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Harriman Expedition Retraced



The 1899 Expedition
The 1899


Original Participants

Brief Chronology

Science Aboard the Elder
Aboard the

History of Exploration
Exploration &

Development Along Alaska's Coast
Growth Along Alaska's Coast

Alaska Native Communities


Charles Palache

1869 - 1954

Charles Palache was born in San Francisco in 1869. He was interested in mining, and attended college at Berkeley with an eye toward engineering, but, as he later wrote, he became "repelled at the prospect of a life in the mine." However, when one of his professors assigned him to go map the Berkeley hills visible from the classroom window, Palache discovered that this was work he loved. What's more, he was good at it. He carefully scouted and plotted everything. When he reached the top, he "found some little ponds high up on a slope and in a place that seemed unlikely for ponds to exist." He returned to the spot with his professor, and together mapped and reported on these unlikely ponds, which were in fact very early evidence of the large "rift" that eventually caused the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. He was, without even knowing it, venturing into the new science of seismology, the study of earthquakes.

Palache finished his degree in mineralogy, then traveled to Europe in 1893. He was offered a teaching job at Harvard, and was preparing to get married there on June 21, 1899, when Merriam invited him on the trip. The wedding was postponed.

Working with the other researchers of the Elder, he took many of the camping trips, including a three-day stay at Pacific Glacier with John Muir, and a ten-day stay on Popof Island. He collected specimens and made notes that would eventually be incorporated into the published reports of the trip.

His postponed wedding took place when he returned to Cambridge in the fall. He undertook the monumental task of rewriting Charles Dana's 1837 System of Mineralogy. This work spanned nearly two decades. Palache stayed on at Harvard, writing and teaching until he retired. He died in Virginia in 1954.




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

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