This summer I’m beginning work on a project reconstructing and mapping the 1916 and 1919 scientific field investigations of U.S. Geological Survey geologist Stephen Reid Capps in the Denali National Park and Preserve area of Alaska. Capps made significant contributions to the early understanding of Alaskan geology and is widely recognized as a pioneer of Alaskan glaciology. Besides his scientific contributions, he was a talented photographer and writer and his photographs, observations, and writings about the game in the McKinley region were instrumental in the establishment of Mount McKinley National Park, which later would be renamed Denali National Park and Preserve. Over the last few months, I’ve been visiting archives and libraries across the U.S. collecting Capps’ field notes, personal letters he wrote from the field to his wife, his professional and popular publications, and his extensive collection of photographs. I plan to use the material I’ve gathered to determine where he visited during his fieldwork and conduct several backpacking and packrafting trips in Denali to retrace, map, and document the routes of his travels. In addition, I plan to use repeat photography techniques to document landscape and ecosystem changes in the Denali area during the period between Capps’ exploration and the present. My project is partially funded by a Murie Science and Learning Center Research Fellowship award from Alaska Geographic and Denali National Park and Preserve. Here’s the link to the MLSC Fellowship announcement on the Denali National Park website. Over the next year or so, I’ll be writing a lot about Stephen Capps and providing details about my project (including preparations, techniques, archive findings, fieldwork, gear, images, results, etc).
Please feel free to leave me a comment or contact me if you have questions about my project.