Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum
Foulke Fjord with Borup Lodge, 1913-1917. Hand-tinted glass lantern slide, Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.
Off to a Rocky Start: The Crocker Land Expedition, 1913
October 1, 2013 - March 4, 2014
Hubbard Hall foyer
In July, 1913, Donald B. MacMillan and six other men, members of the Crocker Land Expedition, left New York for the far north. The expedition was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, with additional support from the American Geographical Society and the University of Illinois. Its primary goal was to confirm the existence of a land that Robert E. Peary had seen in 1906, northwest of the known high Arctic islands. The team also included scientists prepared to collect a wide variety of cultural and environmental information. All did not go smoothly, however. Find out what went wrong and what went right for MacMillan and his companions through the first months of what was supposed to be a two-year expedition.
<p><b>Team Members</b> </p>     The Crocker Land expedition had ambitious scientific goals in addition to geographical exploration. The team included Harrison Hunt, surgeon; Maurice Tanquary, zoologist; W. Elmer Ekblaw, geologist and botanist; Fitzhugh Green, physicist; Jerome Allen, electrician and wireless operator; and Jonathan “Jot” Small, cook and handyman. As leader, MacMillan oversaw geographical exploration and contributed to anthropological studies, as well as being responsible for overall management of the expedition. <br> <br>  <em>Expedition members by the ship. Front l-r Harrison Hunt, Maurice Tanquary, Elmer Ekblaw, Fitzhugh Green, Jerome Allen; back l-r Henry Fairfield Osborn (president of the AMNH), Edmund Otis Hovey (head curator, AMNH), and Donald MacMillan. Not present, Jot Small. </em> American Press, New York, July 1913. Gift of Margaret Tanquary Corwin.
<p><b>Months of Preparation, Tons of Supplies</b> </p> The expedition was planned to last two years. Virtually everything the team required, including the materials to construct a building to house the men, had to be purchased in New York and shipped north. For days before their departure aboard the chartered whaler <em>Diana</em>, the dock was filled with crates, barrels, and bales of supplies. <br> <br>       Diana <em> loading supplies </em>, Crocker Land Expedition, New York, June 1913. Gift of Margaret Tanquary Corwin.

<p><b>Disaster Strikes</b> </p> As the expedition sailed along the Labrador coast, disaster struck. In the middle of the night, at high tide, the <em>Diana</em> ran aground. In an effort to get her off the rocks MacMillan and his team began lightening her load by moving tons of supplies to shore and to fishing vessels that came to help. Here a dispirited looking group sits among haphazardly piled crates of dog biscuits and mattresses on one of these vessels.<br> <br>       <em> 8 Crewmen by double wheel of vessel. </em> Crocker Land Expedition, Labrador coast, July 1913. Gift of Margaret Tanquary Corwin.
<p>The <em>Dianna’s</em> end</b> </p> With a much lighter load, a steamer was able to pull the <em>Diana</em> off the rocks. She limped into Battle Harbour where she was declared unfit for the voyage north. After much back and forth between MacMillan, the museum, and the <em>Diana</em> owners, they set sail for St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the expedition transferred to a different vessel, the <em>Erik</em>.  After many more days of hard work everything was aboard and the expedition headed north once more, a few weeks late, but undaunted. <br> <br>       Diana <em> at Battle Harbour </em>, Crocker Land Expedition, Battle Harbor, July, 1913. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan.

<p><b>Foulke Fjord</b> </p> As they neared their destination, Flagler Bay, Ellesmere Island, MacMillan had the <em>Erik</em> stop at various Inughuit communities in Greenland. Since Ellesmere Island was uninhabited at that time they needed to hire men and women to work for the expedition. They set off across Smith Sound with some Inughuit families aboard, heading for Ellesmere Island, but the captain of the <em>Erik</em> was reluctant to engage the sea ice and they were forced to return to Etah, in Greenland. It would be their base for the next four years. <br> <br>       <em>Foulke Fjord</em>, Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-1917, Greenland. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan
<p><b>Unloading Supplies</b> </p> On August 26, 1913, MacMillan and his companions began many weeks of hard work. The first task was to unload all the supplies. The <em>Erik</em> moored close enough to shore that a gangway could span the gap and with the help of Inughuit men they transferred all their provisions to shore. This work was done in four days, and on August 30 the <em>Erik</em> departed for the south. <br> <br>       Erik <em>at Provision Point</em>, Crocker Land Expedition, Foulke Fjord, Greenland, August, 1913. Gift of Donald and Miriam MacMillan

<p><b> Making a Home: Constructing Borup Lodge </b> </p>     The men’s next task at Etah was to construct a house for themselves. Only Jot Small had much experience in carpentry but the others quickly learned. Working 18-hour days for two weeks, and with the help of Inughuit men, they constructed an eight room house, which they named Borup Lodge to commemorate the late George Borup. The wooden structure was covered first with rolls of insulating “Cabot’s quilt” made from paper and eelgrass, and then with rubberoid roofing panels to protect it from the elements. <br> <br>   <em>Building the House at Etah</em>, Crocker Land Expedition, Etah, August 1913. Gift of Margaret Tanquary Corwin.
<p><b> A Busy Place</b> </p> When MacMillan decided to build Borup Lodge at Etah he selected a location where he knew Inughuit had lived for many generations. A few Inughuit families who planned to spend the winter there in 1913 were also busy getting their warm sod and stone houses ready. Here a woman prepares a house which had been left roofless by its previous occupants to air out over the summer. <br> <br>       <em>Woman working on stone igloo</em>, Crocker Land Expedition, Etah, 1913-1917. Given in honor of Walter E. Ekblaw, Jr., devoted son.

<p><b> At Home</b> </p> Once the house was completed it proved to be a comfortable home with space for work as well as relaxation. The dining area was to be the site of numerous holiday meals, for which the men dressed in their best ties and jackets and enjoyed treats such as roast caribou and cranberry sauce and plum pudding. <br> <br>       <em>Men at dinner at Borup Lodge, l-r Jerome Allen, Elmer Ekblaw, Fitzhugh Green, Donald MacMillan, Harrison Hunt, Jot Small?, Maurice Tanquary </em>, Unidentified photographer, 1913-1915, Etah, Greenland. Gift of Elizabeth Bedker Simpson.
<p><b> Just in Time</b> </p> Borup Lodge was ready just in the nick of time. On September 11, the first snow fell. Fortunately by then the men were occupied with interior work, putting up shelves and unpacking their supplies and equipment. Over the next few months they would spend their time making preparations, becoming familiar with their surroundings, learning to live in the far North, and waiting for the sea ice to form so that travel by sledge would be possible. <br> <br>       <em>Bourp Lodge in the Fall</em>, Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-1917, Etah, Greenland. Gift of Elizabeth Bedker Simpson.