Thursday, December 18, 2014

Benjamin Cluff Expedition Route & Distances

While Benjamin Cluff (1858-1948) was President of Brigham Young Academy, later BYU, he led an audacious group of explorers on a hemispheric quest to find the city of Zarahemla which they thought was on the west bank of the north-flowing Magdalena in the modern nation of Colombia. Leaving Provo in 1900 and returning in 1902, the group traveled to northern South America on horseback, on foot and in small boats.
The Cluff Expedition Leaving Provo in 1900
The size of the group gradually dwindled as sickness, waning enthusiasm and meager finances all took a toll.
The Cluff Expedition on the Trail in 1902
The data below comes from the journal of expedition member Heber Lorenzo Magleby (1874-1941), my great-great uncle.
Heber Lorenzo Magleby in 1896
The original autograph of Magleby's journal is in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections of the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. A typescript is in the J. Willard Marriott Library at the  U of U. Cluff and Magleby were among the stalwarts who made it the entire way from Utah to Colombia and back. The two of them later returned to Mexico and ran rubber plantations in Tabasco.

On February 17, 1901 the expedition left Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico and 67 days later on April 25, 1901 they arrived at Copan, Copan, Honduras. During this time they traveled 1,074 air kilometers in 22 legs of travel. They had 57 travel days and 10 rest or sight-seeing days during this period. Traversing much of the area we now identify as the Book of Mormon land southward, their journey helps establish a benchmark for pre-industrial travel rates in southern Mesoamerica.

Route of the Cluff Expedition through Southern Mexico and Guatemala
The northern legs of their route allowed them so see the impressive ruins of Palenque. These are the 22 legs of their travel.
Cluff Expedition Air (Straight Line) Distances Traveled
In the blog article "Land Southward Travel Times" we analyzed a number of pre-industrial journeys in southern Mesoamerica, the earliest dating from AD 378, in an attempt to deduce a likely value for the Nephite standard unit of distance measure "one day's travel." We concluded 15 air kilometers per day was a reasonable metric. The Cluff Expedition median of 16.70 and mean of 17.89 lend credibility to our derived value of 15 air kilometers per day.