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Charles Darwin body snatching

Charles Darwin

Ruth Padel, Charles Darwin's great granddaughter, went to see the giant tortoises of the Galapagos islands

  • Ruth Padel is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin
  • She visited the Galapagos Islands with her 85-year-old mother
  • Saw tortoises which sparked Darwin's first insight into evolution

Ruth Padel, Charles Darwin's great granddaughter, went to see the giant tortoises of the Galapagos islands

Sitting in a dinghy, six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, on a wildlife holiday, I found myself questioning the wisdom of our long-dreamed-of family trip. We were there to see the giant tortoises of the Galapagos islands.

Charles Darwin, 72, in 1881At the helm of the dinghy were my eighty-five-year-old mother and her cousin Sophie, the last surviving great-granddaughters of Charles Darwin.

They had both grown up in his shadow. My mother's mother Nora Barlow, Darwin's granddaughter, edited his Journal of the Voyage of the Beagle and his Autobiography.

RuthMy mother had herself studied botany and was a devoted student of natural history. All her life she had wanted to see giant tortoises wild in the Galapagos. Her cousin Sophie was an artist and wanted to draw them.

So of course we had to see the Galapagos. And handily, my daughter was in South America already, on her gap year.

Ruth eventually saw, like an armoured car, the same immense domed shapes which Darwin saw - indeed, rode upon - in 1835So I and two of my brothers planned the flights, got the injections, bought the sun-hats and anti-bug sprays. What we hadn't bargained for was rough seas around the islands.

To reach each island, you have to slide from a boat moored off shore into a rocking dinghy.

Sometimes you stagger through surf onto rocks slippery with sea lion droppings. None of this is easy on eighty-five-year-old arthritic knees.

The Galapagos Islands were named after the giant tortoises early Spanish sailors saw thereWhen Darwin visited in 1835 he was a young man of twenty-six, full of adventurous energy and very different from the bearded figure on the ten pound note.

Galápago is an old Spanish word for tortoise, the Galapagos Islands were named after the giant tortoises early Spanish sailors saw there. Darwin saw them too, hundreds of them. He described them 'travelling eagerly to find fresh springs, their necks outstretched'.

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Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was an an English naturalist whose theory of evolution is one of the greatest contributions ever made to science. Darwin stated this theory in his book The Origin of Species (1859). In another book called The Descent of Man (1871 ) he applied his theory to the evolution of man from a primitive monkey-like animal. Both books aroused world-wide controversy. Many considered them to be offensive, atheistic, blasphemous and Darwin's caricatures were published in magazines. Although later research has modified or disproved some of Darwin's findings, scientists…

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