I shall be anxious to hear how they fare. I made an enormous collection of Arachnidae at Rio, also a good many small beetles in pill boxes, but it is not the best time of year for the latter. Amongst the lower animals nothing has so much interested me as finding two species of elegantly coloured true Planaria inhabiting the dewy forest! The false relation they bear to snails is the most extraordinary thing of the kind I have ever seen. In the same genus (or more truly family) some of the marine species possess an organisation so marvellous that I can scarcely credit my eyesight. Every one has heard of the discoloured streaks of water in the equatorial regions. One I examined was owing to the presence of such minute Oscillariae that in each square inch of surface there must have been at least one hundred thousand present. After this I had better be silent, for you will think me a Baron Munchausen amongst naturalists. Most assuredly I might collect a far greater number of specimens of Invertebrate animals if I took less time over each; but I have come to the conclusion that two animals with their original colour and shape noted down will be more valuable to naturalists than six with only dates and place. I hope you will send me your criticisms about my collection; and it will be my endeavour that nothing you say shall be lost on me. I would send home my writings with my specimens, only I find I have so repeatedly occasion to refer back that it would be a serious loss to me. I cannot conclude about my collection without adding that I implicitly trust in your keeping an exact account against all the expense of boxes, etc., etc. At this present minute we are at anchor in the mouth of the river, and such a strange scene as it is. Everything is in flames--the sky with lightning, the water with luminous particles, and even the very masts are pointed with a blue flame. I expect great interest in scouring over the plains of Monte Video, yet I look back with regret to the Tropics, that magic lure to all naturalists. The delight of sitting on a decaying trunk amidst the quiet gloom of the forest is unspeakable and never to be forgotten. How often have I then wished for you. When I see a banana I well recollect admiring them with you in Cambridge--little did I then think how soon I should eat their fruit.
August 15th. In a few days the box will go by the "Emulous" packet (Capt. Cooke) to Falmouth and will be forwarded to you. This letter goes the same way, so that if in course of due time you do not receive the box, will you be kind enough to write to Falmouth? We have been here (Monte Video) for some time; but owing to bad weather and continual fighting on shore, we have scarcely ever been able to walk in the country. I have collected during the last month nothing, but to-day I have been out and returned like Noah's Ark with animals of all sorts. I have to-day to my astonishment found two Planariae living under dry stones: ask L. Jenyns if he has ever heard of this fact. I also found a most curious snail, and spiders, beetles, snakes, scorpions ad libitum, and to conclude shot a Cavia weighing a cwt.--On Friday we sail for the Rio Negro, and then will commence our real wild work. I look forward with dread to the wet stormy regions of the south, but after so much pleasure I must put up with some sea-sickness and misery.
LETTER 4. TO J.S. HENSLOW. Monte Video, 24th November 1832.
We arrived here on the 24th of October, after our first cruise on the coast of Patagonia. North of the Rio Negro we fell in with some little schooners employed in sealing: to save the loss of time in surveying the intricate mass of banks, Capt. Fitz-Roy has hired two of them and has put officers on them. It took us nearly a month fitting them out; as soon as this was finished we came back here, and are now preparing for a long cruise to the south. I expect to find the wild mountainous country of Terra del Fuego very interesting, and after the coast of Patagonia I shall thoroughly enjoy it.--I had hoped for the credit of Dame Nature, no such country as this last existed; in sad reality we coasted along 240 miles of sand hillocks; I never knew before, what a horrid ugly object a sand hillock is.