Raphael Pumpelly.

Travels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer online

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" I don't understand what you mean."

" I mean that you went away from your mother for a
day, and without sending her any word you have been
God knows where for four months. You carried off the
family letter of credit, and because the London banker
has repeatedly written that he has had no drafts from
you, your mother has at last concluded that you are dead.
That's what I mean."


The tears came to my eyes, as I told him of the two
letters I had written in my first days in Corsica, and of
others that I had intrusted to shepherds to send via
Bastia to Florence.

"Well, they never arrived, and your poor mother is

There was just time to catch the train for Florence.

In a state of great and remorseful agitation, I rang the
bell at the Pension Molini. The maid who opened the
door started back with an exclamation. Kind, old
Madame Molini, who was near, rushed forward to as-
sure herself that it was really I in my very shabby

" Your poor mother," she said with tears running down
her cheeks, " is in the garden. She sits there all day by
herself. She must not see you till I shall have prepared

So I waited. It was some time before Madame Molini
came back. " You can go now," she said, " I have
broken the news gently, there will be no shock."

My dear mother: how well I remember how she put
her arms around me and looked at me through tears of
joy. Then making me sit by her, she waited for the ex-

I told her of my letters, and why no drafts had gone
to London. She did not upbraid me. She made me
stand, and looked me over.

" You have grown since you left. You went away a
boy. I think you have come back a man." Then she
kissed me.

At Vienna, where we had arrived to make a short
stay on our way to Germany, we thought it quite time
that the question of my education should be seriously
considered. A day or two after our arrival there was


a notice in the morning paper of the meeting of a society
similar to our Association for the Advancement of Sci-
ence. Reading that the sessions were open to the public,
I strolled over to listen. At the entrance men were regis-
tering their names. I asked an old gentleman if I, being
a foreigner, should register. He asked if I were a nat-
uralist, to which I replied that I was not, but that I was
much interested in geology. He told me to enter my
name and take a card. Then he made me go in and sit
by him. During the rather long interval before the
opening of the session, he asked where I had studied
geology. I answered that I had had no formal instruc-
tion, but an interest in it had led me to learn what I
could by observation and collecting among the Jurassic
strata of Hanover, in the tertiary basin of Paris, and in
the volcanic field around Naples. I said that I had spent
several months observing among the porphyries of Cor-
sica. I added that my knowledge was limited to what
I had been able to observe, as I knew nothing of min-
eralogy except the names and appearances of a few min-

My notebook was in my pocket, and I showed some
of my simple sketches of details, and one in which I had
tried to represent in an ideal manner the relative ages
of the different dikes of intrusive rocks in Corsica. My
new friend seemed much interested, and remarked that
it was a good way to begin. After that he asked many
questions about my life in Corsica. When the session
was about to open, he handed me his card and took mine.
He said he was Professor of Geology in the University
of Bonn, and he added that he hoped to see me at times
during the days of the meeting. His card bore the name
of Noeggerath, the great geologist.

During the following days Professor Noeggerath


showed me much kindness, taking pains to explain many
things that were being exhibited at the meeting.

Professor Noeggarath advised me to go to the Royal
Mining Academy at Freiberg in Saxony. He said the
instruction in geology, mineralogy, and chemistry was
of the best. After talking it over with my mother I
accepted his advice, which was already very much to my
mind, and it marked a crucial point in my life. For had
I not met Professor Noeggerath I should probably have
gone to a university. Had I done so, my wish for a
wider general education would, with my interest in the
past, have probably led me to concentrate on history and
ancient literature. In any event the whole trend of my
life and all that that means, would have been entirely
different. All this was determined by seeing a notice in
a newspaper and by a casual question put to a kindly old
gentleman. I will paraphrase the Corsican injunction
for hospitality and say: Sacred are the obligations of
courtesy and kindness to the stranger.

My mother and I left Vienna to go to Dresden, the
nearest railway station to Freiberg. It was just a year
since the day I had left Vienna before.

At Dresden I parted from my dear mother. She had
been a comrade in many excursions. Her unbounded
faith in me, though not always justified, made for good
in me, and her poetic nature and sympathy with my as-
pirations tended strongly to develop both the imagina-
tive side in me and earnestness of purpose.

I remember well her last command, given between
tears and kisses:

" My dear boy, whatever your work is to be, aim for
the highest in your profession, and for honesty in your
conduct through life."



FREIBERG has been an active mining center certainly
since the twelfth century, and probably much longer.
On its square, stand houses said to have been built six
hundred years ago over old mines. The ground under
it, and under its surroundings, is honeycombed with six
hundred miles of galleries. A large part of this was done
before the use of powder. In my time one could enter
galleries whose sides and roofs were hewed with hammer
and point to a straight, even surface. Within a radius
of a few miles, there were still operating a number of
large mines producing silver, copper, lead, and zinc ores.
Near the town were extensive works preparing the ores
for the local smelting works. These mines were deep,
I think one had reached a depth of about 2,000 feet.
When I arrived they were accessible only by ladders.
Before I left the miners came out on man-engines.
These were made by bracketing little steps on the great
hewed beams that formed the rods of the Cornish pumps.
When one rod went up, the other went down; in the
instance of pause you stepped across onto the correspond-
ing step on the other rod, and rose perhaps six feet ; and
so back and forth holding onto an iron near your head,
in the rod. I think this was the first form of man-engine.

I hear now that the mining industry at Freiberg has
come to an end, through exhaustion of ores, it is said.



The quaint old town, from which so many memories
have been carried to all quarters of the globe, will be-
long to the past ; but in the dark recess beneath, will still
be heard the hammers of the gnomes, and there will al-
ways wander the ghosts of long generations of miners.

In this quaint old mining town, I spent three of the
happiest years of my life. Here as a student of geology
and mining I laid the foundation for that expert knowl-
edge which made possible my long career as a mining
engineer in my own country and in foreign lands.

Life-long friendships were formed with students from
many countries. The professors, in our social gather-
ings and in the many excursions to neighboring regions,
were delightfully informal and companionable. 1

Much time was spent in the mines, observing the prac-
tical application of our lessons in mining, the manner of
occurrence of the ores, and the vein structure.

In the first year we had to descend nearly 2,000 feet
on almost vertical ladders and, what was harder of
course, to climb out by the same route. To protect the
head from objects dropped from persons climbing above
us, we wore stiff caps of very thick felt.

I saw very soon that my previous training in mathe-
matics had been woefully slighted, and that this would
be a serious handicap. Something drastic had to be done

1 The startling changes in the demeanor and spirit of all classes
of society which I noted on a visit to Germany nearly fifty years
later would have made the admirable condition described in the
text impossible. In my time the men who had made Germany
preeminent in pure science were teaching unhampered by politics.
Now, there had been made a great change in the methods and
aims of education. Many of the greater minds had been brought
to the enlarged University of Berlin where, as among the lower
schools of Germany, tactfully and through the bestowing of
titles, education was gradually both commercialized and diverted
to further the aim of Empire expansion that culminated in the
Great War.


at once, or I should not be able to take even the courses
in surveying and elementary physics. Private lessons
would be necessary, and there was no time for these dur-
ing the day. There came to me the remembrance of how
my friend Dunham and I had read Latin every morning,
from four o'clock on, in New Haven. So with some
difficulty I found a German student who was so des-
perately in need of money as to be willing to tackle such
a job. It seemed easy to me. Perhaps he thought so
too. I planned to get up at three, have a cold bath, and
be ready at four. That too seemed easy when I went
to bed. The first morning, a continuous succession of
loud knockings brought me to the door, and to a realiza-
tion that it was four o'clock. After this had happened
several times, I hired a young man whose business it was
to bring my tub of water at three-thirty, pull off my
blankets, carry them away, and see to the fire in the big
porcelain stove ; all this under pain of quick dismissal.

This worked; as a darkey would say, it was
" obleeged " to work ; the cold water waked me, and cof-
fee kept us both awake. The tutor was much better as a
teacher than I as a pupil. He didn't succeed in making
a mathematician of me, but he did, during the nearly
three years we kept this up, make it possible for me to
follow the courses profitably, though by dint of much re-
viewing by myself, because I lacked the necessary kind
of a memory. We had to work at a too rapid pace.

One laughable incident will illustrate the indulgence
with which students and student pranks were treated at
this institution.

There was an American student, of German descent,
who supplied the community with some serio-comic ex-
citement. He was a remarbable marksman with the
pistoL His room was in the rear of the house he lived


in, and there were two large courtyards between his win-
dows and the opposite houses. It amused him to pick
out, with balls from his pistol, the panes of glass in the
windows of one of these houses. One day, seeing a
woman hanging out a wash to dry, he fired and cut the
clothes-line. The woman, frightened and bewildered at
the sight of the clothes on the ground, hesitated, but
bravely set to work and restored the line, only to have it
broken again at her side; then she fled.

The neighbors, in the rear, watched while this prac-
tising continued several days, and at last succeeded in
locating the culprit. He was arrested and tried. The
case was so out of the order of events in the staid Ger-
man community, that the court room was crowded. We
all went there, but I remember only one incident. The
prisoner, who took the whole proceeding as a joke, sat,
with his legs crossed, in a chair at the edge of a raised
platform near his advocate, who was arguing in defense.
When the lawyer, producing his strongest plea, said:
" It must be remembered that this gentleman comes from
a land where even the principal cities, New York and
Boston, are surrounded by savage Indians, and where
every man and woman is obliged to carry firearms in
self-defense. It is quite natural, where all become un-
erringly skilful, like this young gentleman, that the use
of firearms is thought proper in practical jokes."

At this point the defendant, who was sitting with his
chair tilted, burst out with laughter, lost his balance,
and went over backward off the dais onto the floor. He
got off with a fine.



I WISHED to spend the vacation of the summer of
1857 in the mountains of Corsica, making the journey via
Paris. I wanted to study the geology of the island, in
the light of knowledge I had obtained during the past
year. I had, too, a longing for the wild life, and for

I had seen many mouflons and deer, and these added to
the temptation: for they were not allowed to be shot.

A few years before my visit, the French Government,
in its attempt to stop the vendetta, had forbidden the
use, or even the possession, of firearms. The only ex-
ceptions were the soldiers and gendarmerie, and Prince
Pierre Bonaparte who lived there in exile. For every
one else, the penalty was the galleys.

I had noticed that some of the shepherds had guns,
but no ammunition. So I managed to smuggle in as
much powder and lead as I dared to carry, trusting to
finding bullet-molds among my friends. Fortunately my
examination at the Customs in Bastia was confined to
questioning as to whether I had spirits or tobacco. For-
tunately, too, I found the men who had been my guides
in the previous year, and who were glad to go with me.

In a bergerie where I was welcomed as an acquaintance
of the previous year, I found that they had some anti-
quated guns. The eyes of the shepherds opened, with



alternate delight and hesitation, at the sight of the small
store of gunpowder and lead that I showed them. They
hunted up molds and we made bullets.

Above us towered a lofty mountain, with large fields of
snow on its upper northern side. Below us was a deep
gorge, with precipitous sides, but which, nearer to the
sea, opened out into a still narrow but wooded valley.

Above us were flocks of mouflons. The valley below
abounded in deer.

We climbed the mountain and after much search saw
a troop of mouflons grazing below the snow. They were,
however, out of range, and the wind was in the wrong
direction. We made a descent and a long detour to get
into a better position. After much climbing and creep-
ing we caught glimpses of them almost within range;
then, just as we were ready to fire, we heard a sound
between a cry and a whistle, and saw the whole troop
scamper away. The men pointed out a solitary mouflon
standing on a distant eminence; this one they said was
a sentinel, and that one was always placed to watch.

The shepherds proposed a battue for deer in the valley
below us. About seven or eight miles down the valley
it was crossed by the road along the coast. The plan was
to send men down to near the road, to drive the deer up
the valley to where it narrowed into a canyon. Here we
should be able to intercept the game. Near the road
were two high points from which any one moving on the
road could be seen. To each of these points a man was
sent to pile materials for a fire, to make a column of
smoke in case of danger. A lookout was placed above
our position to watch for the signal.

After waiting a long time, several of the small Corsican
deer came running towards us. We were three, with
guns, and all of us fired. The deer stopped, whirled


about, and, before we could reload, disappeared up the
gentler slopes of the valley below the gorge.

At the same time came a shout of warning from the
lookout above, who had seen a smoke signal. We
hastened back to the bergerie, where the shepherds lost
no time in carefully hiding their guns among the rocks.

Soon the men who had driven the game came in, fol-
lowed later by the sentinels, who reported having seen
two gendarmes moving on the road.

The next day one of my guides told me that I had not
done wisely to bring ammunition among these people.
Only its absence prevented fatal results in quarrels.

That night I wandered away from the bergerie, and
scattered my powder to the winds, and buried the lead.

Thus ended my plan for hunting mouflon and deer.
It had, however, been an experience. It dawned on me
also that geologizing and hunting such watchful game
were not entirely congruous.

My chief reason for visiting the mountains was to
study the porphyries, as well as some phenomena I had
seen the year before, which, after reading Agassiz's work
on the Swiss glaciers, I now thought might be traces of
extinct glacial activity.

It was in the valleys in the Niolo below Mount Baglia
Orba, that I found what I felt sure were traces of glacial
action. Here at the foot of Baglia Orba, in the Viro
valley, one of the tributaries of the river Golo, the un-
weathered surfaces of the hard porphyries were rounded
off, grooved and striated in a manner to be explained
only by the action of moving ice. Below this the river
had deepened its channel along the edge of a moraine
which rilled the valley to a height of 100 feet above the
rushing waters.

We almost always slept under the stars wherever night-


fall or fatigue suggested a halt. Sometimes we claimed
the hospitality of the shepherds. I remember one cold
night in the hut of a bergerie. The smoke was suffocat-
ing, and the fleas more attentive than usual. Several
times that night I went out into the frosty moonlight and
stripped. Each garment was turned inside out, shaken,
and thrown to a distance, till I stood naked; then I
scooped the fleas off from my skin, and, jumping to where
lay my clothes, dressed and returned to gather a fresh


SEPTEMBER was far advanced, and the nights were
growing cold on the crest of the range. There came a
night when I awoke to find myself being covered with
snow. I had only the cloak that had served, the previous
year, for clothing and for bedding. There was no shel-
ter near at hand: so I resigned myself to the inevitable.
The snow was dry; I covered my face with my broad-
brimmed hat, hoping that enough snow would fall to keep
me warm; it did until a morning wind Drifted it
away. We made a stationary camp in a cave near a

Here I made a memorable acquaintance who was des-
tined to bring me into many embarrassing situations.
One of the shepherds had a mouflon. The animal had
been captured soon after birth. He had been nursed by
a ewe, and had grown up among successive generations
of tame sheep. He had been treated with uniform kind-
ness, as a pet, and was thoroughly tame. But he was a
ram, and was probably the oldest one in the flock. He
was big. So also were his horns. To the bucking abil-
ity of the tame rams, he added the skill of countless gen-
erations of wild ancestors. He inspired respect not only
in the other rams, but in the dogs and the men.

I bought him. I did this in a moment of youthful in-
experience, and of enthusiastic anticipation of the ad-
miration to be aroused on his introduction to European
and American civilization.



While I camped by the bergerie, I cultivated in my
mouflon an 'inspiring interest, if not affection, toward
myself, by dint of much petting, but more effectively by
liberal feeding. The good things in my pockets were a
source of unending attraction. So, in time, I could not
escape from him except by tying him up. If I hid my-
self, he would trace me out, apparently by scent. ' He
came like a dog when I whistled.

I was pleased. The other students went around glory-
ing in their dogs; I foresaw the spectacular effect of a
mouflon trotting by my side.

The mouflon is one of the several varieties of wild
sheep that live near the snow line on the high mountains
of Asia, Africa, and America. He nearly resembles the
bighorn of the Rocky Mountains. He stands between
twenty-six and twenty-eight inches high, with horns
curved in a rather flat spiral. The body is covered with
a silky hair, which hides the wool underneath. His close
relationship to the domestic sheep is shown, according to
Buffon, by the fact that he can produce with it a fertile

The mouflons move in troops, and live and bring forth
their young on the snow, descending, during the day,
below the snow line to graze. In very severe winters,
when the pasturage is wholly covered they come into the
villages among the sheep for food.

When taken soon after birth, they are tame, and, if
uniformly well-treated, remain tolerably docile, but can
be very fiercely aggressive with their heavy horns. In
climbing they are more agile than goats and can jump
horizontally eighteen or twenty feet.

Their cousin, the Ovis Poll, on the Pamirs and Hima-
layas, is much larger, with horns extending far outward
in a pointed spiral. My son Raphael saw, on the Pamir,


one skull with horns spreading nearly five feet across
from point to point.

The time had come for me to return to Freiberg.
Again I was to leave behind me the care-free life of the
mountain heights, the nights under the starlit heavens ;
the majesty of the mountains illuminated in the awful
silerice of the moonlit night. No more should I be
startled from sleep by the echoing crash of thunder and
the blaze of lightning. All these had made part of my
life, adding mystery to the romance. Those months had
been full of adventure, and I felt that they had been
educationally profitable. I had carried through a system-
atic study of the varied porphyries and the dikes of a
large region, and I felt a youthful pride in having dis-
covered traces of glaciers at a point farther south than
before known.

I may add that when, a year later, I showed to the
eminent French geologist, Cordier, my illustrations of the
correlation of the dikes, he pleased me by asking if he
might publish it, if I did not intend to make use of it

With some difficulty, I don't remember how, I suc-
ceeded in getting my mouflon and my rocks to the main
highway, where I hired transportation to Bastia.

I went aboard the Leghorn steamer. I tied the
mouflon at the side of the deck, and went below to the
noon meal just as the boat started, but hearing a great
noise on the deck over me, I rushed up. The mouflon
had preferred his native land and started for it. He was
towing at the length of his rope in the sea. The engine
was stopped and with everybody's help, he was lifted
aboard and tied up short. He seemed resigned, but
kept inquisitive interviewers at a respectful distance.

I meant to go to Florence for a few days : so on arriv-


ing at Leghorn I asked a sailor where I could find a
place to board the animal.

" My mother, Signore, would take good care of him,"
he answered.

So, getting into a carriage with the mouflon, we drove
till we came to a large apartment house, where we climbed
to an upper floor and I was introduced to a very respecta-
ble looking woman.

I told her my mission. She looked at the animal doubt-
fully ; and he hopefully at her. She gave him a piece of
bread from the table by her side, and he let her pet

"E carino!" (he's a dear) she said. "Yes, I will
take good care of him."

" But where can you keep him, have you a yard ? " I

She led me into the hall and opened a door.

*' Look Signore; here will I keep him."

I looked into a room about twelve feet square. It was
a kitchen, very neat, with an Italian cooking range. A
whole batterie of copper cooking vessels hung on the wall ;
and there were shelves with crockery, and, under these,
numerous receptacles for foodstuffs. She was probably
a caterer.

When I objected, she insisted:

" Have no fear," she said ; " don't I promise you that
you shall find him all right when you come? Ah! he is
so gentle ! "

So, after tying the mouflon in the kitchen, I went
on my way with a light heart. Traveling had become

After perhaps a week in Florence, I returned to Leg-
horn, and drove to get the mouflon. As I left the car-
riage, I saw the old woman just coming out of the house.


As soon as she saw me, she began to talk and gesticulate
excitedly. Evidently something was wrong with my

I hurried up the stairs, the woman following. The
kitchen door was locked; she gave me the key. There
was noise within. I opened the door. The mouflon stood

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Online LibraryRaphael PumpellyTravels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer → online text (page 5 of 23)