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1927 Map of the Arboretum

1953: Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea

A deforested landscape of the 4920 foot (1500 meter) crest of Grass Spur, below Top Camp, Goodenough Island, encountered during the Fourth Archbold Expedition. The tree-ferns (Cyathea) on the slopes were damaged by fire. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 1956.
A deforested landscape of the 1500 meter crest of Grass Spur, below Top Camp, Goodenough Island, encountered during the Fourth Archbold Expedition. The tree-ferns (Cyathea) on the slopes were damaged by fire.

Plants collected on this Expedition

Plant ID Accession Date Recieved As Origin Source

Expedition Stats

Indonesia, Papua New Guinea

Event Type
Non-Arnold Arboretum Expedition
Collection Type
Germplasm, Herbarium Specimens
Arnold Arboretum Participants
Leonard John Brass

“In line with the previous [Archbold] expeditions of the series, the purpose of this one was the collection and ecological and distributional study of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fresh-water fishes, insects and spiders, and of plants.”

Leonard Brass

The 1953 Fourth Archbold Expedition to Papua New Guinea was led by Leonard J. Brass, an Australian botanist and associate curator of the Archbold Expedition. He was accompanied by three staff members from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), zoologists Hobart M. Van Deusen and Geoffrey M. Tate, and an assistant, Kenneth M. Wynn. The Arnold Arboretum provided financial support in return for a share of the herbarium specimens collected, but did not have any staff members on the trip.

The expedition began in March of 1953 and ended several months prematurely in November after Tate suffered a paralytic stroke and was unable to travel. He was temporally held in Samarai—a small island off the southeast tip of the country—while Brass, Van Deusen, and Wynn continued their collecting efforts until Tate was able to safely return to the United States. The trip covered the eastern portion of Papua New Guinea, primarily the Cape Vogel Peninsula in Milne Bay Province.

The expedition landing place in the mangroves, Baiawa, Moi Biri Bay.
Expedition canoes heading east across Moi Biri Bay for Baiawa. Dark-Top Hill may be seen on the right.
The expedition's Top Camp at 7316 feet (2230 meters) on Mount Dayman. Grass and bracken slope; mossy forest edging Atairo stream.
The expedition transport pauses in Garuwata village at 2100 feet (640 meters), on the east slopes of Goodenough Island. Kenneth Wynn may be seen seated in foreground.
Map of the collecting area in Papua New Guinea for the Fourth Archbold Expedition.
Map of the collecting area in Papua New Guinea for the Fourth Archbold Expedition. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 1956.

Brass published a detailed expedition summary in 1956 for the AMNH. The report includes an extensive summary of geography, local plant and animal populations, collections, itinerary and routes, and results.

Brass reports that 3,345 plant specimens were collected and that,

“All botanical collections, with the exception of antibiotics research materials, are deposited at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The antibiotics materials were collected for Pfizer and Company of New York. In addition to the botanical collections listed above, viable materials of several palms and other ornamental plants were sent by air to the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Florida.”

Although cut short, this expedition was wide-reaching, proving useful in disciplines as diverse as horticulture, botany, zoology, pharmacy, and anthropology.

Dig Deeper

Cookson, Michael “The Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea: A Preliminary Survey of Archival Materials Held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.

Brass, L. J. (1956). Summary of the Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea.

The AMNH has digitized materials related to this expedition, including a field diary written by Hobart Van Deusen in 1953, a journal and a bound collection of documents compiled by Geoffrey Tate.