Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Beagle's puzzling wiggle

I see that Karen James over on the Beagle Project Blog has been drawing up a new map of Darwin's Beagle voyage.

We have a map of the voyage in the Rough Guide to Evolution, but the map has to be taken as approximate, given how difficult it is to catch all the to-ing and fro-ing that the Beagle did along the coastline of South America on a map that shows the whole world. However, there was one feature that caught my eye when the map returned from the cartographers: a wiggle, as the Beagle sailed away from the coastline between Santiago and Concepcion to encircle the Juan Fernández Islands. When I checked other maps of the voyage, some have the wiggle...

For example, this one from the Darwin Day website:

...and the original map from The Beagle Diary publication that Karen referenced.

But some do not, including Karen's and the one from Darwin's Journal of Researches (aka Voyage of the Beagle).

From a quick look around, I have not been able to find any reference to this trip around the Juan Fernández islands in the text of the Beagle Diary or Journal of Researches.

Karen, or anyone else, can you shed light on this puzzling wiggle?!


Karen James said...

First of all: hello and welcome to the blogosphere, Mark! You are hereby added to the Beagle Project blogroll and I will make a special post flagging you up once I've returned to the land of wifi (am on dial-up deep in the Rocky Mountains at the moment).

Second: about the wiggle. I think I might have mentioned that my map is a work in progress. The way I'm building it is by using Fitzroy's lat/long data and translated place names from his Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle and entering these data into Google Maps (I'll be making my map public shortly, once I've cleaned it up a little), then translating this as best I can to the much sexier NASA "Blue Marble" map shown in my picture. So far, I have not entered all of Fitzroy's data, just identified the major ports of call and a few connecting lat/longs at sea. So, I am sure that I have only missed the wiggle because I have not incorporated even close to all of Fitzroy's data yet.

As far as I'm concerned, Fitzroy's narrative is the first and last word on the matter. I aspire to make my map fit his narrative as accurately as possible. My goal is to have this done mid-November this year.

I'm curious what your process was for making your map for the Rough Guide - what data did you give to the cartographers?

p.s. I've only referenced the Beagle diary for my overland excursions so far...

Mark Pallen said...

Hi Karen
Good luck with the map. I look forward to being able to retrace Darwin's voyage on Google Earth (I assume data for Google Maps works on Google Earth).

I did once wander up the Rio Santa Cruz valley that Darwin explored. But I did it from the safety of my armchairon Google Earth--Darwin et al had to drag their boats upstream!

For the Rough Guide I sent them links to maps in prominent places, such as the wiki article and what you find with a Google images search. I think the cartographers also used their own sources. I make no pretense that the map's coverage of S. America is anything other than impressionistic, but the map itself will only occupy a single page, so it would be hard to add detail even if one wanted to.

Keep up the good work!