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This 105-Year-Old Schooner Is Retracing Darwin’s Epic Global Voyage to Boost Conservation

Charles Darwin sailed the HMS Beagle around the world nearly two centuries ago, but his historic voyage is still inspiring young environmentalists today.

A nonprofit called Darwin200 is taking a 105-year-old Dutch schooner on the exact same route as the 19th-century British naturalist to document the natural world and boost conservation.

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Christened Oosterschelde, the restored 164-footer is twice as long as Darwin’s ship and will carry double the passengers. Darwin200 has selected one young conservationist from each of the 200 countries and states across to globe to join the adventure.

The 164-foot schooner Oosterschelde
The 164-footer left Plymouth at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, August 15.

The three-masted sailer left the English port of Plymouth on Tuesday morning, just as the Beagle did in 1831. It will now travel some 40,000 nautical miles over two years. (Darwin originally planned to spend the same amount of time at sea, but his expedition took nearly five years.) The group hopes to anchor in 32 ports across four continents and stop in the same remote destinations as the Father of Evolution did. Places like the Galapagos archipelago led Darwin to develop the theory of evolution by natural selection and inspired his seminal book On the Origin of Species.


“Charles Darwin was only 22 when he set sail from Plymouth on his life-changing voyage in 1831 aboard HMS Beagle, famously saying that it was by far the most important event in his life, determining his whole career,” Darwin200 founder and mission director Stewart McPherson said in a statement. “We wanted to create a similarly transformative experience for members of the public and 200 of the world’s brightest young environmentalists, who have the potential to be the STEM and conservation leaders of tomorrow and the catalysts to change the future of planet Earth for the better.”

The 164-foot schooner Oosterschelde
The three-masted schooner will cover some 40,000 nautical miles over the next two years.

The travelers onboard will be tasked with steering, navigating, and manning the ropes of the tall ship under the guidance of a professional crew. They’ll also document ocean plastics, coral reef health, and natural wildlife throughout the journey. The data collected will then be discussed via a weekly “nature hour” that will be beamed live from the ship to the public.

The 200 youngsters will each spend a week studying a specific endemic species with local NGOs and conservation experts to see how much has changed over the past 200-odd years. In addition to carrying out investigative work, the rookie researchers will develop new ideas to ensure their chosen animal or plant species has a brighter future.

A decade in the making, Darwin200’s transoceanic endeavor has even received the tick of approval from Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter.

The 164-foot schooner Oosterschelde
Conservationists from 200 countries and states will join the adventure.

“Using Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle as a framework to highlight environmental change as well as the beauty of nature is a timely and noble ambition,” Dr. Sarah Darwin adds.

The best part is adventurous souls can still apply to be part of the crew on various legs. Unlike the 74 sailors on Beagle, you’ll be sleeping in a proper cabin rather than a hammock and eating meals prepared by a private chef. There’s even a cozy bar and a lounge with a piano for cocktail hour. Click here for more information.

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