From the Three Sisters viewpoint in the Blue Mountains, the eucalypt forest (and pockets of rainforest) stretch below. Charles Darwin walked this rim in January 1836 and it’s at this stage of his journey, as noted in The Voyage of the Beagle, that he first begins to note the questions that would evolve into evolutionary theory. First he seems dulled, a man who’s far along on his travels and one who’s seen so much. Passing through a blue-gum forest he might be kin to any petty tourist: “the “extreme uniformity of the vegetation is the most remarkable feature in the landscape.” It’s an open forest, kept thin by fire, yet as the topped the rim overlooking Jamison Valley his view of the land changes:
Below is the grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest. The point of view is situated as it were at the head of the Bay, for the line of cliff diverges away on each side, showing headland, behind headland, as on a bold Sea coast.
Eucalypt forest on the rim of Three Sisters. Katoomba, NSW. Australia.
Darwin describes these bays in depth (they are deep, after all) and he spends some time questioning how they might have formed.
From the rim, he wonders if this might have been an ocean turned to land:
If we imagine a winding harbour, with its deep water surrounded by bold cliff-like shores, to be laid dry, and a forest to spring up on its sandy bottom, we should then have the appearance and structure here exhibited. This kind of view was to me quite novel, and extremely magnificent.
Quite novel and extremely magnificent.
In the days before he arrives at the rim, Darwin notes the roving aboriginals, subsisting as hunters, and also their decline — “partly owing to the introduction of spirits, to European diseases (even the milder ones of which, such as the measles, prove very destructive), and to the gradual extinction of the wild animals.”
At about this time, he notes a mystery common to all that he has been observing, in all species, including man: Continue reading