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Alexander von Humboldt: „Junction of atlantic and pacific oceans“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 23.03.2023].

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Titel Junction of atlantic and pacific oceans
Jahr 1853
Ort Washington, District of Columbia
in: Weekly National Intelligencer 612 (3. September 1853), [o. S.].
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Schmuck: Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VII.49
Dateiname: 1853-Junction_of_the-17-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 7444

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The following is the translation of a letter onthis subject addressed by Baron Alexander VonHumboldt to Mr Lionel Gisborne, of London: Sir: I trust you will excuse the oldest among the tra-vellers in both the tropies 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 Atlantie with the Pacific. Theposition I occupy in this country, and the ardent desireI feel to finish, before my death, some scientific workswhich I had the imprudence to begin, considerably inter-rupted the even course of my correspondence. I there-fore hope that I shall meet, on your part also, with thatindulgence which your countrymen have shown me dur-ing so long a period. I have not been beyond the Rio Rimo, which lies eastof the mouth of the Atrato. It was at the time when Ileft the island of Cuba on my way to Lima, by Bogota,Quito, and the River Amazon, for the purpose of observ-ing the passage of Mercury through the solar dise. I wasthen on friendly terms with a very intelligent merchant,Don Tynacio Tombo, of Carthagena, in America; and Irecollect that the Casso (treastiry convoy) of Guayaquilwas then on its way to Europe, by the road from Capicato the Atrato, which was first opened by the Biscayianpilot Poguerache. Knowing geologically the interruptionof the mountain chains, and the depression of the rangein the eastern part of the Isthmus, my attention has re-mained fixed, during this last half century, on the Bay ofSan Miguel, and the route from Cupica to the RioNapipi. Owing to my friendly relations with Gen. Bolivar, I ob-tained through him the first line of levels across the Isth-mus of Panama. Ever since the subject has not ceasedto occupy my mind, as the various works and maps whichI published since 1810 and my correspondence with va-rious statesmen will testify. But all my striving andurging only led to imperfect trials and projects calcu-lated for a line to the west of the meridian of Panamaand Portobello, none of which ever gained my confidence.I had, however, the gratification of seeing my views hon-ored by an eminent member of her Britannic Majesty’sNavy, Capt. Fitzroy. (Journal of the Royal GeorgianSociety, vol. xx., 2.) The increase of human knowledge,and the immense progress of science, arts, and industryamong the western nations, have given us powers whichonly call for application. Every thing depends upon energy and perseverance.I therefore congratulate you, sir, and your courageousfriend, Mr. Cullen, as well as Sir Charles Fox, Mr. Hen-derson, and Mr. Brassey, for having given your names toso noble an undertaking. I have always considered,firstly, the opening of an oceanic canal without locks,and, secondly, the cut at Huchnecoca, in the valley ofMexico, (which is on a comparatively smaller scale, asmay be seen from the map and section published,) as twoevents calculated highly to improve the relations betweenthe different families of the human species. In fact, sucha work as the one you contemplate will bring EasternAsia nearer to the nations of Europe and America. Itwill render the whole globe more easy to be travelledover; this little globe, of which Christopher Columbus,in one of his letters to the Queen of Spain said, “Elmundo cepoco. It will facilitate the diffusion of productions, especiallyof precious metals, of which the relative value (1 to 155-6) would change too suddenly without this “permea-bility” of the world. As early as the discovery of the new continent, civili-zation had spread, in a direction from north to south,over those portions of America which lie opposite to Asia,those on the European side being then occupied by bar-barous hunting tribes. The finest harbors, the most precious products are like-wise found in the west. Even the currents of the air, by their direction, con-tribute towards the preponderance of West Americanpower over the rich countries of Asia. The increasingimportance of the west coast of America promises to ba-lance, at soxie future time, the surprising progress of theAtlantic States, provided the Western States keep them-selves free from that hideous disease, slavery of coloredpeople. 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 forther explorations and a survey extendingover all details, and carried on by a great number of ex-perienced men, to publish on a large scale maps and sec-tions of the line fixed upon between Puerto Escoces andthe Gulf of San Miguel. The changes which the successof the undertaking is sure to effect in the internationalcommerce of the world will only disturb such people as,in the narrowness of their views, oppose themselves tothe natural and providential course of events, and shedtears over the unfortunate discovery of America. TheRio Huaxacualco, with its portage to the Rio Chimalapa,(Tehuantepec,) of which I published the first map afterthe itineraries discovered by me in the archives of theVice Kingdom of Mexico, will always be of great im-portance, owing to its position opposite Louisiana, in theGulf of Mexico, which has all the appearance of soonbecoming a mare clausum—a lake of the United States.The nature of the soil, however, does not allow greatworks to be carried out in that locality; besides, youknow the difficulties impeding any canalization or recti-fication of rivers of great length, and the great varia-tions of the volume 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 canalization 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 Ipreached, but always in vain, the usefulness of this sub-stance, and in vain did I recommend its employment infertilizing the fields in Europe; but it is only fifteen oreighteen years since it has at last become a great articleof commerce. I beg of you, my dear sir, to present my kind remem-brances to the excellent and able Mr. Petermann, andto, &c.


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’ObservationsAstronomiques et de Mesures Barometriques,” vol. 1, p.299.] The fact that the gas issuing from the little vol-canoes at Turbaco is inflammable in its natural state hasalready been communicated by Col. Acosta. [Journal, p.65.] It appears that the gaseous fluid which issues fromthe salses is not the same at all times. I find in my jour-nal that in 1801 the flame of any burning substance wassuddenly extinguished on being thrown into a bottle con-taining air from those little volcanoes. Parrot also, inthe mud volcanoes in the island of Taman, found onlyazote, although the gas emitted would burn at othertimes. [See my “Relation Historique,” vol. 15, chap.29, pp. 367-371.]