HMS Beagle


HMS Beagle

HMS "Beagle" was a "Cherokee" class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, named after the beagle, a breed of dog. She was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames, at a cost of £7,803. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the United Kingdom in which she was the first ship to sail under the new London Bridge. After that there was no immediate need for "Beagle" so she was kept in reserve for five years and "lay in ordinary", moored afloat but without masts or rigging. She was then adapted as a survey barque and took part in three expeditions. On the second survey voyage the young naturalist Charles Darwin was on board, and his work would eventually make the "Beagle" one of the most famous ships in history.

First Voyage

On 27 September 1825 "Beagle" docked at Woolwich for repairs and fitted out for her new duties at a total cost of £5,913. Her guns were reduced from ten cannons to six and a mizzen mast was added to improve her manoeuvrability, thereby changing her from a brig to a bark (or barque).

"Beagle" set sail from Plymouth on 22 May 1826 on her first voyage, under the command of Captain Pringle Stokes. The mission was to accompany the larger ship HMS|Adventure|1809|6 (380 tons) on a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, under the overall command of the Australian Captain Phillip Parker King, Commander and Surveyor. [harvnb|Parker King|1839|p= [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F10.1&pageseq=20 xi - xix] .] [King was born on Norfolk Island and left for England in 1796. [http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/indexes/colsec/k/F31c_kh-ky-03.htm Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825, In the New South Wales State Records] .]

Faced with the more difficult part of the survey in the desolate waters of Tierra del Fuego, Captain Pringle Stokes fell into a deep depression. At Port Famine on the Strait of Magellan he locked himself in his cabin for 14 days, then on 2 August 1828 shot himself and died in delirium 12 days later. [ [http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/biography/0,,986985,00.html Guardian review: Man on a suicide mission] ] Captain Parker King then replaced Stokes with the Executive Officer of "Beagle", Lieutenant W.G. Skyring. They sailed to Rio de Janeiro where on 15 December 1828 Rear Admiral Sir Robert Otway, commander in chief of the South American station aboard HMS|Ganges|1821|6, named as (temporary) Captain of the "Beagle" his aide, Flag Lieutenant Robert FitzRoy.

The 23-year-old aristocrat FitzRoy proved an able commander and meticulous surveyor. In one incident a group of Fuegians stole a ship's boat, and FitzRoy took their families on board as hostages. Eventually he held two men, a girl and a boy who was given the name of Jemmy Button, and these four native Fuegians were taken back with them when the "Beagle" returned to England on 14 October 1830.

econd voyage

It was originally intended that HMS|Chanticleer|1808|2 would make the second South American Survey, but due to her poor condition "Beagle" was substituted for the voyage. FitzRoy, who had been considering how to return the Fuegians who had trained as missionaries, was re-appointed as commander on 25 June 1831 and the "Beagle" was commissioned on 4 July 1831 under his command, with Lieutenants John Clements Wickham and Bartholomew James Sulivan. [harvnb|FitzRoy|1839|p= [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F10.2&pageseq=37 14] .]

The "Beagle" was immediately taken into dock at Devonport for extensive rebuilding and refitting. As she required a new deck, FitzRoy had the upper-deck raised considerably, by 8 inches (200 mm) aft and 12 inches (300 mm) forward. The "Cherokee"-class ships had the reputation of being "coffin brigs," which handled badly and were prone to sinking; the raised deck gave the "Beagle" better handling and made her less liable to become top-heavy and capsize by helping the decks to drain more quickly so that less water would collect in the gunwales. Additional sheathing added to the hull added about 7 tons to her displacement. FitzRoy spared no expense in her fitting out, which included 22 chronometers, [harvnb|FitzRoy|1839|p= [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F10.2&pageseq=40 17] .] and five examples of the "Sympiesometer", a kind of mercury-free barometer patented by Alexander Adie which was favoured by FitzRoy as giving the accurate readings required by the Admiralty. [cite web |url=http://www.antique-horology.org/_editorial/sympiezometerfontijn/ |title=The sympiesometer designed by Alexander Adie |accessdate=2007-11-30 ]

In the light of the fate of Stokes and the suicide of his own uncle, FitzRoy was concerned about the lonely position of a captain at that time. His attempts to get a friend to accompany him fell through, and he asked his friend and superior, Captain Francis Beaufort, to seek a gentleman passenger who would act as a companion as well as having opportunities as a naturalist. This led to Charles Darwin joining the voyage.

"Beagle" was originally scheduled to leave on 24 October 1831 but because of delays in her preparations the departure was delayed until December. She attempted to depart on 10 December but ran into bad weather. Finally, on the morning of 27 December, the "Beagle" left its anchorage in the Barn Pool, under Mount Edgecumbe on the west side of Plymouth Sound, [harvnb|FitzRoy|1839|p= [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F10.2&pageseq=65 42] .] on what was to become a ground breaking scientific expedition. After completing extensive surveys in South America she returned via New Zealand, Sydney, Hobart Town (6 Feb 1836), to Falmouth, Cornwall, England on 2 October 1836. [harvnb|FitzRoy|1839|p= [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F10.2&pageseq=757 638] .]

Third voyage

Six months later, "Beagle" set off in 1837 to survey large parts of the coast of Australia under the command of Commander John Clements Wickham, who had been a Lieutenant on the second voyage, with assistant surveyor Lieutenant John Lort Stokes who had been a Midshipman on the first voyage of the "Beagle", then mate and assistant surveyor on the second voyage (no relation to Pringle Stokes). They started with the western coast between the Swan River (modern Perth, Australia) and the Fitzroy River, Western Australia, then surveyed both shores of the Bass Strait at the southeast corner of the continent. To aid the Beagle in her surveying operations in Bass’s Strait, the Colonial cutter "Vansittart", of Van Diemen’s Land, was most liberally lent by His Excellency Sir John Franklin, and placed under the command of Mr C C Forsyth, the Senior Mate, assisted by Mr Pasco, another of her Mates. In May 1839 they sailed north to survey the shores of the Arafura Sea opposite Timor. Wickham named the Beagle Gulf and Port Darwin, which was first sighted by Stokes and which later gave its name to the city of Darwin, Australia. When Wickham fell ill and resigned, the command was taken over in March 1841 by Lieutenant John Lort Stokes who continued the survey. The third voyage was completed in 1843.

Final years

In 1845 the "Beagle" was refitted as a static coastguard watch vessel and transferred to Customs and Excise to control smuggling on the Essex coast to the north bank of the Thames estuary. She was moored mid-river on the River Roach which forms part of a maze of waterways in the marshes south of Burnham-on-Crouch. In 1851 oyster companies and traders petitioned for her to be removed as she was obstructing the river, and the 1851 Navy List dated 25 May showed her renamed as "Southend "W.V. No. 7" at Paglesham". In 1870, she was sold to local scrap merchants "Murray and Trainer" for breaking up.

Investigations started in 2000 by a team led by Dr Robert Prescott of the University of St Andrews found documents confirming that "W.V. 7" was the "Beagle", and noted a vessel matching her size shown midstream on the 1847 hydrographic survey chart. A later chart showed a nearby indentation to the north bank which could have been a dock for the "Beagle". Site investigations found an area of marshy ground some 15 ft (5 m) deep matching this chart position, with many fragments of pottery of the correct period.

An atomic dielectric resonance survey carried out in November 2003 found traces of timbers forming the size and shape of the lower hull, indicating a substantial amount of timbers from below the waterline still in place. An old anchor of 1841 pattern was excavated. It was also found that the 1871 census recorded a new farmhouse in the name of William Murray and Thomas Rainer, leading to speculation that the merchant's name was a misprint for T. Rainer. The farmhouse was demolished in the 1940s, but a nearby boathouse incorporated timbers matching knee timbers used in the "Beagle". Further investigations are proposed.

Their investigations featured in a BBC Television programme which showed how each watch ship would have accommodated 7 coastguard officers, drawn from other areas to minimise collusion with the locals. Each officer had about 3 rooms to house their family, forming a small community. They would use small boats to intercept smugglers, and the investigators found a causeway giving access at low tide across the soft mud of the river bank. Apparently the next coastguard station along was the "Kangaroo", a sister ship of the "Beagle".

Replica

Currently planned for 2009 is a replica of HMS "Beagle." This £3.3m wooden barque is to be built as part of an ambitious project to recreate Darwin's 1830s voyage which proved crucial in the genesis and intellectual foundations of the theory of natural selection. The vessel is to be built in Milford Haven. When completed, the new "Beagle" is anticipated to be able to recreate the 1831-36 circumnavigation with international crews of aspiring young scientists aboard, following the same course and making similar landfalls to those made by the original HMS "Beagle" when Darwin was aboard. [ [http://www.ybw.com/auto/newsdesk/20070229093746ships.html "Replicas on the Blocks,"] "Ships Monthly." April 2007.]

ee also

* Beagle 2 - Mars space probe named after HMS "Beagle", which was lost 25 December 2003
*Beagle Channel
**Beagle conflict
*"The Voyage of the Beagle", a book written by Charles Darwin about the "Beagle"'s second voyage
*"Discoveries in Australia", a book written by John Lort Stokes about the "Beagle"'s third voyage
*"The Voyage of the Space Beagle," a science fiction adventure by A.E. van Vogt loosely inspired by Darwin's voyage aboard HMS "Beagle."

Sources and references

*"HMS Beagle: Survey Ship "Extraordinary" / Karl Heinz Marquardt (2007) ISBN 0851777031
*"Voyage of the Beagle", Charles Darwin (including FitzRoy's commentary on refitting the "Beagle" from his account of the voyage), Penguin Books, London 1989 ISBN 0-14-043268-X

*Citation
last=Parker King
first= Philip
author-link=Phillip Parker King
year= 1839
editor-last= FitzRoy
editor-first= Robert
editor-link=Robert FitzRoy
title=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 first expedition, 1826-30, under the command of Captain P. Parker King, R.N., F.R.S.
place=
publication-place= London
publisher=Henry Colburn
volume=I
url=http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.1&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
.

*Citation
last= FitzRoy
first= Robert
author-link=Robert FitzRoy
year= 1839
title=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.
place=
publication-place= London
publisher=Henry Colburn
volume=II
url=http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.2&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
.

*Citation
last= FitzRoy
first= Robert
author-link=Robert FitzRoy
year= 1839
title=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. Appendix to Volume II
place=
publication-place= London
publisher=Henry Colburn
volume=
url=http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.2a&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
.

*Citation
last= Darwin
first= Charles
author-link=Charles Darwin
year= 1839
title=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. Journal and remarks. 1832-1836.
place=
publication-place= London
publisher=Henry Colburn
volume=III
url=http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F10.2&viewtype=text&pageseq=1
.

External links

* [http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Freeman_JournalofResearches.html Darwin Online - bibliography] : "Proceedings" of the first and second expeditions, and Darwin's "Journal" ("The Voyage of the Beagle").
*gutenberg author| id=Charles+Darwin | name=Charles Darwin list includes "The Voyage of the Beagle"
*John Lort Stokes, [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12115 "Discoveries in Australia", Volume 1] , [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12146 Volume 2] .
*Robert FitzRoy, 1836, [http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=A73&viewtype=image&pageseq=1 "Sketch of the Surveying Voyages of his Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, 1825-1836. Commanded by Captains P. P. King, P. Stokes, and R. Fitz-Roy, Royal Navy"] . "Journal of the Geological Society of London" 6: 311-343
* [http://www.caphorniers.cl/Fitz%20Roy/relato%20ing/testimony01.htm Visit and Testimony of Captain Fitz-Roy]
* [http://www.portcities.org.uk/london/server/show/ConFactFile.64/HMS-Beagle.html HMS "Beagle" - Port Cities]
* [http://www.antique-horology.org/_editorial/sympiezometerfontijn/ The sympiesometer of Alexander Adie]
* [http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/covingto/chap_1.htm The Journal of Syms Covington - Chapter 1.]
* [http://www.thebeagleproject.com/ The replica HMS Beagle project]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3490564.stm BBC News - Darwin's Beagle ship 'found']
* [http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1148523,00.html The Observer - Evolution of radar points to HMS Beagle's resting place.]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/5190734.stm BBC News - Plans to build HMS Beagle replica for 2009 Darwin bicentenary.]


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