Nelson and Goldman's route, in red

Nelson and Goldman's route, in red

In the summer of 1891, a man rode out of the Sierra Nevada on a buckboard wagon. His name was Edward William Nelson and he was under the employ of the United States Biological Survey and the Smithsonian Institution. A broken singletree on his wagon forced him to stop at a nearby ranch where he met and employed a young man as his field assistant. Edward Alphonso Goldman, then 18, set off on a trajectory that would change his life, the life of his mentor and colleague, Mr. Nelson, and history itself.

After spending thirteen years exploring and studying mainland Mexico, the pair was dispatched to Lower California, a region now known as Baja California, in March of 1905. During the eleven-month expedition, the two naturalists traversed the length of the Baja Peninsula on horseback, traveling nearly 2,000 miles and zig-zagging from one coast to the other eight times. Their expedition became Baja’s most thorough study of its plants and animals--and their biological relations to one another--of their time. Together they collected thousands of plants and animals; among them were hundreds that were not previously known to science.

Nelson and Goldman both went on to have successful careers working for the Biological Survey. Nelson retired as chief of the Biological Survey in 1927, and Goldman finished his career as a senior biologist for the Division of Biological Investigations in 1943. A total of 22,756 specimens were amassed during their field assignments. It was said that what Nelson and Goldman accomplished in Mexico were ". . . among the most important ever achieved by two workers for any single country."

With a desire to cultivate a passion for and maintain a deep appreciation of Baja’s history and landscape, and keep alive the work of these great naturalists, Goldman’s great-grand nephew and his son embark on a nearly 3,000-mile journey to retrace Nelson and Goldman’s route. An expedition on its own terms will take the pair several months on motorcycles to document the changes, culture, and natural wonders of today’s Baja California.

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