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!

Advertisements

Letters written and data recorded from the HMS Challenger

Station recordings from HMS Challenger

Here we are again! I told you all last time I would let you see some of the original data from the reports from the HMS Challenger. Let’s look at some recordings from station 256. This was on the journey from Yokohama to the Sandwich Islands on July 21st 1875.

 

DSCF3902

 

As you can see they measured:

  • Date and times
  • Longitude
  • Latitude
  • Air temperature
  • Water temperature at different depths
  • Density
  • What they found deposited at the bottom
  • Amount of carbonic acid in the water
  • The water current
  • Species found

 

DSCF3910

 

DSCF3906

 

They even went in to detail about an albatross having a cotton handkerchief around its neck. They certainly gave very detailed accounts of what they found. The material and species found were sent to scientists around the world once the expedition had finished, allowing them to be identified and written in the reports.

 

The letters and diary of Joseph Matkin

DSCF3913DSCF3912

(Photograph and quotes from: Philip F Rehbock, 1992.  
At Sea with the Scientifics: The Challenger Letters of Joseph Matkin. 
University of Hawaii Press).

There were letters and diaries written by members of the crew and some of these have been documented. Joseph Matkin, only 19 when the voyage began, was a member of the crew aboard Challenger and was a ship’s steward’s assistant for the whole voyage. He wrote a journal throughout which gives a different and more personal perspective of the voyage to the scientists. He speaks of food the crew ate, the people they met on land, the weather and also deaths that occurred along the way. Here are some quotes from a book published containing his diary and letters.

February 9th, 1873 “Last night one of the men caught a shark, about 6 feet in length…he was lively as ever..The old gentleman is now being eaten for dinner in the mess of the men who caught him”
June 28th, 1874 “The deceased Edw Winton was one of the finest and steadiest seamen in the ship, was about 25 years old, & married just before we left England…no one knows whether he was stunned against the ship’s side by the sea, or he might have been struck by the fans of the screw as he drifted under the stern.”
February 24th, 1875 “The natives are undoubtedly lazy, but the Spaniards do very little but smoke, drink coffee and fan themselves, the only hard workers in the Philippine islands are the Chinese.”
July 27th, 1875 “The island of Oahu has a very pleasant rural appearance…the weather is much hotter here; Thermometer 85° in the shade, and over 120° in the sun. The ship is already full of flies,& the ravenous but playful Mosquitos are only waiting for us to turn in before commencing their onslaught.”

The writing is fascinating and his language shows that he was obviously quite a well-educated man. I recommend having a read of these letters if you are interested in a more personal view of the voyage.

Will write again soon!