Monday, June 15, 2015

Explorers and Mosquitoes

In 1832 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and his native guides identified Lake Itasca as the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Joseph Nicollet and his native guides came along in 1836 to map the upper Mississippi and all the land it drained. Both journeys were troubled by mosquitoes.

Nicollet talks about one particular night in his journals:  “Here we were assailed by swarms of mosquitoes, that came upon us in torrents, causing me to extinguish the light of my lanterns 3 times whilst I was making my astronomical observations.”

The next morning they were up at 4:30 but slow to depart. “The night having been very hot and the mosquitoes troublesome, we were exceedingly overcome, and consequently slow in getting our loads ready”.

Nicollet's map was used for the next 50+ years as the definitive guide to the upper Mississippi. You can look at and zoom Nicollet's beautiful map here.

While my adventures are much more modest, I also encountered the exceedingly troublesome torrents of mosquitoes on my walk in the deep woods over the weekend. By the middle of June it’s best to leave the bush to the king of the forest, the lowly mosquito. I’ll be back later.

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