. BERKELEY SOUND, FALKLAND ISLANDS.)



CHAPTER X.

(PLATE 44. YORK MINSTER (BEARING SOUTH 66 DEGREES EAST.)

Tierra del Fuego, first arrival.
Good Success Bay.
An account of the Fuegians on board.
Interview with the savages.
Scenery of the forests.
Cape Horn.
Wigwam Cove.
Miserable condition of the savages.
Famines.
Cannibals.
Matricide.
Religious feelings.
Great gale.
Beagle Channel.
Ponsonby Sound.
Build wigwams and settle the Fuegians.
Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel.
Glaciers.
Return to the ship.
Second visit in the ship to the settlement.
Equality of condition amongst the natives.

TIERRA DEL FUEGO.

DECEMBER 17, 1832.



Having now finished with Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, I will
describe our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon
we doubled Cape St. Diego, and entered the famous Strait of Le
Maire. We kept close to the Fuegian shore, but the outline of the
rugged, inhospitable Staten-land was visible amidst the clouds. In
the afternoon we anchored in the Bay of Good Success. While
entering we were saluted in a manner becoming the inhabitants of
this savage land. A group of Fuegians partly concealed by the
entangled forest, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea;
and as we passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered
cloaks sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed
the ship, and just before dark we saw their fire, and again heard
their wild cry. The harbour consists of a fine piece of water half
surrounded by low rounded mountains of clay-slate, which are
covered to the water's edge by one dense gloomy forest. A single
glance at the landscape was sufficient to show me how widely
different it was from anything I had ever beheld. At night it blew
a gale of wind, and heavy squalls from the mountains swept past us.
It would have been a bad time out at sea, and we, as well as
others, may call this Good Success Bay.

In the morning the Captain sent a party to communicate with the
Fuegians. When we came within hail, one of the four natives who
were present advanced to receive us, and began to shout most
vehemently, wishing to direct us where to land. When we were on
shore the party looked rather alarmed, but continued talking and
making gestures with great rapidity. It was without exception the
most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld: I could not
have believed how wide was the difference between savage and
civilised man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated
animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement.
The chief spokesman was old, and appeared to be the head of the
family; the three others were powerful young men, about six feet
high. The women and children had been sent away. These Fuegians are
a very different race from the stunted, miserable wretches farther
westward; and they seem closely allied to the famous Patagonians of
the Strait of Magellan. Their only garment consists of a mantle
made of guanaco skin, with the wool outside: this they wear just
thrown over their shoulders, leaving their persons as often exposed
as covered. Their skin is of a dirty coppery-red colour.

The old man had a fillet of white feathers tied round his head,
which partly confined his black, coarse, and entangled hair. His
face was crossed by two broad transverse bars; one, painted bright
red, reached from ear to ear and included the upper lip; the other,
white like chalk, extended above and parallel to the first, so that
even his eyelids were thus coloured. The other two men were
ornamented by streaks of black powder, made of charcoal. The party
altogether closely resembled the devils which come on the stage in
plays like Der Freischutz.

Their very attitudes were abject, and the expression of their
countenances distrustful, surprised, and startled. After we had
presented them with some scarlet cloth, which they immediately tied
round their necks, they became good friends. This was shown by the
old man patting our breasts, and making a chuckling kind of noise,
as people do when feeding chickens. I walked with the old man, and
this demonstration of friendship was repeated several times; it was
concluded by three hard slaps, which were given me on the breast
and back at the same time. He then bared his bosom for me to return
the compliment, which being done, he seemed highly pleased. The
language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely
deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a
man clearing his throat, but certainly no European ever cleared his
throat with so many hoarse, guttural, and clicking sounds.

They are excellent mimics: as often as we coughed or yawned, or
made any odd motion, they immediately imitated us. Some of our
party began to squint and look awry; but one of the young Fuegians
(whose whole face was painted black, excepting a white band across
his eyes) succeeded in making far more hideous grimaces. They could
repeat with perfect correctness each word in any sentence we
addressed them, and they remembered such words for some time. Yet
we Europeans all know how difficult it is to distinguish apart the
sounds in a foreign language. Which of us, for instance, could
follow an American Indian through a sentence of more than three
words? All savages appear to possess, to an uncommon degree, this
power of mimicry. I was told, almost in the same words, of the same
ludicrous habit among the Caffres; the Australians, likewise, have
long been notorious for being able to imitate and describe the gait
of any man, so that he may be recognised. How can this faculty be
explained? is it a consequence of the more practised habits of
perception and keener senses, common to all men in a savage state,
as compared with those long civilised?

When a song was struck up by our party, I thought the Fuegians
would have fallen down with astonishment. With equal surprise they
viewed our dancing; but one of the young men, when asked, had no
objection to a little waltzing. Little accustomed to Europeans as
they appeared to be, yet they knew and dreaded our firearms;
nothing would tempt them to take a gun in their hands. They begged
for knives, calling them by the Spanish word "cuchilla." They
explained also what they wanted, by acting as if they had a piece
of blubber in their mouth, and then pretending to cut instead of
tear it.

I have not as yet noticed the Fuegians whom we had on board. During
the former voyage of the "Adventure" and "Beagle" in 1826 to 1830,
Captain Fitz Roy seized on a party of natives, as hostages for the
loss of a boat, which had been stolen, to the great jeopardy of a
party employed on the survey; and some of these natives, as well as
a child whom he bought for a pearl-button, he took with him to
England, determining to educate them and instruct them in religion
at his own expense. To settle these natives in their own country
was one chief inducement to Captain Fitz Roy to undertake our
present voyage; and before the Admiralty had resolved to send out
this expedition, Captain Fitz Roy had generously chartered a
vessel, and would himself have taken them back. The natives were
accompanied by a missionary, R. Matthews; of whom and of the
natives, Captain Fitz Roy has published a full and excellent
account. Two men, one of whom died in England of the smallpox, a
boy and a little girl, were originally taken; and we had now on
board, York Minster, Jemmy Button (whose name expresses his
purchase-money), and Fuegia Basket. York Minster was a full-grown,
short, thick, powerful man: his disposition was reserved, taciturn,
morose, and when excited violently passionate; his affections were
very strong towards a few friends on board; his intellect good.
Jemmy Button was a universal favourite, but likewise passionate;
the expression of his face at once showed his nice disposition. He
was merry and often laughed, and was remarkably sympathetic with
any one in pain: when the water was rough, I was often a little
sea-sick, and he used to come to me and say in a plaintive voice,
"Poor, poor fellow!" but the notion, after his aquatic life, of a
man being sea-sick, was too ludicrous, and he was generally obliged
to turn on one side to hide a smile or laugh, and then he would
repeat his "Poor, poor fellow!" He was of a patriotic disposition;
and he liked to praise his own tribe and country, in which he truly
said there were "plenty of trees," and he abused all the other
tribes: he stoutly declared that there was no Devil in his land.
Jemmy was short, thick, and fat, but vain of his personal
appearance; he used always to wear gloves, his hair was neatly cut,
and he was distressed if his well-polished shoes were dirtied. He
was fond of admiring himself in a looking glass; and a merry-faced
little Indian boy from the Rio Negro, whom we had for some months
on board, soon perceived this, and used to mock him: Jemmy, who was
always rather jealous of the attention paid to this little boy, did
not at all like this, and used to say, with rather a contemptuous
twist of his head, "Too much skylark." It seems yet wonderful to
me, when I think over all his many good qualities, that he should
have been of the same race, and doubtless partaken of the same
character, with the miserable, degraded savages whom we first met
here. Lastly, Fuegia Basket was a nice, modest, reserved young
girl, with a rather pleasing but sometimes sullen expression, and
very quick in learning anything, especially languages. This she
showed in picking up some Portuguese and Spanish, when left on
shore for only a short time at Rio de Janeiro and Monte Video, and
in her knowledge of English. York Minster was very jealous of any
attention paid to her; for it was clear he determined to marry her
as soon as they were settled on shore.

Although all three could both speak and understand a good deal of
English, it was singularly difficult to obtain much information
from them concerning the habits of their countrymen; this was
partly owing to their apparent difficulty in understanding the
simplest alternative. Every one accustomed to very young children
knows how seldom one can get an answer even to so simple a question
as whether a thing is black OR white; the idea of black or white
seems alternately to fill their minds. So it was with these
Fuegians, and hence it was generally impossible to find out, by
cross-questioning, whether one had rightly understood anything
which they had asserted. Their sight was remarkably acute; it is
well known that sailors, from long practice, can make out a distant
object much better than a landsman; but both York and Jemmy were
much superior to any sailor on board: several times they have
declared what some distant object has been, and though doubted by
every one, they have proved right when it has been examined through
a telescope. They were quite conscious of this power; and Jemmy,
when he had any little quarrel with the officer on watch, would
say, "Me see ship, me no tell."

It was interesting to watch the conduct of the savages, when we
landed, towards Jemmy Button: they immediately perceived the
difference between him and ourselves, and held much conversation
one with another on the subject. The old man addressed a long
harangue to Jemmy, which it seems was to invite him to stay with
them. But Jemmy understood very little of their language, and was,
moreover, thoroughly ashamed of his countrymen. When York Minster
afterwards came on shore, they noticed him in the same way, and
told him he ought to shave; yet he had not twenty dwarf hairs on
his face, whilst we all wore our untrimmed beards. They examined
the colour of his skin, and compared it with ours. One of our arms
being bared, they expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration
at its whiteness, just in the same way in which I have seen the
ourang-outang do at the Zoological Gardens. We thought that they
mistook two or three of the officers, who were rather shorter and
fairer, though adorned with large beards, for the ladies of our
party. The tallest amongst the Fuegians was evidently much pleased
at his height being noticed. When placed back to back with the
tallest of the boat's crew, he tried his best to edge on higher
ground, and to stand on tiptoe. He opened his mouth to show his
teeth, and turned his face for a side view; and all this was done
with such alacrity, that I daresay he thought himself the
handsomest man in Tierra del Fuego. After our first feeling of
grave astonishment was over, nothing could be more ludicrous than
the odd mixture of surprise and imitation which these savages every
moment exhibited.

The next day I attempted to penetrate some way into the country.
Tierra del Fuego may be described as a mountainous land, partly
submerged in the sea, so that deep inlets and bays occupy the place
where valleys should exist. The mountain sides, except on the
exposed western coast, are covered from the water's edge upwards by
one great forest. The trees reach to an elevation of between 1000
and 1500 feet, and are succeeded by a band of peat, with minute
alpine plants; and this again is succeeded by the line of perpetual
snow, which, according to Captain King, in the Strait of Magellan
descends to between 3000 and 4000 feet. To find an acre of level
land in any part of the country is most rare. I recollect only one
little flat piece near Port Famine, and another of rather larger
extent near Goeree Road. In both places, and everywhere else, the
surface is covered by a thick bed of swampy peat. Even within the
forest, the ground is concealed by a mass of slowly putrefying
vegetable matter, which, from being soaked with water, yields to
the foot.

Finding it nearly hopeless to push my way through the wood, I
followed the course of a mountain torrent. At first, from the
waterfalls and number of dead trees, I could hardly crawl along;
but the bed of the stream soon became a little more open, from the
floods having swept the sides. I continued slowly to advance for an
hour along the broken and rocky banks, and was amply repaid by the
grandeur of the scene. The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded
with the universal signs of violence. On every side were lying
irregular masses of rock and torn-up trees; other trees, though
still erect, were decayed to the heart and ready to fall. The
entangled mass of the thriving and the fallen reminded me of the
forests within the tropics - yet there was a difference: for in
these still solitudes, Death, instead of Life, seemed the
predominant spirit. I followed the watercourse till I came to a
spot where a great slip had cleared a straight space down the
mountain side. By this road I ascended to a considerable elevation,
and obtained a good view of the surrounding woods. The trees all
belong to one kind, the Fagus betuloides; for the number of the
other species of Fagus and of the Winter's Bark is quite
inconsiderable. This beech keeps its leaves throughout the year;
but its foliage is of a peculiar brownish-green colour, with a
tinge of yellow. As the whole landscape is thus coloured, it has a
sombre, dull appearance; nor is it often enlivened by the rays of
the sun.

DECEMBER 20, 1832.

One side of the harbour is formed by a hill about 1500 feet high,
which Captain Fitz Roy has called after Sir J. Banks, in
commemoration of his disastrous excursion which proved fatal to two
men of his party, and nearly so to Dr. Solander. The snow-storm,
which was the cause of their misfortune, happened in the middle of
January, corresponding to our July, and in the latitude of Durham!
I was anxious to reach the summit of this mountain to collect
alpine plants; for flowers of any kind in the lower parts are few
in number. We followed the same watercourse as on the previous day,
till it dwindled away, and we were then compelled to crawl blindly
among the trees. These, from the effects of the elevation and of
the impetuous winds, were low, thick and crooked. At length we
reached that which from a distance appeared like a carpet of fine
green turf, but which, to our vexation, turned out to be a compact
mass of little beech-trees about four or five feet high. They were
as thick together as box in the border of a garden, and we were
obliged to struggle over the flat but treacherous surface. After a
little more trouble we gained the peat, and then the bare slate
rock.

A ridge connected this hill with another, distant some miles, and
more lofty, so that patches of snow were lying on it. As the day
was not far advanced, I determined to walk there and collect plants
along the road. It would have been very hard work, had it not been
for a well-beaten and straight path made by the guanacos; for these
animals, like sheep, always follow the same line. When we reached
the hill we found it the highest in the immediate neighbourhood,
and the waters flowed to the sea in opposite directions. We
obtained a wide view over the surrounding country: to the north a
swampy moorland extended, but to the south we had a scene of savage
magnificence, well becoming Tierra del Fuego. There was a degree of
mysterious grandeur in mountain behind mountain, with the deep
intervening valleys, all covered by one thick, dusky mass of
forest. The atmosphere, likewise, in this climate, where gale
succeeds gale, with rain, hail, and sleet, seems blacker than
anywhere else. In the Strait of Magellan, looking due southward
from Port Famine, the distant channels between the mountains
appeared from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this
world.

DECEMBER 21, 1832.

(PLATE 45. CAPE HORN.)

(PLATE 46. CAPE HORN (ANOTHER VIEW).)

The "Beagle" got under way: and on the succeeding day, favoured to
an uncommon degree by a fine easterly breeze, we closed in with the
Barnevelts, and running past Cape Deceit with its stony peaks,
about three o'clock doubled the weather-beaten Cape Horn. The
evening was calm and bright, and we enjoyed a fine view of the
surrounding isles. Cape Horn, however, demanded his tribute, and
before night sent us a gale of wind directly in our teeth. We stood
out to sea, and on the second day again made the land, when we saw
on our weather-bow this notorious promontory in its proper
form - veiled in a mist, and its dim outline surrounded by a storm
of wind and water. Great black clouds were rolling across the
heavens, and squalls of rain, with hail, swept by us with such
extreme violence, that the Captain determined to run into Wigwam
Cove. This is a snug little harbour, not far from Cape Horn; and
here, at Christmas-eve, we anchored in smooth water. The only thing
which reminded us of the gale outside was every now and then a puff
from the mountains, which made the ship surge at her anchors.

DECEMBER 25, 1832.

Close by the cove, a pointed hill, called Kater's Peak, rises to
the height of 1700 feet. The surrounding islands all consist of
conical masses of greenstone, associated sometimes with less
regular hills of baked and altered clay-slate. This part of Tierra
del Fuego may be considered as the extremity of the submerged chain
of mountains already alluded to. The cove takes its name of
"Wigwam" from some of the Fuegian habitations; but every bay in the
neighbourhood might be so called with equal propriety. The
inhabitants, living chiefly upon shell-fish, are obliged constantly
to change their place of residence; but they return at intervals to
the same spots, as is evident from the piles of old shells, which
must often amount to many tons in weight. These heaps can be
distinguished at a long distance by the bright green colour of
certain plants, which invariably grow on them. Among these may be
enumerated the wild celery and scurvy grass, two very serviceable
plants, the use of which has not been discovered by the natives.

The Fuegian wigwam resembles, in size and dimensions, a haycock. It
merely consists of a few broken branches stuck in the ground, and



Online LibraryCharles DarwinThe Voyage of the Beagle → online text (page 21 of 51)