« PreviousContinue »
We were now in the region of pines and north
ing for the proposed expedition the sanction of | could not help making frequent halts to admire the commanding officer, we made our preparations scenes which cannot be surpassed, and which at with the view of overcoming all obstacles. Ac- every successive turn broke upon our sight with cordingly, long poles were prepared, shod with redoubled magnificence and grandeur. iron sockets at one end and hooks at the other, to assist in scaling precipices; ropes with iron grap-ern plants; the old familiar oak, the birch, and nels were provided, to be thrown over a projecting crag or icy point; rope ladders were made, to be used if required; shoes and sandals, with sharp projecting points to assist in climbing the icy slopes, were also bespoken ;-in short, everything that it was thought might be needed or would increase the chances of success, was taken along.
other trees unknown to the low country, were
Cultivation does not extend up as high as we expected to see it; we passed the upper limit at about 8000 feet elevation. About 12 o'clock, and The selection of a route presented some diffi- at an elevation of rather more than 10,000 feet, culty, different ones being recommended-those the guides reported that mules could go no further, by San Andres and San Juan de Coscomatapec and not knowing anything of our route beyond, particularly. In order to decide between them we were compelled to encamp for the night. A we endeavored to persuade some of the most in- brother officer and myself, however, being on telligent of the citizens, who were acquainted horseback, and feeling comparatively fresh, deterwith the country, to go with us. At first they mined to go forward and explore. We concluded consented, but as the time approached one after that it would not do to stop where we were, but another declined, till finally, when the party was that mules with light loads might go still higher. assembled for starting, it was found we were to go Accordingly, next morning we again started, alone. Then, as some of us inclined to one route, four or five of us going in advance to select a and others to the other, we concluded to reject all good place for our encampment, and also to extheir recommendations, and go direct to the moun-plore the best route for the final ascent. We tain, following the path taken by the Indians engaged in bringing down snow to the city, as far as the limits of vegetation, and from that point to go round the peak to the side which would present the best prospect of success.
We left the city of Orizaba on the morning of the 7th of May, 1848, the party consisting of ten officers, including one of the navy, thirtyfour soldiers and two sailors serving with the naval battery, three or four Mexicans and Indians as guides, and enough pack mules to carry our provisions and equipments. Our expedition setting out during the armistice, it was thought advisable to procure a passport from the Prefect of Orizaba to provide against contingencies.
About six miles from the city of Orizaba we passed through the small Indian village of La Perla; the inhabitants were very much frightened at our approach, but our passport soon quieted them, and when they came to know the object of our visit they seemed to regard us as the greatest set of donkeys they ever saw, telling us very plainly we could never reach the summit. Nothing daunted, however, we continued on, and immediately after leaving their village commenced a rapid ascent, and began to enjoy views which of themselves would have amply repaid us for our trouble. We encamped for the night at an elevation of about 7000 feet above the sea; the night was clear and bracing, but not cold enough to be uncomfortable.
The next morning was clear and beautiful, and after an early breakfast we were again in motion. The scenery was truly sublime, and ascending one mountain after another, valley after valley appeared in view; hills, which at first seemed mountains, kept gradually sinking at our feet, and the range of vision constantly extending, we
selected our camp on the verge of vegetation, and went forward by different routes far above the line of eternal snow.
Under shelter of a rock, and far above that line, some of the party found a rude cross, decorated with paper ornaments and surrounded by tallow candles. Its history we were unable to learn, but it gave rise to many reflections. Who placed it there, when was it erected, and what event did it record? were questions asked, but not answered. During our trip several parties of Indians passed us, who made a regular business of bringing down snow on their backs for the use of the citizens of Orizaba. The cross was probably erected by some of them.
On our return we found all our baggage brought up to our new encampment, notwithstanding it had been pronounced impossible, and on comparing notes, selected the route which seemed most practicable, and prepared for ascent next morning. The night was clear and cold, the thermometer falling below the freezing point; a heavy frost and frozen water reminding us very forcibly of "auld lang syne.”
While sitting around our camp fires this evening, it was discovered that we had two flags in the party; the sailors, not knowing that one had been brought along, had carried materials and manufac tured one in camp. It was proposed to get up a rivalry as to which flag should be planted first; but we came to the conclusion that, should the summit be reached, the honor should be equally shared. As night came on we enjoyed a most magnificent sight: the clouds gathered round the foot of the mountain so as to entirely obstruct a distant view, while the lightning's vivid flash, darting from cloud to cloud, was visible far beneath our feet; the sky overhead being bright and beautiful.
encamped at an elevation, according to the barom- as the circumstances would admit, and for that pureter, of 12,200 feet—about double that of the highest point of the White Mountains-while the peak still raised its snow-white head above us to a height nearly equal to that of Mount Washington above the sea, and seemed to frown down upon the pigmies who dared attempt to scale its giddy, and, as yet, unascended height.
I estimated the distance between the lowest line of graduation and the top of the mercury at two tenths of an inch, which gives-with corresponding observations in the city of Orizaba at the same hour-an elevation of 17,907 feet, and makes it the highest point on the North American continent. I do not think I could have been far wrong in my
pose had carried a barometer, the best I could get, which from previous calculations I deemed capable of indicating a height of from 300 to 400 feet higher than that given by him. I had also provided myself with a spirit-lamp and thermometer, for the purpose of taking the temperature of boiling water; on the march, however, the bottle conAt daylight on the morning of the 10th of May, taining the alcohol was broken and the alcohol lost. we were again in motion; many of the party had I therefore determined to test the combustible propalready given out, so that there were but twenty-erties of whiskey. One of my first objects after four persons to start on the final ascent. In a few reaching the summit was to make the observations, minutes we were at the foot of the snow, and taking but on preparing the barometer the mercury sunk the route over which there appeared to be least of at once below the graduation! it, passed for half or three fourths of a mile over loose volcanic sand. On measuring the slope of this I found it to be 33°. It was by far the most difficult portion of our ascent; sinking up to the knees in sand, we seemed to go back about as far as we stepped forward, while the rarefied condition of the atmosphere made exertion painful in the extreme; indeed, during the whole of this day's estimate, as the means of comparison were before ascent, it was impossible to advance fifty paces me; but even supposing I was mistaken one twenwithout stopping for breath. When not exerting tieth of an inch, we still have an elevation of 17,819 ourselves, we could breathe comparatively easy, feet, 98 feet higher than Popocatapetl, which is but the moment we moved we were forcibly usually considered the highest point (5,400 metres, reminded of our great elevation. I can only com- or 17,721 feet, as given by Humboldt). The pare the sensation produced to that experienced by temperature was just below the freezing point. a person who, after running at the top of his speed, My attempt to make whiskey burn was a failure. is ready to drop from sheer exhaustion. Since my return to the United States, I have observed the following remark in Humboldt's work : "Eight years before my arrival in Mexico, Mr. Ferrar measured Citlaltipetl, (Orizaba,) and he gives it an elevation of 5,450 metres (17,885 feet); my measurement, made from a plain near Xalapa, is 155 metres less (5,295 metres, or 17,377 feet).” It will be seen that my determination agrees very nearly with that of Mr. Ferrar.
At length, however, we reached the firm rock, and it was quite a relief to be once more where we could use both hands and feet for climbing. But we were yet far from the point at which we were aiming, and before reaching it were to be many times sorely disappointed. A projecting crag far above would be hailed as the summit; step after step the weary body was dragged along till at length it was reached; but once there, it was found to be but the base of another still higher; this being overcome, another was discovered above. Thus, time after time, were our expectations crushed, till hope seemed almost to have forsaken us, and one after another dropped behind in despair. But " go a-head" was our motto, and go a-head some of the party did, till at length their efforts were crowned with success, and they dropped exhausted on the brink of the crater !
The crater is nearly circular, and variously estimated by different members of the party at from 400 to 650 yards in diameter. We all put the depth at about 300 feet. The sides are nearly vertical, and show strong and unmistakeable signs of fire, looking like the mouth of some gigantic furnace.
At the foot of this perpendicular wall was quite a bank of sand, or débris, which had fallen from the inner surface of the rock, showing a great length of time since the volcano became extinct. The bottom of the crater was covered with snow. Humboldt says its most violent eruptions were from A. D. 1545 to 1566; I have seen no record of an eruption since.
It being my desire to test Humboldt's altitude, I had taken the precaution to be as well prepared
We remained on the summit about an hour, planted the "stars and stripes," and hailed them with three hearty cheers; fired pistols over and into the crater to hear the report, collected quite a number of specimens. some of them of pure sulphur, and most of the others containing lime; emptied our bottle and left it, containing a paper on which were written, in pencil, the names of the successful party, and after remaining to enjoy the scenery, commenced our descent. The day was clear, but the atmosphere thick and smoky, so that we did not have the views we had hoped for; but as we believed ourselves to be the first who had ever looked into the crater, we felt amply repaid for our trouble.
Those who reached the summit were Major Manigault, 13th Infantry; Captain Lomax, Alabama Volunteers; acting Assistant-Surgeon Banks, U. S. Army; passed Midshipman Henry Rogers, U. S. Navy; a private of the Alabama Volunteers, whose name I do not now recollect; a Mexican, whom we had employed as interpreter for the Indians, and myself,-seven of the twenty-four who started in the morning, or of the fifty persons who started on the expedition !
The descent was by no means as difficult as the ascent; a slide on the snow or sand carried us
should harmonize for a moment the spirit of one untimed by the jangle of Wall-street, or stunned by Broadway's dusty roar. Let an inhabitant of Babel imagine himself a lonely admirer of these inhospitable regions where civilized men can never live. Let those who are wont to fall into ecstasy at seeing their own pigmy highlands, fancy themselves here, lost in the surpassing, yet dreary magnificence of these Straits of Magalhaen.
hundreds of feet down-a space which had required | course over cool seas. Mellowed by distance, it many weary steps to go up. About dark we arrived at our encampment, highly delighted with our trip, though very much fatigued and exhausted. All who made the final attempt were more or less affected either with violent headaches, nausea, and vomiting, or bleeding at the nose. The veils which we had provided for our journey did good service, but the face, particularly the lips, of all those who reached the summit, became so swollen and cracked as to be exceedingly painful, indeed to such a degree as to confine some of them to their rooms for several days. At half-past 6 o'clock next morning we left camp on our return, those who had horses going in advance, and by riding very slowly, not out of a walk, and stopping on the way to gather flowers, we reached Orizaba at one o'clock, P. M.; only six hours and a half from the region of eternal snow to where frost is never known! We had a beau
tiful opportunity of observing the change of vegetation with the change of altitude; the lines were clearly and distinctly marked, and seemed to run nearly horizontal.
When we started on our return the sky was bright and clear, while beneath us rolled an ocean of clouds; we saw plainly when we were passing through them; there was considerable wind, and they were floating briskly about the sides of mountains; as we passed into them, the sky was shut out, and we were in a dense fog; in a few minutes all was clear below, and the day was cloudy! After our return, the Mexican asked for and obtained a certificate, signed by all the party, that he had been to the summit; he said his countrymen would not believe him—many of them would not believe us, though one gentleman said he had seen us distinctly with his spy-glass, while on our way up; others contented themselves by saying,
"Los Americanos son los diablos."
The difficulty of the undertaking had been greatly magnified; none of our preparations excepting veils were necessary. The sand is the most serious obstacle to be overcome, and by taking a more circuitous route from our last encampment, this might have been avoided. All that is required is a physical constitution capable of sustaining the fatigue, patience and perseverance.
Another party was spoken of, and some of us who had made the trip would have gladly gone again, partly in hopes of obtaining a better view, and partly to get more accurate barometric observations, but the glad tidings of peace cut short our plans, and gave us the more agreeable trip tohome and friends. Washington, July, 1849.
W. F. RAYNOLDS,
Correspondence of the Journal of Commerce.
"Dull as a voyage at sea,' is a common prov-
we stand upon the deck at night, and feel strange
Some discomforts there are, to be sure, but all our loss becomes gain. Sea fare cannot at all times be most enticing to the palate, but sea air makes all food wonderfully toothsome. Then, our schooner is small and in her motions resembling "that Scot of Scots, who runs o' horseback up a hill perpendicular," but she frolics along as graceful as a kitten, and we are so accustomed to her antics that we may justly despair of finding a more
comfortable couch ashore than a sea-saw board. The only serious deprivation is the absence of the morning papers; but never surely was European, political, or even California news, sought with such intense excitement as the daily bulletin of latitude and longitude. No political problem, long doubtful and finally solved by the freedom of a nation, could interest us half so much as to work our imaginary location upon the shifting waves, so despotically does Neptune rule the minds of all subjects in his vast dominions.
Sixty days of pleasant sailing, the last three weeks of fighting with pamperos and heavy gales excepted, found us in sight of the castellated heights of Cape Virgins, the eastern entrance to the far-famed Straits of Magalhaen.
These are classic waters. Through this narrow cut in the land, scarcely three hundred miles in all its tortuous course, bold Fernando de Magalhaen steered, and despite of unfitness of vessels and treachery of officers, accomplished that wherein Columbus failed, and opened a new highway to the Indies. For many years afterwards, this was A VOICE from over sea! It should be freshened supposed to be the only channel for ships, and by the many winds through which it pierces, many were the rich argosies that passed here with strengthened by loud gales, yet soft in its pleasant the fruits of sunnier climes: many too,
STRAITS OF MAGALHAEN,
Which struck where the white and fleecy waves
Then Cape Horn was found to terminate the
You will best understand the peculiar nature of this corner of the earth, by following us from Cape Virgins to Cape Pillar.
down-running around thirty or forty cells in four large styes, between which are gutters for streets, little stone islands for a sidewalk, and eighteen inches of mud for a pavement. I thought of New York! In each of these six-by-eight boxes, windowless and chimneyless, exists a family of convicts. About seventy from the fleet went ashore one evening, and saw a fandango. In Spain the dance may be graceful. Here, no wonder that the wretches pay one dollar a pound for soap, and make a good bargain at that!
be spent at anchor before the Pacific is reached. Yet the water at Port Famine cannot be surpassed. Men of experience say that months at sea do not alter its taste.
The first day was spent in painfully beating up Most vessels stop here needlessly for wood and to the first anchorage in Possession Bay, against water. Both can be procured as well, if not violent gusts of wind, which lifted the tops from better, in most harbors further on, and time spent those deep green furrows, and drenched us with here is lost; for there is always a fair wind in showers of inexpressible saltness. We anchored this portion of the Straits, and many days must with our consort, the Sea Witch of Mystic, the pilot-boat Anonyma, seventy-two days from Boston, and the clipper Eclipse, eighty days from Baltimore. Though thousands of miles from home, at a distance where the distinction between States should be lost, and all viewed as a single nation, I was never more forcibly struck with sectional peculiarities, than when contrasting the slow, drawling reply of the Baltimorean, with the hearty shout of the Bostonian, and the bluff, independent hail of the Yankee smackman. The little fleet which had thus gathered in a single day, determined to sail in company through the Straits, and it may safely be said that four swifter vessels were never yet seen together in these waters.
At the second trial we succeeded in passing the first and second Narrows. These are each about ten miles in length and nearly two in width, the tide running through them full ten or twelve miles an hour. By seizing it at the favorable time, no danger need be apprehended, except from the heavy ripplings in which many vessels have been lost. In three days we had passed the first of the three great divisions which nature has marked in the Straits. The region of sand hills and granite cliffs yields to one which appears almost delightful in comparison with what precedes and follows it.
Here the coast suddenly tends southward, and the Strait expands into a broad sheet of water, thirty miles in width and three hundred fathoms in depth. The hills are thickly clothed with trees to the water's edge, and were it not for the humid climate and boggy soil, man could gain his livelihood from the earth. As it is, the Chilian colonies of convicts at Sandy Point and Port Famine are supported from home. Rain fell every day while we were there, and in a continual flood for a full third of the time. In this kind of experience we can fully equal even our brother hunters for gold who trudged across to Panama.
At San Nicholas' Bay we saw a fair specimen of the Patagonians. This is that singular race of men which have so inexplicably lost half their stature in the last two hundred years! Magalhaen affirmed them to be nearly twelve feet high, Cordova and Sarmiento at least nine, Anson about eight, and our own school geography full seven. In truth, they measure about six feet, and are very strongly built. Whether time tears down tallness from men or from fables, is a point for conjecture. These Horse Indians, as they are commonly called, from their equestrian life, are friendly and very stupid. The Tierra del Fuegian, or Canoe Indians, are of the ordinary height, magpies in tongue, baboons in countenance, and imps in treachery. Many conflicts have taken place between them and sealing vessels. They are best seen at a distance.
At Cape Howard the main channel turns sharply to the north-west. Here end the two first sections of the Straits, and all plain sailing. The whole body of water is here divided into a thousand little channels to the Pacific, of which the best known are the Cockburn, Barbara, Gabriel, and Main Channels. The labyrinth of islands and sounds is so perfect, that a good chart is indispensable. Unfortunate, indeed, is the vessel in Crooked Reach, which has saved an unlucky sixpence in not providing several stout anchors and the best of cables, at home or at the half-supplied depot in Port Famine.
Here the navigation assumes a new character. Nine days in ten, gales of westerly wind prevail, and beat fiercely upon the adventurous vessel which dares to struggle with their power. falls several times each day, and when that fails, Port Famine, the capital of semi-civilization in showers of thick snow or stinging hail suppy its this quarter of the globe, consists of a few houses, place. There is a certain singular gust of wind inclosing a wooden fort, in which lie unmounted very prevalent here, which the sailors have termed two honey-combed twelve-pounders and a brass" woolliewaws." When a vessel is caught at field-piece, tightly spiked! Buenos Ayres also night out of the harbor by rain, snow, hail, gales, claims this country, and Chili thus arms herself thick darkness and woolliewaws, there will be little against her rival in imbecility. There is a rickety sleep on board. We were twice trapped in this apology for a fence-a stout cat might paw it manner, and always afterwards saved time and
labor by seeking a harbor at three o'clock in the hail. afternoon.
Strangely enough, the temperature of these high latitudes is equable, and not very cold. The thermometer ranges from 40° to 50° Fahr. throughout the year. Decreased strength of winds alone
marks the winter season.
In one day we sailed from San Nicholas' Bay to Borja Bay; leaving the region of thick verdure, passing grim Mount Sarmiento seven thousand feet above us, and struggling through a narrow island-spotted ribbon of water, with gigantic walls of granite overshadowing us from their immovable resting places. Cordova said that the mountains west of Cape Quod gave to this portion of the Straits a "most horrible appearance." They do indeed seem very desolate and uninviting, almost all terminating in sharply serrated peaks, or slightly rounding knobs of bare granite, but there is a savage grandeur, a wild glory, upon their lofty summits, which far excels the smiles of the softest landscapes.
At Borja Bay we found the brig Saltillo, which had sailed from Boston some time last year, and had already spent five Sundays in the Straits. We also received New York papers to February 17th, from the steamer Panama. She reported several vessels at the entrance of the Straits, and among them the well-known New York pilot boat, Wm. G. Hackstaff, which sailed one day before us. At Swallow Harbor lay the Velasco, of Groton, and Iowa, of Sagharbor. Thus our fleet was increased to six schooners.
Both harbors are most secure and picturesque, locked in, as they are, by lofty mountains. Right at the bottom of each, a magnificent cascade rustles down the sides of a broad, brown mountain,
With the foamy sheaf of fountains, falling through the painted air.
Few things can be more lovely than these harbors, inclosed by bare cliffs like gems set in granite. The weary sailor, who looks for no beauty, can never deny their comfort. The only objection to them is from the terrific woolliewaws that rush from the surrounding heights without a second's warning, and pounce upon the waters, gathering them into a narrow but boiling circle of foam, then skurry around, fan-shaped, in every direction, and with resistless fury. "These woollies are queer things!" exclaimed our skipper.
Sometimes we are sailing along in rare sunshine, when a woolliewaw whirls a storm of sharp diamond hail into our faces, or a column of spray-beads to the very truck; forces our little craft down into the water, till a rushing flood swashes along her decks, then moves leeward in a brown and distinct whirlwind, till it hides one end of a lustrous rainbow, whose other extremity is splendidly defined against some rough mountain. Meanwhile the glorious sunlight is over all. From Port Famine to the Harbor of Mercy, near Cape Pillar, they continually increased in fury. The day before we left this latter harbor, there was a grand display of their impotent rage.
Our passage consumed twenty days, thirteen of which found us closely shut up in harbors. We overtook and passed square-rigged vessels, which had been weeks in the Straits, unwilling to return and unable to proceed. Few square-riggers can hope for a short passage; the difficulties in managing them in a channel, barely a mile wide in some places, are too great.
The passage from the Atlantic is thus mostly confined to small vessels. From the Pacific, passages are often made by ships in two or three days, and the only wonder is why more do not save the distance around Cape Horn. There are scarcely any dangers which are not visible, so bold is the coast and deep the soundings throughout the Strait.
Few portions of the earth can surpass this, so wonderful in the grandeur of its scenery. Here let the painter come-the poet too—all who love nature in her wildest moods, and can discern a mystic loveliness behind her frowns. Only the monomaniac gold-hunter views it with indifferent
[MYSTICAL THEOLOGY-GROUND OF ITS INFLUENCE.]
how they tie the water all up in a little heap, and tics hath a dialect peculiarly suited to it, which THE most obscure theology of the German mysthen throw it every-which way!" Even at an- makes it intelligible to those whom a plainer syschor, the whole fleet rolls down in abject sub-tem would disgust. There is certain perversion mission before them. Once, the Anonyma's clinker boat was torn from her stern, whirled over in the air, and sunk in a single second. It is fortunate that they last little longer.
It was only by a very painful beating that we passed English Reach, Crooked Reach, Long Reach, and Sea Reach. The gale was diversified only with woolliewaws, the rain with snow and
of intellect which can relish nothing but what is dark and enigmatical; and though many of the speculations of visionary enthusiasts are, when accurately sifted to the bottom, nothing but plain and common truths, yet the moment they are brought out of the obscurity into which a wild and irregular imagination had thrown them, they lose all their efficacy, and that which is thoroughly comprehended ceases to effect.-Monthly Review, vol. 64, p. 206.