"Fascinating Voids: Alexander von Humboldt and the Myth of Chimborazo"

Lubrich, Oliver (2012). "Fascinating Voids: Alexander von Humboldt and the Myth of Chimborazo". In: Ireton, Sean; Schaumann, Caroline (eds.) Heights of Reflection: Mountains in the German Imagination from the Middle Ages to the Twenty-First Century. Studies in German literature, linguistics and culture: Vol. 115 (pp. 153-175). Rochester: Camden House

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When Alexander von Humboldt reached the village of Calpi in the Andes on 22 June 1802, he was greeted with reverence and enthusiasm. Triumphal arches adorned with cotton, cloth, and silver decorated his path. The natives performed a dance in festive dress. A singer praised the explorer's expedition, which had departed three years earlier from the Spanish port of La Coruña. Like Odysseus on the isle of the Phaeacians, the traveler listened to a local rhapsodist singing about his heroic deeds. Before his adventure ended, it had already spun a popular myth.

This episode, which Humboldt recorded in his diary, occurred at a significant moment. One day later, the “Second Discoverer of America” rose to even greater fame on an excursion marking in more ways than one the climax of his enterprise. Humboldt set out to climb Chimborazo (6,310 m/20,702 ft.), the mountain then thought to be the highest in the world. He was accompanied by the French botanist Aimé Bonpland (1773–1858) and the Creole nobleman and future activist Carlos Montúfar (1780–1816), as well as native guides and assistants. They climbed to heights never reached before, setting a new record and catapulting Humboldt to fame on both continents.

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages

UniBE Contributor:

Lubrich, Oliver


400 Language > 430 German & related languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 830 German & related literatures


978-1-57113-502-5 (hbk.)


Studies in German literature, linguistics and culture


Camden House




Simone Gehr

Date Deposited:

10 Mar 2014 11:02

Last Modified:

22 May 2023 16:24





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