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Refitting at Talcahuano — Trip to Santiago and across the Summit of the Andes — Valparaiso — To Juan Fernandez — Typhoid on Board — Back to Chile — Juan Fernandez again.
The principal Spanish colonies in South America were, as has been seen, on the western side of the continent. Balbao crossed the isthmus of Panama in 1513. In 1531 Pizarro landed in Peru, where he encountered and overthrew the empire of the Incas. Valdivia, one of his ablest lieutenants, made his way still further south, and in 1541 founded Santiago, the present capital of Chile, on the fruitful plain between the Andes and the sea. His further progress was checked by the Araucanians, a warlike tribe of Indians, who offered a much stronger resistance than the Incas. They were never entirely conquered, and the Spaniards in Chile were engaged in perpetual struggle with them, while at the same time open to attacks on the coast from European powers who were at enmity with Spain. When the revolutionary waves swept the continent the Chilean patriots were at first compelled to withdraw across the Andes. The most famous of them was Bernardo O'Higgins; his father, originally a bare-footed Irish boy, was one of the last viceroys of Peru, and the son became one of the first presidents of the new republic. Argentina had at this time accomplished her own freedom, and was able to send help to Chile. General San Martin crossed the Andes, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Spaniards at Maipu in 1818. The revolutionary army then passed north, the Viceroy evacuated lima, and at Guayaquil San Martin met the liberator Bolivar, who had marched down from the north. Meanwhile Admiral Cochrane, who had reorganised the Chilean and Peruvian navies, had been engaged in freeing the Pacific from Spanish ships. South America thus was finally cleared from the domination of the Spaniard.
Disputes, however, arose between the new republics as to their respective boundaries: Chile fought Peru in 1879 over the possession of the nitrate-fields, and issued victorious from the struggle. The long series of difficulties between Chile and Argentina was ended, as has been recorded, through British arbitration, in 1902.
It is hard not to believe that the "roaring forties" have a personality: a polytheist who goes thither in ships ought to sacrifice to the spirit of that unquiet belt. As soon as we had passed the magic limit of degrees the weather changed and became beautifully balmy, and the rest of our passage was excellent. When we again came in sight of land it was in strong contrast to that which we had left, being brown, dried up, and somewhat low: all visions of snow-clad Andes had disappeared; neither here nor at Talcahuano was anything to be seen that could justify the name of a coast range. Talcahuano, the Chilean naval port, stands on a magnificently sheltered bay and was an ideal spot for our purpose of refitting. It is much to be preferred, from the shipping point of view, to the bay of Valparaiso, some 260 miles further up the coast, which lies exposed to the northerly winds and is crowded with shipping. Through the kindness of Mr. Edwards, the Chilean minister in London, a naval order had been promulgated some time before our arrival giving instructions that the Expedition was to be afforded all facilities. We accordingly met with every courtesy, and the yacht was almost at once placed in the floating dock to allow of the examination of her bottom, an essential proceeding, as it had not been overlooked, except by a diver at Punta Arenas, since we left England, now nearly twelve months ago. A floating dock consists of a huge tray, with an enormous tank on either side; when these tanks are filled with water the dock sinks, and the vessel floats on to the tray, being supported against its sides, the tanks are then emptied, and the tray rises, bearing the vessel clear out of the water; when the work is completed the process is reversed and the ship floats out once more.
After this overhauling, which took four days, came the work of examining and restowing the hold; this was expedited by all the contents being taken out and placed in a lighter alongside. It was the work of the Stewardess to check the stores in hand, and also those contained in ninety-five new packages from England which we found awaiting our arrival. On the representation of our Legation at Santiago, the Government had done us the favour to remit all duties on them except 5 per cent., which it would have required a special Act of Parliament to repeal. As some goods pay as much as 55 per cent, in customs we were greatly the gainers, in spite of the fact that an illicit levy had been taken of our butter and jam, which are among the most heavily taxed articles, to an amount equivalent to a supply of some weeks for the saloon party. We were happily able to make good the deficiency, which would otherwise have been somewhat maddening, by purchases of honey, which all down this part of the coast is good and cheap. Jam is ruinously expensive, if procurable at all, and our sympathy was extended to the skipper of an English merchant ship in the bay, whose stock was finished, but whose crew were in no way inclined to waive their Board of Trade rights, for Jack thinks potted strawberries and damsons quite as essential an article of diet as does Tommy. Our loss was less annoying, if also less amusing, than that of the owners of a lighter which was lying just outside the custom-house, and which was forcibly despoiled during the night. The thieves turned out to be the guards set by the custom-house, who apparently thinking the hours of darkness long had contrived thus to pass the time. We told this story to one of the inhabitants of another South American port." Ah, yes," he said drily, "the custom-house here has now a bright electric light; it makes it easier for them to take out the nails without hurting their fingers."
We were now nearing the end of our outward voyage, and the provisions had to be divided between the respective sea and land parties. Easter Island affords no good anchorage, and our plan was that the yacht, after disembarking the scientific members and waiting awhile off the coast, should return to Talcahuano under charge of Mr. Gillam, to collect letters and goods and then come out again to the island. The stores, therefore, had to be divided into four lots, with much arithmetical calculation: firstly, the portion needed by the whole Expedition for the voyage out, which was expected to last about a month; secondly, that for the shore party for a period of six months; thirdly, a share for the crew alone for four months; and, fourthly, the remainder which was to be left at Talcahuano and gathered up later. The island allotment was the most difficult, as we had only a general idea of what it would be possible to procure on shore.
It was altogether, as will be seen, a considerable work, and we were hard at it for a fortnight, during which time, with the exception of two shopping expeditions to the neighbouring city of Concepcion, we had little opportunity to see the surrounding country. It felt at any rate dry and warm, in fact well aired, after the damp of the Patagonian Channels, and might have been even adjudged too dry and dusty. The most refreshing sight was a little garden which adjoined the custom-house steps, at which we landed almost daily, and which, in spite of difficulties, was invariably bright with geraniums and other flowers: Chile is much more a country of gardens, in the English sense, than any other land it has been my lot to visit. Talcahuano has about 13,000 inhabitants, and consists of little beside the dockyard, in which the chief posts are filled by Englishmen. Three English officers are also lent in peace time by our own navy to that of Chile; one of these, with whom we happened to have mutual acquaintances, was kind enough to entertain us on board the Chilean warship, whose name, being translated, was Commodore Pratt.
A point anxiously debated at the moment, and not without some practical interest for us, was whether Chile could afford to keep the Dreadnoughts which were being built for her by Messrs. Armstrong. There was a financial crisis at the time, and the exchange was much against Chile; hence firms there which owed money to England were delaying meeting their liabilities, with the result that more than one English company had failed in consequence. The sale of a Dreadnought would of course greatly affect the rate; even without that before we left the country it had materially risen, and the value received for a sovereign was, from our point of view, regrettably diminished.
An Englishman feels distinctly more at home in Chile than in either Brazil or Argentina. Some of the best-known firms are genuinely English, though the possession of an English name is in itself no guarantee of more than a remote British origin: a Mr. Brown may, for instance, marry a Miss Thompson, and neither be able to speak the English tongue.1 Our language is the only one taught free in the schools; it is presumably the most useful from the point of view of trade with ourselves and the United States. One of our countrymen resident in the Republic explained to us that "the Chileans hate all foreigners, but they hate the British rather less than the others." Those at least were our recorded impressions at this time; on the subsequent visit of the yacht, after war broke out, the German influence was strong enough to affect her position adversely in the way of work and stores.
At last the provision lists were finished and we felt entitled to take a holiday, leaving the remainder of the work on the ship in the competent hands of Mr. Gillam; our special objects were to see the Easter Island collection in the museum at Santiago and get a glimpse of the Trans-Andine Railway. This part of our journeyings has nothing to do with the voyage of the Mana, and accounts of the ground covered have been given by much abler hands, notably by Lord Bryce in his Impressions of South America; it shall therefore be told in outline only. We left Talcahuano by the tri-weekly day express for Santiago; it took twelve hours to travel about 350 miles, but the Pullman car was luxurious, and we were able to see the country well. The line passes northward through the long fruitful plain between the Andes and the coast range, which constitutes the land of Chile, and crosses continually the streams which traverse it on their course from the mountains to the sea. The train stops from time to time at cheerful little towns, and finally at Santiago, which is a most attractive city, with a sense of quiet and yet cheerful dignity. There are but few streets at the end of which it is not possible to obtain a glimpse of the surrounding mountains, but they were scarcely either as near or impressive as descriptions had led us to expect.
The first night of our residence in the capital we experienced an earthquake. I was already asleep when about 10.30 I was awakened by the shock; the light when turned on showed the chandeliers and pictures swinging in opposite directions, and one of the latter was still oscillating when the current was switched off eight or ten minutes later. There was a slighter recurrence at 3 a.m. The shock was stated to be the worst since the great earthquake of 1906, and numbers of people had . we found, rushed out into the streets and squares. It was generally agreed that familiarity in the case of earthquakes breeds not contempt but the reverse, and that shocks of which the new-comer thinks but little, fill those who know their possibilities with nervous alarm. In this case no great damage was done; the only fatalities occurred at Talca, a little place about half-way along the line by which we had come. When we called at the Legation the next day to express our thanks to the British Minister for the trouble taken about our stores, we were shown the cracks in the walls which were the result of the previous earthquake and the fresh additions made to them the night before. We had the good fortune at Santiago to become acquainted with Sir Edward and Lady Grogan, Sir Edward filled the post of military attaché for six of our South American legations, and I had heard at Buenos Aires much of the work and interests of Lady Grogan. She was the almost last Englishwoman whom I met till my return to my native land two years later, when I had the pleasure of renewing the acquaintance, this time in Cromwell Road in proximity to numerous bales for Serbian refugees. We visited the Museum of Antiquities, where we found the objects from Easter Island of which we were in search; and the beautiful new Museum of Fine Arts, which also contains articles from the island.
We left Santiago at noon on Saturday, January 31st, the line at first continuing northwards. The country through which we passed looked rainless and barren, and the journey was hot and tiring. The train was crowded with Saturday travellers, and purveyors of drinks and ices continually pushed their way down it, apparently finding a ready market for their wares. At the junction of Llay-Llay, the line which comes from Santiago on the south connects with that from Valparaiso on the west, and branches off also eastward over the Andes to the Argentine. Here on the platform sat rows of women with some of the delightful fruit in which Chile abounds: grapes can be bought at 5d. a pound and peaches and nectarines at 8d. or 9d. a dozen. The drawback, however, in the case of the two last mentioned, is that, partly owing to the exigencies of packing, the Chileans make a point of gathering and also eating them quite hard and flavourless. The conscientious British matron can scarcely see without distress children of the more prosperous classes, as young as five or six years, concluding a heavy evening meal at eight or half-past, by eating entirely unripe peaches. She ceases to wonder that infant mortality in Chile is said to be heavy.
At Llay-Llay we took the easterly line, which ascends a valley full of prosperous cultivation, till it reaches the little town of Los Andes, where the Chilean state railway ends and the Trans-Andine service begins. The two ends of this railway, the Chilean and Argentine, are in the hands of different companies, which naturally adds much to the difficulty of working the line. The trains run on alternate days in each direction. There is a comfortable hotel at Los Andes where passengers sleep the previous night in order to start the journey over the pass at 7 a.m.; much of the revenue of the line, however, is derived, not from the passenger traffic, but from the cattle brought from the ranches of the Argentine to Chile. The Chilean company is an English one, and the manager, Mr. J. H. White, was good enough to arrange for us to travel with the French minister, who happened to be quitting Santiago, in an observation car at the end of the train; we had, therefore, both pleasant company and most excellent views of the pass. The line winds up a valley, which grows ever narrower between precipitous mountainsides, but as long as any green thing can find a footing the cultivation is intense; where the incline is most steep a cog-wheel is employed. Presently every trace of vegetation is left behind, and the route enters on its grandest and wildest phase. Bleak rock-masses tower to the sky on every hand, and on their lower slopes rest masses of boulders, which have descended at some earlier stage in the world's history. When a great height has been attained a little lake is reached, which, with its colouring of gorgeous blue, resembles a perfect turquoise in a grey setting. At 10,000 feet the highest point is gained and the train enters the tunnel, which has been bored through the summit and which was opened for traffic in 1909. It here leaves Chile and issues on the Argentine side amidst similar but less striking scenery. The line now runs beneath a series of shelters for protection from snow; they are of corrugated iron and provided with huge doors which can be closed in case of drift. The difficulties which arise in winter from such causes are very great, but at the time of our visit the snow was as a rule confined to occasional white patches near the summit of the mountains: the great peak of Aconcagua, 23,000 feet high, which was now to be seen seventeen miles to the northward, was principally remarkable for standing out as a huge white mass among its greyer fellows.
Inca Bridge is shortly reached, and here we left the train. It is somewhat astonishing to find a large and fashionable hotel in these surroundings; it is resorted to by the inhabitants of Buenos Aires when in search of cooler air or desirous of partaking of the iron waters for which the place is famous. We started at 8 o'clock next morning for the return journey, which we made by riding with mules over the part of the summit traversed by the tunnel, catching the train on the Chilean side. It is a delightful and easy expedition, which can be thoroughly recommended. The road runs at first parallel to the line, and when it leaves the valley rises by gradual zigzags: our guide dispensed with all corners by means of short cuts, but even so the ascent was not strenuous. As we mounted higher and higher the corrugated iron railway shelters looked like long, headless, grey caterpillars crawling along the valley beneath. We had been warned to expect high wind, but it only became unpleasant as we reached the actual summit, along which runs the boundary between Chile and Argentina. The celebrated statue of the Christ with uplifted hands blessing both countries, which commemorates the arbitration treaty, stands on the main road a little to the east of the track by which we crossed, which was, as usual, a short cut.
The descent fully justified the impression which we had formed from the train of the superior grandeur of the Chilean side; it must be even more impressive when more snow is visible. We regained the railway in plenty of time to see the Argentine train issue from the tunnel at 2 o'clock: the travellers had left Buenos Aires on the morning of the previous day, traversed the great Argentine plains, and spent the night en route. If the train is delayed and arrives at the summit too late to be conveyed down before dark, the Chilean officials refuse to take it over, as the descent would be too dangerous; the passengers under such circumstances have to spend the night in their carriages or find such hotel accommodation as is possible. They were indeed, as we saw then, a cosmopolitan crowd; the languages of France, Germany and Spain, also English, of both the European and American variety, were all being spoken in the crowded carriage in which we found places. Our nearest neighbours were two young couples from the United States, evidently making the journey for the first time; as we began the descent through the very finest part of the scenery, they produced packs of cards and became engrossed in a game of auction bridge. This is one of the things which must be seen to be believed, but we were subsequently told it was by no means a unique instance. We arrived at Los Andes, hot and dusty after our early start and long day, to find ourselves carried off to the manager's house and most kindly welcomed by Mrs. and Miss White to a refreshing tea amid the delight of a cool veranda and beautiful garden.
Next day we left for Valparaiso, retracing our steps as far as the junction of Llay-Llay, and then traversing the coast range. The huge bay of Valparaiso, filled with shipping, is an imposing sight, and the town climbs picturesquely up the mountains which surround it; the higher parts are residential, and are reached by elevators, which are stationed at intervals in the main street, which runs parallel to the harbour. On the lower level there are well-built offices of leading firms, shipping lines, and banks, which give a pleasant sensation of wide interest and touch with the great world. Nevertheless, Valparaiso is scarcely as fine a city architecturally as would be expected from its importance, nor is the hotel accommodation worthy of a first-class port. Its inhabitants cheerily endorse the opinion of a visitor who is reported to have said, “There is one word only for Valparaiso, and that is 'shabby.' " The city has, however, profited through the rebuilding necessitated by the earthquake, and the improvement of the harbour and other works were in progress. The earthquake is still a very present memory; one resident showed us the spot where one of his servants, escaping from the house at the same time as himself, was killed by falling masonry.
We called on Messrs. Williamson & Balfour; the firm have a financial interest in Easter Island, and it was through their kind permission that we were visiting it. We saw Mr. Hope-Simpson, one of the managing partners; his power and expedition filled us with grateful awe. He sat at the end of a telephone and appeared to put through in a few minutes all our arrangements, whether with the Government, shipping, or docks, which would have taken us many days of weary trudging about the city to accomplish. I have often thought of that morning when confronted with the appalling delays in public offices at home. We were introduced by him to Señior Merlet, the chairman of the company for the Exploitation of Easter Island, who are the direct lessees; he had been there himself and was kind enough to give us all information in his power.
We returned to Talcahuano by sea as the easiest method. There were a few more days of preparation, and on Friday, February 13th, a date subsequently noted by the superstitious.
We were at length ready to depart. As the last things were hurried on board it recalled our departure from Falmouth: this time the deck had to accommodate paraffin tins full of cement to make a dock for Mr. Ritchie's tidal observations; the passage had to find room for a table for survey purposes; rolls of wire for excavation sieves were strapped beneath beams of the saloon; while on the top of one was fastened a row of portentous jars, the object of which was to hold the acid from the batteries when we left the ship, as the electrical gear would be dismantled when the engineer came on shore in his capacity of photographer. Two zinc baths for laundry work in camp were looked at ruefully; there seemed to be no place for them in heaven or earth, certainly not on Mana. But half our heavy task of stowage was accomplished when we were out of Talcahuano Harbour, the boat began to roll prodigiously, and the work was finished somehow with astonishing rapidity.
The next day found us all confined to our cabins, having, after our time on land, temporarily lost our sea legs. By Sunday we began to feel better, except Mr. Corry, who had a slight temperature and complained of feeling unwell. When on Monday we arrived at Juan Fernandez, S. was down with dysentery and a temperature of 103°, while Mr. Corry's rose, to our alarm, to 104°; Tuesday and Wednesday he was still in high fever, and by Wednesday evening it was obviously useless to hope that his illness was either influenza or malaria; there was nothing to be done but to act on the third possibility and assume that it was typhoid fever; we therefore turned the ship round and ran for Valparaiso. The prospect of the passage back was hardly cheerful; I was out certainly for fresh experiences, but not for the responsibility of nursing typhoid and dysentery at the same time in a small boat in mid-Pacific. Each twelve hours, however, was got through somehow, and better on the whole than might have been expected. S. happily improved, and our poor geologist himself was wonderfully cheerful and plucky; the sea was kind to us, and we reached Valparaiso on Sunday morning with our invalid in a condition which we felt did us credit. The difficulties of arriving in port with illness on board proved to be not so great as I, at any rate, had feared; the authorities were most kind in allowing us to haul down our yellow flag almost at once, and taking us to a Government anchorage. The harbour doctor was found to give the necessary authority for landing a sick man, while arrangements were made with the hospital for a stretcher and ambulance, and by the middle of the afternoon the patient was comfortably on shore and in bed. The British hospital at Valparaiso is new, reserved almost entirely for paying patients, and much surpasses in comfort anything that we have either of us seen in England. Our diagnosis unfortunately proved to be accurate, but we had the comfort of knowing that the illness was well understood, as typhoid is, it appeared, very common in South America, especially among new-comers. It had been obviously contracted during the time at Talcahuano, when both Mr. Corry and Mr. Ritchie had had frequent meals on shore.
We waited in port for a week, communicating by cable with the friends of our patient, and then held a council of war. The doctor gave it as his opinion that there was no reason for delay, and it was obviously impossible in such an illness to wait pending recovery. We had, however, to face the position that there was a chance, although a slight one, of other cases occurring on board; hospital records show a percentage of about 3 per cent . of doctors and nurses infected by patients, and of course our precautions had, through circumstances, been neither so timely nor so thorough; with 2,000 miles of Pacific before us we felt that we could take no risk. On the other hand, we had no wish for further experiences in hanging about in South American ports, more especially as smallpox was at this time raging at Valparaiso. We therefore decided that we would run back again to Juan Fernandez, and put in a few days in a sort of quarantine, before finally leaving for our destination.
The episode was most disappointing for all concerned; nevertheless our prevailing feeling was one of thankfulness both for the sufferer and ourselves, that, if the thing had to be, the illness had declared itself while we were still within reach of help; the thought that we were within measurable distance of having a case of typhoid on Easter Island still makes us shudder. Hopes were cherished for a while that it might be possible for our geologist to join us, either when Mana returned or by the Chilean naval training ship, which it was said might shortly visit the island. Unfortunately the case proved not only severe, but was prolonged by relapses, and on recovery the doctor forbade any such roughing it. Mr. Corry therefore went back to England, from whence he sent us a report on the geology of the Patagonian Channels, and such information as he had gathered on the moot question of the submergence of a Pacific continent. When war broke out he was among the first to join His Majesty's forces, and, alas! laid down his life for his country in September 1915. When on our return to London my husband addressed the Geological Society on the results of the Expedition, our thoughts naturally turned with sadness to the one who, under other circumstances, should have had that honour; I sat next to one of the older Fellows, and he expressed his special sorrow at the scientific loss caused by the early death of our colleague. “Corry was," he said, “quite one of the most promising of the younger men in the geological world."
1 Some of the Chileans with British names are said to be descended from the officers and men under command of Lord Cochrane.