Darwin & The Galapagos Islands
The tiny volcanic island chain of the Galapagos has played a huge role in the formation of Charles Darwin’s ‘theory of evolution’. Darwin visited the Galapagos aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835, as part of a five year navigational mission to chart the coast of South America for the British Royal Navy. Under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy, the expedition was drawing to a close when the Beagle landed in the Galapagos on Isla San Cristobal.
In his early 20’s at the time, Darwin was a young and unknown naturalist interested in joining the ministry. However, after doing extensive research and making a number of astute observations about the flora and fauna found on the four islands he had visited, Darwin became more interested in the natural sciences. He also became very keen on understanding the differences between the animal and plant species found on each of the islands, namely Isla Isabela, the Isla Floreana, the Isla Santiago and the Isla San Cristobal. He additionally noted that on each of these islands closely akin species behaved differently, which made him wonder how all of this was possible.
After years of endless research, he came to the conclusion which resulted in his theory of evolution by natural selection, which was published in his book The Origin of Species in 1859. Putting forward the concept that evolution and not God was responsible for the creation of human beings, Darwin shook society as we know it, to its very core. This book raised a number of important scientific questions and changed the way life was once viewed through the eyes of the church.
The best example of Darwin’s theory of evolution in action was explained based upon his research of the various finches found in the Galapagos. He noted that on each of the islands the finches were all slightly different from each other, with shorter or longer beaks, a different diet and fuller or less plumage. In honor of his research of these birds, the finches of the Galapagos are now known as Darwin’s finches.