“I couldn’t help it. I happen to have been born to do it.

I am sure that I would have been a rotten failure doing anything else.”

~ Ends Of The Earth ~

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Collecting Roy Chapman Andrews Part 3

Typical Gobi road, Outer Mongolia.  Photo by Clive Coy.

Mongolia had captivated Andrews, and he became obsessed with the idea of exploring the largely unmapped and mysterious country for the scientific treasures he was sure were buried there.  Despite critics who said that he might as well search the bottom of the ocean, Andrews together with palaeontologist Walter Granger, led five major expeditions in 1922, 1923, 1925, 1928, and 1930  to Northern China and Mongolia, which were commonly referred to as the Third Central Asiatic Expeditions.  The C.A.E.  heralded a new type of multidisciplinary exploration, with  representatives from eight fields of investigation: geography, topography, geology, palaeontology, zoology, archaeology, paleobotany, and herpetology.  These expeditions were the largest non-military ventures to leave the United States until that time; often operating with forty scientists and technicians, eight motorcars, and 150 camels.

Third Asiatic Expedition's Vehicles : 
The original unmodified Dodge Touring Cars, 
and Fulton One Ton Trucks

            Although the expeditions did not discover  early humans, they made major scientific findings that established Asia as one of the chief dispersal centres of animal life.  They uncovered implements dating back 20,000 years, evidence that the Gobi had been inhabited by people who may have later migrated to China, Siberia, and North America.  Their geological findings confirmed that Outer Mongolia had never been glaciated and was the oldest area on earth of continuously dry land.   The rich fossil fields that they discovered produced the first evidence of dinosaurs in Asia north of the Himalayas.  They yielded specimens of  tiny early mammals; the largest mammalian carnivore; skulls and other fragments of the largest mammal known to have existed on land; and  a genus of rhinoceros called Baluchitherium, which lived about thirty million years ago, stood eighteen feet high, and weighed twenty tons.
            The most spectacular discovery, for which Andrews and the expeditions became world-famous, was of three nests containing two dozen dinosaur eggs, the first recorded by science.  Discovered in the Gobi in 1923 and pictured in newspapers and magazines around the world, the nine-inch-long eggs had been nearly perfectly preserved. 

Original 1923 Photograph of Dinosaur Eggs found by George Olsen at Flaming Cliffs locality [Byan Dzag] 
Photo: James Barnes Shackelford, Expedition photographer.
            Popular culture has incorrectly attributed Andrews as discovering the eggs.  It was in fact technician George Olsen, an error that Andrews himself was always quick to correct in his books, and lectures.  Nonetheless,  Andrews was responsible for much of the success of  the logistical work and fund raising for these expeditions.  He conceived them, raised the funds, led them through the perils of banditry in Mongolia, revolution and civil war in China; and was adept at obtaining publicity, and achieving prompt publication of findings. Andrews wrote the preponderance of popular literature about the expeditions, but always shared the credit for its success with all members of the expedition. 
            Public demand for information about the expeditions was nearing hysteria by the mid 1920’s.  Newspaper reporters mobbed the ship when members of the expedition returned to New York via San Francisco between expeditions.  Offers reaching thousands of dollars were made for exclusive rights to pictures and stories, but Andrews refused them all, freely giving interviews to as many reporters as he and his staff could schedule.  However, one publisher did have first rights for magazine stories by Andrews, and all photographs taken by the expedition; an incredible arrangement agreed to in the early years of fund raising. 
            Asia Magazine, the official publication of the American Asiatic Association,  was the premiere American magazine devoted to an area that in the 20’s  overshadowed Europe as a popular travel destination.  Catering to wealthy travellers, Asia Magazine reached its zenith during the late 1920’s,  publishing articles by authors such as Pearl S. Buck, and Franklin D. Roosevelt; with cover art  by Frank M. McIntosh.  Liberally illustrated with photographs fresh from the expeditions’ cameras,  Andrews published a total of 25  lengthy articles between 1918 and 1926.  These articles detailed the triumphs and tribulations of the expedition; but most importantly allowed Andrews to reach his prime target audience, the wealthy elite with disposable money to fund such grand adventures. 

Dust jacket of First Edition. G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1926

            By 1926 Andrews was deluged with letters from the public requesting a collected account of the expedition’s activities to date.   On The Trail Of Ancient Man was published as a popular narrative in direct response to these requests.  Much of the text of the book was written on the spot and preserves the atmosphere and excitement of the expedition that was pushing beyond the boundaries of contemporary exploration.  An examination of Andrews original field diaries revealed that in the early years his daily entries are sketchy reference notes; but by 1923 the entries have become volumous detailed narratives that required only minor polishing before becoming magazine articles and book chapters.  On The Trail Of Ancient Man also marked the beginning of Andrews’ association with G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a relationship that produced a total of  six books by 1940.  

Reprint.  Undated [Circa 1930] Garden City Publishing Co., Inc.