Feb/March 1997 THE IRANIAN Issue No. 9

Damavand image

Headline: Suspended animation

From George N. Curzon's "Persia and the Persian Question" published by Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1892. Curzon traveled in Iran for six months in 1889 as the correspondent for the London Times. He later became the British viceroy in India.

Pages 334-335

Before I quit the northern outskirts of Tehran (1) I must pay tribute of one more parting paragraph to the mighty mountain-sentinel Damavand (2). The shapely white cone, cutting so keenly and so high into the air, becomes so familiar and cherished a figure in daily landscape, that on leaving Tehran and losing sight thereof (which, if he be journeying in a southerly direction, he does not do for 160 miles), the traveler is conscious of a very perceptible void.

Damavand is a volcano, not, as some have said, wholly extinct, but rather in a state of suspended animation. There is no record of eruption during the historic period, but columns of smoke are sometimes seen to ascend from the fissures, particularly from the Dud-i-Kuh (or Smoky Peak) on the southern side.

It is very strange but no mention is made of the mountain by Chardin, whose keen vision overlooked but little; or by Pietro della Valle, who passed almost at its base. Hanaway in 1744, speaks of it as the "great mountain Demoan on which the Persians say that the Ark rested."

The first to accomplish the ascend -- the Persians having always believed and declared, like the Armenians in the case of Ararat, that it was not to be climbed by mortal man -- was Mr., afterwards Sir, W.T. Thomson, in 1836. The French naturalist, Aucher Eloy, met Thomson coming down from the top, and himself ascended a few days later.

Since that date Damavand has been frequently ascended by members of the various Legations in Tehran, the climb being neither difficult nor dangerous, but intensely fatiguing. For long an irreconcilable divergence between the trigonometrical and the other calculations of its height, arrived at different travelers or men of science, prevailed, the estimates ranging from 14,500 to 21,500 feet. General Schindler, as the result of a combined trigonometrical and barometrical measurements gives the true altitude as 19,400 feet.

From the summit which consists of a crater with snow and ice, a horizon of 50,000 square miles is unrolled in clear weather. This is what Mr. Stack, in 1881, had to say of the view:

You can see images of Damavand by the photographer Nasrollah Kasraian, here.



(1) Spelled "Teheran" in the original text.
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(2) Spelled "Demavend" in the original text.
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(3) Spelled "Mazanderan" in the original text.
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