The Columbia River Botanist
Today is the 76th anniversary of the day that the German botanist, Frederick Lueders, lost all of his botanical work.
On November 13, 1843, Lueders was botanizing along the Columbia River in Oregon. He'd been collecting specimens for three years. He had just encountered the explorer John Freemont, when all of his work, which was secured in a canoe nearby, was drawn into the rapids. Lueders plunged into the river and managed to retrieve only a copy of the Flora by Torrey and Gray.
The devastating loss was recorded in Freemont's journal who wrote:
"In the natural concern I felt for his misfortune, I gave to the little cove the name of Lueders' Bay."
For Lueder's part, the loss of his specimens was devastating. However, the loss of his instruments and his correspondence with Asa Gray and Dr. Englemann was almost too great. Lueders determined his best course of action was to return home. He traveled south around the tip of Chile and then onto England. It took him a year to return to Hamburg a year after his mishap on the Columbia.
Lueders didn't stay in Germany long. In fact, he returned to America within the next year. By 1851, he had made his way to Wisconsin; he spent the rest of his life in Sauk City, and he dabbled in astronomy. A biographical sketch said that in his old age, Lueders was mainly devoted to his flowers.