I have stated in the preface to the first Edition of this work, and in the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, that it was in consequence of a wish expressed by Captain Fitz Roy, of having some scientific person on board, accompanied by an offer from him of giving up part of his own accommodations, that I volunteered my services, which received, through the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, the sanction of the Lords of the Admiralty. As I feel that the opportunities which I enjoyed of studying the Natural History of the different countries we visited, have been wholly due to Captain Fitz Roy, I hope I may here be permitted to repeat my expression of gratitude to him; and to add that, during the five years we were together, I received from him the most cordial friendship and steady assistance. Both to Captain Fitz Roy and to all the Officers of the Beagle [note 1] I shall ever feel most thankful for the undeviating kindness with which I was treated during our long voyage.
What a tour de force! I loved reading a chapter and then traveling around the current place with Google Maps. Places like Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, Chiloe... so interesting to read how they were then and what they look like now.55
One of the great masterpieces of purposeful travel. Unlike Origin of Species, this work is confined largely to direct, brilliantly insightful personal observation, rendered in cogent, precise prose, and does not constitute a sustained argument. What theories are expounded are offered in passing to rationalize curiosities witnessed. The singular exception occurs late in the narrative, where Darwin offers a convincing, but rather tiresome unified theory of coral reefs, including the complete life cycle of atolls. This stretch is very like his style in Origin of Species, though it fortunately offers far fewer exhaustively repetitious evidences. A younger, less cautious, and more entertaining Darwin.55