Brewer, actually, a botanist and not a geologist, was put in charge of the field party by the then California State Geologist, Josiah Whitney. The two men did not meet each other in person until both were departing from the east for California. A mutual professor friend had recommended Brewer to Whitney and everything beforehand was arranged by written correspondence. This is hard to imagine in today’s electronic age. Another notable person who was appointed to the first survey party was Clarence King, who would later become the first Director of the U.S. Geological Survey and published many works of his own.
It is particularly interesting to read Brewer’s entries regarding the various locations the party visited compared to the same locations in present times. The party endured extreme hardships while travelling by mule and wagon in areas where roads often did not exist and where freeways now enable travel in minutes that would have taken days or weeks back then. This is the premise of a blog I found the other day that commemorates the travels of the first geological survey party. To quote the blog itself:
“This blog commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Whitney Survey. Over the next four years we’ll be posting excerpts from the journals of William H. Brewer, field leader of the Survey, in real time plus 150 years.”
The entries include the original text written by Brewer, along with present-day photos and videos of the same locations described. The blog postings are also available on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoy combining geology with California history, then this is a great blog to bookmark. Of course, you can also just purchase the book, but it is much more convenient to read the entries a day at a time on the date they were actually recorded on your electronic device of choice. The blog can be found at http://upanddowncalifornia.wordpress.com/.