For Sutton’s assertion about Darwin having actually seen a copy of Matthew’s 1831 book, before putting pen to paper, to write his early sketches of evolutionary theory in 1837, 1842 and 1844, he made a huge leap of guesswork to claim that part of the Beagle‘s mission was to locate sources of naval timber.

Sutton echoes Milton Wainwright’s assertion that there must have been a copy of Matthew’s book aboard the Beagle because of the mission it was given, to document timber resources encountered while surveying coastlines during its voyage. Sutton writes in his 2014 ebook,
[Wainwright] finds it highly unlikely that the Beagle would not have had a copy of NTA on board …Darwin’s own work on the Beagle included observations on issues of arboricultural significance. We know this from the work of Captain S. E. Cook (1839), who wrote about it in the Gardener’s Chronicle under the title The Arboriculture of the Voyage of Captains King and Fitzroy. Therein, Cook mentions Darwin many times.
which draws on this from Wainwright (2011),
It is noteworthy that one of the main purposes of Captain Fitzroy’s command of the Beagle voyage was to study the arboriculture of the countries visited with a view to discovering where in the world British warships and merchant vessels might take on board wood for repairs (Cook, 1839). It is possible therefore that Captain Fitzroy may have taken a copy of Matthew’s Naval Timbers and Arboriculture with him on the Beagle; if this was the case then Darwin would have had ample time to learn of Matthew’s views on natural selection.
To appreciate the absurd amount of extrapolation in the absence of evidence, going on in these individuals’ minds, this is Howard Minnick’s (an equally deluded sidekick) interpretation related to Sutton,
[Dempster] was in contact with a professor from a University in New Zealand who was investigating the possibility that there may have been as many as 3 of Matthew’s books aboard the Beagle with the strongest possibility of the Ships Doctor / Naturalist being the most likely and that it probably stayed aboard with the rest of his personal library despite the poor gentleman taking sick and being left behind at Monte Video. Darwin’s ensuing closeness to the Captain as the voyage and exploration progressed certainly could have led to access without having to stretch the imagination. …
Wainwright cites Capt. S.E. Cook, R.N. who wrote a piece for Loudon’s “Gardener’s Magazine, And Register Of Rural And Domestic Improvement” on “The Arboriculture of the Voyage of Captains King and Fitzroy to the Straits of Magellan and Terra del Fuego”. Sutton repeats this citation. Wainwright asserts that the piece by Cook places arboriculture central to the Beagle’s mission, and Sutton asserts that related activities were to occupy Darwin. Sutton knows this because, it was evidently a passion of his (no basis for this, anymore than saying primroses were), and “Cook mentions Darwin many times”,
All this is easily checked.
The remainder of this post is taken up reproducing both the article by Cook, and the orders for the Beagle voyage as given to Fitzroy, and included in his part of the subsequently published account: both the book by Fitzroy and the article by Cook were published in 1839. The reason for my going to these lengths in making these already open access documents immediately available to you, is to go to every effort to save you the exertion that seems to be thwarting everyone else (tl:dr). An additional reason, is that I want you to be sure in your mind that when I raise an accusation in the following paragraphs, it is done so, fully in possession of the details required to give it foundation. My caution here is simply that, most of Sutton’s mistakes appear to have been just that, stupid and careless, but mistakes nonetheless. Can we say that any particular researcher’s mistakes are honest? Only if that person is qualified to carry out the work, usually by having attended courses, sat exams, completed dissertations, etc.. This is clearly not the case, Sutton is clueless, therefore he must accept responsibility in causing those errors.
Contrary to the claims of Wainwright, there is no suggestion that arboriculture was a main purpose of the Beagle voyage because there is no mention made of such an order within Fitzroy’s Instructions. The evidence contradicts those claims, and there is no suggestion as claimed by Sutton, that Darwin was allocated work to make arboreal observations. We can confidently assume this to be the case, because everything he did is otherwise was well documented in his own notes, and such observations do not appear. Significantly, Cook does not mention Darwin “many times“, calling into question Sutton’s ability to carry out the most basic fact checking and literature referencing. Darwin is mentioned by name just twice. Remind me how Sutton achieved his teaching position in a university?
Knowingly citing a source having not checked that it contains the information being asserted is a form of fraud, and one of the conditions specified by COPE, The Committee on Publication Ethics, that qualifies a paper for retraction. Retraction of published material is only expected in extreme cases, with serious consequences for all involved. It is sadly unavoidable here; responsibility for protecting the literature record much take precedence over personal humiliation. Undeniably, we have now moved from any possibility that the part claimed to have been played by Matthew’s book being aboard the Beagle arose through, “honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error)”, into the far more serious realm of “data fabrication” and citation abuse. While we might have accorded some leniency for inept research and belligerence, it is not possible to accommodate fraudulent misconduct. It is deceitful and at odds with the scientific ethos.
NTU must act to intervene in these activities of their staff member. A reminder that they are very much involved: named on every publication, in every one of his biographies within publications, associated with publications, written about publications, as well as taking centre stage in his talks: at the James Hutton Institute, at the Edinburgh Science Festival, at the Conway Hall, etc. Pretty much a nationwide advert for academia at NTU, clearly pushing the message, “Where data fabrication is accepted!”, or is that, “expected”?
Moving on, the first document below, is Cook’s “The Arboriculture of the Voyage of Captains King and Fitzroy”. Thereafter, Fitzroy’s “Instructions” follows immediately. To reiterate, in this document, you are looking for instances of “Darwin” (hint: contrary to Sutton’s claim, that “Cook mentions Darwin many times”, Darwin is mentioned by name just twice — you can use your page SEARCH to find them, the full text has been provided for that facility in mind).
The Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement, Volume 15 No. 117, December 1839. p292.
These volumes are the result of one of the most extensive operations in nautical surveying which have taken place since the peace, during which period great and highly creditable exertions have been made by the naval administrations, to wipe off the stain of the extraordinary ignorance we were previously in respecting many portions of the globe (our own coasts and harbours not excepted), which are of the greatest consequence to our extended navigation.
It is impossible even to sketch the observations which were carried on upon almost every subject connected with, or in any way bearing upon, the main object of the survey, which reflect lasting honour on all engaged in them; and we shall confine ourselves to those on botany, more especially to those which relate to our favourite branch of arboriculture.
The survey embraced more particularly the Straits of Magalhaens and Tierra del Fuego, with the adjacent coasts on each side of the continent of South America, of which we knew little except from the accounts left by the earlier navigators.
The southern termination of the continent is by the submersion of the great cordillera of the Andes, which, before its final disappearance, displays a prodigious number of peaks and valleys, of every shape and dimension, forming a most interesting archipelago. Some of the higher points reach nearly 7000 ft. in elevation, and in one part leave a channel (named after the Beagle surveying vessel) of 120 miles in length, by one in average breadth, the coast line of which is so straight, that the eye takes in the whole length at one view ; a circumstance, as far as we know, unique in the physical geography of the globe. The effect of this half-submerged chain on the climate and vegetation is very remarkable. The prevailing winds being from the Pacific, the vapours are arrested by the mountains, and precipitated in the shape of almost perpetual rain, making it, probably, the most humid region on the globe ; whilst the eastern or Patagonian side, stretching towards the pampas of Buenos Ayres, is afflicted with an excess of drought, causing almost hopeless sterility, and resembling that of the deserts of Africa or the steppes of Asia.
The central part of this vast archipelago, the rocks of which are chiefly primary, is covered with a vegetation peculiar to itself, and forming forests so deep and luxuriant, that they are compared by Mr. Darwin to those of Brazil. The monarch of these woods is the beech, of which two sorts, the F. betuloides and F. antarctica, appear to form the principal mass. The former species is evergreen, though the foliage is described as of a dull rusty appearance, and it attains a large size ; one tree having a trunk 20 ft. in circumference, carrying 17 ft. as high as 20 ft. and upwards, where it forms three branches of proportionate size. The wood was found to be useful for many purposes, though, as might have been foretold by any one acquainted with the genus, unfit for masts, for which use it was recommended by Byron. Most of the larger trees of this species were unsound at the heart, no doubt owing to the humidity of the subsoil ; and it was necessary to bore into them with an auger previously to cutting them down, in order to prevent disappointment. The deciduous species (F. antarctica) is more hardy than the evergreen, but we hear less of the timber. In parts which are exposed to the almost ceaseless tempests which desolate this dreary region in every season of the year, these trees, especially the last-mentioned species, become so stunted, that their appearance must be very singular. One tree, near Cape Horn, is described as being only an inch in height, and spreading 4 or 5 feet along the ground. In many instances, in ascending the mountains to make observations, the foliage of these dwarf trees, mixed with shrubs, was so dense, that the party walked or crawled over the surface, to pierce through being quite impracticable. The other associated species are, the Wintera aromatica, the Serberis ilicifolia, an arbutus, a fuchsia, the Gunnera integrifolia, and Cineraria leucanthema of Banks & Solander, a ribes, cranberries, and a chamitis, which formed a verdant carpet, assisting them to pass the bogs, which, with the rocks, seem alternately to form the surface of this dismal country. In addition to these and some others, we have an arborescent veronica (V. decussata?) growing to 20 ft. in height, and with a stem 6 in. in diameter, which is so hardy that it resists the hurricanes (called by the Patagonian name of williwaw), where nothing else will grow.
Amongst other peculiarities of this curious region, the Melisuga Kingii, a humming-bird which has the extraordinary range of at least 41 degrees of latitude along the western coast of South America, was found braving the frost and snow, as it extracted insects from the fuchsia and other flowers in almost every season; a parroquet, the Psittacus smarágdinus, which was first announced by Bougainville, whose assertions were doubted by some theorists, was also found abundantly ; and in one part the cormorants, of which there are several species, bred on trees in great numbers.
This vegetation was found to prevail as far as 47° on the west coast, where the survey terminated; but we have a valuable account of the Island of Chiloe, where they were obliged to go for the purpose of refitting. This large island is in the same humid region, and almost constant rain prevails ; but, from the latitude, it enjoys a more temperate climate, and the vegetation is abundant and varied. The forests are composed as follows : —
The Quadra heterophylla, a handsome tree, in appearance like the ash of Europe, furnishes a light and elastic timber, fit for oars and some other nautical uses. It is known by the name of avellana (hazel nut), from the fruit, which is about the size of a cherry, and is roasted and eaten. No doubt it received this appellation from the Asturians who originally settled in the island, the nut being common in their native country.
The Pagus obliqua Mirbel, a beech of large size, furnishes the best timber in the island, serving for frames of houses, planking of vessels, &c. There are two sorts ; one evergreen, which the writer thinks identical with the F. betuloides of the Straits of Magalhaens. We are not told whether one species is preferred to the other, but the description applies to both. The people have given it the name of roble, the Spanish for the Q. J?obur, or deciduous oak, no doubt from its general application to the uses for which that tree is, or rather was, applied ; for it is now too rare in the part of Spain above mentioned. The periguas (canoes) are principally built of this timber.
Tiqui, a heavy but strong and durable wood, of which the periguas are sometimes built.
Laurel, of which beams and other in-door works are constructed. In these situations it is durable, but will not bear exposure to wet.
The manu, a tall and straight tree, resembling a yew in the foliage. It is useful for various purposes in ship-building, and, next to alerce, is the best for masts. They endeavoured to procure one for this purpose, but all which were tried were unsound at the heart, no doubt from excess of humidity in the soil where they grew.
Muermo, one of the most useful trees in the island, being used for timbers, trees, and planking of boats, &c, and makes excellent firewood.
Luma (Myrtus Liuna) is used for poles of carriages, rafters, trenails, &c, and is exported to Lima. The fruit is sweet, and might afford a spirit by distillation.
A tree resembling the walnut in its wood produces strong and very useful timber.
There are several other species, of which the native names are given, of various qualities ; but no botanical names are added, for reasons which we shall state hereafter.
The Araucaria imbricata is found in the interior of Conception, in Chile, in lat. 37°. We are not informed at what distance the forests are inland, but none were seen near the coast, except a fine cultivated specimen, which was 40 ft. high. The cones are roasted, and sold in the streets under the name of piñones, the Spanish name of those of the P. Pinea.
By far the most interesting tree, however, of which we have an account in this work, is the alerse (it ought to he alerce), a large Conifera, of which the principal forests are in the cordillera opposite to Chiloe. The Spanish settlers had conferred this name upon it, no doubt, from some fancied resemblance to the tree of their Arab ancestors (the Thuja articulata) ; but, from the description, it would appear rather to be a pine. The principal account of it is by Captain King ; but Captain Fitzroy employed a Mr. Douglas to make an excursion for the purpose of examining the forests, which are now considerably inland, and difficult of access. By his account there are still trees of great dimensions in the interior, the largest he saw being 22 ft. and 24 ft. in girt at 5 ft. from the ground, though they were unsound. The largest felled within the last forty years measured 30 ft. at 5 ft. from the ground, and 76 ft. to the first branches, furnishing 1500 planks, the common proportion of the larger trees being from 800 to 900. He gave an account of a landslip which had carried down 1000 trees a few years since, many of them of large size. Astilleros, or timber yards, are formed in convenient situations, where the trunks are sawn into lengths of 8 or 9 feet, and then split by iron wedges into planks of various thickness, which are carried on men’s shoulders to the place of embarkation. So straight is the grain, that they split like slates, and are used for roofing, turning blue by exposure to the weather; and for flooring, and many other purposes. The wood is brittle, but. is not subject to warp or cast. The entire tree makes excellent masts, as they experienced ; but the difficulty of transport is such, that, although a very large price was offered, it was impossible to procure one in less than two months, and the governor kindly presented them with his flag-staff, which suited admirably. The bark is used for caulking, which purpose it answers while kept under water, but it will not bear the alternation of wet and dry.
The timber is not only in general use at Chiloe, but is largely exported to Lima and other places ; and, no doubt, a road to the interior forests would repay the projectors, the people being too poor for such undertakings. Far inland, beyond the reach of the Calbucanos, who carry on this laborious business, are said to be trees of 30 ft. to 40 ft. in girt, and 80 ft. to 90 ft. to the branches, the heads towering 40 ft. to 50 ft. higher. An associated species is called the cypress, which, no doubt, from the description, is different, although Captain King is doubtful on this point. The wood is white, that of the alerce being red, and it does not split so well as the latter timber.
There is a full and ample account of the Falkland Islands, which were surveyed by the expedition. This group, the principal islands of which are of considerable size, has no trees, or hardly shrubs ; but, the climate being mild and humid, the vegetation is most abundant, and the cattle and horses, which are running wild, attain a very large size. An account is quoted from a botanist called Vernet, who found twenty-seven species in a space of 12 ft. So great would be the advantages of forming a settlement here, for the purpose of supplying the Australian navigators, and as a depot in case of future wars, that it is extraordinary no steps are taken for the purpose.
We have now extracted the principal heads of the information afforded us by those officers who very fortunately found time, amid their most multitudinous avocations, to attend to a subject of such interest as the trees of the countries they visited. Probably many of our readers will be surprised when they are told that a regular botanist (Mr. Anderson) formed a part of the expedition, and that, his collections being sent to the British Museum ; Captain Fitzroy, who edited the work in Captain King’s absence, was led to expect that ” a first-rate botanist ” would report upon them : but, up to the time of the publication, nothing of the kind had been done, and the public was left without this most necessary and desirable information. Who is to blame in this extraordinary history ? The officers, by no means ; who, doubtless, only obeyed the orders given to them. The Admiralty, who, we may presume, issued the orders ? Not at all. It was the regular and official course; the British Museum being the place where every description of object collected in each department of government ought to be sent, and carefully deposited. We were sorry to see, quite recently, that some specimens of natural history were sent from the same office to the Zoological Society ; which, being a private establishment, and by no means of a fixed and permanent nature, but subject to the will and caprice of the proprietors, who may sell or otherwise dispose of their property at any time, has no right whatever to receive any portion of what properly belongs to the nation, the sole lawful depository of which is the Museum. Can the administration of that establishment be charged with this extraordinary piece of negligence ? We apprehend not ; for it does not appear that there is, properly speaking, any public botanical department there, the arrangements respecting Mr. Brown’s and the Banksian libraries being of a private nature. In fact, it appears it was the business of nobody, and that no one there is to blame for the disappointment of the gallant editor and the public. Who, then, is in fault ? Why, the Treasury, or general government, for not carrying out the measure recommended two years since, and for which all the preliminary steps were taken, by the severance Kew of Garden from the private list of the sovereign, and placing it under the general control of the administration. We very much fear that this most discreditable apathy and procrastination must be charged on my Lord Monteagle, who had it in his power to leave a noble monument of his administration, and of the accession of our youthful sovereign ; but, preferring the honours of the stock exchange to the promotion of science, chose to vanish amid a shower of exchequer bills, leaving the amateurs of natural history any thing but cause to lament his exit. We have heard, and the ridiculous absurdity of the anecdote inclines us to believe it to be true, that, every other arrangement being made, a difficulty arose as to the appointment of manager, the question lying between two most eminent individuals, equally fitted to do honour to the country and to those who might nominate them ; and that on this the business terminated. If it be so, some steps ought to be taken to settle the question, and not allow such important affairs to be sacrificed to such idle and puerile reasons. Whatever be the cause, it is lamentable to see the little progress we make, and how far the government is behind the intelligence of the public, which is calling out for an establishment of the kind, to which there is no other obstacle than the apathy and indolence of those at the head of state affairs. As it is, we see no hope of attaining this most desirable object but by the strenuous exertions of the leading members of the societies in London, whom it more immediately concerns, and by urging on the government. “Patting on the back” will not do, a stronger stimulus being required. Unfortunately, it is out of the common routine of the Treasury jobbing ; and, that ” universal fit,” the barristers of five years’ standing, not being quite qualified in this instance, we fear that, without some strong measures be taken, we shall be allowed to slumber on, being, as far as the government is concerned, behind the most paltry states on the Continent.
The only chance we appear to have at present for the introduction of these curious trees is in the Society of the Regent’s Park ; and we strongly recommend the managers of that institution, who seem desirous of showing the productions of the entire globe, to consider the subject at their next conversazione. There are only eight or nine gardens and arboretums yet marked out in the prospectus, and surely they could find space for a Hortus Antarcticus. The locality could be easily imitated ; there is no difficulty in obtaining bog earth ; the granite companies, probably, would supply rocks ; and, with the help of shower baths, and the application of bellows on a large scale, the eternal rains and williwaws of that region could be easily represented, to keep the plants in health ; whilst the steamer (a gigantic duck, the racehorse of the earlier navigators, which is capable of paddling along at the rate of fifteen miles an hour) would form an admirable addition to the lake.
Seriously, we hope that this last establishment (which, seeing the ridiculous absurdity of the plan and pretensions it set out with, may by skilful adaptation to the locality, form an ornament, and be extremely useful to the metropolis) be not set as ” a tub,” to turn the public attention from what it ought to be the object of the government to encourage instead of impeding. From the nature of the prospectus such an idea might be inferred, and, we earnestly hope, may turn out to be unfounded ; both for the credit of the queen’s government, and to avoid the universal ridicule which will attach to those who have lent their names to such a scheme, should it unfortunately prove to be the case.
We cannot conclude this notice without recurring to the work itself, which, as far as those engaged in it are concerned, is a noble monument of these times. The original expedition was commanded tyy Captain King, assisted by Captain Stokes, whose physical and moral strength gave way under the hard-ship he had to undergo. Captain Fitzroy succeeded him ; and, on the return of the expedition, was sent out in the Beagle to finish some parts of the survey, and extend the observations previously made. Finding the vessel alone to be quite inadequate to the performance of the services, he hired others, until he had incurred an expense he was unable to afford, and applied to have the men he employed paid and victualled at the public expense, proposing still to pay the hire of the vessels himself. This was refused by the Admiralty, and he returned with the service imperfectly performed; at least very much less done than might have been by a very trifling additional expenditure, and with the greater part of his private fortune (we have heard 7000/.) expended in following the dictates of professional and patriotic zeal. Except promotion, which was a matter of course, we believe not one farthing of this has been in any way made up to him. We are perfectly aware of the rules, and of the necessity of not allowing the private speculations or views of officers to be introduced as precedents for public expenditure, but there are circumstances in this case of rather a peculiar nature. In the first place, the object was a very noble one ; the force under his command was perfectly and wholly inadequate to the performance of it. These expeditions should always be confided to two vessels, either separate, or the one as tender to the other, as circumstances may require. The Beagle, though a safe and good vessel, had neither the accommodation nor stowage fit for a voyage of the sort ; and we invite the attention of any one acquainted with naval matters to the state of a ten-gun brig as described, when ready for sea, with boats on the quarters and on the quarter-deck. It is quite extraordinary how they managed, even to those acquainted with the subject. For these reasons, and on account of the great results obtained, it certainly does appear that some means should be taken of indemnifying Captain Fitzroy for the money he has actually expended in the public service.
We have not mentioned the important assistance afforded by Mr. Darwin, who accompanied the expedition at the desire of Captain Fitzroy to have a regular naturalist attached, because his information, although invaluable, is chiefly on geology, and subjects connected with it, and consequently is foreign to the nature of this publication.
In addition to his promotion, Captain Fitzroy received a medal from the Geographical Society. An anecdote, strange and incredible to those who do not know how the world is governed behind the scenes, is in circulation in “the clubs” respecting the conferring of this medal, to which it is said opposition was offered. It must be observed that in these cases the obligation or honour is reciprocal, or rather considerably to the opposite side of the balance, as held in this instance. A man who, like Captain Fitzroy, has left a name amongst the first navigators of his country, and the results of whose voyages have been considered to place him by the side of Humboldt, had nothing on earth to gain by receiving a medal from any society. In fact, of the two, the greater honour is conferred on the Society by allowing his name to be placed on their rolls. This is the real state of the case ; and, had the opposition succeeded instead of being a thorough and ridiculous failure, it must have placed the Society much in the situation of the Academy at Madrid, which refused to enrol Wilkie amongst its members, and has rendered its medals ever after valueless.
Note with interest, that Cook is under the impression that Darwin was identified as a naturalist, from the outset (“… Mr. Darwin, who accompanied the expedition at the desire of Captain Fitzroy to have a regular naturalist attached, …“), and not later as a consequence of usurping the rôle the official naturalist, until he was forced to be put ashore. This has been adequately handled by van Wyhe (2013 “My appointment received the sanction of the Admiralty”: why Charles Darwin really was the naturalist on HMS Beagle. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 44(3):316-26. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.03.022) and needs only noting as yet another fabrication by Sutton.
The only place Cook could have reasonably obtained this information is either by knowing Fitzroy or another naval officer, or from the mission directives sent to Fitzroy in preparation for the voyage. These are reproduced here in their entirety, as they appear from page 22 to 40 in FitzRoy’s 1839 account of the “Proceedings of the second expedition, 1831-36”. This time, you are seeking any connection of tree surveys with the official commands for the expedition. There are none, but again, it is better that you see for yourself. The SEARCH terms you might try this time are words like, “tree”, “timber”, “wood”, “arboreal”, “arboriculture”, “silviculture”, etc..
FitzRoy (1839) Proceedings of the second expedition, 1831-36. pp22-40.
By the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, &c.
You are hereby required and directed to put to sea, in the vessel you command, so soon as she shall be in every respect ready, and to proceed in her, with all convenient expedition, successively to Madeira or Teneriffe; the Cape de Verde Islands; Fernando Noronha; and the South American station; to perform the operations, and execute the surveys, pointed out in the accompanying memorandum, which has been drawn up under our direction by the Hydrographer of this office; observing and following, in the prosecution of the said surveys, and in your other operations, the directions and suggestions contained in the said memorandum.
You are to consider yourself under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Baker, Commander-in-chief of his Majesty’s ships on the South American station, whilst you are within the limits of that station, in execution of the services above-mentioned; and in addition to the directions conveyed to you in the memorandum, on the subject of your supplies of provisions, we have signified to the Rear-Admiral our desire that, whenever the occasion offers, you should receive from him and the officers of his squadron, any assistance, in stores and provisions, of which you may stand in need.
But during the whole time of your continuing on the above duties, you are (notwithstanding the 16th article of the 4th section of the 6th chapter, page 78, of the General Printed Instructions) to send reports, by every opportunity, to our Secretary, of your proceedings, and of the progress you make.
Having completed the surveys which you are directed to execute on the South American station, you are to proceed to perform the several further operations set forth in the Hydrographer’s memorandum, in the course therein pointed out; and having so done, you are to return, in the vessel you command, to Spithead, and report your arrival to our Secretary, for our information and further directions.
In the event of any unfortunate accident happening to yourself, the officer on whom the command of the Beagle may in consequence devolve, is hereby required and directed to complete, as far as in him lies, that part of the survey on which the vessel may be then engaged, but not to proceed to a new step in the voyage; as, for instance, if at that time carrying on the coast survey on the western side of South America, he is not to cross the Pacific, but to return to England by Rio de Janeiro and the Atlantic.
Given under our hands, the 11th of November 1831.
To Robert Fitz-Roy, Esq.,
Commander of his Majesty’s surveying vessel ‘Beagle,’ at Plymouth.
By command of their Lordships, (Signed)
SIR; Admiralty Office, 11th November 1831.
With reference to the order which my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have this day addressed to you, I am commanded by their lordships to transmit to you a memorandum, to be shown by you to any senior officer who may fall in with you, while you are employed on the duties pointed out in the above order.
I am, Sir, &c.
(Signed) “GEO. ELLIOT.”
To Commander Fitz-Roy,
‘Beagle’ surveying vessel, Plymouth.”
Admiralty Office, 11th November 1831.
My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having ordered Commander Fitz-Roy, of his Majesty’s surveying vessel the ‘Beagle,’ to make surveys of various parts of the South American station, it is their lordships’ direction that no senior officer who may fall in with Commander Fitz-Roy, while he is employed in the above important duties, do divert him therefrom, or in any way interfere with him, or take from him, on any account, any of his instruments or chronometers.
(Signed) “GEO. ELLIOT.”
A considerable difference still exists in the longitude of Rio de Janeiro, as determined by Captains King, Beechey, and Foster, on the one hand, and Captain W. F. Owen, Baron Roussin, and the Portuguese astronomers, on the other; and as all our meridian distances in South America are measured from thence, it becomes a matter of importance to decide between these conflicting authorities. Few vessels will have ever left this country with a better set of chronometers, both public and private, than the Beagle; and if her voyage be made in short stages, in order to detect the changes which take place in all chronometers during a continuous increase of temperature, it will probably enable us to reduce that difference within limits too small to be of much import in our future conclusions.
With this view, the run to Rio de Janeiro may be conveniently divided into four parts:—
1st. Touching at Madeira, the exact position of which has been admitted by all parties. Having obtained a four days’ rate there, or, if the weather and the exposed anchorage will not permit, at Teneriffe, the Beagle should, 2dly, proceed with the least possible delay to Port Praya, in the Cape de Verde Islands, not only to establish a fresh four days’ rate; but that point being the pivot on which all Captain Owen’s longitudes turn, no pains should be spared in verifying the position he has assumed for it. From thence, 3dly, she should make the best of her way across the Line to Fernando Noronha. This island, indeed, lies somewhat to the westward of her track, and may retard her progress a little; yet a series of chronometric observations there is essential to the object in view, because it forms the third nearly equal division of the whole run, and because it was the point of junction of Commander Foster’s double line of longitudes. If two or three days’ delay at either of these two last stations will enable him to obtain satisfactory occultations, and moon culminating observations, which are likely to be seen in this country, the increased certainty of the results will well atone for that loss of time. The Commander will, of course, be careful to adopt, in all those stations, the precise spot of the former observations, with which his are to be compared. The Governor of Fernando Noronha was peculiarly obliging to Commander Foster, and gave up part of his own house for the pendulum experiments. There will be no occasion now for trespassing so heavily on his kindness; but the difference of longitude between that station and Commander Fitz-Roy’s must be well measured.
However desirable it may be that the Beagle should reach Rio de Janeiro as soon as possible, yet the great importance of knowing the true position of the Abrolhos Banks, and the certainty that they extend much further out than the limits assigned to them by Baron Roussin, will warrant the sacrifice of a few days, if other circumstances should enable her to beat down about the meridian of 36° W. from the latitude of 16° S. The deep sea-line should be kept in motion; and if soundings be obtained, the bank should be pursued both ways, out to the edge, and in to that part already known.
Its actual extent to the eastward, and its connection with the shoals being thus ascertained, its further investigation may be left to more convenient opportunities.
At Rio de Janeiro, the time necessary for watering, &c. will, no doubt, be employed by the commander in every species of observation that can assist in deciding the longitude of Villegagnon Island.
It is understood that a French Expedition is now engaged in the examination of the coast between St. Catherine’s and the Rio de la Plata; it would therefore be a waste of means to interfere with that interval; and Commander Fitz-Roy should be directed to proceed to Monte Video, and to rate his chronometers in the same situation occupied by Captain King.
To the southward of the Rio de la Plata, the real work of the survey will begin. Of that great extent of coast which reaches from Cape St. Antonio to St. George’s bay, we only know that it is inaccurately placed, and that it contains some large rivers, which rise at the other side of the continent, and some good harbours, which are undoubtedly worth a minute examination. Much of it, however, from the casual accounts of the Spaniards, seems to offer but little interest either to navigation or commerce, and will scarcely require more than to have its direction laid down correctly, and its prominent points fixed. It should nevertheless be borne in mind there, and in other places, that the more hopeless and forbidding any long line of coast may be, the more precious becomes the discovery of a port which affords safe anchorage and wholesome refreshments.
The portions of the coast which seem to require particular examination are—
1st. From Monte Hermoso to the Rio Colorado, including the large inlet of Bahia Blanco, of which there are three manuscripts in this office that differ in every thing but in name.
2dly. The gulf of Todos los Santos, which is studded in the Spanish charts with innumerable islands and shoals. It is said to have an excellent harbour on its southern side, which should be verified; but a minute survey of such an Archipelago would be a useless consumption of time, and it will therefore be found sufficient to give the outer line of the dangers, and to connect that line with the regular soundings in the offing.
3dly. The Rio Negro is stated to be a river of large capacity, with settlements fifty miles from its mouth, and ought to be partially reconnoitred as far as it is navigable.
4thly. The gulf of San Matias should be examined, especially its two harbours, San Antonio and San José, and a narrow inlet on the eastern side of the peninsula, which, if easy of access, appears to be admirably situated: and—
5thly. From the Bahia Nueva to Cape Blanco, including the Gulf of St. George, the coast is of various degrees of interest, and will accordingly require to have more or less time bestowed on its different parts. The position of Cape Blanco should be determined, as there appears to be an error of some miles in its latitude, as well as much doubt about the places of two shoals which are marked near it in the Spanish charts.
From Cape Blanco to the Strait of Magalhaens, the coast has been partially corrected by Captain King; and Port Desire, having been carefully placed by him, will afford a good place for rating the chronometers, and an opportunity for exploring the river.
Port San Julian, with its bar and wide river, should be surveyed, as well as any parts of that interval which were not visited in the last expedition.
The above are the principal points of research between the Rio de la Plata and the Strait. They have been consecutively mentioned in order to bring them into one point of view; but that part of this service would perhaps be advantageously postponed till after the Beagle’s first return from the southward; and, generally speaking, it would be unwise to lay down here a specific route from which no deviation would be permitted. Where so many unforeseen circumstances may disturb the best-concerted arrangements, and where so much depends on climates and seasons with which we are not yet intimately acquainted, the most that can be safely done is to state the various objects of the voyage, and to rely on the Commander’s known zeal and prudence to effect them in the most convenient order.
Applying this principle to what is yet to be done in the Strait, and in the intricate group of islands which forms the Tierra del Fuego, the following list will show our chief desiderata.
Captain King, in his directions, alludes to a reef of half a mile in length, off Cape Virgins, and in his chart he makes a seven fathoms’ channel outside that reef; and still further out, five fathoms with overfalls. Sarmiento places fifty fathoms at ten miles E.S.E. from that Cape; thirteen fathoms at nineteen miles; and, at twenty-one miles in the same direction, only four fathoms, besides a very extensive bank projecting from Tierra del Fuego, between which and the above shoals Malaspina passed in thirteen fathoms. In short, there is conclusive evidence of there being more banks than one that obstruct the entrance to the Strait, and undoubtedly their thorough examination ought to be one of the most important objects of the Expedition; inasmuch, as a safe approach to either straits or harbours is of more consequence to determine than the details inside.
None of the above authors describe the nature of these shoals, whether rock or sand; it will be interesting to note with accuracy the slope, or regularity, of the depths, in their different faces, the quality of their various materials, and the disposition of the coarse or fine parts, as well as of what species of rock in the neighbourhood they seem to be the detritus; for it is probable that the place of their deposition is connected with the very singular tides which seem to circulate in the eastern end of the Strait.
Beginning at Cape Orange, the whole north-eastern coast of Tierra del Fuego as far as Cape San Diego should be surveyed, including the outer edge of the extensive shoals that project from its northern extreme, and setting at rest the question of the Sebastian Channel.
On the southern side of this great collection of islands, the Beagle Channel and Whale-boat Sound should be finished, and any other places which the Commander’s local knowledge may point out as being requisite to complete his former survey, and sufficiently interesting in themselves to warrant the time they will cost; such as some apparently useful ports to the westward of Cape False, and the north side of Wakefield Channel, all of which are said to be frequented by the sealers.
In the north-western part it is possible that other breaks may be found interrupting the continuity of Sta. Ines Island, and communicating from the Southern Ocean with the Strait; these should be fully or cursorily examined, according to their appearance and promise; and though it would be a very useless waste of time to pursue in detail the infinite number of bays, openings, and roads, that teem on the western side of that island, yet no good harbour should be omitted. It cannot be repeated too often that the more inhospitable the region, the more valuable is a known port of refuge.
In the western division of the Strait, from Cape Pillar to Cape Froward, there are a few openings which may perhaps be further explored, on the chance of their leading out to sea; a few positions which may require to be reviewed; and a few ports which were only slightly looked into during Captain King’s laborious and excellent survey, and which may now be completed, if likely to augment the resources of ships occupied in those dreary regions.
In the eastern division of the Strait there is rather more work to be done, as the Fuegian shore from Admiralty Sound to Cape Orange has not been touched. Along with this part of the service, the Islands of Saints Martha and Magdalena, and the channel to the eastward of Elizabeth Island, will come in for examination; and there is no part of the Strait which requires to be more accurately laid down and distinctly described, from the narrowness of the channels and the transverse direction of the tides. Sweepstakes Foreland may prove to be an Island; if so, there may be found an useful outlet to the long lee-shore that extends from Cape Monmouth; and if not, perhaps some safe ports might be discovered in that interval for vessels caught there in strong westerly gales.
It is not likely that, for the purposes of either war or commerce, a much more detailed account will be necessary of those two singular inland seas, Otway and Skyring Waters, unless they should be found to communicate with one of the sounds on the western coast, or with the western part of the Strait. The general opinion in the former Expedition was certainly against such a communication, and the phenomena of the tides is also against it; still the thing is possible, and it becomes an interesting geographical question, which a detached boat in fine weather will readily solve.
These several operations may probably be completed in the summer of 1833-34, including two trips to Monte Video for refreshments; but before we finally quit the eastern coast of South America, it is necessary to advert to our present ignorance of the Falkland Islands, however often they have been visited. The time that would be occupied by a rigorous survey of this group of islands would be very disproportionate to its value; but as they are the frequent resort of whalers, and as it is of immense consequence to a vessel that has lost her masts, anchors, or a large part of her crew, to have a precise knowledge of the port to which she is obliged to fly, it would well deserve some sacrifice of time to have the most advantageous harbours and their approaches well laid down, and connected by a general sketch or running survey. Clear directions for recognizing and entering these ports should accompany these plans; and as most contradictory statements have been made of the refreshments to be obtained at the east and west great islands, an authentic report on that subject by the Commander will be of real utility.
There is reason to believe that deep soundings may be traced from these islands to the main, and if regular they would be of great service in rectifying a ship’s place. Having now stated all that is most urgent to be done on this side of the South American Continent as well as in the circuit of Tierra del Fuego, the next step of the voyage will be Concepçion, or Valparaiso, to one of which places the Beagle will have to proceed for provisions, and where Captain King satisfactorily determined the meridian distances.
The interval of coast between Valparaiso and the western entrance of the Strait has been partly surveyed, as well as most of the deep and narrow channels formed by the islands of Hanover, Wellington, and Madre de Dios; but of the sea face of that great chain of islands which stretches from Queen Adelaide Archipelago to Campana Island, little has yet been done. It presents a most uninviting appearance, can probably afford but little benefit to the navigator, and the chief object in urging its partial examination, is to remove a blank from this great survey, which was undertaken by Great Britain from such disinterested motives, and which was executed by Captains King and Fitz- Roy with so much skill and zeal.
The experience gained by the latter in that climate will enable him to accomplish all that is now required in much less time than it would have occupied in the beginning of the former expedition.
At the Gulf of Peñas the last survey terminated. Of the peninsula de Tres Montes, and of the islands between that and Chilóe, a Spanish manuscript has been procured from Don Felipe Bauzá, which may greatly abridge the examination of that interval.
From thence to Valdivia, Concepçion, and Valparaiso, the shore is straight, and nearly in the direction of the meridian, so that it will require no great expenditure of time to correct the outline, and to fix the positions of all the salient points. Mocha Island is supposed to be erroneously placed: and the depth, breadth, and safety of its channel are not known.
To the south of Valparaiso the port of Topocalmo and the large shoal in the offing on which an American ship was wrecked, require special examination; and according to Captain Burgess, of the Alert, the coast and islands near Coquimbo are very imperfectly laid down. Indeed of the whole of this coast, the only general knowledge we have is from the Spanish charts, which seem, with the exception of certain ports, to have been merely the result of a running view of the shore. Of this kind of half-knowledge we have had too much: the present state of science, which affords such ample means, seems to demand that whatever is now done should be finally done; and that coasts, which are constantly visited by English vessels, should no longer have the motley appearance of alternate error and accuracy. If, therefore, the local Governments make no objections, the survey should be continued to Coquimbo, and indefinitely to the northward, till that period arrives when the Commander must determine on quitting the shores of South America altogether. That period will depend on the time that has been already consumed, and on the previous management of his resources, reserving sufficient to ensure his obtaining a series of well-selected meridian distances in traversing the Pacific Ocean.
The track he should pursue in executing this important duty cannot well be prescribed here, without foreseeing to what part of the coast he may have pushed the survey, and at what place he may find it convenient to take in his last supplies. If he should reach Guayaquil, or even Callao, it would be desirable he should run for the Galapagos, and, if the season permits, survey that knot of islands. Felix Island, the London bank seen by the brig Cannon, in 1827, in 27° 6′ S. 92° 16′ W., even with the water’s edge, and half a mile in length; some coral islands, supposed to be 5° or 6° south of Pitcairn Island, and other spots, which have crept into the charts on doubtful authority, would all be useful objects of research if the Beagle’s route should fall in their vicinity. But whatever route may be adopted, it should conduct her to Tahiti, in order to verify the chronometers at Point Venus, a point which may be considered as indisputably fixed by Captain Cook’s and by many concurrent observations. Except in this case, she ought to avoid as much as possible the ground examined by Captain Beechey.
From Tahiti the Beagle should proceed to Port Jackson touching at some of the intervening islands, in order to divide the run into judicious chronometer stages; for the observatory at Paramatta (Port Jackson) being absolutely determined in longitude, all those intervening islands will become standard points to which future casual voyagers will be able to refer their discoveries or correct their chronometers.
From Port Jackson her course will depend on the time of the year. If it be made by the southward, she might touch at Hobart Town, King George Sound, and Swan River, to determine the difference of longitude from thence to the Mauritius, avoiding the hurricane months; to Table or Simon’s Bay, according to the season; to St. Helena, Ascension, and home.
If she should have to quit Port Jackson about the middle of the year, her passage must be made through Torres Strait. In her way thither, if the in-shore route be adopted, there are several places whose positions it will be advantageous to determine:—Moreton Bay, Port Bowen, Cape Flinders, and one of the Prince of Wales Islands; and in pursuing her way towards the Indian Ocean, unless the wind should hang to the southward, Cape Valsche or the south-west extreme of New Guinea, one of the Serwatty Chain, Coupang, or the extreme of Timor, Rotte Island, and one of the extremes of Sandal-wood Island, may be easily determined without much loss of time. And, perhaps, in crossing the ocean, if circumstances are favourable, she might look at the Keeling Islands, and settle their position.
Having now enumerated the principal places at which the Beagle should be directed to touch in her circuit of the globe, and described the leading operations which it would be desirable to effect, it remains to make some general remarks on the conduct of the whole survey.
In such multiplied employments as must fall to the share of each officer, there will be no time to waste on elaborate drawings. Plain, distinct roughs, every where accompanied by explanatory notes, and on a sufficiently large scale to show the minutiæ of whatever knowledge has been acquired, will be documents of far greater value in this office, to be reduced or referred to, than highly finished plans, where accuracy is often sacrificed to beauty.
This applies particularly to the hills, which in general cost so much labour, and are so often put in from fancy or from memory after the lapse of months, if not of years, instead of being projected while fresh in the mind, or while any inconsistencies or errors may be rectified on the spot. A few strokes of a pen will denote the extent and direction of the several slopes much more distinctly than the brush, and if not worked up to make a picture, will really cost as little or less time. The in-shore sides of the hills, which cannot be seen from any of the stations, must always be mere guess-work, and should not be shown at all.
It should be considered an essential branch of a nautical survey, to give the perpendicular height of all remarkable hills and headlands. It requires but a single angle at each station, adds much to our geographical knowledge, materially assists the draftsman, and by tables which are now printing it will afford to the seaman a ready and exact means of knowing his distance.
All charts and plans should be accompanied by views of the land; those which are to be attached to the former should be taken at such a distance as will enable a stranger to recognize the land, or to steer for a certain point; and those best suited for the plan of a port should show the marks for avoiding dangers, for taking a leading course, or choosing an advantageous berth. In all cases the angular distances and the angular altitudes of the principal objects should be inserted in degrees and minutes on each of the views, by which means they can be projected by scale, so as to correct any want of precision in the eye of the draftsman. Such views cannot be too numerous; they cost but a few moments, and are extremely satisfactory to all navigators.
Trifling as it may appear, the love of giving a multiplicity of new and unmeaning names tends to confuse our geographical knowledge. The name stamped upon a place by the first discoverer should be held sacred by the common consent of all nations; and in new discoveries it would be far more beneficial to make the name convey some idea of the nature of the place; or if it be inhabited, to adopt the native appellation, than to exhaust the catalogue of public characters or private friends at home. The officers and crews, indeed, have some claim on such distinction, which, slight as it is, helps to excite an interest in the voyage.
Constant observations on the tides, including their set, force, and duration, the distance to which they carry salt water up the rivers, their rise at the different periods of the lunation, and the extent to which they are influenced by the periodic winds, by the sea currents, or by the river freshes, form so prominent a part of every surveyor’s duty, that no specific directions on this subject can be necessary. Nor is there any occasion to insist here on the equally important subject of currents; for it is only by a great accumulation of data that we can ever hope to reduce them to regular systems, or that we can detect the mode in which they are affected by change of seasons, or influenced by distant winds.
The periods and limits of the monsoons and trade-winds will naturally be a continual object of the Commander’s observation and study. It is true that he can only witness what occurs during his voyage; but besides collecting facts on this and the last subject, on which others can hereafter reason, it will be of immense advantage that he should endeavour to digest them with the remarks of former voyagers when on the spot.
On the western coast of South America, for instance, some skill is required in making passages at different periods, and much scattered experience has been gained by seamen who have been long occupied there; but this information has not yet been presented to the public in an intelligible form; and it seems to be the peculiar province of an officer expressly employed on a scientific mission like this, to combine that information with his own, and to render it accessible to every navigator.
The local attraction of the Beagle will of course have been ascertained before she leaves England; but when favourable opportunities occur, it will be satisfactory to swing her again in different latitudes, and under large differences of variation.
No day should pass at sea without a series of azimuths, and no port should be quitted without having ascertained not only the magnetic angle, but the dip, intensity, and diurnal variation. If these observations should have been well made in the same places before, we shall at once obtain the annual change; and by multiplying them in new places, we shall have the means of inferring the magnetic curves.
The Commander has been so accustomed to the management of chronometers, that there is no doubt, with proper precautions and with proper formulæ for determining their rates, that he will succeed in obtaining good results in reasonably short intervals of time and in gradual changes of temperature; but after long periods, and sudden changes of heat and cold, it will be absolutely necessary to check them by astronomical means.
Eclipses, occultations, lunar distances, and moon-culminating stars, will furnish those means in abundance: of all these, the last can be obtained with the greatest regularity and certainty; they have become part of the current business at the establishments of the Cape of Good Hope, Paramatta, and St. Helena, in the southern hemisphere; probably at Madras, and in many of the European observatories, and it will therefore be scarcely possible that there should not be corresponding observations for all such as he may have made.
The eclipses of Jupiter’s third and fourth satellites should also be sedulously observed whenever both immersion and emersion can be seen, as the different powers of the telescopes employed by the observers do not in that case affect the results.
There are also some remarkable phenomena, which will be announced in the Nautical Almanacks, and which will occur during the Beagle’s voyage. Some of these will be highly interesting to astronomers, and if it would not much derange her operations, she should be taken to some convenient anchorage for the purpose of landing the instruments.
If a comet should be discovered while the Beagle is in port, its position should be determined every night by observing its transit over the meridian, always accompanied by the transits of the nearest known stars, and by circum-meridional altitudes, or by measuring its angular distance from three well-situated stars by a sextant. This latter process can be effected even at sea, and the mean of several observations may give very near approximations to its real position.
Meteorological Registers may be of use in a variety of ways; but then they must be steadily and accurately kept. The barometer should be read off to the third place of decimals, and recorded at regular periods of the day; nine o’clock and four o’clock may be recommended as the best, as being the usual hours of its maximum and minimum. The temperature should be marked at the same time, and the extremes of the self-registering thermometer should be daily recorded; care being taken that no reflected heat should act on any of these instruments. The temperature of the sea at the surface ought to be frequently observed and compared with that of the air. An officer cruizing on the east coast of South America, between the parallels of 20° and 35°, was enabled by these means to predict with singular precision the direction and strength of the current.
In this register the state of the wind and weather will, of course, be inserted; but some intelligible scale should be assumed, to indicate the force of the former, instead of the ambiguous terms ‘fresh,’ ‘moderate,’ &c., in using which no two people agree; and some concise method should also be employed for expressing the state of the weather. The suggestions contained in the annexed printed paper are recommended for the above purposes, and if adopted, a copy should be pasted on the first page of every volume of the log-book; and the officer of the watch should be directed to use the same terms in the columns of the log-board.
The circularly-formed Coral Islands in the Pacific occasionally afford excellent land-locked harbours, with a sufficient entrance, and would be well adapted to any nice astronomical observations which might require to be carried on in undisturbed tranquillity. While these are quietly proceeding, and the chronometers rating, a very interesting inquiry might be instituted respecting the formation of these coral reefs.
An exact geological map of the whole island should be constructed, showing its form, the greatest height to which the solid coral has risen, as well as that to which the fragments appear to have been forced. The slope of its sides should be carefully measured in different places, and particularly on the external face, by a series of soundings, at very short distances from each other, and carried out to the greatest possible depths, at times when no tide or current can affect the perpendicularity of the line. A modern and very plausible theory has been put forward, that these wonderful formations, instead of ascending from the bottom of the sea, have been raised from the summits of extinct volcanoes; and therefore the nature of the bottom at each of these soundings should be noted, and every means exerted that ingenuity can devise of discovering at what depth the coral formation begins, and of what materials the substratum on which it rests is composed. The shape, slope, and elevation of the coral knolls in the lagoon would also help the investigation; and no circumstances should be neglected which can render an account of the general structure clear and perspicuous.
A set of observations connected with the theory of the tides might likewise be carried on with peculiar propriety in one of these coral basins, provided the openings should be sufficiently wide and deep to admit the flux and reflux without material impediment. The island selected for such a purpose should be nearly midway in the ocean, and not very far from the equator. There the tidal wave, uninfluenced by the interrupting barrier of one continent, and equally far from the reaction of the other, might be measured with very beneficial results. Delicate tide-gauges should be prepared beforehand, and immediately fixed in some snug nook, where the undulation of the sea could not reach. The rise and fall of the tide should be registered every hour, during the stay of the Beagle, as well as the moments (stated whether in apparent or mean time) of high and low water, as nearly as they can be obtained; and the periods at which the sea and land breezes spring up and fail should likewise be noted, with their effects on the tide, if they can be detected. A boat should be detached, on each tide, to some distance from the island, in order to ascertain the strength and direction of the stream; and all these operations should be continued, if possible, through a whole lunation.
Compiling general and particular instructions, for the navigation of all the places which he may visit, will of course be an essential part of the Commander’s duty; but he will also have innumerable opportunities of collecting a variety of auxiliary information, which, when judiciously combined with the above instructions, of a purely nautical character, will much enhance their utility to all classes of vessels. Such as the general resources on which ships may depend in different places: the chief productions that can be obtained, and the objects most anxiously desired in return: the effect of seasons, of climate, and of peculiar articles of food on the health of the crew, and many others which will readily occur to his mind, and which become of great value to a stranger.
On all the subjects touched on in these memoranda, Commander Fitz-Roy should be directed to draw up specific reports, and to transmit them from time to time, through their Lordship’s Secretary, to the Hydrographic Office, so that if any disaster should happen to the Beagle, the fruits of the expedition may not be altogether lost. Besides such reports, and with the same object in view, he should keep up a detailed correspondence by every opportunity with the Hydrographer.
The narrative of every voyage in the Pacific Ocean abounds with proofs of the necessity of being unremittingly on guard against the petty treacheries or more daring attacks of the natives. It should be recollected that they are no longer the timid and unarmed creatures of former times, but that many of them now possess fire-arms and ammunition, and are skilful in the use of them. Temper and vigilance will be the best preservatives against trivial offences and misunderstandings, which too often end in fatal quarrels; and true firmness will abandon objects of small importance, where perseverance must entail the necessity of violence; for it would be a subject of deep regret that an expedition devoted to the noblest purpose, the acquisition of knowledge, should be stained by a single act of hostility.
Hydrographical Office, 11th November 1831.
Interesting that the admiralty mentioned, “a very interesting inquiry might be instituted respecting the formation of these coral reefs“, which is on of the many contributions Darwin made, and for which he made his name in geology long before turning to transmutation. However, notably, not a single reference to anything arboreal. Remember, specific claims have been made on the basis of specific evidence, but that evidence does not exist. It might have been an unwritten expectation for a captain to include shoreline forestation in their surveys, but it is not stipulated, and cannot be assumed. Similarly, the closest that might be presumed to suggest timber is, “the general resources on which ships may depend in different places“, but again, it is not specific, and if usual practise, then it does not follow, the captain suddenly stocking up on new titles for something he did routinely.
There is one other comment that we might take note of, and that is within Cook’s report, that certainly cover’s the topic of timber, which seems to contradict the lack of formal orders, until we realise, any timber surveying was carried out by crew members, in addition to their official responsibilities,
We have now extracted the principal heads of the information afforded us by those officers who very fortunately found time, amid their most multitudinous avocations, to attend to a subject of such interest as the trees of the countries they visited. Probably many of our readers will be surprised when they are told that a regular botanist (Mr. Anderson) formed a part of the expedition, and that, his collections being sent to the British Museum, Captain Fitzroy, who edited the work in Captain King’s absence, was led to expect that “a first-rate botanist” would report upon them : but, up to the time of the publication, nothing of the kind had been done, and the public was left without this most necessary and desirable information. Who is to blame in this extraordinary’ history ? The officers, by no means ; who, doubtless, only obeyed the orders given to them. The Admiralty, who, we may presume, issued the orders ? Not at all.
We know it not to be the fault of the Admiralty, because Cook assumes wrongly that there were official orders for timber surveying, unless they were a part of the first expedition, and intended to apply to subsequent missions. However, if this is the case, there was little provision to accommodate timber surveying, as the work was carried out, above and beyond, other responsibilities, and the sole botanist is not identified as having had a timber surveying rôle.
It must be kept in mind that on this, the Beagle’s second trip with Darwin on board, the mission was specifically for hydrographic survey, focussing on features of offshore and coastline that influence navigation. Hence the mentions of soundings for depth, and chronometer for longitude (they carried twenty-two chronometers, as a self-regulating system) and great importance was put on this part of the mission. As a result, they produced the first circumnavigation of known longitude, by which other ships could adjust their chronometers. For more information, Sobel’s Longitude is an obvious start (telling the tale of Lincolnshire clockmaker John Harrison and his quest to invent a reliably seaworthy chronometer. The Beagle carried none of Harrison’s pieces; the price had dropped considerably in the 55 years since he had died) and all the pieces came from different makers.
It has to be concluded that, whilst timber may have been noted with respect to ongoing repairs, as one of the, “resources on which ships may depend”, or the location of trees as points of navigation, especially near ports, there is no existing document that supports the claim, there would have been, one, or many, copies of Matthew’s book aboard the Beagle.