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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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There is an understanding of the colossal mass of water of the gigantic river, when one notices the speed with which the waters, sometimes a league wide, of a tributary, are absorbed by that flow.

Half an hour below the confluence, there is no trace of the dark waters of the Rio Negro, which, even at the meeting, are precipitously thrown upon on the northern shore. There had been little brown water left, when the Amazon was at its highest flood, and the ravines and mud walls were discovered only half or less. The inhabitants call this state the banks of “half-ravines”. The middle waves were a foot high, and they shook our craft, as if we were on the high seas.

Rio Negro rapids

On the second day, we passed through the sixth basin of Saraca, called Rio Arauato, and on the morning of the next day we came across the mouth of the Madeira River, which we then intended to sail. We had barely begun; to the west, at the island that extends before the joining of the waters, when we noticed, by the change of the color, that we were already in that river, the longest and most mighty of all the tributaries of the Amazon, and, in a way, its main tributary.

Mouth of Rio Madeira

The water was somewhat whiter and more turbid than that of the Amazon; in the epoch of the ebb, it becomes a little greenish. The river, whose highest flood occurs in April, was now considerably enlarged; covering all the sand dunes on the bank, so that the forest seemed to rise from the waters. Without forming vacancies, however, its current was very strong: it was during the first two days of travel, at 20 and 26 feet per minute, but soon it became necessary to be pulled by a cable, attached to a tree on the shore because the oars had little effect in the absolute calm. As soon as we went along the low banks, we were astonished by the number of floating logs, which seemed, from afar, to be an enormous flotilla of the Indians’ Ubas or flat rafts, for they were mostly in the middle of the current.

There were particularly trunks of acaju (Cedrela odorata, L.)

and munguba (Bombax munguba, Mart.).

Bombax munguba

Small canoes cannot, at times, withstand the waves, in the floods of this and other rivers, and are thrown from one side to the other; therefore, the Indians, when they travel upriver, attach their canoe to one of these floating trunks. It is well known, the abundance of these logs in the river was what gave the Madeira its name. What we have to add on the discovery and first navigation of this river, will appear in the notes (Note I). As we proceeded diligently to sail, mosquitoes surrounded us, without giving truce. The gnats of the Madeira are of particular malignity; because in that humid region there is less sun and the sky is overcast, so they

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