Chapter 24: 1872: Aet. 65.
- Picnic in Sholl Bay. -- Fuegians. -- Smythe's Channel. -- comparison of glacial features with those of the Strait of Magellan. -- Ancud.-Port of San Pedro. -- Bay of Concepcion. -- three weeks in Talcahuana. -- collections. -- geology. -- land journey to Santiago. -- scenes along the road. -- report on glacial features to Mr. Peirce. -- arrival at Santiago. -- election as foreign Associate of the Institute of France. -- Valparaiso. -- the Galapagos. -- geological and Zoological features. -- arrival at San Francisco.
The next day forces were divided. The vessel put out into the Strait again for sounding and dredging, while Agassiz, with a smaller party, landed in Sholl Bay. Here, after having made a fire and pitched a tent in which to deposit wraps, provisions etc., the company dispersed in various directions along the shore, geologizing, botanizing, and collecting. Agassiz was especially engaged in studying the structure of the beach itself. He found that the ridge of the beach was formed by a glacial moraine, while accumulations of boulders, banked up in morainic ridges, concentric with  one another and with the beach moraine, extended far out from the shore like partly sunken reefs. The pebbles and boulders of these ridges were not local, or, at least, only partially so; they had the same geological character as those of the drift material throughout the Strait. The day was favorable for work, and there was little to remind one of approaching winter. A creek of fresh water, that ran out upon one part of the beach, led up to a romantic brook, rushing down through a gorge bordered by moss-grown trees and carpeted by ferns and lichens in all its nooks and corners. This brook took its rise in a small lake lying some half a mile behind the beach. The collections made along the shore in this excursion were large and various: star-fish, volutas, sea-urchins, sea-anemones, medusae, doris; many small fishes, also, from the tide-pools, beside a number drawn in the seine. Later in the day, when the party had assembled around the beach fire for rest and refreshment, before returning to the vessel, their lunch was interrupted by strange and unexpected guests. A boat rounded the point of the beach, and, as it came nearer, proved to be full of Fuegian natives, men, women, children,  and dogs, their invariable companions. The men alone landed, some six or seven in number, and came toward the tent. Nothing could be more coarse and repulsive than their appearance, in which the brutality of the savage was in no way redeemed by physical strength or manliness. They were almost naked, for the short, loose skins tied around the neck, and hanging from the shoulders, over the back, partly to the waist, could hardly be called clothing. With swollen bodies, thin limbs, and stooping forms; with a childish, yet cunning, leer on their faces, they crouched over the fire, spreading their hands toward its genial warmth, and all shrieking at once, ‘Tabac! tabac!’ and ‘Galleta!’—biscuit. Tobacco there was none; but the remains of the lunch, such as it was,—hard bread and pork,—was distributed among them, and they greedily devoured it. Then the one who, judging from a certain deference paid him by the others, might be the chief, or leader, seated himself on a stone and sang in a singular kind of monotonous, chanting tone. The words, as interpreted by the gestures and expressions, seemed to be an improvisation concerning the strangers they had found upon the beach, and were  evidently addressed to them. There was something curious in the character of this Fuegian song. Rather recitative than singing, the measure had, nevertheless, certain divisions or pauses, as if to mark a kind of rhythm. It was brought to a close at regularly recurring intervals, and ended always in the same way, and on the same note, with a rising inflection of the voice. When the song was finished, a certain surprise and expectancy in the listeners kept them silent. This seemed to trouble the singer, who looked round with a comical air of inquiring disappointment. Thus reminded, the audience were quick to applaud, and then he laughed with pleasure, imitated the clapping of the hands in an awkward way, and nothing 10th, began to sing again. The recall gun from the Hassler brought this strange scene to a close, and the party hastened down to the beach, closely followed by their guests, who still clamorously demanded tobacco. Meanwhile the women had brought the boat close to that of the Hassler at the landing. They all began to laugh, talk, and gesticulate, and seemed a noisy crew, chattering unceasingly, with amazing rapidity, and all together. Their boat, with the babies and dogs to add to the tumult, was a perfect  babel of voices. They put off at once, keeping as close as they could to the Hassler boat, and reaching the vessel almost at the same time. They were not allowed to come on board, but tobacco and biscuit, as well as bright calico and beads for the women, were thrown down to them. They scrambled and snatched fiercely, like wild animals, for whatever they could catch. They had some idea of barter, for when they found they had received all that they were likely to get gratuitously, they held up bows and arrows, wicker baskets, birds, and the large sea-urchins, which are an article of food with them. Even after the steamer had started, they still clung to the side, praying, shrieking, screaming, for more ‘tabac.’ When they found it a hopeless chase, they dropped off, and began again the same chanting recitative, waving their hands in farewell. Always interested in the comparative study of the races, Agassiz regretted that he had no other opportunity of observing the natives of this region and comparing them with the Indians he had seen elsewhere, in Brazil and in the United States. It is true that he and his companions, when on shore, frequently came upon their deserted camps, or single empty  huts; and their canoes followed the Hassler several times, but never when it was convenient to stop and let them come up with the vessel. This particular set were not in a canoe, but in a large boat of English build. Probably they had stolen it, or had found it, perhaps, stranded on the shore. They are usually, however, in canoes of their own making. One can only wonder that people ingenious enough to construct canoes so well modeled and so neatly and strongly put together, should have invented nothing better in the way of a house than a hut built of flexible branches, compared with which a wigwam is an elaborate dwelling. These huts are hood-like in shape, and too low for any posture but that of squatting or lying down. In front is always a scorched spot on the ground, where their handful of fire has smouldered; and at one side, a large heap of empty shells, showing that they had occupied this place until they had exhausted the supply of mussels, on which they chiefly live. When this is the case, they move to some other spot, gather a few branches, reconstruct their frail shelter, and continue the same life. Untaught by their necessities, they wander thus, naked and homeless, in snow, mist, and rain, as they have done  for ages, asking of the land only a strip of beach and a handful of fire; and of the ocean, shell-fish enough to save them from starvation. The Hassler had now fairly entered upon Smythe's Channel, and was anchored at evening (March 27th) in Otway Bay, a lake-like harbor, broken by islands. Mount Burney, a noble, snow-covered mountain, corresponding to Mount Sarmiento in grandeur of outline, was in full view, but was partially veiled in mist. On the following day, however, the weather was perfect for the sail past Sarmiento Range and Snowy Glacier, which were in sight all day. Blue could not be more deep and pure, nor white more spotless, than their ice and snow-fields. Toward the latter part of the day, an immense expanse of snow opened out a little beyond Snowy Range. It was covered with the most curious snow hummocks, forming high cones over the whole surface, their shadows slanting over the glittering snow in the afternoon sunshine. They were most fantastic in shape, and some fifty or sixty in number. At first sight, they resembled heaped — up mounds or pyramids of snow; but as the vessel approached, one group of them, so combined as to simulate a  fortification, showed a face of rock where the snow had been blown away, and it seemed therefore probable that all were alike,—snow-covered pinnacles of rock. The evening anchorage on the 28th was in Mayne's Harbor, a pretty inlet of Owen's Island. Here the vessel was detained for twenty-four hours by the breaking of the reversing rod. The engineers repaired it to the best of their ability, with such apparatus as they had, but it was a source of anxiety till a port was reached where a new one could be supplied. The detention, had it not been for such a cause, was welcome to the scientific party. Agassiz found the rounded and mountonnees surfaces and the general modeling of the outlines of ice no less marked here than in the Strait; and in a ramble over the hills above the anchorage, M. de Pourtales came upon very distinct glacial scorings and furrows on dikes and ledges of greenstone and syenite. They were perfectly regular, and could be connected by their trend from ledge to ledge, across intervening spaces of softer decomposed rock, from which all such surface markings had disappeared. The country above Mayne's Harbor was pretty, though somewhat barren. Beyond the  narrow belt of woods bordering the shore, the walking was over soggy hummocks, with little growth upon them except moss, lichens, and coarse marsh grass. These were succeeded by ridges of crumbling rock, between which were numerous small lakes. The land seemed very barren of life. Even the shores of the ponds were hardly inhabited. No song of bird or buzz of insect broke the stillness. Rock after rock was turned over in the vain expectation of finding living things on the damp under side at least; and the cushions of moss were broken up in the same fruitless chase. All was barren and lifeless. Not so on the shore, where the collecting went on rapidly. Dredge and nets were at work all the morning, and abundant collections were made also from the little nooks and inlets of the beach. Agassiz found two new jelly-fishes, and christened them at once as the locality suggested, one for Captain Mayne, the other for Professor Owen. Near the shore, birds also seemed more abundant. A pair of kelp-geese and a steamer duck were brought in, and one of the officers reported humming-birds flitting across the brook from which the Hassler's tanks were filled. Early on the morning of the 30th, while  mountains and snow-fields, woodland and water, still lay between moonlight and sunrise, the Hassler started for Tarn Bay. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, with very little wind, and a soft sky, broken by few clouds. But such beginnings are too apt to be delusive in this region of wet and fog, and a heavy rain, with thick mist, came up in the afternoon. That night, for the first time, the Hassler missed her anchorage, and lay off the shore near an island, which afforded some protection from the wind. A forlorn hope was detailed to the shore, where a large fire was kept burning all night, that the vessel might not lose her bearings and drift away. In the morning all was right again, and she kept on her course to Rowlet Narrows. This passage is formed by a deep gorge, cleft between lofty walls over which many a waterfall foams from reservoirs of snow above. Agassiz observed two old glacier beds on the western side of the pass—two shallow depressions, lying arid and scored between swelling wooded ridges. He had not met in all the journey a better locality for the study of glacial effects than here. The sides of the channel show these traces throughout their whole length. In this same neighborhood, as a conspicuous  foreground on the shore of Indian Reach, to the south of Lackawanna Cove, is a large moraine resembling the ‘horse-backs,’ in the State of Maine, New England. The top was as level as a railroad embankment. The anchorage for the night was in Eden Harbor, and for that evening, at least, it was lovely enough to deserve its name. The whole expanse of its land-locked waters, held between mountains and broken by islands, was rosy and purple in the setting sun. The gates of the garden were closed, however, not by a flaming sword, but by an impenetrable forest, along the edge of which a scanty rim of beach hardly afforded landing or foothold. The collections here, therefore, were small; but a good haul was made with the trawl net, which gathered half-a-dozen species of echinoderms, some small fishes, and a number of shells. Fog detained the vessel in Eden Harbor till a late hour in the morning, but the afternoon was favorable for the passage through the English Narrows, the most contracted part of Smythe's Channel. It is, indeed, a mere mountain defile, through which the water rushes with such force that, in navigating it, great care was required to keep the vessel off the rocks. Her anchorage at the close of the  day was in Connor's Cove, a miniature harbor not unlike Borja Bay in the Strait. It was a tranquil retreat. The water-birds seemed to find it so, for the steamer ducks were trailing their long wakes through the water, and a large kind of stormy petrel sailed up to the vessel, and almost put himself into the hands of the sailors, with whom he remained an unresisting prisoner. Geologically, Agassiz found Connor's Cove of especial interest. It runs east and west, opening on the eastern side of the channel; but the knolls, that is to say, the rounded surfaces at its entrance, are furrowed across the cove, at right angles with it. In other words, the movement of the ice, always from south to north, has been with Smythe's Channel, and across the Strait of Magellan. Indeed it seemed to Agassiz that all the glacial agency in Smythe's Channel, the trend of the furrows, the worn surfaces whereon they were to be found, and the steepness of southern exposures as compared with the more rounded opposite slopes, pointed to the same conclusion. On the third of April Agassiz left with regret this region of ocean and mountain, glacier, snow-field, and forest. The weeks he had  spent there were all too short for the work he had hoped to do. Yet, trained as he was in glacial phenomena, even so cursory an observation satisfied him that in the southern, as in the northern hemisphere, the present glaciers are but a remnant of the ancient ice-period. After two days of open sea and head winds, the next anchorage was in Port San Pedro, a very beautiful bay opening on the north side of Corcovado Gulf, with snow mountains in full sight; the Peak of Corcovado and a wonderfully symmetrical volcanic mountain, Melimoya, white as purest marble to the summit, were clearly defined against the sky. Forests clothed the shore on every side, and the shelving beach met the wood in a bank of wild Bromelia, most brilliant in color. Not only were excellent collections made on this beach, but the shore was strewn with large accumulations of erratics. Among them was a green epidotic rock which Agassiz had traced to this spot from the Bay of San Antonio on the Patagonian coast, without ever finding it in place. Some of the larger boulders had glacial furrows and scratches upon them, and all the hills bordering the shore were rounded andmountonnee. One of the great charms for Agassiz in the scenery of all  this region, and especially in the Strait of Magellan, was a kind of home feeling that it gave him. Although the mountains rose from the ocean, instead of from the plain as in Switzerland, yet the snow-fields and the glaciers carried him back to his youth. To him, the sunset of this evening in the Port San Pedro, with the singular transparent rose color over the snow mountains, and the soft succeeding pallor, was the very reproduction of an Alpine sunset. The next morning brought a disappointment. From this point Agassiz had hoped to continue the voyage by the inside passage between the main-land and the island of Chiloe. This was of importance to him, on account of its geological relation to Smythe's Channel and the Strait of Magellan. In the absence of any good charts of the channel, the Captain, after examining the shoals at the entrance, was forced to decide, almost as much to his own regret as to that of Agassiz, not to attempt the further passage. Keeping up the outer coast of Chiloe, therefore, the vessel anchored before Ancud on the 8th of April. It was a heavenly day. The volcanic peak of Osorno and the whole snowy Cordilleras were unveiled. The little town above the harbor,  with its outlying farms on the green and fertile hills around, seemed like the very centre of civilization to people who had been so long out of the world. It is said to rain in Ancud three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. But on this particular afternoon it was a very sunny place, and the inhabitants seemed to avail themselves of their rare privilege. Groups of Indians, who had come across the river in the morning to sell their milk in the town, were resting in picturesque groups around their empty milk-cans, the women wrapped in their long shawls, the men in their ponchos and slouched hats; the country people were driving out their double teams of strong, powerful oxen harnessed to wooden troughs filled with manure for the fields; the washerwomen were scrubbing and beating their linen along the roadside; the gardens of the poorest houses were bright with large shrubs of wild fuchsia, and, altogether, the aspect of the little place was cheerful and pretty. Agassiz had but two or three hours for a look at the geology. Even this cursory glance sufficed to show him that the drift materials, even to their special mineralogical elements, were the same as in the Magellan Strait. Here they rested, however, on volcanic soil.  Stopping at Lota for coal, but not long enough for any scientific work, the Hassler entered Concepcion Bay on the 15th April, and anchored near Talcahuana, where she was to remain some three weeks for the repair of her engine. This quaint, primitive little town is built upon one of the finest harbors on the Pacific coast. Agassiz was fortunate in finding, through the kindness of Captain Johnson, a partially furnished house, where several large vacant rooms, opening on the ‘patio,’ served admirably as scientific laboratories. Here, then, he established himself with his assistants. It was soon understood that every living thing would find a market with him, and all the idle urchins about the town flocked to the house with specimens. An unceasing traffic of birds, shells, fish, etc., went on there from morning to night, and to the various vendors were added groups of Indians coming to have their photographs taken. There were charming excursions and walks in the neighborhood, and the geology of the region was so interesting that it determined Agassiz to go by land from Talcahuana to Valparaiso, on a search after any glacial tracks that might be found in the valley lying between the Cordillera of the Andes and the  Coast Range. Meanwhile the Hassler was to go on a dredging expedition to the island of Juan Fernandez, and then proceed to Valparaiso, where Agassiz was to join her a fortnight later. Although this expedition was under the patronage of the Coast Survey, the generosity of Mr. Thayer, so constantly extended to scientific aims, had followed Agassiz on this second journey. To his kindness he owed the possibility of organizing an excursion apart from the direct object of the voyage. This change of plan and its cause is told in the following extract from his general report to Professor Peirce:—
On the 28th of April, then, Agassiz left Talcahuana, accompanied by Mrs. Agassiz, and by Dr. Steindachner, who was to assist him in making collections along the way. They were to travel post, along the diligence road, until they reached Curicu, within half a day of Santiago, where railroad travel began. It was a beautiful journey, and though the  rainy season was impending, the fair weather was uninterrupted. The way lay for the most part through an agricultural district of corn, wheat, and vineyards. In this strange land, where seasons are reversed, and autumn has changed places with spring, the work of harvest and vintage was just going on. The road was full of picturesque scenes: troops of mules might be met, a hundred at a time, laden with corn-sacks; the queer, primitive carts of the country creaked along, carrying huge wine-jars filled with the fresh new juice of the grape; the road was gay with country people in their holiday dresses; the women, who wore their bright shawls like a kind of mantle, were sometimes on foot and sometimes pillioned behind the men, who were invariably on horseback, and whose brilliant ponchos and fine riding added to the impression of life and color. Rivers and streams were frequent; and as there were no bridges, the scenes at the fords, sometimes crossed on rafts, sometimes on flat boats, worked by ropes, were exciting and picturesque. For rustic interiors along the road side, there were the huts of the working people, rough trellises of tree-trunks interwoven with branches; green as arbors while fresh, a coarse thatch when dry. There was  always a large open space in front, sheltered by the projecting thatch of the house, and furnished sometimes with a rough table and benches. Here would be the women at their work, or the children at play, or sometimes the drovers taking their lunch of tortillas and wine, while their animals munched their midday meal hard by. The scenery was often fine. On the third day the fertile soil, watered by many rivers, was exchanged for a sandy plain, broken by a thorny mimosa scattered over the surface. This plain lay between the Cordillera of the Andes and the Coast Range. As the road advanced farther inland, the panorama of the Cordilleras became more and more striking. In the glow of the sunset, the peaks of the abrupt, jagged walls and the volcano like summits were defined against the sky in all their rugged beauty. There was little here to remind one of the loveliness of the Swiss Alps. With no lower green slopes, no soft pasturage grounds leading gently up to rocky heights, the Andes, at least in this part of their range, rise arid, stern, and bold from base to crest, a fortress wall unbroken by tree or shrub, or verdure of any kind, and relieved only by the rich and varied coloring of the rock.  The lodgings for the night were found in small towns along the road, Tome, Chilian, Linarez, Talca, Curicu, and once, when there was no inn within reach, at a hospitable hacienda. A brief sketch of the geological observations made on this excursion is found in a letter from Agassiz to Mr. Peirce. He never wrote out, as he had intended to do, a more detailed report.
At Santiago Agassiz rested a day or two. Here, as everywhere throughout the country, he met with the greatest kindness and cordiality. A public reception and dinner were urged upon him by the city, but his health obliged him to decline this and like honors elsewhere. Among the letters awaiting him here, was one which brought him a pleasant  surprise. It announced his election as Foreign Associate of the Institute of France,— ‘one of the eight.’ As the crowning honor of his scientific career, this was, of course, very gratifying to him. In writing soon after to the Emperor of Brazil, who had expressed a warm interest in his election, he says:
The distinction pleased me the more because so unexpected. Unhappily it is usually a brevet of infirmity, or at least of old age, and in my case it is to a house in ruins that the diploma is addressed. I regret it the more because I have never felt more disposed for work, and yet never so fatigued by it.From Santiago Agassiz proceeded to Valparaiso, where he rejoined the ship's company. The events of their cruise had been less satisfactory than those of his land-journey, for, owing to the rottenness of the ropes, produced by dampness, the hauls of the dredge from the greatest depths had been lost. Several pauses for dredging in shallower waters were made with good success, nevertheless, on the way up the coast to Callao. From there the Hassler put out to sea once more, for the Galapagos, arriving before Charles Island on the 10th of June, and visiting in succession Albemarle, James, Jarvis, and Indefatigable islands.  Agassiz enjoyed extremely his cruise among these islands of such rare geological and zoological interest. Purely volcanic in character, and of very recent formation, they yet support a fauna and flora quite their own, very peculiar and characteristic. Albemarle Island was, perhaps, the most interesting of all. It is a barren mountain rising from the sea, its base and slope covered with small extinct craters. No less than fifty—some perfectly symmetrical, others irregular, as if blasted out on one side—could be counted from the deck as the vessel neared the shore. Indeed, the whole island seemed like some subterranean furnace, of which these craters were the chimneys. The anchorage was in Tagus Sound, a deep, quiet bay, less peaceful once, for its steep sides are formed by the walls of an old crater. The next day, June 15, was spent by the whole scientific party in a ramble on shore. The landing was at the foot of a ravine. Climbing its left bank, they were led by a short walk to the edge of a large crater, which held a beautiful lake in its cup. It was, in fact, a crater within a crater, for a second one, equally symmetrical, rose outside and above it. Following the brink of this lake to  its upper end, they struck across to the head of the ravine. It terminated in a ridge, which looked down upon an immense field or sea of hardened lava, spreading over an area of several miles till it reached the ocean. This ancient bed of lava was full of the most singular and fantastic details of lava structure. It was a field of charred ruins, among which were more or less open caves or galleries, some large enough to hold a number of persons standing upright, others hardly allowing room to creep through on hands and knees. Rounded domes were common, sometimes broken, sometimes whole; now and then some great lava bubble was pierced with a window blasted out of the side, through which one could look down to the floor of a deep, underground hollow. The whole company, some six or eight persons, lunched in one of the caves, resting on the seats formed by the ledges of lava along its sides. It had an entrance at either end, was some forty feet long, at least ten feet high in the centre, and perhaps six or eight feet wide. Probably never before had it served as a banqueting hall. Such a hollow tunnel or arch had been formed wherever the interior of a large mass of lava, once cooled,  had become heated again, and had flowed out, leaving the outside crust standing. The whole story of this lava bed is so clearly told in its blackened and extinct remains, that it needs no stretch of the imagination to recreate the scene. It is again a heaving, palpitating sheet of fire; the dead slags are aglow, and the burned-out furnaces cast up their molten, blazing contents, as of old. Now it is the home of the large red and orange-colored iguanas, of which a number were captured, both alive and dead. These islands proved, indeed, admirable collecting grounds, the more interesting from the peculiarity of their local fauna.
There is little to tell for the rest of the  voyage that cannot be condensed into a few words. There was a detention for despatches and for Coast Survey business at Panama,— a delay which was turned to good account in collecting, both in the Bay and on the Isthmus. At San Diego, also, admirable collections were made, and pleasant days were spent. This was the last station on the voyage of the Hassler. She reached her destination and entered the Golden Gate on the 24th of August, 1872. Agassiz was touched by his reception in San Francisco. Attentions and kindnesses were showered upon him from all sides, but his health allowed him to accept only such hospitalities as were of the most quiet and private nature. He passed a month in San Francisco, but was unable to undertake any of the well-known excursions to the Yosemite Valley or the great trees. Rest and home became every day more imperative necessities.