Posted by: Rob Viens | October 7, 2012

Servicing the Schooners

After several days of being trapped on shore with no provisions, Darwin seems to have laid low for a couple of days.  His entries are brief, and mostly refer to the general survey work of the ship:

“Some of the men felt rather unwell, but none of us are made at all ill by it.— The wind has been very light all day, & we have made little progress.” (Oct 5)

“We beat up the channel against a strong breeze & anchored at night in the old place opposite the well. The sand-hillock here is christened “Anchor-stock hill”.” (Oct 6)

“Anchor stock hill” does not appear to be a name that has survived to modern times (at least from what my resources can determine).  But by the 7th Darwin was visiting the encampment at Arroyo Pareja (just south of Punta Alta), so I assume it is somewhere in that vicinity.

Arroya Pareja today (from
Arroya Pareja

“I walked to the creek where the tents are pitched for preparing the Schooners, & slept there during the night. Wickham has established quite a comfortable little town:— An encampment in the open air always has something charming about it. Even a Gypsies hut in England makes me rather envious; but here, in the wide plain, the little establishment made quite a picture.— This creek has been very useful for the vessels; the larger one is nearly ready for sea, & the other will be so in a few days.” (Oct 7)

The camp Darwin described was set up to refurbish the two schooners that FitzRoy purchased (out of his own pocket) from the English sealer Mr. Harris in September (see An Expensive Gamble).  The ships arrived in rough condition and Wickham was charged with getting them up to the standards of the British Navy (or more importantly, the standards of Captain FitzRoy).  As Wickham would soon be taking them on a solo trip to survey the coast south of Bahia Blanca, while the Beagle headed to points south, it was key that they would be able to function on their own. After all, if anything happened it would be impossible for the “mother ship” to come to their aid.

Darwin’s “recovery” time was over – this week he would be back on the beach digging more fossils from the cliffs. Stay tuned for the latest discoveries… (RJV)

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