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The 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced
Werner Zehnder, January 2001
More than a hundred years ago, a small steamship set sail from Seattle, bound for Alaska's wild coastal waterways and the annals of history. The ship was the George W. Elder; at her helm stood the venerable Edward H. Harriman, an east coast railroad man who had organized an unprecedented scientific expedition to a world as far removed from turn-of-the-century industrialized New York as one could possibly imagine.
Today, Zegrahm Expeditions is preparing to embark on a modern-day voyage to retrace the famous Harriman Expedition of 1899.
Following in the wake of the original voyage, we will combine the quintessential Alaskan experience - spectacular bays, breaching humpback whales, towering mountain peaks, soaring bald eagles, glacial ice crashing into the sea - with the pioneering spirit of a man who enriched our view of the natural world.
In the late 1890s, Harriman was instructed by his physician to take some time off for a family vacation. Enticed by the remoteness of the land up north, Harriman set his sights on Alaska. He chartered the S.S. George M. Elder for the voyage, but felt it was too large to accommodate just his family. An idea began to brew in his head. He organized a complete scientific expedition in hopes of gathering information for the benefit of others and to gain recognition and respect from his peers. The seed of his idea blossomed into a journey that made front-page headlines all across the country.
Harriman's passenger manifest included an impressive mix of experts from the worlds of natural history, science and art.
Just as with the Harriman voyage, the 2002 Zegrahm manifest will include scientists and representatives from major universities and institutions, including Harvard Museum of Natural History, the National Audubon Society, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Careful planning of the itinerary will bring passengers to some of the most important sites of the original voyage - the Pribilof fur seal rookery, several indigenous villages in Alaska and the Russian Far East, the volcanoes of Bogoslof Island, and the railroad at Skagway. One of the goals of the new expedition is to assess the environmental impacts at these sites after a century of change. In essence, the expedition will reopen a precious time capsule of scientific data, photographs, illustrations, and observations made by scientists and naturalists 100 years ago.
You can be part of an exclusive group of 110 passengers who will participate in this history-making voyage aboard the Clipper Odyssey. The itinerary has been designed in two segments. The first sails from Prince Rupert, B.C. on July 8, 2002 bound for Homer, Alaska stopping along the coast at such places as Cape Fox, Glacier Bay, Yakutat and Prince William Sound to explore Harriman Fjord, which was discovered on the 1899 voyage. The second leg of the journey embarks from Homer on July 21 and sails along the Alaska Peninsula, including Kodiak Island, and north to the Arctic Circle, ending in Nome.
Come join us as we celebrate the true spirit of exploration, retracing the route of one of the great adventurers of our time.