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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 14
by Robert Kerr
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[1] "We found many little clefts, which cannot properly be called vallies, where a few shrubs of different species sprang up in a thin layer of swampy soil, being defended against the violence of storms, and exposed to the genial influence of reverberated sun-beams. The rock, of which the whole island consisted, is a coarse granite, composed of feld-spath, quartz, and black mica or glimmer. This rock is in most places entirely naked, without the smallest vegetable particle; but wherever the rains, or melted snows, have washed together some little rubbish, and other particles in decay, it is covered with a coating of minute plants, in growth like mosses, which, forming a kind of turf, about an inch or more in thickness, very easily slip away under the foot, having no firm hold on the rock. In sheltered places a few other plants thrive among these mossy species, and these at last form a sufficient quantity of soil for the nutriment of shrubs. Here we found the species which affords what has been called Winter's Bark; but in this unfriendly situation it was only a shrub about ten feet high, crooked and shapeless. Barren as these rocks appeared, yet almost every plant which we gathered on them was new to us, and some species were remarkable for the beauty of their flowers, or their smell."—G.F.

[2] Mr G.F. has given a pretty minute description of the country around this sound, and its annual and vegetable productions; but for a reason afterwards stated by Captain Cook, there seems little inducement to copy from it. Those who think otherwise, but who, perhaps, are very few in number, will have recourse to that gentleman's narrative.—E.

[3] The reader who is not satisfied with the picture now given of these wretched and disgusting beings, may turn to the abstract of Bougainville's Voyage, quoted in the preceding volume of this collection, which surely ought to suffice.—E.

[4] In the cavities and crevices of the huge piles of rocks, forming Terra del Fuego and Staten-land, so very like each other, where a little moisture is preserved by its situation, and where from the continued friction of the loose pieces of rocks, washed and hurried down the steep sides of the rocky masses, a few minute particles form a kind of sand; there in the stagnant water gradually spring up a few algaceous plants from seeds carried thither on the feet, plumage, and bills of birds; these plants form at the end of each season a few atoms of mould which yearly increases; the birds, the sea, or the wind carries from a neighbouring isle, the seeds of some of the mossy plants to this little mould, and they vegetate in it daring the proper season. Though these plants be not absolute mosses, they are however nearly related to them in their habit. We reckon among them the IXIA pumila; a new plant which we called DONATIA; a small MELANTHIUM; a minute OXALIS and CALENDULA; another little dioicous plant, called by us PHYLLACHNE, together with the MNIARUM, (see Forster, Nova Genera Plantarum). These plants, or the greater part of them, have a peculiar growth, particularly adapted to these regions, and fit for forming soil and mould on barren rocks. In proportion as they grow up, they spread into various stems and branches, which lie as close together as possible; they spread new seeds, and at last a large spot is covered; the lowermost fibres, roots, stalks, and leaves, gradually decay and push forth on the top new verdant leaves: The decaying lower parts form a kind of peat, or turf, which gradually changes into mould and soil. The close texture of these plants hinders the moisture below from evaporating, and thus furnishes nutriment to the vegetation above, and clothes at last whole hills and isles with a constant verdure. Among these pumilous plants, some of a greater stature begin to thrive, without in the least prejudicing the growth of these creators of mould and soil. Among these plants we reckon a small ARBUTUS, a diminutive myrtle, a little dandelion, a small creeping CRASSULA, the common PINGUICULA alpina, a yellow variety of the VIOLA palustris, the STATICE armeria, or sea pink, a kind of burnet, the RANUNCULUS lapponicus, the HOLCUS odoratus, the common celery, with the ARABIS heterophylla. Soon after we observed, in places that are still covered with the above-mentioned mossy plant, a new rush (JUNCUS triglumis,) a fine AMELLUS, a most beautiful scarlet CHELONE, and lastly, even shrubby plants, viz. a scarlet- flowered shrubby plant of a new genus, which we called EMBOTHRIUM coccineum; two new kinds of berberis, (BERBERIS ilicifolia et mitior;) an arbutus with cuspidated leaves (ARBUTUS mucronata;) and lastly, the tree bearing the winter's bark (DRYMIS winteri,) which, however, in these rocky barren parts of Terra del Fuego never exceeds the size of a tolerable shrub; whereas in Success Bay, on a gentle sloping ground, in a rich and deep soil, it grows to the size of the largest timber. The falling leaves, the rotting mossy plants, and various other circumstances, increase the mould and form a deeper soil, more and more capable of bearing larger plants. Thus they all enlarge the vegetable system, and rescue new animated parts of the creation from their inactive chaotic state."—F.



END OF VOLUME FOURTEENTH.

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