The Voyage of the Beagle HTML version

Chiloe And Concepcion: Great Earthquake]
San Carlos, Chiloe -- Osorno in eruption, contemporaneously with Aconcagua and
Coseguina -- Ride to Cucao -- Impenetrable Forests -- Valdivia Indians -- Earthquake --
Concepcion -- Great Earthquake -- Rocks fissured -- Appearance of the former Towns --
The Sea Black and Boiling -- Direction of the Vibrations -- Stones twisted round -- Great
Wave -- Permanent Elevation of the Land -- Area of Volcanic Phenomena -- The
connection between the Elevatory and Eruptive Forces -- Cause of Earthquakes -- Slow
Elevation of Mountain-chains
ON JANUARY the 15th we sailed from Low's Harbour, and three days afterwards
anchored a second time in the bay of S. Carlos in Chiloe. On the night of the 19th the
volcano of Osorno was in action. At midnight the sentry observed something like a large
star, which gradually increased in size till about three o'clock, when it presented a very
magnificent spectacle. By the aid of a glass, dark objects, in constant succession, were
seen, in the midst of a great glare of red light, to be thrown up and to fall down. The light
was sufficient to cast on the water a long bright reflection. Large masses of molten matter
seem very commonly to be cast out of the craters in this part of the Cordillera. I was
assured that when the Corcovado is in eruption, great masses are projected upwards and
are seen to burst in the air, assuming many fantastical forms, such as trees: their size must
be immense, for they can be distinguished from the high land behind S. Carlos, which is
no less than ninety-three miles from the Corcovado. In the morning the volcano became
I was surprised at hearing afterwards that Aconcagua in Chile, 480 miles northwards, was
in action on the same night; and still more surprised to hear that the great eruption of
Coseguina (2700 miles north of Aconcagua), accompanied by an earthquake felt over a
1000 miles, also occurred within six hours of this same time. This coincidence is the
more remarkable, as Coseguina had been dormant for twenty-six years; and Aconcagua
most rarely shows any signs of action. It is difficult even to conjecture whether this
coincidence was accidental, or shows some subterranean connection. If Vesuvius, Etna,
and Hecla in Iceland (all three relatively nearer each other than the corresponding points
in South America), suddenly burst forth in eruption on the same night, the coincidence
would be thought remarkable; but it is far more remarkable in this case, where the three
vents fall on the same great mountain-chain, and where the vast plains along the entire
eastern coast, and the upraised recent shells along more than 2000 miles on the western
coast, show in how equable and connected a manner the elevatory forces have acted.
Captain Fitz Roy being anxious that some bearings should be taken on the outer coast of
Chiloe, it was planned that Mr. King and myself should ride to Castro, and thence across
the island to the Capella de Cucao, situated on the west coast. Having hired horses and a
guide, we set out on the morning of the 22nd. We had not proceeded far, before we were
joined by a woman and two boys, who were bent on the same journey. Every one on this
road acts on a "hail fellow well met" fashion; and one may here enjoy the privilege, so