£3.9 million working replica planned to mark Darwin's 200th anniversary

Plans are underway to build a £3.3m working replica of HMS Beagle, the sailing ship that took Charles Darwin around the world, to mark the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth in 2009.

The replica Beagle will look identical to the original, built of larch on oak frames with a copper-sheathed hull. However, she will be equipped with a 21st century interior with up-to-date navigation, safety and communications equipment. The aim is to build and berth the vessel at Milford Haven before using her to restage the Beagle’s 1831-36 circumnavigation with a crew of 30 young scientists and sailors, making similar landfalls to the original vessel and staging scientific shore expeditions along the way. After the circumnavigation, the replica will have a continuing life as a sailing classroom and laboratory.

Darwin sailed on the Beagle between 1831-36 under the command of Robert Fitzroy, the pioneering meteorologist whose name is commemorated in one of the sea areas used daily in the Shipping Forecast. Also on the expedition was mate and surveyor John Lort Stokes. One of Stokes’s descendents, Pembrokeshire farmer David Lort Phillips, has founded the project in the hope that the finished vessel will inspire tomorrow’s scientists and be used for international scientific research.

The Beagle did not seem destined to become one of the most famous ships in history when she was commissioned in 1829 as a humble ten-gun brig, a two-masted square rigger. She never saw action and spent most of her first few years in reserve, moored and unmanned. Then in 1825 she was adapted as a survey ship, with the addition of a third, fore and aft rigged mast, which turned her from brig to barque. This improved both her looks and her sailing performance. Her first voyage, which began in May 1826, was a hydrographic survey of South America. Her commanding officer Captain Pringle Stokes became so depressed by the difficulties of working in the troubled waters around Tieraa del Fuego that he committed suicide. Researchers believe the original remains of the 27m-long Navy brig, which was sold for scrap in 1870, are embedded in a marsh near Potton Island in Essex.

For more information visit www.thebeagleproject.com 

Plan drawings copyright Neptun-Peenemuende GMBH