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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Bartholomew James Sulivan   2 February [1855]1


Feby. 2

My dear Darwin

I am indeed sorry to hear you have had so much sickness2

The only vegetables I ever saw on the shores of Falklands that had come from Main land were trees of all sizes, chiefly the birch; those were so numerous on all the shores facing the SW that we regularly supplied both Arrow & Philomel3 with fuel which pretty well cleared all the accessible parts of the coast. Most of the trees had been laying for years. they were clean of bark and quite seasoned some had roots to them others broken off probably branches of large trees torn of by Williwaws—4

I recollect Beagles paint being spoilt as you say but I do not recollect whether it was by seeds or dust—

The Snipe at Falklands leave in winter—but I do not recollect any strange birds coming there. The most extraordinary thing of that kind I have seen was a Woodcock on board the Merchant ship we returned from Falklands in. We could not catch it and at last it struck the ship & fell in the Sea. It was in the SE trades in the Month of August when Woodcocks ought to be far North— I do not recollect the exact position but it was more than 500 miles from any land & that the Western Islands.5 from any other land it must have been more than 1000 miles

CD annotations

scored brown crayon
scored brown crayon
4.1 The Snipe … winter—] scored brown crayon
4.1 strange] ‘strange’ added pencil
4.6 the exact … 500 miles] scored brown crayon
4.7 have … miles] scored brown crayon
Top of first page: ‘18’6 brown crayon


CD discussed the transport and dispersal of organisms with other correspondents during the winter of 1854–5. See also letter to J. S. Henslow, 17 November [1854].
The Darwin family took a house at 27 York Place, Baker Street, from 18 January to 15 February (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol 5, Appendix I). According to Henrietta Litchfield, ‘there was a bitter frost almost all the time. Neither my father nor my mother were well, and they did not much enjoy their stay.’ (Emma Darwin 2: 156). See also letter to W. D. Fox, 19 March [1855], n. 7.
Sulivan had commanded two surveys of the Falklands: the first in H.M.S. Arrow (1839–40) and the second in H.M.S. Philomel (1842–6). He had also farmed on the Falklands between 1848 and 1851.
‘A sailor’s name for a sudden violent squall, (orig. in the Straits of Magellan)’ (OED).
The former name of the Azores.


The only mainland vegetation he saw on Falkland Island shores were trees. Remembers no strange birds there, but on journey home saw a woodcock more than 500 miles from the nearest land.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 251
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1551,” accessed on 14 November 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5