Saturday, 21 December, 1872, HMS Challenger departed Portsmouth, England to begin the great scientific voyage of her age. Over the next three and a half years Challenger and her crew would travel over 68,000 nautical miles, circumnavigate the globe, collect enough data to fill 50 volumes of reports that took 20 years to compile, and begin the modern science of oceanography. At a cost of over £200,000 – £10 million, in modern currency – the expedition was not only the most audacious undertaking of Victorian exploration but also the first voyage of “big science”.
This exhibit celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Challenger expedition. Over that century and a half, thousands of people, both professional and citizen scientists, have contributed new knowledge to oceanography and marine biology. Mann Library houses an extensive collection of books, papers, and other media that add to these vital sciences, including many of the first-hand accounts of those aboard HMS Challenger. Cornell University Library's Rare and Manuscript Collections hold a copy of Report on the Scientific Results of the Voyage of HMS Challenger, the official collection of HMS Challenger's scientific work.