19 September 2008

The beginning of marine science

In Lecture 26 I said that "the first of the great deep-sea expeditions was undertaken by the British naval vessel Challenger in 1873 - 1876. This was the beginning of the race for the last territories still available for colonization." This correct but somewhat general statement does not explain why research voyages to other continents had to start with the exploration of the greatest ocean depths. The 20-year birthday volume of Oceanography, the official journal of the international Oceanography Society, has just come out and supplies the answer:
The introduction to the "Summary Report on the Scientific Results of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger" of 1895 says: "The desire to establish telegraphic communication between Europe and America gave the first direct impulse towards systematic exploration of the deep sea." (Briscoe, 2008) It appears that again science - in this instance deep sea science - develops only where there is a need for it.
The same Oceanography volume contains an article that documents in detail how after World War II physical oceanography was driven by the needs of imperialist navies to develop underwater warfare. (Munk and Day, 2008)


Briscoe, M. (2008) Celebrating 20 years of The Oceanography Society. Oceanography 21(3), 12-13.
Munk, W. and D. Day (2008) Glimpses of oceanography in the postwar period. Oceanography 21(3), 14-21.

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