January 9, 1834 (a Thursday)

Charles Darwin by G Richmond.

On this date, HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin arrived at Port San Julian, Argentina. He wrote in Voyage of the Beagle:

Everything in this southern continent has been effected on a grand scale: the land, from the Rio Plata to Tierra del Fuego, a distance of 1200 miles, has been raised in mass (and in Patagonia to a height of between 300 and 400 feet), within the period of the now existing sea-shells. The old and weathered shells left on the surface of the upraised plain still partially retain their colours.

Macrauchenia patachonica, by Robert Bruce Horsfall (1913)

Macrauchenia patachonica, by Robert Bruce Horsfall (1913)

Darwin was almost always seasick while aboard the Beagle. “The misery,” he wrote at one point, “is excessive.” And so the southern reaches of Patagonia and the area around Tierra del Fuego, where furious winds and storms could whip the water into a froth, were especially unpleasant for him.

Along the cliffs, Darwin explored fossils. In fact, this is where he made one of his greatest fossil discoveries, the first-recorded specimen of a giant three-toed ungulate later named Macrauchenia patachonica — something like a mad scientist’s cross between a camel, llama, and elephant.


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