Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/361

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1835.]
339
CHILIAN MINERS.

which is only 67 miles north of Valparaiso, rain is not expected till the end of May; whereas, at Valparaiso some generally falls early in April: the annual quantity is likewise small in proportion to the lateness of the season at which it commences.

4th.—Finding the coast-road devoid of interest of any kind, we turned inland towards the mining district and valley of Illapel. This valley, like every other in Chile, is level, broad, and very fertile: it is bordered on each side, either by cliffs of stratified shingle, or by bare rocky mountains. Above the straight line of the uppermost irrigating ditch, all is brown as on a high road; while all below is of as bright a green as verdigris, from the beds of alfarfa, a kind of clover. We proceeded to Los Hornos, another mining district, where the principal hill was drilled with holes, like a great ants'-nest. The Chilian miners are a peculiar race of men in their habits. Living for weeks together in the most desolate spots, when they descend to the villages on feast-days, there is no excess or extravagance into which they do not run. They sometimes gain a considerable sum, and then, like sailors with prize-money, they try how soon they can contrive to squander it. They drink excessively, buy quantities of clothes, and in a few days return penniless to their miserable abodes, there to work harder than beasts of burden. This thoughtlessness, as with sailors, is evidently the result of a similar manner of life. Their daily food is found them, and they acquire no habits of carefulness; moreover, temptation and the means of yielding to it are placed in their power at the same time. On the other hand, in Cornwall, and some other parts of England, where the system of selling part of the vein is followed, the miners, from being obliged to act and think for themselves, are a singularly intelligent and well-conducted set of men.

The dress of the Chilian miner is peculiar and rather picturesque. He wears a very long shirt of some dark-coloured baize, with a leathern apron; the whole being fastened round his waist by a bright-coloured sash. His trowsers are very broad, and his small cap of scarlet cloth is made to fit the head closely. We met a party of these miners in full costume, carrying the body of one of their companions to be buried. They marched at a very quick trot, four men supporting the corpse. One set having run as hard as they could for about two hundred yards,