Posted by: Rob Viens | April 29, 2013

Celestial, Cloudless Blue Skies

For the next couple of days the search continued, while Darwin basked in the sun and warmth of the mid latitudes. It had been cold wet and windy in Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands, so although this was not the tropical paradise of Brazil, Darwin was happy to be out of the cold. He notes:

“The climate here is quite celestial; cloudless blue skys, light breezes & smooth water. — We hear that this has been a very fine season; how strange it is, that the short distance as compared to the whole surface of the globe of this country from T. del Fuego, should make so much difference. — so that those rapid currents in the atmosphere, which have attained a velocity of from 60 to 100 miles per hour, should not even here be felt. — As the wind is too light, every one is grumbling at this fine weather; we have been slowly working up the bay of St Matthias to Port St Antonio, where we yet hope to find the Schooners.” (April 18)

Moonrise over the southern shores of the Gulf of Matias (from Panoramio on Google Maps by jorgecaze):

moonrise in Argentina

The next day the captain decided that the search for the schooners was over for now and it was time to return to Uruguay – the survey crew would have to remain on their own for now. Fortunately, the Beagle had recently encountered a trading ship that had spotted Mt. Wickham and his men.  So, Darwin could at least remain confident that his friends and crewmates were probably just out of sight and not lost at sea.

“All our plans have undergone a complete revolution. During the night the soundings were very irregular & in the same proportion dangerous, so that we were obliged to heave to and in consequence of this a current set us far to the South. In the morning a fresh NW breeze sprung up; from these various disadvantages the Captain gave up the attempt to find Mr Wickham or of landing me at Rio Negro, & made sail for Maldonado. — If the wind, that omnipotent & overbearing master, permits it, the Beagle will touch at Maldonado & proceed on to M. Video & Buenos Ayres. — I intend stopping at the former place, as it possesses the two great advantages of retirement & novelty.” (April 19)

This is the first time since last fall that Darwin seems downright chipper – excited about geology, thrilled with the nice weather, and excited about the “novelty” of settling down (if only for a few months) in Maldonado. What probably appealed to him the most was the thought of being off the ship (and away from seasickness) for more than a day for the first time in nearly 6 months. Though I’m sure the though of warmer climes probably did not hurt either.

But first he still had to get to Uruguay, and the next week wouldn’t all be smooth sailing. Tomorrow the winds start to blow and the Beagle heads north… (RJV)

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