I have just viewed your items on the Trans Darien Expedition 1959-60, and on the 11-years later British Trans Americas Expedition.
The first expedition on which I had the honour to be Expedition Engineer, left Toronto on October 16 1959 and arrived in Bogotá the following July. I was pleased to perform all repairs and modifications to our Canadian-based Land Rover, but also did most of the repairs and modifications to the Darien Sub Committee Jeep and their communications equipment. The Trans Darien Expedition left Toronto, as stated above, and was joined in Panama City by a Jeep (not a Land Rover as your article stated). Our relationship with the Sub Committee crew was excellent and of a symbiotic nature, with our providing much international media coverage and helping with vehicle repairs and trail cutting. The Sub Committee provided about eight men to cut trail, others to haul supplies and fuel, and likely neither team would have conquered the Darien alone.
The Toronto-based 2-man Trans Darien Expedition accomplished the following:
a) The first to join the Americas by land vehicle. This was accomplished when we arrived at Palo de Las Lettras. We then continued on to the Atrato and down to Bogotá.
b) The first to cross the Costa Rica Gap in the wet season. We winched some 13 miles through 18-inch deep mud and required 13 days to beat the Gap. This Gap was as difficult as anything we encountered in the Darien, especially as we were just two.
c) After winching the Sub Committee Jeep up the final steep hills (as its winch had failed a second time) before reaching Palo de Las Lettras the Sub Committee Jeep and our Land Rover arrived at the Border marker almost simultaneously. So we were the joint first through the Darien Gap, but again the first to join the Americas.
Your article on the British Trans Americas says that it was not known whether they knew of our first Darien Crossing some 11 years before they followed much of the same trail. I can tell you that they most certainly did know of the Trans Darien Expedition 1959-60 and had read the National Geographic article that described it. Indeed, as the attached letter from Col. Blashford-Snell to my partner Richard Bevir shows, they even sought our advice. Also Dr. Reina Arúz, was on both expeditions and was of course well aware of what the first expedition had accomplished.
May I therefore request that the British Trans Americas article be amended to reflect that they were aware of our already having conquered the Darien?
As the photos in the Trans Darien article are rather old, I have attached a couple of others for you, should you see fit to include them in our article. I am sorry to have to inform you that Richard Bevir, my expedition partner, passed away in June 2001, which has made me more determined to ensure that our "first" is not stolen by later expeditions. Almost every later expedition seems to claim that they were the first through the Darien!
Wishing your club continued success and hoping to see the Darien once more,
Yours sincerely Terence John Whitfield , Expedition Engineer, Trans Darien Expedition 1959-60 (first overland from North to South America)