Landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Historical travelogue.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Historical, travelogue
Landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1810s

Landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the beginning of the 19th century.

Historical travelogue by Emeric Essex Vidal and Rudolph Ackermann.

NEAR the centre of the city, a little to the north of the citadel is constructed a mole of rough stone, intended for a landing-place. It is about two hundred yards long, twelve wide, and six high. Notwithstanding this projection, the river is so shoal, that boats are very seldom able to approach it, and five or six carts are constantly plying for the purpose of landing passengers.

The fare is two rials, or about fifteen pence each trip, be the distance small or great: sometimes it is but a few yards, while at others the cart must go a quarter of a mile before it reaches the boats; for with northerly and north-west winds, particularly if strong, the water is driven out of the river to such a degree, that its bed is frequently dry for that distance. It has even occurred within the last ten years, that men have gone out on horseback on the bed of the river to the distance of five miles from the shore, during a strong north-west wind; nay, it is related, on the most respectable authority, that, about twenty-five years ago, during a strong northerly wind, the water disappeared, and left a horizon of mud to the people of Buenos Aires.

Such a circumstance might happen, since the river is here thirty miles across, and has no more than three fathoms water in the deepest part, excepting close to the opposite shore of Colonia, where is a narrow channel of four, five, and six fathoms. A contrary effect is, produced by an easterly wind, which, if violent, always raises the water at Buenos Aires; so that in a strong gale from that quarter, the mole is sometimes covered, with the exception of the extreme point, which is higher than the rest, and has a battery of three guns. Thus these winds, according to their direction, cause the river to rise or fall perhaps not less than seven feet. Mention is made of a phenomenon still more extraordinary, inasmuch as no satisfactory reason could be assigned for it. On one occasion, when none of those winds prevailed, the water fell to such a degree, as to recede three leagues from the shore at Buenos Aires: in this state it remained for a whole day, and then ‘gradually rose again to its usual height.

At the mole passengers only are allowed to be landed, all goods being taken to the custom-house, off which the craft are seen lying in the back-ground. Here, however, is also a risguardo, or custom-house watch-house, for the prevention of smuggling, with officers to examine persons who embark or land; especially the former, who are not allowed by the sentinel on the mole to pass, till they have presented themselves at the watch-house, and it is ascertained that they are not carrying off bullion. British officers in uniform are exempted from this search, their word of honour being deemed sufficient.

Source: Picturesque illustrations of Buenos Aires and Monte Video, consisting of twenty-four views: accompanied with descriptions of the scenery and of the costumes, manners, &c. of the inhabitants of those cities and their environs by Emeric Essex Vidal, Rudolph Ackermann. Published by R. Ackermann, 101, Strand. Printer: L. (Lancelot) Harrison. London 1820.