Moth Eyes

Navigating a demon-haunted world

Chapter 6 – Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires

I’m not going to say very much about this chapter – mostly, it’s a diary of a mostly uneventful trip across the plains, via a series of military outposts. I’m only planning on bringing up a few interesting anecdotes.

Darwin passes a high mountain, unexplored by any Europeans. Naturally, therefore, there were a lot of rumours. “Hence we heard of beds of coal, of gold and silver, of caves, and of forests, all of which inflamed my curiosity, only to disappoint.”

He discusses invasive species:

Near the Guardia we find the southern limit of two European plants, now become extraordinarily common. The fennel in great profusion covers the ditch-banks in the neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Monte Video, and other towns. But the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) has a far wider range: it occurs in these latitudes on both sides of the, Cordillera [mountain range along a coastline], across the continent. I saw it in unfrequented spots in Chile, Entre Rios, Banda Oriental. In the latter country alone, very many (probably several hundred) square miles are covered by one mass of these prickly plants, and are impenetrable by man or beat. Over the undulating plains, where these greats beds occur, nothing else can now live. Before their introduction, however, the surface must have supported, as in other parts, a rank herbage. I doubt whether any case is on record of an invasion on so grand a scale of one plant over the aborigines.

March 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm Comments (0)

Chapter 05 – Bahia Blanca

So, uh, a three week delay. This was a really dense chapter? That’s true, certainly, but perhaps more relevantly, I completely unexpectedly started an honours degree (I didn’t actually finish the application, and wasn’t exactly planning on doing so this year anyway, but they accepted me anyway). More on that later, but let’s return to the narrative.

… I observed a fact, which seems to me very curious and instructive, as showing how every character, even though it may be in some degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary by small degrees.
Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle

After the Beagle sails from Bahia Blanca, Darwin remains on land to ride to Buenos Aires. In this chapter, Darwin discusses paleontology, ecology, the animals he finds in the area, and the war against the Indians. It’s also a rich source for fascinating insights into Darwin’s thinking, and I’ve taken the liberty of bringing out quite a few interesting quotes. Again, we can see how many observations Darwin made that led him to developing his theory.

Nearer the coast there are some plains formed from the wreck of the upper plain, and from mud, gravel, and sand thrown up by the sea during the slow elevation of the land, of which we have evidence in upraised beds of recent shells, and in rounded pebbles of pumice scattered over the country. At Punta Alta we have a section of one of these later-formed little plains, which is highly interesting from the number and extraordinary character of the remains of gigantic land-animals embedded in it.


March 24, 2009 at 1:10 am Comments (0)

Chapter 04 – Rio Negro to Bahia Blanca

Thus we have a little living world within itself adapted to these inland lakes of brine.
Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle

On April 3, 1833, the Beagle arrives at the mouth of the Rio Negro. Darwin begins by commenting on the geography: sandstone strata, with a layer of pumice (volcanic) pebbles – did these travel all the way (400 miles) from the Andes? The surface is largely gravel, with even brackish water scarce. The small colony, called El Carmen (or Patagones), is small and at risk from attack by Indians, and stories of several such attacks are related to Darwin.

March 1, 2009 at 12:21 pm Comments (6)