31st May 1836

Darwin Beagle Diary
In the evening came to an anchor in Simon's Bay. — In the early part of the passage we passed in sight of the south end of Madagascar; we subsequently made the coast of Africa at Natal, & from that part coasted along a considerable length of the southern shores. We lost a week near Cape Lagullas by contrary winds & a severe gale. — The little town of Simon's Bay offers but a cheerless aspect to the stranger. About a couple of hundred square whitewashed houses, with very few gardens & scarcely a single tree, are scattered along the beach at the foot of a lofty, steep, bare wall of horizontally stratified sandstone.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Anchored in Simon's Bay, at the Cape of Good Hope, on the 31st.

A note from Roger R.

No entries in the Diary until the 31st May.  Perhaps Darwin is running short of paper on which to write, he is sea-sick again (a frequent occurrence), or perhaps he is thinking how he can use all the knowledge he has gained over the years of the Beagle's voyage?  Captain Fitzroy and 'Darwin's personal servant' Syms Covington are similarly quiet.  All I can suggest is a re-reading of the wonderful Galapagos entries, or Darwin's adventures crossing and re-crossing the Andes... it's all here.

13th May 1836

Syms Covington Journal
The 13th am saw the South end of that great Island, Madagascar; the land IS high and mountainous. WE WERE ABOUT ten or twelve miles off from the land; at the same time the ship WAS running AT eight knots. From here the Current began, which carried the ship forty nine miles in twenty four hours, besides her distance by log.

9th May 1836

Darwin Beagle Diary
In the evening we sailed from Port Louis on our way to the C. of Good Hope; since leaving England I have not spent so idle & dissipated a time. I dined out almost every day in the week. all would have been very delightful, if it had been possible to have banished the remembrance of England. Pleasant as the society appeared to us, it was manifest even during our short visit that no small portion of jealousy, envy & hatred was common here, as in most other small societies. — Alas, there does not exist a terrestrial paradise where such feelings have not found an entrance!

Syms Covington Journal
Left the Mauritius at 5 o'clock pm May 9th; the 10th saw the Island of Bourbon, but very indistinctly. Had a fair and strong breeze, and IT WAS much cooler, which made it very pleasant to our feelings after being in hot climates for many months.

5th May 1836

Lloyd took us to the Rivière Noire which is several miles to the southward, in order that I might examine some rocks of elevated coral. We passed through pleasant gardens & fine fields of sugar cane growing amidst huge blocks of lava. The roads were bordered by hedges of mimosa, & near many of the houses there were avenues of the Mango. Some of the views, where the peaked hills & the cultivated farms were seen together, were exceedingly picturesque, & we were constantly tempted to exclaim, "how pleasant it would be to pass one's life in such quiet abodes". — Capt. Lloyd possessed an elephant; he sent it half way on the road, that we might enjoy a ride in true Indian fashion. I should think, as is commonly said to be the case, that the motion must be fatiguing for a long journey. The circumstance which surprised me most was the perfectly noiseless step: the whole ride on so wonderful an animal was extremely interesting. This elephant is the only one at present on the island; but it is said that others will be sent for.

3rd May 1836

In the evening Capt. Lloyd, the surveyor general so well known from his survey across the Isthmus of Panama, invited Mr Stokes & myself to his country house, which is situated on the edge of Wilheim plains & about six miles from the port. We staid at this delightful place two days; being elevated nearly 800 ft above the sea, the air is pleasantly cool & fresh; & on every side there are delightful walks. Close by a grand ravine extends which is about 500 ft deep, & worn through the slightly inclined streams of lava that have flowed from the central platform.

2nd May 1836

I took a quiet walk along the sea coast to the north of the town; the plain is there quite uncultivated, consisting of a field of black lava smoothed over with coarse grass & bushes, the greater part of which are mimosas. Capt. FitzRoy before arriving here said he expected the island would have a character intermediate between the Galapagos & Tahiti. This is a very exact comparison, but it will convey a definite idea to a very few excepting those on board the Beagle. It is a very pleasant country, but it has not the charms of Tahiti or the grandeur of a Brazilian landscape.

The next day I ascended La Pouce, a mountain so called from a thumb like projection, which rises close behind the town to a height of 2600 feet. M. Lesson in the voyage of the Coquille has stated that the central plain of the Island appeared like the basin of a grand crater, & that La Pouce & the other mountains once formed parts of a connected wall; thus it likewise appeared to me.1 From our elevated position, we enjoyed an excellent view over this great mass of volcanic matter: the country on this side of the island appears pretty well cultivated, the whole being divided into fields & studded with farmhouses. I am, however, assured that of the whole land not more than a half is yet in a productive state; if such is the case & considering the present great export of sugar, at some period this island when thickly peopled, will be of very great value. Since England took possession, which is only twenty five years ago, the export of sugar is said to have increased in the proportion of seventy five to one. — One great cause of this prosperity is due to the excellent roads & means of communication throughout the island. At the present day in the neighbouring island of Bourbon under the French Government, the roads are in the same miserable order as they were only a few years past in this place. The Macadamizing art has perhaps been of greater advantage to the colonies, even than to the parent country. Although the French residents must have largely profited by the increased prosperity of their island, yet the English government is far from popular. It seems unfortunate that among the higher order of French & English there appears to exist scarcely any intercourse.

1st May 1836

One of the most interesting spectacles in Port Louis is the number of men of various races which may be met with in the streets. Convicts from India are banished here for life; of them at present there are about 800 who are employed in various public works. Before seeing these people I had no idea that the inhabitants of India were such noble looking men; their skin is extremely dark, and many of the older men had large moustachios & beards of a snow white colour; this, together with the fire of their expressions, gave to them an aspect quite imposing. The greater number have been banished for murder & the worst crimes; others for causes which can scarcely be considered as moral faults, such as for not obeying, from superstitious motives, the English Government & laws. I saw one man of high cast, who had been banished because he would not bear witness against his neighbour who had committed some offence; this poor man was also remarkable as being a confirmed opium eater, of which fact his emaciated body & strange drowsy expression bore witness. These convicts are generally quiet & well conducted; from their outward conduct, their cleanliness, & faithful observance of their strange religious enactments, it was impossible to look at these men with the same eyes as at our wretched convicts in New S. Wales.

Besides such prisoners, large numbers of free people are yearly imported from India; for the planters feared that the negroes, when emancipated, would not work: from these causes the Indian population is very considerable. With respect to the negroes, they appeared a very inferior race of men to those of Brazil, & as I believe, of the W. Indies: they come from Madagascar & the Zanzibar coast. The great act of emancipation caused no excitement amongst these people; it seems a general opinion that at first when free, nothing will tempt them to undergo much labor. I was however surprised to find how little the few people with whom I conversed seemed to care about the subject. Feeling confident in a resource in the countless population of India, the result of the emancipation was here much less regarded than in the West Indies