Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Beagle and the Rise of the Andes – Part I

According to Norman R. Steweart, “Andes Mountains—Mountain System, South America (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2014) “The collision (or convergence) of two plates—the continental South American Plate and the oceanic Nazca-Plate—gave rise to the orogenic (mountain-building) activity that produced the Andes.” Many of the rocks comprising the present-day cordilleras began as sediments eroded from the Amazonia craton (or Brazilian shield)—the ancient granitic continental fragment that constitutes much of Brazil—and deposited on the craton’s western flank. The weight of these deposits forced a subsidence (downwarping) of the crust, and the resulting pressure and heat metamorphosed the deposits into more resistant rocks; thus, sandstone, siltstone, and limestone were transformed, respectively, into quartzite, shale, and marble.
At one point this complex geologic matrix began to be uplifted as the eastern edge of the Nazca Plate was forced under the western edge of the South American Plate (i.e., the Nazca Plate was subducted), the result of the latter plate’s westward movement in response to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This subduction-uplift process was accompanied by the intrusion of considerable quantities of magma from the mantle, first in the form of a volcanic arc along the western edge of the South American Plate and then by the injection of hot solutions into surrounding continental rocks; the latter process created numerous dikes and veins containing concentrations of economically valuable minerals that later were to play a critical role in the Andes.
    The intensity of this activity increased until the present shape of the cordilleras emerged, exhibiting an extraordinary vertical differential of more than 40,000 feet between the bottom of the Peru-Chile (Atacama) Trench off the Pacific coast of the continent and the peaks of the high mountains within a horizontal distance of less than 200 miles. The tectonic processes that created the Andes is still continuing—the system, part of the larger circum-Pacific volcanic chain that often is called the Ring of Fire, remains volcanically active and is subject to devastating earthquakes during these events and ever since.
    Any disagreement with this is not with our article, viewpoint, or comments here, but with the geologists who have written extensively about this event, drawn models, shown maps of South America before, during and after this uplift of the Andes and the eastern part of the continent rising above the surface. The only problem is the difference in the time frame between “Old Earth” scientists, claiming the Earth is 4.55 billion years old, and the claims of the scriptures, Old Testament, Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, and the Book of Abraham. Personally, I prefer the Lord’s time frame, not that of science, whose “Old Earth” has been pushed back centuries, then millennium just in my lifetime by evolutionists who kept claiming they needed more time for their “Anything can happen given enough time” theory.
    It is interesting that someone such as Charles Darwin, a proponent of evolution is also a proponent of the rise of the Andes in the time of man.
To begin with, the HMS Beagle, the ship Darwin sailed upon in his investigation of South America, the Gallapagos Islands, and other places on the around the world voyage, was a Cherokee-class 10-gun brigsloop of the Royal Navy, one of more than 100 ships of this class. Constructed at a cost of £7,803, was launched on 11 May, 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames.
    In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King Goerge IV of the United Kingdom, and for that occasion is said to have been the first ship to sail completely under the old London Bridge. Since there was no immediate need for Beagle she “lay inordinary,” that is moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three survey expeditions.
    Captain Pringle Stokes was appointed captain of Beagle on 7 September 1825, and the ship was allocated to the surveying section of the Hydrographic Office. On 27 September 1825 Beagle docked at Woolwich to be repaired and fitted out for her new duties. Her guns were reduced from ten cannon to six and a mizzen mast was added to improve her handling, thereby changing her from a brig to a bark (or  barque).
    Under the Command of Stokes, Beagle set sail from Plymouth on 22 May 1826 on her first voyage. The mission was to accompany the larger ship HMS Adventure (380 tons) on a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, under the overall command of the Australian Captain Phillip Parker King, commander and Surveyor.
Faced with the more difficult part of the survey in the desolate waters of Tierra del Fuego, Captain Stokes fell into a deep depression, and at Port Famine on the Strait of Magellan, he locked himself in his cabin for 14 days, then after getting over-excited and talking of preparing for the next cruise, shot himself on 2 August 1828. Following four days of delirium Stokes recovered slightly, but then his condition deteriorated and he died on 12 August 1828.  Captain Parker King then replaced Stokes with the First Lieutenant of the Beagle, Lieutenant W.G. Skyring as commander, and both ships sailed to Montevideo. On 13 October King sailed the Adventure to Rio de Janeiro for refitting and provisions. During this work Rear Admiral Sir Robert Otway, commander in chief of the South American station arrived aboard HMS Ganges and announced his decision that the Beagle was also to be brought to Montevideo for repairs, and that he intended to supersede Skyring. When the Beagle arrived, Otway put the ship under the command of his aide, Flag Lieutenant Robert FitzRoy.
On the second voyage in December, 1831—a five year voyage around the world—a twenty-two year old naturalist named Charles Darwin (left) was on board; the pivotal role this round the world voyage played in forming his scientific theories made Beagle one of the most famous ships in history. FitzRoy had been given reason to hope that the South American Survey would be continued under his command, but when the Lords of the Admiralty appeared to abandon the plan, he made alternative arrangements to return the native Fuegians who he had earlier taken to London. A kind uncle heard of this and contacted the Admiralty. Soon afterwards FitzRoy heard that he was to be appointed commander of HMS Chanticleer to go to Tierra del Fuego, but due to her poor condition Beagle was substituted for the voyage. FitzRoy was re-appointed as commander on 27 June 1831 and the Beagle was commissioned on on 4 July 1831 under his command, with Lieutenants John Clements Wickham and Bartholomew James Sulivan.
    When the ship, Beagle, arrived on the evening of July 23rd at the city of Valparaiso, Chile, Darwin was very glad to be in a warmer climate and his stomach was happier to be in calmer seas. He enjoyed the pretty sight of the town, the blue skies, dry air, and attractive hills. Both ships stayed at Valparaiso for a few weeks to be refitted for the Pacific Ocean crossing. While in town Darwin met an old Shrewsbury classmate, Mr. Richard Corfield, who owned a house in town and he let Darwin stay with him. Over the next several days Darwin went on several long walks in the countryside, collecting specimens, but he was not very impressed with the local flora and fauna.

    While in Valparaiso, and as the ships were out surveying the nearby coastline, Darwin went off exploring towards the Andes Mountains.
The Beagle Laid Ashore for repairs at Tierra del Fuego, to repair damage caused by a rock at Port Desire and to check that the copper sheets were intact; Fitzroy notes they were about to enter the Pacific where worms soon eat their way through unprotected planks. They found that a piece of the false keel had been knocked off and the copper was heavily rubbed in places. The carpenter, Mr. May, repaired it all in one tide. The Beagle undertook a repainting and refit while Fitzroy, Darwin and a small crew explored upriver for several days 

(See the next post, “The Beagle and the Rise of the Andes – Part II,” for more on the rising of the Andes Mountains)

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