Charles Darwin's Traverse of the South Pacific: A New Appraisal

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H.M.S. Beagle in 1835-36 spent 127 days on the transect of the South Pacific Ocean with Charles Darwin aboard. 54 of those days were spent in or near island environments as the ship visited several of the Islands of the Galápagos, the main island of Tahiti and the Bay of Islands, New Zealand: Darwin also had good views of about a dozen other islands. His methods of working were largely similar to that adopted on other sectors of the voyage – the transects of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. He was relatively well-equipped, observed and recorded carefully, constantly revising his notes as new information came to hand and as he compared one island environment with another. Although there are few signs of evolutionary insights at this stage, he was using conceptual frameworks that were important to him later. Thus, he was interested in the behaviour of animals, sometimes adopted an ecological approach, and was considering landscapes in the context of change through geological time. There are signs that he was already adopting a ‘Lyellian‘ or gradualist viewpoint, particularly in the context of the development of volcanic and coral islands. This paper evaluates these visits, where appropriate, making comparisons with recent visits by the present author, in which he has attempted ‘to take the archives to the field‘ comparing the present situation with Darwin‘s records.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-86
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Ecology Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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