Charles Darwin’s great-grandson retells the story of his famous voyage around the world.
Keynes, who previously edited Darwin’s shipboard diary, draws on original sources to give the modern reader a clear outline of the HMS Beagle’s nearly five-year voyage. He begins in 1835, when Darwin was fresh out of Cambridge and supposedly destined for a career in the church. Robert Fitzroy, captain of the Beagle, was looking for a geologist to accompany the ship on its mission to survey the coast of South America, and Darwin’s Cambridge professors were quick to recommend him. Recognizing a unique opportunity, the young man persuaded his reluctant father to allow him to make the voyage. Despite severe seasickness, he proved a vigorous and popular addition to the ship’s complement; his shipmates dubbed him “Philosopher.” Keynes details the ship's travels along both coasts of South America to the Galapagos, across the Pacific to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, around Africa, and back to England after a final visit to South America. Darwin applied his sharp eye and discerning intellect to observations of his own kind as well as to the spectacular local flora and fauna, often with amusing results. His scientific discoveries (including several new species) and observations (especially in the Galapagos) laid the foundation upon which he built his theory of evolution; Keynes obligingly puts these in the context of Darwin’s entire career. In addition to his great-grandfather’s diary, Keynes cites an autobiography written for the perusal of his family, Fitzroy’s own diaries, and numerous other contemporary documents in both English and Spanish. Several evocative drawings and watercolors by Conrad Martens, the Beagle’s official artist, are also reproduced here.
Nothing can replace The Voyage of the Beagle, but Keynes provides a colorful and lively account of this history-making scientific adventure. (20 color, 109 b&w illustrations)