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Ship sets sail from England to retrace Charles Darwin's voyage nearly 200 years later

Charles Darwin
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A schooner set sail Tuesday from the south coast of England to train and inspire a new generation of naturalists by retracing the voyage taken by a young Charles Darwin nearly 200 years ago that led to his theory of evolution.

The Dutch ship Oosterschelde was cheered as it left Plymouth on a two-year mission to work with future scientists who will study species discovered by Darwin and develop projects to save them.

The boat will serve as a floating laboratory on the sea and in port, where some 200 young naturalists and conservationists from around the world will meet along the way to take part in the project called Darwin200.

"This is about hope, it's about future and it's about changing the world," said leader Stewart McPherson.

McPherson said a group of mostly 18- to 25-year-olds "won't let animals or plants fall off the cliff of extinction."

Darwin set sail aboard the HMS Beagle in 1831 on a five-year voyage that passed around South America and went to Australia and New Zealand.

The ship will make its first landing in the Canary Islands and then cross the Atlantic to Brazil. It will sail down South America's east coast and up its west coast and out to the Galapagos Islands where Darwin made some of his most important discoveries.

Sarah Darwin, a botanist, said she supports the mission for using her great-great-grandfather's voyage to highlight environmental change. She said Charles Darwin's greatest legacy was recognizing the place of humans in nature.

"I always think it is very much worth reminding ourselves on a daily basis that humans and the rest of the living world share a common origin," she said. "Darwin was saying that 160 years ago, that we were related with all other nature. We're not above it, we are part of nature."

The boat will go to Australia and New Zealand before returning to South America and then crossing the Atlantic again to South Africa before returning to England.

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