No. 211.
Mr. Wing to Mr. Fish.

No. 369.]

Sir: As a matter of general interest, in a maritime point of view, I append an article from the Panama Star and Herald of February 10, in relation to coal and salt mines in Ecuador.

In this connection allow me to add, that Engineer Rogers has just discovered a mine of what is known as “cannel coal”, (in the States,) in the road which he is constructing from Quito to the mouth of the river Chones.

I have, &c.,



The El Facional, of Quito, of the 20th January last, publishes the results of a geognostic exploration of the province of Guayas, by Theodore Wolf, S. J., on account of the government, from which we summarize his remarks on the existence of coal and salt mines in that region of Ecuador.

With respect to coal, which is daily becoming of more and more importance in the Pacific, the report that it had been found near Santa Helena turned out to be premature. On visiting the locality, about throe leagues north of Santa Helena, Mr. Wolf found some very narrow strata, which were seen on removing the sand of the sea-coast belonging to the Tertiary formation. They were only about 1½ to 2 inches thick, and consisted of a sort of bituminous lignite, like the similar strata which crop out at the sea-side of Punta Barica, in Colombia. The strata were nearly perpendicular to the surface, and, as there was no chance of their widening or improving in quality “below, there was no encouragement to undertake any works to ascertain it, nor did the exploration of any part of the canton of Santa Helena offer any better prospect for good coal. In the narrow tongue of land from Santa Helena to Point Paitilla there were [Page 395] abundant signs of petroleum. The stratum, however, impregnated with this substance is entirely superficial, and belongs to the quarternary formation. In this and the adjacent strata are found the remains of the mastodon. The stratum impregnated with petroleum varies in thickness, averaging one-half a meter. Wells are made to collect the petroleum, from the sides of which it exudes mixed with salt water, the petroleum collecting on the surface of the former, This petroleum is of a dark-green color seen by reflected light, and brown in transmitted light. Exposed to the air, it thickens and gradually takes the form of mineral pitch, (brea mineral,) so well known along the coast, and finally becomes hard, like asphaltum. A specimen of petroleum examined in Quito by the professor of chemistry there, resulted in the opinion that it was well adapted for the manufacture of gas for lighting the streets and for making kerosene. Distillation gives two substances, one liquid and transparent, having the properties of refined petroleum; the other more or less solid, which, on continuing the distillation, yields a better illuminating gas than coal, if used in iron retorts; 100 centimeters, cubic, yields gas as rich as carbon, giving a brilliant light. It evidently consists of ethylene (olefiant gas, C 2, H 4) and of acetiline, (C 2, H 2.) There were contained in the second part of the distillation 59 centimeters, cubic, of petroleum, and 5.925 centimeters, cubic, of lighting gas. There remains, finally, in the retort a small residuum of amorphous carbon. Two meters, cubic, of this gas are equivalent to 15 of coal gas.

It has generally been found that in other countries petroleum is accompanied by common salt, and the same thing exists at Santa Helena. Its altitudes in this region we reserve for a separate article.