Thursday, March 29, 2012
This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.
Today, we tell about a famous natural place, the Grand Canyon. In late September, 1540, a group of Spanish explorers led by Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas came to a stop. For weeks they had walked north across the great southwestern American desert. The land was dry. The sun was hot. They were searching for seven golden cities that they had been told about. There was not much to see on this land, just the far-away line where the sky meets the ground.
A small, muddy river appeared to be flowing at the bottom. Captain Cardenas ordered three of his soldiers to climb down the side of the canyon to see if they could find a way to cross to the other side. The three climbed about one-third of the way down. They found that the canyon was much deeper than they thought, so they climbed back up
Captain Cardenas and his group turned back to the south. Today, history recognizes them as the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, formed by the Colorado River. They had reached a place that today is considered one of the most beautiful, strange, and interesting places in the world. European explorers did not return to the Grand Canyon for more than two centuries. Instead, native peoples continued to live there, as they had for hundreds, some of them for thousands of years.
During the 19th century, the population of the United States was expanding rapidly to the west. The Grand Canyon was considered a barrier to travelers. Only two places had been found where the river is low enough to cross.
As settlers moved west, the United States government wanted more information about western territories. Much of the Grand Canyon was unknown. The words "Unknown Territory" were written on maps that showed the area.
In May, 1869, Major John Wesley Powell and nine others began the first full exploration of the Colorado River. They put four wooden boats into the water at Green River Station in Wyoming. They began their trip to where the Green River joined the Colorado River. Major Powell wrote in his book that they were beginning "the trip down the Great Unknown".
Major Powell had served in the Union army during the American Civil War. He lost his right arm in a battle during the war. After the war he became a professor of geology at Illinois Wesleyan University. He also studied paleontology, the science of life existing in different periods of Earth's history. And he became expert in ethnology, the study of different cultures. He was the right person to explore the Grand Canyon. He was someone who could describe the geology of the area, as well as learn about the American Indians who had begun living in the canyon as many as 9,000 years ago. Several of those tribes still consider the Grand Canyon their home.The geology of the Grand Canyon is like a history of the formation of the Earth. During millions of years, water, ice, and wind formed the canyon. Although the Grand Canyon is in the middle of a desert, water plays an important part in the way the land looks. The sun shines bright and hot almost every day. It makes the soil hard. When rain does come, it cannot sink into the soil. Instead it flows to the Colorado River.
You can see in the sides of the Grand Canyon different kinds of rock at different levels. Each of the 18 levels was formed during a different period of Earth's history
The ancestor of the Colorado River began flowing about 70 million years ago. After it began flowing, volcano explosions and other natural events changed the river's path many times
About 17 million years ago, pressures deep in the Earth pushed up the land through which the river flowed. The river continued to flow through the area, cutting deeper into the rock
The Grand Canyon is 29 kilometers across at the widest place, and more than one and one-half kilometers deep. At the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where the river flows today, the rock is almost 2,000 million years old.
In 1869, not many people expected John Wesley Powell and his team of explorers to survive the trip through the Grand Canyon. No one had ever done it before.
Major Powell knew the trip would be dangerous. When the boats came near a rapid, he and his crew would stop. Sometimes they decided to go through by rowing the boats with their oars, as they did in calm water. At other times they carried the boats and all their equipment around dangerous rapids. Major Powell wrote every day in a book about what they did and saw. This is how he described the difficulties of one day:
One of Powell's boats
More than three months after starting, Major Powell and his group reached the end of the Grand Canyon. Three men had left the group earlier and were never seen again. Two of the men in the group continued down the river to the sea, becoming the first people known to have traveled the entire length of the Colorado River. Today, the Grand Canyon is in a national park. About five million people visit it each year. They stop at its edge and look in wonder at a place that can create great emotions in those seeing it. Others walk down the many paths into the canyon.
Some ride rubber boats down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. River guides are experts at taking the boats through the most violent rapids. This activity, called white-water rafting, is very popular.
The sound of the river is always present, sometimes loud, sometimes soft. After several days traveling on and sleeping near the river as it flows through the Grand Canyon, many visitors say they feel their cares and worries leave them. Their concerns are replaced by a feeling of wonder about the canyon and the powers of nature. This program was written by Oliver Chandler and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Shirley Griffith. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program in Special English on the Voice of America.
1. In the early Nineteenth Century, a label on a map where the Grand Canyon was located said "____________________".
2. "White Water" is ______________________________ .
3. Spanish explorers led by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas were looking for ___________________ .
4. The first European to see the Grand Canyon was __________________ .
5. ____________________ were most important for the development of the Grand Canyon over millions of years.
6. The different color rocks in Grand Canyon are caused by __________________ .
7. Ethnology is ________________________________ .
8. When John Wesley Powell began his trip down the Colorado River, he ____________________ .
9. After the Grand Canyon was discovered in 1540, _____________________.
10. The path of the Colorado River __________________________ .
Grand Canyon River Rafting Adventure from Youtube:
See more articles at The Explorations Index.