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Alexander von Humboldt: „Junction of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 05.02.2023].

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Titel Junction of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
Jahr 1853
Ort London
in: The Daily News 2251 (8. August 1853), S. 2.
Sprache Englisch
Schriftart Antiqua
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VII.49
Dateiname: 1853-Junction_of_the-01-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 7403

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The Isthmus of Darien. Letter from Baron Alexander von Humboldt to Lionel Gisborne, Esq., M. A., C. E. (New York City, New York, 1853, Englisch)
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Letter from Baron Alexander von Humboldt to Lionel Gisborne, Esq., M.A., C.E. (Sydney, 1853, Englisch)


The following is the translation of a letter on thissubject, addressed by Baron Alexander Von Humboldt toMr. Lionel Gisborne:—
Sir,—I trust you will excuse the oldest among the tra-vellers in both the tropics of America and the steppes ofSiberia, for having so long delayed to thank you for the in-formation I derived from your interesting journal, &c., onthe junction of the Atlantic with the Pacific. The positionI occupy in this country, and the ardent desire I feel tofinish, before my death, some scientific works which I hadthe imprudence to begin, considerably interrupted the evencourse of my correspondence. I therefore hope that I shallmeet, on your part also, with that indulgence which yourcountrymen have shown me during so long a period. I have not been beyond the Rio Rimo, which lies east ofthe mouth of the Atrato. It was at the time when I leftthe island of Cuba, on my way to Lima, by Bogota, Quito,and the river Amazon, for the purpose of observing thepassage of Mercury through the solar disc. I was then onfriendly terms with a very intelligent merchant, DonTynacio Tombo, of Cartagena, in America; and I recollectthat the Casso (treasury convoy) of Guayaquil was then onits way to Europe, by the road from Cupica to the Atrato,which was first opened by the Biscayian pilot Poguerache.Knowing geologically the interruption of the mountainchains, and the depression of the range in the eastern partof the Isthmus, my attention has remained fixed, duringthis last half century, on the Bay of San Miguel, and theroute from Cupica to the Rio Napipi. Owing to my friendly relations with General Bolivar, Iobtained through him the first line of levels across theIsthmus of Panama. Ever since the subject has not ceasedto occupy my mind, as the various works and maps which Ipublished since 1810 and my correspondence with variousstatesmen will testify. But all my striving and urgingonly led to imperfect trials; and projects calculated for aline to the west of the meridian of Panama and Portobello,none of which ever gained my confidence. I had, how-ever, the gratification of seeing my views honored by aneminent member of her Britannic Majesty’s Navy, CaptainFitzroy. (Journal of the Royal Georgian Society, vol. xx.,2.) The increase of human knowledge, and the immenseprogress of science, arts, and industry among the westernnations, have given us powers which only call for appli-cation. Everything depends upon energy and perseverance. Itherefore congratulate you, sir, and your courageous friendMr. Cullen, as well as Sir Charles Fox, Mr. Henderson,and Mr. Brassey, for having given your names to so noblean undertaking. I have always considered, firstly, theopening of an oceanic canal without locks, and secondly,the cut at Huchnecoca, in the valley of Mexico (which ison a comparatively smaller scale, as may be seen from themap and section published), as two events calculated highlyto improve the relations between the different families ofthe human species. In fact, such a work as the one youcontemplate will bring Eastern Asia nearer to the nationsof Europe and America. It will render the whole globemore easy to be travelled over; this little globe, of whichChristopher Columbus, in one of his letters to the Queen ofSpain, said—“ El mundo es poco. It will facilitate the diffusion of productions, especiallyof precious metals, of which the relative value (1 to 15 5-6)would change too suddenly without this “permeability”of the world. As early as the discovery of the new continent, civilisationhad spread, in a direction from north to south, over thoseportions of America which lie opposite to Asia, those on theEuropean side being then occupied by barbarous huntingtribes. The finest harbours, the most precious products, are like-wise found in the west. Even the currents of the air, by their direction, contri-bute towards the preponderance of West American powerover the rich countries of Asia. The increasing importanceof the west coast of America promises to balance, at somefuture time, the surprising progress of the Atlantic States,provided the Western states keep themselves free from thathideous disease—slavery of coloured people. Indeed, sir, I feel the most ardent wishes for the happysuccess of this oceanic canal. The attention which thepublic of the two continents bestow already upon yourundertaking, will increase as soon as you will be enabled,assisted by farther explorations, and a survey extending overall details, and carried on by a great number of experiencedmen, to publish, on a large scale, maps and sections of theline fixed upon between Puerto Escoces and the Gulf ofSan Miguel. The changes which the success of the under-taking is sure to effect in the international commerce of theworld, will only disturb such people, as in the narrownessof their views, oppose themselves to the natural and provi-dential course of events, and shed tears over the unfortu-nate discovery of America. The Rio Huaxacualco with itsportage to the Rio Chimalapa (Tehuantepec), of whichI published the first map after the itineraries dis-covered by me in the archives of the Vice Kingdomof Mexico, will always be of great importance, owingto its position opposite Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mex-ico, which has all the appearance of soon becominga mare clausum—a lake of the United States. Thenature of the soil, however, does not allow great works tobe carried out in that locality; besides, you know the diffi-culties impeding any canalisation or rectification of riversof great length, and the great variations of the volume ofwater, as in the river San Juan. But a railway would bea great advantage to the southern states. The great interest which every one at the present timetakes in the canalisation of the Isthmus, recalls a similarfact to my memory, reminding me of the sudden interestcreated by the discovery of guano. I was the first whobrought guano to Europe, of which Klaproth and Vau-quelin published an analysis. During forty years I preachedbut always in vain, the usefulness of this substance, and invain did I recommend its employment in fertilising thefields in Europe. But it is only 15 or 18 years since it hasat last become a great article of commerce. I beg of you, my dear sir, to present my kind remem-brances to the excellent and able Mr. Petermann, andto &c.,

Alexander von Humboldt.

P.S. I am not surprised at the difference between thelevel you found at Turbaco, and my own statement. Tothis, however, I had prudently added “doubtful barome-trical observation.” (See my Recueil d’Observations Astro-nomiques et de Mesures Barometriques, vol. I., p. 299.)The fact that the gas issuing from the little volcanoes atTurbaco is inflammable in its natural state has already beencommunicated by Col, Acosta (Journ., p. 65). It appearsthat the gaseous fluid which issues from the salses is not thesame at all times. I find in my journal, that in 1801, theflame of any burning substance was suddenly extinguishedon being thrown into a bottle containing air from thoselittle volcanoes. Parrot also, in the mud volcanoes in theisland of Taman, found only azote, although the gas emittedwould burn at other times. (See my Relation Historique, vol. XV., c. 29, pp. 367—371.)