Through the Brazilian Wilderness Part 14

I sometimes read by its soft, steady light. One charge of battery, to my surprise, lasted nearly a month. When forced to pick out a camping spot after dark, an experience which comes to every traveller in the tropics in the rainy season, we found its light very helpful. Neither rain nor wind could put it out and the light could be directed wherever needed. The charges should be calculated on the plan of one for every three weeks. The acetylene lamp for camp illumination is an advance over the kerosene lantern. It has been found that for equal weight the carbide will give more light than kerosene or candle. The carbide should be put in small containers, for each time a box is opened some of the contents turns into gas from contact with the moist air.

TOOLS--Three or four good axes, several bill-hooks, a good hatchet with hammer head and nail-puller should be in the tool kit. In addition, each man should be provided with a belt knife and a machete with sheath. Collins makes the best machetes. His axes, too, are excellent. The bill-hook, called foice in Brazil, is a most valuable tool for clearing away small trees, vines, and under-growths. It is marvellous how quickly an experienced hand can clear the ground in a forest with one of these instruments. All of these tools should have handles of second-growth American hickory of first quality; and several extra handles should be taken along. The list of tools should be completed with a small outfit of pliers, tweezers, files, etc.--the character, of course, depending upon the mechanical ability of the traveller and the scientific instruments he has with him that might need repairs.

SURVEY INSTRUMENTS--The choice of instruments will depend largely upon the character of the work intended. If a compa.s.s survey will suffice, there is nothing better than the cavalry sketching board used in the United States Army for reconnaissance. With a careful hand it approaches the high degree of perfection attained by the plane-table method. It is particularly adapted for river survey and, after one gets accustomed to its use, it is very simple. If the prismatic compa.s.s is preferred, nothing smaller than two and one half inches in diameter should be used. In the smaller sizes the magnet is not powerful enough to move the dial quickly or accurately.

Several good pocket must be provided. They should all have good-sized needles with the north end well marked and degrees engraved in metal. If the floating dial is preferred it should be of aluminum and nothing smaller than two and one half inches, for the same reason as mentioned above regarding the prismatic compa.s.s.

Expense should not be spared if it is necessary to secure good Avoid paper dials and leather cases which absorb moisture.

The compa.s.s case should allow taking apart for cleaning and drying.

The regular chronometer movement, because of its delicacy, is out of the question for rough land or water travel. We had with us a small- sized half-chronometer movement recently brought out by the Waltham Company as a yacht chronometer. It gave a surprisingly even rate under the most adverse conditions. I was sorry to lose it in the rapids of the Papagaio when our canoes went down.

The watches should be waterproof with strong cases, and several should be taken. It would be well to have a dozen cheap but good watches and the same number of for use around camp and for gifts or trade along the line of travel. Money is of no value after one leaves the settlements. I was surprised to find that many of the rubber hunters were not provided with, and I listened to an American who told of having been lost in the depths of the great forest where for days he lived on monkey meat secured with his rifle until he found his way to the river. He had no compa.s.s and could not get one. I was sorry I had none to give; I had lost mine in the rapids.

For the determination of lat.i.tude and longitude there is nothing better than a small four or five inch theodolite not over fifteen pounds in weight. It should have a good prism eyepiece with an angle tube attached so it would not be necessary to break one's neck in reading high alt.i.tudes. For days we travelled in the direction the sun was going, with alt.i.tudes varying from 88 to 90. Because of these high alt.i.tudes of the sun the s.e.xtant with artificial horizon could not be used unless one depended upon star observations altogether, an uncertain dependence because of the many cloudy nights.

BAROMETERS--The Goldsmith form of direct-reading aneroid is the most accurate portable instrument and, of course, should be compared with a standard mercurial at the last weather-bureau station.

THERMOMETERS--A swing thermometer, with wet and dry bulbs for determination of the amount of moisture in the air, and the maximum and minimum thermometer of the signal-service or weather-bureau type should be provided, with a case to protect them from injury.

A tape measure with metric scale of measurements on one side and feet and inches on the other is most important. Two small, light waterproof cases could be constructed and packed with scientific instruments, data, and spare clothing and yet not exceed the weight limit of flotation. In transit by pack-train these two cases would form but one mule load.

PHOTOGRAPHIC--From the experience gained in several fields of exploration it seems to me that the voyager should limit himself to one small-sized camera, which he can always have with him, and then carry a duplicate of it, soldered in tin, in the baggage. The duplicate need not be equipped with as expensive a lens and shutter as the camera carried for work; 31/4 x 41/4 is a good size. Nothing larger than 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 is advised. We carried the 3A special Kodak and found it a light, strong, and effective instrument. It seems to me that the ideal form of instrument would be one with a front board large enough to contain an adapter fitted for three lenses. For the 3 1/4 x 4 1/4:

One lens 4 or 4 1/2 focus One lens 6 or 7 focus One lens telephoto or telecentric 9 to 12 focus

The camera should be made of metal and fitted with focal-plane shutter and direct view-finder.

A sole leather case with shoulder-strap should contain the camera and lenses, with an extra roll of films, all within instant reach, so that a lens could be changed without any loss of time.

Plates, of course, are the best, but their weight and frailty, with difficulty of handling, rule them out of the question. The roll film is the best, as the film pack sticks together and the stubs pull off in the moist, hot climate. The films should be purchased in rolls of six exposures, each roll in a tin, the cover sealed with surgical tape. Twelve of these tubes should be soldered in a tin box. In places where the air is charged with moisture a roll of films should not be left in a camera over twenty-four hours.

Tank development is best for the field. The tanks provided for developing by the Kodak Company are best for fixing also. A nest of tanks would be a convenience; one tank should be kept separate for the fixing-bath. As suggested in the Kodak circular, for tropical development a large-size tank can be used for holding the freezing mixture of hypo. This same tank would become the fixing tank after development. In the rainy season it is a difficult matter to dry films. Development in the field, with washing water at 80 degrees F., is a patience-trying operation. It has occurred to me that a small air-pump with a supply of chloride of calcium in small tubes might solve the problem of preserving films in the tropics. The air-pump and supply of chloride of calcium would not be as heavy or bulky as the tanks and powders needed for development. By means of the air-pump the films could be sealed in tin tubes free from moisture and kept thus until arrival at home or at a city where the air was fairly dry and cold water for washing could be had.

While I cordially agree with most of the views expressed by Mr. Fiala, there are some as to which I disagree; for instance, we came very strongly to the conclusion, in descending the Duvida, where bulk was of great consequence, that the films should be in rolls of ten or twelve exposures. I doubt whether the four-barrel gun would be practical; but this is a matter of personal taste.


My Letter of May 1 to General Lauro Muller

The first report on the expedition, made by me immediately after my arrival at Manaos, and published in Rio Janeiro upon its receipt, is as follows:

MAY 1st, 1914.



I wish first to express my profound acknowledgments to you personally and to the other members of the Brazilian Government whose generous courtesy alone rendered possible the Expedicao Scientifica Roosevelt- Rondon. I wish also to express my high admiration and regard for Colonel Rondon and his a.s.sociates who have been my colleagues in this work of exploration. In the third place I wish to point out that what we have just done was rendered possible only by the hard and perilous labor of the Brazilian Telegraphic Commission in the unexplored western wilderness of Matto Grosso during the last seven years. We have had a hard and somewhat dangerous but very successful trip. No less than six weeks were spent in slowly and with peril and exhausting labor forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless succession of rapids and cataracts. For forty-eight days we saw no human being. In pa.s.sing these rapids we lost five of the seven canoes with which we started and had to build others. One of our best men lost his life in the rapids. Under the strain one of the men went completely bad, shirked all his work, stole his comrades' food and when punished by the sergeant he with cold-blooded deliberation murdered the sergeant and fled into the wilderness. Colonel Rondon's dog running ahead of him while hunting, was shot by two Indians; by his death he in all probability saved the life of his master. We have put on the map a river about 1500 kilometres in length running from just south of the 13th degree to north of the 5th degree and the biggest affluent of the Madeira. Until now its upper course has been utterly unknown to every one, and its lower course although known for years to the rubbermen utterly unknown to all cartographers. Its source is between the 12th and 13th parallels of lat.i.tude south, and between longitude 59 degrees and longitude 60 degrees west from Greenwich. We embarked on it about at lat.i.tude 12 degrees 1 minute south and longitude 60 degrees 18 west. After that its entire course was between the 60th and 61st degrees of longitude approaching the latter most closely about in lat.i.tude 8 degrees 15 minutes. The first rapids were at Navaite in 11 degrees 44 minutes and after that they were continuous and very difficult and dangerous until the rapids named after the murdered sergeant Paishon in 11 degrees 12 minutes. At 11 degrees 23 minutes the river received the Rio Kermit from the left.

At 11 degrees 22 minutes the Marciano Avila entered it from the right.

At 11 degrees 18 minutes the Taunay entered from the left. At 10 degrees 58 minutes the Cardozo entered from the right. At 10 degrees 24 minutes we encountered the first rubberman. The Rio Branco entered from the left at 9 degrees 38 minutes. We camped at 8 degrees 49 minutes or approximately the boundary line between Matto Grosso and Amazonas. The confluence with the upper Aripuanan, which entered from the right, was in 7 degrees 34 minutes. The mouth where it entered the Madeira was in about 5 degrees 30 minutes. The stream we have followed down is that which rises farthest away from the mouth and its general course is almost due north.

My dear Sir, I thank you from my heart for the chance to take part in this great work of exploration.

With high regard and respect, believe me

Very sincerely yours, THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

Receive SMS and Send Text Online for free >>

« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»