31st October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (6)
The currents about these islands are very remarkable, for in addition to their velocity, which is from two to five miles an hour, and usually towards the north-west, there is such a surprising difference in the temperature of bodies of water moving within a few miles of each other, that this subject must be reserved for further discussion. On one side of an island (Albemarle Island) we found the temperature of the sea, a foot below the surface, 80°. Faht.; but at the other side it was less than 60°. In brief, those striking differences may be owing to the cool current which comes from the southward along the coasts of Peru and Chile, and at the Galapagos encounters a far warmer body of water moving from the bay of Panama, a sort of 'gulf stream.' The retentive manner in which such ocean rivers preserve their temperature has been frequently remarked: and must have a great effect upon the climates of countries near whose shores they flow.

28th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (5)
It is rather curious, and a striking instance of the short-sightedness of some men, who think themselves keener in discrimination than most others, that these tortoises should have excited such remarks as—"well, these reptiles never could have migrated far, that is quite clear," when, in simple truth, there is no other animal in the whole creation so easily caught, so portable, requiring so little food for a long period, and at the same time so likely to have been carried, for food, by the aborigines who probably visited the Galapagos Islands on their balsas, or in large double canoes, long before Columbus saw that twinkling light, which, to his mind, was as the keystone to an arch. Honest Dampier immediately reverted to the tortoises of the West Indies, and of Madagascar, when he saw those of the Galapagos. He had observed too many varieties caused by climate, soil, food, and habits, to entertain a doubt of their being other than a variety of the tortoise kind. As to the 'guanoes' they were, to his eye, familiar objects.

27th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (4)
Mr. Stokes made some notes about the tortoises (terrapin), while with me, and as he and I are satisfied as to the facts, I will add them. Fresh water was first discovered on Charles and on James Islands, by following the terrapin paths. These animals visit the low, warm ground to seek for food and deposit their eggs; but it must be a toilsome journey indeed for them to ascend and descend the rugged heights. Some that Mr. Stokes saw in wet, muddy places, on high ground, seemed to enjoy themselves very much, snuffling and waddling about in the soft clayey soil near a spring. Their manner of drinking is not unlike that of a fowl: and so fond do they appear to be of water, that it is strange they can exist for a length of time without it; yet people living at the Galapagos say that these animals can go more than six months without drinking. A very small one lived upwards of two months on board the Beagle without either eating or drinking: and whale-ships have often had them on board alive for a much longer period. Some few of the terrapin are so large as to weigh between two and three hundred weight; and, when standing up on their four elephantine legs, are able to reach the breast of a middle sized man with their snake-like head. The settlers at Charles Island do not know any way of ascertaining the age of a terrapin, all they say is, that the male has a longer neck than the female. On board the Beagle a small one grew three-eighths of an inch, in length, in three months; and another grew two inches in length in one year. Several were brought alive to England. The largest we killed was three feet in length from one end of the shell to the other: but the large ones are not so good to eat as those of about fifty pounds weight—which are excellent, and extremely wholesome food. From a large one upwards of a gallon of very fine oil may be extracted.

25th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (3)
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. In picking up insects, or seeds which lie on hard iron-like lava, the superiority of such beaks over delicate ones, cannot, I think, be doubted; but there is, perhaps, another object in their being so strong and wide. Colnett says, p. 59, "they observed an old bird in the act of supplying three young ones with drink, by squeezing the berry of a tree into their mouths. It was about the size of a pea, and contained a watery juice, of an acid, but not unpleasant taste." "The leaves of these trees absorb the copious dews which fall during the night; the birds then pierce them with their bills for the moisture they retain, and which, I believe, they also procure from the various plants and evergreens.' "The torch thistle contains a liquid in its heart, which the birds drank, when it was cut down. They sometimes even extracted it from the young trees by piercing the trunks with their bills." For thus squeezing berries, and piercing woody fibre, or even only stout leaves, a slight thin beak would be scarcely available. Colnett observes, that some of the birds which he saw resembled a few that he had seen at New Zealand, but as he also remarks that all the dead shells which he found upon the beach were familiar to him, I think one may suspect the accuracy of his eye, if not his memory, in those instances.

24th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (2)
Striking instances of the manner in which high land deprives air of its moisture may be seen at the Galapagos. Situated in a wind nearly perennial, those sides only which are exposed to it (the southern) are covered with verdure, and have water: all else is dry and barren, excepting such high ground as the passing clouds hang upon indolently as they move northward. In a similar manner may we not conclude that western Peru is deprived of rain—since the easterly trade wind which carries moisture, and consequent fertility, to eastern Peru, is drained, or dried, as it crosses the Andes? And may we not extend this reasoning to other countries similarly situated, such as Patagonia, perhaps Arabia, and even Africa, upon whose arid deserts no moist wind blows? Currents of air, moving from ocean to land, convey vapour; but as these currents pass over high land, or even a considerable extent of low country, much if not the whole of their aqueous contents is discharged, and until such a body of air has again acquired moisture, it is found to be dry, parching, and unfavourable to vegetation.

22nd October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Reflections following the visit to the Galapagos (1)
There are six principal ones, nine smaller, and many islets scarcely deserving to be distinguished from mere rocks. The largest island is sixty miles in length, and about fifteen broad; the highest part being four thousand feet above the sea. All are of volcanic origin, and the lava, of which they are chiefly composed, is excessively hard. Old Dampier says, "The Spaniards, when they first discovered these islands, found multitudes of 'guanoes' and land-turtle, or tortoise, and named them the Galapagos Islands." Again, "the air of these islands is temperate enough, considering the clime. Here is constantly a fresh sea-breeze all day, and cooling refreshing winds in the night; therefore the heat is not so violent here as in most places near the equator. The time of the year for the rains is in November, December, and January: then there is oftentimes excessive dark tempestuous weather, mixed with much thunder and lightning. Sometimes before and after these months there are moderate refreshing showers; but in May, June, July, and August, the weather is always very fair." I can add nothing to this excellent description, except that heavy rollers occasionally break upon the northern shores of the Galapagos during the rainy season above-mentioned—though no wind of any consequence accompanies them. They are caused by the 'Northers,' or 'Papagayos,' which are so well known on the coast between Panama and Acapulco. Colnett also gives a good description of these islands:—in his voyage, p. 58, he says, "I consider it as one of the most delightful climates under heaven, although situated within a few miles of the equator." The buccaneers often resorted to them for refreshments, and as a place where they might refit their vessels, share out plunder, or plan new schemes of rapine, without any risk of being molested.

21st October 1835

With no entry in Darwin's Diary until the 1st November when close to Tahiti, over the next week or so I will be posting Captain Fitzroy's thoughts on the Beagle's visit to Galapagos. With hindsight, they make particularly interesting reading.
Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
While sailing away from the Galapagos, impelled westward over a smooth sea, not only by favouring easterly breezes but by a current that set more than sixty miles to the west during the first twenty-four hours after our losing sight of Culpepper Islet, and from forty to ten miles each subsequent day until the 1st of November, I will look back at those strange islands, and make a few more remarks on them.

20th October 1835

After having surveyed these the Ships head was put towards Otaheite & we commenced our long passage of 3200 miles.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Next day (20th) we saw and steered for Wenman Islet, an-other crater of an extinct volcano. It is high, small, and quite barren: correctly speaking, there are three islets and a large rock, near each other, which, at a distance, appear as one island, but they are fragments of the same crater. We afterwards passed Culpepper Islet, which is a similar rocky, high, and barren little island. At sun-set we made all sail and steered to get well into the south-east trade wind, so as to expedite our passage towards the dangerous archipelago of the Low Islands, and thence to Otaheite (or Tahiti).

19th October 1835

During the night proceeded to Abingdon Isd, picked up Mr Chaffers in the Yawl in the morning & then steered for two small Isds which lie 100 miles to the North of the rest of the Group.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
On the 19th we were close to Abingdon Island, where there is a fine bold-looking cliff, at the west side, considerably higher than any I had seen in the Galapagos. Mr. Chaffers soon came alongside after we closed the land; when, his orders being all executed, the boat was hoisted in, and we made sail to the north-west in search of Wenman and Culpepper Islets.

18th October 1835

Finished the survey of Albermale Isd; this East side of the Island is nearly black with recent uncovered Lavas. — The main hills must have immense Cauldron like Craters, — their height is considerable, above 4000 ft: yet from the outline being one uniform curve, the breadth of the mountain great, they do not appear lofty.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Continued our examination of Albemarle Island. When off the northern volcano, the black streams of lava, which have flowed in every direction down the sides of the mountain, looked like immense streams of ink. Thence we steered for Abingdon Island to meet Mr. Chaffers. I thought the current less strong, and setting more to the west, than when I was here on a former day.

17th October 1835

[James Island]
In the afternoon the Beagle sent in her boats to take us on board.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
… at day-light next morning resumed our usual occupations, while sailing along the east side of Albemarle Island. At noon we steered for Albany Islet, to embark Mr. Darwin and Mr. Bynoe; and after our party were on board, we returned towards the shore of Albemarle Island, and there passed the night under sail, in order to start early from a particular position. Our landsmen had enjoyed their stay and profited by it, though the heat was oppressive, and the sky nearly cloudless by night and by day: how different was this from the weather we had had on board! The higher grounds of James Island are extensive, and would be adapted to cultivation if the wood, which now grows thickly, were cleared. There is a fine salt spring, or lake, in an old crater; the salt is excellent, in colour and quality: and the men employed by Mr. Lawson were using it daily for curing their fish and terrapin.

When at some height upon the island, among the thick wood, it is extremely difficult to find the way: men have been lost thereabouts, and it is said that some of the bodies never were found. The day we re-embarked Mr. Darwin there was a man missing, belonging to an American whale ship, and his shipmates were seeking for him. The master of this whaler was very obliging to our party, supplying them with water, and offering his hearty assistance in any way which lay in his power. The earnest wishes to be of use, and the attentions of North Americans to us on all occasions, have been often and gratefully remarked by many on board the Beagle.

16th October 1835

The weather during nearly all the time has been cloudless & the sun very powerful; if by chance the trade wind fails for an hour the heat is very oppressive. During the two last days, the Thermometer within the Tents has stood for some hours at 93°. — In the open air, in the wind & sun, only 85°. — The sand was intensely hot, the Thermometer placed in a brown kind immediately rose to 137, & how much higher it would have done I do not know: for it was not graduated above this:— The black Sand felt far hotter, so that in thick boots it was very disagreeable to pass over it.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Weighed in the afternoon, having obtained the necessary observations, and went to Black Beach Road to take in wood, potatoes, and pigs. We there found a small schooner at anchor, just arrived from Guayaquil, and having, among other things, a bag of letters from England, for the Beagle. That very evening we were to leave Charles Island; not to return! In the schooner were some emigrants; who brought cattle, and information that the governor, Villamil, might be expected to arrive in a few days, with a vessel laden with animals, and supplies for the settlement. We stood across, during the night, to the four islands near Point Woodford…

15th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
I went to Post-Office Bay and near the best landing place, found some excellent salt, which though but small in quantity gives a hint that more may be got elsewhere.

14th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Anchored and examined Hood Harbour, having heard there was a sunken rock in it which our boat had not discovered, but we found nothing dangerous for a ship. Shoal water and large blocks of lava lie near the shore in the harbour; but a vessel must have stood too close in if she touches thereabouts. Left Hood Island at noon, and steered for the southern part of Charles Island. Having a fine breeze we rounded Saddle Point at eight, and anchored at nine off Black Beach.

12th - 16th October 1835

We all were busily employed during these days in collecting all sorts of Specimens. The little well from which our water was procured was very close to the Beach: a long Swell from the Northward having set in, the surf broke over & spoiled the fresh water. — We should have been distressed if an American Whaler had not very kindly given us three casks of water (& made us a present of a bucket of Onions). Several times during the Voyage Americans have showed themselves at least as obliging, if not more so, than any of our Countrymen would have been. Their liberality moreover has always been offered in the most hearty manner. If their prejudices against the English are as strong as our's against the Americans, they forget & smother them in an admirable manner.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
We had some difficulty in 'casting,' so as to clear the land, but got out of the scrape and were working towards Hood Island when the man looking out aloft reported a breaker, which proved to be on a rock at the west end of MacGowen shoal. When first seen it was on the horizon, and hardly differed from the topping of a sea;—once only in about ten minutes it showed distinctly. We steered for it, lowered two boats, and employed the rest of the day in examining this very dangerous shoal, and fixing its position. One rock at the west end is just a-wash, but there is another under water, except in the hollow of a swell, about half-a-mile to the eastward, which is exceedingly treacherous. We had two narrow escapes this day; while weighing from Chatham Island, baffling winds sent us a great deal too close to the cliffs before our anchor was up, or the ship under command; and while sounding along the edge of MacGowen shoal we were drifted so close to the second rock, mentioned above, that I was not sure on which side of us it lay.

12th October 1835

On the 12th I paid a second visit to the houses, bringing with me a blanket bag to sleep in. — I thus enjoyed two days collecting in the fertile region. — Here were many plants, especially Ferns; the tree Fern however is not present. The tropical character of the Vegetation is stamped by the commonest tree being covered with compound flowers of the order of Syngynesia. — The tortoise when it can procure it, drinks great quantities of water: Hence these animals swarm in the neighbourhead of the Springs. — The average size of the full-grown ones is nearly a yard long in its back shell: they are so strong as easily to carry me, & too heavy to lift from the ground. — In the pathway many are travelling to the water & others returning, having drunk their fill. — The effect is very comical in seeing these huge creatures with outstreched neck so deliberately pacing onwards. — I think they march at the rate 360 yards in an hour; perhaps four miles in the 24. — When they arrive at the Spring, they bury their heads above the eyes in the muddy water & greedily suck in great mouthfulls, quite regardless of lookers on.

Wherever there is water, broard & well beaten roads lead from all sides to it, these extend for distances of miles. — It is by this means that these watering places have been discovered by the fishermen. — In the low dry region there are but few Tortoises: they are replaced by infinite numbers of the large yellow herbivorous Lizard mentioned at Albermale Isd. — The burrows of this animal are so very numerous; that we had difficulty in finding a spot to pitch the tents. — These lizards live entirely on vegetable productions; berrys, leaves, for which latter they frequently crawl up the trees, especially a Mimosa; never drinking water, they like much the succulent Cactus, & for a piece of it they will, like dogs, struggle [to] seize it from another. Their congeners the "imps of darkness" in like manner live entirely on sea weed.— I suspect such habits are nearly unique in the Saurian race.

In all these Islds the dry parts reminded me of Fernando Noronha; perhaps the affinity is only in the similar circumstance of an arid Volcanic soil, a flowering leafless Vegetation in an Intertropical region, but without the beauty which generally accompanies such a position.

During our residence of two days at the Hovels, we lived on the meat of the Tortoise fried in the transparent Oil which is procured from the fat. — The Breast-plate with the meat attached to it is roasted as the Gauchos do the "Carne con cuero". It is then very good. — Young Tortoises make capital soup — otherwise the meat is but, to my taste, indifferent food.

Note: According to FitzRoy, several tortoises were eventually brought alive to England. He recorded that a hunting party brought 18 on board from Chatham Island on 18 September, and a further 30 on 12 October. 'The largest we killed was three feet in length from one end of the shell to the other: but the large ones are not so good to eat as those of about fifty pounds weight — which are excellent, and extremely wholesome food.'

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
The 12th was spent in filling water, washing, cutting some wood, and bringing thirty large terrapin on board. These animals abound hereabouts; and some are very large, deserving the name of elephant-tortoises. Two of our party tried to reach the higher and thickly wooded part of the island, but found their task impracticable, in so short a time as they could spare, for the wood grows impenetrably thick, though none is straight or of a large size. The upper grounds have a rich loamy soil, lying upon rock, in which the terrapin wallow like hogs, and may be found by dozens. This was a very hard day's work for so few men as were then on board our small vessel.

11th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
How remarkably different is the climate of the windward and leeward islands of this group! Here we were enveloped by clouds and drizzling fog, and wore cloth clothes. At Tagus Cove and James Island, a hot sun, nearly vertical, overpowered us; while the south side of Albemarle, Charles, and Chatham Islands, were almost always overshadowed by clouds, and had frequent showers of rain. We anchored close to the watering place: but it appeared strange to remain at anchor in such a spot, only three cables' lengths from a surf breaking high upon a steep cliffy shore, with nothing but the ocean between us and the antarctic; and such was our position; yet it was a safe one, because the great south-west swell of the Pacific is interrupted by Hood Island, and the southerly trade, or perennial wind is so moderate, that it has neither power to raise a sea nor to harm a vessel lying at anchor, if her ground tackle is not defective.

9th October 1835

Galapagos (on James Island)
Taking with us a guide we proceeded into the interior & higher parts of the Island, where there was a small party employed in hunting the Tortoise. — Our walk was a long one. — At about six miles distance & an elevation of perhaps 2000 ft the country begins to show a green color. — Here there are a couple of hovels where the men reside. — Lower down, the land is like that of Chatham Isd, — very dry & the trees nearly leafless. I noticed however that those of the same species attained a much greater size here than in any other part. — The Vegetation here deserved the title of a Wood: the trees were however far from tall & their branches low & crooked.1 About 2 miles from the Hovels & probably at an additional 1000 ft elevation, the Springs are situated. They are very trifling ones, but the water good & deliciously cold. — They afford the only watering places as yet discovered in the interior. — During the greater part of each day clouds hang over the highest land: the vapor condensed by the trees drips down like rain. Hence we have a brightly green & damp Vegetation & muddy soil. — The contrast to the sight & sensation of the body is very doubtful after the glaring dry country beneath. — The case is exactly similar to that described in Charles Isd. — So great a change with so small a one of elevation cannot fail to be striking.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
This day the winds appear to be much lighter and more variable, to leeward of the archipelago, while the current is considerably stronger. We got pretty close to Chatham Island at dusk, worked to windward during the night, and on the following morning stood along the weather shore towards the watering place.

8th October 1835

At last we reached James Island, the rendezvous of Mr Sulivan. — Myself, Mr Bynoe & three men were landed with provisions, there to wait till the ship returned from watering at Chatham Isd. — We found on the Isld a party of men sent by Mr Lawson from Charles Isd to salt fish & Tortoise meat (& procure oil from the latter). — Near to our Bivouacing place, there was a miserable little Spring of Water. — We employed these men to bring us sufficient for our daily consumption. — We pitched our tents in a small valley a little way from the Beach. — The little Bay was formed by two old Craters: in this island as in all the others the mouths from which the Lavas have flowed are thickly studded over the country.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
The Beagle was close to James Island, a high, large, and well-wooded tract of ground, or rather lava. We anchored at the northern end, and a boat came alongside loaded with fish, for there was a party of settlers here, detached from Charles Island, whose employment was salting fish and extracting oil from terrapin. This oil is of a light colour, and exceedingly good quality, being very like pure olive oil.

Lieutenant Sulivan returned with his party, and I then detached Mr. Chaffers in the yawl, accompanied by Mr. Johnson and six men, to examine Bindloes, Abingdon, and Towers Islands. As Mr. Darwin anxiously desired to see as much as possible of the productions of this central and large island, he was landed, accompanied by Mr. Bynoe, besides his servant and H. Fuller, to remain until the Beagle's return. Although there is abundance of water on the higher parts of this island, so broken and dry are the lower grounds that it does not arrive at the shore: at two places only can enough water for even a boat's crew be procured, in the dry season; and for a ship there is scarcely hope of a sufficiency. The poor fellows who brought us the fish had been living so long upon terrapin, and the produce of their lines, without any thing else, that half a bag of biscuit (50 lbs.) which we gave them, appeared to be an inestimable treasure, for which they could not sufficiently thank us.

We sailed in the evening, but made very little progress towards our destination (Chatham Island).

7th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
While working to windward we saw Towers Island, which is different in appearance from all the other islands of this archipelago, being low and flat. We passed it about noon, and Bindloes at sunset. The latter has an irregular hilly surface, partially wooded, but like the rest is a mass of lava, and indurated sandy mud.

5th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
While working to windward, endeavouring to regain our lost ground, we saw Bindloes Island: and passed through many ripplings, some of them dangerous for a boat; these were northward, and rather eastward of Abingdon. During the 6th, other indications of a strong current were noticed, besides ripplings such as these, which, in very deep water, and in the open sea, are difficult to explain: sometimes at night, while all around was smooth and tranquil—a short, deep plunge suddenly startled every one: but in a minute afterwards the ship was again quiet. We continued to work to the southward in order to reach James Island, and meet Lieutenant Sulivan.

4th October 1835

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
At daybreak, on the 4th, we made all sail towards Abingdon Island, which is small, rather high, and tolerably covered with stunted wood; we did not maintain a position even near where I wished to pass the night, but were carried about forty miles away, dead to leeward, during only a few hours of light wind. The current hereabouts runs between one and four knots an hour to the north-westward, yet the depth of the water is unfathomable by ordinary means: excepting for which it is like a vast river in the sea.

3rd October 1835

We then stood round the North end of Albermale Island. — The whole of this has the same sterile dry appearance; is studded with the small Craters which are appendages to the great Volcanic mounds, — & from which in very many places the black Lava has flowed, the configuration of the streams being like that of so much mud. — I should think it would be difficult to find in the intertropical latitudes a piece of land 75 miles long, so entirely useless to man or the larger animals. — From the evening of this day to the 8th was most unpleasant passed in struggling to get about 50 miles to Windward against a strong current.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Mr. Mellersh returned, having examined Elizabeth Bay and the western shore of Narborough Island. We then went round the north-west end of Albemarle Island, and passed the night under sail off the north extreme.

2nd October 1835

Sailed from this Crater Harbor: but were becalmed during the greater part of the day in the Straits which separates the two Islands.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
We passed this day and the following night in Banks Bay.

1st October 1835

Albermale Is is as it were the mainland of the Archipelago, it is about 75 miles long & several broad. — is composed of 6 or 7 great Volcanic Mounds from 2 to 3000 ft high, joined by low land formed of Lava & other Volcanic substances. — Since leaving the last Island, owing to the small quantity of water on board, only half allowance of water has been served out (ie ½ a Gallon for cooking & all purposes). — This under the line with a Vertical sun is a sad drawback to the few comforts which a Ship possesses. — From different accounts, we had hoped to have found water here. — To our disappointment the little pits in the Sandstone contained scarcely a Gallon & that not good. — it was however sufficient to draw together all the little birds in the country. — Doves & Finches swarmed round its margin. — I was reminded of the manner in which I saw at Charles Isd a boy procuring dinner for his family. Sitting by the side of the Well with a long stick in his hand, as the doves came to drink he killed as many as he wanted & in half an hour collected them together & carried them to the house. —

To the South of the Cove I found a most beautiful Crater, elliptic in form, less than a mile in its longer axis & about 500 ft deep. — Its bottom was occupied by a lake, out of which a tiny Crater formed an Island. — The day was overpowringly hot; & the lake looked blue & clear. — I hurried down the cindery side, choked with dust, to my disgust on tasting the water found it Salt as brine. — This crater & some other neighbouring ones have only poured forth mud or Sandstone containing fragments of Volcanic rocks; but from the mountain behind, great bare streams have flowed, sometimes from the summit, or from small Craters on the side, expanding in their descent have at the base formed plains of Lava. — The little of the country I have yet seen in this vicinity is more arid & sterile than in the other Islands. — We here have another large Reptile in great numbers. — it is a great Lizard, from 10–15 lb in weight & 2–4 ft in length, is in structure closely allied to those imps of darkness which frequent the sea-shore. — This one inhabits burrows to which it hurrys when frightened with quick & clumsy gait. — They have a ridge & spines along the back; are colored an orange yellow, with the hinder part of back brick red. — They are hideous animals; but are considered good food: This day forty were collected.

Note: This appears to be the only mention made by CD, either in the Diary or in his pocketbooks, of the family of finches that came to bear his name and to he most closely associated with the development of his ideas about speciation. However, the relative lack of interest in the Geospizidae displayed by CD when he was actually collecting birds in the Galapagos is consistent with the conclusion that it was not until the Bragle's specimens were classified by John Gould early in 1837 that the true significance of their variability between the individual islands first became apparent to him.

By the time the Journal of Researches was published in 1839, CD no longer believed in the fixity of species, but the most radical of his ideas were still kept strictly to himself. He did not give a great deal away when he wrote: 'It has been mentioned, that the inhabitants can distinguish the tortoises, according to the islands whence they are brought I was also informed that many of the islands possess trees and plants which do not occur on the others. For instance the berry-bearing tree, called Guyavita, which is common on James Island, certainly is not found on Charles Island, though appearing equally well fitted for it. Unfortunately, I was not aware of these facts till my collection was nearly completed: it never occured to me, that the productions of islands only a few miles apart, and placed under the same physical conditions, would be dissimilar. I therefore did not attempt to make a series of specimens from the separate islands. It is the fate of every voyager, when he has just discovered what object in any place is more particularly worthy of his attention, to be hurried from it.

In the case of the mocking-bird, I ascertained (and have brought home the specimens) that one species (Orpheus trifasciatus, Gould) is exclusively found in Charles Island; a second (O. parvulus) on Albemarle Island; and a third (O. melanotus) common to James and Chatham Islands. The last two species are closely allied, but the first would be considered by every naturalist as quite distinct. I examined many specimens in the different islands, and in each the respective kind was alone present. These birds agree in general plumage, structure, and habits; so that the different species replace each other in the economy of the different islands. These species are not characterized by the markings on the plumage alone, but likewise by the size and form of the bill, and other differences. I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches, a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler. I very much suspect, that certain members of the series are confined to different islands; therefore, if the collection had been made on any one island, it would not have presented so perfect a gradation. It is clear, that if several islands have each their peculiar species of the same genera, when these are placed together, they will have a wide range of character. But there is not space in this work, to enter on this curious subject.'

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Our first object was to find water: none could be got in the cove, but at a short distance from it a few holes were found, out of which a bottle might be filled in an hour. Around this scanty spring draining continually through the rock, all the little birds of the island appeared to be collected, a pretty clear indication of there being then no other fresh-water within their reach: yet during the rainy season there must be considerable streams, judging by gullies which are worn in the rock. All the heights hereabouts, and the sides of the craters, are composed of sandstone that looks like fine sandy mud half baked; but the low grounds are lava. The crater in which we anchored gave me the idea of its having been a mud volcano.

The climate is very different from that of the Windward Islands; for wind clouds and rain appear to be obstructed in their northward passage, by the heights on the southern part of this island. The heat is here far greater than in other parts of the archipelago, and the land is more sterile. Numbers of another sort of iguana were seen for the first time, and many were killed and eaten. In size and shape they resemble the black kind, but their colour is a dirty orange red, inclining to reddish brown above and yellow beneath. These reptiles burrow in the earth like rabbits, and are not bad eating. Of the black kind a vast number run about the rocks near the sea, living either upon fish or sea-weed. As we went afterwards in a boat along the ragged irregular shore, we saw numbers of turtle. There are small sandy beaches here and there, to which these animals approach in the evenings: when, as it gets dark, they land and usually lie on the beach during the night, even if it is not the season in which they seek a place for their eggs.

From a height near Tagus Cove dismal indeed was the view, yet deeply interesting. To see such an extent of country overwhelmed by lava, to think of the possible effects of the seven dormant volcanoes then in sight, and to reflect that at some one period all was activity and dreadful combustion where we then witnessed only silent desolation, was very impressive.

Note: FitzRoy's ideas had also changed between the return of the Beagle and publication of the Narrative, since following his marriage he had become a firm believer in the absolute truth of the Bible. His view of the significance of the beaks of the finches differed somewhat from CD's, for he wrote: 'All the small birds that live on these lava-covered islands have short beaks, very thick at the base, like that of a bull-finch. 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'

In the 1845 edition of the Journal of Researches, the theme of the gradation of the beaks of the ground finches was further expanded, and CD unwrapped his ideas just a little further: '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.'