A forerunner of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, marine biologist Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-1882) was born on this day in Bonsude, Linlithgow, Scotland.
Thomson was one of the first to explore the mysterious secrets of the oceans in his book Depths of the Sea (1877), a study of sea temperatures and ocean circulation.
Thomson became director aboard the famous ship HMS Challenger (1872-6), a fact-finding 3½ year circumnavigation voyage of over 68,000 nautical miles. "Never did an expedition cost so little and produce such momentous results," commented writer Ray Lancaster.
Thomson, along with a crew of 270 men, examined temperature and currents of the three great ocean basins, dredging and trawling bottom deposits and collecting marine organisms.
"The trawl... contained... many of the larger invertebrates [and] several fish," Thomson wrote in The Voyage of the Challenger (1877). "After the first attempt we tried the trawl several times at depths of 1090, 1525, and, finally, 2125 fathoms, and always with success."
Thomson called the ocean "the Land of Promise." The report of HMS Challenger's incredible findings took scientists 23 years to compile and proved that marine life existed at all depths of the ocean. This discovery sparked the ongoing quest to understand the waters of the earth.
Respect the ocean, with all her mysteries and promises.