Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/85

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1833.]
63
ARRIVE AT RIO NEGRO.

 

CHAPTER IV.

Rio Negro—Estancias attacked by the Indians—Salt Lakes—Flamingoes—R. Negro to R. Colorado—Sacred Tree—Patagonian Hare—Indian Families—General Rosas—Proceed to Bahia Blanca—Sand Dunes—Negro Lieutenant—Babia Blanca—Saline Incrustations—Punta Alta—Zorillo.

RIO NEGRO TO BAHIA BLANCA.

July 24th, 1833.—The Beagle sailed from Maldonado, and on August the 3rd she arrived off the mouth of the Rio Negro. This is the principal river on the whole line of coast between the Strait of Magellan and the Plata. It enters the sea about three hundred miles south of the estuary of the Plata. About fifty years ago, under the old Spanish government, a small colony was established here; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41°) on this eastern coast of America, inhabited by civilized man.

The country near the mouth of the river is wretched in the extreme: on the south side a long line of perpendicular cliffs commences, which exposes a section of the geological nature of the country. The strata are of sandstone, and one layer was remarkable from being composed of a firmly-cemented conglomerate of pumice pebbles, which must have travelled more than four hundred miles, from the Andes. The surface is everywhere covered up by a thick bed of gravel, which extends far and wide over the open plain. Water is extremely scarce, and, where found, is almost invariably brackish. The vegetation is scanty; and although there are bushes of many kinds, all are armed with formidable thorns, which seem to warn the stranger not to enter on these inhospitable regions.

The settlement is situated eighteen miles up the river. The road follows the foot of the sloping cliff, which forms the northern boundary of the great valley, in which the Rio Negro flows. On the way we passed the ruins of some fine "estancias," which a few years since had been destroyed by the Indians. They with-