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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 September.

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 view.

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 way.

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 120 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 -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,

W.R. Bateson

Concordia Mine, Salta, Argentine Republic

Camborne School of Mines Magazine, December 1899 pp. 65-68; February 1900, pp. 107-109.

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