Darwin’s inland explorations

Darwin's passport allowing him to travel in Chile. CUL DAR 44, f. 29

FitzRoy wrote to his sister Fanny: ‘Much interesting information has been acquired by my messmate Charles Darwin in his wanderings ashore. He is a good pedestrian, as well as a good horseman; he is a sensible, shrewd and sterling good fellow. While I am pottering about in the water, measuring depths and fixing positions, he wanders over the land, and frequently makes long excursions where I cannot go, because my duty is Hydro- not Geo-graphy.’ As the Beagle sailed north, Darwin ventured on more arduous inland expeditions. He had explored the Cordilleras from the east the year before. Taking advice on the route from a settler, Alexander Caldcleugh, whose copper mines he visited, he now rode through the Uspallata pass. Here he encountered fossil trees, and was struck by the different plant and animal populations on either side of the mountains, despite the similarity of the conditions. He touched base briefly with the Beagle at Valparaiso before setting out once more on a 220-mile ride through the Andes to Coquimbo and on to Copiapo where he joined the ship again.