Photo by Imarú Baquero
The word for tepui means "home of the gods" in the native tongue of the Pemon, the indigenous people who inhabit the Gran Sabana. Tepuis range in height from approximately 3000 to 10,000 feet and often are precarious or, as yet, impossible to explore.. They are what remains of a great prehistoric sandstone plateau, formed from the monadnocks that survived its collapse. In essence, they are pillar-mountains, and they are 115 in number, situated in the Guiana Highlands, mostly in Venezuela.
Biologically, these mountain towers are an oasis in time because they have been isolated from the rest of nature by their altitude. Much of the flora and fauna found on them is unique, and exists nowhere else on earth. For example, there is a frog that can neither hop nor swim, and which has opposable toes which help it cling to slippery rock surfaces. Tepuis seem often to have large numbers of carnivorous plants since these thrive in poor nutrient environments. Tepuis are home to the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, and the deepest quartzite cave. Some are covered in deep fog perpetually and have only been photographed with radar. Because of the extreme difficulty of making landfall, many tepui have never been explored.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The great Scottish author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose most well known works are the Sherlock Holmes series, was inspired by these wonders of nature to write his famous book, “The Lost World”. It is about the possibility of discovering an isolated remote area where prehistoric plants and animals, including dinosaurs, still exist. .The unexpected survival of ancient animals has been shown to be possible, in at least a few cases. For instance the coelacanth, a 6 foot long prehistoric fish, was thought to have been extinct for 70 million years, but has been caught by fisherman more than once, in South Africa in 1938 and in Sulawesi in 1988.
The Coelacanth is a very interesting fish and deserves special mention. It is the only living creature to have a fully functional intracranial joint, which is to say a division separating the ear and brain from the nasal organs and eye. This allows the front part of the head to be lifted when the fish is feeding. It also has paired fins which move in a similar fashion to our arms and legs. It appears to be able to detect electrical currents by means of an organ in its head. It is either blue or brown in color with speckles and has been videotaped recently. The Coelacanth has survived for some 360 million years.
We Europeans could learn a thing or two from this fish. Let us not only survive too but remain who we are as well, and never lose our spirit of exploration and adventure.
" In Earth and Skie and Sea Strange Thyngs ther be"
from "She" by H. Rider Haggard.