H.M.S. Beagle was built as a brig for the Royal Navy in 1820. She weighed 235 tons and measured a little over 90 feet in length. Between 1825 and 1838 the Beagle was used as a survey vessel to chart the coasts of South America, Australia, and South Africa. But it is the voyages under the command of Captain R. Fitzroy between 1831 and 1836 with Charles Darwin aboard as a naturalist that have made the Beagle so well known.
Prior to setting out on her five year voyage with Darwin, a mizzen mast was added to make her more maneuverable in the shallow coastal waters she was about to explore. On this trip, the Beagle spent many months in the waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.
It was during this period that Darwin made his observations concerning subtle environmentally induced differences between various species of animals which contributed to their competitive dominance. From these observations he developed his theory concerning the survival of the fittest which is now known as the theory of evolution.