The 120m long Glomar Challenger was a deep sea research and scientific drilling vessel for oceanography and marine geology studies. It was designed by Global Marine Inc. (now Transocean Inc.) specifically for a long term contract with the American National Science Foundation and University of California, Scripps and built by Levingston Shipbuilding Company in Orange, Texas. Launched on March 23, 1968, the vessel was owned and operated by the Global Marine corporation. The Glomar Challenger was given its name as a tribute to the accomplishments of the oceanographic survey vessel HMS Challenger. Glomar is a truncation of Global Marine.
Starting from August 1968, the ship embarked on a 15 year-long scientific expedition, the Deep Sea Drilling Program, criss-crossing the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between South America and Africa and drilling core samples at specific locations. When the age of the samples was determined by paleontologic and isotopic dating studies, this provided conclusive evidence for the seafloor spreading hypothesis, and, consequently, for continental drift.
In 1970, when doing research in the Mediterranean Sea under the supervision of Kenneth Hsu, geologists aboard the vessel brought up drill cores containing gypsum, anhydrite, rock salt, and various other evaporite minerals that often form from drying of brine or seawater. These were the first solid evidence for the ancient desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea, the Messinian salinity crisis.
After being in operation for fifteen years the Glomar Challenger was taken out of active duty in November 1983 and was later scrapped. In 1985 its successor, the JOIDES Resolution, was launched.