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not an unhealthful climate. White men spend their lives there in excellent health, though one may pay dearly for disregard of certain elementary rules of hygiene. Hookworm is widespread among the great mass of barefooted natives, and malaria in more or less malignant form is rampant in some districts, but over wide areas does not exist at all.

The gospel of quinine and the mosquito net has been spread widely by the devoted agents of the Brazilian Public Health Service and by the Catholic missionaries, who act as their aides in much of the Upper Amazon country.

Yellow fever and beriberi, which once took a heavy toll, have disappeared, the latter with the healthier diet that has come with a greater dependence on a fresh supply of locally grown food.

Leprosy is too common, but the Brazilian state governments are making a strong effort to segregate and treat the unfortunates afflicted with it.


There is much less wild life in the Amazon forest than would be expected. Every rubber worker in Brazil carries a 44 Winchester carbine on the daily round of his trees and shoots any animal that he sees. Then, at night, he will set his gun as a trap, or "armadillo," behind some log on his customary trail, over which prowling animals may jump.

Consequently, as one Brazilian put it, the wild game has been "liquidated" over wide areas of the valley or driven into the more remote interiors, sometimes by the heavy floods or by hunger. Most of it is a timorous, shrinking fauna. Even the jaguar, the largest of the carnivora, is seldom aggressive, though a related black species has a bad reputation, and the other felines are dangerous only to the smaller creatures of the jungle.

There are still monkeys in profusion, and at dusk or dawn the forest often reverberates with the truly terrifying roar of the "guaribas." or howlers, or the early morning silence is broken by the staccato chatter of the noisy prego monkeys. Monkeys are a highly esteemed article of food among the Peruvian woodsmen and are everywhere hunted

relentlessly in the vicinity of plantations because of their predatory habits.

Deer are very common in some parts, but the tapir (see page 392) and anteater are going the way of other large game.

One of the rarest of Amazonian ani

mals is the wild dog. I brought back. one of these strange canines that was found in the Beni Valley, in Bolivia, and presented it to the National Zoological Park at Washington. The dog is amphibious, enjoying nothing more than to stand on his head in a pail of water. Instead of a bark, he makes a noise midway between a squeal and a chirp, which fact earned him much publicity as the "singing dog."


The rivers and lakes teem with life, in fact, the Amazonia is a fisherman's paradise. I have never seen so many fish as at some places on the Solimões, notably at the site appropriately called Piracema, "pira" signifying "fish."

The giant pirarucú, dried and salted in sheets, is the most valuable fish of the Amazonian waters. The mammalian peixe-boi, or cowfish, the manatee or dugong of other countries, is also widely hunted (see pages 449 and 450).

The savage, though small, saw-toothed piranha swarms in some of the rivers, ready to prey on anything, from fish to man, that exposes the slightest abrasion on the surface of the body (see, also, page 412).

Paul Le Cointe, the eminent director of the Commercial Museum at Pará, told me of how he had once seen a school of piranha devour an alligator. The allgator was pounced on by a jaguar, which turned it over and began eating into the tenderer parts exposed beneath. The injured animal had then crawled back into the river, where the piranhas set on it and, entering the cavity made by the jaguar, soon finished the helpless brute.

Where these fish are present it is even dangerous to trail one's fingers in the water over the side of a boat, not to speak of bathing in the stream.

Fresh-water porpoises, or botos, are seen frolicking far up the great rivers, where their semihuman antics have given rise to a local legend to account for doubt

ful paternity among the caboclo mermaids of those shores (see text, page 461).

Swarms of alligators often show their ugly snouts above the surface of the water (see page 448) or bask on the muddy shores, though they never enter certain rivers. Turtles abound on some of the rivers, in spite of the wholesale destruction of their eggs, and their pursuit constitutes one of the most important industries in certain districts, as on the lower Rio Branco. The hunters shoot them in the neck with arrows, to which a large cord is attached. They are then herded in pens by the hundred, to be sent down to Manáos or Pará (see pages 382-383, 454-455).

Electric eels grow to a large size, one which I killed in Peru having measured seven feet in length and nearly six inches in thickness. These eels are capable of giving a severe electrical shock, and one of our party facetiously suggested their propagation as storage batteries.

The Amazonia jungle is rich in bird life, and many species are remarkable for the beauty of their plumage or their song.

Parrots and macaws, the polycolored araras of Brazil and huacamayos of Peru, are very common, and there are few more beautiful sights in the jungle than these birds in flight.

A disagreeable feature of the Amazonian towns is the presence of flocks of funereal buzzards, usually perched on the most conspicuous buildings in the place or strolling about the streets with impunity.


The Amazon Valley, unfortunately, is as rich in insect life as it is poor in large fauna. These include mosquitoes of the culex, anopheles, and stegomyia varieties (see, also, text, pages 377 and 405).

Even more pestiferous than the mosquitoes in some parts of the valley are the ants. One who inadvertently brushes against a tree may suddenly find his whole body the field of operation of scores of the dreaded formigas de fogo (fire ants), that leave him spotted with burning welts. While riding along a jungle road or canoeing under overhanging trees, one may expose himself to the same vicious attacks. A canoe which is

boarded by these insect buccaneers is a most uncomfortable craft.

The savage taxi, or tangarana, ants grow to be more than an inch long, and a pinch from their powerful mandibles is a painful experience (see, also, page 408). The sauba, or leaf-cutting ant, is the principal enemy of agriculture in the Amazon Valley and has been known to cause the abandonment of certain localities by their inhabitants.

Among other insect pests are the chiggerlike mucuim, the bloodsucking pium. and its larger brother, the borrachudo, and the annoying motuca fly. Tarantulas scamper about old buildings, and I remember pulling a large one from my boot in Bolivia.

Yet all these insects are not found everywhere and one is frequently exempt from all forms of insect life. On the other side, there is a profusion of butterflies, and one of the pleasantest recollections of rides through the jungle is of great blue morphos butterflies zigzagging down the trail ahead of me, the sun occasionally flashing from their brilliant cerulean wings.

One of the most curious insects found by our party was a well-armored and paradoxical Peruvian creature called the Traffic Bug, which carried a red light in its head and a green light in its tail.

There are few more widespread misconceptions of the Amazon Valley than that it is the chosen haunt of serpents of all kinds. Thus, a common picture in the old school geographies showed a boa constrictor seizing a horse and rider at once, and popular fancy has perpetuated this belief in the ubiquitous and deadly Amazonian snake. During our entire stay I saw by actual count six snakes. One may easily find them in the canebrakes and swamps or in old, abandoned houses, but by avoiding these one may travel far without encountering a snake.

The best-known snakes of the valley are the jararaca and the surucucú, both of which are poisonous. The rather innocuous boa constrictor, or giboia, is encountered now and then, and, domesticated, is sometimes kept in houses for the purposes of ridding them of rats and bats. The much more objectionable anaconda, or sucurijú, grows to a great


length and is the source of many myths among the natives, whose imagination enhances its size and prowess to terrifying proportions.



In all the tropical part of the Amazon basin there probably are between 1,500,000 and 1,600,000 inhabitants. Of these some 1,300,000 live in Brazil and the remainder in the five Spanishspeaking countries, but largely in Bolivia and Peru. The basic race is Indian.

There are still small groups of savage Indians in the jungle fastnesses on the Bolivian side of the Abuná, but they seldom appear along the river. Many tribes often reputed to be "bravos" or "barbaros" are innocent of any hostile intent so long as they are left alone by the whites.

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Photograph from Dr. W. L. Schurz

A HUITOTO INDIAN OF THE PUTUMAYO COUNTRY Huitoto means "mosquito," and the tribe is so called because of the thin, misshapen limbs and fat bodies of its members. The practice of binding the upper arms, of wearing necklaces made from the teeth of jungle animals, and of adorning the ear lobes with short lengths of cane is common to several tribes of Amazonia. The Indians of this great rubber region were formerly exploited by unscrupulous agents, and consequently view every white man as a potential enemy.

The great mass of the population of the Amazonia is a mixed people, product in Brazil of the crossing of white with Indian and Negro, and in the Spanish countries of white with Indian. In Brazil these people are loosely referred to as Caboclos and in Bolivia and Peru as Cholos.


Above all else, the Amazon Valley suggests to the outside world RUBBER. For a long time it was the principal source of the world's supply, until the vast plantations of the East came into production

and left to the wild rubber of the Amazonia a very minor place in the world. market.

The Amazon Valley was the original home of the Hevea brasiliensis, the tree that produces the superior rubber known as "Fine, Hard Pará" or "Up River Fine." Its original habitat was in the higher country about the upper reaches of the southern tributaries of the Amazon. Thus, there is a wide belt of country that extends west from the basin of the Tocan

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LOADING COTTON AT YURIMAGUAS, PERU, FOR THE ATLANTIC SEABOARD Since the collapse of wild rubber, formerly the chief product of the Amazon Basin district of Peru, cotton planting is assuming some importance. Founded in 1709 by a Spanish missionary, the flourishing town of Yurimaguas takes its name from an Indian tribe which fled from its home in the Amazon Basin to escape slave hunters. The women of the tribe are believed by some authorities to have been the Amazons encountered by Orellana when he descended the river which bears their name (see text, page 445).

tins across the upper courses of all the great north-flowing rivers to the Ucayali, in Peru, where the tree is really native.

Wherever it exists along the lower rivers, as it does as far as the islands of the delta, it has grown from seeds carried down by the current of the rivers.

There are several other varieties of trees that produce "weak" or "weak fine" rubber, but the "brasiliensis" is the only source of the "fine" rubber that established a world standard in the industry.

In 1876 Henry Wickham, now Sir Henry, took seeds from near Boim, on the lower Tapajóz, to London, where they were planted in the Kew Gardens. The seedlings that grew therefrom were transplanted in the Orient and formed the nucleus of the vast plantations of Ceylon, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies.

There the business was established on a scientific basis impossible in the native

rubber industry of Amazonia, and with a potential production that assured its early domination of the world market.*

There are many small plantations in the Amazonia, especially along the lower Tapajóz, in the Maués lowlands, and on the Madeira, some of the trees dating from the sixties of the last century, but they are insignificant in comparison with the plantations of the Orient. However, the Amazonians are hopeful of the establishment of plantations on a scale akin to those of the East, and that would save the traditional industry from total eclipse.


Rubber in the Amazon Valley has had a checkered history. Shortly before the ascendency of plantation rubber became

* See "Singapore, Crossroads of the East," by Frederick Simpich, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for March, 1926.

an accomplished fact, the industry reached its zenith in a burst of unprecedented prosperity. Prices of crude rubber rose for one dizzy moment to eleven shillings ($2.75) a pound, and there were many in the Amazonia who believed that this level of prices had come to stay.

Those were bonanza times for Pará and Manáos (see page 355) and Iquitos and for every little settlement whose life depended on the price of the "black gold."

Men accumulated more money in a few months in the far interior than they had ever dreamed would come their way, and then swarmed down to Manáos or Pará to spend it in a few days of hectic pleasures, until empty pockets sent them up-river again, to the old, hard round in the jungle or at the trading post.

Champagne and the roulette wheel and automobiles hired by the day had swiftly accounted for the surplus they had brought from the distant seringal. Those more ambitious than the rest traveled to Paris for a few days on the boulevards before the inevitable journey back to the solitude and hardships of the forest.

Most of the great proprietors and traders indulged on a more elaborate scale. As a consequence, but few solid fortunes were built up from the millions that poured into the Amazon during that time.

The name given to an island in the mouth of the Juruá-Ilha da Consciencia, or island where men bound for the rubber country put ashore their conscience bears witness to the ruthlessness with which some of the ephemeral wealth of that time was made.

After the peak of the boom, prices fell with terrifying rapidity, and those who had not liquidated their high-priced stocks in time were faced with ruin.

This was the beginning of the great crisis, from which dates the present depression of the Amazon Valley. Families, only a little while before in affluence, were impoverished and few business houses survived the shock.

An exodus of thousands of rubber workers followed from the upper rivers. Torsos of great unfinished buildings in Manáos testify to the completeness of the disaster that reduced the resources of the State and of its inhabitants.

The Federal Government of Brazil made efforts to save the rubber industry from

utter ruin, but its program was too grandiose for realization. Moreover, the increasing entrance of plantation rubber into the market at that period only aggravated the effects of the crisis.

The Amazonia, especially the Brazilian and Bolivian parts of the valley, have continued to produce rubber in considerable quantities. Temporary rises in the price of crude rubber have given a fitful encouragement to those who had been disheartened by the blow struck at native rubber by the plantation product, but the wiser believe that only the adoption of the plantation system can enable the Amazon country to compete again on anything like equal terms with its formidable rival of the mid-East.


In spite of nearly four centuries of exploration, large areas of the Amazonia still await the coming of the first white men. The courses of all the important rivers are well known, but there is much terra incognita between some of them, as between the Negro and the Japurá, or between the Santiago and the Pastaza, in the region under dispute between Ecuador and Peru; also a wide belt of territory extending across the northern part of the State of Pará yet remains to be explored.

Many myths and misconceptions regarding the region persist. To most people it is still a sort of antediluvian swamp, where man is perpetually ravaged with fevers and exposed to lurking serpents and carnivora, not to speak of bloodthirsty savages. Even to Brazilians of the south and to Bolivians and Peruvians of the mountain country it is a forbidding and mysterious land.

To Euclydes da Cunha it was an unfinished world into which man had come too soon. Another Brazilian writer, under the spell of da Cunha, has recently entitled a book on the Amazonia "Terra Immatura,' and the morbid imagination of Alberto Rangel saw in it an inferno verde (green hell).

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The Amazonia is neither a hell nor an earthly paradise. By far the greater part of it is entirely habitable by white men, though there are sections where nearly every circumstance of the environment militates against human existence.

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