20th June 1835

Staid there the following day. I found an abundance of petrified shells & wood. It is amusing to find the same subject discussed here as formerly amongst the learned of Europe concerning the origin of these shells, whether they really were shells or were thus "born by Nature". At night a stranger came in & asked permission to sleep there: it turned out he had been lost & wandering about for the last 17 days. he started from Guasco alto, with baggage mules & servants, expecting to find (without a guide) his way in two days to the valley of Copiapo. Missing his track he became involved in a labyrinth of mountains & could not escape. Some of his mules fell over the precipes & if it had not been for the good fortune of meeting a herd of cattle he would have been obliged to have killed his mules to eat. They could not fairly leave the mountains, on account of not knowing in the more level country the few spots where water is found. I mention this as a proof of the impracticable nature of the country; It is a constant subject of surprise to me, whenever I reflect about it, how the Spanish soldiers, who at the time of the Conquest marched, & many on foot, from Peru to Chili, did ever survive the dangers of these deserts. That many perished is well known, but enough escaped to continue a war with numerous tribes of the native Indians.

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