HMS Challenger website launched
29 September 2016
Investigate the specimens from the HMS Challenger (1872-76), the voyage that started the science of oceanography nearly 150 years ago.
The specimens collected on the voyage are located in museums around the globe. They are now together on a single website for researchers, students and marine enthusiasts to study and enjoy. The website allows visitors to explore the collections and learn about the history of this pivotal voyage.
Exploring the website
Visitors can search by museum (23 museums in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the USA), the collection location or by the kind of specimen. Unsurprisingly most of the specimens are animals, but there are also many geological and botanical samples. The scientists also collected when the ship was in port and collections include land plants and animals as well as ethnographic material.
Visitors exploring the site can also create their own HMS Challenger collection by grouping favourite finds in their own My Challenger accounts. Enthusiasts can download data and images for research or creative processes.
Your thoughts count
RAMM’s HMS Challenger specimens are part the Walter Percy Sladen echinoderm collection (starfish and urchins) and many are displayed in Sladen’s Study. Dedicated to his collection, this gallery has changed little since first installed in 1910. An interactive in the gallery allows visitors to access the dispersed HMS Challenger collections on the new website.
About the voyage
In 1872 over 240 crew including biologists, chemists and physicists boarded HMS Challenger in Portsmouth and embarked upon a 70,000 nautical mile journey of global exploration. Challenger’s primary mission was to survey the seabed for suitable paths to lay telegraph cables on the ocean floor. Yet this was also the ideal opportunity to question the traditional view that life didn’t exist in the deep sea.
They succeeded, returning four years later with a mass of data and thousands of specimens, many of which were new to science. The specimens were sent to leading scientists around the globe for identification.
Making it possible
The John Ellerman Foundation granted RAMM £91,000 from their Regional Museum and Galleries Fund to build the online database of material collected on the voyage. Over 16,000 records and 4,000 images of material from the voyage were collected from museums across the globe. Many are available to view on the website but there are still more to come.
Creating the database was made possible by the invaluable help and support given by participating museums:
- Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
- California Academy of Sciences
- D’Arcy Thomson Zoology Museum, University of Dundee Museum Services
- Glasgow Museums
- Grosvenor Museum, West Cheshire Museums
- Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
- King’s College London Museum of Life Sciences
- Manchester Museum, University of Manchester
- Museum of Comparative Zoology Harvard University
- National Museums Liverpool
- National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
- National Museums Scotland
- National Museum Wales – Amgueddfa Cymru
- Natural History Museum, London
- Oxford University Museum of Natural History
- Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Science Museum, London
- The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, UCL
- University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge
- University of Leeds
- Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum
- Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
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