It is on this day, May 22nd, 1825 that the HMS Beagle left Plymouth England on its infamous First Voyage. The Beagle was built at the Woolwich Dockyard (launched 11 May 1820) named after the breed of dog. The Beagle was the first ship to sail under the newly constructed London Bridge. However, as there was no great need for this ship in service, she lay moored in storage until this first voyage some five years after being finished.
The first voyage was rather interesting, as you probably know:
First, she underwent a major operation that converted her from a brig to a barque (this involved changing around her masts). Other changes were made including a reduction in her firepower. She then set sail on 22 May 1826 under the command of Captain Pringle Stokes, sailing together with the HMS Adventure to survey Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
During the survey, Captain Stokes became depressed, and while at the Strait of Magellan, he locked himself in his cabin for two weeks. Finally, he shot himself (on August 2nd 1826), but took another 12 days to die.
The captain of the expedition (Captain P.P. King) appointed a temporary officer to run the boat until they arrived at Rio de Janeiro, where the Admiral in charge of the British operations in South America appointed his aide, a Flag Lieutenant, to command the ship.
That young man (only 23 years old at the time) turned out to be an excellent commander and an outstanding surveyor. His name, of course, was Robert FitzRoy!
Later on, the Beagle was engaged in a second voyage also of some note.
HMS Beagle. (2008, May 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:25, May 22, 2008, LINK