Alcides was steering us right into the centre of the terrifying rotating waters, when I jumped up and, seizing the steering gear out of his hands, was just able to avoid disaster. As it was, the canoe switched off at a tangent with a heavy list to port, leapt out of the water like a flying fish, and when she dropped again into the water was carried off at a great speed, with a heavy list on and filling fast. I do not know why she did not capsize altogether.
We then had rocks on the left side, rocks on the right side; a barrier of many rocks across the entire stream, with a thickly wooded island, 70 m. wide and 200 m. long—Lilian Island—on the left side. There were a great many scattered rocks at the northern end of the island, where a small rapid was found. Then we were confronted by 4,000 m. of river in a straight line. We had gone but 2,000 m. along that stretch when we came to a lovely rectangular island, with a spit of rock extending for 120 m. eastward, and separated by a narrow channel from the island itself. The island—Susan Island—was 100 m. broad and 250 m. long, with its fore-part of gravel as usual. It was in a basin 500 m. wide.
The river turned to the W.S.W., and was there placid enough, although the current was swift. Where the river flowed once more in a more northerly direction we found rocks and two tiny wooded islands on the left side of the stream, one 20 m., the other 70 m. long. There a corrideira occurred soon after we had negotiated a dangerous rapid—dangerous because of the number of intricate rocks which forced the canoe to describe a snake-like dance like a double S, bumping and swerving with such force from the restless waters underneath, that it was all we could do to prevent her turning over.
In a basin 700 m. wide which was further crossed, we admired a picturesque rocky island of a beautiful emerald green colour in the centre of the stream. An immense barrier of rock was on the north-east side of this basin. Before we halted, absolutely worn out by the heavy work of the day, we descended another troublesome rapid—fortunately that time with no mishaps of any kind.
At five o'clock we made our camp in the only spot we could find that was suitable; but no sooner had we landed than we were fiercely attacked by millions of sauba or carregadores ants which gave us a lively time during the entire night. Those ants, which were there absolutely in millions, were from 1 in. to 11/4 in. in length, and possessed powerful clippers on the head with which they bit us, giving intense pain. When you had thousands of them climbing up your legs and over your body, and dropping upon you from the tree branches which were alive with them, and clinging to you with all their might once they had got you with their clippers, you began to think what a fool you had been to leave your happy home in England.
As I shall have an opportunity of speaking at greater length of the saubas later in this volume, I shall leave them now, merely mentioning that during the entire night we were unable to sleep owing to those brutes. And that was not all: we had many of our clothes, shoes, and other articles entirely destroyed by them.
We called that place Camp Carregador. The nights had become by then quite stifling and damp, the minimum temperature on July 21st being 63 deg. F.
No sooner had we started on our journey that day than we came to rapids. A lot of rocks stood everywhere in the stream. The river after that flowed in a snake-like fashion for 5,000 m. in a general direction N.N.E., and was there comparatively free from serious obstacles. We came to a triangular island 700 m. long—Ada Island—separated from a second island by a channel 50 m. wide. This second island—Hugo Island—formed an isosceles triangle of 800 m. each side. These two islands were evidently at one time joined together, forming a lozenge-shaped island, and had been eroded in the centre by the back-wash of the stream at the spot where it formed an angle.
Where the river turned from 315 deg. b.m. to 340 deg. b.m., it was much strewn with sharp cutting rocks. We were thrown with great violence on one of these and very nearly capsized. Great heaps of volcanic boulders were now seen on the right side of the channel, and one island 50 m. long—Nora Island—with a few shrubs on it.
A great heap of rock was fixed in the centre of the stream, forming a kind of spur, beyond which a regular barrier of rock spread from south-west to north-east right across the stream. We had difficulty in finding a suitable passage, but eventually got through close to the right bank in a small corrideira, easily recognizable by subsequent travellers, as by the side of it was a rocky hill of a conical shape 30 ft. high with a tuft of trees on its summit. On both banks of the stream rubber trees were plentiful. For 5,000 m. the river had been proceeding in a perfectly straight line to the N.N.W.
My work was extremely tiring, as not only was my time employed surveying the river carefully and writing up plentiful notes, but also I had to control the navigation as much as I could and be ready for any emergency, owing to the capricious nature of my men and their unbounded disobedience. Orders could not be given direct, as they were always disobeyed, so that to obtain what I wished I generally had to give the contrary order. For instance, if I wanted to avoid a rock I ordered Alcides to run the canoe on to the rock; if I wanted to shoot a rapid I ordered them to take the canoe down with ropes, and so on.
Innumerable rocks were now encountered all the time. In places regular great tables or platforms of polished rock were to be seen under the surface in the clear water. A wonderful group of gigantic rocks was then reached, with a most charming island peeping through behind.
We came to an island 450 m. long and 30 m. wide—Anna Island—where two more barriers of rock were found right across the stream. Beyond, a bank 150 m. long of deliciously white sand was observed, where some 2 kil. of placid navigation was gone through; but no sooner had we covered that short distance than strong eddies were again met with at the point where the river expanded to a somewhat greater width.
After going almost due west for a short distance the river gradually swung round to due north, a most beautiful view opening before us as we got round the sweeping curve. For 5,000 m. the river now ran in a perfectly straight line, with its beautiful clear water flowing over a rocky bed. In the far distance loomed the first range of mountains we had seen since leaving the Serra Azul. I had got so tired of gazing at a flat horizon line that the sight of the range gave me unbounded pleasure. But I had not much time to gaze upon the scenery, for rocks of all sizes and shapes were strewn all along the channel.
Two small islets, each 20 m. long, were passed on the right bank. Then came more picturesque groups of rock on the right and on the left of us as we paddled gaily along, and refreshing accumulations of pure white sand. Farther on, an island 50 m. wide and 60 m. long, with a southerly crown of huge boulders—Corona Island—was to be seen close to the right bank.
Some thousand metres before we got to the end of the long stretch, yet another elongated island 50 m. long lay close to the left bank. The island was thickly wooded. From that spot a basin fully 1,000 m. broad spread out. The easterly portion was a mass of rock, exposed a few feet above the surface. These rocks extended right across the basin as far as an island 350 m. long—Josephine Island. The vegetation was indescribably beautiful in that part. Immense quantities of rubber trees stood majestically, so far unknown and untouched in the luxuriant forest.
Eight distinct groups of rocks were found on the right-hand side of the river where it flowed for 4,000 m. in a N.N.W. direction. I took forty-two sights of the sun that day in order to determine the exact latitude and longitude. Lat. 10 deg. 48'.9 S.; long. 58 deg. 0' W.
When we left again in the afternoon the river, there 350 m. broad, was enchantingly beautiful, absolutely clear of obstacles as far as we could see. There was a stretch of 4,000 m. of placid waters, and we imagined that we had come to the end of our trouble.
Monkeys played gaily among the trees, evidently taking the greatest interest in the canoe. They followed us for long distances, jumping from tree to tree, shrieking with excitement and gazing at us with keen interest. We in the canoe suffered perfect torture from the millions of bees, gnats, and mosquitoes, which settled on us in absolute swarms and stung us for all they were worth. The lips, eyelids, nose and ears seemed to be their favourite spots for drawing blood—perhaps because the remainder of the face and neck was already a mass of stings and the skin had got hardened and parched by the broiling sun. The temperature was warm—92 deg. F. in the shade, and 103 deg. in the sun.
At the end of the 4,000 m. another great mass of rocks was found extending from south to north right across the stream. Fortunately we found a channel sufficiently large for navigating our canoe exactly in the centre of the river. After turning to the W.N.W. we found a charming little rocky islet with a solitary tree upon it, and 1 kil. farther a larger island 400 m. long and 300 m. wide in the shape of a triangle—Sylvia Island. This island was separated by a channel 70 m. wide from an immense island—Guanabara Island—6,400 m. long. The channel we followed, the river there flowing to the S.S.W., was 300 m. wide. Great masses of rock were visible on the left side. Where the river flowed in a more westerly direction rocks formed a barrier right across from south-east to north-west.
Then the river once more flowed in a S.S.W. direction through a perfectly beautiful channel. A lovely sand and gravel beach extended from north-east to south-west at the turn of the river where the great Guanabara Island ended.
Some 600 m. farther on a huge dome of rock like a spherical balloon was to be seen, with two smaller rocks by its side. A basin 400 m. wide was then found with an islet of sand 100 m. long on the left side, and a low islet of gravel partly wooded on the right side of the channel. These preceded another accumulation of sand and gravel 100 m. long with a few trees upon it, which was succeeded by a mass of rocks just before reaching a fair-sized island.
Another great spherical rock was seen before entering the channel between the island and the left bank. In the extensive bay great boulders of indescribable beauty were visible.
Several capivaras were basking in the sun on the top of the boulders, and were fired at many times by my men as they stood up to gaze at us in astonishment before they made up their minds to jump into the water and escape.
Close to those rocks an island—Teresa Island—400 m. long was next admired. Strong rapids had to be gone through in a great barrier of rocks at the end of this island. Then no sooner were we thanking our stars that we had negotiated that portion of our journey safely than we were among a lot of globular boulders, some 30 ft. high.
For 800 m. we had a placid time, the water of the stream being so beautifully green, so transparent, that we could see the bottom quite clearly. Our happiness did not last long. We had more rapids and a great rocky bank spreading from south-east to north-west right across the stream, and forming in one portion an island.
We went down another strong rapid between great and dangerously situated rocks and a large island. Then came another wonderful group of high domed rocks, one of the great domes displaying a sharp northern spur like the ram of a battleship. Next to it were three cylindrical rocks, just like towers, one of which leant over the dome.
Yet another rapid was shot through with no misadventure, and when we came to the end of a large island 4,500 m. long and 80 m. wide—Priscilla Island—preceded by a smaller islet of sand and gravel, we arrived at a direct stretch of 4,000 m. of river, flowing to the west. Another rocky islet with an accumulation of sand and a lot of scattered rocks by its side, then a high island, were passed on our right, and farther on we found another great group of globular rocks at the point where Daphne Island, 350 m. in length, began.
I hardly had time to map out the numberless rocks and islands we met before we came upon others. There again we saw three more islands in succession—Mars Island, 500 m. long and 100 m. wide; Jupiter Island, 250 m. long; and a third and smaller one, separated from the second by a channel strewn with huge boulders.
To the N.N.W., at 340 deg. b.m., we saw a hill 300 ft. high, some distance from the stream. Innumerable rocks again occurred in the centre of the channel, and then we came to an extensive triangular island—Barretos Island—the base of which was 300 m. Its left side was 2,000 m. long, its eastern or right side about 1,500 m. A hill range some 300 ft. high was looming before us to the north-east. The second island—Antonio Prado Island—had a total length of 2,000 m. with an average width of 200 m.
On this magnificent island we halted at five o'clock in the afternoon, and I took altitude observations with the hypsometrical apparatus: 1,062 ft. above the sea level.
We were again lucky in fishing that evening. We caught six trahiras, several pacus, and two young jahus—altogether some 120 lb. in weight. My men had wasted so much food, and so much had been spoiled by constant immersions—many of the tinned meats had been altogether spoiled by the tins having got rusty and gradually perforated—that I was beginning to feel rather anxious in case our journey should last longer than I expected. Unfortunately, we had lost most of our salt, and we had no way of preserving the fish, which we had to leave on the banks, absolutely wasted. In order, however, to show how lazy my men were, it is enough to say that, rather than take the slight trouble of placing some pieces of the excellent fish on board the canoe instead of trusting entirely to the luck we might have in fishing the next evening, they had to go the entire day without food. For some reason or other we could not get a single fish to bite, and we did not find a single bird or monkey to shoot.
I was rather interested to observe, in looking over my notes, that nearly all the rocky barriers we had met stretching across the river extended from south-east to north-west. I believe that similar barriers stretched in the same direction in the other southern tributaries of the Amazon, the Xingu and the Madeira Rivers, but, curiously enough, this was not the case with the River Araguaya.
We had made our camp that particular night on a lovely beach of white sand, which I found perfectly delicious, but which my men hated, as there were no trees on which they could hang their hammocks. They did not like to go into the luxuriant forest of the beautiful island, as they were afraid to go too far away from me, and I did not wish to go too far away from the canoe, which we had beached on the gravel bank, in case the river should rise suddenly or something should happen to make her float away. As I have said, I never, during the entire journey, let that canoe go out of my sight for one single moment. The men, therefore, went into the forest to cut big poles, which they afterwards planted with much exertion, in the sand near my camp-bed.
Some amusing scenes happened during the night, when the poles gradually gave way with the weight of the men in the hammocks, and, tumbling down altogether, gave them severe blows on their heads and bodies.
The stars were simply magnificent in brilliancy as I lay on my camp-bed. One particularly, to 290 deg. b.m. N.W.—the planet Venus—was extraordinarily brilliant, appearing six times as big as any other planet visible that night. It threw off radiations of wonderful luminosity, quite strong enough to illuminate with a whitish light a great circular surface of the sky around it.
In the morning, before we left, Alcides—who loved carving names and inscriptions on every tree and stone—duly incised the name of Antonio Prado, with which I baptized the island in honour of the greatest Brazilian living, upon a giant figueira tree on the southern edge of the extensive beach of sand and gravel.
Dogs—Macaws—Crocodiles—A Serious Accident—Men flung into a Whirlpool—The Loss of Provisions and Valuable Baggage—More Dangerous Rapids—Wonderful Scenery—Dangerous Work—On the Edge of a Waterfall—A Risky Experience—Bravery of Author's Brazilian Followers—A High Wind from the North-East—A Big Lake
THE night was heavy and damp. All our things were soaked in the morning with the dew which had fallen. We were enveloped in a thick mist when we woke up. It became a dense fog when the sun rose, and did not clear up until the sun was fairly high above the horizon. The minimum temperature during the night had been 62 deg. F. (July 22nd).
We were unable to leave until eight o'clock, as the river was dangerous enough when we could see where we were going, and it would have been rather foolish to add one more risk to our travelling in the fog.
My men were extremely irritable and morose that morning, and even our dogs were most troublesome. We had had a great deal of trouble with the dogs; they were as disobedient and untrainable as the men. Nearly every morning we had to waste a considerable time in getting the animals back into the canoe. When we were ready to start they generally dashed away into the forest and the men had to go and fetch them and bring them back. That particular morning one dog—the best we had—escaped, and my men searched for more than an hour, but were unable to find him. In trying to run after him they got their feet full of thorns, and they became so enraged that they decided to abandon the dog on the island. I called him for more than half an hour, trying to save his life, but the animal refused to come. So, much to my sorrow, we had to pull out without him, and undoubtedly the poor beast eventually must have died of starvation, as there was no food whatever to be obtained in the forest on the island.
The dogs were quite amusing to watch while in the canoe, their terror when we shot rapids being quite manifest. They were an additional source of danger to us, for once or twice while shooting rapids strewn with rocks they would jump out of the canoe on to the rocks as we were shaving past them, and we lost much time on several occasions in order to rescue them. In going through the forest the poor animals had suffered much from the attacks of ants and all kinds of insects, many parasites having got inside their ears and where the skin was softer under their legs, causing terrible sores.
They never got fond of anybody, no matter how well they were treated. In fact, unlike all other dogs of any other country, they never seemed even to recognize any of us. Alcides had become the owner of the abandoned dog in a peculiar way at the beginning of our journey, when travelling with my caravan of mules. The dog was going along with a man travelling in the opposite direction to ours. Alcides, who at the time was eating some bread, whistled to the dog, and from that moment the animal left his master and came along with us.
Perhaps Brazilian dogs do not give affection because they never receive any. They were so timid that when you lifted your hand to caress them they would dash away yelling, with their tails between their legs, as if you had been about to strike them. I tried time after time to make friends with them—and I am generally quick at making friends with animals—but I gave up in despair the hope of gaining the slightest affection from those dogs.
When we came to the end of the island we found another great barrier of foliated rock extending from east to west, 500 m. across. The basin showed, moreover, three sets of giant rocks on the left side. In the north-easterly part where the river narrowed again there stood a range of hills 300 ft. high, extending from west to east, and parallel to the rocky barrier across the basin. A streamlet 3 m. wide coming from the south-west entered the Arinos from the left bank. The hill range which stood along the right bank of the river showed a rocky formation of a greyish colour right up to its summit, and was, in fact, a mere great rocky barrier with only a few trees growing in interstices which had been filled with earth and sand. The southern aspect of the range was an almost vertical wall.
The river was proceeding mostly in a westerly and north-westerly direction for long stretches of 3,500 m., 4,000 m., 2,000 m., until we came to an equilateral-triangular island, 300 m. each side—Erminia Island. A small channel not more than 20 m. across separated this from an irregularly-shaped island, 600 m. long—Niobe Island. After this came a low island of sand and gravel 5 ft. high and 300 m. long, with merely a few trees upon it, whereas the other two islands were covered with dense and most beautiful vegetation. The main channel of the river was 400 m. wide.
Araras (macaws) of great size and of a beautiful vermilion colour flew overhead, shrieking wildly at the sight of us. We began to find a great many jacares (Caiman fissipis) or crocodiles. I saw one sleeping placidly on an islet of gravel. I landed and photographed it, subsequently waking it with a start by throwing a stone at it. My men, who were following cautiously behind me, opened a fusillade and killed it.
It was really amusing to watch the astonishment of the few animals and birds we met in that deserted part of Brazil, as none of them had seen a human being. They evidently did not know what to make of us. They generally looked with curiosity and surprise, and my men could fire shot after shot before they would attempt to run, or, if they were birds, fly away.
There were in that region some fine specimens of the cigana (Opisthocomus cristatus) and of the jacu (Penelope cristata). The cigana was beautiful to look at, with brown and yellow stripes, not unlike a pheasant, and a tuft of bright yellow feathers on the head. All of a sudden we came upon great numbers of these birds, and they supplied us with good meals.
There were again plenty of rubber trees in the forest, plenty of fish in the river. The climate was not too hot—merely 87 deg. F. in the shade, 105 deg. in the sun—the insects not too troublesome; so that it seemed to us a paradise on earth.
We had now before us a great expanse of 5,000 m. of straight river to 345 deg. b.m., with two parallel ranges of hills extending from west to east. The second range was the higher of the two—some 600 ft., whereas the first was only 200 ft. high.
What I took to be a great river coming from 75 deg. b.m. (N.E.), 250 m. wide, joined the Arinos from the right side; but I was puzzled whether this was not a mere arm of the Arinos. In the quick survey I was making, and with the many things which occupied my mind at every moment, the river being moreover so wide, it was impossible, single-handed, to survey everything carefully on every side. Therefore this may have been a mere arm of the Arinos which I mistook for a tributary. It was not possible for me to deviate from my course every moment to go and ascertain problematic details, but it will be quite easy for subsequent travellers to clear up this point now that attention has been drawn to it.
An island, 1,000 m. long—Olivia Island—was found at the point where the main arm of the river flowed in a direction of 345 deg. b.m., and where to the north-west, north, and north-east, three hill ranges were before us—one 300 ft. high, extending from south-west to north-east on the left side of the river; another thickly wooded hill from west to east, also 300 ft. high; and yet another one, the highest of all, behind it from S.S.W. to N.N.E., on the right bank. The river was 350 m. wide, and its water almost stagnant.
Another barrier of rock held up the stream. We came to an island 800 m. long, 300 m. wide—Sabrina Island—on the left side of the stream, which showed a beautiful spit of white sand at its southern end.
I halted on the bank where the island began in order to take observations for latitude and longitude, and as the day was a very clear one I took forty-eight consecutive sights of the sun with the sextant. Lat. 10 deg. 35'.1 S.; long. 58 deg. 12' W. While I was busy observing the sun I thought I heard curious noises in the forest just behind me. The dogs all of a sudden jumped up, barking furiously, and I heard the sounds of what seemed an escaping person dashing away through the thick growth near the stream. My men were greatly excited, saying it was an Indian who had come quite close to me, and was about to shoot an arrow while I was busy with my sextant and chronometers. All through lunch they sat with their loaded rifles next to them, in case we might be attacked.
The river now flowed in a straight line for 5,000 m. in a north-westerly direction. Half-way along was a large triangular island—Pandora Island; then farther on the left another island, 2,000 m. long—Sibyl Island.
The river was of extraordinary beauty in that region. The tall range of hills to the north-west of us showed beautiful cobalt-blue tones against the whitish and grey sky; while the dark green foliage of the trees and the yellow blooms of the Oleo pardo trees visible here and there, the immaculate white sandy beach along the water line, together with the brilliantly red and yellow rocks which stood out of the crystalline emerald water, formed indeed a beautiful scene for the painter's brush.
It did not do to be poetically inclined when travelling on the Arinos. I had hardly time to realize how beautiful that scene was when we found ourselves confronted by another big barrier of rocks, through which we went over a swift corrideira.
A basin was formed, 900 m. wide, with an extensive island of rock on the right side of it. Then we suddenly came to a terrible-looking rapid at an incline so steep that I foresaw trouble in store for us. There was no way of stopping anywhere, as the current was swiftly taking us down.
"We are lost!" shouted one man. "Jesus Maria Santissima!"
"Paddle away! paddle away, for Heaven's sake!" I shouted, as I knew that speed alone could save us from disaster.
Down went the canoe at an angle of 45 deg. in the foaming and twisting waters of the rapid. Where the water curled right over itself the heavy canoe was lifted up in the air like a feather, and as I turned round to shout to Alcides to steer straight ahead I saw his expanded eyes looking in terror at the terrific whirlpool which was facing us at the bottom of the rapid.
"No! no!" cried Alcides.
"Straight—straight! For God's sake, straight!" shouted I; and as I saw the canoe swerve to the right I again shouted to Alcides to steer straight in order to avoid the dangerous part of the whirlpool.
Alcides would not steer straight, but steered us instead on the right for the very centre of the whirlpool. No sooner did the prow of the canoe enter the circle of the rotating water, which formed a deep concave hollow 70 or 80 m. in diameter, than, dipping her nose in the water, she was flung right up into the air, revolving on herself. Baggage and men all tumbled over, two men being thrown with terrific force clean out of the canoe. A lot of baggage disappeared into the whirlpool. The canoe, although filled with water, righted herself and spun round helplessly at an alarming speed. The impact had been so violent that the men, in tumbling over, had lost all the paddles except one.
We heard the cries of the two men in the water, and I saw them struggle in order to keep themselves afloat. I gave a sigh of relief that the two men—already a long distance from us—were, by a great stroke of luck, the only two who could swim. I urged them to have courage and we would come to their rescue, although for a moment I could not think how we should do it, as we had only one paddle left and the steering gear had got torn away from its socket, although Alcides with great courage had managed to save it. I ordered my men to paddle with their hands and with the large oar which was used for steering. We were tossed about in a terrific manner, the men and canoe going round and round the whirlpool in an absolutely helpless fashion.
What distressed me more than anything was when I saw the two men getting nearer and nearer the centre, although they made a desperate struggle to swim away from it. In our effort to get to them by using the steering oar, the canoe, for some reason or other, swung round upon herself two or three times, and I saw with gladness the men gradually getting nearer. It was a moment of joy when I saw Antonio, who was a powerful swimmer, within only a few feet of the canoe. His face was ghastly, with an expression of terror upon it. He was quite exhausted, and was shouting pitifully for help. The man X was a few yards farther off.
The canoe suddenly swung round, going right against Antonio, who grasped the side of the boat and proceeded in such haste to climb on board that he came within an ace of capsizing her. A few moments later we were alongside of X, but he was so exhausted that he had not the strength to climb up. We seized him and with great difficulty lifted him inside the canoe.
We continued to go round and round the vortex in a helpless fashion, endeavouring with the steering oar to get out of that perilous position. As I gazed around I saw my camp bed and bedding, which were enclosed in a water-tight canvas bag, still floating close to the centre of the whirlpool. Alas! a moment later they were sucked down. Most of our cooking utensils which were loose in the canoe had been washed overboard. Two of our casseroles were floating gracefully in a circle round the whirlpool.
It is curious how people's mentality will work on such occasions. After we had been some minutes endeavouring to get away from the centre of the whirlpool, one of my men, who had recovered from the fright, saw the cooking pans, which were about to disappear. His first impulse was to shout that we must go and get them!
It was with some relief that we were able to extricate ourselves, and eventually reached the outer edge of the whirlpool, where the water changed direction, and the canoe was swung violently, entering a patch of comparatively placid water. Paddling with our hands we slowly reached the bank, and nearly an hour later—it having taken us all that time to go about 150 m.—we baled the water out of the canoe and proceeded to examine the amount of our loss.
Nearly all the cooking utensils, as I have said, had disappeared; two boxes of tinned provisions had gone overboard and were lost for ever; a bag of flour and a bag of rice had vanished in those terrible waters; a package containing a great part of my clothes had also gone for ever, as well as some of the clothing of my men. What was worse than all for me, my camp-bed and all my bedding were lost, which would compel me in the future to sleep either on the ground—which was practically impossible in that region owing to the number of ants and other insects—or else do as I did, sleep on four wooden packing-boxes, which I placed in a line. They made a most uneven and hard bed, as I had, of course, no mattress and no covering of any kind. A despatch-box, with some money, a lot of important official letters and other documents, were lost, and also my mercurial artificial horizon and one of my chronometers. A number of other things of less importance were also gone and quite beyond recovery.
We worked hard all that afternoon and the greater part of the night in shaping new paddles out of trees we had cut down with the axes, which were fortunately not lost. The new paddles were even more primitive and clumsy than those we had before.
We dried what remained of our baggage in the sun during the afternoon. The beautiful sandy beach on which we had landed looked very gay with all the articles I had spread out from some of my trunks, including a dress-suit which I hung on a young palm, and other such articles, which looked rather incongruous in that particular region. All the white linen clothes I possessed had gone, and there only remained some good serge clothes which I had kept for my arrival in civilized places again. My water-tight boxes had been knocked about so much that they had got injured and let in a good deal of moisture.
One of my valuable cameras was badly damaged in the accident, and one of my sextants was soaked to such an extent that it took me the best part of two hours to clean it all up again. I saved the negatives which were in the damaged camera by developing them at once during the night while they were still wet.
My men were greatly excited over the accident, especially the two who had fallen into the water. In a way I was glad it had happened, as I was in hopes it might be a good lesson to them and they might be a little more careful in the future. Had Alcides obeyed my orders we should have gone through safely. I pointed that out to him, but it was no use; even then he maintained that in order to be safe you must steer right into the whirlpool and not out of it—which really made me begin to feel rather nervous, as I fully expected, as we went along, to find worse rapids than those we had negotiated so far, since we still had to get down from 1,000 ft. or so to the sea level.
We halted for the remainder of the day. I spent a miserable night sleeping on the packing-boxes, now that my bed had gone for ever. I did not deserve that bit of ill-luck, for indeed my camp-bed was the only thing I possessed which gave me a little comfort. After working hard all day and the greater part of the night, a few hours spent lying down flat on the stretched canvas of the bed were most enjoyable; although never, throughout the entire journey, was I able to sleep soundly, as I always had to be on the alert, never knowing what might happen.
The night of July 22nd was fairly cool, the minimum temperature being 58 deg. F. When we proceeded on our journey in the morning we passed an island 1,500 m. long—Arabella Island. The river was now flowing due west. Again we came upon rocks in the centre and upon the right side of the river, with a strong corrideira and with dangerous submerged rocks close to the surface. There was an islet 150 m. long on the right side in a basin 500 m. broad. A hill 100 ft. high stood on the left side of the stream, while a hill range 300 ft. high was now visible to the W.N.W.
We had little time to admire the beautiful scenery, for we soon found ourselves upon another great barrier with a terrible-looking rapid. I asked my men if they preferred to shoot it, as the exertion of loading and unloading the canoe was certainly heavy.
"No, no, no, no!" they all cried in a chorus.
We therefore unloaded the canoe, and with considerable trouble and waste of time we led her down the rapid by means of ropes. Even led in that fashion with the greatest care, the canoe was entirely filled with water.
Islets of rock of considerable beauty rose from the river on the right-hand side. As we got a little way farther, slightly more to the north-west, another hill range, perhaps a little higher than the one we had already observed, began to disclose itself to the north-west, on the right side of the river. As we advanced I further ascertained that the first range extended in a general direction from south-west to north-east. The river had actually eroded its way through this range. Strong rapids were again met with at that point, the channel being strewn with innumerable sharp-edged rocks, most unpleasant if you were to come in contact with them.
A small islet with a picturesque spur of rock on the north side was here seen; then a larger island, 300 m. long—Evelina Island—also on the left side. The river flowed for 3,000 m. in a N.N.W. direction, and at the end of that distance a rectangular island, 200 m. long and 80 m. wide—Eileen Island—embellished it. Like most of the islands in that particular portion of the river it had a beautiful spur of rock on its eastern side, preceded by a little islet also of rock. We passed to the left of this island. It was separated by a channel 80 m. wide from another narrow island, 200 m. to the west of it—Diana Island.
Just before getting to a third range extending from south-west to north-east, and, like the other two, about 300 ft. high, we came upon a long barrier of rock spreading diagonally for about 1,000 m. from south-west to north-east. A long narrow island (200 m. long)—Bertha Island—began from that point close to the right bank, and another had been separated by the water from the bank itself. A tributary 2 m. wide was observed on the left side. We kept close to the left bank and passed on our right an island 300 m. long—Sophia Island.
So numerous were the islands following one another that I was beginning to have great difficulty in supplying sufficient names for them all.
More rapids were reached, and were of terrific force—especially in the centre of the river. It took me some little time to find a suitable passage, but at last I found a channel 25 m. wide through which I got the canoe among innumerable rocks. We went over a great filare—by which word the Italians cleverly define an extensive alignment in the stratum—of rock of extreme hardness which had evidently been fractured in some violent commotion of the earth, and had left sharp edges which cut just like knives close to the surface of the water. This rocky obstacle extended as usual from south-east to north-west.
A tiny streamlet entered the river on the left not far from the hill range on that same side. The trees in that particular region had a most peculiar appearance: their high, perfectly straight stems, quite free from branches or leaves up to their very summit, looked like so many columns, mostly of a whitish colour. Many, however, were encircled, others absolutely smothered with creepers. The scenery was really beautiful; it was like travelling through fairyland.
In the centre of the basin 400 m. wide to which we next came was an island, 80 m. in diameter—Gingillo Island—and to the south-west of it a small islet with an extensive beach and accumulation of rocks in a northerly direction. On the southern side of the river a sand beach, interspersed with rocks, spread almost across, as far as the latter island.
I took 55 astronomical sights in order to get the exact latitude and longitude (lat. 10 deg. 30'.7 S.; long. 58 deg. 19' W.), and to check the time of the second chronometer, which still remained in my possession. We had made poor progress that day as far as the distance went—only 17 kil. 100 m.
We had come to some nasty rapids, which at first looked quite impassable by water, some of the waves shooting up so high in the air as to make it out of the question for any canoe to go through.
There was another extensive filare of rock, so beautifully polished that it looked almost as if it had been varnished over. It was evidently an ancient flow of lava, with great holes in it here and there. The flow spread from south-west to north-east, was of a brilliant shining yellow, and most beautiful to look at.
I had to make my camp on the rocks near this rapid, where we unloaded the canoe in order to take her down by means of ropes by the eastern channel—very narrow and very unpleasant, but it was the only one possible. It was all we could do to hold the canoe as she tobogganed down the incline, and we had some nasty falls on the slippery rock trying to hold her.
We had a dangerous bit of work to do the moment we had descended the rapid, for we had then to navigate the canoe right across the basin, where whirlpools of some magnitude were formed, directly over a waterfall of some height and pouring down great volumes of water with a terrific roar on the north-east side of the basin; then along the really terrifying rapid on the south-west side. It was necessary to do that, as I had observed that it was only on the opposite side of the river that we could possibly take the canoe down, and no other course was open to us than to go across that dangerous spot.
We had to be smart about it, or we certainly should have perished. My men behaved splendidly. We had reloaded the canoe. The quarter of an hour or so which it took us to cross that basin was somewhat exciting, as we struggled through the various whirlpools, the current all the time dragging us closer and closer to the waterfall, while my men were paddling with all their might and Alcides was steering right against the current in order to prevent the fatal leap.
I urged the men on, and they paddled and paddled away, their eyes fixed on the fall which was by that time only a few metres away from us. They were exhausted in the frantic effort, and their paddles seemed to have no effect in propelling the canoe. The men, who were always talkative, were now silent; only the man X exclaimed, as we were only eight or ten metres from the fall: "Good-bye, father and mother! I shall never see you again!" The other men gave a ghastly grin.
"Go on! Row! row!—For God's sake row!" I shouted to them, as I saw they had given themselves up for lost. "Row!" I shouted once more; and as if the strength had suddenly come back to them they made a frantic effort. The canoe went a little faster for a minute or two—just enough for us to clear the waterfall and to drift alongside some rocks which stood in the centre of the stream. We were saved.
My men were so exhausted that we had to rest there for some time before we could proceed to cross the dreadful rapid down the other portion of the barrier.
I was glad we had had that experience, because it showed me that after all it was possible to make brave men of men who were absolutely pusillanimous before. When I mentioned that we still had to go over the other dangerous part, they said, much to my delight:
"We are Brazilians—we are afraid of nothing! We will come with you." And what is more, they did.
They smoked a few cigarettes. I had always supplied them with ample tobacco in order to keep them in a good temper. Then when I gave the order to start they jumped gaily into the canoe, shouting again:
"We are Brazilians! We are afraid of nothing!"
So we began negotiating the second portion of that nasty crossing. There is nothing I admire more than courage. My men went up in my estimation that day at least a hundred per cent.
The second part of our crossing was just as dangerous as the first part—perhaps more so. The men, however, behaved splendidly, and rowed with such vigour that we got through safely and quickly above the most difficult portion, and eventually landed upon a mass of rocks on the opposite side of the stream.
There we had a busy time, as we had once more to unload the canoe, cut a way through the forest in order to convey the baggage overland to a spot about half a mile farther down stream; then we had to come back to take the canoe by means of ropes down the rapid itself.
It was necessary for one of us to be inside the canoe in order to steer her while being led down. Alcides, who was indeed an extraordinarily brave man, would not hand over his job to anybody else, and insisted on being allowed to steer the canoe. It was with great reluctance that I allowed him, as he could not swim. When we proceeded to let the canoe down by the small western channel, the foaming waters and high waves rolling back upon themselves with great force were most troublesome to negotiate. The canoe was repeatedly lifted right out of the water, and gave us holding the ropes such violent jerks that we were flung in all directions. When I got up again, still holding on to the rope, Alcides had disappeared. He had been pitched clean out of the canoe. Fortunately, a moment later I saw that he was clinging to the steering gear, which we had made extra fast in order that it might stand the great strain.
We managed to pull the canoe and Alcides close to the rocks. Eventually we all had to go into the water up to our necks and lead the canoe by hand with the greatest care in the swift current for the remaining distance. Once or twice we were nearly overpowered by the current, and we were glad when, nearly two hours later, our job was finished, and, absolutely exhausted, we made camp for the night on the rocks.
The men were so excited that during the entire night they sat up commenting on the experience of the day. Their remarks were quite amusing, especially their imitations of the rush of the water, the bumping of the canoe, and Alcides' sudden disappearance and narrow escape from drowning.
The waterfall and rapids spread across the river at that spot for some 650 m. During the night of July 24th the thermometer showed a minimum temperature of 62 deg. F.
I noticed a small streamlet 1 m. wide on the left bank, and to the W.S.W. a conical hill rising over a gently sloping undulating range 350 ft. above the river level—that is to say, about 1,400 ft. above the sea level.
A strong wind sprang up, which caught us sideways and produced such high waves breaking over the canoe, and so severe a motion, that my men became ill. We had to stop, until the wind abated, on a small charming island. As we were approaching the island Alcides sent us right over a rock which was sticking some 2 ft. above water. The bottom of the canoe was so scraped in the violent collision that a good deal of the stuffing with which we had filled the longitudinal crack was torn off, and she quickly filled with water. When we halted more garments had to be destroyed in order to fill up the aperture to the best of our ability.
When the storm was over we continued our journey, going over some rapids in quite a novel way. The men were quarrelling among themselves and had stopped paddling, the paddles being waved in the air in a threatening way as they spoke violently to one another. Alcides had also left the steering gear, and in his fury against the other men had seized his rifle in order to give force to his words. We were approaching the rapid. I advised them to continue their quarrel after we had gone through, but they would not listen to me. The prow of the canoe, just as we were about to enter the rapid, was caught in a rock, and the canoe swung right round, so that we shot the rapid floating down stern first. We shipped a lot of water, the refreshing bath somewhat cooling the excitement of my men, who, realizing the danger when we entered the whirlpool, took to paddling again.
I discovered from their conversation during the night that my men were imbued with the idea that I had a guardian angel attending my person, and that no matter what happened while they were with me they would have no mishap.
The river gradually turned northwards again. I noticed on the right side a hill-range 350 ft. high, extending from south-west to north-east.
The wind came up again, tossing the canoe about considerably. My men once more became seasick owing to the rolling. The new paddles we had made from fresh wood after our accident in the rapids did not prove much of a success, the wood splitting badly. We had to keep the various pieces together by tying them with string. I could not help laughing when I looked at my men paddling. One paddle had a quadrangular blade; another formed an elongated oval; a third had originally been circular but was then reduced to the shape of a half-moon, the other half having been washed away.
For 4,000 m. the river had flowed due west, then it turned to 310 deg. b.m. Two large islands in succession—one 400 m. long and 350 m. wide—Pericles Island; the second of an equal width to the first, and 700 m. long—Aspasia Island—were seen.
A high wind from the north-east and east continued the entire day, and broke into occasional severe gusts that were most troublesome to us. Heavy rain-clouds hung over our heads. My men felt cold and shivery and quite miserable in the choppy waters, which made them extremely ill. Their faces were green and yellow, their eyes had a pitiful expression in them. They looked as if they were all being led to execution. The temperature of the atmosphere was only 75 deg. F.
Shortly before sunset, after a beautiful stretch of river of 4,000 m. to 335 deg. b.m. (N.N.W.), followed by one of 4,000 m. 5 deg. farther to the north, we came to an immense basin—a regular lake—4,000 m. long, 1,500 m. wide, with two lovely islands in its northerly part. It was there that the great River Juruena, coming from the south-west, joined the Arinos. We had the greatest difficulty in crossing the big, deep lake, because of the high wind which was blowing at the time. The waves were high and caught us on one side; the rolling was so heavy that on many occasions we shipped a great deal of water and nearly capsized. When we got into the centre of the lake the wind increased in fury. My men were very ill and much scared—for we had a great expanse of water on all sides and we could not bale the water out of the canoe fast enough, so quickly was she filling. I urged on the men all the time and took an extra paddle myself to encourage them. We made slow progress, the men suffering greatly. I had to wait for their convenience every few moments when they were badly indisposed.
We tossed about for the best part of two hours, until at last we reached the opposite side of the lake. In a hurry to land, Alcides threw the canoe over some rocks on which the water was breaking with fury. However, the water was shallow at that point. We jumped out, and eventually, trembling with cold, we beached the canoe on a most beautiful island, where we made our camp for the night.
The Point of Junction of the Arinos and Juruena Rivers—Elfrida Landor Island—Terrible Days of Navigation—Immense Islands—An Old Indian Camp—A Fight between a Dog and an Ariranha—George Rex Island—A Huge Sucuriu Snake
THE spot where the two great rivers met was most impressive, especially from the island on which we stood, directly opposite the entrance of the two streams. The immense lake was spread before us, and beyond were the two great rivers meeting at an angle. Great walls of verdant forest lined all the banks and islands before us. Curiously enough, both in the Arinos and in the Juruena two long narrow islands appeared parallel to the banks of each stream. The islands resembled each other in size. The Juruena had two islands near its mouth, one narrow and long, the other in the shape of a quadrangle. The Arinos also showed a long and narrow island at its mouth, and another ending in a point.
It was my intention to take soundings right across the mouth of the Arinos and also across the mouth of the Juruena, but unluckily, owing to the strong easterly wind which prevailed that day, it was quite impossible for me to attempt such a task at the mouth of the Arinos, and equally impossible was it to proceed back across the lake to the mouth of the Juruena to measure the volume of water which came out of that river. Without any attempt at mathematical accuracy I should say that the two rivers carried an almost equal volume of water.
Where we landed there were two separate islands, one of which I named after my sister—the Elfrida Landor Island; the other one, next to it, I named Francesco Island. The Elfrida Landor Island—really most beautiful to look at—was 800 m. long; Francesco Island was 1,200 m. in length but not quite so broad.
There was a most picturesque channel 200 m. wide, with marvellous rocks forming a barrier across it, on the right side of the river, between Francesco Island and the right bank. The main part of the stream, however, flowed in a much larger channel between the left bank and Elfrida Landor Island.
The joint Arinos-Juruena River had now a total width of 500 m., and flowed in a direction of 15 deg. bearings magnetic. I took accurate observations with the hypsometrical apparatus in order to determine the exact elevation of that important spot: water boiled at the junction of the Juruena and Arinos at 210 deg..43/4, while the temperature of the air was 70 deg. F.; in other words the elevation of the place was 987 ft. above the sea level.
I also took observations there for latitude and longitude. Lat. 10 deg. 21'.7 S.; long. 58 deg. 35' W. The Juruena entered the lake from bearings magnetic 250 deg. (W.S.W.), the Arinos from bearings magnetic 100 deg. (E.S.E.). The minimum temperature during the night on Elfrida Island was 57 deg. F. My men suffered a great deal from the cold, as they had got badly chilled with the wet and the high wind during the day. Most of them complained of severe rheumatic pains and violent toothache. They could not understand why I did not have any pains of any kind—and to tell the truth, neither could I, after all we had gone through of late.
When we left Elfrida Landor Island on July 25th we had a beautiful stretch of river 4,000 m. long in a straight line, but with a good many rocks strewn in the channel. The men paddled unwillingly, as they said they were aching all over; but the current was strong and we were going along fairly quickly. My men said that we must now have come to the end of all the rapids. I did not care to disillusion them, although I suspected that we still had hard days in store. We had not proceeded very far when a rumbling noise warned us that we were approaching danger. There was a rapid on the east side of the river, but it left a fairly easy passage on the west. A little farther, however, we came to a very bad rapid, and had to unload the canoe, which we were obliged to let down carefully with ropes. My men, who felt feverish and irritable, owing to our previous day's experience, were greatly upset at this new obstacle facing us.
The river was 500 m. wide at this part. The rocks on which we trod when we took the canoe down were so sharp that they cut our feet. It was not possible to wear shoes, as when we had them on we slipped on the rock and had no hold upon the ropes. My men, in their state of weakness, had not sufficient strength to hold the canoe, and the moment she entered the swift current she escaped, dragging one man into the rapid. I jumped into the water after him, and just managed to grab him before he was swept away altogether in the terrific current. We were all drenched, and as the wind blew with great violence that day, and there was no sun to warm us up, we felt the cold very much.
The canoe was thrown mercilessly now against one rock, then against another; but, as luck would have it, after she had made several pirouettes, we, running all the time with our bleeding feet on the sharp rocks along the bank, were eventually able to recapture her at the end of the rapid. Then came the job of going back to fetch all the baggage and bring it down, baling the water out of the canoe, and starting off once more.
My men were tired; they said they could stand the work no more, and they wanted to remain there and die. It took much persuasion to make them come on. I succeeded principally by giving them a good example, carrying down most of the loads that day myself from the upper end of the rapid to the lower—a distance of several hundred metres. I was getting tired, too, of carrying the heavy loads, but I never let my men see it; that would have been fatal.
The river was divided into two channels by a group of islands which must at one time have been one great triangular one, subsequently worn by parallel and transverse channels into seven islands. The first, most southerly, was 300 m. broad, 150 m. long, and of a triangular shape. The three immediately behind this, and of irregular shapes, had an average length of some 700 m.; whereas the last group of three, all of elongated shapes, had a length of 300 m. each. I was getting to the end of the list of names for all those islands, and I was at a loss to find seven names all of a sudden, so I called the group the Seven Sisters Islands. At the end of the group the river narrowed to 400 m. in width between a long island to the west and the right bank, and flowed due north for 12,000 m. in a direct line—indeed a most beautiful sight. Fifteen hundred metres down that distance a great barrier of columnar or cylindrical rocks stuck out of the water from W.S.W. to E.N.E. North of those rocks on the left side, upon the island, not less than 5,000 m. long—Lunghissima Island—was a beautiful yellow sand beach 200 m. long, which formed a separate islet with trees upon its northerly half. Numerous rocks obstructed the east side (right) of the river.
Farther on, another lovely sandy islet 100 m. long had formed behind a number of rocks, and was of a clean, beautiful yellowish white, with a few shrubs and trees growing upon it. All those sand beaches were extremely interesting to me. I invariably landed upon them. I had made a wonderful collection of all the minute plants and delightful miniature flowers which grew upon these beaches—an immense variety, indeed, but of such small dimensions and of such delicate tints that it required sometimes a great strain of eyesight to see them at all. Some were really most beautiful. I spent a good deal of time and patience in collecting, pressing, and classifying those dainty little sand-plants, and I was beginning to flatter myself that I had formed a complete collection.
At the spot where Lunghissima Island came to an end a large triangular island was to be seen on the left of us. A great barrier of rocks stretched across the stream, a prominent cluster of picturesque boulders forming a powerful spur which cut the current at the southern part of the triangle of land.
Although the thermometer marked 93 deg. in the sun my men complained of the intense cold, partly because they all had fever, partly also because the wind was extremely strong that day and caused waves of some size in the stream, which dashed against the canoe and splashed us all over. Again my men were seasick that day, and got furious with me as I could not help laughing at their plight.
With a slight deviation of 20 deg. to the west came another stretch of 4,000 m. in a straight line. A two-humped range of hills now loomed before us to the north-west. We had gone along the side of another elongated island 8,000 metres in length—Yolanda Island. When we came to the end of this great island, two other islands parallel to each other were disclosed to the west of us, one 1,000 m. long—Carmela Island—the other 600 m.—Stella Island. The first had a pretty island 300 m. long—Hilda Island—next to it on the east side. We halted at the end of Yolanda Island and there took observations for latitude and longitude, thirty-one consecutive sights of the sun being taken. Lat. 10 deg. 13'.3 S; long. 58 deg. 35' W.
When we resumed our journey four more islets were visible and a barrier of rock from north-west to south-east again stretching right across the stream. Just beyond lay Romola Island, 1,200 m. long and equally broad. At the end of the island we found a channel 100 m. wide, separating it from two neighbours on the east; in fact, much to my dismay, we found ourselves in a regular maze of islands and rocks, and my time was fully employed keeping an account of and measuring them.
A crescent-shaped island—Urania Island—1,000 m. in length, with most wonderful vegetation upon it, was now on our left. That region was extraordinarily rich in rubber. The channel which we had followed was strewn all over with rocks. Another island, 400 m. long—Caterina Island—followed. The current in the Arinos-Juruena River had a speed of 80 m. a minute. The river in places where no islands lay had a width of 200 m. The water was most beautifully clear, of a lovely emerald green, with a wonderful white sand bottom clearly visible although the river had considerable depth in many places. Yet another island, 600 m. long—Una Island—came in sight to the right of us; then another between two companions, forming almost a circle round the central isle. The river now formed a basin not less than 800 m. wide with innumerable rocks at the entrance. We went on kilometre after kilometre, spending our time in avoiding unpleasant rocks, when again we came first to fairly strong rapids, then to an extremely dangerous rapid, which we shot, as we were carried away into it before we had time to realize where we were. We had the greatest difficulty in extricating ourselves from the many terrifying whirlpools at the end of the rapid, in a great basin 900 m. wide. We found a most beautiful halting place on a natural terrace of volcanic rock some 20 ft. above the river, with a dome of rock in the centre.
I met signs of Indians close to the river. Evidently a tribe had once halted there, but apparently many years before our arrival. I discovered their fireplaces, several carved pieces of wood, and some fragments of rudimentary pottery in the neighbourhood of this picturesque spot. In exploring round the place I also found some almost entirely obliterated indications of several ancient trails which had been made by the Indians in the forest.
Looking toward bearings magnetic 340 deg., and also in the opposite direction to the south, most gorgeous river scenes were before us. This was by far the most beautiful spot I had come across on the river so far. I therefore named the huge island on which I stood George Rex Island. I gave Alcides orders to carve the name on a tree, but as he was an anarchist he refused to do it, excusing himself by saying that he had injured his hand.
At that camp we caught over 400 lb. of fish in less than half an hour—three jahus among the number, each weighing over 40 lb. Then we also captured two cachorra or dog fish, which possessed vicious-looking molars of great length, not unlike those of a big dog. Each of these fish weighed over 30 lb. Then we got eight trahiras, some 20 lb. each in weight. With the little salt which remained we preserved some of the fish, as we were now getting very short of food. However, we had excellent meals most of the time on the river, frying the fish with fat which we extracted from the fish itself.
During the night of July 26th we had a minimum temperature of 55 deg. F., but as we had had plenty to eat the previous evening—in fact, too much—we did not feel the cold quite so severely.
Ariranhas in large families were plentiful near that spot, and came close several times, grinding their teeth at us, especially when we were slaughtering the fish on the bank. We kept watch during the entire night, as on that occasion they were truly vicious. Our dogs, for a change, became quite sportive. One of them, named Negrino, got furious with the ariranhas, and, driven mad by their unmusical noises, actually jumped into the stream to go to their attack. In a moment he had quantities of ariranhas upon him, and was bitten savagely, one ear being nearly torn off. He endeavoured to beat a retreat, but by that time he was in mid-stream and struggling for dear life against his enemies. We put out in the canoe at once and went to his rescue, eventually getting him on board in an exhausted condition, and bleeding terribly all over.
We enjoyed a hearty breakfast of boiled and fried fish before leaving camp at 9 o'clock in the morning. We were sorry to leave the beautiful camp—the best we had had since we had been on the River Arinos. There were before us two great channels. The one flowing east was the larger of the two, fully 400 m. wide and 3,000 m. long in a straight line. As we were paddling along we passed on our left a triangular island the southern side of which was 2,000 m. long, the south-east side 500 m.—Angela Island.
Where the river deviated to 30 deg. b.m. a perfectly straight stretch of 8,000 m. was before us—a most beautiful sight. Two parallel islands, only 50 m. wide, one 400 m. the other 300 m. long, were on the right of us, in the part of the river where George Rex Island, which was still to the right of us, described a graceful semicircle. Fifteen hundred metres farther down George Rex Island came to an end with a beautiful spit of sand 200 m. long. Just beyond, still on our right, another island, 400 m. long—Rosalinda Island—was passed, also with a lovely spit of sand 200 m. in extent. The river at this place had a total width of 500 m. At a point 5,000 m. down the straight stretch due east we came to three parallel elongated islands, two of them 300 m. long, the third 1,000 m. in length, all three on the right of us as we floated down. A barrier of rocks extended right across the stream from north-west to south-east, at a spot where on our left side, at b.m. 330 deg., a hill range extended northwards. With a slight deviation of 10 deg. eastward (40 deg. b.m.) another beautiful stretch of 6,000 m. was before us. More islands, more clusters of picturesque rocks were passed. First came a group of two islands, the larger 350 m. long—Vanessa Island; then a beautiful clean sand-spit 150 m. long, almost in mid-stream, preceded a group of three parallel islands—Philomela Island, 400 m. long, Portia Island, 300 m. and Psyche Island, 4,500 m. Beyond these were two more islands, one triangular in shape in the centre of the stream—Rhea Island—some 250 m. long, with a strong corrideira at its north-easterly terminus.
A most gorgeous sand-bank of great length now lay on our left, while on the right we had two small islets, one 100 m. long, another, beyond it, 500 m. long. A tributary entered the Arinos-Juruena at that spot on the right side. Where the river turned again due east for 3,000 m., another set of parallel islands with a chain of hills beyond them on the right bank was to be seen. The hill range extended from north-west to south-east. All these ranges, with a backbone of rock underneath, formed, as it were, the ribs which held up the central plateau of Brazil. We were now in a region of wonderful accumulations of sand; nearly all the islands showed a sand-spit of great length on the up-stream side. Great islands occurred once more: Paulina Island, 2,500 m. long, on our left; another, 200 m. long—Olivia Island—on our right; and a third—Clara Island—just beyond it. A long tail of rocks followed, and the channel was strewn with dangerous rocks where the river had cut its way through the range of hills.
What must have been formerly an immense island which had become cut up into three was now on the left of us as we followed the central channel in an easterly direction. The first of these was comparatively small; the next—Tristan Island—was 1,500 m. long; the third—Isolda Island—1,000 m. long. All were of extraordinary beauty. Rubber trees were to be seen, but not in such great numbers as we had found farther up the stream. Evidently the soil was somewhat too rocky and not sufficiently moist for their healthy growth.
From due east the river suddenly turned to due north, diverted by the great rib of rock which had formerly made part of the hill range we had now on our right. We had a good deal of trouble here, as difficult rapids were encountered, and sharp, cutting rocks, collision with which would have been fatal for us. Our canoe, after the many bumps we had already experienced, gave alarming signs that she might split in two longitudinally at any moment. For 5,000 m. the river flowed in a northerly direction. Great domes of granite and immense boulders were scattered near the left bank, and rocks of all sizes and shapes emerged from the water all over the basin, which was 600 m. across. Another barrier of rock stretched from north-east to south-east and formed a high drop in the river. We had to unload the canoe once more upon some rocks in mid-stream, then let her gently down the step of foaming waters by ropes. We were then in a magnificent basin 1,000 m. wide, with a great cluster of impressive rocks on the right side, in front of two enchantingly beautiful islands—Melisande Island, 400 m. long, Pelleas Island, 700 m. long—on the left.
Whenever I was gazing enraptured at the heavenly scenery Alcides always managed to send the canoe on to some rock, which quickly brought me back, not to earth but to water. His principle in life was always to do the worst thing and then you knew that nothing worse could happen—a topsy-turvy philosophy for which we all had to suffer. Emerging from the basin, we had two channels before us, one to the N.N.E., the other N.N.W. Gigantic palm trees such as we had seen along the River Arinos were now to be seen all along the banks of the river. We saw in the water not far from us a large sucuriu snake (Eunictes murinus), fully 6 in. in diameter. It peeped its head out of the water to gaze curiously into our canoe, and caused some excitement among my men.
Another immense barrier of rocks with most troublesome rapids extended from south-west to north-east right across the stream. That seemed a great place for snakes, especially in the narrow and tortuous channel which we followed, between a great island—Victor Emmanuel Island—and the left bank. We were going along fairly gaily when I saw a huge snake—another sucuriu—floating upon the water among the foliage and branches of a fallen tree. The section of the body which I could perceive measured fully 21/2 ft. in diameter, and I must say that for one moment—we were only about 20 ft. away from it—I was somewhat surprised, as my quickly calculating mind constructed in my imagination a snake at least 100 ft. long. My men immediately took to their rifles, and were about to open a fusillade, but I stopped them, not caring to disturb the sleep of so gigantic a reptile. It was with some relief that, as the canoe floated quietly a little farther, I perceived the head of the snake resting gracefully in a sound slumber upon a branch of the tree out of the water. The head was of more normal proportions. We landed a little distance away as quietly as possible, my men trembling all over with excitement and fear in case the reptile should wake up. Then all together they opened a fusillade until a bullet actually struck the snake and it wriggled about. There was a stampede of all my men through the foliage and plants which grew along the stream. The snake was dead. When they had made quite sure that life was extinct my men returned and pulled the snake out of the water. Although the section we had seen floating was so big, the rest of the body was not more than 4 in. in diameter. The snake had eaten an entire veado (deer), and that was the cause of the great swelling of the central part of its body. The shape of the devoured animal could be seen plainly inside it. The photograph of the reptile which I took is given in one of the illustrations of this book. The light was not good for photographic purposes, as it was late in the afternoon and the snake, which after all was only 18 ft. 5 in. long, lay under the shadow of the foliage, which made photography rather difficult. As I was trying to get a second photograph my men proceeded with their knives to open the snake and see what was inside. The terrific odour which ensued when they did so made us violently ill, causing desperate vomiting. I have seen it stated, in some books which have been published about South America, that snakes of incredible length are believed to exist on that continent. Undoubtedly the notion has been suggested by the fact that inexperienced travellers have seen immensely broad traces of snakes along the soft ground near rivers. Measuring the diameter of those trails they came to the conclusion that the snake was 80 to 100 ft. long, and without taking further trouble to ascertain they stated they had actually seen a snake of that length. Whereas, as a matter of fact, as in the case I have described, the immense diameter of the snake was merely in the section which enclosed some big animal which had been swallowed.
A Family of Ariranhas—Attacked by them—Three Nasty Rapids—Beautiful Sand Beaches—Exciting Experiences—Going down a Thundering Cataract—Alcides' Narrow Escape—A Night's Work in the Midst of a Foaming Rapid in order to rescue the half-submerged Canoe—Filippe's Courage—Visited by a Snake 20 ft. long
WE camped some hundred metres away from the spot where we had killed the sucuriu. It was getting late. My men did not sleep a wink the whole night, as they thought perhaps the mate of the snake might come and pay us a visit. We had a lively time the entire night, as we had made our camp over the home of a family of ariranhas. They had their young in a small grotto in the bank, and we heard them all night squealing for their mothers, who were grinding their teeth and shrieking furiously a little way off from the bank, not daring to enter their homes while we were near. They were, I think, more frightened of the fire which my men had made than they were of us. There were twenty or thirty of them, and they made so much noise during the night that it was quite out of the question to rest. The vegetation was very thick, the damp considerable, and the air quite stifling, with a minimum temperature of 60 deg. F. Occasionally, when the air moved at all, we could smell our friend the dissected sucuriu.
We were glad to leave at eight o'clock the next morning; we seldom could make an earlier start, owing to the slowness of my men in getting their breakfast and mine ready, and reloading the canoe, as all the baggage was taken out every night. Where we had made camp, Victor Emmanuel Island came to an end, the length of the island being some 14 kil. We had great fun just before leaving, the ariranhas coming boldly to attack us as we were getting into the canoe. Our dogs, which had been squealing and growling the whole night at the unmusical shrieks of the ariranhas, now jumped into the water, and there was a fierce fight between them and the amphibious animals. My men, as usual, fired a great many shots. Eventually we recovered our dogs and started off once more on our journey.
The river flowed from that point at first mostly in a north-easterly direction and in a somewhat winding course; then gradually tended toward the north-west. In the western part of a large basin 1,200 m. broad were two islands and innumerable rocks. Then, farther on, one more long rocky barrier extended from north-west to south-east in the north-western part of the basin. Once more did we have to let the canoe down the terrific rapids by means of ropes.
Where the river turned to the north-west it was 500 m. wide and most beautiful. A great many islands were seen, and innumerable rocks barred the entrance of the channel at the end of the basin above described. Soon after, however, we entered another basin 1,000 m. wide, with more islands and rapids fairly easy to negotiate. Once more did the river turn due north for 6,000 m., after we had gone over another swift and most troublesome rapid, where we had to unload our baggage and take the canoe down carefully with ropes. After that we entered a long channel strewn with rocks. We had not gone far when another strong rapid was encountered, over another great barrier of rock. No sooner had we negotiated that difficult passage than another great barrier of rock, also from south-west to north-east, had to be gone over through a troublesome rapid.
My men were getting tired of exploring, and were perplexed, because the more dangers we surmounted the greater seemed the dangers confronting us. They were beginning to lose the nerve they had temporarily acquired, and were now so scared at the vicious waters that they tried to keep the canoe all the time close to the banks or islands, the river being so deep that they thought this was the best way of saving their lives in case we had a bad accident. The current was extraordinarily swift, and to make things worse a strong north-easterly wind blew with great fury, driving us back and producing such high waves that our canoe was constantly filled with water. The result of keeping so close to the bank, and having our heads continually brushed by the foliage which overhung the stream, was that each time we came in contact with the branch of a tree thousands of ants would drop on to the canoe and upon us, and would bite us furiously. This was most trying—an additional torture to that we had to endure of being stung all over by other insects which followed the canoe in swarms.
We had not gone much farther along when within 1,000 m. we came to three nasty rapids in succession, over barriers of great rocks intersected by interesting veins of quartz. From that point the river was fairly straight for 7 kil. We had that morning encountered five troublesome rapids, which had given us endless work. When we halted we were simply ravenous. We were fortunate enough to get plenty of fish for lunch, and while my men were enjoying a hearty feast I took the usual astronomical observations, eaten all over as I was by mosquitoes and piums, while bees innumerable had settled on my face and arms. The latitude was 9 deg. 40'.4 S.; the longitude 58 deg. 34' W. The bees had a most peculiar pungent odour, which they seemed to leave on one's skin when they had walked on it. We kept our heads wrapped up in towels; but even then we suffered a great deal.
When we started in the afternoon we continued to travel in a direction of 330 deg. b.m., and came to a large basin, easily identifiable by subsequent travellers by three extensive domes of granite on the right side, two of them actually on the bank of the stream at the entrance of the basin. Where an elongated island, 3,000 m. long—Oriana Island—beside which we had travelled, ended on our left, we saw another island that continued half-way down the basin, here some 2,000 m. wide. The second island—Diana Island—was fully 8,000 m. in length. In the centre of this great basin was a triangular island—Pomona Island—4,000 m. long and with a base of 1,500 m. A tributary was visible on the right bank, just opposite a great dome of granite with an appendix of sand and gravel which stood in the middle of the channel. After we had travelled for 2,500 m., a basin some 1,400 m. wide opened again, with a small island, 400 m. long, in the centre—M. Adams Island. This charming islet had a picturesque headland of rock on the south side, and a long spur, also of rock, to the north. We made our camp here. The river was really marvellously beautiful at this point, the vegetation all round being vigorous and healthy, with a great wealth of rubber trees, while the huge volcanic rocks strewn about added much to the picturesqueness of the scene.
It was warm during the night (minimum temperature 63 deg. F.), and we were treated to a most tormenting concert of mosquitoes. They swarmed positively in millions around us. With my bed and bedding which I had lost in the rapids I had unfortunately also lost my mosquito net, and I now was suffering greatly from the stings of all the troublesome insects. My bones were aching all over from sleeping on the uneven packing-cases placed in a row which now formed my bed. It took too much time and trouble to unfasten the straps and buckles which kept the boxes tightly closed, and they did not add to the comfort when one lay spread on them.
When we left in the morning of July 28th, going along a beautiful stretch of close upon 25 kil. in great expanses from 4,000 to 6,000 m. long, we passed first of all an elongated quadrangular island 1,500 m. long; then farther on great masses of volcanic rock. At the end of that stretch the river divided into two channels separated by an equilateral-triangular island, the side of which was 2,000 m.—Minerva Island. Another island, also of great beauty, and with a considerable number of rubber trees upon it, was found a little farther, and there a bar of sand spread beneath shallow water right across the stream.
We had gone 31,500 m. that morning. When we found a most beautiful beach of lovely sand we could not resist the temptation of halting on it to prepare our lunch. Our surprise was great when we set foot on the beach to hear shrill whistles beneath us. The beach was formed of whistling—or singing—sand. The reason the sand was musical was because some large insects had bored thousands of holes of great depth into its moistened mass, which allowed the holes to retain their form. When the sand was trodden the pressure drove the warmish air contained in those holes with great force through the contracted apertures and caused a sharp whistling and occasionally quite melodious notes.
I again took observations for latitude and longitude at this place, but I was beginning to find the work too heavy—not the observing in itself, but the computing of all the observations, at which I was not particularly quick. (Lat. 9 deg. 24' S.; Long. 58 deg. 40' W.) Also, the great care which I had to take of the chronometer under most difficult circumstances was a trial to me, considering the numberless things I had to look after. The only little comfort I had on that journey had been my camp bed, on which I could, if not sleep soundly, at least rest my weary bones for a few hours at night. That had now gone, and I was beginning to feel the strain of the hard work, constant mental exertion, and the total lack of rest.
We had passed a great number of islands in the morning: one 2,000 m. long—Melusine Island; another 300 m.—Janus Island; a third 3,000 m.—Midas Island—by the side of which was another enormous island, some 6,000 m. in length—Miranda Island. Then little islets 200 and 250 m. long, and another big island, 2,000 m. from end to end—A. Maso Island.
Most beautiful sandy beaches were now constantly seen, mostly, like the one on which we had landed, composed of singing sand. (Some of those beaches were 200 and 300 m. long.) The beach on which we had landed for lunch was at the southern end of a great island, 5,700 m. long, which I named Queen Mary Island.
We left again that afternoon, travelling fairly speedily, chiefly in W.N.W. and S.S.W. directions, varying from 290 deg. b.m. to 230 deg. b.m. When we came to the end of Queen Mary Island, after passing some really remarkable beaches on which we found a great many turtles' eggs, we came to a large basin, 1,800 m. across, with numberless rocks scattered on the north and south sides of it. The river there flowed due west; in fact, those rocks formed a kind of corona all around the great circle. A crescent-shaped island, 2,800 m. long—Giselle Island—was next passed. The channel through which we went was full of dangerous rocks, and had a width of 280 m.
Soon after another basin 1,600 m. broad was reached, with a formidable barrier of islets and rocks spreading from south to north. The river there flowed in a perfectly straight course for 10 kil. to 310 deg. b.m. A most extraordinary-looking islet with a circular terrace of rock on the east side of it, which was passed in mid-stream, was surrounded by a giant crown of pyramidal rocks of great height emerging in sharp points from the water. We had gone but 6,000 m. of that distance when we came to an island on the right side with a gorgeous spit, also of musical sand, 300 m. long. The island itself was only 700 m. long including the sand-spit—Kuvera Island. We were then in an immense basin with leaden waters as still as those of a pond.
We made our camp in a most picturesque spot, an immense beach forming innumerable indentations, really like small dunes of sand deposited by water. The accurate elevation of that place was, according to the observations taken with the hypsometrical apparatus, 967 feet, water boiling at that spot at 210 deg. 33/4, and the temperature of the atmosphere being 721/2 deg. F. The indented beach, not unlike a giant double-comb, was at the beginning of a great island which I named James Dewar Island, in honour of the great discoverer of liquid air. The minimum temperature during the night of July 29th was 55 deg. F.