Mt Shasta Essay

2581 Words May 18th, 2014 11 Pages
What Darwin Didn’t Know: Darwin's First Clues: By David Quammen, Photograph by Luciano Candisani, MInden Pictures
The journey of young Charles Darwin aboard His Majesty's Ship Beagle, during the years 1831-36, is one of the best known and most neatly mythologized episodes in the history of science. Darwin visited the Galápagos archipelago in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and there beheld giant tortoises and finches. The finches, many species of them, were distinguishable by differently shaped beaks, suggesting adaptations to particular diets. The tortoises, island by island, carried differently shaped shells. These clues from the Galápagos led to conclude that Earth's living diversity has arisen by an organic process of descent with
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For more than a month the Beagle remained in that area, some of its crew occupied with surveying, others assigned to shore duties—digging a well, gathering firewood, hunting for meat. The landscape round about was classic Argentine Pampas, fertile grassland, giving way to grass-anchored sand dunes along the coast. The hunters brought back deer, agoutis, and other game, including several armadillos and a large flightless bird Darwin loosely called an "ostrich." Of course it wasn't an ostrich (which is native to Africa, and formerly the Middle East); it was a rhea, specifically Rhea americana, ostrichlike in appearance but endemic to South America and the heaviest bird on the continent.
"What we had for dinner to day would sound very odd in England," Darwin wrote in his diary on September 18, reveling in the exoticism of his new regimen: "Ostrich dumpling & Armadilloes." He was out for a romping adventure, not just a natural history field trip, and his shipboard diary (later transformed into a travel book that came to be known as The Voyage of the Beagle) reflects his attention to cultures, peoples, politics, as well as to science. The red meat of the big bird resembled beef, he recorded. The armadillos, peeled out of their shells, tasted and looked like ducks. His culinary experiences here on the Pampas, and later in Patagonia, besides being part of his voracious tour of discovery, would eventually play a role in his evolutionary thinking.
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