THE ORIENTAL SCIENTIFIC MOVEMENT AND AMERICAN DISCOVERIES
Although the explorers travelled very rapidly, at the rate of no less than 11,500 miles in nine months, the scientific results of their journey were considerable. In a first publication which appeared in Paris in 1838, Humboldt treated only the climatology and geology of Asia, but this fragmentary account was succeeded in 1843 by his great work called "Central Asia." "In this," says La Roquette, "he has laid down and systematized the principal scientific results of his expedition in Asia, and has recorded some ingenious speculation as to the shape of the continents and the configuration of the mountains of Tartary, giving special attention to the vast depression which stretches from the north of Europe to the centre of Asia beyond the Caspian Sea and the Ural River."
We must now leave Asia and pass in review the various expeditions in the New World, which have been sent out in succession since the beginning of the present century. In 1807, when Lewis and Clarke were crossing North America from the United States to the Pacific Ocean, the Government commissioned a young officer, Lieutenant Zabulon Montgomery Pike, to examine the sources of the Mississippi. He was at the same time to endeavour to open friendly relations with any Indians he might meet.
|Map of the Missouri.|
Pike was well received by the Chief of the powerful Sioux nation and presented with the pipe of peace, a talisman which secured to him the protection of the allied tribes; he ascended the Mississippi, passing the mouths of the Chippeway and St. Peter, important tributaries of that great river. But beyond the confluence of the St. Peter with the Mississippi as far as the Falls of St. Anthony, the course of the main river is impeded by an uninterrupted series of falls and rapids. A little below the 45th parallel of North latitude, Pike and his companions had to leave their canoes and continue their journey in sledges. To the severity of a bitter winter were soon added the tortures of hunger. Nothing, however, checked the intrepid explorers, who continued to follow the Mississippi, now dwindled down to a stream only 300 roods wide, and arrived in February at Leech Lake, where they were received with enthusiasm at the camp of some trappers and fur hunters from Montreal.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
After visiting Red Cedar Lake, Pike returned to St. Louis. His arduous and perilous journey had extended over no less than nine months; and although he had not attained its main object, it was not without scientific results. The skill, presence of mind, and courage of Pike were recognized, and the government soon afterwards conferred on him the rank of major, and appointed him to the command of a fresh expedition. This time he was to explore the vast tract of country between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, and to discover the sources of the Arkansas and Red River. With twenty-three companions Pike ascended the Arkansas, a fine river navigable to the mountains in which it rises, that is to say for a distance of 2000 miles, except in the summer, when its bed is encumbered with sand-banks. On this long voyage, winter, from which Pike had suffered so much on his previous trip, set in with redoubled vigour. Game was so scarce that for four days the explorers were without food. The feet of several men were frostbitten, and this misfortune added to the fatigue of the others. The major, after reaching the source of the Arkansas, pursued a southerly direction and soon came to a fine stream which he took for the Red River.
This was the Rio del Norte, which rises in Colorado, then a Spanish province, and flows into the Gulf of Mexico.
From what has been already said of the difficulties which Humboldt encountered before he obtained permission to enter the Spanish possessions in America, we may judge with what jealous suspicion the arrival of strangers in Colorado was regarded. Pike was surrounded by a detachment of Spanish soldiers, made prisoner with all his men, and taken to Santa Fé. Their ragged garments, emaciated forms, and generally miserable appearance did not speak much in their favour, and the Spaniards at first took the Americans for savages. However, when the mistake was recognized, they were escorted across the inland provinces to Louisiana, arriving at Natchitoches on the 1st July, 1807.
The unfortunate end of this expedition cooled the zeal of the government, but not that of private persons, merchants, and hunters, whose numbers were continually on the increase. Many even completely crossed the American continent from Canada to the Pacific. Amongst these travellers we must mention Daniel William Harmon, a member of the North-West Company, who visited Lakes Huron and Superior, Rainy Lake, the Lake of the Woods, Manitoba, Winnipeg, Athabasca, and the Great Bear Lake, all between N. lat. 47° and 58°, and reached the shores of the Pacific. The fur company established at Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia also did much towards the exploration of the Rocky Mountains.
Four associates of that company, leaving Astoria in June, 1812, ascended the Columbia, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and following an east-south-east direction, reached one of the sources of the Platte, descended it to its junction with the Missouri, crossed a district never before explored, and arrived at St. Louis on the 30th May, 1813.