Saturday, December 27, 2014

H.M.S. holiday

Christmas Day 1833 found the crew of the H.M.S. Beagle playing a naval game called "Slinging the Monkey," which was something like human tetherball. The scene in Patagonia was captured for posterity by the ship’s artist, Conrad Martens, whose notebooks have been made available online by Cambridge University. Also being digitized are the diaries of Charles Darwin, who recorded that day, “After dining in the Gun-room, the officers & almost every man in the ship went on shore. – The Captain distributed prizes to the best runners, leapers, wrestlers. – These Olympic games were very amusing; it was quite delightful to see with what school-boy eagerness the seamen enjoyed them: old men with long beards & young men without any were playing like so many children. – certainly a much better way of passing Christmas day than the usual one, of every seaman getting as drunk as he possibly can.

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