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Cycling the Malay Archipelago
Have you ever heard of the Wallace Line? It was named after Alfred Wallace, a self-educated naturalist who, from 1854 to 1862, traveled through the Malay Archipelago (now Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia).
By all accounts, Alfred Russell Wallace was a remarkable man, who independent of Darwin, conceived of the Theory of Natural Selection. In 1858, while he was exploring the Malay archipelago, he refined his thoughts about evolution and had his famous insight on natural selection. He sent an article outlining his thoughts to Darwin and it was this article that finally prompted Darwin to publish his own theory. The two were printed together and, of course, they changed the world.
Accounts of Wallace’s adventures and studies, The Malay Archipelago became one of the most popular books of scientific exploration of the 19th century. Believe it or not, it is still in print. If you are cycling with us on this year’s Bamboo Road, especially the last section in Malaysia and Singapore, or if you are planning to take part in the Trans Oceania in 2014, reading the book would certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
So what is the Wallace Line? At some point on his travels Wallace realized that animals of Western Indonesia and animals of Eastern Indonesia were of two different types. Those in the western parts displyed Asian characteristics while those to the east revealed Australian traits. From this, Wallace deduced that these two areas must have at one point belonged to two different landmasses. What makes this most remarkable is that the line runs between two islands, Bali and Lombok, the distance between which is a mere 32 kms at one point. We will have opportunity to cycle over the Wallace Line on our TransOceania tour next year during the ‘Spice Island Hopping‘ section.
Amazingly, the distinction between the two groups of animals extended to many birds. Which brings me to the most fascinating video I have seen in a long time, a video of the mating rituals of Birds of Paradise. Although the birds that you will see in this video do live in Indonesia, unfortunately they are not present in the areas we are cycling through. Nevertheless, even though we cannot guarantee you will be able to see natural selection at work, you will see and experience one of the most fascinating areas on earth. Truly, the opportunity of a life time.
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