As this enlightened gentleman has now spent some time helping Save the Rhino, even holding court at the Royal Geographical Society, whilst his compatriot, Mark Carwardine, was away suffering from Swine Flu; it would seem rude not to include the QI diatribe on ‘Mountains’.
“I can’t do with mountains at close quarters – they are always in the way, and they are so stupid, never moving and never doing anything but obtrude themselves” DH Lawrence
Mountains are home to 10% of the worlds population of Earth. Most of the world’s rivers have their sources in the mountains and more than half of humanity depends on mountains for water. However, until the Romantic writers began to eulogise them at the end of the 18th century, mountains were generally considered ugly and forbidding. The 17th-century poet John Donne called them “warts on the earth”.
In the 18th century, the highest known mountain was Chimborazo in Ecuador (20,702ft). In fact, it wasn’t even the highest mountain in the Andes but because of the bulge in the Earth’s shape at the equator, Chimborazo is the mountain that sticks the farthest into space.
The German naturalist and explorer, Alexander Humboldt (1769-1959) climbed 19,260ft on Chimborazo in 1802 during his epoch-making tour of South America. No European had ever climbed so high before. Humboldt became the first person to note down the effects and correctly guess the cause of altitude sickness.
More to come…..
Chimborazo image with thanks to Dan on Flickr, available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dnevill/402059788/