Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

light may be thrown upon the matter by a scientific traveller able to spare the necessary time. So far as I know, no such abrupt and complete a change is known elsewhere in the world. I was unable to obtain any information as to a range of hills or mountains, marked in Arrowsmith's map “Sa. Amatapi,” which appears to extend east or east-north-east from Cape Parinas. Its height can scarcely be considerable, as it does not appear to have attracted the attention of the seamen who are familiar with this coast; but, on the other hand, there is some reason to think that the southerly breezes prevailing on the coast do not extend to any great height above the sea-level. It would be interesting if we should find on the opposite sides of a range of unimportant hills the same contrasts of climate and vegetation that are known to prevail between the eastern and western slopes of the Peruvian Andes. *

Along the coast of Northern Peru are numerous small islets, evidently at some period detached com

* The abrupt change in the vegetation on this part of the American coast has been noticed by Humboldt, Weddell, and other scientific travellers. In a note to the French edition of Grisebach (“ Vegetation du Globe,” traduit par P. de Tchihatcheff, ii. p. 615), M. André expresses the opinion that this, as well as some other cases of abrupt change in the vegetation observed by him in Colombia, are to be explained by the nature of the soil, which in the arid tracts is sandy or stony, and fails to retain moisture. Admitting that in certain cases this may afford a partial explanation of the facts, it is scarcely conceivable that the limit of the zone wherein little or no rain falls should exactly coincide with a change in the constitution of the soil, and I should be more disposed to admit a reversed order of causation, the porous and mobile superficial crust remaining in those tracts where, owing to deficient rainfall, there is no formation of vegetable mould, and no accumulation of the finer sediment forming a retentive clay.

GUANO ISLANDS.

53

the continent either by subsidence or by marine erosion. Here, in the almost complete absence of rain, were formed those secular accumulations deposited by sea-birds, which, when known in Europe under the name of guano, suddenly rivalled the mines of the precious metals as sources of easily acquired wealth. The two most considerable groups are respectively named Lobos de tierra and Lobos de afuera ; a smaller group near to Payta is also called Lobos. At the western end of the largest of the latter group the waves have excavated a natural arch, which, after a sufficient period of further excavation, will fall and give rise to a new detached islet. A brisk southerly breeze made the air feel cooler than it had done since we entered the tropics, as we ran about due south until sunset, when, after passing abreast of the promontory of Ajulla, our course was altered to nearly due south-east. I was assured by a native passenger that the promontory of Ajulla, for a distance of thirty or forty miles, is an absolute desert, without a drop of water or the slightest trace of vegetation. Experience has made me somewhat sceptical as to statements of this nature made by non-scientific observers. During the day we frequently observed a fish which appears distinct from the flying-fish of the Atlantic. The pectoral fins appear to be less developed, and in consequence the flight is shorter, and the animal seems to have less command over its movements.

Our course on April 14 lay rather far from land. It was known that yellow fever had broken out at Truxillo, and it was decided that we should run direct to Callao, without touching at that or any of the smaller places on the coast sometimes visited by the steamers. Although the air appeared to be somewhat hazy, the range of the Cordillera, more than a hundred miles distant, was distinctly seen in the afternoon. Very soon after we ran into a dense bank of fog, in which we were immersed for several hours, our cautious captain remaining meanwhile on the bridge, and the frequent cry of the steam-whistle ceased only when we steamed out of the fog into a brilliant star-lit night.

These fogs, which are frequent along the Peruvian coast, are the chief, if not the only, difficulty with which the navigator has to contend. When they rest over the land it becomes extremely difficult to make the ports, and at sea they involve the possible risk of collision. If this risk is at present but slight, it must become more serious when intercourse increases, as it must inevitably do if the Ship Canal should ever be completed ; and for the general safety it may be expedient to prescribe special rules as to the course to be taken by vessels proceeding north or south along the coast. The origin of the fogs must be obvious to any one who considers the physical conditions of this region, to which I have already referred. The air must be very frequently near the point of saturation, and a slight fall of temperature, or the local intermixture of a body of moister air, must suffice to produce fog. The remarkable thing is that this should so very rarely undergo the further change requisite to cause rain. To some young Englishmen on board, the remarkable coolness of the air along

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

this coast was a continual subject of jesting comment;
and on more than one occasion the “ Tropics ” were
emphatically declared to be “humbugs." It is certain
that for thirty-six hours before reaching Callao the
shaded thermometer never reached 70°, and stood at
noon, with a clear sky and a brisk southerly breeze,
no higher than 68°,

CHAPTER II.

Arrival at Callao—Quarantine—The war between Chili and

Peru-Aspect of Lima-General Lynch-Andean railway to Chicla—Valley of the Rimac-Puente Infernillo—Chicla - Mountain-sickness—Flora of the Temperate zone of the Andes—Excursion to the higher region-Climate of the Cordillera-Remarks on the Andean flora—Return to Lima—Visit to a sugar-plantation-Condition of PeruProspect of anarchy.

THE steam-whistle, sounding about daybreak on April 15, announced that we were again wrapped in fog. As the Islay advanced at half speed the fog lightened without clearing, until about nine a.m. we made the island of San Lorenzo, and, as the haze finally melted away into bright sunshine, found ourselves half an hour later in the harbour of Callao. The moment was exciting for those who, like myself, approached as strangers the shore which had in our childhood seemed so strange, so adventure-fraught, so distant. Already someone had pointed out the towers of the Cathedral of Lima, with the Cordillera apparently so near that the mountains must begin outside the gates. All stood on deck prepared to land—some already looking forward to luncheon in the city of Pizarro—and waiting only for the usual

« ÎnapoiContinuați »