Darwin's Voyage By Fiona grannAn

On the morning of 27 December 1831, H.M.S. Beagle, with a crew of seventy-three men, sailed out of Plymouth harbor. Darwin became seasick almost immediately.

The Beagle arrived near Madeira Island, its first port-of-call, on 4 January 1832. Unfortunately a westerly squall prevented the ship from making port. Darwin took little notice of this turn of events, as he was too ill to even leave his cabin.

Two days later the Beagle arrived at the port of Santa Cruz at Tenerife Island. The crew of the Beagle would have to wait out a quarantine period of twelve days.

Capt. FitzRoy gave orders for the ship to proceed to the Cape Verde Islands. Darwin was devastated at missing the chance to see the island.

H.M.S. Beagle arrived at the Cape Verde Islands on 16 January and anchored at Porto Praya, on the island of Santiago. Darwin went ashore with two officers and rode to the village of Ribeira Grande, a few miles east of Porto Praya, to visit some Spanish ruins there, and returned to Porto Praya the next morning.

Darwin made detailed observations of a cuttle-fish that populated the tide pools around the island, and was fascinated by their ability to change colors.

The Beagle crossed the equator on 16 February and arrived four days later at the island of Fernando de Noronha where they stayed only a few hours.

On 28 February the Beagle arrived at Salvador (Bahia), Brazil, and anchored in All Saints Bay. Darwin spent a few days exploring the tropical rain forests on long walks, taking in the rich magnificence of nature.

On 18 March the Beagle set out from All Saints Bay and spent the next two weeks doing sounding measurements at the hazardous Abrolhos Shoals. During this survey Darwin made observations of microscopic tube-like "animals" that colored the ocean surface brown.

The Beagle arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 3 April 1832 and the crew received its first mail from England. He stayed onshore, perhaps to recover from his sea-sickness, while the Beagle surveyed around Cape Frio. While surveying a small cove, eleven of the crew went onshore to explore the Rio Racacu.

On 8 April Darwin went off exploring in the tropical rain forest with Patrick Lennon, a local English merchant, and five others. They explored about one-hundred miles up the coast from Rio de Janeiro.

Darwin collected many good specimens of plants, insects and animals during a trek. Over the next two days they traced their steps back to Rio de Janeiro.

Darwin returned to Rio de Janeiro on the evening of 23 April with a collection of insects and plants that was beyond his wildest dreams.

They spent the next few weeks in a little cottage located beneath the rounded mountain of Corcovado (2,300 feet). Darwin occupied himself in collecting and preserving specimens, making notes, and writing letters back to England.

The Beagle returned on 6 June from its survey work off the coast of Salvador. At some time during the next few weeks the ships surgeon, Robert McCormick, resigned his position and headed back to England on the H.M.S. Tyne.

The Beagle headed out of Rio de Janeiro harbor on 5 July 1832 and set sail for Montevideo. They arrived at Montevideo on the 26th. While in port FitzRoy led a survey trip up the Rio Parana in one of the Beagle's boats.

On 19 August Darwin shipped off his first load of specimens and notes to Revd. Henslow back in Cambridge. The specimens included several rocks and tropical plants, four bottles of animals in spirits, many beetles, and various marine animals; all of which were numbered, catalogued and described.

During the first week in September Capt. FitzRoy, Darwin, and Mr. Harris went onshore to visit Fort Argentina (see map, below), a military stronghold just south of Bahia Blanca. The Major in charge of the fort eyed them with much suspicion, especially Darwin with his odd looking instruments. He thought they were spies sent to reconnoiter the fort, and ordered his soldiers to watch their every move.

Always eager to get off the ship, Darwin spent many weeks collecting fossils in Patagonia, and found huge fossil bones in a cliff at Punta Alta. Darwin knew very little about paleontology, but he figured any fossils he collected may be of some interest to the experts back in England. When Darwin came back onboard Capt. FitzRoy had a difficult time understanding why he was bringing all sorts of "useless junk" on the ship. The fossils he collected at Punta Alta turned out to be giant rodent-like animals, armadillo shells, ground sloths and giant teeth, most of which were entirely unknown to science at the time.

The Paz and Liebre met up with the Beagle one week later, and after a brief inspection they were hauled on shore at Arroyo Pareja, near Bahia Blanca, for refitting. During the refit the Beagle surveyed along the coast to Bahia Blanca, then towards Mt. Hermosa where Darwin collected many good fossils (see map, below).

The refitting of the Paz and Liebre was completed on 18 October 1832 and Lieutenant John Wickham was put in command of them. A few days later the schooners surveyed along the outside of Blanco Bay.

Richard Matthews and the three Fuegians, and take on provisions for the trip further south.

On 24 November Darwin sent his second load of specimens and notes to Revd. Henslow. This collection consisted of the teeth of a Cavia (a large rodent-like creature), the upper jaw and head of a large animal (perhaps a Megatherium), the lower jaw of another large animal, some rodent teeth, several marine shells, an odd looking bird, some snakes and lizards, a toad, many crustaceans, dried plants, fish, some seeds, and naturally a lot of beetles.

The Beagle left Montevideo on 27 November, taking on a new crew member. On 3 December the Beagle caught up with the Paz and Liebre down the coast. Lieutenant Wickham reported that all his survey work has gone well, but he was very sunburn on his face, and this drew much laughter from the crew. The next day the ships parted ways and the Beagle sailed towards Tierra del Fuego.

Tierra del Fuego was sighted on 18 December and the three Fuegians became very excited to be so close to their home.

The next morning Capt. FitzRoy sent a party out to attempt communication with the Fuegians. A small group of Fuegians met the landing party as they came ashore.

About a week later Darwin explored the dense forest surrounding Good Success Bay. He tried to climb Banks Hill but had a very difficult time scrambling through the dense vegetation and eventually gave up and followed a stream back down to the shore.

The following day the Beagle set out again, passing the Barnevelts, then sailing to Cape Deceit and on to Cape Horn. The ship stood out to sea during the night, then sailed back into the islands of Tierra del Fuego the next day. FitzRoy ordered the Beagle to Wigwam Cove in Cape Horn for shelter.

On 24 December H.M.S. Beagle was off Cape Spencer at Hermit Island, and later in the day the ship moved to St. Francis Bay.

The Beagle spent the next few weeks out at sea waiting out a series of violent storms (see map, above). Capt. FitzRoy tried to enter the Beagle Channel on 13 January 1833, but the winds were so fierce that it was impossible to do so. Bringing the Beagle into the Channel was a risk Capt. FitzRoy was not willing to take, so the next day they crossed Nassau Bay ("N" on map, above) and anchored at Windhond Bay ("W" on map, above) where the Beagle would be safe from the elements.

Two days later Capt. FitzRoy tried again for the Beagle Channel, but to no avail. Undaunted by this setback, FitzRoy remained determined to get his Fuegians home again. They left Windhond Bay, and spent the next few days loading. On 18 January 1833 Capt. FitzRoy took the three Fuegians, twenty-eight members of the crew, and Darwin, in the four boats down the Beagle Channel ("B" on map, below).

In the afternoon they headed into the eastern side of the Channel, and in a short time found a small cove hidden by a few little islets and camped there for the night. The next day they glided along the Beagle Channel under the watchful eyes of native Fuegians on shore. At their next camp the crew met with several natives who begged endlessly for the most trifling objects. Over the next few days they continued along the channel and camped near the northern point of Ponsonby Sound ("P" on map, above). The next morning several natives came to their camp, all of whom were very excited to see the strange "pale people" who have visited their land.

On 23 January the four boats proceeded down Ponsonby Sound, escorted by many canoes, and arrived at Woolya Cove ("M" on map, above) where the mission was to be started. Jemmy's mother, two sisters and four brothers came to visit a short time later. The next few days were engaged in setting up the mission at Woolya Cove among dozens of Fuegian onlookers. Three small huts were built and the provisions were unloaded from the boats and secured in them to discourage thievery, (despite this, the Fuegians still managed to snatch a few items). Gardens were planted with potatoes, carrots, turnips, beans, peas, lettuce, onions, leeks and cabbages. By 27 January the mission was complete and Revd. Richard Matthews and the three anglicized Fuegians settled down to run the mission.

The next day the yawl and one whale-boat were sent back to the Beagle. Darwin stayed with the other two whale-boats which continued along the Beagle Channel to survey as far west as Whale-boat Sound. Darwin marveled at the many cliffs of ice, deep blue water, and glaciers. While camping on shore one day the boats became caught up by the waves and nearly floated out into the Channel, but Darwin and three others were quick enough on their feet to save them. In honor of Darwin's courage, Capt. FitzRoy named the highest peak in the area Mount Darwin ("D" on map, above).

The boats returned to Woolya Cove on 6 February to check up on the Fuegians but en-route they noticed to their dismay that many of the natives walking along the shore wore strips of English cloth. Their worst fears were realized when they found the mission had been looted many times over and the gardens trampled upon. Revd. Matthews, in a fit of despair, packed his gear and returned with the boats. The three Fuegians were left to fend for themselves, and promised to carry on their mission duties. The two boats left the same day and reached the Beagle on the evening of 7 February.

Concern about the well being of the three Fuegians, FitzRoy and a few others took a boat out on the 12th to check up on the mission at Woollya (see map, below). He found that the Fuegians had fixed up the place, the gardens were replanted, and the huts in good repair. After staying at the mission for a few days the crew headed back to the Beagle.

The Beagle sailed from Goree Roads on 21 February, but was stuck at Good Success Bay for a few days due to violent storms.

The Beagle arrived at the Falkland Islands on 1 March and anchored in Berkeley Sound at Port Louis. The British Navy had just taken over the islands from Argentina last January, and the Beagle provided needed security until reinforcements from the Navy arrived.

Darwin went on shore and spent the next few weeks engaged in fossil collecting. One thing that caught Darwin's attention was how different the fossils on the island were from those he found on the coast of South America. During his stay at the Falklands Darwin decided to do comparative studies between all the fossils, plants and animals he collected during the voyage. Such studies would later influence his views on plant and animal distribution, and eventually on the adaptation of similar species to different environments.

The ships left the Falkland Islands on 6 April 1833 and arrived at the Rio Negro amid strong winds on the 12th.

The Beagle arrived at Montevideo on 26 April, dropped off some French passengers from the Falkland Islands, and sailed the next day to Maldonado to check on the Adventure.

Darwin went on shore at Maldonado but found it to be a depressing and dull little place. On 2 April 1833 he went on a twelve day expedition into the interior with two hired guides and a team of a dozen horses. Along the way he collected a large number of exotic animals, birds, and reptiles, and saw many herds of ostrich on the pampas.

Darwin sent a third load of specimens to Revd. Henslow in Cambridge on 18 July 1833. This shipment included: eighty species of birds, twenty quadrupeds, four barrels of skins and plants, geological specimens and some fish.

He reached the Rio Colorado on the 13th, and was allowed to proceed to a military outpost near the river. After staying at the camp for a few days, Darwin continued along the Colorado River and reached Bahia Blanca on the 17th.

The next day Darwin went with a guide and a few horses about twenty-five miles along the coast to where the Beagle was supposed to meet him. However, the ship was not there so he headed back to Bahia Blanca.

A few days later Darwin rode again to see if the Beagle had returned, but to no avail. The next day he continued on to Punta Alta where he could view the entire harbor and keep watch for the Beagle.

While searching for fossils along the shore of Punta Alta, Darwin came across a very interesting find. He uncovered the complete fossil of a very large animal which he could not identify at all (it turned out to be a giant ground sloth). What struck Darwin as very odd was that this fossil was imbedded in a cliff face below a layer of white sea shells, similar to the layer he found on the island of Santiago the year before.

At last Darwin heard that the Beagle was anchored in Port Belgrano, near Bahia Blanca, and rode out to meet the ship there.

After several small stops, the began their work again, sailing down and around South America.

H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Callao, outside of Lima Peru on the 19th. Darwin looked around the city and was shocked at the state of decay all around him (poor looking dwellings, litter, dirty roads, etc…). He explored some old Indian ruins outside the city and mentioned exploring San Lorenzo Island's terraces with shell layers intact (off the coast of Bellavista). The next few weeks were spent taking on provisions for the trip across the Pacific ocean.

The Blonde reached Callao Bay on August 9th and met up with the Beagle.

A few days later Darwin received three letters from his sisters (dated as: Catherine: 28 January, Susan: 16 February, Caroline: 30 March) telling him how worried they were about his being ill for such a long time at Valparaiso. They feared that if he continued on the voyage his health would be ruined for the rest of his life, and they pleaded with him to return to England at once. He immediately wrote a letter home, telling his sisters that he was resolute to see the voyage to the end - ill health or not.

The very next day H.M.S. Beagle reached Hood Island, shown above. By noon another boat was launched to survey the central islands of the archipelago. Later in the afternoon H.M.S. Beagle reached Chatham Island. Darwin was intrigued by the rocky shore of black lava, and the raw hostile environment.

H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Chatham Island on the 17th, sailing north along the western shoreline and surveyed several bays along the coast and spotted an American Whaler in Stephen's Harbor.

Over the next few days the Beagle sailed around to the eastern side of Chatham and then surveyed southward along the coast.

The next day was spent surveying the waters around Charles Island. Darwin went on shore and also examined a few curious lava chimneys. During his stay on the island Darwin was informed that one can tell which island a tortoise came from by looking at it's shell.

For several months he gathered plants, animals, and information. He discovered many breakthroughs and wrote theories.

At this point, Darwin was sailing home. He sailed through many places, but they trudged on, mainly looking for a way back home.

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