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Alexander von Humboldt: „The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America“, 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-06-neu> [abgerufen am 18.05.2024].

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Titel The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America
Jahr 1826
Ort New York City, New York
Nachweis
in: John L. Blake, A Geographical, Chronological, and Historical Atlas, on a New and Improved Plan; or, a View of the Present State of All the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies in the Known World, New York: Cooke and Co. 1826, S. 74.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken und Kreuzen.
Identifikation
Textnummer Druckausgabe: III.46
Dateiname: 1818-Cavern_of_Guacharo-06-neu
Statistiken
Seitenanzahl: 2
Spaltenanzahl: 3
Zeichenanzahl: 8587

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Cavern of Guacharo (New York City, New York, 1818, Englisch)
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The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (Hartford, Connecticut, 1822, Englisch)
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The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America (New York City, New York, 1826, Englisch)
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The great cavern of Guacharo in South America (London, 1845, Englisch)
Die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Leipzig, 1843, Deutsch)
Die Grotte von Caripe oder die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Berlin, 1851, Deutsch)
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Die Höhle von Guacharo (Leipzig, 1858, Deutsch)
|74||Spaltenumbruch|

The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America. *

The Cueva del Guacharo is pierced in the vertical profileof a rock. The entrance is toward the south, and formsa vault eighty feet broad, and seventy-two feet high.The rock, that surmounts the grotto, is covered withtrees of gigantic height. The mammee-tree, and thegenipa with large and shining leaves, raise their branchesvertically towards the sky; while those of the courbariland the erythrina form, as they extend themselves, athick vault of verdure. Plants of the family of pothoswith succulent stems, oxalises, and orchideæ of a singu-lar structure, rise in the driest cliffs of the rocks; whilecreeping plants, waving in the winds, are interwoven infestoons before the opening of the cavern. We distin-guished in these festoons a bignonia of a violet blue, thepurple dolichos, and for the first time that magnificentolandra, the orange flower of which has a fleshy tubemore than four inches long. The entrances of grottoes,like the view of cascades, derive their principal charmfrom the situation, more or less majestic, in which theyare placed, and which in some sort determines the cha-racter of the landscape. What a contrast between theCueva of Caripe, and those caverns of the north crownedwith oaks and gloomy larch-trees! But this luxury of vegetation embellishes not only theoutside of the vault, it appears even in the vestibule of thegrotto. We saw with astonishment, plantain-leaved heli-conias eighteen feet high, the praga palm-tree, and arbo-rescent arums, follow the banks of the river even to thosesubterranean places. The vegetation continues in thecave of Caripe, as in those deep crevices of the Andes,half excluded from the light of day; and does not disap-pear, till, advancing into the interior, we reach thirty orforty paces from the entrance. We measured the way bymeans of a cord: and we went on about four hundredand thirty feet, without being obliged to light our torches. Daylight penetrates into this region, because the grottoforms but one single channel, which keeps the same di-rection from south-east to north-west. Where the lightbegins to fail, we heard from afar the hoarse sounds ofthe nocturnal birds, sounds which the natives think be-long exclusively to those subterraneous places. The gua-charo is of the size of our fowls, has the mouth of thegoatsuckers and procnias, and the port of those vultures,the crooked beak of which is surrounded with stiff silkyhairs. It forms a new genus, very different from thegoatsucker by the force of its voice, by the considerablestrength of its beak, containing a double tooth, by its feetwithout the membranes that unite the anterior phalanxesof the claws. In its manners it has analogies both withthe goatsuckers and the alpine crow. The plumage ofthe guacharo is of a dark bluish-gray, mixed with small|Spaltenumbruch|streaks and specks of black. It is difficult to form anidea of the horrible noise occasioned by thousands ofthese birds in the dark part of the cavern, and which canonly be compared to the croaking of our crows, which,in the pine forests of the north, live in society, and con-struct their nests upon trees, the tops of which toucheach other. The shrill and piercing cries of the guacha-roes strike upon the vaults of the rocks, and are repeatedby the echo in the depth of the cavern. The Indiansshowed us the nests of these birds, by fixing torches to theend of a long pole. These nests were fifty or sixty feethigh above our heads, in holes in the shape of funnels,with which the roof of the grotto is pierced like a sieve.The noise increased as we advanced, and the birds wereaffrighted by the light of the torches of copal. When thisnoise ceased around us, we heard at a distance the plain-tive cries of the birds roosting in other ramifications ofthe cavern. It seemed as if these bands answered eachother alternately. The Indians enter into the Cueva del Guacharo oncea-year, near midsummer, armed with poles, by means ofwhich they destroy the greater part of the nests. At thisseason several thousands of birds are killed; and the oldones, to defend their brood, hover around the heads of thesavage Indians, uttering terrible cries, which would appalany heart but that of man in an untutored state. We followed, as we continued our progress through thecavern, the banks of the small river which issued from it,and is from twenty-eight to thirty feet wide. We walkedon the banks, as far as the hills formed of calcareous in-crustations permitted us. When the torrent winds amongvery high masses of stalactites, we were often obliged todescend into its bed, which is only two feet in depth.We learnt with surprise, that this subterraneous rivuletis the origin of the river Caripe, which, at a few leaguesdistance, after having joined the small river of SantaMaria, is navigable for canoes. It enters into the riverAreo under the name of Canno de Terezen. We foundon the banks of the subterraneous rivulet a great quantityof palm-tree wood, the remains of trunks, on which theIndians climb to reach the nests hanging to the roofs ofthe cavern. The rings, formed by the vestiges of the oldfootstalks of the leaves, furnish as it were the footsteps ofa ladder perpendicularly placed. The grotto of Caripe preserves the same direction, thesame breadth, and its primitive height of sixty or seventyfeet, to the distance of 1,458 feet, accurately measured.I have never seen a cavern in either continent of so uni-form and regular a construction. We had great difficultyin persuading the Indians to pass beyond the outer partof the grotto, the only part which they annually visit tocollect the fat. The whole authority of los padres wasnecessary, to induce them to advance as far as the spotwhere the soil rises abruptly at an inclination of sixty de-grees, and where the torrent forms a small subterraneouscascade. The natives connect mystic ideas with thiscave, inhabited by nocturnal birds; they believe, that thesouls of their ancestors sojourn in the deep recesses of thecavern. “Man,” say they, “should avoid places whichare enlightened neither by the Sun nor by the Moon.”To go and join the guacharoes, is to rejoin their fathers,is to die. The magicians and the poisoners perform theirnocturnal tricks at the entrance of the cavern, to conjurethe chief of the evil spirits. At the point where the river forms the subterraneouscascade, a hill covered with vegetation, which is oppositethe opening of the grotto, presents itself in a very pictu-resque manner. It appears at the extremity of a straightpassage, 240 toises in length. The stalactites, which de-scend from the vault, and which resemble columns sus-pended in the air, display themselves on a back-groundof verdure. The opening of the cavern appeared singu-larly contracted, when we saw it about the middle of the
* Abridged from the Personal Narrative of Humboldt, vol. iii. We find this phenomenon of a subterranean cascade, but on amuch larger scale, in England, at Yordas cave, near Kingsdale, inYorkshire.
|75||Spaltenumbruch|day, illuminated by the vivid light reflected at once fromthe sky, the plants, and the rocks. The distant light ofday formed somewhat of magical contrast with the dark-ness that surrounded us in those vast caverns. We climb-ed, not without some difficulty, the small hill, whence thesubterraneous rivulet descends. We saw that the grottowas perceptibly contracted, retaining only forty feet inits height; and that it continued stretching to the north-east, without deviating from its primitive direction, whichis parallel to that of the great valley of Caripe.
The missionaries, with all their authority, could notprevail on the Indians to penetrate farther into the ca-vern. As the vault grew lower, the cries of the guacha-roes became more shrill. We were obliged to yield to thepusillanimity of our guides, and trace back our steps.We followed the course of the torrent to go out of thecavern. Before our eyes were dazzled with the light ofday, we saw without the grotto, the water of the riversparkling amid the foliage of the trees that concealed it. Itwas like a picture placed in the distance, and to which themouth of the cavern served as a frame. Having at lengthreached the entrance, and seated ourselves on the bankof the rivulet, we rested after our fatigues. We wereglad to be beyond the hoarse cries of the birds, and toleave a place where darkness does not offer even thecharms of silence and tranquillity.