Father & Son
I recently read the story of a young man who was both a worry and a disappointment to his parents.
The father wanted his son to be a doctor, but the young man flunked out of medical school. The boy was considered by all to be rather average, and he had few prospects.
With medical school out of the question, the father pushed his son to become a clergyman, and the young man had resigned himself to the idea.
But then came the opportunity for the son to take a trip around the world.
The young man was very interested, but needed his father’s permission and financial support. His father objected to such a frivolous waste of his son’s time.
Fortunately, a kindly uncle intervened.
He convinced the boy’s father that his son had a unique opportunity to do something few would ever have the chance to do. And along the way, his son might just find his way in the world.
The father relented and allowed his son to travel around the world.
The boy, of course, was Charles Darwin. And the trip he took round the world – five years in all – was described in the book Voyage of the Beagle.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Darwin’s father didn’t live long enough to see the impact his “aimless” son had on our understanding of the natural world.
But one tribute to Darwin’s life work lives on at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos.
The center has become an important advocate and advisor for protecting the Galapagos. One of their most important missions has been to help repopulate the islands with giant tortoises, which where well on their way to becoming extinct.
During our visit to the center we were able to see Lonesome George, perhaps the most famous reptile in the world.
George is the last of the Isla Pinta subspecies of tortoise. At ninety, he has been a confirmed bachelor, thus earning the nickname “Lonesome.”
But George recently made news when six tortoise eggs were found in his enclosure. It seems he must have taken a liking to one of the three females of a closely related subspecies he had been spending time with.
Three of the eggs were accidently destroyed when the tortoises stepped on them. The three remaining eggs are under careful protection and close watch to determine if George actually becomes a father. It will be a few months before the world knows if the eggs are viable.
Though Darwin spent only five weeks of a five year journey on the Galapagos, their impact on him – and his on them – cannot be understated.
I suspect his father would be proud.