Perhaps the world’s most renowned naturalist is Charles Darwin. Born in Shrewsbury in 1809, Darwin’s ideas would change the face of scientific thought forever. It was Charles Darwin’s voyages in Patagonia that shaped much of his thinking. For instance, it was on these adventures that Darwin formulated his theory of evolution. Here, discover more about Charles Darwin’s revolutionary ideas and find out how you can retrace Darwin’s journey on a cruise maritime voyage of your own.
From theology to science: Darwin’s early career
Charles Darwin began studying medicine at Edinburgh University at 16 years old. However, encouraged by his father, he decided to study theology at Cambridge instead. Ironically, this change in direction would be an important step in his scientific career. It was at Christ’s College in Cambridge where he met the botanist Reverend John Stevens Henslow, who would kindle Darwin’s love for natural history.
Henslow would also introduce the young Charles Darwin to Captain James Fitz Roy. Fitz Roy was undertaking a second voyage to South America to complete the cartographic study he began 5 years earlier. Fitz Roy invited Darwin to accompany him on the journey, as a fellow scientist and companion. As a result of this meeting, Darwin and Fitz Roy would set sail from Plymouth Bay aboard the HMS Beagle on December 27, 1831.
The Origin of Species: Darwin in Patagonia
The Beagle’s cruise maritime voyage would last nearly 5 years. The Beagle arrived at San Salvador, Brazil, in 1932, where Darwin was amazed by the variety of flora and fauna. The journey would continue southwards towards Cape Horn, where the Beagle would find itself in treacherous seas. However, thanks to Fitz Roy’s skill as a sailor, the Beagle would navigate safely to the Tierra del Fuego.
The Beagle landed at Wulaia Bay, Navarino Island. Previously, Captain Fitz Roy had established a Christian mission in the area – however, the evangelization project would fail. Despite the mission’s failure, it would be from Wulaia Bay that Darwin would begin his Patagonian adventures in earnest.
From here, the Beagle began to explore the Avenue of Glaciers – which is also known as The Beagle Channel, after Darwin’s ship. Here, Darwin would observe the glaciers and essentially invent the discipline of glaciology. Later, the Beagle would set sail for Montevideo – but without Charles Darwin.
Instead of joining the Beagle on the rest of its cartographic study, Darwin would ride through Argentine Patagonia on horseback. Here, he would make numerous observations which would influence his Origin of Species. For example, Darwin noted the similarities between the South American rhea and the African ostrich. Darwin used this evidence to suggest that all creatures evolved from a common ancestor, findings which he would not publish until 23 years after his return. This research would cause enormous controversy, challenging religious dogma and changing the face of scientific thought.
Retrace Darwin’s route: Australis cruise maritime voyages
Australis offers two cruises which retrace Darwin’s route through Patagonia. Departing from either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, these 9-day cruise maritime voyages guide you through Darwin’s Patagonia. Both trips travel through the fabled Fuegian archipelago, tracking the route of HMS Beagle to Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay. Here, our guides will take you through the natural history of the Tierra Del Fuego. In addition, they’ll also well cover the fascinating cultural traditions of indigenous Fuegians.
Beyond Wulaia Bay, our ships track Darwin’s route through the Avenue of Glaciers, facilitating sightings of the Pía, Águila and Condor Glaciers. Furthermore, the cruises also visit the Magdalena Islands so you can catch a glimpse of Patagonia’s lively penguin colonies. To find out which of these Darwin journey’s best suits your Patagonian itinerary, download the brochure.