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Publisher's Summary

”I hate every wave of the ocean”, the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientists career.

The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his interactions with various native peoples, of his beautiful descriptions of the lands he visited, and of his amazing discoveries in the Galapagos archipelago.

Although scientific in nature, the literary quality rivals those of John Muir and Henry Thoreau. Charles Robert Darwin, FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. Darwin published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species.

By the 1870s the scientific community and much of the general public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

Public Domain (P)2013 Audible Ltd

What listeners say about The Voyage of the Beagle

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High Adventure - Well Written

I did not know what to expect - I took a chance here.

Surprisingly (for me), I think this book inspired all subsequent high-adventure novels that feature an intellectual hero. Darwin rode with South American cowboys (gaucho's and huaso's), South American indians, encountered native islanders, savages, thieves, post-revolution states, Spanish nobility (the Spanish had been there 300 years already), indian miners, indian guides, high plains, deserts, snowy mountain passes, wide rocky wastelands, jungles, insects, wild animals, storms, earthquakes (and he hadn’t even gotten to the Galapagos yet)…

I had envisioned a meek botanist not straying too far from the boat, but no – he still had his youthful spirit (I had to remind myself that he was still in his early twenties). His account was mainly deep-land oriented. For example, at one point, he had a choice – to sail with the ship 480 miles south from Valparaiso, Chile, to the next port, or go by land. He went by mule with a couple of indian guides. Having found the coast insufficiently interesting, he then ventured high inland through the deserts and mountains of Chile, probably feeling it was his duty to explore (not to mention being up to the adventure).

What Darwin did was not only collect scientific data on geology, paleontology, meteorology, zoology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, botany, and any other branch of early science he could turn his attention to, he offered informed speculations whenever they came (in the effort to forward potentially-worthy hypotheses for future investigation); and not only that – he collected anecdotes of the many various peoples he encountered (which contributed to the 'high adventure' aspect of the book. As for the informed speculations – he demonstrate the preferred (and enjoyable) method that early scientists tried to use – divining reality through pure deduction and reasoning (rather than pure empiricism) – that is, piecing together pieces of knowledge like scientific Sherlock Holmes’s putting together a puzzling case.

What was most curious for me (besides the unexpected high adventure) was his perspective – what did people know on the science front back in 1832? Darwin was well-educated and well-read by then, and he covered a lot of scientific ground - it appears that one was expected to be well-versed in all the branches of science back then, and he must have continued expanding his education and readings while writing the book. You can see his thoughts on evolution germinating here, aided by Lyell's book and the previous works and theories of others. Some of the terms and notions were curious (‘infusia’ was a good one that he leaned on many times - a blanket term for whatever was too small to see). It was entertaining to see him speculate on things that we know a lot more about today, such as the effects of glaciers and the nature of volcanoes.

This was one of the later editions, because in several places he referred us to further scientific details in an ‘earlier edition’. I’m sure Darwin wanted to write a serious scientific journal, but I suspect the publisher noticed all the high adventure, and decided that it would make a good scaled-down book in itself (which it was).


The narrator had a fitting British accent, and handled the French footnotes and Spanish dialog well.

19 people found this helpful

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Wonderful adventure, precious history

Lved it! Beautiful English, well written for any age. What an amazing adventure and he was ahead of his time in so many ways. Magnificent contribution to our knowledge.

7 people found this helpful

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How to see the world

An excellent listen to a most perceptive and energetic traveler. Well read, beautifully written, and full of descriptions of the world in the 1830's. Darwin sees all, understands much, and draws understanding from everything around him.

7 people found this helpful

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  • NK
  • 04-28-17

Very worth the time spent

This was a very good book to listen to as it brought you to a time where things were remote but not as remote as you would tend to believe. Enjoyed the various descriptions of the peoples that they came across.

6 people found this helpful

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Darwin's Adventure!

Every minute of the voyage was a new opportunity for insightful observation. All noted in meticulous detail. Anyone interested in Darwin's life will love you this book.

6 people found this helpful

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Highly recommended.

An excellent reading of Darwin’s voyage (1831-1836), experiences and observations he recorded during his trip. Insightful with respect to what led to his theory of evolution. A foundational work regarding the history of science. Highly recommended. Easy to listen to.

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Traveling with Darwin

I first read this book 4 decades ago, while an undergraduate student. Even though I studied a lot of biology, no wildlife or field. I've since become an amateur naturalist. As an addict of non fiction audible books, this was a NAT. It is awesome. It's almost like traveling with the man. I never doubted his genius and humanity. I've noticed that this book has been the inspiration for several famous biologists, e.g. Watson (Watson and Crick). Even though I'm no longer a neuroscience researcher, it remains most inspiring for continued local nature studies.

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A must read

a must-read or anyone who wonders wonders how and why Earth and man ate!

3 people found this helpful

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Surprisingly pleasurable

The British accent of the reader made you feel like you were sitting next to Darwin himself as he wrote (spoke) and transported you around the globe.

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The Best Travelogue Ever

The great Carl Sagan once said, “What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you." That's what The Voyage of the Beagle felt like to me, spending 25 hours along side the greatest naturalist the world has ever seen, Charles Darwin, as he sailed around the world and examined the flora and fauna in the places the HMS Beagle landed. Darwin is at the top of my list of admired humans and it was just fantastic to take this historic trip with him, a trip that inspired the book that changed the world. I listened to the audiobook which was expertly read by Barnaby Edwards. My only regret is that I did not listen to this prior to my August 2018 visit to his house, the Down House in Downe England. The second story of the house was made in to a museum and it featured many of the items Darwin brought back from his HMS Beagle exploration as well as a re-creation of his room on the Beagle complete with a hologram of the great man himself! The Voyage of the Beagle covers the five year journey and Darwin gives a detailed account of the people and geography of each location visited in addition to the flora and fauna which you would expect a young naturalist (he was only 22 when the voyage started) to spend a lot of time studying. Many of the locations he visited were still relatively wild. Through his observations and discoveries you get the feel of how great a mind Darwin had. His writing is profound, and easily digestible by a layman such as myself. He did much more exploration on horseback over land than I was aware of and he spent a significant amount of time exploring the South American continent which was being colonized by the Spanish. He spent time exploring a number of continent's islands, most noteworthy of which were the Galapagos. The accounts of the extermination and enslavement of native South Americans by the Spanish was shocking and disturbing. Much of his writings about the treatment of the natives and the fauna by the colonizers was depressing, and he went so far as to predict many of the native animal species and native humans would soon be extinct as the Europeans spread throughout the continent. He was correct. Another interesting port of call was in Australia. His observations of its unique fauna and prediction of the future greatness of the continent were particularly interesting. The book ends on a high note with Darwin eloquently summarizing his experience. This is after going on a rant about slavery after visiting Brazil for a second time after sailing around Africa. He recalls some of the inhumane scenes he witnessed on his journey and after setting sail from Brazil ("a land of moral debasement") vows to never again visit a slave country. In short this was an utterly fascinating and enjoyable travelogue written by one of the greatest scientists to walk the planet. I will look for a nice hard copy of this book at a used bookstore as I would love to have this book lying around the house to revisit again and again.

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  • Dreamsmith
  • 06-14-13

You'll never get bored!

I'm a devoted fan of non-fiction (both audiobooks and paper editions). This is a classic that is beautifully-written and full of interesting stories, keen and insightful observations, vivid and excellent descriptions. The narrator, Barnaby Edwards, is especially commendable. Unlike many other narrators who read non-fiction like boring newsreaders, Barnaby narrates the The Voyage of the Beagle exactly the way it should be narrated! Listening to his narration, you feel he is not reading but rather telling you the story face-to-face. I think he will do an equally great job if he reads (he really should!) The Origin of Species and other classics by the same author. Thank you, Barnaby, for having done such a great job!

23 people found this helpful

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  • D. Jackson
  • 01-29-14

A rip roaring historical tale that enthrals

What did you like best about this story?

This really brings Darwin alive. Through his own words, we discover that he's not an ancient Victorian coot in a beard, but was an intelligent and adventurous young man who recounts his scientific and real adventures in a cool and calm manner, interspacing interesting accounts of life in South America with cool descriptions of the fauna and flora he encountered.

What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He brings it.... alive

18 people found this helpful

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  • Simon Stahli
  • 12-10-17

Highly, highly recommended!

If you could sum up The Voyage of the Beagle in three words, what would they be?

Mindblowing, gripping, exciting

Who was your favorite character and why?

The young Charles Darwin really comes to life - his vast knowledge of the natural world, his kind heart, the earnestness of his enquiry, and above all his curiosity and radical open-mindedness towards the world. If you want to learn about the scientific method, you could do worse than learn from Darwin.

What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Barnaby Edwards’ reading is excellent. He really does justice to the elegance of the language, as well as to Darwin’s strong and varied emotions. He is also completely unfazed by Darwin’s liberal sprinklings of Spanish, French, German and Latin.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Darwin’s delight in exploration is infectious, and the book is intellectually very stimulating. There are many sad moments (accounts of slavery, famines, destitute miners, the aftermath of earthquakes and tsunamis). There are also many laughs: Darwin attempting to ride a Galapagos tortoise comes to mind.

Any additional comments?

The book is a scientific account of the places Darwin visited in a five year journey around the world, mainly in the southern hemisphere: Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the Falkland Islands, Uruguay, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, Mauritius and many more. It vividly describes what it meant to take a journey by ship in the 1830s. Expect adventures: Storms at sea, cannibals, Indians attacking, the rescue of shipwrecked sailors. You will hear the intriguing story of Jemmy Button and two other natives of Tierra del Fuego, who had been abducted by Captain Fitzroy on the first voyage of the Beagle, and are now returned to their families. Among other things, Darwin samples tortoise urine (‘only slightly bitter’), learns to hunt with a lasso, and how to make fire with a friction-stick!

8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-19-16

Round the world with Darwin

Great story, really well told, strikingly modern and extraordinarily familiar to a reader from Britain and Ireland. Loved the fact that he references everything to names of friends or acquaintances or scientific correspondants. His reflections on others humans was priceless and he won't win any friends in well in most of the countries he visited which I suspect just didn't match up to "what one was use to old boy". When you consider the social context in which he lived the fate of his friend Fitzroy, the speculative nature of his ideas, the real weight of many of the counter notions of the time and the steady work of the naturalist undertaken by him on the back of the Beagle voyage the years between these and later more seminal writings is easily understood. Most of all I loved the open honesty and integrity of the story telling. Truth is its own security. Well done Sir!

6 people found this helpful

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  • LAWRENCE WOODHOUSE
  • 08-11-19

Bedtime tales of the voyages of Charles Darwin.

One chapter an evening before bed. Great listening and better value than Samuel Pepys perhaps?

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • pattrine
  • 02-04-20

Transports you back in time

This wonderful account transports you back in time allowing you to believe you are actually there with Darwin. You share his joy, his utter horror and disgust at the different things he comes across. His intelligence and acute powers of observation captures a depiction of how life was for the many different inhabitants of The Southern Hemisphere The visual images come through vividly and sharp. And, his continual detailed references to local flora and fauna with their complicated scientific classifications reminds the listener that he is there on a job of discovery not a holiday and indeed he fulfilled his mission perfectly.. The only point that stopped me scoring it 5star was the reader's constant inexplicable habit of placing undue stress on the syllables of some words and on some whole words as well which was quite distracting.
Entertaining. Educational. And Captivating.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-26-20

It's not just the book it's the narration

Both the book and its author well deserve their 5 stars, it's one of the finest and most important works written in English - and a rollicking good yarn too! If you don't know it yet then you must, no excuses. What makes this version really stand out though is the brilliance of the narration by Barnaby Edwards. Mr Edwards manages to conveys all the wit and enthusiasm of the young Darwin as he colourfully speaks of the new world he is discovering and of the many ideas bubbling up in his fertile brain. It's never boring and is an exciting listen from beginning to end. I hope to come across this narrator again because from Bates to Wallace with much more Darwin in between, there is a lot of material out there which is crying out to be read by him.

2 people found this helpful

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  • constant reviewer
  • 12-11-19

One Planet

Astounding! It seems as if Charles Darwin watched all episodes of David Attenborough's 'Life on Earth' and then translated into the written word. Who Knew? If this doesn't convince you that the planet needs to be saved, then nothing will.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kraded
  • 12-09-19

Fantastic

Wasn't sure what to expect here. it is superbly written and the science is outstanding. The fortelling of evolution by the man who discovered it was a treat to listen too.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chris O'Hearn
  • 10-15-20

Surprisingly entertaining

The Voyage of the Beagle was intended for a general audience, although by that I think Darwin still assumed a high level of education and understanding. It comes across as a very personal account with many observations, comments and humour. There are times that it dwells in some detail on the scientific aspects and there is quite a bit of jargon and Latin biological terms. With an audio book it is of course difficult to look these up so it would have been helpful to have some additional annotations. The one aspect I really didn't like was the narration. Barnaby Edwards' style is very formal and veers between sounding sneering and sarcastic to patronising and arch, with strange emphasis on certain words and phrases. It isn't so much read as acted, in a way that would have sounded over the top 50 years ago.

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  • Geoff Alford
  • 11-28-18

Mind numbingly boring, great cure for insomnia

Couldn’t get past the first two hours without being put to sleep. Should be advertised as more of a text book for naturalists. I returned it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John Muser
  • 12-24-18

Boredom

Too hard to listen to, was poorly written and doesn’t flow. Couldn’t get pat chapter 1.