28 MAY 1892, Page 12


THE speech with which Mr. Whymper charmed his audience on Monday at the dinner of the Geographical Society, was not only singularly bright and humorous, but it was full of hope for those who believe with us that the complete exploration of this little planet is one of the duties of its inhabitants, and that the relinquishment of that task would foreshadow a decay of intellectual energy in the fore- most races. It is constantly said that the spirit of explora- tion must die away, because there is nothing left by which it may be kept alive. Only Jules Verne believes in civilised continents hidden behind the Arctic precipices of ice, or that less penetrable veil the Antarctic wall of fog ; and except at the two Poles, everything has been discovered. What there is of a world which has shrunk within the writer's lifetime to

a third of its size, has been seen, and in a way surveyed. There is no possibility of the existence of an undiscovered continent, and no probability that there is an island about whose coast and soundings the Admiralty has never received a word of report. A few isolated facts of importance may reward careful observers, like the existence of a channel separating the "

peninsula" of Saghalien from the mainland; but the age of discoveries like those of Columbus, Vespucci, Balboa, or Captain Cook, has passed away for ever. Mr. Whymper fully acknowledged that, but declared that much yet remained to be done, and that the motive for doing it would still exist. It would take a century at least to explore thoroughly the mountain systems of the world, and there would be "mountain maniacs," such as he was evidently proud to declare himself to be, who would perform the task. Naturally, Mr. Whympercould not on such an occasion occupy such an audience for an hour with talk about himself; but it is clear from the few hints be let drop, and still clearer from the whole of his fascinating book about the Ecuadorian Andes, that his motive in scaling the high peaks of the world is not merely discovery, though that also, as he says, strongly influenced his mind. He belongs to the men who in all ages have thirsted for adventure, who have from Nature an overplus of energy which they must get rid of somehow, and for whom, therefore, any task with danger in it, and novelty, and a quotable result, has an almost physical charm, like the foolhardiness which is in some men a kind of lust, and did not by any means disappear with the knight-errants of chivalry, or Elizabeth's half-heroic, half- piratical discoverers by sea. The charm of ascents is for him, like the charm of the sea for the generation of boys which devoured Marryat, and had not read Mr. Clark Russell, a provocative to which he must give way; and he ascends an unconquered mountain, not only with courage and inflexible resolution, but with something of the school- boy's glee and exultation in doing anything he has been formally prohibited from the attempt to do. He will get up Mount Everest yet, if he has to take a balloon to help him—only to find, we fear, that there is another peak in sight certainly 1,000 ft. higher—or be will die in his bed a dis- appointed man. We say in his bed, because Mr. Whymper can breathe in the rarest air, owing to nothing but pluck and hopefulness; but if there were a mountain fifty miles high, as we believe the Arabian geographers fancied there was, he would go on ascending with a coil of wire about him, until at last he telegraphed unintelligibly his own asphyxiation. His mania for the mountains is part of his very being, and is shared by so many not quite his equals in determination, that they will evolve a continued series of explorers who will work and strive and die, until the mountain ranges of the world have become as familiar as its seas, and old observers in the Geographical

Society will describe the passes in the ranges whence the waters of the Niger must flow, as accurately as they now map out the passes of Switzerland or the Carpathians. The work is big, for the great ranges of the world are not razor- backs, but hold in them areas which, if they were but fertile, might sustain nations—all Tibet might be accurately de- scribed as a mountain ledge,—but the work attracts men of all races—two great mountain-explorers, at least, have been Indians,—and until it is finished, we may be sure explorers will not run short, any more than the supply of men who dare repair cathedral spires, or light up the dome of St. Peter's on the greatest festivals. They may seem fools to the sedentary, as Mr. Whymper, half in bitterness, half in jocular tolerance, complained on Monday that he seemed for thirty years ; but they know their own motives, and what the power of the high altitudes over the spirit is, and they will give way to their in- stinct as surely as the lemmings will make their annual rush 'for the waves of the Arctic Sea. How else are they to deliver themselves from the steam-pressure of energy on the boil, which seems as if it would drive them mad with longing for the thin air, and the silence of the great peaks, and the • " triumph and the vanity, the rapture of the strife" with Nature in her most threatening attitude.

Nor is there the smallest risk of any cessation of exploration -on the plain. There are other motives than those which move the mountain maniacs, and the thirst for gold will drive the children of the twentieth century at least as hard as it drove the children of the sixteenth. Before another -century has passed, the world will have been examined with a microscope to see if it yields gold, or silver, or jewels, or -quarries of beautiful stone, or those plants and woods in which, as in the gutta-percha tree or mahogany tree, great trades and great fortunes lie concealed. The desire for ivory and slaves has already carried Arab explorers throughout Africa, and their leaders know, though they do not record on paper, that wonderful system of jungle-paths by which the African forest world is traversed from end to end, and on which Negro and half-caste runners perpetually make their way through kingdoms which even Herr Petermann's successors do not pretend to know. Every year the hunt for the precious metals and the shining stones grows sharper, until the plateau of Tibet and the farther isles of the Eastern Archipelago are almost the only likely places where the agents of European firms are not inquiring, and prospecting, and sending home concrete evidences that, if enough is spent, and a sufficient area of unknown territory is diligently examined, there may be solid returns. The emerald-seekers of Ecuador know the paths of its mountains better than geographers, and the hunters for gold will make known every ravine of the vast region between Cape Colony and Lake Nyassa. Every year the demand for wood drives importers into more distant forests, while the enthusiasts of botany and orni- thology are ransacking regions into which it was recently supposed to be death to enter. The Phcenicians of our day number whole tribes, and they are penetrating everywhere, -exactly like their old prototypes, in search of spoil. Nothing stops the explorers for gain, and another party will follow them yet, not longing for minerals or new drugs, but for great estates. Australia was not explored for exploration's sake, but to find lands fit to support great herds ; and so will Africa be, and the Eastern Archipelago. The competition for great fortunes grows bitterly sharp, and this is a road on which adventurers need only daring, a certain capacity for command, and a resolve to explore such as was displayed in New South Wales by the Wentworths, who, twice beaten by the mountains, went on a third time, to become great nobles in the Southern world. A certain amount of external order, an amount which would seem infinitesimal to Londoners, will be secured wherever European flags are raised; and that once granted, the desire for wealth, for subjects, for positions above the rack of neighbouring mankind, will drive on explorers as relent- lessly as the " mountain-fever " to which Mr. Whymper yields. Men's ideas change, but not their passions ; and there are as many ready, in all European countries, to be half-piratical explorers now, as ever there were in Devon when the " duty " of a "Devon Worthy" was to find new worlds to conquer and kill Spaniards in, with returns in gold and honour. We make, and the French make, and the Germans make, " syndicates " just like the Devon "companies," and send out just the same "explorers," intent

on geographical discovery, scientific "exploitation," and a mighty dividend. Much of the process is not nice, even in the eyes of moralists who are not squeamish, and do not believe in the equality of all mankind ; but one result of the movement will certainly be accurate knowledge of what is on the earth, and forfive hundred feet below it.

Science, too, of a purer kind, though it will not urge so many men as the thirst for adventure and novelty, or the lust for wealth, will still do much to force on the completion of exploration. The botanists, and the mineralogists, and the naturalists, and even the ethnologists, though the last have partially lost their earlier hopes of discovery, and think we must now trust to closer investigation—recently they have told us few wonders, except that there are races which cannot distinguish dreams from actual events—will not rest while any corner of the planet remains unsearched, and though they do not often find a Wallace or a Bates, they do find hundreds, even thousands, of quiet men who give their lives to explora- tion, and are content if, after years of effort, they can boast that they have in their own departments added a little something absolutely new to the sum of human knowledge. The physiologists, too, are stirring, and with effect, for they begin to be sure of a very strange thing, that there are places absolutely free from certain diseases, as free as the Great Desert of North Africa is from asthma. Being so free, may not such places have a permanently curative effect ? There is a strong presumption, at least, that it may be so; and though investigation is difficult, the sick being bad explorers, the doctors are urging inquiries into climate which cover the whole world, and may within the next century make dry lands in Africa, and high plateaux in the Andes and Himalayas, and some rejuvenating islands in the Pacific, as familiarly known as the most popular European health -resorts. Unless—which may happen—Europe gives itself up to war for a generation, as Von Moltke thought it would, and then, being poverty-stricken by its folly, uses up another generation in re- newing the general mass of well-being, the next three decades will be the most fruitful years of exploration, though they will not be the most exciting. We shall certainly not find a new world, nor, we fear, any grand contributions to the past history of this one, though we know now, or guess, whence Solomon got his treasures; but we shall fulfil the greater part of Mr. Whymper's prophecy about the mountains, we shall know intimately every mineralogical region, and we shall understand scientifically every effect that every climate of earth can pro- duce. That is something; though, as far as the happiness of the race is concerned, the result will probably be little com- pared with what might be produced by a new and universally accepted ideal of justice, or mercy, or social help.