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The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger and the Birth of Modern Oceanography

A landmark book about a landmark voyage.
Nick Fraser, National Museum of Scotland

This book is a gripping tale of exploration aboard H.M.S. Challenger, an expedition that laid the foundations for modern oceanography. From late 1872 to 1876, the ship explored the world’s oceans, the scientists onboard conducting deep sea soundings, dredging the ocean floor, recording temperatures, observing weather, and collecting biological samples. They also spent time exploring and recording information about the geology, flora, fauna, and human inhabitants of many remote oceanic islands.

I tell the story of Challenger by following the exploits and discoveries of the ship’s naturalists, and where possible tie these early explorations to the growth of modern scientific fields. It’s a tale of curiosity, hardship, and humor, and it highlights the iconic place that H.M.S. Challenger, and scientists onboard such as Henry Moseley and John Murray, have achieved in the annals of ocean exploration and science.

I was interviewed about the expedition by Frank von Hippel for his Science History podcast in March, 2021. You can listen to the podcast here.

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