The 21st Century Goldrush for Oil Dorado
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Part1: Legends of El Dorado: From Man to City to Kingdom to Empire

Ahead of the February 14-17 Guyana Energy Conference and Expo, this four-part series follows the original search for Guyana gold five centuries ago that preceded the 21st Century oil rush that’s fueling the Cooperative Republic’s fortunes into a golden future!

ACCORDING to Wikipedia: The legends surrounding El Dorado changed over time from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom and finally to an empire, leading to age-old rumors that inspired several unsuccessful expeditions in the late 1500s, in search of a city called ‘Manoa’ on the shores of Lake Parime or Parima.

Two of the most famous expeditions were led by Sir Walter Raleigh and Spanish conquistadors and numerous others searched what is today Colombia and Venezuela, parts of Guyana and northern Brazil, for the city and its fabulous king.

During those explorations, much of northern South America, including the Amazon River, was mapped.

By the beginning of the 19th century, most people dismissed the existence of the city as a myth, but several literary works have used the name in their titles as “El Dorado” or “Eldorado”…
Raleigh’s 1595 journey with Antonio de Berrio had aimed to reach Lake Parime in the highlands of Guiana (the supposed location of El Dorado at the time), encouraged by the account of Juan Martinez (believed to be Juan Martin de Albujar, who had taken part in Pedro de Silva’s expedition of the area in 1570) only to fall into the hands of the Caribs of the Lower Orinoco.
Martinez claimed he was taken to the golden city – blindfolded — was entertained by the natives and then left the city and couldn’t remember how to return.

Raleigh had set many goals for his expedition and believed he had a genuine chance at finding the mythical city of gold.
First, he wanted to find El Dorado, which he suspected to be an actual Indian city named Manõa.

Second, he hoped to establish an English presence in the Southern Hemisphere that could compete with that of the Spanish.
Thirdly, he wanted to create an English settlement in the land called Guiana, to try to reduce commerce between the natives and Spaniards.

In 1596, Raleigh sent his lieutenant, Lawrence Kemys, back to Guiana in the area of the Orinoco River, to gather more information about the lake and the golden city.
During his exploration of the coast between the Amazon and the Orinoco, Kemys mapped the location of Amerindian tribes and prepared geographical, geological and botanical reports of the country.

Kemys described the coast of Guiana in detail in his Relation of the Second Voyage to Guiana (1596) and wrote that indigenous people of ‘Guiana’ travelled inland by canoe and land passages towards a large body of water on the shores of which he supposed was located Manoa, the Golden City of El Dorado.

Though Raleigh never found El Dorado, he was convinced that there was some fantastic city with riches to be discovered.
Finding gold on the riverbanks and in villages only strengthened his resolve and in 1617 he returned to the ‘New World’ on a second expedition, this time with Kemys and his son, Watt Raleigh, to continue his quest for El Dorado.

However, Raleigh, by now an old man, stayed behind in a camp in neighbouring Trinidad.
Watt Raleigh was killed in a battle with Spaniards and Kemys subsequently committed suicide.

Upon Raleigh’s return to England, King James ordered him to be beheaded for disobeying orders to avoid conflict with the Spanish and he was executed in 1618.
On 23 March 1609, Robert Harcourt, accompanied by his brother Michael and a company of adventurers, sailed for Guiana.

On 11 May, he arrived at the Oyapock River, where local people came on board and were disappointed at the absence of Sir Walter Raleigh after he had famously visited during his exploration of the area in 1595.

Harcourt gave them ‘aqua vitae’ [‘Water of Life’ or, in this case, alcoholic spirits] and took possession, in the king’s name, of a tract of land lying between the River Amazon and River Essequibo on August 14, where he left his brother and most of his company to colonise it, four days later sailing back to England.

In early 1611, Sir Thomas Roe, on a mission to the West Indies for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, sailed his 200-ton ship, the Lion’s Claw, some 320 kilometres (200 miles) up the Amazon, then took a party of canoes up the Waipoco (probably the Oyapock River) in search of Lake Parime, negotiating thirty-two rapids and travelling about 160 km (100 miles) before they ran out of food and had to turn back.

In 1627, North and Harcourt obtained letters patent under the great seal from Charles I, authorising them to form a company for “the Plantation of Guiana”, naming North as deputy governor of the settlement.

Short of funds, this expedition was fitted out, a plantation was established in 1627 and trade opened, by North’s endeavours.

In 1637-38, two monks, Acana and Fritz, undertook several journeys to the lands of the Manoas, indigenous peoples living in western Guiana (and what is now Roraima in northeastern Brazil) and although they found no evidence of El Dorado, their published accounts were intended to inspire further exploration.

In November 1739, Nicholas Horstman, a German surgeon commissioned by the Dutch Governor of Guiana, travelled up the Essequibo River accompanied by two Dutch soldiers and four Indian guides.

In April 1741, one of the Indian guides returned reporting that in 1740 Horstman had crossed over to the Rio Branco and descended it to its confluence with the Rio Negro, where he discovered Lake Amucu on the North Rupununi, but found neither gold, nor any evidence of a city.
(NEXT SUNDAY: The search for the elusive Golden City in Brazil and Venezuela)

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