January 16, 1832, HMS Beagle, with a crew of 73
men onboard, arrived at the Cape Verde Islands
and anchored on the island of Santiago.
It was on Santiago that Darwin made his first
curious discovery. He found a horizontal white
band of shells within a cliff face along a
shoreline. The fact that this layer was forty-five
feet above sea level raised some questions for
Darwin. This observation, and many similar others,
would later lead Darwin to develop his own theory of
raising continents and sinking ocean floors.
Darwin spent most of this time exploring on land
(three years and three months on land, 18 months at
sea.) At Punta Alta he made a major find of gigantic
fossils of extinct mammals, then known from only a
very few specimens. He collected and made
detailed observations of plants and animals, with
results that shook his belief that species were
fixed and provided the basis for ideas which came to
him when back in England, and led to his theory of
evolution by natural selection.
Darwin kept a diary of his experiences, and
rewrote this as the book titled Journal and Remarks,
published in 1839. This travelogue and scientific
journal became widely popular, and was reprinted
many times with various titles, becoming known as
The Voyage of the HMS Beagle.
HMS Beagle sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, and
then carried out detailed hydrographic surveys
around the coasts of the southern part of South
America, returning via Tahiti and Australia after
having circumnavigated the Earth. While the
expedition was originally planned to last two years,
it lasted almost five.
The brig-sloop HMS Beagle was launched on May 11, 1820
on the River Thames. She took
part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of
King George IV of the United Kingdom in which she
was the first ship to sail under the new London