In 1949, an expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the first ever to reach Angel's Fall on foot, measured its height at 3,212 feet (979 meters.)

Page 3


La Gran Sabana
of Venezuela
"The Lost World"
By Fernando Santos
Click images to enlarge

Exploration of the region began in the mid-nineteenth century, when Richard Schomburgk and Theodor Koch-Grünberg travelled widely and reported their findings in Europe. These reports led to conquering the summit of Roraima Tepuy, which is the natural border between Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. Everard Im Thurn and Harry Perkins achieved this in December of 1884, sponsored by The Royal Geographical Society of London. During the lectures by Everard Im Thurn at The Royal Geographical Society, Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by the stories of tepuis and prehistory to write his classic and bestseller "The Lost World" in 1912.

The next race for exploring and conquering the most famous tepuy, the Auyantepuy ("Devil's Mountain"), and the highest waterfall on earth, Churu Merun ("Angel's Fall") was the obsession of one man looking for a stream of gold. Born on 1 August, 1899, in Cedar Valley, near Springfield, Missouri, and was named James Crawford (Jimmie) Angel. ***He encompassed the thirst for adventure and dreams of many during his lifetime. He travelled through places that most people would not even dream of seeing.

A semi-fabled personality, John McCracken, an old prospector, met and hired Jimmie in Panama City in 1921 to take him to a stream of gold. This stream of gold was located on a tepuy in the Gran Sabana area of Venezuela. McCracken paid Jimmie $3,000 to fly him to a secret location, which McCracken had supposedly discovered some time before, and made Jimmie promise never to reveal the location of the site or to return to it alone.

Flying deep into the Venezuelan jungle, McCracken directed Jimmie to follow different routes, trying to confuse him as to the location, then landing on the top of a tepuy beside a stream. At this location, McCracken is said to have gone alone and picked up the gold. Once back in Panama, McCracken supposedly sold the gold and returned back to his home in Denver, Colorado.

When he felt the end of his life was approaching, McCracken telegraphed Jimmie and asked him to come to see him at his house. He told Jimmie, "The mountain is all yours now," but, through unknown circumstances, was unable to give Jimmie the precise location of the river of gold. This meeting released Jimmie from his secrecy pledge to McCracken, so he then began looking for the place on his own.

Back in Venezuela in 1935 and during one of his flights searching for his stream of gold, he landed in the Kamarata Valley, and on 25 March, 1935, he discovered a canyon, the Auyantepui Canyon, known as the Cañón del Diablo (The Devil's Canyon). While flying around a mountain, Jimmie saw the mists of a waterfall which cascaded down the walls into the jungle many, many feet below; Jimmie later said: "I saw a waterfall that almost made me lose control of the plane. The cascade came from the Sky!" He had never seen or heard of such a magnificent and tall waterfall.

Jimmie's obsession with gold made him somewhat careless and, on 9 October, 1937, he crashed his plane.attempting a landing on top of the Auyantepuy. Experts on the region have expressed that it would be impossible to land an airplane on top of the Auyantepuy, due to the lack of a suitable place, raising serious doubts as to whether the first landing that Jimmie said he made with McCracken really ever took place.

James Crawford Angel died in Panama City on 8 December, 1956 after several months in a coma due to airplane accident. Following his will, his body was cremated and his ashes were to be strewn over the Auyantepui, done by Jimmie's widow in July 1980.

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Profile - Fernando Santos

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