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Patagonia Bookshelf



From The London News.

You may seek it with thimbles and seek it with care,
You may hunt it with forks and hope,
You may threaten its life with a railway share,
You may charm it with smiles and soap.
— (The Hunting of the Snark.

That these lines should ring all through luncheon as I sat and talked with Mr. Hesketh Prichard was inevitable. Their appropriateness borders perilously upon the obvious. Mr Hesketh, who, as all the world knows, starts in about a month for Patagonia on a pilgrimage of search for the sloth, is just the man for such an expedition. An old Fettesian, as the boys of Fettes School in Scotland are called, an Oxford honor man, a first rate athlete, standing 6 feet 4 inches in his socks, full of enthusiasm and energy, and only twenty-six years of age, what better could you ask? He and Sir John Millais — himself one of our leading naturalists, and one of the most superb shots that England has ever seen — and I sat long over coffee and cigars, discussing the probabilities and possibilities that lie in front of Mr. Hesketh and his gallant band.

"I hope, if it can be arranged," said he, "to take am expedition of sixty across the continent; that includes, of course, a large number of natives. I have every hope of discovering the sloth, though Millais shakes his head. Professor Ray Lankester is very keen on the matter. He became so at once on hearing of Dr. Moreno's discoveries in the cave. And only two years ago Dr. Haughel found more remains, which are now in the British Museum. You can see there the skeleton of his sloth, with blood actually upon it. Men had evidently kept it alive in walled caves, and fed it with chopped hay.


"We read an account of this recently, and C. Arthur Pearson mentioned it to me, and asked if I would care to go out and see what I could discover. My idea is to take a large expedition if the country can bear it, if it can provide us with sufficient food. J. B. Scrivener, an Oxford M. A. and a first-rate natural and geologist, will undertake the scientific work of the expedition. On the very day the article appeared in 'The Daily Express' we were inundated with telegrams and letters from people anxious to join us."

"And where do you expect to come across the sloth first, Mr. Prichard?"

"Probably on the west coast. You see, in the interior the giant natives of Lower Patagonia live entirely by hunting — the guanaco, a wild form of llama, is their chief quarry. This they find in whole herds, which they kill wholesale with bolas — leathern thongs with iron balls. Now, the chances are that in such a country a slow running beast like the sloth would be tracked and killed at once. And then, again, our chances will be increased by the fact that the west coast is unexplored."

"It will be rather difficult to tackle an animal thirty feet high," I remarked.

"No; the mylodon is an animal with no powers of defence except its claws. It is one of the few representatives of the creatures that survived the post-glacial period, though nowadays you still find the reindeer, musk ox and the saiga of Russia. We shall land at Santa Cruz, and then go five hundred miles across country, carrying our collapsible boat with us and accompanied by natives and, I hope, an escort provided by the Argentine Government, which is greatly interested in our scheme and has promised us all the help in its power. We shall then reach a chain of lakes, which we shall traverse in our boat until we come to the great unexplored glacier. Here, I trust, we shall come across the traces of our friend. If not there, we shall go south and search for him in the lonely regions surrounding Last Hope Inlet. The country is, of course, practically antarctic, and so I am arranging for sleeping bags, arctic tents, etc.,"

"Shall you go in for any other sport or research?" said I.


"We hope to get pumas, and we shall try in the lakes for fishes which have never been caught by mortal man. We shall look out for a new deer, called the guemal, [huemul?, Ed.] of which there is only one skin preserved."

"And if you get the sloth, what on earth will you do with it?" I asked, with visions of a wearied party returning home over hill and dale, land and water, by steam, road and rail, with a gigantic and disgusted sloth stalking dejectedly in the rear.

"We shall bring it back at all hazards. Once we get on its tracks, there will be no mistaking them, and, indeed, they have been seen, they say locally, quite recently. At all events, whatever happens, we mean to make a success of failure. We shall get there during the height of the Patagonian summer, and if we return slothless. we shall at least, I hope, have cleared up many geographical puzzles and solved one or two natural history and botanical problems."

Source: "New York Tribune" (New York, NY),2 9 July 1900
Clipped: 21-IX-2012
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