Alrighty, a little more on The River of Doubt by Candice Millard.
The River of Doubt is a tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. Roosevelt’s spring 1914 journey down it represented it’s first exploration and mapping by non-indigenous people. The exploration party included both Americans and Brazilians, as well as indigenous peoples in Brazil–members of tribes who were at an early stage of engagement with (at the time) modern Brazilian culture, government, etc. The trek to the headwaters of the River of Doubt across a Brazilian Highlands plateau was incredibly taxing in and of itself. It also revealed the need to whittle down the number of persons who would be included in the descent of the river itself. Several of the American organizers of the trip (for Roosevelt) were dismissed; their eagerness to embark on such a trip was not matched by skill, experience, or disposition conducive to the sort of trials that awaited them on the River of Doubt.
The River of Doubt was so named by the discoverer of its headwaters, Colonel Candido Rondon, a mixed race Brazilian who had risen from poverty and tragedy to significant status in the Brazilian military. His impressive intellect, physical toughness, discipline, and drive make him a figure fitting in well alongside the likes of Teddy and Kermit (TR’s second son). Rondon served as co-commander of the exploration party with Roosevelt. Rondon was interested in mapping the river, so that was one of their tasks along the way. The party included a naturalist from American as well who carried out his work while making the journey too.
A pleasant side-trip in the narrative thus far is the background information on the rain forest. Never wandering too far from the well-paced story of the expedition itself, Millard sketches a working understanding of the ecological realities of the rain forest that serves to heighten our sense of TR’s experience of the trip.
I don’t think I mentioned in my first post that Roosevelt took this trip in order to overcome his grief at losing the 1912 presidential election. He had served seven years in the White House and had stepped aside in the election of 1908, but was persuaded to seek again the presidency four years later. After his defeat, he sought relief from the pain he felt in the way most familiar to him: an adventure sure to test him in every way. The River of Doubt more than lived up to that criterion.