Welcome to The Beagle Project – an attempt to read and reflect on Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary in real time over a five year period – 180 years to the date the original entries were recorded. See the first post – Welcome to the Beagle Project! – for some additional details on the goals of the project.

The project was organized by Rob Viens, and includes participation from other members of the Bellevue College Science Division. Feel free to contact me at rob.viens@bellevuecollege.edu. As new “shipmates” join the journey, thier names will be added below.

Who am I?
Rob was born in upstate New York. He entered Cornell University with plans to be an astronomer, but found geology to be much more down to Earth. He moved to Seattle to pursue his PhD at the University of Washington, where he specialized in glaciers, climate, and Northwest geology. Rob spent his summers in Alaska “tracking glaciers” – trying to determine where they had been in the past and how they were affected by climate change. He spent several years teaching geology and environmental science around Puget Sound, designing web pages, and volunteering and working at the Woodland Park Zoo, before settling in at Bellevue College. At BC Rob is currently serving as the Dean of Science, but over the years he has kept himself busy teaching several geology and environmental science classes, advising the BC Student Science Association, and promoting sustainable practices. Rob is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador (contact me if you are interested in a talk). He currently resides on the planet Earth, on the Eocene Blakeley and Renton formations in Bellevue, with his wife, daughter, son and cats.



  1. Hi Rob – Just saw this in a Google Alert. Good to have more people in the community.

    Are you aware of our project? We’re a registered UK charity called the HMS Beagle Project, and we’re working to rebuild Darwin and FitzRoy’s ship. We have a few online channels, all accessible via our website at http://www.hmsbeagleproject.org. Feel free to register for updates, or to cross-post between blogs. We’d certainly welcome a link, esp given the similarity of names…
    Thanks + best regards,
    Lisa Taylor, Project Administrator, HMS Beagle Project

    • Thanks Lisa – I did come across your project a few days after I started the blog. I thought it was a great idea then, and after a couple weeks of immersing myself in Darwin’s diary, I am even more supportive of what you are doing. I’m all for anything that promotes science literacy (and I have a bit of a soft spot for tall ships and the great voyages of exploration of the 18th and 19th centuries). I’m glad to see such a science focus to your project.

      I will provide a link back to you, and in the coming weeks I’ll devote a blog entry to your project, as well. Please feel free to point people our way, too. I look forward to future correspondence. – Thanks!

  2. This is absolutely splendid.
    As someone with shamefully little education in history and none in science –I’m so happy to have a way into the experience.
    It’s always a surprise, isn’t it, to discover how articulate–often eloquent–great scientists were–as great thinkers have to be, to communicate new ideas, and to coordinate their learning with others.
    From the drawings of explorers trying to render the new monsters they stumbled onto across the sea, to Goethe writing about color, and our recent ‘popularizers’ like Richard Feynman —
    And it’s delicious to be submerged in another time–I was following the day-to-day posts of the Pepys diary for a while.
    But your subject is one that’s had my heart for the last couple of years.
    I hope you don’t find my approach too trivial & random. There seems to me to be a genuine wholeness of purpose in the passion of science, art & poetry for the world–where the search to understand always leads to awe for the marvelous way things function & fit, and to an instinct to protect & preserve what you might call quotidian miracles.
    All of which HAS to call into question the careless destruction everyone seems to have taken for granted for decades–
    HOW has that come about? and how can it be stopped?
    Anyway–Thank you for this. I’m very excited to discover it & very grateful for it.

    • Hi Cassandra

      Thanks for your comments and for following the project! I couldn’t agree more that there is something particularly beautiful about the connections between science and art. So many of the great scientists were great artists and poets. I think this is particularly important for scientists today – especially if we want to stop and reverse all the negative impacts we have had on the natural world. So I really like what you are doing with your blog and look forward to following!

      The last line of this Ed Abbey quote has always resonated with me regarding poetry and science (but this whole essay is really great). He is writing about the southwest US canyon country but I think it applies everywhere.

      From Come On In (in The Journey Home) by End Abbey

      “It seems to me that Keats was wrong when he asked, rhetorically, “Do not all charms fly…at the mere touch of cold philosophy?” The word “philosophy” standing, in his day, for what we now call “physical science”. But Keats was wrong, I say, because there is more charm in one “mere” fact, confirmed by test and observation, linked to other facts through coherent theory into a rational system, then in a whole brainful of fancy and fantasy. I see more poetry in a chunk of quartzite than in a make-believe wood nymph, more beauty in the revelations of a verifiable intellectual construction than in whole misty empires of obsolete mythology.

      The moral I labor toward is that a landscape as splendid as that of the Colorado Plateau can best be understood and given human significance by poets who have their feet planted in concrete – concrete data – and by scientists whose heads and hearts have not lost the capacity for wonder. Any good poet, in our age at least, must begin with the scientific view of the world; and any scientist worth listening to must be something of a poet, must possess the ability to communicate to the rest of us the sense of love and wonder at what his work discovers.”

      Look forward to following Secret Gardener!

  3. That is a perfectly lovely way tp express it.
    Thank you.

  4. […] In July 5, 1832 – HMS Beagle and Charles Darwin departed Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was in Brazil from Feb 28 until Jul 5, 1832. The same week he departed, but, 180 years later, our family also departed Recife, Pernambuco, northeastern coast of Brazil, heading to our next adventure… An interesting coincidence, for several different reasons, and one of them, for sure, led a fellow blogger/researcher to kindly invite me to prepare a guest post for his blog, The Beagle Project. According to the site’s author, Rob Viens, ”The Beagle Project – is an attempt to read and reflect on Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary in real time over a five year period – 180 years to the date the original entries were recorded.” As the author likes to describe himself, “He currently resides on the planet Earth, on the Eocene Blakeley and Renton formations in Bellevue, with his wife, daughter, son and cats“. Find more about the creation of this Project, here. […]

  5. […] The Beagle Project Reflections on Darwin’s voyage of discovery. […]

  6. Rob, what a wonderful blog. I just came to it via Tamara’s blog, and am going to enjoy taking my time to read your other posts. It is such a fascinating period of history, and I am about to read “Darwin and the barnacle”. While my main interest is the natural history artists who often accompanied these grand expeditions, such as Sydney Parkinson and Ferdinand Bauer, I can’t help but be intrigued by the expeditions they travelled on. Thank you for your contributions!

    • Hi – Thanks for visiting and for the comments! I also enjoy the artists who traveled on these voyages. The Beagle had two resident artists – the first was Augustus Earle, the second was Conrad Martens. I try to use a lot of their art in the posts. I did a couple of posts on Earle some time ago – if you are interested you can find them starting with The Art of the Beagle – Augustus Earle: Part I. Once Martens joins the crew, I’ll write a little history of him as well. Thanks again – I look forward to taking a look at your site. – Rob

  7. Hi Rob:
    Thanks for your blog. I am a high school science teacher and have been working on a project to engage students in reading nonfiction science books. One of the books I use is the Voyage of the Beagle. The site is: http://Sailthebook.net


    • Hi Ira
      Thanks for the note and glad you are enjoying the site. Sounds like we are thinking along the same lines. I started the blog as a way to both really get to know Darwin and also to learn more about the natural and human history of South America. I’ve thought a lot about building a class around it some day, too. So it is always great to hear that it is also helpful to other teachers.

      You have a great project going – I love the concept of Sail the Book and enjoyed your site and video. Feel free to link up or reblog any helpful posts. And if you are ever interested in doing a guest post on the Beagle Project someday, please let me know.


  8. Thanks Rob for the kind and encouraging words. This year is my first teaching AP Physics so I’ll mainly be in the 21st century with an occasional field trip back in time. I hope to do a Winslow Homer seascape tour soon and link it to ocean literacy.

    All the best


  9. Hi Rob:
    Hope you are well. Even though Charles Darwin and the Beagle Project haven’t yet arrived at the Galapagos, Google Earth has selected points of interest for “street view”. I combined some of their locations with linked Beagle text. It’s a great way to get up close to the critters and “geologise” at http://Sailthebook.net



    • Thanks Ira – I’ll be sure to check it out (I downloaded the kmz file and need to get into my Google Earth). I look forward to seeing what you have done with it. I like the Darwin/Google mashup, too! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thank you for this superb effort! A wonderful read with excellent notes.

    Thank you also for the links and references to other books to read that are on the web… A wonderful resource.

  11. Love this project….Waiting with anticipation for you to reach New Zealand.
    cheers Don Guy.

    • Hi Don – Me too – it is really fun to explore news places through Darwin’s eyes. Thanks for your comments and for checking in with the project. We’ll “see you” in New Zealand in a couple of years. – Rob

  12. What happened to this project?

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