Explorer Journal Series: Lewis & Clark

The second (of how many we haven’t decided yet) Explorer Journal series comes from the infamous Lewis & Clark journals documenting and mapping the American West during their expedition in the early 1800s. Before getting into it, if you haven’t gotten into Undaunted Courage yet, a fascinatingly in-depth book on the Lewis & Clark journey, pick up that bad boy asap or download it for the subway commute like we did. Makes that 45-minute trek from Bed-Stuy seem quite inconsequential vs. navigating the Missouri with a compass and sextant.

Everyone knows of the story, but the real story is beyond insane. The mission was originally conceived by Thomas Jefferson—for his top aide Merriweather Lewis—to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase as well, as establish a waterway route from the US to the Pacific and claim the Oregon Territory for the US. Lewis appointed his former captain in the US Militia, William Clark, along with a few dozen others to embark on the mission into the unknown. Tasked with both scientific, commercial, and political initiatives, Lewis & Clark produced one of the most in-depth series of journals and discoveries ever recorded in American history. The journals are considered a national treasure, and with not only a thorough description of just about everything they encountered, the two adventurers also managed to weave a story throughout, that is the basis for the fortitude and grit that defined America’s early beginnings.

This particular page documents a White Salmon Trout, highlighting the detailed cataloging they did of just about every bird, fish, plant, rock, tributary, and person they encountered along the way. Overall, Lewis & Clark wrote about some 300 species unknown to science (well at least the Europeans) at that time, nearly 50 Indian tribes, and the Rockies. Ever heard of ’em?

The journey remained fairly under wraps by Jefferson and his cabinet, mainly out of fear that the spiraling costs would raise questions on the reasoning behind the trip. But a year or so after the expedition ended, these badass individuals were finally recognized as critical to westward expansion by the US, and executing on dreams from a young nation on the cusp of greatness. While their journey sparked controversy with the resulting massive land grab from indigenous tribes out west, there’s no doubt that these two and their brave crew set the bar for adventure and exploration. And they did it without Gore-Tex and a JetBoil.

White Salmon Trout from Lewis & Clark's explorer's journal

Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society


This journal is courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.