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| Donald Worster on: Separation Rapids
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Donald Worster on: Separation Rapids
Donald Worster Q: Before we live the river trip itself, tell me a little bit about this separation rapids story. They're practically at the finish and three men decide to quit the river. What happened there?

DW: They'd had two more days to go, but nobody knew that and the rapid ahead of them, Separation Rapid, it's called now, looked like the worst that they had faced. They were demoralized, they were hungry, three of the men decided that they would leave. Powell argued all night with them, went from bed roll to bed roll talking to these people. He was clearly deeply worried that his expedition was falling apart. At one point in the night, according to one of the journals, he himself was ready to give up, at least temporarily and come back and repeat the rest of the journey later on. But, he decided at least that he would continue and these three men would go off on their own. Why they left at that point has been open to speculation ever since. Some have called them deserters. Others felt that they were maligned, unfairly. That they had been taking more than they should have taken from this man all along and now they were justified and just climbing out and getting out of the whole expedition. When the rapid proved to be far less formidable than they worried, it looked like these people had just become cowards at the end and left. We're never going to know all that happened in that night and the controversies and what was going through their minds-- whether Powell had to bear some of the burden for that-- the guilt. I think, he felt guilty over having lost these men to the expedition. He came back a year later to try to find out what had happened to them. They weighed on his mind. When he came to write about the expedition, he did not accuse them or blame them in any way. He was actually very generous toward them but others have not been, over time and have, as I said, viewed them as deserters.

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