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Letter 675

Sulivan, B. J. to Darwin, C. R.

[10 May 1843]

    Summary Add

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    Describes siege [of Montevideo].

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    Reports on appearance and habits of horses and cattle of Falkland Islands; wild rabbits and pigs. Geology of the Falklands, especially of West Island. Discusses supposed discovery of coal. Has sent fossil specimens to CD.

Transcription

– and a Soldier picked it up and brought it to us. You may suppose we walked back as quick as we could leaving them to enjoy the pleasure of shooting each other—and I shall take more care for the future—. Things are exactly in the same state, as they were two months since except that the Beseiging Army is now itself blockaded by Reveira who has raised cavalry enough to regain all the Country and drive Oribe's cavalry back on the infantry so that all the ground the Beseigers hold now is about 10 miles from the town—and they find it difficult to keep their horses and cattle— having given you this outline I will now change the subject to the Falklands

Your first question relates to the proportion of limbs size of Horns &c. of the cattle.

I think there is very little variety in this, certainly nothing like they vary at home—

With respect to the variety in Color in different localities, all I have seen quite confirms what I told you before. Near Port Pleasant the colors are very much mixed but Brown predominates, and there are very few white or nearly white— towards Mount Usborne on the North side of Choiseul Sound there is little difference except that white with Black heads or fore quarters are often seen, while a few small herds which seemed to keep much on the high ground round Mount Usborne, had a number (sometimes above half) of a peculiar mouse or lead color and different shades approaching nearer to black. we never saw many of this color any where else, and what is very singular the first really fat cattle we killed for the season were seven that I shot among the streams of stones on my way to Mount Usborne within a mile of the Summit and 1500 feet above the sea This was early in November at which time in other places we got no fat cattle. To the Westwd and Southward of the Pass round the head of Choiseul Sound the white color becomes the predominate one, that is, white with more or less Black all their heads beingblack and generally the feet but the black extending less on the shoulders thanit does more to the Eastward. many black are met with in all localities and Brown, red &c also, but the predominating color is so different that while near Port Pleasant you discover them in the distance by the dark spots on the land, about Swan Island Harbor on the shores of Falkland Sound, you first observe white spots in the distance, tho on getting nearer these prove to be not only nearly white, but with more or less black or red mixed with it, white with red spots being also very common— I do not think the herds mingle much with each other for whenever we drove different batches together we generally saw them separate again under their own leaders—

With respect to the Breeding Season this seems to vary a little in different localities when we first met them in the middle of October near Port Pleasant there were not much above half the calves dropt and those that were had certainly all been within the previous Month: early in November on Mount Usborne nearly all the cows had calves and they were all sizes up to about Two months old. out of four Cows I shot one day, one had a calf about a Fortnight old; one —a calf inside her that must have been dropped in few days had she lived, and the other two had calved probably two months as they were both in calf again the fœtus being about the size of a large mouse. The Breeding Season in that part of the Island may therefore be considered to commence early in September and last to the beginning of November a few being perhaps both before and after these times.— in January when we again saw them in that part of the Island there were so few small calves to be seen that the Mothers seldom as before remained behind to defend the calf when caught by the dogs and tho occasionally a young calf might still be seen, not one in fifty could have been less than Six weeks old, but at the same time going from Choiseul Sound to the Southern part of Adventure Sound near the South extreme of the Island—I was surprised to find the calves younger, and in fact little larger than they had been two months before further North: so much so that few of them had left their mothers and there were none as large as those we had just seen to the Northward From all this I think you may consider that the breeding season commences near the Hills about the beginning of September and is over about the middle of November the greatest number being born about the beginning and middle of October—while to the Southward it begins at least a month later and is not over till the end of December this puzzled me more than any thing respecting the cattle as I cannot account for it—for the 30 miles of Latitude cannot alter the season and I am certain that it is Colder among the hills to the Northward than it is on the low land further south— I will observe this closer next year—

With respect to the age at which they breed, I think it is younger than it is at home for some had calves when they appeared little more than calves themselves I think many must produce calves their second year, tho to get with calf at a year old seems almost impossible. probably the early calves of one season get with young late the next season and bring forth late on the second season. that would make them about 16 or 17 months old when they get with young which is I think not very uncommon at home. the late calves probably are a season later but from what I have seen I do not think many if any calves are born much out of the times I have mentioned—. When in Arrow I supposed that they must double every three years and the last season I particularly observed the proportion of small to large and allowing them to attain their full growth at three years of age I am convinced that half of every herd were under that age, the deaths of the old ones are too small to be taken into consideration, and we very seldom saw any dead ones except old Bulls, and those very few in number—

I have overlooked one of your questions and that is whether when tamed the calves are as tame as those born tame, I never asked about it but will do so this season, perhaps I can find out here as the late Capitas of the Falklands is here. There is one peculiarity in the wild rabbit which I am sure our Wild ones at home do not possess and that is the young ones can be tamed like tame rabbits. I have often tried at home as a boy with young wild rabbits but they would [ eat] their way out of any box and remain wild to the last while at the Falklands they become perfectly tame I tried two or three in my cabin about a month old they all became tame and would run about on shore feeding near the boat & never attempt to escape the one I had longest would run to me in the cabin when I called it— The only place where Rabbits are found on the west Island are Port Egmount Sound the old Settlement on Saunders Island and on Pebble Island where I suppose they were taken at the same time. I fancy that the Pebble Island Rabbit is different from the others, that there they are larger and more the color of a Hare (reddish brown) but I could not get good specimens after I first thought of it; this year if I see any difference I will send you specimens of them We tried to dry specimens of the seal but without success and the Doctor and I at last decided to endeavor to salt down a large Sea Lion Skin and put it in a Pickle cask but we did not afterwards visit any place we could get them since I arrived here I have heard from Capt. Beaufort that Proffessor Owen would like the bones of a seal so next year we will endeavour to salt some skins both of the large Lion & the Female and send the skeletons home with them—but I have wandered from your questions—

with respect to the size of the Bulls, I think they are certainly larger than they are here tho not so much larger as I once supposed. I dried the hide of a middling size Bull, it weighed 120 lbs green and 47 lbs dry when it came here it certainly was not a very large one perhaps little above the average if any—. Now here their bulls hides run rather less and 47 lbs is called a large one, besides which I do not think any of their hides are so thoroughly dried as this one was as the Falkland Summer is drier than any thing they have here. This hide would probably have weighed some lbs more if dried here than it does after being exposed to an atmosphere for weeks such as that shown by the Hygrometer (before mentioned) to be unusually dry. The Wild horses I saw so little of that I cannot offer an opinion on them and the old gouchos are all dead or gone two or three half English gouchos being all they had till the arrival of a large party with a capitas just as I left so that I could not get any good information but I will collect what I can from the old Capitas who is here and send it in this letter if possible. next year I shall be able to get more information as this winter they were to devote to catching horses by driving them up to points— The Prevailing colour seems roan or a sort of strawberry Color—

We only met with the wild Pigs on one Island— they were all Black, and had little resemblance to a tame pig, being completely Wild Boar, the ridge along the Back and head bristling up and the head deep and narrow with large tusks. I doubt wether they are not more formidable opponents than the wild cattle. we only killed two old Boars and caught some young ones the only Female I saw I would not kill as there were few left on the Island (Eagle Island) in consequence of a Yankee setting fire to it driving them all up on one point & killing them for their skins. I had rather a formidable encounter with one large boar, & had to thank my being a little bit of a geologist for my victory for holding him cheap and getting in his path after putting my two dogs to flight he made at me and tho I put a ball through him and a charge of small shot in his face he still came at me till just as he got within two feet and was jumping over a bunch of tussac I recollected my Geological hammer in my belt and got it out in time to strike him so fairly on the ForeHead that he fell dead.

I will get all the information I can next year on these subjects.

I must now endeavor to give you an outline of what more I saw of the geology. the last of my Arrow observations was where a bed of nearly horizontal sand stone commenced to the Southward of the twisted Sand stone and clay slate beds. this time I saw little of the East Island beyond touching at two or three places here and there on my way round the South end of the Island and up the Sound into Sussex Harbor which is in the North side of Grantham Sound a few miles west of Mount Usborne. The whole of this Southern part appears to be the same compact and nearly horizontal Sand stone, filling as it were the angle between the East and west Range of East Falkland and the NNE & SSW range of West Falkland— Under the continuation of the Mount Usborne range about five miles further west the clay slate and the Porphyritic sand stone which I before observed at the head of Port FitzRoy are again met with apparently flanking the whole Range along its South side— by looking at the chart you will see that the range at this place is bent back towards Port St Carlos and there, where the two Islands approach each other the ridges of hills run all ways without regularity, tho still composed of the same rock as the East Island ranges—

From the North East Part of the West Island the different ranges of the West Island appear to radiate as from a center— the first range (beginning at the North) runs about WNW through Pebble Island and then turning to the Westward runs through Keppel and Saunders Island this range varies (the summits) from 700 to 1200 feet high, and the Hills are more Isolated than in the East Island the land between some of them being very low. the Second Range runs to the Westward along the South shore of Pebble Sound (which is about 12 or 15 miles wide full of low Islands) and running through the South Side of Saunders Island forms Carcass Island and the Jasons this is about the same height as the first Range—

The third Range Runs Parallel to to the second, on the south side of Byron Sound where it is very regular forming peaks from 12 to 1600 feet high but as gets to the middle of the Island it rises and forms a cluster of mountains above 2200 feet high, the highest being 2300 feet high and the highest spot of the Falklands I have called Mount Beaufort— this cluster ends this range which does not extend across the island, there being a deep and wide valley between it & Mount Maria (you must look at my charts just going home by this Packet) which valley is bounded on the north by the Second Range, through which the largest stream I have seen runs after draining the north side of the valley—. The water is fresh even at high water half a mile below the influence of the tide, though some large stones prevent a boat going higher up—.

The Fourth and last of the Ranges may be said to commence at Mount Maria (so named by Robinson (2.200 feet high) and it runs about NNE & SSW forming the west side of Falkland Sound and the East Boundary of the large central valley which runs as far South as the head of Fox Bay. on the East Flank of this range are two or three Parallel ranges forming the shore of the Sound but they may be almost considered parts of the same chain they are so close together. This range ends at Fox Bay to the SW of which the Hills again become irregular and apparently several ranges have been jumbled together— on the West side of the Central Valley are two Clusters of Isolated Hills about 1900 feet high and between these which are in a line North and South with Mount Beaufort the large valley reaches the heads of the deep Bays on the West shore, the low land running round the Hills and extending to the westward of them forming the North and South shores as well as the heads of these Bays—

Having thus endeavoured to give you an outline of the general features of the country, (tho I fear you will find it difficult to understand even with the help of the Chart) I will go to particulars but you must understand that I have only yet made hurried runs round the Islands to get to the high Hills and therefore have seen very little of the low land—

The Ranges of Hills are composed of Sand stone Quartz (if such an expression may be allowed) much resembling that of the East Island but not so compact, so that it is seldom the granular structure is quite obliterated. some of the lower Ranges are composed of more compact rock than the higher ones, tho in all the evidence of its having been originally a coarse sand stone is evident and this I have found the case in the East Island also particularly in Mount Wickham & Mt Usborne so that the whole may be considered as a Metamorphic rock in some places the original structure being wholy obliterated while in others the change has been very little. I found a piece not more than three inches long in which one half of the stone was Quartz and the other common Sand stone—

The Hills have evidently partaken of the movement which doubled those of the East Island up in such an extraordinary way, but the movement has not been so regular, and the layers of the rock are not so distinct neither could I ever find such perfect sections as on the East Island The large patches of Fragments on the slopes of the Hills much resemble those on the East Island, but I never found any which had that tile -like shape. The most remarkable thing is that the summits of the two highest mountains are both semicircular resembling the half of a Crater and both are open to the NE. Mount Beaufort is very remarkable [DIAGRAM HERE] Steep slope Dip steep cliff Pond— deep valley

The Summit for nearly half a mile along the edge of the Cliff is nearly level the Cliff has fallen away till it has deposited a slope of fragments very steep reaching to within 10 feet of the summit, and about 200 feet down forming one Edge of a small deep lake outside of which is a mound very little higher than the water. This mound seems to have been a large mass of the Cliff which has fallen outwards leaving a hollow inside which hollow forms the lake. you must ask to look at a little chart of these hills which I am now going to send home—. if one knew nothing about the rock composing the Hill, he would say directly he was on the Edge of a Crater tho I could not see that it dipped from a center—

There is little difference in the rock composing all the Hills except that to the Southward near Port Albermarle on some of the Hills there were numerous Fragments of a pure Quartz Rock embedded in the sand stone, which had undergone little change, and in some of the Hills, The Sand Stone appeared not to have been at all acted on by heat—

As far as I have yet examined in a hurried manner I fancy that the more recent formations of the East Island do not extend to the West, for I never found the clay slate and sand stone of the East Island (which flank the high Range and which have here been twisted in a similar manner to the Quartz) on the West Island. The first Formation met with of the kind is round white Rock Harbor it is a sand stone more resembling that of Berkley Sound and in it are fossil worms and I was told a shell was seen like a cockle, but I could not revisit the spot to look for it Next year I will do so. a sand stone something similar, but without any fossils (that I could find) fills up the Hollow between the North ranges all the Islands of Pebble Sound and the Low land of Saunders Island are composed of it. it is nearly horizontal and has not been twisted like the Quartz on each side of it—

between the 2nd & 3rd range on the Southside of Byron Sound nearly under Mount Beaufort there is an extensive bed earthy rock that is it can almost be broken by the fingers and in some places it is nearly a hard clay, the color yellow in one part & blue in another, yet every where containing boulders & Pebbles, of other rocks not found in the Islands I never saw such a variety beach at the foot of the low cliff is strewed with Pebbles of all sizes (or water worn fragments for some are not round enough to call pebbles.) from a marble to two and three feet in diameter. all appear to be primative rocks. Granites of all shades & colours kneiss (I forget how to spell it) syanite and I know not what slate, basalt (at least I think so) &c &c. the cliff crumbles away fast and can almost be dug with a spade the Rock is so soft. I will send you specimens of all by the vessel that takes this letter, if I can get them taken safely— This formation has some resemblance to that at the head of Port Fitz Roy containing granite and other Pebbles and which extends along the Flank of Mount Wickham Range to the Westward, but I do not think it is exactly the same. The Pebbles are larger the rock less compact and the variety of rocks much greater. I have only yet seen it in one place but will endeavour to have it next year as my work commences there—

The only other formation I met with on the West Island is an extensive sand stone formation different from all the others, which forms all the low land round the bays on the West side and I think will be found to extend over the whole central valley it is nearly horizontal, in some places it is more compact than in others and of a dark Color but generally a dirty Yellow, having black lines apparently of some vegetable origin in it but I could never find any trace of even a leaf. it contains numerous nodules of Iron Pyrites, about the size of Grape shot, and in one spot a bed of (apparently) ferruginous stone or almost Iron ore, at least so I fancy it to be. in some places small crystals almost like the Yellow Topaz, and the layers in other places are filled with a shining sparkling mineral like thin gold colored mica— I have called this on the specimens the “Shallow Harbor Sand Stone”— I hope to examine this well next season and I will try hard to find fosils but fear I shall not be able. This is all I can tell you now of the geology, and I hope with the aid of chart & specimens you will be able to make it out—

Now comes the most extraordinary puzzle to me

The Governor told me he had sent home specimens of coal found on the West Island and Choiseul Sound we saw some of what was said to be the same, and we examined the places but could find no coal or beds of any kind resembling it. however we found often a black substance resembling coal, which we were convinced was formed from Cinders of the Peat as we found the surface had been burnt previously. and as the peat often catches and continues to burn for some time we thought some substance in the peat acted on by heat had causes these cinders which certainly looked rather like coal but I should have thought would have deceived no one. in one place we set fire to an Island, & three months after the peat was on fire under the surface, occasionally fanned into a flame by the wind might not this have caused the formation of these cinders— but now comes the difficulty. I have received orders from the Admiralty to examine and report on the beds of coal, the specimens having been declared by Mr De La Beche to be coal of good quality. now is it possible he could so mistake or has the person who professed to find this coal (one of Whitington's vessels) have purposely deceived the governor with coal out of the vessels hold, or has it been found at the old settlement at Port Egmont, where we occasionally picked up buckets of Coal Pebbles on the beach evidently where coal had been landed in olden times, yet where it was said to be found was far distant from Port Egmont. if you can see Mr De la Beche do ask him about it and let me know.

I have enquired from the man about the Falkland horses, and the following is what I can gather. The mares foal in spring but stray ones occasionally at other times— The mares have foals every year & the reasons why they do not increase more are supposed to be, first that the stallion is constantly driving his troop of mares from place to place and even when a foal is just dropped if he wants to go to another place he will not leave the mare behind but will drive her with him tho the colt cannot follow and thus many colts are left to die. he has seen a Stallion an hour trying to drive a mare from a young colt and at last by kicking and biting succeed. the colt being left to its fate, and dead colts are often met with. another reason is that the horses die more than the cattle as the remains of horses are often met with and (as I observed) of cattle very seldom. The ground is also unfavorable to them yet they are so much attached to old haunts that they will not leave it and being so wet numbers have their hoofs long like horns and turned on one side causing lameness— he thinks that if they could once be got on the lower and dryer land they would do better, and the Wild Mares round the Settlement (three small troops each with a Buenos Ayrian stallion) have Colts every Year and few accidents. The Prevailing colors are roan and Iron grey—

having thus brought all my information to a close for the last season I must now tell you that you would be surprised if you saw what I have to bother me here and what FitzRoy would say I know not— The Commodore has heard that Surveyors want always to be independent and give themselves airs and tho to avoid rows I played the man of war followed motions shared in all work. (such as loading coal vessels for Seamen &c.)

he chose at last to say a great deal and in fact so much that I could not stand it and wrote to him desiring he would forward my letter to Their Lordships for a Court Martial, as he had accused me of certain acts of insubordination—which I was perfectly innocent of but he chose to say I should do as he liked he knew no difference with surveying vessels and others and he would send me where he liked and make me do as he liked. I was asked by another Captain to recall the letter I refused unless with a written expression of his being satisfied with my conduct on those points he had found fault with me. however after agreeing to abide by the decision of the Senior Captain, I recalled the letter on receiving his verbal expression of satisfaction Still I am in this uncertain state, and to show that he will not allow a surveying vessel any privelege, the coal depot for the steamers is put under my charge and being in a sinking state we have constantly to be be pumping her while there are other ships nearer to her and the steamers also that the coal is for, yet they have nothing to do with her fancy FitzRoy if placed in a similar situation. I have been even orderedto see this Depot safely moored when improperly left by other ships all done on purpose to show he will not allow surveying vessels to be independent Fancy FitzRoy being ordered at Rio by the Admiral to see a Coal vessel moored when five other ships were near doing nothing I have written all to Capt. Beaufort and hope he will set it right—

Not knowing your present address I shall direct this and the box of specimens to Geological Society Somerset house—

I am going up the coast from here to Colonia & will try and dry out my bones—

we are all well and comfortable, tho nightly living in fear of the Town being taken by storm two night ago a partial attack and all dressed and ready for a start on board, but they retired. I hope they will never < >

PS. | On breaking the Specimen of fossil worms to send some pieces I found that there are several shells in the same piece. The shells appear to me to resemble those in the Berkley Sound sand stone, but I do no recollect ever seeing any worms in that. still from both the formations being to the Northward of the high ranges in each Island they may belong to the same Series—

I intended sending a number of Falkland Pebbles they are much more numerous in the Coves at the head of White Rock Harbor than they are on Pebble Island. They are contained in a shallow bed of earthy marl (I cannot describe it better) which has covered the other Formations in the hollows to a depth of from 3 to 6 feet, and is in some places itself covered by earthy soil to an equal depth as the bed containing the pebbles is worn away they line the beach at its foot and are washed up by the sea to the highest mark of the Tide: in one place this bed rests on a bed of peat about three feet thick which has filled the valley previous to the Pebble bed being deposited [DIAGRAM HERE] Sand stone Level of sea— earthy soil Pebble bed Peat course of stream Sand stone

The Pebbles now cover the Peat over the whole beach and it is only in the water courses that it can be seen. I only passed the spot once and then did not examine it carefully thinking I was going to it again (which I shall next season)

Therefore this account may not be quite correct but the Principal points are. The sand stone Points project considerably forming a cove. There are two or three that at a distance appeared similar—

I think this Pebble bed must be comparatively of very recent origin but: where do the Pebbles come from!!?

B J Sulivan

ps. | All the loose pieces of rock not marked are from the Fragments of the Sand or “Pudding” Stone on the shore of Byron Sound I have tried to send you a specimen of each variety but had not space to stow more. That accounts for their being so small

there are more granites but as they are very like those sent (intermediate varieties) I thought them not worth the extra weight.

B J S

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 675.f1
    Dated on the basis of CD's annotation at the end of paragraph two.
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    f2 675.f2
    Fructuoso Rivera.
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    f3 675.f3
    Manuel Oribe. After his government was overthrown in 1839 by a revolt led by Rivera, he returned with military assistance from Argentina and beseiged Montevideo in 1843. H.M.S. Philomel, commanded by Sulivan, was assigned to an Anglo-French squadron supporting the city.
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    f4 675.f4
    The ‘streams of stones’ are described in Journal of researches, p. 254. See also the letter from B. J. Sulivan, 20 October 1838, written on board H.M.S. Arrow.
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    f5 675.f5
    CD adopted this description of the wild cattle in Variation 1: 86.
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    f6 675.f6
    See Natural Selection, p. 489 and Variation 1: 112.
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    f7 675.f7
    Two skulls of young seals are recorded as having been presented to the Royal College of Surgeons by Sulivan in 1844. See Flower 1879–91, 2: 189.
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    f8 675.f8
    See Variation 1: 77 n.
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    f9 675.f9
    The range interested CD because it ran at right angles to the ranges on East Island. See Collected papers 1: 205 for details of the formation derived from Sulivan's letter.
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    f10 675.f10
    William Robinson who succeeded Sulivan as commander of H.M.S. Arrow in March 1839, and subsequently surveyed in South America.
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    f11 675.f11
    CD described Sulivan's find in ‘On the geology of the Falkland Islands’, Collected papers 1: 210.
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    f12 675.f12
    Lieutenant Richard Clement Moody. Arrived as first governor of the Falklands in 1841.
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    f13 675.f13
    See Journal of researches, 2d ed. pp. 191–2, and Natural Selection, p.181.
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    f14 675.f14
    John Brett Purvis. Commodore of the British squadron at Montevideo from February 1843 to June 1844.
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    f15 675.f15
    The letter is incomplete. The following paragraphs were written on a separate page and probably enclosed as postscripts to this letter, although it is possible that they belong with another letter now lost.
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    f16 675.f16
    See South America, pp. 21–4 for CD's discussion of the probable origin of the pebbles.
  • +
    f17 675.f17
    See Correspondence vol. 3, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845.
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