30th November 1834

Syms Covington Journal:
Anchored at Castro (the old capital) on Sunday the 30th. This town is situated on the South part of the island of Chiloé, a channel is formed here by the latter and the island of San Pedro. The town is built on a flat tableland about a mile square each way, has a church, but all in ruins, the houses all built of wood. The inhabitants are but few in comparison to what there were when it was the capital.

29th - 30th November 1834

We reached on the Sunday morning Castro, the ancient capital of Chiloe. I never saw before so truly a deserted city. The usual quadrangular arrangement of Spanish towns was to be traced, but the streets & Plaza were coated with fine green turf on which Sheep were browzing. A church, built by that all-powerful order of the Jesuits shortly before their expulsion, is highly picturesque; (Note in margin: It is not the Jesuits Church but the Parochial one.) it is entirely built of plank, even to the roof: it seems wonderful that wood should last for half a century in so wet a climate. The arrival of our boats was a rare event in this quiet retired corner of the world, nearly all the inhabitants came to the beach to see us pitch our tents. They were very civil & offered us a house; & one man even sent us a cask of cyder as a present. In the afternoon we paid our respects to the Governor; a quiet old man, who in his appearance & manner of life was scarcely superior to an English cottager. I afterwards went out riding, to examine the geology of the neighbourhead. The country rises to some height behind the town, it is partly cultivated & pleasant looking. At night rain commenced, which was hardly sufficient to drive away from the tents the large circle of lookers on. An Indian family, who had come to trade in a canoe from Caylen, bivouacked near us: & they had no shelter during the heavy rain: in the morning I asked a young Indian, who was wet to the skin, how he passed the night; — he seemed perfectly content & answered "Muy bien Signor".

27th - 28th November 1834

We had the good luck to have these two days fine, & reached by night the Isd of Quinchao. This neighbourhead is the centre of cultivation; many of the islands are nearly cleared & a broad strip of cleared ground follows the coast of the main Island. I was curious to know the wealth of the Chilotans. — Mr Douglas tells me that no one can be considered to possess a regular income. Each person raises enough for the consumption of his own family & a little more such as hams & potatoes, which are sent in the rude country boats to S. Carlos, where they are exchanged for such articles of clothing as they can not themselves manufacture, & a few other luxuries. — One of the richest landowners, in a long industrious life, might possibly accumulate as much as a thousand pounds sterling; should this happen it would be stowed away in some secret place, for each family generally possesses a hidden jar or chest buried in the ground.

26th November 1834

Having not written in his Journal for weeks, Charles today records one of his longest entries.

The day rose splendidly clear: The Volcano of Osorno was spouting out volumes of smokes; this most beautiful mountain, formed like a perfect cone & white with snow, stands out in front of the Cordillera. Another great Volcano, with a saddle shaped summit, also emitted from its immense crater little jets of steam or white smoke. Subsequently we saw the lofty peaked Corcobado, well deserving the name of "el famoso Corcovado". Thus we saw at one point of view three great active Volcanoes, each of which had an elevation of about seven thousand feet. In addition to this, far to the South, there were other very lofty cones of snow, which although not known to be active must be in their origin volcanic. — The line of the Andes is not, however, in this neighbourhead nearly so elevated as in Chili, neither does it appear to form so perfect a barrier between the regions of the earth. — This great range though running in a North & South line, from an occular deception always appeared more or less semicircular; because the extreme peaks being seen standing above the same horizon with the nearer ones, their much greater distance was not so easily recognized.

When landing on a point to take observations, we saw a family of pure Indian extraction; the father was singularly like to York Minster; some of the younger boys, with their ruddy complexions, might be mistaken for Pampas Indians. Everything I have seen convinces me of the close connection of the different tribes, who yet speak quite distinct languages. — This party could muster but little Spanish & talked to each other in their own dialect. — It is a pleasant thing in any case to see the aboriginal inhabitants, advanced to the same degree of civilization, however low that may be, which their white conquerors have attained. — More to the South we saw many pure Indians, indeed some of the Islands as Chauques &c &c have no other inhabitants but those retaining the Indian surname. — In the census of 1832 there were in Chiloe & its dependencies 42 thousand souls, the greater number of these appear to be little copper-colored men of mixed blood. — Eleven thousand actually retain their Indian surname, but probably not nearly all their pure blood & they are all Christians; dress & manners of living like the rest of the poor inhabitants; cultivating potatoes & picking up, like their brethren in T. del Fuego, shellfish at low water. — They however to this day hold superstitious communication in caves with the devil; the particulars of the ceremony are not known; because formerly every one convicted of this offence was sent to the inquisition at Lima. — Many of the people who are not included in the eleven thousand cannot be told by their appearance from Indians. Gomez, the governor of Lemuy, is descended from noblemen of Spain on both sides, but by constant intermarriages with natives, the present man is an Indian. — On the other hand, the Governor of Quinchao boasts much of his pure Spanish blood. — The Indians belong to the tribes of the Chawes (or Chahues) and Ragunos, who both speak dialects of the Beliche language. — They are not however believed to be the original inhabitants of Chiloe; but rather the Bybenies, who speak quite a distinct language. This nation, when they found so many intruders, migrated, no one knows exactly where; Mr Lowe on a sealing voyage met a large party of Indians in the channels South of C. Tres Montes; they had canoes built of plank like the Periaguas & pulled by oars; & in the head of each canoe there was a cross. — Were not these men descended from the ancient inhabitants of Chiloe? The Chawes & Ragunos are believed to be descended from Indians sent from the North to the first Spanish settlers "en nomiendas commendo", that is to be taught the Christian religion & in return to work, in short be slaves to their Christian teachers; & likewise from a large tribe, who remained faithful at the surprisal of Osorno & other Spanish towns: they were given at first the territory of Cabluco, from whence they have spread over other Islands. — Of the original Bybenies only a few families remain, chiefly in Caylen, & these have lost their own dialect. The Indians yet retain their Caciques, but they scarcely have any power;3 when the land-surveyor or other government officer visits their village the Cacique appears with a silver-headed cane. — (all the above particulars I heard from Mr Douglas who is employed in the boats as a pilot, & has been long resident in the island).

We reached at night a beautiful little cove North of the Isd of Caucahue; the people here were all related one to the other & complained of the want of land. — This is partly owing to their own negligence in not clearing the woods & partly to restrictions of the Government, which makes it necessary before buying ever so small a piece to pay two shillings to the Surveyor for measuring each quadra (150 yards square) & whatever price he fixes for the value of the land. — After his valuation, the land must be put up three times to auction & if no one bids more, the purchaser can have it at that rate. — All these enactions must be a serious check to clearing the ground, where the inhabitants are so extremely poor. — In most countries, forests are removed without much difficulty by the aid of fire, in Chiloe however from the damp nature of the climate & sort of trees, it is necessary first to cut them down: this is a heavy injury to the prosperity of Chiloe. — In the time of the Spaniards the Indians could not hold land; but a family after having cleared a piece of ground might be driven away & the property seized by Government. — The Chilian authorities are now performing an act of justice by making retribution to these poor Indians, by giving to each Cacique twelve quadras of land, to his widow six, to any man who has served in the militia the same number, & to the aged four. — The value of uncleared land is very little. Government gave Mr Douglas, the present surveyor, who was kind enough to give me the above information, eight & a half square miles of forest near S. Carlos in lieu of a debt, this he sold for 350 dollars or about seventy pounds sterling.

Syms Covington Journal:
We were up with the break of day every morning, took breakfast and sailed; and every afternoon found a creek or inlet to anchor in, allowing sufficient time to get every thing that was necessary on shore before dark. During our passage from place to place, we had many fine views of the Cordillera, and also of some of its active volcanoes, from which we could see from the distance, vast volumes of smoke arising, as if from a furnace only on so great a scale.

25th November 1834

Torrents of Rain: we managed however to run down the coast as far as Huapilenou. The whole of this Eastern side of Chiloe has one aspect; it is a plain broken by vallies or divided into little islands, the whole of which are thickly covered with an impervious blackish-green forest. On the margins there are some cleared spaces surrounding high-roofed cottages. The plain in this part is only 100 to 200 ft high, further Southward it is double of this.

24th November 1834

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published 150 years ago today on the 24 November 1859

The Yawl & whale-boat under the command of Mr Sullivan proceeded to examine the correctness of the charts of the East Coast of Chiloe, & to meet the Beagle at the Southern extremity at the Isd of S. Pedro. — I accompanied the expedition: instead of going in the boats, the first day I hired horses to take me to Chacao. The road followed the coast, every now & then crossing promontories covered with fine forests. — In these shaded paths, it is absolutely necessary to make the whole road of logs of trees, such as described on the main road to Castro. — otherwise the ground is so damp from the suns rays never penetrating the evergreen foliage, that neither man nor horse would be able to pass along. — I arrived at the village of Chacao shortly after the tents belonging to the boats had been pitched. — The land in this neighbourhead is extensively cleared & there are many quiet & most picturesque nooks in the forest. Chacao formerly was the principal port; but many vessels have been lost owing to the dangerous currents & rocks in the Straits; the Spanish government burnt the Church & thus arbitrarily compelled the greater number of inhabitants to migrate to S. Carlos.

In a short time the bare-footed Governor's son came down to reconnoitre us; seeing the English flag hoisted to the yawls mast head 492 he asked with the utmost indifference whether it was always to fly at Chacao. In several places, the inhabitants were much astonished at the appearance of Men of wars boats, & hoped & believed it was the forerunners of a Spanish fleet coming to recover the Island from the patriot Government of Chili. — All the men in power however had been informed of our intended visit & were exceedingly civil. — Whilst eating our supper, the Governor paid us a visit; he had been a Lieut. Colonel in the Spanish service, but was now miserably poor. — He gave us two sheep & accepted in return two cotton handkerchiefs, some brass trinkets & a little tobacco.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Lieutenant Sulivan set out with the yawl and a whale-boat, to survey the east side of Chilóe and the islets in the Gulf of Ancud. With him were Messrs. Darwin, Usborne, Stewart and Kent; Douglas as a pilot, and ten men. Two days afterwards, the Beagle sailed, to examine the western coast of Chilóe, and the Chonos Archipelago.

Syms Covington Journal:
Left the ship, the 24th at San Carlos. Went in a yawl to survey about the different islands of the archipelago, which are very woody and the ground, moist. We came to an anchor every night; pitched our tents, and of course, slept on shore with a watch, or lookout man, throughout the night. As most of the islands are peopled, we always had plenty of fresh provisions, and the expenses of which were very little, as we often bought a sheep for two or three negro-heads of tobacco; pigs, fowls, eggs, potatoes and bread in like manner. And also milk. The natives were very sociable and willing to oblige in general. Patches of cultivated ground were to be seen on all the islands which we passed and stopt at.

23rd November 1834

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Mr. Low hired a crew of six men,* and set out. After he had quitted the southernmost place at which provisions could be procured, called Caylin, or 'El fin de la Christiandad,' one of his men† persuaded some of the others‡ to eat up the stock of provisions in the boat as soon as possible, in order that they might be obliged to return without going far. But Low was too much inured to hardship to be so easily diverted from his plan; he went on, directly south, even after his provisions were consumed; obliging them to live for fourteen days upon shell-fish and sea-weed. After exploring much of the Chonos Archipelago, sufficiently to facilitate our survey materially, he returned with his hungry crew to Caylin.
* A Welshman, two Chilotes, a Chilian, and two Sandwich Islanders who had been left at San Carlos by a whaler.

† The Chilian.

‡ The Chilotes and Sandwich Islanders. Taffy remained faithful: he and Low, being able-bodied active men, frightened the rest into reluctant submission.

22nd November 1834

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
When last at San Carlos I proposed to Mr. Low, then serving as pilot on board the Adventure, to pass the time of our absence at Valparaiso, in exploring part of the Chonos Archipelago with a whale-boat belonging to me, and a crew of natives (Chilotes). Low, ever restless and enterprising, entered eagerly into my views; so furnishing him with money, a chart, and a few instruments, I explained where I wished him to go, and when he should be again at San Carlos, all further arrangement being left to him.

21st November 1834

Arrived in the harbor of S. Carlos. Considering the time of year, with almost constant Southerly winds, our passage was a pretty good one. — The island wore quite a pleasing aspect, with the sun shining brightly on the patches of cleared ground & dusky green woods. At night however we were convinced that it was Chiloe, by torrents of rain & a gale of wind.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
On the 21st we arrived at San Carlos, and were pleased to find that Mr. Low had returned safe from his difficult undertaking; and that a person (Mr. Douglas) whom I had engaged to make an excursion to Calbuce and into the forests of 'Alerse,' on the Cordillera of the Andes, had also come back with the required information, and was ready to engage himself to act as a pilot and interpreter.

Valparaiso, November 8th, 1834

Valparaiso, November 8, 1834.

My dear Catherine,

My last letter was rather a gloomy one, for I was not very well when I
wrote it. Now everything is as bright as sunshine. I am quite well again
after being a second time in bed for a fortnight. Captain Fitz-Roy very
generously has delayed the ship ten days on my account, and without at the
time telling me for what reason.

We have had some strange proceedings on board the "Beagle", but which have
ended most capitally for all hands. Captain Fitz-Roy has for the last two
months been working EXTREMELY hard, and at the same time constantly annoyed
by interruptions from officers of other ships; the selling the schooner and
its consequences were very vexatious; the cold manner the Admiralty (solely
I believe because he is a Tory) have treated him, and a thousand other,
etc. etc.'s, has made him very thin and unwell. This was accompanied by a
morbid depression of spirits, and a loss of all decision and resolution...
All that Bynoe [the Surgeon] could say, that it was merely the effect of
bodily health and exhaustion after such application, would not do; he
invalided, and Wickham was appointed to the command. By the instructions
Wickham could only finish the survey of the southern part, and would then
have been obliged to return direct to England. The grief on board the
"Beagle" about the Captain's decision was universal and deeply felt; one
great source of his annoyment was the feeling it impossible to fulfil the
whole instructions; from his state of mind it never occurred to him that
the very instructions ordered him to do as much of the West coast AS HE HAS
TIME FOR, and then proceed across the Pacific.

Wickham (very disinterestedly giving up his own promotion) urged this most
strongly, stated that when he took the command nothing should induce him to
go to Tierra del Fuego again; and then asked the Captain what would be
gained by his resignation? why not do the more useful part, and return as
commanded by the Pacific. The Captain at last, to every one's joy,
consented, and the resignation was withdrawn.

Hurrah! hurrah! it is fixed the "Beagle" shall not go one mile south of
Cape Tres Montes (about 200 miles south of Chiloe), and from that point to
Valparaiso will be finished in about five months. We shall examine the
Chonos Archipelago, entirely unknown, and the curious inland sea behind
Chiloe. For me it is glorious. Cape Tres Montes is the most southern
point where there is much geological interest, as there the modern beds
end. The Captain then talks of crossing the Pacific; but I think we shall
persuade him to finish the Coast of Peru, where the climate is delightful,
the country hideously sterile, but abounding with the highest interest to a
geologist. For the first time since leaving England I now see a clear and
not so distant prospect of returning to you all: crossing the Pacific, and
from Sydney home, will not take much time.

As soon as the Captain invalided I at once determined to leave the
"Beagle", but it was quite absurd what a revolution in five minutes was
effected in all my feelings. I have long been grieved and most sorry at
the interminable length of the voyage (although I never would have quitted
it); but the minute it was all over, I could not make up my mind to return.
I could not give up all the geological castles in the air which I had been
building up for the last two years. One whole night I tried to think over
the pleasure of seeing Shrewsbury again, but the barren plains of Peru
gained the day. I made the following scheme (I know you will abuse me, and
perhaps if I had put it in execution, my father would have sent a mandamus
after me); it was to examine the Cordilleras of Chili during this summer,
and in winter go from port to port on the coast of Peru to Lima, returning
this time next year to Valparaiso, cross the Cordilleras to Buenos Ayres,
and take ship to England. Would not this have been a fine excursion, and
in sixteen months I should have been with you all? To have endured Tierra
del Fuego and not seen the Pacific would have been miserable...

I go on board to-morrow; I have been for the last six weeks in Corfield's
house. You cannot imagine what a kind friend I have found him. He is
universally liked, and respected by the natives and foreigners. Several
Chileno Signoritas are very obligingly anxious to become the signoras of
this house. Tell my father I have kept my promise of being extravagant in
Chili. I have drawn a bill of 100 pounds (had it not better be notified to
Messrs. Robarts & Co.); 50 pounds goes to the Captain for the ensuing year,
and 30 pounds I take to sea for the small ports; so that bona fide I have
not spent 180 pounds during these last four months. I hope not to draw
another bill for six months. All the foregoing particulars were only
settled yesterday. It has done me more good than a pint of medicine, and I
have not been so happy for the last year. If it had not been for my
illness, these four months in Chili would have been very pleasant. I have
had ill luck, however, in only one little earthquake having happened. I
was lying in bed when there was a party at dinner in the house; on a sudden
I heard such a hubbub in the dining-room; without a word being spoken, it
was devil take the hindmost who should get out first; at the same moment I
felt my bed SLIGHTLY vibrate in a lateral direction. The party were old
stagers, and heard the noise which always precedes a shock; and no old
stager looks at an earthquake with philosophical eyes...

Good-bye to you all; you will not have another letter for some time.

My dear Catherine,
Yours affectionately,

My best love to my father, and all of you. Love to Nancy.

9th November 1834

Capt FitzRoy very kindly delayed the sailing of the Ship [till the 10th of November] by which time I was quite well again. — During my absence, some great changes took place in the affairs of the expedition. The Adventure was sold; in consequence Mr Wickham has returned as 1st Lieutenant: Every one feels the want of room occasioned by this change; it is indeed in every point of view a great but unavoidable evil. Only one good has resulted, that necessarily the perfecting of the former survey in Tierra del Fuego is given up & the Voyage has become more definite in its length.

Mr Martens, the artist has been obliged from want of room to leave the Beagle.

[As someone who has very much enjoyed Conrad’s sketches, I’m sorry to see him go - RR]

8th November 1834

In a letter to Catherine Darwin dated 8 November, CD wrote: "Capt FitzRoy has for the last two months, been working extremely hard & at same time constantly annoyed by interruptions from officers of other ships: the selling the Schooner & its consequences were very vexatious: the cold manner the Admiralty (solely I believe because he is a Tory) have treated him, & a thousand other &c &c has made him very thin & unwell. This was accompanied by a morbid depression of spirits, & a loss of all decision & resolution. The Captain was afraid that his mind was becoming deranged (being aware of his heredetary predisposition). All that Bynoe could say, that it was merely the effect of bodily health & exhaustion after such application, would not do; he invalided & Wickham was appointed to the command. By the instructions Wickham could only finish the survey of the Southern part & would then have been obliged to return direct to England.

The grief on board the Beagle about the Captains decision was universal & deeply felt. One great source of his annoyment, was the feeling it impossible to fulfil the whole instructions; from his state of mind, it never occurred to him, that the very instructions order him to do as much of West coast, as he has time for & then proceed across the Pacific. Wickham (very disinterestedly, giving up his own promotion) urged this most strongly, stating that when he took the command, nothing should induce him to go to T. del Fuego again; & then asked the Captain, what would be gained by his resignation. Why not do the more useful part & return as commanded by the Pacific. The Captain, at last, to every ones joy consented & the resignation was withdrawn."