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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 24.03.2023].

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Titel The Isthmus of Darien
Jahr 1853
Ort Maidstone
in: Maidstone & Kentish Journal, Rochester and Chatham Journal, and South Eastern Advertiser 3516 (16. August 1853), S. 2.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung, Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VII.49
Dateiname: 1853-Junction_of_the-11-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 7415

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The following interesting letter from Baron AlexanderVon Humboldt to Lionel Gisborne, Esq., M.A., C.E., hasbeen made public:—


—I trust you will excuse the oldest among thetravellers in both the tropics of America and the steppesof Siberia, for having so long delayed to thank you forthe information I derived from your interesting journal,&c., on the junction of the Atlantic with the Pacific.The position I occupy in this country, and the ardentdesire I feel to finish, before my death, some scientificworks which I had the imprudence to begin, considerablyinterrupt the even course of my correspondence. Itherefore hope that I shall meet, on your part also, withthat indulgence which your countrymen have shown meduring so long a period. “I have not been beyond the Rio Rimo, which lieseast of the mouth of the Atrato, since the time when Ileft the island of Cuba on my way to Lima by Bogota,Quito, and the river Amazon, for the purpose of ob-serving the passage of Mercury through the solar disc.I was then on friendly terms with a very intelligentmerchant, Don Ignacio Iombo, of Cartagena, in Ame-rica, and I recollect that the Casso (Treasury convoy)of Guayaquil was then on its way to Europe, by theroad from Cupica to the Atrato, which was first openedby the Biscayan pilot Poguerache. Knowing, geologi-cally, the interruption of the mountain chains, and thedepression of the range in the eastern part of the Isth-mus, my attention has remained fixed during this lasthalf century on the Bay of San Miguel and the routefrom Cupica to the Rio Napipi. Owing to my friendlyrelations with General Bolivar, I obtained through himthe first line of levels across the Isthmus of Panama.Ever since the subject has not ceased to occupy mymind, as the various works and maps which I publishedsince 1810, and my correspondence with various states-men, will testify. But all my striving and urging onlyled to imperfect trials and projects calculated for a lineto 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 honoured byan eminent member of her Britannic Majesty’s navy,Captain Fitzroy. (Journal of the Royal GeographicalSociety, vol. xx., p. 20.) “The increase of human knowledge, and the immenseprogress of science, arts, and industry among the wes-tern nations, have given us powers which only call forapplication. Everything depends upon energy and per-severance. I therefore congratulate you, sir, and yourcourageous friend, Dr. Cullen, as well as Sir CharlesFox, Mr. Henderson, and Mr. Brassey, for having givenyour names to so noble an undertaking. I have alwaysconsidered, firstly, the opening of an oceanic canal,without locks; and secondly, the cut at Huchuecoca, inthe valley of Mexico (which is on a comparativelysmaller scale, as may be seen by the map and section Ipublished), as two events calculated highly to improvethe relations between the different families of the humanspecies. In fact, such a work as the one you contem-plate will bring Eastern Asia nearer to the nations ofEurope 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 theQueen of Spain, said. ‘el mundo es poco.’ It will facili-tate the diffusion of productions, especially of preciousmetals, of which the relative value (1 to 15 5-6ths)would change too suddenly without this ‘permeability’of the world. “As early as the discovery of the new continent,civilization had spread, in a direction from north tosouth, over those portions of America which lie oppo-site to Asia, those on the European side being thenoccupied by barbarous hunting tribes. The finest har-bours, the most precious products, are likewise found inthe west. Even the currents of the air, by their direc-tion, contribute towards the preponderance of WestAmerican power over the rich countries of Asia. Theincreasing importance of the west coast of America pro-mises to balance, at some future time, the surprisingprogress of the Atlantic States, provided the westernStates keep themselves free from that hideous disease—slavery of coloured people. “Indeed, sir, I feel the most ardent wishes for thehappy success of this oceanic canal. The attentionwhich the public of the two continents bestows alreadyupon your undertaking will increase, as soon as youare enabled, assisted by further explorations, and asurvey extending over all details, and carried on by agreat number of experienced men, to publish, on a largescale, maps and sections of the line fixed upon betweenPuerto Escoces and the Gulf of San Miguel. Thechanges which the success of your undertaking is sureto effect in the international commerce of the world willonly disturb such people as in the narrowness of theirviews oppose themselves to the natural and providentialcourse of events, and shed tears over the unfortunatediscovery of America. The Rio Huaxacualco with itsportage to the Rio Chimalapa (Tehuantepec), of whichI published the first map after the itineraries discoveredby me in the archives of the vice-kingdom of Mexico,will always be of great importance, owing to its positionopposite Louisiana, in the Gulf of Mexico, which hasall the appearance of soon becoming a mare clausuma lake of the United States. The nature of the soil,however, does not allow great works to be carried outin that locality; besides, you know the difficulties im-peding any canalization or rectification of rivers ofgreat length, and the great variations of the volume ofwater, as in the river San Juan; but a railway would bea great advantge to the southern states. “The great interest which every one at the presenttime takes in the canalization of the Isthmus recalls asimilar fact to my memory, reminding me of the suddeninterest created by the discovery of guano. “I was the first who brought guano to Europe, ofwhich Klaproth and Vauquelin published an analysis.During forty years I preached, but always in vain,the usefulness of this substance, and in vain did Irecommend its employment in fertilising the fields ofEurope. But it is only fifteen or eighteen years since ithas at last become a great article of commerce.

“I beg of you, my dear sir, to present my kindremembrance to the excellent and able Mr. Peter-man, &c. Alexander Von Humboldt

“P.S.—I am not surprised at the difference betweenthe level you found at Turbaco and my own statement.To this, however, I had prudently added, ‘doubtfulbarometrical observation.’ (See my Recucil d’Observa-tions Astronomiques et de Mesures Barométriques. vol. i.p. 299.) The fact that the gas issuing from the littlevolcanoes at Turbaco is inflammable in its natural statehas already been communicated by Colonel Acosta(Journal, p. 65). It appears that the gaseous fluidwhich issues from the ‘salses’ is not the same at alltimes. I find in my journal that, in 1801, the flame ofany burning substance was suddenly extinguished onbeing thrown into a bottle containing air from thoselittle volcanoes. “Parrot, also, in the mud volcanoes in the island ofTaman, found only azote, although the gas emittedwould burn at other times. (See my Relation Histo-rique, vol. xii., chap. 29, p. 367-371).”