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Today, the Crocker Land Expedition has entered the digital world in a new way, with the publication of its first iBook, Finding the Nest of the Knot by W. Elmer Ekblaw.

Ekblaw book cover

Ekblaw book cover

In 1918 W. Elmer Ekblaw published a brief article in The Wilson Bulletin: a Quarterly Journal of Ornithology, describing how he and Harrison Hunt succeed in finding the nest and eggs of the red knot, a small shorebird. You can read it here in its original form, thanks to the Biodiversity Library.

The red knot (Calidris canutus, called Tringa canutus in 1918) is well-known to birders along the eastern seaboard, for in the fall huge flocks arrive from the north, gathering in coastal marshes where they feed on abundant resources such as horseshoe crab eggs. The small birds eat voraciously and gain weight quickly preparing for the remainder of their migration, flying as far south as Patagonia. Today they are at risk, in part due to over-exploitation of horseshoe crabs.

As Ekblaw describes, learning more about the nesting habits of these birds was a major question for ornithologists in the early twentieth century. Finding, and recovering, both eggs and nests was one of the major scientific triumphs of the expedition which is otherwise remembered more for its failures.

In the article Ekblaw tells the story of finding the nest and eggs of the knot with his characteristic charm, but given the limitations of printing in those days he did not included illustrations. Looking through the many expedition photographs in our collections (we have the glass lanterns slides that MacMillan, Tanquary and Ekblaw used in their lectures) we identified beautiful hand-tinted images that tell the whole story (or most of it at least). This seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of digital media, and so using the text from the scanned article (with permission from the Wilson Bulletin, now the Wilson Journal of Ornithology), and scans from the lantern slides, we have created an illustrated version of the article, now available as a free iBook. Enjoy!

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