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It appears also to be the practice in Mexico for every director of the mines to have one or two Indians at his service, who are called his horses (cavallitoes), because they are saddled every inorning, and, supported by a cane and bending forwards, carry their owner on their backs from one part of the mine to another. We shall not be surprised if, ere many years elapse, the Indians and the directors change places, and the cavallitoes take their turn to saddle and ride their old masters.
Another occupation of the South Americans, no less singular, is that of travelling by floating down the mountain rivers on logs of wood--a practice which could only be adopted in the upper branches of the Amazons, Marannan, and other mighty rivers, to which the crocodiles do not ascend. The aquatic postman of the province of Jean de Bracamoros swims monthly for two days, down the Chainaya and a part of the Amazons, as the shortest and easiest communication between the eastern side of the Andes and the coasts of the Pacific. The Chamaya is not navigable by boats, on account of its numerous small cascades, its fall, as ascertained by Humboldt, being, in the space of eighteen leagues, 542 metres, or 1778 feet. The postman therefore mounts à log of bombax or ocroma, trees of very light wood. Wrapping his letters in a handkerchief, or in his guyaco or drawers, he winds them as a turban round his head, and then, like the natives of Madras on their catamarans, he braves the surf, seldom either losing or wetting the letters with which he is intrusted. If a ledge of rocks forming a cascade intersects the bed of the river, he lands just above it, passes the forest, and resumes his log at the foot of the cascade, or provides another. Numerous huts, surrounded with plantain trees, afford him provisions ; and having delivered his despatches to the Governor of Jaen, he returns by a toilsome journey to the place from whence he set out, ready to start, when the period arrives, on a fresh expedition.
It is highly probable that the greater part of the elevated plains or valleys surrounded by mountains have been covered with water, which by long and constant attrition in some cases, and by the aid of man in others, has effected an outlet, and finally left only a river to flow through the lowest level of the valley. Such has been the elevated plain on which the city of Mexico stands, the centre of which is yet covered with water; such also has been that of Bogota, on which stands the city of Santa Fé, at an elevation above the level of the ocean of 2660 metres, (8727 feet,) being 1256 feet higher than that of Mexico, and both of them higher than the summit of Mount St. Bernard; and such will one day be the case of the great lake Erie, when the barrier of Niagara,
over which that vast sheet of water rolls, shall be worn down to the level of the bottom of the lake.
Near the farm of Tequendama the Rio de Bogota rushes from the plain through a narrow outlet into a crevice which descends towards the basin of the river Magdalena. The natives have a tradition, that in remote times, before the moon accompanied the earth, an old man named Bochica broke down the barrier of rocks, after his wife Huythaca, a very beautiful, but malignant kind of a lady, had, by her skill in magic, swelled the river, and inundated the valley of Bogota. Here M. de Humboldt finds the good and evil principle personified in the venerable Bochica and his wife ;-and the remote period when there was no moon reminds him of the boast of the Arcadians as to the antiquity of their origin! The fall of Tequendama is thus described :
• The traveller who views the tremendous scenery of the cataract of Tequendama will not to be surprised that rude tribes should have attributed a miraculous origin to rocks which seem to have been cut by the hand of man ; to that narrow gulf into which falls headlong the mass of waters that issue from the valley of Bogota ; 'to those rainbows reflecting the most vivid colours, and of which the forms vary every instant; to that column of vapour, rising like a thick cloud, and seen at five leagues distance, from the walks around Santa Fé...... The cataract of Tequendama forms an assemblage of every thing that is sublimely picturesque in beautiful scenery. This fall is not, however, as it is commonly believed to be in the country, and repeated by naturalists in Europe, the loftiest cataract on the globe : the river does not rush, as Bouguer relates, into a gulf of five or six hundred metres of perpendicular depth ; but there scarcely exists a cataract which, from so lofty a height, precipitates so voluminous a mass of waters.'(vol. i. p. 76.)
The river just above the fall is stated to be about half the breadth of the Seine at Paris, between the Louvre and the Palace of the Arts, that is, from 140 to 150 feet; in entering the crevice, which M. de Humboldt supposes, unnecessarily we think, to have been formed by an earthquake, it is narrowed to less than forty feet. The volume of water falls at a double bound to the depth of 574 feet. The prospect from the top is magnificent, and aslonishes the traveller by the variety of its contrasts.
Leaving the cultivated plain rich in com, he finds himself sur. rounded not only with the aralia, the alstonia theaformis, the begonia, and the yellow bark tree, (cinchona cordifolia,) but with oaks, with elms, and other plants, the growth of which recalls to his mind the vegetation of Europe ; when suddenly be discovers, as from a terrace, and at his feet, a country producing the palm, the banana, and the sugar cane.'-(p. 79.)
M. de Humboldt adds that the difference of 175 metres, or 574 feet, of height, is too inconsiderable to have much influence on the temperature of the air; and that the contrast between the vegetation of the plain of Bogota and the foot of the cataract, is not owing to the height of the soil on the former, for that the palm trees which flourish at the foot of the latter would have pushed their migrations to the upper level of the river, provided the rock had not been perpendicular, and the elevated plain had been sheltered like the bottom of the crevice. It would, however, be as singular a phenomenon in vegetation, to find the palm and banana flourishing • in a climate where the thermometer descends very often to the freezing point, as it is to meet with them in that state at the bottom of a deep crevice near 8000 feet above the level of the sea, where only a few feeble rays of noon' shed an impotent gleam of light and heat on the luxuriant vegetation that clusters round it.
Amidst the majestic and ever-varied scenery of the Cordilleras, it is the valleys, M. de Humboldt tells us, that most powerfully affect the imagination of the European traveller, that present scenes of the wildest aspect, and fill the soul with astonishment and terror. The crevices of Chota and Cutaco were found to be, one fifteen hundred, the other thirteen hundred metres in perpendicular depth. A small torrent, called the Rio de la Summa Paz, rushing throagh the valley of Icononzo, flows through a deep crevice, which could not have been crossed but with extreme difficulty, if nature had not provided two bridges of rock, which it seems are considered in the country as among the objects most worthy the attention of travellers. Such natural bridges over mountain torrents are not, however, uncommon either on the new or the old continent; and there needed not the aid of an earthquake here, any more than at Tequendama, to rend the rocks asunder. The torrent alone was quite sufficient to wear away the lower materials; and the view of these chasms and masses of rock in the plate which accompanies the description, shows the strata to have been left undisturbed. In the second bridge, which is contiguous to the other, three enormous masses of rock have fallen so as to support one another, that in the middle forming the key of the arch, an accident which might have given the natives the idea of arches in masonry, unknown to the people of the new world, as well as to the ancient inhabitants of Egypt.' Numerous flights of nocturnal birds that haunt this cavern send up a lugubrious noise; they could only be examined by throwing down rockets to illumine the sides of the chasm; but M. de Humboldt supposes them to belong to the genus Caprimulgus.
Two geological phenomena, much more curious than these natural bridges, remain to be noticed before we conclude our account of M. de Humboldt's • Researches. The one is the Volcanitoes, or little air volcanoes of Turbaco; the other the volcano of Jorullo,~--which rose out of the earth in the eighteenth century.
The volcanitoes are situated about four miles to the east of the village of Turbaco, in a thick forest abounding with balsam of Tolu trees, and others of magnificent growth; the ground sloping gradually from the village to the height of 150 feet, every where covered with vegetation rising out of a shelly calcareous soil. The following description is all that is here given of these singular protuberancies.
In the centre of a vast plain, bordered by bromelia karatas, are eighteen or twenty small cones, in height not above seven or cight metres. These cones are formed of a blackish grey clay, and have an opening at their summits filled with water. On approaching these small craters, a hollow but very distinct sound is heard at intervals, fifteen or eighteen seconds previous to the disengagement of a great quantity of air. The force with which this air rises above the surface of the water may lead us to suppose that it undergoes a great pressure in the bowels of the earth. I generally reckoned five explosions in two minutes; and this phenomenon is often attended with a muddy ejection. The Indians assured us that the forms of the cones undergo no visible change in a great number of years ; but the ascending force of the gas, and the frequency of the explosions, appear to vary according to the seasons. I found by analyses made by means of both nitrous gas and of phosphorus, that the disengaged air scarcely contains a thousandth part of
oxygen. It is azotic gas, much more pure than that which is generally prepared in our laboratories. The physical cause of this phenomenon is discussed in the historical narrative of our travels into the interior of the new continent.'(vol. ii. p. 97.)
The volcano of Jorullo appears to be, what M. de Humboldt calls it, one of the most singular catastrophes in the physical history of our planet,' and very little known to European geologists. It is situated about the 19th parallel of northern latitude, in the intendency of Valladolid, to the west of the city of Mexico, and about thirty-six leagues from the ocean. Its height is 1683 feet above the surrounding plain.
This enormous excrescence rose out of a savanna or swampy plain, on the night of the 29th September, 1759, surrounded by several thousand basaltic cones, from six to nine feet in height, bristling a surface of four square miles.
* The cones are so many funnels, which exhale a thick vàpour, and communicate an insupportable heat to the surrounding air. They are called in this country, which is excessively unhealthy, by the name
of the little ovens, hornitas. They contain nodules of basalt embedded in a mass of indurated clay. The slope of the great volcano, which is constantly burning, is covered with ashes. We reached the inside of the crater by climbing the hill of scorified and branching lavas. We shall here observe, as a remarkable fact, that all the volcanoes of Mexico aré ranged in a line from East to West ; and which forms, at the same time, a.parallel of great elevations. In reflecting on this fact, and comparing it with our observations on the bocche nouve of Vesuvius, we are tempted to suppose that the subterraneous fire has pierced through an enormous crevice wbich exists in the bowels of the earth between the latitudes of 18° 59' and 19° 12', and stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic ocean.'-(vol. ii. p. 102.)
We have endeavoured in the preceding pages to bring together the membra disjecta,--those huge protuberances starting out of the backbone of the earth, --scattered as we find them in these volumes, without any attempt at arrangement; and we are not aware that we have omitted the notice of any object of actual • research on the spot which could be deemed either curious or important. We have dwelt but little, and that little will perhaps be thought too much, on those cycles and calendars, those chronologies and cosmogonies extracted out of the-to us, at leastunintelligible daubings designated under the name of the Codices Mexicani. To M. de Humboldt, however, they would appear to be of first-rate importance, and some idea may be formed of his laborious Researches' (in the libraries of Europe) to collect and explain those Sybilline documents, and to trace, in their dark and mysterious leaves, the “parallels' and “analogies' between the several natives of the old world and the Aztecks, the Toltecks, the Cicimecks, and Tlascaltecks,-from the list which he has given, rather ostentatiously, as we think, of authors or works referred to the end of the second volume, occupying fifteen pages, and containing the names of about two hundred and forty different authors or books of all ages, nations, and languages, from the Bible to Carey's Pocket Atlas, from the Iliad to some obscure Magazine. On the whole, howeyer, we deem the descriptive part of these · Researches' less objectionable, as being less prolix, than the
Personal Narrative, though strongly tinged with the same faults as those which we took the liberty of pointing out in that work.
ART. IX. The Poetic Mirror, or the Living Bards of Britain. London. Longman and Co. fc. 8vo.
1816. OUR UR readers, we flatter ourselves, will not have entirely forgotten the opinions which we expressed in a former Number* on the
# No. XV. Articles VIII. and XI.