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The Indians know very well the different phenomena of these periodic movements, designating them by the particular name igapo-acu ("living waters"), parana-evike or oike-acu, that is, "the coming river, the flow"; parana-caryca, that is, "outgoing river, the ebb", and igapo-pau or tipdu, that is, "water consumed, low sea" ("dead water"). It is nonetheless interesting to quote these terms, in which the principles of an Indian physics are actually hidden.

For this reason, I also want to mention here the hypothesis of the Indians about the origin of the rivers. They believe that when thunder shakes the earth, springs spring up in the marshes; they call the pond and the river and lakes therefore hil-ava (igaba), that is, "father of water, man of water", or also jacarua-mirim, a word probably composed of jackfruit, "river". (in the Guarani dialect) is arid "grandfather", and therefore means "small grandfather of the river".

I now have to mention one of the most important conditions of the river, that is, the periodic growth and the low water. Also the Amazon has like the Nile, annually, its flood, its overflowing fertilizer, and its ebb; and it is plausible that the most flowing river on earth also manifests a pronounced periodicity.

Moreover, it is precisely the colossal extension of its river basin, thanks to which it receives, almost every month of the year, now to the south and now to the north of the equator the tributary floods, that os the reason why the maximum and the minimum of its height of water do not differ so much from each other, as would happen if it received so many tributaries from a single hemisphere. The maximum and minimum also occur in the master rivers, due to their great extent at quite different times. Maranon in Mainas rises high as early as January; Solimoes, in February; the Amazon, below the confluence with the Rio Negro, has its largest flood at the end of March and early April.

Amazon Basin

The tributaries, to the north of the equator, do not have as decisive an influence on the flood of the Amazon, as the rivers that come to the south of the equinoxial line. Among all these last northern tributaries, Madeira depends, most pronouncedly, on the flood and ebb of the master-rivers, even its periodicity occurs exactly with those of the latter. The other tributaries of the south, which (as well as the Sao Francisco River) begin to grow in November, fill faster than Madeira, because its banks are largely contained by mountains. The inhabitants of Amazonas located between Barra do Rio Negro and Gurupa, say that the flood lasts 120 days; In general, in the third year, heavy flooding occurs and thus increases the fruiting of cocoa. They call the third year “the crop year”. The height at which the water rises is different according to localities. In Rio Negro, it rarely rises to more than 30 feet; in Rio Branco, at 25; in Tapajos and Xingu, at 35; in Madeira, even to the waterfalls, to 38; in Solimoes and from there to the east, 40 feet; however, I have seen in many places, even 50 feet above river level, trees covered in mud left by the flood.

These modifications, made on the banks of the river by the overflows, are so evident that the Indians themselves are accustomed to designating the heights of the water surface when they refer to the river. The flood, they call, like the high tide, igapo-acu or oie-pypyi-oae, that is, "all submerged", the lowest level is cemeyba-pirera, that is, "fallen ravines", because then they usually collapse the uncovered margins;

"Fallen ravines" on Rio Japura

to the state of half flood, they call the cemeyba - pyterpe or tyriume-icua-rupi "half ravines". The growing and lowering of waters is a great drama of nature, in which the kingdom of plants and animals has its role. As soon as the river at some point floods the sand islands, covering canaranas


and gramineas that form a pale green edging so thick, as if they had been embroidered,

then the waterbirds leave these places, gathering in large flocks and flying to land near the Rio Orinoco.

Deserted and silent becomes the region, which once resonated with the shouting of peacocks and gulls, and the fish, enjoying the greatest breadth of the river, explore contentedly, where alligators once dominated and where capybaras and tapirs sought pasture. Rapid and stormy, ultimately, the flood precipitates over the lower banks, that is, over the part of the land, subject to flooding (the igapo); the trees tremble under the fury of the river; devastation and ruin accompany the flood waters on dry land;