New Read: Darwin and the Beagle

Before I get to Darwin and the Beagle by Alan Moorehead, I have a few words, a gripe to share. Bear with me for a moment. Please.

There you are, humming along, getting things done, feeling like you’re on top of the world. You’re posting daily, but still getting the longer work done in the background. You post your daily write-up, but something is wrong. The website is down again. Dammit.

That’s ok. It’ll be back in an hour or so. Let’s get to finishing that other post, the one you’ve been frustrated by but finally getting somewhere with.

It’s coming along nicely, finally found the way to say what I wanted to say. All it needs is few tweaks and it’ll be ready to post in a few days. But first… a weekend break for festivities.

You check in on the website on Saturday afternoon only to find it still isn’t working. Something went wrong… again. It’s going to take time to fix. You plan on doing that on Monday, only to wake up on Sunday night sick as a dog, and everything is postponed.

The story of my blogging life.

This morning I checked again. Maybe a miracle occurred? Nope. Still down. What’s the point of writing today?

Woman… you know what the point is. Get to it.

And here I am to tell you all about Darwin and the Beagle by Alan Moorehead, another wonderful used book I found in a friend’s giveaway box for free a few years back, along with Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, which shall be read in the coming weeks as well.

Darwin and the Beagle cover

I’ll just start by saying this book was beautiful, and a perfect overview-like taste of who Charles Darwin was and what his almost five-year voyage on the Beagle accomplished. I’m a big non-traveler, today even when it’s as easy as it is, so I cannot imagine why anyone would get on a boat and travel the world like they did back then. If everyone were like me, all the nations would be exactly the same as when I was born, because no one would ever leave their immediate area.

Things I didn’t know about Charles Darwin:

1 – He didn’t do all that well in school and was floundering a bit about what he was going to do with his life. Born to an upper-class family of means, he had to make choices about his future. He couldn’t just “work” to survive like all the rest. Strange to think all of us make those choices today, and we act as if we don’t.

darwin and the beagle quote

2 – He was 22 years old when he left on that ship! My oldest son is 22 and I can’t imagine not hearing from him for months or years at time, not knowing what became of him until another letter arrived. When my kids travel, they send pictures and texts almost daily from anywhere in the world. Kinda nice for me, I travel through them! When they are stuck, they have the internet to search for help, and they can always call us.

3 – He was sea-sick the entire time and never liked being aboard ship. I’m incredibly susceptible to motion-sickness, like bad. Once I went on a cruise to Mexico and spent almost all my time sleeping in my cabin under the influence of Dramamine. So, there’s Charles, sick as a dog the whole way out to nowhere. The whole time dreading the voyage back. If I were him, I’d be considering going native and never stepping foot on a boat again.

4 – When he finally did return to England, he never left again. There were no other adventures. He spent the next ten to fifteen years documenting his five year excursion, cataloging all he sent back, and writing about it. He spent the rest of his life listening to lectures, reading, and writing. His daily routine sounded much like mine, without the constant chosen distractions of Instagram and phone calls.

5 – There were other people that had started to come to the same conclusions about how old the earth may be and how species may have changed over those years. He was not alone in his theories, nor was he the first. And it took him a long time to admit his theories because he didn’t want to say the bible might not be 100% accurate. He was not an atheist setting out to discredit the Christian god. He was a literal bible believing Christian who saw what he saw and came to new conclusions based on his findings. Later in life, he said he was an agnostic, which in my opinion is brilliant. There are things we cannot prove, and simply cannot know. I also try my best to live with an open mind and make my own conclusions.

6 – He was a loving husband and a kind father. Descriptions of his interactions with his children and the words he had spoken about his wife left me feeling like, if we had met, we’d have been good friends.

I’d say this is a great book to start with if you’re curious about Darwin, but it is an overview for sure. There is so much more to learn. I can’t wait to read more, and I’m starting with Origin of Species next only because I already have it on my shelf.

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