Voyage of the HMS Beagle
The voyage of the BeaglePlymouth
, England, south to Cape Verde
then southwest across the Atlantic
, south to Rio de Janeiro
, the Falkland Islands
, round the tip of South America then north to Valparaiso
, and Callao. North west to the Galapagos Islands
before sailing west across the Pacific
to New Zealand
, and King George's Sound in Western Australia
. Northwest to the Keeling Islands
, southwest to Mauritius
and Cape Town
, then northwest to Bahia and northeast back to Plymouth
Darwin spent almost five years on board a Royal Navy exploring ship, the HMS Beagle. He was the guest naturalist, which meant that he was responsible for making collections and notes about the animals, plants, and the geology of the countries they visited. The ship's crew made charts of all the coastal areas, which could be used by the navy wherever it went in the world. At the time, Britain had by far the largest navy in the world, and an empire which was global.
Darwin collected everywhere the ship landed. He found huge fossils of recently extinct mammals, experienced an earthquake in Chile, and noticed the land had been raised. He knew of raised beaches elsewhere, high in the Andes, with fossil seashells and trees which had once grown on a sandy beach. Obviously the earth was constantly changing, with land rising in some places, and sinking in others. He collected birds and insects, and sent shipments back to Cambridge for experts to identify.
Darwin was the first dedicated naturalist to visit the Galapagos Islands, off the west coast of Ecuador. He noticed that some of the birds were like mockingbirds on the mainland, but different enough to be placed in separate species. He began to wonder how so many new species came to be on these islands.
When Darwin got back to England, he edited a series of scientific reviews of the voyage, and wrote a personal journal which we know as The Voyage of the Beagle. It is one of the great natural history travel diaries.
In 1843 Darwin, who already had two children with his wife Emma, bought Down House in the village of Downe, Kent. He lived there for the rest of his life, and today the house and contents are open to the public.