Ship's Company, Passenger List
& Fate of HMS Beagle

John Woram

The following table is based on lists in Volume II (pp. 19-21) of FitzRoy's Narrative …, plus supplementary information found elsewhere. FitzRoy notes that “ … when the Beagle sailed from England, [there were] seventy-four persons.” However, he may have counted Syms Covington twice―once (incorrectly) as Darwin's servant, and again as one of the six un-named boys. If so, there were actually seventy-three persons aboard at departure. In addition, a Captain's Log excerpt (Table 2) lists the names of nine seamen, five of whom are not mentioned elsewhere.

Name1831: On Departure1836: On Return §
[Basket, Fuegia]Two of three FuegiansJanuary 1833: remained in Tierra del Fuego
[Button, Jemmy]
Bynoe, BenjaminAssistant SurgeonSurgeon (Acting)Surgeon
Chaffers, Edward MainMasterMasterMaster
[Covington, Syms]Mr. Darwin's servant *Mr. Darwin's servantVictuals Only
Darwin, CharlesNaturalist[Naturalist]Victuals Only
Derbishire, AlexanderMateApril, 1832: returned to England
— Dring, John Edwardjoined later(?), date unknownJune, 1834: apppointed Purser (Acting)Purser
Earle, AugustusDraughtsmanAugust, 1832: left ship
Fitz-Roy, Robert Commander and SurveyorCaptain and SurveyorCaptain
— Forsyth, Charlesjoined later(?), date unknownMidshipmanConstitution
[Fuller, Harry]My own stewardMy stewardVictuals Only
— Hamond, Robert N. **27 November, 1832: (Mate)2 May, 1833: desires return to England
Hellyer, Edward H.ClerkMarch, 1833: died
— Johnson, Charles RichardsonApril, 1832: (Midshipman)MateMate
— Kent, William7 December, 1833Assistant SurgeonAssistant Surgeon
King, Philip Gidley †MidshipmanFebruary, 1836: remained in Australia
Mac-Cormick, RobertSurgeonApril, 1832: returned to England
— Martens, Conrad7 December, 1833: (Draughtsman)27 September, 1834: left ship
Matthews, Richard[Missionary]December, 1835: remained in Australia
May, Jonathan/JamesCarpenterCarpenterCarpenter's Mate
Mellersh, ArthurMidshipmanMateMate
Musters, CharlesVolunteer 1st Class19 May, 1832: died
Rowlett, GeorgePurserJune, 1834: died
[Sorrell, Thomas]acting boatswainBoatswain (Acting)Boatswain
Stebbing, George JamesInstrument Maker[Instrument Maker]Victuals Only
Stewart, Peter BensonMateMateMate
Stokes, John LortMate and Assistant SurveyorMate and Assistant SurveyorMate
Sulivan, Bartholomew JamesLieutenantLieutenant2nd Lieutenant
Usborne, Alexander BurnsMaster's AssistantMaster's AssistantConstitution
Wickham, John Clements LieutenantLieutenant1st Lieutenant
[York Minster]One of three FuegiansJanuary 1833: remained in Tierra del Fuego
Sergeant of MarinesAll unidentified ‡Names given in 1836 Ship's Company list (Table 4)
Seven Privates ††
Six Boys
Thirty-four seamenSee Darwin's List

[Name] Person not identified by name. FitzRoy's description in second column.
[other details] based on information found elsewhere in FitzRoy's Narrative.
Date followed by details based on information in FitzRoy's Narrative or Darwin's Diary.

§ Second & third rows list information from Table 3 below: FitzRoy's “Ship's Company” list.

— Person joined ship's company on indicated date.

 * At departure, Covington was actually Fiddler & Boy to Poop cabin. He became Darwin's servant in May, 1833. His first name is mis-spelled as “Simms” in the Beagle's October, 1836 Ship's Company List.

 ** Hamond was—according to FitzRoy, Mate; according to Darwin's July 31, 1832 Diary entry, Midshipman—on HMS Druid. Although FitzRoy states he left the Beagle on or about May 2, Darwin's May 24 Diary entry has “The Beagle returned from M. Video.—Mr. Hammond is discharged into the Pylades (presumably, HMS Pylades).” In context, perhaps Hamond did indeed leave the Beagle in early May and, when the Beagle returned to Montevideo, Darwin learned that he had boarded the Pylades. Note that Darwin mis-spells his name as “Hammond.”

† Midshipman King's grandfather bore the same first and middle names, but named his own son Phillip Parker King (captain of HMS Adventure) after Admiral Arthur Phillip, hence the Philip/Phillip spellings. Philip is often mis-spelled as Phillip, and of course vice versa.

 †† FitzRoy's list cites 7 Privates, but in his Narrative, (II, p. 282 & p. 302) he mentions the death of a Corporal Williams.

 ‡ See Darwin's list in the table below for the names of those men unidentified here by FitzRoy. These names do appear in FitzRoy's Ship's Company list prepared at the end of the voyage.

Table 1: Officers and Men on HMS Beagle

Disclipinary Actions Taken aboard HMS Beagle

The following table is based on information seen in the Captain's Log. Note the five names that do not appear in Darwin's list (Table 4).

Disciplinary Actions Taken
NameOffenseDisratedOther Punishment
Bruce, John †Drunkenness, Quarelling, Insolence25 lashes
Bruce, William †Breaking Leave, Drunkenness, FightingAble Seaman to Landsman
Chamberlaine, Stephen †Breaking LeaveAble Seaman to Landsman
Davis, EliasReported Neglect of Duty31 lashes
Henderson, ThomasBreaking Leave, DrunkennessBosun's Mate to Able Seaman
Lester, JamesBreaking LeaveCooper to Landsman
Phipps, JamesBreaking Leave, Drunkenness, Insolence44 lashes
Russel, David †Breaking Leave, Disobedience of Orders34 lashes
Wasterham, John †Breaking LeaveCapt. of Forecastle to Able Seaman
† These five names do not appear in Darwin's 24 July 1832 Diary entry.
    Source: National Archives (United Kingdom) ADM 51/3054, vol 5: HMS Beagle Captain's Log Book.
    Online Captain's Log Book, page for December 28, 1831 (bottom of verso page; about 4 Mybte JPEG file)
  Show hand-written entries in Captain's Log.

Table 2: Captain's Log Excerpt, 28 December 1831

Charles Darwin and the Beagle Watch Bill

Darwin's Diary entry for July 24th, 1832 included the following:

 “I procured this evening a Watch-bill § & as most likely our crew will for rest of the voyage remain the same, I will copy it.
Boatswains mates: J. Smith & W. Williams
Quarter-Masters: J. Peterson, White, Bennett, Henderson
Forecastle Men: J. Davis gunner, Bosworthick (ropemaker); Tanner; Harper (sail maker), Wills (armourer)
Fore top-men: Evans; Rensfrey, Do?†, Wright, Robinson, Mac Curdy, Hare, Clarke
Main top-men:‡ Phipps, J. Blight, Moore, Hughes, Johns, B., Sloane, Chadwick, Johns, Williams, Blight, B., Childs
Carpenter's crew: Rogers, Rowe, J. May, James
Idlers: Stebbing (instrument mender); Ash (gunroom steward), Fuller (Captain's do), R. Davis (boy do), Matthews (missionary), E Davis (Officers cook), G Phillips (ships cook), Lester (cooper) Covington (fiddler & boy to Poop-cabin) Billet (gunroom boy)
Royal Marines: Beareley (sergeant), Williams, Jones, Burgess, Bute, Doyle, Martin, Middleton
Prior (midshipmen's steward) [to follow style, should probably read Midshipmen's Steward: Prior]
Boatswain: Mr. Sorrell [Thomas Sorrele in Table 5 Officers List]
Carpenter: Mr. May
Midshipmen: Stewart, Usborne, Johnson, Stokes, Mellersh, King, Forsyth
Hellyar, Captain's clerk [Name before rating for the rest of the list.]
Mr. Bino [sic, Bynoe, Benjamin], acting surgeon
Mr. Rowlett, purser
Mr. Chaffers, Master
Mr. Sulivan, 2d Lieutenant
Mr. Wickham, 1st Lieutenant
R. FitzRoy, Commander

There are (including Earl [sic, Earle, Augustus], the Fuegians & myself) 76 souls on board the Beagle.”

§ Darwin's punctuation edited for clarity.

† Third foretop man's name is illegible. Interpreted as “Door” by Nora Barlow and R. D. Keynes.

‡ Possible duplicate names shown here and on other lines are in italics.

The Beagle would arrive at Montevideo the day after Darwin wrote out his list, having departed Rio de Janeiro on July 5. Therefore, the names of men who may have left the ship at Rio would not be included, while anyone who joined the crew there would be on his list.

Although Darwin adds a note that there were “76 souls on board,” the actual count is 74, and this may include one or more duplicate listings:

It's possible that there were indeed Maintop men with the same last name—perhaps brothers. In the final example, Carpenter Mr. May (emphasis added) may have brought along his son J. May as one of the Carpenter's crew.

But arguing against a father & son pair, one of the pages at the Devonport website lists Crew Members of HMS Beagle who were born in Devonport, with only one person named May on the list. If there were two Mays from Devonport, presumably both would be included here.

Taking all these possibilities into consideration, Darwin's actual count may be less than 74, if one or more duplications are errors.

The following table contains the same information, sorted by name (which may be easier to read).

Name §Rank § or other description
Ash [Thomas, 22]Gunroom Steward [Able seaman/steward]
Basket, FuegiaFuegian
Beareley (Beazeley in Keynes; Baisley in ship's company)Sergeant, Royal Marines
Bennett* [James, 22]Quarter-Master [same]
Billet, ThomasGunroom Boy
Bino [sic, Bynoe]Acting Surgeon
Blight, B.Maintop Man [presumed erroneous duplicate of next name]
Blight, J. [John, 23]Maintop Man
Bosworthick (ropemaker)
[Borsworthick, John, 29]
Forecastle Man (Borsworthick also in FitzRoy Narrative)
[Forecastle man/ropemaker]
BurgessPrivate, Royal Marines
ButePrivate, Royal Marines
Button, JemmyFuegian
ChadwickMaintop Man
ChildsMaintop Man
ClarkeForetop Man
Covington, SymsFiddler & Boy to Poop Cabin (from May, 1833, Darwin's servant)
Darwin, CharlesNaturalist
Davis, EliasOfficers' Cook [/31 lashes] §§
Davis, J.Forecastle Man
Davis, R.Captain's Boy
DoorForetop Man
DoylePrivate, Royal Marines
Earl [sic, Earle, Augustus]Artist
EvansForetop Man
FitzRoy, RobertCommander
FullerCaptain's Steward
HareForetop Man
Harper (sailmaker)Forecastle Man
HeardForecastle Man
Hellyar (Hellyer in FitzRoy list & Keynes)Captain's Clerk
Henderson, Thomas [37]Quarter-Master [Quartermaster/Boatswains Mate/Able seaman] §§
HughesMaintop Man
Johns, B.Maintop Man (may be duplicate entries, or two men with same last name)
Johns, D.
JonesPrivate, Royal Marines
Lester, JamesCooper [Cooper/Landsman] §§
MacCurdyForetop Man
MartinPrivate, Royal Marines
May, J. [James or Jonathan, 31]Carpenter's Crew
May, Mr.Carpenter
MiddletonPrivate, Royal Marines
MooreMaintop Man
Peterson, J.Quarter-Master
Phillips, G. [Philips, George, 24]Ships' Cook [Able seaman then Acting cook]
Phipps, JamesMaintop Man [/44 lashes] §§
PriorMidshipmen's Steward
RensfreyForetop Man
Robinson,* [William Robertson, 20]§Foretop Man
Rogers [James, 32]Carpenter [Caulker]
Rowe [David, 24]Carpenter [Carpenters crew]
SloaneMaintop Man
Smith, J.Boatswain's Mate
Stebbing (instrument mender)Idler (ie, supernumerary)
Sulivan2nd Lieutenant
TannerForecastle Man
Wickham1st Lieutenant
WilliamsPrivate, Royal Marines
Williams [William, 28]Maintop Man [Able seaman]
Williams, W.Boatswain's Mate
Wills (armourer)Forecastle Man
WrightForetop Man
York MinsterFuegian

§ Name, Age, Rank [in brackets] are from the Devonport website mentioned above. Minor spelling variations in Richard Darwin Keynes' Beagle Diary are given in parentheses.

§§ Ratings/punishment in a/b format are taken from Captain's Log, as seen below.

         Thought to be one of the “34 seamen” cited but not named by FitzRoy (Table 1). Only 33 seen here, because Morgan died (May 1832) before Darwin's Diary entry was written.

* James Bennett & Robinson. See Notes section at bottom of page for further details on both names.

Table 3: Darwin's Copy of HMS Beagle Watch Bill

Summary of FitzRoy's and Darwin's Lists

The following table lists each name found on FitzRoy's list or in Darwin's Diary. Names of the 33 seamen listed by Darwin (Table 3 above) are not repeated here. The table also lists five of the nine names cited in the Captain's Log for disciplinary action, but not otherwise mentioned by him or anyone else. See “Notes” section below for more details on these names.

Master Ship's Company and Passenger List: HMS Beagle
Basket, Fuegia
Billet, Thomas
Bruce, John ‡
Bruce, William ‡
Bute, James Adolphus
Button, Jemmy
Bynoe, Benjamin
Chaffers, Edward Main
Chamberlaine, Stephen ‡
Covington, Syms
Darwin, Charles
Davis, Elias
Davis, R.
Derbishire, Alexander
Dring, John Edward *
Duff §
Earle, Augustus
FitzRoy, Robert
Forsyth, Charles ***
Fuller, Harry
Hamond, Robert N.
Hellyer, Edward H.
Jones [Boy]
Kent, William
King, Philip Gidley
Lester, James
Mac-Cormick, Robert
Martens, Conrad
Matthews, Richard
May, Jonathan
Mellersh, Arthur
Musters, Charles
Phillips, G.
Robinson ^
Rowlett, George *
Russel, David ‡
Stebbing, George James
Stewart, Peter Benson
Stokes, John Lort
Sulivan, Bartholomew James
Usborne, Alexander Burns ***
Wasterham, John ‡
Wickham, John Clements
York Minster

Start, end & width of each colored bar indicate approximate time aboard the Beagle. Color indicates person's classification, mostly based on Darwin's 24 July Diary entry. Darwin lists Augustus Earle and himself at the bottom of the list, but without any classification. They are identified in the table above as idlers.

        Idler (supernumerary)
   ?   Person present at departure, length of service unknown.
        Person not aboard during this time.

* Dring appointed acting purser following death of Rowlett. Prior status, date of joining ship are unknown. Assumed here to have joined ship's company after Darwin's 24 July 1832 Diary entry.
** Forsyth appointed as Midshipman following the death of Musters in April, 1832. Prior status, date of joining ship are unknown. Assumed here to have joined ship's company after its departure from England, and before Darwin's 24 July 1832 Diary entry.
***Forsyth and Usborne left the Beagle at Callao in August, 1835, to continue the survey of Peru while the Beagle sailed to Galápagos and across the Pacific. FitzRoy states that “ … seven good seamen, and a boy, volunteers from the Beagle, completed Mr. Usborne's party.” The identity of the volunteers remains unknown, pending further investigation
§Darwin's 17 February 1836 Diary entry: “The Gun-room officers gave a passage to England to Mr. Duff of the 21st Reg.” [Lieutenant William Higginson Duff, 21st Regiment of Foot, Royal North British Fusiliers. Presumably boarded the Beagle at Hobart Town, Australia.]
Person died during voyage.
Person cited in Captain's log (see Table below), 28 December, 1831, but not otherwise listed by FitzRoy or Darwin.
^See Notes below for details about Robinson.

Table 4: Composite List of Officers, Crew and Passengers

The following table appears immediately after the final page of Darwin's Journal of a Voyage …. Given that neither the ink nor the writing style match Darwin's, the list is probably taken from the ship's log. The October 1836 date indicates the table lists the ship's company at the end of the voyage. As above, names in each category are in alphabetical order.

NamePresent RatingIn what capacity at present doing duty
Men's Names
Ash, ThomasGun Room Steward 
Bennett, JamesGunners MateQuarter Master & Captain's Coxwain
Billet, ThomasOrdinary [seaman]Midshipmens' Steward
Blight, JohnCaptain, Main TopCoxswain, 1st Whaler
Bosworthick, JohnRope Maker 
Carter, ThomasA. B. [Able-Bodied seaman]Captain, Fore Top
Childs, J[?]Order[ly?] 
Clarke, EdwardA. B.
Clarke, WilliamA. B.Captain, Fore Top
Davis, EliasA. B. 
Duncan, RobertA. B.
Fitz Zelland, HenryA. B.
Flood, JohnA. B.
Hassett, GeorgeA. B.
Henderson, ThomasCaptain's CoxwainQuarter Master
Hughes, WilliamA. B.Captain's & Gunroom Cook
Hunter, AndrewA. B. 
Johns, JohnA. B.(possible duplicate of next name)
Johns, John WilliamCaptain, Fore TopCaptain, Main Top
Legg, JohnCaptain, Fore Castle 
Lester, JamesCooper
May, JamesCarpenter's Mate
Peterson, JohnQuarter Master
Phillips, GeorgeShip's Cook
Poole, RichardA. B.
Remfey, JohnBoatswain's Mate
Robertson, WilliamA. B.
Rogers, JamesCaulker
Rowe, DavidCarpenter's Crew
Tallentire, WilliamA. B.
Tanner, JamesSailmaker
Thomas, William (1)A. B.
Thomas, William (2)A. B.
Wallis, RichardA. B.
White, N[icholas] §Quarter MasterCoxwain, 2nd Whaler & Boatswain's Mate
Williams, WilliamA. B. 
Wilcox, RichardA. B.
Wells, HenryOrder[ly?]
Wills, WilliamArmourer
§ FitzRoy gives White's first name in a vol. II footnote (p. 226).
Cavanah, ThomasBoy 1st Class 
Davis, RobertCaptain's Servant
Green, WilliamGun Room Servant
Johnson, WilliamCarpenter's Servant
Kinnak, DavidBoatswain's Servant
Baisley, JohnSergeantPurser's Steward
Bute, James A.CorporalCaptain's Clerk
Burgess, ThomasPrivate 
Doyle, JamesCobler
Gibbons, John 
Martin, R.
Middleton, ?
Robbins, R.
Fitz Roy, Esquire, RobertCaptain 
Bynoe, BenjaminSurgeon
Chaffers, Edward M.Master
Dring, John EdwardPurser
Johnson, Charles RichardsonMate
Kent, WilliamAssistant Surgeon
May, JonathanCarpenter
Mellersh, ArthurMate
Sorrele, ThomasBoatswain
Stewart, Peter B.Mate
Stokes, John LortMate
Sulivan, Bartholomew James2nd Lieutenant
Wickham, John C.1st Lieutenant

Table 5: Ship's Company of H. M. S. Beagle, October 1836

The Schooner Constitution

In August, 1835, FitzRoy purchased the Constitución to continue the survey of South America, while the Beagle continued to Galápagos, across the Pacific and eventually back to England. The following men, listed in a table on the final page of Darwin's Journal, were assigned to the ship:

In Schooner Constitution
NamesRank and Present RatingIn what capacity at present doing duty
Usborne, Alexander B.Master's AssistantIn charge
Forsyth, CharlesMidshipman 
Evens [sic, Evans], JohnBoat Master
Blight, J[ames?]A. B.
Carr, ThomasA. B.
Dowse, JacobA. B.
Park, JohnA. B.
Thompson, JamesA. B.
Jones, DanOrd[erly?]
Harris, JamesBoy 1st Class

Table 6: Schooner Constitution Crew List

FitzRoy states (Narrative, Chapter 21) that HMS Blonde Master's Assistant E. Davis joined the Constitution crew, but his name does not appear on this list. And with the exceptions of Usborne, Forsyth and Evans, none of the other names appear on any of the above lists. A. B. Seaman Blight is assumed not to be the same person as Blight, John. A possible explanation is that he and the others joined the Beagle crew in South America after Darwin prepared his list. Although Carr, Thomas has the same first name as Carter, the latter was listed as Fore Top Captain in the 1836 Ship's Company list, about one year after the former was transferred to the Constitution. It is therefore assumed here that one name is not a mis-spelled version of the other, and that the identical first-names are just a coincidence.


A few questions about the above lists remain unanswered, pending further investigation. For example:

Seamen aboard at departure: FitzRoy states there were 34 seamen aboard at departure, and Darwin lists 33 (one seaman—Morgan—had died before he prepared his July 24, 1832 list). In other words, FitzRoy and Darwin agree on the number aboard at departure. Yet, on 28 December, 1831 (immediately after departure from England), the Captain's Log lists nine seaman disciplined for various offenses (See Table 2 above). Five of these names do not appear in Darwin's list. Nor is there any indication elsewhere that they were counted among the seamen, whose total would then have been 39. For the moment, the only satisfactory explanation would seem to be that they left the ship before Darwin wrote out his list. In support of that possibility, in Emily Steel's He Is No Loss monograph, she notes (p. 25) “… a distinct drop in the meat rations taken on board, which suggests that a number of the crew left the ship at Rio.”§ Perhaps the “missing” men departed at that time, which would account for their names not appearing in Darwin's list. And for reasons unknown neither he nor FitzRoy noted their departure, nor counted them among the 34 seamen present at departure.

§ As another possibility, the drop in meat rations may have been because the Beagle had completed the Atlantic crossing, and could now anticipate the availability of fresh meat as it made its way along the South American coast.

Deserters: Although there is no record of desertions, in his “H. M. S. Beagle, 1820-1870,” Keith Stewart Thomson states (p. 220):

Each person on board came to know his fellows extremely well, and during the second voyage—the one we know most about—although there were the customary desertions and transfers during the first weeks of the cruise, there was an impressive loyalty to the Beagle.

Thomson does not give a source for his “customary desertions” remark. See the John Macdouall Notes entry for details about deserters on the first voyage of the Beagle.

James Bennett: Although FitzRoy does not name him in his crew list, he does mention him numerous times in the text of his Narrative, vol. II, as in these two examples:

John Edward Dring: As noted above, he was appointed Acting Pursor following the death of George Rowlett. Since his name does not appear on Darwin's list, this implies that he joined the ship's company at some later date—perhaps in Montevideo. Yet neither FitzRoy nor Darwin note his addition to the crew. Darwin mentions him once, in his July 20, 1836 Diary entry, but gives no information about when (or where) he joined the Beagle:

Mr. Dring tells me that the witty people of [St. Helena] say “We know we live on a rock, but the poor people at Ascension live on a cinder.”

Charles Forsyth: FitzRoy notes that he took the place of the deceased Mr. Musters in April, 1832. Yet his name is also omitted from Darwin's list, even though that list was prepared a few months after Forsyth's appointment.

Robinson: In FitzRoy's Narrative, vol. II, he mentions that a man named Robinson sailed with him, and Darwin includes this name in his Diary entry for July 24, 1832, as does Syms Covington in his Journal. The spelling is also found in Nora Barlow's 1933 edition of the Diary, and in a recent Kees Rookmaaker transcription of the Diary at the Darwin-Online website. In Richard Darwin Keynes' 1988 edition of Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary, the name is given as “Robson”—presumably a transcription error introduced in this edition.
In the Devonport website page mentioned above, the list of Beagle crew members includes the name of “Robertson, William 20.” The inclusion of a first name and age, neither reported by the others, suggests the Devonport list was compiled from a different source, but with a transcription error in the last name.
United Kingdom National Archives records show a W. F. Robinson, HMS Ranger, and a Lt William Robinson, 1839. Perhaps this is the man mentioned above.

The Six Boys of the Beagle: Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of their names. FitzRoy simply states there were “six boys” aboard at departure, and Darwin identifies one (Jones) in his 3 June Diary entry and three in his July 24, 1832 entry:

  1. Jones: Identified as “Boy Jones” by Darwin when he died.
  2. Billet, [Thomas]: Gunroom Boy
  3. Covington, Syms: Fiddler & Boy to Poop Cabin (and later, Darwin's servant)
  4. Davis, R[obert]: Captain's Boy

A person named Ash is listed as Gunroom Steward, and Prior as Midshipmen's Steward. Since these names appear nowhere else, perhaps they too were counted among the boys. In that case, Ash and Prior would be boys 5 & 6, as indicated by the color code above.

The Fate of HMS Beagle

In Punta Arenas, Chile, a Museo Salesiano exhibit contains a model of the Beagle and an improbable account of its fate:

It was sold to the Japanese people & was drained in 1888. The first master was Parker King but the British Admiralty decided to include Robert FitzRoy.

A Beagle was in fact sold to the Japanese, but it was not the Beagle of Pringle Stokes and Robert FitzRoy, commanders of the third ship to bear that whimsical name. Parker King was of course on HMS Adventure, not Beagle.

The fourth Beagle—a steamer of almost five hundred tons—was acquired by the Japanese and subsequently drained (that is, scrapped) in 1889.

Perhaps the mix-up may be traced to one of the following sources:

1968. H. E. L. Mellersh's FitzRoy of the Beagle (p. 195):

In 1870 [the Beagle] was sold by public auction: she fetched £525 and went to the Japanese who used her as a training ship until 1881.

1900. “The Fate of the Beagle”—a curious feature of the May, 1900 issue of The Popular Science Monthly written by the Reverend V. Marshall Law. In 1890, he lay ill in Japan, idly watching a vessel of the Japanese Imperial Naval Academy. A caller arrived:

“I see you have Darwin’s old ship, the Beagle, in plain sight out there.”
“Is that the Beagle?” I asked in great surprise. He assured me that it was.

The reverend remained ill, “part of the time in delirium,” for a fortnight, then went off in search of this Beagle, now gone from the harbor. Months later, he found her:

She was being torn to pieces, and the parts were sold for “old junk.” I reflected … of the significance of the career of the famous vessel, and of her associations with the man whose investigations revolutionized scientific thought.

Something isn't quite right here. The fourth Beagle was “drained” a year or two before Reverend Law's illness. So, what ship did he see from his window? And what ship did he find later on? Did he really confuse the remains of a steam vessel with those of a famous wooden sailing ship? Did he really believe the ship that brought FitzRoy and Darwin to South America, across the Pacific and home again would still be afloat in a Japanese harbor a half-century later?

Perhaps his delirium lingered on.

When Darwin's Journal of Researches was re-published in 1905 as The Voyage of the “Beagle,” an introductory “Concerning the ‘Beagle’ ” page repeated the error:

Long after Darwin's voyage it was used by the Japanese as a training ship at Yokosuka (1888).

See Wikipedia: HMS Beagle, “Final Years” section for details of the eventual fate of FitzRoy's HMS Beagle.