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The Beagle Channel
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October, 2003 ISSUE OF

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The Beagle Channel

Since we commenced our voyage to the Antarctic Peninsular from the Beagle Channel I re-read an edited version of Charles Darwin's   'The Voyage of the Beagle' when we returned home. As I now understand it, Captain Fitzroy and Darwin approached the Beagle Channel through the Murray Channel in whale boats and then landed the three Fuegians that  they had on board near the junction of the two channels. They returned to the Fuegian camp about a week later and again a year later in the Beagle  in 1834. They then appear to have sailed eastward along the Channel and  at the same time of year as we did, but I can't imagine that they had  a more perfect evening. However, I do like to think that Darwin was on deck reflecting on the Fuegians and on the fossils - a dozen or so large mammals including the Toxodon that had features of rodents, hoofed mammals and the dugong but was the size of an elephant - that he had discovered  at Punta Alta and elsewhere.

The three Fuegians that were on board, as well as a fourth who had died of smallpox in England, had been picked up by Fitzroy in 1826-30 when he had discovered the Beagle Channel. In their native state, they had no clothes and kept warm by smearing their bodies with seal oil and by carrying fire sticks (hence the name 'Tierra del Fuego' of Magellan). So, did Darwin contemplate the possibility that natural selection had  adapted these people physiologically to cope with such an atrocious climate? It seems that the answer is 'yes' although he also seems to have wondered how Europeans became so 'advanced' and, in effect, compared the latter to domestic and the former to wild animals.

Perhaps, then, the contemplation of the Fuegians and of the mammalian fossils was the dawning of the theory of natural selection that was to   be confirmed by the finches of the Galapagos Islands and further study at home? What ever the truth of all this it made for an idyllic evening as we cruised eastward on a millpond sea in the summer twilight.

Beagle Channel from above Ushuaia looking east

Northern shore of the Beagle Channel from the Polar Pioneer

The Beagle Channel from the Polar Pioneer looking east

Ushusaia is in the north west corner of the map and we cruised        eastward along the Argentinian - Chilean border and then turned south


Ushuaia - A Day on the Beagle Channel
The giant crabs of the Beagle Channel are as delicious as they are awesome  in appearance.

Though our recent visit to Ushuaia, at Tierra del Fuego, the very bottom tip of South America, took place in mid-summer, it still snowed at one stage while we were there. Article describes Ushuaia and a trip by converted fishing boat onto the islands of the Beagle Channel where we explored the middens of the now-extinct Indian tribes whose fires at night gave Tierra del Fuego (the Land of Fire) its name.

The town of Ushuaia - with snow in summer and a real frontier feeling - is  the southernmost town in the world and right on the Beagle Channel at the  bottom tip of South America.


The Beagle Channel

January 28, 1994


We stayed on deck all morning after breakfast, watching the Beagle Channel go by.

Below, more of the beautiful valleys and waterfalls along the channel

You may join us watching glaciers:  http://www.leeandkristin.net/Antarctica/Journal/BeagleChannelGlaciers.html

See more photos at:

Photo of he most southern ski slope in the world - and mail me if you know of another one with full view of the sea. The sea, is of  course, the Beagle channel which saw the young Darwin make his way around the tip of South America. The island opposite  is the Isla Navarino which belongs to Chile; Cape Horn is on an island below Isla Navarino, and then...Antarctica.

Tierra del Fuego
 is an archipelago, at the southern extremity of South America. In shape the main island, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan, is a triangle with its base on Beagle Channel. The total area is 28,473 sq mi (73,746 sq km), about two-thirds of which is Chilean and one-third Argentine. The boundary, agreed upon in 1881, follows the meridian 68°36 ?38 ?W, from Cabo (cape) Espíritu Santo on the Atlantic, and the east–west Beagle Channel. Lennox, Picton, Nueva, and several small islands at the mouth of the channel are disputed between the two republics.
Roads are poor in Tierra del Fuego, and there are no railways. Air services however, link major settlements to Punta Arenas, Chile, and Río Gallegos, Argentina. Sea communications are also important; a regular service links Porvenir and Punta Arenas, and naval vessels supply Ushuaia and the Isla Navarino, Chile.
There is little agriculture on the island, but oil and gas reserves have been developed. Many textile and electronic firms have been established at Río Grande and Ushuaia, the island's two main cities.

Right after we arrived to Ushuaia we took a tour to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
By the Pipo River, in a outstanding place surrounded by mountains, stands  the station of the Train of the End of the World . It belongs to the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino (Southern Railway). It is a small train with capacity for 36  passengers that goes into the National Park with several intermediate stops in different panoramic points. The train uses the original terreplein of the old small train that worked until 1947 and that transported prisoners from Ushuaia's jail to the saw-mills where they worked daily. The steam trains have been specially designed and built in Argentina for this railway. The train goes through the Pipo River across the Quemado Bridge and makes its first stop at the De la Macarena Cascade. Here, you can see the reconstruction of the Indian campings of the Yamanas       and Shelkman cultures, called "Rio Ajej", which recreates their customs. In the final part of the journey, along the Canado del Toro, there is a tourist circuit and 4.5 km from the departure point, you can either choose to continue the visit of the park by bus or to return to the station by train without stops. One of the outstanding parts of the park is the Lapataia Bay, the final point of the only road that goes from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, 3300 km away. Here, it is sometimes possible to embark and to combine the tour of the National Park with the navigation through the Beagle Channel.  Sailing across Ushuaia Bay, you can admire an impressive view of the city and the mountain range that surrounds it. At the end of the bay, the Chico Pass indicates the entrance to the mythical Beagle Channel with its history and mystery of old shipwrecks.

Beagle Channel
Trending east–west, is about 150 mi (240 km) long and 3 to 8 mi wide;  it separates the archipelago's main island to the north from Navarino,  Hoste, and other smaller islands to the south. At its western end the channel splits into two branches that encircle Isla Gordon. The eastern portion forms part of the Chile–Argentina border, while the western portion lies entirely within Chile. The three islands at the channel's eastern end, Picton, Nueva and Lennox islands, were the subject of a territorial dispute between Chile and Argentina that began in the 1840s and which almost led to war between the two nations in 1978. The dispute officially ended on May 2, 1985, when a treaty awarding the three islands to Chile went into effect between the two countries. The Beagle Channel was named for the British ship Beagle, in which Charles Darwin explored the area (1833–34).

See http://www.victory-cruises.com/beagle.html

 is the capital of Tierra del Fuego provincia, Argentina, on the Beagle Channel. It lies on the main island of Tierra del Fuego Archipelago at the southern tip of South America.

The site was first settled by Wasti H. Stirling, an English missionary, in 1870. In 1884 an Argentine naval base was established, and in 1893, after the archipelago was partitioned between Argentina and Chile, Ushuaia was declared a city. Lumbering, sheep raising, fishing, and trapping are the city's principal economic activities. Ushuaia has the distinction of being the southernmost city in the world.


1978 war over the Beagle Channel

The Vatican Mediation of the Beagle
Channel Dispute: Crisis Intervention
and Forum Building
Mark Laudy
In 1978, ARGENTINA AND CHILE nearly went to war over a cluster of small is-
lands at the southern tip of South America and the Beagle Channel. The mediation that resolved the dispute (before blood was shed) was remarkable for several reasons. The medi-ator was the Vatican, whose supreme moral authority and influence over the
large Catholic populations in each country made it a mediating body that the
parties could not ignore. The Vatican played two distinct roles within the medi-
ation. First, Cardinal Antonio Samora, the Pope's personal envoy, acted to defuse
the situation by bringing the parties to an agreement that stopped the immedi-
ate military crisis. In the next phase, the Vatican crafted a six-year process that
allowed the parties to grapple with increasingly difficult issues. The process was
remarkable because it was flexible enough to accommodate the changing polit-
ical environments in both countries and because the mediator used a range of
tools to great advantage. This process served to protect a fragile peace between
the countries and ultimately allowed them to create an agreement that has lasted
until this day. The case is also significant in the background role that regional
and legal institutions, like the OAS (Organization of American States) and the
International Court of Justice, played in the process.


Argentina and Chile sign the Boundary Treaty of 1881.
Chile unilaterally invokes a 1902 treaty providing for resolution of disputes
through arbitration by the British crown.
July 22: Argentina and Chile sign an agreement formally submitting to
binding arbitration under auspices of British Crown.
May 2: Arbitral decision is announced, awarding PNL (Picton, Nueva, and
Lennox) island group to Chile and providing for execution of the award
within nine months. May-December: Direct negotiations regarding im-
plementation of the arbitral award conducted between Chile and Argentina
on an ad hoc basis. Negotiations prove unsuccessful.
Jan. 25: Argentina repudiates the British arbitral award. Feb. 20: Argentine
and Chilean presidents execute the Act of Puerto Montt,establishing a formal
structure for further direct negotiations.May-October: Unsuccessful nego-
tiations held in accordance with the Act of Puerto Montt. Military mobiliza-
tion accelerated in Chile and Argentina. November: Argentina accepts
Chilean proposal for mediation. Dec. 12: Argentine and Chilean foreign
ministers meet in Buenos Aires and are unable to select a mediator. Armed
forces at full state of alert. Dec. 23: Pope John Paul II informs Chile and Ar-
gentina that he is sending a personal envoy to meet with their respective gov-
ernments.Dec. 26-Jan. 5: Cardinal Antonio Samora arrives in South Amer-
ica and conducts shuttle diplomacy between Buenos Aires and Santiago.
Jan. 8: Chilean and Argentine foreign ministers sign the Act of Montev-
ideo, formally requesting mediation by the Vatican and renouncing the use
of force. May 4: Mediation process officially begins at the Vatican.
Summer: Mediation team gathers background information.
Fall 1979: Preliminary negotiations on secondary issues, e.g., navi-
gation and fishing rights. May: Negotiations begin on territorial sover-
eignty, maritime boundaries, and straight baselines. Dec. 12: Papal pro-
posal for resolution of conflict presented to parties.
Jan. 8: Chile accepts papal proposal. Mar. 17: Argentina delivers note to
Vatican expressing serious objections to papal proposal. April: Chilean of-
ficials arrested in Argentina. Chile reciprocates. Argentina closes border
with Chile. April–June: “Mini-mediation†focused on arrests and border
Jan. 21: Argentina announces termination of 1972 General Treaty on the
Judicial Settlement of Disputes, creating vacuum juris. January-Septem-
ber: Mini-mediation focused on resolving vacuum juris. April-June:
Falkland Islands War.
Feb. 3: Cardinal Samora dies. July: Santiago Benadava and Julio Barberi
hold discussions and prepare nonpaper. Dec. 10: President Raul Alfonso
takes office.
Jan. 23: Chile and Argentina sign Declaration of Peace and Friendship.
Apr. 14: Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli meets sepa-
rately with each delegation, requesting proposals for final settlement.
 June 11: Casaroli delivers final proposal to the parties.Vatican proposal accepted
by both Chile and Argentina. Oct. 18: Casaroli delivers final text of treaty
to the parties. Nov. 25: Argentine voters approve treaty in nonbinding na-
tional referendum. Nov. 29: Chile and Argentine foreign ministers execute
Treaty of Peace and Friendship at the Vatican.
The Beagle Channel conflict had its origins in a long-standing disagreement
over the contours of the Argentine–Chilean border. The core issue in this dis-
pute was sovereignty over three barren islands to the south of Tierra del Fuego
and the scope of the maritime jurisdiction associated with those islands. In the
course of attempting to resolve this initial problem, however, the parties con-
fronted several collateral issues of great importance,including navigation rights,
sovereignty over other islands in the Fuegian Archipelago, delimitation of the
Straits of Magellan, and maritime boundaries south to Cape Horn and beyond.
The exact demarcation of the southern border between Chile and Argentina
was a source of contention between the two countries from their earliest days as
independent nations in the second decade of the nineteenth century.
The character of the Beagle Channel dispute made the choice of parties some-
what simpler than in many mediation contexts: Chile and Argentina obviously
had to be included, and there were no third-party states with interests sufficient
to warrant a place at the negotiating table. To be sure, tensions in the far south
were a matter of great concern to neighboring governments; indeed, there was
widespread speculation that if war broke out between Chile and Argentina, Peru
and Bolivia might seize the opportunity to attack Chile in an attempt to regain
territory lost during the War of the Pacific in the nineteenth century.
Not surprisingly, Argentina preferred a political approach, reflecting its greater military strength and its dis-satisfaction with the arbitral award.
A number of factors converged
In late 1978 to make the Beagle Channel
conflict more amenable for resolution than it had been at any prior point in the cen-
tury-long history of the dispute. First, as discussed above, changes in the law of
the sea that had occurred over the previous two decades made the territorial is-
sues more pressing than they had ever been before. Second,by the 1970s, the need
for regional economic integration had become quite apparent to decision mak-
ers on both sides of the Andes.

The United States took the Beagle Channel
conflict seriously and attempted
to play an active role in resolving the conflict.
The United States attempted to use diplomatic
channels to discourage the use of force and encourage mediation. For example,
it made a substantial, though unsuccessful, effort to pressure Argentina into re-
ducing its military build-up on the Chilean border in November and December
of 1978.
More significantly, the United States appears to have played a role in
convincing the Vatican to assume the role of mediator.
On December 12, 1980, the Pope received the two delegations and presented
to them his proposal for resolving the conflict, the terms of which had been de-
veloped entirely in secret.
Under the papal proposal, Chile would retain all of
the islands, but Argentina would be entitled to maintain certain limited facilities
there and would receive important navigation rights. The key element to this
proposal, however, was the creation of a vast ocean area known as the Sea of
Peace. In this area, extending to the east and southeast from the disputed chain
of islands, Chile would be limited to a narrow territorial sea, in which it would
be obliged to afford Argentina equal participation in resource exploitation, sci-
entific investigation, and environmental management. Beyond the Chilean ter-
ritorial waters would be a much broader band of ocean subject to Argentine ju-
risdiction, but also subject to the same sharing provisions that applied in
Chilean waters.
Despite some reservations regarding the proposal, Chile accepted it very
Argentina, on the other hand, never formally replied to the proposal.
However, in March 1981, Argentina delivered a note to the Vatican expressing
grave misgivings about the proposal, both because it failed to award any islands
to Argentina and because it allowed Chile to maintain a presence so far into the
Mean-while, a series of unfortunate incidents in Chile and Argentina strained relations
between the two countries and further hampered
the dialogue on the Beagle Channel .
These difficulties developed when Argentina closed the border and de-
tained a number of Chilean officials and civilians. Chile responded by arresting
Argentine officials in Chile, and the two countries rapidly degenerated into a
hostile and unstable posture.
The situation in South America, coupled with
the stalemate in Rome, placed the entire mediation process in grave danger.

The final phase of the mediation process began with the return to democratic
government in Argentina in December 1983. The new govern-
ment was firmly committed to securing an agreement as quickly as possible, and
the structure of the mediation changed radically as a result.
By comparison with the preceding five years, negotiations proceeded at a breakneck pace.
In April 1984, Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli met separately
with the two delegations and requested their proposals for a final solution.
1Both sides accepted the proposal.
At this point, the mediation was essentially complete. Teams of experts were
called in to work out details regarding dispute resolution mechanisms and the
precise contours of the boundary, but progress was swift and the Vatican medi-
ation team played little part in the process. By October, the parties had reached
a complete understanding, and the treaty language was finalized on October 18.
Following a national referendum in Argentina, the Treaty of Peace and Friend-
ship was signed in Rome on November 29, 1984.
The foregoing discussion might lead to the conclusion that the resolution of
the Beagle Channel conflict was entirely the product of historical accident, a
lucky break for which the mediator deserves no credit. While it is probably true
that the dispute could not have been resolved but for the change in government
in Argentina, it does not follow that the Vatican's efforts were without effect. On
the contrary, it is almost certain that the papal intervention prevented a war be-
tween Chile and Argentina.
While the conflict was rooted in a very particular historical and geographical
context, the choice of mediator with compelling moral authority, and the tech-
niques used by the mediator to keep war at bay, could be very useful even in
post Cold War cases of secession, internal conflict, or minority rights.

The History of Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan, a portuguese explorer mandated by Charles V of Spain to find a western route to the Spice Islands (Moluccas), discovered the entrance to this sea passage in 1520. Despite an attempted mutiny by the crew, he sailed the length of the strait in 38 days. He named the largest island Tierra del Fuego –Land of Fire—because the native Indians lit bonfires on the mountains at night. He also gave the name Patagones (Big Feet) to the mainland Indians he met in Port San Julian; their land was subsequently known as Patagonia. In fact, the aboriginal natives had rather small hands and feet compared with their large, bulky bodies, but they wrapped their feet up in rough guanaco skin and probably left large footprints in the sand. Only one of Magellan’s five ships, the Victoria, made the journey back to Spain; Magellan himself was killed by natives on the island of Mactan in the Philippines (see Philippines pages for more), in the year following the discovery. The Spanish were determined to keep the strait a closely guarded secret, for they valued the strategic importance of this route through to the west coast of South America. However Sir Francis Drake (see Caribbean pages for more), the English seafarer, had other ideas, and sailed the strait in just 16 days in the Golden Hind , on his way to raid the Chilean and Peruvian coasts in 1578. He returned to England by way of Java and the Cape of Good Hop, thus becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. After his odyssey, English ships continued to use the narrows until 1594, when the Spanish navy wrested control over the region’s seas.
Spanish and Portuguese dominion lasted until the Napoleonic Wars, when it collapsed, causing great political unrest in South America. The British Foreign Secretary, George Canning, realized that considerable commercial advantage could be gained if trade between Britain and South America were expanded, as no manufactured goods were available on that continent. Therefore, in 1824 he recognized the rebel regimes of Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. By 1825 over 250 British merchant ships were carrying on a thriving trade exporting manufactured goods, necessitating a British naval presence in South American waters and detailed, accurate charts of the coastline.
Captain Philip Parker King was assigned to map the coasts, harbours and channels, and he set out in 1825 with the Adventure and the Beagle .
 By 1830 he had completed his task and the Admiralty published his charts of the Magellan Strait. A year later, Sir Francis Beaufort, of Britain’s Hydrographic Department, required further information, and commissioned Robert Fitzroy to return to the area in the Beagle , to improve and complete King’s charts. (The former Beagle captain, Stokes, was so depressed at the idea of returning to desolate Tierra del Fuego that he shot himself.) Captain Fitzroy took a lively interest in meteorology and natural history, and decided to take with him an artist and a naturalist, who happened to be Charles Darwin. His name has been linked with the Beagle ever since, as the scientific observations he made in South America inspired his theory On the Origin of Species .
Many of the islands and bays of the Patagonian coast and Tierra del Fuego have English names, bequeathed by these early adventurers –York Minster Mountain, Good success Bay, Cutfinger Cove (recording an incident when one of Fitzroy’s sailors almost deprived himself of two fingers when chopping wood), Packsaddle Bay, and many more.

The Beagle itself left its name to the Beagle Channel, the strait that separates the mainland to the north from Navarino. Hoste and other smaller islands to the south. In 1871 a handful of English settlers chose an attractive spot along the strait to establish an Anglican mission. Their settlement grew into Ushuaia , now capital of Tierra del, Fuego, and the southernmost city in the world. As gateway to the Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego, the town has become very popular with tourists; tax-free shops line the main street. The inhabitants of the original settlers –live from sheep-raising, lumbering, fishing and trapping. The Museo territorial – the museum of the end of the world – displays photos and artefacts of the Fuegian indians and the early settlers.

This website is part of Windows to the World 2000 , an Around the World voyage done by myself partly by airplane, partly by different cruiseships, visiting dozens of top ranking beaches, many different cultures and some of the biggest World Cities. My next planned schedule will be December 2000.

Estancia Harberton/Beagle Channel History

On Wednesday 27th September 1871 a twenty-eight year old fair haired lady with blue eyes stood with her husband on the deck of an 88- ton schooner. Holding on tightly, for she was too weak to stand, she looked across the water and said 'Dearest you have brought me to this country and here I must stay, for I can never, never face the ocean voyage again'. They had arrived at Ushuaia (via Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and The Falklands).

Her new home was to be Tierra del Fuego and she had come from Simmonds Farm* here in Harberton. The journey had taken almost two years.

Consequently Thomas and Mary Bridges became the founding family of the present day community of Tierra del Fuego, the most southern part of South America. A wild desolate hard land with an unkind climate and long dreary winter nights, cut off from civilisation.

Thomas Bridges met Mary Varder at a meeting of school teachers in Bristol in 1869. Five weeks later, on 7th August, they were married in Harberton and two days later embarked on the S.S. Onega as missionaries to the cannibal Indians of Tierra del Fuego. Mary was one of six daughters of Stephen and Ann Varder of Harberton. A younger sister of Mary, Joanna Varder, joined the settlement at Ushuaia in 1874 - who having spent much of her life on the farm in Harberton had become an authority on the preparation of butter, junket, cheese, jam, and strawberries and cream; and an expert at rearing chickens, ducks and geese. The Yahgan Indian word for "aunt on the mother's side" is yekadahby , which means literally "little mother". Hence Joanna came to be known as Yekadahby.

On 31st December 1874 their third child, E. Lucas Bridges, was born. He was christened Stephen Lucas, but being an Argentine citizen by birth, later adopted the Spanish translation Esteban Lucas. Lucas Bridges went on to write 'Uttermost Part of the Earth' - a detailed account of the family's life amongst the local Yahgan Indians.
[This book is available from Devon libraries (shelved at Exeter Library.]

Thomas Bridges resigned as the Superintendent Missionary but decided to settle in his adopted country. In 1886 he met Argentine President General Roca in Buenos Aires who said to him "How can my government compensate you in some measure for the life of self-sacrifice you have led, and the humanitarian work you have accomplished?" Thomas Bridges replied "By giving me a piece of land where I can settle and make a home with my children, born in the country".

He came home to Harberton and at Simmonds Farm he prefabricated a large wooden frame house. He chartered the 'Shepherdess', a brigantine of 360 tons, to take it back with other cargo. This consisted of local bricks, limestone, a young South Devon bull, four Romney Marsh rams, a couple of Devonshire pigs, and two collie dogs. Two local carpenters accompanied him.

On the precipitous coast in the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, the family established a new settlement in 1887 and called it Harberton.

In 1898, Thomas Bridges, aged 56,  suffered a severe haemorrage and died in a friend's house in Buenos Aires on the 15th July.

Mary Bridges nee Varder and her sister Joanna returned permanently to England in 1912. Mary died on the 28th December 1922 and was buried alongside her sister Joanna (who had died 18 months previously) in the churchyard of Shipbourne near Tonbridge in Kent.

Today five generations later there is a thriving and large family in Harberton Tierra del Fuego.

(This text is based on a text prepared by the Revd Peter Willis for the Flower Festival held in St. Andrew's Church around 1990.
* Ed. Symon(d)s or Simmons? - two different farms, most likely the latter because of the Yeoman connection )

An interesting snippet or two

In April 1880, Mary's next younger sister Honor was married in Harberton, Devon to the well-known photographer Elijah Yeoman from Barnard Castle, Co. Durham. This picture of the Yeoman family, the only one found so far, taken in the north of England, came to light in Harberton - not Harberton in Devon however, but Harberton on the Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego, in South America – but that’s another story!
This information courtesy of the Bowes Museum (Barnard Castle, County Durham) website at www.bowesmuseum.org.uk .

Lucas Bridges returned to England to join the Army for the First World War. After being demobilised in 1919, he decided to go to South Africa and was accompanied by John Yeoman, son of Elijah and Honor Yeoman, where they set up the Devuli Ranch.


HMS Beagle

Bark (3m). L/B/D :   90.3 ? 24.5 ? 12.5 (27.5m ? 7.5m ? 3.8m). Tons :   235 bm. Hull :   wood. Comp. :   75. Arm. :   5 ? 6pdr, 2 ?  9pdr. Des. :   Sir Henry Peake. Built :  Woolwich Dockyard; 1820.

HMS Beagle was originally launched as one of 115 Cherokee -class 10-gun brigs built by the Royal Navy between 1807 and 1830 and used in a variety of roles including surveying and antislaver patrols. By the time of her first voyage Beagle had been converted to a bark rig. Her first major voyage was from May 1826 to October 1830 with HMS Adventure , to chart the straits and passages of the southern tip of South America; it was during this voyage that the Beagle Channel, skirting the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego, was explored and named. Under the stress of arduous conditions in the waters around Tierra del Fuego, Captain Pringle Stokes killed himself in August 1828. Short of provisions and with many of the crew ill, Beagle returned to Buenos Aires where Lieutenant Robert FitzRoy took command for the homeward voyage.

FitzRoy commanded Beagle on her subsequent circumnavigation during which she was to complete the survey of Tierra del Fuego, the Chilean coast, and a number of Pacific islands, and to carry out chronometric observations—she carried 22 chronometers. Among the 74 crew and passengers were three Fuegians who had been taken to England and were returning home. Also assigned to the ship was a twenty-one-year-old botany student, Charles Darwin, whose professor, J. S. Henslow, considered him not a " finished naturalist, but ... amply qualified for collecting, observing, and noting, anything new to be noted in Natural History." Beagle departed Devonport on December 27, 1831, and after stops in the Cape Verde Islands and Bahía arrived at Rio de Janeiro on April 4. After three months of hydrographic surveys of the Brazilian coast (Darwin was occupied in researching the rain forest), Beagle proceeded to Bahía Blanca, Argentina. It was there that Darwin first uncovered fossils that led him to question the relationship of living and extinct species.

On January 19, 1833, Beagle arrived at Ponsonby Sound, Tierra del Fuego, where Jemmy Buttons, York Minster, and Fuegia Basket returned home. Richard Matthews, a missionary sent to minister to the Fuegians, quickly abandoned his calling to return to the ship. In February, Beagle returned to Uruguay, via the Falkland Islands. The conditions at the southern tip of the Americas required the use of a second ship, and FitzRoy took it upon himself to purchase an American vessel, renamed Adventure; the Admiralty later made him sell the ship in Chile. Surveys of the Argentine coast resumed from April through July, when the ship reached El Carmen, on the Rio Negro, then the southernmost outpost in Argentina. Darwin returned overland from there to Bahía Blanca, then up the Rio Paraná to Santa Fe and finally to Montevideo, where he rejoined the ship on October 21. Beagle returned to Tierra del Fuego to complete her survey work in January, then surveyed the Falkland Islands in March and April. She sailed through the Strait of Magellan into Chilean waters in June 1834, and arrived at Valparaiso on July 23. As before, Beagle conducted coastal surveys while Darwin made overland treks in the Chilean Andes. After visiting the Chonos Archipelago in November 1834, Beagle returned to the Chilean mainland in February and surveyed there until July. After stops at Iquique and Callao, Peru, Beagle sailed for the Galápagos Islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador.

The ship arrived there on September 17, and though the expedition remained only one month, it was here that Darwin made the observations—particularly of the 13 different species of finches—that proved the foundation for his theory of natural selection. Beagle left the Galápagos on October 20 bound for Tahiti. For the remainder of the voyage the expedition's primary mission was to make chronometric observations, though there was much of interest to occupy Darwin at their remaining stops, which included New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Mauritius, and Cape Town, and then in the Atlantic, St. Helena and Bahía.

Beagle finally returned to Falmouth on October 2, 1836. Although his Origin of Species was not published until 1859, his voyage in Beagle (during which he had been badly affected by seasickness) laid the foundation for his theories of evolution and natural selection, and profoundly affected the course of modern scientific thought. As Darwin himself wrote, "The voyage in the Beagle has been by far the most important event in my life and has determined the whole of my existence."

Six months after her return, Beagle was off to Australia under the command of Captain John Lord Stokes, a veteran of the FitzRoy-Darwin voyage. After surveying the western coast between the Swan River (Perth) and Fitzroy River (named for his former commander), she sailed around to the southeast corner of the continent. There, Beagle conducted surveys along both shores of the Bass Strait, and then in May of 1839 sailed northabout to the shores of the Arafura Sea opposite Timor. Her crew named a number of geographical features, including Port Darwin (for their former shipmate) and the Flinders River, after the indomitable surveyor of HMS Investigator . In so honoring his predecessor, Stokes reflected that "monuments may crumble, but a name endures as long as the world."

Her work in Australia done, Beagle returned to England in 1843, after 18 years' hard service to her nation and the world. Transferred out of the Royal Navy in 1845, Beagle ended her days as the Preventive Service's stationary Beagle Watch Vessel (renamed W.V.7 in 1863) moored at Pagelsham Pool on the coast of Essex. She was sold and probably broken up in 1870.

Darwin, Diary of the Voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle ." FitzRoy & King, Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of H.M.S. "Adventure" and "Beagle." Thomson, HMS "Beagle." . http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/ships/html/sh_010300_hmsbeagle.htm



The C. Warren Irvin, Jr., Collection
of Charles Darwin and Darwiniana

The Voyage of the Beagle

The commander's account of a naval exploration
Robert Fitzroy, 1805-1865, ed.
Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. 3 vols. London: Henry Colburn, 1839.

Since Sir Joseph Banks accompanied Captain Cook on his Australian explorations in the late 18th century, the survey ships of the British navy had played a large role in enabling British scientists to explore the globe. This sumptuously-produced account of two separate expeditions edited, and largely written, by the Beagle 's commander, Captain Fitzroy, was only the latest in a string of such accounts, and it is a sign of the interest they excited that South Carolina College bought a set for its library.

The Captain of H.M.S. Beagle

This profile by Francis Lane shows Captain Fitzroy later in his career, after  his promotion to Vice-Admiral. At the time of Darwin's voyage, Fitzroy was still  a young man.

H.M.S. Beagle in Sydney harbour

The ship which Darwin joined as naturalist for the exploration of the South  American coast in 1831-1836. From an 1841 watercolour by Owen Stanley.

Side-elevation of H.M.S. Beagle

The Beagle was a small ship, only 90 foot long, but carrying seventy-four people. Darwin took his meals with the captain, Robert Fitzroy.

Where Darwin went with the Beagle
Map of the Beagle 's voyage, 1831-36
from Fitzroy, Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. London: Henry Colburn, 1839. Vol. II appendix.

The initial plan had been for a two-year voyage round the world, but Fitzroy's scrupulous survey of the complex South American coastline extended the expedition over nearly five years.

H.M.S. Beagle in Murray Narrow, the Beagle Channel

From a watercolour by Conrad Martens. Much of the Beagle 's survey work was in  sparsely-populated and remote parts of the South American coast.

Meeting other races: Fitzroy and the Christian converts of Tierra del Fuego
Robert Fitzroy, ed.,
Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle . London: Henry Colburn, 1839.

Among the initial tasks of the Beagle on reaching southern South America was to return to their homeland three Fuegian converts who had been brought to England from a previous voyage and educated as missionaries. The project was dear to Fitzroy's heart, but it resulted only in the immediate reassimilation of the Fuegians to their previous life-style. Differences of opinion on racial issues, both in South America and Australia, became a major source of friction between Fitzroy and the more liberal Darwin, who had been appalled both by the primitive conditions in which the Fuegians lived and the treatment meted out to other races by Europeans.

Darwin's own account of the Beagle voyage, 1
Charles Darwin,
The Journal of A Voyage in H.M.S.Beagle.
Guildford: Genesis Publications, 1979.

Darwin's manuscript journal of the Beagle voyage, now in the Royal College of  Surgeons, preserves a day-by-day record of his experiences and discoveries.   Along with his manuscript notebooks recording his reading and scientific  speculations, the journal shows in fascinating detail the steps through which he  recognized the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory.

Darwin's own account of the Beagle voyage, 2
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882
Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H. M. S. Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, R. N., from 1832 to 1836.
London: Henry Colburn, 1839.

While the College owned Fitzroy's Narrative , it either never bought or soon lost the final volume in the set, Darwin's published account of his scientific explorations  based on his journal. This had been ready for some months before Fitzroy's volumes went to press, and it was simultaneously issued as a separate volume for scientific readers. Happily, the Irvin Collection includes this separate issue, which is among the most readable of Darwin's books.

The young Charles Darwin

From the 1840 watercolour by George Richmond.

Darwin's first sketch of the Origin of Species
Charles Darwin,
The foundations of the Origin of Species, a sketch written in 1842 ,  edited by Francis Darwin. Cambridge, printed at the University Press, 1909.

Though his book On the Origin of Species would not appear till 1859, Darwin had begun keeping extensive notebooks on the question soon after his return from the Beagle 's voyage.   By 1842, he had drawn up a substantial sketch of his theory, but he delayed  publication because he was anxious to provide a sufficient breadth of empirical  research in its support.  The sketch itself remained in manuscript until it  was published by his son for the Darwin centenary.  The copy shown here was  presented by the editor to another of Darwin's relatives.

The early reports on Darwin's discoveries
John Gould on the Galapagos finches,
from Proceedings of the Zoological Society , part V (1837): 4-8.

Even during the five years of the Beagle 's expedition, Darwin had sent home to Henslow descriptions and specimens of what he was discovering. By the time Darwin  returned with the major specimen shipment, in October 1837, there was  considerable anticipation among naturalists. The initial reports were made  orally at scientific meetings. In this account from January 1837, the  ornithologist and artist John Gould described Darwin's various finch specimens,  providing a list of distinct species from the different Galapagos islands. At  later meetings, Darwin himself attended and commented on Gould's presentations,  and Gould prepared the ornithology volume for Darwin's series of reports on The Zoology of the H.M.S. Beagle (1841).

Updated August 1 2002 by the Department  of Rare Books and Special Collections .


End of the October, 2003
issue of the Patagonian News

More Patagonian News featuring Cape Horn:


Historic Orange Bay, just 20 miles North of False Cape Horn

The Wollastan Islands, just 10 miles North of  Cape Horn