French Mapping etc
November 2, 2006 6:23 PM   Subscribe

The Mapmaker's Wife tells the extraordinary story of Isabel Godin, the first woman to travel down the length of the Amazon. Her journey brought an end to the first scientific expedition to the New World, which was led by Charles Marie de La Condamine.
posted by dhruva (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Isabel Godin could be argued to be the first known non-aboriginal woman to travel the length of the river.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:45 PM on November 2, 2006

(Yes, Godin was Peruvian, and Peru borders the Amazon - I meant the indigineous tribes along the banks.)
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:47 PM on November 2, 2006

Sounds french.
posted by spock at 7:50 PM on November 2, 2006

The PC bitch in me sez , hey, dontcha mean the first white woman to document her journey down the length of the Amazon?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:47 PM on November 2, 2006

This is so not the point.
posted by dhruva at 9:02 PM on November 2, 2006

Isabel Godin was a refined woman of Spanish-French descent whose family belonged to colonial Peru’s upper class. -- River Journey: Thomasville couple helped writer undertake quest through remote Ecuador.

So not the point, though.

It might also help to mention that the time they spent on opposite ends of the continents was interrupted by the Seven Years' War. The Quito expedition took place in the same time period as French exploration of what would become the Midwest and Louisiana Territory.
posted by dhartung at 9:34 PM on November 2, 2006

Condamine's expedition to Ecuador to measure the true size of the earth is an amazing story, equal parts scientific determination and awful luck.

His group's work is memorialized by a big monument just north of Quito, complete with a red line on the ground to mark the equator. (Actually the true equator is said to run through a nearby hill, not where the line is.)
posted by gottabefunky at 9:46 PM on November 2, 2006

From dhartung's link:

"Godin was lost in the middle of what is now the Ecuadorian rain forest - a massive expanse of jungle thick with jaguars, venomous snakes, cannibals, extreme changes in weather and stinging, swarming insects."

Always with the cannibals. There's no evidence that the natives of the Bobonaza were cannibals.

On the plus side, The Mapmaker's Wife really is a good read.
posted by nomis at 2:09 AM on November 3, 2006

Thanks dhruva, that's a fucking amazing story, whether Isabelle Godin's voyage was the first by a woman, a white woman or a pterodactyl with groin itch and a penchant for belly dancing.
"..Godin agreed to send a friend who he provided with money and letters to help him bring his wife back. The ship began the eight months voyage up the Amazon. However, somewhere along the way, Godin's friend absconded with all the money, and the ship reached its destination and its men had to wait again for three more years!

On the other side, Isabela found out about it through rumors that were circulating around the country. She sent a servant off to investigate, but it was two years before he finally returned with confirmation of the rumor. It was 1769, and Isabela had now been separated from her husband for twenty years!"
posted by peacay at 2:46 AM on November 3, 2006

Who publishes first gets credit, and in the absence of any aboriginal claimants....

Actually, that's more of a question. Is it known whether anyone before her bothered to go the entire length? I can see the locals going along a few miles up or down river, but the entire length would seem pointless unless one were a nutty explorer.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:28 AM on November 3, 2006

A nutty explorer ... or one with groin itch and a penchant for belly dancing.
posted by Azaadistani at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2006

Actually, I would be surprised if there were natives who traveled the length of the river, typically they stayed in tribal territory and anyone found outside that would either be killed or made a slave - or if they were nomads they had a set region - I know in North America in the 16th century a 30-mile radius was a typical from birth to death (for non-nomads). When de Soto traveled down the Mississippi River he was attacked the entire way by war canoes as he drifted through various tribal regions - people just didn't go outside their territory that often and neighbors were either enemies or of the same tribe or confederation. Goods were traded from tribe to tribe. So to travel the entire length - as a woman- that would be a very unusual scenario - but whose to say it didn't happen.
posted by stbalbach at 2:40 PM on November 3, 2006

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