Ajouter ce site à vos favoris ! | Rejoignez-nous sur Google+ |

Home > Articles scientifiques > Géophysique, géographie > Océanographie > L’expédition du Challenger > The voyage of Challenger: The Azores Islands, Falkland and Tristan (...)

The voyage of Challenger: The Azores Islands, Falkland and Tristan d’Acunha

Wyville Thomson, Revue Scientifique de la France et de l’étranger — 17 aout 1878

Mis en ligne by Denis Blaizot le Tuesday 14 October 2014

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Challenger naturalists, in their various cruises across the Atlantic, had the opportunity to visit several islands. In a previous article we reported the interesting observations made in Bermuda by Mr. Wyville Thomson and his traveling companions [1]. Now we want to complete this, accompany the Azores and then lies to Tristan d’Acunha and Falkland which are located in the southern hemisphere, different from the previous two in many respects.

 I. The Azores

The Azores are located between 39,45° and 36,50° N and 25° and 31,20° O. They form three groups: two small islands, Flores and Corvo, located northwest; Fayal and Pico, separated by a narrow channel, fill the center with Sun Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira; the third group, two hundred miles away southwest, consists of San Miguel, the seat of government, San Maria and two curious rocks and Formigas Dollabaral.

We saw earlier that Bermuda rise abruptly from the depths of the sea all around this group of islands, has a very great depth. The Azores, on the contrary, are the culmination of a great plateau, extending from west to east, a distance of about one thousand miles; and part Celtic Long Island ridge, from Greenland to the Gough islands, divides the Atlantic from south to north in two large basins.

These islands also differ from Bermuda in appearance because they have high peaks. Long, indeed, before seeing the collages scattered all around the island, or grouped in villages around picturesque churches, attention is drawn to the browser by magnificent cliffs and a majestic peak, the summit of which appears among the clouds at an immense height.

Approaching the coast we see everywhere lush vegetation in the valleys of pine and chestnut trees, and on their sides, often transformed into terraces, orange, grapes, corn, wheat, etc.

The climate is mild and the Azores equal, this is probably due to the influence of the Gulf Stream that turns south in these parts. The average annual temperature in the capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgada, is 17 °, 67, which is at a fraction of a degree, that of Madeira and Palermo. In winter, the average temperature is 13 °, 05 ° 20 in summer 67. The warmest month has an average temperature of 22 °, 67 and the coldest 12 °, 28. The difference between the average temperature extremes is therefore not exceed 10 degrees.

The Azores are volcanic islands and their appearance is somewhat reminiscent of that of the Auvergne. The amphitheater-like hills and jagged peaks are ancient craters whose bottom is usually occupied by a lake. On their flanks often also find other small craters of perfect regularity, and lava flows, some of which have not more than a century of time, down to the sea, separated from each other by wooded ravines. And cliffs show the most informative sections that they were formed by the products of successive eruptions.

The soil itself also comes from the decomposition of volcanic rocks very favorable, as we know, the development of vegetation. This decomposition even done fairly quickly because the flows from eruptions of 1718 and 1722 are already covered by vineyards and wheat fields.

The Challenger could not stay in Horta, the main town of Fayal, because of a smallpox epidemic, Mr. Thomson therefore had only a few hours to visit. This city of 10,000 inhabitants is located at the bottom of a deep bay looking west and just opposite the Pico island, far from 4000. The bay is bounded on the north by a headland of lava, and south by a remarkable crater, Monte da Guia, a portion of the wall is destroyed, allowing the entry of the sea in its interior. Monte da Guia is connected to the island by a narrow promontory, consisting of scoria and pumice stones, and in the middle of which is a black rock called queimada Monte (Mount burned) formed a stratified tuff a chocolate color, and pieces of lava, each with a large central cavity and it had to be thrown like bombs, during an eruption.

The city is clean and tidy, the houses are in the Portuguese style, and some religious buildings are vast and an imposing appearance. The monastery church was occupied by the Carmelites, before the suppression of religious orders, overlooking the city and attracts attention by its beautiful facade topped by three Moorish domes. The environs contain many beautiful gardens, but hidden from view of passers by high walls, the center of the island is a volcanic cone 3,000 feet high, the caldera.

The island of Pico, who faces Horta, protects the entrance of the bay and provides the city with a beautiful view, that of a summit of 7613 feet in height, worthy rival of Etna and peak Tenerife. At the top is a rather deep crater containing itself a cone of perfect regularity, that beyond the edge of two hundred feet, and gives it a strong peak characteristic appearance. The mountain slopes, deep ravines, are also covered with small cones and fully forested; on the base, which extends to the cliffs of the coast, it is cultivated, producing wheat, corn and yams (Colocasia esculeuta).

Pico provides in abundance to the other islands of the Azores, vegetables, fruit and poultry; she also produced excellent wine, known in Europe as the Pico Madeira, but since 1853, the vines were completely destroyed by oïdium tuckeri.

San Jorge Island, which is not far from Pico, is bordered by a cliff 500 feet high is still in a very high mountain, all of which are exceedingly quaint.

The capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgada, which is, as we have already said, in San Miguel Island, is quite similar to Horta, as it occupies the entire curve of a bay, and is surrounded by a amphitheater orange gardens. There are, however, in the city more activity than in the first. The first object, in fact, that caught the attention of Mr. Thomson, was a steam engine which provided large blocks of lava make for a jetty. Severe storms in southwestern having destroyed the previous building, the engineers had come to simply throw away the blocks in the sea and let the waves get along with them. What works well because these blocks have naturally ended up taking the best positions to resist the action of the waves, it was then possible to rise above some very strong walls.

A trip that we do willingly from Ponta Delgada is the village of Furnas where there are hot springs.

The beginning of the ride is very interesting because it is enclosed between two walls ten feet high built of black lava dominated themselves by trees planted in rows along the way. These walls are closing in filled with orange trees that provide delicious fruit gardens.

When the orange was introduced in the Azores, he was allowed to grow freely, but due to the strong winds, the crop was often lost by premature fruit drop, and the trees themselves were often abused. It has therefore been taken to prune every year, and to protect them by a barrier of rocks and green trees, especially Myrica faya, abundant native level in the higher parts of the island, and Pittosporum undulatum from Japan. The orange trees, planted within ten feet of each other, give fruit from the third year; but it was not until eight years after a tree is in full bearing. He then gives up to 1600 oranges. The only manure is to grow all around the lupins which grow rapidly and then burying them in the ground when the seed is mature. Oranges Azores are sent to England in wooden boxes which had contained from 4 to 500 London receives each year about one million of these funds, taking into account the cost of collection, package, transport and waste probable, orange is not for the merchant more than 5 cents.

When you leave the gardens, there is a height of 600 feet, on a plateau between the eastern region where the picturesque valley of Furnas, that of the West, which contains the odd caldera (crater) Sete Cidades, the tray itself, formed of lava and scoria, is covered with small, very sharp cones, formed a perfect and whose origin is recent. It is between these cones covered pine (Pinus maritimus), which winds the road to Furnas and where there is a lovely view of the north coast, with its wooded hillsides, long line promontories formed by lava flows, and deep bays, blue or white, according as they are illuminated by the sun or moved by the wind.

Leaving the plateau, the ridge of a mountain somewhat reminiscent in appearance and vegetation the Highlands of Scotland, the plants just took it more considerable dimensions is happening. The heather is replaced by Erica azorica, the woody stem from twelve to fifteen feet high is much sought after as a fuel, “bog-myrtle” by the gracious Faya myrtle and juniper by Juniperus oxycedrus, with its magnificent branches spreading to the surface. Grasses are also numerous, forming excellent grazing, and ferns abound on the banks of streams ; and in particular, the Wodwarsia radicans, whose magnificent fronds were six to eight feet in length. This fern, the most beautiful in the country, is often associated with San Miguel to another plant of the same family, Pteris arguta, also very fine, and several species of Aspidium. Here and there one finds the Dicksonia culcita almost tree fern whose silky down that covers start-ups, used to load the bases.

Furnas Valley is not anything other than the bottom of a crater, a vast expanse occupied by a beautiful and picturesque little lake, on whose banks there are many hot springs. Their temperature is 90 ° C, but they appear to be boiling, following a copious evolution of carbon dioxide. The most significant source form a pool of more than twelve feet in diameter. Columns of steam continually raising sources and the soil around them is covered with silica, sulfur, salt contents and a kind of mud that has a reputation for curing skin diseases. Also the small town located in the vicinity, it is frequented by many bathers, and a doctor in London, who has a large property there, built a hotel, where naturalists Challenger were perfectly welcome and hosted by the manager Mr. Brown.

Birds are very numerous in the vicinity; we see a particularly large buzzard, Buteo vulgaris on whose Portuguese name Açor is the origin of the word Azores, a finch (Fringilla tintillon), a bullfinch ( Pyrrhula murina) blackbirds black (Turdus merula), and finally the canary (Serinus canarius) either captive, but flying in droves and looking a little too garden.

Another interesting thing to do dan s San Miguel Island is the Crater Sete Cidades race The road follows from Ponta Delgada, the south coast for a few miles, then rises up to about 3000 feet, along ravines covered with heather and tree ferns, and finally brings the traveler on the edge of a crater two miles in diameter, with walls that are vertical, have more than 1000 feet high. The bottom, where it is possible to descend by one zigzag road and steeper, is well cultivated; there is also a village and two small lakes of deep blue sapphire.

Before leaving Ponta Delgada Azores, Mr. Thomson and his companions visited the beautiful garden of Mr. Jose do Canto, which have been cultivated for more than forty thousand tree species of the temperate and tropical regions, and remarkable for their utility or their beauty, as one day before carefully that each species can develop freely, some species such as Altingia, Araucaria, Cryptomeria reach perfection in this garden forms that would difficult to find, even in their native country.

José do Canto is not confined to growing these exotic plants for pleasure, because it scatters, when properly acclimated in all the islands, making it a great service to people. Indeed, the Azores, when they were discovered, contained beautiful forests, but they were fairly promptly destroyed as a result of irrational exploitation. So that the funds necessary for the export of oranges had to come from Portugal. Now it is no longer necessary as a result of the introduction of particularly Eucalyptus and the australian Acacia melanoxylon, Cryptomeria Japonica and japan Pittoroprum undulatum, etc.

 II. The islands Tristan d’acunha

Leaving the Azores, the Challenger went to the islands Tristan d’Acunha, located at the same latitude, but in the southern hemisphere, and 12 ° 18’ west longitude, on the line that join the course Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, distant 1,300 miles from St. Helena and 1600 of the Cape of Good Hope, the islands are singularly remote neighborhood of man. One of them, named Tristan, however, is inhabited; on the other two, Inaccessible and Nightingale, they are only visited by sailors going to hunt seals.

The island Tristan was discovered in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese navigator whose name it bears. Americans settled there at the beginning of this century, but not for long; in 1817, the British took possession during the captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena and there stood a detachment of soldiers. When he was recalled a few years later, a soldier named Glass received permission to stay with his wife and two friends, and that was the nucleus of a small settlement that grew gradually.

When Captain Denham visited it in 1852, it consisted of 85 people, due to a general agreement, Glass, founder of the colony, was considered the chief; the rest he deserved the confidence we had in him, for he was a man of great character, very energetic and industrious. An English clergyman, Mr. Taylor, also resided at that time in the island, a generous anonymous Having given this purpose, a sum of 1,000 pounds sterling at the disposal of the Missionary Society.

Taylor left in 1857 to travel to Cape Town, and he was accompanied by 47 people, mostly young girls; the latter leaving the island because they were there too many since men were obliged to take service on foreign vessels. The seal hunt has become much less productive as a result of the gradual disappearance of these animals, Taylor concludes that this exodus was the beginning of the end and that the settlement would remain longer. It did not happen though, as the Duke of Edinburgh, ten years later, in one of his trips, he found that the colony was returned to the figure of 86, which seems to be the standard rate of population. Governor Glass, who died in 1853, had no official successor; but one of his sons-named Green, replaced him. The chaplain of the Duke took advantage of his presence on the island to baptize 16 children born since the departure of Mr. Taylor; he even proposed seven young couples to marry, but they seemed eager to stitch together so suddenly.

During the visit of the Challenger, the colony of Tristan continued to prosper; many of those who had left the island in 1853 were returned, and the population consisted of 16 families making a total of 86 people. The people had 600 head of cattle, as many sheep, pigs and many chickens, vegetables, potatoes, etc., they exchanged, when visiting whaling ships against household utensils, the fabrics, etc. Goods are not in common, each settler with his field and his flock. When a newcomer arrives, he receives a certain tract of land to cultivate, some cattle, sheep, and the right to graze on the meadows; it then helps to build fences and put the soil under cultivation, but as long as they return later all these advances.

The people of Tristan have, however, used to assist each other in their various works, and regulate all things together by a kind of custom, referring to Green, or any other person taken to referee when a problem arises.

Solid and comfortable homes are built with black stone size that easily with the ax in large blocks that are easy to embed into each other, to give strength to the walls; because given the lack of lime can not be used mortar. Despite the strength of these cyclopean structures, the violence of the wind is sometimes strong enough to overturn.

Tristan d’Acunha has a volcanic origin, is almost circular and has a diameter of 7000, its edges consist of cliffs with over 1,000 feet high, formed of tuff, ash, basalt and lava, and with here and there more or less steep ravines that provide access on the board. In the center of the island is a perfectly symmetrical cone, formed mainly of ash, and rising to 7,000 feet above the ocean. Its top, where it seems, a lake is covered with snow which leave black edges of lava. Between the region and snow covered plateau are successive terraces and grass grows in the ravines on Phylica arborea. This tree, which is found only on the island, does not rise more than 20 feet high, but it sends to the ground long branches. Its wood is not good for construction, but it burns well, as he has disappeared from the lower portion of the island; and if we do not soon introduced other species of rapid growth, lack of fuel could have a material adverse to the colony.

Many herds of wild goats lived there a few years ago on the high plateaus; but now these animals have completely disappeared, no one knows for what reason.

Tristan does not contain the point, however, native mammals and terrestrial birds are reduced to three species, a thrush (Nesocichla eremita) bunting (Emberiza bresiliensis), and a singular moorhen (Gallinula nesiotis) very similar to the Gallinula chloropus found in England. This bird, which runs very fast, is called by locals “island hen”; formerly very common it is now very rare, and its flesh is highly prized. He will be happy in the midst of grass, but as it is curious, it is easy to get him out of the thicket by making noise.

Two albatross species nest on the island, the Diomedea chlorhynchus and Diomedea exulans, the latter even her nest beyond the snowline in summer. These birds, special to the South Seas, are, as we know, remarkable power and wonderful ease of their flight. Thomson even think that a bird can accomplish so heavy in the air, its amazing developments, without a significant movement of its wings, that by mechanical processes that we do not have a clue.

Some twenty or thirty species of plants collected Tristan, the most interesting point here is a geranium (Pelargonium Southern) that is also at the Cape of Good Hope, the New-Zealand and Australia.

While in Tristan d’Acunha, naturalists Challenger heard of two Germans who had settled, for about two years in Inaccessible Island, and they decided to visit the new Robinsons.

Inaccessible Island is named what it is surrounded by a steep cliff completely and as high as that of Tristan, so can not we get on the board by two or three passes of a rather difficult access.

The Challenger landed at a hedge, where a plain of a mile long stretched down the cliffs, and that is inhabited by the two lonely in a cabin built by them in the vicinity of a beautiful waterfall somewhat reminiscent of the Staubach. We will be grateful, we believe, to reproduce the story of the adventures of brothers Stoltenhoff.

Son of a dyer of Aix-la-Chapelle, Stoltenhoff Gustave, who entered the navy sank sometime in 1870 near Tristan d’Acunha; but he managed to escape to the island with some of his companions, and from there to his homeland. Having described his brother, so without occupation, the lives of the Tristan island, they decided to go settle to hunt seals, and procured passage on a whaling ship. But on the advice of the captain, the brothers became Stoltenhoff disembark with all their supplies and tools they had taken care to bring with them in the Inaccessible where they were sure to make a more successful hunt island.

A few days after their arrival, they were visited by hunters Tristan, who are used to come once a year on the island. They learned from them the passes leading to the plateau where there were many goats and pigs, and they also indicated the best location to build a home away from strong winds.

Left alone, the Stoltenhoff brothers set to work and began to hunt seals, which they then prepared the skins; Unfortunately, their boat was soon broken by the waves. From time to time they also went up on the board, but in April 1872 a singular misfortune came to make this very difficult trip. Having put indeed fire to some bushes to a clearing near their home, grasses that were extremely useful for climbing to the top of the cliff by providing support points are also inflamed and disappeared completely. From that moment, the two hunters could no longer go on the shelf as another pass they could not win by swimming, which was not easy even on a calm sea.

Throughout the winter Stoltenhoff brothers were unable to get there, and their provisions are almost completely exhausted they were in a very desperate position, if in the middle of the season, in the course of August, the penguins had not come to nest in large numbers in the vicinity of their homes. These birds, in fact, were easily kill with a stick and their eggs were large and excellent. During the second summer, the two Stoltenhoff having decided to go on the shelf, went to swim toward the pass, one carrying a gun, the other powder and matches. Once at the top of the cliffs, they remained one month, made a good hunt, and then departed to go harvest their potatoes. In December hunters Tristan came to their annual visit, but it appears from certain facts, they do not the two Germans found themselves with a lot of fun, and it is probably in order to make their lives more difficult , they killed all the goats in secret.

The following winter, Frederic Stoltenhoff went to live on set to be in range pigs, which he sent to the flesh and fat to his brother by a rope; with this arrangement they had one and the other of sufficient food throughout the season.

A new summer would begin at the arrival of the Challenger; but as both Stoltenhoff were becoming tired of this monotonous life, they asked permission to take advantage of what the expedition went to Cape Town to go too, which was granted. These two hardy adventurers were, however, educated men speak excellent English and French, and during their long leisure they had several very interesting observations on the natural history of the island, they communicated to Mr Thomson.

The little plain where was the house of brothers Stoltenhoff was partly covered by debris from the nearby cliff which had increased in abundance Phylica arborea. Their lower branches were covered with mosses and ferns as well as the surrounding soil. The Lomaria robusta was distinguished by its beauty and the Hymenophyllum by abundance. A bird, Sterna stolida, nested in the trees, and the ground was perforated by any underground nests Prion vittatus and two species of petrels, one the size of a pigeon and the other smaller which could be heard warbling perpetual below the ground. The terrier large petrel is similar to that of the hare and the entrance is more or less hidden. Petrels arrive in September with many bands, having been at sea for fishing. They then mate and dig their nests, then they go back in October to return in November, the female lays a single egg, of an oblong shape. The flesh of the adult bird has a bad taste, which communicates the same egg, but young people are good to eat.

Petrels and prions nestle together in the old nests of large petrel or smaller they dig themselves. These birds come out only at night or at dawn.

There was also in this plain a thicket of grass (Spartina arundinacea). These plants are spaced apart from one or two feet, and the perennial portion of each of them consists of a cluster of two or three feet wide and a foot high, from where every year several strong stems that high, bowing, tangle with those of neighboring plants, so it is very difficult to force a way through. It is in this thicket loves to nestle a penguin, the only species of this genus found in the island.

The chrysocoma Eudyptes or crested penguin, called by sailors “rock hopper” arrives in Inaccessible Island at the end of July, first in small numbers, then by the thousands; males before females about fifteen days. These birds are very fat and then wear their most beautiful plumage.

After staying a day or two on the coast to rest, the birds begin to prepare their nests they build with stems and leaves in the open spaces between the clumps of grass. The nest two or three inches high and a foot in diameter, with a slight depression in the middle for the eggs. Females arrive in mid-August to lay a fortnight two and sometimes three eggs a pale blue, spherical, and one of which is always larger than the others. These eggs are incubated alternately by the father and the mother, who stand above, relying on rigid tail feathers; placing the eggs in contact with the lower portion of the abdomen, which at this period of the year is stripped to provide a more direct heat. These eggs come out, after six weeks of very curious little creatures covered with black down, the parents feed with a secretion of the crop. In December young and old leave the coast and go to the sea for a fortnight, then comes the time of moulting, and then standing on the shore, climbing along the cliffs in places that you’d totally inaccessible to them. In April, in the space of one night, they all disappear.

The penguin is a bird of course sea, coming ashore only to nest and raise their young family; but it takes such a long time, that ultimately these birds spend a large portion of their lives out of the water.

Once established in their “rookery”, penguins come and go from the coast to the sea and back again, filling the air with their cries, we can only compare howling on all shades of thousands of dogs.

In general, penguins swim underwater, emerging only occasionally mouth to breathe. However, they also have the singular habit, when in numbers, to leap suddenly completely out of the water, neck forward, then dive again. And it’s hard, when you see them and play on the surface of the water like porpoises, not to believe that we have before us a school of fish pursued by an enemy. When the penguins come out of the water by bands 3-400, they start to climb on the stones; exchanging their vigor and graceful movements of their aquatic life against an upright position without strength, holding their wings like fins, hanging along the body. When they are put at a distance of waves, they then meet in groups, crying and drying themselves strongly, presumably to congratulate happily addressed; then they go in regular order to the “rookery”, falling more than once along the way, but still falling with the help of their wings basics and going directly to a special entrance to the thicket. Meanwhile, another portion of the cored out another band of penguins heading for the sea. Arrived on the shore, they make a stop three or four minutes, looking at each other shouting, then to one accord all rush into the water, and their presence is then indicated by concentric circles that wrinkle the water surface still flaring.

It is moreover easy or pleasant to penetrate into the interior of the “rookery” because the passages to get there are always wet and slimy, not to mention a strong ammonia smell and loud noise in the middle which often dominate distinct sounds, like those of a human voice.

Found at Inaccessible Island, Tristan as the island albatross. Two hundred couples about stray albatross (Diomedea exulans) arrive each year to nest, making a nest of clay and grass a foot high and two feet in diameter, they put in a open area so you can easily take flight with their huge wings. Towards the middle of January the female lays a single egg white with a small band of points of a red brick around the butt end. In July the birds disappear. The other two species in a smaller (D. chlororpyncha) nests or in an open space, either in the middle of grass, but then the bird must, in this case, look for a suitable place to s fly away; the other (D. fuliginosa) places it on the edge of the cliffs.

Other seabirds are common in Inaccessible Island, especially gigantea Procellaria “sea hen” who does not leave the island in October and lays two eggs on the ground, and the Sterna cassini, beautiful grayish white bird with a black head, beak and feet with red coral, which places its nest in the steepest cliffs portions.

The last island also contains a “hen island” as Tristan, but of a different kind. Mr. Thomson could not see her, but Stoltenhoff brothers said to him that this bird looks like a two days old black chicken, it can not use its wings to fly, but he runs like a partridge in mid grasses and ferns.

Leaving the Inaccessible Island, the Challenger headed Nightingale Island discovered by a Danish name, which differs from its two neighbors in appearance. The cliffs in fact have only 20 to 30 feet high, and they are interrupted by numerous ravines leading into bays where ships can be addressed. These cliffs contain deep caverns where willingly removed the seals and sea lions before their almost total destruction. North of the island is a peak 1100 feet high which affects the basalt columns. The location where the ship landed was covered with grasses, among which thousands of penguins had established a huge “rookery” in which it was impossible to consider entering; and an excellent hunting dog as part of the expedition, which was launched gaily forward, did not return, much to the chagrin of Mr. Thomson. After visiting the islands Tristan d’Acunha the Challenger went to the Cape of Good Hope, where he arrived October 28, 1873, and then saying goodbye to the Atlantic expedition headed for the vast areas occupied by Pacific Ocean.

 III. The Falkland Islands

January 20, 1876, Challenger , leaving the Strait of Magellan, returning back into the Atlantic after a happy: travel more than two years, and the 22 he dropped anchor in the port of Stanley, the capital Falkland islands.

The appearance of these islands is not very attractive and living hardly alter that first impression. The country is generally flat, with here and there a few of which the highest elevations does not exceed 2000 feet. Soil color is dark, rare and inconspicuous vegetation. There are, however, herbs, because the plant that is closest to a shrub, the Senecio candicans does not reach three feet in height. It grows on the banks of the sea and in sheltered areas of the interior of the island, its flowers are yellow, its foliage is white and woolly.

The town of Stanley is built along the coast, houses are square, white, covered with gray slate and remarkably clean and tidy. These government agents each have a small attached greenhouse, filled with geraniums and fuchsias; and gardens is the pretty Veronica decussata who naturally believes in the western portion of the island. Behind the town, the land rises a hundred feet, and from there extends a vast plain of several miles in extent, called the Camp, which covers the first spring pretty and delicate flowers of Sisyrinchium filifolium known as the “blade maidens”. Before the governor’s house is a meadow up to the sea, where Mr. Thomson saw a flock of geese beautiful southern regions quietly smoothed their feathers. This familiarity contrasted sharply with the extreme savagery of seabirds in the Strait of Magellan. Naturalists Challenger had, indeed, the greatest difficulty in procuring a few copies of Chloephaga antarctica and Micropterus cinereus and yet these two species, the Falkland Islands, did not show any concern to distance of a stone’s throw. These birds were even less fearful again, a few years ago; they may begin to understand that the people who really appreciate their flesh, are not animated neighbors to them very peaceful ideas.

It is very likely that after several generations that birds acquire this notion of fear of human presence; and if the Strait of Magellan are wilder than those of the Falkland Islands, it’s probably because they live for much longer, with the Patagonians and Fuegians whose voracity is known.

The Falkland Islands have been seen for the first time by Davis in 1592; in 1598, a Dutchman Sebald de Wert, visited them and gave them the Sebald Islands name still found on some Dutch maps. The French took possession in 1763 and called the Falklands sailors from St. Malo claiming to have discovered. A colony was even located in Port Louis, but a few years after the French were expelled by the Spanish, who then ceded their conquest to the English. The latter not having colonized the Falkland Islands, they were claimed by the Republic of Buenos Aires who created an institution; but after disputes with the Americans, it was destroyed when he was beginning to prosper. These islands are now owned by England since 1833.

Located by 51 ° and 52 °, 45 south latitude and 57 ° 20 and 61 ° 46 ’west longitude, the Falkland Islands are among more than 100, but only two are of some importance, especially Falkland which gave its name to the whole group.

The thermometer rarely drops below 0 °, but it rarely exceeds 18.5 ° C; mists and rains · are extremely common, wheat does not ripen, barley and oats only, and vegetables of England can not grow there.

This climate, against, well suited to sheep; in 1872, an English company already had more than 60,000 of these animals and this number has increased significantly since. We also successfully introduced cattle, he saw half wild on the prairies, but the Scottish shepherds have learned very well the art of the Gauchos to seize with bolas. A wild dog was formerly common in the islands, it has almost disappeared now.

During the stay of the Challenger Stanley, the governor, M. d’Arcy, told Mr. Thomson had been found graphite and Coal at Port Sussex, a town on the other side of the island. Mr. Thomson and his fellow cast doubt on this finding, given the geological nature of the soil, which belongs to the lower Devonian field. This was confirmed, however, in a race that made Mr. Moseley at the designated location. What had been taken for coal was a bituminous layer sandwiched in slate, which can burn, it is true, in a forge fire being mixed with coal, but worthless to the point of for regular operation; as graphite, it was this same bitumen, but strongly colored black. If Mr. Moseley could not find coal, it was nevertheless rewarded for his trouble, by the finding of the greater part of the skeleton of a small whale species, very rare, belonging to Xiphius genre.

Two plants of the Falkland Islands, known as the names of balsam-bog and tussock-grass, deserve to be described now.

The balsam-bog comes in very singular appearance, when it comes from a plant, a large hemispherical or oval gray ball three to four feet high and six to eight wide, and much more like a large stone that its surface is covered with lichens and tufts of grass. This strange plant known to botanists as the Bolax glebaria is a umbellifer whose growth pattern reminiscent of the Azorella, Kerguelen Island, but in much larger proportions. These plant masses, which have almost the hardness of the stone is smooth because it is only when viewed closely we see hexagonal marks, which are the leaves and buds of a mass terminal huge branches, multiplying dichotomous very slowly, perhaps for centuries, the balsam-bog exhales a pleasant aromatic odor and a yellowish gum exudes to the surface; excessively small flowers appear at the tips of branches, and you can see at the end of the summer on the surface of the plant fruit characteristics of the group Umbelliferae.

The Bolax glebaria being useless and very widespread in the Falkland Islands, will be for a long time one of the main attractions. The same fate is reserved for Dactylis cœspitosa or tussock-grass. This beautiful grass that believes in clumps of six to ten feet high, is indeed highly sought because of its pleasant flavor, not only by the cattle, but also pigs and all animals herbivores and omnivores, which greedily gnaw the crown of the plant; This leads promptly destroyed. Also a tussock-grass he almost completely gone, and it is now only in a narrow band along the coast and in the more remote islands of the group.

Peat of the Falkland Islands, the only fuel that can be employed, since the wood completely missing and coal costs three pounds per ton, is very different from that of northern Europe. It is not formed, in fact, as the latter, cell plants, but almost entirely on roots and leaves of Empetrum rubrum, a variety with red fruit crown-berry (Empetrum nigrum) mountains of Scotland; of Myrtus nummularia, creeping plant with small red fruits palatable and whose leaves can replace tea, Caltha appendiculata and some sedges, etc. Roots and retainers of all these plants are preserved intact to a depth of several feet, but lower them gradually turn into a formless and black mass.

Flora Camp is very similar to the lower parts of Patagonia and Fuégie, but there are no points pretty shrubs such as Pernettyas and Philesia buxifolia. The family Smilacées however well represented by the Callixene marginata whose beautiful flower exhales a pleasant fragrance.

To complete this description of the Falkland Islands, it remains for us to talk about a phenomenon that can be observed and which, in geological terms, this genuine interest. Several valleys are filled, indeed, large blocks of quartzite pale gray, the accumulation of which form as a glacier with the last 100 feet to over two miles wide and flaring up the Wed, angular irregular, the blocks rest on each other; they have 2 to 20 feet long and a thickness-dependent layer where they went out and running along the sides of the valley; Finally, their surface polished by the elements, is covered by a very thin and very hard white lichen, mimicking a layer of ice. Here and there appear a few ears of Nassauvia serpens, or a few flower heads with a graceful plant similar to the Chrysanthemum (Chabrea suaveolens). Below and at great depth is always a river that sees out when casting stones, stopping at the edge of the sea, has a section that is reminiscent of a large drain.

These glaciers have a new kind of intrigued the Falkland Islands and several hypotheses have been made to explain their presence. According to Mr. Thomson, they are merely the result, but on a very large scale, of a very simple fact that reproduces every day in the slopes.

When a block of rock fell on top of an incline, it gradually covered other debris; but once buried in the ground, it must, says Thomson, necessarily tend to fall as a result of the expansion of the soil when it is saturated with water and removing the surrounding earthy particles by filtering the rain. Since, on the other hand, the block can never go back, it must therefore eventually get too slowly, it is true, at the bottom of the slope, even when the bank does not exceed 3 °. How now the blocks, in the case in question, they appeared on the surface? This probably bind to the action of the river, continually washing the soil underneath, had to drive slowly the earth that covered them. But in order to produce results as grandiose, this slow process water must necessarily go on for an inordinately long time.

This is a result of many observations made in Scotland on sloping ground on which had fallen off the slate fragments, one could easily see the different degrees of inclination, Mr. Thomson was led to admit that in any tilted, it always happens movements, very little soil, it is true, but that eventually become very apparent in the long run. Thomson even think that geologists did not attach sufficient importance to the inner movements of the land, and they are sometimes too quick to attribute exclusively to glaciers, moraines formation and accumulation of rocks at the entrance of some narrow valleys. These landslides, so usually slow, can be very marked in some circumstances, because, as the avalanche disaster slow movements of the ice, the slip is the catastrophe of those soil.

The Challenger , leaving the Falkland Islands, went to Montevideo and then to England, not being in his way a short stay in the island of Ascension. By separating us now Mr. Thomson has done so well we know some of the most interesting islands in the Atlantic, we hope that his numerous scientific work will not prevent to publish shortly after his impressions trip. As new observations and curious naturalists Challenger do not they have collected, in fact, visiting the many islands in the Pacific Ocean, in which shall be gathered all the wonderful profusion of tropical nature.


[1See in La Revue scientifique of June 1, 1878, the article entitled Les Bermudes.