By Ben Makori
LONDON (Reuters) – Almost two centuries after Charles Darwin’s voyage around the world, environmentalists plan to follow in his footsteps by undertaking a two-year journey across four continents to study endemic wildlife and boost conservation.
The group will set sail on board a 105-year-old schooner on Tuesday from the southern English port of Plymouth, from where British naturalist Darwin’s own expedition began in 1831, leading him to develop the theory of evolution by natural selection.
The 40,000 nautical mile “Darwin200” expedition hopes to anchor in 32 ports, including all the major ports visited by Darwin’s HMS Beagle.
The group will travel on the Oosterschelde, a restored Dutch tall ship, to a number of 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”.
Darwin200 founder Stewart McPherson said researchers will study the impacts of climate change on coral reefs and shrinking wildlife habitats, while also planting thousands of trees to help mitigate problems such as the desertification of land.
“The point of this project is to show solutions, show real actions that all of us can do to help make a better future,” McPherson said in an interview.
Throughout the journey, 200 selected young environmentalists will temporarily join the ship to be trained on conservation efforts.
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 change.”
(Writing by Sachin Ravikumar; editing by William James and Nick Macfie)