HMS Challenger (1858)

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HMS Challenger
Painting of Challenger by William Frederick Mitchell
Career RN Ensign
Name: HMS Challenger
Builder: Woolwich Dockyard
Launched: 13 February 1858
Decommissioned: Chatham Dockyard, 1878
Fate: Broken for scrap, 1921
General characteristics
Type: Corvette
Displacement: 2,306 long tons (2,343 t)
Length: 200 ft (61 m)
Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
Draught: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: Steam, 1,200 hp (900 kW) and sail
Range: 68,890 nmi (127,580 km) (see article)
Complement: 243
Armament: 21 guns (all but 2 were removed)

HMS Challenger was a steam-assisted Royal Navy Pearl-class corvette launched on 13 February 1858 at the Woolwich Dockyard. She was the flagship of the Australia Station between 1866 and 1870.[1]

As part of the North America and West Indies Station she took part in 1862 in operations against Mexico, including the occupation of Vera Cruz. Assigned as the flagship of Australia Station in 1866 and in 1868 undertook a punitive operation against some Fijian natives to avenge the murder of a missionary and some of his dependents. She left the Australian Station in late 1870.[1]

She was picked to undertake the first global marine research expedition: the Challenger expedition. To enable her to probe the depths, all but two of the Challenger's guns had been removed and her spars reduced to make more space available. Laboratories, extra cabins and a special dredging platform were installed. She was loaded with specimen jars, alcohol for preservation of samples, microscopes and chemical apparatus, trawls and dredges, thermometers and water sampling bottles, sounding leads and devices to collect sediment from the sea bed and great lengths of rope with which to suspend the equipment into the ocean depths. In all she was supplied with 181 miles (291km) of Italian hemp for sounding, trawling and dredging.

The Challenger carried a complement of 243 officers, scientists and crew when she embarked on her 68,890 nautical mile (127,670 km) journey. Despite the great success of the Challenger Expedition, the Challenger suffered an ignominious fate. She was commissioned as a Coast Guard and Royal Naval Reserve training ship at Harwich in July 1876.[1]

She was paid off at the Chatham Dockyards in 1878 and remained in reserve until 1883, when she was converted into a receiving hulk in the River Medway, where she stayed until she was sold to J. B. Garnham on 6 January 1921 and broken up for her copper bottom on 1921.[1] Nothing, apart from her figurehead, now remains. This is on display in the foyer of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The United States Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the ship[2]

Image gallery



  • Bastock, John (1988), Ships on the Australia Station, Child & Associates Publishing Pty Ltd; Frenchs Forest, Australia. ISBN 0867773480

See also

el:Τσάλλεντζερ (πλοίο) fr:HMS Challenger ja:チャレンジャー (コルベット) ru:Челленджер (корвет) sk:HMS Challenger (1858) ta:எச்.எம்.எசு சலஞ்சர் (1858)