April 1836 to 4 October 1836
South America, and Homeward Bound:
the Cocos Islands
The Begale arrives at South Africa
Arrival at St. Helena Island
The return to South America
The Azores are Spotted
Finally home in England!
The Fate of the Beagle
April 1st HMS Beagle arrived at the Keeling Islands which
were discovered by Capt. William Keeling in 1608 (they are
now called the Cocos Islands). They put in at Port Refuge,
then sailed to Direction Island under very high winds.
islands are composed entirely of coral and Darwin surmised
that they were once part of a large submerged coral reef.
He explored Direction Island for a few days, but found nothing
but cocoa-nut trees and coral strewn beaches. Despite the
relative desolate state of the islands Darwin did manage to
collect a few small birds, one species of lizard, several
species of insects and a whole lot of coral! He also theorized
that plant seeds must have migrated across the oceans to these
islands. The only inhabitants of the islands were Malays and
a few English families.
Boats were sent out to survey the islands.
Darwin went with FitzRoy to an island at the head of the Cocos
Today the Beagle sailed away from the Cocos Islands. They took
cocoa-nuts, pigs, poultry, pumpkins, and turtles on board for
food. They sailed past North Keeling Island, Chagos Islands
and then to Rodriguez Island.
HMS Beagle arrived at Port Louis, Mauritius Island, and remained
their a few days.
The Beagle sailed out from Port Louis, passing near Madagascar.
The Beagle arrived at the southern tip of Africa at Simon's
Bay near Cape Town.
Darwin traveled to Cape Town which was about twenty miles away.
The landscape was rather bleak. He arrived late at night and
had difficulty finding lodging, eventually finding a room at
a boarding house.
A packet ship arrived with mail for HMS Beagle. Darwin went
to pay a visit to Sir John Herschel. He had been living here
since 1833, having been put in charge of the new Royal Observatory
at Cape Town. Darwin was pleased to discover that Herschel had
a keen interest in natural history. They had many conversations
about volcanoes, earthquakes, the movement of continents, the
origin of mankind and how new species came into being. NB -
Charles Darwin would end up buried next to Sir John Herschel
in Westminster Abbey, London.
HMS Beagle left Cape Town and headed north along the west coast
Today the Beagle crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.
HMS Beagle arrived at St. Helena Island where they remain for
five days. Darwin found a place to stay near Napoleons
Tomb. He described the island as a desolate place. It was essentially
a giant mountain of rocky lava rock in the middle of the Atlantic
ocean, except inland where the scenery was more akin to the
landscape of Wales. Darwin spent most of his time here exploring
the geology of the island. Nearly all the species of plants
have been introduced from England. About 5,000 people lived
on the island. Darwin had an elderly man as a guide and they
took long walks every day.
At about noon the Beagle set sail for Ascension Island.
The Beagle arrived at Ascension Island in the evening. The island
was inhabited entirely by British marines and a few liberated
Africans from slave ships. They stayed at the island for four
days, during which time Darwin climbed Green Hill, a volcano
of 2,817 feet in
height. By now the entire crew was very anxious to get back
Capt. FitzRoy was concern that he may have taken faulty measurements
at San Salvador so he ordered the Beagle on a detour back to
HMS Beagle arrived at Bahia de los Santos, Brazil. While the
Beagle was out making corrections, Darwin took many walks in
the tropical forests.
Survey corrections were completed and the Beagle headed directly
was delighted on the 17th to get on board the ship & in
the afternoon to leave the shores of Brazil. We lie close
hauled to the wind, & therefore there is a considerable
pitching motion; I suffer very much from sea-sickness. - But
it is on the road to England, in truth some such comfort is
necessary to support the tedious misery of loss of time, health
The Beagle passed the equator.
Arrived at Porta Praya at the Cape Verde Archipelago, where
they stayed just five days.
The Beagle sailed for the Azores.
The Beagle arrived at the Tropic of Cancer.
HMS Beagle arrived at the Azores and anchored at Terceira near
the town of Angra. The next day Darwin hired a horse and some
guides and rode to the center of the island where an active
crater was supposed to exist. What he found there was hardly
a "crater" but rather a series of fissures in the
lava rock with steam coming out of them. The days ride was not
very productive to a naturalist. On another day Darwin traveled
along a road on the coast and visited the town of Praya at the
north-east extreme of the island. He returned on a road along
the northern shore, then crossed the central part of the island
on the way back to the Beagle.
The Beagle left the Azores.
Today the Beagle called at the Island of St. Michael's for letters,
then sailed for England.
HMS Beagle finally arrived home after a voyage of four years,
nine months, five days. They docked at Falmouth, England around
9:00 in the evening during a mild rain storm. Darwin set off
immediately for Shrewsbury.
Darwin arrived at his father's house in the evening and found
the family was fast asleep. The next morning he strolled into
the dining room while his father and sisters were having breakfast.
An immediate pandemonium of delight broke out all over the house.
Much celebration commenced and a few of the servants got drunk.
After the house quieted down Darwin spent the day writing letters
to all his friends and relatives. Charles Robert Darwin, once
an insecure college graduate, had become a seasoned naturalist,
and a man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion would
forever change the way humanity views its place in the world.
HMS Beagle underwent much needed repairs and refitting.
John Wickham, a Lieutenant on the 2nd Beagle Voyage, was put
in command of HMS Beagle.
HMS Beagle headed out from England again, starting its third
and last surveying voyage.
HMS Beagle arrived in Britain after its third surveying voyage
and was paid off on 18 October 1843. By this time the Beagle
was in very poor shape and was no longer considered useful to
the British Royal Navy.
The Royal Navy sold HMS Beagle to the British Coastguard.
The Beagle was assigned as a customs watch vessel near Southend-on-sea
in the Thames River. She would, along with many other ships,
help prevent the smuggling of various goods so common in that
area at the time.
HMS Beagle was moved to a stationary post near the mouth of
HMS Beagle was renamed "WV7" (Watch Vessel 7). The
name "HMS Beagle" was reassigned to a steam powered
gunship built in 1854. In the year 1863 this steamship was purchased
by the Japanese Navy and renamed "Kanko" in 1865.
The mistaken rumor that Darwin's Beagle was sold to Japan stems
from this series of events. The recycling of ship names was
standard practice in the Royal Navy. The HMS Beagle that Darwin
made famous was the 3rd ship to use the name, and as of 1987
nine ships of the British Royal Navy have had the name HMS Beagle.
The ship, WV7, was beached on the shore of Havengore Creek,
close to where it flowed into the Thames. Here she was used
to house members of the land-based coastguard. She was stripped
of her masts and rigging and refitted to house the guard.
Some cottages were built near WV7 to house the land-based coastguard
and WV7 was abandoned.
What remained of WV7 was sold for scrap to Murray & Trainer
Company for the paltry sum of 525 British lbs. I have heard
rumors that some timbers of HMS Beagle are still visible; sticking
out of the mud flats at Havengore Creek. This has not been confirmed,