skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Catherine Darwin   31 May [1835]


May 31st.

My dear Catherine

I have very little to write about; but as there will not be another opportunity for some time to send a letter, I will give an account of myself since leaving Valparaiso. My journey up here was rather tedious; I was obliged to travel so very slowly, that my animals might remain in good condition for the rest of their journey.— The country is very miserable; so burnt up & dry, that the mountains are as bare as turn-pike roads, with the exception of the great Cacti, covered with spines.— I visited very many mines; & since I have been here, I have made an excursion up the valley to see some famous ones of Silver. I reached the foot of the Cordilleras.— The geology goes on very prosperously; before I leave Chili, I shall have a very good general idea of its structure.—

The day after tomorrow, I start for Copiapò, passing through Guasko: on the 5th of July the Beagle calls for me at that place; from whence to Iquiqui & Lima.— This latter part of my journey, will be still less interesting than the former, as I understand nearly all the road is a desert. There is one Traversia of a day & half without a drop of water.— I shall be very glad, when once again settled on board the Beagle.— I am tired of this eternal rambling, without any rest.— Oh what a delightful reflection it is, that we are now on our road to England.— My method of travelling is very independent & in this respect as pleasant as possible. I take my bed & a Kettle, & a pot, a plate & basin. We buy food & cook for ourselves, always bivoucing in the open air, at some little distance from the house, where we buy Corn or grass for the horses.— It is impossible to sleep in the houses, on account of the fleas. Before I was fully aware of this, I have risen in the morning with my whole shirt punctured with little spots of blood, the skin of my body is quite freckled with their bites. I never formerly had any idea, what a torment, in these hot, dry climates, these ravenous little wretches could be.—

But gracias a dios one month more & farewell for ever to Chili; in two months more farewell South America.— I have lately been reading about the South Sea— I begin to suspect, there will not be much to see; that is, after any one group with its inhabitants, has been visited.— Everyone however must feel some curiosity to behold Otaheitè.— I am lucky in having plenty of occupation for the Sea part, in writing up my journal & Geological memoranda.— I have already got two books of rough notes.—

The Beagle is now in the Port, refitting before our long voyage: Everybody is living on shore in tents. Everything has been taken out of her even to the ballast.— She proceeds in a week’s time to Valparaiso for 9 months provisions. I hope some vessel of war will come round, before she sail⁠⟨⁠s⁠⟩⁠; if not, I shall not receive any other letter from you, for the next 9 months, that i⁠⟨⁠s⁠⟩⁠ till we reach Sydney.— From Valparaiso I send a large cargo of specimens to Henslow; & these will be the last, for the rest I shall be able to carry, more especially as every month, my wardrobe becomes less & less bulky— By the time we reach England, I shall scarcely have a coat to my back.— And at present, as you may see, I have scarcely an idea in my head— So—

Farewell | Your affectionate Brother | Chas. Darwin


Slow and tedious trip through miserable country, but geology prospers, and CD will have a good general idea of the structure of Chile by the time he leaves the country. Will send a last large cargo of specimens to Henslow.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 276,” accessed on 16 May 2022,

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