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CHANGE OF SCENERY.
nearly approaching to the vertical. It is, I believe, a portion of the original rock skeleton that formed the axis of the Andean chain during the long ages that preceded the great volcanic outbursts that have covered over the framework of the western side of South America. Like most peaks of a similar form, I am disposed to believe that in the course of gradual upheaval the flanks have been carved by marine action to the nearly vertical form which impresses the beholder. Although snow-covered mountains suffer a certain limited amount of denudation in the channels through which glaciers flow, there is reason to hold that they are far less subject to degradation than those which are not protected from the main agencies that wear away rocky surfaces. It is by alternations of temperature, by frost, and the action of running water, that rocks are rapidly eaten away, and from these a snow-covered mountain is to a great extent secured. : 'A few miles east of Cape Froward the coast of the mainland trends nearly due north for a distance of fully sixty miles, and a marked change is perceived in the aspect of the shores. Instead of the bold outlines to which our eyes had become accustomed, the coastline lay low, fringed with forest on the side of the mainland, which now lay to our west, and on the other hand showing bare flats, here and there flecked with fresh snow. The land on that side at first belonged to Dawson Island ; but later in the day, as we approached our destination, the dreary flats formed part of Northern Tierra del Fuego.
The weather was thick as we passed Port Famine,
and there was little to attract attention until we drew near to Sandy Point, a place that was to me the more interesting as I intended to make it my home until the arrival of the next English steamer. The belt of forest rose over low swelling hills near the sea, and in the distance a loftier range, from two to three thousand feet in height, showed a nearly horizontal line against the cloudy sky. As we approached, several structures of painted wood became visible, and for the first time since we left Lota we beheld human dwellings. Sandy Point, known to the natives of South America by the equivalent name Punta Arenas, is certainly one of the most isolated of inhabited spots to be found in the world. Since the scramble for Africa has set in, it is, I suppose, only on the Australian coast that one would find any settlement so far removed from neighbours or rivals. On the side of Chili the nearest permanent habitations are in the island of Chiloe, fully seven hundred miles distant in a straight line, and considerably farther by the only practicable route. On the side of Argentaria there is a miserable attempt at a settlement at the mouth of the river Santa Cruz, where the Argentine Government has thought it expedient to hoist their flag in order to assert the rights of sovereignty of the Confederation over the dreary wastes of South-eastern Patagonia. This was described to me as a group of half a dozen wooden sheds, where a few disconsolate soldiers spend a weary time of exile from the genial climate of Buenos Ayres. By the sea route it is about four hundred miles from Sandy Point, but no direct communication between the two places is kept
ISOLATION OF SANDY POINT.
up. For all practical purposes, the nearest civilized neighbours to Sandy Point are the English colonists in the Falkland Islands, where, in spite of inhospitable soil and climate, some of our countrymen have inanaged to attain to tolerable prosperity, chiefly by sheep-farming. But with an interval of nearly five hundred miles of stormy ocean mutual intercourse is neither easy nor frequent.
Arrival at Sandy Point-Difficulties as to lodging-Story of
the mutiny-Patagonian ladies-Agreeable society in the
The time had come for parting with my genial fellow-traveller, Mr. H, with our excellent captain, and with the officers of the Rhamses, to all of whom I felt indebted for friendly aid in my pursuits ; and on entering the boat that was to take me ashore I was introduced to the captain of the port, an important official of German origin. Of his various excellent qualities, the only one that I at first detected was a remarkable gift of taciturnity, rarely interrupted by a single monosyllable. I was aware that accommodation for strangers at Sandy Point is extremely limited,
ARRIVAL AT SANDY POINT.
but I consoled myself with a belief that, if it came to the worst, the letter which I carried to the governor from the minister for foreign affairs at Santiago would help me through any preliminary difficulties. On reaching the shore, my luggage was without further question carried to a house close by, which is at this place the sole representative of a hotel. The accommodation available for strangers consists of a single room of fair dimensions, and this, as I soon learned, was occupied by a stranger. A glance at the multitudinous objects scattered about made me feel sure that the visitor must be a brother naturalist, but did not help me to solve the immediate difficulty. As I stood at the entrance, a dark-haired person, speaking pretty good English, proposed to take me to the house of the English vice-consul, and in his company I had the first view of the settlement of Sandy Point. As the ground rises very gently from the beach, few houses are seen from the sea, and the place is not so inconsiderable as it at first appears. Though rather to be counted as a village than as a town, it has the essential privilege of a Spanish city in the possession of a plaza, not yet quite surrounded by houses. The buildings are small, and nearly all built of wood painted outside.
The next piece of information received was favourable to my prospects. An Argentine corvette had reached Sandy Point a few days before, and the vice-consul had been invited, along with the governor and other notabilities, to a luncheon, which was likely to last for some time. I was fortunately provided with a note of introduction to Dr. Fenton, the