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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Beagle (ship)

The Beagle was a 242 ton, 10 gun, 90 ft long ship. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803, was launched on May 11, 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames.

The Beagle set sail from Plymouth on May 22, 1826 on her first voyage, under the command of Captain Stokes. The mission was to accompany the larger ship HMS Adventure (380 tons) on a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego,

It's second voyage was Charles Darwin's famous 1831-36 voyage to the Pacific. Darwin took part in the expedition as a self-financing gentleman naturalist and companion to the captain. The Beagle departed from Devonport on December 27, 1831 with 74 on board.

Also on board was an English-born landscape artist Conrad Martens. Below is his painting of HMS Beagle in the seaways of Tierra del Fuego,

Darwin's father strongly opposed Charles going on the voyage as he felt his son's calling was to the Church.

Darwin paid his own way on the trip spending £500pa.

Charles Darwin had been told that the Beagle was expected to sail about the end of September 1831, but fitting out took longer. Repeated Westerly gales caused delays, and forced them to turn back after departing on 10th and 21st of December. Drunkenness at Christmas lost another day. Finally, on the morning of December 27th, the Beagle left its anchorage on the west side of Plymouth Sound.

Charles Darwin wrote his account of his five-year voyage on the Beagle to the Pacific, during which he shared a cabin with Robert Fitzroy, the commander of the Beagle.  His account attracted no interest at all. However he was lionised on his return to London from the Beagle as a brilliant geologist.

Darwin was nearly rejected as ship's naturalist on the Beagle because of shape of his nose. The captain, Robert Fitzroy was not certain that anyone with such a broad, squat nose would have the character to survive such an arduous journey.

The Beagle replica in February 2016

The HMS Beagle reached the Galápagos Islands on September 15, 1835. The ship landed at Chatham or San Cristobal, the easternmost of the archipelago. Charles Darwin's observations of species of animals and plants (including the giant tortoises) on Galapagos Islands were different to everywhere else and even differed from island to island. The year he spent studying there suggested to him that animals and plants were not replicas created by a heavenly snap of fingers. Darwin's observations during the voyage led to his theory of modification of species.

Robert Fitzroy became one of Darwin's fiercest critics on scriptural grounds. Tragically he later committed suicide for the part he believed he played in undermining the Bible.

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