National Geographic : 1896 Feb
THE VALLEY OF THE ORINOCO By T. H. GIGNILLIAT United States War Department In the map of the valleys of the Orinoco and Esequibo rivers, showing Venezuela and British Guiana (Plate V), the territory between the shaded area and the Corentyn river shows the extent of British Guiana as given in a map published by William Fadon, Geographer to His Majesty, January 1, 1820. This country, acquired by the English through con quest and formally ceded to them by the Dutch in 1814, then contained some 20,000 square miles. The lighter portion of the shaded territory shows the first extension of British Guiana to the west after Fadon's map of 1820. This expansion appears on a map published in London in 1840 by Robert H. Schomburgk, which included the light-shaded area above mentioned, about 40,000 square miles. Schomburgk held an English commission to draw the boundary line, but it does not appear that Venezuela was represented in the survey. The darker portion of the shaded territory shown on Plate V represents the subsequent extension of British Guiana, as shown by a series of many recent publications. Since 1840, maps and other publica tions have appeared, drawing line after line farther to the west, until some 49,000 square miles have been added to Schomburgk's acquisition. In this way the area of British Guiana has increased from about 20,000 square miles, as shown on the Fadon map of 1820, to 109,000 square miles, the area given in the Statesman's Year-Book of 1895. Gold was discovered in a new section of this area, to the northwest, in 1884, and an official Venezuelan report places the gold output of this sec tion in 1890 at $1,000,000. But there is a larger interest at stake than all this territory, with all its gold. It is the control of the valley of the Orinoco, an area of about 600,000 square miles, which comprises a very large portion of South America north of the Amazon river. It is not generally known that the best entrance to the Orinoco river is within the original Schomburgk line. Dr Mufioz Tebar, the successor of Senor Jose Andrade as president of the state of Zulia, Venezuela, states, after a personal examination, that the best entrance to the Orinoco river is through the Guaima river and Mora passage to the Barima river, and thence to the Orinoco. Authorities appear to agree that the other mouths of the Orinoco are shallow and obstructed by sand bars. Dr Tebar gives the depth of the Mora passage as over 60 feet, and would lead us to infer that there was no bar at the entrance of the Guaima. If this means that there is a clear channel over 60 feet from the sea through the Mora passage to the Orinoco river, it is a most important piece of infor mation. The square black marks in this locality show the position of English trading stations, established between 1885 and 1887. In addition to the authorities above quoted, the " commercial" map of F. Bianconi, Paris, 1888, was used in compiling the map on Plate V.