Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

Director of Modern Languages in the High Schools, New York, N. Y.

[blocks in formation]

HISPANIA

VOLUME II

February, 1919

NUMBER 1

SOME IMPRESSIONS OF SOUTH AMERICA

A trip to South America in wartime must necessarily be tinged with warlike hues. So everything fitted into the picture as the steamer Santa Ana, bound direct for Valparaiso, swung free of its dock in Brooklyn-the new barracks growing like yellow mushrooms on the parade ground of Governor's Island, the outbound camouflaged monster crossing our bows, whose four smokestacks appeared as though shot full of holes, the guard of destroyers at the submarine net across the narrows and the flash of the guns at Fort Hancock at target practice, the boom of which still rolled across the water even after the haze had drawn a veil over our beloved country.

Old travelers found evidence, too, of the war in the scarcity of ships in the Windward Passage into the Caribbean Sea. And if any passenger forgot the war in his musings off Porto Bello, he was rudely awakened by the approach of the destroyer flashing its signals through the gathering dusk, telling our captain how to follow its eccentric maneuvers through the mine fields near the entrance to the Panama Canal. Never shall I forget the sepulchral tones of the voice that came from a megaphone,aboard the destroyer, as our crew were leisurely preparing to drop anchor. Idly leaning on the rail, watching the destroyer, we passengers were startled by seeing it suddenly make for our ship, and a shiver ran down our backs when we grasped the import of the clear, slightly drawled, theatrical tones of the voice that shouted, "I advise you to turn her nose to sea. You are drifting on the m-i-n-e f-i-e-l-d-s !!"

As we lay at anchor that evening we could see through the darkness the glow of the electric lights in Colón, but between us and the

city lay two round brilliant beams of light from the search-lights at the entrance to the canal, suggestive of the fire-flashing eyes of some monster in its lair.

At daybreak the Santa Ana entered the canal and began the passage of it, lasting till 3 in the afternoon. No description can possibly do justice to the wonders of the Panama Canal. But he who has sailed through it has thoroughly lived one day in his life.

When we were once fairly upon the glassy ocean, which that day deserved its name Pacific, we saw the first salitrero, a French ship from Dunquerque, laden with its contribution of nitrate toward the protection of its home port. A salitrero is a four-masted ship of a peculiar type which we soon learned to recognize as one of the distinctive sights of the West Coast. The numerous Chileans aboard the Santa Ana sighted the vessel when far distant and were immediately roused into an enthusiasm incomprehensible to those of us who were greenhorns to the West Coast. It was not long, however, before we noticed that any mention of salitre or evidence of its production would instantly excite a Chilean to eloquent discourse: whereat the learned American professor would discourse at length on the folly of a country which based its financial system on the export tax of a natural product such as nitrate of soda. What would Chile do when the world found a cheaper source of supply in the synthetic product?

Steaming southward through the zone of light winds so baffling to the ships of the conquistadores we were close enough to the shore to see the luxuriant vegetation of Colombia and tropical Ecuador, though we did not enter the pestilential harbor of Guayaquil. Soon after crossing the Gulf of Guayaquil we began to pass the guano islands, those dreary barren places tenanted only by wild birds. The books on South America always refer to the guano islands and dwell on the commercial, geographical or historical importance of them according to the writer's special interest, but few say much about those unnumbered countless birds; gulls, not like ours, but black of plumage; petrels; black ducks, recognizable as ducks by their manner of flight; clumsy pelicans, that fly across the bow of the ship so slowly that it seems as though some part of the rigging must surely hit them; albatrosses, as large as pelicans but more graceful and swifter of flight; and then a bird about the size of a pigeon. which some passenger names "a hell-diver" because it swims for an

« AnteriorContinuar »