Do read Darwin’s Beagle diary, if you haven’t already:
Feb 28th The houses are white & lofty & from the windows being narrow & long have a very light & elegant appearance. Convents, Porticos & public buildings vary the uniformity of the houses: the bay is scattered over with large ships; in short the view is one of the finest in the Brazils. – But their beauties are as nothing compared to the Vegetation; I believe from what I have seen Humboldts glorious descriptions are & will for ever be unparalleled: but even he with his dark blue skies & the rare union of poetry with science which he so strongly displays when writing on tropical scenery, with all this falls far short of the truth. The delight one experiences in such times bewilders the mind, – if the eye attempts to follow the flight of a gaudy butter-fly, it is arrested by some strange tree or fruit; if watching an insect one forgets it in the stranger flower it is crawling over, – if turning to admire the splendour of the scenery, the individual character of the foreground fixes the attention. The mind is a chaos of delight, out of which a world of future & more quiet pleasure will arise. – I am at present fit only to read Humboldt; he like another Sun illumines everything I behold. –
1832 Rio de Janeiro to M Video
July 13th Already in our day-dreams, have we returned heavily loaded with Cavies, Partridges, Snipes &c. – I believe the unexplored course of the Rio Negro will be investigated. – What can be imagined more exciting than following a great river through a totally unknown country?- Every thing shows we are steering for barbarous regions, all the officers have stowed away their razors, & intend allowing their beards to grow in a truly patriarchal fashion. –
1832 Baia Blanca
Sept 15th a fine Ostrich tried to escape; the Gauchos pursued it at a reckless pace, each man whirling the balls round his head; the foremost at last threw them, in an instant the Ostrich rolled over & over, its legs being fairly lashed together by the thong. – Its dying struggles were most violent. – The men then formed a ring & drove to the centre several cavies; they only killed one; but their riding was most excellent, especially in the quickness & precision with which they turn. – The horses are soon fatigued from such violent exercise & it is necessary often to change them & pick out fresh ones from the herd which always accompanies a party. – At this time of year, the eggs of the ostrich is their chief prize. – In this one day they found 64, out of which 44 were in two nests; the rest scattered about by ones or twos. – They also catch great numbers of Armadilloes. – In the middle of the day they lighted a fire & soon roasted some eggs & some Armadilloes in their hard cases: – They had neither water, salt or bread; of the two latter for weeks together they never taste; so that it makes little difference to them where they live. –
Like to snails, all their property is on their backs & their food around them. – It was very interesting to watch, whilst seated.