Scientific Expeditions Then, Considered Now


The HMS Challenger set sail from England in 1872 and changed the course of scientific history (Credit: North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy)

Thanks to the BBC for reminding us of the value of such voyages in earlier centuries, and their contributions to science, among other things:

HMS-Challenger: The Voyage That Birthed Oceanography

The 3.5-year voyage to the furthest corners of the globe reshaped marine science and permanently changed our relationship with the planet’s oceans.


During the four-year journey, the ship uncovered many new species and shaped our understanding of the seas (Credit: LeeYiuTung/Getty Images)

In the foyer of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, England, stands a ship’s painted figurehead. It towers well above head height and depicts an armoured knight with a silver chest plate, a raised visor and a thick handlebar moustache. The knight’s eyes have a faraway gaze in them – and well they might. This wooden statue is the sole remnant of a square-rigged ship that once embarked on a three-and-a-half-year voyage to the furthest corners of the globe, reshaping marine science, unearthing all manner of underwater oddities and permanently changing our relationship with the planet’s oceans. The vessel’s name was HMS Challenger. Continue reading

Models Show Garbage Clean-up More Effective on Shoreline Than in Gyres

Image of trash on a beach by Flickr user Gerry & Bonni

The health of oceans in the face of massive pollution has been a topic of this blog on multiple occasions, and we’re always interested in learning more about the efforts to clean up the incredible amounts of waste, especially plastic, in one of the most–if not the most–important global ecosystems. New models by researchers at Imperial College London are hypothesizing that, rather than targeting sites like the great Pacific garbage patch, trash pick-up by floating microplastic collectors should be more effective near the coasts, where the rubbish originates. Sarah DeWeerdt reports for Conservation Magazine:

Cleanup efforts for ocean plastics should be concentrated close to shore, at the source of the problem, rather than in areas of open ocean where plastic tends to accumulate, according to a study recently published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Ideally, if plastic collectors were placed offshore near coastal population centers, they could remove nearly one-third of plastic in the ocean over the next 10 years.

In the study, oceanographer Erik van Sebille and undergraduate physics student Peter Sherman, both at Imperial College London, used data on ocean currents and waste management practices in different countries to simulate the entry and circulation of plastic in the oceans from 2015 to 2025.

Continue reading