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To the South Seas

by Gifford Pinchot

Soon we could see the outline of the great fish through the
dark water, as it swam slowly along. It was like a barn door
just under the surface, a big barn door, with cavernous mouth
and two arm-like feeders.

Giant Sea Bats, Land Crabs, Lap Dragons, untouched islands and native villages are visited by Gifford Pinchot the “father of modern environmentalism,” and Chief of the United States Forest Service under Theodore Roosevelt.

Gifford Pinchot, with his family, explores The Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago and Tahiti in 1929, before the South Seas was changed forever by modern civilization and war.

The “To The South Seas” adventure really began when Gifford Pinchot bought a three mast, topsail schooner, 148 feet in length, of steel construction and spent several busy months refitting the ship. As Pinchot wrote: “This was to be no mere yachting trip. It was to be a scientific expedition, for adventure seasoned with science is the very best kind.”

On March 31, 1929, Gifford Pinchot, his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, their young 13-year-old son Giff, and his friend Stiff Stahlnecker boarded their ship, the Mary Pinchot, in New York City, along with a crew and experts from the National Museum in Washington and various scientific organizations. Their goal was to collect specimens from the islands they planned to visit. Also on board were a physician and a photographer.

The Galapagos Islands held special interest for Pinchot. These were the islands explored by Charles Darwin in the Beagle, in 1831. Darwin’s observations of the animal life on these isolated islands led to his book in 1859, “On the Origin of Species,” proposing a theory of evolution. As an important and respected environmentalist, Pinchot wanted to examine the varied animal life himself.

The Pinchot Family’s adventure was not without accidents. On board a private ship, sailing their own course, they were on their own, totally alone, far from emergency assistance. Leaks kept them in Key West for repairs, longer than planned. A ruined rudder and jammed stuffing box required a dangerous trip of 920 miles out of their way for repairs.

After they explored and left the Galapagos, Pinchot describes their visits to many other islands of the South Seas, where Mr. and Mrs. Pinchot’s outgoing personalities allowed them to mix with and learn from the native inhabitants of the islands.

Reviewing Pinchot’s book “To The South Seas,” James Norman Hall, co-author of “Mutiny On The Bounty,” wrote:

“There is magic in this kind of writing that is its own reason for being. But the most interesting part of the book, to me, was the account of the visit—or rather, of the series of visits—to the Galapagos Islands.

Mr. Pinchot visited Albemarle, Tower, Indefatigable, Duncan, Seymour, Daphne Major, Harrington, Narborouh. I doubt whether many living men have explored the Group so thoroughly, and I am sure that no man has written of it—in recent times at least—with equal truth, sympathy, and discernment.”

In 1930, the adventure was released as a theatrical travelogue at the Cameo Theatre in New York City. Mordant Hall, the first regularly assigned film critic for the New York Times wrote of the resultant film:

“There are amazing scenes of natives jumping into the crystal waters, harpoon in hand, to land on the backs of the enormous sea bats. After plunging the weapon in them, they swim away and climb back over the boat’s side. There are views of the San Blas Indians, of enormous land turtles, iguanas, sea tigers and Man-O’-War hawks.”

In total, the adventure lasted seven months, ending in Tahiti, on October 15, 1929, only 14 days before the Stock Market crash, and a financial depression that changed the world. It was a once in a lifetime trip and an adventure that could never again be repeated in quite the same way.

Read by Andre Stojka

Andre Stojka, known for his rich characterizations and his creative interpretation of the written word, has been a major voice over actor for over 30 years. Some of his best known voices are the Owl in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh movies and videos, the voice of Ernie Keebler, the Keebler Cookie Elf, the King in Disney’s Cinderella videos and Starlight in the Rainbow Bright television series.

This is a recording of the 1930 book publication with added sound effects, music and a new afterward. © 2018 Andre Stojka et.al:

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Instant Download, 1 Mp3 Audio CD in protective vinyl case

To The South Seas
By Gifford Pinchot
9 Hours 9 Minutes
Digital Download Edition: ISBN 978-0-9968018-6-7
Mp3 CD Edition: ISBN 978-0-9968018-7-4

Additional Listen2Read Titles