|Ship's Company, H. M. S. Beagle †|
|Name||1831: On Departure||1836: On Return|
|Robert Fitz-Roy||Commander and Surveyor||Captain and Surveyor|
|[Fuegia Basket, Jemmy Button, York Minster] (3)||Three Fuegians||1834: remained in Tierra del Fuego|
|Benjamin Bynoe||Assistant Surgeon||Surgeon (Acting)|
|Edward Main Chaffers||Master||Master|
|[Syms Covington]||Mr. Darwin's servant||Mr. Darwin's servant|
|Alexander Derbishire||Mate||1832: returned to England|
|John Edward Dring||[seaman?]||Purser (Acting)|
|Augustus Earle||Draughtsman||1832: returned to England|
|[Harry Fuller]||My own steward||My steward|
|— Robert N. Hamond ‡||1832, 27 Nov: joined crew||1833, 2 May: returned to England|
|Edward H. Hellyer||Clerk||1833: died|
|— Charles Richardson Johnson||1832: joined as midshipman||Mate|
|? Jones||[boy?]||1832: died (“Boy Jones” in Darwin's Diary)|
|— William Kent||1833: joined crew||Assistant Surgeon|
|Philip Gidley King||Midshipman||1836: remained in Australia|
|Robert Mac-Cormick||Surgeon||1832: returned to England|
|— Conrad Martens||1834: joined as Draughtsman||1834: left ship|
|Richard Matthews||[Minister]||1836: remained in Australia|
|? Morgan||[seaman?]||1832: died|
|Charles Musters||Volunteer 1st Class||1832: died|
|George Rowlett||Purser||1834: died|
|[Thomas Sorrell]||acting boatswain||Boatswain (Acting)|
|George James Stebbing||Instrument Maker||[Instrument Maker]|
|Peter Benson Stewart||Mate||Mate|
|John Lort Stokes||Mate and Assistant Surveyor||Mate and Assistant Surveyor|
|Bartholomew James Sulivan||Lieutenant||Lieutenant|
|Alexander Burns Usborne||Master's Assistant||Master's Assistant|
|John Clements Wickham||Lieutenant||Lieutenant|
|Marine Privates (7 §)||unidentified||unidentified|
† Table based on lists in this chapter.|
Captain's name at top of list, with other names here listed alphabetically.
Person present on departure, but not listed by FitzRoy
[Name] Person not identified by name
[other details] based on information found elsewhere in text.
— Person joined ship's company after departure from England
‡ Joined, Chapter VI; Left, Chapter XIII. Was Mate (FitzRoy) or Midshipman (Darwin, Diary) on H. M. S. Druid.
§ Includes Private James Bute, identified elsewhere as one of the marines.
Date followed by details based on information in text or Darwin's Diary.
Albemarle Island—Cyclopean Scene—Tagus Cove—Tide Ripples—Settlers—Climate—Salt—Dampier—Birds—
Transportation of Tortoises—Currents—Temperature of Water.
The irreclaimably barren appearance of the sea coast of Northern Chile, is very repulsive to an eye accustomed to woodland scenery: yet there is an effect in its lofty mountains, which seem to rise abruptly almost from the ocean, that charms one for a time. Just before sunrise is generally the most favourable moment for enjoying an unclouded view of the Andes in all their towering grandeur: for scarcely have his beams shot between their highest pinnacles into the westward vallies, when clouds of vapour rise from every quarter, and during the rest of the day, with few exceptions, obscure the distant heights.
It has been long supposed that the Andes are higher about the equator than near or beyond the tropic; but the Beagle's measurements of Aconcagua* and Villarica,† prove that there is still much to be ascertained on this subject. Few results, depending upon angualar measurement, are more difficult to obtain with accuracy than the heights of distant mountains. With respect to Aconcagua, though a variety of measurements, taken by differenct officers at various times, agreed together so closely as to give from 23,200 to 23,400 feet for the vertical elevation of that volcano about the level of the sea, I would not claim to be much nearer the truth than within 500 feet.
* Lat. 32° 39' S.: height, 23,000 feet above the sea level.
† Lat. 39° 10' S.: height, 16,000 feet about the sea level.
The Blonde touched at Cobija, Arica, and Islay—hapless arid dwelling-places for either man or beast, as I have ever seen. Of these and other ports along the coasts of Northern Chile and Peru, nautical information will be found in the Appendix. I will only delay the general reader with one or two observations.
From near Iquique to Arica the precipitous coast is so lofty, and approaches so much to the character of enormous cliffs, about a thousand feet high, that it is really sublime. Near Islay, the land is in several places covered with a whitish powder, or dust, which lies many inches thick in hollows or sheltered places, but is not found abundantly in localities exposed to wind. Much difference of opinion has arisen about this powder. People who live there say it was thrown out of a volcano near Arequipa a great many years ago: other persons assert that it is not a volcanic production, and appertains to, or had its origin, where it is found. My own idea was, before I heard anything of the controversy, that there could be no doubt of its having fallen upon the ground within some hundred years, for it was drifted like snow, and where any quantity lay together, had become consolidated about as much as flour which has got damp in a damaged barrel.
In one of the old voyages there is a passage which seems to throw some light upon this subject: “As they (of Van Noort's ship) sailed near Arequipa, they had a dry fog, or rather the air was obscured by a white sandy dust, with which their clothes and the ship's rigging became entirely covered. These fogs the Spaniards called ‘arenales.’ ”—Voyage of Van Noort, in 1660 from Burney, vol. ii. p. 223.
On the 9th of August, the Blonde anchored in Callao Bay, and I enjoyed the satisfaction of finding all well on board the Beagle. She had touched at Copiapó and Iquique, for Mr. Darwin, in her way to Callao, where she arrived on the 19th of July. Lieutenant Sulivan brought his little vessel safely to an anchor near the Beagle on the 30th, having accomplished his survey in a very satisfactory manner. So well did he speak of the Constitucion, as a handy craft and good sea boat, and so correctly did his own work in her appear to have been executed, that after some days consideration I decided to buy her, and at once set on foot an examination of the coast of Peru, similar to that which Mr. Sulivan had completed of the coast of Chile. Don Francisco Vascuñan had authorized the sale of his vessel at Callao: she was purchased by me for £400, and immediately fitted out afresh.
I could not spare Lieutenant Sulivan to remain on the coast of Peru, while the Beagle would be crossing the Pacific, on her return to England by way of the Cape of Good Hope; but there was Mr. Usborne, able and willing to undertake the task, who, from his station, could be spared without prejudice to the duties yet remaining to be executed on board the Beagle, and a better man for the purpose I could not have desired. With him Mr. Forsyth volunteered to go, and Commodore Mason was prevailed upon to allow Mr. E. Davis, a master's assistant of the Blonde, to join the little expedition; who, with seven good seamen, and a boy, volunteers from the Beagle, completed Mr. Usborne's party.
A complete stranger might well smile at the idea of such a boat affair being started to survey, in eight or at most ten months, the whole coast of Peru, from Paposa, near Atacama, to the River Guayaquil; but the task was completed; the charts are now engraved; and very soon seamen will be able to test their accuracy.
Most people are aware that the coast of Peru is free from storms; that the wind blows moderately along the land or from it; and that there is little or no rain. Consequently, as the sea is seldom much disturbed (except by a south-west swell), and there are neither ‘races’ nor dangerous streams of tide, an open boat might undertake such a task, if safety alone were to be considered, provided that she did not try to land in a surf. The real impediments to surveying that coast are—the surf caused on those steep rocky shores by an occasional heavy swell, almost amounting to rollers, from the south-westward; the delays and doubts created by prevalent fogs; and the loss of positions, as well as time, consequent upon being drifted by currents during a calm. Mr. Usborne had also to prepare for, and provide against, as much as possible, difficulties of a very different nature—those arising out of the disturbed state of that country—the anarchical internal dissensions which are the bane of all South America, but especially of Peru. In this respect there were so many prospective dangers, as well as difficulties, that I should not have ventured to let him encounter them, had we not such a man as Belford Hinton Wilson* to rely upon for foresight, advice, influence, and as hearty unflinching assistance, as any one public servant could afford to another. Mr. Wilson's exertions wre unceasing, until he procured every passport and document that chould by any possibility be required for Mr. Usborne. He introduced him as well as myself, to the hydrographer (Don Eduardo Carrasco) who assisted us in many ways most materially; and after I left the coast he showed every possible attention and kindness to all the Constitucion's party; winding up by advancing a large sum of money out of his own purse, to forward the service in which they were engaged, and increase their comfort during a long passage to England round Cape Horn.
* Then consul-general, now chargé d'affaires of H. B. M. in Peru.
Captain Carrasco, formerly in the Spanish navy, and now Director of the Nautical School at Lima, gave me, and afterwards Mr. Usborne, every particle of information which he and I thought might be useful—both verbally and in writting—besides which he ransacked the archives for manuscripts, charts, and books, from which he allowed extracts to be taken or copies made, in the most truly liberal manner; and I long to see the results of our voyage, whatever they may be, laid before him and his friends, as an acknowledgement—however slight—of their free assistance and co-operation.
On the 6th of September Mr. Usborne sailed.† He was to commence near Paposo; work along the coast thence to Guayaquil, and afterward return to Callao.
† Orders in Appendix.
The following day the Beagle left Callao, and steered direct towards the Galápagos Islands, of which, as they are novel ground, I shall be rather minute in my description.
14th. [No entry for this date.]
15th. Uncertain of the strength, and even the direction of the currents—though aware that at times the former is very considerable—we were anxiously looking out for land, when what appeared to be an islet was seen from the mast-head. This seeming islet turned out to be the summit of Mount Pitt, a remarkable hill at the north-east end of Chatham Island. (Charles Island of Cowley, 1684).* As the breeze and current carried us onwards, the tops of other hills successively appeared, and for a short time looked like a cluster of islets.
* See the Notes page for FitzRoy's association of “Charles” with Chatham at this point, and with the present Santa María elsewhere in the Narrative—JW.
Gradually rising above the horizon, the greater part of Chatham Island became distinctly visible: in this neighbourhood it is not often that the air near the water is clear enough to allow of very distant high land being thus gradually raised above the horizon of an eye at mast-head; for, in general, clouds hang about these islands, and the atmosphere itself is hazy. Towards evening the higher parts of the land were clouded over, but we were near enough to see that the island was very rugged—in some places quite barren—in others covered with a stunted and sun-dried brushwood—and that the heights, on which the clouds hung, were thickly clothed with green wood. The shores seemed to be bold, and easy to approach, though not to land upon, because of a continual high surf.
A number of little craters (as they appeared to be) and huge irregular-shaped masses of lava rock, gave a strangely misleading appearance to the lower parts of the island; and when first seen through that indistinct glimmer which is usually noticed over land on which a hot sun is shining, were supposed to be large trees and thick wood.* Hood Island, small and rather low, was seen before dusk, when we tacked and stretched to seaward for a few hours.
* This glimmering haziness is at times a great impediment to making accurate measurements of an object, when both it and the observer's eye are near the ground. Raising either some few feet higher, remedies this inconvenience, which is much felt when using a micrometer fro measuring a base.
16th. Assisted by a current running to the westward, we worked up to Hood Island during the night, and at daybreak lowered a boat down and prepared her for Mr. Chaffers, who, with Mr. Mellersh, was to examine this island and the anchorages about it. Under the land we saw two whalers at anchor, which showed North American colours. The island is small—neither high nor low—rugged, covered with small sun-burnt brushwood, and bounded by a bold, rocky shore. Some small beaches of white sand are visible here and there.
As soon as Mr. Chaffers had set out, the Beagle steered towards Chatham Island, with a moderate breeze, which allowed us to prepare the yawl for another party, under Lieutenant Sulivan. At noon, Barrington Island was visible from the deck, and appeared to be distant about twenty miles; when with Messrs. Stewart and Johnson, and ten chosen seamen in the yawl, Mr. Sulivan left us to examine the central islands of the archipelago.
In continuing our course, we passed through several ripplings, apparently caused by the meeting of streams of current which set along the shores of Chatham Island, from the east towards the west. If not so caused, they must be the effects of currents passing over very uneven ground, but we got no bottom, with fifty fathoms of line. When such appearances are created by shoals, it should be remembered that the shallowest place is generally under the smoothest part, close to the ripple. Favoured by smooth water and fine weather, we passed close to the low south-west extreme, and anchored directly that point was found to defend us from the swell.
This part of the island is low, and very rugged. We landed upon black, dismal-looking heaps of broken lava, forming a shore fit for Pandemonium. Innumerable crabs and hideous iguanas started in every direction as we scrambled from rock to rock. Few animals are uglier than these iguanas; they are lizard-shaped, about three feet in length; of a dirty black colour; with a great mouth, and a pouch hanging under it; a kind of horny mane upon the neck and back; and long claws and tail. These reptiles swim with ease and swiftness—but use their tails only at that time. At a few yards from the water we found vegetation abundant, though the only soil seen was a little loose dusty earth, scattered upon and between the broken lava. Walking is extremely difficult. A hand-barrow was lying at the landing-place, which showed that terrapin were to be got near us, though we did not then see any. The men from whalers and sealing vessels carry the large terrapin, or land-tortoises, on these barrows.
Ascending a little hill, we were surprised to find much brush or underwood, and trees of considerable size, as large in the trunk as one man could clasp. These were prickly pears, and a kind of gum-tree: how their roots are able to penetrate, or derive nourishment from the hard lava, it is hard to say; for earth there is scarcely any. Wild cotton shrubs are numerous. This first excursion had no tendency to raise our ideas of the Galápagos Islands.
17th. Weighed and stood alongshore, sounding. There was good anchorage, until near the south-west point of Stephens Bay, off which the water is shoal, and the bottom uneven. We anchored in Stephens Bay, and found an American whaler lying there. This bay is large, and the anchoring ground generally good; but the landing is bad at low water. There is no fresh water: and it is frequently difficult to enter, as well as to leave, because usually becalmed by high land, it seldom feels the true wind. Enderby Cove is only fit for a boat; at low water it is full of rocks. The Kicker Rock is a curious mass of stone, rising almost perpendicularly from the bottom of the sea, where it is thirty fathoms deep; and in the offing is another (called the Dalrymple, by Colnett), which looks exactly like a ship becalmed, with all sail set. Seeing a remarkable hill at the north-east side of the bay, which had not an appearance like other parts of the island, I went to it in a boat, hoping to find water near the foot, and to have a good view from the summit. Disappointed in both ways, the hill being composed of a crumbling sand-stone, and almost inaccessible, I returned to the ship early next morning. Several new birds were seen by those who were on shore, and many fish were caught on board, of which the best and most numerous were a kind of rock cod, of large size.
18th. Weighed and stood alongside until noon, when we anchored close to a low rugged point, near the north-east end of the island: employed two boats in examining the shore, and landed a party to look for terrapin: Mr. Darwin and Mr. Stokes went to the top of a neighboring hill. Throughout this day it blew so fresh a breeze, that double-reefed topsails were as much as could be carried: but I think this strength of wind only prevailed under the lee of the island, where the wind rushed down in squalls, after having been intercepted and checked by the high land. All the hills appear to have been the craters of volcanoes: some are of sandy mud, others are lava. There is plenty of wood hereabouts, though stunted and dry. On no part of this shore is there a chance of finding water; all is stony, without any soil which could either collect or carry if off.
Our party brought eighteen terrapin on board. In size they were not remarkable, none exceeding eighty pounds. This animal appears to be well defended by nature; but, in truth, it is rather helpless, and easily injured. The shell is slight, and becomes weaker (in proportion to the animal's size), as the tortoise grows older.
19th. Sailed round the north-east extremity of the island, and worked to the southward against a tide, or rather current, setting strongly to the north-west.
20th. At daylight we were off the south-east part of the island; and continued working to the south-west, during the forenoon, along a shore quite bold, excepting the small rocks above water in ‘Middle’ Bay. At noon, seeing a small cove, I went in a boat to examine it, and look for water. We found no signs of any in that place; but a little farther west, a fine stream was seen falling from a lava cliff, about thirty feet high. Mr. Low had described this waterfall correctly; and his account of the watering place near it was soon verified, by our discovering a cove half a mile to the westward of the cascade. We landed on a stony beach in the cove, and found a fine stream of excellent water: two others were likewise seen, but they were inaccessible. This water runs from the highest parts of the islands (which are almost always enveloped in clouds) down a large valley.* All this southern side of the island is well wooded; and on the higher ground the wood is very green.
* There is no other place in the Galápagos where ships can water at all times of the year.
Continuing our course along shore, we arrived at our former anchorage in Stephens Bay soon after dark, when Mr. Chaffers returned on board, having reached the anchorage in the morning.
21st. [No entry for this date.]
22d. So generally cloudy is the weather here, that a day such as this proved to be, of hot, vertical sunshine, was much felt by every body; and to show how objectionable our anchorage was in this respect, I may mention that a fresh breeze was blowing all day in the offing; yet in the bay only light variable airs were felt.
Some fine turtle were brought on board, the first we had seen here; they are rather like the green turtle of the West-Indies, but not exactly. Among the shells found about the islands one is common,which reminded me of the purple murex, as the fish emits a strongly dyeing liquid of a similar colour.† A kind of mangrove grows near the water, on the sandy beaches of this island; and the shape and colour of that curious tree are some relieft to an eye tired of looking at rugged lava or withered bushes.
† Found also on the coast of Peru (Ulloa).
23d. While becalmed we tried the clamms ‡ in fifty fathoms water, and brought up as much sand as would fill a bucket, but nothing curious. Afterwards we had a breeze, and passed Barrington Island pretty closely. It is not high, yet the shores are bold and fronted by cliffs; the more elevated parts appear to be level, and rather woody. This night was spent under sail between Charles and Hood Islands.
‡ An indifferent contrivance of mine, made and put together by our own armourer.
24th. While we were endeavouring to reach the anchorage in Post-Office Bay (Charles Island), Mr. Chaffers and Mr. Mellersh went away in a boat to visit the islets that lie near the eastern side of that island: and it was found that they had all been the summits of volcanoes. Charles Island is peculiar in its outline: for a succession of round topped hills, precisely similar in shape, though differing in size, shews on every point of view. This exact similarity is very remarkable. Must not all these volcanoes* have been thrown up under the same circumstances, such as similar action of the ocean, or even a strong wind—perhaps at the very same time? †
* For volcanoes they certainly have been.
† See page 493. [ for a description by Mr. Stokes of lava “. . . suddenly congealed, while ruffled by a very strong wind.—JW.]
The highest and largest of these hills rises 1,800 feet, the next about 1,700; the rest are of various smaller heights. The northern sides of the island are wooded, but the wood looks as brown as that on the lower parts of Chatham Island. Post-Office Bay is sheltered, easy of access, has excellent anchorage, and only wants fresh-water to make it a most desirable harbour for shipping. Its name is the result of a custom established by the whalers: a box was placed on a post, to receive letters, and homeward-bound ships examined the directions, taking with them all which they might have means of forwarding; but since the island has been peopled the box has been empty, for letters are now left at the settlement.
25th. Mr. Nicholas O. Lawson, acting for the governor of this archipelago,‡ came on board. With him and me a party went to another anchorage called Black Beach Road, landed, and walked up towards the settlement. In 1832, the republic of the ‘Ecuador’ decided to use these islands as a place of banishment, and sent a small colony to Charles Island. ‘La Floriana’ is the name given to this island by the Guayaquilians, though by the Spaniards it was once called ‘Santa Maria de l'Aguada.’ The governor, at the time of our visit, was Don José Villamil. There were then about eighty small houses, or huts, and nearly two hundred souls upon the island, most of whom were convicts.
‡ An officer of the republic of the Equator.
After walking rather more than a mile along a good path, through the underwood (which as the ground rises becomes very thick), we reached a small spring of water, near which are a few huts, but no cultivated ground. The water from this spring might be conveyed to shipping by means of leaden pipes, without much difficulty, but it is not of very good quality. Having ascended gradually during another half-hour's walk, we reached the ridge of that height which limited our view of the sea; when surprisingly sudden and agreeable was the change. Heated and tired by a dusty uphill walk, through sun dried treees and over rugged lava stones, our bodies were here refreshed by a cool breeze, while our eyes enjoyed the view of an extensive, fertile and cultivated plain. Surrounded by tropical vegetation, by bananas, sugar canes, Indian corn, and sweet potatoes, all luxuriantly flourishing, it was hard to believe that any extent of sterile and apparently useless country could be close to land so fertile, and yet wear the most opposite appearance. Our eyes having been accustomed to the desert shores of Peru and northern Chile, during many months, were completely dazzled by a sight so new and unforeseen.
It appears that rain falls very frequently on these higher grounds, and is absorbed by rich black mould of a nature sufficiently clayey to enable it to retain moisture. During the wet season this plain becomes quite muddy, while the little rain that falls on teh lower ground is so quickly absorbed, or finds its way so soon through the loose lava stones that its effects are not there visible.
Most of the houses are in this fertile space, but it appears that a house on the dry ground, and plantations in the moist valley, would answer better: for at Mr. Lawson's house salt cannot be kept dry, books and paper become mouldy, and iron rusts very quickly. At his table we found the welcome of a countryman, and a variety of food quite unexpected in the Galápagos Islands, but fully proving their productiveness. At the foot of a hill we saw water dropping plentifully, and from this spring, called the “Governor's Dripstone,” the inhabitants obtain a certain supply throughout the year.
Although most of the settlers were sent here against their wish, there are many who do not desire to return to the continent. Some are married and have children on the island. In a small cave near the “governor's dripstone,” an old sailor lived during several years; he had been unfortunate, and was tired of the world. Terrapin and potatoes were his food, till a former friend, the master of a whaler, recognized him, and carried him away by force. So strongly was the old man attached to his cave, that he shed tears when taken away.
There are goats and hogs upon this island, but they are scarce and wild, not having yet had time to increase much; they are hunted with dogs, through it would be wiser to let them alone for a few years. The settlers have abundance of vegetables, and depend chiefly upon terrapin for their meat. Many of these animals being large and heavy, the people who go in search of them kill and open them on the spot, then take out the fleshy pieces and put them in a bag. Thus one man can carry away the useful parts of more terrapins than several men could lift.
The quantity of tortoise shells lying about the ground, shows what havoc has been made among these helpless animals. On the lower ground, near the spring, I saw an apology for a garden, in which the large terrapin shells were used to cover young plants, instead of flower pots. In a place one has not seen before, some marked peculiarity occasionally reminds one, more forcibly than the ordinary novelties of scenery, that all around is strange and new. The palm-trees and arid appearance of St. Jago, the sedan chairs of Bahia, the boats of Rio de Janeiro, the beef carts of Monte Video, the travelling waggons of Buenos Ayres, the “toldo’ of the Patagonian, the wigwam of the Fuegian, the wooden houses and clogs of San Carlos de Chilóe, the stockades of Valdivia, the effects of earthquake at Concepcion, the concentrated bustle of Valparaiso, the quiet and uniform serenity of Coquimbo, women riding astride and troops of ill-used donkeys at Lima, are a few instances among the multitude of such local peculiarities.
Small birds are numerous on this island, and so remarkably tame that they may be knocked down with a stick. Lizards are also numerous; and there are a few small snakes, but those we caught were not venomous. Among the useful vegetables we noticed the plaintain, pumpkin, yuca, Quito orange, castor oil plant and melon, besides those before mentioned.
Returning on board we met Mr. Stokes on his way from the southern parts of the island: he described the lava thereabouts as having such a form and rugged surface as the sea would present if suddenly congealed, while ruffled by a very strong wind.
26th. After completing the necessary observations in Post-Office Bay, we weighed and worked round to an anchorage off Black Beach: and at nine in the evening Mr. Chaffers returned, have been round the south side of this island after visiting the small eastern islets. He found much difficulty in landing on them, but succeeded, and from the top of Gardner Islet saw a dangerous breaker about a mile to the south eastward.
27th. Being Sunday, many of the officers and ship's company were on shore in the afternoon, and some of the officers went to the top of the highest hill, which has a crater, as have all the hills we examined about these islands; and these craters are all similarly broken down on the side towards the south.
28th. Having taken on board live pigs and a quantity of vegetables, we weighed and stood towards Albemarle Island. Four small islets, the remains of volcanoes, lie near the low south-east extreme of this island, and together with Brattle Islet, are extremely useful in warning vessels of their approach to a very dangerous piece of coast. So low are the south-eastern extremities of Albemarle Island that they are not discernible until you see the surf on the shore. A heavy swell setting towards the land, and generally light winds, add to the danger of getting near this coast; but there is anchorage in case of necessity.
Albemarle Island is a singular mass of volcanic ejections. Six volcanoes have there raised their summits from two to four thousand feet above the ocean, and from them immense quantities of lava have from time to time flowed towards the sea; so that this island, large as it is, may be literally described by saying that it consists of six huge craters, whose bases are united by their own overflowed lava. The southern side, which is exposed to the trade wind, and completely intercepts it, with all the clouds it brings, is thickly wooded, very green, and doubtless has fresh water; but how is that water to be obtained where such a swell rolls upon the shore? The weather side of Chatham Island is partially protected from the great south-west swell of the Pacific by Hood Island, yet even there it is difficult to land.
We passed this night under easy sail, off the south-west extreme of Albemarle Island; and on the 29th we found a small cove, in which we anchored; but such a wild-looking place—with such quantities of hideous iguanas as were quite startling! Hence I despatched Mr. Mellersh and Mr. King, to examine the depth of Elizabeth Bay, and rejoin us beyond Narborough Island; we then weighed, and continued our examination of this unearthly shore. Passing a low projecting point, our eyes and imagination were engrossed by the strange wildness of the view; for in such a place Vulcan might have worked. Amidst the most confusedly heaped masses of lava, black and barren, as if hardly yet cooled, innumerable craters (or fumeroles) showed their very regular, even artificial looking heaps. It was like immense iron works, on a Cyclopian scale!
When this lava flowed from the heights it must have been stopped rather suddenly (cooled) by the water; for the lava cliffs are in some places twenty, and in others forty feet high, while close to them there is water so deep that a ship could not anchor there, even in a calm while the sea is quite smooth. Until we rounded this point the wind was very strong, eddying round the high south-west cape; but here we were becalmed, and passed some anxious hours, till at length light variable airs carried us off-shore.
30th. This morning we passed a remarkably fine American whaler, the Science, carrying nine whale-boats! On the south-eastern height of Albemarle, smoke was seen issuing from several places near the summit, but no flame. Profiting by every breeze, we hastened towards Tagus (or Banks) Cove.
Narborough Island is exactly like a part of Albemarle—a great volcano, whose base is surrounded by an extensive field of lava: it is utterly barren and desolate. A few mangroves, on the sandy beaches near Albemarle Island, are not seen in the distance; neither are there enough of them even to diminish the dismal appearance of the island.
We entered the passage in the afternoon, and anchored in the little cove first described by Capt. Pipon, who then commanded H.M.S. Tagus. This cove is the crater of an extinct volcano, and its sides are so steep as to be almost inaccessible.*
* In 1825 H.M.S. Blonde, commanded by Lord Byron, anchored here. In her voyage (pp. 92, 93, 94) the black and the red (or brown) iguanas are described, and it is stated that a specimen of the black kind was brought to England from Mexico. Lord Byron saw a volcano burning on Narborough Island.
1st October. Our first object was to find water: none could be got in the cove, but at a short distance from it a few holes were found, out of which a bottle might be filled in an hour. Around this scanty spring draining continually through the rock, all the little birds of the island appeard to be collected, a pretty clear indication of there being then no other fresh-water within their reach: yet during the rainy season there must be considerable streams, judging by gullies which are worn in the rock. All the heights hereabouts, and the sides of the craters, are composed of sandstone that looks like fine sandy mud half baked; but the low grounds are lava. The crater in which we anchored gave me the idea of its having been a mud volcano. The climate is very different from that of the Windward Islands; for wind clouds and rain appear to be obstructed in their northward passage, by the heights on the southern part of this island. The heat is here are greater than in other parts of the archipelago, and the land is more sterile. Numbers of another sort of iguana were seen for the first time, and many were killed and eaten. In size and shape they resemble the black kind, but their colour is a dirty orange red, inclining to reddish brown above and yellow beneath. These reptiles burrow in the earth like rabbits, and are not bad eating. Of the black kind a vast number run about the rocks near the sea, living either upon fish or sea-weed. As we went afterwards in a boat along the ragged irregular shore, we saw numbers of turtle. There are small sandy beaches here and there, to which these animals approach in the evenings: when, as it gets dark, they land and usually lie on the beach during the night, even if it is not the season in which they seek a place for their eggs.
From a height near Tagus Cove, dismal indeed was the view, yet deeply interesting. To see such an extent of country overwhelmed by lava, to think of the possible effects of the seven dormant volcanoes then in sight, and to reflect that at some one period all was activity and dreadful combustion where we then witnessed only silent desolation, was very impressive.
2d October. We passed this day and the following night in Banks Bay. On the 3d, Mr. Mellersh returned, having examined Elizabeth Bay and the western shore of Narborough Island. We then went round the north-west end of Albemarle Island, and passed the night under sail off the north extreme. At daybreak, on the 4th, we made all sail towards Abingdon Island, which is small, rather high, and tolerably covered with stunted wood; we did not maintain a position even near where I wished to pass the night, but were carried about forty miles away, dead to leeward, during only a few hours of light wind. The current hereabouts runs between one and four knots an hour to the north-westward, yet the depth of the water is unfathomable by ordinary means: excepting for which it is like a vast river in the sea.
5th. While working to windward, endeavoring to regain our lost ground, we saw Bindloes Island: and passed through many ripplings, some of them dangerous for a boat; these were northward, and rather eastward of Abington. During the 6th, other indications of a strong current were noticed, besides the ripplings such as these, which, in very deep water, and in the open sea, are difficult to explain: sometimes at night, while all around was smooth and tranquil—a short, deep plunge suddenly startled every one: but in a minute afterwards the ship was again quiet. We continued to work to the southward in order to reach James Island, and meet Lieutenant Sulivan.
7th. While working to windward we saw Towers Island, which is different in appearance from all the other islands of this archipelago, being low and flat. We passed it about noon, and Bindloes at sunset. The latter has an irregular hilly surface, partially wooded, but like the rest is a mass of lava, and indurated sandy mud.*
* Of course much of the information given in these pages was collected by the officers.
8th. The Beagle was close to James Island, a high, large, and well-wooded tract of ground, or rather lava. We anchored at the northern end, and a boat came alongside loaded with fish, for there was a party of settlers here, detached from Charles Island, whose employment was salting fish and extracting oil from terrapin.† This oil is of a light colour, and exceedingly good quality, being very like pure olive oil. Lieutenant Sulivan returned with his party, and I then detached Mr. Chaffers in the yawl, accompanied by Mr. Johnson and six men, to examine Bindloes, Abingdon, and Towers Islands. As Mr. Darwin anxiously desired to see as much as possible of the productions of this central and large island, he was landed, accompanied by Mr. Bynoe, besides his servant [Syms Covington—JW] and H. Fuller, to remain until the Beagle's return. Although there is abundance of water on the higher parts of this island, so broken and dry are the lower grounds that it does not arrive at the shore: at two places only can enough water for even a boat's crew be procured, in the dry season; and for a ship there is scarcely hope of a sufficiency. The poor fellows who brought us the fish had been living so long upon terrapin, and the produce of their lines, without any thing else, that half a bag of biscuit (50 lbs.) which we gave them, appeared to be an inestimable treasure, for which they could not sufficiently thank us. We sailed in the evening, but made very little progress towards our destination (Chatham Island) this day (9th). The winds appear to be much lighter and more variable, to leeward of the archipelago, while the current is considerably stronger.* We got pretty close to Chatham Island at dusk, worked to windward during the night, and on the following morning [10th] stood along the weather shore towards the watering place.
† They also salt the terrapin; or tortoise.
* It appears that the Norfolk Island of Colnett, is the north-east extreme of Indefatigable Island.
[NOTE: Apparently FitzRoy was not aware of the 1820 version of the Colnett (that is, Aaron Arrowsmith) chart, in which the earlier Norfolk fragment had been replaced by a complete island now labeled Indefatigable. Also, the earlier Norfolk fragment was the south-east extremity of Indefatigable.—JW.]
11th. How remarkably different is the climate of the windward and leeward islands of this group! Here we were enveloped by clouds and drizzling fog, and wore cloth clothes. At Tagus Cove and James Island, a hot sun, nearly vertical, overpowered us;—while the south side of Albemarle, Charles, and Chatham Islands, were almost always overshadowed by clouds, and had frequent showers of rain. We anchored close to the watering place: but it appeared strange to remain at anchor in such a spot, only three cables' lengths from a surf breaking high upon a steep cliffy shore, with nothing but the ocean between us and the antarctic; and such was our position; yet it was a safe one, because the great south-west swell of the Pacific is interrupted by Hood Island, and the southerly trade, or perennial wind is so moderate, that it has neither power to raise a sea nor to harm a vessel lying at anchor, if her ground tackle is not defective.
The 12th was spent filling water, washing, cutting some wood, and bringing thirty large terrapin on board. These animals abound hereabouts; and some are very large, deserving the name of elephant-tortoises. Two of our party tried to reach the higher and thickly wooded part of the island, but found their task impossible, in so short a time as they could spare, for the wood graws impenetrably thick, though none is straight or of a large size. The upper grounds have a rich loamy soil, lying upon rock, in which the terrapin wallow like hogs, and may be found by dozens. This was a very hard day's work for so few men as were then on board our small vessel.
(13th). We had some difficulty in ‘casting,’ so as to clear the land, but got out of the scrape and were working towards Hood Island when the man looking out aloft reported a breaker, which proved to be on a rock at the west end of MacGowen shoal. When first seen it was on the horizon, and hardly differed from the topping of a sea;—once only in about ten minutes it showed distinctly. We steered for it, lowered two boats, and employed the rest of the day in examining this very dangerous shoal, and fixing its position. One rock at the west end is just a-wash, but there is another under water, except in the hollow of a swell, about half-a-mile to the eastward, which is exceedingly treacherous. We had two narrow escapes this day; while weighing from Chatham Island, baffling winds sent us a great deal too close to the cliffs before our anchor was up, or the ship under command; and while sounding along the edge of MacGowen shoal we were drifted so close to the second rock, mentioned above, that I was not sure on which side of us it lay
14th. Anchored and examined Hood Harbour, having heard there was a sunken rock in it which our boat had not discovered, but we found nothing dangerous for a ship. Shoal water and large blocks of lava lie near the shore in the harbour; but a vessel must have stood too close in if she touches thereabouts. Left Hood Island at noon, and steered fro the southern part of Charles Island. Having a find breeze we rounded Saddle Point at eight, and anchored at nine off Black Beach.
15th. I went to Post-Office Bay and near the best landing place, found some excellent salt, which though but small in quantity gives a hint that more may be got elsewhere.
16th. Weighed in the afternoon, having obtained the necessary observations, and went to Black Beach Road to take in wood, potatoes, and pigs. We there found a small schooner at anchor, just arrived from Guayaquil, and having, among other things, a bag of letters from England, for the Beagle. That very evening we were to leave Charles Island; not to return! In the schooner were some emigrants; who brought cattle, and information that the governor, Villamil, might be expected to arrive in a few days, with a vessel laden with animals, and supplies for the settlement. We stood across, during the night, to the four islands near Point Woodford; and at daybreak next morning (17th) resumed our usual occupations, while sailing along the east side of Albemarle Island. At noon we steered for Albany Island, to embark Mr. Darwin and Mr. Bynoe; and after our party were on board, we returned to the shore of Albemarle Island, and there passed the night under sail, in order to start early from a particular position. Our landsmen had enjoyed their stay and profited by it, though the heat was oppresive, and the sky nearly cloudless by night and by day: how different was this from the weather we had had on board! The higher grounds of James Island are extensive, and would be adapted to cultivation if the wood, which now grows thickly, were cleared. There is a fine salt spring, or lake, in an old crater; the salt is excellent, in colour and quality: and the men employed by Mr. Lawson were using it daily for curing their fish and terrapin.
When at some height upon the island, among the thick wood, it is extremely difficult to find the way: men have been lost thereabouts, and it is said that some of the bodies never were found. The day we re-embarked Mr. Darwin there was a man missing, belonging to an American whale ship, and his shipmates were seeking for him. The master of this whaler was very obliging to our party, supplying them with water, and offering his hearty assistance in any way which lay in his power. The earnest wishes to be of use, and the attentions of North Americans to us on all occasions, have been often and gratefully remarked by many on board the Beagle.
18th. Continued our examination of Albemarle Island. When off the northern volcano, the black streams of lava, which have flowed in every direction down the sides of the mountain, looked like immense streams of ink. Thence we steered for Abingdon Island to meet Mr. Chaffers. I thought the current less strong, and setting more to the west, than when I was here on a former day.
On the 19th we were close to Abingdon Island, where there is a fine bold-looking cliff, at the west side, considerably higher than any I had seen in the Galápagos. Mr. Chaffers soon came alongside after we closed the land; when, his orders being all executed, the boat was hoisted in, and we made sail to the north-west in search of Wenman and Culpepper Islets.
Next day (20th) we saw and steered for Wenman Islet, another crater of an extinct volcano. It is high, small, and quite barren: correctly speaking, there are three islets and a large rock, near each other, which, at a distance, appear as one island, but they are fragments of the same crater. We afterwards passed Culpepper Islet, which is a similar rocky, high, and barren little island. At sun-set we made all sail and steered to get well into the south-east trade wind, so as to expedite our passage towards the dangerous archipelago of the Low Islands, and thence to Otaheite (or Tahiti). [21st.] While sailing away from the Galápagos, impelled westward over a smooth sea, not only by favouring easterly breezes but by a current that set more than sixty miles to the west during the first twenty-four hours after our losing sight of Culpepper Islet, and from four to ten miles each subsequent day until the 1st of November,* I will look back at those strange islands, and make a few more remarks on them.
* Lat. 10° 14' S. long. 120° 35' W.
There are six principal ones, nine smaller, and many islets scarcely deserving to be distinguished from mere rocks. The largest island is sixty miles in length, and about fifteen broad; the highest part being four thousand feet above the sea. All are of volcanic origin, and the lava, of which they are chiefly composed, is excessively hard. Old Dampier says,† “The Spaniards, when they first discovered these islands, found multitudes of ‘guanos’ and land-turtle, or tortoise, and named them the Galápagos‡ Islands.” Again, “the air of these islands is temperate enough, considering the clime. Here is constantly a fresh sea-breeze all day, and cooling refreshing winds in the night; therefore the heat is not so violent here as in places near the equator. The time of the year for the rains is in November, December, and January: then there is oftentimes excessive dark tempestuous weather, mixed with much thunder and lightning. Sometimes before and after these months there are moderate refreshing showers; but in May, June, July, and August, the weather is always very fair.”* I can add nothing to this excellent description, except that heavy rollers occasionally break upon the northern shores of the Galápagos during the rainy season above-mentioned—though no wind of any consequence accompanies them. They are caused by the ‘Northers,’ or ‘Papagayos,’ which are so well known on the coast between Panama and Acapulco. Colnett also gives a good description of these islands:—in his voyage, p. 58, he says, “I consider it as one of the most delightful climates under heaven, although situated within a few miles of the equator.” The buccaneers often resorted to them for refreshmentss, and as a place where they might refit their vessels, share out plunder, or plan new schemes of rapine, without any risk of being molested.
† Dampier's Voyage round the World, 1681-1691. (At the Galápagos in 1684).
‡ Galapago being Spanish for tortoise.
* During the rainy season, or from November to March (which is not, however, at all to be compared to a continental rainy season) there are calms, variable breezes, and sometimes westerly winds: though the latter are neither of long duration, nor frequent.
Striking instances of the manner in which high land deprives the air of its moisture may be seen at the Galápagos. Situated in a wind nearly perennial, those sides only which are exposed to it (the southern) are covered with verdure, and have water: all else is dry and barren, excepting such high gound as the passing clouds hang upon indolently as they move northward. In a similar manner may we not conclude that western Peru is deprived of rain—since the easterly trade wind which carries moisture, and consequent fertility, to eastern Peru, is drained, or dried, as it crosses the Andes? And may we not extend this reasoning to other countries similarly situated, such as Patagonia, perhaps Arabia, and even Africa, upon whose arid deserts no moist wind blows? Currents of air, moving from ocean to land, convey vapour; but as these currents pass over high land, or even a considerable extent of low country, much if not the whole of their aqueous contents is discharged, and until such a body of air has again acquired moisture, it is found to be dry, parching, and unfavourable to vegetation.
All the small birds that live on these lava-covered islands have short beaks, very thick at the base, like that of a bullfinch. This appears to be one of those admirable provisions of Infinite Wisdom by which each created thing is adapter to the place for which it is intended. In picking up insects, or seeds which lie on hard iron-like lava, the superiority of such beaks over delicate ones, cannot, I think, be doubted; but there is, perhaps, another object in their being so strong and wide. Colnett says, P. 59, “they observed an old bird in the act of supplying three young ones with drink, by squeezing the berry of a tree into their mouths. It was about the size of a pea, and contained a watery juice, of an acid, but not unpleasant taste.” “The leaves of these trees absorb the copious dews which fall during the night; the birds then pierce them with their bills for the moisture they retain, and which, I believe, they also procure from the various plants and evergreens.” “The torch thistle contains a liquid in its heart, which the birds drank, when it was cut down. They sometimes even extracted it from the young trees by piercing the trunks with their bills.” For thus squeezing berries, and piercing woody fibre, or even only stout leaves, a slight thin beak would be scarcely available. Colnett* observes, that some of the birds which he saw resembled a few that he had seen at New Zealand, but as he also remarks that all the dead shells which he found upon the beach were familiar to him, I think one may suspect the accuracy of his eye, if not his memory, in those instances.
* Colnett's Voyage to the South Seas, pages 52, 55, 57.
Mr. Stokes made some notes about the tortoises (terrapin), while with me, and as he and I are satisfied as to the facts, I will add them. Fresh water was first discovered on Charles and on James Islands, by following the terrapin paths. These animals visit the low, warm ground to seek for food and deposit their eggs; but it must be a toilsome journey indeed for them to ascend and descend the rugged heights. Some that Mr. Stokes saw in wet, muddy places, on high ground, seemed to enjoy themselves very much, snuffling and waddling about in the soft clayey soil near a spring. Their manner of drinking is not unlike that of a fowl: and so fond do they appear to be of water, that is is strange they can exist for a length of time without it; yet people living at the Galápagos say that these animals can go more than six months without drinking. A very small one lived upwards of two months on board the Beagle without either eating or drinking: and whale-ships have often had them on board alive for a much longer period. Some few of the terrapin are so large as to weight between two and three hundred weight; and, when standing up on their four elephantine legs, are able to reach the breast of a middle-sized man with their snake-like head.* The settlers at Charles Island do not know any way of ascertaining the age of a terrapin, all they say is, that the male has a longer neck than the female.†
* When their long necks and small heads are seen above low bushes they look just like those of snakes.
† Their eggs were found in great numbers in cracks of a hard kind of clayey sand; but so small were the cracks that many of the eggs could not be got out without being broken. The egg is nearly round, of a whitish colour, and measures two inches and a half in diameter—which is about the size of a young one when first hatched.
On board the Beagle a small one grew three-eights of an inch, in length, in three months; and another grew two inches in length in one year. Several were brought alive to England. The largest we killed was three feet in length from one end of the shell to the other: but the large ones are not so good to eat as those of about fifty pounds weight—which are excellent, and extremely wholesome food. From a large one upwards of a gallon of very fine oil may be extracted. It is rather curious, and a striking instance of the short-sightedness of some men, who think themselves keener in discrimination than most others, that these tortoises should have excited such remarks as—“well, these reptiles never could have migrated far, that is quite clear,” when, in simple truth, there is no other animal in the whole creation so easily caught, so portable, requiring so little food for a long period, and at the same time so likely to have been carried, for food, by the aborigines who probably visited the Galápagos Islands on their balsas,* or in large double canoes, long before Columbus saw that twinkling light, which, to his mind, was as the keystone to an arch. Honest Dampier immediately reverted to the tortoises of the West Indies, and of Madagascar,† when he saw those of the Galápagos. He had observed too many varieties caused by climate, soil, food, and habits, to entertain a doubt of their being other than a variety of the tortoise kind. As to the ‘guanos’ they were, to his eye, familiar objects.
* I have heard that driftwood, not the growth of these islands, is frequently found on the south-east shores. On this subject Colnett says (p. 58), “on several parts of the shore there was driftwood, of a larger size than any of the trees that grow on the island: also bamboos and wild sugar canes, with a few small cocoa nuts at full growth, though not larger than a pigeon's egg.”
† Dampier, vol. i. p. 102.
The currents about these islands are very remarkable, for in addition to their velocity, which is from two to five miles an hour, and usually towards the north-west,‡ there is such a surprising difference in the temperature of bodies of water moving with a few miles of each other, that this subject must be reserved for further discussion. On one side of an island (Albemarle Island) we found the temperatue of the sea, a foot below the surface, 80° Faht.; but at the other side is was less than 60°. In brief, those striking differences may be owing to the cool current which comes from the southward along the coasts of Peru and Chile, and at the Galápagos encounters a far warmer body of water moving from the bay of Panama, a sort of ‘gulf stream.’ The retentive manner in which such ocean rivers preserve their temperature has been frequently remarked: and must have a great effect upon the climates of countries near whose shores they flow.
‡ In the twenty-four hours immediately previous to first making these islands, the Beagle was set fifty miles to the west north-west.