It is probably fair to say that most people are aware that Charles Darwin wrote the defining work "On the origin of Species," and that he travelled in the Beagle to, what was then, the very corners of the earth in order to study and observe how various creatures had developed quite differently on different islands. It is also probably fair to say that, had Darwin not been on that ship, it is unlikely such a ground-breaking work would ever have been published.
Leaving aside Darwin's actual work, this is the story of the ship he made famous - the Beagle. Author James Taylor has elevated the art of research to new heights in this book by collecting every single element of information available and binding them together into one of the most complete stories ever told. For the very first time, without the need to refer to other accounts to supplement what is found here, we learn the fundamental facts about one of the greatest journeys of all time.
This is the story of the Beagle, how the voyage was conceived and by whom, how the Beagle came to be selected, the people behind the undertaking and the individuals who took part. It also reveals how Darwin came to be involved. The entire book is then enhanced by the sheer wealth and diversity of information exposed. Items such as detailed descriptions taken from personal letters and diaries, the official log and records of daily occurrences in addition to the original charts, sketches and other artwork produced by those experts on board at the time.
This is a book which will appeal to all those who spend our lives in search of adventure. It will also enthuse, with equal measure, those who enjoy artwork and the exploits of those who were charged with being the very first to venture into the real unknown. Most of all it will excite those who like to find history written in a most riveting and readable style.
This is an excellent work and, altogether, one of the best books I have ever read - on any subject.
on 10 January 2009
This book deals with the second of three voyages of the survey ship H.M.S. Beagle(1831-6) It does not concentrate on Charles Darwin,a supernummery,but with the ship,Captain FitzRoy,officers and crew,artists Earle and Martens and surveying at sea.
The book is well written and researched (with one exception-see later)but is made up with a considerable number of quotations from letters ,notes and official records.
The success of the voyage was due to the brilliant seamanship of the captain without which Darwins work would never have seen the light of day.
It is unfortunate that FitzRoy suffered from depression which eventually lead to his suicide.
It is a pity the two artists were on board for only short periods but the artwork of theirs which still exists is excellent.
The funal account of the voyage was published in 4 volumes-voludes 1&2 were written by the captain ,volume 3 by Darwin while volumme 4 is an appendix these volumes became known collectively as the "Narative".
On pages 38 and 174 the author claims that Alfed Wallace developed ideas later cthan Darwin,this is debateable as it is not finally determined how much Darwin plagerized Wallaces work.
There are minor annoyances about this book a)the silly dust cover that only covers a quarter of the book ,b)black type on green pages does not lead to easy reading and c)the microscopic type of the index requires a magnifying glass.