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Alexander von Humboldt: „Baron Humboldt’s Last Volume. Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. Vol. 4. London, 1819“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 02.10.2023].

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Titel Baron Humboldt’s Last Volume. Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. Vol. 4. London, 1819
Jahr 1819
Ort New York City, New York
in: The Belles-Lettres Repository, and Monthly Magazine 1:2 (15. Mai 1819), S. 65–74.
Entsprechungen in Buchwerken
Alexander von Humboldt, Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinocitial Regions of the New Continent, during the Years 1799–1804, Bd. 4, übersetzt von Helen Maria Williams, London 1819, ab S. 1.

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 2, S. 1–12.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken und Kreuzen; Schmuck: Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: III.62
Dateiname: 1819-Baron_Humboldts_Personal_Heft1-01-neu
Seitenanzahl: 10
Spaltenanzahl: 18
Zeichenanzahl: 32059

Weitere Fassungen
Baron Humboldt’s Last Volume. Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent. Vol. 4. London, 1819 (New York City, New York, 1819, Englisch)
The gymnotus, or electrical eel (New York City, New York, 1819, Englisch)
Humboldt’s Travels (London, 1819, Englisch)
Electrical eels (Cambridge, 1819, Englisch)
[Earthquake at Caraccas] (Cambridge, 1819, Englisch)
Account of the Earthquake which destroyed the Town of Caraccas on the 26th March 1812 (Edinburgh, 1819, Englisch)
Account of the earthquake that destroyed the town of Caraccas on the twenty-sixth march, 1812 (Liverpool, 1819, Englisch)
Sur les Gymnotes et autres poissons électriques (Paris, 1819, Französisch)
An Account of the Earthquake in South America, on the 26th March, 1812 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1820, Englisch)
[Earthquake at Caraccas] (Hartford, Connecticut, 1820, Englisch)
Account of the Elecrical Eels, and of the Method of catching them in South America by means of Wild Horses (Edinburgh, 1820, Englisch)
Observations respecting the Gymnotes, and other Electric Fish (London, 1820, Englisch)
[Earthquake at Caraccas] (Hallowell, Maine, 1820, Englisch)
Earthquake in the Caraccas (London, 1820, Englisch)
Sur les Gymnotes et autres poissons électriques (Paris, 1820, Französisch)
[Earthquake at Caraccas] (Hartford, Connecticut, 1821, Englisch)
Earthquake at Caraccas (London, 1822, Englisch)
Earthquake at the Caraccas (Shrewsbury, 1823, Englisch)
Electrical eel (Hartford, Connecticut, 1826, Englisch)
Baron Humboldt’s observation on the gymnotus, or electrical eel (London, 1833, Englisch)
The gymnotus, or electric eel (London, 1834, Englisch)
Earthquake at Caraccas in 1812 (Hartford, Connecticut, 1835, Englisch)
Earthquake at Caraccas (London, 1837, Englisch)
Electrical eels (London, 1837, Englisch)
Female presence of mind (London, 1837, Englisch)
An earthquake in the Caraccas (London, 1837, Englisch)
An Earthquake (Leipzig; Hamburg; Itzehoe, 1838, Englisch)
Das Erdbeben von Caraccas (Leipzig, 1843, Deutsch)
The Gymnotus, or Electrical Eel (Buffalo, New York, 1849, Englisch)
Anecdote of a Crocodile (Boston, Massachusetts; New York City, New York, 1853, Englisch)
Battle with electric eels (Goldsboro, North Carolina, 1853, Englisch)
Anecdotes of crocodiles (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1853, Englisch)
Das Erdbeben von Caracas (Leipzig, 1858, Deutsch)

BARON HUMBOLDT’S LAST VOLUME. Personal Narrative of Travels to theEquinoctial Regions of the NewContinent. Vol. 4. London, 1819.

For ten years past, Baron Hum-boldt has been engaged in publishing,in detached parts, his learned andinteresting observations and discove-ries in the interior regions of South-America, and New-Mexico. In Europe his various works havebeen eagerly sought after, and thelearned and curious inquirers ofFrance, England, and Germany, havecomplimented this celebrated tra-veller with the highest eulogiums.The calculating, and to us, thetedious manner in which the Baroncontinues to yield to the eager curi-osity of the world his scientific re-searches, and his adventures, mayhave the effect of continually re-freshing our memory with the recol-lection of his former works, andkeeping alive the interest derivedfrom his new and successive pub-lications; but, the lapse of twentyyears that has occurred since histravels in those regions, and thedreadful revolutions that have since |66| |Spaltenumbruch| convulsed, and are still continuing toravage those devoted regions, arediverting our minds to the interestthat would be excited by more re-cent description. Of the formervolumes of this narrative, two onlyhave been printed in this country,and the remainder, we presume, willnot be republished until the termi-nation of the series can be disco-vered, as it can hardly be expectedthat any bookseller will ventureagain to begin a work of such indefi-nite extent. Taking his departure from Ca-raccas, he describes the mountainousregions of San Pedro, and of LosTeques, La Victoria, the Valleys ofAragua, the Lake of Tacarigua, theHot Springs of Mariara; then descendstoward the coasts of Porto Cabello;describes the mountains that sepa-rate the valleys of Aragua from theLlanos of Caraccas, Villa de Cura,Parapara, the great Llanos, or Plains,Calabozo, San Fernando De Apure;descends the river Apure to its con-fluence with the great Oroonoko;and ascends the Oroonoko beyondthe mountains of Encuramada, Uru-ana, Baraguam, the mouth of theMeta, and above the Cataracts ofthe Oroonoko, where the volumeabruptly terminates. The closingpart of this interesting voyage willundoubtedly be in due time laid be-fore the public, who can only awaitwith exemplary patience the timethat may suit the learned travellerto publish the remainder, or theconclusion of his observations. Inthe mean time, we propose to pre-sent our readers with such portionsof his recently published and mostinteresting volume, as we may findsuitable to our pages. We left Caraccas on the 7th of Fe-bruary, in the cool of the evening,and began our journey to the Oroo-noko. The remembrance of that de-parture is more painful to us nowthan it was some years ago. Our |Spaltenumbruch| friends have perished in the sangui-nary revolutions, which have succes-sively given liberty to those distantregions, and deprived them of it.The house which we inhabited isnow a heap of ruins. Tremendousearthquakes have changed the sur-face of the soil. The city, which Ihave described, has disappeared;and on the same spot, on the groundfissured in various directions, anothercity is slowly rising. Already thoseheaps of ruins, the grave of a nu-merous population, are become anewthe habitation of men. In retracing changes of so generalan interest, I shall be led to noticeevents that took place long after myreturn to Europe. I shall pass overin silence the popular commotions,and the modifications which thestate of society has undergone. Mo-dern nations, careful of their ownremembrance, snatch from oblivionthe history of human revolutions,which is that of ardent passions, andinveterate hatred. It is not the samewith respect to the revolutions ofthe physical world. These are de-scribed with the least accuracy whenthey happen to coincide with the pe-riod of civil dissentions. Earth-quakes, and the eruptions of volca-noes, strike the imagination by theevils which are their necessary con-sequence. Tradition seizes in pre-ference whatever is vague and mar-vellous; and amid great public ca-lamities, as in private misfortunes,man seems to shun that light whichleads us to discover the real causesof events, and recognise the circum-stances by which they are attended.I have thought proper to record inthis work all I have been able tocollect, with certainty, respectingthe earthquake of the 26th of March,1812, which destroyed the town ofCaraccas; and by which more thantwenty thousand persons perished,almost at the same instant, in theprovince of Venezuela. The inter-course which I have kept up with |67| |Spaltenumbruch| persons of all classes has enabledme to compare the description ofmany eye-witnesses, and to interro-gate them on objects that may throwlight on physical science in general.The traveller, being the historian ofnature, should authenticate the datesof great catastrophes, examine theirconnection and mutual relations, andmark, in the rapid course of ages,in this continual progress of succes-sive changes, those fixed points withwhich other catastrophes may oneday be compared. All epochas ap-proach each other in the immensityof time comprehended in the historyof nature. Years passed away seembut a few instants; and if the physi-cal descriptions of a country do notexcite a very powerful and generalinterest, they have, at least, the ad-vantage of never becoming old. Si-milar considerations, no doubt, ledMr. De la Condamine to describe, inhis Voyage à l’Equateur, the memo-rable eruptions* of the volcano ofCotopaxi, which took place long af-ter his departure from Quito. Fol-lowing the example of this celebra-ted traveller, I think I shall the lessdeserve blame, as the events which Iam going to relate will serve to elu-cidate the theory of volcanic reac-tions, or the influence of a system ofvolcanoes on a vast space of circum-jacent country. At the time that Mr. Bonpland andmyself inhabited the provinces ofNew Andalusia, Nueva Barcelona,and Caraccas, a general opinion pre-vailed, that the easternmost parts ofthese coasts were the most exposedto the destructive effects of earth-quakes. The inhabitants of Cumanadreaded the valley of Caraccas, onaccount of its damp and variable cli-mate, and its gloomy and foggy sky;while the inhabitants of that tem-perate valley considered Cumana as |Spaltenumbruch| a town where only a burning air wasbreathed, and where the soil is pe-riodically agitated by violent com-motions. Forgetful of the overthrowof Riobamba, and other very eleva-ted towns; ignorant that the penin-sula of Araya, composed of mica-slate, has partaken of the commo-tions of the calcareous coast ofCumana; well-informed personsthought they perceived motives ofsecurity in the structure of the pri-mitive rocks of Caraccas, as well asin the elevated situation of this val-ley. Religious ceremonies celebra-ted at La Guayra, and even in thecapital, in the middle of the night,* recalled, no doubt, to their memory,that the province of Venezuela hadbeen subject, at intervals, to earth-quakes; but dangers that seldom re-cur, are slightly feared. Cruel ex-perience destroyed, in 1811, thecharm of theory, and of popularopinions. Caraccas, situate in themountains, three degrees west ofCumana, and five degrees west ofthe volcanoes of the Caribbee islands,has felt greater shocks than wereever experienced on the coast of Pa-ria or New Andalusia. At my arrival in Terra Firma, Iwas struck with the connection oftwo physical events, the destructionof Cumana on the 14th of Decem-ber, 1797, and the eruption of thevolcanoes in the smaller West Indiaislands. This connection has beenagain manifested in the destructionof Caraccas on the 26th of March,1812. The volcano of Guadaloupeseemed to have reacted, in 1797, onthe coasts of Cumana. Fifteen yearsafter, it was a volcano situate nearerthe continent, that of St. Vincent’s,which appeared to have extended it’sinfluence as far as Caraccas and the
* Those of the 30th of November, 1744, andof the 3d of September, 1750. (Introd. Hist. p. 156 and 160.)* For instance, the nocturnal procession ofthe 21st of October, instituted in commemora-tion of the great earthquake which took placeon that day of the month, at one in the morn-ing, in 1778. Other very violent shocks werethose of 1641, 1703, and 1802. See vol, ii. p. 231.
|68| |Spaltenumbruch| banks of the Apure. It is possiblethat, at these two epochas, the cen-tre of the explosion was at an im-mense depth, equally distant fromthe regions toward which the motionwas propagated at the surface of theglobe.
From the beginning of 1811 till1813, a vast extent of the earth,* limited by the meridian of the Azores,the valley of the Ohio, the Cordil-leras of New Grenada, the coasts ofVenezuela, and the volcanoes of thesmaller West India islands, has beenshaken almost at the same time bycommotions; which may be attribu-ted to subterraneous fires. The fol-lowing series of phenomena seemsto indicate communications at enor-mous distances. On the 30th of Ja-nuary, 1811, a submarine volcanoappeared near the island of St. Mi-chael, one of the Azores. At aplace where the sea was sixty fa-thoms deep, a rock appeared abovethe surface of the waters. Theheaving up of the softened crust ofthe globe appears to have precededthe eruption of flames by the crater, as had already been observed at thevolcanoes of Jorullo in Mexico, andat the apparition of the little islandof Kameni near Santorino. Thenew islet of the Azores was at firstnothing more than a shoal; but onthe 15th of January an eruption,which lasted six days, enlarged itsextent, and carried it progressivelyto the height of fifty toises above thesurface of the sea. This new land,of which Captain Tillard hastenedto take possession in the name of theBritish government, calling it Sabrinaisland, was nine hundred toises indiameter. It has again, it seems,been swallowed up by the ocean.This is the third time that submarinevolcanoes have presented this ex-traordinary spectacle near the island |Spaltenumbruch| of St. Michael; and, as if the erup-tions of these volcanoes were sub-ject to a regular period, owing to acertain accumulation of elastic fluids,the island raised up has appeared atintervals of ninety-one or ninety-two years.* It is to be regrettedthat, notwithstanding the proximityof the spot, no European govern-ment, or learned society, has sentnatural philosophers and geologiststo the Azores, to investigate a phe-nomenon which would throw so muchlight on the history of volcanoes,and on that of the globe in general. At the time of the appearance ofthe new island of Sabrina, the small-er West India islands, situate eighthundred leagues to the south-westof the Azores, experienced frequentearthquakes. More than two hun-dred shocks were felt from the monthof May, 1811, to April, 1812, in theisland of St. Vincent; one of thethree where there are still activevolcanoes. The commotion did notremain circumscribed to that insularportion of Eastern America. Fromthe 16th of December, 1811, theearth was almost incessantly agitatedin the valleys of the Mississippi, theArkansas, and the Ohio. The oscil-lations were more feeble on the eastof the Alleghanies than to the westof these mountains, in Tennesseeand Kentucky. They were accom-panied by a great subterraneousnoise, coming from the south-west.At the spots between New Madridand Little Prairie, as at the Saline,north of Cincinnati, in latitude 37°45′, the shocks were felt every day,nay, almost every hour, during seve-ral months. The whole of thesephenomena lasted from the 16th of
* Between the latitudes of 5° and 36° North,and the meridians of 31° and 91° West fromParis. See vol. i. p. 240.* Malte Brun, Geogra. Univ. vol. iii. p. 177—180 There remains, however, some doubt re-specting the eruption of 1628, which some placein 1638. The rising always happened near theisland of St. Michael, though not identically onthe same spot. It is remarkable that the smallisland of 1720 reached the same elevation asthe island of Sabrina in 1811. See above, vol. ichap. i. p. 95.
|69| |Spaltenumbruch| December, 1811, till the year 1813.The commotion, confined at first tothe south, in the valley of the lowerMississippi, appeared to advanceslowly toward the north.*
At the same period, when this longseries of earthquakes began in the Transalleghanian States, in the monthof December, 1811, the town ofCaraccas felt the first shock in calmand serene weather. This coinci-dence of phenomena was probablynot accidental; for we must not for-get that, notwithstanding the distancewhich separates these countries, thelow grounds of Louisiana, and thecoasts of Venezuela and Cumana,belong to the same basin, that of theGulf of Mexico. This Mediterra-nean sea, with several outlets, runsfrom the south-east to the north-west; and an ancient prolongationof it seems to be found in those vastplains, rising gradually thirty, fifty,and eighty toises above the level ofthe ocean, covered with secondaryformations, and watered by the Ohio,the Missouri, the Arkansas, and theMississippi. When we consider ge-ologically the basin of the Caribbeansea, and of the Gulf of Mexico, wefind it bounded on the south by thechain of the coast of Venezuela andthe Cordilleras of Merida and Pam-plona; on the east by the mountainsof the West India islands, and theAlleghanies; on the west by theAndes of Mexico, and the StonyMountains; and on the north byvery inconsiderable elevations whichseparate the Canadian lakes from therivers that flow into the Mississippi. |Spaltenumbruch| More than two-thirds of this basinare covered with water. It is bor-dered by two ranges of active volca-noes; to the east, in the Caribbeeislands, between the latitudes of 13°and 16°; and to the west in the Cor-dilleras of Nicaragua, Guatimala, andMexico, between 11° and 20°.When we reflect that the great earth-quake at Lisbon, of the 1st of No-vember, 1755, was felt almost at thesame moment on the coasts of Swe-den, at lake Ontario, and at the islandof Martinico, it will not appear toodaring to suppose, that all this basinof the West Indies, from Cumanaand Caraccas as far as the plains ofLouisiana, may be simultaneouslyagitated by commotions proceedingfrom the same centre of action. An opinion very generally pre-vails on the coasts of Terra Firma,that earthquakes become more fre-quent when electric explosions havebeen very rare during some years.It is thought to have been observed,at Cumana and Caraccas, that therains were less frequently attendedwith thunder from the year 1792; andthe total destruction of Cumana in1797, and the commotions felt* in1800, 1801, and 1802, at Maracaibo,Porto Cabello, and Caraccas, havenot failed to be attributed to “anaccumulation of electricity in the in-terior of the earth.” It would bedifficult for a person who has liveda long time in New Andalusia, or inthe low regions of Peru, to denythat the season the most to be dread-ed, from the frequency of earth-quakes, is that of the beginning of
Cincinnati, p. 91.) and other geographers ofthe United States, begin to substitute for thereceived denomination of Stony Mountains; butnations almost of the same name, very distantfrom each other, and speaking different langua-ges, the Chippeways of the sources of the Mis-sissippi, and the Chepewyans of the SlaveLake, described by Pike and Mackenzie, mayoccasion those mountains to the south andsouth-west of the great Canadian lakes, whichlie east and west, to be confounded withthe Stony Mountains, which run north andsouth.* See the interesting description of theseearthquakes, given by Mr. Mitchill, in the Trans. of the Liter. and Phil. Soc. of NewYork, vol. i. p. 281—308; and by Mr. Drake,in the Nat. and Stat. View of Cincinnati, p.232—238. Cincinnati, situated on the Ohio, in latitude39° 6 min has only eighty-five toises absoluteelevation. It is with regret I use this vague and im-proper denomination, which is given to thenorthern prolongation of the mountains of NewMexico. I should prefer the name of Chippe-wan Range, which Mr. Drake (Stat. View of* Depons, vol. i. p. 125.
|70| |Spaltenumbruch| the rains, which is, however, thetime of thunder storms. The at-mosphere, and the slate of the sur-face of the globe, seem to have aninfluence unknown to us on thechanges produced at great depths;and I believe, that the connectionwhich some persons pretend to re-cognise between the absence ofthunder storms and the frequency ofearthquakes, is rather a physical hy-pothesis, framed by the half-learnedof the country, than the result oflong experience. The coincidenceof certain phenomena may be fa-voured by chance. The extraor-dinary commotions felt almost con-tinually during two years on the bor-ders of the Mississippi and the Ohio,and which coincided in 1812 withthose of the valley of Caraccas, werepreceded at Louisiana by a year al-most exempt from thunder storms.* Every mind was again struck withthis phenomenon. We cannot deemit strange that in the country ofFranklin a great predilection is re-tained for explanations founded onthe theory of electricity.
The shock felt at Caraccas in themonth of December, 1811, was theonly one that preceded the horriblecatastrophe of the 26th of March,1812. The inhabitants of TerraFirma were ignorant of the agita-tions of the volcano in the island ofSt. Vincent on one side, and on theother, of those that were felt in thebasin of the Mississippi, where, onthe 7th and 8th of February, 1812,the earth was day and night in per-petual oscillation. A great droughtprevailed at this period in the pro-vince of Venezuela. Not a singledrop of rain had fallen at Caraccas,or in the country ninety leaguesround, during the five months whichpreceded the destruction of the ca-pital. The 26th of March was a re-markably hot day. The air was |Spaltenumbruch| calm, and the sky unclouded. It wasHoly Thursday, and a great part ofthe population was assembled in thechurches. Nothing seemed to pre-sage the calamities of the day. Atseven minutes after four in the after-noon the first shock was felt; it wassufficiently powerful to make thebells of the churches toll; it lastedfive or six seconds, during which timethe ground was in a continual undu-lating movement, and seemed toheave up like a boiling liquid. Thedanger was thought to be past, whena tremendous subterraneous noisewas heard, resembling the rolling ofthunder, but louder, and of longercontinuance, than that heard withinthe tropics in time of storms. Thisnoise preceded a perpendicular mo-tion of three or four seconds, follow-ed by an undulatory movement some-what longer. The shocks were inopposite directions, from north tosouth, and from east to west. No-thing could resist the movementfrom beneath upward, and undula-tions crossing each other. Thetown of Caraccas was entirely over-thrown. Thousands of the inhabi-tants (between nine and ten thou-sand) were buried under the ruinsof the houses and churches. Theprocession had not yet set out; butthe crowd was so great in thechurches, that nearly three or fourthousand persons were crushed bythe fall of their vaulted roofs. Theexplosion was stronger toward thenorth, in that part of the town situ-ate nearest the mountain of Avila,and the Silla. The churches of LaTrinidad and Alta Gracia, whichwere more than one hundred andfifty feet high, and the naves of whichwere supported by pillars of twelveor fifteen feet diameter, left a massof ruins scarcely exceeding five orsix feet in elevation. The sinkingof the ruins has been so considera-ble that there now scarcely remainany vestiges of pillars or columns.The barracks, called El Quartel de
* Trans. of New York, vol. i. p. 285; Drake, p. 210.
|71| |Spaltenumbruch| San Carlos, situate farther north ofthe church of the Trinity, on theroad from the custom-house de laPastora, almost entirely disappeared.A regiment of troops of the line,that was assembled under arms, readyto join the procession, was, with theexception of a few men, buried un-der the ruins of this great edifice.Nine tenths of the fine town of Ca-raccas were entirely destroyed. Thewalls of the houses that were notthrown down, as those of the streetSan Juan, near the Capuchin Hospi-tal, were cracked in such a mannerthat it was impossible to run the riskof inhabiting them. The effects ofthe earthquake were somewhat lessviolent in the western and southernparts of the city, between the prin-cipal square and the ravine of Cara-quata. There, the cathedral, sup-ported by enormous buttresses, re-mains standing.*
Estimating at nine or ten thousandthe number of the dead in the cityof Caraccas, we do not include thoseunhappy persons who, dangerouslywounded, perished several monthsafter, for want of food and propercare. The night of Holy Thursdaypresented the most distressing sceneof desolation and sorrow. Thatthick cloud of dust which, risingabove the ruins, darkened the skylike a fog, had settled on the ground.No shock was felt, and never was anight more calm or more serene.The Moon, nearly full, illumined therounded domes of the Silla, and theaspect of the sky formed a perfectcontrast to that of the earth, coveredwith the dead, and heaped with ruins.Mothers were seen bearing in theirarms their children, whom theyhoped to recall to life. Desolate fa-milies wandered through the city,seeking a brother, a husband, a friend,of whose fate they were ignorant,and whom they believed to be lost |Spaltenumbruch| in the crowd. The people pressedalong the streets, which could nomore be recognized but by long linesof ruins. All the calamities experienced inthe great catastrophes of Lisbon,Messina, Lima, and Riobamba, wererenewed on the fatal day of the 26thof March, 1812. “The wounded,buried under the ruins, implored, bytheir cries, the help of the passersby, and nearly two thousand weredug out. Never was pity displayedin a more affecting manner; neverhad it been seen more ingeniouslyactive than in the efforts employed tosave the miserable victims whosegroans reached the ear. Imple-ments for digging, and clearing awaythe ruins, were entirely wanting;and the people were obliged to usetheir bare hands to disinter the liv-ing. The wounded, as well as thesick who had escaped from the hos-pitals, were laid on the banks of thesmall river Guayra. They found noshelter but the foliage of trees.Beds, linen to dress the wounds, in-struments of surgery, medicines, andobjects of the most urgent necessity,were buried under the ruins. Everything, even food, was wanting duringthe first days. Water became alikescarce in the interior of the city.The commotion had rent the pipesof the fountains; the falling in of theearth had choaked up the springsthat supplied them; and it becamenecessary, in order to have water, togo down to the river Guayra, whichwas considerably swelled; and thenvessels to convey the water werewanting. There remained a duty to befulfilled toward the dead, enjoinedat once by piety, and the dread ofinfection. It being impossible tointer so many thousand corpses,half buried under the ruins, com-missaries were appointed to burnthe bodies: and for this purposefuneral piles were erected betweenthe heaps of ruins. This ceremony
* Sur le Tremblement de Terre de Venezu-ela, en 1812, par M. Delpeche. MS.
|72| |Spaltenumbruch| lasted several days. Amid so manypublic calamities, the people devo-ted themselves to those religiousduties, which they thought were themost fitted to appease the wrath ofHeaven. Some, assembling in pro-cessions, sung funeral hymns;others, in a state of distraction, con-fessed themselves aloud in thestreets. In this town was now re-peated what had been remarked inthe province of Quito, after thetremendous earthquake of 1797: anumber of marriages were con-tracted between persons, who hadneglected for many years to sanctiontheir union by the sacerdotal bene-diction. Children found parents, bywhom they had never till then beenacknowledged; restitutions werepromised by persons, who had ne-ver been accused of fraud; and fa-milies, who had long been enemies,were drawn together by the tie ofcommon calamity. If this feelingseemed to calm the passions of some,and open the heart to pity, it had acontrary effect on others, renderingthem more rigid and inhuman. Ingreat calamities vulgar minds pre-serve still less goodness than strength:misfortune acts in the same manner,as the pursuits of literature and thestudy of nature; their happy influ-ence is felt only by a few, givingmore ardour to sentiment, more ele-vation to the thoughts, and more be-nevolence to the disposition.
Shocks as violent as those,which in the space of one minute* overthrew the city of Caraccas,could not be confined to a small por-tion of the continent. Their fataleffects extended as far as the pro-vinces of Venezuela, Varinas, andMaracaybo, along the coast; andstill more to the inland mountains. |Spaltenumbruch| La Guayra, Mayquetia, Antimano,Baruta, La Vega, San Felipe, andMerida, were almost entirely de-stroyed. The number of the deadexceeded four or five thousand atLa Guayra, and at the town of SanFelipe, near the copper mines ofAroa. It appears, that it was on aline running East-North-East, andWest-South-West, from La Guayraand Caraccas to the lofty mountainsof Niquitao and Merida, that theviolence of the earthquake wasprincipally directed. It was felt inthe kingdom of New Grenada fromthe branches of the high Sierra deSanta Martha* as far as Santa Fe deBogota and Honda, on the banks ofthe Magdalena, one hundred andeighty leagues from Caraccas. Itwas every where more violent inthe Cordilleras of gneiss and mica-slate, or immediately at their foot,than in the plains, and this differ-ence was particularly striking inthe savannahs of Varinas and Cassa-nara. (This is easily explained ac-cording to the system of those geo-logists, who admit, that all the chainsof mountains, volcanic and not volca-nic, have been formed by beingraised up, as if through crevices.)In the valleys of Aragua, situate be-tween Caraccas and the town of SanFelipe, the commotions were veryweak: and La Victoria, Maracay,and Valencia, scarcely suffered atall, notwithstanding their proximityto the capital. At Valecillo, a fewleagues from Valencia, the earth,opening, threw out such an immensequantity of water, that it formed anew torrent. The same phenome-non took place near Porto-Cabello. On the other hand, the lake of Ma-racaybo diminished sensibly. AtCoro no commotion was felt, though
* The duration of the earthquake, that is tosay, the whole of the movements of undulationand rising (undulacion y trepidacion,) whichoccasioned the horrible catastrophe of the 26thof March, 1812, was estimated by some at 50″,by others at 1′ 12″* As far as Villa de Los Remedios, and evento Carthagena. It is asserted, that in the mountains of Aros,the ground, immediately after the great shocks,was found covered with a very fine and whiteearth, which appeared to have been projectedthrough crevices.
|73| |Spaltenumbruch| the town is situate upon the coast,between other towns which sufferedfrom the earthquake.”* Fishermen,who had passed the day of the 26thof March in the island of Orchila,thirty leagues North-East of LaGuayra, felt no shock. These dif-ferences, in the direction and pro-pagation of the shock, are probablyowing to the peculiar arrangementof the stony strata.
Having thus traced the effects ofthe earthquake to the West of Ca-raccas, as far as the snowy moun-tains of Santa Marta, and the tableland of Santa Fe de Bogota, we willproceed to consider their action onthe country East of the capital.The commotions were very violentbeyond Caurimare, in the valley ofCapaya, where they extended as faras the meridian of Cape Codera:but it is extremely remarkable, thatthey were very feeble on the coastsof Nueva-Barcelona, Cumana, andParia; though these coasts are thecontinuation of the shore of LaGuayra, and formerly known to havebeen often agitated by subterraneouscommotions. Admitting that thedestruction of the four towns of Ca-raccas, La Guayra, San Felipe, andMerida, may be attributed to a vol-canic focus placed under or nearthe island of St. Vincent, it may beconceived, that the motion mighthave been propagated from North-East to North-West in a line pass-ing through the islands of Los Her-manos, near Blanquilla, withouttouching the coasts of Araya, Cu-mana, and Nueva-Barcelona. Thispropagation of the shock might evenhave taken place, without the inter-mediate points at the surface of theglobe, the Hermanos Islands for in-stance, having felt any commotion.This phenomenon is frequently re-marked at Peru and Mexico, in |Spaltenumbruch| earthquakes which have followedduring ages a determinate direction.The inhabitants of the Andes saywith simplicity, speaking of an inter-mediary ground, which is not af-fected by the general motion, “thatit forms a bridge” (que hace puente:)as if they meant to indicate by thisexpression, that the undulations arepropagated at an immense depthunder an inert rock. Fifteen or eighteen hours afterthe great catastrophe, the groundremained tranquil. The night, aswe have already observed, was fineand calm; and the commotions didnot recommence till after the 27th.They were then attended with avery loud and long continued subter-ranean noise (bramido.) The in-habitants of Caraccas wandered intothe country; but the villages andfarms having suffered as much as thetown, they could find no shelter tillthey were beyond the mountains ofLos Teques, in the valleys of Ara-gua, and in the Llanos or Savannahs.No less than fifteen oscillations wereoften felt in one day. On the 5thof April there was almost as violentan earthquake as that which over-threw the capital. During severalhours the ground was in a state ofperpetual undulation. Large massesof earth fell in the mountains; andenormous rocks were detached fromthe Silla of Caraccas. It was evenasserted, and this opinion prevailsstill in the country, that the twodomes of the Silla sunk fifty or sixtytoises; but this assertion is foundedon no measurement whatever. Iam informed, that in the province ofQuito also, the people, at every pe-riod of great commotions, imaginethat the volcano of Tunguragua isdiminished in height.—It has beenaffirmed, in many descriptions pub-lished of the destruction of Caraccas,“that the mountain of the Silla isan extinguished volcano; that agreat quantity of volcanic substancesare found on the road from La
* Apuntamientos sobre las principales Cir-cunstancias del Terremoto de Caracas, porDon Manuel Palacio Fajardo. MS. Nearly in a line directed South, 64° west.
|74| |Spaltenumbruch| Guayra to Caraccas;* that the rocksdo not present any regular stratifica-tion; and that every thing bears thestamp of the action of fire.” It iseven added, “that, twelve years be-fore the great catastrophe, Mr. Bon-pland and myself, from our physical |Spaltenumbruch| and mineralogical researches, hadconsidered the Silla as a very dange-rous neighbour to the city, becausethat mountain contained a greatquantity of sulphur, and that thecommotions must come from theNorth-East.” It is seldom that na-tural philosophers have to justifythemselves for an accomplished pre-diction; but I think it my duty tocombat ideas that are too easilyadopted on the local causes of earth-quakes.

* See the account given by Mr. Drouet ofGuadaloupe, translated in the Trans. of NewYork, vol. i. p. 303 The author, in givingto the Silla nine hundred toises of absolute height, has confounded the height of the moun-tain, in my measurement, above the level of thesea, with its height above the valley of Cara-cas, which makes a difference of four hundredand sixty toises.