The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

Charles Darwin

A young Charles Darwin was selected to accompany Robert Fitzroy on a five year groundbreaking journey on the Beagle to map and survey some of the more remote islands and coastlines of the world. Darwin prepared himself by visiting naturalists at the British Museum and Zoological Society, learning preserving techniques, getting his equipment in order, and visiting the Beagle, under refit in Devonport. The Beagle was a converted 10-gun brig, only 90 feet long, capacity 242 tons, popularly known as one of the 'coffin' class. Arriving at Devonport in October 1831, Darwin found that departure was delayed. He grew anxious and feared that he might have to abandon the voyage when he started suffering from heart pains. When the ship did sail, it was forced to return to Plymouth twice because of bad storms. The Beagle left finally on 27 December 1831. The voyage, which lasted five years, was the key formative event in Darwin's life. It 'determined my whole career' giving him an unrivalled opportunity to make observations, collect animals and plants, and explore some of the most beautiful, desolate, and isolated places in the world.

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by Stephen Luscombe