Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (I)

Text:

“This archipelago consists of ten principle islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Ecuator, and between five and six hunderd miles westward of the coast of America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the heat can heardly be considered as an exception. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands are of immense size, and they rise to a height of between threee and four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm that there must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters.

These consist either of lava or scoriae or of finely stratified, sandstone-like tuff. Most of the latter are beautifully symmetrical; they owe their origin to eruptions of volcanic mud without any lava: it is a remarkable circumstance that every one of the twentyeight tuff craters which were examined had their southern sides either much lower than the other sides or quite broken down and removed.

As all these craters apparently have been formed when standing in the sea, and as the waves from the trade-wind and the swell from the open Pacific here unite their forces on the southern coasts of all the islands, this singular uniformity in the broken state of the craters, composed of the soft and yielding tuff, is easily explained.

Considering that these islands are placed directly under the ecuator, the climate is far from being excesivelly hot; this seems chiefly caused by the singularly low temperature of the surrounding water, brought here by the great southern polar current. Excepting during one short season very little rain falls and even then it is irregular; but the clouds generally hang low. Hence, whilst the lower parts of the islands are very sterile, the upper parts at a height of a thousand feet and upwards, possess a damp climate and the tolerably luxuriant vegetation. This is esspecially the case on the windward sides of the islands, which first receive and condense the moisture from the atmosphere.

In the morning we landed on Chatham island, which, like the others, rises with a tame and rounded outline broken here and there by scattered hillocks the remains of former craters. Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black bazaltic lava, thrown into the most rugged waves and crossed by great fissures, is everywhere covered by stunted, sun-burnt brushwood, which shows little signs of life. The dry and parched surface being heated by the noon-day sun gave to the air a close and sultry feeling like that from a stove: we fancied even that the bushes smelt unpleasantly. Although I dilligently tried to collect as many plants as possible I succeded in getting very few; and such wretched-looking little weeds would have better become and arctic that an ecuatorial flora.

The brushwood appears, from a short distance as leafless as our trees during winter; and it was sometime before I discovered that not only almost every plant was now in full leaf but that the greater number were in flower. The commonest bush is one of the Euphorbiaceae: an accacia and a great odd-looking cactus are the only trees which afford my shade. After the season of heavy rains, the islands are said to appear for a short time partially green. The volcanic island of Fernando Noronha, placed in many respects under nearly similar conditions is the only other country where I have seen a vegetation at all like this of the Galapagos Islands.

Traducere:

Acest arhipelag este compus din zece insule principale, dintre care cinci le depasesc pe celalalte in marime. Sunt situate sub Ecuator, si la cinci-sase sute de mile vest de coasta Americii. Sunt formate din roci vulcanice; cele cateva fragmente de granit alterate de caldura nu pot fi considerate o exceptie. Unele dintre craterele ce se gasesc pe insulele mai mare sunt imense, si pot ajunge pana la 3-4000 de picioare (900-1200 metri) . Pe laterale se pot observa nenumarate orificii. Nu ezit sa afirm ca trebuie sa fie cel putin 2000 de cratere in intreg arhipelagul.

Acestea sunt formate din lava si scoriae sau din granit stratificat ce seamana cu tuful. Cele din urma sunt simetrice; isi datoreaza originea eruptiilor noroiului vulcanic fara de lava: este remarcabile ca fiecare dintre cele 28 de cratere pe care le-am examinat aveau portiunile sudice mult mai joase decat celelalte parti sau chiar daramate sau cazute.

Toate aceste cratere par sa se fi format din mare, si pe masura ce vanturile curentilor si valurile Pacificului isi unesc fortele pe coastele sudice ale acestor insule, aceasta uniformitate unica in starea craterelor este usor explicabila.

Considerand ca aceste insule sunt plasate direct sub ecuator, climatul departe de a fi considerat excesiv de fierbinte; cauza pare a fi temperatura scazuta a apelor inconjuratoare, aduse aici de Marele curent polar sudic. Exceptand un scurt anotimp ploua foarte putin si chiar si atunci e neregulat; dar norii sunt in general josi. Astfel, in timp ce partile joase ale insulelor sunt destul de sterile. zonele inalte de peste o mie de picioare si mai sus, poseda un climat umed si o vegetatie in general luxurianta. E in special cazul partilor din directia vantului, cele care primesc si pastreaza umezeala din atmosfera.

Dimineata am acostat pe insula Chatham, care, ca toate celelalte, are un urcus domol si rotunjit, intrerupt ici si colo de delusoare, ramasite ale fostilor vulcani. Nimic nu poate fi mai putin atractiv decat prima imagine. Valurile puternice cuprindeau roca bazaltica neagra ce era strabatuta de fisuri largi, fisuri acoperite de tufisuri ce nu pareau sa arate semne ca ar gazdui viata. Suprafata uscata, incalzita de soarele amiezii, dadea aerului o intensitate precum cea a unui cuptor: ni s-a parut chiar ca si tufisurile miroseau neplacut. Desi am incercat sa culeg cat mai multe plante, am reusit sa obtin foarte putine; si cateva buruieni ce aratau atat de trist incat ar fi putut proveni din flora arctica nu din cea ecuatoriala.

Tufisurile pareau de la o mica distanta la fel de lipsite de frunze ca si copacii nostrii in cursul iernii; dar am descoperit ca aproape toate plantele aveau frunze si cea mai mare parte a lor chiar erau in floare. Cel mai comun tufis este cel de Euphorbiaceae ; un accacia si un cactus mare si batran au fost cam singurii copaci ce reuseau sa faca o umbra. Dupa sezonul ploilor se spune ca insulele sunt verzi pentru o scurta perioada. Doar pe insula vulcanica Fernando Noronha, amplasata intr-o zona similara, am vazut vegetatie precum cea de pe insulele Galapagos.

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