Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Theodore Roosevelt on the "River of Doubt"

EyeWitness to History:

Theodore Roosevelt's Amazon Expedition, 1914

While on a speaking tour through South America in 1913, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt learned of an unexplored river in Brazil that had been given the name the "River of Doubt." Always on the look-out for adventure, TR decided to explore it.

Supported by the Brazilian government, Roosevelt, his son Kermit and a party of naturalists entered the headwaters of the mysterious river on February 27, 1914. All contact with the outside world was severed. The experience quickly became harrowing.

The river’s boiling rapids soon destroyed all but two of the expedition’s canoes. Vicious mosquitoes attacked the men mercilessly. The entire team was wracked with tropical fever. Midway through his trek, TR fell on the slippery rocks and gashed his leg. His wound quickly became severely infected. At one point, suffering from fever and pain, unable to walk, and fearing he was jeopardizing the expedition, Roosevelt pleaded with his companions to leave him in the jungle to die. They refused.

Finally, after 48 days, the expedition emerged from the wilderness having traveled over 1,000 miles of unexplored territory. Roosevelt’s health was severely weakened. He had lost close to 60 pounds and never did regain his full strength. Despite his near-death experience, Roosevelt declared: “I had to go – it was my last chance to be a boy."

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