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Harriman Expedition Retraced



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Historic Maps from the Harriman Expedition

The scientific reports of the Harriman Alaska Expedition included maps and charts showing the expedition route and geographical features of the coast. These, along with thousands of photographic images, give scientists today a geographic baseline by which they can assess changes in Alaska's coast. As with most scientific expeditions, the surveys and resulting maps were based on the work of earlier surveys and on the findings during the expedition itself.

1895 Map of Alaska

1895 map of AK

1895 Map of Alaska. Source: 1895 U.S. Atlas.
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Map of the 1899 Route

The map showing the Elder's course was prepared using maps published by the United States Coast Survey and the U. S. Geological Survey. Geographer Henry Gannett traced the route onto an existing document.

Map of Harriman Route

The route of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899. By Henry Gannett and the U. S. Geological Survery. Source: Library of Congress.
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Glacial Maps

Map artist Gilbert Thompson drew the map showing the Hubbard and Turner Glaciers at the head of Disenchantment Bay, near Yakutat. The map is based on surveys made by Henry Gannett on June 21 and 22, 1899; Thompson gleaned additional information on the glaciers from the Canadian International Boundary Commission.

Hubbard and Turner glacier map

The Hubbard and Turner Glaciers, 1899. By Gilbert Thompson. Source: Library of Congress
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The Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound was surveyed by G. K. Gilbert from June 25 to 28, 1899. Gilbert took readings from the lower end of the glacier, and drew upon mineralogist Charles Palache's study of the details of the area. The map shows the bay at high tide; at low tide, Heather Island is joined to islands north of it by mud flats, and extensive shoals are bared along the northeast coast of the bay.


Columbia Glacier map

Columbia Glacier, 1899. By Gilbert Thompson. Source: National Archives.
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By 1899, Muir Glacier had been studied, photographed and charted for decades. This map, prepared by Henry Gannett during the Harriman Expedition, draws on almost twenty years of description and survey to show the position of the front of the glacier at various dates. The chart lines show that the glacier had retreated 1.6 miles in nineteen years, with one period of advancement taking place between 1890 and 1892.

Muir glacier map

Map of northern part of Muir Glacier. Source: National Archives.
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Harriman Railroad Map 1900

1900 rail map

Within a year of the Alaska Expedition, E. H. Harriman's railway empire stretched 25,000 miles, from Illinois to California. He owned and operated the Illinois Central, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific lines, and attempted to gain control of the Burlington, but in this he did not succeed. Source: Rutledge Historical Atlas.
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Chart of Lands and Coasts of Alaska

Chart of Lands and Coasts

Chart of Lands and Coasts of Alaska in North America.
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"More than a century ago Malaspina, the Spanish navigator, entered Yakutat Bay in search of the Northwest Passage. Sailing up the bay and finding that open water extended far inland, he for a time thought that for him had been reserved the fame and satisfaction of discovering the long- sought route through the North American continent. His dream was short, however, for on nearing the bend at the bay he found his way blocked by a solid wall of ice. This ice was the front of the combined Hubbard and Turner Glaciers."

Henry Gannett, writing in The Harriman Alaska Series, Vol. II.

"At eight o'clock last evening Mr. Harriman, Dr. Moore, Grinnell, Trudeau and I landed on Muir Glacier and set out afoot to visit a valley which Muir calls Hollowing Valley, and Reed on his map Endicott Valley. It is a narrow valley on the southeast edge of Muir Glacier and about eighteen miles from shore. At first we clamored over the exceedingly singular lateral moraine for several miles, going up and down on slippery masses of partly buried ice."

C. Hart Merriam's diary entry for June 9, 1899, describing the early hours of the arduous hike to Howling Valley.


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

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