Posts Tagged ‘Royal Navy’

Famous footsteps, incredible journeys: Happy New Darwin Anniversary Year 2011 – 175 years on, and a bit more of our Victorian Time Safari …

January 2, 2011

It’s 175 years this year since Charles Darwin returned to Britain at the end of his five-year voyage, just as the Victorian period was beginning. He had spent his last Christmas 1835 away from home and was heading back in HMS Beagle for the final part of his epic voyage of discovery. He still had much of Australia, New Zealand, Keeling Islands, Mauritius, Cape Town in South Africa, St. Helena, Ascension Island and Brazil (again) to visit before reaching Britain. Many of these countries, especially the islands, mark the anniversary of his famous visit with postage stamps.

By October 2nd, 1836 he would be back on land in Falmouth and heading home by mail coach

Plaque marking spot of Darwin's landfall from HMS Beagle voyage, Oct 2 1836 in Falmouth and his departure home by coach.

A plaque set up by Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth Art Gallery marks the point where he made landfall in Falmouth and waited for the mail coach home. Within a year, a new Queen would be on the throne and a new era of scientific, agricultural and technological revolution begun. Lots of developments had happened in technology and society whilst he had been away, not least the beginnings of railway mania, so that the very coach he travelled on was soon to become obsolete as public transport within his lifetime.

The penny post and Penny Black stamp were only a few years aways in 1840. By the time he died in 1882, telegraph communication was widespread and telephones in their infancy. The first petrol engine vehicles were in development. Cinema experiments were beginning. Iron and steam had replaced wood and sail in modern ships. Darwin lived through an amazing century, which set the pace for the developments since.

There’s a 2009 news story and photos about the Darwin’s landfall plaque in Falmouth  http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/news/falmouth/Plaque-marks-Darwin-landfall/article-1636415-detail/article.html

Sadly since this was put up, Brian Stewart the curator of Falmouth Art Gallery has sadly died in December 2010, much missed by  the Newquay Zoo staff with whom he worked extensively on Darwin 200 activities. Many tributes can be read to his work in the Falmouth Packet newspaper. Newquay Zoo staff were already planning a follow-up to Darwin 200 based around nonsense poet and animal painter Edward Lear’s bicentenary in May 2012.    

Darwin is not the only eminent Victorian to have his landing-place marked in Cornwall. We’ve included it as part of our Victorian Time Safari, looking at the legacy of Darwin’s Victorian times around us. What can you see in your village, town or city from Victorian times?

We spotted this unusual footprint when arriving by boat ferry at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, that magical castle in the sea that Darwin would have passed on his route into Falmouth just up the coast.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert 's royal visit marked by bronze plaque near her 'footstep' at St. Michaels' Mount, Cornwall (Photo: Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo)

Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. Nearby, Truro station has all the ornate ironwork of a Victorian station still, including its VR Victorian post box. On a recent Dublin trip, we saw a Victorian explorer commemorated not in stamps but in a lifesize bronze statue. What Victorain memorials or  inventions can you find in your area?

Ornate Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Ornate decorative Victorian ironwork, Truro rail station, Cornwall, 2010Victorian statue of explorer / surgeon TH Parke from Stanley's expeditions in Africa, outside Dublin Natural History Museum

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Seasick for five years … which Darwin stamp shows best his Voyage of the Beagle?

October 5, 2009
HMS Beagle's world changing voyage shown on a Mongolian stamp

HMS Beagle's world changing voyage shown on a Mongolian stamp

Which of the beautiful postage stamp scans in our Darwin stamp book best shows his voyage? For me, amongst the many beautiful pictures of the HMS Beagle, this dramatic and storm tossed tiny boat (known as a coffin brig to its sailors for its sinking ability in high seas) conveys what life on board must have been like, rounding Cape Horn. Darwin was not a great sailor despite the many clever devices he created for catching and surveying marine life. His Beagle diaries document many days of seasickness in his tiny cabin. Hopefully Sandie Robb, co-author of this stamp book and her RZSS team didn’t expereince such rough seas working on linking the Falkland schools with ones in Scotland (see blogroll weblinks).

 What teaching tips could you take from a dramatic black and white illustration like this?
Looking at the other Beagle stamps scanned and published in our stamp book, which would you choose to use on a front cover of Darwin’s amazing book Voyage of the Beagle? Many stamps are based on illustrations by the expedition’s wildlife and ship artists at the time, so could be used to make  a timeline, illustrated map  or narrative (story book) of the journey.
You could find out more about the HMS Beagle (see the Darwin 200 website) and other ships of the time of sail, many of whose crew and ships served through the age of Trafalgar and wars with Napoleon. How are they different from ships of today? What was life like onboard a sailing or navy ship then compared to the navy ships or wildlife cruise liners of today?
What happened to the HMS Beagle? Some people believe her remains are buried in mud on the Essex Marshes and want to excavate her, introducing the exciting topic of archaeology. There are plans to rebuild the HMS Beagle as a replica and Sarah Darwin, his descendant is retracing his journey on a sailing ship at the moment with an atmospheric tour of her  ship on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8232395.stm .  We’ll include more on the weblinks with these in future blogs.

 
Teaching tips – the ‘evolution of everyday things’ – CDT, Design, Science and History illustrated through stamps
 
Using postage stamps you can show the ‘evolution of everyday things’  for example from mail coaches and horses to steam trains and cars and lorries for carrying post and passengers or from sail to steam power. A smallsection of our stamp book covers postal history, itself a form of the ‘evolution of everyday things’. Darwin’s life and what is shown of this in postage stamps covers a period of great change, invention and evolution (through competition or improved design). This fits again into a display or timeline as part of doing the Victorians and Science and technology in the various National Curriculums. 
Would Charles Darwin have used a blog in his day? Maybe his letters home would have been replaced by blogs, websites and Twitter tweets, like his http://twitter.com/Beagle_Sarah 

 

Designing stamps as a class activity is another topic we will look at in this blog and also the modern painters and artists that we have worked with during Darwin 200 at Newquay Zoo.