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Reading the chronicle The Voyage of the Beagle a century and a half after naturalist Charles Darwin made his journey with Captain Robert Fitz Roy, one is struck by the descriptions of Patagonia still visible today. "The plains of Patagonia are boundless, for they are scarcely passable, and hence unknown: they bear the stamp of having lasted, as they are now, for ages, and there appears no limit to their duration through future time."

Darwin remained intrigued by the steppe upon his return to England: "Why then, and the case is not peculiar to myself, have these arid wastes taken so firm a hold on my memory?" The stereotypical vision of the Patagonian steppe as a vast lifeless expanse of windswept desert belies the richness of this peculiar ecosystem for as Darwin knew, it is the product of extraordinary geological and biological epochs.

Quite literally an ocean floor that rose some 200-300 ft/660-990 m above sea level, it had experienced this rise and fall many times in its past, each time accumulating the shells of bygone eras, now visible to several hundred feet/meters in depth and rising like giant platforms from the coast to the cordillera.

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