portsmouth

Wayback Wednesday: Challenger Expedition 1872

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HMS Challenger Image
Image Credit: Interactive Oceans
University of Washington
Author: William Frederick Mitchell

One hundred and fifty years ago, today…

The Challenger expedition of 1872–1876 was a scientific program that made many discoveries to lay the foundation of oceanography. The expedition was named after the naval vessel that undertook the trip, HMS Challenger.

The expedition, initiated by William Benjamin Carpenter, was placed under the scientific supervision of Sir Charles Wyville Thomson of the University of Edinburgh and Merchiston Castle School, assisted by five other scientists, including Sir John Murray, a secretary-artist and, a photographer. The Royal Society of London obtained the use of Challenger from the Royal Navy and, in 1872, modified the ship for scientific tasks, equipping it with separate laboratories for natural history & chemistry. The expedition, led by Captain Sir George Strong Nares, sailed from Portsmouth, England, on [December 21, 1872]. Other naval officers included Commander John Maclear.

Under the scientific supervision of Thomson himself, the ship traveled approximately 68,890 nautical miles (79,280 miles/127,580 kilometres) surveying and exploring. The result was the Report of the Scientific Results of the Exploring Voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873–76 which, among many other discoveries, catalogued over 4,000 previously unknown species. John Murray, who supervised the publication, described the report as “the greatest advance in the knowledge of our planet since the celebrated discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.” Challenger sailed close to Antarctica but, not within sight of it. However, it was the first scientific expedition to take pictures of icebergs.

Wikipedia Summary

Additional:
From Deep Sea to Laboratory (The First Explorations of the Deep Sea by H.M.S. Challenger 1872-1876)/ISTE UK Website
Then & Now: The HMS Challenger Expedition & the Mountains in the Sea Expedition/NOAA Ocean Explorer/2003
HMS Challenger Expedition/Natural History Museum UK/2014 (Web Archive)
HMS Challenger/USCD Aquarium/2008 (Web Archive)

Military Monday: The Burning of Gosport Navy Yard 1861

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Gosport Navy Yard Image One
Destruction of the Gosport Navy Yard by Union forces.
Image Credit: M. W. Robbins Collection &
The Virginian-Pilot
pilotonline.com

I haven’t done a Military Monday since 2018. One-hundred, fifty-nine years ago, today…~Vic

In 1861, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America. Fearing that the Confederacy would take control of the [Navy yard] facility, the shipyard commander Charles Stewart McCauley ordered the burning of the shipyard.

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[The USS Pawnee was] dispatched to Norfolk to secure the ships and stores of the Gosport Navy Yard. Arriving at Norfolk the night of [April 20], she found that all ships, save [the] USS Cumberland, had been scuttled […]. [So], an attempt was made to destroy the Naval stores and the dry dock. Their efforts were largely unsuccessful but, she took Cumberland in tow and saved the frigate.

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On Saturday evening, at 9 o’clock, the Pawnee arrived from Washington with 200 volunteers, and 100 marines, besides her own crew […]. [At] once, the officers and crew of the Pawnee and Cumberland went to the Navy yard and, spiked and disabled the guns, [plus], threw the shot and small arms into the river. At 10 o’clock, the marines, who had been quartered in the barracks, fired them and came on board the Pawnee. A party of officers, [in the] meantime, were going through the different buildings and ships, distributing waste and turpentine, and laying a train, so as to blow up the dry dock. At this time, the scene was indescribably magnificent, all the buildings being in a blaze, and explosions, here and there, scattering the cinders in all directions.

The Government vessels had been scuttled in the afternoon before the Pawnee arrived, to prevent their being seized by the Secessionists, who had been in arms in both Norfolk and Portsmouth.

The Merrimack/Virgina Image Two
The Merrimack Conversion
Image Credit: M. W. Robbins Collection &
The Virginian-Pilot
pilotonline.com

The Confederate forces did, in fact, take over the shipyard and did so without armed conflict through an elaborate ruse orchestrated by civilian railroad builder William Mahone (then President of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad and soon to become a famous Confederate officer). He bluffed the Federal troops into abandoning the shipyard in Portsmouth by running a single passenger train into Norfolk with great noise and whistle-blowing […]. [T]hen, much more quietly, [he sent] it back west […]. [He returned] the same train, again, creating the illusion of large numbers of arriving troops [with] the Federals listening in Portsmouth across the Elizabeth River (and just barely out of sight).

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[In] July, Confederate shipyard workers begin converting the unburned underbelly of the USS Merrimack into the ironclad CSS Virginia in Drydock 1.

Sources:
Burning of Gosport Navy Yard (The New York Times)
The History of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (The Virginian-Pilot Online)
This Day in Naval History (US Navy Website)
How Fear, Deception and Indecision Nearly Destroyed Norfolk Naval Shipyard (USN History)
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (Wikipedia)

Clip from Hearts in Bondage (1936)