27th May 1835

Don Josè & I reached Coquimbo late in the afternoon.

26th May 1835

Having seen what I wanted — returned to the Hacienda.

25th May 1835

Leaving Don Josè behind I travelled a days ride further up where the R. Claro joins the Elque. — I had heard of petrified shells & beans, the former turned out true, the latter small white quartz pebbles. We passed through several small villages; the valley was beautifully cultivated & the whole scenery very grand. We were here near the main Cordillera, the surrounding hills being very lofty. In all parts of Northern Chili, the fruit trees produce much more abundantly at a considerable elevation near the Andes. The figs & grapes of Elque are famous for their superiority & are cultivated to a great extent. This valley is perhaps the most productive one to the North of Quillota: I believe it contains, including Coquimbo, 25 thousand inhabitants.

24th May 1835

We staid here the ensuing day. The Signora was a very pretty girl not 17 years old, yet the mother of two children & would soon add another to the family of Salzera. It is strange what little attention the Hacienderos, who correspond to our country gentlemen, pay to comfort. — This house furniture &c was in no ways superior to a second rate English farm house; although the lady was dressed most elegantly & the gentleman with the usual respectability. — The scenery here was exceedingly beautiful, — truly Chilian in its character. — it reminded me of some of the views in the Annuals of Alpine Scenery.

23rd May 1835

We followed up the fertile valley, geologising by the way till we reached an Hacienda, the owner of which was a relation of Don Josè.

22nd May 1835

I spent half of the ensuing day in examining the mines. — The Mineral extends over a few miles of hilly country, & abounds with Silver mines, the ore of which always occurs with white Sulp of Barytes. — The Mineral was only discovered a few years since by a wood-cutter, although the veins project beyond the surface & are very abundant. The mines are now in a bad state; they formerly yielded about 2000 pounds weight of Silver a year. It has been said "a person with a Copper mine will gain, with Silver he may gain, but with Gold is sure to lose". This is not true, all the large Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the richer metals. — The other day Dr Seward returned to England from Copiapò taking with him the profits of a share of a Silver mine & this amounted to 120000 dollars. — No doubt a Copper mine with care is a sure game, whereas the other is gambling, or rather taking a ticket in a lottery. The owners lose great quantities of rich ores, no care can prevent robbery. I heard of a man laying a bet with another that one of his men should rob him before his face. The ore when brought out of the mine is broken into pieces by men who sit down & separate the pieces of useless stone, which are rolled over the side of the mountain. Two of the men as if by accident pitched two pieces of stone away at the same moment & then cried out for a joke, let us see which rolls furthest. — The owner who was standing by bet a cigar with his friend on the race. The Miner by this means watched the very point amongst the rubbish, where the stone lay; in the evening he picked it up & carried it to his master, showing a rich mass of Silver ore & saying "This was the stone you won a cigar by its rolling so far". — Some of the Mine owners say to their men, “We know you manage to steal, but why not sell us the ore, that we may receive the usual large profits?", and this contract has sometimes been made. — In the afternoon, we left Arqueros & descended into the valley (the region of fleas) and slept at the first Rancho we came to.

21st May 1835

I set out on a short excursion with Don José Maria Edwards, a pleasant young Anglo-Chilian, to the famous silver Mineral of Arqueros & from thence up the valley of Elque or Coquimbo; passing through a fine alpine country we reached his Fathers mine after it was dark. I enjoyed my nights rest here from a cause the force of which will not be understood in England — there were no fleas! The rooms in Coquimbo swarm with them; at an elevation of about 3000 ft they will not live, & if brought there, as for instance to these mines, they will dye. It can scarcely be the trifling diminution in temperature, 22°, but some other cause which is destructive to these troublesome insects.

19th May 1835

I walked a little way up the valley & saw those step-like plains of shingle described by Capt. B. Hall, the origin of which has been discussed by Mr Lyell. The same phenomenon is found in the valley of Guasco in a more evident manner; in places there [are] as many as seven perfectly level & unequally broad plains, ascending by steps on one or both sides the valley. There can be no doubt that during the rise of the land each line of cliff was for a period the beach of a large bay. At Coquimbo marine shells were embedded in strata near the surface; independent of this proof, the explanation of the successive breaking down of the barrier of a lake adduced by Capt. Hall is quite inapplicable. The appearance of these steps, especially in Guasco, is sufficiently remarkable to call the attention of any one who is not at all interested concerning the causes of the present forms of the land. The number of parallel & horizontal lines, of which many have exactly corresponding ones on the opposite side of the valley, is rendered more conspicuous by the irregular outline of the neighbouring mountains.

17th May 1835

In the morning it rained lightly for about five hours; the first time this season; with this the farmers would break the ground, with a second plant their corn; & if a third shower fell, would in the spring reap a good harvest. It was curious to witness the effect of this trifling amount of moisture; the ground apparently was scarcely damp 12 hours afterwards, yet on the 27th an interval of 10 days, all the hills were tinged green in patches, the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibres a full inch long. — Before this every part was as destitute of Vegetation as a turnpike road. In the evening I dined with Mr Edwards, during dinner there was a smart shock of an Earthquake. I heard the forecoming rumble, but from the screams of the ladies, the running of servants & the rush of several of the gentlemen to the doorway I could not distinguish the motion. Some of the women afterwards were crying with fear & one person said he should not be able to sleep all night or if he did, it would only be to dream of falling houses. — The father of this gentleman had lost all his property at Talcuhuana, & he himself only just escaped from a falling roof at Valparaiso in 1822; a curious coincidence happened; he with a party were playing at cards when a German remarked he never would sit in a room in these countries with the door shut, as he had with difficulty escaped in the Copiapò earthquake, accordingly it was opened. No sooner was this done than the famous shock commenced, & the whole party effected their escape by this coincidence. The danger in an Earthquake is not the time lost in opening a door, but the chance of its being jammed by the movement of the walls. — It is impossible to be much surprised at the fear which Natives & old Residents experience. — I think the excess of panic may be partly owing to a want of habit in governing fear; the usual restraint, shame, being here absent. — Indeed the natives do not like to see a person indifferent. I heard of two Englishmen who, sleeping in the open air near to some houses during a smart shock, knowing there was no danger did not rise — the natives cried out indignantly "Look at those hereticks, they will not even get out of their beds".

15th May 1835

I staid one day on board & on the 16th hired with Capt. FitzRoy lodgings in the city of Coquimbo, which is distant 11 miles from the Beagles anchorage. Coquimbo is said to contain 6,000 to 8,000 inhabitants, it is remarkable for nothing but the extreme quietness which reigns in all parts; like the other towns in the North of Chili, it depends, but in a less degree, for its support on the mines.

14th May 1835

Over the plain & Traversia we had to cross to the port of Coquimbo. — We found the Beagle in the little harbor of Herradura a league to the South. — All hands were living on shore under tents; the ship undergoing a thorough refit before the long passage of the Pacifick.

13th May 1835

Panuncillo to Tambillos
From Panuncillo to Tambillos, where there are some old Copper Mines. They are now in possession of some Englishmen, who came out as Mechanicks, but have accumulated by their industry some thousand pounds & have bought this mine, which they hope to empty of its water. Slept at a spot called the Punta; it is the point of a range of hills which abuts on an extensive plain, precisely in the same manner as a headland in the sea.

12th May 1835

Panuncillo Copper Mine
I staid here a day in order to see the mines. The mine is not a very rich one, the ore being the common yellow Copper pyrites; its value may be from 30000 to 40000 dollars, (Note in margin: £/6000–£/8000.) yet when the English first came into the country, Mr Caldcleugh bought it for the association for one ounce (3£..8s). The mine had been abandoned when full of this kind of ore, the inhabitants not believing it possible to reduce it. Likewise from ignorance piles of scoriæ abounding with particles of copper & fused pyrites were sold at about the same scale of profit. — Yet with all these possibilities the mining associations contrived to lose great sums. The folly of the commissioners & the share-holders amounted to madness: such enormous salaries, libraries of well bound geological books, 1000£ per annum to entertain the Authorities; bringing out miners for particular metals before such were known to exist; their contracts with the workmen to find them with so much milk &c &c every day; their machinery, where such could not be used; & a hundred similar things bear witness to their absurdity & afford amusement to the natives. — Yet there can be no doubt the same Capital employed in working mines in the country method would have given an immense return. A confidential man of business & a practical miner & assayer would have been quite sufficient. — The English & Chilian miners were tried against each other at this place, & I believe the latter fairly laughed at our countrymen, being so entirely victorious.

Capt. Head has described the wonderful load which the "Apires", truly beasts of burden, carry up from deep mines. — I confess I thought the account exaggerated; so that I was glad to take the opportunity of weighing one of the loads, which I picked out by chance. When standing straight over it, I could just lift it from the ground, the weight was 197 pounds (equal [to] a 14 stone man). — The Apire had carried this up 80 perpendicular yards, by a very steep road, & by climbing up a zigzag nearly vertical notched pole.— He is not allowed to halt to breathe, excepting the mine is more than 600 ft deep. — The average weight is rather more than 200 £. (Nearly equal 22 & ½ stone.) — I have been assured that 300 £ have been carried for a trial from the deepest mines.

In this mine they bring up the above load on their backs 12 times in the day, that is 2400 £ from 80 yards deep to the surface. These men work nearly naked; their bodies are not very muscular; but excepting from accidents, they are healthy and they appear cheerful. They rarely eat meat once a week & never oftener & then only the hard dry Charqúi. — Knowing that the labor is voluntary, it is yet quite revolting to see the state in which they reach the mouth of the mine. — their bodies bent forward, leaning with their arms on the steps; their legs bowed, the muscles quivering, the perspiration streaming from their faces over their breasts, the nostrils distended, the corners of the mouth forcibly drawn back, & the expulsion of their breath most laborious: each time from habit they utter an articulate cry of ay-ay, which ends in a sound rising from deep in the chest, but shrill like the note of a fife. — After staggering to the pile of ore, they empty the "Carpacho" — in two or three seconds recovering their breath, they wipe the sweat from their brows & apparently quite fresh descend the mine again at a quick pace. — This appears to me a wonderful instance of the amount of labor which habit, for it can be nothing else, will teach a man to endure.

The Mayor-domo of these mines, Don Joaquin Edwards, is a young man & the son of an Englishman, but till some years old did not learn English. — Talking with him about the number of foreigners in all parts of the country, he told me he recollected being at school in Coquimbo, when a holiday was given to all the boys to see the Captain of an English Ship, who came on some business from the Port to the city. He believes that nothing would have induced any body in the school, including himself, to have gone close to the Englishman; so fully had they been impressed with all the heresy, contamination & evil to be derived from contact with such a person. To this day they hand down the atrocious actions of the Buccaniers; one of them took the Virgin Mary out [of] the Church & returned the ensuing year for St. Joseph, saying it was a pity the Lady should not have a husband. I heard Mr Caldcleugh say that sitting by an old lady at a dinner in Coquimbo, she remarked how wonderfully strange it was that she should live to dine in the same room with an Englishman. — Twice as a girl, at the cry of "Los Ingleses" every soul carrying what valuables they could had taken to the mountains.

11th May 1835

Next day crossing the river, passed over plains to some hills where the copper mines of Panuncillo are seated. They belong to Mr Caldcleugh of St Jago.

9th & 10th May 1835

Los Hornos to Ovalle
There are so very few inhabited spots & the roads so obscure we had some difficulty in finding our way — during these last days there was nothing of interest, & the travelling sufficiently wearisome. — We passed the Mineral of Punitague, from which much Copper & Gold has been extracted; there are also Quicksilver mines which are not worked. — We reached Ovalle, a small town on the R. Limari, late in the evening. — Before arriving there we had to cross some extensive sterile plains or Traversias, which extend from the coast many leagues in the interior.

7th & 8th May 1835

Los Hornos
Staid here a day on account of Geology & then rode on to Combarbala, a very pretty little town at the foot of the main Cordilleras. Country very mountainous & desolate.

6th May 1835

Illapel to Los Hornos
Travelled on to Los Hornos, which is a "Mineral" or particular district abounding with mines; the principal hill was so drilled with excavations that it was a magnified edition of a large Anthill. The Miners in Chili are a peculiar race of men; in their habits they somewhat resemble men-of-war sailors; living for weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend on the feast days to the villages, there is no excess or extravagance into which they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum & then like Sailors with prize money, they try how soon they can possibly squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes & in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes there to work harder than beasts of burden.

Their dress is peculiar & rather picturesque; they wear a very long shirt of some dark coloured baize & leathern apron; around the waist there is also a broad & gayly coloured Senador (like the red silk woven band of officers); their trowsers are very broad & their heads are covered by little scarlet caps. — We met a party of these Miners on horseback in full costume, carrying for burial the body of one of their companions. — They marched at a very quick trot; four men on foot carried the corpse; each set running as hard as they could for about 200 yards, were relieved by four others who had previously dashed on ahead on horseback & so on.— They encouraged each other by wild crys; altogether it formed a most strange funeral.

5th May 1835

On account of my animals I staid the day here.

4th May 1835

Conchalee — Illapel
The country near the coast possessed little Geological interest, & otherwise the rocky barren hills were very monotomous; so I determined to strike in the country to the mining town of Illapel. — It was a long days journey & we had to cross a Cuesta I should think at least 2000 ft high. — The valley of Illapel is like all the others, dead level, broad, bordered by gravel cliffs or mountain sides, & very fertile. — Above the straight line of the upper irrigating ditch, all is as brown as a turnpike road, all beneath is Alfarfa (a kind of Clover) green as Verdigris — the contrast is singular. — Illapel is a very regular & pretty little town, its flourishing condition depends on the numerous mines, chiefly Copper, in the vicinity.

3rd May 1835

Quilimar to Conchalee
The Country becomes more & more barren; the valleys have so little water that there is scarcely any irrigation; of course the intermediate country is quite useless & will not even support goats. — In the Spring after the winter rains there is a rapid growth of thin pasture & cattle are then brought down from the Cordilleras to graze. It is rather curious the manner in which the Vegetation knows how much rain to expect; one shower at Copiapo produces an equal effect with a couple at Guasco & 3 or 4 at Coquimbo, whilst at Valparaiso torrents of rain fall. Travelling North from the latter place, the quantity does not decrease in a regular proportion to the distances. At Conchalee which is not half-way between Valparaiso & Coquimbo (being only 67 miles to the North of the former) they do not expect rain till end of May, whereas at Valparaiso generally early in April; the quantity likewise which falls is proportionally small to the later time it comes.

I heard of the Beagle surveying all these ports; all the inhabitants were convinced she was a Smuggler, they complained of the entire want of confidence the Captain showed in not coming to any terms; each man thought his neighbour was in the secret — I had even difficulty in undeceiving them. — By the way, this anecdote about the smuggling shows how little even the upper classes in these countries understand the wide distinction of manners. A person who could possibly mistake Capt. FitzRoy for a smuggler, would never perceive any difference between a Lord Chesterfield & his valet.

2nd May 1835

Longotomo to Quilimar
As yesterday, the road generally runs at no great distance from the sea coast. The country on a small scale singularly broken & irregular: abrupt little peaks rise out of small plains or basins: the bottom of the neighbouring sea, studded with breakers, & the indented coast would if converted into dry land, present similar forms.
Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Another smuggling cove, called Quilimari, was examined by me. There is but doubtful landing, and no shelter for a vessel; balsas, however, might do a good deal of work for such a character as I was taken for at Conchali.

1st May 1835

Catapilco to valley of Longotomo
A few small inhabited valleys — trees are becoming scarcer & are replaced by a large plant which has leaves like a Pineapple & long flowering stem like a Yucca.