Saturday, May 1, 2010


A review of Candice Millard’s The River of Doubt (2005)

(Rating:5 of 5)

Former President Theodore Roosevelt, his kid Kermit, Brazil’s most famous explorer, Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, and score of young explorers all decide to go down a river, known as the River of Doubt. The former president had just dealt with losing in an attempt to regain the presidency in the 1912 presidential election. Despite the setback, Roosevelt was ready for a new adventure. His son, Kermit Roosevelt, joined him on this quest, and at the request of the Republic of Brazil, they joined Colonel Rondon on a daring mission of discovery.

Through out this adventure they would face disease, rapids, starvation, murder, and be shadowed by an aboriginal group who were wondering who these strange invaders to their territory were up to. Death faces Roosevelt-Rondon group at every turn; this exciting action-paced book should really be made into a movie. Anyone who picks this up will enjoy it.

However, one of the conclusions I reached when reading this book is: that if I am ever invited to go the rain forest I will simply say ‘no thanks.’ It is not really my cup of tea.

“The fish that inspired the greatest fear among the men were piranha. Attracted by blood and drawn to the king of commotion that a bathing man might make, piranha have been known to swim in groups of more than a hundred, spreading out to scout for prey and then alerting the others, probably by sound, when they find it. Of approximately 20 species, most prefer to attack something their own size or smaller, and they are happy to scavenge, especially during the rainy season, when there is more to choose from. However, their saw-like teeth, which look like they have been filed to tiny spear pints , and muscular jaws can make work of any living creature of any size and strength, from a waterbird to a monkey to even an ox. During telegraph-line expedition, Rondon and his soldiers regularly offered up their weakest ox to a school of piranha so that the rest of their herd could safely cross a river.” p.136

There are even worst than the piranha, like the candiru, but I would rather not get into detail about that.

{Video taken from Animal Planet, brief commercial before the good stuff starts.}

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