Voyage of the Beagle

An Offer Darwin Couldn’t Refuse
Charles Darwin received an offer – via his mentor at Cambridge University, the Reverend John Stevens Henslow – to join the HMS Beagle as naturalist on its voyage around the world via South America. The position was intended principally as a gentleman companion to the Beagle’s aristocratic and expert captain, Robert FitzRoy.

On 27 December 1831 they set sail from Plymouth, not returning to England until 2 October 1836 when they anchored at Falmouth after a journey of nearly five years.

Darwin was not a good sailor, failing to find his sea legs throughout the entire voyage. Most of the period away was spent in South America, where FitzRoy mapped the coastline. Darwin whiled away his time making collections of animals and plants caught from aboard ship or amassed during sometimes long sorties ashore.

From South America, the Beagle headed to the Galapagos Islands, which were to prove pivotal to Darwin’s developing ideas on evolution via Natural Selection. Then it was on to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia, before heading for home via South Africa, a brief stop in South America again, and a number of island groups.

Back in England, Darwin set about the task of overseeing the description of his collections. He published his account of the voyage in 1839: it was revised in 1845 and The Voyage of the Beagle has remained in print ever since.
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