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Letter 530

Darwin, C. R. to Smyth, W. H.

7 Aug [1839]

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    Asks for details of Smyth's Island discovered by WHS – particularly whether the islets form a ring surrounding a lagoon. [See Coral reefs, p. 158].


12 Upper Gower St

Dear Sir

I hope you will excuse the liberty I take in addressing you, after having only once had the pleasure of meeting you.

I am engaged in drawing up an account of the Coral formations of the Pacific & Indian seas, and I observe it is said in Krusentern's memoir, that you were in the Cornwallis, when Smyth's Isld in the Northern Pacific was discovered.— I am particularly anxious to know, whether the low islets & reefs, of which the group is composed, form a ring surrounding a lagoon, like so many other islds in the Pacific, and the atolls in the Indian ocean:—or, if it has not a lagoon, then is one central island of greater height, & apparently of different constitution from the other low islets on the reef, & surrounded by a channel of deepish water:—in short whether it has any peculiar structure.— As I cannot obtain this information from any other quarter, if you would spare me a few minutes & send me an answer, I should feel extremely obliged and I trust you will excuse my having ventured so far to trouble you.—

Believe me dear Sir | Yours respectfully | Chas. Darwin
12 Upper Gower St

Aug 7th

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 530.f1
    Krusenstern 1835, p. 104, refers to ‘Smith’ Island, now known as Johnston Island, a coral atoll 16o 45'N and 169o 32'W. Smyth served in H.M.S. Cornwallis under C. J. Johnston when the island was discovered in 1807 (Dawson 1885, 1: 53 and Modern English Biography).
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    f2 530.f2
    Smyth informed CD that there were ‘two very low small islands, with a dangerous reef off the east end of them’, but he could not recall if the islands surrounded a lagoon (Coral reefs, p. 158).
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