6th April 1834

[Berkeley Sound]

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
While the Beagle was preparing for sea the body of Lieut. Clive, late of H. M. S. Challenger, was found lying at high-water mark, in an unfrequented part of Berkeley Sound; and the following morning I buried it in a grave on shore, not far from the tomb of our regretted shipmate Hellyer*. After noon, on the same day, we sailed from the Falklands, depressed more than ever by the numerous sad associations connected with their name.

*Edward Hellyer – Captain’s Clerk (See entry for 4th March 1833)

East Falkland Island, April 6, 1834.

My dear Catherine,

When this letter will reach you I know not, but probably some man-of-war will call here before, in the common course of events, I should have another opportunity of writing. After visiting some of the southern islands, we beat up through the magnificent scenery of the Beagle Channel to Jemmy Button's country. We could hardly recognise poor Jemmy. Instead of the clean, well-dressed stout lad we left him, we found him a naked, thin, squalid savage. York and Fuegia had moved to their own country some months ago, the former having stolen all Jemmy's clothes. Now he had nothing except a bit of blanket round his waist. Poor Jemmy was very glad to see us, and, with his usual good feeling, brought several presents (otter-skins, which are most valuable to themselves) for his old friends. The Captain offered to take him to England, but this, to our surprise, he at once refused. In the evening his young wife came alongside and showed us the reason. He was quite contented. Last year, in the height of his indignation, he said "his country people no sabe nothing--damned fools"--now they were very good people, with TOO much to eat, and all the luxuries of life. Jemmy and his wife paddled away in their canoe loaded with presents, and very happy. The most curious thing is, that Jemmy, instead of recovering his own language, has taught all his friends a little English. "J. Button's canoe" and "Jemmy's wife come," "Give me knife," etc., was said by several of them.
We then bore away for this island--this little miserable seat of discord. We found that the Gauchos, under pretence of a revolution, had murdered and plundered all the Englishmen whom they could catch, and some of their own countrymen. All the economy at home makes the foreign movements of England most contemptible. How different from old Spain. Here we, dog-in-the-manger fashion, seize an island, and leave to protect it a Union Jack; the possessor has, of course, been murdered; we now send a lieutenant with four sailors, without authority or instructions. A man-of-war, however, ventured to leave a party of marines, and by their assistance, and the treachery of some of the party, the murderers have all been taken, there being now as many prisoners as inhabitants. This island must some day become a very important halting-place in the most turbulent sea in the world. It is mid-way between Australia and the South Sea to England; between Chili, Peru, etc., and the Rio Plata and the Rio de Janeiro. There are fine harbours, plenty of fresh water, and good beef. It would doubtless produce the coarser vegetables. In other respects it is a wretched place. A little time since, I rode across the island, and returned in four days. My excursion would have been longer, but during the whole time it blew a gale of wind, with hail and snow. There is no firewood bigger than heath, and the whole country is, more or less an elastic peat-bog. Sleeping out at night was too miserable work to endure it for all the rocks in South America.
We shall leave this scene of iniquity in two or three days, and go to the Rio de la Sta. Cruz. One of the objects is to look at the ship's bottom. We struck heavily on an unknown rock off Port Desire, and some of her copper is torn off. After this is repaired the Captain has a glorious scheme; it is to go to the very head of this river, that is probably to the Andes. It is quite unknown; the Indians tell us it is two or three hundred yards broad, and horses can nowhere ford it. I cannot imagine anything more interesting. Our plans then are to go to Fort Famine, and there we meet the "Adventure", who is employed in making the Chart of the Falklands. This will be in the middle of winter, so I shall see Tierra del Fuego in her white drapery. We leave the straits to enter the Pacific by the Barbara Channel, one very little known, and which passes close to the foot of Mount Sarmiento (the highest mountain in the south, excepting Mt.!! Darwin!!). We then shall scud away for Concepcion in Chili. I believe the ship must once again steer southward, but if any one catches me there again, I will give him leave to hang me up as a scarecrow for all future naturalists. I long to be at work in the Cordilleras, the geology of this side, which I understand pretty well is so intimately connected with periods of violence in that great chain of mountains. The future is, indeed, to me a brilliant prospect. You say its very brilliancy frightens you; but really I am very careful; I may mention as a proof, in all my rambles I have never had any one accident or scrape. Continue in your good custom of writing plenty of gossip; I much like hearing all about all things. Remember me most kindly to Uncle Jos, and to all the Wedgwoods. Tell Charlotte (their married names sound downright unnatural) I should like to have written to her, to have told her how well everything is going on; but it would only have been a transcript of this letter, and I have a host of animals at this minute surrounding me which all require embalming and numbering. I have not forgotten the comfort I received that day at Maer, when my mind was like a swinging pendulum. Give my best love to my father. I hope he will forgive all my extravagance, but not as a Christian, for then I suppose he would send me no more money. Good-bye, dear, to you, and all your goodly sisterhood.
Your affectionate brother,

My love to Nancy*; tell her, if she was now to see me with my great beard, she would think I was some worthy Solomon, come to sell the trinkets.

* Darwin’s old nurse

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