Thursday, May 8, 2014

Darwin’s Coquimbo, La Serena and Elqui Valley

I never thought I would write a post almost solely quoting Charles Darwin. But it so happens the man sailed on the HMS Beagle (above) along the West Coast of South America in 1835 as well as traveling inland, and commented in his journals about what he found there--and so much of it falls right in line with what we have learned from Nephi’s descriptions of where they landed, that it seems apropos to quote him and what he found and what is there.
    First of all, we have been suggesting that Nephi gave us several clues about his landing site and how he got there that are often ignored by Theorists touting their own pre-determined area for the Land of Promise. Those clues are rather simple. Nephi clues were:
1. Wind and waves that took his ship “driven forth before the wind” from Arabia to where he landed (1 Nephi 18:8-9);
2. He landed in an area where the Climate was conducive to planning seeds from the Mediterranean Climate of Jerusalem that grew exceedingly and provided an abundant harvest
(1 Nephi 18:24);
3. A close by forest where animals of every kind were found (1 Nephi 18:25);
4. Close by areas of ore where gold, silver and copper were found (1 Nephi 18:25).
26-year-old Charles Darwin (left) arrived in Coquimbo on May 15, 1835 (June, July and August are the main winter months, with May, June and mostly July, the rainy months), after traveling overland from Valparaiso, a journey of 255 miles (215 miles as the crow flies). He made this journey in 18 days, having left Valparaiso on April 27. While at Coquimbo, he was told there were about 6,000 inhabitants of the area (Coquimbo, La Serena, etc.)
    Darwin, basically a geologist from his University period, spent much time describing the geologic and mining properties of Chile. He wrote of the mines he visited, “They were mostly gold, silver and copper mines, though they also had iron, and non-metals of boron, lithium, sodium nitrate and potassium salts. [Also] there were silver mines near Coquimbo, as well as copper and gold mines.” He also wrote about the Chilean economy of Coquimbo and La Serena: “Like the other towns in the North of Chile, it depends for its support on the mines.” In fact, Darwin described the hills he passed “were so drilled through with mines, it seemed like banks of rabbits.”
Left: Map of Central Chile (blue arrow) La Serena, (red arrow), location of the gold, silver and copper mine; Right: Inside the mine
    Today, 18 miles from La Serena (20 miles from Lehi’s landing) is the Topado quartz-vein gold ore deposit along the Elqui River where three veins contain 50 million tons of ore, with about 175 tons of gold and 500,000 tons of copper (with a gold recovery ratio of 98%); a short distance to the north are three gold-silver-copper mines, the Inesita, Marianita, and Paguanta mines, and a little further is the Carmelita gold-silver-copper mine situated on 2,400 hectares, with Copper grades ranging from 4.59% to 0.83%, Gold grades ranging from 1/t (grams per ton) to 0.1 g/t and Silver grades ranging from 11 g/t to 1 g/t, and has a long history of mining dating back to the 1800's where artesian (small scale subsistence) miners known locally as piquineros (quarrymen from Coquimbo) mined the property for its rich high grade copper, silver and gold hosted breccias (rock of broken fragments), and vein structures.
    20 miles to the south of La Serena is the Andacollo, an open-pit gold and copper mine. Andacolla, by the way, is a Quechua word (Anta-Goya) which means cobre-reina, or Copper Queen.
Left: Carmelita gold-silver-copper mine; Right: Andacollo gold mining works in the foreground, the city further on, and the Andes mountains in the far distance
    Eleven miles east of La Serena is the Arqueros Ag Mining District (La Serena, Elqui Valley, and Coquimbo), a major silver mining area; 9 miles further is the Talcuna Mining District, with Copper and Silver mines, and 14 miles south of Coquimbo is the large copper mining district of Tambillos; 10 miles beyond that is the copper-silver mine of La Quebrada, and throughout the Coquimbo District are numerous other silver, copper and gold mines.  As Darwin recorded, “I spent half of the ensuring day in examining the mines—the mineral extends over a few miles of hilly country and abounds with silver mines [that] produced 2,000 pounds weight of silver a year.”
    Perhaps in a vein of humor, he added, “It has been said a person with a Copper mine will gain, with Silver he may gain, but with Gold is sure to lose. This is not true [in Chile], all the large Chilian fortunes have been made by mines of the richer metals.” He went on to write that a Dr. Deward returned to England from the area taking with him the profits of a share of a silver mine that amounted to 120,000 pounds.” Darwin writes of another mining district up the Elqui valley, which is adjacent to La Serena, on the east side. Again, silver, gold and copper was found and mined there.
Top Left: Location of the gold-silver-copper Condoriaco mine northeast of La Serena; Top Right: Location east of La Serena of the Pascua, Lama, El Indio-Tambo, Andacollo, Punitaqui, Rio Frio, and El Bronce de Petorce mines of the La Serena District Belt—there are numerous other mines to the north, east and south of this belt as well; Bottom: Entrance to the gold-silver-copper mine just to the south of La Serena
    All of this merely shows that Nephi knew what he was talking about when he described two things: 1) In the direct vicinity of where Lehi landed, were ores of precious and non-precious metals in abundance; and 2) Much of the ore in the area of landing contained both gold and silver (precious metals) and copper (non-precious metal).
    As for the planting climate, Darwin commented that “With any slight rain, the farmers immediately break ground with a second planting of their corn; and if a third shower falls, will in the spring reap a good harvest.” He added that “It was curious to witness the effect of this trifling amount of moisture; the ground scarcely damp twelve hours afterwards, yet on the 27th an interval of 10 days, all the hills were tinged green in patches, the grass being sparingly scattered in hair-like fibers a full inch long, but before this every part was as destitute of Vegetation as a turnpike road.”
The Elqui Valley abuts La Serena on the east and stretches outward into the hills and between the mountains. It was and still is known for its clean skies, even temperature and Mediterranean climate. Today, as in the time of Darwin, the area is filled with farms, grain crops and fruit orchards as well as extensive grape vineyards 
    Darwin also wrote of his journey from Coquimbo, through La Serena, and up the Elqui Valley: “Leaving Don Josè behind I travelled a days ride further up where the R. Claro joins the Elque [Elqui]. — I had heard of petrified shells & beans, the former turned out true, the latter small white quartz pebbles. We passed through several small villages; the valley was beautifully cultivated & the whole scenery very grand. We were here near the main Cordillera, the surrounding hills being very lofty. In all parts of Northern [Central] Chili, the fruit trees produce much more abundantly at a considerable elevation near the Andes. The figs & grapes of Elque are famous for their superiority & are cultivated to a great extent. This valley is perhaps the most productive one to the North of Quillota: I believe it contains, including Coquimbo, 25 thousand inhabitants.”
    This Elqui Valley is where most of the fruit comes from that is enjoyed in the U.S. during the winter months. It is also a Mediterranean Climate—only one of two in the entire Western Hemisphere (the other is in central and southern California)—and a perfect place where “seeds brought from Jerusalem” would have grown in 600 B.C. without “modern” or advanced farming techniques (even today seed packets tell you where the seeds will and will not grow according to climate).
Elqui Valley, with a Mediterranean like the adjacent La Serena is a farmer’s paradise. The Elqui River flows through the valley, bringing ice melt water down from the Andes year round on its run to the Pacific Ocean 
    It is also interesting to note that Darwin wrote of the discoveries he made regarding the sea shells so far inland from the beaches, “The terraces were indeed uplifted sea beaches, this being clear proof of his by now mature view of South America as a continent rising from the ocean.” Before this, he had trekked over the Andes from Santiago, Chile, to Mendoza, Argentina, and discovered numerous ocean sea shells at the high altitudes of the mountains, which he noted was clear evidence that the Andes had once been at sea level, and also noted the stepped levels of Patagonia (southern Chile) had been pushed up in series from beneath the sea.
    Thus, we can see, that while the winds and ocean currents are now known to every mariner and available for study in any detailed Atlas, and the Valdivian Forest bordering La Serena and southward is also detailed in any forestry Atlas, Darwin has verified the other two items listed above about the seeds and ore described by Nephi (and also that the Andes and southern Chile were once under the sea and had risen up, suggesting the western coastal area had once been an island).
    By comparison, as any metals Atlas will show, the area the Mesoamericanists use as Lehi’s landing (just south of their narrow neck of land along the west coast of Mexico/Guatemala, there are no ore deposits listed, nor would the climate have been conducive to Mediterranean seeds in 600 B.C.
Left: As can be seen from these current mining maps, the entire area of Mesoamericanists’ Land Southward (east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec) is almost completely devoid of any mines, nor is there any exploring or testing going on or even projected. Compare that with (right) the map of Peru and Chile with so much mining activity going on the coastal corridor is almost solid with dots

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