RECORD: Sulivan, B. J. 1884.12.12. [Recollections of Darwin and the Beagle.] CUL-DAR112.A99-A108 (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker 8.2008. RN1
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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
[Archival number, upper right] 99
Dec 12/ 84
My dear Mr Darwin
The old ten gun brig class, which Beagle belonged to on her first voyage, got the name of coffins chiefly from several having been lost as Packets in winter voyages from Halifax during the time the Admiralty had the Falmouth packet under
them instead of the Post Office as before. They were very "deep waisted", that is had high bulwarks for their size, so that a heavy sea breaking over them was the more dangerous; yet the Beagle for five years was employed in the most stormy region in the world, under Commander Stokes and
[Archival number, upper right] 100
FitzRoy without serious accident.
When recommissioned in 1831 for another five years in the same stormy region, she was found to be so rotten that she had to be really rebuilt except a few floor timbers. It was that that detained her so many months in fitting out. FitzRoy was allowed in the new
[in another handwriting] Sulivan
Beagle to have her upper deck raised fifteen inches, making her much safer in heavy weather & giving her far more comfortable accommodation below; this must have been the chief cause of the "enthusiasm" your father referred to, as more of us had known her well as an ordinary ten gun brig. In addition
[Archival number, upper right] 101
to this her boats were very good indeed, and her masts were fitted with Harris' Lightning conductors, then a new, but very valuable invention. Her crew was apraised one of West Country "men of war's men", considered the best in the navy. A larger vessel would have had the advantage
of stowing more provisions, but the next larger class were very "deep-waisted" and would not have been as safe in a heavy sea; while the extra size, and draught of water, would have been no advantage in the intricate & narrow channels of Tierra del Fuego. The Admiralty did not act fairly to FitzRoy
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in one respect; they did not allow him a second vessel for a tender. The former expedition under Capt. King consisted of the Adventure about 350 tons, Beagle 23 tons. A schooner tender of 80 tons and a nice decked boat of 15 tons; and the post was, roughly, about 25,000 a year. The officer sent out after our voyage to continue
the survey, after all the stormy region was finished, and only the west coast north of Peru to complete, had besides his vessel of 400 tons, a fine tender of about 100 tons, and two good decked boats of 12 tons, costing about 22,000 a year, while FitzRoy, with all the rough work to complete
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was only allowed the one vessel costing about £8000, a year; and when, to enable him to do the work better, he hired two decked boats for one year to survey Coast of Patagonia - with officers & men out of Beagle's crew - at a cost of 1,100 £, which saved several thousands, they made him pay
the bill; and when he afterwards purchased a schooner for a tender to rescue the Challenger and worst part of the work being completed within four years: he was ordered to sell her again, & the loss fell on him. After his death I drew up a statement to this effect
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putting the least cost out of his own pocket at 1400 £, which saved one year's work of the vessels that relieved us, at least 22000 £; and I believe the Govt. repaid the 1400 £ to his family; but I afterwards learnt from his agent that he spent about 2,500 £ of his own money during the voyage, besides his
large pay as a survey commander of 665 £ a year - of which near one half could have been spent, except for [illeg] purposes; so that nearly 4000 £ must have been spent to complete the large amount of work done during the voyage; when the chief of the drawing and publishing Branch
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of the Hydrographical Department assured me, was a greater amount than had been done during the previous voyage, with much larger means & heavier cost. To accomplish the work, for want of a small tender, it had to be done largely in small open whale-boats detached for weeks a time from the ships,
in such a climate, that to on one occasion we only had one dry week out of nine - and for three weeks in succession had not a dry garment night or day, or a dry blanket bag to get into in the tents at night; and we had at night to pick branches of trees and shake the water off them,
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to cover the wet ground under the Tarpauling, to keep us out of the water.
That the Beagle herself was a safe and good vessel for the work, and only required such a tender as other expeditions were allowed, was shown by the fact, that through the splendid seamanship of FitzRoy, and his naming the officers
to his system in every point of seamanship in heavy weather, she returned home after five years, four of which were spent in the Southern parts of South America, without having carried spar, split a sail, lost one man by falling from a loft or overboard; and only once been in danger in a heavy storm - to the
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the westward of Cape Horn when a heavy sea broke over her and carried away her lee quarter boat.
It was afterwards for many years engaged in surveying Australia under the command of Wickham & Stokes - two of her old officers - and kept up her good character as a safe and handy vessel.
If at any time you
should want further information do not hesitate to write to me, it will be a pleasure to me to answer it.
Believe me, very sincerely yours
B. J. Sullivan
[Archival number, upper right] 108
I hope you are well, and that your little one is flourishing.
My very kind regards to you all and especially to Mrs. Darwin
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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