Western Speleological Institute

From Islapedia

Western Speleological Institute (W.S.I.), "Dedicated to the Study and Preservation of Natural Caves," was organized in the early 1950s through the efforts of staff at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Individuals involved were Arthur Lange, Raymond deSaussure, and Phil Orr. In 1955-1959 Phil C. Orr was both treasurer and director.

There is no documentation to suggest that the W.S.I. continued past the late 1950s. Many records of the W.S.I. can be found at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

  • Western Speleological Institute Annual Report of the Director 1955-1956
[original in SCIF archives] ex-lib. Clif Smith
Santa Rosa Island Project (p. 2)
“The Santa Rosa Island Project has been underway for some ten years under the supervision of the director, as Curator of Geology and Archaeology of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Arlington Cave on the Island has been particularly excavated by the Museum and many other caves explored by the Institute. The Island project is equally important to the Lahontan project in search for Early Man, and a better understanding of the geological processes of the Late Pleistocene and Recent. Mr. Broecker has provided radiocarbon dates here, extending to more than 37,000 years ago, the most notable date being 29,650 years ago for charred bones of dwarf mammoth, killed and cooked by man, which is the oldest dated evidence of man in the Americas today.”

“While this date comes from an "open site," it is important to speleology by indicating geomorphic. archeologic and paleontologic conditions existing at that time. In turn, the caves are of utmost importance in a full understanding of the geomorphic and archaeological implications.”

  • Western Speleological Institute Annual Report of the Director 1957-1958
[original in SCIF archives] ex-lib. Clif Smith
Santa Rosa Island Project (p. 2)
“The 11th Santa Rosa Island Expedition of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, assisted by WSI and with a generous grant from the National Geographic Society set up base camp on the northwest coast of the island November 10, 1957. The party consisted of Buck Davis, WSI; Jim Moriarty, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and WSO collaborator in cartography; John Tyler, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; Neal P. Davis, National Geographic Society photographer, and Phil C. Orr, leader. We were supplied from the mainland by Mr. Waldo Abbott, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and Mrs. Louise G. Reid, WSI, who purchased supplied and arranged for transportation. While many people aided us, special thanks are due to Dr. William Rand, president of Submarex Corporation; the Richfield Oil Company; Rancho Dos Pueblos, and Mr. Phillip de Beixedon, for boat transportation to and from the island. Without the aid of the officers and men of the 669th Advanced Aircraft and Warning Squadron of the U. S. Air Force, who landed our supplies, and the always cooperative attitude of the owners of the island, Vail and Vickers, we could never have undertaken the trip. Last, but not least, we wish to pay our respects to Mr Harold Chase, president of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; to Dr. A. S. Coggeshall, director of the Museum and member of the WSI board of trustees; to the officers and staff of the National Geographic Society, and to the Santa Rosa Island committee of the Santa Barbara Museum, headed by Mr. John Parma, who have worked for 11 years to see that the annual expeditions go to the island.
“Excavations were carried out on two Highland Culture sites, and salvage excavations were made at Dune Dweller and Canalino sites where wind and erosion is destroying burial grounds. A number of fossil mammoth bones were collected, including another rare skull and jaw. The burned areas, were men of 12,000 to 30,000 years ago "barbecued" the mammoth, were studied and controlled fire tests were made by burning fires for various periods to study the action on the earth. In this we also cooperated with Dr. Carl Compton, Instituto Interamericano, by burning various chipped stone implements and polished quartz slabs to study the effects of heat from the fire on the stone.”

  • Western Speleological Institute Annual Report of the Director 1958-1959
[original in SCIF archives] ex-lib. Clif Smith
Santa Rosa Island Project (p. 2)
“The WSI again collaborated with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in the 12th Santa Rosa Island Expedition, spending 72 days in the fall and winter on the island excavating bones of the dwarf mammoth and making a geological survey and collecting soil and radiocarbon samples. Two skulls were found and excavated, as well as another "barbecue" pit where bone had been burned. A thorough study of the mammoth beds was made, including many cross sections drawn and photographed and a paper was prepared for publication, indicating three distinct members, or time units of the fossil bone bearing formation.”
In the early spring, Dr. V. L. VanderHoof, Director of the Museum and Dr. Fay-Cooper Cole, Chairman of the Prehistory Committee of the Museum accompanied Orr to the island for a five day investigation, as guests of Col. Jack Blacker of the 669th A C & W [Aircraft Control & Warning] Squadron, USAF. The decision was made to attempt to secure additional funds for an "all-out" scientific investigation of the islands, and we are pleased that the museum was awarded a grant from the Adventurers Club in Chicago, and another grant for the purchase of a long-needed keep pickup was given the museum by the Santa Barbara Foundation.”

Santa Cruz Isand Project (p. 2)
“Through the invitation of Mr. Ed. Stanton, and Dr. Carey Stanton, owners of Santa Cruz Island, Orr and collaborator Smith of the Santa Barbara Museum, spent five days making a reconnaissance of the speleology, archaeology, paleontology and botany of the island, with a view to carrying out exploratory work in 1960. A number of new caves and Indian sites were found.”

  • 1959. ORR, Phil CUMMINGS| ORR, P. C.]]. On New Radiocarbon Measurements Western Speleological Institute, Inc., Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, February 1959. 3 pages.