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Through the Brazilian Wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt

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reel would be a convenience in catching the pacu. We used to fish for
the latter variety in the quiet pools while allowing the canoe to
drift, and always saved some of the fish as bait for the big fellows.
We fished for the pacu as the native does, kneading a ball of mandioc
farina with water and placing it on the hook as bait. I should not be
surprised, though, if it were possible, with carefully chosen flies,
to catch some of the fish that every once in a while we saw rise to
the surface and drag some luckless insect under.

CLOTHING--Even the experienced traveller when going into a new field
will commit the crime of carrying too much luggage. Articles which he
thought to be camp necessities become camp nuisances which worry his
men and kill his mules. The lighter one can travel the better. In the
matter of clothing, before the actual wilderness is reached the
costume one would wear to business in New York in summer is practical
for most of South America, except, of course, the high mountain
regions, where a warm wrap is necessary. A white or natural linen suit
is a very comfortable garment. A light blue unlined serge is desirable
as a change and for wear in rainy weather.

Strange to relate, the South American seems to have a fondness for
stiff collars. Even in Corumba, the hottest place I have ever been in,
the native does not think he is dressed unless he wears one of these
stiff abominations around his throat. A light negligee shirt with
interchangeable or attached soft collars is vastly preferable. In the
frontier regions and along the rivers the pajama seems to be the
conventional garment for day as well as night wear. Several such suits
of light material should be carried--the more ornamented and
beautifully colored the greater favor will they find along the way. A
light cravenetted mackintosh is necessary for occasional cool evenings
and as a protection against the rain. It should have no cemented
rubber seams to open up in the warm, moist climate. Yachting oxfords
and a light pair of leather slippers complete the outfit for steamer
travel. For the field, two or three light woollen khaki-colored
shirts, made with two breast pockets with buttoned flaps, two pairs
of long khaki trousers, two pairs of riding breeches, a khaki coat cut
military fashion with four pockets with buttoned flaps, two suits of
pajamas, handkerchiefs, socks, etc., would be necessary. The poncho
should extend to below the knees and should be provided with a hood
large enough to cover the helmet. It should have no cemented seams;
the material recently adopted by the United States Army for ponchos
seems to be the best. For footgear the traveller needs two pairs of
stout, high hunting shoes, built on the moccasin form with soles. Hob
nails should be taken along to insert if the going is over rocky
places. It is also advisable to provide a pair of very light leather
slipper boots to reach to just under the knee for wear in camp. They
protect the legs and ankles from insect stings and bites. The
traveller who enters tropical South America should protect his head
with a wide-brimmed soft felt hat with ventilated headband, or the
best and lightest pith helmet that can be secured, one large enough to
shade the face and back of neck. There should be a ventilating space
all around the head-band; the wider the space the better. These
helmets can be secured in Rio and Buenos Aires. Head-nets with face
plates of horsehair are the best protection against small insect
pests. They are generally made too small and the purchaser should be
careful to get one large enough to go over his helmet and come down to
the breast. Several pairs of loose gloves rather long in the wrist
will be needed as protection against the flies, piums and boroshudas
which draw blood with every bite and are numerous in many parts of
South America. A waterproof sun umbrella, with a jointed handle about
six feet long terminating in a point, would be a decided help to the
scientist at work in the field. A fine-meshed net fitting around the
edge of the umbrella would make it insect proof. When folded it would
not be bulky and its weight would be negligible. Such an umbrella
could also be attached, with a special clamp, to the thwart of a canoe
and so prove a protection from both sun and rain.

There are little personal conveniences which sometimes grow into
necessities. One of these in my own case was a little electric flash-
light taken for the purpose of reading the verniers of a theodolite or
sextant in star observations. It was used every night and for many
purposes. As a matter of necessity, where insects are numerous one
turns to the protection of his hammock and net immediately after the
evening meal. It was at such times that I found the electric lamp so
helpful. Reclining in the hammock, I held the stock of the light under
my left arm and with diary in my lap wrote up my records for the day.
I sometimes read by its soft, steady light. One charge of battery, to
my surprise, lasted nearly a month. When forced to pick out a camping
spot after dark, an experience which comes to every traveller in the
tropics in the rainy season, we found its light very helpful. Neither
rain nor wind could put it out and the light could be directed
wherever needed. The charges should be calculated on the plan of one
for every three weeks. The acetylene lamp for camp illumination is an
advance over the kerosene lantern. It has been found that for equal
weight the carbide will give more light than kerosene or candle. The
carbide should be put in small containers, for each time a box is
opened some of the contents turns into gas from contact with the moist

TOOLS--Three or four good axes, several bill-hooks, a good hatchet
with hammer head and nail-puller should be in the tool kit. In
addition, each man should be provided with a belt knife and a machete
with sheath. Collins makes the best machetes. His axes, too, are
excellent. The bill-hook, called foice in Brazil, is a most valuable
tool for clearing away small trees, vines, and under-growths. It is
marvellous how quickly an experienced hand can clear the ground in a
forest with one of these instruments. All of these tools should have
handles of second-growth American hickory of first quality; and
several extra handles should be taken along. The list of tools should
be completed with a small outfit of pliers, tweezers, files, etc.--the
character, of course, depending upon the mechanical ability of the
traveller and the scientific instruments he has with him that might
need repairs.

SURVEY INSTRUMENTS--The choice of instruments will depend largely
upon the character of the work intended. If a compass survey will
suffice, there is nothing better than the cavalry sketching board used
in the United States Army for reconnaissance. With a careful hand it
approaches the high degree of perfection attained by the plane-table
method. It is particularly adapted for river survey and, after one
gets accustomed to its use, it is very simple. If the prismatic
compass is preferred, nothing smaller than two and one half inches in
diameter should be used. In the smaller sizes the magnet is not
powerful enough to move the dial quickly or accurately.

Several good pocket compasses must be provided. They should all have
good-sized needles with the north end well marked and degrees engraved
in metal. If the floating dial is preferred it should be of aluminum
and nothing smaller than two and one half inches, for the same reason
as mentioned above regarding the prismatic compass.

Expense should not be spared if it is necessary to secure good
compasses. Avoid paper dials and leather cases which absorb moisture.
The compass case should allow taking apart for cleaning and drying.

The regular chronometer movement, because of its delicacy, is out of
the question for rough land or water travel. We had with us a small-
sized half-chronometer movement recently brought out by the Waltham
Company as a yacht chronometer. It gave a surprisingly even rate under
the most adverse conditions. I was sorry to lose it in the rapids of
the Papagaio when our canoes went down.

The watches should be waterproof with strong cases, and several should
be taken. It would be well to have a dozen cheap but good watches and
the same number of compasses for use around camp and for gifts or
trade along the line of travel. Money is of no value after one leaves
the settlements. I was surprised to find that many of the rubber
hunters were not provided with compasses, and I listened to an
American who told of having been lost in the depths of the great
forest where for days he lived on monkey meat secured with his rifle
until he found his way to the river. He had no compass and could not
get one. I was sorry I had none to give; I had lost mine in the

For the determination of latitude and longitude there is nothing
better than a small four or five inch theodolite not over fifteen
pounds in weight. It should have a good prism eyepiece with an angle
tube attached so it would not be necessary to break one's neck in
reading high altitudes. For days we travelled in the direction the sun
was going, with altitudes varying from 88 deg. to 90 deg.. Because of these
high altitudes of the sun the sextant with artificial horizon could
not be used unless one depended upon star observations altogether, an
uncertain dependence because of the many cloudy nights.

BAROMETERS--The Goldsmith form of direct-reading aneroid is the most
accurate portable instrument and, of course, should be compared with a
standard mercurial at the last weather-bureau station.

THERMOMETERS--A swing thermometer, with wet and dry bulbs for
determination of the amount of moisture in the air, and the maximum
and minimum thermometer of the signal-service or weather-bureau type
should be provided, with a case to protect them from injury.

A tape measure with metric scale of measurements on one side and feet
and inches on the other is most important. Two small, light waterproof
cases could be constructed and packed with scientific instruments,
data, and spare clothing and yet not exceed the weight limit of
flotation. In transit by pack-train these two cases would form but one
mule load.

PHOTOGRAPHIC--From the experience gained in several fields of
exploration it seems to me that the voyager should limit himself to
one small-sized camera, which he can always have with him, and then
carry a duplicate of it, soldered in tin, in the baggage. The
duplicate need not be equipped with as expensive a lens and shutter as
the camera carried for work; 31/4 x 41/4 is a good size. Nothing
larger than 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 is advised. We carried the 3A special Kodak
and found it a light, strong, and effective instrument. It seems to me
that the ideal form of instrument would be one with a front board
large enough to contain an adapter fitted for three lenses. For the
3 1/4 x 4 1/4:

One lens 4 or 4 1/2 focus
One lens 6 or 7 focus
One lens telephoto or telecentric 9 to 12 focus

The camera should be made of metal and fitted with focal-plane shutter
and direct view-finder.

A sole leather case with shoulder-strap should contain the camera and
lenses, with an extra roll of films, all within instant reach, so that
a lens could be changed without any loss of time.

Plates, of course, are the best, but their weight and frailty, with
difficulty of handling, rule them out of the question. The roll film
is the best, as the film pack sticks together and the stubs pull off
in the moist, hot climate. The films should be purchased in rolls of
six exposures, each roll in a tin, the cover sealed with surgical
tape. Twelve of these tubes should be soldered in a tin box. In places
where the air is charged with moisture a roll of films should not be
left in a camera over twenty-four hours.

Tank development is best for the field. The tanks provided for
developing by the Kodak Company are best for fixing also. A nest of
tanks would be a convenience; one tank should be kept separate for the
fixing-bath. As suggested in the Kodak circular, for tropical
development a large-size tank can be used for holding the freezing
mixture of hypo. This same tank would become the fixing tank after
development. In the rainy season it is a difficult matter to dry
films. Development in the field, with washing water at 80 degrees F.,
is a patience-trying operation. It has occurred to me that a small
air-pump with a supply of chloride of calcium in small tubes might
solve the problem of preserving films in the tropics. The air-pump and
supply of chloride of calcium would not be as heavy or bulky as the
tanks and powders needed for development. By means of the air-pump the
films could be sealed in tin tubes free from moisture and kept thus
until arrival at home or at a city where the air was fairly dry and
cold water for washing could be had.

While I cordially agree with most of the views expressed by Mr. Fiala,
there are some as to which I disagree; for instance, we came very
strongly to the conclusion, in descending the Duvida, where bulk was
of great consequence, that the films should be in rolls of ten or
twelve exposures. I doubt whether the four-barrel gun would be
practical; but this is a matter of personal taste.


My Letter of May 1 to General Lauro Muller

The first report on the expedition, made by me immediately after my
arrival at Manaos, and published in Rio Janeiro upon its receipt, is
as follows:

MAY 1st, 1914.


I wish first to express my profound acknowledgments to you personally
and to the other members of the Brazilian Government whose generous
courtesy alone rendered possible the Expedicao Scientifica Roosevelt-
Rondon. I wish also to express my high admiration and regard for
Colonel Rondon and his associates who have been my colleagues in this
work of exploration. In the third place I wish to point out that what
we have just done was rendered possible only by the hard and perilous
labor of the Brazilian Telegraphic Commission in the unexplored
western wilderness of Matto Grosso during the last seven years. We
have had a hard and somewhat dangerous but very successful trip. No
less than six weeks were spent in slowly and with peril and exhausting
labor forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless
succession of rapids and cataracts. For forty-eight days we saw no
human being. In passing these rapids we lost five of the seven canoes
with which we started and had to build others. One of our best men
lost his life in the rapids. Under the strain one of the men went
completely bad, shirked all his work, stole his comrades' food and
when punished by the sergeant he with cold-blooded deliberation
murdered the sergeant and fled into the wilderness. Colonel Rondon's
dog running ahead of him while hunting, was shot by two Indians; by
his death he in all probability saved the life of his master. We have
put on the map a river about 1500 kilometres in length running from
just south of the 13th degree to north of the 5th degree and the
biggest affluent of the Madeira. Until now its upper course has been
utterly unknown to every one, and its lower course although known for
years to the rubbermen utterly unknown to all cartographers. Its
source is between the 12th and 13th parallels of latitude south, and
between longitude 59 degrees and longitude 60 degrees west from
Greenwich. We embarked on it about at latitude 12 degrees 1 minute
south and longitude 60 degrees 18 west. After that its entire course
was between the 60th and 61st degrees of longitude approaching the
latter most closely about in latitude 8 degrees 15 minutes. The first
rapids were at Navaite in 11 degrees 44 minutes and after that they
were continuous and very difficult and dangerous until the rapids
named after the murdered sergeant Paishon in 11 degrees 12 minutes. At
11 degrees 23 minutes the river received the Rio Kermit from the left.
At 11 degrees 22 minutes the Marciano Avila entered it from the right.
At 11 degrees 18 minutes the Taunay entered from the left. At 10
degrees 58 minutes the Cardozo entered from the right. At 10 degrees
24 minutes we encountered the first rubberman. The Rio Branco entered
from the left at 9 degrees 38 minutes. We camped at 8 degrees 49
minutes or approximately the boundary line between Matto Grosso and
Amazonas. The confluence with the upper Aripuanan, which entered from
the right, was in 7 degrees 34 minutes. The mouth where it entered the
Madeira was in about 5 degrees 30 minutes. The stream we have followed
down is that which rises farthest away from the mouth and its general
course is almost due north.

My dear Sir, I thank you from my heart for the chance to take part in
this great work of exploration.

With high regard and respect, believe me

Very sincerely yours,

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