Chile launches bilateral research foundation with United Kingdom

Non-profit Fundación Beagle inaugurated with reception hosted by British Ambassador.

(June 5, 2012) A dedicated group of scientists, naval officers, politicians and professionals gathered Friday at the residence of the British Ambassador to Chile for a reception inaugurating the Fundación Beagle. The foundation will build a replica of Charles Darwin’s famous ship, the HMS Beagle, to be used as a research vessel and educational tool for teachers and students.

“Imagine standing on the deck of the HMS Beagle for her maiden voyage,” said Dr. Ravinder Bhatia, president and director of Fundación Beagle, speaking about the foundation’s educational ideals and scientific mission. “Chilean children from economically challenged areas will sail with other children from all over the world, and with scientists from different countries, working together to improve our understanding of the planet and oceans around us.”

Charles Darwin conceived his theory of evolution through his voyage on HMS Beagle. Darwin’s experiences and observations in the Chilean sea and coastal regions were integral to this revolutionary scientific discovery. Darwin’s work additionally facilitated understanding of Chile’s geography and ecology, which has been critical for the country’s political and social development. Beagle’s objectives continue an extensive history of biodiversity study in Chile.

“Biodiversity is the legacy of Darwin,” Fundación Beagle Director Rear Admiral Eduardo Troncoso Unwin said.

Fundación Beagle intends to build a total of two ships: a replica of HMS Beagle and a sister ship. One ship will remain in Chilean waters, while the other will sail around the world. Both vessels will collect environmental data, and both will provide a venue for students to participate directly in the process of scientific research.

Construction of the two ships is expected to cost no less than US$12 million, while US$90 million is needed to support three years of operations. Resources for the educational programs will likely come from public funds, and private donations will allow the vessels to be built.

Fundación Beagle aims to expose students in Chile to cutting-edge research, providing adventure, inspiration and a unique educational experience. Troncoso describes this goal as a “passion for giving to society what society gave to you” and a “chance to promote discovery and science, giving future generations the opportunity to live in a better, healthier, natural world.”

“Scientific knowledge of the environment is the basis for forming a nation,” Francisco Hervé Allamand, professor of Geology at University of Chile and guest at the Beagle reception, said.

Fundación Beagle was created through a partnership between Chile and the United Kingdom. Chile’s Ministry of Education, Foreign Ministry and Navy have expressed support for the principles of the project. The foundation said it hopes to be fully established as a legal entity within a month, which will allow the group to officially solicit funding.

By Gretchen Stahlman (originally published by The Santiago Times)

Fundación Beagle and British Embassy staff, left to right – Felipe Osses, Adrian Turner, Carolina Acevedo, Dr. Ravinder Bhatia, Juan Pablo Vargas Parker, Dr. Claudia Nuñez Gonzales, Ambassador Jon Benjamin, Rear Admiral Eduardo Troncoso Unwin, and Russell Baker. Photo by Gretchen Stahlman

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