1 – Letter to Smith from Richard Crawshay, Useless Bay [Inutil Bay], Tierra del Fuego, [Chile], 29 Jan 1905
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Tierra del Fuego,
My Dear Smith,
It was a pleasure to have your letter of Oct. 24 about a fortnight ago.
How good you are in writing!
As I respond, I am wondering how I shall be able to acquit myself in this brief letter in giving you some fairly comprehensible account of my being & doing since last I wrote from the “Milton”.
Yet once again have I realised a complete upset to definite [1 word struck through illeg] plans — the outcome of too little knowledge of what lay ahead.
How curious are these such upheavals &
reversals in our lives!
Yet without where we have done our upmost in shaping a course, they cannot but be for the best — or at least be intended by providence for the best?
Until this reaches you, you will have believed me to be in Patagonia, whereas I am — as you will see — in Tierra del Fuego, still nearer the S. Pole.
On landing in Punto Arenas — in winter — the country proved completely [1 word struck through illeg] impassable in the severest winter [1 word struck through illeg] known since its occupation by history recording man.
There was no prospect of being able to penetrate it for 2 months.
I therefore crossed to Tierra del Fuego, to ‘put in’ time here — this being open: the N. it [1 word struck through illeg] of it at least has proved so splendid a field for [1 word struck through illeg] work that I have remained on, foregoing Patagonia altogether [.] Certainly, all things have worked for the best.
I am indeed thankful to have been driven to visit this weird remote [1 word struck through illeg] intensely fascinating land, so little comprehended by the world without — &, I am constrained to add, by its own people within.
How am I to condense the results achieved during 5 month’s [1 word struck through illeg] strenuous work — constantly on the move, & for the first part of my time in the face of nature’s elements which must be experienced to be adequately realized — I am afraid into [1 word struck through illeg] a brief letter?
I am afraid I cannot, so please take this will for the deed wherein I come short, though impelled by the best of intentions.
It did not take me many days in Fuego to grasp the fact that it’s [sic] largest & most interesting fauna are it’s [sic] Birds. I have therefore, directed my energies mainly to collecting these.
My species now number exactly 60 in
duplicate, triplicate, or more examples of some of them.
It would do your heart good to see the result of my labours — all done perforce by my own hand. It has been heavy work, [1 word struck through illeg] but there is [1 word struck through illeg] something solid to show for it.
There is not a single bad skin in all my 109 specimens.
All have been done with scrupulous care — often too under cruelly trying conditions.
Naturally you will like to hear something of them, in detail:-
In game birds I have 3 species: all Grouse — apparently: the largest weighs rather over 1lb: the smallest 2 ½ oz.! The smallest game Bird in the world I should think: smaller than any Bustard Quail I do not include in Game Birds either Snipe or Geese or Duck — all of which I have.
I have 2 sp. [species] Geese, & 5 of Duck — which are not all there are by any means, but all [1 word struck through illeg] I have been able to acquire.
The Most sensational birds I have — to me at least. are a tiny Reed Warbler no larger than a Bumble Bee, a tiny Black Wren from the depths of the forest at the entrance of Admiralty Sound, a tiny tiny owl from the forest weighing exactly 3 oz, probably the largest Bird of Prey in the island — an Eagle measuring 5ft 91/2 in from wing tip to wing tip, a tiny grey Titmouse — 3 examples from the forest & a black Oyster Catcher. All Birds mentioned by Darwin, these are particularly interesting for this reason: – In this connection I have The White faced Oyster Catcher [Haematopus leucopodus]. The little Pink legged Plover [Pleuvianellus sociabilis] — of both of which only the one example collected In 1838 exists in the B.M. [British Museum],
a Scarlet & Black Woodpecker [Symbol for male] & [Symbol for female], Nuthatch [symbol for male] & [Symbol for female] [Oxyyurus], & such common but highly idiosyncratic forms as the ‘Tero-Tero’ Plover, Two species of Starling, a Blackbird. & the curious little mound owl. In Eggs, I have [1 word struck through illeg] done a certain amount
— all indeed that has been possible.
Mammals are a very poor fauna indeed:-
I doubt if there are more than some 20 sp. [species] all told — land & Marine — In & around the Island. What I have are almost exclusively mainly Rodents including the very remarkable Stenomys (?) corresponding to the Tuko-Tuko of Patagonia.
The most interesting valuable acquisition [1 word struck through illeg] is probably a Bat from the forest at the mouth of
Rio McClelland to the S. of the Bay. This is the only one I have seen, & there are men in Fuego who have been here years who have never before seen a bat & who doubted their existence.
I shot my first Guanaco [Anchenia] on Aug 28th.
They are very curious creatures indeed worthy inhabitants of this extraordinary land.
Their thick soft close woolly fleeces are very nice and warm — like nothing else I have ever seen. I cannot say I care much for the flesh.
The stomachs of these animals sometimes contain very extraordinary stones.
I have 5 — 2 large, 3 small — taken from the stomach of an old [symbol for male], shot by a Mr E. C. Clarke who has very kindly given them to me [.]
The material results of my work in other ways have been collections of insects — Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, & Hymenoptera
*I have taken about 150 photos — how these will turn out I don’t know, as they have yet to be developed. Time exposes in the wind, & in forest light, are so difficult to judge R.C. [signature]
…almost exclusively. Earthworms & marine [1 word struck through illeg] fresh water, [1sp] & hard shells. Amongst Odds & ends. I have 3 examples of a Green Lizard.
Darwin I think found neither Lizards nor Earthworms??
Mine¬ has been altogether a most interesting time however hard in the face of [illegible] of conditions.
If I have a regret it is that I have not been able to do more than the work of one man.
My last achievement has been the ascent of Nose Peak at the entrance of admiralty sound.
I’ve never tackled a harder physical task in all my days.
Darwin pronounced this forest “impenetrable”. Practically speaking it is.
I leave for home — D.V — at the end of Feb or the beginning of March, when I hope we shall meet.
This I will address & to the W.O.[War Office] as I think you will be in England by the time this reaches there: if not, it will go on to you without delay.
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I much appreciate your wise & timely remarks on the question of my visit to New York being deferred No! I do not think it will ever come off now. I am myself quite heart whole & philosophic, as becomes one of my age & experience of life; but the lady I can see plainly is much vexed with herself — & at first was furious with me. Any woman who controls my destinies to the extent of being a partner in marriage must take me for what I am & I know I am — a solid honest serious straight man who will not forego what he conceives to be his responsibilities in life for all this woman [and] whoever comes into this world if these cannot see life things from [anywhere?] near the same point of perspective… Do let me put you up for the Savile on my return? It is a club to suit you down to the ground, & the expense — after all — is
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With every good wish for you in 1905, yours most sincerely, Richard Crawshay. [signature]
P.S. Congratulations on your book being in type. It will form part of my little library, ere long. By this mail I see Fitzwygram has gone to join the ever increasing majority. What a personality he had!
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