Born on the same day 200 years ago, Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln changed the world forever. We can’t say that Darwin invented the notion of evolution any more than we can say Lincoln, who shares Darwin’s birthday of February 12, 1809, invented the idea of freedom. However, it is true that both men left legacies that have sparked controversy since their deaths. Since this is a travel blog, I’m going to focus the rest of my text on Darwin (sorry Lincoln fans).
The journey of a young Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle between 1831 and 1836 is one of the best known adventures in the history of science. The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, tend to be the most notorious stops of the Beagle. However, this simplified tale of Darwin’s discoveries misses an interesting point: Darwin’s first real clues of evolution came not in the Galapagos but three years earlier, along the north coast of Argentina. It was here that Darwin found a treasure trove of fossils, including long-gone armadillos and giant sloths. As the voyage continued, Darwin made new discoveries, all of which lingered in his memory and triggered his imagination for years to come. The Galapagos were one of the Beagle’s final stops and their lasting impression is evident in Darwin’s writings.
In honor of Darwin’s bicentennial, here are some photos from the Galapagos Islands. Island residents like the giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and sea lions had a long history before the arrival of human cohabitants. As a result, visitors can really get up close and personal upon arrival, leaving a lasting impression even today.
Author’s note: I’m not sure that anyone was allowed to call Mr. Darwin by the name of Chuck, but I like to think this may be the case.
For more inclusive coverage of the dual bicentennial, check out the February 2009 editions of National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines.