In 1934, Harry S. Ladd traveled to the Fiji Islands to study fossilized coral as it related to the formation of islands and atolls in the region. There are two field books in which he recorded information about the specimens collected and the locations; the text is wonderfully engaging. This may be partly due to Ladd's choice of writing his notes as a series of letters to "Edward."
|The first page of Harry S. Ladd's journal documenting his work in Fiji during 1934. Smithsonian Institution Archives. RU007396, Box 3, Folder 3. SIA2015-009575.|
Smithsonian Institution Archives recently digitized the volumes, so I decided to take a closer look at the work the two field books document. By reading through the specimen records related to the volume, I not only answered my primary question, but came to understand the extent and implications of the work the volumes document.
106 specimens from the 1934 trip reside in the Paleobiology collection of the National Museum of Natural History. Many of them are part of the Mollusca Cenozoic Marine Type Collection. Some of these specimens list a joint collector by the last name of Hoffmeister. With this last name, I uncovered Hoffmeister's personal papers, UC Sand Diego, J. Edward Hoffmeister Papers, 1925 - 1982. I finally found a plausible "Edward."
In 1934 Harry S. Ladd and J. Edward Hoffmeister of the University of Rochester in Fiji to study one of the major questions in the history of geology during the early twentieth century -- the "coral reef problem." As stated in UCSD's finding aid,
"At issue was a seeming paradox: the food and light conditions necessary to reef-forming corals are found only in relatively shallow water. Nevertheless, two common coral formations, atolls and barrier reefs, frequently occur far below the ocean's surface. Most of the proposed solutions to this problem have postulated a change in sea level relative to the reefs' foundation."Darwin had proposed that the land beneath these kinds of corals sank, and the sea level correspondingly rose, as the reefs grew. American geologist Reginald Daly offered a theory that involved a combination of glacial warming and coral growth. However, neither theory completely addressed what was observed in the field.
These two volumes document Ladd's second time in the field with Hoffmeister. It appears that by this second trip, the two had formed a solid friendship. Interestingly enough, the finding aid for Hoffmeister’s personal papers indicates that his materials impart the same wide range of description: field observations alongside notes about the people and communities of the Pacific.
|"Caution - If taken more than a few pages at a time this book is absolutely DEADLY!" Harry S. Ladd's field books capture his sense of humor along with his scientific observations. Smithsonian InstitutionArchives. RU007396, Box 3 Folder 3.|
Lesley Parilla, Cataloger
The Field Book Project