Gripping tale of Teddy Roosevelt’s journey along an unmapped 1000 mile river in the Amazon in 1914, originally named River of Doubt (Rio da Duvida), but renamed Rio Roosevelt after the expedition. They traveled across the Brazilian Highland to the origin of the river, then jettisoned most of their passengers and supplies, cramming 22 men and hundreds of pounds of equipment into 7 clumsy dugout canoes purchased at the river from a group of Indians.
Ably led by Colonel Rondon, the expedition originally mapped the river with time-consuming fixed-station surveying using a sextant and a lead canoe to place a sighting rod along a bank of each bend in the river. On the first day they set up the sighting rod 114 times, only travelling 6 miles. Roosevelt was joined by his son, Kermit, and naturalist Goerge Cherrie, as the only Americans. Most of the Brazilian contingent did the dirty work of paddling and lugging supplies during portage. They purged baggage 4 times along the way, but the “officers” kept all their books and other items I can’t imagine lugging through the Amazon.
The Cinta Larga Indians lurked everywhere, invisible in the jungle; the expedition left gifts and tried to show friendly intentions along the route, thus the Cinta Larga did not attack the party. There were 3 deaths– one camarada drowning in a whirlpool after Kermit disobeyed Rondon’s orders to halt, one camarada murdering another, then the party abandoning the murderer to the jungle where he most likely died.
Roosevelt contemplated sucide by morphine overdose which he always kept on himself, instead of dragging the party down with his illness. They were all dangerously ill by the time they met up with the relief party at the end of the journey, on April 26, 1914, after 2 months on the river. Roosevelt never fully recovered, and died less than 5 years later from an ailment stemming from his “old Brazilian trouble.”
The author interviewed Cinta Larga tribe members who have passed down the story of the expedition for the last 90 years, as a legendary interruption from the outside world.
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