Friday, December 13, 2013

Jungle Islands and Discoveries, circa 1930

Jungle islands; the "Illyria" in the South Seas, by Sidney Nichols Shurcliff; the record of the Crane Pacific Expedition, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois; with a scientific appendix by Karl Patterson Schmidt; ninety illustrations, 2 maps; color plates, drawings, by Walter A. Weber; photographs mostly by the author.

In the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Library collections, there is an unusual book published in 1930. It chronicled the expedition of the ILLYRIA, a brigantine motor yacht sailing from the East Coast of the U.S. to Papua New Guinea, Borneo and the Celebes to gather data and photograph the animals for the Field Museum of Chicago.

The illustration of a Flying Lemur, a kind of primate, was created on Borneo by a member of the expedition. The scientists aboard the ILLYRIA gathered data and drew pictures to characterize the local animals and undersea life they found on each island visited.

A museum of expeditions in natural history is embodied by the Field Museum, located in Chicago, Illinois. Their collections would not have been possible without explorations like those on the ILLYRIA, in 1928-1929.

As far as is generally known, Lussinpiccolo was a bustling and thriving port village with a very big maritime industry until the advent of steam. Wooden ships and yachts built there were suddenly overshadowed by the new means of propulsion which caught everyone’s attention, all but excluding wind-jammers.

The ILLYRIA was 133 ft long x 31 feet wide and had a crew of 15, according to the registers in Merchant Vessels of the United States, 1929. However this differs significantly from author Shurcliff's account which states the overall length to be more than 10 feet longer. The owner was Cornelius Crane, native of Chicago, who had the ship built in Lussinpiccolo, Italy in 1928.

The ILLYRIA was to sail in the wake of two historically revered biologists, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace. Leaving from Boston, the ILLYRIA sailed to Bermuda, to the West Indies, through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific Ocean, heading out to the Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas, Tahiti, New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, New Britain, New Guinea, the Celebes and Borneo before sailing through the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean and then homeward to Boston. The voyage lasted 11 months and covered 32,000 miles.

Crew on the ILLYRIA were constrained by the lack of space aboard, as the expedition was equipped and storage at a minimum, perhaps due to inconsistencies in the naval architectural drawings, the buyer's expectations, and the ship as it was actually built. On page 6 is this description:

"We had boasted that ours was to be the most completely equipped scientific expedition ever to sail the Pacific. We had ... plans to bring an aeroplane with folding wings, two motorcycles and side car, twelve trunks of medicines, several cases of dynamite, three motion picture cameras, 50,000 feet of motion picture film, two diving outfits, a moving picture projector, 25 rifles and shotguns with ammunition, complete apparatus for the capture, preservation and mounting of specimens--and a dog mascot. All very fine, but where to put them?"

Major illustrations in this book are colored, photographs are black and white only. The author of the book was, at the time of the expedition, a well-known landscape architect in Massachusetts.

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