The 1831–1836 voyage of H.M.S. Beagle under Captain Robert FitzRoy launched Charles Darwin’s entry into the world of geology with two pioneering publications on oceanic islands to his credit. Best known is Darwin’s 1842 contribution on the theory of atoll development from the subsidence of volcanic islands and coeval upward growth of coral reefs. This work can be linked, in part, to the ten days during which the Beagle visited the Keeling (Cocos) Islands. The subsequent and lesser known of Darwin’s parallel contributions is his 1844 summary on all the volcanic islands visited during the expedition, including Santiago (Cape Verde Islands), Terceira (Azores), St. Paul’s Rocks, Fernando Noronha, Ascension, St. Helena, the Galápagos Islands, Tahiti, and Mauritius. Ostensibly, the centerpiece of the 1844 volume is Darwin’s extensive coverage of Ascension based on the five days spent there in 1836. However, Darwin had many more days at his disposal in the Galápagos and ‘St. Jago’ (Santiago), where the Beagle stopped in the Cape Verde Islands at the outset and again near the end of the voyage. The volcanic islands where Darwin spent the most time were in the Galápagos (thirty-five days) and the Cape Verdes (twenty-nine days). In particular, those island groups make an interesting comparison with respect to the development of Darwin’s ideas on tectonic uplift based on basalt flows with inter-bedded limestone formations. Chance played a huge role in what Darwin saw and did not see during his island travels. The initial visit to the Cape Verde islands was instrumental in shaping Darwin’s earliest vision of a book on volcanic islands, but his time there was entirely fortuitous due to a forced change in FitzRoy’s plan for a stay in the Canary Islands. Although Darwin was on the look out for limestone formations in the Galápagos islands comparable to those on Santiago in the Cape Verdes, he missed finding them due only to the vagaries of FitzRoy’s charting schedule in the Galápagos. This overview looks at limestone distribution in the Cape Verde and Galápagos archipelagos as now understood and speculates on how a wider knowledge of both regions may have influenced Darwin’s thinking on global patterns of island uplift and subsidence.
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