Monday, July 16, 2007

Teddy Roosevelt and the River of Doubt

American Presidents have been known to do many things when they leave office. Some are noble while others are less so. However, Teddy Roosevelt may have the distinction of being the only one who became an explorer! He went on to explore a newly discovered river in the Amazon and to have that river renamed in his honor.

In 1913, after suffering defeat in 1912 in his bid to regain the presidency, Teddy and his son Kermit went to the Amazon. Their subsequent adventure became known as the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition. The River of Doubt had recently been discovered deep in the Amazon and Teddy was eager to explore it to see if it connected to the Amazon River.

The expedition did not go well. Wikipedia notes, "Almost from the start, the expedition was fraught with problems. Insects and disease such as malaria weighed heavily on just about every member of the expedition, leaving them in a constant state of sickness, festering wounds and high fevers. The heavy dug-out canoes were unsuitable to the constant rapids and were often lost, requiring days to build new ones. The food provisions were ill-conceived forcing the team on starvation diets. Native Indian cannibals (the Cinta Larga) shadowed the expedition and were a constant source of concern - the Indians could have at any time wiped out the expedition and taken their valuable metal tools but luckily they chose to let them pass (future expeditions in the 1920s were not so lucky). One of the camaradas murdered another, while a third was killed in a rapid."

Teddy is reported as having almost died from a wounded leg that was infected. His death five years later was credited partially to the health problems he never recovered from on this trip. He survived and the expedition reached the Amazon River. Teddy later wrote a book on the expedition titled Through the Brazilian Wilderness. The river was renamed the Rio Roosevelt in Teddy's honor.

I think this is quite the story! Yes, Teddy was tough. And what better way to get over losing a presidential election than to go hike around the Amazon Jungle?


History Buff Wanna-Be said...

I love this blog. I've recently become more interested in U.S. Presidents, but don't have a lot of time to study. You are providing me with interesting stories about them. Thanks!

wolfcooper said...

theres a great book by Candice Millard on this topic. called River of Doubt