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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   17 November [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

Nov. 17th.

My dear Henslow

The next time you go to Ipswich & meet Dr. Clarke, the Editor of the Voyage of the Favourite,1 which was dedicated to you, I want you much to ask Dr. Clarke to ask the Sailor-author2 (I forget his name this minute) whether he has a distinct remembrance of having seen at Kerguelen Land,3 any drift sticks or timber thrown up by the sea.—

Please observe I do not want you to take the trouble to write about it, for any time wd. do for me. The reason I want to know, is, because Hooker’s case of the several Kerguelen L. plants identical or closely allied to those of T. del Fuego,4 strikes me as the greatest anomaly known in the distribution of beings over the whole world; & therefore I am very curious to know, whether there is any conceivable (however improbable) means of their introduction by sea-currents.—

With this object, I know you will forgive me troubling you.—

I was exceedingly glad to hear a pretty good account of you from the Hookers who were here a short time since, & whose visit we enjoyed extremely

Most truly yours | C. Darwin


William Barnard Clarke was the editor of Nunn 1850, a book that CD had borrowed from Joseph Dalton Hooker (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 September [1854]).
John Nunn.
Also known as Desolation Island, on which John Nunn was shipwrecked.
J. D. Hooker 1844–7, pt 2: 209–10: It may appear paradoxical, at first sight, to associate the plants of Kerguelen’s Land with those of Fuegia, separated by 140 degrees of longitude, rather than with those of Lord Auckland’s group, which is nearer by about 50 degrees. But the features of the Flora of Kerguelen’s Land are similar to, and many of the species identical with, those of the American continent, constraining me to follow the law of botanical affinity in preference to that of geographical position. In CD’s copy in the Darwin Library–CUL, the passage is scored in pencil and with a brown crayon cross. In an undated note in DAR 205.4 (Letters), CD recorded: ‘Mr. Hooker says the Flora of I. Desolation or Kerguelen is S. American.— a new Chionis & nocturnal Petrel—plenty of marine animals in 72o S. at great depths—Vegetation of Ld Auckland Isd like New Zealand subtropical’.


Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

Nunn, John. 1850. Narrative of the wreck of the ‘Favorite’ on the island of Desolation: detailing the adventures, sufferings, and privations of John Nunn. Edited by W. B. Clarke. London: William Edward Painter.


Asks JSH to inquire about drift-wood at Kerguelen Land.

Hooker’s observation on similarity of Kerguelen plant species to those of Tierra del Fuego strikes CD as a great anomaly, so he is searching for an answer, "however improbable".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.109)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1602,” accessed on 17 October 2021,

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