Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Every now and then, I pull a book from my shelf and read a few pages. I was struck a few days ago by a quote from John Wesley Powell.

Before you understand the quote, you probably need to consider who Powell was. In short, he was a nature-nut turned Civil War soldier. After dreaming of it for years, he went on to explore the Grand Canyon in an expedition that was sponsored by the Smithsonian. The year was 1869. He, and nine other men, did it. How? By boat. They ultimately started in what is now Wyoming and cleared the Canyon a few months later. Hell's Half Mile, Disaster Falls, Desolation Canyon, and Vulcan's Throne are just some of the places that they named during this first expedition (he went on to do it again a few years later).

Did I mention he only had one arm?

Anyhow, on the morning of August 13, 1869, just before they entered the Grand Canyon for the first time, he wrote the following in his journal:
We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown. Our boats, tied to a common stake, chafe each other as they are tossed by the fretful river. They ride high and buoyant, for their loads are lighter than we could desire. We have but a month's rations remaining. The flour has been resifted through the mosquito-net sieve; the spoiled bacon has been dried and the worst of it reboiled; the few pounds of dried apples have been spread in the sun and reshrunken to their original bulk. The sugar has all melted and gone on its way down the river. But, we have a large sack of coffee.
Go figure. No sugar, the apples had to be "reshrunken" (whatever that means), and the bacon blows. But they had their coffee!

Ahhhh... priorities.


Rachel said...

So, did the apples get dropped in water? Needed to be re-dehydrated?

Paul said...

So, two people have now made suggestions about the apple thing. It appears the apples likely got wet, and Powell dried them again. He "re-shrunk them" because they were likely dehydrated apples in the first place. My confusion was the use of the words "original bulk". The ORIGINAL bulk of the apples would have been before they where dehydrated the first time, right? If a car is originally white, but someone paints it red, and then someone else paints it green, and THEN someone comes along and paints the car the original color, it should be white. "Re-shrinking to the original bulk" is an awkward statement.

Perhaps the thought of boiled bacon was too much for him and he was just a bit confused...