Expeditions and collecting

Pioneers such as Captain Cook and Charles Darwin changed the course of science with their daring voyages. The specimens and natural history artwork that they brought back are still as remarkable and scientifically important today. Discover why Museum collections are so vital to our knowledge of the past, present and future.

  • HMS Challenger
    HMS Challenger expedition

    Find out about the voyage of HMS Challenger, which started the science of oceanography and proved that life existed on the deep sea bed.

  • Sandy Knapp, Museum botanist, on a field trip in Panama
    Into the wild video diaries

    From battling typhoons in Taiwan to surviving long dark nights deep in the jungle, watch videos of Museum scientists on recent expeditions and find out what life is really like out in the field.

  • Museum scientists carrying out fieldwork on the Isles of Scilly.
    Collecting in the Isles of Scilly, a UK biodiversity hotspot

    Join Museum scientists on a field trip to the Isles of Scilly. Find out why this is such an interesting location in which to collect specimens and how they will support future research.

  • The Beagle
    The voyage of the Beagle

    Hop on board the HMS Beagle interactive voyage to learn about Darwin’s life-changing world trip.  It was on this epic journey that he first began to think about the evolution of species.

  • The Cape Crozier party who embarked on 'The worst journey in the world'
    Worst journey in the world

    In June 1911, 3 men embarked on an epic Antarctic journey immortalised in Cherry-Garrard's book The Worst Journey in the World. Find out why.

  • Landscape of Antarctica
    Collecting meteorites in Antarctica

    Interview with Sara Russell, Head of the Mineral and Planetary Sciences Division. Sara has spent three summers collecting meteorites in Antarctica. Find out what is involved.

  • Collecting and Society
    Collecting and Society

    Discover the value of collections to society, as well as how specimens are collected and the surrounding ethical considerations.

  • Keeping and caring
    Keeping and Caring

    How does the Museum organise, preserve and conserve its 60 million life science specimens?

  • Endeavour botanical illustrations
    Endeavour botanical illustrations

    Browse the botanical drawings from onboard HMS Endeavour (1768–1771) – the first voyage devoted exclusively to scientific discovery.

  • A painting of the Endeavour
    The Endeavour voyage across the Pacific, 1768-1771

    Find out about Cook’s first journey across the Pacific in search of a southern continent, and the discoveries he and his crew made.

  • Grey-headed kingfisher, Halcyon leucocephala action, from the Cape Verde Islands
    Captain Cook's return to the South Seas, 1772-1775

    Discover the trials and tribulations faced by Captain Cook on his second Endeavour expedition in search of a southern continent.

  • Frontispiece from Sloane's account of the natural history of Jamaica and its neighbouring islands
    Sir Hans Sloane's voyage to Jamaica, 1687-1689

    Tony Rice charts Sloane's expedition to Jamaica, a voyage that produced one of the world's most significant natural history collections.

Art, nature and imaging

Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, watercolour from the India collection

Discover how natural history art and imaging techniques have developed since the 17th century and explore selected artworks from the Museum’s world-class art collections.

Art, nature and imaging

Beetle blog
Dicronorrhina derbyana beetle photographed on a fieldtrip to Tanzania (Credit: Hitoshi Takano)

Go behind the scenes with Beulah Garner, one of the curators looking after 9 million beetle specimens in the Museum collections. Discover the projects and fieldwork she and colleagues are involved in, and find out more about the fascinating world of beetles.

Follow the beetle blog