December 3, 1831 (a Saturday)

HMS Beagle

On this date, Charles Darwin was in Plymouth, England and started sleeping onboard HMS Beagle, believing that its departure was imminent. This evening, in a letter to his friend and mentor, Professor J.S. Henslow, he wrote:

My dear Henslow, 

It is now late in the evening, and to-night I am going to sleep on board. On Monday we most certainly sail, so you may guess in what a desperate state of confusion we are all in. If you were to hear the various exclamations of the officers, you would suppose we had scarcely had a week’s notice. I am just in the same way taken all aback, and in such a bustle I hardly know what to do. The number of things to be done is infinite. I look forward to sea-sickness with something like satisfaction, anything must be better than this state of anxiety…

Darwin was given quarters in the chart room, one deck above Captain FitzRoy’s quarters, at the stern of the ship. The chart room was nine feet by eleven feet and had five feet of generous headroom. The walls were lined with bookshelves, cabinets, an oven and a wash stand. To make matters worse, the mizzenmast came up through the floor and a large four foot by six foot chart table sat in the middle of the room. In all, there was about six feet by eight feet of space to work in. Darwin lived in this room, on and off, for nearly five years. However, the Beagle did not sail on Monday as the ship expected.


  • Charles Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter. Edited by his son. Volume I. [unabridged facsimile of the 1897 edition] (Boston, MA: Adamant Media Corp., 2000) 189.

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