HMS Beagle - the story of Darwins ship
by Thomson, Keith S.
pub by W.W. Norton and Company, NY, 1995             isbn 0-393-03778-9       contents p. 5-6 - Preface, Acknoledgments, Preface and Prologue p.11-18 -- body of text p.19-269, illustrations, plans - Endnotes p. 271-281 - Index p. 301-310. - - total 320 pages.

This book is the story of a ship - HMS Beagle the ship that Darwin rode on while he worked out what eventually would become his theory of natural selection. This vessel was one of a large class of Cherokee 10 gun brigs. A Brig is sailing vessel with 2 masts, square rigged on each mast. It was not a well thought of class. It was a small workhorse, only 99 feet long (73 ft 7 inches on keel) and displaced some 297 tons. 107 Cherokee 10 gun brigs were built. The Beagle was 41st in this series.
The Beagle was re-rigged as a Bark or Barque when a fore and aft rigged mizzen mast was added to make it handle better. It needed all the good handling capability it could get as it was used as a survey vessel in some of the most difficult areas of the world - Tierra del Fuego at the soutern tip of South America.
This was the great age of scientific study by England, USA and many of the European governments. Hydrography was a major area of study. Many of the Cherokee 10 gun brigs were used in Hydrographical studies and other scientific studies, even measuring the strength of gravity in different places on earth.
The Beagles first voyage was among other ships surveying the Strait of Magellan area in S. America. That voyage became so tough that the captain of the Beagle, Stokes, committed suicide at Port Famine in the Strait of Magellan as a result of the strain of command.
The second major voyage began after a major re-build and it was the -around the world- trip in which Charles Darwin participated as a scientist and companion of the captain Robert Fitzroy. This voyage began late in 1831 and ended upon arrival in Greenwich, England in late October 1836, a voyage of almost exactly 5 years. Then followed almost a year of finishing up maps and writing reports.
The third voyage departed England in 1837 to survey in Australia especially on the hostile north shore but actually all around the subcontinent. The Beagle returned home to England at the end of September 1843.
It was then involved in some local survey work and ended up in the service of the coast guard as a watch ship. It was eventually sold for scrap in 1870.
There is a fair amount of detail on each of the major voyages. There is a lot of good reading about activities during each of the major voyages.
Keith Thompson, the author, is a professional biologist. He was attracted to the Beagles story due to its being instrumental in the study of biology. He did considerable research and had several strokes of good luck finding documents which brings the The Beagle to life.
This is a good read.

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