Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions

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Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions



The Drawing Center April 14 – July 16, 2017 Main Gallery, Drawing Room

Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions

Organized by Mark Dion, Katherine McLeod, and Madeleine Thompson

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Mark Dion, Drawing for The Department of Tropical Research Jungle Station, 2017

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Mark Dion, Drawing for The Department of Tropical Research Oceanographic Laboratory, 2017

D R AW I N G PA P E R S 13 2

Foreword by George Schaller Introduction and Timeline by Mark Dion, Katherine McLeod, and Madeleine Thompson Interview with Richard Drayton by Katherine McLeod Original field texts by William Beebe, Else Bostelmann, Isabel Cooper, Gloria Hollister, George Alan Swanson

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William Beebe at his desk at the DTR’s Rancho Grande field station, Venezuela, c. early 1940s

William Beebe and I George Schaller

I first met William Beebe in the early 1950s. As an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska, I browsed in a bookstall in the nearby town of Fairbanks. There for sale at forty-nine cents was a volume called Jungle Peace published in 1919.1 It had such chapter titles as “With Army Ants” and “Hoatzins at Home.” How could I resist it? As an aspiring naturalist, I was certain what I liked to do yet still in search of the correct path to follow. I read the book avidly. Here was graceful, even passionate, prose of “science enriched with enthusiasm,” as Beebe phrased it. His approach was to “slip quietly and receptively into the life of the jungle.” This approach appealed to my rather solitary nature. The book inspired me. Beebe was based at the New York Zoological Society (NYZS), now known as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), headquartered at the Bronx Zoo. I had no intimation then that most of my professional career for over the next half-century would be with the Society and with Beebe as distant mentor. In 1956, I was a member of the Murie expedition to northern Alaska (as a result of which the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established); then in 1959 a happy opportunity enabled my wife Kay and me to initiate a study of mountain gorillas in what was then the Belgian Congo. NYZS would sponsor both projects. On visiting the zoo in 1958, I met John Tee-Van, a close collaborator on various Beebe expeditions, and also William Conway, the Curator of Birds, another of Beebe’s colleagues. But Beebe himself was leading his Department of Tropical Research (DTR) in Trinidad, where he died in 1962. 1


William Beebe, Jungle Peace (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1918).

After becoming zoo director in 1962, Bill Conway began to expand the Society’s field research program. He established a new department that incorporated the DTR and hired additional staff, including whale biologist Roger Payne, penguin biologist Richard Penney, and fortunately a rather feral naturalist: me. I was soon to leave for nearly four years in Tanzania’s Serengeti with Kay and our two young sons to study lions and their prey. I was naturally delighted to be an NYZS scientist. Like Beebe, I had no interest in an academic life as professor, tied for much of the year to an office. Now, with extraordinary generosity the NYZS allowed us to follow our visions and dreams anywhere in the world—as long as we obtained most of the necessary funds from donors and granting agencies. The new field team was housed for a while in the old DTR quarters, tucked behind the zoo’s vulture cages. Here I inherited a treasure: a roll top desk with many drawers and cubbies. It had been the desk of William Hornaday, the first Bronx Zoo director, and then the desk of William Beebe. Currently, in 2016, I still have the desk in my office at WCS’s Center for Global Conservation. Beebe remains ever present. After I read the fascinating biography The Remarkable Life of William Beebe, Explorer and Naturalist by Carol Grant Gould, I became aware of various similarities and differences between Beebe and myself.2 We both had a “love of outdoors” as youngsters. We both collected specimens, he searching for fossil sea urchins and beetles, and I keeping live ring-necked snakes, skinks, and opossums. Professionally Beebe was first an ornithologist, including a seventeenmonth-long collecting trip for pheasants in Asia. After that he was increasingly drawn to the mysterious creatures in the ocean. His descent in 1934 with Otis Barton to a depth of 3,028 feet in the Bathysphere created a worldwide sensation. Fish with glowing light organs filled Beebe with “inarticulate amazement.” Given Beebe’s two dozen books and hundreds of articles, I cannot image him as inarticulate. Sadly, these contributions to science and literature are little remembered today. To me his writings remain an inspiration. 2


Carol Grant Gould, The Remarkable Life of William Beebe: Explorer and Naturalist (Washington, DC: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2004).

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DTR staff and crew pose around the Bathysphere on the day that William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton set the world record for the deepest dive at 3,028 feet, Bermuda, August 15, 1934

My enjoyment comes from observing large mammals, though I did spend a summer studying white pelicans based at the NYZS field station in Jackson Hole. I have avoided the oceans. Instead the grandeur and solitude of the high mountains in Central Asia draw me back again and again. My spiritual geography is the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir, and Tibetan Plateau. I have, for example, collaborated annually since 1980 with Chinese teams to study giant pandas, snow leopards, Tibetan antelope, and other species to collect the kind of information that leads to better protection of the animals and their habitat. Beebe was a restless individual, and so am I, changing projects and countries, and we have both been omnivorous in the species we studied. But there is a major difference. Beebe, quite gregarious, liked to establish field laboratories in rainforest countries for himself and his colleagues, as in Guyana, Venezuela, and Trinidad. There he and his scientific team concentrated on many mostly small species from vampire bats and hermit crabs to Hercules beetles. As President Theodore Roosevelt wrote in the introduction to Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana, Beebe has the “gift of both wide and minutely intensive observations.�3 I prefer to be afield and roam widely with just a small team of nationals in a country including graduate students from a local university to inspire and train. I remain fully devoted to gathering knowledge, as did Beebe. The aim has been to discover ever more about life on earth with patience and determination. But changing realities in recent decades have demanded adaptation. With our rapidly growing human population and its ever-increasing development and destruction of habitats, research alone is now not enough. Programs must lead to conservation and management of habitats, ecosystems, and landscapes with all their diversity of life including the human communities. Sitting at the old roll top desk in my WCS office, I am reminded that Beebe and I have been devoted to the Society and have contributed 3


Theodore Roosevelt, Introduction to Tropical Wildlife in British Guiana: Zoological Contributions from the Tropical Research Station Volume I (New York: New York Zoological Society, 1917).

to its vision, each in our own way, for about 117 years. Fortunately, there are now many WCS naturalists scattered around the globe concerned with protecting nature’s beauty. As Beebe wrote in 1906: The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire a composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, then another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.4



William Beebe The Bird (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1906), 18.

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George Swanson, Pink Toadstools, Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945 / George Swanson, Lichens, Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945

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Artist Unknown (John Cody?), Tent-making Caterpillar (Telegonus alardus), Simla, Trinidad, 1951

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George Swanson, Euchromid on Moss, Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945

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George Swanson, Liana with Air Plants, Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945

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George Swanson, Fly Eyes, Caripito, Venezuela, 1942 / Isabel Cooper, Untitled (Velvet Worm), Kartabo, British Guiana, 1919

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George Swanson, Water Strider, Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

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George Swanson, Bug Family on Acalypha Leaf, Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

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Isabel Cooper, Gem Beetles, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

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George Swanson, Leaf-like Mantis, Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

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Douglas Boyden, Untitled, Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945 or 1949

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Isabel Cooper, Untitled (Frogs, Insects, Plants), Kartabo, British Guiana, 1919

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Isabel Cooper, Basiliscus basiliscus, British Guiana, c. 1919–24

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Isabel Cooper, Imantodes cenchoa, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

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George Swanson, Big-eyed Climbing Snake (Imantodes cenchoa), Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945

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Isabel Cooper, Leptodactylus caliginosus, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

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Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Eyes of Frogs, Kartabo, British Guiana, c. 1919–24

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Isabel Cooper, Ibycter americanus, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

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Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor, Pteroglossus aracari, Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

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Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor, Toucan, Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

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George Swanson, Fer-de-lance and Bat's Head (Balantiopteryx infusca and Trimeresurus l. lansbergii), Tangola Tangola Bay, Mexico (Zaca Expedition), 1937

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Isabel Cooper, Otter, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

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Isabel Cooper, Two-toed Sloth, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1924

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Isabel Cooper, Three-toed Sloth, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

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Isabel Cooper, Margay tigrina vigens, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

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Isabel Cooper, Head of Marmoset, Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

FIG . 3

Research assistant and historian Ruth Rose and artist Isabel Cooper outside tents at Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department of Tropical Research Field Expeditions Mark Dion, Katherine McLeod, and Madeleine Thompson

[In] this region of superabundant life, events crowd in upon one—insect, bird, flower, animal—without apparent rhyme or reason. Yet they really pass in splendid sequence, the key to which lies in the ultimate relation of each to the other. Some day, if we do not delay until the destroying hand of man is laid over this whole region, we may hope partially to disentangle the web. Then, instead of a seeming tangle of unconnected events, all will be seen in real perspective: The flower adapted to the insect; the insect hiding from this or that enemy; the bird showing off its beauties to its mate, or searching for its particular food. These things can never be learned in a museum or zoological park, or by naming a million more species of organisms. —William Beebe and Mary Blair Beebe, Our Search for Wilderness, 1910

In the summer of 1916, a group of scientists and artists from the New York Zoological Society (NYZS; today The Wildlife Conservation Society) set out on what one of their early supporters, Theodore Roosevelt, referred to as an experiment: to create the first tropical research station in the jungles of British Guiana (today Guyana). They did so at a time when the study of ecology in North America was less codified and pervasive than it is today, and prolonged field work linked to a professional practice wasn't usual. In general, botanists and zoologists who worked out of doors at this time did so as itinerant collectors of individual biological specimens intended for study in an urban laboratory or their private natural history collections. Naturalist traditions of working in the field were often seen as romantic, more subjective, and less rigorous. In contrast to people who studied nature out of doors, laboratories and systematic zoological collections were seen as spaces of objectivity. In time, field stations came to be seen as a mix of the two traditions, but in 1916, the Department of Tropical Research’s goal to bring the laboratory to the jungle—to study and record animals in their


natural environments—was unprecedented in the collaborative work space it created in the tropics. Under the directorship of William Beebe (1877–1962), the DTR would build on this experiment for nearly another fifty years, expanding its ecological studies from the tropical forests of Guyana to marine environments around the Galápagos and Bermuda, as well as to the coasts of New York, California, and Mexico, before returning finally to the jungles of South America. One purpose of the early expeditions was to collect animals for the Bronx Zoo in New York, which was managed by the NYZS and where Beebe began his career as the zoo’s first Curator of Ornithology. Beebe insisted that this collecting was “wholly subordinate” to studying the evolution and development of tropical plants and animals.1 In the DTR’s world, scientific investigation always began with the question, “Why?” As Beebe would put it, this was “the question which makes all science worthwhile.”2 Further, for the DTR, this question could only be answered through intensive, in situ observation of living organisms in order to incorporate animal and plant behaviors and interactions into a comprehensive study of the environment. In Beebe’s words, “We must ourselves live among the creatures of the jungle, and watch them day after day, hoping for the clue as to the why—the everlasting why of form and color, action and life.”3 This ecological approach reached its pinnacle in the early 1930s when Beebe, turning his attention to life in the deep sea, traveled to wondrous record-setting depths in a steel submersible called the Bathysphere. Because of changes in pressure from the deep-sea depths to the surface of the ocean, trawling for deep-sea animals frequently resulted in nets of disfigured, unidentifiable organisms.





“The Tropical Research Station,” Annual Report of the New York Zoological Society (1916), 118. William Beebe, G. Innes Hartley, and Paul G. Howes, Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana (New York: NYZS, 1917), 255–56. William Beebe and Mary Blair Beebe, Our Search for Wilderness (New York: Holt, 1910), 349.

The DTR went to extremes to place itself in these creatures’ worlds to see for the first time what these animals looked like, how they moved, what the deep ocean habitat was like, how much life was actually there, and to observe ocean bioluminescence first-hand. The DTR expeditions made significant contributions to the sciences of tropical ecology and marine biology by describing dozens of species new to science and opening up scientific thinking in a way that influenced people to think of biological research as encompassing a total environment, not just individual species. Even more remarkable were the extraordinary efforts the DTR staff made to reach audiences beyond the scientific academy. In addition to drafting technical papers for their peers, the DTR staff wowed audiences across the country with tales of their jungle research and marine encounters in radio interviews, news reels, live lectures, popular magazine articles and books that combined the genres of high adventure, travel, and science as a way of engaging a broad US audience in ecology. Beebe’s twenty-one books, several of which were bestsellers, highlight ecological relationships in his highly poetic style. His writing draws on the senses and the imagination of the reader to make conceptually tangible the idea of identifying humanity, if only momentarily, as a part of nature—subsumed within its workings instead of outside or above it. For example, in the middle of a diluvial description of the geology of Bermuda, Beebe showcases his ability to transport and engage a reader personally in a call to imagine the body in evolutionary action that makes almost visceral the lineage he presents: As my line stretches back my brain contracts, my muscles expand, I drop down on all fours, sprout a tail, develop long ears and snout, my teeth simplify and insects satisfy my hunger; reptilian characters accrue, my ribs increase; I slip into the water, and looking for the last time upon the land, I sink beneath the surface. Gills mark my rhythm of breath, limbs shrink to fins, and even these vanish, while my backbone, last hold upon the higher life, dissolves to a notocord. At one end of my evolution Roosevelt called me friend—millions of years earlier any passing worm might have hailed me as brother.4



Beebe, Nonsuch: Land of Water (New York: Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932), 207.

While remaining committed above all to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, the DTR blurred the divide between the importance of the technical and the popular. Beebe believed, however problematically, in a “universal emotion” of nature that expressed a beauty lost in the technical jargon of most scientists: [S]cience has written these records in a tongue of her own devising, so that the beauty and romance are in hiding behind certain select and abstruse technicalities. What universal emotion is brought into being if we talk of syngamy of gametes, or the cytogamy of zygotes? And the strange histories of amphiblastulas and parenchymulas which are one and yet different—are these sufficient in themselves to evoke the tears and laughter of the multitude? It is better to put aside the technicalities, since they do not serve our purpose but are a burden and an offense when removed from their rightful niche in the scientific scheme; it is better to deal simply with the simplicities of life.5

He published titles like “Notes on the Gill-Finned Goby Bathygobius soporator with an Explanation of the Specialized Pectoral Fin,” at the same time as he was featured in the pages of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly with essays that appealed to readers through evocative passages and illustrations of animal life and habitats. Labeled as “bohemian” by his contemporaries, in his personal and professional life Beebe was known as something of a scientific iconoclast.6 He socialized with Rube Goldberg, Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks, Ezra Winters, Errol Flynn, Walt Disney, and A. A. Milne.7 Other DTR members also strayed far from the traditional spaces of science. They went on to make films (including King Kong in 1933), open glamorous nightclubs, and write popular novels and children's books.

5 6



“The Jelly-Fish and Equal Suffrage,” The Atlantic Monthly 114.1 (1914): 37. Edmund R. Taylor and Alexander Moore, eds., Selected Letters of Anna Heyward Taylor: South Carolina Artist and World Traveler (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010). Carol Grant Gould, The Remarkable Life of William Beebe: Explorer and Naturalist (Washington, D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2004), 240 and 333. Winters was a well-known artist who painted the murals within Radio City Music Hall. Beebe and Winters frequently cohosted large costume parties in New York’s Grand Central Station.

Central to its influence with both popular and technical audiences was the DTR’s use of art as a tool for thinking through and communicating the questions they had about evolution and ecology. Since at least the 1700s, the time of Carl Linnaeus and James Cook, when European powers began sending exploration teams to other continents in larger numbers, artists and the work they produced became integral tools for recording and spreading information about the natural world. Within the DTR, artists were not simply decorators of the scientists’ writings; instead, they were essential communicators who understood their role in the dissemination of information about ecological relationships. The DTR produced over two thousand illustrations (held today in the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives), which range from depictions of single specimens to complex narrative paintings that show where and how animals lived. At a time when photography could not adequately capture movement and morphological details, the DTR constructed visualizations of natural environments that had been difficult or impossible to access, let alone record. To this day, scientific illustration remains an essential supplement to photography's limitations in depicting detailed biological forms. DTR artists often worked from collected specimens, painstakingly illustrating the minutiae of shape, color, and patterning. They also worked out in the field, perching among tropical forests with their drawing paper in their laps or donning diving helmets and strapping zinc tablets to their swimsuits in order to draw underwater. In some cases, the habitats Beebe wished to research and illustrate could only accommodate Beebe himself. DTR artists had to rely on Beebe’s verbal descriptions and notes to visually reconstruct these environments and animal behaviors. During the DTR’s Bathysphere descents in the 1930s, for instance, Beebe spent his time in the sphere describing as much as he could into the telephone transmitter that ran to the ship above him. Communication about this environment that had few experiential parallels to terrestrial or even shallow water habitats was difficult. In reference to one of his deepest dives in 1934, Beebe explains that “adequate presentation of what I saw on this dive is one of the most difficult things I ever attempted. It corresponds precisely to putting the question, ‘What do you think of America?’ to a foreigner who has spent a few hours in


New York City.”8 Paintings made by Else Bostelmann were the most effective means of introducing the deep ocean to a wide audience. Descriptions of what was seen from the Bathysphere were augmented by Beebe’s memory once he returned topside. Without ever entering the Bathysphere herself, using specimens captured in net hauls as reference material and Beebe’s descriptions, Bostelmann successfully envisioned deep-sea animals hunting, breeding, and glowing. The treasure trove of drawings, sketches, and illustrations from the DTR is exceeded in number by the photographs detailing the group’s activities, personnel, specimens, and surroundings. In image after image these photos depict artists and scientists employed side by side at workstations. The photographs show paintbrushes, ink bottles, and reams of paper sitting comfortably beside alcohol-filled specimen jars, microscopes, enamel examination pans, and the ubiquitous typewriter of Dr. Beebe. In addition to the use of illustrations as teaching tools for non-scientists, the DTR used its visual records as vital tools of the laboratory. The finished artworks are featured prominently in the established laboratories, aboard ships, and on the walls of the field stations. To many people in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, Beebe and the DTR became authorities on tropical nature, defining what it was and how to engage with it. In order to understand how these field stations worked, however, it is vital to examine how Beebe interacted with and represented the local people he worked with in the areas around his stations. His ability to speak as an authority of nature was predicated on his own imported expertise to untangle the truths about the jungle. In this process, he erased from the historic record the intellectual and physical labor of the local populations he depended on as guides through the forest, as hunters for food and museum specimens, and as domestic workers that kept his stations functioning. The local people Beebe worked with who made his field stations possible—members of the indigenous Akawaio community, descendants of enslaved peoples brought forcibly from Africa by the British, and East Indian indentured 8


William Beebe, Half-Mile Down (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1934), 196–97.

workers—are folded into the landscape, subsumed in Beebe’s writing as part of the jungle. This occlusion of local people and knowledges—which reinforced the power imbalances of colonial rule and worked to legitimate increasing US industrial involvement in the region—is explored in further detail in Katherine McLeod’s interview with historian Richard Drayton later in this catalog. The DTR drawings functioned well beyond the scientific vernacular. They were used to illustrate Beebe’s popular books and were a major element of the public face of the DTR, acting as ambassadors of the deepest ocean canyons and impenetrable jungles presented for the attention of a growing public eager for new discoveries. Featured in such popular publications as National Geographic Magazine, Popular Science, and the New York Times, they gave people a way to envision nature beyond the prepared specimens of natural history museums and the stoic profiles found in field guides. Like Beebe’s writing, the illustrations made by DTR staff reflect a desire to communicate not only the kinds of animals they were studying, but connections between organisms and environments. Beebe and the staff of the DTR developed new visual and written languages adapted to their immersive approach to studying the environment. These inventions in writing and drawing utilized what could be called a visionary poetics of ecological imagination: the passages of writing and expressive methods of scientific illustration transport the imagination and act as jumping-off points for thinking about relationships in nature, not as endpoints for displaying solidified facts. It is perhaps the DTR’s appeal to popular audiences that led to some skepticism in academic circles of their contributions to serious biology. Another point of contention in professional circles at the time was the fact that the DTR staff included women as part of their professional research team. In a profession marked by sexism, Beebe’s choice to hire women as prominent members of his staff made the DTR a target for other scientists who doubted the rigor of the group’s work. Young scientists such as Gloria Hollister and Jocelyn Crane forged their careers with the DTR. Hollister pioneered new methods for studying fish specimens; Crane, among other accomplishments, became the world’s foremost expert on fiddler crabs. Isabel Cooper relished her opportunity to travel through the jungles of Guyana


as a staff artist, juggling, as she wrote in The Atlantic Monthly, a “vivid serpent or tapestried lizard in one hand, and the best grade of Japanese paintbrush in the other.”9 At a time when many working women were relegated to secretarial jobs, the women employed as artists for the DTR—including Isabel Cooper, Anna Taylor, Rachel Hartley, Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, and Else Bostelmann—eschewed mundane office work in favor of the excitement that came with working in the field. The DTR gave these women a platform for making meaningful contributions to science. Some DTR artists accompanied Beebe for an expedition or two; others returned year after year. All of them cultivated their own artistic practices outside of their work for the DTR. Anna Taylor was a printmaker and fabric designer, Helen Damrosch Tee-Van worked in the decorative arts, and many of them illustrated children’s books. Their experiences in Beebe’s field stations filtered into what they produced, sending the ideas and aesthetics they formed in the tropics and on floating laboratories into broad contexts and new juxtapositions. This is not to say that Beebe was necessarily a paragon of feminist values by today’s standards. In a 1932 article, Beebe explains that he sought assistants who were “adaptable scientific students who fall in with my plans, and sometimes women offer me just those qualities.”10 But in the same article, Beebe argued that it was “what is above their ears” that determined his staff choices, and his esteem for these women was certainly born out in the leadership roles they played within the group: Hollister led the DTR’s 1936 expedition to British Guiana, and it was Crane who became the DTR’s Assistant Director, and eventually Beebe’s chosen successor upon his death. In addition to the women on the DTR’s staff, Beebe encouraged the careers of influential scientists such as Sylvia Earle and Rachel Carson. Beebe featured Carson’s work as the last essay in his influential compendium of biologist’s writings The Book of Naturalists




Isabel Cooper, “Wild-Animal Painting in the Jungle,” The Atlantic Monthly 133 (1924): 733. “Seeks Girls with Ideas,” World Telegram (May 1929), Gloria Hollister Scrapbook, WCS Archive.

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DTR staff at work at the Kartabo field station, British Guiana, 1922

in 1944. Carson dedicated her 1951 The Sea Around Us to Beebe, writing, “My absorption in the mystery and meaning of the sea have been stimulated and the writing of this book aided by the friendship and encouragement of William Beebe.”11 The DTR was committed above all to scientific rigor. At the same time, the DTR team delighted in a working environment of camaraderie and playfulness. Fancy dress costume parties, impromptu musical nights, equator-crossing ceremonies, alcoholic indulging, and goofing for the cameras are in evidence throughout the trail of photos, film, and anecdotal evidence left by the DTR. These conditions of the pleasure and humor of studying life in jungle and island outposts, which permeated the DTR’s culture from its start, are captured in this early observation by Theodore Roosevelt on his first visit to the field station in British Guiana: People who are fortunate enough to be devoted to their work for its own sake, and to find in it an absorbing pleasure, are to be congratulated; and this little party of naturalists—the old fashioned word seems a little less pedantic then “biologists”—were enjoying the rare combination of working hard at a task in which their souls delighted, and of also taking part in a thrilling kind of picnic. All were in high spirits, bound to enjoy everything, and bound to make the experiment a success.12

This statement sums up the complexity of how to interpret the history of conservation theory and ecology in the United States. Many early field scientists, like the DTR in both their work and play, benefited from expanding US industrial interest in South America and the colonial power structures in place during the period. By congratulating those who are “fortunate enough to be devoted to their work for its own sake,” Roosevelt prioritizes personal pleasure and ignores the centuries of violence that prohibited most people who lived near the DTR stations in British Guiana, the populations of indigenous people, descendants of enslaved Africans, and those who had come from India, from having this choice. 11



William Beebe, ed., The Book of Naturalists (New York: Knopf, 1944). Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (New York: Oxford University Press, 1951). Theodore Roosevelt, “A Naturalist's Tropical Laboratory,” Scribner's Magazine (1917), 47.

At the same time, Beebe’s use of creative writing and illustration enabled a way for people to imagine new connections to nature outside or against these destructive systems. This work highlights the importance of creative production as a tool for imagining new ways to achieve egalitarian futures. Examining the legacy of the DTR gives a way to think through the origins of US conservation policy, and a way to consider both the good and bad contributions of this type of field work in order to better guide decisions today about land and resource use. This exhibition’s three curators have come together to bring the DTR once more to the threshold of art and science. The remarkable record of the DTR—the drawings and watercolors, artifacts, ephemera, and photographs—has lain largely dormant in the vault of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives for decades. Beebe himself, once a celebrity, has long been eclipsed by the likes of Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough. Organizing this exhibition has been our own expedition of discovery through the archives and into the crucible of American field ecology, with all its contributions and contradictions. Like the DTR staff, our backgrounds as curators are diverse— an archivist, a visual artist, and an environmental historian—yet we are unified by a passion for the central themes of “Exploratory Works”: the place of art in scientific investigation, the development of fieldwork as a model in conservation biology, the critical role of women in the history of science, and the commitment by the DTR’s team of scientists and artists to publicly communicate the interconnectedness of species and their habitats.


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DTR staff hosts Theodore and Edith Roosevelt, along with Governor General of British Guiana Sir Walter Egerton at Kalacoon, the DTR’s first field station. Also pictured is the Withers Family, who owned the rubber plantation on which Kalacoon sat and who loaned the house to Beebe, Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

Interview with Richard Drayton Katherine McLeod

William Beebe first visited British Guiana in 1908 on a trip to study and collect Amazonian animals for the Bronx Zoo in New York. Gaylord Wilshire (of the eponymous Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles), an American who owned two gold mines in British Guiana, facilitated his travels. Beebe spent seven days accessing the forest through the framework of Wilshire’s mine in the northwestern part of British Guiana. Wilshire introduced Beebe to a network of plantations, mines, and government connections that helped him travel throughout the area. This is how Beebe met George Withers, an Englishman running an American-owned, seven-thousand-acre sisal plantation in British Guiana who would, eight years later in 1916, provide Beebe with the house, Kalacoon, that would become the first field station for the Department of Tropical Research. It wasn’t until 1915, with the zoo administration beginning to feel constrictions on their ability to import living animals because of World War I, that Beebe was able to secure funding from a group of wealthy individuals associated with the Bronx Zoo and return to Georgetown and Bartica. When Beebe returned to British Guiana in 1916 with the intent of setting up a permanent field station, the region had been under colonial control for 300 years (the Dutch established outposts in the area in 1616, and ceded power to the British in 1796). It would be another fifty years, in 1966, before the British government officially absolved their political claims over the territory. Maintenance of the Dutch and the British colonies depended in part on obtaining botanical and geological expertise over the natural resources in the region in order to apply this knowledge to agricultural and mining endeavors that fed their economic goals.


Beebe and his team were aided by the British government in a variety of ways: they were given use of the Colony Houses in the area, access to the botanical gardens in Georgetown, export rights for animals they captured, and given tours through the areas around Georgetown by local British administrators. Prisoners from the penal colony in Mazaruni were used to cut trails and haul gear. Local people living in or around Bartica were hired as guides, cooks, maids, and specimen preparators. Beebe and the DTR occupied Kalacoon for two years (1916–17), until the encroaching rubber plantation compromised their jungle research. In 1919 they purchased another house, Kartabo, located at the junction of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers. They worked here until 1922. British Guiana was the starting point for the DTR (and for this type of biological field station in general). They went on to establish stations and do research in the Galápagos, Haiti, the West Indies, Bermuda, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago. Beebe’s field stations, funded by some of the United States’ wealthiest entrepreneurs and philanthropists, were initiated at a time of increasing US economic and political interest in South America. Theodore Roosevelt, a friend of Beebe’s and a vocal supporter of the field stations, had just completed his own “zoogeographic reconnaissance through the Brazilian hinterland” and had called for more US scientists to enter the “virgin wilderness” of the Guianas and the Andes in order to assess, in part, ways to activate new industrial development for the United States.1 Richard Drayton agreed to be interviewed for this publication in order to give context to the pivotal role knowledge about nature plays in the formation of governmental power structures, both during the time of high imperialism c. 1870–1914, and today. Katherine McLeod: At the beginning of Nature’s Government you have an elegant way of opening the conversation: “The knowledge of nature has transformed the boundaries of human power, and with



Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1914), unnumbered preface and 346.

it our attitudes to the universe and to ourselves.”2 Can you say more about this idea in relation to the nature of Guyana? Richard Drayton: Let's start from the beginning. The space in South America that lies between the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers is a region which the Europeans called “the Guianas.” 3 Characteristic of this region is that it consists of alluvial soils carried by rivers and land which is, when one leaves the area of the mountains called the Guyana Shield, significantly below sea level, subject to periodic flooding. From the beginnings, this was originally called the “Wild Coast.” The Spanish in the north in Venezuela, and the Portuguese in the south in Brazil, did not prioritize this region because it was too difficult to do anything with, because of its topography. So, what eventually happens is the Dutch arrive, bringing with them their canal-making and -draining technologies and they succeed in creating the set of plantations on the coast line of the Guianas, on the openings of the mouths of these rivers, like the Demerara, the Essequibo, and the Courentyne. Did the Dutch travel to this area with the intention of setting up a permanent colony? They were coming there in search of extractable wealth initially. The search for gold and silver was always the priority for Europeans. The Guianas become an area of curiosity with Sir Walter Raleigh around 1600 coming to what became British Guiana in pursuit of an Amerindian fable of El Dorado, a kingdom rich in gold somewhere in the hinterland. To jump forward to our historical moment, in the second half of the nineteenth century, vast amounts of gold are found in the interior of Venezuela, near to the border with British Guiana. And this is the gold field of El Callao. El Callao, from the 1890s onwards, is the most important deposit of gold in all of the Americas in terms of its yield. And a vast community of miners, many of them Americans and Canadians, come to extract gold from the interior of Venezuela. But a 2



Richard Drayton, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), xi. Throughout this essay we refer to British Guiana when discussing the area during colonial rule and Guyana when referring to the area after the British officially ended their colonization in 1966. “The Guianas” refers to the regions known as Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana.

few others also begin to search for gold from the Guyanese side. These were the “pork-knockers”—descendants of the Africans who had been freed from plantation slavery in 1838, and who had decided to leave the poverty of the plantations in search of their fortunes in the difficult jungle interior of Guiana, where they found alluvial gold to harvest with pans in the rivers. And from the 1890s they began to find diamonds. So, these finds of gold and diamonds in British Guiana, but also next door in Venezuela, appear to contemporaries as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Walter Raleigh three hundred years earlier. Beebe mentions several US citizens who ran mines or plantations in British Guiana who helped him get set up with buildings and labor for his stations. Was it common for US citizens to run businesses such as these in British Guiana at this time? We should put this into the context of the way in which American policy makers from the 1870s onwards had begun to look towards the Caribbean and the north of Latin America to be a zone of special American interest. This is the period in which the United States decides to take over the French project and construct the Panama Canal. This is the period in which the United States begins its cycle of military interventions in the Dominican Republic, in Haiti, in Cuba. And it is also the period in which the United States persuades the British during the First World War to cede to a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) the bauxite deposits in British Guiana. So the United States becomes very interested in British Guiana in the early twentieth century because of the discovery of very rich deposits of bauxite (bauxite is the mineral from which aluminum is produced). And, indeed, the United States stopped shipments of munitions to Britain for a week during the First World War until the British agreed to allow the cession of this bauxite mining territory in British Guiana to a company which was a subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America. British Guiana was not a space of American formal colonial occupation, but a territory which was a zone of interest for a growing American “ informal empire” in the greater Caribbean. By “ informal empire” I mean the emergence of a sphere of economic interest and political and cultural influence in territories which remain either self-governing or under the government of a European imperial power.


The Alcoa company was a long-term sponsor of Beebe’s field stations. So was Standard Oil, another US-based company with land holdings in South America. How can we understand these corporations as sponsors of scientific research? We need to look at the ways in which American natural history and geographical sciences in the early twentieth century sought to make the American scientific study of the Americas into something which was connected with the logic of the Monroe Doctrine. American science was going to bring the Western hemisphere into the cognizance of the civilized world, establishing both a scientific and a political right. This would be an expression of a realization of America's special responsibility for these parts of the world. I think we need to also recognize that from the perspective of Theodore Roosevelt and others who celebrated America's rise as a naval power, the possible destiny of British colonies in the Americas was ultimately to become American. During the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt actually moved this forward, securing through the Lend-Lease Act a ring of American military bases starting from British Guiana in the South coming up through Trinidad and Barbados towards Antigua and others in Jamaica, cementing American preeminence in these colonies which were nominally still British colonies. The Monroe Doctrine is important to keep in perspective. It was initiated in 1823, but it’s interesting that it was at this point, at the beginning of WWI, decades after it was created, that the United States really starts using it to make movements into the regions you mention. Essentially the United States until the second half of the nineteenth century was operating in a world in which the key strategic factor is the Royal Navy and British sea power. The American declaration of the Monroe Doctrine existed at least initially as a factor within a Britishdominated world. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the United States began to build a great navy and to stake a claim in its own right to a kind of status as a world power. This was the period of the reach outwards into the Pacific towards as far as Hawaii, and into the Caribbean, with the cycles of American intervention beginning from the invasion of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Guam during the Spanish American War.


It’s worthwhile to quote a longer passage from Nature’s Government where you introduce connections between the botany being practiced at Kew Gardens in London during the nineteenth century and imperial agendas: In the story of Kew, tugged in one direction by the history of science, and in the other by the needs of the state, we may observe the terms on which the interests of naturalists and administrators came into convergence. In this convergence, we may discover new ways of understanding imperialism, and the “international society” left in its wake. For the enterprise of “Development” launched during the contraction of the world became the idol of economists and politicians of all races and nations. Under its spell great rivers are dammed, forests condemned to flood or fire, and oceans of concrete poured. The nature of government, both at home and in the (former) colonies, was shaped by these assumptions about how nature might be governed.4

I’m struck by how this entails a complicated network of knowledge that is (1) practical in that it created new agricultural practices that fed the British economy—and (2) ideological in that it structured knowledge about nature in a new and very specific manner, with the capacity to change its perceived value and purpose. Just simply in terms of the inherent logic of the sciences, there was an impulse to expand the space of scientific knowledge collection, that is specimen collection, as widely as possible into the world. That was an imperative arising from the ambitions of those who wanted to create forms of global sciences. Now, their impulse was clearly therefore something which could profit from a relationship to those who wanted to make money or to take power in the world outside of Europe. In other words, if you were a botanist or a zoologist, it was helpful to be attached to the Royal Navy or to join in some other military campaign or mission of exploration. What became clear is that if these colonial outposts which were being established for economic and political purposes were going to be successful, the Europeans would have to understand the natural environment in which they were working. They would have to know how to use the soils, which plants could grow, what minerals were accessible, and this kind of 4


Drayton, xv.

expertise which scientists were about to bring to the work of colonization made them useful to those who, for political and economic reasons, wanted colonies. So that's where in a sense a kind of complicity emerges between the needs of the scientists and the needs of the colonial administrator. Quite apart from the practical advantages the sciences could bring to the colonizer, the sciences also provided a form of ideological support by establishing a reason why the colonizer had the right to take territory or land or labor away from the colonized, because those who were equipped with better knowledge of nature therefore had the right, even the duty, to guide nature towards becoming as fruitful as possible. We should also add another element to this, which is that in postindustrial Europe and the United States, one of the things which emerges is a Romantic idea that there is a pristine nature which needs to be saved from civilization, catalogued, and classified. Another great impetus which is driving scientists into the Amazon or into the Congo or into New Guinea is this desire to run beyond and possibly ahead of the advancing face of “civilization.” When Beebe and his team arrived in British Guiana in 1916 with the intent to set up a permanent field station in the jungle, they depended on the help of people living in the area. Some of these people were part of the colonial administration, like the local judge and police commissioner, who assisted Beebe by finding buildings for the DTR to work in and acquiring methods of supply transport. The non-British inhabitants were pivotal in familiarizing Beebe and the DTR with the jungle. They were Beebe’s guides into the forest, they hunted for the team of scientist (for food and for scientific specimens), and were hired as general support staff. Beebe writes about different populations in the area—indentured workers from India, descendants of slaves from Africa, native Amerindian groups (the Akawaio in particular). Who were the people living near the area Beebe worked in? The place in which Beebe chose to establish his station is near Bartica, which is at the junction of three great rivers, the Essequibo River, which is the largest river in Guyana, the Mazaruni, and the Cuyuni River. The two outposts of the DTR are set up at the junctions of these rivers. It so happens that the colonial government had established a prison colony


beside the Mazaruni river. The advantage of this is that it provided Beebe and others with a source of labor through which they could construct their settlements and do the hard work which was necessary for organizing their field station. All three Guianas were initially made possible because of the Dutch, but starting in the 1790s the Dutch provinces of Guiana, Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice became a British colony, which was called British Guiana. And then people migrated to British Guiana, in particular from Scotland. And they indigenized themselves. There were in the interior of Guyana two great families with Scottish progenitors— the Melvilles and the McTurks—who by then were all of Amerindian and African as well as Scottish descent. So when we talk about the non-British actors, we are talking about people who were the products of the various waves of migration which brought Europeans to the Guianas with the original inhabitants of the Guianas, the Amerindians, who retained, and retain to this day, a substantial presence in the jungles of Guyana. And indeed, all of these people who arrived in that region, whether they were African pork-knockers, former slaves, or whether they were Chinese shopkeepers who also arrived by the 1890s, or whether they were British or American timber or rubber or mining entrepreneurs, they all needed the help of these Amerindians who understood how to live in the environment and who could help them in establishing settlements. So the interior of Guiana where Beebe was operating was an extraordinarily multiethnic space in which there were people who had come to the region from every continent of the world. There were also people who had come from India as indentured labor on the plantations of British Guiana, who also sought to stake a claim for themselves in the interior. What were conditions like for these indentured workers? The people who were brought from India were often tricked into signing contracts which they did not understand. They were brought as semi-slaves under contracts of indenture which bonded them to submit to a period of five to seven years labor on sugar plantations with the promise of, at the end of their term, either receiving a piece of land or of being repatriated to India. So these Indians come to Guiana, recruited by British entrepreneurs, who in fact often took what were formerly slave ships and turned them into vessels for bringing these laborers from India. In the period which we are looking at, Indian indenture had been running for about seventy years.


FIG . 6 / FIG . 7

Local men working in skinning tent, British Guiana, 1919 / The DTR's second field station, at Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

It started right around when slavery ended? It began immediately when slavery ended, to provide a new labor force for the plantations which would not be free labor. I' d like to put something else to you, which is, as anyone who goes to the Natural History Museum in New York, and looks very carefully at the foyer of the building, will recognize: the New York Zoological Society and the American Museum of Natural History had very close relationships. Yes, they shared many of the same board members, the same funders. They were, mainly, the wealthy elite of New York City— politicians, entrepreneurs, and urban planners involved in a variety of business and development projects. That's exactly what I was going to say. This almost-aristocracy of the American republic was involved in constructing twentieth century New York, urging the United States to have an aggressive foreign policy, at the same time as they were also involved in reaching outwards, via organizations like the New York Geological Society and the American Geological Society, towards the Americas as a whole. In this period it's very interesting that the National Geographic Society began to think about the Americas from Tierra del Fuego up to Alaska as this special space of American scientific geographical and natural historical curiosity. So this implantation in British Guiana is only part of a kind of larger turn towards what was viewed to be a Pan-American future for the American republic. This makes Beebe’s relationship with Theodore Roosevelt even more significant, given his connections to US politics, the Natural History Museum, and to the Zoological Society in New York. Within these kinds of interconnections between Roosevelt, who had a very clear vision of the relationship between natural history, the manifest destiny of the American republic, and a kind of forward American imperial strategy, I think we can see the sort of linkages which underlie something like Beebe's world. In speaking about what I interpret as the often-obscured flow of information and influence between the colonies and their seats of


government in Europe, you write, “… it has long been the magnificent conceit of Europeans that their history springs from dark autochthonous forces, species of technical and social magic rooted in the specific environment of Europe. In the many glosses on ‘the rise of the West,’ this parthenogenetic fantasy persists. Long after the theory of spontaneous generation had been extinguished in biology, it continued to condition research into the history of Europe.”5 A little later you write, “We are beginning, just barely, to recognize modern Britain to be as much a product of processes of empire as modern India, Nigeria, New Zealand, Barbados, or Guyana.”6 I think the above concept can be applied to the role colonized regions have played in the formation of the United States, particularly in reference to American industrial expansion at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is a part of what I hope to illuminate by researching the connections of knowledge and power that functioned through the DTR. Can you speak a little more about this exchange and mutuality of construction? I hesitate to call it a construction of modernity, because that brings in questions of how to define modernity. Construction of dominant forms of knowledge might be a good way to phrase it. Can you elaborate what you mean by this? There's a history of describing what happens with European empires, and indeed with modernity, which tells the story exclusively from the center, as if in fact modernity is being ordered in some kind of magical way only from that core region. Yes, that there is a center at all, and that it is European. What we are increasingly aware of is that modernity emerged through a dialogue between things like the sugar plantations of the seventeenth century, which represented the most advanced forms of economic organization anywhere on the planet, with large numbers of workers operating in tight coordination on the basis of highly capitalized units of production. So you know, if you want to find where capitalistic

5 6


Drayton, xiv. Drayton, xiii.

FIG . 8

Sam Christopher and Edward Steward. Christopher, whom Beebe referred to as his “boy,” served as the DTR’s head collector in Kartabo. He eventually traveled as an employee of the DTR to New York City, British Guiana, c. 1919, Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (Image SIA2015-003804a)

modernity begins, it is in the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, and not in fact in the European cities to which their commodity is returned. Modernity then, the economic, political, social conditions we now live within, is fully linked to colonialism. It is inseparable from colonialism, and that goes back to what we were saying earlier about the relationship between the sciences and empire. The essence of modernity is that it constructs a ladder of civilizations, whereby some civilizations, and certain social actors within those civilizations, are viewed as being more “modern� than others. Those who are more modern are assumed to be those who therefore have the prerogative and the responsibility to lead those societies in whatever direction they wish. In that space between science and empire emerges a particular way of organizing the world in which modernity, imagined to be selfcreating, is part of this logic of spontaneous generation. This seems vital to understanding how the biological sciences, and subsequently, ideas and policies of environmental conservation, have taken shape. What we might also add to that is a characteristic willful forgetting of the ways in which non-European and non-white collaborators make possible the forms of modernity which emerge. Take for example the kind of scientific publications which Beebe was writing, based on his work at the field station in British Guiana—at no point was he likely to give credit to all of the local informants who would have guided him towards the phenomena he came to understand. He describes their contribution to the work he is doing mainly by folding them into the landscape, speaking for them in a way similar to how he speaks of the plants and animals in the jungle that he writes about, which results in a coopting of their knowledge as his own. Exactly, so there is a kind of suppression of any memory or acknowledgment of these other actors, the non-white makers of natural knowledge are flattened themselves into the nature itself, which only is made sense of by the white Euro-American gaze.


PL . 30

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Mauve Tentacled Worm, Bizoton Reef, Haiti, 1927

PL . 31

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Forget-me-not Worm, Bizoton Reef, Haiti, 1927

PL . 32

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Gorgonian and Self-colored Isopod Living on It, Sand Cay, Haiti, 1927

PL . 33 / PL . 34

Dwight Franklin, Sargassum Fish (Antennarius) Pen Sketches of Poses, Arcturus Expedition, 1925 / Dwight Franklin, Sargassum Fish (Antennarius) Sketches of Poses, Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL . 35 / PL . 36

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Untitled (Blue Striped Grunt [Haemulon sciurus] and Polychaete Worm), Bermuda, 1933 / Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Snapping Shrimp and Family, Bermuda, 1930

PL . 37

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Flying Fish (Cypselurus furcatus), Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL . 38

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Princess Rockfish (Mycteroperca venenosa), Bermuda, 1930

PL . 39

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Aristostomias, New species, Bermuda, 1929

PL . 40

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Long-spined Giant Squid, Bermuda, 1929

PL . 41

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Cantherhines amphioxys, Bermuda, 1931

PL . 42

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van, Argyropelecus aculeatus, Bermuda, 1929

PL . 43

Isabel Cooper, Large Sargasso Crab, Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL . 44

Isabel Cooper, Red Spider Crab (Oxyrhyncha), Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL . 45 / PL . 46

Don Dickerman, Sea-going Toothpick (Rhabdosoma), Arcturus Expedition, 1925 / Don Dickerman, Red Crab (Amphipod), Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL . 47 / PL . 48

Isabel Cooper, Moray Eel (Muraena insularum), Arcturus Expedition, 1925 / Isabel Cooper, Green Parrot Fish, Noma Expedition, 1923

PL . 49

Else Bostelmann, Blue and Orange Nudibranch, Bermuda, 1931

PL . 50

Else Bostelmann, Monacanthus ciliatus, Bermuda, 1930

PL . 51

Else Bostelmann, Lasiognathis piscatorius, New species, Bermuda, 1930

PL . 52

Else Bostelman, Bathylagus glacialis Eating Plankton, 800 Fathoms, Bermuda, 1930

PL . 53

Else Bostelmann, Chiasmodon niger, Bermuda, 1930

PL . 54

Else Bostelmann, Chiasmodon niger Stomach Contents, Bermuda, 1931

PL . 55

Artist unknown, Untitled (Gulper Eel and Deep Sea Angler Fish), c. 1929–35

PL . 56

George Swanson, Contents of the Stomach of a 16-pound Male Black-finned Tuna (Parathunnus atlanticus), 1935

PL . 57

Else Bostelmann, Saccopharynx harrisoni, Bermuda, 1931

PL . 58

George Swanson, Himantolophus, New Species, Zaca Expedition, c. 1936–38

PL . 59

Else Bostelmann, Submerged Beach, 1400 Fathoms, Bermuda, 1931

PL . 60

Else Bostelmann, Saber-toothed Viper fish (Chauliodus sloanei) Chasing Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) Larva, Bermuda, 1934

PL . 61

Else Bostelmann, Bathysphaera intacta Circling the Bathysphere, Bermuda, 1934

PL . 62

Else Bostelmann, Five-lined Constellation Fish (Bathysidus pentagrammus), Bermuda, 1932

PL . 63

Else Bostelmann, Stylophthalmus, Bermuda, c. 1930–32

PL . 64

Else Bostelmann, Big Bad Wolves of an Abyssal Chamber of Horrors, Bermuda, 1934

Department of Tropical Research Timeline

july 29, 1877


Charles William Beebe is born in Brooklyn, NY.

Boone and Crockett Club, an elite hunting group, is founded by Theodore Roosevelt.

Beebe undertakes a seventeen-month expedition across the globe to study the world’s pheasants. The resulting multivolume publication, The Monograph of the Pheasants (1918–22), is considered one of the greatest ornithological monographs of the twentieth century.



New York Zoological Society is founded by members of the Boone and Crockett Club with a mandate to encourage the study of zoology, promote wildlife conservation, and open a zoological park. Conservation pioneer William Hornaday is chosen the following year to lead this new zoo.

World War I begins.


United States National Park Service is created.


The Sierra Club is founded by John Muir, Robert Underwood Johnson, and William Colby.

1899 NYZS opens the New York Zoological Park and Gardens (Bronx Zoo). Beebe is hired as its first Curator of Ornithology.


1916 Beebe establishes Kalacoon, the first NYZS field station, near Bartica in British Guiana (now Guyana). Beebe’s friend and supporter Theodore Roosevelt visits the station with his wife Edith.

1918 Beebe begins referring to his field station staff as the Department of Tropical Research. He also publishes Jungle Peace, an account of their experiences in the British Guiana jungle. It is one of several bestselling expedition accounts that he will publish over the course of his life.



Theodore Roosevelt dies.

First DTR expedition to Nonsuch Island, Bermuda. Laboratories established and the Bathysphere first put into service the following year. DTR continues to study marine life in Bermuda over the following decade.

Kartabo, the DTR’s second field station, is created across the river from Kalacoon after the forest around the original station was razed to accommodate the expansion of the adjacent rubber plantation.

1920 DTR continues work at Kartabo; Edith Roosevelt visits the station.

1932 DTR expedition to the West Indies to study marine life, with return visits in 1933 and 1936.

Beebe and Otis Barton's Bathysphere dive off Nonsuch Island broadcast live on DTR expedition to the Galápagos Islands NBC radio. aboard the steam yacht Noma.


1933 1925 DTR expedition in search of the Sargasso Sea, Humboldt Current, and second trip to the Galápagos Islands onboard the Arcturus steamer. Popular adventure novelist Zane Grey visits the floating field station.

King Kong, written and directed in part by DTR staff members Ernest Schoedsack and Ruth Rose, premieres in US theaters.



Records set for deepest manned dives in the Bathysphere; last year of Bathysphere use by the DTR. Beebe publishes Half Mile Down, his account of the Bathysphere dives. Else Bostelmann and Beebe publish their third article in National Geographic Magazine about the DTR's deep-sea explorations.

DTR expedition to Haiti, primarily to study coral reefs using a diving helmet.


1926 Beebe publishes The Arcturus Adventure, an account of the DTR’s search for the Humboldt Current.

1928 DTR expedition to the Hudson Gorge off the southeast coast of New York City to trawl for deep-sea animals.


DTR expedition to Trinidad & Kaieteur Falls, British Guiana led by DTR Research Associate Gloria Hollister. DTR expedition to the Gulf of California & Clarion Island onboard the yacht Zaca.



DTR expedition to Bermuda followed by Pacific Coast expedition beginning at San Diego, CA and continuing south to Panama and Gorgona Island, Colombia. Sponsored by Mr. Templeton Crocker onboard the yacht Zaca.

DTR expedition to Caripito, Venezuela.

John Tee-Van leaves DTR to become NYZS Executive Secretary. Hollister resigns from DTR to take position at the Red Cross and later leads the preservation of the Mianus River Gorge, the Nature Conservancy’s pioneer land project. 1939 DTR Artist George Swanson temporarily DTR and NYZS design a building for resigns to join Camouflage Department the World’s Fair in Queens, New York. Exhibit includes dioramas of the “Glacial of the 312th Army Engineers. Age,” the rise and fall of the Hudson Gorge, the Bathysphere, and deep-sea 1943 fish. Bathysphere loaned to US Navy to test effects of underwater explosions. World War II begins.

1944 1941 War prevents deep-sea work. Beebe and DTR Research Zoologist Jocelyn Crane pack up supplies and vacate laboratory on New Nonsuch, Bermuda. Preparations for new station in Caripito, Venezuela begin. Some DTR staff continue work in Bronx Zoo offices. Crane travels to Panama as DTR emissary to study fiddler crabs. DTR General Associate John Tee-Van goes to China to retrieve baby giant pandas to display at Bronx Zoo.

Beebe edits the collection The Book of Naturalists, selecting Rachel Carson’s essay “Odyssey of the Eel” for the final chapter.

1945 Work begins at Rancho Grande, Venezuela, which had been loaned to DTR as a field station by the Venezuelan government, and continues over the following three years. Visitors to the station include biologist Julian Huxley and the Archbishop of Caracas.

1947 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas's landmark book The Everglades River of Grass is published.




The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, now the World Conservation Union, is founded.

Over the following two years, in addition to continuing work at Simla, DTR staff travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific. Much of the work focuses on Crane’s studies of fiddler crabs, which will lead to her seminal 1975 tome on the animals.

1949 Beebe purchases Simla, in the Arima Valley, Trinidad, and donates it the following year to NYZS to serve as permanent DTR field station. Over the following fifteen years, the DTR conducts various tropical forest ecology studies from Simla and hosts prominent field biologists. Visitors during this period include marine biologist Sylvia Earle, ethologist Konrad Lorenz, and Walt Disney.

june 4, 1962 Beebe dies at Simla and is buried there. Crane continues to serve as DTR Director for the following three years and remains on staff as the DTR is folded into NYZS’s Institute for Research in Animal Behavior, one of the precursors to today’s Global Conservation Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Aldo Leopard's A Sand Country Almanac and Sketches Here and There is published.




Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring.

Conservationist Rachel Carson publishes The Wilderness Act is passed in the her bestselling The Sea Around Us and United States, protecting nine million dedicates the book to Beebe. acres of land.



Beebe retires as DTR Director; Crane becomes Acting Director.

NYZS donates Simla, now called the William Beebe Tropical Research Station, to the Asa Wright Nature Center, which continues to operate it as a field station today.

1953 The Silent World is published, authored by Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Frédéric Dumas.

1975 Jocelyn Crane publishes her master work Fiddler Crabs of the World.


excerpt from

“Exploring a Tree and a Yard of Jungle” C. William Beebe


An oblique glance will sometimes reveal more vital things than a direct gaze. As with vision so I found it in my occupations during a fortnight spent in Pará, Brazil. As I have already indicated, my principal motive was to superintend the assembling and transportation to our Zoological Park of a considerable portion of the animals and birds in the Pará Zoo.1 With the arising of many unexpected difficulties, it seemed as if this undertaking would not leave me free for a moment. The party not in power even took it up as a political issue, and the newspapers were filled with excited editorials condemning our presence and object. But these things settled themselves, and at calm intervals I took a tram to the suburbs, and chose Utinga as a base for jungle work. Utinga is a large tract of jungle, restricted from public occupation in order to protect the water-works station. For a day or two I roamed aimlessly about, shooting any interesting birds I came across in the usual collector's fashion. Then I realized that if any worthwhile results were to be achieved, it was only by restricted, intensive observation. This I carried out in two ways.



On the first tramp I took in the jungle I noticed a number of small birds in the upper branches of a tree which grew alongside of a trail near our camp. When I had passed that way several times I realized that this particular tree had some powerful attraction for birds of many species. Knowing the shortness of time at my disposal I determined to concentrate my efforts on this wild cinnamon, called by the natives Canella do Matto. Once having my attention called to this bird tree, I kept on the watch for others. Several hundred yards away I discovered a real giant, towering high above all the surrounding growth. This I named the Toucan Tree as it appeared to be especially attractive to these birds. It was covered with an abundance of good-sized scarlet fruit, the size of which accounted for the presence of medium and large birds, such as toucans, caciques, trogons and kiskadees, instead of smaller callistes and flycatchers. A third berry-laden tree half a mile to the eastward straight through the jungle, bore oblong, yellow-skinned fruit, appealing especially to woodpeckers and flycatchers, and from brief glimpses in passing, the constant abundance of birds would have furnished as interesting a list as at the tree near our camp.


William Beebe, “Zoological Notes from Pará, Brazil,” Bulletin of the New York Zoological Society 18, no. 4 (1915): 1241–43.

I began my study of bird life in the wild cinnamon tree by stealthy approaches, working my way through the jungle until I was close underneath. I soon found that this was quite unnecessary, as the birds among the upper branches paid no attention either to me or the sound of my gun. Three hours of constant observation beneath the tree resulted in many hours of pain from strained neck muscles. On the third day I brought out a canvas steamer chair and placing it in the trail at a convenient spot, found it to be ideal for observation. I could recline so that looking straight upward was no effort. With gun on my knees, glasses around my neck, note-book and dead birds on a stump within reach, I had discovered a truly de luxe method of tropical bird study. The biting flies, gnats and mosquitos made it impossible to sit absolutely quiet for more than a minute, and the ants soon found that the legs of the chair gave easy access to one's person. On the whole, however, I was too much absorbed in the novelty of the method of work and its unexpected results to give any thought to the annoyances. The principal jungle flower was the heliconia, whose scarlet, jagged spikes glowed brightly against the dark foliage. Variegated leaves were abundant and when the slanting sun struck through the jungle, it often appeared vivid with color. Black capuchin monkeys of more than one species were occasionally seen and I saw as many as nine in a band. Three-toed sloths were common as were


agoutis and small squirrels. But during my periods of watching, no mammal came near the tree. The more common sounds were the usual ones of light jungle. Tinamou called and answered one another, gold-birds lifted their wonderful voices far away in the forest, toucans yelped, caciques squeaked and gurgled overhead, cicadas shrilled and buzzed and great bees and hummingbirds whirred past. After the daily rain, tiniest of frogs would each strike up a single, shrill note, unceasingly reiterated. My business was chiefly with the birds which I could observe from my canvas seat. I spent from two to six hours each day for a period of one week in the immediate vicinity of the tree and during that time identified ninety-seven species of birds, none of which were more than a few yards from the trail [. . .] This series of strata of bird life visible to me as I sat quietly, hour after hour, was very striking, a phenomenon which would never come to one while moving about through the jungle. Bound to the ground were the tinamou, and almost as terrestrial were the rustling ground doves. In the lower underbrush finches, synallaxis and antbirds moved restlessly; a little higher, manakins whirred about and woodhewers hitched up the trunks. Then came the birds of the upper branches—callistes, tanagers, flycatchers, toucans and parrakeets. Then the low fliers—the swallows, martins, swifts and nighthawks and finally the vultures,

character, very different from the more careful picking and choosing with which I shot on succeeding days. The first day I secured sixteen birds, all of different The tree was smooth-barked, richly species. The second morning I got decorated with lichens and while only fourteen, all different, and only one of about fifteen inches in diameter at a which was represented in the lot of the man's height above the ground, it was very tall in proportion. The first branches previous day. Thus in five hours' time I secured thirty specimens of twenty-nine were small, mostly dead and about sixty species. From the entire district of Parå, feet up. From this point the trunk split into lesser divisions and lifted its topmost three hundred and seventy-nine birds foliage into the full tropical light and heat have been recorded. In this single tree a hundred and ten feet above the ground. within a week's time and during a period The berries were small, round and three- of intermittent observation I found parted and, like the leaves, slightly acrid, seventy-six species. with a spicy, aromatic flavor. The bird visitors to the tree arrived in one A few minutes after dawn I have counted of two characteristic ways. Many came direct and swiftly, singly or in pairs, eight birds in the tree and a half dozen flying straight and with decision as if would sometimes linger until dusk. As from a distance. A hundred yards away a rule, however, there were few in sight in any direction this convergence could until 7:30 or 8:00 A.M., after which frequently be observed, small birds flying there would be a continual coming and over the summit of the jungle, revealing going until the heat of mid-day drove a general flight direction treeward. all to shelter. The larger number of Another method of arrival was wholly afternoon visitors came after the rain was over. Sunshine had much to do with casual, loose flocks drifting slowly from the neighboring jungle, sifting into the the presence of the birds, and a cloudy tree and feeding for a time before passing half-hour meant but scant notes as I sat on. When these left it was rather hastily beneath. With the reappearing of the sun, the birds would again begin to flock and in answer to the chirps and calls of the members of their flock who had not from the surrounding jungle. been beguiled by the berry attraction of this tree and hence had forged steadily Abundance of species and relative ahead. These more or less well-defined fewness of individuals is a pronounced characteristic of any tropical fauna. This flocks are very typical of all tropical jungles. Little assemblages of flycatchers, was beautifully shown by my first two days’ collection from the tree, collecting, callistes, tanagers, antbirds, manakins, woodhewers and woodpeckers are drawn too, which was quite indiscriminate in hanging like the faintest of motes in the sunlight high above the earth.


together by some intangible but very social instinct, and unite day after day in these fragile fraternities which drift along, gleaning from leaves, flowers, branches, trunk or ground, each bird according to its structure and way of life. They are so held together by an invisible gregarious instinct that day after day the same heterogeneous flock may be observed, identifiable by peculiarities of one or several of its members. The only recognizable bond is vocal—constant low calling, half unconscious, absent-minded little signals which keep the members in touch with one another, spurring on the laggards, retarding the over-swift.

of attraction. Lacking these, the birds would have had no special reason for visiting it more than the surrounding jungle. It was surprising to discover how many of the birds which usually are essential insect eaters, here had become chronically frugivorous. [. . .]

And so came to a close my rambling observations on the bird life of this single Canella do Matto. Within the space of a week I had spent not more than twenty hours of neck-racked, vertical observation, shooting whenever necessary, holding up my glasses until my arms collapsed with fatigue. In return I had been able definitely to While I watched, there came to my tree identify seventy-six species and to one species of pigeon, two hawks and two record the presence in the tree of at parrots, four hummingbirds and an equal least one hundred. In point of actual number of toucans and woodpeckers. numbers I kept no sustained record, but Fifty-nine were passerine birds of which during one vigil of two hours' length there were eight each of the families of I counted four hundred and sixteen flycatchers, manakins and cotingas and visitors to the tree. eleven tanagers. When I began I had no conception of Besides the seventy-six which I positively such success and as I look back and identified by shooting or observation, I realize the necessary desultory character saw at least thirty or forty more species of my observations, the list seems even which eluded me, and of which a hasty more remarkable. Relay observation on glance told no more than that they were the part of two or three watchers for a of new, and to me, unknown species. correspondingly greater length of time, I have recorded the details of this list or closer watching from a blind fixed elsewhere.2 [. . .] in a nearby tree, would yield notes of incomparably greater thoroughness and value. The great abundance of birds in this particular tree was due of course to the multitude of ripe berries among its 2 William Beebe, “Notes on the Birds of Pará, foliage. These were the primary cause Brazil,” Zoologica 2, no. 3 (1916): 55–106.



On the last day of my stay, as I was about to leave Utinga, I concentrated my attention on the tree and the surrounding jungle, endeavoring to fix it indelibly in my mind. I realized that in a few minutes I should leave this place with which I had become so intimate, and should very probably never return. I had demonstrated a remarkable concentration of bird-life when attracted by the ripened fruit of a single jungle tree. It was the unparalleled insurgence of such a variety of organisms as can occur only in the tropics.

Acting on this hint I brought from my camping stores an empty war-bag, and carefully scraped together a few handfuls of leaves, sticks, moss, earth and mold of all sorts. From directly under the Canella do Matto, I gathered four square feet of jungle debris, filled my bag and shouldered it. Then I said adieu to my trail and my tree, a sorrowful leave taking as is always my misfortune. For the bonds which bind me to a place or a person are not easily broken.

In this case, however, the bond was not altogether severed, and a week later when the sky line was unbroken by land, when Now that there remained only a brief space of time I tried to conceive of some a long ground swell waved, but did not last thing I could do, to re-emphasize this break the deep blue of the open sea, I unlaced my bag of jungle mold. Armed important phase of tropical life. with forceps, lens and vials I began my As I walked slowly up the trail toward the search. For days I had gazed upward; now my scrutiny was directed downward. tree I heard a rustling among the leaves at one side, and in deep shadow beyond a With binoculars I had scanned without dense clump of scarlet Heliconias I made ceasing the myriad leaves of a great tree. Now with lens or naked eye I sought out a Tyrant Antwren scratching with for signs of life on an infinitely smaller all its might. To the kicking power of its scale; the metropolis of a fallen leaf, small legs it occasionally added sudden the inhabitants of a dead twig. When flicks with the bill, given with such I studied the tree-top life in the lofty nice judgment and power, that it flung jungle I was in a land of Brobdingnag; leaves larger than itself into the air and backward quite over its body. I had often now I was verily a Gulliver in Lilliput. wondered of what the food of these birds The cosmos in my war-bag teemed with mystery as deep and as inviting as any in really consisted. Anyone could glance at the jungle itself. the contents of a crop and gizzard and label it “small insects.� But the actual details of this varied bill of fare, except in When I began work I knew little of the case of very recently swallowed objects what I should find. My vague thoughts visualized ants and worms, and especially are merged and lost in the comminuted I anticipated unearthing myriads of the mass of legs, elytra and antennae.


unpleasant macuins, or bête rouge, whose hosts had done all in their power to make life in the jungle unhappy.

of the whole showed that hardly any great group of living creatures was unrepresented.

For ten days or more on the steamer trip north Mr. Hartley and I labored over the jungle debris. After two hours of steady concentration our eyes rebelled and we had to desist. It seemed at times as if the four square feet had increased to forty, but the last handful was finally sifted and teased to shreds. Our method of work was to place a small pile on a newspaper spread on a table under the skylights of the smoking room, and with forceps and dissecting needle to search carefully every surface of leaf and frond and to split every twig and stem.

Two objects indicated the presence of wild mammals. First a bunch of rufous hairs which in size, color and minute structure were identical with those of the common agouti, which was very common at Utinga. I also found sign of this rodent. Man, himself, was represented by two wads which had dropped from my gunshots sometime during the week. One had already began to disintegrate— wet, half decayed and inhabited by half a dozen tiny organisms.

Five feathers were the marks of birds, also doubtless the result of my study It was found that the safest way to capture during the week. A body feather and two primaries from a sparrow-like bird the minute creatures which crawled or were indeterminate, but two brilliant, hopped about, was to wet a small brush green plumes came without question in alcohol, touch them with the tip and float them off in the liquid in a very small from the body of a calliste. Of reptiles there was a broken skull of some lizard, vial. Thus they were uninjured and we half disintegrated, with a few of the teeth could pick them from a mass of earth still left. There was, besides, the small or fungus without including any of the debris itself. Usually we worked with our egg-shell of a lizard which had hatched naked eyes, but occasionally hunted over and gone forth to live its life elsewhere in the jungle. A third reptilian trace may a particularly rich field with low-power have been his nemesis—a good-sized dissecting lenses. shred of snake-skin. The group of amphibians was present even in this small Day by day our vials increased. Scores area of four square feet—a very tiny, of creatures evaded our search. Many dried, black and wholly unrecognizable others, of which I had captured a little frog. Fishes were absent, although generous number, I allowed to escape. from my knees as I scraped up the debris, My lilliputian census was far from the I could almost see a little igarapé in which mere aggregation of ants and worms dwelt scores of minnows. which I had anticipated, and a review


As I delved deeper and examined the mold more carefully for the diminutive inhabitants, I found that this thin veneer from the floor of the jungle, appeared to have several layers, each with its particular fauna. The upper layer was composed of recently fallen leaves, nuts, seeds and twigs, dry and quite fresh. As yet these showed but little change, and only the damage wrought by insects and other agencies while they were still on the trees. In this layer were small colonies of ants in hollow twigs and occasional huge solitary ones. Here lived in hiding small moths, beetles and bugs awaiting dusk to fly forth through the jungle. The lowest layer was one chiefly of matted, thready roots holding together compact masses of earthy soil, mixed with a large proportion of tiny bits of quartz. The animal life of this stratum was very meagre, occasional mites—especially red ones—and a few earth and round worms. The latter were in much fewer numbers than in the middle layers. Between the upper and the middle layers were sprouting nuts and seeds, with their blanched roots threaded downward into the rich dark mold, and the greening cotyledons curling upward toward light and warmth. Thus had the great Canella do Matto itself begun life. In my war-bag were a score of potential forest giants doomed to death in the salt ocean. The middle layer, finally, was the all-important stratum. In it lived


four-fifths of the small folk. This was composed of debris in full course of disintegration. Leaves, sometimes partly green, usually brown or black, nuts half decayed, twigs half rotten. All still preserved their form, although some were ready to fall apart at a touch. All were soaked through, or at least damp and soggy. Often four or five leaves would be stuck together, stitched with the threads of fungi. In such a haven was always a host of living organisms. Some of the half decayed leaves were very beautiful. Vistas of pale, bleached fungus lace trailed over the rich mahogany colored tissues, studded here and there with bits of glistening, transparent quartz. Here I had many hints of a world of life beyond the power of the unaided eye. And here too the grosser fauna scrambled, hopped or wriggled. Everywhere were tiny chrysalids and cocoons, many empty. Now and then a plaque of eggs, almost microscopic, showed veriest pin-pricks where still more minute parasites had made their escape. Contracting the field of vision to this world where leaves were fields and fungi loomed as forests, competition, the tragedies, the mystery lessen not at all. Minute seeds mimicked small beetles in shape and in exquisite tracery of patterns; small beetles curled up and to the eye became minute seeds of beautiful design. Bits of bark simulated insects, a patch of fungus seemed a worm, and in their turn insects and worms became transmuted optically into immobile

vegetation. Scores of little creatures were wholly invisible until they moved. Here and there I discovered a lifeless boulder of emerald or turquoise—the metallic cuirass of some long dead beetle.

lens I saw the hideous creature stop in its awkward progress and as it prepared to sink its proboscis I involuntarily flinched, so fearful a thing seemed about to happen.

Some of the scenes which appeared as I picked over the mold, unfolded suddenly after an upheaval of debris, were startling. When we had worked with the lens for many minutes, all relative comparisons with the surrounding world were lost. Instead of looking down from on high, a being apart, with titanic brush of bristles ready to capture the fiercest of these jungle creatures, I, like Alice in Wonderland, felt myself growing smaller, becoming an onlooker perhaps hiding behind a tiny leaf or twig. This feeling became more and more real as we labored day after day, and it added greatly to the interest and excitement. Close by would appear, under the lens, piles of great logs and branches protruding from a heaped-up bank of precious stones. Mauve, yellow, orange and cerulean hues played over the scene. Over a steep hill came a horned, ungainly creature with huge proboscis and eight legs, and shining, liver-colored body, all paunch, spotted with a sickly hue of yellow. It was studded with short stiff bristles, and was apparently as large as a wart-hog and much more ugly. It was a mite, one of the biting mites of the tropics, but under the lens a terrible monster. I put one of these on my arm to see if its bite corresponded to that of the legions of macuins which tortured us daily in the jungle. Under the

In the middle layer, that of most active change, and surcharged with life, ants were abundant, together with small colonies of termites. These were the only social insects, the twigfuls consisting of from five to fifteen members. All the other organisms were isolated, scattered here and there. Life in these lowly places, so far beneath the sunlight, is an individual thing. Flocks and swarms are unknown, and the mob has no place here. Each organism must live its life and fulfill its destiny single-handed. Even when two individuals were found together it was apparently more through accident of environment than from any gregarious instinct. In fact the same tropical law which holds good in regard to plants and the larger creatures of the sunlit world over-head applies here. I found numbers of different species, but very few collections of individuals of the same kind. [. . .]


Next to the ants the mites and ticks were the most abundant organisms. Hardly a leaf or bit of mold was free from them. I could have gathered hundreds. They were of many species and all colors, red, brown, purple, black and flesh colored. Some were naked and shining, others clothed in bristly hairs to their very feet. All were repulsive, slow, and so awkward

that it was inexplicable how creatures with such lack of correlation could ever manage to find food, much less a mate. They were always crawling slowly along, tumbling over every obstacle in their path. Ticks were much rarer than mites. [. . .] Ants were the most abundant form of life, both in numbers and species. They lived in the upper layers and with the exception of the great, black, solitary fellows who apparently had been walking about on the top of the leaf stratum, all were of small size. Their colonies were apparently complete but very small, a very minute twig being packed full of individuals from six to fourteen in number with a half dozen pupae. A careful examination of these ants has showed that there are no fewer than seventeen species, two of which are representatives of most remarkable new genera. [. . .]

chemistry was allowed full sway, and the mystery of synthetic life was ever handicapped and ever a mystery. Before the vessel docked we had completed our task and had secured over five hundred creatures from this lesser cosmos. At least twice as many remained, but in making calculations I estimated that the mold had sheltered a thousand organisms that were plainly visible to the eye.

When I had corked my last vial and the steward had removed the last pile of shredded debris, I leaned back and thought of the thousand little creatures in my scant four square feet of mold. Then there came to mind a square mile of jungle floor with its thin layer of fallen leaves sheltering many more than six billions of these creatures. Then I recalled the three thousand straight miles of continuous jungle which had lain westward up the course of the Day after day as I worked with my face Amazon, and of the hundreds of miles close to the mold, I was constantly aware of wonderful unbroken forest north of the keen, strong, pungent odor. It and south. My mind faltered before the hinted of the age-old dissolution, century vision of the unnamable numerals of after century, which had been going this uncharted census, of the insurgence on. Leaves had fallen, not in a sudden of life which this thought embraced. autumnal down-pour, but in a never It seemed quite clear that no tyrant ending drift, day after day, month after antwren need ever go hungry, as long as month. With a daily rain for moisture, he had strength to turn over a leaf. with a temperature of three figures for the quicker increase of bacteria, and an From New York Zoological Society excess of humidity to foster quick decay, Bulletin 19, no. 1 (1916): 1307–16. n the jungle floor was indeed a laboratory of vital work—where only analytic


excerpt from

“Wild-Animal Painting in the Jungle” Isabel Cooper

FIG . 9

Artists Helen Damrosch and Isabel Cooper at work, British Guiana, c. early 1920s

A long while ago I formed a vague, magnificent idea of the perfect job for a young woman with artistic tendencies. It was to be so interesting that it would seem more like play than work; it was to require extensive travel in rare and foreign lands; it was to make some use of the artistic tendencies. I used to dream of such a job as I went bleakly about my various occupations, such as assisting at the legerdemain of interior decorators, or degrading Oriental perfections to terms of a modern rug-factory, or building


feeble disguises for player kings and queens, or filling in the cracks of my time with painting lessons, sadly convinced the while that you cannot learn to be a painter and accomplish anything else the same year. And lo, the dream came true. The perfect job is mine. The vague, magnificent idea had given me no hint of the fantastic delight in store for me. Several years ago I began to try my hand at sketching animals from life, at the Tropical Research Station of the New York Zoölogical Society, in British Guiana. Lately this nebulous project has become a real and fascinating job—Staff Artist of the Station; and it combines the best features of work and play. It necessitates travel to some of the most wonderful places in the world, and it has used and developed my artistic tendencies. It has the additional charm of being practically unique. I have had to work out for myself many of the details of my profession. For instance, there's no such thing as a school of snake artists, so when the problem of making a portrait of a snake presented itself I had to think up the technique for myself. There were many odd little worries connected with this problem, such as the invention of the proper anæsthetic for deadly reptiles, to put them out of the misery of posing and yet allow the colors of life to linger from day to day. Then the temperaments of wild creatures have had to be studied. I have had to discover—by the process of elimination mostly, I am afraid—which

We emerge from Georgetown and its diversions by way of the most freakish little railroad. Then come the last laps of our journey—forty miles of the Essequibo river by Government steamer, and finally a few miles of the Mazaruni There is considerable contrast between in our own unspeakable ‘Evinrude,’ this work and the usual job. The which lives or not as the mood takes environment, for instance, is so far it. And there we are at Kartabo Point, removed from that of most working artists: all the difference between a shelf in the nicest place in the world, where I can sit in a bamboo grove, with my pet a steel honeycomb at the end of the trail monkey companionable at my elbow, between cigar stores and subway pillars, and thoroughly enjoy myself sketching and a clearing in the midst of the South American jungle. And our trail southward anything from a rainbow boa to a vampire bat. from New York leads over mountainous waves and the submarine ranges below, The Director of the Tropical Research and is varied by visions of the Antilles, Station has written most comprehensively and enhanced by a diversity of beings— and delightfully about our life and work travelers, colonials, natives, an endless procession of outlanders who seem to have in this beautiful camp. I wish merely to give an idea of my share of the work, and only human nature in common. something of the effect the wilderness has I love the moment when our ship, which on myself, an artist inmate, as I pursue my profession at the edge of the dark rain has been so recently roped to the edge forest, with vivid serpent or tapestried of Brooklyn, is tied up to one of the lizard in one hand, and the best grade of mouldy, molasses-scented wharves of Georgetown, and becomes again, by the Japanese paintbrush in the other. magic of a lowered gangway, merely a My especial task is to record, as peculiar and absurdly elaborate piece accurately as may be, the natural colors of a continent. Between this end of our and expressions of the lesser creatures of ocean voyage and the last lap of our the jungle: snakes, frogs, lizards, insects, journey occurs a merry interlude in the every type of animal whose appearance queer little capital of Demerara. Nearly all the inhabitants hate the place, and can is seriously altered by death and museum never understand our enthusiasm for it. I preparation. The integuments and should probably not be exhilarated at the trappings of these units of living tissue are more strange and miraculous than prospect of spending the rest of my life there, but I enjoy every inch of its funny, the most extraordinary fabrics of the inanimate world. The variety of colors seedy streets. [. . .] were friendly, or curious, or sedentary, and which preferred a long leap into the unknown to any dealings whatsoever with me.


and patterns and textures is unending, and the close study of them is a delight. Birds’ feathers and the wings of butterflies are wonderful; but birds can look quite presentable stuffed for many years, and all you have to do to preserve a butterfly for your great-grandchildren is put it under glass. So, much as I may long to try to reproduce a sun-bittern’s wing or a moth’s feathered domino, I am obliged to leave them alone. It seems that the colors in these cases are often not pigment at all, but merely refracted light. Until the actual feather-and-scale substance of the hidden prisms moulds away, the light goes right on cleverly splitting up into a thousand color schemes; or when pigments are present they are comparatively stable, so that macaws look out from museum cases in the same green and blue and yellow that they wore in the forests; kingfishers never put off their glittering uniforms; the paint is as fresh now as ever on the quiet wings of a million dead butterflies.

sparkling black pupil and the decoration of the brilliant iris, until the eye looks like a mouldering moonstone. The scales catch this creeping death next: the brightness goes, though the actual color usually remains for several hours. This dullness is more like the slow coming of a shadow than the draining away of color. The skin shrinks into ridges and what little expression the animal had in life turns into the lost look of a skull. [. . .]

You can see that the thing for the artist to do is to get to work as quickly as possible and work exclusively from the living model. As fast as the natives and Indians and my thoughtful colleagues bring in four- and six-footed sitters, I endeavor to turn out sketches. Sometimes there is a desperate race between my brush and the Grim Reaper, when the captive is injured or reduced to fatal melancholia by his imprisonment. Sometimes an extra spurt of life gets ahead of my merely human fingers, as when a tadpole telescopes his tail and turns into a young frog right before my eyes, or when a caterpillar But the bright surface of reptiles’ scales declines with their wearers. The leathern disappears from view in his cocoon, or a skin of toads becomes grizzled in alcohol. chrysalis goes to work and hatches, while I am taking time off to eat lunch or clean The papier-mâché masks and queer my paintbox. Sometimes all goes very gossamer costumes of bugs collapse or briskly indeed, and I have to take my shrivel when the freakish little gnomes subjects in order of their rarity or their are entombed in their orderly museumsusceptibility to death. vaults. Most remarkable and significant in the appearance of most of these creatures—and soonest extinguished by I remember once being very busy with a weird red cricket, when in walked death—are their eyes. This is especially the Director with a rare and exquisite true of snakes. The instant they pass, viper—tiny, very venomous, gray-green a dreadful mildew creeps up over the


and orange with black tattooing—which had been trying to bite him through his hat. I started immediately to get impressions of its marvelous looks before it should have time to die and turn into a horrid faded shoestring. I can still remember the slightly delirious feeling it gave me to watch it swaying and hissing on my desk, and striking with the few inches of its glimmering green back that the space allowed. I worked as fast as I could to get all the details of its colors. It was so small that it was necessary to anÌsthetize it before I could even attempt to approach a microscope to its wicked little face and draft in the complexities of its head-patterns. In the meantime the wretched scarlet cricket made a complete get-away.

safety and shelter lie. No matter how much I turn them about on my desk, they quite definitely insist on facing toward their old homesteads in the hidden depths of the forest. I have been guilty of a perverse and unnecessarily sentimental joy when something has gotten clean away. You must have been a prisoner of some kind to truly know what freedom is, and it seems to me that my little toads, hopping triumphantly off through the leaves, have it all over their friends who have never been helpless in a hot human paw, or jumbled about on the desk with English paints and Japanese inks and brushes. [. . .]

All the time that I am supposably absorbed in my work, I am really trying desperately to concentrate and not dream too much about my glorious My models are always escaping. The environment. I find myself wasting long whole camp knows what a commotion spaces of time in wonder at the beauty of in the studio end of the laboratory means—something has hopped or crept the forests, and the incredible weather, at the brown rivers, and the look of or slithered out of my window, and is making off hot-foot through the second the tropical sky, and at the sparkling peace and beauty of our bamboo grove. growth to the dense jungle beyond. I have been most harshly criticized for this. I sometimes feel like holding a shaded mirror up to the brilliant spectacle, and Dreadful imprecations are heard when I fail to detain some sleuth-like snake or resting my eyes with its quiet, silver reflections. In our small clearing, on butter-footed lizard who has found an the white beaches, and along the dim imperfection in his cage and is making forest trails, I can never seem to accept as the best of it. The casual architecture usual and familiar the omnipresent trees of my little cages and prisons is partly responsible for this, to say nothing of the and the tropical river highways flowing between them. They are enchanted at temperaments of all concerned. [. . .] sunrise: the trees standing dark and colorless, and the rivers moving like dark It is odd how almost all of my little molten glass with a faint bloom of flower animals know the direction in which


dust across them, and scattered with cold bubbles of foam from the rapids beyond. As the sun gets up, the bubbles dissolve and the water begins to smoke faintly.

me of nothing so much as the glinting bows of the first and second violins of an orchestra, when they really get going in the overture to Tannhäuser. [. . .]

All sorts of living things venture out from the forest or in from the rivers, and flash past my easel. Once a quiet little brown snake wound his way through my particular clump of trees. A protracted hunt was held around and over me for a vicious crapaud snake who was finally caught hissing and striking under the bank below me. My little monkey would spot retiring gray lizards as they walked innocently on the bark, and the next thing I knew they would be disappearing tail-first down his throat. He used to pull the tree-stumps apart with his thumbless I often used to take my work out under the bamboo trees, when the wind was not hands, or peer into the fallen calyxes, too high and my subject and its cage were then rush back to sit on the arm of my portable. Then I could have Mishkin, our chair and loudly chew up his find. little ring-tailed monkey, sitting beside I love all the extraneous delights of me, cheerfully conversing with himself, or picking wasps out of the air, or craftily jungle life. Something seems to happen to the processes of your imagination. watching to see if I had any chocolate about me. He used to be morbidly inter- The pictures of this inner world take on a strange reality, set here against the ested in my models—a little afraid of dimensionless stillness of the forest. them sometimes, but unable to keep Your mind appears to exist in a different from looking at them. He would make medium—something much more terrible faces at the snakes, and I would peaceful than the dust-laden noise that catch him unsuccessfully trying to get up the nerve to touch them. He loved the envelops a city, where the very space atmosphere of the place as much as I did. between the buildings has changed into a tattered substance of smells and absurdly gyrating atoms. [. . .] I am afraid that I go into a trance in a bamboo grove. The leaves have such a Best of all advantages of our jungle camp beautiful rustle. In a small breeze all is its remoteness from civilization. I the leaves quiver in unison, and remind Up the straight stretch of tide and current before us sweep all the different kinds of tropical weather—storms that split upon our frail tents, and singing trade winds, and mist that eats out the substance of the trees and faintly touches with shadow the curved and lissome planes of their invisible branches. And far up the Cuyuni we can watch the sunsets, like brimming Grails of light, slowly burning down somewhere beyond the Andes.


enjoy it. Of course the very fact that it is unusual tends to make some people shudder uncontrollably. It is an amusing thing, however, that the extremely metropolitan person, who fastidiously shrinks from the notion of a life close to nature, has some interesting needs, such as toothbrushes made of pigs’ bristles, and hair-nets woven from Chinese pigtails, and an inartistic animal product as a base for perfumes, and an anatomical by-product of the cat, to which they hardly like to refer in polite society, which is nevertheless necessary for the production of some of the most beautiful sounds of civilized music. Also they would probably cringe away In spite of the pessimism of our Northern from the exudation of a silkworm, yet friends, the climate of the tropics remains it is quite the thing to pay largely for intimate garments made of this mystea perfect medium for life and work. We rious substance. When people take seem to retain our health, and emerge exception to my preference for wild life, at the end of many months undamaged I feel like being disagreeable and logical, by reptiles and malevolent insect life. Of and pointing out some of these facts, and course, to be exact, one must admit that the weather is always warm. The only frost I hardly ever remember in time that the last thing in the world you can hope to for miles in any direction is to be found around the tops of the tall rum punches. modify is a point of view. spend much time, after the unprofitable habit of the young modern, railing at civilization. But I have to keep reminding myself that it is not really so bad. As an intelligent friend points out, if it were not for the arrangements of a few highly civilized persons, how would a Research Station be possible in the depths of British Guiana? If it were not for this gruesome state of mankind, what should we do for microscopes and firearms, chemicals, cameras, tinned provisions, and smart tropical clothes—and the subjective point of view, without with we could not possibly be conscious of our delightful isolation?

But I should always prefer to spend my time in the tropics than to drag through a breathless fetid summer in a Northern city. The air of the tropics is warm and dry and perfumed—whereas there is no air in a New York summer, and if there were, it would be hot and soggy and smelly. Whatever the man in the street may think about such an environment and occupation as mine, I myself thoroughly


Five o’clock of a winter’s afternoon—in New York City and at Kartabo Point! What is going on? In New York a tide of glittering engines is setting strongly north, and disaster skulks from block to block, barely checked by the grace of brake-linings; perhaps a six-day bicycle race is in full swing, a thousand little dime-eating machines are gobbling and imperfectly digesting a million dimes, on a thousand Fifth Avenue busses; in

darkened theatres, last acts are slowly drawing to a close, to the accompaniment of many persons creeping out over fallen hats and feet, their minds feverishly set on the dash across town to the five-twenty-three; dark pasty masses of humanity are being forced in and out of underground tubes, like icing out of a confectioner’s funnel; the five or six lonely English sparrows who still live in the park are gathering for the daily meeting of their Down-and-out Club.

excerpt from

“Jungle Studio” George Alan Swanson

A studio in the jungle sounds silly. It sounds like a line from the Jabberwock. I suppose it's all because people think of a jungle as a place with a boa on every branch and a jaguar jumping At Kartabo we are swimming in the from behind each bush, while studios, river, or taking tea to the music of except those in Gautier, have divans homing parrots, or prowling in the quiet, and cocktails and pianos and casts of darkening forest. A million bamboo Praxiteles' Hermes. Anyway, I knew it leaves are slowly waving in the cool air. sounded silly the minute I said it. It was Nightwalking beetles are creeping out during intermission at the Opera one from under one side of their leafy homes, night last winter when I announced to as the day-shift crawls in under the other. friends that I was going to paint in the All the problems of nature that we shall jungle. I imagine I looked a bit ecstatic, never solve take spectral shape and rear and somehow Pelleas, martinis and the their grinning, taunting features at us jungle didn't mix properly. One friend though the jungle aisles. Somewhere, raised eyebrows, another winced and hidden in the caverns and lofty chambers a third poked holes in the olive with a of the forest, creep or dance or flit the toothpick. countless hosts of masqueraders who will never pose before my brush and paper, They all knew that I had been on other whose fantastic shapes and eerie beauty expeditions painting frogs and geckos will never be reduced to flat films of and things, but I guess “jungle” meant pigment, and filed away, and carried over cannibals and huge gaunt creatures sea and land, to museums and exhibitions waiting to spring out at one. At least my and the cold stare of metropolitan eyes. ideas were vaguely like that before I had seen bits of jungle in Costa Rica and other places. A barrage of questions came From The Atlantic Monthly (Jun 1924): at me, all fortunately interrupted by the 133, 732–43. n buzzer for the third act curtain.


Several weeks later I was in Caracas, Venezuela, with Dr. Beebe and other members of the staff of the Department of Tropical Research, waiting impatiently for equipment to arrive. On seven previous expeditions I had painted on desert islands filled with sea lions, in dry tropical forests with toucans and peccaries, and on coral reefs with angelfish and sea anemones, but I had never seen a real tropical rain forest before. I had my own idea of what one should look like, of course, and—I hate to admit it—boas and monkeys were on every tree. No cannibals, though. My other trips with Dr. Beebe had ranged from the palm-fringed islet of Gorgonilla to the blue and gold Cape of San Lucas; from the watercolor land of Inez Bay to the San Juan River in Venezuela with its scarlet ibises and crocodiles, but these were more or less just ordinary places. When we were finally established at Rancho Grande, I found that it was more than another place. It had a definite personality of its own. Situated thirty-five hundred feet up the Maritime Andes, surrounded by cloud forest, it takes on the slender mystery of a dream, particularly when in late afternoon it drapes its shoulders in mists and seems to hang suspended in mid-air like an enchanted castle of medieval legend. The idea of my having a studio in such a place appealed to my sense of the dramatic, and while I found out later


that there were no floating white ladies as tenuous as sea foam to roam its corridors on nights of full moon (as I half expected), there were blue swallows and tanagers nesting in the walls, and at night red bats flittered in the halls after moths. Yellow-spotted snakes lived in the garden under the mango trees, frogs in the the kitchen, lizards on the roof and spiders in every conceivable corner, so even though we owned no ghosts, we did possess the creatures usually thought of in connection with them. Perhaps we frightened the ghosts away. I shouldn’t wonder, as the capture of any unusual animal was always attended by wild cries that echoed and re-echoed from the walls like the shrieks of so many maenads in the midst of dionysian revels—surely enough to send even the boldest ghost hurrying back to ghostland. But all thoughts of a haunted studio vanished soon enough under a deluge of carnivorous grasshoppers with blue legs, emerald tree snakes and alabaster hylas with jade pop-eyes, and my brushes flew to record color before death made everything an uninspired gray and brown. People who have never painted in the jungle may wonder how anyone goes about painting a boa or a beetle. In most cases there is no way but to pick your animal up and start painting. This was rather difficult at first, as I, along with millions of others, thought things bit, or were slimy. In fact, everything was difficult at first; the problems

own. In addition to the animals, I would collect background material to approximate as closely as possible the spot where the animals were found, and I would return to the laboratory with my To begin with, I had been taught haversack filled with fairy landscapes on modern painting methods and bits of bark, Enterolobium seedpods like techniques, and the idea of fin rays something in the window of a French to count and measurements to make confectioner, and twigs from mellowfrom snout to thorax never entered my mind. I had been used to thirty-by-forty trunked old trees with miniature forests canvases painted with a certain amount of young ferns, mosses and seedling of daring, and allowing color to do what epiphytes. And beetles in cookie boxes, it pleased after it was applied. So, while frogs wrapped in handkerchiefs wriggling my first few paintings were hardly done in my pockets or a small pink-and-gray after the fashion of the Neo-Classicists, snake in a butterfly net. I did let watercolors mix themselves on the paper. My very first jungle Then would begin the all important job painting was of a scarlet amphipod, of getting everything painted before which while I dare say it had a bit of colors would fade, death overtake a charm, turned out to be an eyebrowspecimen, or something escape and raiser resplendent in a dozen hues. The fly away. This was always an exciting general color tended towards scarlet, but time. Before my eyes, caterpillars would there were green and blue shadows and become pupae, unpainted chrysalids gold highlights, and countless legs and turn into wet-winged butterflies, orchids pleopods. From this disastrous experbloom themselves to death, cassias drop iment I learned that spines had to be their petals, gem beetles take fits and measured, scales paid attention to, and run around in circles, and an anesthethat the fish or insect must actually look tized lizard revive and lose itself in like itself. It was only after I realized confusion of paint pots, vials and dried this that things began to be fun, even leaves. But order would be quickly when I was sketching the contents of established and the agonizing matter of tuna stomachs with a hundred squilla posing begin. This is the one problem larvae and as many more squids and that seems to have no permanent hatchet-fish. [. . .] solution. You can’t just kill the things and expect the drawings to look Before doing any painting I had to have alive. There is always a great amount the specimens. Often these were brought of fluttering, wiggling, crawling and to me by the other members of the party. carryings-on like temperamental primadonnas on opening night. Other times I went out and caught my that confronted me were such strange ones that I wanted to give up and study abstraction.


Sometimes the only thing to do is to mesmerize your subject, and you sit there trying to look your model in the eye—a difficult feat in the case of multiple-eyed spiders. [. . .] But despite the complications and problems, which are certainly endless and never the same, the result is so worth while. You not only experience a wonderful feeling of elation at having overcome obstacles and emerged with something halfway decent, but you have the most amazing lessons in aesthetics continually before you—revelations of form, color and design that you are able to study at first hand. The colors alone make all the theories I learned in school seem ridiculous. Analogous, triadic and monochromatic schemes become senseless when one sees pure hues mixed in undreamedof combinations. I have seen caterpillar that must have been the inspiration for Bakst’s design of the chief eunuch in Scheherezade. I remember a small insect arrayed so fantastically in scarlet, jade, purple, turquoise and intoxicating magenta, in one primitive harmony so mad and daring, that the decor of Coq d’Or and Thamar seems pallid with the dust of years. Membracids, those cobbolds and cluricauns of the insect world, (and perfect models, too), are crescents and trefoils reticulated with silver, or bearers of shields sequined with bronze, dull gold,


and cool, dark viridian. Sometimes they seem textured like ancient glass, glittering beaten metals and all the jewels of fabulous Golconda. To attempt even to approach accuracy with man-made pigments when one’s palette should be set with smouldering gems and minerals and stuff made of moths’ wings, is futile. I could but hint at intricacies of pattern and design more finely wrought than the delicate silk tapestries of the Orient. As for those brilliant flashes like sunlight falling through shattered rubies, a few small spots of tempera put on with a two-haired brush must represent them. I could do no more. Frequently, I would take my painting materials and establish an al fresco studio in the jungle itself, and there on a rock in the rain forest I found myself quite at home among giant trees bound with lianas, gripped by strangling figs and dripping with the roots of aroids. My favorite spot was quite near the road to Ocumare de la Costa—a moist grotto hung with delicate fern and lacy white begonias, where the larvae of fireflies glimmered like witch lanterns in the night, and a long gossamer waterfall sewn with paillettes of sunlight spilled over a cliff into a cool, green pool. These were the haunts of pale jade toucanets and short-tailed quetzals whose feathers shone like the wings of the Angel of the Revelation. I would sit for hours sketching tiny plants and fallen leaves in the forest

floor, or broad-leaved heliconias with their zig-zag inflorescences of flame and chartreuse and emerald, while around me wheeled brilliant birds—tanagers, orioles, manakins and callistes. The forest was filled with woodland voices—a bellbird clanging across the valley, jungle doves booming in thickets of thorny palm lianas, fat gold and purple wasps humming like spinning wheels and red howling monkeys delivering jeremiads from the top of Mt. Paraiso. A song like some Latin chèvre-pied piping on a reed would be a small brown bird sitting on a rose-tinted spadix of an aroid blossom. Birds, colors, songs and the incessant whispering of the primeval forest giants merged into one glorious pastoral symphony. It was a temptation to dream away the hours and turn into a faun. But bugs and moths needed backgrounds, and it always seemed to be getting close to supper time, so the grotto would be left to the coatis, and I would wander home hoping to get there before the twilight fog reached the mountain pass, the Portachuelo. Each day brought new marvels and their attendant problems. I jumped from spiny rats to impossible caterpillars, to tadpoles of golden froglets found in the wells of bromeliads. Brushes, inks, transparent watercolors, opaque watercolors, oils, sketch pads and slide rules were mixed up with yellow orchids, giant toads, hatching frogs’ eggs in dishes, fresh jungle flowers in bottles and dead jungle flowers in jars, all in such startling


confusion that I often wondered how I found the right thing at the proper moment. Little by little, however, paintings materialized out of the messes and the days slid by like a fantasy until it was time to pack once more and be off, leaving the green and violet velvety moths and incandescent gold beetles to resume their lives uninterrupted among the blossoms of the white ginger outside the window of my jungle studio. First printed in Animal Kingdom 48/6 (1945): 170–75. n

excerpt from

“Notes from an Undersea Studio off Bermuda” Else Bostelmann

FIG . 10

Artist Else Bostelmann paints from a specimen, Bermuda, 1931

Our expedition launch was anchored several miles off the coast of Bermuda. The forty-foot metal ladder dangled loosely over the side. Making my first steps down, dressed in the usual bathing outfit, I felt suddenly suspended in a maze of turquoise-green color as I swayed uncertainly back and forth on the ladder which, at the moment, seemed without reliable support or stability. My hands clutched the iron chains—at least one of them did; the other held on with three fingers, while two grasped a small zinc engraver’s plate to which was attached a steel pin. With this equipment I was to record the outlines of forms which I might see down below.


The waves were already playing around my shoulders when a gentle but heavy weight pressed me down and beneath the surface. The diving helmet had been put on over my head and rested loosely on my shoulders. At that moment the air pump started on board the launch. Even pumping brought fresh air from it through the long hose to the helmet. This enabled me to breathe naturally and at the same time kept the water in the helmet down to chin level. Being now below the waves, I felt practically nothing of the sixty pound burden of the copper helmet. The water had taken away the weight to the extent that I could feel myself just comfortably upright. Through the glass window in the helmet, I still saw the coastline with its white sand, its leaning cedars, and its little houses among which was my island home. But all were now distorted in a very unnatural way by the surface ripples. Hesitantly, step by step, I went downward, thrilled with the expectancy of the vast unknown. Suddenly, at about ten feet, it seemed as if I could not go one step farther. A painful sensation in my ears tried to rob me of the joy of this experience. I remembered the instructions given me before starting the first descent; they were to swallow frequently in order to relieve the increasing pressure in my ears. Possibly I did swallow—I do not remember; but, looking down, I saw the seascape was coming to meet me. I gazed into a magnificent valley with peaks of tall

effects, but there was no red to be seen anywhere, nor the delightful purple of the sea-fans which I had seen two fathoms higher up during my descent. At this depth those two colors have already Then—I had touched bottom, the softest, disappeared as far as human observation is concerned and my red bathing suit, the whitest sand imaginable in which the gentle current had designed symmetrical red sea anemones, and the purple gorgoripples. I had descended to fairyland, six nians all appeared just gray. Were one to descend deeper, more colors would fathoms below the surface—thirty-six become invisible; the sun’s rays seemingly feet as landsman know them, roughly swallow them. However, to dive much equivalent to the height of a small, deeper is not advisable. The water two-story house. pressure might make the experience less enjoyable, and the light would be dimmer I felt as though I were viewing a grand and the seascape rather colorless.[...] stage setting. Vertical sunbeams broke through the absolute brightness of these The air hose was long enough to permit levels. Spellbound, I feasted my eyes on me to walk around freely, but that was fantastic coral formations which, only not so easily done. I had been told to a short distance away, faded into blue shadowy silhouettes, building themselves bend my knees slightly when walking on up into columns and castles of unknown the ocean floor, but even then walking was more of a gentle floating and drifting architecture. Bridges, as I approached them, proved to be bent-over sea-plumes; over the ground, done very, very slowly. slender corals reared in the near distance My movements reminded me of slowmotion pictures in which galloping like phantom towers. Everywhere absolute stillness—yet ceaseless activity. horses come down to earth like lazy snowflakes. And to draw on my zinc For all these formations are colonies plate with my steel pencil proved quite a of tiny living creatures which, during difficult matter. It seemed unbelievable untold years, have been building their how slowly I was able to bring my right coral dwellings one upon another, the hand up to the left one which held the new upon the old. zinc plate so I could make my notes. Also I had to be very careful not to bend my And yet, with all the brilliancy of my head, for if I did my helmet would most immediate surroundings, I instantly missed some essential colors as an artistic likely tumble off and I, released from necessity. All the delicious hues of greens, its weight which held me down, would ascend in the quickest way—without bright yellows, oranges, and mustardusing the ladder. Knowing that I would color shades gave soft and unusual coral reefs, swaying sea-plumes, slender gorgonians, purple sea-fans. Forgotten then was all pain—I must go down just a few steps more, and a few more.


in this way return almost instantly to the his express cart, while the brushes, upper world gave me a feeling of security attached to the other handle by two-foot strings, pointed toward high heaven. in this new medium. With the string in one hand and my canvas under the other arm, I shuffled Since that first descent, I have dived off to the spot I had chosen to sketch. many times in different waters around The canvas frame was tied to an iron ring Bermuda. But the greatest fun was which could rest easily against a rock. actually to paint at the bottom of the The only way I could manipulate my ocean. After I had descended, my painting outfit was lowered by ropes from painting materials was by kneeling down the boat. Generally I used an iron music to them, pulling down a brush as needed and, with the tip of it, transferring the stand for an easel on which was tied my color from the tub bottom to the canvas. frame covered with stretched canvas. But the first time, expecting to fill my My palette was weighted with lead and brush with blue to paint sea water on on it were squeezed gobs of color in all the canvas, I found that I had once more the rainbow hues. The use of wet colors misjudged distances and touched the under water in this way might at first gray green instead. However, this really strike one as impossible, unbelievable. did not matter, for as my technique does But oil colors have never yet mixed not require a preliminary drawing, I was with water, nor have they ever lost their able to turn the canvas over and use this brilliancy in this medium. Neither will color for the corals in my picture. the usual oil canvas be changed by salt water—not, at least, in the time that I used to stay down which was about half But when I turned to my improvised tub-palette for more color, I found it an hour at a stretch. My brushes were gone! I had neglected to tie it, and the securely tied to the palette and, as one gentle current had rocked and drifted can imagine, floated with their wooden it away. Fortunately, it had not gone far handles upright, tugging lightly at their strings and bobbing in the gentle current. and, gliding toward it on my knees, I was able to grasp the end of the string and pull back my residence of Diogenes. My first attempt at undersea painting, But imagine all this being done in slow before I had settled on that simple and motion! Thereafter I used my leadefficient procedure, was quite amusing. weighted palette under the sea, and later It was suggested that I use a wash tub for a palette; that I squeeze the oil colors experience proved that a palette-knife could take the place of all my brushes, on to the bottom of the tub as if it were giving a quicker and more efficient way a palette. I tried it. A string tied to one of recording colors. So I left my quaintly handle made it possible for me to drive bobbing brushes on the island. the tub behind me as a youngster pulls


Those short periods of sketching enabled me to record correct colors of unbelievable charm from some of Nature's grandest compositions. Nevertheless, such sketches are, at best, merely form and color records; the finished pictures with all their detail are always done at the outside studio, the work stimulated by the diving trips.

The sunset glow still lingered over the rose-tinted water of Bermuda when these little captives would reach my table. Then began the busiest time of my day as I undertook the quick sketching of their fleeting, iridescent hues, their still glowing light organs, the ephemeral brilliancy of their metallic sheen. It often happened that the colors changed several times in a few minutes. Then, after the shades had been recorded, they were Quite a different matter is the making gently placed in jars of formalin in which of a deep sea picture—a portrait of some mystic creature drawn up from the their form, if not their lovely colors, murky, unexplored depths of the ocean. would be retained indefinitely. For this work transparent water colors provided Often those on my table vary from an efficient medium. one foot in length to the dimensions of a pea—or less. The first time I was After studying the shape and structure of confronted by the scaleless, silvery or jet black little fish, my curiosity quickly these fish through the microscope, and with my color sketches at hand, I was gave way to enthusiasm. Through the able to make enlarged, correct drawings microscope a new world of undreamed true to life. I could let my models chase of beauty was revealed. The fish have or play across my paper, singly or in made a long journey up to my table schools, whatever their respective habits and, far from their home in eternal night, they have found here an unsought of moving about in their native element might be. In turn they could show destiny. For hours, perhaps, they had themselves from all sides, from above, been pulled along in one of the long or underneath. Sometimes I let them silk nets trailing behind the stern of a face me—and I am astonished at how sea going tug. From the net there was often they resemble one or another of my no way of escape, nor from the Mason friends! Lots of fun they are. jar fastened at the very end of the net. Thus, from the depths of an everlasting All this artistic beauty of the wonder night—about 1000 fathoms—and world of the shallow waters, as well as of an ice cold temperature, through an the mysterious realms of the deep ocean, enormous change of pressure, they had been drawn up into a sun-flooded world has existed for aeons of time though all unknown to us. But now we can utilize where they could not possibly adjust it, bring it within reach of our modern themselves. For those reasons they lay life, enjoy it as part of our daily existence. lifeless before me.


On the walls of our summer homes on the ocean we can create the atmosphere of these cool serene levels beneath the waves. Our bathrooms, our swimming pools, our porches, our game rooms—all offer welcome places and opportunities for such decorative treatment. And these rich marine fields hold infinite suggestions for development in all the fine arts. Still other surprises await the traveler who wishes to explore for himself this fantastic, newly discovered world. The joy of shallow water diving, as I have learned to know it, is today a sport open to all. Modern sea resorts of the tropics offer their undersea treasures to their guests, providing diving helmets and other necessary apparatus. In Bermuda, for instance, one can walk deliberately into and down below the waves along a path that leads to this submarine fairyland. One may find himself suddenly facing a brilliant blue angelfish, or a black rockbeauty with its long, floating yellow fins, or a golden red squirrelfish, a cunning bluehead, or any of countless others. One's path may be crossed by a little wandering roof-garden—a clump of sea anemones established on the top of a hermit crab's shell. Little fish may come and nibble at you, too, as they did at me, to find out what kind of strange thing you are. I think it is not too much to say that nothing in the upper world can compare with the luxury of this nether realm of


the sea, with its colors, its atmosphere of mystery, of poise, and tranquility. No modern adventure can surpass the supreme joy of exploring its unique grandeur. From Country Life (Feb 1939): 67–8, 102. n

excerpt from

“A Quarter Mile Down in the Open Sea” William Beebe

FIG . 11

William Beebe and Otis Barton pose with the Bathysphere, Bermuda, 1930

Beebe describing his first descent in the Bathysphere, excerpted from “A Quarter Mile Down in the Open Sea”: A certain day and hour and second are approaching rapidly when a human face will peer out through a tiny window and signals will be passed back to companions, or to breathlessly waiting hosts on earth, with such sentences as: “We are above the level of Everest.” “Can now see the whole Atlantic coastline.” “Clouds blot out the earth.” “Temperature and air pressure have dropped to minus minus.” “Can see the whole circumference of Earth.” “The


moon appears ten times its usual size.” ”We now——” etc. Both by daylight and by moonlight I have looked down on the earth from a height of over three miles, so I know the first kindergarten sensations of such a trip. But until I actually am fastened down into some futuristic rocket and start on a voyage into interstellar space, I shall never experience such a feeling of complete isolation from the surface of the planet Earth as when, a few months ago, I dangled in a hollow pea on a swaying cobweb a quarter of a mile below the deck of the ship rolling in mid-ocean. When I mapped out a quarter of a square mile in the British Guiana jungle for intensive study my activities were more or less confined to the two planes of space on the jungle floor. I could go ahead or backward or to either side, but upward I could only look through my glasses, or send shot hurtling through the branches to bring down a bird or some creature of the trees. Occasionally I climbed laboriously up a treetrunk on a ladder of driven spikes, or shot an arrow carrying a line over a lofty limb, later to be hauled up with a pulley and tackle for a period of brief observation. In our present deep-sea work off Nonsuch, the conditions are much the same but inverted. The tug Gladisfen can steam toward any point of the compass, but to gain knowledge and obtain specimens of

adventure. I do not think that either of us ever for a moment thought of the possibility of failure; Barton’s faith was sustained by the mechanical knowledge of the great percentage of safety in the various details of the apparatus, and my hopes of seeing a new world of life left no opportunity for worry about possible defects in the means to the end. As the great metal chamber took shape, we found the need of a definite name. We As far as actually descending ourselves, up to this year we have had to be content spoke of it casually and quite incorrectly as tank and cylinder and bell. One with donning a helmet and walking day, when I was writing the name of a about arm in arm with a hoseful of deep-sea fish–Bathytroctes—the approair a few fathoms beneath the surface. priateness of the Greek prefix occurred to This would be comparable to climbing among the branches of a fallen tree in the me: I coined the word Bathysphere, and the name has stuck. In April I took my jungle. But we have recently descended staff to Nonsuch, opened the laboratory, far beneath the levels at which, up to got the tug Gladisfen into harness again, the present time, human life has been and was in full swing of shallow and possible. For more than a year Mr. Otis deep-sea work by the time the sphere Barton and I have been in frequent was ready for operation. We then joined consultation concerning the possibility of a steel sphere, large and strong enough forces and found that our various contributions to the attempt dovetailed to permit us to enter, keep ourselves perfectly together. [. . .] alive, to descend into, and return from, the depths of the ocean. Many years ago A young gale blew itself out, and on I used to talk for hours with Colonel June 3rd, the sun rose on a calm, slowly Theodore Roosevelt about such a plan, heaving sea. We ran up the prearranged and I have a rough drawing of a sphere which he made one evening at Sagamore flag signal and the working crew saw it from St. Georges and put out. On this Hill. We worked out many details, but day we only made a trial submergence never carried it to completion. For the with the Bathysphere empty, to test inception and financing of the present the working of the crew and the whole sphere Otis Barton deserves full credit. apparatus. It was let down 2000 feet, He has devoted a great deal of time and and when brought up there were fortymoney to it while I could contribute only my belief and faith and the keenest five turns of the hose about the cable. These we freed after long and tedious interest in the scientific results of the the little-known life-zones beneath our keel, we can only lower weights on a wire and record the depth of the bottom; or reversing thermometers and automatically closing bottles for temperatures and tiny samples of water from deep down, or finally we can send down dredges and nets and bring up a modicum of life from bottom or mid-water.


work, and as it afterward turned out, this tangling was due to the inevitable twists of the cable when first would upon the drum. We devised a new system of clamps, and returned well satisfied with the condition of the Bathysphere after its long downward journey. June 6 was the next calm day, and we were all on board [the barge Ready] at 7:30. The Gladisfen steamed close alongside, threw us the towrope and began pulling us steadily ahead. We left Nonsuch behind and describing a great curve around the reefs, headed out to see through Castle Roads. The great jagged cliffs towered high on both sides, and on their summits the ruined battlements of the three forts frowned down upon us, as weather-worn as the cliffs themselves. [. . .]

looked about, could detect no unusually favorable swell or especially satisfying wave, so I resorted to a temporal decision, and exactly at 9 o’clock ordered the Gladisfen to stop. We headed up wind and up swell, and lowered the Bathysphere again with only a motion picture camera inside. At a depth of fifteen hundred feet this was exposed by electricity and the sphere pulled up after an hour and a half submersion. There was no twisting of the hose, the windows were intact, and only a quart of water in the bottom.

We dried and cleaned it thoroughly, then put in the oxygen tanks, a shelf of calcium chloride for absorbing moisture, and another of soda lime for removing the excess of carbon dioxide from the air. I looked around at the sky and sea, and the boats and my friends, and not being able to think of any pithy saying As we cleared the outer head of Brangmans, we felt the first gentle heave which might echo down the ages, I did the next best thing—said nothing, and settling of the swell of the ocean, crawled painfully over the steel screws and in a few minutes the foam-ringed mass of Gurnet Rock passed astern, and of the fifteen-inch circle of the door, fell inside, and curled up on the cold, we steered south straight into the open hard bottom of the sphere. This aroused sea. An hour later the angle of the two me to speech, for I vividly realized the lighthouses showed that we were about discomfort of an hour or more in such a eight miles off shore, with a generous position, and I called for a cushion. Otis mile of water beneath us. Choosing a Barton clambered in after me and we favorable spot under such conditions is much like looking around and trying to disentangled our legs and got set. I never decide on the exact location of the North realized how much room there was in the Pole. I think it was Dooley who said that interior of a sphere four and a half feet in diameter, and although the longer we finding the North Pole was like sitting down on the ice anywhere. And so I felt were in it, the smaller it seemed to get, when they all awaited my signal to stop. I yet, thanks to our moderate physique,


we had room and to spare. At Barton’s suggestion I took up my place close to the windows, while he hitched himself up on the side of the door, where he could keep watch on the various instruments. He also put on the earphones. As pre-arranged, John Tee-Van took charge of the deck crew, and Gloria Hollister put on the ear-phones and arranged the duplicate control electric light so that she could watch it. She dictated all our messages direct to an assistant who took them down and later transcribed them unchanged. At our signal, the four hundred pound door was hoisted and clanged into place, sliding snugly over the ten great steel bolts. Then the huge nuts were screwed on. If either of us had had time to be nervous, this would have been an excellent opportunity—carrying out Poe’s idea of being sealed up, not all at once, but little by little. […] I remembered what I had read of Houdini’s method of remaining in a closed coffin for a long time, and we both began conscientiously regulating our breathing, and conversing in low tones.

We were lowered gently but struck the surface with a splash which would have crushed a rowboat like an eggshell. Yet within we hardly noticed the impact, until a froth of foam and bubbles surged up over the glass and our chamber was dimmed. [. . .] Word came down, and the keel passed slowly upward, becoming one with the green water overhead. With this passed our last visible link with the upper world; from now on we had to depend on distant spoken words for knowledge of our depth, or speed, or the weather or the sunlight, or anything having to do with the world of air on the surface of the Earth. [. . .]

Now when I cupped my face in my hands, and stared and stared out, I began to see what a strange illumination the water at this depth possessed. In fact, the most amazing thing, that which endured most vividly in our memory was the color. My companion kept exclaiming at its brilliance and saying he could read by it, and while the general sensation reported by my excited optic nerves urged me to agree with him, yet my mind told me it was not true. I brought Another glance through my port-hole all my logic to bear, I put out of my showed Tee-Van looking for a signal mind the excitement of our position in from old Captain Millet. […] Soon watery space and tried to think sanely of Millet waved his hand, and exactly at one o’clock the winch grumbled, the wire comparative color, and I failed utterly, I flashed on the searchlight, which seemed on the deck tightened, and we felt our circular home tremble, lean over, and lift the yellowest thing I have ever seen, and clear. [. . .] We were dangling in mid-air let it soak into my eyes, yet the moment and slowly we revolved until I was facing it was switched off, it was like the long vanished sunlight—it was as though it the side of the Ready. [. . .]


never had been—and the blueness of the blue, both outside and inside our sphere seem to pass materially through the eye into our very beings. This is all very unscientific; quite worthy of being jeered at by optician or physicist, but there it was. I was excited by the fishes that I was seeing perhaps more than I have ever been by other organisms, but it was only an intensification of my surface and laboratory interest: I have seen strange fluorescence and ultra violet illumination in the laboratories of physicists: I recall the weird effects of color shifting through distant snow crystals on the high Himalayas, and I have been impressed by the eerie illumination, or lack of it, during a full eclipse of the sun. But this was beyond or outside all or any of these. I think we both experienced a wholly new kind of mental reception of color impression. I felt I was dealing with something too different to be classified in usual terms.

[After descending 800 feet on this dive,] we reached the deck again just one hour after our start, and sat quietly while the middle bolt was slowly unscrewed. We could hear our compressed air hissing outward through the threads until finally the bolt popped off, and our eardrums vibrated very slightly. After a piece of boiler-factory pounding the big door finally swung off. I started to follow and suddenly realized how the human body could be completely subordinated to the mind. For a full hour I had sat in almost the same position with no thought either of comfort or discomfort, and now I had severally to untwist my feet and legs and bring them to life. [. . .] I followed Barton out on deck into the glaring sunshine, whose yellowness can never hereafter be as wonderful as blue can be. [. . .]

For over a year, ever since Barton and I had talked about the possibility of descents into the deep sea I had been somewhat pessimistic about any large Yet I find that I must continue to write amount of life we might hope to see about it, if only to prove how utterly from the window. The constant swaying, inadequate language is to translate due to the rolling of the barge high vividly, feeling and sensations under a overhead, the great white sphere itself condition as unique as submersion at this looming up through the blue murk, the depth. [. . .] apparent scarcity of organisms at best in the depths of the ocean as revealed by all On the earth at night in moonlight, I can deep sea net hauls, and finally the small always imagine the yellow of sunshine, size of the aperture, much smaller than the scarlet of invisible blossoms, but here, one’s face— all these seemed handicaps when the searchlight was off, yellow and too great to overcome. Yet the hope of orange and red were unthinkable. The such observations was the sole object blue which filled all space admitted no of the entire project. We never thought thought of other colors. [. . .] of it as a stunt, as beating the record of


anyone, as the-first-white-man-who-had- not an organism was visible in the water. I sat crouched with my nose and mouth ever, etc. wrapped in a handkerchief and my eyes pressed closely against the cold surface The slight pessimism I carried with me of the tiny circle of quartz—that transon the first dive made the actual results parent bit of Mother Earth which held all the more astonishing. As fish after fish, which heretofore I had seen only in so sturdily its burden of nine tons of water back from my face. There came my net hauls and dead, swam into my over me a tremendous wave of emotion, restricted line of vision, as I saw colors a real appreciation which was momenand their absence, activities, modes of tarily almost superhuman, cosmic, of the swimming, associations which no one whole situation: our barge slowly rolling had ever had a chance of observing, I high overhead in the blazing sunlight felt that all the trouble of planning and like the merest chip in the midst of the achieving were being repaid manyfold. ocean, the long thread of cable leading [. . .] I felt as an astronomer might who looks through his telescope after having down through the spectrum to our lonely sphere, where, sealed tight, we dangled rocketed to Mars and back, or like a in mid-water, isolated as a lost planet in palaeontologist who could suddenly outermost space. annihilate time and see his fossils alive. [. . .] Here, under a pressure which, if loosened, in a fraction of a second would make It is difficult to write of the actual personal experience of descending to such amorphous tissue of a human being, breathing our own homemade atmosphere, great depths. […] When in a position sending a few comforting words chasing of tremendous interest, or at the critical up and down a string of hose, here I was moment at the very climax of a long period of preparation, we often realize the privileged to sit and try to crystallize something of value, seeing through inadefull significance only when it is all over. quate eyes and interpreting by a mind Fortunately this was not the case in the wholly unequal to the task. [. . .] Bathysphere at our 1426 feet of depth. I was curled up in a ball on the cold, damp steel, Barton’s voice was droning out From The New York Zoological Society questions and assurances, a fan swished Bulletin 33, no. 4 (1930): 201–31. n back and forth through the air, and the ticking of my watch came as a strange memory sound of another world. One moment stands out clearly, stimulated by no unusual happening, when


“Fish Magic” Gloria Hollister

FIG . 12

Research associate Gloria Hollister dissects a trumpetfish, Bermuda, 1931

It matters not whether fishes are rare or common, or by what means they are caught, each one is studied at Nonsuch. The future of every fish is decided by the scientific judge according to its individual value. Some are destined to be purely utilitarian and, after the content of their stomach had been recorded, they are consumed by hungry fish connoisseurs. Many times we envy the chef his comparatively simple problems of preparation, seasoning and cooking, after which the fish achieves the worthy destiny of providing perfect nourishment for our bodies.

for scientific investigation, zoological research and chemical preparation. The problems here are so complex, so intricate, that only too often must we admit mental indigestion when we have done our best. The chemical preparations have proven remarkably successful. With an abundance of material and splendid laboratory quarters and equipment and an able assistant—Miss Alice Wright—I accomplished much of what I had planned. The technical laboratory is known intimately as “The Clearing House”—for, in addition to clearing fish, mental opaqueness often is clarified by noisy discussions. The Bermudians have named my laboratory “The House of Magic.” History recalls that not many years ago a woman was burned to death on St. David’s Island near by, as a witch, for working minor magic; I could easily qualify if those days were not past.

By the mysterious working of brilliant dyes, bleaching fluids, and other chemicals, we find that beauty is not merely skin deep. Every bone, tendon, muscle and fiber assumes an individuality, with a characteristic pattern. Like the fading of one cinema picture and the gradual appearance of another, the skin and flesh of the fish become less and less opaque before our eyes, while the skeleton, stained a brilliant Less satisfactory are the results in the case scarlet, crystalizes into plain view. of the other fish which prove subjects Specimens treated by these processes,


whether man, bird, frog, or fish, adult or embryo, remain natural in size, shape and structure. No dissecting knife has touched them. But their bodies have become transparent and their concealed structures colored to increase visibility for study. The specimens are permanently preserved and ready at any time for osteological, histological, and ecological study. Distinct photographs can be made of the skeleton, showing the degree of development of bone and the centers of ossification. We know, of course, that X-rays also have the power of penetrating objects which are opaque to ordinary light. But in this case the photographic plate must be studied and not the original specimen. We must depend on the accuracy of the emerging rays to radiograph a shadow picture on the photographic gelatine. The result is often blurred and detail of structure lacking. For the purpose of anatomical research on non-living specimens this process of “clearing and staining” far excels the tedious method of old, of dissecting out the desired parts. Photographs of the actual skeleton of the “cleared and stained” fish are immeasurably better than X-ray plates taken of the normal fish. During the summer I experimented with newly caught fish as well as those which had been preserved for a long time. This showed, to my surprise, that the final transparency of a fresh fish gave more perfect and more brilliant results. With


delicate treatment the fresh tissues were uninjured and reacted more readily to this artificial staining and clearing than did those of the preserved specimens. This was contrary to the experience of other zoological chemists. It was almost unbelievable to see the scarlet skeleton of a small trigger-fish, apparently suspended in mid-fluid, with the remainder of the fish wholly invisible—and to remember that only twelve hours before, the little fellow had been swimming, happy and opaque, about his home near a Bermuda coral reef. As far as I know this is a time record for producing a perfectly stained and cleared transparency. We gaze at the sharply defined scarlet skeleton, within an almost invisible outline and wonder what power has produced this amazing transparency. But neither chemist nor physicist has wholly solved the secret. As a magnet attracts iron filings, so the bones draw to themselves the particles of alizarin dye and only an acid bath can break this bond. Immersion in alizarin for a few hours is sufficient to dye all the bones a uniform scarlet. The rest of the body takes on a paler stain which necessitates a series of bleaching baths before the real clearing is begun. The affinity of alizarin for bone is almost incredible. Even the blackest black skin of a deep-sea fish can be bleached and yet the scarlet stain still remains in the bones. Other dyes can be used to stain the skeleton but no other will resist the decolorizing process which follows the staining. This is the

great difficulty of such delicate technique applied to whole specimens, a difficulty which, of course, is never encountered in the staining of thin microscopic sections. The bleaching of the skin and removing of the dye from the tissues other than bone is accomplished by a series of peroxide or ammonia baths or some other non-acid fluid. Short exposure to sunlight is effective for delicate specimens only, but this is not under laboratory control and is often unavailable at the moment when most needed.

the cavernous, sack-like mouth. Behind this is a slender whip-like tail serving to propel this animated deep-sea trap towards its food. No ribs are attached to the simple scarlet backbone which extends from the skull to the very tip of the tail.

An amazing contrast to this slender eel is a tiny sphere of a fish—a deep-sea puffer, which in life, reveals no outward hint of hidden secrets. But in transparent form we see that over three-fourths of its body is an enormously developed head. The vertebral column is almost wanting. The completion of decoloration is accom- The dye emphasizes its weakness and disuse and simultaneously indicates a plished by soaking the specimen in various dilutions of potassium or sodium. compensation. Pointing outward from the thick covering of skin which envelops For very delicate fish, larval forms or the whole body are hundreds of lanceembryos, sodium gives better results, like bony spines—a warning to preying being less potent. We have used other solutions but these are most satisfactory. enemies. Now that we have pictured the red-coated army of dye particles invading the bones, we can imagine a more invisible cohort in the colorless clearing bath. This faction attracts and unites with various fluids of the body, such as water, leaving the specimens as clear as crystal. Before us on the laboratory table is an array of transparent, ghost-like forms of what, a short time before, were strange black beings from a mile down. The large-headed gulper eel is revealed in its true, almost headless form. Suspended from its diminutive skull is


The rare deep-sea fish Opistoproctus with upwardly directed light-seeking eyes, has never been given full credit for its true figure because of its scarceness in deep-sea hauls. Only a single representative of this species reported to have his skeleton recorded during the six months of our trawling. Unlike the three specimens collected by other expeditions this one arrived from a depth of six hundred fathoms in perfect condition. After dyeing and clearing, the tail bones are seen to be symmetrically arranged, which is quite contrary to former observations on uncleared, damaged specimens.

This fish is designed like a sea-sled with a solid flat bottom skid. Together with the pointed profile of the snout this skid forms a V-shaped hollow which has been described as the mouth. While this would seem perfectly adapted for sliding over irregular submarine surfaces, the fish actually lives half a mile above the floor of the ocean, leaving us without any explanation for the complicated bony undergear. Study of the actual bones shows that the real mouth is very small and high up in the head, far above the indenture which, in profile, resembles the oral opening. In this and in a hundred other ways the revealed skeletons tell us invaluable things about the habits of all these deep-sea fish, which we may never be able to study in their icy submarine haunts. From New York Zoological Society Bulletin (Mar–Apr 1930): 72–75. n



PL. 3


George Swanson

George Swanson

All works courtesy of the

Pink Toadstools

Liana with Air Plants

Wildlife Conservation Society

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

Archives unless otherwise




Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

(29 x 37 cm)

illustrations by species' common

PL. 4

PL. 8

names, or by their scientific

George Swanson

George Swanson

names, or sometimes by both.


Fly Eyes

In the cases where no title was

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

given, the exhibition's organizers


Watercolor on paper

have provided identifying

Watercolor on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

information about the subject.

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

All titles come from the DTR’s records. The DTR titled

(29 x 37 cm) PL. 1

PL. 9

Mark Dion

PL. 5

Isabel Cooper

Drawing for The Department

Artist Unknown (John Cody?)

Untitled (Velvet Worm)

of Tropical Research Jungle Station,

Tent-making Caterpillar

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1919


(Telegonus alardus)

Watercolor on paper

Colored pencil on paper

Simla, Trinidad, 1951

11 x 13 1/2 inches (28 x 34 cm)

11 x 14 inches (27.9 x 35.6 cm)

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Courtesy of the artist and

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

PL. 10

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

(29 x 37 cm)

George Swanson

(not in exhibition)

Water Strider PL. 6

Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

PL. 2

George Swanson

Watercolor on paper

Mark Dion

Euchromid on Moss

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Drawing for The Department of

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

(29 x 37 cm)

Tropical Research Oceanographic


Laboratory, 2017

Watercolor on paper

PL. 11

Colored pencil on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

George Swanson

10 3/8 x 14 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

Bug Family on Acalypha Leaf

(26.4 x 35.6 cm)

Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

Courtesy of the artist and

Watercolor on paper

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

(not in exhibition)

(29 x 37 cm)


PL. 12

PL. 17

PL. 21

Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper

Gem Beetles

Imantodes cenchoa

Ibycter americanus

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

11 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

(29 x 36 cm)

(29 x 37 cm)

PL. 13

PL. 18

PL. 22

George Swanson

George Swanson

Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor

Leaf-like Mantis

Big-eyed Climbing Snake

Pteroglossus aracari

Caripito, Venezuela, 1942

(Imantodes cenchoa)

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

Watercolor and pencil on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches


9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm)

(29 x 37 cm)

Watercolor on paper

PL. 14

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

PL. 23

(29 x 37 cm)

Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor Toucan

Douglas Boyden Untitled

PL. 19

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

Rancho Grande, Venezuela,

Isabel Cooper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

1945 or 1949

Leptodactylus caliginosus

11 x 9 inches (28 x 23 cm)

Watercolor on paper

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Ink on paper

PL. 24

(29 x 37 cm)

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

George Swanson

(29 x 37 cm)

Fer-de-lance and Bat's Head (Balantiopteryx infusca and

PL. 15

Isabel Cooper

PL. 20

Trimeresurus l. lansbergii)

Untitled (Frogs, Insects, Plants)

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Tangola Tangola Bay, Mexico

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1919

Eyes of Frogs

(Zaca Expedition), 1937

Watercolor on paper

Kartabo, British Guiana,

Watercolor on paper

11 x 13 1/2 inches (28 x 34 cm)

c. 1919–24

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Watercolor and ink on paper

(29 x 37 cm)

PL. 16

11 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches

Isabel Cooper

(29 x 37.5 cm)

Basiliscus basiliscus British Guiana, c. 1919–24 Watercolor and pencil on paper 11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.5 cm)


PL. 25

PL. 30

PL. 34

Isabel Cooper

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Dwight Franklin


Mauve Tentacled Worm

Sargassum Fish (Antennarius)

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Bizoton Reef, Haiti, 1927

Sketches of Poses

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

11 x 14 3/4 inches

Watercolor and ink on paper

(29 x 37 cm)

(28 x 37.5 cm)

14 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches (37.5 x 29 cm)

PL. 26

PL. 31

Isabel Cooper

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

PL. 35

Two-toed Sloth

Forget-me-not Worm

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1924

Bizoton Reef, Haiti, 1927

Untitled (Blue Striped Grunt

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

[Haemulon sciurus] and Polychaete

11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.5 cm)

10 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches


(25 x 37.5 cm)

Bermuda, 1933 Watercolor on paper

PL. 27

Isabel Cooper

PL. 32

14 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches

Three-toed Sloth

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

(37 x 28.5 cm)

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Gorgonian and Self-colored Isopod

Watercolor on paper

Living on It

PL. 36

11 1/2 x 14 inches

Sand Cay, Haiti, 1927

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

(29 x 35.5 cm)

Watercolor on paper

Snapping Shrimp and Family

11 x 14 3/4 inches

Bermuda, 1930

(28 x 37.5 cm)

Watercolor on paper

PL. 28

14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches

Isabel Cooper

(37 x 29 cm)

Margay tigrina vigens

PL. 33

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Dwight Franklin

Watercolor on paper

Sargassum Fish (Antennarius)

PL. 37

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Pen Sketches of Poses

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

(29 x 37 cm)

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Flying Fish (Cypselurus furcatus)

Ink on paper

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

PL. 29

14 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Isabel Cooper

(37.5 x 29 cm)

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Head of Marmoset Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922 Watercolor on paper 11 1/2 x 14 inches (29 x 35.5 cm)


(29 x 37 cm)

PL. 38

PL. 43

PL. 48

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper

Princess Rockfish (Mycteroperca

Large Sargasso Crab

Green Parrot Fish


Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Noma Expedition, 1923

Bermuda, 1930

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

14 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches

14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

(37.5 x 29 cm)

(37 x 29 cm) PL. 44

PL. 49

PL. 39

Isabel Cooper

Else Bostelmann

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Red Spider Crab (Oxyrhyncha)

Blue and Orange Nudibranch

Aristostomias, New species

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Bermuda, 1931

Bermuda, 1929

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

11 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches

11 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches

9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm)

(29 x 37.5 cm)

(28.5 x 36 cm)

PL. 40

PL. 45

PL. 50

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Don Dickerman

Else Bostelmann

Long-spined Giant Squid

Sea-going Toothpick (Rhabdosoma)

Monacanthus ciliatus

Bermuda, 1929

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Bermuda, 1930

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Watercolor on paper

11 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches

8 x 10 1/4 inches (20 x 26 cm)

11 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches

(28.5 x 36 cm)

(29 x 36 cm) PL. 46

PL. 41

Don Dickerman

PL. 51

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Red Crab (Amphipod)

Else Bostelmann

Cantherhines amphioxys

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Lasiognathis piscatorius,

Bermuda, 1931

Watercolor and pencil on paper

New species

Watercolor on paper

8 x 10 1/4 inches (20 x 26 cm)

Bermuda, 1930

11 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches (28.5 x 36 cm)

Watercolor on paper PL. 47

14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches

Isabel Cooper

(37 x 29 cm)

PL. 42

Moray Eel (Muraena insularum)

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Argyropelecus aculeatus

Watercolor on paper

Bermuda, 1929

14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches

Watercolor and ink on paper

(37 x 29 cm)

11 1/4 x 14 1/2 inches (28.5 x 37 cm)


PL. 52

PL. 56

PL. 60

Else Bostelmann

George Swanson

Else Bostelmann

Bathylagus glacialis Eating

Contents of the Stomach of a

Saber-toothed Viper fish

Plankton, 800 Fathoms

16-pound Male Black-finned

(Chauliodus sloanei) Chasing

Bermuda, 1930

Tuna (Parathunnus atlanticus)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) Larva

Watercolor on paper


Bermuda, 1934

14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches

Ink on paper

Watercolor on paper

(37 x 29 cm)

11 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches

18 1/2 x 24 3/4 inches

(29 x 39 cm)

(47 x 63 cm)

Else Bostelmann

PL. 57

PL. 61

Chiasmodon niger

Else Bostelmann

Else Bostelmann

Bermuda, 1930

Saccopharynx harrisoni

Bathysphaera intacta

Watercolor on paper

Bermuda, 1931

Circling the Bathysphere

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Watercolor on paper

Bermuda, 1934

(29 x 35.5 cm)

16 3/4 x 14 1/2 inches

Watercolor on paper

(42.5 x 37 cm)

18 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches

PL. 53

(47 x 62 cm)

PL. 54

Else Bostelmann

PL. 58

Chiasmodon niger

George Swanson

PL. 62

Stomach Contents

Himantolophus, New Species

Else Bostelmann

Bermuda, 1931

Zaca Expedition, c. 1936–38

Five-lined Constellation Fish

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

(Bathysidus pentagrammus)

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.5 cm)

Bermuda, 1932

(29 x 37 cm)

Watercolor on paper PL. 59

11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.5 cm)

PL. 55

Else Bostelmann

Artist unknown

Submerged Beach, 1400 Fathoms

PL. 63

Untitled (Gulper Eel and

Bermuda, 1931

Else Bostelmann

Deep Sea Angler Fish)

Watercolor on paper


c. 1929–35

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Bermuda, c. 1930–32

Watercolor on paper

(29 x 37 cm)

Watercolor on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

10 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches

(29 x 37 cm)

(27 x 34 cm)


PL. 64

FIG. 4

FIG. 8

Else Bostelmann

DTR staff at work at the

Sam Christopher and Edward

Big Bad Wolves of an Abyssal

Kartabo field station, British

Steward. Christopher, whom

Chamber of Horrors

Guiana, 1922

Beebe referred to as his

Bermuda, 1934

Black and white silver gelatin

“boy,” served as the DTR’s

Watercolor on paper


head collector in Kartabo.

11 x 14 inches (28 x 35.5 cm)

He eventually traveled as an FIG. 5

employee of the DTR to New

Plate photography by

DTR staff host Theodore and

York City.

Martin Parsekian.

Edith Roosevelt, along with

British Guiana, c. 1919

Governor General of British

Black and white silver gelatin

Guiana Sir Walter Egerton at


Kalacoon, the DTR’s first field

Courtesy Smithsonian

FIG. 1

station. Also pictured is the

Institution Archives (Image

William Beebe at his desk at

Withers Family, who owned


the DTR's Rancho Grande

the rubber plantation on which

field station, Venezuela, c. early

Kalacoon sat and who loaned

FIG. 9


the house to Beebe.

Artists Helen Damrosch Tee-

Black and white silver gelatin

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

Van and Isabel Cooper at work,


Black and white silver gelatin

British Guiana, c. early 1920s


Black and white silver gelatin



FIG. 2

DTR staff and crew pose

FIG. 6

around the Bathysphere on the

Local men working in skinning

FIG. 10

day that William Beebe and

tent, British Guiana, 1919

Artist Else Bostelmann paints

engineer Otis Barton set the

Black and white silver gelatin

from a specimen, Bermuda,

world record for the deepest



dive at 3,028 feet, Bermuda,

Black and white silver gelatin

August 15, 1934

FIG. 7

Black and white silver gelatin

The DTR's second field station,


at Kartabo, British Guiana,

FIG. 11


William Beebe and Otis Barton

FIG. 3

Black and white silver gelatin

pose with the Bathysphere,

Research assistant and historian


Bermuda, 1930


Ruth Rose and artist Isabel

Black and white silver gelatin

Cooper outside tents at


Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922 Black and white silver gelatin print


FIG. 12

Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper

Research associate Gloria

Untitled (Grasshopper)

Borophryne apogon

Hollister dissects a

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1919

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

trumpetfish, Bermuda, 1931

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor on paper

Black and white silver gelatin

10 x 14 inches (25.5 x 35.5 cm)

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches (29 x 37 cm)


Else Bostelmann Methods of Feeding of Lactophrys tricornis Bermuda, 1930 Ink on paper 14 1/4 x 11 1/2 inches (36 x 29 cm) Else Bostelmann (modified by Edith Jacobs) Scarlet Shrimp (Acanthephyra purpurea) Blinding Dragonfishes (Photostomias guernei) Bermuda, c. 1939 Watercolor on paper 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches (29 x 37 cm) Douglas Boyden American Chameleon Rancho Grande, Venezuela, 1945 or 1949 Watercolor on paper 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches (29 x 37 cm)


Eye of Black-spotted Frog

Isabel Cooper

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

Leander tenuicornis

Watercolor and ink on paper

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Watercolor and pencil on paper

(29 x 37 cm)

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches (29 x 37 cm)

Isabel Cooper Red-topped Lichens

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1920

Amber Harvestman from Dead

Watercolor on paper


11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

(29 x 37 cm)

Watercolor on paper 11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Isabel Cooper

(29 x 37 cm)

Large Opossum Kartabo, British Guiana, 1922

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Crypturellus variegatus Tail

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches


(29 x 37 cm)

British Guiana, 1922 Watercolor on paper

Isabel Cooper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Bothrops atrox

(29 x 37 cm)

Kartabo, British Guiana, 1924 Watercolor on paper

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

Linophryne arborifera

(29 x 37 cm)

Bermuda, 1929 Watercolor on paper 11 1/4 x 14 1/2 inches (28.5 x 37 cm)

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Don Dickerman

Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor

Chauliodus danae

Crustacean (Phyllosoma)


Bermuda, 1929

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

Watercolor on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

11 1/2 x 14 1/2 inches

8 x 10 1/4 inches (20 x 26 cm)

9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm)

(29 x 37 cm) Don Dickerman

Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor

Helen Damrosch and John

Old Fork Face (Macruran larva)

Untitled (Vulture Head)


Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916

This is the Isle of Nonsuch Fair

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Watercolor and pencil on paper

Bermuda, c. 1929–34

8 x 10 1/4 inches (20 x 26 cm)

9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm)


Mark Dion

Rachel Hartley or Anna Taylor

29 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches

The Department of Tropical

Untitled (Vulture Head)

(75 x 58 cm)

Research—Jungle Station,

Kalacoon, British Guiana, 1916


Watercolor and pencil on paper

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Mixed media, dimensions

9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm)



Bermuda, c. 1929–34

Courtesy of the artist and

The Drawing Center's

Watercolor, ink, and pencil on

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

presentation of Exploratory

Watercolor, ink, and pencil on

Works also included numerous

board Mark Dion

additional objects, photographs,

The Department of

and ephemera. A complete List

Helen Damrosch Tee-Van

Tropical Research—

of Works detailing each of these

Immense schools of anchovies in


items may be obtained from

the Pearl Islands are attacked by

Laboratory, 2017

The Drawing Center's curatorial

dolphin fish and mackerel from

Mixed media, dimensions


beneath, and by hosts of brown


boobies and cormorants from

Courtesy of the artist and

above. The boobies are in turn

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery

22 x 30 inches (56 x 76 cm)

robbed of their prey by frigate– birds which wait for them high

Dwight Franklin

in the air.

Nudibranch Pen Sketches of Poses

West Indies, 1933

Arcturus Expedition, 1925

Ink on paper

Ink on paper

14 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches

14 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches

(37.5 x 29 cm)

(37.5 x 29 cm)


C urators ’ A cknowledg m ents

Mark Dion, Katherine McLeod, and Madeleine Thompson would like to thank the following people and organizations: James J. Breheny, Executive Vice President & General Director, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Zoos and Aquarium; John F. Calvelli, Executive Vice President for WCS Public Affairs; Jonathan Little Cohen, Director of the Bronx Zoo; Leilani Dawson, WCS Processing Archivist; Sarah Enid Hagey; Churchill McKinney; Kerry Prendergast, Director of WCS Library and Archives; CristiĂĄn Samper, WCS President and CEO; George Schaller, Field Biologist, WCS and Panthera; Mary-Kay Lombino, The Emily Hargroves Fisher '57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator of The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College; James Prosek, artist; Kristof Zyskowski, Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History; and Tom Baione, Harold Boeschenstein Director Department of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History. Mark Dion extends special thanks to Raina Belleau, Mildred's Lane, Julie Weaver, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and Dana Sherwood; Madeleine Thompson also thanks Adam Pence. During the course of this project, two new members of the curatorial team were born. To Fairfield Oisin Sherwood Dion and Charles Alun Pence, we hope that you carry on the DTR's sense of curiosity and wonder with a kindness and respect toward all the inhabitants of the earth.

D irector ’ s A cknowledg m ents

First, I want to thank the incredible curatorial team of Mark Dion, Katherine McLeod, and Madeleine Thompson for bringing this show to The Drawing Center. The work of William Beebe and his team of mostly female scientists and illustrators changed the way we look at and understand the study of natural history in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Mark, Katherine, and Madeleine’s dedication, knowledge, and total hands-on approach have made this one of most interesting and fun exhibitions that we have worked on at The Drawing Center. This exhibition—with a focus on materials and themes that stretch further than the art world—required us to find particularly visionary supporters. I would like to personally thank and recognize: Fiona and Eric Rudin, Jean-Christophe Castelli and Lisa Silver, Judith Levinson Oppenheimer and John Oppenheimer, Iris Z. Marden, Anthony and Judy Envin, Jerome L. and Ellen Stern, the Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation, Jennifer Levine and Jeff Aeder, and Ruth and Bil Ehrlich for their belief in this project. We would also like to recognize the very generous support received from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the exhibition and the wonderful donation of paper from Canson Fine Art Papers for our public program collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and The Uniproject at the Central Park Zoo. In addition to the exceptional works loaned by the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives that form the core of this presentation, I would also like to thank the American Museum of Natural History, Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History, and The Explorers Club for generously lending to the exhibition. From our hardworking staff I would like to recognize the following people for their role in realizing this exhibition: Joanna Ahlberg, Managing Editor; Noah Chasin, Executive Editor; DéLana Dameron-John, Development Director; Dan Gillespie, Operations Manager; Molly Gross, Communications Director; Olga Valle Tetkowski, Exhibition Manager; Aimee Good, Director of Education and Community Programs; and Nova Benway, Assistant Curator.


Artist Mark Dion examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological, field ecology, and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational”) scientific methods and “subjective” (“irrational”) influences. Dion has received numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucida Art Award (2008), and has had major exhibitions at the British Museum of Natural History in London (2007), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004), and the Tate Gallery, London (1999), among others. Richard Drayton is the Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King’s College in London and the author of Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the ‘Improvement’ of the World. Katherine McLeod is pursuing a PhD at New York University in Environmental History. Her research focuses on the workings of land, labor, and capital in relation to US scientific practices in South America and the Caribbean during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. George Schaller has been a field biologist since 1956. He has served in various conservation leadership roles with the New York Zoological Society (today the Wildlife Conservation Society), where he still serves as WCS Senior Conservationist, and is the Vice President Emeritus of Panthera. He is the author of many popular and scientific articles and books, including The Year of the Gorilla and Stones of Silence. Madeleine Thompson is the Institutional Archivist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. In this role, she works to preserve and share the rich history of WCS, which began in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society. Among her interests are theories of collecting and the histories of wildlife conservation and popular science.




Exploratory Works: Drawings from the Department

Rhiannon Kubicka

of Tropical Research Field Expeditions is made

Jane Dresner Sadaka

possible by the support of Fiona and Eric Rudin, Jean-Christophe Castelli and Lisa Silver,

Frances Beatty Adler

Judith Levinson Oppenheimer and John

Dita Amory

Oppenheimer, Iris Z. Marden, Anthony and

Brad Cloepfil

Judy Envin, Jerome L. and Ellen Stern,

Anita F. Contini

the Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg Foundation,

Andrea Crane

Jennifer Levine and Jeff Aeder, and Ruth and

Stacey Goergen

Bil Ehrlich.

Amy Gold Steven Holl

Additional support received by

Iris Z. Marden

Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Galia Meiri Stawski Nancy Poses Eric Rudin David Salle

Special thanks to Canson Fine Art Papers since

Joyce Siegel

1557, a proud sponsor of The Drawing Center.

Barbara Toll Waqas Wajahat Isabel Stainow Wilcox Candace Worth Emeritus Michael Lynne George Negroponte Elizabeth Rohatyn Jeanne C. Thayer Executive Director Brett Littman

D irector ’ s C ouncil

C atalogue S ponsor

Frances Beatty Adler and Allen Adler

George Ahl

Devon Dikeou and Fernando Troya

Maryann Dresner

Steven Holl

Libby and Adrian Ellis

Rhiannon Kubicka and

Stephen Figge

Jane and Michael Horvitz

Mr. Theo Blackston

Constance and H. Roemer McPhee

Patrick Kissane

Judith Levinson Oppenheimer and

Nicole Klagsbrun

Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu

John Oppenheimer

Nancy and Fred Poses

Thea Westreich Wagner and

Fiona and Eric Rudin

Ethan Wagner

Jane Dresner Sadaka and Ned Sadaka

Karen Zukowski and David Diamond

Lisa Silver and Jean-Christophe Castelli Galia Meiri Stawski and Axel Stawski

E ducation B enefactor

Barbara Toll Isabel Stainow Wilcox

Jeffrey Beck Annie Elliott and John Williams Elliott

C urator ’ s C ircle

Mia Enell and Nicolas Fries Francis Greenburger

Richard and Kathy Fuld

Yinky and Chips Moore

Jack Rudin

Nancy Reinish K. Brad Van Woert III

A rtist ’ s Patron

Mark Waskow and Susan Higby

Anne H. Bass and Julian Lethbridge

P rogra m U nderwriter

Alessandra Carnielli Mickey Cartin

John Antrobus

Emy and Jacques Cohenca

Diana Balmori

Joan K. Davidson

Thomas Buser

Beth Rudin DeWoody

Romy Cohen

Jane and Peter Ezersky

Fran Deitrich and Peter Capolino

Anna Getty and Scott Osler

Zoe and Joel Dictrow

Bill Judson

Danielle Dimston

Pierre Lagrange

Elisabeth Eberle

Diane Nixon

Heide Fasnacht

Scott Rofey

Mary and Lawrence Freedman

Barbara Toll

Shelly and Vincent Fremont

Claire Weisz

Denis Gardarin

Carole and Jan Glowacki

Saskia Friedrich

Kate Gubelmann

Jill Fruchter

George Held

Crista Grauer

Glenda Hibler

Jack Hazerjian

Steve Hogden

Alison Hildreth

Stephen Kaye

Frederic Jaffee

Zoe Keramea and James Young

Rainer Keller

Amy Lee Ketchum

Markus Kiersztan

Katy Lederer

Carla Klevan

John Melick

Robin Kyle

Mireille Mosler

Margaret and Daniel Loeb

Susan Palamara

Rod Morton

Lauren Pollock

Alexandria Pang

Marion Preston

Paul Pearson

Angelica and Neil Rudenstine

Virginia and Jean Perrette

Suzanne Salzinger

Michael Putnam

Robert Schechter

Anthony Russell

Daniel Schillberg

Bob Ryder

Susan Shoemaker and Richard Tobias

Roger Schickedantz

Susan and Charles Tribbitt

Mark Sheinkman

Nancy Judge and David Wood

Drew Shiflett Laura Skoler

G aller y S upporter

Judith and Phillip Vander Weg Luca Veggetti

Renate Aller

Martin Wilner

Kenseth Armstead

Ryan Withall

Mary Arouni

Henry V. Zimet

Nancy and Ronald Berman Olivia Bernard Margaret and Willard Boepple Tanya Chaly Laura Cosgrave Gregory Darms James Dart Gregory Drozdek Charles Fears Gwen and David Feher Margot Finkel John Forgach

A nnual F und

Francoise Grossen Linda and Hans Haacke

Katie Adams Schaeffer

Susan Harris

Elizabeth Albert

Jack Hazerjian

Noriko Ambe

Allison and W. Keyes Hill-Edgar

Dita Amory and Graham Nickson

Ken Hudes

Melissa L. Kretschmer and Carl Andre

Nina Katchadourian

Judy and John Angelo

David G. Keeton

Naomi Antonakos

Rebecca and Gilbert Kerlin

Jeffrey Beck

Eylene and Donald King

Olivia Bernard

Patrick Kissane

Brian Brady

Cynthia Knox and Carla Rae Johnson

Mina Takahashi and Marco Breuer

Andrew Kohler

Laurene Krasny Brown

Sally and Werner H. Kramarsky

Constance Caplan

Jill and Peter Kraus

Prudence Carlson

Duff and John Lambros

Vija Celmins

John Laughlin

Catalina Marta Chervin

Raymond Learsy

Henry and Joan Spaulding Cobb

Scott Lifshutz

Wendy and David Coggins

Nancy Linden

Elizabeth Currie

Patricia Lyell and Robert Gilston

Rachel Feinstein and John Currin

Jordana Martin

Hester Diamond

Billy Martin

Devon Dikeou and Fernando Troya

Constance and H. Roemer McPhee

Susan and Thomas Dunn

Linn Meyers

John Tyler Evans

Marion Miller

Gwen and David Feher

Carolina Nitsch

Ruth Fields and Gerald McCue

Heidi and Peter Nitze

Carol Flueckiger

Mary Obering

Maxine and Stuart Frankel

Tristan Perich

Shelly and Vincent Fremont

Sandra Perlow

Hugh Freund

Olivia Petrides

Ellen and Norman Galinsky

Jody Pinto

Stacey and Rob Goergen

Jessie and Charles Price

Laurel Gonsalves

David Ray

Nancy and Stuart Goode

Barry Redlich

Susan M. Gosin and Richard Barrett

Janelle Reiring

Kathryn and Mark Green

Jane L. Richards

Constance Grey

Elissa and Great Neck Richman

Steve Roden Ed Ruscha Anthony Russell Mary Sabbatino Suzanne Salzinger Louisa Stude Sarofim Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz Robert Seng Gil Shiva Dominique Singer and Joan Greenfield Alfred Steiner Calvin Towle Thomas Trudeau Jane and Garry Trudeau Lily Tuck Candace King Weir Kara and Steven Wise


This is number 132 of the Drawing Papers, a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. Noah Chasin Executive Editor Joanna Ahlberg Managing Editor Designed by AHL&CO This book is set in Adobe Garamond Pro and Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk. It was printed by Puritan Capital in Hollis, New Hampshire.

I S B N 9 7 8 - 0 - 9 4 2 3 24 - 6 0 - 0 Š 2 017 T he D rawing C enter


3 5 W O O S T E R S T R E E T | N E W YO R K , N Y 10 013 T 212 219 216 6 | F 8 8 8 . 3 8 0 . 3 3 6 2 | D R AW I N G C E N T E R . O R G

Contributions by Mark Dion, Richard Drayton, Katherine McLeod, George Schaller, and Madeleine Thompson

D R AW I N G PA P E R S 13 2

$25.00 US

ISBN 9 78 0 9 42 324 6 0 0 52500



3246 0 0