The Cruise of the Corwin
by John Muir
One of the poignant tragedies of north polar exploration, that of the Jeannette,
still lingers in the memory of persons now living, though a generation
has since passed away. John Muir, who joined the first search expedition
dispatched from San Francisco, had already achieved distinction by his
glacial studies in the Sierra Nevada and in Alaska. The Corwin expedition
afforded him a coveted opportunity to cruise among the islands of Bering
Sea and the Arctic Ocean, and to visit the frost-bitten shores of northeastern
Siberia and northwestern Alaska. So enticing was the lure of this new adventure,
so eager was he to study the evidence of glaciation in the Far North, that
he said a reluctant good-bye to his young wife and fared forth upon the
deep. "You remember," he wrote to her from the Siberian coast, "that I
told you long ago how eager I was to get upon those islands in the middle
of the Bering Sea and Strait to read the ice record there."
The events which led up to this memorable cruise of the Corwin in 1881
had their origin in the widespread interest which north polar exploration
was exciting at this time all over the world. In 1877 Lieutenant George
W. De Long, an American naval officer, was searching among the northern
ports of England for a whaling vessel adapted to the requirements of Arctic
exploration. De Long had commanded the Juniata which was sent out for the
relief of the Polaris, and through this experience had grown enthusiastic
over his own plans for reaching the North Pole.
The whaling industry was at that time a very profitable one, and few
owners of whalers and scalers were willing to part with their vessels.
Though Sir Allen Young's steam yacht Pandora, which De Long finally selected,
had already made two Arctic voyages, she appears to have been chosen more
because she was available than because of her superior fitness for ice
navigation. In any case she was purchased by James Gordon Bennett, patron
of the proposed expedition, was fitted out at Deptford, England, and renamed
the Jeannette. Though the new name evaded the suggestion of a box of evils,
she proved to be one for those who sailed in her. Commander De Long himself
brought her around Cape Horn to San Francisco. In the month of July, 1879,
she sailed from that port for Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean--never
to return. Crushed in the ice, she sank, June 12, 1881, in the Arctic
Ocean, one hundred and fifty miles north of the New Siberian Islands.
The retreat southward across the ice-floes was one of great peril. Only
thirteen out of thirty-four men ultimately reached civilization and safety.
De Long himself, and ten of the men with him, died of starvation and exposure
on the delta of the Lena River, where two of the Jeannette's storm-beaten
cutters landed in the middle of September, 1881. One of them, commanded
by Chief Engineer Melville, reached a Russian village on one of the eastern
mouths of the Lena River. He promptly organized a search party, recovering
the ship's records in November, 1881, and the bodies of his unfortunate
shipmates the following spring.
When the North Pacific whaling fleet returned from Arctic waters in
the autumn of 1879, two ships, the Mount Wollaston and the Vigilant, were
reported missing. They had been last seen in October in the same general
region, near Herald Island, where the Jeannette had entered the polar ice.
The Mount Wollaston was commanded by Captain Nye, of New Bedford, Massachusetts,
one of the keenest and bravest men that ever sailed the frigid seas. He
it was who at a conference of whaling captains, called by De Long in San
Francisco before the departure of his expedition, hesitated to give an
opinion on the practicability of De Long's plans. But when urged for an
expression of his views, he said, "Put her [the Jeannette] into the ice
and let her drift, and you may get through, or you may go to the devil,
and the chances are about equal."
In the service of the United States Treasury Department there was at
this time a staunch little steamer called the Corwin. Built at Abina, Oregon,
she was constructed throughout of the finest Oregon fir, fastened with
copper, galvanized iron, and locust-tree nails. She had a draught of nearly
eleven feet, twenty-four feet beam, and was one hundred and thirty-seven
feet long between perpendiculars. The ordinary duties of the captain of
such a revenue steamer involved primarily the enforcement of federal laws
for the protection of governmental interests on the Fur Seal Islands and
the sea-otter hunting grounds of Alaska. But the supposed plight of the
Jeannette and the unknown fate of two whalers caught in the ice were soon
to increase the Corwin's duties, and call her into regions where her sturdy
sailing qualities were to prove of the utmost importance.
In the spring of 1880 the Corwin, in command of Captain Calvin L. Hooper,
was ordered into North Alaskan waters in pursuance of her regular duties.
But Captain Hooper had also been directed to make all possible inquiries
for the missing whalers and the Jeannette. He returned with no tidings
of the lost, but with reports of starvation and death among the Eskimos
of St. Lawrence Island on account of an uncommonly severe and stormy winter
in the Arctic regions. He entertained no hope for the lost whalers, but
thought De Long and his party might be safe.
A general demand for relief expeditions now arose. Petitions poured
into Congress, and the American Geographical Society addressed a forcible
appeal to President Garfield. When the Corwin was sent to Alaskan waters
again in 1881 it was with the following specific instructions to Captain
No information having been received concerning the whalers Mount Wollaston
and Vigilant, you will bear in mind the instructions for your cruise of
last year, and it is hoped you may bring back some tidings of the missing
vessels. You will also make careful inquiries in the Arctic regarding the
progress and whereabouts of the steamer Jeannette, engaged in making
plorations under command of Lieutenant-Commander De Long, U. S. N., and
will, if practicable, communicate with and extend any needed assistance
to that vessel. . . . You will in your season's cruise touch at such places
as may be practicable on the mainland or islands where there are settlements
of natives, and examine into and report upon their condition.
A letter written to his mother from Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, gives Muir's
own account of his purpose in joining the expedition.
I wrote you from San Francisco [he says] that I had suddenly
made up my mind to avail myself of the opportunity offered to visit the
Arctic region on the steamer Thomas Corwin sent to seek the Jeannette and
the missing whalers that were lost in the ice two years ago off
Point Barrow. . . .
I have been interested for a long time in the glaciation of the Pacific
Coast, and I felt that I must make a trip of this sort to the Far North
some time, and no better chance could in any probability offer. I am acquainted
with our captain, and have every comfort the ship can afford, and every
facility to pursue my studies.
We mean to proceed from here past the seal islands St. Paul and St.
George, then northward along the Siberian coast to about Cape Serdze, where
a sledge party with dogs will be sent out to search the North Siberian
coast, while the steamer the meanwhile will cross to the American shore
and call at St. Michael, Kotzebue Sound, and other places, [where we shall
have the opportunity of] making short journeys inland. Then, as the ice
melts and breaks up, we will probably push eastward around Point Barrow,
then return to the Siberian side to pick up our land party, then endeavor
to push through the ice to the mysterious unexplored Wrangell Land. We
hope to return to San Francisco by October or November, but may possibly
be compelled to winter in the Arctic somewhere.
De Long, in a letter to his wife, had written that his plan was
to proceed north by the eastern coast of Wrangell Land, touching
first at Herald Island to build a cairn and leave news of the Jeannette's
progress. Believing that Wrangell Land extended northward toward the Pole,
he proposed to leave similar records along its eastern coast, under cairns,
at intervals of twenty-five miles. These known intentions of De Long show
why it was one of the foremost objects of the Corwin expedition to reach
what Muir called "the mysterious unexplored Wrangell Land."
How keenly Muir appreciated the possibilities of science and adventure
in the exploration of this unknown Arctic land may be seen in the fourteenth
chapter of this volume. Up to this time nothing was actually known about
Wrangell Land except its existence. The first European who reported its
discovery was Captain Kellett of H.M.S. Herald. He saw it in 1849 when
he discovered Herald Island, which was named after his vessel. By right
of discovery Kellett's name should have been given to Wrangell Land, and
upon British Admiralty charts it was very properly indicated as "Kellett
The name Wrangell Land, it seems, became associated with the island
through a report of Captain Thomas Long, of the whaling bark Nile. In 1867
he reported that he had
sailed to the eastward along the land during the fifteenth
and part of the sixteenth [of August], and in some places approached it
as near as fifteen miles. I have named this northern land Wrangell Land
[he says] as an appropriate tribute to the memory of a man who spent three
consecutive years north of latitude 68°, and demonstrated the problem
of this open polar sea forty-five years ago, although others of much later
date have endeavored to claim the merit of this discovery. The west cape
of this land I have named Cape Thomas, after the man who first reported
the land from the masthead of my ship, and the southeastern cape I have
named after the largest island in this group [Hawaii].
from a letter by Captain Long published in the Honolulu Commercial Advertiser,
1867. The same paper contains a letter from Captain George W. Raynor, of
the ship Reindeer, giving additional geographic details.]
Captain Long apparently was unaware of the fact that the Island
already bore the name of Kellett by right of discovery eighteen years earlier.
But since Baron Wrangell had made such a brave and determined
search for this "problematical land of the North," as he referred to it
in his final report, there is a certain poetic justice in applying his
name to what he only sought, but never found.
While Captain Hooper, in his report of 1880, had expressed the conviction
that Wrangell Land was an island, the first demonstration of its insularity
was made by Commander De Long, who had practically staked the success of
his expedition on the belief that it was a country of large extent northward,
and suitable for winter quarters. But before his vessel was crushed in
the ice it drifted, within sight of Wrangell Land, directly across the
meridians between which it lies. This
fatal drift of the Jeannette not
only furnished conclusive disproof of the theory that Wrangell Land might
be part of a continent stretching across the north polar regions, but proved
it to be an island of limited extent. It is an inaccuracy, therefore, when
the United States Hydrographer's report for 1882 sets the establishment
of this fact down to the credit of the Rodgers expedition.
So far as known, the first human beings that ever stood upon the shores
of this island were in Captain Hooper's landing party, August 12, 1881,
and John Muir was of the number. The earliest news of the event, and of
the fact that De Long had not succeeded in touching either Herald Island
or Wrangell Land, reached the world at large in a letter from Muir published
in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin, September 29, 1881. But the
complete record of Muir's observations, together with some of the sketches
contained in his journals, is now given to the public for the first time.
A second Jeannette relief expedition, already mentioned as that of the
Rodgers, was sent out under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy.
It succeeded in reaching Wrangell Land two weeks after the Corwin. In order
to make our geographical and scientific knowledge of this remote island
as complete in this volume as possible, we deem it desirable to include
a brief account of what was achieved during the cruise of the Rodgers.
This vessel, a stout and comparatively new whaler, known before its
re-baptism as the Mary and Helen, was placed in command of Lieutenant,
now Rear Admiral, Robert M. Berry. He discovered on the southern shore
of Wrangell Land a snug little harbor where he kept the Rodgers at anchor
for nineteen days while two search parties, in whaleboats, going in opposite
directions, explored the coast for possible survivors of the missing whalers
and for cairns left by the crew of the Jeannette. These search parties
nearly circumnavigated the island without finding anything except Captain
Hooper's cairn, and Commander Berry, in his report to the Secretary of
the Navy, said, "I believe it impossible that any of the missing parties
ever landed here."
The principal gain of this exploration was a running survey of the coast
and a general determination of the size of the island. In other respects
the harvest of scientific facts gathered on Wrangell Land by the Rodgers
was meager, if one may judge by W. H. Gilder's Ice Pack and Tundra.
Unfortunately, the act which carried the appropriation for the expedition
provided that the vessel selected "be wholly manned by volunteers from
the Navy." This fact seems to have prevented the taking of men trained
in the natural sciences, like John Muir or E. W. Nelson. Nineteen days
on Wrangell Land would have enabled them to obtain a large amount of interesting
information about its flora, fauna, avifauna, and geology.
Commander Berry, taking charge of an exploring party, penetrated twenty
miles into the interior of the island and ascended a conspicuous mountain
whose height, by barometric measurement, was found to be twenty-five hundred
feet. He reported that he "could see from its summit the sea in all directions,
except between S.S.W. by W. per compass. The day was very clear, and
no land except Herald Island was visible from this height. There was no
ice in sight to the southward." A letter of inquiry addressed to Rear Admiral
Berry by the editor brought a courteous reply, stating that he did not
know of any photographs or sketches, made by members of the Rodgers expedition,
which would show the coast or interior topography of the island; that "the
vegetation was scant, consisting of a few Arctic plants, a little moss,
etc."; that "polar bears, walrus, and seal were quite common upon or near
the island," and that the provisional map which accompanied his report
to the Secretary of the Navy in 1881 is the only one available.
From our reproduction of this map, and from the report of the Rodgers,
it will be seen that practically the whole interior of the island still
awaits exploration. Estimates of its size vary between twenty-eight and
forty miles as to width, and between sixty-five and seventy-five as to
length. Striking an average, one might say that it contains about twenty-five
hundred square miles of territory. The distance across Long Strait from
the nearest point on the Siberian coast is about eighty-five or ninety
miles, and Herald Island lies about thirty miles east of Wrangell Land.
In 1914 the Karluk, Steffárisson's flagship of the Canadian Arctic
Expedition, was crushed in the ice, and sank not far from the place where
the Jeannette was lost. Under the able leadership of Captain Robert A.
Bartlett the members of the expedition made their way to Wrangell Land,
where they remained encamped while Captain Bartlett, with an Eskimo, crossed
Long's Strait to Siberia over the ice. Thence he made his way to St. Michael,
Alaska, and enlisted aid for the Karluk survivors. Their rescue was effected
successfully, and, so far as we are able to discover, these members of
the Canadian Arctic Expedition are the only human beings that have been
on Wrangell Land since the visit of the Corwin and the Rodgers in 1881.
We venture to mention, in this connection, a few facts which call for
consideration in the interest of a historical and consistent geographical
nomenclature. The United States Geographic Board has done much to bring
order out of the chaos of Alaskan names, and its decisions are available
in Baker's Geographic Dictionary of Alaska, which has been followed
in the editing of this volume. There is a "Wrangell Island" in southeastern
Alaska, well known to readers of Muir's Travels in Alaska, hence
it occasions needless confusion to call Wrangell Land by the same name,
as even recent Hydrographic Office charts continue to do, besides misspelling
the name. The retention of the term "land" for an island is supported by
abundant precedent, especially in the Arctic regions.
The altitude of the mountain ascended by Commander Berry had already
been determined with remarkable accuracy by Captain Long in 1867. He described
it as having "the appearance of an extinct volcano," and it is shown on
his sketch of Wrangell Land, reproduced on the map accompanying Nourse's
American Explorations in the Ice Zones. Captain Hooper, in his report
of the cruise of the Corwin, declares that the peak had been appropriately
named for Long, and adds, "Singular as it may appear, this name to which
Captain Long was justly entitled has, notwithstanding our pretended custom
of adhering to original names, been set aside on a recent issue of American
charts." It is some compensation, however, that the wide stretch of water
between the North Siberian coast and Wrangell Land is now known as Long
Captain Hooper and his party, being the first to set foot upon Wrangell
Land, exercised the privilege of taking possession of it in the name of
the United States. In order to avoid the confusion of the two names, Kellett
and Wrangell, which it already bore, Captain Hooper named it New Columbia.
This name, which was set aside by the Hydrographic Office, he says
was suggested by the name which had been given to the islands
farther west, New Siberia. It is probable that the name Wrangell Land will
continue in use upon American charts, but its justice, in view of all the
facts, is not so apparent. In my opinion the adoption by us of the name
Kellett Land given by the English would be appropriate, and avoid the confusion
which is sure to follow in consequence of its having two names.
Headlands and other geographical features of the island were named by
us, but as the names which were applied to features actually discovered
by the Corwin and heretofore unnamed have been ignored, it is possible
that a desire to do honor to the memory of Wrangell is not the only consideration.
To avoid the complications which would result from duplicating geographical
names, I have dropped all bestowed by the Corwin and adopted the more
recent ones applied by the Hydrographic Office. I have also adopted
the plan of the island [from surveys of the Rodgers] as shown on the small
chart accompanying Hydrographic Notice No. 84, although the trend of the
coast and the geographical position of the mouth of the river where we
first planted the flag do not agree with the result of the observations
and triangulations made by the Corwin.
Now that Captain Hooper and nearly all the men who had a share in
these explorations of the early eighties have passed on, it is proper that
the basic facts as well as conflicting judgments should be set down here
for the just consideration of geographers. Both from Muir's vivid narrative
of the Corwin's penetration to the shores of Wrangell Land, and from Captain
Hooper's admirable report published in 1884 as Senate Executive Document
No. 204, the reader will conclude that the Captain of the Corwin had a
better right to be remembered in connection with the geographical features
of the island than most of the persons whose names have been attached to
them by the Hydrographic Office.
Whether Wrangell Land became United States territory when Hooper formally
raised our flag over it is a question. The editor is unable to discover
any treaty between Russia and the United States which would debar possession
by the latter. But questions involving rights of territorial discovery
have not, so far as we know, been raised between the two governments.
Muir's opportunity to join the Corwin apparently arose out of his acquaintanceship
with Captain Hooper, and when the invitation came he had little time to
prepare for the cruise. A letter to his wife affords a glimpse of his surroundings
and plans when the Corwin was approaching Unalaska:
All goes well on our little ship [he writes] and not all the
tossing of the waves, and the snow and hail on the deck, and being out
of sight of land so long, can make me surely feel that I am not now with
you all as ever, so sudden was my departure, and so long have I been accustomed
in the old lonely life to feel the influence of loved ones as if present
in the flesh, while yet far. . . . There are but three of us in the cabin,
the Captain, the Surgeon, and myself, and only the same three at table,
so that there is no crowding. . . .
Should we be successful in reaching Wrangell Land we would very likely
be compelled to winter on it, exploring while the weather permitted. In
case we are unsuccessful in reaching Wrangell Land, we may get caught farther
west and be able to reach it by dog-sledges in winter while the pack is
frozen. Or we may have to winter on the Siberian coast, etc., etc., according
to the many variable known and unknown circumstances of the case. Of course
if De Long is found we will return at once. If not, a persistent effort
will be made to force a way to that mysterious ice-girt Wrangell Land,
since it was to it that De Long was directing his efforts when last heard
from. We will be cautious, however, and we hope to be back to our homes
this fall. Do not allow this outline of Captain Hooper's plan to get into
print at present.
From another letter written the following day we quote this breezy
bit of description:--
How cold it is this morning! How it blows and snows! It is
not "the wolf's long howl on Unalaska's shore," as Campbell has it, but
the wind's long howl. A more sustained, prolonged, screeching, raving howl
I never before heard. But the little Corwin rides on through it in calm
strength, rising and falling amid the foam-streaked waves like a loon.
The cabin boy, Henry, told me this morning [May 16] early that land was
in sight. So I got up at six o'clock--nine of your time--and went up into
the pilot-house to see it. Two jagged black masses were visible, with hints
of snow mountains back of them, but mostly hidden beneath a snow-storm.
After breakfast we were within two miles of the shore. Huge snow-peaks,
grandly ice-sculptured, loomed far into the stormy sky for a few moments
in tolerably clear relief; then the onrush of snowflakes, sweeping out
into the dark levels of the sea, would hide it all and fill our eyes, while
we puckered our brows and tried to gaze into the face of it all.
We have to proceed in the dimness and confusion of the storm with great
caution, stopping frequently to take soundings, so it will probably be
one or two o'clock before we reach the harbor of Unalaska on the other
side of the island. I tried an hour ago to make a sketch of the mountains
along the shore for you, to be sent with this letter, but my fingers got
too cold to bold the pencil, and the snow filled my eyes, and so dimmed
the outlines of the rocks that I could not trace them.
Down here in the cabin it is warm and summerish, and when the Captain
and Doctor are on deck I have it all to myself. . . . I am glad you thought
to send my glasses and barometer and coat. We will procure furs as we proceed
north, so as to be ready in case we should be compelled to winter in the
Arctic regions. It is remarkably cold even here, and dark and blue and
forbidding every way, though it is fine weather for health.
I was just thinking this morning of our warm sunny home . . . and of
the red cherries down the hill, and the hundreds of blunt-billed finches,
every one of them with red bills soaked in cherry juice. Not much fruit
juice beneath this sky!
During the cruise Muir kept a daily record of his experiences and
observations. He also wrote a series of letters to the San Francisco
Evening Bulletin in which he turned to account the contents of his
journal. Comparison of the letters with the journal shows that his note-books
contain a large amount of interesting literary and scientific material
which has not been utilized in the Bulletin letters. To publish both would
involve too much duplication. It has seemed best, therefore, to make the
letters the foundation of the volume and to insert the additional matter
from the journal wherever it belongs chronologically in the epistolary
record. Most of the letters have thus grown far beyond their original size.
The performance of this task has often been trying and time-consuming,
especially when it became the editor's duty to avoid repetition, or overlapping,
by selecting what seemed to be the more comprehensive, the more finished,
or the more vivid form of statement. But this method of solving the difficulty
has the advantage, for the reader, of unifying in the present volume practically
the whole of Muir's literary and scientific work during the cruise of the
Corwin. Sometimes, as in chapters eleven and twelve, all the material is
new and has been derived exclusively from the journal. The style of the
latter may generally be recognized by its telegraphic conciseness.
During his studies in the Sierra Nevada Muir had acquired skill, speed,
and accuracy in sketching the features of a landscape. This ability he
turned to good account during the cruise of the Corwin, for one of his
journals is filled with a variety of sketches which prove to be remarkably
faithful pictures in cases where it has been possible to compare them with
Since Muir's primary object in joining the Corwin expedition was to
look for evidence of glaciation in the Arctic and subarctic regions, we
have deemed it desirable to include in this volume the article in which
he gathered up the results of his glacial studies and discoveries. It was
published in 1884, with Captain C. L. Hooper's report, as Senate Executive
Document No. 204 of the Forty-eighth Congress.
Both the Hooper report and the article on glaciation were elaborately
illustrated from Muir's pencil sketches, though the fact that they were
Muir's is nowhere stated. "The 'Glacier Article' arrived on the sixth,"
wrote Captain Hooper to Muir under date of February 7, 1884, "and was sent
on its way rejoicing the same day. The Honorable Secretary [of the Treasury]
assures me that he will see that the whole is printed without delay. Please
accept my thanks for the article, which is very interesting. The sketches
are very fine and will prove a valuable addition to the report. That of
the large glacier from Mount Fairweather is particularly fine."
The article on glaciation should have been published a year earlier,
in the same volume with the "Botanical Notes." But for some reason Muir
was misinformed, and an apologetic letter to him from Major E. W. Clark,
then Chief of the United States Revenue Marine, hints at a petty intrigue
as the cause. "I regret very much," he writes, "that I had not myself corresponded
with you regarding your contribution to the Arctic report. Your article
on glaciation would have been exactly the thing and would have admitted
of very effective illustration. I feel well assured that you were purposely
misinformed regarding the report, and could readily explain the reason
to you in a personal interview. There has been much anxious inquiry for
your notes on glaciation." It was the writer of this letter after whom
Captain Hooper named the river at whose mouth the Corwin anchored on Wrangell
Land. This fact has been recorded by Professor Joseph Everett Nourse,
U. S. N., in his work American Explorations in the Ice Zones. He
states that through the courtesy of Major Clark he had access to the unpublished
official report of the cruise of the Corwin. Since the river in question
appears without a name upon the chart of Wrangell Land, we must suppose
it to be one of the names which Captain Hooper complains the Hydrographic
Besides the illustrative drawings which accompany Muir's article on
glaciation in the Far North, his note-books contain numerous interesting
sketches of geological and topographical features of Arctic landscapes.
They show with what tireless industry and pains he worked at his task.
This is the first publication of the general conclusions of his Arctic
studies, supported in detail by the records of his journal. In its present
form the article follows a revised copy found among Muir's papers.
Muir's report on the flora of Herald Island and Wrangell Land still
remains, after thirty-six years, the only one ever made on the vegetation
of these remote Arctic regions. It has seemed best, therefore, to include
also his article entitled "Botanical Notes" as an appendix to this volume.
It was first published in 1883 as a part of Treasury Department Document
No. 429. Strangely enough, the letter of transmittal from the Secretary
of the Treasury refers to it as "the observations on glaciation in the
Arctic Ocean and the Alaska region made by John Muir."
The author never saw printer's proof after he sent the manuscript, and
the number of typographical errors made in the technical parts of his article
must have established a new record, for they mount into hundreds. Knowing
that Muir had sent a duplicate set of his Arctic plant collection to Dr.
Asa Gray for final scientific determination, the editor went to the Gray
Herbarium of Harvard University, in order to make the necessary corrections
and verifications. Fortunately the writer found there not only the original
plants, but also Muir's letters to Asa Gray. "I returned a week ago," wrote
Muir under date of October 31, 1881, "from the polar region around Wrangell
Land and Herald Island, and brought a few plants from there which I wish
you would name as soon as convenient, as I have to write a report on the
flora for the expedition. I had a fine icy time, and gathered a lot of
exceedingly interesting facts concerning the formation of Bering Sea and
the Arctic Ocean, and the configuration of the shores of Siberia and Alaska.
Also concerning the forests that used to grow there, etc., which I hope
some day to discuss with you."
The editor has made no attempt to reduce the genus and species names
to modern synonymy. As in the case of Muir's
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf,
it has seemed best to offer the original determinations,
making the necessary corrections by reference to the Index Kewensis,
and, in the case of the ferns, to Christensen's Index Filicum. Since
Muir's lists did not follow any particular order of classification we have
adopted the order of families laid down in the last edition of Gray's Manual
Special interest attaches to the fact that Muir found on the Arctic
shore of Alaska, near Cape Thompson, a species of Erigeron new to
science. It is an asteraceous plant with showy, daisy-like flowers. In
reporting this find to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Asa Gray
described it as "the most interesting and apparently the only new species
of an extensive and truly valuable collection made by Mr. Muir in a recent
searching cruise which he accompanied, and which extended to Wrangel Island
[Wrangell Land]. The plant seems to have been abundant, for it occurs in
the collection under three numbers."
Gray promptly named it Erigeron Muirii in honor of its finder,
thus redeeming for the second time a promise made ten years earlier when
he wrote to Muir, "Pray, find a new genus, or at least a new species, that
I may have the satisfaction of embalming your name, not in glacier ice,
but in spicy wild perfume."
William Frederic Badè.
Harvard University Library,
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