Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are a must-have for archaeologists and researchers like us. We use them to either establish a path to an interesting site of simply to detect any geographical anomaly. We use various platforms including the very popular Google Maps. We have been invited by Google to take part in the Beta Version of the new Google Maps and we are stunned by its capabilities. This is such a great tool, still easy to use but way more powerful than the previous version.
In a few minutes we were able to build a custom map showing Quadcopters (drones) friendly flying areas in South Florida, that you can see below:
Walter Repo, the Swedish author and adventurer has recently published an amazing biography of the explorer Rolf Bloomberg. Bloomberg was also a brillant writer, photographer and filmaker.
As described in his own book, Buried Gold and Anacondas, Blomberg led several expeditions in the Llanganates to discover the treasure of Atahualpa. Below is an exclusive interview with Walter Repo, author of “Folkhemmets äventyrare: en biografi om forskningsluffaren Rolf Blomberg”.
Can you first introduce us to Blomberg and tell us a little bit about your book?
Rolf Blomberg, born in Stockholm 1912, was one of the most influential explorers in Sweden and a true humanist. He valued curiosity, the human drive to explore more than money and personal fame. He never visited tribes and new environments as an ego-fueled ”great explorer”, he never took anything. He just observed and lived side by side, always humble. That makes him unique and, for me, attractive to write about.
Above all, he was one of the first ever to take a stand for human rights for ingenious people in South America. And as an early environmental activist he fought for the archipelago of Galapagos. Blomberg’s reports concerning the islands situations were used by Unesco as a background for their work to create protection. In 1959 the Galapagos was made a national park, but Blomberg was not satisfied and continued to fight.
Sweden had been an isolated country during WWII and after the war Blomberg showed the world to the cold, frozen Swedes, who knew very little about it. Blomberg explored and returned to Sweden with amazing, colorful images of a never seen world. With his images and lectures he toured Sweden, visited the smallest villages and in that way educated the Swedish people and gave them other perspectives.
He was one of the truly good guys in exploration. All this together made it easy for me to work with him – I see it as a collaboration, though he passed away in 1996. Sometimes I could feel his presence.
Why Blomberg? Why does he fascinates you more than any other explorer? When was the first time you’ve heard about him?
I have an image of him as a kind and non egotistic person. He never called himself an ”explorer”, instead he referred to himself as a ”research vagabond”. That is very appealing, it says a lot and it separates him from other explorers in a nice, humble way. Today exploring is too much about records, sponsor deals and personal gains. Explorers of today seldom get in close with people and habitats they encounter. Rolf Blomberg was the true opposite of all that. He was a true adventurer, always with the boyish curiosity intact and alive. I admire and share that in my own travels around the world. As many Swedes in my age, I was born in 1967, and the generation before me, read Blomberg as a child. But it was mainly in these past 15 years or so that I truly understood what the persona of Rolf Blomberg consisted of. Or rather, I suspected he was more than his books and films. Now, after writing and researching his life in depth, I know that my hunch was right. His books and films where merely means to earn some money for further exploration of life. He loved life and, in his own way, helped to create a better world and understanding for what is important.
When did you decide you wanted to write about Blomberg?
I always have a couple of book titles in my head and some of them are about what you might call adventures and adventurers. But I never wanted to write a book just about an adventurer for his adventures. I wanted an intrigue, a personal story, life’s ups and downs. I found this in Rolf Blomberg. His adventures is more of a frame for a very interesting personal story. A man’s search for happiness, his search for a formula on how to live well and not to hurt others in the way. I think he was close, but, as he says, he payed a high price. Happiness doesn’t come for free or without sorrows. When Blomberg’s letters and diaries were presented to me in Ecuador I knew that I could write a book that is more than about adventures. I did my best and I’m happy with the result. I want to thank my life comrade Katarina Arvidson, she always believes in me and supports me in all possible ways. I am very fortunate to have met her and we are both into adventures and writing. Of course there would not have been a book without the kind support of Blomberg’s family. My publishers Richard Herold and Moa Elf Karlén were also essential for this project. They were amazing. My friend Jonas Cramby, art director genius, created a wonderful book cover. You can’t bring a project like this to harbor without people who believes in it.
Which part of researching about the life of Blomberg was the most personally interesting to you?
Reading his beautiful letters. With them I could follow him for decades. I could share his frustration, his happiness, his sorrows and obstacles in life. Without the letters, thanks to his daughter Marcela Blomberg, it would not have been a book. Sometimes I felt too close, too nosy. But that is the dilemma of writing a biography. On the other hand, a biography without that kind of naked closeness is not a real biography.
Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing? What was the most difficult part about this project?
As a writer you always have to deal with the presence of a self created pressure to write more than your best. Blocks, you might call it. But they passed quickly, they were nothing more than opportunities to reflect on the material, what to enclose and what to leave. Kill your darlings and there were many executed darlings in this project, believe me. The most difficult, painful thing was to feel Rolf Blomberg’s children longing for their father. They had their memories, but the person was gone. That was very sad and made me reflect more about my own life. The feeling that life is just a short sigh and then we are gone. Blomberg made the most of his life, seized the moments, and it turned out beautiful.
Of course, we want to talk about Atahualpa and the Lost Inca Gold. Blomberg, like many other explorers, tried to find this fabulous treasure. Do you know when was the first time he heard about this story and why he decided to go after.
For Rolf Blomberg the gold was just, really, an excuse for another adventure, to see something that very few get to see. The Llanganatis. I write about it in the chapter Lost in Llanganati. Over 2 000 tons of gold, just waiting to be found.
He heard about it in 1934, when he first arrived in the Oriente, the eastern provinces of Ecuador. But in 1947, when he returned to Ecuador, he got mesmerized by the legend of the Llanganati highlands. He studied the literature, old documents and became friends wit Erskine Loch and Brunner. Together with Luis Andrade Marin he made several expeditions, various in length, to the mountains. A land of false and broken hopes. But the POSSIBILITY intrigued him. Instead of gold he found frogs to bring home to museums in Sweden. You know that he found the New Worlds largest frog, a toad named Bufo blombergi, in Colombia?
What do we know about his expeditions in the Llanganatis?
I know a lot and have read his diaries. But the diaries does not give any clues to were to find gold. His expeditions to the Llanganati were mostly short and he was sick several times, just lying around the camp in fever and disbelief. The Llanganatis is hard work.
He tried six times to find the treasure and each of his six expeditions failed. Why so much interest? Why do you think he was so sure he could succeed where other had failed?
He was not, in contrary to what many people think, obsessed in the Inca gold. Not at all. Again, it was an excuse for an adventure and the mountains are spectacular, a very unique experience. But, you always have the POSSIBILITY to ”stumble” on some gold. Blomberg said that if he found it, he would give it to the rightful owners. The Indians. People shook their head, thought he was crazy, what kind of man would give away a treasure? Well, Rolf Blomberg was such a man and he believed in doing the right thing. He also knew that finding a treasure of such magnitude would probably not be all milk and hone. It can kill you.
Yourself, you’ve traveled to the Llanganatis with Franck Alte, a German explorer and archaeologist. Can you tell us more about your experience?
One of my best memories all time and Alte is phenomenal. Someone should write a book about him. No one knows the mountains like him and he was a true friend up there. I admire him very much.
35,000 photograph, 33 documentaries, 20 books, the legacy left by Blomberg is enormous. From your perspective, what makes his work so important today? What should we recognize him for?
His legacy to learn from is his humanism and understanding that life is sacred. Without people like Rolf Blomberg our world would be a much worse place than it is today. Go to the Galápagos and enjoy, but know that it is because of people like Rolf Blomberg.
Can we expect an English version of your book?
Absolutely, if someone wants to publish it. I would love to see a Spanish version too. But I lack contacts. Please visit www.rolfblomberg.se and write to me. I’m open for suggestions and believe that Rolf Blomberg is far more than a Swedish affair.
What advice might you have for aspiring explorers?
Keep your curiosity alive. And just do it. You don’t need expensive gear, just your curiosity.
Are you currently working on a new book? What’s next in Walter Repo’s life?
I have just returned from Sarek – the last wilderness in Europe and above the polar circle. Within a couple of days I’m off to Tanzania to be a naturalist guide for a week. Then there are mores stories to write for magazines. A new book is on my mind. It might be another biography, maybe set partly on Borneo. And I have received trustworthy reports that the mountains of Llanganati are still standing, so…
Walter Repo is a journalist and writer, based in Gothenburg, Sweden. His works has been published in various magazines, as Vanity Fair, Arena, Esquire, Café and BBC History in focus. He has received the Freelance Journalist of the Year award. He is a member of Travellers Club and enjoys exploration, big and small.
Buy the book:
Archaeologists working at Guatemala’s Xultun Mayan ruins have reported striking finds, including the oldest-known Mayan astronomical tables. A report in Science says it dates from the early 9th Century, pre-dating other Mayan calendars by centuries. The Xultun find is the first place that all of the cycles used by the Mayan calenders have been found tied mathematically together in one place, representing a calendar that stretches more than 7,000 years into the future. These findings serve to undermine the recently popularized claims that the Mayan calenders predicted the end of the world in 2012.
Tungurahua is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador, and is located about 140 km south of the capital city of Quito.
Tungurahua is a steep-sided stratovolcano that towers 3 km above its northern base. Tungurahua volcano has a complex historical record which includes sudden, violent eruptions. The volcano has a diameter of 14 km.
Historic volcanic activity has occurred at the summit vent, and has consisted of strombolian to vulcanian explosions, sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows,
lava flows and lahars.
A sector collapse 2995 years ago left a great amphitheater and avalanche deposit of 8 cu km which traveled a distance of 15 km. The current activity of the volcano has rebuilt the cone to about 50% of the pre collapse size. Between 1400 and 2300 years ago there were high rates of lava extrusion and pyroclastic flows.
During the past 1300 years eruptive episodes were generally once per century, and commenced with lapilli emission and pyroclastic flows, followed by lava flows or lava plug in the crater. This cycle was observed in the largest historic eruptions in 1773, 1886 and 1916-1918.
Increased actvity occurred at Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador on 26th April 2011. Ash emissions reached a height of 4 km above the crater. An orange alert was issued for the volcano, and residents were evacuated from areas close to the volcano. Activity increased at the volcano on 20th April 2011. There was a widening of the crater and gas emissions were over one thousand tonnes per day.
At 8:30 am on 4th December (local time) there was a rapid increase in seismic activity at Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador. Explosions sent ash 2 km above the crater. The sound of explosions were heard at Puyo. At 9:38 am local time, pyroclastic flows were observed on the western flank of the volcano. At 9:46 am pyroclastic flows descended Vazcún gorge. Windows rattled in Guadalupe, located 14 kilometres from the volcano, and in Patate. At 10:30 (local time) several pyroclastic flows continued to flow down several drainages on the western side of the volcano (Mandur, Choglontus, La Rea). At 1:30 pm pyroclastic flows continued down some drainages on the western side of the volcano. Ashfall was reported in Pondoa and Patate. This type of eruption was unexpected in the open vent system of the volcano. From 13:45 (local time), the eruption showed a decline in intensity. A constant emission column with moderate to high ash content, reached a height of about 3 kilometres above the crater and drifted east. A pyroclastic flow was generated at approximately 14h04 (local time) and traveled about 2 miles from the crater. Shallow seismic activity continued to decline in the afternoon. At 18:17 (local time), a loud explosion heard in several nearby villages.
Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador erupted on 28th May 2010, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people. The eruption plume rose 10 km above the crater. Ashfall was reported at the city of Guyaquil, 185 kilometers southwest of the volcano. Flights were disrupted at Guayaquil and Quito airports.
Eruptions continue at Tungurahua volcano in 2010. On 1st January as reach a height of 6 km. On 3-4 January incandescent lava was ejected from the crater.
Explosions occurred almost daily at Tungurahua volcano in June. On 23rd June, lava fountains occurred at the summit and blocks ejected from the crater rolled 1 km down the flanks. On 23rd June ash emissions reached a height of 7 km above sea level.
Eruptions in January 2008 forced the evacuation of 1000 people. Two large eruptions occurred on 6th February 2008 with ash to 47,000 ft altitude.
Eruptions continue in November 2008. Light ashfall was reported in Pillate (8 km W) and part of Riobamba (about 30 km S) on 4th November.
Phreatic eruptions began at Tungurahua volcano in August and September 1999. This was followed by magmatic activity which produced vulcanian and strombolian eruptions with ash emissions. The eruptions threatened the tourist town of Banos on the northern side of the volcano, and other villages in the area. Between October 1999 and October 2006, Tungurahua alternated between explosive periods, characterized by both Strombolian and Vulcanian activity, and relatively quiet intervals with weak steam and ash emissions or total quiescence.
On 16th February 1916 mild tremors were felt at Banos. Beginning the last week of February for 2 weeks there were underground noises heard at Tungurahua volcano. At 6am on 2nd March a large column of gas and ash was emitted, with incandescent bombs and lightning. A Formidable eruption began at 5:30 pm. Choking smell of sulphur, and a bridge was destroyed in the east. During the night explosions occurred every 2-3 minutes. Ash from this eruption reached the sea at Caráquez Bay. Complete darkness occurred on 6th February at 4pm. On 7th February a formidable eruption was preceded by a huge cannon explosion. Thousands of bombs were ejected and pyroclastic flows reached the lower part of the volcano. Activity continued until April 1916.
On 20th December 1917 pyroclastic flows, bombs and lightning, occurred for 36 consecutive hours. Explosions caused glass breakage. On 30th December 1917 at 5am a powerful explosion rattled doors and windows, and broke glass. Repeated cannon-like eruptions occurred at intervals of 5 to 8 minutes. During periods of clear weather, burning vegetation was observed.
At 18:30 hr on April 5 1918 a large eruption produced a 25 km high column. On 16th November 1918 a considerable column of ash and gas was emitted from Tungurahua volcano. Large pyroclastic flows were produced. The volcanic plume reached Quito, where fine ash fell. Small eruptions occurred up until 1925.
At 9:30 am on 11th January 1886 muffled thunder and prolonged eruption started. Column of gray smoke rose rapidly, with each eruption followed by another without interruption. The eruption column reached a height of 16 km. Volcanic storm produced thousands of lightning strikes, which persisted throughout the day and the following. Permanent underground noises. Lava flowed down NW flank. Pyroclastic flows descended several directions. By 3:30 pm darkness occurred at Puel. About 1 metre of ash was deposited at Cotala. Melting snow produced lahars which destroyed bridges atLligua, Rio Verde and Agoyán Chico. A lake was formed by damming the Patate and is about 6 km long by 300 m wide, and 30 m deep. Damage covered 25 miles around the volcano. On 25th February Tungurahua entered a period of activity much greater than before. Eruptions decreased on 3rd March and intermittent activity persisted until July 1886.
In 1773 an eruption of Tungurahua produced a large debris flow that descended the Vazcún valley, narrowly missing Baños. On 23rd April “belching fire, lightning, sand, dirt, ash, water and thick smoke” reported at the volcano. The eruption dammed Pastaza River. The eruption formed small hills called El Calvario and Panteón-barrer, and the lava flow of Juiví Grande. On 24th April Earthquakes and subterranean noises continued.
If you are travelling to Cusco, don’t miss this conference!
Paolo Greer is putting on one of his very popular talks “The Real Machu Picchu”. Never one to miss, in this talk, Paolo, an explorer from Alaska shines some light on the famous Machu Picchu citadel and its history. A somewhat controversial talk, depending on who you ask, it’s always good to know both or any sides of the story. This is the talk you don’t want to miss if you want to discover much more than is let on.
+ Date: Thursday, May 3rd at 7pm
+ Location: Centro Tinku, Calle Nueva Baja 560
+ Cost: Donations Welcome