Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

In 1872, the British government and the Royal Society launched the first major oceanic expedition, transforming a two-hundred-and-twenty-six-foot naval warship into a floating laboratory, equipped with microscopes and vats of pickling alcohol. Christened H.M.S. Challenger, the ship, with five scientists, roamed the globe for three and a half years. The crew was constantly dredging the ocean floor for specimens, and the work was repetitive, and brutal; two men went insane, two others drowned, and another committed suicide. The scientists, however, were enthralled with their discoveries. They catalogued more than forty-seven hundred new species — proving, as C. Wyville Thomson, the chief scientist, later noted, that living beings “exist over the whole floor of the ocean.”

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