England takes the Falkland Islands

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We arrived early in the morning at Port Louis, the most Eastern point of the Falkland Islands: The first news we received was to our astonishment, that England had taken possession of the Falklands islands & that the Flag was now flying.

These islands have been for some time uninhabited, untill the Buenos Ayres Government, a few years since claimed them & sent some colonists. Our government remonstrated against this, & last month the Clio arrived here with orders to take possession of the place. A Buenos ayrean man of war was here, at the time, with some fresh colonists. Both they & the vessel returned to the Rio Plata.

The present inhabitants consist of one Englishman, who has resided here for some years, & has now the charge of the British flag, 20 Spaniards & three women, two of whom are negresses. The island is abundantly stocked with animals.  There are about 5000 wild oxen, many horses, & pigs. Wild fowl, rabbits, & fish in the greatest plenty. Europaean vegetables will grow. And as there is an abundance of water & good anchorage; it is most surprising that it has not been long ago colonized, in order to afford provisions for Ships going round the Horn. At present it is only frequented by Whalers, one of which is here now.

We received all this intelligence from a French boat, belonging to a Whaler, which was in is n ow lying a wreck on the beach. Between the 12th & 13th of January, the very time when we suffered from the gale off Cape Horn, this fine ship parted from three anchors & drove on shore. They describe the gale as a perfect hurricane. They were glad to see us, as they were at a loss what to do. All the stores are saved & of course plenty of food. Capt: FitzRoy has offered to take them 22 in number in the Beagle & to purchase for the on account of the owners, any stores which we may want. The rest must be sacrificed.

Rain, hail and Goree Road

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It blew very hard, & in consequence the Captain has run across the bay to our old quiet place in Goree Road. -- The thermometer was only 38° -- with much rain & hail.

Sailing to Woollaston Islands

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Fitzroy returns with encouraging news

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The Captain, in his boat, paid the Fuegians a visit, & has brought back a very prosperous account of them. Very few of the things belonging to Jemmy, York or Fuegia had been stolen & the conduct of the natives was quite peacible.

If the garden succeeds, this little settlement may be yet the means of producing great good & altering the habits of the truly savage inhabitants:

On the 13th, a party of eight under the command of Mr Chaffers crossed Hardy Peninsula so as to reach & survey the West coast. The distance was not great; but from the soft swampy ground was fatiguing. This peninsula, although really part of an island, may be considered as the most Southern part extremity of America: it is terminated by False Cape Horn.

The day was beautiful, even sufficiently so as to communicate part of its charms to the surrounding desolate scenery. This, & a view of the Pacific was all that repaid us for our trouble

Trouble at the Settlement

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Arrived at the Settlement.

Matthews gave so bad an account of the conduct of the Fuegians that the Captain advised him to return to the ship.

From the moment of our leaving, a regular system of plunder commenced, in which not only Matthews, but York & Jemmy suffered. Matthews had nearly lost all his things; & the constant watching was most harassing & entirely prevented him from doing anything to obtain food &c. Night & day large parties of the natives surrounded his house. (they tried to tire him out by making incessant noises).

One day, having requested an old man to leave the place, he returned with a large stone in his hand: Another day, a whole party advanced with stones & stakes, & some of the younger men & Jemmys brother were crying.  Matthews thought it was only to rob him & he met them with presents. I cannot help thinking that more was meant. They showed by signs they would strip him & pluck all the hairs out of his face & body. I think we returned just in time to save his life.

The perfect equality of all the inhabitants will for many years prevent their civilization: even a shirt or other article of clothing is immediately torn into pieces. -- Until some chief rises, who by his power might be able to keep to himself such presents as animals &c &c, there must be an end to all hopes of bettering their condition.


It would not have been so bad if all the plunder had remained in one family or tribe.  But there was a constant succession of fresh canoes, & each one returned with something. Jemmy's own relations were absolutely so foolish & vain, as to show to strangers what they had stolen & the method of doing it.

It was quite melancholy leaving our Fuegians amongst their barbarous countrymen: there was one comfort; they appeared to have no personal fears. But, in contradiction of what has often been stated, 3 years has been sufficient to change savages, into, as far as habits go, complete & voluntary Europaeans.

York, who was a full grown man & with a strong violent mind, will I am certain in every respect live as far as his means go, like an Englishman. Poor Jemmy, looked rather disconsolate, & certainly would have liked to have returned with us; he said "they were all very bad men, no 'sabe' nothing". Jemmy's own brother had been stealing from him as Jemmy said, "what fashion do you call that".

I am afraid whatever other ends their excursion to England produces, it will not be conducive to their happiness. They have far too much sense not to see the vast superiority of civilized over uncivilized habits; & yet I am afraid to the latter they must return.


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This day is the first of the Carnival, but Wickham, Sullivan & myself nothing undaunted were determined to face its dangers, these dangers consist in being unmercifully pelted by wax balls full of water & being wet through by large tin squirts.

We found it very difficult to maintain our dignity whilst walking through the streets. Charles the V has said that he was a brave man who could snuff a candle with his fingers without flinching; I say it is he who can walk at a steady pace, when buckets of water on each side are ready to be dashed over him.

After an hours walking the gauntlet, we at length reached the country & there we were well determined to remain till it was dark. We did so, & had some difficulty in finding the road back again, as we took care to coast along the outside of the town.

To complete our ludicrous miseries a heavy shower wet us to the skins, & at last gladly we reached the Beagle. It was the first time Wickham had been on shore, & he vowed if he was here for six months it should be only one.

Wandering in a Brazilian forest

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The day has passed delightfully.  I have been wandering by myself in a Brazilian forest: amongst the multitude it is hard to say what set of objects is most striking; the general luxuriance of the vegetation bears the victory, the elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the flowers. -- the glossy green of the foliage, all tend to this end.

A most paradoxical mixture of sound & silence pervades the shady parts of the wood, the noise from the insects is so loud that in the evening it can be heard even in a vessel anchored several hundred yards from the shore. Yet within the recesses of the forest when in the midst of it a universal stillness appears to reign. To a person fond of natural history such a day as this brings with it pleasure more acute than he ever may again experience.

After wandering about for some hours, I returned to the landing place. Before reaching it I was overtaken by a Tropical storm. I tried to find shelter under a tree so thick that it would never have been penetrated by common English rain, yet here in a couple of minutes, a little torrent flowed down the trunk. It is to this violence we must attribute the verdure in the bottom of the wood, if the showers were like those of a colder clime, the moisture would be absorbed or evaporated before reaching the ground. 

Nearing Bahia

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For the first time in my life I saw the sun at noon to the North: yesterday it was very near over our heads & therefore of course we are a little to the South of it.

I am constantly surprised at not finding the heat more intense than it is; when at sea & with a gentle breeze blowing one does not even wish for colder weather. I am sure I have frequently been more oppressed by a hot summers day in England.

St Jago

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At about 11 oclock we neared the Western coast of St Jago & by about three we anchored in the bay of Porto Praya.St Jago viewed from the sea is even much more desolate than the land about Santa Cruz.The Volcanic fire of past ages & the scorching heat of a tropical sun have in most places rendered the soil sterile & unfit for vegetation.- The country rises in successive steps of table land, interspersed by some truncate conical hills, & the horizon is bounded by an irregular chain of more lofty & bolder hills.The scene when viewed through the peculiar atmosphere of the tropics was one of great interest: if indeed a person fresh from sea & walking for the first time in a grove of Cocoa-nut trees, can be a judge of anything but his own happiness.- At three oclock I went with a party to announce our arrival to the "Governador".- After having found out the house, which certainly is not suited to the grandeur of his title we were ushered into a room where the great man most courteously received us.After having made out our story in a very ludicrous mixture of Portuguese, English & French, we retreated under a shower of bows.We then called on the American Consul who likewise acts for the English.The Portugeese might with great advantage have instilled a little of his well-bred politesse into this quarter.I was surprised at the houses: the rooms are large & airy, but with uncommonly little furniture, & that little in vile taste.

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We then strolled about the town, & feasted upon oranges: which I believe are now selling a hundred per shilling. I likewise tasted a Banana: but did not like it, being maukish & sweet with little flavor.The town is a miserable place, consisting of a square & some broard streets, if indeed they deserve so respectable a name.In the middle of these "Ruas" are lying together goats, pigs & black & brown children: some of whom boast of a shirt, but quite as many not: these latter look less like human being than I could have fancied any degradation could have produced.- There are a good many black soldiers, it would be difficult I should think to pick out a less efficient body of men.Many of them only possess for arms a wooden staff.Before returning to our boat, we walked across the town & came to a deep valley.- Here I first saw the glory of tropical vegetation. Tamarinds, Bananas & Palms were flourishing at my feet.I expected a good deal, for I had read Humboldts descriptions & I was afraid of disappointments: how utterly vain such fear is, none can tell but those who have seen experienced what I to day have.It is not only the gracefulness of their forms or the novel richness of their colours, it is the numberless & confusing associations that rush together on the mind that& produces the effect.- I returned to the shore, treading on Volcanic rocks, hearing the notes of unknown birds, & seeing new insects fluttering about still newer flowers.It has been for me a glorious day, like giving to a blind man eyes, --he is overwhelmed with what he sees & cannot justly comprehend it.Such are my feelings, & such may they remain.

Immediately after breakfast I went with the Captain to Quail Island.This is a miserable desolate spot, less than a mile in circumference. It is intended to fix here the observatory & tents; & will of course be a sort of head quarters to us.Uninviting as its first appearance was, I do not think the impression this day has made will ever leave me.The first examining of Volcanic rocks must to a Geologist be a memorable epoch, & little less so to the naturalist is the first burst of admiration at seeing Corals growing on their native rock.- Often whilst at Edinburgh, have I gazed at the little pools of water left by the tide: & from the minute corals of our own shore pictured to myself those of larger growth: little did I think how exquisite their beauty is & still less did I expect my hopes of seeing them would ever be realized.And in what a manner has it come to pass, never in the wildest castles in the air did I imagine so good a plan; it was beyond the bounds of the little reason that such day-dreams require.After having selected a series of geolog. specimens & collected numerous animals from the seaI sat myself down to a luncheon of ripe tamarinds & biscuit; the day was hot, but not much more so than the summers of England & the sun tried to make cheerful the dark rocks of St Jago.- The atmosphere was a curious mixture of haziness & clearnessdistant objects were blended together: but every angle & streak of colour was brightly visible at the short distance on the nearer rocks.

Let those who have seen the Andes be discontented with the scenery of St Jago. I think its unusually sterile character gives it a grandeur which more vegetation might have spoiled.I suppose the view is truly African, especially to our left, where some round sandy hills were only broken by a few stunted Palms. -- I returned to the ship heavily laden with my rich harvest, & have all evening been busily employed in examining its produce.

Crossing the Tropic

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We crossed the Tropic this morning, if our route did not extend further, Neptune would here celebrate the aweful ceremonies of the Equator. The weather is beautiful, & very little hotter than the middle of our summer: we have all put on our light clothes; what a contrast one fortnight has brought about as compared to the miserable wet weather of Plymouth.

There was a glorious sunset this evening & is now followed by an equally fine moonlight night.  I do not think I ever before saw the sun set in a clear horizon. I certainly never remarked the marvellous rapidity with which the disk after having touched the ocean dips behind it.

I proved today the utility of a contrivance which will afford me many hours of amusement & work. it is a bag four feet deep, made of bunting, & attached to semicircular bow this by lines is kept upright, & dragged behind the vessel. this evening it brought up a mass of small animals, & tomorrow I look forward to a greater harvest.