Agassiz

Notes from the Hassler archives: Peruvian skulls

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

By the end of May 1872 the Hassler deep-sea dredging expedition had reached the warm waters of Peru, the steamer anchoring in Callao, next to Lima. There once again the fame of Professor Louis Agassiz would pay off with invitations to excursions on newly built railroads up the Andes and fancy dinners that much impressed the young James H. Blake:

 

A short walk brought us there, a very large house, almost a palace. White with long marble columns or pillars in front. We first went into a room where was a servant to black our boots brush our clothes etc, then was ushered into the gentlemans drawing room [ ] When we entered there were some 20 gentlemen dress very stylish [ ] Soon we were introduced and invited to the adjoining room to a cocktail. [ ] I was called by Mr. Wigs & introduced to his daughter whom I took in to dinner. There were sixty-two in all, about ½ as many ladies as gentlemen. We had about 40 different courses and sat down at 5 and arose about 9.30. Everything the country afforded was in the table it seemed – meats, fowl, gellies, pastry many kinds and fruit, six or seven varieties.

 

Views of Lima, Peru
"Views of Lima, Peru, from the Hassler scrapbook"

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Encounters in Patagonia

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

 

As the Hassler deep-sea dredging expedition reached Patagonia and the Strait of Magellan in March 1872, getting provisions through commerce was no longer feasible, so the job was left in the hands of the ship’s crew and even of the members of the scientific party, as James H. Blake describes in these passages of his journal, written in Elizabeth Island:

 

We could see large rookeries at different places on the land where hundreds of birds were sitting and as all in the boat were anxious to get to them first it was arranged that all should land at the same time and at the word “go” fire the birds. There was a large variety of them and the cormorant (Phalaecrocorax) being the most abundant. Some of the party went one way by the shore and some the other to look for sea-lions [ ]

 

Party at the Site of Hassler Glacier
"Party at the Site of Hassler Glacier"

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Carnival in Rio

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

After being prevented from going onshore in Recife due to a yellow fever outbreak in the city, one could expect that the Hassler party would be anxious to step on land as soon as they arrived in Rio de Janeiro, on January 23rd 1872. However, they seemed to rejoice under the ship’s awning, which provided shelter from the blistering heat, and spent time observing the scenery as Blake sketched on his journal:

 

The entrance of the harbor we arrived at about 8 o’clock and I confess I am far from being able to do them justice by any description., but on either side are the lofty mountains which are very picturesque and grand. The Noted Sugar Loaf [which as the story goes only one man has ever climbed, he an American sailor who planted the Union Jack there] is situated on the left hand side a very steep rock, almost perpendicular and doe to the water, on the western side is a ridge of hills about half as high, extending against the back of it.

 

View of Rio
"View of Rio de Janeiro, from the Hassler Scrapbook"

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Notes from the Hassler archives: On tropical waters

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

As the year of 1871 was drawing to a close the Hassler steamed its way off the U.S. coast on through Caribbean waters, where the first dredging efforts were to be made. A stop by St. Thomas (one of the Virgin Islands, then a Danish colony) left the members of the expedition impressed not only with its natural beauty but also with the different customs of these first foreign peoples they encountered, as they managed to find the fish market fully operating on a Sunday:

Sunday is very little regarded here although there are a number of very small churches of different denominations. Regard for the Sabbath is much greater now than it was before the late earthquakes the people having been very much frightened at the time thinking it was their punishment. Groups were seen on any places during the earthquake singing hymns, and offering prayer.

St. Thomas harbor
“View of St. Thomas harbor with the Hassler on the left”

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Notes from the Hassler archives: Seasick!

[This post is part of a series on the archives of the 1871-1872 Hassler expedition, written by Bruno Costelini, Science without Borders intern at the Ernst Mayr Library]

Things did not look too good at the outset of the Hassler deep-sea dredging expedition. After leaving the Charlestown Navy Yard on the afternoon of December 4th, 1871, the ship had to anchor in Georges Island because of strong winds coming from S.W. accompanied by ominous clouds that looked “black and angry.” Starting again the next morning amidst the same weather, the thermometer at 20 degrees and ice “up about the bow on the rigging and mast,” a “cable broke loose and went down against the port stateroom doors” and almost all the party was seasick. [1]

The ship didn’t make much further, resting at Holmes Hole (Vineyard Haven) for a couple of days.

The Hassler steamer
"The Hassler steamer"

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Celebrating Louis Agassiz, founder of the MCZ

Naturalist, educator, and founder of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was born on May 28, 1807, in Môtier, Switzerland, the oldest son of prominent pastor Rodolphe Agassiz and Rose Mayor Agassiz. Growing up near Lake Morat, Louis was fascinated by fish, catching them barehanded along with his brother Auguste. Louis was determined to study science, although his family encouraged him to pursue medicine. He studied at the Universities of Munich, Heidelberg, and Erlangen, earning a Ph.D. in 1829 and an M.D. in 1830. His 1829 publication

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Alexander Agassiz's Expedition and Other Images Collection: An Archivist’s Process

By Gwendolyn Henry, EdM, MSLIS

Archivist and Library Assistant

Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology

Harvard University

Processing the Alexander Agassiz's Expedition and Other Images Collection (1897-1950 (bulk)), which contains 734 gelatin dry plate glass negatives, 268 film negatives and 13 photographic prints requires several key skills: strong attention to detail, the ability to do research, knowledge of descriptive metadata, and most of all a steady hand.

I started this project in April 2012 with little experience in processing glass

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Alexander Agassiz's Expedition and Other Images Collection is now accessible!

Background

The collection, which primarily documents the expeditions and work of Alexander Agassiz, a pioneer in oceanographic research and zoological investigation and curator and director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (1873-1910), consists of 734 gelatin dry plate glass negatives, 268 film negatives, and 13 photographic prints from the late 1890s through the mid-twentieth century.  The photographs were taken on the Albatross, Challenger, Croydon, and Yaralla expeditions to locations such as Easter Island, Fiji, and Australia, as well as at Agassiz’s Newport, Rhode Island, laboratory and home and at other sites.  The collection also includes images taken by Thomas Barbour (who was a student of Alexander Agassiz two decades before becoming MCZ director himself) in South America, Indonesia, Jamaica, Cuba and Florida, as well as those (chiefly zoological specimens) photographed at or for the MCZ.
Read more about Alexander Agassiz's Expedition and Other Images Collection is now accessible!