CHARLES DARWIN IN THE GALAPAGOS
The Beagle was in Galapagos for five weeks. About one-quarter of Darwin’s notes and field book are dedicated to this location that most amazed him. During his time on the islands, Darwin was not aware of the importance the archipelago had as evidence for his theory, and he still had no clue of the information he was gathering on each excursion. He collected lots of reptiles, plants, and birds among which were the famous Darwin finches. “Considering the small size of these islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range… Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhere near to that great fact, that mystery of mysteries –the appearance of the new beings on this earth.” (Darwin, 1845).
- San Cristobal Island was the first island Charles Darwin visited arriving to the Galapagos on September 16th, 1835. The Beagle anchored in a calm bay on the south of the island, near the actual capital of the Galapagos. The Beagle spent eight days surveying the coast. Darwin landed five times pushed by his interest on the volcanic and cratered island. He studied carefully the lava flows and theorized about its formation.
His first impression of the dry coast he saw was of a deserted and isolated place. He did not find the tropical richness he expected, instead he encountered desert plants, almost all in flower, and some reptiles that he pointed on his notes. In this island he had the chance to collect the first specie that later on would be the base and foundation of his Theory of Evolution, the San Cristobal Mockingbird.
- Floreana was the second island explored by the Beagle expedition. Here Darwin had three days to collect species and the second bird to lead him to important conclusions in the future, the Floreana Mockingbird. He realized the difference in between the previous specimen found in San Cristobal, and started to pay more attention to this specie. Later he would discover the four species to be found in the archipelago and understand a pattern of evolution due to the adaptation differences from each other according to the environmental features of each island.
In this island, Darwin also met by chance an English Vice Governor who gave him important information remarking the difference and variations in the shapes of the shells of tortoise in each island.
- Isabela was the third island to arrive in his voyage on September 29th, 1835. The trip around the island and through the channel in between Fernandina and Isabela was noted on his field book. Darwin described the island as the most deserted and volcanically active. When sailing next to it, he observed the lava flows and the smoke coming out from the craters.
The Beagle decided to anchor in a place named Tagus Cove because of the easy water bay this place forms. Darwin disembarqued on October 1st and explored the volcanic terrain. Here he found the land of iguanas, both marine and terrestrial that to him were ancient creatures that he describes more in Santiago visit. After Isabela, The boat sailed around Pinta, Genovesa and Marchena, offering Darwin the chance to admire the different formations.
- Santiago was the last island were Darwin disembarqued on October 8th. This is the island where Darwin stayed the longest, by this time, he knew already that the islands were something bigger and more important than they seemed when he first arrived. On his visit he expend 2 weeks and walked the whole island with some crew members that helped him carrying the specimens he was collecting. Here he first noticed the difference in between the tortoises from different islands with his own eyes; he was impressed by the amount of tortoises, which had different shapes and sizes.He wrote a big deal of characteristics of their behavior and also had the chance to try their meat in soup.
In this island Darwin noticed that most species were similar but different from other in the other islands, giving enough evidence to theorize that species change and this is related to their feeding and surroundings. He collected finches that helped him to understand this resolution. These animals are now considered the world’s fastest evolving birds because of the adaptations they rapidly developed to cope with their needs in such a changing environment.Darwin left the Galapagos on October 20th, 1835.