When Charles Darwin, then age 22, first saw the HMS Beagle, he thought it looked "more like a wreck than a vessel commissioned to go round the world." But travel around the world it did, taking Darwin to South America, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and of course the Galapagos Islands, in a journey of discovery that lasted almost five years. Now, in Fossils, Finches and Fuegians, Richard Keynes, Darwin's great grandson, offers the first modern full-length account of Darwin's epoch-making expedition. This was the great adventure of Charles Darwin's life. Indeed, it would have been a great adventure for anyone-tracking condor in Chile, surviving the great earthquake of 1835, riding across country on horseback in the company of gauchos, watching whales leaping skyward off Tierra del Fuego, hunting ostriches with a bolo, discovering prehistoric fossils and previously unknown species, and meeting primitive peoples such as the Fuegians. Keynes captures many of the natural wonders that Darwin witnessed, including an incredible swarm of butterflies a mile wide and ten miles long.
Keynes also illuminates Darwin's scientific work-his important findings in geology and biology-and traces the slow revolution in Darwin's thought about species and how they might evolve. Numerous illustrations-mostly by artists who traveled with Darwin on the Beagle-grace the pages, including finely rendered drawings of many points of interest discussed in the book. There has probably been no greater or more important scientific expedition than Darwin's voyage on the Beagle. Packed with colorful details of life aboard ship and in the wild, here is a fascinating portrait of Charles Darwin and of 19th century science.