June 1834 to 10 April 1835
of South America, Part 4:
the Pacific Ocean
1st Andes Expedition
Earthquake at Valdivia
2nd Andes Expedition
June 12th the Beagle arrived at the island of Chiloe off the
coast of Chile. A short while later Packet Ship arrived with
mail. H.M.S. Beagle and Adventure surveyed up the west coast
to the island of Chiloe, Chile.
next day the Beagle left the island of Chiloe, having gathered
provisions (mainly pigs and potatoes). Darwin hated the place
because it never stopped raining!
George Rowlett, the Purser, died on June 27th after a long illness
and was buried at sea. He was 38 years old.
Beagle and Adventure arrived on the evening of July 23rd at
the city of Valparaiso, Chile. Darwin was very glad to be in
a warmer climate and his stomach was happier to be in calmer
seas. He enjoyed the pretty sight of the town, the blue skies,
dry air, and attractive hills. Both ships stayed at Valparaiso
for a few weeks to be refitted for the Pacific Ocean crossing.
While in town Darwin met an old Shrewsbury classmate, Mr. Richard
Corfield, who owned a house in town and he let Darwin stay with
him. Over the next several days Darwin went on several long
walks in the countryside, collecting specimens, but he was not
very impressed with the local flora and fauna.
time around July 24th, Darwin received two letters from Revd.
John Henslow in Cambridge. He gave all sorts of praise to Darwin
for the fine specimens he had been sending back, but also advised
him to pack the specimens more carefully, as several of the
ones he received either decomposed or fell apart.
the ships were out surveying the nearby coastline, Darwin went
off exploring towards the Andes Mountains.
first inland expedition is difficult to chronicle on a website.
I have decided to describe it with a day-by-day outline of events
below, along with maps to make the trek more clear to the reader.
The names of places Darwin visited are spelled with many variations
in his journal and also on various maps of the time, so it is
unknown if all places are spelled accurately.
14 1843 to September 27 1843
14 - Headed north along the coast and on the way examined some
raised shell formations. It was at this time that Darwin found
support for his idea that the western side of South America
was slowly raising above sea level. Darwin spent the night at
the Hacienda de Quintero.
15 - Returned to the valley of Quillota, crossed the ridge of
Chilecauquen, then to Hacienda de San Isidoro at the foot of
16 - In the morning Darwin climbed Bell or Campana Mountain
(about 6,400 feet high and marked with the yellow "X"
above). Camped at Aqua de Guanaco near some bamboo bushes.
17 - Continued climbing the mountain, and spent the night on
the summit. Darwin enjoyed a fantastic view of the coast and
the Andes Mountains.
18 - Darwin hiked down the mountain and then back to Hacienda
de San Isidoro where he and the guide stayed the night.
19 - Traveled up the valley to the town of Quillota then to
20 - Reached the copper mines of Jajuel east of San Felipe and
stayed 5 days (marked with a yellow "X" below). The
mines were run by a gentleman from Cornwall, England.
21 to 25 - Darwin spent these days scrambling about the mountains
collecting specimens, and making observations.
26 - Left Jajuel and crossed the base of San Felipe. Now on
the road to Santiago, and crossed through Cerro del Talguen.
27 - Entered the plain of Guitron, and reached Santiago by late
evening. Darwin stayed here about one week and spent his time
going on day trips across the plains, and dinning with English
merchants by night.
05 - Crossed the Maypo River, just south of Santiago.
06 - Proceeded due south and spent the night at Rancagua.
07 - Turned up the valley of Cachapual, a place famous for their
hot baths. Arrived in the evening and stayed five days. On one
day Darwin rode up the valley to the east where the Cachapual
splits into two deep ravines.
13 - Left the baths of Cachapual, joined the main road and slept
at the Rio Claro. Next day went to San Fernando, then headed
towards the coast.
14 - Rode to some of the gold mines in the area and enjoyed
a view of Lake Tagua-tagua on the way. Here Darwin described
the harsh life of miners. Later in the day he visited some old
Indian ruins. Stayed at the mines until September 18th.
19 - Left the mines and followed the valley where the Rio Tinderidica
flows up to the open plains.
20 - Traveled along the open rolling plains, and became sick.
21 - Arrived at village of Navidad near the coast.
22 - Stayed at Navidad, but was not well. Explored the local
area a little bit.
24 - Now headed towards Valparaiso under great difficulty due
to his illness.
27 - Darwin finally arrived at Valparaiso, but he was by now
very ill. He stayed in bed until late October at Mr. Cornfield's
sick in bed, Darwin wrote a letter home describing his adventures
in the mountains. He wrote a letter to his sisters and mentioned
how sick he was with fever, which he would later regret.
late October, Darwin sent another shipment of specimens to Revd.
Henslow. This one included many bird skins, insects, seeds,
water and gas samples from some hot baths in the Andes Mountains,
and some plants.
recovering from his illness, Darwin learned that Capt. FitzRoy
had suffered a nervous breakdown. Apparently, the massive amount
of charting that had been done, as well as refitting the Adventure,
had worn him down. His survey work was also continuously being
interrupted by the captains of passing ships. To make matters
worse, news arrived that the Admiralty was quite upset with
him for buying the Adventure without their permission.
FitzRoy, in a fit of rage, sold the Adventure and resigned his
command of the Beagle, putting Lieutenant John Wickham in charge.
He ordered Wickham to finish the survey of the southern coastline,
sail back around Cape Horn and then sail directly back to England.
Wickham refused the promotion, pleaded with Capt. FitzRoy not
to relinquish command, and stated that there was no way on earth
he was going to risk sailing around Cape Horn again. Wickham's
refusal to sail back around the Cape may have been a direct
violation of orders given by the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty
the event of any unfortunate accident happening to yourself
[Capt. FitzRoy], the officer on whom the command of the Beagle
may in consequence devolve, is hereby required and directed
to complete, as far as in him lies, that part of the survey
on which the vessel may then be engaged, but not to proceed
to a next step in the voyage [i.e. - continuing further north
along the coast]; as, for instance, if at that time carrying
on the coast survey on the western side of South America, he
is not to cross the Pacific, but to return to England by Rio
de Janeiro and the Atlantic." [FBN:23]
FitzRoy was eventually convinced that nothing would be gained
by his resignation, so he withdrew it and took back command
of the Beagle.
events of late October 1834 had the potential to radically alter
history as we know it today.
FitzRoy had not resumed command of the Beagle and Wickham followed
orders, Charles Darwin would never have visited the Galapagos
Islands, an event that had a profound impact on the theory of
evolution he would later develop. What would Darwin have done
if FitzRoy did not resume command of the Beagle? Well, Darwin
wrote in a letter to his sister, Catherine, (CCD:1, page 417,
on 8 Nov 1834) that he made plans to set off on his own. He
would explore the Cordilleras Range during the coming summer,
then travel north along the coast to Lima, Peru - stopping at
various places along the way to explore. Once in Lima he would
work his way south again to Valparaiso, cross the Cordilleras
to Buenos Aires and from there gain passage on a ship back to
England. Fortunately this series of events never took place.
early November Capt. FitzRoy sent his survey charts of Patagonia,
Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands back to England.
Beagle picked up Darwin (now in much better health) at Valparaiso
on November 10th and headed south to survey the Chronos Archipelago
and the sea around Chiloe Island as far south as the Tres Montes
anchored on the 21st in the bay of San Carlos, the capital of
Chiloe Island. Darwin described the island as being covered
with evergreen forests, subject to much rain and heavy winds,
and populated by Indians who lived a very poor and sparse lifestyle.
November 24th the yawl and a whaleboat were sent out under the
command of Mr. Sullivan to survey the eastern coast of Chiloe
and the islands in the Gulf of Ancud. Messers, Darwin, Usborne,
Stewart, Kent, Douglas and ten men went with Sullivan. They
were to meet up with the Beagle at the southern tip of Chiloe
island at San Pedro Island at which time the Beagle would survey
along the western shore. Darwin wanted to explore the interior
of the island, hoping to do some geology, but he was not very
impressed. He hired some horses and rode to the town of Chacao
at the northern tip where he met up with the survey boat crew
setting up camp.
the next day there were buckets of rain pouring down. Darwin
went with the yawl and whaleboat down as far as Huapilenou.
sky finally cleared up on the 26th, and the crew had a great
view of Mount Osorno in the Andes Mountains which was billowing
out smoke at the time. They arrived in the evening at a beautiful
little cove just north of Caucahue Island.
the next few days they had very fine weather and reached the
island of Quinchao where they set up camp on the beach.
and the others reached the town of Castro, the capital of Chiloe,
on the 30th. Darwin described the town as nearly deserted with
sheep grazing in the main plaza.
Beagle anchored at NE point of Socorro, at the very southern
end of Lemuy Island, on December 2nd. Next day they went on
a zip-zag route to Huafo.
two survey boats reached Caylen Island on December 6th. In the
morning they stopped at a house at the northern end of Laylec
Island. In the evening the boats reached the island of San Pedro
Chiloe Island where the Beagle was at anchor in the harbor.
few days later FitzRoy, Darwin and a few others tried to climb
Mount San Pedro (also spelled Huamblin). The trees and vegetation
were so thick that they hardly ever touched the ground with
their feet. The crew eventually gave up in despair. The Beagle
stayed three days in this harbor.
December 11th Sullivan, along with a group of men, headed out
in the smaller boats for more survey work. The Beagle sailed
to the Chronos Archipelago to survey the maze of islands.
and a few others left in a whale-boat on the 18th to survey
north and meet with the Beagle at Port Low.
Beagle surveyed off Cape Tres Montes around the 20th, then to
went San Andres Bay. The next day they anchored at Cone Creek
at Christmas Cove at Port Estevan.
anchored at Port Estevan, the crew saw a man on shore waving
a shirt. He turned out to be one of several American crewmen
stranded there fifteen months ago after abandoning their Whaling
ship, the Frances Henrietta. A boat was immediately sent ashore
to rescue the stranded American sailors. It seems these poor
souls tried to make for the coast of South America at Valdivia,
but had damaged their boat in the escape and got stranded here
on Chiloe Island. There were six men in total, one who died
in a fall off a cliff.
Beagle surveyed towards Cape Taytao on the 29th, then anchored
at Yuche Island, just north of the Tres Montes peninsula. The
next day was spent hunting goats on the island.
Beagle moved on to Port Refuge on January 4th.
Beagle sailed up the coast of Chiloe island on the 7th and was
now at the northern tip of the Chronos Archipelago at Port Low.
Mr. Stokes, who had been surveying on a smaller boat, came back
on board, having arrived there the week before. The crew stayed
here a week. Darwin commented at length in his journal on the
native potatoes, speculating that they may be the ancestors
of modern day specimens common in Europe. Unfortunately for
Darwin the zoology of the archipelago was very poor.
next few days were spent gathering fish, oysters, ducks, and
Beagle left Port Low on the 15th and sailed to Huafo Island.
Darwin spent the next day or two examining the geology of this
island. Two days later the Beagle sailed to Point Arena in San
Carlos harbor. Mr. Sullivan and the others on the smaller survey
boats came back on board.
surveyed English Bank near Point Arena on the 19th. Mount Orsono
erupted again late in the evening.
January 22nd Darwin and Mr. King went ashore and traveled by
hired horses to Castro, then to Capella de Cucao on the West
coast. They reached Castro the next day at 2:00pm, then continued
south along the coast. They passed through the village of Vilepilli,
then Chonchi. On the 26th they rode to Point Huantamo a little
to the north and then arrived at Castro in the evening.
Beagle left Chiloe Island from Point Arena on February 5th,
but was forced back to English harbor due to poor weather. The
next day they sailed to the South American coastline and from
here surveyed north to Valdivia, where they arrived on the 8th.
Darwin was in the town of Valdivia a massive earthquake hit
around at around 11:30 on the morning of the 20th. It lasted
three minutes and the devastation was horrible - nearly every
building in the area was destroyed.
returned to the Beagle on the 22nd which sailed from the ruined
town of Valdivia to the city of Concepcion.
in the evening of the 24th the Beagle arrived at Mocha Island.
The next seven days were spent surveying between the island
and the mainland.
March 4th the Beagle entered the Harbor of Talcuhano near
Concepcion. As at Valdivia, nearly every house around the
harbor was destroyed. While the Beagle tried to make anchorage
in Talcuhano Harbor, Darwin was dropped off at the island
of Quiriquina. Here he explored around the coastline of the
island and found several expanses of fresh marine rock that
had risen a few feet above sea level due to the earthquake.
Darwin also noticed raised shell beds on the cliffs above
and became very excited about this find, as it was direct
evidence that the Andes mountains, and indeed all of South
America, may be very slowly raising above the ocean. These
discoveries added much weight to Charles Lyell's theory that
land masses rose up in tiny increments over extremely long
periods of time. Given this fact, Darwin accepted the idea
that the earth must be extremely old. The next day Darwin
went by ship to Talcuhano Harbor where a tidal wave had destroyed
nearly everything, and from the shore he rode by horse to
the town of Concepcion to meet up with Capt. FitzRoy.
Beagle left the ruined city of Concepcion after three days and
sailed for Valparaiso where they arrived on the 11th to buy
replacement anchors (they had just one left by this time). They
arrived at Valpairso on the 11th, bought anchors, and the next
day sailed back to Conception to study the damage done by the
earthquake along the coast.
planed out another Andes expedition while in the town of Santiago.
Mr. Caldcleugh assisted him in preparations for the expedition.
March 18th at 4:00 in the morning Darwin started out on his
second Andes expedition with a Spanish speaking guide named
Mariano Gonzales, ten mules to carry provisions and an old mare
horse. Darwin had doubts about making it to the top of the Andes
due to snow blocking the mountain passes. He headed towards
St. Iago and then to Portillo Pass - one of the two passable
routes to the Andes during this time of the year. They spent
the day along the Maypo River, then to the broad valley to the
first Cordillo mountains towards Portillo Pass.
started to ascend Portillo Pass up the Peuquenes valley on March
21st and began to have difficulty breathing due to the elevation
gain. There was very little vegetation, no birds, animals or
insects in the area. Darwin found some fossil shells at this
great height and quickly forgot about the hard time breathing,
he was so excited! Once at the top of Portillo Pass (19,000
feet) they found themselves in the clouds and all good views
days later Darwin descended the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains
on the way to the town of Mendoza. Clouds down below blocked
their views. They camped at an area called Los Arenales, in
the clouds. Plants and animals were the same as those in Patagonia,
but not at all like those in Chile.
weather cleared up two days later and Darwin climbed a nearby
mountain and finally had a great view looking east over the
Pampas, but it was not as spectacular as he hoped it would be.
Later in the day they crossed the Luxan River and spent the
night a short distance south of Mendoza.
traveled to estacado, and then crossed the Luxan River on the
26th which was of a good size and camped at a small village
15 miles south of Mendoza. During the night Darwin was bitten
by an ugly blood sucking insect call the Benchuca Bug (today
known as the Vinchuca Bug, possibly "Triatoma infestans").
He kept one of them as a pet and observed it for a few months
to see how long a blood meal lasted it. At around this time
some officers aboard the Beagle we playing with one of these
insects, and one gentleman allowed the insect to take a blood
meal from him.
March 28th they arrived at the town of Mendoza, Argentina, but
Darwin stayed for just one day and then headed back west with
two guides over the Andes.
head back, on March 29th, to Chile via the Uspallata Pass,
just north of Mendoza. He spent the next few days at Villa
Vicencio and explored the geology of the area. He was shocked
to find that the local mountains were mainly composed of submarine
lava flows, and these at 6,000 feet above sea level and 700
miles from the coastline! Eleven trees had been fossilized
and 30-40 had turned into calcareous spar. Most of the trees
were a few feet tall and snapped off at the top and 3-5 feet
in circumference, and were coniferous. To make matters even
more confusing for Darwin, he also found huge numbers of petrified
trees in the same area. His mind was reeling with questions:
how long ago was this land under the ocean, how did the trees
end up under water so they would become petrified? Darwin
spent the next few days thinking about how Charles Lyell would
interpret what he was seeing and also began developing some
geological theories of his own.
April 1st Darwin continued through the Uspallata range and spent
the evening at a customs house. The next few days were engaged
in crossing the Uspallata mountain range of the Andes. By the
8th they left valley of Aconcagua, by which they had descended
from the mountains, and stayed at a house near Villa de St Rosa.
finally made it back to the coast on April 10th and stayed in
Santiago with an Englishman named Mr. Caldcleugh for a few days.
Some days later he returned to Valparaiso and stayed at Mr.
Corfield's house where he planned out another expedition north
along the coast.