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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   23 January 1872


Jany 23/72

My dear Darwin

I think you would like to see a Photo of Philip King that he has sent me recently. I have sent it to Mellersh who will forward it to you.1

It makes one feel old indeed to see one we thought so juvenile with a white beard. I have heard nothing for some time from our old shipmates except Hamond2

Very recent accounts from Beagle Channel say all is going on most favorably3   The natives “docile”—and “learning”.

I see that Professor Aggasis is going on a scientific voyage and will call at Falklands.4 Do you think it would be advisable for me to write to him about the Gallegos Fossil bed.5 If he could go there & make a good collection it would perhaps produce many new species— You I suppose know him   if so and you think it worth writing to him about perhaps you would so and I would send you particulars as to position &c to inclose. a letter to Falklands by the mail of Feby. 8th. would I think meet him there.

I went to College of Surgeons the other day   I found the Curator knew nothing about the fossils. we had difficulty in finding one or two of those that had been worked out & the casks of stones not touched when I saw them years after they came home, are now known nothing of, & we could not find them.6

With our kind regards to Mrs. Darwin & all your party | Believe me very sincerely yours | B J Sulivan


Philip Gidley King was midshipman on the Beagle between 1831 and 1836 (Aust. dict. biog.). Arthur Mellersh was midshipman and mate on the Beagle between 1825 and 1836 (Modern English biography). Sulivan was lieutenant on the Beagle between 1831 and 1836 (ODNB).
Robert Nicholas Hamond was midshipman on the Beagle from 1832 to 1833 (O’Byrne 1849).
Sulivan was a member of the South American Mission Society (see Correspondence vol. 18, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 1 July 1870).
Louis Agassiz embarked on a voyage on the Hassler, an experimental steamship of the United States Coast Survey, in December 1871, intending to pass through the Straits of Magellan; the expedition arrived in San Francisco in August 1872 (Marcou 1896, 2: 182–91; Lurie 1960, pp. 371–7). He had hoped to investigate the ‘rivers of stone’ in the Falkland Islands, which he thought might be due to glacial action, but was prevented from visiting the Falklands and some other sites owing to bad weather and defective machinery on the ship (E. C. Agassiz 1885, 2: 695, 711). The ‘American deep-sea exploring expedition’ was reported in The Times, 12 January 1872, p. 6.
Sulivan had collected mammalian fossils at the Gallegos river in Argentina in 1845 (see Correspondence vol. 3, letters from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845 and 4 July 1845). A later expedition recommended by CD had found more (Correspondence vol. 17, letter from T. H. Huxley, 7 May 1869). For more on Sulivan’s discovery, see Brinkman 2003.
William Henry Flower was curator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons (ODNB). Two of Sulivan’s fossils were at the British Museum (Nesodon ovinus; Catalogue of the fossil Mammalia in the British Museum (Natural History) 3: 168), and one was recorded at the Royal College of Surgeons (Nesodon imbricatus; Flower 1879–91, 2: 436). See also Owen 1853.


Agassiz, Elizabeth Cary. 1885. Louis Agassiz: his life and correspondence. 2 vols. London: Macmillan and Company.

Aust. dict. biog.: Australian dictionary of biography. Edited by Douglas Pike et al. 14 vols. [Melbourne]: Melbourne University Press. London and New York: Cambridge University Press. 1966–96.

Brinkman, Paul. 2003. Bartholomew James Sulivan’s discovery of fossil vertebrates in the Tertiary beds of Patagonia. Archives of Natural History 30: 56–74.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Flower, William Henry. 1879–91. Catalogue of the specimens illustrating the osteology and dentition of vertebrated animals, recent and extinct, contained in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 3 vols. London: Taylor and Francis.

Lurie, Edward. 1960. Louis Agassiz: a life in science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Marcou, Jules. 1896. Life, letters, and works of Louis Agassiz. 2 vols. London and New York: Macmillan and Co.

Modern English biography: Modern English biography, containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850. By Frederick Boase. 3 vols. and supplement (3 vols.). Truro, Cornwall: the author. 1892–1921.

O’Byrne, William R. 1849. A naval biographical dictionary: comprising the life and services of every living officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the rank of admiral of the fleet to that of lieutenant, inclusive. London: John Murray.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Owen, Richard. 1853a. Description of some species of the extinct genus Nesodon, with remarks on the primary group (Toxodontia) of hoofed quadrupeds, to which that genus is referable. [Read 13 January 1853.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 143: 291–310.


Louis Agassiz is going on a voyage to the Falklands, and BJS wonders whether it is worth while telling him of the Gallegos fossil bed so that he can investigate.

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 297
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8175,” accessed on 11 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20