CfP: Revisiting the Challenger Expedition, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, 7 November, 2023

Beyond the Ocean’s Depths: Revisiting the Challenger Expedition (1872-1876), 7 November 2023. 
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

This event is in part sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London.

Revisiting the Challenger Expedition (1872-1876)

With the environmental threat of global warming, rising seas and biodiversity loss, knowledge of the ocean is more important than ever. The Challenger Expedition, named after the British Royal Navy vessel HMS Challenger which circumnavigated the globe from 1872 to 1876 with the aim to explore the deep sea, has been celebrated as a foundational moment in the history of modern oceanography.

Data and specimens obtained from the expedition are actively studied by scientists today and provide a historical benchmark for climate change and species distribution. Meanwhile, historians are increasingly calling for the voyage’s imperial context to be recognised and are bringing attention to people and places that have previously been given little attention in the expedition’s historiography. How do we tell more inclusive and holistic histories of Challenger, while engaging with its scientific importance today? Looking forwards, what can we learn from the past while considering the future of ocean science?

On 7 November 2023, ‘Beyond the Ocean’s Depths’ shall provide a welcoming interdisciplinary forum for historians, scientists, coastal and island communities, and museum curators to share ideas and their work. The day will bring together a variety of perspectives, knowledges, specialisms and resources. Papers are encouraged on a range of topics related to Challenger, 19th-century ocean science and voyages of exploration in a broad sense.

Conference themes include:
  • The use of Challenger materials in modern scientific research
  • Challenger-related materials in museum collections
  • Public engagement and education
  • Colonial legacies
  • Untold histories
  • Local knowledges and expertise
  • Links between oceanography past, present and future
This one-day conference will be held in person at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and online. It will consist of four panels, each consisting of three 15-minute papers and a Q&A, and a guided visit to the Caird Library to view Challenger archives, photographs and ship plans. We will also have a keynote talk and time to view relevant gallery spaces.

Please send abstracts of 150 words for a 15-minute paper, presentation or creative provocation, along with a biography of no more than 100 words to by 5:00pm on Monday 31 July. Participation is free for speakers, including lunch and refreshments. Limited travel funds are available for UK travel; please indicate if you would like to be considered.

The workshop will be wheelchair accessible with lift access, and the lecture theatre is fitted with a hearing loop. It will also be possible to give presentations remotely, and we anticipate that overseas submissions will be delivered online (unless rail travel to the UK is available). This is to support the Museum's ambitions to be carbon emissions conscious. The workshop language is English. If you have any queries, please contact the organisers at We particularly encourage submissions from speakers with lived experience, Early Career Researchers, independent scholars, and scholars from underrepresented institutions and countries. We look forward to receiving your submissions and anticipate confirming successful papers by mid-August.