HMS Beagle

1820 Cherokee-class brig-sloop

HMS Beagle was a Cherokee-class ship of the Royal Navy. It was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. It is best known for a voyage that carried Charles Darwin.[2]

HMS Beagle in the Straits of Magellan at Monte Sarmiento, reproduction of R. T. Pritchett's frontispiece from the 1890 illustrated edition of The Voyage of the Beagle.
United Kingdom
Ordered16 February 1817
Laid downJune 1818
Launched11 May 1820
Decommissioned1845, transferred to Coastguard
FateSold and broken up 1870
General characteristics
Class and typeCherokee-class brig-sloop
Tons burthen235 bm; 242 for second voyage[1]
Length90.3 ft (27.5 m)
Beam24.5 ft (7.5 m)
Draught12.5 ft (3.8 m)
Sail planBrig (barque from 1825)
Complement120 as a ship-of-war, 65 plus 9 supernumeraries on second voyage
Armament10 guns, reduced to 6 guns for first survey voyage, changed to 7 guns during second survey voyage

First voyage (1826–1830)


On 22 May 1826, Beagle left to survey bodies of water in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. One of the bodies of water found was named the Beagle Channel after the ship.[3] During the voyage, Captain Pringle Stokes became depressed and shot himself. He died ten days later. Robert FitzRoy became the new captain. Beagle returned to England on 14 October 1830.

Second voyage (1831–1836)

Beagle being hailed by native Fuegians during the survey of Tierra del Fuego, painted by Conrad Martens who became ship's artist in 1833.

On 27 December 1831, the Beagle began her second voyage.

Captain FitzRoy did not want to have the stress and loneliness that led to the suicide of the first captain. He looked for someone to go on the voyage to keep him company. The person found was Charles Darwin.[4]

On this voyage, the crew did surveys in South America. Beagle returned to Falmouth, Cornwall, England on 2 October 1836.[5]

Darwin kept a diary of the things he saw and did on this voyage. He rewrote it as the book called Journal and Remarks. The book was published in 1839 as the third volume of the official account of the expedition. It was very popular. It was reprinted many times with different titles. It eventually became known as The Voyage of the Beagle.[6]

Third voyage (1837–1843)

In 1837 HMS Beagle set off on a survey of Australia, shown here in an 1841 watercolour by Owen Stanley.

In 1837, Beagle went to survey the coast of Australia. Commander John Clements Wickham was in charge. They started with the western coast between the Swan River (modern Perth, Australia) and the Fitzroy River. They then surveyed both shores of the Bass Strait. In May 1839 they sailed north to survey the shores of the Arafura Sea opposite Timor. This voyage ended in 1843.

Many places around the coast were named on this voyage. Many of the places were named for important people or members of the crew. Wickham named Port Darwin in honour of Charles Darwin. A settlement there became the town of Palmerston in 1869, and was renamed Darwin in 1911.[7]

During this survey, the Beagle Gulf was named after the ship.[8]


  1. FitzRoy 1839, pp. 17–18.
  2. Howitt, William (1865). The History of Discovery in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand: From the Earliest Date to the Present Day. Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green. p. 332.
  3. Herbert, Sandra (1999). "An 1830s View from Outside Switzerland: Charles Darwin on the "Beryl Blue" Glaciers of Tierra del Fuego". Eclogae Geologicae Helvetiae. pp. 92: 339–346. Retrieved 22 December 2008.
  4. Browne & Neve 1989, pp. 4–7
  5. FitzRoy 1839, p. 638.
  6. R. B. Freeman (1977). "Darwin Online: Journal of Researches". Bibliographical introduction. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  7. "Darwin - Northern Territory - Australia - Travel -". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 February 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  8. Armstrong, Patrick; All Things Darwin: A-I, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007: "Captain Wickham named the Beagle Gulf, and Port Darwin in what is now Australia's Northern Territory (see Darwin, City of)."

Sources and references