24 December 2011

An unpromising first Christmas aboard

Our third guest post from Dr Gordon Chancellor gives a snapshot of Darwin's first Christmas aboard HMS Beagle - anxious to get under way, suffering foul weather... and having far less fun than the crew, though the latter would pay dearly for their celebrations.

My last post saw HMS Beagle 180 years ago waiting what must have seemed an eternity for a north-easterly to carry her out of Plymouth and start her voyage around the world.

Slashing rain on 22 December added to Darwin’s misery, but on the 23rd he had some fun with shipmates Sullivan and Bynoe, pitting his marksmanship against theirs to see who would be buying the drinks in Madeira. That evening, he endured a ‘bad concert’ in town with Stokes.

Christmas Eve was 'a blank and idle day', but Christmas Day was better for Darwin, as he found an old Cambridge friend leading the church service he attended. Darwin dined with the officers that afternoon, but didn't enjoy the conversation which, in such formal circumstances, was 'entirely devoid of interest.'

Not such a great time for our young naturalist then, but the crew all got drunk, that 'sole and never failing pleasure to which a sailor always looks forward'!

1 comment:

thedispersalofdarwin said...

A post I did last year about Christmas on the Beagle:
http://thedispersalofdarwin.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/christmas-on-hms-beagle/