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This is a list and brief synopsis of notable expeditions that
have in some way benefited the field of oceanography. It covers
the years 1657 to 1933, and is (for now) directly pinched from
Seas, Maps, and Men: An Atlas-History of Man's
Exploration of the Oceans (1962), a book edited by
G. E. R. Deacon (and which is
elsewhere in these pages).
Eventually I hope to have these more fully explained as well
as referenced and illustrated, but for now it's just a brief
and a bit dry history of significant oceanographic expeditions.
I also want to extend this beyond 1933. Enjoy.
Edmund Halley (1657-1742)
- A British astronomer, Halley (of comet fame) made probably
the first primarily scientific voyage--to study the variation
of the magnetic compass--sailing as far as 52 deg. S in the
Atlantic Ocean in 1698-1700. On a previous expedition to
St. Helena, he made an important contribution to knowledge
of the trade winds. He realized more than anyone the value of
Newton's Principia and arranged for it to be printed
at his own expense.
James Cook (1728-1779)
- On his three great voyages between 1768 and 1780, Cook carried
naturalists in his ships and made careful observations of winds
and currents. During the second voyage the Forster brothers
measured subsurface temperatures and found a warm deep layer
below the Antarctic surface water.
Francois Peron (1775-1810)
- A French naturalist and physicist, Peron accompanied
a French circumnavigation of the globe in 1800-1804. He was
able to make only a few rather uncertain deep temperature
measurements, but was much impressed by the importance
of oceanic research adn maintained that it had received too
Ivan F. Kruzenstein (1770-1846)
- He commanded a Russian circumnavigation in 1803-1806 and
was accompanied by Dr. J. C. Horner and with him made a number
of deep sea temperature measurements in the tropical Pacific
and the Sea of Okhotsk.
William Scoresby (1789-1857)
- An English whaler and scientist, Scoresby made many surface
and deep observations in the seas around Spitsbergen adn off the
coast of Greenland between 1810 and 1822.
Fabion G. von Bellingshausen (1779-1852)
- He circumnavigated the Antarctic continent in 1819-1821, much of
the voyage being south of 60 deg. S. He was bitterly disappointed
in having to sail without a naturalist. "In this way our hopes
of making discoveries in the field of natural history were dashed
to the ground," he wrote. Nevertheless, he made many valuable
observations, and his artist Paul Mikhailov painted a fine series
of pictures of marine animals.
Otto von Kotzebue (1787-1846)
- This Russian admiral made two circumnavigations in 1815-1818
anda 1823-1826, primarily for scientific purposes. Many
deep-sea temperature observations were made, and Emil von
Lenz, physicist on the second voyage, recognized that a surface
flow of water from low to high latitudes must be supplied by
a flow from the poles at great depths.
Jean S. C. Dumont d'Urville (1790-1842)
- A French admiral, he made three circumnavigations in 1822-1825,
1826-1829, and 1837-1840. He made many deep-sea temperature
observations, but because of the effect of pressure on the
thermometers he concluded that in the open oceans the temperature
of the water below about 500 fathoms was uniform at nearly
4.4 deg. C. He wrongly concluded that somewhere between 40 deg. S
and 60 deg. S, ocean water was at a uniform temperature of
4.4 deg. C from the surface to the bottom.
Sir James Clark Ross (1800-1862)
- He made the first extensive series of deep sea soundings
during his voyage to the Southern Seas in 1839-1843 in H. M. S.
Erebus and Terror. He made comprehensive
studies of the Earth's magnetism, many deep-sea temperature
measurements and extensive biological collections. Dr. J. D.
Hooker, who went on the voyage as surgeon-naturalist, published
his well-known Botany of the Antarctic, voyage of the
Erebus and Terror. Ross also studied the effect of
variations of atmospheric pressure on sea level. He had the
same ideas as
about temperature of the
deep water. Dredgings were made at depths down to 400 fathoms
but the collections were subsequently neglected and lost
Charles Wilkes (1798-1877)
- He commanded six ships taking part in the U.S. expedition
of 1838-1842. Although the scientific staff, under the
direction of the famous naturalist J. D. Dana, did not
go south of Sydney, Australia, extensive natural history
collections were made. Scientifically the expedition is
best known for Dana's description of Crustacea. What must have
been an enormous collection of fishes was never properly
Robert Fitzroy (1805-1865)
- This British admiral commanded the Beagle
during her famous voyages of 1826-1836. Charles Darwin,
who sailed in her from 1831-1836, added much to our knowledge
of natural history, especially on the structure and origin
of coral reefs and islands. Only two sets of temperature
observations were made.
Matthew F. Maury (1806-1873)
- An officer in the United States Navy, he sailed around
the world and his sea experience taught him the critical
need to increase the efficiency of shipping through better
navigation and safety at sea. He was successful in convincing
the world of the value of more systematic study and charting
of winds and currents. He also produced the first bathymetric
chart of the North Atlantic Current.
Edward Forbes (1815-1854)
- He studied the fauna of the Aegean Sea and did much to
stimulate interest in marine biology, partly, perhaps,
by promoting an active study of depths greater than
300 fathoms, below which he believed that animal life ceased
William B. Carpenter (1813-1885)
Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-1882)
Gwyn Jeffreys (1809-1885)
- They made dredging expeditions in H.M.S. Lightning,
Porcupine, and Shearwater in the eastern North
Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. They found many new species
of animals and made enough temperature observations to show that
there was an active circulation of the water below the surface.
They dredged at depths down to 2000 fathoms.
H. M. S. Challenger (1872-1876)
- This research ship carried five scientists, under the direction
of Wyville Thomson, and made extensive biological, chemical,
geological and physical observations, mainly in the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans and across the Indian Ocean south of
40 deg. S. The extensive biological collections, together
with soundings, bottom samples, and chemical and physical
observations, presented the first broad view of the character
of the oceans.
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Last checked or updated: Jan. 20, 1996
Dept. of Oceanography
Texas A&M University