Ernest Gibson, the naturalist of the Estancia Los Yngleses
The costumbrista author Don Carlos A. Moncaut (1927-2008) tells us in his now famous book Buenos Aires stays, the history of the Los Yngleses ranch of the Scottish brothers Gibson -John, George and Robert- established in 1825, near Gral. Lavalle in the corner of Ajó. Upon reaching the Río de la Plata, they established a branch of the Casa John Gibson & Sons textile company in what is now Calle Alsina in the city of Buenos Aires. Over time they were acquiring fields, including this farm from where they exported the wool that was produced, wrapping it in their sheds and sending it from the port of Ajó to the ports of Liverpool and Antwerp.
A grandson of John Gibson, Ernest, stood out as a studious retailer of the rich poultry fauna of Tuyú. In this area to the south of the Samborombón bay, crossing canyons and marshes, he collected copious notes in his diaries about the life of the birds that inhabited the region.
His dedication was such that, at the age of 25, he published his first work in the London scientific journal The Ibis, entitled “Ornithological notes of the neighborhoods of Cabo San Antonio”, which appeared between 1878 and 1880, where he described 65 species of birds. He enthusiastically recounted: “With a meek old horse […] I spent three hours in the heart of the Cisneros reservoir, on a calm and sunny day, floating noiselessly through the narrow channels opened among bright green reeds ”(A. Mouchard). Forty years later, he wrote again, in the same magazine, on the subject that he was so passionate about, to expand it considerably.
Gibson’s work is an excellent complement to that of Guillermo E. Hudson.
Indeed, Hudson, in his excursions through the pampas, came to Los Yngleses, where he would spend long days talking with Don Ernesto on the subject that fascinates them both, lovers of birds. Indeed, the famous writer published in 1920 his Birds of La Plata, where he studied and described the customs of the birds in the area.
It is said that, in one of his visits to the ranch, he approached the peons’ kitchen seeking the typical wisdom of the country man, trying to learn more about the customs of the region. At that time they were talking about cures and remedies with weeds (he himself had suffered from heart failure in his youth) so when he asked the citizen who was recounting his experiences, what was advisable for a heart sick with palpitations, the The witty interlocutor replied: “The waiter had been in love!” To the laughter of those present, Hudson, quickly, asking for the guitar, replied:
“The lemon balm, what to speak /
it is good for the heart,
watercress helps the lung.
when it loosens or is bothered
and for the most barking cough
the guaco with the lemon verbena … “
The relationship between the two naturalists later lasted by letter, and Hudson himself sent his friend’s annotations to scientists at the British Museum.
During World War I, Gibson was trapped in London with his wife Alice Donalson and their two daughters. When he managed to return to Argentina, he hurriedly left for his beloved “Los Yngleses”. There he saddled his horse and went out to tour the field, when a heavy rain surprised him, arriving soaked and cold at the helmet, where he died of pneumonia on October 26, 1919.
When Dr. José A. Pereyra, one of the most prominent Argentine ornithologists, passed through the ranch many years later, he was admired by the collections that still remained in the furniture in the rooms of the main house, finding drawers that hoarded valuable collections of eggs and splendid butterflies kept in old envelopes, written in the delicate calligraphy of Don Ernesto.
Go this column as a warm tribute to the Cabo San Antonio naturalist.