Captain Harry Pidgeon


Tales of his life, adventures and legacy

Harry Pidgeon, Circumnavigator, Adventurer, Photographer

Through the generosity of the California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside, which holds a full collection of my great uncle's 1548 glass negatives, I am able to post some of his photographs.  Although the link and availability of photos may change, for contact information to see the full collection, please go to this link: http://www.cmp.ucr.edu/  Harry's pictures are in the permanent photography collections. 

The UC Riverside Museum of Photography will eventually post more photos, but it is a slow process as volunteers are currently doing the posting.  If you would like to volunteer for this archiving/public access project and live near the University of Riverside, please contact the curator and she will be overjoyed to put you to work!
My uncle left the Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro on the Islander in November of 1921 for his first world circumnavigation and just continued west.   Photographs in which Captain Harry appears were taken using a string which he attached to the shutter.  If you look closely, this string can be seen in a few of the photos.

The picture of my uncle being drawn in a rickshaw by a Zulu man in Durban, Africa, obviously dressed in full warrior regalia, is one of my favorites.

The 'farmer's ditch', used for irrigation on his family's farm near Salem, Iowa, was about thirty miles from the Mississippi River and probably the first body of water to capture his imagination.  I have yet to meet anyone who grew up with a pond, a creek or a shoreline of some sort who isn't fascinated with water, myself included. 

Captain Harry built the Islander, a 34' yawl,  from plans and materials he purchased at a cost of $1,000 plus a few years of his own hard labor.  The yawl lacked a motor which he explained was pretty much a 'financial decision', but he did have 14 foot oars on board.  He also strapped a small boat to the cabin for jaunts to shore and as a lifeboat if needed.  He lacked a generator or batteries for electricity, but he did have a small wood stove on board and used kerosene lamps and lights.  He also had fashioned a dark room on board and developed his own photographs while he was traveling.

Although pictured sitting in front of a giant basket of dawa fruits, he later joked that he did not eat them all in one sitting.  For his trip he stored salmon, sardines, onions, potatoes and other root vegetables and other canned goods.  He eventually became a vegetarian, but early in life he was an omnivore.  He never lost his sweet tooth, however, and enjoyed my Aunt Margaret's home made breads and sweet buns until the day he died.

Wherever he went on his world cruise he seemed to be welcomed by indigenous peoples and immigrants alike.  Although it was later said that sea tramps abused the hospitality of the people Captain Harry met along both his four-year cruises, Harry was treated with generosity and the most gracious hospitality.  Perhaps it was his unassuming nature and contagious wonder or his ability to tell an exciting story.  After all, although he sailed single-handed around the world, this was a practical decision based on his observation that most people quit much too easily.  He rightly supposed he could complete his world cruise without the complication of other people.  Of course, as a lonely sailor, once he got to port he would have been delighted with human companionship..

As he would later write, he stayed in each port until it was time to leave.  If only the rest of us could have such common sense and pleasant timing.  Please enjoy the photographs and if they inspire you to have your own adventure? Bon voyage!
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