Birds at the Pole

The Birds of Chile and Adjacent Regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru

by A.W. Johnson, illustrated by J.D. Goodall
Platt Est. Gràficos S.A., Vol. II, 448 pp., $22.50

Birds of the Antarctic

by Edward Wilson, edited by Brian Roberts. with Wilson's original illustrations
Humanities Press, 191 pp., $17.50

The publication in Argentina of the second volume of A. W. Johnson’s book on the birds of Chile brings to a conclusion a lifetime of field investigation. For the first time an authoritative work in the English language is made available to students of bird life in Chile and some adjacent territories. Mr. Johnson and his friend Mr. J. D. Goodall, who is responsible for the color plates and maps, have demonstrated what can be done by two amateur ornithologists and explorers who, while engaged in business in Chile, have devoted their spare moments to the study of the birds of their adopted country. Mr. Goodall, besides being a self-taught artist, is a highly successful egg collector, as is the author himself. Between them they have discovered and described for the first time the nests and eggs of more than 100 species of birds. Both volumes of the work are entirely new and in no sense a translation of an earlier work in Spanish.

Anyone having the barest knowledge of the country must be awed by such an achievement, for Chile has a bewildering variety of country, much of it difficult of access. The country can boast the longest continuous stretch of shoreline relative to land area of any continental country in the world. This strip of land, situated entirely on the western watershed of the Andes, extends for 2,600 miles and is nowhere wider than 200 miles, narrowing in places to 60 miles. It is bordered on the one side by 20,000-foot mountains and on the other by the sea. Between the coastal range of mountains overlooking the Pacific and the much higher Andes to the East lies “a ribbon-like longitudinal valley,” completely arid in the North, fertile and productive in the well-irrigated central provinces, forested and progressively wetter in the South. European visitors do not always realize that Chile extends right down to Cape Horn in Lat. 56° S., and that immediately to the North are situated—to quote from Mr. Johnson’s Introduction—“the maze of winding channels, inlets, fiords and narrows that characterize the raindrenched, storm-swept Fuegian region.” South of Cape Horn the tempestuous ocean, so dreaded by mariners, stretches to the Antarctic continent, a land graphically described in the second volume under review.

A traveler—particularly a naturalist—should aim to arrive in Chile by sea, preferably via the Panama Canal. The sea-bird life in the cold Humboldt current has often been described and need not be enlarged upon here. With a slice of luck it is possible while in one or another of the numerous harbors to see penguins, pelicans, condors, sea lions, and giant skates within the space of a few hours. If a cargo boat has been chosen, calling at the many small ports en route one can obtain with very little effort a wonderful idea of the numbers and variety of species which frequent these seas: petrels, shearwaters, albatrosses, boobies, cormorants, gulls, and terns. Peru, famous for its guano islands, when seen from a ship…

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