Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey: The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
I recently finished another great book about Theodore Roosevelt, which concentrates solely on the months he spent exploring the uncharted Rio Duvida which flows wildly through the rainforests of South America. The journey was a long and treacherous one, as described by Roosevelt-
"We have had a hard and somewhat dangerous but very successful trip. No less than six weeks were spent... forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless succession of rapids and cataracts. For forty-eight days we saw no human being. In passing these rapids we lost five of the seven canoes... One of our best men lost his life in the rapids."The story begins after Roosevelt's defeat as a Progressive Party candidate in 1912. To get away from it all, he plans another grand adventure in South America. Taking over a month to travel through the rainforest to the mouth of the Rio Duvida, Roosevelt and his son Kermit began to realize they were not prepared for the journey. Numerous members of the party were sent home and heavy supplies were abandoned before they even began their descent. No non-native had ever traversed the river, so Brazilian army commander Rondon lead the trip and vowed to survey and record every inch of the river.
The trip began slowly as Rondon stopped numerous times to measure the river's curves. As they began to run into dangerous rapids, the men had to dock their boats wade through the piranha infested waters and carve a path through the rainforest filled with natives so primitive, they had not yet even conceived of boats. The rapids almost took the life of Roosevelt's son Kermit, and soon after did take the life of one of the paid workers on the journey. Things got even worse as the natives attacked the party's dog and Roosevelt became deathly ill. At one point he begged the party to go on without him, but his son refused to let him die alone in the rainforest.
The author does a fantastic job describing the rainforest as it was in 1913-14, very primitive and untouched by humans. She also gives great background on each of the main players in the story- Rondon, Cherrie- a naturalist sent to collect bird specimens, and the two Roosevelts. This journey down the uncharted waters of the dangerous Rio Duvida (now the Rio Roosevelt) isn't known by many, but is a fantastic tale for fans history, social studies, and geography.
The Roosevelt River today