Map of South America

Date: 1835
Owner: D. Appleton and Company
Source Type: Maps


This map traces the route of the Beagle around South America during that ship's trip around the world in the early 1830s. At these ports of call, Darwin was able to make excursions during which he collected fossils, observed local people and customs, and took notes and drew sketches of what he saw. Although Darwin was able to make some trips inland (with the help of guides), it is worth noting that most of his observations were limited to the coast of the Southern Cone of South America, and Darwin never visited the area further north nor the continent's vast interior. He no doubt would have been eager to explore the Amazon region as Humboldt had thirty years earlier.

Darwin's observations about nature are, with good reason, his most well known notes, but--as this map makes clear--Darwin visited several of South America's largest cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Lima. At these ports, he was able to conduct amateur ethnographic studies of the urban populations in the years directly following the independence of Latin America. He noted everything from the strict social hierarchies of Rio and the harsh slavery it engendered to the beauty of the women in Buenos Aires (he was, after all, a man in his early twenties).

South America's size and ecological diversity gave Darwin a chance to observe and compare a great variety of species, both living and extinct, and piece together a larger picture of how these life forms could be related to each other. It was a continental project, one that relied on visiting the many distant locales noted on this map.

CITATION: Map of South America. Darwin, Charles. Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage Round the World of H.M.S. 'Beagle' Under the Command of Captain Fitz Roy, R.N. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1890.