Henry Honychurch Gorringe was born in the British colony of Barbados on August 11, 1841. His father served as rector to St. Michael's Cathedral. Young Henry came to the United States at a young age, entering the merchant marine.
During the Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Navy, entering on July 13, 1862, with the rank of Mate, serving in the Mississippi Squadron. He received promotion to Acting Ensign on October 1, 1862, to Acting Master on September 26, 1863, to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant on April 27, 1864, and to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander on July 10, 1865. Gorringe elected to stay in the Navy after the war, receiving a regular commission as a Lieutenant on March 12, 1868, and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on December 18, 1868.
Gorringe discovered the underwater mountain range now known as the Gorringe Sea Bank in 1875, while commanding the exploration vessel Gettysburg. That same year he compiled a book on the exploration of the Río de la Plata, published by the U.S. Hydrographic Office. He served in the Mediterranean in 1876-1878.
In 1879, Gorringe put in an application for the contract to remove the obelisk of Thutmosis III from Alexandria to Central Park. His was the only complete plan, and in August 1879, he was granted the contract, for which he was to be paid $75,000.
Gorringe and his assistant, Seaton Schroeder, left for Europe to purchase materials and then went to Alexandria to be about the business of moving the obelisk. While in Egypt, Gorringe encountered local opposition, diplomatic obstruction from European countries, technical problems, and obstruction from local authorities. He was able to overcome them all and successfully departed from Alexandria on June 12, 1880. They arrived in Staten Island on July 20, right on schedule.
Gorringe had to commission a special railway to carry the 200 ton obelisk from the shipyards to Central Park. It was finally erected on January 22, 1881.
Gorringe wrote Egyptian Obelisks, a book about the expedition to retrieve the obelisk and a study of the other standing obelisks in Paris and London. He resigned from the navy on February 21, 1883. He died on July 7, 1885, the result of an accident the previous winter while jumping from a moving train. His friend erected a miniature copy of Cleopatra's Needle over Gorringe's grave. He is buried in Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill, New York.Humorist Arthur Guiterman referenced Gorringe as a rhyme for "orange" in his poetry:
The novel Prophet of the Sun, by Russell Blanchard Smith, features Gorringe as a major character in a series of dream sequences.