The Naturalist in Nicaragua
Cosimo, Inc., 2005 - 448 pages
Sometimes.we would fall in with a troop of the white-faced cebus monkey, rapidly running away, throwing themselves from tree to tree. This monkey feeds also partly on fruit, but is incessantly on the look-out for insects, examining the crevices in trees and withered leaves, seizing the largest beetles and munching them up with great relish.-from Chapter VIII This masterpiece of scientific reportage and travel storytelling, first published in 1874, is a captivating narrative of the journeys of mining engineer Thomas Belt through the tropical rivers, valleys, forests, and lakes of Nicaragua. Replete with vivid descriptions of the animals and plants he encountered and full of ruminations on the geology of the region that were dismissed as fanciful at the time but have since been vindicated as true, this is "the best of all natural history journals which have ever been published," according to no less an authority than Charles Darwin.English engineer THOMAS BELT (1832-1878) traveled the world working mines from Australia to Colorado and producing numerous papers on topics ranging from geology to paleontology. The Naturalist in Nicaragua is considered his greatest work.
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amongst ancient animals ants ascend Atlantic attacks beautiful beetles birds branches butterflies carried cattle Central America Chontales colour continued couvade covered crossed dark Depilto dogs Ecitons epiphytes feet flowers forest fresh-water fruit glacial period gold grass green Greytown ground hills Indians inhabitants insects islands Jinotega journey Juigalpa lake land leaf-cutting ants leaves Libertad live lodes look maize Masaya Matagalpa Mestizos Mexico miles mines mountain mules Nahuatls natives nearly nest Nicaragua night numerous o'clock Ocotal passed plains plants prey probably quartz quartz veins rain range reached resemblance river road rocks San Ubaldo Santo Domingo savannahs seen side slope soon Spaniards species spiders steep stones surface Teustepe Thomas Belt tion told Totagalpa town trachyte travelling trees trogons tropical America valley variety vegetation Velasquez wasp whilst wings yellow young
Page 29 - ... though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties; neither apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of his wife? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he contriving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren, to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both plentifully and...
Page 219 - At the base of each pair of leaflets, on the mid-rib, is a crater-formed gland which, when the leaves are young, secretes a honey-like liquid. Of this the ants are very fond, and they are constantly running about from one gland to another, to sip up the honey as it is secreted. But this is not all : there is a still more wonderful provision of more solid food. At the end of each of the small divisions of the compound leaflet there is, when the leaf first unfolds, a little yellow fruit-like body,...
Page 29 - ... in necessity — and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich ; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and...
Page 57 - On each side of the road great trees towered up, carrying their crowns out of sight amongst a canopy of foliage, and with lianas hanging from nearly every bough, and passing from tree to tree, entangling the giants in a great network of coiling cables. Sometimes a tree appears covered with beautiful flowers which do not belong to it but to one of the lianas that twines through its branches and sends down great rope-like stems to the ground. Climbing ferns and vanilla cling to the trunks, and a thousand...
Page 25 - They make their temporary habitations in hollow trees, and sometimes underneath large fallen trunks that offer suitable hollows. A nest that I came across in the latter situation was open at one side. The ants were clustered together in a dense mass, like a great swarm of bees, hanging from the roof, but reaching to the ground below. Their innumerable long legs looked like brown threads binding together the mass, which must have been at least a cubic yard in bulk, and contained hundreds of thousands...
Page 59 - ... less the crimsons, purples, and yellows of Canada, where the dying foliage rivals, nay, excels, the expiring dolphin in splendour. Unknown the cold sleep of winter ; unknown the lovely awakening of vegetation at the first gentle touch of spring. A ceaseless round of ever-active life weaves the fairest scenery of the tropics into one monotonous whole, of which the component parts exhibit in detail untold variety and beauty.
Page 112 - I have seen the female sitting on a branch, and two males displaying their charms in front of her. One would shoot up like a rocket, then suddenly expanding the snow-white tail, like an inverted parachute, slowly descend in front of her, turning round gradually to show off back and front. . . . The expanded white tail covered more space than all the rest of the bird, and was evidently the grand feature in the performance.
Page 173 - As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief, are most capable of improvement, so is it with the races of mankind. Whether we look at it as a cause or a consequence, the more civilized always have the most artificial governments.
Page 25 - ... which probably were kept •warm by the crowding together of the ants. Besides the common darkcoloured workers and light-coloured officers, I saw here many still larger individuals with enormous jaws. These they go about holding wide open in a threatening manner, and I found, contrary to my expectation, that they could give a severe bite with them, and that it was difficult to withdraw the jaws from the skin again.