River of Doubt - Theodore Roosevelts darkest journey
by Millard, Candice
pub. by Anchor Books (Random House) , NY, 2005 - isbn; 978-0-7679-1373-7 Maps p. xii - xiii black and white photos Notes and References p.355-393 Bibliography p. 395-402 Acknowledgements p. 403-407 Credits p. 408 Index p. 409-416 total size 416 p.
Millard does masterful work. This book begins with a short biography of Teddy Roosevelt as a person, set in his family and explains what drove him. He was born in 1858. He served as president of USA for the better part of 2 terms. He became President after McKinley was assassinated in 1901 (6 months into McKinleys 2nd term) so Theodore Roosevelt served just 6 months short of 2 full terms as President. He ran again in 1912 as the candidate of the Progressive -Bull Moose- Party which he formed to challenge the Republican Party which would not nominate him. He lost this presidential election. With this in background, to heal the sting of losing, he agreed to travel to South America on the invitation of the Argentinian Museo Social to lecture. He accepted and also planned other travel, and a scientific expedition. Plans were set in place, a team was gathered and supplies purchased.
Upon arrival in South America the scope and direction of the expedition changed dramatically from a more manageable, tame and safe expedition to a true exploration of the river of doubt in extreme southern Brazil, of which was known only where it started and that it fed into the Amazon system somewhere. Brazilian officer Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, was the co-leader and in fact practical day-to-day leader of the expedition. They got off to a rough start for a number of reasons, including that they were originally prepared for a much tamer expedition. Roosevelt and Rondon got along well. The travel was brutal. The dugout canoes used heavy and awkward in the river which had many rapids and waterfalls. Supplies were short, much was lost. The idea that supplies could be supplemented by hunting was impossible (game to hunt mostly not in evidence and even fishing not very productive.) Theodore Roosevelts son Kermit came along to assist. It was good for him to do so. After some time when things got really rough and Theodore was injured and became infected he needed Kermit to force him to continue living. Almost surprisingly the local natives did not attack and were not seen, although their shadow presence was acutely felt. There was one murder on the trip when one of the helpers shot another over food stealing. He ran away, 3 days later begged to come back, was rebuffed at first and when some were sent back for him he had disappeared.
The expedition ended just in time, as they could not have held out much longer. In short order the Roosevelt and party returned to USA and a heros welcome. He never really recovered total health. He traveled and lectured about the expedition, even in Europe. He died a few at age 60, just a few years after the end of the expedition. It should be noted that Rondon lived an extremely long life and died in old age of natural causes. Millard often goes into background explanation about the natural setting, and gives other background information which while valuable cuts up the narrative some times.
This is an extremely interesting read. In impact compares well with Ernest Shackletons adventures, but in steaming jungle rather then freezing and ice.
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