The famous naturalist Charles Darwin embarked on hundreds of miles of land excursions during the often-told story of the H. M. S. Beagle voyage, and on these trips, the most lasting visual impressions for Darwin are the Cordilleras Mountains, the Fuegian natives, and the Brazilian rainforests. The Beagle’s five-year world circumnavigation from 1831 to 1836 emphasized South America and so it is not so surprising the previously mentioned natural wonders had such important impact on Darwin. Somewhat unexpected, though, is the desolate Patagonia plains of Argentina which made an especially lasting impression on Darwin. While certainly not the only important lasting natural impressions for Darwin from the voyage, the natural wonders mentioned previously are quite note worthy because they show up so prominently in a careful reading of Darwin’s writing.
Much has been written about the 19th century Beagle voyage and its scientific developments, but instead the emphasis for this research paper will be a selection of Charles Darwin’s most striking land journeys. This assignment will describe and evaluate the dimensions of the ‘gentleman naturalist’s’ most impressive visual memories resulting from excursions into Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In doing so, this paper will heavily rely on two sources: The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin and what is popularly known as Darwin’s Beagle Diary. Both of these texts are available on the World Wide Web.
Before turning to the content of the previously mentioned sources, some additional background is in order. The Beagle voyages’ main mission was to acquire a set of longitudinal measurements in a circumnavigation of the globe. In addition, Captain Robert FitzRoy and the Beagle were charged with completing a general survey of the southeast and southwest coasts of South America. This general coastal survey was a time consuming task for the ship. This in turn allowed the ship’s unofficial naturalist, Charles Darwin, to pursue long expeditions into the South American mainland either by riverboat, horseback, or on foot. The voyage would spend a full three years surveying the South American coast, affording many opportunities for adventure. Chronologically, Darwin’s important encounter with the Brazilian rainforest came first, then Patagonia, then the Fuegian native-land, and finally the Cordilleras Mountains. This is not the order in which this paper will proceed, however, since its purpose revolves around how Darwin felt about his impressions – especially in retrospect. Indeed, this account will first discuss Darwin’s mighty Cordilleras, then his impressions about the Fuegian natives, then the tropical rainforest, and finally Patagonia.
Darwin first saw the east-facing snowy crest of the Andean Cordilleras during an excursion from April to May 1834. With the Beagle beached for repairs at the mouth of the Argentinean river Rio Santa...