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The Saurian Expedition of 1905

In May and June of 1905, Annie Alexander participated in (and financed) a paleontological expedition to the West Humboldt Mountains in Nevada, exploring the Triassic limestones of the region. The expedition, under the auspices of Professor John C. Merriam and led by Geologicial Assistant Eustace Furlong, was a great success; portions of twenty-five specimens of ichthyosaur, including some of the largest in the world and the most complete ever found in North America (up to that time), were brought back to Berkeley.

Miss Alexander later wrote an account of it, illustrated with her own photographs (and some of Merriam's), which is now in the UCMP archives. Annie's account, a scrapbook, was probably presented to the museum following her death in 1950.1

For over a century, only a handful of researchers have had access to Alexander's scrapbook, but the text has now been transcribed and the photographs scanned. These have been combined into a single document that can now be viewed online or downloaded:
Annie Alexander's Saurian Expedition of 1905 (pdf format)

In May of 2017, UCMP retiree David K. Smith made a trip to the West Humboldt Mountains to revisit the area explored by the Berkeley crew 112 years earlier. Smith has written a description of his adventure that contains a number of "then and now" photographs:
Saurian Expedition of 1905 revisited

Seven people participated in the Saurian Expedition of 1905. Biographies on Alexander and Merriam already exist on this website (see links in first paragraph) but what about the others? Learn more about them:
Saurian Expedition of 1905 participants

A fairly large collection of Alexander correspondence and other related documents are held in the UCMP archives. See the online finding aid:
The Annie Montague Alexander Papers

Some excerpts from Alexander's scrapbook are presented here; click on any of the pictures to view larger versions.

"We chose the site of a deserted miner's cabin for our camping ground where fine water was to be had close at hand. The cabin provided a capital storage place for our provisions. We turned the wide bench on either side of the interior, evidently sleeping bunks, into sideboards and nearly all of our cooking was done in the big open fireplace though it did smoke abominably at times."

"… the resurrection call aroused another Saurian from his long sleep. After a course in purgatory in which he will be divested of his limestone encasement he ought to shine as one of the foremost lights in the new museum at Berkeley, for he was a saurian of truly lordly proportions …. For two days I watched with fascinated eyes the work of excavation …. The specimen was measured and found to be twenty-five feet long."

"Little by little the blocks were marked and wrapped and packed down to camp on the backs of our horses."

"We were still at work on the S.W. slope when Prof. Smith of Stanford joined us for a week's ammonite-hunt …. Now Prof. Smith is a very enthusiastic man. He claims that Heaven has no attractions for him unless there are ammonites there and be they stout or thin, spiney or smooth, he handles them alike lovingly and searches for them untiringly."


1 A letter Alexander wrote to UCMP's Ruben A. Stirton dated March 27, 1949, would suggest that she was still in possession of the scrapbook at that time. She told of a small reunion of the Saurian Expedition of 1905 participants: "I had my book of photos and Mrs. McDonald [Edna Wemple] read aloud my account of the trip and we had a grand time recalling incidents of the trip."

Original page by Ben M. Waggoner, 7/96. Updated and modified by David K. Smith, 11/2017. All photos from Annie Alexander's Saurian Expedition of 1905 scrapbook, UCMP archives.