Darwin's conservation vision lives on in Darwin200 expedition

Environmentalists embark on Darwin200, a two-year sailing expedition mirroring Charles Darwin's voyage, to study wildlife and promote conservation.
Rizwan Choudhury

Credits: Darwin200 

Two hundred years after Charles Darwin's groundbreaking journey, environmentalists are gearing up to embark on a two-year expedition to four continents to study endemic wildlife and promote conservation. Dubbed "Darwin200", this voyage will mirror Darwin's famous voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, which set sail from Plymouth in 1831.

Darwin200 on the Oosterschelde

As per Reuters, the modern-day voyage will be undertaken on the Oosterschelde, a three-masted schooner built as a cargo vessel in 1917. The ship, which underwent a significant refurbishment in 1996, is now registered by the Dutch government as a monument of great cultural and historical value. It's considered the largest sailing vessel ever restored in the Netherlands.

Setting sail from Plymouth, the same port where Darwin began his expedition, environmental researchers and adventure travelers will embark on the Oosterschelde, which has been rebranded as the "world's most exciting classroom." Guided by a professional crew, these participants will take on the roles of steering, navigating, and handling the ship's ropes. They will also document ocean plastics and coral reef health and conduct surveys of seabirds, whales, and dolphins along the way.

During the expedition, the crew of the Oosterschelde will broadcast free lectures, experiments, and activities from the ship and the 32 ports they will visit, all available on the Darwin200 website, reaching a global audience. Moreover, weekly competitions will be held, including one that offers a school class and their teacher a trip to the Galápagos to study with botanist Sarah Darwin, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

Expedition covering 40,000 nautical miles

The expedition, covering 40,000 nautical miles, will visit all the significant ports that Darwin's HMS Beagle anchored in, including remote locations like the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin's observations on bird species differing from island to an island inspired his seminal work "On the Origin of Species."

Stewart McPherson, the founder of Darwin200, revealed in an interview that researchers on the voyage would study the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and shrinking wildlife habitats, and they will also plant thousands of trees to help combat problems like land desertification.

200 young environmentalists

Throughout the journey, 200 selected young environmentalists will temporarily join the ship to receive training on conservation efforts. Patrons of the project include Sarah Darwin and British primatologist Jane Goodall.

Speaking about the project, Jane Goodall said, "We all know we're in the midst of the sixth great extinction with a lot of doom and gloom about the problems facing the environment, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. This voyage will allow many people to see there is still time to make change."

The Darwin200 project aims to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders and scientists by recreating Darwin's iconic journey and combining it with modern conservation efforts. Amidst the ongoing ecological crisis, the project seeks to showcase actual actions and solutions to help make a better future.

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