The Mapa Cor-de-rosa: A Portuguese Empire That Never Was

This trans-African colony could have rivalled Brazil for dominance of the Portuguese-speaking world.

The Mapa Cor-de-rosa: A Portuguese Empire That Never Was

Philip K. Dick never found the source of the mysterious messages he received during his ‘mystic episode’ in early 1974. The science fiction writer had a few theories, though: Soviet scientists experimenting with psychotronics, the Rosicrucians [1], an alien satellite, even an entity called the Portuguese States of America. That putative nation, possibly similar to the US but with a Portuguese instead of an English root, had Dick obsessed with the possibility of parallel universes [2].


In one of those parallel universes, there exists a country called the Portuguese States of Africa, spanning southern Africa from its Atlantic coast all the way to the Indian Ocean. This country, a transcontinental Lusophone [3] giant perhaps to rival Brazil, is based on more evidence in this world than PKD’s possibly merely psychotic visions. It was envisaged in this Mapa Cor-de-rosa (the ‘Pink Map’). 

The original Mapa Cor-de-rosa, showing an unbroken chain of Portuguese territory from the Angolan to the Mozambican coasts (image found here at Nos e a historia, a Portuguese history blog).

The original version of the Pink Map was drawn up in 1886. Those were the early days of the Scramble for Africa. By 1913, no more than seven European powers [4] held colonial sway over almost all of Africa. Only two states remained independent: Liberia, founded in the early 19th century as a refuge for freed American slaves in the west; and the ancient empire of Abyssinia (nowadays known as Ethiopia) in the east.

In the intervening years, the colonial ambitions of Portugal and Britain clashed in the southern interior of Africa. The British master plan for a string of colonies from ‘Cape to Cairo’ finally compelled the Portuguese to venture inland from Angola and Mozambique, coastal colonies they’d held for centuries, and unite them into a grand Afro-Portuguese empire.

Lisbon sent out explorers into the projected interior of its future mega-colony. That the names Capelo, Ivens and Serpa Pinto don’t ring out like the one of their British rival Livingstone is no comment on their achievements, but rather a sign that theirs was the losing side in the tug of war over southern Africa.

Portugal attached the Pink Map to its colonial treaties with France and Germany, countries that were not involved in the area concerned - covering present-day Zimbabwe, Malawi and most of Zambia. Britain, the one country it did have to convince, was too powerful to not have its way. In 1890, London issued an ultimatum, demanding Portugal retreat from the area and abandon claims of sovereignty. Or: a break-off of diplomatic ties and, ultimately, war.

The Portuguese territory indicated on the Pink Map shown in clearer contrast, and in relation to other Portuguese holdings in Africa (Sao Tome, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde). Map found here at the Federation of Free States of Africa).

King Carlos I of Portugal meekly agreed - damaging the reputation of the monarchy so irreparably that the Mapa Cor-de-rosa affair was still considered a factor 20 years later, when the Republican Revolution of 1910 overthrew the monarchy. A century on, the Portuguese still aren’t entirely over the Ultimatum. In the fighting words of the chorus to their national anthem, written in the heady days after the Ultimatum: “Às armas, às armas!/Sobre a terra, sobre o mar,/Às armas, às armas!/Pela Pátria lutar!/Contra os canhões, marchar, marchar!” [5] Even though the enemy remains unnamed, it's obvious to the Portuguese who they are: the perfidious British, who had stabbed their oldest ally in the back [6].

This episode sheds light on an earlier post on this blog, showing the size of Portugal’s colonies in relation to that of Europe [7]. And here is a similar example of Portuguese propaganda, using the size of its colonies to mitigate its inferiority complex. Angola might not have linked up with Mozambique to create a Portuguese States of America, it’s still big enough to contain Portugal ten times over - with some room to spare.

The Angola map taken here from a PPL.

 

Strange Maps #545 

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

_________

[1] A secret society founded in the early 17th century, and devoted to the study of esoteric wisdom.

[2] For a thorough examination of Dick’s fascinating ‘mystic’ experiences, see this page at the Gnosis Archive.

[3] Portuguese-speaking, derived from Lusitania, the Roman province that covered most of present-day Portugal. The ‘Lusosphere’ comprises Portugal and its former colonial empire: Brazil (in America); Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe (in Africa); and East Timor and the Chinese city-region of Macau. All of these (except Macau) form the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.

[4] Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Belgium.

[5] “To arms, to arms!/Over land, over sea,/To arms, to arms!/For the Fatherland, fight!/Against the cannons, march, march!”

[6] The 1377 Treaty of Windsor, pledging mutual support between Portugal and England, is the oldest diplomatic treaty still in force (in spite of the Ultimatum of 1890).

[7] Strange Maps #390: “Portugal Is Not A Small Country”. 

A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
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  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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