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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.

Letter details

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


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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13834,” accessed on 25 May 2016,