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My time passes away very pleasantly. I know one or two pleasant people, foremost of whom is Mr. Thunder-and-lightning Harris,* whom I dare say you have heard of. My chief employment is to go on board the Beagle, and try to look as much like a sailor as I can. I have no evidence of having taken in man, woman or child.
I am going to ask you to do one more commission, and I trust it will be the last. When I was in Cambridge, I wrote to Mr. Ash, asking him to send my College account to my father, after having subtracted about £30 for my furniture. This he has forgotten to do, and my father has paid the bill, and I want to have the furniture-money transmitted to my father. Perhaps you would be kind enough to speak to Mr. Ash. I have cost my father so much money,
I am quite ashamed of myself.
I will write once again before sailing, and perhaps you
C. Darwin to J. S. llenslow.
Devonport, December 3, 1831. MY DEAR HENSLOW,
It is now late in the evening, and to-night I am going to sleep on board. On Monday we most certainly sail, so you may guess in what a desperate state of confusion we are all in. If you were to hear the various exclamations of the officers, you would suppose we had scarcely had a week's notice. I am just in the same way taken all aback, and in such a bustle I hardly know what to do. The number of things to be done is infinite. I look forward even to sea-sickness with something like satisfaction, anything must be better than this state of anxiety. I am very much obliged for your last kind and affectionate letter. I always like advice from you, and no one whom I have the luck to know is more capable of giving it than yourself. Recollect, when you write, that I am a sort of protégé of yours, and that it is your bounden duty to lecture me.
* William Snow Harris, the Electrician.
I will now give you my direction; it is at first, Rio; but if you will send me a letter on the first Tuesday (when the packet sails) in February, directed to Monte Video, it will give me very great pleasure ; I shall so much enjoy hearing a little Cambridge news. Poor dear old Alma Mater !
I am a very worthy son in as far as affection goes. I have little more to write about I cannot end this without telling you how cordially I feel grateful for the kindness you have shown me during my Cambridge life. Much of the pleasure and utility which I may have derived from it is owing to you, I long for the time when we shall again meet, and till then telieve me, my dear Henslow, Your affectionate and obliged friend,
Remember me most kindly to those who take any interest
“THERE is a natural good-humoured energy in his letters just like himself.”—From a letter of Dr. R. W. Darwin's to Prof. Henslow.
(The object of the Beagle voyage is briefly described in my father's 'Journal of Researches,' p. I, as being “to complete the Survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, commenced under Captain King in 1826 to 1830; to survey the shores of Chile, Peru, and some island in the Pacific; and to carry a chain of chronometrical measurements round the world."
The Beagle is described as a well-built little vessel, of 235 tons, rigged as a barque, and carrying six guns. She belonged to the old class of ten-gun brigs, which were nicknamed “coffins," from their liability to go down in severe weather. They were very " deep-waisted,” that is, their bul. warks were high in proportion to their size, so that a heavy sea breaking over them might be highly dangerous. Nevertheless, she lived through the five years' work, in the most stormy regions in the world, under Commanders Stokes and Fitz-Roy, without a serious accident. When re-commissioned in 1831 for her second voyage, she was found (as I learn from Admiral Sir James Sulivan) to be so rotten that she had practically to be rebuilt, and it was this that caused the long delay in refitting. The upper deck was raised, making her much safer in heavy weather, and giving her far more com
fortable accommodation below. By these alterations and by the strong sheathing added to her bottom she was brought up to 242 tons burthen. It is a proof of the splendid seamanship of Captain Fitz-Roy and his officers that she returned without having carried away a spar, and that in only one of the heavy storms that she encountered was she in great danger.
She was fitted out for the expedition with all possible care, being supplied with carefully chosen spars and ropes, six boats, and a " dinghy;"lightning conductors, “invented by Mr. Harris, were fixed in all the masts, the bowsprits, and even in the flying jib-boom." To quote my father's description, written from Devonport, November 17, 1831: “Everybody, who can judge, says it is one of the grandest voyages that has almost ever been sent out. Everything is on a grand scale. Twenty-four chronometers. The whole ship is fitted up with mahogany; she is the admiration of the whole place. In short, everything is as prosperous as human means can make it."
Owing to the smallness of the vessel, every one on board was cramped for room, and my father's accommodation seems to have been small enough: “I have just room to turn round," he writes to Henslow, "and that is all," Admiral Sir James Sulivan writes to me: “The narrow space at the end of the chart-table was his only accommodation for working, dressing, and sleeping; the hammock being left hanging over his head by day, when the sea was at all rough, that he might lie on it with a book in his hand when he could not any longer sit at the table. His only stowage for clothes being several small drawers in the corner, reaching from deck to deck; the top one being taken out when the hammock was hung up, without which there was not length for it, so then the foot-clews took the place of the top drawer. For specimens he had a very small cabin under the forecastle.”
Yet of this narrow room he wrote enthusiastically, September 17, 1831 :-“When I wrote last I was in great alarm about my cabin. The cabins were not then marked out, but
when I left they were, and mine is a capital one, certainly next best to the Captain's and remarkably light. My companion most luckily, I think, will turn out to be the officer wh I shall like best. Captain Fitz-Roy says he will take care that one corner is so fitted up that I shall be comfortable in it and shall consider it my home, but that also I shall have the run of his. My cabin is the drawing one; and in the middle is a large table, on which we two sleep in hammocks. But for the first two months there will be no drawing to be done, so that it will be quite a luxurious room, and good deal larger than the Captain's cabin."
My father used to say that it was the absolute necessity of tidiness in the cramped space of the Beagle that helped 'to give him his methodical habits of working. On the Beagle, too, he would say, that he learned what he considered the golden rule for saving time ; i.l., taking care of the minutes.
Sir James Sulivan tells me that the chief fault in the outfit of the expedition was the want of a second smaller vessel to act as tender. This want was so much felt by Captain FitzRoy that he hired two decked boats to survey the coast of Patagonia, at a cost of £1100, a sum which he had to supply, although the boats saved several thousand pounds to the country. He afterwards bought a schooner to act as a tender, thus saving the country a further large amount. ultimately ordered to sell the schooner, and was compelled to bear the loss himself, and it was only after his death that some inadequate compensation was made for all the losses which he suffered through his zeal.
For want of a proper tender, much of the work had to be done in small open whale boats, which were sent away from the ship for weeks together, and this in a climate, where the crews were exposed to severe hardships from the almost constant rains, which sometimes continued for weeks together. The completeness of the equipment was also in other respects largely due to the public spirit of Captain Fitz-Roy. He provided at his own cost an artist, and a skilled instrument