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In mid-March of 1873, Challenger reached St. Thomas and the New World. They remained in the area of the West Indes for several weeks. This letter to his cousin is revealing about the level of communication, and the process of receiving the news.

Dear Tom,
I received two letters from you at St. Thomas, the day after I wrote you from there, one being addressed to "Madeira", and the other "Tenerife" so that they always manage to reach us finally, and none the less welcome for the delay. I am expecting another or two by the same mail which brings this to you. I read in the papers about the "Northfleet" catastrophe. ....We get most of the newspapers sent out, and a great many magazines. "Good Words" will soon receive accounts of our doings from Professor Thompson. Did you see the picture in the "Graphic" of the King of Portugal in our ship?

Many sounding and dredging operations were conducted in the area, continuing the length of the northward journey from St. Thomas and environs to Bermuda. Matkin's interest in the success of the scientific operations bookends his report of a tragic accident resulting from these activities. In the same letter he continues:

We left St. Thomas on the evening of March 24th, under all plain sail, and the dredging & sounding at once commenced, and has continued up to our arrival here. On the 25th we obtained the deepest soundings we have had hitherto, and I believe the deepest on record, 3,875 fathoms, or about 4 1/2 miles. The dredge was hove overboard, and the strain on the line was so great when it reached the bottom, that when they commenced hauling it in it carried away an iron block that was screwed in to the Deck, and had all the strain to bear.

The block as it flew up struck a sailor boy, named Stokes, on the head, and dashed him to the deck with such a terrible force, that his thigh was broken, and spine dreadfully injured. He was carried to the Sick Bay and attended to by the Surgeons, but he was insensible the whole time, and only lived two hours. At 5 pm the next day, the Bell tolled for his funeral , all the Ship's company and the Officers and Scientific gents, attending on the Main deck....The boy came from Deal where his Father is a Channel Pilot. All his clothes and effects were sold, and the money, with his wages, a few Photos, letters, and his Bible will be sent to his friends by this same mail.

We had soundings right across and the average depth was 2,800 fathoms, nothing of importance was brought up in the Dredge. On the evening of the 1st of April they piped "Hands to Bathe" and about 80 of us went overboard and had a fine swim. A Boat was lowered to keep away Sharks& c., the water was over 3 miles in depth.

Within a few days of the tragedy, and burial of William Stokes' body at sea, Challenger finished the transit of the Sargasso Sea and reached Bermuda.