Time to Eat the Dogs

On Science, History, and Exploration

Archive for Mountains

The Escape from Civilization?

“The true spirit of the explorer is a primordial restlessness” wrote Robert Dunn in The Shameless Diary of an Explorer in 1907. Explorers were “men with the masks of civilization torn off.” This is an image of the explorer that has continued to resonate with us today: the go-it-alone explorer who seeks to escape the artifices and contrivances of modern life. Yet Dunn’s escape from civilization never took him so far away from the modern world that he would be unable to capitalize on his success back home. Dunn quickly published an account of his journey (in this case, a failed attempt to scale Denali) on his return. In this, Dunn is not exceptional but representative: all of the major 19th and 20th century explorers were deeply connected to the modern world, even as they spoke about their great urge to escape it.

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