QBARS - v6n2 The Kingdon Ward Expedition - The Assam Earthquake

The Kingdon Ward Expedition - The Assam Earthquake
Rudolph Henny

In the A. R. S. Quarterly Bulletin vol. 5, no. 1, page 33, Kingdon Ward in a letter to the American Rhododendron Society gives a short description of the earthquake that interfered with the successful conclusion of his plant hunting expedition to Assam.

The March edition of the National Geographic Magazine carries the complete story of the earthquake by Mr. Ward. Since Mr. Ward was in the high mountains when the earth tremors struck, his description of what took place is most frightening. Seismologists report that no stronger earth shock has ever been recorded. The shocks took place for the better part of a week, and were accompanied by loud explosions. Huge rock slides were set in motion from high altitudes and the grinding action of falling rock covered everything with powdered stone for days, and the dust also ascended high into the skies. Mr. Ward describes the rain as being muddy with this powdered stone for days. The slides did not subside with the culmination of the shocks but persisted for months, and acres of steep landscape would suddenly let go and fall with terrifying suddenness.

Members of the American Rhododendron Society who aided this expedition were just a bit disappointed with the result sent back, but since reading a full account of what actually happened, it has been expressed that all are grateful that Mr. and Mrs. Ward escaped with their lives. Possibly if Communist infiltration is not extended into Assam, Mr. Ward will again attempt to find new plants in this previously unexplored district.

The weeks of near starvation while on the return trip, and the difficult crossing of rivers dammed with huge slides of rock must have been a trying experience for the party. The expedition could well have abandoned any attempt to bring out plant material and been well satisfied with the saving of their respective lives.

The rhododendron seeds sent back by the expedition have all proved viable and members who have them may well contemplate on the difficulties endured in their procurement.