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This Thing of Darkness

by Harry Thompson

A long but ripping yarn about Charles Darwin and his adventures on The Beagle, but also about Robert Fitzroy, its tragic captain (who pioneered the long range weather forecast and the Beaufort Scale). Experience terrifying storms, encounter fierce natives, discover new species and share each man's agonising doubts as they come to very different conclusions about life and creation.

Extract

Darwin readily agreed to FitzRoy's diversion, and folded away his microscope. The pair walked out on to the maindeck, sidestepping a huddle of giant tortoises conspiratorially mulching a mound of green leaves, and headed for the starboard rail, where they stood in silence and drank in the view. The coconut palms lining the shore cut jet-black silhouettes into the purple evening sky. A loose-limbed youth was shinning with no apparent difficulty up one of the featureless tree trunks. Along the beach, a line of little cooking-fires blazed, putting FitzRoy in mind of the bonfires of Tierra del Fuego. Was it only a year and a half since they had braved the thundering seas and lashing rain of South America's wild tip, and gained admittance to that isolated, mysterious world, primitive man's last true kingdom on earth?

Parallels

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
To the Ends of the Earth by William Golding
Joseph Banks by Patrick O'Brian
 

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