When we think of Darwin’s voyage, we think of the Galapagos Islands. But there is much more to this story…
“I hate every wave of the ocean,” the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientist’s career.
This fabulous Esri story map by Matt Artz takes you on an interactive tour of Charles Darwin’s circumnavigation of the globe, 1831-1836.
Having read many of Darwin’s works, Catherine, one of our members, offers great insight to the tour and Darwin’s books:
The caption of the first photo introducing this map reads “…an English naturalist & geologist left on a voyage…which eventually resulted in his book describing his revolutionary new theory of natural selection.”
The book referred to in the quote is the Origin of Species published in 1859. However, Darwin wrote several books. The book on which the story map is based is not the Origin of Species, but The Voyage of the Beagle, published in 1839 shortly after the 1831-1836 voyage described by the story map.
The Voyage of the Beagle is basically Darwin’s journal from the voyage cleaned up a bit and published as a book. It is a much more fun book to read than the Origin of Species. The Voyage of the Beagle reads more like an adventure story, although remember that adventure stories back then were still somewhat dry (think “Moby Dick” which is also from that time period).
The story map provides some interesting quotes from Darwin, but I have included a few of my favorites below that I think are some of the more entertaining anecdotes from his journey:
“This day has been memorable in the annals of Valdivia, for the most severe earthquake experienced by the oldest inhabitant. I happened to be on shore…There was no difficulty in standing upright, but the motion made me almost giddy; it was something like the movement of a vessel in a little cross-ripple, or still more like that felt by a person skating over thin ice, which bends under the weight of his body.”
“At night I experienced an attack (for it deserves no less a name) of the Benchuca (a species of Reduvius) the great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one’s body.
Before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards they become round and bloated with blood, and in this state are easily crushed. They are also found in the northern parts of Chile and in Peru. One which I caught at Iquique, was very empty. When placed on the table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger was presented, the bold insect would immediately draw its sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body during the act of sucking, as it changed in less than ten minutes, from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form. This one feast, for which the benchuca was indebted to one of the officers, kept it fat during four whole months; but, after the first fortnight, the insect was quite ready to have another suck.”
Referring to the endemic marine iguana: “I threw one several times as far as I would, into a deep pool left by the retiring
tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I stood….I several times caught this same lizard, by driving it down to a point, and though possessed of such perfect powers of diving and swimming, nothing would induce it to enter the water…Perhaps this singular piece of apparent stupidity may be accounted for by the circumstance that this reptile has no enemy whatever on shore…”
Take a moment to experience the story map for yourself and if you haven’t already read the book, be warned – the map will whet your appetite for indulging in Charles Darwin’s magnificent travelogue, The Voyage of the Beagle.
Always an adventure with