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Letter 215

Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, C. S.

20 Sept [1833]

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    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.

Transcription

Buenos Ayres.—

September 20th.

<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 May 29th.— As I have not my letter-case here I cannot say whether I received the April one.— I shall soon be on horse back again; there is a river to the North (the Carcaraņa) the banks of which are so thickly strewed with great bones, that they build part of the Corrall with them.— Every person has observed them, so they must be very numerous.— I shall then return to M. Video & join the Beagle.— At the latter end of next month she sails for the Straits of Magellan & likewise pays the Falkland islands another visit.—

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.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 215.f1
    For CD's accounts of his meeting with General Rosas see `Beagle' diary, pp. 163--4, and Journal of researches, pp. 85--7.
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    f2 215.f2
    The 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.
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    f3 215.f3
    Edward Lumb, British merchant at Buenos Aires.
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