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Etching 40 Islands of Para  from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

#40 Island shores in the archipelago of Para.

Latin translation by Ben Hennelly

In this etching, which Augustus Brandmueller, an expert lithographer, created from a sketch I made at the place itself, you see, kind reader, a region that is surpassed by perhaps no other in this world with regard to the fullness and luxuriance of its vegetation. But for this very reason, the image appears unequal to nature: it is not able to represent the remarkable variety in shape and color of the individual plants, nor does it as a whole attain the brightness of the air, the gleam of the foliage, or the pellucidity of the sky offered by a nature that only he who has seen with his eyes can picture in his mind.

Those traveling in the Iguarapemirim canal from the city of Para, toward the west, as far as the mouth of the Amazon river, sail past the area presented in the etching. It is a path which, shunning the large open seas into which the Tocantins and Amazon send their measureless waters, leads toward the west, south of the great island of Marajo (1), through fairly shallow canals that are often narrow and wind variously through the continent or among numerous islands. The ground is low-lying, flat and level, except that canals and many ditches are drawn through all the regions into a great channel of fresh water, in which lies the island of Marajo. You could say in truth that Neptune reigns here.

Marajo island from Martius's expedition map from Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Green Library, Stanford U.  Fair use

Yet what is most remarkable, these low-lying, meandering canals which conjoin, as if in nets, the realm of lesser rivers on the shore (Rio Capim and Rio Moju), with the realm of the Tocatins river, and this realm with that of the Amazon, are governed amidst the changes of the swell now by this master and now by that, so that the waves are driven or slacken now from the east and now from the west. For this reason it happens that quite often the canal narrows, and especially in the angles between the islands, the swell's approach and its drawing back come up against one another in one place. Just so in one spot you see waves flowing very speedily along banks covered with thick forest, but then, suddenly, waves from another canal resisting them very forcefully; elsewhere you navigate with a following current that is rapid and driven by the swell, as it were, but as soon as you have passed the corner of an island and approach another part of the channel, the waters either fall altogether still or move in an opposite direction. It is certainly a remarkable sight; nor is the life along the shore free from this sport, inasmuch as the shrub branches that hang into the water follow the motion in this direction and that. More or less the same thing happened to me and Spix, my traveling companion, because to the west of the small district named Frequezia de S. Anna, in canals called Uanapu, we were moved forward first by its swell (Euchente), then by its retreat (Vazante).

Etching commentary #40