Clan Carruthers

Clan Carruthers: Climate Change – In the footsteps of a Carruthers Explorer.

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Turgen Mountains, Mongolia

In his 2011 thesis, submitted to the University of Montana, Kevin McManigal wrote in his abstract: The Turgen Mountains lie in northwestern Mongolia, roughly 80 kilometers south of the Russian border. The area was visited in 1910 by a Royal Geographical Society (RGS) expedition led by Douglas Carruthers. They undertook an extensive survey of the range and produced a detailed topographic map. They also documented the extent of the glaciers with photographs. This modern study consisted of three phases.

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Map by Douglas Carruthers

The first step was to procure the historical documents from the RGS in London, including copies of the photos, journal entries, and the map. Field work in Mongolia entailed travelling to the remote study site and retracing portions the 1910 expedition. Camera locations were matched to the historical photographs and repeat images taken. In addition, the termini of the two main glacial lobes were surveyed by GPS. Finally, spatial analysis was conducted in the computer laboratory using a GIS to generate a “historic” elevation model from the 1910 map and compare it to a modern DEM generated from SRTM data.

Map analysis software was employed to evaluate cartometric accuracy of the 1910 map against modern Russian topographic sheets. The results of the DEM and map analysis were then validated using the field GPS data and remotely sensed imagery to quantitatively describe the changes in the glacial system. The repeat photography was analyzed using photogrammetric techniques to measure glacier changes.

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Map by Douglas Carruthers, 1910 Mongolia RGS©

Also, a custom cartographic product was produced in the style of the 1910 Carruthers map. It displays the extent of the glaciers in 2010 and the locations of repeat photography stations for future expeditions. Placing the results of this study alongside previous work paints a clear picture of the Turgen glacial regime over the last century. The results suggest that while the snow and ice volume on the summits appears to be intact, lower elevation glaciers show significant ablation. This study successively demonstrates the utility of using historic expedition documents to extend the modern record of glacial change.


Who would have thought that the exploration work of a Carruthers in the early 1900’s would have stimulated an expedition to research the current hot topic of climate change? But it did!

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Photo by Douglas Carruthers, reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society (Tien Shen, Mongolia 1910-1911) ©

One hundred years later, in the summer of 2010, a US–Mongolian expedition retraced portions of the 1910 expedition. It was led by an Associate Professor in Geography, from the University of Montana, Dr Ulrich Kamp PhD, now Professor of Earth and Environment at the University Michigan-Dearborn. Camera locations were matched to the historical photographs and repeated photographs taken. In addition, the termini of the two main glacial lobes were surveyed by GPS. Analyses of field data, repeated photographs from 1910 and 2010, topographic maps from 1970, and satellite imagery from 1992 and 2010 were used to describe the changes in the glacial system.

The results suggest that while the snow and ice volume on the summits appears to be intact, lower elevation glaciers show significant recession and ablation. From 1910 to 2010, West Turgen Glacier receded by c. 600 m and down‐wasted by c. 70 m.

This study successively demonstrates the utility of using historic expedition documents to extend the modern record of glacial change, and it was all initiated by the work of Douglas Carruthers of the House of Holmains.


Who was Douglas Carruthers:

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Alexander ‘Douglas’ Carruthers

26165507_1852211391484241_73389764515084059_nAlexander ‘Douglas’ Mitchell Carruthers (b. London, 4th of October 1882; d. London, 23rd of May 1962) was an explorer and naturalist of some repute.

He was the eldest son of the Rev. William Mitchell Carruthers of Holbrook, (b. Sept 12 1853, d. Sept 1931)  and was active throughout the Middle East in the early 1900s. William was the grandson of Susan Carruthers, third daughter of John 12th of Holmains and 8th Baron. Douglas Carruthers was a direct descendent of the chiefly line of Carruthers of Holmains.

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Photo by Douglas Carruthers, reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society (Landscape with Yurts, Dzungaria, Mongolia 1910-1911) ©

He was educated at Haileybury College and Trinity College, Cambridge, the latter being the largest of the colleges of Cambridge University.  Haileybury on the other hand was a boarding school established in 1862, whose primary purpose during the second half of the 19th century, was to provide soldiers and administrators for the British Empire, in particular British India. After graduation, he worked as secretary to a number of people active at the Royal Geographical Society, and underwent training in land survey work, also becoming an expert taxidermist.

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Photo by Douglas Carruthers, reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society (Urian Khai, Siberia 1910-1911) ©

iu-29At the young age of 23, Douglas took part in the British Museum’s expedition to Ruwenzori in the Congo (1905–1906), where he correlated and collected information, sending home specimens of birds and mammals. Approximately 4 years later, accompanied by two friends, Morgan Philip Price (journalist, photographer and politician) and J.H Miller (zoologist), Douglas led a scientific expedition (1910). It set out to explore Outer Mongolia and the headwaters of the Enesei River in central Siberia, to include the legendary Dzungarian Gate. This led to the publication of two volumes by Douglas on ‘Unknown Mongolia’ in 1913.

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Photo by Douglas Carruthers, reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society (Chagan Gol Valley, Mongolian Altai c.1910-1911) ©

During the First World War, Carruthers was employed mainly at the War Office, compiling maps of the Middle East; his later career after his second marriage consisted largely of map-making and working with explorers and travellers. It was during this period that Douglas and T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) became good friends, and Lawrence drew a map of his famous journey to Aqaba for him. Experts believe it is the only map depicting the journey Lawrence took across the hostile Saudi Arabian desert in 1917, which eventually led to the capture of a major port. In 1962 the map was donated to the Royal Society of Asian Affairs by Douglas’s widow, where it has remained to this day.

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RGS Patrons Gold Medal

As a man of great renown in his fields of expertise, in 1910, Douglas Carruthers was awarded the Gill Memorial Medal and, in 1912, the Patron’s Gold Medal, both from the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) for important expeditions to Ruwenzori, Turkestan, Arabia and Mongolia.

The RGS Gold Medal is one of most prestigious of the Society’s awards and is given for “the encouragement and promotion of geographical science and discovery.”

Royal approval is required before an award of this magnitude can be made. Recipients of this award include: Commander Robert Falcon Scott CVO- Scott of the Antarctic, (For services as leader or the National Antarctic Expedition, and for his great sledge journey to 82° 17′ S) and David Livingston (for his African Explorations).

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Sykes Medal

Douglas was also to serve as Honorary Secretary of the RGS from 1916 to 1921, and as a Fellow from 1909 to 1962. In 1956, Carruthers was awarded the Sykes medal from the Royal Central Asian Society, another prestigious honour.

In 1915, Carruthers married Hon. Mrs Mary Morrison (Hill-Trevor), daughter of Arthur Edwin Hill-Trevor, 1st Baron Trevor (who himself was the 3rd son of the Marquess of Downshire) in St. George’s, Hanover Square, London. They had no children. She died in 1948, and on 3 September 1948 he married Rosemary Arden Clay (born 12 August 1908 in Banstead, Surrey). Soon afterwards she told him that as a married man, his travelling days were over. He never left Britain thereafter.

iuThe Royal Geographic Society in London still hold 3 boxes, 8 box files and 1 tube containing papers of Alexander Douglas Mitchell Carruthers, 1904-1957. The contents comprise travel diaries, notebooks and photographs from Syria and Lebanon, Central Africa, Mongolia, Turkestan and Arabia. Correspondence, notes, published articles and cuttings about birds, mammals and other natural history topics are also included. Most of these were donated by Douglas’s widow. Other material were presented by Prof. Robert F Lewis and V Winstone, and are considered of some importance.

In 1972 Professor Owen Lattimore gave the first Douglas Carruthers Memorial Lecture on “Douglas Carruthers and Geographical Contrasts in Central Asia”.

Douglas Carruthers wrote many books and collected a large number of specimens, some of which are still the only samples of those species in the British Museum, which bear his name.

Several of his books have been re-printed since 2007.

Bibliography

“Unknown Mongolia : a record of travel and exploration in north-west Mongolia and Dzungaria” with three chapters on sport by J. H. Miller, and a foreword by Earl Curzon of Kedleston – London: Hutchinson,1914.

“The desert route to India: being the journals of four travellers by the Great Desert Caravan Route between Aleppo and Basra, 1745-1751.”, 1929.

“Notes on the Maps Illustrating the Exploration in Mongolia and Dzungaria” 1913

“Notes on the Journey to the Arpa and Ak-Sai Plateaus in Russian Turkestan-&-Neve, Arthur the Ranges of the Karakoram”, 1910

“A Journey in North-Western Arabia”, 1910

“Arabian Adventure, to the Great Nafud in Quest of the Oryx”, H.F. & G. Witherby Ltd., London, 1935

“Further Information on the Turgun Or Kundelun Mountains in North-Western Mongolia, and Notes on a New Map of This Region, ” [From] the Geographical Journal. Vol. XLIV (1914).

“Reminiscences of Gertrude Bell”, Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, Volume 45 Issue 1 1958

“Beyond The Caspian.” 1949.

Ibis vol. XVI.— “On some Birds collected by Mr. Douglas Carruthers in the Syrian Desert”, P. L. Sclater D.Sc., F.R.S., British Ornithologists Union, 1906 .

The rich tapestry that is the history of our family is ever-unfolding through continued research, and we hope you enjoy us sharing it with you.


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