This year marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, the 150th anniversary of his seminal work on the theory of evolution On the Origin of Species and 50 years of conservation of the Galápagos Islands through the creation of the Charles Darwin Foundation (Galápagos Conservancy). Around the world, but more specifically in the U.K. (where he was born), Australia (where he visited) and Galápagos (where he made his greatest discoveries), there will be numerous events, seminars, festivals, exhibitions, tours and special occasions to honor the man that changed the way we perceive the world and our place in it. February 12, 2009 has been named Darwin Day, and will be a global celebration of science and reason on the actual anniversary of the birth of the great evolutionary biologist.
London's Natural History Museum's (www.nhm.ac.uk) Darwin exhibition, on display until April 19, 2009 is the largest single exhibition about Charles Darwin in history. It celebrates Darwin's ideas and their impact for his 200th birthday. Discover the man and the revolutionary theory that changed our understanding of the world through a series of revealing and rare exhibits, some on display for the first time. Retrace Darwin's life-changing journey aboard the HMS Beagle on its five-year voyage to the Galápagos Islands, follow the clues that helped him develop his ideas through notebooks, artifacts, rare personal belongings and the fossils and zoological specimens he collected on his travels.
The Darwin 2009 Festival (www.darwin2009.cam.ac.uk) will take place at the University of Cambridge, UK, where Darwin was an undergraduate student. The Festival will feature over 100 big name, big issue talks (with speakers like Sir David Attenborough), debates, workshops, performances, exhibitions (from the Cambridge museums, collections/archives) and film, exploring Darwin's impact on science, society, literature, history, philosophy, theology, art and music. There will also be a series of fringe events including talks, discussions, street theatre, live music, and soap box talks, in and around the streets, pubs, bars and cafes of the city.
The Shrewsbury Festival (www.darwinshrewsbury.org) is an annual event but this year it takes on special meaning and will run for ten months instead of one, beginning on February 1, 2009. Darwin was born in the town of Shrewsbury and its favorite son is being celebrated with literally hundreds of events and activities from theatre to public lectures, opera to processions and exhibitions to guided tours. On February 12, the city will unveil its Darwin Waymarkers located throughout the town highlighting the Darwin points of interest that can be followed as part of the Darwin town trail. There will be a special toast to Darwin in the morning followed by a guided walk around the city and a giant birthday cake to be shared among visitors.
Many events are free while others have a small admission fee and even the children can get in on the act with events like the Monsters in your Garden: Bug Hunts, Pond Dipping and Crafts on February 20 for kids aged five to 12. Other interesting events include The Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival (www.shrewsburycartoonfestival.com) on April 23, 2009 with cartoonists and caricaturists let loose in the streets of Shrewsbury with workshops, exhibitions and entertainment taking place in various venues throughout the town; The Flower Festival (May 22 to 25, 2009) in the beautiful, rural church grounds where Darwin's parents are buried; The Teenage Kicks Festival -- Tortoise Procession (June 27, 2009), a procession of the tortoise sculptures, by the young people who created them, through the town; and the Darwin Fireworks and Bonfire Spectacular (November 7, 2009).
For additional events taking place in the UK in 2009, visit www.darwin-online.org.uk/2009.html.
Apart from naming a city and a university in his honor, Australia has a unique link with Darwin as he spent several weeks there continuing his research and it was 173 years ago that HMS Beagle arrived in Sydney Harbour. To celebrate Darwin's anniversary, there will be dozens of events around the country under the banner "Evolution: The Festival" (www.evolution09.com.au). At the National Museum of Australia (www.nma.gov.au) in Canberra is running a "Charles Darwin in Australia" exhibition until March 29, 2009. Through artifacts, documents, film, interactive media, live animals and plants, as well as Darwin's own personal items, this landmark international exhibition offers visitors a unique glimpse into Darwin's intellectual and personal world and the experiences that first led him to formulate his groundbreaking theories. Exhibition highlights include original notebooks used by Darwin on his voyage on the HMS Beagle, an elaborate reconstruction of Darwin's study, live animals, such as an iguana and blotched blue tongue lizard, and a vibrant montage of live orchids. Admission for adults in A$10, seniors A$8, children A$4 and families A$22;
In Sydney, "Charles Darwin -- Voyages and Ideas that Shook the World" will run at the Australian National Maritime Museum (www.anmm.gov.au) in Darling Harbour from March 20 to August 23, 2009. Explore the world of Darwin and his colleagues in an exhibition that incorporates material from diverse collections including original watercolors, specimens and artifacts collected during the ground-breaking surveying voyages, a recreation of life aboard the Beagle, a specially commissioned ship model of HMS Beagle and insect-eating plants in Darwin's glasshouse. Admission to the museum and exhibition is free.
Melbourne will be hosting a number of cultural and creative events including a mini-Darwin film festival (February 6 to 13, 2009) features films like Species, Gattaca, Shivers and Darwin's Nightmare; a series of informative public lectures (February 9 to 11, 2009) covering topics like Tracing 100,000 years of human history with DNA; a special Evolution dinner on February 12, 2009 at the Melbourne Museum (www.evolution09.com.au/festival-dinner.php); and guided tours of the Australian Garden (www.rbg.vic.gov.au/australian_garden) to uncover the evolution of Australian flora.
The quirky exhibition "Five Things About Charles Darwin" at the Melbourne Museum (www.museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum) includes displays about why On the Origin of Species has never been out of print in 150 years and what Darwin included on his list of 'pros and cons' of getting married, in an eclectic display of objects and video. Admission to the museum is $AUD8 for adults and free for seniors, students and children
And of course in the city of Darwin, a symposium, theatrical and musical performances, art installations and a special exhibition entitled "Supercrocodilians -- Darwin's Ultimate Survival Story" (February 12 to November 29, 2009) at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (www.magnt.nt.gov.au). The exhibition will demonstrate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through crocodilians and will feature an array of crocodilian specimens from ancient fossils to modern examples up to 36 feet long, Australian fossil species from the last 100 million years, and hands-on displays with interactive elements for a younger audience.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
In celebrating Darwin and his legacy, the Galápagos is undoubtedly a "natural selection." The tiny archipelago some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador was to a large extent the inspiration and basis for Charles Darwin's research and discoveries. In this sesquicentennial year, the island of Santa Cruz will hold a major scientific symposium (www.darwinfoundation.org) in July attracting biologists, conservationists and marine scientists from around the world. Visitors to the islands will be able to share Darwin's passion for the Galápagos' and its wildlife throughout the year and tour operators are offering a number of specialized anniversary tours.
The Galapagos Conservancy (www.galapagos.org), formerly known as the Charles Darwin Foundation is running a one-off 200th anniversary cruise from July 23 to August 2, 2009. Only 16 guests will be aboard a 140-foot luxury yacht that will feature guest speakers from the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos Conservancy with a chance to go behind the scenes at the Charles Darwin Foundation and learn about the biological, evolutionary and geological history of this unparalleled ecosystem. The expedition will be led by Richard Polatty, one of the world's leading authorities on the Galápagos. With only three places left on this cruise, the price tag may be hefty ($6,400 per person), but it has been described as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
On the budget end of the scale GAP Adventures (tel. 800/708-7761; www.gapadventures.com) offers a selection of four- to ten-day voyages around the Galápagos ranging in price from $679 to $3,999 per person plus Galápagos Park entrance fees of $100 and local payments of $300. Cruises depart twice weekly and the ten-day Voyage Galápagos from Quito visits Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Bartolomé, Baltra, South Plaza, Floreana, EspaÃ±ola and Santa Fé aboard a 16 passenger, air-conditioned 65-foot motor vessel, the G.A.P Adventurer III. Cabins have upper and lower berths, private bathrooms and outside views and the crew of eight including a naturalist guide, certified by the Galapagos National Park. The trip includes two nights' hotel accommodations, seven nights in the Galápagos Islands, all meals while on the yacht, a visit to Charles Darwin Research Station, incredible wildlife encounters, daily opportunities for swimming and snorkeling, flights to and from the Galápagos Islands and snorkeling equipment. This tour is priced at $2,599 per person plus $300 local payment, $100 Park entry fee and $10 transit control card. International airfare to Quito is additional.
A listing of all recommended Galápagos Conservancy travel partners and links to their websites can be found at www.galapagos.org/2008/index.php?id=77.
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