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- Equinoctial Regions of America V2 - 97/97 -


from the longitude of 69 degrees to the eastern coast of Guiana. We found in this country, on the right bank of the Orinoco, small formations of primitive grunstein, superimposed on granite (perhaps even embedded in the rock). We saw between Muitaco and the island of Ceiba a hill entirely composed of balls with concentric layers, in which we perceived a close mixture of hornblende and feldspar, with some traces of pyrites. The grunstein resembles that in the vicinity of Caracas; but it was impossible to ascertain the position of a formation which appeared to me to be of the same age as the granite of Parima. Muitaco was the last spot where we slept in the open air on the shore of the Orinoco: we proceeded along the river two nights more before we reached Angostura, which terminated our voyage.

It would be difficult for me to express the satisfaction we felt on landing at Angostura, the capital of Spanish Guiana. The inconveniences endured at sea in small vessels are trivial in comparison with those that are suffered under a burning sky, surrounded by swarms of mosquitos, and lying stretched in a canoe, without the possibility of taking the least bodily exercise. In seventy-five days we had performed a passage of five hundred leagues (twenty to a degree) on the five great rivers, Apure, Orinoco, Atabapo, Rio Negro, and Cassiquiare; and in this vast extent we had found but a very small number of inhabited places. After the life we had led in the woods, our dress was not in the very best order, yet nevertheless M. Bonpland and I hastened to present ourselves to Don Felipe de Ynciarte, the governor of the province of Guiana. He received us in the most cordial manner, and lodged us in the house of the secretary of the Intendencia. Coming from an almost desert country, we were struck with the bustle of the town, though it contained only six thousand inhabitants. We admired the conveniences which industry and commerce furnish to civilized man. Humble dwellings appeared to us magnificent; and every person with whom we conversed seemed to be endowed with superior intelligence. Long privations give a value to the smallest enjoyments; and I cannot express the pleasure we felt when we saw for the first time wheaten bread on the governor's table. Sensations of this sort are doubtless familiar to all who have made distant voyages.

A painful circumstance obliged us to sojourn a whole month in the town of Angostura. We felt ourselves on the first days after our arrival tired and enfeebled, but in perfect health. M. Bonpland began to examine the small number of plants which he had been able to save from the influence of the damp climate; and I was occupied in settling by astronomical observations the longitude and latitude of the capital,* as well as the dip of the magnetic needle. (* I found the latitude of Santo Tomas de la Nueva Guiana, commonly called Angostura, or the Strait, near the cathedral, 8 degrees 8 minutes 11 seconds, the longitude 66 degrees 15 minutes 21 seconds.) These labours were soon interrupted. We were both attacked almost on the same day by a disorder which with my fellow-traveller took the character of a debilitating fever. At this period the air was in a state of the greatest salubrity at Angostura; and as the only mulatto servant we had brought from Cumana felt symptoms of the same disorder, it was suspected that we had imbibed the germs of typhus in the damp forests of Cassiquiare. It is common enough for travellers to feel no effects from miasmata till, on arriving in a purer atmosphere, they begin to enjoy repose. A certain excitement of the mental powers may suspend for some time the action of pathogenic causes. Our mulatto servant having been much more exposed to the rains than we were, his disorder increased with frightful rapidity. His prostration of strength was excessive, and on the ninth day his death was announced to us. He was however only in a state of swooning, which lasted several hours, and was followed by a salutary crisis. I was attacked at the same time with a violent fit of fever, during which I was made to take a mixture of honey and bark (the cortex Angosturae): a remedy much extolled in the country by the Capuchin missionaries. The intensity of the fever augmented but it left me on the following day. M. Bonpland remained in a very alarming state which during several weeks caused us the most serious inquietude. Fortunately he preserved sufficient self-possession to prescribe for himself; and he preferred gentler remedies better adapted to his constitution. The fever was continual and, as almost always happens within the tropics, it was accompanied by dysentery. M. Bonpland displayed that courage and mildness of character which never forsook him in the most trying situations. I was agitated by sad presages for I remembered that the botanist Loefling, a pupil of Linnaeus, died not far from Angostura, near the banks of the Carony, a victim of his zeal for the progress of natural history. We had not yet passed a year in the torrid zone and my too faithful memory conjured up everything I had read in Europe on the dangers of the atmosphere inhaled in the forests. Instead of going up the Orinoco we might have sojourned some months in the temperate and salubrious climate of the Sierra Nevada de Merida. It was I who had chosen the path of the rivers; and the danger of my fellow-traveller presented itself to my mind as the fatal consequence of this imprudent choice.

After having attained in a few days an extraordinary degree of exacerbation the fever assumed a less alarming character. The inflammation of the intestines yielded to the use of emollients obtained from malvaceous plants. The sidas and the melochias have singularly active properties in the torrid zone. The recovery of the patient however was extremely slow, as it always happens with Europeans who are not thoroughly seasoned to the climate. The period of the rains drew near; and in order to return to the coast of Cumana, it was necessary again to cross the Llanos, where, amidst half-inundated lands, it is rare to find shelter, or any other food than meat dried in the sun. To avoid exposing M. Bonpland to a dangerous relapse, we resolved to stay at Angostura till the 10th of July. We spent part of this time at a neighbouring plantation, where mango-trees and bread-fruit trees* were cultivated. (* Artocarpus incisa. Father Andujar, Capuchin missionary of the province of Caracas, zealous in the pursuit of natural history, has introduced the bread-fruit tree from Spanish Guiana at Varinas, and thence into the kingdom of New Grenada. Thus the western Coasts of America, washed by the Pacific, receive from the English Settlements in the West Indies a production of the Friendly Islands.) The latter had attained in the tenth year a height of more than forty feet. We measured several leaves of the Artocarpus that were three feet long and eighteen inches broad, remarkable dimensions in a plant of the family of the dicotyledons.

END OF VOLUME 2.


Equinoctial Regions of America V2 - 97/97

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