33. Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)

"Note on a rock seen on an iceberg in 61º south latitude."  In: Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, 1839, vol. 9, pp. 528-529.


Iceberg carrying a large rock, from Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, vol. 9, p. 526.  The image is actually in Balleny’s article, which immediately precedes Darwin’s.

In a second paper of 1839, this time for the Royal Geographical Society, Charles Darwin expressed his thoughts on the origin of erratic bounders.  An English whaling captain, John Balleny, who in 1839 had just discovered the Balleny Islands and became the first person to land south of the Antarctic Circle,  submitted a paper to the Society describing an iceberg he had observed that was carrying a gigantic boulder. 

Darwin, seizing on an idea first proposed by Charles Lyell, wrote a follow-up article, suggesting that Balleny’s boulder-carrying iceberg was evidence that icebergs and ice floes could and did carry large rocks from one place to another.  This was an explanation for erratic rocks that did indeed utilize ice, but it was floating ice.  It was quite different from Agassiz’s idea, that erratic bounders had been strewn across Europe (and the British isles) by glaciers that once covered the land.

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