Charles Cutler Curtis worked as an overseer on a coconut plantation in Tahiti. He became familiar with Whitney South Sea Expedition leader, Rollo Beck, since the team often used Tahiti as a base. The AMNH Whitney South Sea Expedition was an ornithological expedition originated by Dr. Leonard C. Sanford and funded by Harry Payne Whitney, with the mission of systematically exploring Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia for previously undiscovered or little-known bird specimens. It was the largest ornithological expedition ever conceived. Active field research was conducted from 1920 to 1941.
On January 10, 1922, Curtis asked Beck if he could join the expedition despite his lack of ornithological experience. On February 1, 1922, Curtis set sail on the France as a member of WSSE. He signed on as a sailor but soon began to collect plant samples under scientist Ernest Quayle’s guidance. During his five months with the WSSE he also participated in some bird catching exercises, though he preferred the role of botanist. He returned to Tahiti on July 4, 1922 where he resumed his job on the coconut plantation.
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