“Always there has been an adventure just around the corner”
Roy Chapman Andrews gained national fame as an explorer for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He began his career at the museum in 1906 by sweeping floors and assisting in the taxidermy department. By 1934 he had become the museum’s director.
Andrews is best remembered for the series of dramatic expeditions he led to the Gobi of Mongolia from 1922 to 1930. Andrews took a team of scientists into previously unexplored parts of the desert using some of the region’s first automobiles with extra supplies transported by camel caravan.
Andrews – for whom adventure and narrow escapes from death were a staple of exploring – is said to have served as inspiration for the Hollywood character “Indiana Jones.”
Andrews’s expeditions to the Gobi remain significant for, among other discoveries, their finds of the first nests of dinosaur eggs, new species of dinosaurs, and the fossils of early mammals that co-existed with dinosaurs.
These materials remain the subject of exhibits and study, and they inspired a new wave of exploration in the Gobi by the American Museum beginning in 1990.
“I Wanted To Go Everywhere”
“I wanted to go everywhere. I would have started on a day’s notice for the North Pole or the South, to the jungle or the desert. It made not the slightest difference to me.”
So wrote Roy Chapman Andrews in Under a Lucky Star when describing his enthusiasm for exploration at the beginning of his career. Andrews never reached the Poles, and he gained his greatest fame for expeditions to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia during the 1920s.
But earlier expeditions took him to different terrains and locations, including Saint Paul’s Island, one of the Pribilof Islands of Alaska. Andrews, a zoologist by training, spent several weeks there during the summer of 1913, studying fur seals and taking still and moving photographs.
“For hours I lay concealed shooting bits of intimate seal life with the movie camera,” he reports in Under a Lucky Star. Andrews biographer Charles Gallenkamp notes that these efforts yielded “some of the most detailed footage of seals ever captured on film.” of charge.
“Don’t Court Hardships”
“Don’t court hardships,” advised Roy Chapman Andrews in On the Trail of Ancient Man. “Then…you are ready to take it in your stride and laugh while it is going on.” Andrews followed this advice when he inadvertently shot himself while trying to un-holster his revolver during the 1928 Gobi field season.
Andrews recorded his experience in The New Conquest of Central Asia. A .38-caliber bullet intended for a wounded antelope passed through the explorer’s left leg instead. Andrews noted that “I felt almost happy” after verifying that the bullet had not damaged his knee. There would be no “stiff leg for the rest of my life.”
With McKenzie Young (chief of motor transportation) acting as surgeon’s assistant, the camp doctor operated on the wound. Andrews noted that Dr. Perez “had given me such a dose of morphine that the world looked bright and rosy; in fact, I was rather pleased with myself.” The arrival of a lengthy sandstorm (and the fading of the morphine) “obscured my particular sun” later on. Nonetheless the wound healed without complication.