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February 12th 2024, International Darwin Day: Today the crew aboard the Dutch tall ship Oosterschelde will celebrate and commemorate the birthday of Charles Darwin (12 February 1809) as they reach the Pacific Ocean having sailed nearly 10,000nm – a quarter of the way – of an epic 40,000nm, two year planetary conservation mission called DARWIN200 to train and empower 200 determined young conservation leaders and inspire solutions to our planet’s biggest environmental challenges.

The Oosterschelde is an impressive three-mast sail training tall ship and a monument of cultural and historical significance. The ship set sail from Plymouth, UK in August 2023, and has been following Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle route that famously ignited a scientific revolution almost two centuries ago.

The next port stop will be Talcahuano, Chile arriving 20 February 2024.

International Darwin Day on February 12th aims to inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin. It’s a day of celebration, activism, and international cooperation for the advancement of science, education, and human well-being.

Dr. Sarah Darwin is Charles Darwin’s great-great-granddaughter, a biologist herself and a close supporter of the Darwin200 project, she says:

“Almost two centuries ago Charles Darwin’s HMS Beagle journey provided Darwin with the seed of an idea about evolution by natural selection. Using Charles Darwin’s voyage as a framework to highlight environmental change as well as the beauty of nature is a timely and important ambition. Aboard the historic tall ship Oosterschelde, the excellent DARWIN200 team is developing novel methods to find and train two hundred young people to become Darwin Leaders of which 47 have already taken part since the ship set sail from the UK in August. I have been so impressed by the Darwin Leaders, whom I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with thus far, the skills that these young people have, in my opinion, are exactly what is needed to help us deal with the challenges ahead. They are excellent communicators, have enormous energy and enthusiasm for change and already have so much knowledge. These young ambassadors, representing countries and states around the world, will all go on with the potential and opportunity to become future leaders in the environmental movement, and to reach and inspire vast audiences worldwide. That the DARWIN200 crew aboard the Oosterschelde has reached the Pacific Ocean on Charles Darwin’s birthday is a fitting way to commemorate Darwin Day this year!”

DARWIN200 voyage highlights so far, here are a few…

  • Already 47 young Darwin Leaders from 23 nations have taken part in the conservation leadership programme in ports along the way studying a kaleidoscope of species of animals, plants and ecosystems while witnessing and learning from local conservation experts behind inspiring conservation success stories that have saved species on the absolute brink of extinction. Films, photo essays and reports of their findings are all available for the media.
  • About 200 people between ages of 18 to 80 years old and of more than 20 nationalities have joined the sail training vessel to sail the ship between ports.
  • The mission has received a very warm welcome in each port from the highest levels. His Excellency José Maria Pereira Neve, President of Cabo Verde and Patron of the Ocean Decade Alliance, sailed aboard the tall ship Oosterschelde for a day of conservation conversations with the Darwin Leaders. While in Uruguay DARWIN200 was declared a project of National Interest by the Ministries of Tourism, Environment and Education and Culture.
  • Weekly educational broadcasts have been live streaming out from the ship aka the ‘World’s Most Exciting Classroom’ filled with free environmental and conservation content that thousands of people have tuned in to enjoy.
  • DARWIN200’s Darwin Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro saw some of the greatest conservationists of our time including Dame Jane Goodall, Dr Sylvia Earle, Dr Sarah Darwin, Philippe Cousteau and others taking part to inspire conservation action around the world.
  • Eight engaging research projects are underway onboard with the research team nearing the 300th species of bird spotted since Plymouth. Upcoming projects will see researchers carry out 3D coral mapping, plastic sampling, and a study of sharks in areas never assessed before.
  • The mission has navigated and adapted to frontline conservation challenges along the way, including devastating wildfires in Tenerife, and avian flu in the Falkland Islands – both stark examples of the need for urgent action to protect and preserve our planet’s biodiversity.

People are encouraged to support the mission by following along, meeting the ship in port, and applying to join as Darwin Leaders or guest crew sailing aboard.

A Generation of Darwin Leaders

In each port of the DARWIN200 global voyage, small groups of ‘Darwin Leaders’, selected from around the world for their outstanding achievements in conservation, join the tall ship for a week-long immersive conservation leadership training programme. Two hundred in total will take part over the two-year expedition. Working alongside local conservation experts, each Darwin Leader uses the ship as their base camp and goes into the field to study a species of animal, plant or an ecosystem, assesses its population status and how it has changed over the past two centuries, learns about conservation initiatives currently in place to protect it and develops their own ideas on how to better conserve the chosen species in the future.
The intention is that each Darwin Leader will be empowered with new ideas, skills, and experience that will have a positive impact on the work they are already doing in their home countries and inspire their future careers in conservation.

Adventure seekers can sail the ship

The general public can sign up to sail the magnificent tall ship Oosterschelde between ports alongside adventure travellers and environmental researchers, who are tasked with steering, navigating and manning the ropes of the three-masted topsail schooner under the guidance of a professional crew. People ranging from 11 to 86 years old and of more than 25 nationalities have signed up to take part as guest crew on the voyage. The voyage legs range in duration, from a single day, to the longest being an epic 5,300 nautical miles and taking 48 days to Cape Horn. Previous sailing experience is not always required for those wanting to join.

See more information on dates, costs and availability at

The World’s Most Exciting Classroom

In continuation of Charles Darwin’s work aboard HMS Beagle, the DARWIN200 ship offers a unique platform to support research into many of the world’s most critical environmental problems. This includes eight engaging research projects, featuring real-time data feeds, informative results presentations, interactive online lectures, and insightful interviews with the talented teams of researchers driving each initiative. Four research projects will be undertaken aboard the tall ship Oosterschelde while it is sailing, the other four will be undertaken in the ports that we visit. Through these research projects, DARWIN200 aims to captivate global audiences, particularly students, enabling the public to delve into and gain deeper insights into some of the world’s most critical environmental challenges.

DARWIN200 Founder and Mission Director Stewart McPherson says: 

Charles Darwin was only 22 when he set sail on his life-changing voyage in 1831, famously saying that it was by far the most important event in his life, determining his whole career. We wanted to create a similarly transformative experience for members of the public and 200 of the world’s brightest young environmentalists, who have the potential to be the STEM and conservation leaders of tomorrow and the catalysts to change the future of planet Earth for the better

With a focus on practical solutions, each project will delve into actionable measures and ways in which we can all play a role in addressing these issues, working together to build a more promising and sustainable future.


About the ship Oosterschelde

Oosterschelde is a three mast tall ship, and one of the world’s finest, fully restored historic tall ships and the largest sailing vessel ever to be restored in the Netherlands.

She is registered by the Dutch Government as a monument of great cultural and historical value. The ship is one of the oldest and most authentic ships in the international fleet of Tall Ships. Oosterschelde relaunched after a major refurbishment in 1996 and was recommissioned by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of The Netherlands. She is a bastion of Dutch ship building and is described by the ship’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab as having had at least five lives, starting in 1917 as a cargo vessel. Over the past 30 years Oosterschelde has welcomed thousands of sailors and adventure seekers on board including royalty, politicians, presidents and pop stars, even once hosting a birthday party for Sir Tom Jones!

Oosterschelde was the first Dutch commercial tall ship to sail to both the north and south poles and successfully tackle the infamous Cape Horn, a rocky headland on Hornos Island, in southern Chile known for its hazardous waters. During the pandemic when the world was locked down, a team of Dutch ship builders worked tirelessly to elevate Oosterschelde to the next level in preparation for DARWIN200. As part of the DARWIN200 voyage Oosterschelde will once again navigate Cape Horn, considered the Mount Everest of sailing.

Oosterschelde’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab says,:

The history of the ship and the passion of our crew tell a story that gets under the skin of all who sail aboard her. Not only in Europe, but also in South America, in Africa, in Asia and Australasia. Oosterschelde’s restoration for many was deemed an impossible dream. But not for Dick van Andel who was a young man of just 27 years in age whose vision and enthusiasm saw the dream realised with the efforts and support of many others. We have proven that it is possible to do something outside the box and make it into a success. Connecting to the Darwin200 project, we hope to empower that project in the same way, and show ‘the world’ that with a clear vision and spirit of adventure it is possible to achieve the impossible


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The DARWIN200 mission is an official contributor to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030. The Global Voyage carriers The Explorers Club flag #101.

DARWIN200 patrons and supporters include Dame Jane Goodall, Dr Sylvia Earle and Charles Darwin’s great-great-grand-daughter, Dr Sarah Darwin

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