December 27th, 2010

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Voyage of the Beagle by Chuckles Darwin

By a curious coincidence, I finished reading Darwin's journal of the voyage just recently, just in time to provide a review today, on the 179th anniversary of the beginning of the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Darwin's five-year mission was to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where not too many Europeans had gone before.
Darwin's Journal provides interesting contrasts with On The Origin of Species. Origin is the result of decades of hard thinking about, among other things, the raw data collected during the Voyage. The seminal work of a 50-year old mature scientist, compared to the travel journal of a 22-year-old embryo parson who cared for "nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching".
So in some ways, the Voyage of the Beagle is like Thrilling Adventure Stories Starring Teen Darwin. He rides with the gauchos, climbs mountains, experiences earthquakes, sails the ocean blue, and theorizes about coral polyps. Of course, it's not all excitement, there are plenty of occasions to skim, as Darwin assiduously lists the flora and fauna collected from each island and locale.
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