CONTENTdm, along with all of OCLC's services, will be down approximately 15 hours for a system upgrade. This will occur from 9:00pm PST on Friday, January 2, to around noon on Saturday, January 3.

C. Hart Merriam's Expedition Description

Explore Collection
Tlingit carvings and masks
2 members of expedition pose with Tlingit carvings

"In the early spring of 1899 Mr. Edward Harriman of New York, in cooperation with the Washington Academy of Sciences but entirely at his own expense, organized an expedition to Alaska. He invited as his guests three artists and twenty-five men of science, representing various branches of research and including well-known professors in universities in both sides of the continent, and leaders in several branches of Government scientific work. Those from the east left New York by special train May 23, 1899; those from the far west joined the party at Portland and Seattle a week later. In crossing the continent side trips were made to Shoshone Falls, Boise City, and Lewiston, Idaho. At Lewiston the party was met by a special steamer and conveyed down the canyon of Snake River to its mouth in the Columbia, where the train was in waiting."

"The expedition sailed from Seattle May 30, on the steamship 'Geo. W. Elder,' especially chartered for the purpose, and was gone just two months. From Puget Sound to Juneau and Lynn Canal the vessel threaded her way northward among the forested islands and fiords of the 'inside passages'; at Sitka she entered the open ocean and took a northwesterly course in front of the stupendous glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Fairweather and St. Elias ranges; at Cook Inlet she changed her course from northwest to southwest and skirted the Alaska peninsula and Aleutian Islands, touching the emerald shores of Kadiak and the Shumagins; at Unalaska she again turned her prow northward, entered the troubled waters and treacherous fogs of Bering Sea, called at Bogoslof Volcano, the Pribilof or Fur-Seal Islands, and the islands of Hall, St. Matthew, and St. Lawrence; and finally, after visiting Eskimo settlements on both the Asiatic and American coasts, and peering poleward through Bering Strait -- the gateway to the Arctic -- she put about and began the homeward voyage."

"On the northward voyage the Colonial Museum at Victoria, Vancouver Island, was visited, and a side trip was made from Skagway, at the head of Lynn Canal, to the summit of White Pass, by way of the newly contructed White Pass and Yukon railroad, whose officials courteously placed a special train at our disposal."

Members of the expedition bartering with the Eskimos
Members bartering with the Eskimos

"During the two months' cruise a distance of nine thousand miles was traversed. Frequent landings were made, and, now matter how brief, were utilized by the artists, geographers, geologists, botanists, zoologistsm, and students of glaciers. From time to time longer stops were made and camping parties were put ashore that more thorough work might be done. Thus one or more camping parties operated at Glacier Bay, Yakutat Bay, Prince Willima Sound, Kadiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, and the Shumagin Islands. Large and important collections were made, including series of the small mammals and birds of the coast region, enormous numbers of marine animals and seaweeds, and by far the largest collection of insects and land plants ever brought from Alaska. There were also small collections of fossil shells and fossil plants. In working up this material the services of more than fifty specialists have been secured, and while the task is by no means finished, thirteen genera and nearly six hundred species new to science have been already discovered and described. The natural history specimens have not merely enriched our museums, they have increased many fold our knowledge of the fauna and flora of Alaska."

"Native settlements were visited at various places -- of Indians along the southwest coast form British Columbia to Yakutat Bay, of Eskimo and Aleuts from Prince William Sound northward and westward. The shortness of the stops precluded serious ethnological studies; still numerous articles of interest were secured, and a series of photographs of permanent value was obtained. Among the latter, those showing the camps of Indian seal-hunters in Glacier and Yakutat Bays, and those of the Eskimo settlement at Plover Bay, Siberia, are worthy of special mention. These Eskimo were living in primitive fashion, clad in furs and dwelling in skin huts or topeks."

"A number of glaciers not previously known, as well as many others which had been vaguely or imperfectly known, were mapped, photographed, and described, and much evidence was gathered of changes that have occurred in their length and size. In many instances it was possible to compare their condition and extent in 1899 with earlier records, so as to discover and measure the changes; and in all cases their relations to neighboring featuures were photographed or otherwise recorded, so that future changes may be readily determined. In Prince William Sound a new fiord fifteen miles in length and abounding in glaciers was discovered, photographed, and mapped. Its entrance, hidden by the huge projecting from of Barry Glacier, was disclosed by accident while we were attempting to photograph the land attachments of the glacier. In honor of the expedition it was named Harriman Fiord."

"Owing to the great distances covered and the necessarily short time allowed for stops little hunting was done. Nevertheless two hunting parties were landed at Kadiak Island, where Mr. Harriman had the good fortune to kill a Kadiak bear, the only one secured by the Expedition and the first ever measured and photographed in the flesh..." (six paragraphs ommitted)

Reid Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska
Reid Glacier, Glacier Bay, Alaska

"The Expedition was favored with unusually fine weather, so that on either the outward or return voyage practically all parts of the coast from Puget Sound to Unalaska, including the splendid peaks of the St. Elias and Fairweather ranges and the great mountains of the Alaska peninsula, were clearly seen from the steamer."

"The large number of photographs taken by the professional photographers on board was materially increased by cameras belonging to various members of the Expedition, and in all not less than five thousand photographs were secured. These cover many parts of the coast region from British Columbia to Bering Strait, and constitute incomparably the best series of the region thus far obtained..." (five paragraphs omitted)

C. Hart Merriam, Washington D.C., June 15, 1901.1


1 Harriman Alaska Expedition (1889). Alaska. New York: Doubleday, Page, c.1901-1905; v. 1, pp. xxv-xxxi.


Follow Us:

Follow our Blog Twitter Flickr Support Digital Initiatives. Make a Gift.