With the help of General Rosas, CD has just finished an overland journey from Patagones to Buenos Aires; he tells of fossil finds at Bahia Blanca and Guardia del Monte. Spring reminds him of home.
<My> dear Caroline
I have just returned from a grand expedition; As a merchant vessel sails tomorrow for Liverpool, I will write, as much as I can before I go to bed.— The Beagle after leaving Maldonado, sailed for the R. Negro.— When < > I determined to go by land to Bahia Blanca <&> wait for the vessel; & subsequently having heard that the country was tolerably safe, I proceeded on to this city.—
It is a long journey between 500 & 600 miles, through a district, till very lately never penetrated except by the Indians & never by an Englishman.— There is now a bloody war of extermination against the Indians. The Christian army is encamped on the R. Colorado. in the progress, a few months since, from B. Ayres.—General Rosas left at every 10 or 15 leagues, 5 soldiers & a troop of horses.— When I was at the Colorado the General gave me an order for these horses.— so fine an opportunity for Geology was not to be neglected, so that I determined to start at all hazards.— The horses &c were all gratis. My only expence (about 20£) was hiring a trusty companion.— I am become quite a Gaucho, drink my Mattee & smoke my cigar, & then lie down & sleep as comfortably with the Heavens for a Canopy as in a feather bed.— It is such a fine healthy life, on horse back all day, eating nothing but meat, & sleeping in a bracing air, one awakes as fresh as a lark.— From R. Negro to the Colorado, it is a dreary uninhabited camp with only two brackish springs.— from the latter place to B Blanca there are the Postas.— From Bahia Blanca to the Rio Salado the Postas are irregular, & excepting these, there is not an habitation.— There is sometimes a hovel & sometimes not & the soldiers live entirely on deer & Ostriches.— The wildness & novelty of this journey gave it great interest to me & the danger is not nearly so great as it appears, for the Indians are now all collecting in the Cordilleras for a great battle this summer.— I stopped two days to examine the Sierra de Ventana, a curious mountain which rises in the vast plain.— the ascent was excessively fatiguing, & there was but little to reward one for the trouble.— The plain merely resembles a sea, without its beautiful colour.—
At the Guardia del Monte, I found some more of the armour of the giant Megatherium, which was to me very interesting, as connecting the Geology of the different parts of the Pampas.— I likewise at Bahia Blanca found some more bones more perfect than those I formerly found, indeed one is nearly an entire skeleton.—
The Beagle is now at Monte Video or Maldonado— I received a letter from the
Captain, enclosing one from Catherine dated London
I am now living in the house of a most hospitable English merchant.— it appears quite strange writing in an English furnished room, & still more strange to see a lady making tea.— I shall be obliged to draw rather largely for money.— I do it with more confidence, as I know for certain, after leaving the Plata, there will be 5 or 6 months of Southern economy.— I cannot at present say exactly what sum.— Travelling is very cheap in this country; the only expence is procuring a trusty companion, but in that depends your safety, for a more throat-cutting gentry do not exist than these Gauchos on the face of the world.— It is now the Spring of the year, & every thing is budding & fresh: but how great a difference between this & the beautiful scenes of England.— I often think of the Garden at home as a Paradise; on a fine summers evening, when the birds are singing how I should enjoy to appear, like a Ghost amongst you, whilst working with the flowers.— These are pleasures I have to view, through the long interval of the Pacific & Indian oceans.—
Good bye, God bless you all.— My dear Caroline, when shall we have a ride together. Yours most affectionately, Chas. Darwin. Give my very best love to my Father.—
- f1 215.f1For CD's accounts of his meeting with General Rosas see `Beagle' diary, pp. 163--4, and Journal of researches, pp. 85--7.
- f2 215.f2The nearly entire skeleton was of the Scelidotherium, a giant ground sloth (see Fossil Mammalia, pp. 73--99). In South America, pp. 84--5, CD discusses the fossil mammalia he found at Punta Alta, as later identified by Richard Owen.
- f3 215.f3Edward Lumb, British merchant at Buenos Aires.