Life of a Fern Hunter

brazilSnippets 213. The following quote is taken from Over the Sea and Far Away, by Thomas Woodbine Hinchcliff, published in 1876:

Of all regions that I have as yet seen in the world there is nothing comparable to this Brazilian hill country, as a field for the fern-hunter… to the last day of our three months’ sojourn, I believe we never once went into the woods without finding some hitherto unnoticed treasure, and there would be work for several months more before any one could pretend to have exhausted all the haunts within easy reach.

No sportsman ever enjoyed the pursuit of game more thoroughly than we enjoyed our daily fern-hunts. Armed with our tin vasculums, we used to scramble up any convenient bank and push our way as best we could through the jungle and up into the dark depths of the forest. I suppose we ought properly to have been afraid of snakes, tarantulas, jiggers, and all kinds of noxious insects, which were certainly there, but no notion of the kind ever checked us in our favourite pursuit. What true lover of it would allow himself to be stopped by anything short of a Bengal tiger, when he has good reason to expect fresh discoveries at every step? Strong hobnailed boots that had been christened on the Alps were, however, absolutely necessary on the wet and slippery slopes where a dense vegetation often prevented us from seeing our footing, and where we were sometimes startled by putting a leg up to the knee in the rotten trunk of a fallen and invisible monarch of the forest. Then we divided the ground between us, occasionally shouting to each other, partly with a view to prevent losing ourselves entirely and partly to announce a new and precious “find.”…

In these scrambles and tusslings in the forests it was often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to avoid a tumble among the trailing plants which were generally ready to trip up our feet; and we used to present a very shabby appearance when, dishevelled, covered with moss, and bathed in perspiration, we emerged upon the paths of daylight, and had the intense pleasure of sitting down to compare discoveries under the soothing influence of the pipe of tranquillity.

Thomas Woodbine Hinchcliff was a mountaineer, explorer and travel writer, who served as President of the London-based Alpine Club, the first mountaineering club in the world, between 1875 and 1877. During that time Over the Sea and Far Away was published, one of several travel journals Hinchcliff wrote.

19th Century Travel journals are fascinating “windows into history”.  If this quote has sparked your interest in this area of history, you might like to consider reading about my recently published book on the subject: Windows into History – The Book

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
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