THE MONSTER SHOW; with 22 Million Ghoulish Specimens, the Greatest Natural History Collection on Earth Goes on Display
Chapman, James, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: JAMES CHAPMAN
THEY take up an incredible 17 miles of shelf space, fill 450,000 jars and represent centuries of scientific endeavour.
The 22 million specimens about to go on show for the first time at London's Natural History Museum give a breathtaking insight into the splendour and diversity of nature.
They offer an unprecedented chance to witness the progress of evolution at first hand, and also chart the work of the great scientists who have shaped our understanding of it.
From creatures collected by Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook to exotic fish washed up just months ago on Britain's shores, all have been preserved for posterity.
Of the creatures in the astonishing collection, perhaps the most important are those pulled from the sea by Darwin. The specimens he collected on his 1834 voyage to the Galapagos Islands helped shape his theory of evolution.
Since then, they have languished unseen deep in the vaults of the Museum.
Next week, however, the specimens - part of the world's most important collection of animals and plants - will go on public display at the museum's new Darwin Centre.
The Darwin specimens on show at the pound sterling95 million centre, which opens its doors next Monday, include a Patagonia iguana, lizards, a brown rat, a sea bass, a pipe fish, a parrot fish and a moray eel.
Since they were shipped to London in the 1830s, the creatures have been viewed only by academics and museum curators.
Darwin was just 22 when he enrolled as ship's naturalist for the Beagle.
The vessel sailed between 1831 and 1836, visiting South America, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Although it would be 30 years before Darwin published his theory of natural selection, the observations he made during the voyage provided the raw material for research into his seminal text The Origin Of Species. …