Page images
PDF

city of Leon itself is situated in a savanna. There is a small river which, passing near Realexo, might facilitate the communication between the latter port and that of Leon *. From the west bank of the lake of Nicaragua there are only four marine leagues to the bottom of the gulf of Papagayo, and seven to that of Nicoya, which navigators call la Caldera. Dampier says expressly that the ground between la Caldera and the lake is a little hilly, but for the greatest part level and like a SaVallila. The coast of Nicaragua is almost inaccessible in the months of August, September and October, on account of the terrible storms and rains; in January and February, on account of the furious north-east and east-north-east winds called Papagayos. This circumstance is exceedingly inconvenient for navigation. The port of Tehuantepec, on the isthmus of Guasacualco, is not mo, e favoured by nature; it gives its name to the hurricanes which blow from the north-west, and which frighten vessels from landing at the small ports of Sabinas and Pentosa. A. The isthmus of Panama was crossed for the first time by l'asco Nuñez de Balboa, in 1513. Since this memorable epocha in the history of geographical discoveries, the project of a canal has occupied every mind; and yet at this day, after the lapse of 300 years, there neither exists a survey of the ground, nor an exact determination of the positions of Panama and Portobello. The longitude of the first of these two ports has been found with relation to Carthagena; the longitude of the second has been fixed from Guayaquil. The operations of Fidalgo and Malaspina are undoubtedly deserving of very great confidence; but errors are insensibly multiplied, when by chrohometrical operations from the isle of Trinidad to Portobello, and from Lima to Panama, one position becomes dependant on another. It would be important to carry the time directly from Pa. nama to Portobello, and thus to connect the operations in the South Sea with those which the Spanish government has carried on in the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps MM. Fidalgo, Tiscar, and Noguera, may one day advance with their instruments to the southern coast of the isthmus, while MM. Colmenares, Irasviricill, and Quartara, shall carry their operations * to the northern coast. To form an idea of the uncertainty which still prevails as to the form and breadth of the isthmus (for example towards Nata), we have only to compare the maps of Lopez with those of Arrowsmith, and with the more recent ones of the Deposito Hydrografico of Madrid. The river Chagre, which flows into the sea of the Antilles to the west of Portobello, presents, notwithstanding its sinuosities and its rapids, great facility for commerce; its breadth is 120 toises at its mouth, and 20 toises near Cruces, where it begins to be navigable. It requires four or five days at present to ascend the Rio Chagre from its mouth to Cruces. If the waters are very high, the current must be struggled with for ten or twelve days. From Cruces to Panama merchandizes are transported on the backs of mules, for a space of five small leagues. The barometrical heights related in the travels of Ulloa “ lead me to suppose that there exists in the skio Chagre, from the sea of the Antilles to the Embarcadero, or Venta de Cruces, a difference of level of from 35 to 40 toises. This must appear a very small difference to those who have ascended the Rio Chagre; they forget that the force of the current depends as much on a great accumulation of water near the sources, as on the general descent of the river; that is to say, of the descent of the IRío Chagre above Cruces. On comparing the barometrical survey of Ulloa with that made by myself in the river of Magdelen, we perceive that the elevation of Cruces above the ocean, far from being small, is, on the contrary, very considerable. The fall of the Rio de la Madelena from Honda to the dyke of Mahates, near Barrancas, is nearly 170 toises"; and this distance nevertheless is not as we might suppose four times, but eight times, greater than that of Cruces at the sort of Chagre. The engineers in proposing to the court of Madrid that the river Chagore should serve for establishing a communication between the two oceans, have projected a canal from the venta de Cruces to 1'auaina. This canal would have to pass through a hilly tract, of the height of which we are completely ignorant. We only know that, from Cruces, the ascent is at first rapid, and that there is then a descent for several hours towards the South Sea. It is very astonishing, that in crossing the isthmus neither La Condamune nor Don George Juan and Ulloa had the curiosity to observe their barometer, for the sake of informing us what is the height of the most elevated point on the route of the cas.le of Chagre at Panamot. These illustrious savans sojourned three months in that interesting region for the commercial world ; but t eir stay has added little to the old observations which we owe to Dampier and to // wer. However, it appears beyond a doubt

* Collection of Dampier's and Wafer's voyages, vol. i. p. 113, 119, 21S.

* These officers of the Spanish marine were charged with surveying the northern and western coasts of South America. The expedition of Fidalgo was destined for the coast situated between the isle of Trinidad and Portobello, the expedition of Colmenares for the coast of Chili, and the expedition of Moraleda and Quartara for the part between Guayaquil and Realero,

* Observations astronomiques d'Ulloa, p. 97.

[merged small][ocr errors]

that we find the principal Cordillera, or rather a range of hills that may be regarded as a prolongation of the Andes of New Grenada, towards the South Sea, between Cruces and Panama. It is from thence that the two oceans are said to be discernible at the same time, which would only require an absolute height of 290 metres *. However, Lionel J'aser complains that he could not enjoy this interesting spectacle. He assures us, moreover, that the hills which form the central chain are separated from one another by vallies which allow free course for passage of the riverst. If this last assertion be founded, we might

believe in the possibility of a canal from Cruces to

Panama, of which the navigation would only be interrupted by a very few locks. There are other points where, according to memoirs drawn up in 1528, the isthmus has been proposed to be cut, for example in joining the sources of the rivers called Caimito and Rio Grande, with the Rio Trinidad. The eastern part of the isthmus is the narrowest, but the ground appears to be also most elevated there. This is at least what has been remarked in the frightful road travelled by the courier from Portobello to Panama,

* 947 English feet. Trans.

t Description of the isthmus of America, 1729, p. 297. Near the town of Panama, a little to the north of the port, is the mountain of L'Ancon, which, according to a geometrical measurement, is 101 toises (0.46 feet) in height. Ulloa, vol. i. p. 101.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »