Darwin, a naturalist's voyage around the world


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Le voyage de Darwin


27 December 1831 - 28 February 1832
Tenerife (Canary Islands), Cape Verde, Bahia

As the Beagle set sail for Bahia, in Brazil, Darwin's first days at sea were marked by terrible seasickness. On January 6, the ship prepared to land at Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, off Morocco. But there was a snag: the local authorities refused them permission, fearing that the crew would transmit the cholera that was rife in England at the time. The young naturalist had been excited at the idea of visiting the island and was extremely disappointed. So Captain FitzRoy decided to set sail for the Cape Verde Islands, on the same latitude as Senegal. The explorers arrived there on January 16 and dropped anchor at Porto Praya on the desolate volcanic island of San-Iago.

It was time for Darwin to embark upon his first observations, and also to ponder what he saw. He was intrigued by a long, perfectly horizontal strip of limestone located well above sea level. The shells that it contained proved that it had once been submerged. So how had it got to its present position? If violent volcanic activity had caused this uplift, it would have broken up the long strip. The theory of slow change over very long periods put forward by the geologist Charles Lyell, of whom Darwin was a disciple, seemed to fit this particular case very well. They only had time to meet some natives and observe a few animals before the ship set sail again. After two brief calls at the shark-infested St Paul Rocks and at the scorched island of Fernando de Noronha, the Beagle entered the port of Bahia on 28 February 1832.

CNRS    sagascience