Special Collections and Archives blog

What’s a Doggerel Log?

 

Cover of the Doggerel Log, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Cover of the Doggerel Log, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Before I get to the definition of a doggerel log, a little backstory might be helpful. In 1937, researchers from Carnegie Institute of Washington and the California Institute of Technology joined to together to study the igneous and metamorphic formations of the Grand Canyon. The most efficient way to do so at this time was by boat; so six hardy researchers and three boatmen rowed three boats down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon studying geological formations and rocks. One of the geologists on this trip, John Stark, kept a “journal” that he titled “The Doggerel Log of a Canyon Trip.”

Dedication page of the Doggerel Log, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Dedication page of the Doggerel Log, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

By definition, doggerel is an adjective describing verse that is crude and comical. The sixteen page Carnegie-Cal Tech Doggerel Log is far from crude but rather an artful journal of the1937 expedition down the Colorado River, containing hand drawn, color illustrations and verse captured while on the trip. Special Collections and Archives owns copy number 7 of nine copies created by Stark.

The log succinctly captures the events of the trip. One such event was an encounter with fellow river runner Haldane “Buzz” Holmstrom near Diamond Creek, located at river mile 226 of the nearly three hundred mile journey down the Colorado River. Holmstrom’s journey to this point was perhaps even more dramatic and exiting than the scientific journey. Buzz built his boat in Oregon, drove it to headwaters of the Green River in western Wyoming and then proceeded to row it over 1000 miles from the Green River to the terminus of the Colorado River at Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) unsupported and solo.

Buzz heard about the scientific trip and had been chasing the Carnegie-Cal Tech group for weeks. Up until this point, only a few intrepid souls dared to navigate the treacherous rapids of the Colorado River, so seeing others on the river was an extremely rare event. Below, you can see how Stark colorfully captures the encounter.

Pages 12 and 13 of the Doggerel Log, Meeting "Buzz" Holmstrom at River Mile 226, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Pages 12 and 13 of the Doggerel Log, Meeting “Buzz” Holmstrom at River Mile 226, Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition Collection (MS 293), Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Both Buzz and the Carnegie-Cal Tech expedition successfully completed their trips down the Colorado River, and John Stark’s doggerel log beautifully documents the meeting of those historic trips.

To see the entire Doggerel Log of a Canyon Trip, visit the Colorado Plateau Archives.

You can learn more about the Carnegie-Cal Tech Expedition  and Haldane “Buzz” Holmstrom, by viewing their finding aids on the Arizona Archives Online.

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