Charles Darwin Map Australia | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Charles Darwin Map Australia

On this day: Charles Darwin departs Australia

, Charles Darwin - the father of modern biology - sailed away from Australia on the HMS Beagle.

Upon departing, he wrote: "Farewell, Australia! You are a rising infant and doubtless someday will reign a great princess in the South: but you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough for respect. I leave your shores without sorrow or regret."

Aged just 27, Darwin was yet to realise that in his journal were observations on landscapes and wildlife that would shape key ideas in his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Just five years earlier, he had begun his life of adventure. Too squeamish to finish medical school and not ready for his second career choice as a clergyman, a young Darwin found himself attached to a geological expedition to Wales.

Upon his return from that to London in August 1831, he learned that he had been recommended to accompany Captain Robert FitzRoy on a two-year surveying expedition to South America. This later became a five-year journey around the world aboard the HMS Beagle.

Charles Darwin, painted by George Richmond in the late 1830s. CREDIT: George Richmond

Darwin and the Beagle in Australia

Captain FitzRoy wasn't in search of an expert, but he needed a learned companion, as well as someone to collect specimens and record details of the journey. While Charles was not a formally trained scientist, his charisma and enthusiasm for natural history were credentials enough to get him aboard. Upon accepting the invitation, Charles wrote to Captain FitzRoy, "My second life will begin and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life."

The voyage embarked on 27 December 1831 from Plymouth, England. After surveying the coast of South America, sailing west to the Galapagos Islands, then moving on to Tahiti and New Zealand, it arrived in Australia. The journey so far had already taken more than four years.

The Beagle arrived and anchored in Sydney Cove on 12 January 1836. Darwin was keen to explore the nascent city (population of 23, 000) and was impressed by its progress compared to what he had observed in South America.

Despite his appreciation of Sydney's built environment, Charles was initially underwhelmed by the landscape and vegetation, deeming it dry and uninteresting. "The nearly level country is covered with thin scrubby trees, bespeaking the curse of sterility, " he noted.

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