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Alexander von Humboldt: „The Isthmus of Darien“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 23.07.2024].

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Titel The Isthmus of Darien
Jahr 1853
Ort Dublin
in: The Evening Packet, and Correspondent 26:3987 (13. August 1853), [o. S.].
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung, Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VII.49
Dateiname: 1853-Junction_of_the-09-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 7370

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Letter from Baron Alexander von Humboldt toLionel Gisborne, Esq., M.A., C.E.
“Sir,—I trust you will excuse the oldest among the tra-vellers, in both the tropics of America and the steppes of Si-beria, for having so long delayed to thank you for the infor-mation I derived from your interesting journal, &c., on thejunction of the Atlantic with the Pacific. The position I oc-cupy in this country, and the ardent desire I feel to finish,before my death, some scientific works which I had the im-prudence to begin, considerably interrupted the even course ofmy correspondence. I therefore hope that I shall meet, onyour part also, with that indulgence which your countrymenhave 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 left the islandof Cuba on my way to Lima by Bogota, Quito, and the riverAmazon, for the purpose of observing the passage of Mer-cury through the solar disc. I was then on friendly termswith a very intelligent merchant, Don Ignacio Iombo, of Car-tagena, in America, and I recollect that the Casso (Treasuryconvoy) of Guayaquil was then on its way to Europe, by theroad from Cupicà to the Atrato, which was first opened bythe Biscayian pilot Poguerache. Knowing, geologically, theinterruption of the mountain chains, and the depression ofthe range in the eastern part of the Isthmus, my attentionhas remained fixed during this last half century on the bay ofSan Miguel and the route from Cupicà to the Rio Napipi.Owing to my friendly relations with General Bolivar, I ob-tained through him the first line of levels across the Isthmusof Panama. Ever since the subject has not ceased to occupymy mind, as the various works and maps which I publishedsince 1810 and my correspondence with various statesmenwill testify. But all my striving and urging only led to im-perfect trials and projects calculated for a line to the west ofthe meridian of Panama and Portobello, none of which evergained my confidence. I had, however, the gratification ofseeing my views honoured by an eminent member of her Bri-tannic Majesty’s navy, Captain Fitzroy. (Journal of the RoyalGeographical Society, vol. xx., p. 20.) “The increase of human knowledge, and the immense pro-gress of science, art, and industry among the western nations,have given us powers which only call for application. Every-thing depends upon energy and perseverance. I therefore con-gratulate you, sir, and your courageous friend, Dr. Cullen,as well as Sir Charles Fox, Mr. Henderson, and Mr. Bras-sey, for having given your names to so noble an undertaking.I have always considered, firstly, the opening of an oceaniccanal, without locks; and secondly, the cut at Huchnecoca,in the valley of Mexico (which is on a comparatively smallerscale, as may be seen from the map and section I published), astwo events calculated highly to improve the relations betweenthe different families of the human species. In fact, such awork as the one you contemplate will bring Eastern Asia nearer tothe nations of Europe and America. It will render the wholeglobe more easy to be travelled over—this little globe, ofwhich Christopher Columbus, in one of his letters to theQueen of Spain, said, ‘el mundo es poco.’ It will facilitatethe diffusion of productions, especially of precious metals, ofwhich the relative value (1 to 15 5-6ths) would change toosuddenly without this ‘permeability’ of the world. “As early as the discovery of the new continent, civilisa-tion had 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, arelikewise found in the West. Even the currents of the air, bytheir direction, contribute towards the preponderance of WestAmerican power over the rich countries of Asia. The in-creasing importance of the west coast of America promisesto balance, at some future time, the surprising progress ofthe Atlantic States, provided the Western States keep them-selves free from that hideous disease—slavery of colouredpeople. “Indeed, sir, I feel the most ardent wishes for the happysuccess of this oceanic canal. The attention which the pub-lic of the two continents bestow already upon your under-taking will increase, as soon as you will be enabled, assisted byfurther explorations, and a survey extending over all details,and carried on by a great number of experienced men, topublish on a large scale, maps and sections of the line fixedupon between Puerto Escoces and the Gulf of San Miguel.The changes which the success of your undertaking is sureto effect in the international commerce of the world will onlydisturb such people as in the narrowness of their views op-pose themselves to the natural and providential course ofevents, and shed tears over the unfortunate discovery ofAmerica. The Rio Huaxacualco with its portage to the RioChimalapa (Tehuantepec,) of which I published the first mapafter the itineraries discovered by me in the archives of thevice-kingdom of Mexico, will always be of great importance,owing to its position opposite Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico,which has all the appearance of soon becoming a mare clau-sum—a lake of the United States. The nature of the soil,however, does not allow of great works to be carried out inthat locality; besides, you know the difficulties impeding anycanalisation or rectification of rivers of great length, and thegreat variation of the body of water as in the river San Juan;but a railway would be a great advantage to the southernstates. “The great interest which every one at the present timetakes in the canalisation of the Isthmus recalls a similar factto my memory, reminding me of the sudden interest createdby the discovery of guano. “I was the first who brought guano to Europe, of whichKlaproth and Vauquelin published an analysis. During 40years I preached, but always in vain, the usefulness of thissubstance, and in vain did I recommend its employment infertilising the fields of Europe. But it is only 15 or 18 yearssince it has at last become a great article of commerce. “I beg of you, my dear sir, to present my kind remem-brance to the excellent and able Mr. Petermann, &c.,

Alexander von Humboldt.

“P.S.—I am not surprised at the difference between thelevel you found at Turbaco and my own statement. To this,however, I prudently added ‘doubtful barometrical observa-tion. (See my Recueil d’Observations Astronomiques et deMesures Barométriques, vol. I., p. 299.) The fact that thegas issuing from the little volcanoes at Turbaco is inflammablein its natural state has already been communicated by Co-lonel Acosta, (Journal, p. 65). It appears that the gaseousfluid which issues from the ‘salses’ is not the same at all times.I find in my journal, that in 1801, the flame of any burning substancewas suddenly extinguished on being thrown into a bottlecontaining air from those little volcanoes.“Parrot, also, in the mud volcanoes in the island of Tamanfound only azote, although the gas emitted would burn atother times. (See my Relation Historique, xii., chap. 29, p.367—371.”)