The Voyage of the Beagle

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Reproduction of frontispiece by Robert Taylor Pritchett from the first Murray illustrated edition, 1890: HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan at Monte Sarmiento in Chile. PSM V57 D097 Hms beagle in the straits of magellan.png
Reproduction of frontispiece by Robert Taylor Pritchett from the first Murray illustrated edition, 1890: HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan at Monte Sarmiento in Chile.

The Voyage of the Beagle is the title most commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin and published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, bringing him considerable fame and respect. This was the third volume of The Narrative of the Voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle, the other volumes of which were written or edited by the commanders of the ships. Journal and Remarks covers Darwin's part in the second survey expedition of the ship HMS Beagle. Due to the popularity of Darwin's account, the publisher reissued it later in 1839 as Darwin's Journal of Researches, and the revised second edition published in 1845 used this title. A republication of the book in 1905 introduced the title The Voyage of the "Beagle", by which it is now best known. [2]

Charles Darwin British naturalist, author of "On the origin of species, by means of natural selection"

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.

Second voyage of HMS <i>Beagle</i> exploration associated with theory of evolution

The second voyage of HMS Beagle, from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836, was the second survey expedition of HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy who had taken over command of the ship on its first voyage after the previous captain committed suicide. FitzRoy had already thought of the advantages of having an expert in geology on board, and sought a gentleman naturalist to accompany them as a supernumerary. The young graduate Charles Darwin had hoped to see the tropics before becoming a parson, and accepted the opportunity. He was greatly influenced by reading Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology during the voyage. By the end of the expedition, Darwin had already made his name as a geologist and fossil collector, and the publication of his journal which became known as The Voyage of the Beagle gave him wide renown as a writer.

HMS <i>Beagle</i> Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy

HMS Beagle was a Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, one of more than 100 ships of this class. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803, was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom, and for that occasion is said to have been the first ship to sail completely under the old London Bridge. There was no immediate need for Beagle so she "lay in ordinary", moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three survey expeditions.


The Beagle sailed from Plymouth Sound on 27 December 1831 under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy. While the expedition was originally planned to last two years, it lasted almost five—the Beagle did not return until 2 October 1836. Darwin spent most of this time exploring on land (three years and three months on land; 18 months at sea). The book is a vivid travel memoir as well as a detailed scientific field journal covering biology, geology, and anthropology that demonstrates Darwin's keen powers of observation, written at a time when Western Europeans were exploring and charting the whole world. Although Darwin revisited some areas during the expedition, for clarity the chapters of the book are ordered by reference to places and locations rather than by date.

Plymouth Sound Bay at Plymouth, England, UK

Plymouth Sound, or locally just The Sound, is a bay on the English Channel at Plymouth in England.

Robert FitzRoy Royal Navy officer and scientist

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy FRS was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, FitzRoy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.

Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemical processes, molecular interactions, physiological mechanisms, development and evolution. Despite the complexity of the science, there are certain unifying concepts that consolidate it into a single, coherent field. Biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the creation and extinction of species. Living organisms are open systems that survive by transforming energy and decreasing their local entropy to maintain a stable and vital condition defined as homeostasis.

Darwin's notes made during the voyage include comments hinting at his changing views on the fixity of species. On his return, he wrote the book based on these notes, at a time when he was first developing his theories of evolution through common descent and natural selection. The book includes some suggestions of his ideas, particularly in the second edition of 1845.

In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined. While these definitions may seem adequate, when looked at more closely they represent problematic species concepts. For example, the boundaries between closely related species become unclear with hybridisation, in a species complex of hundreds of similar microspecies, and in a ring species. Also, among organisms that reproduce only asexually, the concept of a reproductive species breaks down, and each clone is potentially a microspecies.

The inception of Darwin's theory occurred during an intensively busy period which began when Charles Darwin returned from the survey voyage of the Beagle, with his reputation as a fossil collector and geologist already established. He was given an allowance from his father to become a gentleman naturalist rather than a clergyman, and his first tasks were to find suitable experts to describe his collections, write out his Journal and Remarks, and present papers on his findings to the Geological Society of London.

Evolution Change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations

Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutation, genetic recombination and other sources of genetic variation. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection and genetic drift act on this variation, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population. It is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.

Publication of FitzRoy's narrative and Darwin's book

Darwin was invited by FitzRoy to contribute the natural history section to the captain's account of the Beagle's voyage. Using his field notes and the journal which he had been sending home for his family to read, he completed this section by September 1837. FitzRoy had to edit the notes of the previous captain of the Beagle, as well as write his own account of the voyage and the previous expeditions of two ships.

The account was completed and published as a four-volume set in May 1839 as the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle. [3] Volume one covers the first voyage under Commander Phillip Parker King, volume two is FitzRoy's account of the second voyage. Darwin's Journal and Remarks, 1832—1835 forms the third volume, and the fourth volume is a lengthy appendix. FitzRoy's account includes Remarks with reference to the Deluge in which he recanted his earlier interest in the geological writings of Charles Lyell and his remarks to Darwin during the expedition that sedimentary features they saw "could never have been effected by a forty days' flood", asserting his renewed commitment to a literal reading of the Bible. [4] He had married on the ship's return, and his wife was very religious. [5]

Phillip Parker King British Royal Navy officer and early explorer of the Australian and Patagonian coasts

Admiral Phillip Parker King, FRS, RN was an early explorer of the Australian and Patagonian coasts.

Charles Lyell British lawyer and geologist

Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of existing natural causes in explaining Earth history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which presented for a wide public audience the idea that the Earth was shaped by the same natural processes still in operation today, operating at similar intensities. The philosopher William Whewell termed this gradualistic view "uniformitarianism" and contrasted it with catastrophism, which had been championed by Georges Cuvier and was better accepted in Europe. The combination of evidence and eloquence in Principles convinced a wide range of readers of the significance of "deep time" for understanding the Earth and environment.

Darwin's contribution proved remarkably popular and the publisher, Henry Colburn of London, took it upon himself to reissue Darwin's text in August with a new title page as Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle [3] apparently without seeking Darwin's permission or paying him a fee.

Henry Colburn was a British publisher.

Second edition: changing ideas on evolution

Illustration from Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage round the world of H.M.S. 'Beagle,' under the command of Captain Fitz Roy (1913) (14580358598).jpg
Illustration from Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology

The second edition of 1845 incorporated extensive revisions made in the light of interpretation of the field collections and developing ideas on evolution. This edition was commissioned by the publisher John Murray, who actually paid Darwin a fee of £150 for the copyright. The full title was modified to Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the countries visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world. [2]

John Murray (publisher) English publisher

John Murray is a British publisher, known for the authors it has published in its history, including Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Byron, Charles Lyell, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Herman Melville, Edward Whymper, and Charles Darwin. Since 2004, it has been owned by conglomerate Lagardère under the Hachette UK brand. Business publisher Nicholas Brealey became an imprint of John Murray in 2015.

In the first edition, Darwin remarks in regard to the similarity of Galápagos wildlife to that on the South American continent, "The circumstance would be explained, according to the views of some authors, by saying that the creative power had acted according to the same law over a wide area". (This was written in a reference to Charles Lyell's ideas of "centres of creation".) Darwin notes the gradations in size of the beaks of species of finches, suspects that species "are confined to different islands", "But there is not space in this work, to enter into this curious subject."

Later editions hint at his new ideas on evolution:

Considering the small size of these islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range... within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact – that mystery of mysteries – the first appearance of new beings on this earth.

Speaking of the finches with their gradations in size of beaks, he writes "one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends."

In 1890 John Murray published an illustrated edition of the book, at the suggestion of the artist Robert Taylor Pritchett who was already known for accompanying voyages of the RYS Wanderer and Sunbeam, and producing pictures used in books on these cruises. [6] In his foreword to this edition of Journal and Researches, Murray said that most "of the views given in this work are from sketches made on the spot by Mr. Pritchett, with Mr. Darwin's book by his side", and the illustrations had been "chosen and verified with the utmost care and pains". [1]

Contents – places Darwin visited

For readability, the chapters of the book are arranged geographically rather than in an exact chronological sequence of places Darwin visited or revisited. [7] The main headings (and in some cases subheadings) of each chapter give a good idea of where he went, but not the exact sequence. See Second voyage of HMS Beagle for a detailed synopsis of Darwin's travels. The contents list in the book also notes topics discussed in each chapter, not shown here for simplicity. Names and spellings are those used by Darwin. The list below is based on the Journal and Remarks of 1839.

  1. Chapter I: St. JagoCape de Verde Islands (St. Paul's Rocks, Fernando Noronha, 20 Feb.., Bahia, or San Salvador, Brazil, 29 Feb..)
  2. Chapter II: Rio de Janeiro
  3. Chapter III: Maldonado
  4. Chapter IV: Río Negro to Bahia Blanca
  5. Chapter V: Bahia Blanca
  6. Chapter VI: Bahia Blanca to Buenos Ayres
  7. Chapter VII: Buenos Ayres to St. Fe
  8. Chapter VIII: Banda Oriental
  9. Chapter IX: Patagonia
  10. Chapter X: Santa Cruz–Patagonia
  11. Chapter XI: Tierra del Fuego
  12. Chapter XII: The Falkland Islands
  13. Chapter XIII: Strait of Magellan
  14. Chapter XIV: Central Chile
  15. Chapter XV: Chiloe and Chonos Islands
  16. Chapter XVI: Chiloe and Concepcion
  17. Chapter XVII: Passage of Cordillera
  18. Chapter XVIII: Northern Chile and Peru
  19. Chapter XIX: Galapagos Archipelago
  20. Chapter XX: Tahiti and New Zealand
  21. Chapter XXI: Australia (Van Diemen's Land)
  22. Chapter XXII: Coral Formations (Keeling or Cocos Islands)
  23. Chapter XXIII: Mauritius to England

In the second edition, the Journal of Researches of 1845, chapters VIII and IX were merged into a new chapter VIII on "Banda Oriental and Patagonia", and chapter IX now included "Santa Cruz, Patagonia and The Falkland Islands". After chapter X on Tierra del Fuego, chapter XI had the revised heading "Strait of Magellan–Climate of the Southern Coasts". The following chapters were renumbered accordingly. Chapter XIV was given the revised heading "Chiloe and Concepcion: Great Earthquake", and chapter XX had the heading "Keeling Island:–Coral Formations", with the concluding chapter XXI keeping the heading "Mauritius to England".


  1. 1 2 Darwin 1890, pp. ii, v.
  2. 1 2 Freeman 1977.
  3. 1 2 "Review of Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of H.M.S. Adventure and Beagle between the Years 1826 and 1836 ... & Journal of Researches into the Geology and Natural History of the various Countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle ...". The Quarterly Review. 65: 194–234. December 1839.
  4. A very few Remarks with reference to the Deluge. , CHAPTER XXVIII of – FitzRoy, Robert (1838), Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe. Proceedings of the second expedition, 1831–36, under the command of Captain Robert Fitz-Roy, R.N., London: Henry Colburn See also Robert FitzRoy#HMS Beagle's second voyage.
  5. Desmond, Adrian; Moore, James (1990), Darwin, London: Michael Joseph, the Penguin Group, pp. 284–285, ISBN   0-7181-3430-3
  6. "The Elmbridge Hundred | Robert Taylor Pritchett" . Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  7. Keynes 2001 , p. xx


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