Darwin200: a voyage suited for the fittest

An exploratory trip following Charles Darwin’s expedition route
Image of a oosterschelde boat drawing on Spyglass island in Peachtree city. Photo and illustration by Savannah Hayes
Image of a oosterschelde boat drawing on Spyglass island in Peachtree city. Photo and illustration by Savannah Hayes
Savannah Hayes

On Aug. 15, 2023 a boat named the Darwin200 departed from Plymouth, UK. The ship had embarked on a journey to follow the expedition route of evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin. There are many goals associated with the trip circling around research and learning.

The trip includes 32 voyage legs, or parts of the trip calculated based on the ship’s total departures from ports. They plan to stop at ports associated with where Darwin stepped ashore, and there is a tracker on the ship updating their website periodically.

Darwin200 is a large-scale project that took a decade to plan and prepare for as it is expected to span 2023-2025 and in a worldwide trip. This current voyage is following two smaller previous voyages in 2020 and 2021 circling the UK.

As for the ship they are taking, it is a historic Oosterschelde ship spanning 50 meters that was built in 1918 and restored for the trip’s purpose.

A large part of the voyage centers around youth and learning as it expects to reach 200 million students worldwide. The voyage has three main goals: to empower, inspire, and solve. The number one goal is to empower, train leaders with the hope that they will become the next generation of environmental leaders. To teach in an interesting worldwide classroom to connect populations with nature and conservation. Finally, with many research projects the third goal is to solve the world’s major environmental problems with practical solutions.

There are 8 interactive research studies being led by the voyage to aid in their third goal.

Darwin200 research projects
1. Temperature data

Throughout the voyage they will record the temperature of the air and sea. While doing this they will upload it to a satellite that will display the information on the map located on their website. Then they will compare the data with information from past data sets recorded.

2. Wildlife survey

They will undergo a systematic study of seabirds, dolphins, whales, porpoise, seals, sea lions, basking sharks, whale sharks, sunfish, rays and many more animals. This data is expected to provide important information to the understanding of endangered species migration throughout the Atlantic and Pacific.

 

3. Microplastics

They plan to fish for plastic particles in the ocean waters and each sample will be recorded for concentrations of microplastics. A live map showing the data collected on plastic pollution will be updated on route with a data interpretation sent to ports.

4. Ballooning spiders

Darwin found the phenomenon of ‘ballooning spiders’ while on his expedition. This phenomenon is related to silk stands lifted into the air often blown far out to sea. Darwin found spiders far from land and on the Darwin200 they plan to continue his work by undertaking a systematic survey.

5. Wildlife transects

They intend to analyze biodiversity transects in primary, secondary, severely degraded rainforests, and known replanted forests. With this they will explore the impacts of deforestation as the transects will help track the diversity of key organisms. This will help quantify the recovery of biodiversity in forested ecosystems. Along the voyage they will have live lectures, films, photos and reports added on their website.

6. Coral transects

While they travel through tropical waters they will collect data to learn more information on coral reefs in specific locations. They will survey the reefs, not bleaching, eutrophication, sedimentation, the introduction of non-native species, diseases and damage. Bleaching means that coral loses all of its colorful protective algae and it turns white leaving it stressed and increasing the possibility of death. The Darwin200 experts will explore and try to find solutions to save coral, showcasing their findings publicly as they note the archives of coral reef history. 

7. Pollution solutions

Along specific locations they will try to find solutions to pollution related problems using application of current and developing technology. Some projects under this category include ocean-up arrays which gather floating plastic water using solar power and pollution-eating 'row-boats’ which is the use of fuel cells to gain oil waste. They will also observe the impacts of pollution on ecosystems and recovery processes.

8. Miller-Urey

The last month of the trip, the researchers plan to run the famous Miller-Urey experiment which replicates the environment of earth to create amino acids out of a "soup of elements and compounds.” The results will be revealed at the conclusion ceremony in London of 2026 during a special lecture noting the evolutionary origins of "Life on Earth," an important concept of Darwin’s.

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About the Contributor
Savannah Hayes, News Editor
McIntosh High School senior Savannah Hayes is serving her second year as the McIntosh Trail’s news editor. Hayes has been on the Trail staff since 2021 and has enjoyed every moment of working with the staff. Just this past school year, Hayes won three awards for her writing given to her by the Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA). Hayes won superior writing for In-Depth News, Features and Social Media Storytelling. She can not wait for another marvelous year on the Trail staff. Hayes has received countless accolades throughout both high school and middle school. Hayes has been a part of National Honor Society (NHS) since 2023, Science National Honor Society (SNHS) since 2023, Beta Club since 2021, National English Honor Society (NEHS) since 2021 and National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) since 2022. In middle school, Hayes was in Jr. Beta Club and received the Silver Service Hour Award in eighth grade and the Bronze Service Hour Award in seventh grade. Every semester since her freshman year, Hayes has been on the Gold Honor Roll. Outside of the Trail, Hayes works as a volunteer intern at Zoo Atlanta. She took AP Biology and is currently taking Anatomy and Physiology at McIntosh to help achieve her goal of majoring in Animal Science. Hayes is currently the High Brass Section Leader of the Spirit of McIntosh Marching Band, of which she has been a member since 2020. Hayes has played the trumpet in various concert bands since 2017. As a Dual Enrollment, Student Hayes is currently attending Clayton State and has been a part of the program since 2022.
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