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Nature volume 134, page 225 (11 August 1934) | Download Citation



Darwin in the Andes On August 14, 1834, Darwin set out on a riding excursion from Valparaiso. The first day brought him to the Hacienda of Quintero, which formerly belonged to Lord Cochrane. “My object in coming here,” he said, “was to see the great beds of shells, which stand some yards above the level of the sea, and are burnt for lime. The proofs of the elevation of this whole line of coast are unequivocal: at the height of a few hundred feet old-looking shells are numerous, and I found some at 1,300 feet. These shells either lie loose on the surface, or are embedded in a reddish-black vegetable mould. I was much surprised to find under the microscope that this vegetable mould is really marine mud, full of minute particles of organic bodies”; On the morning of August 16, he started the ascent of the Campana, or Bell Mountain, 6,400 ft. high, and the following day climbed to the top. “We spent the day on the summit,” he wrote, “and I never enjoyed one more thoroughly. Chile, bounded by the Andes and the Pacific, was seen as in a map. … Who can avoid wondering at the force which has upheaved these mountains, and even more so at the countless ages which it must have required, to have broken through, removed, and levelled whole masses of them? It is well in this case, to call to mind the vast shingle and sedimentary beds of Patagonia, which if heaped on the Cordillera, would increase its height by so many thousand feet. When in that country, I wondered how any mountain-chain could have supplied such masses, and not have been utterly obliterated. We must not now reverse the wonder, and doubt whether all-powerful time can grind down mountainseven the gigantic Cordillerainto gravel and mud.”

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