28th February 1832

Bahia, Brazil
About 9 oclock we were near to the coast of Brazil; we saw a considerable extent of it, the whole line is rather low and irregular, and from the profusion of wood and verdure of a bright green colour. About 11 oclock we entered the bay of All Saints, on the Northern Side of which is situated the town of Bahia or St Salvador. It would be difficult [to] imagine, before seeing the view, anything so magnificent. It requires, however, the reality of nature to make it so — if faithfully represented in a picture, a feeling of distrust would be raised in the mind, as I think is the case in some of Martins pictures views. The town is fairly embosomed in a luxuriant wood and situated on a steep bank overlooks the calm waters of the great bay of All Saints.

The houses are white and lofty and from the windows being narrow and long have a very light and elegant appearance. Convents, Porticos and public buildings vary the uniformity of the houses: the bay is scattered over with large ships; in short the view is one of the finest in the Brazils. But their beauties are as nothing compared to the Vegetation; I believe from what I have seen Humboldts glorious descriptions are and will for ever be unparalleled: but even he with his dark blue skies and the rare union of poetry with science which he so strongly displays when writing on tropical scenery, with all this falls far short of the truth. The delight one experiences in such times bewilders the mind, if the eye attempts to follow the flight of a gaudy butter-fly, it is arrested by some strange tree or fruit; if watching an insect one forgets it in the stranger flower it is crawling over, if turning to admire the splendour of the scenery, the individual character of the foreground fixes the attention. The mind is a chaos of delight, out of which a world of future and more quiet pleasure will arise. I am at present fit only to read Humboldt; he like another Sun illumines everything I behold.

27th Feb 1832

Fernando Noronha to Bahia
Quietly sailing, tomorrow we shall reach Bahia.

26th Feb 1832

Fernando Noronha to Bahia
For the first time in my life I saw the sun at noon to the North: yesterday it was very near over our heads and therefore of course we are a little to the South of it. I am constantly surprised at not finding the heat more intense than it is; when at sea and with a gentle breeze blowing one does not even wish for colder weather. I am sure I have frequently been more oppressed by a hot summers day in England.

23rd, 24th & 25th Feb 1832

Fernando Noronha to Bahia
These three days have passed by quietly and without note. On the 23d we had scarcely got out of the "variables" which are so common in the Equatorial regions, but for the two last days we have been driving with a steady Trade wind for the continent of S America.

Since leaving Teneriffe the sea has been so calm that it is hard to believe it the same element which tossed us about in the Bay of Biscay. This stillness is of great moment to the quantity of comfort which is attainable on ship-board, hitherto I have been surprised how enjoyable life is in this floating prison. But the greatest and most constant drawback to this is the very long period which separates us from our return. Excepting when in the midst of tropical scenery, the my greatest share of pleasure is in anticipating a future time when I shall be able to look back on past events; and the consciousness that this prospect is so distant never fails to be painful. To enjoy the soft and delicious evenings of the Tropic; to gaze at the bright band of Stars which stretches from Orion to the Southern Cross, and to enjoy such pleasures in quiet solitude, leaves an impression which a few years will not destroy.

22nd Feb 1832

Fernando Noronha
The wind has continued so variable that this morning we were yet in sight of Fernando Noronha. The day has been uncomfortably hot and the evening deliriously cool. The most serious discomfort which affects me, is the difficulty of sleeping: before going to bed it is next to impossible to keep the head from falling on the book, but the instant one is in the hammock all sleep deserts you.

21st Feb 1832

Fernando Noronha
We sailed at night, but have not made much way this morning, latterly it has been a dead calm, the ships head standing the wrong way. As long as one was motionless the extreme heat is rather enjoyable but after any bodily or mental exertion a most helpless degree of languor comes over every faculty. During the night it is like sleeping in a warm bath. I am forced to get out and lie on the table, the hardness of which is delightful after the round soft hammock.

20th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
... that the hills are by no means lofty. I have written one account of the Island in my geology and it is much too hard work to copy anything when the sun is only a few degrees from the Zenith. I spent a most delightful day in wandering about the woods. The whole island is one forest, and this is so thickly intertwined that it requires great exertion to crawl along. The scenery was very beautiful, and large Magnolias and Laurels and trees covered with delicate flowers ought to have satisfied me. But I am sure all the grandeur of the Tropics has not yet been seen by me. We had no gaudy birds. No humming birds. No large flowers. I am glad that I have seen these islands, I shall enjoy the greater wonders all the more from having a guess what to look for. All the trees either bearing some fruit or large flower is perhaps one of the most striking things that meet one, whilst wandering in a wood in these glorious regions.

I joined the Captain in the evening and was informed that we should sail that very evening. What decided his plans is the great difficulty in landing in the surf.

19th Feb 1932

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
This morning a vessel was in sight, but would not show her colours. An hour before sunset Fernando was clearly visible; it appears an extraordinary place, there is one lofty mountain that at a distance looks as if it was overhanging. We are at present lying off and on, and as soon as the moon gets up we shall anchor in the harbor. Just before it was dark Sullivan harpooned a large porpoise. The instrument was hurled with such force that it passed through the entire body. In a few minutes a fine animal about five feet long, was lying on the deck and in a still less time a dozen knives were skinning him for supper. The view of the group of Islands was very grand by the clear moonlight, and I felt rather disappointed when I found at day-break...

18th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
At last I certainly am in the Southern hemisphere, and whilst enjoying the cool air of the evening, I can gaze at the Southern Cross, Magellans cloud and the great crown of the South. In August quietly wandering about Wales, in February in a different hemisphere; nothing ever in this life ought to surprise me. I find I had formed a very exaggerated idea of the heat in these zones during their cooler months. I have often grumbled at a hot summers day in England in much more earnest than I do at present.

17th Feb 1832

The Equator
We have crossed the Equator. I have undergone the disagreeable sensation operation of being shaved. About 9 oclock this morning we poor "griffins" two and thirty in number, were put altogether on the lower deck. The hatchways were battened down, so we were in the dark and very hot. Presently four of Neptunes constables came to us, and one by one led us up on deck. I was the first and escaped easily: I nevertheless found this watery ordeal sufficiently disagreeable. Before coming up, the constable blindfolded me and thus lead along, buckets of water were thundered all around; I was then placed on a plank, which could be easily tilted up into a large bath of water. They then lathered my face and mouth with pitch and paint, and scraped some of it off with a piece of roughened iron hoop, a signal being given I was tilted head over heels into the water, where two men received me and ducked me. At last, glad enough, I escaped, most of the others were treated much worse, dirty mixtures being put in their mouths and rubbed on their faces. The whole ship was a shower bath: and water was flying about in every direction: of course not one person, even the Captain, got clear of being wet through.

15th & 16th Feb 1832

St Pauls Rocks

Saw the rocks of St Pauls right ahead:[Photo taken during a landing in 2002]

Heaved to during the night, and this morning we were a few miles distant from them. — When within 3 miles, two boats were lowered, one with Mr Stokes for surveying the island, the other with Mr Wickham and myself for geologizing and shooting. — St Pauls may be considered as the top of a submarine mountain. — It is not above 40 feet above the sea, and about 1/2 a mile in circumference. — Bottom could not be found within a mile of the Island, and if the depth of the Atlantic is as great as it is usually supposed, what an enormous pyramid this must be. —

We had some difficulty in landing as the long swell of the open sea broke with violence on the broken rocky coast. — We had seen from a distance large flocks of sea-birds soaring about, and when we were on the Island a most extraordinary scene was presented. — We were surrounded on every side by birds, so unaccustomed to men that they would not move. — We knocked down with stones and my hammer the active and swift tern. — Shooting was out of the question, so we got two of the boats crew and the work of slaughter commenced. They soon collected a pile of birds, and hats full of eggs.

Whilst we were so active on shore, the men in the boat were not less so. — They caught a great number of fine large fish and would have succeeded much better had not the sharks broken so many of their hooks and lines: they contrived to land three of these latter fish, and during our absence 2 large ones were caught from the ship. — We returned in great triumph with our prey, but were a good deal fatigued. —

The island is only 50 miles from the Equator, and the rocks being white from the birds dung, reflected a glaring heat. — The birds were only of two sorts, Booby and Noddys, and these with a few insects were the only organized beings that inhabited this desolate spot. —

In the evening the ceremonies for crossing the line commenced: The officer on watch reported a boat ahead. — The Captain turned "hands up, shorten sail", and we heaved to in order to converse with Mr Neptune. The Captain held a conversation with him through a speaking trumpet, the result of which was that he would in the morning pay us a visit.

14th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
To day at noon we were 150 miles from the Equator, and have experienced the weather which is so frequent in these regions. The wind has been light and variable accompanied by small squalls and much rain. The thermometer is night and day between 75 and 80. (The) air is very damp and oppressive. The appearance of the sky is in these parts generally striking: the scene after sunset was particularly so. Every class and form of clouds was present, and by their shadows gave to the sea a dead black colour. The sails were flapping against the mast and a long swell quietly rolled the ship. The place where the sun had set was marked by a long red streak on the horizon and higher above it by a clear yellow space, which cast a glare on that part of the ocean. It is in such moments that one fully recollects the many miles that separates our ship from any land.

Everybody is alive with the anticipation about Neptunes appearance, and I hear of nothing but razors sharpened with a file and a lather made of paint and tar, to be used by the gentlest valet de chambre.

13th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
This has been the first day that the heat has annoyed us, and in proportion all have enjoyed the delicious coolness of the moonlight nigh evenings: but when in bed, it is I am sure just like what one would feel if stewed in very warm melted butter. This morning a glorious fresh trade wind is driving us along; I call it glorious because others do; it is however bitter cruelty to call anything glorious that gives my stomach so much uneasiness. Oh a ship is a true pandemonium, and the cawkers who are hammering away above my head veritable devils.

12th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Noronha
There has been a little swell on the sea to day, and I have been very uncomfortable: this has tried and quite overcome the small stock of patience that the early parts of the voyage left me. Here I have spent three days in painful indolence, whilst animals are staring me in the face, without labels and scientific epitaphs.

11th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Norinha
We are rapidly gaining on our voyage to the Equator.

10th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Norinha
In the morning a vessel was in sight. We chased her all day and have just come up to her this evening. She is a Packet bound for Rio and in the morning I intend sending a letter to England via Rio de Janeiro, as possibly it may sooner arrive there by this than any other conveyance. I have felt a little sea-sickness to day: which is too bad, as objects of interest are continually occurring. There were plenty of flying fish round the vessel but no large ones.

Everybody is much pleased with the Beagles sailing, it certainly is something extraordinary so very easily to beat a packet, which is built as a man of war and without her guns. It is rather unaccountable the extreme interest that is universally felt at speaking a ship in "blue water". We expected no news and we received none, yet I believe a great disappointment to every person in the ship if we had not boarded her.

To our shame be it spoken, we entirely forgot the Cholera Morbus, and although ourselves having smarted from the quarantine at Teneriffe, yet we made no enquiries about our friends in England.

9th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Norinha
Beautiful and calm day, but I could not enjoy it, as to my great indignation I felt squeamish and uncomfortable.

8th Feb 1832

St. Jago to Fernando Norinha
The dates for the few last days are wrong, for we certainly sailed on the 8th after noon. Again I admired the varied outline of the hills round Praya; the memory of which will never be effaced from my mind.

6th & 7th Feb 1832

St Jago
Went in a boat dredging for Corals; but did not succeed in obtaining any. Tomorrow we certainly sail. And I am glad of it, for I am becoming rather impatient to see tropical Vegetation in greater luxuriance than it can be seen here. Upon the whole the time has been for me of a proper length and has flown away very pleasantly. It is now three weeks, and what may appear very absurd it seems to me of less duration than one of its parts. During the first week every object was new and full of uncommon interest and as Humboldt remarks the vividness of an impression gives it the effect of duration, in consequence of this, those few days appeared to me a much longer interval than the whole three weeks does now.

5th Feb 1832

St Jago
This day or rather the 6th was originally fixed for sailing but the Captain is so much engaged with experiments on Magnetism, that the time is put off till tomorrow. I was engaged with my usual occupation of collecting marine animals in the middle of the day and examining them in the evening. Daily do I feel myself very hardly used, when on returning to the ship I find it growing dark soon after six oclock. The days are exactly the same as in a dry hot summer in England, but it is very surprising the sun choosing to set before its accustomed time about 8 oclock.

4th Feb 1832

St Jago
Walked with Musters to a high hill N by E of Praya. On the road saw a large flock of guinea fowl, and their usual companion and destroyer the wild cat. These animals appear to be very common in the island, so many have been seen since we were here.

3rd Feb 1832

St Jago
A blowing day: I observe it feels quite cool when thermometer is under 75 if at the time there is a fresh breeze. Walked along Eastern coast and found some beautiful corals.

2nd Feb 1832

St Jago
We started by day-break on a riding excursion to St Domingo. For the first 5 miles the road passed over one of the numerous plains of table-land. The country here has not quite so sterile an appearance owing to the stunted Acacia trees which are sparing scattered over its faces. These trees are curiously bent by the prevailing wind and I should think formed an excellent average wind vane for the Island. Their direction is exactly NE and SW (magnetic), and by its force their tops are often bent into an exact right angle. At the foot of a pyramidal hill of scoriae I tied up my pony to examine the rocks. The road makes so little impression on the barren soil, that we here missed our track and took that to Fuentes. This we did not find out till we arrived there, and we were afterwards very glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village with a small stream and everything appears to prosper well. Excepting indeed that which ought to do so most — its inhabitants — the black children, perfectly naked and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles of fire wood half as big as their own bodies. The men and women badly clothed looked much overworked. We gladly left Fuentes and passed along a wild narrow road to St. Domingo, which lay about a league to the East.

Before we arrived at Fuentes, we saw a large flock of the wild Guinea fowl: they were extremely wary and would not allow us to approach them near. Their manner of avoiding us was like that of Partridges on a rainy day in September, no sooner do they alight than with their heads cocked up they run away and then if approached fly again. On approaching St Domingo a turn in the road first showed us the background of wild peaked rocks. their forms are most fantastic; one part looks like a castle wall, others like towers and pyramids. Every thing betrays marks of extreme violence: and which is better shown by the rocks being in horizontal beds. As the road approaches the sides of the hill or precipice, the town and valley of St Domingo are seen. I can imagine no contrast more striking than that of its bright vegetation against the black precipices that surround it. A clear brook gives a luxuriance to the spot that no other part of the Island would lead you to expect. Nothing has surprised me so much as the very dark green of the oranges. Some tropical forms can easily be imagined either from hot-house specimens or from drawings, but neither such as Bananas, but I do not think any adequate idea of the beauty of Oranges or Cocoa Nut trees can be formed without actually seeing them on their own proper soil.

We had an introduction to a most hospitable Portugeese, who treated us most kindly and feasted us with a most substantial dinner of meat cooked with various sorts of herbs and spices, and Orange Tart. This man is a principal owner of the plantation and apparently lives in great comfort: his house is simple, but he has perhaps the Utopian felicity of growing every thing he wants on his own ground. We were told there was a lake about 2 miles from St. Domingo. After dinner we started to see, and followed a path by the side of a brook. On each side were flourishing Bananas, Sugar Cane, Coffee, Guavas, Cocoa Nuts, and numberless wild flowers. None can guess conceive such delight but those who fond of Natural history have seen such scenes. We at last arrived at the lake: one certainly on the smallest scale, for it was not 20 feet across, by such great names in this dry country do they designate a small puddle of fresh water.

After again and again admiring this beautiful and retired valley, we returned to our ponys, and wishing our most hospitable entertainer ‘buenas dias’, we took the direct road for Praya. The day was a grand feast day and the village very full of people. A little distance out of it we overtook about 20 young black girls, dressed in most excellent taste, their black skins and snow white linen were adorned with a gay coloured turbans and large shawls. When we approached them they suddenly all turned round and covered the path with their shawls, they sung with great energy a wild song: beating time with their hands upon the legs. We threw them some Vintem, which were received with screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise of their song. We arrived after it was dark at Praya and with our tired ponys had some difficulty in picking out our way.-

1st Feb 1832

St Jago
Busy with my usual employment viz marine animals.