Hello everybody, Christopher Russell here again.
Yesterday after a big Thanksgiving meal, I started thinking about exploration. I’ve been rereading “In northern mists” by Fridtjof Nansen lately. The book is a history of Arctic exploration, but Nansen spends a lot of time talking about the inherent human urge to wander throughout history and prehistory. The opening lines of the book strike me each time I read them.
In the beginning the world appeared to mankind like a fairy tale; everything that lay beyond the circle of familiar experience was a shifting cloudland of the fancy, a playground for all the fabled beings of mythology
In our modern world, even the far reaches of the world seem vaugely familiar. We’ve read about them, or seen documentaries that allow us a to visualize them in some respect. Through this we may think that exploration is a thing of the past.
Well I’m here to say “to hell with that”.
The advantage for the modern day canoeist or hiker of having all the maps filled in is a big one. The only thing or person you’re comparing your exploration to is yourself and your experiences. So what if hundreds of other people have paddled along a particular stretch of river? You haven’t, and if that paticular stretch is the “cloudland of fancy” to your preexisting experience then get out there and do it.
For example, I’ve spent a lot of time on Assateague island in eastern Maryland. It’s a beautiful place, with wild ponies, horseshoe crabs dragging themselves on and off the beach, and all manner of other wildlife. Having said that, you know what I’ve never done? Paddled around assateauge and it’s sister islands. So next year I’m planning on getting out to an island I know fairly well, and seeing new aspects of it.
So I’m curious about everyone else’s stories. What places have you been that made you feel like you’d stretched out your “circle of familiar”?