7th November 1836

She moved down to Woolwich.
(Darwin's final Diary entry)

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
After the chronometer rates were ascertained, the Beagle dropped down to Woolwich.
(Fitzroy's final Journal entry)

Syms Covington Journal
Also were towed to Woolwich.
(Covington's final Journal entry)

As perhaps is fitting, the final words in our adventure with HMS Beagle, should be from Captain Fitzroy. More or less everything available to me has now been posted on this site, however, I will be leaving it for research purposes for the forseeable future. Comments on individual entries are, of course, still very welcome. I will seek to answer questions within a day or so.

Greenwich was the last station at which observations were made; and, singularly enough, Mr. Usborne and his companions came on board as we anchored there. Independent of the gratification of meeting them again, after so wide a separation, it may be supposed how my mind was relieved by his safe return from a very successful expedition, in which he had surveyed the whole coast of Peru, from Atacama to Guayaquil, without loss or accident. Although his own life was seriously risked on two or three occasions, by shots fired under misapprehension; I must not omit to mention that hostilities were suspended for a whole day, at Arica, between the land-forces and an attacking squadron, in order that Mr. Usborne might carry on his operations. Throughout the survey of the Peruvian coast, the cordial assistance of Mr. Wilson, Charge d'affaires at Lima, was found to be of paramount consequence.

I would now speak of the steady support and unvarying help which I received from the officers of the Beagle: but where all did so much, and all contributed so materially to the gatherings of the voyage, it is unnecessary to particularise, farther than by saying that Mr. Stokes's services hold the first place in my own estimation.

In this long voyage, rather exceeding that of Vancouver, fatal disease was unknown, except in the lamented case of the purser, and in that mentioned at Rio de Janeiro; neither of which had the least reference to the particular service on which the Beagle was employed: and it is perhaps remarkable, that while the Beagle was in commission, between February 1829 and November 1836, no serious illness, brought on or contracted while on service, happened on board; neither did any accident of consequence occur in the ship; nor did any man ever fall overboard during all that time.

The freedom from illness must be attributed, under Providence, to active employment, good clothing, and wholesome food, in healthy, though sometimes disagreeable climates: and our immunity from accident during exposure to a variety of risks, especially in boats, I attribute, referring to visible causes, to the care, attention, and vigilance of the excellent officers whose able assistance was not valued by me more than their sincere friendship.

The Beagle was paid off on the 17th of November. The Beagle was put into commission on the 4th of July 1831; thus having completed the unusually long period of five years and one hundred and thirty six days.


28th October 1836

Got up the river to Greenwich on the 28th.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
On the 28th our anchor was let go at Greenwich.

Syms Covington Journal
The following morning were towed to Greenwich the 28th.

26th October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Anchored off The Nore near to Chatham.  Anchored off Gravesend, was towed by steamer the same evening FOR about an hour and a half.

24th October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Visitors came to see the ship the following morning. Sailed about 12 o'clock the same day, and came to our anchor about three or four hours afterwards. When near the flats, we were obliged to bring too in consequence of thick weather.

23rd October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Anchored off Deal.

22nd October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Anchored off Dungeness.

21st October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Sailed from Dover the 21st 11 o'clock am

20th October 1836

Syms Covington Journal
Aanchored 20th 8 o'clock Dover

18th October 1836

Plymouth to Greenwich
Sailed for the Thames, calling on her way at Portsmouth & Deal….

Catching Up

[Barn Pool, where the Beagle lay before sailing.  One of the safest anchorages in the Hamoze, it lies across the Tamar opposite the King William Yard, Devonport]

As I am sure many will realise, with our daily dose of Darwin (Plus Fitzroy and Covington) now nearly come to its inevitable end I am missing their wonderful descriptions of the world of 1831-36.  But all is not lost.  The whole thing will remain here for new readers to 'catch up'... and I have decided myself to wind back to October 1832, with the Beagle in South America, and follow again their exploits day-by-day.

Additionally, for those who want to accompany me, James Cook's Endeavour voyage has now been running for a couple of months (click on the link  on the top right of this page).  With Cook, we are certainly in another age.... 63 years before the start of the Darwin voyage, the Endeavour having left Plymouth Sound in 1768 (Darwin 1831).

6th October 1836

Shrewsbury, Thursday, October 6, 1836.

My dear Henslow,

I am sure you will congratulate me on the delight of once again being home. The "Beagle" arrived at Falmouth on Sunday evening, and I reached Shrewsbury yesterday morning. I am exceedingly anxious to see you, and as it will be necessary in four or five days to return to London to get my goods and chattels out of the "Beagle", it appears to me my best plan to pass through Cambridge. I want your advice on many points; indeed I am in the clouds, and neither know what to do or where to go. My chief puzzle is about the geological specimens -- who will have the charity to help me in describing their mineralogical nature? Will you be kind enough to write to me one line by RETURN OF POST, saying whether you are now at Cambridge? I am doubtful till I hear from Captain Fitz-Roy whether I shall not be obliged to start before the answer can arrive, but pray try the chance. My dear Henslow, I do long to see you; you have been the kindest friend to me that ever man possessed. I can write no more, for I am giddy with joy and confusion.

Farewell for the present,
Yours most truly obliged,


Shrewsbury, Thursday morning, October 6, 1836.

My dear Fitz-Roy,

I arrived here yesterday morning at breakfast time, and, thank God, found all my dear good sisters and father quite well. My father appears more cheerful and very little older than when I left. My sisters assure me I do not look the least different, and I am able to return the compliment. Indeed, all England appears changed excepting the good old town of Shrewsbury and its inhabitants, which, for all I can see to the contrary, may go on as they now are to Doomsday. I wish with all my heart I was writing to you amongst your friends instead of at that horrid Plymouth. But the day will soon come, and you will be as happy as I now am. I do assure you I am a very great man at home; the five years' voyage has certainly raised me a hundred per cent. I fear such greatness must experience a fall.

I am thoroughly ashamed of myself in what a dead-and-half-alive state I spent the few last days on board; my only excuse is that certainly I was not quite well. The first day in the mail tired me, but as I drew nearer to Shrewsbury everything looked more beautiful and cheerful. In passing Gloucestershire and Worcestershire I wished much for you to admire the fields, woods, and orchards. The stupid people on the coach did not seem to think the fields one bit greener than usual; but I am sure we should have thoroughly agreed that the wide world does not contain so happy a prospect as the rich cultivated land of England.

I hope you will not forget to send me a note telling me how you go on. I do indeed hope all your vexations and trouble with respect to our voyage, which we now know HAS an end, have come to a close. If you do not receive much satisfaction for all the mental and bodily energy you have expended in His Majesty's service, you will be most hardly treated. I put my radical sisters into an uproar at some of the prudent (if they were not honest Whigs, I would say shabby) proceedings of our Government. By the way, I must tell you for the honour and glory of the family that my father has a large engraving of King George IV. put up in his sitting-room. But I am no renegade, and by the time we meet my politics will be as firmly fixed and as wisely founded as ever they were.

I thought when I began this letter I would convince you what a steady and sober frame of mind I was in. But I find I am writing most precious nonsense. Two or three of our labourers yesterday immediately set to work and got most excessively drunk in honour of the arrival of Master Charles. Who then shall gainsay if Master Charles himself chooses to make himself a fool. Good-bye. God bless you! I hope you are as happy, but much wiser, than your most sincere but unworthy philosopher,


5th October 1836

[Shrewsbury, October 5th, 1836.]

My dear Uncle
The "Beagle" arrived at Falmouth on Sunday evening, and I reached home late last night. My head is quite confused with so much delight, but I cannot allow my sisters to tell you first how happy I am to see all my dear friends again. I am obliged to return in three or four days to London, where the "Beagle" will be paid off, and then I shall pay Shrewsbury a longer visit. I am most anxious once again to see Maer, and all its inhabitants, so that in the course of two or three weeks, I hope in person to thank you, as being my first Lord of the Admiralty.


3rd October 1836

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
From Falmouth we went to Plymouth.

Syms Covington Journal
Left Falmouth October 3rd pm, anchored in Plymouth.

2nd October 1836

After a tolerably short passage, but with some very heavy weather, we came to an anchor at Falmouth. To my surprise and shame I confess the first sight of the shores of England inspired me with no warmer feelings, than if it had been a miserable Portugeese settlement. The same night (and a dreadfully stormy one it was) I started by the Mail for Shrewsbury.

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal
Anchored at Falmouth, on the 2d of October, after an absence of four years and nine months from England.

Syms Covington Journal
Anchored in Falmouth pm Sunday October 1st, 1838.

[Today... in 1836 of course, Darwin's journey is complete. As you will see, he immediately left the Beagle and travelled up to Shrewsbury; but I will continue following the Beagle until the records cease. However, for us intrepid travellers, James Cook's Circumnavigation Journal may be followed each day -- click on the link on the top right of this page. We are just a month or so into our voyage with the Endeavour in 1768.]