Whitney South Seas Expedition
The Whitney South Seas Expedition (1921 - c.1932) to collect bird specimens for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), under the initial leadership of Rollo Beck, was instigated by Dr Leonard C. Sanford and financed by Harry Payne Whitney, a thoroughbred horse-breeder and philanthropist.
Beck, an expert bird collector himself, hired Ernst H. Quayle and Charles Curtis to assist with collecting, including the botanical specimens collected by the expedition.
The expedition visited islands in the south Pacific region and eventually returned with over 40,000 bird specimens, many plant specimens and an extensive collection of anthropological items and photographs. In the course of the expedition Beck sealed the extinction of the already critically endangered Guadalupe Caracara by shooting nine out of eleven birds seen, almost all of the small population of the species remaining.
Using the 75-ton schooner France, with many different scientists and collectors participating over more than a dozen years, the expedition visited thousands of islands throughout Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia. It was administered by a committee at the AMNH and became a focus for attracting funds for research on the biota of the Pacific islands.
Ernst Mayr replaced Beck as leader on one of the later stages of the expedition, to the Solomon Islands in 1929-1930, and from 1932 to 1953 was Associate Curator, and then Curator, of the Whitney-Rothschild Collection of bird specimens at the AMNH.
- Chapman, Frank M. (1935). The Whitney South Sea Expedition. Science 81: 95-97.
- Murphy, R.C. (1922). Science 56: 701-704.