HUNTINGTON, Ellsworth [1876-1947] -- American explorer and geographer
After graduating from Beloit College, Wis., in 1897, he began his explorations immediately. He went to Turkey and spent four years teaching in Euphrates College at Harput, in Armenia, on the Upper Euphrates River. During vacations he explored the surrounding country, especially some of the Kurdish regions which are almost independent of the Turkish government. He was arrested twice because the Turkish officials thought that any one who took notes so freely must be a spy, and at two other times was requested not to travel so much. Before leaving Turkey he succeeded, after several attempts, in floating through the canyons of the Upper Euphrates and down the rapids in company with W. H. Norton, U. S. Consul at Harput. The journey had been made only once before, by the German General von Moltke, in 1839. The natives claimed that the rapids had become more filled with boulders since von Moltke's time, and that no one could pass them. They refused to accompany Mr. Huntington and Mr. Norton, who made the most dangerous parts of the trip alone. In addition to making maps of the river and of various other regions, Mr. Huntington discovered and explored a number of Hittite and other ruins. In recognition of this work he was awarded the Gill Memorial by the Royal Geographical Society of London.
On returning from Turkey he carried on graduate work for two years at Harvard, and then went with the well-known geographer Professor W. M. Davis, to Russian Turkestan, as a part of the Pumpelly Expedition of the Carnegic Institution of Washington. After the main party returned home, he traveled with the Khirghiz across the Tian Shen Mountains to Chinese Turkestan. Returning by way of the Alai Mountains he was Page 488 joined by a Russian official, Yanchevctski, and the two made a journey to Seistan, at the corner where Afghanistan and Baluchistan join Persia. They traveled along the Perso-Afghan border in a most lawless region which is under the rule of neither the Persians nor the Afghans. They tried to enter Afghanistan at two or three points, but in each case were summarily put out by Afghan soldiers. After spending the winter in Persia, Mr. Huntington joined the second Pumpelly expedition and assisted in excavations at Anau and Merv on the borders of the Transcaspian desert.
After a stay of only four months in America, during which he wrote half of a volume entitled "Explorations in Turkestan," Mr. Huntington went to India in company with Mr. Robert L. Barrett, and crossed the Himalayas and the Karakornn plateau to Chinese Turkestan. He then spent a year alone in the deserts of Chinese Turkestan, exploring ancient ruins and studying the life of the people. During the winter he crossed an absolutely unexplored portion of the Lop desert, a vast plain of rock salt broken into blocks which stick up two or three feet. At a point 150 miles from the nearest village the camels strayed away in pursuit of wild camels. Only the energy of a native camelman in following the animals twenty-five miles by moonlight saved the party from almost certain destruction. From Chinese Turkestan the route back to civilization was through the depression of Turfan, which, although in the heart of Asia, lies below sea level, to the Siberian railroad at Omsk.
The results of this journey were embodied in a volume entitled "The Pulse of Asia," a work which was honored by medals from the Geographical Society of Paris, and the Harvard Travelers Club. After writing this volume, Mr. Huntington went to Yale University in 1907, as instructor in geography, a subject whose advanced phases were then new in universities.
In 1909, he again went to Asia, this time under the auspices of Yale University. He spent six months in traveling back and forth in Palestine and the Syrian desert, and in crossing the center of Asia Minor. This resulted in a book entitled "Palestine and its Transformation." Since then his travels have been confined to America. He has spent much time in investigating the ruins of the southwest, and in working out the history of the big trees of California, in relation to human history. He has also traveled in Yucatan and Gautemala, among the ruins of the ancient Mayas. This work has been described in numerous articles, especially in Harper's Magazine, and also in a book called "The Climatic Factor, as Illustrated in Arid America."
Although some of Mr. Huntington's work was done from sheer love of exploration, most of it was directed toward a definite aim. His purpose was in general to study the effect of geographic conditions upon the life and character of primitive people. Later he became specifically interested in the question of changes of climate during historie times. All his later journeys were planned in order to throw light on this. It was the investigation of ancient lakes which led him into the dangerous regions of Afghanistan and into the unexplored salt wastes of Lop. His work has given rise to a distinct theory of pulsatory changes of climate, and of their effect upon history. Evidence of this seems to be found not only among the ruins, rivers and lakes of Asia, but in the trees of California, and in the remarkable civilization which sprang up about 2,000 years ago in Central America. He has published "The Climatic Factor" and "The Solar Hypothesis of Climatic Changes." His most recent work, published in 1915, is entitled "Civilization and Climate."
He received the degree of Master of Arts from Harvard in 1902, and that of Doctor of Philosophy from Yale in 1909. He belongs to the Congregational church, and is independent in politics.
[HFA, "Huntington Genealogical Memoir", (Hartford, CT, 1915).
Media: Book. Call number: CS71.H95. Location: http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/_glc_/1949/]
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