of Darwin's Beagle voyage:
1831 August 29, Monday night
Upon returning from North Wales Darwin found letters waiting
for him from Revd. John Henslow and George
Peacock. Darwin had been invited to be a naturalist aboard
H.M.S. Beagle on its two year survey of South America. The ship
was to set sail on 25 September. He immediately accepted the
offer, but his father and sisters were totally against the idea.
They saw it as a continuation of Darwin's long line of idle
pursuits. Worst of all, such a journey would get in the way
of Darwin going into the clergy. However, his father's refusal
was not absolute, telling Darwin that if he could find a man
with common sense who thought it was a good idea then he would
allow him to go.
1831 August 30 Tuesday
Darwin wrote to Revd.
Henslow that his father would not allow him to go on the
voyage. At the same time his father wrote to Josiah Wedgwood
II about the offer Darwin had been given. In the afternoon Darwin
rode out to Maer Hall (home of the Wedgwoods) for the start
of the shooting season on 1 September.
1831, August 31 Wednesday
At Maer Hall Darwin related his father's objections to his uncle
Josiah. After much discussion Josiah wrote a letter to Darwin's
father, answering all of the objections in his favor.
1831 September 1 Thursday
Darwin woke up early for the first day of bird hunting season
and while he was out he received word that his uncle Josiah
wanted the two of them to return to Shrewsbury at once. Upon
arriving at The Mount Darwin found that his uncle's letter had
done the trick, and his father allowed him to go on the voyage,
and would support him in any way necessary.
1831 September 05 Monday
Hoping that the position had not yet been filled, Darwin arrived
in London and to went to the Whitehall Admiralty building to
speak with Robert FitzRoy
in Captain Beaufort's
office. FitzRoy told Darwin that the other person he had offered
the job to had just turn it down and he wanted to know if Darwin
was still interested in the position. He enthusiastically accepted
the offer and FitzRoy outlined the details of the voyage. Darwin
learned that the sail date had been postponed until 10 October.
Later in the afternoon Darwin took up residence at 17 Spring
Gardens, just around the corner from Whitehall. The next few
days were spent shopping in London and discussing the details
of the voyage with FitzRoy.
1831 December 3
Darwin was in Plymouth and started sleeping onboard the ship.
He was given quarters in the chart room, one deck above Capt.
FitzRoy's quarters, at the stern of the ship. The chart room
was nine feet by eleven feet and had five feet of generous headroom.
The walls were lined with bookshelves, cabinets, an oven and
a wash stand. To make matters worse, the mizzenmast came up
through the floor and a large four foot by six foot chart table
sat in the middle of the room. In all, there was about six feet
by eight feet of space to work in. Darwin lived in this room,
on and off, for nearly five years.
1831 December 27 Tuesday (about 11:00
After a few delays, H.M.S. Beagle headed out from Plymouth with
a crew of 73 under clear skies and a good wind. Darwin became
sea-sick almost immediately.
1832 January 6
The ship arrived at the port of Santa Cruz, Tenerife Island.
The crew was prevented from going ashore due to a cholera outbreak
in England. They would have to wait out a quarantine period
of twelve days but Capt.
FitzRoy would not be delayed and gave orders for the ship
to proceed. Darwin was devastated at missing the chance to see
the island of his dreams, and watched Tenerife fade off into
1832 January 16
The Beagle arrived at Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, and
anchored at Porto Praya. Darwin went ashore and explored for
a few days. Here he made his first "discovery," - a horizontal
white band of shells within a cliff face along the shoreline
about forty-five feet above sea level. The cliff face was at
one time under water. Darwin wondered how it ended up forty-five
feet above the sea? He noted that the line was not even horizontal,
but varied in height. This supported Lyell's
theory of a world slowly changing over a great period of time.
The ship stayed at the island for twenty-three days.
1832 February 28
The ship arrived at Salvador, Brazil, in All Saints Bay. Darwin
explored the tropical rain forests on long walks by himself,
taking in the rich glorious spender of nature. In town Darwin
was disgusted at the sight of black slavery. He got into a big
quarrel with Capt. FitzRoy
who tried to justify the slave trade. Darwin gave him a lecture
about the ethical problems of treating humans as property, and
Capt. FitzRoy fell into one of his tempers and forbid Darwin
to share his dinner table with him ever again. After a short
cooling off period he apologized to Darwin and all was back
1832 April 3
The Beagle dropped anchor at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the
crew received its first mail from England. Darwin learned that
his former girlfriend, Fanny Owen, was now married (last May)
to a wealthy politician named Robert Biddulph. During the time
at Rio, Darwin went off exploring in the tropical forest with
Patrick Lennon, a local English merchant. They were away for
eighteen days on a 150 mile trek inland to Rio Macao where Darwin
witnessed more brutal treatment of blacks.
1832 April 25
Darwin returned to Rio with a collection of insects and plants
that was beyond his wildest dreams. He learned that the Beagle
had gone back to Salvador to check on some survey readings so
he took a boat to Botafogo Bay with Augustus Earle (the ships
draughtsman) and Philip King (Midshipman), and waited for the
return of the ship. They spent a few weeks here in a little
cottage. During this time Darwin continued collecting specimens,
preserving them, making notes, and writing letters back home
1832 June 6
The Beagle returned from Salvador. Three crew members had died
from a fever and the ship's surgeon, Robert McCormick, resigned
his position and headed back to England on the ship, H.M.S.
Tyne. It was standard practice for the ship's surgeon to collect
specimens during a survey voyage and McCormick felt his duty
was usurped by Darwin. Benjamin Bynoe was made acting surgeon
for the remainer of the voyage.
1832 August 19
Darwin sent off his first load of specimens and notes to Henslow
in Cambridge. He had doubts about the quality of his work, and
feared Henslow would think the shipment was quite small. The
specimens included several rocks, tropical plants, four bottles
of animals in spirits, many beetles, and various marine animals;
all numbered, catalogued and described.
1832 August 22
At about this time Capt.
FitzRoy started surveying along the Patagonia coastline.
Darwin spent many weeks collecting fossils of which he knew
very little, but he figured they may be of some interest to
the experts back in England. Capt. FitzRoy had a difficult time
understanding why Darwin was bringing all sorts of "useless
junk" aboard the ship. The fossils turned out to be giant rodent-like
animals, armadillo shells, ground sloths and giant teeth, most
of which were unknown to science.
1832 November 24
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 lots and lots of beetles.
1832 December 18
After passing through the straight of Le Maire at Tierra del
Fuego, the Beagle anchored at Good Success Bay. Here Darwin
had his first encounter with savages. He was shocked by the
primitive way of life they led but was also fascinated by them.
A group of four male Fuegians met the landing party. After an
attempt to communicate with the Feugians the party presented
them with some bright red cloth and the Feugians immediately
became friendly with them. The natives initiated a dialogue
by patting the crewmen on their chests. Apparently they had
the most amazing ability to mimic the crew's gestures and even
the words they spoke, often repeating whole English sentences
back to them. Darwin was bewildered by all this.
1833 January 23
A mission was started at Woolya Cove just off the Beagle Channel
in Tierra del Fuego. Revd. Richard Matthews and three anglicized
Fuegians stayed behind to run the mission (their names were:
York Minster, Jemmy Button and a female named Fuegia Basket).
Small huts were built and gardens planted, and much cargo and
provisions were left with them. On the way back east along the
Beagle channel Darwin marveled at the snow, glaciers, and icebergs.
After nine days they returned to the mission and found the place
looted by the native Fuegians. Darwin had doubts that savages
like these could become civilized. Richard Matthews returned
to the Beagle, leaving the three Fuegians behind to run the
mission on their own.
1833 March 1
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at the Falkland Islands at Port Louis.
The British Navy had just taken over the islands from Argentina
last January. A lot of surveying work was done here. Darwin
was intrigued by the fossils on the islands and decided to do
comparative studies between all the fossils, plants and animals
he collected during the voyage.
Capt. FitzRoy purchased
a schooner to aid in his surveying work. He named it the "Adventure"
after a supply ship used on the previous Beagle voyage. He did
not check with the Admiralty for permission to buy the ship,
1833 May 1
Darwin was dropped off at Maldonado while the Beagle returned
to Montevideo. He went on a twelve day interior expedition with
two hired gauchos and a team of horses.
1833 May 22
Darwin returned to Montevideo. In a letter to his sister, Catherine,
he asked his father if he would provide the funds for Darwin
to hire a servant who would work for him at a rate of about
£60 a year. Syms
Covington, the Beagle's odd job man, was to be this servant.
During this time Darwin spent a few weeks teaching Covington
how to shoot and stuff animals. Now Darwin had more time to
make observations and theorize about what he saw.
1833 July 18
More mail arrived and the third load of specimens was sent to
Revd. Henslow. This
shipment consisted of about eighty species of birds, twenty
quadrupeds, four barrels of skins and plants, geological specimens,
and some fish. By this time Darwin was getting tired of this
side of South America and wanted to see the Andes Mountains
on the west coast.
1833 August 3
The Beagle arrived at the Rio Negro river. Darwin went on another
inland expedition on horseback upstream to the town of Patagones,
then overland to General Juan Rosas camp on the Rio Colorado.
1833 August 13
Darwin arrived at General Rosas camp and received permission
to proceed overland to Bahia Blanca. He spent his days riding
on the plains, while his nights were spent drinking, smoking
cigars, and singing songs with the gauchos. Darwin seemed to
take quite a liking to living on the open plains. While at Bahia
Blanca he uncovered the complete fossil of a very large animal
that he could not identify at all (it turned out to be a giant
ground sloth). Oddly enough, the fossil was located below a
layer of white sea shells, similar to the layer he found on
the island of Santiago. This puzzled Darwin a great deal because
it was obviously a very old specimen, but how did it end up
below an ocean deposit, and why did it become extinct?
1833 November 2
Darwin left Buenos Aires amid much civil unrest in the city
and boarded a packet ship to join the Beagle at Montevideo.
1833 November 12
A forth group of specimens was shipped to Cambridge. This load
consisted of about two-hundred animal skins, some mice, a jar
of fish, insects, rocks, seeds, and of course his big collection
of fossils and geological specimens.
1833 November 14
Darwin, having become totally hooked on fossil collecting, explored
the Mercedes region of Uruguay where he was told very large
specimens could be found. Flooding of the rivers caused much
delay, requiring travel by horseback instead of by boat. On
the way back to Montevideo he found the head of a fossilized
Toxodon, a hippo-like animal. He also found a few other fossil
remains near by.
1833 November 28
He was now back at Montevideo. Ironically, Darwin could not
wait to get back onboard the Beagle even if it meant becoming
1834 February 12
The Beagle and Adventure were now at Woolya Cove again and Capt.
FitzRoy checked on the missionaries that were left behind.
They found the mission completely abandoned and the gardens
in ruins. A short time later some Fuegians arrived in canoes,
one of which contained Jemmy Button who seemed to have reverted
back to his native state. On this date Darwin turned twenty-five
years old and for his birthday Capt. FitzRoy named the highest
mountain in the region Mt. Darwin.
1834 early April
The Beagle finally sailed around Cape Horn to the Pacific Ocean
via the Strait of Magellan and the Magdalena Channel. Another
packet ship arrived with mail. H.M.S. Beagle and Adventure surveyed
up the coast to the island of Chiloe, Chile.
1834 July 23
The two ships arrived at Valparaiso, Chile near the city of
Santiago. Darwin was very glad to be in a warmer climate and
his stomach was happier to be in calmer seas. Both ships stayed
here for a few weeks to be refitted for the Pacific ocean crossing.
Darwin met up with an old Shrewsbury classmate, Richard Corfield,
who owned a house in town and let him stay there. He was not
very impressed with the surrounding landscape.
1834 September 27
Darwin arrived back at Valparaiso from an inland excursion but
had been very sick for the past few weeks. He stayed at Corfield's
house with a bad fever and did not recover until late October.
During this time he wrote a letter to his sisters back home
describing his adventures and also told of how ill he had been
(an act he would later regret).
1834 late October
Another shipment of specimens was sent to Revd. Henslow. This
one included many bird skins, insects, seeds, some plants, and
water and gas samples from some hot springs in the Andes Mountains.
1834 November 10
H.M.S. Beagle picked up Darwin (now in much better health) and
headed south to survey the Chronos Archipelago and the waters
around Chiloe Island. Darwin went on a little excursion on the
island, hoping to do some geology, but he was not very impressed.
The Beagle next surveyed up the coast to the town of Valdivia.
1835 February 20
A massive earthquake hit Valdivia and Darwin was right in the
middle of the action. The devastation was horrible - nearly
every building in the area was destroyed. While the Beagle tried
to make anchorage at Concepcion Darwin was dropped off at the
island of Quiriquina and while exploring around the island he
found areas of land that have risen a few feet due to the earthquake.
He became very excited about this find, as it was direct evidence
that the Andes mountains, and indeed all of South America, were
very slowly rising above the ocean. This confirmed Charles
Lyell's theory that land masses rose in tiny increments
over an extremely long period of time. Given this fact, Darwin
accepted that the idea that the earth must be extremely old.
The next day he went by ship to the town of Talcuhano, and from
there rode by horse to Concepcion to meet up with the Beagle.
1835 March 12
Darwin worked out another Andes expedition while in the town
of Santiago. The Beagle returned south to Concepcion and was
engaged the next few months in investigating the effects of
1835 March 14
At 4:00 AM Darwin started out on his Andes expedition with a
Spanish speaking guide and many mules to carry provisions. He
had doubts about making it to the top of the Andes due to snow
blocking the mountain passes. He headed towards the Portillo
Pass; one of the two clear routes to the Andes during this time
of the year.
1835 April 10
Darwin was back on the coast at the town of Santiago. A few
days later he returned to Valparaiso and stayed at Mr. Corfield's
house where he worked on another expedition north along the
1835 July 19
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Lima, Peru. Darwin looked around the
city and was shocked at the state of decay all around him. The
next few weeks were spent taking on provisions for the trip
across the Pacific ocean.
1835 August 12
Today Darwin received two letters from his sisters telling him
how worried they had been about his being ill for such a long
time at Valparaiso. They feared that if he continued on the
voyage his health may 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.
1835 September 7
H.M.S. Beagle set sail from Callao, Peru, to the Galapagos Archipelago.
1835 September 15 Tuesday
In the afternoon a tiny point of land was seen on the horizon.
This was the first sighting of the Galapagos Archipelago, and
it turned out to be Mount Pitt, a large hill on the north-east
end of Chatham Island.
1835 September 16
H.M.S. Beagle reached Hood Island today. Early in the morning
Edward Chaffers (master) and Arthur Mellersh (midshipman) set
out on a boat to examine the island's shoreline. 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 black lava rocky shore, and raw
hostile environment of the island.
1835 September 18
They sailed to the north-east end of Chatham. Capt.
FitzRoy and others went on a short inland excursion. Darwin
and John Stokes (assistant surveyor) were also put on shore
and explored on their own. Darwin examined the huge tortoises
here, but collected just ten plants, most of which he thought
were unimpressive little things. Eighteen tortoises were brought
on board as food.
1835 October 8
H.M.S. Beagle anchored at the northern tip of James Island.
Some of the crew went on shore and met up with a party of Spanish
settlers salting fish and extracting oil from tortoises. Edward
Chaffers, Charles Johnson (midshipman) and six others set off
on a boat to explore Bindloe, Abingdon and Tower Islands. Charles
Darwin was very anxious to go exploring so he, Syms
Covington (Darwin's servant), Benjamin Bynoe (acting surgeon)
and H. Fuller (Bynoe's servant) stayed behind on James Island.
The Beagle set sail for Chatham to get fresh water but the currents
slowed them down.
1835 October 17
They surveyed north along the eastern shore of Albermarle Island.
At noon the Beagle took a detour to Punta Cordova and picked
up Darwin and the others left on James Island the week before.
In the afternoon they returned to Albermarle Island and spent
the night sailing north along the coast. Darwin brought aboard
quite a large haul of plants, animals, rocks, and insects.
1835 October 20
The entire day was spent surveying Wenman and Culpepper Islands.
In the evening the crew raised all sails and under a good strong
wind steered for the island of Tahiti.
1835 November 15
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Tahiti, approximately 3,200 miles from
South America. They remained at Tahiti for ten days and during
this time Darwin went on a two day inland expedition an was
awed by the glorious tropical vegetation. He was also impressed
with the good work the missionaries had done with the Tahitians,
who Darwin had a very high regard for.
1835 December 21
The Beagle arrived at New Zealand. Darwin was not too impressed
with the natives, whom he viewed with suspicion (they practiced
cannibalism before the missions arrived).
1836 January 12
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Sydney Harbor, Australia.
1836 January 16
Darwin started on a 130 mile inland trip to Bathurst, New South
Wales. Along the way he made observations of the wildlife and
was so astonished by the creatures he saw (namely, the odd-looking
platypus) that he surmised there must have been a separate creation
just for these odd creatures. On his return he visited Capt.
King, the commander of the first Beagle surveying voyage. He
was now living on his farm just outside Sydney.
1836 February 5
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Hobart Town, on the island of Tasmania.
Darwin took several inland trips on the island, studying the
1836 March 6
The Beagle arrived at King George's Sound at the town of Albany,
about 250 miles south-east of Perth, Australia. They remained
there for eight days, and Darwin found the place a most absolute
bore. He went on a few inland excursions, but was not very impressed
with the landscape.
1836 April 1
H.M.S. Beagle dropped anchor at the Cocos Islands in the Indian
ocean. Darwin explored some of the islands and was impressed
with the myriad of coconut trees, although hardly anything else
existed on these islands. The islands were composed entirely
of coral and Darwin surmised that they were once part of a large
submerged coral reef. Despite the relative desolate state of
the islands he did manage to collect several plants, a few small
birds, one species of lizard, several species of insects, and
a lot of coral.
1836 April 29
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Port Louis, Mauritius Island, and remained
their a few days.
1836 May 31
The Beagle sailed around the southern tip of Africa and anchored
at Simon's Bay near Cape Town.
1836 June 3
A packet ship arrived with mail for H.M.S. Beagle. Darwin went
onshore to pay a visit to Sir
John Herschel who had been living there since 1833. He was
in charge of the new Royal Observatory built at Cape Town. Darwin
was pleased to discover that Herschel had a keen interest in
natural history. They had many conversations about volcanoes,
earthquakes, the movement of continents, the origin of mankind,
and how new species come into being.
1836 July 8
H.M.S. Beagle arrived at St. Helena Island where they remained
for five days. Darwin found the island to be a desolate place,
essentially a giant mountain of rocky lava rock, except inland
where the scenery was more akin to the landscape of Wales. He
spent most of his time here exploring the geology of the island
1836 July 19
They stayed at Ascencion Island, which was inhabited entirely
by British marines and a few liberated Africans from slave ships,
for four days. The entire crew was now very anxious to get back
1836 July 23
Capt. FitzRoy was
concern that he may have taken faulty measurements at Salvador
so he ordered the Beagle on a detour back to South America.
1836 August 6
Survey corrections were completed today, and the Beagle headed
straight for England.
1836 August 19
The Beagle arrived at the Azores and anchored at the island
of Terceira. Darwin went off exploring what he had been told
was an active crater. He did not find the landscape very appealing.
1836 October 2
H.M.S. Beagle finally arrived home after a voyage of four years,
nine months, five days. They docked at Falmouth, England, at
night during a storm. Darwin set off immediately for home.