Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Mar 17, 2009 - History - 400 pages
78 Reviews

0n May 24, 1869, a one-armed Civil War veteran named John Wesley Powell and a ragtag band of nine mountain men embarked on the last great quest in the American West. No one had ever explored the fabled Grand Canyon; to adventurers of that era it was a region almost as mysterious as Atlantis -- and as perilous.

The ten men set out down the mighty Colorado River in wooden rowboats. Six survived. Drawing on rarely examined diaries and journals, Down the Great Unknown is the first book to tell the full, true story.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
22
4 stars
40
3 stars
14
2 stars
1
1 star
1

Review: Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon

User Review  - Linda - Goodreads

The lure of the unknown. Exciting read. Read full review

Review: Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon

User Review  - Connie Paddle - Goodreads

Really interesting book if you have ever been to the Grand Canyon. I am not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had never been there and could visualize the canyon walls and the rapids as they ... Read full review

Contents

THE CHALLENGE
1
THE LAUNCH
23
ASHLEY FALLS
37
PARADISE
53
SHILOH
69
HELLS HALF MILE
91
FIRE
105
HOAX
127
TO THE TAJ MAHAL
193
TIMES ABYSS
215
SOCKDOLAGER
239
MISERY
259
DELIVERANCE
275
Notes
293
Bibliography
341
Index
355

TRAPPED
147
OUTMATCHED
169

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 16 - The region last explored is, of course, altogether valueless. It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but to leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality.
Page 267 - ... perpendicular cliffs rise, one above another, to the summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above, with crags and angular projections on the walls, which, cut in many places by side canons, seem to be a vast wilderness of rocks.
Page 51 - Singing, or rather shouting, we dashed along; and were, I believe, in the midst of the chorus, when the boat struck a concealed rock immediately at the foot of a fall, which whirled her over in an instant. Three of my men could not swim, and my first feeling was to assist them, and save some of our effects; but a sharp concussion or two convinced me that I had not yet saved myself.
Page 293 - The river rolls by us in silent majesty; the quiet of the camp is sweet; our joy is almost ecstasy. We sit till long after midnight, talking of the Grand Canon, talking of home, but chiefly talking of the three men who left us.
Page 255 - We are three quarters of a mile in the depths of the earth, and the great river shrinks into insignificance as it dashes its angry waves against the walls and cliffs that rise to the world above; the waves are but puny ripples, and we but pigmies, running up and down the sands or lost among the boulders.
Page 293 - How beautiful the sky, how bright the sunshine, what "floods of delirious music" pour from the throats of birds, how sweet the fragrance of earth and tree and blossom! The first hour of convalescent freedom seems rich recompense for all pain and gloom and terror.
Page 236 - One might imagine that this was intended for the library of the gods; and it was. The shelves are not for books, but form the stony leaves of one great book. He who would read the language of the universe may dig out letters here and 25 COL there, and with them spell the words, and read, in a slow and imperfect way, but still so as to understand a little, the story of creation.
Page 282 - What a conflict of water and fire there must have been here! Just imagine a river of molten rock, running down into a river of melted snow. What a seething and boiling of the waters; what clouds of steam rolled into the heavens!
Page 298 - Your talk is good, and we believe what you say. We believe in Jacob, and look upon you as a father. When you are hungry, you may have our game. You may gather our sweet fruits. We will give you food when you come to our land. We will show you the springs, and you may drink; the water is good. We will be friends, and when you come we will be glad. We will tell the Indians who live on the other side of the great river that we have seen Ka'-pu-rats [Arm Off], and he is the Indians

References to this book

About the author (2009)

Edward Dolnick is the author of Down the Great Unknown, The Forger’s Spell, and the Edgar Award-winning The Rescue Artist. A former chief science writer at the Boston Globe, he lives with his wife near Washington, D.C.

Bibliographic information