17,300 1831............................ 40,885 1832............................ 51,400 1833............................ 91,335 1834........................... 149,538 The Spanish quintal nearly equals 100 English pounds.)


These saline incrustations are common in many parts of America: Humboldt met with them on the tableland of Mexico, and the Jesuit Falkner and other authors state that they occur at intervals over the vast plains extending from the mouth of the Plata to Rioja and Catamarca. (Azara "Travels" volume 1 page 55, considers that the Parana is the eastern boundary of the saliferous region; but I heard of "salitrales" in the Province of Entre Rios.) Hence it is that during droughts, most of the streams in the Pampas are saline. I nowhere met with these incrustations so abundantly as near Bahia Blanca: square miles of the mud-flats, which near that place are raised only a few feet above the sea, just enough to protect them from being overflowed, appear, after dry weather, whiter than the ground after the thickest hoar-frost. After rain the salts disappear, and every puddle of water becomes highly saline; as the surface dries, the capillary action draws the moisture up pieces of broken earth, dead sticks, and tufts of grass, where the salt effloresces. The incrustation, where thickest, does not exceed a quarter of an inch. M. Parchappe has analysed it (M. d'Orbigny "Voyage" etc. Part. Hist. tome 1 page 664.); and finds that the specimens collected at the extreme head of the low plain, near the River Manuello, consist of 93 per cent of sulphate of soda, and 7 of common salt; whilst the specimens taken close to the coast contain only 63 per cent of the sulphate, and 37 of the muriate of soda. This remarkable fact, together with our knowledge that the whole of this low muddy plain has been covered by the sea within the recent period, must lead to the suspicion that the common salt, by some unknown process, becomes in time changed into the sulphate. Friable, calcareous matter is here abundant, and the case of the apparent double decomposition of the shells and salt on San Lorenzo, should not be forgotten.

The saline incrustations, near Bahia Blanca, are not confined to, though most abundant on, the low muddy flats; for I noticed some on a calcareous plain between thirty and forty feet above the sea, and even a little occurs in still higher valleys. Low alluvial tracts in the valleys of the Rivers Negro and Colorado are also encrusted, and in the latter valley such spaces appeared to be occasionally overflowed by the river. I observed saline incrustations in some of the valleys of Southern Patagonia. At Port Desire a low, flat, muddy valley was thickly incrusted by salts, which on analysis by Mr. T. Reeks, are found to consist of a mixture of sulphate and muriate of soda, with carbonate of lime and earthy matter. On the western side of the continent, the southern coasts are much too humid for this phenomenon; but in Northern Chile I again met with similar incrustations. On the hardened mud, in parts of the broad, flat-bottomed valley of Copiapo, the saline matter encrusts the ground to the thickness of some inches: specimens, sent by Mr. Bingley to Apothecaries' Hall for analysis, were said to consist of carbonate and sulphate of soda. Much sulphate of soda is found in the desert of Atacama. In all parts of South America, the saline incrustations occur most frequently on low damp surfaces of mud, where the climate is rather dry; and these low surfaces have, in almost every case, been upraised above the level of the sea, within the recent period.


Salinas, or natural salt-lakes, occur in various formations on the eastern side of the continent,--in the argillaceo-calcareous deposit of the Pampas, in the sandstone of the Rio Negro, where they are very numerous, in the pumiceous and other beds of the Patagonian tertiary formation, and in small primary districts in the midst of this latter formation.

Charles Darwin

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