Early Explorers in Canaima.

Early explorers of Canaima

Jimmie Angel (1899-1956)

The world’s tallest waterfall is named after American aviator-explorer James “Jimmie” Crawford Angel. Angel first saw the waterfall 18 November 1933 while flying solo in the Churún Canyon (also known as Devil’s Canyon) in the heart of the vast tabletop mesa known as Auyántepui. He remarked in his pilot’s log book, “FOUND MYSELF A WATERFALL.”

Pursuing the lost river of gold, Jimmie Angel had scouted the landing spot on Auyántepui from the air prior to the landing attempt on 9 October 1937. At first, the landing appeared to be perfect, but the wheels of El Rio Caroni broke through the sod and sank into mud bringing the airplane to an abrupt halt with a broken fuel line and its nose buried in the mud. No gold was found.

Soon after the waterfall was officially named Angel Falls in December 1939 by the Venezuelan government in honour of Jimmie Angel’s exploration of the Gran Sabana during the years 1933-1939. His ashes were scattered over the waterfall on 2 July 1960.

For more information: www.jimmieangel.org

Ruth Robertson (1905-1998)

In 1947, American photojournalist Ruth Robertson saw Angel Falls while flying in an unconverted C-47 in Churún Canyon (Devil’s Canyon). During that first flight, Robertson shot more than a dozen “Kodachromes” and resolved to enter the canyon on foot to photograph Angel Falls from below and to determine its exact height.

In May 1949 she led the first expedition (The Forgotten Expedition) inside the Churún Canyon. Her photographs as well as her account of the journey were published in National Geographic, November 1949, and the falls’ height announced to the world: the drop of 2,648 feet but a total of total 3,212 feet (979 meters).

May 12, 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of Ruth’s expedition to Angel Falls – feel free to read the recently published story written by Jorge Gonzalez, a board member of the Jimmie Angel Historical Project. https://wsimag.com/science-and-technology/54825-may-12-1949

For more information: www.ruthrobertson.org

Charlie Baughan (1901-1956)

Chris Baughan In 1947, another U.S bush pilot Charlie Baughan a native of Georgia and a good friend of Jimmie Angel’s discovered Canaima Lagoon and saw its potential to build a tourist camp there.

According to Ruth Robertson’s account of Charlie in her book “Churún Meru-The Tallest Angel” – “Charles Baughan probably remains best known for opening up Icabarú near the border between Venezuela and Brazil and for developing what is known as the Canaima resort at Hacha Falls and lagoon.

Icabarú was in deep jungle – some call it impenetrable, although underneath the deep green canopy of tall trees interwoven with lianas there are pathways where both Indians and miners tread softly through bug infested wilderness and around thousands of rock-strewn rivers, cataracts and waterfalls. These pathways – the main one called El Paseo de la Gran Sabana – were especially padded down along the banks of the Rio Caroni and its tributaries, for it was in this region that fabulous amounts of diamonds and gold were being found.”

He and his wife Mary died in a plane crash near Higuerote, Venezuela and was buried in his “dream resort” Canaima.

Aleksandrs Laime (1911-1994)

Also known as Alejandro Laime or Alexander Laime, he was a famous Latvian-born explorer. He is most noted for being the first recorded human to reach Angel Falls by foot and accompanied Ruth Robertson on her expedition.

He reportedly established, together with Charles Baughan, the tourist camp of Canaima, created solely for the purpose of bringing tourists to Angel Falls. Laime became quite a recluse and lived 3-4 years at different “camps” on top of Auyántepui, moving each year to a different location. His Pemón friends would bring food to him once every so often so he could survive.

Laime came down the Churún River on March 20, 1994, to stockpile food and supplies for a few weeks, as he often did. He spoke to the wife of Ramon Jimenez, asking for him. He complained to her about chest pains, and said that he knew the end was near.

He is reported as saying that he wanted to climb Auyántepui one last time, to die up there. He then went to the nearby Waku Lodge, for a drink. He died shortly thereafter in the bathroom of a heart attack.

Enjoy the documentary film of the life of Alejandro Laime it is in Spanish, some English and his native tongue, Latvian. Well worth watching.

For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksandrs_Laime