Page images

strip which intervenes between the Andes and the Pacific, commencing near the 33d parallel. The more easterly of these traverses the central portion of the republic, and is known as the Cordillera Central; it is broken only by the passage of rivers until it terminates on the Pacific, opposite the northern end of the island of Chiloé. The other, known as la Cordillera de la Costa, or the coast range, separating from the central near its origin, follows more nearly the line of the coast, throwing off spurs occasionally eastward; it is of lower elevation than the central range, and is in some parts arable. Beside these mountain chains, there are multitudes of isolated hills, rising from the valleys, and forming bold promontories on margins of river, lake, and ocean.

The principal valley of the country is that lying between the central chain and the Andes; but there are innumerable others, lying between the coast and the central ranges, or guarded by the outlying spurs of the Andes or the central chain. Of the mountains of Chili, a large proportion are now, or have been at some time, volcanic. How many possess this character cannot now be ascertained; but the streams of lava which score the sides of many which are now quiet, and the not infrequent eruption of the fiery flood, as well as the occasional emissions of smoke and flame from those still active, indicate that the volcanic character belongs to the greater part.

In the northern portion, the coast and central Cordilleras spread out into the elevated plateau known as the desert of Atacama, which rises rapidly from the coast to a height varying from 4,000 to 10,000 feet, and from the comparatively level surface of which shoot up mountain peaks of great elevation, and often volcanic. By a recent proposed convention with Bolivia, Chili relinquishes all claim to that part of the desert lying North of lat, 23° South, and in this portion of her territory the only very lofty peak known is the volcano of Llullaillaco, which Dr. Philippi states at not far from 21,000 feet high. Few, if any, of the active volcanoes of the western continent exceed this height.

Geographers enumerate eleven passes over the Andes, from Chili into the Argentine Confederation, one or two of which, however, rest on tradition; two others, though practicable, and indeed comparatively easy, are not used on

account of the opposition of the Indian tribes in the vicinity; others still are objectionable because of their great length or their liability to obstruction by snow. Of the whole number, only two are capable of being used. and made passable for wagons.


The great belt of Chili, between the Andes and the coast, ranging from eighty to a hundred miles in width, is traversed, south of lat. 31°, by numerous longitudinal ridges, called the Cordilleras of the coast, which are granitic. Further north, these spurs are more irregular in their direction, and are covered in great part with barren sands showing no trace of vegetation. This northern portion is of importance for its valuable mines of ores, while a strip along the south coast from Concepcion to the island of Chiloé, contains the principal mines of bituminous coal worked in South America. The country between the Andes and the coast is particularly interesting to geologists for the evidences which it presents of several successive elevations, which it has experienced within modern times. Some of these are historical, as that of 1822, when the coast at Valparaiso, and for many leagues north and south of it, was uplifted about six feet. The bed of shells and sea pebbles which marked its former beach is now that distance above the reach of the highest tides; and a succession of similar collections of shells of species belonging to the coast, accompanying terraces found further inland, and at higher levels, indicate as many as five uplifts of this character, but of much greater height, the difference of level between two terraces being found one hundred and twenty feet, and between the next two one hundred and eighty-two feet. Around the bay of Coquimbo these terraces are very distinctly marked in the hills; and as they extend back into the country, they spread out into plains, upon which towns, like the beautiful La Serena, the capital of the province of Coquimbo, are built. Near Valparaiso, comminuted sea shells of living species are found at elevations of over five hundred and fifty feet; and some, it is stated, have been met with even one thousand three hundred feet above the sea level.

The most noted mineral springs are those of Apoquindo, Colina, Cauquenes, Panimávida, Cato, Soco, and Doña Ana; the principal constituents of which are chloride of calcium, chloride of sodium, chloride of magnesium, and sulphates of soda and lime, with occasional traces of iron and alumina. About seventy-five miles east south-east of Chillan are found hot sulphur springs, almost up to the line of perpetual snow on the Nevada de Chillan. They are much frequented, and are reputed to possess extraordinary medicinal virtues, particularly the last, for constitutional diseases and shattered nature.


The hydrographic system of Chili, although deficient and scarce in the north, owing to the dryness of the atmosphere and the comparative depression of the Andes, is very powerful and widely spread, particularly in the region of the south not yet explored. The lakes are numerous, but few of them are very large. With the exception of a few salt ponds or coves near the coast, they are bodies of fresh water, accumulated in the valleys high. up in the central range of the Andes. The largest is Llanquihue, at the foot of the Andes, in the province of Valdivia; it is nearly triangular, thirty miles long, and twenty-two miles in its greatest width. Near it, and lying in the same plain, are Todos los Santos, or Esmeralda, so called on account of its green, transparent, and beautiful water, eighteen miles long and six miles wide, and Rupanco, twenty-four miles long and four miles broad. Puychué, a short distance north, is a trifle larger; and some ten or twelve miles further north is Ranco, a very irregular shaped lake, thirty-two miles long and eighteen broad. Immediately east of Valdivia are five small lakes, which form the head waters of the Valdivia river; near latitude 39° is Villa Rica or Llauquen, which covers more than one hundred square miles. In the province of Concepcion there are two lakes -Guilletué, with a surface of about fifty square miles, lying high up in the Andes, and La Laja, celebrated for its picturesque scenery, and for the beautiful fall, a miniature Niagara, at its outlet, a short distance below.North of these there are no lakes deserving the name, but

small bodies of water, the product of the melting snows drained into extinct craters, covering a surface of from three to twenty square miles, diversify the rugged scenery of the rough granite masses of the Andes.

The rivers of Chili are all of inconsiderable length, rising in the Andes, and finding their way by numerous waterfalls and rapids to the Pacific. When swollen by the melting of the mountain snows, they discharge large quantities of water, and no inconsiderable quantity of alluvium, gravel, and even the debris of rocks into the Pacific, and almost all of them have, in consequence, considerable bars at their mouths. The following are the principal rivers The Biobio rises in an extinct volcano in the extreme east of the Andes, lat. 38° 15′, and takes a general north-west direction, receiving three considerable affluents -the Laja, Duqueco, and Bergara-and after a course of nearly two hundred and twenty miles, discharges its waters into the Pacific, in latitude 36° 50'. Like the other rivers of the country, it has a sand bar at its mouth, which prevents vessels of any considerable draught of water from ascending it. Inside the bar there is water enough for large shipping. A canal has been projected from the bay of Talcahuano into the river above the bar to obviate this difficulty. The river is navigable as far as Nacimiento, nearly one hundred miles, and maintains a steamer, which plies regularly between Concepcion and Nacimiento. The Maule rises in the Andes, in latitude 35° 10' south, and has a nearly due west course of about one hundred and fifty miles; it is navigable for small craft about seventy miles. The Valdivia rises in Lake Guanegué, in latitude 39° 45', and has a west south-west course; its length is about one hundred miles, and it is navigable for fifty miles. The Imperial rises in the Andes by several sources, in the vicinity of the parallel of 38° 30'; its course is south-west and west; its length about one hundred and fifty miles, of which about thirty are navigable. The Tolten rises in Lake Villa Rica, lat. 30° 5' south; its course is nearly due west; its length is about sixty miles; it is navigable, but not navigated, on account of the barbarous Indians on its banks. The Bueno flows from two principal sources, in two lakes of the Andes, lat. 40° 50 and 40° 40'; it has a course of about one hundred and ten miles, of which twenty are navigable. The other

considerable streams, none of which, however, are navigable, are the Maypu, the Rapel, the Itata, the Aconcagua, the Mataquito, the Limari, the Coquimbo, the Huasco, and the Copiapó. The last, though at times a considerable stream, is often dry in summer.


There are but few good harbors on the coast of Chili, though in the multitude of its small bays and indentations there are several roadsteads where, in fair weather, vessels may lie at anchor in safety. The best harbor is that of Talcahuano, in the bay of the same name, which is well protected, and with ample depth of water and room sufficient for the accommodation of the largest fleet. Coquimbo is the next harbor in point of safety. It is well sheltered on the west, south, and east, and as there are no tempestuous winds from the north, it is sufficiently secure. Close by it is a small land-locked harbor, Port Herradura, well adapted for repairing ships.

The harbor of Valparaiso is the most important on the Chilian coast, in the extent of its commerce, though, from its openness to northerly winds and the peculiar form of the bay, accidents to shipping are not uncommon. Caldera, in the bay of the same name, from which the largest exports from the silver and copper mines are shipped; Constitucion, within the mouth of the river Maule, an indifferent harbor, owing to the bar of the river at its entrance, but opening into a fertile region; Valdivia, an excellent harbor for small vessels; and San Carlos, on the is land of Chiloé, lat. 41° 51', are the other principal harbors on the coast.

Before the pending war with Spain, Chili had only nine ports open to direct foreign trade, but now she has fiftyfive. The Spaniards have consequently done a great service to the world. They have, it may be said, discovered with their big ships no less than fifty new ports unknown before to geographers and merchants.

The ports which were known before the war are the following: Caldera, Coquimbo, Huasco, Valparaiso, Constitucion, Tomé, Talcahuano, Coronel, Valdivia and Ancud.

The remaining forty-five now thrown open to the world, free of all custom house duties, are Chacao, Castro, Melipulli,

« PreviousContinue »