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Kaieteur Falls, Frontispiece from The Freshwater Fishes of British Guiana

Carnegie British Guiana Expedition, 1908


Departed: August 23, 1908 from New York
Returned: middle November 1908


Carl H. Eigenmann's expedition to British Guiana (current Republic of Guyana) was one of the most productive and important in his career. At first Eigenmann was unable to raise the proper funds in order to make the trip possible. Eigenmann finally was able to receive the financial backing needed to make the trip a success from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. He stated that he had two goals for the trip, "First to observe, photograph and incidentally collect as many specimens as possible for my monograph of the characins; second, in connection with my general fauna study of the fishes of South America to determine, if possible, the relation of the fish fauna of the Guiana plateau to that of the lowlands, more particularly the relationship existing between the faunas of the upper and lower Potaro." These goals would be accomplished on a existing two and a half month expedition to British Guiana. The area that Eigenmann was covering had not been explored that thoroughly before. The first published paper on the nature of British Guiana was in 1762 by Van der Lott titled " Kort Berichet von den Congeraal, ofte Drilvisch" Verhandl. Holl. Maatsh., Harlem, 1762. This publication only mentions the native fish of the area. Robert Herman Schomburgk published the first work solely on the fishes of British Guiana in 1839, titled Natural History of the Fishes of Guiana, Parts I and II forming volumes 39 and 40 of "The Naturalists Library". The expedition was very successful. Eigenmann, his assistants, and his volunteers, collected 25,000 specimens. The trip also yielded 25 new genera and 128 new species. This expedition would the first of three expeditions to South America by Eigenmann, between 1908 and 1919.

Sites of Major Collections
Lama Stop-Off, Morrawhama, Wismar, Malali, Bartica (All for the study of lowland fauna)
Rockstone, Crab Falls, Konawaruk, Warraputa, in the Essequibo and along the Potaro (for the study of above tidal influence)
Potaro, and in the Aeuataima Cataract (for the study of fauna of the plateau)
Mr. S.E. Shideler (volunteer)
Mr. Dward Bovallius (Essequibo Exploration Company)
Mr. Brummel (government official)
William Grant (Indian captain, and guide)
Information Sources
Most of the specifics about the expedition as well as the itinerary were found in Fresh Water Fish of British Guiana . This work was the monograph written by Eigenmann after he returned from the expedition.


Narrative Highlights And Itinerary
Eigenmann and his associates left for Georgetown via New York on September 6, 1908. They arrived on the seventh. The first few days (7 and 8) were spent making the necessary arrangements for transportation and labor. While in Georgetown the group also took specimens from the trenches found around the city. On the fifteenth the expedition started of for Lama-Stop Off. Here they collected from below dams and from canals that were run off from the canals at Georgetown. After collecting for a few days, they group then traveled back to Georgetown in order to send the collected specimens to the United States. On the twenty fourth Eigenmann traveled to Wismar. Here they collected from the Demerara river at Christianburg and the Christianburg canal. Then on the twenty-ninth Eigenmann traveled to Rockstone. At Rockstone they collected in the Essequibo, and were able to retrieve 133 specimens, 33 of which were characins. On the fifth of October they left for Tumatumari. Here they collected from sand bars above and below the cataract. On the fourteenth of October the group left for the Kaieteur falls. The trip to Kaieteur consisted of a few side trips (to Kangaruma Amatuk, Waratuk) for collecting. When the expedition came upon the falls the group camped at Tukeit. On the way to the falls, Eigenmann contracted a fever. The fever became worse and by the time they were at the falls, Eigenmann couldn't participate in the collecting. However he still managed to oversee the expedition and climb to the top of the falls, and take pictures. After collecting around the falls Shidler left for Georgetown in order to ship specimens to the United States, Eigenmann was to proceed on with the expedition. On the nineteenth Eigenmann departed for the trading camp of the Essequibo Exploration Company, Holmia. At Holmia he collected from the Chenapowa and the Potaro rivers. The group stayed in Holmia until the twenty seventh, and then departed for Georgetown. On the trip back to Georgetown, the expedition stopped and collected again at the Kaieteur Falls, Waratuk, Amatuk, Kangaruma, Potaro Landing, Tumaatumari, and Crab Falls. Once he arrived in Georgetown, Eigenmann spent a few days "Visiting a few markets, preserving and packing fishes, suffering a relapse, recovering from a fever, and enjoying the hospitality of friends at Georgetown", before departing for New York. He returned to the United States in the middle of November.


Last modified: 05/21/96 12:39:20 PM

Colin T. Barber


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