A Challenger’s Song is an account of The Challenger’s epic scientific voyage and the life of its crewman, Charlie Collins

Challenger Collection, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Photo: Challenger Collection, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

A Challenger’s Song tells the story of the Challenger expedition (1872-1876), the greatest scientific voyage of the Victorian era, and the life of its crewman, my ancestor Charlie Collins.

‘Old Grandad Collins ran away to sea without his family’s sanction,’ so his granddaughter, my mother Stella, once told me. On New Year’s Day 1863, aged fourteen, he set off for Portsmouth to join the Royal Navy. In 1872, she said that Charlie sailed to the South Pole on HMS Challenger, ‘with the Nares-Thomson expedition.’ Challenger’s four-year voyage laid the foundations of the scientific study of the sea. She was powered by sail and steam and Charlie Collins was the leading stoker.

This year, the Challenger Society and the Natural History Museum celebrate  the 150th anniversary of the Challenger expedition. 

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