Interested in South America and have a scientific bent? Then lose yourself for weeks among the complete work of Charles Darwin, now available online. It’s quite an astonishing collection pulled together by the University of Cambridge.

And if you don’t want to wade through all the texts and images, then you can download the mp3 audio versions. Yeah, that’s right, though I suggest not operating heavy machinery while listening to The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. Seriously, though, it’s great that the audio is available for those with vision impairments.

Darwin spent a lot of time roaming around South America. Relevant readings include the 1830s voyage led by Robert Fitz-Roy. During that time Darwin visited Buenos Aires and the pampas where he made the following observation about the diminishing presence of Indians in the pampas:

Among the captive girls taken in the same engagement, there were two very pretty Spanish ones, who had been carried away by the Indians when young, and could now only speak the Indian tongue. From their account they must have come from Salta, a distance in a straight line of nearly one thousand miles. This gives one a grand idea of the immense territory over which the Indians roam: yet, great as it is, I think there will not, in another half-century, be a wild Indian northward of the Rio Negro. The warfare is too bloody to last; the Christians killing every Indian, and the Indians doing the same by the Christians. It is melancholy to trace how the Indians have given way before the Spanish invaders. Schirdel says that in 1535, when Buenos Ayres was founded, there were villages containing two and three thousand inhabitants. Even in Falconer’s time (1750) the Indians made inroads as far as Luxan, Areco, and Arrecife, but now they are driven beyond the Salado. Not only have whole tribes been exterminated, but the remaining Indians have become more barbarous: instead of living in large villages, and being employed in the arts of fishing, as well as of the chace, they now wander about the open plains, without home or fixed occupation.

From Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. Fitz Roy R.N 1845. A later publication of these journals is more commonly known as The Voyage of the Beagle. A bibliographical note states, “The best illustrated edition, in any language, is the Spanish of 1942, printed in Buenos Aires with 121 plates.” Now that’s something to track down at some rare book store around Buenos Aires.

Throughout the works are a lot of other fascinating insights about Argentina and other parts of South America.