1953 Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea


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1953 Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea

The Fourth Archbold Expedition to Papua New Guinea was led by Leonard J. Brass, an Australian botanist and associate curator of the Archbold Expedition. He was accompanied by three staff members from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH): zoologists Hobart M. Van Deusen and Geoffrey M. Tate, and an assistant, Kenneth M. Wynn. While the Arboretum did not have any staff on the trip, it provided financial support in return for a share of the herbarium specimens collected. The expedition began in March of 1953 and ended several months prematurely in November after Tate suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to travel. He was temporally held in Samarai — a small island off the southeast tip of the country — while Brass, Van Deusen, and Wynn continued their collecting efforts until Tate was able to safely return to the United States. The trip covered the eastern portion of Papua New Guinea: primarily the Cape Vogel Peninsula in Milne Bay Province.

Brass published a detailed expedition summary in 1956 for the AMNH. The report includes an extensive summary of geography, local plant and animal populations, collections, itinerary and routes, and results. The objective is clearly stated, “In line with the previous expedition of the series, the purpose of this one was the collection and ecological and distributional study of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fresh-water fishes, insects and spiders, and of plants.” Brass reports that 3,345 plant specimens were collected and that “All botanical collections, with the exception of antibiotics research materials, are deposited at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The antibiotics materials were collected for Pfizer and Company of New York. In addition to the botanical collections listed above, viable materials of several palms and other ornamental plants were sent by air to the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Florida.” Although cut short, this expedition was wide-reaching, proving useful in disciplines as diverse as horticulture, botany, zoology, pharmacy, and anthropology.

Additional Resources

Cookson, Michael “The Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea: A Preliminary Survey of Archival Materials Held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.” The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Dec., 2000), pp. 313-318.

Brass, L. J. (1956). Summary of the Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 111(2); New York : American Museum of Natural History.