The Challenger Expedition (1872-1876)

Together, the voyage of the Challenger Expedition and its scientific report (1880-1895) stands as one of the largest scientific projects of the 19th century. I am intrigued by the scale and complexity of the endeavor, and my writing and research span a range of subjects – from previous voyages that influenced ocean science to the development of modern publishing, communication and transport technologies in the late 19th century.

Working at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, I continue to explore and research collections, charts, ship plans and archives related to Challenger and our modern understanding of the deep sea.

My work online

HMS Challenger: A trailblazer for modern ocean science (first posted November 2022) explores the history of the Challenger Expedition based on my book, especially as relates to the large collection of photographs and images held by the National Maritime Museum. Check back as it will be updated with new stories over the coming months. Thanks to the RMG digital team for this lovely page!

HMS Challenger at the naval base at Bermuda, West Indies, taken by Caleb Newbold (ALB0174)

The online exhibition Sea Change: Celebrating the groundbreaking expedition of HMS Challenger is based on my doctoral thesis. The exhibition was curated by Bianca Packham, Engagement Officer (Exhibitions) for the Centre for Research Collections.

Illustration by Rupam Grimoeuvre.

My doctorial thesis

Making the Oceans Visible: Science and Technology on the Challenger Expedition (1872-1876) is available open access through UCL Discovery.

The British naval corvette HMS Challenger circumnavigated the globe from 1872 to 1876 on a mission to explore the mysteries of the deep ocean. The voyage was propelled by wind and steam-power, and utilized dredges, sounders, and tow nets to discover over four thousand new species and to map some of the very deepest ocean realms, including the Challenger Deep, now known as the Mariana Trench.

My research considers how technologies and practices on the Challenger expedition were used to make knowledge of the oceans. How did the ocean depths, opaque to science in the previous century, become visible in the nineteenth?

Attending to the movement of instruments, natural history specimens, and material images associated with the voyage produces an alternative narrative of the Challenger expedition and provides opportunities to cross boundaries of discipline, time and geography. Accepted for the degree of PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science, September 2019.