Darwin Sets Foot on Galapagos Islands
The 18th of September 1835 AD
HMS Beagle, on a five year mission to explore the waters of South America and the Pacific that had begun in 1831, arrived at the Galapagos Islands on September 15 1835. More precisely, the ship reached San Cristobal Island, known then by the British as Chatham Island, named for William Pitt the Elder who was the 1st Earl of Chatham .
With rather more hesitation than previous compatriots who had visited the Islands, such as Richard Hawkins and others even more overtly piratical, Charles Darwin waited until September 18 before actually setting foot on dry land there. Careful preparation was part of his character, most tellingly seen in the time it took him from first sparking the idea of natural selection as causing different species to evolve – the Galapagos mockingbirds now known as Darwin’s finches and the tortoises which differed island by island were key to that theory – to finally publishing his great work On the Origin of Species in November 1859 . Perhaps we should see rather than reticence the same thoroughness that enabled his grandfather Josiah Wedgwood to make his fortune.
Darwin was not quite without spontaneity, though with contemporary sensitivities we may question his judgement in riding on the backs of giant tortoises on San Cristobal. Some of their number suffered a worse fate during the Beagle’s visit – the crew, hungry for fresh meat, collected some for the pot.
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