Jan 1, 2019 at 3:08 pm #3570948Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
I’ve often recommended Clarence King’s book, <i>Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada,</i> as one of my favorite books about the Range of Light. King writes beautifully, and his perspective as a member of the Whitney survey that really put the Sierra on the map (literally) is quite wonderful.
Over the years, I’ve heard some complaints (mainly from geologists) who have suggested that King may have exaggerated his own role in the survey party, and I’m in no position to disagree with those. But he is a writer, and a good one, and he tells absolutely wonderful stories about the Sierra in the very earliest days of the exploration of that range by the United States.
The book is now out of copyright, so you can find versions on the internet for free. No excuses!
But as I was doing some research on Clarence King for fun, I came across the rest of his story. And it is quite remarkable. It turns out that in his capacity as a geologist working on the 40th parallel survey, he investigated and exposed one of the biggest diamond mine frauds in the US, and gained international celebrity because of that. He also saved untold numbers of people who were going to invest in that mine.
And in a completely unrelated story, he led a remarkable double life in his later years. He somehow managed to pass himself off as an African American railroad employee, fell in love with a freed slave woman, and married her. They lived happily for almost fifteen years, he often leaving to work in the West, and she staying behind with their children in Massachusetts. He believed strongly that the future of the human race depended upon inter-racial marriage. Here’s a link to his Wikipedia bio….and you can read all about it. More Googling will get you more detailsJan 1, 2019 at 8:56 pm #3570991Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
@ Paul. I don’t know much about Clarence King but from reading a biography of John Muir, especially over the origin of granitic domes, glaciation, creation of Yosemite Valley, etc. I learned that the geologist controversies were often motivated by politics, fame, and money, and very heated, polemical, and personal.
There is a wonderful non-fiction book written by a climber that is really literature called Early Days in the Range of Light by Daniel Arnold. Arnold interweaves his own retelling and analysis of the early accounts of exploration and and peak summiting of the Sierra Nevada and his discovery, re-tracing, and re-climbing of the ascent routes of William Brewer, Clarence King, Joseph LeConte, etc.
The minimalists on BPL might appreciate Arnold’s kit: cooking system: box of matches; shelter system: sleep under a tree; consumables: several loaves of bread. Arnold does leave the mule, Navy colt revolver, and chewing tabac at home. :-)0
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