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The Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition

Identifier: Film Collection no. 225

Scope and Contents

Filmed during the AMNH Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition to Central Asia, 1926. Filmed by James Lippitt Clark, this is a record of one of two museum expeditions that were to rendezvous in Central Asia. Led by William James Morden, this was an expedition across the Himalayas and the Karakoram Mountain Range to a restricted territory in Russia, called the Pamirs, looking for specimens of Marco Polo's sheep (Ovis poli) and ibex. Morden and Clark crossed the Himalayas, encountering many hardships, and reaching an altitude of 16,500 feet, and, by contrast, also penetrating the lowest point on the continent (Turfan, in Chinese Turkestan), 940 feet below sea level. The film is an excellent portrait of the logistics and details involved in an expedition of this kind: it describes the difficulty in negotiating equipment and specimens over arduous terrain in freezing weather and traveling via boats, camels, ponies, mules, and yaks whose acquisition was a near impossibility. Morden and Clark moved northward toward Hami in eastern Chinese Turkestan where they were to meet Roy Chapman Andrews. The expedition moved along the Gilgit Road, through Sinkiang to the city of Kashgar and across the Tien Shan Mountains, where they collected ibex. They then went through the Turfan Depression to Urumchi. However, because of political instability in the outer areas of Mongolia, Andrews prudently decided not to meet as planned. When Morden and Clark learned Andrews would not be meeting them, they decided to traverse Mongolia without the proper credentials. They were captured, charged as spies, and tortured by Mongol soldiers. Russian soldiers were instrumental in their release, and they fled across the Atlas Mountains to the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The film also presents a composite of central Asian ethnic diversity. Clark filmed the Kashmiri people of Srinagar; the Kanjutis of Hunza and Nagar states; the Sarikolis and Kirghi constructing a yurt; Russian soldiers dancing and singing; the Uighurs of Kashgar; the Kalmuks and the Kazaki of the Tien Shan Mountains making bread and beating wool; and the Chinese of Urumchi and western Mongolia.


  • 1926

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Not available through interlibrary loan. Contact AMNH Library Special Collections for terms of access.


1 Film Reel (73 minutes) : silent, black and white ; 16 mm.

1 Videocassette (U-Matic (73 minutes)) : silent, black and white ; 3/4 in.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

3/4 in., U-Matic, viewing copy


Original format: 16 mm. print.



James Lippitt Clark, photographer.

The Morden-Clark Asiatic Expedition, 1926
Iris Lee
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
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New York NY 10024 USA
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