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Harriman Expedition Retraced



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Lesson Plan
Lesson Plans

Extra Credit
Instructional Guide

Extra Credit
Extra Credit


Learning About Location:
Charting the Path of the George W. Elder


Grade level: 5th through 12th

Subjects: Geography

Time Needed for Completion: Two to three class period of ninety minutes each.


  • To acquire a working knowledge of the geographical concepts: absolute location, relative location, longitude and latitude.
  • To analyze primary sources that show the physical and human characteristics of the places along the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition's route.
  • To generate route maps using sequencing skills.



  • Correlates to the standards set by the National Council of Geographic Education.
  • The World in Spatial Terms --How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective. (Standard 1)
  • Places and Regions -- The physical and human characteristics of places. (Standard 4)


  • Each student will need a copy of the outline map of Alaska with longitude and latitude lines, and the list of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition Port Stops with coordinates, and table for description of ports visited. These are included below.
  • Students will also need color paper (chart, copier, construction,) and color markers, cardboard and scissors
  • For the class, the teacher should prepare a transparency of the list of ports visited by the Elder during the Harriman Expedition and Coordinates. Included below.
  • Overhead Projector
  • Computers with Internet access.



This lesson plan introduces or reviews the concepts of location, both absolute and relative, longitude and latitude. Students will plot a map with the coordinates of the port stops and places visited by the Harriman Expedition to Alaska in 1899. After charting their course, students will be asked to take on the role of aspiring cartographers. Using narratives written by actual expedition members, they will make a route map of the expedition.

Part I Introduction

1. Introduce the terms absolute and relative location to students. (15-20 minutes)

  • Absolute: The exact location given with respect to a know origin or place and uses a standard measurement system such as longitude and latitude coordinates.
  • Relative: A location described solely in reference to another location.
  • Note to teacher: Procedures 2-5 are designed to help students understand the concept of absolute location. Procedures 6- 8 are designed to help students understand the concept of relative location.

2. Introduce the terms longitude and latitude to students. (15-25 minutes)

Longitude and latitude are sets of imaginary lines that slice the Earth into sections. Using these imaginary lines, you can locate any point on the Earth and know its absolute location. Lines of latitude are called parallels, and lines of longitude are called meridians.


Any two places that are on diametrically opposite sides of the Earth are called antipodes.

The North and South Poles are antipodes.

Can you find another set of antipodes?

Latitude: Lines of latitude, parallels, circle the globe horizontally. Latitude describes your position, north or south in relation to the equator. The equator is at 0 degrees latitude. North Pole at 90 degrees north and the South Pole at 90 degrees south. Each degree of latitude is about 69 miles apart and they never meet.

Longitude: Lines of longitude, meridians, run vertically from the North Pole to the South Pole. Meridians are used to describe a position and measure distances in degrees east or west of the Prime Meridian, which runs through Greenwich, England. Meridians extend for 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west around the globe and meet at the International Date Line.

3. Demonstrate how to use coordinates to find the location of places on a map. (10-15 minutes)

  • Using the overhead projector place the outline map transparency of the US on screen and practice finding the location of the following US cities. (Appendix 3)
  • 87°68'W, 41°84'N - Chicago, Illinois 71°02'W, 42°34'N - Boston, Massachusetts
  • 76°71’W, 37°27’N - Williamsburg, Virginia 122°35’W, 47°62’N - Seattle, Washington
  • 149°18’W, 61°19N - Anchorage, Alaska 99°50’W, 27°55’N - Laredo, Texas

4. Individual practice and reinforcement (20-30 minutes)

  • Distribute the outline map of Alaska with the coordinates of the port stops made by the 1899 Harriman Expedition to Alaska.
  • Have students work individually to plot coordinates on the outline map, then in confer in pairs before the teacher reveals a map with the plotted coordinates to the entire class for comparison, correction, and adjustments.

5. Identifying ports through the use of primary source descriptions (25-40 minutes)

  • Divide the class into groups and give each group a description of one port to research their port (Internet, atlas, books, etc.) to match their description to one of the locations visited by the G.W. Elder during the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition.(Appendix 4)
  • As groups become confident that they have identified their port, have them place their descriptions next to their port on a large map of Alaska.

6. Making a route map (35-45 minutes)

  • Though not so precise as in location maps, route maps, such as those created by religious pilgrims in the Middle Ages used strips of paper with their routes shown in straight lines. Route maps are read from bottom to top.
  • Have the class look at the Chart of Lands and Coasts found on the Expedition Maps page of this site. This is not a conventional route map, but it does have elements of one, including illustrations and symbols.
  • Using the class map with/descriptions of the different stages of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition and a chronological journal of their journey, make a note of the landscape (landmarks such as mountains, forests, rivers, and glaciers), communities (towns/villages/cultures), and wildlife or anything else of interest.

7. Draw a waterway down the middle of a large piece of chart paper.

Decide on a symbol to represent the Elder and make one for each major port stop during the expedition. You will need to determine how and if you want to denote the passage of time on your route map.

8. Starting at the bottom of your map, add paper/cardboard symbols depicting the different stages of the 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition. Example: symbols for Skagway might include mining equipment, bars or nuggets of gold, or structures representing a town.


  • Students will be assessed on their ability to accurately plot the longitude and latitude coordinates of the port stops made by the G.W. Elder.
  • Students will also receive points (rubric) for participating in the cooperative group assignment: identifying ports through the use of primary source descriptions
  • Students will receive a grade for their route map. Be sure to check that they have placed the events in the correct sequence


  • Draw a route map for another expedition.
  • Have students list their places of birth, and plot latitude and longitude for these locations.


  • Alaska in Maps, Printed Atlas by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 2000; CD-ROM by the Alaska Geographic Alliance, Institute of the North, 2000.
  • GIS for Schools and Libraries, Version 5 - ArcVoyager; CD-ROM by Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc., 1999.
  • Goetzmann, William and Sloan, Kay, Looking Far North: The Harriman Expedition to Alaska, 1899, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1982.
  • Siegel, Alice and McLoone, Margo, Kid’s Almanac of Geography, Blackbirch Press, Inc., Connecticut, © 2000
  • The Encyclopedia of D-I-S-C-O-V-E-R-Y and Invention, “MAPS: Plotting Places on the Globe”, Lucent Books, Inc., California, 1995.

Prepared by Deanne S. Shiroma, Manokotak School, Manokotak, Alaska


1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition Port Stops


Cape Fox

131° W
55° N


134° W
58° N

Kodiak Island

152° W
57° N

New Metlakahtla

131° W
55° W

Shumagin Islands

160° W
55° N


135° W
57° N


135° W

St. Lawrence Island

170° W
63° N

St. Matthew Island

172° W
60° N

St. Paul & Pribilofs

170° W
57° N


166° W
53° N

Glacier Bay

Prince William Sound

Outline Map of Alaska

outline map of alaska

Source: Alaska in Maps
Click image for a larger view.




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

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