Friday, January 20, 2012

From The Annals Of Exploration

I recall reading somewhere about a party of British adventurers who were mucking about in some primitive, forsaken  place. This was, if I'm not mistaken, some time relatively early in the 19th century. According to a handful of sketchy journals they left behind they'd had an arduous expedition and  had lost several members of their party to violence and various mysterious maladies.

Much of the time they spent navigating an unpredictable river and plodding through thick brush and rough, rocky terrain. I don't quite remember what they were looking for, but I'm certain it can be safely surmised that it was more or less something they hadn't seen before. Like many such explorers I'm supposing they were bored with domesticity and civilization, and hoped  that hardship and  peril would make them  men again.

They were also --once again, like many such characters-- blunderers, utterly ill-prepared and incompetent, certain that their firearms and education  (they were mostly well-to-do graduates of Oxford, I believe, with a handful of hardscrabble human mules to do their dirty work) made them superior to the vague task at hand.

Almost needless to say, they disappeared, as is so often the case with such foolhardy explorers. Many years later a party of anthropologists and botanists stumbled across a jungle clearing in that still inhospitable part of the world, a clearing where they discovered a neatly arranged collection of bleached skulls seemingly growing from the earth like jack-o-lanterns made of bone. Additional investigation revealed that the bodies belonging to these skulls had in fact been buried vertically, and presumably alive, up to their necks.

When these pathetic souls were excavated  it was discovered that they were still wearing their tattered clothing, and one of their number was yet clutching in what was left of his right hand a scrap of moldering cloth on which was scrawled in fading script the words: "We have had the misfortune of encountering a party of white men."

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