Tag Archives: exploration

Why Vasco da Gama of Portugal Sailed Around Africa to India

Book Cover: The Last Crusade (Portugal) Destination: Portugal and Explorations to India

Book: The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama by Nigel Cliff (Previously published as Holy War)

“Master, if you know the sea is crazy and has no brain, why do you venture upon it?” African man to a priest from Portugal who lands on the African coast, according to The Last Crusade.

A friend recently told me that she was looking for a different kind of history book. She wanted one that covered several periods, but built around a single theme with interesting characters and action like a novel. The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama, famous explorer from Portugal in the late 15th and early 16th century fills the bill. Continue reading Why Vasco da Gama of Portugal Sailed Around Africa to India

The Ultimate Exotic Journey: Timbuctoo

British Lion

Destination: London and Africa (1810)

Book: Timbuctoo (NEW July 2012) by Tahir Shah

Picture an African El Dorado where the only known metal is gold! Storehouses overflow with it, and coffers are brimming with it.  Roof tiles and cobblestones, cups and plates, buckets and bedsteads all are fashioned from that most intoxicating yellow ore!

William de Witt, British businessman, addressing the Royal African Committee in the novel, Timbuctoo

Contrary to popular belief, the roofs are not tiled in gold, nor is there a wealth of any kind, that is, what we might comprehend to be wealth.  Most of the jewellry is made from shells, taken from the river, or made from camel bone.  The houses are crafted form blocks of mud, and the majority of the townsfolk live a most squalid existence.

Robert Adams, the American, addressing the Royal African Committee in the novel Timbuctoo Continue reading The Ultimate Exotic Journey: Timbuctoo

Read a Book for Earth Day, April 22


Canyon de Chelly

Destination: Earth


Wind and the Rock by Ann Zwinger

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell

Undaunted Courage, by Stephen E. Ambrose

Maybe I’m being species-centric here, but I’m assuming that everyone who is reading this is interested in traveling somewhere on the planet Earth.  Therefore, I’m also assuming that they are interested in the survival and thriving of our planet.  So, here are some books to add to the traveler’s library to celebrate Earth Day, coming up on April 22.  I am posting now to give you time to get started on your reading. (You may notice that my choices have a bit of bias toward my part of the U.S.)

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by the late Stephen Ambrose, masterfully tells the huge story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition across America.  Until I read this book, I was not fully aware that the purpose of Thomas Jefferson’s idea went beyond the commercial and, well, let’s be honest, boundary-expansion/imperialism.  Indeed, I should have known because of Jefferson’s love of knowledge that he would instruct the explorers to take samples and make minute observations of plants, animals, geography and cultures as they traveled West. A fine book for Earth Day because it shows us what the West was like 200 years ago and helps us decide what should be preserved or restored.

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell is a classic of information about the western United States. My Penguin edition has an introduction by Wallace Stegner, who points out that (in sharp contrast to the Lewis and Clark expedition) the Powell adventure was not government backed, had no imperialist aims, and the group was not led by nor peopled by scientists.  However, Powell, an amateur scientist, turned out to be an extraordinarily excellent observer, under unthinkably difficult conditions,  and his journal and drawings bring us descriptions and pictures of places that still look familiar today.

Wind in the Rock: The Canyonlands of Southwestern Utah compiles essays by the naturalist Ann Zwinger, who loves the west and Canyons particularly. I like to read Zwinger because she teaches me what to look for when I am strolling through the desert.  All those details, and all interrelated. She has a poetic way with science.

Photo by VMB. All rights reserved.