UK home sought for the new HMS Beagle

A UK-wide search is under way to find a port that can be home to a replica of HMS Beagle, the ship that helped Charles Darwin form his evolutionary theories.

Inspired by the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth in 2009, a group of scientists and sailors decided to create a replica and they are now ready to proceed with the build.

They still need to raise £5million, but have already organised workshops in Brazil, Chile, China and Australia and partnered with NASA in a ship-to-space program.

Peter McGrath, joint founder and trustee of the HMS Beagle Project, wrote in the Guardian: ‘All of this has been accomplished without the ship, but it’s time to build her and fully develop her science and educational potential.

‘Once launched, the new Beagle will bring the adventure of science to life, retracing (Robert) FitzRoy (the skipper) and Darwin’s voyage, serving as an ambassador for British science, history and industry and taking scientists and sailors to sea.

‘Both disciplines are about looking at horizons, wondering what lies beyond, and not stopping until you, your crewmates and lab-mates have found out.’

Mr McGrath said he hopes the replica ‘would serve as a 21st-century icon to inspire a new generation to engage with science’, as, without Darwin’s voyage on Beagle, ‘the evolutionary foundations of modern biology would not have been laid until years, possibly decades later’.

The trip inspired Darwin to write two books – Voyage of the Beagle and On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, which is where he launched his theories.

The original purpose of the voyage, which begun on December 27 1831, was to survey the South American coastline for chart-marking and navigation, but deposits of marine fossils high above the sea level started to convince Darwin that the Earth and its inhabitants were not as fixed as previously assumed.

And in the Galápagos Islands he was further persuaded by the difference between the finches and mockingbirds across the islands.

The remains of the original HMS Beagle lie under the mud of the River Roach, Essex.

Illustration of HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan by R. T. Pritchett 1828-1907 / CC.

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