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March 1st, 2010
12:22 PM ET

What 1835 Chile quake taught Darwin

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/science/02/12/darwin.birthday/art.darwin.afp.jpg caption="Darwin's observations during the Chile quake of 1835 informed his writings on evolution."]

John van Wyhe
Special to CNN

Chile is unfortunately no stranger to earthquakes. A quake similar to Saturday's struck almost exactly the same part of Chile on February 20, 1835 - almost exactly 175 years ago.

On that occasion, the young English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin was in Chile as part of his voyage on HMS Beagle. The 1835 earthquake has been estimated as magnitude 8.5, whereas that of February 27, 2010, has been measured as 8.8.

The earthquake of 1835 occurred around 11 a.m. and lasted about two minutes. The main shock destroyed much of Concepción in just six seconds. There were aftershocks for several weeks and three tsunamis, each one larger than the last, starting about half an hour after the earthquake and bringing further devastation.

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