It’s their expedition into motion (Koslow, 25).
It’s hard to comprehend what the Challenger expedition did for the scientific community and natural sciences in general.
It would not be out of line to even claim that the Challenger voyage single-handedly founded the sciences of Oceanography and Maritime Geology (Corfield, xiii). After this expedition the world saw a transition from Victorian science, which consisted of naturalists doing experiments as a hobby (Koslow, 23), to modern science we know today.The Challenger made many scientific discoveries that impacted Oceanography as a science along with other areas.
The purpose of this paper is to look at the discoveries that the Challenger made and see the ramifications of these findings. First we will take a look at the historical context of the voyage and the objectives it was assigned. Next will look at the scientific discoveries the Challenger made on its journey across the world’s oceans. We will also look at the methods that were used in making those discoveries and made them possible.Finally will see exactly what kind of impact this voyage had on the scientific community.
We know that the Challenger did not just hoist their anchors and sail off hoping to find discoveries. There was a certain chain of events that led up to one of the most scientifically important expeditions of all time. The Challenger expedition was the brainchild of Charles Thomson and William Carpenter (Koslow, 23). In 1871 these men and others in the Royal Society set about putting their expedition into motion (Koslow, 25). This was no easy task.Back in the Victorian era most governments in Europe were not keen on making expenditures in the name of science (Corfield, 2). But with Germany, Sweden, and the United States all planning maritime expeditions Britain’s national prestige and reputation as a leader in maritime science was in jeopardy (Koslow, 25).
This was all the motivation the House of Commons needed to appropriate funds for the voyage in April 1872 (Koslow, 25). The vessel chosen was part of Her Royal Majesty’s Navy and was called the Challenger (http://aquarium. csd. edu). The former navy ship had to undergo a re-outfitting of sorts before she could launch for the expedition. New on-board-state-of-the art-laboratories were built in along with the latest scientific apparatus and telegraph capabilities (http://aquarium. ucsd.
edu). Shortly before Christmas in 1872 the Challenger launched from Portsmouth, England (Koslow, 26) and began her journey that would end in 1876 and cover 68,900 nautical miles (Corfield, xiii).The crew of the Challenger would circumnavigate the world going to places like the Great Ice Barrier in Antartica, Nova Scotia, the Caribbean, South Africa, Indonesia, The Tierra Del Fuego, and Hawaii just to name a few (Corfield, xiii) (Figure 1). When they finally got back to England in 1876 they had made enough discoveries to make a report that was fifty volumes long, consisted of 30,000 pages worth of material, included thousands of illustrations, and took twenty years to complete (Corfield, xiii).They collected so much information because of the ambitious objectives they had set for themselves before the voyage. Back in November 1871 the Royal Society formed a committee to discuss the purposes this expedition was to be launched (Koslow, 25).
This committee consisted of Carpenter, Jefferys, Hooker, Huxley, and the eventual leader of the expedition Thomson (Koslow, 25). The objectives they concluded should be examined while the Challenger was at sea were: To investigate the physical conditions of the deep sea (Corfield, 4).These physical conditions included measuring depth, temperature, circulation, specific gravity and penetration of light (Koslow, 25). Next they wanted to determine the chemical composition of the sea water. They wanted to take samples at various depths and determine its saline constituents, gases, and organic matter in the solution (Koslow, 25).
The third objective was to ascertain the physical and chemical characters of deep sea deposits and their sources (Koslow, 25). Finally they wanted to examine the distribution of organic life throughout the areas they explored, especially at the deep ocean bottoms (Koslow, 26).The question was not if there was life in the deep sea, this had already been ascertained, but what kind of life was in the deep sea (Koslow, 24). And it was not just the deep sea they wanted to see. The members of the expedition were to pay attention to all the botany and zoology they were to find, because in some places the life that was there was relatively unknown (Koslow, 26). All of this was the framework for which the expedition was to study and find answers for.
And the answers would come with the discoveries the men of the Challenger made.