The Expedition that Wasn't:
Puerto Rico, Oct 1932

Then, in 1932, the true mark of an exceptional explorer was demonstrated. In that year L. Ron Hubbard, aged 21, achieved an ambitious 'first.' Conducting the West Indies Minerals Survey, he made the first complete mineralogical survey of Puerto Rico. This was pioneer exploration in the great tradition, opening up a predictable, accurate body of data for the benefit of others. Later, in other, less materialistic fields, this was to be his way many, many time over.

- Mission into Time, 1973, p. 7

This claim is supported in Mission into Time by a photo of a lugubrious-looking Ron, hands in pocket, with a group of other people engaged in mineralogical-type activities. Below is a handwritten caption -

Sluicing with crew
on Corozal River
'37 P.R.
L. Ron Hubbard

Images of a Lifetime (1996) contains a further five, previously-unpublished pictures along the same lines. By this time, Hubbard's exploits on the island have transmogrified into the West Indies Mineralogical Expedition, a name used by Ron himself when compiling his Who's Who in America entry in the 1970s. According to the blurb,

"As the title implies, the stated aim was the survey and mining of precious deposits - or, as Ron himself described it, "picking fabulous float from rivers which glittered with gold and silver." In fact, however, that "fabulous float" lay well beyond arms' reach, and Ron was soon reporting from deep within the Puerto Rican jungle. In the end, however, and quite in addition to the photographs to follow, he not only managed a sizable haul of manganese and silica, but actually the island's first complete mineralogical survey under United States dominion."
It would actually have been quite difficult for Ron not to have found manganese and silica: the former is one of the most common metals on earth, and the latter makes up some 40% of the earth's crust. That discovery would have been about as remarkable as finding oxygen and nitrogen in the air. But leaving this aside, what truth is there in the claims made above?

The answer is, very little. The documents listed below show that Ron played, at best, a minor role in a private survey of a private property which was, at the most, only a few hundred acres in size. Note especially the reference in the surveyor's report to LRH as the company's "field representative". In fact, he seems to have done little more than supervise the labourers. This document shows that he evidently did not produce any "data": the author was the company's qualified surveyor, not Ron. (It is hard to see how Ron could have undertaken a geological survey, considering that he did not have any qualifications of any sort in the field of geology).

Also, unlike Hubbard's other two expeditions of the period - the Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition (June-July 1932) and the Alaska Radio-Experimental Expedition (1940) - no supporting press articles have ever been produced. Probably because they don't exist!

To round it off, Hubbard wrote an (unpublished) article entitled "A Sample Pick Saga" on his return to the United States, in which he claimed to have spent six months prospecting for gold left by the Conquistadores - as he put it in a paragraph quoted in Images of a Lifetime,

Gold prospecting in the wake of the Conquistadores, on the hunting grounds of the pirates in the islands which still reek of Columbus is romantic, and I do not begrudge the sweat which splashed in muddy rivers, and the bits of khaki which have blown away from the thorn bushes long ago.
Maybe, but he certainly didn't advance the sum of human knowledge in doing so!


* Prof. Howard A. Meyerhoff recalls no surveys of P.R. in 1932 *

* Report to West Indies Minerals, Inc. by Thomas Finley McBride *


Last updated 12 Dec 1996