30 December 2009

Preparations 6 - Map of Israel

While preparing our La Condamine&Maldonado-trip it was difficult to find on the map the border between Ecuador and Peru. But this is nothing compared to the map of Israel (Carta, Jerusalem; www.carta.co.il) with its many lines indicating “international boundaries”, “separation of 1974 forces”, “planned borders”, “security fence” and lines between annexed areas and occupied areas under partial or “complete” control of Palestinian Authority. This complexity only increases when taking into account that many of the people let themselves be guided by rules of family-pride and -honor or by a God that “gave them the land”.
Some dutch politicians like D. van Agt and J. van den Broek (like myself not Jewish) think that Israël has the duty and capability to solve the problem (The Rights Forum). However, they seem to forget that the many neighbours (millions) living along these complex borders simply refuse to be practical and prefer to continue the fighting which, they apparently think, gives them more advantage in the future (see also the blog "Israël Palestina Info"). 

New building: here, in the far distance, the building of Hadassah Hospital;
view from Alyn Hospital in Kiryat Hayovel

Driving through the country, from Be’er-Sheva to Jerusalem, HaZorea and back, I cannot say that the Israeli's are wrong: Two years ago I was impressed by all the building that was going on: new roads (e.g. Route no.6), hospitals (Hadasah), malls (Jerusalem), hotels (Golan), villages and whole towns (Jewish Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel). And it has been going on as if there has been no war. It seems that everywhere the country is developing itself.

New roads: here, the road to the Golan Heights

And the Arabs? I was told in HaZorea (HM) that not only Jewish towns but also Arabic cities and industrial areas (e.g. near Revava along Route nr. 5 to Ariel) have expanded and have profited from the way the Israeli economy was able to deal this year with the economic crisis. But what do they gain by rejecting every compromise (since 1948) and by refusing to be practical? This time, I only spoke with the same person whom I met two years ago in the guesthouse Mishkenot Sha'ananim, where we stayed. And he still complained that it took him so much time at the border of East-Jerusalem to get to his work. Of course, this is not enough to understand the behavior of the Arabs.

View on Jerusalem from Jaffa Gate.
In the center the guesthouse Mishkenot Sha'ananim

According to a Hamas leader one of the obstacles in peace negotiations is that Israel wants to be a “Jewish state” with no separation between state and religion. But is there an Arab state where such separation exists? And don't we (the EU) recognize the countries with no such separation? I was reminded by a friend (NBG) that when European countries recognized each other more than hundred years ago there was also not much of a separation. 
What about the Bedouin and Druze communities in Israël? Driving from Be’er-Sheva north one now sees a huge town in the desert, with green-lit minarets: Rahat (green is the color of Mohammed and has nothing to do with the new green Climate-religion). Driving over Mount Carmel to Haifa we were impressed by the extension of the Druze cities of Daliyat el Karmil and Isfiya. Are these (religious) communities just more practical than the Arabs in the Westbank and Gaza?

And what about Jordan? We went to a place, an old power station at Nahara’im, where Jews and Arabs came to a practical agreement after the disaster in 1997 of 7 girls shot dead by a Jordanian soldier. King Hussein came to express his grief. I wonder what the Jordanians think of the Israel-Palestine conflict. And the Egyptians? They seem to fear the Hamas in Gaza. 
Trying to be practical: here, the Israeli and Jordan flags on a dam of the Rotenberg-power station in Naharaim

When observing the people in the streets of Jerusalem or the students on the University campus of Be’er-Sheva (apart from the many Arabic students!) I find the diversity of the people remarkable. They are all Jews, but clearly from many different parts of the world! Is this mixture of “tribes” the reason for the many beautiful people I see? It must be difficult for any enemy to fight such a heterogeneous population. And, for an outsider like me, some of the Jewish "tribes" very much resemble Arabs.... 

So many different people: here, on a wedding party in Jerusalem

18 December 2009

Preparations 5 - Surinam poster, Golden monkey and La Cienega

Studying the maps, reading books and e-mailing people that know about Ecuador, Peru or the Amazon becomes more and more exciting. What a pity that our sons, Hilbert-Jan and Marius cannot accompany us; hopefully there will be a next time.  The two of us now have our tickets for Quito!
Although Surinam still seems far away we already paid for our flight back from Paramaribo to Amsterdam. In contrast, Maldonado and La Condamine could only hope that in the mouth of the Amazon they would find a ship to bring them home again. Due to the wars in Europe La Condamine could not join Maldonado on a ship to Spain. Lucky for us, he had to travel to Cayenne, finally returning via Paramaribo and Amsterdam.
Hilbert and Sebastian studying in Naarden the map of Ecuador: “Where is the Rio Chinchipe?

When preparing our journey it seems that every post should again express our motives or justification for this long trip. Remember that it all started with the poster of Paul Woei (Paramaribo). In its legend Hilbert and I read for the first time the name of La Condamine. The legend stated:
“…The trees stand so close together it is impossible to see the sky from the ground,…This world could really be compared to a huge, dark sea…” words of Gonzalo de Oviedo, explorer of the New World in 1526. Maria Sybilla Merian, one of the earliest naturalist (1699-1701), to observe first hand the plants and insects in the tropical New World, published the results in her book “METAMORPHOSIS INSECTORUM SURINAMENSIUM”. Fifty years later the Swedisch botanist Carl Linnaeus classified specimens from Suriname, e.g. quinine. In 1744, La Condamine made a stop in Paramaribo after a long journey from the Andes down the Amazon river. Botanical specimens  which he had lost on his way were replaced. 85% of Suriname land area is still covered with the rainforest. Biologist and naturalists continue to be attracted to study the exotic species in this “haunting green hell”. A journey through the rainforest is an intensely, overwhelming experience for all the senses. The sounds, colors, fragrances and sights reveal to the open mind the complexity and dynamic diversity of life and the amazing adaptation of each organism; it heightens perceptions and understanding of the fragile interdependence of all species, including the human.”
It was this description found in 2005 that initiated the idea of making this journey “in the footsteps of La Condamine and Maldonado” 5 years later.

The poster by Paul Woei, Paramaribo, Surinam (2004). In its legend the name of La Condamine.

In his book “Measuring the New World”, Neil Safier described how La Condamine receives, at the end of his journey, a “golden monkey” from the  governor of Pará (Belem). I wondered what monkey this was and whether we would still be able to see such a beautiful creature. Even with the help of my friend, Henri Wijsman, we were not able to find the name of this golden monkey. My friend, however, had met thé primatologist of the Amazon, Marc van Roosmalen in 1976 at Foengoe Island in Surinam, when van Roosmalen started his studies. See his book “Blootsvoets door de Amazone” (which will appear in an english edition). Upon my request he immediately answered that it was the Amazon marmoset Mico argentatus, previouslay named Callithrix argentata. Now an image was readily found on Wikipedia!
La Condamine described the monkey as follows: “a golden-haired monkey reputed to be the sole representative of his species. The monkey’s tail, in contrast to a body whose sheen radiated like “the color of  the most beautiful blond hair” was of a dark and lustrous brown, almost black. But most impressive of all were the bright red tints with which his ears, his cheeks, and his muzzle were adorned, “a vermilion so vibrant,” in the words of La Condamine, “that one could hardly be persuaded that the color was natural.” (p. 238 in Neil Safier’s book).

Left: Image on page 264 in the book of Neil Safier “Measuring the New World – Enlightenment Science and South America” (University of Chicago Press, 2008.
Right:  Mica argentatus. Image from
Sebastian found a nice hotel for us in the center of Quito. However, looking for hotels ourselves, we found the Hosteria La Cienega, where according to the description on the website La Condamine has been visiting:
“The hacienda has played host to a number of important historical, social, political and scientific events on a national and international level.  The wise French intellectual Carlos Maria de la Condamine arrived in Quito with Luis Godin y Pedro Bouger in 1736.  Six years later, after two hundred years of inactivity, Volcano Cotopaxi erupted, provoking the scientists to move closer to the outskirts of the volcano.  Carlos Maria took up residence in La Cienega, resulting in the beginning of a long and meaningful friendship between the academic and Marquez de Maenza.  “
Later, in 1802, Alexander von Humboldt stayed there. Perhaps, as residents of the city of Naarden, we also have to stay a night there because La Cienega and our town bear the same double-headed eagle in their arms.

23 October 2009

Preparations 4 - Rousseau and La Condamine

Overdenkingen bij ons bezoek aan l’Ile Saint Pierre (Lac de Bienne)

Reizen doen we uit nieuwsgierigheid naar wat er buiten onze eigen wereld gebeurt. In de tijd van La Condamine (rond 1730) was de dorst naar informatie over verre landen héél groot omdat het zo moeilijk was er te komen. Nu kunnen we het meeste wel vinden met behulp van Internet en Google Earth.

De reizigers die toen terugkwamen namen van alles mee, tot “wilde mensen” aan toe. Al die nieuwe dingen prikkelden de fantasie en de reisverhalen werden gretig gelezen.
Het verslag van La Condamine (gepubliceerd in 1749) werd bekritiseerd, maar ook van grote waarde geacht door o.a. Jean-Jaques Rousseau én door een zekere Isaac de Pinto te Amsterdam, waarover later misschien meer.

In een werry op de Bielersee, met op de achtergrond de Jura.

Rousseau leefde van 1712 (geboren te Genève) tot 1778, de tijd van de Verlichting”, waarin men “de mens” ging beschouwen als van nature goed te zijn. In 1755 schrijft hij een betoog over de opvoeding van mensen, waarbij hij ook uitgaat van de nobele wilde (“le bon sauvage”). Zijn boek wordt in Frankrijk en Genève meteen verboden om godsdienstige redenen. De op te voeden hoofdpersoon in het boek, Emile, mag als enige boek “Robinson Crusoe” van Daniel Defoe (1719) lezen! Niet wat we van een “verlichte denker” zouden verwachten.
Rousseau wordt verjaagd uit Parijs en later ook uit Genève en beleeft twee gelukkige maanden op Ile Saint Pierre in de Bielersee. Daar heeft hij genoten van de eenzaamheid en de natuur en schreef hij o.a. “Mijmeringen van een eenzame wandelaar – no.5”:

« Quand le soir approchait , je descendais des cimes de l'île et j'allais volontiers m'asseoir au bord du lac sur la grève dans quelque asile caché ; là le bruit des vagues et l'agitation de l'eau fixant mes sens et chassant de mon âme toute autre agitation la plongeaient dans une rêverie délicieuse où la nuit me surprenait souvent sans que je m'en fusse aperçu. Le flux et le reflux de cette eau, son bruit continu mais renflé par intervalles frappant sans relâche mon oreille et mes yeux suppléaient aux mouvements internes que la rêverie éteignait en moi et suffisaient pour me faire sentir avec plaisir mon existence, sans prendre la peine de penser. De temps à autre naissait quelque faible et courte réflexion sur l'instabilité des choses de ce monde dont la surface des eaux m'offrait l'image : mais bientôt ces impressions légères s'effaçaient dans l'uniformité du mouvement continu qui me berçait, et qui sans aucun concours actif de mon âme ne laissait pas de m'attacher au point qu'appelé par l'heure et par le signal convenu je ne pouvais m'arracher de là sans effort. » Rousseau, Rêveries du promeneur solitaire, Cinquième Promenade.

We zijn deze romantische plaats van zijn vrijwillige verbanning gaan bezoeken op 8 september 2009 per roeiboot vanaf Sutz.

Chris en Hilbert lopen vanaf de klooster-boerderij terug naar de roeiboten.
Maar wat deden Rousseau en anderen (Spinoza, Locke, Voltaire, Leibnitz) in die tijd met de reisverhalen van o.a. La Condamine ?
Volgens Neil Safier (in zijn boek Measuring the New World) werd de overdaad aan nieuwe feiten met moeite verwerkt en ervaren als een “onontwarbaar labyrinth”. Dat kwam ook omdat de gegevens vaak uit hun verband werden gehaald en op een poetische en dus weinig wetenschappelijke manier werden samengevat.

Alexander von Humboldt reisde ruim 50 jaar later door Zuid Amerika en kon een meer samenhangende beschrijving van zijn waarnemingen geven. Opmerkelijk is echter dat hij in zijn in het frans geschreven “Kosmos” (1845) slechts melding maakte van de mogelijkheid van een gemeenschappelijke afstamming van mens en dier. Hij stierf in het jaar dat Darwin met zijn “The origin of species” (1859) enige orde durfde te scheppen. Het is duidelijk dat La Condamine in 1750 niet anders kón denken dan dat de vlinder was geschapen door een almachtige “designer” louter voor menselijke vreugde....

De verblijfplaats van Rousseau met op de achtergrond de Jura.

19 July 2009

Preparations 3 - The Pongo and the "soliton"

With the help of the detailed (military) map of Ecuador and the map of the Maranon corrected by La Condamine himself (see post of 11th July 2009), most of the places on the route between Loja and Borja could be traced.
However, the question remained where Chuchunga was located, the port where La Condamine started his descent of the Rio Maranon.

A Google-search for Chuchunga brought me in contact with "Zitoune", who crossed the Pongo de Manseriche several times in both directions, who has lived in Las Chachapoyas, who knows this region of Peru very well, and who signs his messages with the poetic words:
"Es un hombre que se va, la lagrima se queda. El Chachapoyano".
("A man is going, the tears are staying"; "Un homme passe, les larmes restent"; traduit par Catherine Marchand).

Zitoune allowed me to present one of his photographs of the entrance of the Pongo:

Entrance of the Pongo de Manseriche.
Photograph taken by "Zitoune" in August-September 2007.

We hope to come to the Pongo de Manseriche in February next year. Zitoune writes me that at this time, during the wet season, the water level can be very high. If it is above 21 feet (or "pieds", indicated on a scale probably in Borja) the passage is not dangerous. At lower levels, between 16 and 21 feet, however, a wave of 2 to 3 m can go back and forth through the Pongo, making the passage impressive but also dangerous.

La Condamine writes in his "Voyage sur l'Amazone" that the water level in the Pongo decreased rapidly ("a vue d'oeil") from a height of 21 pieds! He was there on 10 July 1743. I wonder whether the scale he used is the same as the one mentioned by Zitoune.

When I asked Zitoune about the wave he confirmed that this was a single wave! According to a colleague, the physicist Theo Odijk, such a wave could perhaps represent a so-called "soliton" or solitary wave, first observed and described by Scott Russell in 1834 in a canal in England. This represents a non-linear phenomenon that could be compared with a tsunami and has been described in a book by Ablowitz and Clarkson (1992).

In his last letter, Zitoune also helped me to find Chuchunga, the village or canon (spanish "quebrada") mentioned several times by La Condamine. Google located the "Rio Chiriaco Chuchunga" at S 5° 24' W 78° 6'.

According to S.S. Renner (Smithonian Contributions to Botany no. 82: "A History of Botanical Exploration in Amazonian Ecuador, 1739-1988") the port Chuchunga is near the present-day town of Nazaret.
La Condamine writes that since his departure from Jaen he had to cross the Chuchunga torrent 21 times. Before reaching the village he had his 4th accident in which all his instruments, books and papers became wet. Did he carry a microscope with him? I wonder how we will reach Nazaret and whether we will be able to see "the wave" in the Pongo.

Chuchunga, near Nazaret, where La Condamine started his descent of the Maranon.

11 July 2009

Preparations 2 - The route and corresponding maps

Map of Ecuador with the towns and rivers named by La Condamine

My colleague Antoine Cleef borrowed me a detailed map of the Republica del Ecuador, from July 1991. Helped by Google Earth I could now for the first time find most of the towns and rivers named by La Condamine in his book "Voyage sur l’Amazone". The map above shows Tarqui, south of Cuenca, where he departed on the 11 of May 1743, and Borja, just past the Pongo de Manseriche, where he arrived on the 10 of June 1743. Because he had been informed that he would be attacked by accomplices in the murder case of M. Seniergues, he did not take the direct road Cuenca-Loja, but made a detour via Zaruma.

His description of the descent of the Rio Chinchipé, however, remained unclear. The place Tomependa is not to be found and also the location of Jaen seemed different. Other names like Chuchunga, Cumbinama, Chachapoyas, Escurrebragas and Guaracayo are not on this map.

But most of these names were given on La Condamine’s own map, Carte du Cours du Maragnon (1745), which I found in the book of Neil Safier "Measuring the New World" (Chicago University press, 2008). See maps below.
Only the location of Chuchunga where he arrived on 4 July 1743 remains unclear. La Condamine writes: "Je trouvai a Chuchunga un hameau de dix familles indiennes". Here the indians built a new raft for him, which gave him time to dry his papers that had all become wet when coming to Chuchunga.

Jaen is indicated twice on La Condamine’s map, but neither location corresponds with present-day Jaen west of the Maranon river. Perhaps we can solve this riddle on the spot when we come there next year….

La Condamine's map: is Chuchunga near "Port"?

Comparison of corresponding parts of the maps of Samuel Fritz (upper)
and La Condamine (lower)

03 July 2009

Preparations 1 - Map of Samuel Fritz

De afgelopen maanden met Hilbert van der Meer  naar de kaarten van Ecuador en Peru gekeken. En ook naar de oude kaart van Samuel Fritz uit 1707 die opgenomen is in een atlas die we op 19 juni 1980 cadeau kregen van Paulien en Frits Greup (toenmalige ambassadeur van Colombia): "Atlas de mapas antiguos de Colombia, Siglo XVI a XIX", 2nd edicion. E.C. Latorre, Editora Arco, Bogota-Colombia.

Bij Lamina XXVII, p. 87, stond de volgende legenda (zie afbeelding hierboven): 
"Loop van de rivier Marañon. Dit is één van de eerste kaarten en de meest interessante van die tijd die verschenen is over de loop van de Amazone en die te danken is aan de inspanning van de missionaris jezuiet Samuel Fritz (1654-1728), die gedurende vele jaren het evangelie heeft lopen prediken in de regionen die doorstroomd worden door de grote rivier en die gestreden heeft met de Portugese autoriteiten ter verdediging van de rechten van Spanje. De heer de la Condamine heeft deze kaart gebruikt als basis voor de kartering van de rivier in 1744 en volgens zijn woorden: "...deze kaart is een waardevol en uniek stuk, bewijs van bekwaamheid van haar maker als men rekening houdt met het ontbreken van instrumenten, met zijn ziekte en met de omstandigheden van de navigatie...." Deze kaart werd voor de eerste keer gedrukt en gepubliceerd  in Quito, daarna gereproduceerd in Parijs in 1777 in het tijdschrift "Recueil de Lettres adifiantes et curieus", en is veel later gepubliceerd in Madrid." (vertaling Hilbert)