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!):
Landscape with Birds
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, butÉtienne de Flacourt 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.

28 Comments

  1. Very cool, Tom. I like where this Quest is going. I love the painting of the birds.

    On a completely unrelated note, have you read the books by Jasper Fforde, the Thursday Next series? They feature a dodo as a pet.

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    1. Thanks, Andra. I wish I knew where this quest is going, but I’m enjoying the journey anyway!
      As soon as I saw the painting, I had to include it into the post – I love the colours, and the Dodo looks equally at home and totally alien at the same time.
      I haven’t read the books, Andra (I haven’t actually heard of them or Jasper Fforde to be honest) but with both Cameron and you commenting about them, I’ll have to check them out. I’ll add a link to my Bookshelf for starters. 🙂

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    1. My quest has taken me all over the world, Prenin, but rather than giving me the answer that I seek – I instead get more questions. Still, it’s fun finding things out, and you never know – I’ll find the answer one day! 🙂
      I like the sound of Madagascar though…

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    1. Hi Cameron… I’m adding a link to Jasper Fforde in my Bookshelf as soon as I have time.
      I’m pleased you like the last line. I wanted to add a little ‘special effect’ with that one! 😀

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  2. Shiver! Great coincidence.

    ‘I’ve been meaning to look into the Dodo. ; Not a sentence I ever expected to read. Thanks for brightening my day.

    The Hub visited Madagascar and Mauritius. Never saw no birds’ remains.

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    1. All coincidences are great Tilly. This one was more outstanding, shall we say…!
      The remains have probably all been shipped off to museums around the world now… and I’m gradually getting the urge to visit Madagascar and Mauritius myself! 🙂

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    1. Hi Binky, I had heard of them a few years ago, but they suddenly lurched out of the ether again last night. They aren’t called Elephant Birds because of their size though. No, they’re called Elephant Birds because they could catch and kill an elephant.

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    1. I’m loving this quest, Alannah, but I have no idea where it will lead me. It seems that everything (almost) has some connection to 1642 or thereabouts (more proof that everything is connected…).
      I don’t know if I was Étienne back then, but maybe I knew him – or our paths crossed at some time. The name connection is a bit odd though (for want of a better word…)

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  3. Often we are led upon a trail of clues as to finding out about our past .. and it seems Tom that the jigsaw of pieces are slotting together… A wonderful blog of information which I was very Happy to learn… I knew nothing of a bird called the Elephant bird.. so thank you for educating me a little this evening Tom… And I hope the pieces keep falling into your lap and that they soon slot together.. ~Sue

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I’m always on the lookout for some kind of information linking to the year, but sometimes the information comes to me when I’m not looking. I think I’ll be finding a lot more questions before I start to come across any answers…

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