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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: <> [abgerufen am 18.05.2024].

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Titel The great cavern of Guacharo in South America
Jahr 1845
Ort London
in: The Wonders of Nature and Art, London: Arnold & Co. [1845], S. 65–71.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken; Schmuck: Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: III.46
Dateiname: 1818-Cavern_of_Guacharo-10-neu
Seitenanzahl: 7
Zeichenanzahl: 7656

Weitere Fassungen
Cavern of Guacharo (New York City, New York, 1818, Englisch)
Account of the Great Cavern of the Guacharo (Edinburgh, 1820, Englisch)
[Cavern of Guacharo] (Frankfurt am Main, 1821, Deutsch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (Hartford, Connecticut, 1822, Englisch)
Cavern of the Guacharo (Edinburgh, 1824, Englisch)
The Great Cavern of Guacharo, in South America (New York City, New York, 1826, Englisch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (London, 1826, Englisch)
Die Felshöhle von Guacharo (Bamberg; Aschaffenburg, 1827, Deutsch)
The great cavern of Guacharo, in South America (Exeter, 1836, Englisch)
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)
Der Guacharo (Bad Langensalza, 1852, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Mainz, 1854, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Stuttgart, 1856, Deutsch)
Die Höhle von Guacharo (Leipzig, 1858, Deutsch)

THE GREAT CAVERN OF GUACHARO in south america. *

The Cueva del Guacharo is pierced in the verticalprofile of a rock. The entrance is toward thesouth, and forms a vault eighty feet broad, andseventy-two feet high. The rock, that surmountsthe grotto, is covered with trees of gigantic height.The mammee-tree, and the genipa with largeand shining leaves, raise their branches verticallytoward the sky; while those of the courbaril andthe erythrina form, as they extend themselves, athick vault of verdure. Plants of the family ofPothos with succulent stems, oxalises, and orchideæof a singular structure, rise in the driest clefts ofthe rocks; while creeping plants, waving in thewinds, are interwoven in festoons before the open-
* Abridged from the interesting Narrative of Humbolt, vol. iii.
|66|ing of the cavern. We distinguished in thesefestoons a bignonia of a violet blue, the purpledolichos, and for the first time that magnificent olandra, the orange flower of which has a fleshytube more than four inches long. The entrancesof grottoes, like the view of cascades, derive theirprincipal charm from the situation, more or lessmajestic, in which they are placed, and which insome sort determines the character of the land-scape. What a contrast between the Cueva ofCaripe, and those caverns of the North crownedwith oaks and gloomy larch trees!
But this luxury of vegetation embellishes notonly the outside of the vaults, it appears even inthe vestibule of the grotto. We saw with astonish-ment plaintain-leaved heliconias eighteen feet high,the praga palm-tree, and arborescent arums, followthe banks of the river even to these subterraneanplaces. The vegetation continues in the cave ofCaripe, as in those deep crevices of the Andes, halfexcluded from the light of day; and does notdisappear, till, advancing in the interior, we reachthirty or forty paces from the entrance. Wemeasured the way by means of a cord; and wewent on about four hundred and thirty feet, withoutbeing obliged to light our torches. |67| Daylight penetrates into this region, becausethe grotto forms but one channel, which keeps thesame direction from south-east to north-west.Where the light begins to fail, we heard from afarthe hoarse sounds of the nocturnal birds, soundswhich the natives think belong exclusively to thosesubterraneous places. The guacharo is the size ofour fowls, has the mouth of the goatsuckers andprocnias, and the port of those vultures, the crookedbeak of which is surrounded with stiff silky hairs.It is difficult to form an idea of the horrible noiseoccasioned by thousands of these birds in the darkpart of the cavern, and which can only be comparedto the croaking of our crows, which, in the pineforests of the north, live in society, and constructtheir nests upon trees, the tops of which touch eachother. The shrill and piercing cries of the gua-charos strike upon the vaults of the rocks, andare repeated by the echo in the depth of thecavern. The Indians shewed us the nests of thesebirds, by fixing torches to the end of a long pole.These nests were fifty or sixty feet high above ourheads, in holes in the shape of funnels, with whichthe roof of the grotto is pierced like a sieve. Thenoise increased as we advanced, and the birds wereaffrighted by the light of the torches of copal. |68|When this noise ceased around us, we heard at adistance the plaintive cries of the birds roosting inother ramifications of the cavern. The Indians enter into the Cueva del Guacharoonce a-year, near midsummer, armed with poles,by means of which they destroy the greater part ofthe nests. At this season several thousands of birdsare killed; and the old ones to defend their brood,hover around the heads of the savage Indians,uttering terrible cries, which would appal any heartbut that of man in an untutored state. We followed, as we continued our progressthrough the cavern, the bank of the small riverwhich issued from it, and is from twenty-eight tothirty feet wide. We walked on the banks, as faras the hills formed of calcareous incrustations per-mitted us. Where the torrent winds among veryhigh masses of stalactites, we were often obliged todescend into its bed, which is only two feet indepth. We learnt, with surprise, that this subterrane-ous rivulet is the origin of the river Caripe, which,at a few leagues distance, after having joined thesmaller river of Santa Maria, is navigable forcanoes. It enters into the river Areo under thename of Canno de Terezen. We found on thebanks of the subterraneous rivulet a great quantity |69|of palm-tree wood, the remains of trunks, on whichthe Indians climb to reach the nests hanging to theroofs of the cavern. The rings formed by thevestiges of the old foot-stalks of the leaves, furnishedas it were the footsteps of a ladder perpendicularlyplaced. The Grotto of Caripe preserves the same direc-tion, the same breadth, and its primitive height ofsixty or seventy feet, to the distance of 1,458 feet,accurately measured. I have never seen a cavernin either continent, of so uniform and regular a con-struction. We had great difficulty in persuadingthe Indians to pass beyond the outer part of thegrotto, the only part which they annually visit tocollect the fat. The whole authority of los padres was necessary, to induce them to proceed as far asthe spot where the soil rises abruptly at an inclina-tion of sixty degrees, and where the torrent forms asmall subterraneous cascade. The natives connectmystic ideas with this cave, inhabited with noctur-nal birds; they believe, that the souls of their an-cestors sojourn in the deep recesses of the cavern.“Man,” say they, “should avoid places which areenlightened neither by the Sun nor by the Moon.” At the point where the river forms the subter-raneous cascade, a hill covered with vegetation, |70|which is opposite the opening of the grotto, pre-sents itself in a very picturesque manner. It ap-pears at the extremity of a straight passage, 240toises in length. The stalactites, which descendfrom the vault, and which resemble columns sus-pended in the air, display themselves on a back-ground of verdure. The opening of this cavernappeared singularly contracted, when we saw itabout the middle of the day, illumined by thevivid light reflected at once from the sky, theplants, and the rocks. The distant light of dayformed somewhat of magical contrast with thedarkness that surrounded us in those vast caverns.We climbed, not without some difficulty, the smallhill, whence the subterraneous rivulet descends.We saw that the grotto was perceptibly contracted,retaining only forty feet in height; and that itcontinued stretching to the north-east, withoutdeviating from its primitive direction, which isparallel to that of the great valley of Caripe. The missionaries, with all their authority, couldnot induce the Indians to penetrate farther into thecavern. As the vaults grow lower, the cries of theguacharoes become more shrill. We were obligedto yield to the pusillanimity of our guides, and re-trace our steps. We followed the course of the |71|torrent to go out of the cavern. Before our eyeswere dazzled with the light of day, we saw, outsidethe grotto, the water of the river sparkling amidthe foliage of the trees that concealed it. Havingat length reached the entrance, and seated our-selves on the bank of the rivulet, we rested afterour fatigues. We were glad to be beyond thehoarse cries of the birds, and to leave a place wheredarkness does not offer even the charm of silenceand tranquillity.