21 April 2008

A week in search of the Beagle (Part 1/5)

This week we are treated to a daily 15-minute dose of the history of the HMS Beagle on BBC Radio 4. Today, maritime historian Dr Robert Prescott begins his journey at Woolwich Dockyard in London, where he recounts his searches for the final resting place of the little ship that carried Charles Darwin around the world. Listen again to Episode 1.

Mini-review: The series starts off with a bang, giving us a star studded programme featuring not only Dr Prescott but also Professor Keith Thompson (Beagle biographer) and Dr Gordon Chancellor (archivist and Beagle historian). For me, the highlights were:
  • Professor Thompson's story of his quest to find the Beagle's original plans at the National Maritime Museum - which turned out to be just a set of coloured annotations to a generic plan for ten-gun brigs.
  • Robert Prescott saying, "for the ships officers and crew it must have been like a journey to the moon."
  • Gordon Chancellor telling us, in his own words and in the words of Charles Darwin, the riveting story of his father's painting Sorely Tried, right, in which the Beagle nearly meets her end off of Cape Horn on 13 January, 1833.
  • The majestic strains of choral music used to great effect at the end of the episode, as a kind of requiem to the Beagle and her glorious tenure, over which Robert Prescott says rather wistfully, "I like to imagine the Beagle during those later years, just sitting quietly in the river Roach as an old lady, reflecting on her glory days. By then she would have been tired, battered and faded, her timbers beginning to rot; but within those timbers were the memories of what she'd achieved, the extraordinary places she'd been, the storms she'd weathered and the men she'd carried."
Delicious stuff ...and four more episodes yet to go: hurrah!


Michael D. Barton, FCD said...

Great! but is there an mp3 for this?

Anonymous said...

My seven year old is going to love this. We have a model of the Beagle we have yet to complete. Maybe this will motivate me.
Td. Fife