On Tuesday, the historic tall ship Oosterschelde set sail from Plymouth Harbor, UK, taking young naturalists on a two-year educational trip.
As part of a groundbreaking geographical project, Darwin200, young naturalists left the same harbor today where British naturalist Charles Darwin’s expedition began in 1831, leading him to develop the theory of evolution by natural selection.
The Oosterschelde is a restored three-masted topsail schooner and is the last remaining representative of the large fleet of schooners that sailed under the Dutch flag at the beginning of the 20th century.
The two-year, 40,000 nautical mile (74,080 kilometers) Darwin200 expedition aims to visit 32 ports, including all the major ports visited by Darwin’s HMS Beagle, according to Reuters.
The expedition will include several remote locations like the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin’s observations that related bird species differ from island to island helped inspire his seminal book on evolution, “On the Origin of Species.”
The world’s most exciting classroom
“Charles Darwin was only 22 when he set sail from Plymouth on his life-changing voyage in 1831 aboard HMS Beagle, famously saying that it was by far the most important event in his life, determining his whole career,” says Darwin200 Founder and Mission Director Stewart McPherson.
Throughout the Darwin200 expedition, 200 young environmentalists will be selected to temporarily join the ship to be trained in conservation efforts.
McPherson says researchers will study the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and shrinking wildlife habitats, EuroNews reports. The expedition will also plant thousands of trees to help mitigate problems such as the desertification of land, document ocean plastics and carry out surveys of seabirds, whales, and dolphins.
Data collected during the voyage will form part of a citizen-science project where members of the public and students will be able to join weekly sessions live from the ship. It has been dubbed the “world’s most exciting classroom”.
We will be recreating many of the most fascinating experiments that Charles Darwin undertook on HMS Beagle as well as experiments undertaken by other key scientists during Darwin’s time. These recreated experiments will serve as the basis for students and teachers to use as study examples or to repeat in class.
Patrons of the project include Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter – the botanist Sarah Darwin – and British primatologist Jane Goodall.
“We all know we’re in the midst of the sixth great extinction with a lot of doom and gloom about the problems facing the environment, climate change, and loss of biodiversity,” Goodall said. “This voyage will give many people an opportunity to see there is still time to make a change.”