Alec and I went a Smithsonian lecture on the Galapagos Archepelego. Everything from the structure of the Cocos Hotspot and the giant subsurface magma plume which formed the islands to the very strange fauna and flora which live there. And, of course, the man who forever will be linked to this dubious earthly paradise, Charles Darwin. Turns out, that Darwin and the HMS Beagle only spent four weeks out a total four-year cruise. They only visited four of the over twenty islands in the group. Four islands in four weeks; sounds like a budget vacation.
While visiting, Darwin made note of the several species of mockingbird, but pretty much neglected the (Darwin's finches) which he only began to puzzle over when he got home and the British Museum specialist told him that they were all, indeed, finches. Chuck could be somewhat obtuse like that, even after the deputy governor told him that the giant tortoises were identifiable from their shell shape to specific islands. He mulled things over for close to 20 years until a letter to a mutual friend from a largely self-educated biologist working in the East Indies came to his attention. This fellow, one Alfred Wallace, came up with the same idea of change through natural selection. Darwin panicked and the mutual friend suggested they coauthor a paper to the Royal Society. The paper on natural selection was presented to not much enthusiasm. Truth be told, Charles Darwin was always something of a slapdash biologist.
He trained as a physician at Edinburg but got nauseated by the sight of blood. Then took a "gentleman's C" at Cambridge in theology. He signed on as super cargo aboard the Beagle and spent the next five years cruising around the world.
The story goes that as a young man, he was collecting insects when he pried up a chunk of bark to find two species of beetle new to his collection. He grabbed one in each hand when he saw a third crawling away. Loath to loose it, he popped one into his mouth. Bad move, the erstwhile tasty morsel turned out to be a bombardier beetle which released a stream of boiling hot acid into his mouth. Despite everything, he kept all three for his collection. Thus are great naturalists born.