Marine sciences must cast off an imperial legacy of ocean exploitation

A century and a half after HMS Challenger embarked on the first global survey of the ocean, some ideas from the era still linger. They urgently need to be left behind, says Helen Scales

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7 December 2022

By Helen Scales

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Michelle D’urbano

ON 21 DECEMBER 1872, the converted warship HMS Challenger embarked from Portsmouth, England, on the first ever global scientific survey of the seas. Researchers from the Royal Society of London borrowed the vessel from the Royal Navy for a four-year, 130,000-kilometre voyage, which brought into focus the truly colossal scale of the global ocean and revealed vivid details of its living inhabitants.

Now, 150 years later, the Challenger expedition remains a milestone in oceanography. Scientists still use its enormous collections of marine organisms, including to study how the ocean is changing. Of course, much has altered since the Challenger …

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