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Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador

This Exhibit Contains 17 Items
1
First day at sea for the Bowdoin Boys, 1891

First day at sea for the Bowdoin Boys, 1891

Item 28995 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

The Bowdoin Boys took this photograph on their first day at sea. Their ship, the Julia A. Decker, left Rockland on June 27th, 1891.

The schooner, built in Keyport, New Jersey, in 1860, proved to be steady and reliable. However, Rupert H. Baxter's report in the Portland Weekly Advertiser suggests the expedition members might have hoped for a swifter vessel.

On July 2nd, Baxter wrote of their run from Rockland to Halifax, "The Julia A. Decker has demonstrated quite satisfactorily that she is not the ‘Flying Yankee,’ and some of the party claim that they could easily have walked from Rockland to Halifax in four days."


2
Captain N.P. Spear aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' 1891

Captain N.P. Spear aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' 1891

Item 28988 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

N.P. Spear, of Rockland, was captain of the Julia A. Decker.

Despite a slow start, rough seas, Spear successfully navigated the Julia A. Decker to the expedition's many ports-of-call along the Labrador coast.


3
Mervyn A. Rice aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' 1891

Mervyn A. Rice aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' 1891

Item 28996 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Mervyn Ap Rice, class of 1889, of Rockland, is seen standing here aboard the Julia A. Decker.

Rice's sailing experience -- he was known as "the yachtsman" -- proved no match for the rough waters of the North Atlantic, and on his first watch Rice was overcome by seasickness and forced below decks.


4
Dennis Cole giving Jonathan Cilley a haircut on deck, 1891

Dennis Cole giving Jonathan Cilley a haircut on deck, 1891

Item 28994 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

The expedition members maintained a good grooming regimen during the voyage.

In this photograph, Jonathan Prince Cilley Jr., class of 1891, from Rockland, gets a haircut and shave from shipmate Dennis Cole, class of 1888, from Fryeburg.

Cole was the go-to man for shipboard grooming. In his journal entry for July 1st, Fred Simonton, class of 1891, of Rockland, writes, "Dennis Cole does the barber act and cuts the hair of the two Hunts, Rice, Young and Lincoln, also the whiskers of the latter much to the satisfaction of the rest of the boys."

Jonathan Cilley went on to record his experiences in Labrador in the book Bowdoin Boys in Labrador: An Account of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador led by Prof. Leslie A. Lee of the Biological Department, published in the 1890s through the Rockland Publishing Company.


5
Bowdoin group at Negro Island Harbor, Nova Scotia, 1891

Bowdoin group at Negro Island Harbor, Nova Scotia, 1891

Item 28939 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Ernest Young, class of 1892, from Brunswick; John Hastings, class of 1891, from Bangor; and Jonathan Cilley pose with three unidentified young men at Negro Island Harbor, Nova Scotia.

The Julia A. Decker made several stops on her way to Labrador, where expedition members met local people, collected souvenirs, and conducted scientific studies.

The Bowdoin Boys also enjoyed conducting amateur ethnographic studies of the various indigenous people they encountered on their trip.

At Port Hawkesbury, on the Gut of Canso in Nova Scotia, Lee ordered his team to collect anthropometric data (measurements meant to determine the average dimensions and proportions of the human body, at different ages and in different races or classes) on the local Micmac population, including height, arm span, and various cranial measurements.


6
Exploring an Inuit grave on Eskimo Island, Labrador, 1891

Exploring an Inuit grave on Eskimo Island, Labrador, 1891

Item 28940 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

In this photograph Professor Leslie A. Lee is seen with Charles Lincoln, class of 1891, from Brunswick, and Charles Rich, class of 1892, from Portland, examining an Inuit grave on Eskimo Island, in the Hamilton Inlet region of Labrador.

Fred Simonton provides an interesting description of what this group found during their investigation: "Some of the boys went ashore on the Island [Eskimo Island], to see the Eskimo graves, which are built up from the ground for about two feet with a cavity in between the rocks for the bodies."

By the time Lee and his students explored Eskimo Island many of the graves had been dug open and emptied of their contents by previous visitors to the island.


7
Grand Falls Expedition party, Labrador, 1891

Grand Falls Expedition party, Labrador, 1891

Item 28998 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

The four members of the Grand River party are photographed together before their departure.

Austin Cary, class of 1887, came from Machias; Ernest Young, class of 1891, from Brunswick; Warren Smith, class of 1890, from Litchfield; and Dennis Cole, class of 1888, from Fryeburg.

These men were charged with "discovering" the Grand Falls, a reportedly magnificent waterfall that had been described by two earlier explorers.

The Bowdoin Boys were inspired to make this journey by articles in the 1891 issues of Goldthwaite's Geographical Magazine, which claimed the Grand Falls were "a fine chance for some enterprising young man ... to make himself famous."


8
Grand River party leaving the 'Julia A. Decker,' Labrador, 1891

Grand River party leaving the 'Julia A. Decker,' Labrador, 1891

Item 29003 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

The Grand River party left the Julia A. Decker on July 26, in a small sailboat loaded with their camping equipment, towing two Rushton canoes.

They were optimistic about their chances of reaching the Falls before the rival party led by Henry Bryant and sponsored by the Philadelphia Geographical Society.

Writing in his journal, Fred Simonton described the departure: "We gave them three cheers as they left the vessel and all looked propitious as we were at least two days ahead of the other party."


9
Ernest Young leaning on rifle, Labrador, 1819

Ernest Young leaning on rifle, Labrador, 1819

Item 29000 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Four Bowdoin Boys set out to reach the Falls, but only two completed the journey.

Late into the expedition, Ernest Young injured his hand. The group made the difficult decision to send him back with Warren Smith as an escort.

Austin Cary later explained the distress the group felt in sending Young and Smith back, telling his audience at Chickering Hall in New York City, "They had helped get over the hardest part of the road, and it was a great disappointment to them, especially to Smith who was all right, to turn back."


10
Dennis Cole posing with equipment, Labrador, 1891

Dennis Cole posing with equipment, Labrador, 1891

Item 28997 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Cary and Cole left their canoe and most of their supplies in a camp and reached the Grand Falls on foot on August 13.

The amazing waterfall turned out to be 316 feet in height, far less than predicted by Goldthwaite's Geographical Magazine, but Cary and Cole were impressed by the force and volume of water flowing over the falls.

The two men spent one day exploring the falls, and then set out on the return journey. When they reached their previous night's camp, they found it destroyed by fire.

Austin Cary described the scene in an essay about the voyage for the American Geographical Society, writing, "A hard sight was before us. Our camp-fire had hung in the ground, and in the middle of a half-acre of burnt moss and uprooted trees we found the ashes of our outfit."

Cole and Cary saved what they could, and set out with few provisions, no canoe, and only one hand gun to hunt for game.

Their next cache was 150 miles away. This was the beginning of a long and arduous trek.


11
Austin Cary posing with equipment, Labrador, 1891

Austin Cary posing with equipment, Labrador, 1891

Item 28999 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Without their Rushton canoe, Cary and Cole were forced to hike out of the interior, following the Grand River. Traveling by foot slowed their progress considerably.

The Julia A. Decker was scheduled to leave Labrador on Wednesday, September 2, with or without Austin Cary and Dennis Cole.

The main party, waiting in Rigolette (now Rigolet) in the Hamilton Inlet region near Eskimo Island, grew increasingly anxious about the absence of their friends.

Finally, on the afternoon of September 1, Cary and Cole were spotted in a boat belonging to a local resident, rowing out to meet the Julia A. Decker.

Everyone on the ship cheered the return of the two men and the successful discovery of the Grand Falls.


12
Cary and Cole returned from the Grand Falls, Labrador, 1891

Cary and Cole returned from the Grand Falls, Labrador, 1891

Item 29002 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Cary and Cole are shown after their arrival at the ship.

They completed their goal of reaching the Falls, and managed to survive their return trip with few supplies, but their adventures had taken a toll on the men.

Their clothing was torn and fraying, and they both lost weight.

Their feet and shoes were especially worn after walking 225 miles over 17 days.

Dennis Cole mended his shoes several times before they became unwearable. At that point, Austin Cary reported, "We made him foot gear out of the leather of our pack, and when that wore through he used birch bark shoes and cut off his coat sleeves to tie round his feet."


13
Walter R. Hunt aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' Nova Scotia, 1891

Walter R. Hunt aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' Nova Scotia, 1891

Item 28984 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

With the whole party safely reunited aboard the Julia A. Decker, the Bowdoin Boys were ready to return to Maine.

Making stops at Battle Harbor and Halifax along the way, the schooner reached Rockland on September 23.

A crowd of people met the ship at the wharf.

In his book, Jonathan Cilley described the "royal welcome that awaited us ... we found the church bells ringing."

The safe return of the expedition was cause for celebration for the people of Rockland who had turned out for the Julia A. Decker’s departure several months earlier.


14
Ralph H. Hunt aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' Nova Scotia, 1891

Ralph H. Hunt aboard the 'Julia A. Decker,' Nova Scotia, 1891

Item 28983 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Walter was not the only Hunt to participate in the expedition. His younger brother, Ralph Hudson Hunt, class of 1891, accompanied him to Labrador. The brothers were part of the expedition that traveled along the north Labrador coast. Walter and Ralph had matching portraits taken aboard the Julia A. Decker.

Ralph also claimed the distinction of being the one to spot the boat carrying Austin Cary and Dennis Cole upon their return from the Grand Falls.


15
Ernest B. Young in sealskin clothing, Brunswick, 1891

Ernest B. Young in sealskin clothing, Brunswick, 1891

Item 28985 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Ernest Young brought artifacts from Labrador back to Brunswick, including the harpoons and sealskin clothing displayed in this cabinet card.

Young’s sealskin coat is now in the collection of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum.

Young posed in his gear at the A.O. Reed Studio in Brunswick, and had a series of these cards produced.

The cards could be distributed to his friends and acquaintances, enabling Young to share the experience that had meant so much to him.


16
Ernest B. Young and classmate in sealskin clothes, Brunswick, 1891

Ernest B. Young and classmate in sealskin clothes, Brunswick, 1891

Item 28986 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

Austin Cary described his time in Labrador through a series of articles and lectures about the trip.

In a lecture to the American Geographical Society in New York City, Cary told his audience, "Those five weeks spent in the mist of nature and stimulated by the contact, filled so full of the most strenuous exertion, face to face with real facts and limitations of human life, form an experience that couldn’t be bought."

Austin Cary became a pioneer in the field of forestry, first working in the Maine woods, then going on to work for the United States Forest Service.

Cary proposed planting the white pines -- known later as the Bowdoin Pines -- on the Bowdoin College campus.


17
Young man wearing sealskin clothes, Rockland, 1891

Young man wearing sealskin clothes, Rockland, 1891

Item 28987 info
Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center

This unidentified young man is likely one of the expedition members. He posed at the Singhi Studio in Rockland, outfitted in sealskin clothes and holding the round snowshoes used by the Labrador Innu, also known as Naskapi, a Native American group.

It seems that the "Bowdoin Boys" longed both to re-create their summer of adventure in the Arctic wilderness, and to demonstrate the effect their adventures in Labrador had on their lives.

Bibliography

Anon. "The Grand Falls of Labrador Still A Mystery." Goldthwaite’s Geographical Magazine 1.5 (1891): 327.

Baxter, Rupert H. "Not A Flying Yankee." The Portland Weekly Advertiser. 2 July 1891.

Cary, Austin. “Lecture before American Geographical Society.” Chickering Hall, New York City. 4 Jan. 1892. Lecture. Bowdoin College George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives.

Cary, Austin. “Exploration on Grand River, Labrador.” American Geographical Society 24 (1892): 15-17. Partial. Bowdoin College George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives.

Cilley, Jonathan Prince. Bowdoin Boys in Labrador: An Account of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador Led by Prof. Leslie A. Lee of the Biological Department. Rockland, Maine: Rockland Publishing Company, 1893.

Simonton, Fred. Unpublished expedition diary. 1891. Bowdoin College George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives.


This Exhibit Contains 17 Items