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The Voyage of the Beagle (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]

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"I hate every wave of the ocean," the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientist s career.

The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his ...
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The Voyage of the Beagle (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview


"I hate every wave of the ocean," the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientist s career.

The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his interactions with various native peoples, of his beautiful descriptions of the lands he visited, and of his amazing discoveries in the Galapagos archipelago. Although scientific in nature, the literary quality rivals those of John Muir and Henry Thoreau.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Charles Darwin

Robert Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809, into a wealthy and highly respected family. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a doctor and the author of many works, including his well-known Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, which suggested a theory of evolution. Charles's father, Robert Waring Darwin, was also a prosperous doctor; his mother, Susannah, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the renowned Wedgwood potteries. The Darwins and the Wedgwoods had close and long-standing relations, and Charles was to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

In 1825 at age sixteen, Darwin matriculated at Edinburgh University to study medicine. There, his early interest in natural history developed, and he studied particularly crustaceans, sea creatures, and beetles. Nauseated by the sight of blood, however, he decided that medicine was not his vocation, left Edinburgh in 1827 and entered Christ's College, Cambridge University, with no clear sense of possible vocation, theology itself being an option. At Cambridge he became friends with J. S. Henslow, a clergyman who was also professor of botany. Although Darwin was to graduate from Cambridge with a B.A. in theology, he spent much time with Henslow, developing his interest in natural science. It was Henslow who secured a position for Darwin on an exploratory expedition aboard the HMS Beagle.

In December 1831, the year he graduated from Cambridge, Darwin embarked upon a five-year voyage to Africa and South America, acting as a companion to the captain, Robert Fitzroy. Darwin spent more time in land expeditions than at sea, where he was always seasick, but during the long voyages he continued his collecting and, cramped in his tiny cabin, meticulously wrote up his ideas. Several years after his return, at the time of the birth of his first son, William, Darwin fell ill. It is conjectured that while in South America he had contracted Chagas's disease, but whatever the cause, the effects were debilitating for the rest of Darwin's life.

By the time he returned to London in 1835, many of his letters, some to scientists like Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick, had been read before scientific societies, and he was already a well known and respected naturalist. His first published book, an account of his voyage aboard the Beagle, entitled Journal of Researches, appeared in 1839 and was widely popular. He married the same year; soon after, the family moved from London to a secluded house at Down, in Kent, where Darwin wrote initial sketches of his theory and then preparing himself for the full exposition, spent eight years writing a detailed set of definitive monographs on barnacles.

In 1858, when Darwin was halfway through writing his book, "Natural Selection," A. R. Wallace sent him a paper called, "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." In language similar to Darwin's own, Wallace laid out the argument for natural selection. Wallace asked Darwin to help get the paper published -- obviously an alarming development for a man who had given twenty years of his life to getting the argument for natural selection right. Darwin's scientific friends advised him to gather materials giving evidence of his priority but to have the Wallace paper read before the Linnaean Society, along with a brief account of his own ideas. Immediately after the reading, Darwin began work on his "abstract" of "Natural Selection." The result was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859. Despite the controversy it generated, it was an immense success and went through five more editions in Darwin's lifetime.

Darwin devoted the rest of his life to researching and writing scientific treatises, drawing on his notebooks and corresponding with scientists all over the world, and thus developing and modifying parts of his larger argument.

Darwin never traveled again and much of his scientific work was done in his own garden and study at home. Others, particularly his "bulldog," T. H. Huxley, fought the battle for evolution publicly, and as Darwin remained quietly ailing at home, his family grew -- he had ten children -- and so did his reputation. Although he was always ill with symptoms that made it impossible for him to work full days, he produced an enormous volume of work. His death, on April 19, 1882, was a national event. Despite the piety of his wife, Emma, Darwin had fallen away from religion as he reflected both on the way nature worked and on the way his favorite daughter, Annie, died painfully from an unknown feverish illness, when she was ten. Nevertheless, ironically, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Origin of Species.

Biography

Robert Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, on February 12, 1809, into a wealthy and highly respected family. His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a doctor and the author of many works, including his well-known Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, which suggested a theory of evolution. Charles's father, Robert Waring Darwin, was also a prosperous doctor; his mother, Susannah, was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the renowned Wedgwood potteries. The Darwins and the Wedgwoods had close and long-standing relations, and Charles was to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgwood.

In 1825 at age sixteen, Darwin matriculated at Edinburgh University to study medicine. There, his early interest in natural history developed, and he studied particularly crustaceans, sea creatures, and beetles. Nauseated by the sight of blood, however, he decided that medicine was not his vocation, left Edinburgh in 1827 and entered Christ's College, Cambridge University, with no clear sense of possible vocation, theology itself being an option. At Cambridge he became friends with J. S. Henslow, a clergyman who was also professor of botany. Although Darwin was to graduate from Cambridge with a B.A. in theology, he spent much time with Henslow, developing his interest in natural science. It was Henslow who secured a position for Darwin on an exploratory expedition aboard the HMS Beagle.

In December 1831, the year he graduated from Cambridge, Darwin embarked upon a five-year voyage to Africa and South America, acting as a companion to the captain, Robert Fitzroy. Darwin spent more time in land expeditions than at sea, where he was always seasick, but during the long voyages he continued his collecting and, cramped in his tiny cabin, meticulously wrote up his ideas. Several years after his return, at the time of the birth of his first son, William, Darwin fell ill. It is conjectured that while in South America he had contracted Chagas's disease, but whatever the cause, the effects were debilitating for the rest of Darwin's life.

By the time he returned to London in 1835, many of his letters, some to scientists like Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick, had been read before scientific societies, and he was already a well known and respected naturalist. His first published book, an account of his voyage aboard the Beagle, entitled Journal of Researches, appeared in 1839 and was widely popular. He married the same year; soon after, the family moved from London to a secluded house at Down, in Kent, where Darwin wrote initial sketches of his theory and then preparing himself for the full exposition, spent eight years writing a detailed set of definitive monographs on barnacles.

In 1858, when Darwin was halfway through writing his book, "Natural Selection," A. R. Wallace sent him a paper called, "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type." In language similar to Darwin's own, Wallace laid out the argument for natural selection. Wallace asked Darwin to help get the paper published -- obviously an alarming development for a man who had given twenty years of his life to getting the argument for natural selection right. Darwin's scientific friends advised him to gather materials giving evidence of his priority but to have the Wallace paper read before the Linnaean Society, along with a brief account of his own ideas. Immediately after the reading, Darwin began work on his "abstract" of "Natural Selection." The result was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859. Despite the controversy it generated, it was an immense success and went through five more editions in Darwin's lifetime.

Darwin devoted the rest of his life to researching and writing scientific treatises, drawing on his notebooks and corresponding with scientists all over the world, and thus developing and modifying parts of his larger argument.

Darwin never traveled again and much of his scientific work was done in his own garden and study at home. Others, particularly his "bulldog," T. H. Huxley, fought the battle for evolution publicly, and as Darwin remained quietly ailing at home, his family grew -- he had ten children -- and so did his reputation. Although he was always ill with symptoms that made it impossible for him to work full days, he produced an enormous volume of work. His death, on April 19, 1882, was a national event. Despite the piety of his wife, Emma, Darwin had fallen away from religion as he reflected both on the way nature worked and on the way his favorite daughter, Annie, died painfully from an unknown feverish illness, when she was ten. Nevertheless, ironically, he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Origin of Species.

Good To Know

Darwin was born on the same day as U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

He broke his longtime snuff habit by keeping his snuff box in the basement and the key to it in the attic.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      February 12, 1809
    2. Place of Birth:
      Shrewsbury, England
    1. Date of Death:
      April 19, 1882
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Theology, Christ’s College, Cambridge University, 1831

Read an Excerpt

Charles Darwin, at age 22, had by 1831 rejected careers in both medicine and the clergy when he was offered the position of naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, a 90-foot sloop charged with charting South American waters. He was not the first choice for the job. His father stood in his way. Even the ship's captain was uncertain about him. Yet he made it onto the Beagle, and this five year voyage, he later wrote, was the most important event of his life and shaped his entire career.

This was a return trip to South America for the Beagle and Darwin left the placid landscape of England to journey to a land of dynamic terrain: high mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, strange coastlines and even stranger animals and fossils:

"Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a grand scale: the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a distance of 1,200 miles, has been raised in mass...What a history of geological changes does the simply-constructed coast of Patagonia reveal!...At Port St. Julian , in some red mud capping the gravel on the 90-feet plain, I found half the skeleton of the Macrauchenia Patachonica, a remarkable quadruped, full as large as a camel. It belongs to the same division of the Pachydermata with the rhinoceros, tapir, and palaeotherium; but in the structure of the bones of its long neck it shows a clear relation to the camel, or rather to the guanaco and llama. From recent sea-shells being found on two of the higher step-formed plains, which must have been modelled and upraised before the mud was deposited in which the Macrauchenia was entombed, it is certain that this curious quadruped lived long after the sea was inhabited by its present shells."

Darwin spent thousands of hours making observations, collecting specimens, and recording data. He went ashore all along the South American coasts, often riding horseback into the interior in order to collect more data, and he also includes his observations about the people whom he met there, from army generals to local Indians. And of course, he visited the now famous Galapagos Archipelago, the 10 islands formed by volcanic action where Darwin noticed that several species of finches existed, with beak shapes that were vastly different. He thought deeply about the comment made by the vice-governor that there were many different varieties of tortoises to be found on the island, and came to the conclusions about evolution he later elaborated upon in his Origin of Species:

"It was most striking to be surrounded by new birds, new reptiles, new shells, new insects, new plants, and yet by innumerable trifling details of structure, and even by the tones of voice and plumage of the birds, to have the temperate plains of Patagonia, or rather the hot dry deserts of Northern Chile, vividly brought before my eyes. Why, on these small points of land, which within a late geological period must have been covered by the ocean, which are formed by basaltic lava, and therefore differ in geological character from the American continent, and which are placed under a peculiar climate, - why were their aboriginal inhabitants, associated, I may add, in different proportions both in kind and number from those on the continent, and therefore acting on each other in a different manner - why were they created on American types of organization?"

The Beagle went back to England via Australia and New Zealand, and Darwin continued to collect specimens there as well. He left England as student with a keen and open mind; he returned an experienced scientist with definite ideas about the workings of nature, and raw data to substantiate his theories. He would go on of course to refine them and publish On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, that famous and still controversial book. The direction of Darwin's thought is clearly evident in The Voyage of the HMS Beagle, as well as his exuberance. This is the second edition of the book, originally published in 1845. Fascinating reading from a truly original mind!

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Table of Contents

Introduction xv
Preface
Chapter 1 St. Jago--Cape de Verd Islands 1
Chapter 2 Rio de Janeiro 16
Chapter 3 Maldonado 34
Chapter 4 Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca 55
Chapter 5 Bahia Blanca 71
Chapter 6 Bahia Blanca to Buenos Ayres 93
Chapter 7 Buenos Ayres and St. Fe 108
Chapter 8 Banda Oriental and Patagonia 125
Chapter 9 Santa Cruz, Patagonia, and the Falkland Islands 156
Chapter 10 Tierra Del Fuego 180
Chapter 11 Strait of Magellan--Climate of the Southern Coasts 204
Chapter 12 Central Chile 224
Chapter 13 Chiloe and Chonos Islands 242
Chapter 14 Chiloe and Concepcion: Great Earthquake 259
Chapter 15 Passage of the Cordillera 279
Chapter 16 Northern Chile and Peru 300
Chapter 17 Galapagos Archipelago 331
Chapter 18 Tahiti and New Zealand 358
Chapter 19 Australia 383
Chapter 20 Keeling Island:--Coral Formations 402
Chapter 21 Mauritius to England 429
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Introduction

The voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle around the world, but with long stops in South America and a crucial five-week layover in the Galapagos Islands, launched the career of amateur scientist Charles Darwin. It also launched one of the most controversial and influential works in Western thought, Darwin's The Origin of the Species (1859), which was largely based on material gathered during the five-year journey (1831-1835). Darwin was the fourth choice to be the gentleman companion (and only secondarily, naturalist) to the moody, irascible Captain Robert FitzRoy who feared for his own mental stability because the previous captain had committed suicide -- which FitzRoy actually did succumb to post-voyage). Darwin was almost rejected because FitzRoy objected to the shape of his nose, believing that it denoted lack of perseverance. Moreover, Darwin's father, whose approval and financial support were essential, wanted young Charles -- an uninspiring student who had dropped out of medical school in Edinburgh -- to stay home and become a pastor. However, thanks to an uncle's intervention, FitzRoy's inability to find a more suitable companion, and Darwin's geniality and ability to hunt and ride (not his scientific expertise), at age twenty-two Charles signed on for what be believed was a two-year journey. Darwin persevered, despite intense seasickness the entire voyage (writing to his family, "I hate every wave of the ocean") and the troubling screams of sailors being flogged by FitzRoy, in large part because he spent three-fifths of the trip taking land expeditions. The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip -- of his biological and geologicalobservations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his interactions with various native peoples, of his beautiful descriptions of the lands he visited (particularly Tahiti), and of his amazing discoveries in the Galapagos archipelago. Darwin explored the tropical rain forest of Brazil, climbed the Andes mountains of Chile, and experienced, first hand, both a volcano and an earthquake. During the five years young Darwin was gone, he matured from an undirected dilettante, whose only real passion was collecting beetles, into one of the preeminent scientists of his day. The trip was, in his own words, "by far the most important event in my life and has determined my whole career." This engaging scientific and literary text is crucial reading for anyone interested in Western thought.

Born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) in 1809, Darwin is arguably even more influential than the famous statesman. In fact, in the spirit of Lincoln, the first major argument between Captain FitzRoy and this son of abolitionists (with physicians on one side and the Wedgwood pottery family on the other) was over slavery. This decidedly average student eventually received a B.A. at Cambridge, where he became fast friends with his science professor, John Henslow, who "influenced my whole career more than any other." Darwin lived as a child in Shrewsbury, and then, after his voyage, for a few years in London, before retiring with his wife and eventually, numerous children, to Down village in Kent, where he spent his last forty years, in ill health, before dying in 1882. Scientific fame prevented him from being buried, as he had wished, in the local churchyard; instead, he lies at Westminster Abbey, a few feet from Isaac Newton. Thanks to his family's wealth, he was able to devote his entire life to his studies, which he did with Victorian diligence. All of his work was well received. First, upon his return from the voyage of the Beagle, he wrote The Voyage of the Beagle, officially titled Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the Various Countries Visited by the H.M.S. Beagle, under the Command of Captain FitzRoy, R.N., from 1832 to 1836 (London: Henry Colburn, 1839) -- the third volume in a set published by FitzRoy. (Darwin's volume was independently published later that year, without payment to, or permission from the author.) This was followed by a five-volume set, Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle. Then, after the publication of a major work on coral and some other primarily botanical works, he began The Origin of the Species. Part way through, Darwin heard that another scientist, Alfred Wallace, was to publish an independent treatise putting forth similar ideas. Darwin therefore rushed to publish but a brief abstract of his ideas, which is the famous work we know today. It was eventually followed by a sequel, The Descent of Man (1871), as well as a continuing series of less-well-known scientific studies. Ironically, the forced brevity of The Origin of the Species, in Darwin's opinion, appreciably contributed to its popularity. Darwin attributes his overall success to his "love of science -- unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject -- industry in observing and collecting facts -- and a fair share of invention as of common-sense." It is impossible to overstate the impact of this man who revolutionized science.

The Beagle's voyage originated as a survey of the coast of South America, with the intent that the English government could plan future military and commercial operations, and was Darwin's initiating scientific expedition. During this eventual circumnavigation of the globe, most of the time was spent first on the east, and secondarily on the west coasts of South America. With Darwin signed on as the captain's companion, the vessel's senior surgeon, Robert McCormick, was its naturalist. However, after only four months at sea, McCormick returned to England, because it was obvious that Darwin, nicked named "Philos," short for "Ship's Philosopher," was FitzRoy's preferred naturalist. Darwin brought with him the works of Shakespeare and Milton (taking Paradise Lost with him on his land excursions), and, more importantly, numerous scientific texts, including Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology. (As subsequent volumes were published, Darwin had them sent from England.) The tiny cabin FitzRoy and Darwin shared contained a library of some 245 volumes. Even though Darwin missed England, he was not cut off from it; newspapers and journals arrived regularly, and, as much as possible, letters from home. While on shore, he and FitzRoy were "typical" Englishmen, having tea and paying social calls. Characteristic of Darwin's incessantly inquisitive nature, one of his major findings was made during a dinner: he discovered a crucial second species of ostrich -- a rhea -- but only after he had eaten half of it. He dutifully sent the uneaten portion back to England for further examination, and it was later named Rhea darwinii in his honor. He also regularly sent his journals home (carefully making a second copy, knowing the perils of the sea), as well as his collections. Henslow had Darwin's scientific letters published in his absence, as well as read before the Cambridge Philosophical Society, so that all of Britain was waiting for the return of the Beagle's naturalist.

While of course the backbone of The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's scientific descriptions and speculations, made virtually everywhere he traveled and pertaining to all facets of science, the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin spent five weeks in the fall of 1835, was of particular interest. Despite his initial impression, "Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black basaltic lava is every where covered by a stunted brushwood, which shows little signs of life," he soon realized the extreme value of the place, nothing that "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." This is exactly the setting Darwin needed to fuel his evolutionary theories. Of particular importance are the giant, cactus-eating reptiles; he is amazed to discover that locals can determine the precise island of a tortoises' origin, just by the shape of its shell. The work on these islands figures prominently in his Origin of the Species. Ironically, for all of Darwin's powers of close observation, back in England, Darwin realized that he should have paid close attention to not just the tortoises, but also the finches. Luckily, FitzRoy had a thorough collection, which was available for Darwin's use.

Even though Darwin is known for his natural, not social, science, a fair amount of The Voyage of the Beagle is devoted to descriptions of humans, particular their behavior, in which he demonstrates that he is not just an abolitionist, but also a pacifist. For example, regarding conflicts with Indians, he writes, "Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age, in a Christian civilized country, that such atrocities were committed?" Predictably, he is also greatly concerned about the plight of both the miners and earthquake victims in Chile.

In addition to being a scientific text, The Voyage of the Beagle is also a literary one, with descriptions that rival, at times, those of John Muir, Henry Thoreau, and Aldo Leopold. The following passage is typical: "The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorous, and in her wake she was followed by a milky train. As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from the reflected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure, as over the rest of the heavens. Often, his writing is rich in metaphor. For example, when he is trying (unsuccessfully) to climb to the summit of San Pedro, creeping on hands and knees through dense vegetation, he writes, "Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any other animal."

Particularly in these descriptions of nature, we see not just an analytical scientist, but a sensitive young man, coming of age in the Romantic period and decidedly reaching maturity in the Victorian era. Throughout, we get to know our narrator, and find him to be indeed, excelling in the traits of congeniality that secured his place on the Beagle. For example, just two months into the trip, Darwin is impatient with local hospitality because it does not adhere to English schedules. Yet, just four months later he is able to graciously comment on differences and similarities in local manners, with total acceptance and curiosity. Throughout, he is extremely humble, typically stating, "Of course, after so very short a visit one's opinion is worth scarcely anything." The most charming revelation of his character comes with his declaration of the ultimate "cure" for altitude sickness: engagement with the natural environment -- in his case, with fossilized shells.

In spite of Darwin's many exciting experiences, when asked if one should undertake such a long voyage, he retorts that it would depend on a desire for gaining some particular knowledge -- most readily botanical -- because "the pleasures gained at the time do not counterbalance the evils." When he lists his favorite "scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind," "none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil ... or those of Tierra del Fuego." Above all, "The map of the world ceases to be blank; it becomes a picture full of the most varied and animated figures." Thanks to Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle, readers are able to experience, through Darwin's perceptive eyes -- those of geologist, botanist, zoologist, social scientist, geographer, and sensitive, observant writer -- the wonders of the many places he visited.

Catherine A. Henze is a writer for Tekno Books.
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  • Posted February 21, 2010

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    Great travel writing, science, and beautiful prose

    I'm a travel writing reader, I work in medicine, and I love a well-written essay. Mr. Darwin has managed to achieve 5 stars in each category in my book. His inquisitive mind and keen observations of flora and fauna make fascinating science reading. His recounting of travels inland, notes on how the people lived, what they ate, what the land was like, provide insights to a time long lost of places I'll probably never see. And his ability to bend the written word to express wonder and amazement at what he experiences at times rivals the best nature writing I've ever come across. This is one of those few books I felt sad to finish, but glad I found at all and elated to have in my library. 5-stars all the way around.

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