Crocker Land Expedition (1913-1917) Historical Note
by Traci Faughnan, November 2011

Preliminary plans of Crocker Land map, undated (detail)

During a 1905-1906 Arctic expedition, Rear Admiral Robert Peary believed he discovered a previously unknown landmass off the western coast of Ellesmere Island in Northern Canada and named it after the expedition’s benefactor, George Crocker.  In early 1912, Donald Baxter MacMillan and George Borup, who was assistant curator of geology at the American Museum of Natural History, began preparations to co-lead an expedition in search of Crocker Land; however Mr. Borup unexpectedly died in the spring of 1912.  Plans for the expedition were postponed until the following year, while a new team was organized and additional financial support was raised from the University of Illinois and the American Geographical Society.  The final team consisted of Donald B. MacMillan, leader and ethnologist; Fitzhugh Green, engineer and physicist; W. Elmer Ekblaw, geologist and botanist; Maurice C. Tanquary, Ph.D., zoologist; Harrison J. Hunt, M.D., surgeon; Jerome Lee Allen, wireless operator; and Jonathan C. Small, mechanic and general aid.  The AMNH Curator, Edmund Otis Hovey, served as Chairman of the Committee in Charge.

When the expedition team departed from the Brooklyn Navy Yard aboard the SS “Diana” on July 2, 1913 their mission was to discover the location of Crocker Land, as well as, perform scientific research in geology, botany, ornithology, meteorology, and ethnology in the Arctic.  In the spring of 1914, Mr. MacMillan and Mr. Green travelled over 400 miles across ice and land from their headquarters in Etah, Greenland to finally locate Crocker Land; however, they discovered that the purported landmass was only a mirage.

The AMNH received letters from the expedition team requesting a relief ship be sent to retrieve them in the summer of 1915.  The schooner “George B. Cluett” was sent with Dr. Hovey in charge of the mission in July 1915.  However, extremely bad ice conditions made sea travel difficult and delayed the return of Dr. Hovey, Mr. MacMillan, Dr. Hunt, and Mr. Small with the expedition collections and equipment for two years.  Dr. Tanquary, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Ekblaw were able to sledge to Southern Greenland in the winter of 1916 and return to New York, by way of Copenhagen.

AMNH Resource Guide: Crocker Land Expedition (1913-1917)
by Joanna Rios, August 2011

The following documents describe the Crocker Land related resources within the museum. Much of the material can be found in the AMNH Research Library, however correspondence and field notebooks are also located in the AMNH Mammalogy Archives. Click on the links below to open the PDF files.

Published findings
Books and articles.

Photographic prints
Print collections and photograph lists and indexes.

Rare books and archives
Field notebooks, journals, reports, financial records, correspondence, and maps.

Related collections
Archives and publications, not strictly Crocker Land.

Also visit the library catalog to see Crocker Land Expedition related holdings in the Rare Book Collection.


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