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Rio Negro, the course of which we have been endeavouring to describe, is laid down in John Arrowsmith's Map of La Plata, the Banda Oriental, and Chili,' under the name of the Diamante of Villariño. We hope that that able geographer, in arranging for publication the rich materials which he is understood to have collected for a map of South America, will endeavour, by the study of La Cruz's journal, to reduce to a natural arrangement the waters of the Pampas, which even in his own maps are now in inextricable confusion.
The Rio Negro was explored in 1782 nearly to the sources of its southern branch, by D. Basilio Villariño, whose journal will, we presume, find a place in the forthcoming volume of D. de Angelis's collection. The narratives of La Cruz and Villariño, with many other curious and valuable manuscripts, relating to the history and geography of South America, were brought to this country a few years back by Sir Woodbine Parish, who, while filling the post of British chargé d'affaires at Buenos Aires, applied himself assiduously to the discharge of a duty too generally neglected by public functionaries, we mean to the furtherance of knowledge, literary and scientific. The zeal manifested by him in the collection of original documents may perhaps have contributed not a little to prompt the valuable labours of Señor de Angelis. The narratives above mentioned were communicated by him to the Royal Geographical Society; and as we also have been enabled by his kindness to study them attentively, we shall here add, by way of supplement to the plain statements of La Cruz, respecting the rivers of the Pampas, a short, account of the exploration of the Rio Negro.
D. Basilio Villariño most grievously mismanaged the expedition committed to his care. He commenced ascending the river in the last week of September, 1782, with four vessels; and, following a winding course towards the north-west, he arrived, in the first week of November, at the island of Choelechel, nine leagues in length and three wide. The land near the river, at the commencement of his voyage, was extremely barren, but it improved higher up; and, near the island, appeared to be of the best quality. The banks were covered with willow and other trees, such,' observes Villariño, as coal is made of at the fac'tory.' Here, on the island of Choelechel, it pleased Villariño to encamp his party, wintering, as he termed it, in the midst of summer, and to remain inactive nearly seven weeks, the river falling all the time. His vessels appear to have been ill fitted for the business of exploring a river: he had too many people, and too little provision for them. At length, having wasted seven weeks in thinking of a remedy, while the evil was daily growing
worse, he sent back two of his vessels, and with the remaining two recommenced his voyage on the 21st of December. The river seemed for a long way up to increase in magnitude, and at the distance of from three to four hundred miles from its mouth was not less than half a league wide in the narrowest places.
After encountering numberless difficulties, arising from the increasing shallowness of the river, and his ignorance of the channel, Villariño arrived, on the 23d of January, 1783, at the junction of the two great branches; of which, according to the hypothetical system of the day, he names the southern the Great Desaguadero, and the other the Sanguel, or Diamante, The waters of the two rivers flowed some distance together without mixing; the stream from the south being sweet and clear, while that from the north was turbid and ill-flavoured. The following day he went in the boat to examine the northern branch, and found it to be a great river; but after ascending it a league, his further progress was prevented by two islands, which, by contracting the stream and causing rapids, rendered its navigation against the current impossible. This river, he observes, is nearly as great as the southern branch, and much greater than the Kio Colorado. Its floods are very formidable; and, as far as may be judged by their marks on the banks, rise much higher than those of the southern river. It flows in a deep valley two leagues wide, running close to the western cliff, and leaving a plain to the east. The land near it was destitute of trees or herbage, and had the appearance of being exposed to long-continued inundation. A league above the junction of the two branches the observed latitude was thirtyeight degrees forty-four minutes south.
In his ascent of the southern branch of the river, Villariño had to surmount a long succession of obstacles. The current was in some places, he says, like a mill-stream; in others it was necessary to clear channels for the boats. The patience and perseverance of his crews almost counterbalanced the inaptitude and irresolution of their commander. The river was here generally confined between cliffs, sometimes 100 feet high, and the basis of which was chalk. At length, on the 25th March, the expedition arrived at a place where the river seemed to divide into two branches, one from the north, the other from the south; the Cordilleras being only five or six leagues distant. Villariño resolved to explore the northern river, which he calls, not very correctly, we suspect, the Catapuliche, and with great labour ascended it in twenty days, about ten leagues to lat. 33 degrees 40 minutes south, where it was joined by the Huechuhuhuen, a small river from the west. About seven leagues north from this place was a high conical mountain, called by Villariño the Cerro Imperial, pro
bably the Volcano of Villarica. It was covered with snow, as were also the Cordilleras, 2 leagues distant to the west.
From the parties sent by him to explore the country, and from the Indians, Villariño learned that from the heights above the river the plains extended without interruption to the Cerro Imperial; that those elevated plains were far more fertile than the gravelly deposits along the valley of the river; that an opening in the hills afforded an uninterrupted view westward; and that the Huechulauquén, or Lake of the Limits, mentioned by Falkner, and also named to La Cruz by his Indian attendants, was at no great distance on the plain. Apple-trees were numerous near the river, and on the plains; but at the foot of the Cerro Imperial, were thick forests of them still loaded with fruit. The Indians affirmed that the sea was visible from the foot of the Cerro Imperial, that Valdivia was distant only three days' journey; but that the road through the Cordilleras was difficult and impracticable for carts. It was one of the chief objects of the expedition to open a communication with Valdivia; but owing to the feuds of the various Indian tribes, none of those inhabiting the river could be prevailed on to make a journey and bear a letter to that place. Villariño, therefore, having satisfied himself of the proximity of the Western Sea, which he calculated (and little dependence can be placed on his calculation) to be only sixteen leagues distant, commenced his descent of the Catapuliche. In the river which joins it from the south, called by the natives Tucamalil, but which he named the Rio de l'Encarnacion, were the remains of a small chapel and dwelling-houses erected there not long before by missionaries, whose small vessel was wrecked in the river; but whence those missionaries came, or whither they went, the Indians were unable to explain.* In twenty-one days was completed the voyage down the river, which it had taken five months to ascend.
The expedition of Villariño demonstrates the practicability of navigating the Rio Negro to the very foot of the Cordilleras, and within a comparatively short distance from the Pacific Ocean. As to the train of difficulties with which he had constantly to contend, they might be easily obviated by a better choice of vessels and of season for the undertaking. In heavy launches, and at
* This mission is alluded to, we suspect, in Gonzales de Agueros' History of Chiloe. The Indian name of the river Tucamalil evidently alludes to the stone buildings (Malil) erected in it. The name Catapuliche, given by Villariño to the northern river, properly belongs to the people inhabiting
the driest season of a remarkably dry year, when the rivers were all unusually low, he reached a point which was probably not more than from a hundred to a hundred and twenty miles from Valdivia. But there can be little doubt that the northern branch, or Limayleubu (called by him the Diamante), is at least equally navigable at the proper season as the southern branch, and probably possesses one advantage over it; inasmuch as it conducts to the easiest pass of the Andes, represented by the Indians as perfectly free from all obstructions. The great rivers further north, the La Plata, Amazons, and Orinoko, are so completely walled up at their sources, by almost impassable mountains, that it may be doubted whether they are destined ever to become the channels of an active intercourse between the opposite coasts; but the Rio Negro seems to offer a great length of navigable course, with little countervailing obstruction; and the navigation of it may hereafter become of the greatest importance to Southern Chili. The construction of the road surveyed by La Cruz to the river Neuquen, and of another by Villarica to the lake Alomini, would open for that country a short and easy communication with the Atlantic. Falkner relates that in the beginning of the last century the crew of a Spanish vessel, lost on the Bahia Anegada, saved themselves in one of the boats, and ascending the Rio Colorado, or Cobuleubu of the Indians, arrived at Mendoza. The most southern of the Spanish American republics, we mean those of Chili and La Plata, have decidedly got the start of the northern states in the march of civilisation; and we think it not unreasonable to believe that the Pampas, or wide plains which separate them, will yield rich harvests long before the wild exuberance of the intertropical countries shall be in the least degree subjected to human industry. Nor is it an absurd speculation to suppose that the rivers of the Pampas, the Rio Colorado, and Rio Negro, may be animated by a brisk commerce, while the Amazons and Orinoko still wind through an interminable length of gloomy forests, enlivened only by the cries of wild animals, or of the solitary Indian.
The advantages which might be expected to arise from a settlement on the Rio Negro, were repeatedly urged by Spanish writers subsequently to the expedition of Villariño; but to no purpose. The inertness of the old Spanish Government was not to be overcome by motives of a speculative kind. The Republican Government has shown itself more alert, and has drawn a pretext from the depredations of the Indians, for extending its boundaries to that river. In 1830, the predatory bands of Guilliches, Pehuenches, and other tribes who wander over the plains under the name of Indios Pamperos, commenced a war with the
Republic, which they carried on for some time with great obstinacy; but they at length suffered such defeats as will oblige them for a long time to abstain from hostilities. At the close of the war in 1833, the republic established a fort on Choelechel, an island in the Rio Negro, about eighty leagues from the sea. During the campaign of 1832, General Pacheco reached the river Neuquen a few leagues above its junction with the Rio Negro; and General Ramos in the same year followed the Rio Colorado till he came within sight of the Cordilleras. A complete survey was also made of the Rio Negro. The narratives of these expeditions we hope to find in a future volume of documents.
The native tribes of the Pampas have been amply indemnified for whatever restraints the presence of the whites has imposed on them, by the vast multiplication of useful animals introduced by the latter. The acquisition of the horse alone has made them comparatively rich, and they have besides large herds of kine. They purchase corn of the Europeans, from whom they have also learned to sow small patches of culinary vegetables. Many of these, as the turnip and mustard, now grow wild through the southern Andes, and round the sources of the Rio Negro. But of all the plants introduced by the Europeans, that which has found the climate of the Andes most genial to it, and which has multiplied most rapidly, is the apple. Villariño found that the country round the southern sources of the Rio Negro is called by the Indians the land of apples. His people being afflicted with the scurvy, found the fresh fruit a salutary addition to their stores of provision; and the quantity of apples consumed, or stowed away by them while near Huechuhuhuen, could not be less, he says, than 30,000. The kind which has chiefly spread through the Andes, eastward from Valdivia, is the famous repinaldo reale, or golden pippin of Galicia.
Villariño also obtained from the Indians some bags of piñones. as he calls the nuts of the Araucaria; but he appears to have remained quite ignorant of the true character of that fruit and of the tree which produces it. We have already remarked, that the river Laja, or the valley of Antuco, is the northern limit of the Araucaria, where its presence is indicated by the name Rio dos Pinos, given to more than one mountain stream; the Araucaria being in common language styled a pine. But so far north, the Araucaria flourishes only at an elevation of nine or ten thousand feet above the sea, and it cost the botanist Poeppig a hard day's labour to climb to the nearest of the pine woods, as they are commonly called, from the valley of Antuco. The Araucaria, the most majestic of extratopical trees, rises to the height of fifty or a hundred feet, without a branch, and with a perfectly