Darwin Sign Project

Capture

Today I learned about a fun project at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos:

Those who have visited Galapagos will know that the sign outside the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) is a popular spot to have your photograph taken. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the research station, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Friends of Galapagos Organisations are asking you to send in your photos beside the sign to contribute to a giant montage that will go on display at the new visitor centre. It is a great opportunity for you to become a part of Galapagos history!

Submissions will be accepted until 20 January 2015 (when the CDRS turns 51 years old) and all eligible participants will be notified via email to view the final photo collection online.

A voluntary donation with each photo submission will be put towards building repairs and maintenance of the research station, helping to keep CDF at the forefront of Galapagos conservation science for years to come.

If you’ve got such a photo, head here to submit it! Wish I had such a photo…

BOOK: Naturalists at Sea: Scientific Travellers from Dampier to Darwin

Glyn Williams, Naturalists at Sea: Scientific Travellers from Dampier to Darwin (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 328 pp.

On the great Pacific discovery expeditions of the “long eighteenth century,” naturalists for the first time were commonly found aboard ships sailing forth from European ports. Lured by intoxicating opportunities to discover exotic and perhaps lucrative flora and fauna unknown at home, these men set out eagerly to collect and catalogue, study and document an uncharted natural world. This enthralling book is the first to describe the adventures and misadventures, discoveries and dangers of this devoted and sometimes eccentric band of explorer-scholars. Their individual experiences are uniquely their own, but together their stories offer a new perspective on the extraordinary era of Pacific exploration and the achievements of an audacious generation of naturalists. Historian Glyn Williams illuminates the naturalist’s lot aboard ship, where danger alternated with boredom and quarrels with the ship’s commander were the norm. Nor did the naturalist’s difficulties end upon returning home, where recognition for years of work often proved elusive. Peopled with wonderful characters and major figures of Enlightenment science—among them Louis Antoine de Bouganville, Joseph Banks, John Reinhold Forster, Captain Cook, and Charles Darwin—this book is a gripping account of a small group of scientific travelers whose voyages of discovery were to change perceptions of the natural world.

John Tyndall and 19th Century Science

On Tuesday I head from Portland to Big Sky, Montana for a conference, “John Tyndall and 19th Century Science”:

The conference will bring together some of the past and current participants of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to discuss issues raised by the NSF-funded project. It will also include a workshop for the editors of the anticipated twelve volumes of Tyndall’s letters, currently under contract with Pickering & Chatto. The conference will be held from at the 320 Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.

I will be presenting the paper I wrote when I was a graduate student at Montana State University, about John Tyndall’s 1872-3 lecture tour in the United States. It’ll be nice to see some familiar faces and some new ones from the project. And I am looking forward to meeting Darwin biographer Janet Browne, who is giving the keynote lecture. And it does not hurt that the conference is being held here:

I’ll fly back on Thursday.

ARTICLE: Questions of Inscription and Epistemology in British Travelers’ Accounts of Early Nineteenth-Century South America

From the Annals of the Association of American Geographers (published online May 2011):

Questions of Inscription and Epistemology in British Travelers’ Accounts of Early Nineteenth-Century South America

Innes M. Keighren & Charles W.J. Withers

Abstract This article examines the problems of truth and of trust in travelers’ narratives. Following a review of work on travel writing and the place of printed travel narratives in the making of geographical enquiry, we discuss how issues of inscription and credibility are intrinsic to the material and epistemic transformation of narratives from their manuscript beginnings to their printed form. Particular attention is paid to the narratives of travel in early nineteenth-century South America issued by the London publisher John Murray. By interrogating the embodied practices of travel writing, this article investigates the ways in which Murray’s authors sought to establish a correspondence between their lived experiences and the textual representations of those experiences. The article focuses on the epistemological bases to travelers’ claims to truth and how they evaluated differently the significance of direct observation and the oral and textual testimony of third parties in the production of travel accounts that sought to reveal a newly independent South America to the reading public. In its examination of the complex connections linking author, publisher, and audience, the work has implications for scholars interested in the relationship between writing and the printed word in geography.

A brief mention is made of Darwin: “What was taking place there and with these authors was more common than might be supposed: Darwin modified his written reports on South America and on much else for fear of offending his wife and peers; African travelers regulated their published work for fear of audience reproof; polar explorers commonly redacted their narratives between the field and the study Because this is so, the way in which travelers chose to write their accounts matters as a subject of scholarly attention, as does the relationship between narrative as practice and audiences’ and publishers’ perceptions of texts’ value and credibility” (p. 13)

Darlingtonia californica

Darlingtonia californica

Photo: Darlingtonia State Natural Site, north of Florence, Oregon, August 7, 2011
Illustrations: Francis Ernest Lloyd, The Carnivorous Plants (New York: Dover, 1976 [1942]), plate 5.

We went camping last weekend on the Oregon coast and made a quick stop to see these pitcher plants. When we got home I pulled out this copy of The Carnivorous Plants that my grandfather owned and found some neat illustrations of Darlingtonia. So I thought I’d put a photo with the illustrations. You can view more photos here.

Darwin made just one mention of Darlingtonia in his Insectivorous Plants (1875, p. 453), when summarizing in the very last paragraph the three classes of such plants:

There is a second class of plants which, as we have just seen, cannot digest, but absorb the products of the decay of the animals which they capture, namely, Utricularia and its close allies; and from the excellent observations of Dr. Mellichamp and Dr. Canby, there can scarcely be a doubt that Sarracenia and Darlingtonia may be added to this class, though the fact can hardly be considered as yet fully proved.

Darlingtonia was described by John Torrey (1796-1873) in 1853 and named after William Darlington (1782–1863), a botanist in Philadelphia.

Darlingtonia State Natural Site