The Voyage of the Beagle – on Twitter

by Matthew Cobb

There are a number of famous folk on Twitter, tweeting their diaries. I was particularly sad when Sam Pepys (@samuelpepys) came to the end of his diary back in May; Robert Hooke is currently tweeting his bizarre take on life in 1670s London, and is highly recommended (@HookesLondon).

In 2009 – Darwin’s bicentenary – Darwin (a.k.a. David Jones, to break the spell) started tweeting the Voyage of the Beagle, in real time (@cdarwin) – he began a year into the voyage, using content from the Beagle Diary, along with other journals, notes, essays, letters and books to fill in when Darwin “wasn’t too productive”. Three years later, in early October 2012, the voyage came to an end . He (Darwin/Jones) asked people what he should do, and everyone said, “start all over again”, which is what he has done.

Darwin’s Twitter biography reads: “Geologist, naturalist and gentleman. On board The Beagle with Capt Fitzroy on a voyage around the world”. His first tweet was last week, 20 October, 1831: “Went on board” (don’t worry, it gets better).

Currently Darwin has a little under 11,000 followers. Let’s see if we can get it over the 11K mark with WEIT readers. Who knows, we might even persuade Jerry that Twitter actually serves a purpose. If you want the geeky detail of how Jones does it (sadly, he’s not sitting there tweeting each tweet day by day), he explains what’s behind the curtain here.

If you’re not on Twitter, you can just go to the Twitter page and see the latest updates. And you can also sign up for Twitter and follow @cdarwin there too.


  1. Posted October 27, 2012 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    For those who’re into social media, this sounds like a great thing.

    But I’ve still yet to encounter anything — Darwin on the Beagle included — that offers anywhere near enough return on the costs involved for it to make sense for me.



    • Posted October 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Blogs … and similar websites that “aren’t” blogs — are social media too! So, I’m afraid you are already “into” social media.


  2. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    “Currently Darwin has a little under 11,000 followers”. And Ken Ham has rather under 5,000:)

  3. Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    This looks cool (and I’m now follower 10,772) but I’m a little confused: The Beagle voyage was five years but the tweets only lasted for three. Is this right? Or did the first set of tweeting start two years in to the voyage?

    • Matthew Cobb
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Yes, you’re right, the voyage lasted from from 27 December 1831 to 2 October 1836. I guess that Jones/Darwin started tweeting in 1833, rather than in 1832.

  4. normw
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Not a twitter user & obviously I need a roadmap here: Should not ‘expand’ bring up more text? doesn’t seem to work that way.

    • Posted October 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      No. Tweets are only 140 characters, max. Blame the guy who invented SMS, as tweets are designed to fit into the 160-character SMS message limit. (20 bytes are used for control information.) Ironically, modern SMS implementations automatically concatenation multiple messages. There are tools like Twitlonger that allow (links to) longer “Twitter” messages, but Twitter purists regard those as cheating.


  5. Goliath Field
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Book. Too hard.
    Book, annotated. Too hard.
    Comic book. Too hard.
    Movie. Too hard.
    Tweets. Finally.

    Reductio ad absurdum.

    • jesse
      Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I think it’s more about the electronic toys and additive factor of Twitter, not so much the biology or history content. 😦

    • Posted October 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink


      Can’t things just be fun?! I don’t think it’s meant to be a replacement for any of those things.

      • fred177
        Posted October 28, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

        I think it is meant for those of us who have read the book and now like relive it chronologically, day-to-day. I don’t see how it would ever reading the book.

  6. DaveH
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    There was a daily blog (HA!) (darwinbeagle.blogspot)”In real time” that recently finished.
    I am now reading James Cook and Joseph Banks as they explore and naturalise around the world.
    ( today they are replenishing wood and water on North Island, NZ, only having arrived there a week or so ago.
    Banks’ journal is scientifical and occasionally quite roguishly witty. Cook is constrained to be a bit more official in tone (and his log runs from midday to midday on the day in question).

  7. gravelinspector
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    10900+ followers now.

  8. IW
    Posted October 29, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    “Let’s see if we can get it over the 11K mark with WEIT readers”


    Go read the book for goodness sakes. It’s fascinating and provides all manner of ammunition for exposing creationist lies about Darwin.

  9. lisa
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I thought he was dead.

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