Sometimes, I stumble across information completely at random. I’ll be beavering away, looking for facts about one thing, when, out of the blue, something will catch my attention, and I’ll be off, hurtling down a brand new avenue in my quest for information. Any kind of information will do.
I’ve been meaning to look into the Dodo. The long extinct bird made an appearance in my mind’s eye for some strange reason a few days ago, and it has been sitting in my search engine for a few days since. Luckily, with Firefox, when I close down my computer, and reopen it again, the same tabs that were closed are opened again. Very handy if I do say so myself, but I digress. Whenever I see these mind’s eye images, I make note of what I see, as they could lead me somewhere. Possibly to more confusion, but hey – why not?!
Tonight, I looked at the search results. I’m taking my 1642 Quest in a calm, although not very methodical, manner. I regularly find some snippet of information about the year, but not a lot that gives any kind of answer to the quest itself. Still, finding the information is entertaining.
So. The dodo. Sorry, where’s my respect? The Dodo. The Dodo was very much alive in 1642. Living only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, it was an odd-looking flightless bird, described, in 1634 by a Sir Thomas Herbert, as being as rare as the Arabian Phoenix. The first recorded mention of the Dodo dates to 1598, but by 1681 the species was extinct. Sailors needing food was the cause of this extinction, but nobody actually realised the bird was extinct until the nineteenth century. So, sadly, the time between discovery and extinction was less than a century.
I’ve found this painting on Wikipedia by Roelant Savery (1576 – 1639), from 1628, called ‘Landscape with Birds’, that features a Dodo (and a glimpse of the Seventeenth Century surroundings!):
Now. I hear you ask how can the fact that a Dodo being alive in 1642 be my link to the year… and I shall tell you!
Mauritius is an island just off Madagascar; and Madagascar is an island just off Africa. Madagascar was the home to another flightless bird, which too, is extinct today – also due to human intervention in the Seventeenth Century. This bird was the Elephant Bird.
The Elephant Birds were giants, almost twice the height of humans. They were linked to the mythological Roc, and also have links to the ostrich. They were also rarely seen by anyone from the western world.
One person, and quite possibly the only westerner to have written eye-witness accounts of these giant birds, was Étienne de Flacourt (1607-1660). Étienne was named Governor of Madagascar by the French East India Company in 1648, six years after the French claimed the island as a possession (yes, in 1642!). He returned to France in 1655, where he subsequently became director general of the company, but was soon to return to Madagascar one final time.
Étienne, and others, on board a ship were killed by pirates on his return journey home in 1660, so nobody had the chance to interview him to confirm if he had written about what he had seen, or had simply written about the local folktales that he could have heard.
Today, however, evidence that the birds existed can be easily found.
My link to 1642 this time is a strange one. Another coincidence through the years, if you like.
In my mind’s eye, I have a vision that occurs – or appears – to me every now and then, of a magnificent galleon (three ships, sometimes). I see the ship either sailing away, or coming into port, so I don’t think I’m on board, although I could be wrong – this part is quite vague. In a dream I had once of the ship, I heard the year 1642 mentioned, and that was where my quest began. I’m looking to see the significance of the ship, the year, why it keeps calling to me, and in this search I’m finding a lot of information for the period; but some of those links also relate to today.
When I was at school, I studied French for a couple of years. Not enough to really learn anything from it, although I think I can count to ten in French if I’m really pushed. All of the class were given French names, and we had to speak to each other, in our Broken-French, using these names.
My name was Étienne.