Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Chincha Islands

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CHINCHA ISLANDS, three small islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 12 miles from the coast of Peru, opposite the town of Pisco, and 106 miles distant from Callao, in 13° 38′ S. lat. and 76° 28′ W. long. The largest of the group, known as the North Island or Isla del Norte is only four-fifths of a mile in length, and about a third in breadth; and their whole importance is due to their immense deposits of guano. They are of granitic formation, and rise from the sea in precipitous cliffs, worn out into countless caves and hollows, which furnish convenient resting-places for the sea-fowl. Their highest points attain an elevation of 113 feet, which was increased about 90 feet by the guano-bed. The name of the islands, and of the town and valley of Chincha on the mainland, is derived from an ancient Indian race which has left some interesting relics of its sojourn. A stone idol and two water-pots of grotesque construction were discovered under 62 feet of guano; and a number of wooden idols, two regal emblems, and a curious stone slab have also been found. That these must be of very great antiquity is obvious; but the rate of increase in the guano deposits is too much a matter of conjecture to furnish even an approximate date. Mr George Peacock, of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, calculated the quantity of guano in the islands in 1846 at 18,250,000 tons; and, according to the survey of the Peruvian Government in 1853, they then still contained 12,376,100. The supply is now practically exhausted; and the foreign export which had begun in 1841 was brought to a close in 1872. Between 1853 and 1872, 8,000,000 tons were obtained from the North and Middle Islands. The former was still visited by 35 Peruvian vessels in 1873, and furnished 11,634 tons. Its population in 1874 was only 105 persons, and the other islands were quite deserted; whereas in 1868 the total population amounted to 6000, who consisted partly of Peruvians, partly of Chinese coolies, and partly of Peruvian convicts. In 1853–4 the Chincha Islands were the chief object in the contest known as the Guano War between President Echenique and General Castilla; and in 1864 they were taken possession of by the Spanish rear-admiral Pinzon in order to bring the Peruvian Government to apologize for its treatment of the immigrants from Biscay.