Colonel John Blashford Snell
Who led the team that crossed the Darien Gap expedition first? Who led the Congo River Expedition first? The
Nerve of steel.
Col Blashford Snell image courtsey: bbc.co.uk
It is said that ‘If there is a will, there is a way’, as a modern day explorer (now he is an old man in his seventies) there was will as strong as steel and a matching thirst to know what lies beyond boundaries; there was no dearth for ways, even the most unconquerable obstructions crumbled before him as a pack of cards. John Blashford-Snell was born in 1936
Climbing mountains fording streams.
From the very boyhood wonders of nature like great rivers, vast deserts, forests, oceans, tall mountains all haunted him like a passion. The young Blashford wandered through the
Blashford Snell image courtsey: bbc.co.uk
Colonel Blashford Snell during his expeditions always wore a special type of hard shelled hat (‘topee’ which he received as a gift from a
The first assignment Snell and his team got were to explore the remnants of the submerged ancient harbor ‘Paphos’ near
In 1966 the
Blue Nile Waterfall image coutsey: wikipedia.org
It was the then ruler of
Haile Salassie image courtsey: rastarmusic.com
Snell set-up a team with 17 zoologists and 40 servicemen with paraphernalia included aluminum assault boats, rafts made of foot-ball bladders. The journey through the river was daunting, their 40 BHP outboard engines were no match for the strong currents which kept on smashing their boats against rocks, and people were thrown out of the boats.
Finally they decided to move through the banks; there also adversities mounted, their horses got bitten by vampires, pests of all varieties were celebrating a rare occasion they got to suck fresh blood from new victims. All the way were marred by attacks from hostile tribes who never let aliens in their land. As the convoy advanced inch by inch they could realize the fact that the team has run out of ammunition (something more important than food in such a location) and they decided to return by water neglecting the fury of the Blue-Nile water! Yet the scientists could collect innumerable number of specimens to the museum.
In search of mermaids!
Dugong image courtsey: leisurevest.com
In 1969 an organization by name ‘Scientific Exploration Society’ was formed under the leadership of Snell with the active co operation of politicians and businessmen. Their first expedition was to the Dahlak Archipelago a very rarely visited group of coral islands in the
The land of the blind.
Dahlak Archipelago - The island of the Blind - image courtsey: traveladventures.org
It was the second mission of the ‘SES’ to investigate another legend of a land inhabited by blind people! Snell with members of SES went there and what they witnessed was a very painful fact. The inhabitants were a primitive community who lived collecting shells and by fishing, and percentage of blindness among them was alarmingly high, fifty percent had defective eyesight including children. Snell led Frederick Rogers an ophthalmologist to see what was wrong; the ultra-violet radiation from the sand (with high salt content) was what burnt their eyes. The team instructed the islanders about precautions to be taken and made all remedies available for the people.
The real thing which made Snell a legend is the crossing of the ‘Darien Gap’, the portion of land that is located between
A committee of the nations which benefited from the highway suggested Snell of crossing this gap. At first Snell’s view was that it was not a feasible idea, but he consulted it with a young explorer Brendan O’ Brien who submitted a report which changed his mind he said yes.
“The project must be mounted on a massive scale, and handled like a long-drawn battle, with likelihood of high casualties”
All his advices heeded and requests granted by the committee; thus the idea of crossing the indomitable Darien Gap was born. All the team-members were handpicked by Snell and all members were subjected to rigorous training for one year. On
As the caravan made progress all the obstructions they expected as well as unexpected visited them one by one, the dreaded African honey-bees of the locality which attacks victims collectively were also contributing lavishly for the agonies of the team. Five members of the Columbian army drowned, almost all members of the team escaped death by sheer luck! Snell had a fall from his mule on a river ravine and he got jammed under it, his horse (named Cromwell) was bitten by vampire bats made it bleed it profusely.
At last at the end of 3 long grueling months when they emerged out the swamp in
“I want to see what’s at the top of the peak, not climb it just because it is there” was what he said. Now the hunter is home from the hills and the sailor home from the seas; let us wish a happy as well active life to the veteran celebrity.