Geology Professor Retraces Darwin's Footsteps in Two Landmark Expeditions
James first went to the exotic Galapagos Islands in 1982, when he was
the same age as Charles Darwin was when he went to the islands in 1835.
For three weeks this August, James will abandon his office in Darwin Hall
on the Sonoma State University campus and travel south to Darwin's Islands,
the equatorial Galapagos archipelago made famous by Darwin.
Aboard a ship called the Tip Top III, which is about the same size as
Darwin's ship HMS Beagle, James will retrace Darwin's footsteps and travel
in the wake of the Beagle.
What James hopes to capture is as much of the "Darwin stood right here"
feeling as possible that can only be experienced by careful retracing
of Darwin's route from Darwin's field notebooks and published work.
In addition, James will have another expedition on his personal radar
screen: the 1905-1906 Galapagos expedition of the California Academy of
Sciences. The Cal Academy sent out the schooner "Academy" to collect as
many specimens of plants and animals as possible from Darwin's islands.
They believed the flora and fauna of the islands were "fast disappearing"
-- and they had better collect there before it was too late.
The men of the schooner "Academy" knew all about Darwin, who had visited
the Galapagos 70 years earlier, in the fall of 1835. When the men of the
"Academy" arrived in the Fall of 1905, they were well prepared to "collect
evolution" and document the remarkable plants and animals of the islands.
James is combining his interest in Darwin and his personal research on
the 1905-06 expedition into a narrative history of the islands called
The "Academy" had eight young sailor-scientists aboard for the year-long
collecting trip to the Galapagos. Professor James has carefully examined
the lives of these men, reading everything they wrote and even
meeting their living descendants all around the Bay Area.
James had poured over the yellowing pages of the field notebooks of the
eight young men, and read their correspondence on thin onionskin paper
in the Archives at the California Academy of
Darwin propelled the Galapagos into fame with the publication of "The
Origin of Species" in 1859. For the Cal Academy in San Francisco, the
April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire propelled their expedition into fame.
During the earthquake and fire, the Academy's new museum on Market Street
was completely destroyed. This tragic event made the specimens in the
hold of the schooner "Academy" the basis for the new museum, now located
in Golden Gate Park.
Walking in the footsteps of Darwin and the eight young men, sailing in
the wake of the "Beagle" and the
"Academy" -- Professor James will have lots to tell his students when
he returns to teaching in Darwin
Hall at the end of August.
CAPTION: Geology professor Matt James will make a voyage to the Galgapagos
Islands, tracing Charles Darwin's voyage on the Beagle and the 1905-1906
expedition of the California Academy of Sciences.