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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Balfour Baikie   11 February 1858

Encampment near Kétsa, Núpe1 | Central Africa,

11 Feb 1858.

Dear Sir,

Allow me to address a short note to you with reference to your communication to me before I left England last spring.2 During our voyage up the river, & our residence in this spot I have been paying considerable attention to domestic breeds of animals, & I hope to be able to bring home specimens of most of them, & full accounts of all. I am in great hopes of being able to make a run as far as Princes’ or St Thomas’ before I return, as a Zoological & Botanical visit to these islands would be most interesting.3 I do not see why these islands should not contain some indigenous & peculiar species. Fernando Po, which is much nearer the coast of Africa does, especially of mammals & Birds. Of the former are 2 species of Hyrax, one or two Gazelles, & I think some bats, & perhaps a Pangolin, as one of these latter which I got appeared distinctive. I also got there specimens of a Malapterurus differing from that of Old Kalabar, as also from those I have since got in this river. Fernando Po is the only one containing an indigenous population, a very peculiar people, in appearance, in habits, & in language4— I do not know whether you have seen a chart of the currents of the Gulf of Guinea, shewn at the R. Geographical Society about a year ago by Mr J. Campbell, Surgeon, R.N.5 By it you would see how unlikely Dr Daniell’s supposition is of animals having been floated to these little islands.6

I hope you will excuse me if I mention

CD annotations

0.3 Dear … of mammals & 1.9] crossed pencil
9 2 species of Hyrax, 1.10] ‘peculiaradded after ‘2’, pencil
1.15 Gulf of Guinea,] underl pencil
Top of first page: ‘197 brown crayon, underl brown crayon
Top of last page: ‘Dr Balfour Baikie’ pencil


Baikie commanded a naval expedition to explore the river Niger that set off in May 1857. In October 1857, Baikie’s exploring vessel foundered on rocks, and he and the crew established a camp at Ketsa Island in the kingdom of Nupe to await the arrival of a relief ship (Hastings ed. 1926,pp. 107–112, 182, 207).
CD’s letter has not been found.
In fact, the expedition had to be abandoned late in 1859 without having visited Principe and Sâo Tomé islands (Hastings ed. 1926, p. 210).
Baikie had previously served on an expedition to explore the river Niger and Fernando Po in 1854.
James Campbell, naval surgeon, donated a map of the river Congo to the library and map-room of the Royal Geographical Society (Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 27 (1857): lxxviii).
CD may have asked Baikie to corroborate William Freeman Daniell’s statement that mammals were found on Annobon Island, Sâo Tomé, Principe, and Fernando Po off the west coast of Africa (see Correspondence vol. 6, letters from W. F. Daniell, 8 October – 7 November 1856 and 14 November 1856). CD had been surprised by Daniell’s information because it implied the migration of land mammals to islands separated from the mainland by deep water (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from W. F. Daniell, 14 November 1856, CD note).
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of animals.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Describes some species of fauna peculiar to Fernando Po. The ocean currents make it unlikely that animals have been floated to the little islands [off the west coast of Africa].

Letter details

Letter no.
William Balfour Baikie
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Kátsa Núpe, Central Africa
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 260
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2214,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7