Comparison of expedition lists made by scientists

Comparison of expedition lists made by scientists. Top, Gilbert Whitley, 1923. Bottom, Dr Jodi Rowley, 2013.

Image: Australian Museum
© Australian Museum

Which Museum scientists pack pistols, killing bottles and ear plugs for their expeditions?

Archivist Patricia Egan, volunteer Prue Walker, and I were wondering what essential items scientists packed in their bags for expeditions over the decades.

Patricia highlighted the list of possessions found with William Holmes, zoologist and the Museum’s first custodian in 1829, when he accidentally shot himself while on a collecting trip. The manifest was subsequently left to his widow.

Prue came across the notebooks of Gilbert Percy Whitley, ichthyologist, including a list with the heading ‘Paraphernalia, desiderata, impedimenta etc.'

I asked amphibian biologist Dr Jodi Rowley, to reveal what she usually packs for an expedition. You can see excerpts from their lists below.

William Holmes, 1831
Zoologist and Museum custodian

  • Pocket pistol
  • Bag of shot
  • A cleaning rod
  • Roll of wire
  • Cotton
  • 1 towel containing candles
  • 2 knives
  • Bottle of poison
  • Butterfly net
  • Tobacco
  • A handkerchief of biscuits

Gilbert Whitley, 1923
Curator of fishes

  • Sketchbook, pencils, Indian ink, pen, eraser, red ink, tape measure
  • Camera, films
  • Compass, labels, scissors, needle, cotton, darning, pins
  • ‘Scouting for Boys’
  • Violin, music, bank passbook, geology notebooks, instruments and manuals
  • Tennis racquet, balls
  • Tubes, bottle-box, spirit, cotton wool, killing bottle
  • Lime for rock pools, fishing tackle, water telescope
  • Lollies or biscuits

Dr Jodi Rowley, 2013
Amphibian biologist and Acting Co-ordinator, Australian Museum Research Institute

  • Three cameras
  • Video recorders
  • Microphone and sound recorder
  • GPS, satellite phone
  • First Aid kit
  • Headlamps
  • Batteries (lots)
  • Solar panel charger
  • Waterproof notebooks
  • Specimen storage jars, specimen tags, scissors and forceps
  • Formalin, white cotton, scales, trays
  • Plastic tubes (for collecting DNA samples)
  • iPod and earplugs
  • Lighters (for creating fires, sterilising DNA, for colleagues who smoke)
  • Chocolate

Macquarie Dictionary definition
Paraphernalia: personal belongings; apparatus; equipment.
Desiderata: plural of desideratum; something wanted or needed.
Impedimenta: baggage, etc., which impedes progress, as supplies carried with an army.