Many moons ago a ship set sail around the world, it wasn’t to know it yet but it was going to change the course of history. It didn’t know this not least due to it being a boat it had a rather poorly developed sense of self. This boat was even less capable of clairvoyancy, a skill unproven in even the most sentient beings… it’s fair to say it really didn’t have the foggiest idea. Still it was so, the places it would visit, and the animals of those places would light the tinder for the greatest idea mankind has ever had… one such creature was the Vampire Finch.
Of course it just wouldn’t do for the ship’s Captain to speak to the scoundrels and hoi polloi of the crew and so it was standard practice at the time to bring a gentleman to drink sherry with them and to generally stop them from going stark raving bonkers. One rather affable fellow seemed perfect, all except for his nose thought Captain Fitzroy. The Captain was a keen phrenologist and being a scholarly and erudite chap he knew that there was no way that this fellow would make the gruelling journey around the globe with a nose that was shaped like that. Thankfully he took him anyway, what’s more he even gave him a book for the journey, a journal on how rocks metamorphose over large periods of time.
A couple of weeks in their conversation turned to slavery, the Captain a conservative and pious man thought it a splendid idea, whereas the young Charles Darwin quite rightly thought it an abomination, after that they didn’t get along quite as well. Thankfully this gave the young naturalist a bit of time to think. Incidentally Charles wasn’t the actual naturalist of the Beagle, that honour fell to Robert McCormick, who eventually quit after constantly being usurped by the affable country gent.
When the Beagle hit South America young Charley was quite taken by the rhea. This large flightless bird was undoubtedly smashing, but why on earth would God feel the need to create it having already made the ostrich.
Upon reaching some volcanic islands miles out to sea from the Ecuadorian coast he met some really rather marvellous species. Enormous tortoises, hawks, aquatic lizards, blue footed boobies, an array of finches and some mockingbirds. Travelling onwards to Tahiti Darwin began to catalogue his finds from the Galapagos. It was the mockingbird that first grabbed his attention, they were all from the same species, yet from each island they displayed slight, yet noticeable differences. Back in Blighty it was the finches that would really get his cogs whirring.
Darwin’s finches as they became known are of course one of the most incredible examples of how an array of animals can come from one. Years before the Beagle’s arrival a single finch had made the islands its home. From this single finch they had adapted and evolved to fill all the different opportunities that the islands have.
The vampire finch is of course one of the more extreme examples, a subspecies of the sharp beaked ground finch it evolved on two of the smaller Galapagos Islands; Darwin and Wolf. These arid islands lacked freshwater and so the finch began to seek out moisture rich foods, it drank the nectar of the cacti it nibbles at, and rather ghoulishly it pecks at the backs of the blue footed boobie population. Strangely the blue footed boobies don’t seem to mind, it’s thought that they think it normal for small birds to come and peck them for parasites. It could of course be that they are insufferable imbeciles, the early Spanish explorers named them boobies after the Spanish for clown: Bobo.
So it was born that Charles Darwin, after twelve years deliberating in his house in the garden of England finally published the Origin of the Species, and what’s more come up with the theory of evolution the single greatest idea mankind ever had. What became of Captain Fitzroy? A devout man, though exactly where all that ‘love thy neighbour’ business fitted in with his belief in slavery is anyone’s bloody guess. Fitzroy was deeply perturbed by the cataclysmic blow dealt to his religion by Darwin’s incredible idea. An idea that could only have been dreamt up if Darwin had been ferried around some odd corners of the globe, after reading a book on how rocks change over vast periods of time. Captain Fitzroy got up one morning and took his life.