Walter Elmer Ekblaw

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Walter Elmer Ekblaw circa 1913

Walter Elmer Ekblaw (March 10, 1882 – June 7, 1949) was an American college professor who served as geologist, ornithologist and botanist on the Crocker Land Expedition (1913-1917).[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

Walter Elmer Ekblaw was born in Champaign County, Illinois. He was one of six children born to Andrew Ekblaw (1854-1923) and Ingrid (Johnson) Ekblaw (1860-1942) both of whom were Swedish immigrants. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in 1910. At the University, he was editor of the Daily Illini (1910). Together with fellow senior, Clarence Foss Williams (1886-1971), he also organized the first University of Illinois homecoming on October 15, 1910.[3] [4]

He taught at the University of Illinois from 1910 to 1913.[5] He subsequently became a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History. He attended Clark University where he received a Ph.D. in 1926. He served as a professor of geography at Clark University from 1924 to 1949.[6] In 1947, he received the Order of the Polar Star from King Gustav V of Sweden for his work in promoting good relations between Sweden and the United States. He died in 1949 and was buried at the Glen Cemetery in Ford County, Illinois.[7]

Crocker Land Expedition[edit]

From 1913 to 1917, he served as geologist and botanist of the Crocker Land Expedition together with Maurice Cole Tanquary of the University of Illinois who served as the zoologist.[8] The Crocker Land Expedition, which explored northern Greenland, was organized by Arctic explorers Donald Baxter MacMillan.[9] The expedition was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History, the American Geographical Society, and the University of Illinois' Museum of Natural History. Members of the ill-fated expedition, including Ekblaw, were rescued by the ship Neptune, commanded by Robert Bartlett in 1917. On his return to the United States, Ekblaw wrote a number of papers including The importance of nivation as an erosive factor and of soil flow as a transporting agency in northern Greenland (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 4, 1918, p. 288-93), and also one on The food birds of the Smith Sound Eskimos (Wilson Bulletin, Vol. 31 (o.s.), Vol. 26 (n.s.), No. 106, 1919, p. 1-5). Later publications dealt with The ecological relations of the polar Eskimo (Ecology, Vol. 2, 1921, p. 132-44) and Eskimo dogs forgotten heroes (Natural History, Vol. 37,1936, p. 173-84).[10]

Journals from Maurice Tanquary, Ekblaw, Donald and Mirriam MacMillan are available online at the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives website. Digitization of materials at Bowdoin College related to the Crocker Land Expedition generously funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation in 2016.[11]

Selected works[edit]

  • Correlation of the Devonian System of the Rock Island Region (1912)
  • Stratigraphy and Paleontology of the Devonian System in Rock Island County, Illinois (1912)
  • Along Unknown Shores: Narratives of Exploration in the Far North (1918)


  1. ^ W. Elmer Ekblaw (University of Illinois Archives)
  2. ^ Stanley A. Freed. "Fate of the Crocker Land Expedition". Natural History. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  3. ^ "Biography of Andrew Ekblaw". A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago). 1918. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  4. ^ John Franch (July 2005). "Origin of The University of Illinois Homecoming" (PDF). University of Illinois Archives. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  5. ^ Walter Elmer Ekblaw, Obituary (
  6. ^ W. Elmer Ekblaw: The Polar Eskimo (Clark University Alumni Directory)
  7. ^ "Dr. Ekblaw, Once Arctic Explorer For U. of I., Dies". Chicago Tribune. June 7, 1949. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  8. ^ American Geographical Society (1913) The Crocker Land Expedition (Bulletin of the American Geographical Society Vol. 45, No. 10, pp. 753-756)
  9. ^ "A Crocker Land Expedition Who's Who". Researching the Crocker Land Expeditions 1913-1917. June 13, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "Doom, death and drama infuse a University of Illinois expedition to the Arctic". University of Illinois Alumni Association. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
  11. ^ "George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives (Bowdoin Library - George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives)". Retrieved 2016-11-16.

Other sources[edit]

Related reading[edit]

  • Hunt, Harrison J. and Ruth Hunt Thompson (1980) North to the Horizon: Searching for Peary's Crocker Land (Down East Publishing) ISBN 978-0892720804
  • Horwood, Harold (2010) Bartlett: The Great Explorer (Doubleday Canada) ISBN 978-0385674355

External links[edit]