Dr. Meyen ("Reise" Th. 1 s. 269) says he found a similar substance on the neighbouring hill of Dominico (and I found it also on the Cerro Blanco), and he attributes it to the weathering of the stone. In some places which I examined, its bulk put this view of its origin quite out of the question; and I should much doubt whether the decomposition of a porphyry would, in any case, leave a crust chiefly composed of carbonate of lime. The white crust, which is commonly seen on weathered feldspathic rocks, does not appear to contain any free carbonate of lime.)

To the south this basin-like plain contracts, and rising scarcely perceptibly with a smooth surface, passes through a remarkable level gap in the mountains, forming a true land-strait, and called the Angostura. It then immediately expands into a second basin-formed plain: this again to the south contracts into another land-strait, and expands into a third basin, which, however, falls suddenly in level about forty feet. This third basin, to the south, likewise contracts into a strait, and then again opens into the great plain of San Fernando, stretching so far south that the snowy peaks of the distant Cordillera are seen rising above its horizon as above the sea. These plains, near the Cordillera, are generally formed of a thick stratified mass of shingle (The plain of San Fernando has, according to MM. Meyen and Gay "Reise" etc. Th. 1 ss. 295 and 298, near the Cordillera, an upper step-formed plain of clay, on the surface of which they found numerous blocks of rocks, from two to three feet long, either lying single or piled in heaps, but all arranged in nearly straight lines.); in other parts, of a red sandy clay, often with an admixture of pumiceous matter. Although these basins are connected together like a necklace, in a north and south line, by smooth land-straits, the streams which drain them do not all flow north and south, but mostly westward, through breaches worn in the bounding mountains; and in the case of the second basin, or that of Rancagua, there are two distinct breaches. Each basin, moreover, is not drained singly; thus, to give the most striking instance, but not the only one, in proceeding southward over the plain of Rancagua, we first find the water flowing northward to and through the northern land-strait; then, without crossing any marked ridge or watershed, we see it flowing south-westward towards the northern one of the two breaches in the western mountainous boundary; and lastly, again without any ridge, it flows towards the southern breach in these same mountains. Hence the surface of this one basin-like plain, appearing to the eye so level, has been modelled with great nicety, so that the drainage, without any conspicuous watersheds, is directed towards three openings in the encircling mountains. ((It appears from Captain Herbert's account of the Diluvium of the Himalaya, "Gleanings of Science" Calcutta volume 2 page 164, that precisely similar remarks apply to the drainage of the plains or valleys between those great mountains.) The streams flowing from the southern basin-like plains, after passing through the breaches to the west, unite and form the river Rapel, which enters the Pacific near Navidad. I followed the southernmost branch of this river, and found that the basin or plain of San Fernando is continuously and smoothly united with those plains, which were described in the Second Chapter, as being worn near the coast into successive cave-eaten escarpments, and still nearer to the coast, as being strewed with upraised recent marine remains.

I might have given descriptions of numerous other plains of the same general form, some at the foot of the Cordillera, some near the coast, and some halfway between these points. I will allude only to one other, namely, the plain of Uspallata, lying on the eastern or opposite side of the Cordillera, between that great range and the parallel lower range of Uspallata. According to Miers, its surface is 6,000 feet above the level of the sea: it is from ten to fifteen miles in width, and is said to extend with an unbroken surface for 180 miles northwards: it is drained by two rivers passing through breaches in the mountains to the east.

Charles Darwin

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