The Beagle sailed around Chatham island and anchored in several bays. One night i slept on shore on a part of the island where black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one small eminence i counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae or slags cemented together: and their height above the plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet; none had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part of the island seems to have been permeated like a sieve, by the subterranean vapors: here and there the lava whilst soft, has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in living circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appearance which vividly reminded me of those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron foundries are most numerous. The day was glowing hot and the scrambling over the rough surface and through the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing; but i was well repaid by the strange cyclopean scene. As i was walking along i met two large tortoises each of which must have weighted at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly walked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in it’s head.
These huge reptiles surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs and large cacti seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull colored birds cared no more for me than they did for the great tortoises.
Nava a ocolit insula Chatham si a ancorat in cateva porturi. Intr-o noapte am dormit pe tarm pe o parte a insulei unde conurile vulcanice erau numeroase. De pe un deal din apropiere am numarat saizeci toate inconjurate de cratere mai mult sau mai putin perfecte. Majoritatea erau formate din scoriae si metale fuzionate: iar inaltimea lor deasupra campului de lava nu era mai mare de cincizeci-o suta de picioare (30 de metri); niciunul insa nu fusese activ de curand. Intreaga suprafata a acestei parti a insulei pare sa fi fost perforata ca o sita de catre vapori subterani; ici si colo lava moale a format bule; iar in alte parti tavanele cavernelor formate in mod similar au cazut in prapastii circulare cu margini abrupte. Forma regulata a multor cratere dadeau zonei o infatisare artificiala ce mi-a amintit de acele parti din Staffordshire, unde sunt multe mine. Ziua era torida iar mersul pe suprafata dura si plin tufisurile incalcite era obositor.; dar am fost rasplatit de strania scena salbatica. Pe drum am intalnit doua testoase uriase fiecare cantarind cel putin doua sute de livre (90 de kg): una manca o bucata de cactus si cand m-am apropiat s-a uitat lung la mine si s-a indepartat; cealalta a suierat adanc si s-a retras in carapace.
Aceste reptile uriase inconjurate de lava neagra, tufisurile fara frunze si cactusi uriasi mi se pareau a fi animale antediluviene. Celor cateva pasari fad colorate nu le pasa de mine mai mult decat de uriasele testoase.