November 1833 to 11 June 1834
of South America, Part 3:
to the mission
up the Rio Santa Cruz
Beagle rounds the Cape
sending a small boat up the Rio Plata to get fresh water, the
Beagle and Adventure left Montevideo (on 6 December) and continued
south. While passing San Blas Bay the ship became enveloped
in a cloud of butterflies which had flown out from the coast.
This puzzled Darwin a great deal, as there had been no air currents
blowing off the coast that would have forced them out to sea.
The ships arrived at Port Desire the day after Christmas ("D"
on map, below) and during the next few weeks the Adventure stayed
in port and had much needed repairs done on its masts. In the
mean time, Darwin went on shore to examine the landscape which
was very flat and dry. He wrote at length in his journal about
the limited flora and fauna, especially the Guanaco, a llama-like
Beagle left Port Desire on 4 January 1834 to survey down the
coast to Port San Julian ("J" on map, above), about
110 miles away. They stayed at San Julian for eight days during
which time Capt. FitzRoy, Darwin, and few others went ashore
to examine around the harbor for sources of fresh water. Unfortunately,
they found nothing but saline lakes. The Beagle left Port San
Julian on 19 January and returned to Port Desire the next day.
On 22 January the Adventure sailed out to survey the Falkland
Islands, while the Beagle continued further south to survey
the interior of the Strait of Magellan as far as the first and
second narrows (1 and 2 on map, below), and then on through
the the Beagle Channel.
Beagle arrived at Woolya Cove ("M" on map, above)
on 5 March to check up on the three Fuegian missionaries who
were left behind last year. Along the way they saw no natives
anywhere at all, a stark contrast to their last visit. They
found the mission completely abandoned, and the gardens in ruins.
One can imagine how despondent FitzRoy must have been - over
five years of work for nothing. While salvaging what they could
from the mission, some Fuegians arrived in three canoes from
Button Island, Jemmy being among them. He had seemed to have
reverted back to his native state. FitzRoy learned from Jemmy
that an invading tribe had forced them out from the Cove and
that Fuegia Basket and York Minster had left months ago to live
with their own people (the Woolya Tribe). FitzRoy concluded
that the plan to establish a mission at Tierra del Fuego was
conducted on too small a scale.
Beagle left for the Falkland Islands on 9 March and arrived
shortly before the Adventure came into port after surveying
the west, south and south-east coasts of the islands. A few
days later Darwin explored East Falkland island on horseback
and commented on the "rivers" of huge rocks covering
the island (actually, streams of dried lava). While anchored
in port a packet ship arrived with mail and Darwin finally received
a letter from Revd. Henslow (CCD, 1:213) regarding the specimens
he had been sending back to England. He learned that his shipments
of specimens were arriving safely in Cambridge, and that Henslow
found many of them to be very interesting indeed. Needless to
say, this news excited Darwin a great deal.
Beagle left Berkeley Sound on 6 April 1834 while the Adventure
continued to survey around the Falklands. When they arrived
at the mouth of the Rio Santa Cruz on 13 April the Beagle was
heaved ashore and her copper hull was checked for damage. In
the meantime, Capt. FitzRoy prepared for a trek up the Rio Santa
Cruz Valley which had been partially explored in 1827 during
the Beagle's first survey mission.
17 April Bartholomew Sulivan were put in charge of the Beagle,
while Capt. FitzRoy, Darwin, some of the officers, and about
twenty other crew members started out on a three week expedition
in three whale boats up the Rio Santa Cruz (see map, below).
The next day the current became so strong that the crew had
to take turns hauling the three boats by rope along the shoreline
("A" on map, below). A few days later they were able
to paddle upstream, but still only covered about ten miles a
day ("B" on map, below). Along the way they found
signs that Indians had been in the area and may be tracking
them, so they proceeded with caution. To make their situation
even more ominous, the air temperature had dropped to sub-freezing
levels, about 22 degrees for most of the trip. Many of their
tools became frozen, worst of all their guns, which were needed
almost daily to shoot guanacos for meat.
and Darwin sighted the Cordilleras Range on 29 April from a
hill and Darwin was eager to get closer to them. Unfortunately,
on 4 May Capt. FitzRoy decided to proceed no further by boat,
as there was nothing very interesting ahead of them and they
were running short on provisions. FitzRoy, Darwin and a few
others proceeded on foot for one day directly west for eight
miles, and returned to the boats the same day ("C"
on map, above). The next day the boats headed back downstream
and made very good time - about eighty-three miles a day. They
arrived back at the coast on 7 May, and the next morning met
up with the Beagle. Apparently, most of the crew was not very
pleased about how the trip turned out except, of course, for
Darwin who was fascinated by the geology of the river valley
was very curious about the geology of the river valley. The
walls of the valley had the same layers of shells he had seen
many times before. It was during this expedition that Darwin
theorized that the cliffs of the river valley, and indeed
the Andes Mountains themselves, had been slowly raising above
evidence for a planet in a state of constant flux was becoming
stronger and stronger. While today we take this for granted,
in Darwin's day the notion of changes on a planetary scale
went against the view that god's creation was perfect and
thus change was unnecessary.
water and guanacos were brought on board the Beagle left the
Rio Santa Cruz (12 May) and sailed out towards the Falkland
Islands to join the Adventure. Later in the month the Beagle
headed back to Tierra del Fuego to survey around the Strait
of Magellan (see map, below). The Adventure joined up with the
Beagle on 23 May and assisted in the survey of the Strait. During
the first week of June the ships surveyed down to Port Famine
and then continued along the Strait. Tierra del Fuego was very
misty this time of year, so their view of the beautiful scenery
was blocked, except for the occasional glimpse of the snow capped
mountains and ice-blue glaciers. By 9 June the weather had cleared
up quite a bit and the crew had great views of Mount Sarmiento
and the glaciers flowing into the sea.
10 June the Beagle went through the Magdalen Channel, on through
the Cockburn Channel, and past Mt. Skyring. On 11 June 1834
they passed through the East and West Furies, the Tower Rocks,
and finally into the Pacific ocean.