Mountains of Greenland

I read that twenty-eight of the mountains of Greenland are ‘named’ for Cambridge Colleges. A 1963 expedition organised by climbers at St. John’s College pioneered a number of peaks in the Greenland Alps and, in the great but by 1963 rapidly fading tradition of European explorers, named those peaks for the colleges of their alma mater.

I do not know that the names persist, or were ever used in anger. A cursory Googling throws up a lot of Inuit name for mountains in Greenland, and a handful of Danish ones; not a lot of Cambridge colleges.

These things are lost in time. Naming what is, to you, a wilderness, but is, to the people who live there, assuredly not a wilderness, is a futile business.

German explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), in his voyage to the watershed of the Orinoco and the Amazon and his tracing of the Casiquiare which joins them, followed the river and recorded the position of small missionary stations or trading posts as he went. In May 1800 he and his travelling companions reached Esmeralda, last Christian settlement on the Orinoco. It was little more than a few huts, home to a few natives of the jungle and some missionaries and traders.

Humboldt dutifully marked it on his map. In 1958, two botanists who retraced Humboldt’s route found no trace of the place: it had been sucked back into the jungle, wholly effaced although, as they then noted, it is still to be found on every modern map.

The mountains of Greenland – Trinity College Mountain, Mount Corpus, Mount Sidney Sussex – persist, of course; but I assume the names are gone the way of Esmeralda.

humboldt-fs

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