Certainly a book of books, if you are into the history of (natural) science, science in general and/or geology . This “noble science” was also Darwin’s interest, although he does not always receives the credits for the geology-association.
This book is Darwin’s account of his travels and discoveries during the Beagle voyage. That voyage was the basis for his later work on the Origin of Species.
The Beagle voyage was a real mapping expedition and Darwin was just a paying passenger, with a special mission. Most of his travels were on terra firma, not on the ocean as one might think. Interesting story for surveyors (1) about San Pedro: drought has caused so much sand in the wind, that the landowners could not recognize the borders of their property anymore (causing confusion among landowners).
Interesting story for surveyors (2) : On the island of San Pedro, a fox was so intrigued by the surveyors, that Darwin could approach him quietly and hit him on the head with his geologist’s hammer. This fox later made it to the exhibition at the Zoological Society. Darwin seems to like to tool for killing animals; it will never look the same to me now.
The books is descriptive to the extreme at times, but poses great and many questions. Darwin clearly was a great observer and explorer at large. One of the key questions -how extinct species are very much related to living species and how species have evolved though time- does not get answered in this log.
Read this book if you want to know about how Darwin caught himself with a bola, el rastro di tigre, a naked man on a naked horse. But also it you are curious about Renous’ heresy (by predicting that caterpillars can turn into a butterflies) and what the Chileans mean by puna. Darwin lived in the times when Sydney just had 23000 inhabitants (but was growing rapidly!). And as a side remark, he believed everyone on board was quite happy to leave New Zealand (not a pleasant place, apart from Waimate).
For Darwin, after this voyage, the map of the world became a painting full with different and lively images. The very last sentence of the book speaks for itself: (on whether a naturalist should undertake such a voyage) ”…how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance”.
By the way, Darwin did not get paid for this book, although it was a reprinted by the publisher. Kind of connects it to Lessig’s books….