Maybe today's reading is meant to show Darwin's interest in any natural phenomena, not just the biology. Or maybe it's meant to contrast his patient scientific worrying of a problem with the natives' more superstitious theories. But to me, living in Los Angeles, it's just meant to be scary:
The earthquake commenced at half-past eleven o’clock in the forenoon. If it had happened in the middle of the night, the greater number of the inhabitants (which in this one province must amount to many thousands) must have perished, instead of less than a hundred: as it was, the invariable practice of running out of doors at the first trembling of the ground, alone saved them. In Concepcion each house, or row of houses, stood by itself, a heap or line of ruins; but in Talcahuano, owing to the great wave, little more than one layer of bricks, tiles, and timber, with here and there part of a wall left standing, could be distinguished. From this circumstance Concepcion, although not so completely desolated, was a more terrible, and if I may so call it, picturesque sight...I got your picturesque right here:
Darwin continues, unhelpfully:
Earthquakes alone are sufficient to destroy the prosperity of any country. If beneath England the now inert subterranean forces should exert those powers, which most assuredly in former geological ages they have exerted, how completely would the entire condition of the country be changed! What would become of the lofty houses, thickly packed cities, great manufactories, the beautiful public and private edifices? If the new period of disturbance were first to commence by some great earthquake in the dead of the night, how terrific would be the carnage! England would at once be bankrupt; all papers, records, and accounts would from that moment be lost. Government being unable to collect the taxes, and failing to maintain its authority, the hand of violence and rapine would remain uncontrolled. In every large town famine would go forth, pestilence and death following in its train.I haven't read enough of Chuck to know whether the exclamation points are characteristic. But he is very excited here, isn't he? (Of course, here in California in the 21st century, we don't need to fret as much about the lost papers, for all our important public records are backed up onto a set of 5 1/4-inch floppy disks. I also like that Darwin's worries are 1) what will happen to all the papers? and then, 2) violence and rapine. That does seem characteristic.)
But would there really be violence and rapine? Darwin's own observations don't seem to confirm it:
...Pools of salt-water were still standing amidst the ruins of the houses, and children, making boats with old tables and chairs, appeared as happy as their parents were miserable. It was, however, exceedingly interesting to observe, how much more active and cheerful all appeared than could have been expected. It was remarked with much truth, that from the destruction being universal, no one individual was humbled more than another, or could suspect his friends of coldness—that most grievous result of the loss of wealth.As the adage says, a rising tide lifts all boats, unless it rises too much, then they're all destroyed.
I think I'm going to go make sure all the cabinet doors with the earthquake latches are closed now.