How do you even begin to predict how life on Earth first emerged? As just one of many millions of species living on this planet, humans are a curious one; we are constantly seeking answers to unknown questions. But perhaps the question that gives us the most purpose in life is trying to understand why we are here. What is our history and how did we become the species we are today?
Nowadays we are able to open a book or turn to the internet to look for these answers, but it would take a five-year sea voyage nearly 200 years ago to establish the modern understanding of how life on Earth evolved. Turning the clocks back to the 19th century, ideas about the world were very different to those commonly accepted today. Most people stuck to the belief that the planet’s design, and all of its inhabitants, were fixed. The world was the way it was because a creator made it like that. It had always been that way, and in most people’s eyes that way it would remain.
Today views are very different. We know that all organisms need to adapt to the environment in which they live. In a continuous competition for survival that sees the strongest species thriving, evolution is an ongoing process with no final destination. This is because Earth is also experiencing constant changes in structure and climate. Many diverse life forms are battling it out for their place in nature. Each and every change in an organism’s genetics has helped to create new branches on the tree of life, adding to global biodiversity.
But where did this theory of evolution come from? The answer is in its name – Darwinism. In 1831 a 22-year-old man called Charles Darwin agreed to take part in a trip of a lifetime. Not only would this trip help Darwin forge his future, it would also provide answers to many of the questions dividing scientists at the time. He would provide global evidence about the origin of species on Earth that most would come to accept. All it would take is one trip.