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Harriman Expedition Retraced


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The Technology of Harriman Retraced

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Expedition guide

Allan White, assistant expedition leader for Harriman Retraced, fairly bristles with technology not available to the original Harriman Expedition. He is wearing polarized plastic sunglasses, a waterproof jacket made with synthetic material, a battery-operated, computerized wristwatch, a portable radio, and a low-profile lifejacket that automatically fills with carbon dioxide gas if it gets wet. When the photo was taken he was trying to win a beer by correctly guessing the distance to a glacier, checking his guess with a battery-powered GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver. About the only item available in 1899 would have been his baseball cap -- worn by baseball players, not expedition guides. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).

Plant press

This tool, a portable press for preserving samples of vegetation, would have been quite at home with the original Harriman Alaska Expedition. Made of wood, leather and twine (though the twine is a modern synthetic), it is still as practical, portable, and useful as it was 100 years ago. The color newspaper photos on the pages used in the press, on the other hand, would have caused a sensation. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).


Thirteen year old Elizabeth Litwin, one of the Young Explorers on the expedition, collected a series of environmental readings every day. In this photo she is recording the atmospheric pressure from the barometer located on the bridge. While the instrument is modern, the captain of the G.W. Elder would not have found it too surprising. (Photo by Megan Litwin).

Computer lab

Artist Kesler Woodward (front) and forest ecologist Paul Alaback work at night to add to the Harriman Retraced Web site. During the Harriman Retraced voyage in 2001, a computer lab, complete with Web server, was set up in the ship's library, allowing scholars, students and passengers to prepare lectures, notes, and research findings, and follow the progress of the voyage on the Web site. While computers hadn't been invented at the time of the original expedition, at least a quarter of the participants in 2001 brought some kind of computer. (Photo by Megan Litwin).

Oil spill kit

A hundred years ago, passengers and crew aboard the G.W. Elder though nothing of throwing trash and debris overboard, and were not overly concerned by the pollution from their coal-fired engines. A century later, the fragility of the environment is much better understood, and the Clipper Odyssey stored trash onboard, and disposed of it in port. Similarly, this oil spill kit was positioned on deck, at the ready in case some accident leads to a fuel spill. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).

Salinity test

Young scientist and student Elizabeth Litwin collects seawater samples and then tests the salinity of the water. She is using a handheld electronic probe, a technology unimagined a century ago. The salinity of this seawater is very low due to the influx of fresh water from nearby rivers and glaciers. On average, salt water has a salinity of 30 psu. (Photo by Megan Litwin).

Clipper Odyssey

The iron-hulled, coal-powered G.W. Elder was a fitting vessel for the 1899 expedition, and also a startling contrast to the gleaming white, steel and aluminum, diesel-powered Clipper Odyssey of 2001. Shown here in Harriman Fjord, the Clipper Odyssey is packed with electronic navigational aids, central heating and air conditioning, and other wonders not available to the original expedition. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).

PDA temperature

Along with collecting the salinity of the seawater, Elizabeth Litwin takes the temperature of the water using a handheld computer connected to a probe that goes in the water. On the original expedition there were no female scientists, so in addition to the technology, the presence of Elizabeth as well as several other female scientists represent a profound change from the expedition in 1899. (Photo by Megan Litwin).

Film test

Photographs are one of the enduring legacies of the original Harriman Alaska Expedition. But all the photos from 1899 are black and white stills. A century later, Harriman Retraced brought a documentary film crew to Alaska, equipped with modern film and video cameras. In this photo, cameraman Allen Moore is shown with Jonas Parker, a member of the Young Explorers Team, getting color balance readings for his film camera. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA)

Wet/dry temp

Elizabeth Litwin is seen here reading the thermometer and recording both the wet and dry air temperature. Unlike many of the other instruments used in 2001, this technology is basically unchanged since the voyage of the G. W. Elder in 1899. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).


Compared to the coal-powered wooden launches used by the original Harriman Alaska Expedition, modern Zodiacs, with their gasoline outboard motors and inflatable hulls, are incredibly light, fast and maneuverable. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).


Repairing lines is an ancient chore for all sailors, and it hasn't changed much over the centuries. The iron spike, cloth gloves and wooden mallet would be quite at home on the G.W. Elder, though the synthetic materials used in these Clipper Odyssey lines are a product of the 20th century. (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA).


Clipper Odyssey bridge

The bridge of the Clipper Odyssey differs greatly from that of the G.W. Elder. Higher off the water, with more glass, it offers much better visibility, in addition to all the electronic communications and navigation tools. (QuickTime format, 320 x 240 pixels, 9 seconds, 1.8 megabytes. RealVideo alternative). (Photo by National Ocean Service, NOAA)




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

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