Friday, April 11, 2014

Darwin's Diary: Charles Darwin in Galapagos - by Nina

Teachers Notes
Nina had been set a school writing assignment which required her to write a narrative in three separate parts, viz: an orientation, a complication and a resolution.  She was encouraged to be as descriptive as possible in her work.  The plan she developed for her work is presented below:

Darwin sails to Galapagos, anchors in Academy Bay and starts exploring.

Darwin sees woodpeckers similar to the ones found in South America and wonders about this. He also sees variation in finches and tortoises found between islands.

When he goes back to England and mulls it over he comes up with a theory. He tested it on pigeons and other animals and plants then writes a book about it. The theory is about the origin of species and natural selection.

Her final narrative is presented below:

Darwin's Diary: Charles Darwin in Galapagos

We have just sighted some islands off the port bow and Captain Fitzroy thinks they are the Galapagos Islands as there are no other islands in the vicinity.
They are particularly hilly and there are a few particularly pointy hills, like volcano cones. We are still a fair distance away so I can't see it clearly but I can make out that there is a brown strip around the bottom and then there is a line where it suddenly goes green all the way to the top.

We anchored yesterday afternoon in a sheltered bay that the Captain decided to call Academy Bay. I was taken ashore and I immediately found a species of lizard that is able to swim in the water, even though being a cold blooded animal this should be impossible, especially as the water temperature here is significantly colder than it should be this close to the equator. This is probably caused buy the Peru cold current, which gets pushed out to sea from Ecuador. The bay is also full of sea lions.

Today I went exploring again and I found a woodpecker that was very similar to a species I found in Ecuador, except that its’ bill was slightly different.

Today we hiked up inland. The highland is quite wet and as a result it is almost a rainforest. The only way I could move around was to go on the trails made by giant tortoises. Tortoises are a reptile that has a high, dome like carapace made of keratin (the stuff your fingernails are made from). When it feels threatened it withdraws its head into its shell and puts its armoured legs into a position to protect its head.

Today we sailed to another island. This one is quite large and has five large volcano cones. Here I was amazed to find a species of cormorant that could not fly. It's wings were small and sparsely feathered and obviously would not be able to fly. I was also amazed to find penguins on this island. This would make them the only known penguins in the northern hemisphere. They were very similar to Marconi penguins.

All these animals I have found are similar to ones found on South America.  The book I was given by Capitan Fitzroy about the origin of species says that species continue on unchanged until they go extinct. At the time I read his books I excepted this theory but the species of woodpecker, finch and tortoise I have discovered are very similar to ones I found in South America. This indicates that some of the ancestors of the woodpeckers that I found in South America flew to Galapagos and then adapted to the environment there.

2 October 1836
I am no means disappointed to tell you that we have finally reached England. I am planning on first visiting my family for a while then I will travel around England looking for people capable of preserving and identifying the specimens I found on the voyage.

1 December 1836
I have found the people necessary to look after the specimens I collected. I also met Charles Lyell, the author of the book on the origin of species Capitan Fitzroy gave me. He was a very interesting man but I am inclined to disagree with his theory. I am intending to write a book about my theory but it will be difficult to present this to the public. My theory goes against everything the church has taught people for hundreds of years and if I present it in the wrong way I will be discredited and no one will ever read the book let alone consider my theory. As a result I will have to spend a considerable amount of time getting the wording of it right. I will first get a number of species of every day animals and test my theory on them. If it proves successful I will write the book out in a way that normal people will be able to relate to. If I don't do it this way I am sure to be discredited.

22 November 1859
My book is finally on sale. 1250 copies of my book were produced but more people have subscribed than books were made, so that is a bit of a problem. The theory in question is that species evolve around different habitats and climates by natural selection. For example maybe once upon a time giraffes had short necks. Then one was born that had a longer neck and it was able to reach juicier leaves that the others couldn't, and because of it it lived a lot longer than the others and it has lots of children, all with longer necks. Now all of these giraffes had longer necks and they started to take over from the shorter neck ones. Then some of his grandchildren had even longer ones and the process keeps going on for hundreds of years until their necks are as long as they can go.

Darwin's book proved very popular indeed and people are still reading it, for example my Mum just finished reading his Origin of Species and a number of other books by other people about him too. If Darwin new how many people had read his book he would be very proud indeed, and he should be.

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