National Geographic : 1940 Oct
Hail Colombia! BY Luis MARDEN With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author IN SIX hours you can fly from Miami, Florida, to Colombia in South America. Snub-nosed "tin fish," flying 200 miles an hour at 17,000 feet, whisk 33 passengers over the Caribbean Sea from a United States breakfast to a South American lunch. Thus has aviation foreshortened the West ern Hemisphere and made neighbors of peo ples who only a short time ago were far apart and virtually strangers. When I visited the widely separated cities of Colombia, I found that airplanes are the chief means of transportation within the coun try as well. The map shows why (page 509). Three ranges of the rugged Andes run north ward through Colombia, interposing tremen dous barriers to road and rail. The country's capital is enthroned on Andean heights more than a mile and a half above the coasts-six days to two weeks from the Caribbean by river steamer and train, three hours by air. All kinds of people use the air lines. One day I saw a red-sashed, magenta-robed bishop debark with his entourage from a seaplane. German-founded Air Line Now Colombian Such a premium is placed upon air trans port by Colombia's mountainous geography that one of the world's first regularly sched uled air lines was established here. Germans founded it in 1919 and ran the line until this year, when it was nationalized by the Colom bian Government. At Barranquilla, northern Colombian port on the Magdalena River, these planes connect with Dutch and North American lines. With the captain in charge of the river airport, I watched a big Pan American flying boat glide in for a landing, or, rather, a "watering," as the Spanish language puts it. "Mail and express packages that leave here tomorrow morning on the Clipper will be in Miami in the afternoon," he said, "and in New York the next morning. "All our coast trips start from here. The big Boeings that fly to BogotA and other in land cities leave from the airfield beyond the city." Barranquilla has many soft-drink and ice cream stands. The varicolored rows of bottles displayed reminded me of the old-time drug store windows with their globes of red and green. Most carts or wagons have names; one I passed daily near "The Hand of God." Barranquilla's progress Burro to Airplane." my hotel was called Another epitomized in the title "From Landslide Helped Open the Harbor Not always has Barranquilla been a sea port; only recently have deep-draft vessels been able to come the seven miles upstream from the mouth of the Magdalena to the city itself. Big sandbars at the river mouth origi nally prevented the entry of ocean-going steamers. The building of jetties, aided by a submarine landslide that helpfully low ered the bottom, has enabled large ships of several lines to make Barranquilla a port of call since 1935. Steam navigation of the Magdalena was attempted as long ago as 1825, and an ever increasing fleet of paddle-wheelers has carried passengers and freight between Barranquilla and upstream ports. The twin-stacked stern wheelers, reminiscent of Mark Twain days on the Mississippi, are made in the United States, shipped piecemeal to Colombia, and reas sembled on the banks of the Magdalena (Color Plates III and XII). For the benefit of my camera the captain of a fast packet volunteered to put his craft through her paces. "Have no care," said he. "Everything is as good as arranged." Taking me on board at the warehouses where freight is loaded on the barges pushed by the steamers, he put me ashore at a grassy spot and churned obligingly up and down until I had enough pictures. He even had his engineer open valves so that twin stacks poured out smoke especially thick and black. Cows Eat Water Hyacinths Near the passenger terminal dense masses of floating water hyacinths like those which clog Louisiana bayous had collected in back eddies of the steamboat canals. There were not enough in the fast-flowing main stream to impede navigation, but bordering the road from the docks to the city a vivid green carpet of hyacinths undulated gently on the surface of marshland water. Cows grazing on the succulent plants were nearly sub merged in what seemed to be solid turf. Most of industrial and commercial Barran quilla has been built up in the last ten years.