Zebras always entice us to look at their sleek bodies, and those stripes – all unique. My love of South Africa and how I am always drawn to the country of Africa and to history … led to this post.
Asbestos Mountains came to the fore when I was looking at the mineral asbestos for my post on Heather’s terrible condition (Mesothelioma) … and I noted the explorer whose name is linked to the Burchell Zebra.
|Fulham Palace entrance|
William John Burchell (1781 – 1863) was an English explorer, naturalist, traveller, artist and author … he was the son of a botanist, who owned Fulham Nursery adjacent to the gardens of the medieval Fulham Palace (the early residences of Bishops of London (11th C until 1975)) which still has an extensive botanical garden.
|Glasshouses in Fulham Palace Garden|
Burchell initially took up botany serving an apprenticeship at Kew – however love intervened, but ... he was sent off by his disapproving parents to St Helena … a long way to be exiled for love!
After arrival and some years, he took advice and set off to the Cape to add to his botanical collection, travelling in South Africa between 1810 and 1815, collecting over 50,000 specimens while exploring unknown tracts of land.
|Namibian stamp for a postcard in 2007|
featuring Burchell's Zebra
He also spent five years in Brazil between 1825 and 1830 – again collecting and recording everything of interest.
|Burchell's Coucal - a species|
His extensive African collections included plants, animal skins, skeletons, insects, seeds, bulbs and fish; the bulk of his plant specimens went to Kew, with the Brazilian insects to Oxford University Museum.
|Burchell's Bubalina - wild|
pomegranate image from Curtis's
Botanical magazine - first published
in 1787 and still going today
He was such a great observer, detailing the habit and habitat, as well as all his drawings and paintings as he went along – in 1819 he was questioned by Parliament about the suitability of South Africa for emigration … the 1820 Settlers followed a year later.
|Eciton Burchellii army ant from Brazil|
with the characteristically shaped
His journals and notebooks survive in Kew, those of his Brazil expedition are missing, as are his diaries relating to his later travels: a man of passion, patience, observation, scholarship and experimentation who was a natural Naturalist – a man trained with an inquiring mind … thank goodness for them and the early information they have left us.
Burchell’s Zebra is extant – the Quagga is extinct
The moose is extant - the Dodo is extinct
Extinct is dead as a Dodo!
|Burchelll's drawing of the Asbestos Mountains|
Extant, per the Oxford Dictionaries, means it is still in existence, surviving, not necessarily alive … Neontology is the study of extant taxa – where species, genera and families, whose members are still alive, such as Burchell’s Zebra and the Moose.
|Descending from the Sneeuberge, Graaff-Reinet|
painted by Burchell (1812)
This post could have got more convoluted as I found other interesting links … but we can find subjects to post about all over the place …
|The wagon commissioned by|
Burchell for his expeditions
So I hope you enjoyed travelling along the dotted path to South Africa, from Fulham, via St Helena, then on to Brazil and back to the archives at Kew and Oxford …
… all arising from the Asbestos Mountains found by the Botanist William Burchell – who had these wonderful creatures named after him.
In the comments I've been asked about 'extant' ... and perhaps this Chicago Tribune article explains it for anyone interested:
Scientists hope to resurrect long-extinct cousin to the zebra
In the comments I've been asked about 'extant' ... and perhaps this Chicago Tribune article explains it for anyone interested:
Scientists hope to resurrect long-extinct cousin to the zebra
Heather von St James, who is raising awareness of the disease she suffers from - please read:
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories.
20 years with mesothelioma is a very long time. Sad that another cancer took him out.
I am always awed by those early explorers and travellers - particularly some of the women. They did incredible work under often less than ideal circumstances.
Thank you for taking us down some of the alley's that research opened up for you.
Interesting! I confess I'd not heard of him before so my week has started in an educational fashion!
Anabel's Travel Blog
Adventures of a retired librarian
I wasn't aware of William Burchell...interesting! He sounds, as you say, like a great observer. Somehow I'm not familiar with the word "extant," either. Very educational morning, thanks!
Asbestos sure is a sneaky devil. Having lived for 20 years with Mesothelioma is indeed a wonderful feat. Thank you for always providing us with entertaining stories and info.
I enjoy reading about people who do such complete research. When I taught I found I liked my summer research just as well, if not better.
I didn't know about this man. Sad when journals or diaries go missing. Sounds like he was super interesting and a good artist.
Very interesting, Hilary. I share your love of South Africa since I went a few years ago. At one of the places we stayed, zebras were just lounging about outside the hotel as you walked around. I've never heard of this man either. Educational post. Love that.
All my life I wished I could draw and paint like these people.
So much interesting wild life. I ran across a series of pictures on facebook recently though, that gave critters funny names, so I see a zebra and am thinking "prison pony".
Yet again you have introduced me to things and people I never knew. Well done, Hilary. Burchill sounds like a fascinating man.
Burchell's name should be as well known as Darwin's! What an amazing adventurer, naturalist.
@ EC - it does appear that 20 years with Mesothelioma is a very long time and Gould was very unfortunate to contract the other cancer.
Aren't the early explorers and travellers - quite extraordinary ... particularly the women, who were exceptionally brave and of stalwart character. Glad you enjoyed my branch of research ...
@ Annabel - well I hadn't heard of him either - so I educated me first and then you!! It's interesting though ...
@ Elizabeth - many of these people were multi-talented ... and I love the way they researched and noted all the tiny differences along their journeys.
Once I found "extant" ... I felt I had to put it in - particularly with Gould having Mesolethemia, yet living with it for so many years - but knew I needed to explain it in simple terms ... hope I did that?!
@ Murees - yes you would know the Asbestos Mountain area - finding all the links was fun - though sad, the way it's come about with Heather having the disease: but we are more aware.
@ Steve - those early explorers were extraordinary in the research they did .. I find them fascinating. I certainly skirt the surface of the subjects I'm looking at - but try and bring the whole together that makes a reasonably erudite read, with some fun ideas built in ...
@ Teresa - I think he's fairly unknown - but when you start looking it's amazing what we find out. Very sad, when such detailed journals and diaries get lost along the way. He does sound super interesting doesn't he .. and I too loved that black and white drawing of the Asbestos Mountain ...
@ Karen - yes I remember how smitten you were with South Africa - it's a joy to know you share my love of it. They are quite extraordinary creatures - so sleek, so skittish at times, but so delightful to watch. Glad you enjoyed the learning part - thanks.
@ Beste - oh so would I .. and I wish I could be as thorough as they are ... my mind is a darting thought process - never still!
@ Hart - thanks ... the African wildlife is so much fun. Oh yes I see the connection - prison pony .... and I can see the kids would be totally amused by the names ...
@ Ros - that's me! I think I irritate everyone I know because of my snippets of Hilary knowledge! But I'm happy to know you're happy finding out about him ...
Cheers to you all - I'm glad Burchell is proving a good subject - he was fun to find ... Hilary
Great story -- although it would have been satisfying if he came back and married the woman his parents sent him away from. Too bad. :)
Hilary, I always learn so much from your post. I so enjoyed the journey today and getting to know a bit about William Burchell.
I knew about William Burchell and the zebra but I did not know anything else about him. Thanks for the information,interesting as always. Have a good week Diane
I've got to admire anyone in these sciences. I don't know that I'd have the patience for such things. Botany is definitely one of my weak points.
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out
It must have been a fascinating time to be a botanist/explorer type person. So much to discover at every turn.
An interesting trail indeed. I have learnt a lot here today. I must say the zebra is a very handsome looking creature.
Wow, he was a very busy man to have so many animals named after him and to have traveled so much to discover so many things.
That cuckoo bird is just adorable. He had that disease for such a long time. I hope he didn't suffer the entire time. I hope he was able to draw and explore at least a bit.
What a life of adventure and study those men lived. I guess you would have to go to space to get something new named after you in this day and age.
I've never heard of William Burchell, so you gave me a nice history lesson. Who knew botany could lead to so much adventure and travelling?
That picture of a cuckoo is cute!
I'd never heard of Burchell either, Hilary. So interesting that it was following his report that the 1820 settlers went to SA. His artistic talent was as great as his scientific observations and knowledge. Fantastic! Thank you for this. We share that love of South Africa!
What a wonderful post, Hilary. Explorers have always had a special place in my heart... I'm honest enough with myself to be pretty sure I couldn't do it, but I've always admired them, these men (and women) whose curiosity knew no bounds — and neither did their fearlessness. Amazing people. They've truly shaped the world.
Thanks for this, Hilary!
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter
Fascinating adventure to study today and yes we are very lucky for those brave early explorers and artists who let us in on the larger world. Thank you for sharing.
I am attempting to figure out how to change my email address for your blog as that old address is no longer working? Will persevere
That's really sad that his zebra is now extinct.
What an interesting life! I'm always in awe of those who observe and keep meticulous records. They leave us so much to build on in the future.
It's amazing how one bit of research can lead to another and another - perhaps echoing Burchell's own studies?
Interesting you say the Zebra's stripes encourage us to look at them. You're right, yet they've been developed to help camouflage the creatires which they seem to do rather well in the right conditions.
Research can sure take a convoluted path. I get lost in it sometimes. Burchell lived such an exciting life. Yep, good thing there are innovative thinkers out there.
I can see postage stamps from these pics. This is a great way to honor the man and his work.
Came across Burchell's zebra whilst doing my A to Z post. Interesting life he had. Did he ever marry I wonder.
Did you happen to recall it's a Dazzle of Zebras. I love that description.
It's always sad to think that some animals are extinct. If we knew then what we know now... Oh well, thankful efforts are being made to prevent the same happening in the future. Have a great week!
Burchell was a name I knew but didn't know anything about the man. How great to get to follow your passion and leave so much for society. Thanks for sharing your research and helping me learn something in a fun interesting way.
@ Dianne - yes we could dream more into his life - but sadly his love life wasn't happy - eventually he committed suicide: why I don't know.
@ Mason - thanks it's good to know you enjoy being here and learnt something.
@ Diane - I thought you might know about Burchell and his zebras ... just that link over looking for the Asbestos Mountain, and at Burchell's line drawing of them ... it's certainly brought him and them to life for me.
@ Lee - yes the scientists are thorough recorders of their observations, they are also so often talented in other ways. You say you are weak - yet you had all those wonderful insects as a kid ... an entomologist in the making.
@ Annalisa - everything would have been new - I don't know if I'd have not been overwhelmed by it all ... they had major disappointments too, and I suspect not often recognised for their achievements - until someone could get a whole picture.
@ Suzanne - yes it was a fascinating set of links. The zebra and your unicorn would go well together! They are beautiful animals ...
@ Jean - yes you've raised an interesting point ... I wonder what he was feeling and how he adjusted ... seems to have just got on with yet - but later on committed suicide ... perhaps he was seriously ill. I'd half thought about his mental attitude ... he probably suffered that way.
@ Elsie - yes I love the cuckoo bird (coucal) - I had to put the photo in.
Gould had the disease - he was a highly respected palaeontologist of our generation ... sad he died so young and in the end not of the disease, but of another cancer.
@ Susan - their name will live on in history for many a century ... but they are still finding new things or re-categorising them ... working out there are different types: evolution continues on Space sounds like a good option ... but then it's probably a team effort now ...
@ Chrys - thanks .. I thought many wouldn't have heard of Burchell. Back then they were still in the age of exploration - early botany ... lots of observing and trying to work out how life began etc
I love the cuckoo ... he is special and fluffy!
Cheers to you all .. and thanks so much for commenting - glad the history lesson proved a happy read - Hilary
@ Val - I thought you'd have known about Burchell and his zebra, it was one of many things I absorbed about SA and the zebra. It was interesting about the 1820 settlers ... the Georgians were still looking for lands to explore and take over: I hadn't realised Burchell as to a point instrumental in their settlement. Their attention to detail as they travelled with all their paraphernalia is extraordinary ... and we are so lucky to have it. We do share a love of South Africa.
@ Guilie - so glad you enjoyed it. I'm absolutely certain I'm happier being born in the last century and living today - those conditions would have been terrible - still I guess I'd have got on with it. I just enjoy learning about all they found out ... and as you say whose curiosity knew no bounds - nor their fearlessness ... they did shape the world - you're right there. Thanks Guilie
@ Patricia - it is interesting to learn of those early explorers exploits and how they travelled etc Glad you enjoyed it. I've emailed you re your other comment.
@ Alex - I think it is one of the species they are trying to bring back to life .. it is an extant species .. so they have the DNA/gene pool details and can perhaps give life again. If we lose all the diversity - we'll be so much worse off - the earth will lose much.
@ Lee - yes their meticulous detail is quite extraordinary ... and how they focus on their subjects or areas ... now we're catching up and realising what a wealth of material they did leave us.
@ Patsy - my 'research' is superficial but I do enjoy finding the links and the education they give me. I'd have loved to have the meticulousness of those early scientists: sadly I don't fall into that category.
The stripes all blend into one ... and so their predators are not sure which is what etc ... and as herds they are safer - numbers help. It's interesting to learn how animals adapt against predators ...
@ Donna - you're right .. research can take us off in all directions - I try not to get distracted! Poor Burchell ... I think it was a sad life - sent away from love the first time, and then jilted the next time ... We needed those early innovative thinkers ...
@ Stephen - stamps are great propaganda tools, and are used often by countries promoting their own diversity of life.
@ Jo - yes I bet Burchell's zebra appeared as a possibility for a letter in the A-Z. Sadly the next time he was jilted. Ultimately he committed suicide - not sure why - but he was in his 70s by then ... perhaps disillusioned by life ... sadly there's no mention (that I could obviously find). I love the collective names .. and Dazzle is very appropriate isn't it.
@ Karen - I'm not sure we'd protect things now ... we are not the best race now at caring for the natural environment: we are losing masses of species. Look at the elephants ... and many others. Greed rules I'm afraid ... but we are making efforts ... the diaspora of life doesn't help in places.
@ Kat - delighted you enjoyed finding out who Burchell was and his legacy ... he certainly was an interesting early eaxplorer - good to see you.
Cheers to you all - thanks for visiting ... and I enjoyed all your comments - Hilary
Extinct is still existing but not alive? I wonder how that works? perhaps it's like Jurassic Park where the right science could bring it back to life.
I'm gonna be straight with you. Watching how your mind works and riding your train of thought is a bit of a trip.
Wow...what an interesting life...talented man who persevered! Love the painting with the mountains.
What an amazing life he had! It's incredible that scientists are working on a way to bring Burchell's extant zebra back to life! Very sad about Mesothelioma.
@ Diane - Extinct is dead as a Dodo - dead and gone. Extant means that it is possible to extract some DNA from old tissue and thus scientists are trying to bring back the Quagga to life - the Plains Zebra have some Burchell zebra in them.
The Quagga could become extant ....
See this Chicago Times article from 2001 - which gives a more thorough note on the hows etc:
Exactly as you mention ... the right science can go towards something similar. I've emailed you too. It's complicated though!!
@ Robert - good to see you over here from commenting on Roland's site. Yes I guess my mind could be described that way ... I enjoy learning, but am aware that each post needs to have interesting content - so blogging friends come back for more.
@ Betsy - those early explorers, or scientists who were passionate and spent time recording and collecting, but who were also talented in other ways ... they certainly persevered. I'm glad you appreciate the black and white art work of the Asbestos Mountains ... it's very evocative isn't it.
@ Julie - bringing animals back to life is a slow process ... as the article I've now included shows ... but science is amazing.
Yes Mesothelioma is a disease we would find difficult to comprehend - I feel for Heather and her family.
Thanks everyone - so good to see you ... and I hope I've now answered the 'extant' aspect ... cheers Hilary
Your discovery of Burchell is what one of friends calls "going down a rabbit hole" - when one thing leads to another. An amazing life and so sad about that disease.
I fell in love with South Africa years ago when I spent 3 weeks backpacking along the garden route.... so beautiful. Love the pictures and especially the army ant! I've missed your posts!
And you say you don't research? Ha! One of the reasons I love your blog is your knowledge of things, how you get one interested in subjects not thought of before. You get my mind questioning in a wonderful way!
Totally fascinating. I do love the zebra myself, but that ant picture is a wee creepy!
@ Lynn - I knew about Burchell's zebra having lived in SA .. but I didn't know about Burchell himself: so that connection wasn't that difficult. Yes Heather's disease is really sad - Mesolethemia ... really very unpleasant.
@ Elise - it is an amazing place isn't it ... so beautiful. I had to post the cuckoo - he looked so pretty ... and then the ant - just needed to be included. Thanks for the support, and good to see you around again.
@ Lisa - not really as per a researcher .. but I do love putting things together and weaving ideas into each post - and am so glad you get pulled in to think about these things too. That's great to know.
@ Holly - the zebra is a delight .. but the ant lives his life too ... and we need some creepy crawlies ... keep us up to the mark ..
Cheers to you all - thanks and I'm so glad I send you off to think of other things! Hilary
Cool information and pictures/photos.
Kew Gardens - I've always meant to visit, but keep forgetting to go when I'm in London. I was especially interested when the Titan Arum was in bloom. Yes, I'm odd. But I did write a poem on it and was lucky enough to catch another Titan Arum in bloom in Wisconsin. What are the odds? Both poem and photos on my blog.
Then we have the Dodo, as mentioned in your blog post. My favourite extinct animal, outside of dinosaurs. Another inspiration for another poem posted to my blog. Yes, I know. I blog and write poetry about a lot of odd things.
This has very little to do with your post, but I kept seeing zebras, and all I could think is, "Disney World recently added Zebras." Yay for zebras!
What adventures he had because he loved wrong! His little drawings are neat. I quite like them.
I think I have jet lag from the travels in this post. But it was worth it and very fun. Who knew? Quite the research and info. Thanks
The world seems a small place until I think about all the places I want to see. So much beauty in South Africa, except maybe for the ants. Hi Hilary. Hope you're doing well.
Asbestos Mountains...I didn't know there was such a place. Does asbestos grow there? I always thought, assumed really, that asbestos was a man made product. So sorry about your friend.
@ Jeffrey - thanks and I do hope you can get down to Kew at some stage. When the two Titan Arums did flower in 2009 - there were masses of people visiting - they caused a stir and a stench.
As it's National Poetry Day here in the UK - I'll check in on your Titan Arum poem and the Dodo one ... the Dodo seems to fascinate many a kid around the world, let alone us adults.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
@ Crystal - that's all right .. they are such pretty creatures. I presume you mean that Disney added zebras into their parkland .. and definitely yay for zebras.
@ Mary - poor William .. being sent off to such far away islands - sad for him. He must have been a talented artist - the drawings are delightful aren't they.
@ Joanne - sorry: we did travel south a long way and around the Atlantic Ocean ... so glad you enjoyed the posting.
@ Joylene - we can reach so many areas of the world and South Africa is a place worth visiting - we get ants in SA, those this soldier ant is from Brazil. I'm well - thank you.
@ Nancy - good to see you .. I think they're called asbestos mountains as they are formed out of the mineral. Asbestos is formed naturally from fibrous silicate minerals ... and because it is resistant to fire, heat, electrical and chemical damage it has for over 4,000 years been used with other materials to be formed into sheets/mats for use in many industries.
Heather lives in the States and has been bringing the extremely nasty side-effects of Mesothelioma, obtained by breathing in these fibres ... usually without being aware ... which is what happened to her - see my recent post.
Thanks so much - so pleased you enjoyed seeing where Burchell journeyed and one or two of his findings two hundred years ago - cheers Hilary
How interesting and fascinating. I did not know about Burchells zebras. Beautiful animals they are, aren't they?
Greetings from London.
What an interesting journey Hilary. I knew about Burchell's zebras, but not about Burchell himself. Nice to have a man to go with the stripes. :-)
I did enjoy the post. And I love that he spent such a significant amount of time in Brazil. I bet it colored so many things that he did, how could it not? Great pictures too, Hillary!
I did enjoy traveling along on this post! And I learned a new word as I've never heard of extant before. Interesting. Amazing to learn about people like Burchell. The spirit of adventure they must have had to travel so extensively in those times.
What an interesting man and traveler ! It's strange that he was almost at the same time in St. Helena than Napoleon !
Hilary, thank you for the wonderful stories and information. I had never heard of Burchell who was surely an adventurer ahead of his time!
Thanks for visiting my blog!!!
@ ACIL - thanks so much .. glad you enjoyed the post and yes zebras are stunningly beautiful.
@ Deborah - it was fascinating to write up ... and I was pleased to find out about Burchell himself and his stripes!
@ Rosey - that's great ... so happy you enjoyed the post - and sadly we don't know much more about his journeys in Brazil - but it makes a change from the African explorers ... I wonder how much or what he influenced - his life doesn't seem to be too happy - with his love affairs and ultimate suicide - perhaps he had a dreadful disease, which caused that decision.
@ Julie - delighted you enjoyed travelling with us. Extant - was an interesting find .. and I felt I really needed to highlight it. I just can't think of travelling in those days ... so much time was needed - but they kept themselves fully occupied.
@ Gattina - yes he certainly had an interest in botany and was obviously very naturally talented - as an artist and painter. Interesting to think about the Napoleon link ...
@ Monti - pleasure to visit your blog. Glad you enjoyed the stories and particularly of Burchell and his travels ..
Thanks to you six - great to see all your comments - cheers Hilary
I absolutely loved traveling along, Hilary. Your images and words took me places far, far away from where I'm sitting typing this massage. I am in awe of people like Burchell who follow their passion and do so much good for nature and other species, get to spend time surrounded by all the natural beauty in the world. Too bad, though, those species are extinct, at least we have his studies. And so wonderful that you did a post on Heather. I did one on her last year. Amazing survival story indeed.
he must have led a very interesting life.
@ Silvia - thanks so much and thank goodness for the net as we can immediately visualise (to some degree) where he went and what he saw and I can remember my time in Africa! We can learn so much for the 'old' records and all the musty specimens so carefully kept in dungeon museum stores.
I was pleased to help Heather - and am glad my posting has helped with the awareness Heather and other sufferers need for their Mesothelioma ... we need more greater understanding of these terrible diseases.
@ Theresa - thanks .. he does seem to have made his life worth living doesn't he ...
Cheers to you both - Hilary
Hope you're well! *waving*
I've been trying to get some writing done, hence the silence...
Burchell's an extraordinary man.
The zebras are magnificent, aren't they?
A group is referred to as a dazzle or a zeal of zebras.
It's wonderful when you showcase Africa in your posts, and you do it with such flair!
Hi Michelle - good to see you ... and hope the writing is coming along successfully. I was pleased to write about Burchell, especially as I knew the connection with zebra - he must have been very observant.
I love their collective names ... dazzle or zeal - suits them down to the ground.
Thanks for your thoughts on my posts re Africa - I do love the country and still have lots of contacts there, as too blogging friends now!!
Cheers and great to see you here - Hilary
So fascinating! Now I'll have to see whether Burchell corresponded with Alfred Russel Wallace...
Hi Deniz - well I hope you'll come back and put a comment up ... if Burchell corresponded with Wallace. I need to spend time in the Wallace Collection - I've been in there for small niche exhibitions ... which are brilliant .. but must check what else is on offer.
Ah, what a man! And what a great post Hilary thank you! I love the Zebra and the Burchell's cuckoo's sound ...if I'm not mistaken it presages rain - but truly I'm not sure of that ,..
Hi Susan - yes he was an interesting man and I was delighted to have the opportunity to write about him - fascinating history and links. The Coucal just amused me .. I had to put the photo up.
You're right about the presage for rain ... per Wiki:
According to popular Southern African lore, this species' distinctive call, which resembles water pouring from a bottle, is said to signal impending rainfall, earning the bird the affectionate moniker 'rainbird'.
Thanks for adding to the posting ... cheers Hilary
Post a Comment