Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

development, we find the existence of an entire | mosquitoes, hippobosces, and a host of stinging people bound up with that of a single tree, like insects, niche themselves.”—Vol. i. pp. 17, 18. the insect which lives exclusively on a single part of a particular flower."--Vol. i. pp. 15–17.

When the rainy season arrives, the aspect

of the Llano is entirely changed. Sweet Since the discovery of America, the Llanos odors are exhaled from its previously barhave become habitable, and towns have been ren surface. Grasses in great variety spring built here and there on the banks of the up around; the mimosas unfold their droopstreams which water them. Huts formed of ing leaves, and the water plants open their reeds bound by thongs, and covered with blossoms to the sun. Mud volcanoes burst skins, have been placed at the distance of a out from the moistened clay, and a gigantic day's journey from each other; and innu- water-snake or crocodile often issues from the merable herds of oxen, horses, and mules, spot. In describing the phenomena of the estimated at a million and a half thirty-five rainy season, our author has introduced some years ago, roam over the plains, exposed to very brief notices of the attacks made upon numberless dangers. Under a vertical and brood mares and their foals in the swollen never-clouded sun, the carbonized turf cracks streams, and of the battles which take place and pulverizes ; and when the dust and sand between the electrical eels and the wild are raised by opposing winds in the electri- horses; but as we have already given a full cally charged centre of the revolving current, account of these and other interesting phethey have the form of inverted cones, like the nomena in a review of his Kosmos, we must waterspouts of the ocean.

refer our readers to that article. Cruel

though they be, we read with pleasure the " The lowering sky sheds a dim, almost straw

details of battles, when Nature has supplied colored light on the desolate plain. The horizon the combatants with the weapons of destrucdraws suddenly nearer; the Steppe seems to con- tion, and with the ferocious instinct to use tract, and with it the heart of the wanderer. The them ; but we turn with pain from those hot, dusty particles which fill the air, increase its suffocating heat; and the east wind blowing over

scenes of blood, in which man is the hero and the long-heated soil, brings with it no refreshment,

the victim. but rather a still more burning glow. The pools, which the yellow fading branches of the fan palm “As in the Steppes tigers and crocodiles fight had protected from evaporation, now gradually with horses and cattle, so in the forests on its bordisappear. As in the icy north, the animals be- ders, in the wildernesses of Gujana, man is ever come torpid with cold, so here, under the influence armed against man. Some tribes drink with unof the parching droughts, the crocodile and the boa natural thirst the blood of their enemies; others become motionless, and fall asleep deeply buried | apparently weaponless, and yet prepared for murin the dry mud. Everywhere the death-threatening der, kill with a poisoned thumb-nail. The weaker drought prevails; and yet by the play of the re- hordes, when they have to pass along the sandy fracted rays of light producing the phenomenon margins of the rivers, carefully efface with their of the mirage, the thirsty traveler is everywhere hands the traces of their timid footsteps. Thus pursued by the illusive image of a cool, rippling, man in the lowest stage of almost animal rudeness, watery mirror. . . . . Half concealed by the dark as well as amidst the apparent brilliancy of our clouds of dust, restless with the pain of thirst and higher cultivation, prepares for himself and his hunger, the horses and cattle roam around, the fellow-men increased toil and danger. Thetrav, caitle lowing dismally, and the horses stretching eler wandering over the wide globe by sea and out their long necks and snuffing the wind, if land, as well as the historic inquirer searching the haply a mozter current may betray the neigh- records of past ages, finds everywhere the uniform borhood of a not wholly dried-up pool. More and saddening spectacle of man at variance with sa gacious and cunning, the mule seeks a different man. He, therefore, who amid the unreconciled mode of alleviating his thirst. The ribbed and discord of nations seeks for intellectual calm, gladspherical melon-cactus conceals under its prickly ly turns to contemplate the silent life of vegetation, envelope a watery pith. The mule first strikes and the hidden activity of forces and powers operthe prickles aside with his fore feet, and then ven- ating in the sanctuaries of Nature, or obedient to tures warily to approach his lips to the plant, and the inborn impulse which for thousands of years drink the cool juice. But resort to this vegetable has glowed in the human breast, gazes upward fountain is not always without danger, and one in meditative contemplation on those celestial orbs sees many animals that have been lamed by the which are ever pursuing in undisturbed harprickles of the cactus. When the heat of the mony their ancient and unchanging course.”burning day is followed by the coolness of the Pp. 25, 26. night, even then the horses and cattle cannot enjoy repose. Enormous bats suck their blood like vampires during their sleep, or attach themselves

In his section on the Cataracts of Orinoco, to their backs, causing festering wounds, in which I Baron Humboldt proposes to describe “in

9

particular two scenes of nature in the wilder- | circumstances, the lake literally is as black as ness of Guiana,—the celebrated cataracts of ink ; but if the slightest breeze forms a ripthe Orinoco, the Atures and Maypures,” | ple on a portion of its surface, the inclined which few Europeans had seen previous to faces of the tiny waves reflect the light of his visit. At the mouth of the Orinoco, the sky or of the clouds, and the portion of where its milk-white waters bedim the bright the lake thus disturbed has the appearance blue of the Atlantic, its width is less than of milk, so that the sheet of water seems to that of the River Plate or the Amazons. Its be formed of ink and of milk in immiscible length is only 1120 geographical miles; but proximity. The slight coffee-brown color of at the distance of 560 miles from its mouth, some of our own streams is obviously occaits breadth, when full, is 17,265 English feet, sioned by the peaty soil over which they or nearly 3.5 miles; and the height to flow. which it here rises above its lowest level is The phenomenon exhibited on the banks of from 30 to 36 feet. After purusing a west- this remarkable river (the Orinoco) cannot erly and then a northerly course, it runs fail to command the admiration of the travagain to the east, so that its mouth is nearly eler. Near the mouth of the Guaviare and in the same meridian as its source! Near Atabapo grows the noblest of the palms, the mouths of the Sodomoni and the Guapo “ the Piriguao," whose smooth and polished stands the grand and picturesque mountain of trunk, about 65 feet high, is adorned with the Duida, and among the cocoa groves to the most delicate flag-like foliage, and bears east of it are found trees of the Bertholletia large and beautiful fruit like peaches, which, excelsa, the most vigorous and gigantic of the when prepared in a variety of ways, affords productions of the tropical world. From this a nutritious and farinaceous food to the naregion the Indians obtain the materials for tives. At the junction of the Meta, there the long blow-pipes out of which they dis- rises from the middle of a mighty whirlpool charge their arrows. The plant, from which an isolated cliff, called the Rock of Patience, they obtain tubes above 18 feet long, from as voyagers sometimes require two days to knot to knot, is a grass, a species of the arun- pass it; and opposite the Indian mission of dinaria, which grows to the height of 30 or | Carichano, the eye of the taveler is riveted 40 feet, though its thickness is scarcely half on an abrupt rock, El Mogote de Cocuyza, a an inch in diameter.

cube with vertically precipitous sides, above Between the third and fourth degrees of 200 feet high, and carrying on its surface latitude Humboldt observed in the A tabapo, forests of trees of rich and varied foliage. the Temi, the Tuamini, and the Guainia, the Like a Cyclopean monument in its simple "enigmatical phenomenon of the so-called grandeur, this central mass rises high above Black-water.” The color of these rivers is a the top of the surrounding palms, marking coffee-brown, which, in the shade of the palm the deep azure of the sky, with its sharp and groves, passes into ink-black, though in trans- rugged outlines, and uplifting “its summit parent vessels the water has a golden yellow high in air, a forest above the forest.” In the color. This black color of the water is lower parts of the river near the sea, great ascribed by our author to its holding in solu-natural rafts, consisting of trees torn from the tion carburetted hydrogen, “ to the luxuriance banks by the swelling of the river, are enof the tropical vegetation, and to the quantity countered by the boatmen, whose canoes are of plants and herbs upon the ground over often wrecked by striking against them in the which the rivers flow.” The ink-blackness dark. These rafts, which are covered like mentioned by Humboldt, arises, as he states, meadows with flowering water plants, remind from the groves of palm when reflected from the traveler of the floating gardens of the the aqueous surface, a phenomenon which we Mexican lakes. have frequently seen even under a more re- As the Orinoco imparts a black color to markable aspect in the lakes which exist in the reddish white granite which it has washthe Grampian range near the banks of the ed for a thousand years, the existence of simSpey. When these lakes, seen from above, ilar black hollows at heights of nearly 200 reflect from their unruffled surface only the feet above the present bed of the river, indipurple flanks of the hills covered with heath cates the fact, " that the streams whose magor with pine, the light which reaches the eye nitude now excites our astonishment, are is exceedingly faint, and almost inappreciable, only the feeble remains of the immense massnot only from the darkness of its tint, but es of water that belonged to an earlier of from the smallness of its angle of incidence the world.” The very natives of Guiana callupon the reflecting surface. Under these led the attention of our author to the traces

age

of the former height of the waters. On a The Raudal of Atures is, like that of Maygrassy plain, near Uruana, stands an isolated pures, a cluster of islands, between which the granite rock, upon which are engraven, at a river forces its way for ten or twelve thousand height of more than 80 feet, figures of the yards, a forest of palms rising from the midSun and Moon, and of many animals, partic- dle of its foaming waters. Near the southern ularly crocodiles and boas, arranged almost in entrance of this cataract, and on the right rows or lines. The natives believe that these bank of the river, stands the celebrated Cave figures were carved when their fathers' boats of Ataruipe. It consists of a cavity or vaulted were only a little lower than the drawings. roof, formed by “a far overhanging cliff,”

The cataracts, or Raudal of Maypures, are and is the vault or cemetery of an extinct nanot, like the falls of Niagara, formed by the tion :descent of a mass of water through a great height, nor are they narrow gorges through

“ We counted,” says our author, “about 600 which the river rushes with accelerated ve

well-preserved skeletons, placed in as many baslocity. They consist of a countless number kets, woven from the stalks of palm leaves. These of little cascades, succeeding each other like baskets, which the Indians call mapires, are shaped steps, sometimes extending across the entire like square sacks, differing in size according to bed of the river, and sometimes, in a river the age of the deceased. Even new-born children 8500 feet wide, leaving only an open channel had each its own mapire. The skeletons are so of twenty feet. When the steps are but two perfect, that not a bone or a joint is wanting

The bones had been prepared in three different or three feet high, the natives can descend

ways; some bleached, some colored red with onoto, the falls remaining in the canoe. When the the pigment of the bixa orellana, and some like steps are high, and stretch across the stream, mummies, closely enveloped in sweet-smelling the boat is landed and dragged along the resin and plantain leaves. The Indians assured bank by branches of trees placed under it as us that the custom had been to bury the fresh rollers.

corpses for some months in damp earth, which In descending from the village of Maypures gradually consiimed the flesh; they were then dug to the Rock of Manimi in the bed of the river, up, and any remaining flesh scraped away with

sharp stones. This the Indians said was still the a wonderful prospect opens to the traveler's practice of several tribes in Guiana. Besides the view :

mapires or baskets we found urns of half-burnt

clay, which appeared to contain the bones of en"A foaming surface, four miles in length, pre- tire families. The larger of these urns were about sents itself at once to the eye. Iron-black masses three feet high, and nearly six feet long, of a of rocks, resembling ruins and battlemented tow. pleasing oval form, and greenish color, having ers, rise frowning from the waters. Rocks and handles shaped like snakes and crocodiles, and islands are adorned with the luxuriant vegetation meandering or labyrinthine ornaments round the of the tropical forest; a perpetual mist hovers over upper margin. These ornaments are quite similar the waters, and the summit of the lofty palms to those which cover the walls of the Mexican pierce through the cloud of spray and vapor. palace at Mitla. They are found in all countries When the rays of the glowing evening sun are and climates, and in the most different stages of refracted in these humid exhalations, a magic opti- human cultivation-among the Greeks and Rocal effect begins. Colored bows shine, vanish, mans, as well as on the shields of some of the naand reappear; and the ethereal image is swayed tives at Tahiti and other islands of the South Sea to and fro by the breath of the sportive breeze. —wherever the eye is gratified by the rhythmical During the long rainy season the streaming wa- recurrence of regular forms. ters bring down islands of vegetable mould, and Our interpreters could give us no certain informathus the naked rocks are sludded with bright tion as to the age of these vessels ; that of the flower-beds, adorned with melastomas and droseras, skeletons appeared for the most part not to exceed and with small silver-leaved mimosas and ferns. a century. It is reported among the Guareca InThese spots recall to the recollection of the Euro- dians, that the brave Atures being pressed upon pean those blocks of granite decked with flowers by the cannibal Caribs, withdrew to the rocks which rise solitary amid the glaciers of Savoy, of the cataracts--a melancholy refuge and and are called by the dwellers in the Alps jar- dwelling-place, in which the distressed tribe dins' or courtils. In the blue distance the eye finally perished, and with them their language. rests on the mountain chain of Cunavami, a long in the most inaccessible parts of the Raudal there extended ridge, which terminates abruptly in a are cavities and recesses which have served, like truncated cone. We saw the latter glowing at the Cave of Ataruipe, as burying-places. It is sunset as if in roseate flames. This appearance even probable that the last family of the Atures returns daily. No one has ever been near the may not have been long deceased; for (a singular mountain to detect the precise cause of this bright- faci) there is still in Maypures an old parrot, of ness, which may perhaps proceed from a reflect whom the natives affirm that he is not understood ing surface produced by the decomposition of talc because he speaks the Ature language.”—Vol. i. or mica slate."--Vol. i. pp. 224, 225.

pp. 229, 230.

Leaving this interesting cave at nightfall, | ter eleven o'clock, however, such a disturand carrying along with him several skulls, bance began to be heard in the adjoining and an entire skeleton, our author could not forest that sleep became impossible during avoid tracing a melancholy contrast between the rest of the night. the extinct race, whose mouldering relics he bore, with the ever new life which springs

" The wild cries of animals appeared to rage from the bosom of the earth :

throughout the forest. Among the many voices

which resounded together, the Indians could only “ Countless insects poured their red phosphoric recognize those which, after short pauses in the light on the herb-covered ground, which glowed general uproar, were first heard singly. There with living fire, as if the starry canopy of heaven

was the monotonous howling of the alouates, (the had sunk down upon the turf. Climbing bigno- Aute-like tones of the small sa pajons, the snarl

howling monkeys.) the plaintive, soft, and almost nias, fragrant vanillas, and yellow flowering banisterias adorned the entrance of the cave, and the ing grumblings of the striped nocturnal monkey, summits of the palms rustled above the graves.

(ihe victipithicus trivirgatus, which I was the first Thus perish the generations of men ! Thus do

to describe,) the interrupted cries of the great tithe name and the traces of nations fade and dis-ger, the cnguar, or maneless American lion, the appear! Yet when one blossom of man's intel- peccary, the sloth, and a host of parrots, parralect withers—when in the storms of time the me

quas, and other pheasant-like birds. When the morials of his art moulder and decay-an ever

tigers came near the edge of the forest, our dog, new life springs forth from the bosom of the earth; ing to seek refuge under our hammocks. Some

which had before barked incessantly, came howl. maternal nature unfolds unceasingly ber germs; times the cry of the riger was heard to proceed her flowers, and her fruits ; regardless though from amidst the high branches of a tree, and was man, with his passions and his crimes, treads under foot her ripening harvests.”_Vol. i. p. 231.

then always accompanied by the plaintive piping of the monkeys who were seeking to escape from

the unwonted pursuit. If we ask the Indians The third aspect of nature to which Ba- why this incessant noise and disturbance takes ron Humboldt directs our attention is the place on particular nights, they answer with a Nocturnal Life of Animals in the Primaval smile, that the animals are rejoicing in the bright Forest. The wooded region which lies be- moonlight, and keeping the feast of the full moon. tween 8° of north and 19° of south latitude to me it appeared that the scene had originated is one connected forest, having an

in some accidental combat, that the disturbance

had spread to other animals, and that the noise twelve times greater than that of Germany. was thus more and more increased. The jaguar This vast surface is watered by systems of pursues the peccaries and tapirs, and these pressrivers, whose tributaries sometimes exceed in ing against each other in their flight, break through the abundance of their waters the Rhine or the interwoven tree-like shrubs which impede the Danube ; and it is to the combination of their escape; the apes on the tops of the trees, forests owe the luxuriant growth of their build their nests in communities are aroused, and great moisture with a tropical heat that these frightened by the crash, join their cries to those

of the larger animals; the tribes of birds who trees. So rank, indeed, is their vegetation, thus the whole animal world is thrown into a that particular parts of the forest are impen- state of commotion. Longer experience taught etrable ; and the large American tigers, or us that it is not always the celebration of the panther-like jaguars, often lose themselves brightness of the moon which breaks the repose in their dense and impenetrable recesses.

of the woods. We witnessed the same occurBeing thus unable to hunt on the ground, rence repeatedly, and found that the voices were they actually live on the trees, and become flashing lighining, accompanied with loud peals

loudest during violent falls of rain, or when the the terror of the families of monkeys, and of thunder, illuminated the deep recesses of the of the prehensile-tailed viverræ.

forest.”— Vol. i. pp. 270, 271. On the sandy bank of the Rio Apure, closely bordering upon the impenetrable for- Scenes like these form a striking contrast est, our author and his party bivouacked, as with the death-like stillness which prevails usual, under the open sky, surrounded by within the tropics “duriug the noontide fires to keep off prowling jaguars. Their hours of a day of more than usual heat." hammocks were suspended on the oars of At the remarkable “ Narrows" of Baraguan, their boat, driven vertically into the ground, where the Orinoco forces itself through a and the deep stillness which prevailed was pass 5690 feet wide, our author had ocbroken only from time to time by the blow- casion to spend a day, when the thermoming of the fresh-water dolphins. Soon af- | eter in the shade was so high as 122° of

area

Fahrenheit. There was not a breath of | ley to the summit of the Silla, 5755 feet air to stir the fine dust-like sand, and un- high, and then sink down to the neighborder the influence of the mirage · the out- ing sea-coast. This phenomenon continued lines of every distant object had wave-like for an hour, and the white bodies, though undulations.

considered at first to have been small birds,

turned out to be agglomerations of straws or “The sun was in the zenith, and the flood of blades of grass, belonging to the genus vilfa light which he poured down upon the river, and tenacissima, which abounds in the Caraccas which flashed sparkling back, owing to a slight and Cumana. Creatures still more wonderrippling movement of the waters, rendered still ful are detected in the atmosphere by the more sensible the red haze which veiled the dis; aid of the microscope-minute animalculæ, tance. All the naked rocks and boulders around were covered with a countless number of large (the rutifera and Brachiona,) motionless thick-scaled iguanas, gecko-lizards, and various and apparently dead, lifted up by the winds ly spotted salamanders. Motionless, with up

in multitudes from the surface of evaporalifted heads and open mouths, they appeared io ting waters, and carried about by atmoinale the burning air with ecstasy. At such spheric currents till the descending dews times the larger animals seek shelter in the re- restore them to the earth, dissolving the cesses of the forest, and the birds hide themselves film or envelope which incloses their transunder the thick foliage of the trees, or in the clefts of the rocks; but is under this appareni entire parent rotating bodies, and probably by stillness of nature we listen for the faintest tones means of the oxygen which all water conwhich an attentive ear can seize, we shall per- tains, breathing new irritability into their ceive an all-pervading rustling sound, a humming dormant organs. and fluttering of insects close to the ground and The celebrated Prussian naturalist, M. in the lower strata of the atmosphere. Every Ehrenberg, has discovered, by microscopic thing announces a world of organic activity and observations, that the dust or yellow sand life." In every bush--in the cracked bark of the which falls like rain on the Atlantic, near trees--in the earth, undermined by hymenopter-tlie Cape de Verde Islands, and is sometimes ous insects, life stirs audibly. It is, as it were, one of the many voices of nature, heard only by transported to Italy, and even the middle of the sensitive and reverent ear of her true vota- Europe, consists of a multitude of silicious ries."--Vol. i. p. 272.

shelled microscopic animals. Perhaps," says Humboldt,

many of them float for The second volume of the “Aspects of years in the upper straia of the atmosphere, Nature" commences with an instructive sec- until they are brought down by vertical curtion “On the Physiognomy of Plants,” rents, or in accompaniment with the superior which our author prefaces with some highly current of the trade-winds, still susceptible of interesting observations on the universal pro- revivification, and multiplying their species fusion with which life is everywhere distrib- by spontaneous division, in conformity with uted. The information which is here con- the particular laws of their organization.

' veyed to us has a high value at all times, but a very peculiar one at present, when a " But besides creatures fully formed," contingreat degree of probability attaches to the

ues Humboldt, “the atmosphere contains innuopinion that organic atoms floating in our

merable germs of future life, such as the eggs of

insects and the seeds of plants ; the latter proatmosphere are the cause of that dreadful vided with light hairy and feathery appendages, pestilence which is now ravaging our land. by means of which they are wafted through the In the dense and lower stratil of our atmo- air during long antumnal wanderinys. Even the sphere we are accustomed to observe the fertilizing dust or pollen from the anthers of the general prevalence of life, and travelers inform us that even on the Polar ice the air * By means of a drop of water Fontana revived

a rotifera which had been two years dried and mois resonant with the cries and songs of birds

tionless. Baker resuscitated paste eels which and with the hum of insect life. In the up- Needham had given him in 1744. Doyere has reper and more ethereal regions, 18,000 feet cently shown by experiment that rotiferæ come to above the sea, Ilumboldt and Bonpland life, or pass from a motionless state to a state of found butterflies and other winged insocts, of from 110 to 1134 of Fahr. 'Payen has shown that

motion, after having been exposed to temperatures which were involuntarily carried upward by the sporules of a minute fungus, (oidium aurantiaascending currents of air; and the same cum,) which deposits a ruddy feathery coating on a creatures are carried by storms from the crumb of bread, are not deprived of their power of land to great distances at sea. M. Boussin- germination by an exposure of half an hour to a gault, when ascending the Silla of Caraccas, being strewed on fresh and perfectly unspoiled

temperature of from 183° to 2070 of Fahr., before saw whitish shining bodies rise from the val- | dough.

« VorigeDoorgaan »