Pinchot South Sea Expedition

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The Pinchot South Sea Expedition[1] was a 1929 zoological expedition to the Caribbean and South Pacific led and financed by Gifford Pinchot.[2][3]

Itinerary and personnel

The expedition departed from New York City on 31 March 1929 aboard the Pinchots' yacht Mary Pinchot. Gifford Pinchot organized, financed, and led the expedition, which collected zoological specimens (and a few botanical specimens) for the U.S. National Museum of Natural History.[3] The captain was Frederick A. Brown of Port Jefferson, New York,[4] and the chief engineer was Henry Christensen.[3] Aboard ship, besides the captain and crew, were Gifford Pinchot, his wife Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, Gifford Pinchot, Jr. (1916–1989), and Pinchot Jr.'s schoolmate Steve Stahlnecker.[5] The expedition's photographer was Howard H. Cleaves, and its physician was J. B. Mathewson. The expedition's professional scientists were the malacologist Henry A. Pilsbry and the ornithologists A. K. Fisher and Alexander Wetmore. Harry A. Slattery accompanied the expedition from New York City to Panama. The yacht Mary Pinchot visited Key West (for a few days undergoing minor yacht repairs) and then Havana (for a one-day tourist trip). The expedition then visited Grand Cayman, the Swan Islands, Isla de Providencia and Isla de San Andrés for collecting specimens. The Mary Pinchot went through the Panama Canal and then to Cocos Island. The expedition collected in the Galápagos, Marquesas, and Tuamotus. The expedition reached its final destination, Tahiti, on October 15. Before the end of October, Pinchot's party departed Tahiti and then returned by steamer to San Francisco. By early November, Pinchot and his family were in Washington, D.C. Captain Brown and the crew of the Mary Pinchot went back through the Panama Canal and arrived at the yacht's winter station at Savannah, Georgia in December 1929.[3]

Documentary of the expedition

Howard Cleaves documented the expedition with a motion picture film that was shown in movie theaters throughout the United States.[6] Cornelia Bryce Pinchot gave free talks with showings of Cleaves's documentary film.[7]

Mordaunt Hall, a 1930s movie critic, wrote concerning Cleaves's film:

There are amazing scenes of natives jumping into the crystal waters, harpoon in hand, to land on the backs of the enormous sea bats. After plunging the weapon in them, they swim away and climb back over the boat's side. There are views of the San Bias Indians, of enormous land turtles, iguanas, sea tigers and Man-O'-War hawks.[8]

Collections and discoveries

The expedition brought back several living reptiles:

Hon. Gifford Pinchot, who cruised the Pacific on a notable expedition, brought home with him for the National Zoological Park a specimen of the almost extinct Duncan Island tortoise, a Hood Island tortoise, four Albemarle tortoises, and three land iguanas, all from the Galapagos. These are very important additions and make the collection of giant tortoises one of the finest.[9]

On Isla de Providencia, the expedition discovered a new lizard species, which Doris Cochran named Anolis pinchoti.[10][11][12]

The expedition discovered the fish species Entomacrodus corneliae, which Henry Fowler named Giffordella corneliae.[13][14]

The expedition's malacologist Pilsbry identified several new mollusk species, including the genus Giffordius (two species) and Chionopsis pinchoti.[15] Pilsbry's claim of a new species Drymaeus pinchoti is rejected in favor of the subspecies Drymaeus rufescens pinchoti; Codakia pinchoti is rejected in favor of Codakia distinguenda.[16]

A. K. Fisher and Alexander Wetmore, with the assistance of Pinchot Sr. and Jr., collected approximately 500 bird skins and skeletons and a few eggs; Fisher made detailed field notes.[17]


  1. ^ Alternate names: Gifford Pinchot South Seas Expedition (1929); Gifford Pinchot's expedition of 1929 to the South Seas; Pinchot Expedition to South Seas
  2. ^ Pinchot South Sea Expedition 1929, Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution
  3. ^ a b c d Pinchot, Gifford (1930). To the South Seas. New York City: Blue Ribbon Books.
  4. ^ Maggio, Robert; O'Hare, Earlene (2013). Port Jefferson. Arcadia Publishing. p. 39.
  5. ^ Libov, Charlotte (1 December 1985). "Steamboat is a Test for Lifelong Sailor". NY Times.
  6. ^ Night movies in the wilds: Traveling Culture - Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century, U. of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Digital Library
  7. ^ "Mrs. Pinchot to Speak". The Reading Eagle. 27 November 1931.
  8. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (24 May 1930). "Trip of Pinchots in Film. "South Seas" at the Cameo Reveals Picturesque Far-Off Scenes". NY Times.
  9. ^ "Report of the Director of the National Zoological Park for the Year Ended June 30, 1930": 84.
  10. ^ Cochran, D. (1931). "A new lizard (Anolis pinchoti ) from Old Providence Island". Journ. Washington Acad. Sci. 21 (15): 354–355.
  11. ^ Anolis pinchoti (Crab Cay Anole), IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  12. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Pinchot", pp. 207-208).
  13. ^ Fowler, Henry W. (1932). "The fishes obtained by the Pinchot South Seas Expedition of 1929, with description of one new genus and three new species". Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 80 (11878): 1–16. doi:10.5479/si.00963801.80-2906.1.
  14. ^ Species Giffordella corneliae - Nomenclature & Taxonomy - The Taxonomicon
  15. ^ Pilsbry, H.A. (1930). "Results of the Pinchot South Sea Expedition, I. Land Mollusks of the Caribbean Islands, Grand Cayman, Swan, Old Providence and St. Andrew". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 82: 221–261. JSTOR 4064071.
  16. ^ WoRMS - World Register of Marine Species - Codakia pinchoti Pilsbry & Lowe, 1932
  17. ^ Fisher, Albert K.; Wetmore, Alexander. "Report on Birds Recorded by the Pinchot Expedition of 1929 to the Caribbean and Pacific (Report No. 2876)". Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, U.S. National Museum. 79, Article 10: 1–66. doi:10.5479/si.00963801.79-2876.1.

External links

  • South Seas, release date: 1 Sep 1930, duration: 64 min., AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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