On Monday 14 August, when the tide is right, an antique sailing ship will manoeuvre through the lock of Plymouth’s historic Sutton harbour and point herself south-west towards the Canary Islands. It will be the start of a two-year voyage around the world taking in 32 ports and involving thousands of people in a groundbreaking geographical project, Darwin200, which aims, among other things, to inspire the environmental leaders and scientists of the future.
Not only that, adventurous souls can apply to be part of the crew on epic voyages between, for example, Tahiti and the Cook Islands, or Cape Town and the Falklands.
The Oosterschelde, a traditional three-masted Dutch schooner, plans to retrace the route taken by another historic ship almost two centuries ago. In Plymouth on Boxing Day 1831, a young man boarded HMS Beagle and the following day set out on a voyage that would change our world. Not that the 22-year-old Charles Darwin suspected the vast significance the voyage would later have. He was suffering a little of what would later be known as impostor syndrome, wondering if he deserved the opportunity given. Fortunately for us, however, he had the necessary determination and enthusiasm. And that is what Darwin200 founder Stewart McPherson hopes will be the legacy of this project. “We are identifying 200 young naturalists from 200 countries who will become the leaders of the future – young people who can drive change.” En route, the Oosterschelde will touch places as far apart as Cape Verde, Rio, Auckland and Tasmania – all spots Darwin reached.