Darwin was born in Serewsbury, England in 1809. His father and
grandfather were physicians. After studing Medicine for two years
in Edimburgh, he decided to quit and study teology in the University
of Cambridge. It was thanks to one of his teachers there, the botanist
Dr. Henslow, that Darwin got his interest in Natural Science back,
especially in geology, botanics and entomology. It was also this
clever teacher who advised Darwin to board the "Beagle"
and join the Captain Fitz Roy expedition as a naturalist. The ten
cannon ship baptized "Beagle" owned by the Royal Navy
and commanded by Captain Fitz Roy finally sailed from Devonport
in 1931 after failing twice because of the strong southwestern storms.
The objectives of the expedition were to complete the studies of
the coasts of the Patagonia and Tierra del fuego; to draw planes
of the coast of Chile, Peru and some islands in the Pacific Ocean
and last but not least to make a series of chronometric observations
all around the world. Charles Darwin was part of this expedition.
From the trip journal:
December 23rd. "we arrived at Puerto Deseado, in the coast
of the Patagonia, at latitude 47° South. The Beagle dropped
anchor a few yards offshore the bay near the ruins of an old Spanish
I jumped off to dry land inmediatly. Landing for the first time
in an unknown country is always very interesting and it is even
more interesting when the landscape has its own particular and remarkable
characteristics. One of them is the fact that there are inmense
plateaus lying on porphyry surfaces at 200 or 300 feet over the
sea level. These plateaus are completely flat and their surface
consists of a mixture of pebbles and white earth. From time to time,
there are spots of brownish-grey and pinkish weed and some, but
few, thorny bushes.
The weather is dry and pleasant and the blue sky is rarely covered
All the attempts to colonize this coast of America at latitude
41° south have failed.
simple name of "Puerto del Hambre" ( Hunger Port) is clear
enough to show the hard conditions that a few hundred of poor wretches
must have suffered. It is significant that not even one of those
men survived to tell their experience.
The Patagonian fauna and flora is limited. Beetles are a common
sight in the desert plateaus and sometimes a lizard shyly appears.
There are also vultures flying across the blue skies and various
insectivorous species can be found in the valleys.
The wild "guanaco" or "llama" is typical in
this region. It may be called the Sotuhern American camel and is
commonly found in the warm lands of the continent as well as in
the cold islands near the Cabo de Hornos.
This is a lonely and isolated scenery. There are no trees. All you
can find, if you are lucky, is a guanaco that seem to be on guard,
keeping a lookout in the top of a hill. Although you can hardly
see any other animals not even a bird, going through this desert
where no objects to look at are found gives you great pleasure and
makes you wonder : how old is this plateau? Has it ever looked this
way? How long will this desolation last?
Who may answer these questions? Everything that surrounds us seems
eternal. However, the mysterious voices that are heard in these
inmensities raise terrible doubts".
Being back home and after getting married, Charles Darwin collected
all his notes about the exploration and between 1840 - 1843 published
them under the title of " Zoology of the trip to Beagle".
In 1851 he also published some studies about "cirripedos",
a special kind of marine crustacean. It was in 1859 that he finally
published the work of twenty years: his very well known book entitled
"The origin of the species".