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Región de Atacama, Chile: Excursiones a la cordillera de los Andes

Excursion to the Cordillera in Atacama (Gilliss, 1851)

Minería en Atacama
W. Griem, 2017 - 2019
Ruinas en el sector Turbio, Atacama
Carta de Gillis Pta Diablo
Carta del sector Jorquera y Pulido en Atacama, Chile 

 Literature: Excursions in Atacama, Chile

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Pass COME CAVALLO. Text from Gilliss (1851) - J.M. Gilliss, visited during the U. S. astronomical expedition" in 1851; The Atacama Region, page. 7-9.
Text:

Paso COME CAVALLO (hoy Come Caballo):

Gilliss  at Atacama: DESCRIPTIVE GEOGRAPHY.

COME CAVALLO Pass.-Leaving the city of Copiapó, the road leads up the valley of the river of the same name as far as the confluence of the Jorquera, Pulido, and Manflas, which, from my determinations of the geographical position of Copiapó, and the bearings and distances thence of Prof. Domeyko, will be near latitude 27 º 56’ south, and longitude 69° 50’ west. The elevation of this confluence is somewhat less than 4,000 feet, and it is below this only that the river takes the name Copiapó. A more detailed notice of the valley, or rather ravine, as far as Punta del Diablo, about one half the distance to these rivers, will be found in the narrative of a journey to the mines of Chañarcillo. There it will be seen that only the geologist and mineralogist find objects of interest. Reflected heat from utterly barren rocks on both sides of a long narrow gorge; scarcely water to quench the thirst, after hours of travel over broken and stony paths; probably not one representative from all the animal kingdom to show that man is not the only creature tempted to visit scenes nature has so desolated-these are some of the characteristics not easily forgotten.  

As one ascends the valley towards the confluence of the rivers, the supply of water increases, and the soil permits occasional patches to be brought under cultivation through its aid; indeed, Potrero grande,” between the village of San Antonio and the junction, has become famous in this region for its fruits and vegetables. The mind ever seeks objects of comparison; and the few standards belonging to the vegetable kingdom nature has vouchsafed in many thousand square leagues of northern Chile, have doubtless their influence to enhance the charms and products of Potrero grande; so that, when the lover of verdure arrives there, worn out by days and weeks of travel amid sterility, as his vision may not have rested on a leaf or stalk in all that time, he hails the sight of fig-trees in full hearing as would the patient, long stricken by fever, a stream of cool and limpid water.   From the confluence of the rivers there are two paths towards the cordilleras-one by the Jorquera, the other by the Pulido. -That by the Jorquera is the longer, though it possesses attractions making it of sufficient interest for one to encounter the additional fatigue, viz: a ravine, whose strata contain an abundance of marine fossils, and, a little further up stream, the ruins of an Indian village, probably built when the Peruvians were masters of the country.

One house, at the southern end of the village, was much larger than the others, the fragments of its walls proving that it must have contained several rooms. Besides this, there are the walls of some thirty others, from 8 to 10 feet in diameter, and about 2 feet thick. There is no cement to any of them. As somewhat similar settlements are found at several places in the Andes, between Copiapo and San José, it is somewhat surprising that Indians should have chosen such inhospitable heights for their homes, whilst there was a more genial temperature and less aridity below.

The most numerous fossils are pectens, lying in calcareous strata, among layers of porphyry, breccia, and stratified porphyry. South of the Pulido, and on the same meridian as this, there is another deposite of marine fossils even more interesting, from the greater variety of shells exposed to sight, pectenites and terebratulae being very abundant.  

In the valley of the Pulido, at an elevation of 10,000 feet, there are ruins of another Indian village, called Pircas, now occupied only as a preventive station against contrabandists. Freshly fallen snow was found here early in March, and the warmly-clad guard were shivering over fires in a locality once occupied by half-naked Indians. Somewhat higher up, a depression in the mountains called “Portezuelo Pulido”* would indicate that here was the highway; but, in reality, the road leads northward into the valley of El Pan, on the river Jorquera, where the night is usually passed in a natural cavern of the red porphyritic breccia. This cave affords mountain travelers a commodious shelter from storms, and there, also, they lie by during the violence of noon-day winds, the guides invariably telling each one that, after 11 o’clock, it is often impossible to move; therefore they must start up the final ascent by early dawn, although the distance from the cave to the dividing line is only two hours.  

In this final stage of the journey, short as it is, one has full opportunity to examine the last lines of stratified formation, which, as they approximate the granites composing the most elevated ridge of the Andes, exhibit evidences of the violent revolutions and terrific shocks that they have experienced; as if the force which thrust these enormous granite masses from the bosom of, the earth, had actually concentrated its energy for the very crest of the mountains. Among the rocks which enter into the composition of this up-borne formation, the breccias and brecciated porphyries predominate. Their surfaces are at times black as coal, at others of a deep crimson, again of an ashy-gray, and not unfrequently are striped in lines of every imaginable shade.

Though there are places where the inclination is in a contrary direction, the general dip is to the west. However, such are the characters of the rocks, there is so great a variety and so many modifications of species, that one must acknowledge nature has brought together, at this last pinnacle of the system, a specimen from almost every class composing the secondary formation of the western slope of the Andes. At this immediate point, the summit is composed of a rounded mass, entirely without vegetation, covered with feldspathic and quartzose detritus, forming gentle slopes marked by moderate ravines. Though snow was seen on the south sides of cones somewhat higher than the portezuelo, and even in the deep ravines much lower down, none was found in the pass 14,522 feet above the sea in the latter days of March.  

There is a striking contrast in the configuration and colors of the two sides of the Andes, as seen from the summit here. To the west there is a complete reversal of the primary formation escarpments overturned, stratifications distorted and interrupted, and, indeed, no two mountains of the same constituents, form, or shade. On the other hand, eastward we see gentle declivities, with beds of nearly horizontal and rarely interrupted rocks, whose extremities form lines almost parallel with the horizon; few tints, vegetable or mineral, to shade the picture, and only a small number of conical and isolated summits, distant from the line of the crest, by which the monotony is partially relieved. There is a conical peak to the northward, some eight or ten leagues, which is apparently much higher, and the guides say that it is perpetually covered with snow; but those in the immediate vicinity of the pass do not rise more than 300 or 400 feet above it. All beyond is terra incognita, except to the professional mine hunter or smuggler.  


*Portezuelo is a depression in chains of bills or mountains, always selected for roads passing from one side to the other.

 

Los textos originales fueron digitalizados, transformados a ASCII redactados  por Dr. Wolfgang Griem.
Mapa de Gilliss 1851

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Sector donde GILLISS se refiere en su texto

 

Literature:
● U. S Naval Astronomical Expedición
; The southern hemisfere , The Years 1849-50-51-52: Liut. J. M. Gilliss (p. 258-259)  Bibliografía (Colección W. Griem)

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Published: 1.10.2017, Updated: 1.10.2017, 14.7.2018
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