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Darwin Correspondence Project

From B. J. Sulivan   4 July 1845

Philomel Monte Video

July 4. 1845

My dear Darwin

After all my hopes of returning home I find we are to remain out to work in this river1 and shall not certainly be home for a year, at first I thought of sending you all the fossils,2 but I fear the casks being knocked about, unless one of the steamers should go direct home to Woolwich when I would perhaps send them. That you may be able to form an Idea of the formation in which the fossils are, and their probable age, I send by this packet a few in a small box which were by accident left out of the casks. the large piece you will see has three marks on it, it is part of a piece in the casks also marked with three cuts, which will show you the pieces likely to contain fragments of the same animal, some large pieces are broken in three or four pieces, but each piece was marked with the same number of cuts at the time so they can easily be fitted together again— Most of the small fragments came from the same piece, but there is a piece of white paper in the box containing a small piece of the armour like the Megatherium, and a small piece of bone petrified— they were found at the foot of the cliff among some shingle that had fallen from the surface at the summit of the cliff and are I suppose of the same age as those you found. You will also find in the box two pieces containing casts of shells, which are from the Falklands. I suppose they are similar to those you have but they come from Saunders Island near Port Egmont further to the Westward than any I had before found.3

I was much surprised yesterday at seeing Rugendas,4 who you will recollect at Valparaiso (the German artist & traveller) walk into the house. he is on his way from Buenos Ayres to England having been ever since we left him in Chili Peru and Mexico. he has sent to London about two thousand drawings and is going to publish when he returns5

I hope I shall have an answer the next packet to the letter I wrote to you from the Falklands as I am anxious to know if the Fossils surprise you as much as they did me.

we are all daily expecting to be involved in hostilities with Rosas6 certain demands have been made on him by the English and French Ministers which it is said he will not listen to, if so it is supposed we shall compel him, he threatens to seize British Merchants and property and take them up the country, and I fear he is trying to make us fear being firm least our countrymen suffer, for a scotch Family of nine, Father Mother & Children have all had their throats cut near Buenos Ayres. This Place still holds out. Most dreadful butcheries in the country Rosas troops lately killed above 500 prisoners in cold blood near Maldonado, principally Indians who had been serving Reveira7

Mrs. Sulivan & chicks go home in two months. our boy (14 months old) broke his arm six weeks since but is now well again8 I hope Mrs. Darwin & young ones are well. Mrs. Sulivan joins me in kind rembrances to her

Believe me dear Darwin | Your sincere friend | B J Sulivan


Sulivan was engaged in hydrographic surveys along the Rio de la Plata.
Fossils collected in the Falkland Islands and on the coast of South America. See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845.
Possibly those described in Morris and Sharpe 1846.
Johann Moritz Rugendas.
The sketches were published in Sartorius 1855–8.
Montevideo was then under siege by forces backed by the Argentine government of General Juan Manuel de Rosas. British and French naval forces supported the city. In August 1845 a joint Anglo-French squadron forced the passage of the Parana, engaging with Rosas’s forces at Obligado. Sulivan served as pilot for the expedition (Sulivan ed. 1896, pp. 66–7).
Fructuoso Rivera, president of Uruguay.
See letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845, nn. 11, 19.


Sartorius, Christian. 1855–8. Mexico: landscapes and popular sketches … Edited by Dr Gaspey. With steel engravings by distinguished artists, from original sketches by Moritz Rugendas. London.

Sharpe, Daniel. 1846. On slaty cleavage. [Read 2 December 1846.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 3 (1847): 74–105.


On marking and shipment of fossils.

Has met the artist, J. M. Rugendas.

Discusses British and French relations with Rosas government [of Argentina].

Letter details

Letter no.
Bartholomew James Sulivan
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
HMS Philomel , Monte Video
Source of text
DAR 46.1: 87–8
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 886,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3