United States Eclipse Expedition to West Africa (1889-1890)

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The United States Eclipse Expedition to West Africa sailed aboard the USS Pensacola to the West African coast to study a solar eclipse. According to an article in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the expedition was led by astronomer David P. Todd of Amherst College. Other expedition members included Mr. Carbutt (Photographer); Prof. Abbe (meteorologist); E. J. Loomis (naturalist); William H. Brown (osteologist and naturalist) as well as his brother A. H. Brown (assistant); and Mr. Preston (“observer of magnetics and determinations of gravity”). The team departed October 1889 and headed for St. Paul de Loanda, the capital of Portuguese West Africa (modern day Angola). Along the way they made stops at Fayal (Faial) in the Azores, and by November 12, the group had reached the Cape Verde Islands. Their next stop was Freetown (Sierra Leone), before continuing down the African coast to Cape Coast (Ghana). By December, the expedition had reached Loanda. They established a base of operations roughly 70 miles south in Cape Ledo. On January 6, 1890 the group departed Loanda and headed for the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) where they spent three weeks making magnetic observations. On their return journey, the expedition continued their scientific studies at a number of islands including St. Helena, Ascension, Barbados, and Nonsuch Island (Barbados) with the final astrological observation being made on June 7. Soon the ship returned to New York after a total of 242 days. Along with the magnetic, gravity, and astronomical observations performed, specimen collecting included, but was not limited to entomology, zoology, and ichthyology. A large number of fish were collected at the island locations by William H. Brown. Myriapoda, spiders, and other insect specimens were also brought back by the expedition team.


  • Holden, E. S. (1889). American Eclipse Expedition to Africa. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 1 (5) 125. Retrieved from http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1889PASP....1S.125H
  • Finding Aid for the United States Eclipse Expedition Collection, 1889-1891. (citation?) http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf7f59p1qm/dsc/
  • Riley, C. V., Calvert, P. P., Banks, N., Marx, G., & United States National Museum. (1893). Scientific results of the U.S. eclipse expedition to West Africa, 1889-'90: Report on the Insecta, Arachnida, and Myriapoda. Washington: Gov't Print. Off.
  • U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. (1891). Report of the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey showing the progress of the work during the fiscal year ending with June, 1890. Washington: Govt. Printing Off.

Date Range

1889 - 1890


  • Entomology
  • Zoology
  • Ichthyology
  • Astronomy


  • Faial
  • Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha Saint Helena
  • Angola
  • Africa
  • Cape Coast
  • Cabo Ledo
  • Nonsuch Island
  • South Africa
  • Freetown
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Luanda


Expedition name