PJ Capelotti, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology, Psychological & Social Sciences
Research Associate, The Polar Center at Penn State
Rydal, 103, 215-881-7860

Educational Background

Ph.D. in Anthropology, Rutgers University, 1996

Master of Arts in Anthropology, Rutgers University, 1994

Master of Arts in History, Phi Kappa Phi, University of Rhode Island, 1989

Bachelor of Arts in History, University of Rhode Island, 1983

Latest News

Dr. Capelotti delivers fifth annual Roald Amundsen Memorial Lecture in Oslo, Norway.

Dr. Capelotti interviewed by The Washington Post on the creation of the whale bones collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Capelotti's latest book reveals leadership trials in the search for the North Pole

Dr. Capelotti leads effort to place PA Historical Marker dedicated to Arctic explorer

Dr. Capelotti interviewed by KYW NewsRadio 1060 about Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane

Dr. Capelotti writes entry for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Department of State's "Our Arctic Nation" Blog

Dr. Capelotti student awarded First Prize in Arctic art competition sponsored by The Polar Center at Penn State.

Dr. Capelotti leads National Science Foundation workshop in Oslo, Norway.

Dr. Capelotti helps make priority registration for student-veterans the law of the land in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Capelotti receives NSF grant from Office of Polar Programs

Dr. Capelotti quoted in BBC News article about Benjamin Leigh Smith.

Dr. Capelotti releases "Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England's Forgotten Arctic Explorer".

Teaching philosophy and student research

"My classroom lectures incorporate both my own research in the Arctic as well as student-produced videos of their archaeological fieldwork, which you can see on our Penn State Abington Anthropology video site. My students have done archaeological and anthropological field research in Hawaii, Canada, Morocco, and on Easter Island, and gone on to graduate school, to teaching jobs, and to work as cultural resource managers. In 2008, my student Autumn Zellers won the annual ACURA student research competition and as a result presented her research at the national conference of applied anthropology in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is now working on her doctorate in anthropology at Temple University."

Supervision areas

Historical archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology. American studies (particularly American exploration and military operations). History and archaeology of polar exploration and the exploration of space.

Research interests & plan

History, archaeology and anthropology of exploration, esp. American and Scandinavian polar exploration and technology; experimental archaeology; aerospace archaeology; historical and archaeological research of sites from polar, aeronautical and space exploration; Arctic/Sub-Arctic (Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, Newfoundland, Norway).  

In 2016, I published the first history of the American exploration of Franz Josef Land. This followed my publication in 2013 of the first biography of the British explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith.

This research was conducted at the Royal Geographical Society and the Scott Polar Research Institute in the UK, as well as numerous archives in the US including the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College.

Discussing the genius of Jefferson

Recent accomplishments

Received a 2014-2017 grant from National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, ($49,631.00) to support the project: “The Place Names of Franz Josef Land.” 

Four at Jesus College, Cambridge University

At Jesus College, Cambridge University, Sept 2013

Dinner at the Upper Hall (900 years old) at Jesus College, with the M, Prof. Ian White, Master of Jesus and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University; Julian Dowdeswell, Fellow of Jesus and Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute; Charlotte Moore, novelist and descendent of British Arctic explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith; and PJ Capelotti, Ph.D.

Image: Penn State

Chair, Abington College Faculty Senate, 2014-2015. 

Retired as Master Chief Petty Officer after 24 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (2012). 

Awarded Meritorious Service Medal (with Star) and Coast Guard Commendation Medal by U.S. Coast Guard (2012). 

Chair, Abington College Faculty Senate, 2010-2011. 

Received the Outstanding Advising/Mentoring Award (2009). 

Hiked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England (2009). 

Opened exhibit on American explorer Walter Wellman at the Spitsbergen Airship Museum in Norway (2009).

Select Publications

P.J. Capelotti. 2016. The Greatest Show in the Arctic: The American Exploration of Franz Josef Land, 1898-1905American Exploration and Travel Series. University of Oklahoma Press. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2015.  “The Arctic exploration of Benjamin Leigh Smith, 1828-1913,”  Nimrod: the journal of the Shackleton Autumn School, Athy, Ireland, Vol. 9.  

P.J. Capelotti.  2015.   “The historical geography of an archipelago of polar explorers,” in:  Capelotti, P.J., editor. 2015. Proceedings of a Workshop on the Historic Place Names of Franz Josef Land (Russia). Oslo, Norway, 12-13 May 2015. Tromsø: Septentrio Academic Publishing, and University Park, PA: The Polar Center and Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 32, Department of Anthropology, Penn State University. 103 pp.  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/5.3579

Capelotti, P.J., editor. 2015. Proceedings of a Workshop on the Historic Place Names of Franz Josef Land (Russia). Oslo, Norway, 12-13 May 2015. Tromsø: Septentrio Academic Publishing, and University Park, PA: The Polar Center and Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 32, Department of Anthropology, Penn State University. 103 pp.  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7557/scs.2015.3

P.J. Capelotti and Magnus Forsberg.  2015.  “The Place Names of Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa: the Wellman Polar Expedition, 1898-99.”  Polar Record: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0032247414000801

P.J. Capelotti and Beth O’Leary, eds.  2014.   Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space.  Springer Space and Society Series.

P.J. Capelotti.  2014.  “Mobile Artifacts in the Solar System and Beyond,” in: P.J. Capelotti and Beth O’Leary, eds.  2014.  Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space. Springer Space and Society Series.

P.J. Capelotti.  2013.  Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England’s Forgotten Arctic Explorer.  Calgary: University of Calgary Press, Northern Lights Series.  http://uofcpress.com/books/9781552387054

P.J. Capelotti.  2013.  In Kon-Tiki’s Wake: The Archaeology of the Transoceanic Experiment.  Tucson, AZ: Fireship Press.

P.J. Capelotti and Magnus Forsberg.  2013.  “The Place Names of Franz Josef Land: Eira Expeditions, 1880 and 1881-82.”  Polar Record / FirstView Article pp 1-8 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0032247413000429.

P.J. Capelotti and Susan Barr.  2013.  “Oppegård kirke, Oppegård, Norway: Fixing the location where Roald Amundsen revealed his ‘minor diversion.’” Polar Record 50 (2): 222-224, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0032247413000181.

Richard E. Gambler III, P.J. Capelotti and Andrew Notarfrancesco.  2012.  “Aerial Archaeology at the Moland House: Balloon-elevated videography in search of Colonial-era structures.”  Northeast Historical Archaeology 41 (2012): 185-192.

P.J. Capelotti.  2012.  “Extreme archaeological sites and their tourism: a conceptual model from historic American polar expeditions in Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Northeast Greenland.” Polar Journal 2 (2): 236-255.  

P.J. Capelotti. 2012. “The Theory of the Archaeological Raft: Motivation, Method, and Madness in Experimental Archaeology,” EXARC: The International Journal of Archaeological Open Air Museums and Experimental Archaeology: 8/2. Short version in Exarc Journal 2011: 20-23. Full version available on line at: EXARC Journal 2012/1.  

P.J. Capelotti. 2011. “The ‘American Supply Trail’: Archaeological notes on the remains of the Ziegler Polar Expedition in Zemlya-Frantsa Iosifa, 1903-05,” Polar Record 47 (3): 193-201.  

P.J. Capelotti. 2010. The Human Archaeology of Space: Lunar, Planetary and Interstellar Relics of Exploration. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishers.  

P.J. Capelotti, editor. 2010. The Whaling Expedition of the Ulysses, 1937-38, by Lieutenant (j.g.) Quentin R. Walsh. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.  

P.J. Capelotti. 2010. “Benjamin Leigh Smith’s third Arctic expedition: Svalbard, 1873,” Polar Record 46 (4): 359-371. doi:10.1017/S003224740999057X  

P.J. Capelotti. 2009. “Surveying Fermi’s Paradox, Mapping Dyson’s Sphere: Approaches to Archaeological Field Research in Space.” Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage. Duxbury, MA: Francis and Taylor, CRC.  

P.J. Capelotti. 2009. “The Culture of Apollo: A Catalog of Evidence of Manned Exploration of the Moon.” Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage. Duxbury, MA: Francis and Taylor, CRC.

P.J. Capelotti. 2009. “Further to the death of Sigurd B. Myhre at Camp Abruzzi, Rudolf Island, Franz Josef Land, May 16, 1904, during the Ziegler Polar Expedition.” Polar Research 28 (3): 463-467. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2008.00089.x  

P.J. Capelotti. 2008. “Benjamin Leigh Smith’s second Arctic expedition: Svalbard and Jan Mayen, 1872,” Polar Record 44 (3): 255-264, doi:10.1017/S0032247408007444  

P.J. Capelotti. 2008. “A ‘radically new method’: Balloon Buoy Communications of the Baldwin-Ziegler Polar Expedition, Franz Josef Land, June 1902,” Polar Research 27(1): 52-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2008.00045.x  

P.J. Capelotti. 2007. Flåteferder i Kon-Tikis kjølvann. (Norwegian language edition of Sea Drift). Oslo: Flyt forlag.

P.J. Capelotti. 2007. “Century-old ski found at Mys Triest, Ostrov Champa, Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa, Russia,” Polar Record 43 (3): 272-275, doi:10.1017/S0032247407006717  

P.J. Capelotti. 2007. “A preliminary archaeological survey of a Tupolev TB-3 (ANT-6) aircraft on Ostrov Rudol’fa, Zemlya Frantsa-Iosifa, Russia,” Polar Record 43 (2): 173-177, doi:10.1017/S0032247407256177  

P.J. Capelotti, Herman Van Dyk & Jean-Claude Cailliez. 2007. “Strange interlude at Virgohamna, Danskøya, Svalbard, 1906: the merkelig mann, the engineer and the spy,” Polar Research 26 (1): 64-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2007.00008.x  

P.J. Capelotti. 2006. “E.B. Baldwin and the American-Norwegian discovery and exploration of Graham Bell Island, 1899,” Polar Research 25 (2): 155-171. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2006.tb00031.x  

P.J. Capelotti. 2006. “Benjamin Leigh Smith’s first Arctic expedition, Svalbard, 1871,” Polar Record 42 (220): 1-14, doi:10.1017/S0032247405004821

P.J. Capelotti, editor.  2005.   Life and Death on the Greenland Patrol, 1942.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida.  (Named Best Book on Coast Guard History, 2005-2006, by the Foundation for Coast Guard History.)

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  Rogue Wave: The U.S. Coast Guard on and after 9/11.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Coast Guard Historians Office.  (Named Best Book on Coast Guard History, 2004-2005, by the Foundation for Coast Guard History.)

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.   “Rogue Wave: The Coast Guard and September 11.”  The United States Coast Guard: The Shield of Freedom [A Government Services Group periodical], pp. 54-71.

P.J Capelotti.  2004.  “The U.S. Coast Guard Response to 9/11.”   Joint Center for Operational Analysis and Lessons Learned (JCOA-LL) Bulletin, VI (4): 9-14.

P.J. Capelotti, editor.  2004.  The Franz Josef Land Archipelago:  E.B. Baldwin’s Journal of the Wellman Polar Expedition, 1898–1899.  Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishers.

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Salomon August Andrée.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Benjamin Leigh Smith.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Lincoln Ellsworth.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Walter Wellman.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Constantine Phipps.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Trans-Arctic Air Route.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Russian Civil War.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “August Petermann.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2004.  “Coal Mining.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge.

P.J. Capelotti. 2004.  “Submarines in Arctic exploration.” Encyclopedia of the Arctic.  London: Routledge. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2002.  “Let Them Eat Walrus:  E.B. Baldwin and the Norwegians of the Wellman Expedition to Franz Josef Land, 1898.”  International Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic: Proceedings of a Conference Devoted to the Centenary of the Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian Expedition to Spitsbergen and 125 years of V.A. Rusanov's Birth, ed. Eugene Bouzney (Moscow: Scientific World, 2002), pp.59-65.

P.J. Capelotti.  2002.  “The Train Has Left the Station: Archaeological Formation Processes and the Abandoned Coal Mining Village of Pyramiden, Svalbard.”  International Scientific Cooperation in the Arctic: Proceedings of a Conference Devoted to the Centenary of the Swedish-Russian Arc-of-Meridian Expedition to Spitsbergen and 125 years of V.A. Rusanov's Birth, ed. Eugene Bouzney (Moscow: Scientific World, 2002), pp. 116-127. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2001.  Sea Drift: Rafting Adventures in the Wake of Kon-Tiki.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. 

P.J. Capelotti.  2000.  “Papers of Greely survivor Francis Joseph Long.” Polar Record 36 (197): 157.

P.J. Capelotti, editor.  2000.  The Svalbard Archipelago: American Geographical Studies of Spitsbergen and other Norwegian Polar Territories, 1941-1950.    Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Publishers.

P.J. Capelotti.  1999.  By Airship to the North Pole:  An Archaeology of Human Exploration.  New Brunswick:  Rutgers University Press.

P.J. Capelotti.  1999.  “Virgohamna and the Archaeology of Failure.” in Urban Wråkberg, editor. Centennial of S.A. Andrée's North Pole Expedition: Proceedings of a Conference on S.A. Andrée and the Agenda for Social Science Research of the Polar Regions.  Bidrag till Kungl. Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Historia, (Contributions to the History of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences), No. 28 (Stockholm, 1999), pp. 37-52.

P.J. Capelotti.  1997.  The Wellman Polar Airship Expeditions at Virgohamna, Danskøya, SvalbardOslo, Norway:  Norsk Polarinstitutt, Meddelelser No. 145.

P.J. Capelotti.  1996.  A Conceptual Model for Aerospace Archaeology:  A Case Study from the Wellman Site, Virgohamna, Danskøya, Svalbard.  Ph.D. Dissertation.  Rutgers University.  University Microfilms #9633681.

P.J. Capelotti and C.L. Devlin.  1996.  “Proximity to Seacoast:  G.W. Field and the Marine Laboratory at Point Judith Pond, Rhode Island, 1896-1900.” History of Biology 29 (2): 251-265.

P.J. Capelotti.  1995.  Explorer's Air Yacht: The Sikorsky S-38 Flying Boat.  Missoula, Montana:  Pictorial Histories Publishing Co.

P.J. Capelotti.  1994.  “A Preliminary Archæological Survey of Camp Wellman at Virgohamn, Danskøya, Svalbard.” Polar Record 30 (175): 265-276.  doi:10.1017/S0032247400024529

P.J. Capelotti.  1994.  “The U.S. Coast Guard and Borchgrevink’s Hut at Cape Adare, Antarctica, 1961.” Polar Record 30 (175): 311.  

P.J. Capelotti, editor.  1991.  Our Man in the Crimea: Commander Hugo Koehler and the Russian Civil WarColumbia:  University of South Carolina Press, Studies in Maritime History.