climate was unstable in 1903 and westerners entering China did so
at some risk. Adding to the atmosphere of intrigue surrounding the
mission was the interest of Western powers in territorial control
and political influence in the fractured country. Eager for adventure,
R. Harvey Sargent joined the Carnegie Institution research mission.
In search of fossil trilobites, remote ancestors
of the crayfish, geologist and mission leader Bailey Willis and
Eliot Blackwelder, a graduate student of geology, had already begun
their exploration in Shandong province and in southern Manchuria.
Sargent met them in Tianjin. From Beijing, the expedition moved
south to Baoding, whence they launched their trek across Zhili (present-day
Hebei province), Shanxi, and Shaanxi provinces.
Besides his skill as a topographer, Sargent
possessed great enthusiasm and curiosity, a keen interest in humanity,
an artists eye for composition,
and a simple camera. As the explorers moved through the stark landscape
of northern China, Sargent snapped whatever caught his eye.