the ship, H.M.S. Beagle, got her name.
have received many e-mails from people wanting to know how the
Beagle got her name, and what "H.M.S." stands for. Let's get the
easy part out of the way first -
H. = His/Her
M. = Majesty's
S. = Ship
Now for the name "Beagle". It may seem strange to name a ship
after a dog, but naming ships after animals was common practice
for the British Royal Navy. Something interesting to keep in mind
is that the H.M.S. Beagle that Darwin sailed on was not the first
ship to bear that name (a list of all "Beagles" is provided
below). The British Royal Navy assigns names to ships on a circulating
basis. In other words, when one ship is retired or lost at sea,
or whatever, the name of that ship is put back on the available
"names list" for new ships being built. Thus, the H.M.S. Beagle
which Darwin sailed on was the third ship to bear that name. As
to why the name Beagle was selected for Darwin’s ship, I do not
know, but it is likely that the name Beagle just happened to be
the next name available on the list when the ship was completed.
The names for survey ships in particular do seem to lean towards
animals. Thus, we find names such as H.M.S. Barracouta, Rattlesnake,
Scorpion, Mastiff, Starling, Raven, and (I kid you not) even H.M.S.
H.M.S. Beagle was a 235 ton brig sloop with ten guns, designed
in 1807, of the Cherokee class. She was the 45th of more than
100 built in this class. Thirty-one of the Cherokee class ships
were made into packet ships (used to deliver mail and goods to
the colonies and other ships), ten as ship tenders, six into the
survey service, and the rest were cruisers.
The Beagle was the 2nd survey ship launched, while H.M.S. Barracouta
was the 1st and was the Beagle's sister ship. The Chanticleer,
Fairy, Saracen and Scorpion were the other four survey ships.
According to the book: "H.M.S. Beagle, The Story of Darwin's Ship",
there were in total nine ships to bear the name Beagle. These
are as follows:
H.M.S. Beagle #1
An 8-gun gallivat. Built around 1766 by Bombay Marine shipbuilders.
H.M.S. Beagle #2
An 18-gun brig-sloop of the Cruiser Class, built in 1808 by Perry,
Wells, and Green. 383 tons. Served with distinction during the
Napoleonic Wars at Basque Roads and San Sebastian. Sold in 1814.
H.M.S. Beagle #3
H.M.S. Beagle, of Cherokee Class 1-gun brig-sloop. 235 tons. [this
is Darwin's Beagle]
H.M.S. Beagle #4
A screw-driven steam vessel of 477 tons. 160 feet long and 25
feet beam with four guns and two 68 pound mortars. Launched in
1854 and served in the Crimean War of 1854. Sold in 1863 to the
Japanese army as a training vessel. Renamed the Kanko in 1865.
Broken up in 1889.
H.M.S. Beagle #5
120 ton schooner with one gun. Built at Sydney Australia in 1872.
Sold in 1883 at Sydney.
H.M.S. Beagle #6
Large sloop of 1,170 tons, 195 feet long. Built at Portsmouth
in 1889. Had eight guns, and driven by two screws. Sold in 1905.
H.M.S. Beagle #7
A destroyer of 950 tons, 269 feet long. Two torpedo tubes, a four
inch gun, two 12 pound guns. Built in 1909, sold in 1921. Served
with distinction at the Dardanelles.
H.M.S. Beagle #8
A destroyer of 1,360 tons, 312 feet long. Four 4.7 inch guns,
eight torpedo tubes. Built in 1930, sold in 1946. Served with
distinction at Norway, Atlantic Ocean, North Africa, Artic Ocean,
English Channel and Normandy.
H.M.S. Beagle #9
A survey vessel of 1,050 tons, built in 1967.
Keith Stewart Thomson, H.M.S. Beagle, The Story of Darwin's Ship.
W.W. Norton, New York, London, 1995 Pages 285-6.
The Admiralty Chart: British Naval Hydrography in the Nineteenth
Rear Admiral G.S. Ritchie, C.B., D.S.C. (Hydrographer of the Navy
The Pentland Press, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Durham, USA 1995 (reprint
of the 1967 edition)
The Sailing Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy, Built,
Purchased and Captured 1688-1860.
David Lyon, Conway Maritime Press, 1993.
From Sails to Satellites: The Origin and Development of Navigational
J.E.D. Williams, Oxford University Press, Oxford. 1992