Letter of the month
I was fascinated to hear the 72-year Venezuelan explorer Charles Brewer Carias describe himself as an encyclopaedist rather than a specialist (I’m a geographer, December 2010). Time and time again, when I’m rooting around in the Royal Geographical Society archives, I’m struck by the fact that so many of our pre-20th-century explorers were interested amateurs rather than professionals. Take Charles Darwin, who was training to be a doctor before he became waylaid by his interest in geology and the natural world. Or Robert Brown, another 19th-century doctor whose amateur interest in Scottish botany, and pioneering use of the microscope, led to remarkable discoveries about the way plants live and reproduce.
Although, towards the end of the 19th century, this lack of professionalism in the sciences came to be seen as a negative rather than a positive, I think it gave so many pre-20th-century explorers and scientists a wonderful overarching understanding of the world, and perhaps assisted them in formulating their grand theories. I also wonder whether these multi-disciplinarians were better communicators than today’s more specialised scientists because they were used to engaging with a myriad of people and ideas, and therefore found it easier to convey the importance and interest of their work to the world at large. Geoffrey Ledbury, London
Airborne inspiration Wow. Just, wow. I took my family to see the Britain from the Air exhibition in Bath today and we were just blown away by it. What a fantastic idea. It reminded me of how much beauty and diversity there is right on our doorstep. I need to get out exploring again. I’ve asked Father Christmas for a new pair of walking boots to help get me started. Joan Webster, via email
Mountain tragedy I felt it was a bit unsavoury of your reviewer to refer to No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley as ‘a thrilling account of misadventure to keep all armchair mountaineers on the edge of their seat’ (Reviews, December 2010). Perhaps this was the spirit in which the book was written, but I think we would do well to remember that its subject matter was the death of 11 climbers who lost their lives on the mountain in August 2008. They will all have families and friends, who are probably still grieving for them now, and to regard their deaths as pass-the-time entertainment for fireside readers just doesn’t seem quite right to me. Andrew Belcher, Worcester, Worcestershire
Let’s get lost There are times when you just want to get totally lost. Thank you Geographical for being my co-conspirator on a number of adventures. I can firstly armchair-explore and then step out into the void totally prepared and aware. I look forward to reaching new horizons in the near future. Mary Preston, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
End of an era I was very sad to see the areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) series come to an end. Each month, I turned straight to it to see which part of the country was going to be featured, and I wanted to write in and congratulate you on your efforts – it’s quite an achievement to have visited and written about all of the 50-odd AONBs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the process bringing to readers’ attention the best of the British countryside.
It was quite fitting for me that Dorset proved to be the final instalment as it’s one of the few AONBs that I know well, having spent many a happy day strolling around Lulworth Cove and swimming at Durdle Door. Brian Quinlan, Winchester
Letters to the editor
THE LETTER OF THE MONTH RECEIVES A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE GH MUMM CORDON ROUGE Letters to the editor can be emailed to email@example.com. Please remember to include your full address and contact details. Letters may be edited. Geographical, Circle Publishing, 1 Victoria Villas, Richmond, Surrey TW9 2GW. Telephone: 020 8332 2713 Fax: 020 8332 9307
78 www.geographical.co.uk FEBRUARY 2011