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of volcanic action than those now known, the luminous phenomenon connected with the extermination of the "giants" must be attributed to a large meteorite in precolumbian times (23).
Cotopaxi, the loftiest of all active volcanoes in Ecuador (19,613 feet, according to Whymper), had a violent outbreak in 1534 (24). But Cieza speaks of a volcano which, the Indians informed him, had a formidable eruption in precolumbian times. He says:
"There is, on the right hand of this village of Mulahalo, a volcano or mouth of fire which the Indians say broke out anciently and threw up such a great quantity of stones and ashes that as far as the cataclysm extended it destroyed a great portion of the villages." (25)
Cotopaxi lies near Mulahalo, on Cieza's left as he traveled from Quito. On the right rises the peak of Illiniza, and the eruption might therefore have been from the latter. But Illiniza, which is 17,405 feet, according to Reiss and Stübel (26), is not a volcano. The rock is volcanic, but no lava streams have been observed (27). The presumption, therefore, is that Cieza, confounding, as he did in another instance (28), right with left, really meant Cotopaxi.
In a document of the sixteenth century, Chimborazo (until lately regarded as a bell-shaped upheaval of trachyte) is twice mentioned as a volcano, and the following interesting statement is added:
"The Indians say the volcano of Chimborazo is the man, and the one of Tunguragua the woman, and that they communicate [have intercourse with each other], Chimborazo going to see his wife and the wife her husband, and that they hold their meetings." (29)
Of the present activity of Tungurahua there is ample proof, and the reported communication between the two mountains (a belief common to Indians inhabiting volcanic districts of Ecuador and Peru) alludes to eruptions of Chimborazo also, although at a period probably quite remote.
Cayambe, another of the tallest Ecuadorian peaks now considered extinct, is mentioned in 1582 as occasionally active :
"There is, in the district of my corregimiento, a very high volcano and great, that always has snow on high, and sometimes light issues from an opening it has. It is called the volcano of Cayambe, from the village at its foot." (30)
The altitude of Cayambe is given by Whymper as 19,186 feet (31). The Pichincha or Rucu-Pichincha, the volcano nearest to the city of Quito, is said by Velasco to have made its first eruption in 1540. "It was not known to be a volcano; the Indians themselves ignored it; that eruption must therefore be regarded as the first." (32) Velasco then says it took place "when the troops of Gonzalo Pizarro were still in the country." (33) Gonzalo Pizarro, on his famous expedition to the cinnamon country, arrived at Quito December 1, 1540, consequently the eruption must have occurred between that date and May, 1541 (34). In a subsequent passage Velasco says Gonzalo Pizarro was "at a great distance," and that the effects "were felt more where his troops were" than at Quito (35).
But Velasco is not a very reliable authority. His main source seems to have been Gomara, who, while he never visited America, had at his command original documents and held intercourse with the most prominent explorers of the period as they returned to Spain. He treats of the occurrence in the following terms:
"He [Gonzalo Pizarro] journeyed as far as Quixos, which is north of Quito [the direction toward the Atlantic, that is, east, is meant], and the last country [to the east] Guayanacapa ruled over. . . . Being in that country the earth shook terribly; more than sixty houses fell, and the earth opened in many places. There were many thunderbolts and much lightning, so that they wondered at it. There also fell much water, and it thundered heavily." (36)
It therefore seems that Velasco has so misconstrued the statements of his predecessor as to place a possible volcanic eruption. that was felt chiefly far to the east of Quito, in the immediate vicinity of that settlement.
Agustin de Zárate was well acquainted with Gonzalo Pizarro and had much intercourse with him immediately on his return to Peru (37). He tells substantially the same story as Gomara (38).
While these two authors, who were not eye-witnesses of events in Ecuador, place the seat of the cataclysm at a considerable distance from the Pichincha, and make no mention of volcanic eruptions, neither Gonzalo Pizarro himself in his letter to the King
dated September 3, 1542 (39), nor Fray Gaspar de Carbajal in his narrative of the journey of Orellana (40), nor any other of the eye-witnesses who were examined under oath at various times during the sixteenth century (41), allude to the phenomena described by Zárate and Gomara. Pedro de Cieza writes of torrential rains and the sudden rise of rivers without mentioning earthquakes (42). The account of the first eruption of Pichincha in 1540 seems therefore either to be due to a misunderstanding of the texts by Velasco or is an imaginary tale by that rather superficial writer.
A document of about 1571 describes the volcanoes around Quito in the following words :
"The said city of Quito has around it some heights that are very tall and round, like wheat-stacks; some of them are covered with snow during the whole year and throw out smoke day and night and sometimes great flames of fire, especially the one in the rear of Quito toward the Yumbos, three leagues from the said city [of Quito]. Ordinarily in some months of the year it throws up great quantities of smoke and ashes, making a great noise in the large caverns it has opened in the range. Sometimes the ashes it has emitted have covered the ground for twenty-five leagues around to more than a span in depth, and cloud the earth [cover the sky] by the thickness of the smoke and ashes that come out of the said volMany times there issues so much water from it, when it breaks out, as to flood and burn the timber through which passes the water and stones coming from the volcano, which stones float on the water, giving out fire." (43)
The volcano three leagues from Quito and toward Yumbos can be no other than the Pichincha; and we gather from the document quoted that the mountain was in almost uninterrupted activity between 1534 and 1571. Had the eruption of 1540 been the first one known of that volcano, it would surely have been mentioned in one or another of the numerous Spanish reports of that period. It is therefore probable that Pichincha was already active in precolumbian time, or at least before the conquest.
Whymper alludes to "traditionary records" of eruptions of Cotocachi, but fails to give details (44).
One of the most authentic traditions respecting volcanic phe
nomena in Ecuador anterior to the first appearance of Spaniards is apparently that mentioned by Humboldt regarding the collapse of the summit of the Capac-urcu, commonly called "El Altar," in the early part of the sixteenth century. After eight years of decided activity, this peak, until then the tallest in Ecuador, collapsed, covering vast expanses with ashes and pumice (45). This reduction in height must have amounted to more than 3,000 feet, since Reiss and Stübel (46) have determined the present attitude to be 17,730. This event is vaguely alluded to by Garcilasso de la Vega.
That author, basing his information on the writings of Father Blas Valera, mentions violent earthquakes and volcanic disturbances in Ecuador which, according to Indian tradition, must have taken place between 1520 and 1530. "Besides this," he writes, "there occurred great earthquakes and quiverings of the soil, and although Peru is visited by these cataclysms, it was noticed that the earthquakes were more violent than the ordinary ones, and many high peaks crumbled." (47)
We have, therefore, if not always positive evidence, at least significant indications of the precolumbian activity of the Ecuadorian volcanoes of Chimborazo, Cotocachi, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Capacurcu, Tungurahua, and Cayambe. Concerning Sangay we have no data, although it is not probable that its eruptions began at a recent period. Of Antisana a violent eruption is mentioned as having taken place about 1620 (48), while Gomara called it a "volcano" in 1553 (49).
It therefore seems that volcanic activity in Ecuador was stronger and eruptions more frequent in precolumbian times and in the sixteenth century than afterward, or at least since the seventeenth century. The really active volcanoes in Ecuador at present are Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, and Sangay. The decrease in activity appears also to have taken place chiefly in the north and west (50) — all provided, of course, that the Indian lore on which the inferences are based is reliable. I am fully aware of the weak points in Indian traditionary information and of the obstacles to the establishment of its authenticity and originality (51).
In regard to Peru it must be premised that, at the present time, there is but one active volcano, the Ubimas, in the department of
Arequipa, in extreme southern Peru (52). Misti, near the city of Arequipa, has fumaroles, and once or twice nearly every year a faint column of smoke rises above the crater. The frightful eruption of Omate, a neighbor of the Ubinas, in 1600, is the only volcanic disturbance of magnitude that has taken place in Peru since the conquest (53).
But so much cannot be said of earthquakes, the frequency and violence of which on the Peruvian coast and in certain sections of the mountains are well known. Earthquakes and earthquake waves occurred there long before the sixteenth century, a fact conceded by Garcilasso (54), asserted by Oliva in regard to the vicinity of Lima (55), and repeated by Montesinos about Cuzco. The latter city is noted for earthquakes (56), and if that which Montesinos records concerning such upheavals in prehistoric times is based on untainted Indian folklore, as he claims it is, that section must have experienced at least as great devastations through seismic disturbances in earlier times as those that have occurred since the advent of the Spaniards (57). Indeed, it would even seem that, previous to the nineteenth century, earthquake shocks and tidal waves produced by earthquakes were more frequent and destructive than subsequently, but a comparison of data on their effect is not always reliable (58).
The northern Peruvian Andes, so far as I know, show no present trace of volcanic activity, but there are traditions that point unmistakably to eruptions in precolumbian times.
The Descrpcion y Relacion de la Provinca de los Yauyos in central northern Peru, dated 1586, contains the following Indian tale, evidently primitive:
"The said height of Pariacaca, which is the tallest of this range. The Indians of this province relate a pleasing fable which they hold They say that the Yungas, their neighbors of the valley of Lima, entered this province making war, and peopled a village called to-day Lima, which I destroyed for [the sake of] the reduction then made, and that at the foot of this tall mountain of snow called Pariacaca they had an idol named Guallollo, to which they at certain times of the year sacrificed children and women. And that there appeared to them where this tall snowy peak is, an idol called Pariacaca, and it said to the Indians who made this sacrifice to the idol Guallollo which they worshiped :