|October 20, 1899.
I have at last arrived at my destination
after 31 days; our first place of call after leaving England was St.
Vincent, Cape Verde Islands: these islands are all volcanic, and are
very wild and barren.
We anchored about half a mile off shore, and swarms of black boys came
off to us in boats and shouted and yelled at us to throw pennies into
the water for them to dive for.
They are wonderfully good swimmers and divers, and of all of the scores
of coins thrown into the water not one was lost: if a threepenny bit was
thrown in twenty yards away they would catch it before it reached the
bottom, several of them offered to dive right under the ship which drew
26 feet of water for a shilling.
We took 500 tons of coal on board here,
and every body and everything became smothered in coal dust, it took two
or three days before we felt clean again; this was on Saturday 23rd
On the following Tuesday we crossed the
equator, and saw a lot of flying fish, next day we passed quite close to
the Island of Fernando, Novonko, a very wild place, and the Brazilian,
New Caledonia. We saw a shark and also a whale. I was always the last on
deck at night and the first in the morning. I used to see the sun rise
every day, it was very grand sometimes.
We got to Bahia on the Friday , this is where Americus Vespucius first
landed in South America, in 1503. On Monday the 6th, we entered the
harbour of Rio de Janeiro: the mountains all around are very fine, and
rise sheer out of the sea, and are like sugar-loaves: the Organ
mountains near by are also beautiful, they are all volcanic, and consist
of Columnic Lava like Fingal's cave. this makes them resemble the pipes
of an organ.
We stayed the whole day in Rio, I was
ashore all day, and went to the top of a sugar-loaf shaped mountain
called the Corcovado, 2400 feet high, it is covered all over except the
very top with beautiful tropical forests. I saw blue butterflies
five inches across, also orange ones, and I thought of you.
From the top of Corcovdo the view surpasses description, it commands the
whole of Rio harbour, the finest in the world, and the mountains all
around, and forests, and Rio itself with its palms and many coloured
buildings. On one side of the Corcavado is a sheer precipice, and a few
clouds floated below me, and for a few moments only, hid portions of the
I said to myself, "This licks
Cornwall even," and that takes some beating!!
In Brazil they use paper money, I changed a sovereign for 32,200 reis,
or 32 milreis, 200 reis.
In the evening I returned on board, they were discharging cargo - French
potatoes, in seventy pound boxes. I went down in the hold for a lark and
helped to unstow these boxes, and throw them to another man. It was the
hottest job I ever had, being down in a stuffy hold in a tropical
climate, chucking heavy boxes about.
At 10 p.m. we left Rio for Monte Video which we reached in four days:
then we crossed the river la Plata, 120 miles wide, here I got to
Ensenada 30 miles below Buenos Ayres; I stayed a day and a half in
Buenos Ayres, it is a very nice place, built like all South American
towns in perfect squares like a chess board.
All Argentine houses have a central open courtyard, with all the rooms
in the house opening out into it with glass doors, it is the coolest
From Buenos Ayres I went nine hours by train to Rosario de Santa Fe, I
left here at seven next morning for Tucuman, a twenty four hours
journey. In passing through the province of Santiago del Estero we met
swarms of locusts as thick as snowflakes. Right up to Tucuman, which is
at the foot of the Andes the country we passed through the pampas was as
flat as a table for 1000 miles: without warning o to speak, the Andes
rise abruptly from the pampas.
During the whole of the journey the dust
was very thick and penetrated everywhere, it was a quarter of an inch
tick on the seats. In the railways here the gauge is much broader than
in England, and the cars project a good way beyond the wheels, so that
they are about 10 feet wide: one can walk from one end of the train to
the other, there being a door and a platform at each end of the car, and
none at the side: each car will old 32 people, and there is a passage
down the middle.
Tucuman is a very hot place, it sometimes is 120º in the shade there.
The province grows sugar canes and oranges. I stayed here for a day
before going on to Salta. There are only three trains a week to Tucuman,
and also to Salta. The natives in these remote provinces are Indians of
a dark coffee colour. They live in sugar cane huts. These fellows look
very picturesque in their ponchos.
At six the next morning I left Tucuman for Salta, a 12 hour journey
among the Andes, and through great forests infested with jaguars and
pumas. The mountains, some covered with forest, others bare and rocky
looked very fine. On arriving at Salta I found it surrounded on all
sides by mountains some 16,000 to 17,000 high. Next morning I started
with an Indian guide for a 120 mile ride on mule back up the mountains
to the mine. Salta is very hot, and it last trained here and in Tucuman
last April. So you will not be surprised to hear that the dust about the
roads (or rather tracks) and country about here is five or six inches
deep. Every step my mule took stirred up clouds of it. A third
mule carried my bag and two hold-alls. My other things I left in Salta
to be sent on after me. The first night we slept in the open air with
just the roof of an Indian hut over us. I call it open air when there is
no wall at all on one side. We rode 40 miles a day. I was very
stiff the first night. We started again six next morning and rode into
the mountains along the bed of a huge mountain torrent half a mile wide
and full of boulders and rocks of all sizes. The bed showed the size of
the torrent in the rainy season. Now it is only a few feet wide. We
followed the dry torrent bed for about 70 miles and had to ford the
small torrent in the centre scores of times. The very rough ground added
to "jogginess" of the mules' gait and after riding from dawn
till dark I could barely stand at first on dismounting. Towards the end
of the second day we had got away from the heat and had mountains near
us covered with eternal snow.
The third night we came to an Indian hut made of rough stones and mud.
Not a stick of furniture was inside. The floor was of earth. I slept on
sheep-skins. It was freezing outside. In the morning we crossed the
torrent in a place where it was frozen over with ice ½-inch thick,
although the sun was shining brightly. We soon crossed a ridge 13,000
ft. high and then on descending a few hundred feet on the other side
into a broad plain, we were struck by an icy-wind from snow-capped
mountains on the far side of the plain, which whirled clouds of dust in
our faces. How we spent three nights on the way and did the
journey in days was this: The first day we did not start till mid-day.
We did 40 miles a whole day. After crossing another ridge 13,000 ft.
high we saw the mines on the side of an opposite mountain, 800 feet
lower down. My first work here was assaying. There were 7 Englishmen
here, the rest are Indians and Argentinas. We English fellows all live
together. The manager is very nice and is a London school of Mines man.
The buildings here are about 10 or 12 zinc roofed one storeyed cottages.
This is the most lonely place possible,
120 miles from a town. Still I can be very happy here with plenty of
work to do, otherwise it would be a bit lonely even for me, because the
country round is practically a windswept desert. Naturally I miss
"the old folks at home" as the "Swanee River " song
goes; this includes my Camborne friends and also "the old cliffs at
home". And now I must close as it is a quarter to one, and I have
to be up at 6. We start work early here.
Please remember me to all my friends in
Camborne, and believe me
Yours very sincerely,
Concordia Mine, Salta, Argentine Republic
Camborne School of Mines Magazine, December 1899 pp. 65-68; February
1900, pp. 107-109.