The Worst Explorer In The World

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


Yesterday’s blog about poor Tommy getting lost reminded me of the story, about another Tommy funnily enough, this time a guy called Thomas Nuttall. I didn’t know this guy, just remembered reading about him first in a history book about explorers in America (the main thrust of the book was about the adventures of Lewis & Clark), and then later in a compilation of stories about people who weren’t a great success in their ventures.

Thomas Nuttall was around in the early 1800s and fancied himself as an explorer. He was also a zoologist and botanist whose main field of study was the flora of remote parts of North-West America.

The two callings went well together.

All apart from the fact that this intrepid explorer spent most of his time like his namesake in the field years later, completely lost.

Yes, Thomas Nuttall was the least successful explorer there has even been! Not only did he seem to get lost, this poor man actually seemed to be permanently lost.

For example, on an expedition in 1812 his colleagues frequently had to light beacons in the evening to help him find his way back to camp.

Another night he failed to return completely and a search party was sent out. As it approached him in the darkness Nuttall, who never seemed to get anything right, assumed they were Indians and tried to escape. The highly annoyed rescuers pursued him for three days through bush and river until, by complete accident Nuttall wandered back into their camp.

On another occasion, lost again, he lay down on the ground exhausted. He looked so pathetic that a passing Indian, instead of scalping him, picked him up, carried him three miles to the river and paddled him home in a canoe.

Despite his awful sense of direction, or the fact that Pacific Fur Company traders had declared him crazy after finding dirt in the barrel of his gun (Nuttall had been using it to dig up plants), he was nevertheless one of the preeminent botanists of his day.



Have you had similar experiences? Send them along. Let the world know what is happening before it is too late.