440

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440 . C H

ipleasant forests : a great number of rivers derive
*heir sources from it, and its perpetual verdure
turnishes a proof that its eruptions have never been
very violent.

20. Earthquakes . — The quantity of inflammable
substances with which the soil of Chile abounds,
rendered active by the electric fluid, may be con-
sidered as one of the principal causes of earth-
quakes, the only scourge that afflicts this favoured
cotintry. Another, however, not less capable of
producing this terrible phenomenon, is the elas-
ticity of the air contained in the bowels of the
earth, in consequence of the water which, insinuat-
ing itself by subterranean passages from the sea,
becomes changed into vapour. This hypothesis
will explain why the provinces to the e. of the
Andes, at a distance from the sea, are so little in-
commoded by earthquakes. Two, however, Co-
piapo and Coquimbo, although near the sea, and
as rich in minerals as the others, have never suf-
fered from earthquakes ; and whilst the other
parts of the country have been violently shaken,
these have not experienced the least shock, or
been but slightly agitated. It is a general opinion
that the earth in these provinces is intersected by
large caverns. The noises heard in many places,
and which appear to indicate the passage of waters,
or subterraneous winds, seem to confirm this opinion,
and it is highly probable that by affording a free
vent to the inflamed substances, these caverns may
serve to counteract the progress of those convul-
sions to which the neighbouring country is subject.
The inhabitants usually calculate three or four
earthquakes at Chile annually, but they are very
slight, and little attention is paid to them. The
great earthquakes happen but rarely, and of these
not more than five have occurred in a period of
244 years, from the arrival of the Spaniards to the
present period, J8I2. From a course of accurate
observations it has been ascertained, that earth-
quakes never occur unexpectedly in this country,
but are always announced by a hollow sound pro-
ceeding from a vibration of the air; and as the
shocks do not succeed each other rapidly, the in-
habitants have sufficient time to provide for their
safety. They have, however, in order to secure
themselves at all events, built their cities in a
very judicious manner ; the streets are left so broad
that the inhabitants would be safe in the middle of
them, should even the bouses fall upon both sides.
In addition to this, all the houses have spacious
courts and gardens, which would serve as places of
refuge ; those who are wealthy have usually in
their gardens several i^eat wooden barracks,
where they pass the night whenever they are

I L E.

threatened wdth an earthquake. Under these cir-
cumstances the Chilians live without apprehension,
especially as the earthquakes have never been
hitherto attended with any considerable sinking of
the earth, or falling of buildings ; this is probably
owing to subterranean passages coramunicatino-
with the volcanoes of the Andes, w Inch are so many
vent-holes for the inflamed substances, and serve
to counteract tlieir effects. Were it not for the
number of these volcanoes, Chile would, in all
probability, be rendered uninhabitable. Some
pretend that they can foretel an earthquake from
certain changes in the atmosphere : although tins
does not appear to be impossible, it is altogetlier
discredited by many of the best writers on Chile :
these observe that they will occur both in the
rainy and dry seasons, during a storm as well as a
calm.

21. Some detail of productions . — Chile pro-
duces none of those dangerous or venomous ani-
mals which are so much dreaded in hot countries ;
and it has but one species of small serpent, which
is perfectly harmless, as the French academicians
ascertained when they went to Peru, in 1736, to
measure a degree of the meridian. IJIIoa also, in
his Voyage, part II. vol. 111. observes, “ This
country is not infested by any kind of insect ex-
cept the chiguas, or pricker, or any poisonous
reptile ; and although in the w oods and fields some
snakes are to be found, their bite is by no means
dangerous ; nor does any savage or ferocious
beast excite terror in its plains. The puma, or
American lion, which is sometimes met w'ith in the
thickest and least frequented forests, is distinguish-
ed from the African lion, both by its being with-
out a mane and its timidity ; there is no instance
of its ever having attacked a man, and a person
may not only travel, but lie down to sleep with
perfect security, in any part of the plain, and
even in the thickest forests of the mountains. Nei-
ther tigers, wolves, nor many other ferocious
beasts that infest the neighbouring countries, are
known there. Probably the great ridge of the
Andes, which is every where extremely steep,
and covered with snow, serves as a barrier to their
passage. The mildness of the climate may also
be unfavourable to them, as the greater part of
these animals are natives of the hottest countries.
Horses, asses, cattle, sheep, goats, many kinds
of dogs, cats, and even mice, have been brought
hither by the Spaniards. All these animals have
multiplied exceedingly, and increased in size.
The price of the best horses is from 100 to 500
crowns ; the asses are strong and stately, though
hunted chiefly for their skins; and the mules are]

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