One-hundred and seventy-five years ago today, Beagle's crew buried one of their colleagues at sea. Darwin recorded the event in his Beagle diary:
On the 27th [June, 1834] the purser of the Beagle, Mr Rowlett expired; he had been for some time gradually sinking under a complication of diseases; the fatal termination of which were only a little hastened by the bad weather of the Southern countries. Mr Rowlett was in his 38th year; the oldest officer on board; he had been on the former voyage in the Adventure; & was in consequence an old friend to many in this ship; by whom & everyone else he was warmly respected. — On the following day the funeral service was read on the quarter-deck, & his body lowered into the sea; it is an aweful & solemn sound, that splash of the waters over the body of an old ship-mate.
It seems incredible that the oldest officer on board Beagle was just 37 years old. Great responsibility was placed on young shoulders in those days. I suppose it still is.
175 years after his untimely death, I sit at my computer screen and raise a glass to poor George Rowlett (1797–1834).