19th December 1832

Tierra del Fuego
I determined to attempt to penetrate some way into the country. — There is no level ground & all the hills are so thickly clothed with wood as to be quite impassable. — The trees are so close together & send off their branches so low down, that I found extreme difficulty in pushing my way even for gun-shot distance. — I followed therefore the course of a mountain torrent; at first from the cascades & dead trees, I hardly managed to crawl along; but shortly the open course became wider, the floods having keeping clear the borders. — For an hour I continued to follow the stream, & was well repaid by the grandeur of the scene. — The gloomy depth of the ravine well accorded with the universal signs of violence. — in every direction were irregular masses of rock & uptorn trees, others decayed & others ready to fall. — To have made the scene perfect, there ought to have been a group of Banditti, — in place of it, a seaman (who accompanied me) & myself, being armed & roughly dressed, were in tolerable unison with the surrounding savage Magnificence. We continued ascending till we came to what I suppose must have been the course of a water-spout, & by its course reached a considerable elevation. — The view was imposing but not very picturesque: the whole wood is composed of the antarctic Beech (the Winters bark & the Birch are comparatively rare). This is tree is an evergreen, but the tint of the foliage is brownish yellow: Hence the whole lanscape has a monotomous sombre appearance; neither is it often enlivened by the rays of the sun. — At this highest point the wood is not quite so thick — but the trees, though not high are of considerable thickness. — Their curved & bent trunks are coated with lichens, as their roots are with moss; in fact the whole bottom is a swamp, where nothing grows except rushes & various sorts of moss. — the number of decaying & fallen trees reminded me of the Tropical forest. — But in this still solitude, death instead of life is the predominant spirit. — The delight which I experienced, whilst thus looking around, was increased by the knowledge that this part of the forest had never before been traversed by man.

Syms Covington’s Journal:
Near the summit of the mountains, there are very thick, low bushes, and patches of moss where you sink ankle deep -- which makes walking very laborious. On the tops of the mountains AT places where the snow has melted, you find rocks of a slaty and crumbling nature. Here, sometimes the wind blows with fierceness, which obliged US to return down to the woods, for without exaggeration we could scarcely breathe. On the mountain heights one finds plenty of guanacos, which are very shy. Their flesh is very good eating but dry. Both on the high and low woods there are great many birds of different species and by the sea, there ARE plenty of geese, ducks, and seals. Here, two of Captain Cook's men died of the cold. WE went up to the same mountains the same day in the month as they.

Here you find the savage in plenty. Picture to yourself a canoe along side of a ship; with two or three men with as many women and a child, perhaps two, all absolutely naked. Sometimes a woman or a man may have a sealskin or a part of one over his shoulders, and the woman, with a bit of skin tied around the waist. All squatted down on their hams, with a handful of fire in the bottom of the canoe with a few small fishes, with their faces and bodies painted or marked with red and white chalk in various ways, with necklaces made of trade party shells worn round the necks and wrists of the women, with their stiff black hair standing on end, and most likely shivering with the cold. THEY HAVE several spears made from the bones of the seal, with a staff from twelve to fifteen feet long well made, the whole cut with sharp stones, two or three fishing lines made from the gut of the seal with a knot to the end for the fish to swallow, and small buckets made from the rush (or plaited), one of which contains a fire stone and a sort of dry moss to kindle a fire when wanted. One or two stand up occasionally, making signs and continually using the word, "Yammarschooner," which is supposed to be " give me," as they hold their hands out at the same time.

These poor wretches are equally miserable ashore, as they have only a wigwam or small hut made with the branches of trees about four feet high rounded upon top and a hole just large enough to creep in, with a fire inside where they sit down and broil their fish, seals and limpets. This miserable hut forms but a poor barrier against the inclemency of the weather, but as they are wandering tribes and used to no comfort, those temporary huts, serve them equally as well as our houses do us. Those Indians like all others are often at war with each other; their defensive weapons are the spear, the bow and arrow, club, and stones. A tribe called the Bowans use the bow and arrow more than the others.

Buttons or a bit of looking glass or any thing that shines pleases them plenty; Red and yellow cloth or flannel likewise.

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