Friday, June 19, 2009

Part II of II

Two Naturalists on Amelia Island

William Bartram was born in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania, then near Philadelphia, on April 20, 1739, the son of naturalist John Bartram. As a boy, he accompanied his father on many of his travels, to the Catskill Mountains, the New Jersey Pine Barrens, New England, and Florida. From his mid teens, Bartram was noted for the quality of his botanic and ornithological drawings. He also had an increasing role in the maintenance of his father's botanic garden, and added several rare species to it.

In 1773, he embarked upon a four-year journey through eight southern colonies, including wild and sparsely inhabited Florida. He kept a detailed journal which was eventually published as Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida

March 1774 found Bartram on a ship near Cumberland Island headed for East Florida. Warning came of recent Indian massacres in nearby East Florida. Undeterred, Bartram insisted upon being put ashore on Cumberland Island to make his own way south, while his ship fled north.

Bartram soon came across the captain of a small fort on Cumberland Island who offered to take Bartram and another traveler who left the ship across the channel to nearby Amelia Island, where they headed for the the plantation house.

As Bartram recounts: ‘ … After walking through a spacious forest of Live Oaks and Palms, and crossing a creek, that ran through a narrow salt marsh, I and my fellow traveller arrived safe at the plantation, where the agent, Mr. Egan, received us very politely and hospitably. This gentleman is a very intelligent and able planter, having already greatly improved the estate, particularly in the cultivation of indigo. Great part of this island consists of excellent hummocky land, which is the soil this plant delights in, as well as cotton, corn, batatas, and almost every other esculent vegetable. Mr. Egan politely rode with me, over great part of the island.

Egan accompanied Bartram south as far as Cow-Ford, now Jacksonville, and the intrepid Bartram then proceeded alone across Florida. The publication of his journal in the late 1880s made Bartram the most famous naturalist of his time.

The attention of a traveller, should be particularly turned, in the first place, to the various works of Nature, to mark the distinctions of the climates he may explore, and to offer such useful observations on the different productions as may occur.

William Bartram

John Muir, Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of U.S. wilderness was born 21 April 1838, almost 100 years after William Bartram. He was drawn early to the natural world, and tirelessly crusaded for its preservation through his letters, essays, and books. His particular passion was the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. He alone was largely responsible for saving the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.

In March of 1867, as a young man, he injured his right eye in an industrial accident, and vowed to go on a long walk if his vision recovered. By August, 1867, his vision had largely returned and he set off walking from Louisville, Kentucy, bound for Savanna, Georgia, and then Florida.

On October 15, 1867, he reached Amelia Island, describing the island as ‘a flat, watery, reedy coast with clumps of mangrove and forests of moss dressed strange trees appearing low in the distance.”

”…I step onto a rickety wharf. A few steps more take me to a rickety town Fernandina. I …make for the shady, gloomy groves.”

Departing “rickety” Fernandina, Muir followeed the track of David Yulee’s railroad across Florida to Cedar Key, where his journay ended. The journal of his long walk, entitled Thousand Mile Walk to t he Gulf, was not published until 1916.

'Many good people believe that alligators were created by the Devil, thus accounting for their all-consuming appetite and ugliness. But doubtless these creatures are happy and fill the place assigned them by the great Creator of us all. Fierce and cruel they appear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of God. They, also, are his children, for He hears their cries, cares for them tenderly, and provides their daily bread.

John Muir