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The Silent Landscape: The Scientific Voyage Of Hms Challenger

by Richard Corfield

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From Publishers Weekly
Among marine geologists, the voyage of HMS Challenger has become a legend. Launching the first exclusively scientific expedition sponsored by the British Admiralty, from late 1872 to mid-1876, the Challenger toured the world's oceans, surveying the marine environment, sounding the depths and dredging the ocean floor. Its mission was primarily reconnaissance, because at the time the underwater world was still an unexplored wilderness. Corfield, an Oxford scientist and popular science writer (Architects of Eternity), uses the expedition as a thread for stringing together lessons on oceanography and cannot help commenting on the Challenger's discoveries from his more enlightened, 21st-century perspective. As the ship passes the Bermuda Triangle, he offers modern theories about the mysterious disappearances there and the climatic effects of methane hydrates. When a naturalist wonders about the glowing water along Africa's west coast, Corfield steps in to explain bioluminescence. Regarding Antarctica, he tells about a prehistoric freshwater lake sealed under the ice, discovered in the 1970s. At the volcanic Ring of Fire in the Pacific, he lectures on seafloor spreading. If Challenger fails to oblige his lecture plans, no matter, Corfield describes what its scientists would have found had they ventured further, a hundred years later, armed with modern technology and current theory. As a result, a mere third of the actually deals with the voyage. This book may delight some readers, but it will disappoint history lovers expecting an account of a sequel to Darwin's voyage on the Beagle.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Lloyd's List International, October 8
"Understandably strong on the science. ... When scientific endeavour and personal idiosyncrasy collide, the author is up to the job."

Wisconsin Bookwatch, November 2003
"A most amazing and engaging true story, The Silent Landscape is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended contribution..."

The Commercial Dispatch, November 12, 2003
"...Corfield has told the story of this remarkable voyage... an inspiring story of the importance of pure science."

Library Journal, 2003
"...a fascinating narrative..."

Science, November 7, 2003
"...an engaging account of this epochal voyage ... [an] intriguing tale... I heartily recommend The Silent Landscape to all..."

Maritime Life and Tradition, Spring 2004
"...the real power of this fascinating book is Corfield’s adept weaving of Challenger’s discoveries with today’s scientific investigations..."

The Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin, March 2004
"In his attractively written new book, Richard Corfield sets out to recount the events of the voyage..."

The Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2004
"...Corfield augments his tale of Challenger’s research with 20th century developments... Discoveries abound."

Marine Technology, July 2004
"...a very interesting look into the late nineteenth century voyage of a British naval vessel ... an easy read..."

Good Old Boat Newsletter, February 2004
"...at the very least, an excellent reference book and, at the most, a valuable asset to your personal library."

Book Description
THE OCEANS MAKE UP more than two-thirds of the Earth's surface. But they are as mysterious for what they conceal as they are familiar for their ubiquity. Deep below the gentle swell of the waves lies an alien world that even today we have only begun to explore. The quest to know more about this secret domain began in earnest in 1872 when HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth, England, to map and sample the ocean floor.

Sailing three and half years and 69,000 nautical miles, the story of the Challenger is the stuff of legend. Scientists and crew alike braved the stifling heat of the tropics for months on end only to suffer the stupefying cold of the Antarctic, enduring danger on the high seas, and risking their very lives in the pursuit of knowledge. As the first sea voyage devoted exclusively to science, the Challenger expedition is perhaps the greatest oceanographic mission of all time, surpassing even Charles Darwin's celebrated passage aboard the Beagle. Indeed, among the more important objectives set before the crew of Challenger was the mandate to gather the evidence necessary to prove or refute Darwin's daring new theory of evolution. Put simply, many saw the Challenger expedition as the ultimate battle between God and science.

The undertaking was nothing short of a roaring success. Challenger dredged up hundreds of samples from the seafloor and mapped enormous areas of undersea terrain. Most startling of all, though, was the revelation that the ocean was much more than a barren graveyard that mutely reflected Earth's past--it was not a silent landscape after all. Instead, they found a gloriously complex ecosystem teeming with life, an ecological and geological treasure trove we could scarcely imagine from our landlocked perspective.

Relying on official documentation and the logs and journals of the ship's scientific staff, her officers, and crew, The Silent Landscape recounts the story of an extraordinary voyage. But neither science nor the seas remain static through the years -- and this book is more than a vivid historical yarn. In the 125 years since the Challenger explored the great oceans of the world, we have learned much more about the hidden mysteries of the deep. So the author, an earth scientist and marine geologist, also brings a 21st century perspective to bear on Challenger's research and discoveries, illuminating the science of that 19th century voyage with the most current oceanographic information available to us. As Challenger sails from the endangered coral reefs of the Caribbean to the trackless depths beneath the western Pacific, The Silent Landscape takes us on an epic journey across time.

From the Inside Flap
"Richard Corfield's book is a brilliant account of the fascinating voyage of HMS Challenger and her pioneering crew. It will captivate anyone interested in the real life adventures of science and exploration."
-- Philippe Cousteau, president of the Philippe Cousteau Foundation

"The Silent Landscape is a journey full of mishaps and tragedy, but also of wonder. Corfield provides glimpses of sheer beauty, as on the night when Challenger cuts an arc of light through the equatorial Atlantic, the ship's hull igniting the natural bioluminescence of billions of single-celled plants. Tapping his own deep knowledge of oceans and the research of today's oceanographers--including scientists aboard the ship's modern-day doppelganger, the GLOMAR Challenger--Corfield explains this 'cold light' and many other phenomena, in the process revealing how the voyage of HMS Challenger shaped the course of scientific research for over a century."
-- Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City

"When HMS Challenger set out in 1872 to map and analyze the ocean floor none of its crew knew how long they'd be gone or if indeed they'd ever return. Richard Corfield has brought their story to the surface in a riveting account that blends pure science with sheer adventure."
-- Sherry Sontag, co-author of Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage

"One hundred years to the day that HMS Challenger left Portsmouth, the Apollo 17 crew returned home after the Lunar Module Challenger had supported the 20th Century's last scientific exploration of the Moon's surface. The Silent Landscape adds a strong note of optimism that another "Challenger" will soon begin the scientific exploration of the Martian surface. And so what HMS Challenger started, continues."
-- Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut and former U.S. Senator (NM)

"The Silent Landscape is a fascinating journey through space and time. Corfield skilfully weaves together the story of the voyage of HMS Challenger with a wide-ranging history of oceanography. Written with the authentic voice of experience, it contains a wealth of intriguing detail."
-- David Sington, director of the acclaimed BBC-TV series Earth Story

About the Author
Richard Corfield is an earth scientist and science writer based at Oxford University. Educated at Bristol and Cambridge in the U.K., he is a regular feature writer for popular magazines in the natural sciences. The Silent Landscape is his second book. Professor Corfield lives in West Oxfordshire, England, with his wife and two children.



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