On December 23, 1832, Darwin penned in his diary: “We arrived at Port Desire, located in lat. 47° on the Patagonian coast. The creek stretches about twenty miles inland, with an irregular width.” About two centuries later, on December 24, 2022, Captain Darwin revisited the same village, now known as Puerto Deseado.
Beyond our naturalistic exploration, a pertinent question arises: How have landscapes evolved since Darwin’s time? In this endeavor, the legacy of Conrad Martens, the HMS Beagle‘s artist, will prove invaluable.
This remarkable painting portrays both HMS Beagle and HMS Adventure (a ship that was then part of the mission led by Captain FitzRoy), sailing together on the Ria Deseado. The Piedra Toba, a majestic natural stone standing approximately 30 meters tall, forms a prominent backdrop. In the foreground, Captain Fitz Roy’s crew engages in Christmas festivities, partaking in the game “Slinging the Monkey.”
200 years later
After a few hours of searching on the Captain Darwin‘s dinghy, we eventually locate the exact spot where Conrad Martens captured the scene. At first glance, the site appears unchanged: the stone still stands, albeit showing some signs of cracking, possibly a result of past earthquakes. The Patagonian steppes in the background remain as awe-inspiring as they did two centuries ago. However, the true transformation of landscapes unfolds beyond the visible stage!
It is the north shore of Ria Deseado that has undergone significant changes. The once small village of Port Désiré, now known as Puerto Deseado, has experienced a remarkable population surge, growing from a few dozen inhabitants to over 20,000 today. The catalyst behind this development was the fishing industry, which has flourished in the area. Nowadays, the port houses numerous boats, including trawlers and squid fishing vessels, presenting perhaps the most notable transformation of the landscape visible in Puerto Deseado.
Map of the Ria Deseado: the viewpoint is marked with a paint logo, the axis towards the Piedra Toba is indicated in dotted lines.
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