HMS Challenger

The Expedition:

    The Challenger expedition which lasted 1000 days and covered over 68,000 nautical miles (>127,000 km) was an amazing ocean adventure. It was the first true oceanographic expedition and was accorded enormous significance, yielding a wealth of information about marine life and identifying many new organisms. In addition, the Challenger reports provided a rich picture of the flora and fauna and cultures of the lands they visited. There was also a focus on photography, a relatively new science at the time and on scientific drawing.

The Ship

    The H.M.S. Challenger was actually built as a warship. It was a steam corvette in the Royal Navy outfitted with 17 guns and capable of over 1200 horse-power. It was three-masted, square-rigged, and built of wood with an overall length of approximately 200 feet. It became a research vessel after a request from a professor to the Royal Society of London.

    In 1870, Professor Wyville Thomson requested the Royal Society to ask the government for use of one of its ships for an extended research cruise. The government agreed and the H.M.S. Challenger was manned and modified to carryout oceanic resarch rather than to carryout missions. The Challenger essentially became a sailing ship rather than relying on the steam engine because of all the stops the Challenger would make when collecting data. The steam engine was reserved for dredging operations from the depths of the ocean floor. Fifteen of the guns, along with ammunition, were removed. They were replaced with laboratories and workrooms, storage for the trawls, dredges, and specimens.


    Many of the pictures as well as the background images were adapted from The Voyage of the Challenger (1974) by E. Linklater produced by George Rainbird, Ltd. We are currently obtaining copyright permission from the publisher. We are using them only for educational purposes.


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