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Early writings from Southern Patagonia
Diary of a sheep-drive from the Río Negro to San Julián
700 miles through the empty lands of southern Argentina
Author: Thomas A. Saunders
Date: September 1888 — March 1889
possible route

Saunders' route (hypothetical)

In Santa Cruz province, Argentina, sheep ranching began in the late 1870s. The high cost of stocking this empty territory led some ranchers to purchase animals in the developed pampas north of the Río Negro, driving them southward overland.

The work presented here is the private log of Thomas Saunders, a member of one such expedition. Born in Scotland in 1857, he came to Patagonia via the Falkland Islands [Malvinas]. Other members of his group were William Hope, Henry Jamieson and fellow-Scots John Hamilton and John McLean.

In terse language, Thomas records the group's daily progress, the route followed, landmarks, significant events and people. The journey was made in two stages: first, 2 months from the Río Negro to the Río Chubut; then a further 11 weeks to San Julián, where the diary ends. [For another report, including later stages, see Hamilton.]

The diary is presented in its original form, together with a page-by-page transcript. Thomas's spelling and writing is "idiosyncratic" (especially in Spanish), so a standardized English text and glossary have been added. Click here to download complete standardized text.

N.B. Words marked in the text with colour cannot be read confidently.

Web Edition (2005)
Scanning: : Michael Saunders
Transcription & E-development: : Duncan Campbell
Copy-editing : Gladys Grace P.
Diary: original, courtesy of Michael Saunders
Map: original, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin