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Alexander von Humboldt: „Cavern of Guacharo“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <https://humboldt.unibe.ch/text/1818-Cavern_of_Guacharo-01-neu> [abgerufen am 05.02.2023].

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Titel Cavern of Guacharo
Jahr 1818
Ort New York City, New York
Nachweis
in: New-York Daily Advertiser 2:398 (21. Juli 1818), S. [1].
Entsprechungen in Buchwerken
Alexander von Humboldt, Relation historique du Voyage aux Régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, 3 Bände, Paris: F. Schoell 1814[–1817], N. Maze 1819[–1821], J. Smith et Gide Fils 1825[–1831], Band 1, S. 417–418.
Sprache Englisch
Schriftart Antiqua
Identifikation
Textnummer Druckausgabe: III.46
Dateiname: 1818-Cavern_of_Guacharo-01-neu
Statistiken
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 3770

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|1|

CAVERN OF GUACHARO.

From the London Quarterly Review. An object of great curiosity was pointed out toour travellers (Humboldt and Bonpland) at thehead of the valley of Caripe; this was the grandcueva, or Cavern of Guacharro. Mr Humboldtobserved, that in a country where they love themarvellous, a cavern which gives birth to a riv-er and is inhabited by many thousands of noc-turnal birds, the fat of which is employed in theMissions for dressing food, is an inexhaustablesubject of conversation and discussion. Thereis nothing however very remarkable in this cav-ern, excepting its great length. The entranceis about eighty feet wide, by seventy two high,and it preserves the same direction, the samewidth, and nearly the same height for one thou-sand four hundred and fifty eight feet, which issaid to be not one half of its whole length. Theluxuriance of the vegetation near the mouth gaveto it a character which, in a less favored cli-mate, it would not have possessed; for, as ourauthor very justly observes, it is with the open-ings of caverns as with the view of cascades,the character of the local scenery, and of thesurrounding country, constitutes the principalcharm. The bird of night which inhabits theCueva de Guacharo is more curious than thecavern. It is a new genus, nearly allied to thatof Caprimulgus, to which M. de Humboldt hasgiven the significant name of Steatornis. “It is difficult to form an idea of the frightfulnoise made by thousands of these birds in thedark part of the cavern. It can be comparedonly to that of our crows, which, in the fir for-ests of the north, live in society, and build theirnests in trees which meet at the top. Theshrill and piercing tones of the Guacharo rever-berate from the arched roof, and echo repeatsthem in the depths of the cavern. The Indiansby fixing torches to the end of a long pole, point-ed out to us the nests of these birds; they werefifty or sixty feet above our heads, in funnel sha-ped holes, with which the whole roof of thegrotto is riddled. The noise increased withour advance, and with the alarm of the birds atthe flare of our copal torches. When it ceasedfor a few minutes, we heard distant moans fromother branches of the cavern. The differentflocks might be said to give alternate responses. “The Indians go once a year into the Cue-va del Guacharo, about mid summer, furnish-ed with poles, with which they destroy thegreater part of nests. At this time many thou-sand birds are killed, and the old ones, as if toprotect their broods, hover over the heads ofthe Indians, uttering the most dreadful shrieks.The young that fall to the ground are rippedopen immediately. The peritoneum is thick-ly loaded with an unctuous substance, and alayer of fat runs from the abdomen to the anus,forming a kind of cushion between the bird’sthighs. This abundance of fat in frugivorousanimals, not exposed to the light, and havingfew muscular motions, reminds us of the incli-nation to obesity long observed in geese andoxen. At the period commonly termed the oil harvest, the Indians construct little habita-tions of palm leaves close to the opening, andeven in the mouth of the cavern. We sawsome remains of such still standing. Here,over a fire of dry sticks, the grease of theyoung birds just killed, is melted and run intopots of white clay. This grease, known bythe name of Guacharo butter, or oil, (manteca or aceite) is semi-liquid transparent and inodo-rous; and so pure, that it may be kept morethan a twelve month without becoming rancid.At the convent of Caripe, no oil but that of thecavern was used in the monk’s kitchen, andwe never found it give to the dish either a dis-agreeable taste or smell.”