10th July 1835

On the 10th we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn...

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Until the 10th, it was necessary to remain at anchor, as there were accounts to settle between the commodore, the consul, the pursers, the officers, and the owner of the schooner; there were visits to the Authorities, to thank them for their assistance, and, as usual on board men-of-war, there was much to do in very little time. To Don José Alemparte, the yntendente of the province; to Colonel Boza, the principal military authority; to D. Miguel Bayon, the governor of Talcahuano; and to Don Pablo Delano, captain of the port, sincere thanks were really due for their earnest exertions. Mr. Rouse took his leave of us on the 10th, and we then sailed.

While the Blonde was lying off Talcahuano, I had a few opportunities of looking about, and seeing that both Concepcion and Talcahuano were rising out of their ruins, and that their unfortunate inhabitants had, at least, roofs over their heads. Concepcion was, and is still nominally, a city: but it will be long before it again appears as such to the eye of a stranger. Some idea may be formed of the low scale to which every thing was there reduced, when I mention that it was very difficult to find a carriage of any kind in which the Commodore could go to visit the Yntendente.

Great discussions had arisen on the subject of rebuilding the city. The government party wished to remove the site to a better position; but there was so strong an opposition, that the result was likely to be the gradual rebuilding of the town in the same place, while the removal was still undecided, and under consideration. Two situations were named as much more eligible than the former: one on the banks of the little river Andalien, about a mile from the old city; and the other, on a rising ground about two miles on the Talcahuano side of Concepcion. This latter position has many and great advantages, as all acknowledged; but people were reluctant to move; each one had or fancied an advantage in the old situation of his house, encumbered as it was with ruins. Besides, many more serious difficulties would arise in leaving small freeholds, and obtaining equivalents in another place: however, an active government might have accomplished so desirable a change without injuring anyone, by purchasing the ground, and distributing it so fairly that each man should gain rather than lose. The sum necessary for purchasing ground for a new city, would not have been greater than might have been borrowed; and repaid in ten years out of the custom-house.

Perhaps there is not a situation in the world much more advantageous to the prosperity of a commercial city than this of which we are speaking. Centrally placed between the great and navigable river Bio Bio, the port of San Vicente, the noble bay of Concepcion, and an easy communication by land with the best part of Chile, a part which may well be called one of the finest countries in the world:—with a large extent of level and fertile land on all sides—with the means of obtaining water by sinking wells to a small depth, as well as by an aqueduct from the Bio Bio—and with the blessing of an unexceptionable climate—how could the New Concepcion fail to thrive, and increase rapidly? It might be shaken down and destroyed by an earthquake as soon as built, may be said. Probably, may be replied, if the inhabitants should be so unwise as to build houses of brick and stone, one or two stories in height, and with heavily tiled roofs. But let them try another mode of building. Wood is abundant, and let them make that the only material of which either walls or roofs shall be composed. A strong frame-work, similar in some measure to that of a ship, lightly covered or ceiled with thin planks, and roofed with shingles, would, if placed on the ground and not let into it as foundations usually are, withstand the convulsions of any earthquake which has yet happened in that tormented country. Why do not the Chilians pay more attention to the remark of the aborigines of Peru, who, when they saw the Spaniards digging deep foundations for their buildings, said, "You are building your own sepulchres?"

The houses of the natives of Peru were in those days built without foundations, simply upon the levelled ground; and they withstood the severest shocks. No house should extend far upwards. Nothing should be above the ground floor but a light strongly-secured wooden roof: and they should be placed upon firm ground — if possible, upon rock. The principal objections against the present site of Concepcion are—that the earth upon which the houses stand is every where loose, and sandy, and that it is too near the river.

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