The Amazon by Robin Furneaux


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Hamilton, 1971. Book Club Edition. 

'In 1499, Vincente Pinzon, who had accompanied Columbus on his first great voyage of discovery, was amazed to find that he was sailing through fresh water though out of sight of any land. He imagined that he had reached India; he was in fact off the coast of Brazil and what he had discovered was the mouth of the greatest river in the world. At its mouth the river is 208 miles wide, and every second its current sweeps seven and a half million cubic feet of water out to sea with a force which literally rolls back the Atlantic Ocean and freshens it for 150 miles. It has over a thousand tributaries, and it stretches apparently without end through rain-forest and jungle, much of which is still unexplored and inhabited only by Indians as primitive now as they were when the first Spanish conquistadors landed in South America. The Amazon is laid out on a gigantic scale and it has attracted men who seem larger than life: Pizarro and Orellana searching for El Dorado; Aguirre, a figure of almost incredible cruelty; the Jesuits with their remarkable system of controlling the natives by a Communist theocracy; La Condamine, the intrepid Isabella Godin des Odonais, and Humboldt 'the greatest man in the world', in the hunt for knowledge rather than gold; Theodore Roosevelt discovering a new river; and the almost fabulous Colonel Fawcett. Robin Furneaux, who has himself travelled up the Amazon and describes the jungle and the river, the animals and the Indians, with great vividness, gives here a portrait in depth running from the time of the early explorers through the years of the rubber boom and the Putumayo Scandal, which sent Roger Casement off on a personal crusade that revealed facts of the utmost horror, up to the present. His book is compounded of high endeavour, tragedy and adventure, and is the first to deal with the Amazon and its history so fully and so successfully'.