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disposing of many of them; but the conditions were, that the articles must be on the beach in a few hours, which was ample time to have dug up an acre. As soon, however, as he learned these terms, he shrugged his shoulders, and declared the thing impossible, took down his guitar, seated himself in front of his house, and began to play a lively air, which his two sons accompanied with their voices. The coast and the banks of the Rio Negro are composed of sandhills, of from thirty to fifty feet in height, covered with a scattered growth of grass, which prevents the sand from blowing away. These gradually rise to the height of one hundred feet, except to the southward of the river, where the bank is perpendicular; at this height the ground stretches away in a level prairie, without a single tree to break the monotony of the scene, and affords a view as uninterrupted as the OCCan. The apparent hills along the river are found to be no more than the face of the excavation made or worn down by the river, forming the valley through which it flows. The only verdure on the prairie is a small shrub, which when the lower branches are trimmed off serves a useful purpose. From an optical illusion, (the effect of refraction,) they appear, when thus trimmed, as large as an ordinary sized apple-tree, and one is not a little surprised to find them, on a near approach, no higher than the surrounding shrubs, four or five feet. Shrubs are trimmed in this manner at distances of about half a mile from each other, and are used as guide-posts on the prairie. A similar optical effect is spoken of by travellers on the steppes of Russia. Game is most plentiful, consisting of deer, guanacoes, and cavias, cassowaries, partridges, bustards, ducks, &c. Armadillos were common, and the ostrich was frequently seen; porcupines are said also to be found. The cavias were seen running about in single file, with a sort of halting gait. The soil of the Campos was mostly a mixture of clay, sand, and small pebbles, but is destitute of vegetable mould. They have the practice of burning the prairies in order to produce a new crop of sweet and nutritious grass for the cattle. The rock of the cliff, and along the river where it can be seen, is a soft, gray sandstone, in some places so friable as to be easily crumbled between the fingers, while other specimens are of sufficient hardness for building-stone. The stratification is perfectly horizontal. The width of the river is less than a third of a mile; it has a rapid current, and a large body of water is carried by it to the ocean. The ordinary tide is about eight feet rise, and the spring tides fourteen feet.
The current is mostly downward, although the tide is felt about ten miles above its mouth. The ebb sets off shore some three or four miles, and may be known by the discoloration of the water, which just without the bar is comparatively fresh. The depth at high water on the bar is two and a half fathoms, and the bar is a changing one. No springs were observed in the vicinity, or any trace of running water, except in the river. The water from the rains collects in the depressions, and forms large ponds, covering acres of ground, but only a few inches in depth. The time of our visit corresponded in season to our midsummer months, and the mean temperature was found to be 73°. The winters are represented as very mild ; snow does fall, but it disappears in a few hours. Ice is seldom seen, though frosts appear to be frequent in the winter. January, February, March, and April, are the least tempestuous months. The vegetation of the upland bears the marks of long-continued droughts, in an absence of trees, and the roots of plants penetrating vertically. The stunted appearance of the shrubs, branching from their base, their branches dense, rigid, and impenetrable, usually growing into spines; the smallness of the leaves, and their texture which is dry, coriaceous, and hardly deciduous; together with the general brown aspect of the landscape, all denote a vegetation adapted to endure or escape drought. There was formerly some trade here with Boston and New York, in hides, horns, bones, and tallow, in exchange for cotton and woollen goods of a warm fabric, hardware, crockery, boots and shoes, a few articles of furniture, spirits, and tobacco, all of which are bartered at an enormous profit. Considerable quantities of salt are shipped round to Buenos Ayres. Vessels discharging or taking in a cargo here, pay twelve and a half cents per ton. Vessels stopping without discharging pay half duty; vessels for refreshments are permitted to remain twentyfive days free of duty, after that time they pay half duty. This duty includes pilotage and all other charges; but the governor seems to have the power to exact the full duty whenever he thinks proper. Sarsaparilla abounds in this section of the country. As the bar is a shifting one, no permanent directions can be given, nor can any survey be relied on. The annual freshets and gales of wind that take place from May to October, often change the position of the bar. According to the pilots, it had recently undergone a change, and the depth of water was three feet less on it than had been before. Even the direction had been altered from southeast-by-south, to southeast, by compass.
The week we lay off the bar, we experienced much fog, and found the current strong, two and a half knots on the flood and ebb. The former runs to the southwest, the latter in the contrary direction. The roadstead may be considered a very unsafe anchorage, except in the fine season. The gales come from the southeast, with a heavy sea. By taking advantage of the flood tide, and standing off to the southward and eastward, there will be found little difficulty in getting off shore, to avoid the danger a vessel would be exposed to. While engaged at this place, I felt great uneasiness for the safety of the boats, the officers employed having but little experience in managing them. The fogs and strong current rendered it extremely difficult to proceed rapidly with our survey: many of the boats were detained out over night, and others reached the ship with difficulty. On the night of the 30th of January, the weather assumed a threatening appearance. The wind changed to the eastward, with a falling barometer; the sea rising, accompanied by a heavy fog, with the absence of three boats, caused me much anxiety. During the night the wind increased to a gale from the southeast. At daylight the Peacock made signal that the boats had reached her in safety. It had now became necessary for the squadron to leave this dangerous anchorage. Taking advantage of the tide, we effected it without difficulty, getting off under our storm-sails; three of the vessels were obliged to slip their cables. The barometer during the gale fell to 29'600 in., which was lower than we had seen it since our departure from the United States. Towards evening, when the weather moderated, we again sought our anchorage. One of the boats returned to the Vincennes with but half her crew; the rest, it was reported to me, had deserted. Two boats with officers were accordingly despatched for the purpose of apprehending them, as soon as we anchored. The men were found by the Guachos without difficulty. They accounted for their absence, that they had, while waiting on the beach, been enticed into the interior in chase of some gaine; and the fog coming on suddenly, they had lost their way, missed the boat, and were obliged to pass the night on the prairie. The boats in returning to the ships narrowly escaped accident in passing through the rollers on the bar, and it was with great difficulty they reached the ship at midnight. Their lengthened absence caused no little anxiety for their safety to all on board. Dr. Pickering on this occasion at my request visited a cave he had mentioned to me as existing, for the purpose of ascertaining its temperature, believing it would give some more accurate information as to WOL. I. 14
the mean temperature of the climate at this season. It was found to be 70°, in a horizontal hole, twelve feet from the surface. On the 1st February, the Peacock, Porpoise, and tenders, were engaged looking for their anchors; the latter regained theirs, but the former was lost, the buoy having sunk. El Carmen may be termed a convict settlement; for culprits and exiles are sent here from Buenos Ayres. The garrison is composed of about two hundred soldiers, principally African and Brazilian slaves brought here during the Banda Oriental war. Among them we found a person who called himself an American, from Rhode Island, by name Benjamin Harden, junior, who was desirous of claiming our protection. He was of small stature, slender make, and a light complexion, with a mild expression of countenance, and about thirty years of age. His story was, that he had been by chance in Buenos Ayres at the time when the government was in want of troops, and that he was seized and compelled to enlist. On inquiring, however, of the governor, it proved that he had been engaged in a riot at Buenos Ayres, in which he had killed two or three men, and committed other outrages, for which he had been condemned to death, but on the intercession of a friend, the sentence was commuted to that of exile as a soldier at this place. His farther history is, that not long since he formed the plan of deserting with another convict, by seizing an English trading vessel, in the absence of the captain and part of the crew, and making off with her, which he was fully able to accomplish, being an excellent sailor. The night however before the day fixed on for the execution of this plan, he got intoxicated, discovered the whole design, and received the severe punishment of twelve hundred lashes, at three different times. On the morning of the departure of the schooner, he effected his escape from the town, and swam off to the schooner. He was recognised by an officer, who knew his history in part, namely, that he had become a robber and a murderer, and had been an outcast from his father's house for fifteen years. He was told that he could not be received on board, and a boat landed him again. On the 3d of February we got under way, and were glad to leave so exposed and unpleasant an anchorage. On the 4th and 5th, we experienced a heavy sea from the southward, with much wind. Finding the tenders were much distressed while keeping company with the ships in the heavy sea, I made signal to them to make the best of their way to Orange Harbour, judging that I should thus save much time, as well as great wear and tear to the vessels: they would also, by arriving before the squadron, materially aid it by acting as pilots, in case we should need such guidance. On the 6th the weather began to moderate, and the wind to haul to the westward. Shortly afterwards we had strong winds accompanied with rain. The lower scud was seen passing rapidly from the northward and westward, whilst the upper scud was moving from the south-southwest. We found the current setting to the north-by-east, about fifteen miles in twenty-four hours. On the 8th we had a sudden fall of the barometer to 29.500 in., but without any change in the weather except fog and mist. The wind was from the west-northwest. On the 11th, the wind hauled to the southwest, when the barometer began to rise, and the weather to clear off. On the 12th, the barometer again fell to 29.500 in., which brought thick weather and rain, with a heavy bank of cumuli to the southward and westward, a precursor of bad weather. In a few hours we had heavy squalls, with hail and rain, the weather becoming sensibly colder. Temperature 46°. The next morning we made Staten Land, and soon afterwards Cape St. Diego, Tierra del Fuego. The land was broken, high, and desolate. The Straits of Le Maire were before us: we were just in time to take the tide, and with a fair wind we sailed rapidly through the strait, passing its whirls and eddies, now quite smooth, but in a short time to become vexed and fretted by the returning tide. The squadron glided along with all its canvass spread to the breeze, scarcely making a ripple under the bows. The day was a remarkably fine one for this climate, and the sight beautiful, notwithstanding the desolate appearance of the shores. I cannot see why there should be any objection to the passage through the Straits of Le Maire, as it gives a vessel a much better chance of making the passage round the cape quickly. No danger exists here that I know of A vessel with the tide will pass through in a few hours. As for the “race and dangerous sea,” I have fully experienced it in the Porpoise on the side of Staten Land; and am well satisfied that any vessel may pass safely through it, at all times and in all weathers, or if not so disposed, may wait a few hours until the sea subsides, and the tide changes. We were only three hours in passing through. We entered the straits with studding-sails set, and left them under close-reefed topsails. Squalls issuing from the ravines were frequent and severe, and were accompanied occasionally by a little snow. The baronmeter had fallen to 29°250 in. Contrary to my expectations, we had on the next day delightful weather, with light and variable winds from the eastward, and at times calms. This gave me an opportunity of examining the currents. Many rips were observed,