Posted by: Rob Viens | July 13, 2012

“Steering for Barbarous Regions”

On the 13th of July Darwin, and all of the crew, were gearing up for the excitement of sailing to “unexplored country” – new flora, fauna, geography, people, etc. Unfortunately, for Darwin’s stomach, it also meant less pleasant weather – more gales, rough seas, rain, and temperature extremes. None-the-less, the sense of adventure and anticipation oozes from Darwin’s entry for today:

“A beautiful day; the bright sky & smooth water reminded me of the delightful cruises on the Tropical seas.— But as now we are pressing all sail to the stormy regions of the South, the sooner such scenes are forgotten, the more tolerable will the present be.— Everybody is full of expectation & interest about the undescribed coast of Patagonia.—Endless plans are forming for catching Ostriches, Guanaco, Foxes &c. Already in our day-dreams have we returned heavily loaded with Cavies, Partridges, Snipes &c.— I believe the unexplored course of the Rio Negro will be investigated.— What can be imagined more exciting than following a great river through a totally unknown country?— Every thing shows we are steering for barbarous regions, all the officers have stowed away their razors, & intend allowing their beards to grow in a truly patriarchal fashion.” (July 13)

I love the image of young Darwin, and all his mates, with two-week stubble as they grew in their beards for the trip south.  And although it is common to see Darwin with a long white beard, no images remain of him as a bearded young man. Below is a representation from a great children’s book on Darwin’s Beagle Voyage called What Darwin Saw by Rosalyn Schanzer and published by the National Geographic Society. I read it to my almost 6-year old daughter the other day (poor thing :)) and she wanted to hear it all the way to the end.  A moment of pride…

Young bearded Darwin

One last bit of trivia for a short Friday night:

According to the footnotes, the name Patagonia comes from Magellan who named the inhabitants Patagónes in 1520.  The name, which means “big feet of bears”, came from the large furry boots worn by the people he encountered there. (RJV)

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