Well, I never!

thermalben's picture
thermalben started the topic in Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:21am

A thread for things you've just discovered.

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thermalben commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:48am

When I was travelling through Costa Rica in '98, I became fascinated with the entire Central American region.

In particular, I was enamoured with the Darien Gap - a remote jungle region between Panama and Columbia, notably where the Pan American highway doesn't exist for a little over 100 kilometres. As per the Expert Vagabond website: "The Darien has an almost mythical quality to it — a mysterious land full of exotic plants, rare wildlife, indigenous people, and dangerous paramilitary groups." 

Anyway, my interest was restricted to the available resources at the time (wasn't much on the web back then), though its magnetism resulted in me naming a new solo music project of mine under the name Darien Gap, in which I played a few solo shows in Adelaide. 

Fast-forward 21 years, and having recently been looking for waves in the Americas, I went back to look for anything new about Darien Gap I hadn't found before.

Lo and behold, it turns out that the "Darien scheme" was independent Scotland's one major attempt at colonialism, to become a world trading state by establishing a colony called "Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s. They sent five ships and 1,200 people with a plan to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with an overland route. Apparently the project was "backed by approximately 20% of all the money circulating in Scotland".

But, the Darien scheme failed, which resulted in the substantial financial ruin of Scotland, leading to the Acts of Union - where "the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London".

The Guardian did this article in 2007 which sums up everything.

And now, 300 years later, we've had three unsuccessful referendums on Scottish Independence (1979, 1997, 2014), and Brexit is certainly keeping the discussion at the fore (from the ABC today: "Will Brexit and the general election see Scotland leave the United Kingdom?").

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 7:32am

That’s crazy !

And that was before electronic banking so that 20 percent of their currency would have been 20 percent of freaking everything ! Big roll of the dice.

You ever get there , Ben ?

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 8:55am

Amazing that one lone project, proposed over 300 years ago, and which barely got off the ground, still has profound social and political ramifications today.

factotum's picture
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factotum commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 11:20am

Yeah, Ben, now that is interesting stuff. And quite well known in the Auld Country (believe it or not).

3 positives that may arise from a Johnson Tory election victory:

Scottish independence.

Irish reunification.

And with the 'brit-split', the redundancy of the Union Jack flag.

Which means we at least have to change ours.

Speaking of Australia, heard of this?


thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:14pm

That's an amazing story Facto. Never heard of it before.

It's incredible how these journeys were planned and executed in an age where travel and information moved at snail's pace.  

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thermalben commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:39pm

Blowin, I never went there. To be honest, I don't know what I would have done anyway. 

Closest I got was planning an extended hike from Pavones to the tip of Punta Burica, on the border of Costa Rica and Panama - about 50km in length. We'd heard rumours of waves out there and were keen for a bit of exploration, using pack horses and the like. I had no idea but figured we'd work it out as we went.

But, the trip was cancelled before it even started. I was travelling with two mates, one of whom sliced open his head in the surf at Pavones, and the ordeal in getting him medical attention from the luxury of a small town with intermittent public transport made us realise that we were in way over our heads.

Funny thing is, the other mate of mine ended up going back there a few years later and did the exact trip we'd planned, on horse. 


Incredible stuff.

And the bastard still won't tell me if he scored any surf.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:48pm

Fascinating stuff- somehow I do remember this story but the details are scant. Thanks for putting that up Facto.


stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 12:56pm

"And the bastard still won't tell me if he scored any surf."

Having been that bastard a few times, I can tell you with certainty that he didn't.

mattlock's picture
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mattlock commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 6:35pm

There is a book about the people in Facto's post. Paradise Mislaid by Anne Whitehead.
A good read if little dry from memory.

Jamyardy's picture
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Jamyardy commented Friday, 6 Dec 2019 at 7:34pm

The French tried to cut through the Isthmus at Panama and failed, the Americans took it on and finished the job, "The Path between the Seas" by David McCullough is a great read on the subject, it has some really interesting content like the discovery of how Malaria was contracted. Iv'e done several trips into central America, always scored well in Panama. I used to work with a bloke who worked in the pan American highway, the section that was supposed to cut through the Darien gap but they were stopped.