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The Voyage of the Beagle

Narrated by: Barnaby Edwards
Length: 25 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (116 ratings)

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Editor reviews

Barnaby Edwards narrates this lengthy, gorgeously detailed book. Racked with nausea and homesickness, novice surveyor Darwin still managed to thoughtfully and minutely detail his five-year voyage on the H. M. S. Beagle. During this long collection expedition Darwin began to formulate methods and ideas for defining life on Earth through the lens of the natural world. This quest would eventually yield Darwin the theory of evolution. Darwin’s youth, passion, braininess, and precise speech evidence themselves in this analytical but highly personal travelogue. Edwards lets the text do the talking, and through his refined English accent the listener is transported to the rough and wildly exotic terrains Darwin is exploring. Mirroring Darwin, Edwards sounds restrained and civilized but awed by the new worlds unfolding before him.

Summary

”I hate every wave of the ocean”, the seasick Charles Darwin wrote to his family during his five-year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle. It was this world-wide journey, however, that launched the scientists career.

The Voyage of the Beagle is Darwin's fascinating account of his trip - of his biological and geological observations and collection activities, of his speculations about the causes and theories behind scientific phenomena, of his interactions with various native peoples, of his beautiful descriptions of the lands he visited, and of his amazing discoveries in the Galapagos archipelago.

Although scientific in nature, the literary quality rivals those of John Muir and Henry Thoreau. Charles Robert Darwin, FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection. Darwin published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species.

By the 1870s the scientific community and much of the general public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

Public Domain (P)2013 Audible Ltd

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You'll never get bored!

I'm a devoted fan of non-fiction (both audiobooks and paper editions). This is a classic that is beautifully-written and full of interesting stories, keen and insightful observations, vivid and excellent descriptions. The narrator, Barnaby Edwards, is especially commendable. Unlike many other narrators who read non-fiction like boring newsreaders, Barnaby narrates the The Voyage of the Beagle exactly the way it should be narrated! Listening to his narration, you feel he is not reading but rather telling you the story face-to-face. I think he will do an equally great job if he reads (he really should!) The Origin of Species and other classics by the same author. Thank you, Barnaby, for having done such a great job!

20 people found this helpful

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A rip roaring historical tale that enthrals

What did you like best about this story?

This really brings Darwin alive. Through his own words, we discover that he's not an ancient Victorian coot in a beard, but was an intelligent and adventurous young man who recounts his scientific and real adventures in a cool and calm manner, interspacing interesting accounts of life in South America with cool descriptions of the fauna and flora he encountered.

What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He brings it.... alive

16 people found this helpful

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Highly, highly recommended!

If you could sum up The Voyage of the Beagle in three words, what would they be?

Mindblowing, gripping, exciting

Who was your favorite character and why?

The young Charles Darwin really comes to life - his vast knowledge of the natural world, his kind heart, the earnestness of his enquiry, and above all his curiosity and radical open-mindedness towards the world. If you want to learn about the scientific method, you could do worse than learn from Darwin.

What does Barnaby Edwards bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Barnaby Edwards’ reading is excellent. He really does justice to the elegance of the language, as well as to Darwin’s strong and varied emotions. He is also completely unfazed by Darwin’s liberal sprinklings of Spanish, French, German and Latin.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Darwin’s delight in exploration is infectious, and the book is intellectually very stimulating. There are many sad moments (accounts of slavery, famines, destitute miners, the aftermath of earthquakes and tsunamis). There are also many laughs: Darwin attempting to ride a Galapagos tortoise comes to mind.

Any additional comments?

The book is a scientific account of the places Darwin visited in a five year journey around the world, mainly in the southern hemisphere: Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the Falkland Islands, Uruguay, Brazil, the Galapagos Islands, Australia, Mauritius and many more. It vividly describes what it meant to take a journey by ship in the 1830s. Expect adventures: Storms at sea, cannibals, Indians attacking, the rescue of shipwrecked sailors. You will hear the intriguing story of Jemmy Button and two other natives of Tierra del Fuego, who had been abducted by Captain Fitzroy on the first voyage of the Beagle, and are now returned to their families. Among other things, Darwin samples tortoise urine (‘only slightly bitter’), learns to hunt with a lasso, and how to make fire with a friction-stick!

6 people found this helpful

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Round the world with Darwin

Great story, really well told, strikingly modern and extraordinarily familiar to a reader from Britain and Ireland. Loved the fact that he references everything to names of friends or acquaintances or scientific correspondants. His reflections on others humans was priceless and he won't win any friends in well in most of the countries he visited which I suspect just didn't match up to "what one was use to old boy". When you consider the social context in which he lived the fate of his friend Fitzroy, the speculative nature of his ideas, the real weight of many of the counter notions of the time and the steady work of the naturalist undertaken by him on the back of the Beagle voyage the years between these and later more seminal writings is easily understood. Most of all I loved the open honesty and integrity of the story telling. Truth is its own security. Well done Sir!

5 people found this helpful

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Bedtime tales of the voyages of Charles Darwin. <br /><br />

One chapter an evening before bed. Great listening and better value than Samuel Pepys perhaps?

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Transports you back in time

This wonderful account transports you back in time allowing you to believe you are actually there with Darwin. You share his joy, his utter horror and disgust at the different things he comes across. His intelligence and acute powers of observation captures a depiction of how life was for the many different inhabitants of The Southern Hemisphere The visual images come through vividly and sharp. And, his continual detailed references to local flora and fauna with their complicated scientific classifications reminds the listener that he is there on a job of discovery not a holiday and indeed he fulfilled his mission perfectly.. The only point that stopped me scoring it 5star was the reader's constant inexplicable habit of placing undue stress on the syllables of some words and on some whole words as well which was quite distracting.
Entertaining. Educational. And Captivating.

1 person found this helpful

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One Planet

Astounding! It seems as if Charles Darwin watched all episodes of David Attenborough's 'Life on Earth' and then translated into the written word. Who Knew?
If this doesn't convince you that the planet needs to be saved, then nothing will.

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Fantastic

Wasn't sure what to expect here.

it is superbly written and the science is outstanding.

The fortelling of evolution by the man who discovered it was a treat to listen too.

1 person found this helpful

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It's not just the book it's the narration

Both the book and its author well deserve their 5 stars, it's one of the finest and most important works written in English - and a rollicking good yarn too! If you don't know it yet then you must, no excuses.

What makes this version really stand out though is the brilliance of the narration by Barnaby Edwards. Mr Edwards manages to conveys all the wit and enthusiasm of the young Darwin as he colourfully speaks of the new world he is discovering and of the many ideas bubbling up in his fertile brain. It's never boring and is an exciting listen from beginning to end. I hope to come across this narrator again because from Bates to Wallace with much more Darwin in between, there is a lot of material out there which is crying out to be read by him.

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  • wbiro
  • 16-09-17

High Adventure - Well Written

I did not know what to expect - I took a chance here.

Surprisingly (for me), I think this book inspired all subsequent high-adventure novels that feature an intellectual hero. Darwin rode with South American cowboys (gaucho's and huaso's), South American indians, encountered native islanders, savages, thieves, post-revolution states, Spanish nobility (the Spanish had been there 300 years already), indian miners, indian guides, high plains, deserts, snowy mountain passes, wide rocky wastelands, jungles, insects, wild animals, storms, earthquakes (and he hadn’t even gotten to the Galapagos yet)…

I had envisioned a meek botanist not straying too far from the boat, but no – he still had his youthful spirit (I had to remind myself that he was still in his early twenties). His account was mainly deep-land oriented. For example, at one point, he had a choice – to sail with the ship 480 miles south from Valparaiso, Chile, to the next port, or go by land. He went by mule with a couple of indian guides. Having found the coast insufficiently interesting, he then ventured high inland through the deserts and mountains of Chile, probably feeling it was his duty to explore (not to mention being up to the adventure).

What Darwin did was not only collect scientific data on geology, paleontology, meteorology, zoology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, botany, and any other branch of early science he could turn his attention to, he offered informed speculations whenever they came (in the effort to forward potentially-worthy hypotheses for future investigation); and not only that – he collected anecdotes of the many various peoples he encountered (which contributed to the 'high adventure' aspect of the book. As for the informed speculations – he demonstrate the preferred (and enjoyable) method that early scientists tried to use – divining reality through pure deduction and reasoning (rather than pure empiricism) – that is, piecing together pieces of knowledge like scientific Sherlock Holmes’s putting together a puzzling case.

What was most curious for me (besides the unexpected high adventure) was his perspective – what did people know on the science front back in 1832? Darwin was well-educated and well-read by then, and he covered a lot of scientific ground - it appears that one was expected to be well-versed in all the branches of science back then, and he must have continued expanding his education and readings while writing the book. You can see his thoughts on evolution germinating here, aided by Lyell's book and the previous works and theories of others. Some of the terms and notions were curious (‘infusia’ was a good one that he leaned on many times - a blanket term for whatever was too small to see). It was entertaining to see him speculate on things that we know a lot more about today, such as the effects of glaciers and the nature of volcanoes.

This was one of the later editions, because in several places he referred us to further scientific details in an ‘earlier edition’. I’m sure Darwin wanted to write a serious scientific journal, but I suspect the publisher noticed all the high adventure, and decided that it would make a good scaled-down book in itself (which it was).


The narrator had a fitting British accent, and handled the French footnotes and Spanish dialog well.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 09-05-19

Wonderful adventure, precious history

Lved it! Beautiful English, well written for any age. What an amazing adventure and he was ahead of his time in so many ways. Magnificent contribution to our knowledge.

7 people found this helpful

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  • SeaHorseLane
  • 01-01-15

How to see the world

An excellent listen to a most perceptive and energetic traveler. Well read, beautifully written, and full of descriptions of the world in the 1830's. Darwin sees all, understands much, and draws understanding from everything around him.

7 people found this helpful

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  • NK
  • 28-04-17

Very worth the time spent

This was a very good book to listen to as it brought you to a time where things were remote but not as remote as you would tend to believe. Enjoyed the various descriptions of the peoples that they came across.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Tina
  • 17-05-15

Darwin's Adventure!

Every minute of the voyage was a new opportunity for insightful observation. All noted in meticulous detail. Anyone interested in Darwin's life will love you this book.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Henry
  • 21-11-17

Highly recommended.

An excellent reading of Darwin’s voyage (1831-1836), experiences and observations he recorded during his trip. Insightful with respect to what led to his theory of evolution. A foundational work regarding the history of science. Highly recommended. Easy to listen to.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kenneth L Pilgreen
  • 02-05-17

Traveling with Darwin

I first read this book 4 decades ago, while an undergraduate student. Even though I studied a lot of biology, no wildlife or field. I've since become an amateur naturalist. As an addict of non fiction audible books, this was a NAT. It is awesome. It's almost like traveling with the man. I never doubted his genius and humanity. I've noticed that this book has been the inspiration for several famous biologists, e.g. Watson (Watson and Crick). Even though I'm no longer a neuroscience researcher, it remains most inspiring for continued local nature studies.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Coug Dude
  • 24-04-16

A must read

a must-read or anyone who wonders wonders how and why Earth and man ate!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Spencer Hyde
  • 27-04-20

very good

This is very good and I would recommend it to everyone interested in this subject.