Quick update on the HMS Challenger Project and useful resources

Hello all!

Firstly – sorry it has been so long since I have written a post. It has been manic here! Whilst I am trying to get through a lot of data work and disappearing off to Ireland and Cardiff (for the second time), Holly has been starting to write some website content and disappearing to Manchester (also for the second time) to take some more images of their Challenger material. The website is nearly here! Fingers crossed it should go live by the end of the month (but don’t take my word for it!).

For those interested in reading more about the Challenger expedition here are some resources you could use to help you:

The Challenger reports online

This website has been tremendously useful. It contains pretty much all of the Challenger reports, including the narratives. Brilliant for double checking specimen labels.

Informative books

    • The Silent Landscape: In the Wake of HMS Challenger 1872-1876 by Richard Corfield.
The Silent Landscape In the Wake of HMS Challenger 1872-1876 by Richard Corfield

The Silent Landscape In the Wake of HMS Challenger 1872-1876 by Richard Corfield

This book has been great to read up on the voyage – easy, informative read that takes you right the way through the voyage.

    • At Sea With the Scientifics, The Challenger Letters of Joseph Matkin by Philip Rehbock.
At Sea with the Scientifics by Philip Rehbock

At Sea with the Scientifics by Philip Rehbock

This book gives you the voyage from a different perspective. This book is full of letters written by Joseph Matkin, the ship’s steward assistant. He takes us on his own Challenger journey.

    • Notes by a Naturalist on HMS Challenger by H N Moseley.
Notes by a naturalist on HMS Challenger by HN Moseley

Notes by a naturalist on HMS Challenger by HN Moseley

This book is different yet again. Moseley was one of the scientists on board. Rather than concentrating on what was dredged and trawled at sea, Moseley concentrates on the actual land areas the ship anchored at. He talks about subjects such as the landscape, botany, the people they meet and the culture.

These are definitely some of the best resources on a variety of subjects to do with the HMS Challenger voyage.

Going back to talking about the project, I  (Heather) will spend my last day at RAMM next Friday so it is time to say goodbye. It’s been an amazing year and I don’t want to leave! I will be staying in Exeter though – going to study an MSc in Zooarchaeology. So you never know, I could be back to write again! (Don’t worry though, a post will go out when the Challenger site goes live!)

Bye everyone!

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The Scientists on board HMS Challenger

Scientists aboard HMS Challenger

Amongst the crew that were on the boat were six scientists. Wyville Thomson was the chief scientist, being one of the people (along with Carpenter) that proposed the idea of the expedition. Born in 1830, the natural historian first lectured at Aberdeen before becoming chair of natural history at Cork and Belfast, followed by becoming Professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh in 1870.

Charles Wyville Thomson

Charles Wyville Thomson – picture used with permission from Gazetteer for Scotland

In 1872 of course, he climbed aboard HMS Challenger. Upon his return he was knighted but sadly died in 1882, before the final 50 reports of the expedition were all published. If you read the reports you will see that at the beginning of many of them, there are touching notes about Thomson and his contributions to the expedition.

John Murray was one of Thomson’s staff. He became one of the most famous scientists by being the lead author of the Challenger reports. He was an extremely enthusiastic natural historian who, like Thomson, studied at the University of Edinburgh. He didn’t care much or work towards any subject that didn’t interest him – he didn’t even attend the exams of those.

John Murray

John Murray

Henry Nottidge Moseley was another scientist on board, only in his 20s when the boat departed from Portsmouth. Moseley had a love for natural history but didn’t stand out at school. He went to a college in Oxford to do either a maths or classics degree but was desperately unhappy doing this – the only reason he went to do it was because of his father’s love of the subjects. Eventually his unhappiness was noticed and he went to do natural sciences instead – he came out with a 1st class degree and had a 4 year career in medicine before going on the Challenger expedition. Follow your heart, as they say!

Rudolf von Willemoes Suhm was the youngest of the scientists, at only 25 when joining the Challenger expedition. After initially wanting to be a lawyer he found his love for natural history at university and after meeting Wyville Thomson in 1872, was asked to be a naturalist on board the ship. Tragically, he only lasted until August 19th 1875. At only 28 years old, Willemoes Suhm died of a skin infection, leaving the crew, especially Moseley and Buchanan (another of the scientists) devastated.

Annotated main deck plan - the chemical laboratory was for Buchanan to work in.

Annotated main deck plan – the chemical lab was equipped by and for Buchanan to work in. Moseley equipped a zoological lab.

The scientists worked incredibly hard on the ship and achieved so much over the years, using cutting-edge technology of the day – some built especially for the expedition.

That’s all for this month, speak soon!