Amoeblog

Happy Discovery Day -- Real Geographic Discoveries of the Modern Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 13, 2014 04:42pm | Post a Comment

I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others. 





 
We all know now that Columbus wasn't the first European to visit the Americas either -- but neither was Leif Erikson. Europeans had been living in the North American territory of Greenland since sometime between 876 and 932 CE when Gunnbjorn Ulfsson was blown off course and sited the world's largest island. Around 978, Snæbjorn Galti was the probably first European to set food on Greenland but we rightly don't make a big deal out of that since there were already Inuits living there and before them, an earlier people who'd arrived and abandoned the country -- and that cultural exchange was by most measures, less impactful on the planet.


The Divine Comedy - "A Seafood Song"

Greenland, of course, is just as much a part of North America as are the Bahamas (where Columbus landed) as are the US and Canada -- or Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Navassa Island, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands, for that matter.



Crime & the City Solution - "The Bride Ship"
 

The fact is that people have been exploring for roughly 1.8 million since Homo erectus first caught that ramblin' fever years ago and identifying the first European to do something is a silly pursuit. Exploration and adventuring, on the other hand, is vital and something done by all good people (and plenty of bad). Most of the inhabitable world was discovered in antiquity but in the post-Classical age, new lands were still being discovered by humans around the planet -- especially Arab, Austronesian, and European seafarers. In the 15th Century, the more isolated islands of the Atlantic were still being added to maps with some regularity and discovery of islands in the Arctic and Southern Oceans continued into the 20th Century. Here then is a look at some of the real discoveries of the modern age -- previously uninhabited lands just waiting for humans to despoil them.





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MADEIRA

Madeira (image source: World for Travel)


Madeira was first claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique in 1419, who were driven by storm to an island harbor which they called Porto Santo. Settlement of the island began in 1420 and by 1433 it was known as Ilha da Madeira.



THE AZORES

Azorean chamaritta 

The Azores were known of in the 14th Century but humans didn't begin to colonize them until 1433. Before arriving, sheep were deposited to establish a food source for the colonists, who included Sephardic Jews, Moorish prisoners and African slaves, as well as Flemish, French, and Spanish colonists. Nowadays there are about a quarter of a million residents of the country.



CAPE VERDE

Morna performed in the documentary Dix petits grains de terre

The volcanic islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered by Italian and Portuguese navigators around 1456. The first settlement, founded in 1462, was the first European settlement in the tropics. Located off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde's economy was predictably built on the back of the slave trade but the African population was joined by Jewish refugees from the Inquisition, as well as Dutch, French, British, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and other settlers.

California Fool's Gold -- A Santa Monica Mountains primer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 1, 2011 04:00pm | Post a Comment

WEST OF THE WESTSIDE -- THE SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS

The Santa Monica Mountains are a traverse mountain range that stretches from the Pacific Ocean 64 kilometers east to the flood plain where the LA River is fed by the Verdugo Wash. The southern side of the eastern end of the range is almost always referred to as the Hollywood Hills. The central portion lies within LA's westside and the foothills are home to some of LA's most affluent neighborhoods (e.g. Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades). To the north, separated by the mountains, is the San Fernando Valley. Technically, the Channel Islands are also part of the range, although they're separated from the mainland by water.


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the Santa Monica Mountains

The western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains separates the Conejo Valley from Malibu and the neighboring communities that make up the Los Angeles district known as the Santa Monica Mountains area. The district borders Ventura County to the west and north, the San Fernando Valley to the northeast and the Westside to the east. 


The chaparral covering the region is home to mountain lions, steelheads, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes, various kingsnakes, Gopher snakes, Garter snakes, Western fence lizards, bobcats, mule deer, golden eagles and other less glamorous creatures. The area around the shore is home to dolphins, octopi, sea gulls, crabs, anemones, mussels, sharks, cormorants, seals, pelicans, sea lions and whales. For thousands of years, the land was shared by the Tongva in the east and the Chumash. The Chumash called the area along the Pacific "Humaliwo," meaning "the surf sounds loudly," and Malibu derives its name from this. There is some evidence that the two sea-going peoples had contact with the Polynesians. The natives were later conquered and displaced by the Spanish. Later, the land became part of Mexico. After that, it was conquered by the US. Today it is home to six separate communities and a large, unincorporated region in the middle. 

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