We found many sicupira nuts, of a small, flat and fat oval shape, and a yellow-ochre colour. The shell contained many tiny cells or chambers—just like the section of a beehive. Each chamber was full of a bitter oil, said to cure almost any complaint known.
On May 22nd I took observations with the hypsometrical apparatus in order to obtain the correct elevation, and also as a check to the several aneroids I was using for differential altitudes. Water boiled at a temperature of 210 deg. with a temperature of the atmosphere of 70 deg. Fahr. This would make the elevation at that spot 1,490 ft. above the sea level. The aneroids registered 1,480 ft.
We came upon two strange rocks, one resembling the head and neck of a much-eroded Sphinx—of natural formation—blackened, knobby, and with deep grooves; the other not unlike a giant mushroom. The sphinx-like rock stood upon a pedestal also of rock in several strata. The head was resting on a stratum 1 ft. thick, of a brilliant red, and at a slight dip. Under it was a white stratum much cracked, after which came a stratum of white and red blending into each other. This stratum, 2 ft. thick, showed the white more diffused in the upper part than the lower. The lowest stratum of all exposed was of a deep red.
Near this stood erect another columnar rock of a similar shape, the head and base entirely of red rock. It was eroded on the north-west side to such an extent that it was almost concave in the lower part. This rock, too, showed great cracks and a slight dip north-west in the strata. Vertical fissures were noticeable, and seemed caused by concussion.
A third rock—flat, with a convex bottom—stood as if on a pivot on the angular point of a pyramidal larger rock, this larger rock in its turn resting over a huge base. There was no mistake as to how those two rocks had got there. They had fallen from above, one on the top of the other. A proof of this lay in the fact that they had arrived with such force that the base had split at the point of contact. As there was no hill above or near those rocks, there was little doubt that they had been flung there by volcanic action.
We were in a region of extraordinary interest and surprises. In the plain which extended before us there stood two conical hills in the far north-west, and three other hills, dome-like, each isolated, but in a most perfect alignment with the others, towards the east. Close to us were giant domes of rock, the surface of which formed marvellous geometrical designs of such regularity that had they been on a smaller scale one might have suspected them of being the work of human beings; but they were not, as we shall see presently.
The Salesian Fathers—A Volcanic Zone
WE arrived at the chief colony of the Salesians, Sagrado Coracao de Jesus (Tachos). There, thanks to the great kindness and hospitality of the Fathers, and also owing to the amount of interesting matter I found from a geological and anthropological point of view, I decided to halt for a day or two.
The Salesians had come to that spot, not by the way I had gone, but by an easier way via Buenos Aires and the Paraguay River, navigable as far as Cuyaba, the capital of Matto Grosso. The friars had done wonderful work in many parts of the State of Matto Grosso. In fact, what little good in the way of civilization had been done in that State had been done almost entirely by those monks. They had established an excellent college in Cuyaba, where all kinds of trades and professions were taught. In the port of Corumba a similar school was established, and then there were the several colonies among the Indians, such as the Sagrado Coracao de Jesus on the Rio Barreiro, the Immaculada Conceicao on the Rio das Garcas, the Sangradouro Colony, and the Palmeiras.
As in this work I have limited myself to write on things which have come directly under my observation, I shall not have an opportunity of speaking of the work of the Salesians at Cuyaba or Corumba—two cities I did not visit—but I feel it my duty to say a few words on the work of sacrifice, love and devotion performed by the friars in those remote regions.
In the colony at Tachos, situated on a height, there were several neat buildings for the friars and a village for the Indians. What interested me most was to see how much of the land around had been converted with success to agricultural purposes. I inspected the buildings where useful trades were taught to the Indians of both sexes. Weaving-looms and spinning-wheels had been imported at great expense and endless trouble, as well as blacksmiths' and carpenters' tools of all kinds. A delightfully neat garden with European flowers was indeed a great joy to one's eyes, now unaccustomed to so gay and tidy a sight. What pleased me most of all was to notice how devoted to the Salesians the Indians were, and how happy and well cared for they seemed to be. They had the most humble reverence for the Fathers.
Padre Antonio Colbacchini, the Father Superior, an Italian, was an extremely intelligent and practical man, one of the hardest workers I have ever met. With a great love for science he had established a small observatory on a high hill at a considerable distance from the mission buildings. The abnegation with which Father Clemente Dorozeski, in charge of the instruments, would get up in the middle of the night and in all weathers go and watch for the minimum temperature—their instruments were primitive, and they did not possess self-registering thermometers—was indeed more than praiseworthy.
My readers can easily imagine my surprise when one day Padre Colbacchini treated me, after dinner, to an orchestral concert of such operas as Il Trovatore, Aida, and the Barbiere di Seviglia, played on brass and stringed instruments by Indian boys. The Bororos showed great fondness for music, and readily learned to play any tune without knowing a single note of music. Naturally great patience was required on the part of the teacher in order to obtain a collective melody which would not seriously impair the drum of one's ear. The result was truly marvellous. Brass instruments were preferred by the Indians. The trombone was the most loved of all. As the Indians all possessed powerful lungs, they were well suited for wind instruments.
The colony was situated in one of the most picturesque spots of Matto Grosso. When out for a walk I came upon a great natural wall of rock with immense spurs of lava, the surface of which was cut up into regular geometrical patterns, squares and lozenges. I think that in that particular case the peculiarity was due to the lava having flowed over curved surfaces. In coming in contact with the atmosphere it had cooled more rapidly on the upper face than the under, and in contracting quickly had split at regular intervals, thus forming the geometrical pattern.
It was undoubted that we were there in the former centre of inconceivable volcanic activity. In other parts of a great dome of rock I came upon strange holes in the rock—extremely common all over that region—which might at first glance be mistaken for depressions formed by glacial action, but which were not. They were merely moulds of highly ferruginous rock, granular on its surface and not smoothed, as one would expect in the walls of cavities made by the friction of revolving ice and rock. Nor did I ever find at the bottom of any of those pits, worn-down, smooth spherical or spheroid rocks, such as are usually found in pits of glacial formation. Those pits had been formed by lava and molten iron flowing around easily crumbled blocks of rock, or perhaps by large balls of erupted mud which had dropped on molten lava, that had then solidified round them, while the mud or soft rock had subsequently been dissolved by rain, leaving the mould intact. The latter theory would seem to me the more plausible, as many of those pits showed much indented, raised edges, as if splashing had taken place when the rock now forming the mould was in semi-liquid form. Only once or twice did I notice hollows with a suggestion of spiral grooves in their walls; but I think that those had been caused at a more recent date by water flowing in and describing a spiral as it travelled downward in the interior of the vessels.
On the hill where the observatory was situated two circular volcanic vents were to be seen. The hill, which had a slope on one side, had evidently been split, as on reaching the top I found that an almost vertical precipice was on the other side. Quantities of quartz and crystals were to be found on that hill. All over that region quaintly-shaped rocks were also to be found, some like small cubic or rectangular boxes, others not unlike inkstands, others in hollowed cylinders or spheres. Many—and those were the quaintest of all—were of a rectangular shape, which when split disclosed a rectangular hollow inside. These natural boxes were mostly of iron rock, laminated, which had evidently collected when in a liquid state round some soft matter, that had subsequently evaporated or disappeared with the intense heat, leaving empty spaces inside. The laminations were about one-eighth of an inch thick.
Padre Colbacchini told me that some distance off a curious pool of water existed which he called the "electric spring." When you placed your hand in it you received a slight electric shock, while a similar impression to that of an electric current continued to be felt as long as you kept your hand in the water.
The mission buildings at Tachos were at an elevation of 1,600 ft., the observatory, 100 ft. higher. The temperature on May 23rd was max. 81 deg., min. 68.4 Fahr. From the observatory hill an uncommon sight was before us. Seven large and small isolated conical and domed hills stood in perfect alignment from N.N.E. to S.S.W. in two different sets.
In that region the prevalent wind was from the E.S.E. during the months of May, June, July and August. In September the wind veered gradually to the north and north-east; whereas during the rainy season winds from the north, north-west and south-east were the most prevalent, especially the north-westerly wind. When the wind came from the north it was generally accompanied by heavy rain. The rainy season in that particular zone of the immense Matto Grosso state extended from October to the end of April.
The Rio Barreiros flowed in a northerly direction (elev. 1,500 ft.) over a bed of red lava, ashes, red earth, and sand. After leaving this river we quickly rose again to an altitude of 1,700 ft. upon a first hill, then to 1,800 ft. on a second, and 1,850 ft. on a third elevation over a great spur of red lava, extending in a graceful curve well into the valley below.
Exquisite was the view of the great plain below us, with its magnificent campos stretching as far as the eye could see, far away to the horizon line. In the far distance, scattered here and there, rose the peculiar flat-topped isolated mountains before described. Again all that day we marched over ashes, red sand, and volcanic debris. The highest point we reached was 1,950 ft. A snake dashed across our way among the hoofs of my mule, but no harm was done.
Near Camp Bugueirao (elev. 1,800 ft.), where we halted, there was a delightful, clear, tiny spring emerging from white volcanic crystallized rock. Then more campos over lovely undulations in the country. Close by was what the Brazilians call a furnas (from the Latin fornus)—a somewhat misapplied term by which they named any deep hollow or chasm, whether vertical like a precipice or horizontal such as a cave.
It was getting slightly less cold during the nights. On May 24th the Fahrenheit thermometer registered a minimum of 60 deg. and a maximum temperature of 75 deg..
Owing to the usual trouble of recovering the mules in the morning we only left camp at 10.30 a.m., rising over great masses of ferruginous rock, which showed through the deposits of ashes and sand at an elevation of 1,950 ft. The immense view of the campos in great undulations was really exquisite to the west and south-west.
My mules were then travelling over a strange narrow strip of rock at a height of 2,050 ft.—in some places only a few yards across—on the top of vertical walls dividing two deep valleys, one to the south, very extensive, with great lava-flows; another to the north. In the latter valley an immense extinct crater was visible, in three well-defined internal terraces and a deep central depression.
Upon climbing on the summit of a high conical hill I further discovered that the crater had an elongated shape, the longest diameter being from north to south, the southern and lower part being overlapped by a voluminous flow of lava which also covered a great part of the mountain slope. Strange monoliths were numerous, among the many fantastically shaped rocks, and also boulders lying about at all angles. One like a huge table rested on the top of another, upon which it had fallen with great force, as could be seen by the vertical splitting of the rock underneath. The rock above appeared simply broiled—and so were the huge masses of debris, especially of ferruginous rock, which had evidently been ejected by that crater. The entire summit of the crater cone (2,100 ft. above the sea level) was of hard black baked rock.
Close by, to the north, was another peculiar oval depression, the highest part of which to the north-west was in four distinct terraces in the interior. The eastern part was more flattened, not unlike a huge soup plate. In the centre was another deep depression—possibly an extinct crater too. This second crater was to the north of the high-domed crater described above.
In the near west we had mere undulations over which we gradually travelled, but the country was getting much more disturbed than it had appeared since leaving the Araguaya River. Due west farther away stood before us a weird-looking plateau with a vertical high wall to the north. To the south it showed three terraces, the two lower ones supported on perpendicular cliffs, whereas a convex slope was between the second and third, or top terrace. To the south-west in the far distance another high plateau could be perceived, also with vertical cliffs to the north, but slanting at its southern end—a shape characteristic of nearly all the isolated mountains of that zone.
Looking south we perceived great tongues of lava extending from east to west—the eastern point being higher than the western, showing that the lava had flowed there from east to west. Then there was also a great sloping grassy slant, possibly over another extensive lava-flow, from the crater we had examined. Extending toward the south-west was another tongue of lava of great width when measured from north-west to south-east, the latter (south-east) being its lowest point. On its north-east side this great flow had a high vertical face. Between these enormous tongues of lava, east to west and south-east to north-west, was a depression or channel extending as far as a distant high dome in three terraces to the south-west. On our course we came upon more curious flattened eruptive rocks, which had split on falling with great force to earth after having been ejected from a volcano.
Other parallel ranges could be clearly perceived. To bearings magnetic 160 deg. were again to be seen our old friends the two strange gabled-roof and tower mountains.
I climbed up on the Paredaozinho volcano (2,100 ft. above the sea level) to examine its extinct crater, subdivided into two distinct large craters and a subsidiary one.
One of these craters extended from east to west, and had in one section on its rim a giant dome split into quadrangular and lozenge-shaped sections, not unlike magnified mosaic work. Next to it was a great hill with a vertical natural wall overlooking the crater itself. The horizontal strata of this natural wall, each about a foot thick, looked exactly like a wonderful masonry work, so perfectly straight were the strata, and the square and rectangular rocks laid in lines with such extraordinary regularity. This wall stood upon solid masses of rock of immense size—hundreds of feet in height.
The lip of the crater on the south side was just like the well-laid pavement of a city, so regularly had the lava cracked in contracting, thus leaving four- and five-sided geometrical figures, all well fitting in with their neighbours. Again, in this case, the lava, flowing over a convex surface, had contracted on the surface and caused the wonderful network of grooves. In one section the crater had the appearance of an ancient Roman or Etruscan amphitheatre with seats in many tiers or steps, separated by vertical cracks—as if cut out into separate blocks of stone.
On the east side of the greatest portion of one crater—which would seem to have been the most active of all—I found again immense boulders with stratified rock above them resembling masonry work, just the same as and at the same elevation as the layers I had examined in the larger elongated horseshoe crater. In the centre of the smaller crater there flowed a rivulet of crystal-like water most delicious to drink. Undoubtedly those eastern rocks were the lip of the crater, for I discovered there two flows of lava in corrugations and network designs such as we had observed on the summit of the greater section. I had great difficulty in climbing up the steep internal walls of the crater, and on the steep slopes with dried grass, which was slippery to a degree. On the top of the crater were great masses of carbonated rock; also patches of lapilli, and red and white sand, plentiful everywhere in that zone.
The smaller crater—it seemed to me—must have been a mere safety valve for the larger one. Its elevation, it will be noticed, was the same as that of the latter. From the summit of the one on which I was standing I could perceive the other to the E.N.E., forming the eastern boundary of this immense volcanic hollow. The southern part of this great double crater was subdivided into several sections, all in great rocky terraces—quite vertical except in their lower portion, which was sloping and had evidently been filled to a great extent by an accumulation of ashes and erupted refuse. On the side on which I stood, however, the crater had not the diabolical, quite awe-inspiring, appearance of the larger section of the huge volcanic mouth—quite unscaleable by humans in its central section. In the deep cracks in the rock were several small grottoes. I experienced some difficulty and much fatigue in climbing to the top (elev. 1,750 ft.) of the extinct volcano, and especially in reaching the lip of the crater, owing to the thick and much entangled scrub with innumerable thorns.
Our camp was at 1,500 ft., in a delightful spot at the junction of two streams, one from the south descending from the volcano, the other from the north. The two rivers united flowed north—I think eventually into the Rio das Mortes.
When we moved out of camp on May 25th (temperature, minimum 62 deg., maximum 80 deg. Fahr.) I noticed that, after passing the wall-like section of the crater in the northern aspect, there were strata with a dip south in the inner part of the crater. The northern face of this vertical wall showed thick strata cracked into squares and rectangles with a dip in two different directions at an angle. There a draining channel had formed. Two rows of circular holes—like port-holes—were to be seen, one directly under the summit, the other one-third down the cliff side. A giant rectangular tower of solid rock stood erect parallel to the great wall. Skirting this vertical wall we travelled north-west-by-west, rising gradually to 1,800 ft. on a deep layer of red volcanic sand and grey ashes.
Looking back to the east we had a complete view of the two-tiered plateaux with their vertical northern walls, showing a dip south in their stratification. A crowning mound could also be observed surpassing their height, when we rose still higher to 1,900 ft. on the summit of a ledge of cracked lava with a slant west-wards. On the eastern side, where it had crumbled owing to a subsidence, it showed a rounded moulding, whereas on the other side were great waves of lava. The lava had flowed from east to west.
After leaving this curious spot we went over undulating red and ochre-coloured sand and more grey ashes. We rose twice to an elevation of 2,000 ft. We crossed a streamlet of delicious water flowing north over a red lava bed. Then more and more ashes were found all along. A second stream—also flowing north—was then negotiated, also over a red lava bed (elev. 1,800 ft.), after which we climbed to 2,000 ft., descending soon after to 1,900 ft. on the banks of another river flowing north-east.
At this spot were two more enormous lava-flows—one on each side of the stream, and extending in a tortuous course from south-west to north-east. The lava had flowed north-east.
On rising slowly in deep red sand to an elevation of 2,100 ft. we saw two prominent elevations of brilliant red colouring to the south—they, too, with vertical cliffs to the north. To the west loomed two huge twin plateaux separated by an immense crack, also with vertical walls to the north and a slight dip south in the strata forming the various terraces.
The Paredao Grande—A Canon—A Weird Phenomenon—Troublesome Insects
WE had reached a spot of most amazing scenery—the Paredao Grande—a giant hill mass displaying a great crater in its north side. Two high cones stood above the immense red-baked wall at its eastern end, where it was in huge blocks stratified in thicknesses varying from 15 to 20 ft. each. In that eastern section the strata were perfectly horizontal. On the western side of the crater was a colossal quadrangular mountain of red-baked rock—a solid mass of granite with a narrow band, slightly discoloured, all along its summit. There—above—we also perceived a slight grassy slope, and above it again a great natural wall in layers 6 ft. thick. From the bottom of the mountain this upper natural wall resembled the defences of a great castle built on the summit of the giant rock. In approaching this strange sight we had gone over extensive deposits of ashes and yellow lava pellets and balls.
The elevation at the foot of this immense block was 1,970 ft., the summit of the rock 660 ft. higher—so that the reader can easily imagine how impressive this quadrangular block of bright red rock was, several hundred yards in length on each side and 201 metres high.
As we reached camp rather early I went to examine the block from all sides. On the southern side Alcides and I climbed up to within 30 ft. of the summit, and from that high point obtained a stupendous panoramic view of the great expanse of undulating country to the south and south-east, while it was almost absolutely flat to the west as far as the horizon line.
To the south-west were distinguishable some extraordinary-looking cylindrical table-lands—like immense sections of columns—rising well above the horizon line. To the south in the distance a peculiar formation of mountains could be seen—first a separate prismatic mountain like a gabled roof with a well-defined vertical high wall standing all along its longitudinal apex line. Parallel to this and to one another were three sets of mountains, with such steep sides that they seemed like gigantic walls standing up on the flat country. Behind them was a flat-topped plateau with a small cone rising above it. The sides of the latter plateau formed a steep escarpment. To the south-east was a domed plateau, red in its lower section, green on the top. Between this plateau and the last wall-like mountain, several hundred feet in height, stood a conical peak with a natural tower of rock upon it.
Beyond, to the south-east, could just be perceived two pyramidal mountains, but they were very distant and scarcely visible. The valley itself was greatly furrowed in deep, long channels. Due south were dome-like mounds—each of these, mind you, standing out individually upon an almost flat plain.
In the north-western corners of the great quadrangular Paredao rock I saw a spot where it would have been quite easy to climb up to the summit, as portions of the rock had crumbled down and had left an incline. But I had no object in making the ascent on that side, especially as I had already obtained the view I required from the south side. Also because I was heavily laden, carrying cameras, aneroids, a large prismatic compass, and three heavy bags of money slung to the belt round my waist, and did not feel up to the extra and useless exertion. Great arches with a span of over 80 metres were to be seen in the lower part of the western wall. To the south there was a huge spur of lava with the geometrical pattern upon its surface we had already observed elsewhere. In this particular case, too, it appeared to me that the peculiar net of surface channels had been formed in coming in contact with the air, and not underground in the boiling cauldron of the volcano when the ebullition of the rock ceased. They were only found at a lower elevation because they had gone down with a great subsidence which had taken place, and in which neither the quadrangular Paredao Grande, nor the peculiar isolated mountains we had observed from its height, had been affected. They had remained standing when all the rest sank for some six hundred feet and, in places, more. That might perhaps account for the extraordinary shapes of all those mountains, which could not otherwise be explained.
At the foot of the vertical giant block on the west many domes of lava, channelled in a quadrangular network pattern, and ridges and cones, were found, all with a slope to the west. I had a great struggle in my research work that day, owing to the thick scrub with vicious thorns that tore one's clothes and skin mercilessly.
We came upon an immense deep crack in the earth surface—a regular canon—which extended all along the centre of the great valley. On the opposite side of it were again big domes of lava in corrugated designs, also a gigantic circular crater. Many natural crucibles of iron rock, some cylindrical in shape, others oval, others formed not unlike Pompeian lamps—while others still were square or rectangular or lozenge-shaped—were to be seen in many spots on the moraine-like tails that extended southward, like the tentacles of an octopus, and in the heaps of much carbonized rock and solidified froth produced by what was once boiling rock. The mounds of froth were usually collected in depressions.
The west side of the Paredao was decidedly the most interesting of all. Its great arches showed that it must have once formed the sides of a great cauldron—the top of which had subsequently collapsed or been blown off. This seemed quite apparent from the discoloration in the rocky cliff some 50 ft. above the arches, which followed the exact line of what must have been the thickness of the vault. The rock in that discoloured section was perfectly smooth, whereas above that it became much cracked vertically in layers, and gave the appearance of a masonry wall.
Toward the south-western corner there was a prismatic tower. Where the peculiar isolated rocks near the tower formed a spur, a dip was noticeable in the flow of the once molten rock, following what must have been at that time the surface soil over the cauldron's roof.
A huge triangular crater could be seen, from which started an enormous crack of great length in the lava-flow of the valley to the west.
The southern face of that stupendous rocky quadrangle was not quite so vertical as the west and north sides, and was more in tiers or steps of lava—but very steep indeed. It had in its lower part a great spur extending southward.
As I have said, Alcides and I arrived within 30 ft. of the summit of the great Paredao, at an elevation of 2,550 ft., the summit being 2,580 ft.; but owing to the last 30 ft. being absolutely vertical and the top rock of a crumbling nature, and as my object in wishing to obtain a full view of the country to the south had been attained, I did not think it worth while to court an accident for nothing. It was well after sunset when we were up there, and it would take a long time to return to camp. So we hastened on our return journey.
The sunset that night—which we watched from that high point of vantage—was really too stupendous for words, and not unlike an aurora borealis—red, gold and violet lines radiating from the sun like a gorgeous fan and expanding as they approached the summit of the sky vault. The descent was more difficult than the ascent, owing to the slippery nature of the rock.
At night, while back in camp, we saw to the W.N.W., quite low on the horizon, a brilliant planet—possibly Venus. The stars and planets appeared always wonderfully bright and extraordinarily large on fine nights. Whether it was an optical illusion or not I do not know, but the phenomenon, which lasted some hours, was seen by all my men, and appeared also when the planet was seen through a powerful hand telescope. It seemed to discharge powerful intermittent flashes, red and greenish, only toward the earth. Those flashes were similar to and more luminous than the tail of a small comet, and of course much shorter—perhaps four to five times the diameter of the planet in their entire length.
Whether this phenomenon was due to an actual astral disturbance, or to light-signalling to the earth or other planet, it would be difficult—in fact, impossible—to ascertain with the means I had at my command. Perhaps it was only an optical illusion caused by refraction and deflected rays of vision, owing to the effect upon the atmosphere of the heated rocky mass by our side and under us—such as is the case in effects of mirage. I am not prepared to express an opinion, and only state what my men and I saw, merely suggesting what seem to me the most plausible explanations.
At moments the planet seemed perfectly spherical, with a marvellously definite outline, and then the flashes were shot out especially to the right as one looked at the planet, and downward slightly at an angle, not quite perpendicularly.
That night, May 25th-26th, was cold: min. 58 deg. Fahr. But during the day at 9 a.m. the thermometer already registered 85 deg. Fahr.
The sky, half covered by flimsy transparent mist to the east, and by globular thin clouds, large overhead and of smaller dimensions to the west, developed later in the day into a charming mackerel sky, with two great arches of mist to the south, and delicate horizontal layers of mist near the earth.
It was only when we were some distance off that we obtained a full and glorious view of the western side of the Paredao. The upper stratum showed a slight dip north, then there was a ledge on which grass seemed to flourish, and below it two parallel strata in a wavy line from north to south. Those two strata could be traced again—after a dip—in the range with two cones, separated as we have seen by a deep gap from the great wall-cliffs of the Paredao. The indication of what must have been once an enormous dome over a huge cavity or cauldron could be noticed in the western cliff, and also numerous chambers, large and small—at least, judging by the arches in great numbers noticeable in the wall. In other words, you had there the same effect as the one often seen in cities when houses are pulled down and the remains of the various rooms are visible on the remaining side walls.
Looking north as we left the disturbed region of the Paredao Grande, we came upon a great valley, with a depression in its centre. We were still travelling on volcanic ochre-coloured sand in deep layers, especially as we rose to an altitude of 2,350 ft., overlooking a huge basin. We had then a good general view of the southern aspect of the Paredao Grande. In its side a huge gap with vertical walls—a vent perhaps—could be noticed, reaching as far as the summit of the mountain. It was interesting to note that all the great cracks in the earth's crust found in that region almost invariably had a direction from north to south, so that the ranges which remained bordering them must have split in a lateral movement east and west.
Six kilometres from camp through the forest we came upon some singularly delicious green, smooth grassy slopes. In other places were perfectly circular or oval concave basins of volcanic ashes, in the centre of which stood charming groups of burity palms and trees with most luxuriant foliage. These bosquets existed in the hollow of all the basins where profuse infiltrations of moisture caused the luxuriant vegetation.
We were at an elevation of 2,350 ft. On going down to a stream (elev. 2,130 ft.) we encountered great flows of lava. It had flowed in a westerly direction. We were proceeding through enchanting vegetation when we came to a second and a third cuvette or basin adorned with plentiful healthy palms in its central point.
As I was admiring the curious sight of these clusters of high vegetation absolutely surrounded by a wide band of lawn—such as one would see in a well-kept English park—a heavy and sudden storm arrived, which in a few seconds drenched us to the marrow of our bones. I have seldom seen or felt drops of water of such weight and size as when the rain began, followed within a few seconds by a downpour in bucketfuls.
Animals, baggage, and men, dripping all over, went along, rising to 2,400 ft. above the sea level, by the side of a conical hill. A huge block of volcanic rock—shot and deposited there evidently from elsewhere—was to be seen near by.
Eighteen kilometres from our last camp we descended to a streamlet, dividing a grassy basin like the preceding ones. Again I noticed here that all divisions between ranges—caused by volcanic or other violent action, and not by erosion—were in a direction from north to south. We had this in the Paredao Grande, and in the triple division of the top-dyked mountains on the south, and also in the gabled and tower mountains we had observed for some days to the south-west.
Again during the night I saw to the west the phenomenon of the previous evening repeated—the strange flashes directly under and occasionally to the left of the brilliant planet—that is to say to the right of the person observing it.
This was from Camp Areal, where we suffered terribly during the day from our friends the pium, which filled our eyes and ears and stung us all over; and at sunset from the polvora or polvorinha (or powder), so called because of their infinitesimal size—most persistent mosquitoes, so greedy that they preferred to be squashed rather than escape when they were sucking our blood on our hands and faces. Fortunately, during the night—with the cold (min. Fahr. 56 deg.)—we had a little respite, and these brutes disappeared, only to return to their attack at sunrise with the warmth of the sun. At 9 a.m. the thermometer already registered a temperature of 95 deg. Fahr. in the sun—a jump of 39 deg., which, notwithstanding mosquitoes and pium, my men greatly enjoyed.
I have never seen men suffer more from the cold than my followers. They were simply paralyzed and frozen at that comparatively high temperature. They moaned and groaned and wept all night, although they slept in their clothes and were tightly wrapped up in heavy blankets. Moreover, they had spread a heavy waterproof double tent over the lot of them, as they lay closely packed to one another, covering heads and all, and had arranged a blazing fire enough to roast an ox quite close to them.
Personally, I was quite happy under a mere shelter tent—open for precaution on all sides, owing to preceding experiences, so that I could see what was going on all around without getting up from my camp bed. I only had a mere thin camel-hair blanket over me. I never slept in my clothes, preferring the comfort of ample silk pyjamas. In the morning I always indulged in my cold shower bath, two large buckets of water being poured by Alcides upon my head and back, amid the shivering yells of my trembling companions, who, at a distance, watched the operation, wrapped up to such an extent that merely their eyes were exposed.
"He is mad!" I often heard them murmur with chattering teeth.
Beneath heavy horizontal clouds low in the sky and ball-like cloudlets above, we started off once more from an elevation of 2,100 ft. at the camp to proceed over a plateau 2,300 ft. high and some 6 kil. broad from east to west. Then we descended into another charming cuvette (elev. 2,100 ft.), and farther on to a streamlet flowing north, the Rio Coriseo.
We were then travelling over reddish and ochre-coloured volcanic sand, going through stunted and fairly open matto (forest), higher up at 2,250 ft. in successive undulations crossing our route at right angles. In one of the depressions (elev. 2,150 ft.) was a river—the Rio Torresino—flowing north. Quantities of yellow globular lava pellets and lumpy blocks—evidently ejected by a volcano—were seen.
The stream Cabeca de Boi—forming after the Rio Macacos (or River of Monkeys) a tributary of the Rio das Mortes, into which flowed all the rivulets we had lately met—was next crossed (elev. 2,130 ft.). Over more and deep beds of ashes we journeyed at 2,270 ft. on the southern edge of a great grassy basin extending from east to west. Again a delightful group of palms and healthy trees was in the typical depression. Ant-hills were innumerable on all sides. One could not help admiring their architectural lines, which formed all kinds of miniature fortresses and castles. We were worried to death by the pium or lambe-olhos (eye-lickers), as the Brazilians call them, which followed us all day in swarms around our heads and hands, entering our mouths, noses, eyes and ears. Only for a few moments, when there blew a gust of wind, were we freed from this pest, but they soon returned to their attack with renewed vigour.
We rose again to an altitude of 2,380 ft. on another great dome of red lava, which had flowed northwards, as could be plainly seen as we ascended on its rounded back. Upon it were quantities of crystals and yellow lava pellets and pebbles and carbonated rock, resting on whitish and grey ashes. On the summit, where fully exposed, numerous perforations, cracks and striations were visible in the flow, we were able to observe plainly how the lava in a liquid state had flowed and quickly cooled while other strata of liquid lava flowed over it, one overlapping another like the scales of a fish, and forming so many oval or ovoid bosses with channels between.
From that high point we had a perfectly level sky-line all around us, except for the Paredao Grande and the Paredaozinho, then to the E.N.E. of us.
At an elevation of 2,520 ft. we perceived that day to the E.S.E. a double-towered massive rocky mountain of a brilliant red colour, reminding one of the shape of an Egyptian temple, and a lower hill range in undulations behind it to the south, projecting at its sides.
We were marching on the northern edge of deep and extensive depressions to the south and south-east of us. Domed undulations in progressive steps from north to south were noticeable in the southern portion of the landscape, and from south to north in the northern and much-wooded zone.
When we were at an elevation of 2,550 ft. we had still red and yellow sand and ashes with stunted and sparse vegetation. Upon descending we skirted the southern side of another peculiar oval basin—this time one which possessed a thin strip or row of tall vegetation in perfect alignment in the central line of depression. A deep deposit of grey ashes and sand encircled this cuvette. The general longitudinal direction of the oval was from the south, the highest point, to the north, the lowest of the rim.
Having travelled 28 kil. from Areal we made camp on a streamlet flowing north.
The company of my men was a great trial to me—a penance I had to bear in silence. What was more, I could not let it appear in the slightest degree that it was a penance to me, if I did not wish to make matters worse. Pusillanimity and fear are two qualities which I cannot quite understand nor admit in men. Hence, it is well to be imagined what I suffered in being with followers who, with the exception of Alcides and Filippe the negro, were afraid of everything.
One of the men had a toothache. His last tooth in the lower jaw was so badly decayed that merely the outside shell remained. No doubt it gave him great pain. I offered to remove it for him—without a guarantee of painless extraction. The fear of greater pain than he endured—even for a few minutes—was too much for him. He would not hear of parting with what remained of the tooth. Result: for twelve consecutive days and nights that fellow cried and moaned incessantly—holding his jaw with both hands while riding a quiet mule, and sobbing hai, hai, hai, hai! all day long at each step of the animal—with variations of hoi, hoi, hoi, hoi, when the mule went a little quicker, and significant loud shrieks of uppeppe, uppeppe, uppeppe when the animal began to trot, giving the rider an extra pang. That intense pain invariably stopped at meal-times, and it did not seem to have an appreciable effect on the man's ravenous appetite. My men never let a chance go by to let their companions share to the fullest extent in their sufferings. They had no consideration whatever for other people's feelings. In all the months they were with me they never once showed the slightest trace of thoughtfulness towards me, or indeed even towards any of their comrades.
Mean to an incredible degree in their nature—and I am certain no one could have been more generous than I was to them in every possible way—they believed that no matter what I did was due to wishing to save money. If I would not allow them to blaze away dozens of cartridges at a rock or a lizard—cartridges were a most expensive luxury in Central Brazil, and, what was more, could not be replaced—it was because I wished to economize. If one day I ate a smaller tin of sardines because I was not so hungry, remarks flew freely about that I was a miser; if I did not pitch a tent because I preferred, for many reasons, sleeping out in the open on fine nights, it was, according to them, because I wished to spare the tent to sell it again at a higher price when I returned home! They discussed these things in a high voice and in a most offensive way, making my hands itch on many occasions and my blood boil. But I had made up my mind that I would never lose my temper with them, nor my calm; and I never did, trying as it was to keep my promise.
With all this meanness of which they were accusing me, these poltroons were clothed in garments such as they had never before possessed in their lives; they were gorging themselves with food such as they had never dreamt of having in their homes, where they had lived like pariah dogs—and huge heaps were thrown daily to the dogs—and they were paid a salary five times higher than they could have possibly earned under Brazilian employers.
What annoyed me a great deal with these men was the really criminal way in which they—notwithstanding my instructions—always tried to smash my cameras and scientific instruments and to injure anything I possessed. Those men were vandals by nature. The more valuable an object was, the greater the pleasure they seemed to take in damaging it.
Thus another and unnecessary burden was placed upon me in order to save my instruments from destruction, not only from natural accidents but through the infamy of my followers. Those fellows seemed to take no pride in anything. Even the beautiful and expensive repeating rifles and automatic pistols I had given each man had been reduced to scrap-iron. Yet they were so scared of Indians that the first time we met some, they handed over to them anything that took their fancy—and which belonged to me, of course—for fear of incurring their ill-favour. During my absence from camp they even gave away to the Indians a handsome dog I had, which I never was able to trace again.
Like all people with a dastardly nature, they could on no account speak the truth—even when it would have been to their advantage. They could never look you straight in the face. Hence, full of distrust for everybody, all the responsibility of every kind of work in connection with the expedition fell upon me. I not only had to do my own scientific work, but had to supervise in its minutest detail all the work done by them, and all the time. It was indeed like travelling with a band of mischievous demented people. The mental strain was considerable for me.
On that day's march we had passed two crosses erected, the Salesians had told me, on the spot where two men had been murdered by passing Brazilians—not by Indians. Their usual way of procedure was to shoot people in the back—never in front—or else when you were asleep. Nearly all carried a razor on their person—not to shave with, but in order to cut people's throats as a vengeance, or even under less provocation. This was usually done in a quick way by severing the artery at the neck while the person to be killed was asleep.
The Brazilians of the interior were almost altogether the descendants of criminal Portuguese, who had been exiled to the country, and intermarried with the lowest possible class of African slaves. They seemed to feel strongly their inferiority when facing a European, and imagined—in which they were not far wrong—the contempt with which, although it was covered by the greatest politeness, one looked down upon them. That was perhaps the only excuse one could offer for their vile behaviour, which, according to their low mental qualities, they liked to display in order to prove their independence and superiority.
We made our camp in a heavenly spot—barring the devilish borrachudo (mosquitoes)—on the bank of a crystal-like streamlet flowing north (elev. 2,200 ft.). We were really fortunate to have excellent and plentiful water all the time. The thermometer went down during the night to a minimum of 54 deg. Fahr. There were more shivers and moans from my men. Only Alcides and Filippe behaved in a manly way. The others were in terror of attacks from the onca pintada (felis onca) or spotted jaguar of Brazil, and of the terrivel tamanduas bandeira, a toothless pachyderm, with a long and hairy tail, long nails, and powerful arms, the embrace of which is said to be sufficient to kill a man, or even a jaguar, so foolish as to endeavour wrestling with it. It had a long protruding nose or proboscis, which it inserted into ant-heaps. A tongue of abnormal length was further pushed out, and then quickly withdrawn when crammed with attacking ants. Ants were its favourite food. Although my men talked all the time of the terrible bandeiras, we never had the good fortune to receive the fond embraces of one.
We had a beautiful sky—perfectly clear—on May 28th, except perhaps a faint curtain of mist near the horizon to the west. Two of my horses had unfortunately strayed; and as the men searched the matto with trembling knees in fear of meeting a bandeira instead of the missing horses, they were not recovered until late in the afternoon, so that we did not depart until 4 p.m.
We went up to the top of an undulation (elev. 2,400 ft.), on grey ashes as usual in the lower part of the hill, and red volcanic sand on the summit. That afternoon's journey was not unlike tobogganing up and down all the time—at elevations varying from 2,500 to 2,350 ft.—over domes of sand, ashes, and eruptive rock, and dykes with depressions, some 100 ft. deep or so, and all extending from north to south.
We saw some gorgeous red araras or macaws of giant size. They were a beautiful sight as they flew, with their hoarse shrieks, above our heads.
At sunset we were travelling along the north edge of a great grassy depression wooded in its central pit—the line of depression and of the central vegetation being from north to south.
We were treated to a glorious sunset. The entire sky had become of a deep violet colour and Indian red, relieved here and there by golden tints, with blue cloudlets of wonderful regularity in a line. Curiously enough, the most brilliant colouring was to the east and not to the west, as would have been expected. Eventually the entire sky became of a glorious yellow, like a golden cupola—blending into a lovely emerald green in its highest point overhead.
Again we found ourselves on another large dome of eruptive rock, in some places reduced into fine tobacco-coloured powder, getting somewhat darker in colour where the under stratum was of sand and soft conglomerate easily crumbled under pressure, and containing pellets of black ferruginous rock and grains of iron. Large blocks of iron rock were exposed to the air in many places.
We arrived at the third Salesian colony of St. Jose or Sangrador, near which was a small settlement of Brazilians—a bad lot indeed. One of my best horses was stolen here, and I was never able to recover it. I remained in that unpleasant place for three days, endeavouring to recover the animal, but it was of no avail.
The Salesians had a handsome property, the agricultural resources of which they were fast developing. Sugar-cane, mandioca, rice, beans, and Indian corn were raised with success. Father Antonio Malan, Inspector-General of the Salesians, arrived from the west, via Cuyaba. He was an extremely intelligent and enterprising man—who should be congratulated on selecting such excellent sites for the various colonies, as well as for the sensible, businesslike fashion in which the colonies were conducted. They were indeed the only few bright spots where the light of civilization shone in those sadly abandoned regions.
Here are the meagre entries in my diary for the two following days:—
May 29th. Remained at Sangrador in search of missing horse. Temperature: min. 54 deg.; max. 83 deg. Fahr. Perfectly clear sky.
May 30th. Obliged to remain one more day at Sangrador. Horse missing still. All men have gone searching the forest for it. Temperature: min. 561/2 deg. Fahr; max. 75 deg. Fahr. Elevation 2,050 ft.
It was indeed a great treat to be able to converse with so intelligent a gentleman as Father Malan after the company I had been in since leaving Goyaz.
Father Malan was a man with a heart of gold and great courage. Under him the Salesians will some day continue their good work and spread happiness and culture among the few Indians who now remain in Matto Grosso. What had already been done by the Salesians was amazing. No doubt, with their great enterprise, they would certainly continue their good work of civilization and science combined.
Although the Salesians tried hard to induce men to accompany my expedition, their efforts were rewarded with no success; so that I had to be content with the handful of men I had with me. I foresaw disaster from that moment, for thirty was the least number of men I needed to carry out my work properly—and thirty good men at that. Instead, I only had six men, two of them extraordinarily plucky but quite uncontrollable; the others absolutely worthless.
Had I been a wise man I should have turned back. But I am not a wise man, and I never turn back; so that there only remained one thing to do—go on as best I could, come what might.
Wild Animals—An Immense Chasm—Interesting Cloud Effects
ON May 31st (thermometer min. 56 deg., max. 74 deg. Fahr.) I decided to abandon the missing horse and proceed on my journey. I suspected, with reason, that the animal had been stolen. It was no use wasting any more time searching for it. We thus bade good-bye for good to the Salesians, and left the great basin of the Sangrador River (elev. 2,050 ft.).
We travelled over sparsely wooded country to 2,350 ft. Tobacco-coloured soil was still under our feet, yellow spattered lava, then again reddish soil, wonderfully rich and fertile, if only it could be cultivated. The country was here peculiar for its many undulations until we arrived on the rim of a large basin, extending from north-west to south-east, of great campos, with stunted vegetation at first, but later with a truly luxuriant growth of vigorous-looking Jtauba preta (Oreodaphne Hookeriana Meissn.), with thick deep green foliage.
We crossed two streamlets flowing north. On going uphill we travelled on masses of volcanic pellets (elev. 2,500 ft.). To the south we could see a number of hills, the sides of which showed the great effects of erosion by wind and water. Nearly all those hill ranges extended from east to west. A long depression could be observed cutting them from north to south.
That was a fine day for cloud effects, especially along the horizon, where they displayed horizontal lines, while they had great ball-like tops. Higher up, to the north-west, was feathery mist turning the sky to a delicate pale blue. A heavy, immense stratum of cloud in four perfectly parallel terraces extended on the arc from west to north.
We descended into a cuvette with the usual cluster of vegetation in the centre and campos around. To the south-west of that cuvette was an elongated but well-rounded mountain, extending from east to west, and beyond, to the S.S.W., in the far distance, an almost identical replica of it. We travelled on deep volcanic sand on the west slope of the cuvette and in deep ashes at the bottom until we arrived at the Sangradorzinho River, flowing north.
June 1st (thermometer min. 551/2 deg. Fahr.; max. 74 deg.; elev. 2,150 ft.). Heavy mist and rain-clouds, heavy and sultry atmosphere. Sky almost entirely covered by clouds.
Owing to trouble among my followers and waiting for one of my men, who had remained behind in a last effort to find the missing horse, we were unable to leave camp until nearly noon. We rose to an elevation of 2,400 ft., leaving behind the great cuvette, and marching over parallel domes extending from north to south. Between those domes in the depressions were sandy cuvettes of verdant grass and the usual central bosquets.
Cinders and sand were still plentiful, with stunted, thin trees growing upon them. Several times that day we reached an elevation of 2,550 ft. After passing a streamlet flowing north, we kept at that elevation for a considerable distance, after which, having descended 100 ft. (2,450 ft.), we found ourselves in a most enchanting, oval-shaped cuvette of cinders well covered with fresh verdure, and in its centre from north to south a row of burity palms.
That was indeed a day of great surprises in the way of scenery. No sooner had we left that beautiful cuvette than we came to a magnificent flat open valley extending from E.S.E. to W.N.W. In its northern part, where a pool of stagnant water was to be found, were innumerable burity palms. It was evident that during the rainy season that plain (elev. 2,350 ft.) must be entirely under water. In many places it was swampy, even at the time of my visit. It was most refreshing to the eyes to see such expanses of lovely green healthy grass. The mules and horses enjoyed it more than we did, neighing to their hearts' content when we emerged into the great verdant meadow. They tore away with their teeth at the delicious grass as they cantered along gaily.
Some of the enjoyment of the delightful scenery was taken away from me—not only that day, but every day during almost an entire year—owing to the stupid obstinacy of my men. They carried their magazine rifles fully loaded—eight cartridges in each—and while marching insisted on keeping the rifles cocked; they would not hear of keeping them at safety—so that any extra jerk or a twig of a tree catching the trigger might cause the weapons to go off at any moment. This would have mattered little if they had slung their rifles in the usual way, pointing skyward or else towards the earth. But no-one could never induce a Brazilian to do things in a sensible way. No, indeed; they must carry their rifles horizontally upon the shoulder, the muzzles of the nearest weapons always pointing at me. It was no use remonstrating, as they might perhaps have misunderstood it as fear. So all I could do was to trust in Providence. I could not have done better, for Providence indeed watched over me and protected me on that expedition in a most merciful way—for which I am truly grateful. On several occasions—as was to be expected from the careless way in which the weapons were carried—now one rifle then another went off unexpectedly, and I came mighty near being shot. On other occasions the mules had narrow escapes. Once a bullet went right through the hat of one of my men, just missing his head.
In any case, I beg the reader to realize how pleasant it was to have the muzzle of a loaded rifle, ready to be fired, pointing at you in front for an average of eight to twelve hours a day for several months. I generally rode last in the caravan in order to prevent straggling, and also to see that any baggage which fell off the pack-saddles was recovered. This was unpleasant in more ways than one. First the clouds of dust raised by the animals as we marched over the sand and cinders, which filled my eyes, mouth and nose; then the constant attention to watch for lost baggage—besides the work of writing my notes as we rode along. The sound of the dangling bells of the mules was monotonous to a degree, and so was the aspect of the animals' tails swinging and slashing from one side to the other in order to drive away tormenting flies. Occasionally, when stung fiercely by a horse-fly, one or two animals would dash away wildly, tearing off in their career low branches of trees and even altogether knocking down good-sized trees, four or five inches in diameter.
This would seem impossible in any other country, but not in Brazil, where the majority of the trees were nearly entirely eaten up inside by ants. The roots, owing to the substratum of lava spread horizontally near the surface, offered little resistance to side pressure upon the tree itself, so that frequently even the weight of a man leaning against a tree was sufficient to knock it down. I never shall forget how impressed I was the first time I saw my men cut the way through the forest, slashing down right and left good-sized trees with one swing each of their falcon—heavy-bladed knives some 2 ft. long.
What terrific strength! I thought, until I happened to lean against a tree, and down went the tree and myself too. Upon examination I found that merely the bark remained, with a few filaments inside—the rest of the interior having been entirely devoured by ants. Yet some of the top branches seemed still alive, and had leaves. Again, even when quite sound, those trees were extremely anaemic and soft, quite watery inside, and could be cut almost as easily as celery.
This does not mean that all the trees of Brazil were worthless. No, indeed. These remarks apply merely to that particular portion of Brazil in which I was then travelling—where, barring the burity palms in the moist lands and marshes, the trees were mostly rickety and dwarfed, with mouldy barks, malformed limbs, and scanty leaves. That is why, when we came to the healthy mass of burity palms and the lovely young grass, one felt just the same as when, after having been through a hospital, one emerges into the fresh air among healthy people.
That night we encamped on the heavenly meadow. We felt we had reached Paradise. For the first time great flocks of parrots and gorgeously-coloured macaws played about and enlivened the air with their shrill whistles and shrieks, and flew over the palms, gently swung to and fro by the wind. Then innumerable colibris—the tiny humming-birds, of marvellous iridescent metallic tints—sucked now from one then from another flower while still flying. Indeed, that spot seemed the rendez-vous of all the animals of that region. There you found oncas (jaguar), anta (a large pachyderm), the Tapirus Americanus, the tamandua bandeira, with its worm-like tongue, (or Myrmecophaga jubata), and plenty of veado (Cervus elaphus). The footmarks of all those animals were innumerable near the water.
The man I had left behind in order to make a further attempt at recovering the lost horse arrived that evening, his search having been unsuccessful. Undoubtedly the horse had been stolen.
Although the place where we had made camp was a regular paradise to look at—in the day-time—it might have been compared to warmer regions at night. Mosquitoes of all sizes and of all degrees of viciousness rose in swarms from the swamp at sunset, and made our life absolutely miserable. To counterbalance the torture we had a wonderful sunset to look at. First the sky, of a golden colour, was intersected by graceful curves dividing it into sections like a melon; then it gradually became overladen with horizontal black and crimson lines to the west, black to the east and overhead.
June the 2nd was my birthday. I am superstitious by nature, and I would have given anything to celebrate it with some lucky event, although I was at a loss to think of anything lucky that could have happened to me there. Indeed, I began my new year badly—much worse even than I expected. That was an ill-omen to me. First of all there was a terrible row among my men in camp. They had taken to their rifles. They wanted to shoot the cook. The man deserved punishment, perhaps, but not quite so severe a one. After a great deal of arguing I quieted them and got them to lay down their weapons. The cook's life was spared—worse luck for me. I was sorry for it when I had my breakfast, for cooking more diabolical than his could not be imagined. During breakfast the news came that another horse of my caravan had been lost. So there was the prospect of another day wasted to recover it. My men were unable to trace it, so I resigned myself to the monetary loss and also to the inconvenience its absence would cause us.
My men felt the cold intensely during the night, the thermometer being as low as 51 deg. Fahr. (minimum). During the day the maximum temperature was 85 deg. Fahr. and 96 deg. in the sun.
My only consolation that day was watching the innumerable birds and gazing at the magnificent sunset. The latter consisted that evening of three lines forming arches—two black to the west and the third white—stretching across the sky from north to south. From the higher black line radiations spread, subdividing the sky into rectangular designs—of almost equal size. To the east were great globular masses of mist somewhat confused in shape.
The water at this camp was bad, the marsh being over a bed of decayed vegetable matter, which rendered the water of a brownish black colour, like strong tea. Its taste was foul. By digging a well a few yards from the lagoon I succeeded, however, in obtaining clean and good water, which filtered through the ashes and sand.
Our camp was at an elevation of 2,300 ft. During the night, June 2nd-3rd, the thermometer was higher than usual (min. 58 deg. Fahr.), but my men felt the cold more than the previous night because of the heavy mist which set in after sunset, followed by a drizzling rain which damped everything. My men were all attacked by fever, which rendered them more irritable and ill-tempered than ever—if possible.
We did not leave camp until 11.30 a.m., rising again to the summit of the plateau some 50 ft. higher. There we had to describe a wide arc of a circle, as through the trees we perceived on our left an immense chasm, beyond which was a much disturbed landscape of striking ruggedness. We could see a huge circular crater with eroded lips, rising like the chipped edges of a gigantic cup, in the centre of the great volcanic basin. That depression with high vertical walls all round displayed a large gap to the W.N.W. and another to the south-west.
Twelve kilometres from our last camp—and still marching along the edge of the circle on the summit of the plateau—we came to a grassy cuvette, and then to another hollow with a few burity palms. The wall overlooking the great circular depression was perpendicular, of red igneous rock, with projecting spurs ending in conical, much-corrugated hills. The curious opening to the south-west was much broken up in two places with gaps. In the distance beyond were three ranges of hills, the colour of which appeared a pure cobalt blue.
The central crater was formed by rugged red walls with spurs on the east and south-east sides. In the bottom was water with trees all round its edge. There were four square holes from which boiling water gurgled like feeble geysers, and three more holes of a more irregular shape.
The hill range on which we stood projected well into the centre of the great circular basin. It had on the west side perfectly vertical walls of black igneous rock. Its summit was chiefly formed of ferruginous erupted rock thrown up while in a state of ebullition, which had cooled into a conglomerate of minute globular masses, in shape like the bubbles of boiling water. The great circle around us, as we stood on the outermost point of the projecting spur, was most impressive, with its brilliantly coloured red walls.
My men killed a coati—a peculiar, long-nosed carnivorous animal, which had characteristics in common with dogs, monkeys, and pigs. There were two kinds of coati or guati, viz. the coati de mundeo (Nasua solitaria), and the coati de bando (Nasua socialis). Ours was a Nasua solitaria. It was a beautiful little animal, about the size of a small cat, with a wonderfully soft brown coat on its back, a yellowish red belly and bright yellow chest and throat. The chin was as white as snow. The long tail, 11/2 ft. long—was in black and yellow rings. It possessed powerful fangs on both the upper and lower jaws, a long, black, gritty or granular tongue, short ears, powerful short fore-paws with long nails—quite dog-like; long thighs extremely strong, short hips and hind legs, with callosity up to the knee—evidently to allow that part of the leg to rest flat upon the ground. The coati had velvety black eyes of great beauty, well set in its small well-shaped head. It was a wild little fellow, extremely agile, and could kill a dog much larger than itself with comparative ease.
We circled the eastern and northern part of the great cauldron, always remaining on the summit of the plateau at elevations varying from 2,250 to 2,300 ft. We came upon patches of violet-coloured and then tobacco-coloured sand, and also upon quantities of dark brown sand, generally consolidated into easily friable rock. There were the usual deposits of grey ashes over the underlying volcanic rock which peeped through here and there.
On June 4th we were at the Cabeceira Koiteh (temperature, min. 53 deg. Fahr.; max. 80 deg. Fahr.; elev. 2,100 ft.). Close to this camp, from an outstretching spur, I obtained another magnificent view. To the E.S.E. stretched from north-east to south-west a flat plateau, and to the east a flat mountainous block with an eroded passage. Headlands branched off from the northern side of the ridges in a north-easterly direction. Between them were basins thickly wooded in their lower depressions. The north-eastern portion of the flat range was almost vertical, with many angular and sharply pointed spurs projecting from it.
In the centre of the greater basin, of which the others were details, a low convex ridge bulged out, with three conical peaks—two of them at the highest point of the curve. Between the first and second cone two twin sub-craters were visible—evidently the two twin circles had formed part of the same crater—in the mountain side of the distant range. A third crater was some distance off to the south-west.
To the south-west in the background was a lovely view of flat highlands with huge tower-like rocks standing upright upon them. Then to the S.S.W. a regular vertical dyke of rock stood on the top of an elongated conical base.
The elevation on the summit of the spur from which we obtained this lovely panorama was 2,200 ft.—or no more than 100 ft. higher than our camp.
We travelled again that same day on the northern edge of the great depression, and met three more cuvettes of grey ashes with an abundant central growth of buritys. These were at a general elevation of 2,300 ft., the bottom of the depression being 50 ft. lower. On descending from the table-land, through a gap we discerned far away to the south a long flat-topped plateau extending from south-west to north-east and having a precipitous wall-face.
We got down to the Caxoeirinha stream, where we found an abandoned hut in the eroded hollow of the stream. The water flowed there over a bed of red lava and extremely hard conglomerate rock made up of lava pebbles and solidified ashes. Above this at the sides of the stream was a stratum some 10 ft. thick of grey ashes, and above it a stratum 2 ft. thick of red volcanic dust and sand.
As we got higher again and I stood on a projecting promontory, another wonderful view spread itself before me. The sun, nearly setting, in glorious white radiations, cast deep blue and violet-coloured shadows upon the great abyss to my right (N.W.) which was a kilometre or more in diameter and more than 300 ft. deep—surely another great crater. It seemed as if a natural wall of rock must have once existed, joining the promontory on which I stood to the great mass of prismatic red volcanic rock to the west of us, and ending in a flat triangle with a wide base. The surface soil on the height of the peninsula was of spattered lava and black broiled rock and pellets.
The bottom of the abyss formed two sweeping undulations—the second from the centre much higher than the first—seemingly a great wave of lava vomited by the crater, by which probably the destruction of the wall joining the peninsula had been caused.
To the S.S.E. in the distance stood a high mountain range—or rather a great flat-topped plateau of delicious cobalt blue shades, almost losing itself in the sky. To the east, completing the circle, were two other great spurs of red-baked rock, with precipitous, almost vertical, sides and with much-striated buttresses that ended in conical mounds—eroded into that shape by the action of water and wind.
To the south, beyond, a sloping table-land with a pronounced dip eastward extended from east to west. It towered over everything, and was shaped like a trapezium. In front of this sloping table-land was another long flat-topped range, stretching from E.S.E. to W.N.W. Again in front of this, could be seen an interesting series of prismatic mounds—like parallel barriers. To the S.S.W. rose a large mountainous mass—another plateau. Then came a second range, cut into clear pyramids with rectangular bases, and, beyond, a great expanse of lovely green with some large mounds of a similar shape to those already described. Two more pyramids were also to be observed far, far in the distance, while others of a slightly less angular shape were noticeable upon the great flat stretch due west.
Right under us, at the bottom of the precipice, was thick forest covering, zigzag fashion, the two depressions, roughly in a general direction of south-east to north-west. Those two depressions drained that immense basin. It was there that the streamlet Caxoeirinha had its birth. The Caxoeirinha flowed north-west and fell into the Ponte de Pedra River, which flowed south. Those two streams, with a number of others, formed the head-waters of the great S. Lourenco River, a formidable tributary of the Rio Paraguay or Parana.
An extraordinary effect of clouds could be seen that day, and a similar occurrence I saw on many other occasions upon the table-lands of Matto Grosso. The clouds reproduced—upside-down—the configuration of the country directly underneath them. That was due, no doubt, to the air currents diverted by the obstacles on the earth's surface, which caused the masses of mist above to assume similar forms—but of course, as I have said, upside-down.
We were still at an elevation of 2,150 ft. The temperature during the night went down to 52 deg. Fahr. My men, as usual, suffered intensely from the cold—at least, judging by the noise they made, the moans and groans and chattering of teeth. They nearly all had violent toothache. Alcides, too, apparently went through agony, but he showed a little more manliness than the rest and did not make quite such a pitiful exhibition of himself.
It was curious how certain racial characteristics were difficult to suppress in individuals. Alcides had some German blood in him—rather far removed. He could not speak German, nor did he know anything about Germany. Yet German characteristics came out in him constantly. For instance, the uncontrollable desire to write his own name and that of his lady-love on trees and rocks all along our passage. Alcides was really very good at calligraphy, and some of his inscriptions and ornamentations were real works of art. Many half-hours did we have to waste at the different camps, waiting for Alcides to finish up the record of his passage in that country, and many blades of penknives—I had a good supply of them to give as presents to natives—did he render useless in incising the lettering on the trees and stones.
Filippe the negro—who was the best-natured of the lot—had become quite swelled-headed with the big salary he received. Arithmetic was not his forte. As he could hardly write, he was trying to work out, with a number of sticks—each representing one day's salary—how much money he had already earned, and how much more he was likely to earn. It evidently seemed to him a large fortune—indeed it was—and his plans of what he would do with all that money in the future were amusing. First of all, the idee fixe in his mind was the purchase of a mallettinha, a small trunk with a strong lock, in which to keep his money and his clothes. I took advantage of this to tell Filippe—they were all just like spoiled children—that the best place for mallettinhas was Manaos, our chief objective on the River Amazon, some 1,800 kil. away from that point as the crow flew, and about four times, at least, that distance by the way we should travel. Many times a day I had to repeat to Filippe glowing descriptions of the wonders of the mallettinhas, and I got him so enamoured of the mallettinhas to be got at Manaos that I made certain that Filippe at least would come along and not leave me. I was sure of one thing—that nowhere in the intervening country would he be able to procure himself a little trunk—nor, indeed, could one procure oneself anything else.
I supplied my men with ample tobacco. Filippe was all day and a great part of the night smoking a pipe. Owing to constant quarrels among my men, I had turned him into a cook. When in camp he had to sit hour after hour watching the boiling of the feijao. Enveloped in clouds of smoke, Filippe with his pipe sat in a reverie, dreaming about the mallettinha. He was quite a good fellow, and at any rate he did work when ordered.
All my men had been given small pocket mirrors—without which no Brazilian will travel anywhere. It was amusing to watch them, a hundred times a day, gazing at the reflection of their faces in the glasses. It was nevertheless somewhat trying to one's temper when one ordered a man to do something and then had to watch him for an endless time admiring his own features in the little mirror, and one had to repeat the order half a dozen times before the glass was duly cleaned with his elbow or upon his trousers and set at rest, and the order carelessly obeyed. Even Alcides—who was far superior to the others in education—could not be kept away from his mirror. While riding he would all the time be gazing at his features instead of looking at the beautiful scenery around us.
On leaving camp we again reached the summit of the plateau (elev. 2,300 ft.), with its patches of red volcanic earth, violet-coloured sand, and snuff-coloured dust—extremely fine in quality. After crossing a streamlet flowing south, we again continued our journey on the flat plateau, slightly higher at that point, or 2,400 ft.
We were in the great plain crossed by the Ponte de Pedra rivulet, flowing southward. Once more we obtained a gorgeous view looking south. Four parallel ranges stretching roughly from south-east to north-west stood in all their grandeur before us. They were of brilliant red volcanic rock. On the second range, from us, rose a curious square block of rock of gigantic size, resembling a castle with its door and all. In the distance, to the south-west, erosion seemed to have taken place on a great scale in the side of the table-land.
The highest point we had so far reached on the plateau on which we were travelling since leaving the Araguaya was 2,400 ft. There again we found another of the extensive grassy cuvettes—the flat bottom of which was only 30 ft. lower than the highest point of the plateau. A luxuriant growth of burity palms and birero trees adorned the centre, the latter very tall and handsome, with smooth white bark and only a dense tuft of dark green foliage at their tops. In the cuvettes I saw, the growth of the tall vegetation invariably ran the long way of the oval.
The sky that evening showed great streaks of transparent lines of mist from west to east, the central radiation of these being formed of lines so precisely parallel that they seemed to have been drawn with rule and dividers. Directly overhead those lines gradually blended into a more indefinite mass. The radiations did not begin from the vanishing sun on the horizon, nor at the point diametrically opposite on the east, but began to appear only one-tenth up the entire circle of the sky, both west and east.
Almost globular cloudlets, with the lower section cut off in a horizontal plane—quite typical, as we have seen, of the cloud formation on that Central Brazilian plateau—crowded the sky, quite low to the north, and also a great many small ball-like clouds which showed with some brilliancy against the blue sky.
The sunsets in Central Brazil were to me always a source of intense joy, interest, and admiration. With certain characteristics which repeated themselves frequently, they always displayed wonderful effects of light and a most peculiar formation of clouds.
Before reaching camp we passed another oval cuvette with a longitudinal row of trees—so green and tidy as to be just like a portion of a well-kept English park (elev. 2,350 ft.). Another bit of wonderful scenery, with immense prismatic rocky mountains—really more like dykes—appeared in the distance; and also a vertical walled mountain in the foreground.
A Beautiful Lagoon—Strange Lunar Display—Waves of Lava—Curious Grottoes—Rock Carvings—A Beautiful Waterfall
WE camped at the Lagoa Formosa—or "Beautiful Lagoon"—a large, verdant, oval-shaped lagoon, entirely covered with grass, only 140 ft. lower than the top of the plateau (elev. 2,290 ft.). Barring a slight undulation in the land to the north-east of the marsh, the country was there absolutely flat.
At night I witnessed a marvellous lunar effect. The half-moon was high up in the sky. Soon after sunset two immense concentric arches of mist, with their centres on the horizon to the east, shone like silver rings, their upper edges being lighted by the bluish light of the moon. With the reflection of this in the still waters of the lagoon, the effect was enchanting and intensely picturesque.
My men suffered a great deal from the damp—they were always suffering from everything: from the heat of the sun, the rain, the cold, the long marches.
That night we had a minimum temperature of 51 deg. Fahr., the elevation of our camp being 2,150 ft.
Naturally, over the expanse of water the sunrise was wonderful. The sky was well covered by feathery radiations from the north-east, which were intersected by striations shooting skyward from east to west and forming a charming design. The radiations from the north-east reached right across the sky as far as the horizon to the south-west. What astonished me most in Matto Grosso was the characteristic immobility of the clouds. In the day-time they remained sometimes for hours with hardly any changes or movement. As soon as the sun appeared, rendering the lower sky of a golden yellow and of vivid Indian red above, the northern part of the lagoon was enveloped in mist, which rose in angular blocks, vertical on the south side, slanting at a sharp angle on the north. These pointed peaks of mist remained immobile—as if they had been solid—until the sun was well up in the sky.
I went once more to gaze at the glorious panorama. In the morning light new and important details were revealed, such as a strange series of dykes of a prismatic shape, of which I could count as many as seven. Great transverse depressions or grooves—from S.S.E. to N.N.W., with a dip S.S.E.—could in that light be now plainly detected, and this time two great square castles of rock—instead of one—were disclosed upon the third range of undulations.
The high ridge to the south-west displayed a subsidence on a large scale in its central portion, where bare vertical red walls had been left standing on each side.
Then there were other curious concave depressions or gateways formed in the great table-land—which had for its marked characteristic concave curves on all its slopes.