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461
ARGENTINA

the meridian of 68° 44′, south to Beagle Channel, and thence east to the Atlantic, giving Argentina the eastern part of the Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island. By this agreement Argentina was confirmed in the possession of the greater part of Patagonia, while Chile gained control of the Straits of Magellan, much adjacent territory on the north, the larger part of Tierra del Fuego and all the neighbouring islands south and west.

When the attempt was made to mark this boundary the commissioners were unable to agree on a line across the Puna de Atacama in the north, where parallel ranges enclosing a high arid plateau without any clearly defined drainage to the Atlantic or Pacific, gave an opportunity for conflicting claims. In the south the broken character of the Cordillera, pierced in places by large rivers flowing into the Pacific and having their upper drainage basins on the eastern side of the line of highest crests, gave rise to unforeseen and very difficult questions. Finally, under a convention of the 17th of April 1896, these conflicting claims were submitted to arbitration. In 1899 a mixed commission with Hon. W. I. Buchanan, United States minister at Buenos Aires, serving as arbitrator, reached a decision on the Atacama line north of 26° 52′ 45″ S. lat., which was a compromise though it gave the greater part of the territory to Argentina. The line starts at the intersection of the 23rd parallel with the 67th meridian and runs south-westerly and southerly to the mountain and volcano summits of Rincón, Socompa, Llullaillaco, Azufre, Aguas Blancas and Sierra Nevada, thence to the initial point of the British award. (See Geogr. Jour., 1899, xiv. 322-323.) The line south of 26° 52′ 45″ S. lat. had been located by the commissioners of the two republics with the exception of four sections. These were referred to the arbitration of Queen Victoria, and, after a careful survey under the direction of Sir Thomas H. Holdich, the award was rendered by King Edward VII. in 1902. (See Geogr. Jour., 1903, xxi. 45-50.) In the first section the line starts from a pillar erected in the San Francisco pass, about 26° 50′ S. lat., and follows the water-parting southward to the highest peak of the Tres Cruces mountains in 27° 0′ 45″ S. lat., 68° 49′ 5″ W. long. In the second, the line runs from 40° 2′ S. lat., 71° 40′ 36″ W. long., along the water-parting to the southern termination of the Cerro Perihueico in the valley of the Huahum river, thence across that river, 71° 40′ 36″ W. long., and along the water-parting around the upper basin of the Huahum to a junction with the line previously determined. In the third and longest section, the line starts from a pillar erected in the Perez Rosales pass, near Lake Nahuel-Huapi, and follows the water-parting southward to the highest point of Mt. Tronador, and thence in a very tortuous course along local water-partings and across the Chilean rivers Manso, Puelo, Fetaleufu, Palena, Pico and Aisen, and the lakes Buenos Aires, Pueyrredón and San Martin, to avoid the inclusion of Argentine settlements within Chilean territory, to the Cerro Fitzroy and continental water-parting north-west of Lake Viedma, between 49° and 50° S. lat. The northern half of this line does not run far from the 72nd meridian, except in 44° 30′ S. where it turns eastward nearly a degree to include the upper valley of the Frias river in Chilean territory, but south of the 49th parallel it curves westward to give Argentina sole possession of lakes Viedma and Argentino. The fourth section, which was made particularly difficult of solution by the extension inland of the Pacific coast inlets and sounds and by the Chilean colonies located there, was adjusted by running the line eastward from the point of divergence in 50° 50′ S. lat. along the Sierra Baguales, thence south and south-east to the 52nd parallel, crossing several streams and following the crests of the Cerro Cazador. The Chilean settlement of Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope), over which there had been much controversy, remains under Chilean jurisdiction.

Physical Geography.—For purposes of surface description, Argentina may be divided primarily into three great divisions—the mountainous zone and tablelands of the west, extending the full length of the republic; the great plains of the east, extending from the Pilcomayo to the Rio Negro; and the desolate, arid steppes of Patagonia. The first covers from one-third to one-fourth of the width of the country between the Bolivian frontier and the Rio Negro, and comprises the elevated Cordilleras and their plateaus, with flanking ranges and spurs toward the east. In the extreme north, extending southward from the great Bolivian highlands, there are several parallel ranges, the most prominent of which are: the Sierra de Santa Catalina, from which the detached Cachi, Gulumpaji and Famatina ranges project southward; and the Sierra de Santa Victoria, south of which are the Zenta, Aconquija, Ambato and Ancaste ranges. These minor ranges, excepting the Zenta, are separated from the Andean masses by comparatively low depressions and are usually described as distinct ranges; topographically, however, they seem to form a continuation of the ranges running southward from the Santa Victoria and forming the eastern rampart of the great central plateau of which the Puna de Atacama covers a large part. The elevated plateaus between these ranges are semi-arid and inhospitable, and are covered with extensive saline basins, which become lagoons in the wet season and morasses or dry salt-pans in the dry season. These saline basins extend down to the lower terraces of Córdoba, Mendoza and La Pampa. Flanking this great widening of the Andes on the south-east are the three short parallel ranges of Córdoba, belonging to another and older formation. North of them is the great saline depression, known as the “salinas grandes,” 643 ft. above sea-level, where it is crossed by a railway; north-east is another extensive saline basin enclosing the “Mar Chiquita” (of Córdoba) and the morasses into which the waters of the Rio Saladillo disappear; and on the north are the more elevated plains, partly saline, of western Córdoba, which separate this isolated group of mountains from the Andean spurs of Rioja and San Luis. The eastern ranges parallel to the Andes are here broken into detached extensions and spurs, which soon disappear in the elevated western pampas, and the Andes contract south of Aconcagua to a single range, which descends gradually to the great plains of La Pampa and Neuquen. The lower terrace of this great mountainous region, with elevations ranging from 1000 to 1500 ft., is in reality the western margin of the great Argentine plain, and may be traced from Oran (1017 ft.) near the Bolivian frontier southward through Tucumán (1476 ft.), Frias (1129 ft.), Córdoba (1279 ft.), Rio Cuarto (1358 ft.), Paunero (1250 ft.), and thence westward and southward through still unsettled regions to the Rio Negro at the confluence of the Neuquen and Limay.
The Argentine part of the great La Plata plain extends from the Pilcomayo south to the Rio Negro, and from the lower terraces of the Andes eastward to the Uruguay and Atlantic. In the north the plain is known as the Gran Chaco, and includes the country between the Pilcomayo and Salado del Norte and an extensive depression immediately north of the latter river, believed to be the undisturbed bottom of the ancient Pampean sea. The northern part of the Gran Chaco is partly wooded and swampy, and as the slope eastward is very gentle and the rivers much obstructed by sand bars, floating trees and vegetation, large areas are regularly flooded during rainy seasons. South of the Bermejo the land is more elevated and drier, though large depressions covered with marshy lagoons are to be found, similar to those farther north. The forests here are heavier. Still farther south and south-west there are open grassy plains and large areas covered with salt-pans. The general elevation of the Chaco varies from 600 to 800 ft. above sea-level. The Argentine “mesopotamia,” between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers, belongs in great measure to this same region, being partly wooded, flat and swampy in the north (Corrientes), but higher and undulating in the south (Entre Rios). The Misiones territory of the extreme north-east belongs to the older highlands of Brazil, is densely wooded, and has ranges of hills sometimes rising to a height of 1000 to 1300 ft.
The remainder of the great Argentine plain is the treeless, grassy pampa (Quichua for “level spaces”), apparently a dead level, but in reality rising gradually from the Atlantic westward toward the Andes. Evidence of this is to be found in the altitudes of the stations on the Buenos Aires and Pacific railway running a little north of west across the pampas to Mendoza. The average elevation of Buenos Aires is about 65 ft.; of Mercedes, 70 m. westward, 132 ft.; of Junín (160 m.), 267 ft.; and of Paunero (400 m.) it is 1250 ft., showing an average rise of about 3 ft. in a mile. The apparently uniform level of the pampas is much broken along its southern margin by the Tandil and Ventana sierras, and by ranges of hills and low mountains in the southern and western parts of the territory of La Pampa. Extensive depressions also are found, some of which are subject to inundations, as along the lower Salado in Buenos Aires and along the lower courses of the Colorado and Negro. In the extreme west, which is as yet but slightly explored and settled, there is an extensive depressed area, largely saline in character, which drains into lakes and morasses, having no outlet to the ocean. The rainfall is under 6 in. annually, but the drainage from the eastern slopes of the Andes is large enough to meet the loss from evaporation and keep these inland lakes from drying up. At an early period this depressed area drained southward to the Colorado, and the bed of the old outlet can still be traced. The rivers belonging to this inland drainage system are the Vermejo, San Juan and Desaguadero, with their affluents, and their southward flow can be traced from about 28° S. lat. to the great lagoons and morasses between 36° and 37° S. lat. in the western part of La Pampa territory. Some of the principal affluents are the Vinchina and Jachal, or Zanjon, which flow into the Vermejo, the Patos, which flows into the San Juan, and the Mendoza, Tunuyan and Diamante which