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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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We spent the first night above the Strait of Obidos, on a low, sandy island, where

the river just ended. The moon rose from the dark clouds, and, flashing a thousand reflections in the waters of the monstrous river, gently illuminated the silent landscape.

A deafening murmur from the agitated waters sounded in our ears. Soon, however, this calm, cheerful scene was disturbed; scared, the moon hid; the deepest gloom hovered over the island, the woods, and the river, and, from afar, crackling thunderclaps sounded everywhere.

Here, where we could, so to speak, joyfully, enjoy a happy pause in the drama of our journey, we were struck by the horror of that night of darkness without stars and no light, dominated by our helplessness, “we knew how larvae felt." In the same conditions, from then on we would spend many nights waking, and our friend, the reader should understand the deep disconsolation and depression the Amazon traveler feels, that often comes on when he least expects it.

Notes on Chapter 3
(I) Among all the palms of South America, none has been so praised by writers

as the Miriti (Mauritia flexuosa, L.). Particularly Gumilla spoke, with eloquence about the multiple uses which he learned from the Guaraunos. The Brazilian Indians transform the colossal trunks of this tree into canoes, planks, rafters and several utensils;

but the preparation of a fine starch from the marrow, like the Sago of the Eastern Indians, is unknown to them, probably because they do not eat the marrow. This palm dwells in the humid lands, growing with the cassava in the sunlit forest.

Cassava plant

They make baskets with the leaves and stems,; They also drink the sweet sap that drips when the stalks of their fruit are cut off, or that they gather themselves from depressions made on the fallen logs. More rarely do they prepare a drink with the baking of the berries, preferring the berries of the bataua palm and the acai;

Oenocarpus bataua. the bataua palm

but as disgusting as their northernmost brothers, they know and appreciate the larvae of Curculio palmarum, which grow innumerable on the fallen trunks.

Curculio palmarum

Curculio palmarum larvae

The observation made by Gumilla, that underneath, the Miriti never searches in vain without finding water, which is then pooled on the ground, when it is dug a few feet deep, I also had occasion to verify this. Many other palm trees rise to the same height as the Mauritia, but their soil does not contain the same abundance of water; we conclude that not only does it suck up soil moisture but, above all, it only grows on humid soil.

(II) Regarding the Tocantins River, we think we should add other news here,

See Tocatins river

 

because a glance at the great river, which flows into the Amazon, can provide clarification on the geography of the latter and its river system. The first news of the discovery of this great river was given by Berredo, (1). In the year 1673, Pedro Cesar de Meneses, Governor of the State of Para, and one of the conquerors of the upper Amazon

 

(1)Bernardo Pereira de Berredo, author of the Historical Annals of the State of Maranhao (Lisbon, 1749), ruled the northern colony of Brazil from 1718 to 1722, when he was replaced by Joao da Maia da Gama. Rev, Inst, Hist and Geogr. Bras.).

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