A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
In 1872 the HMS Challenger left England on a two year voyage of scientific discovery. Armed with the latest scientific information, a team of sharp researchers, and hypotheses based on Darwinian evolutionary theory, the Challenger crew proceeded to collect data, specimens, and questions as they circled the globe with stops in Chile, Australia, and many other locations.
Corfield has studied and skillfully syhthesized the profusely documented research that was reported by the crew. He has also reviewed the personal diaries of the men who lived and worked on the ship.
While accidents and death were unfortunate partners to the daily drudgery of dragging the bottom and studying samples of animals and sediment, the many original findings and observations are reported with great clarity and sense of excitement.
Perhaps most intriguing is the way the author intersperses the discussion of the Challenger’s activities with modern follow on findings on topics such as species specialization, ocean bottom sediment analysis and dating, manganese “nodules,” and continental drift. All of this is woven together in a tale that never fails to fascinate.
The Challenger crew may have grown weary of the constant sampling of the ocean’s bottom, but the author never lets us forget where these findings fit in the overall progress of science.
Review copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald