The Voyage of the Beagle
Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches
‘In England any person fond of natural history enjoys a great advantage … but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all’
When the Beagle sailed out of Devonport on 27th December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime. The journal that he kept shows a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology and natural history as well as people, places and events. Volcanoes in the Galapagos, the Gossamer spider of Patagonia, the Australasian coral reefs and the brilliance of the firefly; all are to be found in these extraordinary writings. The insights made on the five-year voyage were to set in motion the intellectual currents that lead to the most controversial book of the Victorian age: The Origin of Species.
This volume reprints Charles Darwin’s journal in a shortened form. It contains an introduction providing a background to Darwin’s thought and work, as well as notes, maps and appendices and an essay on scientific geology and the Bible by Robert FitzRoy, Darwin’s friend and captain of the Beagle.
The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself; the greater number of its inhabitants, both vegetable and animal, being found nowhere else. As I shall refer to this subject again, I will only here remark, as forming a striking character on first landing, that the birds are strangers to man. So tame and unsuspecting were they, that they did not even understand what was meant by stones being thrown at them; and quite regardless of us, they approached so close that any number of them might have been killed with a stick.
The Beagle sailed round Chatham Island, and anchored in several bays. One night I slept on shore, on a part of the island where some black cones – the former chimneys of the subterranean heated fluids – were extraordinarily numerous. From one small eminence, I counted sixty of these truncated hillocks, which were all surmounted by a more or less perfect crater. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae, or slags, cemented together: and their height above the plain of lave, was not more than from 50 to 100 feet. From their regular form, they gave the country a workshop appearance, which strongly reminded me of those parts of Stratfordshire where the great iron foundries are most numerous.