National Geographic : 1920 Sep
KAIETEUR AND RORAIMA The Great Falls and the Great Mountain of the Guianas BY HENRY EDWARD CRAMPTON, PH. D. With Illustrations from Photographsby the Author S THE field for thorough scientific exploration, South America is at last coming into its own. The great bulk of Africa has yielded up its secrets with astonishing rapidity since the not-distant days of Livingstone and Stanley-men whose work has been done within the memory of our elder generations. But, until very recently, our sister con tinent of the South has remained what Africa was in the early nineteenth cen tury: cities had been built along the coasts and at some inland points, precious minerals had been sought and found in the lofty Andes, but few besides the na tives, themselves unknown to science, were aware of what the jungles and plains possessed. Now the fallow field is receiving ever increasing attention from men of science, and as the past era was that of Africa, so the present century is claimed by South America. Although some time has elapsed since the writer made a journey of scientific exploration into the little-known interior of British Guiana and northern Brazil, yet the vivid impressions are in nowise dulled or effaced. On the palimpsest of memory the experiences group them selves about two principal focal points the great falls of Kaieteur, far hidden in the forests of British Guiana, and the table-land of Mount Roraima, a feature of more than geological interest, which lifts its sheer walls at the point where Guiana, Brazil, and Venezuela come together. The present account tells but a part of the story, which in all of its fullness can never be written; the experiences were unusual and varied, as they must always be in a region where distances are not reckoned in miles, but according to the dangers and difficulties incident to travel. The general purpose of the expedition, which was undertaken in the interests of the. Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the American Museum of Natural History, of which department the writer is the curator, was to run a "biological traverse" from the Atlantic Ocean to the heights of Roraima. A glance at the topographic map of South America will show that in few other places, outside of the Andes, is it possible to draw a line that will cross so many different types of territory in the same short distance. WHERE MANY FORMS OF LIFE IN NORTH. AMERICA ORIGINATED From the coastal plains, extending .ap proximately two hundred miles inland from the ocean, an abrupt rise to the higher forests of Guiana and of certain Amazonian tributaries is followed by a similar rapid passage to the dry and open savannas of northern Brazil, and these in turn culminate in the Pakaraima Range of mountains, whose highest ete ment is Roraima. The region about Roraima was chosen as the goal because of its great geolog ical age and the antiquity of its fauna and flora. From this place originated many of the living forms of the Antilles and of southern North America when the northward retreat of the ice-sheets formed during the Glacial Period per mitted the establishment of climatic con ditions favorable for organisms of the hot and temperate regions. Ere the eventful journey was begun, some weeks were devoted to field-work in the Lesser Antilles from St. Thomas southward, especially in Dominica, which far surpasses the other islands in natural beauty. Here the party included Roy W.