The Voyage of the Beagle – Day 1 of 164

A Naturalist’s Voyage Round the World

H.M.S. Beagle in Straits of Magellan.

Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the countries visited during the voyage round the world of H.M.S. Beagle

under the command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N.

By Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S.

Author of ‘Origin of Species,’ Etc.

H.M.S. Beagle under full sail.

A new edition with illustrations by R. T. Pritchett of places visited and objects described.
John Murray, Albemarle Street

To Charles Lyell, Esq., F.R.S.

This second edition is dedicated with grateful pleasure, as an acknowledgment that the chief part of whatever scientific merit this journal and the other works of the author may possess, has been derived from studying the well-known and admirable Principles Of Geology.

Prefatory Notice to the Illustrated Edition.

This work was described, on its first appearance, by a writer in the Quarterly Review as "One of the most interesting narratives of voyaging that it has fallen to our lot to take up, and one which must always occupy a distinguished place in the history of scientific navigation."

This prophecy has been amply verified by experience; the extraordinary minuteness and accuracy of Mr. Darwin’s observations, combined with the charm and simplicity of his descriptions, have ensured the popularity of this book with all classes of readers—and that popularity has even increased in recent years. No attempt, however, has hitherto been made to produce an illustrated edition of this valuable work: numberless places and objects are mentioned and described, but the difficulty of obtaining authentic and original representations of them drawn for the purpose has never been overcome until now.

Most of the views given in this work are from sketches made on the spot by Mr. Pritchett, with Mr. Darwin’s book by his side. Some few of the others are taken from engravings which Mr. Darwin had himself selected for their interest as illustrating his voyage, and which have been kindly lent by his son.

Mr. Pritchett’s name is well known in connection with the voyages of the Sunbeam and Wanderer, and it is believed that the illustrations, which have been chosen and verified with the utmost care and pains, will greatly add to the value and interest of the “Voyage of a Naturalist.”
JOHN MURRAY – December 1889

Author’s Preface.

1. I must take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to Mr. Bynoe, the surgeon of the Beagle, for his very kind attention to me when I was ill at Valparaiso.

I have stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, and in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in consequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having some scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from him of giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volunteered my services, which received, through the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed of studying the Natural History of the different countries we visited have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I may here be permitted to repeat my expression of gratitude to him; and to add that, during the five years we were together, I received from him the most cordial friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to all the Officers of the Beagle1 I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated during our long voyage.

This volume contains, in the form of a Journal, a history of our voyage, and a sketch of those observations in Natural History and Geology, which I think will possess some interest for the general reader. I have in this edition largely condensed and corrected some parts, and have added a little to others, in order to render the volume more fitted for popular reading; but I trust that naturalists will remember that they must refer for details to the larger publications which comprise the scientific results of the Expedition. The Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle includes an account of the Fossil Mammalia, by Professor Owen; of the Living Mammalia, by Mr. Waterhouse; of the Birds, by Mr. Gould; of the Fish, by the Reverend L. Jenyns; and of the Reptiles, by Mr. Bell. I have appended to the descriptions of each species an account of its habits and range. These works, which I owe to the high talents and disinterested zeal of the above distinguished authors, could not have been undertaken had it not been for the liberality of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury, who, through the representation of the Right Honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, have been pleased to grant a sum of one thousand pounds towards defraying part of the expenses of publication.

I have myself published separate volumes on the Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs; on the Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of the Beagle; and on the Geology of South America. The sixth volume of the Geological Transactions contains two papers of mine on the Erratic Boulders and Volcanic Phenomena of South America. Messrs. Waterhouse, Walker, Newman, and White, have published several able papers on the Insects which were collected, and I trust that many others will hereafter follow. The plants from the southern parts of America will be given by Dr. J. Hooker, in his great work on the Botany of the Southern Hemisphere. The Flora of the Galapagos Archipelago is the subject of a separate memoir by him, in the Linnean Transactions. The Reverend Professor Henslow has published a list of the plants collected by me at the Keeling Islands; and the Reverend J. M. Berkeley has described my cryptogamic plants.

I shall have the pleasure of acknowledging the great assistance which I have received from several other naturalists in the course of this and my other works; but I must be here allowed to return my most sincere thanks to the Reverend Professor Henslow, who, when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, was one chief means of giving me a taste for Natural History,—who, during my absence, took charge of the collections I sent home, and by his correspondence directed my endeavours,—and who, since my return, has constantly rendered me every assistance which the kindest friend could offer.
Down, Bromley, Kent – June 1845

H.M.S. Beagle Middle section, fore and aft, and upper deck, 1832 Fernando Noronha

Chapter I–St. Jago & Cape De Verd Islands

Porto Praya—Ribeira Grande—Atmospheric Dust with Infusoria—Habits of a Sea-slug and Cuttle-fish—St. Paul’s Rocks, non-volcanic—Singular Incrustations—Insects the first Colonists of Islands—Fernando Noronha—Bahia—Burnished Rocks—Habits of a Diodon—Pelagic Confervæ and Infusoria—Causes of discoloured Sea.

After having been twice driven back by heavy south-western gales, Her Majesty’s ship Beagle a ten-gun brig, under the command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N., sailed from Devonport on the 27th of December, 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. On the 6th of January we reached Teneriffe, but were prevented landing, by fears of our bringing the cholera: the next morning we saw the sun rise behind the rugged outline of the Grand Canary Island, and suddenly illumine the Peak of Teneriffe, whilst the lower parts were veiled in fleecy clouds. This was the first of many delightful days never to be forgotten. On the 16th of January 1832 we anchored at Porto Praya, in St. Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd archipelago.

2. I state this on the authority of Dr. E. Dieffenbach, in his German translation of the first edition of this Journal.

The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a desolate aspect. The volcanic fires of a past age, and the scorching heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil unfit for vegetation. The country rises in successive steps of table-land, interspersed with some truncate conical hills, and the horizon is bounded by an irregular chain of more lofty mountains. The scene, as beheld through the hazy atmosphere of this climate, is one of great interest; if, indeed, a person, fresh from sea, and who has just walked, for the first time, in a grove of cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of anything but his own happiness. The island would generally be considered as very uninteresting, but to any one accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel aspect of an utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur which more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains; yet flocks of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but during a short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards a light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This soon withers; and upon such naturally formed hay the animals live. It had not now rained for an entire year. When the island was discovered, the immediate neighbourhood of Porto Praya was clothed with trees,2 the reckless destruction of which has caused here, as at St. Helena, and at some of the Canary islands, almost entire sterility. The broad, flat-bottomed valleys, many of which serve during a few days only in the season as watercourses, are clothed with thickets of leafless bushes. Few living creatures inhabit these valleys. The commonest bird is a kingfisher (Dacelo Iagoensis), which tamely sits on the branches of the castor-oil plant, and thence darts on grasshoppers and lizards. It is brightly coloured, but not so beautiful as the European species: in its flight, manners, and place of habitation, which is generally in the driest valley, there is also a wide difference.

3. The Cape de Verd Islands were discovered in 1449. There was a tombstone of a bishop with the date of 1571; and a crest of a hand and dagger, dated 1497.

One day, two of the officers and myself rode to Ribeira Grande, a village a few miles eastward of Porto Praya. Until we reached the valley of St. Martin, the country presented its usual dull brown appearance; but here, a very small rill of water produces a most refreshing margin of luxuriant vegetation. In the course of an hour we arrived at Ribeira Grande, and were surprised at the sight of a large ruined fort and cathedral. This little town, before its harbour was filled up, was the principal place in the island: it now presents a melancholy, but very picturesque appearance. Having procured a black Padre for a guide, and a Spaniard who had served in the Peninsular war as an interpreter, we visited a collection of buildings, of which an ancient church formed the principal part. It is here the governors and captain-generals of the islands have been buried. Some of the tombstones recorded dates of the sixteenth century.3 The heraldic ornaments were the only things in this retired place that reminded us of Europe. The church or chapel formed one side of a quadrangle, in the middle of which a large clump of bananas were growing. On another side was a hospital, containing about a dozen miserable-looking inmates.

We returned to the Vênda to eat our dinners. A considerable number of men, women, and children, all as black as jet, collected to watch us. Our companions were extremely merry; and everything we said or did was followed by their hearty laughter. Before leaving the town we visited the cathedral. It does not appear so rich as the smaller church, but boasts of a little organ, which sent forth singularly inharmonious cries. We presented the black priest with a few shillings, and the Spaniard, patting him on the head, said, with much candour, he thought his colour made no great difference. We then returned, as fast as the ponies would go, to Porto Praya.

Another day we rode to the village of St. Domingo, situated near the centre of the island. On a small plain which we crossed, a few stunted acacias were growing; their tops had been bent by the steady trade-wind, in a singular manner–some of them even at right angles to their trunks. The direction of the branches was exactly north-east by north, and south-west by south, and these natural vanes must indicate the prevailing direction of the force of the trade-wind. The travelling had made so little impression on the barren soil, that we here missed our track, and took that to Fuentes. This we did not find out till we arrived there; and we were afterwards glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village, with a small stream; and everything appeared to prosper well, excepting, indeed, that which ought to do so most–its inhabitants. The black children, completely naked, and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles of firewood half as big as their own bodies.

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