Apparently there was a time when this story was known to most Americans - filtered into culture through many popular channels. Moby Dick, famously, bu...moreApparently there was a time when this story was known to most Americans - filtered into culture through many popular channels. Moby Dick, famously, built to a climax inspired by the story, though the failure of the book to reach a contemporary audience makes it more historically interesting than pertinent to the period described.
Qualifies for the description "ripping yarn." I'm hard pressed to imagine a greater horror than the complete physiological and psychological decay of drifting for 90 days in an open whaleship. More so than being stuck on land, the featureless, monumental but monumentless vastness of poorly charted sea would unroot you from reality.
Humanity vanishes, but the biological imperative of clinging to life is unfathomably deep. (less)
Real life Indiana Jones. The framing of England at the end of empire and the incredibly bold mission of the Royal Geographic Society adds some heft.
T...moreReal life Indiana Jones. The framing of England at the end of empire and the incredibly bold mission of the Royal Geographic Society adds some heft.
There's a moment where the protagonist, Percy Fawcett, discloses his distaste for mountaineers and arctic explorers, wondering why they are capturing all the glory for trekking barren wasteland while he and the other jungle explorers, particularly in South America, are more neglected. It's an interesting question. Is delving into something "empty" such as the Antarctic, more compelling to the public? It's certainly less scientifically or economically useful. Or is it less the "emptiness" and more about the closure of it - we have found a "pole", we have conquered some essential, irreducible fact about the world, pinned down an element of worldness, established a haecceity. Mountains are certainly easier to understand - they're the geographic equivalent of charismatic megafauna. Charismatic megatopography? He doesn't mention the great nautical explorers, but that age is past ... and I have a hunch he would have felt more at ease with those men.
Amidst these thoughts, one thing I feel quite certain of is that jungle exploration was inherently self-inflicted torture. Arctic exploration, not so much. Sure, something devastating COULD happen and it certainly wasn't easy, but you have a ship with provisions to fall back on ... and the forms your demise can take are limited to things that aren't too horrible to imagine: starvation (yes, painful, but not horrific), drowning, freezing, maybe getting eaten by a polar bear. In the jungle? Even if you live you will be infected by maggots, limbs will become gangrenous, withering diseases will be contracted, every day will be an experience of biological vileness, the decomposition / violation / colonization of your body by the jungle and its inhabitants. If I were an explorer, I'd have gone to mountains or the arctic.(less)