“When the USS Whippoorwill left Honolulu at 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Thursday, July 24 (1924), carrying scientists who were to make a survey of the Line islands for the Bishop Museum, the vessel headed first to Fanning.”
“Halfway between the Hawaiian group and the atolls of the southern Pacific, the Line islands, coral-bound, are strewn on the bosom of an equatorial sea. Stepping-stones, as it were, up from the lazy latitudes.” (Advertiser, September 6, 1924)
Line Islands, chain of coral islands in the central Pacific Ocean, some of which belong to Kiribati and some of which are claimed as unincorporated territories belonging to the US
“There is Palmyra, the northernmost, where a man may joust with land crabs measuring 14 inches in diameter. There is Washington, the little paradise, which is as beautiful as any island in Polynesia.”
“There is Jarvis, the desolate; where the broken schooner Amaranth, tossed up nearly a dozen years ago, lies bleaching in the sun of endless days.”
“There is Christmas where, in company with native divers, one may wrest the bearing pearl shell from the coral bottom of the lagoon; where the pickled awa float, belly upwards, on the waters of an inland lake, and where the Bay of Wrecks on the reef-set, windward shore, offers convincing evidence, century-old.” (Advertiser, September 6, 1924)
The Navy Department assigned the minesweeper Whippoorwill, under Captain W. J. Poland, to survey the Line Islands; the first group left Honolulu on July 24, 1924.
The scientific personnel were under the leadership of Charles H. Edmondson, and the members of the group concentrated on zoology, botany, conchology, entomology, and geology.
Edmondson came to Hawaii in 1920 with a joint appointment as professor of zoology and director of the Marine Biology Laboratory of the newly constituted University and as zoologist at the Bishop Museum. (UH)
The second group, with C Montague Cooke, Jr., in charge of the scientific personnel, left Honolulu on September 15, 1924 and visited Baker and Howland Islands.
“‘We had three objectives,’” Dr Edmondson said, in explanation’ and they were Christmas, Jarvis and Washington. The scientific work on Fanning had been well covered by Sr Stanley C Ball and myself in 1922 and Palmyra had been investigated by other parties – Dr CM Cooke Jr, and Professor Joseph E Rock in 1913, and Lorrin A Thurston, ‘Ted’ Dranga and David Thaanum a couple of years ago.”
“Dranga went diving for pearl shell. … ‘I saw a couple of natives diving,’ he said, ‘and I jumped into a skiff and rowed out to them. … ‘Sharks? One must expect that. But we kept close to the boat. … No I didn’t find any pearls.’”
“‘Pearls are scarce and one might get hundreds of shells before finding a single one. Sharks add to the fun of pearl-diving,’ he admitted, ‘but I, for one, would have appreciated the sport a great deal more it there had been none of the beasts around.’” (Advertiser, September 6, 1924)
A good deal of material in the natural sciences and geology was collected, and the ensuing reports were published by Bishop Museum. Notes on and a location map of some archaeological remains on Howland were made for future study.
“(T)he navy boat docked at Honolulu at 9 o’clock on the evening of the twenty-seventh. Dor Edmondson announced that the expedition had been a conspicuous success.”
“‘The real research work will take a long time, Edmondson concluded, ‘but it is certain that every collection we made will give us a clearer insight into the distribution of plant and marine forms in the Pacific and will aid, ultimately, in the solution of the problem of the origin and migrations of the Polynesians.’” (Advertiser, September 6, 1924)
Follow Peter T Young on Facebook
Follow Peter T Young on Google+
Follow Peter T Young on LinkedIn
Follow Peter T Young on Blogger