Image © Historic England.


The hunt for the illustrious HMS Beagle is underway in the Rochford District, with fieldwork being carried out by experts from our Coastal & Marine team on behalf of Historic England. 

The team are undertaking a terrestrial geophysical survey and drone survey in the hope of identifying the remains of the ship, first launched in 1820, which is most famous for being the vessel on which Charles Darwin made the observations necessary to develop his theory of natural selection. 

They have been focussing on an area of just 0.1 hectare on the mud flats off Paglesham, where the Beagle spent her final days as a watch vessel for the Coastguard. The work builds on previous surveys and research undertaken by a team led by Dr Robert Prescott from the University of St Andrews since 2003. 

Surveying the shoreline in Paglesham where the remains are thought to lie

A film crew has been following the team as they employ three main techniques; ground penetrating radar, a gradiometer survey and an electromagnetic survey. However, it is proving a unique and complicated environment to work in due to the mud, channels of water and vegetation, which have presented a variety of challenges to overcome. The key objective is to locate the original mud dock and any potential remains of the ship within it, by identifying a greater concentration of loose mud and distinct features than in the surrounding mud flats and marshes.


Dr Dan Atkinson, Director of Coastal & Marine: 

We are all hugely excited to work on this project, which we hope will shed some light on the famous ship that carried one of science’s most renowned individuals. For me, it’s a welcome return to the project, having worked on the site since 2003 with Dr Prescott.

We believe that the Beagle is in this area from a variety of historical documents, historical mapping, and the geophysical work. The previous surveys laid the groundworks for this project, and we now are building on this information to identify exactly where the resting place of the Beagle is located, and the area that would have once been the mud dock in which it was berthed.


The year 2020 will mark the 200th anniversary of the launch of the HMS Beagle, which will be marked by celebrations across the Rochford District as part of a ‘Discover2020 Festival.’ For more information go to


Cllr George Ioannou, Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Enterprise: 

This is a very exciting time for the Rochford District, the team from Wessex Archaeology have been here all week mapping and sharing their expertise with us. I look forward to seeing if they find anything on our shores from one of the most famous ships in the world.”


Follow us on social media @wessexarch for the latest developments.