30th April 1835

Quillota to Catapilco
We passed the Cerro of Chilicauquen at the same place as in my trip last year. At a pretty little village called Plazilla, we joined the Coquimbo road. — The surrounding country is barren & uninteresting. — I think the view from Chilicauquen of the valley of Quillota with the distant Cordilleras now thickly covered with new snow, is one of the most beautiful in Chili. With this may be ranked the view from the hills behind Valparaiso, the basin of S. Filipe or Aconcagua, & the plains of St Jago & Rancagua. Thus none of the finest scenery in Chili is very distant from the Capital city & its port.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
I landed at Conchali after dark on the 30th, leaving the Beagle under sail in the offing. My reception was very hospitable; but the people made sure I was a smuggler; and some of the principal inhabitants rode with me several miles next morning to the place where my boat was hauled ashore, thinking all the time that I was only waiting for a favourable opportunity to tell them my secret, and make advantageous terms. All this coast, except a few corners, is bold and high, barren and uninteresting; though picturesque in outline.

29th April 1835

During the night a very light shower of rain fell; this is the first since the heavy rain of Septemb. 11th & 12th which detained me a prisoner at Cauquenes. The interval is 7 months & a half; but the rain this year in Chili is rather late.

28th April 1835

Limache to Quillota
Passed Limache & Umirì, villages in one of the broad, level & fertile valleys & lodged at a cottage at the South foot of the Bell Mountain. It has been discovered on board the Beagle by angular measurements that the hill is 6200 ft. high; as there are others of the same & many of little less height, it will be evident how truly an Alpine country Chili is. The Volcano of Aconcagua, the magnificent appearance of which I have so often admired in this journal, actually attains the enormous height of 23000 ft—!!! The inhabitants of the cottage were freeholders, which is not very common in Chili; they support themselves on the produce of a garden & little field, but are very poor. — So deficient is Capital, that they are obliged to sell their green corn when standing in the field, in order to buy necessaries; wheat is in consequence dearer here in the very district where it is produced, than in the town of Valparaiso where the Contractors live. — Having failed in my geological pursuit, I took the road for Quillota, which we reached by the middle of the day.

27th April 1835

Valparaiso to Limache
I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, from thence through Guasco to Copiapo, where Capt. FitzRoy offered to call for me. — The distance in a straight line is only 420 maritime miles, but as I travelled I found the journey a very long one. — I took with me the same man, Mariano Gonzales, four horses & two mules. — We travelled in the usual independent manner, cooking our own meals & sleeping in the open air. — As we rode towards the Viño del Mar, I took a farewell view of Valparaiso & admired its picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a detour from the high-road to the foot of the Bell Mountain: we passed through a highly auriferous district to the neighbourhead of Limache, where we slept. The country is covered with much Alluvium & this by the side of each little rivulet has been washed for gold. This employment supports the inhabitants of numerous scattered hovels, who like all those who gain by chance, are unthrifty in their habits.
Valparaiso, April 23, 1835.

My dear Susan,

I received, a few days since, your letter of November; the three letters
which I before mentioned are yet missing, but I do not doubt they will come
to life. I returned a week ago from my excursion across the Andes to
Mendoza. Since leaving England I have never made so successful a journey;
it has, however, been very expensive. I am sure my father would not regret
it, if he could know how deeply I have enjoyed it: it was something more
than enjoyment; I cannot express the delight which I felt at such a famous
winding-up of all my geology in South America. I literally could hardly
sleep at nights for thinking over my day's work. The scenery was so new,
and so majestic; everything at an elevation of 12,000 feet bears so
different an aspect from that in a lower country. I have seen many views
more beautiful, but none with so strongly marked a character. To a
geologist, also, there are such manifest proofs of excessive violence; the
strata of the highest pinnacles are tossed about like the crust of a broken

I crossed by the Portillo Pass, which at this time of the year is apt to be
dangerous, so could not afford to delay there. After staying a day in the
stupid town of Mendoza, I began my return by Uspallate, which I did very
leisurely. My whole trip only took up twenty-two days. I travelled with,
for me, uncommon comfort, as I carried a BED! My party consisted of two
Peons and ten mules, two of which were with baggage, or rather food, in
case of being snowed up. Everything, however, favoured me; not even a
speck of this year's snow had fallen on the road. I do not suppose any of
you can be much interested in geological details, but I will just mention
my principal results:--Besides understanding to a certain extent the
description and manner of the force which has elevated this great line of
mountains, I can clearly demonstrate that one part of the double line is of
an age long posterior to the other. In the more ancient line, which is the
true chain of the Andes, I can describe the sort and order of the rocks
which compose it. These are chiefly remarkable by containing a bed of
gypsum nearly 2000 feet thick--a quantity of this substance I should think
unparalleled in the world. What is of much greater consequence, I have
procured fossil shells (from an elevation of 12,000 feet). I think an
examination of these will give an approximate age to these mountains, as
compared to the strata of Europe. In the other line of the Cordilleras
there is a strong presumption (in my own mind, conviction) that the
enormous mass of mountains, the peaks of which rise to 13,000 and 14,000
feet, are so very modern as to be contemporaneous with the plains of
Patagonia (or about with the UPPER strata of the Isle of Wight). If this
result shall be considered as proved (The importance of these results has
been fully recognised by geologists.), it is a very important fact in the
theory of the formation of the world; because, if such wonderful changes
have taken place so recently in the crust of the globe, there can be no
reason for supposing former epochs of excessive violence. These modern
strata are very remarkable by being threaded with metallic veins of silver,
gold, copper, etc.; hitherto these have been considered as appertaining to
older formations. In these same beds, and close to a goldmine, I found a
clump of petrified trees, standing up right, with layers of fine sandstone
deposited round them, bearing the impression of their bark. These trees
are covered by other sandstones and streams of lava to the thickness of
several thousand feet. These rocks have been deposited beneath water; yet
it is clear the spot where the trees grew must once have been above the
level of the sea, so that it is certain the land must have been depressed
by at least as many thousand feet as the superincumbent subaqueous deposits
are thick. But I am afraid you will tell me I am prosy with my geological
descriptions and theories...

Your account of Erasmus' visit to Cambridge has made me long to be back
there. I cannot fancy anything more delightful than his Sunday round of
King's, Trinity, and those talking giants, Whewell and Sedgwick; I hope
your musical tastes continue in due force. I shall be ravenous for the

I have not quite determined whether I will sleep at the 'Lion' the first
night when I arrive per 'Wonder,' or disturb you all in the dead of night;
everything short of that is absolutely planned. Everything about
Shrewsbury is growing in my mind bigger and more beautiful; I am certain
the acacia and copper beech are two superb trees; I shall know every bush,
and I will trouble you young ladies, when each of you cut down your tree,
to spare a few. As for the view behind the house, I have seen nothing like
it. It is the same with North Wales; Snowdon, to my mind, looks much
higher and much more beautiful than any peak in the Cordilleras. So you
will say, with my benighted faculties, it is time to return, and so it is,
and I long to be with you. Whatever the trees are, I know what I shall
find all you. I am writing nonsense, so farewell. My most affectionate
love to all, and I pray forgiveness from my father.

Yours most affectionately,

25th April 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
We anchored in Horcon Bay, a place (by some curious accident) entirely left out of all former charts, although there is good anchorage, and a fishing village not far from a populous small place called Puchancavi. From this station we sailed to Papudo, a small port rising into repute, on account of copper-mines in its neighbourhood. It is well marked by a high-peaked hill, called Gobernador. Next to Papudo lies Ligua, a place where boats only can go; farther north, or 'down the coast' (as they say in Chile and Peru), is Pichidanque, an excellent cove, rather than port, now much used for shipping copper, and formerly a smuggling place; rendered more notorious by the murder of Burcher, the master of an English smuggling vessel called the Scorpion, who was enticed ashore and assassinated, after which his ship was seized and plundered. This took place in the present century; and an individual, who was said to have taken an active part in the tragedy, was living at Quillota, in 1835.

Close to Pichidanque is a high pointed hill, called 'Silla' (from its saddle shape), seeing which distinctly from Valparaiso, is said to be a sign of an approaching northerly wind.

23rd April 1835

The Beagle called off the port — I went on board — The survey of the coast to the South was concluded, & in the evening the Beagle continued her progress to Coquimbo.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
At noon we hove-to off Valparaiso, and sent boats ashore. Mr. Darwin came on board, and among other pieces of good news, told me of my promotion*. I asked about Mr. Stokes and Lieut. Wickham, especially the former; but nothing had been heard of their exertions having obtained any satisfactory notice at head-quarters, which much diminished the gratification I might otherwise have felt on my own account. Mr. Darwin returned to the shore, intending to travel overland, to meet us at Coquimbo, his very successful excursion across the Andes having encouraged him to make another long journey northward.

*FitzRoy had held the rank of Commander since 1828, and now became a full Captain in rank as well as title.

22nd April 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Before sunrise, on the 22d, we had a splendid view of the Andes — their range or cordillera being unclouded, and distinctly visible from south-east almost to north. The sharp summit of Aconcagua, 23,000 feet above the sea level, towered high over any other.

21st April 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Nearly all the population of a thriving village, called Constitucion, came down to meet us, and assist in hauling our boats up the steep though yielding sand, where, for our comfort, they told us a whole boat's crew had been drowned, not long previously, in attempting to land. From a height overlooking the river, village, and neighbourhood, we enjoyed a very pleasing view, so long as we turned away from the bar of the river, and the surf. A rich country and a fine river are pleasing things at all times, but the difficult approach to Constitucion mars half its beauty. Only the smallest craft can cross the bar; it is dangerous for boats to land on the outer beach: and difficult for them to profit by the few opportunities which occur of passing the bar without risk.

Notwithstanding these local disadvantages, Constitucion may thrive wonderfully hereafter, by the help of small steamers, for she has a most productive country around her, abounding in internal as well as external wealth, and a navigable river at command. Besides this, in 1805, a very practicable passage was discovered through the Andes, about seventy leagues south of Mendoza, not far from the latitude of the River Maule, almost entirely level, and fit for wagons — the only pass of such a description between the isthmus of Darien and Patagonia.

From the Maule we sailed along the coast northward; limited time, and work in prospect urging us to hasten more than could have been wished. The shoal, or rather rocks of Topocalma, or Rapel, were examined; some coves looked at, fit only for coasting launches, and the line of this bold, but uninteresting coast tolerably well determined.

20th April 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Coasting along, anchored off the Maule River on the 20th.

19th April 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
In a very thick fog, during the night of the 19th, while carrying sail to get an offing, we were within a fathom of being run down by a vessel crossing us on the opposite tack. As both ships were under all sail, and it was dark, our momentary sensations were far from agreeable.

To land here was perplexing enough, for a heavy surf broke on the bar of the river, and nearly as much along the shore; but with some risk and difficulty we effected our purpose in two light whale-boats, which could be hauled up directly they touched the beach.

17th April 1835

At Valparaiso I lived with my good friend MrCorfield.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
The Beagle sailed from Concepcion Bay, examined Coliumo.

15th April 1835

Santiago to Valparaiso
Started for Valparaiso, was two days & a half on the road endeavouring to geologize.

10th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 24) - Santiago
We reached St Jago by the middle of the day, having been absent 24 days, & being well repaid for my trouble.

9th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 23) – Colina
We were now on the high road to St Jago, & crossing the Cuesta of Chacabuco reached at night the village of Colina. From this day till I reached Valparaiso, I was not very well & saw nothing & admired nothing.

8th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 22) – Villa de St. Rosa
We left the valley of the river of Aconcagua by which we had descended, & reached in the evening a cottage near the Villa de St Rosa. The fertility of this plain was extremely delightful; the Autumn being well advanced the leaves of many of the fruit trees were falling, & the labourers were all busy in drying on the roofs of their cottages, figs & peaches; while others were gathering the grapes from the vineyards. It was a pretty Scene; but there was absent that pensive stillness which makes the autumn in England indeed the evening of the year.

7th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 21) – Ojos del Agua
I staid here the ensuing day in hopes of finding the mule, which the Arriero thought had been hidden in the mountains. — The valley here had assumed the air of a Chilian landscape; certainly the lower parts of the hills dotted over with the pale evergreen Quillay tree & the great candlestick-like Cactus are much prettier than the bare Eastern valleys. Yet I can hardly understand the admiration expressed by some travellers at this view; the extreme delight is, I suspect, chiefly owing to escaping from the cold regions & the prospect of a good fire. I am sure I participated in such feelings.

6th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 20) – Ojos del Agua
In the morning we found some thief had stolen one of our mules & the bell from the Madrina; we only rode a short distance to the remains of the old Guard House.

5th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 19) – Ojos del Agua
A long days march across the central ridge down to the Ojos del Agua. This was near to the lowest Casucha on the Western slope. — These Casuchas are round little towers, with the floor elevated above the ground & steps outside to reach it. — There are eight in number; formerly in the time of the King of Spain, stores were kept in them, & the Couriers took with them in the Winter master keys. Now they only answer the purpose of caves & are miserable dungeons; seated on some little eminence in the wild valleys, they are not ill suited to the surrounding desolation. The zigzag ascent of the Cumbre or partition of the waters is very steep & tedious: the road does not pass over any perpetual snow, but there are patches on either hand. — The wind on the summit was very piercing; but it was impossible not to admire again & again the intense color of the Heavens & the brilliant transparency of the Air. — The scenery moreover was grand; to the West there was a fine Chaos of huge mountains divided by profound ravines. — By this time of the year there have generally fallen a few snow storms, & not infrequently the Cordilleras are shut up; but we were favoured with the brightest fortune, & everything happened well: the sky was cloudless, excepting sometimes a few round little masses of Vapour floated around the highest peaks; such little islands in the sky are seen from a distance, when the Cordilleras are beneath the horizon to mark their position. — We met during the day several parties & Cargo troops; the road is well frequented, I suppose during the whole passage we met at least ten different parties.

4th April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 18) – Puenta del Inca
From the Rio de las Vacas to the Puente del Inca, half a days journey; here was a little pasture for the mules; & some interesting geology for me, so we bivouaced for the night. When one hears of a Natural bridge, one pictures to oneself some deep & narrow ravine across which a bold mass of rock has fallen, or a great archway excavated. Instead of all this the Incas bridge is a miserable object. The bottom of the valley is nearly even & composed of a mass of Alluvium; on one side are several hot mineral springs, & these have deposited over the pebbles a considerable thickness of hard stratified Tufa; The river running in a narrow channel, scooped out an archway beneath the hard Tufa; soil & stones falling down from the opposite side at last met the over hanging part & formed the bridge. The oblique junction of the stratified rock & a confused mass is very distinct & this latter is different from the general character of the plain. This Inca's bridge is truly a sight not worth seeing.

Near to this place are some ruins of Indian buildings; they consist now merely of the vestiges of walls; I saw such in several other stations; the most perfect were the Ruinas del Tambillos. — The rooms were small & square & many huddled together in distinct groups; some of the doorways yet stood, these were formed of a cross slab of stone & very low, not more than 3 ft high. — The whole were capable of containing a good many people. Tradition says they were the halting places for the Incas when they crossed the Cordilleras, & these Monarchs would probably travel with a large Retinue. The situation of Tambillos is utterly desert & that of the Puente only a shade better. Traces of Indian buildings are common all over the Cordilleras; those mentioned in the Portillo pass probably were not only used as lodging houses in the passage; because if so, there would have been others, & the situation is by no means central. — Yet the Valley is now quite useless & destitute of vegetation. — In the ravine of Jajuel near Aconcagua I frequently heard of numerous remains situated at a great elevation, & of course both cold & sterile; — there is no pass in that part. —I at this time imagined these might have been places of refuge on the first arrival of the Spaniards. Subsequently what I have seen has led me almost to suspect there has been a change of Climate in these Latitudes.2 In very many places, indeed in all the ravines, in the Cordilleras of Copiapo remains of Indian houses are found; in these they find bits of woollen articles, instruments of precious metals, Indian corn, & I had in my possession the head of an arrow made of Agate, of precisely the same figure as those in T. del Fuego. — It is the opinion of the people of the country that the Indians resided in these houses; Now I am assured by men who have passed their lives in travelling the Andes, that these ruins are found at the greatest elevations, almost on the limit of perpetual snow, in places where there are no passes, where the ground produces nothing, & what is more extraordinary where there is no water. In the "Despoblado" (ininhabited) valley near Copiapò at a spot called Punta Gorda, I saw the remains of seven or eight square little rooms; they were of a similar form with those at the Tambillos but chiefly built of mud instead of stone, & which mud the people of the country cannot imitate in hardness: there was no water nearer than 3 or four leagues & this only in small quantity & bad. — The valley is utterly desert.— These houses are placed in the most conspicuous spot in a broad flat valley & in a defenceless position; they could not therefore have been places of refuge. — Even with the advantage of beasts of burden, a mine could only be worked here at great expense; yet former Indians chose it out as a place of residence. A person who has never seen such countries will not readily understand how entirely unfit they are for human habitations. If however a few showers were to fall annually, in the place of one in several years, so as to make a small rill of water, by irrigation such spots would be highly fertile. — All these facts strongly incline me to suspect that some change for the worse has taken place since the period when the ruins were inhabited. — (Note in margin: The Indians in the Quebrada of [illegible] had built an extensive Azequi or Conduit with the hard mud.)

I have certain proof that the S. part of continent of S. America has been elevated from 4 to 500 feet within the epoch of the existence of such shells as are now found on the coasts. It may possibly have been much more on the sea-coast & probably more in the Cordilleras. If the Andes were lowered till they formed (perhaps 3–4000 ft) a mere peninsula with outlying Islands, would not the climate probably be more like that of the S. Sea Islands, than its present parched nature — At a remote Geological æra, I can show that this grand chain consisted of Volcanic Islands, covered with luxuriant forests, some of the trees one of which, 15 feet in circumference, I have seen silicified & imbedded in marine strata. — If the mountains rose slowly, the change of climate would also deteriorate slowly; I know of no reason for denying that a large part of this may have taken place since S. America was peopled. — We need not be surprised at the remains of stone & hardened mud walls lasting for so many ages as I imagine; it will be well to call to mind how many centuries the Druidical mounds have withstood even the climate of England. — I may also remark that the above conjecture explains the present elevation of the ruins; I am aware that the Peruvian Indians chose stations so lofty that a stranger is affected with Puna, but I am assured there are "muchissimas" houses where during the whole long winter snow lies. Surely no people would found a village under such circumstances. — When at Lima3 I was conversing with a civil engineer, Mr Gill, about the number of Indian ruins & quantity of ground thrown out of cultivation in that province, & he told me that the conjecture about a change of climate had sometimes crossed his mind; but generally he thought that the present sterility where there was formerly cultivation was chiefly owing to neglect or subterranean movements injuring the Conduits or subterranean passages, which the Indians had formed on so wonderful a scale to bring water for the purposes of irrigation. — As an illustration he told me one very curious fact, that travelling from Casma to Huaraz he found a plain covered with ruins &c &c & now quite bare; near to it was the dry course of a considerable river; in its bed there were pebbles & sand, & in one spot solid rock to the depth of 8 feet & about 40 yards wide had been cut through. (Note in margin: The fall in perpendicular ft. about 40–50.) From its appearance he could not tell that the river had not followed this line within a few years; but upon following up the course for a short distance, to his astonishment he afterwards found it going down hill; that is the bed of the river was arched; this could, of course, only happen after some subterranean movement which would throw the water back on itself untill some new lateral line of drainage was opened.4 The inhabited plain from that year would necessarily be deserted.

3rd April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 17) – Rio de las Vacas
In the morning when we arose, we had much difficulty in saddling the mules owing to a gale of wind, this brought such clouds of dust that we soon were convinced the name was properly applied. — In the evening we reached the R. de las Vacas, which is about the worst stream in the Cordilleras; it was deemed prudent to take up our nights lodging on the side. As all the water in the rivers proceeds from the melted snow, & the course being short & rapid, the hour of day makes a considerable difference in the difficulty of crossing, in the evening the stream is muddy & full, about an hour after day-break it is both both clearer & much less impetuous. And this we found to be the case on the ensuing morning.

The scenery during the whole of the ascent is very uninteresting as compared to the pass of the Portillo, little can be seen beyond the grand valley with its broad base which the road follows up to the very crest of the chain. It is moreover very sterile; during this & the previous night the poor mules had eaten nothing. Besides a few low resinous bushes, there are very few plants.

During the last day we have crossed some of the worst passes in the Cordilleras. I have been quite surprised at the degree of exaggeration concerning the danger & difficulty. These are not only Travellers tales, for I was told in Chili that if I attempted to pass on foot my head would turn giddy, that there was no room to dismount &c &c. Now I did not see a place which I would not walk backwards over & get off on either side of my mule. One of the bad passes, called Las Animas (the Souls), I had crossed, & did not find out till a day afterwards that it was one of the awful dangers. — No doubt in very many places if the Mule should fall you would be hurled down an enormous precipice; in a like manner if a Sailor falls from aloft, it is probable he will break his neck; (& by the latter way many more in proportion have lost their lives). — I daresay in the Spring time, the Laderas or roads which each year are formed anew across the piles of fallen detritus, are much worse; but from what I have seen I believe the real danger is nothing, & the apparent very little. With Cargo mules the case is rather different, the loads project so far beyond the animals sides that they occassionally run against another mule or overhanging point, & losing their balance are lost. — With respect to the rivers, I can well believe the difficulty amounts to every degree till it is impossible to cross them. In the Autumn, at this season, there is no trouble, but in the summer they must be very bad. I can quite imagine what Capt Head describes, the different expression of countenance of these who have passed & those who are passing these torrents. I never heard of any man being drowned, but of plenty of Cargo mules. The Arriero tells you to show your mule the best line & then allow her to take her own manner in crossing. The Cargo mule takes a bad line & then with its great load is lost.

2nd April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 16) – Pulvadera
We left the houses at noon & crossed the plain, which is so extensive that to the North nothing can be seen over its level horizon. Our road lay along the side of the mountain torrent which we had crossed by the village of Luxan, it was here a furious & quite impassable stream, & similarly to the case of V. Vicencio appeared larger than in the plain. We followed the valley which trends very Southerly, & slept at a place called the Pulvadera.

1st April 1835

Mendoza to Santiago (Day 15) – Estancia of Uspallata
... we crossed the Uspallata range of mountains; these correspond in their position & probably in their age to the Portillo range, but are of very inferior height. They are separated from the main range by a level plain of the same appearance & nature as those basins described in Chili. On this barren plain which has an altitude of nearly 6,000 ft are the houses of the Estancia of Uspallata. We slept here at night; it is the custom house & the last inhabited place on this side of the Cordillereas. The Uspallata mountains are deficient in water & quite barren; on the road shortly before reaching the plain there is a very extraordinary view; there are quite white, red, purple & green sedimentary rocks & black Lavas; these strata are broken up by hills of Porphyry of every shade of Brown & bright Lilacs. All together they were the first mountains which I had seen which literally resembled a coloured Geological section.