Spotlight: Hudson's expedition

Did you know that members of Henry Hudson's expedition were the first Europeans to have reached the famous Manhattan Island on September 12th, 1609? They met friendly Indian tribes Algonquin and Lenape.

In 1610, on the ship named Discovery, Henry Hudson set out on the fourth of his attempts to find the Northwest Passage. He sailed from the southern tip of Greenland to Labrador, and then turned to the north. He encountered a wide channel and assumed that this was the way to China. From that day on, the bay had been called Hudson's Bay. Then, he sailed into the bay, which he assumed to be part of the Pacific Ocean, then travelled further to the south into what is known today as James' Bay. 

Henry Hudson.

In June of 1611, he set out to continue the expedition. Several days after leaving the bay, his crew mutinied. They had had enough of exploring and wanted to go home. The captain refused to consider their demands. When the crew was unable to persuade him, they set him, his son John and seven crew members loyal to Hudson adrift in a small boat and left them to their fate in a stormy and freezing sea, with no prospects of rescue. Nothing further is known of their fate.

Hudson Bay.

Locating the Northwest Passage eluded Henry Hudson, but his enthusiastic description of the area near the mouth of the Hudson River led to Dutch to colonize the area and found New Amsterdam, later New York. At the time of these discoveries, Henry was in the service of the Dutch. Learn more about Hudson's expedition in Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

Humboldt Expedition to America

Did you know that Alexander von Humboldt was one of the first to voice the opinion that the continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean were once a joined land mass?

Alexander von Humboldt from BHL.

Alexander von Humboldt was a German scientist and traveler with a cosmopolitan education and a wide range of interests. Together with a French botanist Bonpland, von Humboldt arrived at Cuman, Venezuela on June 4th, 1799. They travelled along the Orinoco River to its confluence with the Atabapo River. In November 1800, they sailed to Havana and explored all over Cuba. In March 1801, they continued to Cartagena, Colombia. Along the Rio Magdalena River, they travelled to Honda and Bogota in Colombia and further to Quito, Eduador. They investigated the western slopes of the Peruvian Andes and travelled all the way to the Pacific Ocean. After a stay in Lima, Peru, they journeyed from Calla to Acapulco in Mexico, where they arrived in March 1803. They spent an entire year exploring Mexico, travelling mainly through volcanic mountain ranges. In 1804, they returned to Cuba. In 1804, they returned to Europe via the United States.

Humboldt from Europeana - image is under CC BY-NC-ND of The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library.

Humboldt became the founder of volcanology; the science of terrestrial magnetism, geobotany and climatology as part of which he first proposed the concept of isotherms. He devoted himself to the study of volcanic peaks. During one expedition, Humboldt (together with Bonpland) climbed Chimborazo to over 5,000 meters. Several places are named in honour of Humboldt including two bays in California and New Guinea, two mountain ranges in central Asia and Nevada, a lake and river in Nevada, a glacier in northwest Greenland, a current in the Pacific Ocean and many cities in America.

Learn more about Humboldt and other expeditions in Biodiversity Library Exhibition. Stay tuned!

House Mouse (Mus musculus)

Meet the house mouse, a mammal that is not only a pest but also a model organism. Did you know that the house mouse comes from Asia, from where, probably travelling with grain shipments, it has spread all over the world?

House mouse from BHL

Mice are small rodents, active primarily at night. They have very sensitive hearing, sense of smell and sight. They eat almost everything they come across, food scraps, various insects, grain and even soap. Mice are found in nature as well as human dwellings, and move often. Besides the damage to food stocks, mice are unpleasant in that they leave their urine and droppings everywhere. They are also dangerous carriers of disease and parasites.

Mouse from EoL - image is under CC BY-NC

Mice build nests under floors or in attics, and line them with paper, rags, leaves and similar materials. They breed very quickly; females can have up to twelve young, five to ten times per year. Gestation is approximately 20 days. The young are ready to leave the nest in another 20 days, and become sexually mature within their first year. In captivity they can live up to four years. They have many natural predators, like carnivores, snakes and birds.

Listen mice sounds at Europeana, these items are under CC BY-NC-ND of Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Meet more animals which live in human dwellings at Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic called "Nature at your home". Stay tuned!

New Biodiversity Library Exhibition topic – Nature at your home

Wow, have you seen the new BLE topic called „Nature at your home“? This topic gives you an insight on what organisms may be found living near or directly inside your house.

„Nature at your home“ presents more than 20 different species of plants or animals, that have learnt to exploit the benefits of living close to human settlements. You can find them in your garden, as well as directly within your house or flat, sometimes being much closer than you have ever thought. Our new topic, however, also shows that these organisms are also fascinating creatures of the nature. Have you, for example, known that Oriental Cockroach (Blatta orientalis) is able to survive several weeks without its head until it starves to death? Or that the Human Flea (Pulex irritans) posseses the most complex reproductive organs among the animals? If not, then all you need to do is to go through our new topic at the BLE website!

All of the information, pictures and paintings in „Nature at you home“ are linked to their original sources at BHL, EoL or Europeana. Stay tuned! 

BHL-Europe is finally officially live!

We are glad to announce that BHL-Europe portal is finally live since today! Please see below a little summary.

The Biodiversity heritage library for Europe project ( began in 2009 and joins noteworthy European museum and botanical gardens, including some in the USA as well.

The primary goal of the project was to create an indexed archival system for digitized scientific literature, and free access to this literature via a multifunctional portal ( The digital copies of this literature are thus freely available to all, scientists and public alike. The portal officially goes live today, March 18th, 2013.

Literature on the BHL-Europe portal comes from numerous European and also some non-European institutions and their libraries, and contains many unique items, difficult to access otherwise.

The web portal is available in 14 languages. It is possible to search in the literature (monographs, magazines, various book editions and professional journals) by using various features on the site, such as by either scientific taxonomy or local (common) names and synonyms. The results may then be viewed directly online, or downloaded as .pdf, text (OCR) or images (.jpg). The portal offers many additional functions.

The BHL-Europe portal (and other international sources) is linked to the Biodiversity Library Exhibition (BLE, platform, which publishes selected literature in the form of interesting themes, information and an attractive design. Thanks to the specific presentation of literature and interesting scientific items, the platform has significant educational potential. The BLE platform was developed by the National Museum as part of the BHL-Europe and OpenUP! projects, and is constantly expanding.

The collected literature of the BHL-Europe project is also presented on the Europeana portal (, which makes available huge quantities of material from various European collections (over 20 million objects). These objects encompass various types of European cultural heritage items, such as architecture, history and art. Natural history literature is on this portal mostly present by BHL-Europe, which can be found at:*:*&qf=PROVIDER:BHL+Europe.

The release date of March 18th was not chosen at random – the date coincides with the release date of the American portal BHL US/UK/Australia ( in its new user interface. BHL US/UK/Australia functions principally as an aggregator of scientific literature in the USA, much like BHL-Europe does in Europe. The portals currently differ in their function and content. Our cooperative venture creates better access to scientific literature in a world context, and functions as a digital literature archive. The joint release of these two portals permits dissemination of this information in a much broader scope, all over the world.

The BHL-Europe portal makes available 6,149 books containing one million pages from 92 content providers at the moment, but this is just the initial offering. New material is added every day, and the growth is projected to increase over time.

The goal of making this portal is a stable and constantly-growing service for various scientific institutions, and primarily for the public world-wide.

Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

The winter is slowly ending; snow is melting and we dedicate a short piece to one of the largest mammals from the last Ice Age – the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius).

The mammoth from BHL

During the late Pleistocene, Mammuthus primigenius occupied the grassland areas of Eurasia and North America. This mammal, closely related to today’s Indian elephant, grew to 4.5 m and could weigh up to 4000 kg. It fed mainly on different sorts of grass. The hair of Mammuthus primigenius was up to 60 cm long and its color ranged from tawny through brown to black. In addition to bones, scientists have recovered much information about Mammuthus primigenius from frozen specimens in Siberian permafrost.

Skeleton of the woolly mammoth from BHL

As a matter of fact, it is not true that all Woolly Mammoths were large animals. The dwarf subspecies of Mammuthus primigenius grew only to 1.8 m in height. This small chap occupied Wrangel Island from approximately 10,000 to 2,000 years BC! So these dwarf mammoths lived during the times of building the Egyptian pyramids.

Old reconstruction of mammoth from BHL

The extinction of mammoths is still a matter of debate. There are two possibilities currently under consideration, climatic change and human influence. Today, more scientists prefer the first option – climatic change. They claim that the occurrence of prehistoric people in Siberia was very rare, so they were not capable of killing off thousands of mammoths.

The mandible of woolly mammoth from Europeana

If you are interested in these prehistoric creatures books from BHL portal contains much information about woolly mammoths. Stay tuned!