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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... discoveries by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.


CURWOOD: A hundred and ninety one years ago this week, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned from their famous trek into the uncharted West. They had left more than 2 years earlier under orders from President Thomas Jefferson to find an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean. They didn't find the Northwest Passage, but they did find plenty else. Believing that mastodons and other prehistoric creatures still roamed this vast uncharted territory, the President had told the 2 explorers to be on the lookout for unfamiliar animal and plant species. Lewis and Clark recorded detailed observations of 40 mammalian species, as well as more than 50 kinds of birds, 14 reptiles and amphibians, and 12 fish. Of these, nearly a quarter were new to Western science, including the mountain lion, the grizzly bear, and even the harbor seal. The men returned East, but it took 8 years to put their findings into print. By then, most people had lost interest. But not everyone. Trappers swarmed to the Missouri River when they learned of the beavers and other fur-bearing animals Lewis and Clark described there. And as a result, the fur trade flourished for decades. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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