27 October 2007

Evolution In Action

While you're here, be sure to
check out our new shop!

In Saturday's Guardian Steve Jones waxes skel-oquent about a new book by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and Patrick Gries called Evolution in Action, writing:

"It was a great puzzle to me why the Grand Gallery of Evolution in Paris's Museum of Natural History was renovated at great expense in the 1990s to muddle what had been a classical display of the logic of life and replace it with a series of tableaux of mildly interesting but quite unrelated creatures (the British equivalent in South Kensington is, if anything, worse). Now, the Paris museum has returned to its roots with a marvellous evolutionary account of the skeletons in its huge collection."

As an employee of London's Natural History Museum in South Kensington, I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Jones. Random selections of specimens, no matter how spectacular, are no substitute for, as Jones puts it, "the logic of life".

The good news is that starting in 2008 the NHM in London will host the excellent Darwin exhibition (on loan from the American Museum of Natural History - does anyone else see the irony in this?), and has also already begun the process of developing a new permanent evolution gallery which will open sometime in the next five to ten years.

"Many popular books have tried to put flesh on the bare bones of Darwin's theory, but this one does the opposite," Professor Jones continues, "The stark photographs in Evolution In Action make an eloquent case for evolution."

"Charles Darwin, in The Origin Of Species, often refers to the great French anatomists such as Georges Cuvier," Jones reminds us. "Darwin's best-known adversary was Lamarck, a founder of the Museum of Natural History. Lamarck was a proponent of evolution, in that he believed in the 'inheritance of acquired characters' (if giraffes spend a lifetime stretching for leaves, they will pass on a longer neck to their offspring). Darwin believed this, too; he despised his continental cousin for a more subtle reason, for the Frenchman had that very French notion, the law of necessary progress - that every day in every way things are bound to get better and better, with the whole of creation striving to achieve, as Lamarck himself did, a place in the Académie Française."

Fittingly, Professor Jones ends with a lesson about the superior power of spectacular objects to inspire: "As I never tire of reminding people, UCL's biology department is on the site of Darwin's London home. Its building is now under renovation and the huge skulls of the Irish elk and various skeletons in the entrance hall are going into store - the molecular people resent what they call 'hunting trophies' distracting visitors to their shiny laboratories. They may not realise it, but most of their own effort is just comparative anatomy, on a reduced scale. The only difference is, it costs a lot more, and astounds a lot less, than the real thing."

We're all in favour of the astounding potential of real things over here at The Beagle Project.


Read the full Guardian article here and see more spectacular skeletons here.

26 October 2007

BEAGLE PROJECT SHOP GRAND OPENING

Update (28th October): By popular demand, the following have just been added to the shop: black and other dark-coloured tees for men and women ("Claudia" print only for now), a few more varieties of white and light-coloured tees for women and bumper stickers. Other suggestions? Leave a comment here or email nunatak.


tee-shirts!



mugs!




buttons!




tote bags!




organic tees!



Get your very own HMS Beagle Project gear and help us build the Beagle by shopping online here. Every purchase includes a $10 donation to help us build a sailing replica of the HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Darwin around the world, inspiring his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Here are a few things to remember as you shop:
  • Help build the Beagle and a better environment by checking out our 100% organic cotton tees.
  • Most of our tees have designs on both front and back, so be sure to click on each item to see both sides.
  • Yes, international orders are accepted!
  • Individual buttons include a $2 (rather than $10) donation.
  • ¡Proximamente, versión en Espanol!

Hallelujah! The Beagle Project shop coming soon.

25 October 2007

Darwin's bioluminescence.

Anyone who has sailed in seas where the plankton phosphoresces will smile at Darwin's sense of wonder on this 24 October entry:
Bahia Blanca to Montevideo
The night was pitch dark, with a fresh breeze. — The sea from its extreme luminousness presented a wonderful & most beautiful appearance; every part of the water, which by day is seen as foam, glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, & in her wake was a milky train. — As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright; & from the reflected light, the sky just above the horizon was not so utterly dark as the rest of the Heavens. — It was impossible to behold this plain of matter, as it were melted & consuming by heat, without being reminded of Milton's description of the regions of Chaos & Anarchy.
From Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary.

The Beagle Project: all at sea

From the UK sailing magzine All At Sea.

Darwin Day 2008

Prof Bob Stephens of Darwin Day sends an email reminding us that while 2009 may be the Big One, 2008 is not to be forgotten. It is the 150th anniversary of Darwin and Wallace's joint paper announcing natural selection to an underwhelmed Linnean Society, and a chance for us to organize a slew of science communication events to celebrate Darwin and wind up the effort to spread scientific literacy.

If you organize a Darwin Day event, be sure to register it with the Darwin Day website.

Here's what Bob Stephens says:

The name “Charles Darwin” uniquely focuses the attention of both the press and the citizens of the world and by declaring February 12th the common date on which to celebrate science, scientists can establish a new tradition – one that honors our most valuable knowledge system, and is based on empirical data. According to Darwin scholar, Janet Browne, it was the ‘Great Debate at Oxford University’ in 1860 between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and scientist Thomas Huxley (Darwin’s defender) that settled the long-standing question of whether theologians or scientists had the right to explain the origin of living things, and science won! Henceforth, all scientists have been able to interpret their empirical data in accordance with the laws of nature instead of through the lens of theology.

In 1893 Huxley pointed out that “we are all scientists” when we solve our practical problems on a daily basis and, while modern scientists must use powerful instruments to extend the sensitivity of their five senses to study the very small building blocks of living matter and the very large components of the universe, we all can appreciate the value of knowledge gained by empirical evidence. Thus an ANNUAL CELEBRATION provides an opportunity for scientists to informally share the excitement of their new discoveries with the general public. The public, in turn, will gain a greater appreciation of modern science.

24 October 2007

Simon Gurr responds

...to my open letter, saying exactly what I hoped he would say, and more!
I am pleased that the Darwin200 website is generating interest about the book Eugene and I are working on, especially when the interest comes from a source as knowledgeable as the HMS Beagle Project.
As Peter Mc would say, "Cor!"
I can reassure you that neither Eugene or I see Darwin as a stuffed shirt, if that was the case our job would be much more difficult. I hope I can allay your concerns regarding the cover image too. It was created some time ago as part of a proposal and will not be used on the finished book. Good luck with the project, Simon.
So, all's well that ends well ("well" in this case meaning a comic-strip version of Darwin that is not prematurely aged). Thanks, Simion, and good luck with the book.

23 October 2007

Craig Venter and the F word.

More on the world-sailing, metagenomic doing Dr J Craig Venter on respectable BBC news and current affairs programme Newsnight here. The man - through his Institute - is doing some interesting things, things that could be used as the definition of 'pushing the boundaries'. The media reaction highlights the need for a scientifically literate population, one of the things we want to help with our public outreach work on the replica HMS Beagle.

Any interviewer who uses the word 'Frankenstein' in relation to such work should be ashamed of themselves for barrelscraping cliché, sloppy thinking and lazy journalism. It's as relevant as calling it Dumbledore science because it's like magic.

Anyway, Baron von Dr. Venter is in the UK promoting his autobiography, reviewed in The Times here. No link to Amazon, support your local bookshop.

22 October 2007

Darwin harbour is a biodiversity hotspot

Though Charles Darwin never got the chance to visit the harbour in Australia's Northern Territory that now bears his name, he almost certainly would have been delighted to learn that his namesake is now known to be a one of "the most diverse habitats not only in Australia but the Indo-Pacific region," according to Dr Kristin Metcalfe of Charles Darwin University.

Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia

Dr Metcalfe's discoveries include a whole new genus of coral which grows on mangrove leaves, which provides yet another connection to Charles Darwin. In Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, he set out an elegant theory which provided a unified explanation for the formation of lagoon-islands, atolls and coral reefs.

Indeed Darwin seems to have had a penchant for coming up with grand unifying theories. In his autobiography he wrote, "my mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts."

According to Wikipedia, the first Brit to see Darwin harbour was Lieutenant John Lort Stokes on the third voyage of HMS Beagle in 1839* (Lort Stokes just so happens to be the forebear of our very own HMS Beagle Project co-founder David Lort-Phillips). The Beagle's then-captain, Commander John Clements Wickham, named the port after Charles Darwin who had sailed with both of them on the second expedition of the HMS Beagle, 1831-1836.

*Thanks to John Wilkins for correcting my century-spanning typo

Craig Venter

was a guest on BBC Radio 4's cobweb-blowing away Monday morning programme Start The Week (it 'sets the cultural agenda for the week', apparently). Venter talks about his autobiography A Life Decoded: My Genome, My Life. Start The Week Website and a chance to listen to the programme again here.

Ok, ok.

Just editing miles of film of my frock-coated performance of Friday to take out the admission that I burned down Cutty Sark*, the Sex Pistols reference that went over the audience's head by about two decades and my quote from Desolation Island (my favourite Patrick O'Brian novel) which ends in a pretty salty oath.

The evening was spectacular, dining in the great cabin of a genuine 1817 frigate, surrounded by people dressed as ships Captains, a Colonel of Marines and a carpenter of c. 1793. Everyone was genuinely interested in the Beagle Project and there were promises of support: these people are true enthusiasts for maritime heritage and keen, like many, to see a square rigger afloat and involving young people in sail training and science afloat. Many thanks for the invitation, gentlemen.

* Note for the Metropolitan Police: that was a joke.

21 October 2007

Pharyngula's mutating meme: ahhh-CHOO!

While we're all waiting in eager anticipation of the promised videos from Peter Mc's gig on the HMS Trincomalee last night, what better way to pass the time than with Pharyngula's mutating meme?

Yes, a little tells me that Kevin Z at The Other 95% has kindly infected us with the meme. It would be science blogging sacrilege to ignore a tap on the shoulder from Pharyngula, even if by several degrees of separation.

So, without further ado, I herein reproduce, albeit with replication error, the mutating blog meme started by Pharyngula. The rules are simple:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...". Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:
  • You can leave them exactly as is.
  • You can delete any one question.
  • You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
  • You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
  • You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.
Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

[my two mutations are shown in green -nunatak]
The best romantic couple in SF/fantasy is: Apollo and Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica (re-imagined series).

The best hip hop Song from 80s hard rock is: "Walk this Way" by Aerosmith and Run DMC (is there any other answer to this question really?)

The most disturbing movie in animated film is: Aladdin (“Oh, I come from a land / From a faraway place / Where the caravan camels roam. / Where they cut off your ear / If they don’t like your face / It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”)

The best Ocean Song in Working-Class Folk Music is: "Blow Me Jack" by Devil's Interval.
My pedigree:
P: Pharyngula.
F1: The Flying Trilobite and Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
F2: Flying Trilobite and Leslie’s Blog.
F3: A Blog Around the Clock and The Meming of Life.
F4: From Archaea to Zeaxanthol and The Primate Diaries.
F5: The Other 95%
F6: me

I am infecting the following with this meme, go forth and replicate! Apologies to anyone already infected.
The Science Creative Quarterly
Friends of Charles Darwin
Sandwalk
Free Range Academy
The Dispersal of Darwin
The Red Notebook
Readers and Writers blog
Capacious handbag

19 October 2007

Singing for Beagle's supper: update

Have just tried on my 'Nelson' uniform. Quelle 'orreur! I don't think he looked like that on the worst sartorial day he ever had, but England expects that every man will dress up like a twerp when the occasion demands it, and this does.

Singing for the Beagle's supper...

this evening I'm repairing aboard the frigate HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool* to dine on the with the northern chapter Patrick O'Brian fan club, and give a talk about The Beagle Project. (If you haven't read the O'Brian series of Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin novels, go and start right away with Master and Commander.)

The invitation mentioned that my hosts would be in 'period dress', and while they would understand if I didn't...well damn that, I think I will cut a very splendid Lord Nelson, albeit from the days when he had two arms and eyes, rather than the more Nelsonian one of each. Hilarious photos may be available.

* Hartlepool has its own Napoleonic war story: following a shipwreck the ship's mascot, a monkey in uniform was swept ashore. It was arrested by the locals, and unable to speak English was accused of being a French spy. It was found guilty, and hanged. Hartlepudlians are still trying to live down this event, with little success.

An open letter to Simon Gurr: more hair please

Dear Simon Gurr,

I am very much looking forward to reading your upcoming book "Darwin: A Graphic Biography" in which your illustrations will accompany text by Eugene Byrne. According to the Darwin200 website, the biography will focus on Darwin's all-important voyage on HMS Beagle. I'm especially pleased to learn that 200,000 copies will be distributed free of charge. Sign me up please!

The same website says your book "will convey the essence of Darwin's life and legacy in an accessible style" ...to which we Beagle Projecteers are quick to reply that the same can be said for a sailing replica of the ship itself. But the more accessible Darwins the merrier!

Now, to the crux of my letter: your proposed book cover, shown here, depicts Darwin as a much older man than he really was during the Voyage. When Darwin met his first marine iguana on the Galapagos Islands in 1835 he was only 26 years old. He would have had a much more substantial thatch of hair at that age not to mention fewer wrinkles. Even in this painting made when he was 31, his noggin was not quite so cue ball-esque as depicted in your cartoon. Your Darwin looks more like this photo taken at age 45.

As I've just written in a recent post, it is vital that we communicate the humanity of Darwin in 2009 (especially his errant youth), not the all-too-common caricature of Darwin, as tristero puts it, as a "stuff shirted Nigel Bruce pip-pipping his way across the Empire" ...nor the even commoner caricature of Darwin as a bearded old man.

So, Simon Gurr, while I'm very pleased to see that in your cartoon you've jettisoned the beard, it appears that you still need to lose the old.

Yours sincerely,
Karen 'nunatak' James
London

17 October 2007

Taiwan TiddlywinkTM

The locations of Beagle Project Blog readers in Asia:
It seems that my unbridled propagandizing for The Beagle Project at the 2nd Intl. Barcode of Life Conference in Taipei has had the desired effect, for in the immediate aftermath* of the conference, a beautiful, bright-red TiddlywinkTM appeared for the first time over Taiwan on our ClustrMapTM.

A ClustrMap is a wonderful thing. It records the geographical locations of our Beagle blog readers' IP addresses (yes, you!). Our ClustrMap sits quietly down there on the right, in the sidebar (or here, for those too lazy to scroll) giving us constant feedback about new geographically defined bursts of interest in the Beagle Project. It also provides for hours of procrastination if one is so inclined (you know who you are).

*If you were in attendance at the Plant Working Group side meeting you'll know exactly why I chose to use the word aftermath above. Those of you who weren't there might find this Science brief interesting reading. If like most mortals you don't have a password for Science, here's a quick summary: we botanical barcoders are a bunch of chickens sans heads. But we're a spirited bunch, and that counts for something.

16 October 2007

"Darwin's not a stuff-shirted Nigel Bruce"

This month 'tristero' on Digby's Hullabaloo gives us an 'intelligent design creationism' primer. It's a fine resource on that (manufactured) controversy, but the best part is tristero's vivid and incisive introduction, from which I can't resist quoting:
There are, I'm sure, many good intros to evolution, but, imo, the first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species will do quite nicely. You may need to skip around a bit - there's a lot more information about pigeons in the beginning than most sane people need to know - but ...

... if you do take the time to read this book, or others by Darwin, you may come to the same conclusion that I did ...

...
that the more you learn about Darwin and his exemplary life, the more you realize what a terrible cultural loss it is that young people are denied the opportunity to meet this extraordinary person and learn who he was.

Darwin's not a stuff-shirted Nigel Bruce pip-pipping his way across the Empire. He is a young kid on a ship who once had the gall to grab a sailor's dinner from his plate because he (the sailor) was about to eat a very rare ostrich Darwin had been searching for in vain for months. He's a fellow who, when learning to use the bolas from Argentinian gauchos, managed to lasso his own horse, and he's willing to write about it.
That last bit exemplifies one of Darwin's most endearing quirks (from our 21st century point of view at least): that he wrote so freely of his most embarrassing moments. For example, from Voyage of the Beagle:
Instead of being nocturnal in its habits, as other toads are, and living in damp obscure recesses, it crawls during the heat of the day about the dry sand-hillocks and arid plains ... at Maldonado [I] found one in a situation nearly as dry as at Bahia Blanca, and thinking to give it a great treat, carried it to a pool of water; not only was the little animal unable to swim, but, I think, without help would soon have been drowned.
It's this Darwin--the sometimes awkward, sometimes uncertain, but always honest young man having the adventure of his life--that has the potential to touch people today, especially young people who are invariably turned off by the all-too-common bearded septuagenarian caricature of Darwin.

Which brings me to my point: wouldn't a real-life replica Beagle with young people aboard having their own bola mishaps whilst making their own biological discoveries bring this Darwin home in a way that no other bicentenary celebration of the wizened, fuzzy-faced, bowler-hatted caricature can?

Hat tip to PZ Myers for the link to tristero's post.

6 October 2007

Update on the EO/Attenborough censorship story

Apparently the BBC's Mark Macdonald (whom I have been, until now, encouraging people to email directly with their complaints about Dutch broadcaster EO's religiously motivated censorship of David Attenborough's Life of Mammals) is "just" a press officer and his role is to release quotes on behalf of BBC executives. It is not appropriate for these quotes to be personally attributed to him. The correct attribution is apparently the strangely named but amazingly omnipresent personage Mr BBC Spokesman. Please stop emailing Mark Macdonald directly and instead use the BBC complaints page.


4 October 2007

Not just an American problem (Part I)

Update, 6th October: this post as been modified slightly (changes indicated in red below) following an off the record phone conversation with the BBC. Details here.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Okay, now that I'm calm enough to type complete sentences...

The Telegraph's Roger Highfield reports here that the work of the greatest science communicator of our time has been denuded of evolutionary content in its Dutch "translation".

Yes, it appears that the man who opened my eyes to the wonders of plants, he who finally did justice to my favourite animal, he who has brought his considerable influence to bear on the subject of climate change, Sir David Attenborough, has been censored to suit the creationist whims of Dutch broadcaster Evangelische Omroep (no link, no way, no how). Not least of their censorship offenses, they omitted the entire 10th episode of Life of Mammals... that'd be the one about apes and man.

Fortunately for all of us, Dr Gerdien de Jong, an evolutionary biologist at Utrecht University, and Dr Hans Roskam of the University of Leiden have mounted a sophisticated counter attack.

They have organised a petition and sent letters of complaint to the BBC, and to David Attenborough (whose response is posted here). On Gert Korthof's blog Evolutie (it's in Dutch but it's still easy to spot a kindred spirit), Dr de Jong contributes a guest post (I am assuming that's what "gastbijdrage" means...) in which she painstakingly documents the offending omissions. The "changes" are also revealed on Dr de Jong's home page, complete with links to YouTube videos which expose the evidence for all to see.

But it looks like the Beeb needs a little encouragement to hurry up with mounting a proper response to this outright assault on science (not to mention their copyright). So far, their "spokesman" has only had this to say:
"BBC Worldwide takes the protection of its brands and content very seriously. With thousands of hours being sold to hundreds of networks all over the world each year, BBC Worldwide allows local broadcasters to make edits but only up to a narrow margin of five minutes per hour. Their edits were less than the margin so did not involve BBC Worldwide on this occasion."
I think I need a shower.

Everyone get on the horn to BBC Worldwide (I can't find email for them) and/or email a complaint to the BBC, urging them to crack down on the Evangelische Omroep and those like them.

[There used to be a paragraph here encouraging readers to directly email BBC press officer Mark Macdonald, to whom I (and Dr de Jong) have apparently mistakenly attributed the following quotes: "this is a problem of the EO, not of the BBC", "anyone can have their own opinion" and "when a documentary is translated, there will be changes." The proper attribution of these quotes is "BBC spokesman" so it's best just to direct your complaints straight to the Beeb. Might I also remind readers that threatening language is generally counterproductive.]

Thanks to PZ Meyers for the bringing this to my rapt if somewhat disgusted attention.

3 October 2007

Show and tell - the Beagle legacy

The book I'm holding here is a limited first edition copy of Beagle: From sailing ship to Mars spacecraft.
Photo by Dan Garrison.

The book was hand-delivered to me by Dan Garrison, Chief Scientist for NASA's Astromaterial Research & Exploration Science (ARES) Directorate, as a gift of goodwill from the author, Professor Colin Pillinger CBE FRS, planetary scientist at the Open University and principal investigator for the Beagle 2 Mars lander project. The first edition is out of print, so the rest of you will have to settle for this version published by Faber & Faber, called Beagle: From Darwin's epic voyage to the British mission to Mars:


But when I use the word "settle" it's only in the na-na-na- I've-got-a-first-edition-copy sense, because regardless of publisher the book is a beautifully choreographed side-by-side comparison of the stories of the HMS Beagle of the 1830's and the Beagle 2 Mars lander which ended up crashing into the surface of Mars on Christmas Day 2003 before it could go about its business discovering life there. The loss was dolefully recorded thus in the last entry on the dedicated Beagle 2 website:
Beagle 2 was due to land on Mars on 25th December 2003. The spacecraft was successfully ejected from Mars Express on 19th December 2003. Nothing has been heard from Beagle 2 and the mission is presumed lost.
Pain. But the story's not over yet. All signs are that the Beagle 2 will fly again, this time in an international collaboration with NASA to look for water on the south pole of the moon. This new mission might just culminate in 2012, right about the same time our replica Beagle sails back home with a boatload of new species and freshly minted scientists. How's that for coincidence?

Postscript: Lest someone give me undue credit, the phrase "freshly minted scientists" belongs without a shadow of a doubt to Peter Mc.

2 October 2007

Hollywood, can we just get something clear?

Charles Darwin: British. HMS Beagle: Royal Navy. Darwin returned to Britain at the end of the Voyage, and there he (while doing a bit of begetting, and some other stuff) wrote The Origin of Species. The only American involvement in this was that he sent two copies to Harvard, to Louise Agassiz and Asa Gray.

Now, no anti-Americanism here: the USA has given the world much, a lot of our support comes from the USA and I hope it will lend us a few of its many talented scientists to join us aboard the replica HMS Beagle (Kevin Z is hustling hard in comments). But Hollywood has form (a rap sheet, in American) on rewriting history with a more star spangled cast for the big screen. There is a movie in development, the snappily titled Untitled Charles Darwin Project.

The Beagle Project's expertise is at Universal's disposal.

When a tall ship comes to town (2)

Grand Turk approaching Whitby Harbour, October 2007. Darwin200 just wouldn't look right without a replica HMS Beagle.

"Our Voyage having come to an end..."

On this day in 1836 the HMS Beagle returned to her home shores, bearing an exhausted but incalculably enriched Mr Charles Darwin, aged just 27, who later wrote of the day rather anticlimactically in his first published book The Voyage of the Beagle:
"On October 2nd the Beagle anchored at Falmouth, where I left her, having lived on board the little vessel very nearly five years."
Falmouth in 1850, 14 years after the homecoming, on 2nd October 1836, of the HMS Beagle. © C.C.Nunn of John Maggs, Falmouth. Image cross-posted from the website of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

Ah, that's our Mr Darwin, master of understatement (another gem being from On the Origin of Species..., "When the views entertained in this volume...are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there will be a considerable revolution in natural history.").

Fortunately for us, "very nearly five years" were not the last four words of Voyage. Darwin went on to offer us a retrospective of the journey as well as some advice for any would-be circumnavigators (ahem):

"If a person asked my advice, before undertaking a long voyage, my answer would depend upon his possessing a decided taste for some branch of knowledge, which could by this means be advanced... It is necessary to look forward to a harvest, however distant that may be, when some fruit will be reaped, some good effected."
- - -
"If a person suffer much from sea-sickness, let him weigh it heavily in the balance. I speak from experience: it is no trifling evil, cured in a week."
- - -
"There is a growing pleasure in comparing the character of the scenery in different countries... I am strongly induced to believe that as in music, the person who understands every note will, if he also possesses a proper taste, more thoroughly enjoy the whole, so he who examines each part of a fine view, may also thoroughly comprehend the full and combined effect. Hence, a traveller should be a botanist, for in all views plants form the chief embellishment."
- - -
"Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of Life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where Death and decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature: -- no one can stand in these solitudes unmoved, and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body."
- - -
"Among the other most remarkable spectacles which we have beheld, may be ranked, the Southern Cross, the cloud of Magellan, and the other constellations of the southern hemisphere -- the water-spout -- the glacier leading its blue stream of ice, over-hanging the sea in a bold precipice -- a lagoon-island raised by the reef-building corals -- an active volcano -- and the overwhelming effects of a violent earthquake. These latter phenomena, perhaps, possess for me a peculiar interest, from their intimate connection with the geological structure of the world. The earthquake, however, must be to every one a most impressive event: the earth, considered from our earliest childhood as the type of solidity, has oscillated like a thin crust beneath our feet; and in seeing the laboured works of man in a moment overthrown, we feel the insignificance of his boasted power."
- - -
"I do not doubt that every traveller must remember the glowing sense of happiness which he experienced, when he first breathed in a foreign clime, where the civilized man had seldom or never trod."
- - -
"In conclusion, it appears to me that nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist, than a journey in distant countries."


1 October 2007

Check out our buoy - a lobsterman's got it...

Update: in response to comment by Kevin Z, some modifications (red) have been made to this post to improve its accuracy.

Kevin Z (of The Other 95%) and friends demonstrate their admiration of some seriously impressive plankton trawling cred in this video rework of Ice, Ice Baby ...just the kind of cred that might come in handy on the replica Beagle. Turns out Kevin Z's supervisor knows someone who knows Chris Manning, who is the one who made the video. Lyrics and more now available from this University of New Hampshire Coastal Ocean Observing Center webpage.