1943-1944 Alaska Military Highway Expedition
The Alaska-Canada Military Highway – often called the ALCAN Highway – was built in 1942 to connect the lower 48 United States to Alaska through Canada and to gain an advantage over the Japanese in World War II. The construction of this highway opened up remote parts of the region which had been unexplored by scientists. Hugh Raup (1901-1995), then Assistant Professor of Plant Ecology at Harvard University and based at the Arnold Arboretum, joined the expedition during the summer of 1943 and 1944 not only to describe and collect plants for academic purposes, but to observe and record natural resources which were now easily accessible along the route. Raup aptly described the broad scope of the trips, “In addition to beginning a general biological description, our two expeditions have looked for evidence of agricultural potentialities, and have attempted to evaluate forest resources.” While the trip members had varied objectives, the botanical efforts resulted in 25,000 voucher herbarium specimens from 4,100 individual plants, as well as detailed accounts of the collections’ surrounding environments.
Other members of the party were Mrs. Lucy Raup, who collected lichens; Dr. Donovan Correll, who collected mosses and assisted handling of vascular plants; and Dr. Charles Denny, who was a geologist surveying the region. From the Highway’s start in Dawson Creek, British Columbia they slowly traveled north through Canada, camping at the Beatton River, Summit Pass, and reaching their northern most point, Watson Lake near the southern border of the Yukon Territory. The party only covered about two-thirds of the highway in the first year, turning around at Whitehorse, Yukon. On their return to the United States, they stopped to make collections once, between Little Atlin and Teslin Lakes in northwestern British Columbia. The team returned the following summer of 1944 to collect along the northern portion of the Highway, eventually reaching the northern terminus in Fairbanks, Alaska. A few years after completing the Alaska-Canada Expedition, Raup was appointed director of the Harvard Forest, a post he held from 1946 to 1967.