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Today, 200 years after Darwin, the Oosterschelde recreates the famous voyage of HMS Beagle

c: Oosterschelde Foundation

A group of environmental researchers and adventure travelers set sail from Plymouth on August 15, 2023 on the three-masted schooner Oosterschelde on an expedition to protect the planet called Darwin200. 

In 1831, Darwin set sail from the same port aboard the survey ship HMS Beagle. 

Young modern conservationists will embark on a two-year expedition to recreate Darwin's experience aboard the Dutch tall ship Oosterschelde. Organizers have renamed the ship "The World's Most Exciting Classroom". 

On Tuesday 15 August, the Oosterschelde will set sail on a 40,000 nautical mile voyage along the route chosen by Darwin. During the expedition, the ship will call at 32 ports on four continents, and at these stopovers will invite young environmentalists onboard for educational and conservation missions.

During Darwin's five-year expedition in the southern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, he studied isolated populations of flora and fauna living on remote islands. His newly gained knowledge served as the basis for the development of his theory of evolution. He presented his findings in his seminal book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1859.

“Charles Darwin was only 22 when he embarked on his life-changing journey from Plymouth and said it was by far the most important event in his life and one that defined his entire career. We wanted to create a similarly transformative experience,” said Stewart McPherson, Darwin200 founder and mission leader.

On the modern voyage, the schooner Oosterschelde will sail around the world to inspire the environmentalists and scientists of the future. The ship, the largest sailing ship ever restored in the Netherlands, is registered by the Dutch government as a monument of great cultural and historical value. Originally built as a cargo ship in 1917, the ship was re-commissioned after a major refurbishment in 1996.  

On the ship between ports, a mix of environmentalists and adventure travelers will be tasked with steering, navigating and manning the ropes of the three-masted topsail schooner, under the guidance of a professional crew. Along the way, they document ocean plastic debris and coral reef health, and conduct surveys of seabirds, whales and dolphins. 

“We all know we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction, with much downfall and gloom over environmental issues, climate change and biodiversity loss. "This trip will give many people an opportunity to realize that there is still time for change," said renowned primatologist Dame Jane Goodall, a Darwin200 patron.

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