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The Voyage of the Beagle (Adventure…

The Voyage of the Beagle (Adventure Classics) (original 1839; edition 2010)

by Charles Darwin

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2,032183,293 (4.05)1 / 133
Title:The Voyage of the Beagle (Adventure Classics)
Authors:Charles Darwin
Info:White Star Publishers (2010), Hardcover, 688 pages
Collections:Your library, read
Tags:non-fiction, travel, nature, nature science, science, library book, history of science, evolution, natural history

Work details

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin (1839)

  1. 00
    Fitzroy: The Remarkable Story of Darwin's Captain and the Invention of the Weather Forecast by John Gribbin (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: As an ideal companion read.
  2. 00
    Savage: The Life And Times Of Jemmy Button by Nick Hazlewood (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: The two stories interlink particulary around the facinating character of Captain Fitzroy.
  3. 00
    Uttermost Part of the Earth by E. Lucas Bridges (amerynth)
    amerynth: Great account of living on Tierra del Fuego, with more extensive account of Jemmy Button, York Minster and Fuegia Basket.
  4. 00
    Darwin and the Beagle by Alan Moorehead (John_Vaughan)
  5. 01
    This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson (mellu)

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This record from the 1830s describes the second HMS Beagle survey expedition. Captain Robert Fitzroy thought that a follow-up survey would benefit from having a naturalist onboard, and the recently graduated Darwin's keen enthusiam won him the role. While this voyage is perhaps best known for its stopover in the Galapagos, that was merely one location visited on a round-the-world-trip. Nearly half of Darwin's journal is devoted to Argentina where the captain's primary map-making mission was served. Much of the rest is spent on Chile, one chapter in the Galapagos, and the remainder of the voyage is summarized in four final chapters.

In my younger days I sailed the Great Lakes with my father, lodging fond memories of island stopovers and casual exploration. I took up this journal expecting something of a similar degree but Darwin's interest in flora and fauna far, far exeeds mine. It's very slow-paced through dwelling on the details, and an interest in biology would have helped me since the vast majority of his attention is on the life he encounters both large and small. He also has a lot to say about geological formations and the peoples encountered, which I found more engaging. Very quickly there were too many details for me to follow or remember, but several things stood out and the cumulative effect is impressive. Darwin's attentiveness and observational skills are beyond the pale, and were frankly almost beyond my toleration, but for another reader I can believe this is a gold mine of science and its history that is not to be missed. ( )
  Cecrow | Dec 13, 2016 |
Charles Darwin

The Voyage of the Beagle

Wordsworth Classics, Paperback, 1997.

8vo. xiv+480 pp. Introduction by David Amigoni [vii-xiv]. Preface [Jun 1845, pp. 1-2] and Postscript [1 Feb 1860, pp. 3-4] by the author.

First published, 1839.
Second edition, 1845.
This edition, 1997.



I. St Jago – Cape de Verdi Islands
II. Rio de Janeiro
III. Maldonado
IV. Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca
V. Bahia Blanca
VI. Bahia Blanca to Buenos Ayres
VII. Buenos Ayres to Santa Fé
VIII. Banda Oriental and Patagonia
IX. Santa Cruz, Patagonia, and the Falkland Islands
X. Tierra Del Fuego
XI. Strait of Magellan – Climate of the Southern Coasts
XII. Central Chile
XIII. Chiloe and Chonos islands
XIV. Chiloe and Concepcion – Great Earthquake
XV. Passage of the Cordillera
XVI. Northern Chile and Peru
XVII. Galapagos Archipelago
XVIII. Tahiti and New Zealand
XIX. Australia
XX. Keeling Island – Coral Formations
XXI. Mauritius and England


This is not a review of Darwin’s work, but rather a few random comments on the second edition and how it differs from the first (reprinted abridged in Penguin Classics).

First, let us clear the obvious issue. The first edition contains two chapters more, but this is only because in the second some chapters were merged. More specifically, chapters VIII and IX from 1839 became Chapter VIII in 1845. The same deal with the chapters X and XII which were merged into Chapter IX. The other chapters are renumbered accordingly, but there are no major rearrangements among them.

There are, however, numerous minor and not so minor alterations. As Darwin explains in his new Preface, he “largely condensed and corrected some parts” and “added a little to others, in order to render the volume more fitted for popular reading”. Some obvious errors are corrected, for instance the “wasp-killing spider” from the contents of Chapter II which becomes, correctly, “Wasp killing a Spider”. Sometimes whole new paragraphs are added, including the very first one and several about the three “Fuegians” (natives of Tierra del Fuego) that were taken to England during the previous voyage of the Beagle in order to be “educated” as Christians and then brought back as part of a Christian mission (in the first edition Darwin simply refers the reader to Captain FitzRoy’s detailed account). More often, the old paragraphs are heavily revised. There are fewer footnotes here, which includes unfortunate casualties like this personal favourite:

In the neighbourhood of the great towns on the shores of the Plata, the number of bones strewed over the ground is truly astonishing. Since our return I have been informed, that ships have been freighted to this country with a cargo of bones. That cattle should be fattened on turnips manured with the bones of animals that lived in the southern hemisphere, is a curious fact in the commerce of the world. In the East Indies the luxurious drink wine cooled with North-American ice, which in its journey has twice crossed the equator!

There are also some new footnotes that reflect the author’s changed attitude to certain subjects. One of them is General Rosas, the governor of Buenos Aires and celebrated exterminator of the native population. Darwin met personally this “man of an extraordinary character” and speculated that he would use his “predominant influence in the country […] to its prosperity and advancement.” Six years later he added at the bottom of the page: “This prophecy has turned out entirely and miserably wrong.”

Evolution-wise, there are fewer changes than you might expect considering that by 1844 Darwin had prepared a sketch of his main ideas. He probably resisted including more hints in this second edition for the same reasons because of which he delayed the writing of The Origin until the late 1850s (and would have delayed still further but for the danger of being scooped). He wanted to collect as much evidence as possible and he knew only too well he had a time bomb in his hands. The second edition does contain the famous words that the natural history of Galapagos seem to bring us “somewhat near to that great fact – the mystery of mysteries – the first appearance on new beings on this earth.” But the equally famous passage about the “perfect gradation” of the beak in different finches is there in the first edition as well: here it is expanded with some pointed remarks like “one species […] modified for different ends”, and it benefits from the addition of an illustration, but it’s not significantly different. Neither are other suggestive passages, for instance the one about “compound animals” in the end of Chapter IX. Darwin did drop the embarrassing last sentence – “We may fancy that in these two circumstances we see a step towards the final cause of the shortness of life”, a rather unscientific statement – but there is little change otherwise.

But reading The Voyage in pre-evolutionary light, tempting though it may be, is really rather misguided. The value of the book lies elsewhere, namely in the immense fascination of a young and quiet Englishman confronted with natural grandeur he could not have imagined in his native country. Darwin’s awe-struck amazement and boundless curiosity are faithfully preserved in the second edition, if perhaps slightly less vivid than in the first.

If you want but one edition, I would say go for the first. But, let me repeat, do avoid the Penguin Classics version. Much too much is missing, and not necessarily the driest parts either. For instance, the whole and perfectly fascinating passage about the insects of Brazil in the end of Chapter 2 is completely omitted. This includes a breathtaking account of a battle between a wasp and a spider. The second edition explains that these wasps “seem wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to leave [the spiders] paralysed but alive, until their eggs are hatched; and the larvae feed on the horrid mass of powerless, half-killed victims”. So the second edition has its nice little bonuses, and you can’t wrong with it anyway. ( )
  Waldstein | Aug 30, 2016 |
Summary: When people mention Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle, the only place most people think of (if they think of anything at all) is the Galápagos Islands. However, the Beagle circumnavigated the world in its five year voyage, and the young Charles Darwin saw it all. The Voyage of the Beagle is his account of the journey, edited together from his journal entries at the time. He describes the geology, the animals, the vegetation, and the people of the lands he visits, and speculates about the nature of some of his observations.

Review: I read this book in a very, very piecemeal fashion (over five years it took!) but I really enjoyed it. Darwin is so often depicted as a grumpy old man with the giant beard that I think people tend to forget that his trip on the Beagle was actually when he was quite young, basically a twenty-something who didn't want to go to med school and didn't really know what he wanted to do with his life (I try to emphasize this point to my students as often as I can, since many of them are probably twenty-somethings not sure what they want to do with their lives). So his journals are full of careful observation and beautifully rendered descriptions and thoughtful conclusions, but there's also a fair bit of hitting birds with his rock hammer and jumping on the back giant tortoises and hitting them with sticks until they move and knocking birds off of their perches with the muzzle of his gun. (And also occasionally bemoaning his seasickness.)

It was also totally fascinating reading this book in the light of knowing about Darwin's future work. It's hard not to spot the germs of his future ideas on evolution by natural selection in some of the passages. This book is just peppered with little bits about the length of time that physical features must have taken, and how similar but different animals in different locations are, and the relationship between changing geology and changing vegetation, and island biogeography. For example: "Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends." There's half of an introductory lecture on the history of evolutionary thought right there. And who doesn't hear echoes (or future echoes, I guess. Pre-echoes?) of the last line of On the Origin of Species in the line "Where on the face of the earth can we find a spot on which close investigation will not discover signs of that endless cycle of change, to which this earth has been, is, and will be subjected?"

This book obviously tickled me as a biologist, but it was also easy to read, and well-written, if full of the Victorian standard run-on sentences, but also some wonderfully evocative passages. Some parts are a little dry - he expounds at great length on some seemingly small and obscure topics, like the formation of coral atolls - but as a whole, it's a really interesting blend of science and adventuring and nature writing, and really a just plain fascinating book to read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Biologists and those interested in the history of science are the main audience, obviously, but I think anyone who likes travel books, naval adventures, or the age of exploration should find some bits here to interest them as well. If you can find an illustrated edition, I think that would be extremely helpful; if not, keep Wikipedia and a map of the Beagle's journey handy. ( )
4 vote fyrefly98 | May 15, 2014 |
The work of science is often shown as a form of vision, innate to the workings of science, and exploring the various ways in which that kind of vision manifests within the work of the scientist. Though vision is often invoked as a metaphor for the operation of science by scientists and non-scientists alike, it can be an odd one. John Berger opens his famous Ways of Seeing with the statement: “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak” (7). The metaphor of sight suggests something instantaneous and intrinsic, but much of the writing on scientific sight stresses the need for training, for time, and for judgment.

Charles Darwin returns to the concept of scientific sight several times in The Voyage of the Beagle, most interestingly when contemplating how one looks at a lagoon island: “We feel surprise when travelers tell us of the vast dimensions of the Pyramids and other great ruins, but how utterly insignificant are the greatest of these, when compared to these mountains of stone accumulated by the agency of various minute and tender animals! This is a wonder which does not at first strike the eye of the body, but, after reflection, the eye of reason” (464). For Darwin, scientific sight is a direct contrast to visual sight—it requires reflection to see with it, as well as training. It does not come before words, but rather requires considerable knowledge in order to utilize.

There is not much of a resemblance between visual sight and scientific sight in this instance, except in one regard—its all-pervasiveness. Berger’s formulation that “Seeing comes before words” suggests that it is impossible to not see, that it suffuses every part of the human experience. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn employs the metaphor of sight for similar reasons, using it to explain his concept of the scientific paradigm: an orientation towards the world so innate that one is almost literally unable to see it differently. Scientific sight, as used by Darwin and others, suggests that the worldview of the scientist is so ingrained that once acquired, it cannot be gotten rid of.
  Stevil2001 | Aug 26, 2013 |
This biography about Charles Darwin would be a great addition to a collection of biographies in a classroom. It is very detailed so I would not use it in primary grades, but would be great in a unit on biographies in intermediate grades. ( )
  JodiEasley | Dec 3, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (38 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Darwin, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amigoni, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliot, Charles WilliamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engel, LeonardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, WalterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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[1st edn., 1839:]
Jan. 16th, 1832.—The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a desolate aspect. The volcanic fire of past ages, and the scorching heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil sterile and unfit for vegetation. 

[2nd end., 1845:]
After having been twice driven back by heavy southwestern gales, Her Majesty's ship Beagle, a ten-gun brig, under the command of Captain Fitz Roy, R. N., sailed from Devonport on the 27th of December, 1831.
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Although The Voyage of the Beagle is the most common title in English, there are others; the work was published by Darwin in 1839 as Journal and Remarks, and is also known as Darwin's Journal of Researches.

Please do not combine with the abridged edition from Penguin Classics.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014043268X, Paperback)

"The Voyage of the Beagle" is Charles Darwin's account of the momentous voyage which set in motion the current of intellectual events leading to "The Origin of Species". This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Janet Brown and Michael Neve. When HMS Beagle sailed out of Devonport on 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime. His journal, here reprinted in a shortened form, shows a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology, natural history, people, places and events. Volcanoes in the Galapagos, the Gossamer spider of Patagonia and the Australasian coral reefs - all are to be found in these extraordinary writings. The insights made here were to set in motion the intellectual currents that led to the theory of evolution, and the most controversial book of the "Victorian age: The Origin of Species". This volume reprints Charles Darwin's journal in a shortened form. In their introduction Janet Brown and Michael Neve provide a background to Darwin's thought and work, and this edition also includes notes, maps, appendices and an essay on scientific geology and the Bible by Robert FitzRoy, Darwin's friend and Captain of the Beagle. Charles Darwin (1809-82), a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. The advent of "On the Origin of Species" by means of natural selection in 1859 challenged and contradicted all contemporary biological and religious beliefs. If you enjoyed "The Voyage of the Beagle", you might enjoy Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", also available in "Penguin Classics".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:47 -0400)

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This narrative of Charles Darwin's journey aboard the Beagle during which he made observations that lead to his theory of natural selection.

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