VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE
Darwin writes in his journal:
December 27, 1831, Devenport, England #1
Heavy winds blew our ship back to port two times. Under the command Captain Fitz Roy the Beagle finally set sail on December 27, 1831. The object of the expedition was to complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, commenced under Captain King in 1826 to 1830 -- to survey the shores of Chile, Peru, and of some islands in the Pacific -- and to carry a chain of chronometrical measurements round the World.
January 16, 1832 Porto Praya #2
Porto Praya is a desolate place. Volcanic fires of past ages and the scorching heat have made the soil unfit for vegetation. A single green leaf is hard to find, but flocks of sheep and cows survive there. It rains very seldom but when it does it rains in torrents, and immediately small plants grow out of every crack and crevice.
July 5th, 1832, Rio de Janerio, Brazil
One dark night we were surrounded by numerous seals and penguins, which made strange noises. On a second night we witnessed a splendid scene of natural fireworks; the mast-head and yard-arm-ends shone with St. Elmo's light; and the form of the vane could almost be traced as if it had been rubbed with phosphorus.
July 24, 1833, Maldonado, Uruguay #4
About fifty years ago, under the old Spanish government, a small colony was\par established here; and it is still the most southern position (lat. 41°) on this eastern coast America, inhabited by civilized people.
August 24, 1833, Buenos Aires, Argentina #5
I discovered fossil armadillos, giant ground sloths, peculiar horses, and creatures that reminded me of the hippopotamus. They look like their modern relatives except that they were a lot larger. The bones were found embedded on the beach, within the space of about 200 yards square. I saw so many fossils that I am convinced that there are more extinct species than living species. I also realize that living species have ancestors
January 9, 1834, Port St. Julian, Argentina #6
The whole southern part of the continent, a distance of 1200 miles had been uplifted. Here I observed beds of fossil ocean organisms (sea shells) thousands of feet above sea level.
December 17, 1834, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina #7
A group of Fuegians partly concealed by trees, were perched on a wild point overhanging the sea; and as we passed by, they sprang up and waving their tattered cloaks sent forth a loud and sonorous shout. The savages followed the ship, and just before dark we saw their fire, and again heard their wild cry.
January 15, 1835, Bay of S.Carlos,
On the night of the 19th the volcano of Orsono was in action. Large masses of molten lava could be seen being cast out of the crater.
February 20, 1835 Valdivia, Chile #9
I was on shore and lying down when an earthquake came on suddenly and lasted two minutes. It lifted beds of marine mussels twenty feet above the high water mark.
March 4, 1835, Concepci'on, Chile #10
The mayor of the Concepci'on told me the terrible news of the great earthquake of the 20th: -- "That not a house in Concepcion or Talcahuano (the port) was standing; that seventy villages were destroyed; and that a great wave had almost washed away the ruins of Talcahuano."
September 15, 1835, Galapagos Islands,
The Galapagos Islands are a cluster of 18 rugged volcanic islands. We explored the islands for five weeks and we landed on six of the islands. The climate was far from being excessively hot, due to the low temperature of the surrounding water, brought by the great southern Polar current. These islands are inhabited by large numbers of bizarre and often beautiful plant and animal species. Of the 26 species of land birds, 23 are found nowhere else in the world. Of the 436 species of plants, 223 are found nowhere else.
I have observed species of birds, lizards, and tortoises and have found that the different species are only found on certain islands. I think that an ancestral stock had migrated to the islands where they underwent profound changes under the different conditions of the individual islands. Apparently a single ancestral group could give rise to several different varieties or species.
I observed finches that were probably descended from one type of ancestor and then, due to isolation and through chance, different climates and natural forces such as food availability and type, they evolved into thirteen different types of finches identified by the different beak shapes and sizes. Some of the finches were found in the treetops and others lived in the lower shrubs of a neighboring islands. Some finches had heavy, short beaks used for pecking trees, while others had small, thin beaks used for capturing insects.
During a drought season when no new seeds were produced for an island's finches to eat, the finches were forced to hunt for remaining seeds on the ground. Soon all the visible seeds had been devoured. It so happened that those with slightly thicker bills than average could turn over stones a little bit better than the rest to find the remaining seeds and so they managed to survive the famine. The others perished. When the drought ended and the birds again had young, this new generation had slightly thicker bills. Survival of the fittest.
The rocks on the coast abounded with great black lizards, between three and four feet long; and on the hills, an ugly yellowish-brown species was equally common. We saw many of this latter kind, some clumsily running out of the way, and others shuffling into their burrows.
I observed several types of land tortoises on the islands. Tortoises with short necks were living in damp areas with lots of plant life that grew short to the ground. Longer-necked tortoises were living in dry areas with cacti. I wonder whether the length of their necks made it possible for the tortoises to live in different environments.
November 15, 1835, Tahiti Island, French
The luxuriant vegetation of the lower part could not yet be seen, and as the clouds rolled past, the wildest and most precipitous mountain peaks showed themselves towards the center of the island. As soon as we anchored we were surrounded by canoes.
January 12, 1836, Sydney, Australia #13
Having entered the harbor, it appears fine and spacious, with cliff-formed shores of horizontally stratified sandstone. The nearly level country is covered with thin scrubby trees. Proceeding further inland, the country improves: beautiful villas and nice cottages are here and there scattered along the beach. In the distance stone houses, two and three stories high, and windmills standing on the edge of a bank, pointed out to us the neighborhood of the capital of Australia. I saw the ostrich, rhea, emu, and wonder why these large flightless birds are found only in Australia. Organisms on one continent are different from those on another continent.
April 1, 1836 Cocos Islands #14
We arrived in view of the Keeling or Cocos Islands, situated in the Indian Ocean, and about six hundred miles distant from the coast of Sumatra. This is one of the lagoon-islands of coral formation, similar to those in the Low Archipelago which we passed near.
May 19, 1836, Port Louis, Mauritius #15
This island, the forbidding aspect of which has been so often described, rises abruptly like a huge black castle from the ocean. Near the town, as if to complete nature's defense, small forts and guns fill up every gap in the rugged rocks. The town runs up a flat and narrow valley; the houses look respectable, and are interspersed with a very few green trees.
July 19, 1836, Ascension #16
On the 19th of July we reached Ascension. Those who have beheld a volcanic island, situated under an arid climate, will at once be able to picture to themselves the appearance of Ascencion. They will imagine smooth conical hills of a bright red color, with their summits generally truncated, rising separately out of a level surface of black rugged lava. A principal mound in the center of the island, seems the father of the lesser cones. It is called Green Hill its name being taken from the faintest tinge of that color, which at this time of the year is barely perceptible from the anchorage. To complete the desolate scene, the black rocks on the coast are lashed by a wild and turbulent sea.
October 2, 1836, Falmouth, England #17
On the 2nd of October we made the shore, of England; and at Falmouth I left the Beagle, having lived on board the good little vessel nearly five years.
Darwin Voyage Questions