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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Sutcliffe   [28 August – 5 September 1834]1

La Cordillera2

The Hacienda la Calera belongs to the Late Presidente Sr. Fco Ruiz Tagle, who resides on his Estate, and is about six leagues from Santiago.3 It is well worth your while to pass by it—

Beluco belonging to the Marques de Larrayn is 6 leagues from la calera—and Aculeu is about 2 leagues from beluco, the lake is about 3 leagues from the houses of Aculeu.4

a Mr Bruce formerly a master in H. M.s Navy lives about a league and half from rancagua, it wd be worth your while to visit him.5

To Sr. Pedro Urriola comandante of the canton of rio claro, who resides on the estate of Sr. Fco. Valdivieso Sr I wd. advize you to visit,6 the estate is 3 leagues from Rancagua after you pass the cachapaul, rancagua is about 22 leagues from Santiago, and 15 leagues from San Fernando—I have merely scratched this croquis7 out by the rule of thumb, it may serve you as a reference, on the route you intend to take—the dotted lines mark the principal roads—

at Pelequin a road branches of towards the lake but I have only gone to it by Nancagua by the one dotted—

The mines of yaquil belonging to Zacarias Nixon Esqr.8 an american are half a league from Nancagua, and a road to the lake of Tagua Tagua passes by his house. Nancagua is about 6 leagues from Sn. Fernando, to the Intendent of the Province Dn. Feliciana Silva, who resides there I have given you a letter;9 also one to Zacarias Nixon Esqr.


CD annotations10

On map:
Between the roads above ‘Beluco’] ‘1’pencil circled pencil
On ‘Cerro de Payne’] ‘600 or 700’pencil
Between the roads to the right of ‘mostasal’] ‘2’ pencil circled pencil
By the confluence of ‘rio claro’] ‘2’11 pencil circled pencil
Below the road at ‘Pelequin’] ‘3’ pencil circled pencil; ‘falls suddenly | little height’ pencil
Below the road at ‘Lingues’] ‘4thpencil circled pencil
Valley of the ‘rio Tinderidica’ south-east of San Fernando] cross-hatching; ‘Concepcion’12 pencil


A summary of this letter was published in Correspondence vol. 1 under the mistaken conjecture that it was from Alexander Caldcleugh. The date range is established by the reference to Sutcliffe in the letter to Robert FitzRoy, [28 August 1834] (Correspondence vol. 1), and the date on which CD left Santiago to follow this route (see n. 2, below). For an account of the first part of CD’s excursion, from Valparaiso to Santiago, see the letter to Robert FitzRoy, [28 August 1834].
CD followed the route on this sketch map from Santiago to San Fernando between 5 and 19 September 1834 (‘Beagle’ diary, pp. 257–62), and identified Sutcliffe as the author in a related section of his geological notes: ‘attached is a rough outline, of the country, executed from memory by major Sutcliffe, an English resident in St Jago, it very sufficiently shows by the white spaces the level basins’ (DAR 35: 412). CD discussed the flat basins of Chile as evidence of uplift in South America, chapter 3. See also S. Herbert 2005, pp. 217–32. CD mentioned meeting Sutcliffe in his letter to Robert FitzRoy, [28 August 1834], but had presumably not received the map at the time of writing as he also referred to the difficulty of obtaining one. Sutcliffe referred to many of the people and places detailed on the map in his memoirs (Sutcliffe 1841). See also Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 13 October 1834.
Francisco Antonio Ruiz de Tagle had been provisional president of the Republic of Chile for six weeks in 1830. Sutcliffe had been stationed at La Calera during that time (Sutcliffe 1841, pp. 319–20).
José Rafael Larraín Moxó. ‘Beluco’ is presumably a phonetic rendering of Viluco, the estate on which Larraín Moxó was born. (, accessed 22 April 2021.)
Bruce has not been further identified.
Pedro Alcantara Urriola Balbontin. Sutcliffe had stayed on Francisco Antonio Valdivieso Vargas’s estate, the Requingua, during a campaign in 1818 (Sutcliffe 1841, p. 122).
Croquis (French): a sketch map.
Zacarias Nixon has not been further identified. CD stayed with ‘Mr Nixon, an American gentleman’ at the gold mines of Yaquil from 14 to 19 September (‘Beagle’ diary, pp. 260–62).
Feliciano Silva was intendent of the province of Colchagua from 1831 to 1836.
CD’s pencil annotations were probably made the following year, or later (see n. 12, below); he made further expeditions from Santiago between March and July 1835. The annotations have been included in the rendering of Sutcliffe’s map for ease of identification; they are reproduced in grey type.
CD spent the night of 13 September in the village of Rio Claro (‘Beagle’ diary, p. 259).
For CD’s observations on the basin of the Rio Tinderidica see Journal and remarks, pp. 326–7. He later witnessed the effects of the earthquake of 20 February 1835 at Concepción (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter to J. S. Henslow, [10] – 13 March 1835), and recorded that its effects could be traced as far north as San Fernando (‘Beagle’ diary, p. 299). CD’s pencil annotations were presumably made after that date; he made further expeditions from Santiago between March and July 1835.


‘Beagle’ diary: Charles Darwin’s Beagle diary. Edited by Richard Darwin Keynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988.

Herbert, Sandra. 2005. Charles Darwin, geologist. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Journal and remarks: Journal and remarks. 1832–1836. By Charles Darwin. Vol. 3 of Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe. London: Henry Colburn. 1839. [Separately published as Journal of researches.]

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

Sutcliffe, Thomas. 1841. Sixteen years in Chile and Peru, from 1822 to 1839. By the retired governor of Juan Fernandez. London: Fisher, son, and Co.


Gives a map of part of Chile between Santiago and San Fernando. Suggests places and people that CD might profitably visit [en route].

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Sutcliffe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 35: 405
Physical description
Amem AMem †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 255,” accessed on 24 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1