Tomas Barrera Cuban Expedition (1914)

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In March 1914, a Smithsonian expedition traveled to the northwest coast of Cuba and the Colorados reefs to study and collect specimens of land and marine flora and fauna. The expedition’s vessel, the Tomas Barrera, was loaned to the group by owner Mr. Raoul Mediaville, along with a crew and skipper who knew the waters well. John Brooks Henderson, Jr. consulted with naturalist Dr. Carlos de la Torre from the University of Havana regarding a collecting trip for Cuban marine mollusks. Henderson's previous work had been in the mollusks of Florida, and he was interested in obtaining sufficient information to do a comparison. Torre acted as guide for the expedition, and took care of the scientific details, and the Smithsonian Institution provided much of the collecting outfits. Taking part was Dr. Paul Bartsch, Curator, Division of Marine Vertebrates, of the United States National Museum as well as George W. Gill of the museum staff, who was brought to assist in the field preparation of collected specimens. Mr. George H. Clapp, one of the directors of Carnegie Institute of Pittsburg, was present. An invitation was also accepted by botanist Charles T. Simpson of Miami, who was also formerly connected with the Division of Mollusks at the Smithsonian, and Victor J. Rodriguez, Torre's university museum assistant. Cuban President, Mario García Menocal asked that the Havana Inspector of Fish, Sr. Manuel Lesmes, also be included in the expedition to study conditions of food-fish life among the Colorados reefs. The six week expedition set sail from Havana on May 8, 1914, and continued until June 1914. During the expedition, an extremely large number of specimens were collected. These included algae, marine seed-plants, fish, mollusks, and reptiles.


John B Henderson. (1916). The cruise of the Tomas Barrera; the narrative of a scientific expedition to western Cuba and the Colorados reefs, with observations on the geology, fauna, and flora of the region. New York G.P. Putnam.

Date Range

1914 - 1914


  • Geology
  • Herpetology
  • Zoology
  • Ichthyology
  • Plants
  • Botany


  • Cuba
  • Bajo Los Colorados


Expedition name