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I always enjoy books about exploration and this one was no exception.  I don't know what was going on in my life that I didn't read it when everyone else did, but I am glad that I finally got it read.  Fascinating book.  The River of Doubt is in the interior of Brazil.  It had been spotted but not explored in the first part of the 20th Century when Theodore Roosevelt, then in his 50s, heard about it.  He decided that he had to make an expedition in order to get his most recent electoral loss out of his system.  He and his son Kermit had already explored (in a shooting big game sort of way) Africa and so he invited Kermit along.

 

It appears that neither Roosevelt was one for details, so they left the selection of the route and provisioning of the exploration to what seems like a random selection of men, with predictable results.  They had WAY TOO MUCH stuff, all of which seemed necessary in  NY, but less necessary when it had to be portaged around the multiple waterfalls on their route.  And they made a terrible decision about vessels to use, although it's easy to see how it happened.  Instead of using canvas-covered canoes, which would have been easy to steer and much lighter to carry, they used the dugouts that were common in the area.  But dugouts are heavy and lack maneuverability, neither of which is a good thing in a river that is as turbulent as this one.  

 

And boy, did they suffer!  Starvation, death, murder, accidents, bugs, bugs, bugs, and disease.  Roosevelt never really recovered, dying 5 years later.  And Kermit went on to have a very sad life.  The hero of the book was the Brazilian leader of the group, Candido Rondon, a man who appears to have been even more indestructible than Roosevelt.  Rondon's attitude toward the Indians was light-years ahead of his time and probably helped save the exploring party from being killed, even if they weren't really welcomed.  And, based on history, the Indians shouldn't have been welcoming.  Rondon was part Indian, I think, and grew up very poor in the interior of Brazil, crawling out of poverty as part of the Brazilian military.  He had strung the telegraph line through the Brazilian jungle and developed much-derided attitudes toward the Indians, for which everyone in the expedition should have been grateful.

 

Highly recommend.

 

 

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