Scientific Voyage Narratives: HMS Beagle and beyond

Project Summary:

Annotated edition with a critical introduction of the 1839 Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of HMS Adventure and HMS Beagle. 4 vols. by Philip Parker King and Robert Fitzroy (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011).

Studies of the voyage narrative as a genre of scientific publication in the nineteenth century.

Project Description:

HMS Beagle has entered the collective imagination as the ship that carried Charles Darwin to the Galapagos, triggering his later work on the theory of natural selection. However, the Beagle also played a vital role in the development of modern hydrography, cartography and meteorology in both the voyage of 1831-36 and an earlier one of 1826-29 in an expedition led by Phillip Parker King in the Adventure. The work of the Beagle under her captain, Robert FitzRoy, was to chart South American coastlines, many of which had not previously been mapped, and to build a global chain of meridian distances. On this voyage FitzRoy pioneered the use of Francis Beaufort’s new system for identifying wind force, the basis of the modern Beaufort scale. FitzRoy’s further, unofficial goal on this voyage was to return three Fuegians to their native shores, and establish a Protestant mission in the desolate, southern fringes of the continent. It was a pivotal experience of civilization and savagery for both Darwin and FitzRoy. The separate accounts of the voyages by King, FitzRoy and Darwin were published in the four-volume Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle Between the Years 1826 and 1836 (1839). Darwin’s volume has never been out of print. In contrast, this set presents the first critical edition of the remaining texts from 1839: FitzRoy’s account of the second voyage, his detailed appendices, and the account of the 1826-29 voyage authored by Phillip Parker King, captain of HMS Adventure. Together they give an unparalleled example of British scientific exploration. It will generate new scholarly approaches to the Beagle voyages and be crucial for those interested in Darwin, Maritime Studies, History of Science, and Empire. test

In addition to this annotated edition, the publications related to the study of the scientific voyage narrative as a genre include:

“Natural History and the Scientific Voyage” in Helen Anne Curry, Nick Jardine, James Secord, Emma Spary, eds. Worlds of Natural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

“The Hydrographer’s Narrative: Writing Global knowledge in the 1830s,” Journal of Historical Geography (

“Reading and Writing the Scientific Voyage: Robert FitzRoy, Charles Darwin and John Clunies Ross,” British Journal for the History of Science (August 2018 First View at

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