Logo header

Harriman Expedition Retraced
image map


The book, The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced; a Century of Change (pdf), published by Rutgers University Press is now available at online and local bookstores. Through original essays, art, poetry, and photography this volume is a must read for anyone traveling to Alaska or who seeks to understand the crossroads between modern Alaska, American history, wilderness conservation, and the uncharted future that lies ahead.

The Harriman Educators’ Package is available to schools and not-for profit organizations. The package contains a CD of the website, VHS tape of the film, and an instructional guide. To obtain the package, send a request on official letterhead and include a check for $9.95 payable to Smith College/Harriman, for shipping & handling, to: Harriman Educators, Burton Hall 117, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063.

To purchase a copy of the film please see: www.bullfrogfilms.com, 1-800-543-3764

Harriman Retraced is featured in the June 2003 Smithsonian Magazine. Read the article...

2001 Expedition | 1899 Expedition | Expedition Maps | Expedition Log |
After the Expedition | For Educators & Students | The Documentary Film | A Century of Change

Book (PDF)


Table of Contents | About This Site | References | Harriman Links | Contact Us | Acknowledgments


Welcome Aboard

zodiac tour

In 2001, scientists use outboard motor powered inflatable Zodiacs to explore the Alaskan coast, replacing the canoes and naphtha launches of 1899.

The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced.
On July 22, 2001 over two dozen scientists, artists, and writers left Prince Rupert, British Columbia on the Harriman Expedition Retraced. The Clipper Odyssey followed the itinerary of E. H. Harriman's lavishly-outfitted George W. Elder, sailing through the Inside Passage, the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Archipelago, and northward through the Bering Sea. Four weeks later, on August 20, the travelers made their final stop in Nome. Join the trip via the Expedition Log, and learn more about the changes that have taken place on Alaska's coast during the past century.

Smith College, in collaboration with Florentine Films/Hott Productions, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, Alaska Geographic Alliance, and PBS is pleased to bring you on an oceanic adventure to one of the world's great wilderness areas.

The Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. One day in March 1899, Edward H. Harriman strode briskly into the office of C. Hart Merriam, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey. Without appointment or introduction, Harriman launched into a grand plan for an expedition along the coast of Alaska. Merriam, skeptical, listened politely, and, when Harriman left, checked the man's credentials. He soon learned that E.H. Harriman was a highly respected railway magnate, who had the financial resources and the talent to realize such a grand scheme.

Within days, the two men were working feverishly on the necessary details: refitting of a ship, recruiting of a score of the nation's leading scientists, and plotting a route from Alaska's panhandle to the Bering Strait. The expedition became famous even before the ship, the S.S. George W. Elder, set sail. A crowd of onlookers cheered the departure from Seattle on May 31, 1899. Newspapers all over the world featured the story on their front pages.

Chart of Lands and Coasts

A map drawn by 1899 expedition participants Gannett, Dellenbaugh, and Fuertes, depicting the route of the S.S. George W. Elder

History has shown that the Harriman Alaska Expedition lived up to all expectations: genera and species new to science were described, fossil species newly recorded, natural history collections created, and the Harriman Fiord surveyed for the first time. By any standard, the world's scientific and environmental portrait of Alaska was greatly enriched as a result of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition.


In 1899 Edward Harriman assembled a distinguished team of scientists and artists and took them on a two-month survey of the Alaska Coast. The scientists produced
twelve volumes of data that took twelve years to compile.

In the Harriman Expedition Retraced, scientists, naturalists and artists are observing anew the sites visited by Harriman's scouting parties a century ago. At the heart of the new expedition is the 100-year Harriman benchmark that can be used to assess our relationship with the natural world and society's current and future needs.

"I never cared for money except as power for work... What I most enjoy is the power of creation, getting into partnership with nature in doing good, helping to feed man and beast, and making everybody and everything a little better and happier."

E.H. Harriman to John Muir aboard the George W. Elder.