Posted by: Rob Viens | March 2, 2012

Cap’n Paget and the HMS Samarang

March 2nd – No entry today, but on the 3rd Darwin notes that:

“Yesterday Cap Paget dined with us & made himself very amusing by detailing some of the absurdities of naval etiquette.” (Mar 3)

Charles Henry Paget was the captain of the HMS Samarang –  also stationed in South America – and the Samarang (and Paget) crossed paths with the Beagle several times over the next few years. Paget seems to strike a chord with Darwin – at least in Bahia (I’m not sure about further encounters yet).  He frequently refers to how “amusing” Paget was.  I’d love to know what it was that Darwin found so funny about him – or in general, what it was that made Darwin laugh.

The little online information I could find on Paget (mostly on genealogy pages) focuses on his stint on the Samarang and his father – Charles Henry Paget – a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy and member of parliament. If others know more, please feel free to comment. (The man who made Darwin laugh should at least have his own Wikipedia page after all!)

The HMS Samarang was a 28-gun Atholl-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal navy whose primary purpose seems to have been surveying (though it did serves some time in the “First Opium War” between Britain and China).  Form 1831 to 1834 it was sent to survey the coasts of Central and South America. From what I can tell Paget was in command of the ship for much of (if not all of) this time period. But the data is sketchy. The Samarang is probably best know for the survey work it completed in Borneo from 1843-1846 – probably because of the narrative written about it by it’s captain at that time, Edward Belcher.

It is interesting  – I am finding the ships in this adventure to be as much characters as the people – with histories, life spans, achievements, and their own personalities.

Scale model of the HMS Samarang a the National Maritime Museum (click on the image to go to there website and zoom in to see details):

HMS Samarang

Paget’s jovial nature and the fact that the Samarang is a “rated” ship make the following excerpt from a letter to Robert Darwin all the more interesting:

“We have beat all the ships in mæneuvering, so much so that commanding officer says we need not follow his example, because we do everything better than his great ship.— I begin to take great interest in naval points, more especially now, as I find they all say, we are the No 1 in South America.— I suppose the Captain is a most excellent officer.— It was quite glorious to day how we beat the Samarang in furling sails: It is quite a new thing for a “sounding ship” to beat a regular man of war.— And yet the Beagle is not at all a particular ship” (Correspondence to Robert Darwin,  March 1)

Apparently, the two ships were having some friendly competition, and Darwin was participating in some way (no wonder he skipped a diary entry today). It says a lot about FitzRoy that his survey crew was on par with the military ship (though to be fair, they were on a survey mission, too.) In any case, it seems like a good time was had by all. (RJV)


  1. […] imagine these dinners, with Paget the center of attention, telling stories of his adventures (see Cap’n Paget of the HMS Samarang).  Even though he was an adventurer now, I suspect Darwin was still in awe of the stories. Only […]

  2. I think more interesting is that per Darwin’s Diary, Paget spoke often about the horrors of slavery… and contributed to Darwin’s understanding and convictions… Thanks

    • I agree – the two men seemed to share a common (and strong) point of view on slavery. Thanks for commenting!

  3. […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: