Collecting Evolution: The 1905–1906 Galapagos
Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences
Matthew J. James, Ph.D.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.
- Archives, California Academy of Sciences
June 1905, the California Academy of Sciences sent an expedition to the
Galapagos Islands to collect a broad cross-section of the archipelago’s
plants and animals. The expedition consisted of 11 men, eight young
sailor-scientists and three crewmembers, aboard the 89-foot schooner Academy.
At that time, there
was a widely held belief that the organisms, particularly the giant
tortoise, were “fast disappearing” from the islands. Unless collected,
these species would go extinct before being documented for science.
Convinced that the organisms were better dead and preserved in a museum
than left to the whims of feral animals and reckless humans, the
scientists collected as many specimens as possible. Lasting 17 months, the
expedition returned to San Francisco with over 70,000 biological
specimens, more than any Galapagos expedition in history. During the
expedition, the tragic April 18, 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the
Cal Academy on Market Street, making the Galapagos collection invaluable
for rebuilding the museum at its present location in Golden Gate Park.
At the edge of the Arctic
ice in pursuit of pingos and pockmarks