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The following curious letter, purporting to be from the pen of O. H. Green, of the United States sloop of war "Decatur," is dated "Off the Straits of Magellan, Feb. 15," and appeared in the New Orleans Picayune of the 1st September:— 

There being no appearance of a change in the weather, I obtained leave of absence for a few day, and, accompanied by my class-mate and chum, Dr. Bainbridge, assistant surgeon, was landed on Terra Del Fuego.

With great labour and difficulty we scrambled up the mountain sides, which line the whole south-east coast of these straits, and after ascending three thousand five-hundred feet, we came upon a plain of surprising richness and beauty—fertile fields, the greatest variety of fruit trees in full bearing, and signs of civilisation and refinement meeting us on every side. We had never read any account of these people. and thinking the island was wholly deserted, except by a few miserable cannibals and wild beasts, we had come well armed, and you can judge of our surprise. The inhabitants were utterly astonished at our appearance, but exhibited no signs of fear, nor any unfriendliness.

Our dress amused them, and, being the first white men ever seen by them, they imagined we had come from their God, the Sun, on some peculiar errand of good. They are the noblest race I ever saw—the men all ranging from six feet to six feet and a quarter in height—well proportioned, very athletic, and straight as an arrow. The women are among the most perfect models of beauty ever formed, averaging five feet high, very plump, with small hands and feet, and with a jet black eye which takes you by storm. Their teachers of religion speak the Latin language, and have traditions from successive priests, for half a hundred centuries.  

They tell us this island was once attached to the main land ; that about nineteen hundred years ago, by their records, their country was visited by a violent earthquake, which occasioned the rent now known as the Straits of Magellan; that on the top of the mountain which lifted its head to the sun, whose base rested where the waters now flow, stood their great temple—which, according to their description, as compared to the one now existing we saw, must have been 17,500 feet square, and over 1100 feet high, built of the purest mantile marble. A thousand reflections crowd upon the mind in viewing this people and this paradise, before unknown to the world.

The ship is in sight will carry this to you, and I must now close, only saying that the official report of Dr. Bainbridge to the Department will be filled with the most interesting and valuable matter, and astonish the American people. The vessel proves to be the clipper ship ' Creeper," from the Chinchi Islands, with guano, for your port, and I will avail myself of this opportunity to send you a specimen of painting on porcelain, said to be over 3000 years old ; and an image made of gold and iron, taken in one of their many wars before the Straits of Magellan existed.

They number about 3000, men, women, and children, and I was assured their population has not varied 200, as they prove by their traditions, for immemorable ages. As the aged grow feeble they are left to die, and, if the children multiply too rapidly, they are sacrificed by priests. This order comprises about one-tenth of the population, and they are what the ancient Greeks called " Gymnosophists."

They are all of one peculiar race, neither will they admit a stranger into their order. They live, for the most part, near the beautiful stream called Tanuhan, which takes its rise in the mountain, passes through the magnificent valley of Leuvu, and empties into the Atlantic at the extreme south-west portion of the island. This residence is chosen for the sake of their frequent purifications. Their diet consists of milk, curdled with sour herbs. They eat apples, rice, and all fruits and vegetables, esteeming it the height of impiety to taste anything that has life. They live in little huts or cottages, each one by himself, avoiding company and discourse, employing all their time in contemplation and their religious duties. They esteem this life but a necessary dispensation of nature, which they voluntarily undergo as a penance, evidently thirsting after the dissolution of their bodies, and firmly believing that the soul, at death, is released from its prison, and launches forth into perfect liberty and happiness. Therefore, they are always cheerfully disposed to die, bewailing those that are alive and celebrating the funerals of the dead with joyful solemnity and triumph.

Source: "The Hobarton Mercury" (Hobart, Tas.), 7 January 1856
Clipped: 25-IX-2012
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