The Challenger Expedition set sail on December 21, 1872, not quite a century and a half ago. Today we describe that expedition as the beginnings of our science. The introductory paragraph of the 1895 “Summary Report on the Scientific Results of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger” points out that the deeper parts of the ocean had not been investigated because, “the apparatus necessary for such investigation had not yet been invented.” The next paragraph reveals one of the motivations for the expedition: “The desire to establish telegraphic communication between Europe and America gave the first direct impulse towards a systematic exploration of the deep sea.” The third paragraph of the introduction, describing what oceanography encompassed in 1895, is worth quoting in its entirety:
The oceanographer takes account of everything relating to the ocean; his investigations deal with the form and divisions of all marine areas on the surface of the globe, the winds that blow over the surface waters, the contours of the ocean bed from the sea-level down to the greatest depths, the temperature, the circulation, the physical and chemical properties of sea-water, the currents, tides, waves, the composition and distribution of marine deposits, the nature and distribution of marine organisms at the surface, in the intermediate waters, and on the floor of the ocean, as well as the modifications brought about in living things by the conditions of their existence, the relations of man to the ocean in the development of fisheries, commerce, civilization, navigation, hydrography, and maritime meteorology. All this vast assemblage of knowledge, which embraces some aspects of astronomy, geography, geology, physics, chemistry, and the biological sciences, makes up the modern science of oceanography.