Ernest Hemingway, Gulf Stream Marine Scientist: The 1934-35 Academy of Natural Sciences Correspondence

By Martin, Lawrence H. | The Hemingway Review, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Ernest Hemingway, Gulf Stream Marine Scientist: The 1934-35 Academy of Natural Sciences Correspondence


Martin, Lawrence H., The Hemingway Review


IN MARCH 1934, en route back to the United States after their African safari, Ernest and Pauline Hemingway stopped for a week in Paris before embarking for New York. In Paris Hemingway received a surprising letter from an American stranger, Charles M. B. Cadwalader, Director of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia. Forwarded from the Scribner office in New York, Cadwalader's letter of 6 March 1934 asked if Hemingway would be interested in cooperating with Academy scientists in conducting research in Cuban waters to remedy "the lack of knowledge concerning the classification, life histories, food [and] migrations ... of the sailfish, marlin, tuna and other large game fishes [and] to secure specimens and information in order that our knowledge of these fish may be advanced."(1) Cadwalader introduced himself by referring to Hugo Rutherfurd, a big-game fishing friend of millionaire sportsman Tommy Shevlin, as a source of information about Hemingway's fishing skill. Enticing Hemingway with the promise of "a most interesting study" and the need for "a good publication with proper illustrations," Cadwalader invited the writer's participation in a serious scientific enterprise.

Hemingway responded eagerly and promptly on 2 April 1934, writing on ship's stationery(2) to say in his first paragraph that he would be pleased to participate in the Academy's research. Hemingway described at length the need to know what specimens the Museum already had, the difficulties of preserving fish in a tropical climate, and the problems of making good photographs under conditions at sea. He also invited Cadwalader to New York, and Cadwalader countered with an invitation to Philadelphia. Wire copies show that Hemingway stopped briefly in Philadelphia on the afternoon of 9 April 1934, on his way to Key West, presumably meeting Cadwalader and the Academy's chief ichthyologist, Henry W. Fowler, at that time.

Oddly, the correspondence then ceased for three months until 9 July 1934, when Hemingway wrote to Fowler at the Academy, explaining that this year's run of marlin was very late, but speculating that the fish would be staying through September. Hemingway related the effect of the Gulf Stream current, the wind, the moon, and the summer storms on the white, Black,(3) and striped marlin, and predicted better conditions two days hence, with the new moon on 11 July. He recommended the Hotel Ambos Mundos--two dollars a day, with a good restaurant across the street--and reported that Havana was cooler than midsummer Philadelphia. Even though Hemingway had not heard from Cadwalader or Fowler for three months, he repeated his invitation to visit and his assurance that the scientists would obtain fine specimens of Gulf Stream fish with his help. The letter closes with a proud owner's description of the two-month-old Pilar and a report of record sailfish he had recently caught, along with pictures to convince the mainlanders.

Cadwalader's quick 12 July 1934 air mail response accepted the invitation and confirmed the original plan, but was couched in self-deprecating references to his "inexperience" and "long absence from handling the rod." At the same time, Cadwalader recounted a recent ten-day tarpon-fishing expedition to Florida, and spoke knowledgeably of types and sizes of reels and line, although he did ask Hemingway's advice about selecting other equipment. Cadwalader proposed that his colleague Fowler would "do no fishing and would be in charge of all scientific research," leaving the impression that he and Hemingway would man the tackle, even though "I probably won't want to fish as hard as you." Cadwalader closed with an expression of "great interest and eagerness," and a hope that "the trip will be to our mutual advantage."

Some incidental Academy Correspondence places Cadwalader and Fowler in Havana with Hemingway by 25 July 1934 (J.E. Bowers-Morgan Hebard, 25 July 1934). Carlos Baker estimates that they were fishing together by the end of July, and stayed in Cuba for the month of August 1934 (264). …

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