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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Hamilton Smith   14 January [1845]

Down near Bromley | Kent

Jan 14th

Dear SIr

I venture, on the remembrance of the kindness, which you showed me several years since, when starting as naturalist on board the Beagle,1 to ask you to do me a favour.— I have been reading your interesting Paper on the original Population of America, in the last New Eding. Phil. Journal,2 & at p. 8 you refer to a “ruined city or cities”, in the Caroline Group, of vast size, & to other appearances indicating that the land has subsided or is again rising; I am particularly anxious to know, where I could find any account of these facts, & if you would be so kind as to take the trouble of sending me the briefest reference, I should esteem it a great favour. From the structure of the coral-reefs in the Caroline Group, I have been led to believe it has subsided, & in a small work, published two or three years since, (at p. 127)3 I have given an extract from an Australian newspaper describing the ruins of houses on Pouynipète4 (or Seniavine), which are “now only accessible by boats”, but I did not like trusting too implicitly to such authority & therefore laid no stress on the statements.— Admiral Lutké5 who has so well explored this group & whom I saw some time since in London, does not appear to have seen anything of these ruins.

Hoping that you will excuse the liberty, which I have taken in troubling you, & will kindly favour me with a reply; I beg to remain | dear Sir | Yours faithfully & obliged | Charles Darwin


Coral reefs, p. 127 n.
An island located at 6o 55’ N, 158o 15’ E, known for its ruins. It is now usually known as Ponape.
Fedor Petrovich Lütke.


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first 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. 1842.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Smith, Charles Hamilton. 1845. On the original population of America, and the modes of access from the old to the new continent, with preliminary observations on the recently published Travels in North America, of Prince Maximilian of Wied. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 38: 1–20.


Has read CHS’s paper, "Original population of America" [Edinburgh New Philos. J. 38 (1844–5): 1–20], and is eager to know reference for the account of a "ruined city in the Caroline Group", indicating that the land has subsided. Refers to his own subsidence hypothesis in his work [Coral reefs].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Hamilton Smith
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 815,” accessed on 15 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3