Patagonia the most southern country of South America, in lat. 38°-53° S., and in long. 62° 40'-75° 40' W., bounded on the north by the Argentine Republic and the Rio Negro, which separates it from the Pampas; on the north-west by the Chilian territories; on the west by the Pacific; on the south by the Strait of Magellan, which separates it from Tierra del Fuego; and on the east by the Atlantic; has an area of about 350,000 square miles, and a population estimated at about 100,000. The coast of the Atlantic is much broken by extensive bays and inlets, none of which, however, are of much importance or advantage in a commercial point of view. Along the western coast, and stretching from 42° S. to the Strait of Magellan, are numerous islands, of which the principal are Chilod, the Chonos Archipelago, Wellington Island, the Archipelago of Madre de Dios, Queen Adelaide's Archipelago, and Desolation Island. These islands — which, together with several peninsulas, form a coast almost as rugged as that of Norway — are mountainous; but in none of them, except in Desolation Island, do the mountains rise to the snow-line.
Surface, Soil, etc. — The country is divided by the great mountain-range of the Andes into Eastern and Western Patagonia. The latter, comprising the coast districts and the islands, is rugged and mountainous. Opposite the island of Chiloe are two active volcanoes, one of which, Minchinmavida, is 8000 feet high. The slope of the country from the Andes to the Pacific is so steep, and the strip of shore so narrow, that the largest river of this district has its origin only about thirteen miles from its embouchure on the coast. In the island of Chiloe, in the north of Western Patagonia, the mean temperature of winter is about 40°, that of summer rather above 50°; while at Port Famine, in the extreme south of this region, and 800 miles nearer antarctic latitudes than Chilod, the mean temperature is not much lower, being in winter about 33°, and in summer about 50°. This unusually small difference in the mean temperature of the extremes of Western Patagonia, which extends over about 14° of latitude, is due to the great dampness of the atmosphere all along the coast. The prevailing winds of this region blow from the west; and, heavily surcharged with the moisture they have drawn from the immense wastes of the Pacific Ocean, they strike against the Andes, are thoroughly condensed by the cold high mountains, and fall in rains that are almost perpetual from Chiloe to the Strait of Magellan. South of 47° S. latitude hardly a day passes without a fall of rain, snow, or sleet. This continual dampness has produced forests of almost tropical luxuriance. A kind of deer wanders on the east side of the mountains; pumas and water-fowl are met with; and, along the coast, seals, otters, sea- elephants, fish, and shell-fish are found.
Eastern Patagonia, called the plains, comprises by far the larger portion of Patagonia, and extends eastward from the Andes to the Atlantic. Its surface has not yet been thoroughly explored, and is described only in the most general terms. According to these accounts Eastern Patagonia, from its northern to its southern limits, is an immense stony, shingly waste, generally level, but gradually rising in terraced steppes from the Atlantic to the Cordilleras. The elevation of the highest of these terraces is about 3000 feet. The surface is covered with stones and pebbles, mixed with earth of a whitish color, overlying great masses of porphyry, and strewn with immense boulders. Thorny brushwood, tufts of coarse brown grass, and towards the west basaltic ridges, break the dead level of the dreary landscape. The soil is strongly impregnated with saltpetre. Salt lakes of every variety of extent and level abound. Many of these lakes are surrounded by a brilliant snow-white crust; the waters of some of them are cold in summer and hot in winter, while in others the waters are poisonous. Extending along the south coast for several hundred miles there is a great deposit of tertiary strata, underlying a stratum of a white pumaceous substance, a tenth part of which is marine infusoria. Sea-shells are scattered everywhere across the country, and salt is everywhere abundant, from which circumstance it has been inferred that this tract was once a sea- bottom. The air of Eastern Patagonia is generally dry and hot, deriving no moisture from the prevailing west winds, which pass over the plains after having been drained by the Andes. Hurricanes, however, cutting and frigid, sweep over the plains with great fury, stripping the hides from the roofs of the roukahs or huts, and paralyzing the inhabitants with cold and fear. The above account, though in general correct, must be supplemented as well as modified by a few facts as to the surface from one who recently lived for three years in Patagonia and its vicinity. According. to M. Guinnard, the country along the banks of the Rio Negro is for the most part mountainous, and is intersected by deep ravines; but it is not, as has hitherto been believed, completely sterile, for, on the contrary, the escaped banks of the river are sometimes abundantly fertile. The same traveler further estimates that one third of the entire area of this country — which has hitherto been described as barren — is of great fertility, especially the regions on the east coast and on the Strait of Magellan in the south. Along the eastern base of the Andes also, the great tract of territory called Los Serranos is astonishingly picturesque and fertile.. Here great forests abound, to which the Indians retire for shelter from the freezing winds of winter. There are also deep valleys furrowed by mountain torrents; and numerous lakes the haunts of wild duck and other water-fowl, which would delight the European sportsman, but which are never disturbed by the Indians, and are almost as tame as barn-yard fowls. Except pasture, Eastern Patagonia has no productions. However fertile the soil in some places may be, it is nowhere cultivated. The Indians live upon the produce of the chase alone, and seem to desire no better sustenance. The principal rivers are the Rio Negro; the Chupat, which flows through a good soil, producing excellent pasture and good firewood; and the Santa Cruz, which flows through a barren district, in a valley from one to five miles wide, and 1400 feet below the level of the plain. All these rivers rise in the Andes; the Chupat flows east, and the others south-east.Herds of horses are reared, dogs abound, and in the more favored regions cattle are bred; pumas and foxes are met with, as well as condors, hawks, partridges, and water-fowl in Los Serranos. But by far the most important animals are the guanaco (wild hama), the nandou, (Patagonian ostrich), and the gama, a kind of deer.
Inhabitants. — The Patagonians have hitherto been described only in the most general terms, and in many cases very inaccurately. Patagonia was visited at an early period by captains Byron, Wallis, and Cook in succession, and the accounts Which they brought to Europe of the appearance, habits, and manners of the natives of Patagonia were of a marvelous character. Later accounts, however, greatly modify these extravagant statements. Captain Wallis, who went out after Byron's return, has been much more judicious and careful in his inquiries. So also Bougainville, who sailed along the coast in 1767. The next to enrich our knowledge of Patagonia was captain Falkner, and by this information we are enabled to definitively class the Patagonian monster of the early voyagers with Gulliver's giants. The tallest of the tribes are composed of men who, on an average, are nearly six feet in height; while in other tribes the average height is an inch or two less. There is reason to believe, however, that instances of unusual height are as rare in Patagonia as in Europe. The peculiar costume of the Patagonians, which in most instances consists of a long mantle of hide, drooping with unbroken outline from their shoulders almost to the ground, gives them the appearance of extraordinary height. Many of the tribes also are large in body, while they have comparatively short extremities; and these, when seen on horseback, covered with their long mantles, seem almost gigantic in stature. Their color is a reddish brown. Their shoulders are large, and well thrown back; the chest is well expanded; the head large, the forehead open and prominent; the mouth large; the eyes black, and generally large; the nose frequently hooked, long, and thin, though among some tribes it is, as a rule, broad at the nostrils; the ears are large, and elongated by the heavy ornaments of their own manufacture which they wear in them, and which are so large that they often rest on the shoulders. The hair, generally black, coarse, and lank, is sometimes rolled together on the top of the head. Their houses, called roukahs, are formed of three rows of stakes driven into the ground. The middle row is higher than the others, and the three rows are tied together with strings of hide, and so kept in their place. This frail framework is covered with hides which reach the ground on all sides, and are fastened to it by small stakes of bone. At nightfall guanaco hides are spread on the ground within the tents, and the men and women, laying aside their mantle, their only garment, and which sometimes serves as a blanket, go to sleep under the same roof and in the same apartment. Bathing in cold water every morning, throughout the whole year, is a custom to which men, women, and children conform; and although the morning bath may not free them from vermin — a national characteristic — yet it has the effect of preventing disease, and of enabling them the more easily to endure the severities of winter. The men, when out on the hunt, show wonderful courage and adroitness; when not so engaged they live in perfect idleness. They are incredibly greedy and voracious. They deck their heads, and ornament them into the perfection of ugliness, greasing their hair with the fat of the horse. They pull out the hair of the eyebrows and beard, and paint their bodies with black, red, and other colors. The Patagonians are nomads; some of the tribes, however, as the Puelches, are nomads from choice, not from necessity, for their district or headquarters is abundantly fertile. The more important tribes are nine in number; and each tribe is led and governed by a cacique, whose power extends also to numerous sub-tribes. Each family and each man, however, is entirely free, and can remain attached to a certain tribe or separate from it at pleasure. The Patagonians form themselves into these communities for the purpose of self-defense. Wars are so frequent that security is found only in union. The chiefs are considered as the fathers, the leaders, and the rulers of the tribe; and are selected chiefly on account of their bravery in battle. The more powerful tribes frequently make raids upon settlements, and carry off great numbers of horses and cattle. They subsist upon the flesh of horses, nandous, gamas, and guanacos; the flesh they eat is generally raw. Their choice morsels are the liver, the lungs, and the raw kidneys, which they prefer to eat dished in the warm blood of the animal, or in curdled milk seasoned with salt. Roots and fishes are also eaten, but raw flesh is the staple. They are hospitable among themselves, though bitterly hostile to Christians. Their only manufactures are mantles of guanaco hide, and saddles, bridles, stirrups, and lassos. The lassos and the articles of harness are chiefly plaited, and evince wonderful ingenuity and nicety of execution. The mantles are made for the most part by a tribe called the Cheouelches. They are mainly made by women, who first in a rude and primitive manner tan the leather, then put the hides together, and sew them with the small sinews of the animal itself. Afterwards the men rub them with a stone for the purpose of supplying them and flattening the seams, and then ornament them with capricious designs in red and black paint. The Indians obtain a few cattle and horses in exchange for these mantles, which are no less prized by neighboring tribes than they are by Hispano-Americans. Clothed in one of them, the natives expose themselves to the most intense cold without receiving any injury.
The religion of the Patagonians is dualistic. They believe in two gods or superior beings — the God of Good and the God of Evil; or, in their own language, Vitauentru — the Great Man, and Huacuvu or Gualichu — the Cause of Evils. The former they consider the creator of all things, and they believe that he sends the sun to them as his representative, as much to examine what takes place among them, as to warm their bodies and renew the brief spring verdure. The moon is another representative, whose office it is to watch them and give them light. Believing that they themselves require a great deal of "watching," they further imagine that every country on the globe has its own sun and moon, or special watchers. They have no idols. Their faith is transmitted from father to son, and its observances are strictly attended to. They are full of strange superstitions. They dread the north and the south, believing that from the south come evil spirits, who take possession of the souls of the dying, and bear them off to the north. They fancy that the best means of ensuring a long life is to go to sleep with the head lying either to the east or to the west. They also regard all natural phenomena as being caused by their own conduct, and all misfortunes as sent in punishment for moral delinquencies. Thus the fearful tempests that sweep over their plains inspire them with the: greatest dread. During the prevalence of the hurricane they crouch together in their huts; fear makes them inactive, and they do not stir from their groveling position even to cover themselves with the hide. which the tempest strips from their huts. The Patagonian never eats or drinks without turning to the sun, and throwing down before him a scrap of meat or a few drops of water, and using a form of invocation. This form of invocation is not fixed, but it hardly ever varies, and is to the following effect: "O Father, Great Man, King of this earth! give me favor, dear friend, day by day; good food, good drink, good sleep. I am poor myself; are you hungry? Here is a poor scrap; eat if you wish." The Patagonians observe two great religious fetes — one in summer, in honor of the Benevolent Deity; and another in autumn, in honor of the God of Evil. On the occasion of these fetes the Indians assemble on horseback, dressed in the most ceremonious manner, with their hair newly greased, and their bodies freshly painted. On such occasions it is customary to wear whatever vestments they may have obtained either in war or by stealth from civilized men; and a Patagonian chief may be seen wearing above his mantle of hide the shirt of the European, or casing his legs in a pair of pantaloons. The Patagonians are much given to gambling and to drinking. They make intoxicating beverages from the berries which they find in their woods, and they obtain liquor from the Hispano-Americans in exchange for mantles. See Trois Ans d'Esclavage chez les Patagons, by A. Guinnard.
Missionary Labors in Patagonia, etc. — In 1844 a society was organized in Great Britain (at Brighton), mainly by the exertions of captain A. F. Gardiner, R.N., an eccentric but pious and upright Christian man for the prosecution of mission work in Patagonia. Captain Gardiner had spent some time in the Zulu country, south-eastern Africa, and had zealously attempted to engage in missionary work there, but had been compelled to leave the country along with some other missionaries by the treachery of the notorious chief Dingaam, who, on giving a large party of Dutch boers an entertainment, ostensibly for concluding arrangements for their settling in the country, suddenly fell upon and murdered his guests. The captain had made two exploratory tours along the coast, but did not succeed in finding a suitable opening for missionary enterprise. On returning to England he unsuccessfully applied to the Church, the London, the Wesleyan, and the Moravian societies, the directors of which he failed to bring over to his views. He therefore formed an independent association for the benefit of the Indian tribes of South America generally. A clergyman could not be found to go forth on the perilous enterprise, but a catechist was at length secured, and captain Gardiner defrayed his own expenses. They were not above a month in the field, however, before they hailed a vessel on her homeward course, and gladly made their escape, having been in constant alarm for their lives from the warlike attitude of the natives. In January, 1848, captain Gardiner sailed from England to plant a mission among the wild Patagonians inhabiting the extreme part of the continent of South America, called Tierra del Fuego. He took with him four seamen, a carpenter, and provisions for seven months. They had no sooner landed than the savage natives set themselves to the work of plunder, and robbed them of nearly all that they possessed. Feeling that there was no security for either life or property, and seeing no probability of doing any good, captain Gardiner and his companions again fled from the inhospitable shores of South America, where their sojourn had extended over little more than a week. Nothing daunted by previous reverses, captain Gardiner again organized a missionary expedition to Patagonia. This time he took with him four seamen and two catechists. They sailed from England in the month of September, 1850. On reaching their destination, it is said that the sight of the savage natives struck the whole party with absolute terror. In attempting to explore the coast in search of the most eligible site for a mission station, they endured many hardships both from the rigor of the climate and the unfriendly disposition of the natives who were ever ready to pilfer their property, but who refused to supply them with provisions, or to assist them in any way whatever. When at length they ventured on shore; they were driven to the greatest extremities for want of food, which soon brought on disease, and death laid his icy hand on three of their number in the course of five days. The efforts of one of the survivors to inter the remains of his departed comrades exhausted his little strength, and he lay upon the ground as helpless as a child. At length, one after another, the whole party perished from starvation. Several entries in captain Gardiner's journal, which was recovered, witness to the personal piety and singular devotedness of the little band of sufferers. One of the catechists, Mr. Richard Williams, was a Wesleyan local preacher and a man of remarkable zeal and devotedness to God. He went out as .surgeon to the mission, and Dr. James Hamilton published a beautiful memorial of his sufferings and death. Thus mournfully ended the Patagonian mission; and thus also ended the remarkable career of captain Gardiner. After the death of this good man and his companions, the friends of the Patagonian mission reorganized the society as "the South American Missionary Society," and stations were established at Keppel Island (one of the Falkland Isles), Patagones, Lota, Callao, and Panama, and laborers sent to those places. Laborers were also sent to the Chincha Islands. This society is now in successful operation, and hopes are entertained for good results from its fields. At first the Patagonians were reached indirectly. Natives were induced to go over to Keppel Island, and there taught. Gradually the influence of the civilized natives made its way, until now a station is maintained on Navarin Island. The missionaries minister not only to the Patagonians, but also to the European Protestants and the Roman Catholics. See Grundemann, Missions-Atlas, No. 9, pt. 4; Brown, Hist. of Missions, 3:458 sq.; Missionary World, p. 115 sq.; Wappaeus, Patagonia, geographisch u. statistisch (Leips. 1871, 4to); Littell, Living Age, June 19, 1852, art. 4.