My new favorite Twitter feed is @jwesleypowell, who is tweeting his trip down the Colorado River into the great unknown:
Soon after dinner, we discover the mouth of the San Juan, where we camp.
The tweets are drawn from the publicly published version of John Wesley Powell’s journals, which is a ripping good read. But it’s also a bit of a fiction, assembled after the trip, with some stitching up here and there.
It is in that regard helpful that a historian by the name of John Cooley has collected in one place all of the contemporaneous journals of the participants in the epic journey. “The Great Unknown” provides a useful adjunct to Powell’s gloss, as in this July 31 entry from George Braldey upon the group’s arrival at the mouth of the San Juan:
[T]place is most desolate and uninviting…. Fear Major will conclude to remain here and observe the eclipse on the 7th but sincerely hope not for to find shelter we have to crawl into the rocks and let the evelike projection of the cliff shelter us, and the rocks are almost hissing hot.
It wasn’t all biscuits and gravy.
(And in the manner of stitching, the above picture is actually from the second Powell expedition.)