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Trading Canoe Paddles for Helicopters: Travel for the Modern Explorer

Andrew Short is a National Geographic Grantee and assistant professor of
 Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. An entomologist by training, Short is currently in Suriname, South America searching for aquatic insects to study patterns of freshwater biodiversity that will inform both science and conservation. 

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The first scientific expedition to Tafelberg took place exactly 69 years ago this month. Led by legendary botanist Bassett Maguire, the 1944 expedition took more than four months. Needless to say, the logistics of his expedition were a bit different than ours.

Using a small group of canoes powered only by paddles and long poles, he traveled upriver through numerous rapids and overland detours from Paramaribo up the Coppename River and its tributaries. With the help and permission of the local villages he encountered, he set out overland when the rivers became impassable.

After 23 days of cutting trails with nothing but a compass for navigation, they reached the foot of Tafelberg. Did I mention they had more than 3 tons of gear that had to be hauled every step of the way? And that does not include additional food and supplies that were parachuted to them in the jungle from military planes both along the way and while on the summit.

Fast forward to 2013, and the travel that took his party weeks will take us less than an hour by helicopter. Correspondingly, we are working hard to ensure that our gear (and ourselves…) will “make weight”, as how much we can transport per helicopter run is extremely limited.

If you are curious about just exactly what such an ambitious 1944 expedition took to the field, here is list from a report on the expedition published by Maguire in 1945:

List of supplies taken on the first expedition to Tafelberg in 1944. From the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, volume 46, p. 287.
List of supplies taken on the first expedition to Tafelberg in 1944. From the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden, volume 46, p. 287.

On a completely separate note, we collected our first specimens today. Taking a break from gearing up here in Paramaribo, Devin browsed the central market here for interesting fish, and picked up some freshly caught individuals to prepare as museum specimens:

Fishspecimen1
Devin Bloom prepares and tissues a freshly caught fish specimen from the central market in Paramaribo. Photo by Andrew Short.

 

NEXTReturning to the Landscape of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”

Read the entire blog series