Robert FitzRoy (1805–65)


Captain FitzRoy's letter to his sister of 4 April 1834, describing an encounter with native Patagonians.  He describes Charles Darwin as a "sensible, shrewd, and sterling good fellow", and recounts the arrival of the artist, Conrad Martens. CUL MS Add. 8853/43, f. 114

Robert FitzRoy became captain of the Beagle in 1828 while she was surveying the coast of South America, searching for a passage from the Atlantic into the Pacific that would avoid the need to double Cape Horn. The objectives of his second Beagle voyage in 1831–6 were to continue the survey and to establish more accurate measurements for determining longitude. He described the voyage in a three-volume Narrative (1839), supplemented by his correspondence with the hydrographer, Francis Beaufort, and by a series of letters written from the Beagle to his sister, Fanny, and now in Cambridge University Library. In 1865 in a state of depression, FitzRoy took his own life. His achievements are symbolised by the Admiralty charts published as a result of the Beagle’s surveying work, and by the barometers that bear his name. More recently his significant contributions to the development of weather forecasting, storm warnings and the Meteorological Office, have been commemorated by the designation of a sea area off northwest Spain as ‘FitzRoy’.