The expedition of the Beagle, was a primarily hydrographic and scientific study of the coast of South America. The naturalist on board, Charles Darwin, also studied the characteristics and adaptations of native species.
Map by Charles W. Berry, National Geographic

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  • On December 27, 1831, HMS Beagle set sail from Plymouth, England, on an around-the-world voyage to survey the coast of South America. The purpose of the expedition was to collect hydrographic information, such as ocean depths, currents, temperature, reefs, and sandbars. It was the Beagle’s second voyage of exploration.

    The Beagle’s captain, Robert FitzRoy, regretted not having a geologist onboard the Beagle’s first voyage, and actively recruited “a person qualified to examine the land; while the officers, and myself, would attend to hydrography.” This naturalist would not be a member of the crew—he would have to pay his own way—but would have unrestricted access to the exotic flora and fauna of South America, as well as shipboard privileges such as his own cabin.

    Charles Darwin, 22 years old, was not FitzRoy’s first choice as the Beagle’s naturalist. But the young scholar was affable, available, and took advantage of the opportunity to rewrite modern science.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    coast Noun

    edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: coast
    current Noun

    steady, predictable flow of fluid within a larger body of that fluid.

    Encyclopedic Entry: current
    exotic Adjective

    foreign or strange.

    expedition Noun

    journey with a specific purpose, such as exploration.

    fauna Noun

    animals associated with an area or time period.

    flora Noun

    plants associated with an area or time period.

    geologist Noun

    person who studies the physical formations of the Earth.

    hydrography Noun

    measurement and study of the surface waters of the Earth.

    naturalist Noun

    person who studies the natural history or natural development of organisms and the environment.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    recruit Verb

    to work to supply a group with new members.

    reef Noun

    a ridge of rocks, coral, or sand rising from the ocean floor all the way to or near the ocean's surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: reef
    sandbar Noun

    mound of sand created by water currents.

    scholar Noun

    educated person.

    survey Noun

    a study or analysis of characteristics of an area or a population.

    temperature Noun

    degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

    Encyclopedic Entry: temperature
    voyage Noun

    long journey or trip.