Introduction to 'Chiloe Janr. 1835' DAR35.328

There are eleven leaves bound in with Darwin’s geological diary at Cambridge University Library as DAR 35.328. The sheets are pencil field notes dated January 1835 and cover Darwin’s Chiloé ‘expedition no 6’ of Barlow 1933, that is his trek in company with Midshipman King across from San Carlos to Castro then across to Cucao and back again from 22 to 28 January, that being the week following the Osorno eruption. The notes fill a gap in the coverage of Darwin's Beagle field notebooks.

The expedition itself has been well described by Armstrong 2004, but the field notes provide considerably more scientific detail such as ‘many cheucacas & Barking birds – Vaginulus’ (DAR35.328b recto) and ‘Guid-guid builds on ground – amongst sticks’ (DAR35.328k recto). The notes also contain some very interesting stories concerning the people, such as quote from Darwin’s guide ‘who was perfectly astounded to know what we were going for "Come now tell me, where you are really going for?"’ (DAR35.328e recto). There is a hilarious account of Darwin sharing a boat with a cow (DAR35.328g recto) and various individuals including an Indian who ended up all sleeping together that night and were ‘the most ugly set of men who ever were in a boat together’ (DAR35.328g verso)!

It is unclear why Darwin did not take one of his field notebooks to record this expedition. The leaves in DAR35.328 appear to have been cut down from heavy foolscap to the approximate size of his notebooks (see a full sheet in DAR35.227). Judging from the remark of an early archivist on the first leaf: 'binder: cut away blank pages' there were once more blank pages, presumably at the back of the extant sequence. The first eight leaves have a smooth cut edge, thereafter the top edge of the sheets are rough and uncut. There is a slight trace on the left hand recto of the third to the eleventh and last sheet of a torn away part of the paper missing that might indicate tearing out of a binding of some sort. The first leaf is very dirty, suggesting it was exposed and worn instead of a cover.

Considering that the sheets are not especially rich in geological content it is curious that they are bound in with the geological diary. Perhaps they were left in this order by Darwin. One explanation for the use of these sheets is that Darwin did not wish to risk taking one of his notebooks with him on this expedition because he had not yet copied out new information.

Gordon Chancellor and John van Wyhe
August 2008

'Chiloe Janr. 1835' [Beagle notes]. Text Image DAR35.328,328a-328j

RN1

 

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