W. Elmer Ekblaw is a frequent star on this blog - Ekblaw was an important member of the Crocker Land expedition, and his family donated a large collection of his expedition materials to the Museum this past year. (This photo of him in Greenland was taken on the expedition between 1913 and 1917, striking a rather dashing pose.)

An unusual fun fact about Ekblaw: he invented Homecoming! According to the Student Life and Culture Archival Program at the University of Illinois, Ekblaw and a friend came up with the concept of a homecoming weekend in 1910 while seniors at Illinois. They agreed that a football game should be the “centerpiece” of a gathering meant to attract alumni back and proposed the idea to their student body council. Their end result was not unlike the many Homecomings that will be held all over the US this month.

Three years later, Ekblaw would be working in Greenland on the Crocker Land expedition…almost 100 years after that, Bowdoin student interns at this Museum will be working with his expedition material during their very own Homecoming week. History is really great sometimes.

So thanks for the idea, Ekblaw! 


A list of equipment from the expedition A lab table covered in journals This journal is a glossary of Inuktitut!

Another update on our awesome student interns!

It’s been a busy week for Alex and Meg. After photographing each page of Ekblaw’s journals, they have now been assigned the task of reading each book (as well as Ekblaw’s extensive correspondence from the collection) and taking notes on the content and anything out of the ordinary. Ekblaw kept a lot of notes, from scientific observations to Inuktitut glossaries to his personal daily diary. With over 30 100-year-old journals to read through and hundreds of letters, this is a lot of interesting archival work for their summer! 

For any readers who have been following our Crocker Land expedition posts, I thought I’d post a photo of the main players of the expedition! Interns Alex and Meg have been working exclusively with Crocker Land material, mostly collected from W. Elmer Ekblaw.

We feel like we know these guys pretty well, despite all of them being dead before we were born, and Alex and I had an extensive gossip session this morning in my office about this crew. Museum employees are nerds.

This photo was taken before the expedition left in 1913, probably in Brooklyn Harbor. Bottom row, L to R:

  • Harrison J. Hunt, the expedition’s surgeon. A 1902 Bowdoin grad (he also graduated from Bowdoin’s then-existant Medical College in 1905).
  • Maurice Tanqueray, zoologist.
  • W. Elmer Ekblaw, the interns’ favorite! He was the botanist, geologist, ornithologist, and pretty much the most responsible and competent scientist on the expedition. Kept a lot of great notes and journals that we’ve been reading.
  • Navy Ensign Fitzhugh Green, looking quite sulky here, was the engineer. 
  • Jerome Allen, charged with setting up a wireless connection from Borup Lodge. Luck was pretty much against Allen for four years - he was never able to set up the connection. (Poor man.) He was also the expedition’s electrician.

Top row, L to R:

  • Henry F. Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History, which sponsored the expedition. (He didn’t actually go on the trip, but posed for the photo.)
  • Edmund O. Hovey, chairman of the expedition committee and curator of geology at the AMNH. Hovey did not depart with the team in 1913, but sailed up on the relief ship that tried to fetch them in 1915…and got stranded there himself.
  • And our Museum namesake, Bowdoin 1898 grad, and the expedition’s leader, Donald MacMillan! (Wearing a very nice hat.)

Of course, there were many others involved with the expedition, including many Inuit drivers and guides. Our curator has posted a much longer description of the key players on her blog, which you can read here.

W. Elmer Ekblaw, a University of Illinois grad, was the botanist and geologist of the Crocker Land expedition. We’ve got a large collection of Crocker Land objects, notes, and photos of his, and one of my favorite things has to be his journal!

Ever the scientist, Ekblaw made a lot of notes and drawings on his Arctic observations in his personal journal. Here, you can see the drawing he made of polar bear tracks - “9 in to 12 in” wide, with a “2 ft” separation. These are “tracks when bear is not alarmed, and ambling along at a slow gait.”