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Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (IV – final)

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I have not as yet noticed by far the most remarkable feature in the natural history of this archipelago, it is, that the different islands to a considerable extent are inhabited by a different set of beings. My attention was first called to this fact by the Vice-Governor,Mr Lawson, declaring that the tortoises differed from the different islands, and that he could with certainty tell which islands any one was brought. I did not for some time pay sufficient attention to this statement, and i had already partially mingled together the collections from tow of the islands, I never dreamed that islands, about 50 or 60 miles apart, and most of them in sight of each other, formed of precisely the same rocks, placed under a quite similar climate, rising to a nearly equal height, would have been differently tenanted; but we shall soon see that this is the case. It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are hurried from it; but i ought, perhaps to be thankful that i obtained sufficient materials to establish this most remarkable fact in the distribution of organic beings.

[….]

If we now turn to the Flora, we shall find the aboriginal plants of the different islands, wonderfully different. I give all the following results on the high authority of my friend doctor J. Hooker. I may premise that I indiscriminately collected everthing in flower on the different islands, and fortunately kept my collections separate. To much confidence, however, must not be placed in the proportional results as the small collections brought home by some other naturalists though in some respects confirming the results plainly show that much remains to be done in the botany of this group: the Leguminosae, moreover has as yet been only aproximately worked out.

GalapagosSpecimenHaul

Hence, we have the truly wonderful fact, that in James Island of the thirty-eight Galapegian plants, or those found in no other part of the world, thirty are exclusively confined to this one island; and in Albermarle Island of the twenty-six aboriginal Galapegian plants, twenty-two are confined to this one island, that is, only four, are at present known to grow in the other islands of the archipelago.And so on, as shown in the abose table, with the plants from Chatham and Charles Islands.

[…]

The distribution of the tennats of this archipelago, would not be nearly as wonderful, if, for instance, one island had a mocking-thrush, and a second island some other quite distinct genus; if one island had it’s genus of a lizard, and the second island another distinct genus, or none whatever; or if the different islands were inhabited not by representative species of the same genera of plants, but by totally different genera as does to a certain extend hold good: for, to give on instance, a large berry-bearing tree at James island has no representative species in Charles island. But it is the circumstance, that several of the islands posses their own species of tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder.

Traducere:

Nu am prezentat încă cea mai remarcabilă trăsătură a istoriei naturale a acestui arhipelag şi anume aceea că insulele diferite sunt populate de către o multime de fiinţe. Atenţia mi-a fost atrasă de vice-guvernatorul Lawson care a declarat că ţestoasele sunt diferite de la insulă la insulă şi că putea spune cu certitudine de unde venea fiecare. O vreme nu am dat atenţie afirmaţiei şi deja amestecasem specimene de pe insule diferite. Nu mi-aş fi inchipuit că insule aflate la 50-60 de mile distanţă, formate din aceleaşi pietre, cu un climat asemănător, ridicându-se până la aproape aceeaşi înălţime, ar fi putut avea ca şi locuitori creaturi diferite; dar se va dovedi în curând că aşa este. Soarta oricărui călător este de a descoperi ceva interesant exact când este pe punctul de a părăsi acel loc, dar ar trebui să fiu recunoscător faptului că am obţinut suficiente materiale pentru a stabili acest lucru remarcabil în distributia fiinţelor organice

[….]

Dacă ne referim la floră, vom descoperi că plantele aborigene ale diferitelor insule sunt deosebit de variate. Ofer aceste rezultate prin înalta autoritate a prietenului meu Dr J. Hooker. Pot spune că am colectat tot ce însemna floră pe diferitele insule, şi din fericire mi-am ţinut colecţiile separate. Prea multă încredere nu poate fi pusă în aceste rezultate proporţionale, pentru că micile colecţii aduse acasă de alţi naturalişti, deşi în anumite privinţe confirmă rezultatele, arată clar că mai sunt multe de făcut în legatura cu botanica acestui grup; leguminoasele, totuşi, au fost aproximate astfel:

GalapagosSpecimenHaul

Astfel avem certitudinea faptului că, în insula James din cele 38 de plante din Galapagos, sau din cele care nu se pot găsi în alte părţi ale lumii, 30 se găsesc exclusiv pe această insula. Iar, pe insula Albemarle din cele 26 de plante aborigene din Galapagos, 22 se găsesc doar pe această insulă, ceea ce înseamna că doar despre 4 se ştie că mai cresc şi pe celelalte insule. Şi aşa mai departe, aşa cum se vede în tabel pentru toate plantele de pe insulele Chatham şi Charles.

[…]

Distribuţia “locuitorilor” acestui arhipelag nu ar fi atât de minunată dacă, de exemplu, o insula ar avea un sturz, iar o altă insulă un specimen distinct; – o insulă ar avea o specie de şopârlă iar o alta un gen complet diferit, sau nici unul – sau dacă insulele ar fi locuite  nu de specii reprezentative ale aceluiaşi gen de plante ci de un tip total diferit, aşa cum e normal într-o anumită măsură: ca exemplu un pom fructifer de pe insula James nu are echivalent pe insula Charles.

Insă datele arată că sunt câteva insule care au propriile specii de ţestoase, sturzi, rândunici şi plante numeroase.

Aceste specii având aceleaşi obiceiuri, trăind în condiţii asemănătoare şi evident având acelaşi loc în economia naturala a arhipelagului, sunt cu adevărat uimitoare.

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Momentul decisiv – Galapagos (II)

 

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The Beagle sailed around Chatham island and anchored in several bays. One night i slept on shore on a part of the island where black truncated cones were extraordinarily numerous: from one small eminence i counted sixty of them, all surmounted by craters more or less perfect. The greater number consisted merely of a ring of red scoriae or slags cemented together: and their height above the plain of lava was not more than from fifty to a hundred feet; none had been very lately active. The entire surface of this part of the island seems to have been permeated like a sieve, by the subterranean vapors: here and there the lava whilst soft, has been blown into great bubbles; and in other parts, the tops of caverns similarly formed have fallen in living circular pits with steep sides. From the regular form of the many craters, they gave to the country an artificial appearance which vividly reminded me of those parts of Staffordshire, where the great iron foundries are most numerous. The day was glowing hot and the scrambling over the rough surface and through the intricate thickets, was very fatiguing; but i was well repaid by the strange cyclopean scene. As i was walking along i met two large tortoises each of which must have weighted at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly walked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in it’s head.

These huge reptiles surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs and large cacti seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull colored birds cared no more for me than they did for the great tortoises.

Traducere:

Nava a ocolit insula Chatham si a ancorat in cateva porturi. Intr-o noapte am dormit pe tarm pe o parte a insulei unde conurile vulcanice erau numeroase. De pe un deal din apropiere am numarat saizeci toate inconjurate de cratere mai mult sau mai putin perfecte. Majoritatea erau formate din scoriae si metale fuzionate: iar inaltimea lor deasupra campului de lava nu era mai mare de cincizeci-o suta de picioare (30 de metri); niciunul insa nu fusese activ de curand. Intreaga suprafata a acestei parti a insulei pare sa fi fost perforata ca o sita de catre vapori subterani; ici si colo lava moale a format bule; iar in alte parti tavanele cavernelor formate in mod similar au cazut in prapastii circulare cu margini abrupte. Forma regulata a multor cratere dadeau zonei o infatisare artificiala ce mi-a amintit de acele parti din Staffordshire, unde sunt multe mine. Ziua era torida iar mersul pe suprafata dura si plin tufisurile incalcite era obositor.; dar am fost rasplatit de strania scena salbatica. Pe drum am intalnit doua testoase uriase fiecare cantarind cel putin doua sute de livre (90 de kg): una manca o bucata de cactus si cand m-am apropiat s-a uitat lung la mine si s-a indepartat; cealalta a suierat adanc si s-a retras in carapace.

Aceste reptile uriase inconjurate de lava neagra, tufisurile fara frunze si cactusi uriasi mi se pareau a fi animale antediluviene. Celor cateva pasari fad colorate nu le pasa de mine mai mult decat de uriasele testoase.

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Uriasele patrupede

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The great size of the bones of the Megatheroid animals including the Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scelidotherium, and Mylodon is truly wonderful. The habits of life of these animals were a complete puzzle to naturalists until Proffesor Owen solved the problem with remarkable ingenuity. The teeth indicate, by their simple structure, that these Megatheroid animals lived on vegetable food, and probably on the leaves and small twigs of trees. Their ponderous forms and great strong curved claws seem so little adapted for locomotion that some eminent naturalists have actually believed that, like the sloths, to which they are intimately related, they subsisted by climbing back downwards on trees and feeding on the leaves. It was a bold, not to say preposterous, idea to conceive even antediluvian trees with branches strong enough to bear animals as large as elephants. Professor Owen with far more probability, believes that, insted of climbing on the trees, they pulled the branches down to them and tore up the smaller ones by the roots, and so fed on the leaves.

The colossal breadth and weight of their hinder quarters which can hardly be imagined without having been seen, become on this view, of obvious service instead of being an encumbrance: their apparent clumsiness disappears. With their great tales and their huge heels firmly fixed like a tripod on the ground they could freely exert the full force of their most powerful arms and great claws.

Strongly rooted indeed, most that tree have been , which could have resisted such force!

The Mylodon, moreover, was furnished with a long extensile tongue like that of the giraffe, which by one of those beautiful provisions of nature, thus reaches with the aid of it’s long neck it’s leafy food. I may remark that in Abysinia the elefant according to Bruce, when it cannot reach with it’s proboscis the branches deeply scores with its tusks the trunk of the tree up and down and all around, till it is sufficiently weakend to be broken down.

The beds including the above fossil remains, stand only from fifteen to twenty feet above the level of high water; and hence the elevation of the land has been small (without their has been an intercalated period of subsidence, of which we have no evidence) since the great quadrupeds wandered over the surrounding plains; and the external of the country, must then have been very nearly the same as now.

Traducere

Marimea oaselor animalelor din familia Megateroidelor, incluzand aici Megatherium, Megalonyx, Scleidotherium si Mylodon e cu adevar uimitoare. Obiceiurile acestor animale erau un mister complet pentru naturalisti pana cand profesorul Owen a rezolvat problema cu o ingeniozitate remarcabila. Dintii indicau, prin structura lor simpla ca aceste animale megateroide se hraneau cu vegetale, si probabil cu frunze si mici ramurele. Soliditatea lor si forma curbata a ghearelor parea atat de putin adaptata pentru locomotie, incat unii naturalisti eminenti au crezut ca precum lenesii cu care sunt evident inruditi, se hraneau coborand cu spatele din copaci si hranindu-se cu frunze. A fost o idee indrazneata, ca sa nu zic absurda, sa ne imaginam ca ar fi existat chiar si in vremuri stravechi copaci suficient de puternici incat sa sustina animale la fel de mari ca niste elefanti. Profesorul Owen cu o mare probabilitate considera ca in loc sa se suie in copaci, trageau crengile in jos si rupeau copacii mai mici scotandu-i din radacini.

Greutatea si marimea partii lor dorsale, pe care cu greu ne-o putem inchipui fara sa o fi vazut, primeste o utilitate in loc sa fie o problema, aparenta lor stangacie dispare. Cu cozile imense si tocurile uriase bine fixate in pamant in forma unui tripod puteau folosi forta maxima a bratelor si ghearelor.

Un copac trebuia sa aiba radacini extrem de puternice pentru a resista unei asemenea forte!

Mylodonii aveau o limba extensibila precum cea a girafelor, care cu limba si cu ajutorul gatului prelung ajunge la hrana sa, prin grija minunatei naturi. Conform lui Bruce [probabil un coleg] in Abysinia [fostul nume al Etiopiei] elefantul atunci cand nu ajunge crengile cu trompa, zgarie puternic copacul de jur imprejur si de sus in jos, pana copacul este suficient de slabit pentru a fi pus la pamant.

Locul in care am gasit fosilele este la doar 4-6 metri de nivelul apei, si deci pamantul nu s-a ridicat foarte mult (in afara de cazul in care exista o perioada intermediara de scadere, despre care nu avem dovezi) din perioada in care partrupedepe se plimbau pe campiile imprejmuitaore; iar aspectul tarii trebuie sa fi fost foarte asemanatos cu prezentul.

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