17 April 1835 to 20 October 1835

Survey of South America, Part 5:

FitzRoy gets Promoted
3rd Andes Expedition
FitzRoy to the Rescue
Taking on Provisions
At the Galapagos
Darwin the Explorer

At some time over the next few weeks Darwin learned that Capt. FitzRoy had been promoted by the Admiralty.

The Beagle left the ruined town of Concepcion on April 17th, examined the town of Coliumo near the Maule River on the 20th, then sailed north surveying the coast.

They arrived at Valparaiso three days later where Darwin came on board and told FitzRoy about the promotion he had received. Darwin returned to shore on April 24th and traveled north to the town of Coquimbo.

The next day the Beagle headed to Horcon Bay, then sailed the next day to Papudo.

What follows is Darwin's third and last Andes expedition. Once again, I have decided to describe it with a day-by-day outline of events, along with maps (available soon) to make the trek more clear to the reader. Keep in mind that 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.

April 27, 1835 - Started out from Valparaiso with a guide named Mariano Gonzales, four horses and a mule, and traveled as far as Vino del Mar.
April 28 - Arrived at Limache then through Umiri and on to the foot of Bell Mountain where he did poorly at a geological survey of the area. Arrived at Quillota that evening.
April 30 - Arrived at Cerro de Chilicauquen then proceeded to Plazilla and on to the Coquimbo main road.
May 01 - Now at Catapilco, the proceeded along the Valley of Longotomo just off the coast.
May 02 - Traveled to the town of Quilimar on the coast.
May 03 - Went from Quilimar to Conchalee.
May 04 - Conchalee to Illapel where he finally became bored with coastal region and set out inland to Illapel.
May 05 - Spent the day in Illapel which was at the time was a copper mining town.
May 06 - Stopped at Los Hornos, another major mining town.
May 07 - Stayed in Los Hornos to explore the geology of the area.
May 08 - Arrived at Combarbala at foot of Cordilleras.
May 09 - Went to the copper and gold mining town of Punitague.
May 10 - Arrived at Ovalle on the River Limari.
May 11 - Traveled to Panuncillo, yet another mining town.
May 12 - Stayed in Panuncillo all day to explore the mines.
May 13 - Traveled from Panuncillo to Tambillos to examine their copper mines.
May 14 - Darwin crossed to the Port of Coquimbo where the Beagle was being refitted, and stayed the night with the crew camped out on the beach.
May 15 - Darwin stayed on the Beagle all day.
May 16/18 - Darwin and FitzRoy traveled along the coast and stayed in Coquimbo 11 miles away.
May 19 - Darwin walked a little ways up the valley where he examined a series of stepped hillsides with sea shells embedded in them.
May 21 - Took a short trip with Don Jose Maria Edwards to the famous silver mines of Arqueros, then on to the Coquimbo Valley. Darwin had a very restful nights sleep, due mainly to the lack of fleas which were very troubling in Coquimbo.
May 22 - Darwin examined the silver mines owned by Mr. Edwards, then headed back to Coquimbo.

May 23 - Spent the day traveling up the valley and studied the geology. Spent the evening at a hacienda own by a cousin of Mr. Edwards.
May 25 - Darwin left the company of Mr. Edwards today. He was now where the River Claro meets Elque. He studied an area that contained some petrified shells.
May 26 - Returned to the Hacienda. Darwin rejoined Mr. Edwards and they traveled to Coquimbo which they arrived at late in the afternoon.
May 27 - June 02 - Darwin set out for Guasco on the main road along the coast with a guide to show him the way.
June 03 - Traveled from Yerba-buena to Carizal. Darwin commented at length in his journal about the dry conditions and the scarcity of animals in the area.
June 04 - Traveled from Carizal to Sauce.
June 05 - Arrived at Freyrina by crossing some mountains. Darwin commented that vegetation was becoming more and more sparse as one traveled north. The whole area was like a life-less alien world to him.
June 06 - Stayed in Freyrina all day so his horses could rest. Visited with Mr. Hardy, the owner of the copper mines in the area.
June 07 - Rode down to the Port.
June 08 - Rode up to Ballenar.
June 09/11 - Darwin continued to ride further up the valley which was a very desolate region.
June 12 - Arrived at the Hacienda of Potrero Seco in the Copiapo Valley.
June 13/14 - Studied the geology of the nearby mountains.
June 15 - Went up the Copiapo Valley to the Cordilleras Mountains heading south-southeast. Dined at a Hacienda in the area owned by Don Eugenio Matta.
June 16 - Stayed at a hacienda owned by Don Benito Cruz.
June 17 - Darwin hired mules and a guide and headed into the Cordilleras. He traveled up to where the valley splits into three smaller valleys. He continued up the one called the Jolquera Valley.
June 18 - Proceeded up the valley, then headed back down because it suddenly turned in a very northerly direction and did not interest him. There was also a small earthquake in the area in the evening.
June 19 - Returned down the valley to Las Amolanas.
June 20 - Darwin was in Las Amolanas all day where he found many curious looking petrified shells and pieces of wood.
June 21 - Returned to the Hacienda at Potrero Seco, then on to Copiapo where Darwin stayed for three days.
June 26 - Hired a guide and 8 mules and headed back to the Cordilleras via more direct route.
June 27 - Reached the ravine of Paypote.
June 28 - Darwin continued up the valley towards an area called Maricongo. He climbed to the top ridge of the Cordilleras where there was a lot of snow and very cold temperatures.
June 29/30 - Returned back down the valley to the Agua Amarga.
July 01 - Reached valley of Copiapo.
July 02/03 - Stayed at Mr. Bingley's house in town.
July 04 - Headed back to the port, about 54 miles away.
July 05 - Reached port at noon time. Here Darwin found out the Beagle had arrived two days ago. Capt. FitzRoy was not there at the time as he was busy rescuing the crew of a shipwreck at Arauco (see details below).

Some time during his short stay on the coast, Darwin sent his last collection of specimens to Revd. Henslow via the ship H.M.S. Conway, a warship with a crew of 175 men. From this time onward, any future specimens collected by Charles Darwin would be kept on board the Beagle for the remainder of the voyage.

Overlapping Charles Darwin's exploration of the Andes Mountains, we find Capt. FitzRoy busy surveying the western coastline of South America and rescuing some stranded Englishmen. His adventures follow:

A few days after leaving Darwin to explore the Andes Mountains, the Beagle headed to Conchali, then in the first week of May to Quilimari Cove, and on the 4th to Herradura Cove where the crew went ashore and the Beagle was cleaned out and repainted. The Beagle was finished being repainted by June 6th, left Herradura Cove and sailed for the town of Valparaiso where they arrived on the 14th.

On June 16th more mail arrived and Capt. FitzRoy learned that H.M.S. Challenger had wrecked along the coast of Chile and the crew was stranded on shore (according to records of the time this wreck took place on May 19th). He left the Beagle two days later and went with H.M.S. Blonde to Talcahuano Harbor. In the mean time, the Beagle proceeded to survey further north along the coast.

Capt. FitzRoy left Talcahuano Harbor on June 21st with five horses and provisions. Mr. Usborne, Mr. Bennett and a few other crew members went with him. The next day the horses were loaded onto a barge and crossed the Biobio river to the south. They rode into the hills past Point Coronel to Playa Negra and on to Villagran.

The rescue party finally reached Leubu River on the 23rd, where the crew of the Challenger was camped out. He dropped off loads of provisions for the crew, surveyed the area to see where a rescue boat could be brought in, and then rode back north to the town of Concepcion.

FitzRoy arrived back at Concepcion on June 26th, and the next day took command of H.M.S. Blonde and sailed back south to pick up the stranded crew.

The crew of the Challenger was brought on board the Blonde on July 5th. Two days later they arrive back at the town of Concepcion safe and sound. By now Charles Darwin had also been picked up after his last Andes expedition.

The next day FitzRoy and the others boarded the Beagle and set sail, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn this day.

The Beagle arrived at Port of Iquique on July 12th.

H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Callao, outside of Lima Peru on the 19th. Darwin looked around the city and was shocked at the state of decay all around him (poor looking dwellings, litter, dirty roads, etc…). He explored some old Indian ruins outside the city and mentioned exploring San Lorenzo Island's terraces with shell layers intact (off the coast of Bellavista). The next few weeks were spent taking on provisions for the trip across the Pacific ocean.

The Blonde reached Callao Bay on August 9th and met up with the Beagle.

A few days later Darwin received three letters from his sisters (dated as: Catherine: 28 January, Susan: 16 February, Caroline: 30 March) telling him how worried they were about his being ill for such a long time at Valparaiso. They feared that if he continued on the voyage his health would 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.

Since time did not permit FitzRoy to continue his survey of Peru, he bought a large boat named Constitution for 400 lbs to assist in his survey work. Alexander Usborne, Charles Forsyth, E. Davies (of the Blonde), seven seamen and one boy were transferred to this boat on September 6th and surveyed north along the coast of Peru. When their work here was completed they returned to England via Tierra del Fuego, and across the Atlantic Ocean to home.

H.M.S. Beagle set out from Callao, Peru on September 7th and sailed out to the Galapagos Archipelago.

"I am very anxious to see the Galapagos Islands, -- I think both the Geology & Zoology cannot fail to be very interesting." -- Charles Darwin, Letter to his sister, Catherine in August 1835.

"The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself; the greater number of its inhabitants, both vegetable and animal, being found nowhere else." - Charles Darwin

The Entire Survey of the Galapagos Islands

How accurate are these maps?

Beagle Survey Route Lines (in red) -

These route lines are fairly accurate, as FitzRoy provided plenty of survey information in his personal journal. This, combined with the narrative in Darwin's Beagle Diary at the Galapagos Islands, make figuring out where the Beagle went fairly easy. The only section that I am not sure about is to the north where the "strong currents" existed near Abingdon Island. Here I assume the Beagle was not able to sail directly to other islands, but rather took a very erratic route as is hinted at in FitzRoy's narrative.

Small Boat Survey Route Lines (in yellow) -

There is hardly any information regarding the specific routes of the smaller survey boats used at the Galapagos Islands. The text I studied just states that an island was surveyed by smaller boats, and no other detail is provided. Since I do not have access to the original survey maps drawn by the crew, I have relied only upon FitzRoy's Journal.

I have made a few assumptions about the routes of the smaller boats. First of all, FitzRoy was a very patient, detail oriented, and meticulous captain. I am assuming, when ordering the survey of an island, he would expect a very complete one. The routes I have indicated, therefore, explore every large cove and shelter along the coastline of islands, and also circumnavigate each of the islands FitzRoy ordered to be surveyed.

Topography of the Islands -

On all these maps the graphics used to show the topography of the islands makes them appear far more mountainous than they actually are. This representation is just a side effect of the graphics program I used to create the islands.

Now, onto the adventures in the Galapagos! In the afternoon of September 15th a tiny point of land was seen on the horizon. This was the first sighting of the Galapagos Archipelago by the Beagle, and it turned out to be Mount Pitt, a large hill on the north-east end of Chatham Island.

"we were anxiously looking out for land, when what appeared to be an islet was seen from the mast-head. This seeming islet turned out to be the summit of Mount Pitt, a remarkable hill at the north-east end of Chatham Island." -- Capt. Robert FitzRoy's Journal.

The very next day H.M.S. Beagle reached Hood Island, shown above. Early in the morning Edward Chaffers (Master) and Arthur Mellersh (Midshipman) set out on a boat to survey 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 rocky shore of black lava, and the raw hostile environment.

H.M.S. Beagle arrived at Chatham Island on the 17th, sailing north along the western shoreline and surveyed several bays along the coast and spotted an American Whaler in Stephen's Harbor. The next day the Beagle arrived at the north-east end of Chatham. Capt. FitzRoy and others went on a short inland excursion. Darwin, Covington, and John Stokes (assistant surveyor) were also put on shore to explore on their own. It was a very, very hot day, about seventy degrees over the water, but much hotter on the island due to radiating heat off the lava rock. Darwin examined the huge tortoises here and collected about ten plants, most of which he thought were unimpressive little things. Eighteen tortoises are brought on board the Beagle as food.

Over the next few days the Beagle sailed around to the eastern side of Chatham and then surveyed southward along the coast. A fresh source of water was located on the south-east part of the island at a place later to be called Bahia de Aqua Dulce. The crew took on a water supply and continue to the southern end of Chatham Island where Chaffers and Mellersh came back on board.

Capt. FitzRoy finished up the survey of Chatham Island by September 22nd, and more tortoises were brought on board for food. The next day the Beagle sailed out towards Barrington Island and spent the night between Hood and Charles Islands.

The next day was spent surveying the waters around Charles Island which was populated by a small colony of about 250 political prisoners from the Republic of Equator (established in 1829). Darwin went on shore with Covington to collect plants and birds and climbed the highest hill - about 1,800 feet above sea level. He also examined a few curious lava chimneys. During his stay on the island Darwin was informed by Mr. Nicholas Lawson, an Englishman in charge of the prison colony, that one can tell which island a tortoise came from by looking at it's shell, (at the time Darwin did not grasp the significance of this news!). Another small boat, under the command of Edward Chaffers, was launched to survey the little islands off the south-east coast of Charles Island. In the afternoon the Beagle anchored at Post Office Bay.

On the 25th Mr. Lawson came on board the Beagle. Later in the day he took Capt. FitzRoy and others on a tour of the prison colony on Charles Island. Chaffers returned to the Beagle the next day after surveying the southern end of Charles Island.

The next day was spent exploring the interior of Charles Island.

"I industriously collected all the animals, plants, insects & reptiles from this Island. [on Charles Island] It will be very interesting to find from future comparison to what district or 'center of creation' the organized beings of this archipelago must be attached." Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, September 26/27, 1835.

On September 28 H.M.S. Beagle set sail for Albermarle Island, shown above, and in the evening anchored off the south-west shore.

Over the next few days survey work was done along the south-west tip of Albermarle Island. Arthus Mellersh and Philip King (midshipman) were let off on a boat to survey Elizabeth Bay. The crew was astonished at the sight of huge swarmsof ugly lizards (marine iguanas), 3-4 feet in length, all along the coastline.

"The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft) most disgusting, clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea." Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, September 17, 1835.

There was a good breeze on the 3rd in the morning and the Beagle set sail for Banks Cove near the northern tip of Albermarle Island. Along the way the Beagle was nearly stuck between Albermarle and Narborough Islands due to extremely calm winds. They eventually passed through Canal Bolivar between Narborough and Albermarle Islands and anchored at Banks Cove.

A small party explored inland on October 1st to look for fresh water, but they only located a few small watery holes in the rocks. All Darwin found was an elliptical crater near a small cove that had a small salty lake with an island in middle. Due to the shortage of potable water, rationing was started on the ship today. Darwin described land iguanas on the island in some detail. Many giant iguana were caught and killed for food. The next day was passed at Banks Cove.

H.M.S. Beagle sailed around the northern tip of Albermarle on the 3rd, and anchored off Punta Flores. In the morning the Beagle sailed towards Abingdon Island, but due to very strong and erratic currents they ended up forty miles off course to the west.

A few days were spent trying to get back on course but the currents were very irregular in the area and caused much delay. More strong currents prevented the Beagle from reaching Abingdon Island, so Capt. FitzRoy ordered a course change towards the northern shore of James Island. Along the way the Beagle passed near Tower Island in the morning and Bindloe Island at sunset.

H.M.S. Beagle anchored at the northern tip of James Island on October 8th. 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 survey Bindloe, Abingdon and Tower Islands.

Darwin's Discovery:

Some of the specimens Darwin collected from the Galapagos:

One buzzard, two owls, three flycatchers, one Sylvicola, three species of mockingbirds, one species of finch, one swallow, one dove, 13 species of finches (Darwin remarked how fascinated he was by the beak gradations, but the variation of finches confused Darwin a great deal), one turtle, one tortoise, four lizards (sea and land iguanas and two other types), four snakes, and very few insects.

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. They went with the Spaniards to a circular salt lake to collect salt. Darwin commented that all the plants and animals had rather dull coloration, and were not particularly beautiful. The Beagle set sail for Chatham to get fresh water but the currents slowed them down.

"Amongst other things, I collected every plant, which I could see in flower, & as it was flowering season I hope my collection may be of some interest to you. - I shall be very curious to know whether the Flora belongs to America, or is particular. I paid also much attention to the Birds, which I suspect are very curious." Charles Darwin, Letter to Revd. John Henslow January 1836.

By the evening of the 9th H.M.S. Beagle was back at the southeast corner of Chatham Island and the next morning a party went on shore to get fresh water. A few days were spent at this island taking on more fresh water, cutting fire wood and hunting tortoises. FitzRoy noted how much cooler and wetter it was on this side of the archipelago compared to the western side where it was dry and hot.

While on James Island Darwin commented on tortoises hissing and dropping like a rock when passed, and on him riding them and not being able to keep balance. He described the variations of lizards, but Darwin did not hint at why variations should exist in these species. He did field tests with one iguana by tossing it in a pool of water in some lava rocks, noting that it returned directly to where he stood every time. He theorized that the lizard knows dry land is a safe place to be, and that water was dangerous. As for insects, Darwin was sadly disappointed at how few there were. He remarked on the odd fact that nearly all the birds have dull coloration (the flycatcher being the only bright one). He was also told that there are certain trees and plants that are found on one island but not at any of the others - a very strange curiosity! Darwin said it never occurred to him that islands so close together could have dissimilar plants and animals. He simple did consider it to be an important point at the time. This was why he did not label each animal to the island it was found on, especially the Galapagos finches. He also commented on the extreme tameness of the birds. Two small tortoises were brought on board as pets today.

The Beagle left Chatham Island on the 13th and after fighting heavy winds in the morning and nearly crashing into the cliffs, the Beagle set sail for Hood Island. On the way to Hood they almost got stuck on some dangerous shoals. A small boat was set down to pin point the exact location of these dangerous shoals. The next day the Beagle anchored at Hood Island and after surveying until noon they headed for the southern tip of Charles Island. By sunset they were anchored at the western end of Charles Island.

The Beagle later sailed to Post Office Bay and some crew members went on shore to locate salt deposits. Some more of the crew went onshore - this time to gather fire wood, dig up potatoes and hunt pigs. In the afternoon, a schooner arrived at Charles Island and dropped off a bag of letters from England. H.M.S. Beagle left Charles Island in the evening and headed for Albermarle Island.

"All the small birds that live on these lava-covered islands have short beaks, very thick at the base, like that of a bullfinch. This appears to be one of those admirable provisions of Infinite Wisdom by which each created thing is adapted to the place for which it was intended." -- Capt. Robert FitzRoy's Journal.

They arrived on the 17th and the Beagle surveyed north along the eastern shore of the 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. Darwin brought aboard quite a large haul of plants, animals, rocks and insects. In the afternoon the Beagle returned to Albermarle Island and spent the night sailing north along the coast.

The Beagle continued surveying the eastern side of Albermarle Island and in the afternoon of the 18th set sail for Abingdon Island to pick up Chaffers, Johnson and the other six crew members who had been surveying the area.

They continued sailing towards Abingdon Island and while the currents were still elusive, they were not as strong as they were before. After picking up the smaller survey boats on the 19th, the Beagle sailed to Wenman and Culpepper Islands to the north.

October 20th 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, 3,200 miles away.

"Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends." Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches, 2 edition, page 380.