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Geosciences LibreTexts

1.3: Voyages for Oceanography

  • Page ID
  • This page should include a description of the first voyages that had the true purpose of understanding the oceans, including

    • Challenger Expedition
    • Arctic and Antarctic exploration

    In December 1872 the HMS Challenger sailed out of Portsmouth England to begin its four year voyage circumnavigating the globe. The voyage was the first of it's kind, as the ship had recently been re-purposed from military service into a research vessel. Much of the interest in the voyage was to gain understanding in the composition and structure of the sea floors, as in 1851 the first submarine telegraph cable had been laid across the English Channel, and many government agencies and investors realized that further knowledge was the key to expanding in that enterprise.

    The vessel was outfitted with both a natural history laboratory, as well as a chemistry laboratory, and carried a variety of scientific instruments. Funded by the Royal Society of London, and captained by George Nares, the ship would travel 127,580 km around the Earth over a four year period. Over the course of the journey, they performed hundreds of depth soundings, open sea trawls, and collected well over 4500 new species specimens. The voyage of the Challenger was the largest oceanographic research expedition of it's time, and established a new order of scientific and natural research.

    The Albatross, a ship that made three expeditions designed to collect speciments, and explore ocean depths. It was built by the US Fish Commission in 1882. It is a scientific research vessel used to study fish population, and hydrographic surveys. It is the first ship designed for this type of research, outfitted with laboratories, large storage spaces for specimens, and more technologically advance dredge systems for studying sediments on the sea floor.

    The scientific expeditions investigated the eastern Pacific Ocean, islands and atolls in the South Pacific, and the eastern tropical Pacific. It collected different marine life forms, and described over 170 new species on its first expedition. The second expedition the ship sounded and collected specimens at a new record depth at 4,137 fathoms. On the third expedition it collected a wide range of marine life in areas relatively unknown.