Second Voyage



The second voyage of HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836 has become one of the most significant voyages of exploration in maritime history. Explore her route using our map. Click through to find out about some of the scientific observations made along the way. Note: to reduce repetition, the passage of HMS Beagle around South America has been simplified.


December 1831

On 27 December 1831, HMS Beagle set sail from Plymouth on its second surveying voyage, with Robert FitzRoy as captain. He was accompanied by 22-year old Charles Darwin as the ship’s naturalist:

“Anxious that no opportunity of collecting useful information, during the voyage, should be lost; I proposed that some well-educated and scientific person should be sought for who would willingly share such accommodations as I had to offer, in order to profit by the opportunity of visiting distant countries yet little known. Captain Beaufort approved of the suggestion, and wrote to Professor Peacock, of Cambridge, who consulted with a friend, Professor Henslow, and he named Mr. Charles Darwin, grandson of Dr. Darwin the poet, as a young man of promising ability, extremely fond of geology, and indeed all branches of natural history.”*

The Hydrographical Office had set several objectives for the voyage:

  • • To complete survey work around South America started during the first voyage (1829-1830).
  • To obtain an accurate series of longitudes around the world.
  • • To make constant observations on the tides, their properties and the factors that influence them.
  • • To make observations on ocean currents, monsoons and trade winds.
  • • To keep detailed meteorological records, including air pressure and temperature, sea surface temperature, wind and weather.
  • • To map out coral reef islands to aid with determining their structure and origins.

After leaving Plymouth, HMS Beagle sailed past Madeira and planned to stop at Tenerife, but could not go onshore due to quarantine restrictions for cholera. This was a disappointing start for Darwin.

Find out about ocean science and atmospheric science on our science pages.

*FitzRoy R. Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle Vol. II. Proceedings of the Second Expedition. 1831–1836. (Henry Colburn, 1839); via van Wyhe, J. (ed.) The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, 2002