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EGRET PLUMES IN THEIR PROPER PLACE: AMAZON VALLEY
The exquisite egret (the snowy, or little, heron) has suffered so much persecution at the hands of plume hunters that it has been appropriately called the bird of tragedy. In former years great flocks of these snowy creatures covered the banks of Amazonian lakes like a sheet of dazzling white. The plumes are most beautiful in July.
The Earth's Mightiest River Drains a Basin of More Than 2,700,000 Square Miles, from Which Came
Originally the World's Finest Rubber
BY W. L. SCHURZ, PH. D.
COMMERCIAL ATTACHÉ, AMERICAN EMBASSY, RIO DE JANEIRO
ECENTLY there returned to Pará a party of six Americans who had completed the most comprehensive survey of the Amazon Valley ever made by any expedition. For nearly ten months these representatives of the United States Department of Commerce, sent out to investigate the crude-rubber industry in its original home, had traveled more than 20,000 miles on 37 rivers of the Amazon fluvial system.
We had carried the American flag up the Amazon itself, through the Pongo de Manseriche, the western gateway of the great plain, where the river cuts its way athwart the last chain of the Andes, more than 2,500 miles from its mouth and less than 250 miles from the Pacific.
To the north we ascended the Rio Branco to the open campos country that reaches away to the borders of the Guianas, and to the south, in the Madeira basin, we reached Sena, three days up the Madre de Dios above Riberalta, Bolivia.
THREE GOVERNMENTS COÖPERATED
The Brazilian Government supplied a fine steamer, the Andirá, for the use of the commission during its stay in Brazil, and in Bolivia and Peru similar facilities and courtesies were extended by their respective governments. In Brazil we were accompanied by a special Brazilian Commission of four members, who had had much experience in the far interior: Dr. Avelino de Oliveira, geologist; Dr. J. G. Kuhlmann, botanist; Dr. Fernando Soledade, of the Federal Public Health Service, and Colonel Raymundo Monteiro, the leading Brazilian authority on rubber.
On rivers where these steamers could not navigate we traveled in launches, barges, or dugout canoes. We covered more than 400 miles on horse- and muleback and one long stretch on foot.
The mightiest of the world's rivers
owes its name to a fanciful yarn told by Francisco de Orellana, the first white man who ever descended the turbid waters of the Rio Mar, as later generations of Brazilians have dubbed the stream that is more than a river.
A FANCIFUL YARN GAVE NAME TO WORLD'S MIGHTIEST RIVER
In 1541 Orellana was sent down the Napo by Gonzalo Pizarro in search of provisions for the forlorn expedition that had come over the mountains from Quito in search of El Dorado. Finding it easier to continue downstream than to return, and probably driven on by curiosity and avarice, he took to the "flowing road" that months later carried him out onto the Atlantic.
Among the adventures which Orellana related to his credulous contemporaries in Spain was one of an encounter with female warriors near the mouth of the river that is now called the Trombetas, or River of Trumpets. It was these long-haired savages-whether women or more probably men who were responsible for the naming of what the Indians themselves, in the lingua geral of Brazil, called the Paranáguassú, or "The Great River."
Ever since the memorable voyage of Orellana the process of exploring and opening up the vast wilderness world of the Amazon basin has been going on, much yet remains to be done.
Some years after the Pizarros had been wiped out in the civil wars of Peru, the terrible Lope de Aguirre led out of the Amazon and around up the Venezuelan coast the remnants of an expedition whose leadership he had assumed by the assassination of two successive chiefs of the party.
Adventurers in search of treasure cities in the jungle or devoted Catholic missionaries carried on the work from the Spanish side of the Andes.
Rafts are a much more common sight on Peruvian tributaries of the Amazon than in Brazil or Bolivia, the Peruvians being especially skilled in their construction. Frequently the rafts carry a thatched hut, in which the family lives during the slow journey downstream (see text, page 453). The source of the mighty river is only about 112 miles from Lima, Peru.
From the east Pedro de Teixeira led an expedition upriver that did much to secure Portugal's possession of the greater part of the valley, and intrepid "bandeirantes" from far-off São Paulo pushed northwest in long treks across Matto Grosso and into the basin of the Madeira.
TWO AMERICAN NAVAL OFFICERS WROTE A CLASSIC REPORT ON THE RIVER
The nineteenth century brought a more intelligent and scientific study of the Amazonia. The epic days of the Conquest were past, and, though the same hardy qualities were needed in the new race of explorers, theirs was a different task than that which the early Spaniards and Portuguese had faced.
Among the new generation were the great German, Humboldt; the Frenchman, Castelnau; the Englishmen, Bates and Wallace; Agassiz, the botanist, and the Americans, Orton and Heath. Two other Americans, Lieutenants Herndon and Gibbon, of the United States Navy, crossed the Andes from the Pacific in the fifties
and descended the Amazon, the one directly from Peru and the other from La Paz, by way of the Beni and the Madeira. Their report to Congress is one of the classic works on the Amazon country.
A still later group of specialists working over the Amazon basin includes the American ornithologist, Leo Miller; the Oliveiras, Brazilian geologists; Hartt, the American, also a geologist; Huber and Ducke, the Swiss botanists; Barboza Rodrigues, the Brazilian author of a monumental work on the palm tree; engineers like Colonel Church, of Madeira-Mamoré fame (see text, page 451); the brilliant Brazilian Euclydes da Cunha; the Bolivian, Rivera, and the Frenchman, Paul Le Cointe, the foremost living authority on the Amazonia.
Among the explorers were two remarkable women-Mme. Coudreau, who spent years in exploring the rivers of the State of Pará, after her husband had died in the work for which he had been engaged by the government of that State, and Dr. Emilia Snethlage, a Swiss scientist, who
The blocks of rubber are known as caucho, product of Castilla elastica, and the balls are of Hevea brasiliensis (see text, page 462). The discovery of rubber dates from the second voyage of Columbus, when the great navigator found the natives of Haiti playing with balls of an elastic substance.
crossed overland from the Xingú to the Tapajóz through a wilderness unknown even to the rubber workers of that region.
In the vast field of Matto Grosso, General Candido Rondón and his corps of aides have spent a generation in exploration and in the collection of scientific data, until to-day the immense territory that stretches from the Araguaya west across the upper reaches of the Xingú and the Tapajóz to the Madeira and the Guaporé is known to Brazilians as Rondonia. Americans will recall that it was Rondón, then colonel, who was joint leader with Colonel Roosevelt of the famous expedition that in 1913-14 descended the "River of Doubt" (now the Roosevelt).
RUBBER HUNTERS HAVE DONE THEIR
Much of the opening up of the Amazon Valley has been the work of the men who pushed farther and farther up the river and into the country in search for rubber. Some were like the Suarez brothers, who built up a veritable empire in Bolivia;
others were obscure rubber workers, whose journeys and discoveries in the jungle have never been recorded.
Among the most extraordinary of these anonymous explorers have been the Peruvian caucheros, or hunters of the rubber-yielding Castilla elastica, who have wandered all over the Amazon Valley in search of new stands of the tree. These they ruthlessly destroy and then push on in their jungle Odyssey to more virgin territory.
These restless nomads may be found all the way from the forests of the Ucayali and Javary east to the Xingú and down into the Guaporé country between Brazil and Bolivia. They mingle with the Brazilian rubber workers in the rude camaraderie of the great solitudes, but have generally waged a truceless war with the Indians, whose tribal lands they invaded in their tireless quest.
THE TRUE "FATHER OF WATERS"
Though not the longest of rivers, the Amazon is, by reason of its volume and
"SWARMS OF ALLIGATORS OFTEN SHOW THEIR UGLY SNOUTS ABOVE THE SURFACE OF THE WATER"
These reptiles are still numerous in Amazonia, despite the organized pursuit of hide hunters. At Manáos they are caught by floating within their reach a piece of hardwood, covered with raw meat, in which the alligator's teeth become imbedded when it snaps at the bait.
the magnitude of its fluvial system, the true "Father of Waters," the real "Rio Grande" of the world. It rises in a mountain lake high in the Peruvian Andes and flows north, through a deep gorge, for hundreds of miles. Then it turns east and heads through the last range of the Andes at the Pongo de Manseriche, to debouch therefrom directly onto the great Amazonian plain that reaches away across the continent to the Atlantic.
In the Pongo it is like a swirling millrace, some 50 yards wide; 2,000 miles below, the banks of its main channel are,
in places, scarcely visible from each other.
For nearly all its length the Brazilian Amazon flows through a number of channels that are connected by cross canals, or furos. Only at Obidos has it a single channel. At this point it is less than 2,000 yards wide and 350 feet deep, and in midstream runs with a current of six miles an hour.
No other stream has such great tributaries as has the Amazon. Some of them have vast fluvial systems of their own, like the Madeira, whose remotest headwaters are found in the far-away Bolivian department of Potosí; or the Negro, most mysterious of Amazonian rivers, which