30th September 1836

Azores to Falmouth
Amongst the other most remarkable spectacles, which we have beheld, may be ranked, — the stars of the Southern hemisphere, the water-spout — the glacier leading its blue stream of ice in a bold precipice overhanging the sea — a lagoon island, raised by the coral forming animalcule — an active volcano — the overwhelming effects of a violent earthquake. — These latter phenomena perhaps possess for me a higher interest, from their intimate connection with the geological structure of the world. The earthquake must however be to everyone a most impressive event; the solid earth, considered from our earliest childhood as the very type of solidity, has oscillated like a thin crust beneath our feet; and in seeing the most beautiful and laboured works of man in a moment overthrown, we feel the insignificance of his boasted power.

It has been said that the love of the chase is an inherent delight in man, — a relic of an instinctive passion. If so, I am sure the pleasure of living in the open air, with the sky for a roof, and the ground for a table, is part of the same feeling. It is the savage returning to his wild and native habits. I always look back to our boat cruizes & my land journeys, when through unfrequented countries, with a kind of extreme delight, which no scenes of civilization could create. I do not doubt every traveller must remember the glowing sense of happiness, from the simple consciousness of breathing in a foreign clime, where the civilized man has seldom or never trod.

There are several other sources of enjoyment in a long voyage, which are perhaps of a more reasonable nature. The map of the world ceases to be a blank; it becomes a picture full of the most varied and animated figures. Each part assumes its true dimensions: large continents are not looked at in the light of islands, or islands considered as mere specks, which in truth are larger than many kingdoms of Europe. Africa, or North & South America, are well-sounding names and easily pronounced, but it is not till having sailed for some weeks along small portions of their coasts, that one is thoroughly astonished.

29th September 1836

Azores to Falmouth
Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests, undefaced by the hand of man, whether those of Brazil, where the powers of life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where death & decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature: — No one can stand unmoved in these solitudes, without feeling that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. — In calling up images of the past, I find the plains of Patagonia most frequently cross before my eyes. Yet these plains are pronounced by all most wretched & useless. They are only characterized by negative possessions; — without habitations, without water, without trees, without mountains, they support merely a few dwarf plants. Why then, and the case is not peculiar to myself, do these arid wastes take so firm possession of the memory? Why have not the still more level, greener & fertile Pampas, which are serviceable to mankind, produced an equal impression? I can scarcely analyse these feelings. — But it must be partly owing to the free scope given to the imagination. They are boundless, for they are scarcely practicable & hence unknown: they bear the stamp of having thus lasted for ages, & there appears no limit to their duration through future time. If, as the ancients supposed, the flat earth was surrounded by an impassable breadth of water, or by deserts heated to an intolerable excess, who would not look at these last boundaries to man's knowledge with deep, but ill defined sensations. — Lastly of natural scenery, the views from lofty mountains, though certainly in one sense not beautiful, are very memorable. I remember looking down from the crest of the highest Cordillera; the mind, undisturbed by minute details, was filled by the stupendous dimensions of the surrounding masses.

Of individual objects, perhaps no one is more sure to create astonishment, than the first sight, in his native haunt, of a real barbarian, — of man in his lowest and most savage state. One's mind hurries back over past centuries, & then asks could our progenitors be such as these? Men, — whose very signs & expressions are less intelligible to us than those of the domesticated animals; who do not possess the instinct of those animals, nor yet appear to boast of human reason, or at least of arts consequent on that reason. I do not believe it is possible to describe or paint the difference of savage and civilized man. It is the difference between a wild and tame animal: and part of the interest in beholding a savage is the same which would lead every one to desire to see the lion in his desert, the tiger tearing his prey in the jungle, the rhinoceros on the wide plain, or the hippopotamus wallowing in the mud of some African river.

Syms Covington Journal
The ship ran at times ten knots and six tenths. The following morning it blew a heavy gale, so that the ship was hove too under a close reefed maintopsail and storm staysail at same time. We were about 500 miles from the Lands End. The sea went down greatly in course of the day.

28th September 1836

Azores to Falmouth
Let us now look at the brighter side of the past time. The pleasure derived from beholding the scenery and general aspect of the various countries we have visited, has decidedly been the most constant and highest source of enjoyment. It is probable that the picturesque beauty of many parts of Europe far exceeds anything we have beheld. But there is a growing pleasure in comparing the character of scenery in different countries, which to a certain degree is distinct from merely admiring their beauty. It more depends on an acquaintance with the individual parts of each view: I am strongly induced to believe that as in Music, the person who understands every note will, if he also has true taste, more thoroughily enjoy the whole; so he who examines each part of [a] fine view may also thoroughily comprehend the full and combined effect. Hence a traveller should be a botanist, for in all views plants form the chief embellishment. Group masses of naked rocks, even in the wildest forms; for a time they may afford a sublime spectacle, but they will soon grow monotomous; paint them with bright and varied colours, they will become fantastick; clothe them with vegetation, they must form, at least a decent, if not a most beautiful picture.

When I said that the scenery of Europe was probably superior to anything which we have beheld, I must except, as a class by itself, that of the intertropical regions. The two can not be compared together; but I have already too often enlarged on the grandeur of these latter climates. As the force of impression frequently depends on preconceived ideas, I may add that all mine were taken from the vivid descriptions in the Personal Narrative which far exceed in merit anything I have ever read on the subject. Yet with these high wrought ideas, my feelings were very remote from partaking of a tinge of disappointment on first landing on the coast of Brazil.

27th September 1836

Azores to Falmouth
If a person suffers much from sea sickness, let him weigh it heavily in the balance: I speak from experience, it is no trifling evil cured in a week. If he takes pleasure in naval tactics, it will afford him full scope for his taste; but even the greater number of sailors, as it appears to me, have little real liking for the sea itself.  It must be borne in mind how large a proportion of the time during a long voyage is spent on the water, as compared to the days in harbour. And what are the boasted glories of the illimitable ocean? A tedious waste, a desert of water as the Arabian calls it. No doubt there are some delightful scenes; a moonlight night, with the clear heavens, the dark glittering sea, the white sails filled by the soft air of a gently blowing trade wind, a dead calm, the heaving surface polished like a mirror, and all quite still excepting the occasional flapping of the sails.

It is well once to behold a squall, with its rising arch, and coming fury, or the heavy gale and mountainous waves. I confess however my imagination had painted something more grand, more terrific in the full grown storm. It is a finer sight on the canvass of Vandervelde, and infinitely finer when beheld on shore, when the waving trees, the wild flight of the birds, the dark shadows & bright lights, the rushing torrents all proclaim the strife of the unloosed elements. At sea, the albatross and petrel fly as if the storm was their proper sphere, the water rises and sinks as if performing its usual task, the ship alone and its inhabitants seem the object of wrath. On a forlorn & weather-beaten coast the scene is indeed different, but the feelings partake more of horror than of wild delight.

26th September 1836

Azores to Falmouth
Our voyage having come to an end, I will take a short retrospect of the advantages and disadvantages the pain & pleasure of our five years' wandering. If a person should ask my advice before undertaking a long voyage, my answer would depend upon his possessing a decided taste for some branch of knowledge, which could by such means be acquired. No doubt it is a high satisfaction to behold various countries, and the many races of Mankind, but the pleasures gained at the time do not counterbalance the evils. It is necessary to look forward to a harvest, however distant it may be, when some fruit will be reaped, some good effected. Many of the losses which must be experienced are obvious, such as that of the society of all old friends, and of the sight of those places with which every dearest remembrance is so intimately connected. These losses however, are at the time partly relieved by the exhaustless delight of anticipating the long wished for day of return. If, as poets say, life is a dream, I am sure in a long voyage these are the visions which best pass away the long night. Other losses, although not at first felt, after a period tell heavily, those are the want of room, of seclusion, of rest — the jading feeling of constant hurry — the privation of small luxuries, the comforts of civilization, domestic society, and lastly even of music & the other pleasures of imagination. When such trifles are mentioned, it is evident that the real grievances (excepting from accidents) of a sea life are at an end. The short space of sixty years has made a most astonishing difference in the facility of distant navigation. Even in the time of Cook, a man who left his comfortable fire side for such expeditions, did undergo privations: a yatch with every luxury of life might now circumnavigate the globe. Besides the vast improvements in ships & naval resources, the whole Western shores of America are thrown open; and Australia is become a metropolis of a rising continent. How different are the circumstances to a man shipwrecked at the present day in the Pacific, to what they would have been in the time of Cook: since his voyage a hemisphere has been added to the civilized world.

25th September 1836

St. Michael's Island, Azores
By the following morning, we were off the city, & a boat was sent on shore.— The Isld of St Michaels is considerably larger & three times more populous & enjoys a more extensive trade than Terceira. — The chief export is the fruit, for which a fleet of vessels annually arrives. Although several hundred vessels are loaded with oranges, these trees on neither island appear in any great numbers. No one would guess that this was the great market for the numberless oranges imposed into England. St Michaels has much the same open, semi-green, cultivated patchwork appearance as Terceira. The town is more scatted; the houses & churches there & throughout the country are white washed & look from a distance neat and pretty. The land behind the town is less elevated than at Terceira, but yet rises considerably; it is thickly studded or rather made up of small mammiformed hills, each of which has sometime been an active Volcano. — In an hours time the boat returned without any letters, and then getting a good offing from the land, we steered, thanks to God, a direct course for England.

24th September 1836

Terceira, Azores
In the morning, we were off the Western end of St Michaels; to the capital of which we were bound in quest of letters. A contrary wind detained us the whole day,

Syms Covington Journal
Sent a boat ashore, to the island of St. Michael; during which time the ship kept in the offing. This island, like the latter, is well cultivated, and thickly studded with houses.

23rd September 1836

Terceira, Azores
Another day I set out early in the morning to visit the town of Praya seated on the NE and of the island. — The distance is about fifteen miles; the road ran the great part of the way not far from the coast. The country is all cultivated & scattered with houses & small villages. I noticed in several places, from the long traffic of the bullock waggons, that the solid lava, which formed in parts the road, was worn into ruts of the depth of twelve inches. This circumstance has been noticed with surprise, in the ancient pavement of Pompeii, as not occurring in any of the present towns of Italy. At this place the wheels have a tire surmounted by singularly large iron knobs, perhaps the old Roman wheels were thus furnished. The country during our morning's ride, was not interesting, excepting always the pleasant sight of a happy peasantry. The harvest was lately over, & near to the houses the fine yellow heads of Indian corn, were bound, for the sake of drying, in large bundles to the stems of the poplar trees. These seen from a distance, appeared weighed down by some beautiful fruit,—the very emblem of fertility.—One part of the road crossed a broad stream of lava, which from its rocky & black surface, showed itself to be of comparatively recent origin; indeed the crater whence it had flowed could be distinguished. The industrious inhabitants, have turned this space into vineyards, but for this purpose it was necessary to clear away the loose fragments & pile them into a multitude of walls, which enclosed little patches of ground a few yards square; thus covering the country with a network of black lines.

The town of Praya is a quiet forlorn little place; Many years since a large city was here overwhelmed by an earthquake. It is asserted the land subsided, and a wall of a convent now bathed by the sea is shown as a proof: the fact is probable, but the proof not convincing. I returned home by another road, which first leads along the Northern shore, & then crosses the central part of the Island.— This North Eastern extremity is particularly well cultivated, & produces a large quantity of fine what. The square, open fields, & small villages with white washed churches, gave to the view as seen from the heights, an aspect resembling the less picturesque parts of central England. — We soon reached the region of clouds, which during our whole visit have hung very low & concealed the tops of the mountains. For a couple of hours we crossed the elevated central part, which is not inhabited & bears a desolate appearance. When we descended from the clouds to the city, I heard the good news that observations had been obtained, & that we should go to sea the same evening.

The anchorage is exposed to the whole swell of the Southern ocean, & hence during the present boisterous time of year is very disagreeable & far from safe.

22nd September 1836

Terceira, Azores
I staid the greater part of the day on board.

21st September 1836

Terceira, Azores
The next day the Consul kindly lent me his horse & furnished me with guides to proceed to a spot, in the centre of the island, which was described as an active crater. — Ascending in deep lanes, bordered on each side by high stone walls, for the three first miles, we passed many houses and gardens. We then entered on a very irregular plain country, consisting of more recent streams of hummocky basaltic lava. The rocks are covered in some parts by a thick brushwood about three feet high, and in others by heath, fern, & short pasture: a few broken down old stone walls completed the resemblance with the mountains of Wales. I saw, moreover, some old English friends amongst the insects, and of birds, the starling, water wagtail, chaffinch and blackbird. There are no houses in this elevated and central part, and the ground is only used for the pasture of cattle and goats. On every side, besides the ridges of more ancient lavas, there were cones of various dimensions, which yet partly retained their crater-formed summits, and where broken down showed a pile of cinders such as those from an iron foundry. — When we reached the so called crater, I found it a slight depression, or rather a short valley abutting against a higher range, and without any exit. The bottom was traversed by several large fissures, out of which, in nearly a dozen places, small jets of steam issued, as from the cracks in the boiler of a steam engine.

The steam close to the irregular orifices, is far too hot for the hand to endure it; — it has but little smell, yet from everything made of iron being blackened, and from a peculiar rough sensation communicated to the skin, the vapour cannot be pure, and I imagine it contains some muriatic add gas. — The effect on the surrounding trachytic lavas is singular, the solid stone being entirely converted either into pure, snow white, porcelain clay, or into a kind of bright red or the two colours marbled together: the steam issued through the moist and hot clay. This phenomenon has thus gone on for many years; it is said that flames once issued from the cracks. During rain, the water from each bank, must flow into these cracks; & it is probable that this same water, trickling down to the neighbourhood of some heated subterranean lava, causes this phenomenon. — Throughout the island, the powers below have been unusually active during the last year; several small earthquakes have been caused, and during a few days a jet of steam issued from a bold precipice overhanging the sea, not far from the town of Angra.

I enjoyed my day's ride, though I did not see much worth seeing: it was pleasant to meet such a number of fine peasantry; I do not recollect ever having beheld a set of handsomer young men, with more good humoured pleasant expressions.1 The men and boys are all dressed in a plain jacket & trowsers, without shoes or stockings; their heads are barely covered by a little blue cloth cap with two ears and a border of red; this they lift in the most courteous manner to each passing stranger. Their clothes although very ragged, appeared singularly clean, as well as their persons; I am told, that in almost every cottage, a visitor will sleep in snow white sheets & will dine off a clean napkin. Each man carries in his hand a walking staff about six feet high; by fixing a large knife at each extremity, they can make this into a formidable weapon. — Their ruddy complexions, bright eyes & erect gait, made them a picture of a fine peasantry: how different from the Portugeese of Brazil! — The greater number, which we this day met, were employed in the mountains gathering sticks for fire-wood. — A whole family, from the father to the least boy, might be seen, each carrying his bundle on his head to sell in the town. Their burthens were very heavy; this hard labour & the ragged state of their clothes too plainly bespoke poverty, yet I am told, it is not the want of food, but of all luxuries, a case parallel to that of Chiloe. — Hence, although the whole land is not cultivated, at the present time numbers emigrate to Brazil, where the contract to which they are bound, differs but little from slavery. It seems a great pity that so fine a population should be compelled [to] leave a land of plenty, where every article of food, meat, vegetables & fruit, — is exceedingly cheap & most abundant, but the labourer finds his labour of proportionally little value.–

20th September 1836

Terceira, Azores
In the morning we were off the East end of the Island of Terceira, and a little after noon reached the town of Angra. The island is moderately lofty & has a rounded outline with detached conical hills evidently of volcanic origin. The land is well cultivated, & is divided into a multitude of rectangular fields by stone walls, extending from the water's edge to high upon the central hills. There are few or no trees, & the yellow stubble land at this time of year gives a burnt up and unpleasant character to the scenery. Small hamlets & single white-washed houses are scattered in all parts. In the evening a party went on shore; — We found the city a very clean & tidy little place, containing about 10,000 inhabitants, which includes nearly the fourth part of the total number on the island. There are no good shops, & little signs of activity, excepting the intolerable creaking of an occasional bullock waggon. The churches are very respectable, & there were formerly a good many convents: but Dom Pedro destroyed several; he levelled three nunneries to the ground, & gave permission to the nuns to marry, which, excepting by some of the very old ones, was gladly received. — Angra was formerly the capital of the whole archipelago, but it has now only one division of the islands under its government, and its glory has departed. The city is defended by a strong castle & line of batteries which encircle the base of Mount Brazil, an extinct volcano with sloping sides, which overlooks the town. — Terceira was the first place that received Dom Pedro, & from this beginning he conquered the other islands & finally Portugal. A loan was scraped together in this one island of no less than 400,000 dollars, of which sum not one farthing has ever been paid to these first supporters of the present right royal & honourable family.

Syms Covington Journal
Anchored in the Roads of Angra, at the island of Terceira, subject to the Portuguese. This island is not so high as the latter, but IS thickly populated, and all parts of the island seen from the ship were cultivated. fruits and vegetables are very cheap. The Road is open for shipping, AND pretty well fortified.

9th September 1836

Atlantic Ocean
Crossed the Tropic of Cancer.

With the Beagle now virtually in sight of the completion of her voyage, why not join us for the next few years on board the Endeavour and sail with Captain Cook and Joseph Banks around the world.  Currently (in 1768, 70 years before the voyage of the Beagle) she has just left Plymouth on her way to Madeira... link above right (Roger R)

4th September 1836

Cape Verde Islands
We were all very glad in the evening of the 4th to wish farewell to the irregular mountains of St Jago, as they disappeared in the evening shades. I confess, I feel some good will to the Island; I should be ungrateful if it was otherwise; for I shall never forget the delight of first standing in a certain lava cavern & looking at the swell of the Atlantic lashing the rugged shores.