Darwin’s opinion of the value of the voyage to him can scarcely be expressed better than in his own words. In his later years he wrote: “The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event of my life,” and again: “I have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind; I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved, though they were always fairly developed.” And finally in a letter to Captain Fitz-Roy he said: “However others may look back on the Beagle’s voyage, now that the small disagreeable parts are well nigh forgotten, I think it far the most fortunate circumstance in my life that the chance afforded by your offer of taking a naturalist fell on me. I often have the most vivid and delightful pictures of what I saw on board the Beagle pass before my eyes. These recollections, and what I learned on natural history, I would not exchange for twice ten thousand a year.”

But the voyage of the Beagle was not only training for Darwin, it was the means of gathering together a large and valuable collection of specimens that kept naturalists busy for some years to come, and added greatly to our knowledge of these distant lands and seas. In the work of arranging and describing these collections, Darwin was finally obliged to take an active part himself, for, to quote from his “Life and Letters,” it seemed “only gradually to have occurred to him that he would ever be more than a collector of specimens and facts, of which the great men were to make use. And even of the value of his collections he seems to have had much doubt, for he wrote to Henslow in 1834: ‘I really began to think that my collections were so poor that you were puzzled what to say; the case is now quite on the opposite tack, for you are guilty of exciting all my vain feelings to a most comfortable pitch; if hard work will atone for these thoughts I vow it shall not be spared.”’ Thus the collections made on the Beagle served to confirm Darwin in the occupation of a naturalist and brought him into contact with many of the working scientists of his day.

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