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Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (3rd : 1938-1939)



  • Existence: 1938 - 1939



The 3rd Archbold Expedition (1938-1939) to New Guinea was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, The Zoologisch Museum of Lands Plantentuin, the Dutch military, and Richard Archbold (2, p. 201). Prominent AMNH representatives include Austin Loomer Rand, Leonard J. Brass, W. B. Richardson, and Richard Archbold. The expedition continued the exploration of the interior of New Guinea, which was still largely uncharted. Moving through several camps in the mountainous inner region of West New Guinea, the 3rd Expedition was notable for the use of brand-new flight technologies to move the party inland, charting previously unknown areas, extensive specimen collection, the study of birds of paradise, and the ethnological notes on tribes native to the region (1, p. 22-24).

Rand goes to Java to negotiate with local authorities for permission for the expedition to operate.
Brass, Rand and Richardson arrive to begin on site preparations for the expedition.
Brass, Ramm, Richardson and Mielcke arrive in Hollandia (now named Jayapura) by boat.
Rand arrives by boat at the Bay of Hollandia.
Guba II arrives at Hollandia Base Camp.
The complete personnel of the expedition assemble, aerial reconnaissance over the interior is carried out, and some biological work is conducted.
First reconnaissance flights begin to find inland locations for interior base camps, two locations of interest are noted.
Camp Bernard is established near a big lagoon paralleling what the field notes describe as the Idenburg River (currently named, Sungai Taritatu). Construction on housing for this inland camp begins.
Archbold, Rogers, Booth, Brown, Yancy and crew land at the temporary camp which the expedition refers to as Lake Habbema.
First inland camp at Lake Habbema is fully established with the arrival of the entire expedition crew and several months' supply of rations.
The three main camps, Hollandia, Bernhard Camp and Lake Habbema Camp are all fully established and occupied.
Routes between camps are created and emergency protocols are defined, local patrols begin and contact with native populations is established. Specimens gifted from natives begin to be collected.
Rand establishes an intermediary camp at the base of Osua Trikora, named Mt. Wilhelmina by the Dutch at the time of the expedition. Research and specimen retrieval continues around Lake Habbema and at the base camp at Mt. Wilhelmina. Patrols between camps continue, with more contact with local natives.
Archbold and Teerink explore south of the peak of Mt. Wilhelmina, seeking a route to the summit, and Archbold, Rand and Teerink continue this unsuccessfully September 20 to 28.
1938-09-28 to 1938-09-30
Intermediary camps on Mt. Wilhelmina are evacuated and no further attempts to scale the mountain are made. Expedition members return to Lake Habbema.
Patrols continue around Lake Habbema and areas surrounding Mt. Wilhelmina. Routes between camps are further searched, especially in the Bele Valley along the Cyclops Mountain Range (Pegunungan Barisan), where a temporary camp is established.
Specimens from Lake Habbema are removed on the Guba II and taken to base camp, and all camp materials are moved to what the expedition leaders refer to as Grand Valley and Baliem River camps, where further specimens are collected.
Camp at Lake Habbema is fully abandoned.
Intermediary camps are abandoned and the whole party begins to move into the Balim Valley. Near the end of the month all personnel are moved to either the Hollandia or Bernhard Camp for the holiday season.
Idenberg Mountain (Sungai Taritatu) slopes and nearby Idenberg River are investigated, and surveys of the areas around Camp Bernhard are made. Specimen collection in the area begins.
1939-02 to 1939-04
Expedition group slowly moves down Idenberg's slopes along the river. Party then begins evacuating camp and moving back into Hollandia.
1939-05-08 to 1939-05-10
Camp is fully evacuated.
Guba II makes its last flight out of New Guinea.
Last of the party leaves New Guinea by steamer.

Biographical Note

The scope of the 3rd Archbold Expedition was expansive, coordinating over two hundred scientists, collectors, and Dutch military personnel. Scientists from The American Museum of Natural History and The Zoologisch Museum of Lands Plantentuin (Kebun Raya Bogor) attended the expedition, and both groups sent back large numbers of specimens to their respective museums (2, p. 201). Due to the lack of knowledge about the largely uncharted area, the main purpose was to continue the exploration of the interior of New Guinea, with specialists in mammals, birds, insects and plants all moving between a chain of camp locations to collect specimens, take extensive field notes, and to assist the Dutch military in mapping unknown areas of inland New Guinea (1, p. 24-26). As exploration continued, the group encountered several tribal communities native to the Jayapura region.

The Expedition’s base camp, Camp Hollandia, was established at the end of April 1938 (2, p. 209). Located at Hollandia (now called Jayapura), one of the largest settlements in West New Guinea at the time and a natural harbor in Humboldt Bay on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea, the base camp provided ample space to land the expedition’s specialized aircraft (4, p. 30). The Guba II, a long-range patrol bomber built by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was the largest privately owned amphibious aircraft in the world at the time, would regularly land in the lakes and rivers along the expedition's research route to shuttle supplies and members of the expedition between various camps. The plane would also continue to make occasional trips to Java (1, p.23). This freedom of movement allowed for unprecedented access to the inland slopes of Western New Guinea, permitting the 3rd Expedition to explore territory no previous expedition had been able to reach (1, p. 22). Due to this newfound freedom of movement, the geographic distribution of the expedition was designed to find temporary camps as far upland and inland as possible, and then gradually move back out towards base camp as the expedition continued (4, p. 46-64).

The Expedition's first inland flights began in June 1938, and by August 1st both main interior camps, the Lake Habbema Camp and Camp Bernard were established (2, p. 214). The second camp at Lake Habbema was built along the side of Mt. Wilhelmina (Osua Trikora) from which a chain of temporary stations was built. One chain went down the side of the mountain, with scientists and military personnel continuing specimen retrieval and native documentation into the Balim Valley, slowly leading to the third main camp, Camp Bernard (3, p. 1).

An additional temporary camp chain was built going up the side of Mt. Wilhelmina. Archbold, Rand, and Teerink, a Dutch military captain, made several attempts to reach the summit of the mountain with little luck, due to both inclement weather and repeated medical issues. The highest temporary camp was at 3800 meters (1, p. 29). Although the expedition never reached the summit, the extended search for a path to the top allowed W. B. Richardson to collect a significant number of rodent and marsupial species along the elevated trails (3, p. 1). The last of the expedition party sailed on a steamer out of Hollandia on May 21, 1940 (2, p. 227). Specimens were deposited at The American Museum of Natural History, the Zoologisch Museum of Lands Plantentuin in Buitenzorg, Java (invertebrates only), and the Arnold Arboretum (independently collected by Meyer-Drees). Among them were: 3,486 mammals, 4,846 birds, 849 reptiles and amphibians, about 500 fishes, over 100,000 invertebrates, and over 5,300 plants (shared between AMNH and the Arnold Arboretum). Topographical data was collected by Lieutenant van Arcken and taken to the Topografischer Dienst in Batavia.

SOURCES (1) Morse, Roger A. 2000. Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station. Gainesville: University Press of Florida,

(2) Archbold, Richard, Austin Loomer Rand, L. J. Brass. 1942. Summary of the 1938-1939 New Guinea Expedition. Bulletin of the AMNH; v. 79, article 3. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(3) Tate, G. H. H, Richard Archbold, William B. Richardson. 1941. New rodents and marsupials from New Guinea. American Museum Novitiates; no. 1101. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(4) Brass, L. J. 1938-1939. [Journal, 3rd Archbold Expedition to New Guinea]. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(5) Rand, Austin Loomer. 1942. Birds of the 1938-1939 New Guinea Expedition. Bulletin of the AMNH ; v. 79, article 7. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(6) Rand, Austin Loomer. 1940. Magnificent Bird of Paradise. Natural History; v. 45, no. 3. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(7) Archbold, Richard, A.L. Rand. 1941. Latchkey to a Savage Tribe. Natural History; v. 47, no. 4. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(8) Rand, Austin Loomer. 1940. Flying Birdmen. v. 46, no. 3. New York: American Museum of Natural History.

(9) Neary, Lynn, Mitchell Zuckoff. "A WWII Survival Epic Unfolds Deep In 'Shangri-La'." NPR. April 26, 2011.


  • West New Guinea (Associated Country) -- Date: 1938 April - 1939 May
    • Note: Expedition site; Province of Indonesia comprising western half of island of New Guinea and islands off the north and northwest coasts; claimed by the Dutch as part of the Dutch East Indies in 1828.
  • Trikora, Osua (Other) -- Date: 1938 June - 1938 September
    • Note: Expedition site; Alternate name is Mt. Wilhelmina.
  • Taritatu, Sungai (Other) -- Date: 1938 - 1939
    • Note: Expedition site; Alternate name is Idenburg River.
  • Jayapura (Other) -- Date: 1938 April - 1939 May
    • Note: Alternate names include Hollandia and Dutch New Guinea.
  • Barisan, Pegunungan (Other) -- Date: 1938 October - 1939 May
    • Note: Expedition site; Alternate name is Cyclops Mountains.
  • Balim Valley (Indonesia) (Other) -- Date: 1938 April - 1939 May
    • Note: Expedition site; Alternate names include Baliem Valley, Grand Valley, and Bele Valley.
  • Java (Indonesia) (Other) -- Date: 1937 December - 1938 March
    • Note: Resupply site


Found in 1 Collection or Record:

The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1980.

Identifier: Archive Mammalogy Archbold
Scope and Contents The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History is comprised of material that documents the expeditionary fieldwork of Richard Archbold and the Archbold Expeditions. It is housed within the AMNH Department of Mammalogy Archive, and encompasses a variety of formats, including photographs, slides, film, scrapbooks, correspondence, financial records, and field documentation such as catalogs, specimen lists, field notes and journals. These describe both the day-to-day...
Dates: 1928 - 1980; Majority of material found within 1930 - 1964