Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expeditions - Waldo Schmitt below deck, logging specimens or writing in journal

Travel to the Tropics, Archives-style!

Help us transcribe scientific field books of the tropics with the Smithsonian's crowdsourcing platform, Smithsonian Transcription Center.

B&W photograph of Island with markers showing Eniwetok and Perry IslandsTravel with us to the Galapagos and the Marshall Islands as we launch some warm-weather scientific field books, diaries, and correspondence. While it’s not very wintery in Washington D.C., we’re hoping this will offer an escape to those entering the long remaining months of snow, sleet, and ice. And if you’re avoiding the cold, what a better way to spend your time than helping us transcribe these important resources!

First we have Geologist Harry S. Ladd, U.S. Geological Survey, who contributed fossil specimens to our National Museum of Natural History (to learn more, check out Biodiversity Heritage Library’s post). He spent several years studying the formation of Pacific, and eventually became a leading authority on their geology. After World War II, he established the Pacific Island Mapping Program, a joint venture of the Survey and the Corps of Engineers. The first of two field books we’re launching today are personal records of his field work on coral reefs and marine life in the Eniwetok Atoll [Marshall Islands] in late spring, 1952, where nuclear weapons testing occurred twelve months prior to his fieldwork.

Hancock Pacific-Galapagos Expeditions - Waldo Schmitt on deck with straw hat and bucket of lobsters
Second we have naturalist, Waldo Schmitt, curator at the Smithsonian’s United States National Museum (precursor to the National Museum of Natural History), on his 1941 voyage to the Galapagos Islands with the U.S. Navy to explore the possibility of establishing a biological station there. Schmitt, an expert in marine invertebrates with a special emphasis on the decapod crustaceans (the order that includes crabs, lobsters, and shrimp), had a long career at the Smithsonian from 1915-1977. Prior to this voyage, Schmitt had been hand-picked in 1938 to accompany President Roosevelt on his trip to the Galapagos in 1938. The 1941 diary we’re launching today includes descriptions of islands (Malpelo), types and sizes of fish caught, air and water temperatures, daily activities with expedition participants, collecting trips ashore, observed wildlife, supplies used, and quantities of specimens. The correspondence also launching includes progress reports discussing the expedition chronologically, listing locations, dates, activities, and specimens collected including seeds of the Rooseveltia palm tree.

Bonus points! As you're trascribing Schmitt's material, if you come across names of people with whom Waldo had professional or personal relationships (e.g. fellow scientist, staff on an expedition, friend), it would help us to make better authority records for him if you could kindly add those names to this spreadsheet

Happy travels and share your findings on Twitter tagging @TranscribeSI @SmithsonianARCH #volunpeers! If you find people associated with Schmitt, tag #WhosWithWaldo !

Transcription Center Projects

Related Resources

Related Collections

  • Articles by Waldo L. Schmitt on Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Specimens Collected by Waldo L. Schmitt on Smithsonian Collections Search Center
  • Articles by Harry S. Ladd on Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Field books by Harry S. Ladd on Smithsonian Collections Search Center
  • Specimens Collected by Harry S. Ladd on Smithsonian Collections Search Center

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.