Now, that the tycoons are preparing to promote space tourism, it is worth remembering a real adventurer, of those who moved around the map without patronage. We are talking about Henry de Monfreid (1879-1974), the man who inspired fictional characters like Corto Maltese or Tintin himself.
Arms dealer, pearl fisherman, hashish smuggler, his life experience is recorded in his more than fifty books, most of them translated into Spanish. Without going any further, in The secrets of the Red SeaHenry de Monfreid tells us about the epic that led him to explore the shores of this coral sea that the Arabs call the sea of reeds.
With a crew of Somali sailors, Henry de Monfreid captained a boat built by himself; a sailboat that was on the verge of sinking repeatedly. Thanks to their stories, we learned that the hump of the hair is formed by a fat that, once melted, becomes an excellent remedy for all kinds of diseases, from hemorrhoids to fractures or headaches. It was on one of the islands in Asab Bay that he saw his hungry crew hunt a camel and then eat it. A primitive spectacle of struggle and need that Henry de Monfreid witnessed and that he tells us in detail. Among some things and others, he also tells us that, on that beach, the crickets hide under the sand and that they become as big as walnuts.
Perhaps one of the most interesting episodes is that of the pearl fishermen. Two men go in a rocking canoe, one paddles while the other goes with his head stuck in a box whose bottom is made of glass and which he immerses in the water, in this way he can inspect the depths in search of the pearl clamshell. When he sees one, he takes a dive, while the companion, armed with a long iron perch, becomes alert. Henry de Monfreid warns us of the dangers of this practice. To the sharks and carnivorous fish are added the giant shells, bivalves that remain ajar on the seabed. If a foot or hand is inadvertently inserted into its opening, the leaflets close until the bone is broken.
This giant clam, which many people knew in his day thanks to the adventures of Henry de Monfreid, responds to the scientific name of Tridacna gigas And, to get an idea, it can reach a meter and a half in length and more than three hundred kilos in weight. Their shells were used in churches as holy water basins, hence in some churches the basins have the same shape. It is a long-lived species with a life expectancy of more than one hundred years, and most of its life is spent eating, mainly plankton.
What happens is that reality has always been nourished by the imaginable, and Henry de Monfreid deceives us in such a way on his travels that we end up taking for truth matters more typical of legend than reality
However, when we learn today that there is no record that one of these mollusks has ever caught the limbs of a diver, and that its dangerousness is a myth, we were somewhat disappointed by Henry de Monfreid’s narration, as We suspect that most of the things he tells us are the product of his invention. What happens is that reality has always been nourished by the imaginable, and Henry de Monfreid deceives us in such a way on his travels that we end up taking for truth matters more typical of legend than reality.
Those were other times and tourism was still far away and, even more, the conquest of space. Globalization had not turned our planet into a theme park. So, no one dared to dream that one day direct flights to space would be marketed in which people would be disappointed not to have seen wrenches, or pieces of beef steak tracing ellipses around the ship, as happened to Ijon Tichy, interstellar traveler emerged from the imagination of the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006), who managed to make us travel without leaving the site.
The stone ax is a section where Montero Glez, with the will of prose, exercises his particular siege to scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.