Through the Brazilian Wilderness

Theodore ROOSEVELT (1858 - 1919)

Roosevelt's popular book Through the Brazilian Wilderness describes his expedition into the Brazilian jungle in 1913 as a member of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition co-named after its leader, Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon. The book describes all of the scientific discovery, scenic tropical vistas and exotic flora, fauna and wild life experienced on the expedition. One goal of the expedition was to find the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt, and trace it north to the Madeira and thence to the Amazon River. It was later renamed Rio Roosevel. Roosevelt's crew consisted of his 24-year-old son Kermit, Colonel Cândido Rondon, a naturalist sent by the American Museum of Natural History named George K. Cherrie, Brazilian Lieutenant Joao Lyra, team physician Dr. José Antonio Cajazeira, and sixteen highly skilled paddlers (called camaradas in Portuguese). The initial expedition started on December 9, 1913, at the height of the rainy season. The trip down the River of Doubt started on February 27, 1914.

During the trip down the river, Roosevelt contracted malaria and a serious infection resulting from a minor leg wound. These illnesses so weakened Roosevelt that, by six weeks into the expedition, he had to be attended day and night by the expedition's physician, Dr. Cajazeira, and his son, Kermit. By this time, Roosevelt considered his own condition a threat to the survival of the others. At one point, Kermit had to talk him out of his wish to be left behind so as not to slow down the expedition, now with only a few weeks rations left. Roosevelt was having chest pains when he tried to walk, his temperature soared to 103 °F (39 °C), and at times he was delirious. He had lost over fifty pounds (20 kg). Without the constant support of his son, Kermit, Dr. Cajazeira, and the continued leadership of Colonel Rondon, Roosevelt would likely have perished. Despite his concern for Roosevelt, Rondon had been slowing down the pace of the expedition by his dedication to his own map-making and other geographical goals that demanded regular stops to fix the expedition's position via sun-based survey.

Upon his return to New York, friends and family were startled by Roosevelt's physical appearance and fatigue. Roosevelt wrote to a friend that the trip had cut his life short by ten years. He might not have really known just how accurate that analysis would prove to be, because the effects of the South America expedition had so greatly weakened him that they significantly contributed to his declining health. For the rest of his life, he would be plagued by flareups of malaria and leg inflammations so severe that they would require hospitalization.

The racial attitudes reflected in Roosevelt's American history do not seem to carry over into his attitude toward the native Americans he encounters on this trip, although his enthusiastic anticipation of the development of the virgin wilderness he is crossing may be jarring to some contemporary readers. (Summary adapted from Wikipedia by Karen Merline.)

Genre(s): Memoirs, Exploration

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 Ch 1: The Start pt 1 CM Slosson
00:17:37
Play 02 Ch 1: The Start pt 2 Robert Beach
00:17:23
Play 03 Ch 1: The Start pt 3 Matthew Westra
00:18:44
Play 04 Ch 1: The Start pt 4 Matthew Westra
00:17:19
Play 05 Ch 2: Up the Paraguay pt 1 Gail Mattern
00:21:18
Play 06 Ch 2: Up the Paraguay pt 2 Gail Mattern
00:23:09
Play 07 Ch 3: A Jaguar Hunt on the Taquery pt 1 LivelyHive
00:23:32
Play 08 Ch 3: A Jaguar Hunt on the Taquery pt 2 LivelyHive
00:25:56
Play 09 Ch 3: A Jaguar Hunt on the Taquery pt 3 LivelyHive
00:21:51
Play 10 Ch 4: The Headwaters of the Paraguay pt 1 Joelle Peebles
00:21:54
Play 11 Ch 4: The Headwaters of the Paraguay pt 2 Joelle Peebles
00:24:21
Play 12 Ch 4: The Headwaters of the Paraguay pt 3 Joelle Peebles
00:22:08
Play 13 Ch 5: Up the River of Tapirs pt 1 Tom Clifton
00:20:35
Play 14 Ch 5: Up the River of Tapirs pt 2 Tom Clifton
00:20:13
Play 15 Ch 5: Up the River of Tapirs pt 3 Tom Clifton
00:19:34
Play 16 Ch 6: Through the Highland Wilderness of Western Brazil pt 1 BenW
00:21:57
Play 17 Ch 6: Through the Highland Wilderness of Western Brazil pt 2 BenW
00:21:19
Play 18 Ch 6: Through the Highland Wilderness of Western Brazil pt 3 BenW
00:21:59
Play 19 Ch 7: With a Mule Train Across Nhambiquara Land pt 1 Matthew Westra
00:20:33
Play 20 Ch 7: With a Mule Train Across Nhambiquara Land pt 2 Barry Eads
00:17:35
Play 21 Ch 7: With a Mule Train Across Nhambiquara Land pt 3 Tom Clifton
00:18:18
Play 22 Ch 7: With a Mule Train Across Nhambiquara Land pt 3 (ver. 2) gogoblue
00:22:42
Play 23 Ch 7: With a Mule Train Across Nhambiquara Land pt 4 Tom Clifton
00:19:27
Play 24 Ch 8: The River of Doubt pt 1 Kristine Bekere
00:16:17
Play 25 Ch 8: The River of Doubt pt 2 Kristine Bekere
00:22:20
Play 26 Ch 8: The River of Doubt pt 3 Kristine Bekere
00:22:38
Play 27 Ch 8: The River of Doubt pt 4 Kristine Bekere
00:20:56
Play 28 Ch 9: Down an Unknown River into the Equatorial Forest pt 1 Steve Foreman
00:18:40
Play 29 Ch 9: Down an Unknown River into the Equatorial Forest pt 2 Bev J Stevens
00:17:11
Play 30 Ch 9: Down an Unknown River into the Equatorial Forest pt 3 Bev J Stevens
00:18:29
Play 31 Ch 9: Down an Unknown River into the Equatorial Forest pt 4 Bev J Stevens
00:23:00
Play 32 Ch 10: To the Amazon and Home; Zoological and Grographical Results of the Expedition pt 1 Kalynda
00:21:22
Play 33 Ch 10: To the Amazon and Home; Zoological and Grographical Results of the Expedition pt 2 Kalynda
00:13:50
Play 34 Appendix A: The Work of the Field Zoologist and Field Geographer in South America Bev J Stevens
00:24:36
Play 35 Appendix B: The Outfit for Travelling in the South American Wilderness pt 1 selniff
00:31:50
Play 36 Appendix B: The Outfit for Travelling in the South American Wilderness pt 2 Tom Clifton
00:22:24