What and when was the HMS Challenger expedition?
Professor William Benjamin Carpenter and Charles Wyville Thomson came up with the idea of exploring life deep in the ocean. The HMS Challenger expedition (1872 to 1876) was the first around-the-world expedition to discover life, the chemistry and the physics of the deep sea.
What did they do?
Setting off at Portsmouth, animals, plants, rocks and objects were collected from 354 stations at various points around the world. Thousands of samples were collected and sent off to scientists to identify around the UK and even globally. 50 volumes were written on the expedition with a total of nearly 30,000 pages, taking 19 years after the expedition finished to be published!
So what does this project involve?
A lot of the bigger museums, such as the Natural History Museum, hold big collections of Challenger material that are widely known to researchers. However, a lot of samples are also kept at smaller museums, such as our collection at RAMM that many just do not know about. In order for people to appreciate the expedition and for researchers to investigate a complete dataset, this material needs to come together which is exactly what we are trying to do.
We are going to create an online database. Getting in contact with many museums around the UK (and hopefully soon around the world) we hope to bring all the Challenger material together so that anyone with interest can take the data to have a look and even work on yourselves. The database will be:
- Easily accessible
- User friendly website with advanced search methods so you can find exactly what data you would like.
- Lots of photographs
- Institutions and museums can add their own data