The Jogues valley lies squarely in the middle of one of the largest and most inhospitable deserts on the planet. In fact, it was not discovered until 1825 when an eccentric French adventurer named Henri Jogues returned from an expedition into the heart of the desert telling fantastic tails of a vast forest of giant trees that continually weeped, and through whose “life-giving tears” a virgin paradise was sustained and made to thrive in the midst of the desert. Jogues’ claims caused a sensation throughout Europe, but unfortunately, they were eventually dismissed as the ravings of a mad man, and funding for a return expedition dried up, when it was divulged that he suffered from an advanced case of Syphilis- a disease which, if untreated, can cause insanity among other symptoms.
It wasn’t until 1834 that the Jogues Valley was discovered a second time by a team of surveyors commissioned by the French army to map out a route for a railroad across the desert. After a month of anguished progress the team ascended what is now Mt. St. Pierre and beheld a pear shaped valley 4 miles distant that was, in the words of Lt. Paul DeLiene in a letter to his fiancé, Anne Monsi, “Quite full of enormous trees that continuously oozed water, and supported a great deal of life including me and my weary companions.”
Initially, the colonial government was at a loss to explain the source of the water. A careful and thorough search of the valley, which covers nearly 40 square miles, failed to uncover any surface water at all, and all efforts to dig wells also failed to access a subterranean aquifer despite the fact that some of the wells achieved a depth of several 100 feet! One early theory, offered by Dr. Delsond of the University at Oxford , was that the trees operated on the same principle as a fountain in that they continually recycled the same water. This theory was quickly discarded due to the obvious logical absurdities that accompany it.
It was not until 1839 that the American geologist John Tuttle discovered abundant fossil evidence that indicated the area had once been a thriving wetland, and first theorized that the trees dated to that ancient era. Tuttle theorized that as the land gradually rose, and the valley dried up, the trees’ roots sunk deeper to incredible depths as they followed the water. In support of his claim, Tuttle pointed out that although the Water trees shed vast quantities of seeds every year, no new trees were able to grow in the harsh desert climate. The sheer amount of water required daily by water trees to survive would also seem to indicate they could not have sprouted in the desert and eked out a living until its roots attained sufficient depth to draw water. This proves that the trees must have originated in a different time and under very different conditions. Initially, the scientific community found this difficult to accept as this would mean that the trees predate even nearby Mt. St Pierre, but today the nearly insurmountable evidence supporting the claim has brought about a broad consensus in support of the theory.