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Alexander von Humboldt: „Letter from M. Humboldt to M. Delambre, relative to his Travels in South America“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 19.07.2024].

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Titel Letter from M. Humboldt to M. Delambre, relative to his Travels in South America
Jahr 1803
Ort London
in: The Monthly Register, and Encyclopedian Magazine 3:17 (1. September 1803), S. 240–243.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: II.17
Dateiname: 1803-Copie_d_une-11-neu
Seitenanzahl: 4
Zeichenanzahl: 14913

Weitere Fassungen
Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au C. Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802) (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Auszug aus einem Briefe des Hrn. Alexander von Humboldt an Hrn. Delambre (Weimar, 1803, Deutsch)
Letter from M. Humboldt to C. Delambres, one of the perpetual Secretaries of the National Institute (London, 1803, Englisch)
Copie d’une lettre lue à la classe des sciences physiques et mathématiques de l’Institut national. Alexandre Humboldt au citoyen Delambre, secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut national (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Copie d’une lettre lue à la Classe des Sciences physiques et mathématiques de l’Institut national. Alexandre Humboldt, au cit. Delambre, Secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut national (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Alexandre Humboldt au Citoyen Delambre, Secrétaire perpétuel de l’Institut National (London, 1803, Französisch)
Kurzer Auszug aus Hrn. Alexand. v. Humboldt’s Brief (aus Lima vom 25 Nov. 1802) an B. Delambre zu Paris (Weimar, 1803, Deutsch)
Schreiben Alexanders v. Humbold, an den B. Delambre, immerwährenden Sekretär des National-Instituts, Lima, vom 25 Nov. 1802 (Ulm, 1803, Deutsch)
Copy of a letter read in the class of physical and mathematical sciences. Alexander Humboldt to Citizen Delambre, Perpetual Secretary of the National Institute. From Lima, the 25th November, 1802 (London, 1803, Englisch)
Extrait d’une lettre d’Alexandre Humboldt au C. Delambre, secrétaire-perpétuel de l’institut national (Brüssel, 1803, Französisch)
Letter from M. Humboldt to M. Delambre, relative to his Travels in South America (London, 1803, Englisch)
Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au citoyen Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802) (Paris, 1803, Französisch)
Brief van Alexander v. Humbold aan den B. Delambre, Aanhoudenden Geheimschryver van het Nat. Institut te Parys (Haarlem, 1803, Niederländisch)
Briefe des Herrn Oberbergraths von Humboldt (Berlin; Stettin, 1803, Deutsch)
Brief des Herrn von Humboldt an Delambre, beständigen Secretär des Instituts (Leipzig, 1803, Deutsch)
A letter from Baron Humboldt to a member of the National Institute at Paris (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1804, Englisch)
[Copie d’une lettre de M. Humboldt, adressée au citoyen Delambre, l’un des secrétaires perpétuels de l’Institut national (datée de Lima le 25 novembre 1802)] (London, 1805, Englisch)

Letter from M. Humboldt to M. Delambre, relative tohis Travels in South America.

my respectable friend,

I AM just arrived from the interior of the country, where, in an exten-sive plain, I made experiments on the small horary variations of the needle;and I learn with regret that the frigate Astigarraga, which was not to havegone this fortnight, has hastened her departure for Cadiz, and sails thisvery night. It is the first opportunity for sending to Europe that has oc-curred these five months in the solitudes of the southern ocean; and thewant of leisure prevents my writing as I could wish to the National Insti-tute, which has just bestowed on me the most signal mark of the interest andfavor with which it honors me. It was a few days before my departure forJaen and Amazonia that I received the letter dated 2 Pluviose, year 9,which that illustrious society adressed to me through you. It was two yearsin reaching me among the Cordilleras of the Andes. I received it the dayafter I had returned from a second expedition to the crater of the volcanoPichinca, to which I took an electrometer of Volta. I measured its diame-ter, which I found to be 752 fathoms, while that of Vesuvius is but 312. A considerable time before I received your letter, I addressed three letterssuccessively to the physical and mathematical class, two from Santa Fe de Bogota, accompanied with a work on the genus Cinchona, or Quinquina, con-sisting of specimens of the bark of seven species, coloured drawings represent-ing those productions, with the anatomy of the flower which differs so much inthe length of its stamina, and the flowers themselves dried with care. Dr. Mutis presented me with about 100 splendid drawings in large folio, repre-senting the new genera and species of his manuscript Flora of Bogota. Thiscollection, as interesting to the botanist as it is remarkable for the beauty ofthe colours, could not, in my opinion, be in better hands than those of Jus-sieu, Lamarck, and Desfontaines; I have therefore offered them to the Na-tional Institute as a feeble mark of my attachment. This collection, toge-ther with the drawings of the Cinchona, set off for Carthagena in the monthof June of the present year, and M. Mutis himself has undertaken to procuretheir conveyance to Paris. A third letter for the Institute left Quito with ageological collection of the productions of Pichinca, Cotopaxi, and Chim-borasso. The little leisure I have to day prevents me from giving you a sketch ofmy travels and accupations since our return from Rio Negro. You know itwas at Havannah that we received the false intelligence of Captain Baudin’s departure for Buenos Ayres. Faithful to the promise I had given to joinhim if I could, and persuaded that I should render greater service to thesciences by labouring in conjunction with the naturalists who accompanyCaptain Baudin, I did not hesitate a moment in sacrificing the insignificanthonor of completing my own expedition, and instantly hired a small vesselat Bataban, for Carthagena. Stormy weather prolonged this short passageabove a month. The trade-winds had ceased in the South Sea, where Iimagined I should find Captain Baudin, and I undertook the difficult journeythrough Honda, Ilagué, the passage of the mountain of Quindin, Popayan,Pastos, and Quito. My health withstood, in a wonderful manner, the changesof climate to which we were exposed on this route; descending every dayfrom snowy regions, at an elevation of 2,460 fathoms, into burning vallies,where Reaumur’s thermometer never falls below 26° or 24°. My companion, M. Bonpland, whose abilities, courage, and unweariedactivity were of the greatest assistance to me in my botanical and anatomicalresearches, has been afflicted with tertian fevers for two months. The rainyseason overtook us in the most critical part of our journey, the elevated plain |241| of Pastos; and after travelling eight months, we arrived at Quito, wherewe heard that Captain Baudin had taken the route from west to east by theCape of Good Hope. Accustomed to disappointments, we consoled our-selves with the idea of having made such great sacrifices with good inten-tions. Looking at our collection of observations of different kinds, ourdrawings and experiments on the atmosphere of the Cordilleras, we did notregret having traversed countries which have in a great measure never beenvisited by any naturalist. We felt that man must not rely upon any thingbut what he can produce by his own energy. The province of Quito, the most elevated plain in the world, and con-vulsed by the great catastrophe of the 4th of Feb. 1797, afforded us a vastfield for physical observations. Volcanoes of such magnitude, that theflames frequently rise 1000 yards above their summits, have never yet pro-duced a drop of melted lava: they vomit forth water, sulphureous hydrogengas, mud, and carbonated clay. Since 1797, all this portion of the globe hasbeen in agitation; we every moment feel the most alarming shocks; andthe subterraneous rumbling in the plains of Rio Bamba is like that of amountain falling to ruins beneath our feet. The atmospheric air and humidearth appear to be the grand agents of these combustions and subterraneousfermentations, all the volcanoes being formed of decomposed porphyry. It has hitherto been imagined at Quito, that 2,470 fathoms were thegreatest elevation at which man can resist the rarefaction of the air. InMarch 1802, we passed several days in the great plains which surround thevolcano of Antisana, at the height of 2,107 fathoms, where the oxen, whenpursued, frequently vomit blood. On the 16th of March, we discovered aroad upon the snow, by which, with a gentle acclivity, we ascended to anelevation of 2773 fathoms. The air there contained ,008 of carbonic acid,,218 of oxygen, and ,774 of azote. Reaumur’s thermometer was only 1,5°.it was by no means cold, but the blood issued from our mouth and eyes.The situation would not admit of our making experiments with Borda’s compass, excepting in a cavern lower down, at 2467 fathoms: the intensityof the magnetic power was greater at this height than at Quito, in the pro-portion of 230 to 218; but it must not be forgotten, that frequently thenumber of oscillations increases when the inclination is diminished, and thatthe intensity is augmented by the mass of mountains, the porphyry in whichaffects the magnet. In our expedition to Chimborasso, the 23d of June,1802, we proved, that, with patience, it is possible to endure a still greaterdegree of rarefaction of the atmosphere. We reached 500 fathoms higherthan La Condamine (at Carazon); and at Chimborasso we carried instru-ments to the elevation of 6,062 yards, where we observed the mercury of thebarometer descend to 13in. 11,2 lines; the thermometer was 1°,3 belowzero. We likewise bled here at the mouth. Our Indians left us as usual.M. Bonpland and M. Montufar, son of the Marquis of Selvalegre, of Quito,were the only persons who remained with me. We felt a certain indisposi-tion, debility, and inclination to vomit, which are certainly owing as much tothe want of oxygen in those regions as to the rarefaction of the air. I foundonly ,20 of oxygen at this immense height. A tremendous cleft preventedus from reaching the very summit of Chimborasso, of which we only wanted472 yards. You know that the height of this immense colossus is still un-certain; that La Condamine, who measured it at a great distance, makes itabout 6,440 yards, while Don George Juan computes it to be 6,760; andthat this difference does not arise from the different heights which these as-tronomers adopt for the signal of Carabura. In the plain of Tapia I mea-sured a base of 1,702 metres. According to two geometrical operations, Icalculate Chimborasso at 6,534 yards above the level of the sea. |242| The volcano of Tunguragua has greatly diminished since the time of LaCondamine: instead of 2,620 fathoms, I find that it is now not more than2,531; and I am convinced that this difference does not arise from an errorin the operations, because in my measures of Cayamba, Antisana, Cotopaxi,Iliniza, I differ but 10 or 15 fathoms from the results of La Condamine and Bouguer. All the inhabitants, likewise, of this unfortunate country say thatTunguragua is perceptibly diminished. On the other hand, I find Cotopaxi,which has had such dreadful eruptions, of the same height as in 1744, or, ifany thing, rather higher, which may perhaps proceed from some error ofmine. But the stony summit of Cotopaxi shews that it is a chimney capableof resistance and of preserving its figure. The operations which we un-dertook, from January to July, in the Andes of Quito, gave the inhabitantsthe melancholy information that the crater of Pichinca, which La Condamine saw full of snow, burns afresh; and that Chimborasso, which has beenthought so tranquil and innocent, has been a volcano, and will perhaps be soagain. We found burnt rocks and pumice-stone at the height of 6,062yards. Unfortunate will it be for mankind if the volcanic fire (for the wholeelevated plain of Quito may be said to be a single volcano with several sum-mits) breaks forth from Chimborasso. It has frequently been asserted thatthis mountain is granit, but it contains not an atom of that substance. It iscomposed of porphyry here and there in columns, inclosing vitreous feld-spar and olivine. This stratum of porphyry is 3,800 yards in depth. Besides the elephants’ teeth which we sent to M. Cuvier, from the plainof Santa Fé, at an elevation of 2,700 yards, we have preserved for him se-veral finer; some of them belonging to the carnivorous elephant, and otherssomewhat different from those of Africa, from the valley of Timana, thetown of Ibarra and Chili. Thus it is ascertained that this carnivorous mon-ster existed from the Ohio, or 50° of north latitude to 35° south. I have spent a very agreeable time at Quito. The president of the au-dience, Baron de Carondelet, has loaded us with favors; and during myperegrinations of three years, I have not had reason to complain one singleday of the agents of the Spanish government which has treated me with adelicacy and distinction that entitle it to my everlasting gratitude. Howtimes and manners have changed! After passing through Assonay and Cuença, where we were entertainedwith bull-fights, we took the road to Oxa, to complete our labours on theCinchona. We then spent a month in the province of Jaën de Bracamorrosand the Pongos of the Amazons, whose banks are embellished with the An-diva and Bougainvillæa of Jussieu. It appeared to me an interesting objectto fix the longitude of Tomependa and Cluechungat, where La Condamine’s map begins, and to connect those points with the coast. La Condamine could ascertain only the longitude of the mouth of the Napa; time-keeperswere not then in existence, so that the longitudes of these countries must re-quire correcting. My chronometer, by Louis Berthoud, is wonderfully cor-rect, as I find by my own observations and by comparing point for point mydifferences of the meridian with those found by the expedition under M. Fidalgo, which, by the king’s command, has been making trigonometricaloperations from Cumana to Carthagena. From the Amazons we crossed the Andes to the mines of Hualgayoe,which yield a million of piastres per annum, and where the silver ore is foundat the depth of 2,065 fathoms. We descended by Cascamusca, or the pa-lace of Atahualpa, where I took drawings of the arches of the Peruvianvaults, to Truxillo, pursuing our route through the deserts along the coast ofthe South Sea to Lima, where, during half the year, the sky is obscured bythick vapours. I hastened to reach Lima, to observe there the passage ofMercury on the 9th of Nov. 1802. |243| Our collections of plants, and the drawings which I have made of the ana-tomy of the genera, conformably to the ideas communicated to me by M. Jussieu, have been considerably augmented by the riches we discovered inthe province of Quito, at Loxa, near the Amazons, and in the Cordilleras ofPeru. We have found many of the plants described by Joseph de Jussieu asthe Lloque affinis, Quillajæ, &c. We have a new species of Jussiæa, whichis charming, of colletia, several passion-flowers, and the coranthus in the formof a tree 60 feet in height. We are, in particular, very rich in palm-treesand grasses, on which M. Bonpland has drawn up a very extensive work.We have now 3,784 very complete descriptions in Latin, and nearly one-third of that number of plants in our herbaries, which we have not had timeto describe. There is not a vegetable but what we can point out the rock itinhabits, and the number of fathoms it is in height; so that the geography ofplants will find in our manuscripts very accurate materials. To render themmore perfect, M. Bompland and myself have frequently written separate de-scriptions of the same plant: but two-thirds, and more, of the descriptionsare the fruit of M. Bonpland’s assiduity alone; his zeal and exertions for thepromotion of the sciences cannot be too much admired. We compared ourherbaries with those of M. Mutis, and consulted a vast number of books inthe immense library of that great man. We are persuaded that we havemany new genera and new species; but it requires much time and great la-bour to decide what is really new. We likewise have a silicious substanceresembling the tabascher of the East Indies, which M. Macé has analysed. It exists in the joints of a gigantic species of grass, which is confoundedwith the bamboo, but the flower of which differs from the bambusa of Schrei-ber. I know not whether M. Fourcroy ever received the milk of the vege-table cow (a tree so called by the Indians), which, when treated with nitricacid, yielded a caoutchouc with an aromatic smell, but which, far from beingcaustic and injurious like all vegetable milks, is nourishing and agreeable todrink. We discovered it on the road to the Oronoko, in a plantation wherethe negroes drink it in great quantity. I likewise sent to M. Fourcroy, byway of Guadaloupe, and to Sir Joseph Banks, by way of Trinidad, our Dapiché, or oxygenated white caoutchouc, which oozes from the roots of atree in the forests of Pimichin, in the remotest corner of the earth near thesources of Rio Negro. I shall not go to the Philippines, but shall proceed by way of Acapulco,Mexico, and the Havannah, to Europe, and hope to embrace you in Septem-ber or October, 1803, at Paris.

Health and respect,(Signed) HUMBOLDT.

In February I shall be at Mexico; in June, at the Havannah. I think ofnothing but the preservation and publication of the manuscripts I possess.