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Detail of Lisbon today
 

Challenger left Portsmouth, England and began her historic voyage of scientific discovery on December 21, 1872. She would be gone for four years, and travel 68,900 miles before returning in May of 1876. Joseph Matkin was just 18.

We expect to sail on Saturday next for Lisbon, and if we make haste shall most likely be there fore Christmas.

Joseph Matkin would spend four Christmases on the Challenger expedition, the first, Christmas 1872 just off Cape Finisterre (Cabo Finisterre), Spain.

Literally Cape Land's End, Cape Finisterre is a rock-bound peninsula in the north-west of Spain where, in 1747 during the War of the Austrian Succession, the English won a naval battle against the French; and again in 1805, in the Napoleonic Wars.  Challenger apparently made insufficient haste to reach Lisbon by Christmas as Matkin had hoped:

We had a miserable X.mas as far as the weather was concerned for the ship was pitching & rolling awfully & we had to hang on to our crockery ware like grim death, several of the messes lost all their crockery but we only lost a few cups & a pot of jam & a bottle of Pickles that broke & got mixed together. Our mess fared as well as any on X.mas day--for we had Ham for Breakfast & a good meat Pie & Plum Pudding for dinner; we made our pudding on X.mas eve; everyone did something towards it.

We had a short service in the morning, the Captain officiates for we are not allowed a Chaplain, only Ships carrying 295 men & upwards are allowed a chaplain & we have only 242 on board. In the evening the Captain gave every one of the Ships company one third of a pint of Sherry & very good wine it was. If the 3 or 4 ensuing X.mas's which we are to spend in the "Challenger" are no worse, we shan't hurt.

 

Lisbon Roads
January 8th, 1873
The town except in the principal streets is very dirty & ill-paved, it smells beastly of Garlic--so do the people; the town is well lighted with gas & there are omnibus's & cabs, drawn chiefly by mules--as big as horses, drays & heavy carts are drawn by oxen. The Cathedral & several of the churches are beautiful buildings all built of white stone, & the Bells are very good ones...the Cathedral is something like St. Pauls in London--with the dome & towers but of course not as large, there is a ball & cross on the top & being of white stone it looks cleaner than St. Pauls especially when the sun shines on it.