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In the morning of September 6th, we found ourselves on the Jaburu channel,

Jaburu channel

where we spotted several sperm whales (Catodon macrocephalus, Lacep.), that revolved around us, sometimes near, then far away, raising their strange head out of the water.

Catodon macrocephalus

These Cetaceos live, properly so, in the ocean; But sometimes they swim far down the river. One of them was caught in the neighborhood of Gurupa, stranded on an island of sand, and could no longer float. Small fish flee from them; frightened with good cause of the great agitation that disturbs the water. Luckily whales do not visit that coast in great numbers.


That these huge creatures provide Amber [ambergris], is known to the Indians, who think that is the sperm that the male loses in the pursuit of the female. They call it Pirapien (1). During September 6th, we continued to travel on the Jaburu Canal, heading northwest. By nightfall, we landed on the mainland, to spend the night. As the anchor problem was unresolved, at the cost, of the roots of the trees along the shore, we preferred, as we had often done, to tie the canoe to a good tree. The ground was a few feet higher than those of the islands seen until here, and its vegetation was noticeably diversified, and especially the palm trees were much rarer than in the marshlands, where even the shore of the firm land remembers the flood.

Etching 41 Archipelago of Para

On the 7th of September, the wind fell as benign east winds, with whose help we skirted an island, which lies to the north of the extreme tip the continent;

And then we reached the mouth of the Tagipuru in the Amazon, a large bay, which with its expanse of water, with the strong rolling the waves, gave the impression of the ocean.

Waves in the the Bay of Tagipuru

Rio Gurupa

From here to the village of Gurupa, we sailed 13 leagues, a dangerous journey, according to our pilot, because it was on the tumultuous coast. When the wind refreshed that afternoon, our ship embarked to the west, to an extension of four to five nautical miles, between the continent, to the south, and several islands to the north. The elevation of the waves, a foot in height, similar to the sea, the yellowish color of the waters, indicated that we were then already in the Amazon. We were, however, in the vicinity of these northern islands all day, which are identical, in the strength of the trees and in its alluvial plain, to the Tagipuru. All these islands, which, in the direction of NE to SW, are located at the distance of six leagues from the river, with a width of one and a half leagues, are included in the general name of Gurupa Islands.

(I) Pirapien may be typographical error, in place of Pirapoan. This word was not the designation of the "Amber ", and, yes, was given by our indians of the Tupi-Guarani group to the Whale and Cachalote. Teodoro Sampaio gave it two terms, Pirapoan and Pirapoan-Repoti. Pirapoan, Pyre-Po-li or Pira-MBO Corrutela, according to him, "' The fish that empties by burping the water through the air to the bottom, prancing himself around in the water". And, as the word Repoti means "excrement" or "Excreto ", so the expression Pirapoan • Repoti can designate the "Amber ", regarded as a "excrement of the whale ". (Rev. Note, Inst. Hist. and geog, ". Bras.)