This research guide provides an overview of items in the collection of Royal Museums Greenwich relating to the history of the Challenger Expedition, which circumnavigated the world between 1872 and 1876.

The Challenger Expedition was the first to explore the deep sea on a global scale. It took its name from the Royal Navy vessel that was specially converted for this scientific work.

The expedition was integral to the advance of oceanography as a modern scientific discipline and is still influencing our understanding of the ocean as a complex ecosystem upon which all life depends today.

A sepia tone photograph showing a ship in a dry dock. Wooden struts support the hull, and men are visible at the front of the ship working on the bow

Using the guide

This research guide covers published primary source materials, unpublished archival documents including manuscripts, charts and maps, visual and photographic sources, and objects related to the Challenger Expedition held within Royal Museums Greenwich's collections. The final section summarises secondary historical research on the expedition that can be found in the Caird Library.

Within each section, materials are organised alphabetically according to the author or creator of the work. An appendix at the end of the guide points researchers to Challenger-related materials beyond Royal Museums Greenwich.

Researchers can find Library and Archive catalogues as well as information on visiting and ordering materials to the Caird Library on the Caird Library and Archive website.

The predominant source for the historical and biographical information contained within this research guide is Erika Jones’s book The Challenger Expedition: Exploring the Ocean’s Depths.

Image: HMS Challenger being repaired in a dry dock in Yokosuka, Japan 1875 (ALB0175)

A woman in a yellow top retrieves a box from a row of Museum storage shelves. The green case is one of apparently hundreds lined along the narrow white shelves

Explore the collection

Search objects, archives and library collections and discover more about the collections of Royal Museums Greenwich

Main image: Illustration of the analysing room on the main deck of HMS Challenger (ALB0174)