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Darwin Correspondence Project


To Richard Owen    23 December [1847–54]1

Down | Farnborough | Kent

Decr. 23d.

Dear Owen

A year or two ago, some one (I think Mr. Searles Wood)2 applied to me for teeth of Carcharias; & I then looked carefully & could not find a noble specimen, which I found in the older Tertiary beds at Coquimbo in Chile;3 & which I am almost certain I showed once to you (hence your vague memory of the fact) & which I rather think I left with you. If not at the College it is gone the way of all flesh—(a very inappropriate remark for a silicified fossil)—4 You would know my specimen by having a small number attached to it, if not removed.

I return with interest your Christmas good wishes.—

My old skipper FitzRoy exaggerated, I am sorry for my credit-sake to say, about that glacier wave & the boats,—which so nearly shipwrecked us & would have left us without, food or or arms above a hundred miles from our ship in the midst of most detestable savages.5

Very sincerely yours | C. Darwin


The date range is suggested by the date of publication of South America, in which the fossil remains of the Coquimbo beds are discussed, and by the address: CD did not generally use ‘Down Farnborough Kent’ after October 1855.
Searles Valentine Wood was a specialist on Tertiary molluscs.
This letter may be related to one to an unidentified correspondent, 31 December [1852–3] (Correspondence vol. 5), in which CD described the Tertiary shells he had found in the Coquimbo bed at Herradura Bay, Chile.
CD had sent his fossil bones and a number of other specimens collected on the Beagle voyage to the Royal College of Surgeons. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 9–12 August 1834; and vol. 4, letter to J. T. Quekett, 7 September [1848].
The incident took place in Tierra del Fuego and was described by Robert FitzRoy, captain of the Beagle, in Narrative 2: 216–17.


Is searching for a tooth of Carcharias which he might have left with RO.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Owen, Richard
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Getz collection 842)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13834,” accessed on 20 October 2016,