HMS Challenger
Painting of Challenger by William Frederick Mitchell
RN Ensign
BuilderWoolwich Dockyard
Launched13 February 1858
DecommissionedChatham Dockyard, 1878
FateBroken for scrap, 1921
General characteristics
Class and type Pearl-class corvette
Displacement2,137 long tons (2,171 t)[1]
Tons burthen1465 bm[1]
  • 225 ft 3 in (68.66 m) oa
  • 200 ft (61 m) (gundeck)
Beam40 ft 4 in (12.29 m)
  • 17 ft 4 in (5.28 m) (forward)
  • 18 ft 10 in (5.74 m) (aft)
Depth of hold23 ft 11 in (7.29 m)
Installed power
Sail planFull-rigged ship
Speed10.7 knots (19.8 km/h) (under steam)
  • 20 × 8-inch (42 cwt) muzzle-loading smoothbore cannons on broadside trucks
  • 1 × 10-inch/68 pdr (95 cwt) muzzle-loading smoothbore cannons pivot-mounted at bow
HMS Scout, a sister ship of Challenger
HMS Scout, a sister ship of Challenger

HMS Challenger was a steam-assisted Royal Navy Pearl-class corvette launched on 13 February 1858 at the Woolwich Dockyard. She was the flagship of the Australia Station between 1866 and 1870.[2]

As part of the North America and West Indies Station she took part in 1862 in operations during the Second French intervention in Mexico, including the occupation of Veracruz. Assigned as the flagship of Australia Station in 1866, in 1868 she undertook a punitive expedition against Fiji to avenge the murders of a missionary and some of his dependents, shelling and burning a village and killing more than 40 native Wainimala.[3] She left the Australian Station in late 1870.[2]

She was picked to undertake the first global marine research expedition: the Challenger expedition. Challenger carried a complement of 243 officers, scientists and crew when she embarked on her 68,890-nautical-mile (127,580 km) journey.

The United States Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the ship.[4] Her figurehead is on display in the foyer of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

1873–1876: Grand tour

Main article: Challenger expedition

The Challenger Expedition, which embarked from Portsmouth, England, on 21 December 1872,[5] 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. Charles Thomson was the leader of a large scientific team.[6]

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.[8] Laboratories, extra cabins and a special dredging platform were installed.[9] She was loaded with specimen jars, alcohol for preservation of samples, microscopes and chemical apparatus, trawls and dredges, thermometers and 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.[9][10] In all she was supplied with 181 miles (291 km) of Italian hemp for sounding, trawling and dredging.[11][9]

Challenger's crew was the first to sound the deepest part of the ocean, thereafter named the Challenger Deep.[9]

Later service history

She was commissioned as a Coast Guard and Royal Naval Reserve training ship at Harwich in July 1876.[2]

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.[12] 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.[2]

Nothing, apart from her figurehead, now remains. This is kept at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Winfield (2004) p. 209
  2. ^ a b c d Bastock, pp. 47–48.
  3. ^ "FIJI". Sydney Mail. Vol. IX, no. 429. New South Wales, Australia. 19 September 1868. p. 11. Retrieved 9 April 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ Space Shuttle Challenger at the Kennedy Space Centre website Archived 3 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Rice, A.L. (1999). "The Challenger Expedition". Understanding the Oceans: Marine Science in the Wake of HMS Challenger. Routledge. pp. 27–48. ISBN 9781857287059.
  6. ^ The Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger 1873–1876. Narrative Vol. I. First Part. Chapter I, p. 19-20
  7. ^ UK National Archives ADM 196/13/348
  8. ^ Bishop, Tina. "Then and Now: The HMS Challenger Expedition and the "Mountains in the Sea" Expedition". NOAA. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Aitken, Frédéric; Foulc, Jean-Numa (2019). "Chapter 4". From deep sea to laboratory. 1 : the first explorations of the deep sea by H.M.S. Challenger (1872-1876). London.: ISTE-WILEY. ISBN 9781786303745.
  10. ^ "Scientific Equipment on HMS Challenger". HMS Challenger Project. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  11. ^ Sea Frontiers. Vol. 18. International Oceanographic Foundation. 1972.
  12. ^ "Naval". The Cornishman. No. 27. 16 January 1879. p. 6.
  13. ^ "HMS Challenger". Figureheads. Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 19 December 2018.