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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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The 2001 Expedition: Harriman Retraced


In 1899, the railroad tycoon Edward Harriman assembled an elite crew of scientists and artists and took them on a two-month survey of the Alaskan coast. In 2001, nineteen scientists, writers and artists retraced the expedition, observing anew the sites visited by Harriman's scouting parties century ago. The 2001 expedition, a project of the Clark Science Center of Smith College, took place aboard the M/V Clipper Odyssey, a 340-foot ocean-going vessel. Travelers on this trip followed the same route as the 1899 expedition, and used the 13 volumes of Harriman Expedition information as benchmarks for measuring change along the Alaska coast.

Clipper Odyssey ship

The Clipper Odyssey.
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They did, of course, see many differences. Alaska itself has changed; it is far more familiar to those who live outside its borders. It is the 49th state, home to more than 500,000 American citizens, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Cruise ships, commercial air liners, charter flights and the state ferry system all make it possible for visitors from other states, and from around the world, to visit Alaska's once remote coast.

american legion

Two members of the American Legion in Kodiak, Alaska celebrate the Fourth of July. Photographed in 1999 by Larry Hott.
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A second striking difference can be seen in the members of the two expedition teams. In Harriman's day, there were few scientists who knew much about Alaska. In 2001, several of the participants were themselves Alaskan; others had spent years there, researching and writing about Alaska. All of the participants in the original expedition were male. Not so today, as women made up one-half of the 2001 roster. But for all their differences, the two expedition teams resembled each other closely in one way: they were both carefully selected to give a broad and balanced report on their findings as they journey along Alaska's coast.

Smith Glacier

The Smith Glacier, photographed by Larry Hott in 1999.
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pomarine jaeger

Pomarine Jaeger


The Pomarine jaeger, painted by Louis Agassiz Fuertes from a specimen collected at Yakutat Bay on June 20, 1899.

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deck of the elder

Members of the Harriman Expedition on the deck of the Elder, photographed by Edward Curtis.
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"The Harriman expedition has done good service not only in recorded results, but in indicating the richness of the field that remains to be explored... there are room and material for study in Alaska for many more expeditions."

Israel C. Russell writing in Science, May 20, 1904.








"Bug hunters, mole catchers, and trappers of mice,
Diggers of worms and experts on ice,
Pickers of posies, and pounders of rock,
Bird whistlers and skinners, quite a flock.
Some to hunt monsters and weeds of the sea
and there was one at least who could climb up a tree."

Frederick Dellenbaugh, describing the Harriman Expedition participants in a humorous poem entitled "A Fin de Siecle Hunt," 1899.

 

For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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