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 (two of three volumes)
This early 19th century work traces the voyages of the British ships Adventure and Beagle as they circumnavigated the globe from 1826 to 1836. Some consider the information gathered on these expeditions to be a precursor to modern oceanography.
- Vol. I, Title page
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- Vol. II, Page 17
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II, Page 18
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- Vol. II, Page 19
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- Vol. II, Page 20
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- Vol. II, Page 21
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- Vol. II, Page 22
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- Vol. II, Page 23
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- Vol. II, Page 125
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- Vol. II, Page 126
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- Vol. II, Page 359
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This three-volume narrative, published in 1839, recounts the voyages of His Majesty's ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836. NOAA's Rare Book Collection contains online versions of volumes I and II; among other libraries, the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, holds an online version of volume III. Robert FitzRoy, captain of the Beagle from 1831 to 1836, was largely responsible as author and editor of the first two volumes; the world-renowned naturalist Charles Darwin wrote and edited the third.
Volume I chronicles the ships' adventures while surveying the southern coast of South America from 1826 to 1830. The captain of the Beagle during that time, P. Parker King, committed suicide, partly due to the stress of battling some of the worst weather on Earth. His replacement, Captain Robert FitzRoy, requested the company of a naturalist-scientist as a companion and intellectual peer before undertaking a second voyage. That companion was Charles Darwin. This excerpt, taken from volume II, is FitzRoy's proposal to include such a scientist:
"Anxious that no opportunity of collecting useful information, during the voyage, should be lost; I proposed to the Hydrographer that some well-educated and scientific person should be sought for who would willingly share such accommodations as I had to offer, in order to profit by the opportunity of visiting distant countries yet little known. Captain Beaufort approved of the suggestion, and wrote to Professor Peacock, of Cambridge, who consulted with a friend, Professor Henslow, and he named Mr. Charles Darwin, grandson of Dr. Darwin the poet, as a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed all branches of natural history. In consequence an offer was made to Mr. Darwin to be my guest on board, which he accepted conditionally; permission was obtained for his embarkation, and an order given by the Admiralty that he should be borne on the ship's books for provisions. The conditions asked by Mr. Darwin were, that he should be at liberty to leave the Beagle and retire from the Expedition when he thought proper, and that he should pay a fair share of the expenses of my table." (v. II, pp. 18-19)
Volume II is FitzRoy's account of the expedition's second voyage during the years 1831-1836, when the Beagle explored Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America and the west coast of the continent. The ship then traveled to the Enchanted Islands, better known now as the Galapagos Islands. From there, the Beagle sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, Ascension Island, Bahia, Cape Verde Islands and the Azores, and then home to England. FitzRoy not only captained the H.M.S. Beagle, but also served as the ship's hydrographic surveyor, meteorologist, and amateur naturalist and his narrative complements Darwin's famous account in volume III, The Voyage of the Beagle.
From 1826 to 1830, the ships Adventure and Beagle surveyed the southern coast of South America. Here, the icy peaks of Mt. Sarmiento rise over 7,000 feet above the Magdalen Channel in the Tierra Del Fuego region. (v. I, facing p. 252)
Volume III was first published as Charles Darwin's Journal of Researches, although it is today known by the more famous name, The Voyage of the Beagle. It is the autobiographical work of Darwin relating his experiences while "attached" to the Beagle from 1832-1836. This volume was subsequently printed under a variety of titles with minor modifications to the original text. However, virtually all versions capture the essence of Darwin's experience on the Beagle, one that he described as "... by far the most important event in my life" and the event that "has determined my whole career."
There are few oceanographic references in this work, as Darwin primarily describes his experiences during land excursions detached from the vessel. These experiences laid the groundwork for many of Darwin's later works, including The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.
This work, in some ways, serves as a pre-history to modern oceanography. Fitzroy and his surveyors made observations of tides, tidal currents, and depths at many of the locations that they visited. They also made observations of major offshore currents such as the Humboldt Current and the relationship of temperatures throughout the water column to weather and local fauna. However, FitzRoy's main mission on this voyage was to compile nautical charts of areas visited, so his forays into oceanography were actually afterthoughts.
Some of the most interesting parts of this book are the passages from volume II where FitzRoy presupposed Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species and argued against the possibility of evolution. This book is a "must read" for anyone interested in early natural history or the Beagle's historic voyage.
- Authors: Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865), volumes I & II; Charles Darwin (1809-1882), volume III
- Date Published: 1839
- Publisher: Henry Colburn
- Location: London
Volume I (includes appendix), 597 pages
Volume II, 694 pages
Volume II, Appendix, 352 pages
Volume III, 630 pages
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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
NOAA's Rare Book Collection contains volumes I and II; volume III is available online at the the University of Cambridge Web site.