On December 21st 1872 HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth on a four-year 70,000 nautical mile voyage of exploration around the globe. The places she visited were not new nor necessarily very exotic, but the discoveries made laid the foundation for the science of oceanography. For the very first time scientists, (chemists, physicists and biologists) were able to systematically survey the geology, topography, biology and chemistry of the deep sea, facilitated by Challenger’s purpose-built equipment and two on board laboratories. The seabed was surveyed very methodically and as a result each specimen is rich in associated data (depth, water temperature, salinity etc).
They returned with a mass of data and thousands of specimens, many of which were sent to leading scientists across the globe. Over 4,000 new species were described and the reports written filled 50 volumes and nearly 30,000 pages.
The following pages will give you more information on the voyage itself and the people who made it happen. Also see the Resources page for further reading.