She was a looker. For her debut in 1820, she was the first to sail under the New London Bridge—celebrating the ascent to the throne of King George IV. But there was no use for her at the time, so she laid low for about five years. Then, she was retrofitted as a survey vessel; giving up four of her cannons and gaining an extra mast.
By 1830 she completed her first voyage, four and a half years surveying the coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. She was a good ship, but the surveying task was daunting and ultimately boring. After about two years at sea, her captain had slid into deep waters of depression and had committed suicide—that boring.
She was due to return to South America for another five years. Her new captain took her to a dock, arranged for a new deck, retrofitted whatever he could, and loaded her with the latest and greatest surveying gizmos of the time.
Determined not to suffer the fate of his predecessor, the captain decided to look for an interesting companion—a gentleman interested in sciences—who would accompany him and provide stimulating conversation at the dinner table. Eventually, he settled for a “naturalist” from a respectable family of doctors and scientists. And so, once more, on December 27, 1831, she set sail towards South America. Onboard, Charles Darwin was getting seasick.
To be continued.