May 14, 2003


The Writer's Almanac has an interesting tidbit today about the fact that on this day in 1804, Lewis and Clark set out from St. Louis for the Pacific Coast.

What was the first thing Clark did at the end of the first day? Wrote in his blog, of course. (Back then, they called it journal):

"Rained the fore part of the day. . . . I Set out at 4 oClock P.M, in the presence of many of the neighboring in habitants, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie. . . a heavy rain this after-noon."

The group traveled up through the Dakotas, through Montana and across the Continental Divide, and finally down to the mouth of the Columbia River. When they spotted the Pacific, Clark wrote in his journal:

"Ocian in view! O! the joy."

Thomas Jefferson was president at the time, and wanted to find out about the land he had just gotten through the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson was also interested in Native American culture, as well as western plants and animals. Lewis and Clark's party was well-stocked for their journey: they brought clothes; guns; medical supplies; a traveling library that included science and reference books; mathematical instruments; and loads of camping supplies, including twelve pounds of soap and 193 pounds of portable soup -- a thick paste made by boiling down beef, eggs and vegetables. They also brought gifts for Native Americans, including silk ribbons, ivory combs, 130 rolls of tobacco, vermilion face paint, 144 small pairs of scissors, and twelve dozen pocket mirrors. Lewis and Clark identified 178 plants and 122 animals that had never before been recorded for science, including the grizzly bear, which often chased the group across the plains and mountains.

About the bear, Lewis wrote:

"The curiosity of our party is pretty well satisfied with respect to this animal."

Posted by Jeff at May 14, 2003 03:28 PM | TrackBack