Painting of Challenger by William Frederick Mitchell
|Launched||13 February 1858|
|Decommissioned||Chatham Dockyard, 1878|
|Fate||Broken for scrap, 1921|
|Class and type||Pearl-class corvette|
|Displacement||2,137 long tons (2,171 t)|
|Tons burthen||1465 bm|
|Beam||40 ft 4 in (12.29 m)|
|Depth of hold||23 ft 11 in (7.29 m)|
|Sail plan||Full-rigged ship|
|Speed||10.7 knots (19.8 km/h) (under steam)|
HMS Challenger was a Pearl-class corvette of the Royal Navy launched on 13 February 1858 at the Woolwich Dockyard. She served the flagship of the Australia Station between 1866 and 1870.
As part of the North America and West Indies Station, she took part in naval operations during the Second French intervention in Mexico, including the occupation of Veracruz, in 1862. She was assigned as the flagship of Australia Station in 1866, undertaking a punitive expedition in Fiji before leaving the station four years later.
She was picked to undertake the first global marine research expedition: the Challenger expedition. She carried a complement of 243 officers, scientists and sailors when she embarked on her 68,890-nautical-mile (127,580 km) journey.
The United States Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the ship. Her figurehead is on display in the foyer of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
Main article: Challenger expedition
The Challenger expedition, which embarked from Portsmouth, England on 21 December 1872, was a grand tour of the world covering 68,000 nautical miles (125,936 km) organized by the Royal Society in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. British scientists Charles Thomson led a large scientific team which accompanied the crew.
To enable her to probe the depths, all but two of Challenger's guns had been removed and her spars reduced to make more space available for scientific instruments. Laboratories, extra cabins and a special dredging platform were installed as well.
She was loaded with specimen jars, ethanol for preserving samples acquired, microscopes and other chemical apparatus, trawls, dredges, thermometers, water sampling bottles, sounding leads and devices to collect sediment from the sea bed and great lengths of rope with which to suspend the equipment into the ocean depths. In all she was supplied with 181 miles (291 km) of Italian hemp for sounding, trawling and dredging. Challenger's crew was the first to sound the deepest part of the ocean, which was thereafter named the Challenger Deep.
She was commissioned as a His Majesty's Coastguard and Royal Naval Reserve training ship at the Harwich Dockyard in July 1876. In 1878, Challenger went through an overhaul by the Chief Constructor at Chatham Dockyard with a view to converting the vessel into a training ship for boys of the Royal Navy. She was found suitable and it was planned to take the place of HMS Eurydice which sank off the Isle of Wight on 24 March 1878.
The Admiralty did not go ahead with the conversion and she remained in reserve until 1883, when she was converted into a receiving hulk in the River Medway, where she stayed until she was sold to J B Garnham on 6 January 1921 and broken up for her copper bottom that same year. Only her figurehead now remains, kept at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.